"No, Fwodo, Mama sick." The little girl crossed her arms glaring at the larger Hobbit lad standing in the doorway. "No stowies. You get youw own Mama and weave mine awone!"
Frodo paled and felt as if a fist had hit him in the gut. He immediately hugged himself, looking down at the four-year-old. "But..." how could he tell her without crying? How could he just say 'But my mum's dead," without howling in pain. He'd already left the anger behind. Three weeks in Bag End had quickly cured that. But the pain... it only seemed to get worse.
The nights were bad with nightmares and shady images. The days were a bit better, since it was always light and there was always something to do with Bilbo around. But it wasn't the same as having a Mama. Thus, Frodo had taken to daily visiting Bell Gamgee.
She told him stories and let him taste whatever she was baking. Frodo had half made up his mind to marry her when old Gaffer died. Then he'd always have her around. He just wasn't going to tell her that. She might think it was yucky or something.
But now, there stood tiny May Gamgee imperiously demanding Frodo leave her mother alone. And she'd just said Bell was sick, too. Frodo frowned and looked past the girl into the small, neat living space. "How sick?" he hadn't even intended to ask out loud.
"Vewy sick. Mama in bed. We can't see hew none."
Frodo pushed past the little girl, ignoring her indignant gasp and hurried words of anger. Bell couldn't be sick; he needed her! If she was sick, she might die, and then whom'd he have? Bilbo was great, but he wasn't enough. And what about the baby?
Frodo rushed past the older children without a second glance, ignoring their gasps and questions. He pushed open Bell Gamgee's bedroom door and froze at what he saw. Frodo turned and hurried out, letting the door close behind him.
There was little May Gamgee right behind him. She stamped her foot and indignantly scolded, "I towd you Mama sick!"
The older boy nodded. "Uh... so, um, May..." he didn't know what to say. He'd know since he'd first talked to Bell that she'd have the baby, but he didn't really think about it. Would she like the baby more? She'd have to love the baby more; he'd be her own son. Intense pain and worry filled the small Hobbit. He didn't want to lose Bell, too.
Suddenly, the baby, whom Frodo had been looking forward to these three weeks, sounded less interesting. In fact, Frodo was starting to think he might not even like him. Why should he? It'd be a tiny, crying brat hogging all of Bell's attention.
Gaffer's appearance from the family room interrupted the boy's jealous thoughts. "Well, Master Frodo. Come to visit us again." He sounded perfectly normal, not excited or worried or anything. Something about his eyes, though, bespoke the turmoil of emotions in the older man.
"She's having the baby, Gaffer."
"Aye, that she is." The Gaffer walked away, towards the back rooms, followed by little May. Frodo impulsively followed the gardener, craving attention from at least someone. None of them spoke as they walked to the end of the hall and entered the small room there.
It was indeed small, but that may have been due to the amount of furniture in there. A cradle and a changing board set over a child's play table, a pen to put a toddler in next to a sturdy child's bed, a toy chest in the corner, closed, piled high with freshly laundered diapers: the room seemed to have barely enough room to move. May started looking in a chest of drawers at the back of the room, right next to a small window.
Gaffer took a soft blanket from the cradle and turned to go, bumping into the curious Frodo. The two looked at each other in silence, eyes never wavering. Finally, Gaffer broke the mood by placing a work-worn hand on Frodo's thin shoulder. "Missus Gamgee's gonna be needed to care for the babe, lad. Won't have much time for baking no more. Plenty o' time for stories, though, with a babe in arms."
Wide blue eyes registered hesitancy. "Stories? She'd still have time for stories, even with a baby, Gaffer?"
"A'yup. Reckon she will. Had plenty o' time for stories with the others; don't see why this time'd be so different. She'll be sitting in the rocking chair most times, telling stories an' singing songs to the babe. Sometimes the other children'll go and join in. You want you should come down and tell your own stories, Master Frodo?"
Frodo considered that. It sounded somehow better... nicer: the family joining round for stories and songs. When the older kids had chores, Frodo'd have Bell and the baby to himself. Even little May had chores, so there would be private time. Maybe... maybe the baby would give Bell more time for Frodo, since she'd be sitting a lot.
The older Hobbit nodded and hesitated then handed the soft blanket to the lad. "Here. Bell's gonna want it for the babe. You give it to her, lad."
May turned, stunned, her green eyes wide. "But, Papa, you said no one's 'wowed to see Mama. We have to wait out hewe. Mama's sick!"
With a soft grunt, Gaffer disagreed. "And you ain't allowed in until your Mama's had some rest, neither. But Master Frodo's what puts bread on our table, so he's allowed to see your Mama and the baby first. You gonna argue with me, girl?" He crossed his arms and glared at the four-year-old with a menacing look.
