Behind Closed Doors
It had been over a week since Erik's last appearance and Christine was nervous. This anxiety had not gone unnoticed and her agitation was making Raoul uneasy. Most of the time she seemed fine, her old self – sweet, calm and even teasing at points, but there were odd moments when she thought no one was watching when she bowed her head and a look of intense disquiet clouded her features. But whenever anyone asked what was wrong she banished the emotions and made up an excuse.
"Christine, I think you need a break." He said one evening as she examined sets and costume designs for the upcoming rehearsals of The Magic Flute. She met his eyes and smiled at him from her seat in the sitting room.
"A break? You think I have time for one?"
"No, but you should have one anyway."
"You're very optimistic, my darling." She replied, looking back down at the papers. Raoul slid out of his chair and knelt in front of her, removing the work from her hands. She tutted at him but he clasped her hands and put on a very serious expression.
"This is an intervention. You are going to stop working so I can be romantic."
"Couldn't you be romantic when I've finished?" Christine asked in a mock-serious tone. Raoul pretended to be affronted.
"Well, if you're going to be like that…" He stood but Christine didn't let go of his hands.
"I love it when you're romantic, Raoul. I just need to get this done so I can fully appreciate the romanticism."
He laughed and crouched again.
"Very well. I'll think of the most romantic thing in the world and plan it for this weekend." He said, kissing her forehead. Christine smiled.
"That sounds perfect. But for now…" She reached for the papers again and Raoul returned to his seat, answering the phone as it began to ring.
"Hello? Yes, she's here, but she's not very talkative or romantic." He said, looking at his wife slyly. She pulled a face at him. "Very well, I'll let her know. Goodbye." He hung up and reached for his newspaper.
Christine stared at him for a moment and after pretending to read a few lines he met her eyes.
"Who was on the phone?"
"Oh, that. That was my brother." He returned to his paper and Christine smiled at his childishness.
"What did Phil want?"
"To let you know that you the building plans are prepared and he'll fax them to the office for you. What building plans?" He asked, laying down the newspaper again. Christine sighed.
"It's some idea of Phil's. You know how the river runs underneath the opera house, through the cellars? Well, he wants to convert it into some little tourist exhibition. He thinks the cellars and river would make a lovely bar or café area, where he can show some local artists work. It's a good idea; I just don't think it'll work."
"Why ever not?"
"Because the renovations would cost a fortune and we'd have to close down the opera house for at least two months. But I'll reserve judgement for when I've seen the plans." She looked back down to her work and started to write notes beside a set diagram. Raoul watched her for a moment and then turned his gaze back to the headlines, but he wasn't even reading it.
There was another envelope on Christine's desk the next morning. She stared at it when she entered her office, as though it was a ticking bomb, but after a moment she continued to hang up her coat and sat at her desk. The envelope sat innocently in front of her. It wasn't big enough to contain any sheet music and for this Christine was thankful. She opened it and slipped the paper out, dreading what the sprawling writing would say.
Dear Christine, (She wondered at the informality of this opening)
It can not have failed to capture your attention that I have been lax in my contact this week. Be assured that our arrangement has not slipped my mind and I shall soon make my presence known so that your singing lessons may continue.
It has come to my attention that your tedious brother-in-law has made plans for the cellars below the Opera House. It would be in his best interests if you thwart these arrangements – ghosts do not take kindly to unwelcome visitors in their domain.
I expect you to practice your singing in the mean time.
Christine glanced at the fax machine. Instead of lying in the tray, the plans that Phil had sent were sat in a tidy pile on top of it. She crossed to pick them up. As far as she could see, they were well thought out and rather interesting in design, incorporating the edge of the river into the layout. There were several layers of cellars. One or two were inaccessible and the company used to the topmost one to store props. However Erik's wording sent Christine's mind racing – his domain… did this mean that the two weeks she had been his prisoner, she had been in the opera house the whole time? She'd suspected that they had not been far from it, in the labyrinth of tunnels that sprawled beneath it, reaching into the surrounding city, but actually within the opera house?
She pushed the letter back into the envelope and dropped it into a drawer, hoping that the old phrase 'out of sight, out of mind' would apply long enough for her to get some work done. The morning was spent on monotonous paperwork and phone calls, and it was only when her clock struck twelve that she laid her pen to rest and went to watch the rehearsals for The Magic Flute. Romeo and Juliet had only a few more days left before the opera house took a fortnight rest to prepare for the new show and allow a few renovations to the buildings.
