It was dusting day at Brandy Hall. Estella reached up to dust the mantle piece when she heard a much-loved voice behind her.
“Do you need any help with that?” Merry asked.
“No, I’m doing fine. Thank you anyway.” She smiled at Merry.
“Are you near finished?”
“Almost done. Why?”
“I have a surprise for you?” Estella’s heart raced with anticipation.
“What kind of surprise?”
“You’ll see,” Merry said, grinning like a tween.
“Is it a good surprise or one that will send me screaming to Freddy?
“Don’t worry. You’ll like it.”
Merry watched Estella carefully lift up the porcelin figures his mother was so fond of and gently wipe them clean with her rag. She then placed them back on the mantle piece like they had never been touched.
When she was finally done, Merry took her hand as they ran outside.
“Will they miss us?” Estella asked as they ran.
“Nay, they’ll think I’m with Pippin. The smial is so large and dusting is such a big job that they won’t miss you.”
“I hope not.”
They came to the edge of a small wood. Merry took out his hankerchief and tied it around Estella’s eyes.
“Merry! What are you doing?”
“It’s part of the surprise. Don’t worry; I’ll led you.” He took her hand and they walked carefully through the woods.
Estella heard the sound of running water. Merry took off her blindfold. “Surprise!” he exclaimed.
Estella mouth dropped open. They were in a clearing beside part of the Brandywine River. A blanket was laid out on the grass and on it was a picnic basket.
“Oh Merry,” she manged to say.
“Is it all right?”
“It’s lovely. Thank you.” She kissed her beloved.
Merry blushed. “That is a wonderful thank you indeed. Shall we eat?”
They sat down on the blanket and Merry began taking the food out of the basket. Baked chicken, little jelly sandwiches with cream cheese, pickles, carrot salad, and of course, fried mushrooms. There was also tea and something in a little pastel box that Merry set aside “for later”.
“Merry, did you fix this all by yourself?” Estella asked as they finished off the last of the mushrooms.
“Well, I did the mushrooms and sandwiches by myself, but I had Cook do the rest.” Merry blushed. “I’m not much of a cook. Once, Pippin and I had an idea to fix Aunt Eglantine waffles for breakfast. We burned everything, and the kitchen was a shambles.”
“But you meant well.”
“I’m sure the Smials cook thought so when she made us clean it all up.”
“Oh you poor little things,” Estella said laughing.
“And now this,” Merry said. He handed the box to Estella. “This is for you,” he said smiling.
Estella opened the box and gasped. Inside was a fluffy white square. “It’s penuche. I thought you might like it.”
“How do you eat it?”
“Just stick your finger in.” Estella smiled with anticipation as she stuck her finger in the white dessert.
She had never tasted anything so good. She closed her eyes as her tongue swirled around her finger, trying to get as much of the sweet concoction as it could. She took her finger out of her mouth and reached in the box for another fingerfull.
“Do you like it?” Merry asked.
She nodded. “It tastes like clouds. Eat it with me.”
Soon all the penuche was gone and the two hobbits had very sticky fingers.
Merry stood up and began to take off his clothes. “This makes me feel like a swim,” he said.
“But isn’t swimming a very unhobbity thing to do?” Estella asked nervously.
“It is. That’s what is so much fun about it.” Merry set his coat, waistcoat, shirt, and breeches down on the blanket and jumped into the river.
Estella watched the river closely until Merry’s head popped up. “Come in Estella. The water’s perfect!”
“I can’t swim.”
“That’s okay. I’ll hold on to you.”
“All right. But close your eyes while I undress.” Estella undressed to her camisole and petticoat. She cautiously approached the water’s edge.
“What do I do now?” Merry walked out of the river.
“Now I take your hand and we walk into the river.” They walked till they were waist deep. Estella held tightly to Merry’s neck.
“It’s all right,” Merry soothed. “I won’t let you go.” They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment. Merry leaned in and kissed her, before they sank beneath the surface.
Estella held tightly to Merry while they were underwater. When they needed to breathe again they rose to the top.
“Come on. I want to show you something.” He took her hand. “We’re going underwater again, but I want you to keep your eyes open, all right?”
“All right.” Estella took a deep breath as Merry held her hand and took her underwater.
Her eyes grew wide as she looked at the underwater world around them. The sunlight shown in the water, making it seem almost magical. The water plants swayed under them. Fish swam around them. This was another world, and they were part of it.
Estella found that swimming underwater was easy. Merry also taught her to float and tred water.
Later they lay on the shore waiting to dry. Merry reached over and laced his fingers with Estella’s. She rolled over on her side. She was so beautiful wet. Her dark curls framed her face and tiny dropplets of water clung to her lashes. Merry cupped her cheek.
“I love you,” he whispered as he leaned over and kissed her. The kiss quickly deepened. Merry held Estella tightly as she ran her fingers through his damp curls.
“Thank you for this afternoon, Merry.”
“You’re very welcome.”
They dressed and walked back to Brandy Hall. No one had missed them.
A/N This is sort of a missing part to Chapter One of Two Hearts Bound. I took liberties with penuche. It’s really a fudge-like dessert.
Disclaimer: None of it is mine. Not even the penuche. The characters belong to Tolkien and the penuche goes to my mom ’cause she loves the stuff.