It was almost dawn when Guy and Robin returned to the village, exhausted, sweaty and dirty with sand.
They crossed the threshold of the house with their hearts in their throats, fearing they wouldn’t find anyone, but Marian was there, sitting on a straw mattress by the fire.
The girl stood up, joyously, and she ran towards the two men, hugging them both.
“It worked! Have you seen? It worked!”
The two men held her in their arms, moved, but while Robin's heart burst with joy at the thought of having back the love of his life, Guy's was filled with sadness.
He was glad that Marian was alive and relieved that he was no longer her murderer, but he knew it was a goodbye hug. A goodbye to Marian, but above all to Miriam.
Now that Marian was safe, Miriam would vanish from the future as if she had never existed.
God, please, let me remember her. At least that, leave me with the memory of Miriam.
Marian seemed to sense his mood, because she broke away from the embrace and she took a step back to look at him. She put her hand on his cheek, with a gentle gesture.
“To see you now, you don’t look like the same person who tried to kill me yesterday.”
“I'm not. Not anymore. Even if you aren’t dead, I will never forget what I have done, I will never forgive myself.”
Marian caressed his cheek.
“I forgive you. You could have fought to leave things as they were, but you gave me the chance to choose, and you gave up your happiness to save me. I'm proud of you Guy, I always thought you could become a better man and you did it. I'm sorry for what you lost.”
Guy leaned to kiss her on the cheek.
“I loved you, Marian, and I love Miriam even more, I will miss her forever. Be happy and live a long life and I can console myself thinking that my sacrifice was not in vain. And above all, stop being reckless and endangering yourself.”
“The same goes for you, Hood. We didn’t do all this just for you to get killed in some act of stupid heroism.”
“Said the one who had almost been killed by the sheriff to save my life...” Robin replied, with a grin.
Marian let out a chuckle and the two men looked at her.
“I'm not used to see you two getting along. It's really strange.”
Robin sat by the fire and the other two imitated him.
“What will you do now? What’s in the plan next?” Guy asked, looking at Marian.
“We'll have to hide, to stay here for a year. This is our sacrifice: a year of life for me and two for Robin.”
“What do you mean with two for Robin?”
“The Robin who saw me die yesterday must continue to believe me dead, otherwise what has already happened in your past won’t happen again. He and I - she pointed to Robin - we’ll have to wait here for his past to happen. Only after the siege of the castle we can return to Nottingham and resume our lives.”
Guy and Robin nodded.
“This makes sense. We will have to look for a place to live,” Robin said, almost to himself.
Marian gave him a pleased smile.
“No need for that, I've already thought about it.”
“Djaq will stay here for a while. She told me that she wants to marry Will and she wants to introduce him to her people. Before she went back to reach the others we talked again and decided that we will stay with them during this year, then she and Will will decide whether to stay here or return to Nottingham with us.”
"Robin, when you go back to Nottingham, tell Archer I'm glad I met him,” Guy said.
“Who is Archer?” Marian asked, puzzled.
“Won’t you stay with us?” Robin looked at him, saddened, already guessing his friend's answer.
“I have traveled through time three times, there must be other passages that can allow me to return to the future, and I intend to find them, even if I have to spend my whole life searching for them. As for Archer, he is our brother.”
“Your brother? Of both of you?” Marian asked.
Guy smiled to Robin.
“You'll have a lot to tell her while you're waiting to go back to England.”
“True. Can’t you be persuaded to stay with us? Do you really want to go back to the twenty-first century, even if she won’t be there anymore?”
Guy looked at the flames of the fire.
“When I met Miriam for the first time, I made a promise to Alicia: whatever could happen between me and Miriam, I wouldn’t allow my feelings to destroy me. I promised Alicia that in any case, however things could go, I would try to build a full life, worthy of being lived, and I intend to keep my promise. In the twenty-first century I started to build my life and I want to continue doing it. Even without her.”
“Well, I think we'll miss you, Gisborne, but I wish you to succeed. You deserve it, my brother.”
Robin hugged him and Guy whispered something in his ear.
A moment later, Marian and Robin found themselves alone in the abandoned house.
The girl winced, scared.
“Where is he? He disappeared!”
Robin drew her to him and held her in his arms, while a smile spread across his face.
“No, he didn’t disappear: he went home. His wish was granted.”
