6. Stepping Over the Threshold
The same day, just before sunset, June 25, Afterlithe.
When Frodo reached the step to Rosamunda’s cottage his high heart deserted him. He faltered and stopped. As he stared at the open doorway, his heart began to hammer. Every nerve thrummed as if in fearful anticipation. This was ridiculous! What did he think he might see? Possibilities crowded his mind: Rosa angry, Rosa happy, Rosa bored, Rosa gone – even Rosa naked (which was silly). Frodo roused himself. By an act of will he gained the threshold, took a breath, and looked in.
He almost laughed out loud, so great was his relief. How foolish he had been. Peering across the parlour he could see Rosamunda quite plainly. She was not naked but dressed as usual, labouring at her kitchen table, quite absorbed in the homely tasks beneath her hands. He stepped inside. The delicious smell of bread freshly baked wafted up to meet him and he breathed it in, heady and familiar. Crossing the floor on silent feet, he looked about him as he went. He wondered how Rosamunda could see to work in such an ill lit space. Light spilled in through the entryway behind him but the parlour windows were small. The room’s remotest recesses were exceedingly dim. In the kitchen the light was better. Its eastward-looking window was much larger. It glowed with the colours of the coming twilight like a great round of indigo and lapis.
Frodo hung back in the archway, watching her as she worked, bathed in the soft light. Her dark hands and forearms, brown from the sun were dusted and speckled with flour. Strands of hair escaping from pins wafted and drifted with her movements. She hummed a little tune.
Frodo took another step then hesitated.
He spoke softly, so as not to startle her. She looked up and smiled. At the sight of it, his last fears drained away. However, the part that wasn’t fear remained. His heart still beat too fast, and his skin prickled all over. His breeches seemed confining.
“There you are!” she said, spreading a cloth over a plate of sweet biscuits. “I am just finishing up. Come and see,” she invited with a smile still warmer.
By a fresh act of will, Frodo made himself go and stand beside her. From just behind her, he could watch her hands, the hands he loved to watch. He was definitely taller than she, now; yes. Thus unobserved, he could not help eying the place where her pulse jumped, just at the angle of her throat. He thought he could hear her blood coursing through her veins. As he listened to her breathing, his eyes dropped to the swell of her bodice where her breasts rose and fell.
“Would you like to help?” she asked, baring a rind of cheese to cut. “You could slice some bread.”
At the other end of the table, new loaves cooled on wooden racks. Frodo reached for a knife but checked himself when he noticed his right hand. It was stained with bruised grass. He began to blush.
“I think I had better wash, first,” he mumbled. Thankfully, Rosamunda’s attention was upon her task. She did not see his colour bloom and fade.
“Over there – the big kettle,” she said, glancing over her shoulder towards a large pot simmering on the stove. “There is wash water in there.”
Next to the stove was a long sideboard with a washbasin standing ready, a stack of linens, a bar of soap, and a flagon of oil for the skin. Frodo ladled some steaming water into the basin then added some cold from the bucket. He laved his hands, turning the soap between his palms, working up a rich lather. As his fingers slithered and slipped they looked to him like pairs of legs, crossing and twining. His bath was coming to nothing, he thought to himself, dashing himself with cold water. He was blotting his face with a towel when he heard Rosamunda chuckle.
“Are you coming back?” he heard her say with amusement.
Frodo turned to see Rosamunda bending over the table, leaning her weight into the cut – the cheese was very firm. As she bent, the gathers of her skirt smoothed closely over the rounds of her buttocks. The folds that hung suspended swung and swayed as she wielded the knife vigorously. Each strike of the blade against the board sent a shiver through the cloth – and through Frodo.
He had not realised he was staring until Rosamunda interrupted his reverie, casting an inquiring glance over her shoulder (which gave her back a very pretty twist).
“Well?” she said.
This would never do. He must get a better grip.
“Sorry,” he said. “I am just coming.”
“This one will do,” she said, sliding the biggest loaf towards him.
He cut it carefully, making very even slices, for the discipline.
“Are you hungry?” she asked, arranging the slices of cheese on a plate. “I thought I would make us something to eat. It was too difficult to just sit and fret.” She laid a cloth over it. “It was better,” she added, “once I was busy.”
Had she been nervous, too? Frodo had never wondered if she might.
“Well, actually, I have already eaten …” he began.
Rosamunda was spooning jam from a crock into a bowl. “Well, so have I,” she said with a laugh, “and, I have been snacking ever since!” Popping the spoon into her mouth she suckled off the last bit. Frodo watched, riveted as she pulled it out and gave her lips an appreciative smack. She must have caught his hungry look for she glanced away, dropping the spoon as if it were hot. Her cheeks flamed when she raised her eyes again and said, “I thought we might be hungry – later.”
