This story is for Indigoblue in the 2015 Proboards Exchange. I would like to wish everyone and their families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and safe New Year :)
August 1944 - Annapolis, Maryland
As Georg von Trapp studied himself in the dressing room mirror, he couldn't help but notice that the image starring back at him reflected the necessary, but large-scale changes to his life and that of his family over the last seven years.
By rights, he should have been adjusting the epaulets of the traditional dress uniform of the Austrian Imperial Navy and escorting his daughter up the aisle in the splendour of Mondsee Cathedral to marry the son of an Austrian Baron. Instead, he was fiddling with the buttons of the dress jacket of the United States Navy where he had worked as a consultant on European affairs since their arrival in America, and Liesl would be marrying a Lieutenant in the United States Army at a modest Catholic Church in Annapolis.
Still, the thought of his eldest daughter reciting vows of holy matrimony made his heart twist. The pang was only slightly lessened with the knowledge that her husband-to-be, Matthew Jennings was a fine, decent young man who was currently serving in Europe. His parents, Mavis and Paul, were fine, hardworking people who, despite the current political climate, had accepted their son marrying the daughter of an Austrian Naval Captain without trepidation.
Over and above his wealth, titles and privilege, he was first and foremost a father and today another man would replace him within the prominent place Liesl's heart. They had all been through so much together; himself and his seven children and then Maria. When Matthew had first asked for his daughter's hand in marriage, it almost felt as though one of his crew was preparing to abandon his ship. And what made his heart ache the most was that it was his Lisel, his eldest daughter, the one person who had become the mainstay in his life during the difficult times.
He had been begun courting Agathe towards the end of the war, their courtship ending in marriage in 1920. As he watched the empire he fought so hard for, crumble into ruins, his despair was alleviated when - like an angel of mercy - his blue-eyed, dimpled-cheeked first-born had come into his life, lifting him from his sadness and bringing new hope back into his life.
During the immediate months following his beloved wife's death, Georg von Trapp fell into an abyss of guilt, self-loathing, misery and grief. It had been twelve-year-old Lisel who had been forced to grow up beyond her years. While her father had lost himself in whiskey and trips to Vienna, ever her father's daughter she stoically took control of the floundering ship. She shushed baby Gretl and little Marta as they cried restlessly, comforted Brigitta and Kurt through their nightmares, and prevented Friedrich and Louisa from their never-ending skirmishes. In the mornings, she would keep her siblings quiet as her father nursed yet another hangover from the previous night and challenged him with blazing eyes whenever he would take them to task over some minor indiscretion.
When the first of their governesses arrived to take control of his children, Liesl had taken the blame for the numerous tricks played, resulting successfully driving away each one within a short period of time. She had fought courageously against her father, arguing that she should be the one to take care of her brothers and sisters, but each time, she lost.
After that, an awkward truce existed between Georg and his children. Each day dragged, one after the other, until that bright summer day, seven years ago when a certain young postulant and his children's twelfth governess arrived. The rest – as they say – was history.
Georg thanked God every day that during those four years of misery, he didn't lose his children's love. Despite all that had been said between them, Liesl was one of the first to throw herself into her father's arms as the barriers were broken down.
A quiet voice broke into his reverie. "Did you need some help, Father?"
It was seventeen-year-old Brigitta. Without waiting for confirmation, she began adjusting his collar and the Maria Theresa medal at his neck.
"Where's your mother?"
"Werner is being a little grizzly right now. I think she has taken him for a feeding." She finished her task and stepped back. "There!"
He gently touched her cheek. "Thank you my dear."
Brigitta looked up at her father. Ever the observant child, she handed him his white gloves, her voice soft and gentle as she attempted to be sensitive to her father's feelings. "It's time, now. Liesl is waiting in the church foyer for you." She gave him a smile as she walked away to fetch her bouquet as one of her sister's bridesmaids.
With one last check in the mirror, he made his way out to the front of the church. As he rounded the corner and moved towards the doorway, he was suddenly stopped in his tracks. He was greeted by an ethereal vision in white lace and silk. Her brown tresses, dimples in her cheeks and blue eyes were her father's, but as she turned to look at him, her sweet smile and gentle disposition belonged to her mother. "You look very beautiful, my Liesl."
