Disclaimer: I do not own anything, except when it's completely insane and lunatic.
Author's note: I apologize a thousand times for my very, very late update. I also want to thank you all for staying with me. Though I had very good reasons to not write! I've been ill for two weeks, have a cold for two months now, my beta's mail stopped working and it seems like I'm so annoying she can't live with me any longer. So there's a job for a beta here. If you're interested or anyone you know is, please send a message to Thank you.
Now we're done advertisizing, the song in this chapter is called 'Il core vi dono' (I give you my heart) and features in the opera Così fan tutte (Women are like that) by Mozart.
« There is no heaven on Earth; we can only find some pieces. »
« His prominent eyes were direct and disconcerting. They gave no hint of mood, humour or temper; they rarely blinked, yet they weren't dead; they were electrically intense. »
The Shadow in the North by Phillip Pullman
« Il core vi dono,
Bell'idolo mio » Erik gazed down upon her as he poured his angelic, poisonous voice in her ear. She was so beautiful.
At some point, he didn't know when, he had stopped being angry about his 'infatuation' with the girl. In the start he had tried to stop himself from going to look at her, but had found that he was drawn to her, even as he wandered through the lost corridors of the opera. He had locked himself up in his room and then suddenly found himself in Box 5, watching her during the rehearsals. He dreamt about her milk white skin, those soft blue eyes that seemed to glimmer with sadness, her golden curls rustling on her back, her dress sweeping over the floor… and her voice. That strange, melodious, perfect voice. A pitch that could be higher, some practice, a bit smoothening… But the main problem was the emotion. Or the lack of that.
Now her voice resounded through the room, loving, tender, a bit hesitating but ready to succumb, as Dorabella should talk to the disguised Guglielmo. Oh, his Christine…
She had been crying softly in her room one day. The moment she had lifted up her pretty little head and he had seen tears – they had almost seemed pearls – running down her flushed cheeks, he had started singing. He had come there to watch her, to adore her from a distance; now he had reached out to her. Her puffy, red eyes had widened and searched the room, no fear in them though she heard a strange man singing. She had gone out to look for the source of the angelic voice and he had profited from the situation to pick up his violin and change from a capella to accompanied singing.
And she loved him.
She loved the Angel. The Angel of Music. Her angel, like she called him. Him, the hideous creature. The one his one mother couldn't even look at. The Devil. The monster.
She loved him. He was certain of it. And if she did not already, he would teach her how, he would show her, show her that there was no cause for fear, no need for terror.
Their voices mingled and he felt his own growing. He would give her the world, the whole foul world would crawl on his knees for her, in adoration for the voice their unworthy ears shouldn't even be blessed with. She would be loved, and, maybe, she would somehow give some of her love to Erik.
He was a dog at her feet, he would throw himself before her, to show her, to show her how much he loved her, adored her, and she would understand, she would.
But what if she didn't?
He felt his sanity sliding away. She had to! She would. She had to.
His voice grew in force and desperately he tried to push those thoughts away from his already so distorted mind. He couldn't afford to go mad now. Not now. He would not, he thought, as his hands, his claws, uncontrolled plucked at his clothes.
Her voice also grew in force, tried to keep up with his. He felt like Gugliemo, no, he was more than the man, though their goal had been the same: convincing a lady to love them. But his feelings were true. And hers, and hers…
Some of the emotions displayed in his voice had gotten a hold on her and she also was singing more desperately and – maybe, perhaps, he thought, not noticing the frantic tone that had crept in his voice – more loving.
He totally forgot everything around him, the whole Angel of Music wasn't on his mind any longer; he only knew about how she sang to him, that he had to convince her, show her, stop this burning longing that hurt, that was slowly destroying him. He forgot about the mirror, about the room, could only stare at her with flaming eyes which heat had spread through his whole body. He sang, forgetting about ventriloquism.
Her eyes widened as the full might of his voice came to work on her. She slowly reached out her arms to the mirror and came closer, hypnotised. She came closer and closer, much too close, not close enough, touching the mirror, letting her slender, beautiful white fingers slide over the glass. Her lips, her red, beautiful lips, slightly opened in wonder and awe, were only inches of the reflecting surface.
He pressed his hands against the back of the mirror, against the cool material, one against each of her palms, and pushed his hot brow against the wretched mirror that stood between them. He wanted to touch her, to be caressed by her, to be loved by her…
Their voices faded away and silence, thick, waiting silence that spoke without words crept in the room. Her eyes glittered as she dreamy gazed at her twin in the glass and the top of her lips were curled up.
"Very well, Christine," he said and couldn't keep the smile that touched his deformed lips out his voice. "Go now. Tomorrow we will meet again."
"Yes, Angel." She obediently whispered in awe.
He kept staring at her, not able to look away from every little movement. "Take care of your voice, my dear," he instructed while she put on her cravat.
At the door she turned around. "Angel?"
She hesitated, blushed and looked at her feet. "Thank you."
He went down slowly. His lair, totally deserted, waited for him. He stepped in his room, his room that reflected him, his dead corpse, as well as the mirror had shown her beauty.
