A/N: Yep, here it is, finally. Sorry for the delay, you know-real life and all that stuff. I still don't own any of this, and I don't do it for money but for love. A few bits are based on real things (the restaurant, for example) or came out discussions at our proboards group. So, enjoy, review, and a quick thanks to charleybec for giving this the once-over for me.
At last, the wedding was only a day away.
Deliveries to the villa began in earnest-tables, chairs, linens, flowers-anything and everything that a reception befitting an aristocratic naval hero and his bride required. It seemed as though the entire household was busy with the preparations. That is, except the bride herself.
Maria was preoccupied with leaving plans and instructions for the children while she and Georg were away on their honeymoon. Sitting at the desk that had been set up for her in the nursery, she didn't hear the footsteps behind her. Georg's arms wrapped around her, and she jumped in surprise.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, turning in her chair to face him. "Darling, you've got to stop sneaking up on me!"
He kissed her cheek, as she went back to the papers in front of her.
"What has your attention so that you haven't heard me calling you?" She shivered at his touch, as his warm hands gently massaged her shoulders.
"Just some plans for the children, for while we're away. Why were you calling for me?"
Georg took the pen from her and set it in the stand. "To let you know I'm taking you away from all the hustle and bustle here. I've arranged for a romantic dinner, just the two of us, before I must leave you at the abbey."
Maria stood, concern on her face as she toyed with the lapels of his jacket.
"What's wrong, my love? Not having second thoughts, are you?" he teased, as he pulled her into an embrace.
She looked up at him, her blue eyes wide. "Goodness, no! I just….don't you think we should be with the children tonight? As a family? We'll be gone for so long, and …."
A gentle knock on the door interrupted Maria's train of thought. They looked over to find Liesl.
"Wonderful timing, my darling daughter," Georg said. "Tell me, do you children need us to stay and have a family dinner with you tonight, or can I whisk your beautiful Fraulein out for a romantic evening before she becomes a married lady?"
Liesl looked from her father to the woman who had been her governess, had become her best friend, and in the morning would become her new mother. Looking back at her father, she smiled at him, and he winked in return.
"Oh, Fraulein Maria, you simply must go to dinner with Father. I can't imagine anything more wonderful than a romantic dinner with the man you love…"
"All right, that's enough now. You can stop imagining, because you are far too young," Georg scowled as the two women laughed. He turned to Maria. "I will go and finalize the arrangements for the evening, and let you know what time to be ready after that." He kissed her cheek, and gave a quick squeeze to Liesl's shoulder as he left the room.
A bit of worry again flitted over Maria's face. "Are you sure? Won't the little ones be disappointed, since your father and I will be gone for so long to Paris?"
"I'm certain, Fraulein. All we have to do is give them seconds on dessert and they'll be happy." She paused, fingering the pocket of her dress before speaking again.
"I'd really like to thank you for asking me to stand up with you and Father tomorrow. It really is an honor."
Maria put her arm around Liesl's shoulder. "I wouldn't have it any other way. It means so much to me that you are all so accepting of us getting married."
"I wanted to ask you a question, if you don't mind?" Maria shook her head, and Liesl continued. "I was wondering if you have your 'something borrowed' for tomorrow yet?"
The bride-to-be looked surprised. "Why, no, I don't suppose I do," she admitted. "That's from the English rhyme you told me about, yes? Something old, something new, something…."
"...borrowed, and something blue. Yes, it is." Liesl joined her in reciting it. "Well, I have this, and you can wear it tomorrow, if you'd like." She pulled her hand out of her pocket, and held out a small, gold heart which dangled from a rectangular brooch.
"Why Liesl, this is lovely," Maria took the pin in her hand, admiring the scrollwork on the bar which supported the heart.
"When Gretl was born, Mother gave it to me. She said that no matter how many babies she had, she would always have a special place in her heart for me." Liesl paused for a breath. "Now Mother is in the special place in our hearts, and I want you to wear this so you know now you have a special place in my heart, in all of our hearts, as well."
Maria felt her eyes prickle with tears, and she hugged Liesl to her. "I will wear it proudly, sweetheart. I love you all so much," she whispered. "Thank you. And I will make sure it is returned to you as quickly as possible."
