Hobbits in the Basement-Part IV
In Which an Adventure is Begun
“Remind me how you talked me into this again?” I sat down grudgingly on the three-legged stool Sarah had sat by my bed. She advanced toward me with a brush and a spray bottle full of water.
“Amelia, what is the big deal with you and this dance?” She said as she wrapped a towel around my shoulders. “It might be fun. You never know.”
“No Sarah, I DO know. Dancing and I don’t belong in the same sentence, let alone in the same room.”
She went to work with the hairbrush.
“Besides, nobody wants me there except for you.”
“That’s the whole point. You have to show them that just because they bloodied you up a bit doesn’t mean you’re afraid of them.”
“What if I am though?”
“Come on Amelia, you already broke Ray’s nose, what is he going to do to you now?”
“You’d be surprised.” I mumbled. Sarah gave a playful tug on my red locks.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t look that bad.” She surveyed my bruised eye and cut cheeks. “Although I won’t deny that you were royally pounded.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Thank you very much it’s a talent I have.”
“What? Getting beat up?”
“No, falling down the stairs.”
She stopped brushing.
“Is that what you told Madame and Master Burton?”
“Yeah. They asked me who I was fighting with and I told them I fell down the stairs.”
“Did they buy it?”
“No. But I wouldn’t tell them anything else. So they left me alone.”
Sarah shook her head in disbelief.
“I can’t believe you got away with it.”
“Neither can I, quite frankly. Hey, how’s it coming up there? Is it horrible?”
Sarah started brushing some more. “Not horrible, just…”
She searched for a word.
We dissolved into giggles.
“Okay… okay… sit back down! I’ll fix it!” Sarah said breathless with mirth.
“Fix it?” I was still laughing. “How can you fix it when I can barely get it in a pony tail?”
“Just trust me.”
Twenty minutes later, My hair was gelled back into a mass of curls at the back of my head and parted on the side. I had to admit it looked pretty good. I let Sarah do her own hair while I experimented with her makeup in the bathroom.
No matter what I tried the ugly black and blue bruise wouldn’t cover up.
“SARAH!” I yelled exasperated. “I’m makeuply-challenged!”
“What?” She said as she came into the bathroom, tying the sash on her dress. She looked AWESOME! Her gown was a deep midnight blue with a shimmery fabric layer over the skirt. It had a gracefully curving neckline and long sleeves with one of those thingys you hook on to your finger that makes the sleeve cover your hand and come to a point at your middle finger.
She’d pulled her curled hair down her back and put a silver clasp at the top shaped like a string of sliver flowers. Silver shimmer powder dusted her cheeks and the rest of her make-up was light and natural. She looked like a princess.
“Wow.” I said.
She looked down and sheepishly “D’you think Daniel will like it?”
“He’s an idiot if he doesn’t!”
She smiled gratefully at me.
“Quit that before we start getting emotional!” I said. Then Sarah noticed my feeble attempt at makeup.
“Oh my gosh, what are you trying to do? Make yourself look like a wax dummy? Give that here before you hurt yourself!”
The hallway was a mass of dressed up teenagers. There was so much perfume hanging in the air you could almost see it hovering like a cloud. I stumbled along behind Sarah in a pair of borrowed high-heels. How women of the world ever learned to walk in those things I will NEVER figure out. And don’t get me started on panty hose! Keep in mind that I’m not used to this kind of thing.
The great hall was all done up in white and green decorations with a live string ensemble stationed at the head of the room. The table was all laid out with fancy orderbs and the like and it wasn’t long before teenagers were munching politely.
A few feet in front of me I saw Daniel approach Sarah. “Hey,” I thought. “He’s a redhead. I’d never noticed.”
Sarah smiled shyly at him. He smiled shyly at her. Then he bowed formally and motioned to the open dance floor. She bobbed a curtsy and took his arm.
