So, this will be my first modern fic, and I hope I do all right. :) Please review, etc. and enjoy the story. That's the main thing. So, without further adieu, chapter one of "Masked Memories."
*This Chapter has been updated*
Christine Daaé smiled to a passerby as they dropped a single dollar bill into her guitar case without even pausing to stop. It would have been nice, she thought, if someone would actually listen to her music instead of just dropping her a dollar here or there because they pitied her. No, she didn't expect them to stop and listen to her whole set, but just to give her a minute out of their busy schedule would have been nice.
She had moved to Seattle to try and make a life for herself doing what she loved best-music. She had known from the start that it wouldn't be easy pursuing singing, but she also knew that she had an extremely versatile voice; she could sing virtually any genre she was asked to. Her lyric soprano voice was easily recognizable, and it was unique. And yet she had still been turned away from so many record companies because she "wasn't driven enough."
Honestly, though, she had come here because she hoped against hope that she would be signed on with the biggest music conglomerate in the country, "Mask Records," because they were based here in Seattle. She had heard that the owner, founder, and CEO of the company was a ruthless, business driven man, and that he only signed on the most talented of his auditioners, which is what made him so successful in the first place. His company had probably sold billions of albums, all because he only chose a select few who were very, very good.
Because Christine hadn't gotten her 'big break' yet, she was working three jobs to support herself. She was a waitress at a local café Monday through Friday, from eight in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon, and she sang in bars and clubs on any nights she could get a gig, and then on the weekends she trudged herself and her guitar down to the Pike's Place market and played anything she could. Then, when her hour in that spot was through, she'd pack up and move to a different spot. Sometimes she would partner with other local artists, and then split the money 50/50.
Most frequently, Christine found herself working with a young blond girl, Meg, who danced. They would move to a wide part of the sidewalk, or an empty street, and Christine would sing, and Meg would dance. They were becoming more and more popular, too, and a small crowd would gather to listen and watch the performance sometimes.
Their most profitable day was Saturday, in the early afternoon. But Meg wasn't here this weekend. She had gone to visit her mother, who had been a dancer as well, and wouldn't be back until midweek. So Christine had to make do by herself this weekend, and that's how she found herself parked in front of a pig statue playing one of her favorite songs, "A Thousand Years," by Christina Perri.
That was her last song of the day, at which she earned another five dollars, and then she packed everything up and made the trek back to her small apartment. She had a gig to sing at tonight, and it was one of the few that would actually pay her well. Of course, the songs that had been selected for her to perform were more difficult, as they were mostly classical, as well as one or two classier Broadway songs.
It was a charity ball of some sort, that much Christine knew. She had even had to go out and buy herself a new dress to perform in, because this was mostly extremely wealthy people that would be there, and none of her clothes were 'high end' enough.
Christine sighed, putting the guitar down just outside her door so she could unlock it. Swinging the door open, she looked around her small, neat apartment and put the guitar and its case just inside the door before shutting it behind her with her foot.
"I need food," she muttered to herself, kicking off her converse and heading into the kitchen and peering into her fridge. "Hmm... What do I want? Chicken? No. Spam? Blech. Definitely not. I don't even know why Meg gave that to me," she laughed, looking for a few more moments before deciding on PB&J.
Sitting down on the couch with her oozing sandwich, Christine studied a black and white picture on the end table of a man and a woman who were clearly in love with each other. They had been her parents, but Christine barely remembered either of them. They had both died in a car accident on the way home from their date night when she was four. Christine had been at home with the babysitter.
Christine remembered reading the newspaper article about it when she was thirteen and in foster care, as she hadn't had any relatives, "Husband and Wife Killed in Car Crash After Car Explodes." Apparently it had been extremely foggy that night, and her father missed a sharp bend in the road and hit a tree. The engine had exploded, killing both of them instantly.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Christine went into her room to lay out her dress for the evening across her neatly made bed before hopping into the shower and doing her hair into a low chignon bun. She kept her makeup light; just some mascara, blush, and some neutrally toned eye-shadow.
Slipping the dress on, Christine checked her reflection in the mirror, fidgeting with a few things on her outfit. The dress was a soft gold color, and had a high-low hemline, the highest point coming just below her knees, and the lowest point hitting her at the middle of her Achilles-heel. It had an empire waist, and just skimmed over her figure. It had a more modest neckline for two reasons, the first being that Christine was a naturally modest girl. The second reason was that she didn't have a very petite bust, either, so she didn't have to show as much.
Christine slipped on a pair of nude heels while glancing at the clock. "Crap, I'm already running late," she muttered, grabbing a champagne colored clutch and rushing out the door. To her good fortune, there was an empty cab already outside, and she hailed it and got in.
