|Welcome to My Phantom of the Opera Page!!
Well, as a writer and singer I have decided that I should publish some of that lovely phanfic I've had stashed away in several notebooks hidden in my bedroom closet. The following story will be told in Erik's POV-after all, he is the best character. Who knows if I'll change it later and let Christine speak, who can say? Enjoy and send comments to ADnaScully@aol.com
I paused, the tip of my pen grazing my malformed lip, and stared down at the collection of graceful notes, I'd hurriedly scrawled on the fine, thick sheet of manuscript paper. Funny, I thought; whereas my copperplate handwriting was usually a barely legible mess, my musical notation was a symphony in itself-elegant, curvy, and grandly ornate. Most printers could not have done a better job. Well, music was my blood and the center of my genius,so I should not have been surprised that I was capable of skillfully writing it out. Music, along with my other talents, was the only source of pride for me. I would be doing myself a great injustice to think otherwise.
Enough with my ramblings. I put the sharp pip of the pen down to the sheet once more, forming the artful notes that would correspond with the next, contrapuntal phrase of the melody cavorting through my active mind. I liked the faint scratch of the ink to the paper. It had a certain, purposeful progress to it. Perhaps, a humble, natural music. Everything had music to me, whether it be good or abhorent. Each time I heard one of those childish, little operas blaring thirteen floors above me, on the magnificent stage of the Palais Garnier, I took to analyzing it from two points of view. One: from the perspective of the pleasure seeking listener, and Two: the inescapable critque of the knowledgable music scholar. Sometimes, One would be satisfied with some, sweet, uncomplicated, rip-off of a Mozart aria(they all tried to emulate the maestro these days with their ornamentations and scale-based motifs), while Two would cringe and dissect each ordinary, over played chord, clenching white-knuckled fists. See, that was the problem with knowing so much about what I loved, the scholar in me would analyze whatever my fine-tuned ears absorbed, instead of simply enjoying it for what it was, like a normal person. But, then, I was anything but normal and needed no reminder of that fact. I crossed my right leg over my left knee, scribbling off another ten bars, the invisible orchestra carrying me off to such a perfect oblivion, that I hardly noticed when a pair of tiny, pink-slippered, feet planted themselves in front of my armless chair.
"Angel..Erik?" To form the syllables of my name must have been strange to her-so accustomed was she to calling me 'Angel', that she stuttered and corrected herself. The sweet murmur of her voice caused me to abandon my notation and peer up into the cherished face of my dear Mademoiselle Daae'. It seemed, due to her apparent drowsiness, the awkward, timidity of her behavior towards me present before she slept had evaporated. This effect made it a little bit more bearable for me to bear her obvious disappointment that I was indeed no angel of music. Just a man.
"Yes?" Tenderness consumed me, as I gazed at her, her precious head lolling sleepily to the side, her chesnut hair piling on her narrow shoulder as she clutched the lapels of her silk robe in modesty and to fend off the drafty chill.
"I can't sleep..I've had a bad dream." Still such a child-a china doll, really-too fragile to touch for fear that I might break her. If I were but to caress her ivory, smooth skin, too grasp her of her own volition, without having to seduce her with my voice...No, better not to allow the tantalizing idea. Not now, not ever. She wasn't mine, and never would be. It was time I come to terms with the truth. Still, sometimes, whenever I'd sing to her, it almost seemed possible there might be a future for us, that we might, one day, have one another. But, only when I sang to her, when I swept her into a swooning ecstacy with the mere power of my voice-my one beauty. Perhaps, in music she was mine, that we were united, that I was hers. I had always been hers. . .Shouldn't that be enough then, that I was allowed to caress her in melody, that I simply had the pleasure of her company? I was lucky enough to have a woman talking to me, but to be allowed to serenade her! "Erik, you must find contentment with your lot." I scolded myself inwardly.
I must have wandered away in my musings, for she repeated herself. "I'm scared, I can't fall asleep in such a strange, new place. . .It's so dark, so cold. . ."
'Strange'; not necessarily a negative term, but not exactly a compliment, now was it?
"I'm sorry, mon chere, what can I do to set you at ease?" It was only natural that she be frightened and uneasy down here in my home on the lake. After all, I'd whisked her out of her dressing room and finally, swept her off into my 'strange' subterranean world below the Paris Opera. I'd sung to her until she fell asleep, and I'd had to carry her into her bedroom-her new chambers-and tucked her under my mother's quilt. I moved a taper candle beside the bed and stood over her for an hour, savoring the sight of her tiny form resting near me. Feeling amazingly inspired, I left for the study to compose. That had been hours past, and now she'd risen from a nightmare.
