Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 20 of 24

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Christine hummed to herself as she moved about the small room that had been claimed as hers, arranging and rearranging the things she'd brought from France. She hadn't unpacked anything herself – Erik had insisted she allow the maid, Laura, to do that, insisting she was to rest as much as possible – but she had wanted to arrange her belongings herself, had banished Erik and Gustave to the music room to look over Gustave's compositions.

The room was small but cosy; a fire in the grate made it homely, and she would find comfortable furniture to truly make it her own. There were two worn armchairs by the fire, a bookcase that she had filled with her books and music scores, a window that would give enough light to sew or read by.

She finished arranging the photographs in their frames on the mantelpiece, looked at them for a moment and wished she had a picture of Erik to go with them. She had several of Gustave, a small, faded daguerreotype of her father and one even older of her mother – and she had photographs of Raoul, although she had only selected one for display, and placed it towards the back.

But there was no representation of Erik among the faces that looked up at her; and there would be none, she knew. To ask him for a photograph – at least for now, for the foreseeable future – would be too much.

She thought, idly, of asking for a family photograph once the baby was born, and wondered if he would be able to accept then.

The doorbell rang then, and Christine paused for a moment, listened to make sure Laura had gone to answer it. The young girl was hard-working and determined to please her new employers, but was clearly nervous, had never worked as a maid before. But Christine heard footsteps as Laura moved from the kitchen to the front door, and she nodded to herself, pleased, went to sit down in her armchair.

A moment later Laura came in, dipped a curtsey. "Madame Giry's here, ma'am," she said. "Shall I show her in?"

"Please," said Christine, pleased but a little surprised. She'd only been back in New York two days, and Erik hadn't mentioned that Madame Giry was planning to visit. "And would you bring tea? With the last of the cake, if there's any left." Laura curtseyed again, withdrew, and a moment later Madame Giry came into the room.

"No, don't get up," she said as soon as Christine made to rise. She swept her gaze over Christine, nodded as if in satisfaction. "I thought so," she said. "Erik was sure the house was too large, but I had a feeling."

"It's good to see you, Madame," said Christine, and she waited while the elder woman seated herself. Madame Giry had aged, she saw with dismay – she'd carried a cane for as long as Christine had known her, ever since those days so long ago when she'd come to live in the Opera House under Madame Giry's guardianship, but it had never been used as it was now, as a real source of support. Her hair was greying quickly, and there was a weariness to her posture, although still elegant and upright.

"And you also, Christine," said Madame Giry. "You look radiant." She smiled, just a quirk of her lips, but enough for Christine to know she approved. "You did not write to Erik with the news."

"No," said Christine, "I needed to be sure…I lost two children, Madame, early during the pregnancies, and so…" Madame Giry nodded, didn't comment. "But he is happy," Christine said, smiling. "At least, I hope he is."

She was afraid, a little – just a small fear, one that only emerged when he flinched away from her. There was no reason to think their second child would be any less beautiful than their first, and Christine knew she would love her regardless, but she worried about Erik, about what his reaction would be if the baby were not…normal.

"Don't borrow trouble," said Madame Giry firmly, following her thoughts. "Gustave is fine, there is no reason this child should not be. Erik's fears must not be your fears, Christine, or you will not live happily."

"Yes, Madame," Christine nodded. "But I'm not afraid, truly. I will love this child no matter what she looks like." Madame Giry gave an approving nod, started speaking again but Laura knocked on the door then, came in bearing a tray with tea and cake. She set it down on the small table between the two women and then left with a nervous curtsey.

"Is she doing well?" Madame Giry asked, jerking her head towards the door. "She seemed promising. Erik asked me to find someone, so I hope she suits."

"She isn't afraid of Erik, or overly curious about his mask," Christine said, leaning forwards to pour the tea. "That bodes well. Although Gustave already has her willing to do anything for him." She shared an amused smile with her foster-mother, passed across a cup and saucer, took a slice of cake for herself.

"Will Gustave start school soon?" Madame Giry asked, helping herself to a slice of cake.

"Yes, within the next fortnight," said Christine, leaning back in her chair. "I think he's nervous, but it will be good for him. His English is, I think, good enough that he won't have much difficulty there." She paused, looked down at her tea for a moment. She wanted to ask about Meg, but she wasn't sure if it would be welcomed – wasn't even sure she truly wanted to know. Her life had become so happy, so full of joy at last, and Meg…

"And you'll be married before the child is born?" Madame Giry asked, unaware of her thoughts.

"Yes," said Christine, and sipped her tea. "I believe Erik has already spoken with the priest who buried Raoul. We…we want to be married as quickly as possible." She glanced at her finger, at the ring that sparkled there, and couldn't help smiling again.

