Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chapter 08

Chapter Eight:
Aminta’s Aria

How have I come to this
How did I slip and fall
How did I throw half a lifetime away
Without any thought at all

This should've been my time
It's over, it never began
Facing a world, for once not on my side
I simply turned and ran

          Christine had found an aria for Aminta, sung after discovering Don Juan’s true nature, and instantly fallen in love. The hopeless despair felt by the young girl was something to which she could definitely relate. She, too, had tried to disappear, running from the pain of losing her father, that horrible night in the inn, the blood of a nobleman on her hands that even now she still saw every time she closed her eyes at night. Oh, yes, she felt Aminta’s anguish, and she let her voice spill that anguish into the silent, empty house.

People have faith in me
I think I once did too
I promise whoever has a hold on our lives
I'll see the bad times through

This should have been my time
It's over, it never began
Facing a world, for once not on my side
I simply turned and ran

          The tears flowed unheeded down her cheeks as she thought of her father. He had such dreams for her, dreams she once shared. They were to come to Paris so she could audition for the Palais Garnier and sing on the same stage where he’d first seen her mother. Oh how he’d talk about her impending triumph and how she’d take Paris by storm. But now… now she was running from the gendarmes, a murderer, tainted, unclean. She knew the reputation of most opera singers wasn't one of purity, but her father had told her to hold out for love. She had until that night. But unlike Aminta, Christine’s heart wasn't involved beyond the intense hatred she felt for her attacker. She also wasn't under the illusion that the man cared for anything other than his own selfish lusts and his love of the power he had over her.

I try to blame it on fortune
Some kind of twist in my fate
But I know the truth and it haunts me
I learned it a little too late

I know the truth and it mocks me
I know the truth and it shocks me
I learned it a little too late

          So many times she’d prayed that it had all been a horrible nightmare and that she’d wake up in some strange inn to the gentle strains of her father’s violin; but it was never to be. For two years Christine had lived as a boy, running from job to job, never staying long enough for anyone to question why the ‘boy’ never grew up. For two years, she had convinced herself that, once she had saved enough, she’d return to Stockholm. She could work as a music instructor in the girls’ finishing school there, perhaps even find a nice young man to settle down with and raise a family. But she knew it was all a dream with about as much substance as fairy wings and pixie dust. The truth was that no one would want to wed someone like her, a ruined soprano with another’s blood on her hands.


Her voice had dropped to a whisper by the end of song and Erik’s heart was breaking even as he exulted in her magnificence. It was obvious the song had stirred painful memories for her, and the emotional impact on her voice was astonishing. When he’d written that particular aria, his life had been dismal and all of his bitterness and pain had poured onto the paper in notes and measures. He’d been working in a music store as a repairman, fixing instruments in exchange for room, board and unlimited access to the equipment. It was there he’d met Isabella, the shopkeeper’s niece. She was gentle, kind, and oh so beautiful it made his heart ache. She’d made him hope for the first time in his young, miserable life that there might be someone who could see him for who he was and not what he looked like. His dreams were shattered the night he’d stayed late at the shop to use the piano to compose a song that she’d inspired. Isabella and several of her friends had entered the shop and, with the larger boys holding him down, she’d ripped off his mask in front of them all. He could still hear the girls’ screams of horror and the boys’ cries of ‘monster’ as they beat him. He’d left the shop that night and the city the next morning, but a week later the aria had been added to Don Juan. Unable to listen to her mournful cry from afar any longer, he entered the room and took a seat next to her on the sofa. He wanted nothing more than to comfort his angel, but was at a loss as to what to do.
“Christine?” He couldn't help running his fingers gently through her hair as he struggled over what to say. “Mon ange, is there any way I can ease your suffering? It pains me to see you so sad.”
“Oh, Erik,” Christine drew in a shuddering breath as she tried to bring her tears under control, giving a small laugh tinged with self-contempt. “I’m sorry. I’m not normally so emotional. It seems all I do around you is cry or say the wrong thing and…”
Erik placed a gentle finger on her lips before turning her face to his. Smiling tenderly, he took out his handkerchief and dried her tears. “Shush, angel, it is I who must apologize for my beastly temper. I have led a solitary life with little contact with the outside world, and have had far too much time to dwell on my many faults. That is no excuse for my treatment of you, however.” It wasn't until a faint blush crept up her cheeks that Erik realized he was gently caressing along her jaw. Clearing his throat, he jerked his hand back with another muttered apology.
“Did…did you write this?” Christine cringed at the inane question; his name was at the top of each sheet. “It’s beautiful.”
“Ah, yes, I suppose I left that on the piano?” At her guilty nod, he eased the score from her hands and placed it on his lap. With a look precariously balanced between love and hatred, he traced the title that was embossed on the leather cover with the tip of one graceful finger. “Don Juan Triumphant. I never meant for you to see or hear any of this; I never meant for anyone to hear it. You see, Christine, there is some music that is so terrible that it consumes all those who approach it. My Don Juan is such music. He burns, you see, and yet he is not struck by fire from Heaven but from Hell, and that is where I shall take it once it is complete.”
“What do you mean?” Her voice was so soft even Erik’s excellent hearing almost missed it.
“Nothing, child, pay me no heed.” Erik rose and placed the score on the piano bench, his fingers lingering before he turned back to his angel. “I do have some good news, mon ange. Tomorrow, we will have a guest for lunch. No, no…do not be afraid; it’s someone I think you’ll be happy to see. You see, I've commissioned Madame Giry to purchase those things you will need while at my home, and she will be bringing them tomorrow. Ah, I see you know of the unrelenting ballet mistress. What you are not aware of, however, is that when she was a mere ballet rat her name was Angelique Morceau, your mother’s best friend.”


