I do not own any of the characters from The Phantom of the Opera, although I do rather enjoy borrowing them from time to time.

A/N Wow! Here we are at the last chapter! I have really enjoyed writing this story. I have gotten really attached to both Christine and Erik's characters. I hope you like the ending as much as I do. Please join me in bidding a fond farewell to the Desmond clan.

B/N

Author – ToryD

Beta – MJMod

How can I ever express how much I appreciate all of your hard work on this story? You came in at the midway point to take up the challenge of not only fixing my horrendous spelling and grammar mistakes, but also to assist me in the unending challenge of storyline directions. You truly amaze me with your talents. I am privileged to have you as an invaluable part of my team and I look forward to what the future might bring our way. Thank you MJ for all that you do!

Aaww, blush it's my pleasure Tory! I love seeing the creative process at work!

Choices

Chapter 32

Eight months later

"Cara Johnson, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers. As it has fallen on me to sentence you for your inexcusable crimes against the Desmond family, I have found myself bound by the limitations of the law. If it were up to me, I would sentence you to twenty years. But alas I can only give you to the maximum sentence allowable by law." Judge Burns said with a disappointed expression.

District attorney Silvia De La Cruz rose from her seated position to garner the distinguished judge's attention. "Your Honor, if I may interrupt the court?" she said in an apologetic tone.

"What is it?" Judge Burns asked irritated, not at all pleased with the interruption of his sentencing.

Clearing her throat Silvia looked back at Christine Desmond who sat silently beside her half-masked husband. "I have a request from the victim to give to you before sentencing is handed down your honor," She said in a respectful tone.

Judge Burns looked at the beautiful woman who had suffered so much at the hands of Ms. Johnson. "Mrs. Desmond, if you would please approach the bench," he called out to Christine.

Erik stiffened at her side at this unexpected change of events. "Christine?" he asked with concern reflected in his green eyes.

Christine patted his shoulder reassuringly as she stood to follow the judge's instructions.

With his hand over the microphone, Judge Burns leaned down to hear what Mrs. Desmond had to say. The entire courtroom was held in suspense as they speculated about the contents of the hushed conversation that was going into its fourth minute.

Judge Burns leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful expression. "Are you sure Mrs. Desmond?" he asked as he looked at the forgiving Christine.

"Yes, your honor, I believe that it is not only a just punishment, but a wonderful solution to those in need as well" Christine responded gently.

"Very well, you may return to your seat," he said as he brought his courtroom back to order.

As Christine slid into her chair next to Erik, she leaned over and kissed the corner of his mouth.

"What was all that about?" he asked his secretive wife.

"I think that I came up with a fair punishment that will not only rehabilitate Cara, but will help others as well," she said as she turned her attention back to the judge.

"Cara Johnson, I am about to give you a choice on your sentencing. You can thank your lucky stars that Mrs. Desmond has such a kind heart that she is giving you a choice in the manner of your punishment." Judge Burns said with an authoritative voice.

Cara stood with a blank expression as she faced the man who was about to decide the course of her life for the next few years.

"Cara Johnson, you are hereby given the choice of serving four years of incarceration at the women's correctional facility in the county of New York, or you can serve out a sentence of two years in Kenya as a missionary in the aid of an overpopulated orphanage. Mrs. Desmond was kind enough to find a mission who will accept you in exchange for your commitment to serving in the children's orphanage run by the Lady of our Sacred Hearts Mission."

Cara felt a great wave of confusion wash over her as she digested the magnitude of her choice. In two years, she would be free to continue with her life.

"Ms. Johnson, may I have your decision?" Judge Burns' question interrupted her thoughts.

"With much gratitude, I will of course choose the missionary work in Kenya." Cara said with a relief evident in her tone.

"Good, I will of course be receiving updates on a regular basis on your performance at the mission. If I hear of any disruption of any sort, I will order you back to New York to serve the four years in our women's facility, do I make myself clear Ms. Johnson?" he asked as his piercing gaze took in her frightened expression.

'Yes, your honor," Cara said in a respectful tone.

"Good, Mrs. Desmond has already arranged for your flight to Kenya. Therefore, I will turn you over to her for further instruction. Court is adjourned," he said as he slammed his gavel down on the small wooden plate.

Cara turned and faced a smiling Christine. "Christine, I don't know how I can ever thank you," she said with genuine tears filling her eyes.

"Just help as many people as you can Cara, that is all I ask," Christine said as a stunned Erik looked on.

