From Angel's Eyes
Christine nervously opened the door to the room where her music class was about to take place. There were about fifteen other people in there, all chatting happily. Christine took an empty seat, feeling like a teenager in a new school. One of the students looked over at her.
"Hey, you a newbie?"
"Yeah." She said, with a nervous smile. He grinned.
"Relax, we don't bite. I'm Zack Timmons."
"Yes." She nodded. One thing she had discovered in the few weeks she had been in America was that they seemed very impressed by British accents. Apparently she just didn't appreciate it enough.
"Cool! You've moved out here?" Zack asked.
"Just until the end of the course. My boyfriend moved out for work, and I came with him." Christine explained. Zack smiled.
"Awesome. Let me introduce a few people." He called a few names and Christine smiled as they greeted her, friendly faces looking around.
She could handle this. No problem.
A few minutes later, the professor arrived. She was a cheerful woman dressed in a flowing dress, a string of beads around her neck, and a pair of reading glasses propped up on her head.
"Good morning everyone. Ah, you must be our new student!" She said, spotting Christine. "I'm Professor Reed and you must be…" She glanced through a folder, "Christine Danes?"
Christine nodded and smiled. Professor Reed beamed.
"Wonderful! Don't be shy, why don't you tell us a little about yourself? We're such a small class, we share everything!"
"Um… well, my name's Christine. I'm twenty-one, twenty-two in a couple of weeks. I'm from England and I'm moving out here until about June."
"How lovely. What made you come out?" Professor Reed.
"My boyfriend got a job out here, at the New York Opera House."
"Really? That's wonderful! I'm quite a fan of opera! What does he do?" The teacher said excitedly.
"He's producing the next show." Christine explained.
"You don't mean Erik Destler, do you?" One of the girls asked suddenly. Christine nodded.
"Yeah, that's him."
"I was just reading about him the newspaper this morning! That's so awesome!" One of the students said.
Professor Reed looked extremely excited.
"That's so wonderful! I can't wait to see what you have to offer us. Well, let's get started! We'll do some singing first, then some theory and then you can check the schedule for your one-on-one tutorial times."
Christine smiled. Yes, this would be good.
"This is a nightmare." Erik said angrily, banging a fist on the table. Christine looked up, as did Nadir.
"What's wrong?" Christine asked.
"This design just isn't working." Erik said, throwing down his pad, where the set design lay unfinished. Nadir picked it up.
"For the third scene?"
"Yes. See what you can do with it." Erik said, getting up and joining Christine in the kitchen area, where she was preparing a lasagne for dinner. Trister sat by her feet, looking hopefully up in case a piece of food fell the floor.
"Erik, sweetie, if you don't relax your head is going to explode." Christine told him. He sighed heavily, sitting on a stool and running his hands through his hair.
"This show will be the death of me." He muttered.
"You said the same thing about The Phantom of the Opera. You're just being overdramatic." She told him firmly, opening the oven door and slipping the lasagne inside.
Erik watched as she began to prepare a salad.
"How was class?"
"It was fine. We're just working on a few pieces from Faust." Christine said, with a smile. It was late November and she had been in America for about three months now. In two weeks she, Erik and Nadir would be returning to England for the holidays. She couldn't wait to see everyone again.
Erik reached over and picked up a piece of celery, biting into it. Christine scowled.
"I'm hungry." He said simply. Christine rolled her eyes.
"Honestly, Erik. You're worse than Trister." The dog's ears perked up his name was mentioned and then wandered off when he realised there was no food involved. Erik smirked and picked up some cucumber.
"I've had a hard day."
"It'll get harder if you keep stealing my salad!" Christine warned. Erik was about to reply but they both turned as the refrigerator door swung open, several this fell out and Trister looked up guiltily.
"Trister!" Christine cried, closing the door.
"Where on earth did he learn to do that?" Erik asked. "That's the third time this week."
"This is why I put child locks on my fridge at home!"
"I'll be sure to have some installed." Erik commented. Christine shooed Trister away from the refrigerator and he went to sit by Erik. Erik reached over, picked up a piece of meat from the surface and slyly fed it to the animal whilst Christine's back was turned. Trister swallowed quickly and went off, tail wagging.
"I think I've got something here, Erik." Nadir said from the table. Erik crossed to him and examined the sketch.
"Yes… yes, that may work." He said slowly, sitting down. Christine glanced over and smiled at the two men, who were working hard. Nadir, she had come to view as a brother or uncle. Their relationship had never been particularly serious, full of gentle teasing and honesty. If Nadir thought something and felt Christine should know, he told her, knowing it would be better if she knew. And watching him and Nadir together was always entertaining. Nadir was often trying to tempt Erik into slipping and making a joke and although he didn't manage often, it was worth watching. Christine knew that Erik appreciated the attitude. And anything that made Erik happy, made Christine happy.
She returned to preparing the salad, the smile staying on her face.
The last class before the holidays arrived and Christine went into the music room. Her two friends, Zack and Katrina were talking cheerfully.
