Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 6 of 10

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Second Chances

Adele Giry sat silently at her desk, thoughts whirling around in her head, still thinking about the implications of her last visitor’s eloquent words.  Erik had stood before her, his face bearing an expression she found both moving and disturbing.  He had paced her office, his eyes glowing behind the mask.  Christine had consented to be his wife, he had said, without coercion, without fear, openly, and honestly.  He was both dumfounded and exhilarated, his beautiful, expressive hands and rich voice expressing his wonderment at this unexpected development.  He had wanted his oldest friend in Paris to know.

Stunned, Mme. Giry had offered her congratulations and Erik had thanked her, amazement still in his voice.  Then he was gone in a swirl of opera cloak, back into whatever shadows he had emerged from.

Erik and Christine were meant for each other; he had deeply loved the opera singer with a near-hopeless passion for two years now.  She brightened his dark world and civilized his inhuman behavior.  Erik’s maturity and adoration brought security and strength to the young woman.  Christine was still such an innocent child, though, in many ways. 

Adele Giry stood up, resolutely.  She had no desire to hurt either her friend or her daughter’s friend, but neither Erik nor Christine had likely given thought to any practical eventualities of their future.  She gathered her heavy rod and went in search of Christine.


Awaiting the hairdresser, Christine was resting on the little swan-backed chaise in her dressing room when the imperious rap of a heavy cane sounded outside her door.  She sat up quickly, smoothing her dress and called out a welcome.  Mme. Giry stepped in, her somber dark figure seeming out of place in the white, gold and green room.

“Mme Giry!  Please, come in and sit down.”  Inclining her head in acknowledgement, the other woman did so, turning to face Christine, who waited politely for the older women to speak first.

Adele’s eyes softened as she looked over at Christine.  She could well understand Erik’s continuing love for this young woman, despite the ordeals and torment he had gone through on her behalf.  The singer sat demurely on the chaise, wearing a white dressing gown over her costume, her long dark curls tumbling down to a tiny waist.  Expressive blue eyes widened and a wild-rose blush rose on her ivory skin as Christine endured the ballet mistress’ scrutiny.  Adele leaned forward and touched the engagement ring.

“I’ve had a visitor, coming to tell me of recent events that have transpired in our Opera,” she said dryly, without preamble, and saw Christine blush again.  The young singer lowered suddenly bright eyes and raised the ring to her cheek lovingly.

“Yes,” she answered softly.  “Just last night.  Erik still wants me to marry him.”

Adele Giry smiled.  “Of course he does, child.  He loves you more than you can know.”  She paused, then said gently, “Christine, do you have any family?  Any woman you may speak with?”  Christine shook her dark head, uncertain what her former teacher was meaning.  “Did your father or your adoptive mother ever discuss with you how it is, between a man and a woman, a husband and wife?”

Christine blushed again and said almost inaudibly, “No, but I’ve heard the other girls in the corps talk about their lovers.”

The ballet mistress sighed faintly, relieved.  “Then you do know at least a bit.”  She sat back on the graceful chair.  “Christine, have you truly thought this out?  I have known Erik many years.  He is an incredibly brilliant, talented man, but Christine, he has very little experience with love and trust.  This will not be an easy, commonplace marriage, and it is only his own proud sense of honor that has kept you safe so far.  He will not want to be your husband in….name only.”

A memory of his hands stroking her back and his lips against her throat washed over her, assaulting her senses, and Christine ducked her head.  “I know that,” she whispered.

Adele Giry noted her expression wryly.  Obviously this was not news to Christine, who clearly didn’t mind.  “I’m sorry I had to ask, child.  I was….merely concerned for you.”  Mme. Giry fastened her dark eyes on the young woman.  “How will you live?  Where will you go?  What if you become with child?  You cannot continue to live underground at this Opera.”

Flushing, Christine rose, trailing a hand along the molding trim on the dressing room wall.  “I know that, but I don’t know what we can do, Mme. Giry.  Erik is so talented, he could surely make a living as a composer or musician, and I know he was once an architect.”  She shook her head in wonderment.  “He has a room full of electrical apparatus and chemistry equipment.  There are so many things he could do, if only….” Her quiet voice fell silent.

