Chapter 1: The Golden Hour
“I am free.”
Guy whispered those last words, and he was really free. His thoughts slid into a dark abyss, but strangely that darkness didn’t scare him anymore: that place wasn’t the cold depth of hell that he had always imagined, but a warm and welcoming darkness that promised an eternal and quiet rest.
The terror, the faults, and the sorrow that had accompanied him for the length of his life were left behind, and he was finally free.
Perhaps he wasn’t in Heaven, but he wasn’t in the Hell he had feared so much, either. Guy abandoned himself to that oblivion.
Jonathan Archer, the guardian of the castle’s museum, yawned as he entered his tiny office. He turned on the light and placed the coffee on his desk, then he opened the cabinet where he neatly kept all the keys, and took those of the underground gate.
That part of Nottingham's underground was closed to the public, and the gate prevented access to the tunnels and the rooms carved in the rock. Over the centuries, they had been used in the most disparate ways; as anti-aircraft shelters during the war, as deposits, or even as improvised houses, but for years nobody could access them, apart from scholars or groups of tourists, guided along well defined and safe routes.
The guardian drank a long sip of coffee and he wondered why the group of archaeologists that was about to arrive had felt the need to start their work so soon, when the sun had just risen.
Inside the galleries, however, time lost importance, as the sunlight didn’t reach the bottom of the tunnels. So, beginning to work an hour later would have changed nothing for them and it wouldn’t have forced him to get out of bed so early.
It doesn’t matter, I will be paid for the extra time, and, once I have escorted the archaeologists down, I can take a nap in my office before it’s time to open the castle’s museum.
He finished drinking his coffee, and finally the group of scholars arrived, with cameras, spotlights and various equipment.
Jonathan accompanied them along the galleries, paying attention to the path they had to follow to reach the place they wanted to examine. The tunnels could be confusing, like a maze, and he certainly didn’t want to risk getting lost in the galleries.
“What are you looking for?” He asked to one of the scholars, and the man looked at him, a little surprised that a somewhat simple man like him could be interested in their work.
“Frescoes and artifacts from the twelfth century. We have reason to believe that this subterranean section of the tunnels has remained intact since then. Laser scanning revealed hidden environments behind the wall and we were given permission to open a hole to explore them. Last friday the passage was finally cleared from the debris and today we can enter those rooms.”
Jonathan nodded. He had come back from his holidays the day before, after spending a few weeks with his wife and children, visiting his parents-in-law.
Compared to that forced cohabitation, waking up so early was almost pleasant, and then archaeological discoveries interested him.
He was a simple man, and he didn’t complete his studies, but culture fascinated him, and during the night shifts he had read all the books for sale in the museum gift shop, carefully, making sure he didn’t ruin them.
On one of them, about the legend of Robin Hood, he had poured coffee accidentally, so he had to buy it, but that unexpected expense didn’t disappoint him so much: he kept the book in his locker and he occasionally re-read it, letting himself to be carried in the adventures of the merry gang of outlaws.
One of the archaeologists walked in the passage that lead to the crypts, and he started to scream, frightened.
“There's a man here! He looks dead!”
The guardian hurried to follow him, worried, thinking that it had to be some homeless man who had got lost in the galleries and had died of hunger and thirst without being able to find the exit.
He walked past the frightened scholars, and he looked at the man on the floor, surprised by his appearance.
He didn’t look like a homeless, but his clothes were definitely unusual: the stranger was wearing a leather jacket, decorated with metal buckles, studs and chain mail inserts on the sleeves, leather pants, and black leather boots. At his side, an empty scabbard.
The man was lying on his back with a leg bent under him, and long, dark hair scattered over the stone floor. Beneath him there was a pool of blood and his face was deathly pale.
Jonathan found the courage to go near the stranger, kneeling on the ground beside him. He pressed his hand on the neck of the man: he couldn’t feel his heartbeat, but the skin of the man was still warm. If he had died, it must have just happened, and maybe he could still be able to revive him.
He ordered to one of the archaeologists to go back to his studio and to call for help, then he tried to remember what he had learned during the CPR training course that he had taken many years earlier, and he began to unfasten the strange jacket of the man to start the cardiac massage as soon as possible.
One of the archaeologists knelt down to help him.
"When one takes those first-aid courses, he never expects to actually use them..." He said, placing one of his hands over the forehead of the unconscious man and two fingers of the other hand underneath his chin, to tilt his head back and open the airways.
“Well, good for him that we know what to do.” The guardian said, then the two men focused on trying to resuscitate the stranger, while one of the other scholars, terrified and almost as pale as the wounded man, pressed an improvised swab on the wound on the man's abdomen.
“Doctor Track!” Jack Robinson exclaimed, offering a cup of coffee to the other man.
Alec turned and smiled at his colleague.
Jack drank from his own cup, then he helped himself, taking a donut from the cardboard box resting on the table.
“So, what do you think of Nottingham? Our hospital is quieter than London’s ones, huh?”
“Definitely. I've been here for a whole day and helicopter rescue was needed only three times.”
“And think that we are operative in two counties. Maybe you'll find this place boring, but I'm sure that your experience will help us to make our actions even more efficient. When you return to London at the end of the month, we will be able to guarantee a better service.”
Alec raised his eyebrows hearing the sound of the alarm signaling a call for helicopter rescue.
“Boring?” He asked with an ironic smile, then he turned to their other colleague who had just reached them, and became serious, starting to get ready. “What do we have?”
“A man with an abdominal injury, probably stabbed, found in the underground tunnels of Nottingham Castle. Absent vital signs, two civilians are attempting a cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
The three doctor rushed to the helicopter and the aircraft took off.
“How long to arrival?” Alec asked.
Jonathan finished another cycle of chest compressions, and waited for the archaeologist to blow air in the wounded man's mouth before resuming his cardiac massage. He was sweaty and weary, and his arms and his shoulders ached, but he didn’t want to stop before the rescue team arrived, and none of the other scholars were able to take his place for a while. He and the other archaeologist had exchanged positions a couple of times, and they were both fatigued, but they knew that the life of the stranger could depend on their actions.
Suddenly the wounded man coughed and his chest began to rise on his own. Jonathan touched his neck and managed to feel a heartbeat, weak and accelerated, but present.
At the same time the rescue team arrived and they took control of the situation. The guardian and the archaeologist sat in a corner to take their breath, exhausted, and they watched the doctors who were helping the wounded man.
“Jonathan Archer.” The guardian introduced himself, holding a hand to the archaeologist, and the other shook it weakly, emptied of all energies.
“Peter Edwards. Do you think he will make it?”
The guardian shrugged.
“I don’t know, I hope so, but that wound looks serious. There’s a lot of blood...”
“How did he arrive down here? I thought that the gate was closed.”
“In theory. Probably there are some hidden passages that hadn’t been closed because nobody suspected of their existence.”
The two men kept watching the work of the rescuers.
Guy opened his eyes, torn from that darkness, so quiet and full of peace, to sink into a confusion made of loud voices and agonizing pain.
“He opened his eyes!” A voice said, and someone pointed a light on his face, more intense than any candle. “Reactive to light.”
A man's face replaced the light and stared into his eyes.
“Can you hear me?”
Guy tried to nod, but someone was holding his head and he was too weak. He felt confused and scared, and the pain prevented him from thinking coherently.
A moment before he had abandoned himself to oblivion, held in Robin Hood's arms, and now a group of strangers dressed in an absurdly bright orange were trying to snatch him away from that peace.
They are devils who have come to drag me to hell.
Yet the faces of those devils were not threatening, and their words were gentle.
“Can you tell me your name?” One of them asked, and Gisborne struggled to speak.
“Guy...” He whispered, too weak to be able to pronounce his full name.
“Do you remember where you are and what happened to you?”
“The crypt... They killed me...”
One of the men dressed in orange gave him a reassuring smile.
“Do not exaggerate, now. You have received quite serious injuries, but Dr. Track is dealing with them. You've won a helicopter trip, but you'll make it.”
Guy didn’t answer. Perhaps it was his mind that was confused, but he had the impression that at least half of the words spoken by that man, if he were a man and not a supernatural creature, didn’t make sense.
He said I was injured... But I'm dead.
“It will be all right, Guy.” The man repeated. "We will soon give you something for the pain, and that will make you sleep, but at your awakening you will feel much better.”
The man put something on his mouth, a kind of transparent mask, and told him to stay calm and to breathe normally.
Guy wanted to take that strange object out of his face, but he didn’t have the strength to do it, so he forced himself to obey the man's instructions.
Whether they were strange healers or demons who came to drag him to hell, he had no choice but to do what they said.
After a while, he seemed to him that he was able to breathe better, and his thoughts became a bit less confused. He felt cold and his wounds were hurting a lot, but he was pretty sure to be still alive, even though that situation was so odd and confused that he was probably delirious.
If they were healers, there was something terribly important that he should tell them, but he couldn’t concentrate enough to remember what it was.
If he closed his eyes, he could see even too clearly the sheriff's grin when he had stabbed him with his sword, and then the sharp pain in his back from another stab that, though less deep, hurt him even more because it came from his sister's hand.
When he opened his eyes again, Guy couldn’t see the faces of men dressed in orange because the lights were too bright, and then because his vision was blurred by tears.
One of the healers took his hand.
“Hold on, Guy. I know that you're feeling a lot of pain, but this will make you sleep.”
The important thing came to his mind, suddenly.
"Poison." He said weakly, struggling against a sudden drowsiness.
“On the blade.”
“Guy, are you saying that the blade that hurt you was poisoned?!”
“Do you know what kind of poison?”
“Monk’s-hood,” he whispered, then he closed his eyes, exhausted just for saying those few words.
Jack Robinson looked at the patient, wondering if his word were just a delusion caused by the trauma.
“What do you think, Alec? Monk’s-hood is another name for aconite.”
“Improbable, but we’ll set the therapies as if it were true, waiting for a confirmation from a toxicological test.”
“Can we move him now?”
“He's stable, take him to the helicopter.”
Chapter 2: A World I Don't Know Anymore
Guy opened his eyes for a moment, and closed them immediately, hoping that sleep would come back to him.
The healer who had encouraged him had not lied: when he woke up, the pain of the wounds was barely perceptible and he was laying on a comfortable bed.
He felt tremendously weak, but no longer confused, and he looked around to understand in what room of the castle they had brought him. He stared at the room for a while, then he lowered his eyelids to see nothing else.
He was sure that he wasn’t in the castle, now, but that was the only thing he could be sure of.
That place was completely strange and unknown, and Guy couldn’t understand it. Everything was so weird and incomprehensible to scare him to death.
He wondered if that place could be the otherworld, but everything was so concrete and solid that it had to be real.
The only thing that made sense was the bed: there was a mattress, a pillow, and sheets, and, if Guy kept his eyes closed, he could pretend that he was at Locksley or in one of the castle's rooms.
Of course, his bed had never been so comfortable and even the sheets were made of a material different than the linen he was used to, but the concept didn’t change and, when he slept, he could think that everything was almost normal. But he couldn’t sleep forever.
He heard the door of the room opening, and he remained motionless, petrified by terror, while his heart accelerated its beats. The steps approached the bed, and Guy winced when he felt somebody touching him.
“Oh, you're awake,” a female voice said, and Gisborne ventured to open his eyes. The person who had just talked was a middle-aged woman, not very tall, with a chubby body and a round face. The woman looked at him with a gentle expression and her tone was reassuring, but Guy found her appearance disconcerting: the woman's hair was cut short, with dark curls barely reaching her neck and she wore pants and a shirt of an identical light green color and, over them, a long white coat that reached her knees.
No Nottingham lady would voluntarily wear anything like that, and Guy wondered if that dress and haircut had been imposed to her as a penance for some sin, but the woman did not seem to be embarrassed or humiliated by her appearance.
She stopped at the foot of the bed and she took a sort of rectangular tablet, pausing to read something on it, then she came nearer and smiled at him.
“Guy... This is your name, right? Can you tell me your full name?”
That was a question he could answer, so he did, though he feared that revealing his identity could attract people's hatred on him.
“Guy of Gisborne?” The woman repeated, pausing to write a note on the folder. “It’s an unusual name... My name is Alicia Little and I'm one of the doctors who treated your wounds. Is there anyone we can contact? A wife? Your family?”
Guy thought that maybe that was the reason for her strange clothing: even that sort of witch who lived in the forest, Matilda if he remembered well her name, went around dressed in a bizarre way.
If that woman had really been able to cure his wounds, she must be skillful in her work: the sheriff's sword had run him through, and Isabella's stabbing had contaminated him with poison, it was almost impossible to survive to such wounds .
With a shudder he thought that perhaps that woman was actually a witch and that she had used magic to save him, but then what was the price to pay?
“Guy?” The woman called him again. “Is there any relative we can call?”
“I have no one,” he said, then he realized that it wasn’t entirely true. “Apart from Robin and Archer, if they survived.”
“The siege of the castle. Have they succeeded? Were they able to defend it?”
The doctor gave him a perplexed look and she took another note on the folder.
“Robyn? Is she your wife?”
Guy looked at her as if she was completely crazy and Alicia smiled at his disgusted expression.
“No, not you wife, then.” She laughed. “Can you give me his or her full name?”
“Robin of Locksley,” Guy said, wondering if he had met the only person in Nottingham who didn’t know the outlaw. “Robin Hood,” he added for clarity.
The woman was quick to hide her surprise for that answer and she kept talking to him as if everything was normal.
“And Archer? Archer’s full name?”
The doctor took another note and dropped that subject.
“Well, Guy, do you know where you are?”
"You are in a hospital, in the intensive care unit, they brought you here in a helicopter three days ago, and you had surgery to stop the bleeding and to treat the wounds. Until this morning you have been sedated to allow you to recover more easily from the surgery and from the effects of the aconite poisoning, but by now your conditions have clearly improved a lot.”
Alicia noticed Guy's confused expression, and she thought that he ought to be still stunned by sedatives and upset by the accident.
“You've been very ill, but you'll get better soon,” she said, hoping that this was a simple enough concept for him to understand. Guy nodded weakly, and the doctor decided to go to the next question.
“Do you remember how you were hurt?”
Guy nodded again, more sure.
“It was the Sheriff.”
“Yes, the Sheriff of Nottingham. He treacherously hit me, and he pierced me with his sword...” Guy's face darkened. “Then Isabella stabbed me in the back. It was her blade to be poisoned... She hurt Robin too... But if you saved me, did you manage to treat him too? Will he survive?”
The doctor touched his hand, kindly.
"You were alone when they found you, there was nobody else.”
Guy closed his eyes.
“So Robin Hood died for my fault... I destroyed him too...”
Alicia stared at him for a moment and she decided to pretend she didn’t hear his words. Probably that man was still traumatized by the accident and confused because of the drugs, maybe in time he would be able to think more lucidly.
“Don’t think about it now, Guy. Now you just have to think about getting better.”
“But it's not fair that I survived and Robin didn’t!”
“You can’t know if your friend is really dead. We will seek informations about him, I promise you. Now tell me how do you feel.”
“Weak. I have an headache.”
"It's normal: you have lost a lot of blood and have undergone surgery, but you'll feel better soon. I'll tell the nurses to give you something for the pain. Now I have to check the wounds, relax and tell me if I hurt you.”
The doctor moved the sheet aside, and Guy looked at her, horrified.
“What are you doing?!”
"I have to examine the wounds to be sure they are healing well and that there are no signs of infection. You will not feel pain, I assure you. I just need to lift the hospital gown that you are wearing and remove the dressing on your wounds.”
“No... you can’t do it.”
“Because you're a woman! It’s not decent!”
Alicia looked at him and realized that he was really embarrassed and shocked at the idea that she could see him without clothes.
"I'm a doctor, I'm used to see the body of my patients. I have already taken care of you while you were sedated, but if you prefer, I can call one of my male colleagues.”
Guy nodded, red in the face, and the doctor smiled, reassuringly, as she replaced the sheet.
“Okay then, but maybe you'll have to wait for a while, until they do their other visits. If you feel tired, you can sleep, you need to rest to recover your strength.”
Alicia was about to move away from the bed, but Guy stared at her, and the woman realized that her patient was terrified.
“Is this hell? I can’t understand it... It seems that I am alive, but maybe I'm not and this is the punishment I deserve...”
“You're alive, I can guarantee. I can understand that it’s not pleasant to stay in the hospital, but isn’t it a bit exaggerated to compare it to hell?”
Guy looked around, anxious.
“What are all these things?”
“Everything. These things near the bed that make strange noises... I don’t see candles, yet there is light in the room... Where does it come from? And what did you do to me? Why do I have this thing on my arm? It hurts and I can’t understand what it is: it looks like a small glass tube, but it's soft and there's some fluid inside... I can’t understand anything I see and less than half of what I hear... What’s this sound? This sort of roar?”
The doctor looked at him, bewildered, and she listened to understand what he was talking about.
“I can just hear a passing airplane...”
Guy stared at her, getting more and more terrified.
“See? You are talking again about things I don’t understand. What is this... airplane?”
Alicia put a hand on his forehead and moved it to caress his hair.
“Calm down, Guy. Take a deep breath and calm down. If you don’t understand something or if you feel frightened for any reason, tell me or one of my colleagues, and we will try to explain everything to you. But remember that here you are safe, and the only thing we want is to make you feel better. If it's the first time you get hospitalized, it's normal that many things may seem scary, but they all have a reason.”
She took his hand with caution and she pointed to the patch that held in place the needle of the drip.
“Is that what you're scared of? It brings all the medicines and the liquids that you need into your body. They are contained in those bags and they slowly enter your body. We also gave you some bags of blood, since you've bled so much.”
Guy looked at her.
“Are you saying that you put new blood inside me? But it's impossible!”
“No, I assure you, it's a safe and reliable technique. There isn’t any danger, and we can say that it saved your life.”
“But where did you take the blood? Did you kill someone to save me?”
Alicia shook her head, once again overwhelmed by those questions, but she tried to reassure him, explaining blood donations to him in a simple way, using more or less the same words that she used when she talked to the younger patients in the pediatric ward.
In the end, Guy calmed down, more because he was weary than for Alicia's words, and he closed his eyes, slipping into a exhausted sleep.
The doctor took a few notes on the clinical record, then she went out of the room, thoughtful.
She had just closed the door behind her, when she came across Dr. Track, the doctor who came from London.
“Are you coming from surgery, Dr. Track?”
“Yeah, accident between a car and a truck. Three seriously injured, but they should make it. Did you visit the mysterious knight? Did he wake up?”
“He's awake, but I'm afraid he may have suffered brain damage. He looks to be conscious and coherent, but he makes meaningless talk, he is very upset and he seems to have trouble understanding simple concepts.”
“We'll have to go through further examinations. Did he name some family member who we can contact?”
Alicia shook her head with a sad smile.
“He said he was a relative of Robin Hood.”
Alec looked at her, a little surprised.
“Appropriate for Nottingham, though,” he said, with an ironic smile.
Chapter 3: Live
Jack Robinson, the kind doctor who had helped him in the castle's dungeons, looked at Guy and he put his hand on his shoulder, reassuringly.
“This examination may be a bit unpleasant, but you don’t have to worry about it: it's not painful and we need it to see if your head has been damaged when you've been injured.”
“I was hit in my belly, not my head.”
“Your heart has stopped and for a while you didn’t breathe, we need to check if the lack of oxygen, of air, has left any consequences.”
“Did I die? If my heart has stopped, it means I've died.”
The doctor tightened a little the hold of his hand on his shoulder, with a little smile.
"You seem quite alive to me, I have never heard such a talkative corpse.”
“But if I’m alive, what happened to the world?”
“What do you mean?”
“It's all so different. There is nothing familiar anymore, and there are so many things I can’t even comprehend... Did I become mad, or it’s everything else that has changed?”
“The examination we are going to do will help us to understand it. Come on, lie on the table of the scanner.”
A nurse approached, but the doctor motioned for him not to come near and he himself supported Guy, helping him to get up from the stretcher. He helped him to walk to the table of the magnetic resonance scanner and to lie down again.
Gisborne closed his eyes and took slow, deep breaths.
“Is everything alright?” The doctor asked, and Guy opened his eyes.
“I walked only for a few steps, yet I feel exhausted and dizzy...”
“You’ve been in bed since you've been wounded, you still have to get back your strength. Do you feel well enough to start the examination?”
“What... what should I do?”
“You just have to stay still. Before we begin, I will immobilize your body so that you can’t move, then the table will enter inside that tube and you will hear strange noises. You will hear my voice and I will tell you when to breathe and when you will have to hold your breath. Do you think you can do it?”
“Will I feel pain?”
“No. Only unusual sounds. Some people can’t stand the idea of being in such a restricted space.”
“Can I close my eyes?”
“Sure. And I'll put in your hand a button similar to the one that you have on your bed to call the nurses. If you should feel that you can’t go on, just push it and we’ll stop everything. So, do you think you can do it? Can we start?”
A little later he was staying still, with his eyes closed, listening to the bizarre sounds produced by that device.
“All right, Guy?” Dr. Robinson's voice asked, and Gisborne wondered why the man was so worried.
Ever since he had woken up in that incomprehensible place that they called ‘hospital’, that device, which just made strange noises, was perhaps the least threatening thing he had to deal with.
He had to do nothing but obey the doctor's instructions, and that was something that had always been easy for him, for better or worse. Obeying to someone else's orders made everything easier and, unlike what happened with Vaisey, to lie on that table and to hold his breath when he was told to do so, couldn’t hurt anyone.
The only unpleasant feeling was to be immobilized, but in any case it wasn’t too important because he wouldn’t have the strength to move anyways.
Alicia Little was standing in the corridor, when Jack Robinson came out of the elevator. The woman glanced at the stretcher that was pushed down the corridor by a nurse: their mysterious patient had his eyes closed and he didn’t move.
Alicia turned to look at her colleague.
“Is he alright? What happened to him? Was he too agitated and you had to sedate him to do the MRI?”
Jack shook his head, vaguely amused.
“No, indeed... He fell asleep during the magnetic resonance and he didn’t even wake up when we moved him back to the stretcher.”
“He must have been tired. He always looks so terrified of anything... I wonder what really happened to him.”
“We all wonder. Yesterday a policeman came to talk to him and to ask who had hurt him.”
“Did he repeat the same story he told us?”
“In the least detail. He says he was hit with a sword by the sheriff of Nottingham while trying to save Robin Hood, and that he was stabbed in the back by a certain Isabella, who seems to be his sister...”
“Did the magnetic resonance reveal brain damage?”
“I sent it to neurology department to be examined in every detail, but from what I could see, it seemed perfectly normal.”
"Was it the trauma to upset him so much, then?"
“Maybe, but we must also consider the hypothesis that he was like that even before being injured. Have you seen the clothes he was wearing when we found him?”
Jack nodded to invite her to follow him.
She took her to one of the cabinets where the personal effects of the patients were kept, and extracted a plastic envelope. The doctor pulled out a leather jacket, torn and stained with blood, and placed it on a table.
The doctor gave him a perplexed look.
“Shouldn’t it have been given to the police? That poor man has been hurt, it's a proof!”
“His clothes were on the helicopter, and one of the cleaners had put them together with the waste to be disposed of. We only found them out this morning, after the policeman had left. Tomorrow they will send someone to get them, but in the meantime look at them.”
The woman passed her finger on the carved leather and on the shiny buckles.
“Apart from the cuts and the blood, they seem to be of excellent quality: the leather is finely worked and they are robust and well-finished clothes, certainly not a Halloween costume.”
“You’re right. And it seems to me that every garment has been sewn by hand, there are no manufacturer's labels or logos.”
Alicia nodded, looking at those unusual clothes.
“He could belong to one of those historical re-enactments groups. I know they take a lot of care in making their costumes similar to the original ones... Maybe the incident happened during one of those re-enactments.”
Jack looked at her, surprised.
“Actually, it could be possible. A simulated combat that went wrong, and the others ran away abandoning their wounded friend, while the trauma made him to mix up fiction and reality. He must have believed that he was the character he played, I think I heard that sometimes it can happen. I'll have to point out this hypothesis to the policeman who will come to pick up the clothes tomorrow.”
Alicia Little sighed.
"If we could contact his family, it would be easier to help him. I don’t think I've ever seen someone so lost, in my life...”
Sherwood's forest was fresh and full of shadows, and Guy followed the path through the trees at a fast pace, almost running.
Once, the forest was a hostile place, the shelter of the outlaws whom he couldn’t capture, a dangerous place, but now it almost seemed to Guy as if he was back home.
The thick, wild trees were something familiar, something he could understand, so different from the white, nightmarish place where he had woken up.
He saw Robin's familiar figure amidst the trees and he ran after him without even pausing to think.
When he reached Robin, he clutched him in a fraternal embrace, clinging to him with relief.
“Hood, I didn’t think I could ever be so happy to see you again!”
Robin stepped away from him with an ironic smile, and raised his eyebrows, pretending to be amazed.
“What’s up, Gisborne? Aren’t you happy to be the only one still alive?”
Guy winced in hearing those words, and Robin spoke in a sad tone.
"The poison you gave to Isabella was even too effective. I didn’t live to see the sunset.”
“No!” Guy cried out, in horror, and Robin looked at him with compassion.
“No grudge, my friend. Some regrets, maybe, but I'm in peace. And I'm not alone.”
“She... She is with you.”
“Yes. She forgave you, she asked me to tell you.”
Guy fell on his knees and covered his face with his hands. Robin, standing beside him, put a hand on his back.
“Let me come with you,” Guy begged him. “I won’t talk to her, I won’t even look at her, but let me stay at the camp with you. Give me just a corner beside the fire, but allow me to stay there!”
Robin crouched to look at his face and his expression was kind.
“We'd love it, you know? All of us. But this is not your place, Gisborne. Not anymore. You are alive, and we are not.
Robin stood up and Guy imitated him, grabbing his arms to stop him.
“No! Don’t leave! Please! Don’t leave me in this terrible place!”
“Terrible, or just different, Guy?”
Robin's body began to change and wrinkle like a dry leaf, until it shrunk into a fragile skeleton that crumbled into dust between Guy's fingers.
Gisborne opened his hand to look at what was left of him, and a gust wind dispersed even that last pile of dust.
Nothing remained of Robin Hood but the echo of his voice in the forest, repeating a single word: "Live."
Guy opened his eyes with a start and he found himself in tears, seeing again the scary and incomprehensible place where his life had been restored.
"Robin..." He whispered slowly, turning on one side to bury his face into the pillow and hide those shameful tears.
He was alone, desperately alone, but he had been offered an opportunity that none of the others had, a second life, perhaps undeserved, but that didn’t have to be wasted.
His situation could be scary, but he couldn’t surrender. Even though it was difficult, he would have to adapt to that place, to try to learn the things he didn’t know, and to honor the memory of the people he loved, continuing to live for them as well.
He would do it, he promised to himself.
Now he only felt the uncontrolled and desperate need to cry, and he did so, suffocating every sound in the pillow so that nobody could hear.
Chapter 4: 2016
The water was warm and perfectly transparent, as pure as it could have been the water of a spring.
Guy put his hand under the stream, as if he wanted to make sure it was real, then he shut the tap as one of the nurses taught him.
Of all the strange things surrounding him, that room was undoubtedly the most interesting.
A simple touch was enough to have clean water at will, hot or cold, without any servant losing time to take it from the wells or the river and to boil it on the fire, and then there was a kind of latrine, completely different from the horrible and fetid ones of the castle.
The nurse who had patiently explained him how to use the objects in that room, had also shown him how the transparent cabin that occupied one of the corners of the room worked, running a jet of water to wash a person's body without having to use a basin or to fill a tub. The man had told him that he would have to wait for his wounds to be healed before he could use the shower, but the sink with his warm, clear water was a good improvement over the ewers and the basins he was used to.
Guy leaned on the sink to keep his balance and he closed his eyes for a moment.
In the last few days he had begun to get up for longer periods of time, and he managed to walk into the room without too much trouble, but he still felt weak and sometimes he felt dizzy when he was standing for too long.
He leaned forward and breathed slowly for a while until he felt better, then he looked up and stared at his image in the mirror: he was always the same, but he seemed to have changed too, like the whole world around him did. The reflected image was clear and precise, not as blurry as the one in the mirror in his room at Locksley, and it allowed him to see himself in every detail, from the small scar that he had on the forehead since the illness he got when he was a child that had filled his body and Isabella’s with little blisters, to the thin mark that Robin Hood's dagger had left on his cheek.
On his cheekbone, just beneath the eye, the slight trace of a nearly faded scar was visible, the cut caused by Marian's punch when she had left him at the altar...
Guy touched that little trace of her, and he thought that by now this too was fading. Soon the only woman he had ever loved would be nothing more than a memory.
She forgave you...
Guy clung to the words Robin had told him in a dream, praying that they were true. He didn’t deserve forgiveness, he didn’t deserve pity for destroying her, but knowing that she was in peace and happy with her true love was at the same time a torment and a consolation.
Even if she was still alive she would never love him, Guy had finally realized it, but he would gladly sacrifice all the time he still had to live only to hold her in a last hug, to receive forgiveness from her lips and to hear from her that everything would be all right.
But it was an impossible wish and he knew it: he was alone and lost in a world he didn’t understand.
He looked into the mirror, wondering how he looked to the eyes of the others.
Once the villagers had feared him, they were frightened by his presence and they retreated when he arrived, but now the people who took care of him treated him kindly and with extreme caution, as if they feared they could hurt him, as if he were more fragile than he really was.
He was weak because of the wounds and he struggled to understand a good part of what he saw, but some of those healers talked to him as if he were a small child or a fool who had completely lost his mind. When he had told them to stop treating him like an idiot, they simply apologized and wrote something in the dossier they always had on hand every time they had to deal with him.
Guy wondered if those apologies were true or if they were simply indulging him to avoid a conflict.
He touched the mirror with a sigh.
“Am I out of my mind? Is that why everything looks so different?”
But everything that surrounded him was too real and too solid to be born from the delusions of a madman.
When he had killed Marian, for a long time he had the impression that he could see her ghost, that he could hear her accusations.
Whatever he did, he saw her next to him, ready to point her ghastly finger at him. And at night, when he closed his eyes, exhausted after another day of anguish, the demons who were lurking in the shadows came, ready to tear his soul with their claws.
Those were the nightmares of a madman, confused and broken thoughts that prevented him from doing anything.
For days, after killing her, he had been staring at the void, forgetting to eat or to wash up, lost in his nightmares, and if the sheriff didn’t order to the guards to take care of him, Guy would probably have died because he simply had no reason to keep living.
But now he was able to think coherently, his thoughts didn’t follow the fragmented rhythm of a delusion. He was confused and frightened by everything he saw and his heart was plagued by thinking of everything he had lost, the people he loved, and who he would never see it again, but he didn’t believe to be gone mad.
Robin Hood was dead, now he was certain of that. He felt it in his heart, and the dream he had was only a further confirmation.
What he couldn’t imagine was that he would have missed the outlaw so much, that his death would grieve him so gravely.
They had been hating and fighting each other for years, and, throughout their lives, each one had taken away something that was very dear to the other, but in the end Robin was close to him.
As a friend.
Like a brother.
Every time Guy named Robin Hood, doctors and nurses looked at each other with puzzled and worried eyes, as if they knew something they didn’t want to tell him.
Gisborne decided that he should insist, forcing them somehow to confess the truth, but he didn’t know how to do it.
They were all kind to him: they took care of his injuries and tried to support his needs and to put him at ease, but he had the impression that if he should try to get away from his room, they would stop him. They would say he had to stay there for his own good and maybe they were right. He could not cope with that absurd world alone, but in fact he was like a prisoner. To provoke his jailers without a valid reason would be silly.
And where could he go when he didn’t have even his own clothes? They had taken them off when they rescued him and they had only given him some undergarments and a sort of nightgown that had been practical when he was forced to stay in bed, but that now was quite uncomfortable and somewhat ridiculous. That clothing made him feel uncomfortably vulnerable.
Someone knocked on the bathroom door, taking him away from his thoughts.
“Guy? Is everything alright?”
It was Dr. Little's voice, one of the healers who took care of him and perhaps the one who had the most patience in answering his questions and explaining to him the things he couldn’t understand by himself.
Another advantage of staying in that room was that the others didn’t come inside suddenly when he was there, but they just knocked and made sure that he didn’t have any problems. It was a sort of safe haven where he could hide when things became too hard to bear or when the doctors asked him too many questions.
He had learned that it was enough to say he had to go to the bathroom, and the others let him go without asking anything and without disturbing him.
At that moment he didn’t feel the need to remain alone, so he half opened the door and peered out of the crack before opening it completely. The doctor was alone, not accompanied by other doctors or nurses.
The woman smiled at him.
“Good morning, Guy. How do you feel today? Can I check your wounds?”
Guy nodded and sat on the bed, staring at the ground to conceal the embarrassment he felt. Alicia had told him that seeing her patients’ bodies was part of her job and that he had no reason to be embarrassed. Also, unlike the earlier days, he was wearing at least undergarments, but he couldn’t help but blush when the woman lifted his shirt to change the dressings and to look at the wound.
The doctor worked fast and efficiently, aware of her patient's discomfort.
“It seems to me that everything is fine. Do you feel pain?”
“No, not much. Only if I do certain movements.”
The doctor smiled at him.
“Don’t do them, then.”
A smile flickered at the corner of Guy's mouth and the doctor was pleased to see him a bit more serene than usual.
“I brought you something to wear instead of the hospital gown.”
“I'm afraid not. The police took them, they have to examine them to figure out what happened to you.”
“I told them what happened to me. Many times. Don’t they believe me?”
“They have to do their own investigations, don’t take this the wrong way,” Alicia handed him a paper bag. “But now try these and see if they fit fine. You are a tall boy, I hope I didn’t choose the wrong size.”
“Boy? At my age?”
The doctor smiled.
“For one of my age you are. Grant some liberty to an old lady.”
Guy gave her an amused look, but he took the bag and went back to the bathroom. In the bag there were a pair of black soft pants, some short-sleeved t-shirts made of a lighter material and a sort of jacket, open on the front, made of the same material of the pants.
Guy wondered why the pants had no laces to close them, but when touched them, he realized that the material around the waist was elastic, similar to that of the underwear they had given to him. He slipped them on without much difficulty, being only careful to keep the elastic from touching the wounds, then he wore one of the t-shirts, choosing a black one, and the jacket of the tracksuit, leaving it open because he didn’t see laces or buckles to close it.
Before returning to his room, Guy looked into the mirror for a moment: they weren’t the clothes he was used to, but they were already an improvement over the hospital gown and they made him feel a bit less vulnerable.
When Guy returned to his room, Alicia approved with a smile.
“They seem fine. Is the elastic of the sweatpants too tight? Does it bother you?”
“No. In fact, maybe it's a bit loose.”
The doctor looked at the medical record.
“Guy, do you eat enough?”
“I'm not very hungry. And then…”
“I don’t even know what they give to me. Food has a strange taste. If I don’t know what flavor it should have, how can I figure out if it's safe to eat it?”
“What do you mean?”
“In times of famine, or during the winter, the cooks of the castle were forced to use the ingredients they had in the pantry, and they weren’t always well preserved. Sometimes the meat was too old and moldy, and for fear of not being able to serve anything at the sheriff's table, cooks often cooked even the spoiled ingredients. And then there is always the danger of poison: if I notice that the taste of a food is different from usual, I don’t trust to eat that food without first giving it to one of the servants.”
Alicia looked at him, astonished, but she smiled at him.
"I can assure you that the hospital's food may not taste good, but it's perfectly safe. The ingredients are of good quality and no one wants to poison you. Try to eat the meals they give to you, you need to recover your strength. And if you have any doubt about the ingredients, just ask.”
The doctor smiled at him, then she returned serious, with a small sigh.
“Guy, I have to ask you some questions, can you try to answer me honestly?”
“I never lied to you.”
“Can you tell me your real name?”
“You know it already. Guy of Gisborne.”
"Listen to me, maybe you're afraid that we could denounce you to the authorities, maybe you did something wrong, but it's important that we contact your family to help you in the best way. You can trust us.”
“But it's obvious you do not trust me!” Guy looked at her, hurt by those words. “I never lied to you. Never!”
“But maybe you told us what you want to believe. Your mind might have deceived your for some reason, causing you to believe that you belong to the legend of Robin Hood. But maybe if you try to remember, your true name might come to your mind...”
“My real name is the one I kept repeating: Guy Crispin of Gisborne. And why do you talk about Robin like that?!”
“As if you all have a secret you want to keep hidden from me. You always give me strange looks whenever I talk about him, why?”
The doctor stared at him for a moment without saying anything. She was sure that Guy wasn’t lying and she wondered what she should do.
The examinations hadn’t detected any damage or brain anomalies in Guy, and when she talked to him she had noticed that he was lucid and coherent, that he showed curiosity and intelligence and that he was capable of complex reasoning.
If it wasn’t for his frequent mentions of Robin Hood, Alicia would think that he was perfectly normal, traumatized by the accident but in his right mind.
Alicia made a decision, hoping that it was the right one. She knew that before taking the initiative she should have consulted her colleagues, and probably asked for a psychiatric consultation, but if she should entrust him to another department, she’d have the impression of betraying his trust.
She took a chair and sat in front of him, looking into his eyes.
“Because it isn’t possible, Guy. You can’t have met Robin Hood.”
Gisborne looked at her, offended.
“Are you calling me a liar? Robin held me in my arms when I was dying, he tried to make my last moments serene even though he was dying too, and you tell me that it isn’t true? That am I making everything up?!”
“When did all this happen?”
“A few days ago, when I was hurt.”
Alicia picked up an object from her purse and placed it in his hands.
“So, how can you explain this to me?”
Guy looked at the object and saw that it was a book. It was very different from the ones he had seen in the past, but unequivocally a book.
The canvas cover was a bit consumed and ruined by age and it looked like it had been read many times. Guy looked better at it and he was surprised to see the drawing of an archer wearing green clothes on the cover, and the title "Robin Hood" printed in golden letters.
Guy stared at the doctor.
“What does it mean?”
“You have to explain it to me, Guy. I read this book when I was a kid and Robin Hood is a hero of the past, an ancient legend. How could you be with him just a few days ago? Maybe you've read this book too, and the accident has confused your mind, making you believe that those stories were real memories.”
“No! I know Robin! Do you want to deceive me, by chance?”
“Open the book. Look at the date and see when it was printed, it's written right here, 1972. How can I fool you if that book was printed over forty years ago?”
Alicia pointed out the date, but Guy shook his head, stubbornly.
“It doesn’t make sense. That date can’t be right.”
“Why? Are you making fun of me? You said 1972.”
“Indeed. I told you, it was published forty-four years ago.”
“But we're in 1194!”
“Guy, this is 2016. Now you see why you can’t have possibly met Robin Hood?”
Gisborne rose to his feet.
“No! You're lying! You are saying these things only to confuse me!”
He turned to Alicia and he opened the door of the room, venturing into the corridor. Out there, there were more noises and strange objects, but Guy wasn’t intimidated: he saw a ramp of descending stairs and headed towards it at a fast pace, even though the effort made him feel dizzy.
“Guy! Wait, Guy! Where are you going?!” The doctor followed him, anxiously.
“Away from here! I don’t know what purpose you have, but I won’t listen to your absurd lies! You want to make me think that I'm crazy, but I know I’m not, not to so much that I can believe such absurdities, at least!”
Alicia was forced to run to keep up with him, and for a moment she thought to call the security to stop him, but she rejected that idea: her patient was too agitated and he wouldn’t react well. She was also worried about his health, he had not yet recovered sufficiently to keep that pace for a long time.
“I swear to you that we just want the best for you, Guy.”
"The best for me is to return to Sherwood Forest, to my friends! Maybe Robin is dead, but Archer isn’t, and even the other outlaws are alive. You can’t stop me, unless you want to lock me in a dungeon!”
Alicia decided to make a bet with fate.
“Alright then,” she said quietly. “If you wish so, go. That door leads outside. It would be wiser for you to come back in a few days to have your wounds checked, but you will not die otherwise.”
Guy stopped to look at her, astonished.
“Won’t you try to stop me?”
"Probably I'll end up in trouble with the police, but you're an adult man, I can’t stop you from leaving. Go, if that's what you want.”
Gisborne headed for the door, but his pace was less secure than before: he had expected to have to fight, but no one seemed to want to stop him.
He pushed the door and he went outside.
Chapter 5: Memories from Another Time
Alicia forced herself to wait for a few seconds before following Guy.
She found him only a few steps away from the door, petrified by terror.
The road in front of the hospital wasn’t very busy, but there were various cars, and Guy stared at them in horror. An ambulance passed in front of them at full speed with its sirens lit, then the rumbling of the helicopter blades filled the air, and the aircraft lifted from the roof of the building, passing over their heads and disappearing in the distance.
Alicia hurried to reach Guy, worried about his pallor. Gisborne was trembling and panting, as if he couldn’t take his breath, and he winced when Alicia took his hand. The woman noticed that her patient had his eyes full of tears, and she found herself wanting to protect him, somehow.
“Come on, let's go back inside,” she said softly, gently pulling him, and for a long moment she thought that he wouldn’t listen to her, that he would just stay there, sinking into his terror, or that he would run away.
Then Guy followed her, stumbling in his steps, his frozen hand clinging to hers.
Alicia put an arm around Guy’s waist to support him, and Gisborne leaned on her. She thought that she had to take him back to his room, but she gave him a quick glance and realized that his patient wouldn’t have the strength to walk till there: he had become even paler, his face was covered with sweat and she felt him leaning more and more on her, as if he was about to fall.
A nurse saw them and made the gesture of approaching, but Alicia nodded him to wait. Guy was already quite upset, and the intervention of a stranger would only make things worse.
Instead, she saw the door of one of the rooms that the nurses used during breaks, and she opened it with her free arm, then she guided Guy inside, made him sit in a chair, and sat next to him holding his hand and caressing his back with sweet and reassuring movements.
“Breathe slowly, Guy. Slow and deep breaths. You're safe here, nothing can hurt you.”
"I've gone mad... I lost my mind..." Guy whispered desperately, and at that moment Alicia found herself thinking that it wasn’t true.
She had thought that seeing the modern world outside the hospital would take him away from his fantasies about Robin Hood, making him remember something of his real life, but Guy's reaction had disconcerted her.
His terror was genuine and sincere, as if he had never seen a car or a helicopter in his life, and she suddenly found herself sure that her patient had never lied to her, that his tales weren’t about an illusory world.
She had no idea how it was possible, but that man didn’t just think to be a character in Robin Hood's stories, but his mind and all his memories were those of a twelfth-century knight.
Maybe I'm crazy too, but I believe him.
“No. I don’t think you're crazy. But now you have to calm down. Close your eyes and breathe. We will find a solution for everything, I promise you. It will be all right, love.”
Guy looked at her and clung to those kind words: in a world that was meaningless, Alicia's hand, offering her help, was the only firm point he could hold to. He let the woman embrace him and found himself crying desperately, unable to hold tears back, with his face buried against her shoulder and his whole body shaken by sobs.
Alicia caressed his hair and his back, steadily, instinctively guessing the gestures that a mother would use to reassure a frightened son, and, when at last Guy's cry settled a little, she found herself using her hand to wipe tears from her own eyes.
Her behavior wasn’t professional and she knew it, but in all the years she had worked in the hospital, she had never experienced such a strong and instinctive bond with a patient.
