Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 7 of 10

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Second Chances

“I have just heard from Mamman!”  Meg Giry’s sea-blue eyes were wide with amazement and a trace of envy as she slipped inside the door of Christine’s dressing room.  “Why didn’t you tell me!”

Laughing, the singer rose from her dressing table and hugged her excited little friend.  “I was going to tell you before the performance tonight, but you were busy.”

Meg made a little moue of annoyance.  “Mamman thought we needed to practice the pirouettes in the Spring Dance.  Some of us didn’t, but….”

“She made you all stay anyway,” Christine finished, smiling.  “How well I remember!  I was terrified of your mother at first!” 

Meg grasped her hands, and drew Christine down on the chaise, giggling.  “She can be fierce!  Let me see your ring!”  She seized Christine’s hand and turned it over, lifting her friend’s small square hand into the light.  Gaslight caught in the deep blue stone, striking sparks within.  “Oh,” Meg said shakily, “it’s beautiful.”

Christine smiled and said softly, “Yes.  He said he wanted a stone that matched my eyes.”

“How sweet,” she whispered.  “Christine, I’m so happy for you.  Is there any chance I’ll ever meet him?  I know Mamman has seen your Erik several times, but I never have, except just that one night on the stage….,” she said wistfully.

Christine frowned and turned away.  “I don’t know, Meg,” she replied honestly.  “Erik doesn’t like….he’s very uncomfortable meeting people.”

The dancer frowned slightly.  “Christine, have you ever thought how…awkward… that might be?  I don’t mean to be cruel,” Meg added hastily, “but if no one ever sees him, how will you ever be able to do the normal things that couples do?  I mean, I understand why he doesn’t want to see people but...” she finished miserably, in a muddle.

With a sigh, Christine leaned back against the chaise, frowning.  “Oh, Meg, I can’t give you an answer.  Erik does go out occasionally, and we do go for walks in the evenings quite often, or at least as often as my Opera schedule permits.  I’ll ask him tonight if he wouldn’t mind you joining us for dinner.  In fact,” she added thoughtfully, “Raoul is coming for dinner again quite soon.  That might be a good night for you to join us.  Uneven numbers at the table, and all that, you know.”  She smiled faintly.


Two days later, Meg Giry found herself following Christine through the mirror.

She watched, her eyes growing wider as the mirror seemed to rise slightly and pivot on unseen hinges, propelled only by Christine’s hands.  Christine stepped across the portal and turned to her.

“Meg?” she questioned gently, seeing the trepidation in her friend’s face.  Meg swallowed and followed.  “Hold the mirror a moment, please; I must light the lantern,” Christine requested absently.  A moment later a dim glow emerged from the lamp.  At Christine’s nod Meg released the heavy glass and it swung silently shut, sealing with a barely audible click.  Christine adjusted the visors around the lamp so that it shone forward and looked down into her friend’s face, seeing the nervousness and fear plainly visible.  She held out her hand and gratefully, the little dancer clasped it.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of here,” Christine said softly.  “I’ve come down this path many times alone.  Erik will be waiting for us by the lake.  Are you ready?”

Meg nodded.  “Yes,” she whispered, leaving her hand in Christine’s. 

She is not that much younger than I, thought Christine, and yet, I feel so much older.  Perhaps it is knowing Erik, or perhaps it is everything I have lived through in these last many months.  Strange how I have never noticed until now.

The corridors were musty with unventilated air and their slippers disturbed the dust of the floors.  Meg felt as if they had been walking for hours, though she knew it could only have been a few minutes.  She clenched her jaw at the effort not to jump or shriek at the brush of the occasional cobweb, or the accidental touch of damp chill stone.  They moved past several narrow bends and tight passages, down stairs and across an arch that spanned part of the underground river.  At last the stone floors gave way to natural rock, the foundation of the Opera House.  Emerging into the underground cavern, Meg could smell the cold scent of deep water and could hear the faint slurring of the waves as they rubbed against the rocky shore.  Christine set the lantern into a niche and shut off the light.  She turned, looking out across the lake.

“Erik?” she called softly.


He materialized out the darkness, appearing beside them silently.  Meg started violently then went limp with relief.  Christine turned to him, a barely visible blur in the dim light he now adjusted.  She moved toward him and Meg saw the Opera Ghost lift a gentle hand to lightly caress her cheek, a wealth of tenderness in his gesture.

“Erik, I’ve brought Meg with me, for dinner tonight.”

“So I see,” he returned coolly.  “Mlle. Giry?”

Meg came to stand beside Christine uncertainly.  She had never had an opportunity to observe him closely.  He was a slim powerful man, tall with a corresponding breadth of shoulders and chest, narrow hips, and elegant hands.  Black eyes regarded her curious gaze sardonically and Meg blushed, lowering her eyes.

“If you have seen enough,” his acid whisper cut through the air, “please follow Christine into my boat and sit toward the far end.  I will transport you to the opposite shore.  And Mlle. Giry?”

Meg turned, shivering.

“Not a word about what you will see here tonight.  Am I understood?”  He loomed above her, his black eyes glowing golden in the light of the lantern.

“Erik,” Christine murmured softly.  At once he turned to her, standing in wordless communication with the young singer, then turned back to the little dancer, his black velvet voice somewhat quieter.  “You must tell no one, Mlle. Giry.  The world above this lake wishes me dead, so dead I must remain.”

Swallowing hard, Meg nodded.  “I swear, Monsieur, I will say nothing.”


Raoul de Chagny leaned back against the plush cushions of the carriage, noting that the springs felt as though they needed replacing soon.  He made a mental note to have the coachman attend to that detail and turned his thoughts to the dinner and to the woman he would be seeing this rain-softened evening.

The Vicomte had been angry, quite angry, though he had concealed it well, at seeing that familiar gold and sapphire ring on Christine’s finger.  For several minutes he had gritted his teeth at the rising tide of questions, refusing to interrogate the woman he still loved.  Christine’s eyes had been guileless, honest as she told him of how she had truly thought the Opera Ghost dead.  She had asked for them to meet….

