Chapter 3: Decisions
Antoinette dragged Meg by the wrist down the dark Paris streets toward their home. She had found her daughter coming from the catacombs of the opera house, the very place she had told Meg not to go. Meg, however, was curious and the mob had pressured her into leading them down there.
“Mama,” Meg called, stumbling behind her. “I am sorry I went down there, but I wanted to find Christine! She is my friend!”
“She is safe,” Antoinette said, not looking at her. “She is with the viscount.”
Meg sighed in relief, but her mother still dragged her down the streets, saying nothing else. When they reached the house she had to use her key to unlock it, which made her frown in confusion. She dragged her daughter into the house, closed and locked the door then dragged Meg toward her room, passing the room Beatrice had prepared for Erik. She stopped and looked into the room with a small smile and when Meg peeked into the room she gave a small gasp at what she saw.
Erik and Beatrice were sitting on the floor leaning back on the bed, side by side, sleeping. Beatrice had her head leaned on Erik’s shoulder and her hands were in his. Meg started to go into the room to “help” Beatrice away from the evil, monstrous Phantom of the Opera, but Antoinette held her back, causing Meg to frown in confusion at her mother.
“They know each other,” Giry whispered. “They met long ago.”
Meg stared at her in disbelief then looked at the sleeping pair.
“Go to your room, Meg. I’ll explain everything later.”
Meg hesitated before walking down the hall to her room, and Antoinette looked back at Erik and Beatrice. She noticed that the wardrobe was a bit out of place and frowned at it a moment. She stepped in front of Beatrice and knelt down, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Erik…” the young woman breathed, stirring slightly. Antoinette sighed and shook her head. She had hardly spent an hour with him and she was dreaming about him already.
“Beatrice,” Antoinette whispered. “Wake up, child.”
She stirred again and her eyes fluttered open as she looked at Antoinette.
“Madame!” Beatrice gasped. She jumped to her feet, waking Erik in the process. He, too, scrambled to his feet and Antoinette stood tall, smiling in amusement.
“Would you prepare dinner for us, Beatrice?” Antoinette asked. Beatrice nodded, bowed her head and left the room. Antoinette closed the door and walked toward the nightstand and opened the drawer as Erik watched her in interest. She pulled out a white, porcelain mask much like the one he used to wear.
“You always have been full of surprises, Madame,” Erik smirked. She handed him the mask and he took it then placed it on his face.
“Pray tell, why were the two of you asleep on the floor?” Antoinette retorted lifting an eyebrow in intrigue. Erik stiffened and looked at the suit lying on the bed.
“We were talking,” Erik replied in a mumble, turning to get dressed. “We fell asleep. Is that a problem?”
“No,” Antoinette admitted walking to the door. “Just be sure you don’t lead her on if you don’t feel for her.”
Erik whirled around with a shocked look on his face, but she left the room and shut the door before he could say anything. She walked down the hall into Meg’s room to find her changed for dinner.
“Mama!” Meg exclaimed running toward her. “Why is he here?! Not to be so bold, but---”
Antoinette held up her hand to silence her daughter and Meg obeyed.
“Meg,” her mother smiled. “He is here because I have protected him for as long as I have known him. I will continue to protect him until my death or his.” Meg nodded and cast her eyes down fiddling with her fingers.
“Mama,” she murmured. “I am afraid of him.”
Antoinette wrapped her arms around her for a hug.
“There is now need to be, mon petite,” she said, stroking her hair. “He will not harm you. He promised me, long ago that he wouldn’t.” She held her daughter at arms length. “Now finish getting ready for dinner.”
Meg nodded and Antoinette left the room closing the door. She walked down the hall into the dining room where Beatrice was setting the table.
“Madame,” she curtsied. “Dinner is almost ready.”
“Good,” Antoinette nodded. “Please, have a seat for a moment. I wish to ask you something.”
The two women took a seat at the table and Beatrice looked slightly worried.
“The wardrobe in Erik’s room…Was it moved while I was gone?”
Beatrice nodded, and immediately began telling her about the visit by the police.
“They suspect you, Madame!” Beatrice warned. “What shall we do?!”
