Almost twelve, maybe eighteen hours later and I was still thinking about last night. About what had happened in this very room.
She had sung, with that beautiful, angelic voice of hers. But best of all she had sung for me. That alone was the most love felt and seductive thing about it.
Singing with her was the most amazing feeling- well, not the most amazing feeling. That would have to have been the feel of her lips against mine.
It had been magical. Singing with her was reverting; it filled me with such emotion, such passion that I couldn’t control myself.
And while I was yet to learn her name, I didn’t hesitate to pull her to me and kiss her.
The first thing I noticed was how soft they were, but simply pressing my lips to hers was not enough. I wanted more. I needed more. So I’d pulled her closer, letting my tongue artfully trace her bottom lip, as soon as her lips parted, I didn’t hesitate to deepen the kiss.
I let my hand go from the smooth skin of her cheek to the back of her head, slipping in between the silky locks; I cupped the back of her head to pull her closer to me.
I wasn’t a big believer in god, but I imaged that kissing her was something close to heaven. As was singing with her.
I closed my eyes and re-lived the entire event again, letting it all wash over me.
The way her lips felt upon mine, the way she tasted…
How her body seemed to fit perfectly against mine, how she had smelled… everything about her was so intoxicating!
But with that joyous moment came the confusing and, the more I thought about it, hurtful moment afterwards.
She’d pushed me away and then, she ran.
I hadn’t slept last night as I had racked my brains trying to come up with some sort of logical reason why.
But I was still stuck on the conclusion that it was me.
I had come on too strong. Jesus Christ I already knew I scared the girl, kissing her like that was completely idiotic of me.
But then there was the other explanation, she didn’t feel that way for me. Not once had I asked, or even flirted remotely. With her, there seemed no need for that.
It was as if we didn’t need that. There was no need to play hard to get or to skirt around the issue. I wanted her. I needed her. And right now, I was racking my brains at how to get her.
Because after singing with her, after kissing her…
I was pretty sure no one would ever compare to her in either of those aspects ever again.
“Ben! We have a problem!” said Anna bursting into my dressing room, she had her wig and make-up on and the under layer of her first costume.
“You could knock” I said pointedly as I turned around to face her, I was currently wrapping the Phantom’s cravat around my neck.
“Your Mystery Girl is quitting” she said seriously.
I felt as if someone had poured cold water over me, I stared at her in a stunned shock, “What?” I asked in confusion.
“She’s quitting the Orchestra! As in leaving and never coming back” she said, desperation crept into her voice as she tried to get me to understand.
My mind was still working too slow, I couldn’t comprehend that she was leaving. It didn’t seem my world could exist without her in it now.
For some reason, I became instantly enraged. How dare she! How dare she come into my life, weave such a powerful spell and then just decide to leave? That wasn’t happening.
“Where is she?” I demanded, my voice came out as a growl as I ripped the cravat from my neck, storming towards the door.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” said Anna stepping in front of me and grabbing my arm, “you can’t go and find her now!”
“Why not?” I demanded, anger radiated through me. If she thought that I was just going to let her leave she had another thing coming.
“You have to be on stage in two minutes!” she said pointedly.
Why did that not feel like a good enough reason? It should. This was the role of a lifetime, the opportunity that I had been waiting for. The role that made all the years of hard work finally pay off…
And yet, all of that paled in the comparison that I might possibly loose her, the one girl that had turned my world upside down and made me feel things that I’d never felt before.
“And remember what she said? You scare her! You think running into the pit looking like your about to kill someone is going to help her over-come that fear?” she asked pointedly.
I stared determinately at the door, wanting so desperately to leave and find her, but knowing that I couldn’t. Damn logic!
Clenching my jaw I turned to look at her, “so what do I do?” I demanded.
“Tessa and I have a plan!” said Anna happily.
“Who?” I asked in confusion.
She rolled her eyes, “Just get ready and meet me back stage as soon as possible” she said, dashing out of my room without another word.
Twenty minutes later, I was done with the paper-work and most of the orchestra was here.
Except Tessa- which had me extremely worried.
I handed the forms to Mr. Peg with a smile and returned his pen to him. As I heard the first few audience members begin to wander around for their seats, I felt a deep sadness that this was my last show.
This music was like no other to me, and I honestly never wanted to play anything else.
