Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 55 of 64

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Pleased as they were by their success, both Erik and Christine were compelled by necessity to retire early. Christine's leg, only six days into the healing process, reminded her with a dull, grinding ache that it wanted rest. Erik could see that she was uncomfortable, and that would have been enough on its own to spur him to leave, but he also needed to complete his nightly routine. Also, as much as loved the idea of the masses' admiration, he was not used to being surrounded by groups of people all clamoring at once for his attention. Admittedly, these were cultured clamorers, so he lasted long than he might have before taking Christine's arm and saying pointedly, "Dearest, you look at though you need rest. I really think we must bid all our new friends goodnight."

Smooth, she thought, and then with some wry humor, His public will love him. Aloud, she nodded. "It has been lovely, but I think the doctor would take issue with the amount of time I've spent on it."

They made their goodbyes and headed back to the safe harbor of their hotel. Once Christine was settled on the bed, properly elevated and medicated, Erik shook his finger at her with mock severity.

"You are the conniving-est female that ever there was."

"They loved you." Christine smirked at him, confident that he was not the least angry with her. "And you loved it."

"I had little choice! You could at least have warned me beforehand." He leaned over to kiss the smirk off her face.

"I did. I gave you very fair warning. When you would not turn the car around I said, plain as day, 'I'll get you for this'. That is what I said, is it not?" He had kissed, but the smirk remained firmly in place. "Well, I got you. Consider us even."

"All that praise you received...and then we go back tomorrow morning at eight for you to be showered again."

"I have to go back to hear the committee's decision." She was innocence personified. "I'm sure they'll have a word or two to toss your way as well."

Erik glared at her. "Conniving. I should send you in there alone."

"And it was so cute to watch you fend off all your little admirers. They wanted to eat you up like chocolate ice-cream." Christine had to vent a little; she'd spent the evening watching pretty, talented young girls flirt covertly and overtly with her fiancé. "Soon I will have to be on the lookout for a new violinist..."

"Christine Daae!" Erik chuckled, "You are jealous?"

"Not." her plump lower lip made its pouting appearance.

"You are!" Erik stripped to his boxers, tossing everything carelessly on the floor. "Not that I can blame you." He turned in a slow circle, displaying his thin, pale body. "I mean, what woman wouldn't go nuts over this?"

"I don't know. This medicine has made my eyes all blurry." She crooked a finger at him. "Bring it over here, and let me take a closer look."


Christine kept shaking her head and muttering, "I just don't believe it." Erik let it go on for several minutes, but eventually his patience wore thin.

"Believe it. They said it, it's on paper, it's official. So believe it and let's move on to the next topic. Please."

The committee had voted unanimously to graduate Christine with full honors. They'd gone on to offer both musicians letters of introduction and references to any orchestra for which they might choose to audition. Christine and Erik were treated as peers throughout the interview.

Now, on the ride home, Christine couldn't stop smiling. She had dreaded the Conservatory for so long, it had become a looming tidal wave hanging ominously over her. Now that the ordeal was over, the tsunami had turned out to be a little ripple on a quiescent lake.

Still, she would have drowned if not for Erik. The ring sparkled on her finger, reminding her with every ray of sunshine that they would soon be bound by law as well as love. Soon, she would be his and he would be hers.

"Erik, where is your father?" She had not forgotten that they had a stop to make before home.

"He's in Spokane." Erik looked in the rearview mirror. Christine was studying him carefully. "I haven't seen him in many years, Christine. I haven't even spoken to him. It's not from anger, if that's what you are thinking. It's..." The joy from their triumph had evaporated. "A long time ago, I bet you don't even remember, I asked you why you wanted to go and open Pandora's box. You've seen so many evils fly free, I suppose you think there can't be anymore."

She only sat quietly and waited. He would work his way around to his point in time. Her role now was supportive and quiet.

"What happened to my father may be the last thing in this particular box."

A day later they pulled into the visitor parking lot of the Parkview Estates, a progressive nursing home. Erik helped her out of the car and then stood there, staring at the building.

"I wouldn't tell you anything about him because all I know is what Nadir has told me. I honestly don't know what we're going to see. It has been more than fifteen years." Erik breathed deeply. "Recently all Nadir will say is 'there's not much left.'"

Hand in hand they entered the building. The smell of age, illness, and industrial cleansers assaulted them, even though the visible clients all looked very well taken care of. There were somethings that marked a nursing home, no matter its quality.

Erik approached the receptionist and muttered, "Here to see Jonathan Valliere."

The receptionist stared at the masked man for a moment, unsure of how to respond.

Christine stepped forward and smiled disarmingly. "Yes. We are here to see my father-in-law. Where can we find him?"

Her easy manner put the woman at ease. "He's in room 249, ma'am. Down that hall, you can take the stairs or elevator, and then take a left. Knock, but don't wait for an answer. Just go on in."

"Thank you very much." Christine gently pulled Erik along behind her.

Erik stared at the name tag on the door for awhile. "Before we go in, you should know that his condition is my fault. He started drinking when I was about twelve. Because of what the surgeries were doing to me, and to the family. My mother left and he just couldn't handle it without some kind of help. The worse my face got, the more he drank. He was never violent, like some are. He just...let it take him away. The last time I saw him, he was so slopped he couldn't even say my name without drooling." Many sons would have been speaking out of anger. There was no anger in Erik's voice; only sorrow and guilt.

"How is that your fault, Erik?" She'd wrapped a protective arm around his waist.

"If I'd never been born, my mother would never have left, and he would never have touched the stuff."

"It was her decision to leave and his decision to drink, love. Not yours." She hugged him. "Can you do this now?"


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 55 of 64

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