I should have expected it.
Tonight, she'd learned I was not an angel, but a mortal man who loved her, worshipped her even more than his music. To her naive and innocent mind, that knowledge had been hard to digest. Christine had sobbed and almost fled, when I'd bowed on one knee, begging her accept the truth..accept me... The girl was silent for a time, swallowing over and over as if she were fighting to keep her moans of disappointment from reaching my ears. To be led to the musical kingdom of an angel was a fantastically enticing thrill, but to be in the home of a madman was quite another experience.
We didn't speak for a time.
After an hour or two of silent supper, in which she'd hardly touched her soup-only stared at it as if she expected something to jump out of it, then retreating to her room to read a book, or brush through her hair, I'd decided I would have to take action. I'd had to save us from her fallen dreams, from her retracting body. So, I'd done the only thing I knew, the only thing that I had courage in, faith that it would work. I approached her closed door, and began to sing. And, it had worked. For the time. Yes, I could be the temporary angel of her father's stories as long as I played the dark-cloaked canary. She wouldn't have to think of the man, just the voice. And, she didn't recoil from the voice. Wouldn't that do for now?
At least, I still held my most important secret from her. She could never know about my face. But, she'd asked about the mask. I'd told her that I must wear it to protect my identity, for God knows what reason. Whatever reason I'd given to her, she'd simply nodded and shrugged her shoulders in relief that, even if I were no celestial body, I could still sing finer than God himself.
And, I'd issued a threat, the only threat: "Remove my mask, and you must stay with me forever."
I could only hope the dear ingenue was wise enough to heed the warning.
"Would you sing me to sleep, please? I think it is the only thing that may calm me. . ."
'It' was my voice, and how I loved the importance she bestowed upon it. She loved it, and that was the closest I would come to having her.
"Yes, of course, my child, you didn't even have to ask." I rose, and smiled the best I could underneath the prison of my mask, gesturing her forward with the unfurling of my long fingers, glad that she'd not asked to be returned to the world above and never to see me again. After all, I had lied to her. But, no, she'd asked me to sing! And, I would joyfully beseech her, happy to revert back to the comfortability of a formal teacher, student relationship.
Christine shuffled her feet forward, the train of her white dressing gown trailing the cold, stone floor, eager eyes trapping my own. At the opening of my mouth, at the sudden flawless thread of music, she outstretched her arms to me, still approaching. To her, I became a heavenly being! Christine could be so shy and introverted when surrounded by her daylight companions, hardly even speaking, but she was unabashedly forward on the promise of my song, acting as if there was no other place she would rather be than with me. Or, my voice. It enslaved her, seduced her into a trancelike swoon! She was my willing Trilby, pleading to be captivated! It was only when I created music for her, that she was able to succumb to whatever desires lay hidden inside, that whatever feelings she denied or regretted to acknowledge, might surface. I smiled with my eyes. I don't know if she meant to embrace me with those extended arms, if she wished me to hold her as I did earlier when I'd serenaded her. I did not give that question the opportunity to be resolved, for fear that my interpretation of her gestures would be far different than her true intentions. So, not trusting in what I saw, I curled my fingers about her own, and led her to the lake.
"Mon couer s'ouvre 'a ta voix, comme s'ouvrent les fleurs, aux baisers, de l'aurore..."
Oh, how she beamed at my lyric, how she followed my gait to the lanquid, tender rhythm of the aria! What other man could make her perfect, porcelain face radiate so-and, only by the mere spreading of his lips? Surely, not that little, rogue Vicomte de Chagny I'd seen milling about her dressing room after her debut as Marguerite! No, he might bring an irksome giggle to her girlish heart with the mention of some childhood memory, but he could not enthrall her in my effortless ways.
"Mais o, mon bien amie', pour mes secher mes pleurs! Que ta voix, parle encore!"
I stopped walking at the shore of the peaceful lake and stared out over the water, still weaving a vocal fantasy for my lovely lady. Darkness everywhere, behind me, in front of me-the ebony water-myself. . . The only light was Christine, in her smile, the brightness of her luminous eyes, the golden texture of her bell-like soprano. Yes, unknown to the rest of the world, darkness and light, night and day, merged hundreds of feet below the Paris Opera. The girl squeezed my hand more firmly, a shudder running through me at the intensity of her subtle touch. Luckily, I had an unfaltering control over my instrument, and my voice did not waver.