She had taken care of all those who had been entrusted to her, and she had been especially fond of some of them, feeling deeply touched if their conditions worsened and turned to the worst and rejoicing when they were better, but never in all her life she had been so sure of having to protect and comfort someone as she did with Guy.
Guy was still leaning against her, exhausted after crying so much, and after a while he stirred, with a groan.
“What’s up, Guy?”
“I feel sick... I have nausea...”
Alicia stroked his back.
“Make deep breaths. Is it easing a little?”
“No. I need to...”
“Behind that door there is a bathroom, if you can’t walk, I'll bring you a basin.”
Guy stood up, a little unsteadily, and Alicia followed him.
“Let me help you.”
“No.” Guy whispered, and Alicia knew that he was ashamed of being sick in front her. With a quick gesture she took off the rubber band that she sometimes used to try to tie her curly hair without many results, and she tied Gisborne's hair in a ponytail, then she touched his shoulder for a moment in a gesture of comfort.
“I'll wait here. Call me if you need it.”
Guy clutched the blanket, with a shudder.
He was lying on his side on the bed in his room, but he couldn’t sleep and he was just lying there, his gaze lost in space, still like a statue.
A tear slipped across his face against his will, and he felt even more pathetic.
Dr. Little covered him with another blanket and wiped his face with a handkerchief, with the gentle gesture of a mother.
Thinking of his mother, so long lost, made him feel even worse.
Couldn’t he die like everyone else and finally rest his head on her lap, in peace after so much suffering?
“Are you still feeling sick?” Alicia asked softly.
Guy looked at her. The doctor hadn’t left him not even for a moment, except to give him some privacy while he was in the bathroom, and she seemed to be sincerely worried for him.
She had helped him to get back to his room after he had finished emptying his stomach, then she had lowered the lights, and she had kept everyone else away to let him be in peace.
He just wanted to lie on that bed forever, doing nothing and wishing he could disappear, but he forced himself to answer.
"No," he said in a low voice. “Not anymore.”
Alicia took a chair and placed it near the bed, then she stroked his face, drying another tear.
Guy reproached himself for that weakness. He didn’t want to cry like a little girl, but his body didn’t obey him, and he couldn’t hold back those tears, slow and hot.
“I'm sorry,” Alicia said. “I'm so sorry. I didn’t want to upset you, I just hoped that you could remember something about your family.”
“I remember my family perfectly. Or at least that's what I believed,” he paused, then he looked back at her. “Is this really 2016?”
“Then I'm crazy.”
“Don’t say that.”
Guy sat up, and he was forced to close his eyes to fight a sudden dizziness caused by that abrupt movement.
Alicia supported him, helping him to find his balance.
“Slowly, darling, you're still weak. Try to keep calm.”
“How can I keep calm?! If this is 2016, there are not many alternatives: either I've spent more than eight hundred years in that crypt without even realizing it, or I've become crazy, or I'm dead and this is hell.”
“Why do you always talk about hell? Even if you were really dead, and you are not, why don’t you think about heaven?”
“Because I don’t deserve anything else. I have committed unforgivable things.”
“Do you want to tell me about them?”
Guy shook his head.
Alicia took a blanket and put it on his shoulders.
“It doesn’t matter, love. You don’t have to.”
“But if I'm crazy, which one is the illusion? Which of these two lives is the real one? Have I invented all my past, or is this present that is a creation of my mind? But how can I imagine things like those I see around me? Wagons that move without horses, monstrous objects flying in the sky... I've never had so much imagination...”
The doctor took his hand to interrupt him: his skin was still cold, but less than before.
“You don’t seem crazy to me. Scared and confused yes, but not crazy.”
“Then you are crazy too.”
“Maybe. But there is a way to discover the truth.”
Guy looked at her.
"Tell me about your past, about your life, and try to give me some specific details, to tell me something that can be verified even after eight hundred years, and that only you know. I will try to check what you say in some way, and we will see if your memories correspond to reality.”
“Do you really think that I'm not lying or raving?”
“I just say that I want to find out. But I know you're not lying, I'm sure you're honest. If your past life is just an illusion, you aren’t aware of it, it is real for you.”
Guy thought that the doctor's speech made sense: if he could have a certain proof of his madness, at least he would know how to behave.
He described the villages ruled by the sheriff, their location and the most important buildings, then he spoke to her for a long time and in detail about his life in Nottingham, his duties at the service of the sheriff, and he told her of siege of the city that had cost so much to all of them.
Alicia Little listened and took notes, getting more and more fascinated.
She occasionally stopped him, asking him explanations about some terms she didn’t know and, when Guy used a Latin word referring to the failed wedding ceremony with Lady Marian, Alicia asked him for more details. Guy dictated to her some of the Latin prayers he knew, and Alicia asked for a translation in English.
Gisborne stared at her, perplexed, almost scandalized.
“To translate the prayers in English? It would be a heresy, the Church wouldn’t approve it!”
Alicia decided not to deepen the subject because it would take too much time, and Guy seemed already quite exhausted and distressed enough.
She listened to him talking about the people he knew, the members of Robin Hood's gang, and, the more she heard, the more she was convinced that those details, the emotions that ran on his face were too real to be only inventions of a sick mind.
However, as fascinating as that story was, it was still not possible to check it for sure.
“Guy, tell me something that only you know. Something that I can check.”
"The sheriff sometimes had fun ordering me to do humble jobs, to mortify my pride. He once ordered me to polish his weapons and to make them shine. I was tired, frustrated because Robin Hood had escaped me once again, and I felt humiliated at the thought of having to do the work of a servant until late at night. Once I was left alone, I grabbed his dagger with anger, and planted it on the table top, without remembering that that table in particular had metal parts. The tip of the dagger broke and I didn’t know what to do because if the sheriff should notice it, I’d get a harsh punishment. So I decided to make the broken dagger disappear and to replace it with a similar one, hoping that he wouldn’t notice the difference.”
“Did he? Did he find out what you did?” Alicia asked, forgetting the point of the speech.
“No, he didn’t even look at it. But you see, to be sure that he couldn’t find the broken dagger, I hid it in the castle crypt, not too far from the place where I was injured. In one of those underground rooms there was a stone that could be moved and only I knew about it. Behind it, there was a small space I used to hide the things I didn’t want to end into the sheriff's hands.”
“And did you put the dagger there?”
“Yes, and I have never taken it out again, it might still be there.”
“Describe to me where this stone is.”
Guy did it, and Alicia took note of it scrupulously.
“I'll check it as soon as I can.”
Gisborne looked at her, dejected.
“Whether the dagger is or isn’t there, It doesn’t make much difference.”
“Why do you say that?”
“What’s the difference? Either I have gone mad, or some magic sent me over eight hundred years in the future... What prospects do I have in both cases? On one hand madness, on the other the awareness that all the people I knew, every single one of them, have been dust for many centuries now, while I’m still here.”
“You have your life. You risked to die, yet you are alive.”
“Alive! To spend my time locked in a room like a caged bird! How could I live in this terrible world?!”
Alicia stroked his face, pushing back a lock of hair.
“Terrible, or just different?”
Guy stared at her with a start: those were the same words that Robin had said to him in a dream!
“The present may scare you because you don’t know it, but I assure you that there are several advantages, compared with the time you are familiar with. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you really came from the past or not: in both cases, I will help you to learn whatever you need to live a good life, I'll explain you the things that you don’t know, and you will see that they won’t be so terrifying anymore.”
“Anyways, I lost everything.”
“It means that you’ll have to make a fresh start. Don’t be discouraged, darling, I can’t give you back what you've lost, but over time things will improve, I promise you.”
The doctor hugged him, and Guy closed his eyes, taking refuge for a moment in her warmth.
He nodded weakly, hoping with all his heart that he could believe her, and Alicia smiled at him, reassuringly.
“But now you have to rest, you aren’t well and all these emotions wore you out, I see that you are exhausted. Do you want me to give you something to make you sleep?”
Guy shook his head. He was still upset, but he was so tired that he would probably fall asleep without any problems.
“Do you feel like eating something before you sleep?”
“I think I could.”
The doctor smiled.
“Then wait for me, I’ll be back soon.”
She left the room and returned shortly afterwards with a steamy cup that she put in Guy's hands.
“What is it?”
Gisborne sniffed its content, uncertain, then he decided to take a small sip: it was a sweet and dense drink, with a flavor he didn’t know at all, but that was definitely pleasing. He drank again, then he noticed that Alicia was watching him, amused.
“Now try this.”
The woman unwrapped a chocolate bar and took a piece of it. She ate it and then she gave another one to Guy. Gisborne took it and put it in his mouth, after a slight hesitation, then he looked at her, surprised.
“The taste resembles that of the drink!”
“Do you like it?”
Guy nodded and Alicia chuckled, putting the rest of the bar in his hand.
"Then eat it, I would say that you need it after such a day.”
“How is this food called?”
“Chocolate. See? You've just found out one of the good things of this time.”
Chapter 6: I Want to See
Guy turned in his sleep, and the book fell to the floor with a thud.
“Let me sleep, Allan, I'm tired,” he mumbled, still engrossed in the last remnants of a dream, then he opened his eyes and sighed, realizing that Allan could never disturb his sleep again because he had been dead for eight centuries, just like everyone else.
He got up and picked up the book from the floor, putting it on his lap. He opened it, carefully browsing it to the first illustration, an image of an archer dressed in green, surrounded by a group of companions and by the green of the forest trees.
Obviously, the characters depicted in that drawing didn’t look like Robin and the others, but the artist had been able to grasp Robin's cheeky expression and the friendship that tied those men. Guy looked at the other drawings, pausing to look at the one representing Lady Marian.
"It doesn’t look like you at all..." He whispered. “This is just a pretty girl, she has nothing to do with your courage and strength.”
Despite these words, he could not stop touching the illustration with his fingertips before turning the page again.
That book was different from the ones he had seen in his time: it wasn’t written by hand but it had been obtained by a mechanical process that allowed to print many identical copies of the same volume in a short time. The letters were clear and well-defined, but Guy was still getting used to reading that kind of print, so he was still at the beginning of the story and he was proceeding slowly.
He opened the book at the chapter that made him curious and that saddened him at the same time: the encounter between Guy of Gisborne and Robin Hood.
It was strange to see his name written on the pages of a book, strange to think that after eight centuries someone could still remember him. Instead, it was sad to realize that the only reason why people remembered him was for his rivalry with Robin Hood.
Guy had tried to read all that part: no one was talking about his alliance with Robin, no one seemed to remember that he had also tried to defend the castle in the name of the king. He was depicted as a man dressed in black with a grim face, dressed in an eerie cloak made from the skin of a horse, complete with head and mane.
He found himself sadly thinking that even his faithful horse had been dust for many centuries now, and that he would never groom again his dark mane at the end of a difficult day.
He hurried to send those thoughts away before he found himself in tears again.
If the sheriff could see him now, he would have a great deal of fun mocking him because of his weakness, because of the sadness that swelled in his heart and that made him burst into tears suddenly, without a real reason.
It had been a week since he discovered that he was in a future, strange, and terrifying world, and he had spent most of that time sleeping, completely devoid of energy.
To give up to sleep, for him who had always been tormented by nightmares, now was a blessing: he sank into a series of strange and twisted dreams that often frightened him, but that were also the only way to see again the faces of the people who he had known. Often there were Robin and Allan, sometimes the outlaws and other times just ordinary people: Locksley peasants who he barely remembered, or castle guards.
Perhaps it was the right punishment for killing her, but the girl never appeared to him, not since he woke up in the future, and he wished with all his heart that he could be able to see her face again, at least in his dreams.
Guy watched the drawing that represented the moment when Robin Hood killed Guy of Gisborne and he thought that it was the most wrong illustration of the book. He and Robin had become friends and they had fought side by side, defending each other, the outlaw would never kill him in such a brutal way.
It was all wrong: it was Robin who had died and he, who was the villain of the story, the one who, in the book, died at the end of his chapter because he deserved it, he was alive eight centuries after the death of everyone else.
Guy closed the book and put it under the pillow.
He considered the idea of going back to sleep, then he decided to get out of bed.
Soon after, he was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at his own image and wondering why he was the only one still alive. If he wasn’t crazy and he had really arrived in a future where his wounds were curable, Guy couldn’t understand why.
Why didn’t such a miracle happen for Robin or Marian? He thought of Allan, as he had seen him the last time: his blue eyes wide open, staring at the sky, and his body pierced by arrows.
Why not him? Allan was an opportunistic thief, but even he would deserve to live more than Guy.
Allan was my friend. Even though I never told him.
Guy recalled that last, shameful betrayal when all the outlaws had accused Allan of having betrayed them again, and the young man had sought support in each of them, in vain.
When he asked Guy if at least he believed him, Gisborne had shrugged.
He would never forget the wounded look of the young man as he was tied by the others.
The worst thing was that Guy even believed him, but he didn’t say anything because he knew that the outlaw barely tolerated him and they wouldn’t listen to his words.
That was the last time he saw Allan alive, then the sheriff killed him, and Guy had sworn to himself that Vaisey would have paid for that too.
Instead, he was defeated.
Guy hoped that at least Robin and Archer were able to take their revenge, then he realized how absurd his desire was.
Whatever happened, they were all dead now, Vaisey included.
Guy let out a bitter laugh: knowing that the sheriff had been dust for at least eight centuries while he still lived was however a satisfaction, though perhaps the fact of being still alive was more a curse than anything else.
He went out of the bathroom, hearing that somebody was knocking at the door, and he saw Dr. Robinson entering the room. The doctor was wearing the same orange outfit he had when he had rescued him. Guy didn’t remember much of those moments, but that brilliant color was fixed in his memory.
The doctor smiled.
“I'm glad to see you standing. In the last few days I have been very busy with helicopter rescue and I didn’t have time to visit my patients, but I see that Dr. Little did a good job.
“Where's Lady Alicia?”
“Today is her free day, so I'll visit you, I hope you don’t mind too much. Lie on the bed, I have to check your wounds.”
Guy meekly obeyed and he let the doctor do his work, but inwardly he felt a little lost. Since he had discovered the date of the current year and had that nervous breakdown, doctor Little had always been there to take care of him and to comfort him in the worst moments.
Knowing that today he couldn’t count on her support made him vaguely anxious.
“Well, I'd say we can now remove these stitches,” Jack said, after examining the wound, now almost healed. “You will feel a bit of discomfort, but if I hurt you, tell me.”
“Does it mean that I recovered?” Guy asked while the doctor was working.
“It means that the wound has healed, but for a while you have to avoid making efforts or lifting weights. It will take some time before you can be considered completely recovered. When we rescued you, I wasn’t sure that you would survive, now I can confess it.”
“I was sure I was dead.”
“You went very close to die. You have been very lucky because the people that found you were able to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, so they had been able to keep you alive until our arrival. Well, all done now, you can dress up.”
Guy got up from the bed and wore his t-shirt again, giving a quick glance at the scar on his belly.
Later he would look better at it with the help of the mirror, but it was already easy to understand that that scar would remain on his skin for all his life.
“How did they keep me alive?”
“They compressed your chest to simulate the heartbeat so blood could keep circulating in your body, and they blew air in your lungs, breathing for you.”
“How did they know what to do? They were healers too?”
“No, you don’t need to be a doctor to do that, anyone can learn the procedure.”
“Why not? If you wish, I can show you how to do it, using one of the dummies we use to practice and to organize first aid classes. For now, you can’t put it into practice because it’s quite physically challenging, but I can teach you the theory.”
Guy nodded, fascinated by that idea. Since he was a boy, he had been trained to fight and to kill his enemies, and it seemed almost impossible to learn to save lives instead of taking them.
Maybe, if in the past he'd known that technique, Marian wouldn’t have died...
Had I not planted a sword in her stomach, she wouldn’t have died!
Guy struggled to reject those thoughts. He couldn’t change the past and continuing to think about it would only drag him back into despair.
“Yes, I would like to learn it,” he said in a low voice, and the doctor smiled.
“We'll organize that, then.”
Jack Robinson took some notes on the medical record, and, when he looked back at Guy, he noticed that the other man was staring at him with an uncertain expression.
“Is everything alright, Guy?”
Gisborne seemed to make a decision.
“You use the flying device, don’t you?”
“Lady Alicia said that it has nothing to do with magic, and that it uses some mechanisms to fly. Is it true?”
The doctor looked at him curiously, wondering where he wanted to go with that discourse. Alicia Little had informed her colleagues of the panic breakdown that her patient had at the sight of cars and of the helicopter, and she had asked them to be cautious when they talked to Guy, to assist him when he asked for some explanation.
“It's true. It's a very complicated device, but there is nothing magic about it.”
Guy took a deep breath.
“I want to see it.”
Jack looked at him, surprised.
The doctor wondered if it was a good idea, but Guy seemed rather determined.
“Are you sure? Alicia told me what happened a few days ago...”
“That's why I have to see it. My mother often said that usually we are afraid of what we don’t know. And I'm tired of being scared.”
Jack Robinson thought for a moment, then nodded.
“All right, come with me.”
The doctor went to the door and stopped to wait for him.
Guy hesitated, and for a moment he was tempted to tell him that he had changed his mind, that he would remain in the safe tranquility of his room, but he immediately recovered, and followed the doctor out of the door.
The corridor was much louder than his room, full of sounds, lights and strange things that he didn’t understand, but Guy repeated to himself what Alicia had already explained to him, that in eight centuries mankind had invented many mechanical devices to simplify life, and that it was normal if he didn’t understand how they worked seeing them for the first time, but that eventually he would learn.
He stared in surprise at a luminous panel attached to a wall on which pictures were moving, but he didn’t say anything and he just followed the doctor to the lift door leading to the roof.
“Should we get in there?” He asked, looking at the inside of the cabin. “Why?”
“To go upstairs.”
“Entering this sort of closet?”
Jack Robinson thought Alicia had not exaggerated: their patient seemed to really ignore the functioning of modern technology. Sometimes he had to deal with psychiatric patients claiming to be characters of the past, but those people rarely were astonished by trivial objects such as televisions, telephones, and lifts.
Guy of Gisborne, on the other hand, was genuinely fascinated by every little thing, even the most common as it could be a ball pen or the zipper of the sweatshirt they had given to him, and then he knew perfectly every detail of the habits and life of medieval people.
If he was pretending, he was probably the best actor who Jack Robinson had ever met in his life.
“It's called a lift. A system of cables and counterweights make the cabin to go up.”
Guy accepted the explanation without asking any other questions, and they both got upstairs.
The other helicopter rescue team came at that moment from the door leading to the roof, pushing a stretcher. Jack stepped aside to let them pass and Guy imitated him.
Once the others had disappeared in the lift, Jack took two orange jackets from a wall hanger and he handed one to Guy.
“Wear this. At this time of the year it's cold, and Alicia wouldn’t forgive me if you should get sick.”
Guy slipped his jacket on, and, after a few attempts, he also managed to close the zipper, then walked to the door to the roof with Jack.
The flying device was in front of him, yellow and shiny, perched on the roof of the building like a huge dragonfly. Some attendants were working to prepare the aircraft for the next mission, and they greeted Jack, casting some puzzled looks at the stranger beside him.
Guy looked at the helicopter, trying not to think of the terror he had felt when he had seen it passing over his head, and Jack motioned him to get closer.
“That's the seat of the pilot, the person who makes it fly,” he said, pointing to a seat in the front of the vehicle, “We doctors sit here, in the back. This is the place for the stretcher on which the wounded are carried.”
Gisborne touched one of the sides of the helicopter and he realized that it was simple metal, a delicate and complex mechanism, but nothing other than a mechanical device. Not a demon nor a magic item, just an object created by man.
“I'd love to see it fly again, now that I know what it is.”
Jack heard the sound of the alarm and grabbed Guy’s arm, pulling him quickly away from the helicopter.
“It seems that your wish will be granted... Do you hear this sound? It’s the signal that the team has to prepare for a mission, they will take off shortly. Come, let's stay at a safety distance, and we'll be able to watch them leaving. But we have to put these on, soon there will be a lot of noise.”
The doctor took some earmuffs, and he handed a pair to Guy, showing him how to put them on, then he wore them too, and they both waited.
Shortly after, the helicopter rotor began to move, the doctors’ team boarded and the aircraft took off, rising in the sky, and heading toward the city.
Guy watched it, completely fascinated by what seemed like a prodigy, and that instead was a conquest of humanity, a result of human intelligence. The helicopter's blades had generated an intense wind that ruffled his hair, sending it all over his face, and that made his eyes weep, but Guy just pushed away from his eyes the locks that hindered his sight.
The noise of the engine was intense and without the earmuffs it would have been deafening, similar to the galloping of a herd of wild horses and even the sensation of power was the same, yet, despite so much strength, the helicopter had hovered in air gracefully, as if it had no weight, then moved at a speed that no horse could ever match.
Guy was no longer afraid now, but his heart was beating fast in his chest.
Jack smiled at seeing his expression.
“So, what do you think?”
Guy looked toward the horizon, where he had seen the aircraft disappear.
“Can we wait for it to come back?”
Chapter 7: The Proof
Jonathan Archer poured coffee into two cups and handed one of them to Peter Edwards.
The archaeologist took it, grabbed a donut from the open box on the table, and seized the guardian's chair without any hesitation.
Since the day when they had collaborated to save the wounded man they had found in the crypt, the two men had become friends, and Peter Edwards had taken the habit of going to the guardian's room during his breaks to get coffee and chat with him.
Jonathan Archer was a simple man, but he was interested in the history of the city and he found the archaeologist's words fascinating, especially when he told him about the progress of his work in the crypt or some anecdote about the excavations he had done in the past.
"Police finally took the seals off the crypt, now we've been able to resume work in those rooms,” Peter said.
“I know, I accompanied them down there yesterday.” Jonathan said. "There's still the stain of that poor man's blood on the floor. I suppose the museum will have to call some specialized company to have it cleaned, sooner or later.”
“Do you have any news of that man? I often think of him, I wonder what happened to him...”
“A few days after the accident, I called the hospital and they said that he was going to make it, but they wouldn’t tell me anything else. Sometimes I even thought of going there to see him, but I never did.”
“I really thought that he was going to die,” the archaeologist said, then he took a sip of coffee and nodded toward the open door. “I think that lady wants to talk to you.”
The guardian looked at the woman who was waiting outside the door and wondered what she wanted.
She was a middle-aged lady with a round face and curly hair sticking disorderly out from the edges of a colorful woolen cap.
Usually the ladies who looked for the guardian of the museum wanted to protest for the behavior of some other rude visitor or for small flaws, but the woman who was waiting for him didn’t have the usual arrogant expression of who is going to give an indignant reproach, instead she seemed rather hesitant, almost embarrassed.
“Good morning, madam, how can I help you?”
Alicia looked at him.
“I would like to visit the castle dungeons.”
“Guided tours are on Wednesday and Friday mornings and throughout the day on weekends. I'll get you a brochure.”
“No. I need to visit one of the areas not open to the public.”
“This is not possible, ma'am.”
“Please, it's very important!”
The archaeologist and the guardian exchanged a look, curious because of the woman's tone: it was clear that she wouldn’t give up so easily, and they both wondered why it was so important for her.
Alicia knew that if she told them the truth, they would believe her to be crazy, but she couldn’t find another plausible excuse.
“It's for one of my patients. He is sure to know a secret niche in the dungeons of the castle and he asked me to check if it really exists.”
“A patient? Are you a doctor?”
“Yes. Guy says he's a twelfth-century knight, and he asked me to check if his memories correspond to reality.”
“Guy? Is that the man who we found in the crypt a few weeks ago?”
“Yes. Are you the guardian who kept him alive until the arrival of the helicopter rescue?”
Peter Edwards patted his friend's shoulder.
“Exactly him! And I gave him a hand. So did he survive?”
“Yes, physically he is recovering.”
“But he says that he comes from the past? Was he damaged by oxygen shortage?” The archaeologist asked.
“Apparently he isn’t. Guy is very coherent and his descriptions are incredibly detailed.”
“But you're here to have proof that he's crazy.”
Alicia shook her head, blushing.
“I'm here because I think he isn’t.”
The two men exchanged another perplexed look and Alicia noticed their glance.
“You will think that it is me the one who is crazy, now.”
“Madam, it seems quite unlikely that we may have to deal with a time traveler, don’t you think?” The archaeologist said. “At least, I didn’t see any blue police box in the crypt.”
“I know that it seems absurd, but I don’t think that Guy is a liar. What he says is too precise, it seems that he has really seen what he describes. I've been working at the hospital for nearly thirty years, but I have never had a case like this.”
"Peter, you have to admit that the way we found him was definitely unusual. I still don’t understand how he arrived there,” the guardian suggested.
“Why?” Alicia asked.
“The gate was locked and that section of the dungeons is connected to the outside only with a tunnel that collapsed many centuries ago and through other rooms, perhaps old cellars, which were also closed with a gate. I explored that section of the crypt, but I did not find any further passages.
According to the police, he must have entered before the gate was closed and stayed there for a few days, but I'm absolutely certain that, when I closed the gate for the last time before the accident, there was nobody down there.”
Peter Edwards looked at his friend, amused.
“The mystery becomes more and more interesting. Why don’t we check what the lady says?”
The guardian looked at him, uncertain.
“I'm not allowed to let visitors enter the closed areas.”
“It won’t be necessary. I have all the permissions to examine the crypt. If the lady gives me the directions given by her time traveler, I'll go and check it out.”
“My name is Alicia Little,” the woman said and handed the archaeologist the notebook where she had noted down Guy's instructions.
Peter took the notebook, drank a last sip of coffee, and he returned to the dungeons. Jonathan poured another cup of coffee, and offered it to Alicia.
“Sit down, please, I think it will take some time. I noticed that archaeologists are very meticulous in their work, but speed is not their strength.”
Alicia smiled at him and accepted both coffee and one of the donuts.
“I'm glad you came here," the guardian said, after a while. "I confess I was worried for that man, and I was curious to know if he survived. I think I have never been so scared for someone in my whole life.”
“You saved his life.”
“Do you think I could come and meet him one of these days? I may be an old fool, but I can’t take the image of all that blood away from my mind, seeing that he is fine is going to be a relief.”
“There shouldn’t be any problems. I'll talk to him so he will know that he can expect a visit.”
“By the way, what's his name?”
“He didn’t have any documents on him. He says his name is Guy of Gisborne.”
Jonathan looked at her, surprised.
“Like Robin Hood's enemy?”
“Exactly. But Guy says that he and Robin eventually became friends.”
A few hours later, Alicia was walking through the corridors of the hospital steadily, headed to Guy's room, but when she arrived, she found it empty.
One nurse greeted her cheerfully.
“Good morning, Dr. Little! Isn’t today your free day?”
“Yes, but I had to talk to Guy. Where is he?”
“With Dr. Robinson. This morning I saw them together after the doctor came to check his wounds. It seemed strange to me because Guy usually never leaves his room.”
“Can you check if there were some examinations scheduled?”
The girl looked at the computer and after a while she shook her head.
“No, nothing like that. Dr. Robinson just wrote that he had removed the stitches.”
“Was Guy fine?”
“I would say he was. He walked well, following the doctor. Perhaps he was a bit nervous, he looked around and he seemed to be a little scared, but he seemed pretty fit, more than last week, at least.”
Alicia nodded. After the shock he had had when he had walked out of the hospital, Guy had spent most of his time sleeping, as if too much emotions had drained all his energies, and, when he was awake, his mood was overwhelmed by a deep sadness.
She had tried to comfort him in every possible way, but she wasn’t sure she had been able to help him.
“Have you seen where they went?”
“Towards the lift.”
Alicia wondered what had happened to push Guy out of his room and she wondered if she should go looking for him, but at that moment the lift doors opened and she found herself staring at the object of her thoughts.
Guy was wearing one of the windbreakers supplied to the rescuers and he had his hair ruffled by the wind and his cheeks reddened because of cold. He seemed to be very tired, but he smiled when he saw her, and, for the first time since she knew him, Alicia saw that his smile this time also reached his eyes, illuminating his face and making him look much younger.
She couldn’t avoid smiling in turn.
“Where have you been?”
It was Dr. Robinson who answered.
“On the roof. For a good part of the morning.”
“I wanted to see the helicopter,” Guy said. “I had to see it fly again.”
Alicia glanced at her colleague, worried because she remembered Guy's reaction when he first saw it.
“And everything went all right?”
“Even too much. This morning there were three calls for the helicopter, and we have been out there watching it fly all the time. If you don’t mind, I guess I'll go get some hot coffee now.”
The doctor said goodbye to both of them, and he walked away along the corridor.
“I thought I wouldn’t see you today,” Guy said, returning to his room together with Alicia. “They told me that today was your free day.”
"And I thought that you were scared of the helicopter.”
“That's why I wanted to have a good look at it. Twice I saw Nottingham besieged by an enemy army, and for three other times I have been just a step away from being executed, it's not the first time I look into Death’s eyes. I won’t be a hero like Robin, but I'm not even a complete coward. If this is the world I have to live in, I won’t hide in a corner, trembling, just because I don’t understand it.”
“And now do you understand helicopters a little better?”
“Yes, I think so. It is a complex and ingenious mechanism. I've never seen anything so powerful and fast, I think I wouldn’t mind flying on it, someday.”
“Oh, but you did, even if you can’t remember it. They took you here by helicopter when you were hurt.”
"You wouldn’t have survived an ambulance trip, the helicopter is much faster.”
“The ambulance is the wagon without horses?”
“Yes. If you want to see them, you can just look out of the window at the end of the corridor.”
Guy took off his jacket and he placed it on a chair, then he sat down on the bed, wrapping a blanket around his shoulders.
“Maybe tomorrow. Today has already been quite exciting.”
Alicia saw him shiver and she took his hand.
“You're freezing. You're still not healthy enough to stay outside for such a long time. Now go to bed and I’ll bring you something warm to eat. Then, since they removed your stitches, later you could try to take a hot shower before you go to sleep. Wait here, I'll be back soon.”
Guy dutifully obeyed: it had been an exciting morning, but now he felt terribly tired and cold.
When Alicia put the lunch tray in front of him, Guy realized that he was even more hungry than usual.
The doctor looked at him eating with appetite, while she just nibbled a piece of bread, too nervous to be hungry. She didn’t know how Guy would react to the news that she was bringing, and she was afraid to ruin that moment of serenity.
She was tempted to postpone their talk to the next day, but she knew that it would only be a postponement of the inevitable.
Gisborne looked at her.
“What's up, lady Alicia?”
The woman smiled because of that old-fashioned title, then she returned serious.
“Today was actually my free day, and I went to the castle.”
Guy focused his attention on her.
“To look for the sheriff’s dagger?”
Guy's heart accelerated its beats.
“And did you find it?”
Without saying anything, Alicia took out a bundle from her bag and laid it on the bed, carefully opening it.
Guy stared at the object that was in front of him: it was corroded by rust and rendered fragile by years, but it was clearly a broken dagger.
Gisborne touched it with a finger.
“It was really there. Then I'm not crazy.”
“Looks like you are not. Even if I don’t know how this is possible. There was also this in the niche.” Alicia handed him a smaller object, closed in a padded box.
"Later I have to bring them back to the castle, they will put them into a museum, but I wanted to show them to you.”
Guy opened the small box and took the ring with two fingers, almost with reverence. Alicia saw his eyes glistening with tears.
Gisborne looked at her and he gave her a trembling smile.
"This was my mother’s ring, the only thing I had left of her. I didn’t remember hiding it there...” He touched the faded scar beneath his cheekbone. “Do you see this scar? It was this ring to leave it on my face, after I put it on Marian's finger to force her to marry me...”
“And it didn’t go well, I see...”
“She's never been mine. But I only realized it too late... Only after I destroyed her.”
“I didn’t want to upset you. I'm sorry.”
Guy shook his head.
“Don’t apologize. I have created this sorrow with my own hands, it is only right that I should bear its burden. It's always with me, it never leaves me. It's just that I didn’t expect to see my mother's ring again.”
“I'll have to bring it back to the castle, Guy.”
“Why? It's mine.”
“We can’t prove that it belongs to you, no one would believe what happened to you. For the law it’s an archaeological find, we can’t keep it. But they assured me that they will put it in a museum and they will keep it with care.”
“I also struggle to believe what happened to me. What is a museum?”
Alicia explained it in a few words, and Guy returned the ring to her reluctantly, after kissing it one last time.
“When they put it in this museum... can I go to look at it, every now and then?”
“As often as you want, I promise you.”
“Then go. Bring it there before it becomes too difficult for me to let it go.”
The doctor sighed.
“Do you want me to keep you company tonight?”
Guy shook his head. He looked down and his hair covered his face, like a curtain, but Alicia could easily guess the presence of tears hidden behind those ruffled locks.
She hugged him impulsively, and she held him tight for a few seconds, then she brushed his forehead with a maternal kiss, and let him go.
“Listen to me, Guy: now go and take a hot shower, then eat one of the chocolate tablets I gave you, and go to bed without thinking of anything. We will face everything together in the coming days, but now you need to rest. Sleep well and remember that you are not alone.”
Guy took a deep breath, straightened his back and looked into her eyes, struggling to smile.
“That seems a good plan to me. Especially the chocolate part.”
The woman caressed his cheek with tenderness.
“I'll try to come back later, but I can’t guarantee it, this afternoon I will have some chores to do. But if you need me, tell the nurse and she will contact me right away.”
“Will she send you a messenger?”
“No, she'll use the phone. I'll explain you how it works in the next few days.”
The doctor walked to the door, but before she could leave the room, Guy called her.
“Lady Alicia! Thank you. Thank you for believing me.”
The woman smiled, moved.
"If you want to thank me, don’t be so formal, love. Just call me Alicia, okay?”
“All right... Alicia.”
Chapter 8: My Place in This World
Guy could feel the wind raging around him, but its frosty fingers didn’t touch him, as if there was an invisible veil between him and the rest of the world, separating him from the rest.
He was up on top of one of the castle towers, and he was waiting.
A yellow dot appeared on the horizon, flying over the villages, and, even from that distance, Guy could almost see the peasants of Locksley, of Knighton, and of Clun, raising their heads from their work in the fields to watch it pass . Every time it was flying over a village, the helicopter flew lower and Robin and his gang leaned out of its side door to throw out coins and supplies.
“Always the usual show-off,” Guy said, his mouth curved in an amused smile.
That scream at his back, so familiar, made him shudder.
Guy turned his gaze away from the helicopter, and he turned slowly, terrified, but ready to fight.
The sheriff was standing in front of him with his hawk on his wrist.
“You're a traitor, Gisborne. I raised you, I lifted you from the road mud, and are you ready to betray me like that? You were almost like a son for me, and instead you rebelled. Everything for that woman who is not even yours. You have never listened to me, Gizzy: women are like lepers and you should keep away from them.”
“Don’t talk about her.”
“You can’t have her. You never had a hope. You should have caught her, forced her, and in the end she would have obeyed you. This is how you deal with rabid dogs. I did so with you.”
“But this dog has bitten you, in the end.”
“And I killed him.”
Guy looked at the landscape that he could see from the top of the tower: the Nottingham he remembered mixed with the city of the future, with its black streets and its horseless wagons.
“But I'm still alive and you're just dust.”
“Do you think this is enough to make you free? Do you think you can get rid of me?”
"You've been dead for eight centuries, what can you do to me, now?"
“I'm in your heart. I am the evil that nests within you, the fault that will drag you to hell. You did horrible things, Gizzy, what would they think of you when they find out?”
“I didn’t want to! You were the one who made me do them!”
“But it was also convenient for you to have the power. To obey and then saying that it was my fault was easier, isn’t it? It was a convenient way to get rid of your conscience, but you did those things. You killed your leper!”
Guy turned his back to him and looked at the approaching helicopter.
“I don’t want to listen to you. Stop poisoning my heart.”
He reached out to the sky: he didn’t want to stay there with Vaisey, he wanted Robin to save him from that situation. He could see Robin sitting in the pilot's seat with Archer and Allan beside him, confident and smiling, and the others in the back, all together, a family full of warmth.
“Come and get me! Take me with you!” He shouted and the helicopter moved toward him, filling his heart with hope.
Guy stood on the parapet of the tower, raising his hands. Robin would grab him and bring him to safety, away from danger.
Then Vaisey launched the hawk and the bird of prey flew high in the sky, becoming bigger and bigger. When he reached the helicopter, he was now so huge that he could grab it with a claw.
He did so, grasping it in flight, like a pigeon, crushing the aircraft and all that it contained, then he opened his claws and dropped the twisted scrap of metal to the ground.
Guy looked at the scene with horror, then, just a moment later, the sheriff pushed him into the void.
He landed on the floor with a thud, pulling a pillow and a blanket with him, and, a moment later, Robin Hood's book hit him on his head and fell to the ground in front of him. Guy remained silent for a moment, panting with terror.
"It was a nightmare..." He whispered.
The drawing of the archer dressed in green stared at him from the cover of the book and seemed to laugh at him.
The real Robin would have done it for sure, Guy thought, as he got up and sat on the floor. The fall had been painful and probably he got some new bruises, but he knew that he wasn’t really hurt.
The dream, however, had left him with a sense of terror and disgust for himself. The sheriff's words had been as bad as ever, he was just trying to hurt him, but how could Guy deny them?
He had done those things. He had killed Marian.
The doctors and nurses in the hospital were all kind to him, but how would they treat him if they had seen him work for Vaisey? How could they accept what he had done for the sheriff?
Those people were dedicated to saving lives, how could they tolerate a man who had killed, mutilated and starved other people just because it was his job?
He picked up the book and put it in his lap, opening it to the illustration of Guy of Gisborne. He looked at the cruel traits of Robin Hood's enemy, his fierce expression, contorted by hatred, and he thought that even that representation was better than him. That enemy, at least, was consistent in his cruelty, embraced his wickedness and glorified it.
He, however, had obeyed passively, without wondering whether what he was doing was right or not, because it was simpler. It was easy to obey and think that it wasn’t his fault because the sheriff was giving orders, too easy to forget that it was his hand that killed and hurt people.
Guy closed his eyes with a sigh, leaning his back on the side of the bed and hugging his knees.
That position reminded him of the time he had spent in the dungeons of the castle, waiting to be executed by his sister's hand. Then, he had spent his days in the darkness, sitting in a corner with his back resting on the bars of the cell, alone, hated and forgotten by everyone.
When they told him that he was going to be executed, he had been afraid, then he had thought that death wouldn’t change anything; he was destined to hell and he was already there.
It had been Meg who shook him from that apathy. Meg, the innocent and determined girl who had risked everything to save his life and eventually lost her own.
Another victim of his mistakes.
Remembering her was sweet and painful in the same way.
Like a falling star, Meg had crossed his life, illuminating it for a moment, enough to show him the right path.
Before she died, she had asked him for a kiss and he didn’t want to give it to her. He couldn’t contaminate her innocence with his black soul, he wasn’t worthy of being the subject of that first, tender love, but in the end he had granted her wish, and he had touched her lips with the same reverence that he could have reserved for a sacred relic.
She was just an innocent girl and that chaste kiss had made her happy. Meg had slipped into death smiling, serene in his arms.
She wasn’t in the book, her memory had disappeared with her death because she wasn’t important to Robin Hood's gang. Meg hadn’t shared adventures with them, she wasn’t the woman of one of the heroes, she wasn’t part of the story.
She was just a young woman, a pure soul who had offered some comfort to a sinner, and the world had forgotten about her.
“You were important. I remember you...” Guy whispered. “...and I'll always do.”
He closed the book and got up from the floor, collecting the blanket and the pillow to hide every trace of that humiliating fall.
He decided that he shouldn’t listen to the sheriff's words, no matter how true they could sound.
Vaisey was a devil and his only pleasure was to hurt others, but Guy wouldn’t let him.
He was dead, dust scattered in the wind, and he would no longer hurt anyone.
Guy opened the small wardrobe in the corner of the room and took clean clothes, marveling once again of the apparent abundance of that time. Alicia had brought him another black gym suit identical to the first one, several t-shirts, underwear and other clothes he could wear when he went to sleep.
When he lived at the castle, only noble and wealthy families had more than one or two different clothes, the others, the village peasants, always wore the same dress or tunic if they were so lucky to have a decent one.
He had always preferred to change at least his shirt when he sweated or when he rode for a long time in the dust of the road. At Locksley, he had a pair of spare jackets to alternate when the one he was wearing was too dirty. The servants, he knew, often criticized him for what they considered the whim of a nobleman and they grumbled when they thought he didn’t hear them. Their mood got even worse when Guy ordered them to warm up the water for a bath, thinking that he bathed too often, forcing them to do so much work.
Instead, eight centuries later, possessing many clothes was normal for anyone, and if he wanted to bathe, it wasn’t necessary to disturb reluctant servants.
That, Guy thought, was a pleasant side of the twenty-first century.
He opened the shower faucet and let the water run, and he took off the clothes he had used to sleep, pausing to look at his figure in the mirror.
He was still pale and too thin, and the scar on his belly was a bright red sign, perfectly visible on his white skin. He couldn’t see his back, but he knew that the other two scars had to have more or less the same unpleasant look.
Guy brushed the scar with a finger, just touching it. He remembered the terrible pain that had pierced him when Vaisey had ran him through with the sword, and how that blow had taken his breath away.
He had barely felt Isabella's blow, in comparison, her blade sinking into a body already paralyzed by pain.
His legs had suddenly given way and he had collapsed to the ground, unable to get up. It had been that weakness to make him realize that it was over, that it was a deadly wound and that he wouldn’t see a new day.
But a prodigious event had saved his life, though Guy couldn’t understand why that miracle had happened to him.
There must be a reason for that. There must be some reason why I'm here.
He went into the shower, closing his eyes as the hot water flowed on his body and face, washing away the last traces of the nightmare.
Vaisey had failed to kill him, and he shouldn’t allow his malignity to hurt him. Perhaps his words were true and Guy's conscience was sullied by many sins that couldn’t be washed away, but those evil actions belonged to the past and he had a new future ahead of him.
His life had been saved, and it was a precious gift that he shouldn’t waste. Guy swore to himself that he would search for a purpose, a reason to be worthy of that miracle.
To do this, he had to learn to know this new world that was so different from his own, and he had to adapt to live in it, even if it wasn’t going to be easy.
He passed his hand over his face to push his wet hair back and he looked at the plastic bottles lined up on a shelf. He tried to remember which of those substances had to be used to wash the body and which on was for the hair, and he squeezed the shampoo bottle, pouring some of it on his hand.
He smelled that colored liquid before putting it on his hair, and he thought that such a substance, in his Nottingham, would only be suitable for a wealthy nobleman. Even the material of the bottle, they called it ‘plastic’, was amazing and it was used in many different ways, but, just like the clothes, at that time it seemed to be incredibly common.
Guy finished washing, lingering under the stream of warm water only for the pleasure of doing so, then he wrapped himself in a soft towel and he used another one to rub his hair before getting dressed.
This time, he had chosen a blue shirt to wear under his black tracksuit and it seemed strange to him to wear a garment of such a bright and brilliant color.
He looked different from the Guy of Gisborne who had worked for the sheriff and he thought that he probably was different. To die and to return to life had changed him, even though he was not sure he understood how.
For the better, I hope. Also because becoming worse than I was would be difficult.
He went back to the room, and sat on the bed, then he got up again to look out the window. His room overlooked on an inner courtyard and he could only see the windows of the other wing of the building, almost all of them dark because it was still night-time.
Perhaps he should go back to sleep, he thought, but in the last few days he had slept so much that he now wasn’t sleepy at all, and then he was afraid that he could dream Vaisey again.