It was then that a small niggling of doubt crept into my mind… was I truly doing the right thing?
Was running away, from everything here, really the answer?
As the audience got louder I burst from my little bubble.
No, I was right, and everyone else was wrong, especially Tessa. I didn’t want to think of where she had most likely wandered off to, but I was firm in my decision and if I had to tell her that with Ben standing right in front of me I would
I was about to stand and find her, determination pulsing through me, when the pit door opened and my friend walked in, out of breath. I gave her a confused glance and she just mouthed ‘toilet’ and returned to her seat.
I rolled my eyes, trust her going to the toilet just to freak me out.
Sighing I went back to my seat, everyone around me suddenly placed their instruments in preparation to play, and I did the same. For the last time.
As it darkened, I joined the rest of the orchestra in the falling scales that started the show. I savoured the feeling of losing myself to the music.
As Ben began to sing, I decided to fully succumb to his voice, letting it wash over me, considering it was the last time I could as anything but as an audience member. It felt immensely satisfying to feel the notes of my violin part manoeuvre around his voice to create a perfect harmony.
As it neared the end, I felt eyes boring into the top of my head. As a reflex, I looked above my music stand only to see Tessa glaring at me with wild eyes.
I furrowed my brow at her as I mechanically played. She nodded her head in the direction of the stage, and I automatically flicked my eyes in the direction.
What I saw surprised the hell out of me. Ben had stepped out of the ring he stood in while singing, and was now standing close to the end of the stage; right above me.
That wasn’t part of the show. He was supposed to stay on the ring.
What the hell was he doing?!
His eyes found mine in the dark and I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his.
As he sang the last line, “I’ll always feel no more than halfway real, ‘til I hear you sing… once… more!” his voice filled with emotion as he looked directly into my eyes and held his hand out in my direction in a way that wasn’t exactly pointing to me, but definitely wasn’t the usual choreography.
As the last note sounded, instead of whirling around to face the projected image of Anna behind him, Ben hung his head so that his chin was on his chest and he was looking directly down at me. The audience still cheered, though – they thought he was just acting depressed.
The Coney Island Waltz was about to start, his lips parted as he stared at me, he looked as if he wanted to say something…
But his time was up; he needed to be on that ring.
With obvious regret he tore his eyes away from me and scampered back to where he was supposed to be before it floated off without him.
I was startled when the first creepy notes started, and I found that my violin was in my lap and not on my shoulder.
I sat there, staring at the spot his eyes had last been.
Had it worked? I didn’t know.
What I did know was that as I looked down into her eyes, that I never wanted to look into anyone else’s every again
“All would be ours if that bastard had never been born!”
When I had first heard that line belted out I flinched.
I had been surprised at Madame Giry’s change from the stern, motherly figure to the evil old bitch.
As we played the final reprise of Beneath A Moonless Sky, I tried to formulate how I would avoid explaining to Tessa (or anyone else who asked!) what had happened last night, or why Ben had stared me down during his song.
Not that I entirely knew the answer to the second question, but avoiding the subject of him in general seemed like a pretty good plan.
As we played the final resounding note and the audience cheered, I let out a sigh and leaned back in my seat with my violin in my lap. I felt utterly exhausted.
A moment later I sat back up and noticed Tessa trying to escape in the direction of the pit door.
Oh, no she didn’t!
“Tess!” I called to her.
She paused, obviously annoyed I had caught her, and then turned with an all-too cheerful and innocent smile on.
“Hey, look – I gotta go to the toilet” she said casually, jabbing her thumb in the direction of the door.
I was about to point out she had gone before the show, but her eyes widened considerably and she suddenly dropped to the floor.
“Tess!” I said in alarm I stood, trying to see if she was alright, but saw her crawling along the floor toward me.
“Hey,” I heard a deep voice from above me.
I jumped and turned, only to be met face-to-face with a famous face. I was so flustered by everything that I didn’t at first identify him, but I was shocked nonetheless.
“Um… hello. Can I help you with something, sir?” I asked with a frown.
“Distract him!” I heard Tessa hiss from the floor behind my chair, and I ignored the urge to look down and give her away.
Putting on my sweetest smile, I stood and approached the wall that led up to the audience, looking up into the face of the handsome man.
“Yes, actually. Do you know one of the cellists? She has dark hair…” He motioned around his head. Before he could continue I nodded.
