6. Saying Goodbye Sucks!
Saying Goodbye Sucks
Her guest had been there just over a week. The storm continued to drop snow frequently leaving drifts of eight to twelve feet on most of the areas around the cabin. The only remaining clearing was that in front where the road led up from the bridge while on the uphill side the snow had reached the roof line and completely filled in the rear porch. Snow collecting on the roof slid off in a low rumble with some regularity thanks to its steep pitch, and the cap on the chimney kept snow from drifting in ensured that the fireplace continued to draw safely. The road itself leading out from the cabin was impassible and any chance of them leaving was nil but all in all, the cabin remained in good shape and they were comfortable.
Standing at the sitting room window nursing a large mug of coffee Amanda watched with amusement as Elrond threw sticks for Glori. Holding it over his head he laughed as Glori jumped against him attempting to grab it. When the dog knocked him over and ran off with his prize Elrond lay sprawled in the snow laughing his head off. His pleasure was almost the equal of that of the dog’s. She shook her head, such a simple thing to cause joy!
Like Elrond, Amanda remained puzzled by what had happened. They could find no purpose or intent to be derived from such an occurrence. They had spent a great deal of time discussing the events as each of them remembered leading up to the time he walked up to the cabin. There were two things that were common to both, the unusual storm and the dirty acrid fog. Both agreed if there were any chance that he would return to his world, it would most likely be when those two things happened again.
While their days had been filled with talk, their nights had been filled with intense lovemaking. Amanda knew she could easily fall in love with him but she had enough sense to know that until his future was settled one way or the other he would be in no position to commit to any relationship. She also understood that it was important somehow that he continue to believe that based on the Tolkien stories he would go home and be a part of the process that would lead to the destruction of his enemy Sauron and sail to the Undying lands.
He was frustrated. At some point he would have make a decision as to when he would no longer expect to return home and when he would have to start making a life for himself in this world. Amanda made it clear that he could stay at the cabin for as long as he wished. When he no longer had any expectation of returning then she would help him transition to a new life here. She also wondered what he thought of her or even if he could see a relationship between them but she refused to place added pressure on him now by asking.
Amanda did not expect it would be easy because a person no longer simply emerge with no background or roots into today’s world. An individual needed to prove he existed with birth certificates, school records, social security numbers as well as banking records, income tax, etc., if he hoped to get a worthwhile job, own property or travel. She felt though that over time they would be able to build him an initial identity that could provide him with the sort of cover he would need to survive until he was ‘legitimate’ enough to stand on his own. Perhaps starting as a refugee without documentation from some country that no longer existed. He certainly fit that even if his country was on another world and in another time.
She remembered a movie in which an immortal who did not age had created a number of identities through the centuries that allowed him to transition from one to the next and even inherit his property from himself. He even faced the same problem that Elrond would, out living several wives and lovers. She thought it might a good idea if she rented the DVD for him to see when the worst happened and he was stranded here.
Their discussions had given him but the slimmest understanding of her world’s history and culture. Elrond expressed an interest a role that would allow him to use his knowledge as a healer. Many of the current troubled places in which some of the poorest or unsettled people existed would be a good place for him do so. He would also be an excellent teacher. Amanda tended to agree, but she hoped there would be a way for him to establish the proper medical or teaching credentials before doing so. Time was not an issue for him and there were ways to legitimately do so via the Internet. Of course all of this would be moot if he returned home.
Elrond entered the cabin chuckling and brushing the snow off his jacket followed by Glori who barrelled through the door behind him barking madly. Dancing around Elrond the dog did his best to entice him to continue playing. Squatting down he rubbed the silky ears, held the head and smiled into the dark brown eyes. Glori was in love!
“I have never made friends with a canine before. It is easy to understand why you have done so. I will definitely seek one out in either world in future.”
Amanda smiled. “He can be a bit of a flake. But his loyalty and affection have been a comfort to me more than once.”
“Sorry, it means he is rather short on brains and doesn’t always appear to think before he leaps.”
“Sounds like my sons upon occasion. I will have to remember that. ‘Flake’.” He repeated.
“Just this past fall when we were up here he ran off and was gone for several days. I worried something had happened to him but he showed up grinning like he was very pleased with himself and he was accompanied by a very pretty light grey female wolf. She didn’t stick around, though and he didn’t seem to mind. If he had gotten involved with a pack he probably wouldn’t have survived. He just doesn’t seem to understand the danger sometimes.”
“You have wolves around here?”
“We have found they are necessary in maintaining the healthy balance of our wildlife food chain. At one time we had killed a sizeable number of them off. Then we found the wild deer herds became larger than their range could support without their natural predators to maintain their numbers. As a result many were dying of starvation during the harsh winters and the weakened herds were easily affected with diseases that spread to other hoofed wild life as well as domestic cattle. We have since made a concerted effort to reintroduce them …”
They spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the problems of species going extinct and again Elrond was disturbed by the carelessness of humans exhibiting in the care of their world. He was somewhat mollified by the efforts Amanda described trying to save endangered species.
