Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 59 of 64

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Meg got the call at nearly ten o'clock. Seeing the familiar number on the caller ID, she answered immediately with the appropriate mix of happiness and humility, "Hi Christine. I really hope my article helped, because I am really sorry about the other article. I didn't mean to, I mean I didn't think she'd use the information I gave her like that. I only told her his name, and even that just sl..."

Christine interrupted the remorseful outpouring. "My parents are coming up to visit tomorrow. Do you want to come over and see them?" Her tone was less friendly than she meant it to be; some anger for the ordeal she and Erik had suffered still remained.

"Yes! But why are they coming up? You haven't seen them in forever."

Christine took a deep breath and prepared to quickly move the phone away from her ear. "I got my degree and Erik and I are engaged," she blurted.

The ensuing shrieks and squeals seemed to reverberate up her arm and into her brain. It was a prototypical Meg reaction. "Engaged! You're engaged? When did that happen? When's the wedding? Where! Can I be maid of honor? I know you're mad at me, but can I still be your maid of honor? And OH! You have to wear off-white because of your complexion. And you have to have a huge train - like we made with sheets when we were little...and a huge skirt. Hoops! And lots of lace. Crystal beading..."

"We haven't planned anything yet, Meg. We can talk about it when you come over after four tomorrow. Ok? Come over after four pm." Hoping that Meg had heard above her gushing excitement, Christine said, "I'll talk to you tomorrow. I have to sleep now. Bye," and hung up.


Christine and her mother sat on the porch talking for two full hours, while Erik and Harry battled each other on the chess board. Though Brenda did not mention it, Christine could tell that she was dying of curiosity over Erik's face. Erik had done his best with his brief explanation; no more could be asked of him. Christine decided that she would explain to her mother and let her mother explain to her father in private, thus sparing Erik more discomfort and assuaging her parents' inevitable curiosity.

"Mom, I know you are thinking about Erik's mask." Her mother looked up, startled, but obviously guilty. "And that's ok. I was curious about it too, when I met him. I've seen his face, so I can answer any questions you have left, but please don't ask him about it or ask him to take the mask off again. He won't and you'll just make him uncomfortable."

"Really dear, it can't be that bad. What is it, burns?" It was the worst thing Brenda could think of - maybe Erik had been badly burned in an accident.

"No. When he was a baby there was an infection..." Christine explained Erik's problem to her mother quietly, as Erik had explained it to her. She didn't mention the pain that he still suffered or the way she had reacted the first time she saw it. Those things seemed too private. "So, yes, it really is 'that bad'. It looks worse than burns. But the worst part is what has happened to Erik because of it. That's why I would appreciate it if you wouldn't bring it up to him again, and if you would tell Dad what I've told you. He can tease Erik about anything else, but please not about taking the mask off."

Brenda was a tender-hearted woman. She imagined her own daughter in Erik's place and shivered at the thought. "The poor man. But Christine, are you sure you want to marry a man with that kind of problems? It sounds like it's a lot to deal with."

"I'm sure. He's rigid around strangers, but when he gets used to you, you'll see..."

"Oh, I saw that he loves you very much, Christine. He makes that obvious every time he looks at you. But I just want to be sure that you are ready to deal with this for the rest of your life."

"I am."

"Then let's go find out who won our bet. It looks like they've finished playing."

"And Meg will be here in the next few minutes."

They came back into the apartment to find the two men deep in a debate about the Reti opening.

"So," Christine interjected, "Who won?"

"A tie." Erik grumbled. "Two and two. We were about to start a fifth game when you ladies walked in."

"Well, we can't..." A knock at the door interrupted whatever Brenda was about to say.

Erik dropped his head into his hands. There was only one other person expected today. Christine opened the door to admit Meg, who grabbed her in a bear hug. After a moment, two decades of friendship won out and Christine returned the hug. Meg then attacked the Daae's, whom she had not seen for so long.

While the newcomer and Christine's parents caught up on the news, Christine stumped over to Erik and leaned against him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and bent down to kiss the top of her head.

Brenda's voice carried quite clearly across the room, saying, "Oh yes. We've heard. You and I get to pick the dress, but Harold has to pay for the wedding," which was followed by grunts of protest from the presumed payer.

"What's that about?" Erik whispered, his breath tickling Christine's ear.

She shivered with pleasure and sincerely considered asking all the guests to leave. "My mother and I made a bet on your game. Apparently, she has decided that the tie means we both win - or lose - depending on your point of view..."

For some reason, it was incredibly important to Erik that she'd bet on him, but he didn't want to give that away. "What, exactly, was the bet?"

The three converged on the two, preventing Christine from answering.

Meg approached Erik diffidently, her hands in her sleeves. "It was very kind of you to agree to have me over again. I never did get a chance to really apologize for..."

Erik moved to Christine's side so that he would not appear to be hiding behind her. "Never mind that. You are Christine's friend. That is all that matters." His voice was low and pleasant, even friendly; his eyes spoke a different story. You are not forgiven, not by me, those flashing eyes said, and I have not yet decided whether you ever will be.

"I think we should order out pizza." Brenda felt the tension and decided to break it. "Erik has done enough cooking for today, and we have a wedding to plan."

All being in accord, pizza was ordered and the small group sat down to a pleasant discussion of weddings. Erik and Christine curled up on the couch and listened with amusement to fanciful descriptions of elaborate ceremonies. There was talk of chapels and guest lists, but when Meg and Brenda began talking about receiving lines and Erik's deathgrip on her hand had begun to numb it, Christine broke in.

"This is all very nice, but I think that a very simple, quiet, private ceremony just for our closest friends and family would be more suited to us." The pressure on her hand immediately lessened. Had Erik known Christine's true plans, he would not have relaxed so easily.

"I agree. I think Christine and I would like to compose our own vows - the officiator need only be there for legal purposes." Erik opened his mouth for the first time during the entire conversation. If Christine had enthusiastically agreed to a huge, elaborate wedding, he would have endured it for her, but now that she was promoting a private ceremony, he jumped to bolster the idea.

"But we still get to pick Christine's dress, right?" Meg sounded distressed.

Christine laughed and nodded.

"And I will still have a bank account at the end of the day," muttered Harold, who had been listening with distress to the ever more expensive machinations of his wife and 'other daughter'."


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 59 of 64

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