The Phantom Beast: One Love, One Lifetime
by Jenn Thompson
I awoke in a large, soft bed that September morning. Looking above me I saw a canopy made of delicate lace and ribbon. Sitting up I glanced across the room. There were beds just like mine all around the room. In between each one was a small dresser and a desk. "Where am I?" I silently wondered as I jumped off the bed.
"Christine! You need to get dressed. You overslept! You know you need to get your things together." A young woman exclaimed walking into the room. She had sparkling green eyes and long blonde hair that had been pulled into a bun. She was wearing a simple white dress with a blue apron.
"So are you really going to go to the Opera House?" Another girl asked. This one had jet black hair falling in curls around her shoulders. She was still wearing her nightgown. Her blues eyes sparkled with excitement waiting to hear my answer.
"I guess so." I replied tentatively. "What are the talking about?" I silently wondered hoping one of them would give me more information. And why was my name Christine?
"You guess so?" The blonde girl asked with disbelief as her eyes widened. "How could you not. The Viscount only guaranteed you a job with the chorus."
"The Viscount?" I questioned before I could stop myself.
"You must really be nervous about leaving." The girl with the black hair replied. "Raoul, the Viscount, the love of your life since you were a child."
"Of course." I said quickly. "I'm just a bit tired and very nervous."
"That's understandable." The blonde girl replied with a smile. "It's not everyday you get to pursue your dreams."
Hearing the door open I turned around to see an older woman standing there. She had on a black dress with a high collar and her brown hair pulled into a tight bun. "Miss Christine." She began with a look of disgust on her face. "You need to be packing."
"Of course." I responded quickly pulling items out of the dresser next to my bed. Finding a suitcase underneath the bed I placed them all in carefully. Finding a dress to put on I quickly changed and combed my hair, which was considerably longer than I remembered it. Pulling it into a bun I put on my shoes and walked out of the room.
The lady with the tight bun met me at the door.
"Be well Christine." She said giving me a tight hug. "You will be fine."
"Thank you." I replied smiling back.
"Goodbye Christine!" The two girls from my room shouted as they came running over to give me hugs.
"Promise to write us everyday." The blonde girl said jumping up and down.
"At least every other." The black haired girl said.
"And remember to come and visit us even when you are a big opera star." The blonde girl said giving me one last hug.
"Okay girls. You need to get back to your studies." The lady with the bun said sternly. "Our buggy is waiting to take you to the Opera House."
"Ok." I said quietly wishing I knew her name. "Thank you so much."
"You're welcome." She said walking me outside. Getting in I placed my bag in the back and held onto the sides. Waving as the buggy started to move I grabbed onto the sides tighter realizing how fast the buggy moved. Sighing I wished I had an inkling as to what happened. I was suddenly transported back to the late nineteenth century in a small village in France on my way to the Paris Opera House to become a chorus girl.
"Good luck." The man said who drove me to the Paris Opera House when we arrived. Looking up at the building I smiled. The artwork was astounding. Such beautiful statues of angels were all around the rooftop and the pillars. It took my breath away.
Taking my bag out of the buggy I smiled at the man as he drove off. Walking around the building I found the entrance.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for the director. A Mr. Carreire." I asked walking up to the door. A man stood there in a uniform. He must be the head usher.
"I'm sorry but the Opera has been sold. Mr. Carreire is no longer the manager." The man said turning around. Sucking in my breath deeply I realized I was looking directly at Pascal.
"Please." I said quietly. "The Viscount de Chagney promised me singing lessons and a part in the chorus if I came and talked to Mr. Carreire."
"You know the Viscount?" A woman said walking up to me after eavesdropping on the conversation. Her hair was pulled up ornately and she wore an extravagant dress full of lace and beadwork.
"Yes. He told me I could take singing lessons here." I replied.
"And said you had nice legs?" Another woman dressed equally as beautiful asked with a laugh.
"No, he liked my voice. He heard me performing at a country fair." I said not knowing how I knew that information. "Do you all know him?" I asked innocently.
"Ha ha ha." They laughed opening their lockets. Inside was a picture of Elliot Burch!
I looked at them with wide eyes and my mouth open. "Where did you get that picture?" I asked. I was simply inquiring, but to them it must have seemed like I was jealous.
"From Raoul of course." One of them responded.
The other one looked at me with a pout. "You thought you were the only one?" She asked in a mocking tone.
Giggling the two of them walked on into the Opera House. Standing there bewildered I looked at the usher.
"I'm sorry Christine. He sends girls here about every other week. Women that he's met here and there." He said sympathetically.
"Oh, it's ok." I said waving my hand. Trying to appear like I didn't care. But I did. Something very strange was happening and I wanted to know what it was.
Walking inside the usher lead me into the main theatre. Taking a seat near the front I looked around. There were people scattered all over waiting to hear the official word of the change of management of the Opera House.
Msr. Carreire appeared first explaining his reasons for leaving and how he felt the new manager would continue in the same tradition he had. Watching him onstage I realized that I was looking at Father! Looking at the new manager and his wife, as he introduced her, I was shocked once again. They were Devin and Bridget O'Donnell. How could this be I wondered as Devin droned on and on about the being manager and what productions he would be producing in the up coming season. Furthermore his wife, Carlotta, would be starring in all the roles.
Leaving the theatre I walked up to the new manager and explained I had been asked to come here for singing lessons by the Viscount.
Carlotta looking at me like I was a bug laughed out loud. "Why darling, the best way to become a diva is to be around one. How would you like to be my costume girl?" She asked in a pitying sort of way.
"I would love to." I responded enthusiastically. Surely working in the Opera House I would learn why I got here in the first place. Leaving Carlotta to unpack her things in her dressing room I went to find the usher. I needed to thank him for helping me get a job.
"Do you have a place to stay?" He asked me after I found him. Shaking my head I looked down. The lady with the bun didn't say anything about where I was to live.
"Follow me." He said grabbing my arm. He led me upstairs in an area above the stage. Inside a small door was a room. Dusty from years of neglect it had a small bed and dresser inside. He didn't explain what the room had been used for in the past, nor did I ask. Thanking him once again I set my suitcase down and began to unpack. Singing happily I didn't recognize the tune, but I enjoyed it. It soothed my frayed nerves from a rather confusing day. Little did I know that someone was listening to me from afar.
Lying down in the bed I silently wondered if this was all a dream. I wondered what would happen when I awoke the next morning.