Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 4 of 10

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Second Chances

For days now, Erik had remained secluded in his underground house, fighting his terrible need to see her again.  He paced the perimeter of his self-imposed cage, and then the night-dark halls of the Opera, his mind once again filled with searing memories of their brief time together.  The feel of her in his arms, craved by his disobedient body, the taste and scent of her during that endless kiss, alabaster arms touching him, holding him to her….

Enough!  Erik slammed his open hand into the wall, hoping the shock of pain would distract his mind.  The knowledge of her presence nearby permeated his existence, and without her, everything else palled.  Unable to compose, unable to immerse himself in his experiments or researches, unable even to read or to sleep, Erik raged inwardly at this incapacitating turmoil, of wanting her as he had never wanted anything else.

Somehow, he had managed to survive the most agonizing, devastating rejection of his life and he could not allow further risk to his sanity by once more subjecting himself to these flames of impossible longing.  He was certain Christine would never again respond to him with anything other than pity.


Aida entered its initial period of dress rehearsal.  The great background screens and lavish sets were well underway.  Technicians walked the stage, measuring and planning, seamstresses worked late into the night on the dozens of main and hundreds of minor costumes needed.  Odile was recovering quickly; with luck she would be back next week.

Alone in her dressing room, Christine sat at her dressing table, humming slightly to herself, going over the words of Amneris’ final song, her nimble fingers quickly removing the pins that held her long hair in place under the costume’s headdress.  She gave a satisfied sigh as the final pin came away and her hair fell cascading down her back.  Bending over, she shook her hair free, her fingers massaging her scalp until she straightened.  Blue eyes looked thoughtfully into the mirror as she sat pulling the brush through her tangled curls.  For the last few minutes she had been conscious of a presence behind her wall mirror, watching her in silence.  It was the first time she had been aware of him since her return from the ill-fated trip to his lair.

She rose, stretching muscles tired from holding the postures of Amneris’ role, and faced the mirror.  He wouldn’t speak?  Then she would.  “Hello, Erik,” she said challengingly, raising her chin to her invisible watcher.  There was a brief pause.

 “Your tone was off today,” he said coolly. 

Christine’s eyes flashed.  “I’m doing the best I can with it.  The part isn’t meant for a soprano.”

“Your lower register used to be more flexible,” Erik retorted with a touch of malice.

Christine stared at the mirror, annoyed.  “Well, back then I had a voice instructor to help me with it,” she snapped, and heard his amused chuckle.

“Touché, Mademoiselle.  Until tomorrow,” he said lightly.

“You’ll be at the rehearsal?”

He smiled derisively, though she could not see him.  “Of course.  It is, after all, my Opera House,” he replied mockingly.  “I always attend rehearsals.”

Erik stalked down the passageway, irritated.  How had she known of his presence?   Admittedly, her spirited words had impressed him.  Christine was not the fragile child she had been months ago.  He found it vaguely disturbing that he welcomed the change, and looked forward to tomorrow’s rehearsal.

Alone in her dressing room once more, Christine smiled faintly to herself.


The next day dawned clear and cold, with a bitter tang of snow in the air.  Christine ate her breakfast and washed hurriedly, anxious to arrive at the Opera early.  Today she would cover Odile’s lines and songs as well as her own.  Suzette had been relegated to the chorus, a punishment that did not go unnoted by the remainder of the cast.  Obviously M. André was in no mood to tolerate another temperamental singer.

Full dress rehearsals were still some days off, but the principals were all gathered around the stage, watching each other’s performances.  So far, this was an unusually congenial group, with little of the backbiting and scheming that was so typical of the artistic temperament.

The faintest glimmer of white caught her eye from the box to the right of the grand tier.  He was here, after all.  Taking a deep breath, Christine stepped to the blocked line and turned slightly toward him as she sang the first song of Act II.


