Chapter 7 – End
Raoul de Chagny once again read through the papers his lawyer had prepared for him. Everything seemed in order, the only thing missing being the signatures. So that was the end now. Part of him felt slightly guilty for what he was about to do, but there certainly was no other way. The sooner he took this decisive step, the better – for everybody involved.
The Vicomte looked back at his marriage and wondered not for the first time, how it could have gone so wrong. They had certainly been in love three years ago, and when this madman had threatened her, Christine had turned to him for protection. The night of "Don Juan Triumphant" had been a bit more dramatic than he had planned, but still, he had been able to rescue his innocent little girl from the clutches of the monster, and like in all fairy-tales, they had gotten married, dreaming of living happily ever after. Their marriage had certainly started out well, but then his ungrateful wife had started to show signs of unhappiness. He had lowered himself to marrying a commoner, a theater girl with a somewhat tainted reputation thanks to the rumors regarding her relationship with the Opera Ghost, he had turned her into a coddled and spoiled princess, and instead of thanking God on her knees for having her granted such a wonderful life, she had been unable to appreciate her new status.
She had never directly complained, oh no. She was above such things. She had just made an open display of her misery. She had always had this suffering, melancholic look in her eyes, she had been very pale most of the time, had started to lose weight, and had just been moping around. She did not seem to enjoy any of the activities that women of her status usually loved, not even a shopping tour. When he suggested something like that, she usually just stated flatly that she already had more items of clothing than she needed. When he took her to a social event, she seemed to endure it, instead of enjoying herself. Once he had asked her what her problem was, and she had dared telling him something about not having any duties, about not having anything meaningful to do!
Raoul snorted. Thousands of girls in her situation would have been overjoyed at the prospect of never having any other obligations again than to amuse themselves and please their husbands. Why could Christine not be like them? He might have been willing to put up with her moods, though, if at least she had given him the heir he needed, the son to continue the blood-line. But no, Christine had not even been able to fulfill this most basic obligation of a wife. About a year ago, he had had her examined by three doctors who had all a reputation of being experts in the area of a woman's reproductive organs. They had not found anything at fault with her, except for maybe a certain inability to relax, which in some rare cases could affect fertility.
As a result of this diagnosis, Raoul had delayed the inevitable. He had given her another chance, as he called it, and tried for another year to get her pregnant, but to no avail. Since Christine's mood had not improved and she was still running around looking like misery personified, getting paler and thinner, while the rings around her eyes were getting darker, there was now not really a point in waiting any longer. "It's probably for her best as well," he tried to convince himself. "Since she does not appreciate the wonderful life I gave her, she will have to go back to where she came from."
That night Raoul returned home a bit earlier than usual. His pale wife with the huge, sad eyes gave him a surprised look. "Is something the matter?" she asked nervously.
Raoul bit his lip. Seeing her like this, in her sad beauty, made it harder for him to go through with his decision. "I have something to discuss with you," he said uneasily. Damn, he thought. That dreamy, resigned look made her even more appealing and desirable to him. "Do you have five minutes for me?"
Christine nodded. She had not been doing anything anyway. The book she was reading bored her and she had mostly been staring at the pages, thinking of her happy time at the Opera and of her dead love.
Raoul took a seat, then faced his wife. "You have probably noticed as well, that this is pointless," he blurted out. Christine stared at him uncomprehendingly. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"Our marriage," Raoul explained. "You don't like our social status, and you have not even given me an heir…" Christine turned even paler. Had she understood him correctly? Had Raoul made it sound as if this was all her fault, their failed marriage, the lack of a child? She had tried her best to please him, had given up music for him, had given up her relationship with the Girys for him, had even…. Anger welled inside her, when she realized that it had been Raoul to make her betray and abandon her angel.
Raoul did not pay attention to her look of utter shock and droned on. "Therefore it is best if we both sign these documents and get it over and done with," Christine heard him saying. She realized that she must have missed something he had said, while thinking once again of her angel.
"What… excuse me, … I did not catch that… could you please…" she stammered. Raoul was getting impatient. He wanted to bring this to an end. "The divorce papers," he said curtly, passing her a few documents. "Here, just sign your name underneath and you can go back to living a meaningful life, by prancing around on a stage or in whatever way you want. Just not here in France," he added. "That's in the document. And you have to renounce the de Chagny- name, of course."
