I clutched my bag to my chest as I walked up the stairs of the opera next to Madame Giry. The huge building towered above us, a large mass of stone and marble rising above all other buildings on the block. I felt out of place in my ragged old dress amongst all of the grandeur here.
Madame Giry motioned inside and I walked in, her trailing behind me. The interior of the opera was even more glorious. Everything was made of polished marble and gold, intricate sculptures and carvings line the walls and go up the sweeping staircase in the foyer. My eyes still wide in amazement, drinking in the scene around me, I followed Madame through a hallway to the right. We stopped at a tall oak door. Madame opened it and I followed behind her in her wake.
The man sitting at the desk was wiry and had a pinched face. He also looked to be wearing a fake hairpiece hanging lopsided off of his head. If this wasn't a bad day, I'd hate to see him on one. He looked up with a bored expression when the door slammed behind us.
"Ah, is this the young lady whose father used to work here?" he asked, putting down his pen to listen.
"Yes monsieur." I answered as bravely as I could muster. "I too lived here when I was a child, before we moved."
"Do you remember anything mademoiselle?" He looked hopeful, for what reason I was unsure of. "Anything unusual happen here whilst you did live here?"
"No monsieur, I'm sorry." His shoulders came back down and he waved me off.
"Madame Giry will be in charge of your lodging then. Rehearsals for Faust begin in a week. Madame eyed the man with distaste, but led me away and out the door.
"I do wish the new managers would handle this place with more care. They don't know how to run an opera house."
"There are two of them?" I asked, somewhat horrified at the thought of another awful man like that running such a wonderful place.
"Firmin and Moncharmin, yes. That, who you just met, was Firmin."
She led me though a few corridors and through a less refined part of the house. It could go for a good cleaning. We soon stopped in front of another door that beheld more wonders behind its hinges.
"This is where you will be staying. My daughter, Meg, will help you get settled and introduce you to some of the girls."
"Madame, you say that you knew my father?" I inquired just as she placed her hand on the brass doorknob. She paused and drew her hand back.
"I did. He was a good man." She said cautiously.
"Could I then, stay where we did when we lived here?" In the lower floors?"
"I," she hesitated. "I don't know if that would be wise."
"Oh, but why not?" I asked. "Plenty of other people used to live down there too."
"And a plenty lot of it has changed since you were a little girl, Christine." She looked down the hall hesitantly, as if looking for an eavesdropper. There was no one there.
"Fine. I'll make the arrangements with the managers, but any other persuasions might be out of my hands." I nodded, still confused though. Other persuasions? What does she mean by that?
Once we were downstairs, Madame Giry left me to get settled, casting one final skeptical glance around the quarters. I walked around my old home. All of the rooms had been left untouched and had a thick layer of dust on the floors and furniture. I'm surprised they haven't used the rooms for opera employees, but who am I to say anything. I got my home back, I'm content.
Every room I went into looked untouched, until I came to the music room. I remember sitting with Papa at our piano while he played and singing for hours at a time. I remember the long nights he spent doing nothing but writing music while I sat against the wall and played with some dolls that mother made before she died. Such happy things happened in these rooms.
I looked around the room. Everything was dusted and neatly put away, but the piano was missing and a large portion of the sheet music that Papa composed was also gone. Some of the music was left so I put the rest of it in a drawer of the desk that would have sat next to the piano, were it here.
Once the music was put away from any unwanted thieves, I looked around the vaguely familiar apartment and broke down.
Why did my father have to go? He was a good man. Many people listened to his music and he was well known for it. Many people would grieve for his death, but nobody would give a second thought to his poor little daughter left alone in the streets of Paris. If not for Madame Giry… I do not even want to dwell on what might've happened.
"Must you cry so incessantly?" a powerful angry voice asked.
I froze and slowly wiped the tears from my cheeks.
"Why are you in my home?" the voice asked, sending a ripple of fear through me. I gripped the sides of my dress and stood, looking around for the owner of the voice. He seemed not to be anywhere.
"Have you no answer?" The voice boomed. I shivered when I realized the voice was emitting from the mirrors, the floors and the very walls of the room. The cracks between the floorboards and in between the bricks all became filled with the angry baritone voice.
"Monsieur, I lived here when – when I was a child."
"That gives you no right to come. It is my home now."
"Monsieur where are you? Can you at least come out so that I can see you and speak to you face to face?"
The voice let out a tortured laugh. "It would take a great deal of courage to speak to my face. I do not believe you are quite ready for the challenge."
"Then can you at least tell me what happened to the piano? And the music that was with it?"
"If you must know, I have them. They belong to me as does this room and all other adjoining rooms. So if you'd gladly leave, I would be gratified." The voice said with a growl. The piano I do not mind, he may keep that, as I cannot play. But the music does not belong to him.
"Monsieur," I said, anger overwhelming any remaining fear that was left in my body. "That music does not belong to you. If anybody it belongs to me. I do not mind the piano, but the music stays, as do I, in these rooms."
"Oh really?" the voice asked angrily, an almost livid tone gracing the beautiful voice. I mentally slapped myself. "And what makes you start to even believe that theory?"
I wanted to stop and just get my music back and go along with my tasks, but I could tell I wasn't going to get it back without a fight.
"My father was Gustave Daaé. He wrote that music, did he not?"
"Your father was a great musician." His voice softened, if only a bit. "I should like to meet him."
I tightened my grip on my dress. Tears threatened to come back, but I held them back.
"And why not?"
"He – he's dead."
Silence. The voice didn't speak, I didn't make a sound. Everything seemed to stop. The words that were on the tips of our tongues, refused to ebb out of our mouths however much we tried to push them out.
"I'm sorry." The voice said rather nonchalantly. I waited for more. I waited for another nasty comment of feelingless condolence, but none came. After another minute of waiting, I'd decided the man must have left.
The rooms were sad looking. The floor's dust left my footprints clearly embedded on the wood. As I cleaned and dusted, I pondered about the voice. He'd hinted nothing about himself except that he lived in the bowels of the opera house. I paused and looked up, realizing he could be watching me right at this moment and I may never know. I shivered, shrugged the thought off and continues cleaning.
I finally got finished around dinner time and realized there was no food. I would have to go to the market.
I went to the bedroom and was in the doorway about to leave when I looked over my shoulder. There was a tall stack of parchment on the freshly cleansed desk. I slowly made my way to the desk, affirming my assumption. On the desk laid my father's missing music. Maybe this mysterious man wasn't all that bad after all. Then again, I don't know anything about him.
The pen made a scratching noise as I wrote a simple note on a scrap of paper.
Thank you. –Christine
I laid the note next to the music, hoping he'd receive it, or at least acknowledge it, whoever he was.