It had happened again. That one where he lets go and stands there on the precipice watching Him fall into the fire as He calls out his name. That voice shrieking in anguish while he just stands there, doing nothing.
The night around him was silent, the air heavy. The sheets clung to his sweat drenched body, tangled around his legs. When that dream came, that one or one of the others that always ended the same, he knew sleep would not return and lying in the darkness, begging for oblivion to take him, would only be worse. Slipping out of bed as easy as he could, he turned over his pillow before he left the room and his sleeping wife.
She wasn’t sleeping, only feigning. For, if he knew his nightmares had disturbed her slumber, guilt would have been added to his despair and there would be even less of him to hold on to. She could hear him wandering about the house; he always did that when one of those dreams came. She would pass the night, all by herself, listening to her husband fight the demons of his heart. Alone, she would wait for him to return before dawn and slip back into bed as if he had never left. He would smile, kiss her good morning and go about his day like the night had been passed in blissful slumber. She never told him that she was aware of what he did at night, for she truly did not know. All she did know for certain was her husband was wasting away from the inside out and the cure for his hurt was never coming back.
Without opening her eyes, she slipped her hand under his pillow, touching where so recently his gentle head had lain. It was wet, soaked with his tears and he had tried to hide them from her, as he did with all his pain. More tears began to fall, this time from her eyes. Hugging his pillow close to her breast, she breathed in deeply the scent that always thrilled. Afraid that soon even the briefest hint, like his smell upon a pillow, would be all that was left of him. Rose cried for her loss and for her Sam.
He didn’t know where to go, didn’t understand what he needed to do to make the pain go away. He paced furiously back and forth: from the front hall to the kitchen, down the back hall, then returned again to the front to start all over again. Its a wonder that this nightly path had not worn into the floor boards as often as he had traversed it.
Sometimes his pace would be slow and methodical, like he was pondering a problem that required deep thinking and calm steps. Or he would wander aimlessly, passing the hours in a fog, unaware of his thoughts or surroundings. Still others he would race the circuit, round and round, faster and faster, seemingly chased by an unseen foe nipping at his heels. Or was he the one doing the chasing, looking for something always just beyond his grasp, something he would never catch, no matter how fast he ran? It didn’t matter, he knew he had to try and tonight was no exception.
Distant thunder rumbled through the Shire, boding of rain. He hadn’t needed the thunder to tell him it was going to rain, he had felt the storm’s coming in his knees when he had stooped to pull weeds around the hedge under the front window. There was a time when he could spend all day in his garden, the sun at his back, kneeling for hours, rich soil marking his hands. He snorted. Getting soft playing at mayor. He had agreed to the job in a fit of hubris, believing all those people who had told him how important he was. He knew the truth, though, and it rankled at his nerves every time someone called him “your Honor”. He knew who he really was and he longed desperately for those days when the only things that required his attention were the blooming and leafy things beyond his walls. But, he had felt an obligation to the Shire, to protect and hold it in his care. If he had to brave the duties of being mayor to insure its continued security, then he would just have to grin and bear it.
The thunder returned, deeper now, and a flash of lighting soon followed. Not long now, he thought as he passed the front windows. The flash illuminated the dark room. The light played off the walls, giving everything within a skeletal quality, as if the life had been sucked out and only bare and bleached bones remained. The outline of the Desk hung in the darkness made deeper by the sudden intrusion of the flash. It had stood there just as it had been left, not a paper out of place, not a pen removed. Rose had insisted with uncharacteristic harshness that the big thing be pulled over to the wall and out of the path of their growing family. Covered in dust, it sat there in the corner, brooding its new position in the household. No one was permitted to touch it. In the front bedroom the story was the same: it remained locked, no visitors admitted. All objects stranded in time, waiting.
The first heavy drops of rain spattered against the window panes calling out an arhythmnical tune. Thunder boomed again, low from the West and he back tracked to stand by his children’s bedroom. His youngest would huddle under his covers, whimpering, afraid to even show his face until the storm had completely passed. His ears strained to hear through the wooden door. There was nothing but the wind and the rain outside stirring. Satisfied that his little ones were still asleep, he moved on. He interrupted his nightly routine again by looking in on his wife. She was sleeping soundly, her swollen belly taking up most of his side of the bed. Retreating back to the hall, he paused. In that hallway, behind those closed doors, lay his life: children on one side, wife on the other. He had more than any one hobbit could ask for. Then why did he still feel alone?
There was a third door on that hall, one that had not been opened in 3 three years. He had passed there thousands of times, whether at night as part of his nocturnal circuit or when he was deep in his daily routine. He knew it was there, but he hadn’t entered. He had had no desire to reopen that old wound; the semi-healed, festering one was hurtful enough without tearing apart the flimsy shell that contained it and allow its pain to come pouring forth. He was smart enough to know his limitations. That part of his life had remained closed up tight.
