The opera ghost wanders...
Chapter 9: Notes.
He watched them as they practiced.
Ann was sitting on the piano bench next to the ancient Chorus Master Monsieur Reyer. He could not see her face but he could almost see the look of pure concentration as she listened to the song he was playing.
"That note still doesn't sound right." Ann said finally as she shook her head, her dark hair spreading across her shoulders.
"I can sing it but... M. Reyer?"
The man laughed softly. "You're the first one I know who'll dare criticize one of the Masters." He said pleasantly. "I did try to fix it for you remember?"
Ann barked a laugh.
"Fix Monsieur is not the word I'll use."
The old man laughed again. "True." He said. "Remember young Ann, these music pieces were not meant for actual song coaching. It's a shame Mme. Le Fleur decided not to partake in this play. Have you asked anybody else whether they would like to help..."
Ann hesitated and shook her head. "They're all very busy." She said. "Besides Monsieur, I know the words I just... Have trouble with the music for some unexplainable reason. My apologies for not standing with the rest and wasting your time..."
M. Reyer touched her shoulder. "Nonsense." He said. "You've made remarkable progress this past week. I can understand why you want it to be perfect. Let's try that again shall we? Don't be worried of you don't get this right. Things are going to work differently from Faust anyway because the chorus singers will be a little bit more mobile. We'll have to find you a more suitable place..."
His concentration wavered from their conversation as he realised that Ann was right. If one took in consideration the way she listened to music the chorus of part would sound foreign to her.
There was a ghost of a smile behind the mask.
A week ago he had wanted to distance himself from the girl yet, in a strange turn of events he found himself spending more and more time with her.
And, looking forward to it.
Like now, he kept an eye on her through the day and read to her when she had the time to go to the roof. In the evenings, again when she had time to slip away from Little Meg Giry's watchful gaze, he took her for a walk around the city. They never ventured far from the Opera House. Except for the occasional business venture he very rarely left the Opera and had not gone out in the daylight for almost twenty years. He could not honestly say what kept in him the dark confines of his shadowy self made prison.
He did not need to go out into the daylight.
Although the word felt as if it was too strong to describe his feelings he was aware of the fact that the outside world was a hateful place. Young Ann's encounter the previous week was a perfect example of it.
Watching the two people in front of the piano he mused on how much he had come to admire Ann. Despite her circumstances, despite her apparent disposition in life and despite the way people tended to treat her she had allowed the human race to forge her into almost completely the opposite person compared to what they had made him.
He hoped that it would stay that way.
Unconsciously he closed his eyes as Ann started singing again. Up until now he had never really bothered to /listen /to her. He had heard her sing but with a dispassionate and critical ear. But now...
Idle thoughts danced around behind the mask.
Such an amazing range...
With his couching she could be even better. M. Reyer was a good chorus master but a tutor...
He opened his eyes and gazed at young Ann Le Roux. He did not want to change her into another Angel of Music.
He could not do that to her.
They're... Companionship was too precious for that.
He smiled at the word.
He turned around to walk away but winched as Ann hit the part she had trouble with again. He looked back to them as he heard her made a frustrated sound.
"It can't be that hard!" She snapped at herself before M. Reyer could sooth her. The old man shook his head and gave her shoulder a slight squeeze.
"It's not that terrible Ann." He said gently. "And, you're not that far off. It was good."
The young woman snorted and shook her head.
"But it wasn't perfect." She muttered.
Again, that slight shake of the head from the ancient Chorus Master.
"It doesn't need to be Ann." He said kindly. "Very few things in life are. Sometimes, it's those things in life that we think is the most imperfect that turns out to surprise us all."
Ann sat still for a moment before she turned her face towards the man. Her blue eyes danced around him as she smiled lightly.
"I guess it's just a song right?" Her words were carefully chosen. She hesitated before she reached out and searched for the hand on her shoulder. "But thank you."
She sighed and reached for her cane that was lying next to the piano bench.
"Let's call it a night. I think... Perhaps I'll start singing with the rest tomorrow."
M. Reyer stood up and went over to her so that he could help her up and offer her an arm.
"Let's do one more solo practice." He said. "And, then, we'll see how it goes."
Ann smiled in appreciation and allowed the man to lead her out of the room.
They pulled the door close behind them but didn't shut it completely. They're voices faded as they walked down the corridor.
"Monsieur, why is my Aunt acting so strange of late."
He heard the Monsieur Reyer chuckle.
"Oh, don't you worry about her young Ann. She's just worried because her mother's coming back..."
He listened to them go, his mouth thin as he thought.
Despite the fact that he tried to stop it, music danced around him.
He didn't think that Ann would be able to get that piece right, even if she did start singing with the choir.
Yet... The change was so simple.
It's over now the Music of the Night.
But, this wasn't his music.
He could just fix a few notes...
It would not be to his personal gain.
Although he was still undecided he found himself stepping into the room.
The piano taunted him but he ignored it and rather reached for the pages that M. Reyer had left behind.
It would be a favour towards a friend...
Walking back to the small practice room where the piano stood, he felt the music danced around him.
He had done it.
For the first time in more than two decades he had touched the music around him, he had shaped it to perfection, he had...
