THE MUSIC TEACHER **N.B. This story is totally fictitious. Any similarity with events/characters is totally coincidental. By the way, the real Charles Garnier does NOT look like the way I described him in my story in real life. **

(What if Erik's first inspiration was a child called Nadia before Christine Daae? What if Erik was a music teacher before he became the Opera Ghost? Read on and see for yourself!)

CHAPTER1 "Class, I want you to meet your new music teacher, Erik Dusquene." The children of St. Patrick School were groaning inwardly.except for Nadia Garnier the French-born student. Singing was her life. The children gasped as their music teacher stepped into the classroom, especially the headmistress who looked like an ostrich in a purple dress. Erik wore black attire, looking like a gentleman. Half of his visage was covered with a white mask. One eye was black and the other was.blue?!! ."Em. I shall leave you with the students, Sir?" said the headmistress finding her voice at last." "Of course and please.. Call me Erik, Madame.?" " Featherdays." She replied curtly, leaving at once. The year was 1856, in London. The whole class started whispering, sounding as though little fires had started all around the classroom. "Why does he wear a mask?", " He's so freaky.what if he's a monster or something." and sniggers could be heard. But words had lost their power to wound Erik Dusquene years ago. He was born disfigured in Rouen to the wife of a wealthy stonemason, where his mother despised him and children teased and shunned him. His father however loved him and showered him with love and gifts. Erik was a talented genius and could play the violin at a young age, drew lovely drawings and carved beautiful sculptures though he was extremely unlovely. Of course, there were a few kind-hearted people who loved him no matter what he looked like. A young female voice broke his daydream. "Can't you insensitive fools give the new teacher a break? He's new!" An auburn-haired girl wearing a black and white stripped dress was standing up, glaring angrily at the class. Erik was stunned to see a young child defending him. She was no more than nine years old and had gorgeous green eyes. She was none other than Nadia Garnier. Finally finding his tongue, Erik then said, "Please sit down, Miss..?" " Garnier. Nadia Garnier." finished the girl. When she sat down, Erik then continued. "Right, if you must know, I was deformed at birth and have to wear a mask for the rest of my life. So please, no jokes or taunting." Silence filled the classroom that day as Erik took their attendance.

The very next day (he had music lessons with the class every Monday and Tuesday) was unbearable for Erik. There were 20students, 10 boys, 10 girls and the boys sounded like bullfrogs and almost half of the girls sounded like squirts. When Nadia's turn finally came (she was girl no.10), Erik sighed and asked her to sing Faust's "The Jewel Song", half expecting her to sound like a squirt. What had possessed him to be a music teacher in this school? When she started singing, Erik's chest tightened. She sang so sweetly..almost like an angel's! All it needed was someone to teach her.and her song would take wing.When Nadia finished, she took a deep breath of air. "Well Monsieur, did I do well?" asked Nadia. Erik held back his tears of joy. " Oh no child.. You did not sing well.. You sang exceptionally well.." murmured her teacher. Feeling pleased, she left the Music Room. "Wait!" Erik called out. Nadia went back inside. "Yes?" Nadia asked. "Who taught you how to sing?" Erik said. " Mother used to teach me. Now, she's too busy to do so anymore.' replied the child sadly. " And my parents have both left for India to do business there. I've only got the servants to look after me. " She added. Then Erik hit upon an idea. " Where do you live?" asked Erik suddenly. " Why do you ask?" asked Nadia. " So that while your parents are away, I can teach you how to sing on weekdays, starting from tomorrow 8pm -10pm onwards. How's that?" explained Erik. Nadia was ecstatic upon the thought of having someone to teach her how to sing.for free! She agreed at once and wrote her address on a piece of paper. "It's a stone's throw away from here." She added. " In that case, why don't I walk you home later, after school? Is that a yes?.. Excellent.. What do you have after my class?.. Very well..tell your English teacher I had to discuss something with you.now go.." At "go", Nadia sped back to class. Erik noticed she had left a ribbon behind. He smiled and used it to wrap a yellow rose for Nadia. After all.it would be break after English. he had memorized the entire timetable. As soon as the bell rang for Break, the children ran out of the classroom as fast as they could. Erik quietly entered the classroom and after finding Nadia's desk (her name was written on the desk with chalk), he placed the yellow rose on the table and left..

