A/N: The story ideas continue coming-unfortunately it's never for a story I'm already working on! Sorry for the long wait! I'll probably have more time to work on those after August! Anyway, here's the latest idea! I hope you enjoy it! As always, I do not own Phantom of the Opera or any of its characters!
Her mother had told her of another brother, her firstborn, who had a face that gave her nightmares ever since he was born. She had confessed that she had sold him, as soon as he was weaned, and how the nightmares had continued several years afterward, until Julia herself had been born. Still, her mother had said, the memory of that face had never left her. As the years had gone on and as Julia's brother and sister had been born, her mother said that so often, it had been on her mind that she had grown used to it. Now, it no longer haunted her or filled her with fright. Now, she was filled with guilt and remorse.
And she was dying.
"Find him," her voice was weak, but the order was clear and firm. "You must find him and tell him I'm sorry."
"What's his name? Where do I begin?"
"Erik...Erik James Dupree...he might not be aware of his middle and last name. I...sold him to the gypsies...a traveling fair..."
"I'll find him, Mother. I promise...just don't go before I do..."
"I'll try, my child. I'll try.."
For two months, Julia attended every traveling fair she could find. No one had heard of such a child, but several offered to buy him if she ever found him. Disgusted and discouraged, she walked through a fair on the outskirts of Paris. Perhaps he is no longer alive... What sort of comfort would that bring to her mother? No...she had to keep trying.
She moved away from the crowds to where several performers were eating lunch. As she described her brother once more, their faces grew angry. "That murderous beast of a child? He's lucky he isn't here, else I'll strangle him myself!" Vowed a man with a rubber face, and his companions nodded in agreement.
"We called him the Devil's Child...a face like that, it had to be true. He strangled a man and ran off with some girl from the opera house. No doubt he's long gone by now...no one there had seen him."
"The opera house?"
"Opera Populaire. Not that it's any use to you. He's not there."
"Thank you, Monsieur..." she moved to walk away, but a hand grasped her shoulder. Whirling around, she saw it was the man she'd been talking to, his eyes now full of greed.
"I'll be paid for that information, Mademoiselle..."
"I only have a few coins..."
"That's not what I mean." He pressed his rubbery lips to hers, and she bit down on them. Hard. He stumbled back, slapping her. "Viper!" He growled.
"Fredrique, you're on!" a voice called, and he snarled at Julia.
"Where are the coins?" She slowly moved her hand to her pocket, but he got there first, tearing the pocket clean off and leaving a gaping hole in her dress, which she quickly covered up with her cloak. Wiping at his bleeding lips, he continued to glare. "You will pay for that as well...if you find that beast of an ingrate...you will bring him to me. If you don't, I will find you." With that, he turned and went to where his crowd was waiting. Julia shuddered and quickly left the fair, in search of the opera house or a place to leave her own lunch, whichever came first.
The opera house was easy enough to find. Unable to afford to attend the next night's production, she went around back to the stables. Using the service entrance she was immediately caught up in the chaos of everyone preparing for the show. She ducked inside an empty room to get out of the way. Finding a seat, she fingered the hole in her dress. "That's quite a tear..." she whirled around to see a young man watching her.
"I..I'm sorry...I thought I was alone..."
"No...I apologize for startling you." The speaker moved forward, and she replaced the cloak over the hole. "I'm Henri Reyer...my father's the conductor here...I play the violin..."
"Julia Dupree...I did not mean to sneak in...I'm looking for someone..."
"I could try to help, if you like...I know pretty much everyone here. But first, let's fix that dress. You'll find several of the stagehands here have eyes where they don't belong." Henri led her through several corridors to where the wardrobe mistress was fixing last minute "emergencies" for the performers. "Madame Gruin, when you have a moment, I have a young lady here who could use a bit of thread..."
"Yes, yes, of course...get in line, Mademoiselle..." Satisfied that she would be taken care of, Henri left with the promise that he'd return. Julia looked from him to the line of countless performers waiting.
"I could do it myself, Madame...it looks like you could use some help..."
