***Part Twenty-One***

New Orleans, Louisiana - Five Years Later

Christine smiled as Andre picked more flowers from the stage from that night's performance, the closing night of Don Giovanni. Christine's dream of performing with Erik had finally been realized. It had taken much coaxing on her part, but since it was Erik's opera house to do with as he pleased she saw no reason why he couldn't perform.

Christine's name was known enough in the city of New Orleans that she believed it was worth the risk to have Erik play Giovanni. People would come, she was sure of it, and she was right. Word had spread like a wild fire how well the leading lady and man performed together. All walked away from the performance believing they had come as close to heaven as they would in their lifetime. No one knew the person playing Giovanni was in fact the opera house's owner; all realized people might be hesitant to spend money on tickets to see essentially a nobody perform.

In reality, it was Christine's opera house as she had used her funds to build it, but Erik had designed it and had put all of his sweat and tears into the creating of it. She had done the easy part, financing it. If the solicitor found it odd she had moved to America and built an opera house he never said a word, thankfully.

Andre, now five, never ceased to amaze her at his abilities and his endless talents. Sometimes she felt dreadfully out of place as father and son would sit for hours and scour over building plans or talk of mathematical formulas that made Christine dizzy. Andre never asked why his father wore a mask. In fact, Andre seldom asked Christine any questions. Christine wasn't sure if this was because he didn't deem them necessary or if perhaps Erik himself answered the boy's questions. Christine tended to let Erik explain things to Andre, knowing instinctively she would tend to simplify things based on Andre's age and he would grow bored with her and her explanations.

Erik stayed true to his word and was able to support Christine between the selling of his music and art as well as the money brought in from the opera house. She sang now because she wanted to not out of necessity and knew when the day came that it was no longer fun for her that she could quit the opera and not have to worry. She would not have to touch any more of Hannibal's monies either. She had used enough of it to build their house and the opera house. If Erik minded these things had been built with another man's money, he never commented. Christine was certain not all of Erik's activities were honest, but she knew that he was selling his things, making a name for himself. People didn't care that he wore a mask as Christine knew would be the case.

The only regret for the past five years for Christine was that she and Erik had been unable to have more children. A doctor she had visited with once suggested that Andre's birth might have been too much for her and she very well might not be able to conceive again. Erik seemed relieved at this, afraid that they wouldn't get as lucky as they had with Andre if they had more children. At least she had Andre, and though she might have wanted more children, he was enough.

Did she think on Hannibal and the events that led up to her marrying him and his death? Yes, she thought on him, but she tried not to dwell on it. Thoughts were more prevalent after she and Erik had married, guilt mostly because she had married Erik so soon. They had waited, just barely, until Hannibal had been dead a year. She was happy here with a husband who despite his own dislike of people was willing to put aside those dislikes for her.

Christine had little to complain about and she hoped Erik felt the same way. She knew Andre was happy. He was a serious child in general, but his laughter could be heard throughout their house often as well. Questions about Hannibal and just who he was for now had been put off being answered. Andre didn't remember the man, but he was aware that he had lands and a title to lay claim to.

One day, Christine knew they would have to answer all of his questions, but for now she was content living her life for the here and now. It had taken her a long time to come to this point, to not overanalyze and make everything out to be a horrible sin. Some of what she had done had indeed been sinful, but there were certainly people who had committed worse sins than she had. And in the end it had worked out as Christine believed it was supposed to. She was with Erik who though he was flesh and blood like a man was still the Angel of Music her Papa had promised her.