I had not meant to startle him…… to catch him unawares.
I could still hear his almost inhuman scream of rage and anguish as he leapt to his feet overturning the piano bench.
His hand flying up to cover his face, I caught a glimpse of red and raw-looking skin over the distorted surface of his right cheek before his hand shielded it from my view.
I cringed as he shouted at me…his usually beautiful voice hoarse with anguish and tears. He had cursed me, his face, his entire miserable existence. He demanded that I go, that I flee his demon's face as everyone else had.
Pacing back and forth like a trapped wild animal, he had been terrifying in his rage—completely consumed by the dark and dangerous persona of The Phantom.
I try to calm him, but it was as if he did not hear me. He continued to rage, knocking a heavy iron candelabra to the floor with a loud crash that made me flinch.
I start towards him, but he rounds on me furiously growling at me to stay away…not to touch him.
I stop, tears filling my eyes and then watch in horror as he violently puts his fist through a large nearby mirror propped against the stone wall, shattering it.
I cringe at the sound of breaking glass as sharp shards scatter across the floor.
Tearing away the velvet cloths covering them, he continues on his path of destruction, shattering the other mirrors as I cry and plead for him to stop.
Breathing heavily, his white shirt sticking to his body with sweat, he turns from the final smashed mirror and walks back towards his piano, completely ignoring me.
Shaking, arms wrapped around myself, my tear-filled eyes take in the scarlet drops and splatters he leaves in his wake. Blood. He's bleeding; he has injured himself in his rampage.
Still afraid to approach him after his violent outburst, I watch as he rights the toppled piano bench and seats himself on it, resting his bleeding hands on the keyboard.
Tension evident in every line of his body, he begins to play. I wince at the harsh, discordant sounds of the chords as he slams down on the keys. His pain, despair and inner turmoil evident in every tortured note...every measure. I cover my ears against the onslaught.
It seems an eternity before the anguished playing slows and finally stops. He buries his face in his hands, broad shoulders shaking.
He's crying. I dare to approach him slowly. I say his name, not wanting to startle him again. Cautiously, I touch his shoulder. He flinches at my touch and turns towards me his hand still covering his right cheek.
The utter desolation in his green eyes breaks my heart, and I sob out his name, throwing my arms around him as tears spill down my face.
He trembles and does not return my embrace, his eyes searching frantically for the white leather mask on top of the piano.
Snatching it up, he puts it on, concealing his deformity. I see his blood smeared and splattered across the ivory keys, and my stomach churns at the sight. I try to take his hand to see how badly he is injured, but he pulls away from me.
I say his name, and he finally looks at me. Noting my tear-streaked face, he looks confused and asks me why I am crying.
A look of horror crosses his face and he asks if he had injured me in his rampage. Although I reassure him that he had not, he is visibly trembling and calls himself a monster. He says that his mother and the gypsies had been right...
Tears fill my eyes, and I slowly reach to wipe away a smear of blood from the white leather of his mask. He cringes as if expecting a blow, breaking my heart yet again.
As I wrap my arms around him, I tell him through my tears that he is no monster, but the man I love.
He buries his masked face against my breast and cries, his bloodied hands wrap around me, clutching me desperately as if he fears I will disappear.
I hold him tightly, kissing his unmasked cheek, and whispering reassurances of my love. I stroke his sweat-soaked black hair humming softly to him until he calms.
Only then does he finally allow me to take his big hands in mine to assess the damage.
More tears as I survey the cuts and scrapes, the shards of glass still embedded in some of them.
He sits patiently as I clean and disinfect his injuries, carefully extracting slivers of broken mirror from his hands before wrapping them. He grits his teeth against the pain, but makes no sound. My heart breaks to have to cause him pain, but finally it is done.
He looks absolutely haunted now by the entire ordeal and his turbulent emotions, and it is not difficult for me to gently coax him to lay down upon the sofa to rest, his head pillowed in my lap.
Holding my hand in his bandaged one, he quickly falls asleep leaving me alone with my thoughts.
I sigh, looking around at the devastation wrought in his wake. We will have much cleaning up to do later. But for right now, the only thing that mattered was that the storm had passed. We had weathered it together, just as we would any future ones.
I look down at him, stroking his hair. How I loved this damaged, broken, traumatized and oh so complicated man!
My eyes fill with tears of emotion. How could I even BEGIN to try to heal so much pain and trauma? Would my love be enough?
Leaning down to gently kiss his bare cheek I prayed that it would be so.