Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 33 of 39

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You said what goes around comes around,

Well, I'm floating in the darkness waiting to be found,

So why didn't you tell me that I could be waiting such a long, long time?

Quietly sinking in that you're not lying by my side,

And I'm haunted, there's still a part of me that's haunted,

By the only one I've ever wanted,

Everyone has their ghosts,

And when you warned me,

I couldn't say you didn't warn me,

Maybe I'm afraid cos I know, I know,

That's what I need the most,

I've gotta to let you go, - Haunted, Ben Montague


It was late by the time Christine arrived home from the theatre. Jack had accompanied her to the house in the carriage but she had not felt talkative and Jack knew well enough not to push her. Instead, they sat in a relatively comfortable silence until the cab pulled up at her house. The weather was cool but dry, the driest it had been in weeks, and when she stepped out Jack looked her in the eye and asked, 'Is everything alright?'

No, she thought, nothing is right, but she had simply nodded her head at him, feebly keeping her emotions to herself. The house was quiet, Benoit was no doubt fast asleep and their neighbour, who had been taking care of Benoit that evening, was probably sleeping in the guest room too. Christine left her shawl on and ascended the stairs, quietly opening her son's door when she got to the end of the corridor.

She looked over him, curled up beneath the thick quilt, his breathing soft and even, and she felt her heart jump to her throat. Gently she reached out and touched his hair, being careful not to wake him and yet needing to feel his realness under her hands, to know that he was safe. She placed a kiss on his forehead and smiled down at him, her heart swelling with pride as he sighed in his slumber.

Lately, it was becoming more and more of a struggle to leave him although she did not truly know why. It seemed that when she was unsettled, she needed Benoit all the more, and that was frightening to her. It was not her place to need him; it was up to her to care for him, up to her to be there for him, and yet whenever she felt low it was he who saved her, even though he was too young to know it.

When she did finally leave the room she clicked the door closed as softly as she could behind her and made her way down the stairs and then into Raoul's drawing room in the hope that he might be home. The room was dark, though, and she lit the oil lamp at his desk so that she could see. There were no brandy glasses or other signs that anyone had been there and so she assumed that he was had not returned from Philippe's house yet.

Things had been strained, she knew that, and the past few days had gone by with barely a word passing between them but he was her husband and she was determined to make amends. She had resolved that when she spoke to him she would try to convince him to see their contract out. He would not like it, she knew, but she was enjoying her singing so much and the money from the full contract would set them back up nicely in Europe.

As much as she hated to admit it to herself, she would miss Erik and she briefly wondered what truly drew her to the theatre; the music or him. Either way, it would make no difference. Her marriage meant the world to her and as painful as she would find it to leave at the end of the twelve months, she knew that she must.

She rolled her eyes at the sight of the mess of papers strewn across Raoul's desk and it brought a smile to her face. Raoul was impeccably neat, his hair always smartly trimmed, he was cleanly shaven, his clothes were pressed and fresh but when it came to paperwork he was impossible. She loved that contrast about him and she remembered all of the light hearted quibbles they had had about his letters.

She longed to have those moments back.

Out of habit she began to neaten them up and place them in what seemed like appropriate piles for their purpose. As she lifted another stack, an envelope spilled its contents and she was forced to ferret around on the floor for it. When she had finally found the papers she stood up and held them in her hands.

She was about to slip them back into the envelope when she noticed the stamp on the top.

They were tickets.

She turned them over and read the details with a sinking heart. The tickets were for passage to England in a little over a day's time for two adults and a child, first class. She stared at them in her palm for what felt like eternity before she sighed and pressed them back into the envelope. When she placed it back on the desk she felt an anger overcome her, one that was so fierce she could not stand still.

It wasn't Raoul's decision to take them to Europe that angered her so, it was the fact that he had done it behind her back. They had not made a decision those nights ago and they had barely spoken since, yet he had gone against her wishes and purchased their progress back towards France. Suddenly her breathing was not quite normal and she could not bear to be in the house any longer, she was suffocating.

Knowing that Benoit was safe she left the house and was surprised to find Jack and the carriage still waiting outside.

'I was about to come inside,' Jack told her as she climbed into the back.

She stared at him.

'I was worried,' he explained. 'You haven't seemed yourself,'

She turned her face away. 'Can you take me to the theatre?'

Jack signalled to the driver and the carriage moved away with a clunk before settling into a regular rock as they rumbled through the New York streets. Jack was quiet for a while but she could feel his eyes on her, feel his curiosity on her shoulders.

She turned to him, 'The theatre is quiet at this time,'

Jack simply nodded, no questions. She could not work out why she was so irritated by this. Did she really want his questions, his curiosity, his confidence after spending all this time avoiding it?

