The next day was going to be a performance of "Faust." I was to spend most of the day preparing the costumes for the night's performance. However strange things began to happen throughout the day. First was the strange letter that the corps de ballet was buzzing about during their costume fittings.
"It is from him, The Phantom!" one of the girls insisted as she jumped excitedly.
"How can that be?" Another girl asked. This girl has soft brown hair and a young face. She was much younger than the rest of the ballet members.
"Meg, are you gossiping about the Phantom again?" Madame Giry asked. She was the ballet manager. Although stern with her severe bun, black clothing and walking stick, I had heard she was like a mother figure to many of the girls. Meg was rumored to be her own child.
"No Madame," Meg replied dejectedly. She retreated with the other girls back onto the stage. They were having one last walkthrough.
I had scarcely begun to put away my mending materials when I heard a scream from the stage. The body of Joseph Bouquet was swinging from the rafters. On the floor was a piece of white paper. Carrier had heard all of the noise and came to investigate.
"I wish for Box Five to remain empty. If this request is not accommodated there will be more tragedy tonight."
"This is nonsense," the new manager replied who had come to investigate the noises himself. "I sold that box to some of my favorite patrons. I'm not going to accommodate a murdering ghost!"
The performance seemed to be going ahead as planned with people occupying Box Five. I stood backstage with props in hand prepared to hand them to Carlotta.
"This is my greatest performance," she declared during a break. I was fixing her long black wig and adjusting her tunic-style dress made of bright blue and burgundy velvet.
"Yes Madame," I responded quietly. Before I finished the sentence I heard a small commotion coming from the audience.
"It is the Phantom!" an excited ballet dancer stated running backstage. "He is demanding that Box Five be emptied immediately."
I peered around the curtain to see several audience members running downstairs and out the door.
"People please be seated, be seated. The show will continue in one moment," the manager declared as more people began to leave their seats.
"I don't think it's going to continue at all," Marie whispered in my ear.
Marie was right for a few minutes later the opera was cancelled altogether with promises of refunded tickets. I walked back upstairs after I had completed my chores for the evening and found myself collapsing in my bed. A few moments later I heard a soft voice.
"Hello Christine," the voice said in the darkness.
"Hello Maestro," I said quietly. I stood up and grabbed my robe before I walked any further towards his voice.
"It is time for your lesson."
"Ok Maestro," I replied tentively. I knew about Mr. Bouquet. I knew about the Box Five incident. Should I fear this man? This man who had been nothing but nice to me?
"I sense your fear," he said in the darkness. "I would never harm you."
"What happened?" I asked feeling braver.
"Joseph Bouquet is an idiot. He insisted on seeking out my lair. No one is allowed to seek out my lair and live to tell about it."
"Why is that?"
"I must keep a secretive existence."
"What about Box Five?"
"Box Five has always been mine. I won't stand for it to be taken away from me," the Phantom replied assuredly. With more assurance than I remember my own love having. "No that's enough of the unpleasantness. We must begin your lesson."
A few weeks later I felt my voice becoming stronger and surer. "Thank you Maestro, for everything," I told him at the beginning of my lesson.
"It is I who should be thanking you, for the privilege of hearing your voice."
I blushed at his comment. Why would I blush? What could this strange Phantom, a known murderer, possibly be able to offer me? Wasn't I here to reunite with Raoul? No, I thought to myself, I was here to find my Vincent.
"Let's begin with the scales," he said breaking me out of my reverie. Taking a moment to prepare my voice I sang the various scales and a few selections from The Fairy Queen. This opera would debut in a few months.
"Before long you will be prepared for the role of Titania."
"The lead?" I asked in disbelief. "Are you sure Maestro?"
"With your lovely voice anything is possible."