Chapter 27 - All That Matters
Disclaimer: If I were Gaston Leroux and owned Phantom of the Opera, I wouldn't have taken nearly an entire year to update this story.
Chapter Twenty-Seven – All That Matters
By the forth month the morning vomiting had finally left and I can only try to express how relieved I felt. It was almost a funny experience that I remember as I walked into the bathroom after I woke up and looked in the mirror. At first I realized that I did not have the need to vomit and gave a sigh of praise to God. Since it started, Erik had begun to wake up and to go to the bathroom with me in the mornings to make sure I was all right. Walking in slowing, Erik yawned and looked groggily over to me as I sat on the toilet lid.
Smiling hopefully I looked up at him and said, "I don't have to throw up this morning Erik! Erik," I took one of his hands and held it, "Erik, it's going to get better now I just know it."
I had the act of smiling sweetly down to a tack, but this time, I smiled because I felt like it. It was such a nice feeling that's hard to explain unless one has felt it. For the first time in a while, I was hopeful for myself and not just Erik. Through his tired eyes I could see him smile in the dim light.
"Yes my darling, it will all get better once the baby is born." He whispered nuzzling my head with the nose of his mask making me giggle.
"I really can't wait till it's born, Erik. Well, I can wait, I mean, I imagine labor will be, well, painful, but afterwards it ought to be worth it, right?"
Chuckling softly he said, "you suppose that's why they call it labor my dear?"
"Erik I can't help but think about these things! They're all bound to happen you know."
Bending to sit next to me on the surface he took my chin in his fingers.
"But you know I'll always be there for you."
Smiling even deeper I leaned in to kiss him on the temple. It was then I noticed the profile of my reflection in the full mirror in my room. Standing up I walked as if in a trance to meet my reflection. Straightening my back as much as possible I looked at myself. I really was growing bigger against my cotton nightgown. Erik no longer allowed me to wear a corset once he found out I was pregnant. I didn't argue. He even went out to buy some new clothes that would fit my "growing shape" as he would say.
Putting my hands on my stomach I sighed slightly. Before long I could feel his hands cover my shoulders as we stood together in the mirror.
"What do you think of, my love?" he asked softly in my ear.
Leaning into him I said, "I think you know."
Pulling me to face him, I leaned back against his arms as they pulled my waist to his body. I looked up into his face, into the mask specifically, and I must have frowned because he noticed something different.
"What is it my dear? Why do you look so troubled?"
Looking at his chest I said quietly, "why won't you allow me to see your face? Is it really that big of a deal that I don't see?"
He sighed deeply and pulled me in closer so that he could rest his head on mine.
"You can't see, not yet, you cannot see."
"But why not?"
" It is too soon."
"But how much longer will it take, Erik?" I asked pulling away from him, "I still don't even know who you are."
"You do know who I am, Rachel."
"No, I don't know who you are!" I said growing angry all of a sudden.
"Well what else do you want to know?"
For some reason, I began to lose my breath in getting so frustrated so abruptly, but that did not stop me.
Turning to face him I yelled, "everything!"
It was then I began to pant. My eyes fluttered as I tried to catch the air. I could feel my knees begin to buckle and it became hard to stand. Stumbling to my dresser, I reached a hand out to keep my balance. It was then that I felt Erik's arms under my weight as he lifted me off the floor. I don't remember being carried to the bed, but when I was laid down I recall looking up into Erik's face and saying vaguely, "I don't feel well."
Once the darkness fell on me Erik said I did not stir for over half the day.
When I did wake up, I found Erik by my side, sitting on his knees to be level with my face, and reading yet another large book. It was another baby book that was German. I could only wonder what he was reading about this time. It seemed that he had not gotten far which with Erik was strange. He wouldn't have gotten a book within seconds of my fainting. This would have taken hours for him to leave me in my condition. He also would have been farther into the book because I was well aware how quickly he read.
