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Out of Control Emotions

Out of Control Emotions

Background
 
     It has been nearly three months since Erik took Christine to his home across the lake. Since then, she's visited him often and even stays the nights in her own room he’s prepared for her. They have her lessons, eat together, read together, and take evening coach rides together. He’s already told her how much he loves her and how he wants her to become his wife; however, even though she’s told him that she deeply cares for him, she’s been unable to commit to being his wife.
     Their connection continues to grow, but Erik’s patience is wearing thin; his passion for her is growing dangerously, and his jealousy because of Raoul is becoming explosive. He’s losing his ability to control his temper and his passion for the woman he loves. Because of this, he’s rashly decided to get out of the city for a few days to help him clear his mind and, hopefully, calm his emotions. Was this rash decision one of the worst he's made in his 45 years of life? To find out whether or not his efforts were successful, read the following.     
 
Out of Control Emotions
 
     I took her across the lake and up the steps mostly in silence. Then when we reached the spot where we normally said goodbye, I kissed her fingers and the ring.
     “I love you, my angel. I hope you have a nice afternoon with Madame Valerius.”
     She smiled and I started to turn, but she laid her hand on my arm. “Erik?”
     I looked back at her. “Yes.”
     She studied my eyes and placed her palm on my cheek as she so often did. Then she started to say something but stopped.
     “What is it, Christine?”
     “You have a good afternoon also, Erik. I hope you can accomplish what you want.”
     I smiled faintly, nodded, and again turned and left. When I reached the dock, I stood for a few minutes, looking toward the stairs. I had more hope for our future than I ever had before, but there was something in her heart that her mind was preventing her lips from expressing, and her eyes had just told me so.
     I closed my eyes and sighed as I thought about the power that was continuing to grow between us. It was a power that frightened me, a power I wasn’t able to describe, and I feared I wouldn’t be able to outmaneuver it much longer. I felt something of gigantic proportions was building, and I was torn between running away from it and embracing it.
     Unfortunately, the ability to see into the future wasn’t one of the gifts I’d been given at birth. If it had been, I would have raced after her at that moment, and I wouldn’t have let her out of my sight until she told me what was in her heart. But, since I didn’t have that ability, I was forced to let the sun rise and set until that power revealed itself to me in full. At that time, my earnest prayer was to understand that power and learn to control it before it destroyed us both.
     I spent a few more moments in thought, and then I turned and left for my empty home. Less than an hour later, I realized I was in more trouble than I’d originally thought. No matter what I tried to do, Christine’s vision brought fourth that ache in my chest, that need to hold her close to me and to hear her return my words of love.
     As I drank my tea, there was her face across the table from me. When I tried to read by the fire, there she was on the divan smiling at me. While I played my piano, there was her angelic voice caressing my soul. When I reached for my portfolio of Don Juan, there were her inquisitive eyes, waiting for an explanation from me. It was hopeless. I was hopeless. Everything around me reminded me of my angel.
     I went to the kitchen and, without thinking, reached for a bottle of brandy. I was ready to pour a glassful of comfort when I realized what I was doing. I was preparing to bury my problems in liquor, and I knew I was completely lost if I thought I could hide from my pain in that fashion ever again. So I put it back in the cupboard where it needed to stay.
     Shortly, I was standing halfway between the door to the lake and my music room door, looking at both of them. When the deathlike silence pressed in on me, I knew I had to get out of my home. I had to get away from her memories and the nearness of the wine cellar before I did something crazy, something I might regret.
     Therefore, I headed up the stairs toward the floors above me. Once there, I figured I could keep busy walking through my domain and listening in on others’ conversations as I’d once done. But, again, every sight and every conversation made me think of Christine. She’d taken over everything, and I didn’t feel safe anywhere.
     I was in the third cellar by the sets and had just decided to head home when I heard Christine’s voice. It was so clear, and I knew for sure I was going crazy, but then I realized she was actually near. She was talking with Meg about Raoul, so I stopped and listened.
     “You mean you left him like that, Christine?”
     “Yes,” was Christine’s reflective and soft reply.
     “Oh, Christine, why did you do that? I thought you loved Raoul. You could be a countess someday. Don’t you want that?”
     “I don’t know what I want, Meg.”
     “Well, don’t you love him?”
     “Yes, I do love him, and I think I would go away with him and marry him if he were to ask me in earnest, but then …”
     “But then—what, Christine?”
     “I don’t know, Meg. I just don’t know. I have fun when I’m with him, but something doesn’t feel right, something is missing, and I get confused. I just don’t know.”
     Her words hurt and made me feel conflicted. I had to get away from her and any thoughts of her, but how? For starters, I knew I had to get out of the opera house, so, after looking at my watch and knowing it was after sunset, I headed for my outside door.
     Once outside, I lowered my hat and head, raised my collar, and started walking toward the Seine. I stood for a few minutes, watching it slowly move past me, but it wasn’t any help, it only reminded me of our carriage rides. I growled and started running along its banks. At that point, I didn’t care if I was seen or heard, I just had to run. I only stopped when I could no longer breathe and all my muscles burned.
     I spent the rest of that evening and then the entire night walking or sitting and trying to gain control of my mind. After hearing Christine’s last words, I knew she was truly being tormented by her own indecision, so I couldn’t blame her for not giving me an answer. But that knowledge didn’t help my thoughts or feelings to quiet down. I couldn’t gain back my patience, and, without it, I knew I was a walking fuse just waiting for the right explosive to ignite.
