DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Posted to ff.net with the title 'Lifetime of Longing'. To be clear: Meg and Christine are not sisters. Meg's mother is Madame Giry (whom she calls 'Maman'). Christine's parents are both deceased. Warnings for adultery, character death, and suicide by arsenic. Very much not canon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To howlingturtle[at]hotmail.com
A Lifetime of Longing
When they're eleven years old laying back to back sharing the narrow cot that was all her mother could afford in the middle of the night and Christine won't stop talking Meg tries to get her to go to sleep.
"Christine, please," Meg begs softly, the merest hint of a whine in her voice, "Maman says we must both be rested for our dance classes tomorrow. They're thinking of putting us in the chorus! Sleep!"
"I can't," Christine whispers back, "He spoke to me, Meg. He told me to sing!"
"Who?" Meg has been told many things about the men in the theater and how they treat young girls. No man speaking with Christine could have pure intentions. "Who told you to sing?"
She feels the sudden slackening in the blankets covering them and knows Christine must have rolled over. "The Angel of Music!"
"The what?" Meg had never heard of any such thing. The tooth fairy and Santa Claus, certainly, but an Angel of Music? She'd lived her whole life in the theater, if there were such a thing surely she'd have heard about it before now.
"The Angel of Music, Meg!" Christine whispers excitedly, "Just like from my Daddy's tales he told me before he died. Oh, Meg, he's wonderful! He says I could have a perfect voice if he could train me."
"Christine," Meg groans wanting nothing more than to sleep, "There is no Angel of Music. Maman would have told me about one. And she hasn't, so there isn't."
"Meg," Christine protests with the fragile tone in her voice that lets Meg know she's hurt Christine's feelings, "I wouldn't lie. There was a man speaking to me through the mirror."
Meg rolls over now to face Christine even though it's so dark they can't see anything. She reaches out and lays her hand on Christine's waist as a mute apology, "I know you wouldn't lie. But Christine, why would a man be speaking to you through a mirror unless someone is playing a trick?"
"I don't know..." Christine murmurs, "Perhaps he's afraid of being seen."
Meg shakes her head and scoots closer to Christine, the hand on her waist slipping around her back as she tugs the other girl closer until she's tucked firmly under Meg's chin. "I think it's a stage hand playing a trick on you," Meg mutters into Christine's hair, "But we'll ask Maman about your Angel of Music tomorrow. She'll know if he's real."
Christine's arm loops around Meg's shoulders and she asks softly, "Promise?"
"Yes," Meg confirms. She closes her eyes and presses a kiss to Christine's head the way her mother does to both of them and says, "Now sleep."
She feels Christine's heavy sigh against her chest, feels Christine lift her head and place a sloppy kiss on her cheek and snuggle back down. Just before Meg nods off she hears Christine's whispered, "Goodnight, Meg."
When they're fourteen and allowed to finally take part as part of the chorus dancers they couldn't be more excited.
"Can you believe it?" Meg bounces on her toes and pirouettes just because she can, "We get to be in a show! Finally!"
Christine smiles sweetly, never one for overt displays of emotion, "Madame Giry says we're the youngest she's ever allowed on stage in front of an audience."
"Maman wouldn't let us dance if she didn't think we were good enough," Meg grins at her friend. Not satisfied with Christine's lack of visible reaction she reaches out and drags the other girl up and into a whirling dance. "Smile Christine! Be happy with me! This is a triumph for us both!"
As Meg whirls her around and cajoles her into a lively dance Christine finally allows some of her own joy to shine through and laughs.
Meg laughs with her and spins them both around faster and faster until they tangle their feet together in a misstep and they both topple to the ground. Their limbs are all tangled up but they don't care, they're still laughing and basking in their shared glee.
Meg raises herself up onto her elbows and hovers over Christine with a huge smile plastered on her face. Christine looks up and giggles while Meg adjusts herself to rest more comfortably against her.
"We really did it, didn't we?" Christine asks with a little bit of wonder lacing her voice.
Meg hears that wonder and sees it on Christine's face, feels it in her own soul, and smiles, "We really did."
Christine's arms come up around Meg's waist and she squeezes hard. Meg drops her head to Christine's shoulder and releases some giddy wheezing giggles. When Christine finally lets up Meg lifts her head and is struck by Christine's beauty. With a happy blush riding high on her cheeks, her mouth settled in an easy smile, her eyes shining brightly, and her hair fallen in waves around her head she looks, to Meg, like a work of art. The most beautiful sculpture wrought by the most expert hand, achieving a beauty so all encompassing it tugs at a person right down into their soul and pulls them close. She'd watched entire dances that couldn't affect the same feeling that Christine creates simply by laying there and Meg is at once fiercely jealous, fiercely proud, and fiercely something else.
