The argument can be made that the French capital of Paris is magical no matter the time of day (or night) or the month of the year. But perhaps a stronger argument could be made that the month of May there – while anywhere – is among the most lovely. Late spring providing just enough warmth so as not to be stifling, and the occasional rains that refresh the ever-blooming flowers. Because it was not yet summer, the city was not as full of tourists as it would be in the coming months. And, of course, to add to all of this, the history and romance of the city itself.
For Captain Georg Von Trapp, all that mattered to him was that this was one of the few places left in the world that he had been before and carried no memories that he wanted to run away from.
He arrived in Paris early that morning, and checked out a small room at the Ritz that was still luxurious, as all of the rooms there were. It didn't take him long to unpack his clothes and few personal belongings he had brought with him. Once that was done, Georg opened the doors onto the balcony of his rooms and stood outside. The air was perfect – not too warm, not too cold, not too strong of a breeze. And the view of both the city and the Seine River was absolutely gorgeous in the late morning light.
This was more than enough invitation for Georg, who knew that spending time alone in his room – if he weren't sleeping – would be spent brooding. He did enough brooding already in the past three years.
So, after stripping himself of his blazer and tie, Georg pocketed his room key and headed out of the hotel. He didn't really have any type of destination; he just wanted to walk around the city he had not been to in twenty years, reacquaint himself with the architecture and the street-names. He had no real fear of being lost, for he spoke French very well and he could always hail a cab.
He hadn't been walking that long when he began to turn a corner, his eyes looking up at the building across the street and the particularly beautiful stone it was made of, when suddenly–
Georg managed not to stumble or fall, but that could not be said for the person he had collided with – or, he was sure it was a person, for a person must be carrying those big boxes which, as it turns out, were full of fabrics. He saw this as the boxes fell to the pavement, some of the contents spilling out.
Once he regained his senses somewhat, Georg looked down to see the person he had knocked to the ground. She – for the blue dress and feminine hands told him it was a female – was on her knees, putting the fabric back into the respective boxes, examining them to make sure none were damaged. She was muttering furiously to herself.
"Oh, mademoiselle, please forgive me," said Georg in French, genuinely remorseful as he cursed himself for having his head so high in the clouds. He immediately crouched down to help her, and as he did, her muttering became comprehensible.
"Never paying attention, I'm such a klutz and carrying big things just increases my chances of accidents…"
Georg looked at the golden head of hair (the face was still hidden from him) and his eyes widened in surprise. She was not speaking French, but German with a distinct Austrian accent.
Deciding to try and get her attention in a better way, he asked in his native tongue, "Are you all right, Fraulein?"
This got her attention, and her head shot up right away. Their eyes met and they both seemed to catch their breath, especially Georg. He'd never seen a more beautiful pair of eyes on so lovely a face before. She was young, in her early twenties at most, holding this fresh innocence he hadn't seen on the face of any woman in Vienna. Such innocence and beauty he had never seen before. He would never remember how he managed to give a small smile and say, "Hello."
The young woman's eyes were wide, those beautiful big blue eyes, in surprise. But after a moment she blinked, blushed the slightest bit, and returned his greeting and hesitant smile with one of her own. "Hello."
The spell seemed to break as both broke eye contact and the sounds of the city came back to them. The young woman resumed her task, and Georg helped as best he could. She tried to protest but Georg did not stop, so she stopped trying to deter him.
Once each fabric was in its box again, Georg looked at the young woman and spoke, still in their native tongues. "Are you all right, really? I am so sorry for this –"
"Oh, no, it's not your fault, sir," she said hastily. "I'm always daydreaming and never paying attention to what I'm doing, I should have seen you coming – ouch!" She had attempted to take one of the boxes, but her left hand recoiled. The young woman clenched her teeth in mild pain.
"What is it?" said Georg, slightly panicked, wondering what damage he had done. He reached out his hands. "Let me see."
The young woman hesitated, then slowly reached out her hand, mumbling that it was nothing. Georg gingerly cupped her hand, and looked at her palm. The only thing wrong was a scrape across the lower palm, one of those that is not at all serious and heals fairly quickly but is quite a pain.
Without thinking twice, Georg pulled out his handkerchief from his breast-pocket and pressed it to her scrape before it began to bleed.
