A/N: All right. Well, I don't know if this is very smart of me, but at long last I've decided to write a sequel to Paris Preschool. It was just so great to get SO many reviews for that dinky little one-shot… Thanks to everyone who read and/or reviewed Paris Preschool over the years (lol). Because of the complicated age difference yet again, I have changed it so that Christine is five and both Raoul and Erik are six. I sincerely hope you enjoy…
Erik hiked his tiny blue backpack over his shoulder uncomfortably and scanned the room fearfully. He knew that ever since he'd gone to school, the kids had made fun of him because of his mask and naturally he was an outcast among his peers. A wave of loneliness passed over him and he felt tears prick the backs of his eyelids.
Behind him, the kindergarten door jingled shut as someone came into the room and began to talk to the teacher.
"Miss Kay?" a lady asked with a rich tone in her voice. "Mrs. Daae. Glad to meet you."
A memory sparked in Erik's mind which concerned that name and he turned around to come face to face with the grinning form of his only friend.
"Ewurik!" Christine shouted with glee, dropping her pink, flowery backpack to rush into a hug.
"Christine!" Erik said breathlessly before Christine remembered herself and pushed away.
"Boys awre still yucky," she said with utmost seriousness. "I gotta be careful about the cooties."
Erik surveyed how the young girl had changed. She wore a purple jumper with high tops and her blonde hair in a messy ponytail held up with a plastic barrette.
"Those high tops look very becoming on you," Erik said politely. Christine giggled.
"You awre strange, Ewurik. But that mask is still, um, becoming you too."
"Can I tell you something?" Erik asked.
"Suwre," Christine replied, stuffing her hands into the front pocket of the jumper to fiddle with some lint. But what Erik wanted to tell her was lost when Mrs. Daae called out a goodbye to her daughter. "Bye, Mommy!" Christine called, forgetting about listening to Erik for the moment. "Don't wowrry, I'm a big giwrl now! I'll be fine with my friend."
"Love you," Mrs. Daae said with a wave, closing the door behind her.
"Mommy?" Christine toddled to the door and stood on her tiptoes to peer through the rectangular window. "I love you, too! Mommy?" She began to sniffle.
"Don't worry, Christine," Erik reassured her. "Remember? You're a big girl, now. And I'm here like last time." She smiled widely.
"That is true!"
"All right, everyone!" Miss Kay called from the front of the room. Christine and Erik looked up at her from where they stood. "Everyone to their seats! I have given each of you a nametag and placed it on the front of your assigned seat. Does anyone know how to read their name?"
"I do!" a voice piped up from the back of a crowd of boys. The kids parted to reveal a slick-haired young six-year-old with a winning smile and innocent eyes.
"What's your name?" Miss Kay asked.
"I'm Raoul de Changy," he said importantly, giving Christine a quick wink. Shesnorted and looked to Erik for approval, whose face was unreadable under the mask.
"All right Raoul. Can you find your nametag?"
"Yep, I can," he replied, striding smoothly in front of the desks. He surveyed each nametag cleverly and finally paused in front of his own. "R..rrr…a…oul. Raoul. Yeah, that's me," he said triumphantly, pointing to the card and sliding into his seat.
"Very good," Miss Kay said. "Can anyone else read?"
"I can," Erik said. There was a sniggering from across the room coming from the familiar Steve and Michael. With a bored expression, Erik approached his own desk within five seconds and sat down indifferently. "The nametag says Erik. That's my name. Let's get on to the next person."
Miss Kay stood shocked, then shook her head. "Excellent, Erik," she said.
"He's got a easy name!" Raoul sneered. "It's showrter than mine!"
"You want me to castrate you?" Erik asked.
"That's enough!" Miss Kay shot, giving Erik a quizzical yet warning look. He gleamed behind the mask. "Now, children… Find your seats. If you need help, come to me."
Christine rushed to Erik in a moment and said under her breath; "I can't read."
"Do you know what a C looks like?" he asked.
"Yeah. A half a O."
"Find the C and a bunch of letters after that. That's your name," Erik hinted.
"Thanks!" she said, immediately hunting for her nametag. As she concentrated on each name, she ran into a girl about an inch shorter than her with curling black hair.
"Hi," the girl said. "Can you hewp me find my name?"
"Yeah," Christine said confidently. "What is it?"
"Meg," the girl replied giving a shy grin.
