Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 44 of 64

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

Nadir returned shortly after noon the next day to share a final meal and make his goodbyes. The door was opened, not by Erik, but by a very tired-looking Christine. She stepped aside to let him by, and he saw boxes and bags strewn about the previously spotless apartment.

"Hello, Nadir. Come on in...I'm just about to head back down for some more stuff."

"Moving in, my dear?" he asked, a little saucy pride in his voice. Nadir felt it was no coincidence that their moving in together so closely followed his choice of jazz and blues numbers. He remembered listening to Christine sing "Slow Like Honey" while Erik struggled against his libido to continue playing.

"Yes. We...could you hold the door?"

Nadir opened the door and watched with amusement as Erik staggered in, her seventeen inch computer monitor cradled in his arms. He carried it over and set it down beside his desk.

"Nadir. Hello." Erik caught his breath, then turned to Christine. "Ms. Coleridge said she was willing to stand with your things for another twenty minutes."

Christine rolled her eyes and began shambling slowly towards the door. "I'm going, I'm going..."

"Sit down, Christine. You look exhausted." Nadir grinned at her. "Erik and I will be your knights in shining armor and carry the rest of your belongings in, won't we..."

Erik nodded and headed for the door again. As he had done with Christine, Nadir was silent until the door closed behind them.

"She's moving in with you now?"

"Obviously, Khan." Erik was tired and irritable from his ordeal the night before.

"Well, what precipitated that?"

"It's a very long story, but it culminated last night." Erik nodded to the apartment manager who stood nearby, making sure passersby did not walk away with any of Christine's shabby things. "Apparently, while under the influence of morphine, I asked her to move in."

Together, they lifted her mattress with her headboard and footboard stacked on top.

"Morphine?" Nadir let the word trail off.

"I know...I know. I haven't let it get that bad in a long time. She makes me forget. She looks at me -treats me- like a normal man. You don't know how that feels, Nadir, to be treated like a normal person after so many years. And I wanted to live as though it were the truth. So I didn't go take care of things as I normally would, know what comes of that." Erik set his end of the stack down, allowing Nadir to rest for a moment.

" didn't send her home?" Nadir asked as he leaned against the building. He was an old man now; carrying heavy furniture was not in his daily routine.

"I tried to send her out of the room. She wouldn't be sent." Embarrassment clouded Erik's voice. "She saw me weak, Nadir. I couldn't even open the pill bottles; she did it. She gave me the medicine and then held me until I passed out."

"She loves you."

"Sure, but I never wanted her to see that. She'll pity me now. Poor, poor Erik." He turned and punched the wall. "Dammit!"

Nadir looked on sympathetically. Erik's fatal flaw was his pride. It was well-earned pride, survivor's pride, but it left him unable to accept kindness and compassion without rankling resentment, and that was dangerous. A girl like Christine would not understand being held at arm's length for any reason.

"You aren't listening, boy." Erik whirled to regard him; Nadir continued calmly and firmly. "She loves you. I've never seen a woman love a man the way that one loves you. If she wouldn't leave you last night, it was because she wanted to stand by you - for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. I'd wager that pity was the furthest thing from her mind."


"Ah-ah-ah. No, sir. You start thinking like that, and soon you'll start resenting her. And that would be a tragedy. The worst you've ever faced." Nadir bent down and hefted his end of the mattress. After a moment's reflection, Erik followed suit. Nadir wasn't done talking, though. "I've told you before - let her love you in her way. Let me ask you something, Mr. Valliere: What would you do if Christine came home with the flu one day?"

"That's got noth..."

"Humor me."

"I'd bring her soup...and tissues...and cough medicine...whatever she needed, I guess."

"And if she told you to leave her alone right when her fever was highest, what would you do then?"

Erik wanted to reply that of course he'd respect her wishes, but that would be a blatant untruth. So he said nothing.

"As I suspected. You'd never leave her to suffer alone."

"But I'm used to it, Nadir. I've always...dealt with it...alone." Erik said this as a plain fact, refusing to use the word "suffer".

Nadir's smile was gentle and a little sad. "Maybe you shouldn't have. Tell me, how did it feel?"

"How did what feel?"

"Having her there.

"Other than humiliating?"

"Yes, boy. Other than humiliating."

They had reached the door. Nadir set his end down, needing a rest before manhandling the mattress through the door. Erik went in to clear a space for the thing, but found Christine dead to the world, asleep on the sofa. "How did it feel?" Nadir's question tugged at him.He gazed down at her, trying to think around his pride.

He woke up that morning to find that at some point she'd squirmed out from under him, but was still curled inches away, her hand resting on his arm. The moment he stirred, she woke as well. "Feeling better?" she'd asked, sleepily. What had his feeling been when he woke to see her lying beside him? What had his feelings been as she lovingly massaged him to sleep? Humiliation hadn't been in the picture at all.

He opened the door and gestured for Nadir to be quiet. They carried the rest of her things in as quickly and quietly as possible. Nadir sat at the table, resting, while Erik silently made lunch.

"You better hold on to this one, Erik." whispered Nadir. "Look at her there, sleeping like a tired angel."

Erik nodded. Dinner was nearly ready. He dished it up and approached the sofa. Not caring that Nadir was watching, he knelt and kissed her cheek.

"Wake up, my love." Her eyes fluttered open. "Our very late lunch is ready."

Still mostly asleep, she muttered, "Love you..." She slowly stretched, yawned and sat up.

"Good evening, young lady." Nadir waved from the table.

They sat down and ate together, comfortably chatting about this and that. The conversation never touched on anything more serious than Erik's choice of a band name. When the last bite was swallowed, Nadir stood and patted his stomach with a satisfied sigh.

"I'm well-fed and happy. Can't think of a better time to start the long drive home than now." He walked to the door, followed by Erik and Christine. First, he hugged Christine. "It was an honor to meet you, m'dear."

She grinned. "Send us a playlist anytime. That one...worked out well."

He turned to Erik, who was staring at the floor.

"Like home," Erik said to the floor. "It felt like home."

Nadir embraced the man who was his son in all but name. "I thought so. Remember what I told you, Erik. And call me more often; I worry about you." With that, he was gone.

Christine quirked an eyebrow. "What felt like home?"

"Never you mind. We have a lot of putting away to do." He looked despairingly around his once bare and clean apartment.

She smiled. "There's nowhere to put most of these things. Let's do it later. Right now, I want to know what felt like home."

"You said I skim over many things."

She nodded.

"One thing I've skimmed over is the pain. Last night, you saw it about as bad as it gets. I never wanted you to see me like that. I never wanted..." He cleared his throat. "I'm not weak, Christine. I don't want your pity."

Her hand linked with his as she shook her head. "There's no pity here."

"I can handle the pain alone." His tone told her that he was telling himself this.

"I know you can," She lifted his hand and examined the freshly scabbed knuckles. "but that doesn't mean you have to. I don't want you to."

"And that's the thing. I've never let anyone near me in those times. Never. Not since I was old enough to order them from the room. But last night...what you didn't feel like an intrusion. And when I saw you there beside me this morning, that's what felt like home."


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 44 of 64

<< Previous     Home     Next >>