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The Phantom Reincarnate: Part 2
The idea was insane. Could the Phantom of the Opera be . . . real? Well, there was an opera house in Paris that could be ‘the’ Opera House. But still, the idea was incomprehensible.
“This cannot be happening,” I muttered.
“Well, it is,” Erik replied. Our fellow actors around us were starting to get their costumes and makeup, so Erik added the page on his favorites and got up. “C’mon, Maria, we can plot about it later.”
I sighed. “Yeah, that’s fine with me.”
We got ready and went through the whole show. It went pretty well, but I think that a lot of people noticed that our minds were focused elsewhere. When we were finally finished, we rushed out of our costumes and went back to the laptop.
“I need this death mask,” Erik muttered. We were at my house because we didn’t want to deal with Derek’s prying eyes.
“Why?” I asked.
“He . . . whoever this is . . . is related me. I can feel it.” There was so much conviction in his voice that I actually believed him.
“But how much is the mask?” Actually, money wasn’t a big problem for Erik anymore. He’d probably ask his aunt and uncle for them money, and they’d gladly give it to him.
“Ummm . . . five hundred,” Erik replied. “I’m surprised; I thought it would’ve been more.”
I chuckled. A big sarcastic joke popped in my head. “You never know; it could be haunted. Maybe it’s singing ‘the Phaaaaantom of the Opera is there. Inside your mind.’” I sang horribly off key, and Erik cracked a smile.
“Very funny, Maria.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, winking. Sarcasm was one of my many talents. A lot of people that didn’t know me well thought I was really rude, but, hey, it comes with the package.
“Well, if we can get the money, we might have some trouble getting to the mask.” Erik’s good mood had plummeted like an anchor in the sea.
“Where is it?” I asked.
“California,” he replied. We lived in horribly misunderstood Wisconsin, and a trip to California and back would take at least two days or more. And we didn’t have that time, with the musical and all.
“Well, that sucks,” I muttered.
“You think?” I glanced at Erik, who had one eyebrow raised. “Hey, do you think Fritz will let us go?” Fritz was our director.
I sighed. “I doubt it. We have no understudies, remember?”
“Oh, right.” Erik’s mood deflated even more.
“But . . . I think she’ll let us go. We haven’t missed a rehearsal yet, remember?” We’ve been there all the time, even if we weren’t needed.
“If we talk to her, then maybe she’ll understand.” Erik was suddenly a lot more animated. I could tell this meant a lot to him.
So on Monday, we approached Fritz. “Um . . . can we talk to you?” Fritz turned around and smiled at us. We were the two main actors that didn’t act like a stuck up prince. The other (*cough* Derek *cough*) hadn’t been on Fritz’s good side.
“Yes?” she asked.
“We . . . ah . . . we’re wondering if we could oh, I don’t know . . . maybe miss a rehearsal or two.” Erik looked like Fritz had him snared in his own Punjab lasso.
Fritz blinked once, then twice. “Well . . . you haven’t missed any rehearsals yet.” She bit her lip. “Oh, I guess so. But I hope that you guys have a perfect run-through today.”
“Thank you,” I replied quickly. We walked away, gigantic smiles on our faces. So far, so good. The actors got into costume; the props were handed out; the set put into place and the lights and sound crew sat waiting in the sound booth in the back of the theatre.
The lights slowly turned on, and it began. It went very good—people remembered their movements and most of their lines. I think that we could’ve had the audience with us. In character, I was torn between living an amazing life with Raoul and a not-so-amazing life with the Phantom. As I went on, I realized that Raoul was desperate to get the girl, the Phantom just wanted someone who loved him, and Christine was a double-crosser, especially when choosing who she’ll be with for the rest of her life. Personally, I wouldn’t play around with the Phantom’s already scarred heart.
“That went pretty well,” I said after we got offstage.
Erik nodded. “It did go pretty well.”
I smiled. “Well, I think we can get the death mask. When should we get it?”
“I’ve talked to the previous owner, and I said we’d pick it up this Saturday.” Erik’s eyes gleamed. “I can’t wait!”
“I can’t either.”
