Chapter 6

Having gained the Captain's approval for her latest adventure with the children, all Maria needed, was fine weather. However, much to her annoyance, all that followed for the next few days were stormy skies and heavy rain.

The children were restless and noisy which in turn led to an extremely disgruntled Captain von Trapp. There were moments of blessed relief when the children were engaged in somewhat quieter activities. However, overall, everyone's nerves were beginning to fray.

Maria was still encouraged by the conversation that she had with the Captain several nights previously and indeed, relations between him and his children did continue to improve. After dinner, instead of immediately retiring to his study, he would join his children in the family room where he was happy to play a board game or just talk about what they had all done during the day.

Most of the time Maria just looked on, happy to see the progress that was being made on both sides. Every now and then the Captain would look over and catch Maria's eye. He seemed to be looking for encouragement and approval and every time, Maria found herself falling that little bit further under his spell.

Maria yearned to teach the children some of the songs that she had annoyed Sister Berthe with at the Abbey. She knew that Liesl could play the guitar and she hoped, in time, that she might be able to teach some of the others. She had never found the courage to ask the Captain for his permission, so instead, when she knew that he was engaged in his study or even out of the house, she would gather the children together and they learned some of their Governess's favourite songs. The children all had beautiful voices and she often found herself wondering what it must have been like when their mother had been alive. They all told her excitedly how the whole family would sing together, even their father.

There were occasions when she would find herself alone with the Captain and she very nearly asked him if he would like to hear them sing but then she would catch a glimpse of the pain that was still betrayed in his tired eyes and she would remember what the Baroness had told her.

Four weeks had passed since Max and the Baroness had left for Vienna. As Maria; predictably late, entered the breakfast room one morning, she came across Franz delivering a telegram to the Captain.

Taking her seat, she looked inquisitively across as he tore open the piece of paper. After reading its message he tucked it silently under the side of his plate and continued with his breakfast. The children chattered amongst themselves as they often did and Maria kept glancing up at the Captain who appeared decidedly distracted since he had received his mail.

Suddenly, without warning, he put his cutlery down on his unfinished plate and stood.

"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I'm not feeling very well. Would you please excuse me?" he asked and after pushing his chair under the table he left the room before Maria could even utter a word.

The children merely returned to their conversations but Maria was curious and a little concerned by the Captain's sudden change in mood.

Breakfast being over, Maria escorted the children to their study rooms where she set their individual tasks for the morning. Each and every child settled quickly into their work and Maria stood back admiring how grown up they seemed to be becoming. After asking Liesl to make sure that they continued to concentrate, she left the children's room and headed down to seek out the Captain.

There was only one place he would be. Maria had come to realise that his study was his bolt hole, his place of sanctuary and security. The door was ajar and pushing it gently, it creaked open. She peered into the dimly lit room. Seeing that the room was empty, she walked in and noticed that the doors leading to the terrace were wide open.

Blinking as her eyes adjusted to the brightness of the morning, Maria stepped out and quietly approached the Captain who was leaning heavily against the balustrade. As he became aware of her presence he straightened and rested his hands against the cold stone.

"Do you see the swifts?" the Captain suddenly asked without turning, as he pointed high above the lake to a group of birds that were darting and swooping in the air. Maria looked up and followed the direction in which his finger pointed.

"They were Agathe's favourite bird. She was always in such awe of them. The way they live their lives, seldom leaving the air. Such freedom and such stamina."

"They're beautiful," Maria answered, gently, standing close to him and bending forward slightly so that she could see his face.

"Is everything alright, Captain? You said that you were feeling unwell."

Georg von Trapp turned and smiled at Maria while resting his back on the stone railing.

"Yes, Fraulein, I'm not unwell, at least not in that way. I began to feel a little… claustrophobic perhaps and needed some fresh air."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I know the children were noisy at breakfast. I'll make sure that it doesn't happen again," Maria apologised, believing that it was the children that had made the Captain feel uneasy.

"It didn't have anything to do with the children. In fact, I relish seeing how excited they are every morning. They have such a thirst for life and they look forward to every little part of their day… that's down to you," he nodded and smiled warmly.

