Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 13 of 39

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It was the evening of the ball and Christine was slipping into her new dress, which Raoul had earlier deemed absolutely perfect, but she was now having second thoughts about. It wasn't that the dress wasn't stunning, it was. It was a deep blue colour with no straps, it instead hugged her bust and showed her shoulders. It was just a bit… much.

Raoul kissed both shoulders while she was inspecting them in the mirror; unsure and nervous. She moved to each side in turn and checked that it fit well. She needn't have worried, it fit perfectly and was beautifully made, but she was just concerned about the tightness of it, the amount of bare skin on her shoulders, the way it stuck to her hips when she walked.

She turned to face her husband, 'It isn't very modest,'

Raoul laughed and kissed her cheek, 'You look lovely, Christine,'

A sigh escaped, 'People will stare at me,'

'You're a performer,' he said, as if this would change her mind.

'That's different and you know it is,'

He nodded.

'I hate being looked at… it shows too much,' she insisted.

'You will always be looked at,' he said softly.

She glanced at him.

'Because you're beautiful, Christine,' Raoul explained, with a shrug. 'Men are always looking at you,'

She knew that she was attractive, Raoul told her every day, and yet this did not matter to her. That she was pretty or ugly or plain was not the point, the point was that the dress was too revealing and she thought she would feel uncomfortable with people looking at her in it. As for men looking at her all of the time, she had never really noticed, and thought Raoul was greatly exaggerating.

'They're not always looking at me,' she said.

He smiled. 'And that is what I love about you… you underestimate your beauty,'

She felt her cheeks begin to blush.

'As long as they don't touch you, or make inappropriate remarks, they can look…I'm proud that you are my wife,'

'But this dress…'

'But nothing,' Raoul said firmly. 'Honestly, people would look at you if you were wearing a potato sack… it's one of the pit falls of being so striking,'

She took another glance into the full length mirror, she was not satisfied still but she had very few options; her wardrobe was full of day dresses but it has been so long since she had needed an evening gown that none of them were really suitable anymore.

'I'll wear it,' she said. 'But I'm not altogether happy with it,'

'I am,' he shrugged, 'You look wonderful,'

She managed a smile at him. 'You had better get yourself ready, Jack will be here soon to pick us up,'

Raoul made no attempt to move, instead he simply looked at her, with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye. He was looking at her as if he had never seen her before and for a moment she was worried that something was wrong.

'I love you,' he finally said. 'I always will,'

She walked to him a placed a soft kiss on his lips, 'Where did that come from?'

He shrugged. 'I just thought you should know it,'

'I do,'

Squeezing her hand, he smiled, 'Just making sure,'

With that he left her alone to neaten the dress and add the finishing touches to her outfit for the evening. It had been a long time since she had been to a ball and she had never been to one in America before. It was all new to her. She wondered what it would be like and if it would be quite as formal as the European balls she had attended.

The Americans seemed a much more relaxed set of people, they seemed easy in their own skin and they had no real aristocracy, which was strange and oddly refreshing all at the same time. She wondered who would be there, knowing that no princes and princesses existed in America, she assumed it would people of influence such as wealthy businessmen and politicians.

The thought made her a little bit nervous about the whole thing. If she was completely honest, she had very little experience in these kinds of things, and though she was considered aristocracy around the world, she rarely felt like it. When they were first married she and Raoul would attend almost every party in Paris, she was always uncomfortable and the more of them she went to, the worse she felt.

One would think that the more she attended the better equipped she would become but the parties always felt so soulless and the more small talk she made with people she had nothing in common with the less she wanted to go to the parties. Those that Philippe threw were made up of mostly his friends, which meant that not only did she have to make small talk but she had to do so while she was being looked down at.

She began to choose her jewellery as a small tap at the door turned her head. 'Come in,' she called.

Benoit walked in, dressed in his pyjamas, and smiled at her. She sat on the edge of the bed and opened her arms to him. He hugged her solidly, as he always did, and she wondered how much she would miss this as he grew.

'Papa is nearly ready,' he said.

She brushed the dark hair from his eyes, 'You need a haircut,'

He shook his head from side to side, making his hair flop around and then he smiled at her, 'I don't like having my hair cut,'

'I know,' she said, 'But you always look so handsome afterwards,'

He giggled and pulled away from her embrace.

'What necklace should I wear?' she asked him.

Benoit glanced down at the row of jewellery laid out on the dresser and, after careful consideration, lifted the simple diamond necklace that Raoul had bought for her some years earlier.

'Good choice,' she said, taking it from him. 'Can you clip it for me, sweetheart?'

When they were done she stood and inspected herself one more time.

'Tell your father I will be right down,' she said.

Raoul stood at the foot of the stairs making small talk with Jack. The more time he spent with the man the less he trusted him; there was just something off about him, something that Raoul could not quite put his finger on.

He said nothing out of place, kept most of his opinions to himself, he was not insulting nor overly friendly… he just didn't know what it was but it was something.

