Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 2 of 10

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Second Chances

Christine emerged from the managers’ office, her face flaming, gripping her gloves tightly in one hand.  Oh, she knew they would take her back, but at their own terms.  She could not afford the risk that they did not need her, in spite of the rumors that their new principal singers were relatively unknown.  M. André had been quite haughty, but M. Firmin had assured her that two months absence could be overlooked.  They were between major productions at the moment, and were willing to renegotiate her contract.

She took a deep breath of relief and leaned against the balustrade of the grand staircase, looking up toward the parterre entrances.  M. Firmin had given permission for her to walk through the Opera and see the recent architectural changes.  From down the corridor she could see people moving about in the daily business of the Opera House.  One or two of them raised a friendly hand to her in greeting and Christine smiled.  She would seek out her friend Meg.


The dancers were milling about after rehearsal when Christine stepped quietly into the room.  For a moment, the familiar scene blurred before her eyes.  An erect, black-clad figure stood to one side, demonstrating proper positioning of the arms to a sulky girl with rolling blue eyes.  Her acerbic comments brought a brief smile to Christine’s lovely face.  How well she remembered being the recipient of those instructions!  Then little Jammes caught sight of her and cried out, “Look!  There is Christine, come back to us!” and the entire corps seemed to swarm her at once, asking a hundred questions.

Meg Giry caught her hands in the midst of the chattering girls and her mother cast a disapproving gaze upon them.  She thumped her ebony cane.

“Megan Giry, take Mlle. Daaé aside, if you must talk to her.  I cannot have any more interruptions today!” she said imperiously.

“Yes, Mamman,” Meg said obediently, smiling impudently at her friend.

Meg drew her away gently from the curious hard stares of the corps de ballet.  They walked quickly down the hall to Meg’s small dressing room, shutting the door behind them.

“Christine, why are you here?  The girls said you were seen talking to Monsieur Firmin?”

Christine sighed and held tightly to her friend’s hands.  “Oh, Meg, I want to come back here and sing again.  M. Firmin said they would be glad to renegotiate my contract, and that I could probably have my old position back.”

Meg squeezed her hands and sank gracefully to the floor.  “Yes, yes.  But what of your marriage?  What of Raoul?  Christine, what happened?”

The singer rose and walked over to the little dressing table and trailed fingers slowly along the edge.  She sighed and blinked back tears.

“Raoul and I have called off our engagement, Meg,” she said softly.  “I know people will talk, but it just wasn’t right.  I couldn’t marry him, feeling as I did.”

Meg stared at her, bewildered.  “But you loved him.  You said so, and I know he loved you.  You always seemed so happy together.”

Christine managed a small smile.  “Yes,” she answered tiredly.  “I still do love him, but not the way I should.  Not the way a wife should.  Raoul is like a brother, or a good friend.  We were children together once, you know.  I think we both thought those feelings would deepen over time into something more.  And then there was…last autumn.”  She swallowed hard.  “Raoul wanted to protect me, to be my knight and savior.  And I didn’t know what I wanted, either, but I was afraid.  I let him take care of me.” 

Christine sank slowly onto Meg’s little hard couch, covering her face with her hands.  “I was so confused.  Meg, I didn’t know what to do.  I knew Erik loved me, but he also frightened me so much.  I didn’t feel I could ever live up to his expectations.”

“Erik?” whispered Meg, her eyes wide.

Christine wiped her luminous blue eyes.  “That was his name—the Opera Ghost.”

“You never told me that,” Meg said sadly.  “You never told me…”

Christine smiled tremulously.  “I know I didn’t.  I’m sorry.  He forbade me to speak of him, of his life, and our lessons.”  She wiped a crystalline tear away that trickled down her pale cheek.  “He was so kind to me, so gentle.  It was only when he thought Raoul would take me away that he became violent.  He loved me so much, and I didn’t know how to return that love.  It was easier to leave with Raoul.”

“Where did you go?  It seemed you just disappeared that night,” Meg asked, settling back against the couch and preparing for a long talk.

Her friend clasped her hands tightly together.  “Raoul took me back to my flat, away from the crowds, to protect me.  I think he wasn’t sure Erik had really let us go.  The next day he brought me to the house the de Chagny’s kept here in Paris.  Oh, it was all very proper,” she added hastily, at Meg’s expression.  “His aunt was my chaperone at all times.  He wanted to keep me safe and to get to know his family better, before we announced our engagement.”

