Uploading this real quick... this chapter was a huge pain in the a*s. I hate dinner conversations.
The next morning it was quite late already when Christine's eyes fluttered open slowly. Behind her she felt the warm body of her husband pressed against hers, his arms around her fragile body protectively. She sighed in delight, but then sat up. How light she felt! She turned her head to look at the handsome man beside her. His eyes were still shut tight and his breathing was even and deep. She remembered the love from last night and smiled, leaning down to kiss his deformed cheek lovingly. He sighed then, and for one second she feared he would wake up, but to her relief his eyes remained closed. She turned to face him and lay down again, admiring his sleeping face. She brought up her hand, and ever so lightly traced his deformity with her slender fingers. He groaned softly and his brows turned to a frown. She leaned close to his ear then. "Don't worry, Erik. It's me." She whispered and smiled when he muttered her name. Yet to her surprise he remained asleep. Christine folded the sheets away to allow the soft light to reveal their bodies and she took off the bandage around his arms to examine the wounds. The cuts were crossing over his arm and it made her sigh sadly. She kissed him softly on his lips and then got up; deciding Erik would be able to do without bandage. Christine got dressed and then went to see Rose. Erik would be asleep for some time she knew. Immediately when Christine entered Rose's bedroom she heard the girl started to coo. With a chuckle she looked into the cradle to see Rose wide awake, her small limbs moving excitedly at hearing her mother's voice. "Good morning Rose. Did you sleep well? We didn't hear you last night."
Christine picked her up. She noticed Erik hadn't closed the curtains last night. "Now what shall we do with you?" Christine asked, kissing Rose on her soft baby hairs. "Maybe a nice, warm bath is a good idea; it has been very cold last night."
Rose smiled at the intonation of Christine's voice and Christine laughed as well. What a relief that she is smiling, Christine thought. How her biggest fear was that Rose wouldn't be able to smile, or laugh. Yet now she experienced how her child was barely different from others and it filled her heart with joy and hope.
Erik sighed when his eyes opened. He was confused for a second, where was Christine? He was sure he had felt her presence just a few moments ago. As he sat up he noticed his bandages were gone and was staring at the ragged flesh. He merely gave it a thought though and shove the sheets of his bed away, looking for his clothes but only finding his trousers from the last day. As he fastened the buttons he took a clean shirt from the drawer and then put on his robe. It was cold! He heard his Angel's voice coming from the bathroom and upon opening it found Christine wrapping Rose in a blanket. She smiled up at him. "Good morning, Erik."
He smiled back and came up to her to kiss her. "Good morning Christine... and of course little Rose." He bend over a little more to kiss her on the nose.
"Why were you up so early?" he asked Christine, giving her a kiss again. "Early? You are the one who woke up late. I was going to wake you if you weren't up by now."
She gave Rose to him when she saw him looking at her.
"What time is it then?"
"Uhm... let's see. You need to leave in half an hour."
"What?!" Erik exclaimed in surprise. "Half an hour?!"
"Have you had breakfast yet?"
"No, I am not even properly dressed! I can't find my clothes."
"Because you need to put on clean ones. The others are going to be washed today."
Erik grumbled as he realized that. "Now don't do that Erik. Be glad I clean up your mess."
"You know I am not angry with you about that. It's just that I have to leave soon and-"
"And that's why you will give Rose to me now so you can get dressed, and I'll make you breakfast."
She smiled at him and was surprised by his sudden kiss. "Thank you, sweetheart!"
He walked off to the bedroom, leaving Rose with her as Christine went to the kitchen.
A few minutes later she watched him devour his breakfast with loud munching. "Erik, please... a little dignity?"
He swallowed and the apologized. "I also need to gather my papers." Christine smiled and shook her head, making fun of her husband by telling Rose what he was doing. "Oh and please Christine. I don't want to go out with wrists like these... If you could please bandage them again... just in case."
Though Christine wanted to protest she knew it was her fault what he had done and nodded and obeyed him. "Erik will you promise me something?" She asked as she was wrapping his arms once again. "Anything."
"Will you stop hurting yourself? You have not deserved this."