By the time Henri returned to fetch her an hour later, he found her sitting beside Mme. Gruin, her dress freshly patched, and now working just as expertly and quickly as the older woman, sewing and mending costumes for the younger dancers. If he hadn't just met her in the stables, he would have said that she was right at home here. He watched as she entertained the little girl she was aiding, letting her get a closer look at the stitches she was making and even allowing her to pull the thread through a couple times. Finally, the tear was mended, and she made a small joke as she carefully handed the girl's precious doll over to her, as if it were a real baby. The girl hugged it close, then hugged Julia before skipping out of the room past him. Julia, watching the girl and smiling brightly, inevitably laid her eyes on him, and he could not help but return the smile. "Might I steal you away from your needles for a moment, or would you care to continue your search later?"
"When is the next time you're free?" Her face changed from pure joy to perhaps torn and a bit guilty for having forgotten, even for an hour.
"I have rehearsals in an hour, but after supper I have at least another three hours free while my father takes care of final changes to the arrangements." Wanting to ease the torn feeling she was wrestling with, he decided to turn the question on her. "What time must you be home?"
"I...I'm not from around here...I'm afraid I don't have a place to stay..." Shame replaced the torn look, and he wasn't sure which was worst.
"Let me speak to a few people. I will find you a bed for as long as you need. When I fetch you for supper, I'll have an answer." With a nod, he was gone, and it took her a moment to realize his promise was laced with an invitation to supper, with him as her escort. Blinking with shock, she turned to Mme. Gruin. As if reading her thoughts, a small smile appeared on her face though her eyes never left her work.
"You may help yourself to any of the dresses on the rack farthest to the back, on the left."
"Thank you so much, Madame...I'll be sure to repay you..."
"I don't need payment. Only a temporary assistant as long as you're here."
"I'd be more than happy to." Julia smiled before motioning to the next little dancer.
Henri arrived just as Mme. Gruin was putting the finishing touches on Julia's hair. As she turned around to respond to his knock on the doorway, he couldn't believe this was the same girl he'd encountered in the stables. Gone were the dirt smudges and tangled hair, and her torn dress had been replaced with a pale blue gown. The turquoise pendant she wore around her neck caused her blue eyes to stand out all the more, and he had to clear his throat before speaking. "Are you ready for supper, Mademoiselle?" Only when Madame Gruin nodded in approval did Julia take a step toward the young man before them. Seeing her cheeks redden, Henri realized he'd been staring into her eyes. Clearing his throat again, he offered his arm. She silently took it, and a shyness surrounded them both as they made their way into the dining hall. Henri quickly led her past the tables full of curious eyes toward a smaller table close to the front. "Father, I'd like you to meet Mademoiselle Julia Dupree. Julia, this is my father, Monsieur Reyer."
"How do you do, Mademoiselle?" The elderly man stood and took her hand, and in one motion he both bowed and kissed it.
"I'm very well, thank you..." Julia's voice was quiet, and Henri could tell that she was not used to such kind treatment and formalities. Wanting to ease her discomfort, he spoke up.
"Julia will be assisting Madame Gruin for as long as she's here. It was her own idea."
"How very thoughtful of you, dear..." the woman seated next to Monsieur Reyer smiled genuinely at her.
"Julia, this is the ballet mistress, Madame Giry. Seated next to her is her daughter, Marguerite. Madame Giry will be showing you your room later on."
"Oh, thank you, Madame!" Julia grinned with relief.
"You're most welcome, dear. Please, sit down before your food gets cold." Madame Giry motioned to the chair on the other side of Monsieur Reyer. Henri was quick to pull it out for her, and only after he was sure she was comfortable did he take his own seat on her other side.
Minutes into the meal, Henri finally spoke up. "Julia, perhaps now you could tell us who you're searching for? Those of us at this table have been here the longest, and so we'd be sure to know."
"I can't say much other than what my mother told me. His name is Erik...Erik James Dupree. He has a face that is quite noticeable, and I don't see it in this room. Perhaps the man at the fair was right in saying he's no longer here..." Her voice was cut of by the sound of Madame Giry's fork clattering to her plate.
"Excuse me, child, but do you speak of the gypsy fair?"
"Why yes...just outside the city..."
"Antoinette, are you alright?" Monsieur Reyer questioned upon seeing the woman's face pale.
"Oh...yes...I'm quite alright...it's just been a tiring day..." Madame Giry threw him a reassuring smile, and as she picked up her fork, Julia glanced at Meg, who was now looking up at her mother with an expression that told Julia that she was not convinced.
A/N: Don't worry, our favorite Phantom will make an appearance soon! I have the first part of the next chapter written already, so stay tuned! Feel free to review...I love the feedback! :)