"Hey Christine! What's up?" Katrina asked.
"Nothing much. Been packing. I swear, I've got twice as much stuff now than when I started." Christine said, sitting at a desk and pulling her notebook out.
"Looking forward to going home?" Zack asked and she nodded, smiling,
"I can't wait. I miss everyone so much. I brought pictures with me, to show you. Want to see?"
They both confirmed that they did and Christine pulled out a photo album, filled with images. Zack and Katrina looked through, asking questions and Christine told them all about her friends. Then Zack whistled and Christine blushed as they found the picture of her in her Music of the Night costume.
"Forgot that one was in there." She mumbled. Katrina grinned.
"What was all that about?"
"It was just a costume for a musical." Christine said pushing the photo album into her bag as Professor Reed came in. Zack grinned and snatched the album back.
"Well, why don't we share with the class?"
"Professor Reed, Christine was in a musical! Here, she has pictures!" Zack said. Professor Reed peered over her glasses.
"Well, how lovely! Let's have a look at them." She flicked through the pictures. Christine glared at Zack.
"God, Zack, I could swear that you're just Max in disguise!"
"May I enquire as to which play it was?" Professor Reed asked, looking rather surprised at the scanty costume.
"It was The Phantom of the Opera."
"Oh! I love that musical." Katrina said happily. Christine smiled.
"I was Christine Daae. That was actually how I met Erik. He was the producer."
"Sleeping with the producer, eh? Nice one." Zack winked. Christine simply glared at him.
Meg and Max stood in the airport. Meg shifted her weight from one foot to the other, growing increasingly impatient.
"For god's sake, what is taking them so long?" She said irritably. Max rolled his eyes.
"Give them a chance, Meg. They've got to pick up their luggage, collect Trister, go through customs and a load of other stuff."
"Well, they could do it a bit quicker." Meg muttered.
A moment later she had begun to squeal, causing Max to flinch away from her.
"There they are! There they are!" She screeched, running towards the gates, where three figures had appeared. Max chased after her and when he caught up, she was hugging Christine, who had dropped her bag.
"I can't believe you're here!" Meg squealed. Christine laughed and turned to Max, hugging him tightly.
"How are you Max?"
"I'm good, Christine. How was the flight?"
"Urgh, I hate planes. It was so hot and right now I would kill for a shower." She said, wrinkling her nose. Nadir smiled.
"Well, Christine, you go and get Trister. We'll take the luggage out to the car."
"OK, I'll meet you at the door." Christine smiled, and disappeared into the crowd.
Max and Meg had driven over but Erik's car had arrived for him, so Christine, Erik and Nadir climbed in and told them to follow the car back to Erik's house.
Once back at Erik's mansion, sat in the living room with hot drinks, Christine began to chatter about her course in America, all the things she had seen, about the Opera House, about Erik's work. Meg listened enviously.
"It's so unfair! I want to go!"
"You could fly out and visit us." Nadir suggested. Christine smiled.
"That'd be great!"
"Well, I'm expecting some fabulous Christmas presents." Meg informed her. Max rolled his eyes.
"What does that mean?" Meg demanded. Christine laughed.
"Aw, I missed you guys so much."
"We missed you too." Max assured her.
Christine looked up at Erik, who was sat beside her and smiled.
"Well, we're here until January 3rd and then we've got to fly back." Erik said, his hand slipping around hers. "And you're all invited to Christmas Dinner. Christine's family are travelling down to join us."
"That'd be great! My parents are visiting family in Ireland, but I wanted to see Christine so I stayed." Max said. Meg nodded and smiled.
"I'll check with Mum and Dad. And I'll ask Tom. He wanted to come today, but he was working."
"I'm sure we'll find time to catch up." Christine laughed and inadvertently yawned. "Sorry. I couldn't sleep on the plane."
"No, you'd rather ask me about how long before we landed over and over." Erik said. Christine pushed him.
"I asked you about twice!"
"Every ten minutes."
"Yes, Christine?" He said with a calm smile. Christine rolled her eyes.
"You're impossible, Erik Destler!"
"I do my best." He smirked.
Nadir got to his feet.
"I'm going to check in with the servants, make sure everyone's alright."
"And I have a couple of phone calls to make. I'll leave you catch up." Erik said. He pressed his lips to Christine's temple before leaving the room. Christine smiled and then blushed at the grins on her friend's faces.
"We can't help it. You're so adorable." Meg teased. Max grinned and nodded.
"She's right. You're sickeningly cute together."
"Yeah, I know." Christine said, stretching. "God, it's so good to be home. I mean, New York is fantastic and everything but… I feel so much happier here."
Meg grinned and moved over to occupy Erik's vacant seat, draping an arm around Christine's shoulders.
"Good to have you back. And tomorrow we're making up lost time. You, me, Max and Tom are going out somewhere. Unless you want to invite Erik as well?"
"If you're picking the location, definitely not." Christine said.
"Shopping and movie?"
