Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 22 of 64

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When the bus pulled up to her stop, Erik handed up her bag, but didn't rise. Christine signaled to the bus driver so that he would wait for her to struggle down the aisle. He nodded at her, willing to wait because there weren't many people left on the bus this time of night. When she didn't walk away, Erik hesitantly looked up at her.

"Goodnight, Christine."

"You don't want coffee?"

"I didn't think you'd still want me to come, after the way I've behaved." Even as he spoke, he was rising from his seat, getting ready to disembark with her.

"Well, I do. So come on before the driver pulls away." Confident that he would be right behind her, Christine banged and bumped her way down the aisle.

When they stood on the sidewalk, the awkwardness between them was as palpable as when they first met. Neither knew what to do or say, but it felt like someone had to say something.

"I apologize for frightening you." Erik spoke to the sidewalk, unable to meet her eyes. "I thought...It seemed like..."

"Like I was trying to hurt you. I know. I should never have reached for your face without your permission, and I'm sorry." She couldn't look him in the face, either. "My curiosity does over-rule my sense sometimes. There's a short walk from here to my apartments. We better get going." She picked up her cello and began to trudge down the sidewalk.

In a few long strides, Erik caught up with her. "I'd never hurt you, Christine, believe me. I get angry sometimes, but I'd that."

Christine pulled up short and set her cello down. Erik stopped beside her, wondering why she was stopping in the middle of sidewalk. The sun had set; the streetlights lit her hair in a frizzy halo around her face.

"I do believe that, Erik. I have taken...I am taking a big chance being alone with you. I believe you wouldn't hurt me. But...when you put my hand on your face, it hurt you, didn't it." She wasn't asking; she was making a statement, expecting him to confirm her suspicions.

Erik was caught off guard by her perceptiveness. For a moment, he couldn't think how to respond. " mean...a little, but that doesn't matter. You wanted to know."

"If I'd known that it would hurt you, I would never have done it. Never." Now a tear did escape and roll slowly over her round cheek.

"Oh, no. Nono. Christine, don't cry. It only hurts if there's too much pressure on it. Really. It was my fault that it hurt. I wasn't careful. It's fine, now." Erik couldn't stand the sight of that gleaming tear-track.

Christine stepped towards him. He took a small, shuffling step backwards. She did not retreat, but reached forward and pulled him into her arms in a tight hug. Her cheek was flat against his chest; she could hear his heart beating hard and fast. After a moment, she felt his arms encircle her, tentatively at first, and then she was wrapped in a warm, strong embrace. They stayed that way for several minutes, neither one wanting to be the first to let go.

"I don't want to hurt you, Erik. Don't ever let me hurt you." Christine could no longer hold back the tears. The whole day had overwhelmed her. She didn't sob, but cried silently for a few seconds before pulling away. He let her go reluctantly.

"I'll tell you a secret, if you'll stop crying."

Christine laughed a little and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Ok. I've stopped. What's your secret?"

"I've never held a woman like that before." He was smiling a tiny smile, glancing at her briefly, and then looking away.


"Really. No woman ever let me get that close to her."

"Their loss. Oh, crud. Look at the time. It's nine-thirty. We have to hurry. Meg's going to call me at ten, and I left my phone at home."

They gathered up everything and hustled along. Erik noticed that she lived in a relatively run-down neighborhood. He imagined taking her home to his apartment and shivered with pleasure at the thought. She'd love his collection of instruments - he could teach her to play anything she wanted.

She lived on the second floor. At the first step, he took the cello from her and jogged the rest of the way up before she could protest. She ran up the stairs after him, laughing, and put her key in the lock. The door was already unlocked, but she distinctly remembered turning the key in the deadbolt when she left home that morning. She looked at Erik, suddenly wary. "There's someone in there, or there was. I know I locked that door this morning."

Erik handed the instruments to her and nudged her away from the door, putting himself between her and danger. He turned the doorknob and opened the door in one fluid motion, ready to clobber anything that came at him. What he saw was a tall, lean, red-headed woman sitting on a faded navy-blue papasan, eating brownies and watching a movie on a tiny television. When she heard the door open, she turned her head and then leapt from her seat.

"Where's Christine and what the HELL are you doing in her apartment!" she shrieked. Looking around, she grabbed the closest thing to her - Christine's music rack - and began to advance on Erik.

"Ah. You must be Meg. Pleased to meet you, ma'am," he said, as he ducked her first swing.

"Meg! Jesus! Stop it!" Christine pushed her way into the apartment, her cello in one hand and Erik's violin in the other. "I'm right here."

Seeing Christine alive and apparently unharmed, Meg dropped the music rack. She ran across the small room, grabbed her friend in a fierce hug, and then punched her viciously on the arm.


"What are you thinking? You said you wouldn't go anywhere alone with him, and now you've brought him back to your apartment? Didn't we have an agreement?" Meg was shaking her finger furiously. Erik stood back, not wanting to interfere with the very strange scene unfolding before him.

Christine rubbed her bruised arm and smiled ruefully. "Our agreement was that you would call me at ten, not break into my apartment and eat all my brownies!"

"I didn't break in. You gave me your spare key when you moved in, just in case you lost yours. Remember? And look. There are at least one... two...three brownies left. It's a good thing I did come over, or else you would be alone with him."

"I intended to be alone with him, thank you very much. We were going to have a lovely cup of coffee and a long chat. Erik has proven himself to be quite honorable, unlike some sneaky people I could name. He came in ahead of me because he was trying to protect me from the red-headed bandit!" Christine was half joking, half scolding.

"Alright, then. We can certainly sit down and have a lovely coffee and a lovely chat. I need to get to know this guy, anyway, if he's going to be dating my best friend."

"'This guy' is honored to make your acquaintance. But my name is Erik. I'd say pleased to meet you, but I don't want any more metal objects swung at my head."

Meg had the goodness to look a little shamefaced. "It's, uh, nice to meet you, Erik. Look, you guys sit down. I'll go make the coffee. Caf or De? Ah, never mind. Leaded for everyone. "

Christine sat on the papasan and patted the space beside her. Erik sat down and looked around the tiny, drab apartment. He wanted to hug her again, but with Meg in the house, it just didn't seem wise. Christine smiled and shrugged. "Mother Meg's in the house. What can I say? She's usually not this violent, I swear. She just a little...worried."

"And to think I was worried I'd frightened you." He shook his head and looked at the woman bustling in the galley kitchen. "If this is 'worried', I'd hate to see her angry."

"Yes. Yes you would." Since Erik was clearly not going to do it himself, Christine put an arm around his waist. "I've seen her make grown men cry."


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 22 of 64

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