     My strongest urge was to run, and it had to be more than a foot race along the Seine. I needed to be on the back of a horse and running where there were no buildings or people or carriages or streets and no sounds of wagon wheels or voices. I needed to get away from the city and everything in it. Perhaps then my mind would clear and I could gain mastery over it once again. Once I came to that realization, I knew what I had to do, and I began preparing for it.
     As I made my way back to the opera house, I prepared what I needed to tell Christine. I was thankful it was a dark day for the house since that would give me more time to answer her questions. She deserved at least that much. The light was still on in my music room as I entered it and clicked the door closed, but the rest of my home was dark. So I walked softly toward the kitchen and washed quietly, trying not to wake Christine.
     I was walking toward the fireplace, preparing to light a fire, when her door opened. She walked out in the lavender negligee and robe I’d given her, and instantly that same passionate feeling surged through me, leading me down that path of no control.
     “Erik!” she exclaimed, while starting to rush toward me. “You’re home! I was so worried. Are you all right? Where have you been all night?”
     Knowing she was probably going to hug me, I barely looked at her and continued on my way toward the fireplace. “I apologize if I worried you. That wasn’t my intent. I’ve been walking and thinking.”
     “All night?”
     “Yes. Sometimes I have to walk in order to think.”
     She sighed, “Oh, I see. Do you want to talk about it?”
     I shook my head, took a deep breath, and prepared to tell her my first real and deliberate lie.
     “What’s wrong, Erik? I thought you were acting strangely yesterday. What is it?”
     Motioning toward the divan, I began. “Nothing that serious. Please, sit down.” After we both sat in our respective places, I continued, “I need to leave Paris for a while, so I won’t be able to continue with your lessons for a few days.”
     Placing her hand on her chest, she sighed, “Oh, is that all? The expression in your eyes had me frightened. I thought I’d done something seriously wrong.”
     I managed to smile as I lowered my head. “No, my dear, you did nothing wrong. It’s just something I need to take care of, and it requires me to leave Paris.”
     “How long will you be gone?”
     Keeping my sight on my hands, I tried to explain. “That depends. I’m not sure how long it will take to correct the situation. I hope it will only take three or four days.” I looked her sternly in the eyes. “I need you to know that if this weren’t important I wouldn’t abandon your lessons.”
     “I understand. I’m not having any problems right now with the score, so it’ll be fine.”
     “I’m glad to hear that.” I sat back in my chair and tried to sound nonchalant. “While I’m gone, you’re welcome to stay here if you like. I want you to feel like this place is also your home, whether I’m here or not.”
     “Since you won’t be here, I might stay with Mummy. This will give me a chance to reassure her of my love and care.”
     We talked for an hour or so, during which time I almost changed my mind. The conversation was relaxed and without any pressure from either of us. She didn’t tease me, and I was free from those passionate feelings. But I knew I still had to get away, and, since the curtain was up on that scene, I had to finish what I started.
     While she packed her things in her tapestry bag, I packed what provisions I felt I needed in my canvas bag. Once we were ready, I took her across the lake. We were at that same place on the stairs when we said goodbye.
     I held her shoulders in my hands, laid a kiss on top of her head, and whispered, “I love you, Christine Daaé. Never forget that.”
     She pulled away from me and looked into my eyes, with hers filling with fright. “Erik! What’s wrong? Something is wrong, I can feel it. Tell me what’s wrong.”
     I looked away, swallowed hard, and then looked back at her. “The only thing wrong is the depth of my love for you, the depth of my need for you, that’s all. Don’t worry about it. But, if you would while I’m gone, please search your heart for your true feelings. I know I told you I’d be as patient as you needed me to be, and I’m truly trying to be just that. But, just like so many people who’ve underestimated my power, I fear I’ve also underestimated the power of my love for you. I just need some time alone, some time to think.”
     She touched my cheek, I took her hand and kissed the ring on her finger, and we said goodbye. Here nearness in the semi-darkness didn’t help my tortured emotions, so I hurried my steps toward what I’d hoped would rescue us both from what was to come.
      Shortly, I was on the back of a horse and heading for a store where I could purchase what I needed to stay out of doors for a few days. I never made it to that store though; there were too many other shops along the way. All those shops reminded me of that special woman—the florist, the dress shop, the restaurant, the book store, the grocer, and even all the broughams with their matched teams of horses. I felt pressure on my chest and that uncontrolled urge to run again, so that’s just what I did—I ran.
     Once out of Paris, I slowed my dapple-gray mare to a walk and tried to enjoy the scenery, but just as my journey down the Seine, I couldn’t get Christine out of my mind. I headed for the area where I’d spent those days during the war, knowing it was a good location with ample water and perhaps food, but it didn’t have enough influence over my emotions. I wasn’t any better off there than I was in Paris; in fact, I believe I was even worse.
     Not only could I not stop thinking about her but I was also burdened with an overwhelming sense of loss. I missed her terribly. When I closed my eyes, I could feel her fingers brush over my shoulder or through my hair. I could see her adorable face when she scrunched it and wrinkled her nose. I could see her wide eyes and hear her excited squeal every time I gave her a gift.
