-What do you want in my cellars? - the voice hissed- why have you come?- I came to see you,- the girl answered,- to get to talk to you. To...know you.
- Know me?.. Who are you to demand that?
- Christine,- she replied, humbly. Her clear voice rang through the heavy air, like a silver bell. - My name is Christine.
- You are not Christine,- the voice told her,- you are not Christine. Not my Christine.
- I am her blood,- she said,- I am her blood.
- Are you her daughter?- the voice inquired. The girl shook her head.
- You cannot be her granddaughter...who are you?
- I am her great granddaughter,- she said,- my father was Charles de Chagny, the son of Gustave, who was Christine’s only child. I am her blood.
- Combien d’annees...how many years had it been since?- the voice sounded feeble now, as if trembling,- What year is it?
- 2017,- she answered,- October of 2017.
There was an awkward pause, almost ringing in its intensity, and then the voice spoke again
- What do you want from me? Why have you come? How did you find me?
- Grandfather told me a story once,- she began,- that only an innocent girl could find the way down here through the secret gateway of the Rue Scribe. He said, you would allow to enter only if it would be someone of Christine’s lineage. He never dared to do it himself, he was sure you wouldn’t let him in, and in years there were only boys born in the family, first Gustave, then my father. And then I was born, and he called me Christine, in her honor. Grandfather was still alive then, and watching me grow he told me I was like her in many ways. And yesterday I received a diary, of Christine, with a ring and a key for the gate. The last entry was made on the day she died, and it was about you. She’s never forgotten you. She wanted her debt repaid, that’s what she wrote.
- She owes me nothing,- the voice objected strongly,- she left with a man she loved, she had children with him, she was happy. She would never have been that with me. The past is done with.
- That wasn’t what she thought,- the girl said softly,- each page is dedicated to you. Not to her son, or her husband, but you. She never stopped thinking about you. She loved you.
- What does it matter now? She is dead. I am here. And here I will remain. I am chained to this cursed place. And she is gone.
- I want to restore her faults. I thought much about it, and I came here to restore everything. I came here to be with you.
- Do you even know what you’re talking about? What do you mean?
- I want you to have me. To possess me, to make me yours. To be one with you. She wanted to, but she couldn’t face it. The choice. She died on 17 October, and I was born on the same day, years after. I am Christine.
- Step into the light, let me look at you.
She stepped into the dim circle of the light in the middle of the floor and froze. She felt soft breeze around, as if someone wearing a cloak was circling her.
- You do look like her,- the voice concluded,- I can see her in you.
- When I started singing, grandfather said it was her voice inside me,- she said,- it was he who had encouraged my singing...
- Sing for me,- the voice said,- and let me hear.
The girl started singing, and her voice was sweeter than honey, clearer than silver, it rose in perfect belcanto, it twinkled and gleamed, like dozens of crystal bells in a rippling stream. She sang, and even with her eyes closed, she could feel two strong yet gentle hands embracing her.
- I can hear her in you,- the voice whispered gently,- continue...
The song rose through the air, filling the cellars with rainbows and stars, and she could feel the embrace becoming tighter. The hands ripped her dress in half, they slid down her waist, they rose back to the shoulders, came down to her hips and went back up. Finally she stood naked in that dimmed circle of light, and her song still lingered in the air.
- What do you want from me?- the voice asked tentatively,- tell me.
- I want to be yours,- she answered,- I want to make you whole again.
- Why?- an invisible yet tangible hand stroke her back
- Because we are connected to each other. Because I want it.
- Do you understand that once it’s done, there can be no way back?- the voice whispered,- you shall remain here, forever. Think about your family.
- There is no one but me,- she said sadly,- I have no family left. My mother died in childbirth, my father passed away two years ago. I am alone. Now I have no one but you.
- Poor child...my poor orphaned child...- the voice was gentle,- so like her...
- Will you do that?- she asked, - will you help me?
- Do you want glory, like she did?
- I want nothing but to be with you. Since I was a child, I have heard tales about you. They never ceased to tell me you existed. And when I read her diary, I just felt I needed to see you.
- I loved her so much, that I cannot describe it,- the voice said heavily,- she was my life. And she swore her love to me. And I believed her. She wanted to be mine, - or rather she never objected to my desire. And on the night we were to be joined, she abandoned me. Do you know the song...I taught her one song...long ago...a ballad, of love eternal.
- It used to be my lullaby,- the girl nodded,- do you want me to sing it?
- Not everything, just sing the last lines...please.
She sang again, and the words, sad and full of love, shattered to millions of shards when the line finished. The hands, soft and invisible, embraced her and she could feel skin against skin, growing warmer and warmer.
- Lay down,- the voice said softly,- lay down here, on the bed,- and the hands guided her to the swan- shaped bed under the canopy of pearl white silk.
- Close your eyes.
She obeyed, feeling her legs pulled apart a little. Warm, coffee-scented breath touched her neck, and she sensed the weight shifting, and the warmth of another upon her body.
- Open your eyes and see me,- the voice said.
What she saw, amazed her, for no hideousness was there, in his features, and no mask covered his visage. A man, darkhaired, with pale skin, and piercing violet-blue eyes was looking at her. Raven black curls cascaded down his shoulders and back, gleaming softly in the candlelight. His body felt lean and strong, muscles outlined, as if chiseled by the renaissance masters, and his lips, beautifully curved, were of pale coral hue.
- See me now,- he repeated,- and know what she had refused. She ran away from me as if I was a freak, a monster... Was I?
She touched his shoulder hesitantly and shook her head.
- To me, you are beauty itself,- she said, remembering the lines she read in the diary once: “beauty is where love reigns, fear contorts everything into hideousness and ugliness. With Erik, it was like that- he could be a demon or an angel depending on the eyes that looked at him. Too late did I realize...”
- She insisted upon me wearing the mask, she was afraid of her own feelings, now I see that. With two men,one of whom wore a mask, it was easier to choose the second one. I wanted her to choose, but I never knew how to do that. - he made a slight movement towards her,- I never wanted to harm her, I wanted to love- that’s all I wanted,- another thrust followed and she moaned.
- Does it hurt?- he asked cautiously
- No,- she answered. He cursed quietly and said, almost in a whisper, in a voice full of regret and yet consumed with passion.
- How can I speak of her when you are here now and I can...oh. God...
He shuddered and fell upon her, tears streaming down his ivory skin. She held him close to her.
- I wanted my name upon her lips, in a moment such as this... I wanted to be with her....- he whispered, holding her closer,- I never felt happiness in my entire life.
He made another movement inside her, a slow, languid one, and another one, quicker and deeper, and another followed, until he heard his name echoing through his world, his mind and heart:
Nobody saw the girl again, and since that day the mysterious singing in the cellars of the Opera ceased. The legend of the Phantom was no more. The Phantom was no more. From that day, there were Erik and Christjne, a happily living young couple, living in the underground house, by the lake, under the Opera. No singing was heard, only a lullaby rang softly through the air at nights, when the Opera fell silent. Two voices, a majestic baritonal tenor and a crystal clear soprano, joined in singing the last lines:
...drink then to the love eternal,
Drink your fill and ere be blessed,
In the sky of spring nocturnal
Catch your star and vanquish death.
Love shall rule the lands forever,
Whilst it’s true and true remains,
And no night shall triumph ever
O’er hearts that love the same.
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