Continuing Tales

Stay by My Side

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 2 of 37

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Stay By My Side

"Mademoiselle! At last." Monsieur Reyer hurried across the stage to Christine, took her hand and almost dragged her into the centre. "I meant to find you last night," he said, "to tell you how well you did."

"Thank you, Monsieur," she said, and felt herself blush yet again. Since she'd left Madame Giry's room, barely an hour before, she felt as though she'd been surrounded by people congratulating her – and by people staring, whispering, gossiping. She was sure her disappearance after the performance had been noted.

"Yes, very well," he said, with a decisive nod. "And you remembered the blocking well. Nevertheless I should like to go through it with you again today."

Christine nodded. "Yes, Monsieur, of course." She hesitated, a little nervous. She didn't know Monsieur Reyer well; he usually left the instruction and choreography of the ballet to Madame Giry, or at least conferred with her when the dancers were not present. She knew him to be kind enough, devoted to his music, to his art, but she had never exchanged more than a few words with him before yesterday.

Her Angel – the Phantom – had always spoken of him with respect, and so Christine had always respected him. But still, she was nervous.

"What is it, Mademoiselle?" he asked her patiently.

"I think I know most of it," Christine said, and hoped he wouldn't think she was arrogant, hope he'd see that it wasn't over-confidence. Her Angel – the Phantom – had made sure she'd learnt the blocking, where to step, how to move, all her cues. It had been hard work, harder still because she'd had to learn the ballet choreography as well, had in effect been learning two different parts for the same opera. "But there are a few places I think I need work," she went on, "particularly towards the end of act one, and then the beginning of act four?"

He looked at her, eyes narrowed a little, and Christine bit her lip, glanced away, waited for his judgement.

"Very good, then," he said at last. "I don't want to tire you by running through the entire opera, and if I'm honest you were almost perfect last night. And anyway, I want to discuss Il Muto with you afterwards." He opened his copy of the score, flipped through the pages. "From Elissa's entrance in act four, then, Mademoiselle."

They rehearsed for an hour; Monsieur Reyer was almost as strict as her Angel – the Phantom – but he seemed pleased with her, commented on how quickly she learned and how well she responded to direction.

"And now," he said, closing his book, "we must discuss Il Muto." He looked grave now, glanced around as if to see who was there, gestured for her to join him by the footlights. "For the rest of this run, you will remain in the role of Elissa," he told her. "Carlotta refuses to return." He almost smiled then, and Christine bit her lip to keep from doing the same. "But then Il Muto – you – well…" Reyer sighed. "They go against his instruction," he muttered then. "It is not wise, not wise at all."

Christine shivered, cold suddenly despite the warmth of the stage, despite her dress and the scarf she wore to protect her voice from drafts. He. There could only be one he, and yet she had to ask, had to be sure.

"His instruction?" she murmured, and Reyer looked straight at her, raised one eyebrow as if to suggest that he knew she had understood. Christine thought of the events of last night, thought of the man in the mask, thought of all he had said over the past few months about her readiness to take leading roles.

People had been hurt by the Opera Ghost, she remembered. Never badly, never – God forbid! – enough to do more than scare, but they had been hurt nonetheless. Would he hurt people to make her a star? But she could answer her own question; Carlotta had almost been hit by falling scenery, after all. There was a reason her Angel had made sure she knew the blocking as well as the music for Elissa.

"He wanted you for the countess," said Reyer plainly. "And Carlotta for Serafimo." He sniffed, glanced away from her, looked out at the empty seats of the auditorium. "I wouldn't have objected," he said, and Christine laughed, lifted a hand to cover her mouth, looked around again to see if anyone had heard. "But," he continued, ignoring her mirth, "the new managers saw fit to ignore his casting. You are to play Serafimo."

"But – but Monsieur, that's still a good part for me," said Christine, speaking slowly as she turned the thought over in her mind. There was no singing, of course, but it was still more than she'd ever had before.

"Hmph," was his response. "I think not, Mademoiselle. You should have a singing part even if it is not the lead. I can't think how I never knew of your voice before." Christine shrugged a little, and something made her glance up at box five. He followed her gaze, and then looked at her again with that penetrating stare, as if he knew – as if he knew.

She dropped her gaze, hoped she was misreading him, hoped her experiences of last night were colouring her interactions now. It would be better if that were true, she knew, better than for Monsieur Reyer to know who her teacher was.

"You'll learn the part anyway," said Reyer, and Christine looked at him again, surprised.

"But if Carlotta is coming back," she said, hesitant again, "surely…surely she won't accept me as understudy." He smiled suddenly, a mischievous expression that made him look fully ten years younger, and Christine stifled another laugh. "I see," she said. She would learn the part, he would rehearse her – and La Carlotta would not know about it.

"Will your teacher help you?" he asked then, and Christine's smile faded. She glanced up at the box again and then turned away, put her back to the auditorium.

