AN: I've had a weird summer. Consequently, I'm updating and changing some things before plunging ahead. I apologize if this throws those of you who have been reading from the beginning. Think of it as being involved in the writing process from the beginning. The most obvious change is the main character's name. I had a hard time taking "Rose" seriously in my own head, and the writing suffered as a result. The story strayed from what I intended.
But it's nearly autumn now, and I have an easier time settling down to projects as the weather grows colder. The story that follows will, I hope, do justice to the love I feel for The Lord of the Rings.
Summary: Sequel to "Peter Jackson Has Ruined Everything." After accidentally stumbling on a door to Middle Earth, Raelyn and Geoffrey find themselves caught up in the War of the Ring and learn what happened to their long lost Aunt Scilla.
Disclaimer: As stated previously in "Peter Jackson Has Ruined Everything," I do not actually have any fundamental problems with Jackson's films. That said, I thought I'd get into a little of what was left out. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I am enjoying writing it.
I do not own Peter Jackson or any of the LOTR characters and am not making any money off of this.
Dedication: To suzii3499, who requested a sequel, and bleeding-roses-16, who prompted the unusual romance this story contains.
"I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil."
Chapter 1: Where'd You Go, Aunt Pris?
There's a picture on my parent's mantel of me being held by a woman I don't remember meeting.
Once, when I was thirteen and in a particularly difficult mood, I asked my mom to take it down. The request turned into an argument, which turned into a fight, because my mom was abrasive at the best of times, but she was especially touchy about Aunt Priscilla.
"Where is she?" I remember asking the first time I was old enough to wonder, and then the hurt-angry-dying look on my mother's face as she answered that she didn't know.
The woman in the picture was younger than my mother, taller, leaner, and she looked strong, but couldn't have been, because she'd left without a word before I was a year old.
Well, not without a word. There was a note my mom kept locked away, tear-stained and short. "Taking your advice," was all it said. I think my mom felt guilty for giving it.
Regardless, the picture stayed on the mantel, and Aunt Pris stayed wherever she had gone.
I hated her for it.
Geoff lost interest in the picture and Aunt Scilla after a while, even though he had actually known her. He could remember ATV rides and swimming lessons and bedtime stories. To him, Aunt Scilla was something he had left behind with his childhood toys, not a mystery mocking us from the mantel.
Geoff was named after Geoffrey Chaucer, and he wasn't the only one. The day he was born and the name decided Aunt Scilla had been out in the country choosing a dog from a shelter, and cell phone reception was scattered at best. She'd gotten halfway home before getting everyone's messages, and when she showed up at the hospital it was with the dog, Chaucer, in tow.
Dad said she and Mom had had quite the shouting match, right there in the delivery room, until a nurse made her take the dog back out.
The fight never really ended. Geoff stayed Geoff, and the dog stayed Chaucer, and no one said any more about it.
Now the dog was gone too, of course. Aunt Scilla hadn't bothered to say where she was going, but she'd remembered to take her dogs with her.
The summer after my senior year of high school, my mom was killed in a car accident.
Geoff flew in from his new job in Phoenix, and there was the usual business of the funeral and a lot of casseroles, which I don't remember very well, because there were a few weeks there that are nothing but hazy. I remember my father crying a lot, and trying not to cry even more often, and I remember Geoff hugging me, for real, like an older brother, without any special occasion social obligation, and I remember it rained a lot.
Just as all the formalities were ending and we were starting to realize we had to continue on with our lives, Dad made the decision to move out of our house and into Aunt Scilla's.
The cabin Aunt Scilla had lived in was way out in the country, and we'd used it as a summer home for as long as I could remember. Now, Dad couldn't stand being in our own home, and with Geoff living at the other end of the country and me leaving for college in a couple of months, Dad felt he could make a move without too many consequences.
Why it had to be Aunt Scilla's house, I don't know. I'd never quite liked the place. It felt itchy, foreign, and there were too many trees around it. When we were kids, Geoff and I would drop our bags inside the front door and run off in the direction of the creek, and once we were out of sight of the building, I'd feel fine.
I never slept too well during our summer vacations.
