Maria stifled the sudden urge to roll her eyes as she spied yet another lady dragging her gentlemen over to Georg under the guise of making sure said gentleman had a chance to get "acquainted". Dying to meet a 'naval hero' indeed, she gave a little huff under her breath. As far as she could tell, the men seemed happy to say hello and the women seemed happier to see which one could get close enough to detect which aftershave he might be wearing-possibly by tasting if necessary. The crush of people in the ballroom was quickly making her feel pressed in, squeezed under the sheer numbers as well as the staggering amount of perfumes, pomades, and colognes.
She found herself looking longingly at the double doors that led out onto terrace and adjacent gardens with longing; she felt the fresh air beckoning in a way she hadn't known since she left the abbey. Perhaps she could simply slip out, make her escape utilizing that wonderfully placed potted lemon tree…
Maria risked a glance at Georg, standing beside her with his arms crossed over his chest, nodding in deference to the conversation ebbing about them. She startled a bit as she felt Georg run his finger down the back of her arm, shocked at so public a display. She glanced over at him with a question in her eyes but realized his touch had been concealed by his arms. Such a clever man she had, managing to touch her intimately in such a crowded place. Georg was not looking at her but the corner of his mouth turned up a bit, very subtly alerting her to the fact that he knew she wasn't paying attention.
"Of course, Baroness, it's always a pleasure to see you again. And how is your family?," she heard Georg finish smoothly, her daydreaming preventing her from catching the names of any of the group Georg was currently exchanging pleasantries with. Maria's eyes were drawn to the neckline of the older woman in front of her which threatened to be over run by a small sea of pearls. Deciding to simply smile and act as though every word were fascinating Maria forced herself to pay attention. Oh, what was their name again? Walnut? No, Walner? Or was it Schwarz?
Baroness SchwarzWalnutPearls was happy to have the floor as she extolled the virtues of all her daughters and sons which gave Maria another minute to asses the rest of the women in front of her. All of them looked to be about the age of Sister Margaretta, only much less friendly and far more overly accessorized. She could hardly tell where one woman started and the next stopped as their various feather plumes and ropes of jewels bled into one another. She was starting to miss Sister Berthe, at least when she appraised her with that knowing glance she knew what to do… She didn't think hitting the floor would be useful under the circumstances, though she was certain that if she stood amongst these women long enough she would put her foot in her mouth.
A gentleman she had never met came over and asked if he could "borrow" Georg for a moment to introduce him to his father. Maria gave him a gracious smile and resisted the urge to clasp his arm and force him to stay beside her. Georg looked a bit torn but she flashed him her "confident" smile.
"Oh, do go on Captain von Trapp. We'll just take our dear little Maria over to meet some of the other women here," one of the matrons offered in graciously oily tone. Maria gave a half hearted smile of barely concealed unease.
"As you can see, Georg, I'll be well entertained in your absence," she managed. As she was politely drug away she looked over her shoulder and mouthed, "Save me," and shot him a wink. He gave her a half grin as he turned away, and she felt her heart flutter, reminding her and all the women watching him just how handsome he was.
She had to admit that for all the roiling jealousy she had felt in this ballroom he never took notice of a single feathered girl or be-pearled lady. While she was watching them, he was watching her. Always. Being the object of such single minded focus was both flattering and daunting.
She felt the beringed hand with the iron grip on her arm give her a hearty pat to grab her attention.
"So, you're the young lady who has finally captured the attention of the allusive Captain von Trapp," she felt all their eyes raking over her from head to toe. Maria stto a bit straighter as she felt her body tense in response to their scrutiny.
"Tell us dear, how is it really?"
"How is what?," asked Maria, already bewildered.
"How do manage that pack of rabid anim-, er, children all day?"
"Oh, well, the children and I get along-".
"You get on with them? I have heard such tales! Frogs, snakes, spiders, and one instance where they hid dozens of pieces of cheese throughout the nanny's rooms," she wrinkled her nose in distaste, "...took them weeks to air it out."
"Is it true he whistles for you? Elsa Schrader said-"
"He has a whistle?"
"I'll just be he has a whistle..."
"Gerta!," came a loud whisper from one of the ladies.
"How much has she had to drink?," asked another under her breath as she deftly plucked Gerta's champagne glass out of her hand and replaced it with her own glass of punch.
The gathered herd noticed that the not so sublte innuendo was blissfully lost on the young lady as she answered honestly. "He did have a whistle, the grounds are quite extensive. But he has," Maria said, giving a small smile, "mellowed a bit. He doesn't use it at home anymore. Unless we can't find someone."
"Do tell us all, what is tall, dark, and brooding like at home?"
