Father Once Spoke of an Angel
A/N: The twist is coming, I beg for your patience. ^_^
Chapter 18: Let Me Rest
Where could he have gone? He was not in the hall, nor was he there…Had he run? I deserted him… I don't think he will return… not after I fled…
A quick rap on the door brought Christine back to reality. Trembling still, she managed to speak with only a hint of a quaver in her voice. She dared not hope…
"Who is it?"
"Open the door." The knob turned and stopped with a click when the lock prevented it from moving further. Her heart sunk when she recognized the voice.
"But, you -" Delaying so she could think her way out of the situation that was bound to ensue, Christine found herself moving towards the mirror, as if Erik would be there to comfort her. She knew he was not.
"Open the door." The demand was repeated, and the anger that filtered through the wooden barrier caused Christine to advance obediently to turn the key in the lock. Cautiously, she opened it.
"Adrian." She bit her lip to keep it from sliding into a childish pout. There was only one reason he was here, and now that she looked at him, she realized how frightened she was. It wasn't her fault, what had happened. But she could not blame Eric entirely, for that quickness in her heart would still not abandon her…
Adrian pushed past her, disregarding the questioning stare she gave him. Instead, he stalked to the center of the room and turned, watching her with a demanding glare as she closed the door to give them some privacy. The silence in the room was unbearable, until she made an effort to speak.
"Where's your ke-"
"It doesn't matter." He cut her off abruptly. Expecting him to say more, she dared not talk. But the stillness cascaded back into the room, enveloping them both, until Christine felt that she would suffocate from the oppressive quiet.
"I'm waiting." For an explanation… his eyes read, easily enough. Cracking her lips in a feeble attempt to defend herself, it occurred to her just how dry her tongue felt as it grated against the roof of her mouth.
"I didn't know…" She began, and then swallowed nervously.
"You didn't know…" Adrian repeated, not sarcastically, but not sympathetically either. "If you didn't know, then why did you let him?"
"I-it… happened so fast, that I… I didn't have a chance to think…"
"You didn't think! That's what I am to you, merely an afterthought?"
"No! I didn't mean it like that!"
"Regardless, that… ill-bred bastard took advantage of you and your-"
"I will not have you calling Eric such names!"
"Oh you won't? After what he did, after how he shamed you?! Do you have any idea what they're saying? And now you're defending him! My God, have I really been so blind? Did I not realize…? 'Eric this, Eric that', it always was about your precious Eric! And now that he's turned you into the Opera Whore…" Adrian broke into harsh laughter. "Yes, yes, they are all whispering that now! Now they know how you came to be the star of the show, kissing whom you will, shamelessly…!"
"That's what they say! And then you defend him! Who am I to interfere if you should choose to ruin your reputation? But I'll be damned before I am dragged down with you!"
"Surely, you don't mean -"
"Oh, but my dear, I do." He advanced menacingly, but she did not move, as the wall beside the door was already against her back. "I worked so hard to get where I am today. Ah, my pretty little peach…" He lifted his hand and pulled at one stray curl hanging to the side of her face. "I would stay with you, but what would be the point?" His captivating green eyes shimmered with an unspeakable sorrow she had not been able to see until he stood in front of her. So close…
"He has won. I am nothing more than an afterthought now." He reached behind her and the door swung open at his touch. A faint smile danced upon his lips before he disappeared into the darkened hall behind her; the door quietly shut.
Christine's first movement was to wipe her clammy hands on her dress absent-mindedly. Stiffly, she made her way to the center of the room, where he had stood, and turned to look at herself in the full length mirror. The paleness of her face made her rouged lips stand out as if separate entities, her eyes dark pools of nothingness into which she stared desperately. She could not tell what emotion was forcing her to breathe so fast, nor what it was that was making her shake so… too much had happened to comprehend any further, she could bring herself to do nothing but gaze emptily at herself. She had no one to run to, no one to wait for, no one to hold her hand and tell her that it would all be set right in the morning. Waiting was all she had left, waiting for the realization to strike.
Gone. He was gone. Her eyes did not even well with tears at the thought. Perhaps it was the manner in which he chose to leave; perhaps it was her panic at being not wholly without fault. Or was she? After the scene, she had run from him, but why? Because she was afraid… afraid that Adrian was watching. Afraid he had seen the look on her face when she sang, and afraid that she had been caught in her lie. And she was.
A gentle sound caressed her ears, soothing her aching mind. Dancing about her ever so softly, the deep humming quieted the turmoil inside of her and pulled her along on a path winding down, down, down…
The whisper beckoned her towards the mirror, lulling her senses into a cradle of peace. Without a thought crossing her mind, her fingertips led themselves towards the cold glass of the mirror, only faintly grazing the surface…
"Christine, Christine, Christine. How easy you are to torment."
