This little ditty is just a slice-of-life piece of Christmas ridiculousness. This silly piece of literary fluff brings Georg and Maria closer together as new life arrives at the villa. It has no plot and is just bizarre, but I wanted some silliness and fluffiness in my life.
For those who have commented on the removal of my other story, thank you for your kind words. In the first half of this year, I simply hit the skids in a big way. I was simply emotionally and physically exhausted. But life has a strange way of slowly turning around.
Thank you to Augiesannie for the use of her horse in the story Act of Attrition. Do yourself a Christmas favour and take a look!
It was the early hours of morning as Georg von Trapp sat on the stone balustrade of the balcony of his suite. As he gazed upon the lake and grounds illuminated by the moonlight, he couldn't help but sigh with contentment and pride. Although he had only managed to snatch a few hours' sleep in the last few days, he could feel the energy humming through his blood. The air was unusually humid, almost surprisingly like an Indian summer. He let out a small puff of laughter. Almost everything about this summer had been unusual.
From the warm, sunny July day when he had caught his children's governess dancing on her own in the ballroom, he himself had returned to the man he had once been before losing his beloved wife. He was no longer the lonely, grief-stricken widower with seven children, but a proud father of seven beautiful, intelligent children. At the thought of his offspring, his contentment was tampered with the burning of regret for the wasted years. He shook his head. His children were happy. There was no room for guilt and self-loathing anymore.
His thoughts turned to the main reason of his early rising. Agathe's beloved horse, Anna Magdalena, had given birth two days previously. After an anxious forty-eight hours of round-the-clock supervision, to ensure the thoroughbred and her offspring were safe and well, shared between himself, his groom, Ely Eckhart and the young stable-hand, he had finally given in to the need for rest. But it had been worth the effort. Her foal was a fine, strong creature, banishing the doubts which had been plaguing Georg since deciding to breed the semi-retired mare one last time.
He looked at the clock which indicated that it was almost 5 am. Frau Schmidt, Franz and the kitchen staff would already be preparing for the day. Deciding that it was pointless attempting to go back to sleep for another hour or so, Georg dragged on a pair of riding breeches, an old cotton shirt and long black riding boots, intent on enjoying the peace of the outdoors before the dawn arrived.
He lightly skipped down the stairs, rolling up his sleeves in the process. Caught up in his thoughts, he grabbed the top of the bannister and made to swing himself around to the direction of the kitchen. All of a sudden, there was a squeak of surprise, the sound of china clattering to the ground, before he felt the warm contents of a warm cup of tea soaking into his shirt and running down his chest.
Recovering from his initial shock, he looked up to find his children's governess standing in front of him, her eyes wide and hand over her mouth in disbelief.
"Captain! I'm so sorry!"
Georg began shake the dripping tea from his hand. "In a hurry, Fraulein?"
The governess responded with a little groan, moving her hands to her flushed cheeks. "Oooh Sister Berthe was always scolding me for my clumsiness. She said that I could test even the Lord's patience sometimes…"
Georg suppressed a grin at the young woman's embarrassed babbling. Over the weeks, he had come to know and become rather fond of Maria. Probably much fonder than he had any right to become. Her infectious joy, her wit and bright smile seemed to breathe life both into him and his household. And as he was discovering, she had an intelligence and thirst for knowledge that would put many of his contemporaries to shame. Given that Elsa had returned to Vienna for two weeks to attend a number of social functions, Georg now had more time to enjoy the company of his children. Well not only his children, but their governess as well. He thought back, in particular, of a night last week when they had sat cross-legged on his study floor, poring over maps and atlases as he described the countries he had been to during his navy years.
He gently reached out and lifted her hands from her cheeks. "Fraulein, this house holds up to fifteen people right now. We are all bound to run into each other from time to time." He crouched down to pick up the cup and saucer, which were surprisingly unharmed. "Besides, where were you off to in such a hurry?"
Maria blushed and concentrated on the stairs behind him. "Well, you see sir, it is a long day, and I was hoping to have an hour to myself before the youngest ones wake up."
"Well, I'm heading to the kitchen now. If you head back to your room, I'll ask Frau Schmidt to bring you up a cup of tea in a few minutes."
The governess began to protest, "Oh please, Captain. There really is no need…"
Georg held up a hand to silence her. "Fraulein, in approximately one hour, until 8 pm tonight, you will be in the company of six children aged five to fourteen and a sixteen-year-old, dewy-eyed idealist. It is the least I can do."
