Friday, September 20, 2013

The First Choice

Heck, why not post one of my own stories over here? It's my blog! And I'm still proud of how this one turned out! :)

The First Choice
a Phantom of the Opera story by Angels-Protégée 

Erik watched her from the shadowy catwalks above the stage, hearing the music pour forth from her crystal throat. He'd been watching her for weeks, months even. He couldn't help himself. She was everything he was looking for. After years of composing beneath the Opera, he'd decided the time had come to present his music to the world. He was a brilliant composer, easily the greatest composer on earth. He just needed a brilliant artist, a truly splendid singer…and there she was onstage.

Carlotta Giudicelli.

She'd been the prima donna for two seasons now and had already made a name for herself. She was world-renowned, this fearless Italian diva, and she commanded the audience's attention the moment she stepped onto the stage. She had talent, appeal, and an august personality. She was, in short, the perfect voice for Erik's music.

Which isn't to say she's perfect, plain and simple, he reflected. Her acting skills were rather shabby and, while she had terrific range, she lacked clarity, tone, and control in her highest notes. Most importantly, she had no soul, no spark to her to speak of. The ability to throw a world-class tantrum does not a diva make. But this didn't worry Erik. These were mere trifles that could be corrected with time and instruction. The potential was there, and that's what mattered.

But how to meet that potential and harvest its fruits? It was rather a nuisance, but that blasted deformity he was born with made any face-to-face encounter a tad unpleasant. He supposed he could always wear his mask when dealing with La Carlotta, but people seemed to find it menacing, for some reason…

Well, he'd cross that bridge when it arrived. First, he would have to approach Signora Giudicelli with his proposition: join forces with him, and they would make history. Women like Carlotta fed off praise and admiration and didn't take kindly to impudent proposals, however lucrative. He would have to tread carefully if he wanted to win Carlotta's favor.

He returned to his lair beneath the Opera, already planning how to woo her.


It wasn't the bouquet of roses in her dressing room that surprised Carlotta the next day, though they were lovely enough. It was the card that came with them that caught her attention. "With admiration and the greatest respects. E."

Carlotta read the card once more, studying the odd, labored handwriting and the expensive paper. She was used to her adoring public sending her flowers by now; indeed, she was quite used to much larger arrangements in such abundance her dressing room often resembled the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But those flowers all had notes of gushing affection and lavish worship. This note was simple and terse. Six words, one initial, end of story. It was not at all what she was used to.

She set the card aside with a sniff and a toss of her head that nearly set the dainty hat perched upon her flaming tresses toppling. She didn't have time for such things. Rehearsal was due to start soon, and she planned to remind that pinhead Reyer exactly why she was the Opera Garnier's star soprano.


From his usual place in the shadows, Erik studied Carlotta as she performed her final aria of the day, finishing with an ambitious but unmoving cadenza. She must have gotten the roses…he'd set them on her dressing table himself, for Gounod's sake! Why did she look so detached and uninterested?

Maybe I should have chosen some other flowers, he decided. Something more impressive…and maybe with a little more flattery in the card…

He drummed his fingers thoughtfully, calculating his next move.


The next morning, there was an enormous vase full of lilies waiting for Carlotta when she arrived at the Opera. These too were accompanied by a note, again in that strange handwriting. "As enchanted as I am by your beauty, I am doubly bewitched by your talent. E."

Well, that was more like it! This E person was getting better at his game!

There was a knock on the dressing room door and Carlotta beckoned, "Enter."

The door swung open and her seamstress came in, carrying Carlotta's newest costume over her arm. "It's time for your fitting, signora," she said.

"Very well," Carlotta replied. "Come on, then, hurry up. I haven't got all day."

The seamstress helped her into the beaded, bejeweled gown and fussed about at her feet, adjusting the hem and checking that the train draped just so. She then examined the bodice, tutting softly at the straining seams. "I don't understand," she said. "This was made according to your measurements, signora, and I'm afraid I'll have to let it out after all."

