With a sigh Erik moored the boat. His heart was bursting with joy at the thought of Christine returning to him today, but his heart sank at the thought of having to climb all these hundreds of stairs to her dressing room again.
When he set up his home in the Opera he had never taken ageing or declining health in consideration and now he was stuck in a world where everything was an effort. Watching an Opera, visiting the managers' office, shopping, all required endless walking, climbing, hiding for hours in cramped pillars or walls. He often didn't bother any-more, preferring to save his energy for his precious time with Christine.
These days it was her presence that kept him alive. When she was away his health deteriorated: he could not sleep, he forgot to eat, he fell prone to panic attacks and hallucinations.
But Erik would never tell her: if he wanted Christine to succeed she was not to worry about him. She needed time above ground to rehearse, perform, audition, have a life, friends. She did not have to be burdened with an ailing corpse. He had to count himself lucky she wanted to be around him at all.
Not wanting her aware of his problems he often set off for the journey to collect her hours in advance, meaning he could ascend slowly, rest in-between floors and take some time to recover before she arrived.
Today was tough. It had been five days since he had seen her and he had been in a state of distress from the second she had left. He had actually felt out of sorts before, but had kept it from her. It was the first week of rehearsals of LaTraviata and she had the leading role. As her teacher he knew that this was what she had to focus on.
To occupy his mind he had been composing, every minute of every day and every minute of every night. He had written her an Opera, it was almost finished. All it needed was one final soaring song for her, but his mind had not been blessed to hear it yet. Maybe he was simply too tired.
Never had the climb seemed so tortuously endless as today. He had risked discovery on various occasions trying to catch his breath. His body ached and his head pounded but on he went, virtually crawling the last flight before finally reaching the mirror.
Utterly drained he sank into a comfortable chair he'd stolen from Carlotta’s dressing room weeks ago and begun his wait.
“But why not have dinner with me Christine?” Raoul whined as he followed her into the room.
Christine groaned: she had said no four times and slammed the door in his face and he still followed?
“Raoul, when I tell you I am otherwise engaged, I truly am. I have been free every night for the last five days. Why wait till today to invite me?”
Raoul's pretty features fell into a sullen sulk: “Because I know you will be gone all weekend and I don't want you too.”
An annoyed groan escaped Christine as she massaged her temples.
Well, no, not silence, really.
Christine and Raoul looked at each other in utter amazement as a sound came from the walls. A sound that was not particularly musical. It appeared as if the walls were … snoring.
A burning red blush appeared on Christine's cheeks when she realised what the sound had to be.
“Right, thanks for walking me to my dressing room Raoul. See you on Monday. Bye.”
She begun pushing him out.
“But … what's that noise Christine?” Raoul asked, wanting to dart back into the dressing room by diving under her arm.
“Non of your business. BYE!!” And with that Christine quickly propelled Raoul from the room and locked the door.
With a sigh she then turned round to face the mirror where her other hopeless case was still performing his snore concerto through her walls.
“Good thing you didn't do that when you pretended to be an angel ...” Christine smiled to herself as she shook her head. “Your standards are slipping my dear.”
She knocked on the glass a few times to no avail.
“Erik!” She then called out in an ever louder voice.
Still nothing. The whole thing was beginning to get old fast.
“If all else fails … sing.” She decided.
So she sang, A bit from Faust. If anything were to wake him up it would be his favourite composer, right? Wrong. No response and Christine felt rather insulted.
She kicked the mirror.
“Erik, if you don't open this damn mirror right now I'm going to dinner with Raoul!!”
Christine decided that she was done with it. It had been a long, hard week of rehearsals and she just wanted to get to Erik's home and enjoy her days off in peace. The girl took the chair from her dresser, placed it next to the mirror and clambered on.
Erik had taught her how the mechanism worked in case of emergencies, and clearly this was one of them.
Within seconds Christine had found the small button and clicked it. Swiftly she stepped off the chair again, not wanting to fall through.
