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The Wemberly Community Choir Tragics

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Christine opened her eyes groggily, with the vague notion that this was not the room she normally woke up in. The first few rays of sunshine were starting to come through the large glass windows of Erik’s music room- oh, that’s right. The highly emotionally charged events of last night all came back to Christine in a flurry as she realised exactly where she was: sleeping on Erik’s large leather couch, the man himself wrapped up tightly in her arms.  Her lips spread into a wide smile as she remembered the revelations of last night. Erik loved her. After all the nonsense and the misunderstandings and the jealousies…they were finally, finally together.

Erik groggily blinked open his eyes from beside her, looking not-particularly awake, but far livelier than she would have reasonably expected, given the abuse he had inflicted on his poor liver last night.

“Christine?” He whispered in awe. “You’re…here.”

“Sure am.” She smiled, snuggling into his bony chest. “I’m surprised you can even talk, I thought you’d have the mother of all hangovers this morning.”

“I have never felt better in my life.” Erik said, voice low and heavy with meaning as he tenderly stroked her hair.

They lay together in silence for a while, warm and comfortable. Ayesha trotted into the room and started to yowl, demanding breakfast.

“Hush, you irksome animal.” Erik groaned. “I am not getting up to feed you. I will not be leaving this heavenly couch, as long as I live.”

“Oh, crap.” Christine said, checking her watch with an unpleasant pang of realisation. “I actually have to be at work in half an hour.”

“Call in sick.” Erik said, wrapping his arms around her tightly, as if he would prevent her from leaving. “Spend the day with me.” His voice was low and enticing…and Christine seriously considered his offer.

“I would love to…but I really can’t leave Meg alone with the children.” Christine said reluctantly. “She’d kill me.”

x

In the days that followed, lessons with Erik became somewhat of a problem…in the most pleasant way.  

Whenever Erik’s criticism of her became a little harsh, Christine would simply step up to where he was sitting at the piano…

“Christine, you’re sounding nasal in your middle register and growling your bottom notes -ah!” He suddenly broke off.

…and begin to gently massage his shoulders.

 “I’m sorry.” She whispered onto his ear, then she began to brush her lips against his neck.

“Ah…no, no, you, you sound… acceptable…” He would concede in something of a daze.

“Only acceptable?” She said with narrowed eyes, releasing his shoulders.  

“Wonderful!” He corrected quickly, emphatically. “You sound marvellous, simply breathtaking…”

“Much better.”

“I think,” He said later, from a different, more comfortable location. A location which may or may not have been his rather luxurious king-sized bed. “That these lessons aren’t really going to work out if you keep seducing your teacher.”

“Mmm.” Christine murmured from where she was comfortably nestled into his shoulder. “They say the honeymoon stage wears off pretty quickly.”

“I really doubt that.” He said in a low voice. She grinned against his chest.

“Hey,” She said gently, “You know you don’t have to wear the mask around me…especially in bed.”

His entire body went tense under her and she wondered if she had made a bad move.

 “I think,” he said, clearing his throat uncomfortably, “That you would feel quite differently, if I did.”

“Erik, I love you. Whatever is under there, it makes no difference.”

“An easy thing to say when you have not seen.” He said darkly.

“Then show me.” She said, trying to keep her tone casual. “Let me prove it to you.”

“Definitely not.” He said firmly. “I would never want to burden you with such a sight. You will have nightmares.”

“I never have nightmares.” Christine said brightly. “All sunshine and rainbows in this baby.” She said tapping the side of her head. 

Erik looked unmoved. “You will.”

Christine sighed. “Love is sharing burdens, Erik.” She said softly. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable about it but if we’re going to be …in a relationship, I just want you to know that I’m here. I won’t judge you for it, I won’t be horrified, whatever it is, it will not change how I feel about you. ”

Erik was quiet for a long time.

“It’s a deformity. Congenital.” He said at last, the words coming out in a rush, as if he had to force them out before he changed his mind.

Christine held her breath, scared he wouldn’t go on.

“The skin is so thin in some places that you can see all of the veins and capillaries. Thousands and thousands of tiny blood vessels.” He glanced at her to gauge her reaction. She kept her face expressionless.

