Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 5 of 39

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There was very little that Christine loved more than the sweet, sorrowful sound of a pianos key. It was a difficult art to master and, after many years of toiling at the skill, she still could not claim to be even close to masterful at it. Still, when her fingers played along the keys, feeling the cool ivory beneath their tips and hearing the pure tones from the piano, she could simply close her eyes and get lost in the moment.

Her father had been a magnificent violinist, brilliant until his last breath, and had always encouraged her to learn the instrument. It had not been her choice though, and, like her mother had been before they lost her, Christine found herself drawn to the sombre, yet beautiful, notes of the piano. When she thought of those years, long ago, she remembered them with such a mixture of emotions that it was hard to discern which one was most prominent.

Thoughts of her father filled her with pride and a feeling she had only just come to realise was bitterness. She had loved him dearly, clung to him after her mother had passed on, and yet he was taken from her too before she reached her maturity. Christine always remembered him with fondness and love, with pride, what made her bitter was the lack of recognition he got for his brilliance while he was alive. Only in death did people revere him and that still did not drag her from the poor house.

Not that it mattered, the money that is. Losing him was far worse, and the pride and bitterness were no match for the distress she felt when she he was gone.

Unlike other children, even richer children than she, she did not have a terrible upbringing. The death of her mother, though a sickening blow, had not meant her father turned to alcohol or women to ease his troubled heart… No, he had been a model father and a wonderful man.

It was through her father that she had met the De Changys, some years before they became patrons at the Opera Populaire, and had fallen in love with Raoul… even if she had not known it at the time.

During her teenage years she travelled with her father all around Europe but it had been four years, up to her Operatic debut, since the last time she had seen Raoul.

She owed much to her father.

When the clank of the door knocker sounded she let out a sigh and rose to greet her brother in law. Having a cook and maid was one thing, but she and Raoul both felt that, given the circumstances, a butler was simply a step too far. When the door cracked open, Philippe's smile fell from his face. Clearly, he had been expecting one of the two male De Changy's to answer the door to him.

Oh, well.

'Is Raoul home?' he asked, and had clearly been drinking although was in a far better state than the one he had materialised in that morning.

She nodded and, through tightly gritted teeth, said, 'He is waiting for you in the study,'

Philippe brushed past her into the hallway, much to her irritation, and said, 'I didn't tell him I was coming here this evening, did I?'

She closed the door and led him through the hall way. 'I believe you told him that the two of you needed to talk,' she said, though the thought of conversing with him for much longer sent ripples of frustration through her body. 'You have something to tell him,'

'Ah, yes,' Philippe smiled, innocent, butter would not melt.

Christine had never got along well with her brother in law and she would never forgive him for trying to block their marriage all those years ago. Her dislike of him was so fierce that if she knew that he would be visiting she would find an excuse to make herself scarce. It was something a wife should be ashamed of and yet it never bothered her.

Over the years they had come to an uneasy truce and because it was in the family's best interests for them to get on, they fell into an unspoken agreement to remain civil to one another. Lately, this long agreement was being tested to its limits and at the moment, even the sight of his face was enough to cause bubbles of anger to simmer in her stomach.

When she looked up, Philippe was staring at her, 'Aren't you going to ask me how I am?'

She glared.

'It's only proper,' he suggested with a shrug. The way he often did, as if he could not understand what her problem was, as if he was the absolute model of graciousness.

'I can see how you are,' she said, attempting to keep her voice light and friendly but failing miserably.

He shrugged and stepped closer to her. 'And how am I?'

She could smell wine on his breath and had to force herself to stand still instead of backing away from him. 'Drunk,' she said simply, all pretence now well and truly done with.

Philippe's smile was hollow and his eyes showed pure scorn. 'I am not drunk,'

'Pleasant change,' she said.

The smile vanished and she saw the muscles in his jaw bunch. Before he could speak or spit toxins in her direction she held her hand up, 'Raoul is through there,'

Angry, though he was, he forced another smile and turned his back to her. 'And to think,' he said. 'I am only trying to help,'

Without further explanation he opened the door to the study and stepped inside, closing it gently behind him.

Aside from the bedroom, the study was Raoul's favourite room in the house. He knew that Christine liked the balcony, Benoit the family room… but he loved the study. He wasn't quite sure what it was. Sometimes he thought that it was because the room was at the back of the house and, therefore, quiet but mostly he thought it was because of the normalcy of the room.

He sat in the chair and looked around him, at the desk and the books piled on top of it and others stored neatly into cases. There were pens and ink, pencils, papers and bills. It was so normal. In the study, with his view only of the other houses, he could be absolutely anywhere in the world and so often he chose to imagine that he was back in the study of the family home in Paris.

It had been a turbulent two years in America and he often sat in the study alone, with his view of bricks and nothing more, and pretended that this place was no different to France. It was though. It was a huge and rambling country, with a language that was not quite English but nothing else either, and accents that were so difficult to understand he struggled to even make polite conversation at the local grocers.

That was another thing about America. The food and the people. He liked neither, generally, but really only because he did not quite understand it. To him the food was unrefined and the people uncouth. There was a lot to be said for inhibitions and many of the people he met in his new home barely even knew what the word meant let alone had any. It was a land of unreserved pleasure, as far as he could see, and that was all very well and good until it wasn't. It damaged the moral fibre of society.

It wasn't as though he did not try. He spoke to his wife in French and English but they had agreed that English was best for Benoit, if this was going to be their home. He attempted conversation but people spoke so fast, in the end he usually ended up smiling and leaving whatever establishment he had ended up in.

It had been Philippe's idea, the move to America. He had made a few contacts through a lawyer friend of his and when he was told of all of the opportunities he had jumped at the chance, convincing Raoul that it was right for all of them. Now all that Raoul was left with was a brother who has lost his own inhibitions, bills that were mounting and the guilt of having moved his family to such an unfamiliar and frightening place.