Frodo could have fallen upon her there and then but she deflected him, giving him further instructions. While he sliced ham she lifted rounds of butter onto a dish. They covered it all with cloths.
“And that,” she said with a cheerfulness that seemed to him a little strained, “should be that!”
With nothing left for her to do, Rosamunda turned and leaned one hip against the table edge. With the back of her hand, she pushed away some strands of escaping hair.
Frodo still stood very close but did not move.
She swallowed hard. Dropping her eyes to the back of her hand, still held out before her, she stared at it. It was white with flour.
White on brown, Frodo saw.
“Is my face all floury, then?” she asked, lifting her face for him to inspect. Indeed, there was a white smear across her cheekbone, angling up towards her temple.
“Here, I can get it, Rosa,” Frodo said, stepping closer. Reflexively he licked his thumb, steadied his hand on the side of her face and drew it across the mark, erasing it under his touch.
The shudder Frodo felt beneath his hand was unmistakable. Slipping his fingers into her hair, he slid his other arm around her waist and drew her to him. There was no need to pull her close for already she was melting into his embrace, yielding completely to the press of his hand against her back.
As he fitted his lips to hers, Frodo gave himself up to her warmth and scent as if he might drown in it. She kissed him back and as she did, Frodo felt himself falling over a precipice – into the unknown yet into what was utterly familiar. Rosamunda’s hands were twined around his neck, and her fingers were gripping the hair at his nape as if she were falling, too. Deeper and deeper Frodo fell into her kiss until he landed as if into a luxurious featherbed, whose sheets and pillows only wanted to be plumped and smoothed by the sweep and flick of his tongue.
So engrossed was he Frodo did not notice he was leaning forward, bending Rosamunda over the table. As they leaned, their combined weight dislodged the heavy table’s legs. It juddered against the flags with a rattle and clatter of dishes and knives that startled them both. Frodo released her from the kiss and stared. Rosamunda returned his stare, her dark eyes turned to jet. Her bodice lifted in heaves and her hair was coming down, hairpins winking among the fallen strands. Chafed to ruddiness, her lips were stung full and her brown cheeks glowed russet.
Frodo guessed his own appearance only mirrored hers. His cheeks blazed and he saw that his wrists shimmered with damp. Then he noticed the hanks of skirt he clutched in his hands. He had been completely unaware he had them pulled up, so afire was he to reach her nakedness beneath.
But as he stood clasping the handfuls of fabric, Rosamunda seized his wrist. “No, Frodo!” she told him in a voice low and urgent. “Not like this!”
Frodo’s heart seized in his chest. What had he done? Rosamunda must have seen his panic for she drew him to her for a reassuring kiss.
“I only meant,” she told him breathlessly when she pulled her lips away, “Not here – in the bed.”
It was over so quickly Frodo never got a chance to see Rosamunda naked, as he had so longed to do. They barely had made it to her bed. Spent and panting atop her, Frodo was both ecstatic and ashamed. It had been glorious but surely any hobbit woman expected better.
He had not even been able to get his clothes off. First his fingers had tangled in the strap of his belt. And although he had got his breeches off most of the way (with her help), his shirt was still half on, bunched uncomfortably under his armpits. His waistcoat was the only thing he had managed to get completely off; it lay on the floor where he had tossed it. As for Rosamunda’s clothes, he had done even worse. Although he had started to unfasten her bodice, he never had got past the first few buttons. He would have tried to hold off, really he would have, had she not been so eager herself, urging her skirts up and pulling him down and down until he had consummated his ardour so precipitously.
Afterwards she had wrapped her arms and legs about him and showered him with kisses, crooning tenderly into his ear. Only now could he remember it, so transported had he been by the throes of his long-awaited climax. Although his remorse was not abject, tempered as it was by the absolution already received, he thought, “I should have waited….”
Rosamunda had not reached any such extremity herself, but she thought no mournful thoughts as she lay with her lover sprawled over the top of her, his forehead burrowed into the pillow beside her cheek as he recovered his equanimity. The throbbing between her legs would subside. It had already. There would be time for all that, she hoped. No, she knew it: they would have time.
When she had been new to lovemaking, Rosamunda had been able to be patient. She could dally at kissing forever, not yet knowing where it was headed. But once she had learned what pleasure could be under the exciting attentions of Odovacar, she had become the more eager of the two. Odovacar, ever the tease, had preferred to draw it out, if only for the pleasure of watching her suffer exquisitely (over and over). But Rosamunda had been barely willing to wait until he should fill her with the final bliss.
