Location: France - 1896
Rating: PG-13 for physical and emotional battery and drug abuse. It is nothing that cannot be seen in a primetime drama on after 10 p.m. at night.
Disclaimer: The basis for this story owes 99 percent to the AL Webber movie, 00.09 percent to the song "One Thing I Know" by Selah and the remaining 00.01 percent of inspiration to the gothic romance and danger of Victoria Holt novels. Raoul, Christine and Erik belong to Gaston Leroux. Everyone else belongs to my obsessed little mind and me.I have given Erik a last name for the sake of this story which is introduced in Chapter Five.
Author's Notes: I have lived with my own tortured lovebirds for the last fourteen years and maybe that is why this story seems to always rip my heart out. I have researched stalking, emotional and physical torture and the aftermath - it is never pretty and it is something that never leaves you. It affects not only the victim but those who surround that person. Even though I was glad that Christine ended up with Raoul (I always cheer for the good guy! - no bashing, plese!), I also felt sympathetic toward Erik. I guess I connected with the "outsiderness" that was his life. I always wanted a happy ending for Raoul and Christine and a chance for Erik to redeem himself. I also wanted to find a way for the three of them to make peace with each other and with what happened. This is my version of that happy ending. Much thanks to John and Jean for beta-reading this; they are co-writers and friends of many years and I trust their skills, eye for detail and judgment completely.
Chapter Summary: Christine and her daughter, Annalise, welcome home husband and brother. Plans are made to meet the brother's roommate.
"He's coming home, he's coming home!" the young woman said happily as she tripped down the stairs, long dark hair bouncing around her shoulders, her blue skirt held up by two tiny hands to prevent tripping. Her mother stood at the bottom of the stairs smiling indulgently.
"Annalise," Christine, Comtesse de Chagny, sighed, "where are your manners?" She reached out to finger her daughter's loose soft curls. "And why is your hair not dressed? Or, at least, a ribbon run through."
Annalise looked back at her mother, her blue eyes wide and innocent, the smile so like that of her father. "Maman, I am sorry but I am afraid I did not want to sit still long enough for my hair to be dressed forI long to see Gustave when he comes through the front door!I have missed him so! And I promise to dress and behave like a lady for dinner."
It was so hard not to indulge her youngest child Christine thought as she pinched the child's chin and smiled at her. Annalise was the perfect combination of her parents with her mother's beauty, her father's intelligence and the spirit of each combined in one joyous package. Christine marveled at her daughter's ability to wrap mother, brothers and father around her small fingers. Soon, though, that would be gone as Annalise had just turned seventeen and was of an age when marriage must begin to be considered but for now there was still time to enjoy the infectious spirit that filled their lives.
Christine tried being serious as she looked into her daughter's twinkling eyes. "I shall hold you to your word, child. I expect to see a young lady at my dinner table tonight."
Annalise gave her mother a bright smile and a quick kiss on the cheek before taking her arm. "I shall be the perfect lady."
"I doubt it not."
"When are they going ..." Annalise stopped in mid-sentence as the sound of carriage wheels could be heard on the stone drive outside. She let go of her mother's arm and ran to the window just in time to see a carriage bearing her father's Coat-of-Arms on the door stop at portico. The carriage opened and a young man with dark, wavy hair stepped out. Annalise turned to her mother. "They're here!" She said before running through the door opened by the waiting footman. Christine followed her daughter at a statelier pace.
"Annalise!" the young man exclaimed as he opened his arms wide and his sister ran into them.
Christine smiled at her children before turning her attention to the tall man standing behind them, her smile softening. The past twenty-six years had done little to age theformer Vicomte de Chagny. Raoul was still tall and straight, his sandy hair much shorter and more in fashion, tinged with just a touch of gray. He had grown a moustache in the intervening years and Christine remembered how it had tickled those first months. His eyes still held a gentle light when they looked at her and he was still her safe harbor from the cares of the day and the horrors of the night. Christine sighed happily as warm thoughts filled her, she would sleep well tonight now that Raoul was home.
"Ahem," The Comte cleared his throat and Annalise and Gustave broke their tight hug. "What of your father?" Raoul's eyes were shining. "Do I not get a hug for bringing your beloved brother home to you?"
Annalise embraced her father, feeling the gentle strength of his arms close about her. "I would hug you just for being my father," she said into his coat.
Raoul kissed his daughter on her head, enjoying the feel of her small frame in his arms. He remembered how tiny she had been at birth, their last child, the daughter for whom they had prayed. She was almost an exact duplicate for her mother, except for the smile; that she had gotten from him. Raoul held on to her, reluctant to let her go, almost afraid to let her go. This child needed to be guarded and protected. That was a father's responsibility. That was his responsibility. It was something, he had promised the tiny infant from the first moment he had laid eyes upon her, at which he would never fail.