The young woman hissed in pain and said, "Oh, please don't, that's really not –"
"I insist," said Georg, already tying his handkerchief around her hand. "Make sure to clean that right away so you will not get an infection." Hesitantly, he let go of her hand once he was finished.
He was glad that she didn't tear it off but instead gave him a grateful smile and said, "Thank you, I will."
Georg returned her smile and helped her to her feet, and then helped get the boxes back in her arms. Both stood there for a moment in awkward silence, not really knowing what to say or do. All Georg knew was that he did not want her to walk away, anonymous, and disappear, never to be seen again. Who was she? Why was she, a young Austrian woman, living in Paris? He didn't even know her name!
His quick-thinking brain came up with an idea from a memory, and before he could stop himself, he spoke. "Please let me make this accident up to you, Fraulein, somehow. I believe there is a place called Café de Flore on St Germain; may I take you for a cup of tea or coffee to show my apologies?"
The young woman's eyes widened again, surprised by his request. Her mouth gaped open for a moment and she seemed unsure about what to do. Her eyes darted away as she thought. "Oh, sir, you've already helped me more than enough, it's really not necessary –"
"Actually, I believe there is a necessity," said Georg lightly. "You still have my handkerchief."
He smiled at her, and, after a moment, she smiled back. Their gazes caught again, and Georg held onto it tightly. Though he had just teased her a little, he wanted to reassure her that his motives were completely pure, and that she would be in no danger with him. This he tried to convey in his powerful gaze to her.
As she blushed ever so slightly, she took a deep breath after another moment of silence and said, "Well, I have work until five o'clock."
"After you're done with work, then. I'll meet you there."
"There is only one problem left then, sir."
"And that is what, Fraulein?"
She smiled wryly at him. "Who are you?"
Now Georg was the one to blush – or nearly blush – and he chuckled self-consciously. Meeting her eyes again, he said, "Georg."
Her smile softened a little. "Georg," she said, trying it out. Georg felt himself go a little weak at the knees hearing her say his name. "All right, I will be there if you will be there."
"Thank you, Fraulein," said Georg, smiling. "Are you going to be all right with those boxes?"
Maria laughed and nodded. "Oh, yes. I work just round the corner. And this time I'll pay attention."
They shared a laugh, and then she moved around him saying, "Have a good day, Georg."
"Fraulein!" he called after her, realizing something.
"Yes?" she asked, pausing in her steps and turning her head.
After taking a moment to himself to look at all of her – sensible shoes, modest blue dress, small healthily skinny form, lovely face, short golden hair, and big blue eyes – he asked, "May I know whom I'll be meeting at the Café de Flore?"
The young woman looked at him a moment, gave a small smile, and said, "Maria," before turning around and heading away. Georg watched her disappear into the crowd coming up the sidewalk. When it cleared she was gone.
The reason Maria was able to disappear like that was because she indeed worked just around the corner. The dress boutique she worked in was on the street Georg had been walking down before turning the corner and colliding with her. It was a small shop, but it did good work and made good money. In the year Maria had worked there, she was able to make a very good living for herself.
Holding on tightly to the boxes, Maria used her back to push open the shop's front door, the little bell above announcing her arrival. She said a greeting to Madame Genevieve Chaput, the widowed owner and designer of the boutique, who always ran the front desk. "Those new fabrics all accounted for, Maria?" she asked, tucking a strand of silver hair behind her ear.
"Yes, Madame," said Maria. "I checked them before I left."
Madame Chaput nodded, satisfied, and returned to her books. Maria made her way to a door and pushed her way through, into the spacious workroom where she and three other young women worked as seamstresses: Adele, Therese and Nicole.
"Maria!" exclaimed Adele, rushing to Maria to help her with the boxes. "Let's see our new materials."
As the four women unpacked the fabrics and put them with the others, while properly labeling them, it was Nicole who noticed the handkerchief. "Maria, what happened? Did you get hurt?"
Maria looked down at her bandaged hand, and the memory of what had happened when turning the corner flooded her mind – making her blush.
"She's blushing," said Adele, who was putting her loose auburn curls into a loose bun and smiling mischievously. "That means something embarrassing happened or something involving the opposite sex."
This second option made Maria blush even more and Adele caught it with a squeal, pointing at Maria. "It's the latter! Come on, tell us what's happened!" She and Nicole led Maria to her work-station and sat her down. They knelt in front of her, while Therese just stood by Maria with a small hand on her shoulder, quiet reassurance and curiosity.