"And you are very handsome, Father." She gave him a shy grin and slid her hand through the crook of his arm
As they approached the bridegroom, he could feel his daughter's fingers dig into his arm and her hands begin to shake. He gave her a wink, kissed her on the cheek, before throwing a small smile to Matthew who took his bride's hand as they turned toward the priest.
Letting out a breath of resignation, he moved to sit beside his family at the front pew. As he watched six of his children shuffle over so he could sit next to Maria, the sight almost made him chuckle with nervous energy. Friedrich sat on Louisa's dress, stalling her movements and forcing Marta to launch heavily into her side. He bit his lip in amusement as she threw her older brother a dirty look. Seeing her father raise an eyebrow at her prevented any scuffles from breaking out.
As the young couple began to recite their vows, he felt Maria's hand slip into his own and her head drop against his shoulder. His heart warmed with relief, envy and contentment as he saw the love and devotion written all over the young man's face as he slid the new gold band on to his bride's finger.
"I think I understand now."
Georg pulled away slightly and looked at his eldest daughter curiously. After the cutting of the cake, several speeches welcoming the bridegroom into the von Trapp family, and the first dance with her new husband, Lisel had made a bee-line for her father and asked him to accompany her in a waltz.
"And what is it that you understand, Liesl."
"I understand what it is to give your whole heart to someone, and then one day, they may be gone. I think I finally understand how painful it was for you to lose Mother. I think I finally understand those four years."
Georg swallowed hard. "Liesl, I…"
"I'm sorry for bringing it up Father, but I just wanted you to know. I realise what Mother must have gone through in the last year of the war. To watch the man she loved have to return to battle and not knowing if there was a future. But I'm scared, Father. I'm scared losing the person who has become my other half."
Georg stopped dancing and caught his daughter's eye. "Liesl…darling. I'm a realist. I can't promise or predict what will happen. All I know is that Matthew is a fine, young man. He has a bright future to look forward to with a beautiful, loving wife and the children that will follow. That is what will get him and thousands of other young men through this war, having something so wonderful to come home to. I know, because I was one of them, all those years ago. And I have been lucky enough to have been so blessed. I have experienced love twice. That is what we fight for. " He smirked at his daughter. "Besides, when you come back to stay with us, who else can we rely on to keep Kurt and Louisa from strangling each other?"
They both laughed.
As if on cue, Matthew walked up behind them.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but Captain, may I dance with my bride?"
She kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear, "Thank you, Father." He watched as his eldest daughter was swept up in a waltz by her new husband.
Georg wasn't sure how long he stood on the dance floor, chastising himself for being every bit the sentimental old fool. He was finally jolted out of his reverie and almost thrown off balance as a small weight cannoned into him. He quickly turned around and looked down to see his youngest daughter, three-year -old Annie hugging his legs. She stood on his toes, raising her arms and reaching out to him. "We dance, Papa!" Georg laughed and picked her up, dropping a kiss on her nose and settling her on to his hip. As he moved from side-to-side in a faux waltz, his eyes scanned the room. He smiled softly as they rested on the other members of the von Trapp clan.
Twenty-one-year old Frederick, looking handsome in his United States Air force uniform, was talking to Brigitta. Moving his eyes to their left, he snorted as he saw twenty-year old Louisa's hair was already falling out of its pins as she jostled with eighteen-year old Kurt for elbow room at their table. Twelve-year-old was Gretl was supervising six-year-old Johannes who was carefully carrying a too-full glass of water to his mother, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
Fourteen-year-old Marta was kept busy watching the youngest von Trapp, baby Werner. The little boy had recently learned the joys of crawling and his older sister was kept busy chasing after him and hauling him back by her side.
He glanced over at his wife. She was chatting to a family friend and as he caught her eye, she gave him one of her smiles which never failed to make him weak at the knees. His eyes dropped down her body, finding her right hand which rested on the gentle swell of her stomach. The new baby was expected in the spring. As his little daughter began to tire, her body weight began to drop against his chest. He craned his neck to look at her. Her beautiful strawberry curls were splayed out across his shoulder and her tiny fingers clutched at the lapels of his jacket. She was the mirror image of her mother; the pert nose, sky blue eyes and indomitable spirit.
