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Just to be With You
5: The Perfect Dress
The day finally arrived; Meriadoc Brandybuck’s thirty-third birthday. The festivities were not to start until lunchtime, but Merry spent most of the morning being fussed over by his mother.
“I’m thirty-three now, Mother,” he joked. “I do think that’s old enough to be able to dress myself.”
“I know, my dear,” Esmeralda replied, “but I just want to be sure that you look your very best. Especially with that lovely Bolger lass coming.” She smiled proudly at her son. “We may have a wedding to organise quite soon after this party.”
“Mother!” Merry cried, blushing, but he grinned at her. “You are starting to sound like Aunt Eglantine, and that is making me feel like Pimpernel.”
“Oh, I am sorry Merry. But you can hardly blame me. It’s not everyday your only son comes of age. Or finds the perfect bride.” She ruffled the hair that she had just spent hours brushing. “Have it your way, Meriadoc. I shall leave you in peace. But only if you promise to tell me everything that happens between yourself and Estella tonight…”
“Are you sure that you will want to know everything?” Merry had always had a very close relationship with his mother. They were close friends as well as mother and son.
Esmeralda gave her son a mock-stern glare. “There had better not be any of that sort of behaviour, Meriadoc Brandybuck. It’s quite enough to have young Peregrin and Celandine disappearing into the bushes at every spare moment. Quite like his father, that one.”
“No one seems to be getting excited about a looming marriage between Pip and Celandine.”
“That is because there will not be one. They are both still only tween-agers! Besides, within a few days they will be at each other’s necks. You remember how they were as children, and they are no different now. They have not seen each other for some time, so they are going to make up for it, I am sure. For now, it is the good times that they are catching up on. It’s only a matter of time before the bad gets it turn.”
“I do not think Celandine would suit Pippin anyway. She’s rather dull, I must say, for a Brandybuck. Pip will needs someone with more Took blood in them. Only another Took could tolerate that fiery lad.”
Esmeralda laughed with Merry. “Well, you should keep a close watch on Estella. Her mother was a Took.”
“I will try as best I can. Hopefully, Peregrin will be too busy either flirting or fighting with Celandine to give me too much trouble.”
* * * * * *
Estella was in quite a state. The room she was sharing with Pervinca and Pimpernel looked like a war zone. Clothes were strewn about from every corner, and at the centre of the room, on her bed, Estella sat, dressed only in her under garments, sobbing. Pervinca and Pimpernel sat on either side, rubbing her back and saying soothing words.
“It isn’t all that bad, Stella,” Pervinca assured.
“It is!” Estella cried. “My clothes are all awful! I’ve already worn the only one that might have sufficed. I am not going!” Estella had tried on every outfit that she had brought with her and rejected every one. She did not think any of her dresses were grand enough for the escort of Meriadoc Brandybuck.
“But you have to go!” Pimpernel urged. “You already promised Merry that you would.” At the mentioning of Merry’s name, Estella burst into a fresh set of tears.
There was a gentle knock at the door. “Pervinca, Pimpernel? It’s your mother. May I come in?”
Pervinca looked at Estella who gave a slight nod. Pervinca let her mother inside. Eglantine had a bundle in her arms. She made her way towards Estella.
“Now, now, Estella, dear,” she said, soothingly. “No more tears.” Estella shook her head stubbornly, but Eglantine was not phased. She took Pervinca’s seat next to the distraught lass and placed the bundle upon her lap. “Perhaps this will make things better.”
Estella looked up and unfolded the bundle. It was a beautiful navy blue velvet skirt with matching bodice and a white silken shirt. Estella looked up at Eglantine with wide eyes.
“This dress was made for my eldest daughter, Pearl, to wear to Bilbo and Frodo’s party.”
Estella nodded mutely. She had thought that it looked familiar. She had been a guest at that infamous party, though she had spent much time hidden behind her parents and brother. “I cannot accept such a gift!”
“Why not?” Pimpernel asked. “Pearl makes a point of never wearing the same dress on two occasions, but Pervinca and I have borrowed it before. I see no reason why you should not do so also. Especially since you are to be the escort of our most beloved cousin.”
“Well, I suppose…” Estella ran fingered the rich fabric of the dress. She would never cease to be amazed by the wealth of the Tooks and Brandybucks.