On Friday, we didn’t go to school. Instead, my mom drove us to Bakersfield, California. It was a fun ride, because we talked about the most random things. It was fun, and it was good to be away from the stress of the theatre.
“So, how is it coming along?” my mom asked.
I shrugged. “Pretty well, actually. We have most of our set, props, and costumes now, and the actors have most of their lines down.”
“That’s good.” My mom was excited to see our production. She had seen the original Broadway show in New York, with Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine, so her standards were set pretty high. I just hoped that she’d like it. But from our recent rehearsals, I knew she’d be amazed.
When we finally got there, we were sick of being in the car for so long. The house was on the outskirts of the town, so it was closer to the desert than anything. When we stepped out, the desert heat blasted in our faces. It was a relief from the usual humidity in Wisconsin.
“Let’s get this over with,” Erik muttered under his breath, walking up to the door. He banged on it with his fist. A few seconds later, the door opened with a creak. In the doorway stood a man in his late forties wearing a yellow and red Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and flip-flops. He had an eager smile on his face, as if he didn’t have many visitors.
“Hello,” Erik said. “I’m Erik Roux. I’m the one that bought the death mask off of you.”
“Oh! You’re Erik?” The man squinted at my burned friend. “Well . . . come in, I don’t bite.” He beckoned us in, and we followed. This man’s house was actually quite clean, as if he cleaned in his spare time.
“I’m glad that someone bought that thing,” the man said, sitting down at the kitchen table. We followed suit, and I noticed a velvet box in the middle of the table.
“My pleasure,” Erik replied.
“Well . . . here it is.” The man took the lid off the box, and there stood the death mask. It was a lot more gruesome in person. I noticed that the scars varied in thickness and the skin was rough like sandpaper.
“This is a very . . . interesting . . . death mask,” my mother mumbled.
The man nodded. “I know. I like to collect strange things. Would you like to see some of my collection?”
I shrugged. “That sounds interesting.” The man, whose name was Mark Sullivan, led us downstairs, and all I could think was, Holy cow, there’s a lot of stuff down here.
The clean first floor made up for the horribly cluttered basement, I guess. Anything and everything was packed onto shelves, put in boxes, and scattered on the floor. Doll eyes followed me from the corners, and bright, garish colors assaulted my eyes. Mr. Sullivan kept pointing things out, like a vintage Victrola and a working Einstein doll. It was interesting, yet slightly creepy.
“I really wish that we could be back in the car,” I muttered under my breath to Erik.
“Let’s just take the mask and run.” I snickered under my breath, and my mom gave me a scathing glance. She had been talking to Mr. Sullivan about the Victrola, and just so happened to hear us.
When the tour was done, the sun was already starting to dip below the horizon. We headed back upstairs, and Erik paid five hundred dollars in cash for the mask. Mr. Sullivan gladly accepted the cash.
“Have a good day, you three,” he said. When we were walking out the door, Mr. Sullivan yelled, “I’m warning you now, he likes to play tricks!”
“Where’d you go?”
“What did you do?”
These questions and many more were what greeted us on Monday morning. A lot of people were suspicious of us, and a few very untrue rumors popped up. We denounced all the rumors, but they still stood strong. And most of it was because we had the lead roles.
“God, I hate this,” I moaned one day after a dress rehearsal.
“So do I,” Erik said.
“Why won’t they just shut up already? Okay, yeah, we have the two biggest parts in one of the most famous musical to ever be on stage. Well, whoop-tee-ding!” I was just about to continue with my tirade but Erik stopped me by putting his hands on wall next to my head. I was suddenly breathless. We would be even closer than this on stage, but this wasn’t the stage. Not even close.
“I don’t really care what they say,” Erik murmured. “But I do care about what you say.” What did that mean? Why did he care about what I said? The unanswered questions thrilled me for some odd reason.
“Well . . . I . . .” I glanced up at Erik’s bright green eyes, and I was mesmerized my him. Even with the scars from his horrific accident, he was handsome. He was more handsome than twelve Dereks combined.
“Are you tongue-tied, Maria?” he asked. He tilted my chin up, and I smiled.