Antoinette thought for a moment then placed her hands on Beatrice’s, smiling warmly.
“We will let Erik decide,” she murmured. “If he wishes, he will stay. But if he wishes to leave, we must be respectful, and let him leave.”
Beatrice’s face became long with sorrow, but she nodded, nonetheless.
“Madame?” the young woman said. “What you saw---Erik and I on the floor---nothing happened---”
“I know, mon petite,” Antoinette interrupted. “He told me you were talking. Pray tell what were you talking about?”
“He wanted to know about me,” Beatrice couldn’t help the small smile that came to her face. “I was telling him all about my life with you here and my piano lessons with Madame Emerson.”
Antoinette nodded and smiled at Beatrice’s happiness. She had never been a sociable girl with anyone after Erik had left, and she was glad that the young woman seemed a little more cheerful, if only subtly.
The two women jumped when they heard a shriek of terror from down the hall, and they jumped and ran in that direction. Erik stood there in front of the door to Meg’s room wearing the suit that Beatrice had picked for him, and Meg was standing just outside the door in a pink taffeta gown with white lace around the neck-line and the sleeves, her hair pulled back in a pink satin bow. He was staring at her, and she was staring at him, but she was posed as if ready to retreat back into her room.
“Meg?” Antoinette called with a frown of confusion. Meg met her mother’s gaze in horror, and calling to her ran into her arms. Beatrice saw Erik bow his head in obvious shame.
“What happened?” Beatrice asked.
“I came into the hall just as she was,” Erik muttered. “Apparently I frightened her.”
“Meg Giry!” Antoinette scolded. “I told you he would not harm you! Why are you acting like a frightened mouse all of a sudden?!”
“If it is alright with you, Madame, I would like to take my supper in my room,” Erik said, turning and walking back to his room. Antoinette opened her mouth to say something, but Beatrice broke in.
“No,” she said flatly, and Erik stopped to look at her in surprise, as did Antoinette and Meg. She had a determined look on her face, indicating that she meant business, and walked toward the masked man in long strides. “You will supper with us, not alone in your room.”
She took his arm and walked him toward the two other women. Meg ducked behind her mother, and gazed at Erik in fear.
“Meg, come out from behind your mother,” Beatrice ordered. Antoinette didn’t mind the young woman giving her daughter orders, even in her presence, and she was curious to see what Beatrice was going to do.
“Beatrice---” Erik tried, but she put up a hand to silence him as Meg slowly crept from behind her mother. Beatrice took her hand and stood her and Erik face to face.
“First, apologize to Erik,” Beatrice said, and Meg frowned at her in confusion.
“Erik?” Meg wondered who Beatrice was talking about.
“Yes. This man in front of you is Erik.”
“Beatrice!” Meg whispered. “He is the Phantom of the Opera!”
Erik sighed, and Beatrice looked at her in frustration.
“Your little ballet girl superstitions will not infect me Meg!” Beatrice snapped. “He is not the Phantom of the Opera! He is Erik! Now apologize for almost making him eat his supper alone because of your silly superstitions!”
Antoinette couldn’t help but smile, not only at the fact that Beatrice would make a good mother in the future, but also at the fact that she did not let the “ballet girl superstitions” that Meg brought home to make her believe that there was something that went bump in the night. She was a mature girl for twenty-two.
“I’m sorry,” Meg murmured ever so softly.
“It’s alright,” Erik murmured back, just as softly. “I would not have expected any other reaction, truly.”
“Alright,” Beatrice nodded, choosing to ignore Erik’s comment, she would talk to him later. “Now, supper should be ready now, so we can all have a nice meal together.”
She wrapped her arm around Erik’s and he looked at her in surprise, but escorted her to the dining table.
The meal was silent. No one spoke, not even Meg who was usually the most talkative of the three women. What would they talk about? Erik sat picking at his food, knowing he didn’t belong there, and Meg was too terrified to say anything. What would they say? They were sitting having supper while the Opera Populaire was burning down! Madame Giry should have been worrying about how she would make a living, and Erik should be worrying about whether or not he should even stay in the country!
