The rest of the day passed quietly. My grandmother continued to cook, and I sat around reading or catching up on my emails.
I wasn’t avoiding the situation I swear! The one with my Grandmother or with… oh I couldn’t even think his name!
When it approached six-thirty, my aunt got home. We had dinner before my grandmother went to bed.
I stood at the sink cleaning dishes and staring out the window, spaced out.
“So, Felicia” began my Aunt loudly.
I jumped and nearly dropped the plate in my hand. Quickly wiping the bubbles of the surface, I put it in the dish rack before responding, “Huh? Oh,”
My aunt smiled, “How are you?”
“Good,” I replied automatically. That had been my response to everyone who asked since I was seven years old.
“Got a boyfriend yet?”
My aunt had been teasing me about getting a boyfriend since I had been in second grade. True, they were teases back then, but now I was an adult, she was serious. One of my deepest secrets was that at twenty-one years old, I still hadn’t had my first kiss.
“No,” I found all my attempts throughout the past day to block out any thoughts of Ben suddenly for nothing. And why the word ‘boyfriend’ brought him to mind, I didn’t want to think…
“That can’t be good, Felicia, you need someone,” says the woman who is in her fifties and never married, or has had a boyfriend in the last twenty years.
“I have Tessa,” my tone was devoid of emotion. I tried not to think of what Tessa would do if she heard me say that…
“Yes and she’s great, but you need male companionship” she said diplomatically.
Oh, God, of all conversations – why this one?
“I’m fine, really, I am. And I promise you, if I ever need male companionship, I will begin hunting like a madwoman-” I said as I tore the gloves off my hands and tossed them over the sink, “for a vibrator!” I called as I stormed out.
Boyfriend was a touchy subject with me. And my Aunt knew it.
Yet she constantly had to bring it up.
I had trouble sleeping that night. After the conversation with my aunt, I had had a shower, brushed my teeth –twice – and went to bed.
By then it was eight o’clock, and I wasn’t tired at all. Therefore it was about half-past eleven when I finally drifted off. My dreams were strange, but that was all I could remember of them.
When I awoke, I rolled over to glance at my clock, as usual, only to be met with the empty bedside table. Remembering I was at my other house, I stood up and wandered to the kitchen, feeling groggy and like crap.
Glancing at the oven, I noticed it was ten past ten in the morning. I had slept in more than an hour.
I sighed in frustration and went back to my room to dress.
My clothes were about evenly divided between my two homes. When I had dressed in something I hadn’t really looked at, I went to the bathroom to put in fresh contact lenses and makeup.
Finally complete half an hour after I woke, I walked to the kitchen to get something for breakfast. I couldn’t really find anything I wanted, which was something warm with hollandaise sauce, and I really wasn’t in the mood to cook.
Knowing I would have to go back to the city today eventually… I pushed the thought of the ‘Daae Incident’ out of my head and I decided to treat myself to breakfast at a restaurant and hopped in my car.
An hour later (thanks to Peak traffic) I was parked in my spot underground, and shutting off the car. Deciding to be on the safe side, I went up to my apartment and grabbed my violin and orchestra clothes – which I put in a bag – and took them both with me.
As I walked down to Southbank, I was flooded with memories of my Mum, Brother and I walking down these very roads to go out for breakfast each morning.
I found myself choked with emotion, and when I finally arrived at the restaurant it took me three tries until I could say something the hostess could understand. Deciding to get through all the sadness at once, I was a glutton for punishment really; I requested the table my family had always sat at.
I didn’t have to glance at the menu, as I ordered the same thing I had since I was eleven: Eggs Florentine and Mango Juice. The waitress nodded and walked away with my order, leaving me to my sadness.
I traced the wood of the table, smiling sadly as a tear dripped off my cheek and landing close to my fingertip. It had been four years, and still I wasn’t over the death of my family- I don’t think anyone could ever really get over losing the three most important people in their life.
