Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 2 of 39

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Christine had slowly come to love the smell of the ocean; the salty, fresh air that glided in on the gentle sea breeze. Each morning in the Spring, she rose early and sat on her balcony overlooking the Atlantic, waiting for the sun to rise. It was the same that morning and with a shawl draped over her shoulders she waited patiently as the orange half circle began to peek above the horizon. It always amazed her how quickly it seemed to happen after that but that waiting was always her favourite part of the day.

The peace of it.

Raoul usually slept well into the morning, often rising only shortly before midday. Benoit, on the other hand, rarely stayed in bed any later than seven and that morning was no different. As Christine quietly soaked up the morning tranquillity Benoit sprang out and leapt into her lap, flinging his thin arms around her and planting kisses on her cheeks.

As much as she enjoyed her peace, she loved her son and so she scooped him into her arms without a complaint. When he finally settled into her lap she tugged her shawl around them both and kissed his dark hair. 'Did you sleep well?' she asked.

His head bobbed as he nodded.

She stroked his hair, 'I'm glad,'

She treasured his very presence; every second with him was a moment she cherished wholeheartedly. They had been unsuccessful in conceiving anymore children and so she and Raoul made sure that every minute with their son counted. Raoul had wanted a daughter so badly, they tried but to no avail and although they loved Benoit it had always felt like part of them wasn't quite whole.

The boy glanced up with a smile and Christine knew exactly what he was going to say. This wasn't always part of the routine, but featured more often than not.

'No,' she said, unable to keep the smile from her face. He pouted. 'No beach, your tutor will be here soon,'

He frowned. 'I'm bored of my lessons,'

'You must learn,' she said, not as sternly as she might have hoped.

'I know, mama, but they are so boring,'

Eight years old and already schooling was dull to him. 'It is good for you. To learn things,' she insisted.

'I like to learn things,' he said reasonably. 'They're just not teaching me anything I don't already know,'

Christine rolled her eyes. Benoit was a bright boy, no doubt, and he took in information like a sponge, but he did not know it all, as much as he often liked to think he did.

'Why don't you tell your tutor that you want to learn something different?' she suggested.

Folding his arms across his chest he said, 'Why can't we play on the beach?'

Christine opened her mouth to answer but was startled by Raoul's voice behind her, 'Because your schooling is important, Ben, now go and get dressed,'

Benoit and Christine turned to him at the same time, both surprised to see him rise so early. Their son always did as he was told, eventually, and so he kissed Christine's cheek before dashing into the house to prepare for the day ahead.

Raoul remained at the door, leaning against its frame. 'It's beautiful out here at this time,'

'Yes, it is,' Christine said wistfully and patted the seat next to her. It didn't require much encouragement, and Raoul slid in beside her, taking her hand in his. 'I'm surprised to see you out here this early; you were up late again,'

Raoul would not look at her. 'It's getting worse,'

She squeezed his hand gently.

'Soon there will be no family money left at all,' he said. 'And Philippe just will not listen,'

Christine knew that Raoul had spent night after night pleading with his older brother, begging him to stop the extravagant spending. It had been going on for so long that it had become part of their routine; Raoul's late night, Philippe's impromptu visits, Raoul needing to sleep in late…

'All of the drinking is bad enough, the money he spends on clothes is one thing but…' he shook his head, his youthful features beginning to look tired and worn. 'These investments… these bloody investments. They are akin to gambling it all away,'

Knowing that there was not much she could say or do, she simply snuggled into his side and slipped her arm around him. He would vent and she would comfort him, because it was all she could do and she had to do something.

'He is being conned, a man of his stature,' Raoul added as he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. 'We will soon have no money left at all. I knew it was a bad idea moving to America but I had no idea how horribly wrong it would go,'

'You have us,' Christine suggested gently. This at least brought a smile to her husband's troubled looking expression.

'I wonder if you and Benoit are the only things keeping me going,' he said.

She kissed him softly, 'And so what if we are?'

Again, he smiled and squeezed her to him.

'I have told you, I will sing,' she said. 'It will at least give us some income,'

He shook his head. 'It is not right that you should be bread winner… I am looking,'

'I know it t isn't easy,' she soothed. 'America is different to France,'

He nodded.

'We could go back,' she said. 'To Paris,'

'And leave Philippe here?' he asked, and she knew that he was right. 'I can't do that,'

'I know,' she said gently. 'I'm sorry,'

'You should never be sorry, my darling,' he said with equal softness. 'He should be sorry and yet he cannot see it. He just cannot see what is happening,' again he shook his head. 'He drinks and gives the family money away and thinks nothing of it,'

Christine could not think of anything to say that would not be inflammatory and so she remained quiet. They sat there in the stillness of the morning, in their togetherness; the only sounds were the swishing of the sea up against the sandy shore and the soft thump of Raoul's heartbeat in her ear.

