Life Will Go On
Erik sat on his rooftop terrace, he did not wear the mask. It was a lovely early summer evening and the park was bustling with activity, but up here, on the roof of the theater building, the noise was faint and pleasant. He had grown accustomed to the constant noise and acitivity in the amusement park. It was good to hear that, it meant his business was good. Not as good as the gambling-ships and the not really legal enterprises, but then, he wasn't a saint. He had a good conscience, he hadn't done anything really bad in the last years and his criminal deeds were so long in the history, he could easily pretend they didn't happen. He did not wear a mask, right now he just wanted to enjoy the salty wind from the sea.
It was so good to feel the sun and the wind on his bare face. He hadn't given up wearing the mask - the mask was somehow his trademark as Mr. Y. But he wore it like others wore stage costumes. He wore it when he was working. He didn't wear it when he was at home and if no customers were around he even went through the park without. It was a strange feeling not to wear a mask and he still was scared without. He felt somewhat naked, having worn that piece of clothing all his life.
"There you are, Erik" he heared Madame Giry's voice. The older she grew the less she came to visit. Her leg was giving her more and more trouble and she leaned heavily on her cane, on bad days she needed crutches now.
Erik turned his head. She didn't flinch. She had seen his face before and grown used to it. To the old Giry's surprise Erik's face looked much better. The angry red was gone and the skin had tanned somehow due to the time he spend in the sun now. The bumps and ditches were still there, the misshaped lips, the scar-like tissue. Sometimes Madame Giry wondered if Erik was really born that way as he claimed or if it was the result of a terrible burn wound that was never allowed to heal properly - until now. Now his face still looked ugly and scared, but not worse than the faces of other men who had suffered terrible accidents.
"Never grow old," she groaned as she sat down and put her cane beside her chair. She massaged her leg. "Never grow old. I am so useless now. Meg took over as ballet mistress and I am just Tony's granny now, I can't do much work any more and I tend to forget things."
Erik shrugged. "If you don't want to grow older, that is a problem that can be solved. But you have to kill yourself for I gave up killing people. It's a bad habit and I'm glad I'm rid of it."
Antoinette Giry took it as what it was, one of Erik's makabre jokes. He liked to make jokes about death and killing. She decided to ignore them. Erik joking about killing still made her uneasy, she knew what he was capable of. "Not that you grow younger," she told him. She had noticed that he wasn't as agile as before, she hadn't missed that he was no longer capable staying up all night.
"No. But that doesn't matter. I won't allow myself to become a helpless invalid. I plan to live long enough to see Tony taking over for me, then... then I will just go. But it is another ten years before I can just lie down and sleep."
"Ten years is a long time, Erik. And Tony... Tony does not show much talent in music. Erik, you forget that Tony is a girl, no matter how hard all of you pretend he was a boy. He might fall in love and want children."
Erik sighed. "As if getting a child was a problem. Any girl here can get a child easier than a piece of bread. He would just have to go away for several months and come back with a baby, claiming his girlfriend had died. Do you really think such easy trick would be a problem? It would be just another illusion and Tony has a talent for illusions."
"He has more talent for riding horses and I am always scared when he does."
"I'm scared too. But what I did in his age was by far more dangerous and I survived. Antoinette, please. Let us just enjoy this nice evening without constantly worrying about things we cannot change no matter how hard we try. Tony is Tony and he will make his decisions - and his mistakes. I just hope he will never repeat mine."
"Did you realize that you haven't worked on new and attractions for at least two years now?" Antoinette berated him.
Erik snorted. "Your worries about growing old might turn out to be unfounded..." He strongly disliked her telling him what to do.
"I was just thinking," she replied with a shrug, "Maybe you are growing lazy in your old days."
"Are you finished? It is a long way downstairs, you better start going if you want to be at home before sunset."
Antoinette shook her head. "Erik, I am not here to quarrel. I'm growing old, as are you. Do you really think we should waste time with quarrels?"