Maria smiled at him gratefully. "Yes sir. Thank you sir." As he turned away to walk towards the kitchen, he heard her call out to him from the first level of the staircase. "Captain?"
She pointed at his stained shirt. "Don't you want to get changed, first?"
"I'm only heading to the stables, Fraulein. I don't think horses are really particular about a dress code…"
"Oh of course! And how is the foal, sir?"
Georg smiled. "Fine and strong, Fraulein. I'm sure he will make a fine cross country mount one day."
The governess smiled. A bright, radiant smile that seemed to take Georg by surprise. "Please say hello to Ely and Martin for me."
"I will, Fraulein. Now run along!" And with that, she was gone.
Feeling strangely relaxed and contented, Georg let out a small chuckle and opened the door to the kitchen. The place was already a hive of activity, with Frau Schmidt, cook and the two maids bustling about preparing for breakfast.
Seeing her master walk across the threshold, the housekeeper bustled. "Good Morning, sir."
"Good morning Frau Schmidt." Georg glanced behind the older woman, impressed with the orderliness of her domain. "You know Frau Schmidt, we could have done with you in the navy galley."
The housekeeper let out a huff of mirth, "Oh leave it off sir, you know I wouldn't be able to stand those metal cocoons you sailed in." Her eyes widened as she saw his tea-stained shirt. "What on earth…"
"I literally ran into Fraulein Maria on the staircase. My fault of course."
The old woman gave him a cynical smile. "Of course."
"Would it be too much trouble to have you take a cup of tea to her room?"
"Certainly, sir." She hurried over to the counter, returning with a thermos of coffee and some toast."
"You are a wonder, Frau Schmidt. Thank you."
"Not at all sir."
He held the thermos in one hand, a piece of toast in the other using his hip to nudge the kitchen door open. He strode towards the stables with a bounce in his step and his heart feeling light. It was a miracle that one could find such cheer and happiness in ordinary routine. But deep down, he knew that it was his children's lovely little governess who had started his day on such a positive note.
"Maria! Do you have few minutes?" At the sound of her name, Maria swung around to see a clearly-flustered Frau Schmidt hurrying towards her. She wrinkled her nose as the smell of burning permeated from the kitchen.
"Of course! What can I do?"
The housekeeper let out a sigh of relief and thrust a number of items towards the governess. "I really need your help. I need you to go down to the stables. Take this clean shirt down to the Captain and the sandwiches, coffee and cake to the younger lads. I doubt they have eaten since dawn this morning." The older woman gave her a grateful smile and hurried back into the kitchen.
Looking down at the Captain's shirt, she was reminded of their collision this morning. She let out an awkward little groan. At times she wished she had a little more grace and decorum. The Captain must think her every type of fool! As the summer weeks rolled on, she had found herself drawn closer to the Captain. He was an enigma, yet at the same time, he was open with his emotions. About a week after the row boat she had convinced him to sing for the first time since the death of his wife. Whilst his voice was rough and untrained, it was astonishingly soothing and comforting, like a cup of tea on a cold winter's night. The dynamics between them had changed. There was something unsettling, dangerous, yet unspoken and exciting joining them together. And he was handsome. Oh so handsome! When she saw the dimples in his cheeks for the first time, she scolded herself afterwards for the stirring romantic notions which ran through her mind afterwards. Notions reserved for a girl the same age as Liesl.
Arriving at the stable, and caught up in her own thoughts, Maria failed to notice the spider web which seemed to materialise at eye level. As the sticky web wrapped around her face, she let out a yelp of alarm, and began to whirl around out of harm's way.
It was then that she felt herself collide into a wall of bare skin and muscle, before falling forwards, the breath taken out of her as she landed in a tub of cold water reserved for the stable hands to sluice down. She gasped as she blindly flailed around for the edge to pull herself up. As she struggled to right herself, she suddenly felt a strong arm around her waist, hauling her out of the water.
"Fraulein! Are you alright?"
Maria let out a little cough and shifted her bangs and drops of water from her face. The Captain stood in front of her, shirtless, equally as soaked and smirking at her.
"We really need to stop running into each other like this, Fraulein. People will begin to talk."
"I'm sorry Captain! I was startled by a cobweb…and…oh!" She let out a grumble of disbelief, plunging her hand into the water. The sandwiches, cake and thermos had sunk to the bottom. She quickly grabbed the shirt from the water and held it up, her shoulders slumping in annoyance. "Frau Schmidt asked me to bring you a clean shirt."
