Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 62 of 64

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Erik and Christine's apartment door loomed in front of Meg. Compared to three days before, it looked sinister and forbidding. When Christine called to say that Erik was willing to hear Meg out, Meg's first feelings were happiness and relief; finally she'd be able to get past the guilt of her massive gaffe. Close behind those initial emotions, though, was a deep foreboding. Christine would not say whether or not Erik would forgive her - in fact, her general tone was one of uncertainty.

Lifting a reluctant hand, Meg knocked and waited. Christine answered the door a few moments later.

"Hi Meg. Come on in." Christine looked cheerful enough.

Meg walked into the apartment and saw that two steaming mugs were on the coffee table, already filled with fragrant jasmine tea. Next to the coffee was a bowl full of seedless green grapes.

"Have a seat and get comfy. Erik will be out in a minute." Christine picked up her purse, patted Meg on the shoulder and turned towards the door.

"Wait!" Meg realized she had spoken more loudly than she intended and lowered her voice. "You aren't going to just leave me here, are you?"

"I'm not getting in the middle of this. No, thank you. If you want to work this out with him, you'll have to do it on your own." Christine had made this decision late last night. "You'll be ok if you just keep one thing in mind."

"And that is?"

"Be patient. He's not used to people," and she was gone.

Meg sat nibbling grapes and sipping tea. Erik was taking his own sweet time about whatever he was doing. Of course, she wasn't so sure she actually wanted him to emerge.

For his part, Erik was sitting in the bedroom waiting for his TENS unit to knock out some of the pain. He could not deal with Meg with his face aflame; his temper would be too short. Finally it beeped, signaling the end of his session. With a sigh, he carefully tied his mask and put on his fedora. It was time to get this thing over with.

Meg heard him coming down the hall, and for just a moment, the image of the ransacked apartment filled her mind. He'd been completely insane that night. She very much wished Christine were here to mediate.

Wordlessly, Erik stalked into the room and took a seat in the computer chair across from where Meg sat on the sofa. He picked up his mug of tea, leaned back in the chair and sipped calmly. When his unwavering stare began to unnerve her, Meg finally spoke.

"Christine said that you, uh, agreed to listen to me. So, um, thank you." She stopped. He was still sitting, impassively sipping and staring. "When I first talked to that reporter, she seemed really interested in Strange Noise. She acted like she wanted to promote you guys, make you famous." She paused, looking for words. "And the first article she wrote was nice. So I started to trust her. She would call me up now and then to see where you would perform. She never asked personal questions; not until you started to get big. I was so happy for you. I wanted you to be famous. I wanted Christine to be famous. When she first asked me why you wore...I mean, she asked what the..."

"Mask." It was his first word of the visit, delivered in a booming baritone and without emotion.

"Yeah. The, uh, mask. She wanted to know why you wore it. Christine told me that your face was...kind of..."

"Disfigured." Again, the single word like a single funeral bell pealing.

"Yes. Well, I didn't tell the reporter anything about that. I just said I didn't know because I'd never seen you without it. She seemed to accept that and she just moved on to what sort of music Christine listened to in her spare time." Meg's words came faster as she grew increasingly nervous under that stony stare.

"She was just so friendly. I didn't suspect her at all. One day, she caught me when I was in a hurry. She asked me what your names were and I just told her. I knew it was a mistake the moment I said it, but Erik please believe me when I say I had no idea what she intended to do with that information. She'd been nothing but helpful and positive before. You know?" Meg looked up, hoping to see some sign that Erik was softening. The mask hid his expression, his mouth was a single straight line, his eyes were dispassionate. "When I saw what she'd done, I came straight here to apologize, but you were both already gone. I saw...I tried to clean up. It was my fault, all my fault. And I'm sorry."

Erik finished his tea and set the empty mug on the table. "You saw the picture in the paper, of course."

Meg nodded and winced. The wince did not escape Erik's notice.

"Handsome devil, aren't I..."

She had no idea how to respond, so she picked up a grape and chewed it slowly.

"Now, if that were you, how do you think... No. You have no basis for comparison. You have no idea what you did to me."

"No, I don't. I'm sorry." Meg stared into her cup and watched the dregs swirl at the bottom.

"Did Christine tell you how she broke her leg?"


"She wouldn't. She doesn't tell everything she knows," he sneered. "She broke it climbing down a cliff face in the middle of the night - coming after me." He let this sink in for a moment. "Your 'little mistake' almost killed me. You see, because of the wording in the article, I thought Christine was the culprit - imbecile that i was."

Meg was horrified. Erik was giving no details, but her imagination was sharp. She could imagine Erik reading the article, thinking Christine had given him away, flying into a rage, destroying the apartment they shared, and then running off into the night intent on killing himself because the woman he loved had betrayed him. Jay's declaration that if he was in Erik's place he'd want to kill her came to mind. She jerked her eyes up to Erik's face, fear gleaming in them.

Erik watched realization dawn in her freckled features. Dismay spread like a dark cloud across her normally perky face, followed closely by fear. Good, he thought savagely.

"You thought maybe I did it? What did the headline call me? Monster?" The rage was slowly building. He stood and leaned over Meg threateningly. "I certainly look the part, don't I..."

"No," Meg squeaked. "I know you would never hurt her..." What about me? her mind babbled, Be patient. Christine said be patent. But he was frightening as he towered over her, all darkness and concealing mask.

"Do you..." He was not quite ready to back down yet. "How?"

"She loves you. Christine has made a lot of mistakes when it comes to men, but she's never dated a man who abused her."

Erik eased off a little bit. "So you came here tonight hoping that I would... what? Forgive you? Kiss and make up?"

Be patient "I hoped you would hear me out and understand that it was a mistake. An honest mistake. I never meant to hurt you - either of you. It's been a long time since Christine has been happy, and she's only happy because of you. If you and I can't at least be civil to one another, it is going to hurt her."

Erik sat down and put his chin in his hand. Nothing else Meg had said had penetrated the icy wall around his hurt pride. This last, however, broke through powerfully, because it was truth. This was Christine's childhood friend, her maid of honor. If there was a rift between them, it could only tear at Christine, who would inevitably be caught in the middle. That must be why she excused herself tonight. She didn't want to be caught between us.

Meg took his silence as a good sign. She bit her lip and forced herself to wait for him to finish mulling whatever it was he was mulling. Finally, he did look up.

"Alright. I am not accustomed to this, but it appears I have no choice. From this moment, we will pretend that we have just met. I will treat you like any other stranger on the street. Maybe over time we will come to..." He trailed off, not sure of how to continue.

Meg easily took over. Now that he'd relented, she was not so afraid to begin reparations. "Maybe we will come to be friends. I like you, Erik, and I'm not such a bad person - once you get to know me."

As to that last, Erik was reserving judgment. He stood and waited for her to do the same.

"Good afternoon, Miss Giry." He said stiffly, offering his hand. "It has been a pleasure."

Such a strange man, she thought, but this was far better than the wrathful glares. She would play his game and make the most of it. "Good afternoon, Mr. Valliere. I hope we will talk again soon."

He let her out and closed the door behind her before sinking slowly to the floor in a bundle of frayed nerves. This business of being friendly and forgiving was harder than it looked.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Soignante

Part 62 of 64

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