Disclaimer: Characters and back story belong to Gaston Leroux, by way of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Reviews are most welcome.

What no one has ever realized is that I made an honest choice. Had he not wildly changed his mind, I would have stayed there with the Angel underground and made the best of it.

Oh, I was angry: angrier than I had ever been before, and not just at my poor, mad Angel. Every bit of it had come to seem like such a farce to me-Raoul, the managers, Mme. Giry, even the great burly stagehands who always frightened me so-all of them terrified and turning to ME to save them. I was barely out of girlhood, and the burden of it was too much to bear. "Just sing," they said. "All you have to do is sing."

So I sang that strange, unsettling music, and the audience hated it. But everyone had said that I needed only to sing, and those men with swords and guns would keep me safe. Of course it wasn't so. I was a young and frightened girl, but I wasn't stupid. At the first note I knew that it was the Angel and that Piangi must be dead. Were they all tone deaf? My face must have shown my fear, but Raoul only stared at me. As I knelt downstage, hearing my beloved teacher, the killer Phantom, sing of his lust for me while my fiancé looked on, not understanding-I had never known such anger. The Angel thought of desire, Raoul thought of capturing the Phantom, the managers thought of their profits. Not one of them thought of Christine.

In the midst of that, just as my heart ignited with rage, I heard my cue. As intended, rehearsals had made my reaction automatic, and I sang with unaccustomed passion, stalking the stage like a wild animal. I saw my Angel stagger backward at it; my forcefulness was like being drunk. I bullied him with his own music, throwing it at him-and at Raoul-like a weapon. For the first time in my life, I felt powerful, I had control. So when my Angel crumbled into tenderness before me, it was with a sense of triumph that I ripped away his mask, exposed him to the screams of the audience, saw the passion in his eyes transform to hurt and then to anger.

It was not until much later that I replayed in my mind the second journey underground and how different it was from the first. I hardly know how they could have been so dissimilar. Had he set up the tricks and candlelight that other night, or had I made it all up? Regardless, the second trip downward was dim and dank, with the pain of toes stubbed on paving stones, his hand too tight around my wrist, and my shoulder wrenched as he pulled me.

From the moment we swung down from the catwalk, I thought that my fate was set. I never thought that anyone would find me. In the midst of my anger, even though I was ready to fight, part of me was glad. A choice had been made, and by that point, any choice was a relief, anything just to not feel torn in two any longer. He was mad with loneliness, but I knew he loved me-there was a kind of hope in that.

But first I baited him, taunted him as I had never dared to before, still hot with anger and resentment. It was ugly. We shouted at each other like infants-him humiliating me by making me change in front of him into that wedding dress, me saying that his soul was as marred as his face. As I said, though, there was a measure of relief, in that I knew what lay ahead.

I was stunned when Raoul came in. It could only be another complication, more being pulled apart. And that was just what it was, the two of them raging and desperate. By the time they both finally stopped to breathe, I almost didn't care anymore and would have been just as happy to go sing hymns in a convent, away from men and their constant tugging, their constant need.

Still, it was an honest choice. Years later, Raoul drank too much at a dinner party and boasted to everyone of how I had "tricked that bloody madman" and ended his stranglehold on the Opera. When we arrived home, I threw my fan at him and slept in my dressing room for a week. He wisely has not mentioned it since. The Angel was insane and broken, a killer, but I would not have used him so. He had given me music, had given me kindness and discipline. Even as angry as I was, I would never have treated him like a dog or a child. It was with full knowledge of a turbulent life ahead that I kissed him.

Raoul's kisses are warm and affectionate, and through the years he has shown me in countless ways that he loves me. Back then, to be held in his arms and feel his lips against mine was to feel safe and comforted, that I could lay every thought and decision on his shoulders and feel myself unburdened.

The Angel's kiss was fire. His music and his voice had always stirred my spirit into a nearly painful ecstasy. Singing with him was the deepest joy I had previously known. To kiss him was like that all over again-I was singing inside, my inner voice strong, on perfect pitch, fluid and rich as the taste of his mouth, our tongues meeting each other as our voices so often had, his arms crushing me to a body like steel but warm. It was the first time that I truly blossomed into desire. Schoolgirl dreams of kisses and giggling stories about slobbering stable boys could never have prepared me for it, the feeling that I was receiving another person's soul through my mouth. There is nothing more intimate, rarely such a feeling of being so totally vulnerable, and I wanted to drink him in like wine. Had he made love to me-but he did make love to me, or we both to each other, lips, tongues, and hearts. At least, that is how it felt to me, that I had been broken open and ravaged, and that I would never again be so glad. Or so loved.

I hardly remember the rest of it, reeling as I was with that dark, silent knowledge, my mouth tender yet buzzing with sensation, and that was all I could think of-my mouth, that body pressed to mine. I still do not understand what changed his mind. If he said why, I do not remember it. I came to myself later, halfway through the tunnels, Raoul leaning heavily on my arm.

Again, my choices were made for me. There was never any question of my returning. Raoul and I were married six months later, and our wedding night was full of a quiet sweetness. I cannot say that I have been unhappy, all these years. He is a good man, and I love him for his calm and his tenderness. To bear his children was a great joy. Yet I often think of my Phantom, my Angel, who loved me so desperately. I did not even know his name. Even now, years later, as I stare at my lined face in the mirror, I remember his lips on mine, and my mouth still burns.