Authors: Laura DeLuca
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction
It was the right melody but the wrong name. The song that the phantom used to lure Christine into his hidden underground chamber below the opera house came whispering through the doors. And just as Christine was unable to resist the mesmerizing voice and the gloved hand that pulled her through the secret passage behind the mirror, so Rebecca was unable to stop herself from slipping through the doors of the gym as the phantom voice sang to her.
“Music’s dark angel calls you this day.
Come to your angel—come with no delay.”
“Hello?” Rebecca called out timidly as she stepped through the doors of the gymnasium. “Is someone there?”
At first, only silence surrounded her in the empty gym. Rebecca thought maybe the excitement of the day had gone to her head. After all, she wasn’t used to excitement. Her life was as boring and humdrum as it could possibly be. But in the past ten minutes she had gotten the role of a lifetime and talked to the man of her dreams. Who could blame her for being a little flustered?
Even though the only light in the gym came through the windows high above her, it was fairly easy to see the whole room. She looked from the bleachers to the side courts. When the only thing she saw was a broom in the corner, she shook her head and turned to leave. Just as she reached out to push the door open, a hand gently touched her shoulder.
Rebecca nearly dropped her armload of books for the second time. She cried out in surprise, swung around, and found herself staring into the dark eyes of Justyn Patko. He observed her jumpiness with a crooked smile. She had no idea where he came from. He had materialized behind her like a ghost.
“Did I scare you?” he asked innocently. His speaking voice was just as beguiling as his singing voice. Deep, but not
deep—it was strong and eloquent, and left her feeling just a little giddy.
“N . . . no,” Rebecca stammered.
She certainly wasn’t beguiling
eloquent in any way at all. He probably thought she had some kind of mental handicap. But as far as her not being scared . . . well, it wasn’t exactly a lie. While it was true that her heart was racing and her hands were trembling, it wasn’t exactly fear that was making her body react so strangely. As Justyn continued to study her with his deep brown eyes, it wasn’t fear at all that kept her standing there, staring right back, when she should have turned and stomped back out the door. As much as she wanted to be annoyed with him for trying to frighten her, she couldn’t invoke any anger—probably because she was hypnotized by his penetrating gaze, enchanted by his strange, dark appeal.
She had only seen him from a distance before, but now she was able to take in every detail. Although he was pale, with his eyes and lips outlined in black, his face was still chiseled perfection. His nose, his cheeks, and the slight cleft of his chin, all came together to form a walking masterpiece of dark art. Beneath the black t-shirt and black fishnet sleeves, she could see the outline of tight, firm muscles rippling through the fabric. His black hair was long on top and hung dramatically over his eyes, one of which was accented by an eyebrow piercing. Both his ears and his lower lip were also pierced, and the silver studs glittered in the dim light. Carmen had called him creepy, and maybe he was, but he was also eerily beautiful.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He apparently didn’t believe that he hadn’t scared her. And why would he when she was standing as still and speechless as a statue? “I couldn’t resist a dramatic introduction when I saw you in the hall.”
Rebecca somehow managed to tear her eyes away from his. She blushed because she had been so obviously gawking, and she had to clear her throat before she could speak. “It’s okay. You were just getting into character. It’s Justyn, right?” She reached out her hand in introduction, and then thought how stupid that must have seemed to him. They weren’t at a business meeting.
Justyn,” he corrected. He accepted the offered hand, but instead of shaking it as she had intended, he gently lifted it, and brushed her fingers with his lips. “My lady.”
Rebecca’s heart, which had only just begun to slow down to a regular pace, started to hammer again. The incessant pounding continued as his lips lingered on her hand a little longer then was really necessary, soft as velvet against her skin. An electric charge shot through her hand, up into her arm, and throughout her entire body, until she tingled from head to toe. Even after he lifted his head from her fingers, he still held onto her hand. Rebecca couldn’t complain. Speaking had become an insurmountable task. His dark eyes bore into her with an intensity tinged with humor. He knew he had turned her into a tongue-tied mess, and he was enjoying every minute of it.
“I’m glad that you’ll be playing the role of Christine. You have an
Exquisite? Who used words like that? Justyn had a way of sounding like he stepped through a time warp, even with his modern Gothic wardrobe. Finally, he let go of her hand. It fell to her side limply, and the trance, if not broken, had lost some of its potency. She at least recovered enough to think of something fairly intelligent to say.
“Thanks. So do you. You were amazing yesterday. Congratulations on getting the role of the phantom. You really deserve it.”
“Well, Erik and I have always been kindred spirits.”
Rebecca did a double take. Erik was the phantom’s real name in Gaston Leroux’s novel,
The Phantom of the Opera
. But his name was never mentioned in the musical, which was the script they were working from.
“You’ve actually read the book?” She couldn’t hide her surprise.
Justyn smirked. “Did I give you the impression that I was illiterate?”
Rebecca blushed, feeling stupid again. Could she say anything without putting her foot in her mouth? “No, of course not. It’s just that I thought
was the only person under forty who had actually read the original
Phantom of the Opera
Though she had hardly asked him to prove his case, Justyn did something she never expected. He quoted one of her favorite scenes from the book. A scene, which had touched her heart, and made her cry every single time she had read it.
“I tore off my mask so as not to lose one of her tears. . . and she did not run away! And she did not die! . . . She remained alive, weeping over me, with me. We cried together! I have tasted all the happiness the world can offer!”
For the first time in her life, Rebecca knew what it really meant to swoon. Justyn recited verbatim and completely from memory, part of the dramatic monologue from Gaston Leroux’s classic novel. He recited it with passion, his voice filled with such yearning and heartbreak that Rebecca knew her eyes had filled with tears. His voice held all the anguish of the poor, tortured Erik, who was shunned by the world because of his deformity, much like Justyn had been shunned by most of their classmates because of his somewhat eccentric style. The two phantoms really were brothers in darkness.
