A Robinesque Proposal
Sherwood Forest, outside the village of Locksley
Sherwood Forest looked like an endless, thick, brown and green carpet enlivened by the flamboyant blossoms of summer. It was alive with enchanting, verdant foliage, the chirping of birds, and the rustling of leaves in the trees. The sun was high in the cloudless blue sky, and the air would be stiff from the heat if not for a light breeze that was coming up from the village, refreshing the surroundings. The forest floor was covered with soft moss, grass, and leafy ferns; the air was filled with the fragrance of different types of vegetation.
The breeze was ruffling the hair on the heads of Marian and Robin who were taking care of Lawrence McLellan’s body. The cage with Lardner remained lodged in the tree above them, but they didn’t know about that and didn’t even hear a faint cooing, like a pigeon’s. They had already buried the king’s poor messenger, and Robin was now standing next to the fresh grave, looking at a rough cross of sticks by the head, while Marian piled rocks over the corpse.
For some time, Robin was lost deep in thought about the Crusades. He returned from Acre to Nottingham more than two years ago, and he didn’t anticipate that he would remain an outlaw for so long. Unfortunately, fate altered his life's course, and he was still waiting for King Richard to come back and set things right. This waiting was worse than sitting on an anthill: he had to fight against the evil forces that were at work in Nottingham these days and that ravaged the land of England since the king’s departure to Eastern shores.
Some of the old bitterness and pain resurfaced from the deep recesses of his mind at the remembrance of the grievous mistake he had committed seven years ago. The war left Robin pained, scarred, and mentally battered, and he had almost lost Marian as well. He should have never joined his liege’s expedition to the Holy Land. Now he would act differently: he would do right by his people and more importantly, by Marian. Any calamitous event such as a fire or a sandstorm might happen in Acre, but the king would not steer him from the path he had chosen when he escaped into the woods.
Robin broke the silence by saying, “I know I’m meant to be loyal and obedient, but... the king doesn’t know the facts. Once he does, he’ll return home.”
Having piled on the last rocks, Marian straightened and beheld Robin Hood with suspicion. So, Robin was again talking about King Richard! He believed, staunchly and wholeheartedly, that the king cared for his subjects. He was convinced that the king would immediately journey home after getting word of the atrocities perpetuated by Sheriff Vaisey, which were being committed with Prince John’s permission. Based on Robin's claims, she deduced that the Lionheart would soon set foot on English soil, but time was passing, and he was not yet back. Thus, the incertitude as to when their fight against the sheriff would end had left Marian stressed, and her doubts about their liege were growing and torturing her, this storm of emotions churning the waters of peace in her heart.
She dragged a deep breath as a wave of nervousness ripped through her. Robin couldn’t go back to Acre again only because the king needed his military talents there. She would not allow him to abandon her and the people again! She would fight with him tooth and nail, call him names, hit him even; she would beam, blush, and cry in her attempts to persuade him to stay, and she would have the courage to point out straightforwardly that he could not desert her after taking her virginity. Marian would make him stay in Nottingham with her!
She was excellent at restraining her emotions and quickly calmed down. She veered her gaze to him and underscored, “And this is no time for you to go back to the Holy Land.”
“We’re agreed, then,” he answered unhesitatingly.
Marian looked at Robin in disbelief. He smiled at her ever so slightly, and that smile provided her with the assurance she craved. Robin would not leave her again! Hope for happiness in the near future with the hero of the poor and downtrodden flourished in her soul, and with it flowers of joy blossomed in her heart. Her eyes shone like a sunflower, like those of a happy bride on her wedding day.
Marriage? A wedding? Was Robin slowly moving to a point where he would be ready to abandon his bachelorhood for her? Why did she have these associations? Marian would love to consider Robin’s decision to stay and fight by her side a stepping-stone to a yearned-after marriage proposal, but she didn’t dare daydream of him saying the words “Will you marry me?” to her. Robin was such a closed-off man that it had taken him more than a year and a half since his return to admit his feelings for her. The fact that he was an outlaw with a bounty on his head lent a deeper tinge of implausibility to her silly thoughts.