It's so strange he doesn't show me
more affection than he needs,
almost formal, too respectful
never takes romantic leads.
There are times when I imagine
I'm not always on his mind
he's not thinking what I'm thinking,
always half a step behind,
always half a step behind.

Erik smiled ironically behind the mask.  So that is the way the game is to be played, my dear?  We shall see.  He settled back into the plush chair, awaiting further developments.


Rehearsal had run late, as it often did.  Christine had stopped by her dressing room and made herself a cup of tea on the gas ring and sat down with her libretto, memorizing lines for the dual roles she was playing for the duration of rehearsal.  Before she knew it, dinnertime had come and gone.  The streets about the Opera were strangely silent when she emerged, fastening her cloak.  Snowflakes swirled around her feet and left wet spangles in her dark hair.  She looked up into the black void overhead, almost frightened by the dizzying sensation of the snowflakes spilling down toward her.

It had been snowing lightly this morning when she had arrived at the theater, and now she vaguely recalled hearing comments throughout the day about the increasing vileness of the weather.  Shaking her head ruefully, Christine began to search for a cab, but after several minutes in the intense evening cold she retreated back inside the building.  It seemed easier to spend the night in her dressing room, as she had often done in the past.  Many of the principal actors, singers, and dancers kept supplies to be prepared for such a contingency.


Christine shifted on the hard narrow dressing room couch, seeking a more comfortable position.  Though it had been a long, difficult day of rehearsal and positioning, sleep had so far eluded her.  She tucked the blanket firmly around her shoulders again and sighed.  There was a song Erik had once sung to her, when she was ill and unable to rest.  The language was completely foreign to her, so she had learned the words by rote.  He had only told her it was a lullaby.  Christine closed her eyes and began to sing it softly to herself.

Down in the house by the lake, Erik shut his eyes in pain.  The soft minor harmonics of the Persian lullaby came hauntingly to his sensitive ears.  Once again he briefly thought about forcing himself to close off the hollow channels he had arranged in order to monitor her dressing room.  He spared the mantle clock a glance and was startled to see the lateness of the hour.  Whatever was Christine doing at the Opera at this time of night?

His concentration thoroughly disrupted and displaced now by worry, Erik swirled his heavy black cloak about his shoulders and walked quietly to the levels above.

She became aware of the silent presence behind her mirror and sat up abruptly, clutching the blanket about her body.

“Erik?” she called softly, questioningly.

He swore silently to himself.  What had he been thinking?  The sight of Christine, her hair tousled from the pillow, wearing only a soft white chemise stirred his numbed heart and set his blood burning again in his veins.  With tremendous effort Erik kept his voice expressionless.

“What are you doing here so late at night?”

Christine settled back against the couch, tucking her small feet back under the rose colored blanket, contrite, and realizing her voice had alerted him to her presence.

“I’m sorry, Erik.  Did I disturb you?”

He paused.  “I heard you singing,” he answered smoothly, “and wondered why you would be sleeping in your dressing room.”

Christine shivered.  “You must not have been outside lately.  It’s been snowing all day, and now it’s become a horrible blizzard.  I couldn’t get a cab, and I didn’t want to walk back home in this, so…..” she indicated the couch. 

“No, no, of course not,” Erik said absently, turning over an idea in his mind.

“I’ll get back home in the morning,” she said, preparing to lie back down again.  “I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

Taking a deep breath and bracing a hand on the wall, he plunged ahead.  “Christine, there is no need for you to sleep here.  Your old room is still available to you, should you wish it.”  It was the first time he had used her given name since her return, though neither was aware of it.

She sat up hesitantly, tucking a stray curl behind her ear.  “Do you mean that, Erik?” she said uncertainly.  “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

“It is no trouble.  I do not think the Opera would appreciate their prima donna freezing to death in her dressing room,” he said lightly.  “Think of the terrible press it would make.  Of course,” he added stiffly, “you need not come if you prefer to remain here.”