Erik shifted in his seat to get into a more comfortable and relaxed position. "I was doing precisely that - enjoying a nice evening. I never thought I'd be able to do that, Antoinette. I never thought I might live among people, live as an honest man, enjoy the sun and the wind on my bare face and have a family. My life is not what I dreamed about. Instead of a famous composer and musician I became a showman, an illusionist, selling cheap amusement to the masses. But instead of being lonely I have a family and friends. Antoinette, I am happier than I ever was in my life. If great arts come from a tormented soul I don't miss composing so much."
Antoinette didn't reply. She put her hand on his shoulder for a short time and smiled, something she seldom did. Then she got up and began walking away.
The next morning Meg woke early, before sunrise. The first light of the day was already there, but the sun had not risen over the ocean now. She heared something. When she opened the door to her room, she just saw Erik leaving. He wore a light grey-silver suit and a black dress cane with a silver handle. She got dressed and decided to follow him.
It was easy to guess where he might be. He sat at his pier, staring over the ocean, waiting for the sunrise. Meg noticed that his mask lay beside him on the wooden planks of the pier.
"I know that you are there, Meg," Erik said without turning his head. "I can hear your shoes."
She went to sit beside him, she deliberately sat on his right side so she saw only his deformed side. It didn't scare her, she was pleased to find the skin a healthy color, as healthy as Erik would get, without any lesions.
They sat side by side and listend to the noises of the ocean. At this time the amusement park was asleep, it was quiet and peaceful.
"Do you know why we have only one child?" Erik asked suddenly, not looking at her but staring at the horizon. She shook her head. "Meg, you remember when we betrayed each other?"
Meg was about to tell him that he betrayed her far more often than she betrayed him. She had committed that sin once, he had done it several times as far as she knew. But she did not say anything, she knew he wanted to tell her more.
"I suffered gonorrhea afterwards. I don't know if you got infected first and passed the disease on to me or if I got infected and passed it on to you. But that disease is known to leave people infertile. I'm afraid one of us, or maybe both, suffer that consequence of our misdeeds."
She nodded. She wasn't angry at this revelation, she had suspected something like that a long time. "I'm grateful we have Tony," she told him. Now he put his arm around her an pulled her into his embrace. She smiled as she saw his deformed lips twitch, indicating that he was smiling.
"I do know now the answer to your question," Erik told her.
"If love were a flower, what kind of flower would it be?" Erik said and turned his head to smile at her, to kiss her forehead.
"You know?" she asked with a bit of of a mocking smile, "Then you are the only man in the world who does."
Erik chuckled. "Yes, my dear, I do know. Took me long enough to figure it out, but now I know. Let me show you." They got up and Erik led her under the pier. Meg was surprised to find that the little hut under the pier had been restored and looked better than it ever had. Obviously Erik was growing sentimental in his old age.
"You can see it from here," he told her.
Meg looked around. She saw no flowers at all. She saw mostly salty seawater, stones and wood. But no living flower. "There's nothing." She told Erik, wondering if this was another of his games, his illusions he wanted to demonstrate her.
"Look closer." He pointed to the dark green moss at the large wooden pillars and the wooden planks on the side of the pier.
Meg raised her eyebrows. "Moss? That's one of your jokes, isn't it?"
He shook his head fiercly. "No. I'm deadly serious. I've been here regularly over the years. This moss lives and has grown over the years. It is still green. It is exposed to the salt, the wind, the wind, the icy cold in winter and the burning heat in summer. It has nothing to feed on than salt water, stones and old, dry wood. But it lives despite all difficulties, it survives, it beats all odds. That's what love is like."
Meg smiled as she took his hand to help him climb up onto the pier again. He had changed, greatly so. It had taken him a lifetime to understand what love was, but now he knew and whatever he might forget in the future, he would never forget that feeling as they enjoyed the sunrise on this summerday.
Thank you very much for reading! I'm sorry for the delay posting this last chapter. Very sorry. But now I finally made it. I hope you liked my story.