That something else makes butterflies jiggle in her stomach and compels her to lean down and press her lips to Christine's still smiling ones. Her hair cascades down around their faces and blocks them from the rest of the world creating an intimate little bubble just for the two of them. It's a dry press of lips, warm and a little chapped, and all too brief. When Meg pulls away, suddenly nervous and shy and a little fearful of Christine's reaction to her impulsive kiss, she is stunned when Christine lifts her head to catch Meg's lips again, her arms holding Meg tight to her.
Meg breaks away again only when they need to breathe. She presses her forehead to Christine's and keeps her eyes closed, peaceful.
"You're my best friend," Christine whispers, her voice wavering.
"You're my best friend, too," Meg whispers back.
"And we'll always be friends," Christine asks, "Forever?"
Meg opens her eyes and falls into the depths of Christine's, seeing all the same confusion and want and love swirling in them that she feels, and she presses another short kiss to Christine's lips and nods.
Christine hadn't mentioned the Angel of Music for years. Not once after Meg's mother, Madame Giry, told them both it was just a story and that good little girls had better focus more on their training than on old fairy tales if they ever wanted to dance in a show.
Five years after Christine first told her of the Angel, two years after they'd become something more than friends, Meg wishes she'd been more open-minded.
When Christine had disappeared and the whole troupe had been in an uproar trying to find her Meg wished that she'd listened. Christine had started talking about the Angel again, but the only creature haunting their opera house unseen was the Phantom and that had Meg worried. The Phantom had killed people, he'd never shown his face, and he was a danger to all of them. If it was the Phantom talking to Christine, drawing her in like a moth to flame, than there was no way for her to be safe. Meg had tried to get her to stop talking to the Angel for fear that he was the Opera Ghost, but she knew Christine wouldn't listen. Christine never listened when Meg gave her good advice, it was part of what Meg both loved and hated about the other girl.
So when Christine went missing Meg was certain her 'Angel' had something to do with it and that he was really the Phantom, the Ghost. She had told Raoul her suspicions and he'd gone haring off without waiting for help.
Meg would not sit idly by while Christine was in danger, could not let her friend suffer without trying to help, so she'd donned a full set of men's clothing and set out to find Christine as well. She'd found the mirror in Christine's dressing room, found that it was really a portal to a long set of stairs. She'd taken a torch and marched her way to the bottom of those stairs, into the sewers where the Phantom made his home, and found the lair of the beast.
Too late, it turned out. For Raoul had gotten there first and he, Christine, and the Phantom were all gone. But Meg had found the Phantom's mask and wondered what had happened here.
When she emerged again from the sewers, leaving the mob behind to destroy or pillage as they would, she discovered Raoul and Christine had eloped.
Meg was happy for Christine, truly she was. She loved Christine, more than anyone, and wanted nothing more than for her to be happy...if Raoul could provide that happiness, as Christine had seemed to think he would, than Meg would give them her blessing. Not that they'd asked.
It hurt a little that Christine could forget her so easily because Meg was certain she could never forget Christine. She wondered every day if her friend was well, if she was happy and safe, if she enjoyed her new life...without her.
Weeks later, when she and her mother had found another opera house to work in, she'd received a letter.
You know, by now, that Raoul and I have wed. After the Phantom let us go Raoul did not wish to hang about any longer and took me immediately to his estates. I wish he had let me say goodbye to you but he was so impatient to be away. I suppose he feared the Phantom would return and wished to keep me safe. But I miss you terribly. I feel so lonely without you by my side. I catch myself reaching for you, or searching for you to share some small amusement, seeking the touch of your hand in mine or looking for your smile, only to remember that I am alone here. Raoul is good to me, he loves me, but he is away so frequently to attend business that I am left too often on my own. I do wish he'd let me come back to the city to see you and Madame but he fears the Phantom is still there and will try to take me away from him. But Meg, the Phantom is gone. He promised to leave us be and I believe he will. I wanted to reassure you, Meg, that I am alive and well and as happy as I may be. I know you would be worried, you have always cared for me so. I wish, nearly every day, that you were here with me. That we could be learning some new dance together. I did not know the life of a Countess could be so filled with tedium and loneliness. I hope you have found some joy and that, perhaps, you might visit me one day.
