There were strange curtains on his window.
Not plain curtains with a single color that was understated and proper for a single gentlemen living on his own but rather floral curtains, with large pasty colored daisies imprinted across sky blue fabric. Frodo stared at the curtains for a few minutes, wondering what had happened to the plain, green gingham curtains he had been accustomed to seeing for so long. There were sensible curtains for gentlemen that were trying desperately to regain his reputation as a sensible hobbit. It was bad enough that Frodo was now viewed with the same eccentricity that had dogged Bilbo following his return to Shire from his adventures abroad, without his routine being disrupted by unexpected changes in his household.
Like these curtains.
It was his own fault he supposed he had brought this upon himself. When he had asked Sam and Rosie to move in with him, Frodo had not considered the ramifications of having two extra people sharing his life. He only thought of Sam’s happiness because his best friend was torn by his loyalty to him and his love for Rosie Cotton. After everything that Sam had done for him, Frodo was determined to spare Sam the ordeal of having to choose between them by making the offer of having Sam and Rosie come live with him at Bag End. Only after the deed was done, did Frodo realize what a big change it was going to have upon him personally to have not only Sam living with him but Rosie as well.
It never occurred to him that there would be vast differences in sharing a house with a woman as opposed to a man. Why should it? For years he had lived with Bilbo and they had got along quite well, without the slightest hint of discord. Their routine was comfortable and familiar, with no unexpected surprises, quite a feat when one remembered how peculiar Bilbo could be at times. Even after Bilbo had gone and Sam was a regular visitor to Bag End, Frodo had found it perfectly pleasing to have the gardener about, sometimes even to stay. However, from the moment Rosie had entered the hobbit hole in Bagshot Row, her impact upon the household was marked and unlike anything that Frodo had experienced before whenever he had company to stay.
The curtains were only the latest in a long list of trials that Frodo had been forced to endure since giving the couple a place in Bag End. For starters, how is it that women did not recognize the concept of simply enjoying the quiet after an evening meal? Frodo was accustomed to putting up his feet and reading a book or working on his after dinner. For him, it was one of the last pleasures of the day before turning in for the night. However, it was almost impossible to do now with both Sam and Rosie occupying that time with him and insisting on conversation as if he was starved for it. Worse yet, they were newlyweds and their talks seemed mostly fixated upon telling him how wonderful the other half of their couplet was.
It was enough to make him regret ridding himself of the One Ring.
Unfortunately, conversation was not the worst of it. Frodo wondered if perhaps Sam and Rosie would have benefited from a honeymoon first before moving straight into Bag End because the first few nights with them under his roof was more than he was able to handle. After all the things he had seen in his life time, what with Nazgul, barrow wrights and Shelob, Frodo had never thought he would fear so much the sound of the bed creaking next door in the middle of the night. During these occasions, Frodo would dive under his pillows and try not to think about the fact that Sam and Rosie were probably engaging in all sorts of intimacies in the next room. Nor was it easy to remain in good humour when he woke up the next morning, irritated and weary after being unable to sleep for more than a few hours when Rosie and Sam were so cheerful after their twilight antics.
Frodo knew he was being a little selfish. After all, one could not simply invite others into one’s life without expecting to be some changes but this was really not what he had expected. It was bad enough that he did not always feel well and lately the frequency of his spells was starting to become difficult to hide. He did not want Sam to be intruded by the knowledge that he was not getting better but worse because Sam had endured enough by accompanying him to Mordor to destroy the ring. Still, Frodo did not know how much longer he was going to conceal his illness from his best friend, when he was having trouble hiding the fact that Sam and Rosie were driving him insane by his inability to cope with them in his home.
Now as he stared at the curtains that he was quickly growing to despise with a passion, Frodo did not see the day improving and decided that perhaps what he needed was to get out of the house for the day. The illness he would confess to no one, not even Sam was keeping him indoors more than he liked. While he spent this time working on his book, Frodo could not deny that part of his ill temper of late was due to the fact that he was becoming a little house bound.
Considering the adventures he had endured in recent years, one would think that he would happy to take refuge inside his home but the truth was, Frodo had become accustomed to the open spaces and what was more, he missed it.
Peering through the windows, he saw that it was a beautiful day outside and resolved himself to enjoy it and put aside his troubles with Sam and Rosie for the time being. He could think of nothing more relaxing than to work on his book in the sunshine. He used to love sitting under the party tree for hours but that was now impossible after it had so cruelly been cut down during Saruman’s unfortunate occupation of the Shire. Fortunately Sam had planted some of the seeds that Galadriel had given him in Lothlorien and now the glade was covered in mallorn saplings that were flowering sporadically. Frodo could think of worse things than to spend an afternoon surrounded by that loveliness.
