Erik felt guilty, even agitated, the entire time he was out to lunch with Nadir. All he could think about was finding Christine and apologizing for abandoning her like that. He wasn't even hungry, but he knew that Nadir had him cornered; if he declined the invite Nadir would be even more suspicious of his feelings towards Christine. Not that Erik felt that he owed any sort of explanation to his friend, but he knew that Nadir could make life incredibly difficult if he so chose.
He decided at this point denying any relations with Christine besides that of professor and student would be best. He could maybe even go as far as claiming her to be his mentee, but even that would be suspicious as Erik had never shown interest in any student, ever. He knew that Nadir would understand his fascination of wanting to train Christine. Not even Nadir could deny the talent that runs through Christine's veins. He was doing the world a favor, really, by spending so much time with his angel and shaping her voice. Hearing her voice was an experience every person with working ears ought to have. He just wanted to have that experience more than everyone else.
He did not manage to eat very much while with his friend. Erik, like with everything else in his life, was quite particular about the food he consumed. Nadir took him to their favorite little cafe not too far from campus. He sipped his coffee and only poked at his food. Food was the farthest thing from his mind. He barely heard the babble coming from Nadir's mouth.
"...and apparently the Changy family is giving even more money for the musical, which is good. We really did need a new sound system. I think this recent donation has to do with their son's interest in our newest soprano," Nadir was saying when Erik finally started listening again.
Erik quickly looked up from his cup of coffee. "What? What are you going on about, Nadir?"
Nadir sighed. "I knew you weren't listening, but really, do you ever? The Changy family has given us yet another donation. You should be thanking them, not looking so angry. If you don't want them to get all the credit you could donate more you know..."
"Credit be damned, you fool. That is not what I care about at all. Of course I am happy the theatre will be able to do even more, but what were you saying about why? Because that pompous Ray has a crush?" Erik couldn't believe Ray would turn to his parents to cut a check to try to win over his Christine. Erik was not willing to share.
Nadir smiled and raised his eyebrow. "Why do you care why you are given this money as long as you get to spend it on the musical? Yes, I admit that it seems a bit over the top to try to woo Christine this way, but-"
"But nothing!" Erik interrupted standing up abruptly. He realized his voice had risen with anger and other patrons of the cafe were staring at him. He quickly sat back down. "Christine wouldn't be won over by such childish actions. A real man would not turn to his parents to 'woo' a lady." He stood up again and threw his napkin on the chair. "I'm finished here." He walked off with Nadir staring after him.
"Oh, my dear friend. What have you gotten yourself into?" Nadir asked, putting his head into his hands. He had not seen Erik react this way towards a woman in a very long time, another lifetime ago. It did not end up well for anyone involved.
Erik made his way home, upset that Ray thought this would be the way to win his Christine's heart. Ray needed to know that her heart already belonged to him. Erik knew this meant he needed to find a way to spend even more time with Christine so she wouldn't be able to give Ray attention. The musical would be starting practices in the next few days and that would take up much of her time. He would then insist on special private training and surely she would agree.
He was still deep in thought about how to keep Christine to himself when he made his way up the stairs in his house. He wanted to shower and have a chance to take his mask off. The damned thing was so uncomfortable. He started to lift the mask off with his right hand and reached out his left hand to open his bedroom door. At that moment the door flung open and suddenly Christine, who was still looking behind her into the room, ran straight into his chest. His right hand shoved the mask firmly back on and he took a step back, startled.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" he growled, sounding angrier than he would like to speak to his beloved Christine, but he did not tolerate people snooping in his private space.
Her face paled as if she had just seen a ghost and her eyes widened. Her face went from looking upset to fear. He glanced into his room to see what would have made her upset in there before running into him. "I, uh, I was trying to find the bathroom?" she said lamely. She grimaced as if even she realized how ridiculous that sounded.
He raised his brows at her and crossed his arms. "You skipped the two bathrooms downstairs, the guest one up here and went straight for my private one? Really?"
Her fingers started tugging at the bottom of her shirt nervously. "And, I thought you left after I did? I thought you were too busy to just wait to me. So again I ask, what are you doing, Christine?"
She felt as if she had just disappointed a parent and it made her sick to her stomach. Her hand was caught in the cookie jar, but much worse. She had a sinking feeling that Erik did not handle lies very well.
"You left me, remember?" She shot back, trying to turn the tables. "You didn't seem to mind too much just up and leaving me and lying left and right to Nadir." She still oozed with the scent of guilt despite trying to put blame on Erik. He knew she must have found something in his room she wasn't supposed to. Problem was, that could be any number of things.
"That was different!" He shot back, his voice raising. "That was to protect both of us, Christine. Do you really think the school would turn a blind eye to a professor and his student? No. I would lose my job, you would sure as hell not be able to further your music career, and you would be fooling yourself if you think you would still be a student there!" He wanted to shake her so she understood, but he was trying with every ounce of strength not to lay a hand on her while angry. Restraint was not one of his strong suits.
