Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 25 of 64

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A week passed, and everything seemed to have slipped back into its normal pattern. Christine worked during the day and met Erik online every evening at four. Since the performance in the park, there had been a marked change in his demeanor. He was happier, more relaxed. His conversations with Christine flowed more naturally; even his violin seemed to speak in a brighter voice.

Christine, on the other hand, was unable to shake her worries over her own inadequacy. Every time Erik turned on his webcam, she was reminded of his pain and her fears. For once she managed to hide her feelings. If Erik sensed any discord, he did not mention it. It may have been that he was distracted by the unfolding of her vocal talent. Her voice lessons were progressing rapidly; she was beginning to sound like a "real" singer.

"It's amazing, Christine, how far you've come in such a short time." His compliments were few, but always sincere.

"I have the best teacher."

"You've got something," he joked somewhat senselessly.



"It's been a week since we went to the park."

"That's true..."

"And you haven't called me."

Erik blinked. "We talk everyday, with streaming video. Why would I call you?"

" ask me out?" She was beginning to feel a bit ridiculous.

"To tell you the truth, it had not occurred to me. There aren't a lot of places I'd feel comfortable going, and the weather's been too wet to go to the park." Erik also began to feel ridiculous. Of course she wanted to be asked out. That's how dating was supposed to go. "Do you have a day off soon?"

"The day after tomorrow, and it can't come soon enough." That was true. Since their smashing success at the park, Christine had become dissatisfied with her work-a-day job at the coffee shop.

"Well, if you swear to me that you will not bring your lovely red-headed friend along, it might be nice if you would come here for a visit. I have a collection of musical instruments that you'd enjoy playing, and there's more room here than at your place."

"Great. What time? And what's your apartment number? I know where The Park at Northgate is."

Hardly believing he was giving out the information, Erik rattled off, "5291 D. If you think you could come by noon, I will cook something for lunch."

"That sounds wonderful. If you can cook, that is," Christine teased.

"I can. Bring your flute, if you would. It doesn't get enough play."

"Absolutely. It's a lot easier to carry on the bus, let me tell you."

Erik laughed his low, pleasant chuckle. Christine grinned into the camera. As rare as it was, it had quickly become one of her favorite sounds.

"Seriously. Promise me you will not bring Meg along. It was very nice to meet her but I..."

"...won't say a word if she's there," Christine finished for him. "I swear I will not bring her with me. And Erik, don't fib."


"It wasn't 'nice' for you to meet her. She attacked you with a music stand, and then you spent the rest of the night trying to pretend she wasn't there."

"You've found me out. She's a fine young woman, I'm sure, but I prefer to be alone with you." After the words were already out of his mouth, Erik realized the connotations they could carry. Damn, he thought, smooth move. Way to make her trust you. Idiot.

Christine bit her lip and blushed. "I'll see you then. Tomorrow, I've promised to go over to Meg's and hang out for awhile, so I won't be online. She says she's been missing me."

"So you've decided it's my turn to miss you instead?" Erik's tone was unreadable. Christine couldn't tell if he was teasing or serious.

"I suppose you'll have to do without me for one afternoon. I know it'll be hard..."


"But you'll have me live and in person on Monday, so you may survive." Christine turned off her monitor as a signal that she was logging off, and to keep him from seeing her face when she said, "Besides, I may have something to tell you on Monday. Goodnight!"

"What...?" Erik said, but she was gone. He looked to his clock. It was nearly eleven at night. Nadir would not enjoy a call at this time. Erik stood and stretched, looking around the living room of his apartment. It was a spacious two-bedroom with a porch overlooking the grounds. Erik had decorated after his own preferences: black curtains hung in the windows, one entire wall was composed of a shelf of books. There was soundproofing on the walls, installed with the consent of the manager after several noise complaints and some bribery. His computer was nestled in one corner, and a stand of basic recording equipment filled the other. An easy chair sat near the heavily curtained window. Erik breathed a sigh of relief; there were two chairs in the room. She'd have a comfortable place to sit. Still, this room could definitely stand to be more inviting.

In the kitchen there was only one barstool pulled up to a little round table. Where would he serve dinner? He wanted to amaze her with his culinary skills, but how impressive would rabbit in white wine sauce be if she had to eat it balancing on a barstool while he stood by, watching, with no place to sit? No. He'd have to buy a kitchen table with two chairs.

