Frodo: There, there.
Sam: It’s just so sad…
Frodo: Well, cheer up, H.G. has come to a decision.
Sam: *sniffle* what?
Frodo: She’s going to write a pre-quest fic.
Sam: Really? Good. I’ve decided any more torture would be too much.
H.G.: It will be very cute.
Frodo: Little baby us.
Sam: Well, little baby me, as you’re twelve years older.
H.G.: So cute!
I look around the kitchen. The dishes are put away, the bread I baked is resting under a cheesecloth for tomorrow. I’m thinking maybe I should get some apple preserves from the cellar to go with it, but maybe I’ll end up being the only one eating them and it will be a waste of time.
The front door creaks on it’s hinge, and I hear my mother say, “why Odfrin, what a lovely surprise.”
I go to the cellar door. Looks like I’ll be getting those preserves after all.
“Rosie?” mother calls. “Mr. Proudfoot’s here to see you.”
“I’ll be up in a minute!” I call. Let him leave while I get the jar.
I come back up with the jar after a minute of dawdling, hoping he can’t stay long and will scram. However, when I come up the ladder again with the jar in hand, I can hear his voice still talking to mother.
“…so rude, sometimes,” he says.
“I agree. Lately she’s been very overbearing,” Mother murmurs.
I set the jar on the counter and begin to unscrew the lid very, very slowly. If I’m going to talk to Odfrin, first I need food to keep me sane. Just a little lick…
“You know, I am a bit worried, though,” Odfrin says. “Especially now that…”
“Now that they’re back,” Mother finishes. “Yes.”
I stop with one finger halfway in the jar. Someone’s back? Are the orcs are back in this part of the Shire, even after the Tooks drove them to Northfarthing? Quietly, I go to the doorway of the kitchen, press my back to the wall, and strain my ears.
“But the Silver Scale, of all places,” Odfrin says, and I’m very confused. “Doesn’t seem lordly enough for the likes of Frodo Baggins, does it?”
I’d forgotten I was still holding the jar, but I remember just in time to catch it before it crashes to the ground. I clutch it to my chest with trembling hands. Frodo Baggins is back. And when he left, he took my Sam with him.
So could that mean…?
“Ah, well,”says Mother. “At least that’s far enough from here that he shan’t get the urge to drop in for a visit.”
“Dear Mrs. Cotton. Judging from today, Frodo won’t let his pet out of his sight. Not that Sam would want to leave it.”
The jar crashes into a thousand pieces on the floor, but I am too far ahead for it to be any danger to my feet. I fly into the living room, and before the sound of the crash has faded, I have Odfrin up against the wall by the sides of his coat.
“How dare you not tell me!” I scream into his face.
“Rosie Cotton!” Mother exclaims. “That is not ladylike-”
“SHUT UP, MOTHER!” I roar. I turn back to Odfrin. “HE CAME BACK! I TOLD YOU! AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME!”
“Release me,” Odfrin hisses calmly.
I let go and run to the door. Sam, Sam is here, in the Shire, so close to me, and nothing Odfrin does will stop me from going to him, from reaching him…
“You don’t want to do that,” Odfrin says.
I whip my head around. “No, I do, actually.”
“Run all those miles in the dark, when it’s all for nothing?”
“I’ll take a pony,” I say haughtily, grabbing my scarf. “And who says it’s for nothing?”
“I do. You see, I told him our little arrangement.”
I stop. “What?”
“Yes, you see, I met with him this morning and, shall we say, spilled the beans.”
I turn away and lean against the wall. “Knowing you, you said it horribly.”
“Well, wouldn’t you hate it if I disappointed you?” Odfrin asks cheerfully.
“You should have let me explain…”
“Why? It’s true. It’s true whether he hears it from me or from you.”
I close my eyes, a tear sliding out. Yes, it’s true, but if I had gone and let him explain, we could fix things. I should go, anyway. I should run to him and tell him everything, even if… even if he already hates me.
“It’s no good, even if you do go,” says Odfrin, as if reading my mind. “He was very upset. Blubbering like a little bairn, can you believe it?”
I whirl around. “He has every right to be upset!”
“And another thing,” Odfrin continues, ignoring me, “I don’t think he’s interested in you anymore. He’s staying at the inn with Frodo Baggins.”
“Yes, but they’re odd. They’re always holding hands and kissing, it’s just so strange.”
“There are plenty of people who are affectionate with their friends,” I say coldly. “I hold hands with my friends, sometimes.”
He shrugs. “Do as you will. I find that relationships as intimate as theirs are strange and unnatural. But I shan’t complain.”
“I find that faces as ugly as yours are strange and unnatural, but do you see me complaining?”
Odfrin stares at me.
“Good evening,” I say, and with that I snatch my scarf and run to the stables while he’s still recovering.