CHAPTER 2 Nadia selected an eagle feather quill from a drawer and after dipping it into a bottle of black ink, started doing her homework. A few hours later, it was all done. She called one of the servants to get her a drink as her throat was feeling parched. After the drink was downed, she felt refreshed and at the right time for then, she heard a knock at the window. It was Erik. "Monsieur Dusquene! What a surprise!" said Nadia as she opened the window. "Not so, Nadia,' replied Erik climbing into her room. " Didn't I tell you about the music lessons yesterday?" "Oh! So sorry! I almost forgot!" exclaimed Nadia, slapping her forehead. "Before we begin..do you have any problems with schoolwork?" asked Erik, sounding like a parent. "Well.. Sort of.." muttered Nadia. It took no time for Erik and Nadia to finish those difficult bits of work. "Amazing, Monsieur.You can do more than teach music.." gasped Nadia. "I have hidden talents, child." replied Erik calmly. While all this was happening, A thief was climbing into Nadia's bedroom as Nadia had forgotten to close the window. Erik however, was more alert than the child was but before he could think of a way to stop the thief, the thief grabbed Nadia and placed a knife at her throat. "Make one false move and the girl dies." The thief snarled. But he picked the wrong girl. Though she was only nine, Nadia was almost as tall as the thief as he was a beefy (but little) man. Sensing the advantage, Nadia reacted swiftly by stepping HARD on the thief's foot, using her elbow to hit him in the stomach and finally using the same hand (which she balled into a fist) to knock him out. He fell into the floor, unconscious. Erik stood there, gaping. Nadia asked him to help her dispose of the thief.by throwing him out of the window into the lake. "How did you do that?" asked Erik later, closing the windows. " I too have hidden talents, Monseir. My mother was an acrobat in the circus and when I was 6, I learned martial arts from a Chinese friend of my mother's. Only when she married my father after they fell in love with each other while he watched her perform did she become a socialite like him. But they loved each other for what they were." explained Nadia, taking down a portrait, showing a portly yet kind -looking bearded green-eyed man with a lovely young brown- haired and blue-eyed woman beside him and a little girl in the middle who had the man's eyes and the woman's face. "This is our recent family portrait."said Nadia. "Shall we start our music lessons, Sir?" added Nadia after some time. "Certainly, start with the scales," replied Erik.

Days passed. Nadia's voice was becoming lovelier each day. Of course, sometimes her mind was elsewhere or she wasn't trying her best and Erik had to be firm to her but he never brought her to tears. But today, Nadia wasn't trying her best, making Erik exasperated and irritated. "No. No.. No.. No.. No.. Nadia.. You can do better than this.What is the matter with you today? You sound like a squirt!" snapped an irritated Erik rashly. Nadia looked dazed...and hurt. His tone softened. He put a comforting arm over her and asked, "Tell me what's wrong." Tears fell from those gorgeous green pools. " Today, I tried to sing but ...it came out horribly.a few girls taunted me.. Said my voice was disgusting. I cried all the way home." Erik felt like crying too for he too knew how it was like to be bullied physically.. and verbally. "There..there.. I'm sorry if I've hurt you Nadia.and don't listen to those girls.. What do they know?" soothed Erik. "You'll ruin your voice if you keep crying like that.. You don't have a voice like a squirt.. You have the voice of an angel.really.." At that, Nadia stopped crying. "Shall we continue?" Erik asked after a long silence. " Yes, please.' answered Nadia.