Thoughts, music and memories spiralled around him - carrying him, then, suddenly, choking him.
Leaning against the walkway high above the stage he suddenly clutched the papers to his chest and closed his eyes. He had known that the girl would bring him pain...
He shouldn't have crossed this line...
The panic passes as suddenly as it appeared.
He felt his body relax and his thoughts quiet down.
He had not reached the point of no return yet, he soothed himself. He could still pull out. He was doing this willingly.
For a friend.
He took a deep breath, adjusted his cloak and collar and walked on slowly.
This relationship was strange to him. Although he appreciated it, he wasn't sure whether he liked it yet.
Stepping over a dead rat he reached the end of the stage.
"Oh, that Mademoiselle Giry is such a cow."
He stopped and looked down.
Sophia CarrÃ© and the two girls she usually kept company were walking across the stage, probably - like him - taking a short cut from one end of the Opera to the other.
"I wish my father could do something about her."
He frowned, carefully rolled up the papers and started following them.
One girl, a tall brunette, agreed whole heartedly but the other was more hesitant, she appeared to be the youngest of the three.
"My mother, she was a ballet girl here when the Opera opened." Her voice was soft. "She says that the Giry's have always been here. They are good for the Opera..."
"That's nonsense." Sophia piped in. "The only reason they are here..."
He didn't need to hear another thing...
She couldn't believe that the woman turned her down for the ballet troupe again! Sophia CarrÃ© was sure that Mademoiselle Megan Giry was doing it on purpose. The woman had decided that she didn't like her and that was the end of it. She didn't even take into consideration that she had been given private ballet lessons since she was six.
"So when is your father coming here?" Celine asked to her left.
Sophia pulled herself away from her thoughts and smiled.
"Oh, tomorrow morning." She said. "I've been missing him terribly..."
Something dropped on her head.
Sophia jumped startled and squealed as she shook her hair.
"What is it? What is it? Is it out?" She jumped back and looked at the ground.
Brown haired Celine frowned as she bent down to look at the ground.
"It appears to be..." She jumped back with a squeal. "A RAT! It's a dead rat! Oh, that's horrible..."
Sophia squealed again horrified and shook out her hair with more vigour.
"Oh, that is grotesque!" She exclaimed. "Come on let's get..."
Amy spoke up for the first time since she made the comment about the Giry's. The frail girl bent down and squinted at the ground.
"There's a note attached to its body..."
The two other girls blinked at her.
Amy nodded and carefully reached out to pull the note away from the dead animal. She frowned at something, slipped it into her pocket and opened the paper.
Her small eyes quickly scanned the paper before they widened.
"It's the Phantom of the Opera!" She breathed. "He's here! It's from /him/!"
Sophia frowned and snatched the note away from her friend.
"Nonsense." She snapped and started reading the note out loud.
"'My greetings Mademoiselle CarrÃ©.
I was just passing by and couldn't help but over hear your conversation. I feel that it is my duty to inform you that it would be best if you learn to respect this place you stand in as well as the people who serve it so dedicatedly.
There are a lot more things that dead rats up here.
The three girls stood in silence for a few moments. Celine stood very still as she hugged herself whilst Amy nervously looked up to the walkways.
Sophia crumbled up the note and balled her fist.
"Who did this?" She snapped. "This is some sort of sick joke. Do you know...?"
Her friends shook their heads.
Unconsciously a shiver passed up Sophia's spine but she ignored it and stuffed the note into a pocket of her dress.
"I'm going to take this too the managers!" She said. "It is unforgivable! I believe that someone is playing a joke and..."
A heavy sand bag dropped from the top and landed a few yards behind them.
The three girls screamed and ran off of the stage...
It was petty and childish, but he had enjoyed every moment of it.
Smiling to himself as he thought back on yesterday's events he couldn't help but chuckle softly.
Ann's head snapped away from the piano as she looked in his direction.
"What is it Ann?" M. Reyer asked surprised.
The young woman smiled slightly and shook her head.
"I thought I saw something." She said and laughed. "My apologies..."
She was also in a good mood today he noticed.
News of Sophia's "haunting" had spread like wild fire and the rumours have grown to magnificent proportions. According to the staff in the kitchen the three girls had barely escaped with their lives...
But then of course, that was the way Sophia CarrÃ© told it.
He refrained from chuckling again and rather crossed his arms as he listened how Ann worked through the score, flawlessly.
He didn't mean anything serious by threatening young Sophia and had done it purely for his own amusement. But, if it meant that she would step a little lighter and talk a little softer then he felt that his actions has also been directed at a good cause.
It felt so good to be a servant of the public.
Fighting to keep himself from chuckling so that he wouldn't disturb Ann again he closed his eyes and listened as she moved through her chorus part.
When the music stopped he heard a soft excited exclamation from her and opened his eyes just in time to see her give M. Reyer a half hug.
"You managed to fix it Monsieur! Thank you!"
The old man returned it but seemed less excited.
"It wasn't me Ann." He said softly. He seemed tense, nervous...
Ann, for once, was oblivious to it.
"Who?" She queried excited.
The man coughed and closed the piano.
"An old friend." He said vaguely. "But let's not think on that for now. I have something I want to tell you..."