Alright, anyone who has read this before knows there was some controversy at the time it was posted in May. I knew I needed to go back and revise it, and I've finally found the time. I'm sure many critics, as well as supporters, will like this version much better. It's also a little longer. Thanks for feedback, and please enjoy!
Warmth - Revised
"You are dismissed for the evening," announced Madame Giry with a cool frown.
"Remember, we start an hour earlier tomorrow morning. Seven o'clock sharp - if you are late, there will be strict punishment!" She slammed her cane to the stage floor and the ballet rats ran off screaming and giggling.
Christine Daae practically flew backstage. Rehearsal had run over ten minutes; she was late.
She headed towards the dressing rooms, expertly dodging the other ballet rats clogging up the halls.
She kept up her pace, knowing she was going to be late regardless. It was the third time this week; her master would not be happy. Not that he ever was happy, but she did not desire to face the consequences of being even more tardy for stopping.
"Christine! Wait up!"
She stopped briefly and turned around. "Meg, I'm late!"
Meg Giry finally caught up to her. "Christine, we haven't truly talked in over two days. How do you expect me to go on without giving the you the full details of Francois?"
Francois Perdot was a stage hand, and a rather handsome one at that. He had a reputation for hanging around the young ballerinas and engaging in certain 'affairs.' He'd had his eye on Christine for a while before moving on to little Meg when it was obvious his interest was not returned.
Christine shook her head. "Meg, I'm sorry, truly I am. But I cannot stop to talk right now; I'm late for my lesson, and it's the third time this week! He'll have my head!" She waved her arms around, exasperated.
Meg giggled. "Oh, naive Christine. I'm sure your Angel won't mind if you're late. It's not as if he can come down here and do anything about it!"
When Christine had explained her music lessons, Meg had been less than thrilled with entertaining the idea of 'The Angel of Music' coming down to dote his gift upon her. Part of her seriously thought Christine had some issues, probably resulting from the loss of her father.
"Besides, you have the voice of an angel - he can't be cross with you for too long! Come to my room after and I'll tell you everything!" she exclaimed before turning in the direction of her frowning mother.
Christine wasted no time in hurrying back to the room. She stopped as she reached the door, drawing in a cool deep breath before turning the handle.
She entered the dark room and lit a single candle before removing her practice slippers.
"You're late," the deep baritone echoed across the room.
"Yes, Master," Christine's voice trembled.
"This is the third time this week! Do you need to be reminded of the consequences of your tardiness?" he inquired.
"No, Master. I'm sorry, Madame Giry ended rehearsal late. I hurried here directly after," she replied.
His voice softened. "Do not worry, my child. This will not happen again. Do you have your music?"
She nodded meekly before turning and digging out the sheet music from under a divan.
"Wonderful. Let's begin with scales."
Half an hour later, Christine had finally mastered the aria of Elisa in Hannibal, the production currently underway at the Garnier, one she had been learning for weeks.
"Master, may I ask you something?" Christine inquired.
There was a short silence. "Yes, my child."
"Why am I to learn this? Carlotta has the role of Elisa in this production. I am nothing but a mere ballet rat. I shall never sing in a full production such as this."
"Carlotta has the voice of a toad. She no longer holds any of the glory of her younger days. Those foolish managers are too weak to find another. You shall have your glory soon, in that you can trust!"
Christine looked down, trying to process what he was suggesting.
"Master? Am I ever to see you in the flesh?" she asked quietly.
"Not everyone holds beauty, my child. You do would not wish to look upon me," came the reply softly.
Christine stuck her chin out. "Angel, I shall always wish to look upon you. You have given me a great gift, one I am eternally grateful for. I can think of nothing else I could ever want but to meet you in the flesh."
"Christine, that is just what I mean. I am not as I have said."
Her brow furrowed. "Angel? What do you mean?"
He sighed. "I am no Angel, but a man of flesh and blood."
A thrill rushed up Christine's spine. Could it be true?
"Yes, it is so. When you first came to the opera house, it was suggested to me that I might tutor you in music. After some time had passed I accepted this idea. You, however, were still in a delicate state and wouldn't have readily agreed to having something such as myself do you the honor. So I came under the guise of the Angel of Music, having learned that your father had told you such a story. I pray you can forgive me one day."
Christine smiled. "It is you who have done me a great honor. I shall always forgive you, Master, for you have bestowed upon me the sweet gift of music; one that shall last for all eternity. I am humbled by your presence."
Silence filled the air. Clearly this answer was unexpected.
"Christine, while I admire your humility, I cannot possibly expect your forgiveness. I am in the wrong."
Christine shifted her weight. "Angel?"
