Thank you to those who reviewed. This final chapter became monstrous, so I split it into two. But the next one should be posted very soon. Thank you for your patience with this story.

An epilogue will eventually follow. I'm not yet sure if it will have one part or two.


His greatest regret was not escaping his mother's house months ago.

Throughout their youth, Theresa Chagny had been somewhat controlling. Sometimes it was in a loving fashion, such as fussing over him and Phillip about every scrape and bruise. And then there was her more irrational anger over his and Christine's relationship from high school onward. Phillip had learned to brush her off at an early age, putting a lot of effort into his rebellious teenager stage. Generally, Raoul had just ignored her or told her what she wanted to hear. It wasn't as though she had any real power over two grown men.

That is—until the accident. Suddenly, his mother and Christine were locked in a battle, and it should have been obvious as to who the victor would be. His kind, mild-mannered wife hadn't stood a chance against his overprotective parent, and Raoul had been too sealed in his own pity party to give the former a hand.

Christine had never treated him like a child. If anything, she'd been slightly more juvenile throughout their relationship, but he'd been happy to lead the way into adulthood. And this was why the situation after the accident had been so difficult for her, he thought. He'd always wanted to be her hero and shoulder to cry on whenever life became tough. The tables had turned and nearly destroyed them.


A light had turned on once he had escaped the clutches of his mother. Now that they were back in their own home, living like an adult married couple, Raoul was sure that everything was going to improve. He felt more alive and actually wanted to get out of bed in the morning. He wanted to be there for her again-to reach out and grasp what they used to have.

But-he was suddenly disturbed by a glint in her eyes over the next weeks. Christine almost refused to look at him, her gaze slightly to the left whenever they spoke. Her voice was distant. And, when she touched him, something was lacking in her fingertips.

Was it any wonder, though? Christine had been completely drained by all this tragedy. He wasn't quite sure what she wanted or needed now. But he thought maybe a baby would give them something in common. They needed light in their life again. Hope. Joy. Anything.

Whenever she was gone, he did a little private Internet research. Raoul looked up the latest technology involving recovery for paralysis victims. There were various robotics and even devices that read brain signals and then used them to move parts of the body. It was all very new and untested, but it was something to hope for. He also, with a red face, looked up possibilities for becoming intimate that wouldn't leave them both upset and humiliated. There was hope in that area was well. Sensing growing discomfort between them, Raoul didn't yet share any of this news with her, not wanting to make the situation even more awkward. But he did tell her repeatedly how grateful he was for all she had done.

Christine was utterly beautiful. Her hands were always soft, and her smile had once been full of warmth and kindness.

But her smile was false and almost pained now. In fact, Raoul saw only one real smile from her all week. She was glancing out the window and into the night, an almost eerie expression on her pretty face. As though she were someone else entirely. It frightened him a bit.

The day that he was supposed to go to her performance, they went out to lunch at his favorite Mexican restaurant.

"Are you okay?" he asked during the drive. She was gripping the steering wheel and leaning forward. The muscles in her face were tense.

"Yeah." She turned and gave him another forced smile.

"Look out!"

Christine braked hard behind the car in front of them. "Thank you," she said with a shuddery breath.

"Sorry. My fault. I distracted you." She didn't say anything, continuing to stare ahead with wide eyes. Maybe she still wasn't used to driving the van. "I'm excited to hear you play tonight," he softly continued, trying to make conversation. "Should be awesome."

"Thanks," she whispered. "I'm happy to have you there."

Despite the awkwardness that going out into public brought, he tried to make it normal for her sake. Raoul ignored the five-year-old girl staring at him and tugging at her mother's sleeve. And the sympathy in the young waitress's eyes. He would have to get over this. People weren't being mean after all; they were simply glad that they weren't in his position. They pitied him. This would likely be his view of the world for many years—maybe forever. It still depressed him at times. But he had a future to think of. A wife. A home. And hopefully children.

"Raoul," she began, looking into her cup of tortilla soup. "I wanted to tell you that…I'm sorry I haven't been a good wife this last year."

"What do you mean?" He put his hand over hers, startled that she would say something like that. "You've been fine. It's been a lot to deal with. My attitude hasn't helped. But I swear to God that I'm going to try harder now."

"Why are you trying now?" she asked after a second.

"Like I said, moving back to our house helped. Also, I guess I needed some time. Physical activity has always been a big part of my life. I was either spending time with you, at work, or biking and running…playing sports. You know? I needed time, I guess."