“The bones are not formed properly; the shape is all wrong. There is scarring, horrid scarring, from past attempts to fix it. Attempts that failed pitifully. There is no…eyebrow. On that side.”

Christine just held him tightly for a long time. “It has caused you so much pain.”

“It is monstrous.”

“It doesn’t sound like anything I couldn’t handle seeing.” 

“Not today…please. I couldn’t bare it if I was to cut this, us, short, because I was stupid enough to believe that someone could…” He choked on his words, unable to finish the sentence.  

I can.” Christine said firmly. “But it doesn’t have to be today.”

She held him close to her for a long time, placing gentle kisses all over his uncovered skin.

“Do you trust me?” She said softly.

“Unequivocally.” He said.

She made sure he could see that her eyes were screwed tightly shut as she slowly removed the mask, with extreme gentleness.

She placed a single kiss onto his cheek.

She carefully replaced the mask, and when she opened her eyes there were tears in his.

x

“You know,” She said later, wanting to lighten the mood. “I’m really proud of us for how we handled that conversation. It’s a real pity we didn’t work on our stupid personal problems before last round of the competition. If we had…I’m certain we would be rehearsing for finals now.”

“I’m sorry.” Erik grimaced. “That was all…largely my fault.”

“It was Madeline!" She protested "...Well, yes, and little bit of you.” She conceded.

He gave her a dry expression and she laughed.

“And of course, you are more than forgiven.” Christine said easily. “It’s just a shame. We got so, so close.”

Erik frowned, as if deep in thought.

x

Another morning, from her own bed this time, Christine awoke with the light of dawn, decided that it was a ridiculous time for a sane human being to arise, so she rolled over and promptly fell back to sleep. Hours later she woke properly to a more reasonable alarm (11:30 am) and checked her phone to see that she had one new message.

She read it with interest; it was Erik, scheduling an emergency rehearsal…for ten minutes from now.

“Oh, crap.”

Christine scrambled to find some clothes, and was out of the door.

x

Later, in the church hall, eleven sets of eyes followed Erik eagerly as he paced around the room.

“Well.” Erik said, smiling around at them all. “I’m glad you all came. I think you’re going to like what I’m about to say.”

They glanced at each other in interest.

“This morning, I received a call from the adjudicators of Music Fest. Apparently, Hurstville, the choir who came third at the semi-finals, was disqualified for being over the performer limit. Since we placed fourth at the semi-finals, we were automatically moved up to third place.”

“We’re going to the finals?!” Christine cried, jumping up out of her seat.

“No way!” Cried Meg.

Peggy clapped her hand over her mouth, and Richard yelped in happy surprise. Agatha was grinning, and Garth was actually wiping tears from his eyes. Even Carlotta and Piangi began to speak rapidly in happy Italian.

Only Raoul and Phillipe seemed a little less than enthused about the prospect of having to perform under Erik’s direction yet again…

“Suck it, Madeline!” Meg shouted, and there was raucous laughter.

“Which means.” Erik said, eyes sparkling. “It’s time to rehearse the Great Mass in C Minor.”

x

Later, in the storeroom, pretending to busy himself with packing away music stands and sheet music, Erik was beaming.  Yes, it was wonderful that the Wemberly Chorus had another chance at beating Madeline. For that, he was truly grateful and happy. He could achieve his recent dream of… besting his mother in a community choir competition? Leading a medium level community choir to greatness?

That was, he supposed, objectively quite nice.

But in this moment, he couldn’t really seem to find the energy to care. How insignificant it all seemed now. Compared to this. This feeling in his chest, the electricity in his veins. The pounding of his heart every time she entered the room. She loved him. She actually loved him. She had kissed him. Kissed him! Under his mask. And today, to make up for all the rubbish he had put her through, he had made her happy with the news.

He was quite content to dedicate every second of his life from here on to making her happy.

Of course, he had no plans to tell her that he himself had been the one to ensure Hurstville was disqualified. That he had spent hours trawling through conditions of entry forms, searching for some loophole to get Wemberly Chorus back into the competition, and that he had been the one who called the Music Fest adjudicators board to report Hurstville for the rule he had only recently discovered they had violated…

He was probably quite unpopular with some people right now.

He really couldn’t give a rat’s arse.

