Summary: Shortly after Winslow attempts suicide on the roof, he meets Melody, a childlike woman with obstacles of her own. There is more to her than meets the eye, however, and Winslow isn't the only one who notices…other character friendship only. Might be Winslow/Phoenix later on.
Winslow's eyes closed as he lay on the roof. The cold rain and the thunder no longer mattered. Nothing mattered anymore. He hoped death might change its mind and come claim him. There was nothing powerful enough to scrub the image from his mind of his beloved Phoenix in Swan's slimy grasp. The Phantom of the Paradise had unfortunately become Swan's pawn.
"…And as I lived my role, I swore I'd sell my soul for one love…"
He sat up, ignoring the screaming pain in his chest. Not another one…
"…who would stand by me, one love who would give me back the gift of laughter…"
He climbed down the side of the building. His progress was slower than usual because of his blood loss and pain, but he still managed to get down there pretty fast as far as human standards are concerned. He finally found the singer sitting on the sidewalk. She had on a white tank top and jeans. The weather was far too cold to go without a jacket and she held her arms clamped close to her body in a pathetic attempt to keep warm. Her shoulder-length dark hair was plastered in soggy curls to her forehead and the back of her neck. Her huge dark eyes seemed too big for her fair face. She stopped singing when she saw Winslow standing over her.
"Don't sing that song," he demanded.
She tilted her head in the same way a puppy does when its master is talking to it.
"It's my song. It's only meant for Phoenix. Anyone else who sings it dies."
She seemed even more puzzled.
"What's a Phoenix?" she asked, "Isn't that one of those birds made of fire? The ones that turn back into babies when they die?"
"She's named after it," he said impatiently, "she's a woman who works at the Paradise."
"Oh…but I sang your song and I didn't die," the woman chirped optimistically.
That took the fight out of Winslow. He couldn't justifiably kill someone who had the mind of a child.
"What are you doing out here, anyway?"
"Well, I saw this great big house over here and I thought I'd ask if I could just go in and get warm. There's only one guy who lives there and lots of people who take care of it, so he can't be using all those rooms at one time. It's so cold out here…"
Winslow cringed. The last thing he wanted to happen to her was for Swan to trick her into signing one of his contracts. She wasn't nearly as beautiful as Phoenix, but she was still pretty enough that Swan might take a passing interest.
"He isn't there. Come with me."
She followed him.
"Somebody told me a story about you," she said, "they showed me your picture in the paper. What I didn't understand was you seemed like a really good man—why didn't I see you at home?"
He turned to look at her.
"What are you talking about?"
"Up there, silly!" she pointed at the sky, "I didn't see you up there! I was waiting for you!"
Now he was sure her mind was gone or at least damaged.
"My father says that all good people who believe in him go up there to be with us, part of our family. He had your name on the list—Win-slow. Winslow. Yeah."
Winslow stopped in his tracks. At first, he had the odd creeping feeling that maybe there was more to this than he thought. Then, his logical side dismissed it.
"Of course you know my name," he muttered, "you saw it in the paper."
"No, honest! I didn't! Not until after I came down here! I know lots of things about you that you never told anyone! Ask me a question."
They were about to re-enter the paradise. Winslow had stolen one of the keys at the very beginning. He let her in first.
"You wrote your first song when you were ten years old," she blurted out, "on a restaurant napkin. Your mommy griped at you and told you to stop singing at the table cause the other customers were giving her dirty looks."
That got his attention.
"You started taking piano lessons when you were seven years old and you were the only kid that the teacher complained about wanting to meet with her all the time. You used to draw music notes at the top of your school notes when you were bored."
He stared at her. She seemed even younger than him.
"Your last thought before you almost drowned was that you'd never see Phoenix again…"
Her voice was quieter now. She was backing away from him as if afraid she'd upset him.
"I've been with you since you drew your first breath, Winslow. But something bad happened to me. I'm not supposed to be where you can see me. Something's wrong, but I can't remember what it is…I was supposed to watch over you and help you."
His fury began to build again.
"Then where were you when THIS happened?"
He raised his mask. She gulped and flattened herself against the wall, trembling.
"I-I don't remember…I think I was still asleep…"
He lowered the mask again.
"I was on my way, honest…" she was starting to cry now, "…but this monster…this awful, terrible monster…he did something terrible to me. He made me human…I lost all my powers…I don't know anything about being human…and I can't go home!"
She dropped to her knees, her face buried in her hands. Winslow hauled her back to her feet and dragged her down the hallway.
"If you don't believe me, feel my back where my wings used to be…" she choked out. He slid one ungloved hand under her shirt and ran it over her back. Sure enough, two hard ridges jutted out from under her skin. There seemed to be bones where there shouldn't be.
"That's all that's left of them," she whimpered.
They came to the stolen dressing room that served as Winslow's living area. There was a pile of blankets and pillows in one corner that passed as a bed. A hot plate on a dresser, a couple of sauce pans, and a few canned items served as a makeshift kitchen. The only thing there in its entirety was an adjoining bathroom with a functional shower. The girl had gone quiet, the occasional tear trickling down her face.
