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Just to be With You
14: No More Waiting
Merry forced a smile as Pippin started on another happy tune. He played along with his young cousin, because he knew it was Pippin’s way of coping. Just over one week ago, they had said farewell to Frodo Baggins for the last time, and along with him, Gandalf, Bilbo, Galadriel, Elrond, and a host of elves. They had all passed over the sea from the Grey Havens. Merry knew that Frodo had gone to a better place, but it did not ease his sadness.
They had been riding from the Grey Havens for several days now. Sam had left them as they passed Hobbiton and Bywater, the previous evening. Night had once more set in, as the cousins entered the East Farthing. Neither Pippin nor Merry minded. They found travelling at night pleasant.
Pippin was riding a little ahead of him, and as he stared at the back of the Took’s head, a frightening thought came to Merry’s mind. Frodo had left – what if Pippin did too? Once or twice he had heard Pippin mention returning to Gondor, especially when one of his sisters annoyed him, or his mother pestered him about getting married. And what about Sam? Merry wasn’t certain, but he thought that perhaps Sam would be given the same honour as Frodo and Bilbo.
“I’ve left it too late,” he muttered.
“What?” asked Pippin, turning back to face his cousin. He was slightly irritated that he had been interrupted in the middle of his song.
Shaken from his thoughts, Merry looked up and met Pippin’s eyes. Ahead of them, a side road came off to the left, leading to Budgeford. “Pippin, I have something I need to do. I’ll meet you back at Crickhollow.”
“Merry? What?” cried Pippin. “Where are you going?”
“No time to explain. I shan’t be long.” Merry rode past Pippin and took the left side road, leaving the young Took staring in utter confusion.
* * * * * *
Estella was woken by what sounded like a tapping sound. She groaned, and pulled the covers over her head, hoping to drown out the sound. It was probably just Melilot asking were something was kept. Fredegar and Melilot had married several months earlier, and even though she had been living with the Bolgers since then (and had often visited their home in previous years), Melilot still had trouble finding her way around.
The noise was repeated, and with an exasperated sigh, Estella climbed out of bed. However, when she did, she realised that the tapping was not coming from the door, but from the window.
“Perhaps it’s just a branch,” she told herself, but went to check anyway. With winter fast approaching, she kept her window shut tight, and it took her a few moments to get it open.
What she saw outside was certainly not what she expected to see. Merry was looking up at her with an urgent and pleading expression on his face.
“Merry!” she cried, uncomfortably aware of how sheer her nightshirt was. “What are you doing here?”
“Stella, we have to get married!” he replied.
Still not fully recovered from the shock of finding him outside her window in the late hours of the night, Estella had to laugh. “What? Right now?”
“Merry, it’s October – I told you I always wanted a springtime wedding. It’s in the middle of the night. And you’re standing outside my window freezing, while I stand here in my almost see-through nightshirt!”
The mention of her nightshirt seemed to pull Merry out of his hysteria. He regarded her for a moment. “So it is…”
“Merry!” Estella wrapped her arms around her chest. He blushed and looked down. Estella simply shook her head. “Merry, go around to the front door and I’ll let you inside. It’s freezing out there.”
“Just go.” Estella closed the window. Before making her way to the door, she wrapped a gown around her body. Merry was waiting for her at outside the door. “Keep quiet. Mel and Freddie are sleeping, and so are my parents.”
Merry nodded, and followed her to the kitchen. “Could I have some tea?”
“Of course.” Estella quickly prepared two cups of tea.
They sipped their tea in silence for a few moments, before Merry finally spoke up. “I meant what I said, Stella. I want to get married.”
“Please don’t think that I’m not happy to hear you say that,” Estella said, slowly, “because I am, but what has made you so quickly come to this decision.”
“All the reasons for us waiting have disappeared. There are no ruffians left in the Shire. Fredegar is Fatty again, and he has Mel to look after him now.”
“Well, yes, but…” Estella looked at his face. “There’s something else, isn’t there?”
Merry burst into tears. Estella wrapped her arms around him and he sobbed onto her shoulder. They remained like that for some time, until Merry found his voice again. “Frodo’s gone. He left the Shire…not just the Shire, he left Middle-Earth completely.”
Estella gasped. “Gone? How?”
“The elves allowed him a place on one of their ships,” Merry sniffled. “He’s gone Stella. I wanted him to be at our wedding, and now he won’t be.”
“Oh, Merry.” Estella knew how much Frodo meant to Merry. She rubbed his back.
“And now, I started to worry…what if Sam or Pippin leave too? Pippin, he’s practically a prince in Gondor. The Prince of the Halflings, they call him. And Sam, he might leave with the elves too. Stella, we have to get married before it’s too late again!”
Estella kissed Merry’s forehead. She now understood why he was so anxious. She had to let him know that there was no need. “Meriadoc, Pippin is practically a prince here, too. He’ll be the Thain of the Shire one day. Besides, I don’t think that he would leave you for anything. And Sam won’t be going anywhere, so long as he has Rosie and little Elanor.”