However, this time was different. Maybe it was the storm warring outside, maybe it was the stress of yet another Gamgee on the way. He didn’t know why he was about to enter there after all these years. Maybe it was just time. Walking to the door, as if drawn by some demented curiosity, he laid his hand on the knob and pushed.
The room appeared grey and silent. Things lay about, clothes piled on a bed that had remained tussled for 3 years. Even though, at first glance it seemed as if the occupant had only just left for tea, a closer look would reveal this room had been abandoned. Personal things that lay on the bureau, covered with a thin layer of dust, told a story about the owner: a book of elven poetry, a hair comb worn by a mother, a favorite pipe weed pouch. A story that he had been a part of once, and should be still.
A bright spark flashed deep within him as he ran his hand along the top of the bureau, leaving trails in the dust. The spark had been there, smoldering, ever since the Grey Havens, only buried beneath layers of sadness, obligation and the everyday demands of life. His fingertips brushed a yellow tinged square of paper hidden under a stack of long unread books. He pulled it out of it’s hiding place and blew off the dust. It was an invitation to Bilbo’s eleventy-one birthday party. The spark began to grow, using as fuel his pent up emotions.
Stuck between those books were other pieces of paper, saved, but deserted by the one: a wedding invitation, a birth announcement of their first, Elanor. He and Rose had sent out a similar note to friends and family when the little lad was born. But, that one was not among this stack because there had been no need, the occupant of this room had left before the birth of his namesake. He had sailed away, leaving only questions and a few discarded mementos behind. Was that all he had been to him? Something to leave behind, to gather dust, eventually to be thrown away as useless? The spark burst forth, brilliantly shining in the heat of his anger.
In one sweep of his arm, he brought down all those forgettable memories crashing to the floor. Next he turned to the bed and it’s neat piles and began to toss them about the room. Almost gleefully, he emptied the drawers, dumping all into one big pile on the floor. The bed covers were next, ripping them from the mattress, feather pillows stripped of their cases.
He stood atop his carnage, his anger unabated. In fact, it was boiling over into rage. Not enough just to defile the shrine he had made, now he wanted them out of his sight, out of his house. Bag End had been given to him, his family lived here now. There was no room for Him here anymore. He had left Bag End, had left him. It was now time to complete that departure.
He began grabbing at the big pile in the middle of the floor, stuffing as much as he could under each arm. Careening down the hallway, straining under his load, he ran to the front door. Fumbling with the knob only added frustration to his already enflamed anger. He finally turned the knob and ran out into the rain.
The storm was at its zenith. Rain whipped in from the West, wind bending his most fragile stalks to the ground. He held no care for his garden now, he only wanted to free himself of his burden. He needed to cleanse himself of the memories of Him, memories clouded by the recent years filled with guilt and shame over his failure. He held his hands high and shouted.
“Here you are, Mr. Frodo! You wanted to leave? Here’s a few things your forgot!”
Flinging the contents of his arms into the storm, he watched His things become soaked and mud drenched as they lay scattered about his feet.
“You wanted to leave the Shire? Should’ve taken these!”
He kicked at the discarded items, fury incarnate.
“You wanted to leave Bag End? Take everything!”
Lighting flashed and the rain pelted his skin. Still his deepest emotions were not satiated.
“You wanted to leave? Why didn’t you take me?”
The truth of his anger broke over him.
He screamed, twisting his throat with the force. “Why did you leave me behind?”
All his rantings were lost to the storm’s torrent. No one was a witness to his anguishing cries. No one save his wife, standing silently at the front window. She saw her husband shouting those questions, the questions that had poisoned his soul for the past 3 years. She had tried to forestall this from happening, and Mr. Frodo had done what she had asked, His goodbyes had waited until he sailed West. Yet, when Sam had returned, she saw that her plans had come to naught.
Love him, that had been her defense against the memories, just love him and he will stay here in the Shire with me. She could see with every passing day, however, him slipping away from her, towards something that no longer was. Those times were not mentioned, not even when Merry and Pippin were in for supper. Talk never strayed to that topic. It was as if He had never existed. When their second child had been born, a boy, she insisted his name would be Frodo, thinking Sam would be forced to utter the name now. He called their son lad, or little one, but never by his given name. She was fighting a battle, one in which she was handicapped, for her opponent had claimed the heart before she.
The baby kicked just then, perhaps reacting to the storm outside, or to the turmoil within its mother’s soul. She was hoping for another girl, a playmate for Elanor and a baby sister for Frodo to watch over. Rubbing her belly to soothe the child, she left the storm and her husband, both battling against nature. Who would win was an answer that she did not have the courage to wait for.