The rest of his apartment met with his approval, and he was sure it would meet with hers. She wouldn't be going in his bedroom, so that mess didn't matter; he would just shut the door. The music room was decorated with instruments. There were guitars from bass to acoustic, a cello he thought she'd admire, a viola, a spinet piano, a dulcimer, and a mandolin, among others. He could play them all with varying skill, but well enough to teach any of them.

Erik took stock of his bathroom, and discovered it needed some work. His personal effects were strewn everywhere, along with the medications his applied to his face to keep the tightly stretched, damaged skin as healthy as possible, his TENS unit, and the pain medication he took for times when pain from damaged nerves became more than he could handle. It would not do to have her see those things. He wanted nothing to remind her of that subject. Erik sighed and decided to bed down for the night. He would have to spend Sunday getting things ready for her visit - including a trip into town. Erik shuddered. The things he was willing to do for her astounded him.

Before leaving the house Sunday after a restless night's tossing and turning, Erik called Nadir. Unlike last time, Nadir answered on the second ring.

"Erik! Hello! I hardly expected a call so soon. Not twice in the last two years, and then two in a month."

"Hello, Nadir. I need some advice."

"I'm doing very well, thank you, and yourself?"

"I'm in love."

"Wonderful! Is this the same girl from before? The musician?"

"Yes. We've met." Erik couldn't keep the nervous smile from his voice.

"In person? Not just on the net?"

"Yes. We went to the park and played Schulhoff together."

There was silence from the other end of the line. Erik tried to imagine Nadir's expression, and could not. He allowed his old teacher to mull that revelation over for a few minutes. Finally, Nadir spoke.

"This girl got you to go out in public and perform? You are in love. And she doesn't mind..."

"The mask? Honestly, she was curious about it and tried to touch it. But no. She doesn't seem to mind it. That's not what I need advice about, though."

"She tried to touch it? What did you do?"

"I let her. Actually, I made her. But Nadir, that is not what I need advice about! " Erik was beginning to lose patience.

"Alright there. Hold your temper. Is there something more serious, my boy?"

"She's coming over tomorrow. For lunch. I'm cooking rabbit. I'm about to go out and buy a table and chairs. Is there anything else I should do?"

"Flowers. Candles. Music. Just a few suggestions from an old man who has had nothing to do with women for several years."

"I don't know if Christine will go for those things. She's different from other women, I think."

"Almost all women 'go' for those things. It certainly can't hurt. Does she love you?"

"She can't."

"Did she say so?"

"No, Nadir." The pain that had been absent from Erik's voice came back in a rush. "I just know so. Even if she thinks she does, she can't."

"That's dangerous, you know, telling a woman what she does or doesn't feel..."

"Her face is so expressive." Erik said, and Nadir worked to follow the sudden subject-change. "I almost always know what she's feeling. I know every little twitch of her lips, every movement of her eyebrow. When she smiles, her eyes squint, and when she laughs, her round cheeks turn apple-red. When she's embarrassed or feeling a little shy, she chews her lower lip. When she gets annoyed, the skin between her eyebrows wrinkles, and her nostrils flare."

"That's very observant, Erik, but I don't..."

"I haven't even got nostrils - thank goodness the doctors replaced them enough for me to sing. She guesses my mood from my voice. All she has to go by is a blank, black mask. She hasn't the least idea what's hidden underneath. And until she does, she can't love me, because she doesn't know me. If she ever tells me she loves me, I want her to be able to say it to my face."

Nadir found himself massaging the bridge of his nose and reaching for his patience. "I don't think that not seeing your face necessarily means she doesn't love you."

"It means that if she loves anything, it's what she imagines me to be. When she can say it to my face, I'll believe it." Erik paused, waiting for Nadir to argue. When he didn't, Erik continued, "But even you think that's too much to ask. So, she can't love me. Do you understand?"

"I follow you, even if I don't agree. Erik, would you ever let her see it? Or have you come up with a novel way to make yourself miserable..."

"I don't know. But for now, I'll just give, music, and candles? And hope I make her happy."

"My real advice is the same as it was last time. Tell her the truth. And for the love of all that's good, don't tell her what she feels. Just let her feel it."

"Thank you, Nadir."

"You're very welcome, Erik, though I doubt you'll take a word I've said to heart."

"Of course I will. Goodbye."


Erik hung up, grabbed his sweatshirt, and headed out for flowers, candles, a table, and chairs.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 25 of 64

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