Continuing Tales

Binary

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 60 of 64

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Binary

Her parents left town two days later. When they left, Brenda hugged Erik warmly and Harold shook his hand while patting him firmly on the shoulder. They both declared how lovely it had been to meet him and how happy they were that he would soon become their son-in-law. Neither blinked an eye when he did not return the affectionate gestures - they understood.

"We'll be back in three months," warned Harold, "You better get your chess game in order by then, Zorro. Who knows what bets the women will make in the meantime!"

Christine's mother kissed her and said, "Don't worry, dear, Meg and I will take care of the dress. All you have to do is try it on. We've already selected several styles. Oh, and expect some calls from us; now that we have your number, we will be in touch."

Christine wasn't worried. Whatever they picked would be fine with her - as long as the groom was Erik, how could she care? She and Erik walked Brenda and Harold out to their car and waved goodbye as they drove away.

"That wasn't as bad as you thought it would be, now was it?" Christine kissed Erik's earlobe, his cheek being unavailable.

"You'll never know, my love. But you were right on one count - they are very nice people. I'll enjoy having them as parents." He kissed her back and they returned home.

Nearly a week later, Christine came home from work to find Erik kneeling in the music room, the shattered dulcimer cradled in his hands. He was not trying to repair it, he was simply staring down at it, occasionally touching the jagged wood of its broken soundboard. She considered leaving him to his contemplations, but his hunched shoulders and strange stillness would not let her walk by. Quietly, she lowered herself to the floor next to him. They sat that way for a long time, neither speaking, both staring at the broken instrument.

"I used to be so proud of this room," he whispered at last. "Your parents never saw it."

"No."

"And you never told them how your leg was broken." He rested one hand lightly on the cast.

"I told them I was climbing on rocks and fell. It's true."

Erik continued as though he had not heard her. "Even your friendship with Meg. My parents. I break everything I touch, Christine." He stroked the dulcimer and set it aside. "I just can't understand why you want to marry an ugly man who breaks things."

Instead of answering him, she picked up a nearby acoustic guitar, the neck of which had been snapped, and examined it. The break was clean. With wood glue and some very clever bracing, the guitar might be playable. It would never again have the perfect pure sound it once had, but it would make music. "Wood glue and bracings. Do you think you could do it, Erik?"

He looked at the damage. "Yes, but it will be a challenge." He set it to one side and continued his gloomy meditation.

Next, she pushed a small harp into his hands. "Simple. Even I could do this one. Its strings are broken and one tuning peg has come loose."
"True. You could fix this, if I showed you how." He set it next to the guitar.

"I think this viola has had it, but the mandolin could be treated like the guitar. Couldn't it?"

The viola joined the dulcimer, but the mandolin was placed gently in the stack of salvageable instruments. One by one, they sorted through the pile of instruments Meg had deemed too broken to be fixed. None of them would ever be the same again, but many could be saved.

"Just two left to sort," she whispered, nestling closer to him and lightly, lightly brushing his cheek with her fingertips. The damage he had done on that awful night was slowly healing, but it was leaving more scars in its wake. "But they are so tangled up together that you must put them both in the same pile."

"Seems a pity to mingle the trash with the treasure," but he pulled her onto his lap and held her tightly.

"More a pity to throw out a perfect instrument just because someone ruined the finish..."

"But it is far from perfect - it's a defective thing; it falls out of tune constantly, and only one person in all the world can wring any sort of melody from it."

"But without its melody - which guides her harmony - her whole world would be a cacophony. Besides, it's the only instrument she cares to play." Christine tilted his head down and kissed him sweetly. "If she could no longer play it, her music would be forever silenced.

He put two "fingers over her lips. "Shhh. You don't mean that, Christine."

"I do mean it. You are an ugly man who breaks things. Fine." She grabbed his hands and held them up in front of him. "You are also an Angel who creates celestial music and who put a broken woman back together. You are the glue and bracings holding me together. Our wedding is the vice that will hold us together and allow the glue to set."

He drew her hands to him and pressed them to his chest over his heart. "If that is truly the way you feel, then I am yours in heart and mind. I'm your willing servant. You only have to ask, and it will be done."

"No matter what I ask?"

"No matter what."

"Do you swear it?"

"I swear." He spoke solemnly and kissed her hand by way of sealing his promise.

"Then I already have two requests. The first is that we go back to the park soon and play. I miss it."

"Done and done. Now that the whole city has seen my face, no doubt they'll turn out in droves to see the freak. We should have record-breaking crowds." He made a wry face. "Just don't be surprised when they start jeering and throwing things."

"Flowers, maybe. The second request - well, since you've already agreed to it, I will ask when it is time." She struggled to her feet and grinned happily down at him. "Come on, my beloved fiancÚ, let's go compose our wedding ceremony."

They sat up late into the night, composing a service that would be heard only by a bare half-dozen people. The fullscore would take many nights, but there was no sense that haste was needed. They had three full months and the work flowed naturally.

When they did return to Interlaken park nearly a week later, both of their predictions were proved true. Once park-goers recognized that a Strange Noise concert was about to begin, they whipped out their cell phones and began calling friends. The crowd rapidly grew from dozens to thousands. In truth, a few people in the crowd did come to "see the freak", but they were a scant minority.

The article that had nearly destroyed Erik had spread Strange Noise's name like wildfire. Meg's article wrung the public's heart and the duo's subsequent disappearance outraged fans and triggered a wave of sympathetic letter-writing. The editorial page contained little but letters of support for the wronged couple for several days. Because they were in Appleton, neither musician had the least idea that their fame was growing exponentially.

Strange Noise stood before the growing crowd, tuning their instruments and quietly discussing last minute adjustments to the setlist. Erik would not look at the burgeoning throng. His eyes never left Christine for a moment; he was sure that if he did look, he would see hostile, sneering faces. Christine had no such unhappy illusions. She cast sideways glances at the enthusiastic, eager faces surrounding them; each glance fueled her own excitement. Not only was the crowd immense, it was also noisy. Erik ignored them, but Christine heard clearly the words of every shout. They were shouts of welcome, shouts of adoration. When the music began, the noise stopped as though cut with a knife.

The setlist contained only the pieces they had composed over the last five days. It was a masterful set of compositions; several pieces were perfect interweavings of jazz and classical, or rock and classical. There were no well-known pieces thrown in as crowd pleasers - non ewere needed. Their delighted fans, usually happy to applaud and leave, screamed for an encore when it seemed the music was done. After the encore, they kept screaming. Erik could no longer ignore them. The was no dream. This was reality. Here were several thousand people who knew what was hidden behind the mask - and couldn't care less. From that day forward, it was a little easier for Erik to hold his head up in public and a little harder to remember why he'd hidden away for so many years.

Binary

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 60 of 64

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