- All hail to the days that merit more praise
- Than all the rest of the year,
- And welcome the nights that double delights,
- As well for the poor as the peer!
- Good fortune attend each merry man's friend,
- That doth but the best that he may;
- Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs,
- To drive the cold winter away.
A smile playing on her flushed face Christine Daaé dashed down the last flight of stairs of the secret route to Erik’s home. It was the last morning before the Opera would close down for Christmas and she felt the least she could do for her kind Maestro was to bring him a gift before she left.
She was looking forward to seeing him and to wish him a Merry Christmas. As she ascended she wondered if Erik had any decorations out. A man as gifted as him would probably be able to create the most intricate, gorgeous things. Oh, she hoped he would have some decorations.
Why would he? The other side of her brain suddenly chimed in. Why would the poor thing decorate? For whom? No-one will be there to celebrate with him … No one ever will. You are all he has, and you will be gone …
The thought struck her like a knife and made her stop in her tracks as if her breath was taken away. He would be all alone!! All alone for two full weeks and with all her pre Christmas performances and preparations she had already neglected the poor man as it was. That would not do.
Should she invite him to her celebration with Mother Valerius? It would be nice to have a third person and with Raoul away in Switzerland with his family no-one would disturb the proceedings.
Yes, yes, that felt like the right thing to do. Erik would be invited to the party. Oh, she couldn’t wait to tell him!
Arriving at Erik’s home, Christine soon found that things where far worse than she had expected: the house was dark, empty and … cold … so cold she thought she would freeze. She saw in the living-room that the fire was out and had been for some time. What was going on and where was Erik?
She called for him, but there was no answer, that was worrying. Christine dashed into the music room. It was cold and dark there too, and no Erik. She bit her lip as worry begun to stir inside of her.
Then the library; the same, cold dark and empty. The same for the kitchen and the bathroom. Where was he? He never left the Opera!! Something was wrong, she was certain. Oh, she should have made some time for him in the last few weeks. Even a quick chat after her performances would have done.
Her own bedroom in the house was empty too. Well, she would not have expected him to be there, he always made a point of never entering that room, as he respected her privacy.
Well, Christine respected Erik’s privacy too, but worry made her enter his bedroom, a room she feared. Every time she entered that room she was reminded of how poor Erik slept in a coffin. He thought that was what he was: nothing but a corpse. Undeserving of a comfortable bed.
Taking a deep breath Christine opened the door and looked. Nothing?
Just as Christine was about to turn away, she heard it: a soft rustling, coming from the coffin. Squinting in the dark she saw that on top of the coffin lay … a mountain of blankets. The blankets were quivering a little, as if something beneath it was shivering. That something could be no-one but …
“Erik!” she cried out.
The shivering pile stirred slightly, but didn’t answer her call.
“Erik,” Christine tried again, “Erik answer me, please! Are you al right?”
Nothing, no reply. That, Christine understood, probably meant that he was not al right.
Slowly Christine moved to the coffin and pulled away blanket after blanket, until she came face to face with Erik’s maskless, deadly pale futures, his dull sunken eyes looking at her in weary confusion.
It took a few seconds before Erik’s brain could actually resister what was going on, then it hit him: Christine was in his bedroom. Where had she come from? Why was she here? She should not see him like this!! He was a mess!!
“C… Christine w… w...what ...” Erik tried through chattering teeth. “What are you doing here?”
The girl pouted as she frowned at him sadly.
“I came to bring Christmas greetings, but I didn’t know I would actually have to visit the North-pole to do so.”
Christmas? Erik’s foggy brain wondered in confusion. She had come for Christmas? Oh, poor Christine to find him in such a state while she must have been so happy today. A corpse in a cold grave was sure to put a damper on her joy.
“Oh … oh my dear sweet Christine ...” Erik tried, noting with shame how tired and broken he sounded. “My sweet poor angel. Please, you should not have come. It isn’t good for you to be in this cold, dark place.”
A startled look appeared on the face of the girl he loved so much. Oh he had probably ruined everything for her.
“But … but why is it so cold?” Christine asked, confusion rising in her voice. “Erik, what is going on?”
“The wood … Erik’s wood for … for the fire, it was not delivered.” The half frozen man explained as he rose from his coffin with difficulty, keeping several blankets tightly wrapped around his thin shivering frame.