She slipped into the main theatre and watched as Carlotta finished her aria. Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden. Christine had always admired Carlotta's voice but now the soprano's tone seemed to hit notes that Christine knew were almost, but only almost, perfect. She frowned and scratched her cheek as the rehearsal came to an end and everyone dispersed for lunch. Christine wandered down to Reyer as he shuffled his sheet music. He smiled at her, looking pleased that she had witnessed the near perfect end to the rehearsal.
"What do you think?"
"It's going very well. I just…" She hesitated before asking quietly, "Has Carlotta been practicing regularly? I couldn't help but notice that she doesn't seem to be hitting the mark as well as usual."
Reyer watched her for a moment, wondering where this was going but apparently the manager had nothing more to say for she merely shook her head and smiled at him before heading back up to the back of the hall.
It was Thursday evening before Christine worked up the courage to enter the practice room and sit before the piano. She took no sheet music and didn't dare sing, playing out simple one-handed tunes on the piano and wondering, or maybe hoping, that a voice would speak. After a few moments of silence, she began to hum absently as she played, but stopped sharply as a cool breeze hit the back of her neck and she head the soft thump of shoes hitting the carpeted floor. She stood and turned to face Erik.
He was holding several pieces of sheet music and he laid them on her vacated stool before meeting her eyes. For a few moments neither of them spoke, but eventually Christine forced herself to talk.
"What do you hope to achieve by making me sing?" Erik considered her for a moment and then moved to stand by the wall beneath the air vent. Christine almost flinched away as he passed.
"It is not my intention to train you for no reason, Christine. One day soon, you shall take to the stage." He said calmly, facing her. She let out a breath and shook her head.
"No. I can't."
"You can and you will." He said decisively. A flash of irritation went through Christine and she folded her arms.
"What can you do if I refuse? You can't force someone to sing."
She saw him sneer through the mask, his lip curling and the irritation was replaced by dread at his reply.
"So long as you continue to attend these lessons and aim to achieve status on the stage, you can rest easy knowing that your boy will come to no harm." He spoke as though it was the most insignificant thing in the world. Christine's arms fell to her sides as she stepped forward in anger.
"Are you threatening my husband?"
"That is precisely what I am doing. As long as you are obedient to me, you have no reason to fear for his safety. It is most generous of me, considering what you will receive in return."
"Yes." He paced across the room again. "You will receive the finest tutelage you could ask for. You will become adored and known by the world. No one will ever doubt your talent." He almost spat the words but Christine's head was reeling at the thought of Raoul being in danger.
"If you hurt Raoul-"
"As I have already stated, his safety is in your hands." Erik stopped and folded his arms as he faced her, "So don't irritate me with further mention of him. You will meet me here three times a week, without exception. Make any excuse you must to get here, but if you do not come I shall come looking for you. If I find you idling, your husband will pay the price."
Once again they stared at each other, daring the other to back down. This time Erik did, although only because he had lost interest and was pulling a sheet of music from an inside pocket of his coat. He held it to her and she took it, almost snatching in her fury.
"Why does it matter so much to you that I do this?" She asked, setting it on the music stand as he seated himself at the piano. His eyes found hers and she almost regretted her forwardness. But he answered, with absolutely no emotion in his voice.
"I am unable to perform. Therefore I find it abominable that you should not."
She left it at that.
The lesson went poorly. Christine was so furious, not to mention frightened that her voice barely lasted beyond scales before it began to give way. Erik's temper flared quickly.
"You have not been practicing." He accused her after half an hour.
"Of course I haven't. I've been too busy trying to explain to the police why I'd been missing for two weeks, not to mention running an opera house!" She snapped back, tired and frustrated.
"I will not accept excuses. You are in no state to sing now. We will meet again on Monday evening and I expect you to be able to sing that aria from The Magic Flute."
He leapt with inhuman skill to the air vent and slipped away into the darkness. Christine stared at the spot where he had been before storming from the room.
Christine's foul mood lasted the rest of the evening. Raoul frowned as she snapped uncharacteristically down the phone to Moncharmin before collapsing into her chair in the sitting room.
"What happened?" He asked.
"Oh, just… everything!" She sighed, rubbing her eyes. Raoul couldn't help smiling; even in this state he found her beautiful. She eyed him curiously as she released her hair from the knot she had put it in for work.
"What are you smiling at?"
