Little moments that would have changed a story
Christine Daae sat in her dressing room, brushing out her hair. She was humming softly to herself. True, she was only a chorus girl, but she dreamed of being a diva. Oh how she dreamed.
"Christine." The voice seemed to wrap her whole body in it's softness and fill her soul.
She looked around her dressing room. There was no one there, "Hello?"
"Your voice is good Christine. But you need training, a friend to help you and guide you." The incorporeal voice was positively seductive.
"Are you the Angel of Music?" Christine said testily.
There was a startled pause from the voice, "Yes," he said finally with conviction, "I am your Angel of Music."
Christine found the iron curtain-rod that her hands had been unobtrusively looking for. "Ok, listen buddy. You come out of wherever you're hiding and get the bloody hell out of my dressing room or I will smash every single wall to bits and beat your brains in."
Christine distinctly heard the rustling behind the huge mirror as whoever it was left.
Raoul de Chagney pressed his ear closer to the door. He couldn't believe it. There was a man in there, definitely, how could Christine be so low?
"Are you very tired?" the man's voice was husky and full of emotion.
"Oh yeah, to-night I gave you my soul and I am dead!" Christine replied flatly, "Thanks for the help getting the part though, don't deny it, I know you pulled the strings."
"Your soul is a beautiful thing, child," the voice replied, seemingly ignorant to Christine's sarcasm, "and I thank you. No emperor ever received so fair a gift. The angels wept tonight."
Christine laughed dryly, "Buddy, you're the sweetest guy I've ever met."
There was a silence. Raoul was livid with Christine's brazen morals. She had let a man into her dressing room! Alone with a man! He practically dug his nails into the wood of the door.
"How are you tonight?" Christine asked
"Much better thank you," a high squeaky woman's voice replied hoarsely.
"Well good because I'd hate to be caught standing behind DOORS!" Christine wrenched the door open knocked Raoul back against the wall, "And listening at KEYHOLES!" She jerked Raoul's shirt up and pressed it against his neck. "Look, I'm not in the mood for any more mysterious people listening to me without my knowledge Raoul de Chagney. You had better knock when you come to a door." Christine gave the shirt a tightening twist to emphasize her words.
Raoul sputtered and choked. Christine rolled her eyes, let him go and slammed the door in his face.
Raoul ducked behind a tombstone as Christine turned around suspiciously. She had come to Perros to pay homage to her father's grave. She had spent the entire day shopping. Raoul was exhausted. He decided that the profession of undercover detective was not his calling. Christine knelt at the grave and laid her hand on the tombstone. She had not brought flowers.
"Well," she said softly into the night, "I guess its been a long time since I last saw you." She chuckled briefly, "I got into the Opera. I'm living my dream. I knew you'd be so happy for me."
Faintly the heavenly sound of a violin wafted over her.
"You won't believe this," she said smiling, "but I'm haunted by a wonderful poetic ghost. He's a little shy, but I named him Buddy." She scowled at the grave, "You never let me have a puppy."
The violin swelled and filled the night with clear pure sounds. The song was sad, but it was a resurrection song, a song of hope. Christine bit back tears at hearing the Resurrection of Lazarus played for her father. As if the ground would open and she would have him back. She understood that the ghost was telling her that he would give her anything within his power to give her. He would even try to bring back her father. Christine stood up. The music was too perfect.
"You're swinging your eight notes!" she yelled in the direction of the music.
The violin faltered.
"E FLAT!" Christine buried her face in her hands and ran back in the direction of her hotel.
Christine was sleeping on the couch in her dressing room between rehearsals. She rolled and tossed. She was dreaming of a voice calling her.
"Come to me Christine."
Christine put a pillow over her head to block out the sound.
"Come to me Christine."
In her dream Christine stood up and walked towards the huge mirror, her arms extended. She watched her reflection split into two and then five, and then there were a hundred Christines all walking toward the sound of the voice.
Christine woke up suddenly in the dark tunnel. An arm gripped her waist. Before she could stop herself, her instinct took over. She kicked back, impacting who knows where on the soft flesh. She flung her arms at what she could only hope was a neck, jumped and flung the surprisingly heavy weight over her. They landed, her arm securely wedged over his screaming throat.