I began to worry. Was being pregnant supposed to be this hard even in the second trimester? I felt that I couldn't worry for Erik's sake, but there was also a growing doubt in me concerning his face. That mask seemed to be the only thing between us and I hated it. There were so many things to worry me. There was the babies health, my health, Erik's health, my love with Erik, whether I was eating enough to sustain everyone, what was going to happen in the upcoming months, how much labor would hurt, how to raise a child… It was too much.
I began to cry.
It took mere seconds for him to realize me crying. Without saying a word he put down the book on the floor and sat up on the bed with me. Leaning up against the bedpost he took me in his arms and led my body to rest in his lap. Bringing my head to rest on his shoulder, he soothed my hair with his hands and quieted me down with his humming voice.
"I am not hurting you am I?" he asked gently in my ear.
My response was a slight shake of my head under his hand.
"I do not know what I would do without being able to hold you in my arms, Christine."
Once again, my answer was a physical one as I slithered my arms under his to get as close as possible to his frame. It was so nice and warm when we were in such an embrace. I heard him sigh.
"Christine, you know I love you."
"Christine, I, I love you so much and I," I could hear his voice crack, "I cannot bare to see you cry, especially when I know it is I who caused your tears to come." Barring his mask into my hair he whispered, "I am so sorry, my love. I wish I could take this back. I wish I could take it myself and spare you all of this pain. Oh Christine, I am so sorry…"
If I was not mistaken, I could have said that he was crying as well. I did not want his tears. I wanted him to be strong for me and tell me everything was going to be all right. What was strange was that for the first time, I took the reins and spoke up.
"No, Erik," pulling back to look into his eyes I repeated, "no. I will not take this from you. What's done is done and I will not be having regrets because you're 'so sorry'. No, Erik, we are going to have this baby and I don't care what it takes."
Taken aback a little he stroked my hair and said, "You truly are wise beyond your years." He needed to sigh for a moment before saying, "Rachel, I must ask you something rather forward. I believe you can take it. My girl is very strong… but if it came down to your life or the baby's, who would you want me to choose?"
This was a very odd question that I was afraid to go into detail with. Did this mean that there was something wrong with me or my baby? No, I chose not to go into detail with the question, instead I chose to answer.
Taking a deep breath I said, "I would want you to choose our child over me."
"But Rachel – "
"No Erik, I have already lived my life to its fullest. I fell in love, what more is there to life than to be loved back as you have loved me? If it is my time to be called back to God, there is nothing I can do to stop Him."
Taking a tighter grip on me he said brokenly, "but I cannot possibly live without you."
"Yes, you can Erik. I know you can."
He held me close the rest of the night. We did not sleep; we stayed away in each others arms just as we had been doing that day. There was no reason to move and so we sat together on the bed. So much was happening so fast and we were scared together. That was beside the point, of course. The point was that we were together and that was all that really mattered anyway.
Later in the week after lunch we were on our way to the library as usual. I was growing much slower even though my belly was yet to be considered huge. I began to cradle my stomach sometimes thinking that it would help, but there was really nothing I could do. Having been a small person most of my life, even an extra ten pounds seemed like a ton and I knew it was only going to get worse.
"Christine," Erik asked turning to notice my slow pace.
"I'm coming, I just, I think I need to sit down again."
We had hardly made it half way down the hall to the library and I already needed to sit down. Seeing no chair, I leaned up against the wall. Erik put a strong arm around my waist to stable me.
"Come on darling we are almost there."
"But I am so tired all of a sudden. I feel a little faint even."
"Would it hurt if I carried you?"
I was already seeing dark patches in my vision. Erik's arms incased me making me a little warm, but it was not enough to keep me awake long enough to see my bed come into view.
When I woke up I felt those strong arms around me that I loved to feel so much. The air around me suddenly felt cold leading me to cuddle closer to my love as I placed my tired head under his masked chin. All the while I had yet to open my eyes.
"Rachel, darling, I am afraid we need to talk about something serious. Are you feeling alright?"
My eyes opened to find us both draped in thick darkness. My fingers began to fumble with the folds in his night shirt. Somewhere within me I knew what he was going to say. It was as if after only two years we had already developed the telepathy of a couple who had seen many more years together than I was afraid we were capable of.