Gerta gave a little hiccup, "Forget the home, what is he like in-oofff! Celia, why do you keep elbowing me?"
"For heaven sake, someone go and find Hans so he can pour her into the car before she causes more trouble."
Celia rolled her eyes and leaned in to Gerta to whisper in a conspiratorial tone which naturally everyone could hear, "She was a nun, is a nun, a governess, actually I'm uncertain."
"I was never a nun," Maria clarified. "I was a postulant, I hadn't taken my vows yet."
"Well, she doesn't look like a nun tonight," Gerta replied tartly, her eyes squinting into the distance as she surveyed the ballroom. "And he seems to agree with me," she said sloshing her punch cup in the general direction of Captain von Trapp. "Hmm, he certainly does keep his eye on you young lady."
The women in the group turned in a sort of be-feathered unison to find Georg in the crowd. Rather than be embarrassed at being caught staring at his fiancee he merely inclined his head in recognition of all the ladies and then brought his eyes up to catch Maria's and he gave her a subtle wink, his lips curling into a barely there smirk. The blush covered her cheeks and rushed down across her shoulders.
"Did you see that?" said another matron fanning herself so fast she was creating a tiny whirlwind.
"I might have need of my smelling salts, I feel a tad dizzy," Gerta mused as she began to list to the side, leaning heavily on Celia.
"That's the bottle of champagne you drank," admonished Celia with a little shove to straighten her friend.
Maria was beyond confused as she watched the women descend into private conversations, seemingly forgetting her presence for the moment. Beginning to back up in an effort to escape she watched one very elderly lady approach her.
"It must be quite a change for you my dear, for the better I think." She leaned in to whisper in Maria's ear, "Don't you worry for a minute about any of them, they are sour old gossips the lot of them and you and your Captain are news, for this week anyway. Go now while you still can!" She gave her a tender grandmotherly smile and then sharply invited the vultures for more punch, physically steering a few of them away.
Realizing that she was alone, Maria scanned the ballroom for Georg. She found him with a group of former officers, twisting his gloves in animated conversation that was surely going to turn uncomfortably political as she watched the vile Herr Zeller slither closer. By the set of his jaw Georg had seen him as well and was relishing the opportunity of a confrontation. Obviously Zeller saw the same look on the Captain's face and performed an abrupt about face and slithered back to a darkened corner of the ballroom, where he belonged, she thought. Maria decided to grab her fresh air while she had the chance. As she slipped behind a pillar on her way to freedom she caught her name in a snip of conversation and felt herself pause, knowing she shouldn't and hearing Sister Berthe in her mind warning her that those who eavesdrop rarely hear good news.
"Well, I don't know Adelaide, I think she is rather pretty, and her hair is unconventional, but she was going to take holy orders, that must count for something."
"Truly Sophie," came the haughty reply, "if you can't find something interesting to say about the mountain girl go get us more punch. I suppose she's decent enough, but he could have had anyone, any woman in this ballroom or any other in all of Austria. He had Baroness Schraeder all but chasing him, she even left Vienna to follow him!"
"Well, that mountain girl apparently stole him right out from underneath the Baroness."
"But really what could they possibly have to talk about?"
"Maybe that's why he hasn't danced with her yet? Nothing to talk about…"
"Or maybe the mountain girl doesn't know how to dance?" offered Adelaide.
"If I was her I'd be sure to let him know how much I needed the the practice dancing!"
Adelaide gave delicate snort, "He's clearly marrying her to tend all those children of his, Katrin, it's probably cheaper than paying her to stay on."
"What can she possibly know about running a house like that? Didn't she take a vow of poverty? I guess she changed her mind when she caught sight of his bank statement."
"Or his backside…"
"Pia!," exclaimed a voice, obviously pretending to be scandalized even as they all broke into tiny little giggles.
"He is handsome," the speaker let out a sigh. "I don't care if he is half our age."
"From what I have heard if he's even half as rakish at this age as he was when he was our age, well, let's just say there would be a pushing match happening right now."
"I think you're all wrong. The way he looks at her," Sophie sighed, "What I wouldn't give for a gentleman to look at me that way. I'd faint dead away."
"Sophie, you fainted dead away last week when that fishmonger we passed chopped the head off that fish. You'd most likely die if someone actually looked at you like that."
"True." She let out another sigh.
As the ladies drifted off to find another victim to gossip about Maria forced herself to move toward the open door, certain that the open mouthed gape frozen on her face would not be a good look for a ballroom. She deliberately unclenched her fists as she finally made it thru the doors and out onto the blissfully empty terrace. The air was warm and she stripped off her gloves in a fit of anger and tossed them onto the ledge of the railing, the buttons making a soft ping instead of the satisfying crash she wished for.
