I spent a couple of hours writing this past Sunday morning, more concentrated time than I can usually spend. Most of it went to trying to nail down my timeline for Book Two of my Phantom trilogy. I’m usually comfortable enough with vagueness–setting scenes in early April, a Thursday in June, the end of July and so on. But the Phantom threw a wrench (or a lasso?) in that idea.
Throughout this book, Meg and Erik are both counting from the time Christine left. Meg goes about it fairly reasonably, and is soon remarking on how many weeks or months it’s been, which allows for some vagueness. Erik, however, is more intense than that. So I spent a morning going through each of his scenes to insert a remark on how many days (and hours) it’s been since Christine left. Which meant I had to actually know exactly which date each scene is happening on. Happily, it’s very easy to find a calendar of 1881. It’s a little more brain-scrambling trying to get all the numbers lined up and make sure all references are consistent. But I think I got it–and I really like it as a character tell for him.
Here’s an excerpt where I put in Erik’s count. I swear he’s actually getting less angsty by this point, though it may not be super evident from this particular excerpt–set on Sunday, June 5th, 1881, at about 4 in the morning.
The special performance was going to be so…far from what it could have been, if his own opera had gone differently. If she was still here, launched on the career only he could have given her.
Instead, Carlotta was singing six songs. Six. He disapproved of all of them. Each one was a painful reminder, a shadow suggestion of what might have been. Because as much as he wanted to tell Carlotta how terrible her choices were, as much as he wanted to focus on artistic outrage, it was a different thought consuming him. It was the thought of how she would have sung those songs.
It could have happened. If all had gone better, if he had somehow made the right choices (though even now he didn’t know what those would have been), if she was still at the Opera Garnier and pursuing a brilliant career, if she still trusted him, still believed in him, if he still had hope…
But she didn’t. And he didn’t. And none of that had happened. And it was foolish to think it ever could have. This ending, this tragic ending, was much more like what the world had always offered him. Some operas were never meant to end happily. Though tragic heroes of opera at least got to leave the stage, weren’t forced to linger on and on.
Ninety-five days, four hours. He had never thought, at the beginning, that he could live through so many days without her.
Carlotta. It was easier, hating Carlotta’s song choices. He made a conscious effort to do so over the days spent preparing for the special performance.