Chapter 29 - Fun As It Was
Disclaimer: If I were Gaston Leroux and owned Phantom of the Opera, I wouldn't have an audition for Busch Gardens tomorrow (that I need to prepare for!)
Chapter Twenty-Nine – Fun As It Was
"Yes doctor, yes I came as soon as I got your call…. So you say that the monitor's numbers have risen? Yes, yes that is good… any time now, yes, yes I'll wait here. I'll be sure to let you know if she wakes up….Yes, yes thank you! Thank you so very much! I'll never be able to thank you enough for all of this!"
That voice. I had heard it before, but it was a long time ago. It sounded older somehow, a little deeper from what I remembered it. I wanted to see where the voice was coming from. I had to see her.
I could see the pink of my eyelids rather than the black curtain that I had become accustomed to. Then a light was moved away leaving my eyes see grey. Where did the light go? I had to open my eyes. My hearing was becoming clearer with the passing time. At first I heard her voice far away, as if coming from an open door in the left corner of a small room. The door was open because I could hear merged voices that passed by it, yet I could not hear whom she was talking to.
Once the door closed, light was taken away from my left slowly as if blinds had been closed, but then a slightly brighter light came through to my right as I heard a different kind of blinds being raised. Something was taking hold of my right hand. The touch was light and too soft to be Erik.
I had to see her. I had to!
I felt a large weight upon my eyelids, but if I was really alive, it had to be removed. Sighing to let out any weight that I could, I inhaled deeply and scrunched my eye brows trying to coax my eyelids in any possible way. It was a slow process, but eventually I felt my eye lashes tickle each other lightly. A few moments later light began to pour into my hurting eyes and I heard the woman gasp next to me as my eyes began to focus.
"Rachel? Oh Rachel! Oh thank God!"
The hand griped my hand tighter and shook it. Rolling my eyes to my right I vaguely saw through my blurry vision a woman not much taller than me. She had light brown hair, my nose and my grandmother's eyes. As my eyes focused I saw tears in her eyes.
"Yes, Rachel, remember me?"
She reached out to hug me awkwardly as I lay helpless in bed. With the strength that I had, I returned the hug with my feeble hands. My eyes began to sting with my own tears, but I held them back.
"Mom, what happened? What's going on?"
"Rachel, you've been in a coma for nearly two years. You had a car accident on your way to school, do you remember any of it?"
Yes, yes the truck on the highway from so long ago; I remember that.
"But what's happened since then, Mom? Where am I?"
Squeezing my hand tighter she looked deeper into my eyes.
"Rachel, after the accident, you were brought here. There were many surgeries you had to undergo. They had to reconstruct a lot of your face, but that's all healed now." Reaching out to touch my forehead she added, "I don't even see the scars anymore. What a miracle, thank God in Heaven!"
She hugged me again. Was it all just a dream? Was none of it real? Erik? At that time there was a knock on the door.
"Oh yes, Rachel, there is someone special you need to meet."
When opening the door, new light shined in making me squint. In walked a tall black form. He wore black dress pants, a black button up shirt and his hair was a thick jet black, but most peculiar of all was his face. What first struck me were his golden eyes. I had never seen a man with golden eyes except for… His face structure was long and well defined. He was even beginning to grow a dark beard. His eye brows were black to match the rest of his hair and his forehead was wrinkled with worry.
"Rachel this is Erik Monet, he had been taking care of your medical bills ever since you came here. He was the first to see you after the accident and if it were not for him, well you may not be here."
"Good morning, Ms. Carson, it is a pleasure to finally meet you." He said in a classy tone as he picked up my left hand to kiss it softly.
Erik! My mouth dropped open, my eyes grew wider and I could faintly hear a machine near-by cause beep faster to follow my thumping heart. Closing my eyes tight enough to hurt I took a breath to calm myself.
"Erik has become a good friend to me and the family. He visited you often, but you probably don't remember that."
"Erik." I said slowly in shock at what was happening.
"Yes Rachel, I'm sure you two will become good friends. He knows a great deal of history and he is well traveled. He even came to eat Thanksgiving with our family this year."
All kinds of words and questions were jumbled up in my head at that moment, but nothing seemed to come out. It was all too easy to stare at this man whom I knew, but had never seen, with my mouth agape and soundless.
Another knock on the door was heard.
"Yes?" Mom called out.
A doctor came in and informed her of paper work – something about future release papers, but I was not in an understanding state of mind. Eventually she walked out leaving Erik and me alone.