"After all?" The seamstress gave a start at the snap in the lady's voice. "What do you mean, after all?"

"Nothing, signora," came the reply. "Only that—well, you're not quite so slender as in the past—which isn't to say that you're not still slender—"

"Are you calling me fat?"

"Not at all! I was merely stating—"

She never finished the sentence. With many indignant exclamations in her native tongue, Carlotta divested herself of the costume once again, dressed, and stormed from the room. How dare an ordinary seamstress insult her! She was Carlotta Giudicelli, star of the Paris Opera! She had brought the audience to its knees at La Scala and they had worshiped the ground she stood on at Covent Garden! She was treated with respect and admiration the world over, but not here in Paris.

She let out a final snort of contempt. French…


Erik gave a huff of annoyance as he watched Signora Giudicelli stomp about the stage, holding cast and crew hostage to her temper. How was he supposed to make his proposal to her if she were always in the midst of a tantrum? Had the lilies gone unappreciated as well?

He saw her launch a tirade against her seamstress. Ah, so she'd been made aware she was no longer the willowy goddess of two seasons ago. He shook his head. Carlotta was never such a shrew as when her pride had been wounded.

Now it was necessary to smooth those ruffled feathers with an even bigger gesture to capture her attention. French women had never struck him as low-maintenance creatures, but this fiery diva was of another caliber altogether.

He sighed heavily. Italians…


"What in the name of the pope is going on here?" Carlotta demanded later that week. A crowd had gathered in the corridor outside her dressing room, jostling each other to get a glimpse inside. She forced her way through and paused on the threshold.

Orchids. The entire room was filled with orchids. White, pink, yellow, purple, all heaped in baskets and spilling out of vases.

Well, she was accustomed to getting flowers from her devotees, but this had never happened before. Surely they couldn't all be from the same person.

She scoured the dressing room looking in every bouquet for a card, a note, something! Finally, in the vase nearest the vanity, she found one—just one.

You are a rare jewel, signora, and the crown of the Opera. I wait with breathless anticipation for you to grace the stage once again.

Fondest wishes,


Carlotta furrowed her brow. He was sparing with words, this E, but there was an elegance to them nonetheless. He must have very fine taste to appreciate genius when he heard it, though the orchids were rather overdone.

But a new thought occurred to her as she gazed around at the flowers. One would have to think very highly of a lady to send her so many at once, and orchids were so expensive! Who would go to such trouble and such cost for just anyone? Even for the "crown of the Opera?"

A possibility presented itself to Carlotta, a splendid, fantastical possibility. She had a secret admirer!


The orchid scheme had done the trick, so far as Erik could tell. When Carlotta appeared for rehearsal that day, she was smiling like a contented house cat. There was a certain sauciness in her manner that was a little grating, but she was civil, even pleasant. Maybe he'd finally started to make some headway.

Just in the nick of time, too—he had to do something about those high notes.


Gifts and trinkets continued to appear in Carlotta's dressing room over the next several weeks, always dazzling in nature and accompanied by notes of increasing warmth. She was flattered by the attention and intrigued by the mystery. Who was this E who held her in such regard? Not that it wasn't perfectly natural for her to be admired, but she'd been met with less admiration than was her due in Paris. No one placed any value on the labor and devotion she put into her career. It was a relief to run across a Frenchman who esteemed her so.

Elsewhere in the theater, Erik was totaling up how much this investment had already cost him. He wasn't prone to being charitable, but he'd spent the better part of a month heaping expensive gifts upon the Italian diva and he'd never been so glad to receive his salary from the management. It had seemed to please her, and hopefully by this time she'd come to see that this mysterious benefactor had immense resources at his disposal. When the time came for them to go into partnership, the recollection of his wealth would be sure to guide her worldly hand.

