Again I stand on the road, a pack on my back and a clipboard in my hands. This time, I stand with another person. He is a tall man with olive skin. His hair and beard are dark brown. His eyes too are brown and they are the kindest eyes I have ever seen. We stand on the road together and I slip my hand into his. "Thank you for coming," I say.
"I was always here," he says with a smile. "It just took you a while to notice me."
"I'm glad I did," I say. Impulsively, I wrap my arms around his waist and hug him. I feel his strong arms encircle me and know I am safe with him. I only let go of him after a long moment.
"Are you ready then?" he asks. I nod. He takes the first step and I follow him.
Ariella and James have run ahead, laughing and joking. My companion and I walk more slowly, just enjoying being with each other. As we walk, I find myself singing the song Bilbo Baggins sang as he left Bag End for his next grand adventure in The Fellowship of the Ring.
"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say" (Tolkien 38).
"Whither then, I cannot say," I repeat, looking at the road ahead. My guide squeezes my hand gently in his own strong one. He leans down and whispers in my ear.
"Towards home, beloved," he says. "Always toward home. We'll reach it one day, in my Father's time."
Then he leads me on up the road, toward the mountains in the distance.