Chapter 2: Coeur the Cupid & The Stolen Opera
Oh là là là là là là, baby, you have to taste this, here, open your mouth,” Polly said to Cupid, who so willingly obliged, accepting a heap of mont blanc into her mouth.
Instantly Cupid’s eyes widened as they always do, so absolutely enamored and awed by the pleasures of human life, and in particular, Parisian life.
“Polly, give me that!” Cupid reached across her fluffy white four–poster bed to take the rest of the delectable hazelnut meringue away from her best friend, who loved Cupid like a baby sister. Much to the chagrin of Madame Joly, the two of them were sprawled out on the bed with at least two dozen French desserts in front of them: crêpes in five flavors, gateau Opéra, tarte tatin, Paris–Brest, éclair, crème brûlée, profiteroles, macarons, religieuse au chocolat, Saint Honoré, mousse au chocolat, choquettes, choux à la crème, soufflé, madeleines, palmiers, French apple tart, pain au chocolat and hot chocolate, plus boxes and boxes of hazelnut truffles, Cupid’s absolute favorite that were aimed right at her sweet tooth and heart.
“He’s so in love with you,” Polly remarked as she took a bite of the Opera cake.
Of course, Polly was mentioning the chocolatier and pastry chef Philippe Chardon who was responsible for sending Cupid this irresistible display of confection and affection first thing this morning.
“No, he’s not! He’s thankful because I saved his puppy. I would have done it regardless. Plus I will work for chocolate. You know that,” Cupid giggled. “And…you have to tell me about last night. Mmmmmm!” Cupid mumbled as she bit into a gooey puff pastry.
“We argued most of the night,” Polly smiled wickedly, recalling her tryst with the newly divorced politician Luc Benoit. “We disagree on nearly everything and I love it. I want a man I can argue with. Then tumble with. Look what he gave me,” Polly said, showing Cupid her neck and décolleté.
Cupid widened her eyes in shock, nearly dropping the tiny fork from her mouth as she glanced at the red marks all over Polly’s skin. “Polly, what is that?! Did he hurt you?!”
“Lovebites,” Polly replied nonchalantly. “You’ve gotten them before.”
“No, I haven’t…” Cupid answered softly, wondering what on earth goes on between two people behind closed curtains and doors.
“Oh, then you will. Listen, baby, tonight we are going to the opera. To see Luc’s daughter perform. You want to join us?”
“You are going to see Clarette Da Silva? That is his daughter?! Oh, I want to go! Yes, of course, yes!”
The two girls slid off the bed and parted ways for the remainder of the day while Cupid’s lovebirds polished off the rest of the pastries on her bed, crumbs and everything.
Promptly at 7pm, Cupid arrived at Opéra Garnier, strolling slowly and gracefully while the train of her rose pink gown trailed after her every foot step. Cupid arrived at her seat to find Polly and her new beau already there, holding hands and taking turns whispering into each other’s ears. After the introductions, Cupid snuggled into the seat next to Polly. She smiled at her little program book, so delighted to see Clarette Da Silva perform for the first time. Back in Teacup where Cupid came from, she frequently tuned into Madame Da Silva’s performances whilst dreaming about being able to hear her voice with her very own ears one day. Just when Cupid was about to tell this to Polly, a stocky man dressed in all black ran frantically toward the three of them, struggling for his breath, fright in his eyes, elbowing past patrons who were being ushered into their seats.
“Bonsoir, Monsieur Benoit, come, quick, something has happened to Clar — the swan. She needs you. Please, hurry.” Luc and Polly exchanged worried glances and leaped onto their feet. “Baby, come with us. We’ll probably need your help,” Polly expressed to Cupid. At once, the three of them hurried backstage whilst trying to remain calm and not incite commotion in the opera house.
The three of them were expecting to hear cries and wails coming from the dressing room of Clarette Da Silva but there was nothing of that sort. In fact, it was eerily quiet. Luc took Polly’s hand for comfort while Polly hung onto Cupid. The worst possible scenarios flashed through their heads as they stepped cautiously toward the door. Luc knocked, expecting to hear his daughter answer back but it was met with silence.
“You’ll just have to go inside. She can’t respond,” said the stocky man in all black, who was the backstage manager. He opened the door and there she was, the most famous and glorious opera singer of her time, laying there completely frozen at the neck.
Clarette reached for her father’s hand, pulling him down so their eyes could meet. He kneeled on the wood floors next to her armchair where she was slouched yet also paralyzed. His eyes were iced with fear, for he loved his daughter so much.
“Chérie, what’s wrong?”
Clarette at once grabbed her throat and contorted her face in as many directions as her muscles would allow, trying to communicate to her father without being able to speak. Tears rushed down her eyes as her father held her helplessly in his arms.
“Baby, can you do something?” Polly whispered to Cupid, who gave her a nod. Polly lifted Luc from his knees, giving Cupid the space to assist Clarette with what was deeply troubling her.