Alicia had sunk in a restless sleep at the first light of dawn, after a sleepless night. Spending the afternoon at the museum in the company of Jonathan Archer and Peter Edwards had helped her a little, but, with night, anxiety had returned, and she had been tormenting herself for hours, thinking about Guy and the dangers that he could face in that past so cruel. She was terrified that sooner or later Peter Andrews would contact her by saying he had found an ancient tomb with the name of Guy, and then she could only weep for him.
She was dreaming of that terrifying tomb, when a series of knocks at the door tore her from that nightmare.
Alicia sat up on the bed, thinking that she had also dreamed of that noise, but soon the sound was repeated and she realized that somebody was really knocking at her door.
Still stunned by sleep, she went to the door and opened it abruptly, without even asking who was there, then she let out a cry of joy and surprise.
“Guy!” She exclaimed, and a moment later Gisborne collapsed on her, clutching her in a desperate embrace.
“I'm back, Alicia! I really came back!”
The doctor squeezed him tight, then she realized that he was freezing and shivering with cold and she hastened to drag him into the house and close the door behind him. Only then she looked better at him: Guy was wearing a sort of Arabian tunic, he was dirty with sand and dirt from head to toe and he was completely soaked because it was still snowing.
“What happened to you, honey? No, wait, we'll talk later, now you have to warm up before you freeze to death. The bathroom is there, go take a shower, while I prepare you something hot to drink.”
Alicia came back from the kitchen with two cups of hot chocolate and she handed one to Guy, before sitting down on the couch next to him.
Gisborne gave her a shaky smile.
“Thank you. I think I really need it.”
The doctor put a blanket over his shoulders and stroked his damp hair.
“You're lucky that I decided to give you some new clothes for Christmas, otherwise now you should wear one of my tracksuits and I doubt they would look very good on you: they are too large, too short and pink.
Guy leaned against her and closed his eyes.
“No, I'm just lucky. I thought I would stay in the twelfth century forever, that I wouldn’t be able to come home. And instead I'm here.”
“But something makes you suffer.”
“Robin and I saved Marian. Do you know what that means?”
Alicia looked at him, sad to see his sorrow.
“She was Marian, I discovered it just before ending up in the past. Now that Marian is safe, Miriam has vanished from this time, in fact, she never existed and maybe you'll soon forget her...”
“Sorry, dear, I'm so sorry... Do you want to tell me what happened?”
Guy nodded and he started talking, telling her about his fight with Robin, about their arrival in the Holy Land and about Marian's plan that had allowed him to make up for his crime.
When he finished his story, Guy was exhausted and in tears again, and Alicia hugged him and kissed him on the forehead.
“Now you have to rest a little, you're exhausted and you need it. Come, I'll make your bed in the guest room.”
“No. I want to go home.”
“You shouldn’t be alone.”
“I need it, instead. I thought I would be condemned to stay in the twelfth century, that I would never see my house again, and I just wanted to go back and lie down on the couch, watching the lights of Miriam's Christmas tree... Alicia? Do you believe... do you think the tree will still be there or will it have disappeared with her?”
The doctor sighed.
“We can’t know, honey.”
“I have to find out. Can you take me home?”
“Don’t you want to sleep a little, first?”
“I don’t think I could do it now.”
Guy noticed Alicia's worry and he took her hands, giving her a reassuring smile.
“Don’t worry, I have no intention of giving up. I always knew that falling in love with Miriam would break my heart, but I won’t let myself be destroyed by her absence. I need to stay alone for a while, to take the time to think of her and say goodbye to her in my heart, but then I'll recover, I promise.”
The doctor gave a little sigh.
“I believed I wouldn’t see you again, you know? You have to forgive me if I'm afraid to let you out of my sight now.”
“I won’t disappear again. But if it happens, I'll find a way back, at any cost.”
Alicia smiled at him.
“I'll take the car keys.”
The car stopped in front of the building and Alicia turned to look at Guy.
“Do you want me to accompany you?”
“No. If when I open that door the Christmas tree will be gone, I already know that I'll end up crying again. Probably I will find myself in tears even if it’s there, to be honest. I'd rather stay alone, Alicia, I'm sorry.”
She leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek.
“Don’t apologize, I understand you. But if you should feel the need for some company, call me and I'll be there in a few minutes. Don’t be ashamed to cry in front of me and remember that I love you.”
Guy held her in a hug, then he opened the door and got out of the car.
“Don’t worry about the association. I will contact them and tell them that you are not feeling well and that you need a few days' rest.”