All my love,
Meg wept. Relief that Christine was well, sorrow that she was so alone, joy that she still thought of her.
She wrote back, of course she did, telling Christine of all the things that had happened after she and Raoul had fled the opera house. She told of the mob, the fire, the curse that hung about the place. She told of traveling to this new opera house with her mother. She told of being interviewed by an extremely fat benefactor and the many ways in which she'd learned to avoid him. And she told of how she missed Christine with every breath, feeling as though she'd lost the other half of her and was having to learn how to exist without her.
Christine replied to her letter, thirsty for more news of Meg's life. And Meg was happy to tell her, to feel even that little bit connected to her friend. She saved every reply Christine ever made in a special chest to remind her of their friendship. But that first letter...she folded that brief missive and placed it in a locket to lay beside her heart and took it out to remind herself that Christine still loved her.
When they were twenty-six Meg had finally grown enough in standing within the theater to take a leave of absence without ill effect and she immediately laid plans to visit Christine who, from her letters, was eager to have her.
Meg wanted to see her friend desperately. She'd missed Christine more than she could say in the years since they'd seen one another. But until now Meg hadn't had enough money to travel and Christine had still not been allowed back to Paris. Meg wondered if Christine had changed at all. She wondered what Christine would look like now. But she also wondered if there were any way she could convince Christine to return to Paris with her, to visit, to live, to perform a special concert...Meg would thrill if any of that were to happen.
When she arrived at the Chagny estates she was shown into the home by a maid and taken into the parlor where Raoul greeted her, not with pleasure, but with hostility.
"What are you doing here?" Raoul demanded as soon as the door closed upon the maid's exit.
"Pardon me," Meg replied, offended, "But I am here to see an old friend. Do you take issue with that, Viscount?"
Raoul sneered and took a long gulp from the glass in his hand, "I do. You come here after filling Christine's head with your theater life, making her want what she can't have, and expect me to welcome you with open arms. I should never have told her where you were."
Meg's temper flared, "She could have the theater life. She always dreamed of it, being a star. It's you that's holding her back. Keeping her mewed up here, languishing, because you're afraid that if she gets a taste of living again she might leave you."
"How dare you?" Raoul thundered, "She chose me! She chose to come here! I do not keep her chained in the basement. She stays here because she chooses to. Because it is her home!"
Meg scoffed and spat back, "More like her prison."
Raoul took two steps forward and slapped Meg hard across the cheek. The sound like the lash of a whip.
Meg stood stunned cradling her cheek, the heat of a bruise already forming detectable beneath her fingertips.
"Raoul!" a shocked voice cried out from the doorway. Christine rushed into the room and to Meg's side, her hands reaching up to stroke lightly at Meg's swollen cheek.
"Christine-" Raoul said softly, but she cut him off.
"I think you should go riding, Raoul." Christine spared a glance for her husband as he stalked out of the room but returned her attention to Meg's face as soon as the door closed again.
Meg let Christine sooth the ache with gentle touches for several long moments, savoring finally having her touch again after so many years. But eventually she caught Christine's hands and held them gently in her own. "You're as beautiful as ever," she said softly staring down into Christine's eyes, "I've missed you."
Christine's eyes filled with tears and she grabbed Meg in a crushing hug, hiding her face in Meg's neck as she squeezed tightly. Meg held her just as fiercely, arms tight around Christine's shoulders and lips peppering Christine's head with joyful kisses.
"I've missed you, too," Christine breathed into the skin of Meg's neck, "So much, Meg."
Christine leaned away just far enough to look into Meg's eyes and smile weakly. Before she could speak Meg leaned down and stole a kiss, reveling in feeling Christine's lips for the first time in ten years. Her hand came up to cup Christine's face and draw her closer. Christine leaned into the embrace, losing herself in the feel and the passion she could feel from her old friend. When they broke apart they were both panting.
Meg looked deeply into Christine's eyes, once again the emotions swirling in them matched her own riotous ones, and she asked, "Are you happy here?"
"Meg," Christine said warningly, "Don't."
"I could take you away from here," Meg whispered into Christine's ear, low and rushed, "You could live with me and Maman. I know the theater would be more than happy to have the great Christine Daaé grace their stage. We could be happy. In Paris. Together. We could-"
"Meg," Christine stopped her. She broke out of Meg's hold and said with her voice sad, "We can't. I'm married. And he's good to me."