“No,” she said softly, unwilling to forego this unexpected overture of courtesy.  “I appreciate your offer.  Thank you, Erik.”

He turned away as she rose to don a pale blue ruffled dressing gown and slippers, then activated the mechanism of the mirror and stepped through.  An endless moment passed as they stared silently at each other across the small space.  He indicated the valise she held.  “There is no need to bring that, Christine.  You will find your room as it was before.”

She tucked the case back under her couch and wrapped a cloak around her shoulders.  Erik stepped though the mirror again and lit the lantern, unaware of her puzzled glance.  Always before he had taken her arm and she had walked with confidence through the darkness.  They walked in silence down the long dark corridors, lit by the flickering shadows cast by the lantern.  Though the Opera was well illuminated and heated by the gas lines laid throughout it, the tunnels were not.  Erik noticed the air was growing increasingly cold from the force of the storm outside and that Christine was shivering.  Without breaking his stride he removed his own heavy cloak and draped it across her shoulders.  He only nodded at her whispered words of thanks. 

Christine snuggled into the velvety soft fabric, still warm from the heat of his body and retaining his unique scent, a blend of sandalwood, candle smoke, and the herbal soap he used.  To give her his own cloak was a typically thoughtful, attentive gesture on his part, or at least on the part of the enigmatic man she had known last fall.  She felt a prickle of tears behind her eyes.  Oh Erik, what went wrong?  Can’t you see that I still need you so?

Standing on the rocky prominence, Erik handed her the lantern then knelt down and released the lines that held the small gondola boat to an iron ring set into the rock and drew it closer to shore.  He extended his hand commandingly to Christine, and she laced her own in his.  He helped her down into the boat, as they had done so many times in the past.  Christine moved to the front, balancing his weight in the back, and traced her fingers slowly over the strange and fanciful carvings across the bow.  The path across the lake took only minutes.

The house on the lake extended warm inviting arms to them, giving Christine the familiar sense of coming home, and once inside the foyer she felt herself slightly relax.  Erik hung their cloaks by the entrance and escorted her courteously through the dark, unlit rooms to the door of her old bedchamber.

“You will find your possessions in their places,” he said quietly, not meeting her eyes.  Frowning slightly, she entered the room, hearing the faint hiss and pop as Erik entered behind her and walked about, lighting the gas lights and the pillar candle by the bed.

Erik pretended not to see the look of glad welcome in her face as she walked about, touching lovingly the objects of the Louis-Philippe room.  She paused and turned to him.

“Erik?” she asked softly, “why are these things still here?”

For the first time that evening he looked at her directly.  Do you really need to ask me that? his eyes told her silently, and she blushed, breaking the poignant contact.  He withdrew from the room.

“Breakfast will be at seven.  Good night, Christine.”  Erik shut the door quietly behind him.


She was here again.  Against all possibility, she was here again, and had come with him willingly, trustingly.  He leaned back against her closed door and clenched his fists, trying to slow the pounding of his heart.


Christine stepped into the bathroom and ran hot water into the white marble basin, washing her hands and face.  This room too was unchanged.  Clean towels hung on the hooks, fresh bath salts awaited in the cut glass container.  Thoughtfully, Christine dried her hands.  What did it mean?  She returned to the outer room and draped her robe across the foot of the bed, then knelt at the chest of drawers, opening it and extracting a fresh nightgown.  She set her slippers aside and walked across the deep ivory carpet.

The room was carefully dusted, the bed neatly made.  Even the clothing in her drawers and wardrobe were fresh and delicately scented from her favorite sachets.  He had prepared these rooms with such care, such attention to detail, and had maintained them even in her absence.

Refusing to consider the implications of these actions, Christine drew back the smooth covers of the bed and slid between the sheets.  From the outer room came the restful, sonorous ticking of the great clock in the vestibule, lulling her into a dreamless sleep.


