Chapter 17: Gifts
Saturday. The day all the salesmen brought out their venders to sell their wares. The day Erik had to get that ring for Beatrice. All week, Esperanza had been reminding him in some form or another and it was getting rather tiresome. But all of that will be worth it when he saw the look on Beatrice’s face when he gave her the ring. He knew exactly how to do it. He would take her into the music room, sit her on the bench, kneel down on one knee---
Wait. No. The stables. He would take her to the stables in front of Ramses so that he could be a witness. No, that wasn’t right either. At the ball---
Erik growled in frustration as he paced the length of the master bedroom. Esperanza had taken Beatrice to find a costume for the ball tomorrow night, leaving him alone to think things through. This was far too difficult. It should not be this hard to simply give her a ring! It had been simple to give her that necklace that she seemed to wear all the time now. It had been easy to get her the piano and it had been somewhat simple to buy Ramses for her. What was so bloody different about a ring?!
It hit him like a brick to the head. It was different because it was saying that they were married, that she was his, that they were bound together…all of which were lies. This was what he had wanted at one time, but this was a fiction, a pleasant one, but a fiction nonetheless. It was as though he had what he wanted but at the same time he didn’t.
Still, the simple fact that it was an elaborate scheme made it exciting. It made his heart race every time he knew he was teetering on the edge of the border with Beatrice, going so far but not quite far enough. It was truly enough to make his head spin right off his shoulders, and he loved the way Beatrice reacted to him.
Erik smiled slightly at the thought of Beatrice blushing crimson from face to chest. His lingering eyes always got him into so much trouble because after seeing her, he would see her everywhere. It was the same way it had been with Christine. His mind had been consumed by her and it was beginning to frighten him a bit. If he did the same thing to Beatrice as he had to Christine, he didn’t know what he would do. He would probably kill himself for making the same mistake twice!
He shook all thoughts from his head. For now, he would just go and get the ring for Beatrice. He could worry about those other things later. He would take this entire thing one step at a time, the first being to actually get the ring. He grabbed his cloak off of the bed and walked quickly toward the door and on hurried feet he ran through the house.
Before he could blink he found himself in the street and walking down an isle of venders with the salespeople trying to sell him everything you could think of. He looked for the vender Esperanza had spoken of, a jewelry vender of some sort. How was he ever going to find it in this bustle of peop---?
Erik whirled around behind him to see just what he was looking for. The salesman had called to him, probably to ask him if he would like to buy something for his sweetheart. If the man only knew.
“She said you would be here,” the man said. “I have your ring for you.”
Erik frowned in curiosity as he drew closer to the vender. Esperanza had told the man what Erik looked like? Of course, it wouldn’t be hard to describe him. He could just here Esperanza’s voice saying, “He is a tall man with a mask over half of his face.” It was better than being called a monster.
“Here it is, señor,” the man smiled pulling out a small white box. “The señora with the red hair seemed to be quite taken by it.”
Erik nodded his thanks, handed the man some money to pay for it and walked back to the hacienda. He ran into the study and sat at the desk to look at the ring without interruption.
When he opened the tiny box, he could not believe his eyes. Inside the box sat a diamond ring on a silver band, the diamond set between two rubies. His new little angel was surprising him more and more. She had impeccable taste that much he had gathered a long time ago, and this ring would definitely look fetching on her hand. He closed the box and tucked it into one of the drawers where he knew Beatrice would not look. She never came into the study anyway.
Now, all he needed to do was figure out how he was going to surprise her. He silently prayed that Beatrice took a very long time in finding something to wear for the ball.
“What about this one, Beatrice?” Esperanza asked, presenting a golden satin gown.
“I refuse to go to the masquerade ball as a wench,” Beatrice replied flatly. “I do not think Erik would appreciate it either.”
“He would if we bought him a pirate costume,” Esperanza grinned.
“I do not think he would appreciate that either,” Beatrice smiled, remembering Krystal and suddenly reminding herself that she to write to Madame Giry and Meg soon.
“Well, what would you like to go as?” Esperanza wondered as they began walking through the shop again.
“Something Erik would like,” she replied. “He has done so much for me that I wish to do something for him.”
“You see?!” Esperanza smiled, nudging her friend a bit. “Whatever he did, he did it because you looked beautiful for him!”
“I would hope it was more than that, Esperanza!” Beatrice laughed. Esperanza laughed in return then suddenly gasped and dragged Beatrice down another isle. When they finally stopped, it was front of a glass case that had a gown inside it. The gown was made of black satin with elbow length sleeves and had a “V” neckline. The neckline and sleeves were lined wit glittering lace, the lace around the sleeves fell down to the wrists. The gown was on a dummy, and the dummy also wore a tall tiara that was dripping with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
The girls stood in front of the case and stared at the gown for the longest time.