Gisborne turned away from the car and headed for the building, staggering with exhaustion. Now that it was all over, he felt exhausted and drained.
He opened the door, holding his breath, and he smiled between tears as he saw the lights of the tree glistening in the dim light of the room.
He took a blanket and stretched out on the sofa, remembering that perfect evening when he and Miriam had decorated the tree, eating pizza and talking about books.
The tree is a sign. The world may forget her, but Miriam won’t disappear from my heart.
He fell asleep thinking of her, and her memory accompanied him in his dreams, sweet and comforting as a balm for his tired soul. Later, when he opened his eyes, Guy thought that he could feel her presence at his side.
Saving Marian, Miriam had never existed in the twenty-first century, but for him, she did. Perhaps that was also a small miracle and Guy was grateful for receiving it.
If he had forgotten her, perhaps he wouldn’t suffer from her absence, but he didn’t want to give up any of those precious memories. If sorrow was the price for remembering her, Guy was willing to pay it.
A noise in the bathroom woke him up completely, and Guy allowed himself a small smile: Alicia must have been too worried and she must have come to check that he was all right.
That was another reason why he was grateful to be back in the twenty-first century: there he had people who cared about him and loved him.
He noticed that at the foot of the tree there was a wrapped gift that wasn’t there before.
It's Christmas day. I forgot it.
He felt a little guilty thinking of the biscuits he had prepared for Alicia and that instead he and Robin had eaten in that ruined house. He decided that he could prepare more of them and that it would be a good way both to thank Alicia for her affection and to pass the time without sinking into sadness for losing Miriam.
He got up from the sofa, deciding to start immediately, when the bathroom door opened and he stood petrified to look at the woman who had appeared in the doorway.
The girl smiled and ran towards him, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Sorry if I entered without ringing the doorbell, but I didn’t know if you were still asleep, and then I wanted to surprise you!”
Guy held her in his arms, incredulous, and he thought he had become crazy. When he had killed Marian, her ghost had haunted him for several weeks, maybe it had happened again and he was seeing again things that didn’t exist.
But the girl was soft and warm in his embrace and she laughed, kissing him playfully on the cheeks.
Guy felt her warmth, the scent of her skin, her heart beating fast, almost as much as his own, and finally he became convinced that she was real.
“It's a miracle... This is a miracle...” He whispered, then searched her lips and got lost in that kiss.
Miriam answered to his passion with equal ardor.
Guy held her almost in desperation, as if he were afraid she might go away and disappear if he let her go even for a moment, but she had no intention of moving away from him.
“I have to tell you something Guy, I came so early for this...” She whispered, interspersing her words with small light kisses, reluctant to break away from his lips.
Guy touched her mouth with a finger.
Gisborne pulled away from her and knelt at her feet, taking her hands in his.
"I love you, Miriam, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Do you want to marry me?”
The girl looked at him, surprised.
“Are you serious, Guy?”
"I've never been more certain of anything in my whole life.”
“Do you know it's forever? That you won’t be able to get rid of me anymore? Do you really want me to torment you for every day of your life?”
“I don’t want anything else.”
The girl hugged him with enthusiasm.
“Too bad for you because I want it too!”
“Is this a yes?”
“What else could it be, you fool?” Miriam said, then she kissed him again.
Guy woke up and, for a terrible moment, he thought he had dreamed. Then he took a deep breath and smelled Miriam’s scent on the sheets and on his skin. He turned on his side and smiled as he saw the girl's clothes on the floor, scattered on the ground with his.
Miriam returned to the room, barefoot and wrapped in a sheet, and she reached him on the bed, laughing.
“Now you'll think I'm not a serious woman. In the twelfth century, wasn’t it obligatory to wait for the wedding night?”
Guy smiled at her, drawing her to him.
“This is the twenty-first century,” he said, bending his head to kiss her on the neck. “And then you're already my wife in my heart.”
Miriam chuckled, happy, leaning against him with her back, and Guy slipped a hand over her body, stroking her slowly. When he touched her belly, Miriam felt him stiffen and she turned her head to look at him.
“What's up, Guy?”
Gisborne sat up and stared at her, bewildered.
Miriam blushed a little, feeling so attentively watched.
“Guy? There is something wrong?”
“You don’t have any scars on your stomach.”
Miriam ran a hand over her smooth skin.
“Should I have them?”
“What you told me... That they found you near Acre... I thought...”