"Ah! Reponds 'a ma tendresse! Verse-moi, Verse-moi, l'ivresse!"
Her fingers sought my unmasked skin, cupping my cheek with her palm. The sudden shock of her caress silenced me, brought my soul back to Earth.
"Erik?" She stroked my flesh with the smooth pad of her thumb, her other hand still joined with my own. I am certain I shook at her affection, such desires and forbidden longings coursing uncontrollably through my body.
"Erik, are you all right?" She continued to touch me, momentarily glancing at her careening fingers before taking my eyes again.
Oh, how I would have savored her touch would it have been for Erik and not the music! She was caressing the Angel, the music, not me. We both knew it. In an almost paternal manner, I covered her hand with my own, guiding it to rest at her side, and unlinked my other from hers. "Yes, mon chere, I'm perfectly fine." Lie number one of the evening, and I wanted to strike myself for it. I was anything but all right, my damned longings trying to possess me! Why this irresistable torture?! Retreating into the mode of concerned teacher, I formulated my excuse. "Christine, I know realize, that if you stay up 'til this late hour, you will have no energy in the morning. And, with no energy, how do you expect to sing? I must apologize for keeping you up. I seem to forget myself, sometimes, when I am around you. . ."
"But, Erik, there's nothing to apolo-"
I silenced her with a caring finger near her lips, extending my arm in the direction of her bedroom. "Shh," I whispered sweetly, escorting her to her new chambers. "I trust you will have no more nightmares?"
"No, I don't think that I shall." She stopped on the treshold, staring up at me as I leaned my imposing, lanky form against the wooden doorframe. "Merci, mon ange."
"Goodnight, my child." All the love and shere worship for her in those three words!
"Goodnight, Erik." She advanced a foot or two towards me, so close that I could feel her pleasant, warm breath washing over the pale skin of my cheek. It was an intoxicating sensation, to say the least. The faint candlelight issuing from inside the room framed her face majestically, outlining the sculpted shape of her cheekbones and the bow of her full mouth. It was as if she were waiting for something, for she did not yet enter the room. Instead, she rose on the tips of her toes, her palms coming to rest on my tensing shoulders. I quaked, not wanting to break the contact, but, also, not wanting her to make a grave mistake. I tried to back away, to create some distance between us, but the relentless doorframe prevented it. She tilted her head slightly, pursing her lips.
Clearly, her actions were due to the enticing spell of my voice. What did she mean to do? I could not allow myself to find out. She had no idea what lay beneath my mask. As long as she believed me handsome, for she must have, then what would halt her from her actions? No, I couldn't permit her to do this, not with my secret still undiscovered beneath the loathed mask.
With the grace and rapid agility of a feline, I slid from the unabiding doorframe, taking a place to her right. Confused, she turned to me, her lids drooping, cheeks flushed red. Was it disappointment registering on her face, sadness? I dare not delve deeper. I must have enjoyed taunting myself-I could not help but to reach out my long fingers and trace the shape of her features. No, not actually caressing her skin, only the moist air hanging right above it.
"Goodnight, my dear." Before she could respond, whether physically or with words, I pivoted on my heel, heading away from her.
She lingered, hand clenching the door, gazing at me with some unrecognizable emotion playing across her sullen face. We both stood, as statues in some fallen, neglected garden, not speaking, just offering the other heart-wrenching expressions-We understood. We knew. The truth. Why did God torment me with what I could not have? Why make me aware of such a creature as she? Why create her, if not for me? I saw her lips move; perhaps, saying 'Goodnight'. I don't know. Then, she solemnly bowed her head and reluctantly made her way into the comfort of her bedroom, closing the door on me, and my yearnings.
I never slept that night, my mind was far too troubled, my heart too overwhelmed, and my guilt threatening to consume me. I picked up a copy of Dante Alighieri's "The Divine Comedy", and thumbed through my favorite sections. Books were a treasure to a lonely man, and I never took them for granted. I was almost able to completely lose touch with reality when reading, but not quite-only music had that affect on me. Halfway through the fourth canto of "Inferno", I set the poetry aside, and began pacing around my bedroom. Several ideas rushed through my frantic brain..."Let Christine see you, if she runs, let that be the end of things..." Then, there would be no guilt, no need to hold myself back from touching her, no secrets, no more of my own "Divine Comedy". No more Christine. And, what was there for me without her?
