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Her Angel, His Saviour

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Christine crept along the dark and narrow hallways of the opera house, her steps creaking as her fingertips grazed over old wood and stone. She glanced behind her often, fearful of being caught up in one of the many gloomy shadows that seemed to saturate every crevice of her new home. The thin sleeping gown she wore was hardly enough to keep out the bitter cold that sliced through the opera’s thin walls, nipping at her knobby knees and skinny arms.

Her heart pounded with fright and her face was wet and icy with fresh tears. She hoped none of the ballerinas heard her quiet sobs as she slipped away from the dormitories, her father’s photograph clutched in her small hands.

“Papa.” Her lips trembled over the word and heaviness settled in her chest as memories of her beloved father flooded her mind. His laugh, quiet and genuine, his smile thoughtful, and his hands dexterous and gentle as he poured out his soul through his cherished violin. Sorrow squeezed her heart as she thought of his hands. They had withered to nothing in the end and were sallow and bony as he breathed his last. A louder sob escaped her and she hurried her steps.

She could almost hear the soft drag of papa’s bow over his strings, coaxing her up the winding staircase that led to her newfound sanctuary: the chapel.

She’d discovered it soon after Madame brought her here. The other ballerinas hadn’t taken to her as she’d hoped, save for Meg, as they found it strange that her eyes were always teary and her lips held a frown. She longed for solitude where she could grieve in peace, and God had granted her that wish when he revealed to her the chapel.

She crossed its threshold and fell to her knees beneath a stripe of moonlight and reflected stained glass, laying her forehead upon cool stone and weeping openly, her body overcome by violent shakes.

“Papa,” she cried again, imagining his body thin and gaunt and laying in bed while she sat at his side, stroking his wispy gray hair and gazing into his clouded eyes. Everything smelled of sick, and the chill of death lingered over them as they beheld each other for a few precious moments more. How she longed for him to hold her. Why had she never realized what she could lose? Everything. She’d lost everything. And now, she was utterly alone.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and dripped off her chin, staining the chapel floor a dark grey where they fell. When she was finally able to regain some composure, the tears subsided into heavy breaths. She sat up and looked through the arched window, her eyes swollen and red like a child’s.

She didn’t bother wiping her face; she knew no one would see her here and prayed for the comfort of a silent night. She sat the photograph beneath the stained glass and pressed her fingers to her lips, then to Papa’s image.

She remembered his final request, that she sing for him as he drifted through Heaven’s gates, and she’d done so, though she believed her voice shrill and grating. He’d slipped away peacefully and her quiet song shattered into sounds of mourning. She desperately hoped her efforts had helped to ease his passage into paradise. He was among angels now.

Perhaps he could hear her this night, as she was as close to Heaven as she could be, in a place of God? Her palpable grief surely pained his soul, and a wave of guilt struck her. How selfish she was, crying where he could not comfort her.

She swallowed her pain, determination filling her spirit. “I will sing for you, Papa, if you wish it.”

Silence answered.

After a moment, she began the melody she’d sung as he passed. Her voice was choked and raw but she tried her very best. Sobs soon engulfed her once more, echoing through the high walls.

But still, she tried.

Her song faded out as her tears slowed. The chapel was again shrouded in silence.

She sighed her unparalleled defeat, knowing she’d never hear the voice of her father again. At last, she slowly rose to take her leave.

“Child, why do you weep so?”