“But everyone will notice!!” Christine whined as she scowled into her boudoir mirror.
The previous night Christine had felt the tell-tale itchy throb of a beginning pimple on her forehead, but hoped against hope that it was just her imagination.
But sadly, no. Here she was, hours before a gala night facing the biggest pimple she had ever seen. It was red, angry and so big Christine expected it to develop an eye so it could stare back at her gleefully. The worst thing was that it was right there, in the middle of her forehead, unavoidable and prominent.
It was the first thing she had seen when she looked into the mirror that morning and it had occupied her mind ever since. For most of the day she had tried to find ways of covering it, but it was no use. No matter how many layers of make-up she piled on, the pimple shone right through it. By now her nerves were in tatters and her mind had ran through various horror scenarios, sure as she was that everyone could see the big red thing from miles away. Carlotta would laugh at her, the ballet girls would tease and giggle, Madame Giry would surely make a sarcastic remark. Obviously all first rows would see it and point and worse … hackle her!!
“I … could wear a hat or a veil ...” Christine mumbled hesitatingly as she touched the pimple again.
A weary sigh came from behind her. Poor Erik, Christine thought wistfully, he had tried to comfort her all day from the moment she came back into the bedroom tearfully after that look in the mirror.
He had held her and told her it would be al right. Not once but probably a hundred times.
“Christine, I promise you, I can barely see it. You are my beautiful angel. No-one will notice, because everyone will be mesmerised by your voice.”
But she had scoffed at her caring fiancee’s words and his well meant attempts at comforting her.
When Erik felt that, clearly, his words had no effect he had tried singing to her, made her her favourite breakfast and patiently listened to her fears and complaints.
For the last few hours he had sat with her in her bedroom and watched her as she prepared, sometimes offering advice.
All he had received for these efforts so far was her being irritable and short with him. By now it was clear that even his endless patience with her was beginning to wear thin.
“Don’t be silly Christine,” Erik groaned tiredly, “you can’t perform at the gala with a hat or a veil.”
Annoyed at his boring, reasonable, response Christine stuck out her tongue at the mirror. Why didn’t he get it?
“Though you could wear a hat at the reception afterwards ...” Erik offered hesitantly, clearly noticing her annoyance at his advice.
“But then they will have seen it already anyway. Stop being so stupid Erik!! Have you seen how big this pimple is?!” Christine snapped, as she rolled her eyes at him. “Why not come up with something practical?”
For a second she noticed how Erik stiffened behind her, he had grown rather quiet as the day had progressed. But still he remained as patient as he’d always been with her till now. Then her focus returned to the thing on her forehead again, had it grown again? Almost involuntarily her fingers went to touch it again.
“Stop touching it Christine,” Erik’s voice brought her back, “it will only get bigger with what you are doing.”
Then he sighed and closed his eyes, it looked as if he was composing himself. After a second he gave her a tight smile and left the room, returning with a brush, a comb and some scissors seconds later.
“Well, a practical solution would be for me to give you a cute fringe.” Erik said, trying to sound cheerful. “Though of course that would be a rather long term solution for a short term problem.”
A fringe?!! Christine pondered. That could actually work!! Her hair was thick and would cover it completely.
“Do you think a fringe would suit me?” She asked eagerly.
For a second Erik looked at her, his eyes practically beaming into her.
“Everything suits you Christine.” He said earnestly.
That was enough to reassure Christine.
“Then cut me a fringe Erik.”
With that Erik took to work, laying out the tools and preparing her hair. A minute later Erik made his first snip and the moment the first lock of her hair fell sadly to the ground was the exact moment where Christine started having second thoughts.
“Wouldn’t people guess I was hiding something?” She asked so urgently it almost startled Erik and he swiftly had to jerk his hand away from the vicinity of her face.
“Why would they?” He asked, squinting at how the fringe looked so far.
“Meg and Carlotta would suspect something when I suddenly appeared with a new hairdo.” Christine voiced her new worry, drawing a fresh sigh from Erik.
“Thousands of people decide on new hairdo’s every day. Why would you be different?” The impatience was beginning to show in Erik’s voice. “Please, Christine, let’s finish this and start your warm ups. We’ve lost enough time as it is.”
But Christine wasn’t finished yet, she hopped from her chair and begun to pace. Warm up could wait. She had a lot more on her mind and Erik would be hearing all of it!!