"Good," said Madame Giry with a decided nod. "At least some of our mistakes will be made right."

Christine paused, looked at her for a moment and then leaned forward to put her cup down on the table.

"Madame, how is Meg?" she asked, and Madame Giry's mouth tightened, she looked away, into the glowing coals in the fireplace. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have –"

"It's alright, Christine," Madame Giry interrupts her. " have the right to ask." She looked wearier now, filled with sadness, and Christine wished she hadn't asked, no matter what Madame Giry said. She couldn't help feeling she had only caused harm to Madame Giry, and to Meg, and had no wish to add to it now.

"She is ill," Madame Giry said abruptly then, her words clipped. "There was an outbreak of pneumonia at the sanatorium, and they say her health is…fragile." Shocked, Christine lifted a hand to her mouth.

"But she won't – she's not – " she stammered, and Madame Giry shook her head.

"She should recover," she said. "But she is not…" She trailed off, bowed her head, and Christine was struck by how vulnerable she looked suddenly. "She is mostly lucid," she said then, "and I think there is some talk of moving her to the women's prison, but I…" She shrugged, and Christine's heart ached.

"I'm so sorry, Madame," she whispered, and didn't know what else to say. But Madame Giry shrugged, put her cup down and went to stoke up the fire.

"You should keep warm," she admonished. "You said you lost two children? And to make the sea journey in your condition."

Christine allowed her to change the subject, allowed the mood to be lightened. "You sound like Erik now," she said lightly. "Ever since we returned he's been fretting over me. I'm honestly quite well."

"That man has watched over you since you were nine," said Madame Giry, and she put another log onto the fire. "You can't expect him to stop now." She cast her gaze across the photographs on the mantelpiece, turned to Christine. "Did he tell you he's been composing?" she asked.

"He's always composing," returned Christine, tried to decide whether to have a second slice of cake.

"An opera," said Madame Giry meaningfully, and Christine stared up at her, couldn't help staring. "He's been in contact with the opera houses in New York, too."

Christine rested a hand on her stomach, thoughtful. "An opera," she said, and Madame Giry nodded. The last opera – the only one Erik had ever composed – had been so new, so momentous…and it had ended so badly for them both, when she had unmasked him on stage. She didn't know, now, what she had been thinking when she'd done that.

She was a different person now, she told herself, and so was Erik.

"I won't be able to sing for months," she murmured then, "not properly, at least. The baby…" It would take time and practice to retrain her muscles and voice after the pregnancy, and she could not think of going to the stage while the baby was newborn, was feeding from her.

And yet the thought of singing Erik's music…she could not deny how powerfully that called to her.

Madame Giry took her chair again, poured herself another cup of tea. "I rather think he will wait for you," she said dryly. "Have the cake, my dear, you know what they say about eating for two." Blushing, Christine took another slice. "Where is he, by the way? I was sure I'd find him practically glued to your side."

"He and Gustave are in the music room," Christine said. "Gustave's been writing more music than ever, and he so wanted Erik to look at it." She glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece and pursed her lips slightly. "He should go outside soon though," she said. "The light won't last, and he's been indoors all day."

"Hmph. Good luck, if he's like Erik," said Madame Giry, arching one eyebrow. "I've long since lost count of the number of times I've had to almost physically drag him away to eat and rest." She looked at the clock as well, sighed and retrieved her cane. "I must go," she said. "I came on the omnibus, and I will miss my return if I'm not quick."

"Will you come again?" Christine asked, rising as Madame Giry did. "I – I hope I will make friends here, but…"

Madame Giry smiled slightly, gave a nod. "Very well, if you wish it. We're not busy at Phantasma at present."

"Next week, perhaps?" urged Christine. She found herself keen to properly renew her relationship with her foster-mother, to share that bond once more. "I'm to meet with the priest on Monday, and I'm sure Erik will insist I be seen by a doctor at some point, but you are always welcome, Madame. Truly."

Madame Giry looked at her for a moment, reached out as if to touch her, and then nodded again. "Wednesday, perhaps," she said. "Don't come out into that cold hallway, Christine, I'm perfectly able to see myself out." She paused, and Christine didn't let herself think about her actions too much; she stepped forward, reached up and kissed her foster-mother's cheek.

"I am glad you came," she said softly. "And I know…I know it can't mean much, but I am truly sorry for my part in…in everything."

Madame Giry said nothing else, but she took Christine's hand, squeezed it for a moment, and then she left, the sound of her cane on the floor fading as she went down the hallway.

Christine sat down again, stared thoughtfully into the fire. Madame Giry had given her much to think about – but then the baby kicked, the clock chimed the hour, and Christine remembered that she wanted Gustave to get some fresh air before it grew dark.

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 20 of 24

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