She looked him in the eyes. "Only if you promise me one thing as well."
"That you will never be so depressed again. Next time, tell me what is going on in that mind of yours." Christine smiled softly and then hugged him. "I promise you. I love you Erik."
He held her close to him. "I love you too Christine. You know that, don't you?"
Christine laughed and kissed him there and then. "You have showed me last night."
Erik kissed her back. "Oh, I could show you again." He answered in a dark chuckle.
He looked up in shock when the doorbell rang.
"I am not finished yet!" and Christine laughed. "Don't worry. You go take your things; I'll talk to the driver."
Christine opened the front door to see the driver of the carriage. "Excuse me, Madame. Is mister Destler ready? He will be late."
"Yes, he is gathering his work; he will be here in a second."
The driver nodded and then walked back to the carriage. Christine closed the door so it was slightly ajar and watched Erik rush past her with his coat half over his one shoulder. "You wait!" Christine called and turned him around by his shoulder. "Jeez, Erik. You know you can't go out like this."
He sighed. "Christine I'm late."
"They can wait for you for a minute more." She said as she took his scarf from the peg and wrapped it around his neck, then helping his hands through the sleeves of his coat and put on his hat. "There. Much better." She kissed him then. "Will you be careful?"
"I am always careful, Christine."
He gave her another kiss. "I'll be home around six I hope."
"Yes, I'll be waiting for you. You know we are having dinner at the Khan's tonight, huh?"
"Yes, yes, I know. Bye now, give Rose a kiss from me."
"I will, Erik. And now hurry up."
He gave her one last chase kiss before getting to the carriage.
"Why hello there. Who have we here? My, that's a long time ago you came to visit us."
"Ah yes, we know. But this time we brought someone with us."
Erik smiled as he lifted his baby girl out of the stroller and handed her to Alicia, Nadir's wife.
"Oh My… Look at her, she is so cute!"
When Erik and Christine stepped into the hall they knew they had lost their child for the rest of the evening. Alicia was already showing the whole house to the girl and talking rapidly about what she saw. Erik noticed Rose wasn't even a tiny bit scared of the woman and was listening curiously to what was happening.
"I see my wife has met Rose." Nadir said with a laugh as he closed the door behind the couple.
"As long as we get her back tonight everything is alright."
"I wouldn't hope too hard on it." Nadir joked and they laughed.
The man was almost knocked over by the excited six year old that run into him. "Careful Reza." Nadir warned him sternly but by the excited look on the boy's face Erik knew he wasn't listening to his father. "Erik did you hear the good news?!"
The man raised his eyebrows in wonder. "No, I have not. What is so great then?"
"Amin has finally sent to boarding school!"
"Reza! How many times have I told you that that is not a good thing?!" Nadir told him angrily and Erik was quite surprised but that answer, but decided not to ask about it now, but to return on it later that evening. "Well Reza, that means there must be peace here in this home now?"
Reza nodded enthusiastically.
"I see, you must be relieved then?"
"Yes," he turned over to Christine.
"You are staying for dinner too tonight?"
"Oh yes Reza, I am. Do you like that?"
The little boy looked down for a second as if in guilt. "Well…, you aren't sad anymore, are you?"
He shyly looked up and looked straight into their eyes.
"No Reza, that is all over now."
She smiled at him, hoping she would win his reassurance with it. He returned her smile and then hugged her around the waist. "I am happy you are." He muttered into her dress, and Christine couldn't help but having a soft smile on her face by his action. She broke his arms from her waist and placed her hands on his cheeks when she saw tears in his eyes. "Hey, don't cry. I am alright now, you shouldn't worry."
"But I was so afraid you would never be happy again. I mean you looked so sad, and Erik…"
She smiled in compassion as the tears ran down his cheeks and picked him up. "Oh Reza… "
She hadn't realized that everybody around her had noticed her depression so much. She rubbed the boy gently on his back as she whispered soothing things to him to calm him down.
"Is everything alright?" Erik asked her when he returned to her.
"Oh yes, it's just that he has been a little upset."