CHAPTER 3 "Monsieur Dusquene, I really need some help in the school musical. It's three weeks from yesterday." Said Nadia, passing the script of " Rusalka" to Erik. " The script is easy to memorize.. But it's 'Drovark: Song To The Moon' that I have a problem with." "Well, why don't we start practicing now?" suggested Erik. (Nadia was privileged to get Rusalka, the lead female role of the school play.) "Very well," replied Nadia, sitting on her bed and after drinking some water, proceeded to sing. ONE WEEK LATER. "Scende la notte tranquillita.. Piano il buio respira.. solo la luna vegliera.. Con argento ci coprira.. dal grande cielo splendera, Solo la luna vegliera..." Nadia had practiced for hours to end and the work was paying off. Her voice could now reflect Rusalka's grief and sadness of unrequited love. Then came bad news. The teacher who was organizing the play wanted her to sing the same song.. in English. ("That old cow." growled Erik under his breath). Nadia, surprisingly however, did not even scream in shock at the news. Either she was very calm, or she had no intention of ruining her voice by screaming. Another week passed, and Nadia was finding it very easy. "That's the spirit, Nadia, go on..," said a very tired but extremely happy Erik. Nadia finished the song with the last two paragraphs: "The moon of the night Will sweetly protects us The moon of the night Will sweetly protects us

The moon will not be awake It will flee The moon will vanish." ****** After Erik finished the music lesson, he said goodbye and went back to the school. He took a key out of his pocket and unlocked the Music Room. There was a rather small bed in the room for Erik but he slept comfortably in it. He locked the door and went to bed, with his day clothes still on.

THE NIGHT OF THE PLAY "I wish my family were here to watch me." sighed once-Nadia- now -Rusalka as she dusted non-existent dust off her lovely lace costume. 'I'm sure they'll be there.. in spirit." replied Erik, trying to calm her frayed nerves. Erik could not believe his eyes. She looked so lovely in her costume. Soon, it was her turn to go on stage. Erik almost cried when he heard her sing. She sang so beautifully that the angels would weep tonight. During the 15min. Intermission, Erik (who was hiding behind a curtain) saw Nadia's rival Eloise (who was going to perform beside Nadia) stir pepper into Nadia's drink. "That'll make Nadia sound horrible, Ha ha!" cackled the wretched child and carelessly left HER own drink (which was IDENTICAL to Nadia's) beside Nadia's.

After Intermission, both Nadia and Eloise appeared on stage. Nadia opened her mouth.and the voice of an angel came out! Eloise was shocked and decided to show to Nadia that HER voice was better. But instead of an angel's voice, a hoarse sound came out of Eloise's mouth! Erik was watching this from behind, chuckling wickedly to himself. He had switched the girls' drinks! Eloise ran off the stage in tears but everybody was hypnotized by Nadia's voice they didn't even notice her running off the stage or why. At the part where "Song To The Moon" was to be sung, Nadia cleared her throat and said to the audience: " I dedicate this song to everyone attending the school play, my parents, provided they're here (At this, several people in the audience laughed.), to God for if you did not make me, I will not be singing here tonight and last but of course not least, Mr. Dusquene, our music teacher for making my song take wing." Here, Erik quietly wept. "Bless that child.bless her.." he moaned. Then, she took another deep breath and sang: (For readers' convenience, I have WRITTEN THE ENTIRE ENGLISH LYRICS below!") The night falls, silence The darkness breathes quietly Just the moon will be awake It will cover us with silver It will shine from the great sky Just the moon will be awake

The moon of the night Will sweetly protects us The moon of the night Will sweetly protects us

The night falls And it is there It reigns over the whole sky. It will watch us with kindness Illuminating the evening

The moon of the night Will sweetly protects us The moon of the night Will sweetly protects us.

The moon will not be awake It will flee The moon will vanish

After the song was done, everyone applauded. She, Nadia Garnier, was fantastic! As soon as the show was over, Nadia ran into the changing room to change into nice, normal clothes. While she changed, she thought of an incident that happened before she met Erik..