“Yep – that’s Tessa” I smiled, he nodded.
“Bitch!” Tessa hissed.
“Do you think you could get her for me?” He winked.
Ok, I was heartless but not that heartless, “Um, sorry, she’s busy” I said quickly, “She left her bag backstage and had to go get it. I don’t think she’ll be back in time for you to talk to her before act two” I said, although I really hoped she would be so I wouldn’t be stuck with this dude.
“Oh, alright then. Could you tell her Gerard wants to see her?” he said, it was only now I detected a Scottish accent.
I opened my mouth to say something, when the gears clicked in my brain.
“Oh my God!” I shrieked, nearly leaping backwards, “You’re her Phantom?” I demanded in total shock.
He chuckled as I stared at him wide-eyed, “And you’re the girl she spoke to on the phone last night – I would recognize that scream anywhere” he joked, and I blushed.
He held his hand down into the pit, “Gerard” he offered.
I nodded, extending my hand up to his, “Felicia” I said.
We shook hands.
“How’d you run into Tessa?” I asked. I was genuinely curious why this celebrity movie star would be possibly interested in my friend – and for more than one night.
“Tessa?” he asked, momentarily distracted, he seemed to think about that for a moment, did he not know her name? before he turned back to me.
“She was in the pit when I was receiving a tour” he jerked his head in the direction of a stunned Sophie, who, when noticing us looking at her, returned to wiping her already shiny flute with a cloth.
“Oh,” I understood now… slightly, “And that’s why I ended up spending a good portion of the night here” I mused aloud.
Gerard chuckled, “I assume it was your violin she was packing up?” he asked, I nodded, “Good. Didn’t want to turn her into the authorities for stealing” he smiled.
I snorted, “Can I ask why, of all people, you chose Tessa? She’s a bit…” I tried to search for the right word, but with Tessa… there wasn’t really a right word.
“Eccentric” I finally decided biting my lip.
“That’s putting it mildly,” he looked down at me, smiling, “Quite frankly, her bluntness and honestly appeals to me. She’s one of the few women who haven’t fainted at my feet” he said, I raised my eyebrows at him, and he rolled his eyes.
“It’s a nice change” he said with a smile.
I moved out of the way as a shy violist moved past me, “So… how are you enjoying the show?” I asked, finding nothing else to talk of.
“Great. But I was wondering – does the Phantom usually switch up the choreography? He didn’t move around last night as much” he said.
I blushed. Oh, God, how many other audience members had noticed it? He was probably going to get in trouble with the director and then other cast members would inquire and then he would blab about me…
I was suddenly even more thankful tonight was my last night.
“Yeah, sometimes. I don’t really know because I can’t see the stage from where I sit” I said quickly.
“Oh,” he nodded. He looked around the pit for a few moments. “She’s taking her time, isn’t she?”
“Mmm… she disappeared before the show, too. She’s been acting kind of weird” I said, “Not that that’s unusual for her” I smiled.
“Do you think it worked?” was the first thing Ben asked me as we walked down the hallway.
“I don’t know” I replied honestly.
We went into his dressing room and shut the door. I immediately sat down on his couch, catching the bottle of water he threw at me; “Thanks” I said unscrewing the lid and taking a swig.
We sat in silence for a moment before the door swung open and Tessa slipped into the room before she slammed it shut, pressing her back to it, she looked as though she had seen a ghost.
“Are you alright?” I asked in confusion, although strangely enough, a small amount of concern crept into my voice.
She sighed, “How many Phantoms’ can one theatre hold?” she asked, her voice hysterical.
I frowned, was that a trick question or a joke?
“What did Felicia say?” Ben demanded harshly.
Tessa turned to him and sighed, “She just looked like she was about to cry before she went back to playing” she said, “it didn’t work, she’s still gonna leave” she said with a sigh.
We all sat in silence for a moment.
Suddenly Ben threw his bottle of water across the room angrily.
I watched as he ran his hand through his hair in frustration.
“What happened last night?” asked Tessa quietly.
“Does it matter?” he snapped.
I sighed, pushing my aggravation to the side, I didn’t like him speaking to Tessa like that, I decided to help him, “If we can figure out what went wrong, we might understand why she’s leaving” I said.
“I don’t want to understand, I just want to stop it!” he yelled angrily.
There was another awkward silence as Ben glared at the ground and I glared at him.
