Read The Phantom Diaries Online
Authors: Kailin Gow
the phantom diaries
the phantom diaries
Published by THE EDGE
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Copyright © 2010 Kailin Gow
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To the remarkably talented people who helped make this series come alive - especially Diane, Darla, Lindsey, and Jim.
Annette Binoche stepped out of the cab and had her first taste of a Manhattan sidewalk beneath her feet. Staring up at The New York Metropolitan Opera House, a cool breeze rustled through her long dark hair and tickled her nostrils. This was not the hot and lazy breeze of the bayou back home in New Orleans. It felt different.
Smelled different. Even tasted different.
Despite her jeans, warm black sweater and leather jacket the chill in the air squeezed through the collar at the back of her neck, traveled down her spine and left her skin tingling all the way down into her boots.
The excitement of this new adventure added to that tingling sensation. She pushed through the doors of the back entrance of the Opera House and went in search of the head seamstress. As soon as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she glimpse the grand stage through a door left ajar.
Her desire to find the seamstress was overtaken with the need to view the splendid stage she’d long dreamed of. The silly childhood fantasy of singing to a full house had her heart pumping with envy. It was majestic and unending. The ceiling seemed to go on forever and she couldn’t even see to the back seat of the top balconies.
“Can I help you?”
With a start she turned to the unexpected voice and faced a small elderly gentleman who smiled politely.
“I’m looking for Mrs. Henley. She came down to Louisiana a while back to visit with my mom and liked my abilities as a seamstress and suggested I come up here to work for her.”
The old man’s smile broadened and Annette realized she was rambling, but just couldn’t stop. “I may be only eighteen, but I’ve worked at my mother’s dress shop since I was thirteen and my mother has been a great teacher and even though I lack formal training, I know I can do this…”
“Right through there,” he said as he pointed to his left. “Up the stairs, second floor, third door on your right. She should just be getting back from her lunch.”
With a tight and nervous nod, she turned on her heel, repeating his directions in her mind over and over again.
Her heels echoed up the steps and the cool chill at her back followed her. She turned to glance behind her and could have sworn her breath frosted in the air. The echo of her steps reverberated in an odd cadence that didn’t quite match the pace of her steps.
Though her body shivered, her hands were clammy and heated. Her fingers reached for the cross hung at her neck. Her index played repeatedly over the rubies that formed a rose pattern at the center of the cross. Her breathing soon returned to normal and she proceeded while remaining cautious and aware of the sensations around her.
“Mrs. Henley?” Annette asked upon reaching the correct door.
A pleasantly plump woman turned and grinned. “Miss Binoche?
Is that you?”
Annette realized her frumpy seamstress clothes back home were a far stretch from her fashionable, meant to impress New York attire. She’d gone out of her way to assure her clothes didn’t make her stick out like a tourist.
“Don’t really understand why a pretty girl like you wants to come and stick your fingers with pins and needles, but I’m sure happy to have you.”
“I’m happy to see you again, Mrs. Henley, and I look forward to doing my best work for you.” Annette gave her a warm hug and kissed her cheek. “Mother says hello and wants to thank you once again for being so gracious as to allow me this opportunity. You have no idea what this means to me.”
Mrs. Henley waved the compliments and pleasant words aside. “Nonsense, I need a good hard working girl who has the imagination as well as the work ethic you have. I have one girl who left to get married and three who dumped me once the school year resumed.”
Annette smiled and nodded, pleased to be given such praise and responsibility.
“You’re not going to go off and get married, are you?”
“And you’re not going on to college, right?”
At this, Annette hesitated. She had once dreamed of attending a performance art school.
Finances had not really allowed such a dream for now, but this was no doubt a step in the right direction.
“Not for quite a while, if at all.”
“You know with all that pretty dark hair and soft innocent eyes, New York will eat you up. Just let me know if any of the young men here give you a hard time. Oh, and watch out for Marie, our house diva.
She can get a little testy when she’s not the prettiest thing in a room.”