     I could picture the way she changed in an instant from an excited schoolgirl to a seductive woman, and it made my heart race. I pictured the way she fidgeted with her fingers or a ribbon when she was anxious about something, and it tore at my heartstrings. I pictured the way she looked in that little boy costume, and that made my heart feel warm. I pictured the way she held her hands on her hips when she was angry with me, and that made my heart laugh. But then the way she placed her palm on my chest when she was going to say something important or my cheek when she was feeling compassion made my heart ache and brought tears to my eyes. I missed her so much.
     Then, after two days of that torture, that other emotion that I hadn’t learned how to control became so strong that I thought I would destroy something, anything. It was jealousy. Having never been in love before, I was completely unfamiliar and unprepared for the strong passion of love and jealousy combined.
     The passion of lust I’d had in my past couldn’t compare to the passion of true love. It overpowered me completely, and all the intellect I had couldn’t fight against it. Then that helpless feeling added fuel to my fire and made me angry.
     I’d always come off the conqueror in any battles I’d fought in my past, whether it was against someone simple like Oded or someone powerful like the Shah of Persia. Those were battles I knew how to fight and win, but, with this new one, I was floundering like a wingless bird.
     When I thought about my feelings for Raoul and how close I’d come to taking his life, and his attempt to take mine, I pictured us only a little higher than unreasoning animals. Two stags come together in a forest to fight for a doe, one fights off or kills the other and the winner gets the doe, so simple an arrangement.
     But we weren’t unreasoning animals, or at least we weren’t supposed to be. We were civilized, although I’m sure if anyone had been watching us at the lake that day they might disagree with that statement. But since we were trying to be civilized, we had to leave the decision up to Christine, and I then realized it was going to be one of the hardest battles of my life. And as with many other lessons I’d learned, I was learning that one the hard way.
     As each day went by, I kept waiting for the surroundings or the constant companionship of the faithful horse with me to help me feel better, but none of it did. I’d only brought a small amount of food with me, but I wasn’t eating it. While the days were getting warmer, the nights were still cold, and, without proper cover, I was spending my nights awake and shivering, although I don’t think a tent would have helped. If I slept, I either had passionate dreams about making love to Christine or horrible nightmares about killing Raoul, and if I was awake it was pretty much the same. I was so miserable in all ways.
     By the fourth morning, my decision to leave Paris started hitting me hard, and I became angry with myself. I was going crazy knowing Christine was free to do with her life as she wished, and the more time I spent on that hill the more jealousy took over my thoughts. I was beginning to think I was a fool to leave her there alone with Raoul. He had an open door to influence her without my counter balance.
     By late afternoon everything came to a head, and I knew I had to go back, even though my time there hadn’t done the work it was supposed to do. I was weak from lack of food, and my sleep was rare at best. I felt simply horrible emotionally and physically. My throat was beginning to burn and my lungs felt suspicious.
     I was lying on my back watching the sun move in its orderly fashion across a clear but cold sky, and I was still watching as a cloud formation began concealing it from my sight. Then I felt the first drop of rain, and I knew I had to leave right then.
     I was halfway back to Paris before the clouds let go and it began pouring. By the time I reached the knoll over the city, I was soaked and chilled to the bone, but my physical condition paled in comparison to my emotional state. My feelings for Raoul stayed steady, while my feelings for Christine fluctuated. At one moment, I had myself convinced she’d made her decision and I would never see her again, and then, in the next, I felt terrible for leaving her alone and frightening her the way I did.
     It was during one of those remorseful times that I made the decision to buy her another gift, a gift of apology. I’d wanted to get her a jewelry box from the first day I’d seen it in the jeweler’s shop. It was made from carved polished mahogany with a red velvet lining and a mirror inlay on the lid. When the top was opened, a man and woman in evening attire popped up and began twirling to a Strauss waltz. With the inscription I had in mind for the mirror, it was just perfect.
     Trying to keep that remorseful feeling in my heart, instead of the possessed one, after I returned my faithful mount, I caught a brougham and headed for the jeweler’s shop. It was dark inside, and my heart sank. I really wanted to get that box for her before going home. Sadly, I prepared to give the driver new instructions, but then I saw a faint light move in the back of the store, so I jumped out quickly and began banging on the door.
     “I’m closed,” the man shouted.
     While pointing to the box in the window, I shouted back, “I’ll pay you double for that box.”
     That did the trick, and before long I was crossing the lake with the music box. The opera had ended, and I was hoping to find Christine in my home so I could be freed from my self-torture. But when I opened the door to complete darkness, I knew she wasn’t there.
     I turned the lights on and searched my home, not for Christine but for some sign that she’d been there. When I found nothing that indicated she’d spent part of her time there, my fears increased tenfold. Quickly, I placed her wrapped jewelry box on her dressing table, dropped my wet cloak and saddlebags on the floor in the music room, had a dry cloak on, and was up the passage from my music room and heading for her dressing room.
     I found it just as dark as my home, and again my fears grew. Her dark room meant she wasn’t in the house at all, but, just in case, I walked through the shops she frequented. Then, with a heavy heart, I finally gave up looking there. Next, I thought about Madame Valerius, so, with my stomach turning with anxious anticipation, I was back in a brougham and heading there.
     To keep from being detected, I had the driver stop two blocks away, and I ran the rest of the way to her home. Then, like a thief in the night, I crept around the exterior of the house, looking for the back door. Once I found it, I let myself in through the locked door. I sneaked through the upstairs and where I thought Christine’s room was, but, other than the elderly lady asleep in her room and the maid asleep in her courters, the house was empty.
