Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 19 of 39

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Nerves aside, she actually felt very good about the opening night. She had just left Raoul and Benoit near the main entrance, so that they could enjoy the pre theatre atmosphere, and headed around to the back of the theatre. It was quiet, at the moment, because most people would arrive a little later. Over the years she had become accustomed to arriving early. It was just her way now.

She liked the stillness, the quiet emptiness, of the backstage area. So often was it bustling that it was a rarity to find such peace in a building that held so many. The only thing she really missed about her early days shortly after her marriage to Raoul was the presence of her friend Meg Giry. Although not one to arrive too early, she usually came just early enough to spend a quiet moment with Christine just behind the curtains on the stage.

Alone now she wondered how her friend was and how life was treating her. They rarely found time to correspond and so Christine was left with second hand tales that Madame Giry happily told. The young Giry was due to marry in less than one month and Christine sensed her happiness in the letters to her mother.

Of course, Madame Giry was sad that she would not be able to see her only child married but they had promised that at the earliest opportunity, they would honeymoon in America and stop by in Manhattan to visit. Not only did this bring a smile to Madame Giry but also to Christine.

She had friends in America, of course she did, she had never found it particularly difficult to make friends with people. However, try as she might she had never found anyone to confide in as she had done with Meg. Unlike Raoul, she genuinely liked living in America and she felt that if it wasn't for Philippe or the lack of jobs, Raoul too would have grown to love it.

Benoit certainly felt at home.

Still, the whole affair with the opera had opened certain doors for her discontented husband and even he was beginning to show signs that he may be able to settle. It was such a shame that she could now not afford for that to happen.

She turned down the next corridor and was surprised to see Antoinette Giry walking towards her from the opposite direction. The older woman smiled warmly and embraced her, kissing both cheeks with affection and softness.

'How are you feeling?' she asked, her usually hard eyes softened at the edges.

Christine placed her hand across her stomach and managed to smile, 'I am nervous,'

Madame Giry smiled. 'You will be wonderful, I am sure of it,'

'I do hope so, Madame,'

The ballet mistress reached across and squeezed her hand, 'We both know you will,'

The knowing look in the older woman's eyes told Christine that Madame Giry was aware of what was going on. 'You know he is here, then?' she asked.

Madame Giry nodded slowly, sage as ever, 'You really had no idea?'

Christine was momentarily offended but shrugged away the feeling, 'How could I?' she asked, 'It all seems so obvious in hindsight but…'

'Hindsight is a wonderful thing,' Madame Giry said kindly. 'Erik is a resourceful man,'

'And you did not know, Madame Giry?' Christine asked. She knew that the two of them had been friends for years, many years before Christine had known either of them. It seemed strange to her that Madame Giry would not know where he was and yet there was a lot that seemed strange to Christine lately. Perhaps this would just be another of those occasions.

'I did not,' she said, almost sadly. 'Like you, I feel as though I should have known but no, he did not tell me, I had not heard from him in years,'

'You've seen him then?' Christine asked.

She nodded.

Christine looked down at her feet as an uncomfortable quiet descended upon them. Finally, Madame Giry said, 'I do not envy your position,'

'I want to sing,' Christine told her, feeling a passion build in her chest that she thought had long left her.

The ballet mistress nodded.

'I have told him that I will,' she explained and then added, 'Until my contract expires,'

Madame Giry's eyes were fixed on her, sparkling and curious, sceptical even in the darkness of the corridor. 'How will you keep this from Raoul?' she asked.

'He doesn't need to know,' Christine said but felt the immediate pang of guilt that she had become accustomed to, over the years. She half expected a lecture from the ballet mistress but instead, she placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. 'If he knows… I… I won't be able to sing,'

'I kept Erik from my husband for my entire marriage,' she said. 'It was not the same, of course, Erik was merely my friend, but… he is not a man who is easy to explain to other men,'

Christine laughed. 'He isn't even my friend,'

Madame Giry's eyebrows arched. 'No, he is not your friend,' she turned but did not elaborate. 'You had better get ready,'

'What is it that you wish to say to me Madame?' Christine asked.

'There is nothing I can say to you, Christine,' Madame Giry said, without turning around. 'These are things that you must work out for yourself,'

Christine did not know quite what to say and so she let her friend simply walk away, leaving her standing alone in the corridor behind the stage. She took a moment to regain her composure, making a pact with herself not to dwell too much on what Madame Giry had said, and then she made her way to her dressing room.

As she approached she wondered at how somehow all dressing rooms looked alike. Yes, there were bigger and smaller ones, there were theatres with many and theatres with only a few… but they were all inherently similar. The style, the look of them and that smell. The smell that surrounded them all, the smell of hunger, of anticipation… the smell of impending failure or unimaginable success.

She smiled to herself.

When she opened the door to her room she was greeted by the beautiful scent and glorious colours of bouquet upon bouquet of spring flowers. She walked to her dressing table where only one sat, it was bright and full of promise, and addressed to her from her adoring husband and son.

