I ripped the mask from Ivan's face and my heart lurched in my throat at what I saw. This was not the face of angel, but that of a demon! Twisted, scarred and deformed beyond any semblance of humanity.
"NOOOO!" the Phantom let out a scream like a wounded animal, visceral and keening as I stumbled backwards from his horrible, monstrous face.
So changed was his demeanor from before! Gone were the gentle, crooning words of pleading adoration. There was only rage and disgust and fear.
He hid his disfigured face in his hands, screaming and wailing at my infidelity, cursing and raging and crying all in one sound. I had never been so terrified in my life! Fear froze me as I tripped over one of his richly embroidered cushions and fell to the cold, hard ground.
The candlelight cast horrifying shadows across his imposing figure as he towered over me.
"YOU LITTLE WITCH! COULD YOU NOT BE CONENT WITH MY MASK? I CAN NEVER LET YOU GO, FOR I KNOW YOU WILL LEAVE ME ALONE NOW THAT YOU KNOW WHAT AN UGLY BEAST I AM!"
Though he raged and shouted, his voice held me in rapture. For even in its harsh and grating cries reverberated and magnified in the cavernous passages of the underground sanctuary, they were haunting. I could detect some unspoken sorrow and loss within them along with pain, overwhelming pain.
He stalked towards me hand raised, as though to strike me with his gloved hand. I shrank down into the ground, fearing the sting of his blow.
It never came.
I heard him moan lowly and sink to the ground with a rustle.
I slowly turned my head from the cushion, still wary of his capricious moods. He was kneeling at my feet, his disfigured face covered by hands as he wept into them, shoulders heaving as he gasped and sobbed.
He removed one hand from the left side of his face, his unmutilated side. His purple eyes were lined in red and his pale cheeks were streaked with the salty brine of tears. He looked at me desperately, fearfully, as though I was the one attempting to strike him or threatening to rage at him.
"You think I'm ugly don't you?" his voice quavered like a child's. I shuddered from the depths of my soul at the image of his face, stamped forever upon my mind. He hid his face again in his huge hands. "You can't even look at me, I'm so hideous!" he began to weep again, soul-wrenching cries that seemed so out of place for so imposing and mysterious a man.
I remained crouched against the ground, shivering in revulsion and fear as he cried. He looked up again from his tears, a desperate, almost crazed light in his eyes. "But it does not have to be. You can love me still." His words—desperate and pleading—begged me to consider the thought. A touch of almost insane desperation colored them. "You will not always revile me so." He inched across the ground upon his stomach, begging and pleading as a fawning spaniel, kissing the hem of my dress and the soles of my feet. "Stay with me, and you will learn that I am a kind and gentle man. There is nothing wrong with me except my face, and you can learn to look past it!" His voice took on an almost feverish pitch, and I tried to extricate myself from his desperate caresses.
His face fell as I edged away, but he advanced upon me still more, pleading and begging me to love him, to stay with him, to save him. "I was not destined to be hated, but loved. Please, _________, give me only an ounce of your love and I will repay you mountains and oceans. Don't leave me alone again~" his voice faded to a choked sob.
I looked at this pitiful figure that lay sprawled at my feet, reverently grasping the hem of my gown, moaning with tears that would not come. I had never in my life viewed anything more worthy of pity in all of God's creation. Though I feared him, my heart still throbbed for his sake.
I thought of the violet eyes that lay hidden beneath the shock of sickly pale hair. Those eyes pled with me to stay, even as they were hidden. How sorrowful they were! If ever an individual was fated to suffer every conceivable loneliness or sorrow, it seemed to be poor Ivan.
I lifted the little white mask in my hand, the barrier that I had so sought to remove, and proffered it to Ivan.
Sniffing and rubbing his eyes, Ivan took the mask. His sad eyes did not meet mine as he took it from my hand.