Cara unable to talk merely nodded her head.

Christine motioning for the nun who had been seated two rows behind to join them. "Cara, this is Sister Agnes of the mission, she will be traveling with you to Kenya and can explain all of your duties once you arrive."

Sister Agnes smiled welcomingly at Cara, "I am pleased that you will be joining us in Kenya, Ms. Johnson. I am afraid that our plane is due to leave in three hours and we still have to see about your travel visa and obtain your passport," Sister Agnes said as she put a motherly arm around Cara's shoulders. "Mrs. Desmond, if you will please excuse us?" she said as she smiled at the woman held protectively within her husband's arms.

"Of course, have a safe trip," Christine wished the two as they turned to make their way out of the courtroom.

Erik stood in stunned silence as he looked from the still swinging door to the radiantly happy face of his wife. "What just happened?" he asked with a bemused expression on his face.

Reaching up Christine gave him a playful kiss upon his lips. "That my dear husband was closure on a not so happy chapter of our lives," she said with an impish grin.

Erik marveled at the woman who he was lucky enough to call his wife. Unable to speak, Erik merely nodded his head.

Christine linked her arm through his and led her husband out the doors to begin the next chapter of their happy lives.

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Five years later

"Isabella Rose Desmond!" Christine yelled at the top of her lungs.

Erik looked up from his morning paper as his five-year-old daughter raced into the breakfast room.

"Daddy, hide me!" she called excitedly as she dashed beneath the table linens.

Erik couldn't help the twitch of his lips as his daughter sought refuge from her angry mother. "Bella, care to tell me why your mother is calling for you?" he said in a hushed co-conspirator tone.

"Uh, she wants me to put on that awful dress for Aunty Meg's wedding," Bella said, pouting.

Erik nodded his head in understanding for his daughter had turned out to be quite the little tomboy.

Christine walked into the room with an irritated expression on her face.

Erik quickly hid behind his paper, not wanting to pick sides in this mother and daughter battle royal.

"Erik," Christine called out to her husband.

Erik pointedly ignored her summons as though he had not heard her.

"Erik!" Christine called out more loudly.

"Umm," Erik answered as he peered over his business paper.

"Have you seen Bella?" she asked with a speculative look in her blue eyes.

"Bella?" he responded as though he hadn't heard her correctly which only further added to Christine's suspicions.

"Yes Bella, our daughter. The daughter who in one hour time is suppose to be walking down the church aisle, scattering rose petals about," Christine said with a barely controlled patience.

Erik deciding that his wife could make his life much more difficult for him over the next few hours decided to give up his most beloved daughter. "No, I haven't seen her," he said as he motioned to under the table.

Christine eye's lit with triumph at her success about finding her wayward daughter. "Well, I guess if you haven't seen her I had better just call Aunty Meg and tell her that she won't have a flower girl for her wedding." Christine said in a sad tone.

Bella felt her conscience begin to prick at her at the thought of letting down her Aunty Meg. "I'm under here," she called out to her mother in defeat.

Christine shared a parental smile with Erik as their daughter appeared from her chosen hiding place. "Well young lady, what do you have to say for yourself?" Christine said as she adopted her disappointed mother's tone.

Bella looked down to her worn sneakers as she received the full extent of her mother's frustration. "I'm sorry mommy," Bella said in a sad little voice that pulled at Erik's soft heart.

Erik folded his paper and placed it down upon the table. "She's sorry Christine," he said in a defending tone that brought about a sharp reprimanding glance from his wife.

"I haven't found her Christine," Marie said worriedly as she entered the room. "Ah, there she is," she observed as she tried to catch her breath.

"Bella, you go with Marie and get ready for the wedding. And if I hear of any further disobedience from you today, you will not be able to watch any football games tomorrow," Christine threatened her daughter with her most stringent punishment to date, as her little girl was obsessed with the professional game.

Bella's eyes widened at the extreme nature of her mother's threat. "Ok mommy, I'll be good," she said as she crossed the room with the drama of a condemned prisoner about to face the electric chair.

Marie bit her bottom lip to hold in the laughter that was threatening to escape. As Bella threaded her tiny hand in hers, they both turned and made their way towards the grand staircase.

"Don't you think you were a little hard on her Christine?" Erik questioned as he watched the small-dejected form of his daughter disappear from his view.

