A scowl darkened the lovely features of Christine Daaé as she sat on a chair in the kitchen of the underground home. The anger in her eyes could have made the quiche that was steadily simmering in the oven burn to a crisp.
How dare he! She thought as she glared at a small parcel in her hands. It was a gift she had bought Erik, but at that moment she’d rather throw it to the coals than give it to him. How could Erik let her down like this?
For weeks she had been looking forward to this day: her first Valentine’s day with Erik. Secretly she had often let herself dream of all the romantic things he might do for her: breakfast in bed or a romantic champagne breakfast in a candle lit dining room! There would be gifts and flowers. They would spend the day in each others arms, kissing and loving. Then she would cook him his favourite meal and they would go outside for a moonlit stroll through the Bois de Boulogne. That was just one idea she’d had, but she had dreamed many of such romantic scenarios, some sickly sweet, some oddly fascinating. But never in her wildest dreams had she dared to dream this: Erik had done nothing! Nothing at all!
It had already started the wrong way: Erik had been composing all night, just like most of the previous nights. Not that it mattered; much to her frustration their marriage had not been consumed so far. After their wedding there had been no wedding night and they had more or less continued to live as they had before. Christine slept in her room, Erik in his and beyond kisses, usually initiated by her, nothing had happened between them. It was so confusing to Christine; why would Erik have been so desperate for a wife, proclaim he loved her in the most passionate way and not take her? She desperately wanted to be taken by him! At night she longed for the same passion she heard in his music, his voice to be lavished out over her naked body. How she wanted those magical, long fingered hands to touch her in places she could feel tingling when he would sing with her during her lessons.
But he did nothing, often he even shied away from her when she’d approach him. He did nothing, just like today.
Christine had woken up at around six o’clock and the house had been silent. Figuring Erik might have abandoned his composing to get some sleep worry struck her: what if Erik crashed out and they would miss out on their first Valentines-day!! She had to stop this from happening!
Swiftly she had jumped out of bed and dashed to his room where, sure enough, she found him snoring in his coffin.
For a brief moment she had stopped herself from waking him: the poor man did look utterly exhausted. But then the excitement over today won out.
Waking up Erik had not been an easy task, shaking him did nothing except teach her a few swear words in languages she had never even heard about and singing just calmed him. Then she turned to the last resort: she had kissed him, all over his face which immediately woke him up with a start.
The moment she was certain Erik had reached some form of consciousness, Christine quickly begun to cheerfully rouse the dazed man with talk about how excited she was for the day. She babbled about breakfast and how much she was looking forward to everything that would happen during and after. Meanwhile Erik had looked at her as if she were talking to him in Swedish, which to her amusement was one of the few languages he did not know.
“If … my Christine wishes for me to make her breakfast, of course I will ...” a barely awake Erik eventually said, his voice still rough with far to little sleep. That had given Christine pause to think: Erik always made her breakfast and dinner. Maybe it would have been kinder if she had made him breakfast in bed instead of just waking him? But no, that would mean Erik eating it in his coffin on his own. The whole idea was to get him to eat it with her, in her bed!
In the end breakfast was a disappointment: as she lay waiting in her most revealing nightgown Erik had popped around the door of her bedroom to announce that everything was ready, then he’d blinked at her gown and swiftly disappeared again.
When she arrived in the dining room her frustration grew: no roses, no presents, not even a chocolate and Erik was dozing over a book.
Once again she shook her frustration away: maybe he had something else entirely planned, she figured.
Curious about what his plans were Christine kept prodding, but all she met was a wall of confusion. This was not what she had dreamed off. All day she tried guessing, hinting, but all to no avail and soon she begun to worry that nothing would come at all.
Then the singing lessons came, and Erik had not been at his best, he had been short and grumpy with her and then accused her of not paying attention. That was when she had lost it: he clearly didn’t care for her any-more and she had stormed out in tears. Immediately Erik had ran after her and assured her it was his fault, he would do better, he promised. Thinking he meant he had remembered after all Christine had decided she would forge ahead with cooking dinner, only to find Erik returning to his books and notes.
That was when she decided she’d had enough.
