Photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Adam sat before the fire rubbing his rope-burned wrists and thinking about Alexis. He could barely wait to see her again, it had been so long, longer than he'd realized. When he left, one thing just led to another and time flew past. He became swept up in his wanderings and all but forgot the poor young woman waiting for him in Loxley. But now he was back, and this Robin Hood was offering him the only chance he would ever get to have the life with her he'd dreamed of. But that didn't mean he trusted his rescuers.
He was nervous as he warmed himself, constantly throwing leery glances over his shoulder, eyeing the men suspiciously as they went about unloading that day's plunder and preparing dinner. The scent of beef and vegetable stew wafted through the chilly night air to his nose, making his mouth water. He recalled that it had been days since his last decent meal. Grubby bread and dirty water from the dungeon hardly counted as edible, not to mention filling.
Before he could even raise his voice to ask, a trencher was put into his hands and Robin sat down beside him. "Thanks." Adam muttered before attacking the stew, gobbling it furiously, not even feeling the heat, just the smooth liquid and filling chunks of meat as they slid down his throat. In a twinkling the bowl was emptied and Adam let out a long sigh of relief, reclining with his head on his hands. "Mate, you have no idea how long it's been since I've had food this good."
Robin eyed him in amusement as he blew on his spoon and carefully began his meal. "Well, glad we could be of service. So, you've been away from home for awhile, you said?"
"Well, yes, I have, not that it's any of your business." Adam replied quickly. His hunger may have lost its edge, but his suspicion remained sharp as a knife.
"Really? I think that it is my business, considering I'm the only reason you are still alive. You owe me at least a back story." Robin grinned genially as he said this, but his eyes said clearly that he would take no nonsense.
Adam saw this and considered his circumstances for a moment before continuing, in a defeated tone, "Fine. Where do you want me to start?"
"As early as you can." Robin made himself comfortable and waited expectantly. Though he didn't show it, he was genuinely concerned for this young man, and was afraid that his situation might be worse than the lad realized.
"I grew up in Loxley with my father, Charley, as you know, and my mother. Mum died when I was young, and I never had, let's say, a good relationship with my dad." He stopped, drawing in a breath and trying not to let Robin see the glistening half-tear in the corner of his eye. "There's a lot of evil that can be hidden by a bright smile and a firm handshake. My father was not exactly the kind-hearted man everyone thought him to be.
'But, that's beside the point. I did what he told me, I took his beatings, and when I turned twelve, I got tired of it. I took some of his meat that he was preparing for a very wealthy, important customer, and through it in the woods as a sort of revenge. Well, my father found out and reported it to the sheriff. I had mere hours before they would arrive to take me away at sunrise, so I said goodbye to Alexis, told her I would be back soon and left that night. I hitched a few rides to the harbor, traded my services to a captain for food and safe passage, and in a few weeks found myself in France. I stayed there for two years, may or may not have been convicted of theft, and then meandered over to Scotland. I moved around there a lot, no need to ask why, and after another four years, I was able to stow away on a ship back to England. And here I am." Adam ended with a grand flourish of his hands before flopping them down to his side again and sitting up, looking at Robin.
"Nice story, but it does throw a problem into our plan." Robin commented, musing over what he had just heard.
"And what is that?"
"Alexis. What on earth makes you think she'll agree to run away and marry you after you left her alone for so long?" Robin's face was entirely serious.
"Because she loves me!" Adam cried, taken aback. The thought that his being away for so long may affect her feelings had never even crossed his mind.
"Look, I'll do my best to make you two happy together, but I know too well how much it hurts when lovers are separated. You made a promise to her that you would return, and that you would be back soon. A lot can change in six unplanned years of absence, Adam." Robin's voice sank to a whisper at these last words, and he stared at the ground, his mind wandering far off, thinking back to a painful time that still held a dull ache for him.
"What are you saying? I love her, and she loves me! Nothing will change that. We will be together. And what do you know about love anyway, all alone, hiding out here in the woods? While I was gone I was scraping together a living, trying to build a life to give to Alexis when I got back. I worked for her so that I didn't come home empty-handed. I worked and I left and I stayed away because I love her." Adam seethed, getting up and stalking angrily to the hut that had been prepared for him earlier.
Robin tried to stop him, but deemed it wiser to let himself cool off. The lad's angry words had hurt him more than he had expected, and if he tried to talk now, he would surely say something he would regret.