After packing a small overnight bag for the abbey; and another, slightly larger one that would go on ahead to the honeymoon suite at the Hotel Bristol, Maria dressed for her evening out with her beloved. Having all of her new clothes packed in the trunk bound for Paris, Maria chose the one dress left in her closet that she knew Georg liked-the blue organza dress she'd worn the night of the puppet show, when he'd agreed to sing for her and the children. It was certainly an evening she would never forget. She smiled as she remembered the way his smooth baritone voice filled not only the room but her heart; and how when their eyes met, she could hardly breathe as she became lost in his gaze. And after tomorrow, she would never have to look away again.
The goodbyes that evening took even longer than Maria had expected. She gave each of the children a hug and a kiss, starting with the youngest. But by the time she'd made it through all seven, the littlest were sniffling and wanting another set. After being promised seconds on dessert by their Aunt Hede at Liesl's suggestion, they were content in the knowledge of seeing Maria at the abbey the next morning, and extra chocolate cake that night.
Georg promised Gretl and Marta he would be home to tuck them in in Maria's place; he then took Maria's bag in one hand, and Maria's hand with his other, and led her to the waiting car.
He parked the car along the Waagplatz, in front of a building that appeared to Maria to be a private home.
"Georg? What is this?" she asked, as he opened the door and helped her from the car.
"This is where we'll be having dinner," he answered. "For centuries this building has been a dining establishment of one sort or another," he informed her. "And I've reserved the most romantic room for us this evening."
"A whole room? Just for us?" Maria smiled at his thoughtfulness. There was nowhere she'd rather be than simply with him, and no one else around.
Georg was spotted immediately by the maitre d', who greeted him warmly, and Maria as well. Again she was reminded of just what a treasure he was; not simply a hero to her, or to his children, but to all of Austria. As they walked to their private accommodations, Maria beamed with pride.
The couple was led to a table set for two, in a room that was meant to hold no more than twelve. Theirs was in front of the open window, and overlooked the River Salzach. It was adorned with fresh roses and candles, with a bottle of champagne chilling in a bucket nearby. Once they were seated, menu cards were turned over, champagne was poured into the tall, crystal flutes, and the maitre d' discreetly exited the room.
Georg picked up his glass, and Maria did the same. "Thank you, my darling, for doing me the exquisite honor of becoming my wife. I cannot wait until tomorrow." Their glasses clinked together softly, and each took a sip of the bubble liquid, their eyes never leaving each other's.
He leaned over, and gently touched his lips to Maria's; their kiss grew in power and intensity until she had to pull away breathless.
It was only a moment after they'd separated that the maitre d' returned, prompting Maria to wonder if he'd been watching. Georg swiftly ordered for both of them, and once again they were left blissfully alone.
"So, are you going to ask me?" Georg prompted.
"Ask you what, darling?" she questioned, as she sipped the golden liquid.
"Ask my why I insisted on taking you out tonight. I mean, aside from wanting any opportunity to be alone with you." he smiled, and softly ran a finger up and down her arm.
"Mmmm, was cook making Grüne Würstl for dinner?" Maria watched as Georg made a disgusted face, looking very much like Kurt, and she laughed merrily. Only a very few knew of his dislike of the raw, dried sausages that were boiled before being served.
"Hah! That would have been a good guess, Fraulein, but you know I've forbidden those in my home," as he shook his head and shuddered at the memory of the awful boiled meat he'd had to endure all his years at boarding school and in the navy.
She kissed him sweetly on his cheek, and took his hand. "I don't know, tell me."
"Because I know that, once we walk out of the church tomorrow, we won't have a single moment to ourselves, and we will be lucky to get more than one dance together. There will be many people wanting to give us their good wishes."
Maria blanched. "But you'll stay with me, yes? I don't know if I could stand being with so many people who….not only don't know me, but have been thinking the worst of me." She looked up at her fiance, and he could see the trepidation in her eyes.
"More likely the worst of me. But yes, I'll be by your side the entire day, nothing could pry me away." He placed his hand over hers. "And not just tomorrow. Every day after tomorrow, until the last breath leaves me."
