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72
Anticipation


Dear Sam,

We got a surprise this morning.

The play is tomorrow. Our Aragorn, Thalimorgûl (as you may well suppose, I really have a problem with that name, which he says is his real one--well, I think he should have changed it!) has been stumping around the stage for the past week, although Selin tells him to take it easy and stay off his hurt ankle as much as possible. Sometimes Thali hops around the stage during rehearsal of his scenes, looking pretty silly. But I must admire his dedication.

This morning the twins, who will play hobbit-lasses, appeared at the breakfast-table with mops of brown curls on their heads, and I did a double-take, and rubbed my eyes, and there they were still, giggling. Then they showed me their feet, which were covered in curls also.

“How do you like us?” Nightingale said. Raven stared with her mouth wide open, as did Sandrose and Onyx.

“Our hair is your color now, Ada,” Gloryfall chirped. “We are the first sea-girls ever to have brown hair.”

“Not to mention foot-hair--of any color,” Anemone grinned.

“Where did you get those wigs?” I asked the twins. “They are extremely well made.”

They looked at each other, then burst out laughing, and in an eye-blink their hair was its original color and texture. Gracious, nothing should surprise me anymore!

“Do we make pretty hobbits?” Nightingale asked batting her eyes coyly.

“Very,” I said, “although I must admit, I prefer your hair its true color.”

“Do any hobbits have hair our color?” Gloryfall asked.

“Only very old ones,” I said smiling, “which is why I like yours. It reminds me of Bilbo’s.”

The twins looked to each other again, dimpling prettily.

“I could play Rosie’s grandmum,” Nightingale said. “Has she a twin?”

“No, but no one else here knows that,” I said laughing.

“Fancy playing your own mother’s grandmum!” Gloryfall said. “I would feel very silly. I’d rather play a pretty tavern-wench. Then I could be brown like you, Ada, and all would know me for your daughter. Already I’ve your eyes.”

I smiled.

“I liked having mine Embergold’s color,” Fairwind said. “But shall not have it so much longer.” She sighed softly. Embergold reached over and laid a hand over hers.

“I liked the feeling of having no hair at all,” Northlight said, and the twins laughed.

“Can you make my hair your color?” Raven asked the twins.

“Nooooooo,” Nightingale exclaimed, reaching over to caress the dark locks. “You wouldn’t be our Raven with OUR ridiculous color!”

“Yes,” Gloryfall said, jumping over to Raven’s side, “you are perfect as you are, Birdsister. I would have MY hair like yours.”

“Extremely perfect,” Fairwind agreed with a little smile. I noted how quiet she had been all week.

“She would be our Raven with any color,” Anemone said. “But yes, her hair is perfect as it is. When the sun is on it, it is full of deep shades and mystery. Like the aurora. Why would you change it?”

“You are the most beautiful girl on the whole Island,” Nightingale assured Raven. “Northlight thinks so too, and he is very smart.”

“You are his bride-sister,” Embergold assured her, “or, you will be. Then all the more ours.”

“Yes, indeed,” Northlight said with a doting look at Raven, who lowered her eyes in abashment at the love being poured all over her. “When first I saw you, I thought you a dancing princess of the night, full of dreams and stars and secret murmurings.”

“How pretty!” Gloryfall said, and Nightingale nodded in bright-eyed agreement.

“Well…I meant but for a little while,” Raven said, blinking back a tear. Northlight took her hand and kissed it.

“Where are Moonrise and Ebbtide?” I asked after a moment. “I didn’t see them all day yesterday. I wonder what they’re up to this time.”

They usually show up bright and early for breakfast, sometimes with a nice catch, which they clean and cook for us...usually with help from me, for to be truthful, I am a much better cook than either of them. Which is not saying very much.

I really will miss them when they go....

Then the peacock cried, and I jumped out of my chair and looked out the window. The twins flurried to the door, the children following.

There were our fellows, coming up the path…each with a lovely little lady on his arm, one of whom carried a golden-haired maid-child. And two little lads following.

I might have gotten trampled if I hadn’t moved out of the doorway just in time.

When all the uproar died down somewhat, Moonrise introduced his amber-haired mate, Sweetfern, while almost simultaneously Ebbtide presented his black-haired Jasmine. Then the boys, Crystal and Piper, and the tiny Summershine, scarcely out of babyhood.

“They came to see the play,” Moonrise said proudly as he balanced his small daughter on his arm, caressing her bright hair. She sucked on her fingers, scarcely seeming to know what to make of this airy land.

“How long will you stay?” Sandrose asked of black-haired Piper, who appeared about her age, skipping about before him, for she cannot seem to stand still for more than a minute or two.

“As long as Mother does,” he murmured, taken aback, looking to his mum, who was talking with Anemone. Moonrise passed Summershine to her grandmum, who took her in beaming delight. The twins gathered close by, exclaiming over their little niece. Raven edged up shyly after them. Onyx stayed close to his mum.

“This place is strange,” pale-haired Crystal, who appeared a year or two older than his brother, said. “Everything rises so high up. Is it true that food is burnt before it is eaten here?”

“Sometimes,” I chuckled, remembering Ebbtide’s recent attempt at cooking flounder. At the same time, I found myself quivering inside. What if someone should mention Darkfin? Surely Moonrise and Ebbtide had remembered to swear all to secrecy. But what if one of them should forget, and let it out? I looked to Fairwind, and she nodded, then went to Moonrise, drew him aside, and whispered to him. I saw him nod, glancing toward his mother. I let out my breath in a long sigh of relief, and soon it was my turn to hold little Summershine, who favored me with a shy but very friendly smile so that my heart flopped like an over-sized frog in a pond. This was how Anemone must have looked as a babe!

