So for those wondering what this is, we are trying something a little new at OperaWire.
Chris Ruel, one of our long-time writers, is in the midst of publishing his very first novel “Come to Me Darkness.” And what do you know? It’s set in the opera world and spotlights two singers, their love affair, their tortured pasts, and a contentious production of “The Magic Flute,” and some abusive behavior at one of the world’s most renowned opera houses. Having read the book, I can assure you that it is quite the psychological thrill and really captures the spirit of opera in novelistic form.
So to celebrate the launch of Chris’ campaign to publish his book, we are sharing the book’s “Prelude” and Chapter One here on OperaWire.
And if you like what you read, make sure to check out Chris’ book here.
“Carter, I can’t get it out of my memory… the screeching tires, the two thumps.”
“Was she conscious when you got to the curb?”
“She looked like a snow angel cocooned in her white, down parka—the one with the fur-lined hood. Her mouth was kinda moving… she wanted to talk, but couldn’t, and there was, there was blood trickling down her cheek. Man, when she closed her eyes, I thought, that was it; I had lost her forever.”
This is how my friend, star soprano and reigning Queen of the Night, Lily ‘Lil’ Babineaux, described what she had seen and heard in front of Lincoln Center. An accident had occurred just hours before, and it involved Angelina Montrose, one of the most in-demand sopranos, and Lil’s best friend. A taxi had struck the diva down.
Lil told me the plan was to hit Fiorello’s for a drink after the final dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute. She and Angelina were to meet at the fountain in the middle of the plaza, but Lil, having left her cell phone in her dressing room, told Angelina to go ahead to the restaurant.
“When I turned to go back into the building, that’s when it all went down.”
I’m sitting next to Lil on her couch with my arm over her shoulder and holding her tight. Lil, Angelina, and I have been friends going on three years now. Lil was the first interview I conducted for OperaToday, and from then on, I became part of her world, and by extension, Angelina’s.
“I snapped and went full Queen of the Night on the driver,” Lil says.
I had seen the videos taken by bystanders. If the cabbie had pressed charges, Lil would be sitting in jail for assault, not shaking next to me, splashing bourbon from its tumbler with her trembling hands. She got lucky and walked out of Midtown Precinct North with a disorderly conduct violation.
“I can’t believe OperaToday put the videos up,” she moans, giving me a look.
“I just write for them, and what happened certainly is newsworthy. The powers-that-be decided about the videos.”
“Ask them to remove them… for me, as a friend.”
“Look, everyone in the industry knows you and Angie are besties, and I doubt anyone blames you for going a bit crazy.”
My phone buzzes and as I read the text, Lil hears me sigh, then demands to see it. “I take back what I said. The Met blames you.” I say, handing her the device. “It’s from the OT editor-in-chief.”
The Met suspended Babineaux indefinitely. Get me a quote.
“Well, Lil, got anything you want to say?”
When she finishes her statement, I tell her I can’t use it. “Can we try again with fewer f-bombs?”
“There’s another reason I went bonkers. Something tremendous happened less than an hour before the taxi struck Angelina down.”
Lil is tall, has dark hair, an angular face, and likes capes. Tonight, she’s Little Red Riding Hood’s towering sister, choosing a deep crimson cloak to wear over a long white button-down and black leggings. The toes of riding boots peek beneath the cape’s hem.
It’s 7:00 in the evening, and we’re headed to the hospital to see Angelina for the first time after the accident. Night drapes the city, and snow floats from the sky in giant flakes. We exit her apartment building and step into the magical world of Christmastime in New York.”It’s like a Hallmark movie set,” Lil says, placing her hood over her head.
The snow globe scene did nothing to ease my worry about Lil tangling in the hospital with Angelina’s notoriously volatile husband, tenor Ray Cole. Though estranged, he and Angelina co-starred in Flute; a casting choice made by the Met’s music director, Uther Fox. His reasoning: What better than having a real-life couple fall in love on the stage as Princess Pamina and Prince Tamino.
Angelina’s husband’s backstage and offstage antics often made OperaToday’s front page. There was a DUI, at least one restraining order, and lots of tantrums over the course of his career. I first met the guy at a benefit concert. After introducing myself, he asked if being his wife’s friend came with benefits. At first, I thought he meant professionally and stupidly answered yes. Then, as veins bulged from his temples, I caught his drift and assured him in no uncertain terms that the relationship was platonic. I don’t think he believed me. His response was a snort and, “That’s what she says about Maestro Fox.”