“In fact, I am,” I replied. I looked again into Erik’s pine green eyes, and felt myself leaning closer to him. And to my surprise, our lips met with a strange, burning passion that I couldn’t explain. If this was on stage, it would’ve been one heck of a stage kiss, but it was real. And that’s what surprised me.
This was my first real kiss. I couldn’t count the ones on stage because I was Christine Daae, not Maria. Erik and I came closer to each other, and I wound my fingers in his silky black hair. It was what every girl wanted in a kiss, and more. The chemistry, the sparks, the passion; it was all there.
“You’re beautiful,” Erik murmured.
“You are too,” I whispered. The sarcastic part of brain said, Better stop here, or they’ll find you doing it with Erik in the hallway. But the thing was that I didn’t want to stop. Close wasn’t close enough. Erik’s scent—deep forests—was deeply embedded in my nose, and I wanted it to stay that way.
“Um . . . guys . . .?” a voice behind us asked.
We broke apart. Behind us, Dean stared with wide eyes. He played Firmin, one of the managers. You could always get a laugh from Dean because he was full of random facts. He was also super smart, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he found the cure for cancer. But now, Dean looked very taken back. And I couldn’t blame him. He’d just seen the two main actors passionately making out backstage.
“Just want to tell you guys . . .” Dean looked super uncomfortable. “There’s a cast and crew party at my house next Saturday.” He handed us two slips of paper, and Erik quickly snatched it from his grip.
“Thanks,” he replied gruffly. When Dean started to walk away, Erik added, “You won’t tell anyone about this, will you?”
Dean nodded in a rapid movement. “No, definitely not.”
I smiled. “Thank you so much, Dean.”
“No problem.” Dean walked away, and I released the breath I didn’t know I was holding. I glanced at Erik sheepishly, and he had the exact same expression.
“Well . . . I have no freakin’ idea what just happened,” I whispered.
Erik sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, Maria. I kinda got ahead of myself.”
I laughed shakily. “No, don’t be sorry. That was the kiss that every girl dreams of.”
Erik’s phone buzzed in his pocket, and he said, “That’s probably Derek. I gotta go. See ya, Maria.”
I nodded. “Yeah, see ya.” I watched as Erik’s figure slowly faded. What had just happened? I didn’t know. And that’s what scared me.
The date for opening night was coming closer and closer. The school wouldn’t shut up about it, and half of the conversations started with, “Hey, aren’t you playing Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera?” I’d usually reply with “Yes, I do play Christine.” But on days when I felt sarcastic, I’d say “No, I’m playing the Phantom.” I felt proud of having such a big role on my first time on the high school stage. I felt confident about my acting, and I doubted that I would blank out on stage. It was coming together. We were ready.
When the dreaded day arrived, I felt oddly calm. The show was at seven, so call time was six. As the cast and crews got ready, you could literally feel the tension in the air.
“You know, I’m actually really excited,” I said to Katy Perry (the sophomore, not the famous singer) while we were getting our costumes on. She was playing Carlotta, and had the voice to back it up.
Katy nodded. “I am too. This is one of the best, if not the best, musical of the modern era.” After I got my dress on and put on all my makeup, I headed over to Erik. He was slumping on the wall in front of the stage doors. He looked forlorn. I sat down to him, the skirt of my dress fanning out.
“So, you ready?” I asked.
Erik nodded. “Yeah, I think I am.” He glanced at me, his green eyes glowing in the half-darkness. For some reason, we could have only some of the lights on, so most of the time you were tripping over your own feet. “So . . . I was thinking . . .”
Erik took a deep breath. “I was thinking that we could be a couple after this.”
I blinked. That took me off guard. Us? A couple? It seemed too strange to comprehend. “Wow,” was all I said.
“You know we have chemistry, don’t you?” I looked straight into Erik’s deep green eyes, and I thought, Yes, we do have chemistry.
“Yeah, I do.” We didn’t say anything more about that we-could-be-a-couple idea. As the time got closer and closer, I kept telling myself acting first, life second. It was my little mantra to prevent me from having a panic attack. Finally, the time came, the music started, and “The Phantom of the Opera” began. Since only a handful of actors were on stage during the prologue, we crowded the doors in which were going to enter in. I glanced at Erik, who was hiding in the shadows, and gave him a wink. He smiled and nodded.
