I Turned And You Were Gone

While From The Darkened Wings

The Music Box Played On

Sad Little Serenade

Song Of My Heart's Composing

I Hear It Still, I Always Will

Best On The Bill


"Charade," Henry Mancini, Charade (1963)

Georg sat in his study, hunched over his desk, beginning to regret the whiskey he had consumed to get through the morning. Normally, he was not one to drink in the early hours of the day, but his children had been weeping over the loss of their beloved Fraulein since well before breakfast. Their distress had been unbearable. In a repeat performance of his actions years ago, he had fled to the sanctuary of his study and left Max and Frau Schmidt to handle the copious amounts of tears while he gathered enough courage to face the day.

For a moment, while his mind stilled, he realized he was humming again. He had been since the night before. He could not get the melody of the Laendler out of his mind. It was haunting him, taunting him with its deceptive simplicity and fraudulent innocence. That damn dance had made everything more complicated; not a thing about it had been simple or innocent, despite what he had tried to tell Elsa:

"I was simply sharing a dance with the Governess to demonstrate it for the children. The whole thing was completely innocent."

Even in his memory, the words sounded disingenuous.

His mind was wracked with a headache-inducing mixture of confusion, hurt, and guilt. Hoping to find some relief, and perhaps answers, he turned back to the note that sat on top of his desk. She had left without a word and disappeared into thin air, leaving no trace but her feeble letter in the front hall.

The sounds of the orchestra bounced around his mind, reverberating with intent and echoing through his guilt-ridden conscience.

Was that why he could not get that damn song out of his mind? Was his guilty conscience eating away at him to the point of insanity? Were his heart and his mind conspiring against him somehow, insisting that he never forget the way she had felt in his arms? The way she had smelled, the way she had looked at him- the way she had invaded every corner of his mind and occupied all of his senses would haunt him for the rest of his life, with or without the sound of an orchestra aiding the memory of it all.

The fact that he had enjoyed their dance only made everything worse. After weeks of wondering how she might feel in his arms, despite his best attempts to keep his thoughts focused elsewhere, he had found an excuse to hold her. He wondered if he should regret it- that dance had set off a series of events that led to her departure. Even if he wasn't sure exactly what had sent her running, the dance couldn't have helped. In the back of his mind, however, he knew he could never regret it. That had been his one chance to be close to her, and he had taken it. He would do it all over again.

Of course, there would never be a chance to dance with her again, because he had somehow managed to scare her off.

Georg shoved himself away from his desk violently, pushing so hard that he moved the desk more than he moved himself. Either way, it created the necessary space for him to stand, and he began to pace. Movement would calm his mind; it always did. At the very least, it would slow the rapid pace of his thoughts and quiet that damn song.

It had been a charade, all of it. Playing the roles of Master and Governess, top-billed performers in Salzburg's most titillating melodrama as they danced in full view of his guests at the party he had thrown for another woman. How foolish they had been to assume that their little masquerade had successfully hidden the reality of their situation- the reality that the Laendler had laid bare for everyone to see. Now, he would pay the price for unmasking the both of them. Not only by facing his grieving children alone, but by facing the eternal melody of the Laendler that would surely appear whenever he was reminded of her.

As he always did when distressed, Georg began to make a plan. Strategy had never failed him before, and he would not allow it to fail him now. Logic and reason had been the furthest things from his mind when he asked her to dance, and what had that spontaneous decision gotten him but seven grieving children and the loss of someone he cared for? Caring for her- that had been his first mistake.

Now, with Maria gone, he could not allow himself to dwell on whatever had been between the two of them. He would learn from his mistakes. He would focus on his children and attend to their needs. Thinking about his family from a logical perspective, rather than the foolish, irrational way he had thought about his family all summer, there was a clear answer. There had been a rational, sensible answer staring him down with fiery blue eyes all summer, simply waiting for him to make the choice that he should have made long ago.

At one time, Maria had been thankful for the structure life at Nonnberg Abbey provided. Even if she had shirked the rules more days than not by running to her mountain, the Abbey provided a consistency that she had strived to have her entire life. She enjoyed the presence of a strict schedule, not necessarily the following of it. Perhaps it was the knowledge that she could break the rules and still be welcome.

As a small child, her disobedience had come with severe consequences. Obedience had been a means of survival. Upon her arrival at Nonnberg, she had spent months following each rule to the letter- aside from her secret excursions to her mountain, which she did in the dead of night to avoid detection. Over time, as she had grown closer to the Sisters, she had embarked on a series of infractions. Surely they would not accept her if she was late for dinner and Vespers each day.

But they had accepted her, and as her transgressions grew more and more severe, culminating on that last fateful excursion to her mountain, she had understood for the first time that their love was unconditional.

