Mel shot upright with a gasp. It felt as if her lungs were trying to inflate for the very first time, and she coughed and choked, trying to force down more air in big gulps. Hands reached out of the darkness to steady her, rubbing her back soothingly.
"It's alright, Melody," a calm voice soothed, "It's going to be alright. Take deep breaths."
A glass of water was pressed into her hand and she took big swallows between breaths. Her throat felt like sandpaper. The voice in the dark was familiar, but at first she couldn't place it. It felt like her mind was emerging from a white, fluffy cloud. It took her a moment to even realize that 'Melody' was her name. But from that knowledge came the realization that there was only one person who called her by that name.
"Boromir?" she rasped, her throat still rough.
She heard a scratching sound as a match was lit and put to the wick of a lamp. Boromir's face emerged from the shadows, lined with concern as he brushed back a few strands of her hair.
"Are you alright? How do you feel?"
She had to think about that for a second. It felt like a question that should require some thought. How did she feel? In comparison to what exactly? She tried to pull together some recollection of how she should be feeling. She tried to pull up her last memory…
Pain… so much pain… and blood… and she couldn't breathe! She was drowning! Everything flooded back in a rush that threatened to shatter her mind. She was dying… no… She was dead!
"I'm dead, oh god, I'm dead!" she shrieked, flailing wildly, the beginnings of hysterical sobs starting to bubble up inside of her. She didn't want to be dead! She wanted to live and marry Boromir and watch Legolas chase her grandchildren when she was too old to keep up with them, she didn't want to be…!
Boromir caught her arms and pulled her to him, holding her to his chest tightly so that she could no longer struggle.
"Melody, Melody you are not dead. Listen to me, you are not dead!"
"But…" Her voice was shaky with sobs and fear, "But it was the only way… I had to… You… and Legolas…"
She trailed off, another part of her brain emerging from the cloud. She pushed away from his grasp, her eyes full of suspicion.
"Where is Legolas?"
Boromir's eyes grew sad and Mel felt on the verge of another bout of hysteria.
"Boromir," she demanded, trying to keep her voice from shaking, "If I'm not dead, I want to see him."
"Melody," he said, soft and gentle, "My love, I'm afraid that won't be possible."
Something inside of Mel broke.
"Oh god," she choked, feeling like she was drowning all over again, "Oh god, no, it's… it's not fair, it was supposed to be me! I chose me!"
The expression on Boromir's face changed from sad to panicked in a blink.
"No! No, Melody, he's fine! I swear to you on all our lives, he is alive and well, we all are!"
"Then why can't I see him?"
"Because he does not know that you exist!"
Her voice caught in her throat. What? How was that…? She didn't know what to believe anymore. Was she dead? Was this a trick of some kind, some sort of punishment for what she had done? Legolas… her best friend… orenyanil…
Boromir sighed and passed a hand over his eyes.
"I am sorry, Melody," he said, sounding so tired, "There was nothing else to be done."
Mel swallowed and touched his arm, bringing his eyes back to her.
"Boromir," she said, in as calm a voice as she could muster, "Tell me what happened."
And he did. He told her everything, from the moment she had… well, she supposed she really had died, though she didn't remember it. He told her about Yavanna, about the choice that had been given to them, to give up their lives to save hers.
"I did not know what awaited me until I woke here," he said, taking Mel's hand and pressing it to his cheek, closing his eyes, "Melody, I did not think I would ever see you again."
For a moment, neither of them spoke. Mel didn't know what to say. It was taking time for her to process the information, to understand what had happened. She would never see Legolas again. He did not even know her. He would live a wonderful, full life, the life he had been meant for, the life he deserved… she just couldn't be a part of it.
Boromir still held her hand to his cheek, as if he were trying to memorize the texture of her skin.
"I could not have lived without you," he said suddenly, making Mel jump, "I knew it, the moment I felt the life leave your body. If you had…"
He choked on his words and his grip on her hand tightened as he lifted his eyes to meet hers, burning with a sudden anger.
"Melody, you must never do that again. Do you understand? Never."
Mel shook her head, trying to pull her hand from his iron grip.
