Cast: Erik, Christine, The Persian, Raoul, Darius.
Disclaimer: I own no-one from The Phantom of the Opera. All the characters and place names displayed belong to Gaston Leroux. I do not intend to, nor am I making any financial gain from the writing of this story.
Feedback: Yes please!
Summary: After seeing the advert chronicling Erik's death in the Epoque, can Christine Daaé see her vow to Erik through? And more importantly, can she ever find it in her heart to forgive?
Sitting there as he was, a steaming mug of water in one hand, the other resting upon his aching brow, the Persian gazed out upon the Tuileries gardens. He watched plaintively as the rain poured steady and constant from the heavens, trickling down the panes like perfect glass tears. Though it had been weeks since Erik had departed the flat, still the words of that heartbroken man rang incessant in his mind.
"'And . . . and . . . I . . . kissed her! . . . I!. . .I!. . .I!. . . And, she did not die!'"
No indeed. Christine Daaé had not fallen into death's embrace when Erik had touched her. And it was this revelation which eventually threatened and finally overthrew Erik's personal resolve to take the young soprano as his bride. His…how had Erik put it? Ah yes. His "living wife"'.
The Persian sighed, a long and melancholy sound. And so, Erik, overcome with the sudden onslaught of strange new emotions, was forced beyond anything he had ever felt before to release Christine Daaé and her fiancé, the honourable viscount. What it must have been like, the Persian wondered. What must have been running through Erik's head when he witnessed their departure from the catacombs of the Opéra for the final time, leaving him alone?
Utterly, completely and despairingly alone.
The Persian shivered and took a long draught before setting the cup on a nearby table, the chipped china clinking hollowly upon the wooden surface. It was then his eyes drifted to a small bundle next to where the cup stood. It was a silken blanket, made of the finest crushed velvet and a vivid blood-red. At the nape, it was tied with a long simple ebony ribbon, the ends dancing slightly as the evening breeze from the window caught them and attempted to pull them along in its wake. The bundle had been delivered to him several hours ago by his faithful servant, Darius. Oh, he remembered the brief exchange, the glance they had shared when the little man arrived back at the flat. They both knew what it meant; who it sourced from, though neither had dared to open it - until now.
He had put it off for too long already. Raising his head, he listened acutely for any sound, and hint that would enlighten him as to Darius' location in the flat. A slight clinking of metal somewhere along the corridor told him that his servant was in the kitchen.
Good. That would give him time enough to examine the contents as he wished.
Reaching forward, the Persian brought the allegorical package into his lap, his brow furrowed as he gazed down at it, his hands hovering hesitantly at either end of the ribbon. He mentally shook himself. It had to be done. Despite his personal feelings about the whole matter and how he would much rather leave such an event until the morning, he knew such an idea was an impossibility. And so, having relocated his concerns for the time being at least, the Persian slowly removed the ribbon.
What was revealed forthwith caused the man's throat to tighten and his stomach to clench. For there, lying quietly amongst the extravagant material were the very relics Erik had promised him. Christine Daaé's possessions from her time in the Opéra – most likely given up for lost many years ago.
They were as follows.
A pair of white lace gloves, the right of which had a tear in the index finger.
A silver shoe buckle, slightly rusty – perhaps from exposure to the damp in the catacombs.
Two pocket handkerchiefs made of white linen which had turned a dingy grey in their time of absence from their owner.
A roll of papers tied with a length of string – letters Christine had written to Raoul.
Well that was that. It was time. Downing the remains of his drink, the Persian made his way over to the desk and opening the little box upon its surface, he withdrew a hand carved pen, a small bottle of raven ink and a single sheet of parchment. Dipping the nib into the bottle, the Persian began to write . . .
As had become habitual in the past weeks, Christine Daaé bought the Epoque from the shop just a little way from where she and Raoul now dwelt. Every morning, her ritual in accordance to her oath to Erik, she would read the obituaries, and each time she did this, she would hope against hope that nothing had appeared. For the day that his death was announced would be the day she would have to return to the very place she wished would remain locked in her past for eternity. However, the more time that passed without any word, the more agitated and stressed she became.