He'd spent time enough softening her up. The company's new production of The Magic Flute was to open that night, with La Carlotta cast as the Queen of the Night. If the premiere was a success, she would be in a good mood indeed. Good enough, perhaps, to be easily won over.

It was settled. After the show, he would meet Carlotta face-to—well, not exactly face-to-face, but the closest he could get to it, at any rate.

He removed the mask he wore and studied it critically. In hindsight, he thought, maybe I shouldn't have made it so threatening.


Carlotta made her way back to her dressing room after the performance, basking in her latest triumph. Her public had adored her, as well they ought to. It was about time they acknowledged the hard work and dedication she poured into her art!

But wait, someone already had acknowledged it…her secret admirer, E. She wondered what new surprise he'd planned for her.

She brushed off everyone in the corridors and arrived outside her dressing room. There was a flutter of anticipation in her belly as she opened the door—

An exclamation of shock burst from her as she saw the man standing before the mirror. He wore a long black cape and an immaculate suit, and covering half of his face was a white mask.

"Who do you think you are?" she demanded. "What are you doing here? I demand that you leave this instant!"

"Please calm yourself, signora," he said, using the most entrancing, beautiful voice she'd ever heard. "Pardon my intrusion; I merely wanted to congratulate you on your performance tonight."

Carlotta raised her eyebrows but her tone was pleased. "Thank you very much, monsieur. Might I have the pleasure of your name?"

"You know me," the man replied, "as E."

A smile spread across her face. Her man of mystery in the flesh! She gave her very best curtsy and said, "I'm delighted to meet you at last, monsieur."

"The pleasure is all mine, signora," Erik assured her with his very best bow. He hoped she didn't plan on exchanging niceties all night. He wasn't good at this at all!

Carlotta batted her eyelashes coyly. "Is that all that brings you here, monsieur?" she asked. "You just wanted to congratulate me?"

"Not at all, signora. This is rather awkward for me to say, but I've been watching you for some time now, and I believe you're exactly what I need."

Imagine the surprise and amazement of Signora Giudicelli when she heard these words! She'd suspected the mysterious E admired her, but this was quite unexpected!

"Your voice, signora, is one of a kind, and your talent is undeniable. You have captured my attention in the most exquisite way."

Well, how enchanting indeed! Carlotta held her head a bit higher and asked, "In what way?"

Erik bowed his head to her and said, "I have a proposal to make you, signora."

If someone had thrown a pail of water in her face, Carlotta couldn't have been more dumbstruck. Proposal?

"If we are allied together," Erik went on, "we will go far. There could be no limit to what we could accomplish."

Allied together? Surely he couldn't mean—that they get married?

"If you will enter into partnership with me, signora," he said, "I can assure you—"

"Stop," Carlotta interrupted. Poor man…he was so smitten with her, but she was devoted to her career. She felt so sorry for him, but she would have to break his heart. "I think I see where this is going."

Erik paused, feeling wrong-footed and not caring for it at all. "You do?"

"I do, monsieur." She adopted her tragic heroine guise—which, admittedly, wasn't much different from any of her other guises and was still just plain Carlotta Giudicelli. "I'm deeply sorry, but I'm afraid I must decline your proposal."

"Why?" Erik asked. He'd been so sure she'd say yes!

"I'm committed to my art," she replied. "Perhaps if you were to come at any other time, I might…but I'm focusing on my career at the moment."

"Exactly," Erik agreed, trying to regain the flow of the conversation. "I'm here about your career."

Carlotta froze in place. "You are?"

"Of course. Why did you think I was here?"

An embarrassed flush crept into the diva's cheeks but she answered with as much dignity as she could muster. "I thought you were proposing marriage, monsieur."

For a moment Erik stood stock-still, blindsided by a revelation he most definitely hadn't seen coming. Then, very slowly, his face split into a grin and he began to laugh. He chuckled, then he cackled, throwing back his head in a fit of mirth that positively rankled La Carlotta. She drew herself up haughtily and demanded, "Does something amuse you, monsieur?"

