Ann is introduced to the rest of the opera, while Meg Giry suspects that something is not quite right...
An image of memory, a thought of the past.
He watched her sleep, her one hand over her head, the other resting on her chest. Her fingers twitched, her brow furrowed. The thoughts of a ghost from the past.
Old rage flared up. Jealousy, anger... Loathing towards the fate that he didn't deserve. Emotions flashed behind the mask but as soon as it came it was gone.
He watched her sleep.
A stray piece of hair had strayed over her face.
Impassively he stared at it. He reached out and hesitated.
She stirred and opened her eyes. Blue orbs stared at him, seemingly glowing in the faint light. Her one hand twitched as she slowly raised it and felt before her in the dark.
He watched it with clinical detachment and slowly brought his hand closer to hers, keeping it just beyond her searching touch. When he turned his hand to the side hers followed in a twin mirror move. He twisted his head slightly, intrigued by the gesture. Slowly he waved his hand back - and watched the move being mimicked.
He studied her face again, searching her eyes for the lie she must've told him but they continued to stare past him, unseeing and unresponsive.
He realized, quite suddenly, that she was not entirely awake yet. He spread his fingers wide, started to reach forward to place his finger tips against hers but stopped.
He brought his other hand from his cape and placed the object on the floor. He turned to leave but stopped and turned back to study her. The girl's hand still stretched out in front of her, almost as if she was asking him to touch her.
Again rage and irritation flared up. How dare this child come here?
Who did she think she was?
"What makes you think that they will accept you?" He whispered softly, unbidden. "In their eyes you will be imperfect. They do not hold with that. They will never accept you."
She didn't respond, her sightless eyes continuing to stare beyond him. With a sigh, she slowly dropped her hand and turned towards him, fully asleep again in seconds.
The Phantom stared at her for a long time before he wrapped his cloak around him...
The knocking was insistent.
"Ann, breakfast is ready. Come to my room child so that we can get you ready."
The young woman muttered something unintelligible and turned around, pulling the covers over her head.
The adamant noise stopped as the door was flung open.
"Julianne." Mme Giry's voice insisted as she marched to the bed and shook the figure. "Come on, you're not one to sleep in. You can't miss this practice love."
The befuddled form stirred as she surfaced.
"I thought I was home." She muttered. "What time...?"
She heard the sound of curtains being opened.
"Seven." Mme Giry said. "Practice begins at eight but you have to be there at seven thirty. I told you that last night."
Ann sat up and rubbed her brow.
"I... forgot." She muttered. "Aunt Meg, can you give me a moment please? I'll get dressed by myself."
She felt the other woman's smile.
"You're too independent." She said and gave her a light kiss on her head. "Five minutes."
Her presence left the room.
Shaking her fuzzy head, Ann stretched until she felt several satisfying clicks. She slipped her feet off the edge of the bed and felt around for her cane. Brushing its smooth surface, she pushed it forward with her toes and listened whether anybody was in the room with her. Satisfied that she was alone she grinned and rolled it forward so that the handle pointed away from her. She sat up and placed her foot over it.
In a well practiced motion she quickly rolled her foot back, allowed the cane to roll onto her toes and kicked it up.
She immediately felt that something was different. Ann gasped and tried to snatch it out of the air but she had mistimed completely. The cane hit her fingers and bounced away from her. Ann hissed under her breath as her palm started throbbing.
She took a hold of her wrist and blinked surprised when she felt a piece of cloth turned around it.
She had completely forgotten...
She rubbed over the place where the stitches should be and gave another start.
She had broken her cane; they couldn't find another one for her last night...
Dropping to her knees Ann started to feel around for the unknown object.
She heard footsteps coming to her door.
"Ann, what in heaven's name are you doing?" The ballet mistress asked.
Shaking, Ann's hand brushed over the smooth surface.
"Ah, I'm having trouble finding my wardrobe." She called back. "Don't come in though, I'll manage."
Mme Giry sighed. "Five more minutes then I'm dressing you." She said exasperated. The footsteps disappeared again.
Ann swallowed and sat back slowly, her heart beating so loudly she was sure everybody could hear it. She ran her hand over the cane's unfamiliar surface. It was very smooth and well worked, not reed - she guessed - but wood or something with a similar surface. The tip was covered or made of a type of metal, smooth and clean at the bottom indicating it hadn't been used before. Her fingers danced across it to the top. It was also made of a slightly different material than the cane itself. Ann's face darkened with concentration as she explored it. The "handle" wasn't as long and curved as her previous cane. It was smaller, the curve just bend enough so that it could hook around her fingers. There were also grooves for a better grip and a piece of finely worked chain fitted just below the handle itself. Ann smiled slightly as she felt a small carving on the side. It took several minutes for her to finally figure out what it was.