"You have ten seconds to convince me not to kill you." She snarled.
"Christine." The voice gasped as she tightened her grip, "It's me."
Christine loosened her grip, but not all the way. " Oh, Hi Buddy. Five, Four..."
She felt his arms trying to pry her off. "Just listen to me Christine!"
"What do you want?" She pinned one of his arms against the stone floor and ground at a pressure point.
He yelped. "Uh, have dinner with me tonight?"
Christine let him go and brushed off her hands. "Sure. Just don't try to kidnap me again. That was stupid, Buddy."
"No, of course not," she heard his hands searching around the ground for something, "I was being poetic again."
"Figures, help me up."
She listened curiosity piqued as he fastened something onto his head. His hand clasped her arm and pulled her to her feet. The hand was huge and bony.
"By the way," she said as her eyes began to adjust to the darkness, "Your name isn't Buddy, is it?"
He turned to face her and she saw that his face was stark white. "No, it's Erik."
"Nice to meet you Erik." She realized that it was a mask, "Call me Chris."
Christine purposefully took a huge slurping mouthful of soup. Just to see if she could get his attention. He looked at her all right.
"Uh," Christine touched the right hand corner of her mouth, "The food is excellent. I don't suppose you have it delivered?"
"I often go out into the marketplaces to do my shopping," the mask said. The mouth, puckered and pulled in all the wrong places, lines disappearing under the imperturbable mask
Christine had purposefully been mimicking his movements. She had heard that you could gradually take over the person and pretty soon they'd be following your movements. It didn't seem to be working. He hadn't made a move towards the mask. Christine went back to her soup.
"I believe your singing is improving enough for you to take on a full time position with the opera. I will see if I can arrange that."
Christine glared at him, "I'd prefer to make it on my own steam." The masked covered his entire face, only the tiny openings for the mouth and eyes. Such eyes. So blue. "I appreciate the offer, though." She decided to go for the gusto. She began rubbing her finger against her cheek.
His eyes looked puzzled even if the mask looked serene.
She continued rubbing and tried to look at him meaningfully.
"What are you doing?" he half laughed.
"You've got something on your face." Christine said calmly.
Christine leaned forward, "Right…there."
Erik backed away and stood up from the table. "You will never see Erik's face."
"You will never ma ma ma," Christine mouthed, "Come on Erik. It can't be that bad. You're freaking me out you know. I can't see you or know what you're feeling." She watched the stoop of his broad shoulders as he turned around. "I'm not psychic, you know."
He spun around at me suddenly, "It is for you that I wear this mask." He sat down abruptly at a black grand piano, "Come, let us sing together."
His voice melted as he began singing the duet between Othello and Desdemona. It was such a beautiful voice, so rich and so calming. Shivers were running up and down her spine.
"Old McDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O." Christine sang purposefully in the trichord key, just to be obnoxious.
Erik banged both hands against the piano keys. "Christine you prying Pandora, can't you understand that I cannot take my mask off."
"What, is it stapled on?"
"You wouldn't understand." His eyes darkened as his voice rose in volume. "Oh, you women are so inquisitive! Well are you satisfied! I'm a very handsome fellow under this mask, you know. A Don Juan. Look at me! Don Juan triumphant!" He stood suddenly and seized her hair in his thin hands, "Know," he shouted, while his throat throbbed and panted like a furnace, "know that I am built up of death from head to foot and that it is a corpse that loves you and adores you and will never never leave you!"
"Whoa there Buster, that's pretty strong talk." Christine pulled against his hands and tried to loosen them from her hair. She struggled for a second and then he let her go.
He was shaking now, as if he didn't realize what he had just done. His chest heaved with sobs, "Oh, Christine, I'm so sorry." He stared at his hands then collapsed to the floor and buried his head in them. The mask muffled his desperate cries.
"Did you mean what you said?" Christine asked softly. "About loving me?" A shaky grin was trembling at the corners of her mouth. "You really love me?"
Erik looked up in surprise and Christine seized him in an ecstatic hug before he could say anything.
"You're a hopeless romantic, you know." Christine whispered.
