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This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART SEVEN – DINNER AND ROSES
“You sit over there, dear.” Esme pointed to the corner of the table. “Next to my husband and opposite Peregrin.”
Tamsyn nodded and sat down, curious but a little apprehensive about meeting Perry’s father. She hoped he wasn’t a severe, ponderous, officious hobbit, worn down by his duties.
She needn’t have worried. It turned out that in appearance, Perry was the spitting image of his father, except for his raven-black hair, which on Faramir was walnut-brown, and his green eyes which came from Esme. Faramir was of late middle age, and had expanded around the waist enough to be considered a proper hobbit, but he was still a handsome man and a kind and generous patriarch to his family.
Paladin looked more like his mother: fatter and blonder. He seemed pleasant enough, but Tamsyn could see why Perry considered him to be a bit of a bore. His wife Daisy was a shy young woman, even blonder than Paladin, and Tamsyn had to admit that their two children were the most adorable little things she had ever seen.
Both Izzy and Tulia were a mixture of their mother’s ruddy, earthy looks and their father’s dark grey eyes, and seemed as shy as Donna. Frodo was a mischievous teenager – probably around twelve in human years – who clearly adored his eldest brother. He didn’t have Perry’s unusual black hair, but Tamsyn could see that before long he would be nearly as handsome as Perry.
They all approached Tamsyn with varying degrees of friendliness, and bombarded her with questions about herself and the Westmarch, which she would have struggled to answer if Perry hadn’t helped her out as much as he could. He had a sharp, intuitive mind, and Tamsyn was quick on the uptake, or she suspected she would have given herself away as fake within the first ten minutes. But then, there was no reason for them to suspect that she wasn’t a hobbit. She marvelled again at Perry’s ability to take what had happened at face value, without panic or fear.
Perry himself looked to be at ease, not just with his family but also with himself; more so than she had seen from him so far. It made her strangely happy, and she couldn’t help but smile whenever she met his eyes. He had given her a delighted grin when he spotted the pork cutlets and beans, and a surprised look when Esme announced that the unknown extra dish had been cooked by Tamsyn. It disappeared with impressive speed.
“That was delicious, Tam,” Perry complimented her after he had wolfed down his portion. “What did you say it was?”
“Just a dish from home,” Tamsyn replied, blushing furiously, but with a smile so wide that her cheeks were starting to hurt. “My fa… my mother called it moussaka.” She had been about to say her father, but wasn’t sure whether it was normal among hobbits for men to cook.
“Well, please pass her my compliments, it was wonderful,” Perry said.
Tamsyn’s smile faltered. “I can’t,” she said quietly. “She passed away.”
His grin dropped. “Oh, I’m… I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I didn’t–”
“It’s okay, Perry,” she reassured him. “You couldn’t have known.”
He gave her one last apologetic look, but she shook her head with a smile and he returned to his dinner.
When all the food had been polished off, Esme brought out teacups and the biggest teapot Tamsyn had ever seen, with an equally gigantic tea cosy in the shape of a fat chicken. Faramir, Perry, Paladin and even Izzy lit their pipes, and Tamsyn and Donna helped Esme put out a veritable smorgasbord of cakes, scones and cookies, including Tamsyn’s buttercake.
“What’s that?” Izzy asked, pointing at it.
“Another contribution from Tamsyn,” Esme said, as proud as if Tamsyn was already her daughter-in-law.
Perry had already snatched up a slice, and Tamsyn waited as he took his first bite. He chewed it thoughtfully, then crooned in delight and shoved the rest in his mouth in one go.
“Peregrin! Where are your manners!” Esme exclaimed, but Tamsyn couldn’t help but laugh when he winked at her and started chewing with bulging cheeks.
“It’f velifiouf,” he mumbled, spraying crumbs into his hand and ignoring his mother’s indignant spluttering, and Tamsyn felt a warm glow at the clear appreciation.
After tea the table was cleared, but when Tamsyn offered to help with the dishes, Esme waved her away. “My children can do that,” she said with a significant glance at Izzy, Tulia and Frodo. “You’ve done enough today. Peregrin, darling, why don’t you show Tamsyn the rose garden? It smells lovely at this time of the day.”
“Sure,” Perry agreed. “That is, if you’re interested of course?” His eyes were full of hope, and Tamsyn smiled at him.
“I love roses,” she replied. It was the truth, but she would have said it regardless, simply because of that look in his eyes.
“Here,” Esme said as she walked to the door. “It’ll be chilly out, wear this.” She handed her a long, soft shawl of bright red wool, and Tamsyn gratefully wrapped it around her shoulders with a nod of thanks, before following Perry outside.