"321 Mercer Street, please," Christine told the driver breathily.
"I'm sorry, miss, but I believe that this is my cab," an amused voice said. Christine practically let out a yelp.
"I'm so sorry," she began, but the man stopped her with a wave of his hand. He looked to be about twenty-six, so two years older than she was, with soft brown eyes and auburn hair. He seemed strangely familiar.
"It's all right," he said with a friendly smile, "Since we appear to be headed to the same place, anyway." Christine blushed. "So, who are you representing tonight at this event?" he asked. He thinks I'm one of the guests, Christine realized.
"Oh, no one. I'm just a performer," Christine said with a modest shrug as the cab cruised down the street, stopping for the occasional red light.
"Well, you certainly look as if you're a patron," he said with a charming look. "I'm Raoul, by the way, Raoul de Changy."
Aha! So that's where I know him from! Christine thought. After her parents had died, and she had been put into foster care, she was with a wealthy family when she was thirteen, the de Chagnys. She had befriended the younger brother, Raoul, and they had been sweet on each other, as it were. Of course he wouldn't remember her, she was only there for eight months.
"I'm Christine, Christine D-" she began before he interrupted her again.
"Christine Daaé?" He said with bewilderment. She nodded, suddenly shy. "What a happy coincidence! Do you remember me?" he asked with a laugh.
"Yes, Raoul, I remember you." Christine couldn't help but laugh. She was just happy he remembered her. Looking at him, she realized he had grown into quite the man. He was well built, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. He was probably about 6 feet tall. His hair, though, was still as unruly as it always was, with curls springing up everywhere, and the two especially right at his temples. She had the sudden urge to run her fingers through it.
"So what time do you perform?" he asked jovially, turning those perfect, sparkling eyes on her.
"I'm not on until seven, but I should be there by six so I have time to look over the equipment, acoustics of the room and the sheet music," she explained with a gentle smile curving her lips upward. "I've never performed here before. Hopefully I'll perform well enough to be asked back."
"I didn't realize that you sang, Lottie," Raoul said, raising his eyebrows. "You never really mentioned it when you stayed with us."
"I didn't really develop a real love and appreciation for it until my next home," Christine explained, even as they pulled up to the Seattle Center. "It was nice seeing you again, Raoul," she said, getting out of the cab and paying the driver before going into the large building through a back entrance that was specifically for performers.
Once inside, Christine checked her appearance for the last time before heading out to the stage area and looking at the layout of the room and checking to make sure that her microphone was working properly and checking to make sure she had all of her sheet music with her, along with the cheat-sheet for pronunciation for the songs that were in a foreign language.
Satisfied that everything was ready, Christine headed backstage and waited for seven o' clock to roll around. She didn't dare to sit down, because she was afraid that her dress might wrinkle, or get caught in her panties and that she would embarrass herself before she even actually performed.
Christine caught herself before she let her thoughts wander too far down that path, and she took a deep breath and imagined that she was sinking into the ground to calm herself. That was the only trick that she had tried that would actually keep her calm. She had learned that from a rather bad foster home that she had been in- the one just after the de Changy's, in fact. The family was obviously taking in foster children for the money they received for it, and didn't really care what became of the children under their care. They had one child of their own, and he was the one who had led her into the wonderful escape and worlds that music could lead you into. He had become her mentor, and her closest friend. She was fourteen, and he was almost eighteen. Obviously a smart young man, he had already been in his sophomore year in college. But as soon as he turned eighteen, his parents had thrust him out into the world on his own.
She had never seen him again, but he had promised that he would find her someday, and she had believed him. For some reason, she still did, though why was beyond her. It was clear that he wasn't going to find her, because it had been ten years, and she hadn't received so much as a letter.
What she remembered most about him, though, was his voice. She remembered walking through the broken down door for the first time with her duffle bag and hearing him singing. She had followed it to the back of the house and had pushed open the door and found him bent over a piece of paper scribbling something on it.
"What're you doing?" she had asked, the confusion clear in her voice.
He had turned to face her, a gentle smile on his face. "You must be Christine," he said, welcoming her. "I'm composing. Would you like to see?"
He had been so patient with her, and dealing with her ignorance. "Yes, please," she had said, walking up and peering over his shoulder.
She remembered, too, that he had one blue eye and one grey eye. She found it fascinating. He was handsome, too, with a strong jaw and high cheekbones and a long, firm face. He wasn't built like Raoul, either. He was narrow, and all of his limbs were long. He was proud and graceful in his movements, like a tiger or large domestic cat.
"Miss Daaé, you're on in five minutes," a server came and placed a hand on Christine's shoulder, bringing her out of her reverie.