************ Nadia ran into the Hall. The Ballet Room was closed for repairs and the Ballet class was using the Hall for the time being. At least the Hall didn't have any of those stupid mirrors where everyone could see your mistakes. "Miss Garnier, you're late." barked the ostrich-like teacher Mrs.Grandle. The other girls sniggered at her. "Come to the center and show me a pirouette, girl." the teacher snapped. All Nadia did was spin like a typhoon and fall face-first onto the floor. The teacher rolled her eyes. "That's it. Get out of this class. You're a disgrace to it." snapped Mrs. Grandle. "You'll never amount to anything," she added, hurting the girl emotionally. She (Nadia) ran out sobbing.

"Let that cow in a tutu see me now!" laughed Nadia to herself. She now wore a purple dress. As she left the changing room, she collided with two people. "Ouch, that hurt! Why don't you." before Nadia could finish her sentence, she saw that the people he collided into were her own parents back from India! She embraced them, weeping tears of joy "We saw you sing just now.. You were like an angel, child, who taught you how to sing so well?" "My music teacher, Mr. Dusquene." replied the child. She took her parents to the Music Room, where Erik usually spent hours in. In his place was a lovely bouquet of white roses addressed to.Nadia! A card beside it read, "This is for you, my Angel and student. -E.D (Erik Dusquene)." "My, you're your Music Teachers' pet!" her father chuckled. "Oh, Papa, don't talk nonsense." Nadia replied. As the happy family left the school, a figure in black watched them leave. "Such a happy family.." sighed the figure. It was Erik.

CHAPTER 4 T hat night, Nadia told her parents all about the mysterious singing lessons she had with Erik. She also assured them he had no ulterior motives at all, except to teach her how to sing. Erik meanwhile was having nightmares of his past life..

"Erik stared malevolently through his cage at Jacques Courier, the cruel owner of the freakshow. Erik had been whipped repeatedly for not displaying his deformity or not playing the violin for his customers to see. He had tried to escape earlier and had just been caught by that Jacques. 'So, Monsieur Monster (as Erik was billed), you think you can escape me, is it? Well, know this, I own you and you WILL not escape me, no, you SHALL not escape me and you SHALL know that!' At 'that', Jacques pulled out a knife and plunged it INTO Erik's left leg. A scream of rage and pain filled the night air. Erik looked at Jacques' garroted corpse. Jacques' own wife Helena (who hated Jacques) had smuggled a Punjab lasso to Erik and spiked her husband's ale with absinthe so that once he was drugged, Erik could strangle him to death, get the keys from the dead Jacques and run away. After all, everyone would presume Erik was dead. Helena killed herself after Erik's escape to escape the authorities coming after her. Erik left for the Middle East, where he constructed beautiful palaces and mazes. When he went to Persia, he gave the Shah (the ruler) endless morbid pleasures e.g. Strangling condemned criminals, e.t.c. After some time, he decided to become a music teacher in England for a while.. And then he found Nadia.."

Nadia woke up, panting. It was 3am on a Saturday morning. Her voice seemed to have gone due to Friday's play. She just had a nightmare about a very ugly man suffering inhumane tortures.. Strange.. His name was also Erik.. Was it coincidence? Or were the two men the same person? Nadia lay back in bed, watching her Persian cat Sapphire leap onto the bed, purring and soon went to sleep on one of the pillows. Nadia stroked her cat between the ears and went back to sleep as well.