As her eyes began to close behind long lashes, a bubble of feeling jostled inside of him. He was the patriarch of an incredible family which had sailed through the rough seas of tragedy, sadness and despair, but had weathered the storm and was sailing into the sunshine on the other side. As he watched his eldest daughter, he felt a slight pang of melancholy that his children may not grow up to know their homeland. But he certainly couldn't complain. For now, at the age of fifty-one, despite past hardships, he was in a better place than he had been since Agathe died. And if God were gracious, this second, horrible war would be over soon and they could truly continue to move forward to the next stage of their lives.
Outside the von Trapp home, Matthew busied himself placing suitcases into the boot ofthe car. The young couple would have a week's honeymoon, before the new bridegroom would again be required to take up his military duties in France.
Liesl threw herself into her father's arms. "I love you Papa. I'll be back soon, I promise!"
He embraced his daughter and kissed her on the cheek. "Be happy, sweetheart."
She smiled up at him, tears piercing the back of her eyes. "You too, father."
He turned to shake hands with Matthew. "Give those Nazis hell, young man."
To Georg's surprise, his son-in-law reached out and drew him into an embrace. "I'm not coming home until every last one of those bastards has been pushed out of Austria for you and your family, Captain."
"And your home too, Matthew. You're a von Trapp now. And how many times do I have to tell you, it is Georg."
Matthew grinned and touched his fingers to his temple in jest. "Yes, Captain."
With final farewells, they were gone.
As he watched the car drive out of sight, Georg turned see Maria standing in the middle of the driveway. He walked over and wrapped an arm around her waist, steering her towards the house. As they opened the front door, they were greeted by a cacophony of noise and chaos from inside.
Johannes von Trapp, give Annie her doll back this instant!
Mother, Werner is chewing on my fountain pen again!
Kurt, shut up! He is not my boyfriend!
Louisa if you throw that model airplane down the stairs, I swear I will kill you!
Stop pulling my hair!
Who has hidden my chemistry book?
Maria raised an eyebrow at her husband, her lips twitching into a smirk.
Georg pulled her close and kissed her temple, before throwing his head back and laughing like he hadn't laughed in a very long time. The yelling, arguing, laughing, and the thumping of feet running up and down the stairs was like the most wonderful of all music to his ears.
Finally there was peace.
Georg climbed the stairs wearily. It had been a long and emotional day. He groaned as he realised he may have to experience this feeling at least five more times.
He opened the bedroom door. His heart almost sighed with relief as he stood at the threshold. Maria was sitting up in bed reading. Clad in a night gown of white lace, the bedside lamp illuminating her rosy cheeks and strawberry blonde hair, she was a fresh-faced vision and everything that was calming in his life. He stopped and indulged himself in the sight before him.
She looked up and smiled, tilting her head to the side. "What is it, darling?"
Georg leaned his head against the doorway. His response was a gentle murmur of awe and adoration. "You're so beautiful, my love."
She marked her place in her book and placed it on the night stand. Pushing the bed covers back; she knelt up on the bed and held out her hand out to her husband. "Come here, Captain."
He closed the door, stripping off his jacket, his tie and adornments having been removed well after the reception. As he sat down on the edge of the bed, he felt his wife move behind him. She wrapped her arms around his middle, resting her cheek against the back of his head and holding him tight. She planted a kiss on the side of his neck and began to massage his tight muscles with the tips of her fingers. "Are you alright, Papa? It's not every day that your eldest daughter gets married."
He sighed, taking one of her hands and kissing it. "It was harder than I thought, but just as long as you're here, everything is at it should be."
She ran a hand through his hair. "Did you want me to run you a bath?"
He began to kick off his shoes. "No. I'll just have a quick shower. You get back into bed." He helped her lie back against the pillows, and pulled the covers over her. He kissed her forehead before discarding the remainder of his clothing and heading towards their en-suite.
