I woke in a strange bed. For a second I didn't remember where I was; then it all came rushing back to me. I looked around the room expecting to see Erik sitting at the piano, but he wasn't there. I got out of the bed and walked to the closed doorway. Pulling the curtain open slightly I peeked out of it, looking for my Angel. I saw him sitting at his desk working. I watched him for a bit; once or twice he turned, and I thought he would catch me spying. I finally had enough courage to walk out of the room and over to him to see what he was doing.
"Ah, you have finally decided to come out. I know you have been watching me," he said slyly without looking up. I could almost picture the smirk on his face.
I flushed, "I'm sorry. I didn't want to disturb you."
"You would never be a disturbance," he replied as I reached him. I looked over his shoulder at what he was composing. 'The Music of the Night' was written across the top in beautiful script.
"Is that the song you sang to me last night?"
"Yes, I was just fixing some things on it."
"It was beautiful. Very captivating. It suits your voice well," I said softly.
"Thank you," he replied, finally stopping to turn and face me. We stared at each other for a while, neither of us speaking. Finally I broke from his gaze looking away with a blush creeping onto my face. I had caught myself thinking about how wonderful he was, and how much I actually loved him. My love for him was growing stronger everyday, and the more I got to know him the faster it grew. I chased those thoughts from my mind quickly, before he could figure out what I was thinking.
"You still look tired, Christine. You should rest more."
I looked back at him, "How long was I sleeping?"
"About two hours, but I can tell you are still exhausted. You did have your very first opening night tonight. All those emotions can wear even the most seasoned of performers out," he told me, leading me back to his room.
"You need to rest too. Do you have some other place I can sleep, so you can have your bed back?" I asked, hesitating on lying down.
"No. You sleep there. I'm not tired and am going to keep working, but you should rest. It's alright. Go on," he insisted. I could see trying to convince him to rest would be futile.
He gently guided me to lie down, "Fine, but this is the last time I will agree this easily. Next time I won't rest until you do." I was so tired I barely registered I had suggested there would be another time like this. For a second I panicked slightly, but either he didn't catch what I said or didn't care.
Erik laughed, "Alright, dear. Now sleep."
"Goodnight, Erik," I mumbled as I drifted off.
"Goodnight, Christine," I barely heard his reply as I fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up not knowing whether it was still night or day. There was no clock I could see, and Erik was not around, again. I knew where he would most likely be, so I walked back to the main room he worked from. I never expected to find him asleep on his desk. My heart stopped for a moment at seeing him so peaceful. He seemed tense around me; it was nice to see him completely at ease. I found a blanket and walked up to him silently and draped it over his shoulders.
I couldn't help but stare at him in this state. It was then I noticed that his mask was coming off in his sleep. I was curious as to what he was hiding. Part of me wanted to remove the mask gently and look, but the other part of me wanted to try and slip it back on for him, so he'd be more comfortable. The latter part of me won.
As I was trying to slip the mask back on, Erik woke, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" he shouted. "I thought you said you wouldn't force me to show you! I guess that's true, you wouldn't force me to do it, but you'd just do it yourself when I wasn't able to stop you, is that it?!"
He stood over me yelling. When he had jumped up the mask had come completely off, and both it and I had fallen to the ground. I laid by it cringing with everything he said, tears starting to fall down my face. I glanced up at him right as he raised his arm in a gesture. It gave me a clear view of his face and I gasped. The right side was horribly deformed in a way I can't even describe. It didn't scare or bother me though, strange enough. The only thing I was worried about was his reaction. I was so scared I couldn't even defend myself.
The gasp must have set him off again, "I knew you would be just like the rest. It's why I didn't want to show you. Now that you've seen though why don't you keep looking!" He dropped to his knees, grabbed my arm, and forced me to stare at his face. I tried to turn away and get out of his grasp because he was hurting and scaring me. I knew he thought I was reacting to his face, but it wasn't the truth. I kept trying to tell him that I was attempting to put the mask back on, and that what I saw didn't bother me, but nothing would come out.
He finally let me go roughly and I fell to the ground, silent sobs wracking my body. "I just want to be seen for me and not my deformity. I had hoped you would be the one person to see that," he whispered, tears of his own running down his face, "I guess not. Maybe you'll learn to live with it though. Even though it scares you, maybe someday you can learn to love me even though I look like a…a monster."
He looked at me hopefully. I had finally stopped sobbing enough to think. I looked at the ground and whispered, "I already do." I heard him gasp, but continued slightly louder, looking at him, "You don't look like a monster. I think you are perfect inside and out."