“Madame Da Silva,” Cupid began, temporarily forgetting how starstruck she was by this famed opera singer, “My name is Cupid. I am a friend of your father’s and I’m here to help you. I’m going to hold your hand and you can tell me everything that has happened. Don’t try to speak. Use your heart to communicate with me. I can hear you clearly. Okay? Blink twice if you understand me.”
Clarette looked at Cupid with such relief and promptly obliged, blinking twice. Cupid closed her eyes to listen to Clarette as Luc and Polly looked on.
After a minute of silence, Cupid opened her eyes and nodded her head to Clarette. “Don’t worry about a thing. We will help you. I promise.”
Clarette blinked twice to acknowledge her words. Cupid rose from the floor and turned toward Luc and Polly.
“There was an argument about an hour ago. With someone named Mathilde Sauvage. Who is she?”
“Her understudy,” Clarette’s father answered swiftly. “What’s going on?”
Cupid hesitated as she formed the words in her head, unsure of how to explain this phenomenon to Luc. “For months now, Madame Da Silva has been lending her voice to this understudy. She tells me that this woman became so jealous that she had no choice but to fire her. Seeing that she has an important show tonight in Paris, she came and stole Madame Da Silva’s voice, grabbing it out of her throat. She’s without any voice now. It has left her body. Her neck is frozen and her tongue immovable.” Cupid’s face turned to one of sorrow, empathizing with Luc and his daughter.
Seeing that he was astounded by this information, Cupid gave him a moment to digest and then continued. “Madame Da Silva’s voice has been placed inside a box. The cover has an angel playing a harp — ”
“That is the box I gave to my daughter last week. I bought it at the antique shop!” Luc exclaimed.
“Her voice is inside that box. And while the understudy has it, Madame Da Silva won’t be able to sing,” Cupid told her father as softly as she could.
“We’ll find it, darling, don’t worry,” Polly said gently to Luc while brushing his back.
“Polly, let’s go recover this vocal box. Monsieur Benoit, why don’t you stay here with Madame Da Silva. We shall return as quickly as we can. Have her focus on breathing, ask someone to please reapply her makeup and to imagine a successful and spectacular performance this evening. It’s going to happen. Polly and I promise you both.”
Luc agreed and with that, Polly and Cupid exited the dressing room and gathered outside her door. “Angel Paper?” Polly whispered to Cupid.
“Got it.” Cupid reached into her clutch and pulled out a fresh sheet. She waved her sapphire ring over the Angel Paper and at once, a detailed map revealed itself, showing them the exact location of Clarette’s vocal box. However, the place was unrecognizable to Cupid who looked at Polly with a bewildered question mark on her face. Polly, however, looked full of knowing and confidence, even a bit agitated.
“Come on, baby, I know exactly where this place is. Let’s go.”
The two of them dashed out of Opéra Garnier and immediately flagged down a taxi who took them north to le Boulevard de Clichy, to an unfamiliar part of the city which Cupid had never been exposed to. The second they arrived, the pair scurried out of the taxi. Once Cupid was on her feet, her eyes looked up, widening at the sight of a giant red windmill. She had never seen anything like it! Underneath it in bright white letters spelled out “MOULIN ROUGE.”
“Baby, this way,” Polly instructed to Cupid as she directed her through a dimly lit and concealed back entrance. The heavy metal door slammed shut, engulfing them in near darkness. In the distance, the faint sound of music wafted through the air. They made their way through a winding maze of unidentifiable hallways, trekking slowly but steadily, as Polly guided the two of them from the map on the Angel Paper. All of a sudden, Polly made an abrupt stop at an unmarked door. “A–ha! It’s here!”
Without bothering to knock, Polly kicked down the door, flinging it open, and the pair threw themselves inside, not even realizing that they have suddenly popped onto centerstage of the live show at the Moulin Rouge! Like deer in headlights, they stood frozen for a full millisecond but Polly immediately came to her senses, pulling Cupid down to conceal themselves behind the set. Amidst the swirl of dancers, clouds of feathers and a delirious amount of glitter and sequins, Cupid squinted at her Angel Paper and pointed to one of the dancers just twenty feet away from them. “Polly! It’s her! She’s got it!”
Without any pause, Polly rose up tall from behind the set and boldly marched right up to Mathilde Sauvage, stopping the show, throwing everyone off their rhythm and eliciting shock and gasps from the audience and performers. In one quick gesture, Polly yanked up Mathilde’s very colourful Can–Can dress and from her stockings ripped out the snugly secured vocal box from her legs. After whispering something into Mathilde’s ear, Polly ran toward Cupid and the two of them flew out of the dark hallway, raced out the backdoor exit of the Moulin Rouge. Desperately searching for a taxi where there were none, Polly spotted two motorcyclists coming down the street, waving them down. Throwing her legs over one, Polly hopped onto the first while yelling to Cupid to take the other. What fun on Earth, Cupid thought to herself as she quickly lifted her dress and plopped down onto the motorcycle for the very first time. The motorcyclist, smelling so good to Cupid, seized her delicate hands, wrapping them around his waist and off they sped into the distance far away from the Moulin Rouge.