"It is as I said before. I am no angel."
"Then what shall I call you?" she asked.
"Call me? Am I correct in suggesting you actually wish to continue our lessons?"
"Master!" she giggled. "Of course! Why ever not? I said before I still had much to learn!"
Another stunned silence. She was beginning to think his expectations concerning her were not nearly as high as those of her voice.
"Erik. I was once called Erik."
"Erik," she said softly, unknowing the shivers coursing throughout that very man's body at that word.
"Well, Erik, are you going to appear to me now that I know the truth? I do so wish to meet you, in the flesh," she laughed.
"Christine, I was not lying before when I said not everyone holds beauty. I am not one to look upon; it is not sightly."
"Erik, please," she pouted.
He sighed again, seemingly frustrated.
"Flattering child, you shall know me; see why in shadows I hide. Look at your face in that mirror; I am there, inside!" his voice rang out.
She peeked over at the enormous gothic mirror at the end of the dressing room. For a moment nothing happened.
Then, a figure began to appear, as if out of thin air. She watched excitedly, not knowing what to make of this spectacular event.
The figure began to take form. She noticed he was quite tall. He wore a long cloak and moved silently toward her.
He stopped a few feet in front of her, almost as if he couldn't come any closer.
The man nodded. As he did so, the light reflected onto his face. She gasped.
The first thing she noticed were those eyes. Bright green, they stared out at her in the darkness, almost as if piercing her very soul. She forgot to breathe.
"Christine," he said reaching his palm toward her. She was frozen for another moment, taking him in, before accepting his gesture.
"Erik," she whispered, as he began to lead her towards the mirror. She cared not where they were going; in fact, she barely noticed she was moving. All that held her attention was the strange man in front of her, his eyes standing out in the darkness.
They stepped through the mirror into a short hallway lined with candelabras. She then noticed the mask.
A porcelain white mask donned the right side of his face, hiding what appeared to be handsome features from her eyes. She raked her eyes over him as he led her through the end of the hallway to a maze of twisting corridors, all leading downwards. Again, she hardly noticed.
What seems like a few moments later, they came upon a lake with a gondola tied up.
Christine blinked. How had she gotten here?
She looked around. Erik untied the gondola before offering his hand.
Christine, still awestruck, took it. He helped her in before climbing aboard himself. With a push, they were off.
As the floated across the lake, she began to gain some of her sense back. She was on a lake - underground? Were they still at the opera house? What was she doing?
Minutes later they arrived at a little cove. He helped her out before leading her down another corridor. They arrived at a thick red curtain. He lifted it and gestured for her to enter.
She once again followed his silent instruction, entering a large cavern filled with candelabras. There was a giant organ in one corner, and an enormous bed that looked to be a sculpted swan in another. Music was thrown across everywhere; he did not seem to be the tidy sort.
She turned around, her eyes questioning him.
He nodded shortly. "My home," he replied.
Her brow furrowed. "Yes, we are beneath the opera house; a good six stories beneath," he said.
"You live beneath the opera house? How did you come upon such real estate?" she inquired with a small smile.
He returned it. "I designed the opera house many years ago. During the construction process, I built this," he gestured again with his hand. "No one knew about it."
She looked once more around the large room. "It's quite cozy, and yet, chilly at the same time," she remarked, unsure of why he had brought her here.
He jumped into action. "Here, my dear, please sit. I shall bring you a blanket. Would you care for a cup of tea?"
He led her to a divan close to the organ. "I'm sorry, I only have Russian tea. I hope that will be alright."
She nodded, still looking around curiously.
A few minutes later he returned with a tray. "Here, my child," he said, handing her a steaming cup.
She took it. "Erik, I am not a child," she said indignantly. "I am eighteen years old, practically an adult."
He looked taken aback. "I'm sorry, you are correct."
She turned to him. "How old are you?" she asked, ever curious.
He took a sip of his own cup before answering. "I am not sure exactly; I'd say anywhere from thirty five to forty years of age."
She nodded, processing the information.
He placed his cup on a saucer. "Christine, I must apologize again for the deceit. I never once thought we would actually be meeting in person."
"Well, it was pretty shocking. But I guess actually believing in the Angel of Music was quite childish of me. Really, I should have known better."
"No, my dear, I misled you. The blame is entirely mine. I hope you will be able to forgive me in time."
She smiled. "Do not fret, dear Erik. If anything, I am relieved."
His brow furrowed. "Relieved?"
She blushed before giggling briefly. "I often wished you were a man of flesh and not a heavenly specter. A man of flesh I could care for and love."
His face turned pale, if that was even more possibly so. "L-Love?"
