Continuing Tales

Binary

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 14 of 64

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Binary

Christineís cryptic message awaited Erik when he logged in around noon to begin work. At first, all he could think about was that he had been on her mind last night. Checking the time stamp, he saw that the message had been sent at two-fifteen in the morning. Why had she been awake so late? He knew that she shared a morning shift at the coffee shop with her friend, Meg. If she was awake at two-fifteen in the morning, sheíd barely gotten five hours of sleep. He spent the next four hours contemplating the connotations of being E-minor in Christineís mind. It wasnít an unusual tuning; some of the most beautiful classical music was written in E-minor... For the first time in his editing career, Erik missed a deadline.

Once the article was successfully edited and emailed back to the writer, Erik hovered near his computer playing aimlessly on the violin and waiting for her to log in.

minorchord has logged on.

AngelofMusic: Not only have I not edited any good articles today, I missed a deadline by half an

hour. What did you mean by that cryptic note you sent me last night?

minorchord: All shall be revealed in the fullness of time. Iíve already warmed up, and Iím ready

for my lesson, Professor Erik.

AngelofMusic: You are far too chipper for someone who has had less than six hoursí sleep.

minorchord: Iím punch-drunk, maybe. Iíve had a lot of espresso today. A lot. Please, can we sing

now?

AngelofMusic:Certainly.

Erik had prepared himself well to hear her sing. The amount of progress she had made with just the one lesson was staggering. Erik remembered the effect those two lessons had had on his voice. She was so like him...

"Iím glad you warmed up before you logged in. I want to play around a bit with your range today. I think youíll be surprised at yourself."

For the next half hour, Erik played pieces of simple classical arias and asked Christine to sing back what she heard. He began to emphasize technical work, such as resonance, mask, and enunciation. The lesson was kept short to avoid stressing her vocal chords for the second time in two days. There was so much she still had to learn! Nevertheless, he was pleased with how quickly she corrected herself.

"Thatís enough for today." Regret tinged his voice.

"I never imagined I could sound like that. And it will only get better. Thank you so much, Erik. This has been a dream of mine for years." It had. Sheíd been completely devoted to her cello and had declined voice lessons when they were offered, thinking she could only concentrate on one thing at a time.

Erikís voice was so low, she could barely make out his words. "Youíre very welcome," he muttered, then his voice became inaudible to her. "Anything to make you smile."

"Iím sorry. What did you say?"

"Nothing...it was nothing. My microphone slipped." The lie was easy and guiltless.

"Oh. Well. Anyway. Thank you. But, did I do well at my lesson?"

"Yes. Yes, of course."

"Then I get my answer. Iím ready for it."

Erik rolled his eyes, glad she couldnít see him. "What was your second question? What do I think of Lesley Garrett? Thatís a pretty serious question, isnít it?"

"I wasnít being literal with every question and you know it. You are teasing me."

"Ah, but you asked them." Erik waggled his finger at the microphone, and suddenly found himself wishing he could wag that finger directly under her upturned nose. "And here we begin our negotiations. My offer is this: If you will agree to answer the same question you ask and I answer, I will allow you to drop one question."

"Wait. Did I hear you correctly? If I agree to answer my own questions after you answer them, you will get straight to the questions I really meant to ask?"

"Yes. Do you agree?" Christine could remember some of the questions she had asked, but she had no doubt Erik remembered them all perfectly. She sincerely hoped the Lesley Garrett question was the only useless question sheíd asked.

"Alright. But you donít get to play djinn tricks on me. You must answer my questions to my satisfaction."

"If you are willing to do likewise..." It sounded like a half question/half challenge.

"I am."

"May I assume that you wish to drop the Lesley Garrett question?" His tone was insufferably snide.

"Erik..." Christineís voice was not accustomed to carrying a threatening tone, but Erik thought she did very well for one so unpracticed.

"Your first serious question was, ĎWhere do you live?í I live in a two bedroom apartment in The Park at Northgate, which is in Seattle. If youíd like the address, Iíll give that to you as well, but youíve promised to answer whatever I answer, I donít think young women should give out their addresses over the web. Do you?"

Christine was grinning broadly, her face beginning to ache. Who would ever have guessed that he was so close? "Youíre not far away from me at all! Iím at the Whisperwood apartments. We could meet..."

"NO!" Erik realized he had shouted the word. He looked and winced to see her wounded expression. Her mouth was working, but no sound came out. Trying to take back the hurt, he said it again, more softly. "No. Not yet, not now. I...I havenít answered all your questions yet. You canít know that you want to meet me. You havenít..."

"I just thought...I only thought that we could get together someplace public and maybe... play together. Microphones only transmit one way. I only thought we could play together." She was close to tears, stung by his rejection. She couldnít understand.

"Wait, Christine. Wait until Iíve answered everything. Please." He was watching the webcam, watching her face, wanting to see that hurt look disappear. ĎPleaseí was not a word Erik was used to saying, but he was willing to say it, if it would help erase that look. "Just promise me youíll wait. Please."

Christine just nodded and then brightened, remembering that she had something to give Erik.

"Ok. I promise. Do you remember your question? That deadline you missed?"

Relieved, Erik blew the breath he was holding out slowly. "I remember. Iím sure the journal remembers, too. Thank goodness Iíve been on time for six straight years. What was that about?"

Christine didnít answer him. She simply took her cello and began to play. She had been worried she might forget the melody from the night before, but it flowed as easily and naturally as the first time. Erik listened, entranced by the sweet, sad melody. ĎYou were E-minor in my mind last night.í This is what she meant. When the last strains of the song faded he wanted to speak, but before he could say a word of praise, he saw

minorchord has logged off.

Binary

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 14 of 64

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