Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 31 of 39

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'You're home early,' Raoul said to her as she slid into the chair nearest the patio. The sun was glorious through the window and, despite the chill in the air, it warmed her back. Benoit was sitting, with his feet curled up underneath him, next to Raoul, who was resting his back against the wall, watching as Benoit created structures with wooden blocks.

'I wanted to see my boys,' she said and felt a vice like grip around her heart. All thoughts of Benoit's accident all but vanished as she looked on.

Raoul smiled up at her and she found herself bathed in the rare yet tender moment of family peace. Her husband had not been home much recently and neither had she, poor Benoit spent larger and larger amounts of time drifting from theatre to lesson to theatre without both parents around at the same time.

Benoit busily constructed a bridge and Raoul accidently on purpose knocked it down, sending her son into fits of giggles. 'Papa!' he said, feigning anger. Raoul leapt at him and tickled his sides until he squealed and begged to be released. Christine found herself laughing along with their antics, content to sit and watch them.

Almost without them noticing, darkness fell into the room and night time came knocking. Helen arrived to prepare dinner and their family harmony was shattered, perhaps forever. Sitting there watching as Benoit cleared away his toys and Raoul rearranged the furniture she wondered if she would ever be privy to such a moment again.

The smell of cooking began to waft through to the family room and Benoit disappeared to pack his toys away and change his clothes. After setting the chairs back correctly, Raoul took a seat on the settee next to her and placed a warm hand on her leg, a gesture of love, of friendship, of everything he had always been to her. It was intimate and gentle.

'Are you alright?' he asked, his eyes sparkling in the low lamplight. She wondered at the beauty therein and was forced to think of Erik. How different both men were and how, it seemed, she loved them both all the same.

For Raoul's soft skin, there were Erik's strong hands. For Raoul's slim frame there were Erik's broad shoulders. For Raoul's romantic nature there was Erik's courage. Raoul's dark eyes to Erik's blue...

She loved them both, she realised, but differently.

Her love for Raoul was youthful and embedded within her; they had known each other for so many years that they could finish each other's sentences. A familiarity that bred all sorts of complacency and yet one she would miss desperately if it were gone.

Her love for Erik was dark but powerful, it was the type of love that you felt only once in your life and she knew that it was the type of love that could destroy you, if you weren't careful. It could consume you.

If Raoul was her heart, then Erik was her soul.

To Raoul she would always be the girl whose red scarf he had rescued from the sea, always the young and flippant girl that he had always loved, the one he needed to protect. To Erik she was the earth. She was the moon and sky, the ocean and land, she was everything all rolled into one. She knew it. Erik would always protect her but never feel that she was so wounded that she could not do this herself.

Raoul was her husband.

Erik; the father of her son.

She looked again into Raoul's eyes and shook her head. 'We need to talk,'

And even as the words came from her mouth she remembered the thought that nothing good ever came from that phrase. The concern shining in Raoul's eyes told her that he was thinking exactly the same thing.

'What is wrong?' he asked.

'Can we do it after dinner, though?'

His eyes pleaded with her but he nodded his head. 'You mean when Benoit is in bed?'

She gritted her teeth and said, 'Yes,'

She saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard, the colour leaving his face momentarily before Benoit crashed back into the room, ending the moment of uncertainty; at least temporarily. Her son squeezed into the small gap between them on the settee and snuggled into the warmth of their bodies. Without a thought, both wrapped an arm around his shoulders and Christine placed gentle kisses in his hair.

'My tutor says I am too advanced now,' Benoit said out of nowhere, his little chest puffed up with pride.

Christine's eyes met with Raoul's over his head and she realised that neither one of them was at all surprised.

'Mrs Kelly?' Christine asked.

Benoit glanced up at him and frowned. 'Noooo,'

'Then your music tutor?' Raoul said.

Benoit nodded as Helen began to bring trays of food through to the table.

'Then we will find you another one,' Raoul smiled and ruffled his hair.

A moment of stark realisation hit Christine as it occurred to her that the only tutor likely to be good enough for Benoit was Erik. She stood abruptly and went to the table, taking her seat to the right of the head of the table. She took a breath and looked over at her family. Benoit looked pleasantly oblivious but Raoul's eyes were brimming with concern and guilt pounded in her heart.

Gently, Raoul ushered Benoit to the table and listened as he talked about schooling, music and the beach. Her husband listened as though he had never heard anything more interesting or more wonderful in all of his life, and the guilt within her was utterly compounded.

At the table they ate what to most would seem a normal family meal with small talk and compliments to the chef, but deep down there was the underlying current of insecurity. No one really knew what was going on, least of all Christine herself.

When the plates were cleared away, Benoit was in his room and Helen had left for the night, husband and wife stood alone in the parlour room with the air of apprehension hanging between them. Raoul poured a small glass of light coloured whiskey and offered her a sherry.

She politely declined, feeling her stomach turn over as she watched him sit near the fire.

'What is it?' he asked, sipping the whiskey before placing it on the wooden coaster they had bought in Italy.

