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Staatsoper, Vienna

When Heinz got home, his mother was waiting for him with his aunt Flora. His mother flung her arms out and said, "Heinz, your aunt Flora!" His mother was always very dramatic. Even her name was dramatic: Eugenie. You could not say that word without thinking of elegance, stature, and bright splashes of color. She always tied back her long hair with multi-colored head scarves and wore flowing dresses. Every word she said seemed like she was making a pronouncement. And she loved to make pronouncements. She was the first lady to own an automobile license, and boy did she use it. The article was still up on the wall. It told all about how she had been in the cross-country road race complete with obstacles. She even won a big trophy for it. Even in her car she looked elegant. She believed a lady should walk with one foot in front of the other, and when she walked, she had a certain air around her that made you believe she was royalty.
Flora came up to him. "Heinz!" she exclaimed, "I swear you get taller every day! Come, give me a hug. I was just telling your mother that I was talking to Alice". Alice was Flora's friend. They talked a lot. She had a niece about his age too. She was supposed to be really pretty. Just thinking of her made him start to turn red. Flora was continuing: "I wanted to take you to the Staatsoper tomorrow. That baritone Alexander Sved is going to be singing". Heinz beamed. He loved the going to the opera and went every chance he could get. He wondered if Flora's niece would be going too.


* * *


Ilse smoothed her dress. Even if they were in standing room only, she liked to look dressed up. Maybe she would get a chance to see Alexander after the show! She always waited for him at the stage door. Alexander Sved Last time she had gone to see him, he had taken her hand, put it in his coat pocket, and whispered to her with a smile that melted her to a puddle on the ground, "I sang only for you tonight". But then his wife had come. Ilse and the rest of the girls hated her, they were so jealous. She did not deserve to be married to such a wonderful man, they all felt. She was ugly. She had glasses at least a mile thick, and that's why they called her "Brillenschange". "Oh no, let's get out of here!"they had whispered to each other. "The Glasses-Snake is here!"
Just then, she saw Flora waving enthusiastically and walking up join Ilse and her mother. Oh, she had that boy with her. How tall and gangly he looks! thought Ilse.
"Alice, servus! And Ilse, hello sweetheart! Ilse, have you met my nephew, Heinz yet?" Heinz turned bright red. He was wearing a jacket with stylish elbow patches and carrying an old felt hat. The poor boy can't even talk he's so shy! Ilse thought to herself. She straightened up and held out her hand to him. "Hello, Heinz, nice to meet you," she said. He shook her hand but didn't say anything.
Alice and Flora were talking about the singers.
"Do you like Alexander Sved?" Heinz turned to Ilse suddenly and asked.
"Oh, yes!" Ilse nodded enthusiastically. "He's my very favorite."
"He's the one all the girls call bully, isn't he."
"That's right. All my friends are in love with him too."
"Do you like any movie stars?"
"Oh, I love a lot of them; Marta Eggerth, Paula Wessely, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Ronald Coleman, and Leslie Howard." Before they could say any more, the lights dimmed and the opera began.

Marta Eggerth Marlene Dietrich Greta Garbo
Marta Eggerth Marlene Dietrich Greta Garbo


That night, after they were all home, Mutti asked Ilse what she thought of Heinz.
"Oh, he seems like a nice boy", Ilse said.
"Is that all?"
"Mutti! He's so shy and he cant even say anything without turning red."
"I think he is very sweet, and I hope he will come to more operas with us."
"Oh Mutti."


* * *


Heinz was standing outside the Opera. He always stood in the same spot and watched Ilse. Since he had met her, he went to the opera much more often to try and see her. She was standing in the standing room line with The Competitor. The Competitor was named Hans Gruenwald, and he was the nephew of a principal singer. Heinz saw them together often, and didn't dare go near Ilse while Hans was around. If Ilse was interested in such a solid, important boy, why on earth would she ever even look at him? He shifted the package under his arm in frustration, and wished that he had not brought it.


* * *

Ilse was standing in her usual spot during intermission. Hans had gone off somewhere, and since neither Mutti nor Georg had come along, she was alone. Then she noticed Heinz standing nearby.
"Oh, hello!" she said to him.
"Hi. I thought you would come tonight", he said. Ilse noticed a small package wrapped in brown paper that he was holding.
"What's that", she asked him. He turned red, as usual.
"Well, it's actually for you", he said. Ilse was surprised. Whatever could it be? He held it out to her and she took it from him.
"May I open it now?" she asked him.
"Of course", he replied. "It's not much, I just thought you might enjoy it." Ilse unwrapped the package, and inside she was enormously surprised to find a photograph of Alexander Sved!
"Oh!" she gasped, looking at it. "Oh, it's wonderful, thank you so much!" Heinz turned red and smiled.
"I'm glad you like it. I remember that you said you liked him".

"Well that's a nice little picture, isn't it!" said a voice behind them, startling them both so much that they jumped. They both looked up to see Hans grinning at them.
"Well, I'm glad you like it", Heinz said to Ilse. "I guess I'll go back now, intermisssion's almost over."
"OK", she replied. "See you later". She admired the picture once more, and then went to watch the rest of the opera with Hans.

After the opera, Hans offered to walk Ilse home. He was very polite, and helped Ilse put on her jacket. As they were going out the door, Ilse noticed Heinz walking right next to them. "Oh, hello", she said.
"Hello", he replied. He followed them out to the street. Ilse expected him to turn the other way, but he didn't. He crossed the street, and then glancing at Ilse and the boy, started to walk exactly opposite him. Ilse pretended not to notice and turned to her escort.

Heinz watched Ilse and that other boy walking together. He had spent more time that evening watching her than watching the opera. How he wished he had had the nerve to go up to her and ask to walk her home! All he could do was to follow them, watching everything. He knew Ilse was pretending not to notice him. She seemed to be in a particularly good mood tonight. He felt like every laugh and every flounce of her dress was just for him.

Mutti greeted her at the door. "Well, don't you look happy. Wasn't that Heinz on the other side of the street? You naughty girl, why didn't you invite the boy in? You treat him so cruelly, and he is such a sweet boy. You should really make the effort to get to know him better."
"I'm the lady and he is the gentleman, I think he should make the effort."
"You little vixen, you! You just enjoy the attention don't you". Ilse blushed. Mutti could read her like a book.

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