Disclaimer: I don't own them.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Comte Philip announced. "You all know my son, Raoul. He has grown into a fine young man and I am very proud of him. Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing my future daughter-in-law, Mlle Christine Daae. I've never met a more charming and delightful girl, at least not since I first met my dear Caroline. Christine, I look forward to having you join our family in a few months time, and I know you will be a good and faithful wife."
Christine smiled happily and squeezed Raoul's hand. Raoul patted her arm sweetly.
"Thank you." she whispered.
"Everyone," the Comte continued, "please raise your glasses to toast the engagement of Raoul and Christine. May they always know happiness and may the Lord bless them."
"Cheers," the guests chimed before lifting their glasses.
Christine and Raoul both had a sip of their champagne. The musicians started to play a waltz and Raoul set down their to two glasses before leading Christine out onto the dance floor. He looked into her eyes as they moved back and forth in perfect time. There were many beautiful women about, but they all paled in comparison to his sweet Christine. Her hair had been pulled up but many curls still fell delicately down her back. Baby's breathe was weaved into her hair. Her gown was a pale yellow that seemed to have an ethereal glow all its own.
"You are so beautiful," he told her.
"Thank you," she said with a smile. "I have to admit, I feel like a princess tonight."
"You are a princess," he told her lovingly. "You are my princess. Princess Lotte."
"And you are my prince," Christine replied.
He twirled her gracefully around the floor. They were oblivious to everyone else in the room. They didn't see the happy smiles, or even the looks of envy they created wherever they went.
The music finally came to an end. People stopped dancing or exchanged partners.
"My I cut in?" Byron was standing there holding out a hand to take Christine. Raoul looked to her and she shook her head yes. Byron placed a hand on Christine's waist and took her hand with his other. Once again the music started and Raoul watched as Christine glided across the floor with Byron.
"You are a lovely dancer," Byron said.
"Mme Giry was very strict. She demanded discipline and proper form at all times," Christine replied. "I was very fortunate to study under her tutorage."
"You must care for her very much."
"Yes, I love her dearly," Christine said. "She is the closest thing I have to a mother. It is a shame she couldn't make it here this week, but at least Meg is here. Meg's presence has made tonight a little less scary for me."
"Meg is very pretty," he said.
"Yes, I think so too. I have always loved her long blond hair. It reminds me of gold. My hair just always seemed so plain to me," Christine replied.
"Nonsense," Byron said. "I think your tresses are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen."
"You're too kind."
Byron didn't say anything for the remainder of the dance. He just enjoyed the feel of having Christine in his arms. He could smell the rose water that had been used to rinse her hair. He closed his eyes to control the passion he felt growing inside of him. When the music ended he abruptly pushed away from her.
"Thank you," he said curtly and walked away, leaving Christine to wonder if she had done something wrong.
She looked around to try and find Raoul but didn't see him anywhere. She made her way through the throng of people, all strangers. She couldn't even find Meg.
Christine turned to see an exquisitely dressed woman approach her. Her hair was black as night even though she was easily in her forties. Her dress looked as if it was made of pure gold.
"Mlle Daae, I'm Marquis de Travold. I have been looking forward to meeting you. Comte Philip has old me and my husband all about you."
"It is an honor to meet you as well, madam" Christine said politely, giving a little curtsey.
"Yes, I'm sure it is," the Marquis replied. "After all, until you used your feminine ways to seduce Raoul you had probably never meet anyone of nobility. I give you credit. You managed to connive your way into the bed of a man who had already been spoken for."
"I assure you madam, my conduct has always been lady like," Christine insisted. "I have done nothing inappropriate. As for Raoul being promised to another, I have heard nothing of this."
"Please, you expect me to believe that some masked man ran off with you and your still as innocent as a new born babe. Furthermore, I can assure you Raoul was promised to another. He was promised to my daughter Jolie!" the woman said furiously.
Christine didn't know what to say. Had Raoul lied to her? No, Raoul was good. He would not have deceived her. "You lie," Christine said calmly.
"What? How dare you speak to me that way? Who do you think you are?"
