Madam Giry thinks about old times on her journey back to the opera house.
Chapter 7: Giry's Ghost.
The movement of the train and the soft, rhythmic sounds of the wheels on the track were making her drowsy.
Mme Antoinette Giry snorted at herself and shook her head as the countryside flashed by.
There was no use denying it, she was getting old.
Pretty soon she will spend her days in a rocking chair with her knitting on her lap, a nurse constantly by her side and her grandchildren...
Not if she knew /her daughter... /
She shook her head again and sat up a bit, ignoring the dull pain in her hip. With a detached admiration she forced herself to look at the Spanish countryside. Although it has been her home for several months now she couldn't help but feel relieved to return back to her dear //Paris//.
The Opera house, the city and even the people there made her feel more welcome and content than this place ever could.
The Opera house.
Her gaze became distant as she rested her head back against the seat. In the distance she noticed a band of traveling wagons. A traveling gypsy show most probably.
"Come on little Meg, keep up!" She said with a smile as she watched her three year old daughter trail behind her, her wild blond curls standing in all directions at once. "We still have a lot to see!"
The little girl, already small for her age, looked up from where she had been studying something in the distance.
"Mama, there's another cage over there!" She exclaimed excited. "Let's go there! Please? I want to see what it is. Please? Really please?"
Her face was flushed with exhilaration.
The dark haired woman raised an eyebrow and followed her daughter's eager gesture. A small crowd had formed around a covered cage. A beefy man with a circus top hat and a red jacket was standing on a box before it, beckoning and calling to the crowds to come closer.
The canvas moved ever so slightly.
Antoinette felt shivers traveling down her spine.
"It's probably just another strange animal Megan." She said as she joined her daughter. "We can go round later."
The little girl shook her head stubbornly in a silent request to be picked up.
"Let's go now." She insisted. "It's going to be scary mama, like that lelephant. /Please..." /Begging eyes looked up at her.
Shaking her head with a wry smile Antoinette shifted their picnic basket to her one hand and allowed her daughter to climb onto her hip.
"That look's going to be the death of me." She teased and moved the basket for balance. "You're getting too heavy for this you know."
The girl giggled and wrapped her arms around her mother's neck as the woman carried her to the crowd.
The words from the announcer drifted to her.
"...so hideous that the first woman who saw the creature fainted out of pure horror." Antoinette Giry frowned and after some thought put Meg to the ground, who whined disappointed. Her mother looked down at her and shook her head. "In a moment love..." She said softly. "Let Mama just see what it is."
She kept a hand on her daughter's head as she listened to the man as he whipped the crowd up into an excited frenzy. Little Meg wanted to push through to the front but she kept a firm hand on her.
"So please Messieurs..." The man continued. "Stand behind your women less they should be faint of heart. If you wish, you should leave now for this is a devil from the next world..."
He didn't give people chance to leave as he turned around and pulled the canvas from the cage.
The crowd gasped in anticipation... and hesitated. A nervous thrill travelled through the gathered people.
A boy, a little older than Meg who was sitting on his father's shoulders pointed.
"That's no monster! That's just a man!"
Meg pulled at her skirts to be picked up again but Antoinette had momentarily forgotten about her child as she stared appalled at the spectacle before her.
It was indeed a man. A young man.
He couldn't be more than sixteen years of age.
Skinny and dirty he looked nothing like a creature of darkness but rather like a pitiful spectacle that kept his right side tightly pressed against the side of the cage where there where the crowd wasn't gathered.
The cold blue eye that she could see stared lifelessly at the straw in front of him, seemingly oblivious to the world or even the flies or maggots in his filth invested wounds.
Unknowingly, Antoinette crossed herself and whispered a prayer for this pitiful human being. And almost... almost a curse for those who did this to him.
"Mama..." Meg's voice snapped her out of her stupor. Antoinette bent down on one knee and hugged her daughter. The little girl, still oblivious to what was happening in front, didn't understand the gesture but returned the hug lightly.
Her mother smoothed her hair back and picked her up.
The announcer had turned around surprised and glared at the man. She saw him say something harsh but she didn't catch it.
"Come on Meg." She whispered softly. "Let's go love." She watched the announcer signal a man to bring him an object that looked like a riding crop.