“We have learned a great deal in the last fifty years about how all of the life on the planet is part of and important to the survival of all. The problems come in when there are too many people who need to have a source of food to survive or pursue the old ways of living without regard consequences of destruction of natural habitats.” She shook her head, “but there is still so much we need to do.”
* * * * * *
Elrond carried in another armload of wood from the side porch and added it to the stack by the fireplace. Reaching down he stroked the head of the sleeping dog then stepped over him and entered the kitchen.
“Can I help with anything?” He smiled at Amanda as she brushed flour from her hands and arms. “You have some flour on your cheek and nose.” Lifting a hand he gently brushed her face clean.
She smiled as she placed the dough in a pan and covered it with a damp towel then placed it on the back of the stove to rest and rise. I haven’t made bread since my grandmother died. I hope I remember how. Otherwise we will have to settle for biscuits.”
“You are quite self sufficient.” He followed her to the table and poured himself a mug of tea from the teapot and added some honey.
“My grandmother insisted I learn my way around a wood stove or even cooking in the fireplace. All of us had too.” Amanda picked up her mug of coffee and grimaced when she found it cold. Crossing to the sink she emptied it and rinsed it out before pouring tea in it.
He nodded. “I have brought in enough wood to last until morning, I don’t like the looks of those clouds again. It looks like we may get another heavy snowfall.”
Amanda frowned and looked at him. “I think you should be ready to leave just in case.”
“I know,” he nodded then shook his head. “I don’t want to leave you here alone.” He gazed down at her intently.
“We can’t risk you missing the chance to return.”
“If this has been planned then the opportunity will be there.”
“Nonetheless it won’t hurt to be ready.”
“I know.” He sighed, “I will redo my pack and have it ready later this evening. My clothes are clean and dry now. I thank you for that.”
“I will prepare some food for you to take along as well. You may need a day or two to find your way.”
In the sitting room Glori raised his head and growled. He rose and went to the door where he sniffed and scratched at the bottom. He looked back expectantly to Amanda who stood in the doorway between the kitchen and sitting room. Sniffing again, he began barking and wagging his tail madly.
“What in the world, Glori. If you want to go out you had better make it quick, it is getting dark.” She opened the door and watched him bounding out, and caught her breath when she saw the she wolf sitting at the edge of the clearing.
“Elrond,” she called quietly, “come here.”
“Is that Glori’s friend?” He asked when he joined her.
She nodded and both watched as the two canines faced each other and seemed to be discussing something. Glori looked back over his shoulder then they both entered the woods.
“Darn that dog. If he takes off again, he may not make it back in time.” She put on a jacket and went out on the porch and called Glori several times but the dog did not return to her whistles. She turned back as Elrond joined her.
He pointed and softly said, “Look.”
Glori was following the she wolf out of the woods, each carefully carrying a bundle in their mouths. They crossed to the cabin steps where the she wolf gently laid the bundle on the ground, nosed it and sat looking up at them. Her yellow eyes looked directly at Elrond for a long moment then she turned and trotted of back into the cover of the woods. Glori carried his bundle up the stairs and dropped it squalling in front of Elrond. He descended back down the stairs to the first bundle, carefully picked it up and returned to place it beside the other. He too sat and stared intently at Elrond.
“What in the name of…they are puppies! Wolf puppies!” Amanda exclaimed.
Elrond squatted and picked one wiggling bundle up in each hand. “ Lets get back inside.”
Amanda grabbed Glori’s collar and pulled him in after her. When she turned from closing the door, Elrond had crossed to the fireplace and sat down in the chair with the puppies in his lap. Glory followed and nosed each one then sat in front of Elrond and stared intently up at him.
“I think we’ve been given a gift.” He studied the puppies carefully. “It would seem that Glori is a father and the she wolf has shared their offspring with us.”
Amanda picked up a pup and eyed it with wonder. “I have never heard of such a thing. I mean, dogs have gone wild and mated with wolves, but I have never heard of parents walking up to humans and dropping the young at their feet. They will need a bed, I will find a box for them.” She gently put the pup on the floor only to have Glori pick it up and put it back in Elrond’s lap. He returned to sit directly in front of Elrond and stared at him once more.
Elrond looked at Glori, “Are you trying to tell me they are for me?” Glori erupted in joyful wiggles as he bounded in circles around the chair.
Elrond exchanged glances with Amanda. “It would seem that I am supposed to return with them as well.”
“This is really weird.” Amanda slowly shook her head. “What are you expected to do with part wolf puppies?”
“They are also part golden retriever.” He pointed out, and lifting each one, “ and a male and female each.”
“A breeding pair?”
“It would seem so.”
After getting the puppies settled in their bed, Amanda found some tins of evaporated milk. She mixed it up and placed a small amount in a bowl in the bed. It took some coxing but they soon figured out how to drink from the bowl. She knelt by the box for some time as she watched them all but upending themselves into the milk. She rose and went to the fridge and took out a covered bowl of raw hamburger. Separating a handful she returned to the pups and offered them some small pieces. Growling they eagerly took it from her eating it in quick gulps and crying for more.
“Well they have been weaned. I was concerned that feeding them would be a problem.”
