Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 14 of 39

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Jack returned after just under an hour away from party. In that time Christine had stuck close to Madame Giry, who was definitely more able to cope with these things than she was. She saw him walk in and be immediately accosted by an elderly lady who Christine had not yet been introduced to. He glanced over and caught her attention, giving her a nod indicating he would be over to her as soon as he got the chance.

Watching, she began to feel sorry for him. It was clear that he did not want to speak to the woman and yet he had no way to escape. Momentarily she considered rescuing him, but thought better of it, and instead continued her chat with Madame Giry.

'I don't know how you do this,' Christine said.

The ballet mistress smiled. 'Practice, my dear,'

'I've been to a few but still cannot get used to it,'

'You have been attending them for ten years,' Antoinette Giry explained. 'I have been attending them for nearly thirty,'

Christine actually managed a genuine smile of her own. The first since she had arrived at the ball. 'They're rather dull affairs,'

'I couldn't agree more,' Madame Giry said. 'It's how you deal with it that makes all the difference,'

Christine frowned. 'Will you tell me your secret?'

'But of course,' Madame Giry said, with a twinkle in her eye. 'It is about watching people,'

'Watching people?'

'Oh yes,' she nodded. 'Take the gentleman in the corner for example,'

Christine followed her eyes until she found the man in question, who was standing with his back to them chatting with a woman and another couple. Every so often he would touch the woman's back and then shortly afterwards look to the right.

'What am I looking for?' Christine asked.

Madame Giry sipped her champagne, 'The woman next to him appears to be his wife,'

Christine nodded, following.

'However, he keeps sending furtive glances at the lady in the red dress,'

They both discreetly looked across and saw that the woman in the red dress, standing with two men, was also taking the odd glance in his direction.

'An affair,' Madame Giry exclaimed. 'I am certain of it,'

'How can you be so sure?' Christine said, shocked but unable to stop herself from giggling. Antoinette Giry's eyes were full of mischief and, though unusual, it was good to see her this way.

'What other explanation could there be?' she asked and Christine had to admit that the options were limited.

She shrugged her shoulders. 'They could simply be old friends, wanting to talk to each other,'

'Then why does she not just go to him?'

Madame Giry had a point.

'I would wager money on it,' she said.

Christine was about to comment when two men in black suits joined them at the edge of the room. The taller of the two introduced himself as Graham and offered Christine a glass of champagne. She declined politely and then he asked her how she was looking forward to the opening night. They chatted for a while but Graham made her feel very uncomfortable. He had taken to leaning over when he spoke, which meant that he and she were almost pressed together for much of the time.

When he touched her shoulder without invitation to do so, she was about to protest until she heard Jack behind her.

'Graham,' he said, his voice was even and calm. He stepped closer to them, so that no-one could overhear and then continued, 'I don't think it's very appropriate for you to touch the leading lady,'

Graham smiled at Jack. 'I was only talking to her,'

'With your hand on her?' he asked quietly.

'I meant nothing by it,'

'I'm sure you didn't,' Jack said and then turned to Christine, 'Your husband is fine, a touch of weariness I think,'

'Thank you, Jack,'

'You're very welcome,' he said. 'Are you alright?'

'I'm rather warm, actually,' she said. 'It's hot in here,'

She glanced over Jack's shoulder and noticed that Graham was still standing there, looking at them. 'You'll have to excuse me, Graham,' she said to him, his gaze making her feel uncomfortable. 'I need some air,'

'I'm happy to accompany you,' Graham said and could not have looked more like a lecher if he had been waggling his eyebrows at her.

'Quite alright, Graham,' Jack said, scowling in his direction. 'I will be escorting Madame De Chagny,'

Graham nodded, disappointed.

As Jack guided her away from him he turned his head and said, 'You'll be gone when I get back, won't you?'

Christine did not catch Graham's response as she made her way to the edge of the room but when Jack caught up with her and she turned around, she could no longer see him.

'I'm sorry about him,' Jack said as though it was actually his fault.

'That's fine, Jack,' she said and meant it. Jack was not her protector and she was sure that if Raoul had been well, Graham would never have approached her in the first place.

'I told Antoinette that you needed some air,' Jack informed her. 'She is occupying herself with one of the members of the Baker clan,'

Christine glanced over towards the ballet mistress and nodded. 'Thank you,'

'Shall we step out onto the balcony?' he asked as he held the long curtains open for her.

She nodded and ducked through, out into the fresh air. She felt immediately better as she leant on the wall and stared out over the town.

'Quite the view, isn't it?' Jack said as he stood next to her.

She nodded. 'Oh yes, it's perhaps my favourite place in the whole theatre,'

'Mine too,' Jack said. 'It was a stroke of genius to put it here,'

She turned to him. 'Thank you for taking Raoul home,'

Jack held his hand up. 'No need to thank me, Christine, I'm just glad he looks like he will be on the mend soon,'

'What do you think is wrong with him?' she asked. 'It worries me to see him so pale,'

'I'm sure it was simply something he ate,' he said. 'Or the late nights and hard work catching up with him. Nothing a good night of rest will not cure,'

She touched his hand. 'Again, thank you,'

'Nonsense,' he said. 'I had better go and mingle, as they say, will you be alright out here on your own?'

'Of course,' she replied. 'I will be back in myself shortly, I'm just going to make the most of this moment of peace,'

He nodded and was gone.