She sat back pleased.
"An angel..." She whispered.
The girl was beginning to try her patience.
Meg loved Julianne as much as she would have loved her own children but there were limits to her patience.
She pushed the door open.
"Ann for the last time..." She froze when she saw her ward hunched on the floor, still in her night gown. She looked up at the noise, her eyes wandering in the door's general direction. She was holding a cane in her lap.
Meg frowned, she distinctly remembered that they couldn't find one last night. If she had gone out...
"Where did you get that?" She asked and went closer to her.
Julianne looked towards the cane and stood up carefully.
"I... thought you put it in my room." She said. "When you came in to wake me that is... You didn't put it under my bed?"
Whilst standing she tested its length, momentum and how sensitive she was to what it transmitted from the floor.
Her eyes shone. "It's almost as if it lies in my hands!" She exclaimed. "It carries itself. It's perfect Aunt Meg!"
Meg was still staring at the attractive, and obviously expensive, cane.
"Can I see it?"
Julianne smiled and carefully crossed the distance between her and the other woman.
"Sure." She said and, after feeling where she was, placed Meg's hands over the piece. "I can't." She turned around and, keeping one hand in front of her, made her way to the wardrobe. The other hand trailed over the furniture she encountered.
Unlike the other girl's rooms, there were no pictures, ornaments or flowers standing around.
Meg didn't watch as the girl found the wardrobe and rather turned her attention on the smooth wood in her hands.
The middle wood was very dark, though not entirely black. When she turned it a bit the wood almost seemed to turn into the color of dark blood.
'There was blood on his face, blood in his eyes...'
She gave a start as a hand settled in the crook of her arm and the other explored her face.
"Aunt Meg what's wrong?" Julianne's tone was low and intense as she kept her hand on the older woman's cheek. "You've been quiet for a very long time. You feel strange."
Meg swallowed, trying to work some moisture to her mouth.
"I'm fine." She said lightly and took the girl's hand from her cheek. "Don't worry - you have your shirt round the wrong way."
Julianne laughed an easy, musical sound.
"Liar." She said but consciously tugged at the collar. "Did you see the angel on the handle? It is an angel right?"
Her heart leaped to her throat, but Meg was careful not to show any reaction with Julianne this close to her.
Trying to breathe normally, willing her frozen hands to work, Meg focused her attention on the handle of the cane. It was white, looking like porcelain but of a much stronger material.
Meg didn't know but when she saw that it was indeed an angel carved on the front she felt an unbidden fear bubble up inside her.
It was the same fear she had felt just before she found Julianne and the same fear she felt years ago in the managers' office, when two fools thought that they could play games with a ghost.
Her own voice echoed across time to her.
'Christine must be protected!'
Julianne must be protected...
When the hand returned to her face Meg started back to reality. Looking up at the taller person's worried face she felt her heart rate slowly returning to normal. Her common sense kicked in and suddenly she felt almost foolish.
She was over reacting.
There were a hundred reasons how the cane could've gotten under the bed and it was utterly foolish of her to choose the least likely.
"We're going to be late again." She told the girl as she pulled herself together. "Can you do with out breakfast for now?"
The younger woman nodded and hesitantly took the cane back from her.
"Can I keep it?" She whispered softly.
Meg bit her lip then nodded, her common sense might have taken over control but she was still uneasy.
"Ann, this cane looks very expensive." She said cautiously. "So, I'd rather suggest that we try to find the owner first."
At the disappointment in the girl's face she had to add the last bit.
"But if we don't find the owner - then it is yours."
The ancient Chorus Master or Chief RÃ©pÃ©titeur of the Opera Populaire gave the people in front of him a critical look.
"Mesdames and Messieurs please!" Monsieur Reyer made silencing motions in both the Men's and the Girl's chorus' direction. "Can we have some order? Order I say!"
Slowly the crescendo of voices filtered away.
M. Reyer glared at them over his glasses. "It seems you didn't practice hard enough last night" He said sternly. "If you have that much energy. Perhaps we should..."
A general commotion started up in protest.
The Chorus Master clapped his hands together, effectively silencing them.
"But I think that won't be necessary." He said with a small smile. "Get to your places everybody - we resume where we left off last night. Faust starts in two weeks and..."
He paused as something touched his shoulder from behind.
"Ah, yes - of course." He said softly. "My apologies Mademoiselle. And, Mesdames and Messieurs I would like to introduce you all to our new chorus member. This is Ann Leroux she will be singing soprano in the Girls' chorus."
Again a general murmur rose up as Ann stepped out from behind M. Reyer and faced them. Her face shone with excitement, she had been given a general overall about what music they were practicing and the songs they were going to sing today.