Lil took me from my memories, having noticed I had grown quiet. “Whatcha thinking about?” she says, looping her arm around mine.
“Ray will try to rile you, and after what happened on Columbus Avenue, losing control isn’t an option. Whatever he says, let it roll off your back. Keep the Queen of the Night in check.”
“Ray’s a fact of life.”
“Even still, you can’t afford—”
“I heard you the first time, Carter.”
A cab pulls to the curb and we’re soon crawling our way downtown to Central Park where we’ll cut west through the 65th Street transverse. We come to a stoplight and I watch a couple picking out a Christmas tree from a sidewalk vendor. “Maybe I’ll get a tree for her apartment,” I say, “We could place it in the window by the piano.”
“We can’t place it there. That spot belongs to Angie. She likes to gaze at Lincoln Center like it’s a holy place.”
My butt puckers as the cabbie comes within inches of taking out a bicycle-riding delivery guy. Is it any wonder Angie got hit?
After the close call, we sit in traffic; the streets snarled with bridge and tunnel people visiting the city. There’s a gridlock alert, but that seems to have gone unheeded.
“Angelina and Uther are pretty close,” I say. “I think that’s to your benefit as far as getting reinstated.”
“Ha! He despises me, and the feeling’s mutual. Uther is Angie’s insurance,” she says.
“She and I have targets on our backs. The next Angelina Montrose and Lily Babineaux await in the wings; you know this business. The thing they have going on between them is mutually beneficial, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t benefit, too—”
“They have something going on?”
“Don’t be disingenuous. It’s unattractive for someone of your intelligence.”
“I mean there are loads of rumors, but OperaToday isn’t a gossip rag. And I certainly would not ask Angie.”
The taxi slows, makes a sharp turn, and pulls up in front of the hospital. I open my wallet, but Lil slaps my hand and pays the fare, and hops out.
“Remember Ray,” I say.
Lil and I find Angelina’s husband brooding in a corner of the waiting room. In between playing on his phone, he shoots nasty glances in Lil’s direction.
“Did you text your wife right before the taxi struck her?” Lil says.
“The cabbie said she was looking at her phone.”
“She’s always posting crap on Instagram.”
“Why are you here? You hate her.”
I chime in. “A taxi nearly killed your wife. You could show some genuine concern; she’s a human being.”
“Shut up. You’re just a pathetic hanger-on and hack. All I need is a photo of me next to her. I’ll look heartbroken, and pledge my devotion to her in the caption beneath the Facebook post.”
“You’ve put thought into this,” I say. “May I escort you to her room so you can get your picture? Hell, I’ll take it for you just to get you outta here.”
Lil puts her lips to my ear. “You warned me to take it easy. Why are you antagonizing him?” she whispers.
The doctor attending to Angelina enters the waiting room and we gather around.
“Angelina suffered a severe concussion. Her head hit hard, but the goose-down hood kept things from being much worse. She said the taxi wasn’t going fast; that it was just pulling away from the curb. Angelina is a lucky woman.”
“No amnesia?” Ray asks.
“Nope. Another blessing.”
“Not really. I’d hoped the pavement had knocked the memory of this one from her brain,” Ray says, pointing at Lil. “Nothing would’ve pleased me more.”
“Shut it, dude,” I say, moving into the gap between the singers.
“Your inhumanity disgusts me,” Lil says, and lunges at Ray.
The tenor steps back and laughs. “Lil, the world would have been a better place had someone discovered your body on the banks of the Mississippi. Just another dead stripper, how tragic.”
I could see the pain on Lil’s face as Ray’s hideous words were a hot knife in the gut. Her lips trembled, and she couldn’t hold back her tears. Dropping to the waiting room couch, Lil tells Ray to go to hell; her big voice diminished to a shaky whisper. The tenor’s unadulterated cruelty had leveled the Queen of the Night as if she were a paper doll.
“I got you,” he says. “I finally took down Lily Babineaux. I laughed for hours when I heard the Met gave you the boot. The Queen is dead. Everything you worked toward, all the praise, all the contracts…” Ray opens the palm of his hand and blows on it. “… Gone.”
I wanted to dig my fingers into Ray’s forehead and tear his face off for hurting Lil so viciously. “Get your damn photo before I knock a few of those perfect teeth from your disgusting mouth.”
“I’m going, and the editor at OperaToday will hear from me.” Ray places his hand on the doctor’s shoulder. “Lead the way, doc. I don’t have all night.”
“Lily. Hey,” I say, rubbing her back. “He’s garbage. None of what he said is true. He set out to leave you this way.”