After the couple had enjoyed a long, luxurious dinner together, Georg drove Maria to the abbey for the final time. They walked in silence to the exterior iron gates, and when Maria reached for the bell pull, Georg stopped her.
"No, not yet," he whispered, as he set her bag down. "I want these last few moments with you, before we say goodnight."
Maria turned to him and welcomed his embrace, their lips joining, tongues entwining, as he pulled her into the shadows of the stone entry. Georg threaded the fingers of one hand through Maria's hair, the other caressing her back from her shoulders down, until he reached her bottom and gave a soft squeeze. Maria pressed more closely to him, both of her hands moving up until she could run them through his dark, chestnut hair, where she loved to play.
She reluctantly pulled her face away from his, needing to breathe, as her fiance trailed his mouth across her cheek, down to the spot where her neck met her shoulder. There he stayed, kissing her soft skin and making her weak in the knees. Sighing audibly, she caught his attention, and he brought his forehead up to touch hers, and gently kissed the tip of her nose.
"I will miss you terribly tonight, my love," he whispered. "I know it is the last time we will be apart, but knowing you were just down the hall…..was such a comfort to me. Having you here, well…"
"Are you worried they'll give me the wrong vows, darling?" She ran a finger down the edge of his jaw and over to touch the small scar on his chin, which she then kissed. "You do realize how happy the sisters are that I'm your problem now, don't you?"
"Not nearly as happy as I am." He glanced over at the bell pull, and after one last, delicious kiss, nodded to Maria that it was time. "You may as well ring now, before I refuse to let you go."
Almost as soon as Maria had rung the bell, a light switched on in the inner hall, and smaller light came toward them.
"May I help you?" a voice called from inside the darkened entry.
"Yes, Sister, it is Maria. I'm here to stay the night." Georg picked up her bag, and moved his hand to discreetly touch the inward curve of her back.
As the light came closer it could be seen as a lantern, and Maria recognized Sister Berthe as the one holding it immediately. "Oh, yes, Maria. We've been expecting you. Come in, please," she said, unlocking the gates.
The couple made their way inside, and the older nun looked over Captain von Trapp. "You can leave her here, now. We'll take care of her, and make sure she is on time in the morning." The Sister reached for the outer gate, and Georg took that to mean he should leave immediately. He leant over to Maria, and whispered, "Is she always like this?"
Maria carefully eyed the nun before whispering back, "You'd better go, before she makes us both kiss the floor."
Georg shook his head in understanding. Meeting Maria's eyes, he smiled before leaning in, so only she could hear him. "Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night, until it be morrow." As he kissed her hand, Maria smiled, recognizing the Shakespeare from Liesl's English literature study. He bid good night to Sister Berthe, and before Maria could move from the spot she was in, he was gone.
"Maria, if you'll come this way, we've made your old quarters available to you." She began to walk toward the rooms, and Maria slowly followed.
"I dare say, this is the slowest I've ever seen you move. I'd think you'd be running straight on 'til morning, with a man like that waiting for you at the altar." Maria looked at the nun in surprise, and the Sister gave her a little wink before returning to the business at hand.
Maria settled herself into the sparsely furnished room, dimly lit and quite chilly in the night air. After getting changed into her nightclothes, she knelt down beside the bed, as she had so many nights before this one. Only this time, her heart was full to bursting, and there was no question in her mind whether she was truly following God's plan for her life.
On the other side of Salzburg, as Georg readied himself for sleep-after tucking several very excited and overtired children into their own beds-he wandered to his bureau and picked up a silver frame, which held a photograph of himself with Maria. It was not a stiff and formal posed portrait. This pose was actually one the photographer had almost discarded, as it showed the couple not as an aristocratic, austere pair. In this one, taken seemingly by accident, they both appeared relaxed, and happy; broad smiles on their faces, and Maria leaning back into him, his arms around her. When he'd seen it, he'd insisted the photographer make him a print.
This was what Maria had brought to him, brought back to himself and his children-laughter, and fun, and love. And he took great comfort in knowing that the next time he brought her here, brought her home, she would be his wife.
Maria woke with a start, and it took several moments for her to remember why the bells for morning office sounded so close. When she did, she hugged herself and smiled, knowing that in just a few hours she would become Georg's wife.
