A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-seven)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-SEVEN – TAMSYN’S PLAN

Several months passed, with Tamsyn dividing her time between library visits and long sessions in her office at home, during which she locked the door and refused to speak to anyone, even Andy. He was getting increasingly worried about her, especially since on those rare occasions when she wasn’t in her study, she went back to sitting on the window sill in her living room, staring out the window without seeing anything.

Preparations for the nature reserve were making good progress. The Donnan brothers finally admitted defeat when the ornithologist sent through a euphoric report on two red-backed shrikes who had made their nest at the site, and Tamsyn was finally able to buy it for three and a half million pounds.

The first thing she did was create a charitable institution to take over the ownership of it, and to establish it as a nature reserve for as long as the charity could look after it. For this she set up a separate fund with enough money that the charity could run itself without running into financial difficulty. It took some months for all the paperwork to be sorted out, but at the end of March Tamsyn held the final certificate that declared the Somerset Portal Nature Reserve to be a reality, now and in perpetuity. It was the final proof that Middle-Earth, the Shire and Perry’s family would be safe, and it was a cause for celebration.

When Andy suggested they go out for a meal, he was surprised at Tamsyn’s instant agreement. Hoping he would finally get a chance to question her on her months of seclusion he reserved a table at an exclusive restaurant in London, knowing the tables would be screened from other dinner guests to give them privacy.

Tamsyn had grown pale, and her once curvaceous body was now plain skinny. Andy knew she ate – he encouraged her whenever he was around – but she rarely finished her plate, and he did not think she enjoyed any of her meals anymore. She had started featuring in gossip magazines, always on the lookout for scandal, and as the eighteenth richest woman in Britain, not to mention a bachelorette, the public lapped it up. The magazines focused on her court case, her wan appearance and her strange refusal to wear shoes.

On the day of the meal Tamsyn took a taxi from the library to the restaurant rather than letting Andy chauffeur for her, and she arrived a little later than she had intended. She spotted Andy at the bar and was about to go to him when she was intercepted by the maitre d’.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said. “I’m afraid you cannot enter without shoes.” He pointed at her feet, as if she didn’t know where shoes were supposed to be, and Tamsyn narrowed her eyes at him. She had once been a regular customer of this restaurant, and although she had not visited since her return from Middle-Earth, she had not expected anyone to bar her entry. But then, this maitre d’ appeared to be new; she had not seen him before.

“Why can I not enter without shoes?” she asked, impatience lacing her voice.

“Dress code, ma’am,” he said, pointing at a sign on the wall.

“No trainers, flip-flops, slippers or hiking boots,” she read out loud, then looked at her feet. “I’m not wearing any of those, so I don’t see the problem.”

A hint of uncertainty crept into the face of the young man, who had clearly not expected such an assertive response. Tamsyn was not by nature arrogant, but had learned early enough that it was sometimes necessary to fake the arrogance that only the very rich could afford to display. She stared the young man down, and he shifted uncomfortably to his other leg.

“It is implied that neat shoes should be worn, ma’am,” he insisted, though he lacked his earlier conviction.

Deep down Tamsyn knew he was only doing his job, but she had little patience for anyone but Andy these days. “Implied, is it?” she snapped. “Well, it is implied that if I receive good service at this restaurant, I might frequent it again and recommend it to my associates. However, it is also implied that if I don’t, I shall be directing people to the Golden Pheasant instead. Now run along and fetch your manager, I’m fed up with standing here.”

He was spared the trip: at that point the manager came trotting up with Andy in tow. “Miss Moriarty,” he said with an air of forced conviviality. “Please excuse young Daniel here, he is new and unaware of our special regard for you. Please, do follow me, we have our best table ready for you.”

Tamsyn swept after him without a further glance at the hapless maitre d’ and gave the manager a gracious nod as he pulled back her chair for her. He took their drink orders and left, and Andy raised an eyebrow at her.

“That maitre d’ will be in trouble, methinks,” he remarked, his voice neutral.

Tamsyn sniffed. “Serves him right, the officious git.”

“Serves him right for what, not knowing who you are?”

“For not realising that only super-rich eccentrics show up in posh restaurants without shoes on. Besides, if Richard Branson turned up in jeans and trainers, do you really think they’d turn him away for not sticking to the dress code?” She snapped her menu shut and signalled a waiter. “Ready to order? I am.”

They both placed their order, then Tamsyn folded her hands, suddenly looking nervous. “Andy, we need to talk,” she said, then rummaged in the briefcase she had brought with her. “And here, this is for you,” she added, sliding an envelope across the table to him.

He stared at her in surprise, the initiative taken out of his hands, then opened the envelope and scanned the papers inside. “Last will and testament of Tamsyn Moriarty…” He looked at her in consternation. “A will? Tam, what are you planning?”

“Suicide. Well,” she added with a little wave, “not really, but to all intents and purposes.”

