Confrontations, Rain, and... Mud?
To all my fantastic readers who have stuck with me, I wanted to thank all of you for your support and apologize for how long it has been taking me to update my stories. I am extremely busy at the moment, and unfortunately do not have much time to write... Don't worry! My schedule will clear up March 2nd or 3rd and I will try to make up for all the lost time! Those of you who have also read my new story Buried in The Snow, I have not given up, and I will update it as soon as I figure out how to end the second chapter. Once again, thank you for your patience and all your support! -RN
Christine tried her best to ignored Erik the next day, unwilling to face him and the tension between them. The few good feelings towards him that had wormed their way into her heart had left her aching and unsure, but what could she do? She knew nothing of the world, and felt more of a child than ever before. So instead of facing her masked captor, she was content to continue this game of hearts, hiding from these frightening new feelings.
Christine ducked behind another corner, holding her breath in fear of detection. This had been the fifth time today she had seen Erik, and she was just about to retreat to the library when a gloved hand gripped her shoulder. Gasping, she turned, finding herself face to face with the last person she wanted to see. "You scared me!" She cried.
"I seem to be doing that a lot." Erik said, running a hand through his hair. "What's wrong." She felt blood rush to her face as she ducked under his arm.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Erik." Christine said, avoiding his searching eyes as he blocked her way. Taking a deep breath, she gained the confidence to meet his gaze, trying very hard not to glare at him. "Please step aside. I would like to leave." Erik however, showed no sign of moving.
"And I would like you to stay. Why have you been avoiding me?" Slowly he took a step forward, Christine unconsciously moving away at the commanding tone of his voice. She felt the banister against her back and groaned, her escape path blocked. "Well?" He said, unable to speak gently to her. His heart ached every time she rejected his company, and it was putting him in a foul mood. Christine still refused to answer him though, not wanting to face how much it hurt to be around him, knowing she was nothing.
Erik felt anger coursing through his veins as she lowered his eyes. Were he stronger, he would have accepted her rejection with grace, and walked away before he did anything stupid. But he was not strong enough to let her go, and instead, he moved closer still, his eyes flashing with anger. Christine began to panic as her personal space was invaded, raising her hands to stop his progress. "Erik, stop." She said, her voice shaking slightly as his eyes blazed into hers.
He did not see the fear in her eyes, and as he took that last step forward, he did not expect her to fight back."Erik, I mean it." Christine said, the look on his face so foreign to her. Panic stole her breath, and for a moment she could do nothing but shrink away. She was so afraid. Would he punish her the way Isabel had? Her entire back throbbed at the thought of that horrid whip. Never again, she thought as she held her ground. Shoving against his chest hard, she fled from his closing arms, tears flowing down her face. "Why would you do such a thing!" Erik watched her, stunned by the wetness that shone on her porcelain cheeks. Shaking her head with terror, she ran down the corridor, adrenaline still coursing through her veins.
Christine clutched her head as she ran, horrible memories dragging her from reality. She was no longer a grown woman, and it was no longer Erik's punishment she awaited. It was Isabel who existed in his place, ready to whip a child for who she would become. Her scars seemed to become once again fresh wounds, burning her back with the exposed nerves. She mumbled wildly to herself, praying to her father to save her from these horrors. To give her a guardian angel who would protect her from her step-mother.
Frowning, Erik took after her, succeeding only in scaring her more. "Christine!" He called out, startled by the choked fear in every breath she took. "Please, Stop!" Christine took no heed though, and Erik quickly closed the distance between them. "Wait!" He said sternly as he grabbed her arms, turning her forcefully towards him. He was not prepared for what he saw.
Her face was slick with tears as she looked up at him with nothing less than pure horror. She no longer struggled against him, but shook violently in his arms as she sank to her knees on the ground. Her breathing was so ragged he doubted there was any oxygen getting to her lungs. Guilt was a cold dagger to his heart as he released her arms. Sinking to his knees with her, he wanted nothing more than to embrace this angel, though he did not dare. Her eyes were wild as she tried to force something from her quivering lips.