A light tap on her door awoke Christine the next morning.  Erik’s voice called to her and said simply, “Dress warmly.  It is quite cold this day.”  She quickly rose, feeling a pleasant tingle of anticipation.  It had been far too many weeks since she had last woken in the underground house.  She rapidly washed and pulled open the doors to the polished wardrobe, choosing a dress of fine Merino wool in a warm ivory color.  Once dressed she pulled the silver brush through her long curls, pinning back the sides.

Last night the house had been dark, disguising the signs of violence and intrusion.  Today Erik had lit the gas lamps along the walls for her.  Christine walked slowly to the dining room, noting the careful repairs on the paneled walls and wondering how he had found the time or materials to work on his damaged home.

Erik was waiting for her at the table, and poured out a cup of tea as she entered.  He seated her courteously and took the chair across from her.  Though the morning air was chill, he wore only a dark green brocade waistcoat over his snowy linen shirt and dark trousers

“Did you sleep well?” he inquired politely.

“Yes, Erik,” Christine answered gently.  “You don’t have to play the perfect host with me.” 

He did not answer her, his masked face unreadable, and she turned away from his intense gaze to look about the room.  This room too showed signs of recent violence, and she could tell where Erik had repaired damage to the wainscoting.  The lovely tapestry that had graced the wall nearest the kitchen was gone.  It had displayed a hunting scene from the Renaissance.  Had it been destroyed or merely stolen, she wondered?  She shook her head sadly.

Just what role would you have me play? Erik thought tiredly.  Not the role I chose, or would have chosen otherwise.  He studied her across the rim of the teapot.  He had prepared her favorite tea, not the usual Russian blend he preferred, knowing she found it too strongly flavored and smoky.

Christine realized he was observing her reactions to the changes in his house, and remembered sadly he never ate or drank in her presence, needing to remove the mask in order to do so.  She looked unhappily down at her plate, avoiding his studious gaze.

“There will be no rehearsal today,” Erik said abruptly.  “I…overheard the managers’ discussion.  The entire city is blanketed under a heavy snowfall, and so is at a standstill.” 

Christine nodded understanding, sipping her tea.  Once past his initial deception, Erik had never lied to her, and he was absurdly pleased that even now she still accepted his word without question.

 “If you wish, I will get you a cab and you may return to your home.  Or, you may remain here,” he said with seeming indifference.

She smiled at him, sensing an undercurrent of tension at her choice.  “Thank you, Erik, but I’d like to stay here, if I may,” she said simply, and saw him relax infinitesimally.  “I’ve missed this.”

He merely shrugged.  “As you wish,” she heard him say, but surely for a moment there had been a flicker of something—relief?—in his dark eyes.

Erik leaned back in his chair and his chilly manner grew a trifle warmer.  “Perhaps later you would like to go to the roof of the Opera and look out upon the city.  It is quite breathtaking.  I have also partially restocked my library.  You are welcome to select something to read, to help you pass the time.”


After breakfast Erik shut himself away in his study, so Christine walked into the library music room in search of a book.  In this space they had once sat in the deep comfortable armchairs by the fire, reading aloud and talking to each other.  It had been a beautiful room, full of warmth and life, with bookshelves were set deeply into the walls, lined with multitudinous leather-bound volumes.

The battered piano still dominated the center of the room.  She paused by it and touched its marred surface with pity, looking around in dismay.  As opposed to the Spartan neatness of the rest of the underground house, the library was in chaos.  The mob must have destroyed this room as well.  Erik had said he had begun to restock his bookshelves, but….  True, a few books lined the shelves, yet packing cases of books were stacked about the room, their lids wrenched off, sisal spilling out upon the floor.  Christine lifted a book from the nearest crate and sighed.  The library was still a mess.  She returned to her room and bound back her long dark hair, then went to seek a dust cloth.  She had found a task to occupy her morning.

