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The Nightingale and the Rose

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For some time Christine sat there, singing to Erik and stroking his hair. Her poor Maestro had to be fast asleep before she could leave to get help for him, as she knew he would protest if he were awake.

As she sat there she dreamed of nursing Erik back to health and starting their lives together: would they stay down below or get a house together? A house would be so wonderful: with a conservatory and a music room. Erik would feel so much happier in sunlight … Maybe he’d even get a tan working in their garden. Oh yes, there would be a big lovely garden where Erik could potter about without his mask safe from prying eyes. She could picture all of it, their wonderful life.

But sadly, Christine’s brief moment of happiness was cut short when so noticed, to her worry that Erik’s skin grew whiter and his breathing became faster and then turned shallow.

“Erik!!” she cried out and started shaking him, but nothing happened. A terrified Christine shook her Maestro multiple times, crying out his name as tears of fear begun running from her eyes.

Why did Erik not wake up? What was wrong with him? Oh, this was her fault! She had been dreaming away precious time while Erik might have been suffering in silence, again!

There was no way around it: Erik needed help right now!! Carefully but swiftly Christine eased Erik’s head from her lap onto a pillow on the couch and ran to the door.

Sobbing wildly she threw the door open and began to cry out: “Help, help me!!” she called, her voice raw from tears and terror.

“Miss Daaé?” A friendly voice replied and a kind hand was placed upon her shoulder. Mr Freeman! He was still there!! Feeling relief course through her Christine lifted her tearful face to look up at him.

“My Maestro! He was attacked, he is wounded!! Please. Please help him!” Christine forced out in a voice that was choked with grief.

“Someone attacked him here, in the Opera?” Mr Freeman replied in horror. Grabbing his wrist to drag him with her Christine shook her head.

“No, he was attacked when collecting my dress for the performance, but he held out and played for me.”

Before the confused man could reply Christine pulled him into the room where she froze in her tracks: to her horror she realised that she had forgotten to replace Erik’s mask! Slowly she turned to face Mr Freeman. “He … he was born deformed …” Christine stammered apologetically, “he always wears a mask. That … that is why he is a recluse. I forgot to replace his mask … Please … don’t hurt him!!”

As Christine feverishly contemplated how she would protect her defenceless Maestro the face of Mr Freeman fell into a comforting smile.

“Hurt him, Miss Daaé? This man clearly needs help and I will be happy to provide it in any way I can.”

The relief those words brought her made the overwrought Christine cry even more.

“Don’t cry Christine, please, I will help him, I promise.” Even in her vulnerable state Christine was aware that the man had called her “Christine” and not “Miss Daaé” for the first time. She liked that, it was comforting for someone like her who hated formalities.
Her breathing fast she watched as Mr Freeman observed Erik and made his decision.

“Christine, we need to get your Maestro to hospital quickly. I will go find someone to help carry him to my carriage.”

A gasp escaped Christine, she felt as if she were freezing up: hospital! Would Erik ever forgive her if she brought him there? Erik was terrified of hospitals he had confessed to her once: he was afraid that the doctors would keep him there to do tests on him or to put him on display and do all sorts of horrible things. Could she really allow Erik to be brought to hospital, even if it might save him?

“Mr Freeman, no!!” Christine called after him. Already on his way to the hallway, Mr Freeman turned in surprise.

“Christine, what is wrong?” he asked, looking at her deadly pale face in confusion.

“Erik … my Maestro … we cannot bring him to the hospital! I can’t risk it!! What if the hospital keeps him for research? What will I do then?” Christine’s voice shook with anxiety as she spoke, at the same time the eyes of Mr Freeman dulled with sadness.

“Oh Christine,” The man said as he shook his head with regret, “I had not even considered that. You are right, it might be dangerous for him. But at the same time: is it not a risk we should take? Leaving him like this …”

But before Mr Freeman could finish his sentence a young man’s voice cut him off:

“They will never dare to harm the friend of a Vicomte …!”

Hearing the voice Christine turned to find … “Raoul?” in an overwhelming need for comfort Christine threw herself into the arms of her childhood friend, and let his arms envelop her.

“It’s al-right … I am here ...” Raoul said as he ran his hand through her hair. “Oh my poor Lotte, do not worry, I will never let anyone harm the man you love ...”

The man you love” A jolt went through Christine hearing Raoul say this and she lifted her tear stained face to look at him. “How do you know I love him?” she asked in utter confusion. She did not understand; how did he know? She had only just realised this herself today.

A sweet smile tinged with sadness was her answer: “You lost the note he wrote you and I saw how upset you were because of it. Oh Christine, I might be dense sometimes, I might not understand you as well as I did when I was a child. But I can certainly see when you love someone and that this someone isn’t me. It does not matter, all I want for you to be happy and for us to remain friends … I will do anything I can to help your Maestro and keep him safe. Will you trust me and accept my help, Little Lotte?”

For a moment Christine allowed herself to smile, then she hugged the boy who had once saved her scarf as tightly as she could.

“Yes Raoul! Of course!!”

Relief, Erik would be safe … they could take him to hospital now. Maybe, just maybe her dear Erik could finally get the help he needed. For a second the relief and the events of the evening left her too exhausted to function and she let herself remain limply in Raouls arms, like a broken rag-doll. Probably sensing her need for comfort, Raoul let her stay, as he and Mr Freeman discussed the next course of action. From far away she heard talk of how to best transport Erik to hospital.

This broke her heart: Erik would be taken away from the Opera, but he belonged in the Opera!! If only she had understood this sooner, if only she hadn’t asked for that dress. If only … if only …

Then, suddenly things begun to spin around her rather alarmingly.

“Christine?” she hear the worried voice of Raoul from far away.

“It’s my fault!!” Christine cried out in despair.

Then things turned black.