Chapter 18 - This Is Love
Disclaimer: If I were Gaston Leroux and owned Phantom of the Opera, I totally wouldn't be watching Hannah Montana.
Chapter Nineteen – This is Love
The next portion of my life was filled with literal darkness. I relied on Erik for everything. For the longest time I refused to walk out of my room convinced that the flame was still out there. I had Sammy stay in my lap as much as possible in fear that he would disappear again. Erik brought my food to me and sometimes fed it to me. I did not let go of that cat, not even for food. When he was not feeding me, he was holding me in his arms.
Sometimes he would sing me a sweet lullaby to get me to sleep. Other times he would simply hold me as if he were afraid to let me go as I was afraid to let Sammy loose. But there were still those times that he thought I was asleep that I would hear his true feelings come out.
He would end his song beautifully, but even his power over music could not influence me in that state I was in. Ending the song he would wait a few moments before making any other movements. I was leaning up against him one night when I hear soft words reach my ears.
"Rachel… Rachel… What have I done to you?"
Rachel? He addressed me as Rachel?
He said nothing more after that, but only a few nights later I could feel his tears on my neck as he cried. There was so much to ask him, but I could never find the words. He believed me to be asleep. If I 'woke up' suddenly he would know that I was awake the entire time. He felt that there was nothing he could do for me, and I knew there was nothing I could do for him. It was killing us both.
Some time later I had become accustomed to the light once again. I could feed myself and even went on trips to the library as well as the music room on occasion. Staying quiet most of the time, I simply followed Erik like the little shadow I was. He would still read to me in the library as I huddled up to him in seek of warmth and love. I even started my music lessons with time. It's hard to explain exactly what happened in my dark age of life. I refuse to ever go back to it unless I truly have to.
After a steady recovery things went back to what I considered normal. I woke up, ate breakfast, had a music lesson, ate lunch, had a brief lesson in language, read (or was read to) in the library, prepared for dinner, ate dinner, listened to Erik play, and then go to bed. The organized living schedule was something I was very agreeable with. Yet, questions of past events still swam around my mind like an angry serpent.
One cold night, Erik and I sat closely together on the ottoman listening to the crackling fire and reading "A Tale of Two Cities". As interesting as the book was, I was having difficulty paying attention. Erik seemed to be able to make any story or lesson interesting, but the night I saw the cell phone hung heavily in my mind. I was sure that the Sammy in my lap was the same Sammy from my old life. No properly bred cat would have thirteen random furs on its belly. Adjusting my head to fit Erik's shoulder a bit more comfortably, I sighed a long tired sigh. He stopped reading.
"Christine? Dearest? Are you tired? It has gotten late since we first started."
I didn't want to answer – I didn't know what I wanted. I was so used to Erik doing everything for me, never asking me what I wanted because he already knew it. Not having to decide everything had been nice for my troubled mind.
"Yes, my darling?"
"Can… can I ask you something… something without making you mad?"
There was an uneven pause. We both seemed to know what was coming.
"It is concerning your dreams isn't it?"
"And – and if it is?"
"I don't want you getting upset again."
That wasn't about to stop me. My mind was already 'upset'.
"Will you promise? Will you promise that you will not get mad?"
He readjusted his position to face me.
"I will not get mad… so long as you do not speak of anything that should not be spoken of."
"But why? Why won't you listen to the one thing I want to speak to you about?"
"Why should I listen to something that is not real? It is a waste."
"Don't you care?"
This made him especially mad. Taking my shoulders he shook them.
"Care for you? Care for you! What have I been doing for you all this time, Christine? I've been taking care of you this entire time! With the way you've been behaving you would have died without my care! Don't even begin on whether I care for you or not!"
My head dropped. I couldn't look at him and that masked face of his any longer. He was right. He was right about everything. I had become such a helpless thing. I felt as if I couldn't do anything for myself. Why should he care about my dumb dreams? Even if they did torment me constantly. He was doing so much for me all ready. I never deserved any of it.
