Here's my final chapter! I've gotten some really wonderful reviews on this, and I'd like to thank everyone for reading it. A lot of you may not like this ending, and I do respect that. There was certainly no way to please everyone with all the different opinions, though, so I just have to go with my own feelings. Hope everyone enjoyed the story anyhow!
In some ways, it's better to think of chapter 6 as its own separate piece because we're done with the one day in the light. Hence...I gave it a title...and it's also a bit longer...
Read and Review!
One week later...
Christine stared at her reflection in the dressing table mirror for several minutes, her brown curls freshly washed and combed, and her cheeks still flushed with the excitement of the evening. She was adorned in a white lace costume gown that matched her porcelain skin with dangling golden earrings that sparkled in the dim lamplight. Every part of her tingled with excitement, and a euphoria raced through her veins. Her Angel of Music had not lied. Paris had watched her in all of her glory, standing up in uproarious applause at the end.
That evening, the opening night of Hannibal, she had replaced La Carlotta as leading soprano after a stage mishap at rehearsals had caused the prima donna to walk away in a fury. Though timid at first, Christine's confidence had slowly built up during her performance, and she had truly sung her heart out that night. Her voice had lifted up throughout the Opera Populaire and into the heavens. Though the applause and attention had been truly exhilarating, she had sung solely for her Angel. With all of her heart, she hoped that he was proud of her.
Just as promised, Erik had not spoken to her since that amazing night one week ago. During a moment of tearful desperation, she had even called out to him once, only to be greeted with painful silence. He had truly left her alone, perhaps giving her the gift of tonight before he had departed.
How she missed his beautiful voice, though! And, now that she was familiar with it, she even missed his mortal touch. The whole affair of that day had been so completely incomprehensible that she sometimes wondered if it was a wonderful dream. Though it seemed almost sinful to long for him so, she could not help but think over those last moments with great nostalgia. She felt almost as she did when her father had left her, and only time, she knew, would heal such pain.
"Little Lotte let her mind wander..."
She was interrupted from her thoughts as her dressing room door opened, and a young man's voice came from behind her. "Raoul!" she exclaimed with a small smile, suddenly remembering that he was the new patron of the Opera Populaire. He had been a close friend of hers from childhood, and they had shared many good memories together before the death of her father. Christine turned around to face him. He continued to sing the familiar nursery rhyme that her papa had often sung to put her to sleep at night.
Christine softly finished the tune with a faraway look in her eyes. "No- What I love best, Lotte said, is when I'm asleep in my bed, And the Angel of Music sings songs in my head...The Angel of Music sings songs in my head.'"
"You sang like an Angel tonight, Christine," Raoul said, coming up and embracing her shoulders.
A peaceful look settled over her face. "Oh, Raoul!" she exclaimed. "I truly have been visited by the Angel of Music. Father sent him to me!"
"Indeed you have," he replied with a smile and releasing her. "Shall we go to supper now?"
"Raoul, you do not understand..." her voice tapered off. She sighed. Perhaps it could not be explained to him. Perhaps it was best to not even try to explain such a miraculous thing. Christine shook her head and gently smiled up at him. "I am rather tired tonight, Raoul. It has been a long day."
"I promise that I will not keep you up late. I only wish to catch up with you, and surely you have to eat some time tonight."
She sighed and thought for a moment, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. Though a despairing feeling still lay inside of her, perhaps it would do no harm to go to dinner with her childhood friend. Her Angel no longer talked to her, and she had felt so terribly lonely lately. In many ways, Raoul was the only remaining tie to her past, and she longed for any kind of comfort that night. "Allow me to get dressed, Raoul."
His boyish face lit up. "Wonderful! I shall bring the horses around front in two minutes."
She nodded, and the Vicomte left her in the silence of the dressing room again.
Christine stood up and began to prepare for an evening out, changing out of her costume and into an elegant dress. With a sigh, she hung up the white lace gown and smoothed out her skirts, hoping that she was adorned well enough to be in the company of a Vicomte. She sauntered up to the enormous mirror upon the wall and saw that, though her face was still flushed with excitement, her eyes had dark rings of exhaustion around them. A deep melancholy feeling still lay inside of her, and she tried to convince herself that another's company would uplift her spirits. Nevertheless, two more tears fell as she turned away from her reflection. She hoped no one would notice the redness in her eyes.
As Christine was just about to leave the giant looking glass and blow out the several candles that lit the room, she felt a strange sensation overtake her, a feeling of being watched from both here on earth and from the heavens. A warmth seemed to encompass her heart at the exact same time that a chill ran through her bones. Then a soft voice touched her ear...a beautiful and familiar voice that brought fresh tears to her eyes.
The mirror, Christine. Go to the mirror, my child.
"Father," she softly murmured. She obeyed, walking nearer to the glass and laying a spotty trail of fingerprints across it as she touched it with her warm hand. As if guided by an invisible force, she found herself bending to the floor and reaching underneath the gold metal frame. Her tiny hands blindly found a small switch, and she flicked it back in one swift motion.
