Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 37 of 64

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Erik's door opened slowly, but there appeared to be no one there opening it. Christine stepped inside, looking around warily. The moment she was clear of the door's path, it swung shut. Erik was standing behind it - without his mask on. He'd apparently taken her request that he never wear the thing around her again very seriously, but he was taking no chances that anyone else should see him without it.

After hugging her thoroughly, Erik gestured behind him to the new sofa he'd had delivered that day. "Do you like it? I thought it might be nice for us to sit down together without sitting on the floor." His shy look confused her until she realized that he'd bought this exclusively for the two of them; Erik had no other visitors.

"It's gorgeous, Erik," she reassured him. "Let's give it a try, shall we? It doesn't look like you've so much as sat down on it the first time."

"No. And I thought the deliverymen would never leave. They insisted on carrying the damned thing in here themselves." His face and voice were fraught with nerves; she guessed the deliverymen had spent much of their time gawping at him.

Christine threw herself onto the couch and patted the seat next to her. "Come's not going to bite you. It's really soft, too. This must be designer stuff." She bounced experimentally. "Definitely high quality."

Erik sat down beside her, pleased with his purchase. He was even more pleased when Christine snuggled up against him and leaned her head on his shoulder. She folded her feet underneath her and wrapped her arm casually around his. They were both wearing short sleeves - her soft skin pressed against his sweetly. It was such a little thing; most men would never have noticed. Erik was not most men. Soon we'll be living together, he thought, and this time it didn't seem nearly as improbable.

"So. I was thinking today about what you said." He looked down at her quizzically. "You know, the whole thing about how hiding has worked so well for you that you supported my decision to do the same?"


"I'm not a stupid girl, Erik. I got your point, even before you completely destroyed my heart with the Adagio."

"I didn't mean to..."

"But you did; you knew precisely how I would take it...and that's fine." She lifted his hand and kissed it tenderly. "It just shows how well you know me. Well, I've been thinking about that, and about how much I've been performing recently, and I've decided that I might be willing to go back to the Conservatory."

"Really?" Erik turned to face her and grabbed her free hand.

"Really. But there are two conditions. Two completely immutable conditions."

"And they are...?" Erik was nervous. Clearly, this was going to involve him. He'd already made up his mind that he would stand with her through whatever might come,but he'd hoped he could do his supporting from home.

"The first is that you have to go with me to Appleton."


"Appleton, Wisconsin. Home of the distinguished Lawrence Conservatory, and the place I will have to go if I am to complete my performance degree there."

Erik slid down on the couch. Wisconsin! That would mean planes and airports, rental cars, theaters, audiences...

"If you didn't like that one, you are really going to hate this one: you have to continue performing with me in the parks. I think we should do a floating rotation and play in a different park every week. It's so much fun, and it definitely gives me something to work towards. You know, motivation to practice."

"Christine, I hardly think this is fair..."

"Oh, I don't know. You were the one who set the first conditions for certain actions in this relationship, as I recall. Turn about's fair play, and all that."

He just shook his head slowly, his face the picture of misery.

Christine wasn't ready to give up. For once, she felt positive that she knew the best course of action, and she was determined to follow it through. Now she had to convince him, if they were to move forward together, because she was not about to move forward alone.

"We're both terrified - we're both scarred. Neither of us will ever amount to anything without the other." She waited until he looked up to meet her eyes. "It seems that the world is intent on opening its doors for me, but I won't go through them without you. I'll serve coffee and sesame bagels for the rest of my days. I'm not trying to guilt you into this, Erik. I'm just telling you the truth. I'm a coward, but when you are with me, I'm not afraid of anything."

"That's beautiful Christine." She could barely hear him. "That's beautiful, and you've made me immeasurably happy." He looked anything but happy. "But have you considered that having me by your side could hold you back? I told you that freakishness is a communicable disease; have you thought that people might not give you a chance just because I'm with you?"

"They will. This article proves it. Play it right and that mask could become your trademark. Have you ever considered that? You can use that stupid thing to your advantage. People love a mystery. A tall, mysterious, masked man who can charm anyone with his perfect voice and flawless musicianship might draw people, not repulse them. "

Erik stared at her. "Even if you were anything close to right, they would eventually want to see. And that can never happen."

"No. And that's where the mystery would come in. Unsolved mystery. But we aren't talking about that right now. You want me to go back to the conservatory. I want me to go back to the Conservatory. But I cannot possibly go without you. Same thing for the park. So please, just try."

"Of course I'll do it, Christine." Erik's gaze was trained on the far wall. He couldn't look at her now; she might see too clearly the angry resignation in his eyes. "Don't you know yet that there's nothing I would not do for you? No matter what happens, no matter what it costs me; if you ask it of me, I'll do it."

He started to rise from the sofa, but was stopped by a new sensation. It was something he'd never felt before and something he'd never imagined he might feel. Her cool fingers rested lightly on his cheek -his bare cheek. She was moving slowly and carefully, trying her best not to hurt him. She straddled his lap, her palms cupping his ruined face, light as a breeze.

"Do you think it is any different for me? I'd lay down my cello and never look back, if it were you who asked". Christine leaned down and kissed him once on the lips, lightly. "You've never asked anything of me, except that I sing...but if you did, I'd do it in an instant."

"You're touching me." The deadpan remark was strangely incongruous to her passionate declaration of love.

"Am I hurting you?" She started to take her hands away, but he stopped her by taking her wrists gently in his hands.

"No... you're touching me. My face." He closed his eyes and his voice dropped to a whisper. "It doesn't hurt at all. It feels wonderful...but you're touching my face and you...don't mind. I could always see it before, in your eyes, that it bothered you. Even after you told me you loved me, I could see it."

Christine loosed her wrists from his encircling fingers and returned her hands to his face. Now that she knew she wasn't hurting him, the last of her discomfort fell away. It was just Erik, now, and this was just Erik's face. He was right; until this precise moment, it had bothered her. She ran her thumbs over his cheeks, which were now wet. She kissed his forehead, cheeks, and eyes slowly, lovingly - and sincerely- before arresting his eyes with hers.

"And now? What do you see now?"

"Peace." He reached up and wiped the tears she hadn't even been aware of from her face. "Look at us: crying together like a couple of old women watching a Hallmark commercial. Weren't we having an argument? Shouldn't we get back to that?"

"Never. Tomorrow I will call Lawrence. Just sit with me while I do that much - I can't really ask for more."

"You can, but you won't have to." He chuckled softly. "So. You think I could cut a mysterious figure?"


"Let's have dinner, and then I am going back to my bedroom and change." He kissed her firmly and shifted her off his lap. "I am going to create your mysterious masked companion and make you fall in love with the mask all over again."

They sat down to the dinner he'd prepared - a delicious spinach salad with blackened chicken. Christine couldn't stop staring at Erik. His eyes were sparkling, he was smiling to himself. She'd never seen him wolf down food quite so fast. He finished well ahead of her, jumped up and ran to his bedroom.

The man who emerged half an hour later bore no resemblance to the skulking, diffident man who'd hidden behind his mask and beneath his hood. Before her now stood a tall, confident, refined gentleman in a black tuxedo, complete with wing-tip shoes, black cumberbund, and a black fedora tilted jauntily over one eye. His hair was neatly combed back and gelled smooth. The mask seemed nothing more than an accessory. Christine's jaw dropped and her face flushed deep crimson.

"My god,''re..." she was unable to finish the sentence.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 37 of 64

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