When the door knocker alerted them to company both were none too keen to answer it. Eventually, Raoul kissed his wife's hair and rose. 'I'll go,' he said.

Expecting Benoit's tutor, Christine sat up and neatened her hair, taking a last glance out over the ocean before making her way back into their house. As she clicked the rear door closed behind her she heard Raoul's voice rise with anger.

'… told you before, I don't want you to come here looking like that!'

Christine sighed, knowing that it was Philippe at the door. It was an early hour for visiting and therefore she could only assume that the older man had not been home and was still drunk. She composed herself, straightened her dress, and entered the hallway.

To say that Philippe looked dishevelled would have been a massive understatement and far too kind.

He was an utter mess.

His blonde hair was damped to his head, it looked greasy and too long, wisps spread out and stuck to the sides of his face. The bags beneath his eyes were deep and black, and made his eyes look like they were sinking into his face. An unkempt beard had developed on once smooth features and clung, in what look like clumps, around his jaw. The whites of his eyes had taken on an almost yellow hue with red streaks bursting out from the centre.

If this was not bad enough, his clothes looked dirty and slept in and the smell emanating from him was not altogether pleasant either.

Raoul turned to look at her as she walked in, his face an odd picture of horror and shame. 'I've asked him to leave,' he said.

She glanced at Philippe who, unlike her husband, showed no signs of embarrassment whatsoever.

'I need to talk to you,' Philippe slurred as he stepped forward, towards Raoul. Raoul's hands shot out in front of him as his brother staggered in his direction and he just managed to catch him before he tripped himself.

Philippe giggled. Like a child.

Christine rolled her eyes, unable to hide her disdain any longer.

'We spoke long into the night, Philippe,' Raoul reminded him sternly. 'Where have you been?'

Philippe made an attempt at shrugging his shoulders but the effort of such a task threw him off balance and Raoul was forced to catch him again.

'It's clear that you have not been home,' Raoul said, as he propped his brother against the wall. 'Look at you. What a state you are,'

'Something has come up,' Philippe hiccupped. Christine cringed when Raoul turned to her, helplessness etched into his face.

Raoul shook his head.

'Benoit's first tutor will be here shortly,' Christine said to Raoul, through her tightly clenched teeth.

He nodded and hooked his arm under Philippe. 'If we must talk, come this way,'

Philippe happily leaned against Raoul as he tried to guide him through into the parlour room. They stumbled but Raoul managed to reach out a hand out and stop their fall before they both landed in a heap. As they reached the door, Philippe glanced back at Christine. 'He will make you a star,' Philippe garbled before Raoul dragged him into the room and slammed the door closed behind him.

Christine stared at the parlour door for a long moment, bemused by the fall from grace of her once elegant, if not always affable, brother-in-law. It was rare to see him sober but it was nearly as rare that she saw him so completely bedraggled, so completely out of it. For a moment she thought of his incoherent ramblings and felt an anger deep inside her, but the emotion soon past and she was left thinking of Raoul.

Poor Raoul.

Loving, gentle, kind, patient Raoul. How he must feel in this situation. He was neither able to help his brother nor stop him, nothing he tried had worked so far and he admitted to himself that he was fast running out of ideas.

To think, Philippe was the man who had so vehemently objected to his younger, aristocratic brother marrying someone he considered to be beneath them. Yet here she stood, more self-possessed and chic than he could probably even remember being. It was clear that Philippe had lost all self respect and had lost his way since their father had died and he had become Comte De Chagny.

Philippe controlled the family money although was expected to make a certain amount of allowances to each member of the family. However, the money was fast draining away with Philippe's irresponsible and self destructive ways. Christine had offered to sing again, to bring in some money but Raoul, proud and furious as he was, would hear nothing of it.

Raoul did not object to working, of course, but was finding it difficult to find a career in America. His English had improved considerably but some of the businessmen found the strength of his accent off putting. Not even his contacts from France had been able to make any leeway.

When the door knocked again, it startled her from her thoughts. She glanced up at herself in the hall mirror and patted her dress down at the front. She could make out the shape of Mrs Kelly through the glass in the door. As she turned, Benoit came bolting down the stairs, book under his arm, and nearly knocked her over.

He glanced at the door and then back to her, 'Who was here earlier?' he asked, as she bent down and straightened his shirt collar for him.

'Uncle Philippe,' Christine answered.

Benoit frowned and then, as if he were a grown up, shrugged both shoulders. 'Papa is so patient with him,'

It was all she could do not to laugh. It amazed her sometimes, how perceptive children were, what adults thought they did not notice, they seemed to absorb completely. She made a mental note to mention it to Raoul and then moved, with her son, to open the door.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 2 of 39

<< Previous     Home     Next >>