It had been four years since anyone had touched her or kissed her in any intimate way. As she thought about what had just passed, Rosamunda wondered whether someone else could have kindled such a response. Perhaps it was merely the years spent alone, but Frodo’s touch – his mere look – had made her go up like tinder. She blushed to think of the way she had dragged him off to the bed. But as she lay under him in the darkened room, she felt exceedingly happy. Outside, the evening was deepening into dusk, making her window a round of purplish blue. A chorus of crickets had struck up and the gibbous moon was rising, spreading its silver light across the floor. Beside her cheek, Frodo’s tangle of hair tickled, but smelled exceedingly nice as if it had been freshly washed.
The thought of washing was suddenly an attractive one. Rosamunda felt damp and sticky and her dress clung uncomfortably. She would like to feel very much cleaner, if only for later. Certainly, there would be a “later.”
“Frodo” she said, brushing her lips against his cheek.
“Mmmm?” He still sounded rather dazed.
“Get up, sweet,” she said, chuckling softly, “You are crushing me.”
He wasn’t, really. He must weigh half what Odovacar had. In fact, it felt rather satisfying – the weight of him stretched out upon her.
“Am I?” Frodo asked, immediately concerned. He shifted off to the side.
“No, I am joking. I could lie under you all night!” she laughed.
He gave her the loveliest grin.
Recalling herself Rosamunda went on to say, “Still, I am sweaty and sticky. You have plastered my clothes to me thoroughly! I am going to bathe. I will pour a bath for you, as well, if you would like,” she offered, smiling.
Bilbo would be surprised, Frodo giggled to himself. Two baths in one day!
“What is so funny?” Rosamunda demanded before she flung herself upon him with a laugh. She seized him under his ribs and made him giggle even more, for he was quite ticklish. Then, pushing up with her hands, she held herself above him and stared into his eyes as if in challenge. He tried to pull her down to him but she had locked her arms. The strength with which she held him off impressed and excited him, somehow.
When he did not answer, she put on a stern face. “Well?” she prompted.
Frodo explained, “Bilbo told me before I left, women are finicky about baths and that sort of thing. He even insisted I have a good wash before I left. I was thinking Bilbo would be amazed to learn that his nephew had gone under the soap and cloth twice in the same day.”
Rosamunda laughed, and, with a push she rolled herself away. Frodo dodged a swat from a pillow before he seized her, pulling her back to nestle in his arms.
When she had settled she said, “So, you and Bilbo had a little heart-to-heart about me?” He could see the gleam of her smile in the growing darkness. “You wicked Bagginses! I hope you will not be giving him an account each time!”
Each time. He liked the sound of that.
“Heavens, no!” Frodo assured her.
But the picture of the old hobbit as he had stood before Bag End, waving his goodbye, began to form itself in Frodo’s mind. He rolled onto his back and gazed up at the ceiling as it crystallized. “Bilbo does love me, though,” he softly said, still studying the pattern on the ceiling, barely discernible overhead. “In spite of all he has done against this day, he wants to see me happy, I know it.”
Then he turned to her to say, “I would want him to know that I was happy, Rosa. That is – that I am.”
Frodo knew that Rosamunda understood his meaning. Even in the dark he could see her eyes glisten.
Then, in a tumble of rumpled skirts, she clambered over him and leapt out of bed. Reaching for his hand to pull him up, she chuckled and gave his arm a good yank. But Frodo sensed the feeling she kept hidden. Although she laughed, her voice was husky as she said, “Come on, then! Let us go and bathe.”
Frodo struggled to rise but his trousers, still tangled around his legs, impeded him. He began to kick them off but suddenly felt shy. Rosamunda still was fully dressed but he was not. He pulled them back up, instead, holding them together at the waist as he followed her through the parlour to the kitchen.
“I think we shall want more water,” she said as she entered the kitchen ahead of him. “Did you notice the well when you came up the path?” she asked when he had caught up. “It lies very low but the wooden cover is quite plain. Here,” she said, swinging up a couple of pails from where they were stacked by the stove. “The kettle is nearly full, but we shall need more.” Frowning at the pair of buckets on the floor near the sideboard she said, “One or two more trips should do it. We shall want it later.”
Frodo clutched the waist of his breeches together with one hand, while he tried to take the handles of both pails in the other. Rosamunda watched him struggle for a moment then told him good-humouredly, “Oh, there’s no one about for miles. Never mind your breeches – go without them. If someone should see you – which they won’t – your shirt tails will keep you covered well enough.”
Frodo saw the silliness of his efforts. Smiling sheepishly, he let the breeches go. When they had dropped to the floor, he stepped out of them. Rosamunda scooped them up and draped them over a chair. Frodo swung up the pails then hesitated.
“Straight down and to the left,” she said.
In the doorway Frodo thought to ask, “Rosa, where’s the privy?”
“You’ll see it on the way down to the well, at the edge of the little copse,” she said.
