Hey guys! School started, so updates are slow…hope you enjoy this chapter, some new developments appear ).

For the umpteenth time in two months, Christine's head was pounding, yet again, as she woke up. The damned light was too bright, and Christine angrily pulled her covers over her head, burying her face in the warm, dark covers.

For some odd reason, there was something rough wrapped around her forehead. And her stomach hurt.

Ugh, there's nothing to eat for breakfast. I hope Meg actually cooked this morning. She rethought that. Hah, fat chance. Meg hated cooking. Which meant that Christine had to get up. Ugh.

She cracked an eye open; the room smelled funny today—maybe it was Meg's new perfume or something. Her vision met with a bleached white ceiling, and as her head turned a plethora of bottles, tubes, and liquid-filled bags came into view.

This was not home.

Where on earth was she?

"Christine, you're awake!" Her head pivoted, her eyes fixing on the rather disheveled-looking man who slumped in a chair.

"You're in the hospital," Raoul explained, responding to Christine's wide-eyed, very shocked, very bewildered expression.

"I…what? Why?" Wait, Raoul? What was Raoul doing here?

"Do you remember anything from yesterday? You were at my party, and then you ran out. I came after you, but somewhere between the time that you left and the time that I got there, some guy attacked and attempted to mug, or possibly rape, you."

Christine blinked. "What happened to the guy?"

"He's in the prison hospital now; I half-strangled him with my tie." Raoul grinned, a bit smug.


Christine had no particular desire to be around Raoul at this moment. It was difficult to deal with him yesterday even without her pounding head; the constant buzzing seemed to heighten his smug, superiority complex attitude. He'd always been like this…she had no idea how she'd never realized it as young girl.

"The doctor says you'll be out by Thursday." Raoul went on, his voice becoming more and more nasal and irritating in Christine's throbbing mind. "You were lucky that I got there in time—you only have a few cuts and bruises."

Christine just stared, but he evidently didn't notice.

"So since you'll be out in time, we're still going out to lunch on Friday, right?"

How dare he expect such a thing from someone who's almost been mugged? Can't this guy give me a break? Can't he see that I don't love him, don't want to be around him anymore? I've told him so many times…why can't he just move on, find someone else? Why me?

But Christine didn't voice her thoughts. Instead, the idea popping into her head for no reason at all, she told him, "No. I'm going to Europe."

"ERIK! Erik! You're the Beast! You're the Beast!" Christine ran wildly to her friend's locker, almost causing him to drop his pile of textbooks. "You're the Beast!"

A very amused Erik peered out from behind his books, and stated, "You know, I really would rather be called 'the best' instead of 'the Beast'. Why is it that you cannot run through the hallways screaming that I am the best?"

Christine threw a playful punch at his arm. "Silly stuck-up boy. You don't need affirmation of your being the best."

Erik grinned in mock-smugness. "Well then. What role did you get?"

"Guess!" Christine was nearly bobbing up and down in excitement.

"Let's see…I would say Mrs. Potts, perhaps?"

This time her punch was not as playful. "Are you implying that I resemble a fat, old, married lady?"

"Of course not."

"I am not fat!"

"Of course not."

Christine dramatically heaved a great sigh. "You," she poked a finger into his ribs, "are absolutely insufferable."

"Thank you."

That was Erik—the light banter, the sharp sense of humor, the unfailing ability to always come up with a comeback for her teasing. It was utterly infuriating.

And Christine absolutely loved it.

"You're going to Europe?" Meg blinked for a bit, settling onto her bed. "Why?"

"I've graduated, and I hear that Paris offers some of the best opportunities for singers these days—especially in the opera business. Americans just don't appreciate a good voice unless it's on Broadway, and I don't like New York." Christine was sitting cross-legged on her bed, flipping through a few travel magazines, and gazing at the photographs of glorious sunsets and beautiful twinkling lights at night. So beautiful…so romantic.It'll be good for me. "And Paris is pretty."

The room around them was of divided flavor—Meg's side was bright, the walls pasted with posters and pictures of her favorite movie stars; her stuff was scattered everywhere on her bed and desk, leaving almost no room to work. Christine's area was just the opposite—her walls were entirely clean, a pale glaring white, and her few belongings all packed away into the drawers of her desk. She despised disorganization.

"What about Raoul? He seems to have some interest in you. You're just going to leave him hanging here? After all, he did sort of rescue you."

"I sent him a thank-you and returned some stuff I borrowed from him as a kid, but yes. I'm just going to leave him hanging." Christine looked forward to many things, but Raoul was not on the list. Paris also meant space, freedom…away from her childhood. Away from her memories.

Meg moved over to her roommate's bed to examine the magazines. "What happened between you two? You act like old sweethearts or something."

"We were."

"And?" Christine always seemed to become close-mouthed when it came to talking about her past.

"Things didn't work out."

Meg sighed in exasperation. "Christine, are you running from something? What actually happened?"

"There was someone else." Christine tried very hard to seem absorbed in her magazines.

"Someone else? What do you mean? You cheated on him?"

Her head jerked up to look at Meg in shock. "NO! I would never cheat on anyone! Raoul and I were childhood friends, and in seventh grade, we both thought that perhaps there was something more. We tried the whole relationship deal. He thought it worked, and it did…for a while. He was nice and sweet and all—he gave me flowers and all that classic romantic stuff when he was supposed to, but that was just the thing. He was supposed to, and I expected it. It was all so…predictable.

"In the middle of freshman year I decided that he wasn't for me. My father had always told me to keep my options open, not entangle myself in a relationship that I wasn't enjoying. So I listened to him."

"So who were you keeping your options open for?"

"Erik. I doubt that he ever felt the same for me…"

Meg was puzzled—Christine had never mentioned this…this Erik. "Who's Erik?"

"My best friend."

"Oooh, you fell in love with your best friend? That's a pretty bad situation to be in. Mum always told me there were reasons why best friends were best friends and not more than that. Between a guy and a girl, that is." Meg placed her hand on her friend's shoulder in a comforting gesture.

Christine's eyes were faraway, gazing at something that had long passed. "That's why I'm going to Europe."

Christine was going to Europe to seek a lost love? It didn't seem like her to be lovesick like that—she was strong, stubborn, independent. Perhaps there was some other reason…"This Erik—he's in Europe?"


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