Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 10 of 64

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Meg tried not to show her concern, but it leaked out around the edges of her smile. Christine had made bad choices in the guy-department before, but at least sheíd always fallen for flesh-and-blood men. There was something distinctly creepy about internet romances. You never heard about happy endings on the news, but you heard plenty about women and children who were stalked, raped and even killed by men who hid behind the anonymity of their computer screens.

"Well, you know the rule. If you are going to be infatuated with this guy, I have to meet him." It was a rule Meg had made after Sterling - an honorable man who had shown his love for Christine by driving up her cell phone bill calling all his friends to announce that heíd "done it" with her, which he hadnít. The only boy friend Christine had had since then, Raoul, had passed Megís scrutiny. And he really was a sweet, gentlemanly guy - he just wasnít her type.

"Uh-uh, Meg. No way." Christine could only imagine Erikís response to Megís aggressive directness.

"You swore it to me! Remember? You put your left hand on the cappuccino maker and swore to me that I could screen all of your potential future significant others." This was a serious issue, something sworn on the cappuccino maker was sacred; it was widely believed that if you broke an oath sworn this way, the machine would break down and the oath-breaker would be swarmed by caffeine addicts in withdrawal.

"Heíd take offense to it, Meg. Iíve known some people with pride issues - they pale in comparison to this guy. I think heíd be really angry if I brought someone in to judge him like that."

"Heíd never have to know. Iíd stay off camera and just listen." Meg turned on her shiniest best-friend smile and leaned in close. "Címon Miss Chris; itís for your own good. When do you two meet next? Iíll bring popcorn and chick-flicks for afterwards!"

Meg was irresistible when she turned on her charms. For twenty years sheíd been as loyal and true a friend as anyone could hope for. To deny her the right to Ďscreení Erik would be to break a serious promise and to allow an element of distrust between them. Christine but her lip, sighed, and caved in. "Today at four oíclock. But please, Meg, promise me youíll stay off camera and not move. The microphone I bought has nearly perfect reproduction."

"Of course, Miss Chris. Whatever you say, Miss Chris!" Meg saluted her with that same shiny smile plastered over her face. Christine rolled her eyes and looked at her watch.

"We better get back. I donít need to be late so soon after calling out sick." Meg nodded and stood, still smiling. For Christineís sake, she hoped the guy wasnít too creepy. If he were, she would do her duty as best friend by telling Christine so.

After their shift, Christine and Meg walked home together. Christine was silent all the way. She had terrible butterflies banging around in her stomach. It was too easy to imagine tonight going wrong. Erik might hear Meg in the background and become angry. He might disappear again, this time for good. Or, Meg might not like Erik, and then Christine would have to find some way to dodge her best friendís disapproval.

As she unlocked the door to her tiny apartment, Christine turned to Meg with large, solemn eyes. "Ok. The camera points this way, and if you sit over there, youíll be too close to the mic. Try sitting over here."

"Christine. Calm down. Iím not going to give your terrible secret away to your internet hottie. I promised, didnít I?" Meg was irritated because Christineís nervousness was beginning to wear off on her.

Christine went on as though Meg had never spoken. "You might want to get some water, and a pillow...and hereís a blanket. Get comfortable now. Man, oh man, this is not a good idea..."

Meg settled into her corner and watched Christine bustle around the room, getting her cello set up, her bow rosined, the microphone and camera set at good angles, and generally acting like the metaphorical long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. She really does have a crush. Meg thought. I hope heís worth all the angst."

"Ok. Stretch and do whatever you have to do now. I log on in a few seconds."

To try to sap some of the tension from the room, Meg lowered her voice and spoke through her hand to imitate a bad CB connection. "Ch-ch. Houston? We have log on in three...two...wuh..."

"SHHHH!" Christine clicked to log in. It was entirely irrational, but she really felt as though she were betraying Erik. Which is ridiculous. Girl, get a hold of yourself! You never promised him total privacy. There he was, waiting for her.

minorchord: Hi there! Edited any good articles lately?

AngelofMusic: No. How was your day, Little Latte?

minorchord: Truthfully?

