12 years later
Samuel Dantes stepped from an old train car, the faded name Blue Bell painted on its side. Tomorrow he would be in New York, and the day after, on a boat to the old world. Maunch Chunk was his last stop before his new adventure.
He surveyed the quaint little town before him. How small it looked. The bricks of the railroad building stood imposing as ever, just beyond the small station park, and felt as though they were sucking all the morning warmth into their porous depths. The main road up to the center of town was still wide and steep. The Cummings' house loomed over everything still as it once did.
He checked in at the Hotel American under the last name Y. No first. He did not give Dantes – as his family was likely to do since his childhood. With a mischievous smile and resolve of character, his brother had christened them such long before they arrived in California. His father had called it a fitting name for a family such as theirs. But Samuel was here to lure out old memories and he hoped an old name would spark them.
The receptionist, a youngish pretty thing, at the counter smiled brightly at him. And for her friendliness he asked, "When do the trains leave for the Phantasma?"
"Yes. The amusement park."
"Oh that's been closed for ages. The only people who live up there now are recluses."
"Is that where Meg Giry still lives?"
"Giry? I'm sorry I don't know a Giry. Maybe Miss Schuyler will know what you're talking about? She sometimes tells stories about the old amusement park."
He smiled warmly at her and took his leave. Schuyler was a name he remembered. It was as good as any lead to follow.
He sent a letter to Miss Schuyler, asking her to join him for the show at the old opera house later that day. It had just been fitted for the new motion picture. He couldn't help the invitation. His parents had fostered theatrics into his blood. Try as he might, he couldn't much help the vice any more.
She arrived late, Sam spotting the red hair he remembered so well from a distance. The cinema would be nearly full by the time they found their seats, but it mattered little to him. I'd seen this film before, several times. He simply wanted to see the space again, hear the old organ and see if it sounded like it once did in his memory.
"When you signed your letter Mr. Y, I knew it would be you." Hanna said with a smile. Her wide arms wrapped around him for a hug and he returned it gladly.
"It couldn't possibly be my father?"
"Heavens no. Your parents had a real knack for survival. Coming back here would go against everything they are."
She was right. He had begged for years that they travel – visit the places they'd once seen, see if they were the same once more. And every time his parents would meet his plea with a soft chuckle and a quiet no. It would be tempting fate, his mother would say. It would be awaking old demons, his father would answer. No, they would not look back. They truly had only ever looked forward.
They made their way to their seats, headless of the darkened room. The reels had begun, and blank light flickered before them. "And how have you been, Hanna?"
"Living. Much like the rest of us. But you don't need to know about me. I want to know about you." As he began to speak the manager announced the show could not go on. There was no musician to play.
Sam snuck from his seat and sat before the piano just right of them. Hanna's gaze questionedhis actions. He looked to the music and then promptly ignored it, choosing instead to play his own melodies. The crowd cheered, the announcement ended, and the film began.
"You're very good," Hanna whispered.
"I would be a shame to my father if I wasn't." She smiled.
"Why are you here, Sam?"
"I wanted to see Phantasma again. But Miss Meg let it go."
"As soon as Meg was fit to stand, she took her money and left for Paris. The last letter I had from her was written on very fine paper."
"She was very kind to us. I was sorry to leave her here alone."
Hanna let him play. He wondered if she was afraid to answer him or had no answer for him. Eventually, she turned from the film when he changed his music. "What little heart Mr. Y had must have always belonged to Christine. Once she was by his side again, there was no more room for anyone else." And Hanna believed her statement, though it was very wrong. His father had a large heart – warm and gentle. Perhaps the years had made it larger. Perhaps the Mr. Y Hanna knew and the father he'd come to love were very different men. He'd been young, and his memories were faded.
They quieted for a while, watching the film and allowing Sam's fingers to dance along the keys. When it was over, they walked toward the rushing river, absently walking from the center of the town.
"What will you do all across the Sea, little man?" Her old endearment made him smile.
"You always were one for adventure, weren't you?"
"I'm to land in England, and then to France, and more. I plan to see the world, Hanna."
