Hobbits in the Basement Part V - In which we come to the end
In which we come to the end of the Tale
Author's note: As most of you have noticed this has taken forever to get published. That is owing to some computer problems, severe cases of writer's block and life in general. Since it has been so long since the last post, I shall recap a bit. Amelia is journeying with Pansy and Togo to meet their family members who will move to a safer place in three days. It is now a race against time.
The yellow and black car finally slowed to a stop beside the curb. The driver was a short, bald man, with a friendly smile and bright blue eyes.
"Can I 'elp ye missy?"
"Yes." I said as I ushered Pansy and Togo into the back seat. "Can you take me to the train station? I've got to hurry or I'll miss my train."
"O' course I can take ye t' the train depot missy, just 'op on in and 'ave no fear. We'll get ye and yer liddle ones there on time."
"Thank you so much!" I said as I climbed in next to Togo. Thank the Lord I got out of the school undiscovered. My heart pounded in my head and I still felt jittery. I wasn't out of the woods yet. I still had to get the right train and find the field and, get across it and somehow find a hill with a tree on top of it, and- I sighed and let my head fall against the window, I was only one kid for goodness sake.
Luckily the traffic wasn't too bad and we made it to the station with ten minutes to spare. I paid the friendly driver and gave him a little extra in his tip. He'd been most helpful. We waved as he drove away and then headed for the train platforms.
I dug in my backpack for our tickets while Togo and Pansy sat on the curb next to me.
"Where does our family live?" Pansy asked.
"A ways from here Pansy, but we'll get there." I kept digging. Where were those tickets?
"D'you think they'll like me?" She continued.
I searched the front pocket; beginning to feel a little panicked. I HAD taken them from Sarah hadn't I?
"Of course they'll like you Pans' don't be ridiculous."
"Look who's talking about being ridiculous. You're frantically looking for those tickets when you put them in your pocket not ten minutes ago."
I stopped halfway through emptying the contents of the backpack.
I reached slowly into the back pocket of my jeans. There they were, platform ten, Departure time: 4:43. I glanced at my watch. It was four thirty.
"Come on. Up you get. We'll be late."
They scrambled to their feet and shouldered their packs. I had to admit that I admired their courage. After all, they didn't even know these hobbits they were about to go and live with. Just like I hadn't known my aunt when I'd moved in with her. I wish I'd been half as brave as them. Perhaps it would have made things easier. On both me and Aunt Janine
Ten minutes later, we were sitting in the padded leather seats, watching the landscape slowly move past the window as we chugged out of the station. Pansy's feet dangled about a foot and a half above the floor as she let her slip on shoes slide off. I eyed the door warily. If someone came in... Stop it Amelia. As far as anyone besides you is concerned they are your younger siblings and you're off to visit Grandma. Relax. Nothing is going to happen. This is not a life or death situation.
"Are you all right Amelia?" Togo asked. "You seem a bit distraught." I shook my head.
"I'm all right." I said. "I'm just a bit nervous about this. What if I do mess something up? What if I miss the stop? What if we make it to the field but we never find the hill with the tree? There's just so much that normal kids don't have to deal with. I mean, not everybody has Hobbits in their basements."
Togo shrugged. "No, I suppose not." There was just a hint of a smirk on his face.
"And just what is so funny?" I demanded.
"Nothing. You're just so..."
"What? I'm so what?"
I gave him an odd look.
"What do you mean?"
He shook his head.
"All the stories that you tell, about the fellowship? I never understood why the humans were the weakest race. Now I think I do. It's not that you are weak. It's just that you dwell on things that are bad. It hinders you. It makes you afraid to make the same mistake again. Hobbits don't seem to have that problem. We just take what is thrown at us, and adjust. I think that's why only Frodo was able to destroy the ring. Anyone else wouldn't have been able to forget all the hardship of it."
