Chapter 13-A Day With the Castillos
Chapter 13: A Day with the Castillos
“Welcome, Señor LaRouche, to El Ópera Pequeño Grandioso,” Ruban grinned as he and Erik stood in front of a two story building with a staircase leading to the entrance and sprinkled with stone gargoyles on its roof and awnings.
“What does its name mean?” Erik wondered as they walked up the stairs.
“The Little Grand Opera,” Ruban smiled.
“Fitting,” Erik nodded.
“Let the tour begin,” Ruban grinned. “Where shall we begin?”
“Underground,” Erik muttered, not really wanting to be heard but needing to speak his mind.
“You want to start with the foundation?” Ruban wondered, frowning in confusion as they entered the lobby. Erik shot a wide eyed look of panic at his new friend.
“No, of course not,” he lied. “I would like to see the auditorium.”
“Very well,” Ruban nodded, and the two men walked into a large hall with another staircase. The banisters were oak and there were Spanish decorations everywhere. The floor was wood as well and from the ceiling there hung a large but modest chandelier.
“Very nicely done, Ruban,” Erik complimented. “Elegant yet modest.”
“Thank you,” Ruban beamed with pride. “I picked all the décor myself, with Esperanza’s help, of course. I cannot do anything without her.”
“No man I know would admit that freely,” Erik scoffed as the two men walked down a hall.
“I admit it freely because it is true,” Ruban replied. “Would you not say the same of your wife because you are so in love with her?”
Erik hesitated before smiling charmingly.
“Of course. I hadn’t thought of that.”
Indeed, he hadn’t thought of Beatrice in a while. He had tried to keep her off of his mind when he got up that morning to take this tour of Ruban’s opera house. The reason for that was because when he woke up that morning, Beatrice had had every inch of her length pressed against him with her face buried against his neck, with one hand on his abdomen, her leg over his legs, and his arms around her…one hand on her rear and the other on her waist. Erik could not understand how two people sleeping in the same bed could end up in such bizarre positions without waking each other up!
“Erik?” Ruban called, breaking into Erik’s thoughts of Beatrice. “This way.”
Erik looked up from the floor to see that he was drifting away from Ruban while they walked. He had been so consumed in his thoughts that he hadn’t been paying attention to where Ruban was taking him, and now he found himself in a dark area that he felt rather comfortable in.
“I assume we are backstage?” Erik wondered.
“No,” Ruban replied. “We are on the stage. Would you like to see what our stars see?”
Erik nodded in the dim light coming from the other side of the curtain they stood next to. Ruban snapped his fingers and the curtain parted to either side within seconds. Erik looked out into the auditorium with wide eyes. It was so huge! There had to be at least thousands of seats. For just a brief moment, he couldn’t help but have memories of what Christine might have seen from the stage, and then at glancing at the boxes on the second level felt his fists clench.
“He sat in my box purposely, I’m sure,” he couldn’t help but think of Raoul de Chagny. If he had not sat in box five when he was told it was Erik’s box, none of this would have happened, Erik wouldn’t be here.
“Erik? Are you alright?” Ruban wondered, frowning at the masked man. Erik looked at Ruban and the young man took an involuntary step back. Erik’s anger must have been showing on his face because Ruban looked almost terrified. Erik immediately tried to soften the look on his face and straightened, his fists still clenched, but relaxing slightly.
“I am fine, Ruban,” Erik lied, again. “I just had a thought.”
Ruban looked the man over quickly and hesitantly nodded, standing closer to the other man.
“It is lovely, Ruban,” Erik complimented. “Your taste is unmatched.”
“You flatter me quite too much, Señor LaRouche,” Ruban couldn’t help but smile.
“I can assure you, you will only receive honestly from me,” Erik replied, relieved that Ruban was not afraid.
“Might I ask why you seem so tense this morning, Erik?” Ruban asked as they began walking the length of the stage. “Is everything alright with Beatrice and yourself?”
“Everything is fine,” Erik replied a bit too quickly. Ruban glanced at him in examination, and guessed to what might have happened.
