The Phantom meets Ann outside the Opera House
Chapter 8: One Touch.
She missed her family.
It felt... Strange.
She had never been away from home this long.
She sniffed and cleared her throat to try and get rid of the tightness she felt but the strange longing for something familiar remained.
She sighed and brushed a hand over her face.
She felt restless.
For a moment she almost missed being Juli...
"You're not paying attention."
The statement jerked Ann out of her thoughts as she blushed and pushed some stray pieces of hair out of her face.
"I am..." She began but hesitated. "I just..." She sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry, I'm just a bit distracted."
She heard the sound of a book being carefully closed and put away.
"Is... something wrong?"
She felt a touch of fondness at the hesitance in his tone. Her Monsieur Erik always tried so hard to pretend that he wasn't really interested in her life but...
She smiled at him and shook her head.
"I'm just missing my family."
She felt him draw back. He always did when she mentioned the word.
He was awkward.
"It's... natural." He said blankly. "You're only human."
Ann twisted her head to the side and smiled at him teasingly. "I thought you were going to say 'only a child.'" She sniffed slightly. "You said something like that before mind, why..." She paused, the sentence didn't feel right. "Why do you associate longing with being human? I mean, everybody's human as are their emotions..."
She trailed off when she realized the topic was going nowhere.
A mildly uncomfortable silence followed.
Ann looked out in the direction of the city.
"Should I carry on reading?"
The young woman sighed again and shook her head.
"I'm not really in a listening mood today." She said embarrassed. "Sorry, Gulliver is just a bit... Beyond me today. Sorry if I wasted your time..."
There was no reply.
Ann bit her lip awkward then sat up suddenly.
"Hey! I've got an idea." She exclaimed enthusiastically. "There's this little cafÃ© next to the Opera, why don't we go there? My treat..."
She knew he would say no before she felt him shake his head.
Today, things just didn't flow between them as it did for the past two weeks.
Ann sniffed determinedly and stood up.
She put her cane in the hand that was closest to the edge and started walking idly in the small space. She had a feeling that it was her restlessness that was causing them to somehow talk past each other.
She was about to suggest that she rather leave when she remembered something else she'd been meaning to ask him.
Ann perked up and went back to the angel and sat down on her usual perch.
"I've been meaning to tell you." She said with a smile. "I've heard the most interesting things these past few days. Did you know that the Opera had a Ghost? I heard some of the ballet girls talk about it this week.
She could feel that she suddenly had his attention. Ann smiled at him.
"What do you know about him? I mean, you've been here for a while right? Personally I don't believe in it but if you've seen him..."
"Why is that important?"
Ann raised an eyebrow.
"So you have?" She queried intrigued. "When?"
"I didn't say that."
She smiled slightly. "Then what did you say?" She asked. The conversation was going better. He seemed... amused by it.
He moved ever so slightly and she could feel him watching him intently.
"What did you hear about this Ghost?"
The amusement was definitively there.
Realizing that the only answer she would receive was more questions Ann shrugged.
"Lots of things." She said. "But, as it's from the ballet girls, I'm not sure what's real and what's not. They're a bit excitable." She giggled and shook her head. "They say that he has a skeleton face with fire for eyes. Some of the girls claimed that they heard him walking up and down the corridors and that they could hear the bones in his body going 'click, click, click...'" She tapped her cane against the wall with every click and laughed. "That's why I know he's not real because everything that they say can be explained. The way I figure it, we're the Ghost. The click click and whispered voices that they hear are probably ours when we're walking in the next door corridors but they're too scared to go and look."
"It could be bones. He could be real."
"I'll believe it's bones and I'll believe that he's real when I touch him." She said. "Anyway, from what I can gather this story has been running on and off a long time. I mean, I heard rumors dating back to before I was born."
There was a shift of fabric.
Ann raised an eyebrow.
"You can probably tell me more than I can tell you." She said dryly. "I heard that he had murdered a ton of people. A cleaning lady, a scene changer, a horde of singers and, the most talk over, a young pair of young lovers: Christine Daae and Raoul de Changy."
She sensed a slight start but didn't know how to interpret it. She paused, wondering what she had said. She carried on a bit more cautiously.
"Now, when I heard of them I knew that it wasn't real." She said mildly. "I mean, I know for a fact that they got married and is... what?"
She immediately knew that she had said the wrong thing when the book dropped to the floor as he leapt to his feet.
She took in an unconscious sharp breath as she felt him stare her down.
"I'm sorry." She whispered, though she wasn't sure what she was apologizing for.
The silence around them stretched.