“Would you want to continue your career?” Adele inquired, thinking.

“Oh yes, we’ve both worked so hard for this.  Erik takes great pride in my voice; he was my teacher for many months, and still helps me now,” Christine said simply.  “But Mme. Giry, why do you ask?”

The older woman was silent for a long time.  “Has Erik ever told you how we met?  No, of course he would not,” she murmured, seeing Christine’s perplexed look.  Adele Giry looked directly at Christine.  “I would prefer Meg not learn of this story, do you understand?”

Christine swallowed and nodded, feeling the tension in her visitor.  “Many years ago, I was married to Meg’s father.  I too had been a dancer, well-trained and successful.  I threw aside my career to marry a man who said he loved me.”  She laughed harshly.  “It became apparent quickly that love was not what he wanted.  I became pregnant, and he soon found ‘comfort’ in the arms of other women.  When I tried to leave him, he beat me so badly I thought I would lose the baby.  Perhaps that is what he meant all along to happen,” she added musingly, unaware of Christine’s sickened expression.  “I had little Meg, and for a while things were…well, not pleasant, but at least tolerable.  Then he began to beat me again.  I took Meg and fled to Paris.” 

She sat silently, a somber, proud woman.  Christine waited in silence for her to continue, sensing she would be rebuffed if she interrupted.  “I was working as a seamstress, and Meg was being cared for by a woman who watched children near our lodgings.  Outside of the Opera, one night, I was returning home to our rooms.  Suddenly, there was my husband.  Louis had tracked me down to Paris and had threatened the lady I lodged with until she revealed my employer.  He was waiting for me.  I struggled against him, but he was so strong,” she said hopelessly, even though the events had taken place many years before.  “He struck me repeatedly, tearing at my clothing.  I screamed for help, but the streets were deserted.  He laughed.”  Adele Giry shivered in the warm room.  “He had been drinking.  Then abruptly, he was gone.  I sat up in the street, from where he had shoved me.  There was a tall, well-dressed man holding him effortlessly in the air.  I can still hear his voice.”  She stared off into space, reliving those painful memories.

The voice was beautiful, rich and cultured, and low with deadly fury.  “You will cease hurting this woman.  What harm has she done you, that you should beat her in the streets outside my Opera?”

The man laughed evilly.  “This bitch?  She’s run off, probably whoring on the streets for all I know or care, but she’ll come back home with me.  She’ll not give it out for free on the streets of Paris!”  In loathing and horror, Adele frantically crawled backwards, bracing her back against the wall of a building and watching with frightened eyes.

The stranger lifted the man in the air again.  He struggled futilely against the incredible strength of the stranger and succeeded in kicking the man in the abdomen.  The black-garbed stranger dropped him, and Louis pulled out a knife.  The stranger tensed suddenly, and began circling him like a great deadly hunting cat, watching with glittering eyes.  Louis rushed forward and the two began to struggle.  In the process, the stranger’s hat was knocked off, revealing a skull-like mask that covered half of his stoic face.  His eyes were black and icy. 

“You are a demon!” Louis hissed.

“Then I shall be happy to assist you into Hell.”

 With those words, Louis rushed forward again.  The fight was over very quickly.  Somehow in the ensuing struggle, the terrifying stranger managed to trip her husband, who fell upon his own knife.

The stranger bent over the bleeding man dispassionately.  “It is a mortal wound.  What do you want done with him?”

Adele Giry was shivering violently from shock and the cold.  “I don’t care, Monsieur.  He has tried to kill me many times, and has threatened our daughter.  He is of no consequence to me anymore.”

The tall man nodded, then reached down and with casual violence, gave Louis’ neck a quick hard twist, effortlessly severing the spinal cord and breaking his neck.  She could still hear the horrible sound of the rending bones.

The masked man looked up, inhumanly calm.  “He will not suffer needlessly this way,” he said in quiet explanation.  He rose and collected his hat, pulling it low over his face and turned to go.

Adele Giry scrambled to her feet.  “Wait, Monsieur.  You have saved my life this evening.  I....thank you.”

He only nodded.  “Do you need anything else, Madame?  I will escort you to your lodgings, if you wish,” he said reluctantly.