"Oh, just… my gorgeous wife." He said, shrugging. She smiled, as he knew she would. "Besides, unless you cheer up, I shan't tell you about the wonderfully romantic plans I have for us, starting tomorrow after work."
Christine sat up, her curls tumbling around her face.
"You actually organised something?"
"Of course." He pretended to be affronted. "But if you're not up for it-" He was cut off by Christine launching herself towards him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she settled into his lap.
"Raoul, this is exactly what I needed to hear after today." She said into his neck. He smiled and his arms slipped around her waist, holding her tightly.
"How does a romantic weekend away in the countryside sound? I booked us a cottage in Kent, middle of nowhere, no telephones, just us."
"Sound likes heaven!" She smiled, kissing his cheek. "How did I get so lucky?"
"I really don't know." Raoul said, pretending to pick his newspaper and read it around her. Christine pushed it down, serious once more.
"You know that I love you." She said quietly, tightening her arms around him again. His eyes met hers and he kissed her by way of reply.
The relief that Christine felt at not seeing an envelope from Erik on her desk was overshadowed by the email from Phil wanting her opinion on the plans for the cellar. She hadn't had time to consider that problem yet. It was quite simple really – Erik did not want it to happen, so she had to find a way to stop it. But… the plans were excellent and well thought out. The bar would attract more customers, as would any exhibitions, the area could be rented out for private events – it was a wise investment. It was a frustrating situation, for whatever power Erik held over her voice, she was not willing to let him into her business or personal life.
She waited until a more reasonable time before calling Phil, making it 9 AM in New York to her 2 PM. He was delighted to get her call, and more than happy to discuss the plans for the cellar.
"It's such a wasted space, Christine. Think of the revenue we're missing out on."
"Those cellars are a death trap. If they pass an inspection by the health authorities, it'll be a miracle, and we'll have to shut down the rest of the Opera House to get the work done. I just don't think it's a good idea for the time being. Maybe in a couple of years." She fiddled with her pen, sensing his disappointment as she drew absentmindedly on the corner of a notepad. "Are you angry with me, Phil?"
"No, of course not. I understand your reasoning; it's just a bit of a blow. But if you promise to keep an open mind and consider it in a few years…"
She agreed to this and they spent a few minutes chatting about more frivolous things (his relationship with Sorelli, Raoul's weekend plans and Phil's upcoming fortieth birthday) before getting back to work. Christine was just replying to her more urgent emails when there came a knock at the door and Antoinette Giry entered. For a moment they looked at each other, each full of questions that they could not ask. Then Giry held out an envelope.
"I was asked… that is, this is for you."
It was from Erik, she recognised the handwriting. Christine took it, standing behind her desk but Giry did not release it straight away. She caught Christine's eyes and swallowed nervously.
"Mrs de Chagny…"
"No." Christine looked automatically at the air vent. "I know we can't… discuss our mutual acquaintance. I would not ask you to. It isn't…prudent." The relief on Giry's face was enough to prove that she too knew that Erik was not to be gossiped about.
"Will I often be receiving letters this way?" Christine asked. Giry sighed.
"I don't know. They come to me and I… deliver them. I don't know why he..." She stopped quickly and the left without another word. Christine understood. By referring to Erik as a 'he' the situation had gained a frightening reality. She sank into her leather chair and opened the envelope.
I offer my congratulations on your handling of the situation with your brother-in-law. It was no less than I should have expected of you. In regards to Antoinette Giry, I have given her instructions to deliver my letters from now, rather than leave them in your office where prying eyes may see them. She will be obedient, especially when her daughter's future is at stake.
Our appointment on Monday shall take place in the third practice room at 5. Be punctual, it is vital that we are not interrupted.
It seemed he would not be content until he was in control of the entire staff of the Opera House. Christine screwed the note up and threw it with all her might at the waste paper bin. It hit the edge and fell to the floor, just worsening her mood. She went back to her emails but her eye caught the fax that Phil had sent her of plans for the cellars.
And curiosity overwhelmed her.
It was Lucas, one of the stagehands who led her down into the first cellar. She peered around the dusty room by the poor light given by the bare bulb. Making her way down the rough stone steps in her heels, she looked for the door to the next cellar through the old screens and props.
"It's in the far corner, Mrs de Chagny, just pass the Hannibal elephant. There are no lights down there though, you'll need a torch." He handed her one and she smiled her thanks.
"You can go back up, Lucas. I'm only having a quick look."