Erik hardly had the breath to reply, but he managed to wheeze, "I'm afraid—you've misunderstood—my intentions—my dear signora."

"Clearly. And what are your intentions, may I ask?"

Still choking with laughter, he struggled to pull himself together and said, "I'm a composer, signora, and I need to give my music a voice. Not just any voice, but a spectacular voice. If you sing my music, we will both be famed beyond your wildest dreams."

She sniffed fussily. "I'm already famous."

"And yet you still go unsung in France! They don't recognize what a treasure you are! Work with me, and I promise you the entire world will eat from the palm of your hand."

Her annoyance at being made a fool of began to fade as Carlotta considered the proposal. This E was already very wealthy; he must be a very successful composer…but still, he needed her. Her, Signora Carlotta Giudicelli! And according to him, she needed him as well to get the acclaim she deserved…

She'd heard of things like this—shady businessmen duping singers into sham deal and making fortunes off the talent of others. She smelled something strange about this offer. "What's the catch?"

"There's no catch," Erik replied. "I would merely give you singing lessons and then you would—"

He barely had time to duck as she threw a vase of carnations at his head. It smashed against the mirror, cracking the glass so the reflections within looked fragmented and the flowers flew everywhere. What did I say? he quizzed wildly as she began to rant and scream in Italian. "Signora, please," he reasoned, "what's the matter?"

"Singing lessons!" she shrieked. "Singing lessons! How dare you! How dare you suggest that I, I, La Carlotta, receive singing lessons!"

"Please be reasonable, you need proper instruction, you must have more soul before you can be a truly great artist—"

She drowned out the rest of his speech with another wail of fury, advancing on him like a mastiff. This isn't how I'd planned this!

Carlotta seized a heavy hairbrush from the vanity—more ammunition. Before she had time to launch her missile, however, Erik vanished, leaving only the cracked mirror and shattered vase as evidence he'd been there at all.

She threw the brush down, still huffing in a rage. Singing lessons! The nerve! The impudence! She'd never been so insulted in her life!



Erik watched from his usual place above the stage, gazing down at the rehearsal. It had been several weeks since the scene in Carlotta's dressing room, and he hadn't attempted to communicate with her again. That ungrateful harridan!

Just look at her down there, he groused, sounding like a banshee with laryngitis…How could he ever have thought she was a gifted singer? She was horrendous!

He needed a new voice, a new singer, someone who was the exact opposite of La Carlotta…Carlotta was loud and demanding, so he wanted someone soft-spoken and demure…Carlotta loved to be the center of attention, so he wanted someone from outside the spotlight…Carlotta had the waistline of a mature tree, so he wanted a mere slip of a thing…Carlotta was Italian, and he certainly wouldn't make that mistake again…

He scanned the stage as if willing this new talent to spontaneously appear. Not another redhead, that would never do. A blonde, perhaps? No, he preferred brunettes after all. And maybe it would be best if she wasn't a singer to start with…

His eyes fell on one of the chorus girls. She was slender and easily spotted with those thick, dark curls. Wait a minute, he knew her; he'd often heard her singing to herself backstage when no one was listening. She had an uncommon voice, to be sure—but what was her name? Colette? Corrine?

"Christine!" the ballet mistress barked out. "You're drifting out of the line again!"

Christine, that was it! Erik studied her appraisingly for several long minutes, then nodded to himself. She'll do.


You know, this thing gets more hits on deviantART than on! I wonder why...

Your pal,


  1. got me! My initial question; Is Erik going to romance Carlotta? Yikes! This was a delightful approach with Erik's motive, of getting HIS music out in the world. I didn't know you could post stories on deviantART. I'll have to check it out. Being so unique, maybe that's the reason it gets the hits. Thanks! Di

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I just thought I'd have some fun with a silly possibility! I'm by no means the first person to post stories on deviantART, though. There are tons of them rolling around over there! You ought to check them out!


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