Against his every instinct, Raoul had done so; following Christine down the labyrinthine passages to the underground house of a murderer and madman.  Physically, he knew he was no match for the Opera Ghost, for all he was some years younger.  Raoul had thought he was prepared to do anything except face what had actually happened.  Somehow, through the hours of that evening, he had felt an unwilling trickle of sympathy for his rival. 

For the Opera Ghost had a name—Erik—and had proven to be a man, an incredibly ugly man it was true, but a man none the less.  A man who was widely traveled, an expert in many fields, a man whose eyes betrayed his adoration of Christine Daaé.  And Christine had touched his body and his hands with love in her eyes….

The carriage made its last turn into Paris, and Raoul wearily shook his head.  Over and over those final days of Christine’s visit had played out in his mind; he could think of nothing that could have been done differently.  Christine had started her gradual withdrawal from him long before that newspaper announcing Erik’s death had arrived.  Oddly, she seemed to feel closer to him now, and was far more relaxed in his presence than she had been during those last few days at the family estate in Beauvais.  Unwillingly he had been forced to consider that perhaps Christine had been right.

So upon his return Raoul had sought out Father Lavigne as he had promised.


The priest entered the de Chagny home with a purposeful tread, finding Raoul in the small room he used as a study.

“You asked for me, my son?” he said simply. 

The Vicomte turned from his desk and rose to offer the priest a glass of wine.

“I have a question for you, Father.  It concerns friends of mine, in Paris.”

Father Lavigne seated himself and waited, raising his eyebrows and nodding encouragingly.

Raoul dragged a hand through his hair, thinking how to describe this request.

“I was once engaged to Christine Daaé, Father, you know that.  You also know we decided to call off our engagement; there was another man she wanted, more than she wanted me,” he said painfully.  “It is for Christine and this man that I ask this favor.  They wish to be married, and have no church or priest to go to for the service.  This man, Erik, is…badly scarred, deformed, really.  I know he has not attended mass in many years, though Christine attends regularly.  Can you marry them, Father?”

The black-haired priest smoothed his robes absently, thinking.  “I would need to meet with them, of course.  There are questions I must ask, and I would need to have their names filed properly for the certificate, but I can see no reason right now why I cannot arrange their wedding ceremony.”


Erik poled them across the misty lake and soon the gondola boat reached the opposite shore.  He leapt gracefully out across a seemingly impossible distance of lapping waves and secured the boat against the jetty, then turned to lift Christine to shore.  Meg repressed a shudder when the Opera Ghost wrapped his cold hands around her arms, then effortlessly pulled her up against his warm body, spinning her feet across the water to place her carefully by her friend.  The brush of his cloak against her face tingled, and she could detect faint, enticing odors of sandalwood, soap, and candle smoke in the soft fabric.  His body had been warm, masculine, hard and tight with muscle.  Blushing, Meg found herself regarding his back appraisingly as they walked up the path toward his home. 

Erik stood aside to let the women enter first into the foyer, and Meg stopped and stared in wonder much as had Raoul done some days before.  With a bow he then left Meg and Christine to go meet Raoul at the Rue Scribe entrance, and soon all four were gathered in the underground house.  Raoul greeted the ballerina effusively; glad to have another friendly face around the dining table.  Meg’s sea-blue eyes were wide with amazement and began to sparkle with pleasure at seeing him again.  She sketched him a quick curtsey.

“Monsieur le Vicomte,” she murmured.

He smiled at her, warming her through.  “Raoul, for this evening, please, Mlle., and I will call you Meg.”

Christine watched her old friend meet the little dancer with inward private amusement.  Meg had long been attracted to the tall, sun-bronzed Vicomte, and for tonight at least, she could play matchmaker between the two of them.

“We are ready to eat.  If you’ll follow me?” she smiled.

As before, Erik chose not to eat in front of his guests, and sat back into the shadows, sipping his wine, listening to their merry conversation.  Christine smiled over at him, feeling her heart lift at the sight of his dark eyes lit with enjoyment.  Perhaps their married life might yet bring him the satisfaction of these simple pleasures.

Raoul leaned back, neatly folding his napkin and placing it on the table.  “And now to the reason I’ve come here.  Christine, Erik, I’ve spoken with Father Lavigne, and somewhat explained your situation.  He is very willing to meet with you, and to marry you if possible.”  Raoul smiled at them.

Christine gasped with delight and seized Erik’s hand, squeezing it tightly.  “When and where, Raoul?  Can he come here, or should we go to your home?”

“I would prefer no one else come here,” Erik said quietly.  “My…privacy has been much invaded, as of late.”  For a moment there was silence, and then Christine began to laugh, seeing the wry humor in his face. 

“If that is your wish, we can certainly arrange a trip north,” Raoul said mildly.  “I would be pleased to offer the loan of my carriage and driver for the day.  With your permission, I’ll set up a date in the near future.”  He looked at Christine.  “Just let me know your schedule, and I’ll see what can be done.”

They rose from the table and retired to the music room.  Erik obliged them with melodies of his own composing as Raoul opened and shared the bottle of Armagnac he had brought, and too soon the evening drew to a close.

“I must be going home soon, I promised Mamman I would not come in late,” Meg leaned over to whisper to Christine.

Raoul stood quickly.  “I need to depart as well.  With your permission, I’ll see Mlle. Giry home.”  He smiled down at the dancer, who smiled back up at him. 

Erik raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.  The Vicomte had seemed quite taken with his fiancé’s friend tonight.  The gaslight turned her upswept curls to spun gold and deepened her sea-blue eyes.  He could understand the Vicomte’s attraction, and the two of them would be more comfortable following him up to the ground level with each other to talk to.


After Erik returned from leading them up to the Rue Scribe entrance, he found Christine waiting in the library music room.  She had brought in two cups of tea and was sitting curled in the tapestry chair by the fire, staring dreamily into its flickering depths.

“Pleasant thoughts, my dear?” he asked softly, settling his long body into the heavily carved ebony chair.

Christine looked at him lovingly and blushed.  “I was thinking about what all I needed to do before our wedding, Erik, and how much I’m looking forward to it.”

He templed his fingers thoughtfully.  “There are still many details we must attend to.  We must choose rings; we will have to get you a dress and perhaps a new suit of clothing for me.” 

