I Love You
A month has passed since the infamous debut showing of Don Juan Triumphant. The Palais Garnier suffered heavy damage from the chandelier fire and the performers who lost their jobs due to the fire either chose to find employment elsewhere or wait until the Palais Garnier was rebuilt and continue working, which included Christopher, Madame Giry, and Meg, but that idea was short-lived since only a select few chose to stay. The managers left quickly and most of the performers were working in a recently built opera house called the Opera Populaire. Due to the abandoned mission of rebuilding the Palais Garnier, the Girys had to seek employment there. Christopher, on the other hand, thought it was best to seek employment outside of Paris, or at least, until everything was behind him. He didn’t want his memories of the Phantom of the Opera to interfere with his work. Speaking of the Phantom, no one has seen or heard from her ever since the debut show. As Rachel said, the police did try to track down the Phantom the morning after the show, but they had no luck. All they could find was her lair deep in the catacombs.
Some day after the fiasco, Christopher snuck into the heavily damaged theater to go into his dressing room and enter her lair. Despite the building being charred beyond recognition, he still managed to find his dressing room and pass through the slightly melted mirror. He walked down the hallway and was surprised to see a boat waiting for him. He thought she might have brought the boat back after he left so no one would see it, but it was still here. He rowed the boat all the way to her lair, but when he arrived, he was disappointed to see that she wasn't there. He noticed that some stuff was missing, including her violin and her masks, and the place seemed to be abandoned for quite some time. Dust and cobwebs were starting to form, which was unusual since she kept the place very clean. He looked inside her bedroom and even her little calendar beside her bed was gone. Did she move out? Where could she have gone? Why wouldn't she tell him?
The week before the wedding, Rachel invited the wedding party to a lunch to celebrate. The best man was obviously Philippe, but the maid of honor was a surprise choice: Meg Giry. True, she was Christopher's closest female friend, but it was usually the bride's choice. However, Rachel didn't choose that many bridesmaids; only three cousins, but even then, she wasn't really close with them. Meg was the default choice and was a very active member in the wedding, but at the same time, she felt reluctant about the entire process and Christopher knew exactly why.
"Cheers to the future bride and groom that they may have a happy and prosperous marriage," Philippe said as he held his glass up high and the rest followed. "And I'm happy to announce that my wife and child will be coming to the wedding as well."
"Wait, you have a wife and child? Since when," Rachel asked with excitement.
"About a year ago, but we had to get married in secret since her parents didn't approve. I couldn't invite you because it would have been too suspicious, but she just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and I'm happy you will finally meet them," Philippe said as he gave Christopher a wink. He smiled back, knowing that the adoption went as planned and she doesn't suspect a thing.
"I can't wait! Oh, can't the wedding day come faster?"
"We still need to make a few more preparations before then. I rather we take our time so the day can be even more special," Christopher said with a fake smile.
"I suppose you're right. Are you going to sing for us at the reception?"
He nearly choked on the water he was drinking when he heard her ask that. After a cough or two, he said, "Why do you ask that?"
"Well, everyone knows you have a lovely voice and some of us, mainly me, want to hear you sing," Rachel said with a smile. The party of nine agreed as they nodded at her statement. He looked at Meg, who was uneasy with her statement and she could clearly see he was too. "What do you say, for old time's sake?"
"Well, I-I don't know. I haven't sung for a long time. I might be a little rusty," he said trying to escape the situation.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll be fine," Philippe said as he patted his future brother on the back.
"What shall I sing?"
"Maybe my mother and I can help. She has some sheet music of some operas. Maybe we can find a song for you to sing some time later today," Meg lied. With her eyes, she signaled him that she meant something else and luckily, he picked up on it.
"Oh, that's great! You can go while my bridesmaids and I find something blue for me to wear on our wedding day," Rachel said with a hopeful smile. It was very clear that she was very excited for the wedding, but Christopher wasn't. Even with the wedding date approaching closer and closer, he could only think about one thing: Erika. He even had to put his ring on the other hand so Rachel wouldn't ask questions. In fact, she never seemed to notice it. She focused on so many things, like her wedding dress and decorations, which relieved him a bit. He too helped out with preparations, but not to her extent, especially since Philippe helped her out majority of the time.
After lunch, Christopher and Meg walked to the Giry house, but she asked him a few questions along the way. "How do you feel about singing at your wedding?"
"Oh, well, I feel a bit uncomfortable about it."
"Why? I mean, you do sing very lovely. Even though a month has past, I'm sure you won't sound horrible."
"It's not just that, but . . . ," he said before pausing. He didn't want to finish the rest of his sentence in case she would tell Rachel about what he was going to say.
"You can only sing with passion for Erika, right," she said, as if she could read his mind. He looked at her with surprise and she smiled. "I knew it."
