Please Don't Leave
As the children sang the last notes of their goodnight song, the guests at the von Trapp villa bid them goodnight as well. Georg had a lump in his throat; the rush of emotions that stirred in him was almost indescribable. He was so proud of his children, so pleased at their behavior around his guests; and so very, very grateful for the fact that, even though he didn't deserve it, they loved him so. There was only one person responsible for that; one person to thank for literally giving him his life back. He looked through the throng of friends and acquaintences, seeking her lovely face. He wanted to see if she was as pleased with the children's performance as he was; he knew that one shared glance would tell him her thoughts. Georg also felt a deep need to look into her eyes again, to see if what he'd seen when they were dancing was still there.
He found her, standing alone near a column at the bottom of the staircase, very close to where the children had performed their song. At the very same moment, Maria looked up and directly at him. She gave him a shy, sweet smile; he answered her with his eyes. She blushed, but didn't break their connection. Whatever he'd seen on the terrace was indeed still in her gaze, her vibrant blue eyes sparkled. Georg felt as though they were the only two in the room, until he was interrupted by several of the guests, eager to tell him how wonderful his children sang and how much they'd grown since they'd last seen them.
Kindly, he accepted their compliments, all the while seeking to get away, to make his way over to where Maria had been standing. Each step he took brought him both closer to her and yet further away, as one after another of the guests sought to speak with him. As they insisted on his attention, Captain von Trapp was vaguely aware of Max taking Maria's arm and speaking to her, thought he couldn't make out the words he was saying.
"You, ah, you can if you want to, Fraulein." Georg answered absently. Max's request that Maria join them for dinner came as a surprise, and after Elsa had seen them dancing, Georg had no wish to debate over it. By this time, Max had told Franz to set a place for Maria, and when the butler looked to the Captain, he simply stated, "Well, it appears to be all arranged."
"I'm afraid I'm not properly dressed," Maria stammered, and looked at the Captain, with a pleading in her eyes. Please, don't make me do this. Those blue eyes-he could get lost in them, but with Elsa looking stoney-faced behind Maria, he wasn't willing to risk the confrontation at that moment.
"You can change, Fraulein, we'll wait for you," he tossed off the statement, then turned away. If he looked at her for one second longer he would sweep her into his arms, propriety and Elsa be damned. Fortunately, there were many people waiting to engage him in conversation, eager to congratulate him on the performance his children had finished just moments before. Georg simply had to agree that they were marvelous children, and that he was very proud of them. Inwardly, he prayed no one would ask him about his governess—his children's governess-for fear of giving his feelings away.
He was rudely interrupted by Herr Zeller. Why on earth Elsa insisted upon including him on the guest list for this blasted party was absolutely beyond his comprehension, and yet, here the rat bastard was, standing in the grand hall of the villa.
"Oh, come now, Baron. Would you have us believe that Austria holds a monopoly on virtue?" Zeller sneered at Baron Ebberfeld, who had just complimented Captain von Trapp on his children's singing.
"Herr Zeller, some of us prefer Austrian voices raised in song, to ugly German threats." Georg retorted, gritting his teeth at having to acknowledge Zeller at all.
"The ostrich buries his head in the sand. And sometimes in the flag. Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming, and it is. . . would get further with you by setting their words to music."
"I have no doubt that if the Nazis take over Austria, Herr Zeller, you will be the entire trumpet section."
"You flatter me."
"Oh, how clumsy of me. I meant to accuse you." Georg turned on his heel and stalked out. He was too irritated to notice Elsa quietly follow Maria up the stairs.
Just as he was beginning to puzzle over what was taking the Fraulein so long to join them for dinner, Frau Schmidt quietly asked the captain to speak privately. They stepped out of the room where dinner was to be served, and she handed him a white envelope with one word—Captain-written in a feminine hand.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Captain, but I found this on the credenza in the hall, and thought it might be important," she said. "I didn't want it to get lost with all the activity here tonight."
"Thank you, Frau Schmidt, I'll take care of whatever this is." The housekeeper nodded, and went back to the kitchen.
Georg opened the envelope, took out the note, and quickly read it. Then read it again, thinking his eyes and his newly acknowledged feelings were playing tricks on him.
I am so very sorry but I have to leave. I realized this evening that my work here is done; you have recovered your relationship with your children.
If I stay I will only stand in the way of your becoming a family with the Baroness.
I must return to the Abbey; I have missed it very much, and it is where I belong.
I will pray for your family always.
"No, no, no," Georg whispered to himself, covering his mouth in disbelief. He turned and looked into the party feeling as if he was hovering above it, and not really a part of it.
"Sir?" Georg looked up to see Franz before him, his pinched face bearing an unusual curiosity.
"Oh, ah, Franz, please continue with the party as scheduled. Something has come up that I must attend to immediately."
"Very well, sir," the butler replied, as he left the room.
Georg ran up the stairs, two at a time. Pausing briefly at the door to the governess' bedroom, he knocked as he turned the knob. The room was dark, and he struggled to find the light switch. When he did, he flipped it on and at first it looked as if nothing was amiss. The exception being that Maria was not there. He went to the armoire, and flung the doors open. Her dresses were all hanging there, but he noticed all other personal effects were gone. Quickly stepping to the adjoining bathroom, he found the same thing. None of her personal belongings were there.
Knowing he was wasting precious time, he ran down the hall to the back stairs. He had no intention of being waylaid by anyone passing through the hallway, or, God forbid, Elsa or Max. Maria, where have you gone? Why have you left me? The questions echoed in his head. He reached the side door used mostly by delivery men, flung it open and ran outside.