The pair stood staring at each other for a moment or two, before the Captain burst into laughter. Hands on hips, a red-faced Maria frowned at him. "You find this amusing, Captain?"
Georg had been having a quick wash down before Fraulein Maria's dance towards him, he had removed his own shirt and slung around his shoulders. It was now slowly sinking to the bottom of the tub, he quickly grabbed it and held it up. The mirth left his eyes, and was replaced with a look of sincerity. "The wonderful thing about you, Fraulein, is that you have a very unique way of placing your stamp on this household. Please, don't ever change."
"Thank you, Captain. I think…Would you be so kind as to retrieve the other items from water?"
He placed his shirt on the edge of the tub and plunged his hand back into the water. As he struggled around completing his task, Maria couldn't help but watch him. A bare-chested Captain von Trapp was not something that she expected to see over these summer months. He was a strong, masculine man, the results of healthy outdoor living. But what drew her attention, was the large scar from the side of his body, wrapping around to his waist. She frowned. No doubt from his years as a U-boat Captain.
"War is a dirty business, Fraulein. Most of us got in the way of something." She blushed as she realised she had been discovered staring at him.
"I guess until you really evidence of it, the stories are difficult to believe." Her next words were out before she could stop them. "But you were so brave, Captain." Her voice was gentle, almost disbelieving that the man before her could have been hurt in battle.
Despite the warm summer day, she had begun to shiver. Georg placed the sodden items on a nearby bench and went to the back of the stable. "Wait a minute." He returned with a clean blanket, gently wrapping it around her shoulders. "You should probably get into a hot bath, Fraulein." He used the blanket to wipe away a stray drop of water running down her face.
Both suddenly jumped, as they were interrupted by the high-pitched whinnying in the stall next to them. Maria glanced over Georg's shoulder. "Is that the foal, Captain?"
Inwardly cursing himself for being so forward, he lowered his hands and began to wring out one of the wet shirts. "Would you like to see him, Fraulein?"
"Oh I really would, Captain!"
Georg struggled back into this damp shirt, fumbling with the buttons in his haste. He held out his hand and gently guided her into a far corner of the foal's stall. They quietly settled themselves into a kneeling position in the hay, careful not to frighten or disturb the young creature.
She clutched Georg's wrist. "He is beautiful, Captain! What are you going to name him?"
"Actually, that's not for me to decide, Fraulein. He is going to be Louisa's."
Her eyes lit up. "Really? She will love it Captain! She has always wanted to have a horse of her own."
Georg smiled and tapped his nose. "I hope you can keep a secret until Christmas, Fraulein."
"I will be back at the Abbey after September, Captain, so your secret is safe."
An awkward silence fell between them, as each contemplated the governess' last sentence. Maria spoke again after a moment or two. "I always love seeing new life, Captain. It is like a secret chance, a fresh start…"
"You have helped to give my family that second chance, Fraulein."
Maria chuckled shyly, before looking directly at the man next to her. "And your family to me, Captain."
Georg swallowed the lump in his throat as he picked up her hand and squeezed it.
"Come on. We should probably head back to the house and get changed for lunch. The children are going to go silly when they see us like this."
Georg was correct in his predictions. At the sight of their governess, wet from head to toe wrapped in a horse blanket and the Captain in a soaked, wrinkled shirt hanging off his shoulders, there was much mirth and laughter.
Ever the devil, Georg quickly reached down and hauled little Gretl into his arms, settling her on his hip. She let out a delighted shriek, "Father, you're all wet. So is Fraulein Maria!" She pointed at her governess and began giggling. "When can I see the baby horse, father?"
"Foal, darling. Maybe in another few weeks once he has grown up. He has only just come into the world, so he needs plenty of peace and quiet to get used to things." Gretl seemed happy with that response and her father put her down so she could take her Fraulein's outstretched hand.
As the group of nine walked up the stairs chatting and laughing, Frau Schmidt watched the doorway of the parlour, a slight twinkle in her eye.
Later that night, the family gathered in the parlour for games and reading.
"Tell me about when Father fell into the water with Fraulein Maria!" Try as they might, the children simply couldn't let the incident go, but after the third time explaining what happened to an amused Max, Georg gestured gently for his brood to quieten. He drew out a telegram he had received just an hour before. "Children. I have some good news for you. I've invited your grandparents and Aunt Hede to spend Christmas with us this year and they have accepted."