Erik stood, excusing himself, and left to his room. Beatrice also excused herself and ran after him, seeing his look of total loss on his face. She knocked on the open door, warning him she was coming in, and he turned to face her.
“Would you like to talk?” she wondered, closing the door and hoping he said yes. She didn’t like the fact that he felt alone and feared, even though it was true. Erik sighed and ran a hand through his hair, sitting on the bed.
“Certainly,” he sighed. “Tell me more about Madame Emerson.”
“I did not mean my talking and you listening to me,” Beatrice said, walking toward him and sitting next to him. “I meant you talking, and my listening to you.” She took his hands in hers. “Tell me how you feel.”
Erik studied her face for a moment. Why would she wish to hear any more about him? Had she not heard enough about what had happened? Why did she care so much about what he was feeling? Erik realized in that moment that it didn’t matter to him why she cared. The fact was, she cared, and it was nice to know that she wanted to hear about his feelings.
“I feel---” he choked, but found that a lump was coming into his throat. He leaned his forehead on her shoulder to keep her from seeing his tears. The action made her blush, but she said nothing.
“I feel lost, mon ami,” he whispered so low she almost couldn’t hear him. “I am a wanted man now. All I can do is run, but where am I to run to? I don’t want to run.”
Beatrice sighed in sorrow and placed a hand on his head for comfort.
“I still love Christine,” he admitted. “I thought I could not live without her but I suppose that is not entirely true, seeing as I am still alive now.”
“Of course you still love her,” Beatrice sympathized.
“I should not.”
“If we loved all the people we should, life would be rather boring, don’t you think?”
Erik couldn’t help but laugh, slightly. This girl always knew the right things to say.
“Do you want to love her?”
Erik looked up at her with a frowned creasing the visible part of his face.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you love her, and yet you say you shouldn’t love her, do you want yourself to love her?”
Erik looked at her in surprise. He had never thought of it that way. Did he truly want to love someone who had loved him out of pity and left with another man the moment he had let her go? Did he want to love someone who had broken his heart? It seemed he had wanted her but had he wanted to love her?
He had no answer. What could he say? Love was something that happened, it wasn’t something you planned. He had wanted to be loved, and give love in return. He realized that he had at one point wanted to love Christine, but now, after she had left him the minute he let her go? How could he tell? How would he ever be able to tell?
“Erik?” Beatrice prompted when he said nothing. He simply stared at her for a moment, making her worried. “Erik?”
“I do not know,” he finally whispered making Beatrice smile gently. “Should I? That is, how would I know?”
Beatrice put her hand on his heart making him jump in surprise.
“You will know, in your heart,” she whispered back then pulled her hand away.
“That is for you to find out. I cannot tell you. No one can tell you.”
Erik sighed in disappointment and Beatrice giggled at him.
“Not quite the answer you wanted?”
“I was hoping you might be a bit more forward,” Erik smirked in a slight groan.
“I am sorry about that, but some things must be found out on your own,” Beatrice smiled. He leaned his head back on her shoulder and she couldn’t keep in a question burning in her mind. “Erik?”
“Are you going to leave?”
“Do you wish me gone that badly?”
Beatrice pulled his gaze to hers by gripping his head with both hands on either side and pulling his head up to look him in the eye.
“No! Of course not, Erik! How could you think such a thing?!”
Erik pulled her hands down with his gently, and sighed.
“I’m sorry, mon ami. I am used to people not wanting to be in my presence.”
“Must you think of yourself that way?”
“How else am I to think? I told you of my past.”
“Have you ever considered it possible that I wish to be in your presence?”
Beatrice’s eyes became wide. Had he just asked her why she would wish to be around him? Was it not obvious? She cared for him as a friend, and possibly more. How could he not see it?
“Because you are my friend, Erik,” she insisted. “Friends usually wish to be around friends. But you have not answered my question. Are you going to leave?”
Erik stood and walked toward the door, running a hand through his hair in thought then turned back to her.
“I think, perhaps I should,” he said flatly. “I fear that the visit from the policemen tonight was only the beginning and I do not wish to put you, Antoinette, or Meg in any danger.”
“Where will you go?” Beatrice asked with disappointment in her eyes.
“Another country,” Erik replied walking back toward the bed. “Somewhere far away from here.”
