Though I’ve been writing Moulin Rouge fanfiction for around a year now, I just stumbled upon this community . . . and of course I had to join. ;)
I thought I would start myself off just by posting this little work that I did a few weeks ago . . . it’s one I’m particularly proud of, though. More of my work can be found here.
Title: Watching from the Wings
Author: Finding Beauty
Feedback: Of course!
Disclaimer: Moulin Rouge and its characters are not mine; the narrator, however, is. Christian and Satine belong to Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, 20th Century Fox, etc.
Summary: An observer reflects upon Christian.
Every day, you come here.
And every day, I watch you.
I do not know when I began this ritual, simply that even for a few moments each day I settle here at this window seat, and for once I am not the prim and proper picture of society that I am expected to be. At these times, I am simply what I am, an enamored young woman sitting with her face hovering too close to the windowpanes, breath fogging them in clouds, as if a child at the window of a candy shop, looking at the confectionary treats she is not allowed to have because they would spoil her dinner.
Some days, I leave the window open, but upon most I settle just as I am now, watching the park that is visible from my bedroom. It is late into the afternoon, and I know you are missing tea in order to be here. In fact, you have probably come purposely to achieve that end, and I ignore the voices calling me to my own tea – for this has become my eccentricity, and they all accept that I shall miss it as well, oblivious in this moment.
The first time I saw you, I know not what intrigued me, only that I was spellbound by the melancholy figure. Your threadbare coat and scuffled shoes, wrinkled shirt and askew scarf – fine garments that are yet nice, but which have suffered the careworn dignity of years and the ownership of someone who does not easily let go of treasured things.
Your hair is black as a raven’s wing, yet has not been slicked back in the style favored by many men, for I could quickly tell you did not have the vanity for that. It is not trapped by the confines of pomades and oils, but upon cooler days a battered derby that you carry now in your hand, the hat dangling idly in your fingers.
A writer’s hands, I now know. Oh, it was days before I finally found out who you were, but everyone knows your story. The only son of a banker, your family the like of which mine would entertain for dinner, disinherited when you took flight on wings of fancy to the underworld we all think of, but do not truly know – Montmartre, the infamous village of sin nestled within the city of Paris.
Everyone has heard of what happened there, and while they are too proper to acknowledge it, they whisper of it behind closed doors. They speak of your father’s warnings against your ambitions to be a writer, and the tragedy that befell you there. That you should fall in love with a lady of the evening – only to have her die in your arms but months later – and be forced to return here eventually, a broken man and worn paper-thin, hollowed out by the Absinthe addiction that consumed you in your time of grief.
I have never been able to see your eyes clearly from my vantage point, though times your gaze has drifted absently my way, but I know that they are blue – a lovely azure, I would imagine; or perhaps the blue-grey of storm clouds suddenly filling a summer sky. You walk without aim, and if I open my window in such melancholy times as this, when most of the world is still around you, and I am aware of only you and I watching you, I can hear you singing, to yourself and your ghosts.
Sometimes you dance. You dance without a partner, uplifted by something that gives you grace and a momentary relief in your soul, and I am made lighter by this revelation, simply knowing that for a while I might watch you and you might appear happy.
Other times, you settle in silent reverie upon one of the park benches, staring at the sky, but it is then that you are more connected to the world of everyone else than your own, and I enjoy least to see you this way, for you appear lost and confused, wide-eyed and innocent as a child.
Occasionally, I see you disappear beneath the branches of the weeping willow tree that stands in the midst of the park, your hazy silhouette visible beneath the curtain of branches as you lean back against the tree trunk and pull your knees against your chest. I wonder, then, what might have occurred beneath a tree such as this, that should make you favor it such – a stolen kiss or hasty caress – and a blush rises to my cheeks, an uncommon flush against my typical indoor pallor.
Before, I would never dare entertain such thoughts, trapped in the confines of my own modesty and the constraints that society has placed upon me.
Love has become taboo, a courtly sort of ritual undertaken with cool restraint and little passion. Few marry for love, instead choosing amiable affection and a suitable understanding of what is expected of them. Men marry women that will keep an orderly house, mother their children, and take care of them in their old age. Women marry men that will provide them a nice home, handsome children, and security for the rest of their days, and in exchange they do what is expected of them.
For passion, the emotion given an unspoken ban by such a union, they all look elsewhere.
I believe I have always known what love is, but I did not realize it until I went to the book shop and requested in a guarded whisper to purchase your book. The old shopkeeper stared up at me over his round spectacles and raised a wizened brow, but said naught a word and went to retrieve it. I held my breath at intervals that left me light-headed and glanced over my shoulder all the way home, as if expecting someone to suddenly stop me and find the small volume I had tucked away in my bag.
Thankfully, I suppose this was all in my imagination, and no one noticed my odd behavior as I slipped through the entirety of our household, managing to bypass my family and all the staff, then finally I was locked safely within my room. I sat down at the same window seat where I am now positioned, and drew out the book, marveling quietly at the cover. My fingers ran down the spine of it, tracing the gilded lettering of the title and the name of its author – your name – then I opened the cover after a lingering moment and began to read.
I was enraptured for hours by your tale of truth, beauty, freedom, and love – the Bohemian ideals for which you had sacrificed so much. My excuses to my mother and my childhood nurse passed carelessly through my lips, and I knew not afterward what I had said to them, only that it seemed to suffice for them to leave me in peace and the solace of my reading.
