Author: Laine Montgomery
Time Period: Alternate universe; two years after "Don Juan Triumphante."
Plot Synopsis: Two years after the disaster at the Paris Opera House and the disappearance of Christine Daae, the Vicomte de Chagny calls on the Girys with a very interesting proposition.
A swish of the door, a fevered tapping of ballet slippers on faded wood, and Christine appeared beside Meg, cheeks flushed and eyes radiant. "Meg," she gasped, collapsing upon her friend's mattress, "Meg, you won't believe what's happened!" Meg, blinking particles of sleep from her eyes, began to ask Christine the question she clearly craved, but the other girl continued before Meg could speak two syllables: "He's asked me to marry him, Meg. Raoul wants to marry me! And look, look what he gave me..." She extended her pale hand, and Meg gasped; never in her life had she seen a bauble equal to this. Christine gripped her friend's hand, beaming with inexpressible joy, and Meg felt a curious sinking from within. Yet she clasped Christine's hand, marveled over the ring, held the girl's glorious mahogany head close while whispering congratulations that she hoped sounded sincere. -But if she marries...if I lose her... -
Meg shook her head violently, as though the rough motion would clear all unwanted thoughts, and trained her aching eyes once more on the fabric draped over her lap. Her absurdly short engagement left little time for a trousseau, yet she surprised herself with her sudden and ardent desire to abide by tradition. And so she spent her afternoons in the sunlit parlor, curled in a chair by her beloved window, stitching away as her mind wandered this way and that.
She cast a glance toward the small table by the windowsill, lips pursing with bemusement. The ring was beautiful, to be sure: a large diamond surrounded by a coronet of smaller stones, set in a frame of priceless metal. It was, she thought, far grander even than the ring he'd given Christine, and she derived some level of pleasure from looking at it, at the concrete display of her worth in this marriage. And yet she hated to wear it. The stone weighed heavily on her thin finger, rendering her unable to perform simple tasks, crippling her capable hand. She recalled Christine's choice to wear her ring on a chain around her neck, and she briefly considered doing the same, but the idea grew sicklier and more revolting with each passing moment, until she abandoned it altogether. No, Meg preferred to keep it at a distance, admiring the way the light illuminated its contours, placing it on her finger only when Raoul paid a call.
He visited everyday, without fail, and Meg reminded herself to be grateful for his attentiveness. Madame Giry made certain to be present during these times; whether she did so out of concern for her daughter's honor or to satisfy her own need to control the situation, Meg could never be sure. Her mother did, however, alleviate the awkwardness that seemed inevitable between the Vicomte and his betrothed. Neither she nor Raoul possessed much mastery of small talk, and a part of Meg appreciated and respected his reluctance to waste words. He always behaved as a model of courtesy, and Meg couldn't help but feel a twinge of annoyance whenever he began his perfectly-mannered salutations and partings. Perhaps she felt a sense of inadequacy...perhaps not. Either way, she found herself unconsciously cataloguing Raoul's irritating traits, none of which seemed deliberate or inherently negative, but which persisted in rankling her patience. This, she felt, was an important step towards a realistic perspective on marriage, and she wanted nothing more than to remain practical and objective.
Unfortunately for Meg, she lacked the ability to clearly distinguish between sense and sensibility, however desperate her desire to separate the two. She understood the logistical, mercenary reasons for wedding the Vicomte, she believed them to be in her best interests, but how could she explain the strange kinship, the sense of shared experience, the vague, indecipherable tenderness? These thoughts irked her with their inconvenience...surely her mother would never condone such foolishness. For this reason, she kept her counsel, avoiding analysis of any emotion connected with her impending marriage. Any emotion at all.
Raoul occasionally came to the house solely to speak with Madame Giry. During these visits, Meg was unceremoniously exiled to the sitting room, where she spent a brief moment fuming before tiptoeing down the corridor and pressing her ear against the space between the door and the floor like a curious child. She had known, had always assumed that the conversations involved her dowry; Raoul seemed uncomfortable with these discussions--because Maman is a woman, no doubt!--, but Madame Giry retained the utmost composure, ushering him into her private chambers and dismissing Meg with a simple word or gesture. But Meg listened, always listened, and oh, what she heard!
The sums of money discussed...how were they possible? Where did it come from---where has it been hiding? The eavesdropping continued, and Meg realized with shame just how little she knew about her own family background. Apparently, her mother had been the disobedient youngest daughter of a baron, disowned by her family after running off to the ballet and redeemed when she chose to marry a well-respected military official. Upon her husband's death, Madame Giry returned to the opera she loved so well, accompanied by her infant daughter. Although refusing to support his ever-rebellious daughter, the Baron Auguste de Pradon established a trust for his granddaughter...a considerable trust, more than enough to provide a generous dowry to a suitor of rank.
Meg slumped against the closed door, stunned and shaken by these new elements of her personal history. And suddenly, she was angry---ferociously, frantically angry. How could she hide this from me? For years, we lived poor as church mice in the opera house, when we could have been so comfortable! And these past two years....spending hour after hour assisting the seamstresses, straining my eyes and bringing home a pittance...and for nothing! We never needed it! Tears, vicious and burning, assaulted her ruddy cheeks. But the worst of it all...I never asked. Never wondered about my father, where I came from...never questioned anything. She shook her head, silently berating herself for her idiocy. Her mother had been everything: the Sun and the Moon, Alpha and Omega, Mother and Father. Meg never felt a lack of a father, which could perhaps justify her lack of curiosity...but NO. I was---I AM---a fool. A damned fool.
Something in her wanted desperately to burst the door open and confront her mother and future husband...but what would she say? What words, what explanation could appease her fury? And so she stepped away from the door and swallowed her bitterness, feeling the anger drop hard into her stomach. It would remain there, crystallized, possibly forever. But when Raoul and Madame Giry emerged from Madame's chambers, they encountered a demure creature, eagerly working away at her sewing and crocheting. She wouldn't reveal what she knew, what she felt...See? I can hide things, too.