What Little We Deserve
Chapter 1 Finding the Phantom
"Darling? Hello? Am I boring you?" the Vicomte accused.
Christine snapped back to the present moment. "So sorry darling. My mind was caught up in wedding plans. What were you saying?" Blush rose to Christine's cheeks with the lie, but Raoul didn't notice. He continued talking once more of the business proposition he had been offered. She was supposed to marry Raoul in little more than a week's time. She should not be thinking of another man, but her mind could not stay off of the tender touch of the Phantom; the feel of his lips on hers the last time she had seen him. His eyes were so pained as she walked away from him. With that ring she left a piece of her heart and now it remained divided between what it wanted and what was logical.
In the months since that fateful night at the Opera Populaire she had heard nothing of her Angel of Music. Rumor had him dead, but Christine could not accept that. Not the famed Phantom of the Opera. No mob could have caught him, and he could not have simply died in the fire.
She needed him. She needed to talk to him and know that he was okay. It had to be done before she married. After she spoke to him, had closure with him she would be able to seal away her heart and marry Raoul as her head knew she must.
There was one person who might be able to help her. The thought had danced around in her head for weeks, but she didn't know where Madame Giry had gone any more than she knew where the Phantom was. With so little time left there was nothing else to do. Her fiancé would have to be her unwitting accomplice in finding the man who held her heart.
The words bubbled from her lips before she could stop them. "I want to find Madame Giry."
"Excuse me?" Raoul asked, his eyes narrowing. It was obvious he was still in the middle of telling her about his opportunity and was not happy to be interrupted so.
Christine's cheeks flushed again but she couldn't backtrack. "I want to find Madame Giry."
Raoul's brow furrowed.
"She was like a mother to me. And Meg too. She was like a sister for all those years. It doesn't seem right that they won't be at our wedding." She quickly covered.
The Vicomte's eyes stayed narrowed but he slowly nodded. "Of course, I'll have someone look into it tomorrow."
Christine nodded. Her heart fluttered at the hope, however slim it may be that she would see her Angel of Music once more.
"Thank you," She glanced quickly at his eyes. Guilt tore at her. She could sit there pretending no longer. She pushed the half-eaten dinner away from her.
"I'm not feeling well. I think I am going to go to retire early," she lied.
"Is everything alright my love?"
"Just a headache. I will be fine tomorrow."
Raoul stood up to escort her to her room. She had been staying at the de Chagny estate since the fire. Her quarters were notably far across the estate from Raoul's for the sake of propriety but with her heart torn so it was immaterial intimacy with Raoul was the last thing on her mind.
"Do you need anything?"
"No, I just need some rest, thank you."
Raoul pressed a kiss to her lips and bid her goodnight, retreating down the hall.
Christine touched her lips. His kiss was so stiff and formal; so different from the love in the kiss she shared with her Angel.
Raoul was a good man. He was kind and caring and would provide her with a comfortable life. She would never want for anything. He would be a good father to their children. She had to do this. She had to find peace in her choice.
"Christine spun around to face the manservant.
"The Vicomte asked that I inform you that we have located Madame Giry. I can have a carriage take you to her when you are ready."
It had been days since Christine had asked Raoul to find Madame Giry. Her hope had been waning with each passing day. She had begun to think they left Paris after the fire.
"Or I can summon them here if you wish," he added uncertainly in response to Christine's silent thoughts.
"No, thank you. Give me a moment to gather my things and I will leave to see them."
Her mind raced as she slipped her shawl over her shoulders and entered the carriage. What would she say to them? What would she do if they didn't know where he was?
In no time the carriage was pulling up to a run-down apartment building. Christine accepted the driver's hand and stepped down.
"Would you like me to wait here?" he asked warily eyeing the dilapidated building.
"No. Return for me in two hours time." Christine hoped that would be long enough, but she couldn't risk staying longer. Two hours was plenty of time to reconnect and extend an invitation to an old friend. She couldn't give Raoul any misgivings. Raoul couldn't learn her true intent. He would be furious. He wouldn't understand her need.