"It's just a man Meg." She said and picked up her basket. "We don't want to see this."
She turned her back on the spectacle then as the first sounds of the crop hitting flesh drifted to her past the crowds excited cheers.
She had never felt more horrified at humanity.
There was an angry, almost animal like cry.
Unable to stop herself she turned around aghast. She had dropped the basket to use her free hand to cover her girl's face.
The caged man had in a fit of pain and rage got up and grabbed the crop from the man in the cage with him. Before he could hit him though two men were already in the cage restraining him.
He tried to fend them off as well but was quickly restrained and beaten again.
He shook his head and, with out warning cried out.
"I am not a monster!"
The crowds laughed and jeered at him.
The people in the cage continued to beat him.
And all the while it became blatantly clear to Antoinette Giry that his deformed face was nothing compared to the twisted souls around him.
Tears stung behind her eyes and she knew that she had to turn away before she lost a part of herself in the frenzy. She turned but suddenly cold blue eyes locked with hers over the expanse between them.
The man looked at her, his lifeless eyes coldly boring into her soul.
They stood there, locked in each other's souls as time flowed past for the rest of the world.
Antoinette Giry tore herself away and hugged Meg to her as tightly as she could. Without thinking of picking up her basket she clutched her child to her chest and ran away from the monsters of the human race.
She blinked and swallowed down the lump that had formed in her throat. She could still feel her daughter's frantic little heartbeat as the child picked up the fear her mother had felt...
"You sleep now my dear heart." Antoinette Giry said as she lay down next to her girl. "Don't worry, don't think... Your father watches over you tonight."
The little girl yawned and moved closer to her mother as her eyes drifted close.
"Did pappa love me?" She queried softly and yawned again.
Antoinette smiled and kissed her forehead.
"Very much." She whispered as her eyes passed over an old picture by the bedside table. "As I do as well."
Safe in her mother's arms it didn't take Meg long to fall asleep. The day's events had faded to all but a whisper of a shadow in her mind, but in her mother's heart they had become a heavy smothering cloak.
Watching the night's phantoms dance across the roof she tried to close her eyes and find sleep but two blue orbs kept appearing before her.
"I am not a monster!"
Antoinette sighed and moved away from her daughter.
She was going to get no sleep tonight.
Careful not to disturb the sleeping child she got up and slowly left the room. She paced up and down her small apartment, stopping every now and again to stare out of the window at the lights of Paris.
It was very dark outside, poetically fitting her mood.
She shook her head and looked at her image in the mirror across the room. In its depths she saw the taunting reflection of the door.
Her mouth thinned before she turned away from herself and left the room.
After a few moments the door in the mirror opened and closed...
She stared at her own eyes reflected in the glass of the train, the smell of blood, sickness and human filth still strong in her mind...
The door opened and closed again.
He was breathing heavily. So heavy she was afraid that he might wake her daughter...
Fear pulsed through her soul but she knew that it was nothing to what she felt beating in his body.
What was she thinking?
Coming here had taken a lot out of him. When she found him he had been unconscious, beaten so badly she thought that he would surely die right there in her arms.
The fight for humanity had come at a high price for him it seemed.
Yet, thankfully, when she was able to rouse him finally he had been fairly compliant and it didn't take long to convince him to come with her. She had a feeling he had been too dazed to fight her insistence.
What had taken precious time was bringing him here. Too scared to hail a cab in fear of a blabbing tongue Antoinette had found herself half carrying, half supporting the broken man through the streets of Paris. Despite his weak state and apparent youthful appearance he was still heavy and she was not a very strong woman. She nearly cried with relief when they finally reached the apartment.
She took him directly to the washroom.
"There is only cold water." She said as she gently eased him to the floor of the room. "My apologies Monsieur, I will boil some. These apartments are..."
She trailed off as her eyes unintentionally wandered to his disfigured face. He was sitting very still, his eyes staring unfocused at a spot just beyond her sight. She didn't like the sound of his chest.
"I will bring the hot water." She confirmed. "Then Monsieur, if you will let me I must see to your wounds. There are also some clothes from my husband, he was smaller than you I fear but it will have to do for now."
What was she doing?
He moved then, as she left the room, tactfully pulling himself in such a position that she couldn't see his face.
