Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 26 of 64

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Christine stood in front of the mirror, staring at herself. Since they'd labeled it as such, this was their first official "date". She'd spent two hours on the current product, and was feeling pretty pleased with herself. Her normally frizzy hair was full of 'product', smooth as glass, and pinned in a French braid with little curls escaping at the sides. . She had washed with a perfumed soap, spritzed with a light body spray, and smelled delicious to herself. She'd applied a rose shaded lip balm, a light brush of rouge, and even some mascara and eyeliner. She was wearing a fitted lavender blouse and a full black skirt that complimented her figure - the last time she'd worn this outfit was when Meg muscled her into performing for her boyfriend's family. Sensibly low-heeled black Maryjane shoes completed the look. As she left the apartment she realized that she was wearing no jewelry. Crud, she thought. But it was too late to go back; she didn't want to risk missing her bus.

As Christine stood outside the door to Erik's apartment, checking her makeup one last time, one of Erik's neighbors came out of her apartment to get her newspaper. When the older lady spotted Christine about to knock on Erik's door, she looked alarmed.

"Oh, honey, whatever you're selling, he doesn't want any. Save yourself some trouble and just leave that one alone." The woman's voice sounded friendly.

"I'm sorry?" It was startling to be accosted by a stranger trying to warn her away from her friend.

"That man is one of the strangest, surliest people I've ever seen move into this building, and I've been here since it was put up. If you knock on his door, don't expect a warm welcome. The only people he answers the door to are deliverymen. He almost never leaves."

"I think he'll see me..." Christine knocked on the door, amused by the chagrin on the woman's face.

After a moment, the door opened. Erik's eyes swept her from head to toe and a smile bloomed on his face. She blushed and looked down - straight into the bouquet of roses and baby's breath he pressed into her hand. She inhaled the sweet aroma and looked up to Erik, her eyes shining.

"Oh Erik...they're gorgeous. Thank you!" She cut her eyes to the right, taking in the amazed expression on the old woman's face with satisfaction. She smiled sweetly and allowed Erik to escort her into his apartment. It was softly lit by numerous candles, Vivaldi's Four Seasons played softly from a surround-sound system, and a mouth-watering smell permeated the air. Erik stood quietly to one side, taking in her reaction. He had not spoken a word; he was too nervous. He hoped it lent an air of romance, or mystery, or whatever attracted women to men.

"You look wonderful tonight." The compliment was sincere. Erik was wear black dress pants with a burgundy silk shirt that did much to hide his terrible thinness.

"Thank you." He kicked himself. He should have complimented her first, at the door. "You are a vision."

He followed her as she walked past him into the kitchen, searching for something.

"What do you need?"

"A vase? These will wilt if we don't put them in water, and I'd like to take them home with me."

Erik pulled a wine carafe from a shelf, filled it with water and watched as she carefully arranged the flowers in it.

"I have to ask: What is that wonderful smell?"

"Our lunch. Let it be a surprise. It'll be done in another 15 minutes." He felt awkward, standing there with her in his kitchen. "Would you like to see the music room while we wait?"


Christine was suitably impressed with the array of instruments. She went from one to the next, touching them, asking the stories behind each, testing their tone and tuning.

"They're all in tune. How do you manage that?"

"I spend a lot of time in here."

"That's what the old lady in the hall said." Christine remarked offhandedly. "You don't seem to have made yourself very popular with your neighbors."

"I told you I don't get on with people very well." He lifted the mandolin and played a quick Irish folksong. "Mary pokes her nose where it doesn't belong with amazing regularity."

"And I repeat: you seem to "get on" with me just fine."

Erik stared studiously at the inlays on the cello. "And I repeat: you are different from anyone I've ever known. Thank goodness for that. Here. Test this out and see how you like its sound. It has a completely different personality from yours. I'm going to see how lunch is coming along."

Christine played the exquisitely crafted instrument until Erik called out that lunch was served. She put down the beautiful bow reluctantly. Though her cello was dear to her heart, it was nowhere close to this piece of art in quality. Erik had somehow amassed a collection of instruments that would be the envy of any professional orchestra.

"I hope you enjoy this. It's the first time I've tried the recipe. It looked too good not to give it a shot." Erik pulled out her chair, poured a serving of wine into her glass and waited until she was comfortable before taking his own seat.

Christine took the first bite and closed her eyes. Let's add gourmet chef to the list of Amazing Things Erik Can Do. She chewed slowly, in culinary ecstasy. "Erik, you are incredible. I can make a great grilled cheese, but that about covers the extent of my cooking skills."

"I'm glad you like it." Inwardly, Erik was utterly unimpressed with his ability to entertain his guest. What had happened to the witty repartee that flowed effortlessly over the microphone? "So. Have I done well? Flowers? Music? Candles?"

Christine laughed; the bell-like sound was absorbed quickly by the soundproofing. "Oh my. Is that why you've been so quiet? You're worried that I might not like what you've done here? Erik... everything is wonderful...perfect. I've never had a man go through this much trouble to make me happy. And you have. Made me happy, that is."

Erik relaxed visibly. The tension fell out of his shoulders and his posture lost its rigidity. "I was worried. I didn't know if it would please you. You know, I've never really known what to think of Vivaldi. Some of his work moves me deeply, but much of it strikes me as too treacly-sweet. It's almost as though he were reaching for the emotion he thought his audience expected and abandoned authentic feeling."

"I don't mind a little sweetness, sometimes. But you're right. His music does reach. It's like a lot of modern artists, I think. You have to listen to the B-sides of their albums to find the good stuff."

From there, the conversation flowed as lightly and easily as it normally did during their online conversations. They talked about all the composers they could think of who seemed to reach for and miss the mark emotionally with their music. From there, they discussed the formulaic essence of Motown and agreed that despite that, they both loved Motown.

When lunch was done, Christine popped up from the table and ran to her purse. "I brought something that I thought might be fun tonight." Christine pulled out the CD she had grabbed as a last second thought on her way out the door. She passed it to Erik, who scanned the title dubiously.

"Strauss's waltzes?"

"Yes." Christine was biting her lip and toeing the ground lightly. "I thought it might be nice to dance a bit. The only dance I know is the waltz."

"I can't dance at all." And a pity, too. He imagined holding her close, moving smoothly around the room...

"Oh! It's easy. Let me teach you. It's only fair. Please?"

There was no way Erik could say no. He took the CD and started it. The Beautiful Blue Danube filled the apartment with its dulcet tones. Christine stood close to Erik and took his hands.

"Now, you put one of your hands here. Your other hand holds mine up here. It's always going to be in three-quarters time. Let's start with the most basic step. We move in a box-pattern. Traditionally you're supposed to lead, but since I'm teaching, I'll lead at first." Patiently, Christine taught Erik the basics of waltzing, while he admired the way the candlelight sparkled in her clear hazel eyes and the softness of her hand in his. By the time the Emperor Waltz ended, Erik was moving with ease. Christine relaxed and let him lead, enjoying his strength and the fluidity of movement. Her mental list grew. Singing...Stringed instruments...Cooking...Dancing... She sighed happily and moved closer to him, breaking her 'dance space'.

Erik felt her body slide against his and drew in a slow, deep breath. He slid his hand along her arm to her shoulder blade, reveling in her soft skin; she wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his chest, immersing herself in the wonderfully safe feeling of his embrace. Their movement lost its pattern and became a slow rhythmic swaying. It was hypnotic for Erik; he was lost in her touch, her nearness, her trust. In that gentle trance, he remembered something.

"You said you might have something to tell me tonight. Do you remember what it was?"


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 26 of 64

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