A startled Erik looked up from his book as Christine slammed the dish containing her finished quiche on the dinner table’s heating tray. Seeing her glare daggers at him, Erik swiftly returned to the safety of his reading and note taking. Or at least he pretended to, simply to be away from his wife’s ire. What was wrong with her? What had upset her so? His new wife had been acting oddly all day and Erik couldn’t get his head around it. Apparently he had done something terribly wrong, but he truly didn’t know what it was.
That morning Christine had woken him up at a ridicules hour and seemed rather excited, as if she were expecting something. But as far as he knew there was nothing special coming up. There was no opening night, no wedding day and it was not her birthday. When she kept dropping hints about breakfast he had dragged himself out of bed to go to the kitchen. As Christine seemed so eager to have a good breakfast Erik had done his best to make her something delicious, only to receive an annoyed glance when he came to her bedroom to tell her breakfast was ready. For some reason Christine had been back in bed wearing a rather revealing nightgown. It was confusing to him: If she had wanted to sleep in why had she woken him so early with her kisses? She knew he had been composing for the last three nights in a row and had only just turned in. Erik was exhausted and would have loved to have had at-least an hour of sleep.
Looking back on the day Erik was now convinced that he would have been better off going back to bed after making his wife’s breakfast. Things had only gone downhill after that.
At first Christine didn’t seem happy with what he had made for her, but then, all of a sudden, she seemed to appreciate it after all. Or maybe he had misunderstood the situatio, he had not been truly awake yet after-all. All the while through breakfast Christine kept dropping hints about “this day” and all sorts of romantic things that could befall girlfriends and wives. A bed filled with rose petals, flowers, candy, cakes, chocolates, gifts. Erik was baffled, what did she expect of him? Of course he would give her anything she wanted, if she desired a gift he would see to it, always. But never before had she mentioned that this was a special day, although he failed to see why, so he had nothing.
“Please Christine, tell your Erik, what is this ‘special day’ you keep mentioning?” he had asked, hoping she would tell him so he could maybe remedy the situation. But she had just given an enigmatic smile.
“Oh don’t tease me Erik. I know you’ve got something special planned!!”
No, he had not! And as the day progressed Christine seemed to realise this and her mood grew lower with each passing hour. Their singing lesson today had been a disaster; Christine was jittery and distracted, while he was exhausted and suffering a pounding headache, caused by her waking him in that strange way that morning. They had fought and bickered and she had stormed out in tears. Feeling he was at fault for not understanding her he had tried to calm her and then she had suddenly insisted on cooking for him. Now it was dinner time and it seemed that Christine had once again reached breaking point. If only she would tell him what it was he had done wrong.
For a few seconds the house beyond the lake was shrouded in an ominous silence, alleviated only by the ticking of the clock. Then, much to Erik’s horror, Christine burst into tears again. “I don’t understand you!!” she sobbed as she stood by the steaming quiche. Shaken by her sudden outburst Erik rushed towards her and reached out his arm to offer comfort. “Don’t touch me!!” she cried and Erik recoiled sadly. What had he done? He worried. How could he not know what Christine meant? The poor girl, she had actually cooked him what she thought was his favourite meal. (It wasn’t, it was simply the only meal Christine could cook and so it had to be his favourite.) Today had to be truly important if it made Christine cook for him and got her in this state. Had he missed a special anniversary of her and her father?
How dare he?! Christine thought again as she glared at Erik staring at her in confusion. How dare he think I would fall for this act. A genius like him not knowing what today is? She didn’t believe it for a second. If Erik was clever enough to know what Opera was presented when he had no excuse for forgetting this.
No, he clearly didn’t love her enough, she just had to face it. All he’d wanted was someone to keep him company, he never truly desired a wife.
Sniffing sadly Christine pulled the parcel from her apron and threw it at her husband. “I got you this, I hope you choke on it.”
Erik jumped away with a start before the little box hit him, then he bended to pick it up in surprise.
“Why … why would you get Erik a gift?” he asked wistfully, turning the box around in his hand. Christine had never bought him a gift before, how he wished the day had gone better so he could have enjoyed this moment.
Wiping her eyes with the ball of her hand Christine glared at him and scoffed. “Why indeed!! You tell me you love me over and over, but not today? What kind of sick joke is this?”