Again she felt fear shoot down her spine as she looked at this stranger.
She swallowed and looked to the floor.
"She is in my room. You can sleep in hers. She is still very young..." She trailed off and licked her lips. "Monsieur, I would... Ask that you try not to let her see you. Please."
He didn't say anything as he kept on staring at the ground. His one hand strayed to the end of the cloak which she gave to him and quietly pulled it over his face.
"I will try not to stay here long."
She felt an indescribably pity for him then, huddled there on the floor with nothing to his name but a legacy he didn't deserve and a face he didn't want.
She swallowed softly and knelt down next to him.
"You can stay here as long as you are no threat to my daughter Monsieur." She said gently and lightly touched his knee. "And, even after that I promise that I will take care of you. Just, know that my first thought is to keep her safe. That is all I ask of you."
He looked at her then, his eyes hiding a depth unlike any she had ever seen.
"I will keep your daughter safe then." He said softly. "I promise."
She reflected on those words long after she had spoken them. She had borne witness to a lot of promises over the years. Promises made, promises kept... And strangely enough the only one who had kept them sacred was the man who society had branded as a monster.
He had found his own way to the Opera's cellars. After almost being found in her apartment when the police did a door to door search he followed her as she went to work. There had been a riot in the city when the Gypsies found out that their demon was gone. They got the police involved and said that he was a murderer, a thief, a dangerous genius... Sitting there with past phantoms keeping her company Antoinette Giry realized that they were telling the truth. He was all that and more...
"Concentrate girls!" She snapped as she tapped her cane in time with the music. "Brenda, let your arms work for you child. No Annelise you should be..."
A movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention.
Mme Antoinette Giry's mouth thinned and she tapped her cane extra hard.
"Meg Giry you better get out from behind that curtain right now." The movement stopped. "You know you're not allowed to be here."
The little girl - four now - slowly stepped out from behind the curtains and gave her mother a pleading look as she clasped her hands behind her back.
"Please Mama..." She begged with that look. "Please Mamma can I watch?"
The woman shook her head as she put the cane down to clap her hands to keep rhythm for the girls.
"No." She said sharply. "You know where you should be. Now, run along or I'll come and have a talk with you..."
She glanced at her for emphasis.
The young girl quickly caught her meaning and gave a small squeak. She put her hands behind her again and quickly trotted off stage.
Antoinette could've sworn that she heard her mutter under her breath though. She smiled fondly and turned her attention back to her work.
That little girl was going to become quite a twit.
The other one... She couldn't worry about that right now.
Losing herself in the music Antoinette could not help reflect back on the time when she had stared behind curtains, or listened to the rhythmic clap of the ballet mistress. It felt as if something...
She stopped what she was doing mid clap and whirled around.
There was a scream from backstage.
She was running towards the source before she even took another breath.
The terrified screams continued.
Frantically she searched through the prop littered back floors, weaving through the back drops and dÃ©cor. As she rounded the backdrop of a starry night she was just in time to see a dark shadow straighten up. Her daughter was just behind him, her eyes closed as she screamed in terror.
Her heart froze.
"Get away from her!" She yelled. "Don't you touch her! What have you done?!"
He turned around to look at her, those eyes more emotionless than ever as he characteristically only exposed his left side to her.
Upon hearing her mother's voice Meg opened her eyes and ran towards the woman.
Antoinette still had her gaze on the man as she went down on one knee to scoop up her daughter. She had stopped screaming but was now sobbing uncontrollably.
Antoinette held onto her as tight as she could. Behind her she could hear more footsteps coming her way. The rest of the people who had heard her daughter's cry didn't navigate through the maze of stage utilities as quickly as she had.
"Leave!" She yelled at the man. "Go! Leave here; if I see you again I swear on my husband's grave I will show them where you live..."
Fear sparked behind his blue fires but strangely enough, disappointment pulsed stronger...
Just before the rest of the crew appeared he drew his cloak around him and stepped into the shadows.
Antoinette closed her eyes and held onto her daughter.
The girl's sobbing subsided a bit as she buried her face in her mother's neck.
"I'm so sorry mama." She whispered as M. Reyer joined them. He had been playing the piano for the ballet girls. "I'm so sorry. It was all my fault, I'm so sorry."
Her initial shock and fear were slowly flowing away from her.