She blinked several times, recognizing the voice instantly.
"And here I was, believing you would forget all about me when your young man came to pay you a visit. What's the matter, child? You look ill."
Christine stepped back from the mirror and turned away. While her back was to him, Erik flipped the reflective glass and stepped out from his hiding place.
"What exactly is it you have been up to?" Erik murmured thoughtfully, watching the girl grasp the back of a chair for support. "Ah, the follies of youth. If I had but a chance to make them all over…" In a rare moment of wrath, the young girl spun about to glare at him fiercely.
"How was I supposed to realize this would happen? Don't patronize me! You claim not to care about me at all and then you come and mock me!"
"I am doing nothing of the sort. Perhaps I'm incorrect in my assumptions; after all, I've never done this before, but I thought that I was doing my duty. Am I wrong to think it is a father's place to protect a daughter's reputation?" She turned away again, her silence indicative of her unwillingness to argue, a softening towards the harsh words he had said to her not so long ago.
"…Why did you shout at me?" As her voice broke, Erik cringed. Crying women were so revolting; they poured so much guilt onto his soul…
"Foolish women…" he muttered sulkily, his mood tarnished by her dredging memories of his rather ridiculous tirade. "I only did that to make you see…"
"I'm not like her!" Christine cried out, finally breaking down into tears. "I won't make… her mistakes! Don't you see, you have what you want!" She looked at him miserably, her face red and her mascara smudged into dark half-moons. A pang of guilt forced Erik to avert his eyes.
"I never said…"
"I have nowhere else to go… Adrian is gone, and he will not come back; oh, he is right not to! I never should have believed… but I did and look at the mess I've made. I have nothing left but music…"
"You know that is not what I intended for you…" Erik tried to begin again.
"It wasn't?" Christine found it was her turn to be bitter. "What about those lectures on abandoning my work? You just want me to be miserable! Like you!" Her sobs had subsided into angry shouts; she had managed to fish out a handkerchief, but was merely clutching it instead of using it to wipe off her drying tears. Erik's own fingers were curled about his palms in fists, his tone nearly as ferocious as hers as he fought to be heard.
"Yes, my dear, quite perceptive of you! I never did like Adrian, but can you fault me? I had every reason to believe he was not worth a moment of your attention…" Erik drew his breath in a hiss. "Instead you chose him over all else, and trampled any in your way to get to him. What was it you saw in him? Money? Status? He has neither, I assure you!" Seeing tears beginning to well again in her eyes, Erik paused, teetering on the edge of another quarrel.
"No," Erik mused at length. "I've been tormented, but never did I wish for you to be miserable. And you are not, not yet. You have not lost everything, child, except perhaps your sight. All is not dark, unless you live in the depths of hell as I do, and even then, the flames will light your path to the sun again should you wish it." Christine sniffled, looking dejected as she shakily made her way to her bed, where she promptly sat.
"Papa… I've been such a fool…"
"There is nothing you… have done with Adrian that cannot be undone, is there?" After a moment's hesitation, Christine shook her head. "Then all will be well. But not until you cease that infernal racket!" He moved towards her and scowled, using his thumb to wipe away the tears that had silently crept out of the corners of her eyes again. "Cry over everything, that's all you women do… and who would have thought Adrian worth shedding tears for!" Christine cracked a tiny smile and sniffed.
"H-he isn't worth…"
"Precisely. Now why must you keep sniveling? I thought you outgrew such things years ago."
"But Papa, I can't get him back…"
"Have I not been telling you he is not worth-!"
"No, no… Eric is gone." With the thought, a fresh wave of tears assaulted her senses, blurring her vision.
"Ah… but still, there is no need for them. He has not gone anywhere!"
"But I saw him run off… Where is he?" Christine's eyes blinked out the last few droplets before beginning to clear with this glimmer of hope.
"Dear God, child, have you been crying all this time because of that?!" Erik cried incredulously. "Well - leave it to me. I shall set things aright between you. Tonight has been enough." With a sigh, he made his way to the mirror. "Ah, I am too old to mediate such foolishness…"
"Do you still miss her?" Erik turned, startled by the question.
"Does it ever leave?"
"Well… then I'm glad." Erik looked at her queerly, the statement seeming out of place. She smiled, a thin, fragile curve she fought to maintain. "I thought if I waited long enough, it might disappear…" Erik diverted his eyes, trying to quell the trembling in his heart.
"The burden is one you shall always carry with you. I have not much longer to wait for my freedom…" He shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Sleep, child, and erase the worry from your mind. I will see to it all…"