COME BACK TO ME.
Even as the nights grow warmer, still my heart remains locked in the icy grip of despair. I shiver in the bitter, unloving dark of my bedroom, pulling the sheets tighter around my body in a cocoon of protection. The fabric breathes warmth into my flesh, but nothing can melt the chill in my very soul.
It’s times like this, when I’m utterly alone, with only the moonlight that dances across the floor to hear my prayer and see me cry, that I become lost in thoughts of him: Samwise Gamgee.
It’s been months now, months beyond count since he and three other hobbits vanished. For a while, it was the talk of the Shire. Wild explanations were traded on Market Days and across tables in the Green Dragon. Now, however, most people seem to have moved on; but not me.
My eyes slip shut as I remember his shy smile, the stuttering greetings whenever our paths crossed. Ma says, “He was such a sweet lad, that Samwise Gamgee.” Her words make him sound as he is dead. But I refuse to believe that. I *need* to believe that he is still alive somewhere in the wide, dangerous expanses of Middle Earth, desperately searching for a way back to his beloved Shire.
But everything has changed. No longer are we under the kindly old Mayor Whitfoot. Nowadays, Hobbiton – and indeed, the Shire – lives in the shadow of Lotho Sacksville-Baggins. The people are bullied, beaten and imprisoned by his henchmen. Lotho – or the Chief, as he insists we call him – rules with what can only be described as an iron fist, throwing anyone he steps out of line into his so-called ‘Lockholes’ at the once beautiful Michel Delving.
I remember the last time I saw Sam, on the night of his disappearance. The Inn was crowded, the air thick with pipe weed smoke. Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took were performing little ditties on top of a table. Practically the entire place was watching them, clapping their hands along to the beat of the song.
Frodo sauntered up to the bar cheerfully. “Hello, Rosie!” We chatted nonchalantly, before he ordered two mugs of ale. “It’s fairly busy in here,” he commented. “I’m surprised that Merry and Pippin’s singing hasn’t scared all your patrons away.”
“Actually, I think they’re the main attraction!” I joked, stuffing a rag into an empty mug. “So, who’re you here with?”
“Oh, you know, the usuals,” he shrugs. “Just me, the Gaffer, old Daddy Twofoot and Sam.” I think it may have been my imagination, but I swear that he winked at me. Craning my neck slightly, I spotted the shy gardener himself, smoke billowing softly from his lips as he listened intently to his companions’ conversation.
Frodo paid for the ale and strode back to his table, but not before encircling his singing cousins, and cheering for an encore when their song had drawn to an end.
Sam raised his head, eyes casting their thoughtful gaze in my direction. In return, I offered him a friendly smile. Just then, he blinked, realising that I’d noticed him. I swear, that’s the reddest I’ve ever seen someone turn!
A hand stroking my arm drew my attention back to the bar. Pivoting round, I feigned a gracious smile as Lotho Bracgirdle leaned towards me. “Evening Rosie,” he greeted, not even trying to mask the flirtatious tone dripping like honey from his voice. “You’re looking particularly beautiful tonight. I’ll bet that you’re the prettiest last in all of Hobbiton! The Shire, even.”
A gracious, albeit halfhearted laugh escaped my lips; if I don’t laugh, I know I’ll scowl at him, or crash my fist against his jaw in feminine outrage. Honestly, that lad is so brazen! I may be a tavern maid, but I ain’t no wench, make no mistake about that, and I’m all too eager to correct anyone who thinks otherwise.
Throughout the night, I kept stealing glances Sam’s way, my heart fluttering at the sight of him. Of all the lads in Hobbiton, Sam one of the few I can truly consider a friend; but sometimes, I sense that he sees me as more than that…
I watched him tilt a mug to lips, and an absurd thought crosses my mind. For the briefest second, I wish that *I* was that mug.
Giving myself a mental slap, I turned back to the customer, but thoughts of Sam lingered still in my mind.
As the hour grew late, and the unwelcome advances by that ***able Bracegirdle became more frequent, I was relieved when old Proudfoot yelled at me to take up my post at the Inn door to see off our patrons. That particular task is without a doubt, the best part of my job. I’m no sadist, but I get some sort of pleasure from seeing those blatantly flirtatious lads stumble home in a blind stupor. Once or twice, some of them have had to be carried away, they were so drunk – but that’s a rare occurrence. Most hobbits know their limitations, and stick to them.
Anyway, I leaned against the door frame, a refreshing breeze whipping a stray curl into my face. Sam and Frodo walked towards the Inn door. As my eyes met Sam’s, a mutual smile crossed our lips. “Good night lads,” I said with a nod.
“Night, Rosie,” Frodo replied. I watched the two lads as they strode away, down the path that led to Bagshot Row.
I’m not one to curse – I think it’s unladylike – but when a drunken Lotho Bracegirlde staggered towards and dropped to his knees, I muttered obscenities under my breath, all the while maintaining a friendly smile. Not an easy feat, I can assure you.
“Good night, Sweet Maiden of The Golden Ale!” he proclaimed, his speech slightly slurred. I feel a blush cover my cheeks. It’s times like this when I wish that my brother Tom came to the Inn more often. Tom’s a big strapping lad. The very sight of him would send most unwelcome suitors running.
Then, I see Sam turn, glaring at the drunken lad settled at my feet, and no doubt muttering curses. Maybe I was seeing things, but I swear that Frodo grabbed Sam’s arm and dragged him away.
There was nothing I could do but smile at Sam’s attempt to protect me. True, it was unnecessary, as I’ve fought off the drunken advances of many lads, and they’ve all lived to regret it. But every lass dreams of her own Prince Charming coming to her rescue. With a sigh, I watched my Prince Charming walk away, little knowing that this would be that last I would see of him.
Burrowing even deeper in my cocoon of blankets, I imagine that I am in Sam’s warm arms. In the dark, I can almost hear him whispering that no matter what, he will protect him from harm.
What would he think of the Shire now? Since Lotho Sacksville-Baggins gained control, the land has been defiled. The Green Dragon was closed a month ago. The forests have been cut down, gardens trampled, the sheer essence of the Shire destroyed. Rumour is that the Chief has even thrown his own elderly mother in the Lockholes. I don’t admit to being a fan of Lobelia, but the cruelty behind her imprisonment is undeniable.
People are saying that you don’t realise what they’ve got ’til it’s gone. I think they’re talking about the Shire, but that adage strikes another chord within my soul. Sometimes, it takes loss for you to understand you’re in love with someone. Come back to me, my Samwise. Please, come back.