Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 20 of 38

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"...So of course I became,
As befitted my delicate birth,
The most casual bride
Of the murdering scum of the earth..."

She looked to the man sleeping on the large, mahogany bed. He lay on his right side, revealing nothing but a profile that was breathtakingly handsome. His hair fell playfully in front of his face, long, dark lashes brushing the top of his cheeks. His breathing was calm and easy, his well-sculpted chest and shoulders rose and fell gently...

Amanda felt nothing but disgust.

She stood, stretching out the muscles of her naked torso, completely unsurprised that her evening with Laurent had ended with sex. They usually did. She had come over tonight to be told the final plans concerning the de Chagny girl. They had eaten; they had gone to bed...

He was a powerful man. It would do her well to stay in his favor.

He was a greedy man. It would do her well to know when best to strike out against him.

The night sky filtered in through the large French doors that led out onto the veranda, casting shadows everywhere, illuminating the bed and her sin. Amanda reached between her thighs. Her skin was slick and sticky, polluted by Laurent, pollute by her desire to control Laurent...

She ran, bursting through the doors, and bent over the railing, gagging herself on her own finger, and vomiting violently. Anything, anything to purge herself of his touch, of the memory of his touch. The sting of her own vomit was sweeter than any kiss he could possibly give. It was sweeter than the memory of willing taking him within her body, of moaning as he had taken her, of pretending to enjoy it so much...

Amanda forced herself to retch again at the recollection of Laurent's hands upon her, his mouth upon her, his seed within her...

Naked and trembling, she wound an uneasy hand around the railing, holding on desperately as she tried to calm her seizing body. It wasn't like this with most men. Even those that she had only slept with to further her own cause, she had never felt such a resentment afterwards...only pity. Most believed that she loved them, that she came to their bed body and soul...

She loved nothing. She loved no one.

Laurent was different. Laurent knew that the sex was nothing. Laurent knew that they would only enjoy each other until the moment that they betrayed each other. Beneath his beautiful fašade was a vile, filthy man.

A vile, filthy, powerful man.

Shut up and stop complaining, twit, her subconscious taunted. Weakling! Idiot! What sort of woman are you! Kneeling on a veranda, naked, the vomit still stinging your lips, your weakness still staining your thighs!

Amanda blinked. On a balcony, naked, a mess...what a sight she was! The powerful seductress, brought down by her own mind.

She laughed quietly at herself. As lovers went, she could do worse than Laurent. She could...she really could. She stood to go back inside and get her robe, dragging the back of her hand across her mouth. At least the vomiting would keep her waist small.

Relief flooded her when she noticed Laurent still sleeping. Too much sex and too much alcohol always did tend to make the bastard comatose.

Of course she found no robe, this was after all, Laurent's home, not her own, and she would never discard her pride and keep some of her belongings here. That would imply that she belonged to him, and Amanda Morrigan belonged to no one. She watched him once more, now sleeping on his back. His face was carefree as he slept, one hand rested gently upon his chest.

How easy it would be to plunge a dagger into that chest. How easy it would be to drag a fine blade across the beautiful skin of his neck, to see the smooth lines of his flesh split slowly open...

Bloodlust began humming through her veins. How fitting would it be, to straddle him, as if she were about to once more allow him to ravish her, only to watch his eyes as blood poured from his body, draining all of his foulness out along with it.

What power she would feel then!

To stain Commune sheets red!

To scream at him, to tear at his flesh, to plunge a knife into his heart to repay the injustice that she had suffered, to make him suffer for his crimes with his blood, to make him pay for the crimes of others with his blood! Yes, yes what power! She was nothing to him but an instrument, a tool to be used for its purpose. She could tear his dark heart from him, allowing his blood to stain her perfect, porcelain skin, a permanent badge that would always remind her of her power. Power!

Amanda's mind snapped back into reality, conscious of how heavy and labored her breathing had grown. Laurent still lay sleeping.

Her hands were trembling as she picked up her corset.

"...Oh, I have seen too many beds,
But I have known too little rest,
And I have loved too many men
With hatred burning in my breast.
I do not like you or your brother,
I do not like the life I live..."

It was barely past midnight, but Amanda knew that she would sleep no more tonight. She had dressed and arranged her hair, slightly amused at how adept she was now and doing so in the dark, without a lady's maid.