Recovering her inhibitions again, Christine was shocked to see the mirror unhinge itself from the wall, and she had to dodge away as the plate of glass swung out toward her face. A cool gust of air burst into the room, and she suddenly looked up to see a dark void of space behind the wall. Hands shaking and heart pounding, she stepped toward the square hole and looked inside. Turning her head to the right, she saw nothing but endless blackness. Turning to the left, she felt her breath suddenly catch in her throat. Just inches away from her stood a tall, looming figure, completely enshrouded in the shadows.
Christine first noticed the familiar formal wear that the man wore, and her heart skipped a beat of joy as she immediately looked up into his face. Her eyes widened with confusion, though, to see that his entire profile was covered with a white porcelain mask that ran down to the area just above his chin. For a second, she almost stepped backward out of surprise and fright. Then, however, she noticed the familiar yellow eyes, glowing down at her in shock from behind the mask. A feeling of recognition overtook her, a warm sensation that flooded her entire body, and she found herself murmuring a single word. "Erik."
The second it left her lips, he turned and within an instant had disappeared into the pitch black tunnels. Without a moment's thought or a glance back, Christine plunged into the darkness after him, ignoring the sound of her dress ripping as it caught on the side of the mirror. A cool dampness surrounded her, causing her dress to cling to her body and her hair to cling to her face. She looked in both directions but saw nothing. Blindly, she ran to the left, becoming disoriented as she stumbled over the bumps and cracks that marred the stone floor. She placed her hands out in front of her and frantically began to feel around, the deep shadows making any form of navigation impossible. Finally, she tripped over her skirts and fell hopelessly to the ground, landing roughly onto her knees with a sharp sob.
Had she imagined the figure of her Angel? Where on earth was she? Panic started to overtake her as she realized that she was lost within this dark and mysterious place. Her body was sore from the impact of slamming into the ground and a wave of exhaustion quickly overtook her. As she desperately reached out her hands to feel the ground in front of her, she suddenly sensed someone near by and looked up. In the little light that there was, she could just barely make out the figure, his white masking glinting down from above her. Relief hit her until she saw that his yellow eyes were fixed in a steely glare, burning at her like hot embers in the dark.
He had watched her triumph that evening...watched as all of Paris applauded for her as she glowed upon the stage, her clear and angelic voice ringing to the highest balconies and the lowest cellars of the opera house. Beautiful did not even begin to describe how she had looked up there with the lights of the stage cast upon her in her moment of glory. Every part of him ached to crawl like a snake through the mirror and touch her, to feel her rosy lips pressed against his own as he kissed her, to feel her soft curves beneath his hands as he held her. He knew that it was dangerous to even watch her with such painful yearnings, for it took every ounce of his self-control to hold back.
How he had seethed when that loathsome boy had uninvitedly entered her dressing room. His fists had clenched as he watched the young aristocrat place his arms around her shoulders and hold her in an embrace. Erik felt a dire need to choke the life out of the new patron, despising him for his perfect features and wretched youth. How dare he touch his Christine! How dare he share in his moment of triumph!
In his growing insanity at the realization that she was leaving with the boy, Erik started to call out to her. Her Angel would demand that she remained in her dressing room and keep away from the disgustingly wealthy suitor. Christine would be so ecstatic to hear his divine voice again that of course she would obey. She would do whatever her Angel of Music told her to do.
Just as he opened his mouth to send his powerful voice reverberating around the dressing room, though, he heard it again and deeply cringed. The other voice.
You said that you would allow her peace it whispered within the depths of his mind. You know that he is able to give her a good life.
Erik froze, and his shoulders slumped down as a deep despair shook his core.
What did he have to off her? A life of eternal darkness? His hideous face? The lips he would now kiss her with would be rough and twisted, and his touch cold from the dank depths of the cellar. As of now, she would remember him as she had last seen him: an Angel from the heavens whose hands were warm and soft and whose face was flawless. Erik could recall the look of love and happiness in her eyes when she had gazed upon him in those last minutes. Never would he receive such a look from her again.
She had examined her profile in the mirror for a moment, likely trying to look her best for dinner with her companion. His heart broke all over again as two tears dropped down her face, leaving damp streaks along her soft cheeks. Christine began to turn away, and he turned to head into the shadows, not able to take the agonizing torment any longer.
Then, all of a sudden, Christine paused and looked up again. A strange expression crossed her face, and her eyes were fixed upon her reflection as if she had never seen it before. She shivered.
Erik just watched, completely frozen into place, as she lifted a tiny hand to the glass and stroked her fingers over the cool surface. Then she had bent down, and a quiet click was heard before the glass plate opened to reveal him.
What had ever possessed her to turn back to that godforsaken mirror? How had she ever managed to find the damn switch! It was hidden in such a obscure place that decades had gone by without it ever being discovered. Pure and utter shock had filled him as he stood face to face with her, she in the light and he in the dark. He could not move. He could not think. Only when she uttered his name, was he finally broken from the trance.
