2. The Other Side Of The Bridge
Amanda stood beside the dejected figure of her brother Ted and watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground. It was a glorious day in early spring and it was incongruous that such a sad occasion should mark it. She tucked her hand under Ted’s arm and bent her head to lie against his still broad shoulders.
“Thanks for coming Sis. I can’t believe she is gone.” Ted turned to Amanda and found himself embraced in her hug.
“We are family, Ted. Of course I would come. We Camerons need to stick together in times like this.” Amanda gently chided him. “I am just sorry that Eleiann could not come until later this evening. The final tests and boards don’t finish until later this afternoon.”
He nodded and turned to accept the condolences of the friends and acquaintances that had followed the family members to the cemetery. His wife of forty-three years had finally succumbed to a particularly virulent form of cancer that had wracked her body for nearly two years. In spite of the many medical advances no cure had been found for this particular form. His two sons stood by his side, Donald with his wife and young daughter and Owen a silent moody young man of twenty-four.
As she waited for the final exchanges she thought how well he still looked. After their parents had died, he had gone back to collage and completed first, a masters, and then, a doctorate, in English Literature. She remembered how excited he had been to spend two years in England on the special exchange program that had allowed him to pursue further studies on the Tolkien world he had loved so much and how supportive Calli had been throughout. He now taught at a small university downstate and had earned a well-deserved reputation for his scholarly writings. He recently published his fifth book, which had shocked his colleagues by erupting out of the halls of the dry scholarly tomes they knew best and into the general public’s interest, landing on the New York Times best selling list in the process. Ted had laughed and said his success had more to do with the three movies which had become a classic staple in recent years then to his great writing style, but Amanda knew he was pleased that more people were coming to love the world of middle earth because of his efforts.
Amanda had retained the slim build she had as a teenager all those years before and her skin was as fair and smooth thanks to the genes she inherited from her Scottish ancestors. She wore her hair shorter now and only a dusting of grey lay at her temples. She had never married and raising her child had created few problems for her. She was lucky that her income insured her ability to provide a stable home life for Eleiann during her adolescent years and then for the special schooling when it had first appeared that Eleiann might have a learning disability. Extensive testing had confirmed that she was slower in development then her peers, but that she bordered in the genius range in intelligence. It was the first time that Amanda had to face the real possibility that she was more her father’s daughter than hers, but she continued to allowed Eleiann to develop at her own pace and by the time she was in her early twenties she had reached the level of maturity that let her cope well with her college studies.
Amanda’s life had remained busy since that summer so long ago but she never regretted her choices. They had been the right ones for her and in time she knew her child would probably have to face them as well. Her reputation as a neo natal surgeon was now well established throughout the western world and she often travelled to consult on critical cases. For the last eight summers she had volunteered for clinics offered in third world countries taking an entire surgical team with her to provide much needed services so often lacking.
Amanda moved over and pulled Owen into a hug half expecting him to pull away. He pulled her into an awkward embrace and dropped his head to rest his chin on her head.
“Why did she have to die, aunt Mandy? She was so full of life. What will we ever do without her?” His pain was evident.
“I wish I had some good answers for you, kiddo, but I don’t. All I know is that she is out of pain now, and we will all see her again someday.”
“I wish I could be as sure as you.”
“There are more mysteries in this life, but I do know there are many that are real. We all have a role to sing in the music of life and we will all be together in the final song.”
He pulled back and studied his aunt with sad affection. “You and pop are nuts, you know that? You have let that LOTR crap influenced everything you do.”
She smiled back. “It is all your pop’s fault, he is the one who got me hooked.”
Owen shook his head and turned back to his father and brother and put a hand on each one’s shoulder. “Pop, It’s over, can we leave now? I do not want to see them fill in the dirt. We can come back later and put some flowers over her.”
