I continued to cry out into the darkness that now clouded my vision. I could not see or hear a thing. Was this Hell? Was my miserable life now over? It should be…I had lost all that was dear to me…This is only right…I should die were I was born, in darkness.
The voice of an angel…a voice so beautiful…I reach out for it only to embrace nothing.
"Erik…" It's becoming louder. It's so familiar, but I cannot place it. My body is so heavy all of the sudden. I open my mouth to call to it, but my words fail me.
"Erik…" I feel someone behind me. They put a hand on my shoulder.
My eyes snap open and all I can see is darkness, then after a few minutes of adjusting I began to make out things. The desk, the lamps are all in their rightful places of our bedroom…our bedroom.
My head turns and my heart stops…there is Mia…alive. In the darkness I can see her brown eyes wide as they watch me. Her hair is messed from sleep and her hand rests on her swollen belly still full of life.
A dream…it was all a dream…I weep.
I can feel the warm salty water pouring out of my eyes in relief…and in fear. A dream or what may come.
"Erik." Mia is immediately concerned. "It was just a dream, darling. Just a dream."
"My God Mia. The child. It had no face! There was no face! I could see it, worse than my own! I could see every vein, into the very skull itself!"
"…Was it a son or a daughter?"
I choke on my breath in my throat and cannot stop myself from staring at her.
"Was the baby a boy or a girl?"
For a second all bewilderment leaves me and I want to laugh. "Is that all women truly care about, the child's gender? My darling, did you not hear me? I said the child did not have a face! What will you think when your darling daughter is born as grotesque as I? Or a son, forced to live the same fate as I? A child born with intelligence and talent only never to be able to attend a university because of the horror of his face?"
"You and I were both home taught, we turned out fine. Besides if are son does attend a university that will be his decision not ours."
I stared in amazement of just how lucid Mia spoke. She was serious.
"Darling," She sighed. "Do you see my point? I do not care what face this child has. I will love it regardless. Wont you?"
"Of course I will!" I answered. Raising my hand I cupped her right cheek. "My darling, how can I make you understand how I feel about this child?"
"I know how you feel Erik. You're worried. You've been worried since the day I told you I was with child. But Erik, I have been waiting for you to admit it to me. I just don't understand after all this time why you still bottle your fear from me? I am your wife do you not trust me? Are you afraid to show me your fears? I love you Erik. Please do not shut me out."
That moment in the darkness is when I truly began to see her glow. They say that all women experience this light of wisdom when they are soon to be mothers. This light of love and wisdom like some ancient goddess I think this is the moment I loved her the most. True once I was in love with Mia I was always in love with her. As I sit here now though, looking into her eyes of trust and love. Feeling the warmth of the life within her belly. No, this was not the same love I fell when our bodies are joined together or when I took her as my wife. This is the truest love I have ever felt in my existence. I know now, she had truly accepted me, all of me, and what I have helped bring into this world.
"I am sorry, Mia. I have been holding my doubts and fears aside. I do not know if it was to keep them from you intentionally or because I was so damn ashamed. I can sense the euphoria you have been feeling these past few months. Your heart full of motherhood. And I being a loathsome coward pitying myself for what rests in your womb. Forgive me for being such a fool."
"There is nothing to forgive…Just promise me, Erik. What ever goes through your mind will not stay there for long. Look at all we have faced. The outcome is much easier when things are faced together, right?"
I embrace her as tightly as I can, still mindful of her condition. "I promise, and I promise to love this new life regardless of all. Just as you have done for me."
Our child was born on a Sunday. The day started off in its normal routine. Taking a break from composing I went into the kitchen to find Mia. As much as I preferred composing at the organ, I had taken to playing on the piano in the drawing room the past few months. Mia's agility was becoming less and less, and I did not wish for her to walk down the cellar steps for any reason if she needed me.
Walking into the kitchen I was greeted with an amusing sight; Mia trying to retrieve a fallen knife on the kitchen floor. Instead of assisting I leaned against the doorframe. Mia had grown very agitated about her independence these past months and insisted that her ability to not see her own feet should have nothing to do with her inability to perform daily tasks.
She noticed me at once and seemed more determined than ever to pick up the knife. Turning her back to the counter she held onto the surface with one hand as she squatted awkwardly to pick up the utensil. I was somewhat reminded the large bullfrogs I use to catch when I was a child. Grabbing the knife triumphantly she began to rise up only to stop half way.
I went to her side immediately when she grabbed her stomach and scrunched her eyes. "Are you alright?"
She nodded slowly suggesting she might rest for the remainder of the morning. She did not abject as I helped her upstairs to our bedroom. Once she was asleep I went downstairs only to discover we had company.
Since we had moved to Rouen, Nadir had made a habit of coming to visit ever second Sunday. But as Mia's pregnancy moved its course my old friend had been dropping in every week. An unspoken trait of friendship I was grateful to have. We took in coffee and I had won at our second game of chess before I excused myself to check on Mia.
Entering our bedroom I immediately noted that she was no longer asleep but hunched upright holding her stomach. Her breath coming out in short gasps.
"Is it?" I couldn't finish my question.