With a soft swoosh the mirror opened and she stepped into the secret corridor. The sight that greeted Christine on the other side of the glass was not something she had ever expected to see from the always elegant Erik. There he was; The Phantom of the Opera slumped in his chair, his head lolling backwards against the back of the chair, his mouth slightly open, his mask askew and snoring loudly.
Cocking her head to one side Christine explored the view in front of her for a few seconds. Then she moved forwards to shake Erik’s arm, causing him to whimper softly.
“Erik, wake up!” She said softly.
“No, Erik sleep ...” Erik sighed, drooling a little when he curled in on himself, snuggled deeper into the chair and begun snoring even louder.
Everything about this annoyed Christine and, running out of patience fast, she slapped his arm roughly.
“Erik, for goodness sake, why didn't you answer me?!” She cried out in frustration.
The look of terror in Erik's eyes when he startled awake immediately made her regret her actions.
“Christine …” Erik panted in horror while looking at her in confusion. Where had she come from? Had he fallen asleep? He was drooling, drooling in front of Christine!! Who opened the mirror? Had she done so herself? “Christine …” He repeated again, his heavy eyes falling shut. He was barely conscious. “I … how was your thing … the idiot … rehearsal …” He shook his head. The brief moment of sleep after being awake for so long had made him feel groggy and disorientated.
His mask fell to the floor. Christine picked it up and handed to him. When Erik couldn’t focus enough to make his now clumsy hands take it from her, she gently put it onto his face herself.
“Sorry for waking you like this, Erik.” She said kindly as she fastened the mask. “But I just couldn't seem to rouse you. You were snoring so loudly you could hear it inside my dressing room.”
A jolt went through Erik hearing Christine say this. What a fool he’d been making of himself!! All this time he had done his best to present Christine with nothing but the perfect version of Erik. He had exhausted himself to always be dressed to perfection, stand in eye pleasing poses and wear only his finest of masks. But he had ruined it now. Poor Christine had been working hard all this week and what did she meet to greet her? A drooling corpse on a chair.
He could kick himself. He should have used his willpower to stay awake.
But he was so terribly weary, even now everything seemed to be slow grinding effort.
“I … I am so sorry Christine.” He muttered, bowing his head as he surreptitiously dabbed his mouth with a handkerchief. “What must you think of me?”
“Well ...” he could hear the chuckle in her voice. “I must say … I have heard you perform better. The better question is: what will Raoul think of it …”
“Oh God.” Erik cringed. “He heard me?” Not Raoul of all people!!
Christine giggled, then added in a serious voice: “I think the entire Opera did.”
She might have meant it as a joke, but Erik still felt horrified at the thought of it.
“Please no! The last thing in the world I want to be is a snoring ghost. Can you imagine the ballet girls saying: he burns you with his eyes, when he arrives the floors drip with blood … oh, and he snores.”
From behind two soft arms wrapped round his neck. Christine gave him a hug! That was nice. Then her hands kneaded his tense shoulders for a few seconds. Oh, Erik enjoyed that tremendously and sank into it. His tired being wished he could just sit there forever, with Christine doing whatever wonderful thing she did with her loving hands. But, sadly, the moment he lost resistance and his tired eyes fell shut again was the moment Christine spoke.
“Shall we go Erik?”
The soft snore that was already escaping him froze in his throat as Erik startled awake. What was she saying? Did she mean he had to go down all these damn stairs again? He had not recovered at all!
Why had he ever thought that living in this place was a good idea. He gazed up at Christine, who was looking at him expectantly. He couldn’t tell her, he had already shown her too much weakness. He had to distract her until he felt up to walking again!
“Can … can't we not talk in your dressing room for a while?” He stammered, trying to keep the panic he felt from his voice. “You must have a lot to tell me.”
Standing up slowly he could not stifle the gasp of pain that escaped him; all his muscles seeming to have decided to protest as one at the movement. His head spinning he fell back down to his chair.