Miriam touched his lips with a kiss.
“Did you think I was Lady Marian?”
Guy looked at her, even more confused.
“How can I know? This is what I had come to tell you, Guy: now I remember everything. Yesterday, all of a sudden, my memory came back and now I know who I am.”
The girl curled up in Gisborne's arms and she leaned on him naturally, as if that was the place she belonged to.
“My real surname is not White, they gave it to me because I didn’t remember mine, but now I know it. My name is Miriam... Locksley.”
The girl burst out laughing at his confused expression.
“Yes, like Robin Hood. It is a legend of my family. It’s said that he and Lady Marian were our ancestors, although obviously there is no certain evidence that they really existed.”
“Oh yes, they did, I can guarantee this.”
Guy laughed, then he suddenly realized what the revelation of Miriam meant and he paled.
He had been sure that Miriam was Marian, who had survived the wound of his sword. If he had decided to be selfish and let Marian be struck so that he wouldn’t have to give up Miriam in the future, the two girls would have both disappeared because Marian would have died and Miriam would never have had the chance to be born!
“Are you feeling well, Guy? You have become as white as a ghost!”
Gisborne hugged her tightly, trembling.
“Everything is alright. Now everything is fine.”
He kissed her again and the fear gave way to joy.
Miriam wasn’t Marian!
He could love her wholeheartedly without feeling guilty, because their love was no longer stolen from the happiness of Robin and Marian, but rather it was born from it, it was its fruit.
“But why were you in Acre?” He asked after a while. That detail could have condemned everyone to an unhappy future and he hadn’t yet been able to understand it.
Miriam turned in his arms and rested her head on his chest to hear the beating of his heart.
“It's another old family tradition. According to an old story, Robin Hood has married Lady Marian in that place and it is said that for the members of our family to visit that place brings good luck. I wanted to see it and I traveled there, but then I was kidnapped and robbed by a band of bandits who took away everything I had with me, money and documents, and then they left me in the desert, thinking they had killed me. My parents died when I was little, I don’t have many friends and I don’t have any other relatives, so nobody worried about looking for me and nobody recognized me.”
“That place didn’t bring much luck to you, then,” Guy said, stroking her hair.
The girl raised herself on one elbow to look at him with a satisfied smile.
“That's where you're wrong! If I hadn’t lost my memory, I would never have started working for the association and we would never have met.”
“And do you consider yourself lucky for this?”
“The luckiest in the world.”
7 years later
Alicia sat on one of the benches in front of the Robin Hood statue and she smiled, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun. Jonathan Archer, seated next to her, looked at the group of tourists a little farther, gathered around the man dressed as Robin Hood.
“It's already been more than seven years, it doesn’t seem almost true.”
Alicia nodded. Time had passed quickly, but she still remembered perfectly the first time she had met Guy, wounded and almost dying on the helicopter rescue stretcher.
“So many things have changed since then...”
Both Alicia and Jonathan smiled as they saw the two children, brother and sister, running toward them across the lawn, followed by the clumsy and breathless figure of Peter Edwards, who hurried in a vain attempt to reach them.
Both children had ice cream in their hands and their faces were already smeared with chocolate, while the archaeologist had two cones in his hands and he handed one to Alicia, as soon as he reached her.
“Aunt Alicia!” The girl said, laughing. "Do you know what Uncle Peter just did? He was telling us how they made mummies and the ice-cream seller got angry because his stories scared the customers!”
“Peter! Do you think these are stories suitable for children?!” Jonathan exclaimed, rolling his eyes, then he looked at Alicia, amused. “I wonder how can you stand him all day.”
“Robin and Isabella don’t seem scared at all. You should hear the stories they tell me,” Alicia said, amused, throwing an affectionate look at the archaeologist. “As for him, he has his good sides.”
Robin finished his ice cream and climbed onto Alicia's knees, leaving traces of chocolate on her dress.
“Today my dad is Robin Hood,” he said, seriously.
Alicia glanced at the group of tourists and smiled as she saw Guy showing his bow to the people gathered around him as he finished telling the story of the town and of the outlaws of Sherwood Forest.
“Oh, yes, I see.”
“I like it better when he's Guy of Gisborne,” the little girl said. “My classmates say that Robin Hood is better because Guy is a villain, but dad said it was true at first, but then Guy changed and he and Robin became friends, even if they don’t say that in books.”