“Break a leg out there,” he whispered.
“Thanks,” I replied. “You too.”
The chandelier was slowly rising above the stage, so my fellow actors and I danced onto the stage. “With feasting and dancing and song, tonight in celebration we greet the victorious throng, returned to bring salvation!” The girls sang first, and our silk-like voices ran across the stage and into the audience.
“The trumpets of Carthage resound! Hear, Romans, now and tremble! Hark to our step on the ground!” The boys’ deep, rumbling bass reverberated around the theatre. The musical was beginning in earnest, and the audience loved it. They laughed at Piangi and Carlotta’s bigheadedness and applauded loudly after every song.
And then, the Phantom came. There was audible gasp from the audience because the Phantom had entrance music and everything.
And, my God, was Erik perfect! He was as slick as a cat, twitchy like a mad scientist, as angry as a territorial bear, and as heartbroken as a girl going through a major breakup. There was no inkling of his true personality on stage. I actually felt like I was talking to the real Phantom, whose death mask was hidden in Erik’s bag backstage.
The other actors were good, too. Katy Perry and Brandon played the stuck-up characters of Carlotta and Piangi to the line. André and Firmin, a.k.a Dean and Anthony, were sort of comedic relief, and Sara and Emma, who played Madam Giry and Meg, were good as well. And Derek, well, he was pretty good too. Even though I hated his guts, he played a mean Raoul.
“Hey, is Erik okay?” my friend Jessica asked during intermission. Jessica actually auditioned for cast, but she didn’t make it, so she tried out for crew. She was on costumes, and she loved it.
I glanced at Erik, who was humming to himself next to the stage door. “Yeah,” I replied. “Has he been acting weird?”
Jessica bit her lip. “Well . . . he’s being really snappy, and almost hit me when I asked him about a tear in his cloak.”
My eyes widened. “Really?” It didn’t sound like Erik. He was so gentle, and he would never hit anyone. It confused me, and probably everyone else.
Jessica nodded. “Uh huh. It scares me.” Suddenly, Erik’s head snapped towards us, and Jessica shrunk back. He was acting really odd.
But after the intermission, I turned my mind back towards the stage. Now, the race for my hand became more heated. Secret engagements, serenading, murders, kidnapping; both Raoul and the Phantom did their best to get me.
“God give me courage to show you . . . you are not alone . . .” I cooed to the mask-less Phantom. I came closer to him, and our lips met.
The kiss between Derek and me in the first act was flat but looked passionate as always. But the second, oh my God, it was alive with fire! The kiss between Erik and I had started to feel real after that incident in the hallway, and I knew that we momentarily broke character while we kissed. Heat rushed through me, exciting me in more ways than one. I was so glad that the kiss between the Phantom and Christine was supposed to last long because I knew that I would beg for more if it wasn’t.
After Meg found the mask in the Phantom’s lair and the lights dimmed, the crowd erupted in cheers. We got a standing ovation, no doubt. I could tell that the audience was absolutely astounded by our talent. We bowed to our audience, big smiles on all of our faces. Now I know why actors love the stage.
“That was great!” I cried to Erik after we exited the stage and the audience started to leave. I enveloped him in a hug, but his arms hung limply at his sides.
“Thanks,” he replied gruffly. Now, I noticed that his voice was a bit different, and he was ice-cold. I took a step back from him and looked up into his eyes. They were dark, more brown than green. Okay, this was seriously starting to creep me out.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Erik shook his head in a jerky fashion. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Okay then.” But I wasn’t so sure. His odd mood chilled me to the core. I walked away to get out of my stuffy dress, and when I was finally comfortable in yoga pants and a baggy t-shirt, I walked up to Erik again. He was being congratulating by his fellow actors, and he looked flustered.
“Man, that was good!” Gavin cried. Gavin played the role Buquet, and it was funny because he always muttered sourly about being killed during the course of the show.
“Uh . . . thanks,” Erik replied, looking flustered. I cocked my head to the side, confused out of my wits. Why was he acting this way?
Gavin nodded. “No prob.” After all the actors left, I walked up to him.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked.
Erik smiled. “Trust me, I’m fine.” He was still in costume, and still had his mask on.