“I’ll be dancing during my recital. What if the fringe flapped up and people saw anyway? What then? I’d look a fool, because everyone would know why I’d suddenly had this fringe cut ...”
For a second Erik closed his eyes again, his hands clenching and unclenching several times. Then he marched to Christine and brought her back into the chair.
“Sit!” He commanded, clearly at the end of his patience with her. “I know what I’m doing, I’ll make sure it doesn’t flap. Christine, why make such a point of something so little that no-one will care about in the long run?”
Angry by his uncharacteristic roughness with her Christine eyed him daringly. “Because this isn’t the long run Erik!! This is now!!”
Ignoring her remark for a moment Erik started preparing her hair again, trying to match where he’d make his second cut to where he’d made the first.
“Why do you think people will make a fuss about it?” He asked after a while. “I think you’re making the situation as well as this tiny pimple bigger than it actually is.”
Still fuming Christine took an undue offence at Erik’s casual tone. Could he not understand how terrible this was for her?
“That is easy for you to say.” Christine snapped, the words escaping her before she could even give them a thought. “Do you have any idea what it is like to be scrutinised? How cruel people can be when you look anything less than perfect?”
An icy silence fell into the room when Christine realised the magnitude of what she had said and Erik stared at her with such contempt it took her breath away. With a calm silence he then removed his mask and handed it to her slowly, almost mockingly.
“Perhaps Madame would like to wear this tonight?” He said in a voice that cut through her like a knife. “I couldn’t bear the thought of people fainting at the sight of her gruesome deformity."
With that he turned away and left the room without giving her another look, leaving Christine feeling like the biggest heel in history.
Sitting in silence at her boudoir Christine began to realise how childish her behaviour had been. What in the world had she been thinking, complaining an entire day about a blemish that would leave by itself in a few days time? Sure, the fact that it had decided to appear hours before a gala was annoying, but going on and on about it to Erik … To Erik of all people. What a saint he had been to put up with it for as long as he did.
There was no easy way of apologising for this, Christine knew, she had unwittingly hurt Erik to the core. She had told a man who had been mocked, beaten, abused and rejected by all of society simply for how he looked that he had no idea what it was like to be scrutinised. Had she become so self absorbed that she had forgotten whom she was talking to? What was a few silly people giggling about her pimple compared to the hell Erik had faced all his life because of his poor face?
Christine looked at herself in the mirror again, giving the foolish girl that her eyes met an angry glare. Now, with her priorities shifted she could see that Erik had been right: you barely saw the pimple that had only seconds ago consumed her life.
“What where you thinking?” she muttered to herself.
Making a decision she went to her sink, opened the warm water tab and got herself some soap. Then she began to methodically wash all the make up from her face.
A few moments later Christine found a forlorn looking Erik sitting at the piano in a darkened music room. Coming in she turned on the light, making Erik flinch and swiftly wipe at his eyes, though the red rims she saw when he eventually looked at her betrayed what he was trying to hide.
“Erik, I … I’m so sorry.” Christine tried when the long stretched out silence between them became unbearable.
Erik shrugged but didn’t reply, instead he began to play a scale on the piano.
“Erik … did you hear me?” Christine tried again, feeling close to tears. “I said I’m sorry.”
A sigh escaping him, Erik straightened his back and continued to play the scales that she always sang before a performance.
“That’s good Christine …” He muttered distractedly. “It’s time for your warm up.”
But Christine could care less about her warm ups, how could she sing while she had upset Erik and he refused to look at her? And he needed to look at her, to see how sorry she was and that she truly meant her apology.
“Erik … look at me.” Christine said in a shaky voice, noticing sadly how Erik’s posture stiffened at her words.
“I have.” Came his dull voiced reply.
“Look at me properly.” Christine insisted, repressing the urge to burst into tears there and then.
But Erik shook his head and gazed at his hands on the keyboard instead.
“Why?” He said, almost brokenly. “I thought you didn’t want to be scrutinised? I of al people would certainly not know anything about that.”
It broke Christine’s heart to hear how he tried to sound cold and distant, but his voice was thick with unshed tears, betraying how much her words had hurt him.
Slowly she moved towards him and placed her hand on his shoulder, it felt stiff and very tense. Carefully she began to rub his back and massage his shoulders, knowing he could never resist her touch.
“I said I was sorry,” she said gently above him, as he involuntarily began to lean into her touch. “I didn’t mean it like it sounded. I didn’t think. Erik, please, don’t you see this as a good thing?”
