Hello all! This is an old, old phic (my very first!) that is yet another (predates Consequences!) collaboration with my fabulous friend, The Grasshopper (read her phics!). This story was also based off an old one-liner RP where she wrote all the thoughts, words and actions of Christine and I wrote all those for Erik... And in this story, all the chapters/sections in Christine's POV are written out into story format by her and the chapters/sections in Erik and the Persian's POV are written by myself.
Anyhow, this phic died after its 9th chapter...But when we bring it back, it will be moved to our penname le Scorpion et le Grasshopper as soon as we have something to add to it.
Warning: It's another one of my Erik-is-slightly-twisted phics.
Enjoy! Much love!
I Sentieri Scelti
Or, Not All Roads Lead to Rome
Aided by the neat list created to hasten the wedding date, I obediently, yet in an aloof fashion, arranged an invitation for each guest. The thin, black pen seeped easily through the paper as I wrote, and each heading began with the same cheerful words and inviting air. Neither of which I truly possessed. My hand seemed to have acquired a mind of its own and wrote onward without a trace of pause or judgment. Hours could have passed, but it was near-impossible to tell. Nevertheless, before very long, there appeared a stack of envelopes in the corner of the oaken table, ones which would be delivered tomorrow. All my letters were seemingly and gladly finished, and I paused in the act to rest my hand and my thoughts. The cluster of flowers Raoul had brought earlier caught my eye, and at the wholesome sight, I felt a curious tug at my heart. They were daisies, and their soft petals brushed daintily against each other, delicate enough to fall apart at a touch. The red red rose...
The pen suddenly seemed to grow heavier and I placed it down across the paper, my light-hearted signature blurring before my eyes. With wary resignation, I reread what I had last written, over and over again, realizing that the contents belonged to a girl who was entirely different than I. "Please join us for this wonderful celebration!..."
I stared blankly at the paper for a long moment and felt myself wishing that there was some other way to arrange my words. I couldn't help the thought that it was impudent to seem so happy when there was suffering elsewhere. Yet even if my words contradicted the present mood, this truly was a wonderful celebration. Surely, in time, everything would only be a dreary but distant memory that was effortlessly forgotten. Then I would concentrate on being the wife Raoul wished and not the timid, trembling girl who lingered in the past. Yet...It was a ridiculous concept. I could just as quickly and easily block out my entire life. I did not think I even wanted to forget...
My gaze returned to the flowers on the table, and without warning, they seemed to change shape and grow taller until they formed crimson red roses. My heart began to pound and I looked away quickly, the doubling heartbeat adding to the sudden dryness in my mouth. After a few moments, I managed to gather the resolution to look back again only to find that they had miraculously reverted to their earlier form. Now I only stared with a tantalizing horror at the snow-white marguerites.
The faint shaking in my movements was intelligible as I folded the letter and placed it into an envelope, one that nearly matched the color of my hands. I straightened the stack that did not need straightening while skimming through each invitation. The names written in neat cursive appeared so happy that they were actually difficult for me to read, and I quickly put them away. I was only prolonging the inevitable...
There was one last invitation...One more to write. The name was not on the list, for I hadn't added it under the others. Somehow, it seemed immoral to see his name below the wealthy aristocrats of Paris and my own simple friends. Yet the name lingered in my mind, as did the vow, and I knew that I could never break the last promise I made to him.
I extinguished all the candles until there was only a small one left to give me light and drew the curtains shut with a swift motion. For some reason, it was proper to keep the sunlight out while I wrote this invitation. With a slow and hesitant movement, I took my place at the desk. If I were to write the same things I had in the other personalized letters that accompanied the printed cards, it would be nothing short of cruel. Slowly, I picked up the pen again, thinking over a few things I might say and dismissing each. Finally, giving up at trying to figure out the perfect words, I took a small breath and began to write.
I would be delighted if you would attend the celebration of my marriage to the Vicomte de Chagny held at the Julet Catholic Church on the corner of Avenue Rouge at the hour of five o'clock. I thank you for your blessings.