They were speechless. The gown was simply too beautiful to be simply sitting in a glass case. A dress like this should be worn on someone as beautiful as it.
“You should be wearing this, Beatrice,” Esperanza stated, not taking her gaze away from the gown.
“Please, Esperanza, do not flatter me,” Beatrice replied, not looking from the glass case either. “I could never look attractive in a dress like this.”
“You need dark colors to contrast with your light skin,” Esperanza continued. “You would look stunning in black.”
“You are going to buy this and be the dark princess for the masquerade ball,” the Spanish beauty said and she ran off to find a salesperson.
Beatrice stared at the dress and sighed. She would never impress Erik in this rig. It wasn’t how he saw her. He saw her as a scrawny little girl…the one she had been when they met. She was sure that he didn’t see her as woman, just a girl. She had freckles that she wasn’t proud of, almost no shape and her arms and legs were lanky.
“This dress, señora?”
Beatrice whirled around to see Esperanza had returned with a saleslady and her face immediately turned red all over. The Spanish woman nodded to the question and the saleslady nodded back. “I shall hold it for you, señora Castillo.”
“Esperanza!” Beatrice whispered urgently. “I do not want it!”
“Yes you do, I can see it in your eyes!” Esperanza whispered back. “We should find a matching costume for Erik.”
“All of his clothes are costumes to him,” Beatrice muttered and Esperanza giggled.
“Well, one of them shall be official.”
The two girls walked through the store and started looking around a bit more. Something suddenly caught Beatrice’s eye and she unconsciously started moving toward it. Esperanza frowned in confusion at her friend but followed her all the same.
Beatrice stopped in front of a suit that was covering a dummy and stared at it, mesmerized. She could easily see Erik wearing it, and that was why she did not want to look away from it. The outfit consisted of a white shirt that was unbuttoned to reveal the chest and the black jacket had glitter on the collar and the ends of the sleeves. The trousers and shoes were black and on the dummy’s head there was a black mask to cover the eyes, and a long black cape draped down the back.
“I think we found Erik’s costume,” Esperanza smirked, seeing that Beatrice was imagining Erik in the outfit.
“Yes…” Beatrice sighed in a total trance. “I think so.”
“Ruban, I have no idea what to do!” Erik growled in frustration at himself. He was pacing in Ruban’s study with the ring for Beatrice in his hand as Ruban sat calmly at his desk.
“I do not see why you are upset, Erik,” Ruban replied. “She is your wife. Simply give her the ring.”
“You do not understand,” Erik said, stopping and leaning on Ruban’s desk. “I cannot just give her the ring. It has to be done romantically, other wise she will not take it.”
“She will not take it?” Ruban laughed. “She would take it if you simply threw it at her!” Ruban began laughing heartily and Erik glared at him.
“This is not a laughing matter, Ruban!” Erik insisted. “I need your help to impress Beatrice and all you can do is laugh at me?! You are quite a friend!”
“You are simply too worked up, Erik,” Ruban replied, calming his laughter. “How could I help you? She is your wife.”
“You are married…as well. Tell me how I would impress her. Tell me what to do!” Erik fell to his knees with his arms wrapped around his head on the desk. Ruban rolled his eyes at the man’s dramatic display and tapped him on the arm. Erik lifted his head to look up at Ruban with round eyes searching for counsel.
“Whatever you do for her, however you give her that ring, she will think it is the most romantic thing you have ever done, until you do something else.”
Erik looked at Ruban as though he had been given the wisdom of the ages and hoped, “Truly?”
“If not then my wife does not know women,” he said with a nod and leaned back in his chair. “Those are her words.”
Erik shot to his feet with a grin so wide Ruban was afraid his face would stay that way forever and ran to the door saying, “God bless you both!”
“Where are you going?” Ruban called after him, standing and walking after him.
“A florist,” Erik replied, opening the door. “I must inquire about a long stemmed, red rose.”
“Did you find a costume for the party tomorrow?” Erik wondered as he walked toward Beatrice, his hands behind his back. She was in the stables, grooming Ramses and softly humming to him. She looked up at Erik as he entered the huge stall and a smile crept to her lips, making her eyes light up.
“I did,” Beatrice nodded and turned back to combing the horse’s mane. “I found one for you as well.”
“Did you?” Erik replied, his visible eyebrow rising in intrigue as he stepped on the other side of Ramses.
“You would look very handsome in it,” she smiled over the horse’s neck.