Was that why she had taken the Captain's hand on the terrace when he offered it? Had her desire to break the rules and discover the repercussions overtaken everything else? In some strange way, had she wanted to prove to herself that her unorthodox friendship with the Captain could withstand such a major break of all social rules and conventions?

She could hear it clearly, as if the orchestra was still a stone's throw away from her. The melody stayed with her constantly, both a siren song luring her back to the villa and the sounding of an alarm warning her to stay away. That dance, those final moments, had been her most unguarded of the entire summer. Her mask had slipped a few times over the summer, certainly- there had been the night he sang for all of them, their meetings about the children that never seemed to stay about the children, their walks…

The walks had started as something she did alone, in the hour between the bedtimes of the younger and older children. It had become something of a routine for her to take in the cool night air with a lap around the lake, though it had taken several weeks for her to become comfortable enough to leave the children without a guardian nearby. On her first few trips around the lake, she had wondered if she would return to her room only to find spiders crawling everywhere. Nevertheless, those times alone had become sacred for her, an hour of uninterrupted silence that she could use to reflect on her past, present, and future. In nature, where she felt closest to the Lord, she used some of her time to pray for the family she had come to love.

It hadn't been more than a week after the Captain's return from Vienna that he had bumped into her on the far side of the lake, apparently also completing his nightly lap that went counter-clockwise, as opposed to her clockwise circle. For the first few nights, they had bid each other an awkward goodnight, still reeling slightly from their argument by the lake, and continued with their individual nighttime routines.

One night, however, after Gretl had lost her first tooth, the two of them had left the villa together and chatted animatedly for well over an hour. From that night on, their walks had become a ritual she looked forward to more than anything else. Those walks along the lake had been an education for her- she had learned more about the von Trapp family, the Captain's travels and time in the navy, and his worries about the future of the country he had fought so valiantly to protect. He, in turn, had learned about her time in the Abbey and her own worries about the future, which she felt less certain about with each passing day.

Some nights, the subject matter hadn't been so terribly intense- there were always funny anecdotes to share from a day spent with the children that would lead to a plethora of new stories from the Captain. Maria had immensely enjoyed listening to them, not just for their entertainment value, but to admire the way he had been able to open up about his life prior to the death of his wife.

Tears began to well in her eyes. She would never see him or the children again. She would never walk around the lake talking of nothing and everything all at once. There would be no more singing during thunderstorms, no more nights filled with music and laughter, no more dances on the terrace. The dance had been a one-time-only occurrence, anyway. A fluke, a lapse in judgement, the sound of which would surely haunt her forever.

"Maria! There are ten minutes until dinner!" The shrill ring of Sister Berthe's voice carried easily into the gardens, jolting Maria from her thoughts. "Come inside!"

Maria took a moment to wipe the sweat off her forehead. The sun had set directly on her face, likely burning her skin, but she had failed to notice. She took her time putting away the tools she had been using without bothering to look back at Sister Berthe. She had been in seclusion long enough that nobody was concerned when she did not respond to their questions and orders. Once the hand trowel was safely stowed in its toolbox, the pruning shears hung up, the watering can tucked away and the gardening gloves placed back in their rightful place, she began her walk up the small hill into the stone building before her.

Even from outside the door that would let her into the Abbey, the smell of Sister Sophia's wiener schnitzel filled the air. For all her issues with time management, Maria had never been late for dinner when this particular dish was being served. Even the cook at the von Trapp villa had been unable to come close to Sister Sophia's culinary triumph.

She could hear the sounds of children chatting away on the streets outside the Abbey, and she wondered what the von Trapp children were doing at this very moment. Perhaps they were preparing for a wiener schnitzel dinner of their own. The thought made her smile. For a second she felt connected to them despite their distance.

Now a little more excited, Maria made her way from the garden door and toward her small postulant's cell. She would have only a few minutes to wash away the grime of her work before the dinner bell rang. As quickly as possible, Maria scrubbed her hands, arms, and face, resolving to leave the rest of the dirt until she could have a proper bath. On instinct, she raised her face to check that all of the smudges on her face had been removed, only to remember that there was no mirror above her sink here. With a sigh, she took the towel resting beside her and patted her face dry. However she looked would have to suffice for tonight. This wasn't the von Trapp villa, anyway; there was no pressure to wear her finest dress at dinnertime.

On her way to the dining hall, she tried to think of her favorite things to cheer her up. Tonight, Sister Sophia's wiener schnitzel would have to top the list. Next would be time out in the gardens, the children, the-

"No humming, Maria."

Maria stopped dead in her tracks. She had not even made it to the dining hall without getting in trouble, for heaven's sake! She had barely passed the front gate, still a minute's walk away from the dining hall, and was already doing something bowed her head, fully prepared to kiss the floor.

Sister Berthe's warning had been somehow both gentle and sharp, as if she pitied Maria but still could not allow her to break the rules, especially during her seclusion.