He looked at the book resting on the bedside table, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of the night reading the adventurous stories of Robin Hood's gang, not when he missed them so much.
He found himself walking back and forth in the room, and that movement made him remember the days he had spent in the dungeons when he couldn’t sleep and he had nothing else to do except wandering without purpose in the narrow space of his cell.
He glanced at the door and realized that this time he wasn’t locked in a prison. Nobody had ever forbidden him to leave his room, if not his own fears.
He approached the door and put his hand on the handle, then he pulled it toward him and stepped past the threshold.
The corridor was desert at that hour of the night and Guy looked around, uncomfortable, expecting to be stopped and sent back to his room.
A nurse passed by, coming out of one of the other rooms, and she gave him an amazed look.
“It’s everything all right, Guy? You can’t sleep?”
“No, I'm not sleepy.”
The girl smiled.
“I can believe that! You have done nothing but sleeping in the last few days,” she said cheerfully, “I'm not surprised at you being awake, now. But it's strange to see you out of your room, usually you burrow in there all day long.”
“I wanted to see what's out here.”
The nurse saw the light of a call turning on, and she apologized to Guy.
“I have to go. Feel free to explore the surroundings, but don’t make noise, the other patients are sleeping. And remember that if you need me, I'm around here.”
The girl went away quickly and Guy looked at her until she was gone.
Guy took a few steps down the corridor, looking at the closed doors of the other rooms. From one of them came a groan, followed by a desperate cry. A voice sobbed that he wanted to go away from there, he wanted to go home.
Gisborne listened to it for a moment, then he walked away, pensive. Until then, he had never thought of the people who were in the other rooms, he had never stopped thinking that he wasn’t the only one who had been injured, and that behind those doors there were real people, suffering for some reason.
That hospital, which seemed a safe haven and a welcoming place to him, for others was a tremendous place, a place they wanted to escape, a place of pain and torment.
With a sigh, he moved away from that door.
He remembered Alicia's words and he reached the window at the far end of the corridor, wondering if he would be able to see one of the wagons without horses.
He waited for a while, looking out the window: it was night, but the road was lit up by high poles with a lamp on their top, and occasionally a car passed, with the lights on.
Guy looked at the cars, astonished at the idea that a vehicle could go so fast without being towed by horses. It was definitely a useful and important invention, but he missed the sound of the hooves on the pavement, the neighs coming from the stables and the smell of the horses, which once pervaded every place inhabited by man and which now was completely absent.
An ambulance passed, sparkling with colored lights and faster than the other cars, breaking the silence of the night with a sound similar to the cry of a banshee, and Guy looked at it, no longer frightened.
It was a new, completely new world, and he wasn’t crazy, now he knew for sure, but he realized that if he had been mad, things would have been simpler, and that the most difficult times were still to come.
To find his purpose in that life that had been donated to him, Guy had to learn to live in this time, to make up for eight centuries of oblivion as quickly as possible.
He stepped away from the window and he went back down the corridor, looking around and trying to figure out what was yet unknown to him, to ask for explanations to Alicia or Dr. Jack later.
He came to a room that contained some tables and some chairs lined up against the wall. In a corner, on a small table, there were some jugs and glasses, and there were two strange appliances close to it, similar to small wardrobes with buttons and lights on them. One of them had a transparent wall and, inside it, Guy recognized the chocolate bars that Alicia gave to him, but it seemed that there was no way to take them.
In the other corner of the room, hanging high on the wall, there was one of those luminous panels that showed moving images. When he had followed Jack Robinson on the roof to see the helicopter, in the corridors and on the desk of the nurses, Guy had seen some of them working, but that one was turned off.
Guy approached, looking at the black and still surface of the screen and he wondered how it worked.
He had been there for a while, when the nurse he had met earlier entered the room together with a colleague.
“Oh, you're here, Guy! I see you found the best place in the ward.”
Gisborne approached, a little puzzled.
The girl took one of the jugs and poured herself a cup of coffee, then filled one for her colleague and one for Guy.
“When you want to drink something warm, you can come here to take tea or coffee from these kettles. You just have to be careful not to burn yourself: sometimes it can be very hot.”
“And what about that? How do you open it?” Guy pointed at the snack food vending machine, and the girl giggled.
“You need some coins for that.” She turned to her colleague. “Hey, John, why don’t you buy us something, so we can show Guy how it works?”
The other nurse burst into a jovial laugh.
“Confess that you just want to scrounge a snack.”
The girl shrugged innocently, and John put his hand in his pocket, resigned, fumbling in search of coins.
Gisborne carefully observed the steps needed to use the distributor, asking for some explanation to make sure he understood it well.
The two nurses ended drinking their coffee, chatting cheerfully, then the girl smiled at Guy.
“We need to get back to work now, do you need anything?”
Gisborne pointed at the TV.
“How does that work?”
John recovered the remote control that was on a shelf next to the TV and used it to turn it on, then he handed it to Guy.
“Too long to explain, but have fun finding out by yourself.”
The two nurses came out of the room together and they walked along the corridor. As soon as they were far enough, John turned to his colleague.
“Was he the guy who believes to be a medieval knight?”
The girl giggled.
“Just him. Adorable, but completely crazy. It was strange too see him wandering around tonight, usually he is always staying into his room.”
“At least this one seems to be quiet... Have I ever told you about the patient who claimed to be the reincarnation of Tutankhamon?”
“No, what did he do?”
“He kept stealing bandages from the dressing trolley, saying that he needed them for his mummification!”
Chapter 9: The First 30 Days of a New Life
Jack Robinson smiled at her colleague, slightly uncomfortable.
“Do you believe him? Seriously?”
“I know, it's crazy, but...”
“Come on, you can’t really believe he comes from the Middle Ages. I know you're fond of him and you would like to help him, but you shouldn’t lose touch with reality.”
“He told me where to find some objects that had been hidden in a secret niche in the dungeons of the castle for over eight hundred years.”
“Maybe he put them there. Wasn’t he right there when we rescued him?”
“The archaeologist who opened the niche said that it had been untouched for centuries.”
"Maybe Guy found out some old documents that said where to find it, a sort of treasure map.”
“How do you explain this?” Alicia pulled a bundle of sheets from a folder and passed it to her colleague.
“I've done more in-depth examinations on him. Look, he's not immune to many of the diseases that we have vaccines for, while we have found antibodies against leprosy in his blood.”
Jack looked at her, surprised.
“Why did you have to test him for leprosy?!”
"Because he told me that his father had come back from war, and then he was banned as a leper. Guy is immune to the disease, but to develop those antibodies he must have been exposed to it.”
“It's not a proof, anyway. He could simply have been on a trip in one of the countries where the disease is still present. It’s no doubt more plausible than the idea that a man can travel in time.”
“I also checked his teeth: he has no fillings or traces of modern treatments.”
“Then he is a very lucky man. Even a relative of my mother died at ninety years with perfectly healthy teeth without having ever set foot in a dental studio in her life.”
"Anyway, I don’t think he's crazy. You talked to him, you can see that his speeches have a logical sense, and that what he tells us always maintains some consistency with what he had said in the past. He has never changed his version or invented different details depending on the moment.”
“This is true. It will certainly be an interesting case for our colleagues in the psychiatric ward.”
“No! Guy must stay here.”
“Alicia, that man believes he came from the Middle Ages...”
“That's true, but for the rest his mind is perfectly sane. Perhaps he is really from the past, or he has memories of a previous life, or maybe he is just an history enthusiast who has suffered partial amnesia, but he can adapt to a normal life, he can learn the things that he doesn’t know and he is determined to do so. What would happen to him if they think he isn’t in full possession of his faculties? If they shut him up in some mental institution, I don’t think he could bear it.”
Jack Robinson looked at his colleague: Dr. Little was always very serious and professional, and it was strange for him to see that she cared so much for a patient that she ignored logic.
Jack had to admit that he had been involved with Guy of Gisborne's case too, and he had often found himself indulging the patient in ways that for others would look like just as the demands of a crazy man.
“I think that we can wait for the moment. It is understandable to be confused after such a severe trauma, we will see how is the situation in a few weeks. But if we can’t find a relative who can be responsible for him, it will be much more complicated.”
Alicia thanked him with a smile. His colleague was giving her some time to prepare Guy, and to teach him everything he could learn about the modern world so that he could have a normal life.
“Do you want to come and visit him?”
“Not today. Dr. Track will return to London tomorrow and we have the last meeting with the rescue team to take stock of this experience.”
“I'll go and say goodbye to him later, then. It looks almost unbelievable... it’s been a month already...”
Guy closed the book he was reading, with a sigh.
That text narrated the story of humanity, starting from ancient times to get to the present and he was trying to figure out what had happened to the world in the eight centuries that he had lost.
The thing that confused him was to see that even the historical events he had experienced in person were treated in such a superficial and unclear way that he struggled to recognize them. And if the truth had been altered so much, Guy wondered how much he could trust those informations. One thing was certain, however: humanity had not stopped fighting new wars and seemed to have found more and more effective methods of killing people.
That had not changed at all since his time, and of course the sheriff would have loved some of those new lethal weapons.
He put the book on the floor beside him and leaned back against the wall, wrapping himself in the jacket that Dr. Alicia had brought him a few days earlier.
On the roof of the hospital it was cold, but Guy liked to take refuge there when he wanted to stay alone for a while. In the beginning he had followed the same path he had done with Jack Robinson when they went to see the helicopter. Guy had returned to the landing platform a couple of times, but then he had realized that his presence was an obstacle to the rescue team, and he had searched for another place from which he could watch the aircraft take off, without disturbing anyone.
He had found access to the roof of another wing of the hospital and he had discovered that huge terrace that was used only occasionally by doctors and nurses during the breaks. From there, he had a perfect view of both the helicopter and the city.
From what Guy could see from there, Nottingham was completely different from the city he remembered, bigger, with all those dark roads dotted with cars and modern buildings instead of peasants’ huts. There were much less fields and trees and, at night, the city was all glittering with lights. Even the castle was no longer the one of his time, but a more recent building, and Guy wondered if there was anything left of the old Nottingham, besides him.
The helicopter's noise filled the air and Guy approached the parapet to watch it leave.
To see that metal object that was able to rise in the air and to move at that speed still seemed like a miracle to him.
That modern world was still frightening and filling him with wonder at the same time.
If I could go back, would I do it?
He wasn’t sure he had an answer to that question. Learning and understanding all those new things was a difficult and frightening task, and Guy wasn’t sure he could ever succeed, but in the time he had spent in the twenty-first century, he had become accustomed to the advantages of that time.
Returning to the tough life of the Nottingham of the past would be difficult, now.
In the present, people were less dangerous, more kind, and even when competing with each other, discussions and fights rarely degenerated into violence. In fact, nobody carried swords and daggers with them and only very few people went around carrying weapons.
In his Nottingham it would be unthinkable for a knight not to have his sword with him, and Guy still missed it. Without a weapon he was too vulnerable, yet he had rarely had the opportunity to feel so safe.
At the castle he had to be always careful and ready to defend himself because even the slightest distraction could cost him his life. There were always rivals ready to usurp his place, as he himself had done with the old Master at Arms, enemies to face, revenges… He always had to be ready to defend himself.
Now, instead, he could sleep quietly, knowing that no one would try to cut his throat during his sleep.
Perhaps he was becoming too confident and, if he ever had to go back in his time, this weakness could cost him his life, but it was nice not to be constantly forced to watch his back. If only he didn’t feel so alone...
A chilly gust of wind made him shiver, and reluctantly Guy picked up the book from the ground and went back inside.
Alicia was waiting for him in front of the door of his room, and smiled at seeing him.
“Were you on the roof again?”
“Sometimes the ward seems too loud.”
"And then to find some silence it seems perfectly logical to go and listen to the sound of a helicopter that takes off.”
“It's a different kind of noise.”
“I know, I was joking, I understand what you mean.” She glanced at the book in Guy's hands. “Are you studying history?”
Gisborne glanced at the book.
“You look a bit dispirited, are you feeling well?”
“Alicia, what is going to happen to me?”
“What do you mean?”
"My wounds are almost completely healed, it makes no sense that I spend the days without doing anything. I've always had to earn the necessary to live with my own efforts, but now I don’t know how to do it. I don’t like to depend on the charity of others.”
“You're doing your best, Guy. You're doing so much to learn the things you don’t know...”
“But it's never enough! For every new thing I can understand, there are at least ten that I find incomprehensible! I spend all day observing, reading, trying to understand, yet I always feel like an imbecile.”
“But it's not true at all!”
“Do you think I don’t notice how people look at me when I ask for something that is obvious to them? When I was little, in our village there was a poor idiot who had been trampled by a horse during childhood. He had survived, but he was not even able to use the latrine on his own, and anyone who saw him would look at him with pity, as if they thought that it would be better to die rather than to live in those conditions.” Guy sighed. “Now people look at me with the same kind of look...”
The woman put a hand on his arm and squeezed it slightly.
“We know that it’s not like that. People can’t fully understand your situation, you have to admit it is unique.”
“I struggle to believe it myself.”
“Don’t overdo, things will settle in one way or another.”
Guy sat on the bed with a sigh, massaging his temples.
“I hope so.”
“Do you have a headache?”
“It has been happening often to me, lately.”
Alicia looked at him, a little worried, thinking that he was still too pale and that he looked tired.
“I think you're right, you know? By now your health is much improved, yet you are always stuck here in the hospital, and you do nothing all day but trying to learn and remember new things. I'm not surprised that you feel discouraged and under pressure, it often happened to me too when I was studying medicine.”
Gisborne looked at her.
“I did nothing but studying and I had the impression that I would never remember what I was trying to learn, and that I would never be able to put into practice the things I learned. I was away from home for the first time, I felt alone, and I was convinced that I would fail, that I would never become a good doctor. Then I was always tired because I was studying until late and I had to get up early to practice in the hospital. I had come to a point where I always had stomach ache and I cried for nothing. One day I had almost decided to give up everything and abandon my studies.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No. And do you know why?”
Guy looked at her, waiting for her to continue.
"That day I had been studying the same page for a while and I couldn’t remember a single word of it, I was nervous and frustrated, and at some point I closed the book and I decided to give up. I took my purse and got out of my room without having the faintest idea of what I could do in my life if I couldn’t be a doctor. I wandered around the city for a while, without a real destination and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a fair: I don’t know what they were celebrating, but it didn’t matter much... There were stalls selling candy, music, games and competitions. People were cheerful, carefree, with no other thought than deciding what to eat or what game to play. At another moment I wouldn’t even have stopped to look at the fair: I was always in a hurry and I had the idea that every moment I didn’t use to study was wasted time, but that day I was convinced that I wouldn’t have a future anymore and so I had all the free time in the world. I bought some sweets and I ate them wandering through the crowd, then I danced to the sound of the music, spending the few coins I had to break a pyramid of jars with a ball of rags and for an entire afternoon I just thought about having fun.”
"And then in the evening I returned to my room, tired but much more serene, and it was only then that I realized that I actually remembered very well the page that I had struggled so hard to learn that morning. I was just so tense and discouraged that I had only convinced myself that I would fail, but I just had to learn to relax more and to rest when I needed it.”
Alicia smiled at Guy and stroked his cheek.
"Now I'll get you a painkiller for your headache, then I want you to lie down without thinking of anything. You are tired and in the last few days you have overexerted yourself; the night shift nurse told me that you aren’t sleeping much.”
"When I go to bed, I constantly think of what I have learned during the day, I try to repeat it so that I can’t forget anything, and eventually I can’t sleep anymore.”
“What did you like when you lived in the castle? Was there anything that relaxed you?”
Guy thought ironically that with the sheriff nearby he could never relax, then he realized that there was something.
“Horses. When I was too nervous or in a bad mood, I liked grooming my stallion.”
“Then when you go to sleep try to remember what you did when you groomed your horse, try to remember the smells and the sounds, to feel his mane under your fingers... Don’t think about anything, just imagine your horse and relax.”
“Good. You'll see: tomorrow you will feel better.”
Guy turned in his sleep, hugging the pillow and he wrapped himself in the blanket with a sigh. Dr. Little's suggestion had worked, or perhaps Gisborne was so tired that it wouldn’t have made much difference.
When he went to bed, Guy had tried to think of nothing and to remember his horse.
He had closed his eyes, trying to imagine the stallion in every detail, from the silky tail to the leather straps crossed on his forehead. Guy could almost feel the warmth of his body, the strength of the muscles, ready to push the elegant legs of the animal, and the noises he made, the soft and light neigh that the stallion uttered in recognition of his master when Guy entered the stable. That scene was so realistic and familiar that Guy could almost smell the characteristic odor of the stables and hear the buzzing of the flies.
He had slipped into sleep almost immediately, and for once his dreams had been serene, smelling of hay and caressed by the breeze blowing in the fields of Locksley.
When he woke up, the sun was already high and, as Alicia had said, he felt better.
He got up from the bed, stretching his back, and he noticed that someone had left, on the chair next to the bed, clothes different than the ones he usually wore. The trousers were still black, but the fabric was less soft and apparently more durable than the fabric of his usual gym suit; instead of the black sweatshirt there was a wool sweater of the same color, rather warm.
Guy wondered why they gave him those new clothes, but he wore them anyways. He thought that those more adherent trousers, though they were of a different material, reminded him somehow of the leathers he used to wear when he lived in his time.
It seemed absurd to him that only a month has passed since then. Sometimes he had the impression that his life at the castle was a completely different life, so far that it looked like a dream.
Will you forget about me, Guy?
Marian's voice was like an echo in his mind and Gisborne shook his head.
“No, I could never forget you,” he whispered.
Gisborne turned to the door with a start. Alicia Little stood on the door and looked at him, smiling.
“You look fine. Is the size right?”
“Yes, but why...”
“Get your jacket and come with me.”
Gisborne noticed that the woman didn’t wear her usual white coat, but she was also wearing a warm jacket and a woolen cap.
"I think it's time for you to come out of the hospital, at least for a while. Do you feel like facing the modern world for a few hours?”
Guy thought of the terror he had felt when he first walked through the hospital doors and he had seen the cars and the helicopter for the first time. It seemed a far memory too, by now.
“I think so.”
“What about getting on a car?”
Gisborne looked at her and nodded.
"Since you've explained me how they work, I've often wondered how it would be traveling on a vehicle like that.”
“Well, you're about to find out, I'd say. Shall we go?”
“Where will you take me?”
“I can’t tell you, it's a surprise. But I think you'll like it.”
Chapter 10: Black Storm
The car window, like many things in the 21st century, was controlled by a button. Pushing it on one side, the glass went down, on the other, it went up again.
Guy touched the button and the wind filled the car, ruffling his hair.
Never, not even when he had pursued the outlaws galloping with his horse, he had the feeling of going so fast. Of course it wasn’t possible to drive a wagon at that speed, not even using the county's most valuable horses.
It was both terrifying and incredibly exciting at the same time.
Gisborne turned to look at Alicia, even more surprised to see that the woman was perfectly relaxed while driving the car.
“Is everything all right, Guy?”
“How long would it take to get to York with this vehicle?”
“About a couple of hours.”
“It took almost a full day on horseback... Can this car go faster than this?”
“Yes, but not on this road. See that sign?”
“The round one with a number in the center?”
“Yes. That indicates the maximum speed you can go. If you exceed it, you risk having to pay a fine.”
Guy let out a giggle and Alicia glanced at him.
"I thought that the sheriff never had the idea of putting a limit to the speed of the horses, otherwise he would have done it for sure. You have no idea of the absurd laws he was able to invent in order to get more money from Nottingham's citizens.”
“From what you told me, he had to be a horrible person.”
Guy turned his gaze away, looking out of the window.
“He was a devil. He has destroyed too many lives.”
“Yours too? He was the one who hurt you, wasn’t he?”
Guy became silent, and Alicia regretted asking a question that saddened him. Fortunately, she thought, they had almost arrived.
She turned into a smaller road, and stopped the car in front of a group of buildings surrounded by greenery.
“Here we are,” she said, stretching out a hand to unlock Gisborne's seatbelt. “Pull that handle and push the door to open it.”
Guy fumbled a bit with the handle, but he managed to get off the car, and he looked around, sniffing the air.
“Is this a stable? Do you still have horses even if you don’t need them anymore?”
“They are no longer used as means of transport, but for fun and sport. Our hospital has an agreement with this stable and they organize hippotherapy programs.”
“Working with horses can be useful for many patients, to help them to find their own self-confidence, finding a mental and physical balance, and overcoming traumas of various kinds. I remembered it yesterday, when you told me that you found relaxing grooming your horse.”
“That's why you brought me here? Because you eventually decided that I'm crazy?”
Alicia stared at him, surprised by his wounded expression, and she tried to touch his arm, but Guy flinched, angrily. His reaction didn’t discourage her and Alicia put her hand on his shoulder, with determination.
“Don’t be an idiot, now. If I brought you here it's exactly because I believe you.”
Guy decided to look at her, frowning.
“What do you mean?”
“There are two possibilities, right? Or you've imagined everything, so you're really crazy and you need hippotherapy, or you're telling the truth and then you need it even more.”
“I didn’t lie to you, you saw the dagger!”
“I said that I believe you. That's why I brought you here. You've lost everything you owned, the people you knew, and each of the things and places you were familiar with. And you found yourself in a world that you must learn to know, even in the trivial details. Not to mention that you have been seriously injured and that you almost died. Then, from what you told me, even before all of this, your life has never been easy and you have both suffered and committed actions that have profoundly marked you. Am I wrong?”
Guy thought of Marian, of the red blood that had stained his fingers, and nodded without looking up from the ground.
That was an indelible mark, a stain that he could never wash in another eight centuries.
“No, you are not mistaken,” he whispered.
“See? Anyone would have suffered a trauma even for just one of the things that happened to you, you are being even too brave. You are doing so much to adapt to this time, but you need to loosen the tension a bit or sooner or later you'll suffer a breakdown.”
“So this would be my fair?” Guy asked, referring to Alicia's story of the night before.
“Something like that.” Alicia squeezed his shoulder slightly before letting him go. "You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, but I thought that you'd be curious to see the horses of the future.”
Guy looked at her and he gave her a little smile.
“How are they like? I bet you found the way to make them fly. Or do they spit fire?”
“They're simple horses. Come on, shall we get inside?”
Guy walked down the central corridor of the stable, looking at the horses, each closed in their own stall. That had not changed much since his times: the equipment and the tacks were a bit different and they were made with different materials, but in the end there were not so many differences.
He turned to look at Alicia.
The doctor was talking to a man, probably the manager of that place, and Guy knew they were talking about him and of the reasons why he was there. He hoped that Alicia would only mention the accident without going too far into the details because he wouldn’t bear to see the usual pitiful look even in the eyes of that stranger.
He looked away and looked back at the horses.
Their familiar presence was comforting, he had to admit it, and he wanted to go back riding, to finally do something that he knew and that he was good at.
Almost all of them were calm animals, even too much, he noticed, and he would never have chosen them for his stables, but they were obviously suitable for the purpose they were destined for.
No one of those horses would rear, or would throw their rider, but Guy knew that he would feel silly riding a beast suitable for an inexperienced child.
He went on down the corridor, stopping occasionally to scratch the muzzle of some of the horses, until he found himself in front of the stall of a black horse, completely different from the others.
The stallion was strong and lively, with his muscles flickering under the shiny black coat, as if he was waiting for nothing else but galloping. He resembled Guy’s favorite, dark-coated stallion who had been his faithful companion until he was forced to flee Locksley after being declared outlawed by Prince John.
Guy reached out to the stallion's muzzle and the horse snorted, a little distrustful, before deciding to approach to sniff his fingers.
Gisborne turned to hear Alicia’s voice calling him and, a little bit reluctantly, he stepped away from the black horse to reach the woman and the stranger.
The man turned to him and held out his hand, looking into his eyes.
“My name is Connor Blake, I'm the manager of this center.”
“Guy of Gisborne. But I bet that you already know.”
The other nodded slightly.
“Dr. Little thinks that attending our facilities might help you. What do you think?”
Guy raised his eyebrows, a little surprised.
“Are you asking me? Does my opinion matter?”
Alicia gave him a worried look. She had thought that Guy would be thrilled to be able to interact with the horses, but since they had arrived at the stable, his mood had worsened and his attitude was surly, as if her idea had offended him somehow.
Connor Blake didn’t look offended by Guy's sarcastic answer.
“You are the one who has to decide. If you don’t care about horses, no one can force you to attend our center.”
“I never said I don’t care.”
“So, do you want to try to ride one of them?”
The man smiled and went near one of the stalls.
“Good idea. If it’s the first time, I recommend choosing Rosie: she is very docile and she won’t give you any trouble...”
“No. That one.” Guy pointed at the black stallion. “I want to ride that one.”
Connor Blake stared at him, bewildered.
“That's not one of our therapy horses. It’s not suitable for a beginner.”
“I won’t ride one of those other nags. That one or nothing.”
Guy crossed his arms with an obstinate attitude, and Alicia found herself grinning, amused.
“Connor, let him do it. I’ll take the responsibility.”
Guy took the horse out of the stall, leading him with the bridle and walking beside him. The animal pawed, impatient, and Guy stroked his neck to calm him down. That gesture, he realized, calmed the horse and at the same time relaxed him too.
For the first time, since he had reopened his eyes in a hospital bed, he was doing something familiar to him, moving without wondering whether he was wrong or if he was looking ridiculous.
The saddle and the tacks were a bit different from the ones he was used to, but everything else was the same, and if he closed his eyes, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine he was walking along the road leading to Locksley instead of the large fenced meadow where they had told him to lead the horse.
Suddenly he remembered the incredibly vivid memory of a day, a few years earlier, when he was riding his horse, heading to Knighton to bring a gift to Marian.
That day Robin Hood hadn’t shown up, the sheriff hadn’t tormented him too much, and Guy for a while had felt happy and hopeful as he rode to meet the woman he loved.
And who I’ll love forever.
Marian's memory was like the bite of a wolf, always lurking in his soul and ready to suddenly tear his heart apart.
Guy hurried to mount to send those painful thoughts away, and, without thinking too much, he hit the flanks of the horse with his heels, sending him into a gallop.
Connor Blake visibly winced and paled at the thought of a possible accident, while Alicia worried only for a moment before realizing that Gisborne knew exactly what he was doing and that she had never seen him so sure of himself.
The black stallion devoured the ground, lifting grass and splattering soil every time he hit the ground with the hooves, fast and powerful as a miniature storm and equally unstoppable.
Guy led him without the slightest effort and the horse obeyed his commands without hesitation, as if he'd known him forever. Gisborne leaned forward on the saddle and the horse accelerated his pace, increasing the speed again.
Alicia glanced at Connor Blake and laughed as she saw his astounded expression. She felt so excited and full of pride that she found tears in her eyes.
Much later, Guy stopped the horse to let him rest, and he unmounted, smiling, his face flushed after galloping so fast. The manager of the horse center, now confident that the black horse was in capable hands, had already returned to his office to warm himself up with a cup of hot tea.
“Maybe you were right,” Guy said, coming to meet Alicia. "I didn’t realize how much I had missed riding. Yet it hasn’t been so long since the last time I did it... But it looks like a whole life.”
Alicia hugged him impulsively, and Guy didn’t pull back, holding her in his arms too.
“I'm glad you liked it, dear. I was afraid I had offended you.”
Gisborne stepped back with a small sigh and gave a rueful look at her.
“I’ve been terribly rude earlier, wasn’t I?”
Guy took the horse to his stall, leading him by the bridle, and Alicia followed him.
The doctor smiled at Guy, amused.
“A bit. But Connor will not resent it too much, he is used to deal with our most difficult patients.”
Guy grinned as he began to groom the horse.
“And am I?”
“Difficult? Every once in a while, but you are usually a darling.”
Gisborne looked at her.
“Darling? I think it's the first time anyone defines me like this. If Robin could hear you, he’d make fun of me for months." Guy said, amused, then he remembered that obviously Robin couldn’t hear her because he had been dead for over eight centuries, and his smile faded.
He continued to brush the horse's mane, sadly.
Alicia touched his arm.
“You're missing them, right? You miss your loved ones.”
“Yes. Maybe it's silly... After all I've been Robin's friend for just a short time, after a whole lifetime of hatred, Allan might haven’t been killed if I hadn’t ruined his life, and the others barely accepted me when I joined Robin’s gang... My sister tried to kill me and Archer, the brother who I share with Robin, I had just met him... And yet I miss them. All of them.”
“It's not silly, it's normal.”
“If it were the opposite, if it was one of them to be here and not me, I doubt someone would be sad for me. Maybe Robin, though it would be stupid of him, but everyone else would probably be happy to know I've been dead for centuries and centuries.”
“Why should they?”
“Because I deserve it.”
Alicia looked at him. Guy had spoken quietly, perfectly convinced of his words.
“I don’t believe it. From what I could see, you are a good person.”
“Marian said the same thing to me.”
“Wasn’t it true?”
“I killed her. I ran her through with my sword because she told me she loved Robin Hood. Do you still believe I deserve forgiveness?”
Alicia winced, unable to find anything to answer.
Guy glanced at her, then he turned his gaze away, staring at the mane of the horse.
“What's up? Did you think I was a poor innocent to take care of? I have told you since the beginning that I don’t deserve the miracle that has happened to me. I wasn’t kidding and I didn’t look for your compassion, it was the truth. Why do you think that in the books about Robin Hood, I am always the bad guy, the enemy to defeat without mercy? Because it’s true: I am a murderer, and I should have been the one dead for eight centuries.”
Alicia approached him and put a hand on his back. She felt him stiffening at her touch, but Guy didn’t move away.
“Look at me.”
Gisborne shook his head weakly, and Alicia took him by the arm, forcing him to turn.
“Do you think it's the first time I'm dealing with a murderer? I am a doctor, I take care of all the patients who come to my ward and not all of them are good people. But I think you are.”
“Didn’t you hear what I told you? I killed the woman I love.”
“I heard it, and it's a terrible thing.”
“So how can you say I'm a good person?!”
“Because I see how much pain and remorse you feel for what you have done.”
Guy shook his head.
“It’s not enough. I would give my life a thousand times to go back and change the past, but I can’t. I killed her and I will never forgive myself.”
“But Robin Hood did.”
“Yeah, typical of Robin, always ready to do the noblest thing. I was proud to die fighting for him. While I was on the ground, dying, I hoped that my sacrifice would be enough to atone for my fault, that dying in the same way she had died, could somehow compensate for what I had done... But I'm here and she is still dead!”
Alicia took the brush from his hands and wrapped her hand around his wrist, guiding him to a bench near the black stallion’s stall.
“Come on, let's sit for a few minutes.”
Guy didn’t object, but he sat heavily beside her, and took his face in his hands. Alicia put a hand on his back, massaging him slowly.
“Are you sorry that we saved you?”
Gisborne pondered her question for a moment.
“No. I don’t want to die, even if I don’t deserve to be alive. But every time I do something I like, every time I find myself smiling for some reason, then I think that Marian can no longer do it because of me. She won’t be able to ride anymore, she won’t taste new foods, she’ll never see those vehicles that can fly or arrive to York in such a short time... She won’t see her name printed on books about Robin or get angry when they describe her as a helpless girl... What did I do to deserve the future I denied to Marian? Why was I saved and everyone else weren’t?”
“I don’t think we'll ever find the answer to this question. But I can tell you that I'm glad you're alive.” She took his hand and held it in hers, tenderly. "This hand has hurt people, and a lot, but it can do good things from now on.”
“How? Riding horses and eating chocolate?”
“That too. You are alive, Guy, and this means that you will occasionally enjoy yourself, you will feel happy, you’ll feel pleasure, even if you don’t want. It’s not for these things that you have to feel guilty: they are normal feelings, part of life. It’s right that you feel remorse for your crimes, but to mortify yourself like this won’t be useful to anyone. If you have done evil and repented for that, try to do good. Help those in need, change the lives of those who can’t do it with their own strength.”
“I think that Marian would agree with you, but how? In this time I have no power, no wealth to help the poor...”
“You don’t need to be rich to do good. There are surely many things that you can do and I will help you to find them.”
Alicia stroked his cheek.
“Yes, dear. Try to be serene and everything will be fine.”
“It never happens. Ever since my father left for the war, everything went wrong. I kept repeating to myself that in time the situation would improve and every time I was wrong. Everything went worse, and every time I allowed myself to have some hope, I just ended up getting hurt when I fell into the dust.”
"You were dying and time itself bent to save you. It seems to me that the situation has improved in this case, don’t you think?”
“I guess so." Guy conceded, with the shadow of a smile.
“So let's keep it going. Live, appreciate the precious gift you have received, and don’t torment yourself with remorse if you happen to feel happy. Rather, make sure that others can be happy because of you, don’t you think it would be better?”
“When you speak like this, you remind me of my mother.”
Guy had spoken affectionately, and Alicia smiled at him.
“She wouldn’t want to see you so sad, I'm sure. And neither do I. Do you know, Guy? Seeing you ride a little while ago filled me with joy.”
"Only a month ago you were lying on a table in the operating room and none of us was sure we could save you. At some point, I was pretty sure you would die during surgery, and even the next day we weren’t sure that you would survive the wounds and the symptoms of aconite poisoning. But you did, you got better, and just a few minutes ago you were riding that stallion, full of life, strong and free, as if nothing and no one could stop you. For a doctor, this is the greatest joy.”
“I owe you my life, Alicia.”
“Not only to me, but yes, you are right. I saved your life and that’s why I want you to live it in the best way. I don’t want it to be a burden.”
“What I did is a burden.”
“What you did is the lowest point, you've already begun to climb back on your own and you will continue to do so. I will help you not to fall again.”
The woman put an arm around his shoulders and Guy leaned on her with a sigh.
Alicia pressed her lips on his cheek, then she looked at him, smiling.
"Then, can I tell Connor that we'll be back again?"
Guy nodded, too moved to speak, and the doctor rose from the bench, cheerfully.
“Good, great choice. Now do you feel like eating something?”
“I think it's a good idea.” Guy approved. Riding had made him feel hungry, and although he was a little sore for riding after such a long time spent in bed and resting, he was feeling well.
“Then if you're not too tired, you might have the opportunity to make two persons happy.”
“Who? And how?”
“Do you think you can come to the castle? Or are there too many painful memories in that place?”
“It's not a problem. Why?”
“The guardian of the museum and one of the archaeologists who are working in the crypt would like to see you, to talk to you.”
“They are the two men who have found you and rescued you. They wanted to come to the hospital to meet you, but so far they didn’t have the opportunity and then they were afraid of disturbing you. But I know that Peter can’t wait to talk to you about the life of the twelfth century, to confirm some of his theories, and I think that Jonathan really wants to know how Robin Hood was like.”
“Do they know where I come from? And do they believe it?”
“When I went to look for the dagger, I asked for their help. I don’t know what they believe, but I know they would be very happy to meet you. Do you think you can do it?”
“They didn’t pull back when I was dead, if they want to talk to me it seems the least I can do to thank them. They'll probably end up thinking that I'm crazy or a liar, but it doesn’t matter, I’m still in debt with them.”
“See? I told you that you are a darling,” Alicia said with a laugh. “But come now, let's go to eat. How much fearless do you feel today?”
“What do you mean with ‘fearless’?”
"I know that today is the first time you leave the hospital, and I don’t want you to feel under pressure, but I’d like to take you to lunch in a restaurant near the castle. Maybe you’re not ready for it yet, and there may be too much confusion, but...”
"Alicia," Guy interrupted her, amused, "are you afraid that an inn can be too loud for me? Surely it can’t be worse than the taverns of my Nottingham.”
Chapter 11: The Glittering Tooth
Guy glanced up at the sign of the inn, stared at it for a while, then he turned to Alicia.
“Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem? Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s the oldest inn in Nottingham, in all England, actually.”
Guy shook his head, incredulous.
“The castle no longer exists, yet this old hovel is still standing!”
“Don’t let people hear you call it like that, they wouldn’t like it. It’s a tourist attraction, now.”
“People come from far away to visit it.”
“To visit an inn?”
“Sure. Shall we go inside? I booked a table.”
Alicia made her way into the inn, and Guy followed her, looking around.
“It's completely different from how I remembered it,” he said in a low voice.
“Have you been here already?”
“I've seen it opening, if you want to know. I was there, when the sheriff signed the concession for an inn just outside the castle walls. The owner paid a good deal of gold coins to have the permits to start his business.”
“How was it, then?”
"I told you, a kind of hovel, frequented by knaves of all kinds.”
Guy took the menu and opened it, pretending to look at it to avoid Alicia’s gaze.
“Here, I ruined a man's life,” he confessed in a low voice and the woman looked at him for a moment before replying.
Guy kept his gaze down, and he looked to be ashamed of what he had just said, but Alicia realized that he was expecting a question from her to continue telling that story.
“How did you do that?”
"Allan was one of Robin Hood's comrades, a cheeky thief. One day I surprised him while he was trying to cheat people right here, with one of those ridiculous tricks that could only fool the idiots.”
“Did you arrest him?”
“Yes. He was an outlaw, Robin Hood's companion, and I had discovered him while cheating on the customers of the tavern. The sheriff would have flogged me if I’d let him go.”
“Did you execute him?”
Guy shook his head.
“No. Maybe it would have been better if I did. More right, surely.”
Alicia looked at him, frowning.
“How can it be right to hang someone just because he is a cheat?”
“He wouldn’t have been hanged for that reason, but because he was an outlaw, an accomplice to Robin Hood. The sheriff had decreed that the fight against the outlaws was a real war, and that the sentence was death, without even a process. If I had hanged Allan-a-Dale, I would just have applied the law.”
“Allan-a-Dale? The minstrel?”
Guy looked at her, confused.
“In the legend of Robin Hood, it’s how Allan-a-Dale is described: a wandering minstrel who joins the outlaws’ gang.”
Guy let out an ironic laugh.
“Well, they're wrong. The only times I heard Allan singing was when he was completely drunk, and believe me, the screams of a cat in love were more enjoyable to hear than him.”
“Am I wrong or that outlaw became your friend? When you talk about him, you use the same tone you have when you tell me about Robin.”
Guy nodded briefly.
"Yes, but it would have been better for him if he had kept hating me.”
“Why? What did you do to him?”
"When I arrested him, I ordered to torture him and then I tempted him, I convinced him to work for me, offering him the option of choosing between a painful death and wealth.”
“That's not a choice.”
“I know. However, Allan started working for me. At first he gave me informations, and then he became my assistant when his friends discovered him and kicked him out of the gang... Finally he went back with them, but they never forgot his betrayal. When there was a suspicion on his loyalty, no one believed him. He died thinking that everyone hated him...”
Guy stopped talking and Alicia touched his hand.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t have brought you here. It wasn’t my intention to awaken bad memories.”
Guy shook his head.
"It's not your fault if I have done so many horrible actions. Remorse is the burden I deserve for what I did.”
“I'm still sorry.”
“I am not. I can only talk of my friends with you, without being considered crazy. Remembering them is painful, but at the same time it’s a comfort. When I tell you about the people I love, it's as if they still live, at least for those few moments. Do you know, Alicia? I'm still wondering what’s the sense of all this, if there is a reason why I survived. Sometimes I have the impression that I am still in this world to remember them, to be a witness of their lives.”
“I'm always willing to listen, you know.”
Gisborne smiled at her, grateful, and he pointed at the menu.
“I wonder if Allan would have liked this new version of the inn. Once, there wasn’t so much choice of food, and often there was no choice at all: the inn served the same dishes to everyone, however many of the customers, including Allan, came here mainly for drinking or for the maids. But I think that now they wouldn’t let him play his tricks to cheat people...”
“I don’t think they would allow it, in fact. What do you want to eat?”
“You choose for me, I don’t know many of these ingredients.”
“Is there some food you don’t like?”
“The only important thing is that it’s not like what they served in the castle's dungeons.”
“Why? What did they serve?”
“Moldy bread, full of worms too,” Guy said with a grin.
“Now you're kidding me, right?”
“I'm afraid I’m not. I spent a lot of time there, on both sides of the bars. I can assure with certainty that the food there left much to be desired.”
“They gave you spoiled food?”
“I ate even worse things in my life. Anything you decide to order will be fine.”
Jonathan Archer poured himself a cup of coffee, and drank it slowly. That afternoon there weren’t many visitors at the museum, the day was quiet, and he thought that in those days the job was much more relaxing than his home.
“What a scowl,” Peter Edwards commented, standing at the door. The archaeologist entered the office of the guardian and poured a cup of coffee too. “Is there something wrong?”
“In-laws staying at our house,” the other said, gloomily, and his friend laughed.
"Sometimes I regret not being married, but then I take comfort thinking that at least I don’t have to deal with these situations.”
“Fortunately, they live in another city. But when they come to visit us, I have to be patient. But now let's talk about something more enjoyable: how does the work proceed?”
“We found bones in one of the underground rooms. It had to be a store or cellar of the old castle and it was filled with debris dating from the twelfth or thirteenth century. Probably the building had been damaged by a fire and the ruins of the collapsed parts were stored down there when they rebuilt the castle.
“And you found bones there?”
“Yes, for now we have found the incomplete remains of at least four or five people. One of the skulls is quite special.”
“It's pretty well preserved and it still has all the teeth except one. The curious thing is that instead of the missing tooth there is another tooth not belonging to that same skeleton.”
“An artificial tooth?”
“Something like that.”
"Isn’t it possible that the remains are mixed and that tooth ended up there by chance?”
"It could be, but the curious thing is that this tooth has a precious stone embedded. Probably the man who has lost a tooth had it replaced with another one, decorated to make it more precious.”
“Your job is always interesting. I think the museum will decide to display that skull, and the visitors will definitely like it.”
The two men turned, hearing a knock at the door and they both smiled at Alicia.
“Dr. Little! Did you find out the location of some other hidden treasure?”
“Not today, Mr. Edwards, but if you want, you can ask directly to Guy.”
“Oh! Did you bring him here?!”
“Yes, I thought that you’d like to see him again.”
“Of course!” Jonathan exclaimed. “Where is he now?”
"I told him that I had to tell you that he’s here, and he chose to wait outside. I can understand him: today it’s the first time he leaves the hospital and it’s a nice day for this time of year. I'm not surprised that he wants to take some fresh air.”
Guy sat on a bench and closed his eyes for a few seconds. The sun wasn’t very hot and the temperature of the air a little chilly, but it was still nice to feel the slight warmth of sunlight on his skin.
When he lived in Locksley, he never spent much time inside the manor, and, even when he was at the castle, he was often outdoors for one reason or another. If there was one thing that he missed of his past life was that freedom to go where he wanted, without having to account for any of his movements.
He wondered again what would happen to him. Was it his destiny to never feel at home again? Ever since he had lost his family, his only desire had been to have a family again, a place where he could feel completely safe.
Killing Marian, he had buried that dream forever.
A group of people passed in front of him, headed toward the castle, and Guy pushed away those sad thoughts to look at them. They all looked cheerful and carefree, and they were listening to the words of the man who led them.
Gisborne looked at that man, astonished to see his outfit: the guide was wearing clothes similar to those of his time, he was dressed in green, and carried a bow on his shoulder.
“It's Robin Hood's tour,” a male voice beside him said.
Guy turned with a start and he saw Alicia in the company of two men. He looked at them for a moment as he realized the meaning of the words of the man who had spoken to him.
“That's not Robin Hood: he doesn’t look at all like him.”
“He’s an actor who plays Robin Hood's character to lead people to visit the city,” Alicia explained, amused by the confused look of Guy.
