Chapter 29 – Despair
"That idiot," Nadir screamed. "I wonder what he has done now to upset her so badly." He turned towards Mme. Giry. "Do you mind if I leave Mademoiselle Christine to you? I need to check on Erik. He seems terribly agitated as well."
Mme. Giry nodded. "I will see to Christine. You try to calm down Erik." With that she knelt down next to her sobbing adopted daughter, while Nadir ran after his stubborn friend.
Mme. Giry wrapped her arms firmly around the miserable young woman. "Sh, Christine, it's all right," she cooed. "I am here now..."
Christine cried for a while in Mme. Giry's arms, unable to speak, while heavy sobs shook her slender body. Finally she calmed down enough to utter a few words. "I lost him," she wailed. "It is too late. Erik does not want me anymore!"
Mme. Giry rubbed Christine's back. "What exactly did he say to you to give you that impression?" she asked calmly.
Christine looked away, embarrassed. "It is because of my marriage to Raoul," she sobbed miserably. "He thinks that after Raoul disappointed me he is now the second-best and probably my only chance of ever finding a husband again. He thinks I have had to somewhat lower my standards, being a divorced woman and all that, and that that's the only reason why I am even considering him. And he does not want a used woman. He said he would not pick up the Vicomte's leftovers!"
"How dare he!" Mme. Giry was shocked. She could understand that Christine's previous marriage might have been a blow to Erik's already low self-esteem, reminding him of the fact that the woman he loved had only found her way to him via a detour, but she did not think that his disappointment justified insulting Christine so badly. "His behavior is inexcusable!" she seethed. "Even though it might sadden him that you have already belonged to another man, he should treat you with a minimum of civility."
"Don't be mad at Erik," Christine begged, tears still running down her cheeks. "He suffers enough already because of me. All these past weeks since we found him again, he has been hoping, thinking that everything would finally turn out well, that we could... and now he just realized that it was all a dream, that it has all been over long ago, that I am lost to him forever."
"What utter nonsense!" Mme. Giry interrupted Christine. "It all depends on him. Things will only be over between the two of you if he chooses to end them, for no other reason. Don't let his stupid words convince you that there is no way for the two of you anymore. Don't let him make you give up and stop fighting for both your happiness. Unless, of course, that is, unless you cannot forgive him for what he said to you?"
Christine's tears began to flow more freely again. "How can I not forgive him?" she sobbed, "when I know that he was so deeply hurt by what I had to tell him, only because he loves me so much! If he did not care, he... he would not have bothered insulting me. But what can I do to convince him that I really do want him, and am not just settling for him because I can't have anybody else, that I wouldn't want anybody else? After all, considering how I treated him three years ago, it is all my own doing that he does not trust me, does not believe in my love anymore."
Mme. Giry pulled her closer. "We'll think of something. Since you still want Erik despite his inexcusable behavior, we'll have to find a way to make you both happy, for I am fairly certain that you are right and that he would not have reacted so violently if he did not love you anymore. We cannot resolve this today, though. Neither you nor Erik are in any condition to handle this rationally right now. You are both agitated. Come, ma chérie, I will take you home, there you will take a nice, hot bath to calm your nerves and then you will go to bed early and sleep it all off. Tomorrow is another day and you will be much calmer. We will then think about how we can convince that stubborn man of your love."
Christine nodded unconvinced and let Mme. Giry help her to her feet and guide her towards the front door.
"But I tell you one thing," Mme. Giry said, "once we have convinced Erik of your love and he does propose to you again, I won't give my motherly consent until he has suitably grovelled at your feet and asked you to forgive him. I won't let him get away with insulting my daughter like that, just because he is hurt and suffering as well."
While Mme. Giry was trying to calm down Christine, Nadir followed Erik, but when he reached the latter's room, he found it locked. "Erik, open your door, I have to talk to you," Nadir bellowed.
"Go away!" Erik's voice sounded mad with rage. "Leave me alone, all of you!"
Nadir did not relent. "Erik, this does not sound like you at all. What has happened that has upset you so much?" he asked through the door.
Erik's insane laughter resounded from inside his room and Nadir began to worry for his friend's mental health. "Oh nothing, nothing at all," Erik seethed. "I just woke up, is all. I see the world now the way it is, not through the rose-colored glasses. I am finally accepting the brutal reality of my cursed existence, that's what's happening to me."
Nadir stared at the still-closed door. "I have no clue what you are talking about," he said, "and I do have a strong feeling that you are misinterpreting something. If this has something to do with Mademoiselle Christine..."