Meg rose gracefully and came to sit on the little couch beside Christine, putting an arm around her friend.  “It all sounds wonderful,” she said wistfully.

Christine sighed.  “It should have been.”  She stared bleakly across the room, her eyes seeing a different setting.  “I felt so out of place, Meg.  His aunt had to take me shopping so I would have the appropriate clothing just to come down stairs to dinner.  And Philippe—his brother—was so disapproving.  He’d remind Raoul—oh, never in my hearing, he thought—that I was an actress and singer.  Whatever would their parents have said?  They should have chosen a wife for him years ago, a girl of a noble family, one who could have brought a dowry, or land, or who had at least an aristocratic name.  I had nothing, was nothing.”  Her eyes overflowed.

Meg made an outraged noise.  “How cruel!  What did Raoul say?”

“He didn’t care.  He loved me.  And Philippe was furious.  He forbade Raoul to marry me, but Raoul wanted to take me away and marry me anyway.”  She sighed and stood, pacing the floor.  “He took me to their country estate, near Beauvais.  It’s where they’d planned for him to live after his marriage.  He wanted me to meet his friends and cousins, and it was then I began to realize what a dreadful mistake I’d made.”  She fell silent, twisting a long brown curl through her fingers.

Meg rose tactfully.  “Would you like a cup of tea, Christine?  Or some cocoa?” 

Christine nodded slowly.  “Yes,” she whispered.  “That would be nice.”

Meg swept back her blond curls and quickly heated water on the gas ring, giving her friend time to compose herself.  She mixed cocoa and sugar in a pale yellow pot, then silently handed her a cup and saucer, placing a few biscuits around the edge.

Christine clasped the proffered drink, wrapping her fingers about the cup to warm them.  “Thank you,” she said shakily.

Meg squeezed her arm gently.  “Christine, you don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want to,” she said softly, her big eyes worried.

Christine wiped her eyes.  “No, please, it’s all right—it helps to talk about it.  No one understands.”  She sipped the cocoa.  “Everything was so different.  I’d had no idea, really, what it would have meant to be his wife.  Everything was so formal, so controlled.  I suppose I was remembering our time together as children, when we were carefree.  We dressed for dinner every night.  I had only one or two frocks—there hadn’t been enough time to have the seamstress make me more before we left Paris.  I had no jewelry, beside my crucifix that Papa had given me, and his ring.  The other women looked at me so, you can’t imagine.  And there were the little comments. ‘Tell me again where our Raoul met you?  Oh, how charming,’” she mimicked.  “Some of those women were just hateful!  And how could I tell Raoul?  They were the wives of his friends, people he had known for years.” 

She carefully placed the fragile cup back into its saucer.  “He was honestly bewildered why I wasn’t happy.  He was so innocent, he never saw the sly looks or heard the comments people made.”

“And then, one day, Philippe sent us the paper, L’ Époque.”

Meg’s eyes grew wider in comprehension.  “The one with the announcement.”

Christine’s eyes filled with tears again.  “Yes.  I read those words—‘Erik is Dead’, and my heart just stopped inside me.  I sank to the floor and sobbed.  Poor Raoul, he had no idea why I was so heartbroken.  I begged to be left alone, to go up to my room, to be alone with my memories, but Raoul kept me with him and held me, trying to understand about Erik.”

“I know everyone thinks he was a monster,” she said savagely, “and God knows I thought so too, for a while.  But no one else ever saw the side of him I did.  He was always so gentle with me, so respectful.  He never, ever touched me.  We sang together.  He would listen to me talk about my day and ask questions.  He was kind to me when I was ill or upset.  We ate simple meals together and sat by the fire, talking about books or playing chess.  He wrote beautiful music, songs meant only for me to sing, that were perfect for my voice.  He gave me everything, and asked nothing in return.”  Christine hid her face in her hands, rocking back and forth with her grief.  “I didn’t understand how he loved me.  I thought he was just my kind Angel of Music, sent by my father.  I was so naïve!”

“But his face?  Christine, I saw him that night!  He was horrible, horrible to look at!  The girls of the ballet still talk about it!” Meg whispered.  “How could you care for him, when he stole you from the stage, when you knew what lay behind that mask?”