She took a breath. 'It's Schwarz,'

Momentarily Raoul looked relieved but then, as quickly as it had appeared, it vanished again and was replaced with anxiety. 'Have you met him? What has he done to you?'

Christine felt the all too familiar pang of shame. 'Nothing...'

'Has he finally decided to show his face?' Raoul asked and she could feel the weight of his gaze bearing down on her.

She turned her face and gazed out onto the early night. Stars sparkled beautifully over the ocean and the moon beamed a silver shimmer along the edge of the waves, it was a complete contrast to the mood in the room and she sighed, but could not bear to look at her husband.

'Christine...' he said, his voice was gentle and she could feel the firm beat of her treacherous heart.

'It's him,' she said quietly.

Raoul was silent. The mantel clock made a chime signalling another hour had past but she refused to turn, she could not see his face, his eyes, she did not want to see his expression.

'Him...' Raoul said, a moment of uncertainty, perhaps even hope, entering his tone.

She nodded, realising that her hand was balled into a fist at her side, clutching the edge of her dress.

She heard Raoul stand and move towards her, his hands touched her shoulders and she flinched away, not because she did not want his touch but because she did not deserve it. When she finally turned to him his hands were still outstretched and the hurt was clear in his eyes.

'Have you seen him?' Raoul asked softly.

She nodded.

His eyes found hers. 'When?'

And there was the question she had been dreading.

She opened her mouth to respond but no words came out, she could not find them, and there was no excuse now, only the truth and she simply did not know how to tell him.

Eventually, it was Raoul who broke the silence, 'How long have you known?'

'Opening night,' she managed because she could not tell him about the ball.

Raoul was visibly shaken but he took a breath, calmed himself and asked, 'Why didn't you tell me?'

'I was afraid,' she replied honestly.

His eyes widened slightly, 'Of me?'

She shook her head.

'Of him?'

'No,' she said quietly. 'Of not singing,'

Raoul sighed and turned towards the window, his profile lit by the vividness of the moon.

'I have not stopped you from singing,' he said quietly and Christine watched the lips of his reflection move on the glass.

She swallowed.

He turned to her. 'I have not encouraged you either,'

When their eyes met she sighed.

'We have to leave,' Raoul said. 'You know that, don't you?'

Christine stared at him, her words once again lost.


'I'm enjoying singing,'

'Or being near him...'


He held out his hand in front of him, palm up and towards her, telling her to stop and then shook his head, 'It was always more important,'

She said nothing because she did not know what to say. She wasn't used to him raising his voice, rarely did he ever get angry and especially not with her, and she simply did not know how to deal with it. It was what she deserved, she knew, and though they had drifted apart over the last few months she did love him all the same. It was painful to see him so hurt and angry.

'Why must you always sing for him?' Raoul asked, his voice louder than she thought she had ever heard it.

'It isn't about him,' Christine said and wondered if that was the truth.

Raoul pinched the bridge of his nose. 'I'm telling Philippe that we're leaving and then I am booking us on to the next boat back to France,'

'Let me finish the contract,' she said. 'And then we will go, with the money that we're owed,'

Raoul began to pace the floor, his head shaking as he did, 'You can't be serious?'

She nodded, 'We only have a few months left,'

'Christine, listen to yourself,' Raoul said.

'What are you afraid of, Raoul?'

'Don't you remember what he did?'

'I remember everything,'

'Than we need to leave,'

'I can't,' she said. 'At the end of the contract we will all leave as a family...'

'He is dangerous,'

'That isn't what this is about though, is it?'

Raoul turned his face away from her. 'I need to think,'

She had so much more to tell him, she wanted it all out in the open but now was not the time. Suddenly, she felt like honesty might be the only way to save her faltering marriage.

Looking at the confusion, the pain on his face, though she wondered how she would ever tell him the whole truth and yet she knew that she had to. Not because of Philippe but because he deserved the truth from her.

After all of these years, all of the lies, the shame, the guilt, he deserved to know. Philippe was right, she did love Erik and was past denying that to herself but he was wrong about the depth of her feelings for Raoul. She was determined that nothing would come between them but she needed to finish the contract. She needed it for herself, for her family and yes, she admitted, for Erik too.

Without another word Raoul walked from the room, leaving her alone briefly with her thoughts. She sat near the patio and gazed from the window but it was only a short moment of silence before Raoul burst back in.

'Have you seen Benoit?' he asked, breathless.

She jumped to her feet. 'No... he went to bed,'

'He isn't there,'

She felt a cold shiver of panic roll down her back.

'He isn't upstairs... he isn't down here...' Raoul said, his voice strained. 'I will check the beach and streets; you check the front and theatre,'

'He wouldn't have gone that far...'

'Check anyway,' Raoul said and darted from the room.

Erik watched as Benoit's fingers played along the cool keys of the orchestra piano. He looked small and pale against the darkness and vastness of the auditorium. Erik stood in silence and listened as the boy lost himself in the music he was playing, whether it was music from memory or from heart Erik did not know but there were no papers, no score from which he played.

He noted the high cheeks and soft complexion of the boy he now knew was his son. He saw the smoothness and softness of his features, the thickness of his dark hair and he was momentarily stunned that something so exquisite could come from someone so hideous.