Warmed by her smile, Frodo turned and went.
Rosamunda watched as he walked jauntily down the path into the growing darkness, pails swinging. She was seized by a happiness so intense she wanted to cry out. She would have stood there longer, just for the pleasure of seeing him return but she did not. There were preparations to be made.
From its hook on the kitchen wall, she took down the wide shallow basin used for bathing from its hook on the wall and placed it on the floor. The water warming in the kettle had begun to hiss. She looked inside. Frodo had taken out more hot water than she had thought. After she had ladled more hot from the kettle into the sideboard basin, she heaved up a bucket of cold from the floor to replenish it. When she had finished, she stood patting her hands on the stack of towels and turning the soap, first one way, and then the other.
Bother, she thought. Should she take her things off while he was gone – or wait until he came back? Now that it had come to it, she felt very shy of appearing naked before Frodo. She chewed her lower lip, imagining different ways to go about it.
Better to get it over with at once, she resolved. Quickly she unbuttoned her bodice and peeled it away, then she unbuttoned her skirts and stepped out. Next she slithered out of her damp shift, easing it over her head.
Rosamunda tossed them all into the corner laundry basket. But once she was undressed she felt chilly. Goose pimples rose up all over her in the breeze from the kitchen window. She would put on her nightdress. That was what she would do.
Her bedroom was nearly dark but she saw it where it hung on its hook, its whiteness stippled with dots. She was slipping it over her head when she heard a noise from the parlour. A grunt and then a slosh, followed by an oath. She entered to see Frodo stumbling into the darkened house. Spilled water gleamed on the flags where moonlight crept across the floor. He must have felt momentarily blinded. There was no light inside the cottage except for the faint glow from the stove.
“I cannot see at all, Rosa!” he complained, plonking the buckets down. “Mightn’t we have some light?”
She would miss the cloak of darkness but graciously she acquiesced.
“Yes, of course,” she said. “Forgive me.”
Taking a pair of candles from the shelf, she set them on the table and lit them.
Frodo’s eyes widened like saucers at the sight of her. Was it the nightdress? Although the summer cloth was somewhat thin from wear, it was a very modest affair. It must be the idea of it, she supposed. Glancing over him, she noticed that Frodo’s shirt was partially buttoned. He must have done them up outside. It was silly, she knew, but this show of modesty endeared him to her, relieving some of her anxiousness.
“Right here, please,” she said, indicating where she wished the buckets to go. Frodo set them down then helped her pour water, cold and hot, into ewers for rinsing. “Thank you,” she told him. “You’re welcome,” he replied. Their formal courtesies arose more from nervousness than from gratitude, she thought. When everything they would need had been made ready, Rosamunda seized a lung-full of air and began.
“I suppose we must take turns,” she said thoughtfully. “There is not room in there for two to stand.”
Two? Frodo had not considered the possibility of their having a bath together. Immediately he imagined standing with her in the basin naked and wet, but he merely cleared his throat and said nothing.
Rosamunda plunged ahead.
“Well,” she said brightly, “I shall go first, then, shall I?”
Frodo hoped he did not look as relieved as he felt.
“You may as well sit down, until it is your turn,” she suggested courteously.
Frodo took a chair from under the kitchen window, but the seat felt chilly under his naked buttocks and thighs. He got up and pulled the window to.
“Oh, thank you, Frodo,” Rosamunda said gratefully, “That was very thoughtful!”
Frodo blushed as he took his seat again.
Rosamunda approached the basin and stood. Nervously she smoothed her hands over the cloth of her nightdress.
“Frodo …” she ventured tentatively, clasping her hands before her.
“Yes?” he said, wondering what could be amiss.
“It is my turn, I know, but I admit to feeling very … awkward.” She began to blush. “With you sitting there, I mean – watching. Would you close your eyes, please? Just until I am used to it?”
Frodo was so surprised he could not at first make an answer. He had wanted to see her for so long; it had never occurred to him that she might not want to be seen.
“But … didn't Odovacar see you all the time?”
“Yes, of course,” she answered gently. “But you are not he, are you?”
Frodo saw the sense of that. Although he was disappointed, he agreed and closed his eyes.
With nothing to look at, Frodo’s hearing sharpened. As if it were next to his ear, he heard the shifting of her feet against the flags and the whisper of cloth over her skin. He had not noticed how it had fastened. Had she pulled it over her head? He imagined it catching under the moons of her breasts. Perhaps she had stepped out of it? That made a nice picture, too. He saw it drop to the floor and pool around her feet.
Then he heard the sounds of water being sloshed in the basin and the squeaky sound of soap as she turned it in her hands. Then more sloshing. She must be washing her face. Light buffing noises told him she was using the towel. After a little more sloshing, he heard water trickle into a bowl as soap was rubbed across cloth. After a pause he heard the skitter of metal upon stone.