For a few minutes they walked without speaking, then Perry said, “You seem to have impressed my mother. It’s not everyone she lends her best shawl to.”
Tamsyn smirked. “Told you so.”
He chuckled, but then he stopped and stepped in front of her, stopping her in her tracks. It was dark, but the quarter moon was bright enough that she could see the solemn look in his eyes. “Did you do that because of our… agreement?” he asked. Tamsyn heard a hint of doubt in his voice, and realised that he was afraid that she was faking her attitude.
“Initially, yes,” she admitted. “But I find that I like your mother very much, and I wanted to help her. And because I like you, I wanted to see if I could impress a hobbit with my human cooking skills.”
He seemed surprised at her answer, but nodded and continued walking. “You did,” he confirmed, then looked at her sideways. “How many more talents am I going to discover you possessing?”
“Cooking. Insight into hobbit personalities. Beauty.”
“Beauty isn’t a talent.”
He sniggered. “Point.”
They fell silent again, and Tamsyn could detect the scent of roses wafting towards her. It was heady and sweet, and she closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.
“You called me smart and capable earlier,” Perry said beside her.
“Yes, I did.”
“What makes you think I am?”
She opened her eyes and looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “What makes you think you aren’t?
“I’m not asking me, I’m asking you.” He sounded a little sullen, and Tamsyn stopped by one of the fragrant shrubs, turning to face him.
“You very quickly deduced what race I had to be if I wasn’t a hobbit. You told me what to do with my feet to stop from tripping. At the table tonight I would have been utterly lost if it hadn’t been for your quick thinking and subtle prompting. That’s why you’re smart. Got that?”
Perry nodded, and she continued, “When someone fell out of the sky right in front of you, you didn’t lose your head, you didn’t panic and you didn’t run away screaming for help. You dealt with it, and even when you found out what I really am you took it in your stride. You’re strong, not just physically, but mentally too. That’s why you’re capable. Any more questions?”
He gave a sudden grin. “Yeah, may I kiss you?”
Tamsyn crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow again. “Answer my question first.”
His grin wavered. “Okay?”
“You’ve already kissed me… hmm, six times before. Why do you suddenly feel the need to ask my permission?”
“Oh, I see,” he said, and pulled her close. His lips met hers, and Tamsyn melted against him. He smelled of sweet smoke, fresh wood and autumn leaves, with just a hint of honest sweat. It made her feel at ease and at home, and when he lifted his head she tucked her head under his chin and breathed his scent in deeply.
She felt him reach behind her, and his hand came back holding a deep red rose, half open. He held it under her nose so she could smell its fragrance, then carefully tucked it into her hair.
“Beautiful,” he whispered, and kissed her again. Tamsyn lost herself in him, moulding her body to his and burying a hand in his hair, and it felt like an hour later when they finally let go again. Perry wrapped an arm around her shoulders and they continued their walk among the roses, Tamsyn’s arm around his waist.
“I’m sorry about your mother,” Perry suddenly said.
She gave him a reassuring squeeze. “It’s alright, I barely remember her. She died when I was four.”
“Oh.” He paused for a second, then asked, “So how could she have taught you that recipe?”
“She didn’t. My father did, though it was her recipe. I just wasn’t sure whether hobbit men ever cook.”
“Oh, okay.” Another pause. “Your father must be missing you right now.”
Tamsyn swallowed away the sudden lump in her throat. “My father died two years ago,” she said hoarsely.
“Oh, Eä, I’m so sorry,” Perry said, pulling her back into his arms. “Do you miss him much?”
“Every day,” she whispered, and started crying. It startled him, but he only hugged her tighter.
“Hush, Tamsyn, hush, sweetling,” he murmured. He stroked her hair as he continued to mutter endearments, and after a few minutes she calmed down.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed, wiping at her face.
“Don’t apologise,” he said, offering her a neatly folded handkerchief. “I wish I could do something to make you feel better.”
“You already have, Perry,” she replied, dabbing at her eyes, then sighed. “I guess we’d better go back. I’m sure your mother will only cut us so much slack.”
He nodded without enthusiasm, and they took their time walking back, not talking but simply enjoying each other’s presence. When the light of the kitchen window came into view they reluctantly let go of each other, and walked back inside with a modest distance between them. Despite that, Esme gave her a warm, secretive smile as she accepted her shawl back, and Faramir gave her an approving nod when she left the kitchen with a murmured ‘good night’.
Only when she reached her bedroom and ran her hands through her hair to braid it for the night did she discover that it still held the rose Perry had picked for her. She placed it in the cup she found on her nightstand and fell asleep with a smile on her face.
What will the next day bring? Find out in part eight!