Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 8 of 10

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Second Chances

The next week passed in a period of calm domesticity.  Each night, Erik and Christine loved each other with increasing confidence and ardor.   To awaken beside his wife, to watch her sweet face as she slept by his side, to see the love light in her eyes as she turned to him each morning brought Erik a transcendent joy and gradual peace as their love grew deeper, rooting in mutual trust and affection.  Christine was gently insistent he not wear the mask inside their home.  Though at first he was apprehensive and uncomfortable with this request, there was never anything but acceptance and love in her eyes when she beheld his unmasked visage, and Erik reveled in this newfound freedom.

They risked going out in the evenings several times, with Erik wearing his wide brimmed hat angled to conceal his face.  Arm in arm they walked through the Bois under the trees, along the gardens, and by the river paths.  On occasion they would hail a carriage and ride through the city.  When evening came they sat before the fire, reading and talking, playing chess, and singing together.  Slowly their lives settled in a routine.

One day Erik found his clothing and personal items missing from the organ room.  Cautious investigation while Christine was at rehearsal found them in the formerly empty mahogany wardrobe of the Louis-Philippe room, and arranged on the little table on ‘his’ side of the bed.  Satisfied she had not overlooked anything, Erik shut forever the organ room door.  That evening Christine’s eyes dared him to comment on her trespass, and he merely chose to kiss the top of her head.  Never again did he ask permission to stay the night in her arms.


Christine had informed the management of the Opera that she had married, but other than that, said very little about her change in status.  Adele Giry and Meg took it upon themselves to quell the various rumors about her invisible husband.  Meg happily provided corroboration in the form of descriptions of the wedding scene at the de Chagny estate, detailing Christine’s lovely dress and her husband’s gray suit, the cake, gifts, and reception.  They had kept the wedding intimate, for Christine wanted no publicity.  Mme. Giry said only Christine’s husband had met her at the Opera, which was certainly true enough, and that she had been seeing him for some time.  When pressed, she admitted he was a composer and an architect, that they had come together through their mutual interest in music.  Eventually, the speculation died down and was no longer a nine day’s wonder.  Christine continued to perform or appear in the few remaining events in the Opera’s spring season.  Meg had casually mentioned the couple would be taking their honeymoon later on.  As the singer was obviously happy, and wore a wedding band, people slowly accepted her story, at least on the surface.


Erik did not greet her at the door, as was his custom, one day after rehearsal.  Christine found her husband hunched over the wide library table used as a desk in his study, putting the finishing touches on a drawing of a façade meant for a restaurant.  For once, he was wearing only his faultlessly white starched shirt, its sleeves neatly rolled up, the waist coat and jacket lying on the floor where he had cast them off. 

 “Mood Indigo Café?” she read over his shoulder.  He darted her a quick glance, his skilled hands writing assuredly over the drawing.  Christine dropped a kiss between his shoulder blades and stepped over to the bench where an unfamiliar black leather case lay open.  At his nod, she carefully removed the sheets of wide paper from within.  Architectural drawings and drafts came to view.  Theatres, concert halls, galleries, tombs, homes, a bridge, random pediments and facades, support structures, and several intricate line drawings with suggested scales and measurements met her sight.  Amazed, Christine leafed through them, feeling the intensity of his burning gaze.

“Erik,” she said slowly, “even I can see these are wonderful.  When did you do them?”

He relaxed slightly at her praise, then caught her hand and drew her back into the circle of his arms.  “Christine,” he said intensely, “lately I have had some old dreams awaken.  With you by my side, I believe I might be able to pursue them.  I would like to practice my architecture again.  These drawings,” he indicated the pile spread on the bench,” are some from many years ago.  Occasionally, when I had tired of music, I would design fantastic buildings, even though I knew no one would ever see them.  I would like to do a theatre, someday.  I’ve lived so long here; I think I could plan a good one indeed.”

“Oh, Erik,” Christine said, eyes glowing, “that would be marvelous.  But how?”

“I do not know,” Erik said, frustrated, raking a hand through his dark hair.  “I would have to start again with an established architect, oversee construction, order materials, make site visits.  I don’t see how I can.  Too much time has passed since last I was out in the world.”  He turned away from her, his expression bitter.  “Christine, I do not wish to delude myself with fantasies.  Even as a younger man working here on the Opera, it was….very difficult for me.  I learned quite a lot from M. Garnier, and I am certain he would remember me, but he would also remember the problems I caused, with my cursed appearance.”