She had gained more than one kind of skill with her way of life.

Laurent's bedroom had been filled with the suffocating scent of his cologne, and Amanda had been all too happy to walk back out onto the veranda, despite the slight chill of the Parisian air. Above her, a thousand stars burned brilliantly; she had never seen them so dazzling. She reached up a hand toward the sky, as if she could pluck one down for herself and bathe in its silvery light. They were so beautiful; they seemed to explode with white the magnificent diamonds around her neck... that had once belonged to Christine de Chagny.

Amanda shut her eyes, trying to block all thoughts of the woman she would soon destroy. The girl's face burst into her mind nonetheless, refusing to be forgotten. Christine had been a pretty child, and there was no doubt as to her being a child when compared to Amanda's thirty six years. Her hair was long and lustrous, her eyes a radiant blue...

...but Amanda's recollection of them was weak at best. They fell back when assaulted by the vivid memory of the scar, staring at her, angry and painful, from Christine's right cheek. It had started at the bottom of her eye, and had scourged its way down her face to the edge of her jaw in an eerily perfect straight line. It must have been a knife, Amanda thought, for the skin had curled and puckered away from the actual wound.

Where would a Viscountess meet with a blade?

Laurent? She knew that Christine had been beaten in the cellars, but that wound had been methodical in its perfection. Whoever had given it hadn't meant to hurt Christine de Chagny, they had meant to scar her. Amanda doubted that Laurent would waist his time when it would be just as easy to beat her.

"Fucking hell," she murmured quietly. Why did she care so much? The blasted girl had embarrassed her, insulted her in front of the Baron-

Could that be the reason? Had this mere girl picked at her rock hard conscious because he cared about her?

Amanda blanched. Would she be able to destroy something that he so obviously prized?

Jealousy, thick and black, filled her. Of course she would, and with pleasure. Christine couldn't possibly be expected to feel anything for Von Alsing beyond curiosity. A man in a mask was a dangerously alluring thing.

She had often wondered about that mask, often thought to peel it away as he lay sleeping in bed after sex...just one look. Why would a man of such power and grace hide behind such a peculiar fašade?

In the end, it had been Amanda's fear that had stayed her hand. All of the other men that she had ever lain with had been hollow, empty, boring men...Von Alsing had been cold, but he had been intelligent. His eyes had sparkled with powerful fury and turmoil...

...Just like her own. No, she would never have lifted the mask from his face. It was the same reason that she had made her father swear to never tell Laurent of its existence. She did not want to be mocked for not knowing what lay beneath it. She did not want to be mocked for being too weak to shatter her own illusions.

How could that simpering infant ever be able to interest the Baron! She was insane, probably still caught in the world of her marriage to the Viscount...which was why getting her to Paris would be almost too easy. The Commune would ruin Christine de Chagny, but it would be her love for the Viscount that would lead her to that ruin.

Amanda gave a snort and spoke to the emptiness of the night around her.

"Anyone so easily led by love deserves to be ruined."

Damn her subconscious! Again her words caused it to roar to life!

Not everyone. She did not deserve it. She was only fifteen.

Amanda answered herself angrily, as if she had had this argument with her memory many times before. "Of course she did. She was a stupid, vain child who knew nothing of the actual world. She destroyed herself. She destroyed my grandfather. She destroyed my mother..."

Her voice had grown dark and bitter. "Damn it." It had happened again. Her mind had drifted to that hopeless, beautiful girl that hadn't lived to see more than fifteen summers. A girl who, having died in innocence, had destroyed Amanda's. "I hope she's burning in hell." The low mumble became a frantic scream into the endless night.

"Do you hear me, Luciana? I hope you are burning in hell!"

"...Take the clouds from your eyes
and see me as I really am!
You have shown me the sky,
But what good is the sky
To a creature who'll never
Do better than crawl?"

Her outburst had unnerved her. It had been years since Amanda had spoken Luciana's name aloud. She had to move, to go somewhere, to do something!

It was why she was now walking through Paris in the middle of the night. She wondered with a half a mind whether she would be raped in an alley by any of the unsavory letches that stalked the city at this time of night, especially dressed as she was in blue silk and black fur.

She wondered whether she would care.

She had stopped caring about most things long, long ago, back when the soothing face of her grandfather had been more than just a memory.