The viscount, Raoul de Chagny too felt his wife's pain and despair every morning she returned from the shop, her face a mixture of relief and distress.
'Still no word?' he would say solemnly to her, trying in vain to soothe her, and she would simply reply each time with a curt shake of her pretty head and from that moment on, they would not speak or even hint of Erik until the next morning when it would run its cycle again.
And this morning it seemed, was no different from any other. The sky was a creamy blue and silver, a light chill upon the Parisian air that scattered the melodious songs of the morning birds. Christine wandered slowly back to her house along the lush green lanes, her nose buried in the newspaper. Eyes scanning quickly. Her heart heavy once more, she quickly turned to the centre where the obituaries were.
Anyone walking the way of Mame Daaé that morning would surely have been most astonished to see the young woman stop walking mid stride and stand stock still for well over five minutes. Then, with no warning whatsoever, she took off at great speed, tripping every so often as her skirts caught upon her shoes.
Raoul looked up in alarm as he heard the front door slam with such a terrific bang as to awaken everyone for miles around. He took one look at his wife's pale and drained face, her tousled hair, soiled hem and the newspaper screwed and creased in her tight fist and understood.
'Raoul . . .' she whispered, running to him and throwing her arms about his neck.
Drawing Christine to him, Raoul ushered words of comfort to her, his free hand stroking her hair, trying in vain to calm and ease her. But it appeared she would not be consoled. Weeks of prolonged agony now spilled out in torrents over her pallid face and her shoulders shook violently as she clutched desperately to her husband. She didn't know what she felt now. Grief? Terror? Relief?
Whatever she felt, she knew one thing for sure. Thanks be to the advertisement, she would now have to once again tread the pathway to hell.
Raoul had offered to come with her to bury Erik as she had vowed, however she knew in her heart she must make the journey alone. For what reason she did not understand, but somehow she knew that it would have been Erik's wish for her to come alone.
She gazed unseeing out of the cab window as it rolled through the now dimly lit Parisian streets at twilight, the remnants of the evening shower still evident upon the glass window. Sighing, she bowed her head. Why did such thoughts still pressure their entrance into her mind? She did not care for him or his apparent fancied wishes. Not after all that had happened those many weeks ago. Not after all he had done to her, to Raoul, to everyone in the Opera. No, it was too much to hope for such things.
It was the mere fact she had made a vow, and as an honourable woman, she was fully obliged to herself to carry it out, despite her personal preference to let him rot in those cellars alone. Fully assured in her convictions, Christine watched as the lanes and side streets rolled by, blurs of colour and sounds combined with the musky smell of the leather seating in the cab, her surroundings seemed almost comforting.
It was no less than a half hour journey to the Opéra Populairé and as the cab rolled away from her down the Rue Scribe, she stood atop the first cracked step, trying to gauge the best way to get down to the cellars without being caught and asked questions about her business in the building. She made her way forward slowly, taking care to keep in the shadows and then, slinking through one of the back doors, she quickly found herself in a deserted corridor leading from the foyer and the Grande Escalier. Mercifully, it appeared all those who had been around during the day for rehearsals of Donizetti's "Don Sebastiano".
The years and years of ballet training now appeared to pay off handsomely as her steps became acute and her footfalls silent as the grave. Christine made her way through the labyrinth of corridors, memories flooding back at every turn. Each wall, each painting, each candelabra held for her a specific and dear memory and it was hard for the young woman to believe it had only been a number of weeks since the events down in the cellars of the Opéra.
Quite suddenly, she froze as the hazy light of a lantern lit the corridor before her. Slinking back into the shadows, she hastily took an emergency detour through the door on her right and hurried up the following flights of steps that, should she deign to carry on to their peak, would eventually lead her to the corps de ballet dormitories.
Finally, she saw the light of the lantern pass underneath the door and move onward through the corridor. However, she waited for a while more until she was sure whoever was the owner of the lantern had fully disappeared from the corridor. Gingerly, she pushed open the door once more and peered around. Christine heaved a sigh and sliding out from her hiding place, she hurried further along the corridor, making a direct beeline for the room, which, given the entirety of the Opéra, she wished most never to enter again.