Hating the resignation in his tone, Christine slid her arms around his tense body, holding him close.  Slowly, Erik’s right arm moved around her shoulders and he hid his face in her hair, stroking her back.  “You are the only light in my world,” he whispered bleakly.  I will never be free of this darkness.



In his flat in the Rue de Rivoli, Nadir Khan shivered irritably in the raw spring weather as the evening fell.  The weeks he had spent in the southern Mediterranean had not been long enough to avoid a return to a Paris still damp.  He would never get used to this wretched climate.  Nadir glanced at the stack of unread mail that had accumulated in his absence and ignored it in favor of a newspaper plucked randomly from the pile.  He skimmed the information, then out of habit more than anything else, read the Arts section.  A name leapt out at him and he slowly re-read the article.

 “Opera Populaire….successful debut of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida…first performed in Egypt….Christine Daaé—Sacerdotessa.”

Christine Daaé—back at the Opera.  He sat heavily in the parlor chair.  Merciful Allah.  He dared not think what might have occurred in his absence.  After a few minutes reflection, Nadir Khan gathered his wool astrakhan coat and sent his manservant to hail a cab for the Opera.


In the library music room, Erik looked up as one of his alarm bells began to ring, this particular tone indicating someone was attempting to circumambulate the lake.  Christine put down her novel and stared at him, startled, and he patted her shoulder.  Erik rose and left the room, returning a minute later clothed in the Opera Ghost’s cloak, hat, and mask, his face oddly calm.  “I will go see who it is.  Stay here.  Don’t be alarmed,” he told her reassuringly, but Christine noticed he locked the door behind him.


Nadir crept slowly along the edges of the lake with growing discomfort.  This dank, chill cavern and his growing sense of watchful darkness unnerved him.  For more than twenty years he had served as Erik’s tenuous connection to the world outside the Paris Opera, a slender tether to humanity.  Dourly, he avoided the narrow ledge of rock that jutted out and appeared to provide a shorter route across the southern edge of the lake, knowing it to be too fragile to bear his weight.  Erik usually showed up somewhere along this route, stepping from the shadows to challenge his access, or often as a cold and bony hand on his shoulder, assisting him into the lake.  Warily, Nadir looked into the gloom, wondering if this time a certain lasso might tighten around his neck or shoulders, as was threatened the last time, but all was still.


It was, of course, the ever-interfering Nadir Khan.  Erik smiled grimly to himself, melting into the shadows of a vertical crevasse. Had the man not saved his own life at great personal cost, the Daroga might have found his incessant curiosity to have been his downfall years ago.  Erik turned and climbed like a giant black spider along the channel carved by a long ago river, moving swiftly ahead of this uninvited guest.  He pulled the hat down low, concealing the porcelain white mask, his long cape flowing behind him in a sibilant whisper through the air, and returned to his home.


Nadir found himself sweating as he approached the regular entrance to the underground house.  It was very unlike Erik to have not put in an appearance by now.  It was, of course, possible he was out, but with Christine Daaé back at the Opera, Nadir did not dare think of what mayhem was probable.

That Erik had even fallen to the allure of the lovely singer had been, in itself, surprising.  The Erik Nadir knew was a man obsessed by secrecy and solitude, who nourished a deep hatred of humanity that bordered on phobia.  When Christine had finally left him last fall, Erik had alternated between destructive black rages and periods of depression so profound he neither ate nor slept for days at a time.  Throughout the whole ordeal, Erik had never been angry with the young woman, but had turned his rage and disappointment against himself in a self-immolating hatred.  Nadir had stayed with him for days and had checked on him for days after, fearing Erik might take his self-destruction to an extreme and do everyone a mischief in an effort not to feel the pain of her loss any more.


Erik swept in to the foyer, removing hat and cloak, and sought Christine.  She had not moved from her seat by the fire, trusting him to return to her.  Erik gently touched her hair and pale cheek as he walked by, no longer shy with his caresses of deep affection, and she looked at him questioningly.  He dropped into his favorite armchair, draping his arm negligently across the back of it, a long, lean elegant figure.

