|photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
"You knew that her father was a criminal." Marion's face was whiter than the snow, her eyes like two black beads of jet as they glared at him, sparkling with stinging tears.
"Maybe, maybe I had a suspicion as to who she was, but really—"
"Don't you dare lie to me! Not again."
"Why are you getting so worked up about this, Marion?" His voice softened, but he kept his distance, feeling his guilt settle in the pit of his stomach like a piece of lead.
"Why wouldn't I? You denied a person help when they needed it most because of something that wasn't even her fault, and then you lied about it. I can handle the fact that you lied to me, but Robin, you lied to everyone. To Will." She stepped further back with each word, shaking her head, a tear rolling down her cheek.
"I thought you were better than that. I wanted you to be better. I was so ready to forgive you, Robin. You have no idea how much I wanted you to change."
"But you haven't. You haven't changed at all." She shuddered, backing into a tree and clinging to it, using all the willpower she had to not fall weeping at his feet. He didn't deserve to see her cry, to see how much pain he had caused.
"Marion, please," Robin begged, voice and body trembling, gaze cold and steady with desperation as he moved towards her."What is this about, exactly? You found out about her, right? What do you know?" He regained some footing, his voice shook less as it filled the air.
"Alexis, her name is Alexis and her father was hanged for an act of treason against the king. I don't know what it was. He served in the Holy Land around the same time that you did." A thousand emotions rose inside Marion as the words fell from her mouth. She felt powerless and weak, confused and alone, so very alone. Robin said nothing in response, and the tiny sparks of hope inside her were extinguished in a second, as if cold water had been thrown upon them. "You knew this, didn't you?" The question was lifeless, her tone defeated. She had no interest in receiving an answer.
"I had suspicions, but I didn't know for sure until now, and even if I had known, it would have no affect on the way I treated her." Robin's words were soft at first, but as he began to fully grasp the situation, they turned hard. "I can't believe you think I could ever stoop so low. I'm many terrible things Marion, you of all people know that well enough, but not so blatant a hypocrite as that! I knew her father. I knew Badrick. He was my general, and a good friend, and no one was hurt more than I when his crimes were uncovered, but those things were his doing and no one else's, and no one should pay for them but him."
"But you let her go." She whispered the words, but left them untouched by feeling or pain. They held no venom, but revealed everything. She knew his soul, and now he thought he knew hers: She thought him a liar, and no matter how much she wished the contrary, she had no room for false hope.
"Marion..." He reached out to take her arm, to stop her, he knew it was useless. He let it fall to his side, and his words of explanation died on his lips, knowing they weren't enough, and never could be.
"Why? Why did you let her go? Why didn't you help her, especially if you knew her situation?" She waited,but he could not meet her eye, could not say anything he thought worth believing. She faltered a few moments, everything in her being wanting to forgive him, to forget it all and run into his arms. She waited one more moment, giving him one more chance, but nothing but half-words and silence met her.
Still angry, though more so with himself than Marion, "You wouldn't understand. You could never understand." Was all he could say. In another moment, her red dress flashed one last time against the frosted landscape before it vanished beyond the top of the hill, leaving him with this goodbye: "I'm ready to believe you, Robin, but I need something to believe."
The men awaiting the couple's return at the camp moved hurriedly aside as Marion brushed past, staring straight ahead and charging through the snow. She had mounted her horse and disappeared through the forest before anyone had time or the frame of mind to ask what was wrong. They stood looking at each other, dumb-founded, unsure what to think. "D'you suppose they had another row?" Allan wondered aloud, plucking at the strings of his lute.
Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1