When I turned the last page, and reached the fateful last words, ‘The end,’ I knew I had missed tea, dinner, and that most of the house had since retired to bed. Evening had fallen, and the only beacon against the darkness that otherwise flooded my room was a solitary lamp that I must have lit in an absent moment.
My mind strayed as I gazed at its golden light, and I wondered hazily what it must have been like to sit in the darkness of the simple garret, wrapped in the arms of one you loved and bathed in the scarlet glow cast by the Red Windmill’s gently turning sails.
And, you know, it is much in thanks to you that I found my own love.
Oh, it sounds silly, I suppose, to credit a man I have never even met for helping me to fall in love – but it is true.
One day I was walking home through the same park you wander aimlessly through now. I had been settled stiff and primly upon one of the benches, reading your book, but the hour grew late and I knew I was needed at home. My steps were interrupted, however, as I suddenly found myself bumping into something quite solid – and I realized after an embarrassed moment that it was a person, causing me to backpedal hastily.
He smiled apologetically, then looked down and raised a brow – I followed his gaze, and found that my book had dropped to the ground in the collision. Inside I cringed, waiting for the wry smirk or patronizing words that he would offer me. Everyone knows of the book, of course – they speak about it in low, scandalous tones, declaiming it as no less than ‘sentimental rot,’ while in their bedrooms at night women sit and read the tale of happiness and woe with misty eyes and flushed cheeks as their husbands lay snoring alongside them.
But instead of what I expected, he simply picked up the now battered and dog-eared volume, brushed his fingers across its cover, and handed it back to me.
I stared at him in return, unable to even summon a word of thanks as I knew I should. Our fingers brushed together as I silently accepted the book, and though we both wore gloves, I felt a spark pass between us through the material.
He hesitated, then reached into his coat with a sheepish smile and withdrew a similarly worn copy of the book, and we both dissolved into laughter.
I know not what distressed my mother more – that I had brought a young man home with me, or that I had given her so little preparation for the rare event.
Sometimes now we sit together beneath the branches of your willow tree, reading the words of love that brought us together.
But this – this is my own time, held sacred to myself with a reverence reserved for few things.
And yet, I have never spoken to you. I have never met you, and as far as I know, you have never even seen me. Perhaps we have passed in the streets before and spoken a polite word, crossed each others’ paths in that park – you on your way there for a time of quiet escape, and I on my way home to watch you.
Absently I twirl the engagement ring upon my left hand, feeling the facets of stone beneath my fingertips, and I glance toward your story, which sits upon my dressing table.
In a moment of whimsy, I rise from my perch and sweep the book into my grasp, taking but a shawl to wrap about my shoulders for warmth as I race through the house, until I burst out the kitchen entrance and take in a breath of the late autumn air.
It is chilly, but not unpleasantly so – this has always been my favorite time of year, the time when things draw to a close in preparation for the sleepy days of winter – and as I walk with purpose toward the park, I wonder if this reminds you of the wane of your time with your courtesan, but the peak of your love affair. It was winter when she died, I know, for you speak of snow – and so I must wonder if you dread the blanket that falls across the city each year in pristine white.
For a brief second, I see an image of you flicker across the backs of my eyelids – a run-down garret in the heart of Montmartre, the bleak turning of the Moulin Rouge’s windmill wings against the greying sky. You lean there against your window and stare at the sight that pains you so, fingers gripping the window frame until your knuckles turn white as the snow falling from the heavens.
The thought of frozen tears flashes errantly through my mind, and I blink away the images, picking up my pace.
I have reached the park now, and there you stand with your back toward me. Suddenly I feel foolish, having taken off on such a flight of fancy to speak with a man I have not even met – whose reaction I cannot tell.
I do not know what it will do for me to tell you everything I have thought of saying, but I do know that I have come this far, and cannot be turned away.
Drawing in a breath to steady myself, I step forward and realize you are not so tall as I had thought, simply thin and haggard, your clothes speaking of a frame that was once of a more healthy size.
I say nothing, simply reach out and tentatively touch your shoulder, and you turn toward me. I can see the surprise on your expression, for no one ever interrupts you at these times – and I realize you enjoy the company of none save your family and the spirit that haunts you.
For the first time, I am granted a full glimpse of your eyes, and my breath is stolen away – I had expected them to be hollow and lifeless, but they are not. Instead, they are soulful and deep – bluer than I had imagined, but not untouched by flecks of grey – infinitely kind and knowing of a wisdom beyond the years you bear.
You wait expectantly, saying nothing. I open my mouth to speak, and at first nothing comes out – but after a moment I steel my nerve and out pours all my thanks and gratitude, all my humble admiration and sympathy.
I hold up the book in my hands, and go on to tell you that now I understand what love is as well, and you simply smile at me enigmatically, like the holder of a secret that he tells no one, because everyone already knows it in the depths of their soul.
The expression changes you, and suddenly I can see the enamored face of the young poet that woos the heart of the beautiful courtesan, lively and spirited and bright. Then reality returns, and you are still there, still handsome – but different in a profound way.
Then you offer me your thanks and turn away, but I know through this simple exchange something has passed between us that transcends what might be communicated in ineloquent speech.
I know that for a moment we shared in that common bond of love – not for each other, but that did not matter. The simple act of loving and being loved in return was enough to pass any other boundaries, and I hope within my heart that this has meant something to you.
And somehow, I feel it has.
For the next day you do not come, and I do not go to watch you, for I know that you will not be there.
And I hope that perhaps you have finally found closure.