"Time," she whispered, looking down again. "There's so little of it, isn't there?"

"Yeah. I guess." Her reaction continued to confuse him. "I love you, Christine. None of this was ever your fault."

"It's not your fault either. Please remember that."

"Yeah. It was just one of those things that happens." She looked so strange right now. Raoul carefully stepped away from the conversation. "Hey. Did you pick out a new ring?"

"Not yet," she murmured.

"You should soon. Remember, any one you want." Its absence was bothering him a little bit. It'd been a long time since she'd lost the other one.

"I will."

The strangeness intruded on the rest of their day. While he watched television or read, she spent a lot of time in their bedroom. He heard things being moved around along with some zippers being pulled up and down. Something broke, shattering, and she softly cursed before sweeping it up. Drawers opened and closed. Doors squeaked shut.

"What are you up to?" he asked as she walked by with some plastic hangers.

"Cleaning things out."

"Good idea. It's getting cluttered. Let me know if you need any help."

"Thanks. I will. Yeah. It is. I….Yeah." She quickly walked by.

He tried not to ask for her help often that day, not wanting to bother Christine when she was in a nearly neurotic mood. She dressed for her performance later, a white dress with a V-neck and straps. It tightened around her waist and then floated loosely to her calves. She nearly looked as she had when he married her, and his heart fluttered slightly at the sight. Staring at herself in the mirror, she added dangling diamond earrings. He saw her take a deep breath and study herself closely. She closed her eyes for a moment. She touched her lips.

Christine then came up behind him as he was buttoning his shirt, looking at them both in the other lower mirror. A gentle hand smoothed out his hair. Fingers brushed against his cheek like snowflakes. "You're very handsome," she said, turning his head to give him a kiss. "I've always thought so."

"And you're beautiful," he replied, placing his hand over hers. He smiled at her in the mirror. But a chill traveled through his bones. He even felt it in his legs.

The drive to the theater was quiet. One of them made a comment about the growing blanket of grey clouds brought on by the nearby tropical storm. The warm wind whipped against them, and Christine reached down several times to secure her dress as they traveled through the parking lot. They arrived earlier so that there weren't tons of people around for him to have to move through in the wheelchair. They reached the back of theater, and he became settled. She leaned down and kissed his cheek. "I guess I'd better warm up," she murmured. "I'll see you afterwards."

"You'll do great," he replied.

"Thank you. I…Stay for the intermission, okay?" As she turned away before he could ask why, Raoul swore he saw a tear fall down her cheek. Her hands were clenched. What was wrong with her?

Before he could dwell on it for more than a couple of minutes, Raoul sensed someone standing on his right. "Phil! What are you doing here?"

"Came to watch the show with you." His voice was gruffer than normal. "They still had tickets."

"Why? This isn't really your kind of thing, is it? I thought I'd see you afterwards at Mom and Dad's house."

"It's my thing tonight," Phillip dully replied as he sat beside Raoul and spread out his legs. "No dates, you know?"

"Hey, this was my seat!" protested an older woman standing above him with her hands on her hips.

"Go to hell!" snapped Phillip. "There's an empty seat right over there!"

"Woah, woah," said Raoul, staring at his brother in alarm. "We can move down. Jesus, Phil. What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing. Look. I'm sorry." He turned back to the woman. "I apologize, Ma'am. I've had one hell of a day. Please let me sit next to my brother, okay?"

She rolled her eyes but, after glancing at Raoul, nodded and moved down. Raoul side-glanced him and again asked, "So why are you here? You don't exactly seem like you want to be here."

"Just wanted to see the show. Let's leave it at that."

No more conversation was exchanged. The lights dimmed, and the announcer asked everyone to turn off their phones. A hollow feeling continued to sit in the pit of Raoul's stomach. The sound of a piano rang into the air, and he smiled. "She's getting great, isn't she? Better than I remember. She's really got a talent for music."

"Yeah," Phillip replied, staring forward.

Raoul listened and relaxed somewhat, focused entirely on the music and not the performing children. He lost himself in it, the smooth legato notes of his talented wife. Toward intermission, he wiped his moist eyes and shook his head, desperately wanting to repair the damage of the last year.

"I love her so much, Phil," he said with a swallow. "From the second I saw her, I think I knew she was the one." Phillip said nothing. "Kids. Weird teenage years. College. And then this damned mess with the accident—it's been our biggest test. But I know we're going to make it. Thank God she got me away from Mom, right?" Phil still remained silent. "I think we even might try for a baby soon. I can't wait for that." He looked at his older brother and grinned. "How does Uncle Phil sound?"

