Missed the start? All installments can be found here.
Or go back to part thirty-one.
This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
“Mother, where are my riding trousers?”
Tamsyn sighed and stretched her back, wincing at the stabs of pain shooting upwards. “I’m washing them, dear,” she called back, pulling the last of the garments through the wringer attached to the washtub, then placing them in the basket next to her.
Her son walked into the washroom, looking contrite. “I’d have done that, mother. I promised, didn’t I?”
“Faramir, I’m not yet so old that I can’t do my son’s washing for him,” she replied. “Besides, you should be packing. We’re leaving tomorrow.”
“I’m done,” he said, brightening up.
She put her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow at him. “Really?”
He squirmed. “Well, mostly. I mean, we’ll only be gone two or three weeks, right? I don’t really need to take that much, right?”
“Which I take to mean that you packed one spare shirt, one spare pair of trousers and probably about seven cheeses, am I right?” Tamsyn said sternly.
Faramir tried to meet her gaze, but looked down after only a few seconds. “Only six cheeses,” he muttered, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
Tamsyn shook her head at him, then smiled and tousled his hair. It was the same as hers – straight, thick and stiff as a brush when short, meaning that it usually stuck in every direction. “You and your cheese,” she said fondly. “You should have been a mouse. Go on, go pack again, and properly this time. If you’ve done it right you can have a shower, but I will check first.”
“A shower?” he said, eyes bright. “Can I?”
“Yes, you can, just this once. This is a special occasion, after all. It’s not every day that my eldest son goes off to Bree to get his Gondorian livery.”
“Thanks, mother, you’re the best,” he said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek, then dashing off. He nearly ran into Perry, who came in just as he left, but ducked under his father’s arm and scarpered down the corridor.
“Did I hear you give away our hot water?” Perry asked, walking up to his wife.
“I’m afraid I did, my love,” she replied, smiling at him. “Unless he leaves enough for us to use the shower after him, but somehow I doubt it.”
In the first few years of their marriage, Tamsyn had used her engineering skills to design and build a primitive solar-heated water system with an insulated storage tank, which had been dug into the hill above Great Smials and connected to the big bathroom. It was virtually invisible from the outside, but once enough water was pumped into it, it was heated by the sun and stored, ready to provide a warm shower. It was a fair amount of work to keep it going, but still less than manually filling a bath, and the rule of the house was that the shower was for Perry and Tamsyn’s use only, unless special permission was obtained.
“Shame,” Perry said, pulling her into his arms. “I was looking forward to our shower.”
“We could have a bath instead,” Tamsyn suggested with a sultry smile. “It’s been a while.” She kissed him, then sighed and tried to pull away. “But I need to sort this washing first.”
“Do you?” Perry asked, refusing to let go. He nuzzled her neck and whispered, “What if I have other plans? Surely you can spare five minutes?”
Tamsyn gave him an indignant stare. “Five minutes?”
“I won’t settle for anything less than fifteen, and you’ll have to make up for it tonight.”
“Make up for what?”
“For rushing me. Lock the door, will you?”
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later they lay in each other’s arms on a big pile of blankets in the corner, sated and content. Tamsyn shifted position and let out an involuntary grunt of pain when her back sent another protesting stab upwards.
“Are you alright, my heart?” Perry asked.
“I’m fine, it’s just my back,” she grumbled. “I’m not as young as I used to be, and washing takes it out of me a bit.”
“You ought to have let Faramir do it,” he reproached her.
“Don’t you start,” she muttered. “I’m not decrepit yet. It’s nothing you can’t fix with a massage tonight.”
He gave her a slow smile. “I’m sure I can do that.” Then he turned serious again. “Are you sure you want to come with us tomorrow? You would be the first Took wife to go to Bree.”
“Oh, Eä, not that argument again, I thought we’d settled this. You’re not leaving me behind, Perry,” she said, glaring at him.
“But it’s a long way to Bree.”
Tamsyn snorted. “It’s only three days further than Buckland, and we’ve gone there lots of times. I can ride as well as you and Faramir, and I’m coming with you, period.”
“But I’m still not sure we should leave the children on their own for so long.”
“Oh for…” She sat up and turned to him with an exasperated look. “Paddy is twenty-seven and will be delighted to not have his parents around for a few weeks. I’d worry about him trashing the place, but Frodo and Lily are around and I’m sure they’ll keep him in check. You know Paddy adores his uncle. Iris and Esme will be fine over at Donna and Tommy’s, and they’ll love spending time with Peony and Ruby.”
“And Andy? He’s only nineteen, Tam.”
“Andy is a very sensible child, nothing like his father. He’ll be fine. He’ll help Lily look after Addy and Vinca, and he’ll love every moment of it. He’s fascinated by the twins, and you know it.”