It sounded so dreadfully impersonal that I started to crumple the paper and throw it away...But then I stopped myself. This letter was a finality, a goodbye. It was the end. There was nothing more to say. Decided, I folded the letter and slipped it inside the envelope, not bothering to properly close it. The only thing left to do was deliver it. Deliver my goodbye and seal the promise. I knew at that moment when he asked me to come back that he had made it easier for the both of us. When I left, it was with the comforting knowledge that I would be back soon...Only to give him a wedding invitation. The very request would have been almost absurd, but the way it was spoken...There was no mocking tone in his voice. It was calm, serious, and pronounced in such a way I would never think to refuse. After all that had happened, I only wanted this to be finished. To leave Erik knowing that he would forgive me. That I would be able to give him something, even if not what he truly wished. If his last wish was to gain respect, it is something I would not deny him. Never again...
The bare sun that seeped through the closed curtains was so austere that I finally drew them back again, and automatically my hand rose to cover my eyes. The furthest I could see past Raoul's iron gate was part of the cobblestone street, and there were so many people and carriages that it was impossible to see anything else. Raoul did not live far from the Opera, it was within walking distance and I knew very well how to get there. I also knew it would be best to go alone. If Raoul were with me, it would seem as though I no longer trusted Erik, and I didn't want that. And even as Raoul promised he would take me back, there was doubt that he would hold to it. No, I would not trouble Raoul or risk the possibility of his anger. The best thing to do would be to go back alone and say goodbye to him in my own way without Raoul there to hold a pistol and demand that Erik stay far back.
With a new determination, I picked up my dark blue cloak and fastened the clasp around my shoulders. I kept the letter half hidden behind me and the hood drawn up, so there would be no sudden recognition in the broad daylight. We had left the Opera on uncertain, yet not poor terms, but even so, I had no wish to be approached by anyone.
I left the room quickly, leaving behind the one candle and the rest of the invitations. I knew that Raoul was asleep, but even as I passed his bedchamber, I stepped carefully and quietly. There was no sound from within, and I realized now he would sleep through the afternoon; for in these last couple weeks, he had rarely closed his eyes. I knew that my grieving silence had changed Raoul to a state I had never seen in him before. Because of me, my betrothed's chiseled face had grown pale and his eyes formed a misery that darkened his features when I would begin to cry in the middle of supper. A bleak silence had settled over us since the day of our departure. I said nothing to him, only helped the maids simply so that I would have something to preoccupy my mind. He tried to speak to me, but I would barely respond, my heart too heavy and my words forced. Reluctantly, he gave up trying, and as I watched him slip into his own thoughts, guilt possessed every nerve in my body. At night, I sat by the fire, my gaze drawn by the flickering flames and my mind drifting...Sometimes I could even imagine a voice. A perfect, melodious voice speaking of old knight's tales that only my father knew. A soft voice that lingers...The voice was often interrupted by another man's, asking me if I needed anything.
I reached the stairs and started down them, lifting my skirt with one hand. I could hear the echo of voices coming from the kitchen. I remained on guard until I passed the swinging door, pausing only in the foyer to listen once more. Nothing. Both relieved that I had managed not to draw any attention and surprised that it had been so simple, I hurried to the door and opened it.
I froze at the sound of Raoul's voice, but finally turned apprehensively, still keeping the letter safe behind my back.
He was watching me from the sitting room across the passage, seated in one of the armchairs near the fire, a newspaper propped in his hands. There was a rustle as he set it down and stood, his eyes holding mine with confusion. "Where are you going?"
There was no possible way I could lie to him. I held his troubled gaze as he moved closer to me, waiting for an answer I knew I couldn't give, but also one I had to. With a slow movement I lifted the letter, a gesture that was plainly obvious.
Raoul looked at it for a moment, then back to me, understanding precisely now where I intended to go. His tone rapidly changed from puzzlement to anger in a matter of seconds. "You are actually going to consider returning!"
The pained disbelief in his voice made me wince, but I turned slightly away, almost protectively clutching the envelope between my hands. "I have to, Raoul!"
He shook his head quickly, his voice comforting, "You don't have to do anything...Don't let him make you think that."
"I do have to go back! He asked it of me...I couldn't bear..."
Raoul's voice was filled with sadness. "Oh, Christine! Soon you won't think of it again...We are leaving soon. You don't have to fulfill such a ridiculous vow."
I felt the familiar prickle of tears as I realized that, even now, Raoul did not respect Erik. Even after he let me go...Erik's wishes meant nothing to him, and even if Raoul promised, that too meant nothing. "But...We gave our word..."
"Did you think I would actually do such a thing? My God, Christine, the man is a lunatic! I will never take you back there...Or let you go by yourself!" He added when I began to speak.
