110. Chapter 109 - July 1442
Ivy opened the wardrobe and reached out to touch the familiar dresses. Estella’s dresses.
After a very difficult year, her father had decided that it was time to clear out Estella’s things from their--his rooms. Celandine and Granny Bolger had both brought it up at various times after Estella’s death, but he had always refused, not yet able to bear to part with Estella’s things. His recovery had been slow and he’d continued to put this day off, but in the spring he had finally reached the point where he could tell happy stories about Estella at parties without getting choked up and he was losing the haunted look from his eyes. As the anniversary of her death approached, he realized that it was time to start to let go. He couldn’t be here today, though. He couldn’t make himself stay for this. He was in his study, with Pippin and Freddy.
Ivy pulled out the first dress, Estella’s favorite, the one she had always worn to her family’s birthdays and to Ivy’s wedding. Ivy hugged the dress to her, pressing her nose into the collar. She could still smell Estella, the hint of rose water that she’d always worn. Her eyes stung with tears. She missed Estella so much and doing this now was bringing back the grief of a year ago, the grief she thought had healed.
A hand gently touched her arm. “I can get someone else to help me, Ivy,” Celandine said. “You don’t have to do this.”
Ivy shook her head. “No. I have to,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. It was a daughter’s job. She smiled weakly at Celandine and turned to take the dress to lay on the bed. Her father had told her to send most of Estella’s clothing to Bag End. ‘With all those girls, they’ll be able to use them. Estella would like that,’ her father had said with a hint of tears. Ivy supposed it made it easier for him, knowing the dresses would go to the Gamgee girls. Estella’s favorite dresses, like this one, Ivy decided to keep, to give to any daughters her brothers would have someday. She’d carefully pack them in a trunk until they were needed.
Estella’s jewelry was also set aside, for Theo to give to his future wife. Most of it had been inherited from Esmeralda, just as Ivy now had Eglantine’s jewelry. Estella’s knitting needles and wool would go the Celly. Her personal things--such as her comb and clasps for her hair--Ivy would keep. Other things--the objects and mathoms Estella had collected over the years that decorated their parlor and bedroom--they would leave in their places. They didn’t want to remove everything of Estella from her father’s life.
When everything had been sorted and packed up, Ivy just stared at the empty half of the wardrobe. The bare space suddenly made it real now that Estella was never coming back. She closed the door.
“I’ve moved everything to a guest room,” Celly said behind her. “Freddy and I will take the clothes to Bag End. I pushed the trunk of dresses against the wall. I think it can stay there. Your things are on the bed.”
“Thank you, Aunt Celly,” Ivy whispered. She shivered a little and turned to her. “I suppose I should go tell Dad we’re done.”
Celandine took her hand. “It will be hard for him at first,” she said. “It was for my mum when we packed up my dad’s things. But Merry will get through it.”
Ivy nodded. She hoped so. She wanted to see her father happy again.
They walked together to the Master’s study. Her father stood when they came into the room and came over to her. “You’re done, then?”
She nodded and took his hand. “I’ll go down with you.” He didn’t refuse.
He was shaking slightly when they reached the rooms. The parlor was unchanged, except for the missing basket of knitting that had always sat next to Estella’s chair. It was the bedroom that would be hardest.
“Aunt Celly said they’d take the clothes to Bag End,” she said, trying to keep her voice calm as her father walked around the bedroom. “We’ll keep the things to pass on to Theo and Eomer in a trunk down the hall.” He nodded and brushed a hand over the bare dressing table. She saw his shoulders slump. “Dad?”
He shook his head and kept going. He opened the wardrobe and quickly shut the door again, leaning against it. Ivy went to him and took his arm. “Come sit down,” she said softly. She led him over to sit on the bed, the bed he now slept in alone. Ivy pushed her own fears away--What would it be like to have to sleep in her big, Rohirric bed all alone for the rest of her life?--and leaned in to kiss her father’s cheek, keeping her brow resting against his. “I’m sorry, Dad,” she whispered.