“Or … we could talk here …?” He offered casually.
Too casually to Christine's liking. Something was off with Erik but she couldn't lay her finger on what it was. Actually there were many things, really: he had put on his best suit, but it was crinkly, while she was used to it being immaculately pressed. Then the fact that he had been slumped in his chair, sleeping, while he always took the utmost care of posing like some sort of model when the mirror opened. The biggest give-away was how clumsy and confused he seemed to be.
She would prefer to go back at his house, but the cry of pain he had tried to hide from her made her decide that maybe she was better off indulging his odd request.
“Sure ...” she smiled falteringly and moved her dressing-room chair closer to him. She wanted to sit down, but then though of something. “Would you like some water?”
Erik thanked his stars when Christine moved her chair closer: he didn't have to get up yet!! Then her question: would he like some water? It made him realise he was desperate for water. He felt as if he had been in the dessert for weeks, his tongue and lips cracked and dry. Had he forgotten to drink as well as eat?
“Please ...” He nodded.
When Erik downed his glass in less than a second Christine felt compelled to hand him her entire carafe, which the man proceeded to drink. It was a large carafe and he drank … all of it.
Feeling uneasy about the situation but not wanting to scare Erik, Christine forced a smile again, while her mind wondered what he had been up to.
“Well, I have a lot to tell you Erik. It's been such a week. Have you seen some of my rehearsals?” She tried getting the ball rolling.
He shook his head.
“Oh ...” she sighed, a little disappointed.
Suddenly a smile begun stirring on Erik's lips. A strange smile.
“Do not fret Christine!” Erik then exclaimed as a light stared burning in the dull looking yellow eyes. A strange light.
The smile and the eyes reminded Christine of an ill person suffering feverish delirium.
“I!” Erik exclaimed as the delirious eyes got bigger. “I have written you an opera, it is almost finished ...”
What? Christine frowned. Was he really saying he'd written an entire opera since she had last seen him?
“That … that's great Erik.” She humoured him. “But I never heard you mention anything new. When did you start on it?”
A non-committal shrug from Erik as he pored himself some more water. “Since you've been gone.” he then offered.
The confusion grew in Christine.
“I've only been away five days … How …?”
Then it hit her.
“You … haven't slept, have you?”
Erik bowed his head. “It's possible I might have neglected to give in to this boring bodily need.”
Her mouth fell open as a snort of indignation escaped Christine. “Erik, you fool!! You can't just not sleep for five days!! You could have died!!”
The man shrugged again. “I had to, inspiration called and I had to write it down. I wanted to give you something when you came back. To show you how happy you make me, how you inspire me! Because you coming to stay with me … Christine … it means so much, so much!!”
With that the clearly utterly exhausted Erik burst into tears. Christine sighed as she got of her chair to kneel next to him and took him in her arms.
“Erik, come on now. We've been through this; I don't need extravagant gifts simply because I am staying over. I certainly don't need you to write an opera in five days.”
This only made Erik's upset worse, it seemed. Big, ugly sobs wrecked through his boney frame. It almost seemed as if he was convulsing and Christine feared he might break if this went on for too long.
“Erik … let you down ...” he choked in her neck.
“What is it?” She whispered as her hand circled his back.
“He let you down ...” he gasped through tears.
“It … it isn't finished … I let you down …”
The poor thing, he was upsetting himself for no reason at all. When would he learn to not be so hard on himself?
“You didn't let me down Erik … I …”
“It needs one more song … one more song to finish … but … I'm so tired … It won't come to me … because Erik is so very tired Christine ...”
A silence as Erik tiredly sobbed on Christine’s shoulder. Mid weeping his eyes closed and he fell still. For a brief second Christine thought Erik had fallen asleep in her arms. Then he moved again, his mood changing abruptly as he sat up sharply.