“A dress isn’t any trouble, Erik,” she said quietly.  “I have the wedding dress you…had me wear, that night.”

He looked across the table at her, deeply surprised.  “You kept it?” he whispered.  “I would have thought…the memories of that night would have been too painful.  I didn’t think you would have wanted that gown.”

She rose from the chair and came to sit beside him on the low stool, looking up into his distressed face.  “No, Erik.  The dress was beautiful.  I knew you had selected it just for me.  It fit perfectly; it was exactly what I would have chosen myself.”

Erik slowly, cautiously lowered his hand to caress her hair, her cheek.  “I am still so sorry about that night, Christine.  I was….half out of my mind with fear of losing you.”

In his eyes she saw the sorrow these memories had caused, and read there also his fear that she might still leave him.  “Oh, Erik,” she whispered, and folded her arms across his knees, then lowered her head to rest upon them, looking into the fire.  “I do love you so much.  Of course I kept the dress.  I kept everything you ever gave me.”

He stroked her silky soft curls.  “My love, I do not know how I would have continued living, had you not come back to me when you did.” 

They sat talking of their plans until late into the night.


Raoul sent the carriage for them early one morning after one of Christine’s last spring concert performance.  They would travel to Beauvais, to meet with Father Lavigne this day.

Wearing the Opera Ghost’s protective, concealing hat and cloak once again, Erik locked the portcullis gate behind him and silently ascended the levels to the Rue Scribe doors.  Waiting in the shadows, he watched for the carriage to arrive.  Christine met him there, coming to stand close beside him.  Erik pulled her to him, enveloping her under the warmth of the cloak.  She rested her head against his shoulder and placed her right palm on his chest, feeling the strained tension in his body and the accelerated beating of his heart.  “My love, it will be all right.  Trust me,” she murmured. 

Erik tightened his arm around her briefly, but made no answer.  A few more minutes passed, then a carriage bearing the Chagny family crest pulled up outside the Opera and a liveried footman stepped down.  Christine laced her fingers through Erik’s and stepped forward. 


The man smiled and touched his forehead.  “Mlle. Daaé.  Monsieur de Chagny sent me.  Are you ready?”

Erik moved quickly toward the carriage, tucking his head to avoid the offensive light of the early morning sun and turned to assist Christine into the dark cool interior.  He ducked into the carriage, then sank gratefully into the concealing interior shadows against the seat and tossed his hat onto the cushions opposite.

They began the hours drive out to Beauvais in order to meet with the priest Raoul had spoken of.  Erik sat beside her in tense silence, alternately watching the fields with their newly-emerged cover of green pass by out the small window, or studying his hands.  Years had passed since he had been this beholden to anyone, since his future had rested in someone else’s control.  Sensing his discomfort, Christine moved across the carriage to sit beside him, reaching for his hand.  Erik’s long cold fingers closed tightly over her own and she squeezed them reassuringly.  For Erik to come out into the revealing light of day, to travel this far from his underground lair, and to subject himself to the eyes of a stranger had taken an act of courage and reflected his faith in her devotion.  She leaned against him, wordlessly trying to offer comfort.

He glanced down at her, feeling the sweet weight of her dark head leaning against his shoulder.  She was his anchor of sanity in this acutely uncomfortable day.  Freeing his fingers, Erik wrapped an arm around his beloved and brushed his lips across her forehead.  For her dear sake today he would act as any man might, preparing for his wedding.


People tended to think a priest would be an ascetic and physically weak man.  First impressions of Father Lavigne quickly changed that.  He was a broad shouldered sturdy man with curling black hair and twinkling blue eyes.  Father Lavigne had been a priest among the poor of Paris until the deaths of his parents forced him back to the area around Beauvais to care for his ailing brother.  It had been thought Jean would not have survived this long, and by the time the badly burned and crippled young man finally gave up the struggle Father Lavigne was too deeply entrenched in the lives of the villagers and of the landed gentry to leave.  It had been partially due to his influence that this tiny region of France had survived the years of turmoil and rebellion, of government change and collapse.  Both peasant and noble owed this quiet holy man much of their present security, for he worked tirelessly to promote the day of God’s kingdom on the Earth.

He spent a great deal of time talking privately to both Erik and Christine, and came away feeling that whatever the sins of his past, this silent man deeply loved his fiancé.  In their faces he could find no fear, anger, or sorrow, only a deep and abiding love and faith.  With pleasure, he assured them that whenever they wished, he would be pleased to perform their wedding ceremony.  Gratefully, Erik had shaken his hand, and Christine had impulsively kissed his cheek, bringing a flood of ruddy color and a sparkle to Father Lavigne’s eyes.


The next two weeks were a whirl of activity for Christine.  She gave up her flat in Paris, moving in with Meg and her mother for the time being.  There were hours of shopping to do, announcements to be ordered, fittings for her trousseau, and of course, the rehearsals and performances of the spring series of concerts.  Christine had quietly informed the management that she would be getting married to a man she had met through the Opera, and that they would delay their honeymoon trip until after the concert season was over.  Messieurs André and Firmin had reluctantly accepted her explanation that the wedding to this unnamed architect and composer would be intimate, kept private due to her public status and recent broken engagement to the Vicomte.

For Erik, these last two weeks were an agony of waiting.  He saw very little of Christine, for Mme. Giry would not hear of her spending any more nights in the underground house before they were wed.  She managed to see him for a few minutes each day, whether for a hastily consumed meal, or through a brief visit in her dressing room.  Forced to spend hours alone again, Erik was painfully reminded of how essential to his life she had become.  The underground house echoed with the silence.  He could not bring himself to remove the small reminders of her presence—an open book, a ribbon, a pair of forgotten slippers—and often touched them as a talisman that she would indeed return to him.  Erik left his underground demesne only of necessity during this time, for in an entirely unprecedented move, Fate had somehow overlooked his presence in these last many weeks.  He feared to draw its attention again, here on the cusp of attaining everything he had ever longed for.

They chose rings, a simple brushed gold band for Christine, one that matched her engagement ring, and a heavier plain brushed gold band for Erik.  The jeweler was familiar with the tall silent masked man, and had only smiled at Christine, expressing his delight in meeting at last the woman for whom so many exquisite gifts had been purchased.

