Chapter 7: The Red Scarf

November, 1870

Calais, France

Christine

For Papa's sake, I was very polite to Madame Valérius, even when I felt she was trying to fill the void my mother had left. I deliberately spent time with her while Papa was away. At first, that was only for the joy of receiving Papa's approval whenever he returned, but eventually, I grew to like the 'golden' woman for different reasons. She was kind to me, and she gave me more than I could ever need. She doted on Melody, and anyone who liked cats was perfectly fine with me. Madame Valérius could never take the place of my mama, but I grew quite fond of her company.

Though she was wealthy and well-educated, Madame Valérius was not too proud to clean some of the rooms in her house, or brush and style my hair in the morning instead of insisting one of her maids do so. I liked when she brushed through my long, golden hair. It seemed to keep getting curlier, and I struggled to brush it on my own now. She was good at it. She always managed to smooth out my wild waves and hold some of them back with large, silky ribbons.

I liked the bows. Papa and Mama had never been able to afford them. I had never minded since I didn't know at the time what I was missing, but ever since Madame Valérius put that first pale pink bow in my hair, I didn't want to go a single day without one.

The bow I wore today was dark blue, like the dress I was wearing. I had wanted to wear a red one, to match the scarf Madame Valérius insisted I wear so I wouldn't 'catch a chill' in the cool, sea air.

The days here were usually much sunnier than today. The sky was grey as opposed to the usual bright, pale blue that Madame Valérius compared to my eyes. The clouds that were gathering above made her anxious that it might rain.

"Perhaps we should wait until tomorrow, Christine. The wind can blow quite fiercely here." She fretted as I raced to the front door.

I didn't want to wait. We had been in Calais nearly a week, and I had not yet been to the sea. I had stared at it through the windows of the Valérius' house here, but each day I'd asked to go, and Madame had insisted that we could go the next day.

I still didn't really know why she had brought me here. It had seemed very sudden, but I was eager to go somewhere I'd never been. Papa told me that was because I had an 'insatiable curiosity', and though I didn't really understand what he meant, I was sure he was right; Papa usually was.

"You keep saying 'tomorrow', but we never go! Please, please!" My fingers curled around the door handle, practically itching with the impatience to wrench the door open and flee into the open space. "I cannot bear to go another day without going."

She chuckled lightly, reaching for her hat on the wall and placing it on her head. "That is a rather dramatic thing to say, Christine. But if you truly feel so strongly…"

I squealed in delight and ran before she could change her mind. She called my name a few times as she started after me, but I didn't want to slow down, no matter how 'unladylike' it was for me to run. I was only seven years old. My folly was usually forgiven.

The sea was huge. Once I reached the pale dirt Papa had told me was called 'sand', I could see the blue water stretching so far, I didn't see where it ended, if it did. It was so wonderful… I had to run closer, laughing gleefully at the squishy feeling the sand created beneath my glossy, black shoes. I wished Papa had come to the sea with me, but he had told me that he was busy, and I didn't want to pull him away from his important Papa stuff. I didn't know what it was, but if Papa said it was important, I believed him.

I ran back and forth along the edge of the water, shrieking when it came alive and tried to touch me. It moved closer, and then it ran away again, and I responded accordingly. I had never seen anything so fascinating in my whole life! Why did the water move like that?

In my fleeing from the water, my bright red scarf came loose, and the wind carried it away. I reached for it, but it had already floated away above the blue waves. Slowly, it danced on the air further and further away.

I covered my face in my hands and started to cry. I liked that scarf. Papa had picked it out with me back in Paris a few days before Madame Valérius and I left for Calais. It reminded me of Papa, and I hated to see it go. He hadn't come with me, and I missed his terribly. The scarf helped me think of him.

Someone gently tapped my shoulder. I brought my hands down from my face and looked up at a boy, probably a few years older than me, holding my scarf out to me. He had a kind smile, and nice, grey eyes. My scarf – and much of his clothing – was dripping water. I gazed at him wonderingly; had he run into the sea to get my scarf for me?

Sniffling slightly, I took the scarf from him. "Thank you."

He smiled wider, even as he shivered. At least his honey hair wasn't wet, nor most of his shirt. "You are very welcome, Mademoiselle."

I blushed. I liked being called Mademoiselle. Most people thought I was too little to deserve such a title, seemingly forgetting that I was now seven years old. I was not too little at all.

"I'm Raoul. What is your name?" The boy asked me.

"I'm Christine Daaé."

His eyes twinkled. "Do you want to come build a castle out of sand with me?"

I gasped. Was that even possible? "Yes!"

I followed him over to a pile of sand, holding my wet scarf down by my side. I had begun to feel that chill Madame Valérius had worried about, and I wished my red scarf was dry, but I was so grateful the boy – Raoul – had saved it for me. He was my hero. He had saved the scarf that reminded me of Papa.

Raoul and I played and built castles of sand until Madame Valérius insisted that it was too cold to remain outside. She said she didn't want me to fall ill and for her to have no one to blame but herself. I took her hand when she came to take me back to the house, but I kept casting glances over my shoulder at my new friend.

I hoped I would see him again.