Erik left Christine's knowing he had been seen. Just how much of him had been seen and by whom he wasn't sure, but he knew. And he knew when the person stopped in front of Christine's flat that the person knew her and wouldn't attribute seeing a shadowy figure outside of her home to just someone drunk or lost coming to the wrong home.
Luckily there was a path behind her home that he was able to take easily enough and hope that the person wouldn't think much of it. Damn, he cursed himself for being so foolish. Every evening since Christine's return to the Opera from her unexpected bout with whatever strange illness had held her captive for days Erik had paid her a visit to ensure that she was sleeping soundly. And in part to ensure that she was alone.
Some nights he spoke to her, softly just to assure her that he was there, that he would always be there. This seemed to soothe her on nights when her sleep was restless. Some nights he sat at her side and said nothing, merely watched as she slept somehow sensing that his mere presence enabled her to sleep easier. He knew that whoever the suitor was she had been out with that night over two months ago that she had not seen him since. Whether she remembered the actual events of that night or not, she had kept true to her word. And this pleased him to no end.
He never stayed long, the temptation to stay all night and leave as dawn broke was strong, but he couldn't chance her waking during the night and seeing him. He wasn't sure what her response would be to knowing that not only was her angel a man, but a man who looked like he did. He was quite sure that wouldn't go over well at all. She'd be scared enough to find a man in her room let alone the fright of what that man looked like.
She had been ill lately, more tired than she usually was and he knew she didn't take proper care of herself. He always saw to it that she had enough coal and a blanket nearby should she require it during the night. He wanted to ask her, to voice his concern over her health but he only knew because he had seen her get ill in her dressing room when she didn't know he was watching on more than one occasion.
Back in his lair safely, he poured himself a brandy and sat at his grand piano. The amber liquid tasted good to his palate as he began to play, his fingers stroking the ebony and ivory keys of his piano with affection wishing it was flesh that he was stroking. Christine's flesh. That one night had been burned in his mind forever. He thought it might sate him, had thought that he could take that as her final offering to him to be his obediently and not need it again. How wrong he had been. She was worse than the morphine he needed to survive each day. If it was possible to do so, he needed her more. And with her being ill, his concern and need for her grew.
There were plenty of things he could do, he realized to have another moment like that one with her, drugs he could administer. But he didn't want that. Perhaps he had utilized his power, mention of her father, to get her to acquiesce but she had accepted that night. True, he had administered herbs and drugs to her to speed her body's healing from the process and enable her to sleep through it, but he did that because he was not ready to let her know he was not an angel. Not yet. But damn if he didn't ache for her, to his very soul - the one thing he had long ago thought he had shed. He had long since given it up at any rate.
He was tormented. This angel routine had seemed so ideal at the time. She was so sad, so lonesome, so lost and possessed unreleased talent that he knew he could tap. And he had. Together they had made her the star she had become. But when had he fallen in love with her? Or had he been in love with her all along and that was the reason for his desire to help her when he had long ago stopped helping anyone but himself?
He could never dare hope she'd return his love. That night, however, after she had accepted him she had responded. And she knew he was man at that time. Perhaps her fear of the situation overall made her totally unaware and in use of her faculties, but she knew he was a man. Was there a chance his Christine could indeed love him?
Taking the chance of revealing himself to her could be disastrous, especially if she did have any memories of that night. Would she be upset? Would she understand why he did what he did? Would she leave the Opera? Quit singing feeling as though her whole career was a part of his deception? It was too much for him to think about and so he drank the rest of the brandy, retiring to the coffin in his room that served as his bed wondering just why it was he was of the mind to go shopping for women's dresses the next day.
Unknowingly to each of them, both Christine and Erik slept fitfully that night. Erik had much on his mind, coming clean with Christine was a big step in this fašade he had created as her Angel. Unable to sleep any longer, he made his way up through the bowels of the Opera House to his box. His view of the stage was perfect and at this hour of the night undisturbed by opera workers.
Christine, on the other hand, had visions of her Angel very much a man visiting her, talking to her, singing to her, touching her, and sharing her bed with her. This last image should have been horrific for her, imagining herself in bed with a man who was not her husband. But she found as she drifted in and out of sleep that it wasn't so bad a thought at all. He had been gentle, she recalled a small sigh escaping her lips.
She woke with a start at that last thought. He had been gentle. He had been gentle she repeated to herself vaguely aware of the fact that it had happened. Her head hurt from thinking, but she was sure of it. Sure it had been real. And if it had been real, if it hadn't been a dream, then that meant that her Angel was real.
Christine dressed quickly and without thought, pulling her worn cloak on and made her way to the Opera. The streets were empty and damp from a nighttime rainfall, though it could have been the middle of the day with the streets bustling with activity and Christine would have been no more aware of her surroundings as she was this night.