She hadn't even realized she was humming. When Sister Berthe made no more comment, Maria glanced up. She was surprised to find the older woman looking at her with great curiosity.

"Was that an old folk dance?"

A week. It had been an entire week without Fraulein Maria, and somehow the von Trapp family had managed to stay afloat. Max and Frau Schmidt had graciously stepped in when he needed relief, but he had managed to stay present with his children after that hellish first day. He would not allow Maria's absence to erase the lessons she had taught him, though he was allowing his children to skip out on the remainder of their summer studies.

Instead, he had focused on creating memories with all of them- picnics by the lake, puppet shows, bike rides, and more. Two nights ago, he had allowed them to pitch two tents in the ballroom and "camp" together for a night. They had stayed up for hours telling scary stories and playing games with each other, and for a moment he felt like they would all adjust to the absence of their Fraulein in due time. They had taken the news of his engagement to Elsa quite well, considering. Gretl had slept in her own bed last night after a weeklong stay in the master suite. Things were slowly returning to a new normal.

Still, he felt very much like a duck out on the lake, graceful above water and paddling like hell underneath.

Now, they all sat in the parlor, enjoying a quiet afternoon together. Friedrich and Louisa were attempting to put together a rather intimidating puzzle, Brigitta was immersed in a book, and Liesl was writing in the journal he had given her for Christmas the year before. He sat on the floor with Gretl, Marta, and Kurt playing cards. Kurt and Marta, despite their divergent personalities, made a great team, and Georg enjoyed helping his youngest daughter out when she needed it.

As one game ended and Kurt took the cards to shuffle, Marta looked at her father with a rather serious expression. He gave her a small, encouraging smile, and she sucked in a nervous breath.

"Father? Do you hear it?" Marta's voice, always soft, sounded louder in their quiet space. She was naturally shy and unaccustomed to being the only one speaking. To ask her father such a silly question was daunting- surely she was the only one who had not stopped hearing it since the party. For some reason, she couldn't ignore the feeling in her gut telling her that her father heard it, too. She just knew that he would understand her question.

"I hear it, too!" Brigitta exclaimed, not giving her father a chance to answer. "Ever since the night of the party, I keep hearing the Laendler, over and over again."

"I thought I was going crazy," Liesl admitted quietly. She closed her journal and placed it in her lap before turning to her sisters. "Does it get louder when something reminds you of her?"

It was a relief, knowing that he was not suffering alone, that he was not devolving into madness alone as the sounds of an orchestra rattled around in his mind. The relief was short lived, however, as he realized that he also was not grieving alone. His children were feeling the loss of their Fraulein just as acutely as he was grieving the loss of someone he considered a friend and partner. The little ones were mourning the only mother figure they could remember.

When his children all looked at him expectantly, wanting to know if he was also hearing the strains of a familiar melody, he was suddenly torn. What good would it do for him to join their despondent little group when it was his responsibility to cheer them up?

Somehow, he knew that Marta would understand his answer to her question, even if he never verbalized it. Of course he heard it.

"I think you all are just thinking of Fraulein Maria because you miss her dreadfully."

"Is that why Fraulein Maria hears it, too?" Louisa asked. Her glassy eyes were the only hint that she was just as emotional as her sisters. "Because she misses us, too?"

"Well, darling, we can't be sure of what Fraulein Maria is doing or thinking, can we?"

When his seven children all clammed up and looked at one another with wide eyes, he understood. They had been to see her the day they lied about berry picking and they had asked Fraulein Maria if she heard the music, too.

"Why didn't you all tell me you had spoken to her?"

"Well," Liesl began carefully, "we didn't speak to her. But we heard her!"

"Yes!" Kurt exclaimed. "Sister Margaretta told us we couldn't see her because she was in seclusion, but we wanted to wait-"

"And then we heard her humming the Laendler!" Brigitta finished. "She walked right by us as she did it!"

"But then someone else yelled at her," Gretl pouted.

"No humming, Maria," Marta scowled, crossing her arms as part of her best impression of the formidable older nun she had seen through the wrought iron gates of Nonnberg.

Georg bit back a smile. So she did hear it, just as he did, perhaps just as persistent and just as loud. The knowledge comforted him. She would live her life at the Abbey and fulfill her dream of becoming a nun, and the music would fade. Perhaps, after some time, she would only hear it every once and a while. He would learn to tune it out and create as normal a life as possible with his children and Elsa.

His resolve strengthened with each passing second.

The Laendler grew louder in his mind, defiant.


Thank you to persaphones for proofreading this and providing your feedback and encouragement!

Lucky for us, Julie Andrews herself sang part of "Charade" as part of a Henry Mancini medley on her television show! If you wish to hear it, you can find the whole medley YouTube.