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Stars May Collide  by Rose Gamgee

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Chapter 3 - Stolen Glances

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Pippin had been at the North-tooks’ smials for less than fifteen minutes and he was already pining for home.  He was currently sitting at the long table in the dining room, with his father on one side and Feldigram Took, master of the North-took smials, on the other.  Feldigram’s family was slowly filing into the dining area; most of the lads had already entered and given their greetings to Paladin and his son, but the girls seemed to be taking their time.  Whenever a lass would walk in, after being introduced by Feldigram, she would first give a polite “hello” to the Thain, then turn her eyes to Pippin and giggle.  When this procedure had started to become irksome (around the second time), Pippin had decided to focus on his mug of ale and hadn’t looked up since.

“Well,” Feldigram spoke up over the family’s chatter.  “I think we’re all here, shall we start?”

“We can’t start,” one of the older girls said.  “Diamond isn’t here yet.”

“Oh, she’s always late,” Feldigram’s wife, Bellamanta, said as she seated herself at the far end of the table opposite her husband.  There was an empty seat on her left, presumably the one belonging to this Diamond lass.  “And as I tell all of you if you’re late for a meal, it’s your own fault if you don’t get enough food.”

It didn’t take long after the meal to start for many of the girls to attempt conversation with Pippin.  He answered in as few words as possible, looking up as little as possible.  He was wishing - and not for the first time that day - that he had taken Merry up on his offer to accompany Pippin to Long Cleeve when Bellamanta spoke up again.

“Ah, there you are, Diamond!  We were wondering about you.”

Pippin was surprised by the voice that answered, in that it was soft, barely above a whisper, and the speaker seemingly embarrassed that she had been addressed.  “Sorry.”

Out of curiosity, Pippin glanced up ever so slightly and saw a pretty young girl seating herself beside her mother.  Her hair was black, and she had pale, milky-white skin that could have made her look almost sickly.  Instead it served to give her a sort of glow that Pippin found difficult to look away from.

“You shouldn’t go wandering off like you do, Diamond,” Feldigram said, but his voice was not stern; he did not seem the type of hobbit to often use a strict voice.  “Paladin, Peregrin, this quiet little lass is my youngest, Diamond.  She’s not quite of age yet, but that suits Bellamanta and me just fine.  I don’t think we’ll want to be rid of Diamond even when she is ready to be married.”  Feldigram laughed heartily as his daughter blushed.

Pippin got the sneaking that Feldigram was attempting to send him a hidden message with his last statement.

The dinner went by slowly; most of the girls had taken the hint and given up on conversing with their young guest, but some were being terribly persistent.  Luckily, Pippin discovered that if he simply nodded or shook his head, they would be satisfied.  He also found that his gaze often wandered over to the far end of the table, where the young girl named Diamond sat in silence, looking up only when spoken to.

Pippin was stealing another glance at Diamond when he saw her speak to Bellamanta in a tone that could not be heard over the other conversations.  Bellamanta nodded at what her daughter said, and Diamond stood and walked out of the room.  Pippin was suddenly filled with a great urge to go with her, but he settled with letting his gaze follow her towards the door.

But ten minutes later, Pippin decided he’d had enough of dinner.  “Thank you very much for the meal, Mister Feldigram, Missus Bellamanta,” he said.  “But I’m afraid I must retire.”

“Something wrong, Peregrin?” his father inquired.

“Uhh... a headache.  Yes, terrible headache.  I think I’ll go lie down for a while.”

At least five female voices spoke up, asking frantically if they could get Pippin something.  He shook his head quickly, said goodbye, and walked out, hoping he didn’t give away the fact that he was in a hurry.

Instead of going to his room, however, Pippin decided to take a walk outside.  He felt refreshed the moment his feet touched the grass outside of the front door to the smials.  Far to his left, he saw a patch of trees and decided to walk towards them.  When he reached the trees, he was surprised to find that someone else was already there, and even more surprised at who that someone was.