“Tourists love these things,” Jonathan added. “Since it had become a stop of the Robin Hood's tour, the visitors of the museum have increased.”
Guy grinned, thinking what Robin would say if he knew that he was still so loved after so many centuries. Surely he would brag about it, pleased and satisfied with such fame.
“Guy, these are Jonathan Archer and Peter Edwards. They were in the castle crypt when you have been injured.”
Gisborne stood up and put a hand on his heart, with a little bow.
“Sir Jonathan, Sir Peter, I owe my life to you. I'm in debt.”
The other two looked at him, somewhat intimidated by his serious and formal tone, then Jonathan smiled.
“It's nice to see that you are better, you scared me to death.”
“Believe me, I would have gladly avoided it,” Guy said with a small smile.
The guardian glanced at the Robin Hood's tour guide, then he stared back at Guy, without knowing what to say.
Both he and the archaeologist were astonished when they had really found the dagger in the niche indicated by Gisborne, and Jonathan had liked to believe the idea of magically meeting one of the characters in his favorite book, but now he didn’t know what to think.
Guy of Gisborne was really there before them, and he was a real, tangible person, and, unlike their first encounter, this time he was conscious and able to speak.
He looked at him, mentally comparing it with the Guy of Gisborne depicted in the illustrations of the books and he thought that he didn’t look like the fierce ally of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
How could that man with a melancholic look in his eyes be the fierce enemy who oppressed the poor people and tried to kill Robin Hood? The simple and common clothes that Guy was wearing contributed to further dispel that fantasy, making him look even more harmless.
Jonathan was saddened to think that such a young and strong man could have his mind so upset that he believed to be a medieval knight. And then why, of all the possible characters, he identified himself in Guy of Gisborne, a character who everyone despised and who always ended badly, instead of choosing Robin Hood or one of his comrades?
A quick glance at Peter Edwards made him realize that even the archaeologist was thinking more or less the same thing.
“You think I'm crazy, right?” Guy suddenly asked, and raised a hand to silence their denials. “No, don’t deny it, in your place I would also think that. Actually, I believe that too every now and then, but then I don’t think I could have imagined all this, so it must be real. Alicia told me that your work consists of the study of past times, Sir Peter, while you are interested in Robin Hood's story, Sir Jonathan, isn’t it?”
The two men nodded, still a bit hesitant, and Guy looked at them, not at all offended by the doubts he could guess on their faces.
“Ask me what you want, I will try to answer your questions; it seems to me the least I can do, after what you did for me. Then, if my words are just the words of a fool, at least you will have had fun.”
Alicia smiled at his words: it was clear that Guy was doing his best to express his gratitude to the two men and to show kindness. She thought that after such a busy day he had to be exhausted and she regretted a little to have brought him to the castle.
She decided that they wouldn’t stay for a long time, and that she would bring him back to the hospital at the first sign of fatigue, but for the moment she was happy to see that Guy was trying to interact with people who were not part of the hospital staff.
Jonathan was the first to ask a question, a little shyly.
“What the sheriff of Nottingham was like?”
Guy winced to that question, and for a moment he was about to say that he had changed his mind and that he didn’t want to answer, then he thought that those two men had saved him from a certain death even if they didn’t even know him.
“He was an evil person, a devil from hell. He was delighted when he could hurt people and he was able to pull out the worst side of anyone. At his orders, I have committed heinous crimes,” Guy paused, took a deep breath and kept talking. “I don’t know how he did it, but he had the ability to find people's weaknesses to use them in his favor.”
Jonathan nodded, seriously. If Guy of Gisborne was making up his story, he had to be really a good actor to simulate the anguish that appeared in his gaze when he started talking about the sheriff.
"He had to be an imposing man to intimidate people so much.”
Unexpectedly, Guy laughed.
“He was a bald little man, rather disgusting too, to say the truth. He could wash himself once a year, but then he had ridiculous habits like painting the nails of his toes black or tormenting the little birds he had imprisoned in the cages he had in his room.” Guy shook his head with a disgusted expression that made the other three smile. “Not to mention his hideous collection of glittering teeth.”
“What do you mean?” Peter Edwards asked, looking closely at him.
“The sheriff lost a tooth, this one, during a fight with Robin Hood.” Guy pointed at his mouth to show them which was the sheriff's missing tooth. “A few days after the accident, the sheriff had the idea of using someone else's tooth to replace the one he had lost. I don’t know if he had ripped it from some corpse or from a servant, and if I must be honest, I never did anything to find out. The disturbing thing is that he had decorated it with a precious stone. In the end, he had a real collection of teeth, with stones of various colors that he wore alternately, according to his mood.”
Alicia noticed that the archaeologist had paled at Guy's words and that he and the guardian had exchanged a frightened look.
Gisborne also noticed their agitation and gave a questioning look at Alicia.
“Did I say something wrong?”
The woman shrugged. The sheriff's description portrayed a perverse and wicked man, but it didn’t sound so horrible that it could upset two adult men. Peter Edwards at least had to be aware of much worse atrocities that occurred in the course of history.
The archaeologist spoke, pale in his face.
“This thing about jeweled teeth... Was it a fashion? Did other people do it?”
Guy shook his head.
“No, just the sheriff. No one would ever dream of imitating him.”
The archaeologist remained silent for a moment, then he nodded towards the castle.
“Let's go back inside, I have to show you something.”
The air in the dungeons was damp and colder than Alicia had imagined, and the woman wrapped herself in her coat with a shudder. She raised her face to look at Guy who was walking beside her, following the guardian and the archaeologist.
“I shouldn’t let you in here, this part of the dungeons is closed to the public,” Jonathan said, worried.
The archaeologist made a vague gesture with his hand.
“They won’t tell anyone, will you Dr. Little? Guy?”
“Even if I did, I don’t think anyone would believe me,” Guy said with an ironic smile.
They kept walking, and Alicia watched Gisborne, noting that the more they went into the dungeons, the more he seemed to become tense and immersed in his own thoughts.
“It’s all right, Guy?” She asked quietly.
“This place... It hasn’t changed much...”
“This isn’t a good idea, I shouldn’t have taken you here. Let's go back.”
“No, that's fine. I would still see it in my memories. Maybe coming here could be a good thing.”
Alicia took his hand.
“If it gets too hard, we’ll go back, okay?”
“When I came here the last time I was looking for my sister,” he said in a whisper, so only Alicia could hear him. “I fell into her trap, she wanted to get me here and deliver me to the sheriff... And she succeeded perfectly.”
They entered a room and Guy shuddered.
“It's here, isn’t it? Is this the place where they wounded me?”
Jonathan heard him and nodded with his head.
Guy looked down at the floor and he could see a darker trace, a remnant of the blood stain, of the blood he had shed when the Sheriff and Isabella had wounded him and left him to die.
He knelt down and put his hand on the ground: here was where he was supposed to have died, the place where the miracle had happened.
Alicia touched his shoulder and Guy raised his face to look at her.
“I'm fine,” he reassured her, with a slight smile. “It's strange, but it's not that terrible.”
The woman stared at him, trying to figure out if he was being honest, then she turned to the archaeologist.
“What did you want to show us? This?”
Peter pointed to one side of the room where they could see a table and where some wooden chests had been gathered.
The archaeologist carefully lifted one of the smaller boxes, laid it on the table, and removed the lid, inviting the others to come closer.
Alicia let out a exclamation of surprise, seeing a human skull, and she was astonished to see the precious gemstone decorating one of its teeth. She turned to look at Guy and she was scared to see the expression of his face.
To see the place where he had almost been killed hadn’t shaken him so much, but being in front of that skull had upset him: he had become white in his face and he began to tremble convulsively.
Alicia tried to touch him, but Gisborne flinched, turned his back to her, and ran away.
Alicia climbed a flight of stairs and sprang outdoors. She paused and looked around. She had tried to follow Gisborne, but the knight was younger than her, his legs were much longer than hers, and she was almost immediately left behind.
“Guy!” She called, distressed. “Guy, where are you?!”
Jonathan and Peter reached her, panting too, and the archaeologist looked at her, sincerely sorry.
“It's my fault, I shouldn’t have shown that skull to him...”
“No, you shouldn’t have,” Jonathan said. “What were you thinking?”
“I didn’t think he could react like that.”
“What did you expect? You showed him the corpse of the man he was working for, how did you think he could react?”
“Won’t you think it's true? I admit that what he said has proven to be right, but there are other more plausible explanations.”
“That doesn’t matter at all. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, for him it is. You archaeologists are more used to dealing with mummies and ruins than with people! Now let’s go and search for him. Dr. Little, do you have any idea of where he might have gone?”
“Maybe he went back to the car... Oh, we have to find him right away! Guy is not used to the modern world, he could be in danger!”
“Go and check the car, I'll look for him in the museum. Peter, make sure he's not in the dungeons. Do you both have a cell phone? The first one who finds him will be able to alert the others.”
Guy had run away blindly, instinctively tracing back the path they had followed to get into the crypt. He didn’t know what to do or where to go, he was only sure that he had to get away from the Sheriff's skull as quickly as possible.
Rushing out from the dungeons, he almost crashed into a family who was leaving the museum and he was forced to stop for a moment. The father of the child who Guy had almost hit, rebuked him, telling him to be careful, and those harsh words brought him to reality, tearing him off the horror that had clouded his mind when he had seen the remains of Vaisey.
He murmured a few words of apology, but the parents of the child gave him a disgusted look and they rushed away, dragging the kid with them.
Guy wrapped in his jacket as he entered the building: it was cold and he was trembling, but the real frost was what he felt inside, and that made him to want to cry. He blinked to try to hold tears, suddenly aware that the passing by museum visitors all looked at him in the same way: a mixture of surprise, concern, and pity.
He couldn’t stay there, he didn’t want everyone to see his humiliation and weakness.
He looked around, looking for a hiding place, he saw the sign pointing at the toilets of the museum and he hurried in that direction. That was a place where he could take refuge and where nobody would look at him with pity, a place where he could stay alone for a while, at least for the time he needed to avoid to have a breakdown in front of other people.
He recognized the symbol of the men's restrooms and he pushed that door: fortunately no one was there and Guy could slip into one of the stalls without being seen. He managed to close the lock and leaned on the door with his back. Only then, he hid his face in his hands and allowed himself to cry.
Jonathan Archer hastened to check the security camera monitors, but he couldn’t see Gisborne in any of the rooms of the museum, then he returned to the entrance hall, thinking of where he could look for Guy. Over the years, he had been tracking innumerable lost children, and he always found them in the same two places: in the gift shop, looking at the souvenirs of the museum, or in the toilets.
A quick glance was enough to exclude the shop and Jonathan walked toward the toilets. He noticed immediately that one of the doors was locked and he approached it with caution.
He waited for a moment before knocking, and when he did, he didn’t hear an answer. In fact, the silence became deeper, as if the person inside the stall was holding his breath to avoid being heard.
Jonathan knocked again.
“Guy? I know you're there. Open the door, please.”
For a long time he didn’t get an answer, then, when he was beginning to fear that Guy might have fainted, he heard his voice, soft, but strong enough to be heard through the door.
“Go away. Leave me alone.”
The guardian thought for a moment before talking again.
“Dr. Little is worried for you, can I make a call to tell her that you're here?”
Guy did not answer right away and Jonathan said nothing, and just kept waiting. After a while, the door opened by a slit.
“I don’t want Alicia to see me like this. Not for the sheriff. I just need some time.”
The guardian nodded.
“You've been working for him for so many years, it's normal if seeing him dead was a trauma for you. But if you want to be quiet, you don’t have to stay in a toilet. Come to my office: you can sit and drink something warm and no one will disturb you. I'll tell Dr. Little that you're safe and that you want to be quiet for a while. What do you say?”
Guy decided to go out and Jonathan saw that he was still very pale and that his eyes were reddish and bright with tears.
“I say that you shouldn’t speak to me as if I were a child or a poor idiot.”
The guardian looked at him for a moment and smiled.
“You are right, sorry. But the offer is still valid.”
Guy glanced at him, then he nodded briefly.
"You are right, Alicia has done so much for me and I shouldn’t make her worry. Tell her I'm fine.”
Gisborne turned on the water of the sink while Jonathan dialed Alicia's number on the cellphone.
“Dr. Little? Guy is with me. No, he's fine, but he needs some time. Why don’t you ask Peter to guide you in a visit of the castle in the meantime? We will wait for you in my office in an hour or two. Yes, don’t worry, I'll stay with him.”
The guardian closed the call and he waited for Guy to wash his face.
“Are you really fine or did I just lie to her?”
“I shouldn’t feel like this. Not for him. He has made my life a hell, I should jump for joy seeing his remains. Maybe I'm really crazy.”
“Things are never as simple as they may seem at a first glance. When Peter opened that box, it wasn’t pleasant for me either, and I didn’t know the sheriff, but your reaction isn’t strange at all if we consider your past.”
“Do you believe me?”
“I do not think you're crazy, let's put it this way. Then I don’t know how things really are and maybe I will never know. But is it so important to find out? You're here, you survived the wounds you had received, and now we're talking, isn’t it enough? Although it might be better to chat sitting comfortably in front of a cup of hot tea and not in a public toilet, don’t you think? If you want to talk. Otherwise we can also drink tea in silence.”
Jonathan made his way and Guy followed him to the office. The guardian told him to sit and Guy promptly obeyed: he dropped himself into a chair and put his elbows on the desk, taking his face in his hands.
“Are you all right?”
Guy raised his head.
“I feel so tired...”
“It's normal after a very strong emotion. And according to Dr. Little, you've had a rather challenging day.”
As he talked, Jonathan had taken a kettle and poured tea into two cups. He added a few teaspoons of sugar to Guy’s one and handed it to him, then he took another chair and sat down too.
“Drink it and you'll see that then you'll feel a little better. Peter shouldn’t have shown that... thing to you. I'm really sorry.”
“Why? It's not your fault.”
“No, but I still feel responsible. Peter is a great archaeologist, but he is not as good at understanding people, he lives in his own world. He didn’t even think that he could upset people by showing them human remains. For him, it was simply an archaeological find. But I should have asked him what were his intentions and prevented him.”
“I don’t know why I reacted like that. In the past I fought against the sheriff. For some time I've been convinced of having killed him and I was proud of that, I don’t know why it’s so different now. Perhaps it is because that skull seemed so fragile, weathered by time...” Guy touched his belly, searching for the scar beneath his sweater. “Just a month ago he planted a sword in my body... This wound just healed, but now all that’s left of him are just a few fragile bones, corroded by the passing of centuries... It seems so absurd!”
“It doesn’t just seem absurd to you, it is! Really, if I were in your situation I probably wouldn’t even have the courage to get out of bed. Oh, look!” Jonathan noticed a box lying next to the coffee pot and he took it, placing it on the desk. “Apparently Peter went to buy donuts during lunch break. Well, if he thought about eating them all on his own, he was terribly wrong. Take one, come on.”
Guy gave him a perplexed look and the other smiled.
“After the scare he gave you, taking some of his donuts seems to me the least we could do, right?”
Gisborne nodded, smiling in turn. He had told Jonathan Archer that he wanted to be left alone and in silence, but he realized that instead, the small talk of the man helped him to distract himself from the thought of Vaisey, and he was pleased that the guardian was the one who found him.
He finished eating and he took another sip of tea. The guardian had been right: that hot and sweet drink had made him really feel better. If nothing else, he had stopped trembling and he didn’t feel so cold anymore.
Guy put the empty cup on the desk, and he noticed a book, half hidden under some printed sheets.
He touched it with a finger and smiled ironically.
“Robin Hood... How do I die in this version?”
Jonathan hesitated, fearing that he could hurt him, but he realized that Gisborne would be offended if he told him a pitiful lie.
“Robin hits your head with a sword.”
"And then there is all the drama of Robin cutting my head and wearing that ridiculous cloak made with the whole skin of a horse?”
Guy made a sort of snort.
“That’s ridiculous, Robin would never do it. He didn’t like to kill if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.”
“And was he really that good with the bow?”
“Yes, yes, yes. In this case, the legend isn’t wrong.”
“Can you tell me something?”
“Also about you, the outlaws, Lady Marian, about whatever you want.”
Guy held his breath in hearing Marian's name, but he realized that Jonathan couldn’t know how much those memories were painful for him. For the guardian, Marian was only the one described in the books: the woman of Robin Hood, a lady like every other.”
"Okay, I'll tell you of the time when Robin and I had to defend the ruin of a castle from an army of mercenaries, but I have a condition."
“Tell this story to other people. Pretend that you invented it or read it in some old book, it doesn’t matter, but I'd love to see that amidst all these fanciful stories about Robin Hood there is also a true one. One in which I don’t meet a bad end.”
Jonathan held out his hand to him.
“We have a deal.”
The story that Guy will tell to Jonathan, is the one from the Robin Hood Audiobook "The Siege" :D
Chapter 13: The Only One Still Alive
Alicia realized that Peter Andrews probably had talked to her because the man was looking at her, waiting for an answer, but she had no idea of what he had said.
“I'm sorry, I'm afraid I wasn’t listening. I was absent-minded.”
“Are you worried about Gisborne?”
“He never had an easy life and he’s always under pressure, forced to adapt to a world he doesn’t know at all... Today I wanted to make him spend a serene day, so that he could relax, but I kept putting him in situations that have awakened painful memories in him. Before, when we couldn’t find him, I was afraid that something bad could happen to Guy. I could have never forgiven myself if that happened.”
The archaeologist blushed.
“Jonathan is right: it was my fault. I didn’t really think that seeing those remains could upset him so much. That sort of blunders always happen to me and I don’t even realize it.”
Alicia looked at him with a sigh.
“Would you mind if we go back? Mr. Archer told me that Guy needed to be alone for a while, but I feel so anxious about him... One day I will come back to the museum and I’d love if you still want to show it to me, but now I can’t concentrate on anything else.”
“Sure. Can I come too? I’d like to apologize. I really hope I didn’t cause too much damage.”
Alicia was about to respond abruptly that she also hoped so, but the archaeologist seemed so sorry that she did not want to be pitiless. She nodded with a sigh and she let him accompany her to the guardian's office.
As they walked through the last stretch of corridor, Alicia kept wondering in what conditions she would find Guy. She still remembered how he had reacted when he found out that he was no longer in his time and she feared that this new trauma might be too much for him, a breaking point that would lead him to a nervous collapse.
She shuddered at that thought: that was an event that could compromise Guy's quality of life. Now that he was better physically, he would have to meet a social worker and be tested to define his state of mind, to understand what his situation was, and to make decisions about his future. Alicia believed him, but she was perfectly aware that no one else would.
Arriving near the door, Alicia heard Jonathan laugh. Amazed, she went into the room without knocking, and she found the guardian still laughing, while Guy was looking at him with a serious and amused expression at the same time.
“Did he really do that?” Jonathan asked.
“Exactly. Typical of Robin.”
"I really wish I could have seen the faces of those mercenaries..." Jonathan burst into another laugh.
“Me too, but at that moment we were already too far away!” Guy said, then he saw Alicia and he smiled at her. “Oh, you're here.”
The doctor approached, studying his face.
“Are you alright, Guy?”
Gisborne nodded and gave her an apologetic look.
"I'm sorry that you were worried for me, I shouldn’t have run away like that.”
“I'm the one who has to apologize,” Peter Edwards said, embarrassed and sorry. “I didn’t... I didn’t think...”
“You couldn’t know,” Guy interrupted him. “I don’t know why I reacted like that. I hated him, yet...”
Jonathan intervened to distract both of them from that unpleasant argument.
“Peter, Dr Little, Guy was telling me one of his adventures with Robin Hood.”
“That's why you were laughing?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah. I'll tell your story to my children, Guy, I'm sure they will have fun too. And also to Peter and to anyone who wants to hear it.”
Gisborne and the guardian exchanged a look of understanding, and Alicia looked at them, a little surprised, but relieved to see that Guy looked calm and fairly serene.
“Then you'll have to tell it to me too,” she said, turning to Guy. “But now we have to go back to the hospital.”
Gisborne got up from the chair to follow her, but stopped in front of Jonathan to stretch out his hand to him.
The man shook hands with him.
“Thanks to you for your story. Come to visit me whenever you want, talking to you was a pleasure. Dr. Little, I hope to see you soon as well.”
Later, in the car, Alicia took advantage of the stop at a traffic light to look at Guy. Gisborne had an elbow leaning against the car door and looked out with a blank stare.
“Are you all right, Guy?”
“I don’t know. I feel so tired...”
Alicia checked that the traffic light was still red and leaned toward Guy to make a quick caress on his cheek.
“Poor dear, it has been a difficult day. Close your eyes and rest for a while, I'll wake you up when we arrive.”
The traffic light became green and Alicia restarted the car, but shortly thereafter, she was forced to stop again to allow a small group of pedestrians to cross. She gave another look at Guy, and she smiled, seeing that he had already fallen asleep.
Robin was seated on a tree branch and he rocked back and forth, letting his feet swing in the air.
Guy grabbed a branch to climb up and thought that Robin used to do the same movement even when they were children and they were playing together, climbing trees.
The effort to pull himself up, pained his wounds, but Guy didn’t stop until he reached his friend.
He sat down on the branch, panting and pressing a hand on the scar.
“You look a bit out of shape, Gisborne.”
“You look dead, Hood.”
“For once I have to agree with you.”
Guy smiled for a moment, then he became serious again, and he looked at the outlaw.
“Do you know the reason for this all?”
“Why am I still alive and you aren’t?”
"I'm dead, Gisborne, not omniscient. And even if I knew something I imagine that I couldn’t talk about it!”
“Yeah, I guess not. I’d like to know if there is a reason, though. Something I have to do, a purpose...”
“Maybe you have to take care of the people of Locksley now that I can’t do it anymore, maybe you have to take my place.”
“Locksley no longer exists, Hood. Eight centuries have passed, it's completely different, now.”
Robin raised his eyebrows.
“You heard it, Hood. Eight hundred years.”
“How did you end up eight hundred years in the future?!”
“That's what I wanted to know from you, Hood.”
“I can tell you what happened since the moment you died until the moment I died. I blew up the castle.”
“Then it was you who killed the sheriff?”
“Isabella too, I guess. I'm sorry, Guy.”
Gisborne nodded and kept silent for a few seconds, trying to remain composed despite the chilly void he felt in his heart.
“She wanted my death, she killed us both, and yet I can’t hate her.”
“She was still your sister.”
“I hope she is in peace. Only this, that she found the peace she could never find in her life. I know that she is probably destined to end in hell, but if I had a second chance, maybe I can hope that she has at least peace.”
Robin put his hand on his shoulder and Guy shivered. His touch was cold and it seemed to drain every heat from his body. Even Robin realized it and withdrew his hand.
“Sorry. The living shouldn’t be touched by the frost of the dead.” Robin looked at him, smiling astonished. “Wow! You're really alive, Gisborne! How is it possible? I saw you dying, I closed your eyes and arranged your corpse...”
"I do not know how it happened, how I traveled in time, I mean, but in the future, healers know incredible techniques. They were able to tear me away from the grip of death itself... My heart had stopped and they could restart it, they put new blood in place of the blood I had lost, and then they stitched all my wounds... Look.”
Guy lifted the shirt he wore to show the scars to Robin, and the other man looked at the healed wounds, without touching them.
“And the poison? Isabella stabbed you too...”
"With their cares they managed to keep me alive despite everything.”
“Could have they saved me?”
“I think so. Perhaps it would have been better if you were in my place.”
Robin smiled at him, resigned.
“Well, this is how it is. I'm glad that at least you are alive, my friend. How is the future? Does anyone still remember me?”
"It's all so absurd... They have wagons that move without horses, and devices capable of flying, but it is not magic, they are mechanical, man-made objects. And you are a hero known all over the world, a kind of legend. I told you: absurd.”
“I bet that this annoys you!”
Guy shook his head.
“No. Actually, it's a consolation.”
Guy woke up and his gaze fell on a plastic figure standing on the bedside table, depicting an archer dressed in green. He sat up and took it in his hand, staring at it, puzzled. He was sure that it wasn’t there before.
Alicia knocked on the door to announce her presence before entering the room.
“Good morning, Guy, did you sleep well?”
Gisborne put the statuette back on the bedside table and rubbed his eyes, still sleepy.
“Is it very late?”
“Enough. It's almost lunch time.”
“You were very tired yesterday.”
Guy nodded. He recalled that he had fallen asleep in the car and that Alicia had awakened him when they had arrived to the hospital, then he had barely had the strength to undress and wear the pajamas before going to bed. He had the vague awareness of getting up near dawn to use the toilet, but then he went back to bed and fell again in a deep sleep.
“I dreamed of Robin. I was afraid that the sheriff could come to me in my nightmares, but I didn’t have bad dreams. We were in the forest and we talked, as if he were still alive. But he knew he wasn’t.”
Alicia took Robin Hood's figure from Guy's bedside table and looked at it for a moment before she put it back in its place.
“Jonathan Archer brought this for you this morning. He came to the hospital before starting his shift at the museum, but you were still sleeping. He told the nurse to tell you that he saw it at the museum shop last night, and that it made him think of your story, but he doubts that he can find a miniature catapult too.”
Guy laughed and Alicia smiled, not understanding why it was so funny.
"Mr. Archer seemed enthusiastic about your story, I think you'll have to tell it to me sooner or later.”
“Whenever you want.”
“Guy, I have to apologize. Yesterday, I put you under pressure, I shouldn’t have done it, and I just hope I didn’t hurt you. I wanted you to spend a nice day and instead...”
“Riding again was nice and I was glad to meet Jonathan Archer. He was kind to me, he helped me. You all are kind, even if I don’t deserve it.”
“Later you should undergo some examinations to check the condition of your injuries and your general physical conditions. Do you think you can, or do you prefer that we move them to another day?”
“I'm fine, Alicia.”
The doctor nodded.
“We must also talk about some important things concerning your future. Now I have to finish my turn but soon I'll have lunch break. Do you want to eat with me at the hospital's cafeteria so we can discuss them?”
Gisborne realized that Alicia was tense and he imagined that she wouldn’t bring him good news. It didn’t surprise him too much: he had long since learned to expect nothing from the future and, after the miracle he had received, he knew that he had to accept whatever fate had in store for him.
“Sure,” he said quietly, and Alicia smiled at him.
“Then I'll see you later.”
She went back to work and Guy remained alone, wondering what he could expect.
He got up from the bed, discovering that he was rather sore: after a month of almost total inactivity he was no longer used to riding, and he felt his muscles aching and stiff. The wounds, even if they were healed, bothered him more than usual.
Guy retrieved a change of clothes from the cabinet, and he headed for the bathroom, then he went back to the bedside table and took the little plastic archer too. He placed it on the edge of the sink while he turned on the water of the shower and began undressing.
He felt a twinge through the wound, and it made him wince. Guy pressed his hand on the scar, instinctively, as he leaned against the sink to support himself.
The Sheriff's face suddenly came to his mind: he could see him as he sank the sword in his belly, his pleased laugh when he realized that Robin and Rob were going to die, and the tearing pain that had made him crash to the ground, without being able to get up.
Gisborne tried to catch his breath and looked down at his hand, pressed on his belly. He was expecting to see blood flowing between his fingers, to feel his life running from his veins again, but when he found the courage to look at the scar, the wound was still closed, almost completely healed.
He was alive and Vaisey wasn’t, he said to himself, giving a determined stare at the mirror.
The sheriff could also torment him in memories and nightmares, but, at the end, all that was left of him was just a worn-out skull.
He can no longer hurt me. He can no longer hurt anyone.
Yet the memory of those bones filled him with horror. Anyone who he had ever known was now reduced like that: a few miserable remains, or maybe just a handful of dust. His parents, Isabella, Robin, Archer, the outlaws... Marian. There was nothing left of them but memories.
That would also have been his destiny if natural laws weren’t twisted somehow to save his life.
He looked at the small Robin Hood plastic figure on the edge of the sink and he thought that the real Robin would pretend to complain, saying that the little figure didn’t look at all like him, but he would actually be flattered to see how popular he was.
“I wish you could be really here, Hood,” He whispered with a sigh, then he stepped under the jet of the shower, letting the hot water flow on his body.
He closed her eyes, savoring that pleasant feeling, and he wondered for how long he’d be able to do so.
From Alicia's serious expression and her words about his future, he could imagine what the topic of their conversation would be: the hospital was a place to treat the sick and wounded, while he was almost completely cured.
Guy was certain that soon they would send him away, and he wondered how he could survive on his own in a world that was still so incomprehensible to him.
He didn’t have the pale idea of how he would manage, but he was certain of one thing: he would never give up.
Chapter 14: The Bird in a Golden Cage
Jack Robinson thought that he needed a coffee. That morning, his shift had been harder than usual, due to a serious road accident involving many cars. The helicopter had continued flying back and forth to carry the persons who were more severely wounded.
Now his work was over, and the fate of the patients was in the hands of ER doctors and surgeons.
“Are you going home, Jack?” Asked one of the nurses sitting at the reception desk.
“Yes, shortly. I’ll go to eat something, and then I leave.”
The girl winced.
“What's up, Jenny?”
“Dr. Little had called, and asked me to give a message to Guy, but then one of the patients had an emergency and I forgot about it. How can I do? I can’t get away from here now!”
“I can tell him.”
“Would you really do that?! Thanks, Jack!”
“Did he go on the roof, as usual?”
“I think so.” The girl rummaged through the papers on the counter and handed him a note. “I wrote it here.”
Guy approached the parapet and rested his arms on it, looking at the city. He could see the cars running along the asphalt ribbons of the roads, the white trails left in the sky by the airplanes, and the modern buildings, so different from those of the Nottingham of his age.
He wondered how he could live out of the hospital, if they should send him away.
It seemed logical to him that sooner or later they would do it: they had saved his life, they had healed him, and, for a month, they had given him everything he needed, from food to clothes. He couldn’t expect to depend on their charity for a long time, and he didn’t even want to, but he didn’t know what he could do once he was on his own.
Everything that in his time could have made it easier for him to find a new job and the means to survive, in the present was completely useless if not harmful. Alicia had told him that in modern society, killing an enemy was inadmissible, except in exceptional circumstances, and that even resorting to force was to be avoided at all cost.
Vaisey had taught him mainly how to fight, he had trained him to kill at his orders, and Guy didn’t know how to do many other things. Nothing that could be useful in the twenty-first century, for sure.
He told himself that he had survived as a kid in a much more dangerous world, with the responsibility of caring for a younger sister. Somehow he would manage, even now.
Gisborne turned, hearing somebody calling his name, and saw Jack Robinson who was coming to meet him.
The doctor was still wearing the orange suit he used when he was on duty, and he looked tired, but he had given him a sincere smile, as if he really enjoyed talking to Guy.
Even after a month, that was an aspect of the modern world he wasn’t yet used to: people seemed to be genuinely happy to have to deal with him. They didn’t hate him, and they didn’t run away in fear when he passed, and, when they talked to him, they saw just Guy, not the henchman of the sheriff.
“You've been flying often today, didn’t you?” Guy asked, glancing at the helicopter, standing on the other terrace.
Jack leaned his back on the parapet, and sighed.
“Unfortunately. There was a major automobile accident with many wounded people. Some didn’t survive.”
Guy shuddered thinking about the speed at which a car could go. In his time, when a wagon pulled by galloping horses capsized, often the accident ended in tragedy, so he could only imagine how much a car crash at such high speeds could be lethal.
“Yeah. Were you waiting for Dr. Little?”
“Yes, she said that she would come to get me to have lunch together.”
“Lunch time was hours ago, I'm afraid. Alicia is still helping the wounded and I think that she will have to do it for quite a while. She told the nurse to warn you, but the girl has forgotten to give you her message.”
“It seemed to me that it had been a long time, actually,” Guy said, glancing at the position of the sun in the sky.
“Didn’t you notice that it was so late?”
Guy blushed slightly.
“That's one of the things I still have to get used to. You have a different way of dividing the time of the day.”
“Did you have lunch?”
“No, I was waiting for Alicia.”
“Come on, let's go eat something together, I didn’t even have time to eat as well.”
Guy took a last look at the landscape of Nottingham before following the doctor, and Jack waited for him, looking at him thoughtfully.
They did not speak until they sat at the table with the trays of food in front of them, then Guy looked at Jack Robinson in his eyes.
“Alicia said that she had to talk about something important about my future. Did she already discuss it with you?”
“It’s not us individual doctors the ones who make decisions about patients.”
“I can imagine what you are going to tell me: now that I'm cured I have to go away. I understand that, really, but maybe you could give me some advice on what to do once I get out of here. Certainly I can’t think of doing the job I did in the past, but I'm not afraid to work hard and sooner or later I'll be as strong as I used to be.”
“Guy, wait,” Jack interrupted him. “Do you think that once your wounds are cured, we will send you out of the hospital?”
“There would be nothing strange. You have already been even too generous to me.”
The doctor looked at him, hesitating.
“This won’t happen, quite the opposite, in fact.”
"You have no documents, there is no family to welcome you, you have suffered an aggression without the attacker being identified, you have the knowledge of a twelfth-century knight and no experience of the modern world... You can’t just leave. You will be assigned to a social worker and you will have to undergo various tests to see if you have a brain injury and to evaluate what your mental abilities are, and only after that we can decide how to move in the future.”
Guy looked at him. He wasn’t sure he had understood all that Jack had said, but he understood the meaning of the speech.
“You will shut me somewhere because you think I’m crazy.”
“I did not say this. They will evaluate what is best for you so that you can live in the best way.”
“In a cage, like one of the sheriff’s birds...”
“You can’t be sure. Much will depend on the test results.”
“Do you think I'm crazy?”
“I'm not a psychologist, I do not have the ability to determine it, but you seem quite sensible. You can follow complex reasoning and in the last few weeks you've learned many things you didn’t know, but you have to admit it's hard to believe that you may have traveled in time.”
“I know, it's not easy to believe it even for me. But it's true.”
“In any case you should be aware that for now you aren’t able to manage by yourself.”
“I'm doing my best to learn what I don’t know.”
“I know, Guy, but it will take some time.”
“I won’t have much choice, right? I will have to do what others will decide for me.”
“They will decide what is best for you, it's their job.”
“I'm tired of letting others make decisions in my place. I let the sheriff do it, and everyone suffered the consequences of it.”
Jack stared at him.
“For a moment let’s ignore all the rules and the bureaucratic aspect of your situation and imagine that you can now leave the hospital and live your life without anyone telling you anything: what would you do?”
“I should find a place where to live and a job.”
“How? Legally you don’t exist, no one would take you, but even if you should found someone willing to ignore rules and laws, what could you do? You don’t know how to drive a car or any other means of transport that is not a horse, not to mention using a computer or just a phone.”
Gisborne lowered his eyes: those were questions that he had already asked to himself and for which he had not yet found an answer. As much as he could try to learn, there were still too many things that he didn’t know, and he knew that he wasn’t able to face the world, yet.
“What will happen to me, then?”
“They'll help you. The decisions they are going to make will be primarily in your interest, so that you can live the best possible life.”
"So that's why Alicia looked so nervous earlier? Because she had to tell me that I would be considered a poor idiot for the rest of my life?”
“Nobody thinks you're an idiot.”
“Oh yes, they do. They all think I’m mad, do you think I don’t realize it? That I don’t hear the whispered comments and laughs? That I don’t see the pitiful or amused glances when I can’t do something that they have learned since they were little?”
Jack looked at him without saying anything, and Guy sighed.
“But maybe this is the punishment I have to endure for the mistakes I have committed in my life. I let myself to be tempted by power, and pride has often led me to act wrongly, maybe it's right that I don’t have anything left of either of them.”
“If it makes you feel better, you may consider it as a punishment, but perhaps you should simply accept that this is your situation and start from here, trying to see the positive side and to live as well as you can.”
“Maybe you're right. I'm alive when I should have been dead for so many centuries and I'm probably ungrateful to complain... But I feel so alone! All the persons I knew are dead and none of you can really understand how strange this time is and how confused I am.”
"I suppose that any twenty-first-century person would feel confused and lost too if they should find themselves in the twelfth century.”
“Not so much, I think. You have an idea of how life was in the past, but for me it is all completely new and often unimaginable. But maybe I was lucky: in my time a person who should say that he came from the future could be mistaken for a witch and executed.”
Jack nodded, and for a while they ate in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. The doctor found himself thinking that Guy's situation was terribly sad: even if his conviction of being a medieval knight came from mental illness or from a brain injury, he really believed it. Jack thought of how he would feel in finding himself completely alone in an unknown place, knowing that he would never see again any of the people he knew.
He tried to think of something to say to encourage him, but that situation was so unusual that he didn’t know how to behave.
“You look tired,” Guy said suddenly, and Jack nodded.
“It was a very challenging shift.”
“Have you saved many lives today?”
“I hope so.”
“You're lucky. When you go to sleep you don’t have to be afraid of your conscience. You don’t have demons who come to claw at your soul when you close your eyes...” Guy's voice broke and he was forced to stop for a moment, and Jack wondered what tormented him so much, but when he spoke again, Gisborne’s tone was more light. “Do you have a family, doctor?”
“I'm married and I have two children, a five-year-old male and a female of two.”
Guy remembered Isabella at that age, when she tried to follow him anywhere and he was annoyed because her presence distracted him from funnier games, but he had been also flattered when the sister offered him a flower picked in the meadow, or she climbed in his arms to give him a kiss.
Thinking to his childhood filled him with sadness: he had loved his sister, and yet he and Isabella had come to hate so much as to want to destroy each other.
But now to wonder how it might have happened was no longer important because even Isabella was dead, like everyone else.
He tried not to think about it and spoke to Jack.
“So why are you here to have lunch with me and not with your family?”
“My wife works, she'll be back home later, and the kids are at school. In fact, shortly I'll go to get them. My parents usually do it: they take them to their house for a few hours and I take advantage of it to rest after my shift, but today I want to stay with my children.”
“Are you worried about them?”
Jack looked at Guy, surprised that he could guess his anxiety.
“It has been a bad accident, there have been casualties and very serious injuries. Even some children... While I was trying to save them, I kept thinking about my children, what would I do if such a thing happened to them or to my wife... I don’t think I could bear it.”
“Go to them. And whatever happens, never abandon your family, everything else is not as important as it may seem.”
“Do you know, Guy? You are right. I'll get you back to the ward and then I’ll go and get my kids.”
“It's not necessary, I can go back on my own. Maybe I can’t deal with the modern world, but I wandered enough in the hospital and I can remember the way to my room.”
“Are you sure?”
“Even if I look crazy to your eyes, I'm not stupid, I’m not a fool.”
The doctor looked at him, fearing that he had offended him, but Guy was smiling and Jack smiled back at him.
“I’ll go, then, thank you for your company.”
Guy looked at the doctor going away, and he found himself jealous.
Once, having a family had been his greatest wish, and he had believed that marrying Marian was the only way he had to be happy and in peace again, but he had destroyed that dream with his own hands.
He would never have a house warmed by the love of a wife and he would never take his children on his shoulders to play with them, now he knew and accepted it.
After what he had done to Marian, he had lost all the right to dream of a happy future, and it was better this way. During his life he had destroyed the lives of each of the women who had been close to him: his mother, Isabella, Marian, and Meg had died because of him. The only one who survived was Annie, maybe because Robin had helped her to run away before it was too late.
Guy wondered what happened to her and to the child. His son.
They are dead too, what could you expect after eight centuries?
He hoped that at least they had lived a serene and long life, and he found himself thinking that perhaps with Annie he could have been happy. If he had allowed himself to fall in love with her even though she was only a servant, perhaps his life wouldn’t have been so disastrous: he would have never looked at Marian, and every night he would return to a home warmed by his wife's affection and by the laughter of their children.
He tried to remember the face of his son, without succeeding. He had held him in his arms only once, shortly after he was born, and at that moment he had only wanted to run away, to avoid that unwanted responsibility.
He wondered if it was possible to find out what had happened to Annie and Seth, and he told himself that he had to ask it to Alicia.
With a sigh he got up from the table and put away the tray, as Alicia had taught him the first time she had accompanied him to eat at the hospital's cafeteria, then he left the cafeteria and decided to go back to his room to reflect in peace on what Jack Robinson had told him.
On one hand, he felt relieved that he wasn’t going to find himself suddenly on his own, but to think that he was considered a fool, unable to provide for himself, was humiliating.
He stopped in front of the lift doors and pressed the call button, surprised to notice how easily that gesture had become natural to him. Only a few weeks before, the idea of being closed in a cabin to go up or down to another floor seemed absurd and unnatural, while now he was simply grateful that he didn’t have to climb the stairs when his muscles felt so sore.
He entered the lift and pressed the button with the number of his floor, then he stood in a corner, averting is gaze from the other people who had entered the lift. Learning to use those modern tools seemed easier than talking to people, at least for now.
At the first stop, most of the people went out, and Guy smiled to see Dr. Little coming in.
The woman winced, surprised to see him.
“Oh, Guy. I'm sorry to be so late. I rescheduled your examinations that were planned for today, I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to be present too.”
“The examinations to understand how crazy I am and to decide what to do with me?” Guy asked, trying to downplay, but Alicia didn’t smile and she remained silent.
Gisborne noticed that she looked downcast and that her eyes were bright with tears.
“What's up, Alicia?”
“Nothing. I'm just tired.”
The doors of the lift opened again and the others went out. Guy looked at the floor's number and he saw that they would have to get out there too, but he didn’t move, and pressed the button to the top floor.
"This is what I said to the sheriff when I didn’t want to talk to him about my problems.”
The woman sighed.
“Don’t worry, tomorrow it will be over, it's nothing.”
Guy stared at her, worried.
“Did you cry? Has anyone made you suffer?”
Alicia stroked his cheek and she tried to smile.
"You are very dear, but really, it's just a bad moment. I would never give up on my job, but sometimes there are particularly hard days and today it is one of those.”
Guy suddenly understood.
“Have you lost one of your patients?”
Alicia nodded, raising her hand to dry her eyes.
“It's not the first and it won’t be the last one, but when it happens to kids it's worse. I thought he would make it, but then the situation suddenly took a turn for the worse.”
The lift stopped and Guy took Alicia’s hand, leading her out of the cabin, then he stopped and hugged her, a bit awkwardly.
Alicia looked up, surprised by that gesture, and saw that Gisborne seemed at the same time worried about her and a little embarrassed by that tenderness.
“There is never anyone here, you can cry, if you need it.”
Alicia smiled at his tense and clumsy tone.
"You're not used to console people, are you?"
“Not much, is it so obvious?”
The woman laughed to see his afflicted expression, then the laughter turned to tears and Alicia found herself sobbing, with her face pressed against Guy's chest.
Chapter 15: Trapped
Alicia wiped her face with her hand and closed her eyes, leaning back for a moment on Guy's chest before stepping back from his hug. His hold was strong and warm and it comforted her.
“Thank you, dear,” she said, smiling between the tears.
The woman nodded.
“You were right, I needed to vent a little. After so many years I should be accustomed to certain things, but the truth is that you never get used to lose a patient.”
“Your job at least allows you to save so many lives. Mine often consisted in taking them. Sometimes I think that sooner or later the souls of my victims will come to get me, to ask for a deserved revenge. I often dream them: they are all there, still and silent, and they wait for me...”
Alicia looked at him, saddened by the sorrow she saw in his eyes.
“Maybe you should talk to a specialist. Many soldiers returning from a war can experience your same feelings, there are therapies that could help you to live with what you had to do.”
