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This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART NINE – THE MELON PATCH
Tamsyn stared after Frodo for a few moments, then turned and met Perry’s eyes. They showed amusement and fondness, and that hint of admiration that told her she’d surprised him again.
“I’ve got one question for you,” he said.
“If you could have done that any time I grabbed and kissed you, then why didn’t you?”
She looked him up and down, then grinned. “Why would I have wanted to?”
He recognised his own words and laughed, then picked up her shawl, shook off the leaves and held it out to her. She murmured her thanks when he wrapped it around her, then leaned against him when he left his arms where they were and pulled her close. He smelled the same as he had the day before: a woodsy, smoky, intensely masculine smell, and she found that she was growing to love it, just as she feared she was growing to love Perry.
“My mother loves you, and my favourite brother now adores you,” he murmured in her ear, echoing her thoughts. “Soon you’ll have my entire family wrapped around your finger.”
“Including you?” she couldn’t help asking.
He turned her around so she was facing him and looked deeply into her eyes. “Tam,” he said, “you had me at ‘fuck’.”
She gave a short, breathless giggle, then threw her arms around him and kissed him like she’d never kissed him before. He responded in kind, and for a long while there was nothing in the world but his body against hers, his tongue in her mouth and the caresses of his hands.
Eventually they broke apart, and Tamsyn avoided looking at Perry as she composed herself, wiping a trembling hand across her slightly swollen lips. Get a grip, you have no future with him, she told herself sternly, and took a deep, steadying breath. “So, where are we going?” she asked, trying to sound casual.
“Uh, we’re going to the farm, on the edge of the wood,” Perry replied.
She did her best to ignore the slight waver in his voice that told her that he too was having difficulty composing himself, and said, “Okay, and what will we be hiding from once we’re there?”
That did the trick. He sniggered, and when she hazarded a look at him his grin was wide and mischievous. “Not what, who.”
She pulled up a corner of her mouth. “Okay, who will we be hiding from once we’re there?”
“Farmer Chubb.” He started walking and, taking her wrist, tugged her with him.
“And why will we be hiding from farmer Chubb?”
“Because we’re about to steal his melons.”
She stopped dead, nearly yanking Perry off-balance. “Steal?!”
“Shh,” he cautioned her, then gently pulled her into motion again. He looked ahead warily, and explained matters in a half-whisper. “Tolman Chubb is a fat, greedy, nasty piece of work, who spends a large part of his time growing the sweetest, richest melons you’ve ever seen in your life, most of which will subsequently rot away because he can’t possibly eat them all, and he refuses to sell them unless you pay exorbitant prices. So every year I pay him a few visits and lift a few of his melons.”
“Don’t you ever get caught?”
He grinned again. “Oh, I’ve got caught alright.” He motioned for her to crouch down as they neared the edge of the forest, and she moved up beside him.
“My father gives me a lecture and my mother grumbles even louder about what an impossible boy I am for about two weeks.” He sounded entirely unapologetic, and Tamsyn couldn’t help but smile.
“Yet you still keep doing it?”
He flashed another grin at her. “Just wait ‘till you taste them. Now…” He pulled her closer and pointed. “See that row of bushes over there? Behind those is his melon patch. I alternate my routes, but I’ve been doing this for years, so he sets up traps, and he changes them often. Be careful.” He started to move, but Tamsyn stopped him.
“Wait,” she said, grabbing her braids and wrapping them around her head. She tucked in the ends to secure them, then rolled up her shawl and used it as a belt to tie her skirt up above her knees. “Right, now I’m ready.”
Perry visibly swallowed, his gaze fixed on her legs, then he nodded and went down on all fours, crawling towards the bushes, Tamsyn close behind him.
When they reached the shrubs, Perry indicated for her to wait and started moving towards a gap in the vegetation towards their left. Tamsyn stopped him with a hand on his arm and wordlessly pointed at the nearly invisible string that was tied across the gap.
He grinned at her, eyes sparkling, and patted her hand in thanks, changing direction to crawl around the shrubbery. Tamsyn, meanwhile, peered through the branches to assess the situation.
The patch was clearly past its best day; the plant leaves were almost all yellow, making it hard to see the greenish-yellow melons among them. She had expected watermelons, but these looked more like honeydew, though they were bigger than what she was used to. Many of them were indeed shrivelled or rotten, and she could see why the waste of it irked Perry.
She spotted a large, ripe melon close to where she was and crawled closer, peering intently at everything to try and detect any traps. She avoided another string tied to the bushes and carefully circumvented a patch of nettles which looked suspiciously cultivated.
When she reached the melon the sweet smell of it made her mouth water. She tried to break the stem, which failed, and eventually used her teeth to bite through it, wishing she carried a knife.
That accomplished she carefully retraced her steps, the melon an awkward hindrance to easy movement, and she was almost back at her starting point when there was a sudden loud jingling of a mass of little bells.
“Fuck,” Perry swore from a few feet away, then he shouted, “Run!”
Tamsyn shot upright and tore away, clutching the fruit. Perry’s running feet came right behind her, as well as the distant sound of an angry voice.
“Left,” Perry said, and she swerved onto a path which appeared amongst the trees. “We’re miles ahead of him, he’ll never catch us as long as we keep running for a bit.”
He kept directing her down a veritable maze of little paths, until they finally stopped in a clearing where Tamsyn sagged to the ground, exhausted. Perry flopped down next to her, looking angry and disappointed.