"Erik?" I said uncertainly.
At that moment he ran to the right side of my bed where my mom had been. Coming to his knees he took my arms in his hand and held it tightly to his scratchy face.
"Oh my darling, I was so afraid!" I heard his gasp as he laid a kiss to my palm.
"Erik, what's happening? I'm so confused. Is the baby…?"
I could not finish. If I was alive, how could the baby be? I thought I had saved it with my own sacrifice, but here I was in the hospital. Tears welled up to my eyes.
"Rachel, darling," he stroked my left cheek with his hand and still held my right hand to his face, "our baby is in critical condition downstairs, but with time and growth he will be fine."
"Yes my love, we have a son!"
"Oh Erik I'm so glad he's alright."
"As am I," he lightly placed a smooth kiss on my forehead, "but I am more thankful for your life at this moment, you were moments from death, my dearest."
"Erik, I thought I had died. What happened? Does Mom know about all of this?"
"No, no, she does not know a thing. I will explain everything when there is more time, but know that you and our baby are safe."
As if on cue, Mom came back into the room. In the time it took me to turn my head to the door, Erik was already seated on the chair, and was no longer touching me whatsoever. Everything had become an act and now I was expected to play along.
"Erik I just heard the news!" she said cheerfully, "how touching of your to adopt that poor child downstairs! Rachel, you really won't believe the growing kindness of Mr. Monet. Just yesterday he adopted a two pound premature baby after its mother died giving birth to it. You should see it, it's so tiny! It's a miracle that it lived. Have you named it yet, Mr. Monet?"
Smiling half-heartedly, Erik spoke softly, "I have yet to come to a name from him, and please Ms. Carson, do call me Erik. We are friends now, are we not?"
"Why yes, Erik, we truly are." She said warmly.
"Now, I think I will go to check on my new boy so I can leave you and your daughter alone for a little while. I am sure there are many things you wish to speak of."
"Oh yes Erik, I do hope to see you later?" she said replacing him in his chair
"Of course, I would love to get to know Rachel better. After all she has been quite the investment." In saying that I saw him wink to me as he exited through the open door. It was strange to see the muscles of his face scrunch up to actually wink. It was a lot to take in for only being awake for less than half an hour.
By lunch time I had not only spent time with my mom, I had seen all the family that lived within an hour away from the hospital which included my uncle Stephen, my aunt Caroline and her husband Richard, their daughter (and my older cousin) Tori, and our aging grandparents. In seeing my grandpa I could not help but smile and think of how he and Granny Mose would interact with each other. I was sure she was as happy as I was to have the entire family together again. My sister even flew in for a few hours just to see me. Apparently, she had become a flight attendant during my "coma" and could fly easily in and out of places.
Other than that fact, and that my cousin was so be married in a year, my family seemed the same. Later on after I took a nap a little after lunch (and after they took a feeding tube out of me which was an absolutely revolting experience) my drama class and fellow drama majors came after school to see me. It was so good to see them all again. They had grown up so much, but in the long run, they never changed either. One of them even snuck some Gadiva chocolate in for me.
I really did love seeing all of those people I had been away from for so long. The love I had for them had yet to die even in not seeing them for two years. It was nice to have dinner and be surrounded by all my friends and family. At that moment, it could have been so easy to say that I could never ask for more, but there was someone I wanted more than anything and he had not come back to see me all day.
With time the numbers dwindled, all promising to come back tomorrow. The nurses, while they loved the sound of all the laughter, were becoming a bit annoyed with so many people crowding the little room. At last it was only my mom and me left. We talked a little while longer until an announcement came over the intercom that visiting hours were over.
"You know that because I'm family I can stay longer?" she asked me.
"Yes, but you will see me tomorrow too. I promise not to run off like that again."
"Yes, but," she reached out to hug me a little more fuller now that my bed had been raised to a sitting position, "I have just missed you so much. I never want to take our time for granted again."
"And you will not Mom, I promise. I love you."
Smiling she returned, "I love you too… and I will be back tomorrow."
"But what about your job?"
"Tomorrow is a Saturday."
I smiled towards her as she began to walk out the door.
"Oh Mom," I said shyly, "I'm sorry. I am sorry for what I said… the day that I, well you know."
"Yes Rachel, I know. Don't worry about it anymore. I'm just glad to have you back. Love you," she whispered walking out the door.
