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I’ll begin by revealing Erik. He’s not dead; the Italian man just put his fake obituary in the newspapers. Erik’s already left the hidden room in my local theatre. He’s gone, and I don’t know where he is now.
Maybe I should start even further back. Back to when I was first given a role in the musical, Faust.
“Places, everyone, places! And Christine, pay attention to your tone. It’s a bit off, dear,” Madame Valerius said lightly as she turned away.
Madame Valerius was a tough woman, despite her elderly appearance. Unfortunately, she also happened to be my guardian, after both my parents died. I missed my father’s stories especially, the ones about the Angel of Music. But never mind that, I needed to do well in the performance tonight. The managers were coming, and they were going to choose the best singer to perform in the regional theatre.
We started again. Carlotta was excellent as always, but I could feel a twang of jealousy as I sang the background. I didn’t have the resources to be pretty or pay for a music teacher like she did.
It was only another hour before break was called. I went back into my dressing room, ignoring Carlotta’s fans. She was brilliant, but I wanted to be better than just Carlotta’s level.
I sighed and sat down heavily into a chair. My local theatre was small, but it did have some resources to pay for several dressing rooms. I was only lucky to be the last chosen to get my own room. That or the fact that I lived in the theatre, as Madame Valerius had paid for rent here.
Closing my eyes, I thought about the show tonight. Tonight, in front of the managers and so many people staring. What did it take to not have worries?
Strangely, something interrupted my thoughts. I sat up, frowning. Where was the music coming from? That beautiful—
Suddenly, I remembered the Angel of Music, the perfect man in my father’s stories.
“The Angel of Music!” I whispered, hardly daring to believe it. “My father really sent me it!”
I knelt next to my closet. The voice was melodic, and I could feel the passion beneath the words. Yes, the sound was barely audible, but it was enough for me to wonder.
Gasping, I turned around to face Raoul. He stood with a crooked grin, the smile permanent on his face since I had met him years ago.
“What are you doing? Hearing the angel again?” he joked. But he knew me well enough to read my expression, and his laugher died instantly.
“Just listen,” I said, and I took his arm. We both knelt down, and the voice was still there. That amazingly powerful voice echoed up into my closet. Raoul’s expression changed to one in awe, and we could only glance at each other.
“You’re not crazy this time,” he breathed.
“When am I ever?” I whispered back, though I was still focused on the voice.
“Christine? Raoul?” Madame Valerius stood in the doorway, a frown on her face. “It’s time for the opening act. Hurry up.”
She disappeared, and we looked at each other. “Later,” Raoul said, and I understood what he meant by that. Madame Valerius might be the greatest music director on earth, but she never understood my “fantasies” with the Angel of Music.
So I prepared for the show, pushing Raoul out of the door and changing into my sparkling dress. Carlotta was singing the first song already by the time I rushed to the stage.
I went on stage after her and sang the next piece, though I was still part of the background group. There were four scowling men in the audience, and I recognized them as the managers of the theatre production. Their eyes grazed over me for a second, and I was disappointed. Carlotta was getting all of the attention.
The managers had already made up their minds by the time the show had ended. I knew I was not receiving the part, not by far. Carlotta had sung beautifully, perfectly, for this show.
The managers all looked at her with bright eyes. Madame Valerius congratulated Carlotta and then told her to pack her things. She was moving to the regional theatre.
Then I heard a sound before it happened.
The candles that were used on set crashed onto the floor and onto Carlotta. She screamed as the wax, still hot from the performance, melted on her skin. The managers leaped back in astonishment, shocked.
I looked up, and saw a man, shadowed beneath a dark hood, next to the lights. That was the last thing I saw before a hand covered my mouth and dragged me away.
I fought still, despite that I had no idea where I was. There were sounds above me, Madame Valerius’s and Carlotta’s voices drowning in terror. My captor was thwarting every one of my attempts to escape.