She stood, silent and debating.  This tall, masked stranger, with his carefully polite, cultured words, had casually killed a man to save her life.  She could not just let him drift away.  “Yes, thank you.  It’s very dark and foggy.  My poor little daughter will be terrified something has happened to me.”

He walked her silently through the deserted back streets to her lodgings as Adele Giry told him in simple, emotionless words of the events preceding this evening.

Outside her flat, the silent stranger turned to her.  “You say you are a dancer?” he said thoughtfully.  At her assent, he continued.  “The Opera is in need of both a talented seamstress and of quality dancers.  Perhaps you should seek employment there.”

Adele Giry completed her story tiredly.  “I did come here, and I still believe that Erik was somehow instrumental in helping me to ascend to the position I now hold.  He and I have met often, over the years, when he has been in need of someone to go out among the people, to shop for him, or deliver messages.  I have tried to be his friend, though he is still such a very private man.  He has told me very little of his life before the Opera.”  She reached out to touch Christine’s shoulder gently.  “Deep inside, he is a good man, and he has led a very lonely, bitter life.  Be kind to him, Christine.  The only thing I have ever known Erik to fear is losing you.  I am glad he’s finally found someone to care for; someone who also will care for him.”

Christine blinked back tears and hugged the ballet mistress tightly.  “Thank you, Mme. Giry.”

The older woman stood, her bearing regal and erect once more.  “I am willing to help you and your Erik, child, in any way I can.  I will think what may be done.”

At Christine’s nod, she turned to go.  Christine followed her impulsively, placing a hand on the ballet mistress’ arm.  “I’ll not say a word, about what you have told me.” 

In the doorway, Adele Giry turned, and for a moment her proud face softened.  “No, child, I know you won’t.  You have learned a hard lesson about betrayal once already.  I must go.  My petite rats will be waiting for me.”


If possible, the Opera was even more filled with people on this second night of performance.  Christine took her bows and applause with the cast, then made her apologies and quickly headed for the dressing rooms.

Raoul was waiting for Christine outside her dressing room door.  She smiled radiantly up at him, still flushed with the success of the night.

“I’ll just be a minute, Raoul.  I must get out of this costume and makeup!” she said. 

He bowed toward her.  “Do not tarry overly long!” he said, handing her a single white gardenia.

True to her word, it was less than fifteen minutes until she emerged into the corridor with all traces of the High Priestess removed, and his floral offering pinned to her dress.

Raoul bowed gallantly over her gloved hand.  “Christine, you look lovely tonight!”  He offered her his arm and she took it.  Laughing, they ducked out a side entrance, avoiding the crowds, and into his carriage.


Le Jardin had several intimate rooms painted with gay floral scenes, and Christine was pleased to discover Raoul had engaged one of them.  After a brief consultation with the serveur, he ordered wine and a light meal for them both.  Raoul leaned back in his chair, relaxed, observing the woman he had once thought to wed.  She was wearing her hair in a new style, upswept from her face and twisted into a knot atop her head, with curling tendrils escaping.  The simple dress of dusky plum satin set off her slender figure and deepened her eyes to a dark blue. 

As they talked Christine idly turned her crystal wineglass in her slender fingers, swirling the pale liquid in circles.  Raoul’s eyes narrowed slightly.  Though it had only been a little more than two months, a familiar ring of gold with a solitaire sapphire flanked by two baguette diamonds adorned her left hand.

“Are you happy, Christine?” he asked abruptly.  “You’re back at the Opera, singing in a highly successful production.  I read that you are scheduled to perform in two spring concerts.  Unless my eyes deceive me, that is a new dress you have on tonight, and you have a smile on your face.”

Christine looked up at her old friend and playmate, seeing the forced lightness in his eyes.  “Yes, Raoul, I’m happy,” she said gently.  “I have no right to be, after all of the people I’ve hurt, but I’m doing well.”

His planned conversation was interrupted by the arrival of their meal.  Raoul deliberately kept the conversation amiable; asking her about the other cast members and relating a humorous story about a minor accident that had happened to his brother Philippe.  Christine’s face was relaxed and unguarded, the laughter bringing a sparkle to her eyes and a blush of lovely color to her damask cheeks.  For a minute he thought longingly of taking her in his arms again, and begging her to return to the de Chagny estate, but wisely said nothing.