He shook his head in disagreement, "That's not true. Look at how you reacted. You can't even look at me for more than two seconds without turning away."
I had turned to find his mask and out of embarrassment. "I was looking for this," I told him handing him his mask. "I really don't have a problem with the way you look. I didn't mean to startle you or react this way. I was trying to fix the way it was sitting on you, it had slipped while you slept, but you woke when I was trying to adjust it."
"Why did you cry then?"
"I was scared. I thought you might hit me, and then when you grabbed me I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't mean to act that way. Every time a man, other than my father, has yelled at me he's ended up hitting me. I didn't know if you would do that too," I said softly, tears still slipping quietly down my face.
Erik had his mask back on and he knelt next to me, tipping my chin up to look at him. He wiped the tears away as he replied, "I would never hit you, believe that. I would hurt myself before I hurt you. I'm sorry I yelled. I just do not like people seeing my face…it does not usually end well for me."
"I know. I'm sorry all that happened."
"Do not apologize, Christine. It is not your fault; just leave my mask where it is next time, alright? I have fallen asleep there more than once, it does not bother me the way it slips," he gave me a small smile. There was that 'next time' again. I guess we both enjoyed each other's company, and wanted to keep seeing each other, more than we thought.
"I will," I promised.
"Good. Now let's get you back up top, they are probably wondering where you are," he told me pulling me up. I nodded and followed him back to the boat. He helped me back in and we rode silently back to where we came in.
I was still shaken as he led me back up the passage behind my mirror. The whole time I replayed everything that had happened in the last few hours over and over in my mind.
When we reached the entrance I turned and faced him, "Will I see you again?"
"Yes, but not for awhile. I think it is best if we stay away from each other for now. I will always be here if you need me; I am always watching," Erik looked into my eyes reassuringly.
"What about our lessons?" I asked, reaching for some chance that I would be near him sooner rather than later.
"For now I think you will be just fine. Let us put those on hold. I will let you know if we need to start up again."
I nodded sadly. "Alright," I answered, my voice breaking as tears formed in my eyes.
"This is not goodbye forever, Christine," he reassured. "Do not be sad. I am always around. We will be together soon. Now go, they are worried about you." With that he opened the passage and I was forced to walk back into my room. I turned back in time to see his retreating figure as the mirror closed.
"Miss Daaé?" I jumped not expecting anyone to be in there.
"Who's there?" I asked looking around the dark room.
I heard a match being lit, and the voice came into view as they lit a lamp.
"Oh, Madame Giry. It's you." I replied, relieved.
"Where have you been?"
"Um…it's hard to explain and I'd rather not talk about it," I told her, tears starting to form again as I thought about all that had happened. I felt as if I hadn't even slept at all, I was so emotionally drained.
"I understand. The managers are worried, and so is the Vicomte."
"Raoul!" I had completely forgotten about him. "I should tell them I'm safe!"
"I'll tell them. You need to go home and rest. I have a carriage ready for you downstairs. Let me walk you out and then I'll let them all know you are alright," she replied.
"I should tell Raoul myself. I abandoned him without telling him where I was going," I insisted.
"And what exactly will you tell him?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, "I think you should figure out an explanation before you see him next, and you should be rested as well. Go home," Madame Giry insisted.
I nodded, "You're right. Let's go."
I followed her out of the room and to the carriage.
On the ride my mind wondered back to Erik and the time I had spent with him. I found myself missing him already. By the time I reached my apartment I could barely stop more tears from escaping. I thanked the driver and went inside as quickly as I could without running.
I fell on my bed as sobs wracked my body once more. So much happened in the last couple of days, and it was all catching up to me now. I didn't know what to do with myself. I actually wouldn't have been able to give a specific reason as to why I was crying, if anyone had asked. I was crying for Erik, I was crying for the worry I caused everyone, I was crying for myself, I was crying because I still felt shaken up, I was crying for the whole world in that moment, and I couldn't stop. Eventually exhaustion overcame me and I calmed down.
