Continuing Tales

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 9 of 10

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Second Chances

The thin, curly-haired man attired in a camel-colored suit and surrounded by Messieurs André and Firmin walked slowly up the Grand Staircase, gazing about the splendid entrance, and then disappeared through the east doors.  Watching the managers observing every social protocol brought a curve of amusement to Christine’s lips as she turned to her friend. 

“My, my.  Who is he?  Visiting royalty?  I’ve never seen the management look so…so...”

“Toadying?” put in Meg helpfully and Christine laughed.

“No, I was thinking something more polite.  Obsequious, perhaps,” she smiled.  “Who is he?  I’ve not seen him around here before.”

Meg shrugged, not really caring.  “A new patron of the arts, perhaps?”

“He is Sir Charles Garnier, the architect who designed and built the Opera,” came a dry, measured voice behind them, and Meg jumped.

“Mamman!  I did not hear you!”

“Obviously, or you would not have been quite so ill-mannered,” her mother returned, leveling a frown at her sunny daughter.  “Be off with you, Megan Giry, you still have to practice today!  Mme. de Becque,” she nodded politely in Christine’s direction, and continued her dignified progress toward the rehearsal rooms.

Charles Garnier.  Christine looked after the men musingly.  Erik had mentioned a man by that name, an architect he had once worked with.  Odd, she had not realized he still lived in Paris.  Erik had spoken of him as though it had been many years ago.  Frowning thoughtfully, she turned and followed Madame Giry down the marble hallway.


M. Charles Garnier looked up from his desk in the corner study as his manservant approached. 

“There is a lady to see you, sir,” he said calmly.

M. Garnier raised an annoyed brow.  “I am busy, Henri.  I see no one without an appointment,” he said shortly.

The older man nodded.  “I have told her so.  She asked me to give you this note, if you refused to see her.”  He handed the stiff, cream-colored paper to the architect.

Irritably, M. Garnier reached for the note and quickly scanned its few lines.


M. Garnier—

I have come to ask you about an architect you once worked with during the construction of the Opera Populaire.  I am certain you will remember M. Erik de Becque.  It is on his behalf I beg an audience with you.


The note was unsigned.  For a moment M. Garnier paused, assailed by the memories of fifteen years ago, seeing again the shock of the other’s face, and felt a stir of pity in his heart.  At the time, he had not done enough, had not been secure and established enough himself, to have helped the other, slightly younger man.  He looked up at his servant.

“It is a woman to see me, you said?” he asked slowly.  “Have her wait in the parlor, offer her some refreshment.  I will be there shortly.”  He turned back to his monograph.


Christine Daaé de Becque refused the offers of sherry and tea, and Henri bowed out of the small room, leaving her alone on the satin-striped sofa.  She twisted the ivory handle of her parasol tightly in her hands.  Coming here might be a mistake, and if so, with luck Erik would never know of it.  She gazed about the room, seeing the signs of this man’s success, the awards and oddities displayed in the curio cabinet.  A framed copy of his induction into the Institute of France hung in a place of honor, amidst photographs of his now famous buildings on one wall.  Would someone so famous aid them?  Pensively, she shook her head.


A well-dressed young woman rose gracefully to her feet as M. Garnier entered the room.  He studied her face for a minute in puzzled silence.  “Forgive me for staring, Mlle, but you look somehow familiar to me.”

With an answering laugh, the lovely woman gave him her hand, smiling at him with her large blue eyes.  “I am Christine Daaé, M. Garnier.  You have perhaps seen me on the stage at the Opera Populaire.”

“Of course,” he said immediately.  “I was there only weeks ago for a concert.”  He seated her courteously in a carved walnut chair by the low fire and sat himself across from her.  “I admit to confusion, Mlle. Daaé.  When you sent me your note, I assumed you must have known of the…..personage of whom you spoke from the days of the Opera House construction.  Yet you would have been a child then.  How is it you know of this man, and of what did you wish to speak with me?”

She leaned forward, holding him with her intense gaze.  “M. Garnier, what do you remember about M. de Becque?”

