117. Chapter 116 - July 1444
Merry turned from watching the festivities of his sixty-second birthday party and smiled at his friend. “Hello, Freddy!”
“Hello, Merry. Um...” Freddy looked away and shuffled his feet a bit. He nodded towards the Hall. “Can I talk to you?”
“Sure, Freddy.” Merry frowned, wondering what was wrong. Freddy kept his eyes on his feet and seemed nervous about something. They walked together in silence into the hall. Merry led the way into his study and closed the door after them.”Would you like a drink,” Merry asked. Freddy looked like he could use something to relax. He’d never seen his friend like, nervous about speaking to him.
“No. No, thank you.” Freddy shuffled his feet again, then glanced up at Merry. “I don’t know if it’s an appropriate time to bring this up, you being busy with the party and all, but it’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Freddy coughed nervously. “It’s about Éowyn.”
“Oh.” Merry had been spending a lot of time with Éowyn and he knew some rumors had started. He should have known the rumors would eventually make their way to the Bolgers in Bridgefield. He hoped it hadn’t offended them. “Freddy, it’s just rumors. Éowyn’s a good friend and--”
“No. No, Merry,” Freddy said, shaking his head. “It’s nothing to do with rumors. You know I don’t pay any mind to them.” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, this isn’t coming out right.” He shrugged. “It’s just that Mum chatted with Éowyn at Pippin’s birthday, and Celandine’s gotten to know her better, and we know Estella really liked her, and I know you don’t need it but we just wanted you to know that we all really like her and you have the Bolger family’s blessing.” Freddy took a deep breath after his nervous rush of words.
Merry realized his mouth was hanging open. He closed it. “Uh, Freddy, there isn’t anything...”
“Oh, and Mum wanted me to invite you both over to dinner tomorrow.” Freddy smiled at him, his nervousness seemingly gone now that he’d said what he needed to say.
Merry coughed. Now it was his turn to be nervous, though he didn’t know why. There was nothing to be nervous about. “Freddy, really. There’s nothing like that between us.”
Freddy chuckled. “You can say that all you want, Merry, but the way you look at Éowyn says something else entirely. I’ve only seen that look on your face for one other person and that was my sister.” Freddy clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t forget. Dinner tomorrow. You don’t want Mum coming to look for you.” Freddy grinned at him, then turned and left.
Merry sat in his chair, pondering what had just happened. He didn’t think they’d done anything to give the Bolgers the idea they required their blessing. Had they?
Éowyn smiled at Merry as they came into the Hall. It had been a good night. Merry had surprised her with Freddy’s invitation to the Bolger’s home for dinner. They seemed to have assumed that she and Merry had an... understanding. She knew it was very rare for a hobbit to remarry, and though she and Merry were not even considering anything so serious at this point, she didn’t want to cause any trouble between him and the Bolgers. It was one thing to support the decisions of Estella’s widower, but another to accept the woman he was spending his time with. But she needn’t have worried, because from the moment she had stepped through the door of their little farmhouse they had been wonderful to her, very warm and welcoming. Éowyn knew exactly where Estella had gotten her good heart.
Merry had told her about his conversation with Freddy, so when Mrs. Bolger had pulled her aside and told Éowyn that she thought she was good for Merry and very happy for them, Éowyn wasn’t surprised. But before she could explain that it wasn’t quite like that between them, Mrs. Bolger had already turned away, telling Merry she wanted Eomer to come do the accounts because he had a much better head for numbers than Freddy.
They had a quiet trip home and arrived at a quiet Hall. Ivy and the children had gone back to Tuckborough with Pippin for a while, and Theo and Eomer had gone with them, so Merry and Éowyn were alone in the Master’s wing of Brandy Hall. They went into the parlor and Merry poured her a glass of wine.
Éowyn watched Merry. He looked nervous. She had a feeling she knew what it was about.
“Mrs. Bolger seems quite convinced that we’re courting,” she said, breaking the uncomfortable quiet.
Merry very nearly dropped his glass, but recovered and sat back in his chair, sighing. “Yes.”
Merry sipped at his wine. “We certainly do all the things a normal courting couple do.” He looked up at Éowyn. “But we’re not exactly a normal couple, are we?”
“No.” Éowyn studied the glass in her hand. They had a child together, but had spent all of their daughter’s life apart, with other people. And they both still had their losses to deal with. “I love you, Merry. But I don’t think I’m ready for anything more than what we have now. Not yet at least.” She sighed. “Maybe I’ll never be ready.” She looked up at him, expecting to have hurt him again, but instead saw a smile on his face.
“Well, that makes two of us.” He tipped his glass at her and she raised her own, smiling. They drained their glasses then Merry reached over and took her hand. “No matter what happens between us, you will always be my dear friend, Éowyn.”
“And you are mine, Merry.” They settled back in their chairs, the tension gone. Éowyn chuckled. “Ivy thinks we’re courting, too. I tried to explain, but she insists on having romantic ideas about us.”
Merry snorted and rolled his eyes. “The last time Ivy got romantic ideas, I ended up with my best friend for a son-in-law.” He grinned at Éowyn and leaned towards her slightly. She smiled back and gave in to the impulse to give him a gentle kiss. When they parted, Merry brushed a finger down her cheek. “Not that that there’s anything wrong with a few romantic ideas.”
Éowyn smiled. She had a fluttery feeling in her stomach. “No.” She stifled a sudden yawn and set down her glass. “Well, Master Meriadoc, I think I will say goodnight now.”
Merry bowed his head. “Goodnight, Lady Éowyn.” It had become a game with them, to call each other by their titles. Merry squeezed her hand, letting it slide from his grip as she stood. She gave him another smile and left. In the hallway, she fought back the urge to giggle. She might be a grandmother many times over, but she suddenly felt like a girl in love.
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