"He won't do anything, Raoul. He has let me go... It's over...I just need to—"
He interrupted me, seizing my shoulders suddenly enough for me to gasp. "No! I will not let you go back there! He will never let you return, don't you see that? It will all start over again! You are falling right into his trap!"
I jerked away angrily and with a new boldness, snapped back at him. "There is no trap! I shan't even be gone for very long! I must do this, Raoul! Please, can't you understand?"
He drew his hands back from me, a cold fury replacing his previous panic. "No. I can't understand, Christine."
I pulled the hood over my face, speaking low and deliberately. "I can see that now." Once more I turned from him and started to the door.
He grabbed my arm, desperate now. "Christine, please!"
I looked back at him briefly, and was surprised by my own conviction. "No!"
His jaw set and I recognized the slow, stubborn, painful anger, but I did not back down, pulling from his grip swiftly. "I am leaving now, Raoul."
Raoul looked at me long and hard, his voice raising even as a few servants had already crept from the kitchen to listen. "If you leave now, do not bother to return! Do you hear me? If you leave now, this is goodbye! Is that what you want? If you leave me now, it really is finished! If you leave here now, I will not take you back!"
I paused at the door and looked back at him. His words stunned me so much that I could not move. Could he possibly mean such a thing? I looked at his eyes, which shone almost with triumph that he had stopped me. No...A separation from Raoul was unthinkable, but how could I stand to live with myself, with him, knowing that I had run from Erik even in the end? Slowly, I took a step back from him. The relief in his eyes disappeared and he looked doubtful. I took another step.
At that, I turned, ran the last few steps, and flung open the door. I took the steps two at a time, stumbling at the bottom.
He stopped at the doorway. "Christine! Come back!"
I hurried to the gate and pushed it open easily. Without looking back or even pausing, I slipped through and into the crowd, hidden from all sides in a matter of seconds. Only then did I dare to look back. The gate stood open where I had left it and Raoul was nowhere in sight. I relaxed a little and sighed, forcing myself not to think of Raoul's words or what might be the outcome of my actions. Instead, I concentrated on where I was going and picked up my pace, the fear that Raoul would still catch me not dissipating.
Shouts and the laughter of everyone around me sounded foreign to my ears, and I realized I had not heard such a noise in a long time. Laughter had become strange to me, and I couldn't remember the last time I dared to laugh out of happiness. All seemed to have occurred a long time ago, but only a few weeks really passed since I had wandered these streets...Or sang at the Opera. I had aged so much from that time that, as I had been in Raoul's house, solitarily surrounded by silence and weeping, that only now was I truly with the world once more. Everything around me was like a dream, moving in slow motion. Life was a dream...And I could have stayed with this crowd for hours, realizing how much I missed reality, but I couldn't be gone too long. The sooner I returned, the sooner I could hope to make amends with Raoul, and the sooner I could hope to forget, the sooner we both could. Upon realizing this, I forced myself to focus on what I had first come to do and lowered my head to walk even faster.
Before very long, I turned down one of the back streets and knew by heart that this eventually led to the Rue Scribe. Few people passed me, and soon I could only hear my own footsteps echo on the pavement. The air was cool, but heavy with a silence that began to increase with dread. All of a sudden, I wondered if Raoul might have been right. Perhaps I shouldn't return; it might be better for all of us. For Erik and I never to see each other again, for Raoul to let go of his suspicions and fear. For me to release the past. How could I hope to forget if I returned? Slowly, I raised my eyes to the looming Opera and knew then that I had come too far to turn back. My hand lowered to the pocket of my cloak, and I felt the metal outline of the key that had been there since he had given it to me. I heard the rhythmic pound of my heart as I lifted it to the gate, and noticed that my hand was trembling slightly. I hesitated one last time, the key poised, then swiftly unlocked the gate and swung it open. There was a long, rusty creak, then silence. Darkness was there to greet me, but so accustomed that I was quicker to venture into it then stay and speculate discovery. I closed the gate behind me but did not lock it. I did not think Raoul would come after me.