Sorry, Hurstville, but to see her smile like that, to see her entire being light up in happiness with the news…he would do a lot worse than disappoint some old soprano pensioners. 

x

The email Christine had received was down-right nasty.

Subject: Screw you

Dear President of the Wemberly Community Chorus,

Screw you!

Do you think it’s funny, do you think it’s brave, to STEAL a place in the finals from a choir of old ladies!?

Do you think it makes you a “good” person, to stoop to the level of scouring through the Music Fest rule book to CHERRY-PICK for a loophole to disqualify us, so you can take our HARD-EARNED place in the finals!? So WHAT if we had ONE performer too many?! We won that competition on MERIT and you LOST because you simply weren’t good enough!

Our oldest member Prudence is 96, SHE PROBABLY WON’T SEE ANOTHER YEAR OF MUSIC FEST. And you think it’s ok to take the finals away from her, for your own selfish means!?

This is the most dishonest, unsportsmanlike thing we have ever seen in fifty years of participating in Music Fest.

You are a selfish cow; we hope you crash and burn in the final!

Yours sincerely,

The Hurstville Senior Chorus

She read, then re-read the email with gritted teeth.

“I’m going to bloody kill him.”

x

Hours later, at a small Italian restaurant several miles out of Wemberly, on what was supposed to have been their first official date, Christine angrily shoved her phone into Erik’s face.

Romantic bliss was apparently not without its issues. 

He read the email displayed on the device swiftly, then handed it back gingerly, cringing.

“Ah. Well. This explains your expression.”

You took our place in the final from a choir of old ladies!?” She hissed, ducking her head low so the father and his kids at the next table wouldn’t hear her whisper-yelling. “You have to give it back!”

“I can’t!” Erik said helplessly. “The board officially disqualified them.”

Christine glared at him.

“I did it for you!” Erik protested. “You said the other day that it was a shame that we hadn’t made it into the finals- and the fact that we did not is very much my fault. I was trying to make amends!”

“I was not asking you to steal from pensioners!” 

The father at the table next to them glanced over and gave Christine a funny look.

“Look,” Erik said reasonably, “it was hardly stealing- we have every right to the place, they were disqualified.”

“They were disqualified because you spent probably hours, trailing through the rule book looking for a loop hole! Look at this email- my name is tarnished forever!”

“I’m more than happy to take the blame, plus they have next year-”

“Not Prudence, Erik,” Christine said coldly. “Prudence doesn’t have next year.”

“They’re just saying that to tug at your heart strings" Erik said, rolling his eyes. "I’m sure Prudence is fine.” Erik said.

“She is ninety-six!”

"Anna Valerius is something like that, isn't she? And she’s healthy as ever.”

“Anna Valerius does Pilates! How many octogenarians do you know who do Pilates?! Anna Valerius is the exception not the rule!” 

Erik sighed and put two long bony fingers to each of his temples.

“I am genuinely sorry it turned out this way, I did not expect them to find out who…dobbed them in. I certainly didn’t except that you would get an angry email from them. I was trying to make you happy. All I want is your happiness." 

Do I look happy?” Christine hissed. 

“Christine.” Erik sighed. “You’re being over dramatic.”

“I’M OVER DRAMATIC!? HAVE YOU MET YOURSELF!?” There was a vein popping out of her forehead in her effort to keep her rage under control.

“Alright, alright, touché.”

Their food arrived, Christine thankfully ceased her whispered yelling and just continued to glare at Erik while the waiter uncomfortably placed down napkins and cutlery.

“Well?” She said, as the waiter retreated.

“I’m sorry.” Erik said again helplessly. “I can’t undo this.”

She glared at him some more.

“Just eat your ravioli.”

“Somehow I don’t feel particularly hungry at present…”

“Erik. Just eat.”

“Like I said, I’m not hungry.” Erik said petulantly.

“Now you’re going to make me eat alone? Like some sort of sad, glutinous slob? Oh, no buddy.” She said with dagger eyes. “If I have to prize open your cold, dead jawbone with my bare fingers and shovel this ravioli down your trachea with a spork, so help me God, I will do it.”

Unused to such violent threats from narrow-eyed, frizzy-haired young women he was in love with, he didn’t seem to know what to say, opening and closing his mouth a few times.