She gave Reza a kiss on the forehead and put him down. "Now Reza, dry your tears. You can save them for another time. Erik told me you have been painting a lot recently. Is there any chance I can get to see them?"
"Do you really want to?" The boy asked her in an unsure tone as he wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
"Oh yes, and I'm sure Erik wants to see them too. Right Erik?"
"I… I could show them after dinner."
"That would be great!" Christine smiled.
"Y-you can come with me to the living room. I think father has made tea."
Christine felt sorry at seeing the young boy so taken aback from her actions.
They followed Reza to the living room to find that all Nadirs' children were already sipping from the hot beverage. "Reza have you been crying?" Camelia teased and Reza gave her a vulgar look.
"Ah there you are. I was already thinking you would spend the evening in the hallway. Are you up to a drink?" Nadir asked them, on his lap he held Rose. He gestured for his guests to sit down and then asked Reza if he could make them a cup of tea. "Alicia said dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
"Can we perhaps help her?" Christine offered, but Nadir shook his head.
"Don't worry, she prefers to cook alone so she can survey on what is going on."
Erik watched Camelia play with Kira, the youngest girl in the family. She was only two and was playing with her older sister's hairs. Dario was reading a book in the chair next to his father and seemed totally lost in his own world. It amazed Erik to see how all the kids were different from each other. Suddenly Kira walked over to Christine, her arms clutching a cute plush bear. "You have very nice hair." She said shyly to Christine, who chuckled. "Well thank you. May I ask who it is you are holding there?" She asked the young girl. "It's mister Fluffle. He feels very fluffy." And she pushed the animal into Christine's hands. "Ooh, but he does indeed."
Kira took the stuffed toy back from Christine and walked over to her father, who was still holding little Rose in his arms. Kira pouted a little at her father as her big eyes met his. "What is it, dear?" He asked amused as he saw jealousy in those eyes. "Who is that?" She asked, her eyes looking over to Rose. "This? This is Erik and Christine's child. Her name is Rose. Would you like to say hello to her?"
He let her crawl beside him on the wide chair and she looked at the baby curiously. "She's like Rohan."
"Because she is also a baby." Nadir laughed.
"How is he doing?" Erik interrupted the two, "You told me he had flu. I have been so busy I totally forgot."
" He is doing much better. I think last week he was at his worst. He is upstairs now, fast asleep."
"I'm relieved to hear that. It's horrible to see your own child sick and not being able to do something about it."
"Yes it is."
"But can you tell us more about Amin?" Christine asked. "Is he really sent to boarding school? I only met him once yet he seemed quite a nice boy."
"Yes, and he actually is a nice boy. But somehow he prefers to give us all a hard time. He was just…. We can't handle him anymore. It is not my wish to send him away, but there are no other options."
"Wow, but isn't boarding school incredibly expensive."
Nadir nodded with a frown. "Oh yes, it is. But we'll find a way to manage. If it helps to change him then it's worth it."
"You visit him every weekend? Or is he allowed to go home?"
"No, we visit him. The first few weeks he is not allowed to go out, unless his behavior improves."
Erik nodded. "I hope his behavior improves then."
"To be honest I have my doubts."
Suddenly Reza burst from the kitchen door to tell dinner was ready and then headed back into the dining room. When the rest entered Reza was busy helping putting the plates and bowls of food on the table. "Here Champ, let me help you, they are quite heavy, aren't they?" Dario said as he took the large and heavy pile of plates from his brother. "You just go get the knives and forks, and then everything should be ready."
Erik sat down at the kitchen table and watched the boys' interaction. He laughed when Reza stared at the knives and forks in his hand for a long time, before finally putting the knife left and the fork right. "It's other way round Reza!" His older sister pointed out and laughed at him, a pink blush appearing on the boy's cheeks. He gave a quick glance in the direction of the guests before quickly turning the knives and forks around and then sat down next to Erik.
"You don't mind if I sit here, do you Erik?" He asked shyly, and made Erik smile.
"Of course I do not mind."
From another door Alicia entered and also took a place at the table. Her eyes quickly scanned the heads at the table. "Nadir where is Kira? Camelia, did you take Kira with you to the dinner table?"