Guy shook his head.
“If I told the truth, no one would believe it. No one thinks I'm really from the twelfth century. How could they help me without believing my words? And why should I stop suffering for my sins? I killed those people, they won’t get their lives back.”
This time it was Alicia who held him in a quick hug.
“It's a heavy burden to bear.”
“Alicia? Can I ask you a favor?”
“Will you be there when they decide about my future?”
“Yes, I'm your doctor, they will ask for my opinion.”
“If I'm alive there must be a reason, and I think it's because I have somehow to make up for the evil I did. I don’t want to be useless for the rest of my life, I want to do something good, something I can be proud of when I really die. I was proud to die fighting at Robin's side, let me have the chance to be proud again and to look at my image in the mirror without shame.”
“I promise you, I will do anything I can so that your wish may be granted.”
“Thank you, Alicia.”
The woman smiled at him.
“Now let's go back to your room. I rescheduled the appointments with the other doctors, but I still want to examine you.”
They went back into the lift and the cabin paused on its way down to let inside an elderly lady, dressed elegantly and with a lively expression on her face.
She stepped into the lift, then she looked at Guy and smiled at him.
“Did you come to visit someone? I brought a cake to my friend Jane who broke a leg falling from the stairs. Poor woman, she likes to eat well, and she hates the hospital's food, so yesterday she practically begged me to bring her something good. What about you? Are you visiting a friend or a girlfriend?”
Gisborne stared at her, somewhat taken aback by that burst of words, and he shook his head.
“No, I'm a patient.”
“Really? You wouldn’t say that. You look like a young and healthy handsome man...”
Alicia giggled to see Guy's disconcerted expression, and she was about to go to his rescue, when the lift seemed to plummet down and then it stopped a moment later, with a jerk and a sharp noise. The lights went out suddenly, and a few moments later the emergency light, weaker and a little flickering, turned on.
The old woman clung to Guy with a cry of terror and the knight looked at Alicia, worried.
Alicia tried to hide her own nervousness and to speak reassuringly.
“Nothing serious, probably a mechanical failure of the lift, nothing to worry about.”
The old woman let out a groan of terror, tightening her grasp on Guy's arm even stronger.
“How can you be so sure?! We could fall to our deaths! Or we could be trapped here until we suffocate! I already feel that I don’t have enough air!”
“We have all the air we need,” Alicia said, trying to convey an impression of calm. “And the lift has security mechanisms that won’t let it fall down. In the worst case scenario we will just have to wait for a while until someone frees us.”
“I can’t wait! I have to get out of here right away or I'll die!”
Alicia put her hands on her shoulders and gently, but firmly, forced her to get away from Guy.
“No one will die, we just have to be calm. Now sit down and take a good breath, here, like this. And then another, and another.”
The doctor made sure that the woman was a little calmer, then she pressed the alarm button and waited. Shortly after, a voice coming from a speaker answered the call and Alicia explained the situation.
The voice said that they shouldn’t worry because the technical assistance would come soon enough to resolve the situation.
“Have you heard? There is no reason to be afraid,” Alicia said in a confident tone, then she looked at Guy, a bit worried for him. “Are you alright, dear?”
Gisborne glanced at the frightened and trembling old woman, then he turned to Alicia, his voice low.
“Is there really no danger?”
“Really. Do I look scared?”
“No.” Guy stared back at the old woman, crouching in her corner. “She looks terrified, though.”
“Some people fear being locked in a restricted space, even though there are no real dangers.”
"Dr. Robinson told me something like that a while ago, during the examination when I had to lie down in that noisy tube.”
“Doesn’t it bother you?”
“I had been trapped in worst places. My sister had imprisoned me in a cage where I could barely move, before I was transferred to the dungeons, while Robin tied me to a tree in more than one occasion. At least nobody here wants to kill me or torture me.”
Alicia smiled, then she stretched, rubbing her back with one hand.
“Let's sit down on the ground, too,” she suggested. "I have been standing all morning while I was in the operating room, and I'm not so young that I don’t feel the strain of it.”
"I confess that I am quite sore too, probably I wasn’t used to ride anymore. And every now and then the wound still aches.”
"It's normal, especially in the case of a wound as deep as yours, but we'll still have accurate checks to make sure it's all right, don’t worry.”
The old woman, who was shaking in a corner of the lift, recovered a bit in hearing Alicia's words, curiosity stronger than fear.
“What happened to you? An accident? I bet you rode a motorbike too fast. You boys don’t know what safety is, always in a hurry and reckless, as if nothing could ever happen to you, but then when you get hurt you cry like children.”
Guy glanced at Alicia, and the doctor smiled, as if to invite him to have patience.
Gisborne looked at her and Alicia thought she saw an amused light in his eyes, then the knight turned to the old woman with an innocent and perfectly serious expression.
“How did you guess? That's exactly what happened.”
“Did you fall?”
“But you didn’t break any bones.”
“No, but I hit the branch of a tree that pierced me from side to side.”
The old woman winced.
“Oh, poor boy! It must have been very painful!”
“Yep, but I don’t remember if I cried like a baby or not,” Guy concluded with a little grin. “You should ask if I did to the doctors who brought me here with the helicopter.”
The woman looked at him, sympathetic.
"Now that I think, I remember that I've read the news about it in the newspaper, I think there was also your photo. It happened in York, didn’t it?”
“Exactly, in York. You have a good memory, ma'am.”
“That's right! I never forget a face!”
The woman nodded, pleased and satisfied with her memory, and Alicia prodded slightly Guy's side with her elbow.
“Don’t overdo it,” she whispered, so that only Guy could hear her. “Do you even know what a motorbike is?”
Alicia tried not to laugh at Guy's innocent expression, and she sat next to him on the lift floor. On the opposite side, the old woman got closer and leaned on Gisborne's arm.
“You don’t mind, do you? At my age it’s so uncomfortable to sit on the floor. Maybe I'm getting too familiar, but you remember me of my grandson, even though he is blond and not so tall. He is also always riding his bike and I'm always worried until he comes home. But I'll tell him what happened to you, so maybe he'll be a little more cautious with his motorbike.”
Guy let her lean on him, and spread his other arm, turning to Alicia.
“Lean on me too, and relax: you have to be very tired and maybe we will have to wait for a long time.”
The doctor smiled at him and she accepted, grateful, huddling at his side and closing her eyes with a small sigh of fatigue. She would rest just for a few minutes, she said, and a moment later she was already deeply asleep.
The forest was green and thick around her and there were trees as far as her eyes could see.
Alicia stopped to look around, confused, unable to figure out where she was. Something passed near her with a hiss and the woman turned to stare at the arrow that had embedded itself in a tree.
“Who did it?!” She shouted, and a moment later a young man emerged from the trees, with a bow pointed at her.
“Tell me how much money you have with you, and I will take the tenth part of it, lie to me and I'll take away everything.”
Alicia winced and hurried to open her purse and to throw her wallet at him.
“I have nothing else!”
The outlaw lowered the bow to look inside the wallet, and he gave her a mocking look.
“And this should be money?” He asked grabbing some banknotes and a handful of coins, then he dumped her purse and started to point the bow at her, nodding in the direction of the bushes.
Shortly afterward a young man with light hair and a funny face approached them.
“Allan, search her.”
“I don’t want to be funny, but how is she dressed?” Allan asked, looking at Alicia’s surgeon's uniform and at her white coat. He took hold of the bag and began to rummage inside it. “Hey, Robin, there are strange things in here.”
“Robin?!” Alicia asked, staring at the two outlaws. “Are you Robin Hood?!”
“I see my fame spread. Where are you from, my lady?”
“You're lying now. I've never seen you in town.”
“Not yet. There are still eight centuries to go.”
“Hey, Robin, didn’t you say that Giz told you that he was over eight hundred years in the future? Do you think she comes from there?”
“I'm dreaming, isn’t it?” Alicia asked, bewildered.
“I think so, ma'am. But is this your dream or Gisborne’s?”
Alicia woke up with a start.
Guy looked at her and smiled.
“I think that rescue has come. They said that they will soon open the doors.”
Chapter 16: It's Coming
Alicia turned in her bed without falling asleep. She was tired and she felt the need to rest after that difficult day, but she was too agitated and nervous to sleep.
Earlier, when they were trapped in the lift, sleep had come at once, but now she kept thinking about that strange dream.
The subject wasn’t so surprising: Guy's case was so engaging that she should have imagined that sooner or later she would dream of Robin Hood or something like that.
What worried her was the strange feeling she had experienced in speaking with the two outlaws: they didn’t look like the classic characters of a dream, flat and shallow, but she had the impression that they were real people, each with their own personality.
“Guy's stories must have influenced me more than I thought,” she said to herself, trying to remember every time that Gisborne had talked about Robin or Allan.
From what she could remember, he had never described them in detail, but he always just told her anecdotes without going too far into details.
She got up from the bed with a sigh, and she rubbed her tired eyes.
She took a notebook and a pencil and she tried to draw the faces of the two outlaws, trying to remember every detail.
As a kid she had always been good at drawing and she had also followed some beginner painting courses, then her interest in medicine had forced her to put aside that hobby, but she was still able to capture the likeness of a face.
She worked for a while on the portraits of Robin and Allan until she was satisfied, and when she had finished, she felt more quiet, as if capturing those faces on paper had exorcised them from her thoughts.
To think that she could really have dreamed of Guy's old companions was just a foolish fantasy, she was certain of that, but even believing that a person could travel over time was a crazy idea and Alicia was beginning to doubt of her own sanity.
She had told Guy that she believed him, and it was true, but perhaps that meant only that they were both crazy.
A thunder stronger than the others made her shudder, and Alicia came to the window to watch the rain coming down like a compact wall.
Jack Robinson warmed his hands with the cup of hot coffee, he took a sip, went over to the door leading to the roof, and came back immediately.
“I don’t think we will fly today,” he said, turning to his colleagues. “It looks like a real storm.”
He finished drinking coffee and decided to go to the emergency room: maybe the helicopter couldn’t fly, but with such a weather there would certainly be several emergencies. As he passed over the reception desk, one of the nurses called him, giving him a sheet of paper.
“Jack, wait! Dr. Little has just called and left a message for you.”
“Let me guess, it’s about Guy?”
The nurse chuckled.
“Yeah. The doctor said she can’t come to the hospital because the road was blocked due to the storm, but she’d like you to visit him to make sure that the wound is healing without complications.”
Jack nodded, but he wondered if Alicia was exaggerating. His colleague had always been very sensitive and she tended to care too heartily for her patients, but she had never been so attached to any of them as she was to Gisborne.
It was true that his case was very special, but Alicia should have been careful not to get involved so much.
“All right, I'll go to see him before I go to the emergency room,” he said in a neutral tone, without expressing his opinion to the nurse. Even though he was worried about his colleague's attitude, he would never publicly disapprove or criticize her.
Guy shuddered, wrapped himself in his jacket, and leaned on the wall with one hand to avoid losing his balance. He glanced at the lift down the corridor: it seemed much farther than usual, so Guy decided to return to his room.
That morning he didn’t feel well at all: he woke up with a sore throat and an unpleasant feeling of malaise and exhaustion. He had tried to get out of bed and get dressed with the intention of going to the roof to get some fresh air, but now he realized that he didn’t have the energy.
He tried to ignore the shivers of cold, scared by the idea of getting ill.
Whenever there was an outbreak of fever in Locksley, many died, usually malnourished peasants, but sometimes even nobles in perfect health, and healers couldn’t do much to avoid it.
Perhaps in the twenty-first century the situation had changed, he said to himself, thinking of the almost miraculous way in which they had healed his wounds, but the very idea of illness was enough to scare him.
Once, the sheriff had forced him to pretend that he was ill, for a time long enough to allow him to go to the Holy Land to try to kill King Richard without awakening suspects. Guy, even if he knew that it wasn’t possible, had the superstitious fear that the illness might be the right punishment for his old lie, and he hoped that Alicia would come soon to ask her how serious his situation was.
He lay on the bed still dressed, wrapping himself in the blankets, and staring at the rain through the glass of the window.
Gisborne raised his head with a start, and he looked around: he was in his hospital room, but the light had changed, it was almost livid, and he felt that something was wrong.
A girl was sitting at the foot of the bed, balancing over the edge, and she gave her back to him, swinging her legs, like a restless little girl.
“Who are you?!” Guy asked, and when she heard him, she got off the bed with a small jump and turned to look at him, spinning her long skirt and raising a finger to warn him.
“What? Have you forgotten me already?!”
Guy sat up and stared at her, astonished.
He looked around and sighed.
“I'm dreaming again, isn’t it?”
"Certainly you're not dead, so yes, you're dreaming, otherwise we couldn’t talk.” The girl touched her side in the place where she had been injured, and she lowered her voice, as if she wanted to reveal a secret to him. “Because I am.”
“I couldn’t save you, I'm so sorry...”
Meg put a hand on his cheek and touched his forehead with a kiss, fast and light as a bird's peck.
Guy felt just a breath of wind.
“You tried and I appreciate it. What you said to your sister was cute, though a bit dramatic: ‘Kill me if you must, but not her!’"
“It was useless. If Robin didn’t intervene... And even so...”
“True. Not useful, but kind of you. But let me look at you, now.”
The girl stared at him, scrutinizing him carefully, so that Guy began to feel uncomfortable, then Meg smiled.
“Apart from the first time I saw you, so proud, riding your black horse, we always meet when you're in a bad shape. You are pale and I can see that you have a high fever, but at least this time you are not as thin and as dirty as you were in the dungeons.”
“You... did you come to get me? Am I dying? That's why you're here?”
Meg broke out laughing.
“You're always so optimistic! But you're a man, so I can’t expect too much. Just a little sickness and you men feel ready for burial... But stop being silly, now, and come with me!”
Meg stretched out her hand, and Guy hesitated for a moment before taking it.
“Come on, you're dreaming, what do you have to fear?!”
Gisborne wrapped his fingers around the girl's cold hand, and followed her. He realized that he didn’t feel so weak anymore, but he still had chills.
He followed Meg down the deserted corridors of the hospital, and he thought that this had to be a dream because, even in the middle of the night, there was always someone in the building, that they were patients, doctors or nurses.
Even the computer screens or the TV in the waiting room were turned on but immobile, as if they were frozen in time.
Meg dragged him to the elevator and Guy wondered how it could work if everything was frozen.
They entered the cabin and Meg didn’t even try to press the buttons, but only a moment later she turned to get out.
Guy was surprised to see that they had come to the roof without the elevator moving. He looked up, watching the livid and threatening clouds: it was raining, but the rain was still and it didn’t touch them, and a white lightning crossed the sky, as if it had been painted.
The girl seemed to be perfectly comfortable and Guy was astonished.
“Aren’t you surprised by all the inventions of this era? Look at that vehicle on the other roof, could you ever imagine that it can fly?”
"There is not much left that could surprise me, Guy. After death, time has no meaning, but I can’t tell you more than that.”
“Why did you bring me here?”
“Give me a kiss and I’ll tell you.”
Guy looked at her, terrified, and Meg crossed her arms in front of her with an indignant look.
“Well, don’t be too enthusiastic!”
“I can’t... Forgive me, but I can’t...”
The girl sighed, looking up to the sky.
“I know, silly, I was just having a little fun to tease you. You shouldn’t always take everything so seriously.”
Meg smiled at him and she stroked his lips with another quick and light kiss.
“I still quite like you, black knight,” Meg said, with an affectionate smile. “But now listen to me, I don’t have much time.”
Guy smiled at her.
“I am listening.”
Meg pointed at the horizon.
“I came to warn you: it's coming.”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Why are you here then?”
“I told you: to warn you.”
“But you can’t tell me why...”
“Yes. I can only tell you this: keep calm, because your future might depend on it. And take the hand that will be held to you, as hard as it may seem.”
“What does it mean?”
“You'll understand when the time comes. But now I have to go, Guy.”
“I'm sorry! You didn’t deserve to die and I should have been able to protect you! You were an innocent girl and you died because of me!”
“Well, now there’s nothing that can be done about it, so it’s no use to get afflicted, don’t you think? I don’t consider you responsible, but since you do, I want to ask you a favor so maybe you'll feel a little less guilty.”
“Ask me anything.”
"When you remember me, do it with a smile.”
A moment later, Meg was no longer beside him.
Jack Robinson waited for Gisborne to open his eyes before calling him again.
“Guy? How do you feel?”
Gisborne looked at him, still confused and not quite awake.
“You were having a fitful sleep, did you have a nightmare? And why did you go to bed wearing your jacket?”
“I'm cold and my throat is sore, I think I have a fever.”
"Then it's good that Alicia has asked me to come and visit you. Come on, get up and take that jacket off.”
“At home, blocked by the storm.”
Guy looked in the direction of the window: the rain was knocking on the glass and every now and then a lightning lighted the sky. Guy thought back to the lightning of his dream, frozen in time, that stood up against the dark sky like a kind of inverted and bright tree.
“Is it so bad?”
“Many roads are blocked and even the helicopter can’t fly today. But don’t worry, we are safe here and Alicia is perfectly safe at home. Open your mouth now.”
Jack focused on the examination, and Guy didn’t say anything until he had finished.
“It's flu: you have a very high fever and an inflamed throat and probably in the next few days you will also get a cough and a cold.”
“How many chances do I have to survive?”
Jack looked at him, thinking that he was joking, but Guy's serious and tense expression made him realize that instead the other man was really worried.
“Guy, you're young and healthy, you won’t die for a flu.”
“Fevers always carried away many people during the winter... During my first year at Locksley, even young and strong men died.”
The doctor wondered if he should indulge Guy's conviction of coming from the past, but he could see that his patient was already quite worried, and he probably wasn’t well enough to deal with that subject, so he just decided to reassure him.
“Now the situation is different. It is very rare that a healthy person has lethal complications, don’t worry about it. I'll give you something to lower the fever and I’ll tell the nurse to come and check in a few hours to see how do you feel.”
“You aren’t lying to me, are you?”
“I never did. Stay in bed and rest, try to drink a lot and have light meals, and you’ll see that in a few days you will feel much better.”
“No, you never lied to me,” Guy said, a little calmer. “I'll do as you say.”
“Good. Now I have to go, but if you need something, call the nurse,” Jack made his way to the door, but stopped and turned back to Guy. “By the way, who is Meg? Earlier you were calling that name.”
Guy looked at him and Jack noticed the flash of sorrow that crossed his face, but then Gisborne struggled to smile to answer him.
“A person I knew,” he said tenderly. “An innocent and courageous girl.”
“Then it was a nice dream.”
Guy thought of the restlessness and the sense of uneasiness he had experienced in watching the world lightened by that livid light, crystallized in time, the anxiety that remained in his heart after Meg's warning, and he was about to answer that instead it was a nightmare, but then he remembered the cheerful and affectionate attitude of the girl, her spirited words and the light kisses she had given to him, innocent and tender like the kisses he got from his sister when she still loved him.
He was glad to have met her again, to know that she did not reproach him for her death and that she was in peace.
He smiled with more confidence in answering Jack.
“Yes, it was a nice dream.”
Chapter 17: The Place Where They Care
“Hey, tall boy, still sick?”
The woman took a tray from the cart and she entered into Guy’s room, smiling. The middle-aged woman, as short and tiny as a child, was always cheerful and she tried to convey her optimism to the patients when she gave them their meals.
Guy greeted her with a nod, stifling a cough.
“Yes, I’d say that you are still sick, but this morning you seem to be a little stronger.”
“The nurse said that the fever broke.”
“It's a good thing, isn’t it? Do you feel like eating something today?”
“I think so.”
“Good sign, you’ll see that you will feel better soon. I bet you're bored to stay in bed all day.”
“I slept a lot.”
“I know. Last evening I came to bring you dinner, but you slept like an angel and I didn’t have the heart to wake you up. Well, what's so funny now?”
“Nobody ever called me ‘an angel’ before. The opposite, if anything.”
“They've never seen you sleeping, then. And anyway, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you don’t seem threatening even when you are awake, not with those blue eyes and when you look so lost. But tell me something, is it true what they say about you?”
“That you think you are a medieval knight.”
Guy looked at her, irritated.
“This is not the real question, you want to know if I'm crazy. If I were, would it be so fun? Is it so nice to make fun of people?”
The woman looked at him, unimpressed.
“My, you are susceptible, my boy. I don’t want to make fun of you, it just seemed interesting to me.”
“What do you mean?”
"It does not matter if it’s true or not, you are free to believe what you prefer, but in any case you know many things about the life of a knight, and I like to learn new things. When I have time to chat with patients, I always enjoy asking what they do in life and listening to their stories. You have to admit that a story like yours doesn’t happen every day.”
“It's not funny. Sometimes I think that it would be really better to be crazy, because at least I would have the chance to improve, to remember a family or friends, and to find my place in this world... But if I’m not mad, then all the people I knew are dead, and I'm lost in an age I don’t belong to...”
“Oh, it's really sad... I didn’t think about how you might feel, I apologize. See, I like to talk to people for this reason too: to learn to see the world from another point of view. But now I'm sorry I have saddened you...”
“It doesn’t matter. I know you didn’t have bad intentions.”
"I don’t like the idea of making you suffer. See, I like to chat with people, but sometimes I talk too much. Listen, now I have to end my shift, but before I go home I'll come back to see you, and meanwhile I'll think about a way to make up for it.”
Guy smiled at her.
“It doesn’t matter, really.”
“You smiled. And I wasn’t wrong: you're so cute when you do it.”
The woman giggled in seeing him blush and she went out of the room, as cheerful as she had come in.
Alicia smiled at Guy as she approached the bed.
“You look better today, do you feel better too?”
“Yes, apart from this cough.”
“It will soon pass. Keep resting and taking your remedies and you’ll heal quickly.”
“I don’t have much else to do, don’t you think?”
“Take your time to rest now. When you are well, you’ll undergo a rather challenging time.”
Gisborne looked at her.
“The tests you talked to me about? Those to decide my future?”
“Yes. I thought a lot about what you asked me the other day, when you told me that you wanted to do something useful, and maybe I found a good chance for you. There is a humanitarian association that operates in many nations, helping victims of wars, disabled people and people from disadvantaged groups of the population. One of their programs is to help these people to re-enter society and be self-sufficient. Often the people they help have the opportunity to find a job within the association itself.”
“And do you think they could help me?”
“It's a possibility. If they will accept your case, they will help you to learn what you need to live in our time, and to find a job. If they deem you fit to work within their association, you would have the opportunity to help people and to make a difference in other people's lives. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“It can’t be so easy.”
“It isn’t. They receive many requests for help and of course they can’t satisfy them all. If social workers dealing with your case will approve my proposal, we will forward a request and the association will send a delegation to meet you and examine your situation.”
“They will never choose me.”
“Why shouldn’t they? It's true that you don’t know the modern world, but you're smart and you are committed to learn what you don’t know. In just a little more than a month you made a big progress. But in any case we will think about it in a few days, for now you must think to get healthy.”
“For that I have great programs: sleep, rest, eat something, stare at the wall and then sleep again, and finally look at the ceiling...”
“Now that you feel better, you are starting to get bored, aren’t you?”
“I could read, but, with this flu, my eyes get teary and tired, and after a while I get an headache...”
“I imagined that. I've brought you a few things that could help you to kill time while staying in bed.”
Guy stared at her, perplexed.
“To kill time?”
Alicia put a paper bag on Guy's bed and she began to show him the items that were inside it.
“Colored pencils and a shetchbook if you want to draw.”
“Why should I draw?”
“Because it can be pleasant and relaxing.”
“But I can’t draw.”
“You don’t have to be good, even making some scribble can be fun. Or you can just color this.”
Alicia pulled a coloring book out of the bag and she opened it to show the drawings and the patterns that were printed inside it.
“See? Just fill the spaces with the colors you want.”
“But I'll ruin it.”
“It's its purpose. Then I brought you this: it's called jigsaw puzzles. Do you see these small tiles? They have a drawing printed on them and you have to recompose it by joining them together, like this.”
“Why? What’s the use of it?”
Alicia looked at him, amused.
“To spend some time. What did you do to have fun when you had nothing else to do?”
“I don’t know. The sheriff didn’t give me much free time.”
"And I bet you didn’t have to stay in bed when you had some.”
“No.” Guy seemed to remember something and smiled at her. “But on the ship for the Holy Land, the mercenaries played dice. A couple of times, when I wasn’t feeling too seasick, I played a few games with them.”
“There should also be dice in the bag, now that I think of it. Yes, here they are. You will need to teach me the rules of the games that you know.”
Guy picked up the transparent plastic dice and he examined them, lifting them to look at their translucence, then he put them down on the bedside table, and he looked back at the doctor.
“What else is in that bag?”
“Have fun finding it out, soon I’ll have to start my shift, but first I wanted to show you something else.”
She handed him a sketchbook and she invited him to browse it.
“They're drawings... Did you do them?”
“Yes, mainly portraits. Tell me if you recognize anyone.”
“This is Dr. Robinson... the lady who brings the meals... this is the pretty nurse... she's called Jenny, isn’t she?” Guy turned a page, and looked at Alicia, surprised. “This is me? Did you draw me too?”
“Yes, is it a problem for you?”
Guy shook his head.
“No, I just didn’t think that anyone would ever think about making a portrait of me. Usually they portray important people.”
“And do you think you aren’t important?”
“No. I've never been.”
“Well, you're wrong, dear. And don’t let anyone convince you of the opposite. But go ahead, tell me if you also recognize anyone else.”
“Jonathan Archer and Mr. Edwards. Is that one of those tests you talked to me about, Alicia? Do you want to see if I can recognize people?”
Guy raised his face to give an amused look at Alicia as he turned another page, but when he looked back at the sketchbook, he froze.
The doctor looked at him: Guy couldn’t look away from that page. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, then he opened them again and looked back at the sketchbook, upset.
She also felt her heartbeats accelerating, but she struggled to talk to him using a detached and professional tone.
“Who are those people, Guy?”
Gisborne winced at the sound of her voice, and turned to look at her.
“How is it possible?! How did you do?! You can’t have drawn this!”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it’s impossible! This is Robin and this is Allan! How could you have made their portraits if they have died eight centuries ago?! Or are these just common people and my mind has always deceived me? Am I really crazy, Alicia? But then how did I know about the dagger and the fake tooth on the sheriff's skull?!”
Alicia looked at him, upset and frightened, and she hurried to approach the bed and to put her hands on his shoulders, trying to calm him down.
“No, no, Guy, don’t say that! You're not mad! It’s my fault, just my fault, I should have prepared you before I showed you that drawing, but I had to be sure not to influence you. That's why I drew all the other portraits!”
“What do you mean? How do you know their faces?!”
“I dreamed of them! The other day, when I fell asleep in the lift, I dreamed of Robin Hood and Allan-a-Dale. I was in the forest and they stopped me, asking to give them a tenth of my money or they would have taken it all.”
“Robin acted like this.”
“I kept thinking of that strange dream and then I tried to draw their faces. Until a moment ago I thought that I had been affected by the stories you told me and that I had dreamed about Robin Hood for that reason. Really, Guy, I thought that you would look at this page only to tell me that you didn’t know those people, and then I would know that it was just a meaningless dream. I swear to you, darling, I had no intention of upsetting you.”
Alicia hugged him and for a while they stood still, holding each other tight without talking, trying to calm down.
"You'll get a fever too, if you stay so close to me,” Guy said after a while.
“I had the flu vaccine shot, don’t worry. With my work it’s necessary.”
“What’s a vaccine?”
“A medicine that prevents getting certain illnesses. I'll explain it to you later. Are you quieter now?” Alicia parted slightly from him to look at his face and she stroked his hair with a reassuring gesture. “Are those really your friends?”
“How could I dream about them? How is it possible?”
“How can I be here? Perhaps we will never have an answer.”
Alicia let him go and she stood up, with a trembling sigh.
“Now I really have to go. I'm sorry I have scared you like that.”
Gisborne shook his head, as if to say he didn’t care.
“Now you're the one who's scared, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I wonder if they really were the ghosts of your friends, or if you and I shared a dream. In any case it’s such a strange situation...”
"I have stopped being surprised of strange things.” Guy looked at the drawing again, and he smiled. "But it's nice to know that I'm no longer the only one to know their faces. Can I keep it?”
“Of course you can. If you wish, I can draw more of them. Now rest, I'll come back later to see how you feel.”
The woman bent to give him a quick kiss on his cheek and left the room.
She had hoped to solve a doubt and instead she came up with many more questions, but now she had to put aside those thoughts and to devote herself completely to her work.
Guy looked at the colorful tile and he rotated it to put it in its place in the puzzle, completing the figure of a horse. That activity was completely useless, but oddly satisfying, and, if nothing else, it could distract him for a few minutes from the thousands of questions caused by Alicia's dream. If she had seen them in a dream, did it mean that their souls really could communicate with him? So, was Meg's warning real too?
He occasionally took Alicia's sketchbook and opened it, to be sure he hadn’t imagined everything.
He found himself wishing that Alicia could dream of Marian, so he could see her face again, drawn by the doctor. If instead of Robin and Allan, Alicia had portrayed her, Guy would have his heart broken again, but he would be willing to pay any price to see Marian at least once more.
“Is this the first time you make a puzzle, my boy?”
Guy looked up and smiled at the lady of the meals.
“Is it so evident?”
“It seems to me that you are doing pretty good, but usually people start from the edges. See? There are four pieces that you put at the corners, and then those with a straight side form the outer frame of the image.”
“It's a good idea. Thank you.”
“Do you know what? I've been spending a lot of time wondering what you might like. In the end I came to two conclusions: first, chocolate always improves the morale, so I brought you some, but don’t eat it all at once, otherwise you’ll be sick and then the doctors will berate me.”
She put a bag of chocolates on the bedside table and Guy smiled at her.
“Thank you. You guessed right, chocolate is one of the things I like about this era. And what’s the second conclusion?”
"I thought that maybe I’d better think of something that could be useful to you. I remembered that when he was little, my grandson kept asking questions continuously: he wanted to know how the cars worked, where electricity came from, how the moon was, and a host of other questions to find out all the things he didn’t know. In the end, my husband bought him some books to answer some of his thousand questions. So at lunch break I went home and retrieved them from the attic to bring them to you. You aren’t a child, but you could find them interesting.”
Guy took one of the volumes and opened it to a random page: the pages were illustrated in bright colors and the explanations were short and written in a simple and effective language.
“I didn’t offend you, did I?” The woman asked, seeing that he was looking at the books, silent and absorbed. Guy looked up at her.
“No. In fact, I am struck by how much you did for me. You thought about how to help me, and you are willing to give me those precious memories of your grandson...”
“Hey, blue eyes, stop it or you’ll make me cry. My grandson grew up and he no longer cares for those books, while I keep all the memories in my heart. You need them more, they are yours now.”
“You gave me a precious gift, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, my boy, get well and that will be the best thanks you can give to me. Well, now I have go, my husband prefers to dine early.”
"Tomorrow I will tell you whatever you want about my life in Nottingham in the twelfth century.”
“Won’t you mind recalling the past?”
“Maybe it will hurt a while, but I'll be glad to talk to someone who really cares about it.”
“See you tomorrow then.”
The woman went out with her usual lively step and Guy smiled, moved to think that a person who didn’t even know him had taken care of his situation so much that she wanted to give him a gift.
Probably she didn’t even believe him, and she probably thought that she was dealing with a madman who thought to be a knight, but she still wanted to help him.
In his time, very few would be so kind to a crazy man: they would ill-treat him or send him away or, at best, they would make a fool of him to openly laugh of his madness. Perhaps only Robin could be capable of being so gentle, while in the 21st century they were all much more kind.
Maybe somebody laughed at him, thinking that his story was funny, but almost everyone was ready to take care of him and to help him.
Often he wondered if, having the chance to choose, he would go back to his time, and he hadn’t been able to find an answer, but now he forced himself to be honest.
No, I wouldn’t go back.
He could have done it for Marian or Robin, maybe for Allan, but they were all dead.
Archer, my brother, forgive me, our bond isn’t strong enough. I wouldn’t go back, not even for you. I prefer to be crazy in this compassionate world that I still don’t understand completely, rather than go back to being hated by everyone in my time.
Chapter 18: Miriam White
“Sit there,” Alicia ordered, pointing to a chair, and she grabbed a brush, brandishing it with the same fierceness of a warrior wielding a sword.
Guy looked at her, a little worried.
“I've already combed my hair, Alicia.”
“I know, but maybe it's best to tie it up. Maybe we should have cut it, but by now it's too late to think about it.”
“Does it matter so much? And anyway I'm not going to cut my hair in the fashion of this century.”
“It's important that you make a good impression. You are about to meet some members of the association we have already talked about, and I want to be sure they accept our application. They have many requests and your case is at the margins of their area of action.”
“I showered, I shaved and I wore the clothes you gave me, what’s the difference if my hair is short or long?”
Alicia sank the brush between his locks, smoothing them and collecting them in a tidy ponytail.
“Guy, I just want you to have a serene life, this association is a too good opportunity for you, I don’t want to leave anything to chance.”
“I know and I'm grateful to you. And that's why I endured all those tests, even when they seemed pretty nonsensical. By the way, what did they say then? How much crazy am I?”
“They didn’t find brain damages, but in the end they attributed your ‘amnesia’ to the trauma that you suffered when you were injured. I think they have never met a case like yours, they weren’t sure how to evaluate it.”
"When I was asked all these questions, I wasn’t entirely honest. I think that much of what I did for the sheriff wouldn’t have made a good impression on the people of this time.”
“Yes. Better avoid talking about it. Here, you're ready now. Shall we go?”
Guy nodded, standing up to follow her.
“Alicia, don’t get your hopes high, they will never choose me.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Why should they? The only thing I was good at was to obey orders, and look where it brought me. I'm not full of resources like Robin or determined as a sheriff, and at this time I can’t do absolutely nothing useful.”
“Stop talking like that. You have to have more confidence in yourself, dear,” Alicia stopped to brush an invisible speck of dust from his sweater and she stroked his cheek. “Stay calm and it will be all right.”
“What did you say?!”
Alicia turned and stared at him, and Guy was afraid she’d been offended because of his words.
“I was just kidding, sorry.”
“No, no, I didn’t take offense, but did you just speak French?”
“My mother was French. She often spoke with us in her native language.”
“Do you also know other languages?”
“Some Latin. Do you think that it can be a problem?”
“It will make a great impression instead. Now come, we don’t want to be late.”
“What will happen during the meeting?”
“Today's just a little more than a presentation, there will be some members of the humanitarian association, some of the psychologists who have examined you, and the social worker, and we will schedule some other meetings with the members of the association, at the end of which they will tell us if you are fit for their program or not.”
“And what do I have to do today?”
“Nothing special, just be calm, and answer their questions.”
Guy nodded and he followed Alicia to the room that would host the meeting.
The doctor opened the door, whispered to him that the others had already arrived and she stepped aside to let him enter the room.
Gisborne came into the room, suddenly tense. He knew Alicia was very nervous about that meeting and she had transmitted that agitation to him too.
He was intimately convinced that he didn’t have many possibilities. How many times had the sheriff called him inept? How many failures did he have to face each time he tried to take the initiative to accomplish something?
But Alicia seemed to really believe in him and Guy didn’t want to disappoint her. The only way to thank the people who had saved his life and who had taken care of him was to prove to them that he was worthy of it.
He glanced at the people in the room and recognized some of the doctors he had met in the previous weeks, while a small group of persons who he didn’t know yet was standing in front of the refreshment table, sipping a cup of tea. From his position near the door, Guy could see the face of two of the strangers, a man and a woman, while a third person, another younger woman, was hidden from his sight by the other two.
The strangers turned when they heard him and Alicia coming in, and approached them.
The man and the woman came forward, but Guy didn’t hear their names, because his attention had been completely absorbed by the face of the third girl.
He froze, almost petrified, staring at her as she approached him, looking at those features he had thought lost forever, at her face, so loved, that he hadn’t even been able to see in dreams since he had destroyed it.
"Marian..." He whispered, without even realizing that he had pronounced that name aloud until the girl shook her head laughing.
“Almost. My name is Miriam, Miriam White. And you must be Guy, right? Pleased to meet you, I've heard a lot about you.”
Guy thought that he wouldn’t be able to take another breath, that his heart would continue to beat faster and faster until it exploded into his chest, and that he would die there, at the feet of that woman identical to Marian.
Suddenly, just when he thought that he would fall to the ground, he had the impression of feeling a touch on his shoulders, light as a blowing breeze, and Meg's voice talked softly to him.
Keep calm, because your future might depend on it.
He breathed and forced himself to look at Miriam: the girl was holding her hand to him after introducing herself.
Take her hand.
Guy mechanically obeyed Meg's voice and he took the girl's hand, whispering his name. Her fingers were strong and fresh, and he remembered one of the few times that he had held Marian's hand, when he had put his engagement ring on her finger. Then Marian had shivered at his touch and he had thought that she was shy. Only after a long time he had realized that it had been a shiver of disgust at the idea of marrying him.
A moment later, Miriam's hand left his, and the girl went to sit next to her colleagues, without even noticing how shocked he had been.
Alicia touched his arm.
“All right, Guy?”
Gisborne didn’t reply, but he followed her and dropped into the chair, keeping his eyes low, without daring to lift his gaze from the table top.
The doctor gave him a worried look, wondering why he had become so pale and tense. Perhaps it was her fault, she shouldn’t have stressed so much the importance of that encounter and loaded him with too many expectations, but now she couldn’t afford to talk to him to calm him down, she had to concentrate on what she had to say to present Guy's case in the best way.
She spoke with the members of the association and answered their questions, turning to Guy from time to time. Gisborne was much quieter than usual and his tense expression changed into a sort of detachment, an impassive mask that Alicia had never seen on his face but that, she guessed, had to be the same he had when he was working for the Sheriff of Nottingham and he was forced to act against his conscience.
When someone questioned Guy, he answered shortly in a polite and impersonal tone, as if the question didn’t concern him, but somebody else.
When the meeting ended, Alicia breathed a sigh of relief, said goodbye to the members of the association and the psychologists of the hospital, and waited for them to go out of the room before walking out too. Guy followed her dejectedly, without saying a word, and she worried even more. It was obvious that there was something wrong with him, but she couldn’t understand what and he didn’t answer her questions.
In the middle of a corridor, Alicia stopped and stood in front of Guy to block his road.
“What happened? Was the meeting too stressful for you? Tell me something, it's clear that you're not okay, I just want to help you.”
Gisborne looked around with frightened eyes, as if he was looking for a way to escape, and his gaze stopped on a nearby door.
“Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom,” he said quickly, and he disappeared past the door before she could react.
Alicia sighed. Maybe before the meeting Guy had been a bit nervous, but she had been the most concerned one, while now Gisborne seemed about to collapse. That cold attitude was clearly a reaction to a strong emotional stress, even though she couldn’t understand what caused it.
The interview had been very superficial and had the only purpose of being an introduction. Guy had undergone much more challenging tests and meetings with the hospital commission, he had no reason to react like that.
The doctor looked apprehensively at the closed door and she decided that she would give him some more time to vent and calm down before knocking and asking if he was feeling well.
She had just taken that decision when she heard a dull thud on the other side of the door, and then Guy started screaming.
Guy leaned against the sink with both hands, and he closed his eyes.
Meg's voice, who had supported him during the meeting, helping him to resist, was now just a distant echo and there was nothing to hold back the crazy beats of his heart.
He knew that Alicia had to be worried, and he thought that maybe it would be better to confess her everything, to say that, or that girl was identical to Marian, or he was a victim of some hallucination.
Alicia deserved to known it, she was taking the responsibility of guaranteeing for him, and if his mind was failing, he had to tell her to prevent her from compromising her career.
He tried to breathe deeply to withstand a wave of nausea, but there was something wrong in his breath, it was as if he was choking and couldn’t get enough air, even if he was panting heavily.
Miriam's face continued to dance in front of his eyes, painfully identical to Marian. Only, the girl he had just met had smiled at him with no fear, while the last look he had seen in Marian's eyes was a stare of horror and pain.
I killed her, on this I can’t be mistaken. I sank my sword in her stomach.
He found himself living that moment again, as if in a nightmare. The terrible moment when he had realized what he had done, the gesture of a single instant of blind anger, and then, passing from one nightmare to another, he was standing in front of the sheriff, at the exact moment when Vaisey had stabbed him with the sword.
The pain went through his body, piercing him like the first time, and Guy no longer had the strength to stand. He fell to the ground, slamming his head against the sink, and found himself on the floor of the bathroom, his body afflicted by a pain so strong to tear howls of suffering from him.
Alicia pushed the door with her heart in her mouth, and she saw immediately that Guy was on the ground and had his face covered in blood.
The doctor knelt beside him and immediately found the wound on his forehead that was bleeding so much. She got up quickly and grabbed a handful of paper towels, using them to staunch the flow of blood.
“Be quiet Guy, it's nothing, it bleeds a lot, but it's a superficial cut,” she said to reassure him, but Gisborne kept screaming, writhing on the ground, and pressing his hands on his abdomen.
Alicia tried to move his fingers away to see if he had any other wounds, but at the slightest touch, Guy howled louder, as if in agony, and stiffened, arching his body and slamming the back of his head on the floor.
Alicia looked at him, anguished, took off her jacket and put it under his head to prevent him from getting hurt, then she walked out in the corridor and shouted to call for help.
Jack Robinson wondered what had happened.
He had almost finished his shift and he was preparing to go home when Alicia Little called.
The woman had managed to keep calm, and she had tried to give him all the information she could, but she couldn’t understand why Guy had collapsed to the ground screaming with pain. It seemed that it was the healed wound to cause him so much suffering, but Alicia didn’t understand the reason: from what she could see there was no blood or trace of infection, and the scar had appeared normal only the day before.
Jack tried to remember every detail of the surgery with which they had saved Gisborne's life a couple of months ago, thinking of any particular detail that could have caused complications after such a long time.
In any case, he had warned the operating room staff to be ready to receive an emergency and he had set up one of the emergency rooms to intervene without any loss of time. Now he just had to wait for Alicia to bring their patient there.
Guy tried to keep his eyes open, but dark spots danced in front of his eyes, making him feel even worse. Nausea and pain alternated without leaving a moment of respite, and the movements of the stretcher made it even worse. He tried to withstand at least the nausea: perhaps he was dying, the pain was too strong to hope for survival, but if that was his destiny, he wanted to do so at least with some dignity.
A sharper turn of the stretcher put an end to that attempt to endure nausea, but Alicia noticed it in time and stopped the stretcher, helped him to turn on one side and gave him a basin, helping and supporting him while he was sick.
When it was over, Guy was lying on his side, with no energies and with his eyes full of tears of fear and pain.
“I'm dying, Alicia. It hurts so much...”
The doctor touched his face, his skin was cold and clammy, then she touched his neck and she felt the frantic beat of his heart under her fingers, like the wings of a frenzied little bird.
“It will be all right, sweetheart. Don’t be afraid, whatever it is, we are going to cure it. Let me look at the wound...”
Alicia tried to lift his clothes, but Guy cried again, shielding his belly with his hands, and the doctor decided that using force would only damage him, and that, as soon as they arrived to the emergency room, she would give him a sedative.
She slowly stroked his back, walking in a hurry beside the stretcher and trying to reassure him as she could, but intimately she was scared to death because she didn’t understand what could have gone wrong.
Jack Robinson looked closely at the screen of the ultrasound as he examined Gisborne's abdomen.
He pressed a little bit harder with the transducer, but Guy didn’t even utter a moan.
