(point of view)
I stood before the Paris Opera House, shivering in the November cold. I pulled my cloak closer around my thin frame and shivered once again as my icy, numb fingers brushed my neck. I sighed, and tried to calm myself. Don’t be so frightened, I told myself. It’s just an interview. What could go wrong? Anxiety piped up, its menacing voice filling my mind. Oh, I’m glad you asked. I sighed again and tried fruitlessly to push the voices aside. I decided that I needed this job, and in order to get it, I had to have this interview, and in order to get that I needed to get up the sprawling polished marble staircase before me. I picked up my trunk from the ground and began making my way to the doors. I set it down at the top of the steps and was suddenly thankful for the wheels I had attached on its base, so that it could be rolled instead of carried. I hurried to the doors of the Populaire and stepped inside. The front room was amazingly beautiful, but I had no time for that right now. I had to get to my interview. Just like the marvelous beauty of the foyer hit me, the sudden realization that I had no idea where to go to apply hit me as well. I looked around for a maid of some kind and spotted a small form scrubbing the floor nearby. Deep breath, it’s just a maid. Just walk up and ask. There’s nothing to worry about.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle.” I called to her. She stood and did a little curtsy before replying, her dirty blonde locks bouncing around her shoulders.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle. Can I help you?”
“Yes, please. I’m looking for the managers’ office. Can you tell me where it might be?” She nodded and gestured toward a hallway on one side of the front room.
“Second door on the left, just that way.” I nodded and thanked her. I walked down the corridor, passing one of the many ticket windows before reaching a door that said “Manager’s Office” in big, gold lettering. Tacked below was a hand written sign that said “APPLY HERE FOR STAGEHAND JOB” in large, neat, handwriting. Placing my luggage beside the door, I raised my hand to knock, but lowered it slowly. I knew I needed this job though, so I pushed away my doubts and rapped on the door. A gruff voice called from inside.
“Come in!” I opened the door. Inside was a portly man with a curly mustache. He was short, had kind eyes, and was mostly bald. There was another man at one of the two desks. He was tall, and had salt and pepper hair with a matching mustache. He seemed stern, but was polite in his manner. The short one spoke again.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle. And how may we assist you today?”
“I, um, I would like to apply for the vacant stage hand position.” The two men looked to each other. I didn’t want to be dismissed, so I hurriedly added, “I can assure you I will work very hard. And I have many other abilities that would benefit the Opera House.” The second, taller man seemed deep in thought, and the first sighed.
“Take a seat, then.”
“Oh, thank you so much, monsieur! Merci beaucoup!(Thank you very much!)” He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. The man with the thin salt pepper mustache introduced himself.
“Well, as my associate neglected to say,” Here, he shot a pointed look at the other.”My name is Gilés André, and this is my fellow manager, Richard Firmin.”
“Je suis Kathryn. (I am Kathryn)” I curtsied and sat down. Monsieur Firmin took a couple pieces of paper from a drawer in his desk and dipped his quill in and inkwell.
” Your name?”
“I have none,” I mumbled.
“I have none,” I repeated, clearer this time. Then, an idea. “However, if you need one, put Writes. Kathryn R. Writes,”
“Very well then, Miss…Writes,” M. Firmin said. M. André watched me for a moment.
“A writer, then?” He chuckled. “Quite a while since we’ve had one of those around here. Shame, though, you being a girl and such.”
“I think it’s a shame that you’re female and all. Obviously a woman’s work wouldn’t be published.”
“Perhaps it is rude of me to say this, but is that your real opinion?” He nodded. “Then do keep it to yourself.” M. Firmin had to turn away from us for a moment to stifle his laughter.
“You said you have several abilities. What might those be, pray tell?” he asked me, once he recovered.
“I can do simple sewing, and painting. I can cook and clean, too, or act as a note carrier. I can read and write as well, messieurs. I could even manage the books, or work in the ticket booths. I suppose, if I am needed I could sing in the chorus. I am a hard worker and a quick learner, and anything I don’t know I am willing to learn.” He gave a hum.
“Might I ask why you chose the Palais Garnier?”
“Well, I needed to find work somewhere, and I always thought that the theater would be such an exciting place to have a job. With so many occupations under on roof, I could also utilize most of my skills. I would be absolutely thrilled to work here.” They questions continued for a while, and soon the managers told me to come back after twenty minutes after suggesting that I look at the rose bushes outside. An odd request, I thought, because no roses would be in bloom, but an offer is take them up on nonetheless. Firmin gave me a funny look as he saw my trunk and knapsack waiting outside, but I quickly lied that I was going to get a room at the boarding house across the square, which seemed to satisfy him. “Don’t worry, you may leave your things here while you wait.” I thanked him and went to the impressive doors to outside, but I stopped in front of a statue of Apollo. In my nervous haste, I neglected to realize the foyer’s magnificent beauty. It was unbelievingly breath taking, each detail more remarkable and painstaking than the last. Similar effort went in to this statue, so that it might as well have been the actual Apollo for how life like it was. I smiled as I observed his lyre. It was made of a turtle shell, just like in the real mythology, and not some strange wooden instrument like most Apollo sculptures had. I lingered for a moment more, then another, before I tore myself away, with considerable effort, to go look at the rose bushes. I pulled my hood up as I descended the impressive staircase. The wind had subsided mostly, and people were rushing about the shops in the streets ahead, bags of newly purchased goods in their hands. Breathing in the cold winter air, I savoured the cool, burning sensation it filled my lungs with. Well that wasn’t so bad, was it? True, I thought, but don’t get cocky. I found myself in front of a rose bush next to the grand staircase and noticed, to my delight and intrest, a single red rose, in full bloom. I stared at at it, marveling in its beauty, much like I had before with the statue of Apollo. Someone came up beside me, I noticed. A shoe scuff and a corner of cloak was all I saw to know. Suddenly, they spoke.
“A rare specimen, indeed.” The voice was rich and masculine, smooth and rough at the same time, somehow. It was like a cat’s purr, soothing, relaxing, enjoyable. It was something you wanted to here again, that you never got tired of, and was not easily forgotten.
“Oui, monsieur,” was all I could reply. But then I added, “It is rare to see something so perfect, and in full bloom in November, no less.” He nodded.
“And what brings a young lady such as yourself here today?” He was so remarkably easy to talk to, that I found myself answer.
“Well, I was applying for the empty stagehand position.”
“Ah, a stagehand? What brought you to that line of work?”
“If I can do it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”
“An excellent philosophy for this situation, but I wouldn’t apply it to the rest of life.” I chuckled and nodded. “They say that the stagehand quit because of the resident Opera Ghost. Do you believe in ghosts, mademoiselle?”
“Which kind do you mean? The spirits of the dead, exacting revenge on the living, or the kind that come from the past to remind you of past mistakes and regrets?”
“Both, I suppose.” The strange man said.
“Well, I guess I believe in the first to some degree, however small and the second… with all my heart and soul. Do you believe in the past coming back to haunt you?”
“More so than my own mortality.” We stood in silence for a moment, each thinking about our own demons.
“Have you seen the inside, monsieur?” I asked quietly.
“Yes, many times. Do you like it?”
“It it so unbelievingly… unbelievingly… unbelievingly passionate.”
“How do you mean?”
“Oh, the time and effort and detail that went into each nook and crevice could only have been achevied if the sculptor or architect was passionate about the arts. Oh, and it shows in just how life like the statues are and in the splendor of the room.”