His heart aching with love, Erik smiled down at Christine, who was sleeping in a chair in his music room. He had been working on his music for hours and never heard her come in.
As she had fallen asleep he was certain his angel had probably been listening to his new composition for quite some time.
Looking at the clock he realised it was nearly two o’clock at night. It was very late, he thought, no point in waking her again, he best bring her to bed.
Oh how Erik loved carrying Christine to bed. It felt so intimate, yet innocent. A warm fatherly closeness, which was all he could ever hope for. When he carried her, her body would be close to him as he held her, then he would lay her down in bed, brush away a stray curl that might disturb her slumber and sometimes … sometimes he would touch her cheek. Nothing more, but to him it meant so much.
Tonight, though, faith intended to thwart his innocent joy. The second he lifted her Erik felt something was off: there was an annoying, telling, pull in his back that warned him to return Christine to her chair immediately.
But he couldn’t: she might wake up and then he would have to explain what had happened. That wouldn’t do, as it would remind her or his age. Besides, he did not want his moment of bliss taken away from him. No, he had to push through.
Rather than romantic, the road to the bedroom was now laboured and tortured, his back acting up more and more, his arms aching, feeling as if he was carrying ten Christines instead of one.
It took a mighty final effort for him to not drop her before they reached her room, but he persevered. When Erik finally managed to enter the bedroom he staggered the last yard to the bed and finally he could let go of his precious, but now unbearable, load.
With relief he lay his angel down as carefully as his shaking arms allowed. But his ordeal had not ended yet. In fact things were about to get infinitely more worse.
Trying to rise after laying Christine on the bed the unthinkable happened: a spasm! Erik had to bite his tongue to stop himself from crying out in pain.
Making noise would not do as Erik did not want to disturb Christine’s slumber, her dreams were sacred and not to be disturbed by a monster in pain!
Besides, he didn’t want her to see him like this. No, never like this!
All he needed to do was leave her in peace and deal with the problem on his own, as he had always done. There was just one problem with that though: he couldn’t move!
Erik was mortified when the reality of his predicament dawned on him; he was stuck in a world of agony, hunched over Christine’s sleeping body and he couldn’t get up any-more. What a cruel trick of faith. What if she woke up to find him like this? Why had he not left her in her chair? This was far worse. He’d never survive the embarrassment.
He had to try and leave the room one way or another. But how?
For a while Erik stood there, unable to get his seized up muscles working. He hoped the problem would resolve itself eventually given a little time, so he just stood there, quietly. But all that he managed to achieve was feeling cold, tired and decidedly unwell.
The worry of Christine waking up and finding him like this weighed like lead on his mind. Flashbacks filled his head; whenever he had fallen ill or been in pain in the past he had been met with anger or abuse. He envisioned that Christine would be furious with him, the impaired monster occupying her sacred room. She might hit him, she had every right to. She would be disgusted or laugh at him or mock him.
In his soul he knew that Christine was kind and gentle, but the trauma that was his past overrode every reason. This meant the thought that the girl might help him instead of hurt him never once crossed his mind.
Desperate to leave and get some much needed rest Erik tried to get up by himself several times. Each try was more painful than the other, he bit his tongue every time to stifle the sound, the last time tasting blood.
This was intolerable! He just wanted to leave that damn room! He tried again, deciding he would do it quickly: get up in one big movement, push through the pain.
It was a mistake!
Oh, it was awful!! The pain was so terrible he thought he’d faint. He heard a scream of pain, realising too late that it came from him.
He watched in horror as below him Christine’s eyes snapped open in fear.
Christine awoke with a start as an almost inhuman cry of pain cut through her dreams like a razor. She opened her eyes to find Erik hovering above her, his unmasked face twisted in what seemed severe agony.
What was he doing there?
“Maestro …?” Christine panted as she sat up, a puzzled frown forming on her brow. “What are you doing?”
No reply. Erik clearly couldn’t talk, he just sobbed a little.
“Erik,” she insisted. “What is wrong? Why are ...” she stopped, looking round the room. She had not gone to bed herself, so how had she ended up in her bedroom? Then her gaze returned to Erik and the position he stood in and she understood. She had often questioned Erik’s odd habit of carrying her to bed, worrying something like this might happen one day.
“Oh Erik ...” she smiled kindly. “Did you hurt your back carrying me here?”
For some reason Erik shook his head, or tried to at-least. “No ...” he croaked, so softly it was almost impossible to hear.
“Are you sure, dear?” She almost teased. “Because it does look like it.”
A flicker of sadness appeared in Erik’s eyes at her words. “E … Erik is … sorry he woke you ...” the man breathed through clenched teeth.
