A bit of backstory. I began this phic in 2009 with high hopes for it, yet it wasn't as planned out as it should have been. While writing it, I experienced several major changes in my personal life, and, as a result, there were a couple of very long hiatuses in between chapters. As a result of all this, the story never became what I wanted it to be. I made myself finish it in 2012 to get it off my mind, but the ending was never all that satisfying to me.
So as of December 2013, chapters 19 forward have been completely altered to make this story what it was always supposed to be. Chapters 1 through 18 have been heavily edited but retain most of the same material. If you read the original version of this story, I'd still recommend re-reading them because there are some major changes. For example, Meg's portion has been heavily trimmed because it didn't fit the overall plot. For those who prefer the original version, I still have it saved and am willing to send it to you.
So here is the only warning I'll give. This is a pretty dark and uncomfortable story. It contains sometimes unflattering yet I hope generally sympathetic portraits of all characters. Nothing is done as character "bashing." If you've read my other works, you know that I like to stay as true to the characters as possible. But this particular story is meant to...twist them a little bit. All that said, I hope it's at least an intriguing ride.
I do not own The Phantom of the Opera. All characters and themes belong to ALW and Gaston Leroux.
A big thanks to MadLizzy for editing many of these chapters and helping to make it more real.
She was in her favorite room of the entire building when her cell phone rang, her hands poised over the keys of a grand piano.
Skylights cast yellow squares on a light-blue carpet, and paintings of water lilies hung on the wall. Donned in a loose peach sundress and with her blonde hair tied back, Christine was warmly encompassed in the music and in her own little world. The local children's theatre was going to be performing Cinderella in two weeks, and she had been one of their accompanists for the past year.
Compared to her den, the circular practice room gave the music a more ethereal quality. Each note echoed, and the melody flowed without interruption. She loved that room.
Or at least she loved it until the phone call. After that call, she disliked certain things associated with that particular day. She'd had salmon for lunch; that was the last time she ever ate fish.
Still lost in the music sheets, she absentmindedly answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Christine. It's Phillip. I was wondering if you were on your way to the hospital."
When she heard the grave tone of her brother-in-law on the other end, two words passed through her mind. It's Dad.
She didn't stop to think about how strange it was that Phillip was phoning to tell her the bad news. Although she'd always prepared for this call, her heart still constricted. Bile collected in her throat, and she clutched the phone. "What?" she managed to hoarsely ask. It's Dad. "Oh, God."
"The accident…. Are you heading over here now?"
An accident? That was a weird way to put it. Christine squeezed her eyes shut as the room tilted to the side. "Is he alive?" Maybe her father could survive a third heart attack within four years. It was possible, wasn't it? Lots of people survived multiple attacks….
There was a pause on the other end. "Yeah." She opened her eyes and nearly passed out from relief. "But he's injured pretty badly."
Something wasn't adding up. "Injured? Did he…hit his head when he fell…? I don't understand."
"Huh?" Another pause and then a whispered obscenity. "I'm talking about Raoul!"
"Crap! So no one's called you yet? I thought the hospital-never mind! He was in an accident driving home from work."
"What? Oh my God!" The room was starting to tilt again as horror for her husband and relief for her father settled into her mind. It was like ducking under a kitchen table and waiting for an earthquake-only to find out your house was on fire instead. "What…Oh my God!"
"They think it was a drunk driver; the guy's dead. Raoul's in surgery right now, and we're waiting for results. I thought you'd know by now; it was two hours ago. I'm sorry."
Her mouth hung open for five seconds as this all registered. At least with her dad she'd been expecting it. But this? Nothing could have prepared her for this. "But he…he's okay?" she stuttered. "He's okay, right?"
"He's alive. We're not sure about his injuries. But he was conscious coming in."
"Thank God," she whispered. "I'll be there in-Where are you?"
"Jackson Memorial. Room six fifteen."
"All right. I'll be there in twenty minutes." After hanging up, she grabbed her purse from the side of the piano and ran out of the room, no longer finding it warm and protective. As she left the building, she could hear the voices of children singing in unison somewhere behind her.
It was a cozy job without too much pressure—or too much pay. But how many people could say they earned money doing what they loved? Plus, her husband fully supported her musical aspirations.
Her heart clenched again as she thought of Raoul, and she ran even faster to her car.
During the drive, she also ran a red light. Thankfully, no cops were nearby. With the state of mind she was in, it was fortunate that no pedestrians were killed.
Once at the hospital, Christine jumped onto a painfully slow elevator and slammed her hand against the button for the sixth floor. Throughout the entire journey, she refused to think of the possibility that Raoul was anything less than alive.
They had married two years ago at the age of twenty-two…dated since their senior year of high school…had been friends since the sixth grade. Raoul would have been a third generation legacy at Brown, but he'd turned it down and joined her at the state university.
There had not been many moments of her adult life without him. She couldn't lose him. It wasn't possible. She wouldn't accept it.
The first person she saw in the sterile corridor was Phillip. He was dressed in a black tank top and grey sweatpants, probably interrupted during his workout at the gym.
Like Raoul's mother, Phillip hadn't been too fond of her in the beginning, thinking they'd married too young. Unlike Raoul's mother, though, Phillip had come to accept her. And—at that moment—she needed a hug from him.
"Like I said, he was conscious when they first got him here," said Phillip, giving her a brief embrace. He smelled of a strong deodorant. "They're pretty sure he's going to make it."