"I can tell you who she will be," came an angry voice from behind them. Both turned to look at this third person. Raoul's aunt was standing there. "In about four months Mlle Daae will be the Vicomtesse de Changny, and I do not think my nephew would appreciate you upsetting his love this way. Furthermore, I think he would also be upset to hear you are spreading malicious lies about him. He was never promised to your daughter."
"That is not true. Caroline and I made plans for their engagement years ago," Marquis Travold defended.
"Did Raoul even know these plans existed? I think not. Come Christine."
Christine followed Margot into a different room. She had a seat on a sofa and took a deep breath. "Thank you for your assistance."
"I warned you that some would be ruthless," the Comtesse said.
"I know, but I was still unprepared for such viciousness," Christine admitted.
"Remember, keep you head held high and smile. Don't let them know how much their words hurt." With that bit of advice the Comtesse walked off, leaving Christine alone.
Christine continued to sit for just a minute more. She heard the voices of several young girls as they approached, their backs to her.
"She's very pretty," one said.
"But still," the other gasped, "its so scandalous. I wonder if this wedding would even be taking place if his mother was still alive?"
Just then the two girls turned around to see Christine sitting right behind them. At first Christine thought she had overheard a private conversation, but the look on the two girls faces told her that they had known she was there all along.
Christine stood up proudly, looked both girls in the eyes, gave them a forced smile, and then walked right past them. Once she was out of the room she picked up her pace slightly and hurried to the staircase, rushing past Byron on the way. She practically ran up the stairs to be free of the scrutiny she was under.
She flew to her room and closed the door behind her, leaning against it for support. Tears streamed down her face. She was in the process of composing herself when there was a knock on the door. Hoping it was Raoul on the other side she opened it with out a second thought. She was startled to find Byron standing there.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yes, I…I got something in my eye," she lied.
He gave her a lopsided smile and pulled his handkerchief from his pocket. "Dry your eyes, Christine. Do not cry over the people down stairs."
She dabbed at her eyes. "They said such horrible things."
"I know," he replied. He stepped slightly into her room and gave her a supportive hug, patting her on the back softly. "Should I fetch Raoul for you?" he asked.
"No, please. I need to calm down for a moment before he sees me. I don't want him to know I was so easily upset." She pulled back from the embrace. "Thank you for your kindness. It is nice to know I have a few friends at least."
"I am your friend," Byron said. Suddenly, he leaned in and kissed her, tangling his fingers in her hair. Immediately Christine pushed at his chest, trying to get him to let her go. After another second he released her, at which time Christine raised her hand and slapped him across his cheek.
"You have no right to take such liberties," she stammered.
"Don't I?" he asked. "I am in your room after all. You let me hold you. Was it really wrong of me to think that a little kiss would be out of place?"
"I was upset. You offered kindness. You manipulated me." Christine couldn't believe this was happening. "Raoul is your dearest friend. How can you betray him so easily?"
"I highly doubt you will mention this little indiscretion to Raoul," Byron warned. "After all, if he found out he would probably insist upon a duel. I am an excellent shot. I doubt you want to put his life in such jeopardy."
New tears welled in her eyes. She felt as if she might be ill. She pushed her way past Byron and hurried down the hall. She didn't know where she was going. She just needed to get away. She had expected cruelty from some, but not Byron. She thought him an ally. She was unaware that M. Jean had also followed her and Byron up the stairs. He had watched from the shadows the entire encounter that had happened between Christine and Byron.
Once Christine was gone he stepped out to confront his friend. "You are playing with fire."
"Jean, you worry to much. It was one harmless kiss," Byron said.
"It was far from harmless. For years Raoul has thought you a good friend, but I have seen through you. You are little more than a scoundrel who hides behind his wealth and title."
"Careful Jean, your jealousy is showing. Admit it. You have always hated me because I have everything that you never will," Byron sneered. "As for Raoul, I will tell you the same thing I told her. I am a better shot that Raoul. Don't force him to do something that will get him killed."
Jean was furious, but he would keep this secret. Raoul was a good shot too, but he didn't want his best friend to fight a duel. "I will be watching you closely. Stay away from Christine, or I'll fight you myself." With that Jean turned and walked away.
Raoul was looking everywhere for Christine. He had lost sight of her on the dance floor and hadn't been able to find her since. Finally he saw Meg.
"Meg, have you seen Christine anywhere?"