Alicia stared at him, holding the hand of the sleeping knight.
“You saw it too: the wound is perfectly normal. It didn’t reopen, there are no adhesions that can cause all this pain, and there are no infections. I also checked the rest of the abdomen, but it seems all right.”
“How is it possible? If I just touched him, he suffered at the point of screaming!”
“Look at him now, touch his wound.”
Alicia put a hand on Guy's stomach over his scar and she pressed slightly, then she moved her hand, palpating the surrounding area as well. Guy continued to sleep without reacting.
"If he had such a strong pain, he would feel it despite the mild sedative dose that we gave him. I witnessed accidents where the wounded were still crying despite a dose of at least four times bigger than the one we had given him. Instead, as soon as he relaxed, the pain went away.”
“Won’t you believe that he was pretending?!”
"No, I'm sure he really felt pain, but I also think that the cause wasn’t just physical. It is normal for a scar like this to cause pangs or pain, but not so strong. Look.”
Jack pressed his scar with two fingers, and Guy didn’t move, but when he touched the cut that he got hitting his head against the sink, Gisborne moved his head with a moan.
Alicia stroked his hair briefly.
“Could it have been caused by the tension for the meeting with the members of the association? I shouldn’t have told him that it was so important...”
“Don’t blame yourself. You couldn’t know that he would react like that. Hadn’t he been examined for weeks by social workers and psychologists? If they decided that he was ready to meet the delegates of the association, no one could have predicted what had happened.”
“But what do we do now? What’s going to happen to him?”
“Who saw him being ill?”
“Me, you and the nurses who helped me to take him here.”
“Not the other participants in the meeting?”
“No. I think he was already feeling unwell, but he kept calm until we were alone.”
“Take him back to his room and for today we’ll check his vital parameters, then talk to him, try to figure out what triggered his reaction. He trusts you, if something upset him, maybe he will tell you.”
Chapter 19: Afraid to Dream
Alicia looked at Guy's face, still relaxed in sleep, and she felt a pang of emotion to remember his suffering of just a few hours ago. She was relieved because the knight wasn’t in danger, but she was worried about him, and to see him feeling so bad had genuinely grieved her.
She rose from her chair to press her lips to his forehead, and she wished that she could protect him from anything that could hurt him, even from himself.
She noticed that there were still traces of dried blood around the wound. She took a piece of cotton, went to the bathroom and wet it under the water tap, then she wrung it in the sink and returned to Guy, starting to gently wipe his forehead.
“Did I wake you up, love?”
Guy opened his eyes and he looked at the monitor next to the bed.
“That thing was also there the last time I almost died.”
“We need to check your vital parameters... Your heartbeat. And you didn’t almost die.”
“I thought I was dying. What happened, did the wound reopen?”
“No, darling. Apart from the wounds you've got by banging your head against the sink and on the floor, there's nothing wrong with you.”
Guy moved his hand and cautiously touched his belly, surprised that he wasn’t feeling any more pain.
“It was so bad! Like when I was hurt, maybe even more! How is it possible? You must believe me, Alicia, I thought I would die!”
“I believe you, you know I believe you. Don’t panic.”
Guy saw that the woman was watching the monitor, worried.
“How can I keep calm if I don’t know what happened to me?! Such a strong pain is not normal.”
Alicia brought the chair closer to the bed and she took one of his hands in hers, stroking its back.
“According to Dr. Robinson, the cause of that pain wasn’t just physical.”
“What do you mean?”
“The scar can hurt, but not so much. But in situations of strong emotional stress, the mind can amplify a little pain and make it unbearable.”
“In practice, are you saying that I imagined I was in pain?”
“What happened, Guy? During the meeting there was already something troubling you, was it because of what I told you this morning? The association is a great opportunity for you, but it's not the only one, remember it. Even if they don’t choose you for their program, you don’t need to despair, we'll find something else and everything will be fine in the end. I care a lot for you, sweetheart, and I assure you that in one way or another we will manage to make sure that you can have a beautiful future.”
Guy closed his eyes without answering and Alicia might have thought he'd fallen asleep if she had not seen the heartbeat on the monitor accelerating more and more.
Alicia held his hand more tightly and Guy's fingers clung to hers. For a while they remained like that, without speaking, then Gisborne said a single word, in an almost imperceptible whisper.
The doctor looked at him.
“Marian? The woman you...”
Guy interrupted her, staring at her.
“Yes, the woman I killed.”
“I was about to say ‘the woman you loved’.”
Alicia was saddened to see the knight's eyes filling with tears and she found herself embracing him on impulse, driven by the desire to somehow alleviate his sorrow. Guy leaned against her with a distressed sigh and the doctor stroked his back and his hair with the tenderness of a mother.
“Did you think about her, love? Is this about what you told me some time ago? Now that you have the opportunity to go on with your life, do you feel guilty because she can’t?”
Guy shook his head.
“No. I mean yes, I keep thinking about it, but this is not the reason...”
Alicia lowered her face to kiss him on the hair, moved by the pain and the confusion that she felt in his words.
“What then, dear? Don’t be afraid to confide in me.”
“It’s about Miriam, the girl from the association... She is identical to Marian.”
The doctor pulled away from Gisborne to look at him in the eyes, deeply amazed. She had not expected such a thing.
Guy nodded and Alicia saw the fear in his eyes.
“When I saw her, I thought her ghost was back to torment me...”
“After... after what I did, I kept seeing her. She spoke to me, she accused me of having taken her life, laughed at my despair, and tormented me. When I closed my eyes, the demons came, instead, ready to drag me to hell. I couldn’t sleep except when I was stunned with wine, and I was never sure if what I saw was a dream or reality. And yet, when she stopped appearing, I missed that madness, because at least that way I could still see her face...”
Alicia handed him a handkerchief and thought about how desperate Guy must have been to miss those hallucinations, just to have a last glimpse of his beloved woman.
“Did you love her so much?”
“She was the love of my life. Even though I wasn’t her love... She always loved Robin Hood, but I didn’t understand it until the end. I didn’t want to see the truth, and in the end this truth has destroyed us... When I killed her, it was as if I had taken my own life as well, and Robin’s too. I will never forgive myself, Alicia, never.”
The doctor thought that she had never loved a man so intensely, and she found herself wondering if this lack of love was something to regret or a fortune.
"And does miss Miriam look so much like her?"
"If I wasn’t sure that Marian is dead, I'd be ready to swear it's her. And even so I keep asking myself so many questions...”
Alicia saw that Guy kept touching his belly, unconsciously searching for the scar with his fingers.
“Do you think that what happened to you could have happened to her too? Could that girl be your Marian?”
“She was never mine. But yes, I keep wondering. She would have deserved a miracle, it would have been more fair. But she goes by another name and she looked at me as if she didn’t know me at all...”
“I will try to get information about her with discretion. Did Marian have any special sign that could allow us to recognize her without any doubt?”
Guy covered his face with his hands and nodded. Alicia looked at the monitor and noticed that his heartbeat was still very fast.
“She definitely has two scars on her stomach.”
“Two years ago a masked bandit, the Nightwatchman, broke into my home to rob me. He managed to escape, but as he escaped I stabbed him right here, in this place.”
“Was it Marian?”
“I only discovered it a long time later.”
“And did you arrest her?”
“No. I ordered Allan to get dressed as the Nightwatchman and to be chased by my guards to remove any suspicion from her. The sheriff wasn’t pleased at all to see the bandit escape under his nose.”
“Did he retaliate on you?”
Guy smiled at the memory.
“Obviously. But I didn’t care because she was safe.”
Alicia realized that Guy was still madly in love with that girl, in spite of everything, and she thought that finding himself in front of a woman identical to his lost love must have been unsettling for him.
It was surprising enough that he had managed to keep control throughout the meeting.
“I'll be able to find out if it's her or not, I promise.”
“If it were Marian... If it were really her...”
“What would you do?” Alicia asked, cautiously.
Guy thought about it for a moment.
“Nothing, I think. In any case I will keep away from her, I can’t risk hurting her.” Guy sighed. “And I know that if she were alive, I wouldn’t be less guilty because I did that gesture anyway, but it would be such a great relief to know that I didn’t kill her...”
Alicia dabbed his face with a handkerchief, wiping away his tears with tenderness.
“Poor dear, remember that I will always support you.”
“Why, Alicia? What did I do to deserve it?”
“You don’t need a reason to love someone. Come on, now be quiet and rest, earlier you scared me to death.”
“It's not your fault.”
They exchanged a small smile, then Guy looked at the wires that connected him to the heart monitor and at the drip tube attached to his wrist.
“Can you take them off? I have to get out of bed.”
“Why? Where do you want to go?”
“To the bathroom. This time I really have to go there, it's not an escape, I promise.”
Alicia nodded and freed him from the cables of the monitor.
“The IV is attached to a support with wheels, you can take it with you. Can you go on you own or do you need help?”
Guy blushed and shook his head.
“I'm fine now.”
“Then I'll wait for you here. If you feel ill, call me or at least try to miss the sink when you fall to the ground.”
“I will do my best.”
Guy washed his hands, then rinsed his face with cold water, trying not to wet the patch that covered the wound on his forehead. The wound was small, but it was quite painful and it was surrounded by a rather large dark bruise.
Guy cautiously touched the back of his head and even there he found a painful bump. He didn’t remember banging his head, either against the sink or on the floor, only the tremendous pain in the abdomen that made him believe he was dying.
He lifted his pajama shirt to look at the scar, but it didn’t seem different from usual: the skin was still red and ruined at the spot where Vaisey had sunk his sword, but the wound was tightly closed and there were no signs of infection.
Gisborne pressed it with two fingers until he felt a slight pain, but nothing comparable to what he had felt just a few hours before.
He felt a little weak and dizzy, but not bad, and he leaned against the sink so he wouldn’t lose his balance while staring at his image in the mirror.
Marian, if it really was her, didn’t seem to recognize him, and yet he hadn’t changed so much since she'd last seen him. He had longer hair, he looked sadder and wore different clothes, but it was always him.
If that girl was Marian, maybe her mind had removed the memory of her killer, or, more simply, Miriam was just a woman who looked a lot like her and it was Guy's mind that tricked him.
If it could make him think that he felt so much pain when there was no wound, why wouldn’t it deceive him, making him believe that Marian was still alive?
For months after his death, Guy had refused to accept his gesture and he convinced himself that the fault was of Robin, of the king, of the sheriff, of Marian herself, of anyone, just to deny that it had been his hand to sink the blade, he the one who committed that crime. Only towards the end, he had managed to be honest with himself and to acknowledge his own guilt, but it was perfectly possible that his conscience was again looking for a way out of his responsibilities.
A light knock on the bathroom door roused him from his thoughts.
“All right, Guy?”
He opened the door and saw the concern on Alicia's face before the woman hid it with a loving smile.
“Sorry, I was thinking.”
Guy staggered slightly and leaned against the IV support so he wouldn’t lose his balance. A moment later Alicia took his arm to support him, and she led him to the bed.
“Come on, sit down. How do you feel?”
“I'm not feeling bad, really. But I’m a little dizzy.”
The doctor examined his eyes using a light and checked the wound on his forehead and the swelling on the back of his head.
“Do you have a headache? Nausea?”
“No, on the contrary, I'm hungry.”
Alicia looked at the puzzle on the bedside table, now almost complete.
“Can you finish it?”
“Is it another test to see if I'm crazy?”
“No, to exclude a concussion.”
Guy took one of the pieces of the puzzle and put it in its place without any difficulty.
“To understand if it’s harder your head or the sink. For now your head wins, but I want to be completely sure.”
Guy grinned, arranging the last pieces of the puzzle.
“If it weren’t so, I would have died many centuries ago. Robin and his companions never had too many scruples about being delicate, when we were enemies.”
“I prefer to be cautious. The dizziness probably is a residual effect of the sedative that we gave you when you were ill, but I don’t want to see you in those conditions anymore, I think you took ten years off my life today.”
Guy stared at her, worried.
“What do you mean?”
"That’s a saying, it means I got scared to death.”
“Me too, believe me. But if it's something that depends on my mind, could it happen to me again?”
“Maybe, but now we know how to intervene and then I don’t think that a traumatic event like that of today can happen so often. Now you know that miss Miriam looks just like Lady Marian, it can make you suffer, but it's no longer a surprise, you can find a way to manage your emotions. Talking to a specialist could help you to elaborate how you feel.”
“There is not much to elaborate: alive or dead, I will love Marian forever and I will not approach Miriam White, for the good of everyone.”
“Remember that you can always talk to me, don’t hesitate to ask me for help if you feel the need. Now lie down and let me reconnect you to the heart monitor.”
“Is it really necessary? Those cables are annoying.”
“Indulge me and try to bear them for a while longer.”
Guy let her do it, and smiled at her.
“You remind me of my mother, do you know?”
“Do I look like her?”
“No, not at all, but when you talk to me, I can almost believe that everything will be fine and that the problems will really get solved. Without your help I don’t know if I would have found the courage to face this world.”
“Oh, I think you would. You're stronger than you think, Guy.”
“See? You're doing it again. Your children must be very lucky.”
“I have no children. I have always dedicated myself to my work and I never found the opportunity to form a family. It's too late now.”
“Are you sorry you didn’t do it?”
“We all have our regrets. The important thing is not to let them prevent us from moving forward.”
“I have a child.” Guy said suddenly.
“I had... He must have died so many centuries ago... I hope he had a good life, that he was happy even without a father...”
“Do you miss him?”
“I held him only once, to take him away from the castle, and maybe I didn’t even look at him. His mother was a servant and she worked in the kitchens, I never aknowledged the child.”
“Because the mother wasn’t noble?”
“Also, but I couldn’t have done it under any circumstances, not while I was working for the sheriff. Even if I had loved Annie, aknowledging the baby would have endangered them both.”
“So you left her?”
“We both knew that our relationship couldn’t last, that I could never marry her, but I tried to find a good home for the child. I should have taken him to Kirklees Abbey and paid for him to be raised there.”
“You should have? Didn’t you do it?”
"Robin Hood tried to plunder my stables, so I gave the baby and the money to one of my guards while I chased the outlaws. But, instead of taking him to Kirklees, that wretched man left him in the woods and fled with the money.”
“What happened to your son?”
“Apparently Robin found him and helped him and Annie to start a new life elsewhere. I haven’t heard anything about them, but I guess that Robin has found a good arrangement for both of them. Do you think it's possible to find out what happened to them after all this time?”
“It seems difficult to me, but we can try to do some investigation. I could ask Mr. Andrews for help, he will certainly know where to look, but don’t get your hopes high.”
Guy nodded, Alicia's recommendation was useless, by now he had learned to always expect the worst and he rarely had been contadicted by facts.
“I never do it, you know.”
“I can always count on you for a bit of optimism, can’t I?” Alicia said, smiling affectionately. “But now try not to think about anything and rest for a while. After a day like today you need to stay calm and recover your strength.”
“How can I not think of Marian? How can I stay here and do nothing without knowing if it's her or not?!”
“You can and you must.” Alicia talked to him in a stern tone that surprised Guy. “You said that even if it were Lady Marian you wouldn’t try to approach her, have you already changed your mind?”
“So knowing it wouldn’t make any difference, it would only give you a little respite your remorse, isn’t it? If she isn’t Marian, it wouldn’t change anything for you if not the fact of having met a woman who has a face similar to hers, while if she should really be Marian, you would have a little relief that however wouldn’t alter your behavior regarding her. Tell me if I'm wrong.”
“You're not wrong. Whatever happens, I am aware I have lost her forever. She was never mine, I was just deluding myself. But knowing that I didn’t kill her would be such a consolation...”
Gisborne stopped, unable to continue, and Alicia took his hand, staring into his eyes.
"I promise you that I'll find out who that girl is, and I’ll tell you the truth, whatever it is. In exchange, however, I also want a promise from you.”
“You won’t allow this thing to destroy you. Promise me that even if she isn’t Marian, you won’t give up and you won’t let yourself be overcome by despair. You have often told me that there must be a reason if your life has been spared, promise me that you will continue to look for that reason. I will help you, and this is also a promise.”
Guy nodded, too moved to speak and Alicia hugged him again. The knight had hidden his face against her shoulder to conceal his emotion, but Alicia knew he was crying. She also knew that this was a necessary and liberating vent and that Guy would feel better afterwards, so she did nothing to stop that outburst.
It was him who pulled away from her after a while, quickly drying his eyes with one hand to pretend he had never cried, a little embarrassed for showing his weakness.
“Maybe you're right,” he said in a low voice, lying back on the bed. “Maybe I really need to sleep, I feel so tired... But I'm afraid of what I could dream of.”
“Do you want me to give you something to make you sleep?”
“No, but if you can stay here a little longer, tell me something.”
“Whatever you want, anything that doesn’t make me think of her. If you want to describe what you ate for lunch or the plants that grow in the hospital garden, that's all right, all I need is to hear your voice.”
“I have a better idea. Tomorrow is my day off and in a few weeks it will be Christmas. You rest and make sure that you are well, and I will get the authorization to let you leave the hospital for a day. If you want to ride, we could go to the riding center, but I thought to take you to the city to see the Christmas markets. It's a sort of fair. Perhaps there will be some confusion though. What do you think about it?”
“Confusion doesn’t bother me. There are many things that I don’t know about this time, but they don’t scare me any more, no more than the horrible memories I have in my mind. Tell me about this fair, Alicia, tell me what we will do, and maybe I will dream of something beautiful instead of my crime.”
Guy closed his eyes and the doctor took his hand, holding it in her while she began to describe Christmas trees, stalls and colored lights, trying to choose only serene and relaxing images and happy anecdotes. Gisborne occasionally asked her a few questions, sleepy, and she answered to him in a quiet voice, then Guy stopped talking and his breathing slowed down in the peaceful rhythm of sleep.
Alicia kept quiet, but she didn’t move from her place next to the bed, and she didn’t let go of his hand.
She wanted to protect him from anything that could make him suffer again, even from nightmares.
Chapter 20: Just a Little Step Away
The glass was cold against his forehead, but Guy kept leaning against the window, staring at the ambulances that were entering and exiting the hospital gates.
He kept thinking of Marian, or Miriam, even if he had promised Alicia not to let his life to be ruined by those obsessive thoughts.
He wanted to see her again and at the same time he was terrified. For months he had prayed to see Marian again at least once, to have the chance to ask her forgiveness, but he hadn’t been able to meet her even in a dream.
But after seeing her face in the flesh, Guy was scared to death by the idea of hurting her again. He had loved her with all his heart, he had risked everything to protect her from the sheriff, and yet he had killed her.
Now, with all his good intentions, how could he be sure he wouldn’t hurt Miriam too?
He had to stay away from her, it was the only sensible thing to do, and yet his heart kept hoping to meet her again, his eyes continued to look for the beloved shape of her face and his hands quivered with the desire to touch her soft skin again.
It’s madness. I have to stop thinking about her.
Gisborne turned, relieved to recognize Dr. Robinson. Since he had met Miriam, the only way to distract himself from thinking about her had been to be in the company of other people, to try to be interested in their speeches.
"Did you come to check if I'm alright before letting me go?"
“Yes. Sit on the bed and take off your shirt.”
Guy obeyed and waited patiently for the doctor to examine his wounds and to listen to his heart and lungs.
“Are you still feeling dizzy?”
“No, I feel good.”
“Not at all.”
“Wear warm clothes and have a nice day with Alicia. I think it will do you good to have some fun and to start getting used to the outside world.”
“If that association will choose me for their program, will I be able to have a normal life sooner or later?”
“I'll be honest: I can’t give you a definite answer. I've never seen a case like yours, I can’t make a prediction of how things will go. In the past I have treated people who have suffered brain injuries and they had to learn even the simplest things again, but in most of those cases, the damage they suffered left permanent consequences. You have no injury, so you could potentially have a normal life, but there are also so many things you don’t know, and I have no idea if you can learn all of them.”
“I can always try. I don’t have much else to do, after all.”
“Yeah. I hope that you succeed. But today, just think about relaxing and having fun at Winter Wonderland. I think I will bring my family there next weekend, the children will like it a lot.”
Alicia looked at Guy, trying to figure out if he was uncomfortable in the crowd of people walking among the stalls of the fair, but the knight seemed rather calm, though amazed by what he was seeing.
Gisborne looked around, staring at the illuminated Christmas trees and at the goods on display in the stands shaped like little wooden houses.
Alicia tightened a little the hold of her hand on Guy's arm to get his attention.
“So, what do you think? It doesn’t look much like the fairs of your era, does it?”
“It does, actually. When there was some fair, the streets were filled with people, just like now, the merchants were exposing much more goods than usual, and there was always something interesting to see, including musicians, acrobats or jesters who performed to get some coins. There were also many scammers and cheaters, and then food and wine at will. But not so many lights.”
“Then things haven’t changed so much. By the way, do you want to eat something? Look, they sell mince pies, when I was little I couldn’t wait for Christmas to eat them!”
The doctor approached the sweetshop, bought two little cakes and handed one to Gisborne.
Guy tasted it, and he looked at Alicia, a little surprised.
“They resemble those that the cook used to prepare for Christmas when we came to live in Locksley from France for the first time. Maman didn’t like them very much, but for our father they were a tradition. Only, in those of my time there was also meat in the stuffing.”
Alicia wrinkled her nose at the idea.
Guy nodded, finishing chewing another bite.
“They were quite nutritious, but they are good even like this.”
“The food you eat now must taste so strange to you...”
“Yes, it’s true. Now you have exotic ingredients that once didn’t exist in England, and others were rare and precious while now they are commonly used. I could never have imagined certain flavors.”
“If we talk about hospital food, it's not hard to believe you. Maybe I should take you to dine out a little more often.”
“Why, what's wrong with hospital food?”
Alicia looked at him, skeptically.
“Do you have to ask?”
“I'm not fussy. I ate worse food in my life: at least this is not moldy or spoiled and there are no pests inside it. Isabella instead was more delicate...”
“Was Isabella your sister?”
Guy nodded with a sigh.
"She hated me so much lately that she wanted me dead, she was the one who hit me with the poisoned blade. Perhaps if I had asked for her forgiveness, things would have been different.”
Alicia laid a hand on his back in a gesture of comfort.
“Or maybe not, you can’t know.”
“Yes, I can’t, and now what is done can’t be changed. I only hope that in the end she has found peace.”
Alicia nodded, unable to find the right words to comfort him, and for a while they walked in silence looking at the lights of the Christmas decorations, then it was Guy who turned to her.
"Alicia, could you ask Mr. Andrews something for me?”
“I've been thinking about it since he showed me the sheriff's skull. Isabella had to be near him when they died, maybe some of the bones they found are hers. Do you think there is a way to understand it? I wish... I wish at least to give her a burial. Our parents never had one...”
“Maybe it’s possible, I'll have to ask him if they can do a DNA test on the remains they found. It's a bit complicated to explain, but it's a test that would allow you to compare the bones they found and your blood to see if there is a relationship.”
“Really? Is it possible to do such a thing? If at least I could give her a tomb, maybe Isabella could finally rest in peace...”
“I will ask Peter, there may be problems with costs, but I don’t think he will object and I am sure he will find a way to perform the test. If I understood even a little how that man thinks, I think he would be thrilled to prove that you really come from the past and that there is a connection between you and his finds.”
“Thanks Alicia.” Guy leaned over to kiss her cheek, moved, then he straightened up and tried to smile at her. “But today we had said to put aside sad thoughts, so tell me about some of these modern traditions with which you celebrate Christmas in this time.”
Alicia found herself with her eyes damp with tears seeing the sadness with which Guy had talked about his sister, but she forced herself to look serene.
“Ask away, what do you want to know?”
Guy had stopped at a stand displaying colored glass balls and Christmas decorations, and he pointed at one of them.
“That man dressed in red is depicted practically everywhere. Who is it? And what animals are those that pull his sled? They look like deers, but they are a bit different... And what's in that bag that's on his back?”
Alicia turned to look at Guy: the knight was leaning against the railing that surrounded the skating rink and watched the skaters, fascinated.
“Would you like to try?”
Guy turned to look at her and shook his head with a laugh.
“No, I’d say no. I would only end up making a fool of myself or getting injured. But I like watching those who do it. They all look so happy... Can you do it?”
“When I was young sometimes I went to skate, but now I think I'm not very agile anymore. I'm afraid I'd spend more time on the ground than standing.”
“Don’t try then, I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Alicia looked at him, amused at hearing his serious and protective tone, then she gave him a small, embarrassed smile.
“I have to go to the toilet, are you coming?”
“Do you mind if I wait for you here?”
Alicia looked at him, uncertain at the thought of leaving him alone even for a short time, then she nodded.
“Don’t move away from the ice rink, otherwise it won’t be easy to meet again in the crowd.
Whatever happens, stay here, near the entrance. Look, the toilets are down there, it won’t take long.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t move from here.”
Alicia smiled and hurried in the direction of the toilets, while Gisborne returned to watch the skaters.
It was strange, but he felt perfectly comfortable in the midst of that crowd, in that strange fair full of lights, colors and music. He still didn’t understand many of the things he saw, but the people around him were calm and gathered in that place for the sole purpose of having fun.
Alicia had brought him there to give him a nice day and to distract him from the thought of Marian, and he was grateful. He felt guilty at the thought of having fun while all his loved ones were dead, but he was genuinely fond of Dr. Little and he didn’t want to sadden her.
For a day he would allow himself a little entertainment and he would spend a pleasant day with her, sending away the most negative thoughts for a while.
Soon, he felt it, the memory of a peaceful day would be a comfort and those hours of serenity would become a pleasant thought to cling to in difficult moments.
Sometimes, when Alicia worried for him or had a gentle and affectionate gesture for him, Guy had the impression to be back in time, in a bygone past, when his mother gave him those warm little attentions.
That feeling made him feel good and guilty at the same time. He missed his mother and it seemed almost a betrayal to him to let Alicia love him, yet a part of his soul desperately wanted that affection, like an almost withered plant in search of some rain.
Ghislaine, Guy thought, wouldn’t have resented that: his mother had always wanted the good of her children and she had wanted to see them happy and serene.
He was so engrossed in those thoughts that he flinched when one of the skaters took a half-turn and stopped against the barrier with a thud, right in front of him.
Guy looked up suddenly and found himself staring at a pair of blue eyes, focused on his face.
“Then I had seen well from a distance, it's really you!”
Gisborne was tempted to turn around and run away like a coward, disappearing in the crowd, but the girl had put a hand on his arm with a casual gesture and that simple touch seemed to have petrified him, taking all his energy and ability to move. He stared at her without saying anything, like a rabbit hypnotized by the eyes of a poisonous snake.
The girl instead didn’t seem to be in trouble or embarrassed, and she smiled at him as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
“I was hoping it was you, do you know?”
Guy looked at her, amazed.
“The other day, at the meeting, I would have liked to know you a little better since we will probably spend a lot of time together, but you always remained silent and then you and Dr. Little left immediately.”
Guy hesitated. He certainly couldn’t tell her the reason for his agitation, but the young woman was looking at him, waiting for him to continue, and he couldn’t remain silent. Maybe that woman was Marian or maybe not, but she was also part of the association that could change his future and if he ruined that possibility by behaving rudely or impulsively, he risked damaging even the reputation of Alicia who had guaranteed for him, and who had worked so hard to offer him that opportunity.
Certainly he would disappoint her.
“That day I was feeling unwell,” he said in a low voice, avoiding her gaze.
Miriam surprised him with an unexpected gesture: she stretched a hand towards his forehead and slightly moved the edge of the wool hat he wore.
“Oh, you got a nice bruise, I see. Did you bang your head?”
“Yep, against a sink, it seems.”
“Don’t you remember?”
The girl looked at him, a flash of amusement in her eyes.
"It does not surprise me that you got such a big bruise, you've definitely fallen from a big height! Look, I'm wearing skates and even so I can just look at you in the eyes!”
Miriam leaned forward slightly, and once again Guy found himself speechless, his heart pounding in his chest. Never, in all her life, Marian had come so close to him of her own free will, if not for the brief moment when she had embraced and kissed him on the cheek after he and Allan had saved her life by simulating the escape of the Nightwatchman.
Certainly Marian had never looked at him that way, without the slightest fear, as if she were really interested in his words and happy to have met him by chance.
The girl burst out laughing suddenly.
“Oh, you're shy, then! You blushed!”
To his great shame, Guy realized that those words made him even more flushed because he felt his cheeks hot and his heart beating faster.
“Sorry...” He said, feeling like an idiot, and Miriam shook her head, not at all troubled.
“No, I think it’s nice. Listen, would you like to skate with me?”
The girl held out a hand to invite him to enter the ice rink and Guy wondered why. Marian would never have made such a request, certainly not to spend time with him.
He had not realized that at the time, but every time she had approached him, her actions always had a very specific reason, a hidden purpose that was never the desire to stay close to him. Usually Marian was driven by the wish to help others or to support the cause of Robin Hood. Guy had admired that generous and unselfish side of her soul, even though most of the time it had been him to suffer the consequences of it.
Miriam, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have hidden motivations: she wanted to have fun sliding on that slab of ice and she asked him to do it with her.
“You should learn, it's so funny! Now there are so many people, so you can’t go very fast, but when you have a rink all for you it seems like you can fly, do you understand what I mean?”
Guy wasn’t sure that the girl would ever be able to convince him to set foot on that slippery and treacherous surface, but he could understand her feelings very well if he thought about the freedom of a horse galloping along a straight road without obstacles. He found himself smiling.
“Yes, I can imagine it.”
“So, will you come and try?”
“No, I don’t think it's for me, but let me see what you can do.”
Miriam nodded enthusiastically and she took a spin around the rink, taking advantage of the freer spaces to indulge in some small evolutions. Guy looked at her, fascinated: that girl had the same agility as Marian, but she had no need to hide her vitality behind the mask of the Nightwatchman.
She wasn’t afraid of him, she didn’t behave with detachment or fear, and she didn’t have any problem acting friendly and cordial.
If with Marian Guy lived in constant fear of doing something wrong and of saying something that would irritate her, now he had the impression that Miriam wouldn’t be troubled by anything he could say.
Guy leaned against the railing and looked at her, not losing sight of her even for a moment. Only a few hours ago he had promised himself to keep as far away as possible from her, to avoid any contact with that woman who looked so much like Marian, but at that moment he wanted nothing more than to stay there and watch her skating: beautiful, happy and alive.
That last thought made him return to reality, abruptly: he had killed Marian, he had turned off the light that shone in her eyes with his own hands, and it did not matter that the young woman who was hovering over the ice was a survived Marian or not, because he still had the power to destroy her again, to annihilate all that joy.
He had to get away from her, to turn around and leave before it was too late for both of them, but he couldn’t make up his mind, because in order to do so he would have to look away, to stop staring at her.
Then, when he had almost found the strength to detach himself from that railing and escape, it was too late because Miriam came back to stand in front of him, with a sort of vaulting that made her hit the barrier that separated them with a little more force than she had expected.
The girl stretched out her hands and clung to Guy's jacket to keep her balance, and he instinctively surrounded her with his arms and held her, to keep her from falling backwards.
For a moment he stared at her, incredulous.
That situation was absurdly similar to the last time he had held Marian in his arms, a moment after he had committed his biggest crime: for a moment he had held her close to him in a desperate embrace, in an incoherent attempt to hold back the life that was slipping away from that much loved body.
Marian had looked at him one last time, incredulous and frightened, accusing him with her eyes before collapsing on the ground, cold and white under the burning sun of the desert.
Miriam, on the other hand, was equally near, but warm in spite of the cold, and quivering of life in his arms, her face flushed after flying over the ice and her eyes laughing, without any accusation in her gaze.
It was Marian and at the same time she wasn’t, identical to her and totally different.
Guy knew that he would have to step back and get away from her, to get away before risking of hurting her.
Keeping the distance was the only sensible thing to do and he knew it.
Just a moment, he told himself, another minute moment of that warmth, and then he would let her go and he would not come close to her again.
He had decided it and he wouldn’t change his mind, he thought, then he looked at her one last time.
This is a goodbye, for the good of both of us.
One step back, he shouldn’t have done anything else.
Instead, he hugged her tighter and he kissed her.
Chapter 21: A Secret and a Pact
Only once in his life Guy had felt so overwhelmed by his emotions that he couldn’t even think, and it had happened in a incredibly similar situation, when Marian had suddenly kissed him.
At that moment Gisborne had completely forgotten the existence of the rest of the world, he had disregarded the orders of the sheriff, who had sent for him, and he had ignored Robin Hood, for once helpless and vulnerable. For him there had been only Marian and the sweet warmth of her soft lips.
When the kiss was over, however, the girl had pulled back, saying that it was too soon after her father's death, and that her gesture had been a mistake.
Miriam, too, Guy was sure of it, would turn away and perhaps she would blame him for taking the initiative, but now the only thing that mattered was her soft, warm body tightly held in his arms, his lips pressed against hers.
They parted after a while, out of breath, and Guy waited for the painful moment in which he would see regret and disgust in the girl's eyes, but Miriam stared at him without looking away, her face illuminated by a small amused smile.
“Oh, I didn’t expect this... You're not so shy, then!”
Guy couldn’t say anything and he just stood looking at her, confused and excited, while the girl came out of the rink and began to untie her skates to put her shoes back on.
Miriam glanced at him, raising her head from the too tight knot she was trying to loosen and she smiled again, noticing his expression and his flushed cheeks that had nothing to do with the cold.
“Or maybe you are? Or do you already regret kissing me?”
Guy looked at her, alarmed.
“No! It's the most perfect thing that could happen! But maybe... maybe I shouldn’t have...”
Miriam burst out laughing.
"It's not very professional, I admit it, but if you don’t tell anyone, I won’t tell either. So, do we have an agreement?”
Guy nodded, not knowing what to think. Miriam didn’t seem angry or disgusted, but had she been thrilled in his same way or had she considered that kiss just as the impulsive gesture of a poor idiot, to be tolerated with amused pity, like a child's whim?
The girl's voice forced him to put aside his thoughts and to look at her: Miriam was staring at him, and smiled, a little embarrassed.
“I can’t undo this knot, I think it’s too tight, can you help me?”
Gisborne knelt before her, grateful for that diversion. An inextricable knot was a simple problem to face, and it would allow him to take back at least some control on his emotions. It would also postpone the moment of doubts, questions and guilt.
He concentrated on the knot, trying not to think about how close he was to Miriam and how perfect it had been to hold her in his arms. After a while, he managed to undo the knot and the girl hurried to remove the skate and to put the shoe back, leaning a hand on Guy's shoulder so she wouldn’t lose her balance.
“Thanks, I would have spent an eternity to succeed. Even after three years I still have some difficulties with precision work.”
“After three years since what?” Guy asked, perplexed, and the girl gave him an amazed look.
“Don’t you know? I thought they told you.”
“The reason why I'm one of the people assigned to your case.”
Guy got up from the ground and shook his head.
“I don’t know anything about you.”
“Yet you look at me as if you've known me for a lifetime.”
Gisborne found nothing to answer those words, but he didn’t need to say anything because Miriam continued to speak.
“I am not a psychologist or even a social worker, I have a different task in the association. See, I'm a kind of bridge.”
“What do you mean?”
“Three years ago I was in your same situation, in fact, perhaps my conditions were worse than yours. They told me that you think you lived in the Middle Ages and that you have the memories of a knight, isn’t it?”
Guy nodded weakly, looking down.
“You'll think I'm crazy...”
“Why should I? You at least have some memories, a base from which to start. I didn’t remember anything, as if I had been born at that moment.”
“I had to learn everything, even the simplest things, but as you can see now I have my life and my work. If they accept you in the program, one of my tasks will be to help you learn what you need, just as someone taught me in the past. I believe that my work also consists in making an example when some patient feels discouraged: I seemed a desperate case, but I managed to have a life almost completely normal and if I did it, there is hope for anyone.”
“What happened to you?” Guy asked, though fearing her answer, but Miriam looked at him with a cheeky smile and shook her head.
“If I tell you all about me right away, then you'll find me boring.”
Guy found himself smiling.
“Oh, I don’t think there's this danger.”
“Anyway I won’t tell you, at least for the moment. Some mystery is more fun, don’t you think?”
“But you have a lot of information about me, it doesn’t seem right.”
"They only informed me of what you told the doctors, but I bet you have so many other secrets I know nothing about.”
Guy thought it best that many of his secrets remained such, but he didn’t say it and he answered the girl in the same playful tone used by her. Marian had never joked with him and instead it was incredibly pleasant to be able to talk to Miriam in that relaxed way.
Perhaps it depended on her work, but Miriam managed to make him feel at ease despite the many conflicting emotions triggered by her proximity.
“What do you propose, then?” He asked, giving her an amused look.
“Let's do this: every time we meet, I'll ask you a question and you'll ask one to me and we'll both have to answer honestly. But think carefully about what to ask because we can only ask one a day. Are you up for this?”
Miriam held out a hand and Guy shook it, thinking how much that simple gesture had upset him only a few days ago.
“Now I really have to go!” Miriam exclaimed lively, looking at the watch on her wrist. "But don’t forget that we have an agreement and a secret. See you soon, Guy!”
The girl said him goodbye, and she walked away a few steps, then she stopped, seized by an afterthought. She turned to him, hurried back and threw her arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe to kiss him again.
Guy staggered, taken aback by that sudden hug, but he pulled her to him, responding to the kiss. Then, too soon, the girl broke away from him.
“This is to make sure you won’t forget our secret,” she said, with a satisfied smile, then she ran away, disappearing in the crowd.
Guy watched her as she walked away, almost stunned, unable to think consistently and he continued to stare at the girl's red woolen hat until it disappeared in the crowd.
Only then, the spell seemed to break and Guy began to realize what had happened and what he had done.
He had kissed Miriam, against all logic, and she, instead of withdrawing indignantly, had returned his kiss and gave him another of her own free will.
Guy couldn’t understand what he felt.
Hugging the girl had been beautiful, a kind of dream that had come true after an endless wait, but his feelings filled his heart with exaltation and guilt in the same way.
Miriam was identical to Marian, but was it really her, or did she only resemble her?
Kissing her was in any case a betrayal of someone.
If she was a different person, he had just kissed a woman who wasn’t the love of his life, trampling her memory, but if instead, thanks to some miracle, Miriam was really Marian, his gesture had been a betrayal of both Robin and the girl.
Marian loved the outlaw, Guy was now fully aware of it, and if she had forgotten him because she had lost his memory, kissing her wasn’t right and Guy had no right to do so.
Gisborne leaned against the rail of the skating rink with one hand, trying to breathe deeply while with the other he pressed the scar on his stomach, to stifle a sudden twinge.
He had to calm down, he shouldn’t to panic or he would end up feeling the terrible pain of a few days ago.
Alicia joined him and put a hand on his shoulder, worried.
Gisborne winced at her touch and turned to look at her.
The woman noticed that his face was red and his eyes were bright with tears and she stroked his cheek to feel if he had a fever. It seemed cool, but she felt him tremble under her fingers.
“What happened, honey? Are you feeling ill? Is there too much commotion? I shouldn’t have left you alone for so long, I'm so sorry, I found a queue for the toilet...”
She stopped because Guy suddenly hugged her with a sort of sob.
“Hey, what’s up? What happened? Calm down, now I'm here, whatever it is we'll find a solution.”
Gisborne shook his head.
"I think I made a huge mistake, Alicia. It's wrong, it's all completely wrong, but I think I would do the exact same thing even now... I don’t know if there is a solution, I don’t know what to do... I don’t want to do any more damage!”
“Wait. You have to calm down or you’ll be ill again.”
“How can I calm down?!”
“Did you kill someone while I was in the toilet?”
Guy stared at her, baffled by that brutal question.
“Good. Now listen to me: now we’ll look for a quiet place to sit down, we’ll order a tea or a hot chocolate and some sweets and then, while we eat, you can tell me everything, with calm. If nobody is dead, for the rest we can find a solution. Do you trust me?”
“Then stop worrying and come.”
Alicia took his hand and Guy let himself be guided by her, relieved that someone else would take the lead and tell him what to do.
The doctor moved away from the crowd and she went into the side streets, looking for a suitable place. She chose a small, but not too quiet place, where they could talk in peace without being disturbed, and she ordered tea and sweets for them both.
While waiting to be served, Guy apologized to Alicia, got up from the table and hurriedly disappeared behind the bathroom door. The doctor stared at the door anxiously, remembering what had happened the last time he'd fled like that. She had almost decided to go knocking to make sure that he was feeling well, when the door opened again and Guy returned to the table and sat down in front of her, with a sigh.
Alicia looked at him: the knight had a worried expression on his face and the tips of his hair were a bit wet, as if he had washed his face without paying too much attention not to get wet, but he seemed a little calmer than before. He sat, dejectedly, and looked down as if he felt guilty for some reason.
“I'm sorry, Alicia, I...”
She poured tea into a cup, dropped a few sugar cubes in it, and pushed the cup toward him.
“First drink some tea. Then eat a cookie. No, take at least two of them. Then we'll talk.”
Guy obeyed her without protesting and Alicia saw him relax a bit while he ate the cookies and drank the hot tea. She took a sip too, then she set the cup down on the table and looked Guy in the eye.
“Now tell me what you did.”
“I promised not to tell anyone, but I don’t want to have secrets with you...”
Alicia nodded, struck by how much Guy trusted her.
“Whatever you tell me, we’ll keep it between you and me.”
Guy was silent for a few seconds and Alicia waited patiently, wondering why he had blushed. She touched his hand to encourage him, and Guy took a deep breath before deciding to continue.
“While you were away, I met Miriam White,” he said, without looking up from the cup of tea and Alicia understood why even though looking confused and terrified, Guy also seemed so excited.
“At the skating rink?”
“Did you talk to her?”
“I kissed her,” he confessed guiltily, but he couldn’t hide a smile. “And she kissed me.”
Chapter 22: The Wolf in My Heart
Alicia said nothing and she looked at Guy: after confessing to her what had happened just a while ago, the knight had remained silent, staring at the bottom of his cup of tea, his face flushed. The doctor smiled slightly, touched to see him so excited and confused, and she pushed the plate of cookies towards him.
“Judging by your expression, it was unexpected, isn’t it?”
Gisborne nodded weakly.
“I didn’t want to get close to her, but it happened. And now I don’t know what to do.”
“What do you want to do?”
Guy decided to look up and stared at her, lost.
“I don’t know. What do you do when something looks right and wrong at the same time?”
“What do you mean?”
“To talk to her... To kiss her... it was nice. But did it happen because she looks like Marian? What I did, it doesn’t seem right in any case... I always thought that I wouldn’t look at another woman after Marian, that I would always suppress that kind of emotion...”
Guy had put his hand on the table and Alicia covered it with hers, stroking it gently.
“And instead you have discovered that you can’t silence your heart.”
“Following it brought only pain. If I hadn’t loved her, Marian would be alive.”
“After eight hundred years, I don’t think so.”
“You know what I mean, Alicia. She would have had a long and happy life at Robin’s side if I hadn’t fallen in love with her.”
“You can’t know that. How many times has your love protected her? How can you know that she wouldn’t have died before, if you hadn’t defended her from the sheriff?”
“Don’t do it, Alicia. Don’t try to diminish my crime.”
“It's not my intention, Guy. It is right that you are aware of the gravity of your gesture and that you regret it, but what I am trying to say is that it wasn’t love that killed her, it was the anger you felt when your love was rejected.”
“Isn’t it the same? I loved her and I killed her, there's not much else to say.”
