Something cold and dark stretched itself across the hallway as Christine waited for the lamps to be lit. It was harder now than she had anticipated, her gaze drawn to the flame which wavered as the glass shade was put back in place. Months had past since she had left; left behind the horror which had haunted her for so long…yet now, in the warmth and comfort of Raoul's home she felt lost…more lost than she had ever felt in the winding backstage passages at the Opera Populaire. She was weak; she knew this and cursed herself for being so. She had always needed someone stronger than herself to guide her, to take her father's place and now it was Raoul that led her from the darkness of her memories…and out into the light.
And he loved her, more than he did when they were both children, when neither of them knew what love truly was. She loved him too; the tenderness and understanding he showed her was unlike any she had ever known. He never once asked her about what had happened; accepting that it was something that he himself was not a part of. He didn't push her to set a date for their wedding, content with her company and their engagement alone. He seemed to have infinite patience she thought to herself, as she pulled back the bed clothes and dimmed the light.
But it was now, when all else was silent and the moonlight filtered through the drapes, that he would come to her. She would submit to the endless procession of images that plagued her mind. He was there with her once more, above her and around her, consuming yet eluding her; as his whispered words would quiet her mind but enrage her soul. Thoughts wandered back to a gesture or a glance; and she would question his motives and doubt her own mind. Without him beside her she was not quite herself. Her heart would unravel as she tossed in the night, fearing yet longing to hear him…just once.
It was still dark outside when Christine started awake, the pale grey shades of morning creeping across the floor. She had been sweating; her hair was strewn across her face, and for the briefest of moments she thought he was there in the room, towering over the bed and gathering her into his arms.
"Christine?" It was Raoul…only Raoul who cradled her as she panted. "You were calling out in your sleep."
As Christine went to speak, she found her throat was hoarse, and she realised that she had indeed been calling out…and it was this which had woken her. As she relaxed in Raoul's arms as he spoke and soothed her, the traces of her dream crawled back to her. She had been pulled away, against her will from a place that she knew she loved. Strong arms were pulling her back, yet her soul was willing her to stay. She had been crying in her dream, as she was forced into the boat…plucked from the night and thrust into day. And she knew, although she could not remember, that she had been calling for him…her angel.
"I was dreaming…"Christine trailed off, seeing the look of anguish in Raoul's face. She raised one hand to his shoulder, and squeezed it reassuringly before continuing, "They are dreams…Nothing more."
What you heard was a dream and nothing more…
Raoul's own words echoed in her own, only hers were filled with doubt. He smiled, wearily but sympathetic. He guided her head to the pillow, and on standing to leave her he paused. Despite the darkness he could see the love in her eyes and this reassured him…she had, after all, chosen him…saved him. And now, in turn, he could save her from these memories that tortured her. Although some insatiable voice in the back of his mind, that he tried so hard to quiet but failed to do so, kept repeating her words over and over;
And I heard as I never heard before…
She had seemed so certain when she had spoken of her angel of music. So sure that he had inspired her; had opened her eyes to a world that only they together could understand, through music…his music. As he watched her now close her eyes, and wander once more to the realms of sleep, he could hardly remember a time when the Phantom hadn't been there, behind everything, conducting them all. Yet now she was free, they were both free. He had made her happy once and he would do so again. He would not loose Christine to a ghost.
The next day was hot; the sun sent waves of warmth across Christine's face as she walked, arm in arm with Raoul, through the streets of Paris. All thoughts of the night's restlessness were pushed aside as they laughed and talked of times that had past…and times to come.
Christine found it hard to imagine what she would have done without Raoul. He guided her and cared for her. He made sure that she didn't want for anything; in truth she couldn't be more spoilt. I don't deserve this, she would think to herself as shop assistants showed her fabrics of every shade; I don't deserve this at all.
He left her at midday to make arrangements for their trip to the country; where Christine was to be presented to Raoul's parents as his future wife. He kissed her just once on the forehead, before telling her,
"I shall leave the carriage with you. My man will see to it that you have everything you need."
But Christine was not used to being waited upon. It made her feel uncomfortable to give commands as Raoul did. She didn't like to think of what the servants might think of her, as they followed her around to do her bidding.
"Would you go back?" Christine requested, her awkwardness reflected in her tone. "I would like to walk for a while."
She felt more comfortable like this, head held high in the glorious sunshine. She tired of endless conversation…even with Raoul…and she cherished these moments she had to herself, to think and to wander alone. For here she was anonymous; she stood out from no one else. It was here that she could pretend, for perhaps just a moment, that her life had been no different to anyone else's.
But Christine was different. She could feel this more strongly now that she was happy…now that she was free. And this feeling grew as she wandered, not definite in her destination…needing a mentor and guide.
On looking up Christine realised for the first time where she was. The ominous silhouette of the Opera Populaire loomed in front of her, scorched against the azure sky. Without thinking, without looking back she climbed the steps, entering the lobby through a break in the board.
Last time she had been here the great staircase had been full of people, guilt to the ceiling. Now everything was shrivelled and black. As Christine picked her way over the rubble, old women still salvaged what finery they could from the debris. As if not aware of what she was doing; as if she herself was detached from her body she walked down the corridors and to the Chapel where, as a child, she had found such peace.
The freezes on the wall were charred, the stain glass had fragmented into a thousand shards of colour…but the candles were still there. Cautiously Christine knelt, her dress fanning about her legs as she found a match concealed behind the frame. With one gloved finger she rubbed the dirt away to reveal her father's name and, as the candle cast an eerie glow about the room, she bowed her head in silent prayer.
"Christine you must have been dreaming. Stories like this can't come true…" Christine quietly sang to herself, her voice croaking; a sign that she hadn't practiced enough.
"You have a good voice Mademoiselle…" came a voice from the darkness. "But you would excel with the right teacher."
"I do not sing anymore," Christine replied her eyes fixed on the dancing candle.
"Have you forgotten your Angel?"