"P-p-please." Christine cried out, the tears never-ending. "P-please don't h-h-hur-rt m-me." She whispered, covering her face with her hands. Erik found himself backing away from her, unable to process what was before him. This was not the strong willed woman, unafraid to stand up to his wrath. This was not she with the voice angels would envy. That woman had been reduced to a frightened child in a matter of seconds, and he cringed at her broken sobs. No, he could not handle this.
Erik stumbled to his feet, his natural grace flawed and unstable. Using the walls as his only support, he managed to make it down the corridor. He had hoped distancing himself from her would relieve him of this painful guilt, but with every step, her agonizing sobs grew louder in his ears. Holding his hands to his head, he took another step, the echoes never ceasing. Finally, he could stand it no more. Taking a deep breath, he turned around. That single glance; that one glimpse of her trembling form, and he could no longer leave her. She needed someone, even if that someone was him.
Christine raised her eyes slightly from her hands, only to find her masked captor walking toward her. "N-No. I-I-I'm s-sorry, just d-don't hur-rt m-me ag-gai-" Her sentence ended there as he knelt in front of her, the "n" refusing to leave her throat. He gingerly held out his hand, intending to brush the tear-soaked hair from her face. He stopped though as she flinched, sighing heavily.
"Shh, Christine. I will not hurt you." Her frightened child-like eyes gazed up at him with only confusion, and he allowed his hand to brush over her forehead. "I have never hurt you. See?" He whispered softly, relieved her breathing was becoming more even. Handing her his handkerchief, he continued to smooth her hair away from her eyes. Christine hesitantly took the cloth, for a moment unsure about what to do about such a gesture.
"Erik?" She asked, as if seeing him for the first time.
"Yes, Christine. It's me. I'm here" He softly spoke, very disturbed about what had happened between the two of them.
"Thank you." She whispered quietly, trying to mop up the tears which had not yet ceased. Erik shushed her quietly, remaining with her for a long time.
Finally, he shifted, standing up slowly. He offered his hand, grateful she did not flinch. "Would you care to take a walk with me?" Christine looked up at him with mild fear, still uneasy. "Please." He said. "I think we are both in need of some fresh air." Nodding slowly, she allowed him to help her to her feet, a deafening silence spreading between them.
Erik opened the door to the gardens, and they both sighed heavily as the cool autumn air greeted them. The clouds overhead had not yet parted, and Christine was grateful for the contrast. In the gray light, the reds and yellows shone that much brighter, illuminating the old manor with their vivid spectrum. They walked along the small dirt path, gazing at bed after bed of dead flowers. Christine breathed deeply the fresh air, trying to get a hold on her unbalanced emotions. She had to constantly remind herself that she was gone, that Isabel could not find her, but safety was something she had not experienced in a very long time. Yet, as she looked up at Erik now, she could not help but smile at the kindness he had just shown her, at the fact he had come back. No one had ever come back for her...
By the time they had reached the end of the gardens, neither of them had said even one word to each other. They had simply walked together, seemingly content with the endless quiet. Yet, it was not an awkward silence, for they had nothing to say to each other. No words would heal the pain of their games. At least none either of them dared to say... They were both aching from their bruised hearts, like two school children without the vocabulary to express those new and confusing feelings. There was a strange chemistry between them, one whose promises of love fell on deaf ears. Christine had hoped they were making progress, and maybe they had, but it seemed with every day, they were slipping farther and farther into the ruins of despair. She looked up at him, simply hoping for this moment of peace between them to continue.
Erik met her gaze when at last they met the road, sighing heavily at the despair in her eyes. "Christine-" He closed his eyes for a moment, struggling to get the words out. "Christine, I'm so sorry. I would never want to hurt you." She bit her lip softly, hoping for him to say the words she never had the courage to. "Please, do you think we could start again?" Nervously, he opened his eyes, finding instead of anger and fear, a gentle smile on her face.
Christine's smile only grew at how much sincerity she found in his eyes. The entire time she had spent here, he had never shown her emotion on this level before. Sighing happily, she nodded up at him. "I would like that very much. Thank you..." Both of them turned as a clap of thunder sounded, warning them of an oncoming storm. "We should probably get back." She said, Erik nodding in agreement.