How dare they?
Well, of course they dared. She had been the governess who fell in love with her employer, she had been a postulant, and she had come from humble beginnings. Facing the bare facts of the situation in those bleak terms did make her look opportunistic and greedy. And truthfully, had she heard this story about another girl from the abbey she might have thought the worst of them too. Perhaps the sting of their words had been the sting of the truth she heard in them?
But was their version of the truth the truth she believed about herself? Yes, she had been a postulant on the path to God's will, and she still believed she was on that path. Yes, she had been a governess, a teacher who had ended up learning more than she had taught about the love of a family and a man. She would not regret that or them. Yes, she had humble roots, but those roots made her love the simple things in life and the unpretentious life suited her. As she reminded herself at the beginning of the evening, she was not made for a life of sorrow or self pity. She had confidence in who she was. And she was confident in him, in them.
Although, they were absolutely right about one thing. He did have a nice backside.
"Ahh, I should have known I would find you out here," he remarked as he wandered out onto the terrace with two champagne flutes in his hands. She shot him a half smile but didn't meet his eye. Instead she watched the light from the party catch the bubbles in the glasses.
"Yes, I suppose by now you do know to find me outside," she replied as she held her hand out for her glass. He slid right up next to her and set his glass down on the railing. She smiled fully at that. He didn't care for champagne but bringing her a glass would have given him an excuse to leave his throng of admirers behind to find her. She certainly had not had a life conducive to being waited on, but he seemed determined to spoil her and who was she to stop him when it felt so lovely to be cared for?
The simplest things, a pulled out chair, flowers left on the bench she frequented, a hand to the small of her back, sinfully expensive chocolates he scandalized her with when he declined her offer to eat one claiming he would rather taste them from her lips, or more memorably acting the part of the pirate and sweeping her into his arms when he caught her playing princess in a tower with Marta and Gretl. All reminders that she wasn't alone anymore. And she was thankful. And it didn't matter the why and how of what other people thought of her or him.
He watched her carefully for a moment before resting his elbows on the railing. "Maria," he murmured, "If you want to go you only have to say, we needn't stay."
"Oh, no," she reached out a hand to squeeze his arm in reassurance. "I don't want to leave now. I did before but...well, that was before I came out here and cleared my head a bit."
Immediately on the defensive his head snapped up and surveyed the party guests with narrowed eyes. "Was someone unkind?"
"No, yes, I overheard…," she gave an exasperated huff. "It's rather embarrassing actually...I was," she sighed, "I was angry and jealous you see, and thought I should take myself for a walk before I did something we would both regret."
"Jealous? Darling if I have done anything..."
"My dear," she chuckled, "You don't have too. Surely you see how handsome you are. They can't help themselves really and I have decided that I can't blame them."
"You can't?," he shook his head in confusion, certain that he was missing something crucial.
She gave him a smirky little smile.
"No, I can't. I admit I minded at first, all those breathy 'my dear Captains' and practically smacking each other with their fans to get a better position, and some of them old enough to be your grandmother! All the while batting their lashes." She rolled her eyes as she mimed fanning herself and blinking rapidly. He let out an impolite bark of laughter at the other ladies expense but felt his mood sober as she continued in a sad tone.
"The whispering and giggling, most of which was directed at me but, ah ah," she said, touching his chin with her fingertip to turn his head back toward her and not whipped around to see which guest might have dared a snicker.
"They can flirt and simper, and say unkind things all they want."
"They can?" he asked, surprised at her sudden change of heart.
"Yes, because I know something they don't know. Have something they don't."
"And what is that, darling?"
"It was the gloves that made me realize."
"What about them?"
"It's not them per say, it's what you do with them."
"Other than wear them, you mean?"
"Mm hmm," she replied reaching down to take one of his gloved hands in hers. "Do you know that you fidget a great deal with them?" He shook his head as he watched her splay his fingers in front of her face, was she going to count them?
"Well, you do," she continued. You take them on and then off, sometimes you wring them when you're irritated or bored. And you tighten the fingers a bit..." she said, still studying the crisp white stitches across his palm.
"I still don't think I follow..." Georg muttered, confused at the path of her conversation, even as the skin under the fabric of his gloves began to tingle with anticipation that she might touch him again. He rolled his eyes a bit at himself. When had he become such a lovesick schoolboy that the mere thought of Maria touching his hands became, well, erotic? These past weeks he had suddenly found the freedom to touch her whenever he pleased, and he was pleased often. He had to keep them simple, chaste really, a drag of his fingers down her arm as she passed him by, a quick brush of her cheek, tangling his fingers in hers when they sat close enough. Virginal was the word; all in order to remain in control of the sudden rage of desire she had unwittingly unleashed. There seemed to be no end to his hunger to put his hands on her, and the chaste touches pacified the roar inside, occasionally.
