Chapter eight- The Wedding
He got up and found an old, rusty oil lamp to which he lit the flame and walked with a crooked, knobby cane to the door. The Priest walked with them onto the cobblestone street and down rows of quaint houses motioning for them to follow and Christine took her betrothed's hand stepping out into the cold darkness. She shivered as she felt Erik tensing with what seemed to be the memories of every bad thing that had ever happened to him and Christine stopped him in the middle of the square where his silver eyes filled with unshed tears.
"What is it?" She asked.
Erik choked, "It was here where the neighborhood brats killed my only friend my little dog Sasha." He sniffled a little and then he cried softly.
Erik had stopped walking and Christine shook her head, the poor man! What had this world done to him to make his only friend be a dog…and then to have that friend taken from him so suddenly. Not only that, but the fact that these children…children could be so cruel to him as to murder an innocent animal. She pulled him closer and let him cry as he remembered the pains of his childhood. Her wedding could wait, his well-being was more important than that and she knew that if she was to be happy with him she had best put his mind at ease. She kissed his chin warming him with a big hug and allowing him to snuffle into her hair and she nuzzled him.
"She was an innocent animal and she was the only one who loved me…" he sobbed.
She looked at him and for the first time she saw the injured broken child in him and as the phantom crumbled leaving this poor tortured man she felt her just-healed heart break anew. He was so desperate for love that any amount of affection triggered his tears and sadness. Her lover stood still and looked at the starry night trying to hide his tears to no avail and Christine thumbed them away gently. Christine was grateful that he could not hear her inward shouts of hatred to the people who had hurt him over the years—she included herself for leaving him at first and knew it was going to take a lifetime to make him better.
Christine sighed and pulled this weeping man closer and she sat down in his lap right there in the road and the father said nothing but simply stood still to wait for them to be ready. Erik needed someone to love him and all this pain he had been feeling needed to be released. Christine just sat there while he babbled some incoherent gibberish about the past careful to jostle him every few minutes when he started to fall asleep in her arms because they were there to marry. She waited for him to finish, saying nothing to him and waiting for him to quiet. When at last he did she kissed his tears with a tender passion and licked all the tears away gently with every kiss.
Erik soaked up her love, wanting to bottle it and open it whenever these dark moods hit him and though some of his tears were of the tragic memories some of them were of joy. Joy from having such a beautiful woman love him, give up riches and a beautiful young husband to live a life of exile with a living corpse for a groom and an uncertain future in God-only-knew where. It gave Erik pangs of remorse so deep that his whole body shook with more tears than he had ever shed in his life.
"Why?" he sobbed.
"Why what?" she asked puzzled.
"You look for sympathy, I give you sorrow, you ask for honesty…I've none to borrow…
You need my tender kiss, you beg it of me…I give you ugliness!
Why do you love me?"
Christine didn't know what to say to him she just wrapped her arms around his neck, well-aware that the priest was waiting for them and feeling sorry that the old man was forced to stand out in the cold while she dealt with her fiancé's issues but it had to be done. She let him cry himself out and handed him her handkerchief where he blew his nose and folded it into his trouser pocket and she squeezed his hand. She was so busy worrying over Erik that she did not notice the shadow that had been following them since they left the inn.
"I'm sorry, but that's all over now. We are together now my love and no one can undo that." She said at last.
She gave him a tight squeeze around the waist and he wrapped his arms around her torso. Erik leaned down and captured her mouth in a desperate drowning kiss that heated Christine's body all the way to her toes. Damn the man for making her so mad with his every touch, she responded, sliding the lapels of his coat aside she began to unbutton his waistcoat, fully prepared to couple with him right where she was and to hell with the propriety of it. Erik seemed to want to comply when a gruff voice startled them out of their trance and Christine turned bright red. Erik shot the Priest a glare and was met with a mischievous gleam in his old eyes.
Christine blushed like mad and hid her face in her hands as she looked down at her pointed breasts and the bulge growing in Erik's pants. She blushed as she remembered the wildness in them both but when the father cleared his throat. She pulled out of Erik's arms casting her eyes down in a feeble attempt to transform herself into the modest maiden she had once prided herself on being les the father be thinking of her as some kind of wanton who did not care whose presence she was in before she indulged in sins of the flesh.