Erik could sleep no more. He decided to take a walk in the school hall for a while. As he entered the hall, he thought he was dreaming or having hallucinations for he saw his dead mother in front of him, screaming at him, calling him a monster, her lovely features distorted by rage and hate. Suddenly, her auburn hair became red, her brown eyes (Erik got his black eyes from his father)*filled with hate turned into green eyes filled with warmth. She was practically shrinking. Her face morphed into the face of a 9-year old child's and her screams of insults dissolved into a soothing song. "Song To The Moon". His mother was replaced by Nadia."Nadia." whispered Erik, trying to take her hand. But she was only a figment of Erik's imagination for she was gone. Erik blinked his eyes in dismay. *(Erik lost an eye when he was fighting in Persia so he made a blue eye to replace the black one he lost.) Nadia was his only pillar of hope right now. He had no problem giving her little presents now and then; after all, his father left his an enormous fortune when he turned 18. He couldn't wait for Monday to see the child again. Neither could Nadia, for the same reason.

The Principal asked Nadia to pass some papers to Mr. Dusquene before she went home. Nadia readily agreed. She knocked on the door of the soundproof Music Room. No answer. Using one hand, Nadia opened the door. Erik was playing an organ with so much concentration he did not even notice Nadia had come in. Nadia closed the door with her foot and placed the papers on the table nearby. Then, she did something she would soon regret: she tapped her teacher on the shoulder. Erik got a shock and turned around. only to realize he hadn't put his mask on.. How could've he been so stupid to think he had locked the door? His face was terrifying. One side of it was distorted beyond recognition, looking as though it had been scarred by acid. His black and blue eyes shone with a fire full of rage and pain. His lips were misshapen. Nadia's mouth uttered a silent scream of shock and horror. She tried to run but Erik, in a mad rage, reached the door first and had locked it. Nadia was scared at her music teacher's change of behavior and tried hiding under the bed but Erik dragged her out by her legs. Nadia, turned around, only to be shook by her shoulders vigorously by Erik, as he snarled, " GO ON, GO AHEAD AND LOOK, ISN'T THIS WHAT YOU WANTED TO SEE?!! NOW YOU KNOW YOUR TEACHER IS A MONSTER!!! THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE THINKING NOW, ISN'T IT, ISN'T IT?!! DON'T YOU LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?!! ANSWER ME!!!" "N-n-no Sir.. What I-I 'm thinking now is about the dream I had about you a few days ago. Is it true you were tortured in a freak show, killed one of your tormentors and ran away to Persia soon after that? ["Yes, go on," snarled Erik, still in a rage] An-and I-I'm not horrified of your face, I'm just shocked because you ARE the same Erik I saw in my dreams!" sobbed the girl. Erik then gently placed her on his bed and started to weep. He had hurt her.. A girl with a good voice and soul.. Furious at himself, he slammed his hands repeatedly against the wall to punish himself for hurting her so badly. Nadia grabbed his hands and begged him to stop for it hurt her more to see him hurt himself than to see herself get hurt. They both wept in each other's arms. Erik placed a small bottle of oilment good at healing wounds and bruises into her hands and after drying her tears begged her not to tell anyone about it. Nadia solemnly promised not to tell anyone, from the bottom of her heart. " There will be no music lesson today." He said quietly. Nadia decided not to ask why as Erik unlocked the door and calmly asked her to leave. He had already put his mask back on. Little did he know that he would find himself in a similar situation several months later..

The very next day as Nadia sat beside Harps (a mute friend of hers) during Break, Harps took out a notepad and a pencil and wrote " What's wrong, Nadia? You look unhappy." Nadia wrote on the same piece of paper, saying: "Promise me you'll tell no one about why I look so down now." Surprised, Harps wrote: " I promise. After all, I'm a mute." Feeling embarrassed, Nadia took the notebook and wrote her reason down. Harps' eyes widened as she read it. Nevertheless, being a true good friend, she kept her promise and threw it into the dustbin after reading it. Erik, unfortunately, got his hands on it. When he read the first few paragraphs, he felt angry. However, when he read the last few lines, he felt ashamed at his anger as the last few lines read: ".God in Heaven, look down on him (Erik) in mercy and forgive his trespasses. The world has shown no compassion to him, surely You, who created him can love him." "Forgive me, Nadia!" his soul screamed.. The next day, when Nadia arrived at school, she saw a red rose and a note in red ink on her desk, addressed to her. She opened the note. It read: " To Nadia, Forgive my bad temper and impulsiveness yesterday. Lessons resume tonight, usual time. -Your Music Teacher." Nadia smiled in surprise as she rubbed her shoulders. The pain had faded a little after applying the oilment on her bruises. She had already forgiven him. That night, Erik came, as usual, by the window. Fortunately, her parents were at a party so it was just her and the servants.and Erik. Erik explained to her about the note and Nadia assured him the person she wrote the note to was a mute. Once again, Nadia's lovely voice could be heard. When Erik tried singing with her, they made it sound as though two angels were in the room, entertaining and moving to tears some of the servants who were listening through the keyhole.