“Forgive my boldness, but is Beatrice not so giving when nights falls?” the Spanish noble wondered tactfully. Erik shot a wide eyed glance at his new friend in disbelief, stopping in his tracks. He knew exactly what the other man was implying, but the thought had never crossed his mind of Beatrice giving herself to him! How could she even want to when Erik was the way he was?
“N-No!” Erik managed then lied, “It is not that at all! She is rather…giving.” He sighed then looked down at the floor and murmured, “It is just this place. It brings back memories of France. That is all.”
Ruban frowned in curiosity and doubt. That could not be what had this man upset and tense, it was too easy. Erik seemed like a complicated man, and Ruban would expect nothing less than a complicated answer from the masked man.
“You are home-sick?” Ruban wondered, not really thinking that was the reason for Erik’s behavior.
“Not so much home-sick as nostalgic,” Erik corrected. “I do not believe we will be going back any time soon.”
“Why is that?”
“Many things have happened that both she and I wish to forget,” Erik replied then looked the Ruban in the eye. “Please, let us just leave it at that.”
Ruban frowned slightly, but nodded in agreement at his new friend’s request. He would not pry when it was none of his business.
Erik had no clue why he had even shared that much information with this man. It was true, to a point, but he hadn’t had to tell him even that much. He could have just said he didn’t wish to talk about it and leave it at that, but for whatever reason, he felt comfortable with this Spanish noble. Perhaps it had something to do with his contribution to the arts? In this young man, Erik saw a bit of himself, his love of the arts and his eye for beauty, excluding the fact that this man would rather be in light, whereas Erik would prefer darkness. Erik felt he could trust Ruban, but he would not trust him so quickly.
“Shall we continue the tour?” Ruban wondered, breaking the silence that had overcome the two men. Erik nodded and followed Ruban as he led him off the stage and into the seats.
“I must confess, Esperanza, I have never seen so many venders!” Beatrice smiled as the two women walked down the dirt road and past carts of trinkets and knick-knacks.
“This is their day for selling,” Esperanza explained as she pulled her shawl a bit tighter around her arms. “You see one or two most of the time, but on Saturdays they all come out.” She slid her arm inside Beatrice’s arm and grinned at the red-head. “I am so glad I have someone to share this with! Usually I come here by myself while Ruban sees to things at the opera house.”
“Well, I am glad to be of service,” Beatrice smiled and the two giggled.
“Please,” Esperanza smiled. “Feel free to purchase anything you like! I will buy it for you! Ruban gave me enough money to buy whatever we want!”
“Oh, no!” Beatrice protested. “I could not do that!”
“I insist!” Esperanza argued. “If you do not let me buy you something, I will be very offended.”
Beatrice gave a mock smile at the Spanish beauty, knowing she didn’t mean that, but fearing she might be offended in some way.
“The only thing I would like from you is your company,” Beatrice smiled, honestly. “I can ask Erik to buy something for me later. He can never refuse me.”
The girls giggled again, and something caught Beatrice’s eye suddenly from the left. She whipped her head around to see a cart nearly dripping with jewelry, and one thing in particular caught the young woman’s eye. She nearly dragged Esperanza toward the cart in her trance, but the Spanish girl merely followed.
“What is it, Beatrice?” Esperanza wondered.
“This ring,” Beatrice replied, still hypnotized. “It is so beautiful.”
She lifted her hand toward a diamond ring on a silver band, the diamond set between two rubies. Esperanza watched in growing excitement as her new friend placed the ring on her left ring finger were an engagement ring should have been already. Noticing that Beatrice’s hand had been bare before she placed the ring on her finger, she frowned in wonder and looked up at Beatrice.
“Beatrice?” she called as the red-head still stared at the ring on her finger. “Why do you not have a wedding ring?”
This question seemed to snap Beatrice from her trance and she hastily took the ring off and put it back where she had found it.
“I suppose Erik never got around to getting one for me,” Beatrice lied. “The wedding day arrived quickly after he proposed.”
She hated lying to people, she never was good at it, but she couldn’t tell anyone the truth. Even in this foreign country with this obviously trustworthy girl, she couldn’t, because she loved Erik too much to go against what he had told her, and that was not to tell anyone who they truly were, and what they were truly doing in Spain.
