Frodo: Yaaay, my chapter.
H.G.: Do I detect… sarcasm?
Frodo: Maybe just a little. I can probably sum up this chapter without even narrating it.
H.G.: Oh really?
Frodo: Sam cries.
Frodo: I probably cry.
Frodo: And you are mean to us.
H.G.: True. Now let’s get going.
“It’s hot. I don’t like it,” I push yet another blanket off.
Sam stands by the bed and looks at me. “What do you mean? It’s November. It’s not that hot.”
“It feels hot,” I whine, rolling over under the thin sheet.
“You’ll be cold with no blankets.”
“Well, I’ll be cold.”
“Then sleep somewhere else.”
I point across the room. “Chair.” I glance up from above the sheet. “I’m just kidding, you know.”
Sam laughs and sits down next to me. “I know. Why don’t you go for a walk to cool down?”
“This late at night?”
“It’s only nine o’clock.”
I shrug, but as my eyes train on his face, I see that he didn’t just want me to leave so I could cool off. Sam needs some time alone to say goodbye to any future he expected to have with Rosie, and that is something that I’m not part of. I realize that once it is gone, nearly everything about Sam – his life, his future – will belong to me. It’s a strange prospect, and sad. I’ve never cared for romance, but I know he’d like to get married someday and have children. And obviously he’s not going to marry me. I shudder at the thought. “Okay. I’ll be back soon.” I get up and quickly change back into regular clothes. “Try to sleep while I’m gone,” I add, even though I know he won’t.
“I’ll try,” Sam assures me. I go out of the room and close the door quietly behind me.
I should give him at least ten, maybe twenty minutes, and by the time I come back, he can pretend to be asleep if he wants to. Dear Sam. How hard this must be for him. I walk down the hall to the empty common room, where the fire is dying, and the bar is empty in the corner, as are all the tables and chairs. I curl up in one of the chairs by the fire for a minute, before standing up. The fire is too hot, far too hot, even though it’s dying. Maybe I have a fever.
I wonder if Merry and Pippin made it to Buckland safely. I wonder if they’ll come back here at some point, if they didn’t make it or it wasn’t safe.
I go out the door and roam silently around the inn. The orcs are probably not holding camp in this part of the Shire – my skin starts crawling again, orcs, in the Shire – but I know better than to wander too far.
It’s cold outside, and I shiver. It doesn’t seem hot anymore. The world is still damp from rain earlier this evening. I’ll walk around the perimeter of the inn and then come back. I turn to the left and start walking, when I hear thudding hooves. I turn around, wondering who could possibly be coming to an inn this late at night. It’s definitely a hobbit and pony, not orc and horse. I stand still and watch as the rider dismounts and ties the pony up. Now that she’s in the light, I can see the rider is a girl, but she still has her hood up. She looks around, and then she sees me.
“Frodo?” she says, and as soon as I hear her voice, I know who it is.
“Hello, Rosie,” I say stiffly.
Rosie laughs and runs forward. Before I can protest, she gives me a hug. I stiffen, and she lets go of me. Her hood has fallen off, and little water droplets cling to her blond hair. She smiles brightly. “It’s so good to see you!” she says cheerfully. “Odfrin told me you and Sam were here.” She rolls her eyes. “I didn’t quite trust the idiot, so I came to see for myself. Sam’s with you, right?”
This story is poor, but maybe she doesn’t know that I’m aware of her betrayal of my best friend and is trying to seem friendly. “Yes. He’s with me,” I say coldly. “He’s inside.”
“Oh, that’s fine! Will you take me to him?”
“No. I’m sorry. Good night.” I turn to walk away. Rosie grabs my arm.
“Frodo, what’s wrong?” she asks. “We’ve always gotten on so well. Are you angry with me for something?”
It’s true, we have usually gotten along well. I look into her freckled face, flushed with riding and specked with rain, and for a moment, I wonder what it would be like to have her in my family, married to Sam. But that will never happen now.
“You left Sam,” I say.
Rosie sighs. “If you’ll let me explain -”
“There is nothing to explain,” I say. “He has been through hell. He went to the end of the world and starved himself to keep me alive, and then I lost my mind and he never left my side. And now we’ve returned home from all that to find it destroyed. And now this. It may be my fault that he’s so broken, but at least I stayed with him!” I’m so angry I can hardly speak. Sam deserves so much better than this, and there’s so much only she can give him. And now he will only have me. And what am I? A destroyed, broken wreck of a living being who will burden him forever. He will never be fully happy with me. But I will stay with him anyway. “You will never find someone better than Sam,” I tell her. “And you threw him away. You didn’t even come in person. You sent your fiancé to ridicule us. So no. There is nothing to explain.” I turn to walk away. “Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“Frodo, listen!” Rosie pleads. “I know how this must look, but I never stopped loving Sam, I promise.”
I won’t listen to this any longer. I keep walking.
“I don’t love Odfrin!” Rosie shouts, running along behind me. “I don’t know if you’ll believe me -”
I’m at the door.
“-but my parents set me up with him!” she finishes.
I stop and turn around. “What?”
“They’re trying to force me to marry him. They like him.” She swallows hard. “I don’t, though. I still love Sam, but they don’t want me to marry a gardener. At least, mother doesn’t. Father doesn’t really care, but he likes Odfrin, so he agrees with her in that. Please, will you at least send him out to see me?”
I stare at her for a long time, trying to decide. If it’s not her fault, then isn’t it wrong for me to keep them apart? But if she’s lying…
“I’ll tell him that you’re here,” I say. “But if he doesn’t want to see you, I won’t make him.”
Rosie nods. “Thank you. Um, Frodo, can I ask you something? Odfrin was saying about you and S-”
I cut her off. “Don’t say something that will make me want to change my mind about telling him.”
She nods. “Right.” I go inside and start back to our room.
“She still wants to see me?” Sam asks again.
“I told you that twice.”
“I know. It’s just…” He sighs happily. “This is the first good news I’ve had in a while. And do you mind?”
“No, of course not. I expect you’ll talk for a while, though.”
“Probably…” He smiles, kisses me on the cheek. “Thank you.”
And with that he heads out the door.