Erik’s life had become immeasurably better ever since he had heard Christine Daaé sing for the first time. Being her tutor gave him something to live for: his days were filled with her; nothing but her. What would he teach her next? How long till the next lesson? what would he write for her? How long till the next lesson?! What would they talk about? How long till the next lesson?!! Could he help her with anything? How long till the next lesson?!!!
It was bliss to have someone who needed you, who wanted to be near you … even if they thought you were an invisible angel. Being an Angel had brought him heaven.
Sadly three weeks a year he still lived in hell. These were the weeks when there was no Christine, no light, no joy … These where the weeks when she went … on holiday!!
When Christine first mentioned holidays Erik had not understood: why would people go on holiday? Why would Christine?! Did she not look forward to her lessons as much as he did? Would she neglect her voice simply to have fun?
He had made his displeasure known rather more forcefully than he had intended and Christine had cried. Feeling immediately guilty Erik had ended the lesson abruptly to go home and punish himself and over-think the situation.
The first thing he knew once he could think again was that he should let her go on holiday: Christine was young and needed to have fun with her friends away from the Opera. It was just that the days would be so long and lonely without her. The very idea of being alone with his horrible thoughts again made him want to weep.
It also worried him that Christine would be away for so long. What would happen to her voice? And wouldn’t she expect an angel to spirit itself away and follow her anywhere she went? Oh, if only he could!
Could he give her lessons on holiday? He pondered crawling into the suitcase booth of the carriage or even clinging to the roof but soon realised that even for him these thoughts were ridicules. Where would he stay? How and where would they meet so he could teach her the way he did in the Opera? What if he missed out on the carriage home. Then … worst of all: he would be outside, in plain sight, among people. Among crowds!! The very thought gave him a panic attack. No, no matter how much it hurt him, he knew that there was no feasible way to join her on the trip.
The next day Erik had calmed down and the angel told a beaming Christine that her holiday was allowed if she promised to have as much fun as she possibly could. Thankfully he had also come up with an excuse to explain his absence during her trip: The Angel only had permission to teach her in the Opera, as it was the temple of music. But he did give her a short list of vocal exercises that he made her swear to run through daily, insisting the Angel could tell if she had missed as much as a day!
A few days later Christine had left and Erik had never been more lonely in his life.
The first day without Christine he had simply sat curled up hopelessly in a corner of his house as he rocked himself.
The next day he stood up and decided that to fill the dark void of emptiness he might try to compose something for Christine to welcome her back once she returned. But only the most darkest of music would flow from him. Still he kept at it day and night: not eating, not sleeping, as he knew that the moment he stopped the loneliness would be overwhelming, stabbing at him like a knife.
For almost two weeks Erik kept this up, until he finally blacked out and keeled over from exhaustion. Broken and deleterious he sobbed and screamed for Christine until his body finally allowed him some rest as it shut down. Sick with exhaustion he slept on the floor for days on end.
When Erik finally woke up he felt feverish and ached all over. Worryingly he was also severely weakened from malnutrition and dehydration and barely had the strength to crawl to his storage room to search for food and water.
Unfortunately that same strength deserted him in mere moments: During the slow feeble crawl through his lair Erik collapsed before making it even halfway. For a long time he lay on the cold, rocky ground: too weak to move or even cry.
This was how the Daroga found him. Realising what was wrong Mirza had forcefully made Erik drink water from a flask he had with him. Erik had no idea why the Daroga would find it necessary to carry such a flask, but at that moment he did not care, all he wanted was to drink the desperately needed fluid.
After that … Erik could not remember much … There was nothing till the moment he had woken up on his sofa from the smell of soup that wafted through his home. In his disorientated state this was confusing: how could there be soup while he had been unconscious? It was impossible: Erik would never make himself such an extravagant meal. Still his stomach cramped and his mouth watered. It had been so dangerously long since he ate that his tongue involuntarily slipped out and for a brief second he tried to lick the air out of sheer hunger. Then his senses regained themselves and he decided getting up to get a bowl of goodness might be more beneficial.
It wasn’t, as the moment he tried to lift his head the world spun and he fell back onto his pillow. He could not move, he could not stand: how had he managed to to make it onto the couch? How had he made that soup? Perhaps … there was no soup and it was all inside his mind.
