|photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
"Then how is it possible that you didn't even think to ask her name?"
"I did. We all did, but she wouldn't tell, and it's not like I could use torture and make her. It wouldn't have worked anyway, would it?"
"What could she have to hide that even giving a name would put her in danger?" Marion considered, sitting on a chair and cupping her hand to her chin, the way she always did when thinking.
"I don't know, darling, but I trust she had a good reason for her silence. Don't you think it might be best not to get involved?" Robin rubbed her shoulders, staring into the blaze and trying to forget the chill that had remained in his heart since laying eyes on that girl.
"Like it or not, you're already involved and so am I. The girl needs our help Robin, even if she's not in a position to say so. I can't believe this..." Marion sat up with a jerk, glaring at Robin from her new post across the room. "How could you even consider turning away from someone in trouble?"
Taken aback, Robin's face hardened. "She turned away from me! Lest you forget, she's the one that ran off without warning. I offered her aid and she spit in my face."
"Did you even try to stop her?" Marion asked with only a glint of hope in her voice, hope that he would say yes, knowing she would much rather doubt this girl than her lover. But, looking at his down-turned face, she knew the answer. "Ha, of course not." She choked on a short, bitter-tasting laugh, rolling her eyes. "After so many, you still have no idea what women are like?"
These last words hit Robin full force in the gut. "Well, I'm not the one courting a man who stands for all that I hate in this world!" He retaliated, his hand gripping the back of the chair till his knuckles turned white.
"You leave Gisborne out of this!" Marion's voice was loud and spiteful at first, but her words lowered into an icy, hard monotone. "You know he means nothing to me."
"Oh, really? And yet you treat him with more respect and time than you even devote to thinking about me! What do I mean to you, then, less than nothing?" Robin knew he was being petty, but his pride had been struck and he wasn't about to let that go.
"I could ask the same of you! At least you spent time with those other women, instead of just running off to the war and then hiding away in that little forest. Is the only thing keeping me from being exactly the same as them the fact that I actually have standards? Because I would think twice before gallivanting off into Sherwood with you, leaving behind everything that I know and love? Everyone who needs me?"
"Needs you." Robin tasted the words with a bitter expression. "The only people that need you, the only people you do anything for, are your father and that sniveling Gisborne! You don't know the meaning of charity, of helping people!"
"I do more than you would think. Sometimes, helping others means not running away from the world and its problems. It means standing up everyday to injustice, facing it head on." She tossed her head proudly, trying to mask the hurt in her voice.
"Standing up to it? You call flirting with evil men, playing their games, doing everything they tell you out of fear of confrontation standing up to injustice? Who's the real coward in this room Marion? Honestly?" Robin quaked with anger. He clutched the chair back until he thought it would snap between his grip.
"Do you think I like feigning to love all the things I despise most? Do you think it's easy? I'd give anything to have the luxury of taking your approach out of it, but I cannot. If I make a stir, if I cause even the slightest amount of trouble and am caught, I bring everyone I tried to help down with me. The more the sheriff is flaunted, the more vicious he becomes. Why can't you realize that?" Her face had become a white sheet, black eyes bright and shining, all the color rushed to her cheeks till they were as deep a crimson as her dress.
"I am helping people, and I don't give a damn what the sheriff has to say about it!" Robin was shouting now, the words shaking the rafters.
"That's just it, isn't it?" Marion had dropped to soft whisper. "You don't care what anyone thinks, about anyone's feelings, just so long as you think you're doing the right thing, yes? But, and please, please answer me truthfully, did you think you were doing right by any of those other women?"
He stood frozen, his gaze boring holes into the floor, his jaw clamped shut.
"Five years, Robin. Five years, and did you really think you were doing the right thing all that time? King Richard, duty, honor, all that aside, did you really think those women were the right thing to do? How many of them were there?" Her chin wobbled as she spoke in desperation, wanting nothing more than the truth. Tears gathered in her eyes.
"Too many." He dropped the words like lead on the floor and left them there, stomping out the door and into the snow the next instant, slamming it shut behind him. He stood blinking and reeling in the snow, his chest heaving, swelled with a pain he thought he'd put behind him. That woman! Why did she have to be so enchanting? Everything would be so much easier if he could just forget her. But he'd tried that, three times, and had only made things worse, just like she said. If there was one thing he hated, it was being trapped, and this was worse than anything he'd experienced in the Holy Land. Muttering a slew of curses, he stomped through the village, paying no heed to the heads raised in curiosity as he swept past. Why did she always have to be right?
Inside, Marion was pacing furiously to and fro, her shadow cast long, dark and flighty against the wall, flickering in the firelight. "Really!" She sputtered, annoyed both with Robin and the hot, stinging tears that attempted to make a weeping fool out of her passion. But more than that, she was annoyed with herself. "That man. How dare he! How can he be so oblivious? So stubborn!" The pace quickened as her anger heated itself again. "And what am I? Can I possibly be so foolish as to love an idiotic, egotistic flirt like that?" With a long, exhausted groan, she sank to the floor, laying her head down on the hearth rug. "Why do I love him? Why does this have to be so hard?" She whispered, covering her face with her long, white hands. "I must truly be insane."
After another few moments of unrepentant wallowing, she sat up slowly, rubbing her stiff back as the anger receded slowly from her bloodstream. "Well," She continued, her forehead wrinkled in consideration, "If he's not going to do anything about the situation, someone has to." With those words, she set her brow in a determined line, snatched up a cloak, quickly threw together a basket of food, and set off into the world outside, as it rapidly turned white in the flurry of new fallen snow.
Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1