“Christine, my love, we are about to have our first visitor.  He is a man I have known for a very long time, since Persia, in fact.  He has appointed himself my conscience, and periodically checks up on me and my actions.  I think you will recognize him, though I doubt you have been formally introduced.  His name is Nadir Khan.  Once he was the Daroga, the Chief of Police at Mazanderan, in Persia, when we were both in the service of the Shah.”

Christine nodded, absorbing this bit of news.  There was a tone of dry amusement in Erik’s voice and her eyes began to dance.  “Shall I go make tea and be the good wife and hostess?” she asked him impishly.

Erik smiled slightly.  “Oh, yes,” he said softly, eyes gleaming behind the mask.  “It is time I surprised him.”


Nadir marched up to the limestone slab, indistinguishable from its surroundings and pressed the top right stone.  As always, it slid smoothly in, releasing the catch that held the masonry in place.  Erik opened the door smoothly before Nadir could knock.  “Welcome, Daroga,” he murmured and stepped aside.  “Might I take your overcoat?”

Once in the warm foyer Nadir turned to look at his old enemy.  Erik was altered in some subtle way he could not name.  He wore a brocade waistcoat with color in it, a brilliant crimson and gold thread worked on a black background, with a soft white shirt below it.  Erik appeared to have put on a touch of weight, losing his skeletal thinness, and had lost also the unhealthy sallow look to his skin.

“My dear Daroga, would you like to come into my library?  That is, if you have completed your examination of my person?”

Eyes narrowed, Nadir studied him; even his demeanor was more relaxed.  For Erik, this was positively ebullient.  “Certainly, Erik, then you may tell me what you are up to.”

“I assure you, Nadir, I am not ‘up to’ anything,” Erik’s deep voice said mildly behind him as they made their way down the paneled hallway and into the library music room.

A welcoming fire crackled on the hearth, though the rooms of the lair were always warm enough.  Nadir’s eyes were riveted on the lissome young woman who rose as he entered.  It could be none other than Christine, wearing a deep blue dress with a subtle stripe in it that matched her luminous eyes.  Dark brown loose curls were pulled back with combs on the sides of her oval face.  Christine Daaé.

Erik walked to her side and took her hand, bringing her forward.  Christine studied Nadir’s dark, mustached face and slightly Asiatic features.  “But of course!” she said suddenly.  “I have seen you around the Opera for some years now.  You are the man they call the ‘Persian’.”  She gave him a welcoming smile and held out her hand.  “I am pleased to meet you at last.”

Nadir raised her extended hand to his lips, brushing a social kiss across her alabaster fingers.  Erik raised his visible eyebrow as she withdrew her hand, smiling.  “Christine, this is Nadir Khan, the former head of the Shah’s most feared police force.  Nadir, may I present Christine de Becque, my wife,” he said softly, savoring the words.

Christine blushed and took his hand, looking lovingly up into his masked face.  Nadir visibly started, staring at them both.  “Your wife?  Erik, when did this happen?  How did this happen?”  He removed his dark red jacket and draped it across one of the tapestry armchairs, standing beside it. 

Erik released Christine’s hand and walked to the mantle clock, saying dryly.  “I regret I could not invite you to the ceremony, Nadir.  You were somewhere in the south of Europe at the time.  In answer to your question, it has been exactly eight days ago.”

Astounded, Nadir Khan looked over at Christine.  “Mlle. Christine, is this so?”

She moved to stand beside her husband who then put an arm around her waist.  “Oh, yes, M. Khan.  Erik and I are indeed married,” she confirmed, her musical voice soft.  “We were wed at the de Chagny estate last week.”  Nadir noted the sparkling gold and sapphire ring on her finger, and the matching heavy gold band on Erik’s left hand.  She smiled at him again, one corner of her mouth deepening into a dimple.  “Would you care for tea, Monsieur?”   At his dazed nod, she further inquired, “Do you drink that awful Russian stuff of Erik’s, or would you prefer something different?”

“Russian will be fine, Mme. de Becque,” he faltered.

“Please call me Christine,” she said, bemused, leaving the room.  “Erik, I think your friend could use something stronger than tea to drink.” 

Erik threw back his head and laughed, causing Nadir to look at him in astonishment.  “Admit it, Nadir, I have finally surprised you.”  He looked delighted as a small boy. 