It came as no surprise to Christine that the room itself had changed dramatically in the past few weeks. Where her belongings used to lie, now the polished mahogany surfaces were adorned with some other leading lady's possessions. She quickly came to the conclusion that whomever it was that now resided in this room, they were quite vain indeed. Varying types of make up and powder were in a continuing stream of evidence around the room – much more than surely would be needed even in the most extravagant of performances. There were several ball gowns lain across the gold leafed and rouged velvet sofas too. A particular royal blue one with silver trim caught Christine's eye and though she recalled it from sometime before, she could not quite place the memory.
The walls too were decorated with paintings of the most exquisite hand, and Christine was willing to bet that even one of the pieces would be more than likely to fetch a considerable sum at any auction As she gazed around what had once been her dressing room and further on, her living quarters, she realised the only remnant of her occupation that remained the same was the wallpaper. It was still the same crème colour with its intricate golden patterns that of a lonely evening, she would have traced absent-mindedly with her fingertip.
Moving through the room, she wrinkled her nose as the still lingering aroma of poppies reached her nose. It was then she realised. The only Prima Donna she knew of that could wear that particular perfume without gagging was La Carlotta herself.
Christine sighed and shook her head. Surely, surely Monsieurs Moncharmin and Richard would not have reinstated La Carlotta. Not after all the incidents of the last year – especially that of her role as the Margarita. Still, she knew she shouldn't let it bother her really – after all she was no longer obliged to be in La Carlotta's company. What was it to Christine Daaé if the managers wished to ruin what should be a spectacular performance with such a pompous and affected voice. Smiling briefly to herself, Christine remembered with more than vague amusement Carlotta's fatal "Co-ack" toad experience. Such an ordeal must have taking quite the toll on Carlotta.
Shaking herself from her digressional thoughts, Christine started towards the large antique mirror than hung on the wall opposite. It remained as glassy clear as it had ever been, the gold filigree inlaid into the frame glittering as the flickering light from the still lit candelabras caught its gaze. By the look of the room, someone was expected back this night as so Christine, spurred on by the image of herself being found somewhere where she was not supposed to be.
Hoping against hope that the mirror was still willing to yield the secrets of all those months back, she carefully leant against it, pushing against the frame with as much strength as she could muster. Evidently due to the lack of use, the hinges had stiffened slightly. However it only took her a little over a minute to get the mirror to slide back and reveal the gloomy passageway beyond. The route that lead all the way down into the macabre place from whence all despair, superstition and fear that surrounded the Opéra had come.
As she wandered through the labyrinth of passageways that lead right down to the subterranean lake, the felt an odd sense of calm. It was as though at the very point when she had left the dressing room above and stepped into the passageway, the darkness and sweet musty smell that resided beyond had enveloped her, drawing her ever closer into their depths, to their heart. Inhaling once more the cool air and gentle scent that hovered in the air around her, she felt that despite her revulsion about the task that lay ahead of her, she was where she needed to be.
It took far less time that she had initially anticipated to reach the steps that lead down to the lake and she quickly hurried down them, blessing her decision to wear a simple skirt that did not hinder her movements. She paused suddenly as a wave of realisation swept over her. How in the world was she meant to cross the lake? She had no boat with her and she was certain the gondola that belonged to Erik would be by his house.
Still, she pressed on and rounding the corner, she gasped aloud, her voice echoing unnaturally around her in the deserted passageway. Erik's gondola was indeed there. Moored at the side along with the punter, as though waiting specifically for her arrival. The idea that Erik had situated the gondola there especially for the occasion made shivers run involuntarily down her spine. Yet, she knew Erik was capable of many things and within reason, providing the gondola to her was probably no great feat for him to perform.
However, steering the gondola itself proved to be more difficult than it had first appeared. Christine quickly figured out that to move efficiently across the gloomy waters, she would have to stand upright. Throughout her entire journey, the boat never ceased its disconcerting rocking from side to side and on several instances, Christine felt she would surely be thrown from the boat into the freezing waters below.