I nodded thoughtfully. I'd never thought about it before. But now that I did, it made sense. The hobbits in the Lord of the Rings made it through every mishap and danger because they were eternally optimistic. They saw the good in everything, because what else could they do? Things happen in life that you can't change. So why let it get you down? I couldn't change my classmates' opinions or interests. But were they really all bad? Were they starting to realize that they couldn't change me either? To see that I really wasn't all bad? I may never like the way they gossip, or the dark makeup they wear, but was it a reason to shut out the people behind the fads? No. It wasn't. People are people. Perhaps if we all thought like hobbits, we would all get through the brief span of time that is our human life a little bit easier.
With this realization, I found a strange sort of resolve. I knew that I could do this. I owed it to Pansy and Togo, and I owed to myself, to prove that I wasn't like every other human. And also, in an odd way, that I WAS like every other human. We are all capable of doing great things. Sometimes we just have to dig down deep and find that little spark of hobbit that we all have to remember what's important.
The train continued it's chug-chugging across the countryside all day. When it started to get dark, a conductor brought us blankets and pillows to sleep on the train. As I settled my head against the window I wished we'd had enough money to get tickets on one of those trains with the bedroom compartments, but we didn't. So I pulled the thin blanket up around my chin and shut my eyes. I could do it. I knew I could. And nothing could stand in my way anymore.
When I awoke, it was just before sunrise. Pansy was asleep on the seat of our compartment and Togo was sprawled on the floor. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and stretched out my stiff neck. In the distance, I saw the train station, and beyond it, bathed in the golden light of the morning, was a field. We were nearly there.
I leaned over and shook Togo.
"Hey." I said softly. "Wake up dude we're almost there."
Togo slowly opened his eyes and blinked.
"Good. I don't know how SHE got the couch and I got the floor."
I laughed softly and shook Pansy who jumped up right away.
"Yes! Let's go!" Togo snorted as he sat up slowly. Pansy imitated his snort. " Puck it in Togo, you're just not a morning person."
"If I was meant to see the sunrise it would have been put in the middle of the day." He said, rubbing his eyes.
"Come on you two. We're pulling into the station. Put your shoes on."
"It's only for a little while longer." I reassured her. "I'll let you take them off when we get away from the town."
She sighed heavily but pulled them on. We slid the compartment door open and joined the stream of passengers headed for the platform.
A quaint little town spread out in front of us. It's white board fences and freshly mowed lawns made it look like a peaceful spot. Near the edge of town, next to the field, construction was underway. Bulldozers lumbered past, shoveling enormous amounts of dirt in front of them. Men in hard hats milled around checking blueprints or leaned on shovels. It was perilously close to the field. It wouldn't be long until they reached it.
I took both Togo and Pansy by the hand and guided them out of the station.
"If anyone has to go to the bathroom and doesn't wish to do so behind a tree, I suggest you go now."
That got a small grin out of them. They could hide it as much as they liked, but they were nervous. Optimistic to a fault, but nervous.
We reached a barbed wire fence at the edge of town just past the construction site.
"Okay," I said. "Pansy you go first. Crawl under it and mind the barbs." She got on her belly and wriggled underneath the fence like a worm in a mud puddle. I tossed her backpack over the fence to her as Togo got on his hands and knees.
"Hey you kids!"
I looked up. A burly construction worker was headed towards us, and he didn't look too happy.
"Hey! That's private property! You can't go in there!"
"Go! GO!" I whispered hurriedly to Togo, who squirmed under the fence and crawled away. I threw myself down and wriggled like mad, ducking my head to avoid the sharp points just above me. I heard the construction workers' footsteps quicken.
"Stop! Hey! HEY! STOP!"
I cleared the fence with one pull of my arms on the ground and crawled as fast as I could to the waiting hobbits. We had to find somewhere to hide! Other voices had now joined the construction workers'. They were quickly scaling the fence.
The hobbits turned and looked back at me, fear in their eyes.
"Don't wait for me! GET!" I whispered furiously.