“Have you ever thought that instead of repressing your feelings, perhaps it would be better to learn how to deal with anger? Try to imagine it as a ferocious beast...”
“It is. It’s like a furious wolf that devours everything that is good in me.”
"Would you feel safer by putting a rope around that wolf's neck to restrain it, knowing it might break, or by training it, so that it obeys you in any situation?”
“And do you think it's possible?”
Alicia smiled to reassure him.
“Indeed it is. In the next few days, if you wish, we will study the best way to tackle the problem.”
“But even if the wolf inside me didn’t exist at all, I wouldn’t know what to do with Miriam, anyway. I love Marian and she has never loved me, this is the truth and it can’t be changed. It wasn’t right to kiss Miriam... and yet I would do it again right now.”
“Actually it's a complicated situation. If that girl just looks like Marian, you feel to have betrayed one and deceived the other, if instead she is her, you think you have taken advantage of her amnesia and stolen the woman of another man...”
“Yes. Whatever I do or I feel, seems so wrong... Maybe it's me who's wrong.”
“No, honey, you're not. It’s that love is rarely easy.”
Guy looked up, surprised by the tone of regret in the woman's voice, but Alicia added nothing else.
“What should I do, then?”
“Since there is no ideal solution, listen to your heart, but don’t let it drag you blindly. From what you told me about Lady Marian, I think that one of the main problems was that you idealized her too much, you let your feelings for her nullify everything else, and, when you lost her, nothing remained. Now, instead, think about being calm, build a life that makes you feel good about yourself. In this way, if things go well, they would be an extra joy, but if they don’t work, you’d still have your life, a full and satisfying life.”
Guy gave her a warm smile.
“Your advice is always wise, Alicia. If I had met someone like you when I was a boy, my life would have been very different.”
Alicia poured another cup of tea for both of them and she watched as Guy drank it and took more cookies from his plate. Now he looked calmer than before, but she was afraid that a relationship with that girl could make him suffer.
She couldn’t do anything about it, in any case, if not to offer him her support and some advice.
She led the conversation on lighter subjects as they finished eating and drinking tea.
“What do you want to do now? Are you tired? Do you want to go back to the hospital or continue to visit the Christmas markets?”
“Neither. If I go back to my room, I already know that I’d keep thinking about what happened and I think I'll have enough time to do it tonight instead of sleeping. The same goes for the markets: it’s there that I kissed her, all those lights would continue to make me think of her, how they shone around us while she was in my arms...”
“What do you propose, then?”
“I don’t know. Something that belongs to this time and that I don’t know yet. Anything.”
“Anything, uh? What do you think about going to the cinema?”
“What are these called? Do you want more of them?”
Guy handed the popcorn bucket to Alicia and the woman took a handful.
“They're strange, but I like them.”
“One day I'll show you how to do it: it's fun. But it will be a miracle if today we won’t end up with a stomach ache. So, how did you like the cinema?”
“Every now and then, at the castle, there were itinerant singers and minstrels, and, if the sheriff was in a good mood, he let them perform. The concept is the same, isn’t it?”
“Yes. The way is different, but the goal is the same: telling stories to entertain people.”
“I'm not sure I understood everything I saw, but you're right, it was a good way to think of something else for a while.”
“Do you want to go for a walk? I really ate too much today. If you want, while walking I can explain you the things that you didn’t understand.”
Guy held out his arm and the woman put her hand on it.
“Where do we go?”
“We can walk through the park. I have always liked it and, even if it’s almost sunset, I have no fear of making bad encounters if you are with me.”
“I don’t have a sword, but I would defend you at any cost.”
“I know, that's why I'm not afraid.”
They walked around the park for a while, talking about the movie they had just seen. Guy asked a few questions to Alicia and the woman tried to explain in few words the details he had not understood.
Gisborne listened to her explanations with interest, but he was above all grateful to Alicia for her presence and her company. Talking about futile things in that relaxed way reassured him, and it helped him not to think about Miriam obsessively.
The thought of the girl made his head spin for a moment, but perhaps, he told himself, he was only tired after that day so intense.
“How strange...” Alicia said suddenly.
"For a moment I was dizzy, and yet I didn’t drink anything alcoholic. Maybe I really ate too much.”
Guy looked at her, a little surprised.
“You too? Do you want to sit down?”
“I'm fine, it's passed. But what do you mean by ‘you too’?”
“It happened to me too. I had the impression of losing orientation.”
Alicia touched his forehead and took his wrist.
“You're not hot and your heartbeat is regular.”
“I don’t feel ill, it was just a moment.”
“In any case, maybe it's better to go back. I don’t know about you, but it's been a busy day and I'm a little tired.”
Guy looked around: the trees surrounded them on all sides.
“Where is the path?”
"We must have moved away from it into the trees without realizing it. But I didn’t remember that the grove of the park was so thick. Come, let’s keep walking, this park is not very big, we will get to the wall in a few minutes and then we’ll just follow it to get to the exit.”
They walked briskly for a while, but they found no trace of the wall and Alicia began to worry.
“How strange, I could have sworn this park was smaller. Wait, I'll take the navigator and look where we are.”
The doctor rummaged in her bag to retrieve the phone and she tried to open the application of the navigator, but she found herself staring at the screen, surprised.
“There is no signal. And it doesn’t even get the GPS signal...”
“Is it a bad thing?”
“No, not much, but probably my phone is broken. It will just take a little longer to find the way.”
“This place looks like Sherwood forest...” Guy commented, with a half smile.
“Yep. I almost get the impression that Robin Hood could come out of those trees at any moment. He’d ask for a tenth of the money you bring with you, but he wouldn’t have much use for the money from this time.”
“Let’s look for the exit, I don’t really want to spend the night in the middle of a park... I'm starting to get cold.”
“I can smell smoke. Someone must have lit a fire.”
“But it is forbidden!”
“All right, but if they have lit a fire, it means that there is someone. They could give us some indication to get out of here.”
“Maybe they’re homeless people or thugs...”
Gisborne picked up a piece of wood off the ground and he made sure it was strong enough.
“Whoever it is, they don’t scare me. Come, it seems to me that the smell comes from over there.”
They walked in silence, and after a while they began to hear the sound of low voices.
“There really is someone,” Alicia whispered and Guy nodded.
They still couldn’t make out the words, but the tone of the conversation was sad and sorrowful, like a wake.
Guy went on for a few meters and he tried to peek through the leaves of a bush, but he did not want to be seen before he had an idea of the situation.
“Can you see something?” Alicia asked, in a low voice.
“No. Not without getting nearer.”
“Let's listen to what they say, it seems to me that now we can understand their words. There are many persons, it seems to me, at least three or four, if not more.”
The woman approached Guy and they both leaned a little towards the bush that hid them from the sight of that group of people, trying to listen to what they said.
Surely there was a woman because they could hear her crying.
“Do you think it already happened?” A man asked, his voice broken with tears. “Why did he want to be alone? I should have been by his side!”
"We must respect his will," another man answered, gravely, "he had been very clear.”
“This I do not like,” a third person commented, with a kind of grim grunt.
“It’s absurd,” A fourth one said, sadly, “for twenty years I never knew I had a family, and now I have to lose it again...”
The others stopped talking and the silence was broken only by the sobs of the crying woman.
Alicia glanced at Guy, amazed at those speeches and she saw him white in the face, his eyes bright with tears, then Gisborne suddenly moved and pushed aside the branches of the bushes to run to reach those people. She hastened to follow him and she arrived just in time to witness the reactions of terror unleashed by Guy’s sudden appearance.
Five people were seated around the fire: a blond woman with her face red for weeping so much, a dark-skinned friar, a tall man with shaggy hair and two younger men: one heartbroken and nervous, and the other sad and downcast, but with a determined look.
All five jumped up to see Guy appear and an expression of absolute terror appeared on their faces.
Alicia wondered why: Gisborne was tall and strong and he could look threatening, but those people were in numerical superiority and they had no reason to be so frightened. At a second glance, she noticed two other details: those people were dressed in an unusual way and Guy looked upset too, even though she couldn’t tell if he was happy or terrified, or both at once.
The nervous man uttered a cry of terror, while the girl lost her senses and collapsed in his arms.
The big man crossed himself, frantically.
“He's back from the underworld! Gisborne came to drag us to hell!”
The others took a step back and the friar lifted a crucifix in front of him.
“May you find peace, poor soul. Return to your eternal rest.”
Guy stared at him, stunned, then he glanced at the doctor, looking for support.
“They believe me dead! Alicia, tell him that it's not true! Archer, my brother, I'm alive!”
Gisborne took a step toward him and Archer could not suppress a shiver.
“Robin said he saw you die...”
Guy grabbed his arm with his hand, staring into his eyes.
“Do I look like a ghost, brother?”
Archer winced, then found the courage to touch Guy’s arm in turn.
“You're solid, flesh and bone! How is it possible?”
Guy held him in a short hug.
“It's a complicated story, but I swear I'm alive.”
Archer looked at him.
“Where did you get those clothes? They are strange...”
“Guy?” Alicia called him, scared.
Everyone turned to look at her, realizing her presence only at that moment.
“Who is that woman?” Tuck asked, staring at her.
“Guy, do you know these people? Where are we?” Alicia asked, even if she had already guessed what the answer would be.
“We went back in time, I think,” he said, lost. He was glad he had seen his brother again, but he didn’t want to go back to that dark age so full of suffering. And then Miriam was in the twenty-first century... Was this another twist of fate? To give him the illusion of being able to see the face of Marian again and then lose her immediately?
He looked back at Archer.
“Robin? Is he…”
The brother shook his head.
“We don’t know. He said he wanted to wait for the end alone.”
“When?! When did he say that?!”
“Not long ago. But what about you, Guy? How is it possible that you are well? I saw your wound, it was mortal...”
“Which way did Robin go?”
“Over there.” Much intervened, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand and pointing with the other.
Gisborne searched Alicia's gaze.
“Maybe he's still alive... If so, could you save him?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“What if we were here for this reason?! Come, let's go look for him!”
Guy took her hand and started running in the direction indicated by Much and she was left with no choice but to follow him.
Chapter 23: Robin of Locksley
“Hood! Hood, wake up! Don’t you dare to die!”
Guy was leaning over Robin's body and he shook him, trying to wake him up, Alicia knelt on the ground, breathless after the run and she put a hand on his neck.
“He can’t hear you, Guy. There is no heartbeat.”
“Do you mean he's dead?!”
“It's not for sure. Help me to stretch him on his back.”
Alicia put both hands on Robin's chest and began to compress his chest, then she looked at Guy.
“Jack Robinson has taught you cardiopulmonary resuscitation, isn’t it?”
Gisborne nodded mechanically, still staring at Robin's pale face.
“Yes. I had asked him to teach me, and he showed me how to do it using a sort of puppet.”
“What are you waiting for? Help me, take care of the breathing while I continue with the cardiac massage.”
Guy hastened to obey her without discussing, and he followed her instructions, grateful that she took the lead. If Alicia had not told him what to do, he would have stood there, panicked, motionless, watching Robin die.
“What are you doing to him? Leave him, you monster!”
Kate's cry startled both Guy and Alicia, but neither stopped to answer her.
The girl tried to pounce on Gisborne, but Tuck stopped her before she could approach him.
“Wait.” The friar looked at Gisborne and Alicia. “Are you trying to help him?”
Alicia raised her face to look at him, without interrupting the cardiac massage.
“I hope so.”
The friar nodded to Little John and the outlaw approached Kate and put an arm around her shoulders. The girl hugged him, sobbing, but she didn’t try to get closer to Guy.
Archer and Much were still watching, pale in the face.
"He wanted to be alone..." Much said, his voice broken with crying. “He didn’t want us to see him die...”
Alicia glanced at him, then she called Gisborne.
“Guy! Let's swap positions! Continue with the cardiac massage, I have to rest for a few minutes.”
Archer took a step forward, without taking his eyes off his brothers.
“I still can’t believe it...”
Guy smiled at him.
“I'm glad to see you again, brother, I missed you. I missed you all...”
The others looked at him, even more astonished at hearing those words coming from Gisborne's lips. Also because, from their point of view, they didn’t have much time to miss him: they had left him for dead in the basement of the castle only a few hours before.
Tuck had remained silent to study the situation.
“Is there anything we can do? Can we help in any way?” He said now.
Alicia interrupted mouth to mouth breathing for a moment.
“Foxglove and belladonna,” she said quickly. “Do you have any?”
The friar nodded.
“I know where to find them,” he replied, and he began to move away, but he had only walked a few steps when the exclamation of surprise of the others forced him to turn around.
His eyes widened in amazement: Guy of Gisborne and that strange woman were no longer in the clearing and not even Robin was there anymore. His companions were upset, pale as corpses.
“Where are they? Where did they go?!” Tuck asked.
Archer shook his head in disbelief.
“They disappeared, vanished into thin air like ghosts.”
Guy closed his eyes for a moment, trying to ward off the feeling of dizziness that had clouded his vision for a moment.
Jack Robinson had not exaggerated when he had explained how to revive a person in cardio circulatory arrest: practicing the cardiac massage was tiring and very demanding and he was beginning to feel exhausted.
Don’t die, Robin, don’t do this to me! If I have to go back to my time, at least let it be for a valid reason, don’t dare to die and leave me here!
He glanced at Alicia to check the situation, hoping to catch a glimmer of hope on the doctor's face, and he let out an exclamation of surprise.
“Alicia! Look at the path, it's paved! And that's a street lamp over there!”
The doctor raised her head to look around, she did another insufflation, then she ordered Guy to continue the cardiac massage and she took the phone.
“It works! We are back in the present!” She shouted, then she hurried to dial the number and call for help.
All Guy's energy was concentrated on continuing to compress Robin's chest, ignoring his tiredness, and he realized that the rescue team had arrived only when Dr. Robinson took him by the arm to stop him and make him step aside to give way to the other rescuers.
In a moment Alicia was at his side to help him to get up. She put an arm around the knight's waist to support him, and she spoke briefly to her colleagues to summarize the details needed to rescue Robin, then she moved a few feet away to keep out of the way, and she sat on the grass with Guy.
She put his hand on his back, massaging him gently to reassure him and to calm herself too.
“You've been good. You did everything right.”
“If it's true, why doesn’t he wake up?”
Alicia stroked his hair, then adjusted his coat, closing it better on the neck.
“You're sweaty, be careful or you'll get cold,” she said in a motherly tone, then she took his hand and held it in hers. “Your friend is in bad shape. If we had been delayed even for a few minutes, he would have no hope, and even now we can’t be sure that he will recover, we don’t know for how long his heart had stopped before we arrived.”
“Before, while pressing on his chest, I heard a crack... Maybe I broke a rib... I didn’t want to, Alicia, I swear...”
The doctor squeezed his hand a little more.
“It can happen and it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to make the blood circulate, then if the patient survives, the ribs will heal without too much trouble. You did everything you could to help him, I was there and I saw that, you mustn’t have any doubts.”
Guy was silent for a few moments, trying to convince himself of those words, then he returned to look at the rescue team who were trying to revive Robin Hood.
“Did it really happen? Did we go back in my time and we brought Robin to the present with us?”
“Yes, even if it still seems impossible... I have always believed to your words, but to experience it in person is shocking... Poor dear, you must have felt so lost when you found yourself in the present suddenly, without any explanation! Only now I really realize how scary it must have been for you.”
“I wonder what Archer and the others thought...” Guy said, remembering the terrified expressions of their faces. “They must have believed that I came back from the underworld to come and get Robin...”
“Instead it is just the opposite. But now don’t think about anything and rest, you're exhausted.”
Gisborne leaned against her with a sigh of weariness, and again he prayed for Robin to survive. He rested his head on Alicia's shoulder, but he didn’t close his eyes, he couldn’t afford to fall asleep while Robin was in danger of dying.
“There's a heartbeat!” One of the doctors shouted and the others moved the patient on the stretcher, continuing to ventilate him.
Guy and Alicia got up from the ground and she went to meet Dr. Robinson. Jack motioned for the others to go to the helicopter and he turned to Alicia quickly.
“The heart has started to beat again, but he isn’t out of danger. Later we will have to talk, before the police arrive to ask other questions. Aconite poisoning? Again? And who is that man? Don’t say you don’t know him, because I don’t believe it.”
“Yes, Jack, we'll talk and we'll tell you everything, it's necessary.”
“What name should I put on the folder?” Jack asked, with a sigh.
“Robin of Locksley.” Guy said, and the other gave him an ironic look, resuming to walk towards the helicopter.
“Yes. Robin Hood.”
Alicia yawned and took a sip from one of the two cups of coffee she was holding. The other was for Guy, but as she entered the waiting room, the doctor noticed that the knight had fallen asleep and she preferred not to wake him up. She put the second cup of coffee on one of the free chairs and leaned back, trying to close her eyes too, but she couldn’t fall asleep.
She took another sip of coffee, ignoring the cramps in her stomach.
Maybe I should have taken a chamomile.
Guy woke up with a start, and he looked at her, anxiously.
“Are there any news?”
“Not yet. But Jack promised to keep us updated. Also because he will want to know what happened.”
“What are you going to tell him? The truth?”
“I don’t know.” Alicia said, with a grimace of pain, and Guy stared at her, worried.
“What's up? Are you unwell?”
“I told you that eating all those sweets and so many popcorn would give me a stomach ache. And thinking about what happened and how to explain it to Jack doesn’t help. But don’t worry, the same thing happened to me even when I was a student: every time I had an important exam, I had cramps as well. It will soon pass. How do you feel?”
“Tired. Is there something wrong with me, Alicia?”
“Why do you ask me that?”
“With everything that happened today, I should have to feel a thousand different emotions...
Miriam's kiss, seeing my brother and our comrades, Robin who is here and who could die... And yet I can’t feel anything, it's as if inside me there is nothing anymore. I just want to sleep, but I can’t: as soon as I close my eyes, I start dreaming of being back in the twelfth century and then I wake up to check if it's true.”
“Would you have liked to stay with your friends?”
Guy shook his head.
“Maybe I'm a heartless monster like Kate says, but I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here, at this time.”
“That's what I hope too, dear.”
“Is that for me?” Guy asked, noticing the second cup of coffee, and Alicia handed it to him.
“Yes. It's still hot.”
“Guy? There is nothing wrong with you. Yours is a normal reaction, like my stomach ache. Too many emotions can make you feel empty, but it will pass, you just have to relax. Try to sleep a little, I'll wake you up if there's anything new.”
Jack Robinson stopped at the waiting room door and looked inside: he had expected Alicia and Guy to meet him for news, but he found them both sound asleep on the chairs of the room.
He watched them for a few moments before waking them up, and he wondered why such a strong bond had formed between them. Guy was a nice person and certainly his case was interesting, but Alicia had taken him so much to heart that she had began to really believe his story, and now both of them seemed convinced that the new patient was none other than Robin Hood...
He gave a little sigh and that sound was enough to wake Guy. The knight stared at him and stood up slowly not to wake the sleeping woman, but Alicia also opened her eyes.
“Is he alive?!” Guy asked, anxiously, and Jack nodded.
“Yes and he’s young and strong enough to overcome the effects of poisoning, with due care...”
“But? There is a ‘but’, right?” Guy asked, alarmed by the serious tone of the doctor.
“But we can’t know for how long his heart has stopped and what damage he has suffered.”
“Even my heart has stopped and I'm fine.”
Jack wondered if believing he was a medieval knight should be considered ‘being fine’, but he didn’t express that thought.
“Do you have any particular reason to think that he could have been damaged?” Alicia intervened, serious.
“We'll know if he wakes up. He is in a coma.”
Chapter 24: My Special Place
The room was immersed in silence and the only low sounds came from the machines that surrounded Robin's bed.
Guy was sitting in a corner and staring at his friend. The doctors had told him that maybe Robin was able to understand what was being said and that talking to him could help him wake up, but at that moment Gisborne could not find anything to say.
Once, devices like those had kept him alive, but Guy had only confused memories of that early period and seeing Robin so helpless disturbed him deeply.
In the past, when he worked for the sheriff, being in front of a Robin Hood so weak and one step away from death would have filled him with joy, but now he felt only anguish and pain.
Alicia was not mistaken, the icy emptiness that had filled his soul had dissolved by itself after a few days, leaving him in the grip of many conflicting emotions.
At that moment, however, concern over the fate of Robin prevailed.
A nurse appeared at the door, pushing a cart.
“Guy? Please can you leave the room for a few minutes? Why don’t you take the opportunity to get some fresh air? In the last days you're always here. I understand the concern for your friend, but tormenting yourself will hurt you and won’t help him.”
Gisborne took one last look at Robin before leaving the room.
He knew that the nurse was right, but he couldn’t help but feel responsible for the outlaw: he had crossed the time to help him, and he had the impression that it was his duty to do everything he could to help him to recover.
The problem was that he really couldn’t do anything, so he just stood at his side to watch over him.
He leaned back against the wall of the corridor and looked at the closed door. Maybe he should really follow the nurse's advice and try to distract himself for a while, but he couldn’t stifle the anxiety he felt.
Gisborne turned around, recognizing Miriam's voice and he found himself smiling at her, excited to see her again.
The girl reached him and stood on tiptoe to greet him with a kiss on the cheek.
"Dr. Little was right when she told me I'd find you here. How is your friend?”
Guy glanced at the door of Robin's room and looked back at Miriam, a pang of fear in his heart. He was afraid, afraid that Robin wouldn’t wake up anymore, and at the same time he feared that he would open his eyes only to make the girl fall in love with him and take her away again.
No. She isn’t mine. She had never been mine.
“Guy?” Miriam called him, averting him from his thoughts. “Are his conditions so serious? Are you worried about him?”
“I don’t know how he is. He is lying on that bed and he doesn’t wake up.”
“Oh, poor man, I hope he gets better,” she said, sincerely sorry. “But how do you feel?”
“Yes you. It amazes you so much that I worry about your health?”
Guy smiled, embarrassed.
“I'm not used to it yet.”
"We've known each other for such a short time that I would be offended to be considered a habit.”
“I... I didn’t mean this! Forgive me, I'm still not used to believe that people really care about me...”
Miriam laughed, happily.
“I was just joking, Guy, don’t take everything so seriously.”
The girl took his hand and smiled at seeing him blush even more.
“So you are shy!”
Guy looked away, frowning.
“Don’t make fun of me.”
Miriam looked at him, becoming serious for a moment.
“It wasn’t my intention, really. It's that you're so cute when you blush, that sometimes I can’t resist the temptation to provoke you a little.”
Guy looked at her, bewildered.
“What?! Cute? Me?”
“Have you ever looked in the mirror?” Miriam said, cheerfully. “But now come, don’t stay here. Let's go outside, I don’t like hospitals and I already spend enough time there because of my work. Is there a garden or something where we can talk in peace?”
Guy smiled at her.
“I know a better place. Come with me.”
Miriam tightened her jacket and brushed her hair away from her face, smiling.
“So that's where you come to take refuge when you want to be alone?”
Guy moved, approaching to shelter her from the wind with his body, and he looked at the helicopter that had just risen in flight.
“Not so often, now. At the beginning I spent a lot of time here, when the world became too complicated to understand...”
“And to defend yourself from the mysteries of the modern world, you came to look at a helicopter?”
“It doesn’t make much sense, does it?”
“Not much, but I'm glad you showed me this place.”
"Because it's special to you, and now I seem to know you a little better. And in this regard, remember that we have a deal, I still have to ask you my question.”
“But you've done nothing else than asking questions, so far!”
“Those don’t count, they are part of the conversation, I speak of the important question, the one you have to answer sincerely.”
“Often I see that you become sad when you look at me... Why?”
Guy began to shake his head, but Miriam stared into his eyes.
“Sincere.” She warned him.
“You look like a person I loved a lot. When I look at you, sometimes I have the impression to see her.”
Miriam thought that those words should annoy her, but she was struck by the pain she was reading in Guy's gaze.
“What... what happened to her?”
Guy touched her lips with a finger.
“This is another question.”
Miriam nodded, serious.
“You are right. Now it's your turn, what do you want to ask me?”
Guy thought he should ask her what had happened three years ago, or if she had scars on her abdomen, but he didn’t.
He was afraid to find out whether the woman who was looking at him was really Marian or not. He was afraid to find out that she was her, and to have to keep away from Miriam to let her go back to Robin and, in the same way, he was afraid to learn that Marian was really dead and that his hands were still the hands of a murderer, dirty with her blood.
He liked talking to Miriam, despite the emotion he felt every time he approached her and that made it difficult for him to think coherently.
It was strange how that girl could make him feel terribly nervous and at ease at the same time, but one thing was certain: he wanted to spend more time with her, to learn to know her, so he wasn’t going to ask questions to find out her identity, not for the moment, at least.
He looked at her: Miriam was staring at him without the slightest shyness, patiently waiting, and Guy wondered what he should ask.
Something trivial like her favorite color, or a food that she loved to eat, he decided. Perhaps it was a cowardly choice, but also the safest one.
But when he opened his mouth to speak, he met her gaze again and forgot the question he had chosen.
"If I kiss you now," he asked instead, "would you mind very much?”
Miriam looked at him, astonished, then she stretched her arms towards him and drew him in a passionate kiss.
A little while later she smiled, without taking her brow away from Guy's.
“Is this a good enough answer, for you?”
Guy held her tight: Miriam's soft body was warm and relaxed in his arms, as if for her that was the safest and most natural place to be. He looked into her eyes and smiled in turn.
“I'm not sure I understood correctly,” he said, and he kissed her again.
It was the sound of the helicopter that was coming back to interrupt the last of a long series of kisses, and Guy and Miriam watched it as it landed on the roof of the other wing of the hospital.
“I think this place just got even more special for me,” Guy said, raising a hand towards the girl's head to fiddle with one of her ruffled curls.
Miriam leaned against him and Guy slid his arm around her waist.
“Oh, what a pity, I'm sorry,” she said.
Guy looked at her, puzzled.
“What? Why are you sorry?”
Miriam turned to face him.
“If you are so attached to this place you will be sorry not to see it again.”
“Why shouldn’t I see it again?”
Miriam smiled, satisfied like a cat who had just caught a prey.
“Because in a few days you won’t live here anymore. I had come to tell you that they accepted you in the program of our association, but you made me forget to tell you!”
Miriam answered by giving him a small kiss on the lips.
“Really. They will give you an accommodation in a building owned by the association and they will teach you everything you need to live a normal life. At the beginning they will help you, of course, but over time you will be able to get by yourself for most things. It will be difficult, I assure you, and sometimes you will be taken by despair, but in the end it will be worth it.”
“Was it like that for you?”
“Yeah. When you have any doubt, even for the most silly things, do not hesitate to ask me. I have already dealt with your path and I know what it means to feel lost in front of the most banal situations. I'm still learning so many things, do you know? You could also be the one giving advice to me, in the end.”
Guy nodded, not knowing what to think. According to Alicia, being accepted into the association's program was the best thing that could happen to him, but the idea of having to get away from the familiar environment of the hospital scared him to death.
“Have you already told Alicia?”
"I think she guessed it when I asked her where to find you, but I wanted you to be the first to know.”
“She will be happy.”
“Sure, but I think she'll miss you. And you too will miss her, won’t you?”
“Yes. Without her I don’t know what would have become of me...” Guy said, suddenly moved, and Miriam took his hand.
“Nobody will stop you from seeing her, even if you may not have time to meet her every day, at least in the first period.” She reassured him, then she smiled, amused. “On the other hand you and I will spend a lot of time together. Do you think it will be so terrible?”
Guy searched her lips again, then he pulled away from her and pretended to think about her question.
“No, maybe not so much.” He said, pretending to be innocent, and getting an elbow in the side and an indignant look from her.
“We won’t be able to do this in front of others, remember that.” Miriam said, pointing a finger on his chest.
Guy took her in his arms again and hugged her, sinking his face into her hair to kiss her neck.
“There's nobody here now.”
Alicia looked at the open duffel bag on Guy's bed and she noticed the precision with which the clothes had been arranged inside it.
"I think I've never seen a man pack in this way,” she commented and Guy looked at her, a little uncertain.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“All the contrary. Usually when patients take their belongings home, they are not so neat, especially men. Most of them throw everything in a suitcase, more or less in a jumble.”
“It wouldn’t be practical at all. When traveling, it is advisable to know exactly where everything is, in order to be able to recover it without wasting time in case of need.”
“Have you traveled a lot in the past?”
“From France to England when I was young, and then I returned to France after the death of our parents... And in the Holy Land, twice.”
“On a pilgrimage?”
Guy let out a bitter laugh.
“To kill King Richard the Lionheart.”
“Yeah. I'm not worth much as a killer.”
“I can’t see you as a killer,” Alicia said, and she realized that she had said the wrong thing seeing Guy's pained look.
“But I am.”
Alicia put a hand on his shoulder, in a gesture of comfort.
“Sorry, sometimes I talk too much.”
Guy touched her hand with his own and gave her a sad smile.
“No, don’t apologize. It's nice that you can see something good in me, despite everything. I appreciate it.”
Guy carefully folded the last sweater and put it together with the others in the bag.
“I'll miss you, Alicia,” he said suddenly, without looking at her not to show her how moved he was. “Without your help I would have been lost, I probably would have gone crazy for real...”
“Hey, you're not going to the other side of the world, don’t talk as if this were a goodbye.”
Guy let out a sort of bitter laugh.
“I'm a fool, don’t you think? At my age I shouldn’t be worried about a situation like this. And yet I'm afraid...”
The woman moved the bag and put it on a chair, then she sat on the bed and motioned for Gisborne to sit beside her.
"You're not foolish at all, and so far you've been even too brave. Do you have any idea how many sleepless nights I've had since Robin's rescue?”
Guy looked at her, surprised.
“Because I keep thinking about what happened and that I've really been in such a distant past, even if only for a few minutes. And then I wonder what would have become of me if we hadn’t returned here, if we had stayed in the twelfth century...”
“I would have protected you, Alicia. I would have defended you at any cost.”
"I know, but you couldn’t do anything against famines or epidemics. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to adapt to a world where a small cut is enough to die of infection.”
“And will I be able to adapt to this time?”
Alicia smiled at him.
“Maybe you don’t realize it, but you're already doing it.”
“Because you helped me.”
“No, because you are an intelligent and resourceful person. You survived so many adversities in your life, and you will continue to do so, I have no doubt about it. This is an opportunity. Perhaps following the program will be challenging, but after you do it, your life will be better.”
“See? Just talking to you makes me feel better.”
“We can always talk, even if we won’t see each other as often as now. Here.”
The doctor handed him a piece of paper and Guy looked at it.
“My phone number. They will surely teach you how to use a phone, so we can talk even if we are not together. Remember that you can always count on me.”
Gisborne smiled at her.
“I will keep it with care, thank you.”
“Did you take all your stuff?”
Guy picked up the book of Robin Hood's adventures from the bedside table, and he handed it to Alicia.
“This belongs to you.”
The woman gave it back to him.
“Now it's yours.”
Gisborne nodded, moved, and Alicia hugged him tightly.
“Don’t think I won’t miss you,” she whispered.
Guy sat next to Robin's bed and he looked at the outlaw's face, still in that unnatural sleep.
Since they had brought him into the present, Robin's condition had improved, and the doctors had said he was no longer in danger of life because of the poison, but he hadn’t yet woken up from the coma and no one could say with any certainty if he would ever do.
“Come on, Hood, open your eyes. How can you always be so irritating?”
He wouldn’t have the chance to visit the outlaw in the immediate future, and the idea of starting his new life while Robin was still there, stuck in that uncertain situation, troubled him. He felt responsible for him and at the same time he feared the moment of his awakening, if it was ever going to happen.
Every time he looked at his friend's face, he felt guilty.
What he felt for Miriam, the kisses that they had exchanged on the roof of the hospital, weighed on his heart when he thought of Marian, that love that had never been his and that had always belonged to Robin.
He shouldn’t have let those feelings carry him away, he should at least figure out if that girl was really Marian or not and, if so, he had to force himself to give up on her, to let her go back to the man she truly loved.
Yet, every time he saw her, every word he exchanged with her, he was inexorably dragged towards Miriam, like a moth flying towards the flame of a torch. He would burn himself and he was perfectly aware of it, yet he couldn’t get free from that sort of spell.
It must be Marian. Only she had this effect on me.
That thought terrified him and reminded him of the desert sun and the red of blood spreading over the girl's white dress.
It won’t happen again. I'll rather die, but I'll never hurt her again.
This time Guy was perfectly aware that Miriam was not his, that he could lose her at any moment.
She could get tired of him, feel disgusted with him as soon as she realized who he really was, she could be horrified to learn about his past, or, if she was Marian, she would simply remember Robin and go to him without looking back.
Guy didn’t allow himself to hope that he could be happy with Miriam, yet he wasn’t able to give up those moments with her.
She will break my heart and I will accept it because I have no other choice.
Guy looked back at Robin's face.
If only the outlaw had awakened, perhaps he would feel a little less guilty every time he thought of Miriam.
As long as Robin was in a coma, Guy had the impression that he was acting behind his back, stealing something that wasn’t his own.
“Miriam is identical to Marian,” Guy said in a low voice, “and I kissed her.”
He waited for a moment, hoping and fearing a reaction from his friend, but Robin didn’t move and Guy sighed.
“Why do you always have to be so stubborn? If you had woken up earlier, I could have helped you, taught you the things I've learned since I've been here, for once I could have done something for you...”
A discreet knock at the door interrupted him and, turning to look, Guy saw that Alicia was waiting for him in the doorway.
“Is it already time?”
The woman nodded.
“The association's car has arrived.”
Gisborne touched Robin's hand for a moment, then he stood up and reached the doctor.
“If he wakes up...”
“I'll let you know right away. Don’t worry, we'll take care of him in the best way.”
Guy took his bag and followed Alicia to the hospital entrance, where a man and a woman were waiting for him. They were the same people he had met a while before, during the meeting where he met Miriam, and Guy found himself thinking that he was feeling agitated and tense just like then.
Miriam wasn’t present and perhaps it was good, otherwise her presence would have made him even more nervous.
He and Alicia had already said goodbye warmly, earlier in Guy's room, so they both behaved in a formal way before the others, to avoid questions or doubts about the professionalism of the doctor.
Alicia shook his hand and wished him good luck, and he thanked her politely, but they both knew that if they were alone, they would hug again, shedding some more tears.
Then, even before he was fully aware of it, Guy found himself sitting in the backseat of a car, traveling to a new life.
Guy looked at the little plastic archer he had been given by Jonathan Archer, and he placed it on the bedside table, next to Alicia's book. Perhaps it was foolish of him, but that gesture made him feel calmer and made the accommodation they had given to him a little more welcoming.
It was a small apartment, but still larger than the hospital room he'd lived in since he'd arrived in the twenty-first century, and Gisborne felt lost, completely alone in a place he didn’t know.
It wasn’t the first time he felt like that, indeed it seemed that his life had been a continuous start over, every time in a different place and each time with a new wound in his heart.
As a child he had left France to follow his parents in England, and, even if he didn’t have many memories of the places where he was born, he remembered the long days of solitude spent watching from far away the games of other children who never invited him to join them. For them, born and raised in the same village, he and Isabella were the strangers to be isolated and mocked as soon as the opportunity arose.
He had often thought that if they returned to France, they would all be happier, but then life had denied even that childish illusion. He wasn’t yet fourteen when he and Isabella had been banished from their lands after losing their parents. They had returned to France to reunite with their mother's relatives, but even that place had proved hostile and merciless towards the two lost children.
Guy's life had changed again after meeting the sheriff. He still remembered the cold winter day that had seen him returning to Nottingham, and the restless uncertainty of his first night in Locksley, in the house that belonged to the person who had ruined his life so many years ago.
Even then he had been afraid of not being up to the task that awaited him, and he had spent many sleepless nights out of fear of disappointing the sheriff.
Now he was back in a strange house, a house that had been given to him without doing anything to deserve it, and he had not the faintest idea what to expect from the future.
The difference was that now there was someone who cared for him, kind people who wanted to help him.
Guy wandered around the apartment, looking around: the bedroom was simple and functional, with a bed, a bedside table and a wardrobe not too big, but more than enough for the clothes he owned, then there was a bathroom similar to the one of his hospital room, and another room that was both a living room and a kitchen.
Gisborne concentrated on this last room because it was the one that contained objects and equipment that he didn’t know yet.
When they had accompanied him to the apartment, they showed him the appliances, shortly explaining what they were for, and they advised him not to use them if he did not know how to do it, because they would explain it in detail in the following days. There was a machine that was used to wash clothes and another for dishes, then, instead of a fireplace, another appliance allowed cooking, while another kept food fresh.
Guy looked at those objects that replaced the work of the servants, and he wondered if it would be so difficult for him to learn to use them.
The opposite corner of the room, instead, housed a sofa, a television and a small bookcase on which he had already aligned the books that had been gifted to him during his hospitalization, putting them together with those that were already present in the apartment.
The hospital had never been really silent and he had grown used to hearing the sounds coming from the corridor, the steps of doctors and nurses, the ringing of bells and the voices of all the human beings around him. The apartment in comparison was tremendously quiet and Guy felt lonely, isolated from the rest of the world.
If he had been able to use the phone, that would have been the moment he would use that mysterious object to talk to Alicia, and seek the consolation of her words.
He decided that using a phone would be one of the most important things to learn and that the next day he would ask them to teach it to him as soon as possible.
Guy took a book from the shelf and stretched out on the sofa, wrapping himself in the soft blanket that was resting on it. He felt tired, but he didn’t know if he could fall asleep.
With a sigh, he took the TV remote control and examined it: it was a little different from what he had used in the waiting room at the hospital, but the main buttons were similar and, after a few attempts, Guy managed to switch on the television.
He looked absently at the screen: there were some people sitting on chairs, looking uncomfortable and intent on discussing topics incomprehensible to him, but what they said didn’t matter, they were still human voices, able to break the silence.
He opened the book he had chosen, and he began to read it, trying to focus on the story so he wouldn’t think about anything else.
So far, apart from the one about Robin Hood, Guy had tried to read books that could help him to learn as much as possible about the twenty-first century, but now he had chosen one that told an invented story.
For one evening he didn’t want to think about the future or about all the things he had to learn to be considered a normal person, he just wanted to get lost in someone else's story, just like when his mother told the adventures of some legendary hero to him and Isabella, in the long winter evenings spent by the fireplace.
He felt a little silly, but he imagined that it was Ghislaine's voice, so loved and never forgotten, to read that story to him, and that the voices coming from the television were the muffled chatter of the servants of the manor, engaged in their daily chores.
That was a reassuring mental image that made him feel less lonely, and Guy let the novel absorb his attention completely until it was tiredness to get the better of him.
The book slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground, but Gisborne didn’t notice. He slept soundly and in his dreams that wasn’t the first night he spent in his new house, but one of the peaceful nights of his childhood, when his life was happy and he hadn’t yet discovered what fear and pain were.
“Maman...” He whispered softly, and in his dream Ghislaine stroked his hair.
Try to guess what book Guy is reading at the end of the chapter :)
Chapter 26: A Pizza is Always a Good Idea
Guy ran a hand over the head of the black stallion to scratch him between his ears and the animal snorted, nudging him with his nose, looking for some treat.
“He likes you,” said the voice of Miriam behind him, and Guy turned abruptly, taken by surprise.
“Do you ride too?”
The girl glanced at the horse she was leading by the bridle and smiled.
“It was a silly question, sorry. I didn’t know you did it.”
Miriam chuckled, then she moved a few steps aside to leave Guy the space to let the stallion out of the stall, and they headed together to the competition ring.
“I started riding for therapy, like you, but then I became passionate about horse riding and I continued.”
“You have many talents: skating on the ice, riding... Do you have any other passions?”
“Is this today's question?”
Gisborne lifted the corner of his mouth in an amused smile.
Miriam thought for a moment.
“Actually, I have many passions. In addition to horseback riding and skating, I occasionally practice archery, then I like reading, I love music and I feel good when I can help those who need it, and that’s why I love my job so much. Then it depends on the moment, I like to try new experiences, I experiment with different hobbies, even if I often don’t accomplish much.”
The girl smiled.
“Maybe it's a little obvious considering the city we live in, but it's fun. And what about you? What do you like to do?”
“I still have to understand it. So far I haven’t had many opportunities to think about fun.”
The girl gave him an encouraging smile.
“In time you will find out.”
“For now it’s already difficult to find time to breathe.”
“The program you are following is very tiring?”
Guy rolled his eyes, making her laugh.
“More than anything else I have to remember everything that they teach me, and for me some things are quite complicated. Sometimes I feel really stupid.”
“I confess that I still can’t understand some things, do you know? Or I think that I have learned them and then I make a disaster after another.”
“Really? You always seem so sure of yourself...”
"Because you haven’t seen me in a kitchen yet. I don’t think I'll ever understand how to operate the microwave oven or how to cook an egg without burning it. Ah, never put an egg in the microwave.”
“Don’t do it, trust me. Personal experience.”
Guy avoided telling her that for him to learn how to use kitchen appliances had been perhaps the simplest thing.
"I haven’t gotten used to this accurate way of measuring time, yet. This,” he pointed at the watch on his wrist “still makes little sense to me. I understand what they explained to me and now I can read the time, but I forget to do it. To understand what time of day it was, I used to look at the position of the sun, but when I'm inside a building with artificial light, I get confused.”
“It means that I won’t be offended if you arrive late to a date,” Miriam said, smiling.
Guy looked at her, wondering if she'd wanted to suggest him to ask her to go out together, but before he could answer, Miriam spurred on the horse and led him around the course, making him jump over the obstacles.
Gisborne stood there, looking at her, and he found himself smiling without even realizing it. He had always loved watching Marian as she rode, inexorably drawn to the vitality and freedom she showed when she was in the saddle. And it didn’t matter if those same characteristics had sealed her fate in the end: while she was galloping, she was beautiful and he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
Miriam completed the course and in a moment she was again near him, smiling and a little breathless.
“Now it's your turn, let's see if you can do better than me.”
Guy hid a smile.
“Is it a challenge?”
Miriam looked at him, her eyes sparkling with amusement.
“What do you think?”
“And what's up for grabs for the winner?”
“Glory? No, let's do it this way: whoever wins will be entitled to one more question, so today I can ask you two.”
“You've already asked one. And then don’t be so sure of your victory, I could beat you easily.”
“The one about hobbies didn’t count because you didn’t give me a real answer. As for the challenge... let me see what you can do.”
Guy straightened up on the saddle and smiled, proud.
Finally he had the opportunity to show her something that he was capable of doing, and that came as natural as breathing to him. He was good at riding and he knew it, and now he was proud to show her his skill.
He spurred on the stallion and he made him walk around the the ring to warm him up before he started jumping over the obstacles, smiling to himself as he felt Miriam's gaze following him carefully.
Once he would have liked to be admired by Marian in the same way, but the girl had never really looked at him, she had never shown interest in him except for the information and protection he could offer her.
If she were Marian and her memory should come back, she'll stop seeing me, I'll be nobody again in her eyes.
Alicia hurried along the corridor and she arrived at the door of the psychologist's office at the exact moment Guy was leaving it. A sincere smile spread over the face of the knight in seeing her, and the doctor reached him to hold him in a hug.
“You remembered that today I would come here?!”
“Do you think that a few days is enough to forget about you, honey? How are you? You look a little pale, do you eat enough?”
Guy smiled at her.