He paused, thinking.  “M. de Becque came to me, Mlle. Daaé, in the spring of 1864, or was it ’65?  He sent me a letter, and submitted plans to work on the design of the Opera.  His ideas were inspired, creative, his structural ideas sound.  I wrote him back and said that although the plans had already been long established, I would be happy to accept a man of his obvious skill on the engineering team.  After we….met,” he said simply, “I had many doubts about working with M. de Becque, but I found he was every bit as intelligent and capable as his letters and plans had indicated.  He encouraged me not to give up during the years the Commune took over the Opera House, he refused to accept less than perfection from the workers.  After a time he became my night foreman and construction proceeded smoothly, in spite of the difficulties we had with the pumps and that lake….and the difficulties he had with the other men,” the architect finished quietly.

Shaking the memories from his curly brown head, M. Garnier looked over at the young woman, who sat with tightly clasped hands listening intently.  “But why do you ask, Mlle.?  How is it you know the name of a man who died some seven or eight years ago now?”

Christine took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “M. Garnier,” she said quietly, “Erik de Becque did not die that spring, and he lives yet.  Life had become….unbearable for him, and he retired to live in…exile.  That is where I came to know him, Monsieur.”  She paused, waiting for the other man to assimilate this information.

The architect regarded her skeptically, leaning back into his chair, stroking his mustache.  “Forgive me, Mlle. Daaé, but I find this rather hard to believe.  No man could live so far out of society, but that he could pretend to be dead these many years.”

“This man could,” she replied quietly.  “And you have said yourself, he had cause to.”

“True,” he admitted with a frown, “But I still do not understand what it is you wished to see me about.”

She sighed.  “I have put matters badly to you.  M. Garnier, if M. de Becque had not been….deformed….what might his career as an architect and engineer been like?”

Charles Garnier rose and poured himself a glass of sherry, offering a glass of refreshment to his visitor, who once again refused.  “Mlle. Daaé, there is no doubt in my mind but that M. de Becque would have become one of the preeminent designers of our time.  His mathematics and engineering were of the first water, his designs brilliant.  I was truly sorry to lose him.”  He waited patiently for illumination.  “I am a busy man, Mlle.  Tell me what it is you truly seek here.”

In answer, his visitor reached into the small beaded handbag looped over her arm and removed a set of papers, handing them to the architect in silence.  Puzzled, he turned them over, then unfolded the crackling sheets and read the marriage lines that stated that M. Erik de Becque and Mlle. Christine Daaé had been wed some weeks ago.  Stunned, he looked up at her, folding the sheets and handing them back.  “He lives, then.”

“Oh yes,” she replied softly, replacing the sheets in her bag, “he lives.  Erik is my husband.  He would like, very much I think, to work again as an architect.  He remembers you with admiration, though he does not know I have come to see you.”

She straightened her shoulders, looking at him imploringly.  “M. Garnier, I have come to you for advice.  I do not know how to help my husband, but he spoke of you well.  Do you know of some way he could work again as an architect?  He has continued to sketch ideas and plans these last few years, and you have said yourself he is brilliant. Can you not think of some way to help him?”

The architect turned and walked to the bow window facing the quiet street, hands clasped behind his back, seeing once again gleaming black eyes behind a masked face, eloquent hands sketching the ideas for the pumping apparatus to drain the lake, the mechanisms for using that water as ballast for the stage floor.  “Yes,” he said heavily, “Perhaps I do know a way.  Bring him to me, we will talk.  This is possible, yes?”

The singer rose to her feet.  “I think so,” she said breathlessly.  “Merci tellement, M. Garnier.  I will be in contact with you.”  She offered him her hand and he bowed low over it. 

“Until then, Mme. de Becque.”

He watched her departure down his front walkway and into the cab that stood waiting for her, before making his way slowly back upstairs, deep in thought.  It was entirely possible that he would never have completed the Opera Populaire, due to the misfortunes of warfare, the Commune, and the underground lake but for the brilliant and reclusive man of whom she spoke. Thoughtfully, he extracted a folded letter from the correspondence lying scattered on the desk.  Perhaps he knew of a way he could be of assistance after all.