Knowing that her friends would not let her off the hook, Maria smiled exasperatedly and began. "Well, I was just turning the corner onto our street – not paying attention, as usual – and collided with someone, sending me and the boxes to the ground. My hand got scraped a little, but none of the fabrics got ruined."
"So you collided with this man and that hurled you to the ground?" asked Adele, who laughed. "Typical Maria."
Everyone, including Maria, laughed. "There really isn't much else to tell, you know. He was very apologetic, polite, and nice. He offered me his handkerchief to cover the scrape I got on my hand, even though it was quite minor."
"I'll get the first-aid kit," said Therese, giving Maria's shoulder a squeeze before her petite form disappeared into the supply closet.
"Tell us about him," said Nicole, fixing Maria with her curious emerald eyes. With her wild, raven curls, everyone who knew her firmly believed she had gypsy blood in her veins. "You must have been impressed, or you wouldn't still be blushing after what you describe as an ordinary encounter."
Maria had always liked Nicole, but the insight she possessed often kept Maria and Adele on their toes. "He…was older than me, late thirties or early forties, maybe, but he…no, I can't deny it, he was very handsome. Tall, strong jaw, olive skin, dark hair with a bit of grey, and these blue eyes that…" Maria let her voice drift before she let herself be anymore embarrassed.
"What was his name?" asked Adele.
"Georg," replied Maria. "I didn't get his last name."
"Georg?" Adele awkwardly pronounced the name, having difficulty because of her French pronunciation. "Doesn't sound French."
"Because he's not from France," said Maria, a slight smile on her face. "He's Austrian, like me. He heard me muttering to myself as I picked up the fabrics and addressed me in German; his accent was the same as mine."
Therese, who had returned as was working on Maria's hand, said, "Maria, that must be wonderful, to meet someone from your homeland after being here for over a year."
Adele looked both delighted and annoyed with this news. "Oh, Maria! A man from your own home country, and you just let him go on his way?" When she saw Maria blush again, Adele gasped. "You're going to see him again? Please tell me you are!"
Maria nodded. "I'm meeting him for coffee after work."
Adele and Nicole cheered, and Therese smiled at her, gently squeezing her newly bandaged hand. "Maria, how wonderful!" said Nicole, smiling. "I'm so glad you're finally giving yourself a chance at this."
"Honestly, the fact that he is Austrian really does help, because, if nothing else, I can ask how things are in my home country." This statement brought a new sense of reassurance to Maria, or at least a semblance of it.
They did not discuss the matter all through lunch or through the afternoon; Maria was glad to focus on her work so her mind could fully process what had happened today. Certainly not something she had expected to happen today. It took a monumental effort to keep her concentration on her work, for her mind was buzzing with questions.
Near the end of her shift, Therese sat beside Maria at her work station and spoke to her in her quiet voice, so Adele and Nicole did not hear her. "You're distracted. Are you all right? You know, if you don't want to go, you don't have to. I could take him the handkerchief for you."
"No, no, nothing like that," said Maria, glad it was Therese asking the questions and not one of the others. Though she loved Adele and Nicole dearly for different reasons, Therese was special. She had been the first friend Maria had made upon coming to Paris, and helped her get a job at the boutique. She was also naturally shy, quiet, wise and kind, making the perfect friend and confidante. Maria took a deep breath and explained in a low voice, "It's the opposite. I find myself really looking forward to it. Which confuses me and almost frightens me. I have no experience with men, and I've never felt this way about any man, even something as small as this."
Therese smiled in understanding, squeezing Maria's hand. "Just be yourself, Maria. He must like you, or he wouldn't have asked to see you again. After all, a handkerchief is just a handkerchief, something easily replaceable."
Maria slowly nodded. "You have a point."
"I know that this is a completely new area for you, given what I know of your past, but the Maria I know isn't hesitant about an adventure. Think of it that way."
Maria managed a weak chuckle and nodded. "Can I call you when I get home?"
Georg had spent the afternoon not knowing what to do with himself. If someone had told him he had walked every street of Paris in a single afternoon, he wouldn't have been surprised. By the time four o'clock came, he realized that he should get back to the hotel and freshen up, or else Maria would be disgusted immediately.
