“Erik … Erik ...” A sweet voice called. Through a sleep haze Erik was vaguely aware that the owner of the lovely voice was shaking him, in the hope he’d wake up.
For a second Erik doubted if he truly wished to wake up, he’d rarely slept as comfortably as he was doing right now. It truly felt as if he had received some actual rest.
“Erik, come on my love!”
My love! Ah, the sweet voice belonged to his wonderful wife! If it was her calling for him, how could he refuse?! With a happy sigh he turned towards the sound of the voice and opened his eyes.
Oh, what joy to wake up to this! Erik thought, seeing the sight that met his blurry vision: Christine! His sweet Christine standing there in her blue dressing gown, her still tangled bed hair falling loosely over her shoulders.
“Good-morning Erik!” she smiled.
“It always is when I see you, my angel.” Erik said warmly, his voice still rough with sleep.
It was only then that he realised: why was Christine up already? It was always him who was first: it was his rule! He would always get up at four and prepare the house for Christine: clean, light the fires, do chores that needed doing and prepare breakfast. Only then he would wake her up with a cup of tea. Everything had to be perfect for his dear wife.
“What … what are you doing up, Christine? What time is it?” he asked, a mild hint of anxiety in his voice.
“Nine ...” the girl shrugged carelessly.
“Nine ...” he repeated dully, not grasping it yet, but then it hit him: “NINE!! But … how? Did I forget to set the alarm? I really shouldn’t have slept this long! The house, it is not ready! My dear, what must you think of me?!”
The thought of Christine having to wake up to a cold, empty house while he was lazing about in bed was a horror to him: it simply would not do! To his surprise Christine did not seem upset in the slightest, on the contrary; his wife sat herself down on the edge of the bed to wrap her arms around him and nozzle his neck.
“You didn’t forget the alarm,” she cooed, “I turned it off for you last night and what I think of you is that you must have been pretty tired to sleep for over five hours longer.”
A confused Erik turned his head to look at her in surprise. “You turned off my alarm? But why would you do that Christine?”
A gentle rubbing of her hands on his shoulders made him shiver in delight and Erik knew that no reason she would give for this strange action could ever upset him.
“Two reasons …” Christine said kindly, but with a clear firm undertone. “Number one, I never want you to leave our marital bed at such a ridicules hour again. I want to wake up in your arms, kiss you and … maybe do some other stuff you’d like and two, I needed the time to prepare you a surprise.”
With that Christine released him to step of the bed. Had she done so earlier Erik would have been annoyed that she had so cruelly cut short her ministrations. Now he barely noticed as he swallowed almost audibly hearing those ominous words:
“A … a surprise?”
A big smile begun to spread on Christine’s face as she lifted a delicious looking breakfast tray Erik had failed to notice from her dressing-table and brought it towards him.
“Christine … what?” Now Erik was truly bewildered: First Christine had turned off his alarm and now she had made him breakfast in bed? Why ever would she do such a thing?
“Happy birthday Erik!!” Christine then beamed at him.
What? For a second Erik could only stare at her in dumbfounded confusion. Happy birthday? Had she gone insane?
“Christine … what … what is this?” Erik stammered anxiously. “You know very well that Erik has no birthday!”
A slight knowing giggle emerged from Christine. “Yes you do.” and with that she simply placed the breakfast tray on his lap. For a second Erik stared at it eagerly: Oh, it looked good, Christine had put a lot of thought into this, all the things he loved but never allowed himself to have were laying before him. Still he could not eat any of this before his wife explained to him why he suddenly had a birthday he knew nothing about.
“No Christine, Erik does not have a birthday! I do not know the month of my birth nor how old I am … Please, stop this, why do you think it’s my birthday?”
With a gentle smile on her face Christine stood in silence for a second as she touched the leaves of the rose she had thoughtfully put on his tray, then she looked at him again.
“Because I decided that it is, from this day on.” She shrugged mysteriously, as if that explained enough. But it only made Erik feel more uncertain about her intentions.
“But … why?” he muttered, he could not imagine what he might have done that warranted Christine spoiling him like this. Monsters don’t deserve birthdays, he had been told by his parents. It was what he believed as well, why he had never cared to find out when he was born.
“You deserve it, my love. You deserve to be the one who receives treats and care for a change.” Christine said, her care for him clear in her voice. “You see Erik, every day you run yourself ragged looking after me, afraid I might love you less if you fail at perfection. I know that no matter what I say, I can never convince you otherwise, but I want a chance to do the same for you. So I decided: I wanted to have a special day just for you.”
A shocked gasp escaped Erik hearing Christine say these things: she really thought he was worthy of this?
“A special day for .. Erik?” he muttered in an almost childlike voice. Christine took his hand and pressed a kiss in it.