 “I think you meant the oesophagus.” He said at last.  “The trachea is the wind pipe.”

“All the better.” She warned. “All the more pain and suffering-”

“But you said by that point I’ll already be dead-”

Just eat the bloody ravioli Erik!”   

Finally, he meekly obeyed. She tucked into her food angrily as well and they ate in a furious silence.

A young, spotty waiter came over to them, breaking the silence.

“Can I interest sir or madam in our fine selection of wines?”

“No thanks.” Christine responded coldly, staring directly at Erik. “My friend here has a meeting with AA tomorrow.”

“Oh…I’m sorry-” The waiter stammered, highly uncomfortable, and abruptly left them alone.

Erik raised his eyebrow at her.

“Hilarious.” He said dryly as Christine sniggered to herself.

They ate for a few more minutes. Until Christine finally sighed heavily. “Ok. I’m sorry for my reaction. I’m just very, very angry at you.”

“Ah.”

“Because you are very, very annoying.”

“…Ah.”

 “You know what.” Christine suddenly said, her fork clattering against her plate as she placed it down. “This was the least romantic date I’ve had in my entire life. The food is average. The atmosphere is kind of…family friendly.” She said, glancing at the next-door table which had three young, drooling toddlers happily spooning pasta into their mouths from matching high-chairs. “There were no candles or flowers or violins gently serenading us into the night. I’m mad as hell with you. And still, it was the best date I’ve ever had. Because it was with you.”

Erik’s eyebrows shot up. Even the one under the mask; she could tell by the crinkling.

“It seems I have severely overestimated your romantic history.”

She swatted his hand.

“I love you. But if this is going to work, you cannot do things like that again, you can’t make decisions for the choir without me- especially ones of dubious morality- and you certainly can’t make decisions about us without consulting me first too.”

“I am truly sorry Christine. I thought it would be a pleasant surprise. I really don’t know how they found out.”

“Their finding out is not the point- and actually, were you ever going to tell me what you had done, if they hadn’t?”

“Probably not.” Erik admitted.

“See that’s what I mean. Tell me you understand what I’m saying.”

“I do. I should not have concealed the truth. I suppose I am highly unused to the idea of being in a ... partnership. Of having to answer to someone. But I love you. I couldn’t deny you anything you asked of me.”

She interlaced her fingers with his across the table.

“Thank you. That's all I need to hear.” She tilted her head thoughtfully. “Do you think the entire duration of our relationship will be filled with fury and screaming matches?” She wondered wistfully.

“The entire duration of our relationship? I had hoped for something more akin to the entire duration of my life.” Erik said.

Christine melted. 

“Yeah, alright buddy. You got me. Keep saying romantic shit like that and I’ll probably forgive you anything. Probably.”

 “I love you.” He said, staring at her with an adorably hopeless expression.

She beamed at him, leant across the table to take his face in her hands, and kissed him.

“Oi.” Said the moustached father of the three toddlers sitting across from them in his thick, American accent.  “This is a family restaurant, girly. If you’re going to behave like that you can take your creepy-ass masked boyfriend somewhere else.”

Erik scowled and opened his mouth, but before he could respond, Christine said something not altogether polite to the man, and took Erik’s hand to go, throwing down some cash on the table. 

“ ‘uck ‘yoo?” She heard one of the toddlers mimic as the door of the restaurant closed behind them. Its younger siblings began to mimic it gleefully. “ ‘uck ‘yoo!” “ ‘uck ‘yoo!”

The expression on the moustached man’s face was priceless.

Erik looked at her in utter awe as they walked hand in hand back to his car.

“You, my dear,” He said, laughing a little, “Are a truly remarkable woman.”

x

In their last rehearsal before the final of Music Fest, Erik was in an uncharacteristically cheerful mood.

“Wonderful, everyone. That is sounding as close to perfection as we have come. Now, from the top.”

His mood had been pretty consistently good ever since the formal start of their relationship. He was cheery, less testy with people for getting things wrong, and far more optimistic. And the effect it was having on the choir was obvious: the choral members were a perfect mixture of relaxed (even Raoul and Phillipe) and excited, and consequently their sound was better than ever.

 “I have a good feeling about this.” He said. “We’re going to sound fantastic.”

