Continuing Tales

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 4 of 24

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Christine had only planned to lie down for half an hour, to rest for a short time before starting to deal with some of the things that had to be dealt with. The hotel room was quiet and dark, and she honestly hadn't meant to fall asleep.

But she awoke to a knocking at the door, and when she rubbed a hand across her eyes and glanced at the clock on the mantel, she saw that nearly two hours had passed since she'd lain down on the couch to rest.

She rose, shaking her dress in a vain attempt to smooth out the creases from her nap, and went to the door.

Madame Giry was waiting on the other side. Christine looked at her for a long, tense moment, and then she pursed her lips together and stepped aside.

"Come in," she said. Madame Giry entered the suite and Christine closed the door behind her, went to open the curtains. "Sit down, please," she invited. "Shall I call for some tea?"

"You don't have to be hospitable to me," said Madame Giry, but she sat down, stiff and upright on the couch. "I know you must hate me."

Christine sighed, hesitated for a moment and then joined Madame Giry on the couch. "No," she said. "I don't hate you. I…I don't even hate Meg." Madame Giry frowned faintly, confused, and Christine offered a shrug. "I haven't seen either of you in ten years," she said. "But Meg was like my sister, Madame. And I can't help thinking that she must be…deeply troubled to have been that desperate." She clasped her hands in her lap, so tightly that her knuckles were white. "And I'm hardly blameless," she added.

Madame Giry made an aborted movement, as if she wanted to reach out to Christine but thought better of it.

"Thank you for that, Christine," she said. "But it's not true. And Meg killed…" Her breath caught and she closed her eyes for a moment. "Meg killed your husband," she continued. "I would not blame you for hating us both."

"She's clearly hated me for years," said Christine, calmer than she felt. "Or resented me, at least." Madame Giry didn't say anything, and Christine nodded. She hesitated then, unsure whether she should reveal the truth, whether Madame Giry would care. Whether the woman who had raised her still cared.

And then she remembered how distraught Madame Giry had been last night, when it was revealed that Meg had abducted Gustave from her dressing room – how she had cried out that she had been mother to them all, that she had loved them all.

"Raoul was leaving me," she confessed at last, and found she was near tears again. "He was leaving me. We've been…having problems for some time, and when we arrived here to find Erik…"

"Oh, my child," said Madame Giry softly, and this time she did reach out, took Christine's hands in hers and squeezed them. "I am so sorry."

"But you're not surprised, I suspect," said Christine, and Madame Giry didn't deny it. She had urged Christine to marry Raoul, years before when they had all been at the Opera Populaire, and Christine had loved Raoul, she truly had. But her love for Raoul had been so different from her love for Erik. A childish love, something that couldn't possibly last.

And she had loved Erik. She would have stayed with him, if he had allowed it.

"I have never stopped caring for you, Christine," said Madame Giry, as if she could sense some of Christine's thoughts. "I…Meg is not the only one to have grown bitter, these past few years. We have spent so long working for Erik, working to help him rebuild himself, and…" She shrugged, pulled away from Christine. "And he has only ever thought of you. It has not been easy."

"I'm so sorry," whispered Christine. She fumbled in her pocket for a handkerchief, but didn't have one. "I've made such a mess of everything. Not just my own life, but my friends' lives too." She took a shaky breath, closed her eyes briefly. "I feel so guilty," she admitted. "Raoul is – he's dead, and yet all I can think of is that I'm free now. That I won't have to look at him every day and lie to him."

"About Gustave?" asked Madame Giry gently. Christine nodded.

"And about our marriage," she said. "It's been failing for a long time." She rubbed a hand across her damp cheeks, feeling as though she were sixteen years old again, just a ballet dancer confiding in her foster mother. "I wished so many times that I had made different decisions," she admitted. "I hurt Raoul so much."

"Raoul made his own choices as well," Madame Giry told her. "Christine, I truly believed he loved you, that it would be enough. Erik…Erik was so damaged, so…" She struggled to find the words, and Christine waited patiently. "He was obsessed," she continued at last. "No doubt he still is, but he has learnt to live with people – at least a little." She shrugged, held her hands up helplessly. "I thought I was helping you both."

"We all made choices," Christine said quietly. She looked down at her hands, at the wedding ring on her finger. "We are all who we are because of those choices." She sighed, looked back at Madame Giry. "I have missed you, Madame. Raoul's mother passed away several years ago, and we were never on good terms."

Madame Giry smiled at her. "I have missed you also," she admitted. "But Erik needed me more. As did Meg." Her smile faded. "Although I have failed there." She shook her head wearily. "They have taken her to the sanatorium," she said. "I think she has quite lost her senses."

Christine didn't know what to say, wasn't even sure she wanted to comfort Madame Giry. She had spoken the truth, she didn't hate Meg – but her pity did not, could not extend too far. Whatever her troubles, however ill she was, Meg had shot Raoul. And no matter how unhappy they had been, he had still been her husband.

"What will you do now?" Madame Giry asked after a few moments of silence. "Will you go back to France?"