“Good morning, Mr. Frodo,” Sam’s voice interrupted his evolving plans for the day.
“Good morning Sam,” Frodo greeted his best friend in the world.
Sam was always up a good deal earlier than he, preferring an early start, as was the practice of any good gardener. Certainly that was his Gaffer had always told him anyway. Sam entered the kitchen, glad to see Frodo had a little color his pallor though not much. Ever since they had returned from Mordor, it did not appear as if Frodo was recovering the way he should and it was part of the reason why Sam had been so torn when it had come time to marry Rosie. As much as he loved Farmer Cotton’s daughter, he could not deny that a part of him that would always feel bound to take care of Frodo.
“Got some fine apples out of the tree,” Sam announced as he went to the kitchen, carrying a bucket full of the fruit. “If we’re lucky, Rosie can make us pie for dinner.”
“That would be nice.” Frodo found that he quite liked that possibility. Despite the fact that the woman had invaded the sanctity of his kitchen by removing his plain, comfortable curtains and that her presence in the house with Sam ensured Frodo could again never think any noise at night to be innocent, he had to admit she was a marvelous cook. Personal differences aside, when it came to food, he was still very much a hobbit.
“Oh I see you’re admiring the curtains Rosie put up,” Sam pointed out, mistaking completely the reason why Frodo had been staring at them when he entered the kitchen.
“Yes,” Frodo’s mood darkened at the memory of the offending fabric but reminded himself that Rosie had probably meant well. “I did notice. It’s very nice,’ he lied through gritted teeth.
“Oh I’m so glad you like it Mr. Frodo, I was a bit worried to tell the truth. I didn’t think Rosie ought to be changing things without asking you first,” Sam replied, relieved that Frodo did not mind, after all it was an imposition enough that they were both living here.
“It’s alright,” Frodo answered, unable to stay angry when Sam was so concerned. “It was a bit of surprise but I’ll get use to them.”
“She just wants to fit in so badly.” Sam continued to speak as he put the kettle on the fire. “I mean it was so terribly kind of you to let us stay here. If you didn’t I don’t think we would even be married yet. Rosie’s determined to see to it that you never regret letting us come to stay in Bag End.”
If Frodo could have cursed under his breath, he would have.
Sam could not have made him feel guiltier even if he tried. If Frodo did not know Sam as well as he did, he would have been inclined to believe that Sam was trying to make him feel badly but the stouthearted gardener was too noble for such manipulation. Frodo released a resigned sigh, determined to endure the teething problems that came with suddenly sharing a home with others for the first time because the alternative would hurt Sam too much and that was something Frodo would not do, no matter what.
Frodo sat down at the kitchen table, allowing himself to enjoy the pot of tea that Sam was obviously preparing for him. He could not hear Rosie in the house and assumed that she was at the market doing the daily shopping. Frodo had become accustomed to her shopping for dinner early in the day and mentally wondered what she was cooking this evening. He was grateful that Rosie had taken over the chore of cooking because frankly after their journey abroad during the quest, Frodo could honestly say that he had his fill of Sam’s cooking and was more than grateful for a change.
“She will, Sam,” Frodo answered his best friend and surprised himself by his own sincerity, “its new for all of us. I mean I thought I would be living alone again when we got home, like I was when Bilbo left, but things have changed and now you and Rosie are here with me. Its taking me some getting used to.’
“You don’t regret it then?” Sam looked at him, his eyes meeting Frodo’s.
“No,” Frodo shook his head. “I don’t.”
Frodo did not think he could hide his true feelings so well from his friend. Did he regret asking Sam and Rosie to stay? No, not really. However, he did miss his privacy and the fact that he no longer felt like master in his own house. As he watched Sam and Rosie, deliriously happy together, with delight in every moment they shared in each other’s life, Frodo felt like the intruder and it was a disconcerting feeling indeed to feel like the guest in one’s own house.
The uneasiness stayed with him and finally drove him out of the house.
Carrying a small satchel with loose sheets of paper and his quill set, Frodo left Bag End behind him and walked down into the field where the party tree had been. Instead of trees he had known all his life, he saw instead the mallorn tree that was growing from the seeds that Sam had brought from Lothlorien and the beauty of it was enough to touch even a soul as jaded as his. A sense of sadness often lingered with him whenever he saw the field, not because Saruman had torn down the party tree but because it was the last place he ever felt truly comfortable in the Shire. The night after the party had changed his world forever even if he did not know it.