He also seemed to have a difficult time refraining from looking at Christine, all throughout rehearsals. And smiling.

“Is something going on between you two?” Meg whispered during the break as they got their tea from the hot water flask at the far side of the church. “He’s so… happy! And look, he’s humming to himself now!” She exclaimed quietly, and they both looked over to the conductor’s podium where Erik was flicking through the score and softly singing its contents to himself under his breath, his right foot energetically tapping the ground.

Christine blushed.

Meg stared at her, eyes widening as the silence drew on.

“There totally is! Holy cow, really?! Happy?”

“Very happy.” Christine smiled.

“I knew it. I knew he was into you all along. Mother Megan knows. Mother Megan is wise.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Christine said rolling her eyes.

“Hey, Lulu, Raoul, Phil!” Meg called. “Christine’s got some news!”

“Meg!” Christine hissed. “Not yet!”

“Please, as if I hadn’t guessed.” Philippe said, flicking back his hair. “Christine and Erik have got it on.”

“Phil!” Christine chided. Raoul looked slightly horrified and Christine felt a little jab of guilt.

“Oh, please babes, it’s cute.” Lulu added.

“Lulu! You knew too?” Christine said despairingly.

“Do I look stupid to you? I’ve seen Erik smile once, maybe twice, the whole time I’ve known him? And look at him now, he couldn’t wipe that dopey grin off his face if he tried!”

“Ok, ok.” Christine conceded. “Just please, don’t spread it around, I don’t want everyone to know just yet. We haven’t talked about who should know…”

“What are you girls hissing about!?” Agatha asked, coming over to their huddle and sipping her tea.

“It’s Christine and Erik, they’re a thing!” Meg said excitedly.

“Aw, well congratulations to you both.” Agatha said, taking another sip of tea.

“Meg!” Christine said helplessly. “Thanks, Agatha, but please don’t spread it around just yet, we haven’t-”

“What is all this chatter?” Richard asked. Peggy and Garth accompanied him, also looking intrigued.  

“Christine and Erik are a couple!” Meg said again.

“You owe me fifty pounds.” Peggy said to her husband. “Oh, and congratulations dear.”

“Thanks, but if you could just keep it to yourself for now, I don’t want everyone finding out-”

“What is all this gossiping about?” Carlotta said quizzically, strutting up to the huddle.

“Christine and Erik are a couple!”

“I had guessed as much.” Carlotta said haughtily. “There is always a sexual energy between teacher and student, I remember in my youth-”

“OK! Cool! Yep! Enough of that train of thought!” Christine interrupted uncomfortably, “Now if you would just kindly keep this information to yourself,”

“Mio caro!” Carlotta said, yelling at Piangi across the room, “Mi devi cinquanta sterline!”

“Ok, I guess you would obviously tell Piangi but please just don’t tell everyone just yet because I kind of want to keep it-” Christine said desperately. “Well, actually. That’s pretty much everyone now. Thanks a bunch, Meg.”

Meg flashed her an angelic smile.

People moved on to other topics of conversation, and Christine found Raoul standing by himself, looking quite put-out.

“Hey Raoul. I’m sorry you found out that way.”

“It’s ok.” Raoul said, shrugging and looking a little sad. “I know I messed up my chance with you. It just took me by surprise is all.”

“Yeah. I understand. I hope there are no hard feelings.”

“Of course not. I’m moving back to Oxford after Christmas break anyway, decided to start my masters after all, so it couldn’t have really worked out. Unless you got in to Oxford.” He said looking thoughtful for a second. “But the entry requirements are pretty high…” Raoul trailed off tactlessly. Christine found herself shooting dagger eyes at someone for the umpteenth time that evening.

x

The finals were held in a large, majestic hall in the heart of London. The crowd was large, finally extending beyond the choirs attending and their close family and friends. A TV crew were filming the event and there were even media personnel interviewing participants and members of the audience, as well as the judging panel.

Christine walked by just as Madeline was being interviewed.

 “In summary, yes, music has always been my passion. It is an expression of the self, of the soul. A noble art.” She smiled charmingly into the camera. She noticed Christine watching the interview and her eyes narrowed.

The interviewer then asked a slightly less softball question.

