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Music in the Night
“And I know he's here.” She sang with a dreamy look in her eyes. “Here in this
room he calls me softly. Somewhere inside hiding. Somehow I know he's always with
me. He, the unseen genius…” She trailed off and thought smiling.
“Christine,” He sang. “You must have been dreaming. Stories like this can’t come true. Christine, you are talking in riddles.”
The song continued on with not one person making a song for fear of ruining the moment between the two characters. When it ended we all clapped as we should have. The two on stage smiled and glanced at each other.
“Great job!” The director clapped his hands together. He sounded as if he were to break down in tears any moment now. The two smiled and thanked him and walked hand in hand down to the front of the stage. The two looked dashing together as a couple should look. I frowned inwardly as they walked off stage together and headed towards me.
“Amazing Joan!” I said as I embraced her. She was smiling from ear to ear. “You too James. You two are great as Christine and Raoul. You can just feel the chemistry.” Joan giggled and James wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
“I couldn’t have said it any better myself!” The director came over followed by the choreographer who seemed so happy with herself that Joan and James’ part flowed perfectly in sync. “Now what about you Mr. Phantom? Are you ready for your song?”
I nodded. He smiled and gestured Joan and I towards the stage. We strode up onto the stairs and got into position. A minute later the orchestra started playing. Joan took a deep breath and began to sing. It was our duet. Well one of them but it didn’t matter. It was the most well known song in the entire musical and I had every word memorized even before I knew I would be playing The Phantom.
Here was my big chance to shine. I had just broken into the “big leagues” now. Performing in the main theater in Paris was every actor in Frances’ dream and mine had just come true. Not only was I performing in the theater but I was one of the stars. Playing Phantom in Phantom of The Opera was a big break for me. I mean a big break.
I took a deep breath and sang out as I reached through the mirror that wasn’t really there and Joan reached out, entraced as Christine was supposed to be, took my hand and I led her through the corridors that, again, weren’t really there.
The music swayed and we continued to sing. I glanced into the audience to see the director grasping his hands and leaning forward intoxicated by our voices. I was just as good as James and yet Joan had picked him. I didn’t know what he did to get her love but I can say he was a lucky man.
Joan’s voice was like touching velvet, so soft and sweet. Her hair was beautiful and blond, with blue eyes that made me melt every time I looked into her eyes. Everything about her had made me swoon when I first met her. Now I can hide it with no problem.
James on the other hand was the man every girl in the theater wanted a chance with. Just one. He was tall, handsome, brown hair and brown eyes. A man even my mother would have fallen for. That I was sure of. He had a deep singing voice that made women sway back and forth wither they were sitting nor standing. Even though he was my friend, I felt inferior to him. What man wouldn’t?
It’s not like I’m saying I’m not good looking. I believe I am. Joan had even told me I was attractive. Just why did you choose James then? I was tall too, just an inch short of James, jet black hair, dark eyes; I was just a dark, mysterious and brooding person. Like The Phantom, the director said. That was the main reason he placed me in the cast. When he had heard me sing, he knew I would make even Michael Crawford jealous.
“Sing my angel of music!” I commanded in character. Joan belted out in operatic tones finishing up the song. The other cast members, crew and the director clapped. Joan and I turned to see the director running up the stage.
“Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!” He said emphasizing the last ‘Amazing!’ Joan flushed and I smiled. He grasped our hands in his and shook them. “This is amazing!” There’s that word again. “This performance shall be a breath-taking one!” He turned from us just as James made it over to us.
“You guys are amazing when you sing that.” He complimented.
“Oh come on James. Don’t you turn into the director on us!” I joked. James smiled at me and Joan shook her head.
“Claude, James. The director’s staring at you.” Joan said quietly. “He wants your attention. We turned and smiled at the director who nodded and called attention to everyone.
The director had the cast and crew come sit on the stage like we were high schoolers and explained how opening night was next week. We had to finish the props and costumes and try a couple run throughs of the show before Saturday. Then on Sunday we could have the day to ourselves before Monday night; the night we become the real characters. With that he told us how proud he was and then dismissed us for the night.
Joan and James had invited me and a couple other cast members out for dinner but I declined yet again. I had “business” to take care of. “Well maybe next time.” Joan had said yet again. No matter how much I loved her, I just couldn’t stand the sight of her with James. If only that was the main reason.
