Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 11 of 24

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"Are you glad to be back, Mother?" Gustave asked, leaning on her desk and fiddling, as he always did, with her paperweight. Christine took it out of his hands and put it firmly back on the stack of documents she had taken from Raoul's study to look through, and Gustave pouted briefly.

"I suppose so," she said, in response to his question. She glanced at the door, but Gustave had shut it, and they were alone in the library. "And you, Gustave?"

"I…I should be happy," he said slowly. "But I…" He glanced around as well, and she was heartened by his caution even as the need for it saddened her. "I miss Erik," he confided then. "And…I miss Father."

Christine nodded; she understood. Here in the house they had lived in together, Raoul's loss was keenly felt. His study especially, all his papers left neat but as if he was going to return to them. His bedroom, his clothes hanging in the wardrobe. Everywhere the familiar traces of him, the constant reminder that he was gone.

Gustave seemed to be managing his grief through music; he spent most of his days in the drawing room where the piano was, practicing or writing melodies. It concerned Christine, a little, and she tried to encourage him to go outside, to enjoy the last of the summer before autumn came. It was so like Erik, though – so much so that she couldn't quite bring herself to really forbid him from going to the piano.

Christine herself was keeping busy, and there was much to be busy with. They had only been back a few days, but she had already written to Raoul's creditors and paid off his debts with the overly-generous fee Erik had given her for singing in his theatre on Coney Island. It was such a relief to know that there would be no more debts, no more letters demanding payment or threatening repercussions. No more worrying about finding the money to keep up appearances, as Raoul had insisted on, no worries about managing to pay the servants.


Christine shook herself, found Gustave frowning at her and realised she'd missed what he'd been saying.

"I'm sorry, Gustave," she apologised quickly. "I haven't been sleeping well."

"You don't look well, Mother," he said, still frowning. "Are you still ill? I thought it was just seasickness." Christine had been sick throughout their journey back to France; she wasn't prone to seasickness, or to sickness of any sort whilst travelling, but she'd had no other explanation. But the sickness had continued, a nausea that began in the early hours of the morning and didn't cease until well past the midday meal.

There was a hope in Christine's heart, a tiny fluttering that she had barely dared think about lest she be disappointed. As if in thinking it, she would destroy the possibility.

But she had been ill like this before. For several months at the start of her pregnancy with Gustave, and again for the two children she had miscarried.

"Mother," said Gustave impatiently, "you're not listening to me. You always tell me not to do that."

She summoned a smile, nodded her head. "I know. Will you forgive me?" She reached out again to stop him fiddling with the paperweight. "I'm sure it will pass, Gustave. I promise to call for the doctor if it worsens."

"Alright," he said. "If you promise." He turned to go, and then returned to the desk. "Is Aunt Heléne really coming to stay? I wish she wasn't. It's much nicer when it's just us."

"Gustave," laughed Christine, "that's perfectly horrid. I hope you won't be rude to her."

"Of course not," said Gustave, with an expressive roll of his eyes. "But I do wish it was just us. I hate not being able to talk about Erik with people." He crossed to the door and left the room, leaving the door ajar so she could hear him singing to himself as he wandered away.

Christine looked back down at the papers she had been reading, tried to concentrate on the important information within. The debtors were paid, but the estate was still mortgaged, and Christine had written to Raoul's agent, asking for his advice in selling the estate entirely. They would still have the town house in Paris, and she had some idea of entrusting it to Heléne until Gustave was of age and could decide for himself whether he wanted to live in Paris.

It was all so complicated, made more so by the way her actions seemed inexplicable to those around her; she could not explain that she and Gustave would be leaving to be with Erik. She hadn't needed to fabricate an excuse in her letter to Monsieur Bourtin, he was far too professional to make a personal enquiry unless it was relevant, but Heléne de Chagny would be here soon and Christine had still to think of a proper reason to give for her decision to emigrate.

And Charles de Chagny would be vehement in his disapproval. He was a traditionalist, and the very idea of the young Comte de Chagny – as Gustave now was – leaving France to grow up in America, of all places, would scandalise him.

But Christine had lived with his disapproval for over ten years – since Raoul had declared his intent to marry her. She could live with it for a few months longer.

Footsteps approached the library; she looked up to see Lambert, the butler, standing just inside the library door.

"Lady Heléne de Chagny," he announced, and stepped back as Heléne came past him, entered the room and crossed to Christine.

"My dear," she said. "Am I early? Do forgive me. I've been so anxious about you."

Christine smiled, rose and accepted Heléne's embrace. "Bonsoir, Heléne. Thank you; I'm alright." She kissed Heléne's cheek. "It's good to see you." Heléne, unlike her uncle Charles, had been her friend for many years, and a source of great support in the face of Raoul's worsening habits, which had caused the siblings to argue on more than one occasion.

