Ships That Pass in the Night
by Mackenzie L.
I don't claim to be a history buff, and I don't pretend that there are no inconsistencies regarding historical fact that may be found in my story, but after all it is fiction isn't it? That being said, I did as much research as I could to make it pass off as realistic.
Again, this is not a typical piece of fanfiction for the Sound of Music as it revolves around the relationship between Georg and his first wife. Maria and the children don't show up until much later.
* * I do not own anything related to The Sound of Music or material containing information about the real Von Trapp family
A Chance Encounter
The young man stepped across the threshold into the shop, the rush of warm air stinging his face as he escaped the harsh winds of the streets. He briskly wiped his boots on the doormat as he cast a cautionary surveillance around the interior of the cramp wood-paneled room. Fingering the coins in his pocket absently, he made his way to the end of the room where the owner was standing behind a desk and coughed delicately to get his attention.
The balding man turned to face the newcomer with a familiarly dark look on his face.
"Can I help you?" He asked, not caring to hide the note of suspicion.
The younger man extricated a worn pair of gloves from his jacket pocket and tossed them finitely onto the battered tabletop.
"I'd like these replaced, please." He said smoothly, returning the shopkeeper's gaze with cool blue eyes that would brook no arguments.
The shopkeeper's mouth thinned as he clamped his hand around the pair of gloves, never tearing his eyes away from the young customer. He spoke gruffly, "A bit early for me to be workin', son."
"I just need a replacement." The youth said in a voice whose maturity would have surpassed its owner's appearance, were it not for the stoic composure of his façade.
The shopkeeper grudgingly slid the gloves off the desk, unnerved by his customer's calmness. With one last glance of displeasure, he disappeared into the door behind him.
The young man stood still, his hands splayed habitually at his sides as he scanned the sparse shelves on the back wall. Although he had grown used to the feeling around these parts, he had the keen sense that he was being watched as he stood. He felt aware of a presence in the room with him...
A quick glance to his right proved his senses correct. A young woman, most likely not yet past her teenage years, was staring at him from beside a shelf full of brass cutlery. As his glance met her, she quickly looked down in sudden captivation with the shelved objects. Under normal circumstances he would have smirked to himself in having had the attention of a woman without his knowledge, but this particular incident felt different.
The girl was not jarring at first glance, but her eyes had been so clear, nearly colorless enough that he had trouble discerning in which direction her gaze pointed. Her chestnut colored hair was pulled back away from her face, a few wispy strands framing her ears. Her skin was of unblemished ivory, not the color of one who spent her time in the sun, working.
She did not seem to belong here, in Gateshead, of all places. And yet, something was so achingly significant about her. A small smile crossed his face as he regarded her brisk movements. He was intrigued enough to initiate a conversation.
"How much do you wager he'll be back in that storage for hours just to spite me?" He raised the volume of his voice just enough for her to understand that he was talking to her.
She glanced up from the small copper item she had been studying, her large, crystalline eyes staring at him in mild surprise. She seemed momentarily stunned, but did not speak. She gave a genuine smile of amusement at his comment, then cast her eyes down sheepishly.
Slightly puzzled by her gesture, he turned his gaze back to the door behind the desk. Perhaps she was too shy to talk to him, or even more likely, she may not even speak his language. Gateshead was notorious for its eclectic assortment of tongues; its inhabitants were known to speak everything from Greek to Hindi.
A shift of material closer to his side drew his attention to his right once more. She stood at the other end of the desk now, smiling at him wryly, as if she held some secret.
To his surprise, she spoke clearly in an upper class accent that all but mirrored his own, "It's not unlikely... you were very demanding, weren't you?"
He smirked at her delicately delivered sarcasm. "Is it so much to ask at six o'clock in the morning?"
"That depends...what time do you start working, sir?" she inquired with a humor to her tone, her eyes dancing between the dim flicker of candlelight and the tentative turquoise tint of dawn filtering through the panes of the dusty window.
Impressed by her wit, he responded pointedly, "I must expect my work to begin at any time, day or night, no matter how ungodly the hour." It was the full truth.