He still looked dubious, and she leaned forward and stroked his face, studying it like she still so often did. There were a few more lines, and his eyes had little crows’ feet at the corners, but at seventy-two his hair was as coal-black as it had been at forty-one, and to Tamsyn he was still the same young man she had fallen in love with so long ago. “Perry, my love, if all of that doesn’t convince you, I have one last argument that you cannot possibly counter,” she said quietly.
“I have not been away from you for more than a day in over thirty years, and I still don’t think I could bear to be. So do you think that you could do without me for several weeks?”
He looked at her for a moment, then pulled her close. “No, I couldn’t,” he admitted.
“So it’s still settled, like it’s been for weeks. I’m coming with you to Bree. Besides, I’ve always wanted to see–”
She was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Mother? Father?” Paddy’s voice was hesitant. “There’s someone at the door, and… and he looks like one of the big folk. Says his name is Radagast. Should I go and call the shirriffs?”
Perry and Tamsyn stared at each other, then scrambled up and began pulling on their clothes. “It’s fine, Paddy,” Perry called back. “Give him something to eat, we’ll be there in a moment.” He was up and out the door while Tamsyn was still lacing her bodice, but she followed soon after and rushed up to hug the old wizard, sat awkwardly at the kitchen table on a just-too-small chair.
“Radagast, we haven’t seen you in thirty years!” she exclaimed. “What brings you here today?”
“I’m about to go through the portal, and I thought I’d check here first, to see how you and Peregrin are faring. You’re looking well, Tamsyn. You’re as beautiful as ever.”
“See?” Perry said triumphantly. “It’s not just me who thinks so.”
Tamsyn waved him away, suddenly intent. “You say you’re going through the portal?” she asked, grabbing the wizard’s sleeve. “Can you do something for me, please?”
At Radagast’s nod she dashed away and returned a few minutes later with a flat piece of paper, placing it before the wizard. “I’ve had this ready for years, hoping you’d come by. Please take this and put it in a postbox somewhere. You know what they look like?”
Radagast smiled. “I know what they looked like thirty years ago, yes. What is this?”
Tamsyn opened the makeshift envelope and took out a drawing. Years before, Frodo had discovered a talent for drawing, slowly honing his skill. The picture before her was evidence of just how talented he was.
She looked at the image, at herself and Perry, then brushed her fingers past all five of her children. Faramir, with his unruly hair and his father’s eyes, and the quiet, shy character of Donna and Izzy. Paddy, who was such a carbon copy of Perry that it was uncanny sometimes. Iris, with Tamsyn’s hair and Perry’s eyes, and a quiet confidence that made heads turn even though she was only twenty-five. Esme with her hobbit hair and black eyes, and with the same calm confidence as her sister.
And last but not least, Andy, who looked as much like Tamsyn as Paddy looked like Perry. He was easygoing and cheerful, and Tamsyn knew that once he had grown out of his puppy-fat he would be even more handsome than Perry. They all sported the same midnight-black hair as their parents, and Tamsyn felt a fierce pride for all five of them.
She showed the picture to Radagast, then put it back in the envelope. She had addressed it to Andrew McIntyre, at her old address in London. “It’s been a long time, and he may not live there anymore,” she said with a shrug, “but it’s worth a try. I’m sure he won’t mind paying the postage.” Then she walked back into Perry’s embrace.
“I never really got to say this to you at the time, Radagast, but I cannot thank you enough for bringing Tamsyn back to me,” Perry said. “I never knew I could be as happy as I have been these past thirty years. Is there anything at all that I can give you, or do for you?”
Radagast smiled. “Seeing the two of you together and happy is reward enough. I’m glad to have been of service.” He sighed and stood up, remembering at the last moment to stoop, then picked up the envelope. “Farewell Peregrin, farewell Tamsyn. I do not think I shall see you again.”
They watched him disappear into the woods, then turned to each other. “Come, let’s finish packing,” Tamsyn said. “Tomorrow we’re off to Bree.”
Perry smiled. “Tomorrow we’re off to Bree,” he agreed.
* * * * *
Andy sat on the sofa, engrossed in a book, when Rhys walked in. “Andy, there’s a really strange letter for you here,” he said. “It looks like it was delivered to the old place, but I guess the porter must have remembered where we moved to. There’s no postage or anything.”
He held out the envelope and Andy accepted it, bemusedly taking in the stiff, parchment-like paper and the makeshift nature of the envelope. Then he saw the handwriting and lost all strength in his legs, dropping heavily onto the sofa.
“Andy? Are you okay?” Rhys asked as Andy ripped open the envelope with trembling hands and took out a picture, hand-drawn in pastels and charcoal. There was a dedication at the bottom:
To Andy, with love. These are Thain Peregrin Took and his wife Tamsyn. Also their children, Faramir, Padraig, Iris, Esmeralda and Andrew.
Andy stretched out his hand and drew Rhys down onto the sofa beside him. “Rhys,” he said, “there’s something I have to tell you…”