Excerpt - Phantom by Laura DeLuca

“Lord . . . Justyn?”

It sounded more like a question than an audition call. Miss King looked slightly baffled as she scanned her paperwork and read the last name on her list of male candidates. Once she was certain she had read the name correctly, she called it out once more with a little more confidence. When she received no immediate response, she seemed ready to dismiss the whole thing as a joke. But then a strange black clad figure seemed to materialize in the corner of the stage, and with practiced grace, he moved towards the center of the platform and the waiting microphone.

“That’s Justyn Patko.” Carmen informed Rebecca matter-of-factly. Luckily her best friend was the queen of gossip. “He just moved here this year. From Vegas, I think. He’s in my Calculus class.”

“He’s a little creepy if you ask me,” Debbie whispered.

Creepy he might have been to some, with his black clothes trimmed with silver chains, black hair, and black fingernails. He was obviously Gothic to the core, a fashion statement Rebecca had always thought was secretly a cry for attention. But for Justyn, there seemed no other possibility. She couldn’t imagine the darkly mysterious figure dressed in earth tones or preppy, button-down shirts. They would have clashed with his dark eyes and pale skin. She had seen him in the hallway a few times, but they didn’t share any classes, so Rebecca had never really taken the time to study him before. Despite his odd style, there was something strangely appealing about Justyn. In his own way, he was just as handsome as Tom.

The orchestra tuned for its virtuoso, and Justyn stood ready. But no one else was ready for the magical performance he began. Beside her, Carmen was rambling on about something mundane. Rebecca elbowed her to silence so she could listen to the perfectly thrilling tenor. As she listened to the song unfold, the world around her started to slip away. Gone was the high school auditorium. Gone were the rowdy teenagers. The Gothic stranger on the stage had become the embodiment of Erik, and Rebecca watched him in all his dark glory, belting out his tormented love through the words of his song. And she was as breathless with wonder as Christine herself must have been when the masked stranger serenaded her in the candlelit labyrinth of the opera house. In that moment, Justyn wasn’t just portraying the phantom. Justyn was the phantom.

“Let the music touch your soul.
Let the darkness make you whole.
Do not fear what is unknown.
Your true path has now been shown.
Listen to the words I sing.
Embrace the peace that night will bring.”

As he continued to sing in his deep but somehow angelic voice, Rebecca found that she couldn’t tear her eyes away from him. With every line, her heart began to beat faster. She truly felt the arms of night wrapping her in a warm embrace. She could almost feel the hands of the phantom glide along her body as the words poured forth. The music caressed her. It possessed her—mind, body, and soul. Each word left her longing, yearning for more.

She was gawking so obviously, it was hardly surprising when Justyn felt her eyes on him and steadily met her gaze. She realized her mouth was hanging open in stunned awe, and she quickly snapped it shut. His lips moved into just a small hint of a smile. He never took his eyes off her while he sang the final verse, making her cheeks flush to the point that she felt almost feverish. It wasn’t embarrassment but excitement, arousal even, which was sending her mind spinning in so many directions.

 When the song was over, and Rebecca had recovered just a hint of her composure, she couldn’t help but burst into a healthy round of applause. A few scattered people joined in, including Debbie and Carmen after she nudged them in the ribs. But only Miss King seemed to truly appreciate the brilliance of his talent as much as Rebecca did.

“That was amazing, Justyn!” The teacher gushed.

Lord Justyn.” He corrected as he stepped down from the stage.

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