But at least Robin was not going to leave! A satisfied Marian took a drink from the flask as Robin watched her with a strange twinkle in his eyes. In a daze of mirthful delight, as if afraid that something might wake her from a dream, she murmured, “Absolutely.”
Robin gave a slow nod, holding her gaze for a moment before shifting it to a nearby tree. Its roots were anchored in the earth, while its leaves were serenely exposed to the sunlight. It was such an old oak, strong, tall, and grand, as well as gentle and sheltering, just like the love he felt for Marian. It wasn't long before a hummingbird perched on a branch, and Robin laughed at the thought that it would sing a romantic tune to them. All at once, seriousness stole away his lighthearted expression, and his visage turned contemplative and introspective, as if he had drifted, with the tide, to some foreign shore.
His mind was meandering like a ship in a mist, flooding him with ideas of how to propose to Marian in the best possible way. He felt guilty that he hadn’t asked for her hand in marriage on the night of her failed wedding to Gisborne, when he had taken her maidenhead. It had been such an emotional day, when they could have lost each other; they were all-too-eager to consummate their love because their desire overrode all of their other feelings, and Robin couldn’t take his curious fingers off her glorious nakedness on that night. Until doomsday, they would both remember that night, when their exalted minds lingered in a blissful limbo of never-ending pleasure, when a single sigh of passion was more precious than life itself, when their bodies were strolling in the Garden of Eden naked.
He quickly perused her: his Marian looked like the most magnificent nymph in the pristine woodland of Nottinghamshire – noble-minded, compassionate, lovely, provocative, and just beautiful. So kind-hearted! So beautiful! So desirable! No longer a virgin, and yet her mind was so innocent! Robin beheld this woman's beauty again with a pang of tantalizing yearning and of love that was in all truth inseparable from his inner world and his soul. Of course, Robin was in deep love with Marian; had always been and would always be.
Their gazes were locked, and the call of Marian’s spirit to Robin’s would have him grab her, jerk her closer, and make love to her on the green grass until she was breathless. With a sigh of regret, Robin endeavored to take his physical urges under control and redirected his thoughts to his important mission. My first marriage proposal was awkward, in Edward’s presence at Knighton Hall. I was the rich and powerful Earl of Huntingdon back then, and everything was different. Women flocked to me and coveted to become my Countess, but I chose Marian because I fell in love with her. Now I’m an outlaw who lives in the woods, and I have nothing to offer her, except for my love. Would she want to wed me?
Although Robin mourned for Edward, his life took a happy turn after Marian’s coming to Sherwood. There were disagreements and discordance between them, as it was not easy for Marian to adapt to life in the forest, with the other outlaws in constant attendance in the camp with a united purpose to battle the sheriff and Gisborne. But Robin was sure they would overcome all hostilities and difficulties rather than be subdued by them. Now even his dreams were often pleasant: in the grip of sleep, the hero saw the glossy, chocolate sheen of Marian’s hair, the brilliance of her strikingly blue eyes, the red-rose loveliness of her cheeks, the radiance of her gorgeous smile, and the mellifluous voice of hers confessing her love for him.
A rush of questions inundated Marian. Oh, Robin! My dear Robin? Why are you not speaking? Do you regret that you cannot go to the Holy Land and fight for our liege? You are a man of duty and honor, and you are the king’s close friend, too. What is on your mind? She stood next to him and tilted her head to one side, waiting for Robin to break the unbearable silence. Her countenance was something between astonished and agitated, for she didn’t comprehend why Robin was staring at her in such a strange way.
“Would you like to say a few words?” she ventured at last.
Robin nodded but kept silent, as if absorbed in contemplation. He flashed her a bewitching Robinesque grin that caused women to be smitten by him and fall for him, quickly and insanely. Blood thickened in her veins, throbbing with anticipation of something unknown, and, suddenly, a sense of perturbation gripped her like barbed wire. Marian tried not to stare at the dimple that had now popped on his face from the grin he sported.