“Oh … my apologies … I should not have done this. I think the lack of sleep has more effect on me than I thought. Shall we go?”
Too stunned by all that had happened Christine could only nod. She returned to her dressing room to collect a bag of groceries she had bought. Fresh fruit and vegetables mainly and eggs, cheese and bread. She had noticed that Erik's cupboards had become slightly more barren recently and feared he just simply didn't notice it.
The journey to the boat was silent and awkward. After a while Christine noticed that Erik was terribly slow and she kept having to wait for him to catch up longer and longer with every staircase.
The descent was torture for Erik. Why was Christine so fast? Had she always moved like that? It was as if the stairway was nothing to her, while in his state it seemed like endless torment. What a pitiful creature he appeared today. Seeing him like this was sure to drive her away from him. He still couldn’t believe his angel had seen him drooling and didn’t want to give Christine more cause for disgust. To this end he tried to keep the wheezing of his breath and the agony he was in as quiet as possible.
It worked for a while, until halfway through the journey his body simply refused to walk any more and he knew he had to sit down, if only a moment.
After waiting an eternity for Erik at the bottom of a stairway a confused Christine ascended back to where she had come from, to find The Phantom leaning against the wall in plane sight. She quickly ran to him.
“Erik!” She hissed as she reached him. “What are you doing? People might see you! Come on!!”
Slowly Erik moved and looked up at her though half closed eyes. He seemed rather dazed to her.
“Christine ...” he said softly. “I … I am so terrible sorry but … forgive me ...”
“Please Erik, what is wrong.?” She felt worried now, why was Erik shaking and why did he look ready to burst into tears again?
“Forgive me, I …” He muttered. “I can't help it. I need to sit down for a moment.”
“Oh for goodness sake Erik,” Christine exclaimed beyond exasperated with all of it, “why must you always be so dramatic? If you need to sit down you have to do so.”
Erik took her by her shoulders and stared at her in despair. “But would you not think me an old man? An invalid? A cripple?”
She stared right back. “No, I would think you were an overworked fool who decided not to sleep for five nights just to write an opera I never asked for. Now come on.”
Suddenly the man swooned, almost collapsing in her arms and Christine's eyes darted around to see if anyone was near. When she was completely assured that they were all alone she helped Erik to a chair where he doubled over and started wheezing.
Now she was certain he was keeping things from her. There was more to this than a dangerous lack of sleep.
“Erik …” She begun, setting herself next to his chair. “I am fed up with this. What is wrong on with you? When I left you on Sunday night you seemed well enough. Please, be honest with me.”
A flinch went through Erik. She asked for honesty!!When Christine asked him to be honest, could he lie? No, of course he could not.
But maybe he could … deflect ...
“No, don't ask that Christine. I don't wish to discuss my problems when you are in the middle of such important rehearsals. You should concentrate on your art, not poor Erik’s problems.”
This reply did absolutely nothing to reassure Christine. In fact it made things worse.
“It's too late for that, Erik. I already am worried.”
A gasp escaped Erik. She was already worried … about him? No one had ever been worried about him!! Hearing her say this made Erik’s façade fall away. Now he was almost desperate to tell her the truth, but he didn’t know how. He had never articulated feelings before.
“Erik has been lying to you … Christine.”
Seeing he startled Christine made him feel bad, he bowed his head and nervously fumbled with a button of his jacket. After a moment he felt a pressure on his arm, soothing him. He looked at it. It was Christine’s gentle hand.
“Come on Erik, it’s all right. You can tell me.”
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and tried again.
“Erik … has not been well lately.”
“My mind … it just doesn't stop … thoughts I don’t want to think, events I want to forget. It just goes on and on day and night. I am so tired every movement hurts … but I cannot sleep, as my mind won’t stop. Erik tried to hide this from you with trickery and it worked because of Christine. When you are with me … things go well, because you talk to me or I simply know that you are there. When you are near … Erik can rest … But when I am alone … I am so scared.” He bowed his head. “I am sorry.” He bowed his head, his hands clenching and unclenching on his legs, revealing the turmoil he was in.