True to his word, Nadir Khan sent Darius around to the various establishments that concerned themselves with property.  He and Darius spent a pleasant spring day driving by various maisons in a hired coach, looking for the best compromise between convenience and privacy.   Many they rejected immediately, due to their obvious flaws, size, or accessibility.  Others had no gardens, or were too close to the street.  Late in the afternoon, the driver pulled up the horses in front of a long winding driveway between stone pillars and a gate.  Tall trees lined the driveway, and from here the muddy grounds looked bleak with the last traces of soiled snow and fallen leaves.  The house was not visible from the road and Nadir looked at it appraisingly.  That this quiet district was no longer fashionable was of no importance….

 Darius stepped from the carriage and gave the brass bell on the gatepost a sharp tug.  After some minutes, a lanky young man came toward them, walking up to the gate.  Darius folded his arms and leveled an impassive gaze at the agent.

“I say, are you Monsieur Khan?” he asked cheerily.

Darius only shook his head one time, turning to open the carriage door.  Nadir stepped out.

“I am M. Khan.  What can you show us of this house?”

The young man held open the gate and swept off his hat as they walked by.  “Jules Charmin, at your service.  I’m afraid this is a bit of a rum ‘un, sir.  Most people aren’t interested in it.”

He walked toward the house, continuing to talk.  “I’m sorry I wasn’t here, like, to meet you—I was walking about the grounds.  Right nice bit of land, this, but the house is a bit awkward.”

“In what way?” Nadir asked dryly, vaguely amused at this stork-like, earnest young man.  Darius merely looked at him balefully.

“Well, you see, the house is quite sound, structurally speaking, but it’s a bit on the small side.  It was built a while back, say 1840 or so, and lacks the, well, prestige of a modern dwelling.”  He leaned forward confidentially.  “There’s only a few rooms, you see.  It must have been quite the house in its time, though,” he added with a superior air.

M. Jules Charmin led them up the stone stairs and across the veranda where he unlocked the front door.  He stepped through, still chattering, but Nadir Khan stopped in the threshold, not listening, looking around.

“Thank you,” he said dismissively to the agent.  “My servant and I will look around the house.  We will let you know whether or not it is suitable for our friends.”

“Oh, yes!  You said you were acting as an emissary for friends that need a house in a quiet neighborhood.  I’ll just wait out here in the sun, right?”

“Right,” said Nadir.  “Darius?” 


The house was not small, but consisted of a few large rooms on the ground floor—a comfortable parlor, a kitchen, pantry, dining room, a large drawing room with windows that faced south, a smaller room whose purpose was not readily apparent but would do for Erik’s study, and the entry foyer.  Stairs led up to the next floor, out into a wide landing that led to a large main bedroom, a sitting room, and four smaller bedrooms.  There was even an attic with tiny rooms that could once have been servants’ quarters.  Nadir nodded slowly.  Perhaps this would do.

Darius reported back to him that water came into the house through a pump in the kitchen and through taps in the upper level.  He had examined the hearths and chimneys, the wide wooden floors, the foundations, walls, doorways, and other structural components of the house and felt they were all sound.  It should prove simple to run new gas and electrical lines throughout the dwelling.

Thoughtfully, Nadir asked Darius to look over the little structure that stood somewhat separate from the main house.  It appeared to be a stables with overhead quarters from this distance, and with a slight bow, Darius departed.  Nadir turned, slowly examining the house.  Though a man of very little imagination himself, he could easily see Erik and Christine living here.

The agent Jules Charmin sat with legs extended in front of him, arms folded, leaning sleepily against the wall.  Nadir gave him a look of exasperation, and turned to see Darius approaching.  He nodded once in approval.

Nadir prodded the dozing young man.  “We would like to bring one of our friends here tomorrow to look over the property.  Do you think you could manage that?” he asked dryly.