Christine felt dizzy. A divorce! Raoul was talking about divorcing her, leaving her because she felt useless as a Vicomtesse. And because she had not given him his heir. Even though a separation was probably the best under the circumstances, Christine knew that a divorce was also an insult. She would be an abandoned woman, cast out by her husband. Sure, Raoul's status in society would be slightly affected as well. A divorce was awkward for both parties, but he could play the poor, suffering husband, who had to get rid of a barren wife. He would get all the sympathies and soon young ladies would overlook the small problem of a prior marriage and he would be able to choose one worthy enough to become the mother of his future heir.
Christine's situation, on the other hand, would be far worse. She would take full blame for the failed marriage, especially because she had not been able to bear Raoul a child. She would have to live with the stigma of having been abandoned. People would talk behind her back and point her out to one another as the failure who could not give her husband a child.
Christine was mortified. How could Raoul do this to her after all they had been through? After he had gotten between her and her true love, forced her to abandon music? She was furious at him and deeply hurt at the same time. She only knew that she could not let Raoul realize how terrible a blow this was for her. Her pride would not allow this. She needed all her strength to get through this scene and out of his house without breaking down. She would not give Raoul the satisfaction of seeing her weak.
Summoning all her pride, she looked coldly at the Vicomte and asked, "where do I have to sign?" Her voice had an icy ring to it that Raoul had never heard before. Feeling slightly uncomfortable, he showed her the line. Christine took a pen and wrote "Christine Daaé, formerly known as the Vicomtesse de Chagny". Then she stood, looked through her former husband as if he were thin air and said, "you will excuse me, I need to pack."
Raoul was speechless for a moment, then he stammered, "Christine, there is no hurry, I mean, we do not have to part like this, you can certainly stay till you have decided where to go…"
Christine stared at him, as if he were a piece of dirt, then said haughtily, "since we are no longer married, it would be highly inappropriate for me to stay under your roof any longer. Do not worry, I will only take items that belong to me personally, and you will not have to provide for me. Gustave Daaé's daughter will not depend on the man that cast her out."
Turning on her heels, regally like a dethroned queen, she left the room. In their bedroom she quickly put together the few items that belonged to her, that had been salvaged from the Opera Populaire's dormitories, and stuck them all into the old bag she had kept for sentimental reasons. She quickly changed into one of her old, simple dresses and left the house where she had lived for approximately three years through the back door.
An hour later, Mme. Giry held a sobbing young woman in her arms and tried her best to comfort Christine, who was close to a complete nervous break-down. Christine had not seen either Mme. Giry or Meg in a very long time, and even then they had not been able to talk. Mme. Giry was therefore completely taken by surprise by this latest development in the life of her protégée. For the first time ever she heard about the problems Christine had endured in her short marriage, how she had had to give up music, how she had never been allowed to do anything meaningful, had never had any duties to fulfill, except for the one to provide an heir, at which she had failed miserably.
Mme. Giry was shocked at the way the young Vicomte had treated her surrogate daughter. He had seemed so much in love with her, way back when he had fought for her against… Mme. Giry winced. It had been three years since Erik's death, but she still missed him.
The crying woman in her arms brought Mme. Giry back to reality. "I should never have left my angel," Christine sobbed. "He would not have forced me to abandon music or my friends, he would not have wanted me to waste away in a life of leisure, nor would he have repudiated me for my inability to give him a child."
Mme. Giry patted Christine's back. "You might have faced different problems with Erik," she said calmly. She could understand that Christine was wondering now if choosing her other suitor might have been a better course of action. "Remember his temper, and his face which condemned him to a very solitary, reclusive life…."
Christine stopped sobbing and looked at Mme. Giry. "Erik?" she whispered. "Is that…" a shadow crossed her features. "I mean, was that," she corrected herself, "my angel's given name?"
Despite the serious situation, Mme. Giry smiled. "Of course," she said. "Didn't you know?" Christine shook her head. "No," she said dejectedly, "he never told me, but then, I never asked." And she began crying again.
"I treated him like dirt," she sobbed, "he loved me so much and only ever showed me kindness, and I…" Her shoulders shook violently. "If only he were still alive," she wailed. "If only I could ask his forgiveness… oh, I know that even then I could not hope for him to ever forgive me. I totally deserve all the bad that has happened to me," she continued miserably. "It is God's punishment for my cruelty towards my beloved angel…"
Mme. Giry tried to soothe her, but Christine got all worked up about her angel. "I should never have listened to Raoul," she cried. "My heart knew, I just ignored it, I let others make me fear my dear angel, let them turn me away from my true love… and to think that he died alone, unaware of my feelings…"
Mme. Giry stared at Christine. "You cannot possibly mean… were you just trying to tell me…" she was flabbergasted and did not quite know how to phrase her question.