The next morning, Christine woke to find Erik still sleeping. She smiled and closed her eyes. She really needed to get up, she was meeting her friends. But she couldn't resist lying for a little longer, his arms wrapped around her. It didn't seem to matter where in the bed they fell asleep, she always woke in Erik's arms. It was a good way to start the day.
He stirred slightly and one eye cracked open. Christine smiled.
"Hmm…" He sighed, nuzzling his face into her neck. She laughed lightly.
"Not yet." He said, pulling her closer. Christine smiled and rested her head against this shoulder.
"You make a really good pillow." She commented. Erik opened one eye again.
"Glad I can be of some use."
She laughed again and stretched, sitting up.
"I have to get up. I'm meeting the guys in a couple of hours."
"Very well." Erik sighed, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. Christine pulled on her dressing gown and went to the wardrobe, pulling out some jeans and a shirt whilst Erik used the bathroom. It felt odd, not having to cook her own breakfast as well as Nadir and Erik's. They took it in turns. Funny, how easily you could fall into a routine.
Max, Tom and Meg were already waiting n the café, when Christine arrived. She sat down and hugged Tom.
"Hello stranger." She smiled.
"Hey Christine. Long time, no see!"
"Tell me about it." She said, taking a bite out of Max's doughnut. He scowled, but winked. She laughed.
"I'm telling you, you just can't get doughnuts like this in America."
"I need the home-grown stuff." Christine admitted.
"So, going to make us all insanely jealous with your stories about how fabulous America is?" Tom asked. Christine laughed.
"No. Honestly, I got so homesick. I mean, it is amazing, but I'm an English girl all the way. Zack and Katrina kept teasing me about it. They're the two people I made friends with, from my music class." She explained. "Zack was Max, but with an American accent. I think they were separated at birth."
"What makes you think that?" Max asked.
"He kept embarrassing me and invading my personal space."
"Hmm, sounds about right." Max agreed.
Meg checked her watch.
"We'd better get going if we want to catch that movie." They collected their things and began to walk to the cinema, all talking happily. Meg linked her arm through Christine's, chattering about this, that and the other.
It was almost as if she'd never left, Christine thought. It was a comforting notion.
Erik sat in his study, reading through some notes the Opera House had just faxed him. He sighed and began to write a reply, more ideas jumping into his mind. He noted them down, considered them, crossed one out and then turned back to a costume design, sketching idly.
The clock chimed five. Erik ignored it and continued to work. And then he smiled to himself. Although no sound had reached his ears, he could almost sense Christine tiptoeing along the carpet behind him. She had never yet managed to surprise him.
"Nice try, Christine." He said, without looking up from his work.
"Oh, Erik! How do you manage that every time?" She said, almost sulkily. He glanced over his shoulder at her.
"One of my many talents, my dear." He said. Christine laughed and slipped her arms around his neck, hugging him.
"Did you have fun?" He asked.
"Yeah, it was good. I didn't realise exactly how much I missed them." She said softly. Erik smiled slightly at her.
"You've only to ask and we could have them visit us. It's not as if I can't afford the plane tickets and we've enough room for them to stay for a couple of days."
"Do you mean it?" She asked and he nodded.
"I wouldn't say it if I didn't."
He pushed his work into a folder and stood. Christine crossed to the fireplace, where Trister lay comfortably. She patted his head.
"You're getting spoiled. I think he's put weight on."
"You walk him three times a day, Christine. He's fine." Erik said. Christine frowned slightly and then shrugged.
"Probably. Where's Nadir?"
"Asleep. He doesn't travel well. Your aunt called as well, by the way, to confirm arrangements for Christmas."
"Are you sure you don't mind them staying here?" Christine asked. Erik smiled briefly.
"Of course not. And even if I did, they could still come because that's what you want."
"OK, now I feel spoiled." Christine smiled. Erik raised an eyebrow.
"I do my best."
They left the study, Trister following them. Christine slipped her hand into Erik's, leaning her head on his shoulder as they went to the living room. There were ten days before Christmas and the servants hadn't wasted any time in decorating the house to look tastefully festive. Christine reached for the phone and called Trisha as Erik opened his book.
"Hello?" Trisha said.
"It's only me, Trisha. Erik said you called." Christine said, settling on the sofa beside Erik, who put his arm around her without even seeming to realise he was doing it.
"Ooh yes. We're hoping the weather doesn't turn bad and we'll be arriving at about midday on the twenty-third. Erik gave me the address. It's very generous of him to let us stay with you."
"You wouldn't believe how much room we've got, Trisha, it's really not a problem!" Christine laughed.
Trisha laughed too.
"Well, the girls can't wait to see you again. And I bet when this little guy is born he'll be just as excited to see his cousin Christine!"
"Aw, how long is it now? Two, three months?"
"Two and a half. The girls are over the moon. Oh, someone's at the door. I'll see you soon."
"Bye Trisha." She hung up the phone and glanced at Erik's book. "What are you reading?"
He lifted the cover and she smiled.
"A little light reading?" She teased, glancing at the cover of The Phantom of the Opera.