“Yes, a special day for Erik where I can spoil him and show him how much he means to me.”
Silence, a long heavy silence where Erik took in what he just heard: his sweet, wonderful Christine had created a day, just for him? To spoil and love him? Such kindness, and so, so much more than an old, hideous monster deserved.
“Oh … Christine!” he suddenly heard himself sob and he realised he was crying.
“Erik!” Christine said warmly. Swiftly she put the tray back on the table and then crawled into bed to hold him. “Oh, don’t cry my love, this is a happy day.” she murmured as she rubbed his back.
“I … am … happy!!” Erik said between big sobbing gasps. “But I don’t ...”
“No! Stop, don’t tell me that you do not deserve it. Because you do.” Christine said fiercely. “No one deserves a birthday or kindness or whatever you might call it more than you do. For so long you have been my guardian, my husband, my tutor and much, much more. I love you Erik and I want to give you more than I have done till now.”
More? Erik thought, as he ran his hand through her hair, how could there be more than Christine?
“You are with me, that is all I need I don’t need anything more than you to be with me.” Erik said as he wound one of her long curls around his finger.
“And I will be my love, always,” Christine said as she looked him in the eyes. “But that doesn’t mean I can not spoil you or look after you, or … give you a present!” Carefully she took a small box out of a pocket in her dressing gown and placed it in Erik’s hands. For a few seconds Erik stared at it silently, looking as if she were a magician and he the little boy trying to figure out what trickery she had just performed for him.
“A present … for me?” he then asked, still sounding as if he could not believe this was real.
“Yes, the birthday boy gets a present, that is what happens on days like this.” Christine said, her cheerful voice urging him to unwrap.
“A present ...” Erik muttered, lovingly stroking the wrapped gift. He had only received a present once before, it had also come from Christine: it was a gift for their first Christmas together. Completely overwhelmed Erik had wept uncontrollably in her arms for three hours, which was something that he forced himself not to do now. It would not do to burden Christine with all that, she was trying to make him happy and if he kept wasting time crying over every little thing she did for him there would be no room to enjoy it for either of them. Still he couldn’t stifle the little sob that escaped him.
“Thank you, thank you so much.” He whispered.
“Erik, you haven’t even opened it!” Christine giggled.
“It is a gift from you Christine, it has already brought me more joy than you could ever imagine.” He didn’t want to unwrap it, he just wanted to cherish this moment: he and Christine on the bed, happy and together and her having bought him a gift. It was perfect, it was blissful happiness.
“Erik, open it!” Christine urged, she smiled, but Erik could see the insistence in her eyes.
And so he did, slowly and carefully Erik opened the wrapping paper to find a little box. Erik frowned: he immediately knew where she had bought this; Boucheron, a very expensive jeweller where he had often ordered gifts for Christine. Why would Christine purchase him something so extravagant and expensive?
“Christine, no!” Erik sounded almost offended. This is from Boucheron!! I could not possibly accept this! It must have cost you a fortune!” It was not right for his wife to waste her money on him like that.
“Erik, don’t be silly.” Christine sounded long suffering. “I do earn my own money at the Opera, you know. You never let me spend a single penny of it, as you buy me everything before I even know I need it. So I saved up to buy you something instead.”
That was true, he knew she had money but he wanted her to save it, so she had something for herself should she need it one day. That money was for her future and not for giving gifts to Erik.
“But ...” he begun, but then he halted: Christine looked almost crushed. Of course she was, he immediately realised: his poor wife had gone through a lot of effort doing something nice for him and all he did was question and refuse her.
“Please open the box Erik,” Christine’s voice was strained now. “Open the box and see what I got you. It is for you and you only, as I designed it.”
It took a second for Erik to realise: his Christine had created something for him?
“What? You … Oh!” For a second Erik swooned at the thought, then he hastily opened the box to find … the most wonderful golden pocket watch he had ever seen. His shaking hands lifted it to look clearer, to see the engraving on the top that was designed by his wife’s loving hand.
There was an angel standing on a cloud between two music keys, above him floated the notes from the chorus of the first aria he had ever written for her. So much thought and care had gone into this. Christine, his Christine had drawn this, for him!!
“Beautiful … so … so beautiful …” Erik said as he kept staring at the wonderful gift. Was this for him? Truly for him?
“Click it open, it’s engraved.” Christine purred in his neck.
To overcome to speak, Erik could only nod and obey. With a gentle click the watch snapped open to reveal a dedication to Erik from his wife, accompanied by lyrics from the final trio from Faust, his favourite opera:
À ma bien-aimée Erik,
Oui, c'est toi! je t'aime!
Les fers, la mort même
ne me font plus peut.
Tu m'as retrouvée!
