The room was warm, the air so heavy he could barely draw a breath. All summer, he had struggled to cling to the plans he had made for himself and for the people he loved. He was exhausted from the effort, all mental discipline lost, his thoughts scattering in a million directions all at once.
He was still getting used to life without bottomless grief and anger, his constant companions for years. He wanted to fill the space they left behind with hope, with purpose, but the world around him seemed dark and dangerous.
He needed to feel the air and sky around him. Driven by an urgent instinct, without stopping to excuse himself to his company, he made his way out onto the balcony. The night sky stretched out over the lake, the moon turning everything silver, and the stars shining reassuringly. A cool breeze rushed to meet his face.
In the years he'd spent at sea, he had always made his best decisions just like this – alone, with only the sky, the water and the land to guide him.
Once again, he was at a turning point, as he had been so many times before, whether at battle at sea, or to protect the people he loved. There were truths to be acknowledged, decisions to be made, plans to formulate.
Even a badly broken heart mends. I will miss her every day of my life, but I am ready to lay her to rest.
I have promised to marry I woman I do not love, and cannot be the mother my children need.
There is another who made us a family again. I admire her spirit, her determination, her many gifts, I am curiously touched by her vulnerability and – if I am honest with myself – I have desired her.
Suddenly, she appeared, like a ghost. He thought of the sailors' legends, the stories of sprites who appear over the bow and try to lead their ships astray. But she did not look like she intended evil, or even mischief. She looked . . . bereft. Lost.
She had promised herself to God, but he had lived long enough to recognize the feelings stirring within her, even if she could not. He thought back to the night they had danced together: the way she felt in his arms, how easily they moved together, the tender feelings that welled up in him when she broke away, breathless and blushing. Struggling to stay in control, for the rest of the evening he had pushed her away, cruelly, refusing to meet her eyes, speaking to her casually as if to deny what had passed between them.
He had not wanted to disrupt – everything: her life, his plans for the future. He had set a course at the beginning of the summer, a course he was certain was best for himself and his family, and then struggled against the winds that had blown him off course for weeks.
And what had come of it? She had suffered. It was torture for him to watch her suffer – he thought he might never forget the haunting image of her wandering, lost, by the lake, every vestige of joy and spirit drained away. And then, of course, he realized: he had it within his power to end her suffering. He wanted to end her suffering, as though it were the most meaningful, most urgent obligation he could take on. Not because he felt guilty for how he had treated her, although he did. But because, suddenly, he cared more about making her happy than he had cared about anything, not for a long time.
He had only to be willing to change course. He knew that if he changed course now, it would hurt someone who had done nothing to deserve it. He knew there were risks. There was a risk that, in the end, they would both reject him. There was the backlash to be expected from the people around him if he followed his heart. But he knew he would regret it if he did not take this chance.
His decision was made.
A/N: this story was inspired by a conversation on our TSOM proboards forum - if you're not a member, I hope you'll PM me to find out more. I'm working on a longer, complicated story, and reviews of this one will inspire me! Special thanks to lemacd for suggesting ways to make it better. I don't own the Sound of Music or anything about it.