"Thank God," she murmured, falling back against the plaster wall. "I just…I thought…." She closed her eyes and held back a sob. "I didn't know what to think."
"I know. Goddamned idiot driver slammed right into him! I'd kill the bastard if he weren't dead." He unclenched his fists and glanced at her, shaking his head. "Sorry. I'm still a wreck."
"It's fine. I feel the same way," she murmured. Her eyes settled on the closed double door. "Can I go see him?"
"He's still recovering from surgery. Maybe forty more minutes if that last nurse knew anything."
"Oh." She slumped back against the wall, feeling the cold tiles beneath her dress. After another second, Christine took out her phone and called her father. His voice was comforting; less than an hour ago, she was sure he'd be the one in here.
"Oh, honey," he began after she told him the story. "Jesus. I'm so sorry. Do you want me to come up there? I can be there in fifteen minutes."
"No," she murmured. Her dad hated hospitals with good reason. "No. I'll come see you later tonight or tomorrow." She swallowed. "Make sure to eat a healthy dinner. There's a stir-fry in the freezer with lots of carrots…and…and broccoli…." Her eyes started to fill with tears.
"I will, Chris. I will. Calm down. Take a deep breath. I don't need someone calling me and telling me you've passed out. Now do you need anything? I swear I'll be up there in an instant."
"No. Don't come. It wouldn't do anything. I'm just waiting. I'll call you later."
Phillip got off his phone as she got off hers. "Mom and Dad are boarding a flight home," he stated. "Mom was nearly in hysterics."
Raoul's parents had been vacationing in Honolulu, and Christine had been secretly enjoying their absence. At the moment, the news that they were returning didn't affect her either way. It seemed like the next logical step in this crazed path of events.
She and Phillip finally took seats in the waiting room with the other morose visitors, everyone silently staring at the walls. At some point, a nurse with bright red hair informed them that Raoul was out of the recovery unit. Christine barely heard another word she said, only dashing toward the indicated room. No one stopped her from entering.
Her eyes fell on his face, and she hesitated. What had she been expecting? He looked okay, the same as always, except paler and with a giant bruise on his forehead. She studied his chest to make sure he was breathing. He'd better be breathing….
After determining that his chest was rising and falling, she sat in the armchair by his bed, oblivious to Phillip and the doctors. She was half-aware of a hushed conversation in the hallway, but her mind was too distorted to make sense of it.
It took a while for him to wake up. When he finally did, her eyes watered all over again. "Hi," she whispered with relief.
Raoul appeared disoriented for a moment and bent his neck forward. "What…." After a second, he seemed to remember, his eyes widening. With acceptance of the situation, he relaxed back onto the pillow. "Hey, there," he hoarsely replied, giving her a tired but genuine smile.
"How are you?"
"Well, this wasn't what I meant when I suggested we meet for dinner."
She attempted a laugh, but it came out as a tear-choked snort. "I'm so glad you're okay."
"Of course I am. How are you?"
"Okay." Christine bent forward to kiss him. "I love you." She wanted to crawl in bed beside him, close her eyes, and open them to discover that they were in their own bedroom and this was all a bad dream.
"I love you, too." He squeezed her hand. "Don't worry. I'll be out of here in no time. Just a few scratches."
"Yeah. You look fine. Cute as ever." She was finally able to smile back.
Christine glanced up to see a nurse standing there with a bag of clear fluid in hand. She moved out of the way so that the woman could make whatever adjustments were needed. Sensing a tension in the room, Christine finally turned away from Raoul and stared at Phillip. He looked as though someone had slapped him.
Something wasn't right….
Raoul turned to his brother as well. "Hey." He blinked twice, still obviously groggy from the pain medication. "Aren't you missing the football game?"
Phillip stood there for several more seconds before snapping out of his shock. "Heh." He could barely manage a laugh. "Who cares? It'll be a massacre. Who wants to watch the Dolphins win by forty points?" He leaned down for an awkward hug. "Brother, you had me scared there."
Raoul chuckled. "Mom must be going crazy. Did you tell her I was okay?"
Again, Christine noticed Phillip's face pale, and her stomach knotted. What was happening?
"Yeah," Phillip nearly whispered. "I told her you were awake."
"Great. Maybe she won't come running into the hospital in hysterics like she did after you broke your arm that one time." Raoul turned back to her, unsteadily lifted her hand, and kissed the back of it. He must have noticed her darkening expression. "Everything is fine, honey."
Her gaze was torn between Phillip's frown and Raoul's smile. Suddenly, she realized that there was something different about Raoul. He usually had a lot of energy, always moving around or tapping his foot if he was forced to sit for too long. Yet, he'd been very still since she'd been in the room. But maybe it was the effect of the surgery and anesthetics or whatever else they used. Or maybe he was exhausted from the accident.
Phillip was watching her as she gazed toward the end of the bed. "Christine." There was a tone of warning. "You should come into the hallway for a few moments. Get some water."
Raoul sharply glanced at his brother. He still became irritated by Phillip's occasional habit of treating her like an inept teenage girl. "What's wrong? She can stay here."
"Nothing," muttered Phillip, obviously too tired to argue. "Nothing is wrong."
She needed to know—no matter how terrible it might be. Not knowing was giving her an ulcer. "I think I do need some water," she murmured. "I'll be right back."
She kissed him once quickly on the forehead and once slowly on the lips. Then she left the room.
After Phillip finally explained, only two words could sum up how Christine felt that day and for many days afterwards.