Beatrice nodded and looked down at her hands as she wrung them in her lap. Erik frowned in confusion at her and knelt next to her. He looked at her, and before she looked away he saw tears in her golden eyes.
“I feel like this is just like the last time you and I met,” she explained in a small voice. “You will leave, and I will probably never see you again.”
Her shoulders began slightly shuddering as she sniffled and made small, sad noises. Erik stared at her in guilt and quickly sat on the bed pulling Beatrice into his arms as she began sobbing. What could he do? He had to leave France to keep the girls in this house safe. But he had just found the one person that could ever understand him. His only friend. How could he leave her? Why did he not want to leave her? He had no idea why he didn’t want to leave this woman, but he couldn’t. His heart wouldn’t let him and before he knew it, he was saying something he hoped he was not going to regret.
“Beatrice?” he whispered. “Come with me.”
She immediately ceased shuddering with a gasp, and slowly looked up at him in total and utter disbelief reflecting in her watery eyes.
“What?” she breathed.
“Come with me,” Erik repeated with more enthusiasm, gripping her hands. “You do not wish me to leave, and I do not wish to leave you but I must leave. Come with me and we can help each other forever.”
“Erik, I cannot merely pack my things and leave here,” Beatrice said. “If I were to go with you, I must know where we would be going!”
“So it is settled! If you were to know where we were going, you would go with me!”
“That is not what I meant!”
“But that is what you said. If I decided where we would go, you would come with me, won’t you?”
Beatrice stared into his waiting, sea-green eyes. He wanted her to go with him and to her great surprise she wanted to go with him. But it was not so easy for her to leave as it was for him. She had grown up in France, and it would seem strange that she would just up and leave for what seemed like no reason. But she did not want to lose Erik again, not after she had just found him, or rather, he had found her accidentally.
“I could keep up your piano tutoring, if you wish,” Erik said quickly, trying to persuade her. “I could teach you myself. You need not fear of that.”
“That is not what I am worried about,” Beatrice admitted.
“Then what is it?” Erik frowned. “Did you not say that you were my friend and that you wished to stay with me?”
“Yes, but Erik, I cannot leave without explanation, and I cannot tell the truth to anyone I know or they will surely turn you in.”
“We do not have to tell anyone. We could leave right away.”
Erik looked away from her. Why was she being so difficult?! Could she not just say yes and be done with it?! But he did admit he had to decide on a destination. If they were to run as soon as was possible, they had to know where they were going. An idea struck Erik, and he turned to her with a warm smile. Taking her hands in his he looked deeply into her eyes.
“Wherever you wish to go, mon ami,” he whispered. It was a wonder Beatrice’s eyes didn’t pop from her skull when they widened in disbelief. Wherever she wished to go? She had to admit, she would want to go anywhere in the world if she had the chance. This was her chance. Where would she ask to go that would keep Erik safe and her entertained?
“Spain,” she whispered a smile on her lips and a spark in her eye. “I have always wanted to see what kind of dresses they have there.”
Erik grinned and threw his arms around her, and she returned the gesture.
“We will go to Spain, then,” he whispered in her ear. “And you will be the most beautiful señorita in the whole country.”
Beatrice giggled, and Erik was surprised by what he had just said. She now knew that he thought her beautiful and there was no taking that back. The truth of the matter was he didn’t want to take it back. He did think she was beautiful, and a part of him wanted her to know it. A part of him wanted to move on, and forget Christine.
Beatrice was also surprised at that comment, though she did well to hide it with her giggle of amusement. No one had ever told her anything remotely similar to that before. All the men she knew thought she was scrawny and awkward, and it was true to a degree. She hardly had any bosom, she was clumsy, and she had knobby knees and elbows. She often wore more petticoats than is required and tied her corset so tightly so that she could hardly get in a decent breath to try to give her a figure.
However, this man, holding her in his arms thought she was beautiful. Whether he had said it to be polite or meant it, she didn’t care. All she cared about was that he had said it. In that moment, she made him a silent promise: He would not regret meeting her and letting her travel with him. She wouldn’t, she couldn’t, and she swore to uphold that promise however necessary.