Phillip was holding onto the seat more and more tightly. His face and knuckles were turning white. His jaw was clenched "That bitch," he whispered.

"What?" Raoul nearly turned and took a swing at his brother.


"No," growled Raoul. "What the hell did you just say? What's wrong with you tonight? Are you drunk or something?"


"No. Tell me what's going on! Why the heck are you here? Why are you acting like an asshole?!"

But the color was gone from Phillip's normally suntanned face. Rather than anger, all Raoul now saw was hurt. "Listen, Raoul. I swear to God, you're going to be fine no matter what happens. You understand me? You don't need her. You're strong. You'll be fine with her. You understand?"

"Why are you telling me this? And why did you call my wife a-" A cold chill settled around him. "Phil, what are you not telling me?"

The lights overhead blinked twice, signaling the performance would resume in five minutes.

"I can't—I told her…. I just wanted to be here for you. That's why I came. To support you."

"What are you not telling me?"


"Now!" Raoul nearly didn't recognize the voice that came out of his own mouth. Startled, several audience members turned around to look at him.

"She's…leaving you," rasped Phillip. "She's leaving you tonight. After this stupid thing. I wanted to tell you sooner, but she thought she should tell you. At our parents' house. I don't know. I don't know what was right. But-look!" He grabbed Raoul's shoulders tightly and look him in the eye. "You don't need her, okay, little bro? You don't need her!"

The second act hadn't started, but the piano began to play.

And Raoul realized, with utter horror, that Christine was now playing his favorite song.

Christine played her heart out that night—with everything she had left of her past love and life. Her fingers flew across the keys without thought or concentration. Tears dripped down her cheeks, but she didn't wipe them away. Let them flow. Her heart was pounding rapidly as the time drew nearer.

The last note of Raoul's favorite song rang in the air. She recalled all their best times together, and, for a moment, the idea that she was leaving her old life forever seemed almost impossible. Where would she be in twenty-four hours?

Erik, it's all in your hands now. That's where it's always been.

She imagined his long fingers in her hair. And his cold lips on her neck and shoulders. She remembered the richness of their music, her voice and Erik's compositions combined into bliss. She remembered the thrill of singing. And his voice when he spoke to her. She knew why she was going—love of him and love of their music. As horrible as this night would be, there was no other choice.

Taking a deep breath, she prepared for the second act. The kids murmured to each other nearby, and the seven dwarves were scolded for being too rowdy. Again, she envied them for their innocence.

But, with one minute before the second act, she heard her name.


She easily recognized the voice. But the tone—it nearly made her heart stop.

Slowly, she turned on the piano bench. Her husband stared at her from feet away, nearly eye-level. "Raoul," she said in shock. "What are you doing down here?"

Her heart skipped a terrified beat. The lights around them seemed too warm, and the sounds of the theater grew distant.

"I want to go home now," he said. "I don't feel well."

"But-but the second act. I have to-to play. I have to—"

"I need to go home," Raoul repeated, not breaking eye contact. But his eyes were alarmed…frantic…horrified. "Now."

She glanced up and suddenly noticed Phillip pacing near the staging area, as though Raoul had told him to stay there. Her brother-in-law soon threw his hands up in clear frustration and walked toward them with a scowl on his face. "No," she whispered in his direction. "Phillip. What have you done?"

"So it's true?" Raoul asked in a choked voice. "You're leaving me? Christine?"

Phillip completely ignored her and spoke to his brother. "Look, Raoul. Let her go, okay? She's not worth it. Let her do whatever the hell she wants!"

Raoul sharply glanced at him. "I want me and her to go home right now. My wife and I are going home. Me and Christine. To talk about this. Because there's been a misunderstanding. I know there has. So mind your own goddamned business, Phillip."

There was a moment of silence as the three of them looked amongst each other in a strange standoff. Finally, she spoke. "Let-let me go get someone else to play the piano. And then we'll go to your parents'-"

"I want to go to our home," interrupted Raoul with a frantic gleam in his eyes.

"Fine," she said, trying to keep her voice calm. "Fine. We'll go to our home." Christine ran off and, despite her swirling mind, found another employee who could play the piano in her place. She mumbled out something about having a severe emergency at home. Then again, who cared if she were never allowed to play there again? If tonight went as planned, she'd never be back, right? The thought made her a little sad.