Maria…Maria…her name was so lovely, and it fit her like a glove. He couldn't stop thinking about her, wondering about her, get her face out of his mind. And he was flabbergasted by that.
When had he ever had a reaction like this to a woman? This instant intriguing, spellbound…attraction? Certainly not since…It was hard even to think her name at times. Certainly he couldn't be feeling anything akin to what he'd felt for…anything that had led to that. One couldn't feel something so powerful again, could they? And if they could, Georg wasn't sure he wanted to.
Georg, you are getting ahead of yourself. You've only had one five-minute interaction with her.
Perhaps he had been struck by her because she, like him, was an Austrian in Paris. But the whole point of this impromptu getaway was to get away from Austria and the memories it holds…but she is the perfect compromise. Something from the homeland I adore but having nothing to do with my past. A perfect win-win.
This Maria could provide him with the distraction he needed, in whatever form that may take. And all he knew was that he couldn't wait to see her again, to learn more about her, this Maria.
So, after showering and changing into another suit, Georg called a cab which took him to the Café de Flore at five o'clock. He knew Maria would not be there yet, so it gave him a chance to snatch a table for two and mentally prepare himself. The weather being as gorgeous as it had been that morning, he picked a table outside and ordered himself a small pot of tea. He wondered what Maria would order, and, just in case, he order an extra cup for her.
As the minutes passed, he was wishing he had brought a book or a paper with him, but even if he had, he knew he wouldn't be able to concentrate on it. So he subtlety watched the people approaching the café, keeping an eye out for her blue dress and golden hair.
At twenty past five, just as he was wondering if she would take a cab or walk here, Georg saw her coming up the street. Her face was nearly covered with a book she was engrossed in, and yet she managed to weave through the people around her effortlessly. He added another reason why he was so intrigued by her to his list.
When she came to the café, Maria stopped and lowered the book. She looked around nervously and finally spotted Georg. Their eyes met, and Maria felt her heart flutter while Georg felt his hands turn a little clammy. He rose from the table and gave her what he hoped was a kind, reassuring smile. Maria approached him, hoping her own smile did not reflect her nervousness. "Hello again," she said, glad her voice didn't shake – too much.
In response, Georg took her hand and kissed the back of it. Maria willed herself not to blush, but she wasn't sure she succeeded completely. When Georg moved around the table to pull out her chair for her, she said, "Thank you," and sat down.
Georg moved back to his seat and sat down. "Would like a cup of tea, or a coffee, or something else?"
"Oh, no, tea is perfect," said Maria, smiling at the sight of the tea set. "I don't drink coffee. My friend, Adele, can't properly function until she's had her morning coffee. I've seen her when she hasn't have her coffee yet, and it's not pretty." Maria stopped, realizing she was verging on rambling.
But Georg just chuckled as he poured Maria's tea. "My friend Max is the exact same way. He's a useless, crabby lump until he's had at least two cups, then he's more chipper than a bluebird."
Maria laughed, thinking that described Adele perfectly as well. "So you don't drink it, either?"
"No, I've always been a tea man. How do you take yours?"
"With two sugars, please."
Both spent a silent moment sipping their tea before Maria found the courage to revitalize the conversation. "So, my reason I avoid coffee is I do not want to become dependent on it to get out of bed in the morning. What about you?" Inwardly she cringed that she was keeping on this topic. Thankfully he just replied to the question as if nothing were wrong with it.
"That certainly is a reason, but also because I became so fond of the different types of tea I would try when I traveled. China, especially, had tea to die for."
"China?" asked Maria in shock. She'd never met anybody who had traveled beyond the continent, let alone China. "When were you there? Do you travel a lot? Is it for your job?"
"In a way," said Georg, charmed by her genuine curiosity. "I was in the navy for quite a while, so I got to see a lot of the world."
"Oh," said Maria, a little surprised and she couldn't help but give him an odd look.
"What?" asked Georg noticing.
"Oh, nothing, it's just…you don't look at all like a sailor," said Maria. Realizing that could be taken the wrong way, she hastily explained, "Well, you shouldn't take my word for it, I've only heard about sailors from books and my friend, Nicole, who's met quite a few, not that she's some easy woman, she just…" Her face felt on fire now as she realized she had rambled worse than ever and that he was looking at her surprised. "I'm sorry, I…I'm far too outspoken, it's one of my worst faults."
