"I'm Liesl. I'm sixteen years old and I don't need a governess."
Those were the words my soon-to-be stepdaughter said to me when we first met. I will never forget her saying that to me. They hurt my feelings but I forgave her in that moment and I will forgive her forever more now, I fully understand the pain she was in at the time. All those children were living with the unbearable pain of losing their mother and a father that was so unavailable to them that he might as well have been dead. Liesl, being the eldest daughter and eldest child, I believe, felt the weight of her mother's absence the most.
I was relieved to see that it didn't take her long to change her mind about me. Actually, she was probably the first one. She snuck out at night and I caught her sneaking back in as I said my prayers. I knew what it was all about and I silently asked God why it had to be me to guide her through this. Nevermind my own bad personal expieriences with men growing up; a daughter needs a mother to help her through the romance thing. By the grace and will of God, she came to me and I was able to help her through it. My lovely, sweet sixteen year old and I have been close ever since.
"Fraulein Maria," Liesl called out for me with a knock on the door. I knew she was calling me for breakfast.
"Come in, Liesl," I called out for her.
I was just brushing my hair as she walked in. I smile at the beautiful young woman who just walked into my room. Her white summer dress looked so nice on her tan skin and her smile looked as carefree as I've ever seen it. I wish I felt as carefree as she looks: today is mine and her father's wedding day and I'm as nervous as ever. I try not to show it as I put the brush down and walk over to her to hug her.
"You look very happy, my dear," I tell her.
"I am very happy," she confirmed as she pulled away from me and held my hands. "I hope you're very happy, too."
"I'm very happy but very nervous at the same time."
"You shouldn't be nervous," Liesl said as she walked over to my bed and sat on it. "You and father are going to be just fine."
"You will be fine, too, won't you?"
"I couldn't want anybody to be my father's wife more than you. I hated Baroness Schraeder."
Her confession had jarred me. All I could do was think about how I ran off after the party and the twisting feeling of guilt came over me again. Was she mean to them? What did she do to them? Why did I run off and let her do what she did to them? My mind was racing so fast that my tears opened up before my mouth could. Liesl noticed my tears and I could tell she was beginning to feel bad when that was absolutely not what I wanted.
"I'm sorry, Fraulein," she said with a sad face.
"You don't have to apologize for anything," I said, wiping my eyes. "I'm sorry I let her do whatever she had done to you."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, she had to have been mean to you children for you to feel that way."
"She wasn't outwardly cruel to any of us but she wanted to send us away, especially me. She couldn't stand any woman being close to father, including his own daughters and certainly his eldest."
"Liesl," I breathed. What was I to do with this information? I guess just tell her how I feel. "Some women can be very insecure."
"Baroness Schraeder didn't come across that way."
"Liesl, any woman that feels that a man's own daughter can't be in his life because it's a distraction from her is insecure. You shouldn't take how she felt personally. I understand you need your father and believe me, he may not show it often, but he needs you, too. He loves you. I love you."
It was her turn to get overwhelmed with emotion. My tears began to well up when hers did. She drew in a deep breath, walked over to me, and hugged me tight.
"Liesl," I had to add as we were hugging. "I couldn't think of a better maid of honor to have."
"I couldn't think of a better woman to have as my father's wife," Liesl repeated.
"It's all going to be all right," I whispered in her ear as I kissed her cheek.
"It will," she said as she kissed my cheek back.
"We better go to breakfast," I told her as I broke away but held on to her hand. We were on our way to have our last breakfast together as child and governess. I was going to take my time and enjoy this moment with my soon-to-be-daughter.
"Oh," Liesl said before we stepped into the dining hall.
"What is it?"
"I forgot to tell you something."
"I love you, too."