CHAPTER 5 Several weeks passed. Nadia was slowly becoming a famous soprano. Wherever she sang, there were newspaper articles about her. But she never let fame go to her head. Little did Erik and Nadia know Fate would tear them apart. ************ Erik dropped the newspaper and wept bitterly. "Oh Mon Dieu.. It can't be.." he wept. "I know how much you cared for her.. but she has gone to a better place." replied the Principal. The Principal, a kindly old man had called Erik to his office to pass him a newspaper article concerning Nadia. At first, Erik thought it was good news, only to turn to the page the Principal asked him to turn to and read this: YOUNG SOPRANO AND FAMILY DROWNED "Just yesterday, the young soprano star Nadia Garnier was cruelly taken from us. The family was in a carriage about to visit a relative when the bridge across the sea, which was very old and worn collapsed into half. The carriage fell into the Indian Ocean. There are no survivors though there are rumors the parents are still alive. Then again, they are just rumors. ' Nadia is a great loss to the world of music,' mourns Mdm.Obes Essed, one of the late prodigy's fans. ' There's one more angel in Heaven,' says Father Ignatius, pastor of St. Andrew's Church. ' She is still alive...in the hearts of those who loved her.' adds a nun in the same chuch. -Reuters." There was also a photo of Nadia as well. Erik asked to be allowed to take leave. It was allowed. He ran to The Music Room and after locking the door, wept buckets. Life seemed to have no meaning now that his inspiration was dead. His spark of joy died with her too. Nadia did not score academically well and was not very ladylike like the other girls, that was true, but she was a lovely child of God with a heart of love and gold and a voice of an angel's. Suddenly, old cynicism welled up in him. Where was God when Nadia died? If God loved the World so much, why was there so much hate and suffering? Where was God? With an inhuman cry of rage, he flung his music sheets off the desk. They flew like birds with too many wings onto the floor. He flung things here and there, not caring if he destroyed anything or hurt himself. After an hour had passed, he cooled down, or rather; there was nothing else to vent his anger at God on. He looked at his watch. It read 4pm. He fell asleep on the bed (which was untouched in Erik's hour of rage) for 10 hours. "You're quitting? So soon?" asked the Principal, shocked. " I cannot stay here, where there are too much.. memories of Nadia. I'm sorry, but I can't stay." replied Erik. "B-but you'll be hard to re-replace.." stuttered the poor old man." I know.. But I can't forget her. I hear her everywhere I go, I see her ghost.. Farewell, Monsieur." added Erik and left the school forever. He slept in a room in an inn where he slept peacefully until he heard someone call out to him softly a few hours later. "Erik.. Erik.." He sat up in bed. There was someone in the room. He knew it. "Who goes there?" he yelled into the night, trying to sound braver than he felt. 'Erik.. It is I, Nadia.." All of a sudden, Nadia appeared in a glowing white dress to him. She looked like an angel. "It cannot be.." gasped Erik, getting out of bed to run towards her to take her in his arms. Then she vanished without a trace. Erik held nothing but air. "NOOOO!!" he howled. Erik sat up in bed, gasping. It was only a dream.. Only a dream.