"What do your parents think about you seeing the whole world?"
"They hope I'm not too naive."
"Your mother will miss you terribly."
He could only nod. He would miss his mother very much of his own accord. Thick as thieves, his father had loving said of them for as long as he could remember.
"You should stay here for a while. Rest up before such a long journey."
But there was no reason to. What was once so special about Maunch Chunk was gone. His family had taken it with them when they left. "I'm afraid I must be off. I must be in Paris on a specific date."
"And what is so very important that you must be in Paris on a specific date?"
"The old Opera House there is to have an auction I must attend."
"Young men and their demandable urgency." She stood still on the path, her body carefully angled toward him. "I don't go in there anymore, my boy. But you've come to see your old home and it's there before you."
He'd not even realized they'd walked the full distance to Phantasma. The imposing and beautiful entrance way was overgrown and wild, pieces of the casting porcelain scattered about the grass below. There were none of the tall structures from his childhood, and none of the fine and pristine walkways he would run. Yet still, he could hear the ghosting melodies of his father in the air.
Sam kissed Hanna's hand, "Will you wait for me?"
"No. But I'm sure you'll catch up to me. I walk slow these days."
The pirate ship sat decaying on its side, the carousel a pile of burnt twisted metal before him. It was sad, but not what he was looking for; he continued on, walking the old pathway into the darkened forest. His father's little house sat hidden. The windows were blown out and the roof caving in, yet it had not been burned. It didn't even look raided. Just forgotten. He made his way around the back and stood at the stoop by the kitchen.
I don't plan to go anywhere. I didn't before, and I won't now. Will you stay here with me too? This works both ways, you know.
His mother's claiming words came rushing back to him. Tears pricked his eyes. What a wonderful life it had been, to have Christine Daaé claim him as her son.
He made his way to through the house, taking the stairs carefully. By the time he made it to the attic landing, his pants were torn and dusty.
The wide-open early summer sky, filled with clear bright stars, danced above his head in the open holes of the ceiling, and for the first time he worried that what he'd come for would be lost to him. Yet nothing in the attic looked like it had been moved in many years, the dust and leaves unperturbed by a living soul.
Taking off his deep brown jacket, he rolled up his selves and began moving the old furniture in his way until he finally uncovered a heavy locked trunk. A smile danced on his lips. His old Gazetter lock still clicked in that particularly musical way he remembered, even though he had to pick it.
Piles of old music paper ruffled in the fresh air it had not touched in years. Pages and pages of lined paper with his father's familiar red ink. Sarah would have cooed over the treasure trove of his melodies and been lost in the lines for hours. But Sam didn't have hours.
No, what he was looking for he found at the bottom of the truck, wrapped in an old jacket of his. And thanks to the small fabric's careful protection, the gilded letters on the front of the book still glittered sweetly in the moonlight – World Atlas.
The book had been his father's first gift to him, and finally, it was back in his hands after all these years. The book feel open to the map of Paris in his hands, his father's sharp and careful ink drawings over the maps showing the Paris skyline from the top of the Opera House. Within the scape, small stars dotted the sky, as though dawn was just breaking beyond the horizon
Sam smiled and carefully returned the lock to the case. He would arrange for the truck to be sent to New York after him. Sarah would be happy to get it eventually. But the book he took with him, securely under his arm, and made his way from the little house.
He left Phantasma without looking back, and the next morning he took the first train to New York, not even waiting for a proper breakfast before departure.
It is often said of youth that their hunger for adventure and the unknown predisposes them to the most inopportune trouble. And that very well may have been the truth in Sam's case, venturing into the infamous old haunts of his parents' former lives. Yet there was one vital distinction in his character that would forever change his journey – he trusted his parent's word and judgement completely. Outside influence would never waiver his faith in them.
As he lost himself in the beautiful drawings of his father, his mother's parting words to him replayed in his memory – Remember that who we once were is not who we are, my son. Whatever revelations you discover of us, and no doubt you will discover some things, you are an infuriatingly curious man, remember that everything we've ever done was out of love and we are better for it.