"It brings me fond memories." He said, with a sly smile. And then he got to his feet. "I was going to wait and give it to you at Christmas. But I think you should have it now."
"An early Christmas present? Really?" Christine said, watching as he went to a desk in the corner. He opened a drawer and pulled out a wrapped gift. He handed it to her with a smile. She narrowed her eyes.
"Open it." He implored. She looked down at the gift and then carefully unwrapped it. A videotape fell out. It was unlabelled.
"What is it?"
"Watch it." He gestured at the television set in the corner. She got up and slid the tape into the machine as he sat down. She settled back on the sofa and pressed play. For a moment the screen was blank and then a shaky view came into shot before settling on a stage. Christine's jaw dropped.
"Erik, is this…?"
He smiled and Christine laughed as Dr Carter appeared and announced the opening of The Phantom of the Opera.
"I didn't know it was recorded!"
"This is one of two copies. One belongs to the university, for their records. Nadir took the liberty of making a second for my own collection." He explained. Christine laughed and settled back to watch in fascination as the play began. She put her hands over her face when she began to sing Think of Me.
"Oh, turn it off! It's embarrassing!"
"No, it's charming." Erik smirked. Christine poked him in the ribs and looked at the screen again. Nadir sat down on a chair.
"Ah, you finally gave it to her. So much for waiting for Christmas."
"There are other presents she can have then." Erik said casually. Nadir looked back at the screen and smiled.
"It really was rather good."
"And you're not at all biased in any way." Christine teased.
"Absolutely not." Nadir said, pretending to be offended by the suggestion. She smiled and they all carried on watching the end of the show.
It didn't seem that this had only happened five months ago. It seemed like a lifetime. Of course, so much had happened in that time. Christine smiled fondly as she remembered those daily rehearsals, the dramas that had taken place backstage, the time spent with Tom and Max, singing, dancing, laughing, crying…
She unconsciously squeezed Erik's hand. He looked down at her.
"Is everything alright?"
"Yeah… I'm just… yeah, I'm fine." She said quietly, leaning her head on his shoulder as she watched the Il Muto scene.
Erik watched in amusement, sat on the stairs as Christine impatiently paced the entrance hall. She checked her watch for the thousandth time.
"What is taking so long? They should be here by now." She muttered.
"Christine, they're five minutes late."
"And anything could have happened to them!" Christine said, turning to him.
"Such as a traffic hold-up?"
"Or a car crash."
"Or they stopped to ask directions."
"Or they've been kidnapped!"
He stared at her. She shrugged.
"OK, maybe not kidnapped. But something bad could still have happened!" She said anxiously.
"Or perhaps they're just running a little late. If they're not here in an hour, then you can begin to worry. Until then, calm down." Erik said. Christine looked at him for a moment and then smiled.
"OK. I'm calm." She settled onto the stairs beside him and sighed. "I'm so nervous…"
"Because you're meeting my family!"
"I've already met them."
"I know, but then you were meeting them as my producer. Now you're meeting them as my boyfriend." Christine pointed out.
Erik lifted an eyebrow.
"I'm not sure that I like the term 'boyfriend'."
"But you are my boyfriend."
"It seems rather teenage. Couldn't we settle for partner?"
"Whatever you want." She laughed. There was the sound of a car coming up the drive and she dashed to the door, pulling it open.
"Erik, they're here!" She cried, running outside. Erik smiled and went to the open door. Christine had run out to the car that had parked at the bottom of the steps and was hugging the people who had just emerged from it. Two young girls wrapped up in rumpled clothes, their father stretching after the long drive and a pregnant woman who was embracing Christine.
Christine turned and waved for him to join them. He slowly descended the steps and Trisha smiled at him, kissing his unmasked cheek, to his pleasant surprise.
"Erik, how are you?"
"I'm am very well, thank you. Come inside, all of you. It's far too cold to stand out here." He said, gesturing graciously towards the doors. Jack nodded.
"I'll just get the luggage."
"Please don't trouble yourself." Erik said. Even as he spoke, three servants emerged and began to unload the car. Jack handed his car keys to a fourth in surprise.
"Have the car taken to the garage." Erik said to the servant who nodded.
"Yes, Mr Destler."
They all went up the steps to the front door, Christine chattering happily to her cousins. They handed their coats to yet another servant and Erik led them into the sitting room, where coffee and hot chocolate was waiting for them. Melanie and Kelly sat, looking awed. Jack and Trisha looked rather impressed as well.
"You have a beautiful home, Erik." Trisha commented. Erik smiled serenely.
"I honestly can't take much credit for the decorations. I find things like that rather dull. Nadir decided on all the rooms. Christine, would you care to fetch Nadir? I'm sure he'd be delighted to see your family."
Christine rose and went to the media room. Nadir was watching a programme on the television.
"I assume they're here?" He smiled. Christine nodded and grinned.
"Of course." He got up and followed her back to the living room. Christine sat beside Kelly, who tugged her sleeve and whispered,
"Is he the Phantom of the Opera?"