"Erik, I know what you are going to say."
I heard a quick gasp from above me and could feel his torso begin to tremble.
"I just do not know how I could live without you!" He took a huge hold over my shoulders and pulled me close, "You are all I know now. You cannot possibly expect to take care of and raise a child who very well could be killing you!"
"Erik don't say such things! Please don't talk anymore."
His breaths became more ridged building until I heard him begin to sob. He kept a close hold that made me feel as if he would never let go. I didn't have the strength to pull away, nor did I want to, but his tone was beginning to scare me as well.
"Rachel, you do not understand. You have the symptoms of a regular pregnancy, but they are too powerful for your body. I do not know what is wrong with you. I have read book after book in so many languages. I have consulted doctors I have know from all over the globe and none of them know what to do! Christine, I cannot lose you, I cannot!"
"Erik stop!" I screamed pounding his chest with my fist. "Erik, I know I am not well and it scares me, but anxiety will do nothing for us now. What's done is done and nothing can be done to stop the inevitable. What I can't take right now is you treating me like I'm going to die!"
I looked at him straight in his golden eyes. He knew I was right. The tears could be seen running away from the light in those eyes and I began to feel hot tears of my own running down my cheeks. If there was anything I feared, it was the pain I felt that I was going to endure before death. Everything had been so painful up until this point and I only felt that it was going to get much worse when the baby was ready to take its leave.
Taking Erik's head in my hands I spoke.
"Erik, I love you. I love you so much, but I love this baby too. It is your baby Erik and it's going to be more amazing than both of us together. You must believe that. Promise me you'll take care of our baby – your baby. If you love me you will promise me."
I could feel his head begin to slightly go left and right as if to say no.
"Erik you must promise me!"
My grip on his hair got tighter as I tried to somehow stop him from saying no again. His eyes disappeared for a long time as he avoided my strong gaze. He had to promise me. We had no other choice.
"Erik," his golden eyes appeared above me again, "please."
Ever so slightly I felt his head nod as he kept his eye contact with me.
"I promise Rachel."
"Thank you, Erik. Now you must be strong for me."
I heard his voice quiver uncharacteristically, "I will try, my love."
Sliding my head up under his I sighed. If I could just keep a moment of simple joy like that, I felt that I could die and be alright. I had found what I thought would never happen to me and he was holding me in his arms.
"I love you." Was said above me.
"And I love you Erik. I love you more than life."
Those words were never so true to me until that moment.
Weeks went by and we tried to return things to be as normal as we possibly could. Every day it became harder and harder for me to get out of bed. I would go to sleep tired and out of breath every night and it seemed that I woke up the same way. For a long time I did not lead on to how I felt. Erik did not speak directly of his fears for me, but I could feel his thoughts.
I always made my bed attempt to attend all meals that he prepared for me. By four months in he was having to help me dress almost every day. He would make breakfast then come back to our room and wait for me to finish my shower. It was one of these mornings that I found peculiar markings on my body.
Sitting down in my bath tub I tried to relax in the warm water. Before reaching the soap behind me I took a look at wear my baby was currently kept inside of me. It was true, my chest had gotten bigger. A smirk crossed my lips at this. Before my life with Erik I would have been so happy for my chest to be getting bigger, but now that I was loved fully for myself, none of that seemed to matter.
My belly rose and fell as I breathed in the light steam around my bare flesh. Now there was more of a hill that reminded me of a strange looking volcano with my belly button being the center. I couldn't help but laugh at how my belly button now poked out to the ceiling instead of how it used to fall in. Pregnancy was such a funny thing sometimes.
My hands began to reach down to where my baby was. Laying them on my belly and closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. When I opened them I was shocked to see a dark gray patch of skin stretching from my left wrist to half way to my elbow. At first I closed my eyes thinking that I was just seeing some illusion of the morning. Slowly the slits in my eyes grew as I realized the grey bruise looking thing was not going away any time soon.
Sitting up I felt the water swoosh around me in the tub as it tried to place itself evenly around the tub again. Slowly, my right hand reached to lightly touch the grey thing that took my once pale skin away. It felt like a bruise. I tried to think if I had done anything to deserve such a nasty mark. My mind came up blank.