"How would you know?"
"Well, I might have overheard you saying you love her when we were at your house," she said with a teasing smile. He gave her a disapproval look for eavesdropping, but she didn't care. "It's clear who you love more. I bet you can't even focus on the wedding as much as you should."
"I'll admit that my mind has been preoccupied since that night, but she has disappeared without a trace. I just want to know if she's all right."
With a sigh, she said, "That's why I brought you here. Mother doesn't have any manuscripts from any opera. I just want you to talk to her."
"Wait, has she seen her? Can she lead me to her," he asked with hope in his voice, but she didn't answer.
They finally arrived to the house and Meg opened the door with a silver key. When the door opened, she could see that Madame Giry was carrying a heavy suitcase down the stairs. When she saw them at the door, especially Christopher, she nearly dropped it. "I didn't expect to see you here, Christopher. You nearly gave me a heart attack," she said as she finally managed to carry the suitcase down.
"Are you leaving soon, Madame Giry," Christopher asked with suspicion.
"No, no. These are just some old clothes in the attic that I wanted to bring down and the suitcase seemed like the easiest way to carry them. What brings you by?"
"I brought him here, mother. He needs to know," Meg said. Now Christopher's curiosity grew, but he didn't want to ask.
"Meg, can I speak to you for a moment," she said with a suspicious tone. Meg nodded her head and they both entered the kitchen. Christopher waited until they were out of sight and he quietly followed them, but he made sure he wasn't seen. It was clear that they were keeping something from him. They were quiet, but what he could hear some things clearly.
"What were you thinking bring him here?"
"I'm sorry, but he needs to know the truth! I can tell he's been miserable since she left and he wants to know if she's all right."
"But you know why she did it! She doesn't want to be found!"
With those words, he looked at the ground and noticed the suitcase. After checking to see if they were coming, he quietly set the suitcase on its side and opened it. He could see nothing out of the ordinary; old clothes, just like she said. He was about to close it, but he noticed something black hiding amongst the clothes. He moved them to reveal a black and red mask, but not just any mask: Erika's mask that she wore for Don Juan Triumphant. He picked it up and couldn't believe what he was looking at. Why did they have it? Do they know where she is? Why haven't they told him?
"Oh, I guess you found it," Madame Giry said with a bit of surprise. He looked up and saw that the Girys were staring at him. He found out their little secret.
"Why do you have her mask? What aren't you telling me," he asked as he waved the mask at them.
After a moment of hesitation, Madame Giry finally said, "Meg, could you please go upstairs. I would like to speak with Christopher in private." She nodded her head and went straight upstairs. When they were alone, Madame Giry suddenly went through some drawers to find something. "I know it's around here somewhere."
"What's going on? Why did Meg bring me here? What are you hiding?"
"Ah, there it is," she said as she pulled out an envelope with the name Giry on it. "I found this on my door along with the mask today." He grabbed it out of her hands and could see that it was clearly Erika's handwriting. He reopened it and quickly read what it said.
Dear Antoinette and Meg Giry,
I'm writing this letter to you to tell you that I will be leaving Paris and will be on my way to a new life in a new country. I cannot stay in Paris any longer especially since the debut show of my opera. I'm a wanted criminal now and I must leave in order to make a life for myself. I'm not sure what my plan is exactly, but what I do know is that it will involve music. It's my specialty and even though the citizens of Paris didn't appreciate it, I am sure that someone will. Please don't try to find me. I know Christopher would be wondering where you went if you left to find me. Speaking of him, please don't tell him about this. The last thing I would want for him is to change his mind about his wedding just to find me. Please I'm begging you.
Hope to write to you soon,
Christopher didn't know how to react. On one hand, he got his answer; she was all right. He feared that the police might have found her and didn't report it for some strange reason, especially since her lair was abandoned for a month now. On the other hand, he felt heartbroken to know that she was leaving him for good. He wanted to be close to her, but now he couldn't. After the moment they shared that fateful night, she still believed that he would be happier with Rachel. Didn't he prove who he loved more to her? "You said you got this today?"
"Yes, along with the mask. I wanted to respect her wishes and hide the mask so you wouldn't find it, but it seems fate has a different idea," she said with a sad tone.
"Why did Meg tell me about it then?"
"Maybe she wanted to see who you loved more, but it's clear now. You wouldn't be so worked up about her if you didn't love her."
"Do you have any idea where she could have gone? Maybe Spain? Germany? Italy? America," Christopher asked in a frantic manner.
"Christopher, please! She wants you to move on from her. She wants you to be with your new wife. Why would she leave if it wasn't for that reason?"
"But . . . that night . . . we proved our love for each other," he said as he looked at his wedding ring. "This was her father's wedding ring. I've had to wear it on this hand to avoid questions."