"Oh, no, I don't mind at all," said Georg, who now was smiling.
"Really, you don't have to –"
"I mean it," said Georg firmly. "All of my life, I've grown up with people who always censure what they say to make it vague, polite and emotionless, and I was brought up to do the same. So I admire anybody who has the courage not to do that."
Maria chuckled, relieved. "I wouldn't call it courage, just a tick I can't seem to get rid of."
"Well, whatever it is, I like it, so don't ever worry about that."
Maria smiled at him, feeling much more at ease, and he smiled back. He had meant what he said; he was absolutely charmed by her. When she talked, it wasn't without thought or false – it was honest, genuine, and enthusiastic. He'd never met anyone who spoke like this before, and he wanted more than ever to learn more about her.
But she spoke first. "So, you're in the navy. Are you here on leave?"
"No, I've been retired for some years now, after I received the Maria-Theresa medal."
Maria's eyes widened, impressed. "The Maria-Theresa medal? That's the highest honor a soldier can get! Wait a minute…I might have heard of you before, what's your full name?"
Georg gave a brief laugh, realizing they had yet to learn each other's last names. "Captain Georg Von Trapp."
Maria stared hard at him for a moment, digging through her memory, and then gasped. "I do remember you! There was an article in the paper about you when you got that medal. It said there was even a parade for you when you came back to Vienna."
Georg groaned. "I was so uncomfortable about all of that fuss. I just wanted to meet His Majesty, thank him for the medal and go back home. I'm not really one for big crowds and lots of fuss."
Maria nodded in understanding. "Then, if you don't mind me asking, what brings you to Paris?"
Georg wasn't really sure how to answer that question. He couldn't tell her the whole truth: I came to Paris because I hate sleeping in the bed I shared with my late wife of three years and looking at my children's faces which just tells me I'm being a lousy father and I came to Paris because I have no memories of Agathe here but a time when I was your age, carefree, happy and naïve to the sorrows of life.
No, he definitely couldn't say all of that without scaring her away. So he told her the vague, safe version of the truth. "I just…felt like a change, and wanted to take a little week-long vacation somewhere. I hadn't been to Paris for about twenty years, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to see it again. I only got here early this morning."
Maria nodded slowly, looking at him. She could somehow sense that this was not nearly the entire story, but she knew better than to ask such personal questions to a man she hadn't even known for a day. And because he had not mentioned anyone else, Maria assumed correctly that he was here alone. If he had been married, he would have been wearing a ring and he probably wouldn't have asked to see her again like this. So she left the subject alone.
"And you, Mademoiselle Maria?" he asked, smiling a little at her. "Enough about me, I would like to know your full name, for a start."
Maria chuckled. "Rainer. My name is Maria Rainer."
"Maria Rainer," Georg repeated. "And how did you come to be in Paris? The boxes and what you briefly told me lets me know you both live and work here."
Maria had to bite back a sigh, for she should have known this was coming. Still, fair was fair. If she could ask him, he could ask her. If he could answer with the bare minimum, so could she. "Well, I've been living here for a little over a year. I came here because…I felt restless, I suppose, and wanted to experience something completely new. And because I had nothing to keep me in Austria, I saved up enough money, left, came here, got a good job in a dress boutique as a seamstress, and here I am."
Georg could sense it before she had finished: no way this was the whole story. When she told him that there was nothing for her in Austria, did that mean she had no family, or that she did have family but she had run away or they had disowned her? He couldn't imagine anyone disowning such a wondrous creature, not wanting to know her at all…but he knew it was not his place to ask such personal questions when they hadn't even known each other one day.
So, deciding to stay off of the dangerous topic – for the both of them, it seemed – he looked at the book she had brought with her that was now laying on the table beside her cup of tea. "You like Victor Hugo?"
That did it. Maria smiled, and the conversation got going about their shared love of literature and that moved on to language. While Maria was not too surprised to know that he could speak and write six languages, it surprised Georg that she could speak and write three. There were times, however, when answers to questions (from either of them) would be vague and the eye contact would break and the silence would be uncomfortable. This meant that the other had almost strayed into forbidden territory. But that did not deter either of them; only made them more intrigued. All the while they talked, they enjoyed their tea and some cakes that went along with it.