"Oh Erik," I fell into him in my sorrow, "oh Erik, I'm so sorry. You're right, you're right about everything. I feel horrible."
Hearing he had won he eased his grip on my shoulders and literally welcomed me back into his open arms while resting his head on mine.
"Erik I'm sorry."
"Say no more my child. You are forgiven. Everyone makes mistakes. Even angels like you." He squeezed me tightly at that last remark. "Still, nothing will ever stop me from loving you."
No, I had not resolved anything at all. But I did not want him angry at me. Even if he would never stop loving me, that never said he couldn't be mad at me. I sighed and cuddled closer to him. Feeling him kiss my head I smiled slightly. He really did love me.
More time passed. Once again I cannot say how long. Time was constantly moving in that place. I could never pinpoint any of it, not even a second. There was one way to tell a change – the temperature. When there is so much less to worry about, one notices things they're never noticed before. Even a single degree change could become noticeable. That is how I began to pick up on the beginnings of spring.
"Yes, darling?" he looked up from what he was reading.
"What month is it?"
"March seventh, Christine."
"Then that means I'm seventeen now…" I said more to myself then to him.
He actually looked up from his book.
"My – my birthday – February seventh – I've been seventeen for a month now… Did you not know?"
"Yes, I… I knew."
"Could you have told me?"
"You… weren't in a telling state at the time."
I let him return to the book so that I could think. Seventeen, I was seventeen! I felt that I should have been excited or something, but I wasn't. I had missed my seventeenth birthday out of my own stupidness. I sighed and looked over at Erik. Walking over to his chair across from the Ottoman I touched his shoulder lightly. He seemed startled and then looked up at me.
"May I sit with you?"
It was hard to tell whether he was annoyed or happy, but I took him putting down the book and taking my waist as a good sign. It was easier for me to fit to his form now that I had known him for what seemed like so long now. It makes me wonder if a person is ever meant to fit to a certain someone or whether they learn to fit to them. Either way, it was a cozy little fit we had made over our time together. After a while of sitting curled up on his lap, I sighed. The lights had begun to die down in the room as the fire lost its flame.
"What is wrong my little darling?" he said softly over my head.
"Erik," I looked up at him, "I'm seventeen."
"Or twenty-one, but I suppose I'll leave that to you for now. So, seventeen my little one?"
I readjusted my head under the crook of his neck again. He was making fun of me. How could I talk to him when he was making fun of me? There was no light left now. I sighed.
"What is the matter now?" I could feel him kiss my head lightly. His mask was off.
I realized then that it would be May soon. With May came one year of marriage. One year of marriage left, one year of marriage before…
"I haven't kissed you today."
I suddenly leaned away from his shoulder as I tried to look into his shining eyes.
"No." He answered quickly. I could feel his breath on my face now. When was the last time I really kissed him at all? There were times during my depression that I remember him kissing me slowly, but I was always too weak to ever respond. Now I was in near-perfect health.
"Christine," I could feel his hand run from my forehead to behind my ear, "Christine…"
I looked up only faintly to see his eyes glow bright gold. I knew that he had taken his mask off and was going to be closing the gap soon unless I did something. But why would I do something? What would be the problem with a kiss? I could feel my face becoming hotter with his breath. He was going to kiss me… but nearly a year from now it would be much more than kissing – too much more – a kiss leads to that much more…
He only touched my lips briefly before I pushed him away.
His eyes dimmed and my face was cold. His eyes were smaller now, he was mad.
"Erik I – "
"After all I've done for you? No is your answer?" He growled.
"Erik, Erik you don't understand – "
"Erik I'm scared, please don't – "
"Scared? Scared of me, Christine?"
"No – I don't know what – "
"Then if you're not scared of me kiss me! I've never asked anything of you but this! Christine you are my wife!"
"Erik I know – " I cried.
"You haven't really kissed me in months! It's all I ever asked from you after what you asked from me!"