They stood up and began to run, and I marveled at how little noise they made. I heard more shouts from behind. They were over the fence now. I dropped to my stomach and wriggled along, wishing I could sink into the ground. I had to find somewhere to lie low, some tall grass or something. Maybe they would pass me by. I scanned the field as best I could from my position on the ground. There wasn't anything I could see that looked like it could conceal me. But wait... There! About ten feet ahead of me was a thicket. The grass was thicker here, and it was taller than the grass surrounding it. Could it hide me? My moment of indecision was broken by another shout that sounded closer than ever. I didn't have a choice. It was the thicket or nothing at all. I got up on my hands and knees and crawled as fast and as quietly as I could. I dove into the thicket on my stomach again and tried not to think about the things that might be hiding in it. I pulled as much grass as I could over my head and curled up into a ball.
"Oh God, please don't let them find me, let the hobbits get away, oh please God, we've come all this way, don't let them find us!"
I waited there, curled up, for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the voices faded away, and I dared to poke my head out from under the grass. I couldn't see anyone. The field was deserted again. I got up onto my knees and looked back towards the fence. I saw the workers shaking their heads as they wandered back to the site. I didn't see Pansy or Togo with them. The air whooshed out of my lungs in relief. But I was still worried. If Pansy and Togo weren't with the workers, where were they? Were they lost? Were they wandering around looking for me? Were they hurt? I had to find them!
I made a move to get up. But someone, something, grabbed my sleeve. I whirled around on my knees and found myself staring into a pair of bright blue eyes that were distinctly familiar. Pansy? It wasn't Pansy, or Togo. But it was most definitely a hobbit.
He put a finger to his lips and motioned for me to follow him. I dropped to my knees again and crawled further through the brush after him. Soon, the grass grew shorter again and the hobbit motioned for me to stand. I did so, brushing dirt and grass from my clothes.
"You are early." The hobbit said softly. I looked up from cleaning my clothes. The hobbit smiled. "We weren't expecting you for another few days. You've done well in bringing my family here."
So, this was one of the hobbits I had been sent to meet. Now I realized why he looked so familiar. Pansy had obviously inherited the family traits. He had curly golden hair, cut just below his ears and his huge blue eyes twinkled. How could I tell him I'd lost Pansy and Togo?
I finally got my breath back long enough to speak.
"My name's Amelia. Amelia Godwin-"
The hobbit's eyes widened. "Godwin?" He repeated. "You are the child of Jennifer Godwin?"
I nodded. "Jennifer was my mother, yes." Why did my mother have anything to do with Pansy and Togo?
The Hobbit grinned more broadly. "That explains quite a bit." He said. "But forgive me for not introducing myself, My name is Lotho Grubb. I'm Togo and Pansy's uncle.
Uncle? He didn't look much older than Togo. He recognized my confused look.
"Togo and Pansy's father was my eldest brother. There were six of us, I'm the youngest."
"I'm pleased to meet you Lotho, but, about Pansy and Togo-"
"He nodded knowingly. "They said you'd be worried."
"They- they said- you know where they are?"
"They are hidden safely in a cave not too far from here. I ran into them first and they told me which way you went. Don't worry, they are quite safe."
An immense weight lifted off my shoulders. Not only were the hobbits safe, we now had a guide to help us get to the hobbit hole.
"Shall we go find them then?" Lotho said.
"Yes please." I replied.
Pansy jumped up and ran to me when I slid through the small tunnel in the ground into the cave.
"Lotho! You found her! I was so worried!" She turned to me. "Don't' ever do that again, you scared me!" She hugged me around my middle.
I ruffled her hair. "I'm all right kiddo. Clam down." I glanced around at the three hobbits.
"I'm assuming you already know each other?" I said.
Togo nodded. "Lotho and I used to play together when we were kids."
Lotho snorted jokingly. "You still are a kid master Togo. I've just turned thirty-five three weeks ago and I've been married for six months."
I thought Togo's eyes would pop straight out of his head.
"Married? To who?"
I thought I saw Lotho blush but it was too dim in the cave to see properly.
Togo's eyes grew even wider if that was possible.
"YOU'RE JOKING!" Lotho shook his head. Togo sat down with a thump. "Well bust my buttons!" He exclaimed.
