"Erika, please slow down! You're hurting my arm," Christopher yelled as he was being pulled into the boat by Erika. He could see that she was utterly humiliated by what happened upstairs. Her mask fell off at the absolute worst moment. They were finally about to kiss after the most romantic gesture he could have done, but fate wouldn't allow such a perfect moment to last. Now, she was driven insane by such a quick turn of events and even started muttering to herself things that didn't make sense to him.
"Down once more to the dungeons of my black despair! Down we plunge to the prison of my mind! Down that path into darkness deep as hell," she said as she rowed the boat toward her lair. He tried many times to snap her back into reality, but nothing seemed to help. He even tried to get up and physically shake her, but the boat rocked unsteadily and he was forced to sit back down.
"What is the matter with you? You're scaring me." As soon as he said that, she let out a bloodcurdling laugh that sent shivers down his spine. He was truly terrified of what had become.
Once she was finished, she said, "I'm no angel. I'm a demon and people like me will do whatever they can to get what they want and what I want is somebody who will love me, whether they want to or not. Rachel doesn't deserve you! I do and I will make you learn to love my hideous face!"
"What are you talking about? I already do! Please, Erika, stop this madness!" As they finally arrived to her home, she parked her boat and hastily dragged him out.
"I've spent so many years not being loved! I've heard no kind words from anyone or felt compassion anywhere," she said as tears began to pour down her cheeks.
"That's not true. I love you and I'm sure your father showed compassion towards you," he said, trying his absolute best to stay calm.
At the sound of his words, she finally seemed to calm down. "Father," she said before she went to her room. He followed her as she saw her dig through a box of random things. After a while of searching, she finally found the things she was looking for: two rings. "This was my father's wedding ring. I managed to take it off before he was buried with it. This one was my grandmother's wedding ring. My grandfather gave it to me since even he didn't trust my mother with something so valuable. These mean the world to men and I would know my father would be very happy if the two of us got married."
His eyes widened with surprise, "Wait, what?"
"It was my father's dream for me to find someone who will love me, even with my deformity. He said I deserved a lot more than I endured during my childhood and even wrote it down on his suicide note. You are his dream, Christopher, and I want to marry you," she said with a warm smile, but her proposal was out of nowhere that he didn't know what to say at first.
"B-B-But you told me that we couldn't be together. You didn't want Rachel to feel your pain," he said in a frightened tone.
"I've changed my mind . . . I just hope you didn't," she said with a disappointed tone.
"I . . . I just don't know how to feel. This is all too fast."
With those words, she looked at the ground, trying desperately to hold back her tears. Why can't things just go smoothly for them? First, they held back their feelings for each other to the point that he fell in love with someone else. Second, they could have kissed for the first time up on that stage, but her mask had to prevent it. Third, they could finally be together, but her rash actions have frightened him greatly. "I'll give you some time to think, but people might come after me to 'get rid of me'," she said in a soft voice. "I'll change into my wedding dress and we can talk this out."
"Wait, you have a wedding dress ready?"
"Yes. I even made it myself. When you've spent years in isolation, you tend to find something to past the time," she said as she went into her room and closed the curtains. So many things were racing in his head. Why can't anything go right? If he had confessed his feelings early on, they could have been together, but his nerves always got the best of him. She had suffered enough already, but he put her through even more pain. Now, they have a chance to be married, but their surrounding circumstances were preventing this union to be a happy one.
"Christopher," a soft feminine voice said, but it didn't come from Erika's bedroom. He looked around and saw Rachel at the gate. She was gesturing him to come closer and he quietly walked through the water to her. Through her bars, she gave him a hug and he could feel her wet clothing. She had to swim all the way here since there was no boat waiting for her. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, but you shouldn't be here-," Christopher said quietly, hoping she didn't hear them.
"No, I'm here to save you. I told you that she was a lunatic. Now, she's kidnapped you for her own purposes. We need to get out of here before she does something to hurt you!"
Without warning, the gate lifted, allowing her to enter and securely hug him, but as soon as she came in, the gate descended, trapping her within the lair. They both looked around and saw Erika had used her lever to open the gate and trap her within. She was wearing a very elegant wedding dress that was only slightly puffy. She was even holding a rose with a black ribbon around it as if it were her bouquet. Her makeup on her good side of her face was wearing off with the tears while the hideous side was left with nothing but tears. "I guess we'll have a witness after all."