"Maman," Gustave said as he took his mother's hand, kissing it gently. He was two years older than his sister with the same wavy dark hair that was their mother's legacy but the rest of it was all his father from the eyes to the smile to the gentle mannerisms. "You are lovelier than I remember."
Christine laughed softly. Her children, Annalise, Gustave and their older brothers, Richard and Jean-Paul, were the joys of her life. When young, they had filled long, lonely hours when Raoul was busy with the workings of life. They loved her unconditionally asking for nothing in return. The children filled a part of her heart she had not even known existed until that moment when Jean-Paul had been placed in her arms. Now they were young adults with lives of their own and the small children of the past had been replaced by the grandchildren of the present. But for the moment Christine was satisfied with the two children who still remained at home.
"She will always be lovely," Raoul said as he took his wife's hand from his son, raising it to his lips. The glow in his eyes was only for Christine. It had always been hers alone.
Annalise and Gustave exchanged grins. The bond between their parents had always amused the children when they were young and intrigued them as they grew older.
"Come," Christine said as she took her husband's hand. "Tea waits in the parlor and I wish to hear all about the joys of schooling in England."
Gustave grinned sheepishly. "Surely not all, Maman?"
"Yes," Christine assured him. "All."
So Gustave regaled his parents and sister with tales of his studies at Oxford. He told them of living in a small garret with another young man, the two barely able to get their clothing and books in the living quarters. He talked of learning the classics from men who challenged his mind and thinking. He spoke of the athletics that challenged his body; although, he swore he would never understand the English love for cricket. He glossed over the stories of drinking and women and was rewarded with a slight nod from his father. He assured them he had enjoyed his year of study abroad but was now home for good and ready to study in Paris. It seemed to Gustave a wave of relief surged through his mother when he spoke those words.
"And I should dearly like if I may ask Andrew to luncheon," Gustave said as he sipped the cognac from the crystal snifter.
Flickering candles in wall and table sconces reflected lights off crystal stemware that sat upon the rich wood of the dining table, the gas lights turned off in favor of the softer glow from wax tapers. Burgundy velvet covered the long windows that looked out over the side garden and the chairs that stood arrayed at attention on both sides of the table. Four of those chairs, gathered at one end of the long table, were occupied by Gustave, his sister and their parents. Dinner had long been over, the servants dismissed with a wave of Raoul's hand and now the family sat together, enjoying the company of loved ones and relaxing at the end of a long day.
"Andrew is the young American you have been living with?" Christine said as she frowned slightly. There had been so much news coming from her son all day that she had trouble keeping everything straight.
"Yes," Annalise interrupted. She had dressed for dinner in a light yellow silk gown, her dark hair pulled up and curling gently around her face. Her large, blue eyes glittered as brightly as the candles. She had been sitting with her brother while he directed the unpacking of his trunks and had learned things her parents did not know. The bond between the two youngest de Chagny children was strong and deeply affectionate. "He is in Paris visiting his cousin, the American ambassador and he has his sister with him. She is my age."
"Annalise," her father sighed with a smile as he put down his brandy snifter. Raoul often despaired of his daughter's mannerisms. At times she reminded him of nothing more than a young filly that needed to be given its head and he knew he was guilty of doing just that more than might be prudent. Raoul had always walked a fine line between protecting Annalise and giving her freedom. Yet this child could be every bit as elegant and dignified as her mother should she so choose. It was knowledge that comforted her father.
"Sorry," she replied with a little smile that wrinkled her nose.
"Andrew Cameron was the man I lived with at Oxford, Maman," Gustave said but looked at his sister. He had been gone for almost a year to study abroad in England and the intervening months had done little to mature this girl sitting next to him. "He is chaperoning his sister, Katherine, around Paris for the spring, summer and autumn before they go back to America. He is a good, honest man. I would not ask to bring anyone less through your doorway."
"His cousin is the ambassador?" his mother asked.
"Yes," Gustave assured her. "Andrew comes from a very distinguished American family. His father is one their senators - a member of their government. Andrew is planning on studying law and eventually would like to go into public service."
Raoul reached out, laying his hand gently over the one that Christine rested on the table. "I do not see an objection." His index finger caressed the back of Christine's hand saying more than mere words. Their own marriage had raised its share of societal eyebrows. "Perhaps, your friend would bring his sister?"
"And we could have months to show them around Paris!" Annalise chirped in. "And I could have a new friend!"
Christine shook her head slightly. Her daughter would always see the bright side of any situation. Christine looked to Raoul for guidance and turned to smile at the children seated opposite. "I shall send the invitation tomorrow."
Gustave and Annalise smiled and clasped hands.