For the next few moments I waited in silence. I could not believe the amount of tubes they had shoved into my body. It was such a relief to not remember what they all felt like going in. A nurse came in and prepared me for bed, turning the light down before she left. I looked about the darkened room. Erik said he would come back, now where was he? I wanted to stay awake just a little longer, but could not find the strength. He said he would come back. He had to come back…
The next morning I woke to a nurse taking a few more tests. I asked her if anyone had come to see me since last night.
"No baby, not after your mamma," he laughed a bit, "besides, didn't enough people come to welcome you back to Earth yesterday?"
I smiled at her good humor and let her continue with her business or checking random reflexes, tubes and wires around or in my body. They were not always painful, just annoying. She was nice, but I was relieved when she left. It was strange being taken care of by anyone who was not Erik.
He came to see me not too long after she left. Carrying the breakfast tray that the hospital offered, he looked well rested compared to the day before. He had shaved and even looked hansom, but I could not take the time for that to load in my brain. So many questions were unasked and needed immediate answers!
"Erik!" I piped.
Giving me a reproachful look he waved his head towards the door before he shut it. Shaking his head he said, "Now, now, Rachel, let us not make a fuss in a public place."
"Erik, where have you been?" I said angrily as he sat down, putting my tray on a near-by table and sliding it up to me.
"Rachel, you certainly are being rude considering you have only once before met me!"
I looked at him through squinted eyes. He only smiled mockingly back at me. It still looked so weird to still him have facial featured that showed his emotions. I could actually read his emotions! How strange it was to finally be able to look at my husband's face and understand how he was feeling! He must have seen a glint of uncertainty in my eyes for he leaned down to lightly kiss my nose. I half smiled back at him.
"I have been running errands, you see." He pulled a rose from some place I could not see and placed it in front of my rose for me to smell.
"It smells nice, Erik." I told him dryly as he placed it on a near-by window ceil.
Leaning forward he kissed me tenderly on the lips. I returned the gesture and put a hand to his face to cup his cheek. Pulling away he said, "Not as nice as you will smell once you are home again."
I scoffed at his hidden innuendo then smiled evilly back to him. He kept the hand that was once on his bare cheek in his large hand. I looked away from what he just said and tried to put my feelings of confusion into words.
"Erik," I asked almost timidly, "I do not even know what 'home' means anymore. I'm so confused, Erik."
Patting my hand he said, "here, eat your breakfast and I shall tell you a story, my love."
"But I am not hungry now."
"You need your strength, dear, for what you are about to hear." Pulling the sliding table over my lap he said softly, "eat, love."
I really do not remember what I was eating. Everything tasted the same once he began his story.
"To begin with," he said as if he were confessing his sins, "I am not some kind of sick man who has wanted you for perverse actions since you were a child."
At this I could not help, but laugh.
"Really Erik?" I said sarcastically, "I had no idea!"
"Rachel, this is serious… I only wanted you to know in case it ever crossed your mind."
"Very well dear, do continue."
"Only if you keep eating, love."
I rolled my eyes and shoved something that looked like scrambled eggs into my mouth.
"Now that that is cleared away, I will get to something that concerns your coming to live with me." He felt the need to clear his throat, "Ever since I first saw you, I had been researching you. There was something about you that really struck me different. Before you, I did not have much of an interest in a social living. I was happy where I was – absorbed in money, surrounded by books, and engulfed in fine art. We were never meant to meet, you and me. I think we both could have lived our lives without knowing each other and would have been fine, but, I guess some things are better off explained through faith."
I smiled at this. Granny Mose was right. I would have to tell Erik about that adventure some other time. Now, at last, it was my turn to listen.
"Something that I am sure you would find interesting is that the 'House by the Lake' is something I was already building when I had first saw you. The Phantom of the Opera was a book that I had borrowed off of a friend and thought it would be an interesting idea to have an underground home of my own that led away from my original house that no one knew about. Many times I would use my own set of tunnels to get to my own underground living space. I was not going to build the Louis-Phillipe room, but as I have said, then I saw you.
"I found it very interesting how interested you where in things involving the Phantom. In a way, that was your outlet from the house that you lived in." He took my hands, "you were so sad Rachel and I understood your sadness. I began to realize just how the original Erik felt when seeing his Christine. Your sadness was like a magnet leading me to you." He let go of my hands so that he could continue talking without having to look directly at me, "For the first time I cared about someone. I wanted to make them happy. I wanted to heal them over myself and it drove me crazy!"
