the river on the window
Elrond adds a log to the fire and watches the bark catch with flames and the splinters of wood curl beneath the heat. His hair is pulled off his face and bound once. It falls across the grey sweater he wears, spilling down his back.
There is always a fire burning in the hall. It has burnt for centuries.
‘Ar, stop pulling my hair,’ Elrohir says, quietly, across the hall. Elrond turns. Elrohir sits by a pillar with his little sister in his arms.
They are the only people in the hall. It isn’t usual. But it is quiet today, even as the rain falls hard outside.
Elrohir sits with his long legs stretched before him and stands Arwen on his leg, holding her beneath her arms. Arwen reaches for his earring, but he holds her out of reach of it.
‘No, Ar, don’t hurt your brother.’
‘I see it,’ Arwen whines. ‘I’m careful!’
Elrohir takes out the blue diamond earring and hands it to Arwen. The matching earring glitters where it hangs from his other ear. Elrond sits on the floor beside them and swings the left earring with a gentle push from his finger.
Elrohir rolls his eyes at him. ‘Really?’
Elrond kisses him and then Arwen. Arwen looks up from rolling the earring along Elrohir’s arm. She presses the diamond to her mouth.
‘Don’t choke on a diamond, dear,’ Elrohir says. Too many of our family have died already from jewels,he finishes in Elrond’s mind. He takes the glittering stone and slides it back into the hole in his ear.
‘I’ll make them,’ Arwen says. Her eyes flash when she looks at Elrond.
‘Only four and already getting an occupation,’ Elrohir says. ‘You’re beating me.’
Arwen turns to Elrond and holds her arms up to him. Elrond takes her from her brother and settles her against his hip. He stands and then pulls Elrohir to his feet. Elrohir jumps up with a swift grace and wraps his arms around his father’s arm.
‘Let’s read, Ada,’ he says.
Elrond brings them to the library. The rain beats against the tall windows, making a river over them that obscures the trees and mountains outside. It does not drown out the Bruinen. The Bruinen is high, and it grows higher every day. It runs madly through the valley.
Elrohir flings himself down onto a velvet sofa. His hair is pinned up with his mother’s butterfly pins. It is black with silver strands running through, bright, like shooting stars.
He rolls onto his back and holds his arms up. ‘Ar.’
Elrond hands Arwen to him and goes to look at the books on the shelf near to the window. These are the ones Arwen likes with the beautiful pictures.
Elrond takes one about a growing tree and the world about it.
‘You can’t sit,’ Elrohir says, stretching out on the sofa when Elrond comes up. Elrond tickles one of his bare feet, and Elrohir draws his legs up long enough for Elrond to sit and then immediately throws his legs over Elrond’s lap.
The river on the window grows stronger as Elrond reads. Elrohir watches it, eyes distant. Arwen plays with the laces on Elrohir’s black shirt, untying them and then tying them back together, practising the loops to tie, getting lost for a moment with where the ribbon should go next.
Elrohir strokes her hair absently. It falls to just beneath her chin.
‘The tree is growing,’ Arwen says. ‘Can it grow forever?’
‘It can grow,’ Elrohir says. ‘There are trees older than Ada.’
Arwen looks over her shoulder at Elrond.
‘That is true.’ Elrond strokes her cheek with the back of his hand. Her cheeks are so round. She will be a baby forever in this memory, staring at him with huge eyes as she tries to figure out what the thousands of years he’s lived feel like. He feels her mind against his, trying to tumble into the whirlpool of his memories.
‘It’s all right, darling,’ Elrond says softly. ‘It isn’t something you want to know yet.’
‘I want to know.’
She does, but she would regret it once she knew. He smiles at her, but she doesn’t smile back.
‘Fine,’ she says.
Elrond draws her close. She peers over his arm at the painting and touches the branches. The leaves are silver-green.
‘I’ll know someday?’ she asks him.
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