Mia seemed to understand before I was done, and nodded her head. I sat with her helping her back into bed and propping the pillows up behind her. After telling her I loved her and asking her to hold on I ran downstairs moving faster than I ever had in my long life.
Racing into the drawing room I threw on my cloak and hat, briefly looking over my shoulder to see Nadir's puzzled face.
"Please watch over Mia, I must send for the midwife!"
"Please take my carriage then." He insisted.
"No, She has her own means of transportation and is not too far away, besides I ride faster on my own!"
Not even in my boy years riding through deserts and countrysides had I ever ridden this hard or fast. The small town closest to us was less than half a mile away. Not even bothering to tie my horse I jumped off her and rang the bell for the midwife. Once the woman stepped out I informed her of Mia's labor, and waited as patiently as I could for her actions.
She called for her brougham immediately and began her way to our home. I rode back on my horse passing by the carriage and riding right past it. She knew were our home was. And even though a man in a mask had just demanded her audience in a home outside of the town she had not wasted a moment's time, and barley even stared at me.
Perhaps I had been too frazzled to even notice. At this point I did not care. Throwing open the door, I took the steps upstairs two at a time. Rushing into our bedroom I was relieved to see Mia quietly resting, Nadir by her side watching her.
"Thank you old friend." I whispered, going to her side.
"That certainly was fast. Is the midwife coming?"
"Yes, I out rode her brougham, she should be here soon." I remained silent after that. My hand intertwined with my wife's. I tried my best to take in everything about her. The exact color of her skin, the length of her hair…I studied her as though this was the last time I would ever see her. Why do I torture myself with such thoughts? As I was beginning to ponder the answer the midwife came in and abruptly threw Nadir and I out into the hall.
I suppose I followed the pattern of most fathers to be. I paced back in forth through that hallway more times than I could possibly count, sitting down when my legs felt they would give out, and then paced some more.
I was currently in the in-between period of sitting. All I heard from the bedroom was mumbled words of the midwife's couching and Mia's occasional cries.
"I should be in there." I stated, the tenth time today.
The Daroga shook his head at me. "It's not right for a man to be in there at this time. Besides if you were to go in there now she would only be angry with you with all the pain she's in."
"Ah thank you Daroga! With all the events from today I had forgotten to feel guilty! Thank you so much for reminding me!"
"Is it your fault that she is pain? If you were just taking in your rights as a husband?"
"I neither care or wish to argue with you right now on our different views of a woman's value, you Persian dolt!"
Standing up I noticed one of Ayesha's kittens carefully sniffing around Nadir's foot. One of the four kittens, Bast, had taken a liking to the Daroga much to Nadir's displeasure. With her father's tabby markings and her mother's colors and eyes she was a beautiful cat. Maybe I would offer her to the Daroga.
If he tolerated the company of a feline in his own home, maybe the man would not despise them so much.
Time passed into hours, and although I kept looking at my pocket watch the time never quite registered in my mind. It was just an action to help time flow faster. Faster so I would know the outcome of the fate that awaited my child.
Another hour seemed to pass when I finally heard a new cry. Closing my eyes I quietly prayed to the God I was not sure I could fully trust. Rising up silently I approached the bedroom door. Opening it slowly I found the midwife on the other side of the door on her way out. Stepping aside to let her pass I immediately went to sit beside Mia.
She looked so tired and beautiful at the same time. She was breathing so much slower and easier now than before. Her hair was pulled back except for the small strands that stuck to her perspired face. Slowly opening her eyes she greeted me with a worn smile.
"I love you." I whispered kissing her temple.
"And what about your daughter?" She smiled.
I had not paid much attention to the covered bundle that lay in her arms. Partly out of fear, partly because I wanted to see that my wife was indeed well.
Watching carefully Mia gently pulled back the blanket giving me my first glance at my child, our child.
She was beautiful. The oval bone structure and defined cheekbones that showed she did indeed have a face. Her skin was slightly translucent, but I knew it would develop pigment in time. It was smooth soft skin, not a yellow wax like epidermis that barely stretched over her skull. She was normal. She was beautiful.
Opening her eyes I knew the true wonder of being a father. The two eyes, beneath her dark locks held green, a recessive trait, with a hue of gold around the outside of the iris. Looking into my daughters eyes and then looking back at Mia I finally knew why I had been born. All my years I had believed in chance and never fate, but now I understand her purpose. We are all born with our differences and our dilemmas, and even though we may not always understand why we are put here or why things happen it is part of a plan. I knew Mia was my reason for living. The hell I had endured my entire life was a test, a test to prove I was worthy of receiving such love.
All the pain I had lived through before did not matter anymore. I had moved beyond that now. I had my purpose, my life, and my love. I was no longer the Phantom of the Opera, I was a man.Fin
Thank you to everyone who has taken time to review and made my story keep going. I would like to thank my mother for always reading, and for believing with me. I would like to thank my friends Elly and Ashlen for supporting me and allowing me to vent my creativity on them, and I would also like to thank Erik. You have inspired me in so many ways. I dedicate this story to your spirit and pray that were ever you are now; you are at peace and have found the happiness you deserve so much.
Thank you to all of those who believed,