Nadir Khan settled back into the chair, accepting the cognac his old nemesis offered.  “Very much so, my friend,” he admitted, shaking his head and stretching his legs to the fire.  “So tell me, please, how this came to be.”

Erik dropped lithely into his own chair and simply related the events of the last few months.  “She returned to me, Nadir,” he finished softly, “willingly, with her eyes and heart open, she came back to me.  And she married me.  Me.  I would never, never have thought this possible.’  He shook his head in awed wonderment.

Nadir swirled the amber liquor around in the glass, thoughtfully studying the man opposite.  “What will you do now, Erik?  You have your heart’s desire, but somehow, I cannot see you being content with that.  The two of you will have many years together; will you live them out in these rooms under the Opera?” he asked shrewdly.

Restlessly, Erik stood before the fire, hands behind his back.  “I have given matters a great deal of thought, in recent days.  I cannot ask her to remain here in this underground world.  The damp and cold of the passages are not healthy; she may take a chill, and it is not good for her voice.  Yet, where else can we go?  I can afford to purchase us whatever home and gardens she might prefer, but how will we find it?  Even as my wife she cannot sign the contracts; therefore I must go with her.  I do not know how to proceed.”  He shook his head, visibly frustrated.

Nadir set down the fragile crystal glass carefully on the low table.  “You are certain you have sufficient funds for the purchase of property, Erik?”

“Yes, yes,” he said impatiently, waving a dismissive hand in the Persian’s direction.  “I still have most of the…compensation…from the Shah, and of course, my ‘salary’ from the Opera.  We would live very simply; it is not as if we would be giving lavish parties for the elite society of Paris,” he said derisively.

Christine entered the room, carefully depositing a brass-handled tray on the polished low table.  Nadir’s jade green eyes followed her graceful movements approvingly and he felt Erik’s sardonic gaze.  She drew up a tufted footstool beside Erik’s chair and proceeded to pour the steaming tea into delicate porcelain cups. 

“Thank you, my dear,” Erik murmured, stooping to add a twist of lemon rind to his cup.  Christine sipped at her tea, made a face and added sugar, stirring vigorously.

“I don’t know how you drink this,” she said wryly. 

Holding the cup steepled between his elegant hands, Erik looked fondly down at where his lovely wife sat.  “Nadir and I were just discussing the future, my love.  Have you any thoughts on the subject?”

She leaned her curly head against his knee, thinking.  Nadir watched them, absurdly pleased with their demonstrated affection for each other.  Most Frenchmen would never have thought to ask their wife’s opinion on any subject, nor would it have occurred to an Easterner.

“I would love to have a real house, and gardens, somewhere here in Paris,” Christine said slowly, choosing her words carefully.  “Surely in one of the arrondissements there must be a maison individuelle with a bit of land, perhaps even walled gardens, where we could have our privacy, where my husband could walk in the sun without fear.  We do not need anywhere large, and we would not want servants.  It would need to be somewhat close to the Opera.”  She shrugged.  “I do not know; I have never thought of a home before now.  Papa and I, then I alone, have always lived in rented rooms or flats.”

Erik dropped a hand to her head, caressing her soft hair gently as she spoke, his eyes sad.  “I am sorry, my love.”

She turned, covering his hand with her own.  “Don’t be, Erik.  I accepted this when you asked me to marry you, but I cannot help wishing we could be more free.”

Nadir cleared his throat uncomfortably, not wishing to intrude.  “I can, perhaps, solve part of your dilemma, Erik.  If you would grant me leave to do so, Darius and I could search for you a home.  We could take Mlle. Christine with us to approve any we find suitable,” he offered hesitantly.

Christine turned to her husband, eyes alight with hope.  “Erik?”

He looked down at her, a long wordless communication.  At last he said quietly, “I do not know.  I have lived here many years, since the Opera was constructed.  To begin again….”  Erik stared into the fire, his fist clenched. 

Nadir leaned back, touching his fingertips together.  “Yes, that is the central issue, Erik.  It is not so much whether or not a suitable house can be found, but whether you will be willing to rejoin the world of men.”

Christine stiffened in outrage and felt Erik’s hand tighten briefly on her shoulder.  “Nadir, I am not certain the world will want me to rejoin it,” he snarled.  “I did not abandon the world of men, it abandoned me.”

“Perhaps.  But you must not think only of yourself, Erik.  There is your wife to consider as well,” Nadir said quietly.