She was stepping into the basin, to do the rest. The rest…! Frodo was unable to contain himself.
“Oh, Rosa,” he cried, “Mayn’t I look now?”
He heard water as it trickled and fell, echoing into the basin on the floor. Frodo imagined her standing there, holding the wet cloth in her hand. Even from the chair, he heard her swallow. In a very small voice she answered, “Oh, very well.”
Frodo opened his eyes.
After the imposed darkness of his closed eyes the room seemed ablaze with light, even with just the two candles. Rosamunda stood at the centre of its splendour, rising out of the basin like a gleaming tower of burnished gold.
She was browned on her hands and forearms, and on her face and throat, but all the rest of her was as golden as honey. And, as Frodo had guessed, Rosamunda did not look anything like the lasses he had seen frolicking in the Brandywine. They might have been boys, but for the lack of anything dangling from their fronts.
He knew he must be gaping, but she filled his eyes with height and shape. There were valleys and hills and clefts that ran down into secret places. Her arms were strong and shapely, tapering into her long-fingered hands. Her legs were columns of gold, curving in and out with grace and strength. And her breasts! They were not at all like his squiggles on paper, but real and ripe and full and luscious, as if flowing with dark honey. Her browned nipples stood out like berries, ready for the plucking. He could not restrain his eyes from sliding around the dip of her navel and over her belly, down to the thick triangular thatch of gold-brown curls. As he gazed the thought came to him, even in the midst of his reverie, he had made that V too dark. Ah, but no drawing could ever do her justice.
“Oh, Rosa,” Frodo sighed, enraptured. “I could look at you forever!”
Rosamunda relaxed visibly. Smiling she giggled and said, “Well, you shall not be able to! I have not even begun to bathe, and the water will get cold.” She took up her cloth and began to wash. She went about it briskly at first, but, as if warming under Frodo’s ardent gaze, she began to take her time. It was too much for Frodo and he sprang up from his chair and stood before her.
“Let me, Rosa!” It sounded more like a demand than a request: he offered her his most winning smile.
“I am almost finished,” she replied firmly, but as she gazed into his eyes, she sighed softly, relenting. “Oh, all right,” she acquiesced. “But no dawdling!” Her eyes darkened as she added, “After all, we still have you to do.” Frodo’s face felt hot as he took the cloth.
She had already done her arms and breasts, which, examined closer to, looked exceedingly polished. Frodo gulped some air and started soaping her sides, beginning at her waist. He almost expected the cloth to hiss when it touched her, but that was his own heat, not hers – wasn’t it?
Her body was wonderful to look at and better still to touch, even through the cloth. As he eased the soapy cloth over her belly, he could see it was marked by a maze of pearly lines like ribbons.
“What happened there, Rosa?” he looked up to ask.
Rosamunda threw back her head and laughed. A descending series of notes cascaded from her mouth. Her breasts shook distractingly. She grinned as she cupped his face between her hands and gently waggled his head, saying, “Silly! Freddy and Estella happened.”
Frodo had quite forgotten about Freddy and Estella.
“Carrying your babies in our bellies takes its toll, you know,” she added with a kiss.
It amazed Frodo to think that Freddy and Estella (especially Freddy, who was already quite large for his age) had ever been in there. Then pictures blossomed in his mind and he remembered: images of Rosamunda, big-bellied with Estella when he was still a lad. She had seemed huge to him then, her belly protruding like the prow of a ship. He had loved it when she had let him press his face against her skirts that he might feel the baby as it moved inside. At the thought, Frodo’s heart overflowed with present and remembered love.
“Ah, Rosa!” he softly sighed. Twining his arms about her hips, he pressed his face there once again while Rosamunda stroked his hair.
Frodo let her go, stood up, and recommenced the bath. With nearly reverent care he ran the cloth over Rosamunda’s belly. When he got lower down he hesitated. Safer to make a detour, he decided, and he bent to wash her legs. But inevitably the cloth made its way back up to the V of tousled curls and Frodo faltered once again.
“I’ll do that part,” Rosamunda said, smiling down at him. “If you go bathing me there, we might never get to you at all!”
Frodo stepped back to watch as her cloth-covered hand disappeared and reappeared from between her thighs, dripping with foam. He trembled from the looking.
“Now,” she said, holding out the cloth. “Perhaps you would you do my back?” He took it and she turned around.
This view only heaped on further coals. Although her legs were long, Rosamunda was a bit short-waisted. The line of her back where it dipped inwards was pronounced, offering even greater definition to the sweeping, symmetric volutes of her buttocks. Lifting the fallen strands of her hair, she dropped her head forward and offered up her back.
