There was a very long pause. Then Christine squeaked, "What?"
Erik looked a little hurt. "Erik has said he loves you?" he repeated, his voice strangely uneven. Something flickered behind the mania in his eyes and for a moment he looked almost uncertain.
"Um." Christine took in a deep breath. She had to keep calm. She steadied her voice before speaking again. "Why?"
He regained control so quickly that Christine wasn't sure what she'd seen. "It would be easier to define why I breathe, darling Christine. You are so very beautiful." He walked toward her. Christine had to force herself not to take a step back. He tucked a curl behind her ear. Christine swallowed hard.
"Erik, please. You have to be rational. You hardly know me. How can you love me?"
"But that's where you're wrong, my dear. I know everything about you. I know that you graduated from high school at sixteen, I know that you originally wanted to study music in college, but switched to sociology and psychiatry, and I know that right now your father is in the hospital." He said this all very simply, almost in a monotone, like he was just stating facts, but it made a chill run down Christine's spine. He stared at her with those disconcerting eyes and she wondered if she was imagining the threat that hung unspoken in the air between them.
"How?" she said hoarsely.
He just smiled. "Well, I've been following you, of course. I first saw you when you were nineteen, in that piano bar where you were working. You're quite the musician, my dear."
Her mouth felt very dry. "That was... that was nearly seven years ago."
"Yes." He smiled.
All Christine wanted to do was shrink as small as she could and hide somewhere no one would ever find her. But she forced herself to stay put. "So you've been following me for seven years." She made her voice calm and conversational. "Why haven't I noticed before?"
Erik studied her without blinking. "I'm a clever man, my dear. I made sure you never saw me- that no one ever saw me."
She swallowed, but if anything, her mouth and throat felt dryer. Erik just kept smiling. "Why - why did you wait so long? To do anything?"
He smiled again, but it wasn't a happy smile. It was like he was just trying to unnerve her now. "I had to bide my time, move slowly. I went to quite a lot of trouble to plan that arrest, you know."
"You wanted to end up in prison just to talk to me?"
"I knew I wouldn't be in prison for long. I hadn't done anything they had evidence for."
Oh, dear lord. Christine sank on the floor and put her head in her hands. Why was I so stupid? Why didn't I take Nadir's warning seriously?
"Christine?" There was something else in his tone now, maybe even genuine emotion. "Are you all right?"
"No," said Christine, raising her head to stare defiantly at him, "I am most definitely not all right."
"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping that you can understand."
He was singing again. He'd started singing periodically the moment she'd left the music room and returned to her own room, as though he was trying to lure her out again. Christine vaguely recognized the lyrics - it sounds like a Yeats poem - but she'd never heard the tune before. His voice called to her in a way she couldn't describe and could barely resist. She slammed her door shut and locked it, hoping that would dull the sound somewhat, but she could still hear him clearly.
She pressed her hands to her ears. Everything about that song called her, no matter how hard she tried to fight it. And that scared the hell out of her. It didn't seem possible that his voice could affect her in such a way. He was charismatic, yes...but surely she should be able keep her wits about her. She didn't want to think what might happen if she let herself fall into that trance his music brought on again.
There was a soft knock on her door. Christine started, and then said, "Who is it?"
"My name is Emilie, miss," said a girl's voice. "The maestro sent me to help you prepare for dinner."
Christine unlocked the door and let the girl in. She was about Christine's height, but she couldn't have been older than seventeen or eighteen. Her hair was light brown and pinned severely back from her pretty face.
"Help me prepare for dinner?" Christine asked with a frown.
"Help you choose the right clothes," said Emilie. She hesitated and looked expectantly at Christine. "Miss? Wouldn't you like to see your choices?"
"No," Christine said. She sat down on the bed and forced a smile. "You pick something, Emilie. I'm sure you're much better at this than I am."
"Well...all right," Emilie said. She went to the wardrobe and rifled through a few dresses before drawing one out. "What about this?"
"That's fine." Christine picked at a loose thread in the comforter.
"You aren't looking." Emilie sounded a little upset. Christine looked up. The dress Emilie held out to her was rosy pink with three-quarter length sleeves and a loose, flowy sort of skirt.
"Shall I do your hair, miss?"
"Oh, no, it's okay," Christine said. Emilie's face fell.
"But, miss, you have such lovely hair!"
Christine smiled for real this time. "Well, I guess it couldn't hurt?"
Emilie smiled back. "No, I don't think so, miss." She took up a hairbrush from the vanity and began to gently run it through Christine's hair.
"You don't have to call me 'miss'," said Christine. "My name's Christine."
Emilie paused in her brushing. "Oh no, it wouldn't be proper."
"It's just the two of us," Christine prodded. "It's okay if you want to call me Christine."
Emilie began to brush her hair again. "Well, I suppose it would be all right - if it's just the two of us - Christine."
Emilie brushed Christine's hair until it lay soft and shiny down her back. Then, starting at the crown of her head, she braided it in one long plait.
"You look so pretty," Emilie said softly. She gave Christine a mirror. Christine stared at herself and tugged self-consciously at the end of her braid. Emilie glanced over at the clock above the armoire in the corner. "It's nearly eight, mi - Christine. You should get dressed."
Christine put the mirror down on the bed. "Do I have to?"
"Not unless you don't want to make the maestro very angry."
Christine sighed. "I have a feeling that's not something I want."
"It's not something anybody wants, so we're all very careful. But sometimes we can't avoid it." Emilie smiled, but it was more like a grimace. "Go on and get dressed, and then head to the dining room. It's on the second floor. It's the biggest room there, you can't miss it."
"Right," Christine murmured. "Thanks."
Emilie bobbed a little curtsy and left, pulling the door closed behind her.
Christine slid off the bed and pulled on the dress Emilie had picked out. It was light and soft and comfortable. She glanced at the clock. Ten minutes till eight.
Here she was, held against her will, about to have dinner with her kidnapper. Even in her head, it sounded stupid. Although it didn't seem like she had any choice. And it was probably in her best interest not to anger the man who could easily kill her at any time. Christine took a deep breath, steeling herself against whatever was to come. Then she opened the door and stepped out into the hall.
A/N: Bit of a late update due to technical difficulties. :( I hope you liked this chapter, though. Thanks a million to my beta, gravity01. Your nitpickiness and insight are greatly appreciated. =D