She found the door open that was normally kept open for Opera or orchestra staff that might want to practice alone and entered the Opera House almost in a daze. She shed her cloak and set it on the ground before going out to the stage, standing on the apron she gazed out into the auditorium. Was He there? Would He think her foolish or get upset with her for seeking Him out? She hoped not.
"Angel," she called out finally her hesitance apparent as somewhere in the back of her head the name Erik came to mind. Was that His name? She couldn't be sure, but it sounded right. "Erik?"
He sat in his box, his keen eyesight not requiring the illumination of a torch or lighting source of any type to see that it was Christine on stage. And that she had said his name. His name. Dear Lord, did she remember? And she was seeking him out? He wasn't quite sure if this bade well for him or not. He was going to ignore her, was going to just sit in silence and watch her until she had called out his Christian name. He scoffed slightly at that thought, Christian name indeed. He should have been allowed to die after his birth without the benefit of a name. It would have been much easier on everyone, himself not withstanding. The fact that without him and his assistance, Christine would still be a struggling corps de ballet member was for the moment forgotten.
"Yes, my child," he said finally.
He was there, she found herself oddly relieved. And oddly curious as to why, if He wasn't an Angel what He was doing here at this time of the night. His calling her His child, if her thoughts were accurate about what they had done together also curiously put her off. She didn't want Him to think of her as His child.
"Could you not sleep either," she finally asked, gazing about the auditorium wondering where he was.
"No," he admitted with a moment's hesitation.
"We," she paused. "Your name is Erik, is it not?"
Well, here it comes he realized. He could lie of course, but he didn't want to lie anymore. "Yes, that is my name."
"But you are my Angel," she said more to clarify to herself that He indeed was one in the same.
"Yes, my child."
"Will you come here? Show yourself to me? You did once, did you not?"
"Yes, I did."
"In my home," she paused, waiting for him to correct her. "Will you again?"
"Why," he asked simply, wondering why she needed to see him again.
"I want to see you. I have things I wish to ask you, but I feel rather strange asking like this."
"Ask, my child."
"We," she paused, having started to ask this question a moment ago and stopped. "You stayed with me, did you not?"
"Yes," he nodded his head slightly though she could not see the gesture.
"But why did you leave," she asked softly, more to herself than to him.
"For you," he said simply.
"For me?" She glanced into the darkness, her eyes wide with confusion.
"A man seen leaving your flat in the morning could cause gossip, Christine."
"And my illness. That was you as well?" This was all beginning to become dreadfully clear to her, and yet despite knowing that she should be upset she instead found herself curiously more upset that he had tried to hide what they had done.
He closed his eyes, his fists clenched tightly as they rested against the chair's armrests. "Yes, my child. So that you would think it was a dream."
"But why would I want to? Why would you think?" She was unable to complete her sentences. "Why would you want me to think that?"
"I took advantage of you, a moment of weakness, I preyed upon you."
"You gave me a choice," she replied, wishing she could see him. "I made it."
He hadn't thought about that, or at least hadn't thought that she might see it that way. "I wasn't convinced after the fact that you were of the right mind to make such a choice."
"But Angel," she said softly, "Erik," she added, hoping she wasn't being presumptuous in addressing him by his name. He hadn't given her a last name and well it seemed foolish to call him Angel any longer.
She understood, at least she thought she did. And she remembered now that she was frightened. Frightened of what she wasn't exactly sure. Being alone. That was the biggest thing she feared. She had accepted because she didn't want her Angel to leave her. That would have meant she would be alone once more. A thought she couldn't quite bear. She had been alone for the six years since her father died. She didn't want to be alone any longer. That was why she had accepted his conditions. But he was a man not an angel and that meant he would leave her just as his father had done.
"Did I do something to make you believe that," she finally asked, thinking perhaps she had on top of it all disappointed him.
He knew where her thoughts were heading and quickly put a stop to them. "No, my child, nothing like that. You were more than I dreamed you could be." He had no idea how to explain it. The blood on her nightgown and sheets, that he had to burn them and then bathe her. He didn't think she'd want to remember that. Did she remember it now, he wondered?
She frowned slightly not wanting to talk to him like this, in the dark across a stage and an auditorium. She pushed back some of her dark hair and glanced up at his box. "Then why did you leave me?"
"I already told you. I was trying to be considerate of your reputation."
"But that was months ago," she replied not wanting to upset him, but why hadn't he come back. "Why didn't you come back? Why didn't you tell me? You went back to being just a ghost and would have continued to do so had I not come here tonight I'm quite sure."
"You're more than likely correct, I'm much better off for you as your angel."
She thought silently over her recent illness and her inability to shake it, her tiredness. Her eyes grew wide as a thought occurred to her. Her hand flew over her mouth as she fled from the stage and caught a hired coach outside of the Opera to Comte Lecter's home.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com