Warning: this chapter contains references death and suicide – nothing is attempted, just mentioned (not seriously) in a conversation. No one is actually considering doing it, but if you don’t like hearing about it in passing, you have been forewarned.
We’ve just gotten into bed when there’s a knock on the door.
“Mr. Gamgee,” I hear the innkeeper call. “May I have a word?”
Frodo lets go of me reluctantly. “Be quick,” he whispers.
I get up and go to the door and open it enough to look out. “Yes?”
“I hope I’m not bothering you,” he says. “You see, the company’s only just dispersed, so I couldn’t get away, but I was asked to bring a message to you.”
I start. “By who?” I was hoping no one would notice we’re here.
“He’s a gentleman by the name of Odfrin Proudfoot, maybe you know him?”
I shake my head.
“All the same, Mr. Proudfoot called me over after you left and said he couldn’t help but overhear Mr. Frodo’s conversation with me, and he told me to let you know that if you’ll meet with him tomorrow, he’d be happy to take the cost of another room, as he understand’s money is tight for everyone these days.”
“I’d be happy to meet with him, but we don’t need another room,” I say.
“He said you’d say that, but he really doesn’t mind -”
“It’s kind of him, but really,” I say firmly. “We don’t need another. When does he want me to meet with him?”
“Tomorrow around first breakfast in the common room,” says the innkeeper, “but I think it was to discuss renting and your paying him back.”
“Well, I can just tell him it’s not needed,” I say. “Thank you.”
I close the door and go back to Frodo, who looks up at me. “What was that about?” he mumbles drowsily, settling against me.
“Someone named Odfrin Proudfoot offering to get another room for us.”
“It’s strange, though,” I say. “We don’t know him, not at all, do we? It just seems odd that he’d offer it out of the blue because he overheard us. I’m supposed to meet with him tomorrow.”
No reply comes. Frodo is fast asleep.
I smooth the blanket over him and press a quick kiss onto his temple. “Try and go back to sleep.”
Frodo snorts, keeping his eyes closed. I brush back a lock of hair hanging over them.
“Just try,” I say softly. “I’ll be back soon. Love you.”
“You too,” he mumbles, pulling a pillow over his face. I smile and go out the door, closing it softly behind me.
“Mr. Proudfoot’s in the corner, sir,” says the innkeeper as I enter the common room. Someone calls to him – Boffin I hear them call him – and he goes away. I walk to the table he indicated and stand beside it. Mr. Proudfoot looks up at me and rises to greet me.
He has dark green eyes and brown hair, a square jaw with a long nose – a strange combination. Not that I’m particularly good-looking either, and yet I love the two most beautiful people in the world. He appears to be a little older than Frodo, and therefore much older than me.
“Samwise Gamgee,” he says. His voice is silky and soft. He extends a hand to me. “Odfrin Proudfoot. Such a shame we haven’t met sooner.”
I shake his hand. “Shame, indeed.”
“Do sit down.” He leans back. “I confess that, although you no doubt didn’t know me, I’ve seen you several times. You see, my father runs a shop in the market.”
“He runs a cloth shop for the… upper class, so I’ve only seen you a few times when you were with your friend. Where is he, out of curiosity?”
“I see.” He smiles. “Do you perhaps recall what you were doing every time you visited the market together?”
“Um, shopping?” I ask, confused.
“Holding hands.” He smiles again, but it’s more like a leer. “And you’re quite sure you’re not going to take me up on my offer?”
“Quite sure.” I feel very uncomfortable all of the sudden, and hoping to wrap the meeting up soon, I say, “Well, is that it?”
“I’m afraid not.” Mr. Proudfoot smiles yet again – each smile seems more and more false. “I understand you’re close to Rosie Cotton.”
“You would consider yourself her friend?”
We were more than friends. “You could say that.”
“Certainly you have her best interests at heart.”
“I think so.”
“You will be happy, then, to hear that she is engaged.”
…and I forget how to breathe.
Odfrin Proudfoot is still looking at me, but I can’t see him any more. I cannot move or breathe any more; my heart stops and my mouth dries up, and at first I’m not even sure why, because the words don’t sink in at first. And then…
Feelings return so strong I want to throw the table over and scream like a child. Engaged? To who?
Not to me.
She told me she’d wait for me…
There’s a cool hand on my shoulder. Somehow I manage to turn around and see Frodo standing behind me, looking concerned.
“Mr. Baggins,” says Odfrin Proudfoot from a hundred miles away. “I thought you were resting.”
“I was,” says Frodo from behind me, “but then I decided to stop resting.” He cups my chin in his hand and turns my face towards him. “Sam? Is something wrong?”
I just look at him.
“Sam, what is it?” he asks softly.
“Please,” says Mr. Proudfoot coldly.
Frodo turns to him. “Excuse me?”
He gives another simpering smile. “Oh, nothing, only that some of us may dislike watching unusual public displays of affection.”
Frodo looks from him to me, then back to him. “I beg your pardon?”
“I believe you understood me.”
Frodo draws himself up. “Listen, Odfrin Proudfoot. I have no idea who you are or what you’ve done to Sam, but something is wrong, and I don’t let people hurt my friends physically or emotionally. Do you understand me? And I’m afraid that any threats you may have given will not work, as my social standing is far superior to yours, whatever it may be. Are you done here?”
“Yes,” says Mr. Proudfoot coldly. “We are, unless your friend has anything else to say.”
I lift my head. “Who is it?” I manage to ask.
He grins, this time not trying to keep it friendly. “Why, me, of course.”
Frodo takes my hand and pulls. I allow him to lead me away from Odfrin, down the hall, and into our room. He throws me in, slams the door, and pulls me into a furious embrace.
“You’re crushing me,” I mumble.
“Sorry.” He loosens his grip on me and looks into my eyes. “Sam, what’s wrong? Won’t you tell me?”
I struggle not to cry.
“What did he tell you?” Frodo asks gently.
I gulp. “He-he asked all these questions about you… and then he said Rosie’s engaged – to him…”
Suddenly I’m in his arms again, and this time I don’t try not to cry. “Oh, Sam,” Frodo whispers, and it sounds as though he is crying to. “Oh Sam, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I love you…”
“I love you too,” I manage to say.
Frodo squeezes me tight again, holding on to me, not letting me go. I bury my face in his neck and close my eyes, trying to shut all this out. There are orcs in the Shire, Frodo has still not recovered from carrying the ring, and Rosie is marrying someone else. Everything is so horrible I can’t even believe this is really my life.
“I want to die,” I whisper.
“NO,” says Frodo firmly.
“But I can’t -”
He pulls back slightly and covers my lips with his hand. “Shush. If you died, I would kill myself.”
“No you wouldn’t,” I say dismissively.
“Yes I would,” says Frodo firmly. He kisses my forehead. “Yes, I would, Sam. I couldn’t bear to go on without you. But you are not going to die. You don’t even want to die. Do you?”
I shake my head slowly.
“Then why did you say it?”
“Because… it all felt like too much.”
“We’ll get through it, though. I promise. Okay?”
I manage to nod.
“Rosie’s gone,” says Frodo. “But I’m not. I’m here for you, and I always will be. I’ll stay with you all your life. I promise I will never leave you all alone. I love you, and I don’t want you to be in pain. Right now it hurts horribly, and right now you need to cry and suffer, but someday that will pass. Everything will be alright. It hurts now, but it will be alright. Isn’t that what you always tell me?”
Frodo embraces me agin, gently. “Go ahead and cry.”