When Christine descended the staircase they both looked up and Raoul felt his heart bump in his chest. She was utterly stunning and even Jack, usually quick with a compliment, was rendered speechless.

'Christine,' Raoul smiled, holding his hand out for her as she reached the bottom. She took it gently in hers and stepped down.

'Raoul,' she smiled and then turned her head. 'Good evening Jack,'

He blinked. 'You look lovely,'

'Thank you,' she said, glancing at each of them in turn. 'Shall we go?'

The journey to the theatre felt like it took an eternity, especially with Raoul feeling increasingly uncomfortable around their escort. When they finally arrived and entered the ballroom upstairs he found himself overcome with a sense of achievement. The room was buzzing and packed full of people enjoying themselves, drinking champagne and eating Hors d'oeuvres while they chatted and inspected their surroundings.

'I'll get us some drinks,' Jack said, as he disappeared.

He turned to his wife. 'How are you feeling?'

'Uncomfortable,' she said honestly.

He knew that she had never been a big fan of these types of events and so he squeezed her hand gently, 'I'm here,'

When Jack returned he was holding two flutes of champagne and was accompanied by an elderly gentleman with glasses that fell halfway down his nose. Jack handed Raoul one glass and Christine the other and then said, 'Raoul and Christine De Changy, I would like you to meet Henry Thomson,'

They all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, most of which came from Henry himself.

Jack said, 'Henry owns a shipping company based here in New York,'

Henry smiled. 'Import and export,'

'And as you know, Henry,' Jack said. 'Christine is the star of our new show,'

'Ah, Carmen,' Henry said, his accent sounding vaguely English. 'I saw that once in Italy, many years ago now,'

'Are you a lover of the opera then, Henry?'Raoul asked.

'I am,' he said. 'And am ecstatic that there is going to be one on my doorstep, especially one with such a lovely leading lady,'

Christine smiled.

'I was unfortunate to never see one of your performances in Europe but I have my ticket to the opening night here,' Henry said. 'I tried to grab one of the boxes but they were sold out for the night!'

Raoul had a feeling that he was going to like Henry.

He finished his glass of champagne as they were talking and when Henry wandered off, he and Christine started to walk around the room, meeting new people and talking to some prominent business men. It was amazing how many connections the Verkleiden company had.

Antoinette Giry had also been invited and as soon as Raoul spotted her, they made a beeline in her direction. She smiled as they approached and Raoul noted how elegant and happy she looked as he took her hand and placed a gentle kiss on her fingers.

'How is your new apartment?' he asked her. She had moved out of their house a little over a month before and he had seen all too little of her since then.

'It's nice, thank you,' she replied with a small smile. 'I do miss Benoit though,'

It had surprised Raoul that his son and the stern ballet mistress had bonded, but the fact remained that Benoit had found a great affection for Madame Giry in the short time they had been living in the same house. Back in France, when he was younger, he had seen very little of her- despite her being his godmother. She was busy and he was young and had many friends, so their time together was limited.

'I'm sure he misses you too,' he heard Christine say. 'Perhaps you could come for dinner one of the evenings this week? We would love to spend some time with you,'

Raoul nodded his head in agreement but as he did felt a sharp pain behind his eyes. He pinched the top of his nose in the hopes that it would stop and, although the pain did not intensify, he was overcome by dizziness.

When his eyes were finally able to focus he saw that Christine and Madame Giry were both staring at him, their eyes clouded with concern.

'Raoul,' Christine said, but her voice sounded distant, almost muffled, to him. 'Raoul, what is it? What's wrong?'

He glanced at her and blinked the fuzz from his eyes. 'I'm feeling unwell,' he said, and it was about all he could manage.

Christine reached for him as he shook his head, trying to shake away the wooziness. 'Sit down, 'she said, trying to guide him to the side of the room. His feet were mostly steady and he could see, if in a blur, but he really did not feel good.

He felt an arm hook under his shoulders and turned his head to the side, Jack was there, propping him up. 'What's happened?' he asked, but it was clear that he wasn't talking to Raoul.

Christine followed as Jack manoeuvred him into the hallway, where it felt both cooler and quieter.

'I don't know,' she said to him. 'He just… he went very pale,'

'Raoul,' Jack said. 'Are you alright?'

'I feel dizzy,' he answered. 'And tired…'

'Perhaps I should get you home,' Jack suggested.

Raoul managed to nod, although the sensation made his stomach turn over.

'I will let Madame Giry know we are leaving,' Christine said.

Jack looked at her. 'I think you should stay,'

Christine stared at Jack, surprised, 'What?'

'You need to greet the guests,' Jack said, reasonably. 'A lot of them are here because of you,'

Raoul took a sharp intake of breath, 'I agree, you should stay… Jack will make sure you get home alright, I am sure,'

'Of course,' Jack said.

'Christine,' Raoul said, reaching for her hand. 'It won't be for long and I am fine, really, I think just a little tired, perhaps,'

Still, she looked sceptical.

'I will go straight to bed,' he insisted. 'I just need rest,'

Finally she nodded her head and that is where he left her, wishing he did not have to.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 13 of 39

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