Christine, of course, took all of this in her stride as she always did. She was kind to people, had already got a firm grasp of English and made friends easily. Not once did she complain about the move or Raoul's inability to find work. Never did she bemoan the dwindling funds or her husband's constant carping about Philippe.

She had offered to sing, offered to move back home, offered to work… when it was he who should be the provider.

And then there was Benoit. Raoul had never known a boy so intelligent and eager as his son. The language had become second nature to him and he found it easy to converse with others of all ages. In fact, he was leaving Raoul behind in his dust.

He sighed when he heard voices outside the study door.

Philippe was here and even though they probably thought he could not hear them speaking, he heard basically every word. Even Christine was starting to get fed up of his drinking and irresponsible behaviour.

When the door opened Raoul stood to greet his brother, although he had sincerely hoped that he would not come. In his hand was an envelope and although it was clear he had been drinking, he was not nearly as drunk as the last time they had seen each other.

However, if Raoul had expected an apology for his earlier behaviour he was to be sorely disappointed. Philippe shook his hand firmly and made his way to the closed cabinet in the corner. Raoul rolled his eyes as his brother liberated a bottle of brandy and poured them both a healthy size glass of the potent drink.

'Do you think that is a good idea?' Raoul asked, staring at him.

Philippe frowned. 'Brandy is always a good idea,'

'Perhaps you should take it easy tonight,' Raoul suggested.

'But we are in the land of the free, my friend,' Philippe grinned, ear to ear. 'And whilst we are here we should behave as the natives do,'

'Not all of the people here drink themselves into nightly stupors,'

'Me?' Philippe put his hand across his heart, pretending to be affronted. 'I'm just enjoying the extended holiday,'

'This isn't a holiday,' Raoul said, feeling like the spoil sport once more.

Philippe downed his brandy and poured another. 'No, you're right,' he nodded. 'And that is why I am here to see you,'

Raoul sighed and sat down, taking a small sip of his brandy and savouring the beautiful, oaky flavour. This was how people were supposed to enjoy alcohol, slowly and gently, taking in the mixture of flavours… not drinking it in barrels and falling out of public houses at all hours of the evening.

After swallowing a second glassful of brandy, Philippe poured himself another tot and sat opposite. 'I've had a business proposition,'

Raoul somehow refrained from rolling his eyes. Another supposed money spinner, another few thousand dollars down the pit. 'I think the family has quite enough investments for the time being,' he said, as tactfully as he could manage.

'I think this one will interest you,' Philippe handed him the brown envelope.

Raoul stared down at it in his hands. 'Tell me what it is,'

'A friend of mine,' Philippe explained. 'Jack Aldridge, works for a guy…'

'Guy?' Raoul asked.

Philippe rolled his eyes, 'A gentleman that owns several theatres in New York… he is looking to open another, has already purchased the building…'

'I'm not interested,' Raoul said. 'And you shouldn't be either,'

'Listen to me first, before making a decision,' Philippe insisted. 'He wants to open one, a magnificent one, to showcase opera to the Americans,'

'And this… gentleman, what is his name and is he not American?'

'Schwarz, and I believe he is German,' Philippe replied. 'But that is by the by. Anyway, when I was talking to Jack the first night I met him he recognised my name…'

Raoul frowned. 'Yes, as all Americans would,' he said sarcastically.

'Such a cynic,' Philippe said without anger. 'Jack is a music fan and recognised the De Changy part of my name not because of our status in France but because of your wife,'

Raoul nodded for him to keep talking.

'Well, of course, I told him that you were here with me and of our time as patrons,' Philippe continued. 'And he is anxious to meet you. He went back to his boss and told him about this whole thing and they came up with a business proposition,'

Raoul glanced down at the envelope.

'Read,' Philippe prompted.

Reluctantly, Raoul tore open the top of the envelope and took out eh neatly crafted pages. He read that the theatre company, Verkleiden, was proposing to open one more theatre for the purpose of bringing opera to the masses of America. For an investment of four thousand dollars the company would refurbish the old building and turn it into a magnificent theatre, giving it the name of the De Changy's choice. On their investment, they would then get a return of around thirty percent of the turnover, but not of the business, only of the new theatre.

He read to the bottom, the only other significant clause was that should Christine De Chagny sing for the first year, they would earn fifty percent of turnover.

'If he is such a successful businessman, why can't he afford to refurbish the theatre himself?' he asked, when he finally looked up from the booklet.

'Jack tells me that he can,' Philippe replied. 'And having seen that his theatres sell out every night, I can vouch for them himself,'

'Then why does he want our financial backing?'

Philippe smiled, 'It is less about our financial backing and more about our expertise in the subject,'

'Then could he not just hire us?'

Philippe rolled his eyes. 'He needs patrons, visible backers, people to help run the show and this is a great investment. I thought I did well talking about into letting us take such a large percentage,'

'You asked for fifty percent?'

'Actually no,' Philippe said. 'They offered twenty and rising to fifty if Christine sings. I asked for thirty, they agreed,'

'Have we signed anything yet?'

Philippe shook his head, 'No, it needs Christine's signature first, I insisted,'

Raoul did not believe this for a second and thought it more likely that the businessman behind the offer had probably included this clause, as he would not want to lose her once she started a term with the theatre.

'What do you think?' Philippe asked, eyes pleading with Raoul.

He reread the agreement and sighed. 'It certainly looks like a legitimate offer,'

Philippe nodded with enthusiasm.

'I will speak to Christine,'

'Talk her around,'

This time it was Raoul's turn to roll his eyes.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 5 of 39

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