“That is not right, Beatrice!” Esperanza nearly screeched, jerking Beatrice from her thoughts. “You should have a wedding ring! I am buying this ring for you!”
“No!” Beatrice protested. “If I am to have a ring, it should be from Erik. Do you not think so?”
The Spanish woman looked at Beatrice in a bit of suspicion, but said nothing and instead nodded.
“You are right,” she smiled, leading Beatrice away from the cart. “Your wedding ring should come from your husband. It would be scandalous if you received it from another woman!”
The two women laughed and Beatrice let out a small sigh of relief. That had been too close. She would have to have a talk with Erik about the ring dilemma. She would not think about it. For now, she would enjoy shopping with her friend, even if she was not the one doing e shopping.
Esperanza smiled at her own thoughts. She would have to tell Erik what Beatrice had done when she saw that ring, and perhaps that would tell him that that was the one she wanted. She would also have to have a talk with Ruban about getting these two settled here. If Erik and Beatrice were to stay here for some time then they would need a place of their own, and Esperanza knew they would not like staying in that guest room for the length of their honeymoon. She would work something out later.
“Ruban and I host a horse show this time every year. There are many horses for sale there, and for mere show and I was wondering if you and Erik might wish to join us?”
Beatrice looked at Esperanza and her golden eyes lit up.
“I would love to go!” Beatrice grinned. “I shall speak to Erik and ask if we can go. I am sure he would not refuse!”
“You love horses as much as I do, I see,” Esperanza couldn’t help but notice.
“More than anything, save music,” Beatrice confirmed. “They are so graceful and powerful. It always amazes me how their skinny legs can carry their huge bodies! Do you own many horses?”
“Not at the moment, but I wish Ruban would buy one for me. Do you ride?”
“I have, once or twice, but I could never get anything right!”
“Does Erik ride?”
“I would think so. He has never spoken of it.”
“Well, if he does, perhaps he could teach you properly.”
Beatrice could only nod, her thoughts beginning to wander to Erik. Yes, he could teach her to ride a horse, if he himself knew and she was sure if they ever got enough money that he would even buy her a horse if she wanted. No, she would never ask that of him. But she would like him to teach her to ride, because it would be a step for him if he could teach her something.
“Beatrice?” Esperanza called meekly, breaking through Beatrice’s thoughts. “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” Beatrice smiled warmly. “I was just thinking.”
“About Erik?” Esperanza guessed with a smirk. Beatrice looked at her new friend with a bit of surprise. “I can tell when you are thinking of him by the look in your eyes, Beatrice. You look the same way I do when I think of Ruban.”
“And how is that, pray tell?” Beatrice wondered, smirking back at the Spanish beauty.
“Starry-eyed and as if your mind is on some far away cloud with him.”
“That is very poetic, Esperanza,” Beatrice giggled. “But I doubt that is how I look when I think of Erik.”
“Why wouldn’t you wish to look that way when you are thinking of your husband?”
“It is not that I do not wish to look that way, it is that I do not think I look that way.”
“Well, you do, Beatrice, but do not be ashamed of it. He is your husband, and it is quite alright to look that way when thinking of your husband.”
“You are full of advice, are you not?” Beatrice joked with a sweet smile.
“Ruban has said the same thing!” Esperanza grinned and the two girls laughed.
A few hours later...
Beatrice sat on the sofa in the guest room of the Castillo’s home. She wrung her hands as she waited for Erik to come back from his tour of Ruban’s opera house. They had never been apart since they met again in France, and she was worried something might set off his temper, or something would happen. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Erik, but she worried all the same.
“Beatrice, stop pulling at your fingers so! They will become thinner than they already are!” Esperanza laughed as she came to sit next to the red-head.
“I cannot help it!” Beatrice replied.
“You have not been away from Erik long after you were married, have you?” Esperanza smiled, taking Beatrice’s hands in hers to keep her still.
“No,” Beatrice replied hesitantly. “I do not like being apart from him.”
Esperanza nodded in understanding and her face suddenly lit up.
“I have an idea!” she smiled and dragged Beatrice from the sofa and toward the wardrobe on the other side of room.