~*~*~

Later in the evening I slipped away unnoticed, and sauntered out to the beach in the twilight, leaving the others chattering and laughing on the terrace. I needed to be alone for a while...I’ve almost forgotten what that is. And Bilbo was afraid I’d be all alone after he was gone!

Sam…I’m so glad the play will soon be over and done with...and somewhat sorry too. What will come after? I suppose I shouldn’t even think of that. Just take things a day at a time, revel in each moment, do my work and enjoy my family and friends...without a project to work toward. No play, no epic...only what comes after. I can still write poetry, maybe even a book or two...maybe a volume about the sea-folk. That would be something different....

I’m so glad we had that two-week reprieve; the scenes are so much better now. It’s still very hard for me to direct certain ones, of course. The one in the Tower and the one at Mt. Doom are still the ones that make me almost sorry I didn’t have myself erased…but they have shaped up beautifully. Dínlad and Perion are perfectly amazing in them. I must admit, sometimes I have had to get away and weep a little after the rehearsals, but I let no one see. Northlight did catch me at it once, but he promised not to tell. I thought he too would advise me to let Selin direct, but he did not. On the contrary, he said although he knew the others meant well, he thought it right for me to do it.

“That way, the scenes truly have you in them,” he said. Well!

He did offer to carry me, but I smiled and said I had been carried enough for one lifetime, and preferred to walk beside him, feeling our linkage in the narrowness of the bright air between us.

Moonrise and Ebbtide have nearly completed the stone dog for him. When they went to Lord Elrond and asked his leave to copy the statue, he was touched, and said he would have given it to Northlight except that it had been a gift from a beloved friend, who carved it for him sometime after Lady Celebrían had sailed. When I heard his name, my eyes must have popped: it was none other than Annûnlanthir, son of Alkhlokëion, the sculptor who had designed the Argonath, no less. Someday I would perhaps meet him, Lord Elrond said; he was also a distant relative of Legolas, if he was not mistaken. He purchased the stone for the copy of the dog himself, the black marble with a veining of gold. I think he is much impressed with Moonrise’s skill in stone-cutting. Perhaps he can persuade him to stay on the Island….

And I went to the Queen herself, fearing she might divine the truth about Darkfin and announce it…and so she had. But she had kept it to herself, for the same reason I did so.

“But someday, she will know,” she told me as I sat with her in her council-chamber.

“Yes,” I said with a sigh, “but I would have her go for as long as possible without knowledge of it, to know as many happy days as she can. Do you…by any chance know when it will be?”

“That has not been revealed to me,” she replied, “and I think I would not wish to know.”

“I have tried to prepare myself,” I said. “But I know not what to do, when the time comes. This is something of which I can never really know, except in part.”

“You love her this much,” Lady G. said looking softly at me. “My dear Prince, you need not trouble yourself as to what to do. When the time comes, you will do your part. You will blunder at whiles, but you will be forgiven, and other times you will say and do what is exactly right. And although she will carry a wound that will never heal entirely, she will yet know joy, and find her strength through you, and learn the ways of growth and virtue and fellowship with all hearts and minds that suffer and endure. Yes, if you wish to prepare for that time, do so, in your own way. I see you have already begun. But go also as you did before, doing what you are able, and leaving the rest to the Divine.”

As I left the Palace, I thought of Lord E. once more, wondering at the power of endurance of the heart. I have always hated to think of what he must have felt at the departure of Lady C. I can see how he loves her each time he looks at her, each time he speaks of her. How did he bear it, the knowledge of what had happened to her, the guilt and anguish and helplessness in not being able to help her, and being without her? I cannot begin to comprehend it. It is bad enough to be faced with knowing what my Anemone will go through...what if she’d had to leave? I would have gone with her, I know. Nothing could have held me back....

The sun has sunk into the waves, and northward the colors of the aurora drift in their astonishing glory--green, gold, purple, rose, scarlet, the Beacon glimmering below like a lesser star. I can begin to feel the joy of the waters, which harvest the colors and lights, teasing them into curls and waves and flames and ropes and entrancing patterns as though some sort of fire-works display were going on below in celebration. I thought of the twinkle in Sweetfern’s eyes, her excitement in being on land for the first time…and there was joy radiating from her; surely Anemone must have wondered at the cause?

I stooped on the beach with a heavy sigh near my praying-rock, almost resenting the happiness of the waters. Did they not know that their joy was born of someone else’s heart-ache? Ah, where was my glass, why had I not brought it with me, must I find answers in the stains of the night?

Then glancing aside I saw a stick lying in the sand, reached over and picked it up, examining it closely as if it held some secret. Slowly I stood and walked along the beach a few steps, looking at the footprints that still dotted the sand, the larger ones of the males, the children’s, the disrupted place where Sandrose had skipped before her cousins, the tiny prints where little Summershine had toddled holding to Anemone’s forefinger...and I smiled to myself, in spite of the tears that had gathered in my eyes.

And I took my stick and wrote I LOVE MY LADY in the sand near the prints. The tide would obliterate it, to be sure, but after it did so I would simply write it again, and again and yet again....

And I wended my way back to the house...and early in the morning, a miraculous thing: where the tide should have erased my words, there they were still...with many tiny multi-colored stones cast all about them.



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