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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
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
"After all?" The seamstress gave a start at the snap in the lady's voice. "What do you mean, after all?"
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—"
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…
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
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…
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.
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.
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
You are a rare jewel, signora, and the crown of the
Opera. I wait with breathless anticipation for you to grace the stage
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!"
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."
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,
"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."
the surprise and amazement of Signora Giudicelli when she heard these
words! She'd suspected the mysterious E admired her, but this was quite
"Your voice, signora, is one of a kind, and your
talent is undeniable. You have captured my attention in the most
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—"
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?"
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!
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?"
embarrassed flush crept into the diva's cheeks but she answered with as
much dignity as she could muster. "I thought you were proposing
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?"
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."
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—"
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!
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.
threw the brush down, still huffing in a rage. Singing lessons! The
nerve! The impudence! She'd never been so insulted in her life!
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!
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…
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 fanfiction.net! I wonder why...