Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Phantom of the Opera.

Chapter 19: An Easy Way Out

Christine swung the door open, her eyes searching for Erik. She had not seen him since that morning…since the necklace. She could still feel his warm fingers on her skin as the cool chain was wrapped around the base of her neck.

As she smiled, her fingers trailed up her collarbone until they made contact with the now warm pendant. She still could not believe that the necklace was around her neck, that the dragonfly she had lost years ago was proudly dangling from the chain.

"Erik," she called out as she walked from room to room.

There was no sign of him. Frowning in disappointment, she sat on the couch and turned on the TV. She would wait for him. Kicking her shoes off, she stared at the moving images in the black box, not truly paying any attention to what was happening. Erik consumed all thoughts, Erik and where he could have gone.

Christine looked over at the red digital clock numbers. It was nearly 9:00. He did not have any meetings or dinners scheduled, at least none that she knew about. And Christine had never seen Erik leave the apartment for anything other than business.

You're just being paranoid.

Shaking away bad thoughts regarding Erik's whereabouts, her eyes refocused on the television.

\/-/\-\/-/\-\/

Erik sat at his black piano, his hands resting atop of three pressed ivory keys. The tune had long died out, melted into the darkness. He stared blankly at the black notes that hung on the straight lines of the music sheet. His eyes scanned the words below them, his mind unable to make sense of them. Shutting his eyes, he took in a trembled breath, a scared breath.

He had not slept all night. Almost twelve hours had passed since he had held Christine in his arms in the office. He had rushed to his apartment right after they had parted ways and locked himself in the music room. The thick, soundproof walls helped him shut the world out and block the sound of his music from leaving his domain No one, besides him, had ever set foot in the room. Christine had been warned when she was first hired to stay out of it as well. If she knew what lay inside the large, crammed space her view of him would change before she could bat her eyes.

The sun was due to rise any minute to wake the rest of the city. Though sleep deprived, Erik had never felt more awake in his life. The torment that rampaged in his mind refused to give him a second of peace, of stillness, of the absolute calmness he had sought all his life. The pain swam in his veins like a demonic serpent, attacking every inch of his insides.

"God," he whispered under his breath, "what am I going to do?"

No answers came, only the deafening silence of emptiness, loneliness. He had been here before. He had asked the same question before, in that same room. Just as before, he was left to battle his demons on his own.

For ten years he had tried to ease Renee from his mind. It seemed that her image, the pain that followed the memories, had subsided once the dark haired woman had walked into his life. Christine had helped to ease away the nightmares that had plagued him for almost a decade. Who would have known that she would also be the reason those nightmares would return?

He loved her. Without an ounce of doubt, he loved Christine. Though love gushes though one's body, filling it with joy and radiance, there is always a price to pay. It was a price Erik had already paid, a price he would not survive being able to pay again. His heart had suffered enough, another blow would drain it of what energy it had left.

His fingers pressed another key on the piano. And another. And another. Music had always offered him a sense of comfort, a way to break the loneliness that captured his heart. No, he was not alone for he had Christine now. But holding in the torture, the memories, trying to deal with the storm himself, always made him feel like he stood alone in the world.

Rising from his wooden seat, he walked out of the room, locking the door behind him.

Unbuttoning the remaining buttons on his black shirt, he went to change. With his fingers still working on the plastic circles, he stopped in his tracks. Sleeping on his bed, still fully dressed in a black suit rested his Christine. She lay curled up in the middle of the bed, on top of the silk comforter. She slept on her side, her hands tucked beneath her head.

God, she looked beautiful, happy. What if he were to become the reason she never smiled again? What if he destroyed her as he had destroyed Renee?

Suddenly, Christine's dark, mahogany hair transformed into long, straight, red strands. Her delicate features changed, her eyes snapping open to reveal cold brown pools. Slowly, the creature rose, her eyes not parting from Erik's. She sat on the edge of the bed, staring.

"Are you happy now, my love?" she asked with a gentle, yet mocking voice. "Are you?"

Erik could not answer her. With rapid breaths he stared at the woman, frozen stiff, like a corpse in the early stages of rigor mortis.

"Erik?" The voice had transformed, turned to a sweet, melodic ring that was flooded with concern. The red haired woman vanished, leaving behind Christine, the woman who was still sound asleep on his bed.

His hand ran roughly though his hair, nearly tearing the dark strands from his scalp. Turning around, he stormed out of the apartment, taking nothing with him. He needed to get out, to leave and clear his mind. There was only one place he knew to run to when life began to crumble around him, and he was going to run to it as fast as humanly possible.

\/-/\-\/-/\-\/

Confident fingers ran though the large red bow that was tightly tied to the neck of the crystal vase. Thin red ribbons cascaded down the vase, their tips almost touching the desk below. The curls the ribbons had been transformed into reminded him of her, of Christine, of her glorious hair.