"Forgive me for asking but- who's Lily Burrows?" I said quietly.
"Only the most beautiful hobbit lass of all time." Togo said. Lotho smiled grimly.
"She's also my wife. Remember that before you start on your stories Togo."
Togo grinned. "I wouldn't dream of it, my dear uncle!" he said.
Pansy had been clinging to my jeans throughout the whole exchange. I assumed that she was too young when she and Togo were orphaned to remember Lotho. I ruffled her hair some more. She smiled gratefully up at me.
"Well," Lotho said in a business-like way. "We'd best be off. If we leave now, we'll reach the hill before supper time." He cast a sideways glance at me "I expect you haven't had good old fashioned shire-food in a while."
Pansy shook her head timidly.
"No, but the big people food isn't so bad. I like gummy worms myself."
I laughed at Lotho's confused face and said,
"Well, come on then, let's get a move on!"
We walked the rest of that day. It didn't seem half so scary now that we had Lotho with us. He and Togo talked and laughed like brothers instead of uncle and nephew. Pansy rode piggyback on me for most of the way. She was still uncomfortable around Lotho, and she had a right to be I suppose. She was fairly young when Mentha adopted them.
I finally plucked up the courage to ask, "So, what were you doing this far out Lotho?"
"The hobbit's father sent me."
Togo stopped dead in his tracks. "My father? He's alive?"
A grim looked shifted onto Lotho's face.
"Yes. Alive but crippled. When the house collapsed, he was trapped in a pile of rubble. His left leg is beyond repair. We couldn't find your mother though." He bit his lip. "Your father wanted to come and find you himself but we were worried he might not make it back."
Togo looked absolutely elated.
"He's alive? You're sure? We thought they were both dead!" Lotho assured him his father was alive and well and laughed at his nephew's stunned face. Pansy tugged on Togo's T-shirt.
"Will father remember me Togo?" Togo took pansy from my back and placed her on his own.
"Of course he will Pans'. This will work out fine. You'll see!" Pansy smiled and we continued on our merry way across the field. The sun shone brightly and it seemed as if the day would never end. I wished it wouldn't. I knew that at the end of this day, I would have to say goodbye. And I didn't want to.
Around four o'clock, we saw the tree. It stood straight like a pillar, guiding the way to where the hobbits dwelled. It was like something from a dream. As we got closer, a figure became visible, sitting at the base of the tree, on top of the small hill. The figure was staring fixedly in our direction. It stood up. Finally, in a loping sort of half-run, it started down the hill toward us. Togo broke into a run. Pansy jumped off my back and ran with him. I walked with Lotho behind them.
A gray-haired hobbit was limping across the field. Togo was running full out now, with Pansy just a few paces behind. The gray-haired hobbit knelt and opened his arms as his children flew into them.
"My little ones! My children! Oh thank Arda! Thank you thank you!" Tears streamed down his lined face. Togo's shoulders shook as he clung to his father's neck, Pansy was crying so hard she was hiccuping. I smiled through eyes brimming with tears of my own. This was where they belonged.
After a long while, the embrace ended. The gray-haired hobbit stood, keeping one hand on each child as he looked up at me from his diminutive height.
"You are the one Mentha Mungo spoke of?" He asked, "You are Jennifer's daughter?"
I nodded "Yes. I am Amelia."
The gray-haired hobbit released his children and took several steps toward me. He bowed low to me. I wasn't quite sure what to do. Was I supposed to bow in return? But before I had to worry about it, the father hobbit had me in a fierce hug around my middle.
"Bless you!" He said, "Bless you! You are just like your mother! I owe my life to her and I owe my children to you!" When he finally released me, he smiled. " Look at me, without a proper introduction! My name is Bolfo Grubb. I am Togo and Pansy's father." He picked up the wooden cane he'd dropped when he greeted his children. "Come inside! Share a meal with us! Then we will see you safely back to your own people." I nodded my head.
"I will stay for dinner."
