Sunday, March 13, 2016

Broken Strings and Shattered Dreams: Part 6

What on earth was Brigitte doing down in the cellars? Erik wondered. He stepped onto the shores where his home was. Brigitte was soaked to the skin, unconscious. It was nearly winter time and the water was frigid. He knew that it was important to get the wet clothes off of her, to make her warmer. Erik was used to the cold, but Brigitte was not. Despite her being unconscious, Erik embarrassedly worked to remove her dress, knowing she had layers of petticoats and a corset underneath. He then put her in the large swan bed and covered her with many blankets. He stoked the fire in his room and left her to warm up some soup.

When Brigitte woke up, she didn't know where she was. She was warm. Very warm. Slowly, everything came back to her. Yes, she had been looking for Alexandra's ball as she had slipped into frigid water. She then looked down to notice that her dress was gone and she was in her petticoats and corset. Her dress was drying near the fire. A tray of steaming soup and a cup of tea was beside her. She sat up immediately and started to eat, when Erik came in. Brigitte quickly gathered up the covers and sank down until the covers were over her shoulders. 
"Where am I?" Asked Brigitte.
"In my home, my dear Brigitte." Erik replied, walking onwards a chair. He pulled it up beside her and sat down. Brigitte studied him as he was moving the chair. He was a thin tall bony man. He had slick black hair and a white mask that covered half his face. It was just like her dream! He wore a tuxedo, and wore a gold ring on his finger. Surprisingly he, in her opinion, was rather handsome. She learned to accept people as they were. She had been what Marie would call an "ugly duckling" growing up. But as described by her dear friend Meg, she had turned from an "ugly duckling" to a "swan that decided to spread her wings". So Brigitte firmly decided not to judge on appearances.  
"Your home?" Brigitte looked at her surroundings. The room was actually rather drab. The walls were stone and unfriendly. The cold floor had no kind of rug to keep anyone's bare feet from freezing. The bed was large with a thick comforter. There were at least three wool blankets that she was swabbed in. 
"Yes. Do you not know where you are, mademoiselle?" Erik asked. His face under the mask scrunched up in confusion. 
"No, Monsieur." Brigit pushed her long brown curls out of her face. They didn't agree with what their master wanted and fell back in her face. Erik tried to stifle a smile and a chuckle. 
"Well, then I guess you must find out. You are under the Palais Garnier." Erik explained. The adorable gawk on her face was worth him telling her the truth. 
"What?" Brigitte wondered aloud in awe. Erik let out a laugh. The look that appeared on Brigitte's face scared him. It was a look of recognition. 
"You're him! You're the opera ghost! I recognize your laugh! Please don't hurt me!" Brigitte shielded herself in fear, in the process letting the covers fall to reveal her tightly laced corset. Erik gently pulled down Brigitte's arms and asked softly, "Would I hurt you if I just saved your life?" Biting her lip, Brigitte slowly replied, "No I guess not. How do you know my name?" Erik let out a soft chuckle, and replied, "My dear girl, I torment the opera house, I'm sure I have heard your name a thousand times. Now, you need to eat and go to sleep." Brigitte remembered the soup and quickly ate it all, due to the aching of her stomach. "I don't think I will be able to fall asleep, Monsieur." Erik rose and left the room, only to come back with his violin. While he did that, Brigitte realized the covers had slipped and she sank back down, letting only her head to be visible. 
"Well then let this lullaby put you to sleep." Erik lifted the bow to the strings and started play. Brigitte lifted her eyes in recognition. It was the tune that she had remembered from a long time ago. Everyone note was accurate. She started to say something, but was interrupted by a soft yawn. Brigitte soon found her eyes drooping it wasn't long before she fell into a deep sleep. Erik played a little longer to be sure that she was in a deep slumber, before exiting. He put the violin on the table and sat down to face the fire in the fireplace. The flames danced and messed with Erik's mind. The flames looked like Brigitte leaping and dancing on stage. The past came back and made Erik shudder. He surely couldn't get too close to Brigitte. She was already having dreams about him, and remember the music and the mask. She wouldn't need much more proof to prove that he had raised her. Erik stood and went into the room with a tray of hot soup and a cup of tea. He set it on the rickety old nightstand and added more wood to the fire. As he stoked it, he heard Brigitte mumbling in her sleep. 
"Play it again…. Please…. Don't leave………. Come back…. Don't leave me……….." Brigitte mumbled. She thrusted her arms a bit as if she was running. Erik took her arms and gently laid them flat on her stomach and pulled the covers back over her. As he closed the door, he knew Antoinette wouldn't be far behind to find Brigitte. 