For as long as he had lived underground, Erik had secured the services of a young man who would do his monthly shopping in return for a reward. The man had delivered on his promised each and every time year after year, so Erik could not fathom what had prompted the man to let him down this time.
But it had happened: he had given the man his money in an alcove near the Rue Scribe, which was as far as he now dared to stray from his place of sanctuary, and had awaited the arrival of his necessities. But nothing came: no wood, no coal, no food, no candles, no tea. Nothing! He had not been prepared for this eventuality, things had been going so well for so long. Afraid of the outside world after having been isolated for more than a decade, Erik wasn’t sure what to do. The thought of going into town himself terrified him to the point of paralysis, so he had settled on dealing with the problem by doing … nothing.
The one thing he did do was decide that he would not to tell Christine about his problems: he had no right to burden her during one of the busiest times of the year. The fact that he usually only saw her when she was performing made it easier to remain silent.
As everyone at the Opera readied happily for Christmas, things turned dire for the lone spectre in the basement.
After two days Erik had ran out of wood to burn, a day later the candles ran out. There was only one now, that he kept for emergencies. After the candles came the food, then the tea, then everything else. He had stumbled around his freezing apartment dressed first in his warmest suit and coat, and as the days dragged on layer after layer of blankets followed. But he just couldn’t get warm, the constant cold had seeped into his body. Even in his coffin, covered with a pile of blankets he couldn’t get warm. The cold kept him awake at night, so there was not one moment of respite. He lay there, shivering, exhausted and, after three days, even hungry.
The only moment of joy was when he could sit by the oven and warm himself as he boiled hot water to drink. Even without tea the warm water was a treat as it warmed his hands and insides, if only for a short while.
Then the coal ran out and his misery was complete. He decided he would remain in his coffin, under his blankets, the only place that was bearable now. He had just stayed there, in his coffin, as the sleepless hours made him lose track of time and the cold overtook him. Time having lost all meaning he had thought that years had past by now, that he would lay there forever and no-one would ever come for him. But now … Christine had found him.
Squinting in the dark Christine could see that what she was able to glimpse of Erik looked terrible: paler than usual, emaciated and slightly unsteady on his feet.
“What do you mean?” she asked softly, the worry clear in her voice. How long had Erik been suffering like this?
A tired sigh escaped the man in front of her, Erik seemed barely aware of his surroundings, she noted. Shivering uncontrollably he blew on his hands, that were stuck into fingerless gloves.
“Christine ...” Erik sighed, as if he had not heard her question. “It … it’s so cold ...”
Still not certain about what exactly had happened, Christine did understand one thing: she should have talked to him sooner. Damn that man, why did he always think not asking for help was his best option?
“Erik, sweetie … how long have you been living like this?” Christine asked sadly as she took Erik’s frozen hands and started rubbing them between her warm ones, stirring a relieved sigh from her unhappy Phantom.
“I … I don’t remember ...” Erik sighed between shivers, finally a bit more aware of his surroundings. He thought for a second more, then settled on; “Days …”
A gasp escaped Christine hearing this and before she knew what she was doing she wrapped her arms around Erik to pull him into a hug. Her poor, poor Maestro, how terrible. All alone in the cold and dark while she had been out there, happy in the light. As she held him she could feel the unrelenting shaking and shivering of Erik’s bony body. She also noticed how he seemed to hold her tighter than he usually would, unaccustomed to hugs as he was. In a way it felt as if he held onto her for dear life.
“Erik?” she tried, as she noticed he seemed reluctant to let go of her.
“You are so kind, so warm … so warm. My angel is so warm.” Erik breathed in her hair, sobbing a little.
Unsure of what to do Christine held Erik for a while longer, shocked that things had probably been so bad for him that even her slight body heat could bring him relieve. She decided she would not leave him until she had found a way to save him from his misery.
“Erik, sweetie,” she murmured softly. “If you let me go I could make you some tea ...”
Another soft sob in her hair was her reply.
“There is no tea ...” Erik sighed sadly, “There hasn’t been for a long time. There … there is no coal either … I used the last to warm myself on the oven I think it was … well a few nights ago …”
With a start Christine let go of Erik to look at him in horror. The sudden release caused Erik to groan sadly, as the cold hit him once more with a mighty force. Why had she let him go? Why couldn’t she just hold him forever. Sweet Christine had been so warm and gentle in his frozen arms. He had just wanted to stay there forever, a moment of happiness before he’d die of hypothermia.