     I can’t explain the amount of dread that swelled in my heart as I left and headed back to the brougham, with only one explanation left—Raoul. Refusing to believe the worst, I told the driver to take me past the nicest restaurants. After an hour of searching for Raoul’s carriage and matching stallions with no results, great apprehension surged through my gut. With my jaws clenching, I told the driver Raoul’s address, and then I had him drop me off two blocks away from the de Chagny estate.
     I didn’t run to Raoul’s residence, I walked slowly, and by the time I neared it, I was convinced he was going to take Christine away from me. I just knew it. I also knew if he hadn’t taken her to his bed yet, that I couldn’t allow him to make her his own that night. But then what in the world did I expect to do once I got there? What if she was there? Was I going to drag her out by her hair? What if he’d already taken her to his bed? Was I going to strangle him in his sleep with her watching on? What in the name of everything sane was I doing?
      Trying to keep my steadily growing cough under control, I made my way around his home, looking for a lit window. When I found none, I went to a back door, and, for the first time in my life, I found a lock I couldn’t unlock, which made me feel defeated before I really began.
     I started searching for a way inside and shortly had my sights set on a pair of French doors off a balcony. Without stopping to think of what I was going to do next, I put a lasso between my teeth and started climbing a lattice until I reached the balcony. As I climbed, a faint little voice, somewhere in the deep chasm of my twisted mind, was telling me I was acting like a madman and to leave and go home. But I didn’t listen; instead, I stepped over the railing and took a few steps toward the doors.
     It was then that the words I needed stopped me. They were my own words to Raoul, and they shouted painfully loud. Don’t force the rose open or the flower will be ruined. That was my advice to him, and yet what I was about to do could damage Christine beyond repair. That one thought forced some part of my insanity to respond to my sanity, so I turned and retreated.
     I was one step away from the railing when it happened, a familiar piercing burn in my back along with the explosion of a pistol and the shattering of glass. I was thrown against the railing, forcing the lasso from my teeth, went down on my knees, and then within the smallest fraction of a second, I searched my options. I could turn on my attacker and chance another bullet in my chest, I could jump over the railing and run and chance another bullet in the back, or I could go up on the roof and hide. My decision was instantaneous and so were my actions. I was up on the railing and on the roof within a heartbeat.
     After a quick moment of rolling in pain, I lay perfectly still, not even breathing. Then I listened to the door open, glass crunching under steps, and Raoul’s voice booming in his true dictatorial tongue.
     “Quick! Get the police!”
     I continued to lie still and listened to him moving around on the balcony and discussing with someone what he shot at.
     “It was him—I know it. I saw his yellow eyes,” Raoul insisted.
     The other person was more logical. “A man with yellow eyes? I think you’re over stressed. It was probably a cat. Look! Its blood is on the railing. And look here! There’s more blood up on the drain pipe. Only a cat could get up there that quickly without help.”
     “No! I’m sure it was him. That freak came to strangle me in my sleep. Quick! Get me something to climb on. Do we have a ladder?”
     “I believe so. But, Raoul, I think we should wait for the police!”
     “No, Philippe! He’s injured. Now’s my chance to put a stop to his influence over Christine. I’m going after him to finish this.”
     “Raoul, don’t be a fool! Don’t climb on that!”
     That was all I needed to hear to stir my anger more and give me the strength I needed, so I held my breath and rolled over. I took a slow breath and held it again as I got to my feet and started for the peak of the roof. I searched the other side of the roof, looking for another balcony to escape to, but I didn’t find one. Then I heard voices again coming from the balcony where I was shot, and I stood still and listened.
     It was Raoul and Philippe again, discussing my fate, and that discussion, along with the growing pain in my shoulder, altered my mental status. I was no longer the one being pursued but the one doing the pursuing. I was no longer just angry—I was in my controlled anger state.
     I headed back toward that balcony, with my hatred for Raoul taking on new and frightening proportions. When I reached a chimney, I stood on its dark side, with my blood dripping from the fingers of my right hand and a lasso in my left hand, preparing for that stupid and arrogant fool. He thinks this is his chance—he has no idea what awaits him if he dares to follow me.
     While I stood there waiting for him to approach, the words of my little trainer began to surface. At first they were faint, and I struggled to silence them. But the louder they became the harder it was to hold onto my anger, the anger he said would blur my vision and lead me down the wrong path. It would be so easy to end Raoul’s life within the next few minutes, but as I contemplated it, another force entered. In the end, it wasn’t the words from my trainer that saved Raoul’s life that night. It was, once again, the vision of Christine’s eyes filled with tears when she heard about his death.
     Her sad blue eyes encouraged me to find the lowest part of the roofline, and Raoul’s conversation about catching me for the police encouraged me to lower myself from the roof with only the aid of my left arm. The thought of dropping two stories was most unpleasant, but it was a picnic in comparison to the vision of sitting in a jail cell.
     The fall took the breath out of me, and the pain in my shoulder and back was fierce, but I managed to get back on my feet, knowing if I didn’t there was a good chance I might pass out. Cradling my right arm with my left hand, I started running away from the house until I reached a wrought iron fence.
     I was feeling faint by then, but I made it over the fence and then started running once more. I ran for several blocks before I stopped and took note of where I was. I was close to the river, so I walked to it. Once there, I sat and tried to decide what I was going to do. Do I go back to my home and take care of my wound, yet another time, or go to the doctor and let him do it, yet another time?
