Part IV: Family Matters
Before we could be wed, Anemone said she must go out and say goodbye to her kin. It was the custom with her people, and would probably take months, she said. They were scattered far and wide.
“Are you the first of your kind to marry a mortal?” I asked her as we walked through my garden one evening shortly before she was to leave.
“I think not,” she said, reaching down to pluck a scarlet flower from a hibiscus bush nearby. “Our folk couple with mortals frequently, but marrying? I think that happens very rarely, if at all.”
“It has been said,” I recalled, “that one of my uncle Bilbo’s Took ancestors took a faery-wife, and that accounts for the odd strain in that branch of my family. I am beginning to believe it might be true.”
“You hobbits place a great deal of importance upon family matters, yes?” she said as she tucked the flower into her hair. “You can name your ancestors back for many generations. That is amazing. I do not know who any of my ancestors are, and do not care. I do not even know who my father is.”
“Don’t you?” I found that shocking. In the Shire it would have been considered positively disgraceful.
“No. Why should I?”
“And it truly does not bother you that I cannot give you children?”
“I have children already. What need I with more?”
That was another thing that disturbed me about her. I had never met any of her children, and she almost never spoke of them, although I had wanted to bring up the matter more than once. I wondered at her seeming lack of feeling for them. It occurred to me that when they were born to her, they needed little care, and could shift for themselves at a very early age, without need of protection or teaching. So perhaps maternal tenderness was a foreign concept to her.
It was a hard thing for me to grasp.
“What makes you so sure you cannot father children?” she said, looking up suddenly at me in the ruddy late afternoon light.
“Well…” I ducked my head. Strange that I could still feel embarrassment with her after all this time.
“Will I do that when I am mortal?” she said looking shrewdly at me.
I laughed. “On you a blush would look lovely, I think. I probably only look ridiculous.”
“Not a bit of it.” She laughed too, then flung her arms around my neck and we shared a long kiss.
“I think I am beginning to understand what fear is,” she said later as we sat beneath blooming jasmine bushes in the twilight. I had brought a basket of fruit out on the terrace.
There were so many varieties of fruits and vegetables on the Island, many of which I had never even heard before. There were some fruits I found, to my eternal delight, that had a thick gold-colored outer rind which was inedible, but the inside, which could be easily broken into sections, was very juicy and incredibly delicious. I could sit and eat these all day, and I had several of the trees growing in my garden. Lord Elrond's wife, Lady Celebrían, had taught me to make something like a preserve of them, and I had jars upon jars of it in my fruit-cellar.
There were other strange fruits as well, including one that was long and thin and yellow outside and white inside, and the rind also had to be peeled away. And a round crimson fruit that had to be cut and inside were what looked like rubies. And a very large, spiny one, that needed a sharp knife to cut open, but the inside was yellow and soft and very tasty indeed, especially when cold. And much, much more. I had a vineyard, a small berry-patch, and of course, pipe-weed, of which I had brought a large sack of seeds with me. And I had a beehive as well. Sam would have been proud of me, surely. He would know I was not spending my days in reeking idleness.
“If you should change your mind,” I said in reply to what Anemone had just said, “will you at least come back now and then?”
“I would come back to stay,” she said, “but I shan’t change my mind.”
I picked an orange out of the basket and peeled it, then broke it and gave half to her. “I suppose it is just as well we cannot have children,” I said. “They could not leave, and whom would they marry? Each other? I think not.”
“And yet you’ve told me that where you come from, cousins marry each other,” she pointed out. “That it is a usual thing, and in the Shire, nearly everyone is related to each other if only distantly.”
“Yes. But brothers and sisters could not marry. It is not done among either mortals nor Elves. Yet faery-folk can couple with their siblings and think nothing of it?”
“Of course,” she shrugged. “Does that truly bother you?”
I shook my head. “I cannot grasp it yet. So…you feel fear now, you say?”
She nodded. “Perhaps not, and yet…the idea that I am to change utterly from what I am produces a strange emotion. To think I shall have no powers at all, will grow old and die, and subject to dangers…and grief and loss. And there will be no going back. I am just beginning to take it all in. Perhaps change is the one thing that my people could find frightening. But do not worry, my love,” she smiled at me, “I am not changing my mind. But you…you will not go and change on me, will you? You will not try to dominate me?”
Once more I was shocked. “Such a thing never even crossed my mind,” I assured her.
We rose and went walking on the beach. The evening star hung over the sea where the sun had set before, a stain of coral red still lingering on the horizon. Its steady brilliance reflected on the breathing waves in shivering silver-blue flickers.
“You love that star,” she said after a long moment.
“It is not really a star, but a planet,” I said with a smile. “There is a legend that it is the ship of Lord Elrond's father, with a mighty jewel attached ot it, but that is only a legend. Lord Elrond has much equipment to aid him with viewing the stars, and he lets me look as much as I like in his observatory. He has a wondrous piece of glass through which one can see planets greatly enlarged. This one looks all blue and misty through it.”
I found myself touching the pendant at my throat with the hand that was not holding hers, then saw her looking at it. I took the chain and lifted it over my head, then laid it over hers. I heard her gasp.
“You wish to give me this?” she said as I lifted her hair over the chain and arranged the gem on her bosom.
“Well, it looks much better on you,” I said only half jokingly. “Have you never worn a jewel before?”
“No, nor wanted to,” she said. “But this feels very warm. And…it sings, somehow. It is full of your being. It is alive--I had never known that a stone could have life. I shall wear it as a pledge that I shall return to you.”
As we started back toward my cottage, she touched the pendant several times, and seemed filled with a sweet light.
“I love the sun as you love the stars,” she said softly. “I will not be able to look into it any more, will I? But I do not mind so much. I had far rather look at you.”