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This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART SEVENTEEN – AFTERMATH
Tamsyn woke to urgent banging on her door the next morning. “Tamsyn!” Perry whisper-shouted.
She sat up groggily, taking in her dishevelled state. Her dress was crumpled and twisted, her hair was a tangled mess and Perry’s rose had been reduced to a swirl of crushed petals on the sheets. Rubbing her eyes she walked to the door and opened it, coming face to face with Perry. “Hmm?” she said sleepily.
He stared at her for a moment, tenderly brushed a rose petal off her cheek, then seemed to remember why he had woken her. “Tolman Chubb is here to complain to father,” he said, his eyes intent.
Tamsyn was instantly awake. “What?!”
“Come,” Perry said, and grabbed her hand.
He led her outside, but this time he turned left, following the Great Smials hill to a lesser used area. More round windows dotted the hillside, and after the fourth he crouched down and motioned for Tamsyn to do the same. They continued below the window ledges until they rounded a corner, where they found Frodo sat on his heels underneath an open window, from which Faramir’s voice drifted out.
Frodo startled when he saw them, ready to bolt, but relaxed again when he recognised them and moved over to give them room. The three of them settled themselves against the wall, knees pulled up out of sight, and Perry wrapped an arm around Tamsyn’s shoulders in a gesture of comfort.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” Faramir’s voice came from above them. “I had some urgent business which could not wait. Are you sure you won’t have a cup of tea?”
“You know very well why I’m here, Faramir, and it’s not to drink tea,” Tolman blustered. “That rotten son of yours beat up Colman yesterday. His jaw hurts so much that he can hardly chew, and three of his teeth are loose!”
Tamsyn grinned at Perry and quietly planted a kiss on his cheek, getting a grin in return.
“Well,” Faramir replied, calm as always. “I see that you intend to be direct. If I may ask, were you there last night? Did you see the incident? If not, did you hear it from your son or from someone else?”
“What’s that got to do with it? No, I didn’t see it, but Colman told me everything. Which was very painful for him, I should add.”
“And how reliable is your son, Tolman?” Faramir asked mildly. “Is he trustworthy? Can you believe what he tells you? Because I can tell you one thing.” His voice turned sharp and authoritative as he continued, “My son has never lied to me. So when he told me last night that your rotten son tried to manhandle and kiss his fiancée against her will, I believed him.” He let the comment hang for a moment, but when Tolman started to splutter he spoke over him.
“Let me also say, Tolman Chubb, that my son has done exactly what I would have expected him to do in the circumstances, and if he hadn’t, I would have been on your doorstep this morning to personally give young Colman a good thrashing. And believe me, I have a sincere inclination to do so anyway.”
It was quiet again for a moment, and Tamsyn gripped Perry’s hand like a vice as she waited for what would come next. Then Tolman whined, “He’s lying! Colman never did nothing!”
“I already told you, Perry never lies to me,” Faramir stated icily.
“But what about all those times he nicked my melons?”
“Have I ever claimed to you that he said he didn’t do it? Perry isn’t the only young man in Tuckborough who steals your melons, Tolman, but he has readily admitted it to me on those occasions when it was him. But we’re not here to talk about your melons, or I would feel it necessary to mention to you the countless times when your son has been stealing the eggs from underneath my chickens. Ah, I see he has never admitted to that either, has he?”
Tamsyn wished she could see Tolman’s face, for silence radiated out once more. She imagined him open-mouthed with shock.
“So we shall forget about the melons, shall we?” Faramir continued. “Just as I have never bothered to complain to you about my eggs. However, I expect a full apology from Colman to both Tamsyn and my son for his unforgivable behaviour, and I expect it today, regardless of his inability to chew, speak, spit or whatever else he can’t do with his mouth. He can do an apologetic dance for all I care, but he will apologise. Do I make myself clear?”
Tamsyn stifled a snigger, and Perry shot her a panicky look, putting his finger to his lips.
Tolman, meanwhile, must simply have nodded, because again it was Faramir who spoke. “Very well, that’s settled then. Good day, Tolman.”
Footsteps faded away, a door opened and closed, then they heard Faramir walk to the window. All three of them shrank back, but then he said, “You can get up now, he’s gone.”
