Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 57 of 64

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They were on the road again, with a little more than four hours' drive ahead of them. Erik seemed totally absorbed with the Kid A cd playing on the stereo. Christine sensed his need to spend some time in his own mind. The visit with Erik's father had started her own wheels turning.

She wasn't wildly popular, and since her time had been evenly divided between music and Erik she'd become even less so. Despite that, she could instantly think of five unrelated people she could call in an emergency who would probably be willing to help her. There were neglected old friendships she could revive with a call and a visit. Erik, on the other hand, had been speaking truth when he'd said that Nadir constituted his entire family and all of his friends. And Nadir was not young.

She'd become accustomed to his mannerisms even before they'd first spoken to each other over the microphone. Her fondness for him had made his strangeness endearing; falling in love with him had blinded her to it entirely. Watching him with strangers, she'd come to realize that he had no idea how to interact with people. He's never learned because he's never actually been a person. He's been a patient, and a freak, and a criminal, and a monster, and a genius - but I'm the first one to ever expect him to be a regular human being. He'll have to learn.

Music and Christine were rapidly dragging him out into the light. Suddenly, there were people who knew of him and admired him. It remained to be seen how Strange Noise's popularity would survive the publishing of Erik's mugshots, but she had a sneaking suspicion that they would survive just fine. Some people might be turned away, but the majority would stay - for the music. People would want to know him; he wouldn't be able to hide himself away much longer. He had to learn to deal with people; she was the only one to teach him, which put him at a second disadvantage in her mind. How did one go about reintroducing a person to a world he had rejected because it had brutalized him?

"Slowly." she said, not meaning to speak the word aloud.

"I'm going the speed limit," Erik snapped.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't talking to you."

"To whom were you talking, then? There's no one else in the car." Now, he sounded annoyed as well as snappish.

"Myself. There's no need to get upset."

"I wasn't..."

Lesson number one, she thought. Keeping her voice friendly, she said, "Maybe not, but you've had a hard day and you sounded angry with me."

Erik did not reply. He went back to staring at the road, thinking about family, and his lack thereof. A moment later, he heard the beeping of Christine's cell phone.

"Hi Mom. It's me." She'd called her family. He bent his attention her way; it would be fascinating to hear her half of the conversation.

"Yeah. It's been awhile. Ok. I'll wait." There was a pause of a few seconds, followed by, "Dad, hi. No, this isn't my animated corpse. It's really me. How are you guys?" Her tone was a little abashed, but still easy and natural. Erik was instantly envious. "That's really good. I'm glad. You'll be the best one they've had in awhile, I, she'll just have to deal with it."

She hasn't said anything about us yet. Why not?

"Me? Oh, that's why I called. A lot has happened since the last time we talked. See, I met a editor, but he's also a musician. In fact, he's a lot more of a musician than he is an editor...Yes, he has a degree...Yes, he has his own place. Actually, he doesn't have his own place anymore, since I moved in."

Here there was a space of several minutes where Christine only made the occasional exasperated noise. Finally, she had apparently had enough and broke in curtly. "I'm an adult. So's he. We're very happy. In fact, I'm calling because we are engaged...Well, of course we haven't planned it yet. We only just got engaged on our way to the Conservatory...Yes. Lawrence. Erik - that's his name, Erik Valliere - got me to go back. I completed my degree two days ago...Thank you. Yes, I know..." The conversation continued this vein for sometime. Erik's attention wandered until he heard, "Yes, you really do have to meet him soon - before he's your son...Tomorrow? Are you serious? Well, let me tell him and see what he says. He's had a hard few days."

She looked up from the phone. "Erik, my parents want to come up and meet you tomorrow. Are you up to it?"

"Am I? A better question is, 'Are they?' You haven't told them anything." His morose mood was still on him.

"Why don't you?" She held out the phone to him.

"No!" he gripped the wheel even more tightly in his hands. "It...isn't safe to talk on the phone and drive at the same time."

"Chicken." Christine held the phone to her ear again. "It's still me. Yes, that was him...Very nice. It's half his charm." She laughed. "So we'll see you tomorrow." She repeated their address and gave some simple directions. "We'll look for you around lunchtime. Ok. Love you both. Bye." She closed her phone and pushed it back into her purse.

"You didn't tell them." His stated flatly.

"It's not mine to tell." She was just as matter of fact as he. "Besides, tomorrow is soon enough."

"Too soon." He growled the words, making his ire clear.

Christine finally had enough of his bad mood. She leaned over the driver's seat and tickled his neck. "The soon-to-be Mr Daae needs to lighten up..." She nipped his ear lightly, then kissed his neck along the line her fingers had traced.

Erik held onto his grim visage for about two seconds. "The future Mrs. Valliere needs to remember that we are still on a highway, and she is distracting the driver..."

Christine giggled softly in his ear and snaked an arm down the front of his shirt. "If my betrothed will only grant me his smile, I will gladly let him go back to the tedious task at hand."

"Someday, Christine, I will figure out how to tell you no." He was smiling against his will.

"I hope not. I like when you say yes..."

It was such a relief to be home that Erik decided to put off returning the car until the next morning. Once again consigned to the sofa, Christine played light airs on the flute while Erik went about the chores of putting away their luggage and preparing dinner. He carefully avoided the music room as he had done since that night, not yet able to face the specter of his anger.

"I have a request for tomorrow..." Christine caught Erik on one of his passes through the living room.


"Would you make the rabbit dish again? My parents will love it." Christine's mouth watered with the memory of the succulent rabbit in wine sauce.

"What are they like?" Erik decided now was as good a time as any for a break.

"My parents?"

He nodded.

"Well, I don't know. They're nice enough, I guess. My Mom always wants to take care of everybody - she'll probably try to kick you out of the kitchen. And my Dad never says anything unless he's joking around. So if he teases you, you know he's starting to like you. Only worry if he doesn't tease you..."

"Wonderful. I'm supposed to look forward to being teased now?" Erik was incredulous. "And what are you going to tell them about the mask?"

"I'm not going to tell them anything. I already told you that." She reached up and slipped the offending piece of leather from his face. "You'll have to tell them whatever it is you think they need to know."


"Absolutely not. Erik, don't worry so much. If you can stop worrying long enough to behave around them the way you do with me, they'll love you." She ran her fingers through his hair, smoothing it and soothing his nerves. "My parents are the last people on Earth you have to be afraid of. They raised me, so they can't be that bad, right?"

He didn't reply. He only forced a smile and pulled her close.

"And Erik? My parents haven't seen Meg in a long, long time. She's their 'other daughter'. I'm going to invite her over tomorrow evening."

Erik still did not reply. He simply let go of her and toppled over on the couch. It was obvious now; she was trying to kill him.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 57 of 64

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