Everyone at the villa had a glimmer of hope that Maria was getting better. Georg had two reasons to be encouraged. His visit with the Reverend Mother had him believing that Maria may not be all together sure of her path in life. And of course the news from the hospital was very positive.
Brigitta had a talk with her oldest brother. "I wonder what is really wrong with Fräulein Maria."
"Why do you ask?"
"I suspect it is something more serious than Father is telling us."
"You may be right. I think she's unconscious Brigitta. I read all about it in the medical book I checked out of the library. And Father didn't tell us why she was in the hospital."
"If that is true. How do you think it happened?"
"Maybe she fell Brigitta and hit her head on the ground. Don't say anything to Father. He's very worried about her."
"I won't. Don't you wish Fräulein Maria could wake up if Father would kiss her; like in the stories about Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. We both know he likes her. I can still see them after their dance; their eyes stayed fixed on the other for a long time."
"Oh, Brigitta, you're such a romantic; those are only stories."
"I can still wish Friedrich." Brother and sister went their separate ways; each chuckling to themselves.
Today was Isabel's turn to visit Maria. She anticipated talking with Dr. Keller. She had a feeling inside that Maria was getting better. She waited for him to visit.
"Good morning Dr. Keller, how is she?"
"Isabel, I think Maria is about to wake up. I've noticed subtle movement of her eyes. She seems to follow my voice with her eyes."
"Thanks for the good news Dr. Keller. Let me get home to tell everyone."
"Please do. The makers of all these cards and pictures need some good news."
Isabel found everyone out on the veranda. "Good news everyone, the doctor thinks Maria is about to wake up." She stopped speaking abruptly. She knew the children hadn't been told she was unconscious.
"What do you mean she's about to wake up? Has she been asleep for a week?
Frau Schmidt didn't answer Brigitta, Georg did. "Yes, children that is true." He could hear gasps from his children. He was rapidly thinking of the best explanation. "Children, your Fräulein was found lying in the alley behind the Abbey. She must have fallen and hit her head on the ground."
"Are you telling us she was unconscious?" The brother and sister nodded at each other but no one noticed.
"Yes Friedrich that is the correct word. Remember, Frau Schmidt gave us some good news; your Fräulein is getting better. That's what is important."
"Children, your Father is right. The doctor is very optimistic. Let's hope he has even better news tomorrow."
Frau Schmidt had been correct. The next day Katia did have an even better report. "She squeezed my hand when I called her name. Dr. Keller said that was another very good sign."
"That's wonderful news, isn't it Father?"
"Yes, it is, very encouraging Friedrich."
Every day the news was better than the day before. "She opened her eyes; not just once, a couple of times. And she turned her head towards my voice."
Isabel was greeted by Sister Margareta the next day. "Hurry Isabel, she's awake."
"Praise the Lord."
She found Maria sitting up in bed; the oxygen tent was gone and so was the feeding tube. Maria was sipping on some broth.
Again Isabel proclaimed, "Praise the Lord."
Maria's voice was small and weak. She could barely speak. "Yes," was all Isabel heard before emotions took over for both of them. Tears freely flowed. "I'll be right back Maria, let me ask to use the telephone."
The phone rang a few times. No one at the villa was expecting a call. An out of breath Georg answered it. Isabel didn't wait. She immediately exclaimed. "She's awake, Georg."
"Wonderful news Isabel let me tell the children." Georg hurried to the veranda. "Children, your Fräulein is awake."
"Can we visit Father?"
"I don't know. Maybe you and Friedrich, Liesl. I'm not sure if you younger children will be allowed in her room."
"Can we go and ask?"
"Sure Brigitta – wash up and we'll all go."
Max drove the truck with the boys. He followed closely behind Georg, who was driving sensibly fast.
"Wait here. Let me find Frau Schmidt."
Isabel had anticipated their arrival and was waiting near the front door. "Are you alone Georg?'
"No Isabel, everyone is outside. Do you think the younger children could see her?"
"I knew everyone would come. Doctor Keller told me they could visit for a brief moment. She's still very weak."
Georg still didn't know what he would do. The last thing he wanted was to scare Maria. He gave his children the usual reminders. "You must be very quiet. We can only stay for a few minutes."
Isabel added. "She's very weak children; probably will only be able to say a weak hello."
"Can I give her a kiss Father?"
"Maybe Gretl, maybe."