But sometimes, well, he blissfully gave in. As he had this evening or as he had the other day in an alleyway next to the dressmakers pressing frantic kisses against her neck, practically in public. But as they navigated their way into knowing one another it was almost always him who initiated touching. Despite the fact that his fiancee was tactile in all other aspects of her life and that she seemed to enjoy, even revel in his attentions, she rarely dared to touch first. Perhaps the rarity of the experience is what made his whole body shiver, no matter how simple the touch.
To have her in front of him now, just outside the throng of people, touching him, studying him, when he could do nothing in return to escalate it was maddening. He shook his head a bit to clear the fog when he realised that she was speaking to him.
"...and all those ladies in there, dripping with class and sophistication, the ones who follow you and wonder what you are doing here with me when you could have had any of them? I needn't be jealous of them, they are jealous of me," she was matter of fact. She pressed her whole hand against his for a moment, as though measuring how much smaller her fingers were compared to his.
"Do you know why?" she whispered as she traced each of his fingers slowly, up and down, unknowingly leaving little strings of fire in her wake. "I'll bet you don't," she said with a crooked grin.
He simply cocked his head to the side, intrigued.
"Its because at the end of the night," she gave a gentle tug at the fabric on the tip of his index finger followed by his middle finger, "...when the last waltz has played," she whispered as she loosened the rest of his fingers in turn, "I get to do this..." she looked him in the eye as she removed his glove with a slow slide.
"I get to feel your fingertips on my bare skin, with nothing between us. No gloves, no mask, no pretense. I know you, have you, I see you. Not Captain von Trapp but Georg. And it doesn't matter why they think you wanted to marry me. Or why I want to marry you."
He watched her, wondering how she had been able to read him, from the very start, to know what he needed to hear. Her words had at once made him feel intimately connected to her and oddly exposed at the same time. His tight control over his emotions the only thing preventing him from pulling her into his arms with everyone watching and kissing her until she begged for more. Instead, he allowed himself turn her hand over as he met her eye, "Yes, you do have me," and he gave her a too long kiss on the back of her hand, "can have me."
Maria shivered as she caught the heady look in his eye. "Perhaps we should go, we could perhaps sit together in the music room? You'll play for me?" she asked innocently as she pulled her gloves back on.
"I'm not sure-"
"I'll make it worth your while."
"Really, Captain," she smirked as she bit her lower lip in an effort to curb her smile.
"Captain again am I?"
Maria put on her best sultry pout, "I'll call you sir, if you like, and mean it."
He laughs at her, delighted with her willingness, no, her eagerness to tease him, to play.
Georg cleared his throat and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "I have it on good authority that the next dance they are going to play is a Laendler."
"Really? On whose authority?"
"Mine. I made a request. I would like the chance to finish what we started. And this time I can enjoy your blushes, assuming you can remember the whole dance this time."
"I remembered," she said softly. Maria gave him a saucy smile, "Perhaps if you dance as well as you did that night I'll let you have the kiss at the end," she said as she handed him back his glove.
"Oh ho, well then, wait, did you say a kiss?"
"Just the one, its traditional and appropriate for a public setting." she affirmed, using the same in charge tone she used on unruly children.
"Mmm, then I shall have to make it worth my while," he said with twinkle of mischief in his eye.
"Don't you dare!"
She watched him slip his glove back on as he said, "No, you're too late my darling, challenge accepted. Shall we?," he said, offering her his arm with a gallant little bow.
"Where you this much trouble in the Navy?" Maria asked.
"Oh, much more," he laughed. "Remind me to tell you a story or two, after we're married."
"Adelaide, you look so grown up I hardly recognized you! Last time I saw you you here covered in chocolate cake," Georg gave her a fond smile and seemed to stop just short of patting her on the head. "This is my fiancee Maria. Maria, this is Adelaide Hofer, I served under her father in the navy. Are your parents here tonight, I haven't had the pleasure of seeing them tonight, do give them my regards."
"I-they are, I mean, I will," Adelaide faltered a bit. Maria almost felt a pang of sympathy, some days those eyes combined with a smile had rendered her tongue tied as well. Almost.
"Excellent! Now if you'll excuse me Maria has promised to help me practice my Laendler, I'm rather hopeless."
"Yes, it was nice to meet you ladies, but you know us mountain girls, we need all the practice we can get," Maria gave Adelaide a raised brow and a wide smile as she slid her hand from Georg's offered arm and into the intimate grasp of his hand.
And the gloves came off!
This one goes out to all my people on the ProBoards...Thank you for letting me be a part, hugs to everyone!