The Hall of Mirrors
Disclaimer:The dialogue in this scene is taken directly from Forsyth's, "The Phantom of Manhattan". This is a crucial moment in this (poorly-written) novel. If you do not wish to know what happens, you may want to avoid reading this story until you have read the actual novel.
I stood talking to the most ridiculous-looking man, dressed in brightly coloured baggy trousers and shoes that were too big for his feet. His bushy sideburns hung down below the gigantic top-hat adorning his angular head. "Your ladyship, our pride and joy here is the Hall of Mirrors, a true wonder of the world..." he said with a flourish of his arm. I heard no more of what he had to say, for those words conjured up the very reason I was here. Erik. Was he alive? Was he here in New York? It had been so many years since I last saw my Angel, since I had left him laying, crushed and sobbing in his lair. Glancing around, I wondered if, even now, he was there watching me.
"I...I don't know..." A Hall of Mirrors. It sounded remarkably like something Erik would invent. He had always been fascinated by mirrors, had always wanted to render their power null. I looked to Father Joe, hoping for some sort of reassurance, hoping he would take me away from this place, where I was so very afraid that I would have to face Erik once more.
"Sure, see the wonder of the world for awhile." He smiled congenially at me and gestured towards the small building off to our right. "I'll look after Pierre, and we have the time. Rehearsals are not till after lunch." And so I found myself following the Funmaster to this infamous Hall of Mirrors, hoping most fervently that the doubts in my mind would not come true, knowing deep in my heart that they would.
We entered together and he gestured for me to take one of the passageways. Looking both ways, I found two identical mirrored corridors. It seemed not to matter which way I turned and so I smiled at the man and turned to my right. As I continued down the corridor, it appeared that this was nothing extraordinary, for I expected something quite different from Erik. Was this simply a Hall of Mirrors, just one hallway made up of hundreds of mirrored panels?
I turned to remark on this to the Funmaster, but found I was completely alone. I stopped in my path, hand to my heart for a moment, my breath gone, thoughts deserting me. "Sir?" I asked, wondering what had become of him. There was no response, save the echoing of my own voice around me. Mon Dieu, I thought.
I had no choice but to go on, and hope I would come to the end of the corridor soon. Turning, I ran into a mirror that had not been there before. Shocked, I stepped back to find that the corridor I had come through had also been closed off and another opened. With a great feeling of trepidation, I turned and walked down this hall, for there was no way left for me to go.
As I continued, corridors opened, while others closed. I continued on my way, watching my pale, ever-changing reflection in the mirrors. Where was this leading me? Was this part of the fun this was supposed to contain? For surely, this was not amusing to me.
The mirrors began to turn faster, revolving and opening passage after passage that were closed off before I could walk into them. Several times I would walk into a mirror, thinking there was a corridor, only to find that there wasn't. I turned around and around, a silent scream coming from my lips. Stop moving! my mind screamed, as I turned once again, looking at my reflection, noting the dark circles under wide, frightened blue eyes.
Abruptly, the mirrors stopped and I found myself enclosed in a small room, the mirrors all around me, reflecting myself into infinity. Silence reigned here, the only sound the beating of my frantic heart.
Suddenly, I saw the whirl of a cloak, the room feeling much smaller. I backed into a mirror, my hand reaching out to touch its cool reassurance as an apparition I never thought to see again appeared before me.
My hand came up to my mouth involuntarily and for a moment I couldn't speak. Finally, I managed to utter the words, "Oh it is you!"
Erik was standing before me, looking no less magnificent than he did in Paris all those years ago. He still wore the evening dress, the beautiful cloak adorning his shoulders, his ever-present fedora adorning his head. Little had changed about him. The pain was still so very prevalent in his gaze.
One of his exceptionally graceful hands sliced through the air. "Of course. Did you suspect another?" His voice pierced my heart and soul. It had been so long since I heard that voice, since its sheer magnitude had graced my ears. I began to reach a hand out to him, to touch him once more, but quickly withdrew it when I realized what I was doing.
"After the monkey, no. To hear 'Masquerade' again...It has been so long." I felt the tears come to my eyes. I was very much a child once more, torn between Erik and Raoul. I had forgotten the affect this man had on me. Erik nodded, his eyes sad, looking at his feet rather than at me. "Thirteen long years. Have you thought of me?" His gaze turned back up to me, yet his head remained tilted downwards. I was suddenly reminded of a young boy, who had such great hope and yet knew it could not be so.
What could I say? The truth...that there was never a moment where he was far from my mind. Every time I looked at Pierre, my beloved son, I thought of Erik and all that we had shared. "Of course, my Angel of Music. But I thought..."
"That I was dead?" he cut me off. "No, Christine, my love, not me."
I shook my head. No, it was not possible. Even after all these years? "My love? Do you still?..."