Nodding his head, Ted took one last look at the grave and turned to follow the last of the mourners up to the cars parked on the road above the cemetery. Amanda placed her hand on Owens’s arm and followed Donald and his wife and daughter up to the large black limousine that had carried the family to the cemetery.
“Will you and Eleiann be going up to the cabin later this month? Now that school is out, Pop wants all of us to go up with him. He says we need to have some happy remembrance time together.” Owen asked distractedly.
“I am sure she will be grateful for the break now that her schooling has finished.”
“When will she know whether she has earned her Doctorate title?”
“I suspect it will be the end of summer.”
“She is such a smart ass. Always teasing us about how slow we were compared to her.” He smiled over some happier times the family shared.
“Well, you were always teasing her about her ears and how she had to be a misplaced elf. She was just trying to get even.”
“Well, that was because of Pop’s mania for all things Tolkien.”
Amanda shook her head. “Being a scholar with a focus on Tolkien, does not a maniac make.”
He sighed, “I know. Both you and him always seemed to have a special connection with it. What was that all about?”
As they reached the car, Amanda smiled wryly at her brother and look back to Owen, “Maybe someday I will tell you all about it.”
Owen snorted, “You two have been saying that ever since I can remember.”
Ted’s face momentarily lost it’s sadness and remarked with a grin, “When we think you are old enough to understand, you will be told.”
Donald interrupted them. “You might as well forget it little brother, I think you have to know the secret handshake or something. Their secret society only includes the three of them…” He stopped for a minute. “I guess there is just the two of them now.” He turned away tears in his eyes and his wife put her arms around him in comfort and he returned the hug.
“Sorry Pop.” He muttered over her shoulder.
“For what son? After all, she was your mother. We all will miss her.” He sighed deeply, “Well let’s get the rest of this over with. I do not know half of these people. Most of them were from your mother’s work and the hospital I guess.”
* * * * * *
Amanda had just enough time to park her car and rush into the airport before her daughter’s plane landed. After checking on the arrival gate number she joined the crowd waiting outside of the concourse that Eleiann would be arriving from. A number of groups emerged through the check point at nearly the same time as several planes deplaned their passengers. It was not until nearly the last group had reached her that she finally saw the tall figure of her dark haired daughter wheeling a green leather suitcase behind her. Ellian was searching the waiting crowd for a friendly face and grinned broadly and raising a hand to wave vigorously when she saw her mother.
Amanda returned the wave and grinned back as well, then moved closer to the exit point to pull her daughter into eager arms after the nearly six months of separation. Pausing to move to the side they hugged and kissed each other on the cheek.
“Hi Mom, you are looking good.” More seriously she continued. “How are Uncle Ted and the cozes handling everything?”
“Thanks, so do you. Surprisingly well, although I think there is a bit of the male stiff upper lip thing going on. The strain of the last two years has made it easier for them to accept and prepare for it, I think.”
“Mom, I am really, really, really sorry, I couldn’t get here sooner, but they couldn’t reschedule my exams earlier, and Doctor Warren was set to leave for London this evening as well, so his schedule was already pretty well locked in and he didn’t have any other time available for my final boards. He did offer to let me wait until next fall or for someone else to hold them for me next week, but since he is the one I have been working with I was reluctant to go with someone I was unfamiliar with. If I hope to look for a good job this summer I can’t afford to wait until next fall to take them either.”
“I know, babe. They understand completely. Ted was lucky he put in for a sabbatical this past fall so he was able to concentrate on his time with Calli. Owen had to take the last quarter off as well and Donald being here made it possible for all of them to help each other through the difficult times.”
“How are you doing? You and aunt Calli were pretty close, too.”
“I will miss her. She was one of the few I could trust easily. Do you have any other bags?”
Eleiann shook her head. “I only brought this one for the trip. Everything else was shipped home earlier this week by truck.”
“Well, lets get out of here and meet the family over at Ted’s house. Everyone will have cleared out by now and it should just be us for a late dinner.”