The volume of the murmur increased as M. Reyer led her to her fellow chorus members.
"Is this the girl we were looking for yesterday?"
"I heard she's Mme. Giry's illegitimate daughter..."
"They say she's blind."
M. Reyer glared at the speaker.
"It's my hope that young Mademoiselle Leroux will add value to our productions." He said in a warning tone. "It's also my trust that you will treat her accordingly and make her feel welcome. Ann - you stand here, remember what I said this morning."
The new chorus member nodded and smiled at the people she sensed around her. When a hand touched her shoulder she turned a warm look behind her.
"Enjoyed your sight-seeing tour yesterday?"
Ann blinked surprised; she hadn't expected that tone already.
A hand touched her arm and drew her deeper into the circle. "Sophia, you hold your tongue." An older voice said sternly. "I'm Helena du'Fleur Ann, welcome here. You can stand with me."
The girl welcomed the presence with a smile.
"Thank you." She said softly as M. Reyer began to prepare them for the warm up.
Her heart beat excited - at last she felt as if she was really in the Paris Opera house.
Staff meetings were always held over lunch.
Meg sighed softly and pushed her vegetables around on her plate, barely listening to Monsieur Richard Firmen as he rambled off important announcements. He had become a reedy man, with wispy, graying hair that was starting to fall out in patches. Meg, along with everybody else, knew that managing the Opera's finances were hard on him. Somehow, although they managed to stay afloat, money just weren't coming in as it use to. They had trouble procuring lead singers, maintenance was always behind and most the staff wasn't happy with their minimal salary.
None the less, somehow the show went on.
There was always just enough for one more show, just enough for one last song.
Meg blinked when she realized that M. Firmin was done with his speech.
She sighed and realized that she had missed half of it.
No matter, she always just went forward on her own schedule anyway.
Meg looked up as someone slipped in next to her. She smiled at the old man and turned her attention back to her food.
"Not hungry?" M. Reyer asked gently.
His former pupil shook her head. "I'm just not in the mood today." She said. "How did today go? Where's Ann now?"
The old chorus master smiled.
"Well - considering that she only really started today. She's currently with Mme. Du'Fleur. She's a very enthusiastic participant." He said. "And, she knows her operas so, that helps."
Meg frowned slightly, sensing more.
"But?" She queried worried.
M. Reyer smiled dryly.
"It's still going to take a lot of work to get her ready every time especially now for Faust." He said. "She's quick learner but she has to hear it over and over again. And there's nothing we can really do to help her with that. And, she doesn't really have a voice fit for a chorus."
"What do you mean?" She asked a bit defensive. "Ann has a great voice, she's been singing since she was 6 and, her mother isn't a fool. She taught her well..."
The Chorus Master laughed and held up his hands.
"That's part of my problem." He said with a smile. "Megan, her voice is too strong for the chorus. She could be a Prima Donna - she has an amazing range. With some further training..." A vague light entered his eyes. "She rather reminds me of another girl we had had here..."
Meg sat up immediately and shook her head. "Don't compare them." She said sharply. "This place destroyed Christine; I don't want the same to happen to Ann. They are not the same. And, you know as well as I do that Ann would never have a leading role. Somehow, I suddenly feel as if she shouldn't even be /here/."
M. Reyer frowned sensing the Ballet Mistress's dark thoughts.
"I'm not saying that I can't make her into a chorus girl." He said. "I can use her Mme Giry. And, I'm willing to put in that time. Are you alright? You seem very distracted."
The petite woman sighed and nodded. "I'm fine." She said and stood up. "I just... Have to check on something. Can you ask M. Firmin to announce that I won't be taking the girls this afternoon? Get Annette to do it, she has taken them through their paces before. And, without making a fuss, could you just ask everyone to keep an eye on Ann. I don't want yesterday's endeavor to repeat itself. Oh yes, and find out whether anybody lost a cane..."
She went straight to her room and dug around in one of her old trunks.
Mme Megan Giry took out an old overall and studied it. If there was something she had learned from life it was you could always use a pair of men's clothes and shoes.
She got dressed in it quickly and wrapped a dark cloak around her. Unintentionally she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.
'He had Christine! He was going to hurt her... He had Christine, she had to do something.'
The elfin girl kept repeating these words over and over in her head as she rushed down the secret, dark passageway. Her hand shook as she held it blindly before her, her own words echoing through her head.
"Keep your hand at level with your eyes..."
The passageway had seemed a lot shorter the last time she went down it.
Trying to keep the cloak tightly wrapped around her Meg held the torch up high, trying to illumine as much of the shadows around her. Above her she could feel the Opera house pressing down on her but she swallowed away the feeling and carried on.