Christine stared fiercely at her.  “And what of his face?  How could I have been so foolish to think that his face mattered?  Yes, he was hideously scarred!  But that was no fault of his own!  Many men come back from the wars injured, and no one gives it a second thought!  What was more ugly—the hateful, hurtful comments of those ladies of society, of the nobility, those who were beautiful on the outside and cruel, cruel on the inside?  Or my Erik?  My gentle Angel, who cared for me tenderly and who had a scarred face?  God will never forgive me the hurt I’ve caused him,” she wept.

Meg crept closer, holding her friend gently and laying her head upon Christine’s bowed shoulder.  “I’m sorry,” she said softly.  “I didn’t know, I didn’t think of it, of him, like that.  I know he’s been a good friend to my mother, all of these years.  He helped her to get this job here, and I’m sure he put in a word for me in the ballet, though Mamman’s never said so.  But Christine, he took you away from us, that night on the stage.  He dragged you away.  What happened, down under the Opera that night?”

The singer quietly, sadly relayed the events of that fateful night.  “And then I kissed him, Meg,” she concluded.  “I meant it as a bribe, as a kiss goodbye.  I thought surely he would understand.  I was the one who didn’t understand.  He just stood there, looking at me with heartbreak in his eyes.  I’ve never felt a kiss like that before.”  She shivered.  “It was like, oh, I can’t even describe it.  I’ve been kissed before, by Raoul, and others.  But no one ever made me feel that way before.”  She blushed.  “I wanted him, then.”


“I know, Meg, it wasn’t something a good, chaste Catholic girl should even know about.  But I’ve overheard the girls in the corps talk about their lovers.  The noblewomen in Beauvais used to speak of it, wickedly, about their husbands and lovers.  And I knew then, what I felt for Raoul wasn’t like that.  I loved him like the brother he had been, when we were small.  That wasn’t fair to Raoul, Meg.  He deserved a wife that loved him for himself, who desired him as a wife should love and desire her husband.”

 She turned and clasped Meg’s hands in her own.  “We talked and talked it over, Meg.  He would have married me anyway.  But I think Philippe’s comments were starting to worry him, and he could see how uncomfortable I was in that life.  He didn’t want me to be unhappy, and we parted the best of friends.  He told me he would always be there for me, if I ever needed him, for old time’s sake.”  She took a deep breath.  “And so I came back here.  I had no idea how much I had missed Paris, had missed singing.  I would never have been able to sing again, had I married Raoul.  Philippe pointed out the wife of a Chagny would never demean herself or the family name by appearing on stage, but oh, how I would have regretted it.”

“Erik took such pains to help me make my voice beautiful.  What would he think of me now?” she said sadly.  “That night I left with Raoul, he told me he loved me.  He sent me away with Raoul, because he wanted me to be happy.   And I had betrayed him in the cruelest way possible, in front of the audience, by revealing his face.  I’ve hated myself ever since that night.”  She fell silent.

“What will you do now?” Meg asked gently.

Her friend shook her head.  “I don’t really know.  I hope M. Firmin can persuade M. Andre to let me return.  Perhaps my Angel will hear me sing, wherever he is now, and know it wasn’t all for naught.”


A messenger arrived at her flat the next day, bearing a note from the managers M. Firmin and M. André that the Opera Garnier would be delighted if Mlle. Daaé would consent to return to them.  On wings of relief, Christine packed a small valise, swirled her blue cloak about her shoulders and hailed a cab to the Opera house.  Even the masks and busts around the top of the ornate stone building seemed all to be smiling down at her today.


Christine rose from her dressing table, having finally settled her possessions back into the little room to her satisfaction.  The room had been dreadfully grimy; cleaning it had taken some time.  Apparently no one had entered here, much less cleaned, since she herself had left last.  She looked around the room fondly, having rearranged the simple furnishings somewhat.  The white-painted walls were edged in gilt trim, the carpet a deep green.  She had pulled the little dressing table and its small pier-glass closer to the gas lights, and moved the chaise-couch with its gold velvet cushions away toward the wall across from the tiny fireplace.  A small table had been added, its supporting legs formed in the same shape as the lyres atop the roof.  This she moved next to the chaise.  Lastly, she turned the dressing-screen at an angle where it shielded her against casual observers and the light fell upon the green and gold woven tapestry panels.  Her arrangements complete, Christine walked to her wall of mirrors, staring sadly at the image reflected.  The girl who stared back at her had older, sadder eyes set in a somber pale face.  From behind this mirror her dark angel had watched her, sung to her, protected her.  She touched the smooth surface gently.