The child shook her head, auburn curls bouncing. "No, Papa." Her voice was quiet, resentful. She'd been forbidden in the sickroom and now the boy from up the hill was allowed in to see her Mama? She glared at Frodo as Gaffer passed by them, heading for the living are again. "I hate you, Fwodo Baggins. You hewe me? I hate you." With that, she tore off to join her family, tears of hurt pouring down her cheeks.
Frodo felt a stab of guilt; he hadn't meant for May to get upset. Rather quickly, however, the guilt turned to elation. He was going to get to see Bell first. He was gonna give her the special baby blanket. He was the only one allowed in until after Bell slept. The twelve-year-old hugged the soft blanket, rubbing his cheek against it. "I'll be good and quiet," he promised himself.
The wait was long and dull by Frodo's thinking. It had been three hours since he'd first shown up. Three hours of wanting to go see Bell and the baby and being told it wasn't time yet. When would it be time? If they waited too long, the others would see her first. For the dozenth time, Frodo looked towards Gaffer.
"Now?" He stroked the blanket with a restless hand.
Gaffer, like every time before, tilted his head as if listening for something. The boy joined him, straining to hear whatever it was the adult was trying to perceive. Silence called back to them, just like every time before. Hamfast opened his mouth to answer when suddenly everything changed.
A thin baby's wail broke the stillness. Every person in the room jumped and turned towards Gaffer, eyes wide, breaths held. Gaffer went pale. He listened to the baby's crying, hands clenching the arm rests of his favorite, worn out chair. That thin cry seemed to go on and on, without pause for breath.
Frodo stood, smiling, about to go down the hall to greet the new baby when Gaffer's hand shot out and gripped his elbow hard. He didn't say a word, just listening intently. The boy frowned and paused, listening.
The baby had stopped crying.
It sounded so eerie, that silence, with only the ticking of the clock and the breathing of the family to break it. Not understanding, the boy shook his head and looked towards his cousin's gardener. His voice was soft, confused, as he spoke.
"What's wrong, Gaffer? The baby's born now. We can see her, right?"
Hamfast looked up at his employer's adopted nephew. "No... have to wait until the midwife comes for us. She has to make sure that Bell and the babe are well enough. Mighta been complications, Master Frodo." His voice shook with a hidden, deep fear for his wife and newest child.
May spoke up from where she played with her wooden doll. "I wanna sistew. Boys awe mean."
Hamson and Halfred looked at the child, Halfred rolling his eyes. Hamson merely shook his head, looking as worried as his father. Daisy hugged herself, her chubby face flushed, eyes bright with anticipation. Hamfast shrugged. "Be nice to have a girl." He didn't seem to have a preference either way, actually.
"It'll be a boy," was Frodo's pronouncement. He was certain the baby was a boy. He'd been certain since the time he met Bell, when the baby kicked him so hard. "And he's not sick. Neither are. I'm gonna go see them." The boy, used to being an only child and getting his own way in most things, headed down the hall at a run.
Gaffer pushed himself up from his chair to follow, but Hamson beat him to it, sprinting after the smaller boy. The fifteen-year-old managed to grasp their visitor's arm and whirl him around. "You wanna see Mama without her drawers, covered in blood?"
Frodo froze. "What..."
"You heard me. You gotta know where babies come from, Mister Frodo. Don't tell me you want to actually see it." Hamson let go of the younger boy.
Stunned, Frodo shook his head. "No... I don't want to see that. That's sick."
Hamson nodded. "Well, if you don't wait for the midwife to clean her up, that's exactly what you're gonna see, sir. You gotta give them time."
"Blood? Time?" the boy was having trouble grasping that anyone could bleed without being seriously hurt. "The baby made her bleed?"
Rolling his eyes, impatient and not wanting to explain the mechanics of a delivery, Hamson nodded. "Sure it did."
Automatically, Frodo corrected, "Him."
"It. We ain't got any idea if it's a boy yet. Most like it's a girl, actually. Girls are born more and we already got two boys in this family." Hamson reached out and shook Frodo's arm. "Now come back and sit down like a good lad, Mister Frodo."
He nodded. Sit down. Wait. It seemed that's all he ever did, but he didn't complain. Instead, he nodded again and started turning towards the living room. His movement was arrested by Bell's door opening.
A disheveled old Hobbit woman shuffled out. She was taking off a stained apron, smiling and looking exhausted. Looking up, she nodded to both boys. "They're fine. Both of them are fine."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Hamson called. As the weary Hobbit smiled and went off to tell the rest of the family, Hamson turned to Frodo and pinched his elbow. "Mama won't wanna see you for awhile. She'll be too busy with the baby. It's happened every time so far, so don't be surprised if she doesn't really even look at you. After all, you're not even one of her children, are you? You're just an orphan from up the hill who hangs around here because you have nothing important to do." He let go and headed back for the family room.
