27. Chapter 26 - November 1423
Estella had insisted she only wanted a small party for her thirty-eighth birthday. Just close friends and family without much fuss. So they had a birthday tea for the extended family in Brandy Hall, then retired to the Master’s parlor for a smaller gathering.
They hadn’t been there long when Celandine--and Rosie, too, now--started nudging Estella and whispering to her. Estella caught Merry’s eye and blushed, her face glowing with a smile. Celandine put a small package wrapped with a ribbon in Estella’s hands. Estella beamed at Celandine, then looked around the room.
“I haven’t given Merry his present yet,” she announced. Everyone in the room stopped their conversation to look at her. “And I thought you all would enjoy seeing him open it.”
Merry cocked his head at her as she came towards him. He moved Ivy from his lap over to Pippin’s and Estella handed him the small package. She was still smiling, nearly glowing with happiness. He pulled the ribbon and opened the cloth wrapping. Inside was a tiny embroidered gown. A baby’s gown.
He gasped, realizing what she was giving him.
“What is it, Daddy?” Ivy asked, leaning over from Pippin’s lap to peer over his arm.
He looked up at Estella and raised his brows, asking...
She grinned and nodded.
“It’s a baby’s gown,” he said to Ivy. “Estella is going to have a baby.”
Everyone in the room started talking at once and crowded around to congratulate them. Merry just nodded and smiled as he accepted handshakes and kisses, still a little shocked at the news. When the crowd had moved away he took Estella’s hand and pulled her into his lap. He didn’t know what to say, he was still speechless, so he just kissed her.
A baby! They were going to have a baby! He was going to be a father again but this time he’d be there for everything. He pulled away to look in her eyes. “When...?” he managed to gasp out.
“June, I think.”
Merry hugged her again, then turned to look at Ivy. But Ivy was gone, racing around the room with Elanor and telling everyone she was going to get a sister.
“Congratulations!” Pippin said, taking Merry’s hand. He leaned over to give Estella a kiss on the cheek.
Pippin reached out and caught Ivy as she came racing by again. He pulled her up onto his lap and hugged her. “So what do you think of getting a brother or sister?” he asked her.
Ivy scowled up at him. “A sister!” she said. “I want a sister. Elanor’s got a brother and he cries too much.”
“All babies cry, Ivy.” Estella said.
Ivy crossed her arms defiantly. “Not my sister.” She wriggled off of Pippin’s lap and ran off after Elanor.
Merry leaned down and kissed Ivy’s brow, then stepped back so that Estella could do the same. They’d made it a routine for both of them to tuck her in at night, whether at home or staying here at Brandy Hall.
“When’s the baby going to come?” Ivy asked.
Estella smiled and sat on the edge of the bed. This was her specialty after all, explaining about babies. Merry was glad, because he had a feeling Ivy was going to be asking lots of questions.
“The baby’s going to come in the summer,” Estella said, “Not for a long time yet. It has to grow bigger before it can be born.”
Ivy frowned a little and Merry knew she was coming up with a question, most likely the usual ones that children ask. How did the baby get in there? How will it come out?
“Did I have to grow in your tummy for a long time, too?” Ivy asked.
Merry sucked in his breath at the question. She’d never asked about her mother before. It had seemed she’d just accepted her family as it was. Daddy and Uncle Pippin, now Daddy and Estella. She knew other children had mothers, and she’d seen pregnant mothers often enough, but she’d never asked. It had never occurred to him she might think Estella was really her mother. Which did make some sense, seeing as he’d been courting Estella since Ivy was an infant.
Estella looked up at him, eyebrows raised. This wasn’t a question for her to answer. This was his responsibility.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had known this day was going to come. He had just hoped he could put it off a little longer. He stepped over and touched Estella’s shoulder. “I’ll talk to her,” he said.
Estella stood up. “Do you want me to leave you two?”
Merry shook his head.
Estella kissed his cheek and went to sit on the end of the bed. Merry took the spot next to Ivy. Ivy was watching him, confused.
Merry stroked Ivy’s hair. Her long blond Rohirric hair. “You didn’t grow in Estella’s tummy, love,” he said gently. “You grew in another lady’s tummy.”
She furrowed her brow at him, frowning. “Estella’s not my mum?” she whispered.
Merry sighed. He wished he could just say ‘yes’ and Ivy could go on believing Estella was her mother. He didn’t want to upset her world. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t do that to Éowyn. “Well, she’s like your mum, isn’t she? She takes care of you and she loves you very much. But...” How could he put it? How could he explain to a not-quite-four-year-old girl why her mother had given her up? “Your other mum, she... she loves you, too, but she has to live somewhere else. Far away.”
“Where Uncle Frodo lives?” Ivy asked.
“No, love. Not quite that far away. She lives in Gondor, where King Elessar lives.”
Ivy sighed and bit her lip, thinking for a while. “Why can’t she live here?” she finally asked.
“She couldn’t stay with us here because...” Merry decided to use an easy explanation. The real truth of the matter could come out later. “...because she’s one of the Big Folk.”
Ivy’s eyes grew wide. She was aware of the Big Folk only in stories. “Really?” she asked.
“Yes. But Big Folk can’t live in the Shire. So she lives in Gondor.”
“Can we go see her?” asked Ivy.
“It’s very far away,” said Merry. “We’ll have to wait until you’re older.” He’d actually discussed that very thing with Éowyn, in their letters, and they’d agreed it would be best for Ivy to be a little older before she made the trip. And it would be better to wait until she could fully understand why her mother had to give her up.
“When I’m six? Uncle Pippin said I could ride a pony by myself outside the fence when I was six.”
“I don’t really know when, Ivy-lass.” He made a mental note to ask Pippin about this business with the ponies and riding by herself.
Ivy nodded and pursed her lips, her face still furrowed in thought. Then she peered past him at the end of the bed where Estella sat. “Estella’s my mum, too?” she asked, a hopeful look on her face.
“Yes. She’s your mum, too.” He hoped Éowyn wouldn’t mind him telling Ivy that, but he just wanted his daughter to be happy.
“I’m glad.” Ivy said. The creases went out of her brow and her face relaxed. She yawned.
Merry kissed her goodnight again and he and Estella left the room. Once out in the hall, Merry slumped back against the wall. “That was hard,” he said quietly.
Estella put her arms around him, going on tip-toe to kiss him. “You did good, love.”
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.