The anger in his wife was almost palpable and Erik knew that there was more to it than just not knowing about this day. Still he cursed the fact that he did not posses any calenders, he had never needed or wanted them, all they did was remind him of the passage of time, of another year lost in lonely solitude. All that he had always needed was the time of day and knowing when the new Opera seasons started and for that he did not need any dates.
With a sigh Erik put the gift on the table without unwrapping it and turned to her, taking her wrists in his hands.
“Christine … I don’t understand.” Erik tried, he truly didn’t and he hoped Christine would see he was sincere, it was all he could do.
For a second his wife looked at him, obviously trying to read his expression through the mask, but failing miserably.
“Forget it.” she sighed. “I guess the novelty of a living wife wore off soon after I stayed.”
What was she saying? Did Christine think he did not love her? How could she think such a thing! She was all he lived for, the air he breathed. How had it come to this?
“Please Christine, I swear …” Erik held her wrists tighter, trying to get her to look him in the eyes, but she pulled herself away with an angry groan.
“You never touch me, we don’t sleep together.” Christine might have said these words in a hoarse whisper, but to Erik each word felt as if he were stabbed with a dagger. “I try to understand it, but it’s hard sometimes. But what I don’t understand …” she sighed sadly. “Never mind. You clearly wanted a live in friend not a wife. I wish you had been clearer about this, husband, because if I wanted to live a life of formality and distance I might as well have become a Viscountess. Then at least I might have had the chance of my husband physically desiring me!”
With that the dagger had fully landed in Erik’s chest and the pain exploded. Things turned black and then red and the room was suddenly suffocating him. Was she leaving him? Had he finally driven her away? From far away he could hear himself shout, plead, then for some insane reason he ripped off his mask, probably because he could no longer breath.
“Christine, please!!” Erik begged in a desperate wail, “Erik doesn’t know what you are talking about! Erik swears he loves you!! Please forgive him!! Don’t leave him!! He does not know what this day is!!”
After that everything became a blur.
The second Christine had uttered her last words she regretted them and wished she could take them back, they were unnecessarily hurtful and by bringing Raoul into it she had truly gone too far. But it was Erik’s response that truly made her wish she could have cut off her stupid tongue before she had spoken. The gasp and the way he stumbled, she could not have hurt him more if she had wounded him with a knife. The sound of his voice as he pleaded reminded her of how much he truly loved her and then … he tore off his mask … and Christine was forced to face his grief in all it’s desperate glory.
“What?” Christine froze in horror as it dawned on her: he truly didn’t understand, he really didn’t know. For the first time in forever she truly looked at Erik, and the pain and misery on his face broke her heart; Of course the poor man didn’t know what Valentine’s Day was!
As Erik collapsed at her feet begging her to forgive him, Christine felt guilt and shame wash through her veins thinking about the horrible things she had said and thought. Poor Erik, what had she done?
“Oh! Oh, my poor Erik!!” She sobbed. “You truly don’t know, do you?”
But Erik did not even hear her, he simply sat weeping uncontrollably at her feet, pleading with her to stay and asking her forgiveness. Feeling nauseous from guilt Christine quickly knelt beside him to take him in her arms.
“Erik, my dear Erik, please forgive me.” Christine murmured, her chin pressed against the top of his head. “I should not have doubted you, I should just have told you in advance instead of expecting you to know.”
For a long time there was no sound, except the harmonious sobs shared between them.
“Christine … believes Erik?” Erik’s strangled voice came finally.
Relieved to hear him speak, Christine covered his forehead in kisses.
“Oh, she does and she is sorry for everything.”
More heavy, weary silence, until Erik’s hoarse voice came again.
“But … what is today? Erik should know for next year.”
But Christine did not even want to think about it any-more, the day had lost it’s lustre and there was no one to blame but herself.
“No, forget it Erik. It’s … not important any-more. You are.” she exclaimed as she rubbed his back.
“But … Christine gave me a gift.” Erik insisted.
Even through tears Erik could not hide the joy of knowing that his wife had bought him a gift and it made Christine feel even worse about it all.
