I spread a napkin over the food in my basket and head out the doors.
Yesterday, they took my brothers, all four of them. The home seems empty without them. Tom, Jolly, Nick, Nibs – Mother has been crying nonstop since they were taken, and I’ve had to take on all the housework. I know that no one is fed well in the lockholes, so I’ve packed plenty of food.
“Rose!” Mother calls after me as I start down the path.
I sigh and turn around. “Yes, mother?”
“Where are you going?”
“To work, mother,” I lie.
“At the Green?”
She frowns. “Alone?”
“I don’t like that, young lady. I don’t like that at all. Why don’t you go ask Odfrin to escort you?”
“Because I hate Odfrin,” I reply. “Goodbye, mother. I’ll be back soon.”
“Rosie Cotton, you have not been dismissed.”
I turn around and she glares at me.
“Now, Odfrin is a lovely young man, and -”
“He’s vulgar! Have you heard what he says about Frodo and Sam?”
“I understand you’re a little testy when it comes to Samwise Gamgee, but -”
“I’m not testy! Odfrin’s disgusting! He’s nothing like Sam.”
“It is high time for you to get over Sam and move on. He is never coming back, dear.”
“Yes, he is,” I say firmly. “He promised he’d come back.”
Mother sighs. “Please ask Odfrin to escort you. For your mother’s sake.”
But I can’t stand the thought of Odfrin trailing along behind me, watching me, joking about my Sam, treating me like I’m nothing because I’m not a boy. “No,” I say. “I won’t.” And I start down the road to the lock holes.
I arrive at the lock holes in about thirty minites. A ruffian stops me at the door to ask what my business is. “I’m just taking food to my brothers,” I say lightly, flashing a smile.
“I’ll need your name and a look through the basket.”
“Fine.” I hand the basket over. “Just don’t take anything for yourself.”
“And your name is?”
“Marigold Gamgee,” I lie, using Sam’s sister’s name. I never use my real name, because they never care – they just want to make life difficult.
He hands my basket back. “You have five minutes,” he tells me, and I head in. My brothers are down the first hallway on the left, all locked in a small round room with bars for a door. Nick glances up as I sit down.
“Rosie?” he mumbles.
I smile. “Hullo. How are you?” I hand the basket through the bars. “Here, I brought you some food.”
Tom picks up the basket and rifles through it. “A whole loaf?”
I nod. “And scones, and some jam. And mushrooms, right there. I’m sorry I couldn’t bring more.”
Jolly grins. “You’re amazing, Rosie.” He reaches for a mushroom.
I peer into the cell. Nibs is asleep in a corner. “Do you know when you’ll be let out? Have you caught cold?”
“They said we have two years each,” Tom says through a mouthful of bread.
“Just for fighting back?”
Nick winks. “No, because they don’t want to deal with us for a long while.”
“And don’t worry, we’re perfectly healthy,” Jolly says with a smile. “Nibs is a little tired, but he’ll be fine.”
“You have one minute,” the guard calls, even though I’ve only been here for two.
I squeeze their hands. “I have to go. I’ll try to come back soon.” I stand up, but Jolly calls, “Rosie?”
“If Odfrin bothers you, kick his sorry bum.”
“Already done that.”
Nick, Tom, and Jolly laugh, and I grin. “I’ll see you soon. Love you. Tell Nibs I dropped by.”
“We will. Love you too.”
I leave before the guard can bother me further.