Christine wiped down the shelves and organized his library, finding books on engineering, architecture, medicine, chemistry, history, science, poetry, mythology, and modern literature in the crates.  She placed them on the shelves in the order he had once kept them in, to the best of her recall.  After a moment’s thought she went and searched the house as well, knowing Erik was generally careless about returning the volumes to their proper places.  She dragged the crates neatly to one side and removed the packing material and papers from the floor.  Hours later Erik found her there, curled gracefully by a now-empty box.  Standing silently in the shadows, his eyes were soft, watching the play of emotion across her expressive face as she sat absorbed in the travails of the heroine in the novel she read.

He stepped into the room and she looked up with a guilty flush.  “I’m sorry, Erik, I was distracted.”  She indicated the novel with a pretty, feminine gesture and he smiled involuntarily.  Christine hung her head in mock chagrin, her deep blue eyes sparkling wickedly up through her lashes at him. 

Erik caught his breath, feeling his heart constrict and beat painfully in his chest.  She was so lovely, so unselfconscious.  He longed to take her in his arms, to lift her and spin her around with joy.  Instead he said mildly, “Christine, you may certainly read any book here you wish.  I chose many of them for you.”  With that cryptic sentence, he withdrew.

Thoughtfully, Christine went to her room and placed the slim volume on the table by her bed, then washed the dust from her hands and face.  The graceful golden hands of her tiny porcelain clock let her know it was time for lunch.

The kitchen of his home was utilitarian and barely adequate for the production of a meal.  His indifference to nourishment had presented problems in the past; she would have to see what could be done about luncheon for the two of them.


Alone at his desk in his study, Erik forced his mind to concentrate on the manuscript in front of him.  A soft tap at the door caused him to quickly reassume the mask just as Christine entered with a wooden tray.

“Erik,” she said determinedly, “I’ve made you some lunch.”  She placed the tray on a clear space on his desk and he eyed it with disfavor.

“Christine,” he began.

“No,” she interrupted.  “You need to eat.  You are much too thin.”  Christine then tactfully withdrew, shutting the door behind her.

Thoughtfully, he spooned the soup.  This quiet and domestic woman was a side of her he had not seen before.  Reluctantly, Erik removed the mask and laid it aside.  She was quite a good cook, he realized, no doubt due to living on her own for the last several years.  Perhaps his disinterest in the culinary arts was partly to blame for his own limited repertoire.  Erik sighed internally, idly stirring his soup.  Christine had changed in several small ways, treating him with an unusual courtesy and consideration, but there was nothing but honest friendship in her eyes.  Still, he could no more do without her than he could stop breathing.  Perhaps in time he could come to accept her companionship, if he could not have her love.

Without noticing, he ate every bite of food on the tray, then pushed it to one side and returned to his papers.  It sat, a tangible reminder of her presence in his house, just at the edge of his vision.  Exasperated, he collected the tray to return it to the kitchen.

Christine had apparently spent her luncheon by cleaning every surface in the kitchen, and was now disposing of the remains of her own meal.

“Thanks you,” he said awkwardly.  “I am sorry you had to eat alone.”  She took the wooden tray and for the breath of a heartbeat their eyes met and held, and she read the unspoken apology in them.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Erik,” she said quietly, holding his gaze with her own.  “You may eat with me any time you choose.”

Do you know what you are saying? his black eyes asked hers.

Defiantly, she lifted her chin.  “Yes, I mean it, Erik.  Please don’t feel you must eat alone because I am here.  I’ve disrupted your life enough.”

Disbelieving, Erik shook his head.  “No.”  He turned and stalked out.

Tears prickled angrily in the back of her eyes.  His face had lost its horror for her weeks ago, and she saw only the passionate eyes of the brilliant man within.  Perhaps her departure with Raoul had hurt him so deeply he no longer trusted her at all.  Shaking her head, she followed him from the room.