"Il coro vi dono," he whispered to himself. "Il coro vi dono." He said it louder and louder. "Il coro vi dono, Christine!" He shouted it, it boomed through the house, until he was certain the whole opera, the whole world, had to hear him. "Il coro vi dono!"
Erik was reading the newspaper when Christine entered the dinner room. She felt quite proud of herself; the second time she had found her way around the labyrinth that Erik's house was without him to help her. It made her as happy as a child which received a sweet.
"Good morning, Erik," she greeted him.
He looked up and the faintest of smiles touched his lips. "Good morning, my dear. I trust you slept well?"
He stood up and shoved her chair backwards. "Yes, like a log, thank you," she replied as she sat down.
"Don't compare yourself with something like a log, my love. More a rose, I imagine…" His hand made a lazy gesture above her shoulder and he suddenly held a deep red rose. The long, dark green stem hovered beside her temple.
She clapped astonished and childlike excited in her hands. "Erik! How did you do that?" Not bothering to wait for a reply she accepted the gift and brought the open bud to her nose, so the soft scent filled her thoughts. Dew drops still hung from the petals, like it just had been cut off in a garden. It reminded her awfully much of sunlight and outside air. She suppressed a sigh. How much she would love to breathe in the cold, brisk November air…
Erik smiled and walked back to his place. "Some simple conjuring, nothing more, Christine. I noticed your other flower was withering away."
Christine remembered with sorrow the fragile petals which had crumbled under her touch as she had removed her bodice. "Yes, I'm afraid so."
Erik's long, elegant hands had folded his newspaper. "I will bring you some breakfast, if you like. You're up so early, I'm afraid I haven't had any time to put it ready."
"How late is it then?"
"A quarter past seven."
"Really?" For a moment she was baffled. She had awoken very early then, seeing she had token another hot bad and had thought about her clothes quite some time before she had picked out the soft blue, modest dress she was wearing now.
"Really." Her surprise seemed to amuse him. "Would you like some breakfast?"
For a moment her awkwardness that always came up when he stared at her when she ate and her stomach battered with each other. She would love to set her teeth in a warm croissant and to taste some orange juice, but she didn't want to be the object of his unhidden obsession again. "Yes, that would be nice," she said reluctantly.
He swiftly moved to a door and she stood up to follow him. He turned around and shook his head. "Stay here, Christine."
"But I want to help you," she protested.
"I don't want you to dirty your hands, my dear." He motioned her to sit down again and she did, suddenly detecting the aura of authority that hung around him again.
Having nothing to do while he was away, she played bored with the flower in her hands. She had difficulty keeping her head empty. It didn't seem her wise to think about Erik if he was around in person: she had noticed that at those times her common sense wasn't trustworthy anymore. Her feet tapped the tune of a song on the soft, thick rug with night blue and golden spirals.
"I almost forgot to ask you, my dear: how did you spend your afternoon yesterday?"
She whirled around. Erik was standing behind her, holding a tray with a plate with flower motive and a croissant, a cup with hot chocolate and a glass with orange juice. She still wondered how he could possibly know it was what she ate every morning. Chills suddenly ran down her spine. He couldn't possibly have been spying on her, then even, have been around her every minute of every day?
"Is something amiss, my dear?" His golden eyes questioned her frozen face.
Stop thinking! "No, I'm sorry, Erik," she quickly smiled, while she chastised herself in thoughts. "I was daydreaming… You always give me a fright when you appear so right behind me."
He seemed satisfied with the explanation. "Eat a bit, Christine."
She nibbled on the croissant, at a sudden not very hungry anymore. He sat at the other end of the table, arms folded, and was staring with utter admiration again. "What did you ask me, Erik?" she asked, to divert his attention. The staring not only frightened her, it irritated her too. She felt like an animal in a zoo, having no other company than thousands of gaping visitors.
"I was curious how you spent your afternoon yesterday."
"I read a bit in The Hunchback of the Notre-Dame," she answered.
"Did you enjoy it?"
"Yes, greatly! It's very beautiful," she said enthusiastic. "I can actually see it all happen!"
His eyes glimmered amused by her excitement. "And who's your favourite character?"
"Quasimodo," she answered promptly.
"Is it? Mine Esmeralda," he replied good-humouredly. "Or maybe even Frollo."
She pulled a face. "Bah, no, Erik! He's so mean."
His eyes glittered. "It all depends on your point of view, I assume."
"Well, I don't like him," she resumed. "He's really, really bad." She took a sip of her hot chocolate and enjoyed the warmth hovering through her body. With mamma Valerius, there had only been surrogate hot chocolate, the real too expensive for a girl which didn't earn a lot, had to take care of a bedridden, older lady and had to pay the fee of a servant-girl. She had never complained about it, but had secretly missed those mornings when she would wake up next to her father in the stable and a farmer who had been moved by their music offered them breakfast and the hot chocolate he had just made… But none of it had been as good as the one Erik prepared; the warm, rich, smooth liquid that slid down her throat as velvet.