The dark and musty cellar brought back so many memories that it was painful. I remembered the hallways and corridors perfectly and barely had to think as I walked relatively quickly through familiar pathways. There was a faint scent when I first entered, but as I neared the lake, it became more prominent until I finally identified it as what seemed to be oil...For the briefest moment, I found this rather puzzling, but I didn't have much time to ponder over it as the underground lake came into view. The boat was on my side, but I had never attempted to go across by myself...I stopped next to the shore and stared down at it for a moment, at the pole laying beside and halfway in the water. Not too long ago, he helped me into this same boat and poled across, singing to me so softly that it was a bare whisper in the wind yet all the more captivating. He had held this pole and stealthily brought us across the dead, calm lake. A bare ripple...His outstretched hand...The faint sound of water lapping against the wooden sides...And now...There was only the empty boat. And the silence. The silence that stretched on and produced a sudden breathtaking fear. It wasn't like Erik to be so careless. Something must have happened to make him leave the boat like this, and on the wrong side! Should I call to him? Would he hear me? I opened my mouth and started to, but his name caught in my throat. Surely I could get across myself and without troubling him. If he was even still there...But I was unable to think of the horrible possibility that he wouldn't be.
With new purpose, I bent and picked up the pole. Quickly, I stepped inside the splintered craft and pushed away from the shore. It rocked for a few moments precariously, and my heart jumped as I prayed that it wouldn't tip over. The boat seemed so steady when Erik maneuvered it, but what foolishness made me believe I would be able to?
Now though, it was too late to think about such things. The boat was drifting slowly away from the shore, and my grip tightened on the pole. I could do this, if I tried hard enough. I only had to pole my weight, imagine how hard it was for Erik! Yet even as I thought that, I knew to him it was not in the least bit difficult. Very slowly, I stood and tried to keep my weight evenly distributed on both sides of the boat, ignoring the wobble. I dipped the pole into the water and pushed hard. My heart leapt as the boat moved a few feet, and I felt a surge of triumph. At least now I did not have to resort to swimming!
Yet, only with a few more strokes, my arms began to get tired, and the opposite shore further away. I remembered Raoul, and how he looked when I told him I was going back. How he expected me to come running when he threatened to cancel the marriage. I closed my eyes tightly and, at that anger, slid the pole through the water quickly and sharply. Raoul couldn't expect me to yield on his every whim! He couldn't use love as a tool to blackmail me and make me do as he said!
The boat hit the bank roughly with a dull thud, and my eyes snapped open. The bottom of the boat was scraped up against the ground. I dropped the pole, relieved, and stepped out onto the solid stone. For once, I was pleased with the way I handled myself. I did something freely and on my own, without having to call for help. That good mood lasted until I reached Erik's door. The other key weighed down in my hand as I remained just outside. Did I dare cross this barrier...? Have I come this far only to turn around and run back to Raoul's safe arms? Even as I doubted he would welcome me that easily, it sounded better then crossing into the unknown. Entering the cellars was different, I knew what to expect. Here...The very place radiated with his presence, frightening to the point that my throat tightened and my heart once again picked up its pace. He was here.
With a gesture that took all of my will, I placed the key in the eye and opened the door carefully. The room was empty. It was just how I remembered, but there was a strange settle in the air, as if it had not been disturbed or even lived in since I left. Was that possible? Shakily, I moved a little forward, pausing at the piano and brushing my hand against the beautiful furnishing. Dust coated my palm when I lifted it. All my fears began to contradict each other. Fear that he was here, and then terror that he might not be. I swallowed then took a breath, gathering my courage carefully to speak.
The sound of the word weighed heavily throughout the room, disturbing the settled air like a gunshot. There was no answer. Forcing my legs to work, I opened the door to his room. Uncomfortably, I looked inside for only a moment, nervous because I had never been permitted to do so.
He was not there.
I searched the other rooms, disheartened, realizing already that I would not find him in any of these. I called his name frequently at first but then eventually stopped, left with faded hope. By the time I reached what had been my room, there was complete silence once more, and I did not hesitate to open the door.
There was something different about this room. The feeling in the air seemed lighter, and as I checked the top of the dressers, there was no dust to speak of. Everything was perfect, the way I had left it, as if it had miraculously been preserved in the time I was gone. Not sure what to think, I glanced down at the dressing table and lowered my hand to gently touch the brush and comb that I left behind. I trailed the cursive "C" that was engraved on the back of the brush with one finger, and as I did, my chest tightened and I backed away with a sudden and overwhelming urge to run. I could leave the invitation in a place he would find it and hurry back up to the streets. The streets filled with laughing people and noisy carriages. The idea was so becoming that I closed the door to my room quickly and hurriedly placed the letter on the piano. I glanced back only once before turning to the door.
Nothing was there.