Chapter 32 – Marriage
Christine beamed. "Of course, my Angel," she whispered, "August 15 sounds like the perfect date to me." She looked down, suddenly sad. "I just wish we could get married in church," she sighed. "It would mean so much more if we could exchange our vows in front of the altar."
Erik stared at her uncomprehendingly. "Why would we not be able to get married in church?" he asked. He personally did not care where and how they would get married, as long as he got some written proof that Christine was his rightful wife.
"Because of my divorce," Christine explained. "The church does not recognize divorces. I therefore can only have a civil marriage now."
Erik was surprised to hear that. He had never thought about such things. A civil marriage would be perfectly fine in his opinion, but he had a feeling that this detail mattered to Christine. He therefore made a mental note to investigate this issue and if possible, find a way that Christine could have her wedding in a church.
The next Sunday, when the Girys had tea with Erik and Nadir, Erik announced that he and Christine would get married on August 15. Then he turned to Christine and smiled at her. "I talked to Father Paul, who will also be marrying Sir Toddlingham's daughter next week, and he has agreed to do the same for us. He knows that you have been married before, but for the Church of England this does not constitute a problem."
Christine was not quite convinced. "But I am catholic," she reminded Erik. "And as a catholic I should not get married in church again."
Erik smiled. He was prepared for that argument. "Are you really?" he asked. "I know you have been attending catholic services most of your life, but you are Swedish, my dear, and Sweden is a protestant country. It will be perfectly fine for a divorced protestant woman like you to get married by the Church of England. I have informed myself. It will be as valid and binding as if you had never been married before."
Christine beamed at Erik and hugged him. She knew how little he cared about the church and that he had gone to such lengths to find a way to give her what she secretly desired moved her to tears. "My Angel," she whispered. "You are so good to me. I will never be able to thank you enough for all you are doing for me."
Erik pulled her close. "Your love is all I want in return," he said huskily, before his lips found hers.
On August 15, the wedding took place in a little chapel near Sir Toddlingham's town house. Father Paul conducted the ceremony, as promised, Mme. Giry gave Christine away and Meg was the bridesmaid. Sir Toddlingham acted as Erik's best man, since Nadir's Muslim faith was considered a bit of a hindrance. He and Darius were in attendance, though, as was Lord Castleborough and Sir Toddlingham's entire family, which in addition to his wife Eliza consisted of his newly-wed daughter Gwendolyn, his son-in-law Henry and his teenage son Malcolm.
Christine looked like an angel in a copy of the wedding dress that Erik had designed for her so long ago. She had insisted on getting married in such a dress. Somehow it seemed to her that by accepting that dress she could erase the years that lay between the day she had first laid eyes on it and today. By becoming the bride that Erik had wanted her to be back then, by looking the way he had envisioned his bride then, she hoped to make them both forget the past three years. "And I was wearing such a dress the first time I ever kissed you," she had added. "I want to wear a replica of that dress when I finally give myself to you for the rest of our lives."
When Christine and Erik spoke their vows, Christine was reminded for a brief moment of another wedding to another groom, when she had made similar promises. Those vows had not lasted very long, but when she hesitantly looked at her Angel, checking if he was thinking similar thoughts, he gave her a reassuring smile and grabbed her hand. Christine felt all warm and cozy inside. No, this time was different. This time their vows would really bind them together till death and beyond, for this time she was marrying her soul mate, the man she had always been meant to be with.
Darius had prepared a wedding reception for his beloved master Erik and "our lady" as he called Christine. Lord Castleborough and the Toddlinghams, as well as Father Paul enjoyed the food, among which there were some Persian delicacies they were not used to, and everybody admired the beautiful cake, which Erik and Christine cut for them together.
Once the wedding guests had gone home, the couple was finally left alone. When Erik lead his wife to their bedroom, Christine noticed that he was nervous. She smiled at her new husband encouragingly. She was a bit nervous herself. Once again she cursed the fact that she had been married before. How much more meaningful this night might have been if she were still a virgin, if Erik were the first and only man ever to make love to her, if he could have been the one to turn her from a girl into a woman.
Erik finally spoke. "We don't have to,…" he began cautiously. "I mean, I fully understand if you do not want to…"
Christine stared at him, unsure if she understood what he had just told her. "You do not want to make love to me?" she asked, tears welling in her dark eyes. Apparently Erik did not want her, the used woman, after all.
"That's not it," Erik was eager to explain. "On the contrary, there is nothing in the world I'd rather do than making love to you, my wife." His voice was full of love and pride when he pronounced the word "wife". "It's just that I…" he looked away, embarrassed. "I already told you, that night.. my face… it has denied me the joys of the flesh. I have never… I mean, I do not know how to pleasure a woman," he blurted out, blushing at this confession. "You have prior experience," Erik continued. "You probably have certain expectations, and I…." Erik faced the wall, when he added, dejectedly, "I fear I would disappoint you."