Christine went with her fiancé to the elderly crippled tailor that had for years made Erik’s elegant clothing, and together they selected a fine smooth pearl-gray fabric for a wedding suit of clothes.  After so many years of wearing black, Erik was amused by her delight in this change of color.

At last it seemed their preparations were complete.  On the evening before their departure, Christine firmly told Mme. Giry she would be spending some time in the underground house with her fiancé.  On wings of song she flew down the chill stone corridors to surprise him.

Just inside the underground house she paused, hearing the strained tones of his violin.  Curious as to why he had not heard the alarm bell, Christine walked slowly toward the music room, listening to the piercingly sorrowful amber-dark tones of the stringed instrument. 

Erik stood before the dim fire in the near darkness, letting the music express his tangled thoughts.  He had, in recent months, given way to more emotion, to more pure feeling, than he had in many years.  Control was such an integral part of his being, and to have so far lost that command in his helpless love for Christine was at times overwhelming.  Try as he might, Erik could simply not comprehend that she reciprocated this feeling toward him, that she was willing to bind her life to his.  For so long he had been hated, feared and reviled by all whom met him.  These weeks of bittersweet restraint against the exquisite power of her flesh and the fiery desire he felt had exhausted him.  This vulnerability, this consuming joy would surely destroy him, should he continue to give way to it.

And yet, how could he not? 

Christine stood, concealed in the shadows just beyond the heavy library doors, watching silently.  Erik slowly lowered the violin and replaced it gently in its case.  Would those elegant hands that so carefully touched the golden wood of that fine instrument touch her in the same tender way?  She repressed a shiver of delight in the thinking of it. 

Erik sat slowly down in his chair, facing the fire.  Hesitantly, his hands rose and removed the mask, laying it carefully on the low table.  His hands moved questioningly, touching the twisted, scarred ridges of his terrible face.  How could she express such willingness to tolerate this appalling visage?  How ever would he be able to reveal himself completely to her, to hold her as a normal man would, to offer her physical love?  He felt paralyzed, helpless, impotent, and bent his face into his hands.

Christine stood stunned at this side of Erik she had never seen revealed.  The pain in that dimly lit room was so real she could almost touch it.  She ached to rush to him, to hold him and kiss him, to assure him of her love, for she knew this man, knew his moods and fears as well as she knew her own, and knew that once again he was assailed by terrible self-doubt.

She stepped into the warm dim pool of light, moving toward him, and Erik’s head snapped up, his eyes blazing in furious embarrassment at being caught in this moment of private despair.  Christine walked toward him, a gentle, tender smile on her face. 

“Oh, Christine, why are you here?” he asked harshly, and immediately regretted the words.  He rose, desperately trying to contain the well of emotion that threatened to drown him, and held out a hand in mute apology.

Unable to bear the pain in his eyes, Christine wrapped her arms around her dark angel, cradling him to her.  Erik turned her face away from his unmasked cheek, pressing her head into his shoulder.  “I am sorry I spoke to you so,” he whispered.  “Forgive me, my love.”

She pulled loose from his embrace and looked up into his dark eyes.  “I’m sorry too, Erik, I shouldn’t have startled you.  I had to come see you tonight; I’ve not seen you very often lately and I was missing you so much.”

Erik allowed himself to brush the lightest of kisses across her forehead.  “I have…missed you as well, Christine,” he whispered, not trusting his voice.

She stood gazing up into his terrible face for long seconds before she finally spoke.  “Erik?  When I came in just then, what was wrong?  Were you doubting me, doubting my love?”

He released her and walked to the mantle, staring wearily down into the fire.  “No,” he answered tiredly.  “I am…Christine, I am still willing to release you.  You do not have to go through with this farce tomorrow.”

“This farce?”  She stood quietly, torn between anger and grim amusement.  “Is that what you think this is?  Erik, I love you,” her voice softened.  “You are my heart and my soul.  You are not forcing me to do anything, and I will not tolerate this blatant attempt to drive me away.”  Christine walked across the soft Persian carpet and wrapped her arms around his painfully stiff body.  “Trust me, my love.  Trust in us.  I love you.  I need you.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  If it takes me the rest of my days to make you believe this, to make you believe you deserve to be happy, then so be it.  Give me the chance, Erik.  Don’t thrust me away from you again!”

With an anguished cry, Erik turned and took her into his arms.  His body shuddered against hers, and Christine reached up, kissing his cheeks, his eyes, his lips, stroking his hair.  Years of denial and repressed emotion surged through him, and Erik wept with the release of its force, as Christine rocked her beloved angel in her arms.



And so they were married on a glorious spring morning in the salon of the de Chagny country estate.  Christine walked down the staircase on Raoul’s arm, wearing the dress and the long veil Erik had brought for her so long ago, and carrying a bouquet of dark red roses, so dark a red they seemed black against the ivory silk.  Raoul slowly brought her to the side of the silent man standing at the foot of the stairs.  Erik’s eyes were filled with an incredulous joy, a joy so powerful he thought his heart might very well burst with the intensity of it.  Raoul stopped before him, bowing slightly from the waist, and released Christine’s hand.  She stepped lightly forward and Erik extended his hand to her. 

For a moment he stood, silently absorbing her with his eyes, memorizing every line of her face.  “I love you, Christine,” he whispered, “more than life, I love you.  I never thought this day would truly ever come to pass.”

Christine placed her arm in the crook of his elbow and gazed up into his eyes, a joy that mirrored his own shining there.  The sun streaming through the oriel windows gave a luminous quality to her skin, and the ivory dress seemed to glow.  “Erik, I love you so very much.  Are you ready?” she asked softly.

He tightened his long fingers around her own, and the two of them turned together and entered the salon.

Meg and Adele Giry, Raoul de Chagny, and the priest were the only witnesses as Christine and Erik pledged their vows.  His reverent “I do.  I will always do so.” brought tears to Meg’s eyes, but it was Christine’s sweet, trusting response that caused those tears to slip unheeded down her cheeks.  Raoul offered her his spotless crisp handkerchief and she took it, leaving her small hand in his. The couple exchanged rings, and it seemed an eternity as Erik lifted the gossamer veil to gently, lovingly kiss his bride. 


