Sam: WHERE IN THE WORLD HAVE YOU BEEN, H.G.?
Frodo: Leaving us weeping in each other’s arms, abandoned by you, forsaken…
H.G.: I didn’t *quite* do that…
H.G.: I’m a published author now! I have things I need to be doing, you know.
Rosie: Eh he he… so, shall I start?
Sam: Go ahead. We’re really annoyed at H.G.
Rosie: *hugs H.G.* There, there… cheer up, we get to meet a new character today, right?
“It’s dangerous to go alone at night.”
I don’t turn around. He has followed me so many times. I’d like to go and punch him hard and then leave him lying in the gutter. I may look sweet, but most boys around here know not to get on the bad side of Rosie Cotton. I was raised on a farm, so I’m strong. I can carry bags of flour twice my body weight. I can certainly throw a punch at a nagging suitor. “Don’t mess with her,” Sam would say if he were here. “She may be the prettiest thing under the sun, but my Rose has her thorns.”
“I said it’s dangerous.”
I hear soft laughter.
“That wasn’t meant as a joke,” I say, annoyed. I keep walking, quickening my pace. “I can outrun you, you know.”
“Rosie, it’s midnight, and you’re by yourself for the fiftieth night in a row.”
A long pause. Then, “So you’ve been keeping track?”
I nod. “Yes, I have.” I stalk up the silent streets to Bag End, to Sam’s garden, the garden I decided to work on forty-seven days ago, when They arrived. The garden I started working on so that the beauty wouldn’t die. So I could hold onto something, anything, anything to do with him, and home. This is not my home anymore.
“Well, let me protect you.”
I stop, tilt my head back, and throw out a loud laugh. “I don’t need your protection, Odfrin Proudfoot.”
“Don’t do that so that loudly!”
I look over my shoulder. “Why? What are you protecting me from?”
He shrugs. “Hungry orc?”
“They aren’t supposed to come to these parts.”
“No. They aren’t supposed to.
I stop. We’ve reached Bag End. I kneel down and dig the trowel I’m holding into the hard earth. If I don’t get this weed out tonight, I’ll have to resort to fire. Mr. Weed and I have been fighting for a week. “Cure you,” I think as I glare at the weed. “Couldn’t you have taken root anywhere but the cereus bed?”
Sam loves cereus flowers. He loves every flower, but those are on his favorites list (of which I am at the top.) I asked him why, and he just shrugged and said, “They make me think of Frodo.”
“He isn’t coming back,” says Odfrin, as though he can hear my thoughts. Scary.
“Sam is coming back soon, very soon. I would feel it if he was dead.” I pull on the weed. I’ve almost got it. If I can just move a rock, maybe I can dig it up.
“What? You think he’ll be back tomorrow? Or, back in time to see those cereus bloom? Give up. He’s not coming back.”
“He is not dead.”
Odfrin goes very quiet. I’m grateful, but surprised. I start working away at the rock, trying to shift it out from under the weed and up from the soil. Finally he speaks again. “I wasn’t implying that he was dead.”
This actually stops me in my tracks. I get up, shake off the dirt, tun around, and plant my hands on my hips, still clutching the trowel. “Oh?”
“What were you saying?”
“Well, maybe he’s run off.”
I get right up in his face. “Such as who exactly, Odfrin Proudfoot? Who could make my Sam leave me?”
“Dunno,” says Odfrin, and then adds under his breath, still loud enough for me to hear, “but he did leave to go off somewhere with Frodo Bag-”
I smack him hard across the face with my trowel. He cries out, and covers the wound with his hand. I grab him by the scruff of his neck, yank him close, and growl into his face, “you – are – sick.” I turn him around and send him alway down the road with a kick between the shoulder blades. “Get out of my sight.” I slam the gate shut and turn back to the weed.
It makes my skin crawl. The very suggestion that Sam and Frodo… I know they aren’t like that! But the suggestion gives me another reason to hate Odfrin Proudfoot, so I leave it be.
I turn back to the cereus that Sam loves so much. “They make me think of Frodo.”
“Why?” I asked
“Because they bloom when no one is watching except me. And they’re so beautiful they almost glow in the dark.”
Wherever he is, I hope Frodo is with him.