"Oh…" Maria whispered and after pondering a moment, she continued. "It must be me then. I know that I don't always act in the way that I should. I'm sorry if I've done something to…"

"No, no, no," Georg turned and put his hand over Maria's. "It isn't you or the children. God help me, if it wasn't for you…" he stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. "Max and Elsa are returning tomorrow."

"Oh, I see," Maria replied, somewhat downheartedly.

"The very thought of it makes me anxious. It was as if someone was crushing my chest and I felt as if the walls were closing in on me. I don't want to be pitied any longer and I don't want to feel as if I'm being scrutinised every minute of the day."

"They don't pity you, they care about you," Maria corrected him as gently as she could.

"Yes…" he slumped forward on the balustrade again, sighing deeply. "I know… but I've enjoyed the last few weeks, with just the children and… and you."

Georg glanced up at Maria with a cautious look on his face, as if he was divulging just a little bit too much about his feelings and trying to gauge her reaction.

He held her gaze as Maria absorbed his words. She'd enjoyed it too and it was more than just seeing his relationship with his children grow and blossom. She had looked forward to all of their chats, no matter how brief and she had found herself eagerly awaiting every meal for the chance to exchange smiles and glances.

Out of nowhere they had become friends, but as she stood beside him, looking into his deeply expressive eyes she felt as if there could be more. She knew there could me more. It had crept up on her over the last few weeks but she couldn't deny it. She had feelings for him and if she wasn't mistaken, he also had feelings for her.

The Captain looked down again at his feet, as he shuffled awkwardly on the moment had gone and Maria couldn't bear the awkward silence.

"Are you going to collect them tomorrow?" she enquired, an idea suddenly bursting into her overactive mind.

"Yes, they will be on the afternoon train from Vienna. We should be back here by three at the latest," he answered.

"Then I shall make sure that the children are ready to greet the Baroness. They'll be very pleased to see her and Herr Detweiller again."

"Yes, I'm sure they will be," the Captain said sarcastically and grinned at Maria.

xXx

Maria had a plan but making sure that the children didn't divulge any of it to their father over breakfast the following morning, was no mean feat.

Whilst she hadn't had very many opportunities to practice singing with the children, she had managed to teach them one song that a few of them already seemed to know and she hoped that it would prove to be a lovely way of welcoming the Baroness back to the villa.

It was a gamble, she knew. However, she hoped that with the trust that had built up between herself and the Captain, he would realise that there was little harm in allowing music back into the house and that it might, in the process, serve to further heal his grieving heart.

The Captain had excused himself swiftly from breakfast as he had some meetings to attend in Salzburg before he collected his friends from the station. Having the majority of the day to themselves and as the weather was so pleasant, Maria decided that today was the day that they would venture onto the Lake in the rowing boats.

Getting the boats out of the boat house proved more difficult than she imagined and it quickly became apparent that only one of the boats would actually be watertight. She wasn't going to let that stop them. After making sure that all of the children were safely on board, she pushed the boat away from the edge using one of the oars. The boat rocked precariously and the children screamed in a mixture of fear and excitement.

It didn't take long for Maria to find a steady rhythm with the oars and before they knew it they had already reached the far side of the lake where they all carefully got off the boat and tied it up securely.

The afternoon passed leisurely as the younger children played amongst the mountain flowers and the older ones spent their time talking to Maria and then venturing a little further away into the fields beyond the lake.

When she was alone with her thoughts, Maria's mind kept wandering and filling with images of the Captain. She found herself wondering where he was and what he might be doing whilst she wished that he was there with them, enjoying the tranquillity of the location.

Soon enough, Maria heard the Abbey bells and she realised that they had been out far longer than she had intended. She desperately wanted to be at the villa when the Captain and his friends returned home. She felt sure that when he heard his children sing it would be a turning point for him in his healing.