"Stop calling her that!" Erik roared. "She does not deserve that title. She is a Madame, a... used woman. She was married to that boy of hers, and he cast her out, when he did not want her anymore. And now that she does not have too many options left, I am considered to be acceptable."
Nadir took a deep breath. So that was the problem. Christine had apparently confessed to Erik that she had been married to the Vicomte for a while and Erik took this revelation the wrong way.
"Madame Christine, if you prefer to call her that, is an honorable woman," Nadir began, but Erik's laughter interrupted him.
"Honorable!" Erik spat out the word. "Tainted by a divorce, a woman with no chance of remarrying, her reputation ruined, and now that she cannot pick and choose a husband that's to her liking, I am suddenly good enough? How would you feel, Nadir, if you found out that the woman that you... love, that means more to you than anything in this world, that you have put on a pedestal and that you worship, that this woman has been playing you like a fiddle, has made you believe she cares for you, has even kissed you, that she is... she has... that it was all a lie! That she is just in dire need of a husband and nobody else will have her!"
Nadir shook his head. How could Erik talk such nonsense? And even worse, how could he believe that?
"Madame Christine does not need a husband," Nadir reminded Erik. "She is fully capable of supporting herself with her singing. She does not have to remarry unless she wants to."
Erik sneered. "Yeah, she needed me for that, too, to help her with her voice, that's why she has endured my love-sick-puppy behavior."
Nadir tried again and again to reason with Erik, but the latter was not even listening. Christine's confession had upset Erik more than he himself realized. He had believed in her love, although his returned memories had tried to tell him otherwise. He had trusted her words, when she told him she would be his if he still wanted her, and now it all seemed like a well-rehearsed charade.
"She was counting on my love for her," he told himself. "She thought that nothing could turn me against her, and by playing the innocent girl who has finally discovered who her true love is, she thought she could trick me into marriage. Apparently even a disfigured murderer is better than no husband at all!"
After a while, Erik was exhausted from his raging and broke down, sobbing. "Oh Christine," he cried. "Why? Why did you have to hurt me so much once again? Why could you not stay away and leave me alone? Why did you have to break my heart all over again?"
And he cried for hours, about his miserable life, his ugly face which prevented him from being loved, about Christine's betrayal three years ago and the fact that he had fallen for her once again, believed in her openly displayed innocence. "I should have known," he sobbed, "after all, she is an actress. Why did I not see through her machinations much sooner? I was such a fool!"
The next day, Nadir went to see Mme. Giry to discuss the situation at hand. "Christine hasn't stopped crying yet," Mme. Giry sighed. "She is very upset. She thinks that she has lost Erik, that it is somehow too late for them, that they can never be together."
Nadir gave her a quizzical look. "Has Erik insulted her so badly that she cannot forgive him?"
Mme. Giry shook her head. "On the contrary," she sighed. "Christine is convinced that she is at fault. That she has hurt Erik again, betrayed him in some way, because she was married to that Vicomte, and that after the way she has treated Erik previously, it is no surprise that he cannot believe in her love anymore."
Nadir sighed. "What a mess," he commented. "Erik is indeed crying as well, and it is true that he is doubting her love, though I do not quite understand his reasoning. He seems to think that Mademoiselle Christine wants a new husband so desperately that even he now starts to look good. That she does not really want him specifically, but is willing to overlook certain shortcomings of his, like his face, because she feels somehow less of a woman without a husband or some such nonsense. I have tried to point out to him that she does not necessarily need a man to support her, since she will be able to make a decent living once she will return to the stage, and that therefore she only will marry again if she wants to, but he is determined to ignore that fact, and I have no clue why he believes that Mademoiselle Christine would want a husband at any price."
"Christine, on the other hand, keeps telling me that she screwed it all up years ago," Mme. Giry commented dryly. "That she should never have turned to Raoul when she was shocked about Erik's actions, that she should have realized then that she loved Erik so much more than Raoul, that she should never have left Erik. She blames herself for the fact that they are currently both unhappy, and she has no hope that this situation can ever be resolved," Mme. Giry added. "She is devastated at the thought of how much Erik must be hurt now, and she keeps singing this song that her father once taught her, the one about looking with the heart instead of the eyes..."
"May I see her?" Nadir was not quite sure what he hoped to achieve by speaking to Christine. He had not had much luck with Erik, would the young woman be more receptive to his pleadings?
Mme. Giry shrugged. "I don't know if she is willing to see anybody, but I'll try. Wait here," with these words she left the parlor. When she returned a few minutes later, Christine was with her.