I remembered when I was young and finally deciding I wanted to go into musical theatre, I had promised myself that at my grandfather’s funeral I would sing Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, from The Phantom of the Opera, but that happened when I was fifteen; I wasn’t ready to reveal my voice (which I had trained myself) or my career choice to my family.
So I had said that at my Father’s funeral, I would sing. I would probably be in my forties by then, and would already have a sparkling career.
However that funeral came much closer than anticipated, and I had felt drained.
I didn’t sing, I didn’t speak, I didn’t play my violin. I just cried until there were no tears left, and even then I had surprised myself by letting a few more tears come. And that was what I was doing now.
Silently crying and whimpering as I sat where my Little Brother had sat so many times before.
When my food was placed down before me, I quickly wiped my cheeks and eyes, giving an appreciative, watery smile to the waitress who seemed rather surprised. She placed a few more napkins on my table before smiling sympathetically and wandering off to another table.
Sighing, I began to slowly eat my breakfast, including the salty tears that dripped onto the plate.
When I was done, I looked at each seat at the table I was sitting at. It was as if they were there; with me again. I smiled at each empty chair, seeing the eyes of my family. Papa… Mummy… Daddy… I added a few more people to the list, until each seat was filled with an imaginary image.
I smiled again as more tears rolled down my cheeks, and whispered a quick “I love you,” before placing money on the table and hastily leaving the restaurant.
Perhaps I had finally gone insane, I was truly trying to drive myself into an insanity depression…
No that was stupid… there was no maybe about it.
I was randomly wandering around Southbank, my mind blank, a violin in my left hand and a bag full of clothes and other womanly things over my right shoulder when I heard a clock chime, two o’clock.
I realized that the show was starting, and I was here standing on a bridge looking down at the Yarra River.
So much for getting my ass in my seat.
But there was another performance, as usual, tonight at eight. Tessa hadn’t specified which show I was to be at, just that it had to be today.
So I would be there tonight, in my seat, playing the glorious music that made my heart grow wings and fly out of my chest.
God bless loop-holes.
But, what to do until then? I had no idea.
As I tightened my grip on the handle of my case, I cringed at the blister that seemed to have taken up permanent residence on my palm. Robotically, I wandered back to my apartment and found myself in the familiar space.
Placing my violin down by the wall and my heavy bag on the couch, I made a cup of coffee and stepped out onto the balcony, admiring Melbourne from nine floors up… which for the most part was smog. I sat in one of my patio chairs, and stared out at the billboards and buildings.
I stayed like that for a long time.
My mind was blank, thankfully. It was quite a relief to think about nothing!
I sat there so long, in fact, that the sun was setting by the time I realized I needed to be at the theatre.
Not bothering to eat anything – though my stomach was screaming for food – I pulled on my orchestra clothes and snatched up my violin, deciding the fastest way was to catch a tram instead of walking.
Fifteen minutes later, I practically fell out of a tram and sprinted into the Regent. I vaguely wondered why I seemed to be dashing around in high heels lately, but brushed the thought aside as I stumbled into the orchestra pit, earning many glares from my fellow musicians.
Tessa glared at me menacingly; she plucked a string on her cello ominously.
Smiling in apology, I held my head down as I quickly placed the case by my feet and unpacked. Everyone had already tuned, turning the first violin, Ronald, old, pompous Ronald, I asked if I could tune to his strings.
Boy did I regret that decision! He made sure I knew how much this interfered with his life and how I should be grateful.
As soon as I plucked the last string to make sure it was in tune, the conductor was up and about to cue in the first note. I fumbled around and came in two seconds late, but managed to catch up after a few moments, thanks to the countless number of times I had played this.
I tried to lose myself in the music, as I usually did, but the fact that I needed to try told me something was up. I felt my pulse beating rapidly against the wood by my neck as Ben’s cue approached.
I heard him sing merely three words, and found it hard to pull myself back down to Earth.
His voice to my ears was the equivalent of dark chocolate melting into my tongue.
For someone who spent the majority of the day crying and not thinking, I was certainly making up for it now! My brain was in over-drive!