He found himself a comfortable place before the dark thoughts in his head started to drain the color from this beautiful day. One of the other trees that had been planted was a still sapling, but was blessed with more leaves then the others and though the shade was minimal, it was enough to suit his purposes. Frodo sank into the soft grass, taking a deep breath of the sweet smell the golden flowers of the mallorn seemed to produce. He felt the heat against his skin and decided that whatever troubles he was experiencing at the moment at home, was not so formidable when faced with such beauty before him.
Reaching into his satchel, he made a mental catalogue of the notes he needed to jot down for his book when suddenly his fingers recoiled at the sensation of moisture at the bottom of the leather pouch. Investigating further, Frodo let out a groan when he saw the lid to the small bottle of ink he carried inside the satchel had somehow come undone and the dark fluid had leaked through the rest of its contents. The sheets of paper were a soggy dark mess and completely unusable. The sight of them made Frodo utter a string of foul curses that was an unfortunate remnant of his time in the Black Tower. Even the birds perched in the tree overhead decided to take flight in disapproval.
When Frodo retrieved his hand from the satchel his fingers were black as if he had stuck them in the coal bin. Of course the first thing he did, without thinking was to wipe the offending stain on his hands across his trousers before realizing too late that he had succeeded in smearing the ink all the fabric. The words that came out of his mouth then put the former curses to shame. Unfortunately, this time it appeared that his audience was not birds but rather a handful of children who were staring at him with an older female companion, with eyes wide like saucers.
“Mr. Baggins!” The woman whom Frodo recognised to be Violet Proudfoot exclaimed with clear mortification and Frodo was almost driven to swear again when he remembered what had earned her ire in the first place and restrained himself.
“Miss Proudfoot!” he started to stammer. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Obviously,” she snorted, “I would not imagine you would use such language in front of children if you did!”
“I’m sorry,” Frodo struggled to explain himself as the children gawked at him, wondering if it was another language he had spoken. Frodo was glad that much of what he had uttered was not decipherable to their sensitive ears, though the same could not be said for Violet Proudfoot who was one of Proudfoot’s granddaughters and the school mistress of the Hobbiton School. ” I had a bit of an accident,” he responded meekly.
“I would say you had a big accident,” she snorted and then glanced at the stains on his clothes. “And I do not mean with the ink.”
Frodo gave her a look and noted that she had not left, bracing himself to hear more stinging barbs from her over his lapse in front of the children. He did not know Violet Proudfoot very well because she had lived for a time with some of Proudfoot’s relations in Bywater and that was before he had left the Shire to undertake the destruction of the One Ring. She was a pretty thing with dark hair and comely features, though she could never be considered a great beauty. She wore the look of someone who had seen the best and worst of life and was changed forever by it. It was a state of being Frodo could understand most intimately.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Frodo replied, deciding that the best place for him was home right now because he did not like the way Violet was looking at him and feared that she might be another one of those women who thought he was a man ripe for the picking.
The bane of his existence since returning home from abroad, was discovering what an eligible bachelor he had become in the wake of his travels and the Battle of Bywater. Before the Quest of the Ring, he had never had to worry about such things because he was considered a peculiar hobbit in much the way Bilbo was regarded. Unfortunately, his position as Deputy Mayor and his part in reclaiming the Shire from Saruman had suddenly made him very attractive as a potential husband. Frodo had thought being maimed by Gollum would spare him the indignity of this but it appeared that it was not to be.
“I think that would be best,” she remarked neutrally, her expression showing no interest in him whatsoever but that meant little, Frodo had come to learn that these women knew how to hide their intentions until it was too late.
“Good day Violet, children,” he said politely and started to walk away, bound for home to clean himself up and to escape her while he still could.
“Lemon juice,” she spoke before he could draw to far away from her and her charges.
“Excuse me?” Frodo turned around and faced her.
“Lemon juice,” Violet replied. “It’s good for ink stains.”
“It is?” He stared at her.
“Yes,” she nodded. “I speak from experience.”
He supposed as a schoolmistress accustomed to dealing with books and the written word, she probably did have a considerable experience in such matters. He took her words as just friendly advice without suspicions of any clandestine intentions on her part.
“Thank you,” he managed to say.
“I would not leave it too long though,” she added, giving him the nudge he needed to leave without any further awkward attempts at conversation.
Frodo nodded and continued on his way, looking over his shoulder long enough to see that she was also on her way across the field with the children outdistancing her quickly as they ran through the saplings. He thought about her for a moment, feeling somewhat unsettled by the encounter and not quite knowing why. Nevertheless, he forced thoughts about her out of his mind because if there was anything in this world that he did not need right now, it was female company. As it was, trying to get accustomed to Rosie and her curtains was trial enough.
And he had thought going to Mordor had been hard.