Chasing the Scarf
(A/N: Written at midnight in the frenzy of frustration over the lack of decent portrayals of Raoul de Chagny, and edited many times since. He's a good guy, people! Get over it! *puffpuffpantpant*)
They say that you can read a man's soul in his face. I don't believe that's true.
Perhaps I once did. Things are so different now, it's almost as though the whole affair was a distant dream.
I am standing on the beach in Nice, while the ocean spray tickles my feet, and two of my children dart in and out of the waves, like the mermaids of the tales that Christine's father used to tell.
Christine is laughing now, as our youngest son presents her with a sand dollar that he's found. She leans down and kisses him, and in typical five-year-old fashion, he pretends to resist.
Don't try, Rene-Ange, I thought, exchanging a look with my son. Resisting the impulses of Christine is not something I would recommend.
Suddenly I am knocked off balance, as something small
careens past me. Judging by the flash of blond hair and the fact that it was
moving at the speed of light, I knew it was our only daughter, Charlotte.
She's running after something—wait, I see what she's after—
I didn't think we still had it. But then, Christine never would have thrown it away. She had probably given it to Charlotte.
I ran after my daughter, splashing into the sea as I did so many years ago for my wife. The waves are much stronger here, and the scarf is too far away now—
"Lotte!" I shouted at the top of my voice. I saw that my eldest, Jean-Raoul, moved to follow me, but Christine stopped him.
"Raoul!" she shouted, as I continued to run through the waves.
She was out further now, nearly at the mercy of the current. Come to that, I would be, too, if we remained much longer. The water swirled about my chest, and nearly enveloped Lotte completely.
"Papa, I lost the scarf!" she sounded tearful as she turned to me, and I reached for her hand.
"Don't worry about it, Charlotte.
It's only a scarf."
Charlotte grabbed my hand, and I pulled her onto my back. She clung tightly to me, her arms around my neck.
"It was Maman's! She'll be angry!"
"Hold on to me," I said as I began to swim back to shore. "I'm
sure she won't be angry, Lotte. Don't worry."
When we finally reached the shore, I let go of Charlotte. Christine immediately embraced her, half crying.
"What can you have been thinking of?" Christine demanded,
when she had found a cloth to wrap around Charlotte's
shoulders. "Whatever possessed you? You know Papa and I told you to stay with
For a moment, all I can do is marvel at her authority, as the strands of damp hair curl into ringlets around her face, coming loose from her bun. She is no longer a shy girl, but a beautiful and loving woman.
"I'm sorry, Maman," Charlotte said in a small voice that was uncharacteristic of her. I saw Jean-Raoul and Rene-Ange exchange glances.
"Charlotte," Christine said in a much gentler tone. "Please
"I lost the scarf, Maman," Charlotte said, and sniffled. "The red one you gave me. You said to take special care of it, and I tried to. But the wind took it when I wasn't looking, so I went after it."
I don't hear Christine's reply, because I am struck by the similarities of personality between my daughter and myself. She's impulsive and determined, so much so that she raced into the waves headlong. She could have—no, I cannot allow myself to think that. The thought of losing any of our three children is too horrible to contemplate.
I must teach you, Lotte, to think before you act. My own experiences in that area are many, and the last thing I wish is for you to be hurt in the process of learning. I will not let that happen, not if I can show you differently.
"…it isn't that important, dear," Christine was saying
softly to Charlotte. "It's only a scarf. It isn't worth your life, nothing is.
You are my little girl, and I would rather lose an old scarf than you."
Charlotte burst into tears, and Christine held her tightly, kissing her hair. I feel a small hand press into mine, and glance down to see Rene-Ange, with his older brother by his side. I put my arms around their shoulders, and they stood close to me. No one spoke for a few moments.
"Perhaps we should go back to the house," I suggested. Our summer home wasn't far—in fact, it overlooked the ocean. "We'll wash up and have supper."
The suggestion would normally have been greeted with groans and protests from the children, but they were unusually agreeable to the idea.
We walked back to the house, and handed the children over to the maids to be washed and dried. Once we completed these same things, Christine and I decided to surprise the children with a picnic supper in the parlor.
"Remember our own indoor picnics?" I asked, entwining my fingers with hers.
She smiled at me. "How could I forget?"
The memories of the summer I met Christine and her father would stay with me forever. The pleasant ones, with violin music and beautiful stories…and the frightening ones, Erik's face burned into my mind forever…
Christine still thinks of him, I know. And yet, it does not upset me as it once did. He awakened something in her, and without it she would not be the warm, loving woman that she is now. I no longer hated Erik—too much of my current happiness was brought about by events that were largely his doing. (Of course, this is not to say that I would have invited him to tea, if he were still alive, but that is beside the point.) Still, I could not ignore what impact his life had on Christine's, and my own.
I spread the checked cloth on the floor, and helped Christine to push some of the furniture aside. At last, the basket containing our dinner was brought in by one of the servants. Christine and I set out the plates and forks, and laid out the food. At last we stood up to admire our handiwork.
"Looks good enough to eat," she observed wryly, and I kissed her on the cheek.
She rested her head on my shoulder, and I wrapped my arms around her.
"Are you happy, Christine?" I asked softly.
"What do you mean, Raoul?"
I sighed. "Do you ever regret…going with me?"
Christine's blue eyes searched mine, as though she could find the answer there.
"No," she replied. "I loved Erik. You know that. My love for
you is different, but no less strong. I left Erik because I did love him,
because I wanted to respect his wishes. And because he knew that you were the
one I wanted to marry. He wanted to respect my wishes as well. I do love you,
Raoul. I hope you haven't doubted that all this time."
I shook my head, my throat too tight to speak. Christine's lips were on mine, so that really wasn't an option in any case.
"Isn't there a saying?" I asked. "Something about reading a
man's soul in his face? All the torment Erik had suffered was there for
everyone to see…but for everyone else, it is below, hidden from sight. No one
ever guessed that you were not happy at that time in your life, nor did anyone
guess it of me."
"It isn't in the face," Christine whispered softly into my ear. "It's in the eyes, my darling. I saw it in you then, and you must have seen it in me. But I am happy now, the torment is eased by the joy these past years have brought."
"I love you, Christine."
"I love you, Raoul."
For the next few moments, there was very little talking, as our mouths were otherwise occupied. Then we heard the distinct sound of someone clearing his throat, and we broke away. Standing in the doorway was one of the maids, her eyes cast respectfully downward, along with our three freshly bathed children. They were staring directly at us.
"Would you care to join us for a picnic?" I asked, offering a poor imitation of a theatrical bow. Christine laughed.
Jean-Raoul, Charlotte and Rene-Ange charged into the room like a small herd of wildebeest instead of the well-brought up children I had hoped to raise.
And yet, I thought as we settled down to our supper, I did not mind in the least. For in their eyes, I saw all the happiness I could have wished for them, and for us.
We owed it to Erik to be happy together. To prove that his sacrifice was not in vain, if nothing else.
I raised my glass in a silent toast.
Thank you, Erik.