"Christine!" Raoul's harsh whisper made her jump.
"Oh, Hi Raoul" Christine raised a glass of champagne. "Are you having a good party?"
Raoul looked more than faintly ridiculous in his clown costume. "Where have you been?"
"Learning to Mambo!" Christine demonstrated a few steps, "You know that Opera Ghost fellow is quite the hand at partner dancing."
"How can you say that Christine!" Raoul moaned, "You were gone for five days! Don't tell me you were with the Opera Ghost!"
"Learning to Mambo, that's right." Christine raised her eyebrows.
"He has seduced you!"
Christine looked around conspiratorially and leaned close to Raoul's ear. "HOW DARE YOU! Why you smutty brained, chicken faced, dirt licking, sniveling son of three pigs!" she backhanded him soundly.
"My dearest! My dearest!" the words were muffled because he was holding his jaw, "I only meant…"
Christine propped her elbow on his shoulder and smiled sweetly, "Do I detect a note of jealousy?"
"You have to tell me!" Raoul was on his knees begging.
Christine stood with one hand on the statue of Apollo, leaning over the edge of the opera house. She smiled into the sunset and laughed. The crimson sky lit up her features and the wind played through her hair. She was enjoying herself beyond measure.
"Christine, you're not even listening to me!" Raoul continued, "I'm beginning to think that you love this man!"
Christine yelled out over Paris, "Oh all that I ever loved!" she laughed and hugged her arms to her chest.
Christine slumped down and went overt to sit by Raoul. "Ok already. I learned to mambo and I practiced my music. That was really all there was to it."
Raoul lifted his chin haughtily, "I suppose this handsome king of the underworld has made you forget all the things I have done for you?"
Christine gave him a blank look.
"I fetched your scarf back from the ocean when we were children, remember?" Raoul was puzzled beyond his entire experience.
"Oh yes," Christine said unconvincingly, "My scarf. Right."
"This proud Adonis, your handsome prince," Raoul's eyes glistened with tears and his voice was tender, "He's stolen you from me. I talk to you and you're not here anymore."
"Oh Raoul," Christine squinted up into the sky, "He's…I can't explain it. He's different." She wound her fingers around her dress. Raoul noticed a plain gold band the fourth finger of her left hand. "I've never even seen his face. He wears a mask…. And he's so afraid that someone will see him as he is. I don't know if he will let me get close enough to love him. He says that he adores me, but he doesn't trust me beyond where he can spit."
Raoul had frozen watching the light play off the ring.
"He invited me to dinner, one night, out of the blue." Christine continued, "So we sat and talked and tried to speak to each other, and that blasted mask was between us the whole time."
The wind around the opera seemed to echo Christine's voice, "mask" it moaned sadly.
"So I asked him to take it off." Christine looked down at her fingers, "He was so frightened and desperate. I thought about snatching it away before he could stop me, but he was so afraid… I couldn't." She flung herself up to the wind and yelled again, "Why can't you trust me, Erik?"
The wind echoed again, "Erik."
"So this is what it has come to." Raoul said stiffly, haltingly, his eyes never leaving the ring. "You have sold your body and soul to a demon."
"You wear his ring."
Christine turned the gold band around on her finger. "It's a… well, it's sort of like a trial engagement ring. He never asked me to marry him. He said that as long as I wear the ring I'd be safe at the opera." Christine arched an eyebrow in Raoul's direction, "I'm pretty sure he means that we are both considering each other seriously as a marriage partner." She frowned at the ring, "But this ring still shows that he doesn't trust me. He's trying to keep me from developing any other relationships before he feels like he's ready to ask me to marry him." She frowned at herself, "I do sound rather presumptuous, don't I."
The wind echoed, "Christine."
Christine glared at Raoul, "I don't know why in the world I'm telling you this. It's really none of your business."
"Christine," Raoul said, his knuckles white as he gripped them together, "I swear to you that I will kill this monster and save you from him. I love you more than life, Christine. Will you consent to become my wife?"
"Shame on you Raoul," Christine held up her ring finger, "I'm otherwise affiliated."