Diamond sat with her back against a tree, her head bowed and her knees hugged to her chest.  Her dark locks danced in the gentle breeze, making her seem to Pippin as some sort of vision.

She didn’t seem to notice his approach until he was mere footsteps away from her; she glanced up and gasped, causing Pippin to back away slightly.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said, holding up his hands.

“Oh, oh it’s all right,” she said, her pale face now tinged with pink.  It was the most words he’d ever heard her speak, and he was surprised at how soothing her soft voice was.

Pippin was about to speak again when Diamond stood suddenly.  “I- I suppose you came out here to be alone.  I’ll just--”

“No,” he interrupted quickly.  “Don’t go, please.”

When he said “please,” Diamond paused and looked up at him in surprise.  After a moment, she sat back down and gave a small smile.  “All right.  I should warn you, though, I’m not very good company.”

Pippin smiled brightly.  “Oh, that’s all right.  I haven’t been the best company lately either.”  From the way she wrung her hands and avoided his gaze, Pippin guessed that Diamond wasn’t exactly comfortable with being around him, so he decided to seat himself far enough away from her to where he couldn’t reach out and touch her.  He wasn’t sure if Diamond noticed this, but he was pleased to see that she relaxed slightly.

“Why, um... why did you come out here?” she asked timidly.

Pippin shrugged.  “Dinner was becoming rather dull.”

Diamond furrowed her brows at this.  “But everyone was so eager to talk to you.”

Wrinkling his nose, Pippin replied, “All the girls, you mean.”

“Oh.”  Diamond looked down at the ground, twirling a few blades of grass with her delicate fingers.  “All that attention... I figured you would enjoy it.”

“I probably would have a few years ago.”  He sighed, resting his chin on his hands.  “I suppose it would help if they weren’t just interested in the fact that I’m famous, or that I’m going to be the next Thain.”

Diamond had plucked a small flower and was running her fingers over its lavender petals when she spoke again.  “Well, I’m sure if they got to know you better, they would see that you’re more than just a famous name.”  She still wouldn’t meet Pippin’s gaze, but he could see her blushing furiously.

“And what about you?” Pippin asked.  “What are you doing out here all by yourself?”

Shifting slightly, Diamond replied, “Oh, I... I just don’t like crowds.”

“Even when it’s your family?” he inquired.  When she nodded slightly, Pippin commented, “You know, you don’t say very much.”

Her blush returned.  “Mum always said I was too introverted,” she responded with a sheepish smile.

“And why is that?”  Only then did Diamond meet Pippin’s gaze, and he noticed she looked almost surprised.  “What, does that question surprise you?”

She smiled and returned her gaze to the small flower in her hand.  “Well, not really, it’s just that you’re the first lad outside of my family who seems genuinely interested in what I have to say.  Actually, you’re the first lad outside of my family who has even pursued a conversation with me.”

“I find that hard to believe,” he said with a smile.

Diamond looked at him again, and her smile became a little less bashful.  Pippin gazed at her thoughtfully for a moment, admiring the delicate features of her face - her shy smile, her soft lips, her dark lashes.

“You have blue eyes,” he said suddenly, surprising even himself at this abrupt comment.

She laughed softly.  “Is that a good thing?”

Pippin’s smile widened.  “Yes, I believe it is.”

Just then, a voice was heard from the direction of the smials, calling out, “Diamond?  Diamond, are you out here?”

Diamond’s face fell at the sound of the voice.  “That’s my sister.  I had better go.”  She stood, but before turning to leave, she gave Pippin a small curtsey.  “It was nice talking with you, Mister Peregrin.”  With that, she turned and quickly walked towards the smials.

Pippin watched her go and muttered under his breath, “Goodbye, then.”  After a moment, he looked back at the spot where Diamond had been sitting and saw that she had left behind the small flower she’d been holding.  He picked it up and stared at it for a few seconds, then, standing, put it in his pocket and walked out of the grove.

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