When she got back to the Chagny brothers, Phillip was still trying to convince Raoul that she wasn't worth the fight. He was probably right.

"Just let her go. Let that stupid bitch go! We'll screw her over with the attorneys. She's not getting a thing. Not after this. Forget her, okay? Come back with me to Mom and Dad's and—"

"I want to talk to her first!"

"She's not worth it, Raoul!"

"Yes, she is!" Tears were evident in her husband's voice. "Yes, she is! Okay? Stay out of this! It isn't your damned marriage. Get away from me, and stay out of this!"

They both glanced up at her as she came back, Phillip with anger and Raoul with clear agony. It was difficult to get her mouth to work. "We-we can leave now," she said to Raoul. "We can go."

"To our home." It wasn't a question.

"Yes," she replied. "Our home." While she was furious at Phillip, Christine still turned to him and weakly whispered, "I'll call you when…it's sorted out. So that you can…."

He gave the slightest nod of his head. Then said, "You sure you don't want to just go? Huh? I'll deal with this. He'll be, well…you know."

"I can't do that to him. I have to explain."

Phillip gave a short, sarcastic laugh. "Yeah. I can tell how much you care about him. Saint Christine."

With an angry sigh, she turned away and back to her husband. "Let's go, love," she murmured. Raoul didn't look at her, moving the wheelchair ahead of her as they headed for the van. Raindrops pounded on their heads, and thunder rumbled distantly. Once they were settled, him clearly wanting as little help from her as possible, Christine tried to begin. "I want to tell you—"

"Let's wait until we're home to talk." His voice was sharp.

"All right," she whispered. She left the parking lot, her headlights reflecting against the dark and puddle-filled streets. Thank God the roads weren't busy as it was difficult for her to concentrate on anything but her collapsing situation. For a moment, she considered still going to his parents' house but didn't want to upset him further. And maybe they needed to talk without an audience. Maybe they needed peace and quiet.

But-where was Erik right now? What if he were at their house gathering her belongings together and loading them into the car? Should she try to contact him through a phone number he'd given her and tell him about the change of plans? But then Raoul would hear the conversation. And, in the rising chaos, Erik might decide that they needed to leave before she got a chance to sort this out. Nothing seemed right.

Then again, nothing about this was ever going to be right. And yet it had become inevitable.

As she approached their home, Christine searched for some sign of Erik in the yard, a lingering shadow, or for any lights that weren't supposed to be on. She saw nothing. Raoul still refused to look at her or talk to her as they went inside, but he couldn't hide the lines of pain engraved into his face. Christine fumbled for her house key and opened the door with a squeak. She flipped on a light near the entrance. Her husband wheeled in past her toward the living room. Again, she listened for any sign of Erik. The home was dark and quiet, the only sound the hum of appliances.

Christine put her purse and keys on the kitchen counter where they clattered loudly. Then, gripping the edge of it, she leaned forward. She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut. Okay. This could go the same way as she'd planned. Only instead of being around his parents, they'd be alone. She tried to remember everything that she'd wanted to say to him.

This was about me. It wasn't your fault.

I've gone through a lot of changes. And I haven't been a good wife to you.

You'll be fine without me. I promise. Better even.

The words suddenly seemed emptier now that she was actually about to say them. Her heart thudded as she finally turned around. But Raoul was no longer in the living room. "Raoul?" she softly called. Her white high heels clicked on the kitchen tiles until she stepped onto the carpet. Nearby, a drawer opened and thudded shut. "Raoul? Sweetheart? What are you doing?"

A square patch of light shown from his old office, the door half closed. Christine nearly ran toward it, a sickened feeling overtaking her as she flung the door open all the way. She stepped inside. As her eyes adjusted, her arms reflexively came up to her face and head in self-defense. She cried out, a high-pitched shriek.

Raoul made a strange noise from the back of his throat as he stared at her from behind the large oak wood desk. She gaped back through the crook of her elbow, now backed up against the wall. Tear streaks streamed down his face. "Why would you think I'd ever hurt you?" he weakly asked. "Have I ever hurt you?"

"N-no," she whispered. "You never have…." But her eyes remained locked on the black gun in his hand, the barrel tilted dangerously toward his mouth and temple. She shook her head, her arms still raised. "No. Raoul. Put that down. Please put it down!"