Andy’s initial shock turned to confusion. “You what? You’re not making sense, Tam.” He took her hands, and his voice turned anguished. “I know you miss Perry, but you… surely there’s no need to end it all? You’ve so much to live for and–”

“Oh, shush,” she interrupted him. “The suicide is just a cover. I’m going back to the Shire. Back to Perry.”

The comment hung in the air, and Andy could not respond, for at that moment the waiter arrived with their wine. They waited until the wine had been tested and poured, then Andy focused on Tamsyn again.

“You’re going back? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s the best idea I’ve had in six months,” Tamsyn said quietly. “There’s nothing left for me here. I’ve tried to live without Perry, tried to find something to occupy me, but there is nothing. I left my life back in the Shire, and I’ll only get it back by going back to him.”

“But… but what about your work?”

“What about it? You think I enjoy the court case? The snipes I’ve started getting from the board? The kind of shit I have to deal with when we contract with twats like the Donnans? Andy, I’ve not enjoyed my job for a long while, not since dad died, and it’s at the bottom of the list of things I might miss in the Shire.”

“Okay, but you admit you have a list. What about your wealth? You can do anything you want, buy anything you want over here.”

“And what use is money without someone to share it with? Besides, the Tooks are rich too, both in land and money. I shan’t be any worse off as Perry’s wife.”

“What about food?” Andy insisted. “There are no Italian restaurants in the Shire, no Thai takeaways, no curry houses.”

Tamsyn laughed, a genuine, exuberant laugh which was all the more surprising for having been absent for so many months. “You mention food when I’m going to be a hobbit? Andy, every single dish I’ve eaten in the six days I spent there tasted ten times better than anything I’ve ever eaten in London’s most exclusive restaurants. Here, look at this.” She gestured at the morsel of food on her fork. “Smoked pheasant with some exotic fruit chutney. Do you honestly think it tastes better than Esme’s pork cutlets with her special gravy? Take my word for it: it doesn’t.” She ate the piece of meat and waved her fork around. “Besides, do you think I’ve been idle these past months? I’ve studied all sorts of cook books so I know how to make my own pasta, and how to combine spices and herbs to obtain certain flavours. The Shire doesn’t have every herb you can buy over here, but you’d be surprised at the ones they do have, and I have a lifetime ahead of me to experiment.”

“So that’s what you’ve been doing all these months,” Andy said in sudden understanding.

Tamsyn nodded. “I’ve studied. Not just pasta making and cooking, but also how to preserve vegetables for winter, how to card wool and weave fabrics. How to keep things fresh when you don’t have a fridge and anything else I could think of that I might need over there. I’m sure Esme can teach me a lot of it, but I wanted to be prepared.”

“How long have you been planning this?” Andy asked, slumping back in his chair.

“Since, uh, just after New Year,” Tamsyn admitted, lowering her eyes. “I realised there’s nothing left to live for over here.”

“And you waited until now to tell me?” The hurt in his voice was obvious.

“I’m sorry, Andy. I was afraid that you’d do exactly what you’re doing now.”

“What I’m doing… What am I doing, Tam?” he asked, confused.

“Trying to dissuade me from doing this,” she replied, scratching at a mark on the tablecloth.

He took a breath to reply, then let it out again. “I am, aren’t I?” Then he leaned forward and grabbed her hand. “Tam, I’m your friend. I’m trying to look out for you. If you really feel you need to go back then I’ll help you, of course, but I need to make sure that you know what you’re doing, that you’re fully aware of what you’re letting yourself in for.”

“I’m letting myself in for spending the rest of my life with the man I love.” She finally raised her head again, and her gaze was steady and full of conviction.

“A life without plumbing, or hot water on command?”

“They have a pump, an unlimited supply of firewood and are in no hurry to get things done.” Tamsyn countered. “Besides, I have an engineering degree. I have some ideas.”

“You’d modernise the Shire?” Andy said, aghast. “The last one who tried that was Saruman, and look where that got him.”

“I’m not stupid, Andy. I’m talking little things, nothing that will impede upon the landscape.”

He blushed. “I know you’re not. As I said, I’m just making sure you know what you’re doing.”

She smiled and squeezed his hand. “I know, and I do appreciate it, but I really have thought this over thoroughly. Go on, give me more objections. I can counter them all.”

Andy tilted his head, then smiled back. “Okay. What about music? There’s no radio in the Smials, no CD or mp3 player.”

Tamsyn chuckled. “Can you remember what my music collection consists of?”

“Uh, The Dubliners, RunRig, The Chieftains… mostly Irish folk music, right?”

She nodded. “Now guess what hobbit party music sounds like?”

“Fine, another point for you,” Andy said as their main course arrived. He waited a moment for the waiters to disappear again, then said, “What about television? Films? You can’t go to the cinema there.”