AngelofMusic: Of course.

minorchord: It was a very uncoordinated day. I couldnít stop thinking about you and how you

played. It made me mess up a lot of orders. :-)

AngelofMusic: Really. Iíve been thinking a lot about how I can teach you over the

microphone, and honestly, I donít think itíll be too difficult. Youíve got natural


minorchord: When do we start?

AngelofMusic: As soon as you like.

Erik smiled at her eagerness to begin. He opened the webcam session and Voicechat, steeling himself to see and hear her again. Her image had been behind his eyelids and her voice had haunted his ears the entire night before. Whether this was a pleasant or unpleasant thing, he was as yet undecided.

"Well, then. Let us begin. Go ahead and stand up straight and relaxed. Iím going to teach you a few warm-up exercises, and then we can try... What are you looking at?"

When Erik began speaking, Christine could not restrain herself from looking to see Megís reaction. Meg was sitting in her corner, open-mouthed. Christine wanted to laugh, point and yell, "I told you so", but that would give her away entirely, if Erik hadnít figured it out already.

"Thereís a fly on the wall," She lied, thinking that it was actually pretty close to the truth. "It keeps buzzing around; itís very distracting." The spell of Erikís voice was broken a bit; Meg stuck out her tongue.

Erik raised an eyebrow. Christine didnít seem to be the type to be so easily distracted. His suspicions raised, he watched her closely. "Focus. Letís start with lip trills."

For the next hour, Erik walked Christine through voice warm-ups. As she grew more comfortable in front of her audience of two, Christineís voice improved dramatically. Erik had been correct when he said that her biggest hurdle was simply a fear of making sound. Once he convinced her to open her mouth, the whispery quality disappeared and very pretty soprano voice emerged. When her voice began to tire, Erik ended the lesson, half-relieved that she hadnít actually gotten to sing. He knew which song sheíd want to learn first and he simply wasnít up to it.

"Why did my voice give out so quickly? I can talk for hours! You should ask my friends." Christine mentioned her friends more to gauge his reaction than anything else.

"I doubt Iíll ever meet your friends." There was no humor in his voice. "Your voice gave out because the muscles you use to sing arenít developed - that what the vocal chords are. Rest your voice today. Practice everyday. Soon your voice will last nearly as long as you want it to - if you donít abuse it."

"Why?" Christine asked.

"Why what?"

"Why do you doubt youíll ever meet my friends? I could bring Meg over here one day and you guys could talk." Christine wished she could see his face.

"I would very much prefer that you not do that, Christine. I donít...get on with people very well."

"You do just fine with me..." She smiled as she asked. Finally, he was talking to her.

"Youíre different."

"Be a little less specific, please. I might understand you, otherwise." Her sarcasm was gentle, not meant to bite, but to encourage.

"What do you want me to tell you?" Erik truly didnít know. He was miserably unsocialized. This business of chatting candidly with a woman was difficult at best. It would have been a relief to log off, but every soft word she spoke and every little change of her expression made him need to stay. It horrified him, but he realized he was becoming fond of her.

"I want you to tell me anything. Why am I different? Different from who?"

He sighed heavily and when he spoke, his voice dripped with forced patience. "How are you different? You know music. Youíre a genius on that cello, and I think you will shape up to be a fine singer. I respect such musical skill. Weíve been talking for, what, four or five months now? You continue to be interesting long after most other people would have begun to bore me. I enjoy talking to you, Christine. Different from whom? From everyone else Iíve ever met. Anything else you are burning to know?"

"Sure, but remember that you asked me. Do you like Quasi? How about Lesley Garrett? Where do you live? Why donít you perform? Whatís your last name? What conclusion do you expect me to draw from the fact that you wonít use a webcam?" All of this was delivered rapid-fire, giving him no chance to interject anything. Christine took a deep breath - in for a penny, in for a pound, her father always said. Megís presence gave her courage. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Erik stared at the screen. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. He was at a complete loss for words. She was looking away from the camera, blushing furiously, chewing her lip in a way that made him sweat. Something important had just happened. Could it be that she had grown fond of him as well? But, all those questions! How could he even begin to answer?

"I think Quasi has matured quite a bit over the years. They have a truly unique sound," Erik said, deadpan, and then fell silent.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 10 of 64

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