Isabella came to their room, a handful of flowers in her arms.
“Guy! Robin! Can you help me braid my hair? All the servants are busy with the banquet, and maman too.”
Robin lifted his eyebrows.
“Do you think we are maids?”
Isabella stuck her tongue at him, then she turned at her brother, hopeful.
Her brother smiled.
“Snatch some honey cakes from the kitchens and I’ll help. The cook already caught us, and she menaced to hit us with a broom if we try again.”
“So I have to be the one who gets hit by a broom?”
“You’re a girl, she won’t complain too much.”
Isabella sat on Guy’s bed while her brother began to fix her hair, braiding flowers in it, and she pointed a finger at Robin.
“No cakes for you,” she said, serious, and Guy chuckled.
Robin went at the window to look at the servants, who were decorating the village with his father’s colors. The villagers were coming, eager to celebrate the new son of their lord, but actually to eat a free meal.
“Father invited all the nobles of the County, he said that he invited the new Sheriff of Nottingham as well,” Robin said, and Guy and Isabella joined him at the window to see if they could recognize some of the guests.
“Do you think he will come?” Isabella asked, impressed.
“I don’t know, maybe,” Robin answered. “Do you know anything about him, Guy?”
“I think I heard maman say that he lost his wife recently and that he only has a daughter, a little girl.”
“Oh, poor child,” Isabella said, “how old is she?”
“Six or seven, I think.”
The girl sighed.
“She’ll be so sad if her mother just died...”
The two boys nodded, gravely.
“We should try to cheer her up,” Guy said. “Of course we can’t hope to take away her sorrow, but we can try to be kind to her, to comfort her a little.”
Robin agreed, serious.
“For once, you had a good idea, brother.”
The little girl was holding her father’s hand, her dark curls loose on her shoulders, her eyes sad and empty, and Guy, Robin and Isabella immediately understood that they were the Sheriff and his daughter even before Sir Malcolm introduced them.
“Sir Edward, these are our older children; Guy, Robin, Isabella, meet the Sheriff of Nottingham and his daughter Marian.”
The three children politely greeted the guests, then they quietly stood near their parents. Malcolm and Ghislaine gave them a surprised glance because, for once, they weren’t fighting or teasing each other.
The Sheriff went near Archer’s crib to look at the baby, and Marian followed him, then Sir Edward withdraw his hand, and gently pushed Marian to go outside and reach the other children.
The little girl obeyed, but she didn’t join the other children’s games, she just stood there, looking at the villagers.
A moment later, she realized that she wasn’t alone, and she shyly glanced at the three kids who had followed her.
One of them was older than the others, serious, dark and tall, and she thought that he scared her a little. The other boy was younger, his expression open and friendly, and he gave her a cheeky smile, while the girl was close in age to her younger brother, but she had a stronger resemblance with the older one.
She was the one who talked.
“Hi, Marian. I’m Isabella, and these are my brothers Guy and Robin. Do you want to play with us?”
Marian looked at them and shook her head.
Once, she would have been happy to make new friends, but now she just didn’t care. She could only think of her mother, the warmth of her arms, the sweet voice that lulled her at night when she was afraid of the darkness. Her mother who wasn’t there anymore and who would never be at her side again…
She let her gaze wander on the people of the village, looking at the mothers with their children, and her eyes filled with fresh tears.
Robin, Guy, and Isabella exchanged a worried look, then Robin said the first thing that came to his mind, trying to divert her attention from her sadness.
“Hey, look what I can do!” He said, then he tried to stand on his hands.
Marian looked at him for a moment, then she burst up in tears, she pushed him with rage, making him fall and land on his back, and she ran away, crying.
Isabella rolled her eyes at Robin.
“Idiot,” she said, and the boy gave her a hurt look.
“I was just trying to cheer her up!”
“By showing off?” Isabella sighed, giving a hand to Robin to help him to his feet.
“At least I tried. I didn’t know what to do! You have seen her! She was about to cry!”
“And you made her cry even more.”
“I didn’t want to!” Robin said, and they both sighed, then Isabella looked around.
“Robin? Where is Guy?”
Marian climbed a tree, seeking refuge on its branches. She wanted to cry all her tears, but she didn’t want anyone to see her. Her father would disapprove her behavior, she knew perfectly well that running away and climbing trees wasn’t proper for a girl, but she couldn’t help, she wanted to stay there, alone.
She wanted her mum.
Suddenly, she was startled by the sound of rustling leaves, and a moment after, the tall boy, Guy, climbed on her branch.
She almost lose her balance, but the boy grabbed her arm, and steadied her.
“Go away!” She cried, still weeping, but Guy didn’t move.
“You should get down, it’s dangerous...” He said, quietly.
“Why, because I’m a girl?”
Guy shook his head.
“No, because this tree is very tall.”
Marian didn’t answer, and Guy said nothing else, so they just sat there, in silence. The girl dried her tears with the sleeve of her dress, because she didn’t want to cry in front of him.
After some time, she glanced at that tall, pensive boy. He was looking at her, and she noticed that his eyes weren’t dark like his hair, but of a deep blue.
“Leave me alone,” she said, but the boy didn’t answer immediately.
Instead, he looked at the village, at the people who were celebrating and having fun.
“I miss my father too,” he said, after a while.
“You have a father.”
“He’s Robin’s father, he married our mother last year. He’s a good man, and I like him, but my father is dead. Robin’s mother is dead, too.”
“I want my mommy. I miss her so much!”
Guy put an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her closer.
The girl wept for a while, but now the tall boy didn’t scare her anymore, in fact his presence was comforting, she felt that he understood her.
“Don’t tell my father that I cried,” she said, after a while.
“He’s always sad when he sees me crying. Mum made me promise that I’d be strong.”
“You are strong! You pushed Robin and made him fall! He landed right on his backside!”
“Oh. Now he will be mad at me!”
“No, he won’t. I think that he will like you for this. He’s such a show off, always searching for troubles and challenges... But after all he’s a good brother.”
The little girl gave him a little smile, and Guy held his hand to her.
“Do you want to go back to Locksley before they notice our absence? You can play with us, and if you don’t feel like playing, it doesn’t matter, because we all know how do you feel.”
Marian nodded, and Guy smiled at her.
“Come now, I’ll help you to get down this tree.”
“You don’t need to help me just because I’m a girl.”
“Very well, then you will be the one who helps me.”