It was my whole world just to see her smile, to watch the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. No, no foolish plans to end this cruel farce. What I had started, I had to see through to the end. An end that, by any means, would be tragedy. How could it be anything else? Here we were, the tortured, loving maestro and his adoring, disillusioned protege', at the beginning of their own private Opera, and I could already sense that the last act would bear the crumbling of our lives.
I was restless and enraged with extreme self-loathing. Everywhere I looked, I saw the products of some twisted, obsessed monster: a coffin for my bed, crimson curtains decking the walls(which I quickly ripped from their places and slung onto the tilting coffin), music written in ink red as blood. Had my dearest one not been fast asleep, I would have screamed and torn the whole room to pieces. But, she was there, in the room next to my own, and without knowing, she'd saved me from myself once again.
I had to calm down, to find some fleeting peace until my savior awoke and wove me under her spell. So, I turned to my composition..."Don Juan Triumphant." It would be a wonderful opera, too powerful for any heart to withstand unscathed.
And, it was for her, all the passion and pain, for my beloved, reluctant one.
Not able to wait another moment, Don Juan's second act aria taking control of my thoughts, I rushed to the main room, and sat behind the large, Gothic organ. Peace only came with the madness of music.
I must have composed for hours, melodies so utterly consuming me, that I was quite outside of myself. I forgot who I was. In the glory of song, I was loved and adored for my abilities, for myself. But, I was also allowed to reek my vengeance on the rest of the world without actually harming another soul, just by the pressing of some dissonant chords. Yes, music was definitely a language in itself, and by far the most spectacular and universal of them all.
I must have been too enraptured by my composing, for I failed to notice the cruel, little hand that snatched my mask away.
At least, she didn't scream. Or maybe, the fact that she cowered away from me, her voice caught in her precious throat, was worse than if she'd simply screamed. I can't say, only that her reaction was far more than I could bear.
She had apparently risen at the sound of the boisterous organ and quietly made her way into the main room, tiptoeing behind my back. Of course, I hadn't noticed as she edged closer and closer, her fingers finally gripping the whiteness of my mask and stealing it to reveal my naked face. I rounded on her, darting up from the organ bench and towering over her as she stepped backwards, trying to flee from the horror that was my visage. I couldn't handle the sight of her, her tiny body raking with shivers of terror, all the color drained from her ashen cheeks, as she fell to her knees, a wall preventing her from moving farther away from me.
"Are you happy, now?!" I snarled, leaning over her, as she clutched her arms tightly around her heaving chest, mask still in the folds of her fingers. "I take it, from your reaction, that you're not pleased with what you see. And, for that, I apologize." I bared my teeth as some jungle beast might, terrorizing her with the caustic tone of my words. But, I was a beast, a monster. I'd never been told to think myself anything better. Well, I'd almost felt human when Christine had entered my life, but it now appeared that the monster inside was going to take over once more. "Such a Don Juan, am I, don't you think? Or does your girlish imagination urge you to believe that what you see before you, what you are obviously very afraid of, is actually another mask? That no man can be this ugly!" I grabbed her thin wrists and jerked her upwards, causing her to look me in the eyes. She emitted a sound, a weak moan, as I took hold of her so roughly. I forced her fingers into my flesh, the claws of her nails digging into my cheeks until blood covered them. "It's not a mask, you foolish girl, it's real and nothing can change that fact! I'm not some handsome, noble idiot like your darling, sniveling Vicomte, am I?!" She lurched into her body, trying as hard as she could to get away from me. The child winced, shutting her eyes to the horror before her. I swung her to the ground, her ankles knocking together as she hit the cold wall. "How could you, Christine? How could you betray me like this? When, I would do anything for you?
She sobbed, abundant tears coursing down her hot cheeks, as her dreams, and my own lay shattered. Anger drained from me, morphing into a overwhelming self-loathing that coated my words. "Could you not be content with my voice, with my teachings? It was only for you that I came out of hiding, that I felt it necessary to make contact with another human being! I was ready to die. . .that is, until I saw you, until I heard you!"
I melted to the ground in front of her, my knees giving out, too overtaken by sorrow to stand any longer. My voice softened as I came to the sad realization, that I had just treated her as my appearance notated...like the monster I surely was. The girl, my former savior, now turned destroyer, lips moving, but no audible sound emerging from them. She was in hysterics, and began to hyperventilate, biting into her lip, and scratching at her arms, while her body rocked with the power of her sobs. In less than a few minutes time, we had turned our universe into chaos, warped our minds to the point where repair was useless.