Briefly she sank her face into the flowers, letting the aroma and the feel of them fill her senses. When she placed them back down she sighed with a mixture of love and guilt, she knew that she fixed in their emotional cross fires.

It was only when she glanced in the mirror that she realised that she had left the door open in her rush to see the flowers. She went to the door and her breath caught in her throat.

There, in the handle, was a single red rose tied neatly with a silk, black ribbon.

The thorns had been carefully removed so that when she picked it up there was no risk of her pricking her fingers. In spite of herself, she lifted it to her nose and closed her eyes. The petals were soft and smooth, velvet in texture and the colour was blood red, almost too dark to be real.

Although she knew better she stepped into the corridor and looked side to side. Of course, there was no one there and she was greeted with nothing but silence. Once back in the dressing room she closed the door behind her and locked it carefully. She wasn't really sure why she did this, she knew that if he wanted to then he could get in, the lock would not keep him out.

She wondered whether there was a lock in the entire world that could.

Gently, she took the ribbon from the rose and let it fall into the rubbish basket by the side of her seat.

The rose, however, she placed carefully above the mirror.

Erik had locked the door to box five very carefully behind him and he had one of his men standing outside, just in case. Tonight, he really did not want to be disturbed. The years of longing, the months of planning and the hours of waiting all ended now.

He would hear her sing again.

He sat towards the back so that he could not be seen by prying eyes but the box was invented in such a way that he could see much of the theatre from where he sat. Should anyone look up, he was far enough back to be hidden by the new lighting system. He had made sure of this when they were rigged up, it was something he had thought very carefully about.

Deep down he knew that it was unnecessary for him to hide himself and yet the force of this habit remained so strong that he rarely overcame it. His whole life had been lived in such solitude and rejection, that he still chose to cloak himself in the shadows.

The theatre was humming with a sense of expectation, every ticket sold and seat filled and when the lights dipped and the room fell into silence, Erik waited with patient anticipation for Christine. Although he was eager to see her perform, to hear her sing, he knew that there was no rush now. She would be on the stage soon enough and then he could watch her performance without fear that she was being forced- she had signed the contract before knowing that he was even there. She was not afraid of him and he would never want her to be.

She would sing because it was what she wanted.

When she finally made her appearance he leant forward in his seat, elbows resting on his knees, chin in his hands and let his eyes soak her in. She had changed very little over the years, her beauty still so dazzling that it was breathtaking and he felt immediately the way he had felt when he had first seen her.

She was older now but no less alluring and as she sang his hand instinctively found the place on his chest over where his heart, cold as it was, began to beat again. He felt the blood begin to flow through him, the heat he had missed so much return to his body, he felt his ears tingle and his lips twitch into an involuntary smile.

Erik watched carefully and quietly, his eyes followed her every movement as she glided across the stage with an untouchable elegance that he had seen in only one other woman in his life. Her voice found the parts of his soul that he had been so sure were dead only months ago, it made his pulse race and his mind alive. What a glorious sound she still had, a near perfection that he had nurtured and loved for nearly as long as he could remember.

When she swept across the front of the stage to bow, when it was finally over, he watched as her eyes looked upwards and found the box in which le Vicomte was situated. Her smile towards him was so warm and full of affection that Erik fell back into his seat, utterly deflated. He feared now that no matter how hard he tried he would never be able to drag her away from that boy.

When he had let her go, back in the cellars, when he had left her sleeping that fateful night, he knew that he was doing the right thing for her. With Raoul, her life would be full of the daylight she deserved and the safety she so craved but things had changed. Thinking back, he realised that leaving her without even the briefest of explanations was a mistake. He had admitted to Christine and, in that, even admitted it to himself.

Things were different now.

Despite his mind telling him not to, he risked another look over the edge and found her taking her applause at the front of the stage. He was about to sink back when she looked up, towards his box, and her gaze fixed there for so long that he feared she could actually see him. It was only then that he noticed the wide eyed confusion that he had seen once before on her face... in a basement, after a kiss…

She finally looked away and he shrunk back into the sanctity of the darkness and solitude in his box. Seeing her face, the look of turmoil behind her eyes, he allowed himself to think that perhaps this was not over after all. Perhaps he was not yet defeated.

He waited patiently for the applause to die and for the bustling of the crowds leaving below to slowly quiet and then finally, end. He unlocked the door and dismissed the guard with a wave of his hand. The guard did not look at him, he did not question him, he simply left him alone. Erik locked the door and slipped the long key into his pocket before heading down the corridor towards the hidden exit at the end.

He paused briefly before he slipped into the darkness, debating whether or not he should go to Christine's dressing room. She would undoubtedly still be there. He shook his head, knowing that he would see her soon enough and slid into the secret passage.

Of that night, he chose to remember her voice and the adoration that she had rightly been shown by the audience. He chose to remember her beauty and her strength and not the look of love she had given to her husband.

He chose the look of turmoil, the indecision.

He hated to lose.

He was not defeated.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 19 of 39

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