"It's okay Meg." She soothed softly. "He won't hurt you I promise..."
The little girl refused to listen and refused to be consoled.
"I'll never climb up there again, I promise." She was saying. "I promise..."
Antoinette's heart missed a beat as she pushed her daughter away from her.
"Climb up?" She queried. "Megan?"
The girl sniffed and rubbed her runny nose as she stared at her mother with huge, tear filled eyes.
"I climbed up to watch you." She gulped the words. "I'm sorry mama. I just wanted to watch you."
Her heart was beating slower than usual. She didn't know whether it was possible.
Antoinette Giry stared into the shadows.
"And that man?" She queried.
Meg started sobbing again. "I fell and he caught me. I'm sorry mama... I'm so sorry."
She had made sure that the girl was sorry that evening.
She realized quite suddenly that that was the last time her daughter ever gave her reason to reprimand her. Like any child she pulled off minor offences but had never again dared pull a stunt like that. Antoinette Giry debated whether she should stand up and stretch her leg or keep still for just a few moments longer. She stared at her full reflection in the window. There was still one more Act in this Opera of remembrance...
She stared at herself in the full length mirror in her room at the Opera.
Her hands were shaking slightly as she tried to do her braid but somehow it kept coming out wrong. She undid it for the umpteenth time and started to brush it out again but her emotions became so strong she had to put down the brush and collect herself.
She had almost lost her daughter...
The urge to cry overwhelmed her as she placed her hand over her mouth and closed her eyes to keep herself from screaming.
She would never have forgiven herself. Never...
She had made a grave error. A fatal assumption that made her just as much a monster as those people at the fair on that day.
She opened her eyes and stared at herself in the mirror, disgusted with what she saw. She owed him now; she owed him a lot more than she could give...
She bit her lip and looked at the food she had brought to her room. She had had it done every evening since she came here. She didn't eat with the rest of the staff but chose to have her food brought to her room so that she could take it to him. She wondered whether he was still here.
He had nowhere else to go.
She swallowed and glanced at the mirror again.
Leaving her hair undone she stood up gracefully, picked up the tray and left the room. When she reached the empty store room she immediately knew that he was there.
It wasn't so much a sense just a strange brush in the air that made her feel as if she was straying into unknown territory. She had never been a superstitious woman but she felt very strongly that Opera house itself had welcomed this man and would go to great lengths to keep him safe.
She opened the door and slowly walked into the room, making sure she closed to the door behind him. The room was empty but she knew that this was just an illusion. She took a steadying breath, put the tray down on an old box and went down on her knees.
She sat like that until she heard him move.
She took a deep breath and kept her head down.
"Monsieur, please forgive me. I owe you my life."
She was mildly proud of herself that her voice didn't shake as much as she thought it would. The phantom on the room didn't move or say a word.
She refrained from biting her lip as she clasped her hands in front of her.
"Anything you ask of me." She carried on. "I'll give you anything that you ask of me. I'm indebted..." Her voice did break then and she had to close her eyes to keep herself from crying. She had just given herself over to him. He could do with her as he wish...
She felt the movement before her and looked up.
He was standing in front of her, those ageless eyes staring at her through the shadow that covered his one half. He looked more youthful now that he had had a few months of decent feeding but his eyes would always remain haunted.
Unspoken emotions flashed behind the mask of shadow and for a moment she saw all of those that she feared. He reached out to touch her face but hesitated.
She forced herself to keep her gaze on his face as they were frozen in that spot.
The emotions in his eyes died as he shook his head to himself and turned away from her.
"Just be my eyes and ears to the world outside this place." He said. His voice had changed as well; it was - despite the crack of youth - becoming richer, more confident. She never knew that darkness could be good for a man. "Serve me and keep your promise. I will always keep mine."
Tears did flow down her cheeks then as she nodded and stood up.
"I promise." She said. "I commit myself and, when she is old enough to understand, my daughter to you as well. I promise that we will always keep watch over you, as you did over her."
He nodded and picked up the tray.
Before she left the room though he turned back ever so slightly.
"That girl you brought here a few days ago," he began slowly, "the one who cries in the chapel. What is her name?"
Mme Antoinette Giry frowned slightly and sighed.
"Her name is Christine Daae..."