“No, that’s true, but whether I’d miss it?” She shrugged. “I can do without the X-Factor or Big Brother, and while there are some classic films out there, none of them are good enough that I’d choose an evening watching them over an evening in bed with Perry.”

“Right, ah…” Andy gave an embarrassed cough, then pointed at her. “About that. No contraceptives in the Shire, surely?”

“And? I don’t see a problem there. I want his children, Andy. I know I haven’t shown much of a motherly instinct before, but this is different. I want to be the mother of Perry’s children.”

“And what if you fall ill?” Andy asked softly. “What if pregnancy gives you trouble? What if you have difficulty giving birth?”

She shrugged again. “Hobbits are a hardy race, remember? Besides, they have a healer. Melilot, I think her name was. Look, I can pick up some nasty virus here just as easily. It’s not an issue.”

“What about electricity? Central heating?”

“Electricity operates those things I do not need except lights, and for that they have candles and oil lamps. As for the heating: Great Smials is a hobbit hole in a hill. No house will be better insulated.”

Andy shook his head, smiling despite himself. “You really have thought this through, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have. I’ve looked at it from every possible angle, and always reached the same conclusion: I miss Perry as much as when I just left him, and I’ll never be truly happy again without him.”

Andy nodded, then lowered his eyes and fussed at his food with his fork. “And what about me?”

Tamsyn looked down and bit her lip, then gestured at the envelope she had given him earlier. “Please look at those papers more closely, Andy,” she said, then feigned undivided attention on her food.

He frowned at her, taking out the papers again. “What am I looking for?” he asked, then froze when he saw the name on the will. “Oh,” he said. Then again, “Oh.”

“I know that once I’m gone we’ll never see each other again,” Tamsyn said, still avoiding his eyes, “and that’s the only thing I’ve been able to think of that I would truly miss in the Shire: your friendship. But even though you’re like a brother to me, I cannot choose you over Perry. I just can’t. But that,” she gestured at the document, “that is something I can do for you. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”

He still sat there with the will in his hand, staring at the legalese that stated that Tamsyn Moriarty, declared to be of sound mind and body, would bequeath everything she owned to Andrew McIntyre in the event of her death.

“So you’re buying me off?” he asked, swallowing hard.

“No!” she protested, eyes wide. “Andy, you’re the only friend I have, and I have no more living relatives who can lay claim to any of this. It has to go to you, and it’s nothing to do with… with compensation for anything.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” He wiped at his eyes, and Tamsyn grabbed his free hand.

“I’m sorry too, Andy. Don’t think I won’t miss you, but you don’t need me cluttering up your life. You shouldn’t have to look after me, and worry about me. Once I’m gone you can start living your own life again. Maybe even find a love of your own.”

He gave her a wistful smile. “That, at least, I may already have done,” he admitted.

Tamsyn sat up. “You have a boyfriend?”

Andy nodded, then shrugged. “I’d have told you, but you were rather preoccupied. Remember that group of solicitors you hired to sort through the company records? I hit it off with one of them.”

“Preoccupation or no, I’m sorry I never noticed that. What’s his name?”

“Rhys,” Andy said, a blush creeping up. “Rhys Jones.”

“Ahh, the cute Welsh one? He’s got beautiful eyes,” Tamsyn said. “So when did this start?”

“Uhh, Christmas. We, um, got a little drunk, and one thing led to another, and well…” He gave an embarrassed shrug and Tamsyn laughed.

“Well, that’s one load off my mind then,” she said with a smile. “So all that’s left is to plan my supposed suicide, and in such a way that it can’t even hint at murder.”

Andy’s head shot up. “M…murder?”

“Come on, if I disappear and leave my entire fortune to you, do you really think people won’t cry murder? We have to ensure you’re completely above suspicion, especially as there won’t be a body to find. I think you should go on holiday a few days before I go, to somewhere far away. Take Rhys with you, so he can testify that you’ve not come back to kill me.”

Andy nodded slowly. “I can see your logic. I…” He hesitated, then said, “I guess I won’t be seeing you off back to the Shire then.”

Tamsyn sagged. “No, I guess you won’t. I’m sorry.”

“Well…” He took a deep breath and smiled, though it looked shaky. “You’ll just have to pass on my regards to Radagast then. And tomorrow… tomorrow I’ll come and help you to plan for this.”

She smiled back. “You’re a gem, Andy, truly. I’m sorry for neglecting you all this time, I couldn’t have made it this far without you.”

“It’s okay. Come, let’s eat up and get back, we’ve got work to do tomorrow, and I want to check out a few things tonight.”

“Such as?”

He grinned. “Caribbean cruises. If I have to go on holiday, I want to do something I’ve always dreamed of.”

Tamsyn laughed. “Fair enough, let’s pay then. I’ve had enough.”

o–o-o–o

Will Tamsyn’s plan be possible? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

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