There were cheers and excited whispers, particularly from Gretl and Marta who had only been infants the last time they saw their relatives.
Liesl struggled to hold back the tears. She caught her father's eye and mouthed a 'Thank you' towards him. He simply winked back.
After another half hour of chat, chess and cards, Gretl began falling asleep against her governess' knee and Kurt allowed a yawn to escape. It was at this moment that Georg announced it was time for bed.
The children began to drag themselves towards their bedrooms. Only Maria and Liesl remained. Liesl glanced at her governess, who gave her hand a squeeze of encouragement.
The young lady took a deep breath. "Father?"
Georg was busy packing up the chess pieces. "Yes, darling?"
"Well, I was wondering…if you would let…if I could go to the cinema with a friend next week." Her voice faltered as she looked over to her governess for support.
Georg eyed the two women suspiciously. Seeing the uncertainty on Liesl's face, Maria took her cue.
"You see, Captain. Ely Eckart has asked her to go. I mean, Ely is a fine young man, and they wouldn't be unchaperoned of course. Brigitta and I will go as well."
Liesl quickly spoke up again, "He is going to ask you, Father…I mean…we just thought…"
Georg sighed as he studied his daughter. Blessed with her father's bright blue eyes, brunette curls and dimples, she was a beauty. It was only a matter of time before the young men would come calling. Better it was a young man that Georg himself approved of, even if he thought Liesl was too young. Of course there was that nasty business of her daughter secretly spending time with that young telegram boy with suspect political persuasions. Thankfully Georg had quickly put that to rest.
He patted the space beside him. When Liesl settled herself next to him, he took her small, dainty hand between his big, warm ones. "You are making me feel old, My Liesl. Let's compromise. Bring Ely to dinner tomorrow night. Just the two of you, myself and your Fraulein. We will discuss it then.
"Oh thank you, Father! She threw her arms around him and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
He dismissed her with playful wave of his hand. "Yes, yes…alright. Now go upstairs."
She hastily hugged her governess. Thank you, Fraulein!" before skipping out of the door towards the stairs.
When Maria stood up to follow her charge, Georg stopped her. "Just one moment if you please, Fraulein." An idea had been forming in his mind since he received the telegram from John Whitehead accepting his Christmas invitation. He wanted his family around him. And those he considered his family.
Georg stood up and began tapping the mantelpiece. "Speaking of Christmas, I was thinking…wondering, really. Fraulein, how would you feel about staying on with us until after New Year?"
Maria's eyes widened in surprise. "New Year? But the children will be going back to school come September. They won't need a governess."
"Perhaps not from the point of view of watching the children whilst on holidays…but I think…that is…I mean…" Not knowing how to continue, he gestured towards the door so they could make their own preparations for the night. When they got to the top of the stairs, Georg impulsively took Maria's hand. "You see Fraulein, the children would love to have you hear for the Christmas season. And to be honest, so would I."
Maria swallowed hard. Remaining until New Year would only make things even more difficult when it came time to leave. But the prospect of a real Christmas with the family she had grown to love was incredibly difficult to resist.
Her voice shook as she spoke. "Perhaps, Captain, we could talk to the Mother Abbess and see what we could arrange."
"How about we go into Salzburg tomorrow?"
"As long as it is convenient for you, Captain."
Georg nodded. He gently let Maria's hand drop to her side. "Well, goodnight, Fraulein. I think it is safe to say it has been an eventful day."
"Indeed, Captain. I will see you in the morning."
And with a deep breath, governess and Captain parted ways.
December 23, 1937…
"What do you think, Father?" Louisa stood back and surveyed her efforts.
Georg smiled. His headstrong, rough and tumble daughter was surprisingly patient with the grooming and care of five-month-old foal.
"A magnificent job, darling. Perhaps one day we may even look at getting you your own horse."
Louisa's eyes widened and she threw her arms around his waist. "Oh Father, I wouldn't want anything else in the world, really!"
Georg returned her hug. He knew he was being far too indulgent with his children lately, spoiling them as much as he could, but he was a wealthy man and he would never be able to repay their forgiveness for the years following Agathe's death. He stood up and brushed the dust from his hands. "Well darling, it is rather dark now, perhaps we should be heading in."
All of a sudden, a cacophony of voices could be heard from the entry of the stable. It was his family. He grinned as he heard Liesl gently shushing the excited babble of his four youngest children, so as not to startle the four horses currently in residence.