I sat down on a chair along the wall, trying my best to be invisible. I watched Daniel whirl Sarah around the dance floor; they were both laughing and seemed to be having a good time. “What a gentleman.” I thought. “Maybe not every boy is a vile ignoramus.”
I sat watching everyone for about an hour, while the string ensemble played away. I was quite surprised when a man with a frizzy white beard wearing tails stopped in front of me and bowed.
“May I have this dance milady?” It was Master Burton.
He held out his hand. I took it hesitantly; people were starting to stare.
“Let them.” I thought. “I’m not afraid.”
I let my headmaster pull me onto the dance floor and whirl me around like the other boys were doing. He was a good dancer, for his age. But then, I haven’t done much dancing.
We whirled for about five minutes when someone tapped Master Burton on the shoulder.
“May I cut in headmaster?”
Tony stood behind him, sporting a bruise like mine under his left eye.
“Certainly lad, certainly.”
The breath caught in my throat. I wanted to run. What was Master Burton thinking? Why on earth did Tony want to dance with ME? I had a feeling it wouldn’t turn out good. But before I knew what was happening Tony took one of my hands in his, circled my waist with the other arm and we were off.
I looked around desperately for Sarah. What was I supposed to do? I braced myself for something horrible, but as the dance went on, nothing happened. I started to relax a little bit. Tony was an awesome dancer. He seemed like his feet didn’t even touch the floor. His grip on my hand was confident and strong. I didn’t really have to do anything, just follow him blindly.
“What?” I hadn’t realized he was talking to me.
“I said I owe you an apology.”
WHAT did he say? I thought he just said… did he say…
“A little weird I know.” He said.
“Yeah, just a little.” I said sarcastically.
“I know I know.” He said. “I’ve been a bit of a jerk to you.”
“I just want you to know I’m sorry.”
I was confused.
“Tony, just cut to the chase. What do you want? Is this another prank?”
“NO it’s not! Honest! I’m through with that. I want to call a truce.”
“A truce? Why?”
“This is going to be hard to explain.”
“Go ahead, I’m listening.”
He sighed again.
“When we fought you the other night… I felt really bad afterwards. I mean, you didn’t do anything-“
“Except expel Ray’s brother-“
“No, I realized even that wasn’t your fault. You were only doing what anybody would have done. And… And I appreciate you sticking up for me back then.”
A realization hit me. That boy… that Ray’s brother had beaten up…
“That was you?”
“Yeah. It was.”
“Well then, why the heck have you been picking on me all this time?”
He averted his eyes.
“It’s a guy thing… you wouldn’t understand.”
I started laughing quietly. It all made sense.
“You were afraid to admit your butt had been saved by a girl.”
He smiled sheepishly.
“How did you know?”
“I’m smarter than you give me credit for.”
“Yeah.” He said.
“You’re a lot of things I never gave you credit for.”
He smiled shyly at me. I’d seen Daniel give Sarah that smile earlier. Be brave Amelia girl! Be brave!
“So, uh… d’you want to get to know each other? I think we could be friends if we try.”
He nodded. “I’d like that.”
We both smiled at each other. I hoped he was as glad to call a truce as I was.
“So?” Sarah said.
“So what?” I replied.
We were walking towards the library after the formal because we’d promised the hobbits that we’d show them our finery.
“So, you were dancing with Tony.”
“Yeah. And you were dancing with Daniel.”
“That’s not the same.”
“What did Tony say? I mean, he didn’t dance with anyone else all night. What’s up?”
“Nothing is “up”. we called a truce.”
“A truce? Like how?”
“A truce meaning he’s not going to pick on me anymore.”
“Oh.” Sarah stayed silent for a moment, then out of thin air, she said.
“I think he likes you.”
I almost fell over.
“What? That’s ridiculous! Sarah, I think Daniel got to your head.”
“No Amelia, I’m serious!”
“So am I!”
We had reached the library. Mentha was sitting behind her desk, a map set out across it. She looked up when we came in.
“Oh don’t you two look like perfect angels!” she said.