Where are you now, Erik? she wondered.  She had no way to know where or how he had been buried, no way to contact the one whom she assumed had placed the death notice and dealt with the formalities of the burial.  She wondered what had become of his possessions, if anything had been salvaged from that night.  She could not even mourn him properly.

Hesitantly she touched the side of the mirror, running her hand along the nearly invisible seam between the wall and frame.  A slim metal bar, apparently part of the supporting framework, moved slightly under her hand.  With the sounds of her own heartbeat pounding loudly in her ears, Christine pressed the lever inwards and upwards.  Slowly the mirror turned on its soundless, carefully counterbalanced mechanism.

She stepped through, heedless of the dust and cobwebs.  The little lantern was still set into its niche, where Erik had left it for her, to light her path in his dark demesne.  Christine set it back carefully.  Perhaps she would mourn her Angel in her own way.


Though other mundane chores occupied her time, Christine reviewed her libretto and practiced for days in the solitude of her tiny flat, using the scales and exercises Erik had taught her.  She sang for hours, careful not to strain her voice, seeking to regain the tone, stamina, and flexibility she had lost.  She met with the other new principals and found time to attend Mass regularly.  The preliminary rehearsal for the new opera, Aida would begin soon.  It had been performed successfully in Egypt, and the Opera Garnier was hoping for a spectacular European debut.


(A/N—Aida was first performed at the Opera Populaire on 22 March 1880)


Christine had resumed her place at the Opera with the understanding she would share leading roles with the other new singers that had been hired.  The managers optimistically assumed her name and scandal would bring them more tickets sales from the idle curious though she had been cautioned not to make a public spectacle of herself again.  They had raised surprised eyebrows at her humble request to keep her inconveniently placed old dressing room, but in the end allowed it, for it meant not displacing the other singers.  Christine did not explain why she wanted the small awkward room and they did not ask.

All in all, it was an easier transition than she expected.  After the first few days, the girls of the ballet corps no longer made rude or sly comments in her presence, finding that they provoked no reaction whatsoever.  She dined occasionally with the Girys, and attended rehearsals for the upcoming performance of Aida during the days.  Christine had been offered the role of Amneris, but knew the part was written for a mezzo-soprano.  Without a voice teacher to help her with her lower range, Christine had chosen to take the relatively minor role of the High Priestess instead for her return to the stage.  She sensed a certain amount of respect and relief from the other principals at this decision.


Once again, Christine walked to her mirror.  She had dressed for him with care, in a sapphire blue velvet gown he had always admired.  Christine left her hair down, held back only with a pair of simple combs, long loose curls rippling down her back.  The image greeted her this time with heightened color and burning eyes.  Quickly she activated the mechanism and lit the lantern with a slender taper taken from the fire in her dressing room.  The wavering shadows thrown up on the stone walls held no fear for her and Christine turned toward the darkness.

She found her feet flying rapidly down the dank chill passage, her dancer’s body remembering the precise number of steps and turnings in the labyrinthine darkness; it was only when she thought at all about the path her feet stumbled.  The hewn cobbles abruptly transitioned to natural stone and soon Christine found herself on the edge of the subterranean lake.

The mob had found a way around the rocky edges of the lake to his underground house, but the men had not been hampered by heavy skirts and thin slippers.  She settled the small lantern carefully on a protuberance of stone and shrouded its light.

Christine stood on the rocky prominence where Erik had usually moored his boat and stared across the eerily still dark water and at the faint fog above it which obscured the cavern’s ceiling, feeling the prickle of tears in her eyes.  “Oh, Erik, where are you now?” she whispered, without conscious knowledge of when her thoughts became words.  “I miss you so much, and I never had a chance to tell you goodbye.  Perhaps somehow, you can hear me tonight.  Can you, Erik?  Did you know it was just two years ago tonight that you first spoke to me, first sang to me?”  She shivered slightly in the chill air and pulled her velvet wrap closer about her shoulders.  “I brought you a gift, my love.  Remember once when you told me the black rose was your favorite, and I argued with you?  I said it wasn’t really black, only a very dark red.  I’ve brought you one last rose.  It’s only a bud, because our relationship never had a chance to blossom.”