Isabel went in first. "Everyone's here Maria." All she did was smile.
The children circled her bed. Their Fräulein smiled broadly and spoke a weak "hello." She motioned for them to come closer. Maria touched each one tenderly as they each kissed her cheek. She leaned towards Marta and Gretl so they could reach her cheek. Gretl touched her cheek and smiled at her.
When Maria looked up, her eyes caught Georg's. Neither spoke – they both seemed to know it wasn't the right time.
As the children were leaving, Dr. Keller was coming to check on his patient again. "You must be the von Trapp children."
"Yes sir," Friedrich answered for all of them.
"My patient is getting better. Soon she'll be your governess again."
"Yes, thank you doctor."
Maria improved rapidly. She knew she had to make a decision.
"Sister Margareta, is Reverend Mother coming today?"
"Yes, Maria, after prayers."
Reverend Mother gave Maria a big hug. "You look so much stronger. I'm sure the doctor will send you home soon. Do you want to talk about your plans?
"Maria, the Captain told me what happened that night. And you need to know, the Baroness returned to Vienna. He also told me about how you touched his heart when you told him he needed to love his children. And I suspect he has touched your heart."
"That's true Mother; my heart is very confused. But one thing I do know, I can't take my vows. Beyond that everything is a blank."
"Thanks okay Maria, you have plenty of time to find God's plan. Do you want to go back to the villa? I'm positive everyone wants you there."
"I can't answer that question. Is there someplace I can stay?"
"You know there is – you can use the guest house. But the Captain and the children need to be told."
"Yes, Mother, I can tell everyone tomorrow. The nurse said I could go out in the sun tomorrow. It will feel good to get some fresh air."
The family returned after lunch the next day. They were taken to the veranda. "Hello, everyone."
"Fräulein, you already look stronger."
"I feel stronger Louisa, but I don't think I will be strong enough to be your governess yet."
"What do mean Fräulein Maria?"
"I need to spend some time praying. So many things have changed. I still want to see you often."
Maria could see sad faces. "Don't be sad children. I need to find God's plan for me."
Everyone heard the nurse. "Maria, it's time to go inside."
"Children, go on ahead. I need to speak to your Father."
Georg spoke first. "Did the Reverend Mother tell you?"
"Yes, Captain she did. Perhaps you could come alone one morning before I leave here."
"Tomorrow, after breakfast."
"Yes Captain, I'll expect you."
In the morning, Georg was escorted to the veranda where he found Maria sitting with her back to him. Maria's hearing was sharp; she had heard people step on the veranda.
"Come sit Captain."
"Good morning Fräulein, how did you know I was here?"
"The same way I heard a person's footsteps up on my mountain."
"You saw me?" Georg said as he sat in the chair beside her. He saw her smile. "Where were you?"
"High up in a tree, I heard the breaking of branches."
"I forgot you are a world famous tree climber." He watched her expression out of the corner of his eyes. Neither could contain their giggles.
"It's nice to be up in a tree with the birds and other animals of the forest."
Maria couldn't help but notice Georg's nervous fingers and that he was avoiding looking directly at her. Maria reached over and took his hand in both of hers. "What's wrong Captain? Why are you so nervous?"
"There you go again; always more concerned about another person rather than yourself. I suppose I feel responsible for your injury. How did you know I was nervous?"
"You twitch the fingers on your left hand. I saw it the day we first met and again when you apologized after our argument. You probably don't know you do it."
"What else do you notice Maria?"
"That neither of us wants to look the other in the eyes."
"You mean like we did when we danced the Laendler?"
"Yes Captain, I'm still not sure what happened to me; I felt…" Maria voice trailed off.
"Let me finish for you Maria. You had feelings that were brand new to you."
"Yes Captain and then to be told I was in love you, scared me into running away."
"Is that what Elsa told you?"
"Yes it is."
"I am sorry Maria. The Reverend Mother told me that God gave you a great capacity to love but you don't know yet know how to spend that love. Is the correct Maria?" She could only nod.
"Are you coming back to the villa?"
"Only until I get stronger and can take care of myself. The Reverend Mother will let me stay at the guest house. I will have a quiet place to pray and contemplate."
"May I visit as a friend?"
"I'd like that Captain, very much."
Dr. Keller released Maria the very next day. He had agreed to an early release of his patient only because Maria was going to the villa where there was more than enough people to help her.