Christine watched him with sudden sadness above the rim of her wine glass.  For a moment, Raoul’s heart showed only too clearly in his expression.  She reached over unthinkingly with her left hand to clasp his fingers, trying to wordlessly convey how much he still meant to her, even if they could not be together.

Raoul looked down at her hand, afraid to betray his longing, and focused instead on the ring.  For a minute he said nothing, then his fingers reached out to carefully touch the flawless sapphire questioningly.  Christine’s color heightened, but she made no move to pull her hand away, or to hide the tell-tale jewel.

“Do I recognize this, Christine?  Or am I perhaps just misremembering?” he said softly, not wanting to hurt her, or make it seem an interrogation.

Christine raised her hand, touching the ring in such a loving manner he had his answer.  “Yes, Raoul, it is the same ring,” she said quietly.

Unable to let it go, he said, “Have you had it all along, or…?”

She shut her eyes, aware this conversation must be painful for him, and worried about betraying Erik’s fate.  Finally, she looked up at her old friend.  “No, Raoul.  He gave it back to me, and I accepted it, and all it means.”

Raoul slowly drew in his breath in wonderment.  “The Opera Ghost survived, then, Christine?  And he came back for you?”

She shook her head.  “No, Raoul, I went to him.  I needed him…I love him.  He’s like…the other half of my soul.”  She stumbled, seeing the anguish on his face and feeling his fingers slowly tightening on her own, betraying his rising anger.  “Raoul, please believe me.  I had no idea he was alive.  I went down again to the house by the lake to sing his requiem.  I thought him dead.  He heard me.  We’ve been slowly trying to trust each other again since.”

Raoul de Chagny leaned back in his seat, taking a long slow sip of his wine, trying to sort out his conflicting emotions.  He believed she truly had not known that the erratic man who lived beneath the Opera had survived.  He was pleased that Christine was happy, but still strangely desolate that the ring signified the death of his last remaining hopes.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said finally.  “I’m happy for you, Christine, but I can’t help but wish….”

“I know,” she said softly.  Both of them were tiptoeing around painful emotions, trying not to hurt the other.  She held his eyes with her own, an idea slowly coming to her.  “Raoul, would you like to meet him?  You’ve only ever seen him that one time by the portcullis gate, and none of us were….at our best then.”

The Vicomte de Chagny turned away, fighting an instinctive desire to shout at her, grinding his teeth together.  And yet, she was his dear Christine.  He had promised to do what he could to help her, to be her friend.  Raoul took a deep breath.  “Yes.  If he will allow me to.”

Christine shook her head doubtfully.  “If I ask it, he will.”


Erik stood wire tense on the old Persian carpet in the library music room.  “You want me to invite Raoul de Chagny to my home, as though we were social acquaintances or friends?”  He shook his head, disbelieving, raking a hand through his hair.  “Christine, do not ask this of me.  Of all the world, only you and Adele Giry knew I was still alive.  How could you tell him?”  Erik’s voice broke with smoldering anger and he sat on the edge of the couch, his head in his hands, his posture evidencing what he clearly thought was betrayal.

Christine knelt before him, resting her elbows on his knees and pulling his hands gently from his face.  Erik’s black, bitter eyes refused to look at the woman he loved.  She reached a tentative hand up to his face, hoping she had not roused his formidable temper.  “Erik,” she said softly, “I did it for us.  Raoul can help us, I know it.”  She sighed internally.  “When will you learn to trust me, my angel?”

A lifetime’s memories of betrayal, of promises broken, of hurt and rejection was marked clearly in his expression as he gathered her into his arms.  “I am sorry, Christine,” he whispered in her hair.

She shook her head.  “I should have asked you first, Erik.  I didn’t want to lie to him.”

Resigned, Erik looked hopelessly at her.  “Where and when?”

Christine bit her lower lip, indecisive.  “I don’t know.”  She reached up to gently smooth his hair and bent to tenderly kiss him.  Erik’s arms tightened around her as he hesitated a moment, then ardently returned the kiss.  Her lips parted and he deepened the contact, tasting the sweetness of her mouth, and felt her stir to press herself tightly against him.  The near electric contact of their bodies rapidly spiraled into a blaze.