Tamsyn and Perry shared a look, then slowly stood up and turned to Faramir, guilt written all over their faces. Frodo followed, gripping his brother’s hand tightly.
“How did you know we were here?” Perry asked.
Faramir chuckled. “I’ve known you for longer than just today, Peregrin. Why do you think I kept him waiting? I knew you needed enough time to get here so you could listen in.” Then he turned his gaze to Frodo. “I had not expected to see you here, though.”
Frodo glowered. “Colman tried to hurt Tamsyn. I wanted to know what you were going to say to his father.”
“And are you happy with what I said?” At Frodo’s meek nod he smiled contentedly. “Good, because to me that was an extremely satisfying conversation.”
Perry laughed. “Thanks, father, you’re the best,” he said, and surprised Faramir by hugging him through the window.
“I did what was right, Perry,” he replied, patting his son on the back. “Colman’s behaviour was unforgivable, so he shall apologise.” He nodded at Tamsyn, but she shook her head.
“Faramir, I appreciate the gesture, but I… I’m not sure I can suffer him anywhere near me now.”
“I can appreciate that, my dear,” Faramir said, “but bear in mind that if you cannot face him now, chances are you’ll never be able to face him again, and Tuckborough isn’t a very big place.” Then he smiled again. “Besides, I only said that he had to apologise, I never said that you would have to accept it.” He winked, and for a second he looked so much like Perry that Tamsyn couldn’t help herself. She bent over the window sill, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, and had the satisfaction of seeing him blush.
“Thank you, Faramir. And you too, Frodo. Thank you for sticking with me.” She hugged the boy, and he grinned at her.
“I’m gonna go and give Izzy a kicking for you now,” he declared. He turned and tried to run off, but Perry grabbed the back of his shirt to stop him.
“No, you won’t,” he said. “Leave Izzy to father.”
Faramir nodded. “You go and have breakfast, I’ll find out what’s up with Izzy. It’s not like him to defend Colman.”
His remark made Tamsyn aware of her grumbling stomach, and she gave Perry a quick smile. “Let me go change,” she said. “I’ll see you in the kitchen in a bit.”
When she emerged ten minutes later she was pulling faces as she tried to drag her fingers through her matted hair. Perry gestured to a bowl of porridge, then winced when she yanked out another tangle.
“What happened to your hair?” he asked.
“Forgot to braid it last night.”
His eyes went wide. “It does that when you sleep on it?”
She smiled at him. “It doesn’t just hang off my head, Perry. It takes a lot of maintenance.”
He watched her untangle another lock, then resolutely pushed her into the chair facing the porridge. “Let me do it, you just eat.” Then, with infinite patience and excessive care, he started untangling her hair.
When Esme walked into the kitchen, five minutes later, she watched her son at his task for a few moments, then produced an old-fashioned, four-pronged comb from a drawer. “Here,” she said, handing it to Perry. “Hair like Tamsyn’s needs more than just fingers, no matter how loving.”
Tamsyn looked around and saw her stroke her son’s head with a look more fond than she’d ever seen Esme give him; a look which Perry returned with a warm smile. The day before might have been a shock, but Perry had been vindicated.
It took Perry far longer to untangle her hair than it took Tamsyn to eat a bowl of porridge, and for a long time after she’d finished she simply sat and enjoyed the feel of him running his fingers through her hair.
Then Faramir appeared from the corridor. “Tamsyn, Radagast is asking for you.”
She gave him a startled look before nodding and standing up, a leaden sense of foreboding settling into her stomach. A quick look at Perry showed him to be just as apprehensive, and she held out her hand to him.
They entered Radagast’s room together, and the old wizard looked up when they approached the bed. “I’m nearly recovered, Tamsyn,” he said. “Tomorrow I can take you home.”
Home is here, it flashed through her head, but she nodded. “Okay,” she said hoarsely. “I’ll be ready.”
Perry squeezed her hand so hard it was painful, but she barely felt it as she left the room again. Everything felt numb, faded, as if someone had dragged a veil over the sun and had made the world a dimmer, duller place.
“Tam?” Perry said in a small voice, and she turned to him and hugged him fiercely. Neither of them cried, they just held each other for what felt like hours, lost in a sadness beyond tears.
“Come,” Tamsyn finally said, and started walking, pulling Perry with her.
Where are they going? Find out what happens in part eighteen!