A/N: I will ask the reader to remember that my version of Erik looks much like Gerard Butler in the ALW's movie, except that I picture his black hair as his own and not a wig. Only one side of his face has any deformities, which are hidden by the mask.
Intro to this chapter taken from Wikipedia:
The history of cosmetic surgery reaches back to the ancient world. Physicians in ancient India including the great Indian surgeon Susrutha were utilizing skin grafts for reconstructive work as early as the 8th century BC and performed nose reconstruction, using a portion of the forehead, during periods where amputation of the nose was a punishment for certain crimes. The Romans were able to perform simple techniques such as repairing damaged ears from around the 1st century BC. In mid-15th century Europe, Heinrich von Pfolspeundt described a process "to make a new nose for one who lacks it entirely, and the dogs have devoured it" by removing skin from the back of the arm and suturing it in place. However, because of the dangers associated with surgery in any form, especially that involving the head or face, it was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that such surgeries became commonplace.
Plastic surgery is a general term for operative manual and instrumental treatment which is performed for functional or aesthetic reasons. The word "plastic" derives from the Greek plastikos meaning to mold or to shape; its use here is not connected with modern plastics.
The principal areas of plastic surgery include two broad fields: Reconstructive surgery, including microsurgery, focuses on undoing or masking the destructive effects of trauma, surgery or disease. Reconstructive surgery may include closing defects with flaps—that is, by moving tissue from other parts of the body. Cosmetic (or aesthetic) surgery is most often performed in order to change features the patient finds unflattering. In many cases, however, there are medical reasons (for example, breast reduction when orthopedic problems are present).
"Erik, please check on the baby; I think I hear her crying," called Christine, who had her hands full at the moment trying to convince their two-year-old son, Sven, that he really did have to wear clothes to go to town with them. The stages that children went through! She had not been around young children until the birth of her own, and found them utterly fascinating, adapting to motherhood with an ease that still surprised her.
Sven, her father's namesake, had his grandfather Daae's blond hair and blue eyes, but had unfortunately inherited his own father's quick temper, which resulted in many a tantrum as he began to test his limits. Erik had a tendency to indulge the child instead of disciplining him, which was understandable after his own deprived childhood, but Sven thrived under the love and care of both parents and was basically a good child.
Their 6-month old baby girl, christened Antoinette in honor of Madame Giry and called Toni for short, had Erik's dark hair and green eyes, and promised to be as beautiful as Christine. Both children were in perfect health, though Erik had been dreadfully afraid before each birth that his deformities would be passed on. His fears proved groundless, and his little family was his pride and joy. He had a lovely wife, two healthy children, and the operas he had composed were so in demand that he could name his own price now. Life was good, though he still felt compelled to wear his mask in public. He was not exactly shunned, but they had very few friends, and he knew that their exclusion from society was mainly due to the strangeness of his masked face.
Christine was aware of her husband's feelings of ostracism, and she did wish that they could be accepted as any normal family and participate in some of the social activities, especially for the sake of the children. Lately, she had been reading about a doctor who had perfected a procedure known as "plastic surgery" that she thought might be beneficial for Erik, and she and Madame Giry had talked it over privately and decided to approach him today about it. Christine, expecting him to resist the idea, wanted the older woman's support and encouragement. Erik thought they were only going on one of their customary excursions to the opera house to visit with Antoinette and Meg, who were godmothers to the children.
"Anyone home?" Christine called as they knocked on the Giry's door and opened it. Meg immediately ran to take baby Toni in her arms, cooing and making the little one laugh, while Erik coaxed their son into demonstrating his newly learned manners with a solemn bow to his godmother, Antoinette. He managed creditably, then fell back into character by demanding a cookie from his tolerant "Grandmama", which made everyone laugh.
When the children were settled in the other room with "Auntie Meg", Christine broached the real reason for their visit. "Erik, I've read several articles in the paper recently about a Dr. Peter Mettauer who has refined a technique he calls "plastic surgery" to correct facial distortions such as yours. He has had great success even with difficult surgeries, and I want you to consider a consultation with him to see what he can do for us."
Erik started to object, as she had expected he would, so Antoinette interjected persuasively, "My friend, there is no harm in talking with the doctor, is there? And if he can mend your features, you and your family can enjoy more of what society has to offer."
"Society be hanged!" Erik said forcefully. "What does society have to give my children that I cannot give them myself! Have I not done well enough without those snobs? My children do not think their papa is a monster, so what should we care what the world thinks?"
Christine had a soothing answer ready. "Sweetheart, of course you aren't a monster! You know that I love you, and that in my eyes you are the most handsome man in the world, don't you? And your children love you dearly, also."
Erik nodded; slightly embarrassed to hear her say so in front of their friend, but her reassurance calmed him.
His wife continued, "You and I have managed very well without mingling with the upper classes, but that is because your particular talent allows you to work alone and then to sell to those who present your compositions to the very society snobs you are criticizing. Our children's talents are not yet known, but they will probably need to be out in the real world, and not hidden away in the country. A life of seclusion may not suit them as it does you and me. I hope one day to see them both successful in whatever interests them most, which would be more easily accomplished if we move in the right society circles and introduce them to the right people."