Christine wrapped her arms around him from behind, burying her face in his back. "You won't disappoint me," she whispered. "You are all I want, your love, your caresses. I want to be yours in every sense of the word. Please Erik, I want to be your wife." She turned him around, so that he was facing her. "I love you," she whispered, caressing his deformed cheek and looking him deep into the eyes.
"I love you too," Erik groaned, before their lips met in a passionate kiss. It was as if that kiss had cured him of his doubts. He felt confident now, having been reminded once more that Christine truly loved him and wanted him. His hands and lips began to explore his wife's body, and once their items of clothing started to come off, he felt her little hands and lips on his bare flesh as well. A jolt of pleasure shook his body, once his hands connected with Christine's bare breasts, and when he tentatively lowered his mouth to one of her nipples, teasing it with his lips and tongue, he was rewarded with Christine's moan of pleasure and he was finally convinced that he might be able to make this enjoyable for her as well.
They did not grow tired in exploring each other's bodies, arousing each other more and more in doing so, and when they finally joined, their union seemed to them like a celebration of love and passion beyond anything they had ever dreamed of.
Afterwards they lay in each other's arms, happily enjoying the afterglow of their lovemaking. "This was wonderful," Christine whispered to her Angel. "This was the most exquisite experience I have ever had. Thank you for your love, my Erik."
Erik took in her happy smile. "You did not miss anything?" he asked uncertainly. "I did everything right?"
Christine put a finger on his lips to silence him. "You were phenomenal," she reassured him. "This was unlike anything I have ever experienced." She looked Erik in the eyes, saw the unspoken question there and softly answered it. "It was nothing like that with Raoul," she told Erik. "You taught me the true meaning and pleasure of physical love."
Their lips found each other again and they once again celebrated their love by joining, body and soul, and becoming one again.
In mid-September the new production of "La Traviata" opened and Christine debuted at the London opera as Violetta. Meg danced the solo in the ball scene, and Mme. Giry proudly sat in the box, admiring her two girls. She was accompanied by Erik and Nadir, as well as the Toddlinghams and Lord Castleborough. Christine was listed as Mme. Lavoisier on the playbill, but everybody in the audience knew that she was the ballerina's sister.
Christine's flawless singing technique as well as her inspired interpretation won her the hearts of the audience as well as those of the press. For days, London society was talking about nothing else but the extraordinary talents of the two Giry sisters. For weeks every single performance was sold out, and both, Christine and Meg, performed to roaring applause.
Mme. Giry and Erik attended every performance. They usually were backstage, waiting for the two sisters in one of their dressing rooms. About two weeks into the run of "La Traviata" Erik noticed that Christine was sounding tired towards the end of the performance. Since her character Violetta was supposedly dying at that point, this only added more credibility to her performance. She looked rather pale, too. Erik was worried. What was the matter with Christine? Was she ill?
Mme. Giry had obviously noticed something as well. She quickly glanced at Erik, but his features only expressed concern. He did not seem to have the same suspicion she was having. She decided she had to talk to Christine, alone.
"I think Christine might need some water," she therefore told Erik, the moment the curtain fell. "Will you get it for her? I'll see her to her dressing room." Erik nodded and left to fetch something to drink for his wife, while Mme. Giry helped a queasy Christine to her dressing room.
The moment they arrived there, Christine was violently sick. "I must have eaten something that did not agree with me," Christine mumbled miserably. "I have not been feeling well for at least two days now. I have tried to keep it from Erik, since it's probably nothing. I do not want him to worry over an upset stomach…"
Mme. Giry gave her a quizzical look. "Are you sure it is an… upset stomach?" she asked, putting an emphasis on every single word.
Christine stared at her. "What else could it be?" she asked nervously. "You do not think it is more serious?"
Mme. Giry shook her head. "No, I was thinking that maybe…" Then she faced Christine directly. "When was the last time you bled?"
Christine's eyes widened as the meaning of these words hit her. "You do not think… I could be… but how… I never…" she stammered.
Mme. Giry smiled. "I do not know for sure," she admitted, "but the symptoms certainly point that way. I will take you to a midwife tomorrow and she will be able to tell us if I am right."
As Erik returned that moment with a glass of water, they changed the topic, pretending that Christine was fighting an upset stomach.
The next day, Mme. Giry and Christine went to see a midwife that Eliza Toddlingham had recommended to them. The experienced elderly lady quickly confirmed Mme. Giry's suspicion. "Congratulations, Mme. Lavoisier," she told Christine, "in about eight months you will be holding your baby." She then smiled at Mme. Giry. "You'd better get used to becoming a grandmother, Madam," she added.
