Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 30 of 64

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The next day, Christine stood behind the counter watching the people who came into the shop to get coffee, and for the first time, she wondered about something other than how much tip they'd leave. As each face approached the counter, she couldn't help but wonder how that person would treat Erik, if they met on the street. She wondered about the secrets each person lived with and if they'd found someone they could trust with those secrets. Every face looked perfect to her. That morning she'd looked at her own reflection more forgivingly than ever before, noting the smoothness of her skin and the cuteness of her little upturned nose.

Meg teased Christine constantly about her date; there was so much excellent teasing material, from eating bunnies to waltzing to the Beautiful Blue Danube. She never once mentioned Erik's face. The truth was that she had a newfound respect for Christine. There were unseen depths below the surface and a strength that had been lacking before.

During lunch, Christine was bemoaning how few dates she'd had with Erik. She bitterly complained about how few places there were where he felt comfortable. Offhandedly, Meg suggested another picnic in the park.

"That seemed to work well last time. You glowed for days afterwards. Why don't you guys do that again? The weather will only be getting warmer from here on out."

"I was thinking the same thing. I think I could convince him to come out with me again." Christine was again chasing a cherry tomato around her plate, and paying no attention to Meg's expression. Meg was grateful for this, because if Christine had looked up, she would have seenthe scheming gleam in her best friend's eyes.

"Well," Meg said, wiping her mouth and pulling out her wallet, "I think that is precisely what you should do. Just tell me when you are going, so I can be ready with my phone to pick up all the gossip."

Christine laughed, speared the tomato, and got up to leave. "Don't worry - you are still privy to all my exciting dating info."

Meg just nodded. She was hatching a plan.

----- -- -- -----

That afternoon, Christine logged onto the web with mixed emotions. She was excited to be talking to Erik again, but hated that it was via the internet. He was so close! The bus ride from her apartment to his was less than fifteen minutes long. I could be there now, sitting with him, playing music with him...

minorchord: Edited any good articles today?

AngelofMusic: No. How was your day, Little Latte? I can't believe you're here.

minorchord: My day was fine. Why wouldn't I be here?

AngelofMusic: I'm just glad you are.

minorchord: be honest...I really wish I weren't.

AngelofMusic: Why not?

minorchord: You're going to think I'm such a ditz...

AngelofMusic: Never.

minorchord: I'd rather be there with you. I miss you.

AngelofMusic: That's a very sweet thing to say.

minorchord: I'm not just saying it.

AngelofMusic: You are welcome here anytime. Mi casa es su casa.

minorchord: You mean I could come over right now?

AngelofMusic: How long will it take you to get here?

minorchord: Half an hour or so

AngelofMusic: I can't believe it. You don't know how strange this is for me. Are you actually


minorchord has logged out

Erik stared at his computer screen. A silly smile that pulled painfully at his wrecked skin spread across his face. She was on her way. Then his face fell as he looked around his apartment. He had not cleaned up from the night before! Candle stubs in hardened puddles of wax littered every surface. The dishes were not done. Musical instruments from the day's practice lay everywhere. Papers from articles he was editing were strewn across the computer desk. He still needed to put medicine on his face and don his mask. Erik leapt from the computer chair and began throwing things into order.

Thirty-six minutes later, Christine knocked on the door. Erik ran from his bedroom where he had been folding clothes. He paused to catch his breath and smooth his shirt before opening the door. Christine stood there in threadbare jeans and a plain green t-shirt with her knapsack and a paper bag. She appeared to be waiting for something.

"Come in," he ventured. She took two steps into his apartment, set down her bags, and stood there with the same expectant look on her face. "What?" he finally asked, flummoxed.

"Hugs? Kisses?" Christine held out her arms with an inviting smile.

"I'm never going to get used to this," but his arms were around her before the words were out of his mouth.

"I bet you will," she said, and planted a light kiss on his lips. "That's better. I've been wanting to do that all day."

"Have you," he said doubtfully.

"Yes, Mr. Self-esteem. I have." She sat down in the computer chair and pulled a little black calendar out of her purse. "Before we do anything else, we have serious business. I want to go out with you again. I'd love to do another picnic and play some music. I've already checked the weather for the next few days. It's going to rain tomorrow, but by Friday it should be dry and warm again. you want to go out to the park Friday afternoon? Or...I'm off Saturday. How about Saturday?"

Erik sighed. "Christine, you remember what happened last time..."

"Yes. I'm looking forward to it."