* * * * * *
What had started out as a sad family gathering had turned to a celebration of Calli’s life. Everyone had a happy or funny memory to relate and soon everyone was smiling or laughing through tears in the shared memories. Amanda and Eleiann would be spending the rest of the week there in the house and would not leave until the following Sunday for their home further north up state.
Amanda and Ted sat in his study drinking the last of a bottle of wine left over from dinner. Both were pensive and had said little for the past hour as they pondered what the future would bring for each. Donald and his family had finally left for their own house, while Eleiann and Owen had sought the old fashion swing on the front porch. Eleiann sat snuggled up to her younger cousin with his arm lying casually over her shoulder and sighed as they watched the emergence of the stars in the eastern sky. She smiled and flipped a salute when she saw the bright light of Venus twinkling above the tree line.
“Why do you do that?” Owen asked her curiously. “You always do that when you see it.”
She looked at him and paused before answering him. “You know I never knew my father.”
“Yeh, it has always been a big mystery. Your mom never talks about him. What has that got to do with the star?”
“When I was little, mom said it was a sign for him and his family. I feel a little closer to him when I do it. It sort of makes me feel like a part of him.”
“Has she ever told you anything about him?”
“No, she doesn’t talk about him much. I don’t think even he knows I exist.”
“Weird, she never told him about you.”
“I sort of got the impression that their relationship was very short and intense and that his leaving was final with no way of contacting him afterwards.”
“The war in Iraq was going on then, maybe he had to leave for that and just didn’t make it back.”
“Maybe, but I don’t think so. When she speaks about him she talks like she knows he is still alive. You know that custom great grandfather and grandmother started with the yin and yang symbol thing. Mom gave a part of one to him and the other to me. If I ever do find him, all I will have to do is give him my part.”
“Well I for one would like to meet him. He must really be something. She has never even looked at anyone else.”
Eleiann laughed and pushed against the floor setting the swing into a gentle motion.
It was later that evening when she had finished her shower and was getting ready for bed that her mother entered the bedroom they were sharing. She was surprised to note that Amanda had drunk more wine then she normally did, and was a little bit tipsy. Sitting on the bed across from her, Eleiann continued to dry her wet hair with a towel and watched while Amanda prepared to take a shower herself.
“Mom? When will you tell me about my father?” She suddenly asked.
Amanda paused. “What brought that up now, babe?”
“I guess I just realized how fragile life really is and that I could loose you and Uncle Ted at any time. I really would like to know if I have any other family that would welcome me if I were to find them. I know you never told him about me, but I would like to know if he might have liked me if you had.”
Amanda sat down on the bed and faced her daughter. She looked into the grey eyes so like his and smiled. “Yes you have the right to know, but not here and not now. When we go up to the cabin in a couple of weeks, then I will tell you all about him. I will tell you, he would most certainly have liked you. You look very much like him and you have inherited his thirst for knowledge. As for family, he has, or had, a pair of twin sons and a daughter who was considered a great beauty.”
Eleiann looked at her mother in angry confusion and questioned. “He is married?”
Amanda sighed. “It is rather complicated. They had separated after she had suffered a terrible accident and not all of her injuries could be healed. While they had not seen one another for many, many years, I know he hoped to see her healed one day and rejoin her. That is one reason I would have made no effort to reach him when I found out about you even if it had been possible.”
“Did you love him?”
“No, but I admired him greatly and I will admit there was quite a bit of lust involved at the time as well.”
“Mother!” Eleiann gasped.
Amanda laughed, “I’ve shocked you!”
“Well yes, one doesn’t like to think of one’s mother in quite that way!”
“Well, it was true. If there had been more time things might have been different. But I have no regrets, and I have you.”
“I guess I will just have to wait until we get to the cabin, then. But I want the answers then. Promise?”
Eleiann- elei (sin) dreams + ann (sin) long to mean a long dream. Pronounced Eli ann
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.