“What?  You think they might be interested?”  Suddenly the young man perked up and endeavored to look more sophisticated and professional.


Erik sat back into the shadows of the deep wing chair, silently listening as Christine spoke.  His hand, which had only a minute ago stroked her hair, fell still.  She felt him withdrawing from her, felt his tension growing.  “Erik?” she questioned softly.

“A house, Christine?  Nadir has certainly been busy with my affairs again.”

“We did discuss this, the night he visited, Erik.  I know you weren’t…happy…with his offer to find us a home, but I didn’t think you were this opposed to it either,” she said quietly.

“I cannot change the habits of a lifetime, Christine.  To live in a house, in the light, with people staring…”

She put her arms around him, holding him close.  “My love, we cannot live here forever,” she said.  “I want you to come with me, to come out of the darkness.”

He held her so gently, as though afraid his powerful arms and hands would do her harm.  “Christine, I cannot.  I tried for so long, to live in the world of men.  Years I endured their lacerating eyes, their pointed comments.  You would have me go back to that existence?”

She rubbed her cheek against his hair.  “No, Erik.  It would be different now; we’d be together.  Nadir says this house is set well apart from the street and from the other houses.  We could have our privacy, our freedom there.  You wouldn’t be stared at.”

“Freedom?” he repeated tonelessly.  ”Is this home here a prison to you?”

“No, of course not, Erik.  I’m here with you willingly.”  Christine took his face in her hands and gently kissed him.  “My love, I’m not trying to hurt you.  I want us to look at this house.  Perhaps it will not be what we need.  I’ll go alone with them this afternoon and see it.  Will you come with me later, to see it as well, if I think it will do for us?”

“Yes,” Erik said quietly, “if that is what you wish.”  He made a movement as if to rise, and Christine slid off his lap.  He held her tightly to his chest, his black eyes gazing sightlessly over her head.  “I have work I must do, cara mia,” he murmured finally, and released her.  Christine stood, feeling chilled, as she watched him cross the room and enter his study.


Erik sat heavily in the tall chair before his desk, thinking.  These past fortnights had been paradise; he was gradually learning to accept her love and devotion and no longer feared she would turn from him in revulsion or fear.  The joy and comfort of spending each night with her, lying close together, her arms around him, had brought him the first peace he had ever truly known.  Even the nightmares of his time spent in Persia and with the traveling fair had ended.  Somehow, Christine recognized that inside him lived an unwanted, abused child and a desperately lonely man.  Erik dragged a hand roughly through his hair and across his face, feeling the twisted ridges of scar tissue under his fingers.  Christine, his wife, was a child of the light, a golden glorious gift he had somehow won.  She had given up so much for him—the Vicomte, friendships, a normal life and home.  Surely he could try one more time for her sake, to live in the world of men, but she truly had no comprehension of what it was she was asking.


Nadir Khan stood still, watching Christine move throughout the house like one in a dream.  She trailed a hand along the wall of the drawing room, imagining shelves along the walls holding Erik’s library and objects d’art.  The grand piano could be placed in front of the windows, where the sun dappled patterns of bare branches on the warm wood of the floor.  The mellow Oriental carpets would go well with these polished wooden floors, their armchairs by the fireplace just so, draperies at the windows….

Here, this room for his study, perhaps a new wallpaper in this room, a soft blue or green, with a matching carpet….

This room, obviously, for their bedroom, and this one for a guest, should they ever have one, and this, this little corner room with the wide window seat, would be perfect for a nursery.  Blushing, Christine resolutely forced her mind back to the present realities, aware of Darius and Nadir watching her with their dark eyes.

“I like it very much, M. Khan,” she said softly.  “Erik can have his privacy here, and there is plenty of room for the two of us.  You said you believe the building is sound?” she asked.

He nodded and turned to the agent, who was watching Christine with a frankly admiring gaze.  “M. Charmin?  M. de Becque will want to see the house as well.  Could you meet us here, say later tomorrow night?”  He looked inquiringly at Christine, who frowned slightly and then nodded.