He showered and donned a pair of pyjama pants, throwing the matching shirt on the end of the bed. As he crawled in beside her, she grimaced slightly and ran her hand over her expanding belly.
"Maria? Is everything alright?"
"Oh I'm fine. Don't worry darling. There wasn't a lot of movement from him during the day, so I think he has finally woken up."
Georg couldn't resist sliding the strap of her nightgown so he could kiss her bare shoulder. "So you have decided it is a boy?" He reached back and flicked off his bedside lamp.
Maria let out a chuckle. She skimmed a hand delicately through his dark chest hairs. "Well, given he doesn't let me sleep at night. He is just as incorrigible as his father…"
Georg slid closer, his hand sliding around to her stomach. "Well, you know, another daughter would be nice too."
He felt his wife purr as he curled his body around her. She twisted her neck to kiss him sweetly on the mouth. "Umm…hmm. A daughter with your sweet dimples and dark blue eyes."
He squeezed his wife tight and kissed the space just below her ear. His voice was weary but the words no less meaningful. "I love you, Maria."
Maria made an incoherent noise and pulled him in closer.
As he listened to his wife's breathing becoming deeper and the occasional footsteps from one of his children attempting to pad gently down the hallway to use the bathroom or fetch a drink, he smiled.
For Georg von Trapp, today was bittersweet indeed.
Epilogue - Christmas 1945
Georg von Trapp looked out on to the front yard from his bedroom window. He enjoyed the solitude. Whilst he loved his family, they had a full house today for Christmas celebrations and to be honest, he was finding it a little emotionally overwhelming.
As he looked out over the yard, he saw his son-in-law by the duck pond. He was hunched over a small bundle in his arms.
"Oh, there you are darling!" Georg turned at the sound of his wife's voice. "Would you mind taking your son for a while? I have to help with the turkey, and the table needs to be set..." Georg smiled and took the baby in her arms as she reeled off another list of jobs needing to be done. She smiled, kissed her husband on the cheek and bustled out of the room. He grinned as he could hear her running down the steps, at the same time scolding Johannes for leaving a toy truck lying around.
He looked down at the tiny figure in his arms. As Maria had predicted, during the spring of 1945, she gave birth to a son. Unlike his brothers and sisters, Christoffer Georg von Trapp was a placid baby. He had snow-white hair and his mother's light blue eyes. He was a beacon of hope during a turbulent time. Kissing his son's cheek, he ensured that he was wrapped up warmly, before heading down the stairs to join his son-in-law outside.
Georg breathed in deeply as the sunshine hit his face. So far the winter had been fairly mild, with the first snows yet to fall. He walked towards Matthew, calling his name so as not to startle him.
"Keeping out of the way?" Georg grinned.
Matthew chuckled. "I don't think Eisenhower experienced so much confusion during D-Day."
Georg laughed and gestured towards the park bench on the other side of the pond. Both men sat down. Georg shifted his son into his other arm. When he was settled, he peered over at the bundle in Matthew's arms. Matthew and Liesl's daughter, Evangeline or 'Evie' as she was known, was born in May 1945.
Friedrich and Matthew had returned from European hostilities more or less physically unscathed in September. But whilst Friedrich seemed to be coping with life as a civilian, Matthew seemed to return with a shadow hanging over him. It wasn't until one night in November, after one too many whiskeys and a little encouragement from his father-in-law, that Georg realised how the last months of the war had haunted the young man, or the extent of the events he had witnessed.
But as Matthew began to live life after the war, it was little Evie who brought the light back into his eyes and the laughter into his heart. She was the spitting image of Liesl and her grandfather. Dark brown hair, midnight blue eyes and little dimples when she smiled. As Georg stroked her cheek, the baby grabbed at her father's pinkie finger making both men chuckle.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash from the house accompanied by shouting and yelling. As both men exchanged glances, Georg smirked. "You do realise that you now share part of the responsibility of the chaos in the house behind us."
Matthew looked down at his daughter, then back at Georg as he gave his father-in-law a wide grin. " I wouldn't have it any other way, Captain."