“That does solve one but there remains the one of getting them back with me.”
“Are you sure this is what is intended?” She studied him worriedly.
“No, but it seems the most obvious. If it isn’t I feel sure we will be redirected to the right one.”
Elrond checked his pack and set it on the bench by the door. His clothes were folded and ready in the room they now shared. Amanda stood in the doorway and watched his preparations.
“I have been thinking about the pups,” she carried an oversized leather bag with a shoulder strap. “This should cause no questions when you get back, it was a game bag that my father made. The flap folds over the top and they should be comfortable if we add some hay. There is some in the shed left over from covering some of the plants last fall.”
He nodded. ‘If you will let me have the rest of the meat you fed them from earlier….”
“Actually I have some stew meat that would probably be better.”
* * * * * *
Amanda sat on the floor in front of Elrond resting her head in his lap. He leaned back in his chair gazing into the fire and absently mindedly stroking her hair with a gentle hand.
She sighed, “It grows late. I guess we should go to bed.”
He smiled and leaning over kissed her. “One last memory before I leave?”
“If you are. It may be a while yet.”
Rising he drew her to her feet, lifted her in his arms and carried her up the narrow stairs to their small room. Slowly they undressed each other caressing and kissing with increasing passion as they moved on the bed. Amanda had never felt so much alive. Each touch, each kiss, each sigh fuelled the rising passion she knew she would never again feel with anyone.
Elrond found himself once again in a perpetual state of arousal and he could not control of his hunger. It was as if the urge to impale himself deep within her core time and time again was the only way he would survive. Into the early hours of the next day they rose again and again until neither one had the strength to try again. Wrapped in his arms she pretended to sleep and not let him know she wept.
“Amanda, we have shared something wonderful somewhere out of time. We should not let ourselves grieve, but rather rejoice. I shall never forget you, but I wish you would reconsider coming with me.”
“I wish I could, but my world is here and I cannot leave my family. I would not be able to be the healer there as fully there as I can here. We do not know either if I would be allowed to return with you.”
He sighed. “I will be lonely once more.”
“Perhaps that is why you have been given the pups. They will give you all the love and loyalty they are capable of.”
He shook his head. “It may be sometime before their purpose becomes clear….” He became silent and lifted his hand looking at the ring on his middle finger.
“What is wrong, what has happened?” Amanda sat up and stared at his hand where the ring pulsed in waves of blue light.
“It is Vilya, She has awakened. She is sensing my world once more.”
“It is time then.”
‘You had best get ready. I will fix some tea and some hot cereal for you before you leave.”
He nodded watching her as she drew on a robe and slowly crossed to the door.
She turned and smiled through tear bright eyes. “I do rejoice, but I will miss you too.” She gently closed the door after herself and headed down the stairs. Stopping she remembered something from her childhood. She entered her parents’ bedroom and sought a small wooden box that held a number of family trinkets. In a little bag was what she sought and she tucked it in her robe pocket then continued down the stairs.
Before preparing the food she let Glori out for a brief run. Looking down the valley toward the bridge she saw the strange heavy fog roiling up and smelled the acrid odor once more. Reluctantly turning she entered the kitchen and built up the fire and placed the kettle on. She had just finished feeding the pups some warm milk when Elrond descended the stairs and entered the kitchen. Exchanging long painful looks he crossed and took her in his arms. Neither spoke a word while they stood there until the sound of Glori’s barking at the door made them separate.
“I will let him in,” Elrond said gruffly.
“Thanks, I will have the tea and cereal ready in a couple of minutes.”
Finally everything was ready for his departure, he lifted his pack and slung it on his back. The strap of the puppy bag laid across one shoulder and the bag itself lay against his right hip. His snowshoes lay outside on the porch along with his bow.
“Elrond, There is a custom in my family that when loved ones must part, they each carry a special token given in remembrance. Will you take one from me with you?”
“I would be honored.”
She reached in her pocket and drew out the bag. From it she took out a small disk of silver made up of two halves that flowed around itself. Pulling it apart she handed half of it to him.
He studied it curiously “What is its significance.”
“It is an old symbol in my world which is called the yin and yang of life. Together it symbolizes the whole, When parted it becomes the male and female. My grandfather brought it back from the east after WWII and whenever they were apart each wore half on a chain around their neck. I do not expect you to do that, but I would like to think you will hold it once in a while and remember me.”
“I will wear it with great affection.”
She watched as he strode down the road padding firmly on his snowshoes until he reached the bridge. Before crossing it and entering the fog he turned one last time and raised a hand in salute then he was gone.
She never saw him again.
For his sake Amanda hoped that Tolkien had written the true history of Middle Earth and that Elrond did sail at the end.
Amanda waited for another week on the off chance he failed to make it back to his world. Her family had asked the state road department to make sure their roads were passable and hired a local to plough their private road. She returned to work and found somewhat to her surprise that her grief was not as pronounced as she expected it to be.
Three months later she found out she was pregnant.
She told no one about the whole strange incident nor who the father of the child was. She waited until its birth before she told her brother the truth.