"You're leaving." It was a half a broken statement and half a hopeful question, as though a part of him prayed that he'd been wrong-that this was all a terrible misunderstanding. "You're really leaving, aren't you? Aren't you, Christine? I see it in your eyes. You're leaving…."

"I-Don't do this! Put that down, and we can talk. Like two adults. Please stop this. You're scaring me!"

"Adults?" He nearly laughed. "Yeah, we are two completely functional adults, aren't we? You depressed out of your mind and me—the pathetic freak stuck in a wheelchair? Why do you even care, Christine? You're leaving. Will it make you feel guilty? Is that it?"

"Stop this!" she nearly hissed. "Put that down, and we'll talk. We just need to talk. And then everything will be fine. We just need to talk—"

"About what, Christine? What do we need to talk about?"

"A lot of things," she stuttered and lied. "About us. And…us."

She couldn't tell if he was laughing at her weak attempt at the conversation or crying at their situation. But the sound that escaped his lips was horrible. "You can't leave, Christine," he finally mumbled. "You can't. You-You're all I have. We moved back here together. We've always been together. We-we were going to have children. We were happy. I know we were! Weren't we?" His eyes were suddenly confused. "Weren't we happy before the accident, Christine?"

"Yes. No. I mean, not unhappy. Not-" She rapidly shook her head as fresh tears fell down her cheeks. "I can't talk to you while you're holding a gun! You're scaring me! Do you understand? I am going to leave right now because you're scaring me!"

"Tell me you're not leaving," he said. "Please tell me you're not really leaving me."

She squeezed her eyes shut as she forced the words out, "I'm not leaving. I won't leave you, Raoul."

"I don't believe you."

"No," she whispered. "I won't. Just—give that to me before you do something terrible. Something you can never, ever take back."

"Even if I give it to you, I'll find another way if you're lying," he said with a sob. "I will kill myself if you leave me. You're all I have. You're everything. Please. Please don't leave, Christine. I'll do anything if you stay."

"I understand," she replied, trying to find calm for them both. "I hear you. I'm not leaving. Unless you keep scaring me."

"I don't want to scare you," he whispered, shaking his head. "I don't want you to be scared. I love you so much. I just…don't want to lose you. Not after all we've been through together."

"I know," she whispered. "I know you don't, Raoul." Her hand continued to reach out. "Please."

"I'll find a way if you leave. Even without the gun." His voice shook as his resolve faltered. "I can't live without you. I'll find a way."

"I know you will. I believe you. I'm not leaving. I—"

But another voice was suddenly in her ear. "Leave that room!" Erik sounded furious, but Christine knew she was hearing fear as well. "I will disarm him."

"No," she said out loud, as she had absolutely no idea how to throw her voice as he did. "Let me fix this. I have to. I have to fix this."

"You have to stay," said Raoul, thinking she must be talking to him. "To fix it. If you stay, we'll fix it together. We'll do anything you want."

"Christine, leave that room!" barked Erik into her ear. "Now!"

"Give me some time, Erik! Please! He's not going to hurt me!"

She rapidly turned to Raoul. He gaped at her with utter confusion now, probably thinking she'd completely lost her mind. "I won't leave you," she said, leaning forward. "Don't do this. I'm here. I'm here with you right now. I won't go anywhere." She dared to approach him even as he held the gun. She took his free hand where it limply lay on the desk with both of hers, cradling it and stroking it with her thumbs. "Raoul. Sweetheart. Everything is going to be okay. I promise. It's going to be okay, baby. I'm here. I'm here with you. I'm not leaving."

With a trembling hand, he finally placed the gun on the desk and pushed it away from himself. She nervously watched it slide slightly along the surface. Raoul buried his face in both his hands with a loud cry of frustration.

She released a grateful sigh of relief. "Thank you," she whispered, cupping his temples with her hands and kissing the top of his blond head. "Thank you." He didn't react to her touch, continuing to cry. As carefully as possible, Christine scooped the weapon up into her shaking hands, keeping it aimed away from both of them. She held the cold object away from her as though it were a poisonous snake, just wanting to be rid of the awful thing.

"Carefully, bring that to me," said the voice in her ear.

"What will you do?" she asked.

"Render it useless before you wind up dead, my dear. You are not going to be a successful singer if you are dead…." Even with the sarcasm, Erik's voice held relief as well.

"Where are you going?" asked Raoul from behind her. "Who are you talking to?"