“Would I?” he replied, making her frown in confusion.
“Is something the matter?” she wondered. Erik met her gaze with slight satisfaction and shook his head.
“Nothing, mon petite,” he replied. “Did you ride him yet?”
“No, I have not,” she replied, turning her attention back to Ramses. “I was hoping you could help me.”
Erik looked at her with a frown across his brow and wondered, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I have ridden before, but I am not efficient enough to ride by myself. I was hoping you could show me.”
“I could,” Erik replied and Beatrice’s face lit up again. “But first, you must close your eyes for a moment.”
She frowned at his request in more confusion than she would admit to him, but closed her eyes hesitantly and Erik stepped around Ramses’ head to stand in front of her. He pulled his hands in front of him and held a long stemmed red rose with a black ribbon tied around it, and tied into the center of the ribbon was the ring. He placed the bloom beneath her nose, gently touching her upper lip and making her jump slightly, but she did not open her eyes.
“Erik?” she laughed slightly.
“Open your eyes Beatrice,” he whispered. Her eyes fluttered open in slight hesitation and as she looked into his eyes, Erik felt a slight thrill run through him. If he could, he would have stayed in that moment forever. Beatrice looked down at the rose and smiled as she took it from him. Her finger touched the knot of the ring and her eyes widened making Erik smiled widely. She turned the rose to see what she was touching and she gasped, placing her free hand over her mouth.
“Erik!” she breathed staring at the ring. “You didn’t have---”
“I did,” he answered, knowing what she was going to say. “A lovely ring for my lovely ‘wife’.”
Beatrice looked into Erik’s eyes, her mouth agape and sputtered, “I---! You---! Erik! I’m speechless!”
“As I can see,” he smiled. He untied the ribbon around the rose and slipped the ring off of it. “But perhaps it is best if you say nothing other than thank you.”
He took Beatrice’s left hand and was about to slip the ring onto her ring finger when he stopped himself.
This was it. This was the moment he was going to bind her to him in a fictional marriage. Could he do it? He felt like he was making the mistake he made with Christine. Of course, Beatrice had come into this willingly. She hadn’t been dragged down into a cave and forced to spend her life with him. What’s more is she wanted to come with him. That was what still had him puzzled. Why would she---
He looked into her eyes as she frowned in confusion and worry at his hesitation. She wasn’t afraid. She had never been afraid of him since they met. That was what made her different from Christine, and that was what made this whole thing different. She didn’t fear being bound to him like this. At least, he hoped she didn’t.
Erik smiled at her reassuringly then looked back down at her hand and with a slightly trembling hand he slipped the ring onto her finger. Beatrice couldn’t help but smile at his hesitation and the way he held her hand in both of his after placing the ring on her finger. He brought her hand to his mouth and brushed his lips against her knuckles before kissing her hand gently, the ring glittering from a bit of sunlight that came in from the window in the stall. Erik smiled at the way a small beam of light that landed on her cheek just below her eye and she giggled at his smile.
“Thank you,” she murmured and stood closer to him. “It is just what I wanted.”
“I know,” he smiled back, studying her face. “Esperanza told me.”
“She did?” Beatrice smiled back, leaning closer to Erik’s lips. “I shall have to thank her for her meddling. I am sure if it were not for her we would not be becoming closer every day.”
“Yes,” he breathed as she came so close he could feel her breath fanning his chin. “We should both thank her.”
“Kiss me,” Beatrice whispered impatiently. Erik obeyed and his mouth came crashing down onto hers. She slipped her arms around his neck as his slipped around her waist. Ramses made a noise and nudged Erik’s shoulder, breaking his and Beatrice’s kiss. Erik glared at the horse as he still held onto Beatrice who giggled and reached out to pat the animal’s neck.
“I should have known he would come between us,” Erik muttered, jokingly.
“Oh, Erik, you are so mean,” Beatrice pouted, looking back at her masked man. “He is merely being protective.”
“Have you two become attached that quickly?” Erik wondered.
“It is possible to become attached to someone or something in a few hours or days,” Beatrice retorted, stroking Ramses’ neck from Erik’s arms.
“Perhaps,” Erik murmured, inching closer to her neck. “You and I being an example I suppose?”
“That is a very good example,” she smiled, feeling is breath caressing her neck. He brushed his lips against her skin making her giggle and lean her neck to the side to give him greater access to her skin. He ran his lips across her neck and Ramses snorted and shoved Erik back again.
“Damn horse! Stop it!” Erik growled.
“Erik!” Beatrice gasped. “Do not speak to him that way!”
“He is beginning to get on my nerves,” Erik muttered.