Frodo gulped some air and forced his hands to stick to business. As she had reminded him, there still was his bath to do (to which he was now eagerly looking forward). He washed the back of her by sense of touch alone, averting his eyes as he worked. To look at the springing curves beneath his cloth would be unbearable. Even without seeing her, each stroke reminded him of when he had stood behind her years before, pressed against her skirts. But now there were no skirts.
When he had finished, Rosamunda rinsed off beneath the water Frodo poured from the ewer.
“Thank you, Frodo!” she said warmly. “It has grown a little tepid, but we shall add some hot for you.” Stepping out she dried herself with a towel from the stack. When she had done, she reached for her nightdress and began to slip it over her head.
Frodo’s face must have shown his disappointment, for Rosamunda hurried to assure him, “I will take it off again, Frodo, when we get under the covers. But now I am a bit chilly.” Her cheeks pinked as she added, “You give a lovely bath, you know.”
She slipped the gown over her head.
“Well, then,” she said, “Now, for you.”
Frodo had forgotten his nervousness but now it all rushed back at once. He would have pulled away had not Rosamunda seized him by his shirt.
“I behaved for you,” she admonished, “Now, you must now behave for me!” She spoke sternly but a smile quivered at the corners of her mouth. The smile widened into a grin and Frodo relaxed instantly, willing to be divested of his shirt without further protest.
Only the bottom buttons were fastened, the ones he had done up outside. Rosamunda struggled with the first one; the button had snagged on a thread. As she fiddled and pulled at it, the jerking of linen upon his flesh made Frodo clench his teeth.
“Bother!” Rosamunda exclaimed at last. In frustration, she pulled the whole thing over his head. But once it was off she let it drop to the floor, forgotten. “Oh, Frodo,” she rhapsodised, “You are very beautiful!”
Intensely gratified to be thought so pleasing, Frodo blushed as Rosamunda’s eyes flitted over him, as if she were trying to look everywhere at once. Then she began the circuit again, but more slowly. As if her eyes could caress him he felt her look as she lingered over his shoulders and down his arms and his hands. It almost tickled as she trailed her eyes back up his ribs, coming to rest at the centre of his breast bone. As if asking his permission, she looked up at him before she let her eyes descend.
The lower Rosamunda’s eyes travelled, the more rapt they became until they were luminous, wide, and dark. Even before she reached his navel Frodo felt the force of her gaze like a physical thing. She might as well have dragged the flat of her hand down his belly, to leave such a swath of heat. It prickled and penetrated to his entrails. As if they emitted a magnetic force, Frodo felt his body dragged up to her eyes until he was taut as a bowstring pulled back tight, thrumming under the power of her regard.
Then all at once Rosamunda seemed to remember herself and glanced away, flustered. Hot-cheeked, she confessed, “I am sorry. I suppose I was staring.”
Frodo was about to reply that he loved for her to stare if she stared like that, but already she was speaking on.
“You had better begin your bath,” she said in a bracing manner. “Here, I will add a bit more hot.”
After Rosamunda had ladled more warm into the ewer and basin, she took her place in the chair she sat, folding her hands in her lap. She sat demurely but she watched with keen attention. Frodo noticed she kept her eyes above his waist.
Frodo began, standing before the sideboard basin to wash and rinse his face. Then he turned and began to bathe, starting with his chest. While he washed his arms, Rosamunda began to relax in her chair as she became more engrossed. When he lifted his arm, her head would incline to that side. When he changed arms, her head would incline the other way. Plainly enraptured, she breathed softly through parted lips. With the candlelight behind her, her eyes were soft and dark as inky velvet.
So deep was Rosamunda’s reverie she had not noticed Frodo observing her until he stopped his washing mid-way to gaze at her. She looked up. He smiled, enchanted. When he smiled, he saw that Rosamunda squirmed upon her chair. He was sure of it. She squeezed her thighs together and pressed her folded hands into her lap, as if trying to quell what she was feeling there.
Emboldened, Frodo held out the cloth.
“You do the rest, Rosa,” he said.
She seemed a bit unsteady as she rose, but she took the cloth. Squeezing it between her fingers, she assessed, saying, “It needs more soap.”
She walked around him to the sideboard basin. Frodo watched as she dipped the cloth and wrung it out so that it was nicely wet, but not sopping. Then she soaped it up with enthusiasm, working up a rich lather. Her wet fingers looked very dark. Soap oozed in a frothy cream from between her fingers. Frodo’s heart began to beat more rapidly.
“I want to be able to see what I am doing,” she told him and she stepped back around the basin, so that the candles were shining upon him but at her back. She paused, gazing at him with eyes like coals.