After phoning his boss to inform him he'd be staying on a little longer to help with the move, Geoff confided to me privately that he didn't think a move out to isolation was the best decision for Dad.
I was eighteen and didn't know much about that, so I just shrugged.
"He needs help, people." Geoff rubbed at the back of his neck, something he'd never done before his adult job.
"I'm people," I answered.
Geoff smiled down at me fondly. "I know, but…How are you doing?"
He sighed. "I'm not. Look, Rae, I'm worried about you both. I miss Mom terribly, but I know when I get back out to Phoenix, my life will start again, and I'll get caught up in it, and eventually everything will hurt a little less. Dad…I don't know. And you. You haven't even cried."
It was true. I hadn't. I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong with me. It was just that it all felt a bit…
"Fuzzy," I told him. "Everything's fuzzy. I can't…"
He hugged me again, one-armed. "I know."
I changed the subject. "Jimmy and John are coming over tomorrow. They'll come to the cabin with us."
Geoff nodded, already thinking like a boss. "Good. We can spend the weekend getting the place set up. I'm sure there're some repairs that need to be done…Jon's coming too. You remember Jon?"
The hazy was coming on again, and I nodded dimly. A weekend at Aunt Scilla's place, maybe more...
John and Jimmy had been my best friends since kindergarten, just like Jon had been Geoff's. We'd gotten into all sorts of trouble together, everything from broken windows when we were eight to broken beer bottles just last year. Geoff had caught us with the beer, but the advantage to having someone like Geoff as an older brother was he never got ruffled, just gave some advice about chugging and promised not to tell Mom and Dad.
He also pointed out that if we were going to drink, we could do better than Keystone, which is how I learned about Guinness.
There was beer the day we moved into Aunt Scilla's house. Dad was too distracted to notice, and of course neither Geoff nor Jon were interested in controlling The Minors. We got the main rooms arranged by sundown. Jon sparked up the rusty old grill, and I made a bonfire. Burgers and beers firmly in hand, we settled in around the fire to wait out the quiet country night.
I waited until Dad had gone to bed, not really having eaten, before making my announcement.
"I'm going to community college."
Jimmy's second burger fell right out of his mouth. There was a brief moment of silence, followed by Jimmy swearing as he tried to brush ashes off his bun, and then Geoff was on me.
I had been accepted into a lovely private university in Pennsylvania, and all my previous plans had been about that. Dad and Mom had saved up plenty. I was covered through a master's degree, and there was no reason to consider community college.
Plus, I was smart, or at least that's what everyone told me, so the expectation was that I would do something impressive with my life.
"Dad needs me here," I said simply. When Geoff made to argue, I continued, "You know he does. He's not even eating. I don't want to come back on Christmas break and find out he's not here any more. I don't want-"
It was as close to tears as I'd gotten yet. Sensing the impending explosion, John moved to sling an arm over my shoulders.
"It's not a bad plan," he said, uncharacteristically soft. "Jimmy and I'll be there too."
I nodded, feeling my sinuses clog up.
"Yeah," said Jimmy. "We'll help you look after your dad. We can all study together."
"You study?" John asked.
"Yes. You don't."
Jon was eyeing Geoff. "She's not wrong."
"I know, but…"
"And this way you don't have to stay yourself."
My mouth fell open, mimicking Jimmy's expression from earlier. "You were going to stay?"
He looked at me glumly. "I kinda felt I had to." He looked at the house. "This…isn't good." He turned back to stare me down. "Are you sure about this?"
I nodded. Then, "I don't want to be like Aunt Scilla. I don't want to walk out on my family."
Quietly, Geoff asked, "Rae, you don't feel like I've…"
We went back to our beer. I felt, even as the night got darker and the bugs got louder, that the conversation wasn't over. We still had a whole day tomorrow. The sheds and the attic had to be cleaned. The wine cellar had to be gone through. The lawn had to be mowed. I wondered if this would be my life. Chores and bonfires. Friends and pretending to study. I wondered if I cared.
It was hard to care about anything, I realized, with my mother gone, my dad going, and Aunt Scilla's ghost presiding over all, as if we should have seen this coming.