"Erik just listen to – "
"No! No!" I heard his voice crack, "After all I've done for you! This is all I'm asking for! Christine I've done so much for you! All for you Christine! Just a kiss is all I want! Just a – "
My hand went up to his mouth to shut it.
"Erik I love you."
For some odd reason, I felt a lot better after saying those four words. He was quiet now. Very, very quiet. It was so dark, was he still there?
"Erik, a-are you still there?"
More silence. Did I really just say that? It really hadn't occurred to me what I just said.
"Erik- Erik I'm scared… to love you…"
I couldn't even hear his breathing.
"Erik, are you still there?"
"Yes?" I said quickly.
"Christine…" he moaned sadly.
There was a faint glowing in his eyes. It was faint, yes, but I could still see it. He still loved me. I knew he did and now he was scared as I was. He really had done so much for me. How could I have repaid him? Now my hand was reaching up to his head to stroke his hair. He flinched away at first, but in noticing it was me he suddenly seemed to notice my presence and leaned into my hand. His eyes were closed now. With a light pressure from my hand I began to close in the gap between us. This time, I was kissing him.
It wasn't too long after that moment in my life that I found myself dressed and ready for bed and waiting for Erik. He had been particularly quiet and wasn't responding to anything I did to catch his attention. His mind always seemed elsewhere and that elsewhere was completely out of my bounds to even try to reach. I waited for him somewhat longer than usual. I wanted to talk to him before the day was completely over. And so I was left to wait.
It all reminded me of our first night sleeping in the same room together. I was still waiting, but for a different reason. Then, I dreaded the idea that he would eventually be entering the room. Now, I waited for him – I wanted him in the room with me. Sammy was now there with me. It was a relief to have something there to help the time pass. Sammy really was my best friend and looking back I wonder what I would have done without him at times. And so I waited.
After a while, I began to think that he would not come. I knew that I could find him, but I felt that it was his turn to find me. I gave him my truth and now I wanted his. Thinking that he was waiting for me to go to sleep, I turned out my light. He knew that the only reason I turned out that light was to sleep so I stuck it out and mustered up all the light of day I could think of while I was still left to wait.
Some time later I heard the faint squeak of the doorknob. It frightened me for I was waiting to hear that one sound more than anything. I had to force myself not to make a peep so that he could make it to the bed. With my eyes still tightly shut I waited for mattress to shift its weight. I never heard him walk, but the shift came very lightly as to not disturb me. It took another amount of time for me to feel his form next to mine. His hands moved timidly around my waist and he seemed to be fighting the force that wanted to keep up together in an embrace. It was time, he was right where I had wanted him to be all the lonely night. My hands laced with his fingers. His reaction was one of an opposite measure.
"Erik please – "
He tried to pull away entirely.
"Erik – "
"Why? Why do you pull away? This is what you wanted…"
He pulled away and we both sat up. His eyes were shinning dimly.
"So now it's what I want?"
There was a pause in which we could only hear each other's breath.
"You don't love me. You're just playing tricks on me!" He said trying to convince me.
"No! Erik please don't say that – "
"I will say what I want and you can't stop me!"
"Then at least listen to what I want to tell you – "
"All these words mean nothing to me."
"Then what do you want me to do, Erik? What do you want from me?"
He cupped my head in his hands and led me rather forcefully to meet his lips. His passion was overwhelming for me at the time, but I answered to his call in all the confusion of the moment. My mouth was forced open and it felt as if my tongue were being pulled out. My mouth wasn't even mine anymore, but someone else's and so the pattern seemed to follow with the rest of my body. His hands no longer cupped my face but were making their way down my neck. They didn't stop there either and when they reached my chest I tried to pull back from him but my arms were soon encased under the weight of his. He wasn't going to let me go and I feared the worst.
By back was then hitting the soft cushion of the bed and I was surely trapped. Once pinned down the hands were able to move around again. This time they did not try to undo the buttons but went straight to my hips. It was so dark and the only sound that existed was his breathing – his hard deep breathing on my neck as he kissed me.
