CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN—

Christine's breath caught in her lungs and Raoul slowly slid the ring on her finger, a gleam in his eyes that taunted her. Her heart pounded hard in her chest, as she heard his words, "With this ring… I thee wed." Christine stared down at the gaudy thing. Large and flashy, she hated wearing it. She looked up at Raoul, his expected smile cut into her and emotions flooded over her beautiful face.

Christine took a plain silver ring and hesitantly slid the ring on Raoul's left ring finger, "With this ring, I thee wed." She said wearily.

"I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Raoul maneuvered suavely and kissed Christine shortly, as she toyed with the idea of being the Vicomte DeChagney's bride, hardly noticing his lips had been placed on hers.


The night came too quickly for Christine. She had most definitely not been anticipating the moment when Raoul set his gaze on her, in a slightly unhinged manor. She scratched the palm of her hand nervously, sighing silently. She fiddled with her new wedding ring, turning it around on her finger, averting her eyes from Raoul's.

"Christine." He said in a tone she had not heard before. "You seem tense. Is something the matter?"

Christine shook her head, "Of course not, Raoul."

Raoul smiled, "Good." He said. He tilted her head back and kissed her. Soon the two were on the bed.

Christine felt a twinge of guilt, wanting desperately to pull away. She pulled away slowly, "Raoul…"

Raoul looked at her questioningly.

"I can't…" Christine answered his inquiring gaze.

Raoul frowned, "Christine, we're married."

"I know. Just… not yet. All right? Please." Christine urged, a hopeful gleam in her eye.

Raoul grinned, "I'll wait." He assured her.

Christine let out a sigh; she nodded slowly.


Erik turned the rose in his hand. The black ribbon was wrapped around in a perfect bow, and resting in the petals was a familiar diamond ring. Meg left it there, as it turned out she had had it all the time. He lifted the rose to his nose and inhaled, the perfume smelled refreshing, calming. Christine had married Raoul just that afternoon, and Erik would need all the calming he could get. He stared, ghost-like, at the empty cradle, recalling seeing his daughter laughing in it, grinning up at him with green eyes. Her eyes were a reflection of him, and for once, it was nice to see them filled with happiness, Erik thought. Meg had left with nothing but a simple note, taking his daughter- his precious daughter- with her. Erik prayed that he could see her soon, that Meg would be sensible and return. But he knew that it would not happen. And then Madame Giry had come to see him, she was angry enough. Now, she hated for what he had done. Thinking of it, Erik knew he couldn't be angry with Madame Giry for hating him. He had ruined everything, destroyed everyone's happiness.

"Erik."

Erik turned see Christine standing on the opposite side of the gate. Her mesmerizing brown eyes were wild and filled with terror, and her hair was messy and disheveled.

"What is it?" Erik asked as he pulled the brass lever to let Christine in.

Without answering, she ran to him, embracing him and letting out an anguished sigh. She buried her face on his shoulder, "Oh God." She whispered. "I don't know if I can do this. Raoul… he's suffocating me. Erik, I can't take it." She whimpered in a harrowing tone. "I just need you." She cried pitifully. She looked up Erik, her eyes pleading and seeming to be expectant.

"Christine. They're gone. Meg, Isabelle, Madame Giry. They're all gone." Erik said. "I want nothing else but to be with you, but Christine, I can't. And you can't either."

Christine nodded, loosening her grip on Erik, "I know." She wiped her eyes tiredly. "I suppose I was foolish to come." She blinked. "Goodnight, Erik."

Erik squeezed her hand, "Goodnight."


Madame Giry bit her lip. Growing angrier by the second as she thought of Erik, making love to Meg and then turning around, weeping to Christine of how much he needed her now. With an exasperated sigh, a sudden thought came to Madame Giry. What if…?

She stood immediately, without thinking. She walked to the long corridor and towards Raoul and Christine's room. She knocked on the door.

Raoul opened it, looking slightly dazed, "Yes… oh, um Madame Giry… do you need something?"

Madame Giry raised an eyebrow, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

"No, no. Christine only just left. Come in, please." Raoul opened the door wider so Madame Giry could enter.

Madame Giry whirled around as soon as Raoul shut the door, "You know all of Erik and Christine?"

"Yes."

"But do you know all of Erik?"