Suddenly, Benoit stopped playing and turned to the blackness. 'Is there someone there?' he said into the void.

Debating in his own mind Erik finally stepped from the shadows. 'I was listening to you play,'

Benoit smiled without fear and said, 'Hello Monsieur Schwarz,'

'Good evening, Benoit,' Erik said as he moved into the orchestra pit. 'What are you doing here?'

The boy's eyes took on the sheen of sadness as he said, 'I... I'm sorry,'

'What for?' Erik asked, watching Benoit's face.


Erik smiled at him, 'You're not intruding,'

Benoit managed a small smile and Erik wondered what had happened back at the de Changy house.

'I'm a little concerned that you are out so late on your own,' Erik told him and it surprised him to realise that he meant it.

Benoit turned his face towards the stage and away from Erik's gaze.

'Perhaps I should take you home,' Erik suggested.

'I don't want to go home,' Benoit said sadly, as he turned to stare down at the piano keys.

Erik felt a pang of something strange in his chest and, unable to recognise it, he asked, 'Why not?'

The boy shrugged his bony shoulders.

'Then perhaps we can play the piano together... until you feel ready to go home?' Erik asked, despite his better judgement. Deep in the back of his mind he knew that this wasn't a good idea, he knew that getting to know the child would not make him feel better and he knew that Christine was probably frantic with worry... yet... Benoit looked at him with such light in his eyes, such enthusiasm, that Erik simply took a seat on the bench at his side.

'Do you play then?' Benoit asked, his eyes bright.

Erik nodded and pressed his fingers to the keys, tapping out a fast paced yet short melody. Benoit's face lit up like the morning sky and as he beamed at Erik, Erik felt his heart begin to melt. Benoit started to play a soft air and Erik caught him up, playing the low chords while Benoit kept the tune. Engrossed in the moment they both played, both learned, both lost themselves within the music.

Finally, Benoit said, 'Mother and father have been arguing,'

Erik continued to play and did not respond, but he waited.

'It upset me,' he said.

Erik felt the pang again.

'So I came here,'

Erik nodded. Played.

'Music makes me feel better,'

'Yes,' Erik said. 'Music always comforts me too,'

'Really?' Benoit asked, his fingers parting from the keys as he turned to face Erik.

Erik too stopped and turned, with a small nod he said, 'Music is food for your soul, it is good for you,'

Benoit nodded and even seemed to understand. 'Have you played the piano for long, Monsieur?'

Erik noted the soft lilt in Benoit's voice and wondered if Christine ever encouraged him to sing. 'All of my life,' he answered.

Benoit grinned, 'Me too,'

Erik began to show Benoit a new technique, teaching him how to run along the keys without the need for pause, how to make it flow. He had no idea how long they sat there like that before Christine burst in and ran to the front of the room.

'Benoit,' she said as she paused at the entrance to the orchestra pit.

The boy looked uncomfortable but Christine ran to him and threw her arms around his small frame, lifting him from the seat and pulling him to her.

When she finally released him she stared into his eyes and said, 'Don't do that!'

Benoit looked down at his feet, which were moving from side to side.

'I was worried, I was...' she turned to Erik, hand on Benoit's shoulder. 'Did you bring him here?'

'Of course not,' he said, surprised by the question, although he knew he really had no right to be.

Benoit tugged her hand. 'I came here... you and papa were fighting,'

Christine looked down at him and touched his cheek. 'Go and find your coat,'

'Don't be angry with Monsieur Schwarz... he asked me to go home...'


Benoit nodded and disappeared through the side door.

'You should have brought him back,' she said but the anger had vanished from her voice.

'Yes, that would have been interesting,' Erik said, with a small smile. 'Imagine... Ah, Vicomte, just returning the boy, apologies for that...'

She glared at him. 'I was worried, Erik,'

'I know,'

'You should have brought him home,' she said but her tone was soft.

'He is home, Christine,' Erik said, reaching for her hand. She allowed him to take it and he felt the warmth of her fingertips in his palm. He lifted it, brought her smooth skin to his lips and kissed her knuckles softly. 'You are home,'

She took a sharp breath in, as if steadying herself and then gently took her hand back from him. As she turned he moved up behind her and whispered in her ear, 'Stay,'

As she turned to face him, as she opened her mouth to respond, Benoit came back in, tugging his coat over his shoulders. Christine turned from Erik and moved to her son, helping him into the jacket.

'Say goodbye to Monsieur Schwarz,' Christine said.

Benoit smiled up at him. 'Can I come again?'

Erik opened his mouth to speak but Christine broke in first, 'We will discuss this later,' she said to her son.

'Goodnight Benoit,' Erik said, with a smile. He watched as Christine ushered Benoit off ahead of her and as they approached the exit she turned around. Their eyes found each other across the rows of seats, across the room, across the gap that Erik felt closing between them. No words crossed over the distance at that moment but what was unspoken hung heavily in the night air.

Erik saw her sigh and walk away, and he knew then that one way or another, this was nearly over.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 31 of 39

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