A tiny, sad, but incredibly sweet smile passed over Christine's features, then the young woman looked down. "Yes," she answered the unspoken question. "I was wrong. I did not love Raoul, at least not the way a wife should love her husband. I did love my angel," she hesitated for a moment, before correcting herself. "Erik," she said. "It was always him. I just did not realize it. I did not understand love then. And now it is too late."
Tears were running down her cheeks again, but Mme. Giry smiled at her. "In that case, you should be glad for the divorce," she said reasonably. "At least that way you won't have to be with somebody you do not love any longer."
Christine nodded in agreement, then said, "it's just… Raoul came between us. He pried me away from my angel, plotted against him, tried to get him killed in an ambush, and now that thanks to his machinations there is no future for me and Erik anymore, now that he has thoroughly ruined my chance at happiness, he casts me out…"
Mme. Giry sighed. "That is certainly unfortunate, but in my opinion you are better off without that Vicomte. At least you are free now, you can do now, what you like, start a new life for yourself."
Christine sighed. "I am also quite poor now," she said, "since I refused to take any alms from him. I will have to work for a living, and since everybody will know my fate…" she shrugged. "Can you see the former Vicomtesse de Chagny applying for a job somewhere?" Christine sounded bitter.
Mme. Giry shook her head. "Not in Paris," she agreed. "Too many people know you here. You might have to go abroad and start anew where nobody knows you and your past. There you can begin a new life. But not right away. At first you have to calm down and recover from the ordeal of your failed marriage. Gain a bit of weight, you are way too thin…" her voice trailed as she noticed that Christine was not quite listening to her.
"Think of your angel, Christine," she reminded her charge. "Think of how much he loved you. He would not want you to waste away in misery because a Vicomte got tired of you. Erik would want you to be strong and to fight back. Summon your strength and make the best of your situation. Do it for him."
Christine smiled sadly once again. "Do you think," she asked hesitantly, "that despite my long break and resulting lack of practice, I might be able to sing again? I would love to, and I am sure, he… Erik… would want me to continue my career…"
Mme. Giry pulled her even closer. "First you need to get stronger again, and to rest your nerves, then we can talk about singing. But I am sure that your voice will soon be back to its previous excellence once you start practicing again. He did teach you well, after all."
At the prospect of continuing her career, Christine suddenly felt relaxed and at peace. "I could honor his memory that way," she whispered. "I could still make him proud."
Mme. Giry sighed. Her heart ached for her two protégés. In her opinion the two would have been perfect for each other and it was a pity that Christine had realized her feelings for Erik too late. Her love would have meant the world to the deformed man and he would have cherished and adored her like no woman had ever been. But Erik was dead now, had died without ever learning about Christine's love for him, and Christine had to face life alone. "Draw strength from your love," Mme. Giry advised the young woman. "I am sure that Erik's love is still watching over you and will help you through this."
Christine dried her tears. "You are right," she said resolutely. "I should not cry because of Raoul and all that. It was my own fault that I lost my angel. My love was not strong enough then. But he loved me anyway. He loved me so much that he let me go, because he thought it was for my best and what I really wanted. I did not deserve this great love back then, and I do not deserve it yet right now, but I will try my best from now on to deserve it. I will strive to become worthy of my angel."
Christine paused for a moment. "You suggested I might have to leave Paris," she changed the subject, "and Raoul said something similar as well, namely that there was a clause in the divorce papers prohibiting me from performing on stage in France. I will therefore have to leave the country if I want to continue with my career. Where do you think I should go?"
Mme. Giry smiled. That was the right attitude. "You are not going anywhere," she said, "at least not alone. He would kill me if he knew that I let you go abroad alone." Christine chuckled. Knowing her angel, she had to admit that her surrogate mother had a point. "You would come with me, then?" she asked hopefully. Mme. Giry nodded. "Yes, of course. In your precarious position as a divorced woman, you need a chaperone, and I do not know of anybody else who could take on that responsibility. Of course I cannot leave here immediately," she reminded Christine, "since I am employed at the Opera, but I will inform them first thing tomorrow morning, that I need to resign my position for private reasons. I should be free to leave in about a month, then we can go wherever you want."