Christine's hands fidgeted with the folds in her dress. She seemed altogether preoccupied with the fact that there was a small seam in the lace that had come loose and she could not help from playing with the loose ribbon that now hung a few inches from the stitching.
"Where can he be?" she wondered to herself. Erik was running a little behind in meeting her. He had told her earlier at her lesson to please meet him at the café across the street from the opera at 9:00. He had something important he wished to discuss with her.
Christine nervously replayed those last words in her head over and over again. What had he meant? As always his comments were spoken in a hushed tone so she could not always decipher his mood. Was he angry with her for something? She prayed to god that it did not have anything to do with Raoul this time. For the past two weeks, she had managed to avoid the Vicomte and his tiring advances and to her great relief, Erik had seemed in a better mood than usual as a result.
But then again, he had sounded so serious when he told her he wished to speak to her. A thousand and one possibilities raced through her mind. With Erik, one could only guess. Could he be leaving? Her heart sank at that thought and she quickly and happily pushed it from her mind to replace it with thoughts that the news would be good.
She glanced at the clock on the café wall. It was now ten after the hour. Where could he be? It wasn't like him to be late.
She let her thoughts wander aimlessly over the past months and the time she had spent with him. After having gotten over her own embarrassment of her own naiveté of having believed he was the Angel of Music, she had grown quite used to the idea of him being a normal human being. No, scratch that. Erik was far from normal, even excluding his sad fate of having to wear the mask. He was quite possibly the most extraordinary man she had ever met or even heard of. His entire existence exuded a mystery that she could not and dared not try to comprehend. Erik simply was who he was. Christine blushed when she let herself remember that this unimaginably gifted person had proclaimed his undying love for her and was her proffered slave should she ever desire it.
Christine hung her head in her lap. Weeks had gone by since she stayed with him and discovered the truth to his sad farce and she still could not come to grips with her feelings toward him. What was it she felt exactly, she wondered? As the Angel of Music, she felt love towards the mystic being who claimed himself to be her protector and mentor, but there could never be any real relationship between them. When she discovered the truth to his identity, she cried a long time as she realized his desperation in loving her; that he was willing to give up his security and show his true self to her, no matter the cost.
Before she could think on it more, she saw a dark cloaked figure approaching. She stood to greet him, as he came nearer. His hastened steps slowed as he came closer and she could see him breath deeply.
"Christine, I must apologize for being late," Erik explained as he motioned for her to once again take her seat. He joined her in the adjoining chair which lay half in the shadows. 'She is always considerate to notice such things for my comfort' he thought to himself, feeling a wave of his adoration for her sweep over him.
Christine was about to ask why he had been late, but Erik could already see that and answered her question before she could open her mouth, "I was detained due to a rude gentleman whom had chosen to loiter around my exit in the Rue Scribe."
Christine smiled and nodded in assent. She started to play with the silverware on the table. Erik struck up a conversation asking her about how rehearsals went and whether Carlotta had given her any trouble today. She tried to ignore the gnawing thought in the back of her mind that he had either forgotten that 'something important to discuss' subject or that he was avoiding bringing it up.
Erik hesitated to bring up the subject he so wished to discuss with Christine, but he was nervous to ask such a big thing from her. Luckily the waiter came by to offer them drinks. For once he was thankful for the welcomed distraction. When the gentleman left them alone once again, there stood an awkward silence between the two and Erik finally cleared his throat.
"Christine," Erik began.
"Yes Erik?" Christine replied, hoping to hide her nervousness with a sweet smile.
Erik smiled back, now much less confident than he had felt moments before. His fingers twitched on the white tablecloth, betraying his need to take her hand into his at this moment.
She watched them slowly creep across the length of the small table to where her hand lie. She could not take her eyes off his fingers as their warmth touched ever so lightly to her own gloved hand. Without warning, she started to cry. Her shoulders shook once or twice as the tears began to squeeze out of her tightly shut eyes.
"Christine, what's the matter?" Erik worried.
"You're going to leave me now aren't you? That's what this is all about. That's why you asked me to meet you isn't it?" she managed to sob out.
Erik nearly let go of her hand, too shocked for words. What brought this on he wondered? As incredulously as it may seem, Christine was in tears at the thought of him leaving her. He was so surprised by her sudden absurd notion that he nearly burst out laughing.
Christine buried her face into her other hand, not seeing the shocked look on Erik's face.
"No, Christine! No, I'm not leaving you. What gave you that idea?" Erik stammered.
Christine's sobs quieted and she looked up at him. "You're not?"
"No, Christine, why would I do that?"
Christine felt a little embarrassed that she had let her imagination run wild. "I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me like that."
Erik reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief for her to dry her eyes with.
Christine wiped her face dry, now completely having made a fool of herself and handed it back to Erik. "Thank you," she whispered.
Erik replaced the handkerchief in his pocket and regained his composure with a big breath. "Christine, the reason I asked you to meet me here tonight isn't about anything bad."
Christine's eyes lit up and she smiled back at Erik, whom had once again taken to holding her fingertips in his own.
"I wanted to ask you something. I have a surprise for you, but I wanted to have your permission before I went through with giving it to you," Erik stumbled, trying to explain himself.
Christine now completely confused asked, "Erik, what on earth are you talking about? What permission do you need?"
Erik laughed a bit, "I suppose I'm not making a stitch of sense am I?"
"No, you're not," Christine laughed back.
"What I'm trying to say here," he began, "is that you have been under a lot of stress lately with the opera and all. And I know I have been pushing you very hard. I just want to see you do well. I thought it might be nice if we took advantage of the break between shows and went away for awhile."
Erik breathed a long breath now that he had gotten it out. He realized how inappropriate it might seem for him to propose such and idea, but given their unique circumstances, he didn't think it would matter.
"Went away? Where and for how long?"
Erik smiled optimistically and explained, "Well, I was thinking we could take a short trip to the countryside, possibly to the coast. It might do you some good to be away from everything for awhile."
"Oh Erik, I'd love to!" Christine exclaimed enthusiastically.
Erik, hardly believing that she agreed desperately tried to remain nonchalant when inside he was bursting. A trip to the coast meant they would be alone together for at least a week. Alone from the opera, but more importantly, away from that interfering boy.
Erik told Christine that he had everything planned and that he would drop a note to the management letting them know that she would be back in time for the rehearsals for the new production. She giggled like a little girl and he sent her home in the carriage he hailed.
As he walked back to the opera he felt his heart soar. He would be alone away from all outside distraction and influence with his little Christine. Even when they stayed in his home beneath the opera, there were still too many things going on around them to make her concentrate less on her music. As he poled across the still black waters of the lake, he went back to their conversation earlier and how Christine suddenly burst into tears. He wondered to himself what sort of thoughts she could have conjured in her head to make her think that he was leaving her all of the sudden. Perhaps he had just been too demanding lately.
Christine meanwhile had gone home to pack her bag. She did not know why Erik would suddenly suggest going away together for a short while, but for the time being, she did not care and welcomed the vacation with open arms. As she packed her clothing, she found herself blushing in her mirror at the thought that they would be staying in very close quarters over the course of their trip. True, she had shared his home, but she had had the safety of her own bedroom and he had his. They would now have to sleep quite possibly in the same room.
As she readied herself for bed, she found herself thinking the silliest thoughts such as, 'what does Erik wear to bed' and 'what if I talk in my sleep'? As her mind drifted over the trip ahead, she fell deep asleep.