“Oh ...” Christine sighed, her heart breaking for Erik. How could she have missed this? How could he keep this hidden from her? Of course he was hard to read, the mask hiding a lot of his emotions. But she thought she knew him well enough by now to see when he was upset or tried to hide things things from her.
“But that is my own problem Christine.” Erik said suddenly, breaking the silence. “Please, don't worry about it. Erik has to solve this for himself. He cannot expect Christine to feel responsible for his well-being. She … needs to be up there in the light, build her career, live and be happy.” His vision blurry now he reached out to touch her cheek but ended up slapping her nose instead.
Ignoring the pain, as she feared knowing he hurt her would spiral Erik into another outburst of self loathing, Christine took his hand. “Oh you strange, strange man.” She sighed. “What am I going to do with you.” How can he expect me to be happy, knowing my friend and tutor is in agony all alone in the dark? She thought, but did not say it as it surely would upset him even more.
Silence again. Christine looked at Erik and noticed it took him a lot of effort to keep his eyes open. She could not let him go to sleep here, the chance of discovery was too big. She had to get him to his home. Making him aware of his own exposure would not get him moving, she knew. He only cared about what happened to her. So …
“Erik … I’m so sorry to have to ask this but … could we please continue our journey? I am famished and … my shoes are so very tight ...”
Her complaints had their desired effect. Erik looked at her in horror.
“Oh, Christine! Please forgive Erik, he is being selfish again. Of course we must go home immediately.”
This time Christine helped him up, and helped him to get going. The journey down the stars was slow, but easier now that Christine made sure not to make Erik go faster than he was physically capable of. She kept to his pace and engaged him with stories about the rehearsals that week to distract him from his discomfort. She purposely included many tales about Carlotta and her antics, knowing that anything about that woman was a sure way of setting him off, giving him the energy to walk just that little faster.
In the end they somehow reached the lake, where a completely drained Erik leaned against the wall to catch his breath.
“I … I might need a moment … Christine ...” He sighed. “But … you can get in the boat now and sit … Your poor feet must be aching from all these stairs.”
Shaking her head Christine raised her eyebrows. There the man was blattering on about her feet when the wall was clearly the only thing keeping him from collapsing. She looked out over the lake. How could she have forgotten this part? How in the world was the poor man going to row, the state he was in?
“Erik …” Christine started as she turned to him, her hands at his sleeve.
“Please ...” Erik muttered. “Five seconds and I will be fine … ten at most ...”
Christine groaned inwardly she didn’t believe a word of it. All she wanted was to get Erik home and finally have some peace. She looked from Erik to the lake, then to the boat and then she made her decision.
“Sit.” She said calmly but firmly, pointing to the boat.
Erik blinked in confusion: “What?!!”
“Christine, I can't possibly.”
“Look Erik, I don't care. I am not having you falling asleep and drowning halfway through the journey leaving me stranded. Now sit down.”
His pride hurt Erik sat down with a sulk and crossed his arms with a gesture of indignation. There was no way he'd ever tell her that he was actually relieved she'd taken over. The journey to meet her had been hellish for him and he had not been particularly looking forward to rowing one more. But it just seemed so terribly unseemly to let his angel do the work for him. He could have done it, he could have easily rowed them … he could … he could … He startled with a shiver and realised they were already moving. He had probably nodded off for a second as he had never noticed Christine come on board, nor had he any recollection of her putting that bag of groceries at his feet. Maybe she had been right after all. His Christine … his sweet Christine, she would keep him safe.
Her father had learned Christine how to row as a young girl and now she was very glad he had. With an angry grunt she planted the oar in the water and the strangest ever journey to Erik's house (well, the strangest since her very first one,) begun. She was surprised at how light the boat felt despite there being two people on board. She looked down at Erik, who seemed to be asleep or something close to it. He looked more frail than the last time she'd seen him and Christine wondered if he'd even eaten since she had left. The thought worried her, but she pushed it aside.