She smiled. "Yes, Erik. Did you not know? I thought for sure you could read my mind, you were always quite adept at that."
"Christine, you must be mist-"
"Did you never wonder why I refused all suitors? I was too caught up in my girlish fantasies! No one else would do!" she exclaimed.
He was silent, obviously trying to process how this beautiful angel could be sitting there in front of him, proclaiming her love for him; or at least her 'girlish fantasies'. It seemed like a dream. In fact, too much like a dream.
"Christine, I find it hard to believe what you claim to be true," he said, trying to gain some control over the situation. "You know nothing about me. I am quite sure that if you were indeed knowledgeable, you would not feel the same way."
"I am sure that is not true. You've done so much for me; how could I not come to love you?"
"Stop! Just stop, Christine. It's not right," he said, unable to take it anymore.
She smiled and looked down. "Erik, I know you will never feel the same way in return, but I had to let out this confession. Please, forgive me for my boldness."
He cleared his throat. "Oh, Christine. I cannot relate to you the depths of my feelings for you. I have loved you from the moment I first heard you sing, all those years ago. I have loved you, and try as I might, I can't stop loving you. I will love you until the last breath is drawn from my body!" he professed.
She stood up, beaming excitedly. It may have been a dramatic declaration, but it was not often one fulfilled a girlish fantasy, after all.
He sighed. "But you know not of what you speak. I'm a monster. I don't deserve to even be in the same room as you."
Her face contorted in confusion. "I'm sure that's not true. You have always been there for me. How is that undeserving? Monstrous?"
"I have not always lived below the opera house; I've committed many crimes in my past." He swallowed and looked away.
"I don't care! You're past is just that - in the past. You don't even have to tell me, though I hope one day you will be able to. It doesn't matter to me."
"The mask, Christine."
"Yes? What about it?"
"You haven't even acknowledged it."
"I don't think it's important. It's just a mask."
He ran a hand through his hair. "I do not wear it for show."
"I understand," she replied.
He began to feel uncomfortable, never being in such a situation. He was used to questioning, screams of disgust, and sometimes even physical illness. His diva had him baffled.
"...And? Don't you want to see what's under it?"
She thought for a moment. "I know that I am known for being quite curious - and most of the time that's true. But I know you wear it for a reason, and I'm sure it must be some sort of deformity or injury that has caused you much turmoil. I can't imagine you living in a cavern beneath an opera house because you actually prefer to.
"I would never want to add to that. There is no need for you to show me, unless of course you would willingly do so." Tears filled her eyes. "I care for you, Erik. Please, believe me."
He stood still for a moment. "You are making it difficult to be the voice of reason."
She laughed. "Oh, but you've always been so. Why not take a break?" she asked, approaching him slowly.
He gazed at her, enraptured by her beauty and seeming acceptance of him. Yes, she did not know... anything, actually. But her reasoning was breaking down his resistance to temptation. Maybe there was some way this could work. Maybe she would come to know him, all of him, and still be so sure of her choice. It seemed like too much to even dream about, but her actions were saying otherwise.
She embraced him then, reveling in the warmth of his body. Her angel was real, and returned her affection. Who knew their lesson that night would have led to this?
He stiffly returned the embrace; it was his first. Tears formed in his eyes as he accepted the gift from his love.
"So, have you changed your mind?"
He was about to answer when he felt a small hand on the back of his head, pulling him down to meet her lips.
His first kiss was unlike anything he had ever imagined. Inexperienced as they both were, it was still breathtaking. He lifted his head up to tell her it couldn't be, when she pulled him back down again.
This time he could deny her nothing. If she wanted this, he was powerless to stop her. He drank from her sweet mouth, moaning in surprise as her tongue met the crease of his lips before colliding with his own. She was so smooth and tasted of the sweetest nectar. She was his drug; he was lost in her.
She pulled back and smiled sweetly at him. His heart melted as he took in her beauty - her face was flushed and her curls tousled, but she had never looked more beautiful to him.
"Erik, please. Let me stay here with you," she pleaded.
He kissed her forehead. "It gets quite chilly down here," he replied.
She smirked. "I'm sure I could stand it."
Erik blinked. "Well, sit down. I'll start a fire in the fireplace."
Turning, he began his task. When he finished, he noticed Christine had settled herself in the large blanket on the divan. She caught his eye and patted the cushion next to her. "Keep me company?" she asked innocently.
He complied and she snuggled into him. He relished the feeling, quite sure he could never get used to it.
Looking down, he noticed she had fallen asleep in the warmth of the blanket and his body.
Yes, this was one memory he would never forget.