His eyes rose higher, and at the top of the vase rested two dozen scarlet perfections. Fully bloomed blood red roses stood proud and tall, their green, outstretched hands creating a halo around them.

Taking out a folded, crisp, white card from his pocket, he exhaled slowly as his eyes scanned the fine, dark letters that contrasted beautifully to the blank background. His finger gently caressed the smooth surface of the card as a light smile claimed his lips. He read the note again and again, and as he did his smile widened.

Nothing could go wrong. Everything was going to fall into place just as it should.

\/-/\-\/-/\-\/

Christine walked inside her office, her bags falling at her feet. Dark circles had emerged beneath her eyes. Her creamy, glowing skin had been painted over with a sickening, dull yellow. With half closed eyes, she walked to the desk, collapsing on the chair.

Her hand reached out, pulling the phone closer. Her fingers ran over the black buttons with unimaginable speed. It was a number she had dialed over a hundred times over the past two nights. It was a number she would have been able to dial without even looking.

Voicemail picked up, again. The voice of a computer repeated a message she had heard all night. The loud beep rung in her ear as the message ended. Aggravated, tired and furious beyond a human's capacity to understand, she slammed the receiver on its base over and over again.

Christine eyed the phone with anger, as if it were the reason she could not get in touch with Erik. She had spent the night sitting by her phone, calling and waiting. After he had placed the necklace around her neck that morning, she had yet to hear or catch a glimpse of Erik.

She had gone straight to his apartment Wednesday night, but he had not been there. Thursday she had tried to call, but no one answered. He was nowhere to be found. Nadir had assured her that Erik was alright, that he disappeared for a few days every now and then.

But a few hours ago Nadir had boarded a plane that would take him away from the office for the next four weeks, leaving her behind with no one to tell her that Erik was fine and that he would reemerge soon. She had been left alone to oversee everyone and everything. There was pressure, there were deadlines and more responsibilities than she could count, yet none of it mattered, none of it was causing her to stay up half the night by her phone.

Where are you, Erik?

Her face fell on her hand, her eyes closing. Something was wrong. Something was definitely wrong. He would not do something like this to her. The past few days he could not stay more than a few hours away from her, and now he had been gone for nearly two days. It did not add up.

With a frustrated sigh, her eyes opened slowly. This time they caught a glimpse of something that stood very much out of place. Standing at the corner of her desk, with files surrounding it, were flowers. She scanned them, a frown darkening her features. Reaching out, she pulled the white card that was nestled in the red flowers.

The present did not feel like something Erik would ever give her. The roses were a much lighter color than the ones she usually received, and these had bloomed. If they turned out to be from the masked man, she was ready to pick the vase up and throw it out the window. If he thought that flowers would erase the torment he had caused her, he had another thing coming.

Just as she had thought, the flowers had not been Erik's doing. The note she held in her hands was printed. The script was elegant with smooth curvy letters. Every note she had ever received from him had been hand written, and had never been short, passionless one liners.

She threw the note on the desk, not bothering to even read who had sent them. All that mattered was that they were not from Erik.

Christine was ready to break, ready to scream until every person from the four corners of the Earth heard her. What he was putting her through was madness, absolute insanity.

"Christine?" A calm, sweet voice entered her office from the opened door.

"What?" she spat back, not bothering to look up at the intruder. As she pushed around papers and files, her eyes shot open. The voice from the door…the flowers…the note.

Raoul.

Her eyes slowly moved from her desk, rising up until the face of the man came into view. And sure enough there he stood, dressed in his pressed suit and fake smile.

\/-/\-\/-/\-\/



Erik looked out of the sunlit balcony. The green forest stretched all around him. Civilization was scarce; the only signs that he was not alone were the terracotta colored rooftops of the other houses. Out at the horizon, the light blue skies hit the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea.

Even with the peace and complete silence that surrounded him, his mind could not help but race. With a heavy sigh he turned around, closing the balcony doors behind him. He looked about the room, the memories of his childhood rushing back.

This place had been his sanctuary. This house had been the only place that had ever felt like a home. Every inch of it had remained exactly the same, exactly as his grandmother had left it.

He was running again, trying to push away the problems that plagued his mind. Erik knew that running would not solve anything. He knew that by leaving New York, by leaving Christine, he was only causing more problems. But her needed to get away, needed to hide even if it was just for a few days.

"Monsieur," said the young woman in a pale blue uniform. "Your lunch is ready."

No. Running was not the answer, but it helped.



Hello everyone. I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to update, but my computer broke down. I have lost quite a few documents and am working on rewriting them.

In case you do not remember, Erik's music room is mentioned very briefly in chapter 5, and will become the focal point of the coming chapters.