'You won't wait for me outside,' Christine said as the carriage slowed to a halt outside the entrance.

'I'd prefer to...'

She shook her head, stopping him mid sentence. 'Please...'

'I think Erik is at home Christine, I'd really prefer it if you weren't here alone,' Jack explained, his eyes fixed to hers.

'That's exactly the point though,' Christine said and a sigh escaped before she could stop it. 'I want to be alone and this is the safest, quietest place I know,'

'If something happens...'

She smiled at him, 'Nothing will happen,'

Jack shrugged. 'Alright then,'

She climbed out of the carriage without his help and closed the small door behind her. Jack hung his head out of the window and said, 'The stage hands will probably still be here,'

'I know them,'

Jack shrugged again, nodded his head at her and then prompted the driver to move off. Christine stood at the edge of the uneven road and watched as the black outline of the cab moved away into the distance and the sound of hooves slowly vanished. She desperately needed to think, she needed to order her mind and her heart so that she could make sense of what was happening.

Inside, the theatre was dark but there were some lamps still lit and so she wandered through into the auditorium. She glanced around her and chose a seat at the back, under the balcony and immersed in shadow. She settled into the chair and wondered how she would find time to tell Erik that she was leaving.

For a moment, she even wondered if he already knew, he seemed to always know what was going on.

She rested her head back and thought of how different her life had been for the last nine months. Christmas was approaching and she had genuinely been looking forward to it this year. It was the first time in many. Singing again, with Erik there, had been a revelation. She knew she had missed it but she had no idea quite how much.

In New York her reputation had grown, she was becoming nearly as famous as she had been in France, and she realised how she had missed the crowds and recognition. Music allowed her to be... well... her.

She still hated to admit it to herself but things were never the same without Erik at her side when she sang. Whenever he was there something came from within, something deep, almost mystical, made its way to the surface and for breathtaking moments she was flying, soaring above it all.

Nothing could touch her.

And what of Erik? She could not imagine him taking the news well and yet he had been so very different. He was still powerful, intense, dark... but he was also a man. It was something she had struggled to see him as before but now he was human to her and far from making him less magical it had the opposite effect on her.

He seemed even more extraordinary than before.

She had grown to love New York, Benoit had friends, an education and a home, a future. She was singing and Erik was there... he had loved her all these years. It was not as intense, not as sensual as the way Erik did but it was real, solid, warm and rich. She loved him for being so kind... so gentle, for being the man he had always promised to be when they were children. She loved him for standing by her, for protecting and loving her, for never changing in spite of the adversities they had faced.

A sob caught in her throat and before she knew it, there were tears flowing down her cheeks. She knew what she had to do and it was breaking her heart.

Erik stepped quietly into the theatre and listened carefully for the sounds of people moving or talking but all he heard was the gentle hum of Christine crying. Even her tears were like music to him.

Jack had gone straight to Erik's home after leaving Christine at the theatre and told him where she was. Erik had not hesitated and taken the cab Jack was using to get to her as quickly as he could.

In the auditorium, he looked around him and caught a glimpse of her shadow, curled into a chair on the back row. As he moved towards her in the darkness he saw her stir and then look up, directly at him.

He stepped into her row and simply said, as softly as he had ever spoken, 'Christine,'

He loved the feel of her name on his tongue and the way it sounded when he spoke it. The crispness and softness in equal measures, so captivating he let the sound linger around him whenever he said it. He knew that she felt it to.

She did not respond to him but when he held his hand out to her she took it without question. She followed him back down along the aisle, around the stage and to the usually locked exit at the rear of the building. It was dark but he could see clearly and he squeezed her hand as he guided her through the blackness. She said nothing to him as he opened the door and stepped into the cold. As he led her up the stairs, she made no murmur and when they arrived at the roof, he turned to face her, keeping her hand in his.

As their eyes met another tear spilled onto her cheek and he reached out to brush it away with his fingertip, feeling the velvet of her skin beneath his touch. As he began to move away she stopped him by placing her hand over his and pressing it to her face, leaning into it. Her warmth penetrated his cold fingers and he felt his heart jumped in his chest, a feeling he had not had in so many years it was almost painful.

Then she looked up, dark eyes meeting blue and said, with a voice that neared breaking, 'I am leaving,'

It took all of his strength to keep his hand where it was, all of his will to remain standing. He swallowed, almost breathless, and managed to ask, 'When?'

She closed her eyes, pressed her cheek into his palm, 'On Saturday morning,'

And that was it, almost as quickly as it had begun to beat again, Erik felt his heart stop. Suddenly, it was as if he was watching the whole thing unfold from somewhere above, like he was not quite a part of it.