In her memory he raged, called her names, his fury so endless that she could not escape from it.

In her memory he sang to her, called to her, loved her.

"I do not know," she said at last. "I…I hope so."

"Ask him," Monsieur Reyer instructed. "I shall help you as much as I can, but I can only devote so much time, you understand. It's an old favourite, of course, but there are always cast changes." He glanced across the stage, nodded his head as if hearing the beat of the music. "And besides," he murmured, "Carlotta has scarcely avoided accidents so far."

Christine clenched her hands together, turned once again to glance up at box five. Her mouth was dry; she wondered if he would stop, if she asked him. If she asked him to leave Carlotta alone, would he do it – for her?

She wasn't sure, didn't think she could test it even if she could find some way to make right the wrong she had committed upon him last night in removing his mask, invading his privacy so grossly.


Christine turned, startled to hear her name called so familiarly; but Raoul was crossing the stage, hat in his hand, and she couldn't help smiling. He had been a good friend to her, years ago before her father had died, when they had lived in the house by the sea.

"Raoul," she greeted. "Good afternoon."

"After – Christine, where have you been?" Raoul demanded, and Christine almost took a step back, a little overwhelmed by his intensity. "You disappeared last night, and nobody's seen you all morning! The managers couldn't seem to tell me where you live!"

"Well, they are new here," Christine said. "They can't be expected to know the living arrangements of every member of the cast, after all." Raoul frowned, looked as though he would object, but Christine forestalled him with a smile. "I was very tired," she said. "I did try to tell you." She turned to Monsieur Reyer, acutely aware that Raoul hadn't introduced himself or even bothered to acknowledge the older man. "Monsieur, may I introduce the Vicomte de Chagny? Raoul, this is Monsieur Reyer, our musical director."

To his credit, Raoul at once bowed his head, offered his hand. "A pleasure, Monsieur," he said. "Forgive me, I was rude. But you see I haven't seen Christine in many years."

"Of course," said Reyer, but Christine thought there was a little distance to his voice, a little coolness. "A pleasure to meet our new patron, of course. But you will excuse me, I have a great deal to do." He looked at Christine, raised one eyebrow. "You will ask your teacher, yes? I will have a copy of the score ready for you tomorrow morning."

"Thank you, Monsieur," she said, dipping a curtsey. "And – and I will ask him."

"Make sure you rest this afternoon," was his parting advice, said with a sidelong glance at Raoul. "You're not used to being a lead, you will find it more tiring than you think."

"That," observed Raoul, watching Monsieur Reyer head across the stage to the wings, "was aimed at me, yes? I'm sorry, Christine – of course you're tired. You were such a success last night."

"Thank you, Raoul," she said, looking up at him, observing the changes that she'd not had time to see last night at their brief reunion. "I am sorry about last night," she added, and she meant it, would like to spend some time with him again.

"Quite alright," he said, but she thought he wasn't being honest, thought he was holding something back. "Perhaps we could try again tonight?" he asked, and Christine hesitated. She couldn't help but think that Monsieur Reyer was right, that she should focus on her performance and not be distracted by social engagements until she was more used to the demands of the role, of being in almost every scene. Dancing was tiring, but she was off the stage more than she was on it as a member of the corps de ballet, at least in Hannibal.

And besides that, there was her angel's instruction – the Phantom's instruction that she spend her energy solely on music. She knew he did not approve of going out in the evening after a performance, knew too that he had been angry last night with the way Raoul had been so presumptuous, the way he had assumed she had no real objection to going with him for supper.

Jealous, perhaps, and the thought made something in her stomach flutter.

"Christine?" said Raoul expectantly, reached out as if to touch her arm, and Christine shrank away, shook her head.

"No, not tonight," she said. "I'm sorry, Raoul, but Monsieur Reyer is right. I'm not used to the demands of the role and I must do my best." She offered him a smile as consolation, saw him frown and spread her hands out, indicated the empty theatre. "I've finally achieved my dream, Raoul, you wouldn't have me spoil it for the sake of a supper date?"

But his mouth had fixed in a mulish way that she recognised from when they had been young together. "I hardly think one supper date would cause you to be anything other than perfection," he argued, but Christine shook her head again. He didn't understand – how could he? – what this meant to her and how unwilling she was to jeopardise it.

"Perhaps we could have lunch on Sunday, though?" she suggested, in part as an appeasement. But there was no performance on Sunday, and she would be at church in the morning, could easily meet Raoul somewhere afterwards. "I do wish to see you, Raoul," she went on. "I have missed you."

"I – alright, then," he agreed. "Shall I meet you here?"

"Yes," said Christine, thinking quickly. "Yes, outside the front entrance at half past twelve." She was startled when he took her hand, raised it to press a kiss to her knuckles, but she didn't pull away.

"Until Sunday then, Lotte," he said. "I'll look forward to it."

Stay by My Side

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 2 of 37

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