Though Raoul had offered the smaller house on the grounds of the estate, both Christine and Erik had gently refused, claiming they only wanted to return to their underground home for this, their first night of marriage, and Raoul could hardly deny them.  Meg and Adele Giry were asked to stay the night as guests at the de Chagny estate and would return to Paris tomorrow. 


They entered through the Rue Scribe gate once more, but maneuvered through the hallways until they arrived at Christine’s dressing room and were quickly through the pivoting mirror.  Here the passages were somewhat wider; decreasing the chance that Christine would soil the exquisite ivory silk wedding dress she had worn back from the de Chagny estate in Beauvais.  She looped the train over one lace-covered arm and placed her other hand in Erik’s.  The two walked slowly down the corridors in mutual silence, feeling the magic of their journey enfolding them in an ethereal mist of daydream. 

Erik untied the beloved gondola boat and reverently handed her into it.  Somehow before their departure he had arranged to clean the small craft and line it with rich heavy velvet cushions.  Christine sank onto them, turning to watch her tall husband effortlessly pole them across, singing softly to her of his immense love.

At the other side of the lake, Erik lifted his wife into his powerful arms and carried her gracefully across the jetty and up the path to his, no, their home.  Christine rested her head on his broad chest, enjoying the feel of his heartbeat under her cheek, her heart so full of love and gratitude that this day had finally become possible that there was no room for further thought.  Erik carried her across the threshold into the foyer and gently lowered her feet to the ground.  He stood looking at her, his face awed, and raised her left hand to his lips.  “My wife,” he breathed.

“My husband!” she returned, smiling radiantly.  She leaned forward, kissing his exposed cheek.  Erik’s arms rose and wound themselves around her, pulling her tightly to his chest.  Christine sighed and melted against him, resting trustingly in his embrace.  For several minutes he simply held her, gently rubbing his good cheek against her soft hair.  Finally he said, “Christine, the hour is getting late.  Are you hungry?  You ate so little at the reception.”

Considering, she nodded.  “Yes.  We’d best see what there is to eat.  But first, I need to hang up this dress—I couldn’t bear to muss it.”  She stepped away, turning her back.  “Would you please take care of the buttons?  They’re so tiny and I can’t reach them all.”

For several seconds Erik stood paralyzed, then she felt his long powerful hands descend to her waist and hover there.  With agonizing slowness they traveled up to her neck and lit there, trembling.  Carefully, he unfastened each tiny pearl button, his hands warm on her skin and lacking their usual deftness.  When the last button came undone, he slid his hands under the satin, around her waist and bent to gently kiss the nape of her neck.  Christine gasped with the touch of his lips on her bare skin, then swayed as the first tide of desire swept her.  She turned under his hands, her arms rising to pull his face down to meet her lips.  Erik was visibly trembling, and he met her kiss with an intensity that surprised them both.  His hands explored the warm length of her back, caressing her through the silk chemise, his mouth warm and slow upon hers.  Christine slid her arms up the sides of his body, spreading her fingers across his shoulder blades to hold him to her, almost mindless with joy as she learned the taste of his mouth, and the velvet pressure of his tongue.  Finally Erik broke the contact, burying his face in her hair, his breathing harsh in her ears, his strong arms clasping her to him.

Christine felt the heat of his body, and knew he was struggling to maintain his precarious control.  “I’m sorry,” he grated, “I know you need to eat.  I’ll leave you in peace.”  Erik whirled away, walking rapidly to his room, and shut the door.  She stared after him in dismay.  Surely he doesn’t think he has offended or frightened me? she wondered.  Christine turned and walked slowly to her old room, lost in thought.  It was entirely possible that her beloved husband was afraid; afraid his immense love would somehow frighten her with the intensity of his desire.  She shook her head once, decisively.  They both needed to eat, then she would do what she could to assure Erik his passion was not alone.

Once inside the Louis-Philippe room, Christine quickly slid the lovely wedding dress off and tenderly hung it in her wardrobe, placing the little white satin slippers below it.  She dressed quickly and knelt beside her bed to remove a flat parcel from beneath it.  Package in hand, she walked to Erik’s door and knocked upon it. 


With head in hands, Erik sat on the bench of his ruined pipe organ, mired in self-doubt.  How could he go through with this night?  Christine was so sweet, so willing to let him touch her.  How could he completely reveal himself to her inexperienced gaze?  His body was flayed with the marks of old violence that could only repel her, and he feared to show the depth of his ignorance and ineptitude.  Erik took a deep breath, forcing his heartbeat to slow.  The intense desperation of the desire he felt threatened to completely overtake him at times, yet how could he ask his innocent Christine to submit to his heated black passion?  Overwhelmed by a sudden wave of self-loathing, Erik stood and paced the room, clenching and unclenching his fists.

A knock sounded on the door and Christine’s warm voice called his name.  They were married and he was still closing doors between them.  Grimly, Erik straightened and faced the sound.  “Come in, my dear,” he said quietly.

Christine entered the room bearing a gaily wrapped package and smiling.  “I meant to give this to you earlier, Erik.  It’s a groom gift for you.  Open it, I think you’ll like it,” she said merrily, handing it to him. 

Carefully, as if fearing it might explode, Erik carried the box over to the bench and sat staring at it.  He looked up her, stricken.  “Christine, I do not have a bride gift for you.  I did not think…I didn’t know,” he ended humbly.

Christine sat beside him on the bench and put a loving arm around his waist.  “It’s all right, Erik,” she said softly, laying her head on his shoulder.  “You’ve given me so much these last two years, and I’ve given you so little in return.  I hope I can spend the rest of my life showing you how much I love you.  Please don’t be upset that you don’t have a gift for me.  It truly doesn’t matter.”

Accepting her words, he slid the ribbons aside and lifted the cover.  Nestled in layers of tissue lay a dressing gown of black cashmere wool.  He touched the fabric’s softness reverently, tracing the satin lapels and the corded belt.  Tiny initials in embroidered script decorated the one pocket, their black silk thread blending with the fabric.  Christine clapped her hands.