“Erik…” she sighed, winding fingers through his hair, her hands stroking his back.  Bemused that she should reciprocate this heat, he let his hands explore the length of her back and risked lowering his head to taste the delicate column of her throat.  Christine leaned back, trusting her weight to his supporting arm, and Erik listened to the tremulous breaths of the woman in his arms, entranced.  Never, he would never have thought any woman would find his touch so pleasurable, never thought to feel insistent fingers stroking his back and neck mindlessly.  Reluctantly, Erik broke the astonishing contact and held her to him tightly, trying to slow his pounding heart.

Blushing a fiery rose, Christine avoided his enquiring gaze, ducking her head and letting her hair hide her face.  He tipped her chin to meet her stormy eyes.

“Oh!  How can you be so infuriatingly calm?” she whispered heatedly.  Erik caught her hand, pressing it to his chest, and Christine’s eyes widened at the pounding force of his pulse.

“My love, I am not calm at all,” he murmured, unsure of his voice.  “But we are not yet married, and I didn’t want to….”

Christine smiled lovingly down at him and blushed again.  “You make me feel so shameless,” she whispered, watching him squirm, pleased to know she had this power over him as he did her.  “But you are right.  I shall go sit on my chair and behave decorously.”  Christine’s voice was prim, but she gave him an arch look as she slid off his lap and returned to her seat.

Erik threw back his head and laughed richly.  “Wicked girl.  Get thee from me, temptress, lest I succumb to your charms.”

Blushing, Christine hid once more behind her novel, still feeling the heated weight of his gaze upon her, and loving him.



Raoul de Chagny exited his coach and ordered the driver to return in three hours.  He stood across the street from the imposing building, thinking for several minutes.  Carriages drove by, horses’ hooves making a pleasant cadence on the rain-washed street.  The gaslights from the street lamps gave a soft haze to the evening.  Slowly, as if the weight of every stone in the Opera House was upon him, he crossed the street and mounted the handful of stairs.  Christine would be waiting for him in her dressing room.


Together, they returned through the Rue Scribe entrance.  For Raoul, the faint damp odor of wet stone and the slightly tacky feel of the corridor floor brought back the impressions of the only other dreadful time he had traveled this path, a scant four or five months ago.  Yet Christine walked serenely beside him, guiding them through the near darkness with the ease of long practice.  At one point she stopped and retrieved a small lantern from an all-but-invisible niche.  “It gets very dark from here on,” she told him simply, taking his hand.  A few minutes later they emerged into an opening alongside the subterranean lake.  Christine extinguished the lantern, setting it carefully aside.  They skirted the edge of the icy water and came to an area that dated from the initial construction of the original building.  Christine stepped in front of him, partially blocking his view, and then to his amazement, an entire section of the wall swung smoothly out, propelled only by her small hands.  An alarmingly normal, polished oak door met his eyes, complete even to a knocker in the shape of a griffin’s head.  Christine opened the door with a key and stepped inside.  He heard her call out.

“Erik?  Raoul and I are here.”

Sweating slightly in spite of the chill air, he entered the underground house and stopped in stunned surprise. 

Raoul de Chagny had only seen the alcove by the portcullis gate, not any part of the extraordinary dwelling that now opened before him.  Christine hung their wraps matter-of-factly on hooks in the foyer then turned to him, waiting quietly as he adjusted to this new setting.

Satiny wood paneled the walls, lit and turned golden by very ordinary gas lights.  An old, mellow-toned Persian carpet ran the length of the room.  Christine took his gloves and hat from his unresisting hands, placing them neatly on a long low scroll-back couch that sat against the wall.  A fine landscape painting depicting a storm scene hung above the couch.  With a faintly amused smile she led him through the foyer to a wide, warm room dominated by a battered concert grand piano and lined with hundreds of volumes of leather-bound books and objects d’art.  In here as well, gas lamps lined the walls, but the pleasant atmosphere was created by numerous candles and a small, crackling fire.  Raoul’s eyes were immediately drawn to the silent, motionless figure that rose slowly from one of the deep armchairs by the hearth, a man whose expressionless black eyes now lifted and connected with his own. 