Trying to shrug off my new mark I continued to finish my bath. The worry that had been created with the mark made me weaker. Getting out of the high tub took more effort than usual. Erik would be waiting for me. I could not keep him any longer. I was already feeling bad enough for making him wait as long as he had.
Wrapping a towel around my growing body, I opened the door to see my husband sitting patiently on the corner of our bed.
"Darling you are looking lovely this morning."
"Thank you Erik." I held my left shoulder closer to me debating on how I should tell him. "Erik, there is something – "
"What is that on your neck?"
My brow furrowed. On my neck?
"What do you mean, dear?"
"Raise your head let me look at it." He said walking quickly over to me.
I felt his cold hands under my chin and on my collar bone as his head cocked to the side to see what was on me.
"What is it, Erik?"
"Darling it looks like a grey bruise of some sort. Did you do anything – "
"Erik look!" I yelped holding out my left arm to him. "Erik what does this mean?"
Shaking his head he studied my arm as well.
"I do not know my dear. I will research it specifically. Perhaps it is just a strange lack of blood that is now being given to the baby. Maybe it is natural."
"Maybe." I said under my breath.
Within another month my belly had grown more and my feet had begun to swell with the new weight. As soon as Erik noticed he stopped letting me walk.
"How long have your feet been swelled like this?" he pointed down at my now wide and puff looking feet as we sat in the library.
"It has been about two weeks." I looked down to my belly like a guilty child.
"Why did you keep from telling me, Christine?"
I began to feel his anger rise. I knew he could not have been as mad at me as he was at the entire pregnancy situation that we found ourselves in.
"I just didn't want you to worry, Erik. I thought you had enough to worry about and I was fine walking."
"You are not walking again until the swelling goes down, do you understand?"
"Yes Erik, I understand."
The following days I could never imagined a better more caring husband. We still attempted to keep up our usual routines, except now he would just carry me everywhere that we would go. My breakfast would be served to me in bed. After I finished he would carry me to the music room. I would sing a little at the beginning, but he never allowed me to strain myself on the harder songs. By the end of the lesson, he had done more singing and most of the songs that he played would be pieces I had never heard before.
He would then carry me to the table for lunch. Many times we would talk about future plans that we could share with our baby. Some of the plans were so absurd too! We would talk about what gender the baby would be and what physical features it would have from each of us. Then we would decide what religion it would be and how that could affect it later on. Of course we had to decide how we would punish it too if the time ever came when we had to. Schools were next on the list which were followed by extracurricular activities. We went on and on until our baby had graduated college and married. Oh the talks we had about the endless possibilities were astonishing to me! Every day I became more and more excited about the endless possibilities our baby was going to have in its life!
In the afternoons he would carry me to the library where he would read to me as the fire crackled behind us. It was a beautiful picture of a life. Sometimes he would let me choose what was to be read and other days he would insist that I allow him to pick something that I was sure to learn from. Many times I found myself too exhausted to stay awake the entire afternoon, but being the wonderful man he was, he never seemed to mind too much.
It was sometime in the seventh month of this bliss that I woke up to the bed being wet below me. My head seemed to weigh a ton and moving it high enough to be able to look down seemed too hard to bare. Even my vision seemed to be turning on and off like a flickering bad light that needed to be replaced.
Slowly, my right hand reached down to where the wetness was coming from. On its way up to my face I would feel that the liquid was thick and gooey. My mind was not working fast enough to come to full conclusions. I had to see what was happening. As my vision flicked on for a sudden moment, I could see my hand come shakily in front of my face.
I was dripping in blood.
As if on cue Erik came into the room. Seeing immediately what I could not, he dropped the tray of food he was carrying in for me. It was as if everything were going slowly than normal when I heard the dishes break on the floor. My last images were of Erik rushing over to the bed. First he surveyed my body throwing the sheets off. Lastly he looked at my face putting a hand to my forehead. I remember few words being shot from my body before everything went dark.
"Erik it's too early. It's too early!"