“You found them!” she crowed, delighted.  “I bought the jacket, but added your monogram myself.  I wasn’t sure you’d see it against the other material.”

Erik touched the gown again.  “Thank you,” he said shakily.  “No one has given me a gift in years, not since I was a small boy.”

Refusing to let this be a sad occasion, Christine stood, pulling him up with her.  “Put it on!” she commanded.  “I can’t wait to see how it looks on you!”  She stepped behind him, helping him remove his formal gray jacket.  Erik unfolded the dressing gown and gravely handed it to Christine, who held it as though assisting an emperor.  “Your robe, my lord,” she intoned solemnly, blue eyes sparkling.  He slid his arms into the luxurious fabric and overlapped the sides.  Christine tied the corded belt with a flourish and stepped back admiringly. 

“You look marvelous.  How does it feel?”

Erik tilted his head to the side, considering.  “Very comfortable and quite warm.  Now, shall we go eat?”  He bent his arm and Christine placed her hand on the crook of his elbow.  The two of them swept out of the room toward the kitchen.


They ate a simple meal together at the polished dining table, and then walked to the library music room.  Erik had grown increasingly quiet throughout the evening, and Christine felt her own nervous flutter tightening inside.  She touched the beloved piano gently.  “Erik?” Christine called softly, “would you sing to me tonight?”

He turned from the newly lit fire and silently seated himself at the piano, unable to think of anything he could play.  Sensing his discomfort, Christine said quietly, “I remember the first time you brought me down here, Erik.  I was so nervous.  There was a song you’d written, the one you called your ‘night music’.  Do you remember?” 

Erik nodded, his heart hammering. 

“Would you play it again for me?”

She sat beside him on the bench as his graceful, elegant hands bore down upon the black and white keys, and he sang for her as he had before, in his unearthly beautiful, deep, expressive voice.


“Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation,

Darkness stirs, and wakes imagination.

Silently the senses abandon their defenses

Helpless to resist the songs I write

For I compose the music of the night.

Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor;

Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender.

Turn your face away from the garish light of day

Turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light

And listen to the music of the night.

Close your eyes and surrender to you darkest dreams!

Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before!

Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar

And you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.

Softly, deftly, music shall caress you.

Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you.

Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind

In this darkness which you know you cannot fight,

The darkness of the music of the night.

Let mind start journey through a strange new world;

Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before.

Let your soul take you where you long to be!

Only then can you belong to me.

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication.

Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation.

Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in

To the power of the music that I write,

The power of the music of the night.

You alone can make my song take flight,

Help me make the music of the night.”


As the last of the chords echoed away Christine sighed and rested her head on his shoulder.  “Erik, I’m tired.  Let’s go to bed,” she whispered.

“Damn it, Christine, do you know what you are asking me?” he said in agony.

“I want you to love me, Erik.  I want to be close to you, to be with you the way a husband and wife are close,’ she said with a trembling voice.

He turned away, averting his head in pain, and opted for the truth, praying she would understand.  “Christine, I’ve traveled Europe and the East.  I can write music.  I’m a good architect and skilled builder.  I’m even a passable electrician and a tolerable poet.  But I have no idea how to love you, and I’m so afraid of hurting you,” he whispered.

Sensing his distress, Christine leaned her cheek against his warm, broad back and twined her arms about his taut waist.  “I don’t know how either, Erik, but you have never hurt me, and I don’t think you would hurt me now.”  She laughed softly.  “We’ll just have to learn together.”

Erik turned and grasped her hands, looking deeply into Christine’s blue eyes.  “My love, are you sure?”

She could only nod in mingled apprehension and shy yearning.  Erik rose soundlessly and gathered her into his arms, holding her close, then lifted her easily, cradling her against his chest.  Christine clasped her hands around his neck as he carried her to the Louis-Philippe bedroom, his adoring eyes never leaving her face.

He lowered her gently to the carpeting inside her bedroom and knelt to stir up the fire.  Christine walked to her dressing table and began to remove the pins that held her long hair in place, dropping them with tiny metallic chimes on the satiny wood of the table.  Erik came to stand behind her chair, and when the last comb and pin was removed, took the silver hairbrush from her hand and began to gently brush out her dark curls.  Christine shivered at the accidental touch of his hands against her face and neck as he smoothed her long hair, then carefully swept it aside to kiss her neck.  Erik’s hands touched her shoulders, her face, her throat with tentative, delicate caresses, leaving a trail of incandescent cool fire across her collarbone and along the delicate bones of her face.  Christine drew a deep breath of anticipation, feeling her skin come alive with a longing she could put no name to.

She stood then, coming willingly toward him across the soft ivory carpet, offering her body to his embrace.  Erik caressed her as through she were as fragile and insubstantial as smoke.  Christine reached up and softly lifted the mask away, placing it gently on the dressing table and stood on tiptoe to touch her lips to his forehead, his scarred cheek, and then his mouth.  His shaking hands began to undo the unfamiliar fastenings of her dress, sliding the sleeves and bodice down her arms, and releasing the ties of her petticoats until she stood before him only in her chemise.  Blushing, Christine stepped gracefully from the pool of garments and raised her own hands to the cord of his dressing gown, untying it and pushing the robe back from his shoulders.  He stood as if frozen, his eyes glittering, black with both fear and desire as she removed his waistcoat and slowly unbuttoned his stiff white shirt, sliding her hands along his ribs and pressing her lips against the pale skin of his bared chest.  Erik’s body surged in response to her caress and he quickly freed his arms from the pinioning fabric.

He twisted, reaching to the candles and rapidly extinguished their wavering golden light, but not before Christine saw the lines of old scars that intersected each other across his broad muscular chest and back.  She stepped closer to him, her hands gently tracing the marks of pain and degradation.  He flinched and her eyes filled with tears. 

“Oh, my love, what happened?”

Erik ground his teeth together, humiliated.  “Many years ago, I was assaulted by men who saw me only as a monster, a freak of nature.  They beat me until I passed out from the pain.  When I awoke I found myself chained inside a cage.  I was forced to perform in front of jeering crowds.  If I refused, they used the whip or a club until I was more….cooperative.”

