Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 51 of 64

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Christine did wake a few hours later, when the morphine wore off. It felt as though someone were attempting to amputate her lower leg with a large spoon. Turning her head, she saw Erik sitting beside her, just finishing rehairing his bow. She gawked at his neat array of tools and the deftness of his hands and he lovingly tested the tautness and smoothness of his finished product.

"It looks perfect," she whispered. "That's amazing. I just take my bow to a repairman."

"I'll teach you if you like. It's a long, difficult, tedious process, but it saves money and a trip to the repair shop." He set the bow beside him and reached for the glass of water and pill packet. "Here. I know that leg's bothering you. This is what they gave us at the emergency room. It's Tylenol 3; should take care of that pain pretty well."

"No, thanks. I don't need it." Christine reached for her crutches.

"I can see that you do need it. The doctor said the worst pain would be today and tonight. So here, take your medicine, and I'll bring you French toast in bed." Again, he tried to press the pill on her.

"Have you taken yours?"

"Christine, you know I..."

"Well, I'm not taking mine until you've taken yours. I know it's been better than twenty four hours since you've had your capsaicin cream and I know that stuff has to be used regularly to be effective. You haven't taken your Neurontin, either." Christine knew very well why he wasn't taking his medicine. She was not willing to let him treat himself so cruelly, but her only leverage was his feelings for her. She wanted the medicine badly now - her leg was screaming.

"You're acting like a child. Come on, now." She could be so aggravating.

"Who is? Me? I don't think so. You take yours and I'll take mine; that's the deal." Her expression softened and she touched his wrist lightly. "Do you think I like seeing you hurt anymore than you like seeing me hurt? I know we have a lot to talk about after last night, but right now let's just stop hurting - both of us, ok?"

"You're a hard little woman, you know that?" Erik quickly swallowed his Neurontin with some of her water. "I can't use the capsaicin, though. You can't put it on...broken skin."

"I'll let you go on that one," she said, taking the medicine from him and swallowing it gratefully, "but if we're going to be together for a long time you are going to have to take care of yourself. I can't stand it, otherwise."

"Speaking of things we can't stand: did you know your phone has been ringing constantly for the past three hours?" The annoying ringtone had almost caused him to mess up his rehairing job more than once.

"Really? Could you grab that for me so I can see who it is, please?" He passed her the phone without a word; he'd already seen the caller ID.

"It was Meg." Christine grimaced. "I can't believe she had the brass ovaries to call me, after what she's done. And she's left messages.

Erik walked from the room, unwilling to even admit to Meg's existence. "You like confectioner's sugar on yours?" She nodded.

Christine went to erase her voice messages, but curiosity led her to listen. What could Meg possibly have to say for herself? She dialed up the voicemail.

"Christine, I know you hate me now, and that's what I deserve. I don't blame you at all. I'd hate me, too. But, I just wanted you to know that I've tried to do some damage control - Erik doesn't deserve what that bi...that woman did to him. Don't let him think everyone hates him now; when I was at the newspaper office this morning..." The message cut off there, but there was another immediately following: "Like I was saying, whenI was at the newspaper this morning they were getting tons of complaint calls against that article; people were saying it was a shame to do that to anyone. Strange Noise fans were all pissed off because the mystery's been ruined for them. But they are still your fans. But anyway..uh..yeah, check the newspaper this morning, because I tried to do some damage control. And if you want to yell at me in person, you know my number..."

Damage control, Christine mouthed to herself. "Hey, Erik? Please bring me today's paper..."

Delicious smells preceded his return. He brought her a tray with golden-brown French toast, a glass of orange juice, and the newspaper still in its plastic cover. He set the tray beside her, then went back for his own plate so they could eat together.

Christine unfolded the newspaper and began leafing through it. There, on the front page of the Entertainment section, was a headline featuring Strange Noise. The Truth of Strange Noise: Seattle Times apologizes for misrepresentation of musical genius.

Below this was Meg's article accompanied by a photo of them singing the duet at their last performance. Christine's severe expression melted into a gentle smile as she read.In a complete departure fromher usual dramatic delivery, Meg had written their story with tenderness and respect. Erik's story was told with a sensitivity that brought tears to Christine's eyes. Apparently, Meg had been paying attention when Christine babbled on and on about him.

"Erik, she wrote an article about us and got it published. She made the newspaper apologize. Look." She passed him the newspaper. He took it, glanced at the title, then tossed it aside.

"That's very nice. So, I think we have to leave a little earlier. You won't be able to drive, so I'll have to drive the whole way. We'll need to stop often, if we are to be safe."

Christine nodded. It made sense that he wasn't willing to look at the article. She was still very angry with her old friend. His anger at Meg would take an even longer time to dissolve, if it ever did. She would not press him on that subject now.

"Ok. I don't mind a little more car time with you."

They spent the rest of the day packing - or Erik did. Christine tried, but was constantly carried back to the couch to elevate her leg and rest. She sneaked a little packing time when he left around midday to get a replacement for his TENS unit, but his return was swift. After dinner, he 'allowed' her an hour of practice with her cello, then ordered her back to the couch.

Not a word was exchanged about the previous night's events. It was, as Christine had said, time to stop hurting for awhile.

The peaceful mood continued until they got on the bus the next morning to go to the rental agency. The moment they stepped on the bus, the whispers rose around them.

"That's them!"

"That's him...the guy from the paper."

"It's Strange Noise. I saw them last week."

Halfway down the aisle, a hand shot out and grabbed Christine's arm. "Hey!" a young man in torn jeans and a holey t-shirt held out a Hugo novel. "Would you guys sign this for me? Please?"

Erik and Christine stared down at him, flabbergasted. "An autograph? You want an autograph?" she asked.

"Yeah. My girlfriend and I have been big fans since we saw your first concert. We think it's great, what you are doing, playing music for free for everyone.

"Well, sure." C"hristine took the book and signed it. "To whom?"

"To Gregory and Janice. Thanks! She will be so jealous that I got to meet you and she didn't."

She passed the book to Erik, who took it and stared at Christine's neat script for a few seconds before adding his signature. They continued down the aisle, but before they could take their seats, three more people of varying ages and apparent incomes had stopped them to ask for autographs or to express anger at the Seattle Times for printing the first article. One very elderly lady was outraged and insisted on gripping Erik's hand tightly in hers as she spoke.

"I called the paper and I told them I was going to cancel my subscription and so were all my friends. It was shameful, exploiting someone's misfortune like that. That was like printing a picture of someone without their knickers on. How dare they! But then they printed that apology and that nice article. What a lovely story - you two should get married. You could play the music for your own ceremony. Everyone would come. That would be lovely..." she rattled on until the rental car place's stop came. "Don't you stop going to the parks, now. My daughter has taken me to every show you've done. We just love you."

Nodding and thanking their supporters, Erik and Christine climbed down from the bus with a new view of the world.

"They love us," she beamed up at him, as he passed her her crutches. "We have a fan base." Erik just looked stunned. "They saw you in the paper and they don't care. I told you they just want to hear the music. Isn't that wonderful?"

"Yeah. Wonderful." Erik wandered into the rental agency, trying to wake himself up. There was no way this was reality - it had to be a dream.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 51 of 64

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