Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 10 of 39

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Antoinette Giry felt like she was in her element. In the months that she had been in New York she had taken a rag bag bunch of dancers and transformed them, with some effort and much imagination, into a fully fledged operatic chorus. They sang, they danced, they kept time to the music and they did it all with a smile and just a little edge of fear, nobody wanted to get it wrong.

She was the first to admit that she was only just short of a slave driver, demanding perfection, hard work and utter dedication from her dancers, yet she liked to think that, given time, she came to be liked by the performers. Looking at the ballet dancers now, tired and sweating, yet buzzing from their excitement, she knew it was only a matter of time before their fear for her wrath actually became more of a respect.

It was a balancing act, of course, and although she usually got it right there were times when she had not. Seeing the cast now, though, she knew that this was one of the times where things would go well.

She stamped her cane to the ground and they all looked and stood up immediately.

'Well done today,' she said, feeling the emptiness of the theatre behind her. This rehearsal had been behind closed doors, as requested, and she was pleased that both Ricardo Bianchi and the conductor, Ralph Javier, had respected her wishes and stayed away. The first full run through of Carmen was the following day and the dancer's had not had much chance to get a feel for the new stage. 'You have all done very well,'

Long gone were the days when her dancers consisted of all young girls, before her now were young boys and young men just as eager to be part of the performance as any of her girls. It was slowly becoming more accepted that the dancing needed a mixture of both and, although they took some mocking for it, they stood up well to the challenge.

After dismissing the group she sat in the front row of the auditorium, staring up at the stage. When they had told her that the building would not only be complete within months but would also be magnificent most people could probably have forgiven her for being a touch sceptical at the claims. The theatre had been merely a shell when she had first arrived in America and although they had insisted to her that the structure was solid, she held her doubts. At the time she could not have imagined such a quick and spectacular turn around.

How wrong she had been.

The seat she now nestled in was plush and so comfortable it tempted her to sleep. She resisted, of course, but she felt mostly at home in the huge, yet hospitable environment. Resting her head back on the seat she closed her eyes and let her mind drift to her youth. It seemed such a long time back and yet she was not elderly. She often feared that, over time, she would once and for all forget the carefree child, who danced and laughed and loved and played…

Back then she had been on a fast track to fame, an excellent dancer with the commitment and passion that many others lacked. It was no accident that she had been injured, although most people thought of it as such.

In her twenties she had auditioned for a leading dance role in a ballet to be performed at the Opera Populaire between Operas… she had got the part but had managed to create a rival in the process. The other girl, though not much younger than Antoinette, did not quite have the skill nor the drive that her slightly older counterpart did. One day, during rehearsals, she had tripped Antoinette off the edge of the stage and broken her leg, high up, near the hip.

Her leg had, fortunately, healed but not without its damage and she always limped after that, and never danced again. At the age of twenty six her career was over and so, too, it seemed her livelihood.

Months later, the other girl vanished. No one knew where she had gone but Antoinette had her suspicions and though she disapproved of some of his methods, she could not in truth say that she was disappointed.

The girl was never seen again.

Early the following year the ballet mistress at the time resigned her post, much to everyone's surprise, and Antoinette was offered the role. She grasped it with both hands, choosing to be pleased instead of bitter, and although the whole experience hardened her, she found that she loved the new role.

Being alone in the theatre often made her think back to days gone by and it always made her think of Erik, the Opera Ghost. She had known better of course but she never told. How could she, after all that he had done for her? No, she knew him well and yes, she disagreed with his methods but she loved him all the same.

She opened her eyes and stared up at the beams overhead. She was convinced that, for a moment, she had seen a black shadow pass across them but she simply smiled and dismissed the notion.

Yes, empty theatres always did this to her.

It was good to see Benoit's hands play across the keys of the piano in the orchestra pit. He sat straight, his shoulder's square and his back tight, as his fingers found notes that she had forgotten existed and she wondered how such a young boy could have such a massive talent. Christine sat in the second row just listening, allowing herself that moment of bliss, moment of calm in which she could simply enjoy her son.

Things had been hectic for the last few weeks, finishing touches were being put to costumes, the set was backstage and ready and the cast were preparing for their first full run through together. Under Ricardo's gentle guidance she had found herself in the opera and she understood the role and its implications throughout the performance. She liked Ricardo but found that she often wished that he would push her more, when she asked him about this he would simply say, 'What is there to push, you sound wonderful,'

Though his insistence was solid and the praise very flattering she would sit there wondering if there was more she could do. Somehow, when he said that she sounded perfect, she didn't quite believe it.