Ann sighed rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"Sometimes I wish you'd talk to me." She said with a soft sigh. "Monsieur Erik, I can't always sense what I should and what I shouldn't. I don't know what subjects are off limits, and which aren't. I read you better than most people, but I'm not psychic. I didn't mean to upset you with this conversation. I just... wanted to talk."
When he didn't answer her she sighed and stood up.
"I'll leave you alone for now." She said. "I'll find my own way back."
He didn't move nor did he speak to her as she passed him.
Ann hesitated as she moved by him, stopped and then just briefly touched his wrist. "I'm not sure when you'll see me again." She said softly. "M. Reyer has started to couch me again as you know, so... I'm not sure what will happen to my time. But if I'm free... I would like to know the end of that story."
She squeezed his wrist slightly and left.
He didn't even turn around to watch her leave...
He stood there for a very long time.
His wrist burned.
He didn't expect her to say those names.
They did not belong in /their world, in their time... /
He stopped himself.
Those thoughts were dangerous.
Ann LeRoux was dangerous.
/He should stop this/...
Ann went straight to her room. Confused and unable to figure out whether she should be upset or not. She couldn't think of anything that she had done or said wrong as she replayed the conversation in her head.
In the beginning he had seemed quite willing to talk about this Opera Ghost. She almost thought that he found it amusing.
It was, she thought distracted as she counted her steps, the Opera Ghost wasn't real. There was no such thing as ghosts.
She sighed and stopped out outside the living compartments.
What was she doing here? She berated herself. This place wasn't going to help her still the restlessness. What was she going to do in her room anyway?
She laughed dryly and shook her head.
She should've stayed with him, but - she wasn't sure whether he had wanted her too.
Was it her fault? Was it the fact that she mentioned her parents?
Ann bit her lip and turned around.
She needed a breath of fresh air.
He was much calmer.
Taking a deep breath he bent down and picked up the book where it had fallen and ran his fingers over the cover.
The book disappeared in his cloak as he walked forward to edge and stared out over Paris. He couldn't blame young Ann, she didn't know, she couldn't see the truth.
But, something he should also do was get some distance between them, if only for a few days. He was getting too caught up in her world, too dependent on her company.
If he wasn't careful he would soon start...
He paused and looked down.
It was already getting dark and he could just make out some to the shapes that moved around beneath him.
One in particular caught his attention.
Now what was that foolish girl doing down there?
This was just what she had needed; Ann decided as she slowly but determinedly made her way down the one side of the Opera. The combination of the independence she felt to be out on her own, as well as the thrill that accompanied the knowledge that she wasn't really allowed to was just enough to still her restlessness.
She wasn't going to go far, she decided. She was just going walk down the one side and back up.
Maybe around the block.
She'd be back before dinner.
She felt a chill travel up her spine and glanced back.
Somebody was following her.
Ann sniffed and closed her eyes.
She heard nothing except the usual late afternoon street sounds and distant mingling of people. Sniffing she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and carried on walking a bit more briskly.
Just down the one side and back. She decided. Just...
She jumped as somebody took a hold of her arm.
So much for distance, he thought dryly as he watched her from the roof.
He knew what she was doing.
In the past two weeks that they've been spending time together he has realized that Ann had this thirst to prove herself and a streak of independence that in his opinion couldn't be very good for her.
It was already late afternoon and dim light was making it hard for him to follow her as she stepped into the shadows.
For the first time he felt a touch of apprehensiveness.
A part of him wanted to go down and follow Ann to make sure that she would be okay. There was of course that other part that just couldn't be bothered.
Or didn't want to be bothered.
He turned around and shook his head.
Not tonight, he decided.
Ann pulled her arm out of the unfamiliar grip and took a step back.
"Can I help you Monsieur?" she asked politely and tried to pin the unfamiliar voice.
The hand returned to her arm.
"I was about to ask you the same thing Mademoiselle. It's late; you should not be walking on your own."
Ann smiled and pulled away again.
"I'm just walking to the corner and back." She said, still polite. "If you'll excuse me?"
She had an uneasy feeling about this encounter. Although she could only hear one person she had a sense that there was at least one more.
She cursed under her breath; she should've told somebody that she was going out...
But then of course they wouldn't have allowed her to go.
She sniffed and started walking.
"It would be un-gentlemanly of me to let such a fine young woman such as yourself walk alone here."
Ann snorted but put on a polite smile.
"I'll forgive you Monsieur now..."
Without warning she was pulled back roughly around a corner and shoved against a wall. Ann didn't even think to scream before she felt something cold and sharp against her throat.
"I was rather hoping that you would." Her assailant said roughly. "Now Mademoiselle give..."
She never caught the last part as her assailant was thrown back with a cry of surprise.