October 14, 2009
After two long weeks of stitching, unstitching, mending and ironing, the day is finally at my doorstep. I’m so excited as rehearsals are set to begin tomorrow and the wardrobe department is buzzing with activity in order to have everything ready. I look forward to hearing the first notes of this opera I’ve been burning my fingers for. My love for this Opera House has grown and I relish every day here. Mrs. Henley, who insists I call her Roberta, is a dear and I adore working for her.
While I do miss my mom, I’m thankful to have Roberta as a surrogate.
“Is that music I hear?” I set down the petticoat I’d been sewing lace to and listened to the faint rumblings of a distant piano.
Knowing my eagerness to hear more of the music from The Masquerade at the Met, Roberta nodded, giving me her silent permission to sneak a peek downstairs.
With every step I took, the music came in clearer and my excitement grew. I’d heard so much about this mysterious opera that had been found in the crypts beneath the old Opera House in Paris. Word had it an obscure maestro from the Paris Opera House, rumored to be
phantom of the opera, had written the haunting and unforgettable music.
The music stopped momentarily, started again and stopped once more. By the time I arrived, the lead singer was taking her place and setting to sing her first note.
A few haunting notes from the piano filled the auditorium and a shiver of anticipation ran over every inch of my skin. I’d participated in several school plays in New Orleans and I had heard a multitude of musicians as I’d strolled down Bourbon Street, but nothing could compare to the excitement that now filled me.
The singer, pretty in her long blond tresses, opened her mouth and my anticipation grew. Her eyes, green and piercing, gazed all around her and quickly narrowed in annoyance. The lips that had been poised to let out the first notes quickly clamped down shut and set into a straight and grim line.
I glanced around to see what had caused her to become suddenly irate, and by the time my gaze returned to her, her hate filled eyes were pinned on me.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Her words were so biting and her tone so shrill, I could barely imagine her singing could be anything remotely resembling melodious.
“I… I… just…” I had no justifiable reason for being there. I’d not thought to drag along a garment to be fitted as an excuse.
“Get out!” she shouted.
Stunned, I just stood there for a moment. This was far from the southern hospitality I’d grown up with, and while I’d heard New Yorkers could be a bit harder and colder, I had in no way expected such a reaction from this diva.
“Get out! Get out! Get out!”
With my face heating up like iced-tea left out in the noonday sun, I turned away from the stage and marched up the aisle to the door at the back of the auditorium. I could feel the tears working their way to my eyes and hated the thought of crying over some snit who thought she was a star.
“Don’t let her get to you.”
The pleasant voice followed me out to the main hall of the Opera House. I turned to the toned and muscular build of a girl who was several inches shorter than me, but who carried herself with the confidence I presently lacked. Her short red hair was sassy, almost quirky, as was her style of dress, and she exuded an air of artistic flamboyance that I immediately liked.
“I’m Judy, one of the dancers. You’re new here, right?”
“Working with Mrs. Henley.”
“Roberta, great woman. Easier to work with than Prima Donna out there.” She thinks that just because she’s playing Adelle, leading princess of this Masquerade, she can push everyone around.”
“So she’s like that with everyone?”
“Hmm, not usually quite so quick to be so nasty.
No, I’d say she clearly doesn’t like you.”
“But I don’t even know her. I don’t think I’ve even worked on any of her garments so it can’t be my workmanship she’s unhappy with. And I didn’t make a sound while I was in there. Is my simple presence enough to send her on a tirade?”
I stared dumbly at her. It seemed impossible and was completely insane.
“Marie Abere is not only the star of this extravaganza, but she is also the most beautiful woman in all of the New York Metropolitan Opera House, if not all of Manhattan, or so she likes to think. You’re obviously more beautiful than she is, and she’s not taking it too well.”
Her matter of fact attitude was amusing and refreshing. It was funny how in one short minute I could meet someone who I could detest so instantly and also meet someone I could find so irresistibly likable.