"I'm sure you're not alright," said Heléne, and she looked critically at Christine. "You look tired. Oh my dear, what an awful thing to happen. And Gustave? How is he?"

Christine found herself without words for a moment, and then she shrugged lightly. "I think he is as to be expected," she said, and looked away from Heléne, her vision blurring with tears. She blinked them away, almost angry with herself. "He…he was there, he saw it happen," she added at last. "He hasn't really spoken about that."

Heléne was silent, and Christine saw tears in her eyes as well.

"That poor child," she said at last. "Oh Christine. And you were alone."

"We had each other," said Christine, and she gestured for Heléne to join her on the library's sofa. "I'd take you through to the drawing room, but I believe Gustave is there," she explained.

"Yes, I heard the piano as I came in," said Heléne with a nod. "He has improved since I last heard him." She hesitated, then continued. "Christine, can you tell me what happened? Uncle Charles showed me your telegram, and there was something in the newspapers about it, of course, but no details."

Christine closed her eyes briefly, remembered Meg with the gun, remembered her terror for Gustave, remembered Raoul's blood on her hands.

"I'm sorry," said Heléne, awkward, and Christine opened her eyes again, looked at her sister-in-law. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."

"No," Christine said softly, "no, it's alright." She took a deep breath, expelled it, tried to decide how much she could explain. So much of it was so deeply personal, so closely bound with things she needed to keep from Heléne. She would have to lie, or at least omit truths. "It was after my performance," she said at last. "The – the lead performer there, she was angry, she said it should have been her singing the aria. She took Gustave." She shook her head, twisted her fingers together in her lap. "We – we went after her, and I think she was about to give up the gun, but then…then she grew angry again."

She looked at Heléne, knew that this final part could not be withheld from Raoul's sister. "She meant the bullet for me," she said, "but Raoul…got between us."

"My God," murmured Heléne, pale and stricken. "My God, Christine."

"I think," said Christine, and her voice seemed distant, "I think the worst part was having to bury him there. Away from his family."

They were silent then, and Heléne reached out, took Christine's hand and squeezed it tightly. And suddenly Christine wished she could tell Heléne everything, wished she could share and confide in the woman who had, over the past decade, become like a sister to her. She wished she could share the love and happiness that had entered her life, wanted to be able to explain why she was emigrating and why she was taking Gustave away from France.

It was impossible; and yet she wished.

"There'll be a memorial at the service on Sunday," she said, breaking the silence. "And Lord Charles will be here." Heléne made such an amusing face that Christine had to laugh, and Heléne joined in. "I'm not looking forward to it," Christine admitted. "There are…things I need to discuss with you first."

Heléne looked at her shrewdly, and nodded. "Yes, I thought there might be," she said. "Shall we talk now, or would you rather wait until after supper?"

Christine rubbed a hand across her eyes tiredly. "I don't intend to stay in France," she said, knowing it would be easier once she'd said it.

Heléne said nothing; she rose and turned to look out of the window, her face a blank that Christine couldn't read.

"You know Raoul and I weren't happy," Christine continued. "I cannot stay here, or in the house in Paris. I've already spoken to the agent, Monsieur Bourtin, and the estate is mortgaged so heavily the only way out is to sell it."

Heléne swung around, stared at her. "As bad as that? I didn't know."

"Neither did I," Christine had to admit. That Raoul's debts had been large, she had known, and also that a little money was owing to the bank on the mortgage, but not the amount – not that the estate was all but owned by the banks. She had to wonder how much gambling Raoul had done that she hadn't known about, how much drinking. Whether other things had gone on as well. "So I will sell it, and repay the bank," she continued.

"Where will you go, then?" Heléne asked, returning to the sofa. "Will – forgive me, I'm being indelicate, but will there be enough money to live on?"

"Enough," Christine nodded. "And…we will go back to New York." She steeled herself for Heléne's reaction, dreaded her sister-in-law's censure or disbelief.

But Heléne was neither disbelieving nor disapproving; she looked at Christine curiously, her lips pursed as she thought. When she spoke, it was slowly and deliberately.

"Christine," she said, "I'm not a fool. I know there is something you're not saying. Perhaps many things." Christine felt herself flushing, and she couldn't meet Heléne's gaze. "I'm not asking you to tell me," Heléne went on, "but I know how unhappy you were. I…I hope you don't think I judge you for that. Or for any choices you make now to secure your happiness in the future."

Christine felt tears spring to her eyes again, felt as though a weight had been lifted. There was still Charles to face, still many decisions to be made, and none of it would be easy. But Heléne, at least, was supporting her.

"Now," said Heléne briskly, "let me see Gustave before the dressing bell sounds. And put your worries from your mind for tonight, at least. Tomorrow we can face them together."

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 11 of 24

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