Trisha and Jack exchanged a worried glance but Erik smirked. Christine smiled and said in a loud whisper,
"Sort of. He's not the real phantom."
"Did he kidnap you?" Melanie asked. Christine couldn't help giving a snort of laughter but quickly composed herself.
"No… no, I chose Erik."
"But he didn't kill anyone?" Kelly asked. Christine smiled.
"No, he didn't."
"Just checking." She said and smiled sweetly at Erik, who looked highly entertained. Christine laughed and began to pour hot chocolate for the girls.
"Looking forward to Christmas?" She asked them. Melanie nodded and said cheerfully,
"I asked for a puppy!"
"Really?" Christine said. Melanie grinned and Trisha rolled her eyes, smiling. She and Christine had already discussed this and Christine had made it hers and Erik's present to Mel. They were giving Kelly a bicycle, her parents having finally decided that she was old enough for one. Christine knew she'd love it.
"How many people are we actually having for Christmas Dinner?" Jack asked. Christine counted on her fingers.
"Us, that's seven, Meg, Max, Tom… that's ten. Or eleven if we're counting Trisha eating for two."
"Let's call it ten and a half." Trisha smiled. Nadir smiled and sipped his coffee before saying,
"There may well be snow on the way."
"A white Christmas?" Jack laughed. "That'll be the first in a while!"
"I like snow!" Melanie said excitedly.
"If the lake freezes over, we could go ice-skating." Christine agreed. Trisha blinked.
"You have a lake?"
"Most people have a garden pond – Erik has a lake." Nadir put in. Erik lifted an eyebrow.
"It was there when I bought the house." He said, almost defensively. Trisha laughed and Christine let out a giggle at the affronted look on Erik's face.
A servant entered.
"Lunch is ready in the dining room." He announced. Everyone got up and Christine smirked at Erik, letting the others move ahead.
"Don't be ridiculous."
"You are!" She teased. Erik gave her a stern look and she put her arm through his. "Oh, don't sulk."
"I am neither sulking, nor pouting."
"Whatever you say." She said solemnly, but couldn't help grinning. Much to Erik's irritation.
That evening, once the girls were in bed Erik, Nadir and Jack went into the media room, talking amiably, leaving Christine and Trisha in the sitting room. Christine drew her legs up under her, sitting comfortably on the sofa whilst Trisha settled into a chair, hands resting on her swollen stomach.
"How are you doing, Christine?" She asked. Christine smiled.
"I'm good. I'm great. Glad to be home though."
"Hmm. But I do like it in New York. Erik loves it at the Opera House."
Trisha smiled softly.
"It's serious then?"
"I wouldn't move across the Atlantic in a hurry for anyone else." Christine agreed. "I don't think it gets much more serious."
"Well, I suppose marriage is more serious."
"Trisha, we've only been together for six months. Let's not rush things." She laughed. Trisha smiled too.
"I'm glad you're happy. You deserve it."
Christine looked down at her lap, smiling. She was happy. She didn't know if she deserved it as much as Trisha seemed to think she did, but she was happy. And she wasn't about to complain.
"When are you going back?"
"January 3rd. Erik can't afford to be away any longer. He only came back because he knew how much I wanted to see everyone. He spends most of the day working on the opera anyway!" Christine laughed. Trisha laughed too.
"He takes it seriously?"
"More seriously than anything else. He's an absolute genius, Trisha. And I'm not just saying that because I'm obliged to. He really is incredible."
"And you're evidently his number one fan." Trisha teased. Christine looked proud.
"You bet I am!"
The next day was Christmas Eve, and Christine found herself just as excited as Melanie and Kelly about the occasion. The few years, she had joined Trisha and Jack at their house. Now it was her turn to play the hostess and she took the role in stride. Erik found it rather entertaining but was proud at the same time.
He sat in the living room with her and her family, Nadir by the window and watched as Christine sat no the floor with Trister and Kelly, as they fed the dog treats in return for tricks. She laughed as he pawed at her, looking for a chocolate drop. Erik couldn't help giving a slight smile at her joy.
"Any sign of snow?" Jack asked Nadir. He shook his head.
"Not yet. Perhaps this afternoon. Christine, you should probably take Trister for a walk now before it starts."
"Will do. Who's coming? We can just take him around the grounds."
"I think I'll take a nap." Trisha said. Jack said,
"I'll stay here as well. Why don't you take the girls?"
"OK. Come on, Erik."
"What?" Erik said, looking up sharply. Christine smiled.
"You're not getting out of it. Come on."
He stared at her and then sighed.
"Very well." She smiled and pulled him up.
"Yes, I think I will." Nadir said. They went into the entrance hall and put on their coats, Christine helping Kelly with hers. Erik whistled to Trister who bounded after them. Nadir opened a door and they went out into the chilly grounds. A light frost covered the ground and the grass crunched beneath their feet. Kelly and Melanie ran ahead with Trister, laughing and screaming. Nadir, rather artfully, moved to join them, leaving Christine and Erik alone.
