Chapter 1: Maria's Secret Friend
Maria awoke to the sound of rain beating against the windows. She'd been dreaming she was a girl again, wandering through a foggy green mountain meadow. But she knew, instantly, that she wasn't waking up in the cramped loft in her uncle's cabin, or in her dormitory at Nonnberg. She was far too warm and comfortable in a vast bed, surrounded by crisp sheets and snuggled under a feather-light duvet.
No, she thought, stretching luxuriously and wiggling her toes, I am Maria von Trapp. I am a Baroness, she thought, stifling a giggle. I am a wife and mother. I am on my honeymoon in Paris, in a beautiful suite in an elegant hotel. She glanced over at the sleeping form next to her. Although his back was to her, his even breathing and solid form were reassuringly real. After months of innocent daydreaming about her Captain – and more shameful dreams at night – Maria could still hardly believe everything that had happened to her in just a few short months. She still asked herself, frequently, Can this be happening to me?
As if seeking further reassurance, she slid her hand, with its slim gold ring, out from under the covers and smiled at it, satisfied. She looked around the bedroom for a moment; it was barely lit by a small lamp left burning in the dressing room, but she could make out the dark wood and heavy draperies, the elegant furnishings clustered around a small fireplace, her nightclothes pooled on the floor next to the bed where he had impatiently tossed them hours before.
Maria had a little game she liked the play with herself. It had started during the long weeks of their engagement, when she began pretending that she could have a little chat, whenever she wished, with her former self, that she could magically show Maria-the-postulant what the future held for her.
She was embarrassed to have made herself the kind of invisible friend that even Gretl had outgrown, but she had no mother or sisters, and although she still made occasional trips back to the Abbey, she could hardly confide in the girls who had been her fellow postulants. And Maria needed to confide in someone as she tried to master the strange new world of the Austrian aristocracy.
Somehow, it bolstered Maria's confidence to explain her strange new life to Maria-the-postulant. See, this is the way you ask the cook to change the luncheon menu for the children, to make it more nourishing. You ask her politely, but firmly, too, without seeking her approval, just as Georg recommended.
And then there were the lessons she did not tell Georg about, but saved only for her private chats with Maria-the-postulant: This is the way you stand your ground with a condescending salesperson in a dress shop when you are shopping for your trousseau. This is how you hold your head high in church when you know the neighbors are gossiping, making something dirty out of the love your Captain has for you.
Lying next to her sleeping husband, Maria reviewed the honeymoon so far with Maria-the-postulant. This is how it feels to live with a man, she explained. To watch him shave, to know that he is wearing the brown tie because you said you favored it. To have him encourage you to order vichyssoise because he knows you will like it, and to share a smile about the stuffy waiter without needing to exchange a word. And this is what it is like to know that any time you wish, you can take his hand, you can put your arms around him, you can kiss him.
Maria had not actually had much opportunity to do those last few things right up until her wedding day – she and Georg were rarely left alone for very long. When they were alone, his passionate kisses, and the lovely things he whispered to her, left feeling only slightly bashful, hungry for more of his touch, curious about what came next, and skeptical about the ominous warnings whispered by the women in Georg's social circles about the ordeal facing her on their wedding night. If married love was so unpleasant, she'd reasoned, why was everyone so intent on preventing them from experiencing it prematurely?
And in the end, it had been so easy. Georg was a patient teacher, and I am an eager pupil, she acknowledged, feeling her cheeks redden, closing her eyes as though too shy to confront her own thoughts.
People gave me a lot of advice when they learned I was going to be married, she thought. They told me how to run a household, what to wear, how to be a mother to stepchildren. But, she confided in Maria the postulant, now that she was beginning to understand it herself, no one can tell you about . . . about what really brings a husband and wife together. How he knows just the right way to touch you, the words to whisper in your ear, how to coax your body to do things you never imagined . . . and how quickly you learn where he is most sensitive, the way his breathing changes at the moment when there is no going back . . .
His voice broke through her thoughts, and she looked up to see Georg, awake now, and propped on his elbow, looking at her curiously. "Whatever are you thinking, Fraulein?"
"Nothing," she said, embarrassed. Trying to change the subject, she said, brightly, "I'm hungry! Shall we order breakfast?"
"Maria, darling, it is four o'clock in the morning, and moreover, you know that you are powerless to resist an order from me, and I am ordering you to explain to me that most intriguing little grin I discovered on your lovely face when I awoke. It looked like you were having quite a conversation with someone."
She was unable to refuse him. "Very well, then," she confessed. "It's just a little game I play sometimes with myself, I talk to the old Maria, I mean, the one that I was at Nonnberg before . . . before I came to the villa, I mean the first time. Oooh, there has been so much new in my life, so much to learn, and no one I can really talk to about it, I suppose I just got in the habit of talking to someone who would, oh, I don't know . . . "
Georg looked grave. "Maria," he said, "you know, don't you, that you can tell me anything? I do not want you to feel, ever, that you cannot show your truest self to me. After all, you were wise enough to see right through me when we met, and brave enough to call me on my behavior. I will never forget that, and I will also never forget that it was I who dragged you off your path on life, and into a life full of noisy children, quarreling servants, and a decaying aristocracy. The least I can do is to hear your troubles."
"Moreover, Fraulein," he went on, a dangerous twinkle in his eye, "are you sure it's quite proper for you to be confiding in a postulant, even an imaginary one? Surely, no good can come of her learning the secrets of married life. And I believe there secrets you should not be so eager to share!"
"Like what?" she smiled, brushing an errant lock of hair from his eyes.
"That you eat not one, but two croissants for breakfast every day?" he teased. She rolled her eyes.
"That you are already a wonderful mother to seven children" – she beamed – "and that I hope, before very long, to make you a mother to even more?" She ducked her head, suddenly shy, but he went on, lightening the mood.
Georg went on. "Have you told your friend about the way you dispatched that amorous fellow in our opera box last week? The one who could not take his eyes off of you in your evening dress?" His finger traced where the neckline of that dress had been, until she slapped it away,
"You know perfectly well that we were alone in that box, Georg. The only fellow misbehaving was you!"
His eyes darkened. "And," he went on, his voice still careless and lazy, but belied by the intensity of his gaze and the burning touch of his fingers trailing along her arm, ". . . surely you would not tell your friend that your husband just cannot keep his hands off of you?" He moved closer to her, never taking his eyes from hers.
Maria frowned for a moment. Perhaps she could confide in him, after all, tell him about what was really bothering her, ask him for reassurance? She opened her mouth to say something, but then he was looming over her, kissing her frown away one moment, whispering into her ear the next. She felt herself being pulled under, and then, for a long time, she thought of nothing at all.
A/N: This story benefited hugely from ideas, inspiration and support by the Facebook TSOM Fan Fiction group (PM me if you want to know more), and from the many lovely stories on this site. I don't own the Sound of Music or anything about it. Future chapters of this story are not going to be any more explicit than this one was, but there will be even more adult situations and themes, so that the rating may change. So if you like what you're reading, you might want to follow it – otherwise the rest of the story will be harder to find!