She straightened her shoulders, settling her body into a trained singer’s posture, and lifted her chin.  “Erik, you told me once that my voice brought you the only pleasure you had ever known.  I hope somehow you can hear me now.”

Ignoring the cold and the oppressive silence, Christine shut her eyes and raised her hands unselfconsciously toward the opposite shore and began to sing.

She sang to him the songs he had written just for her.  She sang him Aminta’s song of passion from his ill-fated opera, so he could hear it once as it deserved to be sung.  She sang to him all the emotion, love, loss, and longing she had never dared tell him with her eyes or her words.  She sang to him the Requiem.

Christine knelt gracefully at the water’s edge, not caring if her blue dress trailed in the dust and mud, looking out across the lake.  “Goodbye, my love,” she whispered, her throat aching with grief and strain, beyond seeing, beyond words, as the tears overflowed her eyes and spilled down her cheeks.  She placed the rose into the water and pushed it gently toward the opposite shore, toward what once was his home, and covered her face with her hands, sobbing.


The man straightened sharply, his skeletal fingers tightening convulsively on the arms of his heavy carven black chair.  The voice, that achingly beautiful voice that haunted his dreams and tortured his nights pierced him to his soul like a sliver of steel.  Was he finally, truly going mad?  He staggered from the chair, one hand reaching desperately toward the open doorway, from whence the sound now poured.  Had they contrived somehow a new torment for him?  He stumbled toward the doorway and out to the little jetty that protected his boat from sight.  The beautiful music swirled across the water and surrounded him.  The man fell to his knees, clasping his hands together tightly to keep from crying out, bowing his head in agony.  It could be none other than she—Christine.  However had she come to be here, now?  She was married and living far away.  How could she be singing at his lake once more? 

His anguished thoughts spun frantically in his mind, but the musician dominant in his soul slowly began to focus on the words and melodic phrases that came to him from across the lake.  She was singing to him all the songs he had written for her, songs no one else would now ever hear.  The passionate longing in her voice during Aminta’s duet was very nearly his undoing, and his hands twisted together, his nails scoring his palms.  It was not until she sang the Requiem that he finally understood.  This was his memorial, his funeral concert.  She sang for a man now dead.  Putting his bleeding hands over his face, he wept.


Christine sobbed until she had no more strength left in her tired body.  Wearily, she stared out across the lake, wondering dully if she would ever return to this sacred place.  She rose stiffly, slowly reaching for the shrouded lantern, and made her way back to the world of the living, unaware of the burning eyes that followed her.


Long thin fingers reached over the side of the dark, intricately carved boat and plucked the dark blossom from the icy water.  He knelt in the bottom of the vessel and held its fragile beauty in his cold hands, wondering.  The man lifted the rose to his nostrils and inhaled its sweet fragrance deeply before he gently, reverently tucked the bud into his jacket, close to his aching heart.


Adele Giry dismissed the corps with a few carefully chosen words and walked sedately back to the cramped office the managers allotted to her.  She sat at the desk, frowning at the undone work that lay before her, then froze, her head spinning around as a tall gaunt man stepped from the shadows.

Her spine stiffened and she caught her breath.  “It pleases me to see that the managers were incorrect, as usual, and that you have survived,” she said crisply, after a moment.

Erik smiled without humor.  “As far as they are concerned, I am dead.”

She inclined her head.  “And the Opera Ghost?”

“Is dead, too.”  The unmasked side of his face tightened briefly.  “May I sit?”

She nodded imperiously.  “Of course.”

For several long moments they looked across the narrow desk at each other, and then her face softened briefly.  “I am glad to see their efforts were not successful, Erik,” she said quietly.

He acknowledged the comment with an almost imperceptible nod.  “Mme. Giry, why is she…Christine…back here?  I would have thought….”  His voice trailed off.

Adele Giry shrugged expressively.  “I do not know—truly I do not,” she added, at the expression on his face.  “She has spoken to Meg, of course, but they have not chosen to bring me into their confidence,” she continued dryly.  “I only know she has asked to return to the Opera, in whatever capacity they would like to accept her, and that she no longer wears the Vicomte’s engagement ring.”  She sat silent, dark eyes studying his face as he absorbed these bits of news.