     While I tried to decide, I examined my wound, or should I say wounds. I had two of them in the muscle between my neck and right shoulder; one in the back where the bullet entered and a larger one in the front where it exited.
     The more I thought about everything that had just happened, the angrier I became. I was angry enough to know I didn’t want to die before I had a chance to play out a final act with Raoul, and that anger gave me direction. Also, I didn’t want a repeat of the last time I tried to doctor myself, so I hailed a brougham and headed for Doctor Leglise’s office.
     When I stepped down from the coach, I was definitely suffering from the effects of blood loss, and by the time I climbed the stairs to his office, I was barely crawling. I sat on the landing, leaned against his door, and took out my watch. I had another hour to wait before he’d arrive, and I honestly didn’t know if he’d find me alive or dead.
     The next thing I knew, there was sunlight coming through sheer white panels covering the window in the same room I’d been in so many times before. I remember groaning and closing my eyes, and, when I opened them again, there was Doctor Leglise standing over me. I blinked a few times and tried to get up, but he quickly pushed me back down, without a word. He laid his hand on my forehead and then pulled up a chair and sat down next to me.
     “I’m glad you’re awake, Erik.”
     I nodded. “I need you to stitch me up again.”
     “I already have,” he responded with a touch of frustration in his normally jovial voice.
     I reached for my shoulder and found the entire area between my shoulder and my neck, front and back, bandaged. I also realized I was without any clothing, not even my mask.
     “Thank you,” I whispered with my eyes closed. “I need to go. Where are my things?”
     “You’re not going anywhere, Erik. You’ve lost too much blood, you have a fever, and you have fluid in your lungs.”
     He wasn’t wearing a smile or his normal sense of humor that morning and neither was I.
     “I have to leave now, so, please, where are my clothes and my mask?”
     He stood up and stared down at me. “Erik, what happens to you? Why do you keep getting shot? Are you a jewel thief or something of that nature?”
     “As I’ve told you, Doctor Leglise, I don’t lead a normal life. I thank you for your help, but I can’t stay here, I need to go.”
     “We’ve been through this many times before, Erik. You need to stay here. Your clothes are wet and soaked with blood. They should be washed and dried before you wear them.”
     I looked at him sternly. “I believe you’ve taken liberties that aren’t yours to take, Doctor. Their condition doesn’t concern me, so hand them over.”
     He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Well, since you can’t very well leave without them, if I refuse to give them to you, do you think you have the strength to fight me for them?”
     I closed my eyes. “No, I don’t, but I’ll walk out of here with only this blanket if I have to.”
     Testing me, he backed away, shook his head, and motioned toward the door. “You know where the door is.”
     He was a fool to test me, so I tightened my jaw and managed to get to my feet, while he watched on. Then I wrapped the blanket around myself and staggered toward the door, but he grabbed the blanket and easily pulled it away from me. I groaned in pain and fell against the door, while he wisely moved to the other side of the room. I glared at him and shook my head.
     “Don’t play this game with me, Leglise. It’s not wise.”
     He held the blanket out from his side. “I don’t believe you’re in any condition to fight me for this, so just lie back down and let me care for you.”
     While trying to steady myself, I shook my head again. “You really want to play this game?” Confidently, he just smiled at me, and I nodded. “Then let’s play.”
     When I started to turn the door handle, he cautioned me. “There are people out there, Erik.”
     “They’re your patients, Leglise. I don’t care if they’re traumatized—do you?”
     I had no intention of walking out there. The most I had on me was the bandage over my shoulder, so I was counting on him giving in before I had to. I slowly opened the door about 6 centimeters, and then he rushed over and slammed his body against it.
     “All right! You win! You’re just crazy enough to do it. Stay here while I get your clothes.”
     When he left, I clutched the blanket, collapsed on the bed, and leaned against the wall. I was in so much pain, and all I wanted to do was take a healthy dose of morphine and never wake up. It seemed that all my battles of late I’d lost, and I was so tired in every way possible. I really wanted to cry.
     As he came back in the door, he asked, “Are you sure you want these back?”
     When he opened my brown shirt that was half red with my blood, I replied softly, “Yes, they’ll help me find my way in the days ahead.”
     He looked at me as if I’d truly gone mad, but he didn’t question me since he already knew I was a bit off center when it came to sanity. He only frowned at me, helped me sit up, and put my clothes on. He made a sling for my arm and gave me familiar instructions. There was one new one though. I couldn’t rest in one position for too long. Since there was fluid in my lungs, I needed to move around so it wouldn’t settle in one spot and cause additional problems. I took everything he said without argument. I was simply too weak and tired to argue.
     Eventually, he wrapped one of his dry cloaks around my shoulders and helped me to my feet. That movement made me start coughing, and I felt as if my neck and shoulder were tearing apart, so, while he steadied me on my feet, I told myself not to do that again. He then helped me down the stairs and into a brougham.
     He closed the door and then slapped it as he said, “I would give you advice, Erik, but you’ve heard it all before, and I know you’ll do just what you want to do anyway. So all I can say is, take care of yourself.” He nodded. “Until next time, Erik.”
     On the way back to the opera house, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, trying to relax and listen to the rhythmic sounds of the horses. I tried to clear my mind and think of what I’d done and the stupidity of it all. I was angry with myself for losing control, angry with Raoul for a number of reasons, angry with Christine for what I felt was her betrayal, and just plain angry with the world in general. My mind was twisting in a crazy fashion, and I knew I had to do something about the situation the three of us were in before it was too late and someone died.