She put her cup down and reached for her knife, but dropped it immediately again. "Oh! How was it yesterday? Are… are many people hurt? There aren't any deaths, are there?" Her eyes begged him to say there was no need to worry; that nobody was hurt, that there was only some material damage.
"I'm afraid there are, Christine." His face had become strangely inscrutable. "The chandelier killed a woman, and wounded maybe even for life her husband and brother, who sat beside her."
"Oh, that's awful." She bit on her lip. "I wish… it hadn't happened." She felt stupid for saying it. What kind of remark was that?
"That's very kind of you, my dear."
"Mmm," she murmured, not knowing what to say to make things alright again, and hating the part of her that wanted to simply forget what just had been said, the selfish part that whispered to think no longer of it just because it made her feel bad.
"Finish your breakfast, Christine," he gently chided her. She reluctantly started on her croissant again, no longer enjoying the crispy paste or the melted butter.
"What do you want to do, my dearest?"
Christine opened her soft pink lips and held them so for a moment, while her mind raced through ideas and plans, before sighing. "I don't know exactly, Erik."
She stood before him, hands clasped together, her large eyes at his deformed face. They were in the dining room, the shining polished table behind Erik's thin frame. His flaming eyes were softly burning, like a candle that, after the first hesitating flickering, had found its steady way between wavering and glowing.
"Do you want me to read something to you?" His thin lips curled in a smile. "I know great stories, my love. Great stories. Indian and Persian and Chinese ones. Have you ever heard of Alf Layla wa-Layla?"
Christine blinked. "Pardon me?"
"It is the name of a famous book. I believe you will have heard about it, no? The Book of One Thousand and One Nights?" His glimmering eyes seemed to absorb her, trying to see every little difference in her features, attempting to read her expression.
"Oh, yes! Yes, I have, though I don't know what it is about. It's Persian, isn't it?"
He chuckled, a warm deep sound resonating in his throat. "That is what the Persians would like everyone to believe, oui. But originally it's Indian. Shall I tell you what it is about?"
She studied him for a moment. His golden eyes were glimmering. He enjoyed it when she hung on his lips, when he was able to fascinate her through something else than music.
She smiled and walked to the chair she usually sat on. "Why don't you?" she teased back. Two could play that game.
He took his own chair and placed it before her. "There was a good and righteous king, called Shahryar, and he was married to the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. His love for her went deeper than the sea, but she deceived him with one of her many lovers and plotted on killing him." She stared in awe up to him. His smooth voice seemed like honey to her ears, softly caressing them with the lightest of touches, pouring his seductive sounds in her mind. "He found out and had them executed, but his wounded heart was turned into stone. He swore that every woman was the same and ordered his vizier to bring him every evening a new woman. He then slept with her –" Christine's cheeks flushed to a bright pink, but she was unable to tear her gaze away from his amber orbs or to stop herself from listening to Erik's sweet, capturing voice. "And had her executed every morning at dawn. His vizier had to bring him every day a new girl, against his will. After a while, only two girls were left in the entire city: the two daughters of the vizier. To help her father, the oldest girl offers herself voluntarily to the king."
"What was her name?" Christine asked breathless. He had only spoken a couple of sentences and she was already completely lost in the story! She could feel the poor king's pain, the crowd's horror, the vizier's disgust, the oldest girl's despair…
An incredulous smile lit up her little face. "Repeat that." The name that had just come out his mouth seemed impossible, incoherent.
Her mouth opened in astonishment when he let the to her ears foreign sounds roll over his tongue without a moment's hesitation. She tried it herself, but failed miserably.
"You have to put your tongue against your palate," Erik instructed, delighted by her efforts and beaming smile. "And stress the first a. Scheherazade."
"Schehez-" she broke off and giggling shook her head.
"Again," Erik commanded, also smiling. "And now slower. Sche-her-a-zade."
"Sche-she –" She broke off, smiling. She didn't really make an effort anymore to say the name correctly, it was too much fun to just sit there and try, and to look at the delight Erik had at her attempts.
"Sche-her-a-zade," she repeated. Her mouth fell open when she realised she had spoken the sounds right. Her amazed expression changed into a laugh that showed all her little white teeth. She placed her small hands alongside her face and then jumped on her feet. "I did it, I did it!"
Erik's laughter boomed through the room as she whirled around. "I actually said it!" She sang the name on an improvised tune. "Sche-he-ra-zade, Sche-her-e-zade," her tongue stumbled and fumbled again, but she quickly recovered herself and went on. "Sche-her-a-zade!" She turned to him again, her arms spread out, the smile lightening her face.
Erik was leaning forward, gazing at her, his eyes glowing with his maddening, desperate hope. Christine slowly lowered her arms and walked back. She could hear his shuddering breath as she enveloped his long, yellowish hand with both hers. Ignoring the nausea settling in her stomach as she felt the strange texture of his flesh against hers, she squeezed and smiled at him.
His eyes burned her features softly as he gave a small pinch back.