Christine was overwhelmed. She could barely believe it. "How is this possible?" she asked her adoptive mother over and over again. "I thought I could not have children, and now…"
Mme. Giry smiled. She had never been too convinced of Christine's supposed inability to have children. "Maybe you are just more compatible with Erik," she tried to explain the situation.
Christine was overjoyed. Erik realized immediately how much this pregnancy meant to her. So, even though he was deeply worried that their baby might inherit his disfigurement or that something might go wrong during the pregnancy or childbirth, he kept his own fears to himself and showed nothing but joy about the baby.
The only ones not particularly happy with the news were the manager and casting director at the opera. They had already been planning another production with Christine for the following January, when she told them that she would be unavailable by then since she was with child and would already be showing then. She did promise to return to the stage, though, once her baby would be born.
In late May the following year, Christine was about to give birth to her first child. She still was in awe at the fact that despite all the evidence to the contrary she was indeed able to carry a child. The first few months of her pregnancy she had been very nervous, fearing that something might go wrong and cause her to lose the baby, but the further along she got in her pregnancy, the more confident she became that everything would be fine. The midwife had examined her repeatedly and had assured her that everything was in order and no complications to be expected.
And now the big day had arrived. Her water had broken in the morning, and Erik had sent for both, the midwife and Mme. Giry. The midwife had tried to chase Erik out of the room. She was not used to the presence of a man when delivering a baby and it made her slightly nervous. Erik was adamant, though, that he would not leave his wife at such a time. Christine was obviously in pain and needed him with her.
Once the midwife realized that the husband's presence had a calming influence on the young mother to be, she therefore grudgingly gave him permission to stay with Christine during the whole process. "It may take a while," she took Erik aside to tell him," since it is her first child. It may seem terrible, but women have been giving birth for centuries now, and there is no reason to expect complications, so no matter how bad it seems, don't panic, Sir. You need to remain calm, if you cannot do that, you'd better leave now. I will have to concentrate on your wife and the baby she is about to give birth to, if you distract me, you may endanger them. Do you understand?"
Erik nodded grimly. Nothing and nobody would make him leave his Christine when she was in so much pain.
Several hours passed and Christine was starting to feel exhausted from the pain. Then the intervals between the contractions got shorter and shorter. The midwife smiled. "You are almost fully dilated," she told Christine. "It won't be long now. Soon you will be holding your baby."
When the next contraction hit, the midwife told Christine to push. Then she smiled. "I can see it," she informed the young mother to be. "With some luck the head will be out after the next contraction."
Christine tried to smile at Erik, who was sitting at her bedside, holding her hand, when another wave of searing pain tore through her. She instinctively pushed and was told by the midwife that the infant's head had emerged and all would be over with the next contraction. Christine almost broke Erik's hand the next moment, gripping it hard when the final contraction hit her. She pushed once more and was rewarded by the healthy cries of a newborn.
Christine lay exhausted in her pillows and smiled up at Erik. "Our baby," she whispered. "We have a baby."
"It is a healthy girl," the midwife announced. "Congratulations, Madam, Sir." She handed the little girl to Mme. Giry, so that the latter could clean up the infant, while she tended to Christine. "All went well," she then informed the couple, and, turned to Christine, she added, "you should stay in bed for a few days, but I am confident that in about a week or so you will be back on your feet."
In the meantime Mme. Giry had bathed her new granddaughter and wrapped the baby in a soft towel. She handed the bundle to Christine. "She is adorable," she told the young mother, then watched, deeply moved, as the new parents looked at their daughter for the first time.
Erik had given his old friend a nervous look when she placed the baby in Christine's arms. He did not dare look at his child. What if…? But when he saw Christine's happy smile he finally glanced at their daughter as well. He was overwhelmed. The tiny baby in his wife's arms was perfect. Everything about their daughter was beautiful. She was a perfectly normal, healthy baby, with no birth defect of any kind. And she was easily the most exquisite creature he had ever seen. "She has your mouth and chin," he whispered to Christine, "and her hair will be the same color as yours."
The infant choose this very moment to open her eyes and start screaming. "She has your eyes," Christine sighed happily.
"And she is hungry," the midwife explained, showing to Christine how she could feed her daughter. "Does the young lady have a name already?" she then asked the parents. "I need to write out her birth certificate."
Christine looked at Erik. "Eliza Toddlingham has offered to be the godmother if it's a girl," she said. "And Meg as well. How about naming her Eliza Marguerite?"
Erik nodded. "Those are beautiful, strong names," he agreed. "Our daughter will therefore be Eliza Marguerite Lavoisier."