Antoinette made her way down the cellar, telling Meg to go practice with the other ballerinas until she got back. She knew that if Brigitte had slipped into the lake by accident, Erik surely would have rescued her. She found Erik stoking the fire. 
"Erik, is she here?" Antoinette asked, worried.  
"Yes. She fell into the lake. I rescued her and she's sleeping in the extra room." Erik replied, standing to full height. He had expanded his home to add on three more rooms. One contained the swan bed where Brigitte was sleeping. 
"Have you told her?" Antoinette followed him to the table where he poured her a cup of tea. She took the cup gratefully and sipped it. She didn't know how Erik survived winter in the cold damp cave. She knew she couldn't. 
"No she figured it out." Erik walked to where he had put his extra wood. He inspected many of the logs and decided on three good-sized ones, before tossing them into the fireplace. 
"You told her that you rescued her from dying on the streets and that you raised her?" Antoinette asked, quizzically. She couldn't believe it. No, she wouldn't believe it. Erik was much too private to let her know. And she was right, when she heard Erik's reply. 
"No! I mean, well, she's knows that I'm the opera ghost. She'll never know that it was me who raised her for six small months of her life." Erik shook his head. 

Brigitte woke up to hearing Erik and a woman talking. She recognized Antoinette's voice. Madame Giry? How did she find her way down? Did she fall in the lake too? Did the Opera Ghost save her? She gathered one of the red wool blankets around her petite figure and headed toward the door. She was just in time to hear Erik say "She'll never know that it was me who raised her for six small months." 
"What do you mean?" Brigitte stepped out. Both Erik and Antoinette turned to her in great shock. 
"I won't lie to her." Erik whispered to Antoinette, hoarsely. "I can't. I can't do that to her. She doesn't deserve it. She deserves to know the truth." Antoinette nodded, trying to be calm, "Erik, are you sure?" He nodded, slowly, though he certainly didn't look ready. He was pale and his movements were stiff. Erik was really going to tell her the truth. After sixteen years. He walked over to Brigitte and took her hand. He led both of them to a large sofa where they both sat down. Antoinette stood behind Brigitte. Erik took a breath, before starting his story.
"It was a rainy day sixteen years ago. I was walking back from the market with a basket of parcels. I was going to slip back into my home when I heard a baby's cry. Under many broken crates was a baby. I took the baby to my home and raised her as my own. No one came for her. There was no note or anything. I raised her for six months before I couldn't any longer. I named that baby girl Brigitte." Erik whispered. Brigitte turned to look at Antoinette and asked, "What? Is he saying that he saved my life and raised me for six months and named me? Then he gave me to you?" 
"Yes. I promised not to tell a soul, not even you." Antoinette braced herself and waited for Brigitte to start yelling or to start crying, but neither came. She turned to Erik, who was crying softly. He couldn't look either of them in the eye. 
"Why wouldn't you tell me?" Brigitte put a soft hand to Erik's cheek that wasn't covered by his mask. 
"You deserve better. Better than this." Erik touched his mask. All of a sudden he felt it being lifted. He quickly winced, gasped and put a hand over his deformed face to cover it. He felt Brigitte's fingers gently pry away his hand. He heard her gasp, but he didn't feel her hands draw back in any way. Erik squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to watch Brigitte die when she saw his face. He wouldn't be able to bear the rejection. But instead, he felt her thumb gently rub the twisted deformed skin. 
"Oh, Erik." Brigitte whispered. Tears glistened in both of their eyes. Erik tried to swat his away, but Brigitte didn't do a thing to stop hers. After sixteen years of her life, Brigitte thought that she had simply been found on the streets and Antoinette had raised her. At least, that was the story that she had been told countless times. But that was a lie. A man, a masked deformed man had saved her from death and raised her for six months before he had to give her up to a kind woman to raise. Though her beginning was a lie, it didn't make Brigitte angry. In fact, it made her even more thankful than she had been in years. She had always felt a sense of abandonment and emptiness in her heart and the pit of her stomach. Antoinette had always reassured her that it was her missing her parents. In truth, that sense of abandonment and emptiness had come from Erik. Yes, she didn't feel that feeling now. She felt….. complete.
"He was only thirteen when he found you. He was a child raising a child." Antoinette put a hand to Brigitte's shoulder. 
"How old would that make you?" Brigitte asked Erik. She didn't mean to pry, but she was curious.
"Twenty-nine." Erik mumbled. Yes, he was getting older. Yes, he was getting to be an old man. 
"And your music! It teases at my ears! I remember that lullaby. I was going to play it for my debut. I played it when the managers Andre and Firmin gave me a chance. 