"I'll be right back," she replied. A yellow glow met her outside the office. "I promise. I promise I'll be back after I…get rid of this." Finally, she allowed her breath to come out in full force, practically panting. Holding it in open palms, she held the gun out toward Erik. He quickly took it, and she heard several clicks in the darkness. "What are you—"

"There was a single round."

"Oh…." Christine nearly sunk to her knees, dizzy as cold perspiration gathered on her forehead. Once Erik was finished doing whatever he did, the gun officially gone, she grabbed his arms to keep herself standing. They then embraced, and she closed her eyes to try and figure out the way forward.

"What are you doing?" asked Raoul from the office. "Is someone out there?"

"It is time to leave this madness," said Erik in a low voice. "Now. This ridiculous plan collapsed the second his older brother discovered us. We should have left yesterday night as I suggested."

She looked up and shook her head. "I have to talk to him, Erik. He's really going to hurt himself if I go!"

"I do not care what he does! Or how many lies you must tell him to keep him from doing so! Because they are lies, aren't they, my dear?"

"Yes, yes," she sickly whispered. "But I can't just let it end like this. And he's not going to hurt me. There was only one round, and it wasn't for me."

"You will not succeed in convincing him of anything!" Erik harshly replied.

"I have to try," she whispered. "And then we'll go."

"What are you doing?" asked Raoul. "Is he out there? I want to see him."

"Please let this all be a bad dream," she murmured to herself.

"I want to see him. Let me see this guy, Christine."

"Seeing him isn't going to help anyone!" she called back in a tear-choked voice. "This isn't—"

"I want to see him!"

She didn't have time to respond. Erik glanced up with a strange gleam in his eyes, tilted his head to the side, and then walked directly past her and into the office. Her heart froze as he took matters into his own hands, and she ran in behind him. Raoul leaned back and just gaped up at Erik in slight shock. For the first time, they stared directly at each other. She'd kept them separated into two different worlds for so very long. And now they would collide.

"Your request has been granted," Erik said tonelessly. "Satisfied?"

"You're not what I was expecting, I'll admit," Raoul whispered after a moment. "Not even after what Phil said. Jesus, Christine, he's twice you're age! And he's—"

"This isn't about him," she said. Another lie. "We need to talk about us. Not him. We need to-"

"What did you give her?" rasped Raoul, continuing to stare at Erik with some mixture of horror and anger. "What did you say to her to make her go with you?"

"I gave her a voice," said Erik. He settled a hand on her shoulder. His grip tightened. "Or rather—I found the one she possessed. That is all."

"Did you make her some kind of promise? Money? Fame? What did you give her?!"

"I did, actually," replied Erik in a taunting tone that made her cringe. They were pushing each other's buttons in the worst of ways. "I did make a little promise to my love. I promised to take her with me tonight. Because she asked to go. So say your goodbyes to her, boy."

Raoul turned red. "You've know her what? A year? I've known her forever! Nearly fifteen years! You don't know anything about her!"

"I beg to differ."

"She's not going with you! She's my wife! And she said she's staying. She promised…."

"Once again, Mr. Chagny, I beg to differ. Your suicide threats may tug at her kind heart, but I could honestly care less what you do with that gun after she is out of this house."

"Stop it!" she shouted, clutching her head as her sanity faltered. This was all her fault. She was lucky they all hadn't murdered each other by now. It was time to resolve and end this.

"You can't go with him," Raoul whispered. "Christine. I—"

"I'll be right back, Raoul. I promise. I'll be right back. But this has to stop." She walked back out into the living area, praying Erik would follow her and that the confrontation would end. They could never be in the same room again.

"It is time to leave," he said evenly and coldly as he walked behind her, taking her by the shoulder. "There is nothing left to be done here, and we are leaving right now."

She stopped in her footsteps and placed her hand over his. "I have to talk to him alone. Without that gun. Quietly and alone. I have to try to make this better…."

"I vowed to take you away no matter how hard you protested. And I will not break my vow!"

"Don't break your vow, Erik. Just give me some time to make this right. He can't kill himself because of me! I have to give him some hope. Something. Please." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "I love you. But I still care about him. Of course I do…." She attempted to embrace him, but he pulled away.

"I will finishing moving your belongings to the car," he stated. "So be quick about this. And then we are leaving no matter how much you fight. As I promised. As you made me promise that lovely evening."

"Yes, you can—" But Erik angrily whirled around and left her standing there. Her heart fell. She shook her head and sighed in near despair. Then, gathering what was left of her mind, Christine returned to the office.