She turned again and leaned forward, her arms on the wall as she gazed out at the breathless sight of the town beneath her. The vantage was spectacular and for a moment gave her just that brief sense of being above it all. Above the stress and hard work, above the trials and tribulations.

It was so dark that she could not make out any people below but she knew, as always, that there were people around. The town never seemed to sleep, there always seemed to be something happening and it was comforting to know that she could sometimes simply stand high above.

Gas lamps created a quilt of black and orange across the city and up above, the stars sparkled relentlessly in the clear and smooth sky.

When a chill shivered along her spine she thought nothing of it but moments later she got the distinct impression that she was not alone. Her heart almost stopped, caught in her chest.

'You're here,' she said and it was about all she could manage. She knew it now, the sensation was unforgettable.

'Yes,' he said.

Thoughts and realisations fired in for brain. 'Are you Schwarz?' she asked, too afraid to turn. His voice was enough but to see him, to make it real, seemed just a little too much.


She shook her head, unsure if she was angry or simply disappointed. 'And Jack?'

'Jack works for me,'

'I know,' she said, her throat dry. 'Does he know? Is this…'

'He knows,'

She laughed. 'I'm such a fool,'

'You're no fool,' his voice was soft, mesmerising… exactly as she remembered it.

'I trusted him,'

'You can still trust him,'

Finally, she spun around, her anger outweighing her fear of seeing him, as she spat, 'How can I? Look at this… one big set up, how can I trust him?' she could only see his mask, he was hidden in the shadow of the building at the other side of the balcony.

'He would never hurt you,' Erik said.

'He works for you,' she said, more to herself than to him and then she laughed. 'Well, he must be a man of standards then,'

'There is no need for sarcasm, Christine,' he said, his voice stern and yet the sound of her name from his lips was enough to weaken her resolve.

'Why?' she asked, softer now, in spite of herself.

'Why, what?'

'Do it this way?' Christine asked, stepping forward on trembling knees.

Erik moved out from the shadows, his broad frame and dark face appearing from the blackness. His eyes just as blue and bright as they had always been as they pierced out through the night and found her face. She could barely feel the ground beneath her, it was all so unreal, and yet there he was, as if he had never been away.

Now closer she noticed that the years had been good to him and his hair showed no signs of grey, the smooth side of his face no signs of ageing.

'I have a year,' he said simply, his eyes not leaving hers, not for a second.

They were both stuck there on that balcony, eyes locked, he focused, she frozen.

She swallowed, almost too afraid to ask, 'A year to do what?'

'To win you back,' he said flatly and though his face and voice betrayed nothing his eyes gave everything away.

She laughed bitterly. 'A year will not be long enough,'

He said nothing.

'Do you hear me?' she asked angrily. 'You cannot win me back, you never had me,'

Before she could react she felt his hands on her wrists as he pulled her towards him into the shadows, pressed against her, his lips at her ear, 'I beg to differ,' he whispered.

She pulled but could not loosen his grip and as she fought, she realised that she was fighting because of Raoul and not because she was afraid. All of those years being afraid of him, she now knew, were gone. It was illogical, of course, he could kill her in a heartbeat, but she held no fear in her heart.

'Let me go,' she demanded.

His grip loosened and although she now could, she did not, move away.

'I am happy,' she said to him, all of the anger gone. 'Please,'

'You're under contract,' he said simply and without emotion.

'To sing,' she pointed out. 'Not to love you,'

She saw the outline of a smile on his face. 'I've missed you,' he said, his voice suddenly soft, captivating, and like the softest tune, the brightest light, the prettiest flower, she was drawn to it.

She shook her self and closed her eyes. 'You don't have that right, you left,'

'It was for the best,'

'For whom?' she looked at him.

His eyes darkened, the gentle hue now gone. 'For you, Christine, always for you,'

She shook her head. 'And what about now?'

He stared at her.

'Who is this best for?'

His shoulders moved in an elegant shrug and he replied, 'For you. You might not see it yet, but this is best for you,'

'I am married,'

'I know,'

'I have a life,'

'Without singing?' he asked.

She swallowed.

'Your life without singing,' he said. 'Is empty,'

'I have a family, Erik, my life is not empty,'

He looked at her. 'Nor is it whole,'

She wanted to scream at him, she wanted to shout and to tell him that he was wrong, but she knew, deep down that he was not. Without music, without singing, there had always been a part of her missing.

She looked at him, her heart like lead in her chest, confused and saddened, disappointed and angry, she said, 'I loved you, then,'

He did not respond and she wanted to reach for him, at that moment, and shake him.

'You should have stayed or taken me with you,' she said. 'I wanted you to,'

And then he said something that surprised her. 'I made a mistake,' it was an admittance she had never heard him utter before and one she was probably never likely to hear again, but there it was, laid bare before them both.

Still, it did little to close the gap.

'You're too late, Erik,' she said to him.

'I've got a year,' he repeated.

'I've changed,' she insisted.

He nodded, unmoved. 'You're stronger now,'

She blinked her eyes.

'I love you,' he said. 'I did not stop because I had to leave,'

She sighed, heart heavy. 'It's too late,'

'And you love me,' he said, his eyes fixed on hers. 'And you did not stop because I left,'

She said nothing, her throat too constricted for her to even breathe, let alone speak.

'You don't deny it,'

She closed her eyes, 'I don't love you, Erik, I love my husband…' she said, but when she opened her eyes again, he was gone.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 14 of 39

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