Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say goodbye
Try to forgive
Teach me to live
Give me the strength to try
No more memories, no more silent tears
No more gazing across the wasted years
Help me say goodbye
Help me say...
The snow had not begun to fall yet as Raoul de Chagny, assisted by a nurse, climbed from the automobile into his wheelchair. He held the music box to him as the woman wheeled him over the gravel paths into the snow-covered cemetery.
A collector's piece, indeed—every detail exactly as she said. Will you still play when all the rest of us are dead?
Christine's grave was cold and bare, standing next to her father's grand mausoleum, a tall granite tombstone with a marble base. It had been three months since he had visited, taken as he had been by a bout of illness. He did not doubt that his time was growing short.
There were no flowers on Christine's grave. The pink and white roses that Raoul had left three months ago were no doubt dead now, swept away, or filched whilst still alive by street urchins looking to make a few pennies selling the flowers.
I will love you forever.
No doubt she had known all along the meaning of the pink roses, tied with white ribbons that he had left her so many times.
She had claimed to love him in return, but in the end, she had loved Erik more.
He tried to will away the bitterness that he had been fighting for so many years. Seventy-one was too old, he mused, to still feel the pain of the past so acutely. But the bitterness returned, time and time again, to tear at his heart and gnaw at his soul. He still loved Christine, as passionately now as he had in his youth, but it was too late.
She was dead, had lived a long, full life apart from him, and he had been left to spend nearly fifty years trying to live life without her. It had not been easy.
He knew the writing on the tombstone by heart, but he read it again.
Christine de Chagny…
No, not de Chagny. Couturier, Christine Couturier, and the date of her birth and death, and an inscription that struck a dart of pain directly to his heart each time he read it.
Beloved wife and mother.
He did not like to think of the children that Christine had borne Erik. Three, to be exact, two daughters and a son. He had seen them at the funeral, but he had not been able to meet their eyes. Nor had he looked at or spoken to Erik.
Near Christine's grave was another tall granite tombstone. He read it, too, though he knew the inscriptions on it as well as those on Christine's. He had commissioned it himself.
Viscomtess Marguerite de Chagny
She walked where angels could not tread.
No one understood the significance of the last line except for Raoul. It was a reflection upon his many flaws, he supposed, that he should mark his bitterness upon his late wife's tombstone.
He came to the cemetery to ask forgiveness, to seek peace that he now thought he would never truly have. He visited Christine's grave, Meg's, Giselle's, asking each of these women for forgiveness.
Christine he had loved beyond reason, causing tragedy and pain in the wake of what had begun as an innocent love. He had nearly ruined her life and shattered her dreams, and for that he asked forgiveness.
Meg he had married to spite his brother, because Madame Giry desired a good life for her daughter, and Meg had loved him too blindly to see that behind the tender kisses and the loving glances was constant restraint, had been too innocent to ever imagine that he had wished almost nightly that it was Christine's shapely form that he held rather than Meg's petite one, Christine's curly, mahogany tresses that he ran his fingers through instead of Meg's fine blond locks.
She had loved him, and she had deserved better. The life of a Viscomtess had never been for her, in that Philippe had been right, and it only made Raoul hate him all the more. But for nineteen years of marriage she had lived with him, stood beside him, shared his bed on occasion, and loved him to distraction, never knowing that the man she adored was never in all those years willing to give her more than the slightest bit of his heart.
Giselle—the wrongs he had done to her were too many to mention, too many to list. It was his fate to love and be loved by angels, it seemed, and yet be unable to have any peace in life.
He held out little hope for peace in death.
He looked at Christine's grave again, something akin to reverence in his eyes, and gently laid the music box down on the marble.
A flash of something caught his eye, and when he looked to the other side of the tombstone, he saw there a red rose, tied with a black ribbon.
It had been slipped through the band of a sparkling diamond ring.
The ring that he had given Christine.
The hairs rose on the back of his neck, and he knew that Erik was in the graveyard.
"Come out, Erik." he called hoarsely, not certain why he wanted to see the man. Such tactics were too reminiscent of Erik's days as the opera ghost, and it unnerved him greatly. He must see that Erik was still a man, and not yet a ghost.
Erik stepped from behind a tall angel, dressed immaculately, as always. He glanced towards Christine's grave and saw the music box.
There was no sarcasm or mockery in his eyes, no smile on his face. He was old now, the uncovered half of his face tired and much aged. His eyes were old, too, as though years of living without Christine had taken their toll.
The two men looked at each other for a long moment. Raoul searched Erik's countenance, and he saw no anger there, no hatred, only peace.
When had Erik made peace with the past and Raoul had not?
Erik's eyes were fixed on Christine's tombstone, and he spoke suddenly, softly, so softly that Raoul nearly missed it entirely.
"Her song still makes the angels weep, but now they weep for joy that she is at long last with them."
It was a simple statement, but when Raoul searched Erik's face again, he saw only a man. Not a monster, not a beast, not a devil—only a man.
Try to forgive…
Perhaps it was easier to understand him now, now that Christine was gone, lost to both of them. Perhaps it was simply the loss of her presence that caused Raoul to look at his rival with new eyes.
Erik had loved Christine as he had, passionately, violently, beyond all reason. Raoul would have killed for her even as Erik had killed for her.
He was not so different from Erik. He had realized that long ago, but it had been with hatred in his soul for this man, hating himself for not being able to rise above him.
But now he looked, and he felt no hatred, only a sorrowful knowledge that this man had spent a lifetime with the love and happiness that Raoul had never found.
Raoul knew that he stood upon the threshold of death, and he looked back, and he saw a wasted life, wasted in bitterness and hatred over that which he could not change, shunning love that could have made his self-imposed darkness fade away, could have lifted the madness that had plagued him for so long.
He regretted so much, and could change nothing.
The eyes of the two men met for a moment, and Raoul thought that perhaps now, he could forgive Erik.
And then he saw sympathy in Erik's eyes, and he knew that Erik had forgiven him long ago.
Raoul closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, he was gone.
A few soft snowflakes began to fall.Wishing you were somehow here again…
"I'll see you soon, Christine." he whispered, as the nurse turned the wheelchair to take him back to the waiting automobile.