They tumbled into the boat and headed back to the villa. The children sang as Maria rowed and in no time, they found themselves approaching the back of the house.

xXx

His day had dragged and as Georg von Trapp sat, (not so) patiently waiting for the train to pull in he imagined what his children and their Governess might be doing. Something far more interesting than him, he mused. The meetings had gone smoothly and he even found time to pay a visit to his tailor to order some new suits, something that he hadn't done for a long time, not having been interested in his appearance for as long as he could remember. Whilst he was always smart, he had made do with suits that if he were being honest had really seen better days. Finally, after ordering two new jackets, he had made his way to the station, where he now sat on the platform, twiddling his thumbs.

Only thirty minutes late, the train rolled to a screeching halt in the station and Georg immediately started pacing the platform until he spotted Max step down from the 1st class carriage. Max turned and then held out his hand to help Elsa down the few steps to solid ground.

"Georg, darling," Elsa leaned in and gave Georg a peck on the cheek. "You look so well," she remarked, in a rather surprised tone.

"Well, believe it or not, I can actually look after myself," Georg replied, tersely as he reached out to shake his old friends hand.

"So, old chap. What have you been up to in our absence?" Max smiled, as Georg picked up Elsa's bags and carried them to his car.

"Not a great deal. I've managed to finish up a few projects and generally get on top of things." Georg stuffed the bags into the boot and forced it shut before taking his place in the driver's seat. "Fraulein Maria and the children are very much looking forward to seeing you both."

"And you, Georg. Are you glad to see us?" Elsa cocked her head to one side as she observed the wistful look that drifted across his face.

"Of course, Elsa. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Oh, I just thought perhaps you had got used to being on your own again. You know it doesn't do you any good when you have too much time on your hands."

"Elsa!" Georg warned, sternly.

"What?... You know how you get," Elsa pouted.

"You may have forgotten, but with Fraulein Maria in the house, I haven't been on my own," a lopsided grin drifted across his lips.

Elsa raised an eyebrow as she looked at him without saying another word and they travelled the rest of the journey in a pensive silence.

xXx

Reaching the villa, the car trundled up to the doorway. Max and Elsa thankfully extricated themselves from the cramped car. Franz appeared and began carrying the bags into the house. Georg strode from room to room trying to locate Maria and the children but when they were nowhere to be seen he decided that they must still be in the garden. Elsa and Max followed him out onto the terrace where Frau Schmidt had taken the liberty to set out some refreshments for the weary travellers.

"I have no idea where they can be," perplexed, Georg paced the terrace. "Fraulein Maria promised that they would be here to welcome you back."

"Not to worry," Max grinned. "It just gives us more time to enjoy this marvellous feast that your wonderful housekeeper has provided for us." Max rubbed his hands together in anticipation as he eyed the various sweet treats on offer.

In the distance, the sound of children's singing could be heard. Georg immediately stood and leant against the stone balustrade.

"I think it's coming from the lake."

Both he and Elsa left Max tucking into a large slice of apple strudel and made their way to the heavy iron gates by the landing.

Georg von Trapp stood with his hands on his hips as the rowing boat full of his children came bobbing into view. As soon as the children saw him they all began to laugh and shout. One by one they started to stand as their excitement was uncontainable. Maria panicked when the boat swayed precariously from side to side. She stood and gestured to the Captain who could see the fear etched across her face.

As if in slow motion, the boat tipped forward and the children all tumbled out with a huge splash. Maria on the other hand fell backwards and was unable to get to the children. The Captain's youngest daughter, Gretl flung her arms in the air as she struggled to remain afloat. Elsa who had been standing behind the Captain, suddenly gasped as the young girl resurfaced, coughing and spluttering.

Frantically, Georg threw off his jacket and shoes. He flung the heavy metal gates open with a loud clank and without a second thought, he dived into the cold water of the lake. He quickly located his young daughter and pulled her to the surface. She was still coughing as he dragged her up onto the stone slabs of the landing. The rest of the children had made it safely out of the lake as Maria dragged the boat wearily behind her. She too pulled herself out and stood dripping wet beside the other children.

The Captain held his daughter tightly as she shivered in his arms. He stroked her back to sooth her and when she had finally stopped sobbing he placed her gently into Elsa's outstretched arms.