“For Christine I would do anything.  Yet to go back out into the world, into society….”

The young singer laid her small hand gently over his fist.  The hesitation in her husband’s voice told Christine how deep was his almost tangible fear of public scrutiny, of the horrified stares and mocking jeers that accompanied him on his lonely forays above ground.  Even if they did manage to find a home, Erik would be a virtual prisoner within it, unable and unwilling to leave the grounds.  At least here in the Opera, he had the freedom to traverse its halls, to attend the evening performances hidden within the shadows of Box Five, or to seek the seclusion of his home.  Here he could watch her perform or rehearse, could eavesdrop on conversations, would occasionally speak with Mme. Giry.  Anywhere else, it would only be the two of them.  Could she truly leave her Erik alone for hours at a time, while she went out to the Opera, or to visit friends?  Sadly, Christine rubbed her cheek against his hand.

Erik saw the brief glimpse of unhappiness in Christine’s face before she resolutely lifted her chin.  She shamed him with her courage and her love, her choice to stay below in his world of darkness to spare him the discomfort of the world above.  He looked over at Nadir and said quietly, “Find us a home, my old adversary, then truly you will have your final revenge against me.  For my wife’s sake I will do this, even if it cost me dear.”  Erik swiftly disentangled his fingers from Christine’s and left the room.  They heard the door to his study close behind him.

Christine took two rapid steps after Erik, then stopped, tears filling her eyes.  Nadir too had risen, and now stood uncomfortably watching the lovely pale woman before him.  Slowly, she turned and sat on the piano bench, helplessly touching the closed wooden cover as if it would bring her comfort.  “I don’t know what to do, M. Khan.  I love him so much, and yet so often it is not enough.  I can’t heal him of the wounds of his past, and I don’t know how to help him into the future,” she said, throat aching with the effort to check the unshed tears.

“Please, you must call me Nadir.  ‘Monsieur Khan’ sounds so…inappropriate, somehow.”  He drained the remains of his cognac and looked through the swirled glass at the fire.  “I have known Erik many, many years, Mlle.  I know his mind, but I do not know his heart.  There is not a braver man alive, I think, and with your help he will learn to live in the world again.  Whether you know it or not, you have been good for him; you have restored his humanity.”  Nadir fell silent, watching the crimson, amber, and golden flames.

Behind him, Christine sat quietly at the keyboard, gently touching the neatly ordered stacks of music and notes that habitually lay atop the surface of the fine instrument.  “Monsieur.…Nadir…was it you who put the notice in the paper, the one that said ‘Erik is dead’?”

He nodded tiredly.  “Yes.  And it was I that found a man beaten to death in the streets, his body unclaimed.  We dressed him in the Opera Ghost’s clothing and left him in the lake.  Whoever he was, he received more of a burial that way than he would have otherwise.”  Nadir shook his head.  “Your leaving nearly killed him, Mlle. Christine.  I thought surely he would do himself or another some harm in his frenzy.  But Erik’s faith in you, and his love for you is strong.  He will go out into the world again, should you ask it, and he will survive, because you will be there with him.  I do not think it will be so hard, this time.  So many men have returned from the wars, from the torture chambers of the Commune….damaged….that he will not seem so unusual.  Perhaps if he becomes established again as a composer, or as an architect or an engineer the two of you will have a normal life.” 

Picking up his coat, Nadir Khan surveyed the pale young woman.  “Forgive me for speaking to you so plainly, when we have only just met.  The men of my country do not hide behind soft words.  I believe you have the determination to see this through.  May Allah guide your path, Christine Daaé de Becque.”

She rose gracefully from behind the piano and held her slim hands out to him.  “Thank you, Nadir.  You will look for us a house?”

“I will.”  His mouth twisted slightly, and there was a fleeting expression of regret in his eyes.  “Erik is a….fortunate man, Mademoiselle.  I too have known the love of a woman.  Good day.”

“Good day,” she whispered, staring after him.




You walk past me
I can feel your pain
Time changes everything
One truth always stays the same
You're still you
After all
You're still you

I look up to
Everything you are
In my eyes you do no wrong
And I believe in you
Although you never asked me to
I will remember you
And what life put you through

And in this cruel and lonely world
I found one love
You're still you
After all
You're still you

You’re Still You--2002

Josh Groban

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 8 of 10

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