Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 23 of 64

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Erik sat stiffly, awkwardly aware of Christine's arm around his waist. He looked down at her to see that she was watching the movie on the television. What was he supposed to do? He remembered the beautiful bohemian couple from earlier in the week. Would Christine allow him to put his arm around her shoulders? She had hugged him; maybe she wouldn't mind. He slowly, furtively draped his arm lightly on her shoulders and waited for her to shrug him away. Instead, she reached up, dragged her hair from under his arm, and smiled a little. Apparently, this was allowed.

Meg watched surreptitiously from the kitchen, noting how nervous the man was. He seemed afraid to touch Christine, though she was clearly happy to have him near. He sat rigidly instead of settling back comfortably into the papasan like any other person would have done. Meg was beginning to believe Christine's stories about Erik. She poured three mugs full of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and put them on a tray, along with three spoons, a bottle of toffee flavored creamer, and Christine's sugar bowl. It was time to go interrogate the newcomer.

Christine shoved a pile of sheet music off the coffee table that doubled as her dinner table and personal workspace. Meg set the tray down, pulled up the computer chair across from the couple, and proceeded to prepare her coffee the way she liked it; almost white with cream and cloyingly sweet with sugar. Christine turned to Erik, who sat as though afraid to move.

"You can have a cup of coffee, you know. That's why Meg made it."

He nodded solemnly, took a cup, and added a drip of cream. Christine nodded, satisfied, and prepared her own cup. The three sat, stirring and sipping their coffee, aware of the awkwardness in the room, but unsure of how to end it.

"So. What were you kids off doing today?" Meg hated uncomfortable silences.

"We had a picnic in the park. Sandwiches and brownies - much like the ones you were eating when we came home." Christine smiled up at Erik and put her hand reassuringly over his hand on her shoulder. "Then we put on a concert."

"Wonder of wonders. You actually did play. Did people stop and listen?" Meg already knew the answer. If Christine played, people stopped.

"A few." Christine responded nonchalantly.

Meg lifted one disbelieving eyebrow.

"Hundred. A few hundred." Christine corrected herself. "It was a perfect day for a little music in the park."

"Does he know that you don't perform?" Meg asked, nodding towards Erik.

Christine stared down into her cup. Erik likewise found great interest in his own.

Meg sighed. It was like talking to a stone wall. "Christine hasn't performed in well over a year. She swore off performing entirely - until you came along. She tells me you don't perform either. Which is a shame, because she also says that you are better than she is."

"I am not." Erik spoke firmly and quietly. "Christine understates her ability."

"That's the truth." Meg agreed, repressing a triumphant smile. She'd made him speak. "What did you two play? Not that I expect to know it..."

"We played that piece I was obsessed with last November. Remember? You said if I played it in your presence one more time, you'd hide my cello strings."

"Oh. That. It never really did sound like anything to me." Meg shrugged.

"That's because you only heard half of it. Duets have two parts - neither half sounds right without the other." Christine felt Erik's arm tighten briefly around her shoulders. She continued, hoping that he realized that she was talking as much to him as to Meg. "Neither part sounds right without the other. Separate them and you just have strange noise. Shall we show her?"

"I don't think we have time to play the entire piece. You need to sleep and I have to go soon." Erik didn't have anything in particular he needed to do; he was just beginning to feel an overwhelming need to be back in the safety of his own apartment.

"We'll just give her a sample. Moderato?" She took her arm from his waist and reached for her cello case. Meg heard him sigh when they broke contact, but he willingly took his violin in hand. Christine shuffled Meg off the computer chair, it being the only seat in the room tall enough for Christine to play her instrument comfortably. Erik retained the papasan. Meg contented herself with a seat on the floor.

The movement was less than ten minutes long, but in that short time Meg finally came to understand -and accept - why Christine was willing to trust this weird masked man from the internet. The two were perfect compliments to one another. She was used to seeing Christine play, but this was the first time she had actually noticed the transformation from girl to virtuoso. It was mirrored by Erik's transformation from a tense, shadowy, masked man to a thing of grace and beauty. Meg felt an instant of jealousy, knowing that she could never reach Christine in that way, put that dreamy, unfocused smile on her face.

When the sample was done, Erik stood and bowed, first to Meg and then to Christine. "Goodnight, the coffee was delicious." He packed up his violin and was on his way out the door when he felt a light touch on his shoulder. Christine stood there with a little slip of paper in her hand.

"This is my phone number. I can't believe I haven't thought to give it to you before now."

Erik folded the little slip of paper carefully and stowed it in his wallet. He turned to go, but was stopped by that gentle touch again. When he turned this time, he found himself in her embrace for the second time that evening. She let goreluctantly, and there was no need for words. He simply smiled, brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, and left.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 23 of 64

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