A little stream of light entered into the darkened room where he sat weeping.

"Go," he said, anguished, "leave me."

She hesitated at the door in indecision, but then entered the room, her gentle presence only making him weep harder.

"Please, leave me," he cried, turning from her, "don't come nearer."

She stopped for a moment, second-guessing herself, but didn't let her resolve get crushed. She would not turn back now.

"Do you not listen?" he snapped, turning on her, revealing the full horror of his anguish-stricken countenance, the deepest depths of his pain and anger. She took a quick step back, startled and afraid. She almost did not recognize him, he looked so disfigured.

"GO!" he roared.

She in fear ran to the door and almost lost all her resolve, but as she rested her hand on the handle, she paused. She heard his ragged breath, his weakness.

"Please," he said, broken, "just leave me. I know... there is no hope for me."

"Please, Erik," she said quietly, still holding the doorknob, "don't say that."

"I am a liar, Christine," he bitterly cursed, "but I will not deceive myself. There is no hope for me."

She sighed silently and turned away from the door.

"Erik...why do you say that?"

He lifted his head up and turned to face her, a disgusted and sorrowed look on his face, even more distorted in the moonlight.

"Have you come to rub salt into my wounds?" he bitterly seethed. "Is it not clear? I made myself a fool before you, Christine, and I made myself blind with hope. I knew you loved him, and I love...I love you, Christine. I could not stand between you and your happiness. Why have you come back here? I let you go, Christine, I let you go!"

She watched helplessly as he got worked up into a passion and turn violently away from her. He knocked all the books off his desk and threw a few papers off the music stand in his library. She felt tears come to her eyes, and she dreaded being there.

"I let you go, I told you to forget me, as I would rather you do than pause to think of me. You've only caused me more misery in coming back here!" He shuddered and wept again. "And now you see me in my lowest state. Well," he said, turning on her again, "if it's a show you want, it's a show you'll have!"

He rushed over to her and grabbed her wrists before she could react. She tried to break free, but he was too strong. She felt him shaking in rage and agony, torn against himself, against her.

"Please, Erik, let me go--"

"Strange time for mercy, Christine," he said, a madly twisted and deeply pained look in his eye. "Look at me, Christine, look me straight in the eye! Are you enjoying what you see?"

"Please, Erik, let me go," she whispered in increasing horror, trying to look away, to break away, "please, that's not what I came here for at all--"

"No? You wanted the full show! Of course! Well, you are quite the tease! Did you come here to see me crawling back to you on my knees? To see me cry and beg you to come to me, to change your mind? Ha! Well, listen and listen well, Christine," he said, jerking her violently closer to her, bringing his voice to a low growl, "you're not going to get that satisfaction from me. You have your own lover to see doing those same things to you. The show's over. I'm dead, Christine, dead, and you have no need to be here, intruding on my grave. It's cruel to mock the dead."

"Erik, please," she said, on the verge of tears, "I didn't come here for that."

"I doubt it highly," he said. He then unexpectedly paused and looked at her. Suddenly, he was transformed and let her go. His eyes betrayed him, and he looked ready to weep again.

"My God, have I no heart left?" he stated blankly. "Is that dead, too?"

Christine panted, tears streaming down her face as she silently cried.

"Just go," he choked and turned away from her. He headed to the piano bench on the other side of the room, hiding his tears.

Christine watched him, dreading what might happen next. She had half a mind to walk out...but she convinced herself to stay. It had to be said. It had to be done.

"Why are you still here?" he croaked, looking back slightly at her and sinking onto the piano bench. He leaned on the closed piano. "Please, just leave me. Forgive me for having handled you so violently, but please...please, just go. Will you grant me, monster though I am, that decency, that dignity? You don't want to have anything to do with me."

Christine looked sorrowfully on him, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"Erik, you're wrong," she said softly.

"Right," he scoffed, his gentle voice cracking. "Don't lie to me, Christine."

She took another deep breath, her heart pounding. She felt her hands shaking.

"You're wrong in every way, every way possible. Erik..." She reached into her purse and pulled out a white rose. A rose was a familiar gift of his to her, though it was always a red rose. She then hesitated, but then gently placed it on the piano in front of him. He lifted up his head and frowned at the rose, gently looking up to her for an explanation.

"Christine, I don't--"

She then gently bent down to him and kissed his forehead.

"Erik, you're wrong."

Erik paused and looked to her, his eyes full of tears and confused hope.

"You still haven't explained... why..."

Christine paused and bit her lip. She couldn't believe she was doing this, but it had to be done.

"You may have let me go..." she almost couldn't finish "...but I have not let you go."

Erik turned to her completely and studied her, his eyes burning with hope.


She looked into his eyes and her heart pounded. She put her quivering hand on his pale and cold cheek. He hesitantly moved his hand to hers and held it, ever so gently, in a daze. She breathed deeply again.

"Erik... I... I..." she quickly looked down, but looked back up, trying to be resolute. "I'm not getting married to him. If I did, I would be miserable. This I know for sure."

Erik heard the words, and his mouth hung agape. She looked down, feeling herself turn red.

"Christine... what are you getting at? What are you saying?"

She couldn't bring herself to say what she truly meant, biting her lip. She instead said simply, "There is hope for you, Erik. If you still... if you still wanted to know me, then consider yourself...consider yourself loved. As a friend, mind you, but loved... and there is hope for you, Erik, hope."

She looked into his stunned eyes, and then she kissed him on the forehead, holding his hand.

"And don't you forget that," she said deeply and almost raggedly. She looked into his eyes again, his eyes that were softened and adoring. She kissed him again, tenderly, and then let go of his grip, which felt firm, but truly was soft.

"I must go now," Christine said, fumbling around with her purse a little, a tad skewed, "but, if you wish, I can be back here tomorrow... or you can call me, and we can go somewhere... I haven't yet been to that new coffee shop that opened on 5th Street."

Erik looked at her, stunned. "Yes," he said, "yes. That's fine."

Christine smiled, feeling awkward as she did, and headed to the door, her hand shaking and unsteady as she fumbled for the knob.

"Christine... I love you."

Christine paused as her senses tingled and burned.

"You know what, Erik," she said, softly, looking to him, "perhaps I love you, too, but... but it is too soon to tell, to say for sure."

The two looked at each other for a brief moment, and then Christine opened the door and left. Erik finally stood, and held the rose in his hand. He held it close to his heart.

"She loves me," he whispered to himself in the silence, incredulously. "She loves me."