She threw the doors open and sifted through some of the dresses that hung inside with Beatrice staring at her in curiosity and slight worry. What was this Spanish beauty thinking now? Esperanza emerged from the wardrobe with a maroon taffeta gown with lace around the “U” shaped collar and around the elbow length sleeves.
“Esperanza, what are you suggesting?” Beatrice wondered.
“This gown would look stunning on you!” Esperanza smiled and Beatrice’s eyes went wide in surprise.
“N-No!” Beatrice cried, backing away and shaking her head. “I cannot do that! Not one of your gowns!”
“I insist, Beatrice!” Esperanza smiled, taking her wrist and pulling her toward the dressing screen. “Do you not wish to look beautiful for your husband?!”
“Well, yes, but---”
“I do not wish to hear another word! You will wear this dress, and I will fix your hair, and you will look stunning for Erik when he returns! A wife should always look lovely for her husband.”
“I envy you, Ruban,” Erik said sincerely as they walked to the entrance of the hacienda.
“Why is that, Erik?” Ruban wondered with a frown.
“I envy your life. You have a beautiful wife, and a beautiful home, and an opera house.”
“You have a beautiful wife, Erik,” Ruban reminded him.
“Yes,” Erik nodded. “That is true.”
He couldn’t help the small smile that crept across his lips at the thought of Beatrice, his new little angel that had, by some twist of fate, come back into his life. He really did like the fact that she was with him. He had someone to help him, who understood him, and didn’t fear him.
One of Ruban’s servants opened the door to the home and the two men walked in. The door shut behind them and they both immediately saw Esperanza run from around a corner with open arms toward Ruban. She was dressed in a sky blue silk gown that flowed behind her and had a “U” shaped neckline with white lace lining it and the elbow length sleeves. Her ebony hair was pulled back away from her face and hung loose down her back.
“Mi querido!” she smiled and ran into Ruban’s arms. He laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist, lifting her off the floor and spinning her around. “I missed you.”
“And I you,” Ruban replied then kissed her lips gently.
“Where is Beatrice?” Erik wondered as Ruban set his wife down on her feet again. Esperanza looked at him and smiled mischievously.
“Why do you not call her?” she retorted and Ruban looked at her in disbelief.
“Esperanza!” he scolded.
“Call for her, Erik,” Esperanza repeated and Erik frowned in confusion but shrugged and decided to trust the Spanish beauty.
“Beatrice?” Erik called and Esperanza turned in her husband’s arms to lean into his body to be comfortable as she watched the scene unfold.
The three heard footsteps coming from where Esperanza had entered and the sight that followed nearly floored Erik. Beatrice emerged from around the corner slowly, her hands folded in front of her and her eyes cast down. She was wearing a floor length maroon gown of taffeta that had a scandalously low “U” neckline with black lace around its edge which also lined the elbow length sleeves. Her fiery red hair was pinned up in a bun with a few small curls hanging on her forehead just above her eyebrows and one tight curl that hung behind her ear and rested on the exposed skin of her neck.
Erik stood and stared at her for a moment as she brought herself to a stop a few steps away from him, her eyes still cast down, and he wondered how she had outdone herself when it came to her natural beauty. He watched the rise and fall of her chest as she rapidly breathed and wondered why she seemed to be panicking.
“Go to her, Erik!” his thoughts screamed at him when he did nothing. “Do not merely stand here! She is obviously embarrassed and frightened! Go to her!”
Erik stepped toward Beatrice but she did not move as he came closer. He stopped right in front of her and when she still did not move, he lifted a hand and tugged her chin up to meet his gaze with hers gently. He noticed there was a slight sparkle in her eyes below the embarrassment and fright, a sparkle he hadn’t seen enough of. He also noticed that her skin looked a bit paler, but the freckles that sprinkled her cheeks and nose still held their color and her naturally rosy lips were a bit more red than usual.
“Does she not look attractive, Erik?” Esperanza wondered, not moving from Ruban’s arms as he still held her.
Erik said nothing as his hand that held Beatrice’s chin ran a finger along her jaw and down the side of her neck softly. His eyes bore into hers as she shivered slightly and his hand trailed down her arm then gripped her hand and slowly brought it between them.
“You look ravishing,” he whispered and left a gentle kiss on her hand as she studied his face and he stared into her eyes.