Just when Erik had decided that he was probably still on the floor of his lair awaiting death, the door opened and to his horror the Daroga stepped intro the room … wearing an apron! At first Erik thought it was just another part of his hallucinations. That would not be surprising after what he had put himself through.
“Ah, good. you’re awake!” Mirza frowned down on him despairingly, his arms crossed across his stomach.
“Why ...” Erik tried weakly, but his speech refused to come out coherently and his eyes kept falling shut.
“Erik … what have you been doing to yourself?” The Daroga said despairingly. “I did not save you from the Shah’s torture just so you could go and inflict it yourself.”
A sad look crossed Mirza’s face as he gazed down upon him and in his ailing state Erik wished to believe the man cared for him, that someone did. So he forced his broken body to speak to his oldest acquaintance so he might understand.
“‘Stine’s son … non … on h’lday...” Erik slurred in a broken moan. He hoped the man would even understand him. To his surprise he did.
“Christine is on holiday?” Mirza cried out in frustration. “Is a few weeks without her enough to get you in this state?”
“Yes ...” Erik sighed wearily.
The Daroga closed his eyes as he rubbed his face, as if he were trying to control his temper, then he looked at Erik and shook his head sadly.
“But she is coming back my friend, you know that ...”
A sob escaped Erik as he realised that the man might truly care but did not understand how it had been to be alone with just his tortuous mind these last few weeks.
“Without her … the ... darkness returns …” Erik forced out in despair.
At his words Mirza’s face softened and a sadness appeared in his eyes. “Erik ...” he sighed. Then he closed his eyes again for a second as he swallowed and seemed to make a decision.
“When will she return?” he asked as he sat himself in the chair besides the couch.
“I … don’t know … what day it is …?” Erik said in a hazy voice, still willing himself not to sink back into unconsciousness.
“It is July the 25th.” Mirza offered.
A slight wheeze escaped Erik before his shaky breath allowed him to reply.
“Three days … three more days!” Oh, the date she returned was engraved into his heart and Erik’s mind immediately turned to how he would celebrate her return. But then Mirza’s voice suddenly pulled him back into reality:
“Three days to get well enough so you can teach her again … wouldn’t you say?”
A startled shock went through Erik as his eyebrows flew up. Get well!! Of course!! He had not thought about that!! He was too weak to even walk or stand! How would he be able to reach the mirror and sing for her when she returned? How was he going to look after himself when he could not even find the strength to walk to the kitchen? Once again Mirza’s voice pulled him back:
“I think you might not object to me staying a while …”
Another shock went through Erik: The Daroga … Mirza … staying … in his house? The very idea was horrific, unthinkable …! But what choice did he have? This was his own fault for wallowing in his depression to the point of nearly killing himself by accident.
“Only if you remove that ridicules apron.” He tried to scoff teasingly, the weakness of his voice failing him miserably.
Mirza sniggered as he wiggled an eyebrow at Erik:
“Hey, this is an expensive suit, I am not spilling soup onto that!”
Soup!! Ah! The very word was like a punch in the stomach and a desperate hunger made Erik groan in misery as his stomach cried out in despair.
“Going by that sound I think I might be right in guessing you are hungry?”
A wretched Erik could only gasp something that expressed his agreement, overtaken as he was by the sudden burning pain in his gut.
Too weak to do anything, Erik was propped up on the couch to be hand fed by the Daroga, much to his humiliation. But soon his shame was forgotten when the first bite of food entered his mouth. After that nothing existed but food: Food to take away the gnawing, pounding hunger in his abused body.
For the next two days Erik’s world consisted of nothing but sleep which was only interrupted by Mirza waking him to make him eat or drink. By the third day Erik was able to sit up and talk a little. But to his worry he was not near strong enough to do so for long. Getting up to walk anywhere wasn’t even in the realms of possibility. Erik was horrified: Christine would come back that night and expected her angel to be there again in her dressing room to teach her the next day!!
At first Mirza just smirked smugly and told him gleefully that it was his own fault for letting himself get into that state in the first place. But when Erik begun shaking violently from panic and upset he knew something had to be done. This extreme state of upset was dangerous for Erik’s fragile health. So, much to his better judgement, Mirza sat down with Erik that afternoon to come up with a rather harebrained plan.
Christine Daaé would never know of the dark days where an increasingly exasperated Daroga and Darius carried a desperately ill Erik up the Opera house’s endless flights of stairs to the dressing room mirror where the weakened man would sing and teach her until he collapsed from exhaustion only to repeat the same action the next day.