The night air was cool as it blew gentle against my olive colored skin. The moon was shining beautifully against the calm waters as I flew over them in the sky. Yes you heard me correctly. I flew over the waters in the sky. I was a really special kind of creature. Unlike normal human’s I had wings. Like a bird. My wingspan was a nice seventeen feet long. Now no one knew about my wings and you must be wondering how I hide them, correct? Well it’s easy really. Just like a bird I can fold my wings against my back and they line up against my spine. Completely hidden.
All of my clothes have certain slits in them so I easily tuck and un-tuck my wings when needed. This was one of the main reasons why I never went out with Joan and James and our other friends. I’ve been good about no one finding out about my wings for 23 longs, hard years and I wasn’t about to let anyone know about them now.
I landed skillfully onto the roof of my home. A small, dark little two story house in the middle of the forest. This was rare for a French man of my class but I liked the solidtude. I jumped from the roof landing on the ground without hurting myself, an act that would normally harm a normal human by breaking his ankles. Lucky me my mother was mad. Mad as in crazy not mad as in she had anger issues. No that was my father.
“I’m home mother.” I called as I hung my jacket on the rack by the door. I folded my wings in and closed the door behind me. My home was filled with paintings I had done when I was younger. It was kind of interesting when you would walk around. In the front room, most of them were from when I was younger and were bright and colorful contrasting with the dark wallpaper. As you would move on in the house, including going upstairs, they got less colorful and darker and filled with more skill than just random blobs. They also showed all the pain I had gone through in my child hood days.
“Claude, dear, welcome home.” My mother, Marie, greeted me as I walked into the kitchen. She placed her thin, frail fingers on my face and kissed my forehead like when I was a child. “How is practice going?” She asked as she placed a plate of food on the small table where I had sat.
“Great. You should hear Joan sing.” I mulled the food over in my mouth taking in every last savory detail. This was one thing I’d miss when mother died. Her cooking. She had spent most of her years learning to cook but as a last moment decision switched from culinary school to one of science. She was the reason for my wings and skills and whatever else I could think of.
“You say that every night you come home.” She sighed and slowly lowered herself on the chair across from me. She studied me eat like every night. At first it had creeped me out but I was also a child, now it was normal. How I considered mother taking notes of my every movement ‘normal’, I’ll never know. “Why don’t you go out with her? She’s a beautiful person. Your children would be interesting.” She was smiling cutely when I looked up at her.
“Mother…” I groaned. “She’s engaged to James, remember? Our invitation to their wedding is on the fridge.”
“Well you could at least try.” She grumbled and scribbled down something.
“Well you could at least come to see my performance Monday.” I reached over and took her hands in mine. “It would make me the happiest man ever.” I treasured my dear crazy mother like a thief treasures a precious diamond. She had made me who I was today and even though I don’t understand why she had done what she did to me, I would still forever love her.
She pulled one of her hands free from mine and touched her cold fingers to my face. “Fine. I will my darling. I’ll come to your show.” My eyes lit up and I kissed her hands gently.
Monday night came quicker than what we expected and now the crew ran around frantically getting last minute things done. We had four hours till curtain time and I was sitting in the balcony watching the panicky chaos down on the stage. The theater was dark considering almost every light was on. The tall columns on the walls reached up towards the painted ceiling. The ceiling pictures showed what heaven was like apparently. White clouds, little joyful angels, nothing but happiness. Where as the floor was painted as the likes of hell; a picture you could only see from the balcony. Dark and mischievous devils ran amuck in the painting making the chaos on stage look like nothing. I sighed and leaned back in the dark red chair I sat in. I closed my eyes and quietly muttered my lines to make sure I had them down correctly.
“Claude?” A voice interrupted me. My eyes shot open and Joan was standing next to me giggling. “May I ask what you are doing?”
Blushing, I straighten myself up and explained to her about my method I had done for every performance since I was a child doing my first play. “I’m pretty new here so you would think it was strange.” I scratched the back of my head and looked at her.
She shook her head. “No I understand. It’s okay; everyone has a different way of calming themselves down. I myself like to whistle.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Well that seems more normal than my method.” But what part of me was normal anyway. I thought to myself. Joan looked down towards the stage.
“Just a little more time.” She said quietly. I tilted my head to the side. She seemed to be looking off into a deep thought.
I figured I might as well say something to her. I felt bad about never going out to be with her and the others after practice. “Joan…?”
“Joan! Claude! There you two are!” We jumped and turned to see James in the doorway that led to the stairs. “Come on. The director’s flipping out. We need to get our costumes and make up on.” He walked over to us. “We can’t do The Phantom of The Opera without out Phantom and Christine.” He smiled. We smiled back and headed down the stairs.
