This is the first of a series. Read the updated story using the tab for The Lord of the Geeks above. Thanks! – E.
Stella was nursing a bad hangover, was in dire need of decent coffee, and was annoyed that the tour bus that would take her to the Hobbiton Movie Set had picked her up from her hotel at the unholy hour of 5 a.m., so she was not in the best of moods when she first heard Eddie’s voice.
She wanted to strangle whoever it was that was eagerly explaining Frodo Baggins’ lineage to an elderly lady in the tour, who, with her questions, had obviously never read The Hobbit, and, Stella sleepily presumed, not even one of the books from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Her best friend Richard had warned her that the tour attracted Geekdom’s finest, and he was right. As usual. She just wished he was with her on the tour to make the long trip more bearable, but he had to work that day.
Noticing her slight movement, The Geek, as Stella’s brain labelled the guy she was later to know was named Eddie, looked at her and smiled. What was he smiling about? The sun had not even risen yet! Stella thought. “Did I wake you?” he said. Responding to the obvious was not one of Stella’s best traits, so she simply said, “I wasn’t asleep,” before switching on her iPod and plugging the noise-cancelling earphones extra tightly.
It was winter in Auckland and she was freezing. She flew in from Sydney the night before and was supposed to be on the tour with Richard, until a last-minute change in his gig schedule forced him to stay behind. Richard was the lead singer/guitarist of a band that had started in Melbourne and was making it big in Sydney. He was guilty as he drove her to the airport. Upset at being alone, she skipped dinner and helped herself to the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc she had bought from the Duty Free shop. Hence, the headache that morning.
Stella was awakened when the bus stopped. The tour guide used the microphone to announce that they could buy coffee or any breakfast item at 10% off. Stella could not be bothered to look for the discount coupon in her bag. She got off the bus and looked for the coffee shop, but all she could see was a souvenir store. “It’s at the back,” The Geek said, pointing to the arrow that led to the coffee. “Or we could follow our noses to that heavenly scent,” he added. Stella barely nodded at him as she was busy bundling up. Coming from a tropical country, she still was not used to the many layers of clothing she had to wear to protect herself from the cold.
When she finally got her soy cappuccino, she could not find an empty seat in the tiny cafe. Until, of course, The Geek stood up and gave her his seat. Stella had to say “Thank you” and sit next to the Tolkien-ignorant lady. She needed that second cup of coffee to be a human being that morning. The first cup in the hotel was just instant coffee; hence, dirty water as far as she was concerned.
The lady was staring at her. She had eyes the color of aquamarine, if there was such a color. She told her, “The young gentleman seems to fancy you,” and winked. Stella blushed despite herself, for The Geek was within hearing distance, she was sure. She had given him the once-over earlier and was convinced that emphasis was on the “young.” She did not want to waste anyone’s time. Being Asian, she was far older than she looked. People still mistook her as a university student back in Sydney, but she was already in her late 30s. This geek definitely had the early 20s look. It was the long, unkempt hair. And his cap that was certainly creating hat hair and should not be removed the entire day, in Stella’s opinion.
Finally, they were back in the bus. Everyone was awake and the tour guide started telling them about Auckland, its population, its main sources of income, and how director Peter Jackson had asked the now-famous farmer in Matamata, New Zealand if he could build a movie set in that farm. Stella had already read the website and the brochure, as well as googled all the information she could find about the location of The Shire scenes in both LOTR and The Hobbit, that she just preferred to look out the bus window and admire the scenery.
She only thought of New Zealand in association with two things before watching the Peter Jackson film adaptations: sheep and butter. She grew up in Manila with her mother’s favourite, Queensland butter by the New Zealand Creamery, Inc. And everyone knew there were more sheep than people in New Zealand. That was the extent of her knowledge about that country. Hence, she was excited to see the lush green grass and the sheep! She tried taking shots from the bus window but she could not focus in a moving vehicle and while rain was pouring outside.
The ground was very muddy and slippery, and they were given bright yellow tour umbrellas just in case it started raining again, but the sight of the colourful hobbit-holes greatly improved Stella’s mood. As she was holding her camera, and the umbrella, however, she lost her balance and almost slipped. A firm hand caught her elbow and prevented her from sliding on the grass in front of not just their tour group but several other tour groups who had converged at the first hobbit-hole. She looked up to see… The Geek. She had to smile widely and thank him audibly that time.
Ostensibly to prevent her from slipping, The Geek accompanied her throughout the tour. They exchanged cameras, which one only does with strangers when on tour in some faraway country, and took turns documenting the land of the hobbits for their respective friends and family back home. He knew how to maximize each shot, and even taught her how to take good selfies. He was rich enough to have data roaming and Instagrammed one shot, which she took of him in front of the bench where Bilbo had shared smoke rings with Gandalf. He pretended to make smoke rings. She quickly took the shot before the tour guide could remind them that they were not supposed to sit on to the bench. They were the last to finish all the hobbit-holes, but they did not mind.
The tour ended at the Green Dragon pub, where they had a choice between beer and ale. Stella sat while The Geek got the drinks. She admired the attention to detail in the pub’s interiors. She could imagine Strider/Aragorn sitting with his cloak hiding his face. When The Geek returned with their drinks, Aquamarine Lady passed by and offered to take a picture of them together. So they gave her their DSLRs and their smartphones, hoping she knew what she was doing. The shots were not bad at all, according to The Geek. Stella realized then that she still did not know his name, nor did he know hers. She thought she’d ask over lunch, as that was the next part of the tour.
But she was wrong. Their bus driver appeared out of nowhere and announced that those who had taken the Rotorua package had to leave immediately, and the rest could go to The Shire Café for their buffet lunch. The Geek smiled at Stella and said, “That’s me. I’m visiting those famous hot springs! I had a great time playing hobbit with you,” he said, “after you’ve downed your extra strong cappuccino.”
“Rotorua?” Stella managed to ask, stunned that he was leaving, and only starting to notice that he had the face of a Greek god. And that he had forgotten to shave that morning, and he had green eyes. How could she notice these details now that he was leaving?
“Yes, if you want, check out this brochure,” he said, and with a killer smile and a wave, he was gone.
Stella was so disappointed that he did not even ask her for her number. She got lost and was the last to join the group at The Shire Café. She made small talk with the group of Americans who were complaining about the lack of good quality merchandise options in the souvenir shop. Then she tuned out and looked at the brochure The Geek had given her.
She noticed at the back, written in heavy black ink, “EDDIE. Call me,” followed by a mobile number.
Stella smiled, and when she looked up, she saw someone smiling back at her. It was the Aquamarine Lady, who had another wink especially for her.