He gripped his hands tightly until they started to shake. "I suggest you leave now," he said through gritted teeth.
"No!" She shouted. "Are you kidding me? Is this how you always are, Erik? Something doesn't go the way you want so you totally lose your cool? Grow up!" She knew she was just poking the bear at this point, but she didn't even care. She wanted to know more about the pictures and articles she saw. It was now or never.
"Christine-" Erik warned, his voice sounding strained.
"I know you were an attraction in a circus!" She blurted out. "I saw the pictures and articles." Her eyes went huge and she threw her hands over her mouth, not believing she actually shouted that out.
Erik's hands fell to his sides and his shoulders slumped down. He aggressively ran his hands through his hair. He could hear Nadir's voice in the back of his brain telling him to just walk away. Don't snap. Walk away. He closed his eyes and took a struggling breath. He silently turned and walked down the hall, away from her. Away from what he was about to do.
"Wait!" Her voice was high-pitched and panicked. "Wait, Erik! I'm, I'm so sorry," she started following him, practically running after his quickened strides.
He kept walking and suddenly he was already at the bottom of the stairs. Christine was still scurrying after him, trying to apologize.
Finally he stop and turned to face her. If looks could murder, Christine would have dropped dead right there. He held up his hand before she had a chance to speak again. "Stay where you are, Christine." His voice was dripping with acid. It burned her ears. She couldn't believe that voice came out of the same man who could make her swoon by simply speaking in his deep, soothing voice. "I cannot be held responsible for my actions right now- stay over there."
She took a step forward. "I don't believe you." She took a deep breath. "You talk a big game, Erik, but I don't buy it."
"You know nothing, you stupid girl." He knew he had to be careful. Last time he was this angry, well, it wasn't pretty. "You snooped through my things then, hmm? So you should have a small hint of what I am capable of doing."
"That curse couldn't possibly be real," she said softly.
He rolled his eyes. "Of course it wasn't a curse, I am not a wizard. Or, as much as my mother would disagree, the devil. But I am a very powerful man, and I've told you before I have many skills. Some are more deadly than others."
"But you were a child. What did you do?" She was looking at him, not with fear as she should but with pity.
That pity twisted Erik's heart. He sat on the couch and stared at the ground, feeling the anger emptying from him. "Do not," he said sternly, "go through my things. Ever again." He finally looked up at her.
She frowned and moved to sit next to him. She reached out for his hand. "You didn't answer my question. What did you do to them?"
He closed his eyes again. Memories of that night used to haunt him, but eventually he had to fight to survive enough times that he became numb to it all. Then it became less about survival and more about feeling alive. Feeling the power rush through him that nothing else but control another in those last moments of life could provide.
"I am incredibly talented in throwing my voice, my dear." He let go of her hand and looked at her.
"I can make it seem like the voice is coming from anywhere," he said softly, but the words sounded like they were whispered intimately into her ear. She brushed her ear instinctually, but there was nothing there. "Or from anything," he said, this time his voice coming from a statue sitting on the end table next to the couch.
"Oh Erik, that's amazing," Christine breathed. She leaned towards the statue, mesmerized. "But what does that have to do with anything?"
He smirked. "Well, after one particularly rough night at the circus, I snapped. Everyone staring at me, taunting me, spitting at me. I was only a child, I didn't understand. I still don't understand." He paused not wanting to say more. He didn't want to scare away his angel. "Apparently I made some of them go a bit crazy," he said simply. "Really, it isn't my fault some of them were already unstable. They probably would have snapped at some point, I just sped the process up." He looked at her and sighed. "I threw my voice so a baby this woman in the crowd was holding was suddenly speaking different languages. The uneducated people thought it was being possessed by an evil spirit. Of course they thought I put it there. As I made that baby speak, I made another infant in the crowd start singing a funeral march. And so forth until every baby seemed to have the devil in them. It escalated from there."
"You were just scared. You were only a child yourself," She said.
He didn't believe his eyes that she was not scared of him, or judging him. "Well, that is just the beginning of what I did. It became a slippery slope from there, my dear. Being on my bad side is an unwise move." He looked at her straight in the eyes. "That being said, do not go behind my back like you did today. I make no promise how I'd react next time."
"Is that a threat?" She asked.
"No. A warning. One you should pay attention to."
Christine looked down uncomfortably for a few moments. "I wouldn't have to snoop if you'd actually be open about stuff like this with me," she said softly. "I understand you have a past, Erik. A very dark one it seems, but I'm not running. You aren't like that anymore." This time she looked him in the eyes, challenging him. "Are you?"
"Like I said, I make no promises."
To be continued...
Christine got off pretty easy with our dear Erik, but I didn't want her to fully witness what he could be like just yet. Please review!