What she needed to focus on at that moment was getting him home safely, make him a quick meal and then immediately put him to bed. Then, once he was a bit more stable they had to make new arrangements, Erik clearly was not fit to be left to his own devices any-more. There was no way she could leave him like this come Sunday night. As usual Erik trying to spare her feelings had made things worse. Frustration drove her forwards and to her relief they arrived safely faster than she'd anticipated.
She quickly moored the boat and then helped Erik to the house. Half asleep he leaned on her, his head sometimes lolling onto the top of her head. It worried Christine that she could support him so easily, he seemed to weigh nothing at all.
Once they reached the house Christine put Erik on the living room sofa. She wished she could sit down for a moment too, this afternoon had been trying. But she knew she had to hurry if she wanted to get some food down Erik, once he fell asleep there was no way of knowing when he’d wake up again.
“Just wait here Erik, don’t go to sleep just yet. I will make you something to eat and then you can go to bed. Is that all right?”
Blinking slowly Erik looked at her. “No sleep for Erik ...” He slurred sadly.
“Of course sleep for Erik.” Christine sighed. “Just not yet. Eat, then sleep. Understood?”
A vague nod from the man on the couch.
“Some genius he is ...” Christine grumbled as she made her way to the kitchen.
Arriving in the kitchen there was a new addition to her already trying day. Before she had left she had prepared a selection of snacks and sandwiches to keep Erik fed for the first few days of her absence. But the moment she walked in she knew: all the sandwiches lay untouched.
“Oh Erik ...” she muttered as she threw the now dried and smelly edibles in the bin. She was relieved that no insects had invaded the kitchen to claim the meals as theirs.
The thought of Erik waiting for her day after day not eating, not sleeping … barely drinking anything burned in her mind. Shaking the thought away Christine set to work.
No time for any intricate meals, as it was clear Erik would never be able to fight of sleep long enough for it to be ready. She swiftly baked an egg, sliced some bread, threw a salad together made tea, and managed a small fruit platter. Making sure he would get as much vitamins as possible she also squeezed an orange.
It wasn’t what she’d had in mind when she brought in her shopping, but it would have to do.
As she lay the table she noticed that Erik kept doing that odd clenching and unclenching movement with his hand again. She also noticed that for some reason he now kept flinching in pain as he did so.
“What are you ...” she begun, then the words froze in her mouth as she saw: For some, obviously insane, reason Erik kept pressing the big needle of her embroidery set in his hand.
“Oh … oh my God! Erik!” Christine felt slightly dizzy now as she snatched it away.
“Why ...” she started, but she had no more words left. “Just … why?”
“Erik … he ... did what you wanted ...” Erik muttered, sounding confused by her upset.
“When?” Christine almost sobbed, “when did I ask you to stab yourself with a needle for goodness-sake?!”
Terrified by her raised voice Erik bowed his head. Had he misunderstood it all again? He always misunderstood what it was people wanted of him.
“You told me to stay awake till dinner and … I wasn't sure how else I could ...” He had to be awake for dinner if Christine was making it, did he not? But he kept nodding off. If he hurt himself with a needle the pain would keep him awake, it was a trick he had learned on his travels. He would have used a razor blade if need be.
Breath in breath out … Christine thought, desperately trying to keep calm. What was wrong with the man? Why did he have to be so literal? Why did he keep torturing himself just to please her?
She closed her eyes for a moment then went to the kitchen to get a bowl of water and some cloth which she used to wipe the blood from Erik's hand. Thankfully nothing serious had happened, there were just a few small pinpricks, but she shuddered to think what else Erik would have come up with to keep himself awake if this method had not worked.