"Erik, Erik. . ." She kept repeating my name in an endless series of barely comprehensible cries which twisted my hardened heart beyond salvage. I wanted to die. It seemed the only logical thing left for me. Any hope that might have surfaced in my breast now lay wasted in this fragile woman's eyes. At least, I would die near Christine, seeing her as I breathed my miserable last.
She should run now, I reasoned. Seeing how prone and volatile I was, crumbling on the floor; it would be her opportunity.
But, she didn't.
Instead, she was moving towards me, ever slowly, dragging herself across the ground.
"Erik." She finally managed to utter my name without stuttering, all trace of fear vanished from her features and replaced by something else. But, not pity. God, I prayed it wasn't pity that filled her tortured heart! Now, mere inches from my face, she extended her hands, mask in one of them, and reached for me. I whispered her name as she cupped my head between her palms, trembling violently at her touch.
"Christine, I'm so sorry...so very sorry..."
With uncertain hands, she tied the mask around my face once again. Then she rubbed her fingertips over the pink of my lips, taking her time, as if she wasn't sure what she was feeling, only that it was beyond her recognition. Before dropping her hands from my skin, she closed her lids and sighed,"No. . ." Rising quickly on unstable feet, she gave me one final despairing gaze, before stumbling to her room and shutting the door behind her.
With that gesture, I could no longer hold back my own tears, and they nearly suffocated me beneath the holdings of my mask. As I pressed my face into my hands, I heard her crying uncontrollably from the safety of her bedroom. In that moment, I knew, she would never again be able to call me 'Angel'. What had I, what had she, done?"
I didn't see Christine until late that evening, when she finally decided to abandon the somber cocoon she'd made of her room. I was sprawled out across the velvet covered divan, my arms hanging off, miserable head crushed against the fabric of a pillow, and drowning in my own despair. I didn't look up when I heard her opening the door, not until she stood, subtly shaking in front of the couch.
"Erik?" Her voice quivered, like her fragile body, and I thought the air might demolish her along with her words. "I'm sor...I'm sorry, Erik. I had no right to remove your mask..no right at all, and I wish-"
I cut her off, knowing what she would say. "And, you wish you'd never done it." She nodded sadly. "Yes, I know, Christine. Now, you'd also like to tell me how you pity me, right? And, that you'll still be my 'friend' out of the 'goodness' of your heart...am I correct, mon chere?" My speech was laced with a merciless, loathful bitterness. She didn't say anything, just stared at me dumbly, twisting the lace of her dressing gown between her nervous fingers. So, I continued, sitting back on the couch, hands perched like claws on my knees. "But, now you have your excuse, don't you, you have your reason to run, Christine, to run into the safe arms of your little Vicomte?" I could see her slight muscles tensing, the change of her neck as she gulped hard. Yes, she couldn't deny it, could she? And, my misery grew. . .
"To forget about me. . ."
"Erik!" She protested. My words had wounded her. And, I knew not why.
I rose, standing just a few infinite inches from her. To my surprise, she did not back away, but only fiddled more with her hands. "Well, isn't that the truth, my dear? All the thoughts going through your head?"
The girl met my eyes, unflinching, her arms crossing over her heaving chest. "No, that wasn't what I was thinking at all." Tears fought their way from the corners of her luminous eyes. "I was going to ask you if we could have a lesson," Her voice cracked amid her crying, and it seemed that I'd bullied her with my assumptions. I believed my heart would break at her request, at the way she hadn't even mentioned my face, at her swiftly falling, broken tears. . .
"Yes, of course, Christine." I fished frantically in my jacket pocket, in search of a handkerchief for her face. Obviously, I didn't require one, but I often carried one on my person for fashion's sake. "Please, don't cry, my dear...I can stand anything but your tears...it hurts me more than I can say.." She allowed me to blot her face with the embroidered clothe, all the while sniveling. "Christine," I offered her the kerchief, to blow her nose, and directed her to the piano with an initially awkward gesture of my arm. My slight confidence grew as she followed me, and the only thing to do was play, teach, fight off hell for another day or two...