"Oh Monsieur Khan," Christine sobbed, gripping Nadir's hand in greeting and looking at him with red, swollen eyes. "How is my poor Angel?"
"Angry," Nadir sighed, "and unhappy, which tells me that his heart is far more involved than he wants me to believe." He forced a smile on his face. "He does love you, which is why I am convinced that things can still be sorted out."
Christine shook her head, hopelessness in her eyes. "He can never forgive me," she sighed. "I have given him no reason to believe in my love, on the contrary. It all began long ago, the night of "Il Muto", when I turned away from Erik and ran to Raoul for protection. I did not know my own heart yet then. I did not understand how much Erik meant to me, how much I needed him. I looked with my eyes and ignored my heart. I didn't believe what I felt, didn't trust what my heart showed, didn't forget what I thought or ignore what I heard, I didn't listen to my own heart but paid attention to what others told me. I believed that Erik was a dangerous murderer, that he would haunt me or Raoul or both of us till we'd be dead, that there would never be peace, that everybody would always be in danger of ..." she was sobbing freely now, tears streaming down her cheeks. "And I betrayed him, put his life at risk, and when Raoul followed us to finish him off... I still did not … and even though Erik showed the goodness of his heart by sparing Raoul, his attacker, I still left him... and then... I married... gave myself to the man who had plotted Erik's downfall... How could I?"
"We thought Erik was dead," Mme. Giry reminded her. "There was no reason why you should not have married the Vicomte."
Christine threw herself into her adoptive mother's arms. "Oh maman," she sobbed. "I should have listened to my heart. My father had tried so hard to make me ignore outward appearance and to look straight to a person's heart and I ignored his teachings. Erik had given me everything, hope, guidance and companionship when my father died, my voice, music, the ability to sustain myself. Raoul on the other hand... where was he, when my dear papa died? He never once bothered to write in almost ten years. I should have known where I belonged. I should never have married the man that had plotted to kill my poor Angel!"
Christine looked away, her eyes glazed, remembering the past. "Love you misunderstand, is love that you'll regret," Christine whispered. "How right my papa was. I wish now I could go back to the time before my debut and set things right, because now I understand the meaning of that song. Now I know how I should have acted then. But I screwed it all up, and now not only I have to pay for my mistakes, but my poor Angel as well. If I am miserable now, I get what I deserve, but Erik..." Christine was sobbing so hard now that she could not finish her sentence.
Nadir smiled. "I do get the feeling that you still love our stubborn Erik," he stated.
Christine nodded eagerly. "Of course," she admitted. "How can I not? It is him that won't want me now and won't believe in my love anymore... Oh, how much pain I have caused him already!"
Nadir patted her on the back in an avuncular manner. "I wouldn't give up hope yet," he told her. "Despite everything, that man is still crazy about you. I admit he is not listening to reason right now, but in a few days, when he has calmed down a bit, he will be able to think things through more rationally, and I would be very much surprised if he didn't see the situation a bit differently then. He will be grovelling at your feet, begging you to forgive him for his harsh words then. For even though you blame yourself for your current problems, Erik is in no way innocent. He has done his fair share of doing things the wrong way where you are concerned, and right now I am convinced that he is far more at fault than you. He is overreacting, blowing your previous marriage way out of proportion. I haven't given up hope yet that there will be a wedding soon, and neither should you."
Christine sighed. "If only..." she sobbed, making it clear that she would be only too willing to forgive whatever Erik had said or done, if only he were able to put the hurt behind him and give their relationship another chance.
When Nadir left a little while later, he promised Mme. Giry to
A few days passed, without any significant change of the situation between the unhappy couple. Christine and Erik both spent most of their time in their respective rooms and only emerged for meals. While Christine was mostly crying and blaming herself, though, Erik was sulking and raging at his fate that relegated him to the back row, making it impossible for him to be anything other than second-best.
Almost a week had gone by since Christine's confession, when one morning a disheveled, distressed Darius knocked at the front door of the Giry-home.
Mme. Giry, who went to answer the door, was shocked. She had never seen the man in such a condition. "My God, Darius," she screamed. "You look terrible! Is something wrong? What's the matter?"
Darius gasped for breath, he had been running all the way from the men's cottage. "You should come quickly," he rasped, "and Mademoiselle Christine as well. My master says, the two of you are our last hope. Master Erik..." Darius shuddered. "He... we don't know what to do, we are so worried, we fear... he might... he .. it's Persia," he finally stuttered. "He remembers... and he... we fear he might... he is so agitated..."