The food was marvelous. I had never tasted anything that good in my entire life. I'd never seen so many hobbits in my life either. Four of the six brothers lived in the hobbit hole under the hill with the tree on it. The hobbit hole itself was massive. A huge expanse of tunnels led deeper underground to more apartments and rooms. There was only one kitchen however, and only one dining hall, with a great long oaken table running the length of the room. With all the hobbits and their children gathered around it, dinner was a merry affair.
Togo sat on my left, Pansy on my right. Bolfo sat at the head of the table next to his son. I felt a little awkward. Not only was I half again as tall as everyone in the room, they all regarded me with a great respect bordering on awe. Finally I turned to Bolfo.
"Pardon me sir, but uh... how did you know who I was? Earlier on the field today, I mean."
Bolfo smiled. "I knew you because firstly Mentha told me your name, and secondly you are the spitting image of your mother."
That brought an interesting point of discussion around.
"About my mother sir,"
"Bolfo will do my girl."
"Er- sorry sir-uh... Bolfo. But... why do you all seem to know my mother? She never told me about you. Why is it such a big deal that I'm her daughter?"
Every mouth dropped open. They gaped at me as if I was insane. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. Finally, Bolfo spoke up.
"You mean you don't know who you are?"
I was officially confused.
"What do you mean, "who I am?" I asked softly.
"I mean you don't know who your mother was?"
I was even more confused. "She was... my mom. I don't know."
Bolfo smiled and sat back in his chair.
"No one ever told you that your mother was the last friend of the hobbits?"
Now it was my turn to drop my jaw.
"My mother knew you?"
Lotho snorted "Knew us? She saved Bolfo's life!"
"What are you talking about?"
Lotho leaned his elbows on the table. "Tell me Amelia, how did your mother die?"
I felt a jolt. Why was he asking me this?
"She was defending a nature reserve when..." I gasped. Realization hit me like a ton of bricks. The construction workers outside the field- it wasn't a nature reserve she had been trying to save... it was the Grubb's home. She had died saving the hobbit's lives.
Lotho smiled. "Now you see."
I nodded. "I didn't know." I said in disbelief.
Lotho's wife Lily spoke up.
"Well, I can't believe Mentha didn't tell you. If she was a respectable hobbit-"
"Wait a minute!" I said. "Hobbit? Mentha's a Hobbit?"
Lily looked surprised. "Of course she is. What else would she be?"
"If she's a hobbit, why is she at Greenwynn and not here with you?"
Bolfo put a small hand on my arm.
"Your mother asked her best friend Mentha Mungo to take care of you just before she died. It was the least we could do for her, as much as we owed to her. Mentha knew that because she was tall, as hobbits go, she could pass as human without too much trouble.
I was trying to digest it all. My mother was a hero, Mentha was a hobbit, and I was sitting in a room full of creatures that until a month ago, I didn't even know existed. It was too much.
Bolfo saw my situation.
"Perhaps you should spend the night here tonight. It is dark now... you would never find your way back tonight." I nodded. I didn't feel like going through that field by myself.
I lay awake that night, mulling it all over. I had such mixed emotions; it was hard to think clearly. My mother was a hero to the hobbits. She saved Bolfo's life. I felt a fierce pride for her, that she could be so brave and true in the face of death. But at the same time, without the hobbits, she would still be alive, wouldn't she? But I couldn't blame the hobbits, they had been my mother's best friends, if Sarah had been in trouble, wouldn't I have done the same for her?
I rolled over and shut my eyes, wishing for sleep. Somehow I thought that things would be clearer in the morning. But I didn't want to think about the morning either. I would have to leave Pansy and Togo behind tomorrow. I wondered if I would really be able to. They had become such a big part of my life. How could I just let them go? But they were where they belonged. My problem was... where did I belong?
Stop it. I told myself. You're being stupid again.
I remembered Sarah, and Tony and my roommates. They were more than willing to accept me. I HAD a place where I belonged. I had to be strong like my mother and let them go. Only far away from men, would they be safe.
The next day dawned bright and clear. Lotho woke me early.
"Come, if you hurry you can catch the next train and be home before supper tomorrow."