"With more feeling, Christine!" I raised my hand in one of those tragic, grandiose gestures so commonly seen on the operatic stage, in order to emphasize my point. She blushed a tad in response, and sucked on her bottom lip, enrapt in my instruction. "You see, my dear, a woman may possess the most phenomenal voice ever heard,and flawless technique, but if she can not express the emotions the music and libretto call for, then she is as good as a mute, dying lark. Do you understand?" I didn't wait for her to answer, but pushed the lecture with one closing statement. "Music is not meant simply to be heard, the soprano not meant to be admired by the purity of her high notes, and the composer not worshipped for the difficulty of his works. The music is meant to be felt, and the soprano and the composer are meant to make the listener feel. That is the heart of music-emotion at its truest and rawest form. And when you realize this fact; truly know what it means, then I will have no more to teach you." My words softened, as did my face, and I attempted a comforting smile to show her I was satisfied with the lesson. For, the girl was looking a bit dismayed that she'd received yet another lecture. I wanted to run the back of my hand along her smooth cheek, but thought better of it, and refrained. In lessons, I could ask for nothing more from her-a more dedicated pupil never to be found. As I had said earlier, in music, Christine and I were one.
She picked up the stray sheets of music, I'd let fall to the floor in my haste of accompaning her singing, and stacked them neatly in a pile to put in the Louis XIV bureau I'd purchased to hold my endless selection of scores. I breathed a 'thank you', and dipped my head in her direction. Rising from the piano bench, I checked the clock in the corner of the room, realizing that it was time to have a much thought-over conversation with the girl.
I motioned her to join me in the study, taking a seat in the dark recliner I often favored. Christine assumed her usual place on the ground where the ottoman would have been positioned, peering up at me with wondering eyes.
"What is it, Erik?" Her voice was a bit wavery-she might be expecting bad news. Little did she know that the tidings I was to bear her would bring the color back to her fair cheeks; the warmth back to her frightened heart. And leave me with an emptiness and uncertainty that I wasn't sure would ever be filled again.
"Christine," Best to begin with her name-the only thing to say tonight that would come easily. Immediately, she was attentive, her large eyes focused on the whiteness of my mask, or higher still, on my own set of eyes. "I think..I think.."How could I say this? I felt as if nails had pierced my heart, and I could not breath.
"Yes?" My hesitancy made her all the more nervous. It was evident in her question.
"Do you miss the sunlight, my dear?" Great, Erik! Just go ahead and avoid the conversation! She gave me an expression that showed that she didn't quite realize what I was alluding to, so I continued. "Well, you have been my guest for two weeks. I dare say, the people up above, such as your friend, Mademoiselle Giry, are wondering what has happened to you!" I gave her a little smile, and chuckled-although it was a forced effort.
"Two weeks? Has it really been that long?" Her face came alive with surprise, and, I must give credit that it was indeed 'surprise' and not shock.
"Haven't you been marking the days off on the calendar I placed in your room? I left it there, along with that grandfather clock, so you wouldn't lose time..."
"Well, it is easy to become distracted down here, there's so much to think about, to do...I'm sorry, I just didn't notice the days passing by."
"It's all right, my dear. You've been concentrating on your musical studies. For that, I am grateful and proud of you. I could not have asked for a better pupil."
She blushed, not accustomed to such unabashed praise from her strict teacher,then modestly dug her face in her hands when she felt the warmth of the rising pink on her otherwise pale cheeks.
"Christine, what I mean to ask you, is, are you ready for me to take you back up to the world above?" There, I'd spat out the horrrible end-all question.
It could have been worse.
She could have shot up from the ground right then, and demanded I take her back immediately. Or she could have shouted, "Please, I miss Raoul!"
But, she didn't.
Instead, she was silent. Which meant, that I was to make the decision for her. I inhaled many breaths, listening for the distant, soothing clicks of the second hand on that expensive clock, waiting for the right moment. Time had no meaning and so much. It seemed not to exist below in my subterranean home, at least when Christine was present, and then, in perfect irony, it passed so quickly. If I had not possessed the damned grandfather clock or the calendar, I would have believed the girl had just arrived. But, no, it had been two weeks, two wonderful, and equally agonizing weeks. Would I ever experience anything like the near happiness I'd felt, again? "I don't want you to leave, Christine. I'm sure that you realize that, but I don't have much of a choice."
"What do you mean?"
"If I make you stay down here, and prevent you from singing up above, then what good will all your training serve?" Yes, Erik, use that excuse. Any will work. Don't tell her that you're testing her, testing yourself. Seeing if she will return, attempting to find out if you can survive without her for a time.
