Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 3 of 10

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Second Chances

The next morning found Christine at rehearsal again with no sign of her restless night’s tormented dreams.  She simply could not bear the agony of indecision and uncertainty any longer.  When the day’s rehearsals and blockings were complete, Christine decided make her way around the building to the Rue Scribe entrance and down to Erik’s house.  One way or the other, she would have her answer.


Deep underground in his house by the lake, Erik ran grieving hands over the remains of his pipe organ.  Of all the items in his lair, this one had so far proven impossible to mend.  It had taken him days to clear the broken remains of his ruined mahogany furniture, soiled carpets, torn manuscripts, burned books, and ripped clothing from the floors.  It had taken weeks to repair the doors, walls, and electrical wiring, and to clear the pollution from the well.  His house was only just now beginning to resemble what it had been during the first few months he had lived under the Opera.  Wearily, Erik leaned his head against the mantelpiece over the empty hearth.  Fortunately, the mob had not found Christine’s room, or the panel in the wall where he had hidden his wealth; the money, gold coins, and gemstones he had bought as insurance against the future.  The funds had allowed him to replace his clothing and a minimum of furniture; had allowed him to rebuild the damaged piano.  Like me, he thought, the scars on its surface do not reflect the music within. 

Erik sighed and made his solitary way to Christine’s room, where he had spent nights in black anguish, sitting on the floor beside her bed.  He trailed a hand across the delicate dressing table and lightly touched her silver hairbrush.  The drawers of the chest were still filled with the dainty garments he had taken such pleasure in acquiring for her; the wardrobe still contained her dresses and slippers.  Perhaps it would be better if he found a new home for these items.  She would never return for them, and he could think of no way to deliver the clothing without betraying his secret.

He turned irresolutely, looking about the room.  The small writing table with its smoothly waxed surface gleaming in the lamplight, the lamps themselves with their rosy shades, the wooden sleigh-bed, the counterpane of dull blue, the ivory carpet with its floral patterns of rose, leaf green and blue, all had been chosen just for her.  He had risked going out into the public eye to purchase them and for once had not cared at the shocked expressions on the merchants’ faces.

For all that, Christine had spent but a fortnight in this room.  A fortnight in which he had hoped and dreamed, praying for the first time in years that this girl with her angel’s voice and angel’s face would somehow learn to see beyond the mask and accept him.  She would not love him at first; no, that was too much to ask.  But she would grow to trust him, to not fear him.  He had dreamed of nights spent by the fire, talking and playing chess, reading aloud to each other, and of days spent immersed in music.  In time she would accept his presence in her life, and then in her heart.  She would welcome his gentle touch, and when he finally showed her his face, she would look on it and accept it with the compassion and devotion he fervently believed she was capable of bringing him.

Erik slammed his fist into the wall in a fury of despair.  None of it had happened, of course.  He laughed bitterly, loathing himself for this weakness of indulging in her memories.  You should know by now that God has a strange sense of humor where you are concerned.  He had given her his music, made her a public sensation, and offered her his heart.  She had taken his gifts, had run from him.  And what did you really think she would do, fool? he thought savagely.  Your whole sorry life has been one example after another of women running from you.

A bell rang quietly in the outer room and his head snapped up.  As silently as a cat Erik stepped from the bedroom and sealed the door shut behind him.  Glancing at the panel, he saw it was the outer alarm bell, from the Rue Scribe entrance.  He crept to the door, extinguishing the candles, waiting in the black silence to see who this new intruder was.


Christine turned the heavy, ornate brass key in the lock with trembling hands and quietly pushed open the gate.  She had chosen well, for no one was around to see her enter the Opera at this hour.  She shut the gate quietly behind her and made her way down the musty passageway to the lake house.


The house on the lake was not truly a house, of course, and one had to know where the entrances were.  Christine stood silently, staring at what once had been a cleverly designed sliding piece of masonry that concealed the front door.  Finally she took a deep breath and pressed the heavy stone just to the right of the now broken slab and nearly fainted with shock when the slab moved outwards from the wall.  As she slid her fingers along the edge of the doorway she felt the recessed ring and tugged on it.  The wall opened soundlessly before her, revealing the very ordinary wooden door.  With shaking hands she opened it and stepped through into darkness of the foyer.

For a long minute Christine stood frozen, cursing inwardly the lack of forethought in bringing with her a candle or lantern.  From the other side of the room, she heard a slight sound and she whirled.  A faint sigh reached her ears as a light flared suddenly, and a candle began to glow, spreading a dim golden pool of illumination.  Standing by the elaborate candelabra was a tall thin man in formal evening dress.  Christine raised her eyes to where his face would be.  The man turned away slightly, causing the light to reflect across a porcelain white mask, and she fainted.