Alicia took a handkerchief and started cleaning Robin's mouth and hands.
“If your dad says so, it's definitely true,” she said, smiling. “Oh, here he comes.”
The two children ran to him and Guy picked up both of them, letting them to cover him with sticky kisses.
“Chocolate ice cream, uh? Is there some of it for me too?”
“You're late, dear. Today you have the main role, I see.”
Guy smiled, throwing an ironic look at the costume he wore.
“If Hood could see me now, he'd die of laughter. Today my colleague is ill and I am his substitute.”
“About Hood...” Peter Edwards handed an envelope to Guy, amused. “I found another inscription carved on one of the stones in the crypts. They’re always rather short. This says: ‘Gisborne, I did what you asked me.’ In the envelope there are photos and the cast of the writing.”
Guy closed his eyes for a moment and he smiled.
“It's true. He succeeded... I remember the same thing in two different ways.”
“What did he do?” Alicia asked, noticing that Guy was moved.
“Allan. Robin managed to save him.”
“Without changing history?”
“Yes. Allan wasn’t a powerful man, his life or his death wouldn’t have great influence on future events and for this Robin could save his life. It's a relief.”
Guy put the children down and Robin and Isabella started chasing each other across the lawn, laughing.
Gisborne sat down on the bench next to Alicia and he sighed.
"If only Meg hadn’t been so important to me, Robin could have saved her too. But it would have changed too many things.”
Alicia stroked his cheek to remove a trace of chocolate from his face.
“We can’t save everyone, unfortunately. I too would like to be able to help all my patients, but some die and I can’t do anything to avoid it. We can only cry for those who didn’t make it and be grateful for having been able to do something for the others.”
“I know. But she deserved to live.” Guy sighed again, and for a moment he sat in silence, looking at the children.
“Thanks for keeping them today. Miriam has an important meeting and Aisha's niece had a commitment and couldn’t get them from school.”
“You know I like to be with them, dear. Are you coming to dinner at our house, tomorrow night? You too, Jonathan, and bring your family. I will also invite Jack Robinson, it seems to me that your kids are more or less the same age, they could make friends.”
Peter Edwards looked at her.
“Are we going to celebrate something?”
Alicia rolled her eyes with a sigh.
“Only our anniversary.” She said, having fun at looking at his alarmed expression.
“Really?! I... I'm sorry! I lost count of the days... Forgive me!”
Jonathan Archer burst out laughing in his face.
“Get out of the catacombs, once in a while! You got married in the fall and now it’s summer! Do you think it's normal that I remember it and you don’t?!”
The archaeologist blushed, embarrassed, and Alicia kissed him on the cheek.
“If I minded you being so absent minded, I wouldn’t have married you, don’t you think?”
Guy got up from the bench and smiled at her.
“See you tomorrow, then. Now I have to go, Miriam will be home soon.”
He called the children and Robin and Isabella ran to him, taking him by the hand.
Before leaving, they walked towards the castle and Guy left a yellow rose on a marble slab partially hidden by grass.
"Why do we always leave a flower when we come here, dad? Is it a grave?”
“She was a relative of yours, who lived a long time ago, in the Middle Ages. She was called Isabella, like you.”
“Can we say a prayer for her?”
“Yes, it would be nice.”
Miriam kissed the sleeping children and she turned off the light, then she returned to the living room, turned on the lights of the Christmas tree and leaned on the table, looking lovingly at Guy who was cooking.
“I should be doing that.”
“Why? Because you are a woman? Miriam, these are medieval ideas. And above all I don’t want to die poisoned.”
Miriam burst out laughing and she approached to kiss him.
“I married you for this, you know?”
“For my cooking?”
“Because you're adorable and I love you. Guy? Do you think it's strange to have a Christmas tree all year round?”
“I like to see it there. It reminds me of the most beautiful gift I have ever received. And then we put eggs on it at Easter, right?”
“And at Halloween it’s covered with skeletons and bats...” Miriam chuckled. “Do you remember our game of questions?”
“How could I forget it?”
“Then I'll ask you my question of the day. Would you mind so much having to cook for one more person?”
Guy looked at her, puzzled, then he understood and looked at her belly.
“You mean that…”
Guy took her in his arms and held her close.
To get there he had to travel a long and painful road, but in the end he had found his place in the world.
He had had to go through time to find her, but now he had a home and a family.
Guy looked at the bright lights of the Christmas tree and he smiled.
He was happy.