Marian prompted, “Go on, then.”
Robin felt like a man facing the end of his life if now something would go wrong. A nagging fear coiled in the pit of his stomach: a terrible fear that she might reject his proposal. He fought, with all his might, to keep his emotions at bay and, eventually, found the courage to proceed. Wearing a bit fearful look, his eyes fixed on the grave, he finally voiced the question that was on his mind since Marian’s relocation to Sherwood.
“Will you marry me?” The spaces between the fateful words resounded with his fear.
Marian turned her startled scrutiny to Robin. Her heart fluttering in trepidation like the wings of a moth, she gasped in disbelief, “What?” Her hopes were no longer shadowy, but shining with a resplendent lustre of felicity. A tremulous smile curved her lips before a low chuckle escaped her. Was he really proposing, or did she misunderstand him?
A brittle sigh tumbled from his lips. “The first time I held my bow... I knew.” He paused for a brief moment, collecting his thoughts and fighting off the onslaught of anxiety.
Marian stared uncertainly at him, wondering where he was going with his speech. For a short span of time, she couldn't think, as if every coherent thought had been driven out of her. As rationality returned a heartbeat later, it dawned upon her that he was really proposing to her in the most extravagant and unusual manner! But it was such a typical Robinesque fashion that Marian smiled more widely than she had ever had in her whole life.
A slightly absent-minded Robin articulated, “It felt right... like it had been made for me.” He stilled for a fraction of second and slid his gaze to the ground. The fear of getting her rejection was one of his deepest frights that agonized him in the same way as the sheriff’s black tyranny tormented the weak and the poor in the shire. A sigh flew from his mouth, and, staring at the grave, he admitted in a husky voice, “And that’s how I feel about you.”
As her mind registered the meaning of his statement, Marian fell so quiet that Robin could not even hear her breathe. As she noticed that sudden glimpse of intense fear in his face, she immediately recovered and viewed him attentively from head to toe. All of her woman's instincts told her that it was not the mere fright of a vacillating man who lacked the courage of his convictions. Fear of rejection – that was it – fear and hope! Her astonishment at this discovery was so great that she shook her head in disbelief.
Tears brimming in her eyes, Marian bestowed upon him a vibrant smile whose brilliance rivaled the sun’s. What a fool you are, Robin! How can you be afraid that I will reject you? I’ve been dreaming of marrying you since childhood! I’ve rejected many men while you were away. I’ve been keeping Gisborne, the most unwanted suitor I’ve ever had, at arm’s length, and I’ve been staying at the castle to protect you. I was waiting for you for five years, praying that you would return alive! Have I not done enough to prove my love for you? She was still smiling, but behind the façade of calmness, disquietude and bewilderment were assaulting her in equal measure. Her vivid smile faded, and her shoulders slumped.
For a moment, the look on her face that some might have interpreted as fright was in fact the quintessence of befuddlement that could be captured in the plaintive question “Do you doubt my love for you?” Marian was puzzled as to why Robin felt that way. She was so in love with the hero that she was unable to describe the incredible emotion in words: she loved him more than life itself, more than she could ever love anyone else, more than England and the poor, more than paradise which sinners dreamed of seeing, and more than her own soul.
Thrusting away these disturbing thoughts, Marian smiled like a bloomed flower. She was determined not to let these minor things spoil this most precious moment in her life.
A more confident Robin resumed speaking. “I promised your father I would protect and look after you.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “But it works both ways. I look after my bow because it protects and looks after me.” He again lapsed into silence. For a span of a few heartbeats, he was at a loss for words, and then he promulgated, “Together we’re stronger.”
As Marian was staring him in the eye, Robin sighed, feeling apprehensive about her response, yet exhilarated by the stage he had reached. “So...” he stammered.
Robin smiled like a bright sun behind which there were trickles of invisible rain. But with a convulsive shudder, a blend of visceral fear and doubt attacked him. Please, Marian, please, my love, say yes! I don’t know what I’ll do if you reject me now! I know I made many mistakes, but I’ve always loved you – only you. I do want to be with you, to cherish and love you for the rest of my life. I do want you as my wife – only you. He prayed to the Lord that Marian would accept him; in these moments, he prayed fervently and unceasingly, too, like a man who was desperate to be delivered of the perpetual bondage of his sins.