Raoul reached to kiss her and Christine knocked him out cold with a right elbow uppercut.
She stalked inside as the night closed around her. An immense night-bird that stared at Raoul with blazing eyes and seemed to cling to the string of Apollo's lyre watched her go and shook his head, laughing.
Only a few weeks later, Christine disappeared again. Raoul suddenly woke up and realized that he hadn't seen her for a day and a half. At first he panicked and rushed around the Opera shouting out her name. Then when that hadn't helped him at all, he turned to the mysterious man called the Persian who wandered the opera like most mysterious men usually wandered the opera.
The Persian had mused thoughtfully on hearing Raoul's woes and had readily agreed to help him seek out and destroy this monster the Phantom of the Opera.
Raoul detected a hint of irony in the Persian's manner though, and he was determined to keep a strict eye on him.
Raoul stalwartly walked around in the cellars of the opera with his hand held up as if to salute the master architect who had armed these corridors with the Punjab lasso.
Erik looked up from the nook in the wall from which he was trying to pickpocket Firmin Richard. The mechanical footsteps were descending in the opera triggered a bell in the back of his mind. It took a second to place the feeling, but suddenly he realized that he hadn't seen Christine for a day and a half. He left Richard to his own miserly thoughts and took off following the footsteps.
Christine looked over the dress. It had little pink flowers on it and a black belt. I never look good in pink, she thought, and she replaced the dress and headed over to the sale rack.
It was several hours before she got back to the opera house. She carried a surprising light load of packages for her excursion. She stepped in the entrance on the Rue Scribe and smashed her nose against Erik's chest.
"Christine! I was so worried," his arms scooped her up into a hug, "I've been looking for you for hours. Even that silly Viscount that you like is out looking for you."
"Uh, well, I missed you too Erik," Christine tried not to drop a box that was balanced under her arm. She hadn't realized that Erik was this strong. She was no featherweight and the packages she had were significantly heavy. Her feet dangled.
"Won't you come to my house and have dinner with me again?" Erik smiled at her through his mask.
"Sure, you could just carry me all the way there."
Erik hastily put her down. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize. I mean…"
Christine set all her packages down, threw her arms around Erik's waist, and tried to hoist him off his feet, "Nope, I guess not." She gave up and hugged him. "Sure I'll come to dinner. I bought you something."
Raoul narrowly missed being killed by a giant rat. His hand was still at the level of his eyes, but he was getting very tired. He was convinced that they were hopelessly lost.
Christine sipped her tea judiciously.
Erik squirmed in his seat, "Well, how was your day?"
"Oh I had a lovely time, I went to the best shops in Paris and spent my pay raise," Christine was milking this for all it was worth. "I got you the best gift. Maybe I should wait until Christmas to give it to you." She looked into Erik's fantastically blue eyes, "Or your birthday."
"Don't know my birthday." Erik brushed it aside, "Christmas is in eight months."
"You're very curious, aren't you." Christine smiled and reached into her largest package and drew out a box. It was narrow and thin, wrapped in gold paper with a red ribbon.
Erik took it and tested its weight. It was very light. Carefully he undid the bow. Christine couldn't help but watch as the tendons slid through his fingers in his large delicate hands. Now she was the one who was waiting in anticipation. Erik opened the box.
"A permanent marker." He said without missing a beat, "Thank you very much Christine."
Christine laughed at him. "An interesting present, no?" She took it out of the box, uncapped it and waved it before his eyes. "But Monsieur Erik, this is the thing you have hoped for and wanted all of your life!"
"Is it?" Erik said playfully.
"But yes," Christine replied. "Let me show you." Before he could shrink away, she seized his head, drew a mustache, a smile, curly eyebrows, and a goatee on Erik's mask, "Voila! A face!"
She spun around and whipped out a mirror from another package.
"And it won't wash off!" She said triumphantly, "And you'll always have this perfect face to look upon the world with. And you'll always be smiling!" Christine stared at the mask and Erik's stunned eyes for a moment, "If you want I could give you whiskers too."
Erik stared in the mirror at the comical face. All of the sudden he found himself laughing desperately and heartily.
Christine sat on the couch next to him and leaned on his shoulder, "So do you like it?"