     Nearly my entire life I’d felt as if I was walking a tightrope without a net and ready to topple off to my death at any moment. While I had a long pole in my hands to keep me balanced, what sat on its ends either helped me or hindered me. It was only my awareness of what balanced on its ends that prevented my death.
     What sat on my left side was that happy and inquisitive child who looked at his passion for music and the beauty in the world with fascination. That child loved to laugh, to experiment, and to play tag with his horse. Along with that child sat my father and our loving relationship. I’d feel warm inside when I remembered his eyes and his instruction about life and especially about construction. To this day, when I think about him and all his guidance, I have to smile.
     But on any balance beam there has to be a counter balance. So on the right end of that pole sat my temper and anger for the world, along with my unique mind, which was capable of conjuring up anything it desired, good or bad. However, I believe even with those negative attributes, if I’d had a normal face that was accepted by the world, I could have made a success of my life.
     While I had my issues with my mother, it was that attack on my father by Franco and Pete Jr. that gave the most weight to that right side. That was the true turning point in my life, and it increased my hatred and anger to a place that I’d never been able to come back from. Then, with my attack against those boys, I gained abnormal confidence in my ability to use my mind to control others, along with the beginning of the skills I used to defend myself throughout my life.
     I meditated on all that had happened in my life and how that balance beam had tipped to one side or the other, with good times or horrible times as a result. That was especially so once I met Christine. She sat like a shining star on my left and gave me hope, but when Raoul entered and sat on my right, my world darkened and my real battle to keep that pole balanced began.
     I’d almost let my hatred and anger tip me completely off that tightrope the night before, and, considering that Raoul had managed to put one bullet through me, I honestly felt, if it hadn’t been for Christine’s counter balance, both Raoul and I would have been dead before sunrise. That would have tortured Christine and ended her indecision in the process.
     As I watched the trees passing my window, I could see clearly just how dangerous our situation was. And as strange as it sounded, out of the three of us, I was the only one sane enough to know we couldn’t continue the way we were. So I had to make the change. I had to make the decisions that could put all of our lives back into balance.
     While I honestly believed that what I’d told Raoul about not forcing a rose to open was true, I knew that was exactly what I had to do. I questioned my motives as I replayed both Raoul’s and Oded’s words in my head. Was I being deceitful? Was I seducing her unwittingly? Was I really being honest with her and myself? Did we really have the connection I believed we did or was it just my imagination fueled by years of unsatisfied needs?
     I thought about Christine’s words to Meg. How could I know for sure what she was thinking or feeling when she didn’t? But then, I couldn’t just sit around and wait for her to completely betray me without having my heart prepared. If I wasn’t prepared and in a balanced condition before that decision was made, I didn’t want to think about how far off that tightrope I might fall or how many people I might take down with me. My thoughts were torturous, and, with a heavy heart, I came to only one conclusion.
     Both Christine and I had to know the answers to those questions, and as long as we were in each other’s company I didn’t see how we could be sure of our true feelings. I was too blinded by my love for her and she was also being blinded, perhaps by just who I was or whatever it was that Oded said I possessed. I didn’t know, but before I went completely off on the right side of that tightrope and committed a deliberate murder, I had to know the truth about what we were feeling.
     Therefore, I knew I had to do something that I wouldn’t have imagined I could do. I was going to tell her I needed to be alone to work on Don Juan for two weeks. So she could come to know me, she’d stayed with me for two weeks willingly. Now I had to give that two weeks back to her without my influence in her life and see what she did with it. If what she was feeling for me was real, then I had nothing to fear, and at the end of the two weeks she would still be mine. And, if not, I had to set her free before the unimaginable happened. As at so many other times in my life, what I was going to do wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do, but it was what I knew I had to do. I had to be prepared to let her go.
     When the carriage stopped behind the opera house, I nearly stumbled out of it and barely made it to the lake, only to remember that my boat was on the other side of it. Therefore, I was forced to go back up two flights and take the passage down into my music room. Once inside my home, I leaned against the wall, closed my eyes, and began coughing, causing me to drop helplessly to my knees in pain. Then Christine’s tender and worried voice reached my conflicted senses.
     “Erik! What’s happened?”
     I tried to focus on the wavering room and saw her coming toward me; then my thoughts also began to waver. I pictured her with Raoul the night before and anger swelled inside me, while, at the same time, her concerned face and compassionate voice became music to my soul.
     “Oh, Erik, you look horrible.”
     Without answering, I got to my feet and headed for the drawing room, steadying myself on pieces of furniture along the way. I stopped in the doorway and leaned against its frame, while Christine followed me, repeating her question. She walked past me and stood in front of me, still asking me that same question. I wanted to fall into her arms and sob, but my thoughts of what might have happened the night before caused me only to glare down at her.
     “Erik, please, answer me. What happened to you? Where were you last night?”
     Coldly, I responded, “I would like to ask you that same question, my dear.”
     Her brow wrinkled, and, with a tone of confusion, she replied, “I was here waiting for you.”
     “Oh, really?” I questioned with sarcasm while lifting myself from the frame and heading for her room. I opened the door, looked inside, and then looked at her coldly. “Your room looks undisturbed. Are you sure you want to stick to that story?”