He put a hand to his heart, and said with complete sincerity. "Always and forever, until I die. In spirit you are still mine, Christine." His voice was fervent with emotion, the words as warm as ever. They burned my ears, and an emotion I had not felt in a long time began to make its way painfully towards the surface. "I made the singing star but could not keep her." The words turned sorrowful once more, and I watched carefully as one hand reached up and lightly touched my cheek. When my eyes widened in what he must have thought was fear, he flinched back.
I turned from him and looked at our reflections in the mirror directly behind me. In a small voice, I said, "When you vanished, I thought you had...gone forever..." I had thought he was dead, but the words would not come from my mouth. I would never forget the pain that had lain in my heart that night when I returned, only to find that Erik had never been seen again. All thought he was dead, and so I assumed they were correct. "I married Raoul?..." I was frightened of his reaction. Would he lash out at the mention of his old rival's name? Would it still bring him such immense pain? I watched in the mirror and was surprised to see one hand reach up to wipe angrily at the eye left uncovered by the mask.
With a sigh, he said, "I know. I have followed every step, every move...every triumph." He clenched a fist and I knew he considered the triumphs his doing. Truly they were, for without Erik, my singing career would have never begun. I would have remained a lowly chorus girl. And my voice? It certainly would not have been touted as the voice of an angel.
"Has it been hard for you, Erik?" He flinched at the name, as did I. It was the first time I had spoken it aloud in almost 13 years, and certainly the first time in that many years that he had heard me speak it. Perhaps he never thought to hear me speak again, except in his memories. And as for me? I was not allowed to speak his name in our household. Raoul, though a good man, had banned that name from being spoken. I am sure it hurt him terribly to know what had transpired between Erik and I that last night in his lair.
"Hard enough. My road has always been harder than you will ever know." Always enigmatic. Some things about Erik had obviously not changed.
Finally, I had to ask the one question that had plagued my mind since I first heard that tune play once again on the monkey musical box. "You brought me here? The Opera, it is yours?" With a nod of his head, Erik confirmed my worst fears. This was no chance meeting.
"All mine, and more, much more," he said in a harsh whisper, his hand clenched into a fist. Gesturing wildly with the other hand he continued, "Wealth to buy half of France."
"Why Erik, oh, why did you do it? Could you not leave me be? What do you want of me?" I flung my arms wide, frightened by his answer. Oh Erik! Truly, why did you bring me to you? Could you not have let me be, left me to my life, no matter how difficult it was for you? Obviously he had built up quite an empire, so why did he need me?
His eyes locked on mine, and all his defenses went down for the moment. I had never seen him so vulnerable as he pleaded with me. He came forward and grasped me by the upper arms, bending his head so that his lips were very near mine. "Stay with me."
I spun away, turning from him, my heart beating twice as fast as it should have. "I cannot," I said with great resolution. I had a son, a life to continue. As much as my heart cried out, I could not do as he wanted me to.
His arms came about me from behind, closing around me and pulling me back against his hard body. He bent his lips close to my ear as he said, "Stay with me, Christine." The words were intimate, a caress. I felt a shudder go through me. Surely
Erik did as well, for he pulled me even tighter to him. "Times have changed. I can offer you every opera house in the world. Everything you could ever ask for."
I looked into the mirror and our eyes met there, our wills clashing. I felt myself drawn into his gaze, felt myself wishing I could say yes, wishing I could stay forever in this odd embrace. "I cannot. I love Raoul." The tears began to leak from my eyes. The words sounded so hollow, for I knew that I didn't love Raoul as I should. My heart had always belonged to Erik, but, thinking he was dead, I had married Raoul anyway.
Turning in the embrace, I met Erik's eyes without benefit of the mirror. "Try to accept that." I reached out and took his hands in mine, separating us and yet keeping us connected still. It was not so easy to let him go this time. "All you have done for me I remember and with gratitude. But my heart lies elsewhere and always will. Can you not understand that? Can you not accept?" It was so difficult lying to him in this way, looking into his eyes and crushing all his hopes because I was now too afraid to leave the life I had come to know.
His hands dropped mine and he backed away. Suddenly, it felt so much colder in the tiny room. I had created a new rift between us, which was solidified by his next words. Turing away from me, he said, "Very well. Accept I must. Why not, my heart has been broken so many times." The words were so very bitter, and I knew he spoke of his mother, and of the previous time we were together. I looked at my feet, the shame overwhelming me. I had brought him so much pain, and yet, here I was again, going to deny the one man I had ever loved.
I was so embroiled in my own guilt, that I never heard him turn around again. But, suddenly, he was before me, lifting my chin up with one long-fingered hand. "But there is one more thing. Leave me my boy." The words were like a bomb in the silence. Oh dear God, he knew? He knew!
"Your...boy...?" I asked, hoping he was bluffing, knowing that he could read the truth on my face.
"My son...our son, Pierre." The words, full of pain and hope and incredulity stung me. For a time I remained quiet, my hands reaching up to cover my face. If he knew the truth...What would he do? Would he take him from me? He wouldn't harm him, surely he wouldn't, for Erik was not that cruel of a man.
