His words hung in the air, rife with implications.
"What do you mean and now? How can we have a now? We have both made choices… there can't be a now for us. It is too late." Christine turned and walked away from him.
She was married, Gustave knew only Raoul as his father. They had a life in Paris. She couldn't uproot and overturn their life. While Raoul had not been the best husband and father over the last several years the fact remained that they were still married. In spite of everything she still cared for him. She made the choice ten years ago to stay with him. She couldn't take it back now.
Erik's breath caught as she turned away from him. So many choices made. If only he had made a different one ten years ago, they could have spared themselves so much pain and longing. But there was no changing the past. Only the present.
He followed her to the balcony and grabbed her shoulders forcing her to face him.
"We made choices then. We can make different choices now." He caressed her cheek softly.
She closed her eyes leaning into his gentle touch. She loved Erik; her heart often longed to be with him, but it wasn't that simple. Life had gotten more complicated in the intervening years she couldn't just make a different choice. Hers wasn't the only life affected by her choices now.
"Mother! Mother!" Gustave's frightened voice floated out to the balcony. Christine broke away from Erik and lovingly held and comforted her son as he told her of his nightmare.
Erik gripped the railing of the balcony and turned his face away so the young boy could not see him. Surely Christine would not want to add him to the boy's nightmares. He knew she had a son, but he had not factored him into her decision. Of course, she would not want to take him away from his father, or his father away from him. If only the boy did not exist perhaps her choice would have been easier.
His heart stuttered when she introduced the boy to him.
He quickly covered his surprise and adopted the practiced persona of the mysterious Mister Y. This boy, Christine's boy was different than most children. That much he could tell. He didn't know what he hoped to accomplish but on impulse he promised to show the boy the wonders and mysteries of Phantasma the next day.
"Run along to bed now Gustave, you'll have a big day tomorrow with Mr. Y." Christine glanced back at Erik, thoughts tumbling through her head. Gustave seemed so entranced by him. Was she wrong to keep the truth from them?
She returned slowly to the sitting area, war raging in her heart and head. Over the years she had wished Erik could have known his son but now that the moment was here, she didn't know what to do. What was the right choice? She paused in the shadows of the hall watching Erik run his fingers along the smooth keys of the piano. Gustave loved the piano. The things Erik could teach him. The beauty they could create together if she allowed them the chance. Watching his down turned face; the sadness etched there Christine decided. Erik had seen so much sorrow and darkness in his life. He deserved to know the joy of his son. She stepped out of the shadows and into the sitting room.
"Such a beautiful boy," he commented.
Christine nodded, "He takes after his father."
Erik sank down on the piano bench and shut his eyes against the pain of her words. Of course, she had to bring that idiot Raoul into this. He was her husband and the father of her child. Christine would always choose him. Erik felt foolish for ever believing she would stay with him now.
Christine saw the pain and anger flash across his eyes. Knowing how he must have interpreted her words she quickly amended her statement.
"He's a musical genius. He began playing the piano as no more than a toddler and soon was writing beautiful melodies every day; singing songs with the voice of an angel." She stepped closer to Erik, her heart pounding. There was no going back now. Erik would have the truth. His eyes still shut tight, she willed him to understand what she was saying. "I can't imagine how beautiful his music would be if his father tutored him as he once tutored me."
Erik opened his eyes to find Christine standing inches from him. What was she saying? Was Raoul not the boy's father? He questioned her with his eyes, unable to form the words.
"You, Erik. You are his father."
Thoughts raced through Erik's head. This simply could not be. He could not have fathered a child as beautiful as Gustave. Christine was mistaken. Musical ability alone could not make him the boy's father. He just as easily could have gotten that from his mother.
"It's impossible. He is too beautiful to have come from a monster like me." He cast his eyes down to the floor.
"You are beautiful, Erik. You are no monster." She put a hand to his cheek. "That beautiful boy is yours."
Erik scoffed, "You are mistaken. He must be Raoul's."
"No, it really is impossible for him to be Raoul's." Christine placed her hand under his chin and brought his eyes up to meet hers. "After that brief night, that wonderful night where I was yours and you were mine… Raoul and I were married. But we did not consummate our marriage until well after Gustave was conceived. Gustave is without a doubt your son. Our son." The words she never thought she would be able to truthfully say rolled deliciously off her tongue.
Erik laughed, "And Raoul has no problem with this? Does he not know who fathered the boy?"
Christine smiled sadly, "No, he was rather inebriated on our wedding night and he mistakenly believed that we had been intimate." Blush rose to her cheeks at the memory of that disastrous night. "Then two days after our wedding he left to see to some business in Brussels and didn't return until after I learned I was pregnant.
Erik watched her eyes incredulously. A son. He had a son. His beautiful angel had borne him a son and he left her. Guilt and anguish took control. He pressed Christine's hand to his cheek.
"Forgive me. Please forgive me," he pleaded. He never should have left her.
"It's alright. You couldn't have known," she consoled.
Softly he put a hand on her waist and stood up, pressing his lips to hers.
Christine succumbed to the kiss for just a moment before she pulled back, her wedding ring weighing on her. She was still married. She still loved Raoul. She could not do this now. It wasn't right.
"Erik, I..." words failed her. So many emotions were fighting for prominence in her mind.
Erik steeled his nerves. He simply could not lose her… and his son. He would not be denied. He took a breath, forcing down the anger at her reluctance. His years above ground had changed him, but he still struggled with his temper. He stepped toward her and possessively pulled her close.
Christine relaxed into his chest and his anger dissipated some.
He supposed it had been a lot for her to take in. Only an hour ago she believed him dead or gone forever, and now he was once again asking her to give up the life she knew and stay with him. She would need time. He could give her that, but he needed something in return.
"Sing for me. Sing for me instead of Hammerstein." His words came more harshly than he intended but still Christine nodded. "What would you like me to sing?"
Her easy acceptance diminished what was left of his anger and he stepped over to the piano and picked up a handsome leather pouch. "A song I wrote for you. For us." Christine turned the pages over in her hands, marveling at the beauty of the words and melody.
"Your husband will be back soon. Until tomorrow, my sweet Christine."
No sooner had the Phantom disappeared out the door to the balcony than Raoul threw the front door open reeking of alcohol and smoke, mumbling under his breath.
"Get me a drink won't you," he demanded of Christine as he sat on the couch. Christine set the perfect score down on the piano.
"Don't you think you've had enough dear?" she suggested quietly.
"I am not a child! Don't tell me what I can and cannot do!" Raoul screamed at her.
The familiar skip of her heart tore at her as she tried to backtrack away from Raoul's anger. The wind rippled the curtains where the Phantom had just disappeared. How the tables had turned. Once upon a time, frightened of the Opera Ghost she had run to Raoul's arms for safety. And now…
"Mother?" Gustave asked innocently from the hall.
"Go Gustave. You should not be awake," Raoul snarled at the poor child.
Christine wrapped a comforting arm around her son once again, "Come darling, I'll tuck you back in." She looked at Raoul's harsh eyes and shook her head. Love or not, this was no way to live. She picked up the pages from the piano and followed Gustave to his room.