He squeezed her hand. “Thank you, Ivy-lass. For doing this for me. It needed to be done. “ He let out a shuddering sigh and patted her knee. “I think I need to be alone for a while.” He kissed her cheek and hugged her tight.
When he let go, she stood up and went out the bedroom door, closing it behind her. But she didn’t leave. She sat on the floor in front of the door, wanting to be near him now even in his need for privacy. When she head his sobs, her own tears finally let loose. It took everything in her power not to get up and go to him, but she knew he needed this, to start to let go.
“There’s Grandad!” Ivy said to Ari when her father walked into the parlor. They were staying a few more days at Brandy Hall after packing up Estella’s things, just to make sure her father was all right. He appeared to be doing fine. Ivy thought that it seemed a weight had been lifted from him, now that he’d made the decision to move on.
He patted Ari’s head, then settled into the chair next to her.”I’ve gotten a letter from your mum,” he said as he broke the wax seal on a paper in his hand.
“A letter from Gran!” Ivy said to Ari cheerfully and kissed his pudgy cheek.
“The Gamgees arrived safe and sound,” her dad said, reading over the letter. “And Rosie is expecting a baby!” He chuckled. “Éowyn said Sam was worried sick, travelling with Rosie pregnant.” He read a bit more of the letter. “Rosie suspected a month into the trip and visited the healer at Edoras. Sam had wanted to stay in Edoras. It took Rosie, the healer and Queen Lothiríel to convince him she could finish the trip to Gondor.”
Ivy grinned. Poor Sam.
“And you’re an aunt.” He looked up and smiled at her. “A boy, born in May. His name is Barahir.” He chuckled. “Éowyn says Elboron and Faramir are both beside themselves with pride.”
“Sounds like your dad and granddad, doesn’t it Ari?” she said to her son, while smiling at her father.
“Da! Da!” Ari yelled. He craned his neck to look around the parlor for Pippin.
“Dad’s outside with Bori and Willow,” she told him. “Do you want to go out, too?” She glanced up at her father. “Maybe Granddad will take you?”
“Well, if you’re going to twist my arm...” he said. He set the letter on the table and got up from his chair, then scooped up Ari from her lap. “Do you want to go outside, Ari-lad?” He asked. “We can go find your dad.”
“Da,” Ari said again.
“Can you say ‘granddad’?” his grandfather asked.
“Close enough,” he chuckled. “We’ll be back in a while,” he said to Ivy. He propped Ari on his hip and left the parlor.
Ivy picked up the discarded letter and skimmed the words, through the part about the Gamgees, then Barahir, then...
She drew in a sharp breath, her heart suddenly leaping into her throat.
We had a frightening time this spring as well. Théodred was injured quite seriously. Arrows to the thigh and belly. We were so lucky, Merry, that the armor slowed the arrow to the belly and it was shallow. If it had been deeper, we could have lost him. We very nearly did from an infection in his thigh. He is up and around now, and of course asking when he can go back out.
Ivy closed her eyes and took a few breaths to calm herself. She’d nearly lost her brother. Théodred had nearly died! She made herself look at the letter again.
It’s getting very bad here. The raids have increased and they’re getting closer. Some of our people have had to leave their farms and move into Emyn Arnen. Faramir thinks there will be war again if the orcs and Easterlings manage to regroup enough. I fear for Faramir and my sons every day.
Ivy set the letter down, her hand too shaky to hold it steady to read any further. Things were getting worse and Faramir and her brothers were in danger. And what about Gwen’s husband, who was also a ranger? They had three small children. She couldn’t imagine losing Pippin and having to raise her children alone. She thought of her mother’s worries and Théodred. She couldn’t imagine losing a child to war, either. It made her all the more grateful she had married a hobbit and could raise her family in the safety of the Shire.
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