When Maria noticed the light had dimmed around them due to the setting sun, Maria asked Georg, "What time is it?"
Georg pulled out his golden pocket watch and opened it. "It's about seven thirty-five."
"Oh, goodness," murmured Maria, gathering her book and beginning to stand up. "I should be heading home."
"Oh, really?" Georg slipped out in disappointment, standing up as well.
Maria could hear the disappointment in his voice and see it in his face. She didn't really want to leave, either, but, "It's just, I have to work in the morning and I have quite a few things to do around the house before I go to bed."
"Ah, yes, completely understood," said Georg, who did indeed understand and did not want to hold her up, but he couldn't deny that he really enjoyed her company. "May I escort you home?"
"Oh, that's fine, I live close by, and you've more than made up for this," said Maria, who held out his folded handkerchief, newly washed and dried.
Georg reached out to take it, and purposefully brushed his fingers against hers as he did so. Both could feel the electricity pass between them.
When their hands dropped, they stood there for a moment in awkward silence, neither really knowing what to say. Would they ever see each other again? They sure wanted to. Maria was not normally hesitant to go after what she wanted, but this was completely new territory. She did not know what the rules of propriety were in situations like this.
Georg, before he could think about what he was doing, spoke, "Maria...if you're free, may I take you out to dinner tomorrow evening?"
Maria felt both relieved that he wanted to see her again and surprised that he even wanted to. She may not have known much about this sort of thing, but an invitation to dinner from a man…she knew what that meant: a date. Her eyes widened and was momentarily speechless. "I, uh…I am free…why?"
Georg was surprised she would ask such a question, so he answered honestly, "Because I greatly enjoy your company and would very much to see you again."
Looking into his eyes, she could see he meant it. And she couldn't deny that she wanted to see him again, very much so. But she did have one concern. "Would it be very fancy, because I'm not really sure I would –"
"Oh, no, nothing too fancy," replied Georg right away, glad that she didn't want it to be fancy and eager to make her comfortable.
Maria looked again in his eyes and said, "Sure. I would like that."
Georg smiled, happy. "It's a date, then." And he was relieved when Maria smiled back at him, which meant he hadn't said the wrong thing. He pulled a small notebook out of the inside of his pocket (an old habit from when he had been an officer) and pen. "May I have your address, so I can know where to pick you up?"
"Oh, sure, I live at number 17, Rue Mermont, apartment number 2."
"All right…" Georg murmured, writing it down. "I'll pick you up at seven o'clock. And, if anything comes up for you, I'm staying at the Ritz Hotel, the front desk will patch me through."
"Thank you," said Maria. A brief moment of silence and then Maria broke it again. "Well, until tomorrow, then."
Georg again took her hand and kissed it, lingering a millisecond longer than the first time. "Au revoir, Maria."
Maria blushed, smiled, and walked away home. She could feel his eyes on her until she had disappeared from his sight, but her smile did not fade.
Some time later, Georg came back into his hotel room and leaned against the closed door, in a state of exhaustion from walking and shock from what had happened this day. Absolutely the last thing he had ever expected to happen while he was in Paris, hell the rest of his life! Meeting a young woman, instantly attracted and intrigued, asking to see her again, getting to know her and become even more attracted, and finally make his feelings clear by asking her out to dinner!
What in the world is happening to me? Who am I?
Georg could feel a sense of panic rising in him, and he didn't want that, so he went to sit on his bed, picked up the phone, and dialed a familiar number.
A minute later, he heard Max's familiar voice. "Hello?"
"I'm in trouble."
"Georg, is that you? What are you doing in Paris?"
"Long story short, I just wanted to flee and the idea of Vienna's salons made me shudder, so…I came here this morning, so I could be completely anonymous and relive our fun times that we had here."
"Without me, Georg? You've cut me to the quick! And Else certainly won't be pleased she won't be seeing you this week."
"Look, Max, no disrespect intended, but your exaggerated resentment and Elsa's hurt pride are the furthest things from my mind. I repeat: I'm in trouble."
Max's tone instantly became serious. "Georg, what's happened? Are you hurt?"
"I…I met a woman."
That made Max speechless, but only for a moment. "Why don't you further define that for me, Georg, because I know that you didn't just meet a woman or you wouldn't sound so shaken."