She knocked lightly on the door and almost immediately the door inched open.
"Yes?" Meg's eyes grew wide as she recognized the woman on her doorstep. She threw the door open and wrapped her arms around Christine's shoulders.
"What are you doing here!?" Meg screeched.
Christine turned and nodded to the driver before stepping into the dim living space.
"I'm getting married this week, Meg!" She said with forced excitement. "It didn't seem right to be married without my family at my side."
The two women chatted happily catching each other up on the events of the last few months. As the minutes ticked on Christine's anxiety grew. Meg would not know where he was. Only her mother knew the man behind the mask as she did.
"Where's your mother?" Christine asked at length.
Meg trained her gaze on the floor and shifted in her seat uncomfortably. "She's running errands."
Christine tried to make sense of Meg's sudden change of demeanor when the door opened.
"Didn't I tell you to always keep that door locked?" Madame Giry's stern reprimand preceded her into the house. The older woman stopped short as she recognized who was sitting on the chair across from her daughter.
"Christine," she said with a sigh.
Christine nodded her head. "Hello."
"Meg, please take these things into the kitchen and start fixing dinner." Meg took the bags dutifully from her mother and slipped into the kitchen.
"So, you are to be married Christine? To the Vicomte de Chagny?" Her eyes raked over Christine full of judgement and reproach.
"Yes," was all she could whisper. Words escaped her. She couldn't form the question she so desperately wanted to ask.
Uncomfortable silence filled the room as Christine struggled with Madame Giry's cold demeanor.
"You didn't come here to stare at our miserable state so what do you want child?"
Christine's heart caught in her throat; her insides twisted.
"Him. I need to see him."
Madame Giry's lips pursed tighter together.
"Do you not think that you've done enough to him?"
Tears welled up in Christine's eyes and threatened to spill over as she raised her eyes to meet Madame Giry's glare.
"Please, I just need to speak to him. I need to know he's okay."
"He's alive. I just came from him. Don't worry your pretty little head any more on the matter."
Christine looked up at the woman who raised her, "Please, tell me where he is. I must speak to him. I need to talk to him, just for a moment. Please."
Madame Giry contemplated Christine's face for a long moment, a battle raging within her.
Suddenly she rose to her feet and grabbed a spare bit of paper and scribbled something. She held it out toward Christine.
"This is where he is at." Christine reached out to take the scrap when Madame Giry pulled it back. "Be kind to him. Whatever happened he does not deserve your cruelty now."
Christine took the paper. Her tears streamed down her face. The lump in her throat made talking impossible. She nodded and stared at the numbers on the paper.
Meg opened the door back into the sitting room. "Christine, can you join us for dinner?"
"Christine was just going. Weren't you?" said Madame Giry coldly.
Christine hid the slip of paper in the bodice of her dress and wiped her eyes. She had to go back to Raoul. She had to look the part of a vicomtes to be. She took a deep breath and hugged Meg.
"You should come stay the night with us before your wedding." Meg suggested innocently. "I know it's nothing grand but it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding."
Christine forced a well practiced mask of a smile, "I'll consider it and speak to Raoul. I must be going now."
She turned and ran down the walk to the waiting carriage.
"I'm going to spend the night at Meg's," Christine said carefully.
"But we are to be married in the morning," Raoul questioned.
"Exactly," Christine smiled, "it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding."
Her heart raced with the lie. For two days the slip of paper rested next to her skin as she planned how to see her Angel without arousing suspicion.
"It's only a silly tale meant to keep brides chaste before their wedding night." He riposted.
"Please Raoul, it may be silly, but it will be good to spend my last night with her."
"Then why does she not come here? Our accommodations are much better than her… apartment."
Christine silently pleaded with Raoul with her eyes. She had not expected such opposition to the idea.
Raoul sighed. "Very well, whatever you want darling. Just be careful." He kissed her forehead. I'll see you at the church tomorrow then."
Christine let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. It was going to happen.