It was no shock therefore that when she dismounted on the bank nearest Erik's home, her complexion was decidedly more green than usual. Shaking from sheer fright, she stumbled clumsily onto dry land, the hem of her skirt now quite torn and frayed. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of silver nearby. Looking up, she caught sight of a shovel stationed against a boulder and smiled almost affectionately. That man really did think of and cover all eventualities.
Picking up the shovel, she dragged it behind her, looking around for any sign of the man she had once called her "Angel". Then she remembered what he had said to her when she had made that vow.
"Look for me by the fountain for that is where I shall lie in death."
Well, she had to admit his instructions were clear enough. Christine made her way swiftly along the embankment, the only sound being the metallic one of the shovel dragging across the rough ground in her wake. Then, with no warning whatsoever, there came another sound mingled with that of the shovel which caused her to stop mid-stride and her blood to run cold.
Not far away, she could distinctly hear coughing. Not any ordinary coughing either. But a terrible hacking sound as though someone was dying. . .
Her eyes widened as realisation took hold and horror set in.
Abandoning the shovel, she hastened forward to the fountain and no sooner had she reached it, her hand flew to her mouth with a gasp. True to his word, he was lying in the designated area, however he was not yet dead. He was not far off though, that she could tell immediately.
There were filthy gashes and purple bruises all over his torso. His once magnificent opera suit was tattered and torn as though a pack of unrelenting rabid dogs had set upon it, tearing and gnashing at it with their rows of chipped, sharp teeth. His body was more frail and haggard looking than Christine could ever remember. His cheekbones were sunken deep so the skin seemed to stretch across the bones with no flesh in-between whatsoever. His body shook and convulsed with the recognisable symptoms of a terrible fever and with every passing second, he let out another terrible cough, the noise sounding like sandpaper scraping at his throat. What little hair he ever had he had now lost and standing as she was Christine surveyed further damage to his head. Along his crown there was a ghastly wound that seemed almost purposed, self inflicted even. A thick layer of dry blood lay upon the surface, surrounded by a border of grit, dirt and pus.
And then he looked up and she saw him fully.
His eyes that once had glowed with the fire of molten amber now were two dull, pale orbs set deep into the defined and darkened sockets of his skull. They still held a trace of the glimmer of life, but with every passing moment, that glimmer would flicker and almost die before as though forced, would reignite and struggle against the inevitable once again.
'You came' he said simply, his once proud, angelic voice, a mere whisper now. A shadow of his former vocal strength.
As he stared up at her, coughs and shudders still racking his shattered body, Christine felt all her horror and anger fade, and in spite of herself, she fell to her knees beside him, her heart overflowing with the greatest pity and sadness she had ever felt.
'Yes' she replied softly, 'I came indeed.'
For a moment, the faintest trace of a smile graced his thin, lined ivory lips, and he closed his eyes with a sigh. 'I am sorry' he gasped through another cough.
'For what?' she asked.
His eyes slid open once more and he swallowed. 'For this. For living when I know you wish me to be long dead.'
Christine started to speak, but he cut across her with what seemed like a great effort.
'Non, I know it, mon Ange. Coming here to bury me dead would have been hard enough. But to bury me after seeing me alive again is the unfairest thing I could ever have done to you. I did not mean to lie again . . . the whole issue with the Epoque, the Daroga. I. . .I thought I would be dead sooner than this.'
The sheer effort of speaking these words overcame Erik and for several minutes, he coughed and wheezed again, his skeletal hand grasping at his chest as it rose and fell unnaturally quickly.
'It is not your fault Erik' Christine whispered. 'Do not blame yourself. For my sake, do not blame yourself.'
'I cannot help it mon Ange. I have burdened you beyond reason.'
Christine shook her head as she realised. 'Non, Erik. I . . .I am glad to have this chance, to have seen you again.'
Erik stared at her for a moment before looking away. 'You cannot mean that' he said. 'After what I did. I am surprised you do not kill me here yourself.'