"Yes, I did."
"Then where is she now?"
Camelia shrugged and Alicia stood with a groan and left the room. Nadir shrugged his shoulder amused. "Kids." he said and Christine and Erik laughed softly. "I put Rose in back in the stroller. Is that okay with you?" He asked them. "I think we'll know soon enough when it's not okay." Christine said and Nadir chuckled. "I wonder. Rose is a remarkably quiet baby. How lucky you are!"
Alicia returned together with the two year old.
"Father can we begin?"
"Yes of course you can."
It was Camelia who grabbed the spoon that was next to the bowls first but Nadir stopped her. "Camelia," he said sternly, "How many times have I told you that the guests can take first?"
Slowly she put the silverware back on the table.
"Dario, don't you eat?" Erik asked surprised when he noticed everybody, including himself, had already begun eating.
"I don't feel hungry."
"Still you need to eat, you look hungry."
"I am just not hungry."
"Dario is in love!" Camelia cried out but then covered her mouth with her hands. "Shut up!"
"Hey!" Alicia interrupted the two fighting children. "Dario watch your language. Camelia don't pester your brother like that."
"But it's true I saw it!"
"I said shut up!" The oldest shouted and jumped up from his chair, causing Nadir to stand up as well. "Enough of this! Dario, sit down again. For God's sake; how ashamed I feel in front of my guests. First we send away your brother and now you two start fighting."
When things went quiet again Reza whispered in Erik's ear: "Don't be surprised that's how it always goes."
"Are you sure? Erik asked and gave him look of distrust.
Reza nodded and they continued eating in silence.
"So... Christine, what are you doing now all day? Taking care of Rose?" Nadir asked to avoid the awkward silence.
"Yes, yes I am. I sometimes take her for strolls outside. But I'm also busy with singing still."
"So you still sing?"
"Oh yes, but not on stage anymore, unfortunately. Maybe when Rose is a little older."
Erik looked at her concerned when she said 'unfortunately'.
"Hey Erik, last night I heard this beautiful song that I want to learn." Reza interrupted his thoughts and he turned his head to the boy beside him. "Which one was it then?"
"I ... I Uhm... Father, what was the song we heard yesterday?"
"Wasn't it... no, not that one. It started with an E right?"
"I don't know." Reza said.
"Can you hum it?" Erik asked.
"I can't, I can't remember how it goes."
"Well, that's not helping anything, is it?"
Reza hid his head in his hands in a guilty way. "I'm sorry." he whispered. Erik chuckled, "That's okay. If you hear it again you'll remember it for me, okay?"
They finished eating with excited chattering and afterwards Reza took Erik and Christine to the bedroom he shared with his older sister.
"Wow, this is a nice room you have here, Reza." Christine said as she watched the walls that were filled with drawings.
"Yes, and you know, mom and dad say Dario may come to sleep here too, instead of Camelia."
"Yes, because he sleeps alone now. So he'll come here and then Camelia will share a room with Kira."
"Mmh, and what if Amin comes back." Erik asked.
Reza turned quiet, and then tugged at Erik's sleeve to tell him to come closer. "I don't think he'll come home anymore." He whispered in his ear. "Why do you think that Reza?" Erik asked concerned, as he kneeled down to get the boy's attention. "I feel it. Haven't you heard father talking? Amin is crazy! Crazy!" Reza made a gesture as if his head were about to explode as he said that.
"Now listen to me Reza. I know you don't like him, but he has a reason to behave the way he does."
Erik looked into the dark eyes of the boy to find him gaze back in wonder.
"I know he has made you very unhappy, and that he has hurt you. But you must never say he is crazy."
The boy bit his lip. "Now, let's not talk about Amin anymore. Weren't you going to show us your paintings?"
Reza's face grew happy immediately and he skipped to the small desk and opened one of the drawers. "Dario gave me a map for my birthday so I can store all my paintings."
When Reza opened the map Erik was quite taken aback by the works. Yes, In fact, he was stunned. The works of the boy had visibly improved. After a few minutes of silent admiration and studying of the pieces Reza softly asked: "And? What do you think of it?"