Jules Charmin leapt to his feet.  “Oh, yes, M. Khan, I can surely do that.  Shall I have the clerk draw up the papers and bring ‘em with me tomorrow as well?”

Christine caught her lower lip between her teeth and then nodded hesitantly.  “Yes,” she said, “do.  Although you realize my husband must still approve the property and the sale.”

The agent smiled condescendingly.  “I know,” he said, “But why don’t you want to look the land over in the daylight?”

“M. de Becque rarely goes out during the daytime, M. Charmin,” Nadir interrupted.  “He is a very busy man.”

“Oh, I see.  In business, is he?” Jules said vaguely.  “Well, it makes no difference to me.”


It was arranged that they meet with Nadir and the house agent the following evening to view the small estate.  Erik waited, haunting the shadows at the side of the carriage ramp along the Rue Scribe.   This busy evening street reminded him painfully that despite the spell of normality Christine wove on their time together alone, he would never dare walk openly in the light.  A minute later, a hired carriage pulled up beside the Opera, and Nadir Khan stepped out, scanning the concealing stone doorways and arches for them and Christine reached for Erik’s cold hand.  “We’re over here, Monsieur Khan.”


The carriage stopped again in front of the stone gate pillars.  Christine sat beside her husband, still holding his hand tightly under a fold of her shirts.  Nadir Khan sat across from them, observing Erik’s unvoiced tension and Christine’s worried eyes as the two sat in near silence on the ride across town.  He opened the door of the carriage and stepped around to speak with the driver.  Erik rose silently to help Christine down from the carriage.  He pulled his wide-brimmed hat into position and folded his arms under the cloak

The agent Jules Charmin came towards them, then stopped, staring with open curiosity at the darkly garbed and impassive man standing beside the lovely woman to whom he had shown the house yesterday.  This masked stranger must be her husband.  Sensing his ill-mannered gaze the tall man turned suddenly in a swift powerful move, and the agent recoiled from the blazing black eyes that met his own.

“Show us this house, Monsieur Charmin,” a deep, resonant voice pulsed toward him, vibrating with a barely concealed anger.

“Yes, yes,” he stammered, “this way, s’il vous plaît.”  He turned and led the way to the gates, unlocking them and stepping through to avoid that rapier glare.

Christine looked up her at husband, feeling his smoldering anger at the younger man’s rudeness.  With a sigh, she put her hand on his arm, standing close to him.  “It doesn’t matter, Erik.  Don’t think of him; let’s look at the house.”

Feeling flayed by the staring eyes of the house agent, Erik looked down at her, seeing her pleading expression, and the love and concern for his comfort mirrored there.  Forcing a faint answering nod, he tucked her small hand in the crook of his elbow and they strode past the gates.

Nadir Khan detained the agent at the road.  “No.  Let them go on ahead, for it is to be their house,” he said.  Jules Charmin swallowed and nodded at the note of command in his voice.


Christine led Erik over the house, pointing out different aspects of the rooms, and he listened to her animated voice with growing amusement as she described her plans for each room.  The house was old and its interior damaged from neglect, but it was structurally sound.  Years as an architect and engineer came to his aid as Erik ran professional hands along walls and ceiling joists, brickwork and stone.  He ascended to the attic and stepped out briefly onto the roof, to the agent’s horror.

“Look here, now, I can’t have you falling off that roof, sir,” Jules called out worriedly.  The lovely woman smiled suddenly, blinding him. 

“My husband is an architect and builder, M. Charmin.  Surely you must expect him to examine every aspect of this house before we consider its purchase!”

Jules Charmin shook his head, watching the tall man’s cat-like grace as he dropped lightly to the upper veranda.  “He doesn’t seem in any danger,” he conceded reluctantly.  “Do you think he’ll like this house?”

Her smile faded.  “I do not know.  The decision is up to him, of course.  Excuse me, please.”  She entered the house again.