He had retreated to the piano, his long deft fingers moving seemingly without conscious will over the smooth ivory and ebony wood keys.  The notes rose from a soft, almost tremulous shimmering introduction to a glorious deep swell of melody.  Christine walked quietly in and sat in an armchair behind him.  So far, he had taken no outward notice of her presence.  Erik’s eyes were half shut, his body swaying slightly as he gave himself over to the music.  Her eyes grew soft as she sat almost mesmerized, watching the muscles of his broad shoulders ripple as his long arms moved over the keyboard.  Such incredible talent…  There was no doubt in her mind but that this song was one he had composed himself and she wished again he could receive the acclaim his compositions would surely bring him, if somehow they could be published.

His elegant hands transitioned easily into a series of arpeggios and softened into one of the Chopin etudes.  Feeling the irresistible pull of the music, Christine rose and came to stand beside him, placing a hand lightly on his piano, wordlessly asking permission to sing.  He nodded briefly at her, betraying no surprise at her presence, and ended the piece.

“What would you like to sing?” he inquired, raising his visible eyebrow.

“Anything you want to play for me, Erik,” she said quietly.

He reached up and rifled through the stacks of sheet music and notes that covered the surface of the piano, eventually selecting one of her old vocal exercises.  “You will need to warm up,” he said by way of explanation, and she nodded, remembering this particular piece.

Erik walked over and stirred up the fire, to warm the room, listening to her clear voice.  For so long his world had been silent save his own voice and music.  Christine had briefly filled his home with laughter and song, and he had dared hope it might be forever.  When she had left, when the mob had left, he had sat numbly for days, not eating or sleeping, the destruction and unendurable loneliness obliterating his sanity in a well of black despair.  He had prayed desperately that he might end his sorry existence, but in the end had not been able to muster even the energy for that.

Unbelievably, she was here now, standing in his library-cum-music room, singing with him for the first time in months, and Erik vowed not to let her see how her presence affected him.  She did not want his love, would not accept his devotion, and he could not risk losing her again.

He returned to the piano and she raised expectant eyes to him.  “Perhaps, since you are here, we could work on your lower register.  Your performance was most disgraceful the other day,” he said scathingly.

Refusing to be provoked, Christine gave him her most dazzling smile and was secretly pleased to see his eyes widen slightly.  Erik inclined his head her direction, but whether in apology or respect she could not tell.  His powerful, elegant hands flowed over the keyboard as she settled her shoulders and lifted her chest in song.

They sang for an hour or more, working through the libretto in order that he might hear more acutely where she needed help.  Pleading thirst as an excuse, Christine left the room and headed for the kitchen.  Erik flexed his hands impatiently and soon Christine reemerged.  She leaned on the end of the piano, watching him play with a soft smile. Realizing she needed a short rest, Erik let himself play snippets of popular songs for her, making her smile.  After a few minutes, though, he raised uncomfortable eyes to her face, feeling the weight of her gaze in an expression he could not immediately identify.

“What is it?” he inquired.

Christine turned her face away, blushing.  “I was just thinking what beautiful hands you have Erik, so long and powerful, so graceful,” she said almost inaudibly, fearing to offend him.

The music halted abruptly as Erik sat motionless, then raised his hands to stare at them blankly.  Though his music and his architecture had been praised before, no one had ever commented in a positive way about any part of his person.  He stared at his long tapering fingers.  His hands had been responsible for such pain and so many deaths, had constructed horrors he prayed she would never know of.  How could she find them beautiful?

“You don’t believe me, do you?” she said bemusedly, seeing him frown in denial.  Christine walked around the piano and sat beside him on the padded bench, curls soft as cobwebs brushing his shoulder as she leaned forward reaching for his hand.  He could feel the warmth of her body through the pale wool of her ivory colored dress, where their legs touched through the fabric.  Mesmerized at her soft voice and held by her gaze, he could only sit numbly as her smooth white fingers closed over his right hand.  She lifted it in her own, her fingertips stroking the palm, placing her own hand against his, amused at the difference in size.  She did not see him shudder at the delicate sensation of her touch and slowly draw in a shaky breath.