When her eyes opened again she said, 'I'm sorry,'

'There is nothing I can do to change your mind?' he asked, although he had the sudden realisation that it was futile.

All of his words, all of his plans, all of his love... futile.

Inside him, his soul screamed that he should take her anyway, just grab her and run. Briefly he wondered if she would stop him or if she would allow herself to be carried away, as she once had. They were there alone, she loved him, no one would know...

He would know.

And what of his son, if he were to take Christine?

Christine's eyes clouded with another haze of tears and she shook her head.

'I assume le Victome knows that I am here,' Erik had meant for it to sound hard but instead the words tumbled out in a mist of desperation. They were sorrowful and weak and he wondered where he had gone.

She nodded as she slowly took her hand away from his.

He stared at her, 'You don't want to leave,'

Christine turned and moved to the edge of the roof top, gazing out over the night as she leant on the wall. He heard her sigh as he approached at her side. She said, 'I never wanted to leave you,'

He closed his eyes.

'You sent me away and I left... because it was the right thing to do,' she explained. 'But I didn't want to go,'

He almost held his breath as she spoke, so that he would not give himself away, so that he could not give himself away. He didn't dare look towards her; he did not want her to see the regret and sorrow in his eyes. She did not deserve to see the pain and the anguish that he felt running through his veins.

She deserved so much better than that.

She looked up at the stars, 'It's beautiful tonight,'

He too, stared upwards.

'I threw myself into arranging the wedding,' she told him. 'When you... when I left,'

Though he wanted to respond, he found that he simply could not.

'And then as it got closer...' she sighed and moved away from the edge, back into the centre of the roof top. 'It was a blur... I couldn't stop thinking about our kiss,'

He turned to look at her but she was not facing him.

'That kiss changed my life,' Christine said and she sounded so far away. 'One kiss...'

'It wasn't just your life,' Erik finally spoke, although he wasn't sure how. She glanced over her shoulder at him as he added, 'It changed mine too,'

She managed a small smile.

'It changed me,'

'I had to see you,' she said, shaking her head. He could see that she was remembering, as he had done nearly every day since that night. 'We... that night... I had never felt like that before,'

They faced each other but there was a considerable space between them and neither felt that they should close it. It was a reminder of how far they had drifted and how close they had once been.

'I haven't felt like that since,' she said, her voice low. 'I loved you,'

Erik turned around, his head dropping as he thought of the opportunities he might have had, had he not been so blinded by anger and jealousy. He could not bear to look at her now, telling him all of the things that he had always wanted to hear, only to then leave.

He felt her move up behind him and her arms encircle him from behind. He placed his hands on her arms, over his stomach and they stood there, pressed together, for what felt like an eternity. There was a quiet stillness to the moment that Erik silently relished and it was the contrast to their relationship that he found so moving. In all of the years they had known each other, everything seemed a constant wave of movement, an undulating torrent of discomfort, pain, elation, love... he didn't remember any true stillness before, because even in his dreams she was there, moving all around him.

He could feel the movement of her body as her breaths became ragged with tears and he pressed his hands to the skin on her arms in an effort to offer her some comfort. It seemed strange that he was somehow managing to portray an image of calmness because inside his soul was slowly dying.

'Oh, how I loved you,' she whispered.

'I'm sorry,' he managed to say.

Desperately sorry.

Her grip around him tightened, he felt her head rest against his back, 'I never intended to go back to Raoul after that night but... what could I do, Erik?'

He said nothing because words were not enough. There was nothing he could say that would change what had happened then or now, no amount of conversation would ever bring back the years they had lost. Nothing could thwart his tearing heart and nothing could stop her pain, this was what was left.

This was all that was left.

'And so I can't stay with you,' she said, her voice thick with tears. 'Because Raoul is my husband... no matter how much I love you,'

He felt her kiss the space between his shoulder blades and then her arms move, her head move... her body was no longer pressed to his, her arms no longer around his waist. He could hear her feet on the hard floor as she backed away, he could feel the sorrow around him and yet he was powerless to stop it, to stop her.

'I have to go,' she said and the tone of her voice shook him, it was so full of regret.

'You'll forgive me,' he managed to say, his heart breaking as he spoke. 'If I don't turn around,'

Erik could almost feel the cracks appearing and running through his heart, through his veins, the shredding of his soul. He could feel his world shatter around him, everything he had ever wanted becoming further away.

'I don't think I could bear to watch you walk away again,' he said into the vastness, but in his heart he knew that she was already gone.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 33 of 39

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