Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 12 of 24

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"I cannot believe what you're saying," stormed Charles de Chagny, tall and looming before her. Christine was glad the desk separated them; although Charles had never been a violent man, he was so angry now, and she was feeling ill enough to feel intimidated by it, at least a little. "Leave France? Sell the estate? Preposterous! Gustave is the Comte now, he has a duty to –"

"Uncle, you can see the figures for yourself," interrupted Heléne, serene at Christine's side. "I can't think how Raoul let things degenerate into such a state."

"Don't speak ill of the dead," said Charles, practically snarling at her.

"Oh stop it," Christine said, and almost slammed her hand down on the desk. "Dead or not, something went badly wrong and I knew nothing of it. There is simply no option." She looked up at him, watched his gaze flicker down to the papers she had shown him. "Perhaps it started before Raoul inherited," she said then, although she felt it was probably too generous to Raoul's memory. She remembered Philippe, although he had died quite soon after her wedding to Raoul. Like Charles, he had disapproved of the marriage, but he had at least tried to be courteous to her – and she was certain he had never been extravagant.

No, she was sure the estate had been carefully managed before then. The agent's figures had showed a small mortgage dating back several decades, but they also showed that Philippe had been working, slowly, to pay it off. Christine suspected the mortgage had been taken out by Raoul's father, Charles' elder brother.

"You know many of our friends have had to do the same," Heléne said quietly. "Things have changed, Uncle. Estates are expensive."

Charles glanced at his niece, then he sighed, shook his head and sat down stiffly. "Even if I could accept the sale of the estate," he said, "that would be one thing. It is quite another, this ridiculous suggestion of leaving France."

Christine leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes for a moment. She was tired, and this fight was every bit as difficult as she'd anticipated. She'd spent most of the night trying not to be sick, and the memorial had been more distressing than she'd expected, for both herself and for Gustave

"I don't need you to accept it," she said at last. "You have no claim on me, Uncle." She looked at him, saw him prepare to speak again. "I understand your concerns for Gustave," she continued, "but I must do what I think is best."

"He is the Comte de Chagny," said Charles, condemnation in his voice and his expression. "The last in a noble line. He must –"

"He is my child," said Christine coldly. "Are you suggesting you are in a better position to decide his future happiness than I?" Charles was silent; she had scored a hit. Something drove her to continue – perhaps ten years of silence. "Or maybe you simply believe I am…unsuitable," she said, and from his badly-concealed flinch could see that thought had not been far from his mind. Unsuitable as a wife, unsuitable as a mother for the de Chagny line.

"Please let's not argue," said Heléne, "not today." It was a timely intervention, and Christine nodded, straightened and reached to tidy the papers that Charles had left in disarray.

"Heléne is right," she said. "Raoul…Raoul would not have liked it."

The reminder of his nephew, the reminder that today had been his memorial service, seemed to be enough to make Charles let go of his outrage, at least for now. He gave a stiff nod.

"Very well," he said, voice gruff. "I suppose I must concede, at least on the sale. I – the figures are astounding. I should never have believed it of Raoul." He lifted his hand as if to rub his eyes, but stopped, looked at Christine again. "But you must see why I cannot support this ludicrous suggestion of leaving France."

Christine sighed, spread her hands. "I…I don't think I can ever fully understand your point of view, Uncle," she said. Heléne opened her mouth to speak, but Christine shook her head. "I am not noble," she said, very deliberately. "I was not born to it, and I know I am not what you wanted for Raoul, but there it is. I can never understand it as you think I should."

Charles cleared his throat, but Christine shook her head again.

"No," she said. "Heléne is right. Any further discussion will only cause argument, and I will not allow that. Not today." She rose, glanced at Heléne . "You will excuse me," she said, "I need some fresh air."

She didn't wait for a response; she left the library, went through the house to the side door that faced onto the lawn and, further from the house, the rose garden. She escaped, hurried down the lawn and into the rose garden.

It was cool today, the wind had a biting edge that heralded the end of summer and the start of winter. The rose garden was almost bare of blossoms, but it was secluded, concealed from the house by a high hedge, and it was beautiful despite the lack of colour. It was Christine's favourite part of the gardens, and now she sank down onto a stone bench, lifted her hands to cover her eyes and took several deep breaths.

She missed Raoul. She missed his humour, the way he had smiled at her, and she missed his quiet support. Even after their marriage had become difficult, even when their conversation was stilted, when she had kept Gustave out of his father's way and tried to conceal bruises – even then, he had never even hinted that she was not as she should be. That he had made a mistake by marrying a singer, rather than a woman of his own rank.

He had treated her as if she were born to the life she had led for the past ten years – as if she were more than just a young opera singer, thrust into a world she'd known nothing about.

