Christine smiled as the cast gave the audience a final bow. She was proud of herself, and thankful to her mysterious instructor for his tutelage. Half an hour later, she sat in a rather secluded parlor, backstage of the Opera Populare, reflecting on her performance. The twenty year old girl knew it would most likely be a one-time event. Lady Carlotta was the star of the Opera House, and Christine had risen to the position of understudy through her talent, she knew that Carlotta would not relinquish her role as first lady so easily. The older woman had merely - well, some would say had a hissy fit - Christine, trying to think the best of people, preferred to say, "a slight overreaction" when an accident in the scenery ropes caused a backdrop to fall onto her. The older woman had claimed she was unable to sing under such conditions and had stormed off.
She had removed most of the gaudy makeup, but was still lost in her thoughts, when the door opened.
"Christine," that voice sounded oddly familiar, if she imagined it with the pitch of a young boy, "you were incredible!" Christine looked at him in another moment of confusion, and then it hit her.
"Raoul?!" she turned from the mirror to find a handsome young man, a year older than she. He was obviously a member of high society, well dressed and cultured. "My have you changed," she teased, "I remember when we had that fight in the mud in the summer. Both of our parents were furious. Who would have thought you would look so sophisticated!"
"Ahh, well... who would have thought the tiny gawkish girl would become the new star of the Opera! You are the talk of Paris, milady," he joked back. She was about to reply when he handed her a dozen white roses. "I had them delivered to match your beautiful costume," he explained, smiling at her. "And now, I would like to request the honor of a late supper with the finest voice in Paris, and my old childhood friend."
"Ahh, Raoul. I would love to. It would be lovely to catch up on these past - is it twelve years? But I'm still in my costume. It's rather tedious to change out of, and by then it would be too terribly late."
"Madmoiselle, why not simply wear that? You look stunning. I just hope that we won't be attacked by too many of your new admirers." Christine smiled, she knew he was exaggerating his praise to flatter and flirt with her, but she did not terribly mind the attention on the night of her debut.
"All right," Christine replied, smiling back at him. "I would be honored to accompany such a fine gentleman."
"The pleasure is all mine," the young suitor replied, softly and gracefully taking her hand.
~~~~~ A few hours later ~~~~~
It was rather late by Christine's standards when they arrived back at the Opera. The Vicount's carriage drove to the door, and he assisted her in leaving. Walking side by side, holding hands as old friends, they strode down the alleyway, laughing, remembering old times. The easiest entrance to the Populare's dormitories was in the back of the grandiose building. When they reached the door, there was the smallest of awkward silences before Christine said sweetly,
"Thank you for a wonderful evening, old friend. I wish you well." Her old friend kissed her hand, then her cheek, ever the gentleman of course.
"Thank you, Christine. I hope we can do this again soon." Turning to the door, and grinning a shameless girlish grin, Christine silently snuck back to her dressing room to remove the splendid gown.