Yes, she had bought him a gift, one little miserable gift compared to all the endless tokens of his love and affection he had given her: dresses, shoes, undergarments, accessories, jewels, flowers, beautiful furniture, his utter devotion to her and her career. Why had she ever doubted him? Erik had given her so much, proved his love for her time and time again and here she was shouting him down for not getting her anything today, simply because …
“It’s Valentines day Erik … a special day for lovers.” she sobbed into his hair. The words felt hollow now.
From below Christine her chin could hear Erik suck in a deep breath as he nodded against her.
“Erik should have known and he begs forgiveness for this error.”
How Christine wished he stopped saying that, stopped placing the blame on himself, he had done nothing wrong.
“It is al-right Erik, I swear. The error was mine, I promise.”
Once more Erik fell silent, but this was not over, she knew, Erik wasn’t calm, something was bothering him still. And sure enough it came.
“You … will not leave Erik for the Viscount?” The fear and desperation was palpable in even that short choked out sentence.
For a moment Christine wished she were a blanket, so she could envelop him completely, fully cover him with her love and regret. But all she had were hugs and kisses.
“No! Oh you poor man, I’m so sorry I was so mean to you. No Erik, I love you, only you.”
Christine felt a shaky sigh of relief course through Erik’s thin body and heard a few soft sniffles. Then nothing was said, not for a long time.
For a while Christine sat there, rocking Erik in her arms, resenting herself and her actions: she had caused Erik a complete breakdown while he had done nothing wrong. Yes, she had been looking forward to her first Valentine’s day with Erik and she longed to be intimate with the man she loved. But to act like this, like a spoiled little girl lashing out … What if he did not touch her out of fear? Why did she keep forgetting that her husband had been through so much pain, more than she could ever imagine. Maybe he needed to be certain he could trust her not to fear him or hurt him. If that was the case she should count herself lucky if this did not drive Erik away into his shell even further.
These were the thoughts going round and round in her head, until she noticed that Erik’s breathing was slowing down to a steady calm; the poor man was falling asleep.
“Erik, would you like to go to bed, sweetie?” Christine asked gently.
A soft shake against her chest was her reply.
“No … I still have things to do … just this a little longer.”
Tired as he might have been, Christine was certain Erik did not sleep at all that night. Every-time she woke up from her slumber she could hear the sound of him pacing around his workroom or the piano playing. Each time she planned to get up and tell him to rest, but knowing how he disliked any disruption when he was composing kept her in bed.
When Christine woke up the next morning she could feel it: Erik was gone. It was strange but the energy of the house was always different without him. A pang of fear went through her: what if all this had to do with what she had said to him yesterday? Erik was very sensitive and might not have let go of what she had said about Raoul. What if he was out doing something stupid?
But no, one look in the dining room told her that Erik was planning on something else entirely.
As she arrived in her dressing gown Christine found a luxurious breakfast laid out especially for her.
Then when she sat down she found that beside the plate there was a wrapped gift and a note.
My Dearest Wife,
Enjoy this breakfast and the gift I made you. I have gone out to prepare you a surprise.
Looking at the note Christine swallowed, was Erik trying to make up for yesterday? But he didn’t have to, she had told him so. It was not his fault at all.
Still, the wrapped box was beckoning her to be opened, and so she did.
The parcel contained a lovely elongated wooden box, within it she found several sheets of music paper filled with Erik’s scribblings. Christine immediately understood that this had to be the music he had been working on and soon found out that it was a liederkreis … especially for her.
“La Douleur de L'amour”, a tale of love and pain centred around several famous tragic tales of love: Madame Bovary, Cyrano de Bergerac, La Belle et la Bête, Notre-Dame de Paris and many others. For those whom seek love pain is never far away being the moral of the story. Now Christine understood Erik’s frantic reading and note-keeping. Reading the libretto and the music had Christine weeping and smiling and feeling warmth in places she did not know existed. Clearly her husband had suffered another sleepless night to have it finished for her as a belated Valentines gift. Why had Erik gone out to buy her something when he himself had made her something so heartfelt and beautiful? It was far more than she felt she deserved.
Today was a rehearsal day, so no matter how much she wanted it, Christine could not wait for Erik to come home and thank him. Especially as she knew that as her tutor he would not be happy to find out he had caused her to neglect any of her musical duties.