So great had been Frodo’s anticipation, he almost flinched when she touched the cloth to his skin. She drew it across his ribs and swiped it briskly up and down and back and forth, truly washing him. Its dripping corners sprinkled the air with droplets every time she flipped it over to use the soapier side. Frodo watched as they sparkled in the light. Then she dragged the cloth down Frodo’s side and he winced.
Rosamunda stopped and bent to peer at the place that she had touched. Frodo’s eyes followed hers. He had not known it was there, but directly over his hipbone a purplish bruise had risen.
“That looks painful,” she said, dabbing it gingerly. “What happened?”
Frodo answered gruffly, “I banged it on a table earlier, getting up.”
No further reference was made to the bruise as she bent to wash his legs. The nearness of her face to Frodo’s thigh so enthralled him the injury was quite forgotten.
“Pick up your feet,” she said, crouching before him. Frodo used the sideboard to steady himself and watched as she thoroughly washed his feet. When she had done, she paused.
“The rest …” she said, looking up at him with burning eyes. “Do you want to do it … or shall I?”
A candle sputtered.
“What would you rather do?” Frodo heard himself ask with a slight croak. He hoped she could not see his legs begin to shake.
Rosamunda stood up. She held the sopping cloth in her hand while it dripped, making a metallic noise as it pattered slowly into the basin. Holding her head to one side, she gazed at him and smiled a smile that made him weak.
“I will do it,” she said.
Over the basin she wrung the cloth between her fingers while Frodo trembled. He began to feel cold all over. He burned on the inside, but goose pimples sprouted up all over him. Even his nipples stood erect. Twisting about, he watched as Rosamunda stepped behind him to the basin on the sideboard. She was about to dip the cloth in the water when she stood for a moment, very still. Then she laid it down and began to soap up her hands, instead. The hair on Frodo’s nape began to rise. When she returned, she stood before him, the bar of soap dripping in one hand. She took a breath. He closed his eyes before she touched him.
All Frodo’s chill was swallowed up in waves of heat as her hands touched him, warm and wet and slick. He heard her sigh as she moved them over his torso and back, going over the places she already had washed, as if for the feel of him under her bare hands. She didn’t rush but she didn’t dawdle, keeping up a steady pace, stopping only to re-soap her hands. Frodo listened to the sounds of her hands sliding over and up and down and around, then coming back to start again. Certainly, he had never been cleaner. But when she began to slowly glide a slippery hand down his belly, Frodo opened his eyes. He had to see it: brown hands moving over white. Her hands were stained to an even greater richness by the wetness in the candlelight, and under her fingers his pale skin glistened and gleamed, the colour of cream poured from a jug. The beauty of it pierced him.
Then she leaned towards him. He could feel her breath on his ribs as she reached lower then lower still. He didn’t have a chance to gasp but shuddered as her hand disappeared between his thighs, all the way back. She slid her soapy hand back and forth and back and forth, letting her fingertips run over sensitive places Frodo had not known he possessed. When she withdrew her hand she lingered, gently squeezing the fruit of him between her fingers and palm before she smoothed her fingers up his length to curl about him in a circling grip. Ah, the feel of it! And the sight of it! He cried out in wonder to see the tip of himself slipping in and out of the circle of her fingers and thumb, as ruddy and glossy as the tight-furled bud of a rose.
Just when Frodo thought he might lose every bit of control, Rosamunda had finished. She went to the sideboard and lifted the ewer, reaching inside as if to test it. Satisfied, she returned to pour it over him. Frodo turned in a circle beneath the flow, moving his hands over his skin as he gasped for breath. She poured another over him. When she had finished, Frodo stood and dripped in the basin while she reached for a towel. He took it from her but on second thought handed it back.
“Are you sure?” she asked with a chuckle and a very saucy smile. He returned her smile, giving her sauce for sauce.
“I am sure,” he answered. He stepped out of the basin and bent for Rosamunda to towel his hair where it had got wet. Briskly she rubbed his shoulders and back and arms, taking special care with his hands. She blotted and stroked between each finger, and Frodo tingled pleasantly all over. He was disappointed when she only whisked and flicked the cloth over his buttocks and loins in a sketchy manner. But then she knelt, sitting on her heels to dry his legs and feet. As she chafed them with the towel, one after the other, he held onto the sideboard for balance. Then she tossed it aside.
“Reach around, Frodo, would you? Fetch me one of the little towels.” He handed her one from the stack of smaller towels she kept for hands and she took it. He was terribly excited yet nervous about how she might treat his tender nether regions – her rubbing elsewhere had been so vigorous. But when she reached up she merely blotted him, very gently, letting the thin towel be a veil between his sensitive flesh and her hand. But when she lifted the towel away she looked and sighed, “Oh, beautiful …!”