“I can barely span an octave,” Christine said, shaking her head in wonderment.  Her touch had caused a quiver of panic in his soul; the longing for her gentle caress and the tension of desire growing rapidly.  Erik abruptly withdrew his hand from hers, needing to distance himself in order to maintain the façade of indifference.  Christine stared after him, hurt by his apparent rejection.

“Please do not touch me,” he managed, and then turned to walk away into his study.  She did not see him the remainder of the evening.


Erik shut himself in his study, his emotions and senses aflame.  He gripped the rough edge of a wooden shelf in clenched fists and leaned his head on his hands, desperately trying to control the raging tide of desire coursing through his body.  She had never had any idea of the effect she had on his emotions, on his body; no idea how her innocent contact could send him on this downward spiral of lust and longing.  His flesh demanded her touch, her caress with a desperate craving that could not be slaked.  Slowly, Erik slid down along the wall, sitting on the floor, his hands clenched until they ached, arms wrapped about his head, trying to still the voices in his mind and the flames in his body.


She awoke the next morning to the faint sound of her door opening.  Erik stepped in, attired in one of his customary black suits and bearing a load of logs, his gaze quickly sliding away from where he thought she still slept.  Christine watched from beneath her lowered eyelids as he knelt soundlessly at the small hearth and proceeded to build up her fire, that the room would be warm when she awoke.  When the fire had caught to his satisfaction, he rose and returned to the door, reluctantly facing her once more.  For a moment his gaze softened as he silently watched her sleeping form, before it was replaced with his usual stoic demeanor.  He shut the door quietly behind him.

Christine rose and held her graceful hands toward the fire.  After a moment, she collected her missal and rosary and knelt before the hearth, softly saying the daily office.  Afterwards, she sat with her arms clasped about her knees, staring into the fire, thinking. 

He had rarely touched her during their weeks together, and then only with permission, or by accident, the casual contact of daily life.  His long elegant hands were always cold, whether correcting her fingering on the keyboard or when passing her a book or cup of tea, yet his body was warm enough.  Many times they had stood on the roof of the Opera, looking out across the twilight city, his arm holding her gently, supportively against him that she might not fall.  Now Erik avoided her touch at all costs, even going so far as to shun being in the same room together.  At one time he had looked at her with longing, with passion, and the intensity of his devotion had frightened her.  Now, the wall of stiff courtesy he had taken refuge behind shut her out as effectively as had these walls of stone.

She remembered his harsh words at their first meeting after her return, how he had said she brought him nothing but anguish, and he no longer wanted her in his life.  Why then, had he come to stand behind the mirror of her dressing room again, to watch her rehearsals?

Christine frowned, still hurt by his words, tracing the border of a flower in the thick carpet.  Erik, do you no longer trust me?  What can I do to make you believe I still love you, when you won’t let me near?

A peremptory knock sounded at her door.  “Christine?”

She sighed and rose to her feet.  “Yes, Erik?”

“Were you planning on coming out today?” he said, with an edge of sarcasm.

Her fingers clenched the belt of her robe tightly.  Why must he make this so difficult?  “I’ll be right out.”  She quickly dressed in a simple, lace-trimmed gown of soft smoky blue and twisted her chestnut brown hair up into a chignon.


Heading for his study, Erik shook his head, angry with himself.  Why couldn’t he speak to her without hurtful words?  She was certainly entitled to sleep as long as she wished.  Why did his concern always manifest itself as sarcasm?  Irritably, he swung shut the heavy oak door and flung himself into his seat, brooding.


Christine had walked back to the library, determined to complete the task today, as she could not go to morning Mass. 