Erik shook his head sadly. "I was afraid that this face of mine will hold our children back in life as it did me, but I haven't wanted to think about it."
She took his hand to console him as she added, "That's such a harsh way to put it, but the opinions of others will have an impact on whether or not the children are accepted in society. You know that we have already been overlooked on several occasions when we should have been invited to functions."
Madame Giry interjected, "I hear enough of the gossip to know that it is your mask that people object to, and their fear of what you hide behind it. It is reprehensible of them, but nonetheless it happens, and it will affect the children more as they grow older. You know that we all accept you as you are, and I pity the folk in society who cannot see beyond your mask to the good man you are. Yes, you and Christine can have a full life without those people, but there are things that Sven and Toni will miss out on. We just want you to think about the possibility that Dr. Mettauer might be able to change all of this."
"I understand," he said resignedly. "This surgery; is it dangerous?"
"No more so than any other operation in this modern age we live in," Christine answered, "and you know I would not ask you to consider it if I felt it was risky. I love you too much to lose you, sweetheart! But the doctor can tell us of any hazards involved when we talk to him, if you will make an appointment."
"Very well, since I seem to be outnumbered," he reluctantly agreed. "May we talk about something else now?" Erik asked with a sigh, knowing he must do as he was asked if he wanted any peace now. Christine was right, the children's welfare came first, and he would do whatever was necessary to make their lives complete.
Erik nervously paced in the doctor's foyer, awaiting his time to meet with the great man himself. He had read the articles, and knew that Dr. Peter Mettauer was renowned to be highly skilled in his chosen field, but he still felt some apprehension at discussing what had always been such a painful subject with a stranger. Christine understood his feelings of anxiety, and hoped that her presence would reassure him somewhat.
The pleasant, white-attired nurse escorted them into the doctor's office shortly, and he stood to shake Erik's hand and nod to Christine. "Ah, Monsieur Landy, Madame Landry, come in, come in!" he boomed in a deep, jovial voice that rather surprised them with its cordiality. "I have so enjoyed your operas and have been looking forward to meeting you." He mentioned a few of his favorite passages from Erik's latest work, and as they discussed the music Erik began to relax. Christine smiled in relief; this was a step in the right direction. She had such hopes for this meeting!
The discussion soon turned to the reason for their visit, and Erik removed his mask with some trepidation so that Dr. Mettauer could examine his deformities. The man did not react with any horror; on the contrary, he studied Erik's face with interest, asking pertinent questions in a matter-of-fact voice. "Was this a birth defect or due to an accident?" "Is there any pain or discomfort associated with the condition?" "Any changes over time?" He nodded at the answers and went "hmmm" a lot as he examined Erik, and then sat back in the chair behind his desk again and folded his hands together on the desktop.
"I am sure I can help you, monsieur," the doctor stated confidently. "Your facial malformation, which appears to have been the result of some trauma in the womb, is strictly superficial and can be fairly simply corrected with cosmetic surgery, which is much less traumatic than reconstructive surgery."
Erik was stunned. "Simply?" he asked. "Something which has caused me great personal anguish for so many years can be fixed so easily?" Christine was ready to shout for joy, but held her emotions in check until her husband could deal with the news.
"Yes, Erik...may I call you Erik? The doctor sat back, relaxed. "There do not appear to be any nerves or muscles involved in your distortions, which are literally just 'skin deep'. I realize that it must have been a trial living with the irregularities, mostly due to how our pitiless society deals with anyone who is not 'perfect' according to its standards, but I assure you, this is an uncomplicated medical procedure. There is always a risk when a patient is anesthetized, but our modern methods are much improved and I would not expect any difficulties here. It will probably require more than one operation, however; to assure completely smooth new skin, but I would expect excellent results in your case."
Erik had tears in his eyes. "Forgive me, sir, I am overwhelmed. I never expected to hear anyone say that my face could be made to look normal...that is what you are saying?" he questioned again anxiously, standing up in his eagerness to hear the answer.
"Yes, very normal. After the second surgery I would not expect anyone to be able to tell that you had ever had a deformity," the doctor reassured him.
Erik turned to Christine and put his arms around her where she sat in the chair next to his, and buried his face in her hair, trying to regain his composure. In a moment, he pulled free and faced the doctor, extending his hand. "Thank you, sir," he said sincerely. "You have given me a hope I never knew was possible, for myself and for my family. This," gesturing to his still-unmasked face, "has been, as you say, a trial, and I would be glad of your skill in ending the ordeal."
They set an appointment for a more detailed physical exam the next week, and one for the surgery the day afterwards, anticipating that Erik, who was in the best of health, would pass the tests with no difficulty. They picked up the children at Madame Giry's where their good friends rejoiced with them at the hopeful news, and then headed for the country and home.
Later that night, after the children were tucked into their beds and the couple sat watching the fire slowly dying down in the fireplace, Erik turned to his wife. "My dear, I have to thank you for persuading me to keep the doctor's appointment. I was afraid that if I got my hopes up that I would be disappointed, or that you would be; I know you have your heart set on this."