"Yes. And I heard you. I cried, Brigitte, I cried. You remembered! Every note, every chord! I spoke to you in the dressing room, too." Erik replied. 
"Yes, I remember. And you must have been that unknown friend!" Brigitte started to piece everything together. Yes, everything from the violin music, the dreams, the outfit, the voice and the new shoes that she found on her bed that afternoon. They had all been from her own guardian angel who was always watching over her. Before Erik could reply, Brigitte brought her arms around him in a tight embrace. He tensed up, completely. Brigitte felt it, but didn't let go of her grip. Erik didn't know how his arms came to be around Brigitte, but, they were. Though his embrace was awkward, he still half-hugged her. His eyes turned to look at Antoinette, who was trying not to cry. 
"I hope you won't think of me as your daughter. Think of me, as, as, more of a friend. You're not old enough to be my Papa anyways." Brigitte pulled back and laughed, happily. 
"That is true." Erik replied, slowly. "Okay. As a friend. And as a friend, you may visit me when you wish. I can't, however, promise that I will always be home. During performances, I'll be in Box 5 and when things don't happen my way, I shall be in the rafters. But, the first thing I need to teach you is how to come down the tunnel without falling into the lake. Then I'll teach you how to steer the gondola." He tried to think of what Brigitte could do to come visit him, to make her trip easier. Secretly, he would lie to have Brigitte visit him more often. He knew all the traps he had set up and would have to show Brigitte where each one was hidden. He didn't even know how Brigitte managed to evade all of his traps. Brigitte was a little surprised to see how Erik's emotions and attitude could change so quickly. He led Brigitte to the lake where the gondola was. He helped her in and he sat down on the seat. 
"Alright, take the oar and try to row it." Erik commanded. To his surprise, she did it with little hassle. He looked at her, obviously impressed. 
"I guess some of the work I did in the opera house improved my strength." Brigitte smiled, embarrassedly. Antoinette smiled as she watched on. They were quite a pair. Who ever thought that a man of the devil and an innocent angel from Heaven could be such a pair together? 
"Alright, do it again." Erik instructed. 
"Like this?" Brigitte asked. She saw Erik nod in approval. They rowed back and forth a few times, Brigitte doing it at easily as Erik did. 
"Now that you have the hang of it, I'll row back." Erik and Brigitte tried to switch roles, but it was not easy. 
"Okay, how do we-," Brigitte mumbled. 
"Here, try this way-," Erik took her arms to propel her around him. 
"I don't think that's going to work-," Brigitte told him.
"It will, it-," Erik didn't get a chance to finish. The gondola tilted and Brigitte let out a cry as she and Erik fell into the lake. Somehow, Brigitte managed to jump into Erik's arms before she fell in and therefore she was lifted from the water. They took one look at each other and burst out in laughter. 
"Just after we both got dry." Erik told her, dryly. When Erik got to the shallow part of the lake, he set Brigitte on her feet.
"You lost your mask." Brigitte pointed out." 
"No, it's right here." Erik nodded to where it lay in the bottom of he gondola. Antoinette smiled to herself. No, indeed Erik was not like a papa to Brigitte. She smelled a rose of friendship budding. As Erik led Brigitte to where the fire was, he disappeared and brought out a tray with tea and cakes and biscuits. He then disappeared again. He reappeared about ten minutes later in dry clothing. Antoinette had gone up and brought down a dry dress for Brigitte. 
"We should go up. The ballet rats have been left alone too long. They're probably off flirting with the stage hands." Antoinette sighed. She took Brigitte's arm and brought her along. 

"Good-bye Monsieur Erik. I hope to see you soon." Brigitte told him as Antoinette led her away. Indeed the ballet rats were not practicing. The girls were backstage, some of them sitting on some of the stagehands laps. Madame Giry banged down on her cane as the girls gasped. Marie jumped off the stagehands lap. Her eyes widened to see Brigitte was alive and well. Only her hair was damp and her dress was changed. That night, Brigitte heard the girls whispering about her in their beds, but she didn't care. She spent her night thinking about Erik and her past. She smiled at the thought of Erik. Tomorrow, she decided, she would go back down to read after ballet practice with a cup of tea. The lair was a quiet place for her, where no one would disturb her. So that was exactly what she did. No one questioned her, no one bothered to even talk to her the next day. Only Meg, who repeated her question of if she was okay all day. When Brigitte came to the shore of Erik's lair, in a way, she felt that she was intruding. But Erik wasn't there. Brigitte sat on the cold ground in front of the fire and opened her book. She didn't dare move anything out of its original place. Not even a pillow or a blanket for her to put on the cold dirty floor. After an hour Brigitte felt her eyes drooping. She shook herself awake, and did this several times, before they drooped even more. Before she knew it, she fell asleep. 

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