Erik reached out and took Christine's hand. She smiled and moved closer to him as they walked, their breath coming out in white clouds.
"Christmas Eve already." She commented. He smiled slightly.
"So it would appear."
"You realise I'm going to have get everyone up insanely early in order to open presents?"
"I'm thinking six, but the girls will probably have you up long before then." She grinned.
"It's good that I'm an early riser then." He said dryly. Christine laughed and leant her head against his shoulder as they followed the others.
They walked the edge of the grounds, which took some time in itself. When they returned to the house, a car was crawling up the drive. Christine broke away from Erik, running forward to greet Tom, Max and Meg as they climbed out.
"Hey guys!" She said, hugging each of them. "These are my cousins, Melanie and Kelly. They saw the show! Mel, Kelly, this is Max, Meg and Tom. Max and Tom were the Phantom and Raoul."
Melanie and Kelly instantly glared at Tom, who stepped back in surprise.
"What did I do?" He asked. Christine laughed.
"They think Christine should have stayed with the Phantom."
"Too right!" Max grinned. Christine elbowed him and looked at her cousins.
"Don't worry – Tom's a great guy. You don't need to hate him."
They still looked at him suspiciously and Max laughed.
"See, Tom? Everyone likes me best."
"Better shrink that head of yours, Max; you'll never fit through the front doors." Christine told him. Max simply grinned and shrugged. Nadir looked around at them.
"Warm drinks are needed, I think."
They all went inside and settled in the living room with drinks, Melanie sitting next to Max and paying rapt attention to everything he said. Christine and Meg exchanged an amused glance. Nadir was telling them an amusing story when the telephone rang. Christine answered and held it to Erik.
"The Opera House." He frowned and took the receiver.
Nadir continued his story but they all fell silent as Erik began to argue with the person on the other end of the phone.
"No, I sent the details through yesterday. Everything you needed was in there!" He said angrily. His fingers dug into his hair in fury. Then his jaw dropped. "Pregnant? What do you mean pregnant?"
He listened in horror as the person from the Opera House explained the situation.
"What about the understudy? …Oh for God's sake, why are we even paying you? No, I will sort it out when I return." He hung up without saying goodbye, slamming the phone furiously onto the receiver. Nadir frowned.
"Michelle has gotten herself pregnant. Pregnant. We have got TWO months until the Opera opens and our star is pregnant! And her understudy is in hospital with tonsillitis, she'll never recover in time!" Erik said angrily.
Nadir groaned and buried his face in his hands.
"There isn't time to audition a new person and teach her the score." He said. Erik paced the room, thinking furiously.
"One of the chorus, perhaps?" Nadir suggested.
"None of them have the skill for solo singing."
"One of the other understudies?" Tom said.
"They don't have the correct range. The other parts are too different." Erik pointed out. Christine got up and slipped her arms around him.
"Erik, calm down. It'll be fine, you'll work something out."
He closed his eyes. How did she do that? Always made him feel safe and calm. It would be rather irritating, since he was so panicked about the damned opera.
"Which part did Michelle have?" Christine asked. She knew the opera almost as well as Erik and Nadir, having listened to them discussing it, seen designs and heard Erik playing it on the piano and violin.
"Karine." Erik replied glumly. "The leading female part."
Christine glanced at her cousins.
"Why don't you take Trister to the kitchen and give him some dinner?" They left obediently and Erik sat down. Meg asked,
"Couldn't one of the other leads sing it, and have their understudy do their part?"
"Impossible. There is only one other female with an understudy, and she doesn't have the right range." Nadir said.
"I can't believe this." Erik said, getting up to pace again. Christine sighed, knowing what this would mean. The whole opera could go under. She chewed her nail, trying to think of a solution.
And then everyone stared at Nadir as he began to laugh. Erik blinked and then glared.
"I'm glad you find the whole situation so terribly amusing!"
"Grant me an indulgence." Nadir requested. Erik looked at him and then sighed.
"Fine. What have you got to say?"
"Christine Danes could sing it, sir." Nadir said triumphantly.
Christine's head snapped up so quickly her neck cracked. She winced, rubbing the back of her neck and she and Erik both stared at the dark-skinned man, who was grinning at his own ingenious solution.
"I hate to break it to you, Nadir, but repeating lines from The Phantom of the Opera isn't going to improve Erik's mood." She pointed out. Nadir shrugged.
"Why couldn't you do it? You've got the range, the skill and you know the opera almost off by heart."
"What about her course?" Erik said.
"She could take an evening course, or simply finish it afterwards." Nadir said.
"Nadir, you're insane." Christine said simply. "You've actually lost it. Erik, tell him he's lost it."
She turned to the masked man, only to find him staring at her. Christine stared back and then got to her feet, moving away from him.
"Insanity is contagious now? Erik, I can't."
"You could. It wouldn't be the perfect solution, since you haven't got any experience in a professional theatre, but it'll be better than finding someone new and having to teach her the entire score."
"But… but I don't know how!"
