Love Comes To Those Who Believe

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Disclaimer:  I own nothing that does not reside in my own imagination . . . Gaston Leroux created the tale of the Phantom Of The Opera.  Many writers have taken that tale and given a piece of themselves to it, I merely do the same.  The novel I quote from is "Phantom" written by Susan Kay. 

Premise:  In Susan Kay's novel "Phantom" Erik draws up the courage to ask Christine to marry him.  In the novel, she could not find the courage within her to answer, and Erik wound up sending Christine away telling her not to answer then, to give him her answer tomorrow.  And then the wheels in my mind started turning, what if she had found the courage to say yes?

Starts out in first person as written by Susan Kay and then goes into third when I pick up the story.  There are still one or two lines afterward that I did borrow from Phantom.

~~~~~  indicates flashbacks

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Prologue:  A Proposal

I stayed in my room today until the continuing, crushing silence drove me out.

Erik looked up when I entered his chamber, but he did not speak, even when I knelt at his feet.  When the minutes continued to tick away in deadly stillness, I realized that his voice had become, for me, a drug as powerful as morphine, necessary to my senses, vital to my existence.  His silence was a punishment beyond my strength to bear.

"Erik, if you don't speak to me soon I shall go quite mad!"  I said at last.  "I can't bear to be locked up here with only my own thoughts for company."

His hands tightened on the arms of his chair.

"Locked up?"  He echoed, with horror.  "Is that what this house has come to mean to you – a prison?"

"It's not a prison,"  I said slowly,  "until you make it so.  But you've frightened me so badly this last week, Erik, I feel I hardly know you."

"No," – he sighed – "you are just beginning to know me, that's all.  There's so much darkness here inside my head, sometimes it frightens me too.  But it need not be like this, Christine.  If I could just live like other men, walk through the Bois in daylight and feel the sun and wind upon my naked face . . . Oh Christine, I would do to dare so many things if you were beside me as my wife."

She paused, unsure of how to answer.  Certainly she'd realized that inevitably he might ask this of her, but she hadn't thought he would be willing to break that last wall down so soon.  She thought she had prepared herself for this day, but now that it was here, she didn't know how to respond.

Giving up the light above and spending her days in darkness with Erik seemed by turns exhilarating and frightening.  Could there be a way to truly merge their two worlds of dark and light?

And what of Raoul?  He sincerely believed that she was in love with him, and perhaps there was a love, but it was not the type of love she held for Erik.  Not by a half.  How could she even begin to explain the inner battle she was facing?  The want to say yes, and yet the fear of doing so?

Erik broke the silence, mistaking it for a negative,  "I see you do not care for my voice half so well when it speaks of things you do not wish to hear.  Simple words can be reduced to obscenities by my tongue, can they not?  Wife . . . husband . . . love."

Yet she still could not bring herself to speak, not even to spare him this torment.  Perhaps the inner torment she faced was similar to what he must be facing.  'No, why is it I can not bring myself to reassure him now, when he is at his most vulnerable?'

"If you fear a reprise of yesterday, Christine, I promise you, I would never . . ."  Erik trailed off, watching her closely.  "I would agree to any terms you wish."

'He truly believes I mean to deny him!'  Christine's mind shouted.  'To deny him a husband's rights!  To deny him my bed.'  The sadness of his plea finally sprung her from the lethargy she felt when he first asked, yet it was a mere second too long before that temper came back to the fore.

"I won't beg!"  He shouted.  "Not even for your love.  You don't have to give me an answer now, in fact, I think I would prefer you didn't."

"What if I told you I was ready to give you an answer?"  Christine challenged, standing up straight to finally face him.  "If I told you I don't want to wait to give you my answer?"

She heard Erik's quick intake of breath, and realized it was the first time she'd truly challenged him.  She saw his anger recede behind the wall he so often used to shield his heart.  Several moments passed in silence as he reined in his anger and tried to hide his anticipation and the feral fear that was now coursing through him.  When he finally spoke, it was softly,  "As you wish."

Christine moved toward him slowly, and as she reached him, her eyes looked down in shyness at his hands.  Such normal hands, hands that looked alive and warm.  She'd been so close to reaching out to touch his hand once, and now stood on the precipice of finally inviting touch between them.  The moment of silence as she steeled her courage inside her dragged endlessly as she slowly reached through the darkness and touched his hand, lightly brushing it at first with her own, then finally taking it within her smaller one.

She looked up into his eyes, and saw within the hopes and fears mixing in his eyes behind the mask.

"Do you really believe I could deny you?"  Christine whispered, breaking the silence in the lair.

Erik gulped in the air, scarcely believing what he was hearing.  "Should I take that to mean you will marry me?"

A serene smile played across her face as her lips whispered the word she knew would change her life forever.  "Yes, Erik, I will marry you."

The eyes behind the mask alighted with joy as the man who had spent a lifetime in darkness finally realized that sometimes, dreams can come true.  Yet a part of him still had to ask,  "And your . . . your conditions?"

"Does love ask for a condition before being born in our hearts?"  Christine asked.

As if it was more than he could possibly have hoped for, he asked,  "You mean . . ."  and trailed off again, unable to come completely out with his question, the one that they both knew would totally expose him to rejection.

"Erik, you are the most intelligent, most talented man I have ever known, but you seem to be blind when it comes to matters of the heart.  You truly can not see what is staring you in the face, can you?"

"I . . . I hadn't dared to hope that it could be, Christine.  Oh, I wanted it to be, but I never dared hope."

She knew he would never ask again, and her chance to tell him was now.  Her voice soft and quiet, she said,  "Erik, I love you."

For the first time in his life, Erik smiled, a true smile born of happiness and love.  "I love you, Christine."

Christine brought her free hand to the bare side of his face and gently caressed his cheek, an action which Erik finally mirrored.

And the two stood there in wonderment for a long time before Erik finally found the courage to lower his lips to hers.

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