She raised her thin eyebrows in a gesture that could have either been of doubt or approval. "What an - interesting job you must have." she commented teasingly.
He merely gave her an enigmatic smile of his own and turned to watch the window as a gust of wind whistled past.
"You're in the Navy, aren't you?" Her voice was knowing, almost accusatory, but soft all the same.
His head turned quickly back to regard her. The corners of her mouth twitched upward and she cocked her head in a silent demand for confirmation.
"Yes," he replied simply, the tone of awe he had tried to suppress had crept unwillingly into his voice. She smiled in satisfaction, and some level of familiarity.
He regained his mind's composure, "Well who isn't around here?" he added flippantly.
She gave him that same wry smile, "I'm not."
He chuckled and nodded, "For good reason, I might add, fraulein."
She merely bit down on her lower lip, suddenly appearing the shy teenager again as when he first caught her staring at him.
"Dare I ask what a young lady such as yourself would be doing in Gateshead in the first place?" he voiced with genuine curiosity.
Her face straightened as she responded simply "My father travels with the Navy. I'm visiting him."
Interesting. "Do I know him?" he asked, edging slightly closer to her.
She folded her hands and set them on the desk. "John M. Whitehead?" The familiar name sounded forth from her lips and he immediately recognized it.
He all but spluttered in disbelief, "You're John Whitehead's daughter?" She gave a series of small, rapid nods, her crisp little smile returning as she widened her eyes at him.
"I don't believe it." he said, toning down his excitement.
"Why? No resemblance?" She asked, tilting her head as though offering him a better angle at which to survey her features.
He answered her between laughs, "No, I just - didn't realize he was so old!"
She feigned offense at his blunt statement, her mouth dropping open comically.
At that moment, the shopkeeper reappeared, possibly grumpier than before upon seeing the man had found something amusing as he kept him waiting.
He slapped the new pair of dark brown leather gloves on the desktop and said roughly, "Twelve Viking coins, kid."
The youth rummaged through his pocket and placed the requested change on the counter. The shopkeeper gathered up the coins and made his way to the back door again, glancing back and forth suspiciously between the pair.
"Hmm, you must not have made him too angry." The girl said in critical consideration, coming up beside him to study the gloves he had purchased with a look of approval.
"He didn't make me wait too long either." he said with an amused grin as he casually stuffed the gloves back into his jacket.
"Will you be heading back to the ship, then, comrade?" she said jauntily, looking up at him with a teasing glint in her pale grey eyes as she rested her elbow on the counter.
"Afraid so." he sighed. He did not make to move, though. He could not leave her yet.
"You will be sure to tell my father of our chance encounter, won't you? That is, if you are stationed on the same crew for the time being." she insisted softly. He found her mysterious smile hypnotic.
"Your father will hear of it, I assure you...Granted he sets aside his infernal submarine plans long enough to let me talk to him." he said with good natured agitation as he straightened his jacket and strode towards the door.
She laughed with a tone of affection that was easy to pick out, following him toward the exit. "Come now...someday, you may be fighting a war in one of those 'infernal' crafts." She admonished warningly, her innocent laughter somehow soothing to his ears. It would not be a sound he would hear back onboard the ship for another month or two - the carefree banter of a woman...
He lingered in the threshold, reluctant to leave such an engaging young woman behind. "I have my doubts, Fraulein." he said obtusely, smiling charmingly at her.
"Agathe." She corrected opaquely, her eyes luminous in the brightening flush of morning sun streaming through the open door. The wind had died down, he noted absently. Contrary to what he had expected, the relentless gusts he had faced just before he arrived were suddenly non-existent. The air outside was cold, but utterly still.
"Georg..Von Trapp." He stated his name in the same secretive tone that she had used. He reached out for her hand as propriety would have him do. Her own hand lay elegantly within his upturned palm. She stared up at him almost slyly as he lowered her hand within his and slowly released it.
"Perhaps we'll meet again someday." She murmured hazily. Her bright eyes caught the first ray of sunlight and sparkled hopefully.
"Perhaps," He whispered indulgently, and left her in the threshold.
She watched the man walk away in his sure stride until he was concealed by the dull blue mist of the empty street.