"Meg. Mmm… M! It stawrts with a M!" Christine informed her. "Know what that looks like?"
"Yeah!" Meg said, cheerfully. "Yeah, I do!"
"Then you gotta find the name with the M in the beginning," Christine said wisely.
"That might be hard."
"I'll help. I'm Chwristine," she said.
"Will you be my fwriend?" Meg asked.
"Okay," Christine shrugged, glancing at each nametag in turn with Meg beside her.
"There's my name!" Meg cried happily, pointing to the card on the desk.
"There's mine," Christine added, excited. "Ouwr desks are next door to each other!" They laughed and sat in their chairs. Pretty soon, everyone was associated into their correct seats. To Erik's dismay, he had to sit across the room from his only friend.
Miss Kay strode briskly to the front of the room. "Good work, everyone! Today we are going to learn numbers…"
Christine drowned out the teacher's voice and vaguely noticed a little boy get up to ask to go to the bathroom. She sighed and turned toward Meg, whose eyes met hers. They both smiled.
Christine snapped out of her daydream at the sound of the recess bell. After numbers, then arts and crafts, it had been story time, and although Miss Kay's voice was peppy enough, Christine couldn't help but lose attention. Her heart skipped as she and Meg rushed outside to join the other kids on the playground. Erik stepped calmly out the door and the two girls turned and giggled back to greet him.
"Ewurik! This is my new friend, Meg," Christine said, brandishing her arms in Meg's direction. She had been eager to introduce them to each other, but they had been instructed to stay at their desks, before. Meg waved shyly.
"Hi, Meg. I'm Erik," he replied.
"Hi Ewik," Meg said.
"Ewurik," Christine corrected her, nodding solemnly for her to repeat it.
"Ewurik. Ewurik! Let's play, Ewurik!" Meg offered jovially.
"Last one to the jungle gym's a stinky cheese!" Christine crowed, running as fast as her little legs could take her, right into Raoul who had just stepped in the way in order to catch a giant red ball. "Oof!" she cried as she fell back.
"Watch whewre you're going!" Raoul snapped, dropping the ball at his feet to rub his shoulder. Christine's eyes welled up with tears and she began to sob on the ground.
"Chwistine!" Meg rushed to her friend to survey the damage; a hurt arm and a couple of scuffed hands from the fall. Erik glowered menacingly at Raoul.
"Say you're sorry!" Erik demanded of him.
"Nuh uh!" Raoul shot back, turning his whole body left and right to indicate that he wouldn't. "That peenee brain wun into me on purpose!"
"Did not!" Erik countered.
"Did too!" Raoul touchéd, pushing Erik hard so that he stumbled backwards.
"Did not, you BULLY!" Meg cried, gathering the ball off the ground and throwing it at Raoul's face. It ricocheted off his head with a splendid, airy "Pomff!" noise. Raoul immediately burst into tears.
"Meg Giry!" Miss Kay called from the other end of the playground. She clipped toward the young girl as fast as her high heels would let her, a stern look planted on her face. "I saw that, little lady! Now you go have time out by the wall!"
Meg gasped, but collected herself with a fierce look on her face. "Dancers always stand by the wall," she answered proudly, tipping up her nose. With that, she leapt gracefully to the side of the school building and began to stretch like an elegant kitten.
"Lookit whatchoo done!" Christine scolded Raoul.
"You're a poop head!" he defended himself, but he remembered the time she kicked him and flinched under her wrath. Erik thought he needed to have his say. Already a plan was forming in his mind. The tetherball poles were right behind Raoul… If only he could lure him to one of them…
Erik swept past Raoul and Christine and hopped onto the tire of one of the poles, wrapping his small hands around it.
"That was a mean thing you said to Christine, Fop," Erik called as Raoul whipped around to face him.
"Fop isn't a cool pewrson, is it?" Raoul asked coldly.
"My, aren't we quick," Erik shot back. "Say you're sorry."
"Ewurik!" Christine warned him as Miss Kay glanced warningly in their direction.
"Ya fop," Erik concluded.
"Don't call me that, Mask Face!" Raoul whined, taking a step forward. This was all Erik needed. He shot his hands up and took hold of the tetherball, chucking it in Raoul's direction. Like a lump of iron on the end of a catgut, the ball bounced off the younger (but not by much) man's head. He stood stunned for a few seconds, which gave Erik enough time to fling the rope around Raoul's neck.