“I'm fine, but I'm tired. I never thought I could appreciate the hours of therapy, but at least when I come here the psychologist doesn’t try to teach me anything new, it's relaxing.”
Alicia laughed at his words and she put a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of comfort.
“In time it will be easier. Now you have to learn practically everything, but it will get better. Do you like the place where you live?”
“At first it seemed too silent.”
“Now it isn’t anymore?”
“Now it's different. After spending the day learning all sorts of things, having a quiet place where to take refuge and stay in peace for a while is not bad at all.”
“One day I will come to see you there.”
“Miriam will come tonight,” Guy said, with a pleased smile.
“Really? Have you seen each other often these days?”
“Not much, the first few weeks are very demanding and she and I will work together only later, when I have learned at least the basics to be more autonomous. But this morning I met her at the equestrian center and we competed in the hurdle jump.”
“I did. Even if she will never admit it. In the end we agreed on a draw, as long as she comes to dinner at my house.”
Alicia smiled at the satisfied expression of the knight, but she couldn’t help but worry about him.
“Are you sure it's a wise thing?”
"I can’t avoid to have feelings for her, but I can control myself, Alicia. Miriam is not my wife nor my betrothed, I'm not sure of what I feel, nor of what she feels for me and I know very well that she could end everything at any moment. I want to meet her, spend time with her, nothing more, at least for now.”
The doctor nodded, hoping in her heart that everything would be fine.
“She’s coming for dinner, then? What will you eat?”
Guy looked at her, suddenly worried, only realizing at that moment that he would have to prepare something.
“Actually, I haven’t thought about it yet. They taught me how to turn on the stove and in the last few days I prepared my own meals, but I can cook only very simple things, I don’t know if she will like them...”
“Many men don’t know how to cook at all. You are a noble, didn’t you have servants doing it for you?”
“Not always. When they banished us from our land, I had to provide for my sister. When I could catch a prey or get some food, I also had to prepare and cook it. And then when you are in command of a group of soldiers, or when you spend days in the forest hunting for outlaws, knowing how to prepare your own dinner is always useful.”
Alicia lowered her voice, as though confiding a secret to him.
“Remember: if you don’t know what to cook, ordering a pizza is always a good move.”
Guy laughed, then he became serious again.
“No news for now. His condition is good, but he hasn’t woken up yet. Do you want to visit him?”
“I wish, but they're already waiting for me. Once the therapy is over, I have to go back immediately for another course. I think today they are going to show me how a... computer works? Is this the right word?”
“Good luck then. There are still many people who can’t use one, even if they were born at this time.”
Speaking, they had reached the hospital entrance and a man waved to Guy to signal his presence.
“I told you, they came for me. Maybe he can’t hear you, but please tell Robin I'll be here on Sunday.”
Alicia reassured him with a smile.
“I'll tell him. Do you have a free day on Sunday?”
“Would you like to go to lunch with me, then? So you can tell me everything.”
“Of course I’d like it. See you soon, Alicia.”
The old lady entered the courtyard of the building with her slow and somewhat dragged pace and she balanced better the shopping bags in her hands. She wasn’t so old that she couldn’t do everything on her own, she just had to take all the time she needed.
She entered the building, gratefully welcoming the warmest air inside the hall, and she limped slowly toward the lift. She stared for a moment at the sign on the door before realizing with dismay that it was broken.
She put the bags on the floor with a sigh and rubbed her sore hands, wondering how she could bring them up to the fourth floor.
She would have to knock on the door of some neighbor to ask for help, or call the association and ask them to send someone, but she was hesitant to do so.
What would have happened if they had considered her too old to take care of her granddaughter?
The little girl spent a lot of time at school and in those days she was on a trip with her class, but she had no other relatives besides her.
Aisha was terrified they could think she wasn’t able to take care of her granddaughter, and then the little girl would end up in some boarding school, or worse she would be entrusted to another family.
Aisha couldn’t bear being separated from her.
She was still wondering what to do with the shopping, when one of the other tenants entered the hall and Aisha paused to observe him: he must have come to live there only recently because she had never met him before. He was a young man, tall and strong, and the old lady took heart a little.
“Good evening,” She said, turning to him with a smile.
Guy looked up, a little surprised: did that woman say hello to him?
He replied to her greeting and the woman motioned for him to come closer.
“You moved here recently, didn’t you?”
“I imagined that. Your apartment too is one of those that belong to the association, isn’t it? Why was it assigned to you?”
Guy nodded, a little uncomfortable, wondering why that woman was so interested in those details.
The lady noticed his uncertainty and smiled.
“You're right, I must look nosy to your eyes. But it was my subtle way of trying to figure out if you had any physical impediment that would keep you from helping me to carry my shopping bags up to the fourth floor.”
Gisborne stared at her for a moment and he laughed.
“You just had to ask,” he said, bending to pick up the bags.
“And anyway, I'm a nosy neighbor, I admit it.”
Guy went with her to the fourth floor and he waited for the woman to open the door and show him where to place the shopping bags.
“Oh, but maybe I shouldn’t have asked?” The lady asked, noting that after putting the bags on the table, Guy had touched his stomach with a short grimace of pain. “Does it hurt? Do you have any injuries?”
Gisborne shook his head.
“It's nothing. The wounds are healed, but sometimes they’re still a bit painful.”
“Oh, then I shouldn’t have asked you to carry my bags, I'm sorry.”
“You don’t have to worry, they weren’t that heavy.”
“Sit down, I'll make you a cup of tea.”
“It's not necessary, ma'am, I'm fine.”
“For me it would be a pleasure, I never have the opportunity to chat with someone. But maybe you don’t have time and I'm being intrusive again...”
Guy smiled, amused and he sat down at the kitchen table.
“I should probably start preparing something for dinner, but I haven’t the faintest idea if the few things I know how to cook might please Miriam. By any chance, do you know how to order a pizza?”
The woman laughed.
“Have you invited your girlfriend to have dinner at your place without thinking about what to feed her?”
“Something like that.”
“Well, I can help you with the pizza, I have the number of a place that makes very good ones. Before I got to England I had never eaten it, do you believe it? But my granddaughter likes it, so we order one from time to time.”
Guy took a sip of tea and he looked away, a little embarrassed.
“I haven’t learned how to use a phone yet,” he admitted.
“Oh really? Where are you from? Did you live in a place where there were not even telephones? We came here because in our country there is war, but we had phones, even if they never worked.”
“I suffer from amnesia after being injured,” Guy said, using the most plausible version of his story, the one that wouldn’t make him look mad, but the woman shook her head.
“Oh, I think you have too many memories instead. Don’t deny it, you too are a survivor, I see it from your gaze. But it doesn’t matter, you'll tell me about it only if you want to.”
The woman took a piece of paper from the refrigerator door and she put it on the table, in front of Guy.
“The flyer of the pizzeria. You carried my shopping bags, now I'll explain you how to order a pizza.”
Aisha smiled, happy.
“That's the good thing of having neighbors, right? We help each other.”
Chapter 27: Two Questions
Guy looked around, checking once again that the apartment was perfectly tidy, then he forced himself to sit down for a moment and he took a deep breath.
He had to calm down, he told himself, or he would end up feeling ill again. And he certainly didn’t want to end up screaming in pain in front of Miriam.
It still seemed impossible to him that he had found the courage to invite her to dinner at his house, and even more incredible that she had accepted with a smile, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Marian had always been reluctant, she had never appreciated his gifts and she had rejected his invitations whenever she could, accepting them reluctantly when she was forced.
Guy looked at his watch and frowned, trying to figure out if the girl was late for the agreed time or not, but he was too nervous to be able to read the time correctly.
He took another breath and closed his eyes, remembering another moment of his life when he had felt upset in the same way: happy, but nervous and worried at the thought that something could go wrong.
Then, the village of Locksley had been festively decorated with the colors of his family and with fresh flowers. The peasants, although despising him, were still excited at the idea of the wedding party and especially for the banquet, hoping to at least get the leftovers of the guests.
He, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been able to eat anything. He had waited for the bride's carriage with his heart beating too fast, anxious to please her and fearful that she could still escape him.
When she arrived, Marian had looked at him with resigned eyes, but certainly not happy, and eventually she slipped away from his hands, rejecting his love and humiliating him in front of everyone.
The door bell startled him, and Guy ran to open, his heart in his mouth.
He found himself in front of a sort of tree, of a green too bright to be natural, and Guy stared at it for a moment, then, somewhere in the middle of the tangle of branches, Miriam's face appeared to smile at him.
“I brought you a Christmas tree, but maybe I overdid a bit.”
Guy looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
The girl giggled.
“I remembered it smaller. Do you have room to put it, don’t you?”
“We'll find it.”
“Bring it in, then, I'll take the box with the decorations.”
Gisborne dragged the tree into the house and he put it in the free space next to the couch, taking the time to look better at it: it looked like a fir tree, but it wasn’t made of wood and it had a sort of metal pedestal in place of roots.
“Is it made of plastic?”
Miriam put a large cardboard box on the kitchen table and she nodded.
“Artificial trees don’t wither and they don’t need to be watered.” She sighed. “I’m not really good at gardening either...”
The girl began to rummage in the box and she pulled out a bunch of tangled Christmas lights. She looked at the tangle and sighed again.
“I don’t know how they get tangled up like that. Yet last year I had wrapped them tidily before putting them away...”
“Is this your Christmas tree? Did you bring it to me?”
“Oh, don’t worry. This year I found a bigger one, with fake snow on the branches. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t help buying it. I'm a fool, don’t you think? Maybe you're not even interested in Christmas trees...”
“Oh, no! Actually I find them very beautiful! Those little lights remind me...” He stopped suddenly, blushing, and the girl smiled.
“Of the first time you kissed me?”
Miriam touched his lips with a light kiss, then she put the Christmas lights in his hands.
“Here, see if you can undo these.”
Guy looked at her, surprised and amused, and he began to work, untangling the cables, while Miriam pulled the other decorations out of the box and placed them on the sofa and on the kitchen table.
“I'm invading your home!” She exclaimed, laughing. “But maybe you need the table to prepare dinner? What will we eat tonight?”
Gisborne handed her the flyer of the pizzeria, a little embarrassed.
“Do you like pizza?”
Miriam took possession of the flyer and rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek.
“I love it!”
Guy mentally thanked Alicia for giving him that suggestion and lady Aisha for teaching him how to order it, and he smiled at the girl.
“Choose the one you prefer, then.”
Miriam chose it, and Guy put into practice the teachings of his neighbor, using the phone in the apartment without much difficulty.
“They said it will arrive in about half an hour...” He reported, once the call was over, and Miriam nodded.
“Then we have the time to start decorating the tree and free the table a bit. Have you finished with the lights? Already?! It would have taken an eternity to me. Wrap them around the branches, like this, while I prepare the tinsel garlands.”
Miriam showed him how to do it and Guy continued. He finished fixing the lights and turned, feeling himself observed: Miriam was staring at him.
“What's up? Did I do something wrong?”
“No, no. It's that you're so tall! To put the lights on the highest branches I needed to get on a chair. Maybe I should ask you to help me decorate my tree too...”
“Whenever you want.”
“Won’t it be a bother?”
Guy looked at her, lifting a corner of his mouth in an amused smile.
“Invite me to dinner and, if you want, I will put the lights on a whole forest.”
Miriam passed him a garland and she began to hang the baubles on the lower branches.
“Deal done, and I promise not to cook. Do you like Chinese cuisine?”
“It will be a good opportunity to find out.”
Miriam looked at Guy as he put aside the empty pizza boxes to throw them away, and she smiled to herself. She didn’t know why, but when she was with him she felt at home.
She had felt like that since the first time she had seen him: an inexplicable certainty of having nothing to fear when he was by her side and the warmth that filled her heart when she met his gaze.
At first she had thought that it was simple attraction, and it was probably that too, but knowing him a little more, she had discovered that she liked talking to him, spending time together.
She looked around, exploring the apartment with her eyes and looking for the small traces left by Guy’s presence that could make her to find out some details about him.
She took the book on the small table in front of the sofa and opened it to the page marked by the bookmark.
Gisborne approached her and Miriam noticed that he seemed uncertain, as if he feared her judgment.
“Are you reading this?” She asked.
Guy gave her a worried look.
“Do you think it's silly of me?”
“Why should I think such a thing?”
“It's not a useful book, it's an invented story...”
“And that's the good of it, isn’t it?”
Gisborne thought about how Vaisey would have humiliated him if he had caught him wasting time on some activity that didn’t have a practical purpose. The thought made him shudder: the sheriff would have harshly condemned anything that wasn’t useful for his purposes, and he would have made sure to destroy or spoil it forever so that no one could take pleasure from it.
Miriam beckoned him to sit on the sofa, and, as Guy obeyed her, she curled up beside him, leaning on his shoulder with her head and placing the book in his lap.
“Do you know what? It won’t be a useful book, but it's my favorite.”
“Did you read it too?”
“I read the whole series. Many times. And to think about it, it was useful. Losing myself in a fantasy world has helped me a lot in the most difficult moments.”
The girl flipped through the volume until she found the chapter she wanted, and she smiled at Guy.
“I've always liked this part!”
“The sorting ceremony?” Guy asked, reading a few lines, and Miriam nodded enthusiastically.
“In what House do you think I would end up?”
“I have no doubt: Gryffindor.”
Miriam looked at him, not entirely sure.
“Do you think so? I don’t think I'm so heroic. You instead? Which House would you be assigned to?”
“Surely Slytherin,” Gisborne said, with a small sigh.
“I am not brave and heroic enough, not smart enough, and certainly not meek and kindhearted to belong to one of the other three Houses. Not much choice left, don’t you think?”
Miriam raised her face to Guy's and touched his lips with a kiss.
“You don’t seem to me at all like you describe yourself.”
“Because you don’t know me well enough.”
The girl shrugged.
“I like what I know. And I don’t care which of the Hogwarts houses you think you'll end up, even if you're a Slytherin it's all right.”
Gisborne smiled at her and this time he kissed her again, tenderly.
“Was this today's question? Which House do I belong to?” He asked, amused.
“Remember that today I have two questions because I beat you.”
“That's not true, but I'll give you a second question.”
Miriam snuggled in his arms and looked at him, searching his gaze.
“Am I your girlfriend, Guy?”
Gisborne stared at her, unsettled by that question, until he realized that Miriam expected an answer.
The problem was that he didn’t know that answer.
He thought of Robin and Marian, of the unpardonable act he had committed, and then his thoughts were again captured by Miriam's innocent, loving gaze.
Rationally he had said to himself that he should keep away from her, but a single smile of the girl was enough to dismantle any resolution: he wasn’t able to give up those moments, so tender and exciting.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “It's all so complicated...”
The girl noticed his discomfort and stroked his cheek.
“You're right, it's a complicated situation. We will have to work together and this isn’t professional at all of me, and then I have at the same time the feeling of having known you for a lifetime and not knowing you at all... I don’t even know what I hoped you would answer.”
Guy ran a hand through her hair and drew her to him, to kiss her with all the tenderness he was capable of.
“Does this seem wrong to you?”
“No, it's beautiful.”
Guy closed his eyes, holding her close to his heart.
“It's true, it's beautiful.”
“Maybe it's not so important to determine whether I'm your girlfriend or not... We're in no hurry, let's just behave as it seems right and natural, and let’s see what happens. No commitment, no obligation.”
“I want to make a promise to you, all the same: whatever happens between us, I will never hurt you.”
Miriam kissed the back of his hand.
“I know you won’t.”
Chapter 28: Awake
Alicia Little finished stitching the cut on the forehead of the little girl who had arrived at the emergency room shortly before, and she smiled at her.
“You see? I finished. You were very brave, dear. Next time, however, instead of climbing the bookshelf, let one of your parents put the star on top of the Christmas tree for you.”
The girl giggled and Alicia turned to her mother to explain how to behave in the following days and when to return to remove the stitches.
Mother and daughter came out of the room, reassured, and a nurse entered.
“On the folder it was written to contact you... This is about Robin of Locksley.”
Alicia looked at the nurse, worried.
“Did something happen to him?”
“He came out of the coma.”
Robin looked around, trying to figure out where he was, without success. He tried to get out of bed, but he quickly realized he didn’t have the strength. He didn’t feel pain, he was just so weak that he couldn’t even lift a hand.
Was he dead? The last thing he remembered was that he had said goodbye to his companions and went into the thick of the forest to die alone, but if this was the afterlife, it was really very strange.
Unable to move, he tried at least to look around and assimilate as much information as he could from what he saw, but he couldn’t find a meaning in it.
A woman dressed in white had entered the room shortly after he had woken up, and she had asked him some questions that he hadn’t been able to understand, still confused by that long sleep, then the woman had moved away quickly and he was left alone.
Robin wondered what he was supposed to do to get out of this troubling situation, but until he recovered some energies, there weren’t many alternatives except for waiting for someone to come.
He had been lying there, staring at the ceiling for quite a while, when another woman entered the room, out of breath as if she had run. She was a middle-aged lady with an unusual look, dressed in a pair of trousers and a tunic of the same water-green color and with curly hair, too short for a lady.
The woman glanced quickly behind her back and closed the door, then she approached the bed, staring intently at Robin.
“Finally you woke up. Do you understand what I'm saying?”
Robin nodded weakly.
“Do you think you can talk?”
“Yes...” Robin replied in a whisper and he was amazed to hear how hoarse and weak his voice was.
“Don’t worry, it's because you haven’t talked for a long time, it will pass soon. Probably this place will seem strange to you, but you mustn’t be afraid: it is a place of care and we are here to restore your health. Over time I will explain everything, now you have to think about getting better.”
“Am I alive?”
“Yes, and now that you have woken up, you will soon recover. Do you remember your name?”
“My name is Alicia Little and I'm one of the doctors who treated you.”
“But it's impossible... There's no antidote... You're deceiving me and this is the afterlife...”
Alicia pushed aside the sheet that covered him and pinched him on the foot.
“Ouch! Why did you do it?”
The doctor smiled.
“To convince you that this is not the afterlife and to verify that you still have sensitivity in your legs. You have it. Good news, don’t you think?”
“Why can’t I move?”
“You've been sleeping for several weeks, it will take some time to regain your strength.”
“I have to... I have to go back to my comrades.”
“Guy had told me that you'd be a difficult patient...”
“Guy of Gisborne. Do you remember him?”
Robin's gaze grew sad.
“Gisborne is dead. He gave his life to try to save me, I hope he is at peace now.”
“No, Guy is alive. His injuries were serious, but he survived.”
“He died in my arms, of this I am sure.”
“His heart has stopped for a while, it's true, but we managed to restart it. It must seem very strange to you, but over time everything will be clearer, I assure you. Now think only to recover.”
Guy looked up from the pages of the book to take a quick look at the television: this time the screen showed a choir intent on singing Christmas songs and Guy smiled to himself, looking at the colored lights of the Christmas tree.
Every time he looked at it, he found himself thinking of Miriam, of the wonderful evening they had spent together, and his heart was filled with a warmth that he wasn’t used to.
He shouldn’t have let himself to be carried away by his feelings, they had already caused too much pain, but he couldn’t keep his distance from Miriam, not when the time they spent together was so perfect.
It's wrong. If she's Marian, she doesn’t love me; if she isn’t her, I shouldn’t fall in love with a girl who isn’t Marian...
Guy closed the book and put it on his lap, struck by that last thought.
Am I falling in love with her?
The ringing of the phone startled him, and Guy looked worriedly at it.
He had learned to use it, and in the evening he used it to talk to Alicia for a few minutes and tell her about his day, but it was usually him who called, and they had already talked just a couple of hours ago.
He picked up the receiver, hesitantly, and heard the doctor's familiar voice.
“Guy, were you already sleeping?”
“No not yet. Why do you ask?”
“I asked Jack Robinson to come and get you and bring you here. He should be there in about twenty minutes, do you think you can get ready in time?”
“Do you want me to come there? Now? This is about Hood, isn’t it? Did something happen to him?!”
“He woke up.”
Alicia was waiting for him at the hospital entrance and she looked at his face for a moment, worried, before holding him in a short hug.
They both said goodbye to Dr. Robinson and headed for the lift.
“Are you okay, Guy?” Alicia asked.
“You were right, he’s full of resources, even after coming out of many weeks of coma. I don’t think he believed a word of what I told him. But I asked how are you, you're pale.”
“It's nothing, I'm just nervous.”
“It's about Miriam, isn’t it? Do you fear that now that Robin has woken up he will take her away?”
Guy nodded briefly, looking away.
“I told you, Alicia, I'm not a good person. I should just be happy for Robin, but I'm afraid of losing her, even though I knew from the beginning that she wasn’t mine.”
The doctor stroked his cheek.
“I think it's normal, honey. It seems to me that you are getting very attached to that girl.”
“Yes. And it's not just because she looks like Marian, I swear. When I'm with her everything seems so simple, talking to her excites me, but it's also so natural. Once it wasn’t like that... With Marian it was always a kind of battle, I had the constant fear of offending her, of saying the wrong word that would alienate her even more from me, I always saw the disdain hidden in her eyes.”
“And with Miriam it’s different?”
“Sometimes I find myself wishing that she weren’t so similar to her, I wish she were a completely different person and that there were no doubts. And then I feel guilty for thinking that.”
“I swore to myself that I would love Marian forever, I was convinced that my love for her would be eternal. But if I feel like this for Miriam, does that mean that what I felt for Marian was so cheap? That have I committed my crime for an ephemeral love?”
“Honey, finding a new love does not mean diminishing the previous one. Many widows get married again, but they didn’t love their first wife less because of it. There is nothing wrong with feeling something new for Miriam.”
“But if she were Marian? Then it would be wrong. She belongs to Robin.”
“You just talked nonsense, Guy. Whoever she is, that girl is not yours and not Robin’s, and she is perfectly capable of making her own choices. The only thing you can and must do is to let her make her decisions and respect her will. And it’s not at all certain that she will choose Robin.”
Guy considered those words and thought that if someone had opened his eyes like that when he courted Marian, maybe things would have gone a very different way. With shame, he realized that a part of what he felt for Marian, at least at the beginning, also arose from the desire for revenge against Robin, from the desire to steal from him once again something that belonged to him.
“Don’t think of her now, go to your friend. You're happy he's okay, right?”
“Stay with him, then. I think you'll have to work hard to convince him that you're not in the afterlife.”
Robin was lying in his bed motionless, with his eyes closed, and, looking at him, Guy had the impression that nothing had changed, that he was still sunk in his immutable sleep. He approached the bed cautiously and sat down in the chair next to it.
“Hood?” He called in a low voice, and Robin's eyes snapped open.
The outlaw looked at him and Guy looked back, without saying anything until Robin spoke.
“Gisborne. Is it really you?”
“What do you think, Hood?”
Robin looked away from him and stared at the ceiling.
“I thought it would be Marian to welcome me in the afterlife.”
"And it would certainly be like you said, if you were dead. You're alive, Hood, and so am I.”
“I saw you die. I closed your eyes and I held your body in my arms.”
“Come on, Robin, you know me now. You can say anything about me, but I've never lied to you.”
“Should I believe that you came back from the underworld?”
Guy lifted the shirt he was wearing, to show him the healed scars.
“Believe what you want, but we're both alive. The doctors who work in this place saved my life and they took care of you too. Alicia will explain to you how they did it.”
“The woman you talked to when you woke up. You can trust her, she has helped me a lot since I've been here.”
Robin looked at him.
“What do you mean? Hadn’t we been injured on the same day? How could you have been here longer than me? How is it possible that your wounds have healed? And what do you mean by ‘here’? Where are we?!”
“Alicia didn’t tell you? You've been sleeping for many weeks. It's complicated to explain, but I'll tell you everything sooner or later.”
The outlaw looked at him, frowning. Gisborne had never been a convincing liar and he was sure that he wasn’t lying at the moment, but he also had the impression that he hadn’t told him everything, that he was hiding something important from him.
“Gisborne? What happened? Speak.”
“Do you want to know everything? Even if it will seem impossible and crazy?”
"We should both be dead, and yet we're here to talk. What could be more impossible than this?”
Guy took a deep breath and looked into his eyes so he knew that he was telling the truth.
“We're in Nottingham, but it's not our Nottingham. When you go out, you'll see that it's completely different.”
“What does it mean? Or we're in Nottingham or we aren’t.”
“It means that eight centuries have passed. This is not the time we were born, this is the Nottingham of the future.”
Chapter 29: My Old Friend
The doctor turned around, surprised.
“Guy! You didn’t tell me you would come today. Did they take you here after today's courses?”
Gisborne smiled at her, proud.
“No, in fact I put the lessons of the last days into practice. I came alone.”
“Really? Did you take the bus?”
“Yes. They gave me a bus pass and they taught me how to use public transport and how to read a map of the city.”
“Well, congratulations, now you can move much more freely. Did you have any problems?”
“The other day I took the bus in the wrong direction and I ended up at the castle instead than at home, but it wasn’t a big problem, I took the opportunity to go to say hello to Jonathan Archer. Mr. Andrews was there too, he had a small vial with a stick and he used it to get a sample of my saliva. He said that it was necessary for that examination that perhaps will allow him to identify the remains of Isabella.”
Alicia held him in a short hug, noticing his emotion in pronouncing those last words. Guy returned the hug, but he changed the subject.
“Do you know that now I also have a real identity card? Obviously the date of birth is wrong and I hope that in real I have a more intelligent expression than in the photo, but apparently now I officially exist, I am a person of this time.”
“Don’t worry about the photo, I don’t think there is a person in the whole world who’s happy with their photo on a identity card. You should see mine, but don’t hold your breath, I have no intention of showing it to you.” Alicia smiled at him. “I'm happy for you, you're working so hard and you deserve to be happy. Do you have any commitments later?”
“No, I'm done for today. I'll see Miriam on Saturday, but I'm free tonight.”
“If you have the patience to wait for the end of my shift, we can have dinner together and then I'll take you home. You came to see Robin, right?”
“Yes. How is he?”
“Better physically, but he is still very wary. I think he doesn’t really trust any of us.”
“When I told him that we are in the twenty-first century he didn’t believe me, he thought I had become crazy. I hope today he’s more willing to listen to me.”
"You didn’t believe me either when I told you what year it was, you had to find yourself in front of a helicopter in flight to be convinced.”
Guy recalled the trauma he had suffered that day and he gave a small sigh.
"I wanted to keep him from being as upset as I was.”
“In the end you didn’t fare so badly, right? You always told me that Robin Hood is full of resources, he’ll adapt too.”
“I hope so.”
“Everything will be fine. Now go to your friend, I have to go back to work.”
“See you later, Alicia.”
Robin looked at the window, wondering how high his room was from the ground and if he could escape from there, but he was forced to admit that an escape seemed rather unlikely since he couldn’t even stand for more than a few moments without help.
He was still considering the possibilities he had, when the door opened.
“Gisborne!” He exclaimed, still incredulous. “So you're really alive. I wasn’t sure I hadn’t dreamed the other day.”
“The day you start dreaming of me, I'll worry, Hood,” Guy said, taking possession of the chair next to the bed. “How are you?”
“Too weak to walk, but now that you're here you can help me. Take my clothes, hurry, we have to go back to the forest, the others will be desperate by now.”
“Robin... There is no forest. Not here. Not anymore. In eight centuries many things have changed.”
"Stop this nonsense, Gisborne, or I'll think you really became crazy."
“Look around you, Hood, you're denying reality. Just look at this room, do you think it looks like one of the rooms of the castle? Look at the ceiling: there is a brighter light than a torch or a lantern, but there is no flame, and I can turn it on or off with a switch.” Guy stood up and demonstrated what he had just said by turning the light off and on, then he returned to Robin and stared into his eyes. “And this is the least, you have to see everything else! There are mechanical carriages that move without horses, faster than any vehicle you've seen, and other devices that can fly, so fast that you can get to the other side of the planet in the same time we used to go to York on horseback. Objects that allow you to cook food without using fire and books that instead of being copied one word at a time are produced in thousands of copies, perfectly identical to each other! And anyone can own dozens of them without being rich.”
“You're delirious, Gisborne, what you say is just nonsense. And then what could a poor man do with a book?”
"Guy, most, if not all, of the peasants of Locksley can’t read.”
“Well, now they do. In this time practically everyone learns to do it since childhood, they all study for many years.”
Robin shook his head sadly.
“Gisborne, come here and sit down. I'm glad you're alive, really, but it's clear that you're not well, you're confused and you talk about nonsense.”
“No, Robin, I think I've never seen things so clearly, instead.”
Robin looked at him, amazed.
“You've changed, Guy. You really changed.”
“I know. And I think it's good.”
The outlaw continued to watch him for a while.
“Yes, I think so too. You look healthy and even more serene. And I didn’t think I'd ever see you wearing clothes that were not leather. Is that a color?”
Guy grinned and lowered his gaze for a moment on the blue T-shirt that he was wearing that day and that could be glimpsed under his black sweater.
“Strange, isn’t it?”
Robin looked around, looking at all the details of the room that he had deliberately ignored till now, then he looked at Gisborne again. He was forced to admit to himself that this place wasn’t at all like any of the places he knew, and that his friend's words had seemed sincere to him, even if that whole situation was absurd.
Guy seemed to have found the peace he had never had in his life and his appearance had much improved compared to the day of the castle's siege. Then, Gisborne hjad been worn out because of the captivity in the dungeons and the hard life at the camp, and, like them all, in the last period of their fight against Isabella and Prince John, he had neither eaten nor slept enough. Surely none of them had the time or the opportunity to take a bath or to look after their appearance.
Now, instead, Guy had the healthy appearance of those who didn’t suffer from hunger or fatigue and he seemed cleaner and more neat than he had ever been, even in his best times at Nottingham.
“Did you say eight centuries? How is it possible?”
“I have no idea, but it's true.”
“How do we go back?”
Gisborne stared at him, almost surprised.
“I don’t know. When we saved you, it happened suddenly: a moment we were walking in a park, the moment after we were in Sherwood forest.”
“Me and Alicia, the doctor who's treating you. It was only for a short while, but I saw Archer and the others, do you know? They were gathered in the forest and they were weeping for your death. When we were told that you went away to die alone, we thought that maybe we were still in time, that maybe we were there to save you.”
“How? You said that there was no antidote.”
"And it's true, but there are ways to counteract the symptoms of poison and to keep you alive until your body disposes of it. Did you know that you can restart a heart that has stopped?”
"Nonsense, you can’t awaken a dead man.”
"They did it to me when I arrived here, and then Alicia and I did it to you. You weren’t breathing when we found you, so we did it for you.”
“One of us compressed your chest to simulate the heartbeat and the other breathed for you, blowing air in your mouth.”
Robin gave him a disgusted look.
"Are you saying that you kissed me, Gisborne?"
“Would you have preferred to die, Hood?”
Robin chose not to answer him and he just raised his eyes to the sky.
“Let’s admit that what you say is true and that we are eight centuries in the future... We must find a way to go back in our time.”
“No!” Guy said, marveling at the vehemence of his own response.
“No? What are you saying, Gisborne? Our companions will be waiting for us.”
“Waiting for you, maybe.”
“It's not true, you're part of the gang too now, and then there's Archer, he's our brother.”
“You know very well that I've never really been one of you, they won’t cry too much for my disappearance. And Archer has lived for twenty years without having brothers, I imagine he will adapt without too much trouble to having only one.”
Robin looked at him, stunned.
“Don’t you want to come back? Do you really want to stay here?”
“If there is a way to return to our time, I will help you to do it, but I won’t come with you. There, for me there is only suffering and people's hatred, I have no reason to return.”
"And will you let Prince John to continue oppressing people?”
"That was always your cause, Robin. And however…”
Guy stopped and Robin stared at him.
However, Prince John will ascend the throne all the same because King Richard will be killed during one of his stupid battles.
“Nothing. I don’t care who reigns. The only thing I've always wanted is to have a family.”
“And here do you have one?”
Guy's thoughts flew to Miriam, but he immediately dismissed them: he couldn’t speak of her to Robin yet, he couldn’t bear the possibility of losing her so soon.
“No. But I have a house, some friends and sooner or later I will have a job as well. I can live my life in peace, be more free than I have ever been in my life.”
“Are these really the words of the man who tried to kill the king because he wanted a huge power?”
Guy looked down.
“You know why I wanted power.”
“Yes. So are you willing to live in a world so different from what you know? Doesn’t it look terrifying?”
“In the beginning it was. I understood practically nothing about what I saw around me, and people's words made no sense, but living here has many advantages. You'll see it too, Hood.”
“I'm not going to stay here long.”
“Maybe you'll have to. I don’t know why we ended up here or how it was possible. It was a sort of a miracle and not even you can force miracles to happen, Hood.”
“I'll find a way. I already have a plan. A part of a plan, at least.”
“It isn’t true, you don’t have it.”
“I'll find one.”
“Good luck then. But if you don’t succeed, I think you'll like the Nottingham of this time, you're a celebrity around here.”
“Really? Do they remember me after all this time?”
“Yeah. There are books and movies about you, in the shops they sell themed toys and souvenirs, and near the castle there is also a statue that represents you, but it doesn’t look like you at all.”
Robin looked at him.
“What are you talking about, Gisborne? What would a movie be? And a souvenir? Now you are the one who uses incomprehensible words.”
“I will explain it to you. You have no idea how many things I've studied in the last few weeks and how many more I'll still have to learn, but it's worth it, I assure you. Do you know that they invented devices that allow you to talk to people even from a distance? You can hear the voice of a person on the other side of the world as if he were next to you. And it's not magic, they're mechanical items, I used them too.”
The outlaw didn’t know what to answer him: for the first time he was in a situation where he felt completely lost and without the faintest idea of what to do and, to make things worse, Gisborne instead seemed to be completely at ease, confident like Robin had never seen him in his life.
For a moment he felt angry at him and was tempted to tell him to stop mocking him with that incomprehensible nonsense, but he quickly realized that instead Guy was genuinely interested and enthusiastic about that future world, so far from anything that they always had known.
For once Gisborne, who had always been the one out of place, the boy excluded from the games of the others, the man hated by the peasants and treated like an obedient dog by the sheriff, had adapted to that absurd situation and was happy.
Seeing Gisborne happy was definitely a novelty, Robin thought, and he wasn’t quite sure he liked it.
He mentally reproached himself for those thoughts: when Guy had been wounded, Robin had called him a friend, but he couldn’t consider him a friend only if he was unhappy and in a situation of inferiority.
That is pity, not friendship.
Yet, inside him, a voice kept reminding him that Gisborne had killed Marian and that he had torn away all his hopes of future happiness. Robin knew he could forgive him all the rest, he could consider him his friend and ally, but he could never forget it, that crime would always remain between them.
“Robin? Are you alright? You suddenly became silent.”
The outlaw tried to ward off those gloomy thoughts and he shook his head. Guy was genuinely worried about him, he could read it in his eyes, and that care moved him and filled him with rage at the same time. He didn’t want his kindness, he didn’t want to see him happy, and above all he didn’t want to feel indebted to him.
If you were dead, I would have suffered for you, I would have missed you... Maybe it would have been better. And you shouldn’t have saved me: if you hadn’t done it, now I would be with her.
“It's nothing. I'm tired.”
“Alicia says it's normal, you'll soon recover. When you leave the hospital I will show you this new world, I bet you’ll like it.”
Robin tried to smile.
“A statue, uh?”
“Yes, and people come from all over the world to see it. Fortunately for them it doesn’t look like you at all.”
Chapter 30: I Know
Gisborne opened his eyes with a little gasp and he smiled as he saw Miriam's face next to his.
“Did I fall asleep?”
The girl stared at him, serious.
“I should feel offended: I invite you to dinner and you fall asleep on the couch. Am I so boring?”
Guy sat up quickly.
“No, no! I assure you! You're not boring at all! It's that today was such a busy day...”
The girl laughed and she sat down on Guy's legs, throwing her arms around his neck to kiss him, then she leaned her forehead against Guy's and smiled at him.
“I was joking, silly. I know how strenuous and stressful the first months of the program are. And then you're so cute while you sleep...”
Guy kissed her again.
The girl snuggled in his arms.
“You're always cute, actually,” she confessed with a giggle. “It's strange, you know?”
“We met for the first time not long ago, yet I seem I’ve known you for a lifetime. I feel good when I'm by your side.”
Gisborne held her tight and kissed her hair.
“For me it’s the same. I feel at home.”
Alicia checked the recipe and measured the flour slowly, so that Guy could see how she had done.
She poured it into the bowl and passed the graduated container to Gisborne so he could do the same.
Alicia looked at him as he worked, and she smiled to see how much effort he put into every single gesture. She thought that if he took the teachings of the association's program with the same seriousness, it wasn’t surprising that in the evening, when he phoned her, he always told her that he was very tired.
“Is this right?” Guy asked.
“You've probably been more precise than me. But why do you care so much about learning how to make cookies?”
Gisborne looked at the illuminated Christmas tree and smiled.
"It will be Christmas soon and I want to give Miriam a present.” Guy sighed. “When I wooed Marian I tried to conquer her with precious gifts, to show her that I was able to provide for her. Once I gave her a horse...”
“One of the few gifts that she appreciated, perhaps the only one.”
“In fact, giving a horse to Miriam would be a bit complicated.”
“With Miriam it's different. I want to give her something that I made, something that can make her understand what I feel when I'm with her. That's why I asked you to teach me how to make cookies.”
Alicia added the other ingredients and she began to knead.
“Haven’t you discovered yet whether she's Marian or not?”
“No. And maybe I don’t want to know.”
“Because if she’s Marian you will have to tell Robin?”
Guy kept his eyes on the biscuit dough, without looking at her.
“I should still tell Robin, anyway. But I can’t do it. And it's not just for that reason.”
Guy had his hair gathered in a tail, but a lock had escaped the rubber band and he pushed it back with his hand, nervously, leaving a strip of flour on his cheek.
“Because I love her. More than I've ever loved Marian. And I would have died for Marian.”
Alicia stared at him, struck by those words.
“Try not to die for Miriam, sweetheart.”
“No. I want to live for her. What I feel for Miriam is so different... It’s not the crazy passion that clouded my mind and that ultimately dragged me to hell. When I am with her, everything seems more beautiful, even the most insignificant thing seems marvelous and satisfying. Last night I fell asleep on her couch and she just sat at my side to read a book. Sometimes she stroked my hair while I was half asleep and I brushed her fingers with a kiss. I think it was one of the most perfect evenings I can remember.”
“Did you tell her what you feel for her?”
“What if she doesn’t feel the same? Why should she want to spend the rest of her life with me? I tried to impose my feelings on Marian and she ran away, I can’t make the same mistake with Miriam.”
“From what you told me, I don’t think she wants to run away. But you're right if you don’t want to rush things: if you're happy, enjoy these moments.”
“I'm always afraid I don’t deserve it. I know I don’t deserve it. My actions have taken away from Robin the possibility of having all this with Marian... When I think about it, I feel like a thief and I tell myself that I should talk to him about Miriam, but then I see her and everything is so perfect that I don’t have anymore the courage to talk.”
“You can’t keep it hidden forever.”
“I know. I'll tell him after Christmas. If I’m destined to lose her, I want at least this, the memory of a happy Christmas.”
“It’s not certain that you will lose her.”
Guy gave her a sad smile.
"I don’t want to delude myself, Alicia. I don’t think I'm destined for happiness. When I saw Miriam for the first time I always knew that in the end she will break my heart, but I couldn’t avoid falling in love with her. This time I am aware that it can’t last forever, but this is already much more than I could have hoped for. When she’ll go back to Robin, at least I'll have these memories.”
“Oh, honey...” Alicia hugged him and Guy accepted her comfort, grateful for the doctor's affection.
“I have dirtied your dress with flour.” He said after a while, apologetically, and Alicia laughed.
“Do you think I care? When I cook I never wear anything that can’t withstand a little flour or oil splashes. And then I also covered you in flour, we're even.”
“Thanks Alicia. For everything.”
The woman stroked his cheek.
“Remember that I will always be there. You can count on my support at any time.” Alicia gave him a smile of encouragement and nodded to the ingredients. “Come on, let's get to work now, these cookies will not be made on their own.”
Robin leaned out of the window and looked out.
The first time he had done so, he had watched in horror the horseless wagons that Guy called cars and he had realized that Gisborne hadn’t lied to him.
He watched the cars for a while, wondering why the friend was so enthusiastic about all those mechanical inventions.
Certainly being able to escape at that speed from the sheriff's guards would be useful, and even the devices that allowed to speak at a distance could be useful to better coordinate the ambushes in the forest, but in the end Robin had always done perfectly without those artificial objects.
What he missed was the company of his friends.
Over the years, he had faced difficult and painful trials, but Much had always been by his side with his loyal friendship. And even his companions had always supported and helped him: they were Robin Hood, an indissoluble part of him, and he of them.
“I have to go back, at any cost,” he whispered, looking out the window and starting to think of a plan.
Guy had told him that, when he found himself in the future, they had found him in the underground galleries of the castle, while he and Alicia had gone back in time walking in a public park. Robin had asked him to point out the exact spots on a map of the city and Guy had done so, marking both places with a strange pen that worked without an inkwell and that Guy had left to him without even bothering.
Robin took the object and looked at it. That was a brilliant and innovative invention, yet Gisborne didn’t seem to give it too much importance, as if it were perfectly normal for him.
He put the pen and the map back in his pocket, took a warm jacket and put it on, then he opened the window and climbed over the sill, descending to the ground. He landed with a jump and hurried away before anyone could notice his escape.
Robin ran as fast as possible to get away from the hospital, paying no attention to the direction. For the moment the important thing was to prevent them from stopping him, then he would look for the roads on the map.
His plan consisted of reaching the points where Guy had managed to jump in time and hope for something to happen.
It wasn’t one of his best plans and he knew it, but it was always better than being locked in that room without doing anything.
If Gisborne had let himself to be charmed by the comforts of that modern world, he had no intention of giving up without at least trying everything to get back to his friends.
Miriam sat down on the bench and took a biscuit from the bag. She looked at it for a few seconds, then she ate it while Guy looked at her, anxious to hear her opinion.
The girl smiled.
“It's good. Did you really make them?”
Guy nodded, blushing a little.
“Alicia taught me how to make them, but I prepared them myself. I wanted to do something for you. They are not perfect as I would have liked, but I hope they are good.”
Miriam's eyes filled with tears and she hugged him suddenly.
“This is the best thing anyone has ever done for me!”
Guy hugged her, smiling.
“I just kneaded a little flour...”
Miriam found herself laughing and crying at the same time and dotted his face with little kisses.
“But you did it for me!”
“For you, I would do anything.”
The girl looked at him. Guy's words weren’t just a romantic phrase, Miriam realized that he was serious and she was even more moved.
“It means that when we get married, you will cook.”
Guy stared at her, bewildered.
“Do you want to marry me?!”
Miriam looked at him, giggling and planted a kiss on his lips.
“You keep preparing these cookies and I'll think seriously about it.”
Guy sighed in fake resignation.
“You are making a fool of me.”
The girl held him tight.
“Of course I am... or maybe not,” she added in a softer tone, looking into his eyes.
Guy kissed her and Miriam gave herself up to that tender and moving kiss, taking refuge in the warmth of his embrace.
“I love you,” Guy said, without taking his eyes off her. “Miriam, I love you so much...”
The girl smiled, half moved and half amused.
“I know. You never told me that, but I had understood it quite a while ago.”
Guy gave her a worried look.
“What... what do you think?”
“Of the fact that I love you too? I think you too should have known that for a while,” she said softly, searching for his lips again.