“We will check on dinner,” Ruban smiled as he led Esperanza by the hand out of the room and toward the kitchen.
“This was Esperanza’s idea,” Beatrice whispered as she saw the young couple leave the room. “I wanted nothing to do with this.”
“You look paler,” Erik noticed, studying her and lowering her hand.
“She insisted I wear powder,” Beatrice replied.
“Red lip paint at her request as well.”
“The sparkle in your eye?” Erik smirked.
Beatrice opened her mouth to reply, but stopped and looked at him in surprise. He was flirting?! She was standing in front of him looking completely ridiculous and he was flirting?! He was mocking her!
“Erik, I will not be made fun of,” Beatrice warned sternly. “This was Esperanza’s idea, as I said. She seems to think that a wife should look attractive for her husband at all times.”
“A wife should,” Erik replied, taking both of her hands and raising them between the two of them. “You seem to be growing more beautiful every day, Beatrice.”
She stared at him in disbelief as he merely looked at her and wondered, “What is it that is making you glow like a diamond in the rough?”
Beatrice was at a loss for words. Sincerity dripped from his words and there was something in his eyes that she couldn’t identify. He had that look whenever he looked at her since they arrived in Spain, and it was truly beginning to annoy her that she could not figure out what it was.
“What are you thinking, mon ange?” he murmured, breaking through her thoughts as he began playing with the curl of hair that lay on her neck.
“I am thinking that we should find a place of our own so that we do not burden these fine people any longer,” she lied.
“We will find a home here, cheri,” he whispered. “For now, allow me to look at you.”
“Erik---” Beatrice’s protest was cut short when Erik placed one of his fingers gently on her lips. She felt a chill of excitement run up her spine but fought the shiver that wanted to show him that she loved his touch.
“You never answered my question,” he whispered, inching toward her face. “What has caused such a bright sparkle in your eye?”
Beatrice smiled sweetly as his hand lowered and she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck as his wrapped around her waist.
“You truly wish to know what has caused it?” Beatrice wondered as they pulled each other closer. Erik nodded as he gave her an Eskimo kiss with a smile crossing his lips. Beatrice breathed in deeply, hoping that her answer would not frighten him.
“You,” she whispered. She watched as Erik’s eyes widened and filled with disbelief as he stared at her.
“Because of me?” he breathed. Beatrice merely nodded, keeping up her sweet smile as she began playing with a bit of his hair. “What have I done?”
“What have you not done, Erik?” she corrected. “You saved Krystal’s life, and you saved me from Daniel.”
“Erik, I do not wish to hear that you have done nothing,” she interrupted. “You have brought me to Spain with you. If that has not done everything for me then I do not know what has.”
Erik studied her face intently as she looked him in the eyes, not wanting him to doubt her words. He saw the truth in her eyes and a small smile crept across his lips.
“If you think I have done everything for you then I suppose I do not have to give you the gift I bought for you today,” Erik retorted making Beatrice’s eyes light up.
“You did not have to get it for me anyway,” she smiled, gliding her hands down to rest on his chest.
“I know,” he whispered, unwrapping his arms from her waist and slipping a hand into his pocket. “But I could not resist.”
He used one arm to spin her around, making her laugh as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and kissed the side of her head.
“Erik!” she laughed. “What are you doing?!”
“Giving you your present,” he explained.
He pulled from his pocket a silver necklace with silver crescents laid with diamonds making up most of it, the crescents connected by diamond flowers and a diamond flower dangling in the center.
“Close your eyes,” he whispered in her ear, and she did as she was told.
Erik pulled the necklace apart and placed it on her neck, running it gently across her skin as he did, purposely teasing her. She gasped at the cold metal on her skin and her eyes shot open as he latched the necklace behind her then ran his hands over her shoulders. She looked down in disbelief at the necklace as she turned to face Erik.
“This had to have cost you a fortune!” she breathed, caressing the necklace lightly.
“Ruban insisted I buy something for you,” Erik explained. “How could I refuse?”
The two looked up as Ruban and Esperanza stepped back into the room.
“Dinner is served,” Ruban smiled, pulling Esperanza closer by her waist making her smile.