A/N: this is my first fanfic. I thank the wonderful writers on this site for inspiring me. I hope you will review, but also that you will read my profile and learn more about why I wrote this piece and what else is coming. I realize the Anschluss was in March , but if the autumn was good enough for Robert Wise, it is good enough for me. I don't own The Sound of Music or anything about it.
That September, as Parisians returned from their summer break, they found their city crowded with tourists, who flooded the shops, museums, theatres, restaurants and streets. It was as though all of Europe was desperate to squeeze in one more holiday before the storm looming on the horizon broke. Just a few blocks from the throngs on the Champs-Elysees, but feeling much farther away, was a small square, richly shaded by chestnut trees, its stone benches warmed by the autumn sun and the air filled with the music of water splashing in a fountain. At one end of the square was a tiny, elegant café, with only a few tables. It was frequented mostly by residents of the neighborhood, who loved it for its exquisite pastry and coffee, its unusual wine list, and exceptional service. But almost every afternoon during that magical September, a tourist couple appeared at the square's edge, an hour or two before sunset, and seated themselves at the café.
At first glance, there was nothing especially remarkable about this couple, although they were handsome enough. They seemed to speak German, although he spoke fluent English and French as well, if the situation required it. They would order coffee and perhaps share a slice of tarte tatin (although she was clearly the one with the sweet tooth, sneaking extra bites when he was not looking). He had a glass of wine every once in a while. Sometimes, he read the paper while she wrote postcards. Once, she showed him the purchases she was carrying in a large shopping bag, books and toys for boys and girls of many different ages (although how could such a young woman have so many children?) But mostly, they talked, for an hour or two, until sunset when they departed. Somehow, there was something about this couple that left a lingering impression on anyone who observed them for more than a moment or two.
She stood out against the gray stone of the quiet square, with her gleaming cap of reddish blonde hair shining in the sun. She had a vital quality about her – she positively glowed with energy and spirit, looking about with lively interest, occasionally rising from her seat to turn, full circle, and take in the scene around her. There was nothing the least bit artificial about her; she was totally natural in demeanor and even the way she was dressed: simply and modestly, although on closer examination, her clothing was beautifully tailored and made of the finest materials. Her face was completely transparent; one could tell from her clear blue gaze exactly what she was thinking and feeling, whether she was smiling her thanks at the waiter, impudently teasing her companion or laughing at something he'd said, questioning him intently, or earnestly explaining something to him . During their first visits, she was especially animated, but would quickly fall into a shy silence if someone addressed her in French, when she would send a pleading look her companion's way. As the weeks went by, she became, perhaps, slightly more polished, her exuberance muted, but she also began to speak a few words of French, with growing confidence, especially to any young child passing by their table.
He was harder to read, but at the same time, more intriguing. He was perhaps twenty years her senior, but no less attractive. It took a while to make sense of him: a patrician, reserved demeanor, confident attitude and impeccable, if formal, dress, combined with his penetrating gaze and powerful build, left the impression that behind this man's restrained exterior lay enormous reserves of power and passion. While he was polite to the waiter or anyone else who approached them, responding in flawless French, he did not invite intimacy. If she radiated joyful energy in every direction, he was watchful, and almost entirely focused on her. He would occasionally grow remote, looking past her, into the distance, his expression turning sad for a moment or two. But inevitably, then, he relaxed, as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, as though he were reassured about something, and his attention returned to her. He spoke less often than she, always thoughtfully and with authority. At times, he lifted an eyebrow or sent a wink or an enigmatic half-smile her way. That might be the only sign that he was teasing her or laughing at her jokes. But mostly, he regarded her: intently, frequently with amusement and warmth, sometimes tenderly or reassuringly, and sometimes so ardently that he seemed almost frightening.
Interestingly, although clearly completely absorbed in each other, the couple almost never touched. He might put a protective hand on her back as he guided her across the square. She might swat at his arm in mock outrage, or touch his hand when his face got the sad, faraway look, but that was all. During the weeks they visited the café, there was only one occasion when their intimacy became apparent. That day, about a half-hour after their arrival, she turned to him, smilingly pointing toward a squirrel shaking himself dry after an unexpected dip in the fountain, as though it had prompted some memory they might share. Her smile faded quickly when she saw him staring at her, his eyes dark with unmistakable passion. An almost visible spark passed between them. She looked down, blushing furiously. He reached for his wallet, and without waiting for the check, dropped a few bills on the table. Extending his hand to her, her eyes never leaving his face, he led her away from the square.
Things changed during their last few visits. He read one and then another newspaper, his face increasingly troubled, occasionally even resting his head in his hand as though in despair. He spoke at greater length while she listened attentively, their faces displaying all at once fear, sadness and resolve. More often than before, she would reach out to clasp his hand reassuringly. Their moments of lightness and amusement seemed fewer every day until they vanished entirely, although they were no less attentive to each other than before. The last time they came to the café, he carried an overnight satchel and they were dressed for traveling: he in a jaunty sport coat that belied his grave face, and she, solemn, in a lovely suit the color of golden autumn leaves. They drank one last cup of coffee together and then, arm-in-arm, walked away from the square and into their future, together.