And oh, she missed Erik. She missed him as if part of her heart were missing. She missed him more now than ever before. More than during the long silence, after she had unmasked him, when she had feared she would never see him again; more than those early days as Raoul's wife, when she had known she was with child and known it was not Raoul's.

It seemed impossible. She would see him again, after all, which she had never known before. She'd never had that certainty. And yet she felt as though the greater part of her had been left in New York.

Christine lowered her hands, touched her abdomen. Perhaps that was it, she reflected. With every day that passed, she grew more certain that she was carrying Erik's child again. She wanted to share it with him, wanted him to be there for the first signs of it – wanted him to see her figure slowly swelling, to feel the first kicks of the child within.

To know that they had created another life together.

"Mother? Mother, are you out here?"

"Yes, Gustave, I'm here," Christine called, and in a moment Gustave came through the archway in the hedge, clothes and hair in disarray and a scowl on his face. He ran towards her, flung himself into her arms so hard that she was knocked against the back of the bench.

"Gustave, what on earth?" she asked, hugging him close and smoothing his hair down. "What's wrong?"

"I hate Uncle Charles," said Gustave, his words muffled as he pressed his face against her. "I don't want to stay here. I want to go back to be with Erik!"

The cold Christine felt had nothing to do with the weather. That Charles had approached Gustave, tried to convince him to stay, to go against her wishes and Gustave's own desire, was beyond what she could have expected of him. It was despicable, it was sly and underhand, and it had clearly distressed Gustave.

"We're not staying here, darling," she said, and forced herself to sound calm and reassuring. "It's just a few months, you know that."

"But he said –"

"I don't care what he said," said Christine, almost snapping, and Gustave pulled away, frowned at her. She gentled her tone, offered him a smile. "Nobody matters except you and I, and Erik," she told him. "Nobody is going to stop us going back to him."

"Promise," said Gustave insistently.

"Gustave, I promise," Christine said, and kissed his forehead. "In a little under six months we will be back with him, and we'll start a new life." Gustave nodded, still upset, and she hugged him tightly again. "It will be alright, Gustave. Uncle Charles is only here for another night, and Heléne goes tomorrow too. It will be just us again."

"Alright," said Gustave, leaning against her, his head on her shoulder. "Mother, do I have to start lessons again? Since it's not so very long 'til we're leaving."

Christine laughed, gently pushed him away from her so she could look at him. "Now, Gustave, you know you must. You'll go to school in New York, you know." He scowled, but it looked almost comical and she smiled. "You were hoping to spend all day long playing music," she guessed. "I'm afraid not, my darling."

"But Mother –"

"No buts," she said quickly, and Gustave closed his mouth, sulked even more. "Lessons will resume tomorrow as planned." She paused, waited to see if he had any further objections. "I know you love music," she continued, "but you mustn't be ignorant, Gustave. You know, your fa– Erik, I mean." She stopped, a little flustered, but Gustave took her hand.

"It's alright, Mother," he said, far too grave for such a little boy. "You can call him my father. I don't mind."

Reassured, Christine squeezed his hand. "Your father is very clever," she said softly. "He mainly taught himself, I believe. He would not want you to be uneducated."

Gustave was silent, bit his lip and looked away from her. Finally he huffed a sigh, nodded with a show of reluctance.

"Alright," he agreed. "I suppose I have to." Christine nodded approvingly, reached to straighten his clothing. "Do I have to sit up for supper tonight?" he asked then. "Since Aunt Heléne and Uncle Charles are here?"

"No," she said, smiling. "No, it will be far too late for you, after such a long day. I think you'd better have an early supper upstairs."

"Good," said Gustave emphatically, and she laughed again, knew she should reprimand him for his attitude towards his great-uncle but simply couldn't bring herself to be strict. "Will you be coming in soon, Mother? It's getting cold." He frowned at her, attempting to be stern. "You haven't been well. You shouldn't stay out here."

"I'll come in just a moment," she promised, and he stared at her for a moment longer before nodding. He pulled away from her, turned and left the rose garden at a slower pace than before. She watched him go, and then looked down at her flat stomach, pressed a hand over her abdomen.

It was too early to write to him, too soon to be sure, and she had miscarried twice – she had been warned by a doctor, after the second lost child, that it was highly likely she might never again bear a child to full term.

And yet she couldn't help but wonder whether she would be able to carry this child, Erik's child, as she had Gustave.

No, she could not tell him now. She couldn't – wouldn't – give him that hope until she was absolutely sure, until the riskiest time was over and the odds swung in her favour. It would be too cruel, and she had been far too cruel to him over the years as it was.

She would keep the news from him, and if she was right – if she was right and Erik's child could grow within her safely…

She would tell him then. When it was safe. When she was confident that bad news would not follow the good.

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 12 of 24

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