Raoul's eyes suddenly shimmered with a newly found spark of interest, "I figured you knew something, but of course I thought you'd take it to the grave were it about Erik."

"There has been a rather immediate change of plan." Madame Giry said tonelessly. "You know of Christine's little… setback two years ago, do you not?"

"Yes." Raoul replied. He smiled wickedly, "And I know of yours."

Madame Giry winced, but soon recovered herself; "Do not be a fool, boy. Be reminded of just who are speaking to. One harsh word towards me and I might just be able to ruin you."

Raoul nodded, "Forgive me. What were you saying?"

Madame Giry cleared her throat, "He has a dirty little secret of his own. I thought it would be time to let the cat out of the bag."


Erik paced around the lair. Should he have sent Christine back to her bedroom? She was so helpless, and had only come to him to seek consolation. Had he hurt her? Made her angry? Bitter? Erik was now kicking himself for lack of compassion, a virtue he had always lacked, but now saw the price of it. Erik stopped as he recalled what she had said, 'he's suffocating me.' He had thought she just meant he had talked of love, or how they were meant to be. But could he have tried to have her? Would he make her against her will? No. She was in no danger of that. Or was she? It did not seem like the Vicomtes more suave personality, but were she to refuse him over and over again, how forceful could he be when he was angry?

Erik didn't want to think about it. He thought about Isabelle, smiling up at him with ignorance of all that's bad in the world. Ignorance of hate, scorn: all that she might face in the future.


ONE WEEK LATER

Erik stared up at the cold, stone ceiling. Trying to fall asleep, but unable to. Whenever he closed his eyes, he saw Christine, eyes shimmering with cold, wretched tears. Her cheeks a flustered red, her eyes pleading and bewitching. Her hair falling, covering her face in a wild, curly mess, making her seductive and mysterious.

Suddenly, he heard noises. A splash in the lake half way across the 'room.'

He sat bolt upright staring into the murky blackness. Through the dimly lit room, he could only make out a figure walking his way, unable to tell the gender.

"Erik," Meg said flustered.

Erik got out of bed immediately, "Meg… what are you-"

Meg held up her free hand, because in her arm lay a sleeping Isabelle; curled up, eyes fluttering slightly.

Erik reached out and took Isabelle from her mother gently, caressing his daughter lovingly, "Hello, sweetheart." He cooed down at his sleeping child. He set her down lightly in her cradle. He kissed her forehead, "Sleep well, darling."

Meg walked over to Erik, touching his shoulder gently, "Erik. We have to talk."

Erik whirled around, "Talk?" He screeched harshly. "Don't you dare talk to me about that!"

"Erik, be reasonable!"

"Reasonable? You're asking me to be reasonable?" Erik snarled. "You're one to talk!"

Meg sighed, "All right. Fair enough. I suppose I did over react, but we need to talk about this."

Erik closed his eyes; he nodded, "All right, all right. Talk."

"I understand that you're mad. But we need to sort this out. It's not going to help either one of us if we're fighting." Meg insisted.

"I agree." Erik said. He stared Meg full in the face, "But, I'm sorry, I don't love you."

Meg took in a sharp breath, she smiled spitefully, "I suppose I only expected that."

Erik shook his head, staring at Meg with a sort of admirable smile, "You have courage, Miss Giry. And I can tell you that I do not regret giving you happiness. I am only grieved to find that it turns to bitterness. But I can assure you, you will come across one who will love you without anybody intercepting. Who will stand next to you through thick and thin. Meg, he will come. And he will be so blessed when he does come along."

A tear trickled down the side of Meg's face and she embraced Erik, closing her eyes and she wrapped her arms tightly around his back. She laughed quietly, "That is the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me."

Erik smiled at her, "And I meant every word of it."

Over in the cradle, Isabelle stirred, letting out a short cry.

"Oh, dear." Meg rushed over to Isabelle.

Erik clasped her hand before she reached Isabelle, "Let me do it."

Meg stared into his eyes, they seemed hopeful. Thoughts flooded Meg's mind. He really loved Isabelle. And he clearly had loving feeling for her, even if they weren't what she had wanted. But still, he loved her. That was all she could ever have asked for. As she stared at him, she nodded tersely. He jumped up and went to assist his crying daughter, singing her quietly to sleep again, in his rich, deep, seductive voice. Meg watched him with utter awe, he was perfect with his child, and he had so much. If only he realized it. As Meg watched him, smiling at his cooing and calming of his child. She laughed Erik starting dancing with Isabelle. At the sound of her mother's laugh, Isabelle started laughing. It was the most adorable sound in the world, and Meg felt her heart flutter as she heart her baby laughed so readily.