He suddenly felt her tug at his arm, stirring him from the confused thoughts he was sinking into.
“Erik … this is …: Christine looked at him as she shook her head. “You can’t live like this, there will be a big freeze tomorrow. How will you survive without heat?”
A big freeze? Erik frowned in confusion. Was she saying it could be even colder than it had been? Oh it probably could. But the last thing he wanted was his angel to worry about him. He would reassure her he had thought things through, even if he had not. As long as she was happy that was all that mattered.
“With everyone gone I assumed I could … stay in one of the rooms above, there is bound to be a place where I could warm myself … and find some food.”
That was a good idea, he thought. Maybe he really would do that. Christine didn’t seem convinced, though, judging from her frown.
“And after that?” She urged. “Do you know if your delivery will ever come?”
Erik shrugged tiredly. “I guess I could burn a painting or two, a few books … and in case of emergency, there is my music ...”
A look of pure horror exploded on Christine hearing him say those last words.
“Don’t you dare!!” she gasped. “Wait, what did you say? Food? You have no food either?”
Erik sighed and shook his head, the movement causing him a dizzy spell that made him swoon. For a second things turned black, was he fainting? Then he felt Christine’s warm arms leading him to the sofa where she settled him and then sat herself next to him.
Silence. Erik didn’t know how long it lasted . But when he opened his tired eyes, Christine was still there. Looking at him with worry. Worry. Oh, he couldn’t believe anyone would ever worry about him, least of all the angel he loved so much.
“Christine ...” Erik sighed. He noticed a sigh of relieve coming from Christine upon hearing his voice.
“Erik, when did you last eat?” she then asked in a long suffering voice.
“Don’t … remember.” Erik sighed weakly, wrapping the blankets even tighter around him. “Maybe … maybe you could leave a fire on for me in your dressing room, just so … I could have one nights sleep without the cold … That … that would mean so much to me. Just … just to be warm and sleep and … and … maybe an apple ...” His eyes fell shut as he spoke, even thinking of a night, just one night, of sleep somewhere warm was intoxicating. He curled into himself and leaned against the headrest of the sofa.
With an angry huff Christine got up, startling Erik awake again. As he blinked in confusion he noted how Christine grabbed the last candle, lit it and stomped to his closet where she begun begun rummaging through his clothes, selecting his best suit and some comfortable day-wear.
“Christine, what are you doing?” Erik asked as he got up to walk to her. The movement causing him a lot more difficulty than usual.
Christine turned to him, and to his horror he saw tears in her eyes. “Christine?!” he exclaimed. Was she crying because of him?
“Can you get a suitcase Erik?” Christine said in a shaky voice as she rubbed her eyes. Then she started her rummage through his closet again.
Erik shook his head as he looked her. He didn’t understand. What was she doing to his clothes?
“What are you doing?” He asked after a while, the confusion palpable in his voice.
An angry sigh from Christine as she turned to him again, this time she seemed more frustrated than sad.
“You are coming with me and I don’t want to hear any objections.”
What? What was she saying? He was coming with her? Where where they going?
“But … Christine …” he started, as he saw Christine turn to his closet again.
“I said no objections Erik.” Christine said, as she fished a couple of socks from his carefully arranged sock pile. “I don’t want my Christmas ruined by the thought of you freezing to death or starving.”
“Bu …” Erik tried as he pulled up a blanket that had slid from his shoulder.
With a flash Christine turned around sharply. “Do you want to ruin my Christmas, Erik?” she almost sounded angry and Erik jumped back in fear. He had never seen her like this.
“Of course not!!” he quickly exclaimed, no, he would never do that to her.
“Good,” Christine sight, satisfied. “Then it is settled. You are having Christmas with us.” humming happily she returned to packing Erik’s things.”
His mouth hanging open Erik just stared at Christine, working her way through his clothes. He cringed knowing that there was every chance she would see his underwear.
With a sigh Erik decided that he should probably start looking for the suitcase she had requested. He wasn’t sure he even had one.
As he searched worry started to overtake him.
Where was he going with her? He didn’t want to go anywhere, he hadn’t been away from the Opera in ten years. Even going as far as the end of the street made him feel like fainting.
But … it was Christine, she wanted him to go with her, for Christmas!! Was this not a dream come true? Should that not override every fear?