"No!" Erik was adamant, "I've never seen anything more ridiculous." He put an arm around her shoulders, "How am I supposed to be an Opera Ghost if my face is covered in childish caricatures?"
"I don't know Erik." Christine lightly touched the mask and ran her fingertips over it. "How are you supposed to be an Opera Ghost if your face is covered in childish caricatures?" her voice was not playful now, only sad.
"But I—" Erik faltered as she realized what she meant.
Christine's fingers found the curve of the mask, where the edge blended back into the deep lustrous brown hair.
There was a incredibly loud metallic clang followed by a heavy thump and then another heavy thump.
Erik was on his feet in a moment. "What the devil!" he took a giant striding leap over in the direction of the noise. He opened a cupboard in the wall. He stared for only a moment and than laughed shortly and incredulously, "Christine, come here you've got to see this."
Christine hopped up and peered into the cupboard. It was a peep hole into another room It was an octagonal shaped with walls made of mirrors. On one end stood a tree that was reflected again and again. In the middle of the room stood the Viscount de Chagney and the Persian Daroga of Mazandran. Both men were armed with pistols. "Raoul!" she laughed in delight, "What do we do with them, Erik?"
Erik pushed up the brim of his hat and rubbed his hand across the line where the mask met his hair, "Wait?"
"And what do we do while we wait?"
Erik thought for a second, made an important decision, and went down on one knee.
"Christine!" came the shout for the hundredth time.
Christine was busy doing a very slow samba to a very sleek saxophone with a very graceful fiancée. She was busy. Even if the fiancé had curly permanent marker eyebrows and a goatee.
"Christine!" Raoul moaned. "Oh shall I ever rescue her from this monster!"
"Quiet," the Persian hissed, "You fool! He can hear our every word!"
"Good," Raoul hissed back, "Christine!"
Christine doubted if Erik heard them at all. He was staring down at her so lovingly, and so longingly. "Isn't it about time we let them out?" Both men had already exhausted their pistols on the mirrors, trying to find a way out.
"Hmm?" Erik mumbled as he dreamily traced his way through the dance steps.
"Raoul and the Persian?"
"Oh." Erik broke away from her and walked to a door in the wall. He unlocked it and opened it just in time to catch a fainting Raoul.
The Daroga of Mazandran took one look at Erik's mask and doubled over in laughter.
"Fiend!" Raoul beat weakly on Erik's chest with his fists. "Murderer!"
Erik sat Raoul up and gave him a few good claps on the back. When he turned around, Christine was already there holding a glass of brandy. Erik doused Raoul in it and turned furiously on the Persian.
"What the devil are you laughing at?" He demanded hotly.
"Your face!" the Daroga said between gasps of breath. "You really put one over him Mademoiselle Daae."
Erik's hand flew to his mask, suddenly remembering. He almost ripped it off and tossed it on the floor. Then he remembered Christine. He sat down next to Raoul, a blush creeping up his neck.
"Don't bother taking off your mask on my account," Christine said, "I like the caricature. I think it suits you."
The Persian stifled his laughter just enough for Raoul to make a loud and passionate speech.
"You know she can never love you Monster!" He began, shouting, "You cannot ask her to spend the rest of her days in these dark cellars, dead! You are of the dead and she of the living! Let her go back to the life she loves! My darling Christine!" Raoul reached out for Christine and Erik's arm shot out and pushed him back.
"Unhand me!" Raoul shouted. "Remove your sadistic mask sir, and let her choose between us!" He jumped to his feet and leaped to the other side of Christine, "Choose Christine! But first see what he hides beneath that frightful mask!"
Erik stood and turned away.
"I already have Raoul." Christine said quietly, "We all wear masks, really," she looked steadily at Erik as she said this. "Raoul you are a child. You have no understanding of these matters. Take your Persian friend and leave this place."
"You can't even ask him to remove his mask!" Raoul bit out cruelly, "You are afraid of what is underneath. Have you ever seen his face Christine? Or would you rather pretend that he is the charming prince you so blindly love?"
"I trust his judgment." Christine said simply.
Erik spun around to face her. His eyes blazed with light, "Is that why? Is it really why?"