Any other man would have blanched at the look but the father merely laughed and shook his head, "Boy can't you wait a few hours to have her? Must you make a show of it in public?"
"Forgive me father." Christine said blushing.
The old man chuckled and shook his shaggy head , "I understand why before I took the veil as a father I was quite the amorous young man." He looked sad for a moment and then he said, "may I speak with Erik for a moment…alone…"
Christine looked puzzled but shrugged and Erik followed the old man and what passed between them was shocking. Shocking and absolutely heart-warming, it was the first time Erik had smiled at someone other than her. The old man sat Erik down and placed a crinkly hand on his shoulder. The priest looked hesitant for a moment looking as though he might stop himself before saying what he needed to say. But one look at Erik's eyes, curiously patient and oddly concerned he knew he owed this to him at the very least. He took a deep breath and then slowly very slowly he spoke…
"Erik you are mine…"
"Excuse me?" Erik replied.
"You're my son…" he said and the phantom froze.
Father Mansart took a deep breath and looked at him hoping he would not fly into a rage upon hearing this news. He had never meant to tell Erik this, only on his wedding day as the only gift a poor old man of a father to his only flesh and blood. But to his shame he had never thought this day would come for the boy just like it had never came for his mother and him. He looked at the beauty, waiting patiently in her wedding gown and playing connect-the-dots with her finger and the stars. Ah yes, a beauty just like his mother. But even better was the fact that his beauty loved him so much to leave a very well-loved member of the gentry for him when even Madeline could not do so.
At first all Erik felt was shock and then very slowly he nodded "I had always suspected but I never said anything."
The old man let out a laugh, "I knew you did. That's why I would not let Madeline smother you at birth, ah my boy if only she had loved me back I never would have taken the vows."
"But why did you not tell me sooner?" Erik asked, curious now.
"A man of the church is not allowed to have children, I'd lose my priesthood but I always loved you, and it killed me when I looked into your eyes and knew that I'd be nothing to you but your tutor. Even worse was when Madeline married Charles paying no heed to my broken heart because I was poor,"
Father Mansart hung his old head and when at last Erik spoke, it was almost childlike, "Can I use your name…daddy?"
The old man turned and through his arms around Erik's neck in a squeeze tighter than anything anyone would have suspected of him. Erik hugged him back enjoying the thought that as he had grown up he had one parent that loved him growing up. As impatient as he was to marry Christine he knew he had all night to do that and this moment with his father might never come again. The man was 86 after all and his time was running short. They held each other for several minutes and when he released him he kissed Erik on the head in response and got to his feet.
"Come now let's get you married." He said
Erik nodded and took Christine's hand leading her out the door to a small cracked building with a wooden cross on the room. In the moonlight it looked more like a grim mausoleum then a church. In faded golden letters, it read Le Madeline. Father Mansart reached into his baggy black robes and pulled out a rusty silver key. He unlocked the heavy door with shaky hands and it groaned heavily on its old cracking hinges to reveal a pitch-black interior as old and well-worn as the father. The father went inside and found a long stick to which he lit a match. The sight made Christine shiver, it was gothic and antique, faded velvet covering the seats of the pews and real oak as the frames.
It made Christine shiver as she recalled one of papa's stories about a corpse groom awaiting the bride who abandoned him years ago on the wedding day. She shivered as she remembered the gruesome ending of it where he dragged her down to hell to live in the darkness for all eternity. Christine sighed and inwardly cursed papa for allowing her to grow such a dark and twisted imagination. She turned to her groom, hoping the sight of her love would stop these dark musings but instead it did the opposite. He stood there before her every bit the dark angel she had seen in her mirror.
He was standing before her clad all in black his silk glove firmly holding her hands and his tall frame shadowing hers as he stepped behind her to cover her shoulders with his massive cloak. It was the size of a tent on her but the fur lining was warm so she wasn't complaining. But still when she thought of that story she couldn't shake the feeling that he looked just like the ghoulish groom from that grim tale and it made her shiver. Erik was oblivious to the thoughts going in her mind and she sighed when he wrapped his arms around her waist. The priest looked at them and smiled with a shake of his head giving them an 'I'll be with you in a moment' look and Erik nodded.