She nodded at my logical statement, but with a pouty lip and sunken eyes. "We leave in an hour, mon chere." I left her without a choice-which was much easier for both of us. "You should pack whatever belongings you wish to take back to your own flat, whatever scores you'd like to practice...Meet me in front of my bedroom when you are ready." With that, and a final look at her confounded visage, I stood and exited the room.
"Erik?" I swirled around to find Christine standing in front of my doorway, tapestried valise rocking between her tiny fingers. I set aside my score, deposited my pen back into the ornate inkwell, and cleared my throat. "Yes?"
"I'm ready. . .I'm ready to go, now." She hit the reasonably soft bag against her covered knees, nibbling on her bottom lip, as she had often done when she was uneasy.
"Of course, well, that was rather quick of you, Christine. I must say, I had no idea you could organize all those jewels and gowns so fast!" I chuckled and approached her, gesturing for her to step into the hall. We moved to the piano, where she absentmindedly plucked out a melody constructed of a random handful of notes. "Here," I shook my finger in the direction of her valise, "Let me get that for you." Without offering her a chance to reply, I gingerly took it from her hand and hefted its surprisingly light weight in my palm.
She must have noticed my reaction to its near emptiness, for she cleared her throat and spoke,"I didn't pack very much, only one or two of the dresses in the closet, along with my hairbrushes and the silver hand mirror. . ."
"Why not more, Christine? All those lovely silks and jewels, the slippers and the petticoats, they are all there to be used at your disposal. Do with them any way you wish." I was confused; wouldn't any young woman like to adorn herself in elegant robes, and satin slippers if she had the option?
"The clothes are very beautiful, Erik, and I thank you for them, but..." She hesitated.
"Well, I do want to leave many of them here, so I will have something to wear when I come back."
My heart shook with her innocent assumption, my voice nearly leaving me. "When you come back?" I stuttered like the idiot I surely must be, and let the valise alight silently to the cold floor.
"Yes, when I come back. I am to return to you, am I not?"
Was it hope I read in her captivating eyes? Did I dare allow myself to think...
"If you like, my dear." Was all I could muster, before retrieving the bag and advancing toward the hollow nook in the right wall to fetch my lantern.
"Come, we must be on our way."
She's gone, now. And the rooms of my home are filled with the all too familiar silence that serves as a constant reminder of my fate-loneliness. I don't feel like composing right now, or playing the piano, I don't even have the desire to open my mouth and sing. I don't want to draw or read. Nothing. It seems, after having two precious weeks with Christine living in my underground home, that I can not go back to this solitude. I have tasted the sweetness of wine and can not return to the blandness of water. The truth is, I don't want to do anything but sit here in my armchair, staring at the floor and thinking about Christine.
I wonder what she is doing, now. Is she, perhaps resting, or practicing her scales? Is she writing in her leatherbound journal or talking with her giddy, little friend Meg Giry? I want to imagine her thinking of me, resting her head upon her soft, delicate hand, her eyes closed lightly, humming some sensuous vocal strain. It's the kind of image created by some love-starved boy, who will never get the girl he desires. And, I never will. I can picture her doing anything-it doesn't have to be her thinking on me-just not about that boy! But, I can't avoid it. In my mind, I see her laughing, her voice light, trickling over the small distance between them, his hand poised right above her face, ready to stroke her cheek. She'll let him. Even if he doesn't sing, if he knows nothing of music, she'll let him. He's handsome, non-threatening. No slight shivers pulse through her body when he kisses her hand or puts his guiding palm on the small of her back. Were I but to put my lips to her flesh. . . No, better not to think on that.
I step into her room and stare at the canopy bed. It is neatly made, the burgundy silk sheets uncreased, and pulled tight enough where I might skip a rock across them. My gaze is drawn to her pillow. I notice that the one on the right side of the bed still bears the faint, sweet impression of her tender head. I move to it, my palm flattened right above the feather-stuffed pillow, almost grazing. I don't touch it. What if I were to ruin that molding? It is the only impression of her I am to allow myself for the next two weeks. Somehow, I think that these next two weeks will be far longer than those previous.
