“Raoul, you idiot!! How could you?!!”
Erik startled as he arrived at the mirror and heard Christine cry out in anger at his rival. Involuntarily a hint of a smirk begun playing on his lips; what had that daft boy done to upset such a forgiving angel like Christine? And more importantly; would he be able to comfort her because of it?
“You promised!!” Christine’s voice whined between sniffles.
“Christine, I said I was sorry. Why are you being so dramatic about it? I simply forgot!!”
Oh dear, Erik thought. Whatever that boy had so stupidly forgotten might have to do with the big gala the Opera was having that night.
It was a big deal for Christine: she, not La Carlotta was to be presented as the star attraction. His beloved student would perform a solo recital lasting well over an hour. The two of them had rehearsed her full set for weeks, painstakingly running through every song she knew and practicing new ones, until they had come up with the right songs in the right order.
After that these songs where what Erik and Christine lived and breathed. As she ran through her list with her pianist for the night, the famed Maurice Du Pont, Erik would watch like a hawk from his hiding place. Later that day he and Christine would run through everything again and he made sure she forgot all about whatever crowd pleasing but vocally damaging suggestions the man might have made. It was exhausting for the both of them, but they felt it was worth it. This was the biggest step in her career to date: the cream of Opera loving Paris would attend, including many that could further her career, if she was a success her future would be set!
Erik did all he could to support Christine in this endeavour. He had long since given up hope she could ever love him but he relished his new role as a supportive and loyal friend.
Even so, his heart had never stopped loving her: Christine and her career mattered more to him than anything. And Erik knew he would give all he had to ensure her future was set, despite knowing that her success would probably mean losing her forever.
From the moment he heard about Christine’s chance at the gala it had taken over his life; Christine should want for nothing during this time. He took care of everything and made sure she had time to rest both her voice as well as her mind and body. If Christine had tasks that he could take care of for her he would. When the day had been hard Erik cooked for her. And if she stayed over at his home he had her lay on the couch after her meal while he would read to her or entertain her in any other way she might want: magic, a song, poetry, it was hers to ask.
During the night he would write charts for Christine: things she had to work on, suggestions for the piano player, relaxation exercises and everything else that would help his nightingale. Then he had to make sure no-one at the Opera would forget The Phantom. The famous spectre had to assure everything at his theatre was running correctly and that Christine was still under his protection (lest Carlota would dare to interfere.)
The last few weeks keeping all this up had become harder for Erik. In fact he was rather exhausted from working over twenty hours all day every day. But he never complained about this, why would he? He was helping Christine to make her dreams come true and that was all that mattered.
The fact that he’d fallen asleep reading to her on a few occasions had truly been out of his control and it annoyed him. For some reason Christine was never angry about this. Instead she would cover him with her blanket and let him sleep, while she curled up in his big chair near the fire to continue the book for herself. After such a night he would always apologise profusely to her and she would smile, telling him that helping her did not mean he had to put himself aside for her sake.
“Erik, you’ve already become my teacher, my coach, my errand boy and my cook.” she had told him. “You don’t need to be my personal entertainment as well. My dear, I am not worth all this fuss and you clearly needed some rest.”
But to Erik she was worth “all this fuss”, and much, much more. It was beyond his comprehension that Raoul seemed to think differently. The “dreaded Viscount” had been a bane to him and Christine from the moment they had started rehearsing for the gala. The silly boy didn’t seem to understand that doing a full recital meant hours of hard work. He also didn’t understand that rehearsals are rather exhausting.
The times he would burst into the room when Christine worked with the pianist demanding she'd come on a pick-nick or the annoyance when she refused dinner in the evening were countless. Each time Christine would tell him that she refrained from all outings until after her concert but the boy simply didn’t seem to get it!
Even though Raoul’s behaviour was a bonus for him on when looked upon with the eyes of a man in love, it hurt Erik to see that the Viscount was upsetting Christine. The poor girl always felt guilty about rejecting the Viscount, but for goodness-sake how many times could she explain to him how important this was to her? No, Raoul had been so annoying that Erik had pondered on locking him up in one of the unused storage rooms to only let him out after Christine’s big night. Of course Christine had said no, insisting Raoul wasn’t all bad, but today the boy had clearly let her down again.
“You forgot, you forgot!! It’s two hours before my performance, oh what am I to do!!” The girl lamented in a shrill voice. Erik worried: Christine should not yell like that so soon before going on-stage; it could damage her voice. Cursing Raoul and his entire family under his breath he listened on.
“I am sorry Christine I can’t get it for you any more, I must go to my meeting!” How dare that boy sound so casual! Anything Christine wanted or needed she should get!! Especially now.
From his hideaway Erik watched a furious Christine rise, eyes blazing, as a suddenly terrified Viscount leaped out of the room. Erik waited till the bouquet of roses the boy had brought hit the door behind him and Christine had collapsed back into her chair till he stepped out from behind the mirror.
With a start Christine sat up. To his embarrassment it was only now that Erik realised that she was not wearing a white dress at all, she was infarct dressed only in her undergarments and skirts. To his relief nothing untoward was exposed. Looking at her face closely he could see that she was very distressed: her make up had started running and some of her locks had escaped from the rollers they were on.
To his surprise the look on her face that had been a mixture of anger and tearful upset brightened when she saw him. It made Erik’s heart leap up with joy: she was happy to see him, him!!
“Erik!! Oh, thank goodness!!” Christine said as she rose and threw herself into his arms. For a second Erik was too shocked to speak.
“Can I help you Christine?” Erik said after what seemed like hours, a tremor in his voice. “You seem upset my dear. Is anything wrong?.”
Two sad eyes looked up at him.
“Oh Erik, Raoul has let me down so badly ...”
Oh, has he now? Erik thought.
“Oh?” He asked, feeling sad when Christine let him go to start pacing nervously.
“You see, my dresser is ill and … Raoul … he promised to collect and bring me the dress I had made especially for the show. They could not finish it before today and I couldn’t go out to get it, you see? We had the final blocking for the gala. And … and he forgot … What am I to do?”
Erik kindly stepped towards Christine and gestured for her to sit. Once she did he gallantly knelt before her chair.
“Christine, the first thing you must do is calm down and rest your voice. You are singing, so your voice matters more than any dress you will be wearing!”
Christine nodded her understanding, but still seemed jittery.
“Now, I can bring you all the dresses you could ever want from the formal and gala wardrobe in your room at my house. Any colour you may need, tell me and I will get them for you. I will get you everything you need my angel, I promise.”
A watery smile before Christine begun to sob again.
“Erik, that is so sweet of you. But it has to be that dress, it was made especially for the gala, it fits the theme. Oh Erik … please … could you …?”
For a second Erik stared at her in confusion, had she forgotten who he was? He a strange masked man collecting a dress from a young ladies boutique? Getting that dress meant he’d have to go out now, during daytime, he had not done this in years. He would be exposed and that could be dangerous for him … On the other hand: Christine was so upset. His angel was counting on him and had he not promised to do anything for her and her career?
“Of course Christine, I’ll do anything you want, this is your day. I will go at once ...”
And so he did.