Christine walked to stand beside him, feeling the tension coiled tightly inside the rigid figure of the man she loved.  She turned her body slightly and took his hand.  “Erik?  It will be all right.  Trust me,” she murmured.  “He is as unhappy over this as you are.”

The visible corner of Erik’s mouth quirked upward in what might have been a wolfish smile. 

“I sincerely doubt that.”  He released Christine’s fingers and stepped forward smoothly, endeavoring to keep the mocking tone from his voice.

“Welcome to my home, M. de Chagny.”

Raoul raised his chin and extended his hand.  “I’m delighted to meet you under more civilized circumstances, Monsieur.”  Erik eyed his hand warily a moment, then took it.  The two men bared their teeth at each other until Christine stamped her foot. 

“Stop it!  I can’t bear it when you are angry!”

Both men turned to look at her, puzzled, then astonishingly, Raoul began to laugh as Erik smiled in grim amusement.  “She always did have a temper,” the Vicomte said ruefully, as the two men seated themselves before the crackling fire.

“Cognac?” Erik inquired.  At the younger man’s assent he rose and filled two balloon glasses from a heavy crystal decanter on the mahogany sideboard.  “One must observe the social niceties, must one not?” he inquired at Christine’s startled expression and handed the glass to the Vicomte. 

Raoul sipped the fine liquor in appreciation.  “This is excellent,” he said politely.

Christine rose.  “I’ll see to dinner,” she said and walked from the room, unaware of both men following her graceful exit with their eyes.

Raoul turned back to the silent, enigmatic man in the other seat.  Oddly, the more he saw the masked face here in this pleasant room, the less it disturbed him.  The man across from him was not ill-formed at all; in fact his height and the breadth of his shoulders were quite impressive.  He wore a well-tailored suit of unrelieved black, made of a fine soft wool, with a stiff white formal wing-tip shirt and tie, a black brocade waistcoat, and polished leather boots.  The dark eyes that regarded him steadily were filled with intelligence, wariness, and most surprisingly, humor.  Defying fashion, his dark hair was brushed smoothly straight back from his high forehead.  He radiated an almost tangible aura of power and control.

Leaning backward into the comfortable chair, Raoul smiled slightly and made an overture at conversation.  “You know, this isn’t easy for me, either.  I’ve loved her since we met as children, and I admit I’m still disappointed she chose you instead, but I think it would be best for Christine if we put our differences aside.”  He waited, watching the other man for a response.

Erik stirred, raising his visible eyebrow.  “Agreed, M. de Chagny,” he said, his deep, powerful voice quiet.  “I would not have her made unhappy.”

They studied each other in silence, sipping their drinks, volumes unsaid between them.  “You love her, just as I do,” Raoul said softly, finally.

“Yes.  She is my world, my life,” Erik said simply.  He turned away to stare in to the fire, uncomfortable with this scrutiny.

“Will you marry her?  You have given her a ring.”

Erik rose abruptly, a swift, powerful move and Raoul tensed, though the other man did not see his reaction.  Erik paced, setting his cognac snifter down with a deliberate care that spoke volumes about his internal control.  “How can you ask me that?  I would have married her long ago, only…”

“Only what?” he inquired reasonably, settling back again into the comfortable chair.

“Need you ask?  How can I?  My…appearance, my history; what priest would marry us?”  He walked to the grand piano, touching its cool surface to calm his agitation.

Raoul paused, thinking.  “I see,” he said slowly.

“Gentlemen?” Christine’s voice came clearly to them from the doorway.  Erik turned instantly, his face softening.  Christine came toward him and took his arm, smiling up into his brooding face.  “Shall we eat?”

Raoul followed them down the hallway and into a dining room that would not have looked out of place in any of Paris’ finest houses.  Candlelight gleamed off of fine china and crystal.  Christine had prepared an excellent meal for them, though he noted Erik only sat and sipped his wine, not eating, listening to their conversation.

Christine had just served them coffee in tiny gold rimmed cups when Raoul looked over at Erik.  “I think I may have a solution to one of your problems.”

Erik steepled his fingers, watching the younger man warily.  “Oh?  And what is that?”

He turned to Christine.  “Did you ever meet Father Lavigne while you were visiting my home a few months ago?”

Frowning, she tried to remember.  “I don’t think so, Raoul.  At least, I don’t remember meeting a priest.”