"I… I didn't have a choice…"
"But you knew!" he said, sounding not just angry now, but hurt, "You knew you would have to make that choice, that you would have to choose between us, and you said nothing! We knew that you were troubled, why did you not tell us?"
"What was I supposed to say?" she snapped, feeling defensive despite herself, "One of us is gonna die, let's draw straws?"
For a moment, Boromir looked like he might shout at her. But then all the anger seemed to drain out of him and he sighed, pressing her hand to his cheek again.
"Promise me, Melody," he murmured, "Please promise me that you will never keep anything like that from me again. No matter what the circumstances."
Mel felt her own anger disappear.
"Okay," she said, "I promise."
There was another pause.
"It is a strange thing," Boromir said, his eyes distant, "I remember everything, all in a jumble now. The life we lived together, the life I was meant to live had we never met…"
He trailed off, his expression hardening.
"I remember my death."
Mel swallowed, her throat still painfully dry. The life she had tried to save him from and he'd been forced to live it anyway.
"I'm sorry," she said, softly.
He blinked and then smiled at her, reaching up to brush his fingers against her cheek.
"It was a sacrifice worth making."
He released her hand and reached to pour her another glass of water. That was when she saw the glint of metal in the candlelight and she jerked back, startled. There was a ring. On the third finger of his left hand, a solid silver band. She looked down at her own hands. There, nestled on her own left ring finger, was the blue sapphire set in waves of silver. She started to touch it, and saw the glint of gold on her right hand. The Yavannacor. She still had it.
Boromir reached out and took her left hand in his, their rings touching. She looked up and he smiled.
"I fear we have missed our own wedding," he said, gently.
For the first time, Mel gave logical thought to the situation she had woken into. Boromir sat on the side of the bed, which she now noticed was easily big enough for two. He was dressed plainly in a white cotton shirt and rough brown pants, she in a soft white gown. The small room they were in was poorly lit, making it difficult to tell much about it.
"Boromir?" Mel finally asked, "Where are we?"
His smile widened, his eyes dancing in the candlelight.
"In our house," He took her hand, "Come and see."
He pulled her to her feet and led her out of the dimly lit room and though a small hall and down a flight of stairs into what looked like a kitchen, a small flame dancing in the stone fireplace. With a grin of gleeful anticipation, Boromir opened one last door and Mel stepped outside.
She stared for a long moment. And then she began to laugh, not because anything was particularly funny, but because it was so perfect and wonderful that the pure delight of it made laughter bubble up inside of her uncontrollably.
The Valar had given Mel an orchard.
She ran through the dew covered grass in her bare feet and flung herself up onto the wide-board fence that lined the rows and rows of apple trees, stretching toward the gradually brightening horizon. She could hear the chorus of their voices, chattering amongst themselves, eagerly waiting for dawn. Boromir suddenly grabbed her from behind, hoisting her into his arms and spun her wildly, laughing as Mel squealed and clung to him, so giddy with happiness that she could not tell which was making her dizzier.
When they finally stopped spinning, Boromir leaned down and kissed her. Mel wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back, loving the feel and taste of him, reveling in the knowledge that he was hers, forever and always, and nothing would ever separate them again.
The sun crested the horizon, sending rays of golden light flooding through the branches of the orchard, spilling out onto a new day. Mel heard a melodious chorus of voices, the sound of the trees greeting the sun. It was the most beautiful sound she'd ever heard, like the sound of angels singing.
Then another voice, barely a whisper, cut through the sound of the trees' morning song.
"A second chance, Melody Calenhiril…" Yavanna whispered, "Use it wisely…"
Mel felt the Yavannacor warm on her finger and she resisted the urge to touch it, the words echoing ominously in her head. She looked up into Boromir's smiling face, and pushed them aside. Another day… She would think about it another day.
Today Boromir, Son of Gondor, carried his wife over the threshold of their home, and their new life began.
The Story of Melody Calenhiril will continue in "Changing History IV: Calenhiril's Search". Stay Tuned!
A/N: That's right folks! You've waited so long (some of you YEARS!) and it's finally happening! Part Four will begin posting on Thursday, March 3rd, 2016! I'm giving myself a little time to get all my ducks in a row, but this is actually happening! This is not a drill, repeat, THIS IS NOT A DRILL! Mark your calendars, I'll see you all in March! :)