(Note: I have not yet figured out how to insert a divider in between scenes since FF formatting doesn't allow it anymore. Between different scenes I have written (Scene End). If anyone knows how to accomplish a divider within a chapter, please PM me. )
Upon entering the dark, cool interior of the cathedral, Christine paused as the ever-wafting scent of sacramental incense surrounded her. A reverent hush caused the shutting of the heavy wooden door echo within the deserted sanctuary. Looking around her tentatively, she pushed back the hood of her cloak and clutched a reticule severely within her gloved hands. Her footsteps resounding upon the floor up to the high ceiling, she hesitantly moved towards the elaborate altar. A short, stout priest drew near her silently from behind and asked politely if he could assist her. Having not heard the footfalls of the man since his shoes were constructed of a heavy cloth, Christine jumped in startled surprise as she turned towards him. Placing a hand over her heartbeat, she blushed furiously and explained, "Forgive me, Father. I did not hear your approach and thought myself to be alone."
Smiling in understanding, the minister answered in a soft tone. "None are ever alone in God's house, my child. Is there something I might assist you with?"
Blinking rapidly, Christine shook her head and explained "Oh no, Father. You see, I shall be married here next week and...I was simply stopping by on my way home."
"Ahhhhh…" The minister smiled in sudden comprehension. "It is a grave commitment, Child. I do not wonder that you wish to reflect upon such a momentous occasion." Pausing, he inquired, "If I may be so bold, who shall be officiating the ceremony?"
Christine smiled slightly and replied, "Cardinal Beauvais will be performing the service. It will be a rather small ceremony."
The priest was obviously impressed that the Cardinal would be overseeing the wedding. His eyebrows raised, he murmured deferentially, "You must hail from an influential family, my dear. I have not known the Cardinal to officiate very often. Are you a member of the parish?" Clearly desiring an explanation, the curious priest thought to himself that surely this pretty, young woman must be of some importance.
Lowering her eyes at the priest's surprise, Christine shook her head with a faint smile and clarified, "The Cardinal is marrying my fiancé and I as a personal favor to me. Our circumstances are rather unique…. " Looking up when the priest asked if she was a member of the congregation, Christine answered earnestly, "Oh yes, monsieur. I have been attending Mass here for the past three years." Desiring to rid herself of the inquisitive priest so that she might have time for private reflection, Christine did not wish to appear rude.
The priest left wondering as to the cryptic association between Christine and the Cardinal, he bowed slightly. "Please forgive me, mademoiselle. I wish you every imaginable happiness. Do let me know if I may be of any service to you."
Thanking the priest, Christine turned gratefully towards the altar and walked down the main aisle. Shivering, she thought that the following week she would walk this aisle to her Erik. Her heart overflowing with happiness, she halted near the front and knelt next to the pew before entering to pray. Her head bowed, Christine solemnly thanked God for the wondrous man He had given to her as her husband and prayed she would be a good wife.
A fortnight after Christine had received the letter from the cardinal who had consented to marry us, I escorted her to the Giry's one blustery afternoon. Amused at her poorly concealed excitement, I watched as she and Meg greeted each other exuberantly and proceeded to talk together intently. They were to set off that afternoon various to a dressmakers for Christine's bridal gown. Still stupefied that Christine was actually going to marry me and not quite believing it lest she justifiably change her mind, the nagging, insecure, demon inside reared its threatening head but I mercilessly shoved it aside. Later, I thought to myself. I can attend to those morbid thoughts later when I was alone. As Madame Gary approached, I bowed formally while Madame merely gazed at me with a knowing smile which irritated the hell out of me. Scowling at her briefly, I remained standing just inside the threshold.
After receiving assurances from Madame Giry that she would watch carefully after Christine overnight, Meg and her mother discreetly left the room for which I was silently grateful. Taking Christine's small hands in my own, my worried eyes gazed down at her as I breathed softly, "I will not be easy until you are back home, Angel."
Looking up with an understanding smile, Christine did not reply to my concern but I was held captive by the understanding expression in her bright, blue eyes. Without a word, she reached up on tiptoe and tenderly kissed my lips in a tacit promise that needed no utterance. Conscious of the Giry's in the next room, I resisted the urge to gather my Beloved in my arms and instead brushed the backs of my fingers upon her cheek. Gazing into her reassuring eyes, I nodded once and found I could not speak as my throat closed with emotion. Seemingly comprehending my irrational fear, Christine whispered soothingly, "I will miss you, too, my Love." Her eyes shining brightly, she smiled, "But this is an errand that I have so looked forward to! I hope to be a beautiful bride for you, Erik."
Swallowing hard, I leaned over her hand to kiss each of her palms before straightening and vowing, "You shall be the most stunning bride ever to grace a church, my Christine." Sensing a presence behind me, I turned to see Madame Giry standing in the hallway with her hands folded in front of her. Hating the childish fear that gripped me at the thought of being alone again, I took one lingering look at Christine and stated curtly to Madame Giry, "I shall return on Sunday afternoon." Turning on my heel and causing my cape to whirl around me like a dark, forbidding omen, I departed swiftly before I made a complete fool of myself.
Downing another brandy, I sat before the fireplace in taciturn agitation as Ayesha hopped onto my lap. Not in the mood to entertain her, I placed her back upon the carpet and received a look of disdainful reproof.
I despised being alone and the realization of that simple truth frightened me.
In the past, I had always lived in solitude. With disconcerting understanding, I recognized that I had become accustomed to Christine's gentle presence. Absentmindedly rubbing my palm over my heart, I stared in horrified stupefaction at the quiet affirmation.
I needed her. I had come to...depend upon her to be there.
What in God's name was I thinking?
Standing up suddenly, my eyes darted around as though I were seeking escape. Not from Christine. I would never desire to be rid of her. But I had long since learned that I could trust no one and now... Now...I counted on her.
My eyes fell on my pipe organ and spied a small envelope which I had not noticed earlier. My arm reaching for it before I even took a step, I stumbled towards the letter like a thirsty man to a desert mirage. Both a sickening dread and an even more sickening hope warred within my heart at the sight.
Grabbing the envelope in my hands, my fingertips lightly grazed the copperplate handwriting which bore the inscription 'Angel'. Carefully opening the letter, my mismatched eyes misted as I read the simple note:
Do not fret. I shall be home soon.
I miss you, too.
All My Love,
Your Devoted Bride
Pressing the letter over my heart, I closed my eyes and swallowed back tears of relief. 'Home'...she had used the word 'home'.
Yes, everything would be all right.