I froze at the voice. It was that singing voice, that Angel of Music. His grip slackened, and I no longer resisted. Instead, I turned around, facing him. Or rather, two men.
The first man—he was Italian; there was no doubt about that. The Italian stood next to the grinning Shadow man, whom I saw above in the lights.
“You hurt Carlotta,” I said, without thinking.
The Shadow man smiled. “No introductions? I’m Christine, who are you? Oh, Christine, I’m Erik.”
Only the Italian laughed at that, even his laugh holding that Italian accent. I failed to even smile.
“And why, Erik, did you drag me here?” I said, clearly through with the two of them.
Erik raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you always mumble about meeting the Angel of Music? And what did you say about Carlotta the other day, that she was really lip synching? You know, you’re right about that, surprisingly.”
He held out a small recording machine. I took it cautiously and pressed play.
It was amazing what I heard. The real Carlotta voice was incredibly off. I hit the stop button quickly, unable to bear the music.
Erik grinned again. “See? Now, I personally think you have potential.”
I frowned. “Who are you to talk? You don’t even go to this theatre—“
“I object to that.” Both of us looked at the Italian, me in surprise while Erik instantly scowled.
It was silent, until I broke it. “Just take me back already,” I said snappishly. “I don’t need your help, even if you are the Angel of Music.”
“Ah, but you want to,” Erik replied calmly. “Just give me an hour and I’ll have you turned into a real artist.”
I opened my mouth, but shut it again quickly. Despite that my curious Angel was a witty one, I did want to learn from him. Erik grinned again, jumping back from his scowling features.
“See, I told you,” he said to the Italian. “Curious.”
I picked out the wax and other debris from my hair. Erik had already returned me back to my dressing room, blindfolding me so I wouldn’t know how to get back. The pieces of wood and dust were still in my hair after the candle had fallen to the floor.
Strangely enough, I didn’t know what Erik looked like, so I couldn’t even report him to the police for my one hour kidnapping. He had kept his hood on the entire time, even when he taught me how to extend my range in vocals.
But Erik did keep to his word, and I could sing Carlotta’s parts without any difficulty now. As for Carlotta herself, she was immediately taken to the hospital. Madame Valerius told me that she wasn’t going to the regional theatre because she had gotten second degree burns. I immediately thought of Erik and his mischievous but mysterious smile.
No one had realized that I had disappeared, but that was fine. At least, I thought no one had noticed.
“Christine, where were you?”
I glanced up from Erik’s curly handwriting on a piece of paper to see Raoul peeking into my room. He came over, but I didn’t hide the paper fast enough. Raoul pulled it out from my fingers.
“‘The Angel of Music’?” he said, glancing over at me. “When did you meet him?”
I sighed. Erik had said not to mention him when I got back, and I had agreed. The strange meeting didn’t need to be known, but Raoul was my best friend.
“His name’s Erik. I don’t know why but he blindfolded me and just took me someplace so he could teach me.”
Raoul’s eyes squinted at me. “Blindfolded? You let someone blindfold you?”
I had no answer to that, as I got his meaning. But I didn’t care. Erik taught me music, taught me how to sing just as well as he could.
“Well, just don’t go with him next time,” Raoul said, standing up. “You have to be careful, Christine.”
He kissed me on my forehead before he left, and I stared at him, surprised, as he left the room.
Madame Valerius clapped her hands and looked around the room. “Now, ladies, we need someone to take over Carlotta’s place. I asked the managers, and they agreed that whoever takes the part has the chance to be in the regional theatre.”
Instantly, a crowd of girls squealed. Madame Valerius held up her hand, and they quieted. I said nothing, but a small spark of hope lit inside me.
“I’m going to ask each of you right now to sing a small piece, something like an audition,” she said. “Just so I can hear how well you sing.”
The other girls went first. I strayed to the back of the line, not wanting the others to hear me. After Erik’s lessons, I could tell that Madame Valerius was disappointed by the others. They were off key, off rhythm, and most of all had no passion when they sang. At least Carlotta seemed as though she had that, the passion.