“Oh, my God, Erik,” she whispered, horrified, “I’m so very sorry.  I never knew.” 

Erik looked away, unable to bear the grief in her face.  “It doesn’t matter now.  It was over a long time ago,” he said almost inaudibly.

But Christine read the truth in his eyes and pressed her body close to his, kissing him once again, deliberately tracing the worst of the wounds with her lips, hoping somehow the love that she felt would bring him absolution and healing.

He felt a swell of emotion so deep for her acceptance of his hateful body that he thought his heart would surely burst.  Erik shut his tear-dampened eyes and dipped his head, trailing his lips up the smooth column of her throat, seeking her warm, responsive mouth.  His daring fingers traced the ribbon inserts that lay across her small breasts and felt her nipples harden in response.  Christine gasped at the unexpected sensation and slid her hands across his firm chest and belly, feeling his muscles clench under her touch.  Erik’s body was so hard everywhere she touched; his back and shoulders, his chest and thighs were tight with lean, hard muscle.  She lowered her hands to the waistband of his trousers and he momentarily froze, then helped her shed them with unsteady hands.  Erik turned her away from him, untying the remaining ribbons of her silk chemise and drawing it down over her ivory shoulders, kissing the bare flesh revealed.  Impatiently, Christine stepped out of her chemise and let it fall, looking up to find he had stripped away the last of his own clothing.  They looked at each other for an endless eternity of seconds, each daunted by the searing passage of the other’s gaze.  Christine stepped toward him shyly, fitting her body against him, learning for the first time the pleasure of another’s warm flesh against her own.  Erik’s arms tightened around her, craving the smooth softness of her ivory skin against his enflamed body, inhaling her scent.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered.  “The feel of you against me….  How can I ever show you what you mean to me?”

In response, she raised her face to his again, tasting the edges of his lips and mouth, kissing him until his arms had gone tight and his breathing ragged.  Finally, Erik pulled away and knelt reverently before her, letting his hands explore her silky skin, caressing her hips and marveling at her rounded, feminine form.  He touched her delicate ankles and the tops of her small arched feet and moved upwards slowly, wrapping his broad hands around her calves, stroking them gently.  Christine braced her hands on his shoulders as waves of pleasure coursed through her sensitive skin.  With his hands on her thighs Erik kissed her flat belly and each hipbone, then savored the delicate weight of her breasts in his warm hands, astonished at her complete surrender to his cautious investigation of her flesh.  She sighed softly, a low sound of urgency that made his head whirl and brought on another pulsing rush of desire.

Christine pushed his hands away and raised Erik to his feet, needing somehow to explore his own body, to learn the feel of his hard muscles under her fingers.  He felt his knees grow weak and nearly buckle when Christine kissed his chest and belly, tasting his skin.  She stood before him, her hands learning the curve of his hard buttocks and the backs of his thighs, then she raised her hands slowly up his hips as she stood again.  Erik moaned faintly as her hands closed over him, nearly stupefied with delirious pleasure as she stroked his satiny flesh.  One hand fell to her soft hair, holding her as she touched him, amazed at the unique combination of tension and softness.  Erik’s stormy eyes told her better than any words that he was nearing the end of his self-imposed control and she reluctantly moved her hands upward, caressing his scarred face.  Erik swept her into his arms and gently laid her down on the bed, lowering himself beside her.  His long elegant hands caressed her body, becoming more sure of himself, listening to her gasps and sighs as he found new sensitive areas.  Christine drew him down to her, kissing him passionately while his hands continued to worship her body, learning, fondling, and arousing her more with every passing second.  She’d had no idea it was possible to feel this intensely.

Erik lowered his mouth to savor the taste of her warm, flushed skin, gently taking her stiffened nipples in his questing mouth and touching his tongue to them carefully.  Christine’s fingers wound in his short soft hair, holding his head to her chest and shivering with desire.  His free hand slid slowly downward and caressed the curve of her womanhood, fingers slowly slipping between her thighs to feel the core of her body.  She gasped and clutched at his shoulders, tensing against him wildly and then gradually relaxing under his cautious touch, as her body began to ache with desire.  Erik felt her grow moist, then sleek.  Christine’s hands tightened on his neck, whispering his name, begging for an end to the need to bear his weight upon her body.

He rose silently over her, and she yielded to him, open and pliant beneath his hands.  Christine’s eyes flew open and she reached up to lovingly touch his face as he paused, still holding back from their ultimate union.

“Are you certain, my love?” he said, looking into her flushed face, needing the final permission.

“I’ve never wanted anything more,” she answered fiercely, pulling his mouth down to her to be kissed, his beautiful, loving voice thrilling her as it always had.

Erik probed cautiously against her warmth.  Below him, Christine tensed, her eyes widening in surprise as unexpected pain replaced desire.  He stopped instantly, alarmed as she froze.  “Oh, God!  What have I done?” he begged. 

She shook her head.  “I knew it would hurt, this first time.  I just didn’t know how much,” she whispered.

He looked horrified and drew a shaking breath.  “I won’t hurt you, Christine.  I will stop if you want me to.”

Christine stared up at him, feeling his body trembling with years of longing and almost overwhelming passion, but also seeing the determination to spare her this pain, even if it meant his denial.  She shook her head again.  “No, Erik.  I want to love you.  Go on.”  She held his hips with her hands and buried her face in his strong shoulder, enduring for his sake as once again he pushed at her virginity.  He withdrew, aided by her heat and moisture, and surged forward, slowly thrusting into her.  Christine whimpered softly against his chest, and he felt tears gather in his eyes at her courage in what to her must be torture, not pleasure.  Erik looked down into her pain creased dear face, feeling sorrow that even in this most intimate moment of joining, his hated body could only cause her pain.  Again he withdrew, and slowly thrust forward, embedding himself deeply within her.  Erik held still, bracing his much greater weight on one elbow to gather her to him tightly, loving her more than he had ever thought possible.  Christine could feel the pounding force of his heartbeat, reflected in a deep internal throbbing as he rested within her, giving her time to relax and accept his abusive body.  She blinked away tears of pain and resolutely raised her face to be kissed.