Georg sighed deeply and told Max everything that had happened that day, from arriving in Paris to coming back to the hotel just now. He held nothing back about what had happened and how he was feeling during it all. Though he and Max were polar opposites in some areas, they were best mates and knew they could tell each other anything.
When Georg had finished, Max was silent for another moment before speaking. "Well, Georg, this certainly is an event in your life…and I can certainly understand the shock and fear you're feeling about it. But I'm happy for you."
"You are?" asked Georg, glad that Max did not think he was going insane but still curious as to why Max had this reaction. "Why?"
"I will not lie to you, my friend," said Max, his tone serious. "Ever since Agathe passed, you have been like a dead man walking. It takes ten times the effort for me, your closest and oldest friend, to make you smile, and I haven't heard you really laugh in three years. You don't seem to find any joy in life anymore; nothing excites you or intrigues you." Max didn't dare mention the subject of the children for good reason. "And now this mysterious young woman can bring you to life with one chance collision? She deserves the Nobel Peace Prize."
Georg scoffed, but with good humor. He knew that what Max was saying was honest; he'd been a beast in the past few years, a tortured soul hiding behind a stone façade. And it hadn't been until today, and Maria, that he'd felt himself come…alive again, in some way.
"I need your honest opinion, Max: Am I doing the right thing?"
"By taking Maria out to dinner, you mean?"
"Yes. After all, I am only here for a week. Would it be cruel to pursue this if there is such a time limit."
"Georg, like I said, it's taken three years and a chance encounter to bring you alive again. That's not something you should just pass by. And she seems to feel the same for you. By the way you describe her, she sounds as if she is running from something too, and is just as haunted as you. This could be very good for the both of you. She knows how long you're there for, right?"
"And still she agreed to dinner, which means you should give her some credit. If she can be brave, so can you."
Georg was silent for a minute, mulling all of this over. "Max, as eccentric and mooching as you are, it is no coincidence that Shakespeare made all of his fools the voice of reason in each of his plays."
Max laughed. "Keep in touch, Georg, all right?"
"I will, and please don't tell anybody."
"Georg, I may love gossip, but you know me better than that."
"Yes, I do. Talk to you later, Max."
"Good luck, my friend."
Georg hung up and knew that he would spend the next twenty-three or so hours thinking of the mysterious Maria.
Twelve minutes after leaving the Café de Flore, Maria entered her small but comfortable apartment and locked the door behind her. She leaned against the door for a few minutes, letting all that had happened today wash over her. She still could not get over the shock, and she wasn't sure what shocked her the most: the fact she had collided with this man from Austria, the fact that she was somehow drawn to him, the fact that he enjoyed her company, the fact that they could talk so easily to each other, or the fact that they were going on a date tomorrow night.
She felt excitement and nervousness well up inside her, and decided to call Therese right away, as she had promised to do. So she picked up her mail and went into her bedroom. Once she was settled on the bed, she dialed the phone.
"Therese, it's me."
"Maria! How did it go, my friend?"
Smiling, Maria told Therese the story of their meeting. Therese, being a very good listener, never interrupted. Only when Maria was finished with the story did she speak. "Oh, my goodness, Maria!" she said, her quiet voice illuminated with excitement. "A date! That's wonderful news! I'm so happy you're letting yourself do this. But you're going to have to be prepared for Adele and Nicole tomorrow."
"Oh, I know," said Maria, who was beginning to absently shuffle through her mail. "They will want me to leave nothing untold and will have plenty of advice for me. And, quite honestly, because this is all very new to me, I will probably welcome anything they tell me." One letter caught her attention, and she immediately opened it and pulled out the letter. "Will you help me translate what advice to actually take to heart?"
"You know I will, Maria."
"And I'll be asking for your own adv…advice…too…" Maria's voice drifted as she read the letter she had just opened. She felt as if her heart was stopping.
Therese, hearing her silence and heavy breathing, said with slight alarm, "Maria, what is it? What's wrong?"
"I…I'll see you tomorrow all right? I…I need to be alone right now." Without waiting for Therese to object, Maria gently hung up the phone, her tear-filled eyes glued to the letter that disproved what she realized to be the greatest lie one had ever told her.
A/N: Not what you expected, huh? Good, and I hope you enjoy it! Because these parts are longer than I usually write, don't expect my updates to be super-quick, but I will be working on it steadily. Please leave a review and tell me what you think!