When she reached the lake Meg took a moment to look around her, something she didn't take the time for the last time she was here. She found the idea of this underwater chasm quite disturbing. As before, there was no boat or vessel waiting for her. Going round the side Meg prayed that the water level hadn't raised.
She wasn't a very good swimmer.
'There was nobody in the cavern.'
Still soaked from where she had fallen into the water Meg crawled through the space under the portcullis. There were candles everywhere and a noose lay discarded on the floor.
In the candle light she could make out various objects standing around but she paid them no mind. The sound of the advancing mob was growing closer.
'Track down this murderer, he must be found. Track down...'
Just a short distance from her a throne like chair towered up towards the roof of the cavern. Meg's heart caught in her throat as she saw the silhouette of a figure on it. She walked over, hesitated... and pulled the cloak away from the chair.
The hollow eye of the mask stared back at her, mockingly.
She had always wanted to meet the ghost Meg realized as she stood at the mouth of the cavernous room. Unlike the others, who could still dismiss him as a myth she knew that he existed. They had, after all, lived in the Opera house together. One developed a sense for these things. She could feel him, always watching them - measuring them, calculating...
None of that remained now.
She swallowed and went closer to the wall to get another torch, it took sometime to get one that wasn't too badly burned or broken.
When she had lit about four of them she allowed herself to look around the cavern for the first time. The room was just as she remembered it from twenty years past.
Burned, destroyed and empty...
The mob swept towards the cavern like an angry tidal wave.
Little Meg grabbed the cloak and mask and fled from the anger and hate she felt pulsing through the room. She searched for another exit, scared that if she ran into the frenzied group of men they wouldn't be able to distinguish friend from foe. There was no other passageway, not crevice or crack where she could squeeze herself into. Breathing heavily Meg looked around her, terrified. Something towered up before her and before she knew what she was doing she ran towards it, swept the cloak over the candles to blow them out and allow the flowing material to turn around her as she hunched down at the foot of the mini organ. Shaking she clung to the mask as the first lights appeared...
The dark cloak trailed patterns in the dust.
Meg clutched it around her as she wandered around the room touching this, avoiding that... Broken glass and lumpy burned out wax blobs moved and broke underneath her sturdy boots. It was quite clear that no one had been down here in years. Still...
She had to make /sure/.
Meg took a deep breath, retook one of the torches.
She turned to the mini organ and slowly walked over to it. Somehow, someway it alone had managed to escape the carnage of the precious items. She reached out to touch it but rather drew back and studied the apparatus.
About twenty years worth of dust and cobwebs decorated it.
Blissful relief and perhaps a touch of regret flowed through her as she stared at the untouched instrument.
Nobody had played on it for years, he wasn't here.
She sighed and looked around the room one last time, remembering the frenzy and vehemence with which the people had destroyed the items to release their frustration at not finding their quarry.
Feeling an indescribable, overwhelming sadness Meg Giry turned back the way she came - keeping the cloak tightly wrapped around her.
Behind her, masked by the light of the torches - something stirred.
"Meg Giry, what are you doing here?"
The sobbing girl looked up through a haze of tears. A figure moved toward over her, framed by a golden halo of flames.
She had never known her mother to be frightened woman. She was formidable, able to make hordes of excitable ballet girls jump and listen to her every command. In an age where it was one step short of scandalous to raise a kid, mother alone she took to the task with pride and persistence.
Yet now, facing her only child huddled in a black cape and clutching a bone white mask, she looked petrified.
"Where did you get that? Meg, why are you here? Do you know what they'll do if they find you with /that/."
Meg looked around her, the flames reflected in her large orbs.
"Christine isn't here."/ She sobbed. /"Mother, he's gone as well! He has taken her..."
Antoinette Giry shook her head.
"She's safe."/ She said quickly. /"Raoul has brought her back to us. Meg..."
The girl, a young woman but with the heart of a child, started sobbing as she hugged the mask tighter to her chest. The mini organ toward above her.
"Then why are they doing this mother?"/ She asked. "Why/ are they doing this?"/ /
The last was almost a shout.
Mme Giry closed her eyes and shook her head as she sank down next to her girl and wrapped the tearful child up in an embrace like only a mother can give.
She didn't answer her for a very long time as mother and daughter bore witness to the destruction of one man's life and legacy. Papers, manuscripts and books were burned, carpets rolled up and taken away - priceless relics shattered.
The Giry's watched this all, like ghosts beneath the magnificent instrument.
When all was done, and they were alone and forgotten amid the rubble, Antoinette Giry stirred.
"Because there is more than one kind of monster in this world my dear little Meg."/ She whispered and held her daughter close. /
AN: There we go, Chapter 2. Thank you very much for the review!! It is much appreciated. Just let me know when you are ready for the next chapter.