"Who told you?" I asked.
"Madame Giry." Of course, Erik's one ally in the opera house, the only one who sought to protect him, the only one who cared besides myself.
"Why, oh, why did she do it?" She had turned my life upside down with this confession of hers.
Erik shrugged, trying so very hard to look nonchalant. "She was dying. She wanted to share the secret of so many years ago."
"She lied." I tried once more to convince him it wasn't true.
"No. She tended Raoul after the shooting in the alley." Of course he knew that. How could I have been so foolish to believe he wouldn't know all the details. Erik had always known everything, even though we never could figure out how. Never, for as long as I should live, would I forget the way he laughed as the chandelier plunged to the stage at my feet. In that instant, I had known he heard what had occurred on the rooftop. Somehow, he had heard. Over and over in my mind, I had analyzed the events, trying to discover where he could have hidden to hear such things. Thirteen years, and I still had no idea.
"He is a good, kind and gentle man." The words tumbled from my lips, flowing forth in an attempt to reassure myself. Truly, Raoul was kind. But somewhere, deep in his mind, it bothered him that Pierre was not his own. It had eaten into his heart and now he rarely talked to me. It's not that he treated me terribly, for Raoul was always conscientious and thoughtful, but we would often go days at a time without a word between us. "He...has loved me and brought up Pierre as his own. Pierre...does not know." I shook my head. How could I ever explain the truth to Pierre? He was still such
a boy, and thought his father to be the good and honourable Vicomte de Chagny. Could he ever accept that his father was the mysterious Phantom of the Opera, a man so horribly disfigured that he hid behind a mask, crawling away into the cellars of an opera house and cutting himself off from all humanity?
Erik looked gravely at me, his deep eyes piercing my soul, and spoke steadily. "Raoul...knows. You know. I know. Leave me my son." The telltale catch on Raoul's name told the entire tale. Thirteen long years, and the jealousy was still there, as strong as ever.
Closing my eyes, I turned from him, leaning my forehead against one of the mirror's cool surfaces. "I cannot, Erik." The tears began to leak from my eyes, falling down pale cheeks and landing on my deep purple cloak, turning the colour nearly black.
I felt a hand rest lightly and tentatively on my shoulder. My name was whispered into the air. A plea, spoken so close to my ear. It was hard to resist, and so I sighed, and relented slightly. "He will soon be thirteen. In five years more, a man. Then I will tell him." I turned to face him and found myself very nearly in his embrace. He was so close, I was forced to look upwards to meet his gaze. "You have my word, Erik. On his eighteenth birthday. Not yet, he is not ready. He...needs me still. When he is told, he will choose." My gaze dropped downward, entangling itself within his cloak.
"I have your word, Christine? If I wait five years..." He leaned closer and once more I found myself looking into his eyes. My breath caught in my breast. Would he kiss me? I studied his lips, remembering the feel of them as they swept across my brow, buried themselves in the crook of my neck, tentatively caressed the rest of my body. It had been the one moment I had given myself over to passion. I have never regretted it, for there was a part of me that would always love Erik.
I reached up and covered his hand with mine. I felt that familiar tingle flow from him to me, that electric spark of attraction. "You will have your son. In five years." With a challenging tone, I raised my chin and added, "If you can win him..." The
challenge seemed not to matter, for he cut me off and ignored the implications.
"Then I will wait." His voice was resolute, determined. It seemed that nothing about Erik had changed, for he still knew he would get his way and no mere mortal would get in his way. "I have waited so long for one tiny fragment of the happiness most men learn at their father's knee." His hand clenched into a fist for a moment, then unclenched and came to rest on the mirror behind me, close to my head. The other hand followed suit and I suddenly found myself trapped by him, enclosed between the steel bands of his arms. "Five years more," he whispered, his breath fanning out across my face. "I will wait."
I breathed a sigh of relief and my eyes closed for a moment. "Thank you, Erik. In...three days I will sing for you again. You will be there?" The question was inane. I already knew he would be there. This was something he would never miss. This was what he brought me here for.
"Of course," he said. He reached out and lightly pulled an errant lock of hair from my forehead. "Closer than you know."
"Then I will sing for you as I have never sung before," I said fervently, vowing to do exactly that with all my heart. For some time we stared at each other, our gazes locked onto each other. At long last, the silence impenetrable, I tried to look away. Erik wouldn't allow me to, however, for one long-fingered hand came under my chin and lifted my face up to his.
My breath caught, and everything slowed down for a moment. Tentatively, Erik leaned down and pressed his lips to mine. I was instantly lost, my body no longer under my control. As his lips drew from mine, I reached out to bring him back, and came into contact with nothing but air.
My eyes flew open. Erik was gone. I was alone once more. Crushed, I wrapped my arms around my body and tried to control the sobs.