A/N: I originally wrote this story as a one-shot, but it's a bit too long and today I decided to take it in a totally new direction. So I've split it up and am reworking it. I hope you enjoy it!
"Well, you can't marry someone when you're…in love with someone else…can you?"
Maria was speechless, frozen. Was he really saying this to her? Did he mean what she thought, or hoped he meant? He was standing very close to her, looking right into her eyes. The expression in them was so powerful, just like his soft voice…
Finally finding the power within her to move, she shook her head. Maria didn't break eye contact with him, afraid that if she did, the spell would be broken.
His blue eyes suddenly acquired an almost pleading look, and he came even closer to her. When she felt his hand gently cup her chin, her breath caught in her throat. He'd never touched her skin before. This felt real…this was real…
Suddenly, a distant call pierced the still night air. "Fraulein Maria! Fraulein Maria!"
The spell was temporarily broken between them: the Captain dropped his hand from her face, and both turned reflexively towards the house. "That sounds like Brigitta…" murmured Maria.
Her name was called again, and there was urgency, even panic, in the voice. Instantly, both adults were jogging, almost running back to the house. Coming back, they found Brigitta standing on the terrace. She spotted them, and immediately got a relieved look on her face.
"What is it, Brigitta? What's happened?" asked Maria, panting as she and the Captain stopped. The urgency she had heard in the ten-year-old's voice had immediately made her assume someone had been hurt or had an accident.
"Is everyone alright?" asked the Captain, a hand over his heart as he calmed his breathing.
Both, however, concluded this was not the case when Brigitta got a self-conscious and slightly sheepish look on her face. "Umm…Marta had a nightmare and called for Fraulein Maria. When we couldn't find her in her room, we got scared…she'd only just come back, after all…"
Maria gave a great exhale, and climbed up the terrace steps to hug the ten-year-old. "Oh, darling, I could never do that to you all again…Please don't be afraid that I will slip away like that again without a word, because I won't."
"But will you have to leave again, Fraulein?" said Brigitta, pulling away to look at her governess. "How long will you stay with us?"
Maria found she had no sure answer for her; she honestly did not know herself. So much seemed to have changed tonight, but there was even more she did not know yet. And only one person could give her those answers.
That said person thankfully saved her from declining a response. "That's enough questions and excitement for tonight, Brigitta. We'll all talk about this in the morning, all right?"
Brigitta still looked curious, looking from her governess to her father, but hearing his gently authoritative tone, she nodded.
"I'll take you back up to bed and check on Marta," said Maria, taking Brigitta's hand.
"Goodnight, Father," said Brigitta.
The Captain stepped up and kissed his daughter's forehead. "Goodnight, sweetheart. I'll see you in the morning."
Before turning around towards the house, Maria's eyes met the Captain's for a brief moment. He gave her that powerful look again, then turned towards the lake, walking towards it idly. Clearly, he meant to stay outside. And the look he gave her said he wanted her to come back outside when she was done with the children. Her heart fluttered.
As they were walking up the stairs, Brigitta asked, "What were you and Father doing outside?"
Maria's cheeks turned pink, but thankfully it was too dark for the too-observant ten-year-old to notice. "We were talking, Brigitta."
"Feeling nosy, are we?" jibed the older woman playfully, but with a serious hint of warning in her voice. Thankfully, Brigitta picked up on it and kept quiet.
Maria dropped her off at the older girls' bedroom door. Giving Brigitta one more hug, she said, "Goodnight, Brigitta. And go right to bed, no late night reading."
"All right, good night," said Brigitta, slipping into the bedroom after giving her governess one more curious look.
As Brigitta lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, she couldn't help but wonder, What did I just interrupt?