Lil peers over my shoulder, wiping her eyes and snuffling. “Satan’s leaving,” she says of Ray. “Let’s go see Angie.”
Lil goes bedside as soon as we enter the room, and brushes her cheek against Angelina’s, whispering, “Hey, my girl.” Sleeping Beauty stirs enough to light up Lil’s face with a smile. “You got a nasty bump on the noggin, but the doctor says you’ll be fine.”
“I’ll never be fine, Darkness,” Angelina says, her eyes still closed. “I’m cursed.”
“So says the private-school girl who grew up snorting coke through $500 bills,” Lil jokes.
“I never did coke, you know that. You tried to push it on me and I wouldn’t.”
“Please, for God’s sake, just leave me alone. You’re always in my head, never giving me a moment’s peace.”
Lil blanches, speechless. I go to her side and tug her gently away from the bed.
“Remember what the doctor said,” I whisper.
“Why does she want me to leave? What does she mean, I’m always in her head?”
“Shh. The accident has jumbled her brain. Let’s go have that drink and let her rest.”
“I never pushed drugs on her. I’m a cop’s daughter. Why did she say such awful things? We can’t leave her, Carter.”
“We won’t go for long, I promise.”
Lil kisses her hand and places it on Angelina’s lips. As we walk to the door, Angelina speaks.
“Lily… Carter. It’s so good to see you… I feel so weird… and tired. I’m zonked.”
“That’s fine, Angie. Lil and I need to grab some dinner.”
“I’m… sorry… I love you both… I’m just…”
“… Tired,” Lil says, her own voice devoid of strength.
In the hallway, Lil stops me. “What the hell just happened?”
“She was asleep, and clearly, she didn’t know it was you. Who knows where her mind was?”
A short taxi ride later, Lil and I arrive at Fiorello’s. The Christmas lights hanging from the bar mirror open a pit in my stomach as the sound of Nat King Cole singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ oozes Christmas from the speakers. Lil runs her finger around the rim of the half-full tumbler of whisky, while I sip Angelina’s favorite drink, a Hendrick’s martini with a cucumber garnish, in honor of my friend.
“Who?” Lil mumbles. “Who did she believe me to be?”
“A figment of her imagination.”
“What if this is just the first of many bad things to come?”
“I don’t believe it portends anything.”
“Well, the Queen of the Night, the Ragin’ Cajun, and plain old Lily Babineaux are worried.”
“The Ragin’ Cajun? Ah, yes. The star of Big Daddy’s. Did you push through the velvet curtain already deshabile, or did you have a costume to go with the nickname?”
“I had an outfit: overalls with strategically placed snaps, a droopy straw hat, and white shrimp boots.”
“Dig up a picture for me.”
“By chance, did Angelina visit your place of employment prior to discovering you in a dumpy piano bar 10 years ago?”
“Lafitte’s isn’t dumpy; it’s the oldest bar in America.”
“The official story has you and Angelina meet by happenstance at Lafitte’s.”
“Why are you questioning it?”
“Just curious… I’m trying to keep you engaged and not in your head.”
“Do you think it was happenstance?”
“So, she ventured into Big Daddy’s.”
“I forbid you from snooping around. Doing so would humiliate her. Angelina and I came up with the sanitized version to protect her.”
“I’d never do anything to harm her career.”
We return to the hospital and stay with Angelina as she sleeps. Lil tortures herself on social media for a few hours by reading tweets about her freak out on Columbus Avenue.
“People are so mean.”
“Trust me, I know. Opera buffs have shellacked me on social for having an unpopular opinion now and then.”
“That’s gotta suck, but pales to earning a derisive nickname; I’m now the Deranged Diva. You watch, that’s gonna be the front page on the Post tomorrow morning.”
“You’re not deranged, but I will say this; it’s clear you swung first. How did you get off with a slap on the wrist?”
Lil reaches into her knapsack and removes a New Orleans Police Department detective’s badge. “It’s one of the few things of his I found after Katrina. The floodwaters left it for me for a reason. I showed the badge to the cops and told them to google Detective James Babineaux. After that, my legal situation became much improved. The NYPD had a talk with the cabbie, and here I am, a free woman.”
“That’s a powerful amulet.”
“I only pull out the badge when things are really bad. What it can’t fix are the things colleagues are saying. I thought they were friends of mine. I have to believe Uther and O’Malley are incentivizing the posts.”
“I don’t think either is out to sabotage you—”
“There are plenty of opportunists one rung down the ladder from you and Angie who welcome what happened today.”