“Don't you ever do that again, Erik.” she grumbled angrily when she had finished. “Don't you ever hurt yourself again on my account, you hear me?” Erik nodded, but she noticed the confusion still shone in his eyes. “Oh Erik. I do want you to eat something,” she tried, more kindly now, “but I would have understood if you had fallen asleep. You do not need to hurt yourself. Not for any reason. Do you understand?”
“Truly?” She just had to make sure.
“Christine does not want Erik hurt ...” Erik said slowly as he looked her in the eyes, hoping that he understood correctly this time.
“That is right.” She smiled. “Now come to the table and eat.” He obeyed her without a word.
For a while Erik simply stared at the food in front of him, uncertain of what to do. Christine was sat at the table as well, drinking tea. After a while of watching him stare at his plate she looked at him in confusion.
“Why are you not eating Erik? I thought you would be very hungry.”
But Erik wasn’t sure. It had been a long while since he had any food down him and his eating habits were so terrible that he didn’t even know how hunger felt any more. That odd empty feeling in his body seemed like part of him.
“I … I am not sure …” Erik muttered awkwardly, feeling rather exposed having to eat in front of his angel. “I don’t know what being hungry feels like and … to eat I front of you ...”
To his horror a flash of anger shot through the eyes of the girl in front of him. She slapped the table in frustration as she shrieked:
Erik flinched. What had he done to upset her so? He stared at her, his mouth opening to apologise, but Christine was not finished. Her eyes narrowing she uttered the ultimate threat:
“Men who do not eat Christine's cooking won't get to hear Christine sing.”
Those words shot through Erik like an arrow. “Are … are you serious?” He gasped.
“Wanna try me?” She glared.
No, no he absolutely did not want to try her. Quickly he lifted a piece of bread and egg and took a bite.
The moment he took the bite and started to chew something happened; a sensation overtook him, his body. A sensation of bliss and relief. His body explained to him that it had been starving and had needed food for a very long time. His spirit told him that it delighted in tasting a delicious flavour and not the bland things he forced into it when finally realising he needed to eat.
Quickly he ate more, the sensation of hunger now overwhelming him.
Within five minutes he had finished the bread and salad, downed the orange juice and had started polishing off the fruit platter.
Suddenly he heard a sound, licking his fingers he looked up to see Christine grinning at him. Oh no, he had been so lost in the meal that he had forgotten she was watching him. Quickly he wiped his fingers on a napkin and bowed his head.
“Oh … Excuse me. “ He muttered, feeling embarrassment creeping up on him. He had not just eaten in front of Christine, he had unashamedly gormandised in front of her.
“What is there to excuse?” She said, he looked so sweet there, smiling at him. “You made me very happy.”
“I did?” He asked incredulously.
“Well, you clearly enjoyed what I made you, and that makes me very glad.” The smile she shot him set Erik’s heart alight. That wonderful girl had looked after him so well. His body did not feel so horribly strange any more. She had been right, he had needed food desperately.
“Thank you Christine ...” He said in a voice filled with all the love in his heart. “For everything. You were right, I needed to eat. I am so used to not eating I simply did not feel the urge any more ...”
“That is sweet of you to say Erik.” Christine smiled a bit sadly. “But it hurts me to know how you neglect yourself. You make me feel as if I have to be responsible for keeping you sane and alive. It upsets me to be away, knowing you don’t eat, sleep or even drink when I am gone …”
“No, Christine don’t say that.” Erik said in horror. His poor angel, she should not suffer because of him! “If Christine wishes Erik will try and be better.”
“Erik will have to.” Christine nodded thoughtfully. “Because Christine wants her friend and tutor with her for a long time yet.” She stopped when she saw Erik’s eyes close for a bit as he stifled a yawn. His head lolled forwards, but then he manfully blinked himself awake again. Ah yes, she had almost forgotten, this stupid man had been awake for nearly a week. “We will discuss this later after you have rested.”
“Hmmm ...” Erik slurred sleepily as his eyes opened again. “What … what did you say?”
