Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 18 of 64

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For a moment, Christine had no reply. What did you say to something like that? 'You're welcome,' seemed pitifully inadequate. Erik watched her with the coppery taste of fear in his mouth. He did not like unpredictable situations, and this was wholly new ground for him. She had not answered him to promise that she would come back. She had not even admitted that he had been justified in beating that creep senseless. Christine was giving away nothing and he found that he desperately needed something. Finally, she spoke.

"I'm glad I could be there to help." It was a thin, flat inadequate statement. "Why did they scream at you? What's -you don't have to show me - what's wrong with your face?"

"I don't want to talk about it, Christine. Let me just say that I am severely disfigured and they saw me and then let's drop it. Is that enough? Can you be satisfied with that?" Erik was sitting back in his chair, almost pulling away from the screen.

It must be bad, she thought, and then on the heels of that thought came a less comfortable one; Can I deal with something like that?

"Yes, I'm sorry. I'm satisfied. I don't mean to pry." That seemed to help. He appeared to relax a little; he no longer looked as though he would spring from his chair and run away any second. "You could have told me this sooner, you know.

"How could I? You've become very..." Erik searched for a word. All the words that suggested themselves were too sloppy-sweet. He didn't want to sound like a Hallmark greeting card. He picked the least sentimental, "important to me. I didn't want to risk that you would stop talking to me."

"I'm not that shallow. Do you really think I'm that shallow?" Christine gave him a reproachful look.

"It's not shallow to reject something like me. You're a young, single woman. You have to protect yourself. I'd understand..." but he wouldn't, and he knew it, but it was better to let her think that he would, "if you logged off today and never spoke to me again."

"You said you had a Leonhardt? May I see it?" Christine abruptly changed the subject. She couldn't stand to hear him talk about himself as a "thing."

Erik smiled, and she saw that he had a beautiful smile. He reached off camera and lifted a beautifully crafted black violin case into view. "Christine, you are about to meet my best friend. She's been with me through the worst of the last twenty-two years." He opened the case and lifted the beautiful thing out, displaying it to her with parental pride.

Christine was suitably impressed. It was a thing of beauty, but, "I've never seen a violin with a finish like that. In fact, I've never seen any instrument with a finish like that."

Erik looked down, ashamed. He had done this to his violin the same year he got it. He'd scuffed it lightly with fine grained sand-paper until it no longer reflected his face. "I did that to make it less reflective. My father was very angry, saying that I'd destroyed the value of the instrument. But I knew better. I'd never sell her - the monetary value means nothing."

"Will you play her for me?" This was the moment of decision for Christine.

"The first thing I played on her when they gave her to me was the Moonlight Sonata. It's a well known piece, but it's still one of my favorites."

Erik put the violin under his chin and lifted the bow. He began to play and the wistful sound filled both apartments and both minds. Sitting in his computer chair, Erik had looked like a thin, shaggy man. Aside from his eyes and mask, there was nothing remarkable about him. That changed the moment he began to play. The transformation was so complete, Christine almost rubbed her eyes to make sure what she was seeing was real. He was beautiful; if he'd sprouted wings, she'd hardly have been surprised. The music was wrapped around him like cloth-of-gold. She didn't know it, but she was seeing the same change Erik had admired in her the first time he saw her play. By the time it was over, Christine was sure of her choice and Meg would just have to deal with it.

"Imagine what it would sound like if we played together..." She whispered the words, not wanting to break the spell. Spoken language was so harsh. Why couldn't everything be music?

Still caught in his trance, Erik smiled. "I don't dare. If I were to imagine such a thing, I would want it to come true."

"Why can't it?"

He looked up sharply. "I've got a conviction for assault. I'm..." he gave up on words and gestured at his mask. "this thing. It can't come true, can it?"

"I'm not afraid of you, Erik, if that's what you are thinking."

Erik felt his throat tighten. The truth was in her eyes; she really wasn't frightened by him. He reached up and touched the image of her face on his monitor. The gesture had become habit since Christine set up her webcam. Erik had momentarily forgotten that she could now see him as well.

The gesture was so unassuming, so innocent, that it made Christine's breath catch in her throat. This was a side of Erik that his carefully controlled voice had hidden. "If I invited you to meet me at the entrance to Interlaken Park, would you come and bring your violin?" Christine made the invitation fully aware that his horrible experience the other day had been in a park.

"That's... I don't know."

"I'll lug my cello out there. And...I'll bring sandwiches. And a blanket. We could play together, and have a picnic lunch..." Christine was already there in her mind. The weather was supposed to be beautiful; for once, there was almost no chance of rain.

Erik blinked. "You'd do all that?"

"If you promise to show up, I will. But if I go through all that trouble, and you don't show up..." She let the threat hang in the air.

"And you're sure you want to be seen in public with me?"

"You are just being silly now. Don't." There was only so much self-deprecation she was willing to hear from him.

"I am not. I'm serious. What if something happens, like yesterday? Things go wrong." It seemed to Erik that things went wrong more often than not.

"Then we will leave." Christine could understand that he'd need reassurance. She felt she could give it to him without making herself a liar.

"Together. I promise. Just meet me there at four, ok? I need to get some sleep now." She didn't mention that she needed to be well-rested to defend herself against her own best friend.

"I will be there. Goodnight, Little Latte."

"Goodnight, Angel."


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 18 of 64

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