“I never thought of that,” he admitted. He smiled sheepishly at her. “I suppose you think I’m very silly.”
“Not at all, and you won’t get out of your proposal so easily.” She smiled right back at him. “How does March sound?”
* * * * * *
Pippin had waited up for Merry to come home, but had fallen asleep on the kitchen table. He woke upon hearing the front door open.
“Pippin! Pippin, where are you?” Merry cried.
“In the kitchen!” Pippin called back.
Merry raced into the kitchen, nearly falling onto his behind as he skidded around the corner. “Pippin, I have the most wonderful news.”
Pippin yawned. “You’re going to give me back the several hours that I wasted waiting up for you?”
“No, no, much better than that! I’m getting married!”
Merry sighed. “Not right now. Stella wants to have the wedding in March. After your birthday, of course.”
“Your could get married on my birthday, then maybe you wouldn’t forget it.”
“Pippin! I want you to be happy for me. I’m going to marry the lass that I love.”
“Oh, I am happy, Merry! But I’m also very tired, and at the moment, that is taking priority.” He managed a smile. “You’re both very lucky.”
Merry laughed and hugged his cousin. “Now that’s what I want to hear! You know that I want you to stand witness for me.”
“I was expecting to. In fact, I would have been mad at you if you hadn’t asked.” Pippin’s smile faded. “Frodo would have loved to have been here for this.”
“Somehow, I think he probably knew.” Merry ruffled his cousin’s hair. “I should have asked him to give me some clue of who you’ll marry. You know, Stella’s having Diamond stand witness for her.”
“Oh, really, and just what makes you think that I would care about that?”
Merry smirked. It had not escaped his notice that Pippin had blushed slightly at the mention of Diamond’s name. “No reason, cousin.”
* * * * * *
“I’d like to raise a toast to my son, Meriadoc, and Miss Estella Bolger, for their recent engagement,” Saradoc said, proudly. He raised his glass. “To Merry and Stella.”
“To Merry and Stella,” the host repeated. A party celebrating the engagement of Merry and Estella was being held in the ballroom of Brandy Hall just after Yule. Estella had been staring wide-eyed at the room since she arrived, remembering the last time she had been there. It was almost unbelievable to be there again, and this time to be celebrating her upcoming marriage to Master Meriadoc Brandybuck! Merry smiled at her and squeezed her hand beneath the table. He knew what she was thinking.
All of his fears had disappeared. At Estella’s suggestion, he had voiced his worries to Sam and Pippin. They had both admitted that they had feared the same thing. Together, the three of them made a promise to stay together for a good many years yet.
Merry was spared the embarrassment of making a speech at this party. After the toast had been made, the guests dispersed and mingled. Merry and Estella wandered through thanking the guests in turn, just as they had at Merry’s thirty-third birthday. This activity soon became tedious and boring, and the pair retired to a table with their closest friends. Sam and Rosie, with baby Elanor, Pippin, Diamond, Pervinca and Everard, Pearl and Orlando, with young Peregrin Burrows, Pimpernel and Berry, with baby Garnet, Fredegar and Melilot, along with Celandine and her brothers, and Ferdibrand.
“Have you had your dress started on yet?” Pimpernel immediately asked. Pearl eagerly nodded, no less excited despite having recently celebrated her eleventh anniversary with Orlando.
“Not yet,” Estella admitted. “But the tailors are coming next week.”
Rosie squealed. “Oh, Merry, Estella, I’m so happy for you both.” She put her hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I know you will be as happy as me and my Sam.”
“They will be,” stated Pippin. “And I’ll have someone to look after me, without having to get married at all!”
Celandine playfully slapped Pippin’s arm. Estella noticed the almost hopeful look on the younger lass’ face. She hoped that Celandine would not be too upset if Pippin did not choose to marry her.
“Come on, Ev!” cried Pervinca. “I want to dance.”
“Yes, dearest,” Everard sighed, as he was pulled onto the dance floor. Diamond offered to hold Garnet so that Pimpernel and Berilac could join them. Ferdibrand took Peregrin from Pearl’s arms, and Doderic Brandybuck offered to hold Elanor. Rose declined, stating that she did not wish to dance, but the others complied. Celandine grabbed Pippin’s hand and dragged him onto the dance floor. Only Diamond noticed his desperate look.
Merry and Estella danced close to each other, with her head rested on his chest. Merry breathed in the sweet scent of her hair. “I love you so much.”
He smiled down at her. “I don’t want to wait until March anymore. Can we get married now?”
“I think our families would disown us if we did.” She stood on her toes and kissed him lightly. “Just remember that good things come to those who wait.”
“I’ve been waiting for a bloody long time, so it had better be good.” He grinned, and accepted her slap to his arm. He really deserved that.
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