Erik’s reflexes were incredibly swift and he caught her before her head struck the ground.  Lifting her effortlessly in his arms, he looked down into her ashen face, feeling his pulse double and slam against his chest.  He carried the limp woman over to the couch along the paneled wall and placed her there gently, arranging her limbs comfortably and straightening her rumpled blue dress.  Erik knelt and stared down at her, a look of intense grief and yearning on his face, and lifted a trembling hand to her pale cheek.  Christine stirred slightly and he withdrew his hand as if from a burning coal.  Rapidly schooling his face into its usual impassive expression, giving no outward indication of the tumult of emotion coursing through him, he rose and walked to the fireplace, feeling her eyes boring into his back.

“Erik?”  She sat up on the couch, a note of uncertainty in her voice. 

He turned, raising an eyebrow.  Not the reunion you envisioned, my dear?  “To what do I owe this unwarranted invasion of my privacy, Mlle. Daaé?”

His unearthly beautiful vibrant voice filled the small foyer and Christine flinched as if struck.  He stood still as the marble effigies that decorated the outside of the Opera, the forbidding expression on his face no less frightening than the icily polite tone.  “Erik, I came to see you, to see if you were still alive,” she said shakily, not understanding.

Erik shook his head slowly.  “As you can see, I am quite alive.”  His voice was harsh with weariness, and he frowned slightly at her.  “What made you think I would be here?”

She twisted her hands together tightly at his harsh tone.  “Meg thought…..”

Erik tilted his head, considering.  “Ah, yes, it would be.  Little Giry was always the curious one.”

She stared at him in silence for several long seconds, his cold, almost contemptuous gaze boring an icy knot of fear in her chest.  He was terribly thin; his usually elegant clothing hanging from his gaunt frame.  The visible side of his face looked older, more careworn in the candlelight.  Finally he broke the silence.

“Why are you back here at my Opera?”

Christine blinked hard, fighting back the tears that threatened to flow.  “I came back to find you,” she whispered.

“You said that,” he gestured impatiently.  “I mean, why are you back here in Paris?  You were to be married by now, although you did not do me the courtesy you promised.  You failed to bring me an invitation to your wedding.”  He turned away, so that she would not see the turmoil in his eyes.

Christine rose to her feet and crossed the distance between them.  “I don’t understand,” she said, bewildered.  “Was it a test?”

He dragged his hand through his hair.  “No.  It was a release.  I meant for you to have done with me entirely, no backward glances.  I wanted you to be free of Erik.”

“I could never be free of you,” she whispered.  “I hear your voice in my dreams.”  She took a tentative step toward him and laid a hand on his arm. 

He whirled, distancing himself from her, his breathing ragged.  “You have brought me nothing but anguish these last few months, Christine,” he said tiredly.  “Now please go.  I do not want you here any more.  I will not be your second choice, the one you return to after you have cast off your lover.”

Her eyes filled with tears.  “That was cruel, Erik.  Raoul was never my lover; he was my friend.”

Erik’s haunted dark eyes stared at her.  “You left with him.  You were living at his chateau for weeks.”  He turned away, his shoulders hunched against the pain.  “What do you know of cruelty, Christine,” he said, so softly she almost could not hear him.  “Knowing the only woman you ever loved willingly ran from you, to the arms of another man.”  His deep voice was raw with grief.

“You sent me away,” she protested.  “You made us leave.”

“It was wrong of me, to hope you would stay here in the darkness with a monster,” he said quietly.

“You were never a monster; you were my Angel,” she whispered.

“Don’t call me that!”  he exploded, and was stricken to see the expression in her eyes.  Damnation!  Would he never do anything but hurt this child?

He continued on in a calmer voice.  “I am not an angel.”  Though it was nice to have been one for a while, instead of a horror, or a ghost.  “I am only a man, Christine.  To all the world I am now dead.  And I want you to leave, as I said before.  Forget you ever saw me.  Go now.  I believe you know the way out.”  Erik turned and walked rapidly away into the darkness.

Christine stood there, tears trickling down her cheeks, staring after him.  Stumbling, numb with a pain she knew she had yet to truly feel, Christine turned and walked slowly back toward the stairwell, an aching void of grief in her chest.


Erik paced the roof of the Opera, welcoming the crisp cold air, hoping it would clear the havoc her visit had wrought upon his mind.  How was it possible to hurt this badly and yet live?  Those beautiful blue eyes, staring accusingly at him, hurt and outrage in her lovely voice.  His fists clenched bloodlessly around the metal edge of a sculptured lyre, welcoming the pain.  He stared unseeingly out over the city, along the Av. de la Opera.  From here it glowed softly with the gas lamps of the streets and the candlelight of homes and carriages.  Happy people, rushing about to their homes and families; joyous, laughing people, on their way to dinner or an evening’s amusements.  Erik bowed his head to his hands against the raging turmoil in his soul and wished he could weep.




One dream in my heart, one love to be living for
One love to be living for, this nearly was mine.
One girl for my dream, one partner in paradise,
This promise of paradise, this nearly was mine.

Close to my heart she came, only to fly away
Only to fly as day flies from moonlight.
Now, now I’m alone, still dreaming of paradise
Still saying that paradise once nearly was mine.

“This Nearly Was Mine”—1949
R. Rodgers and O. Hammerstein II

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 3 of 10

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