He stepped to her, emitted a sigh, and then bended down on one knee. Looking up at her with loved-filled eyes, he effused, “Marian, will you marry me?”
She let out a right chuckle. Only Robin could make such an unusual marriage proposal! Her eyes momentarily flicked to the grave of the king’s murdered messenger. She had a sinking feeling inside; a sense of foreboding that was seeping into her consciousness like fog creeping across a graveyard. Why did she feel this way despite the peace that filled this corner of the forest, despite the intoxication of this very moment? She didn’t have any answer.
Marian trained her gaze on Robin, and an incongruous blend of delight and unease filled her. “Robin, of every single man in the world... you are the only one–“
Frightened of getting a negative message, Robin interrupted her, “Well, is that a yes?”
“Will you let me finish?” she chided him.
He glanced down. “I’m sorry.”
Marian chortled, her eyes sparkling with humor. She continued, “… the only one who would... propose over a fresh grave by comparing me to your weapon.”
“Well, is that a no?” an impatient Robin asked a bit brusquely.
“Who’ll give me away?” Hopefully, now he would believe that she would never decline his marriage proposal, mused Marian with an irradiant smile that seemed to beam out from the beauty of her soul. All of a sudden, a stab of heartache shot through her as she remembered her beloved father, Sir Edward of Knighton, who would not see her wedding to Robin.
“I can ask the king,” he offered.
Marian dipped her head in agreement; she liked the idea of having the king present on their wedding and, probably, even having him administer the ceremony. Robin nodded back at her, gazing up at her expectantly as he was still standing on one knee in front of her.
A jubilant Robin was so happy that his head was swooning in waves of an almost overmastering dizziness, blurring his vision. He felt buoyant, as if he were a bird soaring high above the trees into the vault of the sunlit blue firmament. The primeval beauty of the woods would forever be the witness of this marriage proposal to the woman he loved more than life itself. Sherwood was the very place where these two heroes fell romantically and frenetically into the wildest and purest kind of love – the ever-lasting and great love poets celebrated in odes and sonnets, troubadours glorified in lyrical, splendid love songs, and human beings dreamed of ever experiencing with every fiber of their beings.
Gradually, a plan for the future took shape in her mind. It was a scheme at once rational and ambitious, grand and long-awaited enough to match her euphoric mood. They would cautiously implement this plan together! And then, Robin and Marian would gain the ultimate prize for their noble fight – an ethereal, absolute happiness that would be so real, so complete, and so profound that they would no longer be willing to reflect upon the past and would not regret anything that happened to them. It was such a prudent strategy!
Smiling at him like he was her everything, Marian summed up, “So, we find Lardner and bring the king home, defeat the sheriff... and get married.”
Robin Hood smiled ecstatically and emitted a sigh of an enormous relief that was palpable in the air. He directed his elated eyes on his betrothed and adroitly climbed to his feet. “Well, that sounds like a plan,” he jested, his smile growing wider.
Years ago, Sherwood Forest had linked Robin and Marian forever, the green crowns of the trees that eagerly embraced them first witnessing their love. Today, in this magical moment, they again felt as if they were a part of the greenwood, as though the enchantment of the woods was now in their blood. Their whole being overflowed with their abiding, glorious love, and an ambrosial delight. The vibrant, verdant coloring of the foliage and the trees all around them seemed tinted by their happiness, and by the hope that very soon, the ferocious war against the evil casting its spell over Nottingham would be won.
Marian and Robin felt a deep, spiritual connection that arose from being truly in the union of hearts and souls that would transcend time, distance, and death. Driven to her beloved by their shared prodigious happiness and by an unrivaled lust, Marian flung herself headlong into Robin’s arms with a squeal of delight. He earnestly kissed her, and the feeling of his lips on hers was like nothing she had ever experienced – so soft, so moist, so tender, so sweet, and so possessive. His tongue entered her mouth and took it in a deep, demanding kiss as Robin slowly rocked his hips forward, pressing his clothed, hard manhood to her body.