I wandered out into the dining hall, pulling my sweater on as I sank into a chair, rubbing my eyes.
"wha's the time?" I said sleepily
"Just past dawn, a familiar voice said.
"Togo? What are you doing up?"
"You didn't think we'd let you go without saying goodbye did you?"
"I guess not."
Pansy shuffled sleepily into the room.
"Guess what Amelia? I could actually see myself in the mirror in the hall without standing on my toes!"
I chuckled and ruffled her hair.
"I bet you could kid."
She crawled up onto my lap as Bolfo came in with my backpack under his arm. He laid it on the table in front of me. It was lumpy and bulging.
"There is food there for you and a gift for you."
"A gift? What for?"
"What for? Child! You have taken care of my children for months, and then restored them to me. I can not give you anything that would repay what you have done. I only hope that this will make a start."
I looked quizzically at his kind face, but he only smiled at me. So I undid the buckles on the back pack and pulled out a long roll of forest green cloth. It felt as soft as velvet but light as the breeze. I unrolled it carefully; discovering it was a hooded cloak with a wrought-gold clasp. I gasped.
"Mr. Bolfo, it's beautiful!"
He nodded. "It was your mother's. I thought it time to give it back to it's rightful owner."
I swept it over my shoulders. It was like it was made for me. My eyes grew misty as I looked down at the dark green fabric. Bolfo just patted my shoulder as best he could for his size. He knew how much it meant to me, I didn't need to say a word.
Lotho laid a hand on my shoulder.
"We should go if you want to make the train."
I nodded slowly and followed him out.
The sun was just coming over the hill as we stepped outside, trailed by Togo, Pansy and Bolfo. I shouldered the backpack and then turned to the Hobbits behind me. Bolfo stepped forward first. He held out his hand. I shook it and he grasped it warmly.
"I cannot thank you enough." Was all he said or needed to say. I gave him a deep nod.
"Take care of them." I said softly. He patted my hand before releasing me and turning back into the hole.
I knelt as Pansy rushed at me, tears rolling down her face.
"Don't go Amelia, stay here with me! Please?" She hiccuped into my neck. I felt tears of my own starting as I pulled her away from me so I could look her in the face.
"Listen sweetie, you remember Bilbo's song? About the road?"
She nodded tearfully.
"Well, this is a fork in the road. You have to go one way and I have to go the other. You belong with your family and I belong..." I choked. "I have to go back to Mentha."
She nodded again and I hugged her tightly. Then I ruffled her hair one last time and handed her to Lotho.
Togo stepped forward. We just stared at each other. Then he put his arms around me and hugged me fiercely. Finally he pulled away, wiping his eyes.
"I don't understand," he said. "I'm HOME I should be happy."
I smiled through freely running tears.
"You will be. I know it."
We smiled at each other for a moment and then I came to myself.
"Here. I have something for you." I reached into the backpack and pulled out my copy of the complete LOTR trilogy in one book. I pressed it into his hands.
He looked at me with confusion in his eyes.
"Why are you giving me this?" I laid a hand on his shoulder
"Because I want you to believe in fairy tales."
We hugged one last time, and then I turned away.
I waved to them as I walked down the path away from them. Finally I stumbled and had to turn around. As the tears fell from my eyes, a clear voice carried to me on the breeze.
"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow if I can"
Togo was singing for me one last time. I turned to look back one more time but they had disappeared. I set my Jaw and followed the path Lotho had shown me. I could make it on my own.
I sat on the train several hours later watching the countryside pass, feeling quite content with myself and with the world, when I glimpsed the corner of my notebook sticking out of the backpack on the floor. Only then did I remember the paper I was supposed to write for Madame Humbert. It was as good a time to start on it as ever. I pulled the notebook onto my knees as I dug a pen out of my pocket. Chewing on the pen cap I thought a moment. It could be about anything I wanted. What should I write about? It took only a moment's hesitation before I put the pen to paper and wrote:
"You know what the most annoying thing in the world is? When someone flushes the toilet while you're in the shower..."