I woke up slightly startled and groggy. I’d awoken from a dream that was somewhat pleasant, awkward, and horrible, but the more I tried to remember, the quicker I forgot.
As what happens with dreams… but it may have had something to do with some hot Italian guy smearing lotion on me.
Rolling over, I stared at the digits on my bedside clock, I waited for the numbers to make sense in my head… damn, why was this so hard?
A moment later, I realized it was eight-seventeen in the morning, about forty-five minutes earlier than when I would normally woke up.
I rolled over and groaned, the events of yesterday still rolling through my mind.
About two hours after the “incident” or what Tessa had begun affectionately calling “The Daae Effect,” the weight of what had happened began to sink in, and I had freaked.
Tessa had taken me back to my late Grandmother’s house. She had died rather suddenly about five years ago, and had left her city apartment to her daughter, my Mother. And now it was mine.
I only really used it because it was close to the theatre; otherwise I preferred to stay at my other Grandmother’s house in the suburbs, helping my Aunt care for her.
At least her house didn’t smell like… old people.
Back home, Tessa had given me some wine to calm me down –I don’t know why, I hardly like it and I’m not much of a drinker – and she had given me some tablets I didn’t exactly recall the name of.
I think she had given me a little too many glasses, too, as I do remember crying a lot and then falling asleep at around five o’clock, three hours before the next performance.
As I looked down at my body under the covers, I noticed I was in a pair of pajamas, my makeup was gone, and my hair was brushed and braided down my back. Tessa may be a pain in the ass sometimes… a lot of the time, but she was my best friend for a reason.
Stumbling to the bathroom, I took my contact lenses out quickly before my eyes got infected for sleeping in them too long and stripped off while getting a shower ready.
Apparently I hadn’t drunk too much – I hadn’t started vomiting…yet – but my stomach was feeling pretty awful and my head even worse.
The sound of water droplets smacking into the tile shower floor made my headache seem to double, so I just blocked it out as best I could and washed myself as quickly as possible.
The hot water worked to sooth the knotted up muscles in my back and make my head feel a little better.
All in all, it worked to make me feel a little more human and a little less zombie.
Stepping into the freezing air, I wrapped myself in a fluffy green towel and put some fresh contacts in.
Running my hands through my hair which was now looking something close to black, I left the bathroom and walked to the kitchen.
I downed some painkillers – a small amount, as I didn’t want to overdose on whatever Tessa had given me the previous night – and then stood in the kitchen not quite knowing what to do.
As my hair continued to drip down my shoulders, I decided dressing might be a good idea.
I shoved some comfy jeans on along with a black jumper that said Love Never Dies along with the half mask and the rose; one of the many free knick-knacks I had gotten for working.
Scrunching my hair onto my head, I held it there with a clip and went back to the kitchen. I had had maybe one or two hangovers in the past, both slightly worse, but I had just waited them out.
But right now I wanted nothing more than to be able to think straight, so I searched the archives of my brain for anything that might help.
Finding nothing, I went into the forbidden territory of memories that included my parents, remembering something my Dad had once when my cousin had stumbled onto our doorstep drunk one morning. He said something about fatty foods absorbing the alcohol in the stomach….
I busied myself with frying up hash browns and anything else unhealthy I could cook without possibly injuring myself with my hangover clumsiness, or would instantly vomit at the sight of.
As I finished the meal that even a junk-addict would turn green at, I dumped the dishes back in the sink and promised myself I would clean up later.
A few moments later, the phone rang. I winced as its piercing sound cracked through my head. I picked up the receiver and held it to my ear, “Hello?”
“Good Morning, Sunshine! The world says ‘Hello!’” said the all too cheery and loud voice of Tessa.
“Bite me,” I retorted, smiling despite myself.
She laughed, “How are you feeling?”
“Great,” I paused. “Thank you a lot for cleaning me up last night. You didn’t have to.”
“Any excuse to get you naked,” she said happily, I giggled slightly.
“Oh, and by the way, I told Mr. Pegg that you were sick –which wasn’t exactly far from the truth – last night and that’s why you didn’t show” she explained.
“Oh,” I really didn’t want to think about anything having to do with that theatre quite yet. As long as I didn’t think about it, it could still be a dream.
“So,” she began, “are you alright?” she asked with concern.
“I told you I was, yes,” I said pointedly.
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” she said seriously.
I sighed, “Tessa, can we just forget it? That’s what I want to do, and I’m sure he already has,” I said, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice.
“Then why are you thinking about calling in sick again?” she challenged.
God, sometimes I wondered if she had telepathic abilities! “Because I am sick,” I said defensively.
“Right…” she said sarcastically.
I really didn’t want to have this conversation. “Look, Tessa, I’ll… I’ll see you later, alright? If anyone asks, tell them I have the stomach flu,” I invented quickly.