Jade watched Christine as she looked around the corridor. Christine couldn't see her, Jade realized. Christine snuck into her old dressing room, obviously thinking that she was unobserved. Jade waited a few minute and soon entered right the dark room. She saw… saw the mirror halfway opened. Jade frowned, what the hell? She asked herself. She stepped in the mirror. There was a long, thin corridor, riddled with cobwebs and leaks. But still, Jade moved on, hearing Christine's footsteps only about twenty feet ahead. Soon Jade came to vast stone stairs, then a little ramp and soon a lake. She saw a boat leaving, which must have been holding Christine. Damn. Jade cursed. She stepped into the lake; it was frigid and dark. She couldn't see her legs or feet. It only got as high as her lower stomach, so she walked a ways until she reached an opened brass gate. The water got shallower and shallower, until it was less than knee-high. Jade stepped out, her pale pink nightdress soaked. She rolled her eyes with irritation, and then looked up. Her mouth hung open, it was beautiful! Drawings hung on the walls, sketches, really. They looked like Christine, in fact, the likeness was so similar, it sort of frightened Jade. Candle stood, some as tall as Jade was. They were all lit and looked beautiful, glowing radiantly.

"Hello?" She called.

She heard nothing.

Then, a distinct noise. Yes. It was a baby's sharp cry.

She ran around the corner to see a cradle, with blonde hair sticking out of it. Jade smiled and went to look at the baby. But when she saw her face, she staggered backwards. It was completely misshapen, dried blood surrounded the poor girls hairline on one side of her face.

She heard a footstep behind her, and she whirled around sharply.

Staring back at her were dark green eyes, they looked threatening, but still, there was an undeniable warmness in them. "Who are you?" A man demanded. He was tall and had black hair, though a sleek white mask covered one side of his face.

Jade looked up at him, "Jade. Jade DeChagney."

The man swallowed, "You shouldn't be here." There was a twinge of nervousness in his voice.

"Don't worry, I won't hurt you. I just… what is this place?" She inquired.

"You should leave. Now!" The man exclaimed suddenly.

A thought popped into Jade's head and her eyes grew wide, "You're the Phantom of the Opera, aren't you? I knew there was something Raoul wasn't telling me. Something happened, with you and him, didn't it? My God."

"I don't know what the hell you're doing here, but I want you gone!" The man retorted forcefully. "And I don't want you to come back. Do you understand?"

Jade didn't move, completely ignoring his angry requests, "You have a beautiful daughter." She said. The man looked confused. Jade laughed, "I'm sorry if you're surprised, but there is an undeniable resemblance. You're eyes, I mean, of course." She grinned. "Now, would you be so kind, to give me your name, Monsieur?"

The man studied her, eying her up and down, "Erik Destler."

Jade bowed her head in a welcome, "A pleasure, Monsieur Destler." She searched around the room. "Now where is Christine?" Erik opened his mouth, but Jade put up her hand, "No use denying it. I saw her enter. Are you going to tell me that she is the mother of this darling girl?"

"Absolutely not!" Meg stepped out of the shadows.

Jade grinned, "Now I see. The famous Meg Giry, you have a lovely daughter."

Meg smiled, "Thank you."

Christine walked up to Jade, "Why did you come here?" She questioned.

Jade gave a seductive smile, "Curiosity." She said simply. Her eyes twinkled, "I see you have something important to discuss. Then, I'll leave you to it." She turned and exited the lair. She turned around, "I hope you don't mind, but I would like to take the boat. I'm not at all in the mood to swim back to shore."

Christine shot Erik an apologetic look, "No, I'll have to go with you. I don't want to swim either." She ran over to Jade. "Wait just a moment," Christine commanded fervently. She ran over to Erik's desk, took a blank piece of paper and scribbled something down on it quickly. She left the note lying on the desk and ran back to the boat, letting Jade push off the side and the two went back to the Opera.

Erik went over to his desk and picked up the piece of parchment Christine had written on just before she left. In her neat scrawl, she had written:

Come to my room tomorrow. Ten o'clock. We need to talk.

-Christine.