When I was in high school and college, I was obsessed with Phantom of the Opera. We’re talking getting our hands on Susan Kay’s retelling, scouring the original book for details, and because Young Becca was a budding writer, I wrote fanfiction. You probably won’t be surprised that it was a romance, and a continuation where the musical left off.
It proved to be very popular. I had phans writing to me to tell me they printed the whole thing out and kept it in a binder. Having hissy fits when chapters were late. Following it as it bounced through THREE separate sites.
So when the prompt for the YeahWrite Super Challenge gave the option of writing a famous fictional character that was in the public domain, my inner Phantom nerd was screaming to be released. For once, I decided to let her free and as a result I am moving to Round Two of the Super Challenge.
As a side note, I wrote this entire story while sitting in a hot tub and eating cookies. Enjoy.
The boy looked nothing like him, and for that Erik was grateful. For one thing it meant that he had a happy life, and his rosy cheeks and shiny black hair belied that he was happy, privileged, and loved. Even so, the boy who wasn’t really a boy anymore had come the moment he’d received Erik’s letter and now stood hundreds of feet below the Paris Opera surveying his brother’s work. The cool air breathed the scent of roses with the barest hint of damp beneath it, but it wasn’t unpleasant.
“I can hardly believe it,” he said, awe rounding his words in a way Erik had scarcely heard before. “To think you were able to build all this with no one the wiser.”
“It’s not so difficult when you’re invisible as far as the world is concerned. Now, Adrian, what do you think about the piano?”
“It’s beautiful to be sure,” Adrian said. “Or at least it was in its day. I’m not certain it will see that beauty again.” He went to the piano and ran a hand over it slowly, savoring its smoothness as would a lover. It only cemented Erik’s certainty that he had been right to let his brother into his new home.
“If you can’t repair it, I fear its voice is lost forever,” he said. “You’re the finest craftsman Paris has seen.” Adrian looked at his brother, not with the curiosity he had when he was a child but with a brother’s exasperation.
“It’s unlike you to flatter anyone,” he said.
“Flattery perhaps,” Erik said, “but the truth at heart.” It was the truth. The musical talent in their bloodline hadn’t stopped with Erik. Though he’d been forbidden to have contact with his brother as a child, the monster who lived in the cellar stole up whenever their mother was away and gave his brother lessons on the piano. He’d been a quick study and as a result, Adrian could play just as beautifully as his brother. Moreover, he was able to repair pianos and violins, becoming one of the most sought-after craftsmen in Paris. Erik didn’t believe him when he said he’d moved there to be closer to his older brother but he was glad of his presence. If all went as planned, Adrian would be the only person who knew he was alive.
“All right, all right, I’ll see what I can do,” Adrian said, unable to hide his smile as he opened the top of the piano to inspect the damage. He looked inside for a long time, then reached in and plucked one of the strings. Then he touched the felt-covered hammers, squeezed them one by one until some of the rotting fibers came off in his fingers. “The damp’s gotten to them. You’ll need to take special care once they’re replaced to keep them from getting wet again if you’re determined to live down here.”
“Then you can fix it?”
“She’ll sing again,” Adrian said with a nod. “I’ll need to get materials from my shop and it will take time, but I won’t let her die so poorly. Even if it’s a lost cause I can’t bear to let her sit in this state any longer.”
“You have my thanks,” Erik said, watching his younger brother go to the toolbox he’d brought along. He opened it, then looked up at Erik.
“Take off that damn mask, won’t you? I feel as though I’m talking to a phantom.” Erik hesitated and Adrian sighed. “There’s no one down here but the two of us, unless you’re hiding someone in your wardrobe.”
“I’ve grown accustomed to it,” Erik said, making no move to remove the mask. Adrian’s light blue eyes, so much like his own, locked on Erik’s and for a moment he wondered if he might have looked like the boy were his face whole. Neither spoke until the younger of the two men finally broke eye contact with a shake of his head.“Suit yourself. Come on then,” Adrian said waving him over. “You’ll need to know how to repair this yourself.”
“Yes, of course.” Erik joined his brother at the piano and took the proffered wrench from him. Under Adrian’s guidance he began the task of removing the rotted felt from the hammers, and when they spoke to one another it was in the easy way that any brothers might have.
The candles that lit the underground apartment burned to stubs as they worked, and for the first time since he’d arrived in Paris with his deformed face hidden by themask his mother had put on him as a child, Erik was able to believe that he would come to a good end.