Chapter One: Lost Love
Christine walked the length of the veranda as she looked out on the green of the grass and the sway of the trees, and yet, she was not happy. She had felt like a stranger in her own home for a very long time. It wasn't as though she was a prisoner but something had left from her relationship with Raoul. He was distant, short tempers and never spoke to her out side of the regular civilities that went along with their marriage state. The wind blew past her face, cool and crisp and perfect in its effect as the hair around her face danced with the freedom she had never known. She realized that she was never free; that her deepest desires had never been met. For a while she had thought herself the happiest and luckiest creature in the entire world. But that had long since faded. She was but an object as she had always been.
Every morning he would rise from their bed and leave her. He never touched her anymore. It was as though a line had been drawn down the center of the bed and should she dare to cross it some great danger would occur. He often pushed her aside if ever she tried to be close to him. He was filled with disgust for her. She knew that the next step would be for him to completely quit their marital bed and return to another of the unused bedrooms in the huge house he had purchased to keep her locked away in.
She would join him in the breakfast room, the news would be retold from behind the paper that he held, instead of looking at her, and he would be gone for the day. Christine remained alone with her house staff for most of the day but the duties of a wife were numerous and so the time was occupied to an extent. She chose the meals, the flowers, any alterations that should happen to keep the house looking as it should. Sadly, even with a house full of the house staff they were invisible for the most part and preferred not to be talked to outside of the orders that were given. They were not to be a ladies companion, as Christine ought to see herself. She was left in seclusion as she had no friends in her station of life. The people she had once known were below her station now and were not the kind of people that a Countess would associate with. But she was looked down upon by upper society. She was a theatre child; the girl who had bewitched a man of great fortune and so she deserved her solitude. She would not be accepted by any of them if her husband was not around to benefit from their society.
. Raoul would return in time for dinner, which was mainly spent, once again in recounting any news of the day, new plays that were opening, who was sleeping with whom and who had made the biggest disgrace of themselves. He would then motion for her to leave and he would then retire to his study to enjoy his port and his books, leaving Christine in her music room with her violin and her piano until night had completely fallen and she would return to her bed. Her maid would help her with her dress, she would wear the cloths that were purchased for her by Raoul and then she would take to the marital bed once again. He would come up late in the night and would be the first to leave. There were times she had convinced herself that she had felt him shudder at just the sight of her laying in his bed. Christine was but a ghost in her own home, one that terrified and disgusted her husband and who should have remained in her lowly position as theatre rat.
She did not sing much anymore, but played the piano as often as she could. It was the one comfort she felt now. The melodies that had so long been lost to her, the sounds of the note that were meant for her and her alone, were now all that she could think of. She struggled through her playing to remember them. To capture them again and to bring some resemblance to herself of what she once was. When she had first come away with Raoul and their love for each other was strong and seemed like it would last forever, Christine tried to give up the music for the roll of a wife. But it was not long before she could no longer deny herself the love of her music and Raoul had seemed pleased to allow her the pleasure that music had once brought to her. The piano forte, the harp and the violin had all been gifts presented by her husband in their early life together and he would sit in the music room, late into the night and listen with enchanted ears to the dove he had plucked from the theatre attic and placed in a palace to bloom and grow. Music masters were hired and came to their manner house to teach Christine. Though her voice was still moldable she was more interested in her fathers art and a feeling from within told her that she should learn any keyboard instrument that she possibly could. Without telling Raoul why she requested another professor and soon a piano forte and a professor was brought before her. Her music mentors had long since disappeared but Christine did not stop her playing.
In the beginning of her marriage she was a vibrant lovely sort of woman looking only for the freedom and love that she believed she would have with Raoul and for the first few years all was well. They were never apart. Their love was strong and it was very seldom that Christine was not in her husbands arms, but as the years passed something changed. Christine blamed the change in her husband on her inability to produce for him a child. They had tried and tried but Christine was not able to become pregnant or if she did she had lost the child very early into the pregnancy and after this had occurred more then once Raoul began to become distant.
It was a gradual change in her husband, something that she really didn't see coming. It started with small things until one night, at an acquaintances dinner Christine realized that she was nothing more than an object of show for her husband. It was true that she had gained a lot in the marriage and she knew that Raoul would not turn her out and leave her destitute, she had money enough put away because of his generosity and she was, after all, a countess but that was all. That night, after a very entertaining evening Raoul handed her into the carriage with a wave of gallantry for the bystanders but when he took his place beside her no words were spoken. Christine believed that the evening had been a great success. Raoul had been proud, talkative, and very gentleman like, but when she tried to talk to him, on their way home, even going as far as moving close to him, he cringed and moved away. Not another word was spoken.
It had now been a long time since Christine and Raoul were happy. She believed that she still loved him, or at the least was still devoted to him, but she could not bare the thought of living in such conditions. She had walked the ground of their manner, protected from the eyes of the neighborhood and had nearly thrust herself into the river on more then one occasion. Would he come to her rescue she wondered but knew that the answer was no. She would have to learn to be the object and she wished for the strange sweet voice that had once persuaded her to be what she was now forced to become. She would not have to wait long however before her life would be turned upside down.
Raoul returned home one evening complaining of a strange pain in his back and was visited by his physician, only to find out that Raoul was extremely ill, in fact, Raoul was dying. Refusing a stay in the hospital Raoul requested that he be taken home and there Christine nursed him, along with the medical staff that had been sent to tend to him. But, even with her renewed worth, the love was lost from Raoul. He rarely spoke to her; he wouldn't even look at her if he could help it. He was cold and distant to the day he died.
As bright and as cheerful as the day had looked it was a somber, bitter, sweet day. Christine had just witnessed her husband's last breaths and was asked to step away as the doctor and his helpers prepared to move the body. She stepped out onto the veranda in hopes that she would find some solace in the outdoors but the weather did not mimic her mood and the cheerful day spelled something far different from her. Not only was she now a widow she was the sole survivor of the family and a very wealthy lady, and last of all, she was to continue as the patron of the Opera Populair.