'Mama,' Benoit called.

She blinked and glanced over at him. He looked older under the dull lights and as he turned to her his eyes shone a brief slate colour before returning to their normal blue. She stood and went to him, taking a seat on the piano bench and slipped her arm around his thin shoulders. He rested his head against her, as he often did on their balcony mornings, and sighed.

'Is this what I will be?' he asked.

She stroked his hair. 'What do you mean?'

'A musician,' he clarified.

She smiled and kissed his forehead. 'You will be anything you choose to be, I am sure of it,'

He leaned away from her and pressed his fingers back down onto the keys but she could see his smile.

'What if I choose to be a teacher?'

She couldn't help but smile. 'Like Mrs Kelly?'

He nodded.

'An honourable profession,' she said.

'Would you be pleased?' he asked.

'There isn't much you could do that would displease me,'

'Even if I worked as a chimney sweep,'

'It is honest work, Benoit,'

He chuckled. 'Uncle Philippe would not be happy,'

She supposed that this was true. 'There is nothing wrong with being a chimney sweep,'

'What about an animal trainer, for the circus?'

She laughed gently, she couldn't help it. 'As long as you promise not to run away with them and as long as the animals are not too dangerous,'

He turned and frowned at her. 'Oh, it's not fun if you train tame animals, mama, that defeats the point,'

Again, she found herself laughing and could not resist the urge to tickle his ribs, causing his own giggles to ripple through the quiet theatre. 'I would not want you to get hurt,'

'A man must work,' he said, puffing out his chest.

'You certainly didn't get that from your uncle Philippe,' she said, without thinking but Benoit was smiling.

'You're right mama,' he said. 'Papa told me a man must work hard to support his family,'

She pulled him close and hugged him to her, squeezing him into her side. 'That certainly sounds like something your father would say,' she said with a small smile. 'You will need to take care of your wife,'

Benoit stared at her and then pulled a face of disgust. 'I don't want a wife,'

'Not yet,' she said, feeling that she was fighting a losing battle already. Nine year old boys were not generally known for their long term planning, she thought.

'Not ever,' he insisted. 'Girls are strange,'

'I won't deny that,' she grinned.

'And taller than me,'

This time a laugh escaped. 'They're not all taller than you,'

He crossed his arms over his chest and gave an uncharacteristic pout. 'Elizabeth is taller than me and Sally, too,'

The neighbours children were, indeed, much taller than he was but they were also much older. She told him this but it had little effect.

'What about Emma, then?' he asked and then added, with impeccable nine year old logic. 'She is my age and still taller than I am,'

'You will be taller soon,' she said. 'I was once taller than your father,'

She exaggerated, of course, but it was close to the truth. Especially when she had worn shoes and he was completely barefoot. She had been around his height, being a year younger, and had found him dashing from the moment they met.

Benoit looked shocked at the innocent revelation 'You were taller than papa?'

She nodded, compounding the white lie. 'Only just, but I was,'

'When will I grow then?' he asked.

'When you're a teenager,' she replied.

He huffed slightly. 'But that is a long time away,'

'You will be tall though, like your father,' she insisted.

'Good,' he nodded. 'I don't want to be short all my life,'

She smiled and ruffled his hair, placing a kiss against his forehead when her hand moved away. 'You won't be, I promise,'

And with that the conversation was over and Benoit turned his attention back to the piano and began to play again. She touched his shoulder gently and then stood up, moving away to let him play. She walked from the Orchestra pit and, as she did, she took a moment to look around her. From that day on it would be rare for the theatre to be this quiet and so she looked around, letting herself enjoy the quiet and beauty of the room.

She glanced up and, around the sides of the stage, stood the six boxes, all with their numbers carved into them. When her eyes drifted across box five she paused and stared for a moment. A familiar jolt took hold of her heart and for a moment she was sure that she saw movement up there but the sensation disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and she took her seat in the second row, ignoring the gnawing at the back of her brain.

When Benoit finished the next piece he turned to her and smiled and it melted her heart. She knew that she would never tire of his company and she knew that she could never, ever, love anything more.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 10 of 39

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