"Of course. If you must hide yourself from me after so long you must have a significant reason that precludes any possibility of our relationship deepening beyond a certain point." Christine shook her head sadly, "I love you far too much to force you to remove your mask."
"You see Monsieur!" Raoul shouted, "You have her love under false pretences! You are a fraud and a coward!"
The Persian seized Raoul with an embarrassed look, "Would you excuse us for a moment Erik?" He dragged the struggling Viscount away and left the room. The viscount's imprecations disappeared as the door swung shut.
Erik turned away, "You know, he's right, Christine."
"Well." Christine moved and leaned her head between Erik's massive shoulder blades. "What if he is?" She wound her arms around his neck, "Do you think I care?"
"But you do care Christine," Erik's shoulders heaved with emotion, "I've heard you say that you feel like I'm so distant. That you feel like I can't trust you." He shook his head sadly, "But I'm so ugly Christine. I was born without a face. I don't want to lose you."
Christine's hands ran up the back of his head, fingers tugging gently at his hair. She stopped when she came to the tie that held the mask on. "I would rather have your distant love than lose you too Erik." She squeezed her eyes shut, "So we are at an impasse." Her fingers traced over the mask gently, "It's such a little thing, so thin. Yet it is more secure than iron." Her hands retreated from the mask and rested lightly across his chest, "You've given up the mask over your heart, and that's enough for me."
Erik's shaky hands reached up and slid the mask off his head. He held it in his hands for a moment, staring at the comical face that smiled up at him. Christine's head lay against his neck and she watched him turn the mask over and over, but she did not move. Still he noticed that her fingers trembled. "I love you for what you are Christine." He spun around quickly to face her, "This is what I am."
Christine's eyes were shut tight and her mouth was trembling. Instead of looking at his face, she flung her arms around his neck and buried her face in his chest. "Are you sure, Erik?"
Erik tilted her chin up. "Open your eyes Chris."
Instead, her hand ran up along his neck and across his bare cheek. It felt the mounds of flesh that alternately bubbled in rough callouses and sank to paper thin veins pulsing over bone. The hand ran back along his cheekbone to his ear and felt the sparse hair and knobby bones protruding where they shouldn't. Eyes still closed, Christine pulled his head forward and kissed him passionately on the lips. Erik's head swam.
"I always wanted to kiss you," Christine's eyes met his, "I never could with the mask in the way."
Erik felt so vulnerable. His mask was gone, and here Christine beheld him in all his ugliness. His face was a mass of deformity, his skin the color of rotting flesh, a great gaping pink hole where his nose should have been. And the vivid blue eyes staring out at her, so unsure, so hopeful. She smiled and looked his face over thoroughly, "You certainly are the ugliest man I ever saw." Then she kissed him again, clinging desperately to his neck and setting her mouth firmly against his.
"Oh Chris," Erik's voice whispered, so deep, so soft. "I love you so much." His voice wrapped around her hypnotically, and there was no mask to neutralize its magic.
The cathedral de Notre Dame was silent and lifeless save for one small alcove. The light of the stars poured through the stained glass windows and washed over the five figures. Three stood. Two knelt.
The Daroga of Mazenderan stood proudly, his arab features distaining the church and his hands keeping a half struggling Viscount Raoul de Chagney in check.
"She can' t mean this!" Raoul was whispering desperately.
The priest eyed him suspiciously. "Do you object, sir?"
The Persian's hand drove the small dagger harsher against Raoul's ribs
"No, of course not." Raoul tried to laugh. "Fancy that. She has my blessing."
"Then remove your hat, sir, and we shall begin," the priest intoned and watched the lovely young bride before him.
Erik did. Kneeling in all his deathly glory before the priest and next to Christine, he flung his face to heaven as if to ask forgiveness of the cathedral for profaning it with his ugliness.
The priest looked at the couple for a moment, reading the eyes of first the bride and then the groom. Smiling as he hadn't smiled in years, he repeated the vows.
Author: I think that will fix the formatting errors. Thank you thank you thank you thank you to all my reviewers! You have seriously boosted the old confidence level Hugs to every single one of you!