“You sure know how to cheer a gal.”
A groggy voice from the bed startles us both. “What’s going on, Lil?”
“Nothing… Talking about work.”
I sit on the edge opposite Lil, who gently caresses Angelina’s cheek.
“I had a dream. You two were talking about someone getting arrested, but the person going to jail had a magic badge.”
I take Angelina’s hand in mine. “We were just talking about the craziness of the day and Lil’s dad.”
“What did you do?” Angelina says to Lil.
“Why are you assuming I did anything?”
“I know the Queen of the Night. Did she get arrested or something, Carter?”
“You know how during Act two of Flute, Lil gets all riled up and unleashes Der Hölle Rache?”
Lil lowers her eyes and stares at the floor as she speaks. “I went full Queen of the Night on the driver.”
“Oh, for God’s sake. Are there charges?”
“A disorderly conduct violation.”
“Lovely. A disorderly diva.”
“I’m being called far worse. Angie, the violation is nothing. It’s the equivalent of a parking ticket.”
“That’s true,” I say.
Angelina throws me side-eye and I commit to holding my tongue and allow the friends to have their words.
“Did she get arrested?” Angelina asks me.
“I’m staying out of this.”
“The NYPD held me temporarily.”
“Good lord. The Met must be pissed.”
“You could say that,” I chime in.
Both women respond in unison. “Carter!”
Angelina glares at Lil. “So?”
“I’m suspended indefinitely.”
“Your career, Lil! Gone!”
“That’s the price of love,” Lil responds, shrugging her shoulders, and doing her best not to splash on the floor in a puddle of despair.
“No, it’s not, you fool!”
That was a solid gut punch, and Lil’s mouth opens and closes as she tries to find her words, but can’t, so I speak for her.
“Angie, Lil acted out of love. The cabbie understood that and didn’t press charges, right Lil?”
“Leave,” Angelina says to me, pointing toward the door.
Though exiled to the hallway, I’m determined to hear the conversation. Bruised brain or not, what Angelina said was awful, calling Lil a fool.
“… price of stupidity… your inability to control yourself…”
Snippets, that’s all I can make out through the door.
“I can’t believe it… Lily Céleste…”
Though uninvited, I go back into the room. “She thought the man had killed you.”
Angelina matches my eyes, and they’re blue flames lit by my intrusion. “Have you been listening?”
“… I caught some of what you were saying… unintentionally.”
“ Angie,” Lil says, “if a taxi knocked me flat on Columbus Avenue, I’d hope you’d go berserk on my behalf.”
Angelina turns on her side, refusing to look at either of us. “Unbelievable. No house will want to touch you with a 10-foot pole?”
“It’ll all work out. I’m Lily Babineaux.”
“And obviously mental.”
“Hey,” Lil says pointedly, “how about you dial it back? You’re my world, don’t you get it? Yet, you’re piling on like the jerks on Twitter.”
“We worked so hard,” Angelina says quietly, “and you’ve tossed it all away. Why are you here when you should grovel at Uther and O’Malley’s feet?”
Lil’s crushed, and I beckon her to the hallway.
“I’ve seen nothing like that from her,” Lil says. “The doctor said he wants us to be on the lookout for behavioral changes.”
“Let’s not pull the fire alarm. She’s scared for you.”
Lil considers my words and shakes her head in agreement.
“Why don’t you go see if there’s some jello around,” I say.
“I hate that stuff.”
“Then search out apple juice.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Yes. Let me try to smooth things over with Angie. When you come back, I’ll go on a jello hunt, so the two of you can talk.”
With Lil on her mission, I return to Angelina’s room and watch as she sleeps. Her face is twitching, and her body is restless. Occasionally, she mumbles. I move closer to hear what she’s saying, and it sounds like leave me.
“Darkness!” she calls, before opening her eyes, sitting up, and gasping for air. I leap from my chair, scared as hell. The heart rate monitor sounds its alarm, and I’m soon pushed away as nurses rush in to see what’s wrong with their patient. Angelina calms down and tells them she had a terrible dream and would like a sedative because she can’t stop shaking.
“What did you see?” I ask as she looks at me with vacant, druggy eyes.
“A terrifying void.”
Angelina’s pulse blips higher when none other than Met music director, Uther Fox, enters the room. He brushes past me from behind without so much as an ‘excuse me.’ I thank God Lil is still on her walk but worried because she could show up at any moment.
“My darling Angelina. I’ve been a wreck thinking of you,” says the maestro.