He had tried to get away from her, had thought she would stay back at her dressing room and somehow push him from her mind as an illusion. Damn everything if she had not somehow recognized him even with the mask on. The silly child had raced after him through the dark and hazardous tunnels, nearly getting herself killed in the process. That was when he knew that he could not abandon her there and disappear into nothingness. She would continue the fruitless search until she either starved to death or fell into one of the various traps he had set up for his own protection. So desperate was she for her Angel of Music, that she was prepared to go to heaven to find him.
The only way to save her now was to completely shatter the elaborate illusion...even if it did give her nightmares in the end.
He stared down at her quivering form with a false coldness, beginning the painful process of striking fear and terror into her. Though every part of him desired to pick her tiny frame up and hold her lovingly against him, he would not allow himself such a sinful luxury. Why had she done this? Didn't she know how much misery she was causing him just by looking up at him so pitifully?
"Get up," he commanded, not making any move to offer her his ice cold hand. She did as she was told, folding her arms tightly against her chest for warmth. "Follow me."
Their footsteps echoed against the hard stone as he led her back to the entrance of the catacombs. Finding the unhinged mirror, he held it open with one hand but blocked her from entering it just yet. He had to make sure that she would never return. "Erik," he heard her softly say from behind him. "Where are we? What is going on?" She was so very innocent.
He turned his back to her. "Christine," he began through clenched teeth. "Do not ever return here. I have lied to you, child. I was not an Angel sent to abide in the body of a man, but rather a demon permitted to become mortal for one day."
"No..." he heard her start to protest.
"Yes!" he hissed. "A demon who wished to spend one day in heaven with you because he loves you, Christine! Is not that disgusting? You are loved by a monster!" He ripped the white mask from his face and turned around toward her. "Look at me!" he growled, bringing his face into the light that came from the dressing room.
"Look!" he roared, taking a step toward her. "Feast your eyes on the thing that loves you!"
Christine felt her heart constrict as he quickly rounded on her, revealing what was supposed to be his face. In complete shock, she let out a sharp gasp and fell to the ground at his feet, holding her arms above herself in defense. She didn't understand! It didn't make any sense! His pure voice and his golden eyes were exactly the same, but what had so distorted his face! How could it possibly be?
If only he would not keep shouting at her, perhaps she would be able to think. Why was he so angry with her? What had she done? Tears fell from her eyes as he continued to rage at her, his anger even more deforming his marred and twisted features. She placed her head inside of her hands to quiet the storm outside and the one inside her mind. After several more outbursts, Erik was silent, though she still sensed him standing above her.
"Get up, Christine," she heard him softly whisper. "Leave here and forget me. Never return." Keeping her gaze fixed upon the ground, she shakily stood up and obediently put one foot back into the dressing room. With a deep breath, she finally looked back up into his face. Terrible pain and longing shone in his hollowed eyes as he looked upon her while replacing the white mask onto his face. "Go," he repeated. Then Erik turned around and began a slow retreat back into the darkness.
She stood there with her right side in the dark and her left side in the light, looking back and forth between the candle lit dressing room and the walking shadow. Either way, she would be left with unanswered questions of what could have been. But...Erik? She now realized that he was not an Angel, but she knew he could not be a demon either. He had said he loved her, and demons did not love. Behind the facade of an Angel and his horribly mangled visage, he was just Erik, the fascinating man that she had spent an entire day with. Though she had missed her Angel, she knew that she had longed for the man as well.
But...so many lies and illusions had come from this man...
The dark figure became smaller until it almost was completely blended in with the blackness of the tunnels. Suddenly, she heard footsteps echoing in the corridor outside and knew that Raoul was returning, wondering where on earth she was. Her head spun with her decision. She would wonder about Raoul, she knew, but she would always pine for the mysterious and powerful presence of Erik. No matter which way she went, Erik would now haunt her.
She looked right.
She looked left.
With only seconds remaining to decide, Christine made her final choice.
Picking her left foot up, she placed it onto the dark side of the mirror and quickly closed the glass plate behind her. Heart racing and hands colds, she took off after the fading figure. Even after her footsteps had echoed all throughout the tunnels and signified her oncoming presence, Erik still did not turn around or slow his pace.
It was only when she reached out and firmly clutched his arm that he finally paused.
She watched him close his golden eyes and wondered if he would send her away again. If he did, Christine knew that she would only attempt to return. Breathing heavily and still in a state of surprise, Christine lightly leaned against him for support so that she would not fall to the hard ground. A shiver seemed to pass through his entire body at her touch.
Finally he opened his yellow eyes, and she could see utter disbelief in them for a moment. Reaching down with a shaking hand, he entwined his long fingers into hers with great caution, and she quickly gripped onto his hand.
He looked down at her for another moment, his eyes glistening with tears in the candlelight that illuminated the caverns. Finally, he moved forward with her hand in his.
Silently, he led her down the winding stone stairs, across the shimmering lake, and to the strange new world that lay just beyond the light of day.