As I drifted off I could hear a familiar voice singing, "Nighttime sharpens…"
The days passed and I filled them rehearsing for our new production 'Il Muto' in which I played a silent role. Carlotta had made her return and I had been pushed down to her understudy. I didn't argue too much because it was a higher position than I had been in, that, and I didn't feel like arguing anyway. I missed seeing Erik and having our lessons. I guess since I didn't have a singing part he decided that I didn't need lessons. The thing that bothered me the most was that I couldn't feel him around me anymore. Before, I could tell when he was around; even if he wasn't talking to me his presence had an effect on me. Now, I felt nothing, and that was the worst thing of all. Raoul kept trying to get me to go out with him, but I kept telling him I was too tired. I felt really bad about doing that, but I just didn't feel like being around anyone. All I did anymore was go to rehearsal and then go home and go straight to sleep. I did make myself go out with Raoul a few times, mostly to make him leave me alone, and to try and get my mind off of everything. It didn't work. I had to force myself to act like I was enjoying the outing. After every one I felt even more guilty than just telling Raoul no. I felt as if I was leading him on, and I didn't want to do that to him, but I couldn't tell him I didn't feel anything but friendship for him. How could I explain that I loved a person no one knew existed? I really needed to see my Angel again soon, or I was going to go mad.
Opening night I didn't even feel like performing. I made myself go on the stage because I hoped I might be able to feel Erik there. I knew if there was one sure way for him to be around it would be to watch me perform; whether I was singing or not. Everything was going smoothly. I lost myself in my character and forgot about real life for a few minutes. Then I felt it. My Angel was watching. I felt exhilarated to know he was there, but something felt off. I didn't get the usually positive feelings from him, and it didn't take long to learn why.
"DID I NOT INSTRUCT THAT BOX FIVE BE LEFT EMPTY?!"
"He's here! The Phantom of the Opera!" Meg started shouting. Everyone on stage froze, the whole audience froze; we all didn't know what to do.
"Yes, he is," I said, with a mixture of excitement and annoyance. He had promised not to cause any problems, and he had abandoned me, which made me more than a little irritated. On the other hand, he was back now, and that made me happy. I didn't know how to feel.
"Your role is silent you little toad!" Carlotta told me sharply.
"A toad, Madame? Perhaps it is you who are the toad," Erik's voice came from all around.
Carlotta shook off his voice and made everyone get back in place. She walked to the side of the stage to get more of her special spray to help her sing and then instructed the conductor to start back up. I knew this was a bad idea. I could still feel that he was mad. I couldn't do anything to stop her though, so I had to continue. All of a sudden Carlotta started missing notes. She tried and tried again, but she couldn't hit anything. I could hear Erik laughing, and see Carlotta start to cry. She ran off stage and the curtain started closing. I heard the manager say that I would take over Carlotta's role, and I made my way quickly backstage to change.
As we were getting ready to put on my wig there was screaming in the audience. We ran out to the stage and saw Joseph Buquet hanging from the catwalk he used to control the scenery. I automatically knew who would be blamed for his death and I ran to find him. I vaguely remember hearing my name being called, but I didn't care.
I eventually ended up on the roof. I couldn't get under the Opera House, and when I realized that, I started to panic. I needed air, and this was the only place I could get safely. Tears were streaming down my face. I was terrified of what would happen if they found Erik. I couldn't bear the thought of permanently loosing him.
Suddenly the door opened and someone was speaking, "Christine, there you are! Why did you run off like that?"
"Raoul! What do I tell him?" I thought.
"Christine? Are you alright?" he asked approaching me cautiously.
I shook my head, "No. I'm scared, Raoul," I replied starting to cry. Technically it wasn't a lie.
"Shh. You're alright. Come here," he said pulling me into a hug. "Everything will be fine. I promise."
I sobbed into his shoulder. I needed to find Erik, but I didn't know where to look. I wished he had never made me stop seeing him. Raoul tightened his grip on me and rubbed my back.
"Christine. Christine, look at me," he finally said pulling away slightly and wiping the tears from my eyes.
"Christine," I heard my Angel's voice call. I jumped slightly, looking for him.
"Christine, calm down. I will keep you safe," Raoul said causing me to look back at him. "I am actually glad we are alone. I have something I want to ask you. I have…I have uh, actually been wanting to ask you for a while now," he sounded nervous.
I looked at him, puzzled. What could he possibly want to ask me that would make him nervous? We've known each other for ages. He should be comfortable enough with me by now to ask anything without being scared.
It took him getting down on his knee for me to finally figure out what he wanted to ask, "Christine Daaé, will you marry me?"
I gasped, not knowing what to say. I heard something move behind me, but I was too shocked by Raoul's proposal to pay any attention to it.
"Raoul, I…I'm…I…can't. I'm sorry…but I can't." I stuttered.
I saw the hurt in his eyes, but he stood up with a smile and gave a small, hallow laugh, "It is alright. I understand. You have been through a lot recently and you are not ready to make a decision this big. Why don't we just get you back inside so they do not worry about you." I tried to say something else to him, but he just shook his head and gestured for me to head back downstairs.