It’s near Midnight, and I’m angered by his barging in so late, but then I remember he had a show to conduct.
“She’s a bit out of it right now,” I say.
“Hello,” he says, extending his hand and giving me a smile. “Uther Fox.”
“It’s a pleasure, maestro. I’m Carter Germont. I write for OperaToday.”
“I see. Wonderful. Now, if you’ll excuse us, I’d like some time alone with one of the Met’s most precious jewels. The cast dedicated the performance to her tonight. You should have heard them clap for you, Angelina.”
“She is loved,” I say.
“I’ll take a walk.”
Lil’s headed my way.
“Hi,” I say, taking her by the arm and turning her around. “Let’s get some fresh air.”
“Is Angie awake?”
Once the elevator doors shut and we begin our descent, I say, “Kinda. She has a visitor.”
“Carter! Oh hell no.”
Before the doors open, Lil punches the number 10, and up we go.
“Tame the Queen,” I say.
“Shut up! There are things he and I need to discuss.”
“If you go in there with guns ablaze, any hope of salvaging your career goes up in flames.”
“I don’t care.”
“Well, I do. You’re at the top.”
“Not anymore, thanks to him.”
We reach the 10th floor and I hit L.
“You bastard. I’ll pull the emergency stop.”
“Listen to reason, Lil. Please. Angelina helped you get where you are, and she did it, using Uther Fox. Let her do it again.”
“He’s a bad man.”
Stepping into the lobby, we see Uther’s back as he leaves through the revolving door. Our elevators had crossed paths.
“Thank you,” Lil says. “You’re a good friend. Had you let me go up there, I would’ve regretted it.”
“I’ll always have your and Angelina’s backs. Question: Does Angelina suffer from night terrors?”
“Not that I’m aware of. We’ve never ‘slept’ together, but we have slept together.”
“She woke up shouting, ‘darkness!’ It freaked me out, as well as most of the floor. Crazy as it was, I’m sure it’s her mind processing the trauma.”
Lil brings up the topic when we return to the room. “Carter told me you had a nightmare.”
“Hideous darkness swallowed me. I never want to close my eyes again,” Angelina says.
Lil kisses her head. “You’re safe, Angie.”
“I’m sorry for acting like such an ass toward you,” Angelina says. “I love you and want to see you rule the opera world for years to come.”
“I’d have to bump you out of the top spot.”
“I don’t think that’ll be hard.”
Angelina glances at me. My heart shatters.
“Nonsense,” Lil says.
“Carter knows what his colleagues write; what they say to one another.”
Angelina experienced a spate of less-than-stellar reviews both in the States and across the Atlantic over the past year. No singer is flawless all the time. As a friend first and critic second, I thought she took on too much, but whenever I brought up the way she wore herself thin, she insisted it was all necessary if she were to hold her spot as a reigning diva. Though I feel terrible about thinking it, the accident will force her to slow down.
“Let’s play a game,” I say, wanting to lighten the darkened atmosphere. Have You Ever…”
“Nope,” Angelina says. “Horrible game.”
Lil nods. “I agree with her.”
“Okay, I’ll go first. Carter, this question is for you,” Lil says. “Have you ever been head-over-heels in love?”
“With who?” Angelina says.
“A woman named Brett. My turn.”
“Hold on. Who’s Brett?”
“My former fiancé.”
“You will be asked more about Brett,” Angelina warns, and then addresses Lil. “Have you ever had a fling while on the road?”
“Of course,” I say. “I answered your question.”
Lil harrumphs. “Yes. I’ve had a fling.”
“With who?” Angelina says as her eyes tighten and her brow drops.
“Gioia Rosso. Milan. Don Giovanni.”
“Gioia Rosso?! You’re lucky you didn’t get a disease. Was it one time or many?” Angelina says.
“Just one night. We closed the show and had some drinks—”
“And you… you… you did things?”
“Few of which I can remember, and that was an awful thing to say about Gioia. Now, what shall we ask you, Angie?”
Angelina wouldn’t let go of Lil’s revelation. “If I ever catch you within 50 feet of her, you and I will have words.”
I feel awful for suggesting the game. “That was fun,” I say. “How about we watch some HGTV?”
Angelina’s face and tone softened. “I’m sorry for being a beast, again,” she says to Lil. “My emotions have been all over the place. The thought of you with Gioia got me riled.”
“Maybe that has something to do with what happened before the accident.” Lil looks at me. “Maybe Carter should know.”
Angelina beckons Lil. I’m floored when she grabs the back of Lil’s head and kisses her hard. I think I heard teeth smack together.