I would probably end up vomiting anyway. Either from the hangover, or stress from…
“I already told them you have the Daae Effect,” she said happily, “its sweeping the nation! Total pandemic!” she laughed.
“Bye,” I said, shaking my head.
“Maybe your Angel of Music –“
“I said goodbye, Tessa!” I said loudly, wincing slightly as it hurt my head.
She laughed, “Okay – okay! Goodbye, Christi-”
I hung up.
The lights came on and it was time for me to act, I was on stage now.
She had been on stage, not mere meters from where I was, with that beautiful voice of hers…
Focus! I commanded of myself.
Wait, why did I need to focus?
When she had sung, my Mystery Girl, she had done it so effortlessly, so naturally, making it sound all the more beautiful…
As the music started I jumped slightly as I quickly started pressing random keys on the fake organ in front of me, then collapsed onto it.
The damn mask was digging into my face and I had an itch, but I focused on “composing” and then throwing the paper on the floor.
I sang the lyrics, and when it was finally time for me to turn, I looked not at the audience, but at the small number of musicians in the pit I could see.
As I sang through the first song, I noticed some members of the audience with different expressions than usual.
That was probably because I was singing with my chin nearly on my chest, trying to see as much of the orchestra as I could. As I finally looked up for the last note, needing to open my throat to get the sound out, the audience looked satisfied, and I spun around to face the image of Anna as Christine.
As I felt myself going upward, I relaxed slightly as the audience’s focus moved away from me. A few minutes later I sat down and looked directly down into the pit.
Because I was so high up, I couldn’t see very much except clothing, and the darkness wasn’t helping; nor the stage lights. But I did see an empty space in the violin section, the second chair.
Sighing dejectedly at the fact that she wasn’t here, I continued with the performance slightly detached, and when I took my bows I was eager to get the crap off my face and go home.
Once the curtain closed and we all headed off stage to the sound of applause Anna grabbed me.
“Are you alright Ben?” she asked placing a concerned hand on my arm.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” I asked frowning down at her.
She shrugged as we walked back stage, “You just seemed a little distracted tonight”
Was it that obvious? “I just have a lot on my mind, that’s all” I said simply, hoping to defuse the situation.
“A girl?” purred Dean coming out of nowhere; he still had his Gangle costume on, his tall form towering over most of us.
“It’s rude to eavesdrop you know” I said absently as we all continued to walk.
“Whose eaves dropping?” asked Paul coming into view, his Squelch costume still on, yet he had stolen the hat to Emma’s Miss Fleck costume.
“Who knows something?” asked Emma who was, evidentially, receiving a piggy-back ride from Paul.
“Benny-Boo has a lady friend!” grinned Dean.
Both Paul and Emma gasped dramatically and I rolled my eyes, unable to keep the smile off my face.
I was then bombarded with the typical parade of “Who is she?” “What’s she like?” “Where’d you meet her?” “When can we meet her?”
But before any of them could pester me too much I escaped to my dressing room.
I rushed through taking my makeup off and getting into my own clothes, and when at last I was finished I practically sprinted back into the auditorium, to catch the last few musicians trickling out.
I smiled as a young man with a French horn case walked passed me, and then looked back to the pit. The harpist was covering her instrument with a cloth, someone with a flute was crawling around on the floor trying to find a piece she had dropped, and a young lady, who was somewhat familiar, was clicking a green cello case shut.
I don’t know why I expected different, but she wasn’t here.
Perhaps I thought she may have been sitting in a part of the Orchestra that I couldn’t see from the stage, I wasn’t sure.
But it wasn’t until I was down in the pit that all my hope truly faded.
I sighed, feeling dejected.
The Cellist looked up to leave and saw me, she smiled. I smiled slightly in return, and wished she would stop walking towards me to engage in what was obviously going to be a conversation.
Stepping to the side to allow her room to leave as she wheeled the large instrument after her and to signal I wasn’t in the mood for talking.
I continued searching for the young woman that was perhaps hiding in the timpani and would jump out at any moment.
I was startled when I heard the Cellist speak to me. “She’s not here,” was all she said.
Did she know? “Who’s not here?” I demanded, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice. A name! She had to give me a name, some way to find her.
Or to at least give a label to the Angel that had haunted my dreams last night and was now consuming my every thought.
The girl shrugged, “Whoever it is your looking for” she said simply, but there was some sort of knowing glint behind her eye.
Before I could question her more she walked out of the room.
Sighing I looked once more around the room, scanning for her one last time before I gave up and headed out of the room.
“So” said a loud voice.
I jumped and turned around to see Anna leaning against the hallway wall with a smug smile, “You have some explaining to do” she grinned.
Anna was my friend. A good friend.
If I could tell anyone about my Mystery Girl it would be her, she would understand.
But… where to begin?