     She frowned seriously and stepped back from me. “Erik, what’s wrong with you? Why are you questioning me this way? You sound like Raoul, and I don’t like it, and I won’t allow it.”
     “Raoul? Don’t compare me with that scoundrel. I was here last night and you weren’t here, Christine, and now your bedroom is confirming that fact.”
     She frowned even more and shook her head slightly. “I didn’t sleep in my bed. I sat up in your chair, waiting for you to return. Since there was little food in here, I decided I’d go across the street and buy us dinner after the performance. When I got here and found your wet cloak and soaked saddlebags just lying on the floor, I got so worried. It wasn’t like you to do such a thing. I was so troubled that I couldn’t go to bed, so I sat up and waited for you.”
     Still not convinced, I again accused her. “You say you bought food. Then where is it? I didn’t see any food. Do you want to stick to that story also?”
     “What do you mean, stick to that story? That’s what happened, so there’s no story to it. You told me you’d be back in four days, and yesterday was the fourth day. I was hoping you’d be here after the performance, and I wanted to surprise you with a nice dinner. But when you didn’t show up, I put the food in the pantry. Why the interrogation, Erik? What are you trying to insinuate?”
     “You weren’t with Raoul last night? You haven’t spent these last four nights in his bed?”
     She took a step back from me, and her frown turned to a scowl. “Erik! How dare you accuse me of such a thing? What makes you think I’d give away my love prematurely? Do you think that little of me? Furthermore, how do I know you weren’t sleeping in someone else’s bed?”
     Ignoring that ridiculous question, I kept asking, “Are you expecting me to believe that, with me out of the picture, Raoul didn’t seize the opportunity to have you all to himself? Are you telling me that you haven’t been with him this entire time?”
     “Well, yes, I’ve spent time with him, but not during the nights and certainly not last night. We had supper together two nights ago, but last night I was here waiting for you.”
     I closed my eyes and leaned against her bedroom doorframe. Could I be wrong?
     “Your restrictions were that I didn’t see him inside your opera house, Erik, and I haven’t. Are you now suggesting that I did something wrong by having supper with him away from here?”
     I sighed and looked at her for a moment, and then I started for the divan before I fell over. Keeping the cloak wrapped around me, I lay down and started coughing again.
     “Erik, what’s wrong with you? Why are you so suspicious? Talk to me?” she insisted.
     I closed my eyes and took as deep a breath as I could. I didn’t know what to say to her. I was so angry, but, at that moment, I wasn’t really sure who I was the angriest at—her, Raoul, or me.
     She knelt down next to me. “Erik, please talk to me. You’re frightening me.”
     I looked at her and searched her eyes for the truth and my heart for proper words, and then she laid her hand on my right shoulder and squeezed. I groaned and tried to move away. My eyes were tightly closed when she gasped, and I opened them to see her with my cloak laid open.
     “Oh, Erik! What’s happened to you? You’re bleeding badly!” She jumped to her feet. “We have to get you to a doctor right away.”
     I closed my eyes again and responded softly, “I just came from there.”
     With the true caring voice of my Christine, she questioned, “Oh, my poor Erik. I’m so sorry. What happened?” I scowled at her, and she backed away with a frown. “Erik, what’s wrong? Why are you angry with me? What did I do?”
     With the full degree of self-pity and self-loathing, I responded, “I’m sorry. I suppose you didn’t do anything wrong. This blood was caused by another person who wants me dead, nothing more. Just the same thing over and over and over again.”
     She ran her hand over my forehead, and I wanted to give into her care, but I was so confused and still partly angry and still very jealous.
     “Oh, Erik. Oh, my poor Erik. What can I get you? Oh, my poor Erik.”
     “Will you stop saying that!” I ordered harshly. Then I glared at her. “I’ve been in worse shape—much worse. You need to leave and go home.”
     Almost stomping her feet, she insisted, “I am home, Erik, remember? I’m not leaving you, so don’t even try to tell me to go because I won’t. In addition, from the looks of you, you’re in no position to make me. Now, please, tell me what happened, and let me help you. What did the doctor say? What do I need to do?”
     Closing my eyes again, I said softly, “I need to sleep. So leave me alone and let me sleep.”
     “Very well, but do you have medicine you need to take before you sleep? Or how about a clean shirt? Can I get you a clean shirt?” she asked as she started for my armoire.
     “No, Christine!” I snapped. “Let me sleep!”
     She continued on anyway and then came back with a pillow that she placed gently under my head and a blanket that she put over me. She took off my wet shoes and socks, and then looked down at me.
     “Your trousers are damp and so is your cloak. You should really change them before you go to sleep. Sleeping in damp clothes won’t help your cough any.”
     “Please, just leave me alone,” I replied softly.
     She did as I asked, but only after she placed a clean pair of socks on my feet and another blanket over me. Then she went around the room and turned all the lights off except for the one in her room. I don’t remember anything else for I don’t know how long, and, when I opened my eyes again, I saw a lit fire with Christine curled in my chair and watching me. As soon as she saw me open my eyes, she was by my side again.
     “Can I get you anything, Erik? How about some tea?”
     I sighed and looked at her beautiful, compassionate eyes, and then I surrendered to her care. I told her how to make the tea for my lungs, and asked for a clean shirt and the medicine for my lungs that was in my armoire. When she came back, she also had a clean pair of trousers and two more blankets.
     “These,” she said while removing the blankets off me, “are damp from your clothing. I’ll put them by the fire to dry.”