I glanced at the map on the desk.
“Going on another trip Mentha?”
“No, you girls are.”
Both of our jaws dropped.
“What are you talking about?”
Mentha motioned for us to sit down.
“I’ve got very exciting news for you. When I was gone over the last week, I was looking for Pansy and Togo’s remaining family based on a tip I found on the Internet. Luck was with me and guess what?”
“You found them!”
“I FOUND THEM!”
We all squealed in delight.
“Mentha that’s WONDERFUL! When are we going to get Pansy and Togo home?”
“Immediately.” She said. “You see, When I explained to this group of hobbits that I had found their missing cousins, they were more than happy to take them in. But they were worried about a housing development that was steadily getting nearer and nearer. They’ve decided to move to a different part of the country, but they also said that if we could get Pansy and Togo to their dwelling in three days, they would wait for us, but if we couldn’t get there, they would assume we weren’t coming and leave without them.”
“Well then we’d better hurry!” I said. Then I realized what Mentha had said earlier. “Wait, did you say, WE were going?”
“Yes I did.”
“Why?” Sarah said.
Mentha narrowed her gaze. “If I miss any more work I could lose my job.”
“If WE miss any more school we could get expelled!” I said.
“No.” Mentha said slyly. “I’ve made a deal with Madame Humbert-“
“You told her about-“
“No no no! Relax girls!” Mentha said. “I merely said I needed you to run an errand for me.”
“Okay, so what’s the deal?”
“You write a five page essay on a research topic of your choice to make up for all the school you’ve missed on my account and you’ll be excused for three days only.”
I turned it over in my brain. It sounded fair enough.
“Okay, where exactly would we have to go?”
Mentha pulled the map over and traced the route with her fingers as she said it.
“The hobbits are in a field outside of a town called Peretin Heights. It’s about a day and a night’s train ride there so there’s one day. The hobbit hole is in the side of a hill that has a big oak tree on the top of it, about half a day’s hike, so that should get you there within a day and a half with time to spare for delays.”
“But Mentha,” Sarah said. “How are we going to get the hobbits on the train without being noticed. Those feet are a dead give away!”
Mentha smiled again. “Take a look downstairs, I’ve already got it figured out.”
It looked like a department store explosion in the hobbits’ room. Bags of children’s clothes were scattered all over. Togo sauntered up to us holding a pair of blue jeans.
“Just how am I supposed to get these things on?” he said shaking the denim pants in my face.
I laughed at him and launched myself into the challenge of making the hobytla look like normal five-year-old kids.
“You take Pansy, I’ll take Togo.” I said. Sarah agreed and got to work on Pansy who was pulling on a pair of lime green knee socks with her canary yellow sun dress.
“All right, Togo let’s see…” I rummaged through the piles of clothes and came up with a red and white baseball shirt to go with his blue jeans. I handed them to my hobbit victim. “Here, put these on.”
Togo went out into the hall.
“I’m not changing in a room full of women-folk.” He said. “None of you peek now!”
Sarah and I covered giggles and promised we wouldn’t.
“There!” Sarah said and stepped back from Pansy. She was wearing a light blue jumper with a white long sleeve shirt underneath. On her feet was a pair of white slip on shoes. She looked ADORABLE!
“Oh sweetie you are so CUTE!”
Pansy shifted uncomfortably.
“Why do you wear shoes?” She asked, “They feel funny.”
We laughed softly. Sarah spoke up
“I suppose they would feel strange, you can take them off for now if you want.” Pansy sighed gratefully and kicked off the shoes.
We turned around. Togo stood in to doorway wearing his jeans and baseball shirt. Scuffing his sneakered foot on the floor sheepishly.
“These shoes aren’t too bad.”
He was perfect! Except for…
“Uh oh.” I said. “Your ears.”
It was true. Their pointy ears were still protruding from their curly locks.
“Wait, I have an idea.” I said.