When I had a few soft notes to play, I grinded them out with such force I’m sure everyone in the audience cringed, as the musicians around me did too. There was no way I could do this!
Trying to create as little a commotion as possible, I placed my violin and bow on my chair, and crept out of the orchestra pit, getting a viola bow stuck in my bra strap on the way.
Great. As if this day couldn’t get worse, I was now bright red with embarrassment!
I managed to get out with my shirt still intact, and raced to the ladies’ room.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream until the mirrors shattered and the chandelier came crashing down onto the audience, simply for the cliché-ness of it all.
If I was going to do this every performance, I was going to lose my mind. Or die. Or float up to Musical Heaven with Elvis and Michael Jackson and never return.
Either of the three, or maybe all.
I could hear music coming from the auditorium – I wasn’t actually sure if there was a place in the building where you couldn’t – and recognized the Coney Island Waltz. My fingers began playing out the notes on the marble sink I was leaning on, and I instantly clenched them into fists.
God, what was wrong with me?
I stayed there for the same immeasurable amount of time I had stayed on the balcony. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months… years. I just stared at my expression in the mirror, blinking only when my eyes watered in protest.
I heard a large crack from the stage – one of the fake cameras they used to capture Christine as she disembarked – I also heard the bathroom door creak open.
Quickly wiping my cheeks to make myself look presentable – at least something a little less than belonging in a mental asylum – I turned to walk out of the restroom with dignity. However, the image of the person I was facing made me freeze. This couldn’t be happening – not again!
Whatever musical god that had suddenly taken such an interest in my life was sick. Very sick in deed!
I was face-to-face with no other than the Phantom himself. In his mask and full attire, stage makeup looking slightly ridiculous up close and the little microphone close to his left eyebrow looking like some giant pimple.
I wondered how the actors could get so lost in their parts with the constant reminders they were on a stage…
I snapped out of my thoughts and stared back at him, turning a pale colour of cream, then deep scarlet as blood proceeded to fill every capillary in my face. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
He tried with the same results, but after a moment managed to force words out through his lips, “H-hi…”
Really? He had witnessed me doing something incredibly humiliating, proceeded to stalk me into the ladies’ restrooms in the middle of one of his performances, and all he could say was “Hi”?!
Maybe the mask had done some damage to his brain.
“Hi,” I replied – or more like choked – in response. He seemed to relax at hearing my voice, as his erect posture softened to something a little more normal.
“Are you alright? I saw you leave –“
Why the hell would he be watching me? How the hell did he even know where to look?
Ugh, this was getting so confusing!
“I’m fine,” I snapped back, no I wasn’t, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown!
Taking a deep breath I decided to play it cool, or at least, not a crazy person, “Why are you here?”
“I wanted to talk to you,” he said simply.
I snorted, “Well, I’m sure you’re due back on stage any minute, sir, good bye” I sidestepped him and tried to make for the door when his hand grabbed my forearm.
If he had looked like a normal man, I probably would have been angry or frustrated, but dressed in Phantom garb, I was downright terrified.
He seemed to notice this and loosened his grip, “Look, wait for me after the show, alright? Don’t leave” he said, a trace of desperateness crept into his voice.
I nodded dumbly, when he was looking at me like that, in that costume, how could I refuse?
There was a tense moment, when all we did was stare at each other.
It was like he couldn’t believe I was here. I couldn’t believe I was here… in this situation! Again.
Then, I jumped, startled when I heard the music again.
Good Lord, how long had we been in here? Most of the time was probably us gaping at each other in shock.
The song Look With Your Heart was nearly complete, and I was pretty sure Ben had to be behind the mirror before the scene even started.
“Shit!” we both whisper-yelled at the same moment.
However we didn’t have time to dwell on the thought as I spun him round and practically pushed him out the door, glimpsing him as he raced away.
I wandered out into the foyer, worrying as I heard the introduction of Beneath A Moonless Sky, and then let out a sigh as I heard his voice. He sounded slightly out of breath, but he was on the stage, and he was singing.
I leaned against a wall and listened.