Christine found Erik in the large open drawing room, hands clasped behind his back, and staring out the bare windows.  He drew her into the circle of his arms silently.  “What do you think, my love?” she asked against his chest.

He brushed his cheek across her soft curls, listening to the hope in her voice.   “The house is well made, Christine, and is a good size for us.  I believe it may be even a bit larger than our present abode.  Do you like it so well?”

She pulled out of his embrace slightly, to look up into his dark eyes, hearing the underlying tightness in his voice.  “Yes, my love, I do,” she said quietly.  “But Erik, your….comfort means more to me.  If you don’t think this is a good choice, we’ll keep looking.”

Erik shook his head.  “No.  This is as good a place as any.”  He carefully brushed her cheek with his long cold fingers, but she noted the slight tremor that betrayed his tension.  He turned to the Persian, who had been waiting silently.  “Nadir, will you act as my emissary in these matters?  I will sign the papers tonight, if possible, if you will agree to transfer the payment to the estate agents tomorrow on my behalf.”

Nadir Khan bowed toward him.  “I would be honored, Erik.”

He turned away, his mouth curved in a bitter facsimile of a smile.  “Yes, I’m sure you would.”


Working over the course of a week, solely at night, they transferred the contents of the underground house to the small manor on the edge of town.  Darius procured a horse and wagon for the journeys, and muffled its hooves with torn pieces of blanket to keep the horse’s shod feet from striking notice on the cobbled streets outside the Opera.  Erik stripped nearly everything from the rooms, marble, wainscoting and paneling, gas lights, parquetry, and bookshelves.  The remaining water and gas pipes they sealed off, as Erik wished to leave the lair as a place of retreat, should they ever need it.

He stood silently in the empty, chill space that had once been his library and music room.  So many memories echoed from its silent walls.  Here he had retreated from the harsh realities of the outside world; here he had composed his finest music.  Here he had brought a young and friendless singer, to shelter her from the pressures and affairs of the Opera.  Here he had wept, dreamed of another life, felt abandonment and despair, then dawning hope.

Christine walked to him, her face gentle with understanding.  “It’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it, Erik?  I’ll miss the underground house, too.”

“My home is wherever you are, my love,” he replied, but she did not miss the regret in his still face as he bid the underground house farewell.

Remaking the manor kept Erik very busy for weeks after their move, and somewhat to his chagrin, he found he enjoyed working about the house, handling the tools of his earlier trade again.  Each day when Christine returned home, she found another section completed.  Erik replaced the damaged wood of the walls with the satiny paneling and wainscoting from the underground house and Nadir sent Darius day after day to run errands for his friend.  The silent Persian manservant brought paper and paint for the walls, new heavy locks and bolts for the doors, window glass, electrical wiring and gas lines.  Slowly their new abode became very similar to the home they had left secured beyond the lake.


In the early summer Charles Garnier returned unexpectedly to the Opera House, and asked to see Christine Daaé.  His request stirred the management to a surprised reminder that Christine’s elusive new husband was said to be an architect.  He requisitioned a small office in order to speak with her privately, and was granted this without delay.  Soon the young singer was ushered into his presence, her pensive expression giving way to a welcoming smile upon seeing the identity of her visitor.

“I have found your husband an engineer, Mme. de Becque,” he said grandly, without preamble.  “I have taken the trouble to inquire as to his antecedents, and believe him to be the man with whom your husband can work.  His name is David Carron.  He has worked with both Messieurs Gustav Eiffel and Ferdinand de Lesseps, he is an engineer first-rate, and he is seeking an architect with whom he may start a business.”

Christine clasped her hands together in an ecstasy of excitement.  “Monsieur Garnier, I thank you from the depths of my heart.  This means more to us than you will ever know.”

The lauded architect and designer smiled.  “Should this partnership work I will consider my debt to your husband repaid, Mme. de Becque.  Monsieur Erik’s assistance brought me to my present level of fortune, and I am most grateful to him.  Take then this letter to him, and if he approves, we will arrange a meeting between all concerned.” 