She hurriedly dressed, and bounded down the stairs, hoping to make it to the service on time. Sneaking into a pew nearest the door, Maria knelt down and allowed the praises and prayers to wash over her, joining in reciting the words she knew so well.
After the service Maria went to the kitchen, and looked to prepare a cup of tea for herself. She was starting to feel the jangle of nerves, and was hoping it would calm her. Sister Gertrude entered the room, and stopped her.
"Maria, there you are. I've been looking all over for you. Everything you need to dress is in the anteroom near the Reverend Mother's office, and there is also some tea and breakfast for you there."
"Why, thank you, Sister. I was hoping not to be any trouble for anyone-"
"Believe me, it isn't any trouble. Yours isn't the first wedding held here at the Abbey, but it is the first one in which the bride is one of our own." The sister smiled at her, and gestured toward the door. "Come, dear, and you can relax before it is time to dress." Maria smiled in return, and followed Sister Gertrude down the hall.
The buttons on Maria's gown had all been fastened, her hair arranged just so, and she had slipped her feet into the satin slippers which would carry her down the long aisle in the large, formal church sanctuary at Nonnberg. Sister Margaretta placed the ring of myrtle leaves upon her head, and Sister Gertrude and several of the others arranged the long, white tulle veil over the wreath and around her shoulders. The pin borrowed from Liesl was fastened to the petticoats beneath her silk gown, along with a small blue bow. Her 'something new' was her gown; and the 'something old' was a lovely hairpin that Sister Margaretta had given her that morning; which was now holding the myrtle wreath upon her head.
She knelt before the Reverend Mother to receive her blessing, then rose to walk through the courtyard toward the sanctuary. With each step leading her closer to her fate, she felt a growing sense of calm and peace coming over her.
When she reached the cloister gates, she stood back and waited for the Reverend Mother to open them. Liesl, Marta, and Gretl were on the other side, looking expectantly toward her. Maria smiled at each of them, and took her bouquet from Liesl, raising the grouping of white blossoms and breathing deeply of their perfume. Oh, goodness, this is really, finally happening she thought, as she paused again to allow Liesl to straighten her skirts and veil.
Maria turned around, meeting Liesl's gaze, and giving her a slight smile. She then turned further, looking back at the Reverend Mother, and the Sisters who had meant so much to her; been her family; and now were seeing her safely on to the life she was meant to live. Maria smiled her gratitude, as Sister Gertrude signaled Liesl to send Marta and Gretl, the flower girls, down the aisle.
She shared another look with Liesl before the young woman started the long walk down the aisle, and Maria turned to face her future.
Georg stood at the altar, Max beside him. The groom had his head bowed, offering his private prayer of thanks to God. Looking up when heard the organ music begin the processional, he turned toward the rear of the church. First, his two youngest daughters walked side by side; the sight of them comforted him, as he realized that yes, Maria was here, and this was happening. He didn't realize until that moment that he'd had the smallest fear she would change her mind. Watching as Liesl followed at a good distance behind, he realized that Maria had been right all along. She was no longer a girl, but a young woman; and he would be forever grateful to his bride for making him realize it before it was too late.
Maria looked ahead, the aisle so long that she could see Georg standing at the altar, Max next to him, but she was unable to make out his expression. It hardly mattered, though, because she was so thrilled to see he was there. She kept her eyes focused on his face as she took each graceful step toward him, just as Hede had instructed her.
When their eyes met, Maria and Georg became the only two in attendance. Any concern for anything save the two of them fell away. Maria's elegance entranced Georg, and she was mesmerized by his regal bearing, how handsome he was in his full dress naval uniform. She carefully climbed the steps leading to him, as he held out his arm to escort her the final few feet to where the Archbishop stood ready to bind them in holy matrimony.
Hands clasped, Georg stroked the knuckles of Maria's hand with his thumb, relishing the feel of her skin. Genuflecting as a group, he reluctantly let her go, as she turned to hand off her bouquet to Liesl. Maria once more reached out to him, and he took hold of her once more as they knelt before the altar.
Prayers were lifted, promises made, vows spoken. Finally, the pronouncement was made, and the groom gently and chastely kissed his bride.
Baron and Baroness von Trapp.