"Let me take her inside," Elsa whispered softly to the somewhat shell-shocked Captain.

"Yes, thank you," he replied distractedly. "Children, you will go inside too and dry off please."

Maria started to squelch her way across the landing along with the children.

"Fraulein, you will stay here please," he barked in Maria's direction.

Elsa looked back, concerned by his tone but she decided that the wellbeing of the young child nestled in her arms, was her greatest priority.

Maria stopped dead and she could feel herself begin to tremble as she turned and saw him standing just in front of her. He was dripping wet from head to foot and his sodden shirt clung tightly to his heaving chest.

"Captain… I'm so sorry," she pleaded, as his face looked like thunder.

"What on earth were you thinking. That boat wasn't made to fit eight people. How could you possibly think it would be safe? I should never have agreed to such a stupid idea…" he began to pace up and down in front of her.

Maria stood, frozen to the spot, not knowing exactly what to say that would make the situation any better. Suddenly, he turned and charged towards her.

"For God's sake, Gretl nearly drowned… if anything had happened to her…"

Seeing him shaking in front of her, Maria instinctively reached out to him.

"Don't touch me," he snarled as he snatched his arm violently away from her.

"I was only trying to help," she whispered, her voice breaking with hurt. Without thinking through her next remarks, she blurted out the first thing that came into her head. "I understand how you must feel but it was just an unfortunate accident. You cannot wrap them up in cotton wool and not allow them a little adventure."

The Captain turned to her, his nostrils flaring with rage. "I do not want to hear anymore from you," he shouted.

Maria could stand it no longer. She felt the rage build in her chest. He was totally over reacting in her view.

"I know you don't, but you've got to!" she screamed. "You are only just building a relationship with your children after God knows how long, please don't throw that all away."

"I don't care to hear more." He turned his back and walked away from her.

"I am not finished yet, captain!"

"Oh, yes, you are, Fraulein!" He turned and grabbed her upper arms in a vice like grip. "Haven't you done quite enough, already," he spat in fury.

Maria whimpered as his fingers dug painfully into her tender flesh. Georg could see how terrified she was but he couldn't tear his eyes away from hers. They were so close that their ragged breaths mingled as one. Mixed emotions surged through their bodies. Tears started to well in Maria's eyes and it wasn't until a lone drop trickled down her cheek that he suddenly realised that he was actually hurting her. He took a step back and released her arms.

"I'm sorry," he spoke softly, having calmed his temper. "But I cannot allow my children to be put in danger. I know that you would never do anything to intentionally hurt them but…"

"Oh, Captain, I wouldn't… ever. If I'd known that anything like this would happen…"

"Never the less…" he cut her off abruptly. "it is clear to me that the only way that I can ensure their safety is to look after them myself. So… you will pack your things this minute, and return to the Abbey."

Maria was in shock. He was going to ignore everything she had said about letting them live their lives. He of all people should know what it was like to be cossetted, after so many years of feeling smothered by his friends.

It didn't take a genius to realise that the Captain was furious. He was angry and hurt but most of all he was frightened. If anything happened to his children it would likely be the end of him, however, it had been a terrible, unfortunate accident. Maria would have done anything to be able to turn back the clock and reconsider her fateful decision. She thought that she and the Captain had reached a point in their relationship where he trusted her judgments. Her head cocked to the side as she observed the broken man that stood before her. A man that she thought she could have feelings for and that in turn had feelings for her. She was clearly wrong.

Music began drifting languidly on the air. The captain suddenly turned his head towards the source of the beautiful melody.

"What's that?" Georg von Trapp asked distractedly.

"It's singing," Maria replied, sadly.

"Yes, I realize it's singing. But who is singing?" his patience was quickly disappearing.

"The children."

"The children?"

"I taught them something to sing for the baroness." Maria sighed, as the Captain followed the angelic sound into his house.

xXx

I'm so sorry that it has taken so long to update. I do hope that some of you will forgive me and stick with it? Thanks again for all the reviews, they are very much appreciated.