"Stay here," he told her, "I'll be right back."
She nodded. At least he didn't seem angry anymore. She went to the bathroom and blew her nose noisily.
"I hate this part of being human! Everything makes me cry!" she told her reflection, "And I'm sick of gooey stuff coming out of my face!"
For good measure, she washed her face. By the time Winslow returned, she was a lot calmer.
"Put these on," he gave her some dry clothes pilfered from the costume department. She took them and closed the door behind her. The last time she'd changed clothes, everybody freaked out. She thought it was weird that humans made such a big deal over people being naked in public. She stripped away the wet clothes and lay them out to dry. Then, she changed into the pretty blue dress that someone had left behind. There was also an expensive-looking coat. She drug the comb through her snarled hair until it was smoothed out.
"Thank you, Winslow," she said, coming out of the bathroom. She'd noticed that he'd been holding his chest almost nonstop since she'd run into him.
"I smell blood," she announced, "did you get hurt?"
She tugged his hands away.
"Just let me see!"
He protested, but not for long. The wound was still trickling. His heart was gurgling, struggling to find its regular rhythm. He felt exhausted.
"Ooh…this thing…the heart…it's important. I wish you'd told me earlier," she told him, laying her hand over the wound.
"What are you doing?" he asked, trying to pull away.
"Hold still, for cloud's sake! I can't fix it if you keep squirming!"
She sang a note, low and steady. As her voice gradually grew louder, her hand seemed to grow hotter. He looked down and saw a white light under her fingers. His heartbeat regulated and there was an odd squelching noise as his flesh knitted together. Suddenly, there was no pain. There was no blood. He felt his ebbing strength returning.
"All better," she told him, "for now. I don't understand why, but it won't stay healed…it's like something's changed you. You'll have to be careful and tell me if it starts bothering you again."
"Can you fix my voice?" he asked her. She placed her hands on his throat. After several minutes, nothing seemed to happen.
"Oh, crud! I'm sorry, Winslow…it's an old injury…too old…if I wasn't stuck in this body, I could probably do it, but I can only fix stuff that's happened a little while ago. Let me try your face."
He took the mask completely off. She frowned, but didn't react dramatically.
She seemed more to be frowning in concentration than from disgust or shock. Finally, one hand landed directly over his eye.
"I can't promise anything," she told him.
The note rang out through the room. He could actually feel the energy concentrating under her hands. He felt it pulse through his body, willing it to regenerate what it had lost. He felt something move under her hand.
"Open your eyes, now," she said.
Where his right eye had been completely blinded, there was now almost normal vision.
"I can see again!" he announced.
"I took away the scar tissue," she told him, "that was all I could fix, though."
He hugged her.
"You're welcome," she smiled.
Since he wasn't able to doubt her so much now, he put his mask back on and got to work heating some food up for both of them. She was embarrassed by her gurgling stomach and kept mashing it in to stifle the noise.
"Who was this monster that attacked you?" he asked.
"I don't know," she admitted, "I've seen him before. He was there before…he used to be one of us. When Lucifer got so full of himself and we had to fight him and his followers, he got thrown out right alongside Lucifer. He wasn't the kind of guy that would just walk up and stab you. He was sneaky. He tricked a lot of my brothers and sisters into doing things that got them in trouble. One of my brothers got sent away because he was kissing a human lady. That monster told him to do it, that it wouldn't hurt him. He was lying."
She played with a strand of hair as she talked.
"Anyway, the monster came up to me when I was trying to find you and said he could help me. He said you were dying and I'd miss you if I didn't hurry up. I told him that you'd be able to come home without me, that my father would show you the way up. But he tricked me. He got me scared that one of his friends would find you and eat you if I didn't get there first. Then he said he'd make it easier for me since I cared so much. I passed out. When I woke up, I had skin and a heartbeat and no wings. It was awful."
"I walked and walked and yelled and yelled and people were saying really rude things to me and not helping at all. I walked until my feet were sore and bleeding, but I still couldn't find you. Then I heard somebody singing your song and I came up here to see if it was you. It didn't sound like you, though. It was a different voice. I asked one of the men at the entrance if I could see you and he said you were already dead. Then he laughed in my face. Another one said if I didn't go away, the Phantom would get me."
Her expression changed comically.
"Wait a minute! You're the Phantom!"
She cracked up laughing.
"So if I'd have stayed, I would have found you anyway! Gosh, I wish I hadn't been so scared!"
After weeks of nothing but bad and worse news, it felt so good to laugh. There was something so comforting to her childlike qualities.
"Well…now that I'm a human," she said, accepting the bowl of soup from him, "I guess I better pick a name. I had some guys calling me 'Stupid' earlier, but I found out it's not a very nice name."
Winslow's sides were aching at this point. When he finally recomposed himself with a drink of water, he said, "Most of the things you know about me are from when I was either playing music or writing songs. You should be called 'Melody'."
"Melody," she breathed, "I like it!"
"Well, here's to you, Melody!"
They clicked their bowls together.