"I must," said Christine. She had sent a telegram to Raoul's remaining family, his sister and his uncle, but she knew that Raoul's debts must be settled, and she was unwilling to leave that to Charles de Chagny, who had expressed his opinions of her and of Raoul many times.

"And Erik?"

Christine sighed, looked away from her, looked towards the piano and the music that lay scattered on its top. "I don't know," she admitted. "I…I don't want to leave him again. I think it would kill me to be parted from him now." Even the thought of it made her feel ill, made her bring a hand to her mouth to keep from crying out.

Madame Giry began to speak again, but was interrupted by the door opening. Gustave came running in, clutching papers in his hand, and Erik followed close behind; he stopped in the doorway, staring at Madame Giry. His expression grew black and angry.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"Erik, no," said Christine, rising and going to meet him. "Please, don't be angry with her. It wasn't her fault." She touched his arm, waited until he tore his gaze away from Madame Giry and looked at her. "Please," she said again, a soft entreaty. "Don't be angry." He was tense under her hand, as if ready to spring forward and seize Madame Giry, fling her from the room. She slid her hand down his arm, found flesh and linked her fingers with his.

At last he relaxed a little, gave her a nod, and she slipped her hand from his and turned to greet Gustave. Her son came happily into her arms, holding his papers up to her.

"Look, Mother, Erik helped me write my song!" he said excitedly. "Can I play it for you?"

"Soon, Gustave," she said, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "I have a visitor just now. And," she continued, glancing at the clock on the mantel, "I'm afraid I have some things I have to do, as well." He pouted, disappointed, and Christine ruffled his hair. "Later, I promise," she said. "Why don't you do your practice now?" He huffed a sigh, but went to the piano and began to play scales.

"I should go," said Madame Giry, rising. She couldn't look at Erik, and Christine thought she was ashamed. "Christine – thank you."

Christine reached out to the woman, touched her arm as Madame Giry made to move past her. "Could you help?" she asked. "I need…well, Gustave and I brought no black clothing with us…"

Madame Giry looked gratified to be asked, pleased to help in some way. "I shall find the address of the seamstress I use," she said. "She is very good, very fast and good value." She glanced at Erik, and then nodded slightly. "I shall return with it shortly," she said, and departed the suite.

Erik seemed to relax once she'd gone, and Christine shook her head at him.

"It wasn't her fault," she reminded him. "She didn't know Meg was…that ill." Erik inclined his head but said nothing, and Christine sighed, gave up. "Was Gustave alright?" she asked then, voice low to keep Gustave from hearing as he practiced.

"He was fine," said Erik quietly. "Music distracted him." Christine was relieved to hear it but not surprised; Gustave had always been that way, ever since he was an infant and began to express himself through music. "And you, Christine?" he asked her then, and she let his concern comfort her.

"I slept for a while," she said. "I feel more rested, at least." She sighed then, brought her hands to her face and pressed her fingers against her eyes. "There's so much I have to do, but I…"

"Can I help?" Erik asked her, reaching out to draw her hands away from her face. "Let me help." She looked up at him, tempted to just let him take care of things, take care of her, the way she knew he had always wanted.

But she wasn't a child anymore, and she had a duty to Raoul, to his memory, to take care of things herself. Reluctant, she shook her head.

"Please believe me when I say that you are helping," she said to him. "Just by being here." Christine let him hold her hands for a moment more, relished the touch – wishing for more – and then she pulled away. "I must write to the Cunard Line and inform them of the changed plans," she said. "I'm not sure when we'll be able to travel back to France, but –" She cut herself off at the look on his face, the way he turned away from her so that she was staring up at his blank, white mask.

She paused, breathed out in a sigh. "I must, Erik," she said quietly. "For all sorts of reasons. The debts must be paid, and there is the house and the servants. Things must be settled before we –"

"You will take my son from me," said Erik, voice low and angry. "I've missed so much and now –"

"No, no," said Christine, alarmed a little, and she tried to reach for him but he pulled away. "Erik, you must see that I have to return. I can't simply abandon our whole lives there. I can't walk away without looking back."

"I must see nothing," he snapped, and Christine was aware that Gustave had stopped playing, was listening to their conversation – their argument. He would be scared, she knew – he had seen Raoul's arguments with her, seen their result. "What do you want, Christine? Do you want to leave?" Erik demanded.

"No, of course not," she said, and she stopped still, startled at the depth of her own feeling, and then surprised that it was any kind of revelation to her. She loved Erik – more than that, she wished to be near him always, knew she belonged to him as surely as he belonged to her. Of course she didn't wish to go. She had never wished to be parted from him, years before when she had gone to find him, and she had no wish to leave his side now.

Christine smiled, and saw his surprise. "I don't want to go," she said, and she reached up to him, gently eased his mask away from his face. He didn't move; he stared back at her as she looked up at him, at the bloated lips, the skin stretched so paper-thin that it revealed the flesh and bone beneath, the mismatched eyes.

"I want to stay," she said. "I want to stay with you."

Love Will Still Remain

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Sparks

Part 4 of 24

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