Christine shivered beneath her cloak, tears falling from her eyes, bejeweling her delicate, long lashes. In her mind, a voice spoke a name; a name she cherished and now held on to with every inch of her strength. She caressed the word, sorrow flooding her heart. Raoul. She couldn't bear even the thought of parting with him. Yearning and pain tore at her heart as she turned to look over her shoulders at the sleeping figure of her dearest friend and love.

It had been days since she last dared to let her tears fall, but now she could no longer hold them back. Crying silently, she bent her head down and let her slow, rhythmic sobs take over. She clutched the front of her cloak with trembling damp fingers and laid her throbbing head against the cold window misty willow sill.

A word escaped her lips. The Phantom. The very sound of the name haunted her soul. She shuddered. Would she ever, ever escape from this doomed fate to which she would be condemned?

"Why?" she sobbed. Why did everything have to be taken away from her? It was all gone now. What she had once loved, she now feared, and what she had once dreamed of, she saw as a nightmare. Those beautiful childhood ambitions were now nothing more than foolish dreams. Only fools could believe that all life might be as magnificent as it seemed in those silly fairytales. And she had been an innocent, thoughtless fool. One month ago---just one short month ago---she never would have believed that this could possibly happen to her. But now she realized. The pain of finality drove its way into her heart. The truth washed against her like crashing waves rolling relentlessly against the shore. Now she knew; she was wrong to ever let herself believe, to ever let herself even trust, or love. Tears could no longer wash away the grief that gripped her.

Just as she closed her eyes then, she felt waves of warmth closing in around her. Dazed and crying, she turned and looked over her shoulder to see a dear, dear face.

"Oh Raoul…" she began, but could not continue anymore. She held onto his strong, steady shoulder and sank to the floor. "You can't let me go," she gasped, struggling to control herself. She looked up helplessly behind her tears and gazed into his warm, hazel eyes. Moisture was in his eyes, and Christine knew he was doing all he could to fight back tears. "It's all right, Raoul. You can cry. You can," she murmured, closing her eyes again. She couldn't bear to look; to think she might never see this beloved, invaluable face again after tonight. His trembling hands gently as he caressed her face and when he bent down at last, his arms went around her, pulling her into an tight embrace. Unspoken sorrow and apology seemed to spill from him as he rubbed his face against her curled hair.

"Raoul…..if he takes me…" she began. He shook his head.

"Christine, nothing can part us; nothing ever will."

"I'm so afraid..." Her voice shook so much, it was barely comprehendible. She drew away from him, parting only at arm's length. The darkness that surrounded them comforted her a little. The full moon's glow was blurred yet piercing. Its steady, unwavering light seemed to mock her and smile at her grief and fear. Somehow they reminded her of the Phantom's eyes, unfathomable and masked. At once, they seemed to threaten and adore.

How she wished she could stay at Raoul's side forever, embracing his true, heartfelt emotions. "He'll take me, tomorrow. Point of no return---can't you see? Raoul; Raoul. I can't…"she broke into sobs again. Never had sorrow hit her so fiercely. It was overwhelming. And yet fear still lingered at the surface of her emotions. "Oh, how I wish….I wish I were a child that didn't understand anything; a child who didn't know any better!"

"My love, but you are not a child. You can't escape the truth any longer. You once thought you could hide forever, but truly, you can't. You have to find strength and courage from inside yourself to confront what is really there. Use your light to penetrate the darkness. If you lose that beautiful innocence that has made you who you are, then you've lost everything. Promise me, Christine, that you'll be strong, and believe in yourself." Tears slid down Raoul's cheeks as he said this. "Dear Christine, I can't bear this either. But you must learn to believe that our love can make anything happen," he whispered at last.

The young woman nodded, and quietly, she leaned forward, her eyes closed. Her heart was full as her lips met his and then, for a moment, all the darkness of the world fell away.