A/N: Hello, faithful readers! I'm baaaaaaack! Hehehehe Okay, before I start the story, let me say like, two things. One: Thanks SO much to my reviewers and fans! (Especially you Gerrydom Gals!) You guys inspire me! Second: In this chapter, things speed up a wee bit… I just thought you'd like to know that (Don't worry though… WAY more to come…) Anyways, on with the show! (Or story…whatever.)
The rest of the cast noticed a complete change in Amandine during the next day's rehearsal. She hit almost every note to pure perfection and her voice, for once, did not wear out after hours of strenuous exercises. Her fellow performers stared in awe at her nearly flawless performance of "Think of Me" and the conductor gave her a rare smile. Amandine did not fail to notice, however, that both Meg and the ballet mistress lacked the enthusiasm of the others. Quite the contrary, in fact… both eyed Amandine with suspicion and concern all throughout the evening's rehearsal. Amandine had enough knowledge to know that both Madame and Meg Giry were closely involved in the past occurrences between Erik and Christine. She could almost see the pieces fitting themselves together in their minds…but no matter what, she promised herself she would keep her lessons with Erik a secret.
When the young ballerina approached her after rehearsal, Amandine hurried off to her room, mumbling something about catching up on rest.
For the next few days, every moment not spent at rehearsals or with Erik was used for writing. Amandine found the information and experiences she was gaining astounding. Her book – which she had decided on titling "The Opera Ghost" – was surely destined to be a complete success. As she wrote, however, a nagging voice in the depths of her mind sometimes plagued her with troubling thoughts. "If this book is published, they'll know where to find Erik…he could be arrested…or even killed!" Yet Amandine did her best to stay focused on her goal. "How can I be sure they'd even bother looking for him? I'll publish it as a work of fiction, after all," a second voice would reassure her, and she'd go on writing without a care.
5 nights before the scheduled performance of "Hannibal", Amandine sat on the edge of her bed as usual, waiting for Erik's arrival. Their lessons had been going exceptionally well, difficult as they may have been. With each passing day, however, Amandine found herself more and more drawn to her teacher. His eyes…when they locked onto hers…it was as if she was being pulled by some magical force into those glittering golden depths. And his voice…Oh, God…how could she describe it? At times, when he would join her in a duet, she felt as if she had ascended the golden stairway to the skies, where a true Angel of Music called out to her, beckoning her into the beautiful light of Heaven itself. Lost in the memory of his intoxicating voice, Amandine failed to notice that the mirror had opened and Erik was now standing in the middle of her room, glancing at her strangely as she stared off into space.
"Amandine?" Erik's smooth voice snapped her back into reality. She jumped up from the bed, as if she had received some sort of a shock. "Erik!" Amandine cried, startled, "I didn't see you there!" The masked man smirked. "Obviously not." All day, Amandine had been having strange spells such as that…but surely they were nothing to worry about. Amandine sighed and stood up. "Well, Erik. I've been given a day off from rehearsals tomorrow…so perhaps we can keep our lesson a bit late tonight?" Erik appeared thoughtful for a moment. "We shall see." And, as usual, he turned away and soundlessly headed down the dark passageway. Amandine followed.
Though Amandine would occasionally instigate some small-talk during their lessons, it was very rare for either one of them to speak during their journey to his home. Amandine was not sure why, exactly, but she somehow liked it that way. Tonight, however, was one of those rare occasions. "That's the first time." She said suddenly, moments after Erik helped her into the large gondola. He stared at her for a moment, puzzled. "First time?" Amandine smiled at him as he sent the boat on its way, the water lapping lightly against the sides. "Yes… that's the first time since you've met me that you've used my proper name. It was quite unexpected." Erik did not return the smile. His voice was strangely cold when he spoke. "Forgive me, Mademoiselle Laroque. I assumed that we have been acquainted long enough to use our proper names, but I was obviously mistaken. Do not hesitate to call me 'Monsieur Le Fantome' if you wish." A pair of golden orbs gazed upon her with an icy stare. "You are mistaken, Erik." Amandine paused, "I would like, if you would not mind, for you to call me 'Amandine' more often… I must say, it sounds rather lovely on your lips." Amandine inwardly winced at her last comment. She had not meant to say it aloud. Erik did not reply. Perhaps he had not heard her.
They reached the other shore and began their lesson as usual, first starting with a few simple scales, before finally progressing to songs from the opera itself. Amandine vaguely noticed a strange lightness in her head as she sang…perhaps due to the fact that she had not slept the night before, as she had been writing nonstop since returning from her lesson. She tried to shrug it off and continue singing, yet the lightness gradually changed to dizziness. Midway through a solo, her voice stopped abruptly as she held her head, feeling faint. Her teacher rose quickly from his seat. "Amandine! Are you alright?" Suddenly the room swayed and Amandine felt herself falling. Erik's cry of alarm and outstretched hands were the last image she saw before everything turned to black.
Her eyelids felt heavy as she groggily pried them open, staring at the room around her. She appeared to have ended up in a well-furnished bedroom with very little light, but exceedingly comfortable sheets. Amandine rose slowly from the bed, not sure of where she was or how long she had been asleep. She took a moment to gaze at the walls and furniture... beautiful paintings adorned the eggshell walls and all the furniture was beautifully carved and sculpted. What kind of place was this? It was only when a gentle yet haunting organ melody filled the air that she remembered – she was still at Erik's home. Like a moth drawn to the flame, Amandine opened the door and crept down the hallway, following the beautiful chords that reached her ears. She descended a set of stone stairs and found herself in the music room. Then she saw him, sitting at the organ, lost in the music. His hair was slightly ruffled and his shirt was undone…but she had never seen him look more handsome.
She approached Erik silently until she was standing next to him, her eyes marveling at the pure passion that lined his face. Only faltering on one note, Erik looked up at Amandine with a start, shocked at her arrival. He continued to play. "Are you feeling better, Amandine?" His eyes met hers. She smiled softly. "Much." Her eyes traveled down to the bench, which was long enough for two to sit on. Still feeling slightly weak from the night before, Amandine gingerly sat down next to her teacher. This time, Erik stopped playing completely. "No, no. Keep going. It's beautiful."
Amandine closed her eyes as the calming tones once again filled the air. Her head gently rested upon Erik's shoulder as the music, like a soothing lullaby, rocked her into a state of pure peace. She did not sleep, but she was able to rest her mind and simply forget about everything but the music…and the powerful man on whose shoulder her head now rested.Being so close to him...feeling the warmth of his body...she knew that this was where she truly belonged. The thought of her teacher made her smile as she descended closer and closer towards sleep. After what seemed like only moments, however, the music stopped abruptly. Amandine's eyes snapped open, meeting Erik's, which now gazed down at her, aghast. The expression on his face was one of pure shock, as if just now realizing she was there. Amandine lifted her head and stared up at him in confusion. He stood from the bench and headed towards the shore. "You should be getting back." He murmured. "They'll wonder where you are." What had happened? Surely he did not mind her closeness...he had made no objection before! Amandine was dumbfounded. Had she done something wrong? Was he angry with her? His pupil followed slowly to the boat, her mind a mass of confusion. She was so distracted that she almost failed to notice that, for the first time, he did not offer her his hand.
A/N: Kind of a short chapter, I know…but there is more to come! Sorry it's taken so long for me to update this, but I just got my FIRST job ever (at Build-A-Bear) so I've been pretty busy with that. But never fear… A chapter will ALWAYS come, eventually! Hehehe! Don't forget to review! That's what keeps me going!