When I arrived back on stage there was even more chaos than before. Apparently the chandelier had fallen and almost killed more people. Luckily everyone had left after witnessing Buquet's death, so no one was in the seats it fell on. The managers pulled us aside and told us that the Opera House was to be closed until further notice. They were going to figure out what happened to Buquet and the chandelier before they risked any more people getting hurt.
I walked back to my dressing room after I convinced Raoul that I'd be fine on my own. When I opened the door, I saw Erik standing by my wardrobe, his back to the door.
"Erik?" I called softly. He turned and I could see tears in his eyes.
"How...how could you?" he asked, pain evident in his voice.
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused.
"Don't play coy with me! I saw you up on the roof with him!" he spat. "You're going to marry him! I thought you'd at least talk to me before letting him take you from me!"
"Erik! Stop! I'm not marrying anyone! I told him no," it was then I recalled the noise I heard up on the roof. "If you wouldn't have left before that conversation was over you would have known that!"
He looked embarrassed, "Oh."
"Exactly. Oh," I told him, slightly mad. "I suppose that's why the chandelier is now on the ground?" I asked, angrily. He didn't reply, but looked at the ground instead. "God, Erik! You could have killed someone! All because you listened to part of a conversation and wouldn't even talk to me about it before you reacted! How dare you get upset after you left me alone for weeks! You don't get to decide when I can and can't see you and then get mad when you show up and hear something you don't like! Especially when you show up and ruin weeks of rehearsal I had to force myself to go to because I was too depressed to get out of bed! Because of you!" Erik was very attentive to me now, wide-eyed, and flinching at almost every word I said. I couldn't stop though. I was letting out weeks of frustration and I wasn't going to let him get away easily after what he put me through. "Why did you even do that to her? Why did you yell in the middle of the production? You said you'd stop messing with the managers! I don't need you to help me! You don't get to decide my life for me!"
I finally finished yelling at him and Erik looked a mixture of shocked, scared, and proud. I was breathing heavily, looking at him, and waiting for his reply. It came softly, "I am sorry. I wanted to make sure you continued as the Prima Donna. I should not have done anything, but you should have that part, not that Carlotta woman. As for the yelling it was because they were sitting in my box. Box five is the box I always sit in to watch the productions. It is in the perfect place, and I can hide in the back of it. I went up to it tonight, and there were people in it. I overreacted, I've been a little on edge lately, and then Carlotta called you that name, and I couldn't stop myself. To top off the night I saw you get proposed to by a man you should be with, and I thought you would choose him; so I ran away before I could hear you say yes and break my heart even more. I needed to destroy something, and the chandelier was there…it just happened. I knew no one was around, but I know someone could have still been hurt. I should not have done it and regret it now, but…I was distraught."
I was still mad at him, "What about everything else you did to me? Does that not matter? Do my personal feelings not matter? I was hurt, too, you know!"
"I thought it would be best. I could not bear the thought of you getting close to me and then deciding you did not want me. I thought maybe this way you would move on. Obviously that did not happen, and I also would not have been able to live with it if it had, so it was a stupid decision, but a decision I thought was the best at the time. It will never happen again," he told me sincerely.
I softened slightly at his confession. I would be mad at him for a while, that was for sure, but at the same time glad that I had him back. I wasn't going to let him know he was off the hook at all though…not easily anyway.
"Christine? Please say something. I'm sorry I did that…all of it. If you are still upset because you think I hurt Buquet, I did not. I promise that was not me. I will never resort to murder, no matter how mad I am."
Buquet reminded me, made me think of why I needed to find Erik in the first place. I remembered the managers' promise, and I got worried again; I needed to keep Erik safe, I couldn't lose him.
"You have to stay out of the Opera House. You can't come back here, Erik. They'll find you. They think it was you. You have to stay hidden," I started to tell him frantically, panicking on the inside.
"Christine!" he stopped me. "I will be fine. Stop worrying; I have been hiding from them for years, they will not find me. Alright?"
I nodded and relaxed slightly. "Just because I panicked a little there doesn't mean you're off the hook," I told him. "You still owe me for everything. You just put me out of work for a few months."
"I promise I will make it up to you," he said looking me straight in the eyes. "Now you should go home and rest. I will see you soon; show you how to get underground from the outside."
"It's a date," I joked, smiling at him.
"Good," he replied with a smile of his own, before disappearing through my mirror.
That night I slept peacefully on my own for the first time in months. A smile never left my face the whole night as I dreamt of what was to come.