Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 43 of 64

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Christine returned from the bathroom and piled the bedding neatly at one end of the sofa. She sat at the other end and crooked a finger to indicate she wished for him to sit beside her. Her smile was inviting, her eyes still darkly infused with the smoky jazz she'd sung. Erik hesitated - and not because he was shy.

She was sitting there in nothing but his T-shirt and a loosely tied robe. The shirt was the longest one he owned; it covered what a shirt and shorts would normally cover, but the look in her eyes, the way the soft cotton draped her thighs, and the way her bare legs were tucked up to one side made him doubt his ability to continue in a gentlemanly manner.

"Erik," she intoned, turning his name into something at once holy and sensual. "Come sit with me."

He sat next to her for a moment, but was unable to resist gathering her up onto his lap. She didn't object; she merely wriggled around into a more comfortable position with her left arm draped over his right shoulder. Moments later, her right hand was lazily unknotting his tie, which soon found a home near the fedora. That obstacle passed, she began unbuttoning his dress shirt at the same relaxed pace.

There was no doubt in Erik's mind that Christine loved him. After all, she'd seen him and was still with him. They'd made beautiful music together. Love was one thing. But the look she was giving him now as her deft fingers effortlessly freed button after button was not entirely a loving one. Love was certainly there, but there was something more - another taste, like red pepper in a savory stew.

He could believe that she loved him. This other thing, though, this spice... Starting in puberty, when he heard the giggly whispers of the young nurses talking about their handsome boyfriends, Erik had strictly disciplined himself to accept that he would never be the object of anyone's desire. But her hand was on his chest, and her eyes were fiery.

"You were beautiful today, Christine." She opened her mouth as if to protest. He closed it with a look. "Stunning." He glanced down to his arm wrapped around her chubby legs. "And if I stay here with you like this much longer I can't guarantee..." his hand lightly traced the soft curve of her knee and calf, suggesting the words he would not say.

Christine, in the meantime, had finished with his buttons. His half-open shirt revealed a pale, thin torso knotted with muscle. She allowed her hand to trace the ridge of his ribs around to his back. For the first time, she wondered how he'd kept in such good shape after nine years of self-imposed imprisonment.

It seemed a lifetime ago that he had first ventured to put his arms around her and told her that he'd never held a woman before. How far they'd come since then! By sheer physical appearance, Erik was far from desirable. However, she could no longer 'see' him solely in terms of face and body. His grace, the force of his personality, and (above everything else) his music, lent him an attraction less resistible than a mere handsome face and athletic build would have been.

The first fact still remained: he had never held a woman before her. Nearly forty years old, and the man was less experienced than most high-school boys. The thought was at once sweet and daunting.

She remembered his confession on the night she'd first seen his face,"That was my first kiss, Christine. And this is my first date, with my first dance." Each new experience they shared would be his first. In an epiphany that nearly froze her in place, Christine realized that she did not just want to be his first - she wanted to be his last, his only. She also wanted to savor each step on this intimate path with him, hurrying nothing. Slowly, suggestively, Christine slid his shirt from his shoulders at the same moment he untied the sash of her (his) robe.

In the midst of bliss, reality intruded abruptly. It was long past time for Erik to complete his nightly medication routine. The intense kissing had done nothing to soothe his condition. He'd ignored the low burning, not wanting to leave Christine's side for a moment. Suddenly, the electric sting flared to life, causing him to wince and his eyes to water.

"Erik? What's wrong?" Attuned to her lover's every move, the sudden change was immediately obvious to Christine.

"I'm sorry." He hurriedly set her to one side and stood up. "I have to..." but he was already in his bedroom, fumbling for the pills and soothing cream. It had been many years since he'd lapsed in his self-care enough to allow an attack of this magnitude. He would have asked himself "Why now?" but he knew perfectly well why. Pleasure had pushed necessity from his mind, and he'd let it happen.

She was standing in the doorway - of course she'd followed him. "Don't come in here, Christine..." he warned, but it was too late. She had already turned on the light. She'd already seen his shaking hands failing to operate the child-proof cap on his medication.

"Here. Let me." The cap turned easily in her hands. She read the prescription and shook two into his waiting hand. She recognized the name of the medication; it was Neurontin - a powerful anticonvulsant also used for nerve pain. Without a word, he handed up the second bottle, this one containing low-dose morphine. She opened it as well, then rushed to the kitchen for a glass of water. By the time she returned, he'd already dry-swallowed the morphine.

Erik took the water without meeting her eyes. He didn't want her to see him like this, but he doubted she'd let him turn her out. The pills would not begin to take effect for many minutes, but when they did he'd pass out. Half the benefit of the combination of Neurontin and morphine (used only in the worst of times) was that it allowed him to sleep through some of the pain. He sat on the edge of his bed attaching the little black TENS unit and wishing she would go and leave him to his misery. This was private business; even as a child he had not allowed anyone near him when he was in pain.

"Christine, you don't need to stay. Go on and make yourself comfortable in the main room." Each word was like stinging nettles in his cheeks and forehead. "Once the meds kick in I'll be no good anyway."

Without a word, she turned and left. He marveled that she'd gone so easily - until she suddenly reappeared, his bedding in her arms. Soon, his bed was spread neatly. She took her place sitting at the head of the bed, leaning back against the headboard. With a little pushing and prodding, Erik was soon leaning back against her, his head cushioned comfortably on her chest. She was gently kneading his shoulders and neck, trying to ease the tension from them.

"Haven't you figured it out by now?" Her reproach was filled with compassion, but completely devoid of pity. "You don't have to go through any of this alone anymore."

The morphine began to kick in, gently detaching him from reality. "I've always done it alone. It's nothing I can't handle." His voice was disconnected, floating. He raised a hand to detach the TENS wires, but he'd waited too long - his coordination was shot. Pushing his hand back to his chest, Christine did it for him.

"This isn't the way I expected the evening to end..." he murmured dozily. The gentle, rhythmic kneading was helping the morphine and Neurontin to drag him under the gentle mist of unconsciousness.

She had to smile. "Me either."

His eyelids dragged themselves shut. Before he drifted away entirely, Erik managed one last question - one propriety would have prevented him from asking had his mind not been dulled by drugs.

"How attached are you to your little studio apartment, anyway?"

He was already deeply asleep, but she answered anyway. "Not at all."


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 43 of 64

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