"If you're sure…" Everyone was frantically preparing for the final week of Romeo and Juliet, as well as practises for The Magic Flute and he couldn't afford to be away from his post. He disappeared up the steps and Christine picked her way to the heavy wooden door. A large spider ran frighteningly close to her foot and she jumped with a gasp of surprise, but it scuttled away and she made for the door more quickly.
The door was old and the hinges were laced with rust, betraying the age of the building. Christine had to push all of her body weight onto it and after several minutes of shoving it budged open far enough for her to squeeze through. She went down another set of steps and shone the torch around, illuminating the filthy room. There were a few props thrown carelessly against the floor, but the room seemed to be empty other than that. It smelt of damp, of moist bricks and decay, a smell that hit the back of her throat as soon as the door opened. Christine crossed the room to the next door, picking her way carefully through the dust until she was leaning once more against wood, trying not to choke on the dirt. However, the lock on this door was not rusty, but glinting in the torchlight.
Christine stared at the lock, her heart hammering like an agitated bird in a cage. Clutching the torch tightly in one hand, she reached for the handle and shook it, but it was firmly locked. With a deep breath, Christine knocked on the door. The knocks echoed loudly and she felt herself beginning to tremble in anticipation; would Erik be angry? Would he even know that she was here? Of course he would… he was terrifyingly aware of her every move, it seemed.
In her peripheral vision, she caught a glimpse of a light and turned swiftly, wondering if Lucas had come after her. But her fluttering heart leapt into her mouth, blocking the scream that tried to escape.
A skull was burning in the corner of the room, jaw gaping hideously as the orange flames licked over the bone, eyes hollow and haunting. Christine felt her legs shake beneath her and she clutched at the damp bricks as the skull moved closer, no body apparent beneath it. The jaw creaked and a piercing, cackling laughter emanated from it.
Christine bolted, stumbling across the room, leaving dust clouds in her wake as she threw herself up the steps into the first cellar, slamming the door behind her with a gasping sob. This room seemed curiously calm, light although the only illumination came from the single exposed bulb. She ran her hands through her hair, taking deep breaths as she tried to rationalise what had happened but her mind was working in overdrive, running through the occurrence again and again.
"Mrs de Chagny? Are you still here?" Lucas' voice burst through her frantic thoughts, startling her. She swallowed hard, hoping she didn't look as terrible as she felt as she made her way to the steps. Lucas smiled.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" He asked and she cast a glance nervously over her shoulder.
"I'm not sure." She murmured.
There was no contact from Erik on Friday, although Christine could not thoroughly relax, ever tense and ever expectant. She worked feverishly, mind focused on the journey she would be making that evening, the escape from the Opera House and Erik to the secluded cottage that Raoul had organised.
Sure enough, five o'clock arrived and there was a knock on the door. Raoul's bright head appeared, beaming at her.
"Ready to go?"
"Never readier." She smiled and then pulled him into the office, closing the door. He grinned and lowered his face to hers, kissing her sweetly. She smiled, wrapping her arms around him, pulling him closer.
"I don't think I've ever needed a break so badly." She murmured against his mouth and he chuckled, kissing her lips, her cheeks, the tip of her nose.
"Then I suggest you say goodbye to your work and put this place out of your mind."
"Gladly." She smiled, turning to find her handbag.
A black-edged envelope was sat on the desk and had most certainly not been there when she'd risen to greet her husband. She stared at it with dread and Raoul touched her arm.
"Go and start the car, I'll just shut down the computer and I'll be right out." She said with a reassuring smile. He kissed her again and disappeared. Christine closed the door firmly behind him before seizing the letter and tearing it open furiously.
Do not forget that your lesson is on Monday at six pm sharp. I suggest you take some time over the weekend to practice the aria, rather than idling the time away.
Fuming, Christine crumpled the note in her fist and dropped it into the bin, before picking up her handbag and leaving the office, locking the door behind her.
A/N: So… it's been about 4 years since my last update. Bet you thought that this fic had been abandoned! I never intended for it to go this long without an update, I promise! But life happens. Let's see, in the last chapter I was about to start at university. I actually finished that three year course last June and have been working full time as a primary school teacher since September. I got very into Twilight fanfiction (you may have noticed!) so that distracted me from this. I also lost my dad twenty months ago, so took a 6 month break from writing anyway.
So… that's where I've been. I also use twitter now (username Kat097) so feel free to come and tweet with me! I can't guarantee an update schedule. The rest of the story is now planned out, so let's just see how it goes. That's if anyone is still reading this!