"What do you think you're doing? Do you truly think that he will ever marry you," Rachel yelled as she advanced toward her, but Christopher held her back.
"Mademoiselle, you really thought I would harm the man I love? You said it yourself: I was obsessed with him; with a mind twisted as mine, I love him, but too much."
"It's not physical harm I was worried about. Trapping him in your fantasy will hurt him much more than any torture you could have planned. Being forced to live with someone who is not only distorted physically, but also in the soul, won't make him love you!"
"Please stop saying such hurtful things, Rachel. You don't know her like I do," Christopher said.
Erika chuckled. "Disfigured in the soul, you say? I've done some terrible things in the past, Rachel. I've killed so many people to the point I don't remember how many and I would happily add you to that list."
"Just like you killed Samara?"
"Just because a girl disappeared, you think I killed her? No, she's fine; she just had to take an unexpected nap in her dressing room."
"Let us go! I love him with all my heart and soul. Does that mean nothing to you? Show some compassion," she yelled as she held him tighter.
She laughed. "The world showed no compassion to me, so why should I show any to you?" Erika walked closer to her and Rachel tried to defend him in case she tried to pull him away, but instead, she pushed him away and put a noose around Rachel's neck. "Did you want me to be the monster that everyone thinks I am? Well, here I am!"
"Erika, stop this," Christopher yelled as she tried to save Rachel, who was clearly scared for her life. She wasn't putting pressure on the noose, but she could at any moment. He looked into her eyes and he could see clearly all the years of pain, anger, and madness.
"Maybe I will, but you have to choose. Either you marry me now or she will die. It's your choice. Now we are past the post of no return!" He stood there frozen. He didn't know what to say. She just gave him an ultimatum that he couldn't escape from.
"Christopher, you don't have to do this. Don't throw away your life for my sake," Rachel said, but Erika put a little pressure on the noose to shut her up.
"It's his choice, not yours. You've made the decision to come here and you must have known I might have done something like this to you. So, Christopher, do you choose to be with me or do you send her to her gave?"
"Why make him lie to you to save me," Rachel said before she made her shut up.
"Erika, how could you do such a thing? You already knew my answer from the start, but now you've made it a life-or-death decision?"
"You try my patience. Tell me your answer!"
He advanced to her and she moved back, but he said, "Come closer." She knew that if he chose Rachel, he would have said it already. She let go of her and Rachel gasped for air, but she wanted to see what he would do. "You're no longer alone." With those words, he finally was able to kiss the woman he loved. Their lips finally touched and even though she was surprised, she closed her eyes and embraced the kiss. The moment they yearned for had finally arrived. This was better than any answer he could have told her. Rachel was appalled to see him kiss the monster who just threatened her life, but once their lips parted, she could see that his decision had made an impact. She was crying once again and her madness had finally gone away.
"What am I doing," she asked herself as she pushed herself away from him. "This isn't how I wanted things to happen. In fact, what was I thinking for forcing you to marry me when we still can't be together?"
"What do you mean?"
"I can't force you to live a life of darkness and secrecy. You belong up there in the light and everyone cheering your name when they hear you sing."
"What are you saying," Christopher said, still confused by what she was saying, but afraid that her answer was going to break his heart.
"I'm saying that Rachel is the woman you deserve to be with. She can give you the life you deserve," she said. "You wouldn't be happy with me."
"Just do as I say," she said with tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry, but you have to leave now. You can take the boat and make sure no one sees you. Just forget me and all of this. Leave me alone," she said as she retreated to her room and closed the curtains.
"Erika, wait," Christopher yelled as he tried to run after her, but Rachel held him back.
"You heard what she said. I want to leave now before she changes her mind again," she said as she tried to direct him to the boat.
"No, I need to see her," he said as he finally escaped her grasp and ran to the curtain, but when he opened it, he was shocked to find that she was nowhere in sight. How did she disappear? Why did she want him to leave her? Why?