"Wait, are you two married," Madame Giry asked with utter surprise.
"Not exactly. We were not in front of a priest or a councilman, but we did exchange the marital vows and put the rings on each other. In my heart, we're married, but she still chose to leave."
"Maybe you are looking at this the wrong way. A wife is supposed to do what is best for her husband and in this case, the best way to make you happy is to let you go with a woman who can provide for your needs." Christopher was silent for a moment, but he handed the note back to her. She did have a point. In a marriage, a spouse makes sacrifices to make the other happy and that's exactly what Erika was doing, but he wished she didn't have to go to such lengths.
After a while, they heard Meg come down the stairs, but only halfway. "Did you finally tell him?"
"Yes. He knows everything now," she said with a wink. Meg sighed, not in relief, but in disappointment.
He looked down at the mask and said, "Can I keep the mask at least? If I can't see her anymore, it is at least a reminder of how much we loved each other."
Madame Giry looked at her daughter and asked, "Should we?" Meg looked up the stairs for a while and then looked back at her mother with a nod. "Then I guess it's all yours, Christopher, but promise me that you will take great care of it."
"I promise," he said with a sad smile. At the sound of those words, she led him out the door and they exchanged farewells. When she finally shut the door, she and Meg raced for the window and saw that he was holding back tears from the story they told him.
"Is he gone," a soft feminine voice cooed from upstairs.
They looked up and Madame Giry said, "Yes, he's gone." They heard footsteps walk down the stairs and then they could see who they belonged to: Erika. She was wearing some of Meg's old clothes, but had her white mask on. "You know you just broke his heart right now, don't you?"
"I know, but his happiness doesn't involve me in his life. How could I possibly make him happy?"
"Well, he wouldn't come all this way to find where you were if you didn't," Meg said. "I was hoping that he might change your mind, but even when he was here, you wanted to remain hidden."
"My mind is made up! Tomorrow, I'm going on a boat to Coney Island and that's it."
"Are you sure you still want to go through this? After all, you two are . . . I guess, married," Madame Giry said. Erika blushed; she forgot to tell them of what happened that night. For the past month, she had been living with the Girys to avoid the police investigating the catacombs and she did hear that they found her lair. For some days now, she had planned to leave Paris to make a life for herself, but she needed time to prepare. However, she never expected him to visit, even for a brief time. She didn't need to see his face to know that he did miss her and might even cancel his wedding to be with her, just like he did in Don Juan Triumphant. This made her leave even harder to comply with, but she has to do it.
"Yes, we are . . . married," she said as she showed them the ring. "I think he explained our wedding best." They both marveled at the ring, but Meg had some questions in mind.
"So, how did you get the ring or did he buy it?"
"This is my grandmother's wedding ring and he's wearing my father's. I told you about what happened that night, right?"
"Only that you nearly killed Rachel, he kissed you, and then you let them go. Apparently, there's more," Meg said with a teasing smile.
"Well, I didn't want to tell you in case you would try to bring him here to change my mind, but I guess I didn't have to tell you in order for that to happen," she said as she looked at Meg who didn't seem guilty for what she did. "Well, he came back and said he wanted to show his love for me and we got married in my lair."
"Did you two . . . you know . . . after the wedding," Meg asked a little embarrassed, but it didn't matter since he mother scolded her for asking such a personal question. However, her question was answered with Erika's blushing cheeks. They eyes lit up with surprise.
"You actually did? Oh my," Madame Giry said, but not in a scolding manner. True, she believed that sex was only appropriate after marriage, but in a way, they were technically married. They exchanged vows and rings, so it was somewhat official. Their love for each other proved that souls were indeed one.
After of while of awkwardness, Erika walked to her open suitcase and closed it, almost forgetting that the most important thing in there was gone. They looked at her with confusion and then Madame Giry asked, "Why did you let him keep your mask? You told us it was precious to you."
"If I can't be around for him, I might as well give him something to remember me by. Besides, the mask meant a lot to him as it did for me. I'm sure he'll take good care of it."
Christopher walked all the way from their house to the cemetery. His feet were tired from all the walking, but he knew that Erika did this for years from an either farther distance and she didn't complain. He walked up to his father's tomb and hurried inside. The last two visits, he managed to find her, so he hoped somehow, it would happen again. He walked to his father's coffin and placed a hand on it. "Hello father. Well, I bet you know how I feel right now, but I don't know what to do. Should I marry Rachel or cancel it to go search for Erika? I know that's against her wishes, but I truly do love her, more than I ever did with Rachel. I just wish she was here so I could figure out what to do, but please help me decide."