“Father Lavigne is our family’s priest.  He lives out in the country with us, and would never have heard of any of the …events here last fall.  I am certain, if you could come out to my home in Beauvais, that he would marry you without reservation.”  Raoul looked over at Erik and said quietly, “Father Lavigne once had a younger brother, one who had been badly burned in a fire as a youth.  Father tended Jean until he died a few years ago.  I do not think you would have cause to worry about your…appearance with him.”

Christine drew in her breath, high color on her cheeks, her eyes hopeful.  She reached for Erik’s fingers, squeezing them tightly.  “Erik,” she breathed, “do you think it is possible?”

“I don’t know,” he said guardedly, turning over the ramifications in his mind.  “There are many things to consider.  When will Aida finish its run?  What documentation must we provide?  How would we travel there and back again?”

“The latter question is simple.  You would travel in my carriage.  I can ask Father Lavigne about the necessary documents,” Raoul said earnestly.  “Monsieur Erik, I know this can be done.  Will you allow me to help you?  For Christine’s sake?  She has no family, and I at least knew her father.  All I ask is that you let me attend the wedding,” he added with a smile.

“I don’t see how we could stop you, seeing as it may be at your estate,” Erik said dryly, “but unless Christine has any objections, you would be welcome.”

“Whom else shall we invite?” Christine asked, her eyes shining with hope.

“Perhaps Mme. Giry, and little Meg, of course,” he mused.  “I have no family, and no one else I would care to ask.  Christine?”

She shook her head.  “Everyone I care about is here, in this room, except for Meg and Madame.”  Reaching across the table, she clasped Raoul’s hand.  “Oh, do you think it could be?”

“I will do my best to arrange it.  There should be no problem,” he said reassuringly.


They talked in a desultory fashion for several more minutes, then Raoul spoke.  “M. Erik, if I may ask, the furnishing and artworks in this house, are they yours or….?”

“Did I pilfer them from the Opera?” he supplied, a slight edge to his voice.  “No, M. de Chagny, they are mine, purchased legally and brought here a piece at a time.  People do not tend to notice ‘props’ being moved about in a theater.”

Erik leaned back into the shadows, angling his long body across the chair and pushing his wineglass negligently aside.  “Would it surprise you to learn I was once an architect, as well as a composer?  I worked with M. Charles Garnier to design this building and actively participated in its construction.  If what you are asking is am I able to care for Christine, the answer is yes.  I have….sufficient wealth,” he said evenly.

Raoul lowered his yes at the thinly veiled menace in the older man’s tone, seeing a distressed Christine place a soothing hand on Erik’s clenched fist.  For a few minutes in the midst of this mundane setting, he had forgotten whom he was dealing with—a man who had murdered, who had planned and schemed to build and hide this secret lair with its deadly traps and labyrinthine tunnels.  Once again, he mentally questioned the wisdom of treating this brilliant albeit twisted man in any ordinary fashion, of allowing his actions to continue unabated in this dark world below the Opera.  Raoul stared darkly into the bitter dregs of his coffee.

Christine stood, breaking the sudden silence, and silently began collecting a stack of used dishes and utensils.  Somewhat to Raoul’s surprise, Erik rose immediately to assist her.  The two of them worked together, seamlessly blending their motions in an unspoken harmony of actions as they carried dishes back to the kitchen. 

Christine turned to her dark angel in the kitchen, hesitantly sliding her hands around his waist and placing her head on his shoulder.  Stiffly, Erik put his arms around her, pulling her close, and laying his cheek alongside her soft hair.

“I do so dislike meeting people,” he whispered.  “They are so judgmental.”

In his wire-tense body she felt the rigid control and the bitter anger that life had consigned him to this underground fate, had given him a countenance that in no way represented the brilliant, passionate, creative man inside, a man who longed to be accepted.  Saddened, she held him more tightly in her arms, wordlessly reassuring him to her, he was all that mattered.  Erik stared bleakly across the room, knowing for Christine’s sake he must still endure the remainder of this falsely social evening.