For a second there was quiet, as Erik tried to take in what she was saying while feeling overwhelmed by her touches as well. Having Erik soft and vulnerable was what Christine had hoped for.
“I can’t see it as anything.” He muttered eventually, his head leaning calmly against her breasts.
Christine smiled with relief and released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding at the gentleness that had returned to his voice. At least the tension and anger seemed to be fading and he was listening to her.
“Erik, it means I had forgotten all about your face, I talked to you like I would have talked to anyone … Sure, I was sounding like a spoiled brat when I did … but … I was not actively lashing out at you. I was just being an idiot ...”
A soft snigger escaped Erik at those words. “That … that’s true … I guess ...” he chuckled drowsily, earning him a gentle slap from his fiancée.
“So will you look at me?” Christine asked hopefully after she had lovingly continued her massage for a little longer. For a few moments Erik seemed unwilling, clearly enjoying her massage too much. But eventually he reluctantly sat up.
“Of course ...” Erik agreed and turned round to face Christine. For a second he looked at her, then he raised a confused eyebrow.
“Well, what am I supposed to be looking at?” Erik asked, sounding genuinely confused, much to Christine’s amazement.
“But … can’t you see?” She gasped.
A slow head-shake from Erik. “No …” He muttered, a slight worry on his face at not being able to see what Christine wanted him to see.
“I … am not wearing make up!” Christine cried out in exasperation at Erik not seeing this rather important change in her appearance.
For a second Erik flinched at her voice, but then a smile appeared on his thin lips and he released a hearty chuckle.
“Oh Christine …” He sighed airily, “you expect me to notice something as superficial as that?”
That almost sounded a little condescending to Christine, which wasn’t the response she was hoping for at all. It made her feel exposed and unsure. Clearly sensing that his reply had disappointed her, Erik took her hand and placed a gentle kiss in her palm.
“Don’t look so sad dearest,” Erik said lovingly, “you are so beautiful, you don’t need anything to enhance yourself. I truly meant what I said: I didn’t notice a change in you. All I see when I look at you is … the woman I love with or without make up or pimples or anything.”
A deep sigh escaped Christine as her heart swelled with love at Erik’s words. Gently she put her shaking hand to his cheek. Slowly Erik raised his head to look her in the eyes.
“Oh Erik … Then can’t you see that this is exactly what I see when I look at you? I see no mask, no deformity. All I see is the man I love!”
A shuddering sound escaped Erik, a sound Christine knew meant he was about to cry and she quickly sat herself on his lap so she could wrap her arms around him and sooth him. Sure enough the moment she held him was the moment he started sobbing.
“My poor love, I must have been so difficult to live with today.” She whispered between kisses and back-rubs. As she talked to him Erik slowly melted in her arms, much to her relief. Still, she felt guilty as the state he was in was because of her and he didn’t deserve it.
“Oh Erik, I’m so sorry if I made you feel bad today, you were so patient with me.” Christine murmured as she continued her ministrations.
Between sobs and hiccups Erik choked out things she understood to mean that he was blaming himself for getting angry with her, but she ignored it. Erik had been in the right and did not need to apologise for anything.
“No Erik, the person in the wrong is the one who should apologise. That was me. I was a whiny little princess and you had every right to be angry. That pimple was barely visible and I just kept going on about it.”
A choking gasp as Erik clung to Christine even tighter and she kept kissing his poor face all over, telling him all that was good about him, until Erik finally calmed down. After that they simply sat for a while, Christine’s head resting on his shoulder.
“I love you Erik …” Christine whispered eventually.
For a second there was silence, as Erik tried to find his voice back.
“My dear Christine ...” He eventually said, his voice hoarse from crying. “I love you so, so much.”
They sat together for a little longer, until the clock chimed six times and Erik startled beneath her.
“Oh, my angel, we really must start preparing for the gala!!”
Christine groaned in annoyance, she had forgotten all about the gala and didn’t feel like going at all any-more. All she wanted was to sit in Erik’s arms for a little longer and then move their embrace to the bedroom where she had a few things in mind for him that would certainly make up for her appalling behaviour.
Suddenly she felt Erik’s cool fingers stroke her cheek, his eyes gazing at her so gently it almost melted her.
“But tell me, why did you take it all off? It took you hours to put on.” Erik asked and Christine smiled up at him.