“Fuck,” he swore again from the bottom of his heart, “I didn’t get any.” Then he met Tamsyn’s smug look as she held out her prize to him.
For a second he gave her an incredulous stare, then he launched himself at her with a loud, exuberant laugh. “You’re brilliant!” he cheered, hugging her tightly.
Tamsyn laughed as well, feeling wickedly proud of herself. “For someone with as much experience as you claim to have, you didn’t do very well there,” she teased.
“Bah, I told you I’ve been caught before, I can’t always avoid all his traps. But you!” He kissed her soundly. “You’re a natural!”
She pulled a face. “I’m not so sure I should be proud of being a natural thief.”
“I’ll be proud for both of us,” Perry said, getting back up. When he held out a hand to help her up, Tamsyn suddenly became aware of how she looked: her skirt hitched up to the middle of her thighs and her breasts nearly spilling out of the top of her dress, since the ribbons of her bodice had come loose.
Perry too seemed to have noticed that she was showing a lot more flesh than he was used to, staring at her cleavage as if hypnotised. His hand twitched, and for a moment she thought he was going to stroke her skin. Then he looked away and the tension broke, and she fumbled first to untie the scarf holding up her skirt, then to re-tie the ribbons of her bodice, feeling just a shade disappointed.
She was about to say something when Perry raised a finger, looking intently into the forest to the left of them. “Hear that?” he said.
At first she heard nothing, then the notes of a badly whistled tune became audible.
“I know that whistle,” Perry whispered, reverting back to stealth mode. “That’s Freddy Bolger. I bet he’s going fishing.”
“Is he your cousin Fred who would have been scared of me?” Tamsyn whispered.
“Yep. Well, second cousin, really.”
“And is that the same Fred who your sister has her eye on?”
He looked at her in surprise. “She has? Donna?”
Tamsyn nodded. “She told me yesterday.”
Perry snorted. “She can do better than him. Come, let’s play a trick on him.” He crept through the bushes, and perforce Tamsyn followed. There was the sound of a rushing brook, and when they crested a ridge she spotted a squat, brown-haired hobbit on a rock below, merrily whistling to himself as he cast his line in the water. Perry put his finger to his lips and looked around, grinning when he spotted a few acorns.
He gathered some, took careful aim and threw the first one at Fred. It landed in his neck, and he swatted at the spot. The second one landed on his shoulder, and when he looked around in confusion, the third one hit him on the forehead.
“Who… who’s there?” he called in a wavering voice. Perry chucked another acorn at him, which hit him on the nose. When Freddy looked at where it had come from, Tamsyn lobbed a nearby stone into the bushes several feet to the right of them.
“Who’s there?!” Fred called again, his head whipping to the source of the sound. “Sh…show yourself!” Tamsyn began feeling a little sorry for him.
She tapped Perry on the arm and motioned for them to leave. He gave her a puppy-eyed look, but at her resolute headshake he smiled and nodded, and they crept back to where Tamsyn had abandoned her hard-won melon.
“I was feeling sorry for him, Perry,” she said to his smirk and raised eyebrow. “Not everyone is as unafraid and unconcerned as you.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said, then reached out and loosened the braids wrapped around her head so they dropped heavily onto her shoulders.
“There, that’s better,” he said with a smile. “It doesn’t suit you to have your hair tied up like that.” Then he took hold of one braid and let its glossy length slide through his fingers. Even with only half her hair contained in it, it was still as thick as his wrist. When he got to the end of it he caught her other braid as well, then started wrapping them around his hands, pulling her closer inch by inch.
“These are very useful,” he commented with a twinkle in his eyes, and Tamsyn gave him a reproachful look.
“You could just ask me to come closer.”
“I know, but this feels more… I don’t know, dominant. Masculine. You hurt my pride, you see, throwing me around like that in front of my little brother.”
Tamsyn sniggered. “You asked for it.”
“Hey, I could hardly have known to expect something like that. Although,” he added with a wry smile, “I guess I should know by now to expect the unexpected with you.” He let go of her hair and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Just indulge me, and let me play the strong man for a minute.”
She leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. “I don’t need to indulge you, Perry. You are a strong man. What I did to you was a trick, nothing more. Physically you are much stronger than me.” She squeezed his biceps and stroked his arm, then breathed in deeply and added, “You even smell masculine.”
“I do?” he said, sounding pleased. “What do I smell of then?”
“Wood and resin. Musk and smoke.” She rubbed her nose against his chest and sniffed again. “I never knew hobbit pipeweed would smell so sweet. All together it makes… you. It makes me feel protected. At home.” She paused for a moment, then curiosity compelled her to ask, “What do I smell like?”
He pressed his face into her hair and took a deep breath, then considered for a while. “I’m not sure I can describe it,” he said eventually. “You smell… fresh. It makes me think of the sun through the trees on an early summer morning.”
Tamsyn’s breath hitched, and she felt as if he had taken her heart in his hand and squeezed. “That’s the most beautiful compliment anyone has ever given me,” she said, hoarse with emotion.
“It’s not a compliment, Tam,” he replied. “It’s the truth.”
She lifted her face to him and, inevitably, they kissed. Also inevitably they broke free again after a while, leaving everything between them unsaid. Tamsyn had decided to simply live from moment to moment, to not think about the future, or lack thereof. Perry was the most wonderful man she had ever spent time with, and she was going to enjoy every moment of that time.
“So, are we going to eat our spoils then?” she asked, picking up the melon.
“Come,” he said, taking her hand. “I know just the place.”
What is this special place? Find out in part ten!