"Erik, can't we go outside?" I pouted. We never went outside. Erik always preferred to stay in his dark cellars. His idea of an outing was to have a picnic on the side of the lake nearest his house. He had booby traps and special listening devices set up so we would know if someone was approaching the lake. Although that had yet to happen, we spent our time there in perpetual fear of his being discovered, sitting there on the lake with heads cocked to the side, listening for the slightest movement on the opposite side. Conversation was therefore stilted and hushed, certainly not conductive to getting to know one another.
Erik sighed and looked at me, his eyes clouding over as always. "Christine..." I could hear the warning note in his voice. "You know that's not possible."
Brightening, I said, "But, Erik, I have a way!" He stared at me, still with that same look. Apprehension began to slide into his gaze.
"How?" he asked, and I knew he doubted me as he always did.
I laughed slightly with trepidation, wondering how he would react to what I was about to show him. I ran to my room and returned holding something I had been working on when Erik was away, prowling about his opera house. I showed it to him. It was simlar to a knitted cap, but extended over the whole face, leaving only the eyes and mouth visible. I had even sewn a small amount of material where the nose was, so that to those passing us by would think he had one. It was full-proof, especially if he pulled the hood of his ever-present cloak over his head.
I explained what it was and Erik looked up with me with awe in his eyes. "You made this for me?"
I nodded and said, "Of course, it would still be difficult for you to go out during summer. But you can enjoy the colder months of the year."
Finally, he pulled it over his head and looked at me. "So, Mademoiselle, shall we go out about the town?" He gestured with one hand towards the door to his house, and, after draping my cloak over me and throwing his on, I got my wish.
As soon as we reached the gate leading to the Rue Scribe, Erik drew the hood over his head and held out one arm to me. Hesitantly, I took it, and we walked out into the cold, bright air.
It was truly the strangest feeling, walking among others as some sort of normal couple, as if Erik didn't have to wear a mask. Arm in arm, we strolled among the unknowing crowds. I turned to look up at Erik. His eyes, deep in the hood, were flitting from place to place, from person to person, squinting in the unaccustomed light.
I stood on tiptoe and whispered into the hood, "Do you wonder what people would say if they knew the infamous Opera Ghost walked amongst them?" And Erik, in one of the most amazing things I've ever seen, threw back his head and laughed. The change it wrought in his demeanor was amazing.
"No doubt I would have hung by now," he said, his mirth evident in the way his whole body shook. We were drawing strange looks. Me in my light blue dress, pale blond hair shining in the sun. And my dark companion, heavy black cloak covering every inch of his body except his incredible hands, even his face covered by black fabric. Light and dark, and yet perfectly complimenting each other.
We ended up in the Bois, watching children and adults alike skating on the pond, shouting in joy, cursing in frustration when they fell. I looked over at Erik when one youngster was especially vocal about his fall. I think I saw him smile, perhaps the first time I saw such a look on his face. I knew I had made him happy by doing this for him.
As the bright light drifted to late evening and then dusk, Erik and I strolled through the Bois, our voices quiet, discussing the inane things about us. There were carriages that drove by, cursing at the rabble that got underfoot. Erik, in a rare moment of insanity, jumped in the path of one and threw his arms wide. The bat-like apparition spooked the horses and they reared up. I grabbed Erik's arm and pulled him out of the way, as the man tried in vain to get his pale grey horses under control. Rumbling past us, he threw a few more powerful curses our way.
Erik laughed, his eyes bright with merriment. I knew he was enjoying every minute of being out among people. He had always vowed he didn't need humanity and they didn't need him. As night fell and we returned at last to his home under the opera, I was sure that was wrong. I had known all along a little sunlight was all it would take to brighten his soul.