She laughed. “I think you need to go to bed now, my dear.”
No reply from Erik, he just stared at her as if she was a fairy tale creature come to life.
“Your smile ...” Erik sighed in wonder, his heavy lidded eyes barely open, “it’s so beautiful. No one ever smiled at me. Oh Christine … it’s like music … You … you are music.” He reached out his hand to her, wanting to touch her cheek. Silently giggling at the recent memory Christine gently took his hand and pressed it to her lips.
The movement stirred a whimper from Erik.
“Precious child ...” he whispered. Then his eyes widened. “The music! I know it! Christine, your music!!” He hummed a few indecipherable bars. “I have to write it down ...” he then muttered in a feverish voice. He hummed a bit more his hands conducting, now clearly hearing an entire orchestra in his head. “Yes …” he slurred. “Yes … I couldn't find it … not without you Christine. The end of the opera. Your opera.” He quickly got up and dashed to the music room, leaving a startled Christine at the table.
Stumbling into the room Erik made a beeline to the piano. Standing by the instrument he swayed dizzily as he hummed the melody again he needed to be certain it was a piano he needed, not the organ. Assured the delicate quality required the chosen instrument he sank onto the piano bench. Stretching his hands out to play, he needed a moment as the black and white keys seemed to be blurred and spinning. Certain he was alone, Erik took of his mask so he could rub his face. He was so terribly tired now, sleep pulling at his brain and bones, but he finally, finally knew how the opera would end. He had to play it before writing it down as soon as possible as he might forget it once he woke up. Finally the world was back in focus and he began to play.
Standing in the doorway Christine watched in fascination as Erik’s shaking fumbling hands and fingers found the keyboard.
Had she expected a string of incoherent sounds she found herself surprised when Erik produced the sweetest most delicate melody. It impressed and annoyed her in equal measures. Even in his most sleep deprived, feverish state that infuriating man composed melodies others could only dream of. The music poring from Erik’s fingertips once more confirmed to her that her maestro was the greatest composer she had ever known and here he was wasting away in a tomb below the Opera. All that beautiful music and no-one would ever hear it except her. After the day she had that thought was the final straw and she hastened herself away from the room, before Erik heard her cry.
The melody followed her, worming it’s way inside her mind until it was part of her.
Erik played the music a few more times, until he was certain, then he set himself at his desk to write everything down. Writing was difficult as things started to feel so odd to him: his pen kept floating away … the walls and furniture kept moving closer then jumped back in place … Then … why was he in a soap bubble? Was he falling asleep? But he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t! The music .. the melody … his eyes … so heavy … His head … so tired. But … “Christine … I’m sorry ...” he breathed as his eyes fell shut and the pen dropped from his cold shaking hand.
Walking past his music room a few minutes later Christine stopped to listen for any sounds. She had expected Erik to have been finished by now so he could finally go to bed. Listening at the door Christine heard no music, all she heard were … snores.
She stepped inside, and what she saw did not surprise her one bit: A depleted Erik was slumped over the table, his arm resting in a puddle of red ink.
Carefully she took away the music sheets he had been writing on. There was the ending to his new opera, the notes might have been jotted down shakily, but at-least he had his aria.
“Oh no!” Christine gasped, seeing a big red scratch where the pen had dropped from his weary hand. The ending was missing. She knew he would be crushed once he woke up and realised he had not finished his composition for her.
For a second she closed her eyes, recalling the sweet song he had been playing only half an hour ago and a smile came to her face. She remembered it, all of it!!
“Don’t worry Erik.” Christine whispered to the abeyant man at the table. She would just leave him like that for now. Carefully she put a pillow under his head and wrapped a blanket around him, he groaned a little but did not wake up. She would bring him to bed once she was finished here.
Setting herself next to Erik at the desk Christine took his pen and music paper and begun to write down the last parts of his crucial melody from memory. The beautiful melody that had come to him just by looking at her.