Christine gave him her hand and he raised it briefly to his lips.  “Good day, Madame.”

“Good day, and thank you,” she said softly.


Hidden flower bulbs burst into bloom in the neglected gardens, trees came into full leaf, and birds and other small creatures filled the grounds.  Christine had requested that he enlarge the rear stone terrace so that they might eat their meals surrounded by their pleasant back garden.

Erik leaned back on his heels, wiping the sweat from his forehead.  Years it had been since his hands had held these stonemason’s tools, yet how easily the old skill came back.  He surveyed the low stone wall about the now completed terrace with satisfaction.  This cool verdant area was pleasantly appealing, a befitting setting for his beloved.  Cypress trees drooped their feathery green branches around the unevenly curved boundaries of the terrace, effectively screening it from any curious gaze of a neighbor.  The carefully tended rosebushes in the oval garden beyond the terrace brought their delicate scents to him on the golden breeze.  Christine would be very pleased, he thought, and rose to collect his scattered tools.

From inside the house he could now hear his wife, who must have returned early today from the Opera.  His facial muscles pulled themselves into a smile, for Christine’s voice carried clearly to him through the open French doors along the terrace as she sang, her voice joyously happy.  He crossed the terrace with rapid steps as she came out and flung herself in his arms.

“Oh Erik!  I do love you so,” she smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling and a flush of color along her damask cheeks.

“To what do I owe this exuberant display of affection, mon amour?” he teased and she laughed up at him.

“My husband, come sit beside me and I will tell you of a visitor I had today at L’Opera!” she smiled, drawing him down beside her on the wooden bench beside the ivy-covered wall of their house.

“I can see I will get no peace until I do as you ask,” Erik replied dryly, his dark eyes smiling down at her.

For a moment she searched his face, assuring herself of his agreeable mood, for Erik’s mercurial temper was not a thing to be trifled with.  Holding his hands in her own, she began.

“My love, some weeks ago a man came to walk about the halls of our Opera.  I had no idea who he was, but Mme. Giry told me he was a famous architect, a M. Garnier.”  Beside her, Erik stiffened, his black eyes boring down in to hers, but he remained silent, letting her speak.  “I remembered you saying that you had once worked with him, many years ago, on the Opera itself, and I took the trouble to learn of his address.”  She ducked her head and bit her lower lip, unsure how to confess her next actions.  “I went to see him,” she said softly, not daring to meet her husband’s eyes as his hands began to tighten painfully on hers, “and I told him who I was.  I asked if he remembered you, and if he knew of any way he could help you to work as an architect again.”

Abruptly, Erik withdrew his hands from her own and stood, pacing quickly to the edge of the terrace and back again, his eyes blazing.  “Christine, what were you thinking?   I let him believe me dead long ago.  How could you tell him I lived?” he asked harshly.

“Erik, hear me out!” she answered sharply.  “M. Garnier spoke well of you, and expressed his regrets that you had chosen…to live apart from the world.  This afternoon he came by the Opera to see me.  He knows of an engineer that he thinks would be willing to work with you, a man who has experience working with a Monsieur Eiffel and with Monsieur de Lesseps.  He would like to arrange a meeting between you all, to see if this partnership might work out.  Will you at least give it some thought?”

He glared into the woods, raking his hand through his hair and forcing his temper into a simmer.  “Yes.  I’ll meet with them.  But this must be the last time you do anything like this without my knowledge.  I am the better judge of how willing people are to work with me.  I have so much more experience with their reactions,” he said bitterly.

She rose and came to stand behind him, placing a hesitant small hand on his back.  “All right, Erik.  I’m sorry if I angered you.  It just seemed providential that I meet M. Garnier as I did.”  She slid her arms around his stiff, unyielding posture.

Erik turned slowly, pulling her close.  “Thank you, my love.  I know you are only trying to help.”  He sighed.  “I will meet with them.  Send a note to M. Garnier and ask him if they would be willing to come here for dinner soon, and we will talk.”

Red Rose

A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Riene

Part 9 of 10

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