I scooped up a red baseball cap and plunked it on his head. It worked. The hat covered the top half of his ears and hid the points perfectly. Sarah found a white bucket hat and plopped it over Pansy’s golden hair. They both looked like average kids.
“Okay you guys.” I said. “Are you ready to go home?”
The digital clock on my bedside table said 11:00 when I finished packing. Sarah and I had agreed to meet in the library early in the morning so as not to attract attention to our departure. And I mean EARLY! Like, the-first-train-out-of-town-leaves-at-5:00-am early! Yeah.
I rubbed my hands over tired eyes. Thank god I had a spare pair of glasses because the fight totally destroyed my other pair. Truth be told, I was seriously considering contacts. If only because they didn’t fly off whenever I tripped. Gazing at my fuzzy reflection in the mirror, I tried to imagine myself without my specs. I couldn’t.
I jumped. I hadn’t heard my roommates return from the formal. But there they all were standing behind me, actually looking AT me and not THROUGH me.
“Uh… Yes Anna?”
Anna shifted uncomfortably.
“Listen… I uh… I saw you dancing with Tony tonight and… Well he told me you had called a truce. And… he also told me how you stuck up for him in our first year.”
I raised my eyebrows. He’d told? Wow. I was impressed. Anna continued:
“And, I don’t know what good this is going to do but… We want to call a truce too.”
I was even more surprised.
“It doesn’t bother you that I don’t look like you, act like you or talk like you?” I asked.
“I think it’s because we don’t understand you.” Charlotte piped in. “If you would let us talk with you a bit… but I don’t suppose you want anything to do with us.”
I shook my head.
“Just because I don’t agree with some of your ideas, doesn’t mean I don’t want to be friends. That’s all I ever wanted in the first place.”
“Really. Now, sorry but, I’ve got to get up in the morning, as we all do, and I really need to get to bed.”
“Okay. But hey, d’you want to sit with us at breakfast sometime?”
“Sure. That’d be nice.”
As we settled down to sleep, I smiled to myself. Two truces in one night. I was making progress.
The library was bathed in the early morning light of the four o’clock hour. I yawned wide and settled further into the window seat. Sarah was late. The hobbits sat on the floor, yawning as well. It was WAY too early for any sane person to be awake. But, trekking across the country in search of a hole in the side of a hill was not your normal idea of a sane errand.
Sarah burst into the library, breathless and frantic looking. Before I could ask what was up, she gasped out:
“Hide hobbits… Madame Humbert coming… got to go… now!”
I jumped up from the window seat and quickly ushered the hobbits behind a shelf, and ducked behind it myself.
“But I thought she agreed to…” I stopped mid sentence when Sarah gave me a look that clearly said SHUT UP. It was a good thing I did. Madame Humbert came in a moment later, and she wasn’t looking too happy.”
“Ms. North!” She screeched at Sarah. “NOTHING gives a student the right to be out of their rooms before the morning bell has rung!”
“But I TOLD you Madame, I’m going out of town-“
“At this hour? I think not. Now, where is Ms. Godwin? She is missing from her room as well.”
“I don’t know. The last time I saw her she was going to bed, I have no IDEA where she is.”
” I have never heard such a pack of lies! Now come with me, we’re going to find Ms. Godwin!” She whirled around and made for the door.
“But Madame! I’ll miss my train!”
Madame turned back to her. “Wherever you’re going can wait. I don’t know WHY I ever agreed to this. I ought to speak to the headmaster…” She was heading out of the library again.
Sarah whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
“GO! You’ll miss the train. I’ll try and follow you but if I don’t make it leave without me.”
“But Sarah… I can’t just-“
“You can and you will! I’ll distract her. When you hear me sneeze, go with all speed to the front door. You should be able to make it-“
“Please Amelia!” She hissed as she followed Madame out. “We’re all counting on you!”
She was gone. And, knowing Madame, She wouldn’t make the train. I was on my own.
Okay then. Here we go…
To be continued…