She was beginning to feel impatient and fidgeted a little from side to side. Christine looked down at herself in the wedding gown and thought of what she was about to do. She shook her head and thought of how different this was from the wedding of her dreams as a child. She had always thought of herself in a gown with huge multitudes of people wishing her well and papa there. Not alone with a man she knew nothing about save for the fact that his father was a priest and his mother and past were positively awful. But then –to her shame- she had forgotten to list the good things she knew about him and set about reminding herself of the most important thing about her lover.
He loved her and that his voice rivaled the angels. But still here she was standing with the most damned man in Paris to become his otherwise ill-fated bride. No, it wasn't what she imagined, it was better. She was here on a gorgeous night with the man she loved about to start a life with him as soon as the old man was ready and so she stood there smiling like a bloody great goon from ear to ear. Christine was grinning so much that she worried that by the time she got to the altar her mouth was going to be too sore to say her vows.
He put up his hand and went to the altar where he crossed himself before the Madonna and the crucifix above him. He then went to a large cabinet and stood there before muttering something about the wrong key. He found the correct one and reached in removing the required items. She stood there in the doorway with Erik as the priest unlocked the door and stepped inside. He lit the candles and placed a larger candle in the center. He motioned with a gnarled finger for her to step forward with Erik and turn to look at each other. Christine saw all of his emotions and his love as Father Mansart came forward with two chalices of water and a beautiful stone-studded goblet which he filled with wine.
"Dearly beloved we are gathered here today in the sight of god to join this man and this woman in the bonds of holy matrimony."
Christine closed her eyes and let Erik tie a knot in the soaked white silk dipped in holy water. Erik shook his head as she laid her hand in his and allowed the father to sprinkle the water over her hands. The father said a prayer and when their eyes met she saw everything he was. He all but felt his hands trembling and hated himself for it because he was such a powerful man. Erik was a man who many feared and loathed yet when it came to Christine he was like a silly little schoolboy tripping all over himself. She was blushing like mad too as she kissed his hands and waited for the ceremony to begin and when it did she found herself shaking from head to foot.
"Erik take Christine's hand in yours now and say your vows."
Erik had trouble taking her hand as he was tied to her but when at last he had managed it Christine felt their chemistry start to crackle. He closed his shaking fingers around hers. Erik's eyes held all the fear in the world but He bit back all hesitation as he walked away from her then, causing the Father to look at him in surprise and he turned to Christine with a shaky voice and kissed both her hands. Erik seemed to be just as frightened but when he spoke his voice was clear and as authoritative as it had been in his old teaching days.
"In this time we marry, and in this time we begin a life full of trials and tribulations also many joys. With this ring I, Erik Léopold Mansart II, take thee Christine Josephina Daaë to be my lawfully wedded wife. To have and to hold for better or for worse in sickness and in richer or poorer…in sickness and in health and till death do us part. With this ring I pledge my heart, my soul and everything I am to you. With this ring I you wed. "
Christine shook her head with a smile and took the golden grasshopper ring from his hand, trying not to smirk at the ironic symbolism of it all. But still the pear wings and diamond eyes were beautiful and as she raised the onyx scorpion ring she placed it on his hand and her eyes fill up.
"In this time we marry, and in this time we begin a life full of trials and tribulations also many joys. With this ring I, Christine Josephina Daaë take thee Erik Léopold Mansart II to be my lawfully wedded wife. To have and to hold for better or for worse in sickness and in richer or poorer…in sickness and in health and till death do us part. With this ring I pledge my heart, my soul and everything I am to you. With this ring I you wed. "
"By the power invested in me by the father the son and the Holy Ghost I now pronounce you Erik and Christine Mansart as a sign of your union you may now kiss the bride." He closed his bible and blessed them with the sign of the cross.
Then Erik kissed her. Oh God did he kiss her.It held all the emotion she never thought him capable of. The couple turned just as Christine thought she saw a camera flash out of the corner of her eye but she was too happy to care, they followed the priest back to the inn. He kissed Christine and hugged Erik watching them with a smile as they disappeared up the stairs to their room. As he laughed and walked down the stairs back to his little cottage he looked up at the sky crying tears of joy.
"Well done my boy…very well done indeed…"