"Yes, she ran up the stairs. I was talking with Jean and we saw her and then Byron go up. Jean went to see if everything was okay."
"Thank you," Raoul said before heading up himself.
He hurried to Christine's room but found Jean walking towards him. "Is Christine okay?"
"She was upset. I think…" he stopped to think of what to say. "I think one of the ladies must have said something cruel to her. She was crying. She left again and went that way."
Raoul didn't even thank him for the information but simply turned to follow Christine. He rounded the corner and felt an immense blast of cold air hit him. There, at the end of the hall, the balcony doors were thrown open and Christine was standing out there looking at the sky. As he got closer he could hear her crying, which is why she didn't hear him approach.
Once he was right behind her he called her name. She turned immediately and buried her face in his chest. He held her tight. He was so upset that someone had caused her such pain. He put his hands on her arms and realized she was freezing. It was now early spring, but the nights were still bitter cold. He removed his jacket and wrapped it tightly about her.
"Darling, who has hurt you so?"
She shook her head no. She wouldn't tell him. "Just hold me," she begged. He complied with her request and the two stood alone against the world.
After several minutes he finally said, "Darling, you're freezing. Let me take you inside before you catch your death." She nodded her head yes and he led her back inside before closing the double doors behind them. Against the wall was a small sofa and he sat her down. He kneeled on the floor in front of her, took her hands in his own, and rubbed them vigorously to warm her chilled fingers.
"Did one of the ladies say something to upset you?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. It wasn't a lie. The women had been mean, but it had been Byron that sent her fleeing to the balcony.
"What did they say?"
"It was just mean and spiteful, and really not even worth repeating. I'm sorry I let it affect me this badly."
"You have nothing to be sorry for. If anything this is my fault. I should have not lost sight of you. If I had been with you then no one would have been able to upset you."
"Raoul, you mustn't blame yourself for someone else's harsh words," she insisted.
Raoul placed his hands on either side of her face and wiped her tears away with his thumbs. "Just remember, I love you. Whatever they may say to you, know that you have my love for all eternity. Many of the women who would scorn you are jealous. Jealous of your beauty, jealous of our love." He gave her a wonderful smile and continued. "I can't wait until we are married. You are going to be loveliest bride in all of France."
"Raoul, don't be silly," she finally laughed.
"I'm not being silly. I can see it now. You'll be in head to toe white silk. You're hair will be pulled up softly like it is now and red, no, yellow roses will be in it."
"You shall have a matching rose on your lapel," she added.
"I also can't wait until we have children."
"Raoul, you're thinking to fast!"
"No I'm not. We'll have a little girl with curls like her mothers."
"And a boy who is strong and brave like his father."
"Christine, we are going to be so happy."
"I know we will," and she actually believed her words. The world could think what they wanted of her. Raoul loved her, and that was all that mattered. As for Byron, she would put that out of her mind. It never happened, and she would make sure it never happened again.
"Now, we must get you back down stairs. My aunt is looking forward to playing the piano and having you sing. I can't wait to see their faces as they listen to my angel sing. You will astound them all."
She smiled. This was one thing no one could deny her. She knew her voice was good. Her teacher had taught her well.
Erik spied through the double doors, careful to not cast a shadow. He had been down below watching from the ground. When Christine burst through the doors crying it had shocked him because it was so unexpected. His breath caught in his throat as he spied her in her yellow dress and her curls styled so beautifully.
Then it registered in his brain that she was crying. She was unhappy. Good. If she was unhappy then when he was ready to present himself to her she might come back to him.
He grimaced when Raoul suddenly appeared on the balcony behind her. He watched as she turned to him for comfort and protection. He held her and then gallantly wrapped his jacket around her to keep her warm. So it wasn't the vicomte who had upset her but something else.
Then the two went inside and closed the doors. Erik wasted no time in climbing the trellis next to the balcony and jumping over the railing. He edged carefully to the door to eaves drop on their conversation. He heard every word they said, and a realization began to grow over him. He'd known it all along but had refused to believe until now.
Christine was never going to be his. Never. All his changes didn't mean a thing; a new face, new clothes, a new home, all for nothing.
He waited until they were gone before finally climbing back down. With a heavy heart he walked back to where he had hidden his horse. It was time to go home.