"He keeps you locked up in here like it's a cage!" Meg said heatedly, "Like he can't let you out of his sight or you'll leave him. You should leave him! Come with me. Come home to Paris with me."
Christine raised an eyebrow and smiled at the irony. "Look at us Meg," Christine said gesturing expansively with her hands, "He's been gone only a moment and already I'm in your arms. An adulterer."
"This is different," Meg pleaded, placing her hands gently on Christine's hips, "I love you. I've loved you since we were little girls together. I loved you when he didn't remember who you were. I can't take you away from him when you were never his in the first place. You were always mine."
"Perhaps so," Christine said, leaning up to kiss Meg's lips, "But I married him. And I cannot leave him."
"Why?" Meg demanded petulantly.
Christine bit her lip, considering, then grabbed one of Meg's hands and placed it low on her belly. "I'm pregnant."
Meg looked wonderingly at Christine and spread her hand flat against Christine's body, "Pregnant? How long?"
"Not long," Christine breathed out, "Nine weeks. I can't leave him, Meg. Not now."
Meg felt tears burn her eyes. "You could," she whispered miserably, knowing she fought a losing battle, "We could go to Paris. Raise it together. You could teach it to sing. I'd teach it to dance. It would never lack for love. Christine-"
Tears rolled slowly down Christine's cheeks, "No, Meg. It's a beautiful dream, but no. I couldn't do that to Raoul."
Meg nodded, "So this is it, isn't it? These two weeks are going to be all the time I may have with you, aren't they?"
"I wish it didn't have to be this way," Christine whispered, stepping close and putting her arms around Meg's neck and holding tightly.
"Me too," Meg husked back, her voice tight with emotion.
That evening Raoul was called away to business. He would be gone nearly the entirety of Meg's visit.
Meg determined that if these two weeks were all she would have than she would make the most of them. And they did.
She and Christine fell into a pattern they'd had as teenagers. They spent their days dancing and singing, and occasionally exploring the grounds and finding new places to make love. They took their meals together stealing from one another's plates and telling each other stories. They slept in the same bed, curled together not just for warmth but for the pleasure of touching one another and to soak in as much time together as they could. They enjoyed the freedom Raoul's absence afforded.
One might think they would have had their fill of each other after only a few days constantly at one another's sides. But they both knew this was all they would have for the rest of their lives. Once these two weeks were up it was likely they would never see one another again. And so they reveled in it while they could.
The night before Raoul's return they lay in bed together one final time, their naked bodies cooling from a desperate coupling. Meg's hand explored Christine's torso, paying special attention to the area above her womb. "You're going to be a wonderful mother," Meg whispered, placing a kiss to Christine's temple.
"I wish you could see it grow up," Christine replied, "I would have liked having you near."
Meg knew protesting that she could see the child grow up if Christine just came with her would be a futile argument and only distress Christine, so she smiled, "I would have liked that, too."
"I'm going to miss you," Christine's voice was thick with tears.
"We'll still write," Meg whispered, "And you'll always be my best friend."
"Forever," Christine whispered while Meg nodded. Christine reached up to cup Meg's face, "You know writing isn't the same. I want to have you by my side, always. But you're too much temptation."
Meg chuckled sadly and bent her head down to kiss Christine, "I'll always love you."
"And I, you," Christine replied, "With all of my heart."
Meg didn't resist when Christine pulled her down for another kiss and another extended round of lovemaking.
In the morning Meg was gone by the time Raoul returned.
They did write. For thirty-seven years all the contact they ever had was in letters. Meg had married in that time, become a baroness, had children of her own, but she always held a place in her heart for Christine. A place her husband could never touch.
When she received the news that Christine had died she did not weep. She attended the service with her mother. She and Raoul exchanging only brief nods of acknowledgment as she laid a flower upon the headstone before she allowed her mother to escort her home.
Her husband didn't understand her quiet grief, didn't know the depth of her feelings for Christine, but her mother knew. A mother always knows.
So it was that her mother was unsurprised to find Meg's cooling corpse, a bottle of arsenic beside her, and a note clutched in her hand.
Madame Giry had expected the note to be an explanation, perhaps a farewell to those she left behind, but it was the letter. The first letter Christine wrote to Meg and scribbled on the back in Meg's flowing script: I love her and I cannot bear the world without her. A long time ago, I promised her forever. I'm keeping my promise.
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