Erik turned away, into the shadows, his heart constricting painfully in his chest.  “It is of no importance to me, anymore,” he said quietly, though they both knew he lied.  “I merely wished to let you know I was…still around.  I have no intention on returning to my previous activities, though I wish I could somehow keep my favorite seat on the grand tier.”

“It could be arranged, perchance, as a ‘haunted box’ again?”

“By the ghost of a ghost?” he said sarcastically.  “Somehow I rather doubt that would work.”

Adele Giry watched the embittered man in front of her with sympathy.  Although faultlessly attired as ever, he had obviously lost weight, and looked as though he had not slept since the mob had torn his house apart two months ago.

“Erik, have you thought that perhaps it is time to move on?” she inquired delicately, folding her hands on the desk in front of her.  “This building can have nothing but unpleasant associations for you.”

The shoulders under the black cloak sagged slightly.  “Where else do you propose I go?” he asked acidly, pacing to the door and back again.  “I have no other home but this.  My few possessions are here, those that the mob did not destroy.”  His hands tightened briefly into fists.

From the corridor came the sound of voices, and he moved quickly back into the shadows, against the wall.  When Stephan, the present stage manager, stepped into her office, Adele Giry was alone.


The singers milled about aimlessly, waiting for rehearsal to start.  Helene Dupré, the soprano who replaced Carlotta, chatted with the tenor Jules Lavigne.  Christine sat on a bundle of old curtains, talking animatedly to Meg, who was awaiting her mother before the corps de ballet went off to their own practice.  Beside the great rows of cabling that ran upwards to the ranks of backdrops, M. Firmin spoke to Stephan, who then waved his hands and swore.  The company fell silent, watching with interest.  M. Firmin turned toward the singers, looking at them appraisingly, then back to Stephan and M. Andre, who had just entered.  They came toward the assembled singers.

M. Firmin cleared his throat.  “We regret to tell you that rehearsal will be somewhat delayed.  Odile has met with an unfortunate accident, and probably will be unable to continue in her role as Amneris.”  He held up his hands to silence the babble of voices.  “I do not know!  From what I am given to understand, there was an accident last evening involving her carriage and some ice.  She was flung from the carriage into the road.  Mlle. Odile was not seriously injured, but has caught a severe cold and her doctor insists she be kept quiet so as to not develop pneumonia.  Her understudy Suzette was not scheduled to be here today for rehearsal, and at the moment, we cannot seem to find her.  Rehearsal will be the delayed until she can get here.”

The company exchanged glances and began to express their sympathy and concern.  Christine found the brown-eyed stage manager eying her speculatively.  He walked toward her.

“Christine,” Stephan said in a low voice, “I know you are not a mezzo, but are you familiar with Odile’s part of the score?  We really must get in some rehearsal time today, and we’re already seriously delayed.”

Her blue eyes went wide.  “Of course I’ve read over the part, but I’ve not practiced it.  If you really need me to sing it today I will do my best until Suzette can get here.”

He patted her hand.  “Good girl.”

Stephan clapped his hands smartly together.  “Attention!  Mlle. Daaé will sing the part of Amneris today, until Suzette can be found.  Get in your positions, please, and clear the stage.”

Christine looked up nervously and found Helene smiling at her.  “Good luck, Christine!” she whispered quickly.  “I have no lower register at all!  You’re the only one who can step in right now.”

She clutched the score tightly in her suddenly cold fingers.  “Thank you, Helene,” she said faintly, and moved into position.


Christine stepped forward and raised her voice in Amneris’ song, looking directly into Box Five, praying her voice would hold for the length of the song.  It could have been written for her.

How have I come to this?
How did I slip and fall?
How did I throw half a lifetime away
Without any thought at all?

This should have been my time
It's over, it never began.
I closed my eyes to so much for so long
And I no longer can.

I tried to blame it on fortune,
Some kind of shift in a star,
But I know the truth, and it haunts me.
It's flown just a little too far.
I know the truth, and it mocks me,
I know the truth, and it shocks me.
It's flown just a little too far.

Why do I want him still?
Why, when there's nothing there?
How to go on with the rest of my life,
to pretend I don't care?

This should have been my time.
It's over, it never began.
I closed my eyes to so much for so long
And I no longer can.

I tried to blame it on fortune,
Some kind of twist in my fate,
But I know the truth, and it haunts me.
I learned it a little too late.
Oh, I know the truth, and it mocks me,
I know the truth, and it shocks me,
I learned it a little too late.
Too late.


