1. Much Better
My mother approved of my choice and only allowed young gentle-Hobbits of good standing to call upon me. Some of the richest and most handsome young Hobbits came to call on me all through my tweens. I was flattered and came to enjoy all the attention that was being paid to me.
And then I met the Hobbit of my dreams.
I had known him most of my life, but I never saw him as anything but a lad who enjoyed to pick on me. At the time, I just thought he was an annoyance, a troublemaker. He and his cousin were always causing all sorts of mischief, making everyone watch their backs when the two of them were around. Whenever they were in an area together, folks knew that trouble would soon follow.
The summer when I was twenty-seven, the disastrous duo blew into town, raising an almost constant ruckus. The anxiety level of the townsfolk was definitely higher than I had ever seen it before. For my part, I tried to go about with my life as normally as I could and not allow their antics to disrupt my life.
I guess that's why they decided that I would be the perfect target for one of their numerous pranks.
It was a stormy day when they decided to strike. The rain had been pouring down for hours and the thunder and lightning had just started when they showed up on our doorstep, soaked to the bone and shivering. They looked absolutely wretched, so I let them come in and sit in front of the fire, wrapped in blankets, while I warmed some tea for them.
I should have known better, but I wasn't thinking. They were left alone in the parlor for at least five minutes while I was waiting in the kitchen for the tea to warm. They had plenty of time to work unnoticed.
As I was arranging the tea kettle and three cups on a tray, three successive boom resounded throughout the hole, making me jump and my ears ring. As soon as I regained my wits, I ran to the parlor to see if my guests were unharmed or hurt. It hadn't even occurred to me that they might have caused the commotion.
When I reached the entrance to the parlor, I stopped short, appalled at the sight in front of me. A burning firecracker was on my mother's heirloom rug, charring it and turning it black. My 'guests' were trying to stamp the flames out before they spread to something else. I just stood there as tears began to well up in my eyes, my mouth agape in shock.
I must have cried out because they both looked up from their work. Surprise, guilt, and shame were written all over their faces. They looked like a deer caught in an archer's sights or maybe a mortally wounded coney.
'How could you?' I demanded quietly before a sob escaped my throat. Unable to cry in front of them, I turned and ran down the hall towards the front door and the freedom available to me outside. I needed to get away.
I distantly heard them call out to me as I threw the door open and dashed outside, onto the road. I turned and ran aimlessly for seemingly forever until I came to a small clump of trees. Exhausted, I slumped down at the foot of one and cried. The trees offered little protection from the elements and soon I was soaked and shivering, the rain mingling with the tears upon my face. I just brought my knees to my chest and pulled my skirt tight against my legs, trying to keep warm.
I heard my name being called and tried to sink into the shadows and disappear from the lad searching for me. I thought I had succeeded until he looked right at me and I knew that my light blue dress had been spotted against the dark brown of the tree trunk behind me.
He immediately came over and sat in front of me, taking my numb hands into his own semi-warm ones. As he rubbed warmth back into my hands, he started apologizing profusely. He said that he and his cousin had meant no harm. They had only wanted to scare me. The hadn't wanted to set the rug on fire. It had been an accident.
'My mother left me that rug when she died last winter,' I told him through a lump in my throat. 'It's all that I have left of her, and you and your cousin destroyed it in your immaturity.'
Silently, he stood, then pulled me to my feet and into a strong embrace. He whispered quiet apologies into my hair as my body shook from sobs and the cold. After a moment, he pulled back slightly, put his hands on either side of my face, and apologized, sincerity in his voice and tears in his eyes.
It was in that moment that I realized that he was more than just a troublemaker and an annoyance, that he had a serious side also. It was then that I realized that I loved him. Over the years, I had fallen in love with his adventurous, playful side, and now I was falling in love with the rest of him. And I could tell that he was falling in love with me also.
Now, many years later, I am standing in the exact same spot as I did on that day, watching as he and his cousin ride up the road towards town. He's been gone a year now and my excitement keeps growing as he rides ever closer and closer. Now he's almost to me and I cannot contain myself any longer. I run into the road in front of him and stop, my hair and skirt blowing in the wind.
His eyes light up as he sees me and before I know it, he's jumped from his pony and is swinging me around in his arms. I'm laughing with pure joy as I forget for one moment all of the troubles of the past year. In his arms, I feel as if I have no troubles at all in the world.
He sets me down and I notice for the first time how tall he's gotten. He always was taller than me, but now, he positively towers over me, his form almost completely blocking the setting sun behind him. His now large hands completely engulf my own smaller ones.
'My, how you've grown,' I comment with a smile, looking him up and down once.
A light blush tints his cheeks as an amused twinkle enters his eyes. He tells me that he'll explain it all later and then leads me over to his pony and helps me to mount him. After a second, he climbs up behind me and puts his arms around me, holding the reins against my stomach.
As we ride off, his cousin comes up beside us and greets me. He's gotten taller, also, I notice. Conversationally, he asks me how I'm doing.
'Better,' I reply, leaning back against Meriadoc's chest, a content smile crossing my face. 'Much better.'
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.