“Hey, you should get out of costume,” I said, jabbing my thumb towards the old gym stage, where the costume room was.
He suddenly blinked. “Wait, what?”
I sighed, exasperated. “Seriously, Erik, what are you doing? You’re acting really weird.”
“Hey!” a voice rang out. “We need a little help over here!”
Erik and I both glanced behind us. Anthony and Dean were carrying a half-conscious form between them. His head lolled to the side, and I gasped loudly. I couldn’t mistake the silky black hair and the scars running down the right side of his face. Erik!
“Hey, what happened?” Katy asked, rushing to their aid.
Dean shrugged one shoulder. “We were helping Chelsea put away some of the props, and all of a sudden we saw Erik slumped over the makeup counter.”
I glanced at the man beside me, who I thought was Erik a few moments ago. He had paled. I looked at the real Erik once again, and remembered what Mr. Sullivan had said as we had left his place. “I’m warning you now, he likes to play tricks!” he’d said. I glanced at the man with the Phantom’s mask, and only one thought pulsed through my mind.
Oh my God, I thought. I actually performed with the real Phantom!
The Phantom, as if he could read my mind, turned towards me. “It was a pleasure to be on stage with you, mademoiselle.” I held out my hand, and he kissed it. His lips were ice-cold, like Death.
“Wait, who are you?” Sara asked, pointing at the Phantom.
“The Phantom,” he replied nonchalantly. “And now, I must return to my prison of darkness. It was nice working with you all.” The Phantom held up a hand in goodbye. He then walked off towards the darkened hallway. He slowly faded, leaving the mask behind.
After that strange confrontation, I always made sure that it was the real Erik. I usually asked him questions that only he and I would know, and by the last night, he was fed up of it.
“What is my favorite band?” I asked.
“Evanescence,” Erik replied, sighing. “Do you seriously need to do this?”
I smiled. “I do, in fact.” After that, the show started, so I didn’t have time to ask him anymore. This was one of our best performances, and I was sort of sad to see it end. But all good things must come to an end. And sometimes, better things start when things end.
After the musical, life returned to normal. Well, as normal as it could be. First, Erik and I became a couple, confirming a lot of peoples’ hunches. Second, Derek wasn’t an arrogant brat anymore. The part of Raoul had humbled him a bit, and it felt good that he didn’t hate us anymore. Well, we still didn’t get along, but it was better than before.
When the time came, Erik and I tried out for the spring play. We both got minor roles, and it felt good to not be in the spotlight most of the time. It was then that I decided that I wanted to go into acting when I grew up. Erik also said he wanted to go into theatre when he got of college, so we made a promise that we’d go to school at the same place.
Our high school career actually went very fast, and soon enough, we were looking into colleges, and Erik and I both got into Juliard. It was one of the most prestigious colleges in New York, and I was absolutely excited about going there. When prom time came around, we both laughed when we found out the theme was a masquerade ball. At the prom, Erik wore his Phantom mask, which he was able to keep, and I just had to laugh. It would’ve been funnier if he had been wearing his Red Death mask, I said. But Erik said that a bit too drastic mask to wear to prom. We made sure the death mask was at home so that the Phantom didn’t get any ideas to come out again and take Erik’s place.
At Juliard, we learned about the diverse spectrum of acting, and excelled in it. Erik and I both graduated on the top of our class, and we already had Broadway directors literally begging us to audition for their shows. But before we could start our professional career, we had more personal things on our minds. Erik and I drove back to Wisconsin and got married. We had stayed strong all through high school and college so we knew we were a match made in heaven. Even though Erik was scarred and burned, he was as beautiful as Adonis.
After we tied the knot, our careers took a major spike upwards. We starred in many shows including “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys,” “West Side Story,” and our favorite, “The Phantom of the Opera.” And we starred as the Phantom and Christine like we did in our freshman year of high school. We also starred in the exact same roles in the sequel to “Phantom,” called “Love Never Dies.” The critics loved us, and barely any nasty rumors spread about us. The paparazzi left us alone for the most part, and it was a big relief.
Even though I’ve been through hell and back ever since I got the part of Christine, I wouldn’t have given it up for anything.