Erik leaned forward, fingers tightening bloodlessly on one knee.  She sang as if her heart was breaking, as if her lover truly had died.  Could she possibly be singing this for him?  Unable to bear the sorrow in her tone, he slipped soundlessly into the passage behind the column and made his way back to his silent lair.


Christine sat with Meg in her dressing room later, talking quietly about the rehearsal and drinking mugs of sweetened tea.  “At least I didn’t do too badly,” she sighed, pleating the material of her dress between her fingers.  “Suzette came in about half-way through the afternoon and took over the role—and it was obvious she hadn’t even begun to look at it, much less practice it!  Stephan was furious with her!” she giggled. 

Meg laughed, delight in her wide blue eyes.  “Oh, I am so glad!  She’s always been so unkind to me and the other girls!”

Christine grew sober.  “Meg, listen.  They want me to take on the role of Amneris now!  Suzette was hopeless, and Odile is too ill to perform.  Whatever shall I do?”  She fell silent, warming her fingers on the mug of tea.  “I can handle the role, I think, but my throat is sore from singing that low.  I wish…” her voice trailed off.

Meg regarded her with sympathy.  “What is the matter, Christine?  You can sing the part of Amneris; you’ve sung much more difficult pieces before.”

Her friend squeezed her hand at the compliment.  “It’s not the role, Meg, it’s my range.  I was just thinking about my Angel of Music again—Erik could have helped me with this.  He would have known some wonderful way to soothe and strengthen my voice and would have helped me to rehearse.”  She wiped away the sudden moisture from her expressive blue eyes.  “I miss him so much, Meg.  He was my friend as well as my teacher.  It’s still so hard to believe he is dead.”

There was a long pause as Meg regarded her strangely.  “I’m not certain that he is dead, Christine,” she said at last.  “I wasn’t going to tell you this.  I overheard my mother speaking to someone in her office a few days ago, but when I walked in, no one was there.  She pretended not to know what I was asking about, but I saw her watching me later.”  She tugged a blond curl distractedly.  “Christine, that night the men found his house under the Opera, they went in and destroyed everything they could find.  But they didn’t find him.  It wasn’t until days later that a body was found floating in the lake, dressed like the Opera Ghost.”

Meg leaned forward, holding Christine’s hands, looking anxiously up into her white face.  “What if he escaped?  You’ve said he was clever—what if he found some way to make them think he was dead?”

Christine sat as if frozen, her thoughts whirling.  “I don’t know, Meg.  How could he not be dead?  No one has heard from him in weeks.  He’s not…he hasn’t….”  She buried her face in her hands.

Meg sat as if stricken.  “Oh, Christine, I’m so sorry.  He hasn’t come to you?  Is that what you were going to say?”

She nodded, unable to speak, and Meg held her hands tightly.  “Perhaps he has gone away, or he may not even know you’re here.  Don’t give up yet!  You’ve only been back a few days.  Is there any way you could go to him?” she asked excitedly.

Christine looked dazed.  “I don’t know.  Perhaps, yes.  If I still have it.  Erik gave me a key once to let me in to his house under the Opera!”  She smiled brilliantly at Meg, hope shining in her heart.


Christine wrapped the robe around her nightgown and pulled the belt tight.  She knelt in front of her old dresser and slowly opened the bottom drawer.  Programs, a fan, a box of dried rose buds, notes and cards from admirers, photographs, and other sundry items were stacked neatly in the drawer.  A flat box lay underneath the mementoes from her brief career last fall, and she lifted it carefully out.  Christine opened the box with shaking fingers and stared at the large heavy key, then clasped it to her heart.






I get along without you, very well
Of course I do.
Except when soft rains fall
And drip from leaves then I recall
The thrill of being sheltered in your arms.
Of course, I do.
But I get along without you, very well.

I’ve forgotten you just like I should
Of course I have.
Except to hear your name
Or someone’s laugh that is the same
But I’ve forgotten you just like I should.

What a guy, what a fool am I!
To think my breaking heart could kid the moon
What’s in store, should I phone once more?
No, it’s best that I stick to my tune…

I get along without you, very well
Of course I do.
Except perhaps in spring
But I should never think of spring
For that would surely break my heart in two.

I Get Along Without You Very Well
By Hoagie Carmichael, 1939

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 2 of 10

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