As Monsieur Motorcycle pulled up to Opéra Garnier having to bid farewell to Cupid, he called out to her against the wind. “How do I find you again?” Without saying a word, Cupid descended from the bike, pulled out a fresh sheet of Angel Paper, pushed it into his hands and disappeared into the opera house with Polly. The motorcyclist followed Cupid with his gaze until she was out of sight, then looked down at this beautiful, white, silky paper, as luxurious as fabric and smelling as sweet as the girl who just had her arms around him. However, this paper was blank — on both sides! Bewildered, he folded it up neatly and put it inside his pocket, as he planned to take it home to study and to wonder how to see this angel again.
“Did you give that guy your number?” Polly smiled wittingly at Cupid.
“Nope! He’s not the one. By the way, what did you say to Mathilde Sauvage?”
“I told her that if she bothers my boyfriend’s daughter again, I’ll make sure she never works in this business,” Polly grinned. “We better hurry, baby.” The two girls increased the pace of their footsteps as they noticed at the nervous performance of Clarette’s second understudy who was biding time until Cupid and Polly returned with the vocal box.
Luc spotted the girls coming down the hallway and upon seeing Polly’s smile, his eyes and face lit up. From her pocket Polly handed to Cupid this tiny enamel, gold encrusted treasure bearing the artwork of an angel playing the harp on the cover. Cupid smiled to herself, for it resembled her neighbour back in Teacup.
Cupid kneeled next to Clarette and helped her sit up. She took Clarette’s hands and began: “Madame Da Silva, we have secured your vocal box. But before I reinstall this within you, I want you to understand that this voice belongs to you and to you alone. From this evening forward, no one is allowed to rob you of your voice again. But in order to do that, you must realize your own beauty, your preciousness, your worth. You cannot give your voice away again, Madame Da Silva. If you do so, it will weaken, it will change, and it will not be pure nor belong wholly to you anymore. Do you understand?”
Clarette trembled, careful not to cry off her newly applied makeup and blinked twice at Cupid. She handed to Clarette her vocal box. As she gently flipped open the cover, a magnificent, clear, luminous blue light emitted from inside. The sight was only visible to Clarette but still, the others looked on with amazement, feeling that there was magic inside the room.
“Open your mouth and breathe it in,” Cupid whispered to Clarette. As she did so, the muscles in her neck softened back to its swan–like grace and her grin stretched from cheek to cheek. “Thank you, Cupid!” Clarette gasped and threw her arms around Cupid. She then leaped up, hugging her father and Polly as well. After the celebrations, Clarette turned to Cupid once more and took her hands. “Thank you, angel, for saving my life, my performance, my voice. I promise myself I will never readily give my voice to anyone again. You are correct. I don’t see my gifts. How shameful am I, to be the most famous opera singer in the world who doesn’t know her own worth. The more famous I became, the more lonely I felt. I felt locked down by this fame, this responsibility, that my voice was not a gift but a burden. I so wanted to be rid of this complicated life, to let go of my talent. But now, no more. Because of tonight I regained my power and I see now that what I have lost is what I have always wanted. I will no longer allow my voice to be taken away again. Thank you, Cupid.”
Filled with renewal, vitality and strength, Madame Clarette Da Silva gave a most spectacular performance that evening. Others found her to be exceptionally brilliant, perhaps even rising to a new pinnacle in her art and genius, and Polly and Cupid smiled to themselves, knowing otherwise. It was because the voice of Clarette Da Silva had changed — to one of an even higher frequency, the frequency of self–love, cherishing of life and inner power, and Cupid found her voice to be even more mesmerizing than before.
Madame Da Silva’s enchanted audience erupted into a wild standing ovation, Cupid excitedly clapping as hard as she could until her palms were red from smacking hard against each other. After the show, Cupid exited Opéra Garnier, kissed her friends goodnight and slipped into her car with her driver Gabriel, who took Cupid to possibly her favorite place in the world, the Eiffel Tower. Handing Cupid her big white skates, Gabriel escorted her to the ice rink, which had been in operation from the beginning of the holiday season. Wearing her beautiful gown and lacing up her skates, Cupid stepped onto the peaceful rink, listened to the hush of the night and glided across the ice in absolute glee and joviality. Cupid relished this unforgettable night and this work she came here to do, enjoying the sensuality and freedom that she has always wanted, cherishing everything she came for, everything she has now. Life couldn’t be more fulfilling for this little angel, whose heart just wanted to make this planet a more healed, beautiful place. That she did tonight and it was a cause for celebration.