"It's very good, Reza. Have you been practicing a lot?"
"Yessss…" Reza said with a grin and giggled at the same time.
"I wanted to make a drawing for Camelia's birthday, but don't know what to paint."
"Mmmh, you know what I do when I need inspiration? I usually take a stroll outside. It helps me to clear my head and usually gives me new ideas."
"Will it work you think?"
"I don't know, I said it worked for me. But you can always try, right?"
Reza nodded and Erik gave the map back to the small boy. "Now shall we go downstairs again? The rest of the family will be waiting for us."
"For dessert of course."
Reza's went to unbelief. "Are we getting dessert tonight?!"
"Yes, of course! Christine has made something special."
Erik laughed as he saw the happy smile on Reza's face. He took Christine's hand and nearly dragged her downstairs. Erik following them closely. Upon opening the door of the dining room Reza saw himself staring directly at the chocolate pudding. "Ah, you are just in time Reza. Look what Christine and Erik brought with them for dessert."
Reza sat back at the table quickly, joined by Christine and Erik. "So, who's up for a slice?"
Christine asked with a laugh and all the children exclaimed 'me' at the same time.
After dinner the evening was spend in peace. They played games and Erik immediately understood why Nadir loved children. He had looked over to Christine many times that evening, knowing she felt the same thing. Erik felt pain in his heart as he realized the fact that his wife wasn't able to have any more children. He was happy in the beginning, yet now… now he all of a sudden understood why Christine was depressed. By the time they were leaving all of Nadir's children were already in bed and sleeping soundly. The couples had been talking till deep in the night about all kind of things. When Erik and Christine came home it was Christine who put little Rose in bed. Erik watched her from the threshold, the desire for her nearly bursting from his eyes. Christine smiled at him when she noticed and let out a small 'eep' when Erik suddenly caught her when she passed him. "Oh Christine..." he muttered after he kissed her passionately. His lips trailed down to the soft skin in her neck. "I want you..." She felt her heart first skip a beat but then its rhythm increased three times, but she pushed him away. "No Erik. Not tonight, I am really tired."
The pout he gave her nearly melt her heart, and she laughed and gave him a kiss on his cheek before going to the bathroom to change into her gown. "At least give me the pleasure to help you with your corset." He said to her and she smiled and rolled her eyes. "Sure."
"Did you enjoy tonight?" He asked as his fingers untangled the laces on the back of her dress.
"Yes, Alicia's children are the cutest I have ever seen."
Erik chuckled and felt incredibly attracted to the smooth shoulder that was visible to him, "They are indeed." Christine nearly jumped when she felt his warm lips made contact with her shoulder. "Erik?! What did I say earlier?"
"I'm not doing anything bad." He mumbled and hugged her from behind. Christine sighed in defeat and placed her hands over his. "Why don't you go put on your own nightwear, love?"
He grumbled and kissed her skin one more time before breaking away. "I'll be there in a moment."
She said as he walked away. "You better be." He replied mysteriously.
Christine shook her head with a smile and quickly changed into her nightgown. When she entered their bedroom she saw Erik was closing of his night shirt. She came up to him and hugged him tightly, inhaling his fine scent. "Hurry up, dear. I don't want to go to bed alone." She whispered tiredly.
"You are really tired, aren't you?"
"Mmmmh…" Her hands moved to his sides and he caught them in his own, kissing them lightly.
"Let's go then." He wanted to break away but she remained clutched to him. "On second thought I'll just stay here." Christine whispered and gave him a kiss against the shirt of his chest, feeling safe in his embrace. She was surprised when she suddenly felt she was lifted and soon found her husband carry her the last meter to the bed. As soon as he had laid her down she folded her hands around his neck and didn't let go of him anymore, making it almost impossible for him to lay down in a comfortable position, but he let her. As he gave her one last kiss before he closed his eyes he noticed she was already nearly asleep. In reply to his kiss she moved her hands slowly to his deformed face and let her fingers carefully trace the ragged flesh, the corners of her mouth turning upwards into a smile that would stay the whole night.