Me voilà sauvée!
Je suis sur ton coeur!
À toi pour toujours Christine
“Oh …” Erik sighed, not even knowing if he could ever speak or react again. All this she had done for him? “Christine ...” he sighed, and immediately her arms were around him. Unable to keep himself together any-more he just sank against her and wept silently, whispering “Thank you” between every sob.
“You like it then, Erik?” He heard Christine whisper in his hair. Oh, he did, and there were so many ways in which he wanted to thank her, but he could only nod. For a while Erik just sat there in silence. There were kisses and hugs from his wife, but it took some time for him to reach some form of actual coherence again. This was more than he’d ever expect to receive in his life.
“I love you so much ...” he then heard Christine in his neck.
A delighted shiver coursed through Erik, she loved him! Those words, no matter how many times she’d say them to him, they would always be new and overwhelming for him who had never known love till now. And he loved her too, so, so much! Carefully he turned to wrap his beloved into an embrace, holding her against him, his wife, his Christine, his angel. Then he told her what was in his heart.
“I … love you more than life, than music … you are what I breath, what eat, what I dream of. You are light itself, healing, loving light!”
Now it was Christine’s turn to utter a sob and a whimper as she lifted her head to look at him. Love was in those eyes, love for him. She looked at him with love in her eyes!
“My dearest love ...” she whispered, as she caressed his sunken cheek.
“Angel ...” Erik sighed, pulling her closer to him. He wanted to kiss her, hold her, his Christine in his arms forever! But just as he was about to kiss her with all his might, Christine suddenly started.
“Oh Erik, your breakfast!!” She cried out. “Shall I make you some fresh tea? It must be cold by now.”
The breakfast, ah yes! Now though it had looked delicious, the only thing he truly yearned for, craved most in the universe was already in his arms, and he was not about to let her go!
“Later, later!” Erik exclaimed more forcefully than necessary. “There are two things I need to know.” his voice shuddered, a breathless sound that spoke of the longing rising in him. Clearly aware of what the sound of his voice entailed Christine’s mouth curled into a seductive grin.
“Of course …” she purred as the nail of her index finger begun to trace his spine, making Erik feel all kinds of wonderful things.
“That other stuff you had in mind that you would want to do with me in the morning …” he asked, licking his lips that had gone dry from desire.
“Yes …” she demurred.
“Would you be interested in … doing that right now?” he sounded cautious, always keenly aware of the part of him that still feared her refusal. But there was no need to worry as Christine rose to her knees and slowly slid her dressing gown from her perfect shoulders.
“More than anything …” her voice had now sank to a husky tone and Erik begun feeling rather warm.
“Good, good …” he forced out as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“What is the other question?” she cooed, her face close to him.
Other question? Oh yes, he remembered now, there had been two questions. With Christine so tantalisingly close it almost seemed a waste of time to be talking, but he really wanted to know.
“Why … did you pick today as my birthday?” He asked as he pulled her with him to lay down to make it easier to talk and hold her close to him.
“Don’t you remember what happened today?” Christine said in a small voice, the tone almost disappointed. Poor Christine, how easily she forgot about his life before her, he kissed her forehead and then he answered.
“How can I my angel?” Erik said gently, as he stroked her hair. “I have lived below for so long I am rarely aware of any day or date.”
As he had hoped the disappointment faded as Christine laughed, remembering how utterly hopeless he was about remembering any dates. It was a simple fact: all he had always needed to know was what time it was and what Opera would be performed when. At least it had been like that before Christine, he might be wise to change that habit now there was a loving wife who had a birthday, loved her seasonal holidays. There was also their wedding date and perhaps one day they would celebrate Mother’s Day as well?
“Oh Erik, remind me to buy you a calendar.” Christine snorted good-naturedly, but then she turned serious again, “The reason I picked today is because … today marks an anniversary for us: It is the day that you first sang to me, the day you became my Angel of Music. It may not be the day that you were actually born, but it is the day that you were born for me.”
The day that you were born for me. For a moment Erik could only stare at her and let those words sink in. How did she know? The day that he had sang for her was the first time he had ever felt truly alive. When she had answered his call he had felt that he had a purpose, a reason to live.
“Oh, Christine!” he sighed, what had he done to deserve such a generous and loving wife?
Joy filled him as he slowly moved forward, until his lips reached hers.
“Happy birthday Erik ...” Christine sighed breathlessly, awaiting his kiss. As Erik looked into her beckoning eyes his body begun to tingle with love, devotion, passion and all sorts of other emotions. Then he kissed her deeply and longingly, hoping to make her feel all the love and devotion that was swirling inside of him, while his arms embraced her with all his might.
Yes, Christine was right: this was his birthday and he would celebrate this day for the rest of his life!!