"We're here." Gustave said.
I knew, I could feel it. I drew back the shades and looked at the huge building with its faded bricks and a feeling of seclusion washed over me. I sighed, for I remember what it had looked like in its glory days. It had been my home once. It had been my only home. However, the years, and the fire, had dimmed its magnificence and splendor.
"Are you all right?" Gustave asked.
I nodded as I avoided his eyes, "I'm fine."
He didn't believe me. "Must you go?" Gustave asked again as he watched me descend from the carriage. "It won't do you any good."
" I know." I sighed. "I must."
He pressed the issue no further. Deep in my heart, I knew he was right. I turned and walked towards the opera house. The dry and brittle leaves crunched beneath my feet. I pushed the door open and stepped into entryway. I was overcome for a moment as I glanced around. I could still see the reminders of what the house looked like in its former days. The dust and webs dimmed it somewhat, but you could feel the centuries past in the air. Even when one inhaled, you could still smell burnt wood from the fire all those years ago.
"You all right?" Gustave asked me again. His voice directly beside me.
Sighing, I nodded, "lead on."
He obediently surged ahead. After a moment, I followed him towards where the auction would be held. It wouldn't be hard to find, other than my cane tapping the floor, the voice of the auctioneer filled the empty and dusty halls.
I stayed somewhat in the shadows as I glanced around. I didn't want to be seen, but I wanted to know what it was I wanted to purchase. I felt somewhat reluctant to glance around. Reluctant to recognize any familiar faces I might see. Gustave was already looking around and he leaned close to whisper in my ear.
"He's here." Gustave said.
"Raoul?" I asked.
Gustave nodded. "yes. He's in the wheelchair by the east wing."
The once powerful Vicomte de Chagney. He looked so much older now than when I'd last seen him. His poor health had bound him to a wheelchair. I remember him when he was young, strong and handsome. Handsome enough to take my love from me.
But we were both old men now. True, I was older than him, but I looked a decade younger than him. I had been blessed with a youthful appearance. I was stronger and not prone with as much stress and the vicomte had been.
"Lot 665 gentlemen." the auctioneer's loud voice brought me back the auction. "A papier mache musical box in the shape of a barrel organ. Attached the figure of a monkey, in Persian robes, playing the cymbals." I smiled faintly, for I knew what the object was. "Recently discovered in the vaults of the theatre, still in working order."
They wound it and my heart skipped a beat as the monkey clanged along to that old familiar tune. Its red robes hadn't yet faded; I was pleased they'd taken care of it. I could still hear the words playing in my mind.
Masquerade. Paper faces on parade. Masquerade, hide your face so the world will never find you.
I fought to keep from scoffing at the foolish . You couldn't hide your face, and the world would always find you. I'd know better than anyone else would. That tune always came back to mock me. I would have bid, but as I watched as Raoul bid on the music box. I knew that he wanted it for a very personal reason. Madame Giry was bidding as well on the box.
She hadn't changed a bit. That sour expression was still on her face and her hair was scraped back in that tight bun. The years of being an up strict dance instructor had finally caught up to her. I had no doubt that she still trained other students, for teaching and been her life. She'd been my one companion; rescued me from a life of brutality to exchange it for a life of loneliness. In many ways, the closest to a mother I'd ever know. I was grateful to her for that. But she, like many people, didn't understand me.
It went on between them for a while. Raoul was finally able to purchase it for thirty francs. If the auctioneer knew the true story behind the organ monkey, he wouldn't have let it go so cheep. I could see emotion wash over his face as the music box was placed into his feeble arms. I knew I'd made the right choice in not bidding on the box. I don't know why I felt any pity for him after all this time, I still disliked him. I could see his mouth move as he spoke to the music box.
"A collector's piece indeed." he said to the nurse beside him. His voice lowered and he said to himself. "Every detail exactly as she said." he fingered the scarlet and gold robe the monkey wore. "Will you still play when all the rest of us are dead?"
"That belonged to you didn't it?" Gustave whispered. "when you lived here?" I nodded, but I remained silent. Incredulous, he asked, "Why didn't you bid on it?"
I couldn't answer him, for I myself didn't know why I hadn't bid on it. Maybe it's because that music box reminded me of the time Christine rejected my love for Raoul's. Maybe it was because of the tune. It mocked me still. I merely shrugged and turned back to the auctioneer. Gustave was silent and didn't press the issue.
"Lot 666 then. A chandelier in pieces. Some of you may recall the strange affair of the phantom of the opera." he was silent for a moment, waiting for the moment to sink in.
Gustave glanced at me. I saw Raoul's head lift and Madame Giry go slightly pale. I myself felt a little wary. I seemed to know what it was that the fat auctioneer was going to say. My heart secretly begged him to keep those words sealed, unspoken behind his lips. It couldn't be.
"A mystery never fully explained." he continued mysteriously, with dramatic pauses between his words. "We're told ladies and gentleman that this is the very chandelier, which figures the famous disaster." my heart pounded in my chest as he continued. "Our workshops have repaired it and wired parts of it for the new electric light. Perhaps we can frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination, gentlemen."
I watched as they flung back the tarp covering the chandelier and my heart stopped. The glass tinkled and sparkled. It as the very chandelier, alive, full of light.
Raoul sunk back in his wheel chair and Madame Giry stepped back. For once, I thought she'd faint. I nearly did. I grabbed onto Gustave's arm and he stepped closer and helped me into a nearby chair.