“And now ladies and gentlemen,” The director stood on the stage to finish introducing the musical. “The Angelique Theater proudly presents, The Phantom of The Opera!!” The audience clapped and he shuffled back into the curtain. He rushed over to where I stood with Joan, James and two other actors. Joan was whistling and I looked at her and we exchanged smiles. The director smiled at us nervously and whispered. “Here we go.” We all took a deep breath and it began.
The play was going perfectly. The songs, the lines, each delivered perfectly. The chandelier fell at the right time, the audience was captivated and the director was sweating like a pig. Perfect. The chemistry between me and Joan and Joan and James was flawless. If you were sitting in the audience, you’d think I really was The Phantom and Joan was really Christine and James was really Raoul. It felt like nothing could go wrong.
I noticed that mother was really there in the audience. She was of course taking notes like she always did. Nothing new. I peeked out from the corner of the stage during one of Joan’s songs and saw how intrigued she was with Joan. Wondering how in the world she was with James and not me probably. Then maybe how interesting out children would look…with wings.
The final scene came and I grew even more nervous. Nothing bad was going to happen. It couldn’t. Not on opening night at least. The audience seemed to edge to the end of their seats as we began to sing “Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer”.
Joan and I walked onto stage as I sang out. “Down once more to the dungeon of my black despair! Down we plunge to the prison of my mind! Down that path into darkness deep as hell! Why, you ask, was I bound and chained to this cold and dismal place? Not for any mortal sin, but the wickedness of my abhorrent face!”
The mob sang “Track down this murderer! He must be found! Track down this murderer! He must be found!”
Finally it was Joan, James and I in the scene where Raoul comes to free Christine.
“Free her!” ‘Raoul’ plead. “Do what you like, only free her! Have you no pity?”
I turned toward ‘Christine’. “Your lover makes a passionate plea!”
“Please, Raoul, it’s useless.” ‘Christine’ cried.
“I love her! Does that mean nothing?” ’Raoul’ questioned me.
“The world has shown no compassion for me!” I hissed bitterly at him.
“Christine, Christine…” He sobbed. “Let me see her!”
I smirked. “Be my guest, sir.”
As The Phantom, I had told ‘Christine’ that she must choose between me and ‘Raoul’. She looked between us in pain. She didn’t like that she had to choose. ‘Raoul’ apologized and expressed his love for ‘Christine’, telling her that as long as she is safe from me it didn't matter what happen to him. Finally, it was the moment I’d been waiting for, Joan walked over to me and kissed me.
I act stunned by the kiss and tell ‘Raoul’ “Take her… Forget me… Forget all of this… Leave me alone… Forget all you've seen…Go now… don't let them find you! Take the boat… Swear to me never to tell the secret you know of the angel in hell!” I pause and look at them sadly. “Go… Go now, go now and leave me!” I watch as they walk towards the fake boat on the stage and murmur loud enough for the audience to know what I’m saying. “Christine, I love you.”
It was sincere and I meant it. I was deeply in love with Joan as the Phantom loved Christine. I felt as if I could tell Joan anything and I mean anything. She could meet my mother and we could tell her of my wings. Joan wouldn’t run, wouldn’t be afraid and she’d love me back.
‘Raoul’ and ‘Christine’ leave in the boat singing to each other and I knelt on the ground holding the veil ‘Christine’ was wearing tightly to my person. “You alone can make my song take flight. It's over now, the music of the night...” I sobbed into the veil as the audience clapped. I could even hear people sobbing for me.
The footsteps of the mob approached and I slinked into my throne and pull my cape around myself. Slowly I lower myself into the hole in the chair and carefully fixed the cape so it looked like I was still there. I made my way under the stage and pulled myself up through another hole behind stage. I rushed over to watch the finale. The girl playing Meg was on the stage searching for ‘Christine’. She noticed the throne and cautiously walked over to it. When she pulled back the cape, she found that I vanished and all that remains is my mask. She picked up the mask and held it aloft as the single light shining on the mask fades into darkness ending the show. The curtain pulled back and the audience cheered. One of the stage crew members ran over and grabbed my cape and mask and I placed it back on getting myself ready for the bow.
The orchestra played the music from the song “The Phantom of The Opera” as the curtains opened. The cast started walking out like we practiced, the parts of the audience getting a little louder when someone they knew or liked went to bow. James and the girl playing Meg went out together and bowed. Finally, Joan and I met each other in the middle of the stage and the audience went wild. Joan and I held hands as we walked up the stage smiling. We bowed together and then separately. The whole cast joined us and everyone joined hands and bowed in unison. Joan and I parted and made way for the director as he walked on stage. He bowed slightly and everyone clapped. We stayed on stage for a minute or so as the audience kept cheering. Flashes from cameras were going off and roses were being thrown onto the stage. Joan, James and I smiled at each and laughed as we walked off stage with the cast and the curtain closed.