“Oh Christine, I love you so,” he said softly.  She smiled tremulously up at him, and changed positions slightly, her interior muscles tightening around him.  Erik groaned. Holding back from this apex of pleasure, this tight moist heat and shifting musculature, was almost more than he could control.  “What shall I do, my love?  Do you want me to continue?”

Christine shut her eyes, a single tear trickling down her temple and into her dark hair, knowing he was prepared to forego the culmination of a lifetime’s yearning should she request it.  Yet, despite the deep ache and the sharp sting of torn flesh, she could not ask him to make this sacrifice for her.  All forms of love for Erik came with a price.  “No, my love,” she said softly, “I trust you.  I love you.  Go on.”

Erik gently smoothed her hair and slowly began moving against her, unable to contain his need any longer, his eyes glazing with pleasure.  Grateful that there was no more pain, Christine held her arms around him, hearing the words of love his deep beautiful voice murmured in her ear, then began to feel her own desire rekindle as her sensitized nipples grazed his chest.  She lifted to meet his thrusts, kissing him wildly, calling his name, stroking his back and shoulders, feeling a rising tide of delirious pleasure coursing through her body. 

Erik was lost to the incredible sensation.  How had he ever survived this long without knowing the exquisite love of a woman?  He moved within her, laboring to reach the pinnacle of the mountain they were both climbing, arms around his beloved Christine.  He heard her gasps and felt her tightening around him, and in an electric explosion of sensation, with his heart, body, and mind beyond all reasoning with love, Erik too felt himself spiraling out of control as the shudders overtook him.


They clung together for several moments, coming down from that whirling plane of sensation, then Erik withdrew from her and carefully lowered himself to her side, gathering her against his warm body.  Christine nestled against him, pillowing her head on his shoulder, awed at their intimacy and feeling suddenly shy.  Erik caught her hand in his own and clasped it to his chest.

“I did hurt you, after all,” he mourned, his dark eyes distressed.

Christine freed her hand and placed loving fingertips against his lips.  “I think it’s normal for a woman’s first time.  The next time won’t be so bad.”

He stared at her, amazed and wondering.  “The next time?”

Christine snuggled closer, wrapping an arm around his waist.  “The next time, my love.  Perhaps then I’ll get to wear that gorgeous nightgown Meg and I spent days shopping for.”  She smiled privately, imagining his reaction when he would first see her wearing it.

Erik reached down and drew the covers over them both.  “You mustn’t become chilled,” he murmured, but then hesitated.  “Christine, am I to stay here with you tonight, in your room?”

“Of course,” she answered, puzzled.  “I’ve wanted for so long to wake up lying next to you.  Why do you ask?”

He lay back against the smooth linen sheets, frowning at the ceiling.  “Habit, I suppose.  I do not want to ever take you or your wishes for granted.”

Christine propped herself up on one elbow, dark curls sliding across her bare shoulder and turned his face toward her own.  “Erik,” she said gently, "I’m told that’s one of the blissful things about being married, that you can take the other for granted, somewhat.  You don’t have to worry whether I’ll be there, or if I’ll want you near.  The answer is yes, yes, and always yes.”

Accepting this, he opened his arms to her again, cradling her soft body next to him, unable to believe his fortune.  “I do love you so much,” Erik said quietly.

She curled against him sleepily.  “I know.  And I love you too.”

Erik smiled.  “I know.”  He extinguished the remaining candle and they slept.


Christine awoke first in the morning, somewhat surprised to find her husband still abed.  She lay in the warm comfort of his embrace, feeling his gentle exhalations on her bare shoulder.  Erik’s face was peaceful in sleep; relaxed and unguarded for the first time she could remember.  She raised a hand and lovingly brushed his dark hair back from his eyes.  Carefully, she rolled away from him and lit one of the candles on her bedside table. 

The unmarred side of his face was turned toward her and Christine wondered if he had deliberately chosen to place her on this side of him.  She gently traced the line of an old scar with her fingertip.  He had been hurt so often in the past, and he was no longer young.  Sudden tears threatened to overwhelm her with a fiercely protective need to keep her husband safe from the world.

“What are you thinking?” came his deep worried voice from the pillow beside her.

Christine blinked back tears.  “How much I love you.”

Erik frowned, not understanding.  “And that makes you sad?”  Cautiously, he pulled her close and she wound her arms tightly around his body.  Erik smoothed back her hair and tipped her chin up to meet his eyes.

Wordlessly, Christine held his face in her hands, kissing him softly to allay her fears.  Erik’s hands moved gently over her back, stroking her trembling shoulders.  “It’s silly, I know,” she whispered, “but I’m so frightened of losing you.”

He took her hands and covered them with his own.  “I’m not going anywhere, my love, except perhaps in the kitchen to make us some tea and breakfast,” he said lightly.

“Not for a few more minutes, I hope,” Christine said, snuggling against him, realizing this might be a painful topic.  

Erik tucked the sheet and blanket firmly around her bare shoulders.  “How do you feel this morning?” he asked solicitously. 

She frowned, concentrating inward.  “A little sore, but that’s all.  It truly was worth the pain, Erik.”  Idly, she kissed his lower jaw, her small hand tracing patterns on his chest.

Thinking about their first night together, Erik felt the need growing in him again.  “Christine,” he whispered, uncertain how to ask.

Blushing, her free hand moved over the flat plains of his lower body and thighs under the bedcovers and Erik tensed.  Someday, my love, you will not panic when I touch you, she thought.  Christine rolled on top of him, sitting up, straddling his waist.  Her loosened dark curls spilled down around her shoulders and back and he gazed up at her, desiring her more with each passing minute.

This time, there was no pain.




I’d kiss you, if I dared
I want to, but I’m scared.
I should have known,
I’ve been alone too long.

My lips are much too still
My arms have lost their skill
My charm has flown
I’ve been alone too long.

It’s been years since I have
Whispered a foolish love word
And I’d be afraid I’d
Sing you a faded song.

But if you smile and then
Say “Darling, try again,”
I’ll know you’ve known
I’ve been alone too long.

Alone Too Long
D. Fields and A. Schwartz, 1954

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 7 of 10

<< Previous     Home     Next >>