Georg and Isabel went to the hospital to transport Maria home. Isabel had a small bag with her; undergarments and shoes and on a hanger her Laendler dress.
"Isabel, are you trying to make me remember my dance with Maria?"
"Not really Captain, I just know it is Maria's favorite; second only to her blue dress. Someday I will tell her you had it made for her."
"Let me tell her Isabel; maybe that will help us begin a relationship."
"Of course Georg, a relationship, Hummmn."
"Isabel, you're as bad as the children. Here we are."
Sister Margareta met them outside. "She raring to go Captain; I think she's got her strength back."
"Let me bring her clothes to her; the children are waiting as well."
Georg talked with Sister Margareta and thanked her for everything she had done.
"Hello Captain, I'm ready."
"I see, and that dress is still lovely."
Isabel and Maria shared a special look and snicker. "Come on you two. Maria, you have children waiting for you."
"I know. I'm anxious to see and hear them in normal life; not quiet, composed and scared."
The children were in the front of the villa, anticipating their Fräulein's arrival. Kurt had wandered down the lane a bit and saw them coming; he ran back to tell the others.
The car rounded the corner into the circle; Georg parked right there and got out. "Now remember no pushing and shoving to be the first to hug her; you might knock her over."
"We know Father, you've told us many times."
Georg went around the car; first he opened the door for Isabel who was in the back seat and then the front door. He offered Maria his hand. "Thank you Captain."
"Hello children, I'm so glad to see your smiles and not looks of fright."
"Welcome home, Maria."
"Thank you Max, have you been staying out of trouble?"
"Now Maria, what makes you ask that question?"
"Because I know how much you like to hear the children sing." Max had his normal mischievous glance at her; and gave out that odd laugh of his.
"We have a surprise Fräulein."
"You do Friedrich?"
"May I escort you to the surprise?"
"I'd be delighted young man." Maria took his arm.
"Here we are."
"This is the ballroom."
"Yes, I know – Father wanted a room where we could all be together. Look what Father did. He added chairs and tables. We've already used it. In the evenings we play boardgames or cards. Sometimes Father will play battleship with Kurt and me."
"This is nice Captain – a living room. I like it."
"Gretl, show your Fräulein to her seat."
"That's right Fräulein Maria, a comfortable chair and footstool especially for you. Please sit Fräulein." Gretl and Kurt adjusted the stool.
"Are you comfortable Fräulein Maria?"
"Yes, very comfortable."
"Okay children, places please." Maria watched Max as he prepared the children to sing for her. "Liesl, here's your guitar."
Liesl started the song by herself in a slow rather somber tone. She sang about ending a day in the hills when the stars appear and green shadows begin to form and about waiting to hear the hills sing again.
"My day in the hills has ended; the stars are flickering; voices in green shadows urge me to stay. I pause and wait for one more sound the hills might say."
Her brothers and sisters joined her in that song that brought their Father back to them. Their hearts were blessed as they continue to sing.
Maria concentrated on watching the children; she couldn't let her eyes wander to the Captain who was doing the same. A room full of angels seemed to supply heavenly chords as they sang. And then Liesl strummed the chords to Edelweiss and Maria's heart took a leap.
The emotion of that night came back clear as a bell; especially when the Captain joined his children and their eyes once again suspended them. The world had vanished; his eyes were intense and his gaze captivated her. But today Maria was not scared; she knew more. Her problem was that she didn't have any idea how to express her feelings to the Captain.
Georg broke the spell. "Very nice children."
"So you approve, Captain?"
"Singing at home is always appreciated, Fräulein."
Katia had been standing at the door. "Anybody hungry besides Kurt – I made your favorites Maria."
"Did you really? Don't be disappointed; I may not be able to eat very much. It seems my stomach has shrunk."
"It can do that, Fräulein Maria?"
"Sure can Marta, if you don't feed it."
"May I help you Maria." Max, always a gentleman, offered her his hand to get up.
"Thank you sir."
Dinner was a delightful time; conversation from everyone. Isabel noticed that Maria suddenly grew very quiet; a sign she was exhausted. "This has been a busy day for your Fräulein, children. I promised Dr. Keller I would see to it she got her rest. Why don't you say goodnight?"
"Maria, do you need help going upstairs? Max and I could carry you up."
"Not necessary Captain, but I do appreciate the offer. See everyone in the morning."
With good food, fresh air and plenty of rest Maria gained strength quickly. She knew she needed to tell the children soon.