Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 34 of 64

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Christine met Erik at his apartment. He'd offered to let her take the concert cello with them to the park. Its sound was truer and richer than her own; she looked forward to playing it. She also looked forward to letting six-foot tall Erik wrestle the thing on and off the buses. He emerged from his apartment loaded down with violin, cello, and a bag containing the lunch he'd made. Christine giggled into her hand, realizing how she must have looked that first day, tumbling off the bus.

"Here. Here. Let me get the bag...don't you have a bookbag? Geez...that's heavy! What are we having for lunch? Roast pig? I'll take the violin as well." She went about relieving him of everything but the cello. "There we go."

"You look lovely, Christine. There's something different..." he looked her over as they hurried down the hallway and out to the bus stop.

"I didn't have time to try to do anything with my hair. It's just hanging there." If her hands hadn't been full, she would have tried to pull it under control. "I'd hardly call it an improvement..."

"I would." He would have said more, but a child's voice interrupted.

"Look, Mom! It's that weird guy from our hall!"

"Shhh, Jonathan." The mother's embarrassed whisper carried clearly.

The kid's voice dropped to a loud whisper. "Why does he wear that mask? I bet he's a monster under there."

"Jonathan! Hush!"

"You're the one who said he was probably burned or somethmmmf!" The horrified mother clapped a hand over the kid's mouth, but the damage was already done.

Erik turned away from the two and began to walk back towards the apartment building. Christine jumped after him and caught his arm, dropping their lunch in the process.

"Let me go, Christine." His voice was no more than a growl.

"No. You promised to go with me."

Without a word, he roughly pulled his arm from her grasp and continued his steady march. Christine turned and shot a look of pure fire at the mother and child who were staring at the dramatic scene before dashing after him. She circled in front of him, stopping his progress once more. She lowered her voice so that it carried no further than the two of them.

"Erik, please. He's just a dumb little kid. He doesn't even know what he's saying."

"He's not so dumb - he guessed right, didn't he?"

"Don't be..."

"Don't be what, Christine? Honest?" Erik was walking forward again, gently but firmly bulldozing her out of his way. "I should take the damned mask off - show that brat how right he is."

"Sure!" Christine exclaimed in a last-ditch effort to stop him. The bus would arrive soon. "Sure! Take it off...whatever!" She'd spent nearly a week preparing her song; she and Erik had put in hours and hours perfecting their rendition of Adagio for Strings. All of that work, all that preparation was about to go to waste. "But come with me - don't tell me some stupid little kid's words are more important to you than I am." It was a cheap shot, but she was desperate. If he turned back now, she'd never drag him out again.

Erik looked down at her in consternation. Is that what she would think? "I can't...

The bus pulled into the station and people started climbing on. Christine looked back over her shoulder.

"Choose, Erik; a day with me in the park, or another day hiding by yourself in your apartment. Because I'm going." With that, she turned and walked towards the bus, his violin still clutched in her hand. She leaned down and scooped up the lunch sack and climbed onto the bus. She pushed her way to the back, forcing herself not to peer out the window to see what his choice was.



"Watch what you're doing with that thing!"

Christine beamed down at the violin case. She knew that sound. That was the sound of a person dragging a huge cello down the narrow aisle of a crowded bus. He thumped heavily into the seat beside her. Christine looked up at him, pride shining in her eyes. She leaned over and kissed the side of his neck.

"I knew you'd make the right choice," she purred.

Without turning towards her, he growled, "You kept my violin."

"Is that the only reason you came?" she asked, feigning a pout.

"You also kept my lunch."

"I love you, Erik," she shifted the violin case and laid her hand on his thigh.

It wasn't long before his slender fingers twined through hers.

Once they'd disembarked, Christine led Erik down to the lakeshore and proceeded to spread the quilt. Erik opened the lunch sack and groaned in annoyance. When Christine dropped it, the lid was knocked off the casserole dish (which was miraculously unbroken). Chicken florentine casserole was spilled and mashed in the bottom of the bag, no longer attractively layered gold on green on white. Christine peered over his shoulder and barked a laugh.

"I guess we'll be eating it au sac, hmm?" She pulled out the plastic forks she'd brought. "Oh well. It smells delish. I bet it looked good, too, before its little incident."

"You did this, you know," he accused. He was still upset over the bus stop and was not in a very gracious mood.

"Well that's a matter of perspective, now isn't it." Christine thrust a fork into his hand. She was just happy he'd come instead of slinking off to his sanctuary. "Eat up. I'm not singing until I've got something in my stomach."

They ate together quietly for awhile. She was enjoying the day; he was brooding. As before, people passed by, paying them no mind.

"You realize that that little boy was only saying out loud what others think, right?" Erik sat cross-legged, pulling small tufts of grass. "You realize that anywhere we go, people will be thinking the same thing, whispering things - and that's if we're lucky and they're being polite."

Christine packed up the remaining casserole and stowed their forks before answering. "I know."

"That doesn't bother you?"

"Yes, it bothers me. I could have slapped that kid and his mother- and I don't condone violence against children, but..."

"I mean, doesn't that make you a little wary of going out with me? Having a freak at your side makes you a freak, too, in their eyes."

"So be it," she muttered, handing him his violin case. "I really don't care. The only danger is that I'll get arrested for assault with a deadly cello if I overhear nastiness."

"You wouldn't..." he protested, but he was beginning to smile for the first time since the kid had piped up.

"I definitely would. You think I could be friends with Meg all these years and have nothing rub off?" She rosined her bow and passed him the little wooden box.

"You have a point there." He took the little booklet of sheet music she handed him and spread it on the ground. It was a relatively simple piece, straightforward and strophic. He had it memorized in moments. The words, though...he read through it again. "Why did you pick this song?"

"If you don't already know, I'm certainly not going to tell you." she teased, and began warming up her voice.

The song was "Perfect" by Doria Roberts. It was a simple, sweet love song. Erik lifted his violin and made a quick, quiet practice run, transcribing the music from its original guitar to something more suited to violin.

"Does that work for you?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Wonderful. Are you ready? This song, Adagio for Strings, and then the Duet, and your piece?

"If you want."

"I'll want, believe me. Let's do this thing." He began to play and she sang. Christine's voice had been improving incrementally since they began lessons. The voice that emerged now had none of the original breathy timidity left. It was like melted toffee, sweet and warm on the ears of the listeners - and there were listeners. Again, people began to gather. Quickly, their numbers swelled, as they had swelled before.

Instead of remaining oblivious, this time the two musicians fed off the crowd's energy. At least Christine did. Erik found that same wave of energy, not from the crowd, but from the ecstatic light in Christine's eyes as she performed. She was a natural, a genius. Her joy was infectious - soon he was as close to Nirvana as she was.

After each piece, the audience applauded. Every ovation was a standing ovation. People who normally eschewed classical music found they were unable to walk away. Only one person was not clapping and cheering. She sat quietly at the edge of the crowd, a miniature recorder trapped between her toes and a pencil and steno pad in her hands. When the performance ended, she quietly rose and slipped away, still unnoticed.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 34 of 64

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