"Hey you! What..."
Ann stood very still and shocked as the sounds of a struggle rose up around her. It felt as if it was over before it begun though as she heard her assailant cry out in fear and run away.
Shaking she pushed herself against the wall and took a steady grip on her cane that was still dangling from her wrist.
She wasn't sure whether her rescuer was still around, she could feel...
She looked around took an unsteady step forward.
When she didn't get a reply she bit her lip and placed her hand against the wall. Taking a moment to get her bearings and remember the movements that had brought her here she turned in what she thought was the right direction and raced back to the Opera house as quickly as she could.
Suddenly the rest of the walk didn't feel so appealing anymore.
Independence wasn't always a good thing.
He glared after her from the shadows and put his mask back on.
Looking around he picked up the knife the thief had dropped and studied it. The perpetrator might've been clumsy and unskilled but his weapon was still sharp and deadly.
Shaking his head he put the knife away and pulled the cloak over his face.
Keeping close to the wall he hunched down and quickly followed after the fleeing girl. He hoped that she had been spooked enough.
He couldn't believe that she had tried such a foolish venture.
He was going to have to do something about it...
Ann stood just outside the door, arms folded tensely in front of her as she listened to the world around her.
Two people were shouting at each other in English.
A man was coughing to her left.
There was a cart with a squeaky wheel on her right.
She turned to go back inside but hesitated.
She was going to do this.
She had too...
The previous day's events had haunted her through the night and kept her distracted for most of the day. Her concentration was so lacking in fact that M. Reyer had dismissed her early from their individual practice.
She blushed with shame.
Rubbing over her face she turned around and put her cane in her right hand so that she could keep her left against the wall.
She was going to walk to the corner and back!
She couldn't allow this to ruin the time she had here.
And, she knew she couldn't allow this to brood. She had done enough of that already.
The previous night she had arrived back at the Opera house almost in tears. She didn't think that anybody saw her come in, or if somebody did - then they didn't know or care enough to approach her.
Aunt Meg had been harder to manage. Despite the fact that she had seen her a few hours after the incident the woman immediately picked up that something was wrong. She managed to tactfully avoid the subject and divert her attention somewhere else but she knew that it wouldn't stay that way for long. She was worried that M. Reyer might to and talk to her about her "niece's" certain lack of attention today. The woman would then remember the previous night and... It could get ugly.
Aunt Meg was acting strange of late.
Far too protective.
She smiled, and realized once again how much she admired the woman.
If she could be half the...
She stopped and leaned against the wall shaking.
She couldn't do this... She didn't know what was going on...
She closed her eyes and pressed her wrist against her forehead.
She wished that he was here...
Ann took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Fighting the feeling that she was being watched she straightened and slowly started to move forward again.
He obviously wasn't going to be around forever and she wasn't even sure whether it had been he who had rescued her.
Monsieur Erik followed his own course in life and she still wasn't sure whether he wanted her to be a part of it or not.
Sure he tolerated her but...
She shook her head.
Guardian angel in deed.
She never needed people to help her, she never needed people to guide her, she could do this on her own.
She was disorientated, she couldn't trust her senses...
She wasn't blind, her sight was just inverted.
She smiled at herself and shook her head.
She didn't even really know what that meant.
A hand slipped into the crook of her arm.
She froze, braced herself to be thrown again the wall...
"Are you planning on walking to London?"
She felt so relieved she almost sagged against him but she settled for a soft sniff.
"I didn't know the Opera house was so small."
So, he had been around.
She had realized quite suddenly that she was at the end of the block.
She had done it!
On her own!
She smiled and pushed a stubborn piece of hair behind her ear.
"You are always around, aren't you?"
She didn't get an answer, nor did she really expect one.
They could've said a lot to each other in that instance as the darkness of the night wrapped itself around them.
She knew suddenly with certainty that he had been the one who saved her yesterday. Not that she had any real doubt but, she got her confirmation by the way he held her arm now. A strange set of emotions flowed through her as she unconsciously searched for his face.
Shame, appreciation, fear, doubt and... Trust.
He took the cane from her other hand and slowly started walking forward.
When she left the Opera again he had thought that he would lecture her, leave her, stop her... But again he just followed, watched... And saw her overcome a strange private hurdle.
Ann gave up her cane without fuss and followed him as he continued to walk down the street. As he unconsciously moved back against the walls of the Opera house he suddenly realised that she had moved closer to him and placed her free hand over the one he still had on her arm.
She lightly rested her head against his arm.
He had to stop and look down at her.
Making sure that the cloak was securely settled around his face he took the end and made sure that it enveloped her too.
It was getting cold, and he as planning to take her around the block.