Behind her, Maria and Ely walked in with picnic baskets. Ely and the now-seventeen-year-old Liesl had been spending a significant amount of time together. From dinner with the family all those weeks ago, through to him and Liesl taking the children on picnics to the Untersberg. Their friendship was slowly flourishing. Although still a little uncertain if, Georg agreed that when Liesl turned eighteen, the young pair were still enjoying each other's company, they could begin to think about a slow courtship. Georg had endured questions about the prospect of a Baron allowing a mere groom to court his beautiful daughter, but Georg liked Ely. He was kind, hardworking and respectful and had excellent future prospects – even if they would not be as financially enticing as a father could want.
Ely and Georg began to make a ramshackle table out of three hay bales and planks of wood to be used to repair one of the stable doors, before Liesl and Maria laid out a Christmas spread of shortbread biscuits, fruitcake and hot chocolate.
Marta approached him shyly with an oddly-shaped biscuit. "This one's for you, Papa."
Maria leaned in close to his ear and quickly whispered, "It's a ship's anchor," before taking her place at the other end of the makeshift table.
Georg lifted the seven-year-old to sit on his lap. As Marta began to explain the process of baking shortbread biscuits, the von Trapp patriarch silently watched over his family.
Ely and Friedrich were planning a fishing trip once the spring thaw arrived. Kurt was entertaining his youngest sister using the light of the lanterns to create rabbit-like shadow puppets on the wall of the stable. Brigitta was patiently indulging Lousia's enthusiasm for their new horse and Martin Eckart, Ely's younger brother, was providing Maria and Liesl with updates on the health of his family.
Tomorrow, the Whiteheads would be arriving just before lunch time, to stay until the weeks after New Year, much to the delight of their grandchildren.
He almost wanted to close his eyes and wrap himself in the merriment of laughter as Kurt loudly slurped his hot chocolate. Even his oldest daughter gave in to her childish instincts. Finally, he caught the eye of Maria. She silently toasted him with her mug of hot chocolate, her eyes and smile holding promises of a private Merry Christmas of their own.
A second chance and fresh start indeed indeed.
It was well into the small hours of the next morning. All the members of the von Trapp household were asleep in their beds.
Maria sat on the window seat watching the snow begin to fall. Her feet were bare, but she kept the chill kept at bay with a warm, woollen blanket wrapped around her shoulders.
The Captain's suggestion all those months ago that she remain with the von Trapps until the New Year had seemed rather impossible.
But as the summer months continued, with more fun, laughter, heartache and confusion than Maria or Georg had experienced in a number of years, it became apparent that Maria was destined for a second chance at a fresh start herself.
She smiled as she looked over her bed. Her normally correct and elegant husband lay sprawled out on his stomach, tangled in the sheets. His face was mashed up against the pillow, dark hair askew across the bright, white cotton. The scar tissue and the tattoo on his bare skin never failed to take her breath away. So handsome and brave. And he belonged to her.
As she watched him sleep, her heart was so full at that moment that she couldn't help but suddenly let out a half-sob, half-giggle of happiness. She buried her head in the blanket to muffle the sound.
"Maria…" She raised her head to find Georg propped up on his forearm; locks of hair had flopped over forehead, his eyes languid with sleep. He held out a hand, gesturing to his wife to join him. She complied, crawling onto her side of the bed and entwining her fingers with his.
She lay down and pulled him close, coaxing him to nestle next to her. He rested his head against the soft side of her breast.
"I'm sorry, darling. I was just thinking…"
"About anything in particular?"
"I was thinking about that day in the stable, just after Anna's foal was born, when we fell into the tub.
Georg spoke against her breast. "Yes, I remember very distinctly. I was incredibly uncomfortable at being leered at by a prospective nun."
Maria let out a snort of mirth. "That is an utter lie, Georg von Trapp! You enjoyed every minute of it."
His laughter was muffled by her nightgown. "So you don't deny you were wantonly staring at me as I knew you were?"
"Don't be conceited, darling. You know very well that I was."
She began to absently trace the muscles of his back. "I think that was the day I knew in my heart that I was in love in you…"
"Have I told you today that I love you, Fraulein?"
"You told me this morning, Captain."
"Did I mention it last night?"
She giggled bashfully, "Oh yes. Satisfyingly twice, if I recall."
Georg rose back up on to his forearm so he could look into her eyes. "Thank you staying for Christmas, Fraulein."
Maria smiled, her eyes gleaming as she pulled his lips towards her own. "Thank you for inviting me to stay, Captain."