Georg had no idea which direction Maria would have gone; if she was truly returning to the abbey she'd mostly likely be walking the road to town, where she would get the bus. It must be too late for any bus to be running tonight, he thought. It was, however, the only idea he had. He walked quickly and quietly to the main gate, avoiding the many chauffeurs waiting for the guest that were just now enjoying their dinner.
Once Georg was on the street, he looked around for a clue as to whether Maria had indeed started walking to town, or gone an entirely different direction. He didn't have to look far. A slight figure in a gray dress was kneeling on the ground at the end of the the stone wall, with a carpet bag and a guitar case sitting on either side of her. She was hunched over, arms clutching at her midsection, shaking like a leaf.
"Fraulein?" he knelt on the ground beside her, but not daring to touch her. She looked so fragile, as if she might actually break if he did. She looked up, startled. Her beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears; her cheeks and nose reddened and moist from crying.
"Oh! Captain, what are you doing here?" her voice was soft and shaky as she spoke.
"That's funny, I was about to ask you the same question. What in the world do you think you're doing, sneaking off into the night?" His words were strong, but his voice was low and full of concern.
"I left a note for you. Didn't you read it?" Maria sniffled, and wiped the tears from her cheeks with her hand.
"Yes, that's why I'm out here looking for you. You shouldn't be out alone at this hour." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief, which he then offered her. Maria shook her head and turned away, in order to avoid his eyes. She knew if she looked into his eyes she would follow him to the ends of the earth.
"I don't understand. If you read it, then you know why I need to leave."
"Because you miss the abbey? I don't believe that. I also don't believe you belong there."
"It seems my work here is done. You've reestablished your relationship with the children, and now that you're to be married I am not needed here." Maria choked back more tears.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" he asked gently.
"Isn't that why you invited the Baroness here? To meet the children, because you plan to marry?" Georg heard a certain amount off heartbreak in Maria's voice, and he prayed it wasn't his imagination. "You have no need for me, now, Captain. And I don't wish to come between you and the Baroness."
"Maria, what do you mean, 'come between me and the Baroness?'"
"Well, sir, she...I …." Maria stumbled and stuttered, not sure of what she should say.
"Did Elsa say something to you?" Georg looked down at Maria's bowed head. She looked so sad, so desolate, so afraid.
Maria sighed, then looked up at the sky, as if pleading for God's help. "She came to my room, and told me you...that you..." she choked back a sob. "That you thought you were in love with me, but that you'd soon get over it." She took a deep breath, then continued "And, and, that I'm in love with you."
Georg stared at the beautiful young woman before him. He thought he'd seen the same feelings in her as well. He reached out to touch her face, lifting her chin and wiping away the fresh tears with the handkerchief he still held in his hand.
"Elsa said that to you? Maria, I'm sorry, she had no right-"
Maria interrupted him. "I told her she must be mistaken, that I'd never done anything to encourage-"
Georg stopped her with a finger to her lips. "Maria, she had no right to tell you, because it isn't her place. I should be the one to tell you that yes, I realized it tonight when we danced. I have fallen in love with you."
She looked up at him, meeting his smoky blue gaze with her own.
"What did you say?" Her question was barely a whisper, and she had the same pleading look she'd given him before.
"I said, I'm in love with you, Maria, and it is my fondest wish that you feel something for me as well," Georg felt that a weight had been lifted off his shoulders at the admission. "I know it has only been a few weeks that we've known each other, but you are the most amazing woman I've ever met. You've opened my eyes. You've opened my heart. You brought music back into the house, and... Please, don't leave. If you feel anything at all for me, stay." He paused, and took her hand. "If nothing else, stay to say a proper goodbye to the children. They'll be devastated if they wake up and find you gone."
At the mention of the children, her eyes filled again with tears. "I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to leave them." She closed her eyes for a moment, then looked deeply into his. "I don't want to leave you."
"Then stay. Please, don't leave us. Don't leave me. " Georg leaned over and kissed her forehead, rested his own against it. He brought his left hand up to her neck, his fingers reaching up into her soft, golden hair, something he'd wanted to do since the evening she'd convinced him to sing.
"May I kiss you, Maria?"
She slowly nodded, and he moved his hand to her chin, tilting her face up to meet his. When their lips touched, Maria was surprised at how soft and warm her captain's mouth was. The kiss was gentle, and chaste, and held within it all the promise of new love.
Georg ended the kiss reluctantly before asking Maria, "So, you'll stay?". He smiled at her, and brushed a lock of hair away from her eyes.
"But what about the Baroness? I thought you were planning to propose to her," Maria's voice was a whisper. "Isn't that why you brought her here?" She could hardly get the words out, but she had to know. She searched his eyes for an answer.
"I have come to realize that while I care for Elsa, I could never marry her. I have never felt for her what I feel when I am near you. We are simply not suited to one another, we have very different views of the world. I will make things right and talk to her after this infernal party she talked me into."
"Oh, Captain, I don't want to come between you-"
Georg cut her off, not wanting her to feel responsible. "No, Maria, you haven't. I should have seen the signs earlier, but I was too distracted. There are many reasons why things will not work between the Baroness and myself."
He stood, and offered Maria his hand, which she took. After helping her to her feet, Georg picked up her carpet bag and her guitar case. Maria took the guitar from him, and with his free hand he took hers, and their fingers immediately intertwined. They fell into step together very naturally, and walked in silence back to the villa.