He had been a simple man with a simple name.

Giovanni, her mind sweetly remembered. He had been one of the foremost master masons in all of Rome, his skill gracing everything from the homes of the wealthy to the Piazza del Popolo.

Rome...her long ago childhood home sent a wave of bittersweet longing through her. She had only known it for nine short years, and still she could not help but think of how dim Paris was in comparison. How she missed to ancient ambience that glorious city! How she missed the way the sun's rays had slanted through the crumbling fašade of the coliseum. The Vatican! Could anything ever compare to the majesty of the Holy See? The dome of St. Peter's Basilica had always glowed at dawn; the Piazza San Pietro had always seemed like a gateway into another world...

Her grandfather had had four daughters: Two rather plain and dutiful creatures named Maria and Donna, Amanda's mother, Angela, and finally Luciana, who although by blood was Amanda's aunt, was only six years older. Amanda had shared Luciana's striking beauty-long, thick, dark hair, copper colored eyes that shot fire in the sunlight, and the fair skin of the Venetians-but where as Amanda had been a quiet, serious child, Luciana had been spoiled and outspoken. Giovanni had spoiled his youngest daughter to the very core, and Amanda had always felt her mother's blatant resentment for the girl, but that was hardly uncommon. Angela Morrigan had married a French merchant on a whim, realizing too late that the man was nothing but a womanizer and a profit whore. Edward Morrigan was usually gone from Rome, off making more money to spend on more women.

Amanda's father hadn't been home when Luciana had come to live with them for a time, her own mother being long dead and Giovanni crazed with work. She had been a terror, driving Angela to the point of cruelty and driving Amanda insane with hatred. She would have loved nothing more than to slap her young aunt until she passed out.

But somewhere in those nights filled with Angela's screams and Luciana's tears, something had happened to Amanda. She began to sense her own her own mother's barbarism, much like the same type of cruelty that had been common place coming from her grandmother. It was the same cruelty that had stunted Luciana as much as Giovanni's kindness had.

Suddenly, Amanda began to look forward to going to bed at night, when Luciana would tell the most fantastic stories, the kind that only a mind full of mischievous wonder could create; the kind that the sullen and gloomy Amanda would never be able to see in her own dreams. Amanda found herself caring for the girl...somewhat. To the point where, when it was time for her to go back home, Luciana's promise to write had actually given her something to look forward to.

The summer after Luciana had turned fifteen was forever burned up Amanda's memory. Letters from her began to be filled with the standard issue correspondence of any young woman: they talked about a boy: a brilliant, talented, creative boy who Giovanni had taken on as his apprentice. She had never mentioned a name. It had amused Amanda at the time. How like Luciana, to be so selfish as to not even share the name of the object of her affection.

With Edward's prolonged absence, Angela began a slow spiral into constant anger and foul humor. Luciana's letters became a lifeline for Amanda. She found herself closing her eyes at night, trying to picture the face of the young man who had stolen her aunt's heart. She tried to hear his voice in her dreams, which Luciana had described as "heavenly." Anything to take her away from the harsh reality of her wayward father and fanatical mother, who was now at a point where she was reminding Amanda every day that men would lead her straight to hell.

Then one day, life stopped.

A letter came, not from Luciana. It had been in her grandfather's hand, though the script was short and erratic. There had been a terrible accident between Luciana and the young apprentice. Luciana had fallen from the second story veranda to a violent, bloody death. Even Giovanni could not bear to mention the boy's name.

Her mother of course, had unleashed all of her wrath upon the broken old man. She had suspected that Luciana had been pushed by her lover, and that Giovanni would burn in hell for protecting the boy.

At Luciana's interment, Amanda, barely nine years old, had asked her grandfather:

"Papa, please papa. What did he look like?

The old man's answer had been swift, but choked with emotion.

"Like any other boy, Amanda. Like any other perfect, precious boy."

Angela had not been so dignified in her grief. Years of guilt from alternately ignoring and harassing her younger sister had come upon her like a torrent of rain, guilt she all too happily took out on her daughter.

"A man destroyed your aunt, Amanda! Luciana's weakness destroyed her! Destroyed her! Just as it destroyed me! Your father is a lying bastard, and I see too many of his traits in you. It's only a matter of time, Amanda. Love will destroy you too."