Marian was now in a whirlwind of the beatific and vehement passion that burst into a blaze in her body and heart. She was again a victim of one of the oldest traps of all time – she wanted Robin more than ever, maybe because they were now betrothed again, and her desire was like a dull throbbing, an inner ache that could ebb only if she became one with him. Now she coveted to feel his solid length embedded within her, her body deliciously stretched and full of him. Her senses were singing an empyrean song as ancient as time and the world, and she craved this magical moment to continue in a more intimate way – Marian longed to drown in a tempestous ocean of pleasure together with Robin here, in Sherwood.
As he broke the kiss, Marian caught her breath and whispered into his mouth, “Robin…” Her hips were grinding against his, arousing her to heights of passion that threatened to incinerate her with its hottest flame.
At her seductive movement, a shudder of desire racked through Robin. His eyes snapped open, and he stared into her flushed face in dismay, as a thought that, unfortunately, it was not time to make love crossed his mind. Trembling from the effort it took to control himself, he muttered thickly, “No, my love. We cannot do this now.”
She glanced into his face, her visage imbued with disappointment and umbrage. In a voice layered with these feelings, she countered, “Why? You don’t want me, Robin?”
He laughed at her. He kissed her eyes, the tip of her nose, and her ear before gazing into her eyes and exclaiming, “I love you! I want you more than you can imagine!”
Anger tore through Marian at his treatment. “What is it, Robin? Are you going to live in celibacy until our wedding? Or, do you want to offend me? You haven’t touched me since that night in Nottingham… after you almost killed the Black Knights.”
His arms snaked around her waist, pulling her closer. His eyes glittered with a boisterous excitement as he jested, “I’m certain that with your marvelous skill and experience, you’ll be able to introduce me to the most pleasurable things in the dead of night.”
“I shall endeavor to do my best,” she teased.
Robin’s lips lengthened in a knavish grin, while his darkening blue eyes conveyed his hunger for her. He explained, “Well, it’s not convenient to be together in Sherwood… I thought you would not like to have a sweet rendezvous with me in the greenwood. Moreover, you were grieving for your father and needed the time to get accustomed to living in the forest. And we are not often alone in the camp. Well, you should understand.”
With a languorous sigh, Marian wrapped her arms around his back and hugged him before naughtily nipping his jaw with her teeth. “I love you, Robin. I miss and need you.”
His eyes flashed like the surface of a blue ocean catching sunlight on a warm, clear day. Deep inside his chest a tender bud of warmth and devotion unfolded responsively to the confirmation of her eagerness for intimacy. “I promise that tonight we will be together.”
“I know you will be demanding,” she joked.
“I’ll be both giving and laboring to please you,” he stated with an equally hilarious tone.
Robin bent his head and took possession of her mouth, relishing in the exquisite sublimity of their passion and the sweetness of their kiss. He playfully sucked her bottom lip into his mouth and tickled her tongue with his. Groaning aloud his exultance, he deepened the kiss, and as the urgency of it leapt through her, she instinctively tightened her arms around his neck. A conflagration of passion speedily flared up in both of them, and the kiss was long, deep, rapturous, and devout. When Robin pulled away at last, still holding Marian in his arms, her heart was thumping, like a drum, and her legs were shaky, as if the solid ground she stood upon were melting away, letting her slip into an endless void.
Enfolded in each other’s arms like the entwined branches of a tree, Robin and Marian stared into one another’s eyes and uttered words of love in voices laced with contentment. Their perfect happiness was centered wholly within themselves; they wished for no other company, and the world seemed to consist only of the two of them and their sacred devotion. Their gestures and words of endearment made life as effervescent with tenderness and joy as a breezy summer day. It was their short respite from the gloom of suffering in life and their fight for justice, and they treasured this moment that was too perfect to last forever.