“Now, I hear that another choir that shares your name is here today…the Wemberly Community Chorus. What do you make of that, Madeline? Is the competition between you all the more heated because you are from the same district? Or is it just friendly competition?”

Madeline’s smile appeared to freeze on her face. She let out a shrill, false laugh.

“Of course the competition is friendly.” She said stiffly.

When her interview concluded, she came over to Christine.

“I heard you managed to drag yourselves into the finale.”

“Seems that way.” Christine said easily.

“Screwing over pensioners to get your way. I’m almost impressed. I didn’t think Erik had it in him. Still, I thought that tipping off the old crones might scare you off.”

“Ah so I have you to thank for that email. No surprises there, honestly.”

“You’re like cockroaches, you and that choir of yours.” Madeline said, gritting her teeth. “You just won’t die.”

“I’m flattered.” Christine said dryly.

When Christine found Erik to tell him about the encounter, a young, nervous-looking intern from the film crew came up to ask him for an interview. He was merely stared at coldly until he thought it best to walk away.  Trying not to laugh, Christine walked up and linked arms with the masked man. The intern looked at her in complete shock.

The show started half an hour later than expected as the over-excited crowd took longer than they should have to settle down into their seats. Christine could see Anna Valerius sitting excitedly in the audience near the front as she peeped through the curtains behind the wings of the stage into the crowd.

The performances were all incredible of course, some choirs appeared a bit spooked by the cameras but otherwise the standard was incredibly high. Wemberly Choir performed flawlessly, despite her obvious frustration earlier Madeline’s show face was well and truly screwed on and she was unsurprisingly, a natural in front of the cameras.

When it was their turn, Christine took a deep breath, gripped Erik’s hand for moral support- he gently squeezed it back, and they were on.

The music began, and Erik wordlessly led them in. Everyone was singing in top form, energised by the lights and the atmosphere of excitement emulating from the audience. They surpassed even their best rehearsal. Carlotta was wonderful during her solo, singing, thankfully without too much embellishment. Erik had wheedled some of that out of her during their long, gruelling rehearsals. Piangi was magnificent also.

When the time came for Christine’s solo, nothing felt real, she walked out to centre stage as if floating on air in a dream. The months and months of training, of Erik’s gruelling techniques, all melted away as she sang. Had she ability to step back look at herself she would see that she was doing all he had taught her to do. Her posture was perfect, her breathing deep and calm, her throat relaxed, her core engaged. Her tone was bright and pure.

But as she sang, in her mind there was nothing but the music, and Erik’s eyes holding her own.

And then they were done, and the applause rang out.

“Wonderful!” The MC cried, walking to centre stage, over the din of cheers and whistles that seemed to go on and on. “Wonderful. Yes I know, they were simply fantastic, weren’t they! How about that soprano soloist!?” More raucous applause. “Now, the judges will need several minutes to deliberate…and then we can announce this year’s winners!”

The tension was tangible as they waited. Meg started biting her fingernails in a frenzied fashion and Christine gently pulled her hand out of her mouth.

 “Ladies and gentlemen…the winner…of this year’s Music Fest grand final…is…”

“Whatever happens, I’m proud of us.” Christine whispered, squeezing Erik’s hand.

 “The Wemberly Community Chorus!”

Christine and the choir shrieked and cheered their joy, and clambered up on the stage to collect their prize, as the TV crew zoomed in on their ecstatic faces. Christine could not stop grinning; they had done it. They had won.

x

Later, at the after-party in the enormous building’s function room, the media personnel, the judges and audience, Christine was busy chatting happily to Meg and Lulu when Erik tapped her on the shoulder.

“Christine, if I may interrupt, there’s someone here who’s been dying to see you.

Christine turned around, intrigued by who could possibly want to meet her, and came face to face with the beaming expression of one of her old teachers from the College, Sorelli.

“Oh my gosh, Sorelli, how are you!?” Christine gushed, shaking the woman’s hand enthusiastically.

“I am wonderful, thank you Christine. Erik invited me along today to hear you sing.” The kind woman said, grinning at the back of Erik’s retreating head as he tactfully went to fetch himself a drink, “I was definitely not disappointed.”

“That you so much for coming! I can’t believe you came out all this way to hear me sing.”