Christine raised her eyebrow in response to her husband's question. Ignoring him, she turned and stalked out of the room with a stiff back that alerted Erik to his husbandly misstep. Sighing deeply to himself, he slowly began to follow his wife as he wondered what kind of punishment she had in store for him, for his alignment with his daughter.

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Nadir stood nervously at the alter, with Erik a calm presence at his side. "Do you have the ring?" he questioned out the side of his mouth.

Erik nodded in response, trying valiantly not to get irritated with his nervous best friend, as this was the fifth time he had answered that same question.

The music began to drift gently through the old church. Bella swallowed her pride and began her slow progression down the long aisle of the church, dressed in the dreaded fluffy white dress.

Erik watched with pride-filled eyes as his and Christine's beautiful daughter preformed her flower girl duties with a strong Desmond resolve.

Christine watched with tear-filled eyes as Bella walked gracefully with her little white basket filled with delicate pink rose petals. Hearing her music cue, Christine fell into step behind her daughter.

Erik's breath caught in his throat at the shear beauty of his wife. Dressed in a pale pink satin gown, Christine never looked lovelier to his eyes.

Christine felt Erik's eyes upon her and tried to hold her anger at his earlier betrayal close at hand. As she neared the alter she gave Nadir an encouraging smile. Unable to help herself, she looked up into Erik's green eyes and saw the true testimony of his love of her. Her own eyes filling with tears, she felt her anger dissolve to nothingness as her heart was filled with the overwhelming love from her husband.

Erik saw his love returned and felt his heart lighten. The music began to swell as Meg began her slow procession down the aisle.

Nadir watch as the woman who had stolen his heart walked slowly towards him.

Meg leaned heavily upon her father's arm as she felt all eyes within the church upon her as she walked to meet her future husband.

As the ceremony drew to a close, Erik caught Christine's eye and gifted her with his one special smile he reserved especially for her.

As Nadir claimed his bride's lips in a passionate kiss, Erik reached out his hand for his beloved wife.

Christine fell into step behind the newly married couple as Erik brought her hand to his lips in a gesture that took her back to a time when they had first become husband and wife. Smiling up at her husband, she linked her arm through his and made their way out of the church.

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Colleen rubbed her swollen belly as she took the empty seat beside her friend.

Christine turned in her chair to greet the very pregnant Colleen. "Wow!" she said in a surprised tone. "How many more weeks do you have?" she questioned in a sympathetic tone as she took in the size of her friend's stomach.

"Two," Colleen said with a heaving sigh. "But maybe he will take pity on me and come early." She said in a hopeful tone.

Christine laughed with a knowing expression. "How is Sami taking the news that she is about to have a little brother?" Christine asked with an amused smile.

"Oh, she is looking forward to having someone to boss around." Colleen responded with an answering smile. "Christine, did you read the article in this morning's post?" she asked as she took a bite of the decadent wedding cake.

"No, I didn't get a chance to see the paper at all," Christine responded as she watched the dancing couples.

"Well there was a mention of Cara Johnson and her work in Kenya," Colleen began as she watched her friend closely for any signs of distress.

"Oh, is she expanding the orphanage again?" Christine asked as she watched Erik wince as Bella took a misstep directly on top of his foot.

"No, it was about how she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work," Colleen informed a pleasantly surprised Christine.

"That is wonderful! I wonder if Erik has any contacts that he can call to put in a good word for her?" she wondered to herself as she took in the sight of the joyous smile on her daughter's little face.

Colleen shook her head at the magnitude of Christine's forgiving spirit. Following Christine's eyes, she saw what was bringing such a delighted smile to her friend's face. To the left of Erik and Bella, Colleen saw her own husband and daughter as they made their way around the dance floor as well. "We are a couple of very lucky women Christine," she said with a soft expression on her face.

Christine looked over at her friend and then turned to look lovingly at her husband and daughter. "Yes Colleen, we are indeed two very lucky women."

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A/N It's over! I'm really kind of sad to see it end. Oh well, we still have two others in the works that can now be found on unending-night (dot)com I hope you will look me up over there once in a while, as I have found that I don't have the desire to post on this site any longer.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and review. I know I say this all the time, but I really do mean it, your reviews really keep me going with these stories. Thank you so much for allowing me to write for you.

To my most faithful reviewer even when the site was giving you trouble you took the time to send me your reviews via private messaging. So a very big special Thank you to….

MJ MOD

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And to all of you who have taken the time out of your busy schedule to give my story a chance, thank you to you as well, I truly appreciated all of your kind reviews.

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