“Look, I have to go back to the pit, so whatever you need to say you need to say it now” said Tessa pointedly.
“Excellent point” I said, standing up I turned to Ben and stared at him seriously, “what happened last night?” I demanded.
“Nothing!” he sighed, “She sang, I sang with her, then we kissed” he said, his voice still contorted with aggravation.
“And now she’s leaving” I sighed. I was so confused- what in all of that could have made her want to leave?
There was a silent moment before Tessa spoke, “You’re not that bad of a kisser are you?” she asked before she burst out laughing.
I tried to hold it back but I couldn’t, I spat through my teeth before I too burst out laughing, “I would know” I giggled.
That only brought around another wave of hysterical laughter on Tessa and mines part.
“Ha, ha!” said Ben sarcastically, still obviously annoyed.
After a mere moment he seemed to have enough, he made to go to the door, “No! Wait, wait, wait, wait!” said Tessa stepping in front of him, “I know why she’s leaving” she said.
“Why?” he demanded.
She sighed, biting down on her lip she looked up at Ben with sympathetic eyes, “you were her first kiss” she said.
I blinked in shock, but I’m sure whatever I felt was nothing compared to Ben, who appeared to have become a statue.
“That’s why she’s freaked out” she said, “Ever since her parents died she hasn’t let anyone get close to her” she explained, “then you come along, get too close, too quickly, and she doesn’t know what to do… so she runs” she said, as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
“So is there any chance of stopping her?” I asked.
“Not a Fat Kids chance at a Gym” she said simply.
Ben sighed; he sunk to the couch, placing his hand onto his forehead, looking utterly hopeless and deflated.
I was over-whelmed with sympathy for him. He had found his true love, only to lose her.
Life wasn’t fair.
“Relax! This is a good thing” said Tessa pointedly.
“How in the world is this a good thing?” snapped Ben, turning to look up at her.
“Because I know where she’s gonna run to” she grinned.
For the first time that night, something akin to hope ghosted Ben’s face.
We stood in silence for a few moments as orchestra members chatted and people in the audience flitted about.
“Do you think if they made a movie of Love Never Dies you would do it?” I half-teased.
He laughed, “Quite honestly, it was hard enough singing for Phantom. I doubt I could pull this off” he said.
I rolled my eyes, “Well I know Tessa liked the movie” I said with a wink, in fact I knew she did. She had taken me to see it seven times when it was at the cinema.
We laughed for a moment before someone tapped me from behind.
“Felicia – intermission’s over” said Mr. Peg.
I nodded and said goodbye to Gerard, promising I’d tell Tessa he stopped by. I returned to my seat and held my violin as the lights began to dim again, and Tessa slipped into the pit at the last moment.
I stared at her expectantly, “What?” she asked, obviously uncomfortable under my gaze.
I simply shook my head, trust Tessa, strange, outrageous, eccentric, little Tessa to capture the heart of an Hollywood Celebrity.
As we played through act two, I poured my heart and soul into the music, fully forgetting my complicated life until the last scene.
It was the only scene I could really see from my seat, as the pier was directly above the pit. As Anna and Ben kissed right in front of me, I couldn’t help but watch. He had kissed me, just last night.
As she fell limp in his arms and he began rocking back and forth, screaming “No!” I noticed a moment too late he was discreetly looking at me.
I stared in his eyes for a moment before I jumped, realizing what I was doing, and returned my attention fully to the music in front of me that I knew by heart.
I mechanically played through the bows until the curtain fell and the audience immediately left, wiping their eyes as they walked.
I sighed, placing my violin in my lap and looking up as the pier retreated back to the ceiling.
It was done.
Whether or not I would play in this production again, it would never be with this cast. It was done. All over.
No more Love Never Dies.
I flipped my music back to the cover and ignored the people who patted my shoulder, saying goodbye, having heard of my resignation.
All that was fine, but when I looked to Tessa, dependable Tessa to make a joke, she didn’t.
She stood with her arms folded, leaning against the door, a look of the upmost seriousness on her face.
For some reason that broke me.
Tessa was always making jokes, always seeing the lighter side of things- yet even she didn’t joke about my leaving the orchestra.
I packed up my things quickly, stuffing them into my bag, I ran to the door, but it was too late, the tears had already started to fall.
I raced out of the theatre and down the footpath as fast I could.