As they started to make their way back to the manor, the clouds above opened up, the rain coming hard and fast. They both began to run, shielding their eyes from the storm. Christine yelped in surprise as she slipped in the fresh mud, grabbing Erik's jacket as she tumbled to the ground. Landing very unceremoniously on their behinds, both sat in the downpour, staring at each other. Erik looked mortified, completely soaked in both rain and mud. Christine quickly covered her mouth, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of her fearsome captor drenched head to toe in muck. She couldn't help but compare him to a wet cat, death glares and all as he scowled angrily. "Oh, calm down, Erik! It's nothing more than a little mud." She said, flicking some of the murky water at him to prove its harmlessness. Erik scowled again, murmuring something illegible as he tried to stand up. Christine however, refused to let him ruin the progress they were making. Hardly knowing what she was doing, she dipped her fingers into the mud, a large glob settling in her hand. A devious smile spread across her face as she hurled the ball of muck straight at his retreating back, a loud smack sounding over the rain.
Erik's eyes went wide as he reached behind him, feeling his soiled jacket in utter disbelief. Her laugh could be heard from behind him and somehow his anger seemed nonexistent at the sound. It was as if his frustration seemed to evaporate with the absurdity of the situation, and he couldn't help but smile at her bravery. A small snicker left his lips as he turned around and scooped up as much mud as he could hold. "Oh, you're going to pay for that." Christine screamed and tried to stand up, the folds of her dress now soaked with mud and unbearably heavy. swaying on two feet, she attempted to run, her skirts refusing to let her move faster than a slow walk. She looked behind her, seeing Erik moving quickly towards her.
"Stop!" She cried, laughing as she wobbled and slipped through the thick sludge. She had not expected the situation to go this way, yet she felt nothing but joy for their childish game. A loud gasp left her lips as he unloaded both arms of mud all over her back. Swiveling around, she threw handful after handful at Erik as he shielded his eyes from the onslaught.
Erik watched her every step as she moved forward, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. As her foot came a little too far forward, he found his chance. Kicking it aside, he knocked her off her feet, leaving a very startled Christine on her back in the mud. She shrieked as he straddled her, quickly grabbed her arms and restraining them above her head. She twisted and struggled, laughing as she tried to throw him off. Switching his grasp, he held her wrists with one hand as he reached for more mud with the other. "Do you surrender?" He asked, raising an eyebrow menacingly.
Christine clenched her eyes shut as she felt a few drops of mud land on her face, trying desperately to stop smiling in order to protect her mouth. "Okay, Erik! You win! I surrender!" She quickly opened her eyes as he hesitated a moment, hoping she could dissuade him from smearing her face with muck. Her intentions though, were completely forgotten the moment she laid eyes on him. She couldn't help but gawk as she witnessed the most amazing thing; Erik was smiling. Truly smiling.
Erik stared down at Christine, unable to wipe what was probably an idiotic smile off of his face. His heart nearly burst as a beautiful smile stretched across her face in return, and he felt the smallest laugh breaking through the confines of his soul. He frowned for a moment at the unfamiliar noise, as if he was not sure it even existed. It was the smallest of sounds, nervous and unsure after all these years of solitude. His laugh was both genuine and scared, and her smile only grew wider in response. Seeing the warm expression on her face only made him laugh more, freeing emotions he was so sure had died out long ago.
Christine watched with joy as he continued to laugh, his head bent and shoulders shaking. Slight worry crept across her face though as he refused to make eye contact. Without warning she reached out and lifted his chin, finding with horror he was sobbing. He immediately tried to move away from her, but for once, she refused to let him leave. "Erik." She spoke softly, gently trying to turn his face back to her. When he refused, she placed her hands on either side on his head, forcing him to hold her gaze. "Erik." Christine said with more command. As he looked into her eyes, she saw the hope of a child. The walls he had built so strongly seemed to come crashing down, and in his vulnerability, Christine saw him for the first time. She sighed as she stared with silent awe into the eyes of a man. Not a monster, nor a captor, but a man. Embracing him as if they had known each other for years, she whispered into his ear with a quiet confidence she didn't know she possessed. "I think we've run enough, don't you?"
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