Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 56 of 64

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In response, he turned the handle and walked into the room. Christine waited in the doorway a moment, respectfully allowing Erik time alone with his father. The man sat propped up in bed, his eyes fixed on a television broadcasting a gameshow. There were three bags on an IV drip line and evidence that a gastric tube was in use. Though the face was much altered with age and drink, Erik could still recognize his father.

"Dad?" Erik stood by the bed, not knowing what to do. "Hi, Dad, it's Erik."

Jonathan turned his head to regard his son. "Erik is my son."

"That's right. I'm your son." Erik looked to Christine, pleading with her to come in and help him. She joined him at the bedside, but her mind was a blank.

"I know that...there's a thing that I know." In the fog that remained of his mind, Jonathan remembered the masked person standing next to him. As was usually the case with alcoholic dementia, he could remember things from long ago better than recent things.

"That's right. I'm Erik. Your son." Oh, but this was bitter. "Dad, I want you to meet someone. This is Christine. She will be your daughter soon. I am going marry her."

"'Livia!" Jonathan exclaimed, memories of his own wedding teasing the corners of his mind.

"No, sir. I'm Christine. I will marry Erik." She looked to Erik for approval. Was that ok? she mouthed. He nodded and shrugged.

"That's nice. That's nice. Christine will marry Erik." A long pause. "Erik is my son." Jonathan seemed to be thinking very hard while staring up at Erik. "They will cut his face tomorrow."

"No Dad, that already happened. That's over." Erik shifted from foot to foot. Why had he waited so long? Nadir was right. There was almost nothing left.

"He will be alone and they will...with the doctors." The old man on the bed smiled at Christine. "I read the book."

"That's good," she said, trying to sound cheerful. What book? she mouthed.

Erik threw his mind back to times he'd happily forgotten. What book? Of course, his father could be referring to any book, but Erik remembered his father reading to him. There were several books they'd shared, but his all-time favorite had been:

"Dad, you read 'The Adventures of Huck Finn? That book?" It was one of the better memories of a bad time. His father had sat by his bed, tirelessly reading about Huck Finn and all the terrible scrapes the wild little boy got himself into. Through the book, Erik could leave the hospital and be somewhere else -somewhere infinitely more exciting - for a little while.

"I read that book." Was it just Erik's imagination, or was there a gleam of recognition in his father's loosely focused eyes?

"You did read that book. I loved it." Erik felt Christine's hand on his own, lifting it, moving it, placing it on top of his father's limp hand, holding it there.

"Tell him you love him," she whispered.

He stared at her, panicked. He couldn't do that! He'd never done that in his life.

"Do it, Erik." Christine was adamant. Having lived more in the world than Erik had, she understood last chances better than he did.


Jonathan looked at the man beside him. When had that man come in the room? That man was wearing a mask. A mask?

"Who's in my house?" he asked, sounding a bit agitated.

"Dad, it's me, Erik. Your son." It's over, Erik thought, If he remembered me for a minute, it's over now. But it wasn't.

"Erik's home, 'Livia." Another ghostly smile crossed the blank face.

Never once in my life. Erik glanced at Christine, who poked him in the ribs.

"That's right, Mr. Valliere," she said. "Erik's home. He wants to tell you something." Her free hand switched from poking to hugging. Come on Erik. You say it to me all the time.

"Dad. I love you." He was immediately rewarded by a kiss on the cheek from Christine. His father, however, appeared not to have heard at all.

They stayed with him for several more minutes, until a knock at the door admitted one of the staff carting an empty wheelchair. She was a sprightly young CNA, who nodded to the visitors before focusing on her patient.

"Hi there, Mr. Valliere! I'm Kelly, your favorite person in the world. We're going to take your shower now." She expertly maneuvered the old man out of his bed and into the chair. "Excuse us folks, but it's best for Mr. Valliere to stay on his schedule. We'll be back in about half an hour, if you care to wait?"

"No. No, thank you. We were just about to leave." Erik could not tear his eyes away from his father. "Goodbye, Dad. We are leaving now, but we'll come back to visit you very soon. I promise."

Christine patted Jonathan's shoulder. "Very soon."

They started to walk out the door, when the nurse stopped them. "Don't go yet," she chirped, "he wants to tell you something."

They turned around, but saw no change in Jonathan's face or posture. How did Kelly know? She was holding one finger up, telling them to wait. They waited.

"Erik is my son. I love my son." He fell silent. That was apparently all he had to say.

Kelly felt the awkwardness in the room and decided to handle it as she did all awkwardness: by saying something happy, then ending the situation. "That's so sweet. It's good to love people. It feels good. Ok, showertime." She wheeled Jonathan away.

Likewise, Christine gave Erik a gentle squeeze and began urging him towards the exit, prodding him with her crutch tip when he slowed. He kept looking back over his shoulder, beginning to learn what Christine already knew about last chances.

Once they reached the car, she set her crutches aside and held him tightly. "You said I opened Pandora's box, right?"

He nodded.

"And that was the last evil to fly out?"

Another nod.

"Do you remember the rest of that myth? After all the evil had escaped, there was still one thing left in the box. Do you remember what that last thing was?"

A shake of the head.

"The last thing in the box, my love, was Hope." She kissed him and climbed into the car.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 56 of 64

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