He had not seen his wife watching him, too intent on shouting his anger to the sky. Now that the barrier to his heart had been broken, and all those long suppressed thoughts were free, he could not stop himself; they poured forth as the rain from the clouds hanging above.
“You never gave me a chance! I could have helped you. I could have healed you!”
He couldn’t understand why, in the end He had turned away from him. Sailed away to find healing with strangers, instead of staying home in the Shire and allowing the one with whom he had trusted his life to so many times before to restore him.
“Why did you never ask me? I would have done it, Mr. Frodo, for you. I would have done anything for you.”
He did not possess elf magic, but he was the same hobbit that swore a promise to follow Him, the same one that had staid His hand when the Ring had called, the same Sam who had carried Him up the side of Mt. Doom and was with him at the end of all things.
“Why wasn’t I good enough for you?”
A blinding light pierced the rain’s onslaught, forcing him back against the front stoop. The lightning had struck out across the Party Field and the air sizzled in the aftermath. He lost his footing against the stone and, despite his great effort to stay upright, he hit the mud with a sucking splat that covered him and the front door with dirty water. He lay there, in his garden, amongst the leftover from Him. They, too, were covered in mud, just as he, soaking wet and useless. Both discarded by Frodo.
The sobs came to him then, tears that should have been spent long ago. He could not see his way through his grief, for his questions would never be answered. He would forever remain in the dark, alone.
The sky lit up, farther to the east this time. The storm was passing, leaving only gentle rain behind. He did not know how long he had lain there, wallowing in the mud and self pity, when the sight of his elanor blooms flattened to the ground, dirtied by the mud, drew his attention.
He had planted them right there, in full view of the front bedroom window, so He could look out and see the beauty that He had saved. He had thought when those dark moods hit Him, the sight of the elanor, a little bit of the elf right here at home, would ease the pain caused by the Ring. He had nurtured those blooms all by himself, without the help from Galadriel’s gift. It had been difficult teaching the strange plant to accept it’s new home here in the Shire, but he had persevered and the elanor blossomed, adding fragrance to the breeze at Bag End, making the view special from His window.
But, the plant had been marred by the storm’s passing. Crawling through the puddles, he knelt by the broken plant and gently cradled the tender stalk in his hands. The sullied flower was beyond repair. Yet, there were other buds ready to break free. All they would need is a little extra care to recover from the night’s trouble. He needed something to bolster the stalk, to keep it up off the ground and away from the mud. He immediately stripped off his shirt, heedless of the rain, and wound the garment around the plant, saving it from ruin. He sat back on his heels and viewed his handiwork. He had saved the elanor. And I could have saved you.
“You were wrong about things, Mr. Frodo. My heart was only whole while you were here. With you over the sea, its now in two. And will always be.”
He surveyed his carnage about him, and knew he had a decision to make.
He had left his Sam without looking back. And he knew that was something he could never do, leave Him behind. He would always be a part of his heart. But, he could no longer keep those memories fresh, no longer hold that pain and have it sit side by side with his love for his Rose and children. The sun was making its daily presence felt in the Shire. It poured through rain dappled leaves and sent thousands of tiny rainbows out across the Party Field. The family would be stirring inside by now. He had promised his heart to them, and he would give everything he had within him to see to their happiness. Everything, that is, except the other part of his heart. The part for Him.
That night was never spoken of, but Rose saw it as a turning point. The front room was opened and eventually held 5 Gamgee boys. All the clothes left behind were given to families down at Crickhollow that had been washed out by the storm. When Rose heard a father calling his son to supper, loudly calling him by name, her heart skipped a beat. She even found him sitting at the desk, writing. She didn’t ask to whom for it really didn’t matter. Day passed into month and the madness that had consumed her husband slowly disappeared. The nightmares stopped, so did his frantic walks about the house. When he kissed her good morning, she knew he had passed the night by her side. And that was all she had wanted: Samwise beside her looking ahead, not back over his shoulder at the past. By the time their fourth had been born, a boy they named Merry, she no longer feared of losing him. Somehow a miracle had blown in with that storm. She did not ask why, she just held onto him tight, remembering the time when he had almost slipped away.
The nightmares had not stopped, really. They only changed slightly. Gone were the fire and those awful shrieks. He no longer watched his friend fall to his death, for his friend was no longer there. One small part of his heart, closed and locked down tight with the ferocity of his will, held all those memories and feelings, and they would never see the light again. This way he was able to hold him close, not sharing with others his grief and love, never burdening them again with that pain. To all others he was husband, father, “your honor”. But, in that small closed part of his heart, he would always remain his greatest joy: Frodo’s friend.