“Splendid!” Pervinca cried, sounding much like her brother. She pulled Estella to her feet, and she and Pimpernel began to dress their friend in their sister’s dress. Eglantine smiled and slipped from the room.
The dress fitted Estella beautifully, which the two Took lasses were thankful for. They dreaded to think what would have happened if the dress had been too small or too big. Estella spun around in the new outfit.
“It’s perfect!” she cried.
Pervinca nodded. “Merry shall not be able to keep his eyes of you – not to mention the rest of the guests!”
A beaming smile graced Estella’s face, and she ran from the room to find Eglantine. She found her inspecting Peregrin’s appearance.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Estella squealed, smothering the wife of the Thain in a hug.
Eglantine smiled and stoked Estella’s hair. “You are quite welcome, my dear. I only ask for one thing in return – that you make sure my nephew has a wonderful night.”
“I will!” Estella ran back to her room. Pervinca and Pimpernel had not finished with her hair yet.
Eglantine returned her attention to her son, and found that Pippin was staring open-mouthed at Estella’s departing form. “Mouth shut, Peregrin. You know it’s rude to stare. I would hate to think what Meriadoc would do to you if he saw you now.”
Pippin grinned. “There is nothing wrong with admiring the beauty of a fine lass.”
Eventually, the Pervinca, Pimpernel and Estella were ready. It was almost noon by this time, and Peregrin was particularly impatient. As they walked to Brandy Hall, he confronted Estella.
“I do hope you don’t plan on taking up all of Merry’s time today. I mean, I would like to spend a little time with him…”
“Merry has to grow up eventually, Pippin,” said Frodo. “He cannot spend the rest of his life playing truant with you.”
“Well, I know, but…”
“Besides, won’t you be spending much of your time with Celandine?”
Pippin screwed up his nose. “I hope not. I had forgotten how frightfully boring she is. A pretty face is one thing, but this Took needs more substance to his lady. Perhaps I shall see if Myrtle Burrows has anyone with her…”
Estella hid a laugh behind her hand as Frodo smiled and shook his head at her. “Do not fear, Peregrin. I will leave Merry some time to spend with you and Frodo and any of his other friends. And perhaps I would like to join you in whatever mischief you have planned.”
“Mischief planned? Now where would you get an idea like that?” Pippin pretended to be shocked, but grinned in the way that only a true Took can.
The Master, Mistress and the birthday lad were waiting to greet them. Merry’s broad smile was enough to let Estella know he liked the dress.
“Welcome, friends,” Saradoc greeted.
“It is an honour to be here, brother,” Paladin replied. Pippin rolled his eyes at the formality. He just wanted his present.
Esmeralda noticed. “Dear Peregrin, you must forgive us for not jumping straight to the most important part of our son’s birthday.”
“Peregrin!” Eglantine hissed angrily. “Apologize at once!”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Esmeralda,” Pippin droned.
Esmeralda just grinned. Normally, at a time like this, she would ruffle Pippin’s hair, but she could tell that it had been brushed especially for the occasion, so decided against it. She handed him a box. “You are forgiven, my sweet.”
Pippin always seemed to age backwards at birthdays. His eyes would widen, and he would grin like he was ten years old again. He tore open the box – after, of course, thanking his aunt, uncle and cousin – and pulled out a green and brown scarf.
“I know it’s probably a little late for scarves now,” Esmeralda admitted. “But I remember how much you admired Merry’s scarf when you cam for Yule, so I made one like it just for you.”
Pippin grinned. He had liked that scarf of Merry’s, but he didn’t think anyone had noticed. He wrapped the present scarf around his neck, despite the weather being far too hot. “How do I look?”
“Adorable, Pip,” Merry laughed. His mother gave him a little shove from behind, causing him to move closer to Estella.
“Give Estella her gift, Merry.”
“It’s not much,” Merry declared, handing a small box to Estella. She smiled her thanks and opened it, while the rest of her companions received their gifts. It was a glass pendant on a silver chain. Inside the pendant, there were three pressed flowers, small purple and yellow pansies.
“It’s beautiful,” Estella whispered. “Thank you.”
Merry bowed. “Why don’t you all come inside? The party will be held in the ballroom.”
Pippin snorted. “We’re always the last to arrive. Why do lasses always take so long to get ready?”
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