"It'll be very much the same as The Phantom of the Opera. But a little more professional." Nadir said.
"Go for it, Christine! Who knows when you'll get another chance like this?" Max pointed out.
Christine felt dizzy. She leant against the wall, hands in her hair.
"Christine." Erik said quietly. She looked at him and he said sincerely, "Christine, give me a chance. Let me teach you the rest of the music, show you the choreography. If it isn't working out, I'll try and find someone else. But please try."
She gazed at him and then gave a weak smile.
"So we're in for a working holiday then?"
"Looks like it." Erik said. Christine sighed, resolved herself and nodded.
"We've got a just over a week. Show me what you've got." She said resolutely.
Christmas Day arrived and Erik was woken by Christine poking him in the ribs.
"What?" He mumbled, refusing to open his eyes.
"C'mon! It's Christmas!"
"Christine, what time is it?"
"Seven 'o' clock. I think Trisha knocked the girls out with nytol last night, because they've only just woken up."
She had already put on a dressing gown. Erik rolled over, sleepy. Christine laughed and pulled his arm, forcing him to roll onto his back.
"Come on! Everyone's waiting! Here, put this on." She gave him a dressing gown. He put it on over his trousers and then looked at her tiredly.
"Let's get it over with then."
"That's the happy holiday spirit." She said cheerfully, pulling him towards the door.
Everyone else was sat in the living room, beside the enormous tree. Presents were put out under it, enticing in their colourful paper. Erik had asked the cook to come in and put the food out so they could prepare it themselves, so the cook would be able to spend Christmas at home, so Christine and Trisha had agreed to share the cooking. But breakfast would have to wait. Because there was a far more important task at hand.
Everyone sat around in various chairs, or on the floor. Erik sat in his usual armchair and Christine knelt on the floor beside it, leaning against his legs as Melanie and Kelly explored the presents, searching for their own. Trisha glanced at Christine and nodded. Christine smiled.
"Mel? Why don't you go to the cloakroom? I think I left one of your presents in there."
"That's a silly place to leave a present." Kelly commented as Melanie went out. They all went quiet and laughed as they heard the delighted shrieks of Melanie as she found the small puppy waiting for her. She rushed back into the living room, clutching the wriggling animal. Trister instantly leapt up to greet the dog and they began to chase each other around the living room whilst everyone opened presents.
An hour later, among a sea of wrapping paper, everyone sat examining their gifts. Christine was admiring a gorgeous necklace from Erik when Nadir suggested they eat breakfast. They all adjourned to the dining room, where the cook had had the foresight to set food out for them before disappearing home.
Over the cheerful chatter, Erik said quietly to Christine,
"Thank you for the gift." She smiled.
"You're welcome. I'm glad you like it." She told him. He lifted an eyebrow, admiring the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera, signed by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber. He had no idea where she'd found it but he was certainly grateful.
It was one of those cheerful Christmases, full of friends, family and laughter. Meg, Max and Tom arrived shortly after breakfast and more presents were exchanged. They spent the day talking, walking the grounds in hope of the non-arriving snow, playing with the new puppy (now named Benji) and Trister as well as using their new gifts and eating copious amounts of food.
It was nearly midnight when they decided it was time for bed, Max, Meg and Tom had already gone. Mel and Kelly were already fast asleep upstairs, Benji curled up on the foot of Mel's bed. Trisha was dozing on the sofa and Jack helped her upstairs. Nadir smiled at Christine and Erik.
"I'll lock up. You go ahead."
"Thanks Nadir. Merry Christmas." Christine said and kissed his cheek before going upstairs with Erik. She undressed, pulled on a nightshirt and collapsed onto the bed.
"I'm so tired."
"I would say it's your own fault for getting up so early, but I wouldn't because I'm too kind." Erik commented, climbing into the bed beside her. She pulled a face at him, yawned and nuzzled her face into his shoulder.
"Merry Christmas, Erik."
"Merry Christmas." He murmured in reply. Within a few minutes she was sleeping. Erik looked down at her serene face and brushing a dark lock out of her face before allowing himself to fall asleep.
It was January 22nd. Christine frowned as she sat on the sofa in the penthouse, reading over a score. She had already informed Professor Reed that she had to drop out. Far from being disappointed, Professor Reed had been delighted that Christine had a chance in the New York Opera House. Christine had also been delighted, if apprehensive. Thankfully, everyone at the opera house had been amazingly kind to her and were helping her out wherever possible. Christine suspected this might slightly have something to do with the fact that she was sleeping with the producer.
Nadir had gone out for the evening with some friends, leaving Erik and Christine alone. Erik was currently preparing dinner, whilst Christine went over the scenes they had rehearsed that day. She made a few notes and then stretched her arms up above her head, yawning.
"Dinner in twenty minutes." Erik said, standing behind the sofa and looking down at her. She smiled up at him.
"Yum. I'm starving."
"Finished going over it?"
"Pretty much. I think I've got this scene down." She said, closing the score.
"Do you want to go through the song again?"