“So mother what did you think?” I asked as I sat in the seat next to her. She stayed in the seats scribbling in the notebook she had with her. She looked up and I could see the redness in her eyes and the tear marks on her cheeks. She was…crying?
“You did beautifully dear.” She reached for my face and kissed both of my cheeks. “I’ve always been proud of you. Never once thought you couldn’t succeed at whatever you tried.”
I smiled weakly and choked on the tears I held back. “Thank you…Mother.” I hugged her lightly and kissed her cheek.
“Aw. Claude is this your mom?” A light voice asked from behind me. I pulled away from mother and turned to see Joan and James smiling. I wiped my face and nodded. Joan extended her hand. “Hello Mrs. Sieyés. My names-“
“Joan.” Mother reached for her hand and shook it. “I know. You can call me Marie. James does.”
Joan looked at James who walked around to the other side of the isle to reach mother and hug her. “How are you Marie?”
“I’m a frail crazy kook.” She joked. “You three did amazingly. I’m glad I could come.”
“I’m glad you came, Mother.” I took her hand and squeezed it lightly. She smiled up at me.
“We were about to go to Joan’s for the opening night party. You want to come, Claude?” James asked. He knew my answer but still asked. Joan looked at me with hope in her eyes.
I went to say “Thanks but I can’t” when mother spoke for me. “He’d love to.” She looked at me sternly. “One party’s not going to kill you Claude. Go spend time with your friends because next thing you know, you’ll be old and senile and look like a prune.” She laughed.
“Are you sure?” I asked and she nodded. Joan and James smiled and thanked her. I kissed mothers cheek and told her to be safe going home.
Two hours later I flew home happier than I’ve been in awhile. I had told, and shown Joan and James my wings feeling like I could trust them. They didn’t freak out like I had expected them to. But of course, they were also a little drunk. With my luck, they would forget by the morning and be ready to perform. The party was good and I made a mental note to go to the last one too.
I quietly opened the door to my house and headed up the stairs. I had noticed mothers light still on in her room. Was she waiting for me? Well it was one of the first parties I’ve been too in years. She probably wanted to know how it was. I opened her door slowly and walked in.
“Mother? Are you up?” I went over to her chair. Her notebook was on the ground and she seemed to be asleep. I smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek when I noticed something strange. I felt her pulse on her neck and realized my worst dream had come true. Mother wasn’t breathing. Frantically I tried to wake her. Maybe she was holding her breath. She had done this to me before when I was a teen and had wanted me to learn a lesson. Last time she laughed, saw me crying and hugged me apologizing. She didn’t move at all. She was gone. I fell to my knees and rested my head against the arm of her chair. She was gone. She was gone. Gone. That was the only thought that ran threw my head. Now I knew exactly how the Phantom felt when Christine left with Raoul. Broken. Dead on the inside. Alone.
I reached slowly for her notebook to see what in the world she was writing. I read it and started to sob uncontrollably. I dropped it and ran out of the room, out the front door and flew. I flapped my wings as hard as I possibly could without losing control. I didn’t know where I was going and didn’t partially care. I just needed to go somewhere. I was broken and nothing was going to fix me.
A few days later, the police showed up at the house of Claude Sieyés and his mother. The man was only 23 years old and was the lead actor in Angelique theaters take on The Phantom of The Opera. He never showed for the second, third or any of the showings expect for opening nights. They had been using his understudy but when his friends James and Joan couldn’t even get a hold of him through phone, they decided to call the police. They went along with them to Claude’s house. They discovered the corpse of his mother Marie Sieyés and a notebook with words scribbling on them. The detective thought that Joan and James should have a look at the page. It was, unbeknownst to them, the reason that drove Claude to leave.
Written in Marie’s handwriting was a song called “Learn To Be Lonely”.
Child of the wilderness, born into emptiness.
Learn to be lonely; learn to find your way in darkness.
Who will be there for you, comfort and care for you.
Learn to be lonely; learn to be your one companion.
Never dreamed out in the world there are arms to hold you.
You've always known your heart was on its own.
So laugh in your loneliness, child of the wilderness.
Learn to be lonely, learn how to love life that is lived alone.
Learn to be lonely, life can be lived, life can be loved alone.