The house was old. And everything about it was dark: from the grey stone it was built of to the trees and overgrown garden that kept it isolated and hidden from the road and any curious passers-by. It looked like it hadn't been lived in for decades, never mind years. Had a storm broke instead of there simply being more cloud than blue in the sky, the picture would have been complete.
It was perfect.
Christine turned to Antoinette, this woman whom she had turned to since the death of her mother and who had taken care of her since . . . in the last few months. Antoinette searched her face and saw no signs of disgust or disappointment. Instead she saw something they all thought had been gone for good in those eyes: hope.
"Are you ready?" she asked her second daughter.
"I think so. I'll just do one last check." Christine's voice quavered a little as she spoke. They both knew nothing needed to be checked, as that had been done several times already. Saying goodbye was not something she did easily, having had to do it so often in her young life already, and so painfully.
Antoinette allowed her some privacy as she bid farewell to the house that had become her home in the last two years. After the tragic debut of Don Juan, the Ravelle had moved to another location nearby as the police launched a massive investigation at the behest of a number of the Institute's patrons, yet nothing had been found. Not even the mysterious 'lair' that the young de Chagny had described in such detail. No sign of the Opera Ghost had been seen since. Though the stories and rumours still continued, life had gone on. Classes had resumed, and Christine had managed to graduate at the top of her year, in spite of the fact she had reverted to being her old quiet self. At least she wasn't silent. Most of the time, unless the whole affair was mentioned, she was usually forgotten. Except for when she sang. Then, no one spoke, no one applauded, they simply listened in awe and respect. And then she became a shadow again.
That she had gotten into the Royal College of Music was truly a miracle, and though it meant her being out from under her watchful eye, Antoinette was grateful her daughter could put so much distance between herself and all that had happened. She still didn't know it all. Christine hadn't confided in anyone, least of all the psychologist the police had insisted she see. She had spoken about everything she had been asked except for what happened that night. Thankfully the doctor had taken the hint and she had eventually been left in peace.
Her daughter had changed tremendously. Yes, she was much the same as when she had first come here, as when she had been mourning her father; but instead of bearing it as one who has been forced to grow up ahead of her time, she bore it as a woman, for that is what she had become, and she had done so beautifully. Wherever her other charge was, Antoinette was grateful to him for that.
She still could not go a day without thinking of him, worrying about him and what he was up to. It was more than just habit: in many ways he had been a son to her, just as he had been to Katie. Sighing, she returned to her first daughter, placing an arm around her in a rare but tender moment, as she remembered the children she still had to watch over.
She had checked the house so many times that if she hadn't already known every inch of it by heart, she would have had it down pat by now. This time, she was saying goodbye. Every place where he had been, every place where she had been with him, she lingered over hoping to feel some remaining trace of his essence. Ever since that night though, she knew he was gone. It wasn't simply an absence of his presence; it was a complete and utter lack of anything to indicate he had ever been there. It was like losing her father all over again; it was like dying but being forced to live. Once again she had lost the only man in her life whom she truly loved, and once again she was being forced to say goodbye to what was left.
Absent-mindedly, she fingered the ring on her right hand. Standing before the 'music room', she stopped and looked down at her fingers. The diamond there truly was exquisite. It had been noticed by many, though she had refused to say where it had come from. Raoul knew, but one glare from her and he had kept silent, though she knew it had driven a wedge into their friendship which they were unlikely to recover from anytime soon, no matter how hard he tried. She missed having her mother's ring on her finger, but she had been given one in return by the man she hoped to marry and his love could not have been clearer. If only he had stayed long enough for it remain on her left hand. If only . . . one word and she would have stayed. Raoul's safety had been assured. She should have stayed
She had gone back the following day, sneaking in the only way she knew how. But the place was desolate. Yes, the majority of his things were still there, just as when she had left. But she knew he was gone. It had taken her a full two hours before she had stopped sobbing enough to return to the house, but once more it felt like a tomb and her cries had only begun anew.
Once again, she sank into grief, once again she mourned, once again she lived each day at a time, if only because that was what he wanted – else he would not have given her her freedom. Yet this time it was so much harder. With her father, he had not wanted to leave, but couldn't help it. With her Angel, she knew he did not want her to leave, that he could have stopped her. Instead he let her go.
Taking a breath to calm herself, she refused to dwell on it anymore – or she'd never leave. And she had to. He had given her voice wings, and she owed it to him to use them as best she could – no matter how pitiful that offering was without him to guide her. Leaning against the door slightly, she was astonished when something clicked. Unable to resist, her feet carried her into the room. As though walking on air, she glided about, her hands floatingly lovingly just above the surface of the instruments that were his.
The note froze her.
Lying on the bed where she had held him . . . the paper was unmistakeable, the writing undeniable. Rushing over, she lifted the parchment as though it were made of glass and carefully unfolded it.
My rose, forgive me. I tried to give you your freedom; I could not consign you to a world of darkness and a life of rejection – you have known too much of that as it is, and the life I lead is filled with more of it than I would wish you to even imagine. But I could not let you go. You possess my every thought, waking or sleeping. Every moment of my life since you entered it, you have haunted me and will go on doing so until I am finally granted release from this cruel world.
Forgive me if my words trouble you. I know you will worry that you have done something wrong. No, my dearest Christine: you have done nothing wrong. Though you haunt me, I would not give up that sweet torment for anything. Just as I can never regret anything I did that caused you to gift me with your kiss. I thought there was no greater gift than to have you sing for me, but once again you taught your teacher. And he learned his lesson well. You must know that few women have ever shown me a fragment of the compassion you did, certainly no woman has ever dared kiss me before. That you did made my happiness complete, and that is something I never thought I would claim in this or any life.
Rest assured, Christine, no matter what I would wish, I will let you live in peace. My lot is a curse you should never have had to bear, though I remain eternally grateful that you did for a time. You asked me to live, my dear. Until you said those words I was preparing myself for quite the reverse, but I can refuse you nothing and so I will try and do as you ask, but I must beg a favour in return: sing, my rose. So long as you make music, so long as our work remains I will be able to live, knowing I have helped you, knowing I have given you this joy. For truly, I know the joy that fills you as you sing: I saw it each time you graced me with a performance, as surely as I felt it each time Music possessed me.
Sing, Christine, and I shall live.
Sing, Christine, as a child of Music should.
Sing, and remember your fallen Angel sometimes. For he will never forget the joy and keeper of his heart.
There was no signature.
He truly had wanted her to stay. At least he was alive. At least he would live. He always kept his word. And so he would leave her alone.
Carefully, Christine folded the note again, making sure the only creases were the ones he had made. Raising the note to her face, she breathed in his scent. Placing it back on the bed, she curled up on the floor and wept.
Her Angel was gone.
AN: Before you reach for the Punjab lasso, I did get 25 answers to my question at the end of Chapter 70 Ch71), and those 25 answers on behalf of you all voted in favour of a sequel. A Father's Promise is now at an end, but if you think this story is, you don't know your Nedjmet very well. Thank you to all who have read this. If you stuck it out this far, then I hope you will be watching for A Mother's Prayer which will hopefully be reaching your screens soon. Again, many thanks to one and all from your grateful Nedjmet. See you soon. . .