She stood and followed him to the piano. He sat down and began to play the introduction. Christine waited for the cue before launching into song. Erik allowed himself a smile, listening in pleasure to her voice. He paused and said,
"Watch your breathing there." She nodded and scribbled it down in her score, rereading the line.
Erik watched carefully as she read the music. He found himself marvelling again at her. Her smooth skin, her gorgeous dark hair and those eyes, the eyes that made him want to pull her to him in case she disappeared. Her lips moved silently as she read the lyrics and a slight frown crossed her brow as she concentrated hard.
He had to say something. Now, before he lost his nerve. Erik swallowed hard and said, in a tone one would use when asking if you took milk in your tea,
"Will you marry me?"
Christine froze and then looked at him. Her face was completely straight, without even the slightest hint of shock. Erik looked back, being sure to keep his own face emotionless.
"Yes." She said simply. Erik gazed at her for a moment and then a slight smile crossed his face. Christine returned it. Erik cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Would you mind if I was embarrassingly honest?"
"Please do be."
"I didn't plan to do that. So… at this current point in time, I don't actually have a ring for you."
Christine burst out laughing, leaning against the piano. Erik could feel the heat rising in his face. She smiled widely.
"Erik… oh, you're so amazing, do you know that?"
"For proposing on the spur of the moment without a ring?" He said doubtfully. Christine laughed again.
"No. For being so hopelessly romantic without even meaning to."
She moved around and slipped her arms around his neck. He kissed her, cupping her face with his hands before smiling at her.
"You said yes." He said, as if just realising the fact. Christine smiled.
"After rehearsal tomorrow, we can go to a jeweller's and you can choose one." He promised. She kissed him and nodded.
They looked up as the front door opened and Nadir came in.
"Sorry for being back so early. Had a change of plans, hope you don't mind." He said, dropping his briefcase by the door and pulling off his jacket. He sniffed and smiled. "That smells good. Who's cooking?"
"Erik. Pork chops with new potatoes and salad." Christine said. Nadir grinned.
"Sounds marvellous. So… what are you two up to? Or would I rather not know?"
"We're just practising some music." Erik said casually.
"And then we decided to get engaged."
"And now we're making plans to go and get a ring tomorrow."
"And now I think I'll make a pot of tea. Who wants some?" Christine said airily, heading towards the kitchen.
Nadir simply blinked.
"Oh… I'll have some, thank you Christine." He said casually and went to turn on the television to watch the evening news. Erik joined him and Nadir gave him a sideways look.
"Did you do it on an impulse?"
"Yes. How can you tell?"
"You look rather bewildered. The last time you looked that confused, Christine had shown up at the Opera House."
"How do you know? You weren't even there."
"They have security cameras, you know." Nadir said lightly, "And anyway, I would have known if you'd planned it."
"You pay me to pay ridiculously close attention to things."
"When I hired you, I meant for you to pay attention to business. Not to me." Erik grumbled.
"Some things you just can't stop doing." Nadir said cheerfully. "Is dinner ready yet?"
Christine woke in the middle of the night to find Erik was still awake. She smiled gently.
"Yes. I just like to watch you sleep."
"Carry on then." She giggled and closed her eyes, resting her head on his chest. He ran his hand through her dark hair and then pressed his lips to her head.
"I love you." He murmured.
"Love you too." She said sleepily. Erik smiled, holding her a little tighter.
In the end, there was quite a lot that you could say about Christine Danes. She was still, in general, an ordinary girl. Almost as ordinary as they came.
Twenty-two, billionaire boyfriend, worked in an opera house, lived in New York for several months with her boyfriend and his best friend, engaged, three best friends, a dog.
Well… maybe she was a little less ordinary than when her story began. But the point is that she found out that she could be happy. It didn't take that much really.
Just a main part in a university musical, some interfering friends, having her partner fly halfway around the world, running after him, earning a part in an opera, having her partner run over her dog, almost getting killed by a piece of falling equipment, some rather suggestive photographs in a newspaper and an impromptu proposal.
And all she had to do was see the world from Angel's Eyes.
A/N: Well… it's over. I really don't know what to say – so I'm going to start with thank you. That's to the reviewers. You guys rock my world. I really want to name every single of you, but I'd be here all day!
What really amazes me is that this story is less than half as long as 'Cold, Cold Heart' and has almost as many reviews! And I'm also going to apologise for making you wait for this last chapter. I had a seriously bad couple of days and I just couldn't bring myself to write anything. Hope this makes up for it!
Several people have asked about my next project. Well, usually by the time I've finished a story I've already got an idea for a new one. But that didn't happen this time. So I'm going to be beta-ing a couple of stories for people as well as co-writing a fic with Moonjava. Keep an eye out for it; it's going to be a real challenge for me!
And so again, thank you. You people are amazing. The fact that you stuck around, read my story and then actually bothered to tell me what you think is just amazing. Nothing nicer than getting home, checking my emails and finding thirty-odd emails waiting for me. I love you all so much!
Thank you yet again and now I leave you with lots of love and huggles