Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 19 of 64

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

Christine lingered outside the door of the coffee shop, gathering her courage and trying to hold her cello, her knapsack, and a bag with several sandwiches and brownies without dropping anything. Meg was going to be upset with her. Meg was a wonderful friend, but she had a terribly Irish temper that matched her hair. With a deep breath, Christine bundled everything through the door. From the kitchen, she heard Bess yell, "Daae! You are late! Get in here and get the mugs out. Double-time, girlie-Q!" Christine ran into the kitchen, stowed her stuff as out of the way as possible, and grabbed the rack of mugs. Bess was a nice woman, and was very understanding towards her employees, but there was no reason to goad her.

Meg was already at the counter, setting up the register. Christine tried not to feel the hot glare that was burning the back of her head. She carefully set up the mugs, counted the paper cups, replaced the stirring straws, checked the sugar shaker for clumps, and generally tidied up before going to face her doom behind the counter.

"Good morning, Meg. You ready for the zombie attack?" It was an ongoing joke. The first customers to stumble through the door often closely resembled something from Night of the Living Dead.

"Did you tell him you weren't interested?" Meg sounded brisk and business-like. That was not good.

"No. I didn't. I told him that I had found him out. He explained what happened, and..."

"And you believed him." Meg's tongue had a razor edge when she wanted it to.

"Yes, Meg, I did. Because I saw him."

"You met him physically? Not online? Please tell me you didn't..."

"I didn't. After I told him that I'd found him out, and he explained, he went out and bought a webcam, so I could see that he was telling the truth." Christine was terrible at covering her emotions. Meg's eyebrows flew halfway up her forehead, hearing an untold story.

"And what was the 'truth' you saw?" The first zombie was shambling toward the counter. Meg took the order in record time and turned back to Christine expectantly.

"I shouldn't tell you. It's something he doesn't want spread."

"I'm not going to spread it. Who would I tell? Honestly Christine, I've already huddled on the floor in order to 'meet' this guy."

"His face is...he wears a mask. He wouldn't show me what his real face looks like."

"That sounds pretty fishy, Christine. I don't know if I'd believe it." Meg was understandably suspicious. It wasn't unheard of for a man to do odd things to try to intrigue a woman.

"I believe it. He has a beautiful Leonhardt violin - that means nothing to you, but Leonhardt is a highly esteemed craftsman - and he'd ruined the finish, just so it wouldn't reflect his face."

Meg stared at her. She wasn't a musician herself, but she'd seen the lengths Christine went through to protect her precious cello. If the man had damaged a fine instrument on purpose, he might truly have a reason to wear a mask. There was no more time to ponder on that now. The zombie attack was fully underway. There would be no more chance for conversation until ten o'clock or later.

Christine moved through the shift thinking that Round 1 had gone very well. There was still Round 2 at lunch, though, when Christine would have to turn down an offer to hang out at Meg's place in favor of her meeting with Erik. She decided to use the Band-Aid approach: do it quickly in the hopes it would hurt less.

"So, Miss Chris. Here we sit, waiting for our food. Time to spare, time for stories..."

Christine took a deep breath. "Ok. I told you he wears a mask. The assault charge is from a time when another guy was teasing him and apparently trying to take the mask off his face. Erik punched him, and in his words 'hurt him quite badly'. I told Erik that I thought that was barbaric and immature. He agreed." Here came the dangerous moment. "I am meeting him in the park at four o'clock..."

"You've finally gone loopy. That is not safe. Are you listening to me? That is not safe and you could be...he could do anything to you!" Meg's tone was rising and her face was turning a shade of red that complimented her hair nicely. The waiter with their food started towards the table but veered away at the look on Meg's face.

"He could, but he won't." Christine reached for the super-calm voice Erik used when he wished to betray no emotion. She waved at the waiter and nodded reassuringly. "He won't, because I won't put myself in danger. We will be in public the entire time. I won't go anywhere alone with him. And when we start to play, there will be a crowd, I guarantee you that much."

"You're going to play?" Meg thought of how much convincing it had taken to get Christine to play for her boyfriend's family when they visited. Now the girl who had run at full speed from the Lawrence Conservatory was talking blithely about playing her cello in the middle of a public park with a fellow genius in a mask. Christine was right; that would draw a crowd.

"Yes. We will play together. It's like a dream come true."

"He's not a musician...he's a magician," Meg muttered into her half-sandwich. "It still makes me nervous. I could go with you, just to make sure."

"No. This is my decision, and I will face the consequences. Not that I think there will be any." Christine finished her salad and stood up to pay. "Megan, I know you are trying to look out for me, and thank you. I know you are worried for me. I'm a little nervous myself. But I want this enough to take the risk. He's worth it. Look, I'll tell you what. Call my cell phone at ten o'clock sharp. If I don't answer, you can assume I've been dragged off to a horrible death and you can call the cops."

Christine hugged her friend, then crossed the road and clocked back into work. Meg followed after her, not sure if she should be feeling angry or proud. By the time she'd gotten her first steam burn of the afternoon from the cappuccino machine, she'd chosen to be proud; there was no point in getting angry.

When the shift ended, Meg helped Christine load up with her stack of belongings and totter onto the bus. Christine smiled her thanks. When the bus was out of sight, Meg walked home, took a shower, had some dinner, then grabbed the spare key to Christine's apartment and went there to wait.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 19 of 64

<< Previous     Home     Next >>