“Because I realised you are right.” She shrugged, pecking another kiss on his cheek as she slid from his lap. “What does it matter what others think of me or the way I look? I was an idiot Erik, I completely forgot my priorities and let a simple pimple ruin what could have been an exciting day.”
Erik nodded in an agreeing manner at her words and Christine could tell he was proud of her which made her feel warm inside. Even though he was no longer her angel or just her tutor, she still liked it if he was proud of her.
“The day isn’t over yet Christine. You still have a few hours before the gala and …” Suddenly he stopped dead as he looked at her, slightly startled. “Oh my dear, I really need to do your hair!”
Christine’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Erik, what did I just say?” she exclaimed in exasperation: wasn’t he the one who had said appearance didn’t matter? “I don’t care, it’s not a priority!!” she finished firmly.
At that a laughing Erik pulled her back towards him and ran his hand through her hair cheerfully.
“Somehow, angel,” he purred in a voice filled with gentle mirth, “to me not letting you perform with a half finished fringe is a priority!!”
At that Christine too started laughing: she had forgotten all about that! Yes, he could be right about that one, she decided: no make up was one thing, but weird hair was another matter entirely. The fringe would have to be finished.
She was about to agree with Erik, when a thought hit her: having the fringe would ruin what she had planned.
“Is something wrong dearest?” Erik asked, obviously seeing the disappointment written over her face.
Christine sighed, she had wanted to surprise Erik, but clearly she would have to reveal her plans now.
“It’s just … that fringe Erik ... It will cover the pimple and … I wanted to perform with it on display …”
The speed at which Erik’s confused eyebrow shot up almost made Christine laugh.
“Why …?” Erik exclaimed in utter confusion. “Why would you do something like that?”
Feeling a little silly Christine shrugged and dragged the toe of her shoe along the patterns of the carpet.
“Well .. for you … To show you how sorry I am … that I don’t care about peoples judgement …”
A shimmer erupted in Erik’s eyes at her reply and he looked at her with a face filled with several emotions at once. Surprise and love being the strongest ones.
“You … you wanted to do that for me?” Erik asked in a trembling voice and for a second Christine feared he would burst into tears again. Lovingly she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her forehead against his.
“Yes, of course. Erik, I love you and I never wanted to hurt you and even more than wanting to say it, I wanted to show you that I meant it.”
Slowly Erik puled her towards him and Christine leaned down so he could kiss her, which he did eagerly. For a few seconds after that Erik simply held her hands and looked up at her in wonderment, as if she were the rarest treasure he had ever seen.
“I … I can’t believe you … you would do that ...” Erik sighed. “But, really, you don’t need to.”
With a smile Christine stroked his hair. “Sweetie, all I planned was not wearing make up and display a silly blemish. I wasn’t going to stand there naked!!”
That, at last broke the tension of the moment as both of them started laughing at the idea.
“Oh my dearest …” Erik smiled gently once he had finished laughing. “You are so very, very precious and I … appreciate the gesture, but I don’t want you to to feel awkward in front of people for my sake.”
Sensing a debate coming up Christine returned herself to her fiancée’s comfortable lap. She’d be standing long enough tonight.
“Erik, I would not feel awkward at all. It would be a pleasure to show Carlotta and her friends that looks don’t matter to me.”
Slowly Erik placed his hand under her chin and lifted her face towards him.
“Sweet Christine, as your tutor and as your fiancée it would give me much more satisfaction to see you look and feel the way you feel comfortable. Don’t think of me or Carlotta or the ballet or anyone else you feel you have to please. What do you want?”
A naughty smile begun to spread on Christine’s face at those words. She knew what she wanted al-right.
“You ...” She purred seductively.
“What?” Erik asked, thrown by the sudden change of events and emotions.
Slowly Christine shifted herself on his lap so that she now straddled him. “I want you to do my hair and make up, because I always like how you make me look.” She said in a low voice as she wrapped her arms around his neck again.
“You … you mean that?” Erik panted, clearly feeling overwhelmed by her actions. Though from what she could sense beneath her they were certainly not unwelcome.
“Yes Erik, you look very good on me ...” She murmured. “In more ways than one …”
To Christine’s delight Erik took the bait and rose from the piano stool, holding her as she wrapped her legs around his waist.
“Then I guess …” Erik smirked as he carried her to the bedroom, “I’ll better get to work then ...”
That evening Christine Daaé was conspicuously absent from L'Opera Populaire’s gala night …