Finally, I was the only one left. Madame Valerius sighed and waved her hand carelessly. “Christine, I don’t think you’re suited for the role,” she said. “Meg—“
I started, interrupting her. Her eyes widened as I sang “Think of Me” perfectly. I was so deep into the song that I didn’t notice Raoul standing in the corner.
When I finished, Madame Valerius was silent. But Raoul clapped his hands, and then smiled at me. I blushed, just as he left.
“Christine, how did you sing like that?” I turned back to Madame Valerius in surprise. “You never sang like that during your first audition.”
She seemed astonished. But I received the part without any shock.
The other girls eyed me with jealousy, but my turn was coming. They hadn’t heard me sing before, thinking that I was the same singer from before and that Madame Valerius had chosen me because I was her charge. But Erik had helped me, enough so I could receive the part fairly.
Madame Valerius had already presented me to the managers, but they had recognized me. I heard them tell her that I wasn’t going to get the part.
Light glared down onto the stage, and I walked slowly towards the center. The managers glared at me, as though they already knew I was going to ruin the production. But I began, despite this.
When the show was over, the managers came over. Somehow, they were still scowling, though they, and I, had received compliments, and only compliments.
“This girl is not fit for the theatre,” the tallest manager said, the first words coming out of his mouth. “She didn’t even receive half the compliments Carlotta did.”
“And what about the candle wax?” the fat one said, glaring at me. “I suppose you did that?”
I shook my head, numbly. Why were they so ignorant to music?
Then it happened again.
The lights came crashing down, the glass breaking. The managers yelled, and I jumped back in shock. Was Erik here again?
Looking upward, I saw him leaning on the rail with a smirk on his face. I took a few steps back before I ran to the staircase leading to the lights and curtain control area.
He looked up just as I came running straight at him. “Oh, pretty Christine,” he said. “Can’t you give me a break?”
Raoul came up behind me, but he was looking at Erik. “Who are you?”
Erik’s smile disappeared. “Raoul. Christine told you all about me, didn’t she?”
I glanced back at Raoul, and then back at Erik again. “Erik,” I said, “you really shouldn’t injure people like that.”
“They’re horrible people.”
There was no emotion in his voice, and he cast his gaze downward, where three out of the four managers were picking themselves up.
“Missed one,” he muttered to himself. I frowned at him.
“You just broke glass in front of them!” exclaimed Raoul. “And besides, angel, aren’t you supposed to be good?”
Erik smiled humorlessly. “I don’t like people who abuse my father’s will.”
Suddenly it clicked for me. Raoul must’ve realized it as well, because he punched Erik in the face.
“You can’t be Christine’s cousin,” he hissed, grabbing Erik into a headlock. “You’d have to be—“
“Phillip’s brother.” Erik twisted away from Raoul, as he spoke the words with a bitter tone. “And do you know why my father sent me away? Sent me away from my perfect brother and never told anyone about it?”
I opened my mouth to say something, but Erik wrenched his hood down. Raoul stopped instantly, and the two of us stared.
The left side of his face was disfigured, as though it had been burned off. Scars streaked over twisted lines of blackened skin. I couldn’t take the picture out of my mind.
The Italian came up from behind us, and I jumped slightly. But he just nodded at Erik. “We have to leave.”
“There he is! That’s the culprit!”
Startled, I looked below and saw that all the managers, along with the rest of the girls and Madame Valerius, were pointing and yelling at Erik. Raoul and I glanced at each other, and then pushed Erik away from them.
“You need to get out of here,” I said urgently. “They’ll take you to the police.”
He resisted me, but the Italian took control grabbed his arm, forcibly dragging him towards the second staircase leading to the exit.
“Why do you care?” he asked me, despite that he was being led away.
The managers finally arrived, gasping for breath. “Stop—stop him…”
I only watched as he was pulled out the door. “I don’t know.”
Cornish, New Hampshire
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