"Are you all right?" he asked, concern radiated in his voice and eyes.
I nodded. Words stuck in my throat for a moment. I stared at it, when my shock wore off, I was able to say. "Buy it." I don't know how or why I felt compelled to buy it. My voice sounded faint to my own ears. "At whatever price."
Gustave nodded after giving me another curious glance. He started the opening bid for fifty francs. Madame Giry and Raoul watched as Gustave bid. Obvious curious to see what fool would bid on a piece of such ill tiding. Their eyes met mine and I watched their reactions.
Raoul's expression was one of shock that waned to the silent anger he'd always held towards me. His gaze was somewhat softer on Gustave's. but he'd never forgiven me for keeping the boy. Madame Giry held a silent, composed, hostile look. I dropped my gaze, for I feared it was one of smoldering hate.
We all looked at each other. Glaring, not blinking, not moving, not even drawing a single breath. These were the expressions that we three civilized adults could only give the other individuals after all these years. After all, we'd been through, we knew each other well. But we also hated, shunned, and despised each other. Part of me knew that it was a shame that so many relationships cannot be healed through time.
Perhaps we can frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination. The auctioneer's voice rang in my head.
No. you couldn't frighten away the ghost of so many years ago any more than you can erase the ghosts of memories that torment your soul and heart every day of your life. The moment I saw the chandelier, all those memories of horror, hate, passion, desire, longing, despair and love came flooding back to me.
"the auction is over." Gustave shook me gently and I stirred. The almost empty hall telling me that once again I'd gotten lost in my thoughts and lost track of time. "It's a shame you only purchased the chandelier. I got several things that belonged to Christine and various things which I thought you'd like."
"was I asleep?" I asked.
"no. just loving mother again." he said simply. "Now that you've woke up out of that deep thought, tell me this. What will you do with the chandelier?"
I started at him and stared at him for a moment. Trying to recollect where I was. "I have a plan for it."
I stood and walked out of the room with Gustave behind me. Madame Giry and Raoul were exiting as well. They stopped, hostile and icy gazes aimed at me.
"ironic." Raoul said. "you purchase the item that sealed your doom. It was your control that lost Christine."
"it was your cruelty and control that lost you Christine!" I shot back. Raoul winced. For we both knew that what the other said was right. "but as we know, Christine wasn't my true love. Idonea filled that position, and she still does."
"I hope it falls on you." Giry said coldly before sweeping out of the room.
Raoul studied me, "how is she?"
Ignoring them, I got into our private carriage. But I heard Gustave tell him. "she died a few weeks ago. A heart condition."
Raoul was silent and I didn't look at him. "give him my condolences." I turned and looked at Raoul, he appeared sincere. "she was a fine lady."
"thank you." Gustave said shaking his hand. "goodbye sir."
Gustave climbed into the carriage, I was still watching Chagney. As the carriage moved away, I waved at Raoul. His brow rose, but he feebly waved back, ending the bitter blood between us for so many years.
I looked back out the window. "so," Gustave asked again. "what are you doing with that chandelier?"
I exhaled and reached into my portfolio and handed him some sketches. "for the Phantasma wax museum. It tells my story and has things of value. I want my face, to remain hidden under the mask. But, if there is someone who can look at my face, they can be allowed to remove the mask. But I'd like a guard posted there, someone who doesn't react to my face." He nodded. "I've enclosed my life story with the sketches I've drawn. I want Idonea beside me while on display."
Gustave nodded as he glanced through the sketches, "ingenious. They're so lifelike." He exhaled. "is this why we came to Paris? To bury the past?"
"to bring it into the light. No more hiding, let the public know the truth."
I helped my father out of the carriage, he was tired and he needed to rest in our cabin immediately. I looked up to direct the man about our luggage. I heard a groan by my side and I turned and saw my father clutching his chest in agony.
"father!" I dropped my bag as my father slumped forward, hitting his head on a wooden box. "Oh God, someone get a doctor!" I shouted as I turned him over on his back. blood was gushing from his head and the impact was hard enough to shatter the mask. I took my hanky and covered his face. "Get a doctor!" I bellowed again as people milled around.
A man came through, "I'm a doctor. What happened?"
I shrugged, "he had a pain in his chest, he fell forward and hit his head on a box."
The man slowly straightened, and the look in his face told me what I didn't want to hear. "I'm sorry, he's dead. From what you've told me, I say he had a heart attack and he took quite a blow to the head. Killed him instantly, I can make a better examination on board."
I stared at him in shock. I was just talking to him. I looked at my father's body. his hand with his wedding band on his chest. I smiled as tears flowed down my face. he must have known he was going to die soon.
"no thanks, he wouldn't have wanted that."
"who was he?"
"my father, Mr. Y. of Phantasma."
The man stared at me, "you're…smiling. How come?"
I looked upwards, just trying to invision my mother and father meeting again heaven. "he's with her now."
"Erik?" I called softly. My handsome husband spun around looking quite lost in Heaven. His face, which had been so full of sorrow since my departure, lit up with joy. I held out my hand to him. "I've been waiting for you."
Erik took my hand, his dark eyes studying my face. he pulled me into his arms and I exhaled as he kissed me. moments, hours, days later, I didn't know and I didn't care. He pulled away and studied my face. "now," he murmured. "we can never be parted again. Never."
Will also be working on the sequel to 'Just a kiss in Hollywood' so keep your eyes open for 'Twisted in Hollywood.'