Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Gaston Leroux or Susan Kay. The only thing I own in this story is the magical, long-burning candle. Please don't sue me.
Author's Notes: Fifth place in the Spring Drabble Contest! Not too bad...for me.
The Faerie's Flower
Step, step, step.
Step, step, step.
It was funny, how three little words could turn a world upside down. She paced frantically, her breathing heavy and laborious, although the window was wide open. The smell of grass and a delicate perfume filled the room, but all she found herself overpowered by the sickening scent of death.
Erik is dead.
A crystalline tear fell, stained the paper and spread the ink. .
Christine Daae continued to look quietly at the paper as if she had seen nothing of interest. She flipped the pages, past the obituaries, to the headlines. And then, as if under a spell, she turned the pages back again.
Another tear fell. And another. And another.
And suddenly, she found herself weeping uncontrollably for a ghost.
When the Vicomte called on his fiancé that day, he had expected to find her, not happy, perhaps, but relieved. After all, who could be but relieved after being freed from the hands of a madman?
It was her timid little maid that came to answer the door not her. This struck him as odd, but he shook off his initial feelings of worry. Perhaps she was not feeling well.
"Good morning, Mademoiselle. May I see Christine?" The girl bit her lip and twisted her hands together behind her. Raoul did his best not to notice.
"I'm sorry, Monsieur Vicomte, but Mademoiselle Christine is not in.' The sentence was only delivered after much hesitation, and immediately, Raoul tensed. Something was wrong.
"Where has she gone?" An odd expression passed over the maid's face. It was almost as if…she was struggling to hide something. Raoul peered over her shoulder, almost on the point of simply pushing past her and rushing inside. If Christine was trying to hide something, it certainly was related to someone he had tried very hard to forget.
Seasons can change with events, you know.
It had been bleak and grey when she had first emerged, stunned, from the gates before which she stood now. The sky had been dull, the sun hidden by an overhead cloud. It had been cold, she remembered, so Raoul had wrapped his own cloak around her. She shivered, thinking of it, and almost dropped what she was holding. It still felt sinful to think of Raoul in Erik's domain.
It was spring now. The Faerie had conquered at last, after Winter's long reign. The flowers sprouted up and bloomed, the sun shone, the tree spread their leaves in canopies proudly once more. She could hear the birds singing, smell the soft fragrance of the flowers, see the deep green majesty of the trees, just on the other side of the gate.
And behind her…darkness.
The dark had always been her enemy. It had been the ultimate divider between Erik and herself and it was pushing her away now. She could feel it, chilling her, repelling her, driving her away. Back she went, stumbling against the gates, forgetting the key in her sudden panic, and clawing at them with her bare hands.
But you promised…
The voice in her head came suddenly, without warning. It was not gentle or soft, it blared out accusingly, harsh and loud. Falling back, she let out a sob that was halfway between a laugh and a sob, without being quite like either.
"I can't," she whispered, "He isn't there now. I can't, not in the dark…"
One by one, memories and emotions came to her out of the inky blackness and washed over her prostrate form. Sadness, fear, regret…the Trapdoor Lover…his skeletal hand on her shoulder, his lantern bobbing on the lake…waiting for her.
A pair of golden eyes shone in her mind, brighter than she had ever remembered them.
Slowly, she straightened up. She looked down at the objects cupped in her hands and smiled faintly. If Winter would not embrace Spring, she would take a little of the Spring into it.
As if in a dream, she moved into the darkness, which closed up and swallowed her.
Erik kept his promises always. Even in death.
He lay where he had told her he would be, stretched out on the bank of the underground lake. A candle burnt dimly next to him, illuminating his form. Though he was cold, Christine knew he had been expecting her. Erik required no light. The candle was for her.
In the flickering light, she made out a mound of earth next to a pit, Erik's final resting place. For a moment, she wondered how he could have brought himself to literally dig his own grave.
She trembled as she knelt by the corpse, muttering prayers. It felt…wrong, somehow. Awkward. Her eyes were irresistibly drawn to the black mask that still covered his face. Tentatively, as if she still feared his reaction, she reached out, snatched it off and flung it to one side.
Now he looked like a true corpse, indeed.
Christine scarcely dared look at him after the removal of the mask. Being near a corpse was bad enough; she wasn't sure how she would bear the added horror of his face. She closed her eyes when she picked up his skeletal hand and slipped the gold band onto one bony finger. A chill spread up her arm and through her body, colder than anything she had ever known. Quickly, she pulled her hand away.
She did not have the strength to lower him into the pit, so she pushed him instead. His body rolled into the pit with a dull thud. A shower of earth followed him, collecting in the folds of his clothes, and also, to her relief, on his face. She saw only the glint of gold in the darkness; everything else had been buried. For a while, she gazed down at him, her expression unreadable.
A small white flower dropped from her hand, and fell soundlessly into the pit with him.
If Winter cannot come to Spring, then Spring shall come to Winter.
The petals shone faintly by the light of the candle, translucent and pearly white. It lay on the dead man's chest, standing out starkly against the blackness. A scent slowly spread up from it, filling the air with sweetness, not intoxicating, but pure and soft.
Perhaps the Spring Faerie was watching at that moment. If so, she smiled.
Christine stood by the uncovered grave, quietly gazing in. There was no fear in her eyes now, only an otherworldly peace. She felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her, as if she could fly, should she want to.
"Goodbye, Erik," she said gently, picked up the candle, and walked away.
And though there was no light source, the petals of the Faerie's flower still glowed faintly.
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