"Erik please – "
"What?" His gold eyes appeared directly above mine, "you said you loved me. Now is your chance to prove to me that you love me like you said. Do you love me Christine?"
"Erik I – "
"One word Christine. It only takes one word."
"Well if this is the only way to ever prove that I love you then I guess you'll just never know will you?!"
"But this is love, Christine."
"No! No it's not, Erik. Don't you see? There's so much more then just this. You've loved me all this time and yet we're never… See, it's just something like an extra plus to being in love, but it's not all that love is. Erik I'm afraid. I'm afraid because I-I love you but I don't want to step this far. Can't you try to understand that? I know I've asked a lot of you lately, but why did a kiss have to turn into so much? Erik, Erik I won't respond to you unless you respond to me on my terms."
"Oh there are ways of making you respond I'm sure…"
"Begging again? Always begging!"
"How else will you listen to me, Erik?"
With that he rolled over to his side and began to get up.
"Oh no you don't!" I heard him stop and got up myself and ran to the door blindly. "You don't get to leave this time! I get to leave!"
With that I had opened the door and began to stomp out. He was soon in front of me blocking my path.
"Don't you even dare to challenge me in a threat you child!"
"Well I'm not going back to bed." I said crossing my arms.
"Oh yes you are going back to that bed!"
"Not without you I'm not!"
"Oh don't even try to act like you want me there – "
"Fine I won't act! I do want you there with me! It's as simple as that! What's so hard to understand?"
"I'm warning you, Christine. Go back now."
With that he had picked me up and was walking me back to that bed. All the while I was kicking and screaming for him to let me go. And as always, he did let me go: right on the bed. He thought he could run away quick enough but I was already up and sitting on the chair in the room.
"Christine don't you dare defy me!"
He only had to take one giant step to be back in front of me. With one iron hand my upper arm was taken and nearly through the rest of my body with it as I hit the bed. My head did not hit the wood, but my arm did. Erik did not see it, but the sound of bone hitting surface made its self-known instantly. I slumped down from the bed and to the floor as if limp. He turned around suddenly.
I didn't answer. He would come back.
"Christine you damn well answer me!"
Still no answer.
"Christine?" I heard him kneel beside me, "Christine this had better not be a game of yours. I'll kill you if it is!"
He did still love me. He said these words out of fear. I knew he could never really hurt me so I looked up at his burning eyes and said, "knife, gun, or rope?"
"What?" he boomed.
"I'd like to know how you're going to kill me so I can be expecting it." I said lightly with a hint of mock.
"Will it hurt?"
"So I should stop eating. That way I cannot be poisoned." I said matter-of-factly.
"I will not let you take your own life by starvation."
"Does that lead to that if you don't kill me, I'll never be given a chance to die?"
"You will not die," he said standing up, "you will be killed."
He offered his hand to me and I began to realize that he had started to calm down. I took it and stood next to his level. Leaving my hand in his, I sat down and took it with me to set on my lap. He sat down as well.
"You really want to kill me, Erik?" I asked with a simple smile.
He let out something compared to a growl and said, "not when you smile at me like that."
No longer was I only smiling, I was laughing too as I leaned in to hug him tightly. It had taken him somewhat off guard, but he soon returned the action and began to laugh slightly as well.
"Don't you see, Erik? This is love." I kissed him lightly on the cheek, "now can we finally go to sleep and forget about all of this?"
"Forget about it? How is that possible? You've already said that you loved me. I'm afraid you cannot take that back once you have said it, my dear."
I laughed quietly and said, "no, no, dear, forget about the things that don't deserve to be remembered. In fact I forbid you to ever forget that I love you."
"So now you're forbidding me from things?"
"No, just the most important things."
Once under the sheets and as close as possible to each other, I leaned over to his cheek once more and kissed it softly.
"Goodnight, Erik, I love you."
In return, he kissed me on the temple and whispered back, "and I love you Christine."