Lil comes up for air, smiles, and says, “That’s the news, Carter.”
“Congratulations, you two!”
“I’ve never felt closer to anyone in my life,” Angelina says.
“Carter,” Lil says, standing between me and the bed, blocking Angelina’s view, “I think I left my cell phone charger in the waiting room. Will you go get it for me?” She points me to the door with her eyes. “I’m thirsty, Angie. Can I get you something?”
“Maybe a Dixie Cup?”
Outside the room, I apologize to Lil for starting a game that almost wrecked their new relationship.
“Something’s not right with her, Carter. My gut tells me so. Gioia is a good person and colleague. Why was she so venomous?”
“I’ll stay with her. Go home and rest.”
“I don’t doubt that, but you’re running on fumes.”
“I’m not leaving.”
When we return to Angelina, she’s crying. “I’m messed up,” she says. “One minute, I feel fine. The next, I want to strangle someone. Then I feel sad. My moods don’t stop shifting, and I’m having awful thoughts and dreams that seem familiar and real…”
“Maybe we should speak with the neurologist,” I say, and Lil agrees, glad I’m ready to sound the alarm.
“I don’t want to do that.”
“Why suffer?” Lil says.
“Because. Just because. If I feel I should talk to a neurologist, I will. I’m just freaked out.”
“Did Uther upset you?” I ask.
“No. He was nothing but kind. He was here only briefly, so it was typical chit-chat.”
“Did he mention me?” Lil says.
“He said he was sorry that he had to suspend you, but the board demanded nothing less. I can work on him, Lil.”
“I don’t want you to work on him. I want you to disentangle yourself from the affair. No more Ray. No more Uther. It’s just you and me.”
“I only want you. You know I hate Ray, but Uther is a little trickier. One of us needs a career.”
I’m exhausted; my eyelids need toothpicks to hold them up as I sit quietly in a chair. …Uther is a little trickier… My mind drifts backward five years to when I inadvertently sat in on the diva and maestro’s first meeting.
It was summer, and I was having lunch at Fiorello’s, across the street from the Met. Done with my French onion soup, I waited for the sandwich portion of my meal. Instead, they served up Fox, Uther Fox, the brash Met music director designate, seating him at the table next to mine.
Fox wore his black hair slicked back, with the sides shaved close to the skin, 1930s-style. Dressed in a white button-down, khakis, black penny loafers, and a double-breasted blazer, the young maestro cut a dashing figure. When the diva arrived, she knocked me sideways. I’d seen plenty of publicity photos and none did her justice. She looked sharp and elegant in a pair of white jeans, sandals, and a pink polo shirt with the collar popped. Her blonde hair was in a ponytail, showing off her regal face and Caribbean-blue eyes. As she approached the table, she smiled at the conductor, blasting both of us with her gleaming chompers.
I ordered an espresso and settled in to eavesdrop.
“It’s a delight, Ms. Montrose. You’re everything I expected.”
“Please, call me Angelina. Thank you for the invitation to meet. I’m thrilled to be working with you, and of all places, at the Met. I’m just like… wow! It’s indescribable, this feeling, you know.”
“You deserve it. I re-read the Rigoletto reviews from when you sang Gilda at Opéra de Paris. You hit the big time, going from zero to 60 like a Ferrari. Vroom! Brava! Look, the truth is I wanted you here. That’s what I told the casting director, ‘Angelina Montrose! I want Angelina Montrose as Mimì.’ It’s true.”
Peeking now and again at the rising star, all I could see was the perfect Mimì. The next exchange was baffling and remains a frustrating memory.
“So, you live here, in New York?”
“Next door; at the Grand Tier.”
“Expensive. Do you have a view of Lincoln Center or the park?”
“Lincoln Center. I’m on the 15th floor.”
“Must be nice.”
“Yes, especially considering where you might’ve ended up.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“You went to Pomfret School.”
“Mary ‘Mardou’ Perkins. Does that name ring a bell?”
“You and she were roommates at Pomfret.”
“My roommate was Kitty von Fuchs. Why these questions?”
“Mary liked you, and you liked Mary.”
“Maestro, you’re out of line. I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
I believe what Uther said next was ‘Let’s make a deal;’ but then, as if on cue, the maître d’ brought in a gaggle of tourists who need tables placed together to fit their party. Because of the ruckus, I missed the meat of the conversation, but not the look on Angelina’s face, and what I saw was a terrified woman.
Copies of “Come to Me, Darkness” can be pre-ordered here.