A gust of wind blew into the grave and some things moved, including an envelope that was at first hidden from his sight, but now was on the ground. He picked it up from the ground and on the envelope, it said Christopher. He could see that it was from Erika and quickly removed the wax seal to open it. He removed the letter out of it and read carefully.
I'm sorry that I didn't tell you, but I didn't want you to come after me. By the time you read this, I will have left Paris to find a life for myself. I know that if I told you myself, you would have wished for me to let you go with me, but I can't allow that. I don't want my misdeeds to interfere with our happiness. Realize that I have done more in my past than accidentally killing Buquet and dropping the chandelier. I want you to be with the woman you deserve and that will help you further your career. If you truly love me, you will follow my wishes and leave me be. It's what a good husband should do for his wife. Maybe in our future, our paths will meet again, but for now, they must remain separated. Remember, you will always have a place in my heart and no one in this world will replace you. I love you, my Angel of Music.
After reading the letter, he was in tears. Even though she didn't tell him in person, she finally told him what she was doing and she was fine. This letter was his answer. If she didn't want to be found, then he'll respect her wishes and marry Rachel, for her sake.
After a while, he walked outside the tomb and was disappointed to know that she was nowhere to be seen. There wasn't a single person other than him there. He thought about walking back home, but he decided to do one last thing before leaving. He walked to Erika's father's grave and pay homage to it. He knelt on his knee and said, "You raised a wonderful daughter. She's so noble that she would sacrifice her happiness for mine. I just hope that our paths do cross again and when it does, we can be together. Thank you." He got up and noticed that there was a rose with a black ribbon on the ground with a note. He grabbed it and read what the note said: I will miss you now more than ever.
The week passed and the wedding finally arrived. Christopher was a nervous wreck all day. His groomsmen helped him prepare for his special day, joking that this is his last chance to reconsider, which led to Philippe's scolding face. He didn't pay all this money just so he can have cold feet. As the groomsmen left to prepare for the wedding, Philippe stayed behind to ask some question. "Christopher, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm just nervous, that's all."
"Why are you nervous? I mean, you're marrying the love of your life right now! You proved your love for each other that night when that maniac tried to kill her. You managed to save her and she couldn't be any happier that you did."
"I guess, but-,"
"No buts! Just finish getting ready and we'll see you in a few minutes," he said as he left the room. Christopher looked in his full-length mirror one more time and just wished that was like the one in his dressing room. He even tried to open it, but all he did was slightly break it. He sighed as he left the room.
The wedding went as planned with no interruptions. Rachel and Christopher were officially man and wife and she couldn't be any happier. He put on a smile the whole time since he knew he made two women happy today, even if that one person was bittersweet about it. The reception was full of jovial behavior with the people dancing and drinking to their heart's desires. Even his cousin, Christine Daaé, came to the wedding, which he thought was great since she just recently lost her father. He thought she needed a distraction and tonight seemed to do the trick. She was actually smiling and even congratulated the couple. "You two look so perfect together," she told him while his wife was dancing with the rest of the guests.
"You could say that. I just wanted to do what was best for her," he said, but he thought of someone other than his wife.
"I'm sure you two will have a happy future together. Besides, things are looking up for me. I'm going to be working here in Paris."
"The Opera Populaire! I heard it will be a bigger and better opera house than the Palais Garnier and I will be dancing there."
"I heard that the Girys will be working there, so you won't be alone. They are really kind people and I'm sure you will view them like family like I do."
"Oh really? Well, I'll make sure to talk to them before I leave. Are you going to work at the Opera Populaire?"
"I don't know. I might or I might be a traveling performer. Rachel thinks I should move on from Paris and now I'm starting to agree. I just hope that the Opera Populaire will be as good as they say and has no tragedies within its walls."
"I just hope that what you went through never happens to me. I mean, how tragic would it be if I were caught in a madman's fantasy? I'm surprised you made it out alive."
"She wasn't a madwoman. She was a person, but everyone still sees her as a Phantom. I just wish that one day, they will see the truth. Maybe you'll find love like I did."
"Oh, I hope so. You and Rachel look so happy together. I'll be honest, I haven't been that happy since I was with Raoul in Sweden, but that was a long time ago."
"Maybe you'll have your own Phantom lover," he teased, but his tone turned serious. "But if you do, please treat him with all the respect he deserves."
"All right? Well, I'm off to dance with the others. Care to join me," Christine asked as she held out her hand. He took it and she dragged him to the dance floor where they danced all night.
After the reception, Christopher carried Rachel into his home, where they planned to live until they figured out their future plan. He took her upstairs and laid her on the bed. She had been anxious about this moment all day, but she finally was ready to be officially one with her husband. He had been nervous about this all day, but he was experienced enough to give her s night of pleasure, even if he had to imagine that she was Erika all night.