"She's not there, Christopher. We have to go now. I heard the police are going to investigate the catacombs for any signs of the Phantom and I don't want to be here when they do." In defeat, Christopher left the room and walked to the lever to open the gate. After it opened, he ran to Rachel, who was already in the boat, grabbed the paddle, and rowed out of the lair. Once they were at a far distance, they heard the gates close behind them and saw that Erika pulled the lever to close the gate. He thought about rowing back to her, but what was the point? She already closed the gate and her mind was made up. Even if he begged her to let him in, she wouldn't do it, no matter how much it broke her heart.
They finally arrived to Christopher's home under the cover of night and entered without anyone seeing them. Rachel quickly went to a closet to find some towels to dry herself off, but he went to his room to change his clothes. When they were dry enough, they sat on his couch, but it was clear that what just happened was disturbing both of them. "I can't believe she would let us go. How did you know that a kiss would do that," Rachel asked.
"I didn't," he said softly, still heartbroken by her sudden decision to let them go.
"Well, now I know that you truly love me because you would even kiss a monster in order to save my life," she said as she hugged him, but he shook her off.
"How many times do I have to tell you that she's not a monster? She's a poor soul who just needed love," he said as he looked away from her.
After a moment of silence, Rachel said, "You know I don't believe in moving in with my fiancé until after marriage, but I think I should, especially after what happened."
"No, I wouldn't want you to be put in danger again. What if she changes her mind again? If you lived with me, I'm sure she would go after you too."
"I suppose you're right. Should I have the police guard your home in case of such event?"
"That won't be necessary. She said it herself: she wouldn't harm me. It's your safety I'm most concern about. Just go home and I'll see you tomorrow morning," he said as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I promise everything will be all right."
"I hope you're right, but if you don't show up tomorrow, I will have the police search for you."
"All right," he said as he hugged her. With those words, she got up from the couch and headed for the door. After saying goodnight, she left him, but not without checking if he was still all right.
Once he closed the door, he slumped back on the couch. The scene down in her lair played back in his mind again: her madness, her proposal, Rachel's "rescue", the ultimatum, the kiss, and finally, her decision to let him go. Why would she do that? She finally got the answer she wanted, but she still allowed him to leave her. In fact, she demanded that he would leave her alone. They could have been together, but did she not want that? Why? That questioned stayed in his mind. He needed an answer now.
Erika was in her bedroom, playing some music from her opera with her violin. The sound sounded melancholy since she wasn't playing it like the way it was written, but instead the way she felt in her heart. Eventually, she played the seduction song and could feel tears welling up in her eyes. She thought about how many times she probably cried in front of Christopher and how each time she did, he never scolded her for it like her mother did. "Those were signs of weakness, you little monster." Those words in her head caused her to stop playing and took deep breaths to stop herself from crying. She thought about what happened just some time ago and how unlike her she acted. She was even willing to kill Rachel right in front of Christopher, which for sure would have prevented him from ever loving her again. She was running on repressed emotions of anger and revenge for how the world treated her, but it cost her the chance to be happy with him. How could he possibly feel sympathy for what she did? She acted like a true monster. She thought about maybe ridding the world of this monster by maybe a noose around the neck or a long sleep in the lake, but she pushed back those feelings and picked up her violin and continued to play.
Eventually, she played the wedding scene, but thought about what he did for her. She was so happy when he ran up to her and sang to her, completely changing the ending. In the end, it seemed Don Juan had fallen in love with Aminta too and couldn't bear to be without her. She started playing a few measures before Don Juan's solo, but was terrified when she heard:
Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime
Lead me, save me from my solitude
Say you want me with you here, beside you
Anywhere you go let me go too
Erika, that's all I ask of you
She put down her violin and turned around, but was surprised to see Christopher in a boat at the gate, hoping she would open it. "Please, let me in." He was surprised to see that she was still wearing her wedding dress, but now she had her white mask on, as if to hide the shame she caused herself.
"I told you to leave me alone! What part of that don't you get?"
"I chose you and even gave you a kiss to prove it, but you tell me to leave. Why?"
"I told you that Rachel was the woman you deserved. She would give you things I couldn't. Please leave now!"