Still it was hard to focus on any of the directions and scene blocking when her mind kept turning to Erik. It worried her to think of him going out: what if something happened to him! How she wished she had gone to him the previous night or been up earlier to catch him before he left.
When Christine returned home early that afternoon the electricity in the air told her: Erik was back! But before she could sigh with relief, her eye fell on something red on the floor. For just a brief second her heart stopped: was it blood? Had something happened? But then, looking closer her horror changed into a smile and a warm feeling in her heart: Rose petals! Erik had created a trail of rose petals that led from the hallway to the parlour.
Swiftly following the trail Christine stepped into the livingroom and her breath caught at the sight that met her: baskets and baskets filled with roses making the air smell sweet and mysterious. On the table was a cooling bottle of champagne and several boxes of petit fours, chocolates and other delicacies. There was also a lovely card decorated with roses and cherubs that read:
“May this bow of white which gives you delight and which I send you a token be of Love divine. Oh, will’t thou be My Valentine?”
“Yes ...” Christine whispered, as her eyes begun to sting. “Yes!!”
A second trail led Christine to her bedroom, which she found filled with more baskets of roses. The petal trail itself led her to her bed, which was filled with a layer of even more rose petals and, there, in the midst of it all lay ... a sleeping Erik.
“Oh … oh my love ...” Christine whispered, as she stared at him, tears now freely running down her cheeks.
Looking at her dozing husband broke and warmed Christine’s heart all at once: Erik had obviously been so exhausted that he’d simply fallen asleep mid decorating. Rose petals still clutched in one hand, he was laying in a rather awkward position that couldn’t be comfortable. Meanwhile his other arm other hung limply from the bed, a small wrapped rectangle box had slipped from his grasp to the floor.
Quietly as not to wake him, Christine picked up the box and placed it on her night stand.
Then she took to work on making her Erik more cosy, he deserved his rest. Carefully she eased him into a more comfortable position and then she removed his shoes. Unfortunately when Christine removed his mask, as she knew it could hurt him when he wore it in bed, Erik stirred and sensed her prescense.
“C’stine back …?” He muttered sleepily.
“Yes … Erik ...” Christine said softly, feeling annoyed that she hadn’t succeeded in giving him the rest he clearly needed.
“So sorry … not finished ...” Erik croaked regretfully, but still barely awake.
It stung Christine to hear that Erik clearly felt he had not done enough when he was not even the one who had something to apologise for.
“No, no it’s fine, I loved it, all of it.”
The tired eyes of her husband finally opened a little and he managed to gaze at her, probably making sure she meant what she said. A weary apologetic grin spread on his thin lips.
“Erik … wanted … cook for you ...”
No, he didn’t have to do that, Christine thought as she set herself on the edge of the bed. With a sigh she recalled last night’s dinner: her quiche had collapsed, not that it mattered, no-one had eaten any of it. Knowing Erik, she was certain he probably still hadn’t eaten a thing. It was time she started looking after him the way he looked after her.
“You just get some rest my love,” she said gently, as she begun to stroke his hair. “Don’t worry about anything. You have done more than enough for me.”
For a second Erik seemed to obey her wishes, his eyes falling shut again. But then, obviously realising his surroundings he turned to her with worry.
“Erik … should not sleep in Christine’s bed ...”
Oh! That gave Christine pause for thought: she had forgotten all about the boundaries she had set during the early days. Well, that explained why she had never received any nightly visits, Erik was very strict in any rules surrounding her.
“But Christine wants Erik to sleep in her bed, she would love it if he did so more.” she tried, wanting him to feel as welcome as possible.
“How can a monster sleep in an angel’s bed?” Erik asked, the pleading sadness in his voice making him sound like a sad child, which was probably caused by a memory he had regressed back to.
An angel? She had hardly been an angel for him recently and he certainly was not a monster, far from it.
“Oh Erik, please you are not a monster.” Christine forced out, even as the lump of sadness in her throat tried to gag her. "Please believe me. It hurts me when you say this.”
A tragic little sound escaped Erik as he closed his eyes and turned his face away from her.
“But I am Christine … how else could I fall asleep here in this sacred room? Why would I think about wanting … taking ... more from you than a kiss …?”
