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Eric was sullenly quiet all through the dinner, and even though he could feel Christine's embarrassment practically radiating off of her, he could not bring himself to perk up and behave.
"I cannot believe that my nephew owns an opera house! Of course, it wouldn't have surprised me if you were the star of the shows. Your voice could make the angels weep, even at such a young age."
Eric flinched, remembering the flattering words he had used on Christine when he was trying to draw her to him. It was not as if he hadn't meant them, but now the sentiments just seemed dirty. Christine spoke for him, as she had been doing all evening.
"His voice is truly a gift from God. Erik can soothe my soul with a song, and can certainly calm this little one down." Christine rubbed her stomach indulgently, and gave her husband a pointed look, reminding him of why they had responded to the invitation in the first place.
"Oh I am just over the moon about your little addition to our family. I had always wanted children, but it just never happened for me."
"I'm quite sure I know why. Couldn't have a misshapen little brat running around, could you? Couldn't risk the chance that this hideous face came from my mother's side of the family. Tell me, would you have thrown the attic or simply have been done with it and thrown it in the river? If my mother had any sense that's what she would have done with me. She would have saved herself a lot of heartache and embarrassment, and she would have saved me a life that was barely worth living. Do you know what they do to little demons in the circus? If you want me to, I'll take off my shirt and show you."
Erik completely focused on his aunt, knowing that if he looked at his wife's stricken face he would break down and apologize and he was just not willing to do that until he felt there was something he needed to feel sorry for.
Magdalene hung her head in what Erik could only hope was shame and wiped the tears from her eyes. After a long moment, she started to speak.
"I would never have had that happen to you. You were such a sweet little boy, and all you ever wanted was someone to talk to. I wasn't ashamed of you! I was ashamed of my sister. I never understood why someone who was lucky enough to be able to have a child of her own could treat her own son that way. I tried to keep you away from her, and I tried to stop her when she would go into her rages and beat you until you couldn't stand. I was the one who would clean off your little face when you cried so hard your eyes bled. I rocked you and told you stories of far away places and prayed that your mother would grow up one day. I would never have left you there willingly. Things happened and I had to go. I swore that one day I would come back and get you, but then it was too late. Your mother's doctor sent around a brief letter that you had ran away, and that your mother had taken to her sickbed. I was devastated, you must believe me!"
Much to his own disgust, Erik wanted to believe her, wanted to believe that someone wanted him. But it all seemed too good to be true. Christine was the only one that cared, and one day she would realize that he was damaged beyond repair, and that she and their child would be better without him.
"I would love to believe you, but every memory of my childhood begs to differ. Affection was rather hard to come by in this house; I would have remembered hugs and stories. This was a mistake. My wife and I will be leaving in the morning. I do wish you all the best. Perhaps we will send you an announcement when the baby is born. Come, Christine, we have a long journey ahead of us tomorrow."
Christine followed Erik silently up the stairs, and he fought hard to ignore the quiet sobs coming from the dining room.