"Not before I show you how much I truly love you," he said. With a sigh, she finally gave in and pushed the lever to open the gate. He rowed the boat inside and hurriedly parked it. When he finally reached her, he gave her another passionate kiss that she couldn't help but accept. He wrapped his arms around her and she did the same. She was happy to live such a happy moment again, but she knew that he wouldn't come for just a kiss.
After a good minute of kissing, he then kissed her cheek and finally, her neck, which caused her to pull back in fear. With blushed cheeks, she asked, "What are you doing?"
"I just want to show you how much I love you," he said as he tried to continue, but she pushed him away. She knew now what he wanted. She read many books in her spare time and she knew all about seduction. Heck, she wrote a scene about it in her own opera.
"This is highly inappropriate! You're engaged and we're not married," she said frantically.
"Can't we just pretend?"
After a moment of silence, he finally said, "Do you still have the rings?" She reached into her pocket and pulled out the two rings she showed him earlier. He grabbed them from her hand and said, "Then I guess we can't pretend." She looked at him confused, but he grabbed her hands and said, "Will you, Erika Destler, take me, Christopher Daaé, to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
"It's not the same," she said sadly.
"How were you going to do it if I agreed to marry you?" She opened her mouth as if she were to say something, but shut it when she didn't know what to say. "Now, can you please answer me?"
After a sigh, she looked into his eyes and said, "Of course I do." As soon as she finished her vow, he placed her grandmother's wedding ring on her wedding finger and looked at her with hope.
"Now you say it to me," he said with a smile.
"Now will you, Christopher Daaé, take me, Erika Destler, to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
"I do," he said as he gave her father's ring. She reluctantly placed it on his wedding finger, but once she did, she gave him a huge smile.
"I guess I now pronounce us man and wife. You may kiss your bride," she said. They kissed once again and although she knew they weren't officially married, she felt that they were under her father's eyes. She finally found someone to love her forever and ever, even with her deformity. She never thought she would be happier. Once their lips parted, he removed her mask, which surprised her.
"I love you. All of you," he said as he kissed her deformed cheek, which moved her. He picked up his bride, but had some difficulty with her wedding dress. Regardless, he took her into her bedroom and closed the curtain. Even though they knew they were alone, they wouldn't want anyone to see them make love if someone happened to show up.
Christopher woke up on her bed and stretched his arms, but was surprised to see that Erika wasn't sleeping next to him. He looked around and saw the curtain was slightly open, as if she left the room. He put on his clothes, but was surprised to see that her wedding dress was still on the floor. He headed out the room where he saw Erika on the sofa and was about to surprise her with a hug, but he could her crying. He crouched down to see her face and she had a robe on and her black mask on. "What's wrong?"
She looked up at him and said, "Nothing's wrong. These are tears of joy. I never thought in my entire life that someone would love me like you do. Thank you," she said. He tried to hug her, but she pulled back. "However, you still wouldn't be happy with me."
"What do you mean? I love you. I wouldn't be happy without you," he said as he put a hand on her bare cheek.
"If you were with me, you wouldn't be able to be the star I wanted you to be. Rachel can give you everything you could have ever wanted. All I can give you is darkness and hardships. I'm a wanted criminal and if you were with me, you would be an accomplice. The last thing I would want is for you to live in a world where no one knew your name. Please, understand."
"I . . . I see your point, but I still won't be happy without you. We're married, aren't we?"
"Between the two of us, yes, but we are not legally. You'll still be able to marry Rachel."
"Please, Christopher, I'm thinking what's best for you. If I change my mind, I'll let you know, but for now, I want you to be with Rachel."
"Are you sure," he asked with disappointment in his voice. He is finally able to be with the woman he loves, but she still wants him to be with Rachel. With tears in his eyes, he looked away from her.
"Yes, I'm sorry, but it has to be done. Please understand," she said as she kissed his cheek. He looked at her and she looked at him with sad eyes. After a while, he hugged her suddenly and she embraced him too. With tears rolling down their cheeks, they released and they headed for the boat. He gave her one final kiss before entering the boat and rowing away. He looked back at her one last time before he rowed away out of her sight.
When she could no longer see him, she looked at her wedding ring and smiled. "It's clear now. You love me and that's all I ever wanted."