Christine squeezed the hand that was holding hers. "Only for the children's sake, my love. You know that I am happy with you and need no one else's company to feel complete, don't you?"
"Yes," he answered with a smile, "but I like hearing you say it again. I hope that our life together has been as wonderful for you as it has been for me these three years. You are going to have to help me to adjust to 'society life' after my operation, you know, and teach me the proper manners along with the children!"
She laughed, tickled at the picture that presented of teaching a grown Erik to say 'please' and 'thank you'. "You have always had the manners of a gentleman, dear, much more so than many who have been raised in high society. You will do just fine, just wait and see. I expect to have to defend my place at your side before long, when the ladies find out just how charming a man Monsieur Landry really is!"
"No need to worry, love, no woman alive can compete with you for my affection," and he kissed her passionately to prove it.
One year later, at the entrance to the Opera House in Paris...
"Monsieur Landry, oh, monsieur," called an irritatingly high-pitched woman's voice. Erik and Christine turned as two elegantly-dressed women scurried up behind them. The plump one who had been calling out his name now gushed breathlessly, "Oh, monsieur, please allow me to introduce my cousin, Mademoiselle Riveau. She has been so longing to meet the illustrious composer of our operas!" The other woman tittered nervously as she extended her hand.
"Good evening, ladies," Erik unenthusiastically answered, kissing the back of each woman's hand briefly. "I am pleased to meet you, mademoiselle. You are looking well tonight, Madame Bouvoir. Is your husband with you?" Erik and Christine made polite small talk, and then made their way inside to the box reserved for them. When they were alone, they looked at each other and then burst out laughing.
"Who would have ever thought that the notorious "Opera Ghost" would someday be the darling of society!" Christine giggled. "Oh, Monsieur Erik, you must save a dance for me!" she imitated in a high squeaky voice, then continued in a normal tone, "It is a good thing for you that your wife is not inclined to be jealous, otherwise you would be in trouble, my handsome genius."
Erik kissed her hand lightly, eyes shining above his now-smooth features. "You know that I only have eyes for you, Christine, and I am sure that I am the envy of every man in Paris to have such a beautiful and charming wife."
"Flatterer! You have learned your lessons a little too well, I think!" and she tapped his arm smartly with her fan, teasing him. Gone were the days when she would have to struggle to persuade him to leave the house with her. The doctor had indeed performed a miracle with his surgery, and Erik faced the world now with unblemished skin and no need for a mask. It had taken him some few months to become accustomed to the curious stares, but when their associates had gotten used to seeing him without the mask and he realized that their deference was because they respected his work, he had begun to develop a new and healthy respect for himself. It still amazed him to look in the mirror and see a whole man looking back at him. Christine was proud of his progress, and the children grew and flourished in the improved atmosphere.
Erik was putting the finishing touches on a new opera and had convinced Christine to take the starring role; she hated to leave the children during rehearsals, but their landlords had proved to be competent babysitters, and she did so miss the fulfillment of using her voice. She and Erik had continued her training several evenings a week, which benefited them both; she kept her voice fluid and it allowed him to experiment with portions of his operas.
The most exciting thing about this new opera was that Erik himself would be singing opposite her. He had asked for an audition, and the managers were surprised but would not refuse their star composer any request. They were astonished to find that he could sing almost as well as he could write, for they had forgotten that sole performance a few years ago when the "Opera Ghost" had posed as "Don Juan" and carried off their female lead! They immediately offered him the lead opposite Christine, and he graciously accepted.
The orchestra was tuning up now to begin tonight's opera, so their attention was drawn back to the stage. The managers unexpectedly stepped out onto the boards, and Monsieur Firmin held up a hand for silence. "We just have a few brief words to share with you," he began. "Yes," interrupted Monsieur Andre, "just a moment of your time, please. Tonight marks five years since we took over as managers of the Paris Opera House, and..." He was interrupted by hearty applause from the audience, who had grown to love the two irritating little men who brought them such good music.
When the crowd quieted again, Monsieur Andre went on, "We wanted to take this opportunity to recognize someone who has been largely responsible for our continued success due to the popularity of his compositions. Monsieur Erik Landry is with us tonight, and I ask you to stand and take a bow, monsieur."
Erik was slightly uncomfortable but stood, unruffled, as the spectators broke into another round of applause. He bowed to acknowledge the ovation, then took Christine's hand and raised her to stand next to him as Monsieur Firmin boomed, "And his lovely wife, Madame Christine Landry!" provoking yet another enthusiastic response, for they were the darlings of the theater world now. The managers began to ramble on about events of the past five years, but the lights finally dimmed for the performance, the orchestra began to play and Christine and Erik sat quietly holding hands as the opera commenced and my story ends happily for our devoted pair.
A/N: This last chapter was more difficult to write than the other sixteen put together; please review and let me know what you think. This has been an interesting experience, and I hope you've enjoyed my version of "happily ever after" for Erik and Christine!