“Wow.” That was all Rebecca could manage to say when he was through. It sounded extremely lame after such a stunning, beautiful narration. “You really have read the book.”
“About ten times.” He admitted.
Rebecca knew she could top that. “I’ve read it at least fifteen. And I’ve gone to see the play in New York every year since I was eight years old.”
“I saw it in London.”
Rebecca pouted because he had her beat. There was no way she could compete with London.
Justyn was a good sport. “Why don’t we call it a draw?” he suggested. “We’re both tied for first place in the title of the phantom’s number one fan.”
Rebecca smiled. “That sounds fair.”
He didn’t seem quite as mystical anymore, and she started to find it was a little easier to talk to him. But just as she thought she was making headway, his eyes seemed to draw her into their endless depths for the second time.
“I’m looking forward to performing with you, Becca. You really do have the voice of an angel. An angel of music.”
He almost sang the last sentence but not quite. Again his voice captured the essence of Erik, and Rebecca wasn’t even sure that she remembered how to breathe. Tom and the other boys called Justyn a vampire. For one horrible second, Rebecca thought maybe they were right. Maybe he really was a blood-drinking monster that was going to suck the life from her in the deserted gymnasium. And just like the pathetic, captivated victims of movie vampires, she was just standing there, stupidly waiting for him to sink his fangs into her neck. Waiting because he had bewitched her with his hypnotic eyes.
Even as her mind whirled with all the horrific possibilities, Justyn shifted his weight, and a large silver necklace slipped from behind his shirt into plain view. It made her wonder even more who Justyn really was. The necklace was a five-pointed star locked within the confines of a silver circle. A pentacle. Rebecca had seen enough Hollywood horror films to know that the symbol usually had bad implications. But was it just a statement of rebellion? Or did it really mean something sinister? Rebecca wasn’t sure she was ready to find out.
She took a step backwards, and then practically jumped out of her skin when a light thump echoed through the gym. They both turned to see that the broom in the corner had fallen to the ground.
“Looks like company’s coming,” Justyn stated matter-of-factly.
Rebecca was just about to ask him what he meant by that when the door behind them was yanked roughly open by dirt-caked hands. A grungy, balding, middle-aged man with a cloud of dust around his thin frame stood glaring at them from the doorway with his one good eye. The other was blinded by cataracts, and even behind his thick glasses it was cloudy and lifeless.
“What are you kids doing in here?” he demanded in a gruff voice. “I have to get this floor waxed!”
“Sorry, Mr. Russ,” Rebecca told the janitor. “We were just leaving.”
“Then get out already!”
The older man continued to grumble to himself under his breath as Rebecca overcame her slight uneasiness about Justyn long enough to grab his hand and hurriedly pull him out the door. She felt herself shiver. If Justyn was creepy, the school janitor, Mr. Russ, was downright unsettling. He was always wandering around the school hallways talking to himself. Most of the kids just blew him off or made fun of him behind his back, but Rebecca felt a strange combination of fear and pity for him. In a way, Mr. Russ had a lot in common with the phantom as well. Except that he had none of the divine musical genius that made Erik so compelling.
“Who was that?” Justyn asked when they were back in the relative safety of the corridor. He didn’t seem the slightest bit perturbed by the interruption.
“Just the janitor. He doesn’t like it when kids get in his way.”
“I kind of sensed that. So.” He continued. “Would you want to go grab a cup of coffee or something?”
Rebecca was startled. Too startled to reply for a minute. Was he asking her on a date? That hardly seemed feasible. But even if he were asking her out, was that something she wanted to do? Even though a part of her was strangely drawn to him, another part of her was a little intimated. She was having trouble getting the vampire visions out of her head. Plus, what would Carmen and Debbie think of her if she went out with the Gothic kid they thought was so strange?
Carmen and Debbie! She just remembered that they were still outside waiting for her. They must be wondering where she was by now. It gave her the perfect excuse to get away.
“I . . . I really can’t. I already made plans with some of my friends.”
She realized she didn’t sound very convincing. He must have thought she was just blowing him off. He looked a little hurt when he responded. “Oh, all right. Maybe another time then.”
“Maybe.” Rebecca felt guilty when his face fell even more. She was being silly and superstitious. Justyn was just the new kid in town. He was reaching out, trying to make a friend, and she was being rude and uncommonly judgmental. It wasn’t like her, and she decided she was going to put a stop to it. She gave Justyn a warm, heartfelt smile. “I’ll look for you at rehearsal tomorrow. It really is an honor to get to play Christine opposite your phantom.”
He seemed appeased. “Until tomorrow then, my lady,” he whispered, and actually bowed as she passed by him. It certainly was dramatic, and might have even been silly coming from anyone else, but with Justyn it seemed perfectly natural.
They parted ways, and Rebecca actually made it to her locker without any more interruptions. She didn’t notice which direction Justyn had gone and she didn’t hear his footsteps in the empty hallway. She was tempted to look over her shoulder to see where he had gone, but the small part of her that was still being irrational was too afraid that he might have vanished into thin air. Or possibly morphed into a bat. So she kept her eyes straight ahead.
Her heart fluttered wildly as she worked the numbers on her combination lock, and she wondered what it was about the Gothic boy that made her feel so . . . so undone. It was like he unraveled her with his eyes. Undressing not her body, but her soul, and seeing things inside of her that she didn’t even see herself. Was she attracted to him? She didn’t really think so. It was more like she was mystified by him. And maybe a little drawn to his beautiful voice, the same way Christine was drawn to the genius of the phantom. But being enraptured by the music and actually having feelings for the singer were two very different things. Justyn was just a little too strange. She couldn’t have a crush on him. Could she?