     When she held out her hand to me, I placed my left hand in hers and let her help me sit up. She gently took my cloak and coat off me, and then, kneeling in front of me, she started unbuttoning my bloody shirt. As I looked at her caring face, I felt my wildest fantasies coming true, which I felt could never be fulfilled, so I grabbed her wrist.
     “I can undress myself, but, if you could, please get me some warm water to wash with, and give me a few minutes to change my clothes.”
     Reluctantly, she did as I’d asked and left me to fend for myself. Somehow, I managed to get my shirt off and my trousers changed, and then I lay back against the divan with the blanket over my bare chest and legs. Shortly she came back with the warm water, a rag, and a pot of tea. I sat up, and she started washing the remainder of the dried blood from my arm and hands. My emotions started moving toward passion, so I took the rag from her and did the job myself. But when I couldn’t reach my back, she once more took over.
     She sat beside me, and I leaned forward. When she took the rag from my hand and began running the cloth over my back, I heard her sniffle. I tried to glance over my shoulder, but I could barely move my neck without additional pain. So, when she moved forward to wash out the rag, I saw her face wet with tears, and her brow was furrowed, as if she was in personal pain.
     She ran the rag over my back again and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Erik. This is so wrong. I just don’t understand. Why would anyone want to hurt you like this?”
     My anger over Raoul’s attack returned, and the inflection in my voice registered its degree. “More of the same, Christine. Just someone who didn’t want me in the way any longer. You’ve had the tour of my life by way of my scars. Treat this one the same, and then put it behind you, because that’s what I’ll have to do.”
     She was silent for a moment, and then she asked in a tone that told me she really didn’t want to know the answer. “And this attacker—is he dead?”
     I shook my lowered head slightly and answered softly, “No. This latest threat to my life has been kissed by a special angel and seems to carry with him a secret potion that makes him immune to my curse.”
     She sighed, in relief, I’m sure, and then asked, “Will you tell me what happened?”
     I shook my head slightly again, closed my eyes, and willingly let her clean my back, relaxing and enjoying her loving touch. I thought about all the scars she was looking at and cursed myself for being so careless and letting someone add another one. I felt so stupid for turning my back toward my enemy. It was the strong passion of jealousy that had caused my latest scar, and, as Christine’s gentle touch caressed my back, I wondered how many more scars I would receive before a fatal blow hit.
     I think I might have been able to keep my emotions in check if I’d kept my eyes closed, but, once she dried by back and started to help me on with my shirt, I opened my eyes and watched her face. The anger I’d been feeling for her drifted away and only the love remained.
     When she knelt down beside me again and started buttoning my shirt, she looked up into my eyes and then at her hands on my shirt and then back into my eyes. Oh, how I loved that woman. She had to love me. She just had to.
     By the time she’d finished the last button, I was once more thankful I was sufficiently hidden behind the blanket, or I wouldn’t have been able to conceal my feelings for her.
     She straightened my collar and then ran her palm across my cheek, smiling softly. “You’re fuzzy, Erik. I like it.”
     The innocent way she made that gesture and the childlike tone in her voice made me chuckle and helped me keep my thoughts clean. But, from the effort to chuckle, I started coughing, increasing the pain in my shoulder, and, I’m sure, the grimace on my face.
     Her smile quickly turned to a frown as she laid her fingers across my forehead, and, in her true caring fashion, she asked, “Where have you been, Erik? You’re very sick.”
     Trying to relieve some of her concern, I partially explained, “I’m not that sick, so you don’t need to worry. This is a problem I’ve carried from my childhood, another scar you might say, although invisible. I can assure you, I’ve been much worse off and survived. So don’t worry, my dear. Enough of this tea and medicine and I’ll be fine.”
     She came back quickly. “Maybe enough tea along with good food. You don’t look as if you’ve eaten much lately. There’s the dinner I got last night. Would you like some of it?”
     “Not right now. I don’t have much of an appetite.”
     “That’s not a good enough reason, Erik. You should eat, but I won’t force the issue right now.”
     She picked up my dirty clothes, took a strong look at my bloody shirt, and, as she started leaving the room, said, “I’ll put these in to soak and wash them in the morning.”
     “No, Christine. You need to leave. You can stay here tonight, but tomorrow I want you to leave, and I want you to stay away from me for two weeks.”
     She stopped instantly and looked back at me. “What?”
     I swallowed hard and went on before I lost my determination. “At the end of the two weeks, your performance as my living wife will end, one way or the other.”
     “Erik, what are you talking about? What have I done wrong?”
     After a long slow breath, I continued, “You’ve only been you, which is nothing bad or wrong, but you do act as a catalyst between Raoul and me, which is bad. Not only can none of us be happy as long as we remain in this triangle but it’s becoming increasingly dangerous for us to do so. I fear a calamity of gigantic proportions is on the horizon. Therefore, I need you to leave for two weeks, which is how long you originally stayed with me and away from Raoul. I’ll stay down here and work on Don Juan for the two weeks and allow you time to spend with him or Madame Valerius or whomever you wish.”
     Then, with lying lips, I planted the seeds that would enable me to keep close watch on her thoughts. “I do want to caution you though. While the sky looks peaceful, it’s dangerous this time of year. The air is full of pollen that will play havoc with your vocal cords if you allow it to. So I strongly advise you to stay either inside Madame Valerius’ home or inside the opera house as much as possible. No walks in the park or carriag