Erik had returned to his study, leaving the door open this time.  From the library came the sounds of her singing the Liturgy of the Word, her glorious soprano voice and exquisite enunciation rendering the Latin phrases clearly to his ears.  Christine sang the Morning Prayer and began on an apparently random selection of hymns.  Her religion was an integral part of her life, a part he had no understanding of, but she was his Angel, and he was powerless to deny her wishes.  Erik rose from his seat and walked toward the library music room.

She had paused, bending over a new crate of books, hefting a volume in each hand, deciding where to place them when the opening notes of the Ave reached her ears, and Christine stood still, stunned.  Erik, willingly playing religious music?  She had not even heard him enter the room, but automatically lifted her voice with the first words, tears in her eyes.  He knew she had missed the Mass, and in his own deferential way, was providing her at least the musical part of the service.  She should have realized he would have had a familiarity with all forms of composition, even sacred music.  For an hour or more she sang as he played, divided by the distance that separated them across the room.  Erik transitioned to a series of chromatics when he heard her voice begin to grow tired, and Christine finally turned toward him, seeking his face. 

Her shining eyes thanked him silently, his forbidding expression keeping her from saying the words aloud.  Erik nodded stiffly in acknowledgement and turned away, moving back to his study.


Having disposed of the packing crates and settled the library to her satisfaction, Christine returned to her room to collect the novel she had begun the previous day, hoping to finish it before rehearsals started again.  She walked back to the library humming softly to herself.  For once, the door to Erik’s study stood open, though he was nowhere to be seen.  Slipping off her shoes, she curled up on the tapestry-covered chair that sat at an angle to his own.  Erik entered the room a few minutes later, carrying two cups of his bizarre Russian tea, one with lemon, and the other with sugar for her.  He placed them carefully on the low table between them and sat down, watching the flames absently.

Impulsively, Christine leaned toward him.  “Thank you for the music earlier, Erik.  It was beautiful—I had no idea you even knew those songs.”

He turned his face away, a muscle working in his jaw, the part of his face left exposed by the mask flushed.  When he spoke, his voice was thin and bitter.  “Oh, yes, I too was raised a good Catholic.  I rejected religion years ago, when it became obvious no one believed what they taught and preached, or the words they chanted.”  His fist clenched and he pounded it once against the arm of the chair.  “They were all hypocrites, the priest worst of all!  Despite what they said, it seems not everyone is welcome in church.”

“That’s not true, Erik,” she said quietly.

He laughed shortly, without humor.  “Tell that to the parish priest who came to do his duty every week at my house, until he came only once a month, then finally not at all.”

Christine sighed.  “You could go to Mass with me.”

He made a derisive noise, looking at her balefully.  “I hardly think so.”

“You might enjoy the music, at least.”

Erik rose and glared blackly into the fire, his face wrathful.  “You would have everyone staring at me?  No!” he hissed.  “If there is a god, he and I parted ways years ago and have ample reason not to meet again.”  His voice shook with repressed emotion.  “What kind of loving god would condemn a child to this hellish existence, this nightmarish life?  No, I have no desire to enter a church again, to ‘talk to God.’  He never listened to anything I ever asked, nor ever did anything to help me!”

Christine rose, tears of hurt and anger in her lovely face.  “Yes, He did, Erik,” she said with simple dignity.  “He sent an Angel of Music to me.”  A silence fell between them and she turned on her heel, leaving Erik staring after her.  A moment later he heard the door to her bedchamber slam.




You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

You go to my head
Like a sip of sparkling burgundy brew
And I find the very mention of you
Like the kicker in a julep or two.

The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought
To my plea casts a spell over me
Still I say to myself, “Get a hold of yourself
Can’t you see, that it never can be?”

You go to my head
With a smile that makes my temperature rise
Like a summer with a thousand Julys
You intoxicate my soul with your eyes.

Though I’m certain that this heart of mine
Hasn’t a ghost of a chance
In this crazy romance
You go to my head.

You Go To My Head
H. Gillespie and J. F. Coots, 1938

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 4 of 10

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