"E(wu)rik!" Miss Kay and Christine shouted in synchronic flabbergastment. Even Erik seemed bewildered that he had done such a thing. He let go of the tetherball and with a spin of his parka, fled the scene.
His fleeing came to a sudden halt when he slipped in the sand of the makeshift soccer field and fell on his butt.
"Ouch," Erik grumbled, squinting into the sun.
"Time out, mister!" Miss Kay reprimanded, shaking her finger in disappointment.
"I've been there before!" he said, standing with effort to join Meg.
"Christine, what happened here?" Miss Kay asked, trying to keep a tender tone in her voice.
"We all were just wrunning," she said, truthfully. "I didn't mean to run into Wraoul. I was gonna say sowry but he just yelled at me." She began to cry again.
"Say you're sorry," Miss Kay instructed the six-year-old.
"I'm sowry I yelled," Raoul said, ashamed. "Don't cry." He even went as far as patting Christine on the back before wiping his cootied palms on his jeans.
"Good. Now I expect you two to behave," Miss Kay sighed, giving one last glance back as she made her way to the scene of a sobbing boy who'd stuck himself on top of the monkey bars.
In the meantime, Christine had stopped crying and was craning her neck to see what Erik and Meg were doing. Erik looked very unhappy, but Meg seemed to be trying to comfort him.
"Come with me, Wraoul. Help me cheer Ewurik up," Christine said.
"I don't like him," Raoul objected stubbornly. "He try to choke me!"
"Awen't you going to be my friend now?" Christine asked.
"I guess so," Raoul muttered, turning his toe in the dirt.
"Then you gotta come make up."
"Only if he says sowry, too."
Christine led the way to the wall where Erik stood, and he wiped his eyes before saying; "I'm too old to cry in time out."
"It's okay Ewurik, we can have fun here," she said. Meg offered her agreement and put a hand on the masked boy's shoulder.
"Hey," Raoul said. Erik immediately glowered at the sight of his opponent.
"What do you want?" Erik asked frigidly.
"Ewurik, be nice. Wraoul came to apolergize," Christine explained.
"So now you're on a first name basis?" Erik asked, sighing desperately. Christine gave him a perplexed look and urged Raoul on with a nudge of the elbow. Raoul stiffened and looked ready to cry. He stared at the ground.
"You gotta say sowry, too," he reminded Erik.
"Fine. I'm sowry," Raoul breathed, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
"I'm sowry, too," Erik answered insincerely.
Raoul shuffled his hands around in his pockets some more before retrieving a battered doll of some sort. He handed it to Erik.
"It's Botticelli," he rattled. "He's my hero. You can play with him if you want."
Erik surveyed the doll's black cape and got a sudden, strange inspiration from it. In a moment, he'd lost it. Years later, he would don a similar cape but never would he remember that he'd stolen the look from the Botticelli action figure owned by a six-year-old Raoul de Chagny.
"Thanks," Erik said. "But I don't play with dolls."
"Action figure!" Raoul cried protectively, snatching Botticelli back.
The sound of the bell echoed down the playground and most of the children groaned simultaneously.
"Come on kids, that's the bell,"Miss Kay called, ushering the children back into the school building. She approached the foursome on the wall. "That means you guys, too."
Raoul waved goodbye and wandered back to his group of friends while Meg and Christine clasped hands and ran giddily back to the classroom. Erik was the last child on the playground.
"Hurry up, Erik," Miss Kay called gently from the doorway, making her way back into the classroom.
The boy clambered up the stone stairs and trudged slowly down the quiet hall, but before he could enter the kindergarten room, Christine came out with her arts and crafts project in a paper bag.
"Ewurik, it's almost time to go home," Christine told him. "So befowre you leave, I gotta give you this." She pulled her creation out of the bag and presented it to her friend.
"It's beautiful," Erik said, impressed by the sequins and glue smudged over the white plastic.
"It's a mask fowr you, 'cause I know how much you love 'em," Christine added, handing it over to him.
"You didn't have to," he said, taking the mask gingerly and hugging it to him.
"I know. But you awe my friend. And I want you to remembow me fowever."
Erik felt his heart leap and without a second thought, gave Christine a tight hug, forgetting all about the cooties.
"I still love you," Erik reminded her timidly.
"It doesn't go away, neither," Christine said.
And in the time it took to step back into the classroom with Christine happily by his side, Erik believed her; and that's all he needed to know.