With the table cleared, he led the way back to the pleasant music room and once again seated himself in his deep armchair.  Raoul had taken the other armchair and Christine came to stand behind Erik, leaning over his chair and placing a gentle kiss on the top of her fiancé’s dark hair.  Erik reached up, covering her small square hand with his own.  Raoul watched his face soften.  For a moment his eyes were unguarded, gentle and filled with love as he turned to tenderly place a kiss in Christine’s palm.

And therein lay the difference, Raoul realized.  Her love and acceptance had brought a measure of peace to this tormented soul.  Somehow, he had not truly realized the depth of feeling Erik had for this young singer.  Perhaps after all, she would be safe and cherished here.

Frowning slightly, he looked over at Erik, who was watching Christine now standing before the fire and holding her hands to the blaze.  Momentarily, longing was plainly visible in his dark eyes, then his face resumed its normal impassive expression as he turned to the Vicomte.

“Have you any other questions, Monsieur?” Erik asked quietly.  “Otherwise, Christine has informed me she would like to conclude this evening with some music.  She says you have a rather pleasant voice?”  There was a faint challenge in his tone.

Raoul gave Christine an annoyed look and she grinned impishly back.  “I am nowhere near to her ability, but I’m not hopelessly tone-deaf, either.”   He looked directly at Erik.  “I do still have questions, Monsieur, but they involve to what extent I might yet assist the two of you, and I’m not ready to discuss them yet.  And yes, I’m willing to sing with you.”

Christine came to stand by the battered black piano, placing one hand on it expectantly.  Erik seated himself at the instrument, flexing his long fingers.  “What do you wish to sing, my dear?”

“Nothing too strenuous, please!” she said smiling.

“Of course not,” Erik said mildly.  “You must not strain your voice after this evening’s performance.”  He brought his hands down on the keyboard and played the introduction to a short, sweet song that Christine sang as a warm-up.

Eyes sparkling, Christine then requested a wide variety of ballads and comic songs from several popular operettas, and Erik obliged her with a look of dry amusement.  Standing on the other side of the piano, Raoul joined in, blending his pleasant baritone with hers.  Breathless with laughter, he begged after a half hour to stop.

“Erik?  Would you sing with me?”  Christine asked him shyly.  To Raoul she added simply, “He has a truly magnificent voice, and I’m the only one who ever hears it.”  Raoul nodded and turned to the silent man at the piano.

Erik sat, thinking, then his powerful hands began the opening chords to one of Handel’s duets.  Christine took the first stanza, her heavenly voice filling the library room.  At the second verse, Erik’s deep voice joined with hers, the two of them perfectly matched in tone and timbre.  Raoul stood silently, marveling.  At only a few points in the evening had Erik needed to glance at any written score.  He only rarely looked at the keyboard, his large agile hands spanning the octaves as easily and as gracefully as swallows.  Erik sat now, effortlessly playing what must surely be a difficult piece, his eyes locked on Christine, and hers on his as they sang the passionate duet from La Traviata.  His voice had an incredible range, with an unrivalled depth and richness.  Raoul understood now what Christine had meant when she had attempted to describe her “Angel of Music”, and how she had fallen in love first with the sound of his voice.


Riding home in his carriage across the quiet city a little later that night, Raoul de Chagny was forced to rethink several of his long-cherished misconceptions.  Erik and Christine had a deep, trusting, loving relationship.  The man himself, in spite of his demonic appearance, was an incredibly talented musician, had been a successful architect, and was an amateur scientist.  Had it not been for the terrible deformity of his face, he might have been one of the preeminent minds of Europe.  Raoul sadly shook his head.  There must be some way to arrange for Erik another chance at a normal life, for Christine’s sake, and for his own.




Someone longs for you and your caress
He's learning now how empty arms can be
Someone who used to know your kiss not long ago
That someone happens to be me

How he misses you and must confess
Without you he's like driftwood on the sea
He's just a dreamer who is still in love with you
That dreamer happens to be me

I'll never know just why we parted
It's more than I can comprehend
I only know when you departed
You started a night that has no end

Perhaps there'll come a time when you're alone
Your heart still haunted by a memory
If then you chance to find there's someone on your mind
I hope it happens to be me

I Hope It Happens To Be Me
Written by S. Gallop, A. Kent—sorry—I can’t find the date

From the Nat King Cole album, Ballads of the Day

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 6 of 10

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