"Thank you," Christine said politely, heading closer to the stage. She could see that the string quartet that was to accompany her was already on stage, going through a simple, elegant introductory piece.
When that number was done, Christine walked with confidence onto the stage after she had been properly introduced and sang her first set. Throughout the performance, though, she was scanning the crowd, as she was wont to do, and made eye contact with Raoul several times, and he gave her an encouraging, gallant smile each time.
Christine couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched very closely by one person in the crowd, and that was the main reason she was watching the patrons mingle so closely. At the crescendo of the last song in her first set, she found out who had been watching her.
It was a man with a white porcelain mask covering three-quarters of his face, only his mouth and his left cheek were exposed. His gaze unnerved her and she wondered at it for a moment as the song ended. She thanked the audience and told them she would be back at eight-thirty before exiting the stage as gracefully as she could.
Christine had been told beforehand that she was allowed to mingle with the guests between her sets, so that she might entice some of them to give more than they might have otherwise. She wasn't sure that she wanted to go down there and quite possibly face that masked man's gaze- or even his conversation. But she knew she had better, if she wanted to even have a hope of performing here again. Besides, Raoul would probably approach her, and she would be able to take her mind off of it.
So she made her way through the crowd, receiving many rounds of 'you performed wonderfully,' and 'excellent job.' She finally found Raoul, and they were enjoying a pleasant conversation, reminiscing about old adventures, when he walked up oh-so-casually.
"May I take the young lady from your presence for a moment, Mr. Chagny?" he said, his voice incredibly smooth and polite, though it was ice cold and left no room for argument.
Raoul nodded. "I'll be back in just a few minutes with some drinks, Lotte," he said, leaving them.
"So, you are Ms. Daaé, correct?" he asked, giving her a calculating look. Christine felt as if she were a horse at an auction, and he was a potential buyer. That thought unnerved her even more than she already was.
"Yes, I am," she said with a smooth dip of her head. "How may I help you?"
"Would you be interested in taking vocal lessons, Miss Daaé?" he asked, looking at her sharply. His height only made him look more imposing than he already was. His black attire and thin, long body made him look incredibly aloof and proud. Even in her four inch high heels, Christine only came to five feet, eight inches. This man looked to be almost six foot three or perhaps even a little taller. He was certainly taller than Raoul.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I really cannot afford it," she said apologetically, though, in fact, she was relieved that she had an excuse to say no.
"As you can see by my presence here, money is no object for me. I merely wish to know if you would like to be taught and improve your vocal capabilities," he said flatly. It was obvious that his temper was running short already.
"I suppose so. There's always room for improvement, right?" Christine said, smiling nervously.
"Excellent," the man said, pulling out a small piece of paper and quickly scribbling an address and time on it. "Be there at ten a.m. tomorrow, Ms. Daaé," he said coldly, handing her the scrap of parchment and walking away.
"What was that about?" Raoul asked, coming up behind her with a pair of drinks. Christine quickly folded the paper and tucked it inside her dress.
"Nothing," she said quickly. "He just wanted to tell me I did a good job," she covered smoothly. Why was she lying? It wasn't like there was an adequate reason to, and yet she was.
"Him? Not likely. I've never seen, or even heard of him complimenting anyone," Raoul snorted, handing her a water.
"Why is it so shocking? I was just up there, and I did an all right job," Christine said, defending her farce with something close to annoyance.
"Because that's Erik Destler, the owner of 'Mask Records,'" Raoul said, the derision clear in his voice. "He isn't the cheeriest fellow on planet Earth."
"H-he's the owner of 'Mask?'" Christine said with shock.
"That's what I said, wasn't it?" Raoul laughed. "But if he complimented you, then you must've done a really good job, Lottie. I don't know anything about music, but I know he's probably given out a total of two, well, now three, compliments in his professional life."
When Christine got home that night, her high heels instantly found their way to the same spot as her converse had earlier, and she pulled out the piece of paper and looked at it closely. The script was compact and flowing at the same time. Clearly legible, even though she had seen him scribble it out as if he were in some sort of frenzy. So, tomorrow at ten a.m. Christine was going to 354 Locke Drive to have a voice lesson from the owner of 'Mask Records'... who also happened to scare the bejeebees out of her.
That's the first chapter! If you liked it, please review, because, like I said earlier, this is my first modern/AU fic, and I want to make sure I'm doing stuff right, haha. Also, 354 Locke Drive is a completely fictitious address, and if it bears any similarity to a real one, it's simply coincidence. However, the 321 address is real, and it happens to be for McCaw Hall, Seattle's Opera House.
Also, I don't own POTO or anything. If I did, I would be incredibly happy, and have a lot more money than I do now! XD But who knows. It could happen.