A s said in the summary, this is a completed story.

Still nothing would be possible without the help of two ladies, Desiree and TOWDNWTBN (The-One-Who-Does-Not-Wish-To-Be-Named).

I also need to thank all the people who helped this story's completion with their comments and reviews. Virtual hugs!

Of course I don't own POTO, but Erik Rochelle?

CHAPTER 1- Erik

Dear Monsieur Rochelle,

I'm happy to inform you that the unfortunate child you sought to look after is not only a happily married vicomtesse, whom I frequently meet at social events with her adoring husband, but also a mother-to-be. It is said that the couple is delighted with the news, and this is the reason their social appearances are reduced lately. The baby is expected by the end of November. I hope this news serves to alleviate your worries about her hastily arranged marriage.

Always at your service,

François Duval.

July 15

I crumpled up the letter from M. Duval, the lawyer I had generously paid to take care of my remaining affairs once I had left Paris. It was all a sham. I left no affairs there for him to take care of. However, I did pay him to send me a monthly report, informing me of the news and the whereabouts of a late friend's (another lie) daughter, Christine Daaé, who had gotten married five months before. Discretion was of the essence because I owed my friend the debt of watching over his orphaned child. How wicked of me!

Till now, the reports had been poor of news since the happy couple was enjoying a long honeymoon out of France. This "unclouded" happiness was secured and proven now through this small piece of parchment.

How had I not foreseen this happening? Why didn't I spare myself this knowledge? Am I my own worst enemy? Did I think that there would only be walks in the park, picnics in the sun, and parties for them? Even thinking of these, all I could never share with her, was painful enough – but a child, so soon?

The hunger of the nobleman fop couldn't wait at all.

I have waited for so long, all my life for her, even after she left me. And although it was hopeless and stupid of me, I waited. The few days before the quick, almost secret wedding, I had been at the de Chagny estate, outside her window like an old, ugly, pathetic dog begging for a bone, waiting for the sight of her, for a sign indicating she had changed her mind or that she had doubts. I was so careless and fortunate at the same time that only Madame Giry found me trembling with rage after the ceremony. I felt like burning the whole church down, tearing it into pieces. Instead, I stood there, motionless, looking at them. There had never been a more graceful bride or a more beautiful couple. I'm not too blind to see it. Not to my advantage, I have the skill to differentiate between beauty and the lack of it. They looked perfect, shining and satisfied, the exact opposite of me. The boy was unexpectedly clever. He married her hastily, afraid that I wouldn't keep my word. He was right. Even their wedding vows mean nothing to me. But now she's expecting a child. She has the dream of her life, a family, a life filled with him. Her chains are no longer mine, even though I still feel those chains. They are burning me!

Madame Giry was my truest ally. In return for her services, I let her stay in a house I'd purchased some years ago in a remote area just outside of Paris. It was the least I could do for the woman who had kept my secrets and lost her whole world during my despicable attempt to prove to myself that I was a man.

July 30

England is my home now.

I bought a cottage in the country four months ago with the help of M. Pineaut, my accountant in France. I've been lucky to find it on such short notice. The fact that no one wanted it for almost ten years helped, too. Although it's a two-story, four-bedroom cottage with a lovely lake very close to the house, there is a rumor that it's haunted. If I were the type of person who laughed easily, I would have laughed a great deal over this.

It appears that an old spinster inhabited this cottage, located conveniently near her married sister's cottage across the lake, the Twin House. The two estates were joined together to form a larger one when the married sister became a childless widow. The women were without any family, except for a nephew with a bad reputation and unsavoury habits.

The two sisters lived together for a few years until one day a maid found them both brutally murdered. Their blood soaked the front door, and as the story goes, no brush could take it away; no paint or polish could cover it no matter how hard one tried. So they were forced to paint the front door a deep red color, and in the village, where a good scandal or gossip is always appreciated, the house has been known as the Red Door Cottage ever since. Nobody from the village or even the nearest town wanted to own the isolated estate because of the rumors that the ghosts of the two old ladies who died a cruel, unavenged death still lurked about. Now I am the owner of the Red Door Cottage. No one dares to step inside. How unfortunate for my social life!

August 5

I don't know why I'm writing these letters since there's no one to read them but me. Maybe it's because I can't write music anymore - not decent music anyway. It's not that I don't try. I fill the sheets, one after the other, with mediocre nonsense, which insults me with its vulgarity.

Am I going mad? What is madness anyway? And what is sanity? Who defines their borders?

I've left small things of hers - her belongings. Not many. Maybe one or two in every room. Maybe fewer. When they catch my eye during the day, I feel for an instant, for the space of a heartbeat, that she's in the kitchen, and left her book on the sofa, or she's outdoors, and left her gloves inside. They are such sweet seconds. Little images of what life would be if she were with me, if she chose me, if we shared the same life. I'm not crazy - I don't pretend she's really outdoors; I wouldn't go so far as to bring her the gloves. I don't talk to her. What would I say? I'm just pretending…

Can you blame a man using any means to survive?

August 10

I can't remember a more intense physical pain in my life than the headache I'm having. I wish I had a sip – or, much better, a cup of that strong bitter coffee I was drinking in Venice. That could cure my headache better than that light-colored liquid the peasants here call tea, which, incidentally, I am already out of as well.

When the illness - an unwanted reminder of the days in Persia - comes on, I usually am warned. I have light fever and shivers and feel weak for days before I actually get feverish and lose any recollection. These are the signs I recognize that tell me to prepare my potions. It's how I have taken care of myself all these years. Besides, when the disease appears, it makes me ridiculously weak. It's the same disease that leaves my body slowly recovering for days, cold as a corpse, my blood not good enough to warm my body.

Can a man die from weariness? Sometimes I feel so very tired…too tired to breathe, too tired to open my eyes. I spend endless days looking at the ceiling of my new bedroom. Was it in this room that the former owner so cruelly faced her death? Ironically, even the ghosts have left me alone…

And yet there is that rage, the only thing that keeps me alive, that pumps the blood through my veins. My rage is like poison in my blood, but this poison doesn't kill me. It only destroys what I love, what makes my life worth living.

In the history of lost causes, the one dearest to me was the one with the least chance in the world of coming to fruition. How could I have ever hoped to have something more with Christine? Christine would never have been able to see past my misshapen face. She would never have been happy with me. She could never have been my companion in life, because my life was meant to be lived alone.

At last, a strange kind of peace comes over me. This realization leaves me calmer than I ever could have expected to be. I take the responsibility for my actions, for everything that happened. I lost my opera house, my temple of music. I'm the only one to blame. Not Christine, not even her imbecilic husband. I am the genius. I should have prevented all of this from happening. The puppeteer cannot blame the puppets if the play turns to a disaster.

My misery is not meant to be shared. It is not love I'm feeling. Love could not have caused such harm, such fear and terror for her. This is an obsession I'll cure myself of.
How plain and simple it is, and how blind I have been.

I know what I have to do to put my dream to rest, to control my unrealistic obsession. I've done it before, and it worked. I also know what needs to be done to set her free, to let her breathe in her new life. The decision is made, and it's final. At last I've gained control over my fate again. I'm not to be ruled by anyone, not even my own illusions. I have a plan which will leave everyone relieved. Life will go on. The Erik I was is no more.