          Meanwhile, in a smoky, run-down tavern, two men were meeting for the first time. One was a large, rough-looking character with bloodshot eyes that stared lewdly at the young waitress who brought him a shot of cheap whiskey. The other was the opposite in almost every way. Too fashionably dressed for the dingy room and his equally uncouth companion, the man’s eyes scanned the room; any unlucky enough to meet them shivered at the utter lack of emotion contained within. They were convinced that, if the man hadn't been sitting at the table and breathing, they’d swear the eyes belonged to a dead man. Once the waitress had left their drinks and retreated as far as she could from the table, the man turned his dead eyes on the drunk and curled his lip faintly in disgust.
          “You said you had information for me, Buquet.”
          “Aye, that I did. You got my money?” The cold gentleman made the stagehand’s blood freeze in his veins but that didn't mean he was going to run his mouth for free. When a modestly sized pouch landed on the table with a metallic thump, he secreted it away in one fluid movement, drained his whiskey, and motioned the girl over for a refill.
          The gentleman had the girl leave the bottle and informed her she did not want to return to the table until he’d left. The waitress, having bested many of the rowdy characters that regularly patronized the tavern, turned so pale she looked sickly and fled the room. Satisfied, he took the bottle in a firm grip and looked pointedly at Buquet.
          “Speak now or you’ll find it most difficult to speak ever again.” The threat was all the more terrifying in that it was delivered in the same tone of voice he’d used when ordering drinks, commenting on the weather, or making small talk at a ball.
          “Your little whore…I might know where she’s at.” He reached for the bottle when he discovered his glass to be empty once more. The man arched one perfectly groomed eyebrow and even the stagehand’s limited intelligence knew it was time to talk. “Had a fly boy up until yesterday, name of Chris. No one knows his last name but he’d become rather chummy with the Opera Ghost in the last few weeks. They had a falling out of sorts, I s’pose, as I saw marks on the boy’s neck. The same marks I saw on the little songbird what’s been sneaking into the chapel recently. The same songbird what lights a candle and blubbers over a picture bearing the name of one Gustav DaaĆ©.”
          “Excellent.” Buquet hadn't thought anything about the man could be worse than his eyes until he smiled. The second pouch of coins was placed by the bottle of whiskey and both were pushed towards the drunken stagehand. He reached for neither, nor did he take his eyes off the gentleman, until the door had closed behind him.

A/N: The song is “I Know the Truth” from Aida. Written for a female character, I confess to simply adoring Michael Crawford’s version (but then again, I adore most anything that man sings).

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