A jolt went through Christine: More from her than a kiss? What did Erik mean? Had sleep deprivation weakened him and was he confessing to things she had longed to hear for months?
“More …?” She urged feverishly. “What do you mean?”
A shuddering sigh from the bed, Erik clenched his fists and curled in on himself in clear shame, still the requested confession came.
“Vile things … I dream of touching your bare arms … holding you close … There are feelings … Erik doesn’t understand but he is certain they are impure. I force myself to stay awake to keep these dreams at bay … Please understand, I would never taint you with my sinful mind. Erik promises he will never act on any of his impure desires. That is why I so rarely touch you Christine … I fear that where I to touch you more often … feel your skin ... I would be overwhelmed and …” then Erik’s voice faltered.
For a second Christine just sat there, her mouth agape, almost forgetting to breath. That poor man, all these months he had lived in silent misery, certain that the completely natural act of desiring his own wife was a sin. He had deprived himself of sleep and pleasure out of respect for her, while all she had wanted was what he so clearly yearned for too.
“… act on your dreams?” she whispered. “But Erik … these feelings are natural … I have them too!”
A sad drowsy eye opened a little, then shut again.
“For the Viscount?” he whispered miserably.
“No my love, for you!” Christine insisted.
A gasp from Erik as he turned to face her.
“Erik must be very tired to be hallucinating this lucidly.” he almost scoffed, clear disbelieve so plainly written on his face it almost made Christine laugh.
“Yes Erik, I do believe you are very tired my dear, but I meant what I said. I would not mind to act out some of your dreams and you can touch my bare arms whenever you like.”
She held out her arm for Erik to touch which he did far to carefully and reverently for her liking.
“Hold me close Erik.” Christine then smiled as she kicked off her shoes and crawled into bed with him. She hoped holding him a while would send him back to sleep. Her husband had to be well rested to enjoy all the things she had in mind now she knew that his love for her was not quite as platonic as she had thought it was.
“Christine … I love you … Please … say you’ll stay with me ...” Erik’s sleepy voice pleaded as she crawled into his arms.
A shaky sight escaped Christine, the guilt once again twisting inside her: she would make this up to him, all of it, she swore. Softly she moved even closer to her Erik and half whispered half sang to him, as she ran her hands through his hair. She sang Gounod’s Nuit D’Hyménée from Romeo and Julia, which he himself had once sang to her as he had collected her from the Masquerade.
M’enchaîne à toi sans retour,
Ô volupté de vivre,
Ô charmes tout puissants !
Ton doux regard m’enivre,
Ta voix ravit mes sens !
Sous tes baisers de flamme
Le ciel rayonne en moi,
Je t’ai donné mon âme ;
À toi, toujours à toi.
As she sang she was relieved to see that Erik seemed to believed her, the tension faded and he relaxed into her embrace.
“Oh … Christine ...” Erik muttered as a tear slid from his eye. “Thank you.”
Carefully Christine wiped away the tear with a kiss. “I love you.” she whispered and then she sang again, over and over until Erik was lulled into a peaceful slumber.
Once she was certain that Erik was fast asleep Christine slipped from his arms and climbed out of bed. Carefully she covered Erik with her bedspread to keep him warm and then brushed some stray rose petals from her dress. As quiet as a mouse she then picked up her shoes and tiptoed from the room on her stockinged feet.
Who needed Valentines day when every day can be a day for lovers? Christine mused as she took the shopping basket and went to town. Tonight she would spoil her Erik with all the treats she knew he liked: They would have crunchy baguettes, fine wine, a selection of cheeses fresh fruit and lots of other scrumptious things by candle light.
Even more importantly she would dress in her most becoming outfit and sing for him some of the more seductive melodies she knew as she massaged his tense shoulders. Then, once he was putty in her hands … A shiver ran down her spine at the thought of what she would do then!
Suddenly she hastened her pace as a delicious idea sprang to her mind: first and foremost she would buy some delicate silken undergarments, the most striking she could find!
Tonight Erik would receive a very special gift and she’d make certain that this time he would unwrap it.
Nuit d’hyménée !
Ô douce nuit d’amour !