The ship arrived in Paris. Erik decided to find a job as he knew he could not survive on his fortune alone. Soon, he found just the right job: To be a worker at the still -in -progress Opera Populaire. He never saw the foreman Monsieur Giroux. All he knew was that he was a portly, stern yet kind middle-aged man. Once in a while, he had the workers asking him to remove the mask and with much reluctance, did so, making them recoil in fear and horror. At least it did one good thing: No one asked him about the mask anymore after that. Sometimes, Monsieur Giroux would comment him for his good work, saying Erik's works were one of the most beautiful works of art he saw. After the Opera House was completed, he constructed a home for himself beyond the Opera House's artificial lake in the cellars. He ventured out only at night, to buy basic necessities. Time after time, he would hear Nadia singing. Was her spirit haunting him? He was not so sure. He looked at one of the sketches he sketched himself. On one of the sketches was a pretty little girl dressed as a water nymph was sitting on a giant water lily singing to the Moon about unrequited love. Cleverly blended into the water ripples was the girl's name: Nadia. He couldn't bring himself to throw it away. He took another look at a drawing of a child with big, feathered wings around her. Cleverly blended too into her hair was Nadia's name. He sighed, collapsed into the chair and fell asleep, dropping the sketches. One of them fell onto the lake like a water lily and floated to the other side of the lake. At that moment, the ballet mistress Madame Giry had gone into Erik's lair by accident as she had lost her way. She noticed something in the water and picked it up. It was a sketch of a young girl with wings, looking like a little angel with big wings. " Such a lovely drawing," thought Mdm. Giry, keeping it inside her clothes and was about to leave when Erik awoke.. and saw the ballet mistress.. and she saw him. Instant panic and fear that she might have discovered him and was going to tell someone else about it flooded through him. In a lightning- speed leap, Erik leapt over like a gazelle grabbed her arm in a vice-like grip. " Who are you and what are you doing here?" he hissed coldly. " Please monsieur, I am Madam Julia Giry, the ballet mistress and I mean you no harm." gasped the poor woman. "Really?" sneered Erik sacarstically. " You haven't answered my question.. what are you doing here?" " I lost my way trying to look for my daughter Meg, ended up here and saw a sketch of a little angel which was floating on the water.." "It is mine. Give it back to me. Now." interrupted Erik. The poor frightened woman using one hand gave Erik his sketch of Nadia back. Yet he maintained a firm grip on the woman's arm. "Tell no one of me or I shall kill you.. And all your ballet girls," he threatened in a voice he hardly recognized at all. The woman nodded. Erik released her and watched her run back up to the theater. He could not believe he was that cruel to anyone (except to Madame Giry) before. He hoped that woman would not betray him only after to realize hours later, he had scared her so badly she wouldn't dare tell a soul.

*************************************** A week had passed. Erik had been watching Madame Giry to ensure she kept her promise and kept her promise she did. He watched her from above, where no one noticed him. One day, he saw a beautiful young brown-haired woman in a tutu run onto the stage. "Miss Christine Daae, you are late." snapped Mrs. Giry. Christine was allowed no chance of an explanation and was ordered to join the others, who were now doing an arabesque. She did it so wonderfully that Erik was captivated. When the lesson was over, Christine hurried down the stage and accidentally collided with Carlotta Guidellici, the Opera Populaire's primma donna. She sounded like a squirt to Erik. "Ah.. Christine Daae, I hear you can sing as well as you can dance, even I, the star of this place admits it. But remember this, you are only a mere ballet girl and that is what you shall remain. Good Day." she said and left. Christine's eyes were full of hurt. She burst into tears and ran into her dressing room. Erik happened to walk past her dressing room and heard her sob. Impulsively, he asked her through the keyhole the reason for her tears, as he did not hear the cruel words Carlotta had flung at Christine. She explained in a Swedish accent. "So she's Swedish," thought Erik. ".. And I've let my father down. You see, he wanted me to be a primma donna but I'm not. I'm a failure." She finished and started weeping again. Erik felt a little sorry for her and decided to soothe her grief a bit. " No, you're not. I'm sure you're not a bad singer. Sing for me and let me see if you really are that bad." replied Erik. If he wasn't seeing things, he swore Christine bore a slight resemblance to Nadia.. "What do you want me to sing?" asked Christine. " 'Song To The Moon'." answered Erik. When she sang, Erik quietly wept. Her voice was exquisite.. like Nadia, all it needed was someone to guide that voice and it would take wing. "Who taught you how to sing? " asked Erik after she finished. "My father used to teach me how to sing.. until he died." whispered Christine. "Do you know my father?" asked the girl suddenly. "In a way.. And the way he played the fiddle. Beautiful." answered Erik. All was silent for some time. Christine broke the silence by saying, "I think I know who you are. You're my Angel Of Music, isn't it?" "W-What makes you think so?" blurted Erik, shocked. " Father told me once he went to heaven, he would send the Angel Of Music to teach me to sing beautifully.. are you the Angel of Music?" said the girl. Erik was torn between laughing and running away. However, he said, "If I teach you, will you devote your time to singing and put away all thoughts of young men and romance.." " I have no interests in such things and I wish only to sing, my Angel." interrupted a solemn Christine. "Start with the scales," said Erik at once.