I should be accustomed to this. Should not be terribly upset. But, I am! How can I not be? One would think, that after a lifetime of loneliness, I'd know how to handle Christine's absence. But, I don't. I just can't get away from the fact that it's so damned unfair! She should be here, she should be breathing right next to me, smiling at my quips or widening her eyes at some sleight of hand trick performed to amuse her, not toddling about with that bloody, simpering Vicomte! I straighten the stressed line of my back...I have been standing over her bed far longer than I realized...and turn to the one candle flickering on the mahoghany dresser in the far right corner of the room. If I just move a few paces and extinguish it, the darkness will cloud over and mask that faint trace of her salvaged on the downy pillow. I am reluctant, at first, but I can't stand here and let her torture me, her ghost wielding its unknown power to drill through the very core of my heart.
"Goodnight, Christine," I whisper, leaning into the dripping violet taper, the draft of my words slicing through the stubborn flame and closing the night on my missing love.
After I'd blown out her candle and left the room, closing the door in a silent sweep, I stole away to my piano. I didn't actually sit down and play, merely ran my hands over the keys, not enough pressure to emit a sound. I don't know why I did so. Maybe, it was because she'd played earlier this morning before leaving, and I wished to touch some vestige of her spirit left in my home. Sure, there were the belongings in her room. I'd already bid a sad goodnight to them. Perhaps, it was the fact that we were one in music, and the closest I could ever possibly be to her was in that glorious element. Done contemplating, hands running over the keys of the instrument, I made a decision. I couldn't waste away like this in her absence, I had to occupy myself, had to grow accustomed to the loneliness once again. I gathered up a large amount of money before locking the house up and heading into the disguising night.
I had no idea if any shops would still be open at this late hour, but I had to try. It would be futile to go about during the day. If any keeper even allowed me into their business, they would surely not take my requests seriously. . .that is, not without a little persuasion. Yes, this was the only logical time to acquire the goods I needed. I didn't quite know how I was going to do it, but I had to create an underground palace for Christine. True, my home was already luxurious and comfortable, but she'd had no real hesitancy in leaving this morning. I needed to create a place she would not be able to part with so easily. Some home she would truly consider her own. It was a foolish dream, I realize, but it was always better to have a slight bit of hope rather than waste away with miserable loneliness. I'd done that for the majority of my life; I wasn't about to let it be the end of it as well.
I walked down the Rue di Rivoli, catching a glimpse of La Madeleine from the corner of my eye, it's great Greek columns imposing onto the darkness. A great church, house of God. I hadn't been to one in a very long time. It wasn't that I didn't believe, I did. Although, I had more than enough reason to turn my back on religion. A few passing thoughts gathered in my mind. Would Christine marry her little Vicomte there? I huffed, quickening my pace. Surely, she would not be my wife.
I brought the brim down over my face, for fear that the street lanterns might shine across my mask. I really had no need for the faint lighting anyway. My eyes had long ago grown accustomed to the night. It was no secret that I found the peaceful, evening solitude to be quite superior to the glaring sun of the day, much more forgiving.
I had planned on stopping by the furniture store to purchase a new divan for Christine's room, and also a dining table to replace the one now decaying due to the moist underground air so full of mildew. I knew of one man who might still stay open should I arrive with my pockets full of money. Claude Fontaine had never been able to resist the smell of a crisp 50 franc note. I'd met the man one evening in a tavern many years ago. I'd been sitting in a distant corner, scrawling out building plans with a frantic hand stained with ink. A man approached, drunk and stinking of heavy smoke, his face oily from sweat and too much liquor. He wasn't a man of the streets. I could tell he was rather well off by the fine fabric of his unbuttoned jacket and his loose cravat, untied and hanging over his right shoulder. I'm not really certain why he approached me, but he slammed a stein of English ale in front of me, the rustle shaking the flame in the tiny lantern illuminating my plans.
"On me, " He said. "Even the quiet man in the corner needs a drink tonight." He laughed one of those full, intoxicated guffaws before pulling up a chair on the other side of my table. Had it been any other time, I might have threatened him. But, I'd just seen Christine Daae for the first time, and love was making me unreasonable. I was so desperate then to provide for her in any that I could, I slid twenty francs to his side of the table, and whispered quietly, "I need some assistance in acquiring a few items for my home. If you help me, I will make it worth your while, with five times as much as you see before you, now." I tapped my finger on the top coin. Claude was more than eager at my proposal. The man asked no questions when he aided me in purchasing my organ and furnishings. Men who receive large sums know to keep their mouths shut.
I'd come to learn the man owned his own furniture shop. His uses increased tenfold. I planned to visit his store at the present, but for some reason I didn't stop at his building. Instead, I crossed the street to the jewelers. God knows why, I did! Christine kept running through my thoughts and there was only one way to bring myself to some temporary peace.
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