It was the first time Amanda remembered swearing that if love were hell bent on destroying her, then she would simply never embrace love. All sweet thoughts that she had had of that mysterious boy turned to lead. She hated him...he had destroyed Luciana. All loving thoughts of Luciana turned into a canker upon her heart. She hated her...hated that she had died so young, hated that she had died after only fifteen years and still had had everything.

A week later Amanda's mother was dead. The doctor's had proclaimed it a heart attack brought on by stress.

To his credit, her father actually returned to Rome to collect her and bring her to Paris, where she discovered he had a well appointed town house with an equally well appointed mistress.

She had felt so lost, so utterly helpless, so absolutely deserted...

Much like she did right now. Amanda looked up to the sight before her, no less stunning in the middle of the night than it was in the middle of the day. She stood before the Sainte-Chapelle.

"...Can't you see what your gentle
Insanities do to me?
Rob me of anger and give me despair! Blows and abuse
I can take and give back again,
Tenderness I cannot bear!"

The only light in the enormous medieval church came from a few candles, still lit upon the altar. Being in here felt as if someone had walked over her grave. She had come in once upon first coming to Paris, but had left swearing never to enter a church again. The proclamations of God's love had seemed like utter hypocrisy, the priest's words absolute blasphemy. Forgiveness? There was no forgiveness in the world. Love and beauty? What lies!

Now, in the quiet darkness of this place, Amanda could not help but feel like a trespasser walking down the aisle. Before her, those ever-present windows loomed. Without the aid of the sun, she could barely make out the stories that they told in colored glass, only flickers of pigment from the few candles.

To her left was the most beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary that she had ever seen. Carved from perfect white marble, the standing figure possessed outstretched arms and a kind face.

Amanda fell to her knees.

"Can you really be true?" She whispered, her voice suddenly sounding much younger. "The world falls before you, angels and demons alike, begging for your mercy...begging for your comfort."

She traced her fingers against the cool marble of the statue's dress. "Am I allowed to beg for such, even if I don't believe in you?" She tilted her head up, staring into the eyes of the woman before her. They were warm and caring...

Amanda's face twisted in anger. "Well I don't believe in you. I don't!" She stood, her angry words echoing in the deserted room. "What could a virgin ever hope to achieve! If my life has taught me anything it's that innocents can look forward to nothing but an early grave!"

She paused, as if half expecting the statue to answer.

"Your faith promises light and goodness! It promises love! It promises mercy! Mercy! There is no mercy!"

She didn't notice the tears that began to seep from the corners of her eyes.

"You would mock me with your glory? With the ever awesome power of your immaculate conception? Yet you were powerless to stop all of this! Luciana rots in a cold grave! Laurent sleeps in a warm bed! Tell me, oh Blessed Virgin, where is your mercy now? Where is your mercy now?

Amanda buried her face in her hands, her sobs echoing harshly all around as pain exploded through her. She hadn't planned to yell those awful, hateful things. She had wanted to fall at the Virgin's feet and cry with happiness, wrapped in the comfort that so many others seemed to find. Strangely enough, she had felt a sense of serenity, but her wounded psyche had responded the only way that it knew how: with anger and with hate. The serenity was false, it couldn't possibly exist. She was a woman meant for darkness...

...Just like him. He was the only other one who could understand her darkness, who could understand her absolute disgust for the world

Serenity only mocked her.

Her head snapped up, her contempt filled eyes riveted to the statue.

"Do not think to sway me from my course."

Whether the statement was directed to herself or to the statue was impossible to tell. Wiping her eyes, Amanda pulled her body up to its full height, the regal air that came so naturally to her settling over her flesh like the men she spent her nights with. The confused and frightened girl was swallowed once more by the cold, brilliant seductress.

Nothing could touch her.

"Christine de Chagny will make me ridiculously wealthy, and then she will die. There is no mercy. I find myself disinclined to be more generous than Heaven. She will die, whether she is innocent or not. I will bury the last de Chagny myself so help me..."

She turned, walked down the aisle like a bride departing from an unholy wedding.

"And then you will forget her. You will love me, Erik."

"So please torture me now
With your "sweet Dulcineas" no more
I am no one!
I'm nothing!
I'm only Aldonza the whore..."

-Aldonza's testimony to Don Quixote


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 20 of 38

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