Frodo echoed her sigh as he felt her breath upon him, deliciously warm and moist. But her adoring kiss caught him by surprise. And when she took him into her mouth, he gasped aloud and quaked. He clutched the sideboard, struggling to subdue his trembling. Her soapy hands had been wonderful, but this – Oh! – It was beyond anything. He dropped his head back and groaned at the splendour of it, tottering on his feet. Rosamunda grasped the backs of his thighs and kept him steady. As she moved her mouth over him Frodo watched, engrossed, as he disappeared and reappeared in fascinating succession. Just when he thought he could not be any more exquisite, she began to do things to him inside her mouth. He thought he really might faint. He clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, hoping he might endure it if he did not see it.
When he could not bear it one more second, Frodo pushed her off and held her there, gripping her shoulders while he panted. She looked at him from where she knelt. The face he saw was so full of desire, he pulled her up into a kiss. Just the thought of where her mouth had been sent flares of heat all through him. She drew his tongue into the satin of her mouth and did things to him there that mirrored what she had done to him below, things that seared him to his ear tips. He answered her kiss, silk for satin. He wanted her badly now but skin to skin – without the barring cloth between. “Rosa, help me get this off!” he growled, exasperated. He tugged and yanked at the delicate stuff, eager yet afraid to tear it.
Bother! He would wait no longer for her full nakedness; he would take her here. Hoisting up the hem of her nightdress, Frodo tried to pull her down on top of him, but she resisted. “Not on the floor,” she panted, laughing, “It hurts!”
Bubbling with breathless mirth, Rosamunda pulled free of his embrace and fled. Frodo stumbled after. She had gained the bedroom and was hitching the nightdress over her head as he plunged through the doorway after her. The white of her nightdress went sailing over their heads as he caught her. Frodo laughed as he seized her by the hips and tumbled her onto the bed before him.
“Get off! Get off,” Rosamunda cried between giggles, as she wriggled beneath him. “Let me turn over!”
“No, not yet!” Frodo panted. He had wanted to feel himself in just this spot for years, ever since the time in Bilbo’s kitchen. Rosamunda’s legs were pinned between his knees, and her naked buttocks writhed under him deliciously. He fell upon her, devouring her shoulders and neck and back with heated kisses. Rosamunda moaned and trembled wonderfully, all of her pleasure redounding to him. Soon he was fumbling behind her, desperate with excitement to enter her.
“Frodo,” Rosamunda cried between sighs as he struggled behind her, panting into her neck. “We can do it this way, but not if my knees are pressed together!”
Past feeling foolish, Frodo sprang back while she positioned herself. Even so, the light in the room was barely enough to see and he had made several erring attempts before he found the place. Then he pushed. With a shuddering cry he sank himself inside her.
Rosamunda felt very differently inside from the other way around. Walls of muscle squeezed and clutched him in a manner that was nearly unbearably pleasurable. Frodo tried to hold back but could not resist. He began to plunge, deep and hard. After only a few such impetuous strokes, he succumbed with a shout and a series of groaning spasms, crumpling over Rosamunda’s back in a swoon of ecstasy. Limp-limbed and nearly senseless he lay, sobbing for breath.
Frodo was still gasping into her shoulder as Rosamunda slid down onto her stomach. She had been nowhere near ecstasy herself, and she felt rather squashed, yet she was very happy with her lover. She lay very still, just listening to the beating of his heart as she waited for him to recover his power of speech. His heartbeat had returned to nearly normal, when she felt him lift his head from her neck. Smoothing his cheek over her shoulder he kissed it, whispering penitently, “I am sorry, Rosa.”
Rosamunda extricated herself from beneath him, twisted round and gathered him close. “Do not be sorry, Frodo,” she murmured softly, stroking his hair and kissing his face. “I am not. What is there to be sorry for? You have made me very happy!”
Frodo made a sceptical noise and lay upon his back. There was moonlight enough to discern his features. She saw that he was watching her, attending. She traced along the line of his jaw with her fingertips then urged his mouth to hers for a tender kiss. Under the gentle persuasion of her lips and tongue, she felt Frodo yield. He snuggled back into her embrace.
“Mmmm,” she said with noisy relish as she sucked in his lower lip and nibbled it. Then she released it with a loud pop, making Frodo giggle.
“Your lips are so tasty, Frodo, they remind me that I am starved. Aren’t you hungry?”
Even in the dim light she saw a smile spread across his face.
“Yes,” he answered brightly, “now that you mention it. In fact, I am rather famished.”
“Come, then,” she said, giving him a squeeze. “Shall we go and eat?”
Frodo needed no further urging.
Rising out of bed, he turned and offered his hand which Rosamunda took. Together they made their way into the kitchen.
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.