For a moment he paused to look at me, trying to recollect himself.
"Keep eating Rachel, you are not finished."
Slowly I followed his command. I had to figure this all out.
"I had known of you for some time and I still had no idea what to do about it. Kidnapping you was never a specific part of the plan. I thought about meeting you like any normal person would; dating you and whatnot, but I felt so much older than you at the time. To wait for you to enter college seemed far too long. It only became worse for me as you entered high school. There were so many boys there – so many people that could steal you away. There was that one boy, Daniel, but he broke your heart. Then there was Amrico, but he did worse to you. I could not let it happen anymore, but once again, I felt that there was nothing I could do. I did not want to come off as an old man to you.
"It so happened that I was driving on the overpass of where the truck hit your car. I had two choices: kill the shameless truck driver, or save you. The choice seems obvious now, but I was so enraged that I nearly did kill that poor old man. Perhaps this is another thing of fate, but I was fortunately able to pull you out from your car before it exploded, which is a miracle in itself."
"My car exploded?" I asked in awe as Erik pulled my table away and took hold of my hands again.
"Yes darling, there is not much left to it now. It was placed in a junk yard after the firefighters came. I had no time to waste with you. I could not sit around and wait for an ambulance to come for you. Carefully, I placed you in the backseat of the car and took you to the nearest hospital. Then I waited. People in the emergency room told me that what I did should never have been done and that what I had done was really a thoughtless move, but they did not understand. I had claimed you by that time and I could not just let you go. You were mine even then, Christine!"
He took a moment to calm himself.
"Rachel," he corrected, "once I held you for the first time, I could not simply let go. While I waited for news from the doctor I took a trip around the hospital. On the third floor I found a peculiar scene before me. A nurse sat crying while talking to another nurse. I heard her say something like how she could not believe that no one would come for a particular girl who was in a coma. The doctor's had no choice but to pull her plugs because no one could speak for her otherwise. I looked through the window of her room and she had many physical features that looked like your own. It was then I came up with an insane idea.
"The windshield of your car had smashed into your face. There were only cuts from the glass, but your family did not know that. You must understand that I have a lot of money, more money than most people could ever realize and I can do a lot with my money and no one will question me. I took advantage of my perfect opportunity and seized it. With time and many different surgeries, that other girl in a coma became you. I paid the doctors to do make the switch, while I unknown to them, took you home with me once they said you would wake in a matter of weeks.
"You healed quicker than I could have imagined and caught me off guard when I finally saw you awake. I did not know how to react. Up until then I had not thought much of you, yourself, I only thought of what I thought you needed. Everything had happened in a matter of weeks in my world and now I was the Phantom and you were Christine. It was easier for me to try to make you accept that rather than try to explain to you everything. Once the plastic surgery for the other girl was in place, we were free to live our lives in peace."
"But what about the girl? Why would you do that to her soul? Erik it was her time to leave and you kept her here and changed her face… Erik how could you?" I asked in shock.
"Because I was not thinking, Rachel!" he shouted standing up to walk over to the window to my right. "You were not safe here, in this world. I could protect you. I knew that I was the only one that could protect you and so I took the necessary steps to keep you under my watch." He turned to me, "Darling I could think of no other way. It only so happened that I was able to switch your bodies again after the baby was born!"
"So now she's dead?" I squeaked.
"No, so happens she is not dead. I am leaving that decision up to another doctor at another hospital."
"But what if she wakes?"
He could only look to the floor and shake his head. She was finally going to die after two years of waiting. I could not believe it. I just could not believe any of it. It was then that I thought I saw a sort of white outlined figure come behind Erik and place a sort of misshapen hand on his shoulder. Was she trying to tell me something? Did she really want me to forgive him for all of this and act like nothing had happened?
For only a brief moment another figure came beside her and took her white-lined hand. It was hard to tell, but though transparent, she seemed to have similar physical features to my own. Her nose was smaller and her eyes were a lighter shade of brown. She smiled at me then looked towards Granny Mose. She nodded warmly before she led the other girl, my distant twin, to the window where they soon disappeared unknown to Erik.
I was stunned. Everything that I thought I once knew had been turned on its head. It was once easy to say I knew the man who stood in the corner, but now I was not so sure. I did not understand why he had to carry out everything the way he did. Looking back on everything we realized that it was not necessary, but it certainly was fun while it lasted.