Frodo was stunned. He followed Hamson with his large eyes. Why had the older boy said those mean things? He didn't want to be an orphan after all. Unable to comprehend why first May then Hamson has reacted so nastily towards him, the troubled Hobbit lad slowly walked to the room of the person he felt most comfortable with: Bell Gamgee.
He was going to knock, but decided at the last minute that the baby might be sleeping and knocking would wake him up. So, Frodo walked in without warning. He smiled in relief when he noted that Bell looked tired and worn, but healthy enough.
She was awake, half sitting against a huge mound of pillows. There was a sheet draped over her waist and legs. The woman had a very loose nightdress on and her soft brown hair was in disarray, curls everywhere. But there was a smile on the woman's face as she looked up from the baby in her arms.
"Hello, Frodo. Come on in. Oh! You have the blanket."
Frodo smiled hesitantly, worry shooting through him at the exhaustion in her voice. "Yes'm. Here it is. Just for him... is it a him?"
Bell nodded, smiling down at the infant once more. "Yes. He's a boy. Come see, Frodo. You'll be the first. Hamfast keeps the children out for a day so I can rest after birth." She smiled gently up at the boy she'd befriended three weeks ago.
With a happy sigh, Frodo immediately walked over, still hugging the soft blanket. He looked at the baby she held, curious about this new life... the boy that might take Bell away or bring her close.
The baby was asleep. He had a weirdly pointed head, and his face was still red and extremely chubby. There weren't any curls on the baby's head. In fact, he was completely covered in a light fuzz, but he was totally bald. There wasn't much about the infant to draw a twelve-year-old's interest, in fact.
"What do you think, Frodo?" Bell's voice was soft.
"Uh..." the dark haired boy tried to think of something nice to say. In his honest opinion, the baby was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen. But he knew you couldn't tell a mother that, even if she was your best friend. "He's... small?"
Bell laughed. "Yes, very small. For all that kicking, he's such a tiny thing, isn't he?"
Frodo grinned and nodded. "Yeah, he sure kicked hard, didn't he, Bell?" This was a better topic. This way he wouldn't insult the baby. "I think he's maybe the strongest baby around. He'll be a strong Hobbit when he grows up, right, Bell?"
"Right. He's not much to look at, is he, Frodo? But I'll tell you something. That pointed head will round down in a few days, and he'll started getting his hair in and losing that soft furry hair. And then he'll be the most beautiful baby in the Shire."
Trying to picture this infant like Bell described him wasn't easy. Frodo scrunched his eyes and looked hard at the baby. He turned his head this way and that, but it still changed nothing. The baby was bald with a pointed head. He was ugly.
Then, without warning, the baby woke up. When he opened those soft gray-green eyes and looked straight up at Frodo with that open curiosity, the boy fell head over heels. "Oh! He's beautiful, Bell!" Frodo reached out and stroked a finger down the soft cheek. "He's perfect!" The infant instinctively turned his head towards the finger, searching.
Bell laughed softly. "So you agree with me, then? That's good. The way you looked was like I made you drink sour milk." Bell adjusted the baby in her arms and smiled again. "Frodo, could you leave for a bit? I'm going to feed the baby, and I'd like to be alone with him for his first few meals. Is that all right, sweetheart?"
Expecting jealousy to well up at being sent away, Frodo was mildly surprised to find he couldn't get jealous. He'd have Bell later. Right now it was the baby's turn. The child nodded, smiling and stroking the chubby cheek again. "Uh huh. Want me to come back after luncheon?"
"Of course. We'll tell stories and sing to the baby, and you can tell him anything you want. He won't tell." Bell watched as Frodo continued stroking her newest child's cheek. "Frodo... you can hold him later. He's hungry right now."
As if coming out of a spell, Frodo's head shot up and he flushed a bit. "Oh... uh... yeah. Okay. Um.... After luncheon, 'kay? Promise?" He longed for reassurances that Hamson had lied. That this wasn't the first step of Bell pushing him away.
A gentle hand on his cheek reassured him. "I promise, Frodo. I'll send for you after luncheon and you may hold the baby."
He nodded and smiled wide, eyes lighting up in pleasure. "Okay, then. Have a nice rest, Bell." He darted for the door. The sooner baby got to eat; the sooner he could come back. At the door, Frodo suddenly whirled around. He'd forgotten to ask! "Um, Bell? What's his name?"
Bell looked up from her son, a tenderness in her eyes that Frodo wished he could see again and again. She adjusted the infant against her, his head moving against her nightdress, searching for food. Softly, she called out, "Samwise. I'll name him Samwise."
Frodo nodded and left, the door closing softly behind him. He leaned against it thinking about those beautiful soft eyes and that sweet searching trust. Samwise. Yes, he could share Bell with the baby. That baby was worth it.
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