“Everything gets on your nerves, Erik,” Beatrice replied. “We must train that temper of yours.”
“There is nothing wrong with my temper,” he replied, letting Beatrice go and leaning on the wall of the stall.
“Of course not,” Beatrice retorted. “There is nothing wrong with your temper as long as you think there is nothing wrong then there is nothing wrong.”
“Do not patronize me, Beatrice,” Erik said sternly. “It is not wise to---”
He stopped himself before he proved her right about his temper, but she noticed it and looked at him with one elegant eyebrow raised in amusement.
“It is not wise to rile your temper, perhaps?” she finished for him and he looked away from her, crossing his arms over his chest. Beatrice turned back to Ramses and stroked his neck, beginning to hum again. Erik gazed at her and she held the rose he had given her close to her, the bloom just above her neckline. He swallowed at where his gaze was leading and looked away again.
“Tell me about the costumes you chose for us,” he said, needing to change the subject.
“I think it is best that you be surprised,” Beatrice smirked and Ramses nuzzled her a bit and she rubbed him under his chin.
“Are you saying I will not like what you have to say about them?” Erik wondered.
“No,” she shrugged. “I merely wish to surprise you.”
“Because you have done so much for me, I wish to do something for you.”
“That is not necessary.”
“As you have said before, I wanted to. I would not be a very good ‘wife’ if I did not do something for you now and again.”
“You do not need to do anything for me, Beatrice,” Erik said, standing fully and walking toward her. He pulled her away from Ramses and wrapped his arms around her, making her look at him with wide eyes. “All you need to do for me is keep me company. I want yours above anyone else’s. Tell me you will not leave me, please.”
“I will not leave you, Erik,” Beatrice whispered inching her lips closer to his.
“I love you,” he growled planting his lips to hers in a passionate kiss.
“Erik?” Beatrice called, snapping him out of his daydream and asked, “Are you alright?”
He nodded as she still stood next to Ramses frowning at him in confusion. When had that daydream started? He didn’t know, and he didn’t much care, he just hoped that she hadn’t seen what he was thinking through his eyes.
“My mind was simply wandering,” he replied, rolling his shoulders to relax. “I think I shall go inside now. I will need my strength if I am going to be all night tomorrow dancing and whatnot.”
“Thank you, again, for my ring, Erik,” Beatrice smiled as he walked by her to go inside. He stopped next to her and ran his hand down her arm gently as they smiled at each other.
“You are welcome, mon cheri,” he whispered. He leaned toward her to kiss her, but hesitated, glancing at Ramses then back at her. He left a small, lingering kiss on her cheek and they smiled again at each other before he left and walked inside.
He knew now without a doubt, he was in love with her. When he took her hand in his, when he got mad at Ramses for shoving him away from her, when he had that small daydream, there was no doubt in his mind that he loved her. But he would never tell her. How could she ever love him? It was inconceivable to him that a beautiful, sweet, voluptuous angel could love an ugly, horrible demon like himself. It was too much of a contrast, and besides that, she was sure that he was still in love with Christine, which, in a way, he was. After all, he still dreamt of her. Would that not be a sign that he was in love with her?
Erik shook his thoughts from his head. He wouldn’t dwell on all of these things, and he wouldn’t tell Beatrice his feelings for her. What would he gain from it? Rejection. No matter how much of a friend she was, she could never love him, and she wouldn’t lie to him just to make him feel better. He didn’t want her to. If she told him she wanted him, she would have to mean it, and he would not accept pity love. That, to him, was worse than rejection.
As Beatrice watched Erik walk away, she allowed herself to shiver in delight from his hand running down her arm and his lips on her skin from his small kiss. She never thought she could feel this way about any man after what had happened when she was thirteen, but her feelings for Erik were proving her wrong. What was it about him that attracted her?
“Everything,” she whispered to herself, and turned back to Ramses and rubbed under his chin as she scolded, “You should not be so jealous, Ramses. After all, he bought you against his better judgment, did he not?”
Ramses picked his head up as if to nod with a small whinny making Beatrice giggle.
“Yes, he did. We must thank him properly for that, should we not?” An idea popped into her head suddenly and her face lit up. “I have a perfect idea!”
Ramses’ ears faced her as if he was extremely interested in hearing what was on her mind.
“I know my voice is not as beautiful as Christine’s, but I would still like to sing for him,” she whispered, not knowing if Erik was hiding and within earshot. “He may like it. It is the least I can do for everything he has done for me. What do you think, Ramses?”
The horse snorted and nuzzled her slightly making her giggle again.
“Yes,” Beatrice smiled stroking the animal’s neck. “I think it is a good idea as well, mon beauté.”