CHAPTER 7 Several days passed. Erik taught the girl all he knew. When she did not try/do her best, he gently yet firmly reproved her. After lessons, Christine told Erik about herself, her life, and e.t.c until he knew her soul intimately. If it didn't sound so insane, he was slowly falling for Christine Daae.. Erik woke up, gasping for breath. He had a premonition.. Or was it just a dream?. Erik was playing the organ with so much concentration he did not notice Christine sneaking up behind him and snatching off his mask to see his real face. In a fit of fury, he stood up at once; screaming insults and curses at Christine. They were so hateful; they burned Erik's throat and Christine's ears. She cowered in fear and started to weep. He suddenly felt childishly cruel and was about to fling more insults at her when he suddenly saw Christine's face replace with.. Nadia's? All the fury in him died at once and was replaced with self-pity and grief. He fell upon the floor, weeping. "Oh, Christine.."he moaned. Erik raised is hand, not to strike Christine, but to ask for his mask back. Meekly, she returned it to him. After placing it on, he said, " Come we must return. Those two fools who run my theater will be missing you." Christine obeyed him. On their way back, she said, "Angel, I'm so sorry." "My name is Erik, Christine and there is nothing to forgive."He replied abruptly. Silence followed them back.

Erik sat up and washed his face. He removed the mannequin that seemed to resemble Christine and placed it gently onto the bed as if it was alive but asleep. He noticed a wet piece of paper on the floor and was about to throw it away when he saw it had a picture of Nadia on it. He left it near to the fireplace to dry. Amazingly, it didn't burn. He saw a small, carved statue of a woman. It was Christine. He placed it on the table and went to get dressed. At 8pm, after Christine's ballet lessons, Erik made sure he arrived at her mirror on time. During the lesson, he noticed her face looked very sad. "What's the matter, Christine?" asked Erik. " Today is the anniversary of Papa's death." whispered the girl. Erik felt sorry for her. He knew how it was like when a parent died. " I'm so very sorry.." began Erik. " You don't have to be sorry, Angel." replied Christine. 'Shall we continue?" she added. "Certainly." replied Erik. This was beginning to be like déjà vu.

ON CHRISTMAS DAY Christine stretched her tired limbs and yawned. She changed into a red and green dress for the festive season. She was going to celebrate Christmas at her friend Meg Giry's house. As she opened the door, she gasped with surprise and joy. On her doorstep was a lovely big bouquet of red and white roses. There was a card next to it, saying :"Merry Christmas, Christine! -Your Angel Of Music." Full of joy, she went back into the house (of course she locked the door), filled a vase full of water and placed the roses inside the vase. After doing so, she left for Meg Giry's house. THE BEGINNING