It took a full two weeks until Erik regained enough of his strength to make it up a few flights by himself. It took even longer until he could make it all the way up by himself again. Then longer still for him to gather the strength to make it back by himself as well, after an exhausting lesson.
The next holiday season came round far too soon for anybodies liking and this time Mirza was prepared for an intervention. Knowing Erik would never listen to any reasonable requests the Daroga simply blackmailed him with an ultimatum instead: While Christine was away Erik would stay his at home every year. If not he would tell Christine the truth about who exactly her so called Angel was.
Despite protests, threats and generally expressing his absolute displeasure, deep down Erik was only too glad to be bullied into this. Barely recovered from his ordeal from the previous year, he had not been looking forward to a repeat performance of the days of agony and loneliness.
And so Erik came, every year: enjoying three weeks of talking, leisure and … light. To his surprise he found himself coming away reinvigorated, well fed and … happy. Sometimes a nagging part of his mind wished he could stay longer. But he could not: as he knew that Christine had returned and was waiting for her Angel.
Five years later:
Erik felt deliciously lazy that day and allowed his sleepy eyes to close as he breathed in the he fresh, clean, salty breeze of the sea. As there was a slight chill in the air he had allowed his lovely, but overly fussy, wife to wrap a blanket around him after sitting down on his deckchair.
The sea side was wonderful and Erik so wished he had been able to enjoy it they way he was now far sooner.
The years since that breakdown had gone fast: three years of teaching and composing, only interrupted by those annual weeks in Mirza’s company.
Then one day, unexpectedly, things had changed quickly: that boy had arrived and almost taken his Christine from him. Oh, he had truly thought he’d lost her. But somehow she had returned! After all that had happened she had returned.
When poor Christine came to his house and found his unconscious and emaciated body on the floor, she thought he had died. Had she not come back to him that day he was certain he would have, very soon.
But he lived: thanks to Christine’s care and Mirza’s help. The first thing they did was take him away from the house beyond the lake to bring him to Christine’s new apartment. There kindness, rest, medicine, food and sunlight were allowed to do their work. And kisses, so many kisses. Enough to make up for a lifetime without receiving as much as a smile.
Erik and Christine had married as soon he had been strong enough to make it to a discreet city office in a wheelchair. It had been the happiest day of his life, even though he had cried all the way through the ceremony.
Being a happily married man had made him regain some of his strength, but unfortunately, despite his new-found bliss, his recovery had been despairingly slow.
Still, Erik never truly complained about this: why would he when all he had ever dreamed of was within reach: Christine loved him!! They were married and lived in a house full of light and music. He had a best friend who visited daily and truly cared about him. There was no room in his life for complaining.
His wife and best friend did worry about him, on the other hand. They were aware of how soon his energy was depleted and noticed that cough he tried to hide and looked for ways to boost his health. Soon that opportunity would arrive.
With a new holiday season approaching their private doctor told Christine and Mirza that taking Erik to a convalescence resort in the South of France for the summer would be beneficial for his recovery.
Immediately plans were made, then rooms and tickets booked and here they were now, with Erik enjoying the first true holiday of his life and being happier than he had ever thought possible.
Days existed of nothing but rest, healthy food, walks along the beach, visiting the little town and … spending time with his wife and his best friend. It wasn’t long before the results of all this bore their fruits: every day Erik woke up feeling a little stronger, every day he could walk a little longer. His cough lessened and his frame, that had at one point been nothing close to skeletal, was slowly starting to fill out a little. Erik didn’t know what made him happier: the fact his health was restoring or the look of relief in his wife’s eyes every time he made it through a romantic walk on the beach without losing his breath and having to sit down halfway though. It was only now that he realised how worried she had been about him.
Having finished his dozy reminiscence a soft smile stirred at the corners of Erik’s mouth as he squinted a little at the setting sun. It had been another wonderful day and there were many more still to come. He sighed and stretched lazily as he pondered between getting up for cocktails or remain in his comfortable chair to look at the sun.
Suddenly the decision was made for him as a cocktail appeared on the table beside him and a strong hand squeezed Erik’s shoulder in a friendly way. Without having to look up, Erik knew who it was.
“Life’s good, ‘eh, Erik …?” the voice of his friend sounded above him.
“It is, Mirza …” Erik smiled blissfully. “It is.”