For a moment, Christine paused. Then, reaching forward, though slowly and hesitantly, she covered Erik's hand upon his chest, with her own soft slender palm. At the very slight touch, he stiffened and glanced up once more at her in a stunned, almost awed silence.
'Erik' she said firmly, clasping tight his hand in hers. 'Know that I am here because I want to be.'
At last, words failed the Opera Ghost. Instead, he found he could not tear himself away from the vision that knelt before him now and his heart suddenly pounded in his broken chest, feeling like it may burst with happy disbelief and joy. His body shuddered again, but this time not with the fever that chained his body, but with unexpected joy.
Christine watched as pearly tears leaked from his eyes causing their surfaces to glisten as though covered in morning dew. She blinked as she felt the similar wet warmth stream from her own eyes and with her free hand, she cupped his cheek in her palm, the fury, confusion and consternation of the years of his reign melting away at the pitiful and anguished sigh that now lay before her.
As he leant into her touch, she didn't flinch or recoil in revulsion.
She didn't gasp.
She didn't flee.
Though his body still shook with the fever's grasp, his coughs seemed to quieten and be replaced with a gentle sighing. His hand grasped hers tightly, revelling in the touch he thought she would never give willingly.
As gentle as the spring wind, his breathing eased and she vaguely recognised it slowing. Bending forward, she dealt a soft and lingering kiss to his brow, feeling her tears flow steady now, dripping like new rain onto his desert skin. She remained as such as she felt the life ebbing softly from his body.
'Erik' she whispered, knowing instinctively that the end was near. 'I shall never forget you. Erik . . . I'll miss you.'
With that, Erik mustered up all the strength he had within him, and whispered hoarsely back. 'Christine . . .I'll always be with you, watching over you. When you hear the sound of the orchestra, you'll feel me there.'
And for the first time, Christine did not feel any kind of fear at these words. Quite opposite, she felt comforted and joyous by them. She felt his grasp tighten further upon her hand and she looked up into his eyes that suddenly seemed urgent.
'Christine. . . mon Ange. . . promise me, you will never stop singing. The world needs your beautiful voice, Christine. Never let it die.'
Christine nodded and kissed his brow once more. 'I promise Erik. I shall always sing . . .I shall always sing for you.'
Erik smiled and leant back, his eyes closing as he felt the last breaths flow through his body, for the very first time in his life, he felt complete and wholly happy.
Christine's eyes never left his face. 'Goodnight ma Ange. Sleep well.'
And with those words, as though they were a stage prompt, Erik's chest fell once more as he breathed his last and never rose again. His grasp upon Christine's loosened and sensing this, Christine stared from a moment before dissolving into tears as realisation hit her.
Her teacher. Her Angel. Her Erik.
He was dead.
Christine did not know how long she lay there beside him, her head and curls splayed across his silent chest, her fingers intertwined with his. Finally, through sheer exhaustion, her sobs quietened and she got shakily to her feet. Knowing the task ahead would be harder than ever, she wandered in a daze over to where the shovel still lay. However, out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed something that made her slip inside one of the rooms.
There, in a corner, stood the magnificent organ that she recalled seeing Erik composing at in the days of his reign. Absent-mindedly, she ran her fingers along the beautifully polished ebony and white keys and at the sight of a stack of handwritten music laying atop the organ, she felt a lump catch in her throat. Gazing around the room, she saw something than made her stare. A vase. A vase filled with several red roses, each in perfect and full bloom.
Eventually, she made her way outside once more, Erik's music and quill clutched in on hand, a single rose from the vase in the other.
Digging the grave was less hard work that she originally imagined as the soil underneath the rocky layer was soft due to the water from the lake. She laid him to sleep in the grave, gazing at his peaceful face for the last time. She had crossed his hands across his chest and in his grasp, she had placed his music and quill and on top of even them, she had placed the rose with a black ribbon tied securely around the stem.
Her hair ribbon.
Smiling down at him, tears making a fresh emergence she spoke once more to him, her voice thick and heavy with emotion.
'Goodnight Erik . . ma Ange . . .goodnight.'