A/N: I didn't really expect to start a new story so soon, but it's itching to get out! Just an idea I had if Maria and Georg could not see each other at all during their engagement, then are completely alone. God knows, it would make me scared to death, no matter how much my love was! Just wanted to explore this. As chapters go by, the rating may go up - after all, they'll be married, right? Let's see how this goes!
Fraulein Maria Rainer waited outside of the Reverend Mother's office, and as always, she was moving in some way. Though this time she was only shifting from one foot to the other, she never quite learned how to sit or stand perfectly still. There was always some part of her that was on the move, always restless, always alive.
She watched a pair of nuns pass by in their slow, almost floating, walk. They smiled at her and she nodded, even as she felt that twinge of self-consciousness she'd felt here for the past six weeks. The absence of a wimple on her head was the main reason. But somehow, during her time here, she had felt less like an outsider than she had felt when she actually was a postulant. Perhaps because, this time, she was a guest.
The door to the office opened and Sister Berthe came out. "Hello, Maria," she said, her tone pleasant. The older woman had been much more friendly towards Maria in the past six weeks than in the previous two years. Most likely because Maria was no longer a postulant. The younger woman was still getting used to not kissing the floor at the sight of her.
"Hello, Sister," replied Maria, smiling. "I'm here to have tea with the Reverend Mother."
"Of course, go right in," said Sister Berthe, nodding in farewell before walking away. Taking a deep breath, Maria opened the door to the office and let herself in. She found the Reverend Mother pouring hot water from a tea pot into two tea cups. She smiled at the sight of the young woman. "Come in, my child!"
"Hello, Reverend Mother," said Maria, smiling and feeling at ease in the presence of this wise woman. She approached and the two women shared an embrace before sitting down.
"What would you like in your tea?" asked the Reverend Mother. "Milk or sugar?"
The Reverend Mother chuckled at Maria's blush of embarrassment. "Sweet tooth?"
"Oh, yes, I suppose so."
When the two women were sitting in their seats, tea and saucer in their hands, Maria couldn't help but think how nice this was, to be sitting with the Reverend Mother in this setting. Just like with Sister Berthe, Maria felt no longer like a naughty child who was constantly making mistakes. This was much more relaxed.
But not for long.
"So, my daughter, tell me what you are feeling."
The emotions all seemed to come back to her at once, replacing the relaxation and contentment. "Excited and nervous all at once, but most of all . . . I still can't believe that after six weeks of waiting, tomorrow is my wedding day." She shook her head as she spoke, her eyes wide.
The Reverend Mother gave a gentle smile. "Has it been hard?"
Maria sighed, wondering how best to phrase it. "I can't lie to you, Reverend Mother. Many times I've wanted nothing more than to burst through the gates and run all the way back to the villa. Just to at least see him again."
The Reverend Mother nodded, knowing that Maria meant this and not something else. "I just hope you understand why things have been this way. After all, yours and the Captain's story is far from common. And certain facts about the two of you do not go down well with the aristocracy, unfortunately. The fact that the Captain had been seeing the Baroness for quite some time, brought her to his home, even threw a party for her, certainly does not help. I can't help but think, if it weren't for that, you two would be able to spend your engagement as you should: planning and getting to know each other. But, alas, I'm sorry you've not been able to see each other since you came here."
Maria nodded her head and looked at her lap briefly. "Well, these past six weeks have certainly been the longest of my life. But I don't want to complain. One of the many things I learned here is that breath wasted on complaining about things you can't change is precious breath, energy and time wasted. I don't have to like the situation, but I can at least have control over how I deal with it. No wonder I can't believe tomorrow . . . everything will change."
The older woman gave an understanding and approving smile, and squeezed the younger woman's hand across the desk. "I must thank you, Maria, for all of the help you've been to us the past few weeks. At least you can say you've kept busy."
"Oh, don't thank me, Reverend Mother, it was a pleasure, not only to have something to do but it also helped others."
The mending and clothes-making she had done for the poor had been God-sent work to her. The nimble fingers she had inherited from her mother were busy, and it allowed her something with which to distract herself.
"So, is your gown and everything ready for tomorrow?"
"Yes, everything is all laid out."
The Reverend Mother placed her cup and saucer back on the tray, and folded her hands on her desk. The younger woman sensed that they had arrived at the meat of the conversation. She was right. "Maria, I know that tomorrow, as joyous as it will be for you and your new family, it will also be the beginning of a completely different life for you. I realize that I am not your mother, and may not be the most knowledgeable person in this field, but do you have any questions or worries to tell me?"
Maria suddenly felt quite a bit awkward. "Is this about the wedding night, Reverend Mother?"
The Reverend Mother now looked a bit awkward as well. "Yes, I had hoped to discuss this with you to an extent. Just to make sure you know what is to happen."
Maria nodded, looking at her twisting fingers in her lap. "Physically, yes. Honestly, I try not to think about it too much."
"Why, my daughter?"
"It just makes me restless, nervous and guilty."
The Reverend Mother raised her eyebrows. "Why guilty?"
Maria shrugged. "I suppose it just boils down to the fact that I was a postulant longer than I've been in love, or about to be married. And to think those kinds of thoughts in Nonberg Abbey, especially when I know lust is a deadly sin."
"No, Maria," said the Reverend Mother, causing Maria to look up in surprise. "What you feel is not a sin. Lust alone is a sin, when all one cares about are their own appetites and desires, not caring of the others it will destroy in its path. But when lust is added to the true love, respect, trust and partnership of husband and wife, it is holy. When I told you the love of a man and a woman is holy, I meant every aspect of that love, in mind, heart, soul and body."
Maria blushed furiously. While she was greatly comforted by this information, nothing could make the awkward feeling of talking about this with the Reverend Mother, a nun, go away. "Thank you, Mother, very much." She looked at her lap again. "But I am still a little scared. That relevant passage in Ephesians . . ."
"Ah," said the Reverend Mother, recalling the verse, "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.*"
Maria shivered slightly, and gulped down the rest of her hot tea, ignoring the burning in her throat and watering in her eyes. Once she got her breath back, Maria said, "The way it is said . . . makes the act sound quite unpleasant."
The Reverend Mother gave a silent sigh. "Like I said, Maria, I am not a good authority on this. But I do know that the act has much pleasure, I have heard, not only for the man but for the woman. And there is no shame in that."
Now Maria wanted to crawl under the desk, she was blushing so hard. "Yes, I have . . . heard that, as well."
Both women looked eager to change the topic, but the Reverend Mother had one more thing to say on the matter. Leaning forward slightly to emphasize her point, she captured eye contact and spoke in a reassuring voice. "I know how much you love him, and I know he loves you just as much. When the time comes, you must remember to trust your husband, trust that he will take care of you. If there is true love, then you have nothing to fear."
Again, Maria was grateful and took this information to heart, but she was quite ready for this conversation to be over, and think over these things by herself. "Thank you, Reverend Mother."
The older woman took out a small piece of paper and handed it to Maria. "Look at these passages tonight, Maria, if you would like to. All three are beautiful, and will help you." She stood up and checked the clock in the room. "Just one minute more, it seems." She turned to Maria, who looked curious. "I'm expecting a phone call, but unfortunately I have a last-minute errand to run. When the phone rings, could you pick it up please?"
"Um . . . sure, of course," said Maria, thoroughly confused at the situation the Reverend Mother was placing her in.
With a smile on her face, the Reverend Mother left a confused Maria alone in her office.
* Ephesians 5:22