"I'm not. That was an uncomfortable experience - to make a severe understatement."

Christine was prepared for this resistance. She almost felt guilty about what she was going to do...almost. She looked up at him with a little pout. "Are you sure you wouldn't be willing to try it again? I really enjoyed myself last time, and I can't possibly do it without you...Please?"

Erik shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. Going out in public, playing in public, being surrounded by crowds of staring people - these things amounted to his idea of Hell. But it was Christine who was asking. She'd said she couldn't do it with out him!

"I'd really rather not..."

Christine turned on the charm. She stood up and sidled close to him, biting her lower lip and brushing the back of his hand lightly with her fingertips. "Please, Erik? Now that I've played with you once, I can't imagine playing without you. Don't you remember how beautiful it was?"

"It was beautiful..."

"And I'll bring brownies..." she took his hand in both of hers.

"Maybe if we sit a little further off the main walkways..."

"And we can come here for coffee and dinner afterwards..." she wrapped his arm around her shoulders and snuggled up to him.

"Ok. You win. I'll do it, but I won't enjoy a minute of it."

"Of course you won't." She winked at him and gave him a little hug. "I'll be eternally grateful, though."

Erik walked away from her and began fiddling uncomfortably with the books on his bookshelf. After a few minutes, her left hand covered his while her right arm wrapped around him. "I know it's a hard thing for you to do. But I think that once we get out there, you'll find it's not as bad as you remember."

His hand dropped away from the bookshelf; he wasn't going to let her get away entirely scot-free. "One provision: you have to sing one song. I don't care what you choose, but you have to sing."


"Because if you won't, I won't go."

Christine groaned. He had her against the wall with no wriggle-room. "Ok...but just one song. One."


"I brought Coconut Delites today. They aren't my own...they're from work. Are we going to cook here or order out?"

"You mean am I going to cook here?" his wry grin made her blush.

"I guess that is what I mean."

"I'd be happy to. Is spaghetti ok?"

She nodded. "May I use your cello while you cook? It was too much work to try to drag mine here on the bus..."

"Please do. If you are up to it, I'd love to hear the Haimovitz piece again. I won't be able to hear it from there, though. That room is heavily soundproofed."

Christine carried the cello out into the living room and played while he cooked. This was one of those times when she could see the peace beyond. As she finished the Haimovitz and wandered into other cello arrangements, she let herself imagine a life with Erik. She knew there would be the requisite fights and disagreements, but she was sure there would be far more music and waltzing than arguing. Even a good argument with Erik seemed to have its attractions. Unbeknownst to her, Erik was having similar daydreams in the kitchen. He imagined a life where he could prepare dinner for her every night and where she would play for him or sing for him whenever he asked. Of course, they both thought, these are just daydreams.

Erik served up both plates, poured water and set up the table. He was loath to stop her playing just for dinner, but he guessed she was already hungry.

"Christine," he called softly, as though waking her from sleep, "dinner's ready."

She looked up in confusion before landing fully back on earth. When she joined him at the table, she remembered something from the night before. Though his mask was very light and flexible, it still got in his way a bit when he ate. It was obvious from the way he was trying to cut his spaghetti with a knife that it would be an especially difficult meal to manage with the mask in the way. She briefly considered whether she'd be able to continue her own meal if he wasn't wearing it, then pushed those selfish concerns aside.

"Do you normally wear your mask when you eat?" She asked casually, twirling spaghetti around her fork.

Erik set his fork down and stared at her for a minute. "When I'm eating with another person, of course I wear it. It would be rude not to."

"But when you eat alone...?"

"No." His response was nearly inaudible.

"Take it off, please."

"But you are trying to eat..."

"I'm supposed to be getting used to your face, right? Now's as good a time as any..." she shrugged off his concerns about her appetite. "Don't forget, you are also trying to eat."

He reflected for a moment before untying the thing and setting it on the table. She'd asked him to take it off. If it ruined her appetite, that was her own fault. He went back to eating. It was easier without the mask, and he wouldn't have to worry about cleaning sauce off the leather later.

Christine looked up from the meatball she was cutting. She suppressed a shudder and then smiled. Only one day later, and she already could look at him without feeling nauseated. He glanced up and caught her smiling at him. After a moment's confusion he returned the smile shyly before looking studiously back down to his plate. His trust, the hesitant glance, and the little smile wrung the words out of her mouth before her head had a chance to interfere, "Oh Erik, I do love you."


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 30 of 64

<< Previous     Home     Next >>