The unhappy creature at her bedside looked so unbearably miserable Christine stopped her teasing before she had even begun. How long had poor Erik been standing there like this? He was clearly exhausted. She quickly got up.
“You poor thing. Of course you can wake me up. You need help.”
She moved closer to him and to her surprise Erik seemed to recoil at her approach.
“Maestro?” She asked in confusion. Why was Erik afraid of her?
“Please … please … don … don’t hit Erik … Christine.” He almost wept.
For a second Christine’s heart jumped into her throat. What had people been doing to that poor man to make him think she would be cruel at a moment like this?
“Of course I won’t hit you!” she said as gentle as she could.
“But … but Erik woke you up … and he … he is useless ...”
Christine took, the now sobbing, Erik’s hand and had to use all willpower not to flinch at the touch: he was colder than he’d ever been and shaking with agony.
“Please, don’t worry about that, you are in pain. Let me help you.”
Unable to protest or respond in any way Erik had to let Christine near him when he was at his most vulnerable. He was amazed: he had woken her up and shown her his weakness and she had spoken kindly, taken his hand and even given him a gentle smile. How could this be? Could there be people that would actually be kind to an injured corpse?
A soft hand on his painful back. He froze and sucked in air, not just from pain, but from realising his angel was touching him! Instead of being horrified or laughing at him she was touching him willingly to see what was wrong, to help him. He was not used to this and wasn’t sure how to respond to such gentle kindness.
“Poor Erik, your back is completely frozen!” Christine said sadly, feeling around the injury. “What on earth have you been doing?” Clearly he had aggravated the injury in some way.
“Erik forced himself to get up but could not.” The hunched man said wearily. “He tried to leave … so … you wouldn’t see ...”
It upset Christine to know that Erik had been so desperate to hide his agony from her. Her father had hidden his ailments from her for a long time and it was something that still haunted her.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t have noticed in the morning?” she sighed. “Don’t ever hide your pain from me again, you silly man.”
At the same time Christine begun to stroke his back softly, hoping to loosen his muscles just enough to make him able to walk to the bed and lay down. She heard Erik gasp at her hands that worked on his back, reminding her of how unused he was to human kindness. The thought brought tears to her eyes and she hated herself for this; she had to think of helping Erik now and getting emotional wouldn’t get him into bed any time sooner.
“I will make you a hot water bottle.” she decided. “I’ll put it on your back and maybe it will loosen your muscles just enough for you to get into bed.”
A silence after an audible gasp from Erik.
“Bed?” the man then asked in a tiny voice.
“Yes.” she squinted at the distance. It wasn’t that big a step, maybe she could get Erik there without the aid of a hot water bottle. He seemed so cold and tired and she didn’t want him to have to wait for the kettle to boil. “Can you move at all? Only a small shuffle and I could help you in.”
As she spoke Christine moved away from Erik to open the blankets of the bed, so it was ready for him to get in. Then she returned to his side.
“But … Erik can’t ...” Erik breathed. “He cannot soil Christine’s bed with his vile being.”
Each time Christine thought Erik’s self loathing couldn’t get any lower he surprised her yet again. He expected her to hit him because he was ill and now thought he wasn’t good enough to lay in her bed?
“Stop this now Erik. You need to lay down as soon as possible.” She kept rubbing his back, hoping to get some warmth to the cold stiff muscles.
“Erik … will be fine …” she heard Erik’s exhausted voice below her hands, “if you could just help him to his coffin.”
Oh absolutely not! If Erik thought she’d allow him to walk all the way to his bedroom to climb into that wooden horror he had another thing coming.
“How do you expect to get in? Erik, be reasonable. You are getting into my bed, right now!”
The bed was tantalisingly close and with a sigh Erik relented. Well. What else could he do? Christine seemed insistent and he was desperate to finally lay down after standing in agony for what seemed like eternity.
Holding on to Christine for dear life Erik managed to slowly shuffle the short distance towards the bed. It took a lot of time and pain for him to get his body to lay down, but Christine stayed with him. The kind girl tried to help him in every way she could while also soothing his pain with kind words and touches.
When Erik finally lay in bed, tucked under the warm blankets, Christine left to boil water for a hot water bottle to be put under his poor back and to make warm milk with honey and laudanum to warm him from the inside and ease the pain.
As he waited for Christine to return, Erik fell pray to the most confusing emotions he had ever experienced: he was in excruciating pain, but he had also never felt such an ecstatic happiness as he did at that moment.
This woman, this gentle angel of goodness had helped a monstrous being in pain without question and without doubt. Erik had never known what it was like to experience kindness, what it was like to be looked after and it was more, so much more than he could have ever hoped for or dreamed of.
Maybe … maybe all the pain was worth it …