Thank you for the lovely reviews. They always make me so happy. Sorry if this is a bit short chapter but it has all I needed to put in it and nothing more.
Disclaimers: see chapter 1.
Chapter 42 Goodbye
Alan Cholet blinked his eyes. He had gotten used to the dark lately so the sudden arrival of light had him out of focused for a moment. He didn't know how long he had been in the room Count Paradise (Claudin!) and Javert had put him in. He had refused to let any of his moneys go. When he had started to eat them, they had taken his moneys away and told him they would bring them back when he wanted to buy something. He had bought only little of that expensive water. His little room smelled awful for he had refused to pay to use toilet. He himself was terrible looking, with unshaved cheeks, dirty clothes and messy hair.
Cholet blinked once more and looked up to see Javert.
"I said get up! You're free to leave!" Javert barked.
Cholet stared him for a moment, as if he couldn't understand the words he heard, before he slowly got up.
"I can…go?" he asked.
"That's what I said, wasn't it? Now move it, I can't bear to be near you! You smell awful!" Javert said.
Hesitantly Cholet walked out of his "room" to a huge dark corridor. "How long have I been here?" he asked.
"Over a week and it was more trouble than it was worth" Javert said.
"But why? Why are you letting me go?" Cholet couldn't help but ask.
"Not my idea, I assure you of that. The Count ordered you to be released. He should let some air get under his mask, he is obviously loosing his edge. Talked something about learning to forgive or some other bullshit" Javert mumbled.
Cholet had no idea what had happened and he didn't care. He was just about to start take running to the direction Javert was pointing when he turned around. "But…what about my money?"
Javert's face changed and he burst out laughing. "That's the best part in this! He gave it away, all of it, every last penny! All donated to the hospital that is treating your wife" he laughed, as if he had heard the best joke of his life.
Cholet stared the famous criminal for a moment, before turning around and starting to walk towards the exit. He was utterly confused. He had nothing now. All of his precious money was gone. Neither did he have a daughter to wed for a rich family. And he wouldn't be able to appear in Paris anymore, since debt collectors would be hot on his heels.
He pushed a door open and was outside on a street in a city he didn't know. When he saw his reflection in a window, he noticed his hair had lost its colour.
"Will this be all, madam?" a worker asked.
"Yes, thank you. Please deliver them to the address I gave you. I shall arrive there later today" Christine de Chagny said.
She watched as the workmen loaded last of the things she was taking with her to the cars and started moving. She turned around and watched as the gates of de Chagny mansion closed, with a sign "on sale" attached to them. She was leaving a house she had called her home for twenty years.
Raoul had been buried the previous day. It had been done in secret, to keep reporters and people away. Richard Firmin had pulled a few strings and Andre had promised not to write anything till the next day. Christine and Charles had said goodbye to Raoul in private.
"You can come out of your hiding place now. They've all gone" Christine said aloud.
The figure of a man dressed completely in black, with a mask covering his face, appeared from behind the corner.
"How long did you know I was here?" Count Paradise asked.
"I didn't. Call it a woman's instinct" she said, not turning around to look at him.
Count watched for a moment the now empty house. "You're leaving" he said. It wasn't a question.
"Yes. I am moving back to the coast, where I lived as a child with my father" she said.
"The house by the sea. You often told me about it. I never got to see it".
"I used to imagine to take you there, to show how beautiful it is. I dreamed that when opera wouldn't take so much of our time we could spend our days there, just the two of us. What a dream for a young girl in love" Christine sighed.
"A certain young boy in love would have surely been happy to have lived that dream" Count said.
Christine swallowed. "It is wrong for them to have lost their dreams so many years ago then".
"We can only now hope that the ones coming after us will cherish every moment they get. Will your son come with you?"
Christine shook his head. "No. Charles has signed himself to service in East" she said.
"He is in army?"
"He wants to clean his name and mine. He wants to show that even when he is his father's child he isn't the same man" Christine told him.
Count nodded his head. "He is truly a remarkable young man. He will do great things".
Now Christine turned around and saw the masked man. "And what of you, Count? What will you do now that your revenge is completed?" she asked.
Count was silent for a moment before answering. "I don't know if you will believe me, but taking my revenge, as you called it, brought me no satisfaction. It only took out the fire that had kept me going so far. There is a disease in my body, one that will kill me. I am not left to wonder what I am supposed to do with my remaining days. Your son gave me the idea of forgiveness. Maybe I am to seek forgiveness for myself now" he said.
"Avenging angel seeking redemption" Christine said and a small smile appeared to her lips. "How operatic".
A slight chuckle was heard from beneath the mask. "Yes, my life is one big opera really".
Christine walked right in front of the count before speaking. "Then I wish you good luck in your search, Count. I wish you will find what you are seeking. I wish you will be happy and not bitter and hating. I wish you so many things that you deserve" she said.
"And I wish you, madam, that your life will be long, healthy and happy one. I wish your days will be filled with laughter and joy and that when you look back in the past you may remember me as I was and not as I am. I wish you so many things that I can not give" he said, and there was a slight tremble in his voice.
Christine looked around them, making sure that no one was seeing, and then she gently lifted Count's mask, and placed her lips for a short moment on his deformed ones. When she retreated there were tears in her eyes, but also a small, beautiful smile.
"Goodbye, Erik" she said, her voice warm.
"Bon voyage, Christine" Erik whispered.
For a moment he remained there standing, watching as she walked away, and it felt like an old wound in his body was reminding him of its existence. But he also felt as if a great burden had been removed from him. He didn't have to think if she would be alright, she would be. And he had finally, after waiting 25 years, got to say goodbye to her.
Letting out a shaking breath Count turned around to his car, where Nadir was holding the door open. When Count entered the vehicle Nadir turned to him.
"Milord, are you alright?" he asked.
The masked face looked back to him. "Yes, my old friend. I am. Now everything is alright. Let us not waste any time. I have much to do and so little time".
To be continued…
…in the final chapter.