Maria was back at the convent already. Had I hoped her situation with the Von Trapp family would have been a success? Of course. Was I surprised that it wasn’t? How do you solve a problem like Maria? I don’t mean to be rhetorical.
I invited her to sit. “Maria, tell me what happened.”
“I was frightened,” she said, revealing great humility. She was in her habit, and doing her best to appear solemn, yet her blonde fringe lay across her forehead, peeking out through the serre-tête. A bit cheeky, I thought.
“Frightened?” I said. “Were they unkind to you?”
The wrinkle between her brows deepened. “Oh, no, Reverend Mother! No, I was confused. I felt . . . I’ve never felt that way before. I couldn’t stay. I knew that here, I’d be away from it. I’d be safe.”
“Maria, our abbey is not to be used as an escape. What is it you can’t face?”
“I can’t face him again.” Maria buried her face in her hands, her blush unmistakable.
“Him? Captain Von Trapp?” She nodded behind her hands. “Are you in love with him?”
“I don’t know!” Maria said, leaving her chair to pace about the room. I admired her sense of drama. “The Baroness said I was. She said that he was in love with me.”
“Who is the Baroness?”
“The Captain’s fiancée. He proposed to her last week.”
“He proposed only last week, but he says he’s in love with you?”
“Oh,” and here, Maria clasped her hands together and gazed heavenward, “When we danced together, I felt I was dancing on a cloud. I could scarcely breathe. And he—”
“I felt his desire for me.”
“I could feel it.”
“You know, it.“
Now it was my turn to get up and pace. Here was a girl on the cusp of womanhood, setting all her trust in God’s hands, in my hands. The words I uttered next could change the course of destiny.
“Can you describe it?” I said.
“Oh, Reverend Mother, what good would that do?”
“But did it seem….” and here I employed my fingers as air quotes, “righteous?”
“Yes, but I pledged my life to God. I pledged my life to His service.”
“Tell me again how old you are?”
“I am eighteen, going on nineteen, Reverend Mother.”
“And how old is the Captain?”
“You must go back!”
“My daughter, if you love this man, it doesn’t mean you love God less.”
“But the Baroness, the engagement, seven children—!”
“Never mind about all that. You must find out!”
“Find out what? I’m an employee in his household, just a nun with a poor but honorable upbringing. I’m ready to take my vows! Reverend Mother, should you really be giving me this advice?”
“Maria, these walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them.”
“But what about … it? Must I face… it?”
Just then, music began to swell. It was time for my big number.