“Erik rang me up a few days ago and asked me to come, he could not stop gushing about your voice…I admit I was seriously intrigued. Erik is not easily impressed, as you probably know. The fact alone that he agreed to take you on as a student is testament enough to how much potential he heard in your voice, and hearing you today, hearing how far you have come, was truly inspiring.”

“That means a lot.” Christine said genuinely.

“You always were a beautiful singer Christine, but what I heard today…” Sorelli shook her head in wonder. “Was something else. I always knew Erik was a musical genius, but I had no idea he was such a phenomenal teacher. I’m begging him to return to teaching at the college now- not that it does any good. Perhaps I can get you to persuade him.” She said with a wink.

Christine grinned. “I can try.”

“I am actually here for another reason, Christine. I’m on the scholarships admissions board this year, and I came to highly, highly advise you to apply.” Sorelli said. “I would be very surprised if you were not offered an all-expenses scholarship for your final year.”

Christine’s eyes filled with happy tears.

She found Erik, later, chatting with Richard and Peggy. She smiled to see him so comfortable in the company of other people, and so warm. There was no tenseness, no awkwardness as he talked to his friends, just a relaxed…joy.  

“There you are.” Christine said, wrapping an arm around Erik.

He returned her embrace, and Richard and Peggy diplomatically excused themselves.

“I’ve just been talking to Sorelli.”

“Oh, yes?” Erik said, smiling innocently. “And what did our old mutual friend have to say?”

“I think you know very well what she had to say.” Christine grinned.

Erik merely tried to look innocent.

“Thank you, Erik, for convincing her to come out all this way just to listen to me.”

“It didn’t take much convincing,” Erik said, smiling. “She remembered you, ‘one of my brightest students’, she said.”

“She did not.” Christine said, swatting him gently and rolling her eyes.

“She did.” Erik said. “And she’s right.”

As they stood in an easy embrace they watched the couples who had started to ballroom dance to the music being played by a live band at the far end of the hall.  Christine put her head gently on Erik’s shoulder.

“So, if I do get that scholarship, are we moving back to London, then? Sorelli wants you to teach again, as you are probably well aware. How about it?”

He looked at her with no small wonder in his eyes, and shook his head with a small smile. “This still feels all so surreal. To be even considered in your plans for your life…”

Christine’s heart soared with the sweetness of his words.

“Don’t be thick, Erik.” She joked. “It took us what, six full months, to stop despising each other? And a lot of work. This girl ain’t losing you after all that.”

Erik’s arms tightened around her and he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.

“If London is what Miss Daae desires, London it is.”

“Wonderful.” Christine beamed. “I’m going to miss Wemberly, though.” She said, with a touch of melancholy. “I’m going to miss the choir, and Meg, and Lulu.”

“They are young, I wouldn’t be surprised if they move to the big apple too, sooner or later…”

“I don’t think so.” Christine said, shaking her head. “I don’t think they will ever leave. They love the place too much, Lulu has her house, and Meg’s got her ballet studio plans.”

“Well, we will visit.” Erik said gently. “I don’t have any plans to sell my house anytime soon, and it’s not so far between London and Wemberly.”

“How about you? Will you miss any of it? What about dear mumsy?” Christine teased. “I bet she’s a barrel of laughs after today’s result.”

Erik gave her a mock-sour look.

“I am more than content to never see that woman again in my life.”

“I’m glad.” Christine said genuinely.

“And besides,” He said, “How could I ever miss anything, when I have you?”

She smiled.

“Well, shall we?” He said, offering his hand and indicating his head towards the twirling couples behind them. As she looked at his outstretched palm, she sensed that he was offering much more than just a dance.

“Yes.” She grinned. “I think we should.”

She took his hand.

Thank you so much for reading folks! This is the first story longer than a few pages that I’ve ever written, and oh boy, even for this silly little story it took a  lot  more time and effort than I thought it would. The idea for this has been floating around in my head for about 6 years now, and I’m so glad I finally made the decision to just write it.  It is far from perfect, but I’m proud to have finished. Huge thank you to everyone who followed along, I have read every review and they have kept me motivated, entertained, and many of them made me laugh! Y’all need to go write your own E/C romcoms now 😉