For a moment, Guy thought that he was dead and that he had somehow ended in Heaven, then he realized that it couldn’t be, because he was surely destined to Hell. But then, if it was all true, Marian was kissing him!
It seemed impossible to him, but he held her closer, losing himself in that kiss.
Then it happened.
Suddenly, he had the impression that he was in two places at the same time: holding and being held, kissing and being kissed, offering protection and searching for a refuge.
He felt his love for Marian, stronger and stronger any moment, and at the same time he was Marian.
He could feel her deep sorrow, her fear and the need of comfort and protection hidden behind her pride, the unsettling emotion she was feeling right now, the desire to keep kissing him and forgetting everything else, and at the same time the guilt she felt for having started that kiss.
I love Robin, I shouldn’t…
And Guy for a moment loved Robin as well, for a moment he saw Robin Hood as Marian used to see him: the gentle hero of the people with all his dreams for a better world, a brave, generous man, who sometimes disappointed her because he loved too much the people in need to give her all the attention she wished for. The part of Guy’s mind who was still himself and not Marian was pleased to find out that the girl could see Robin’s flaws amidst all his many merits.
Then he saw himself with Marian’s eyes, and it was disconcerting: the girl could actually see good where Guy thought there was none, but she was also aware of his flaws, the worse ones always strictly connected with his work at the sheriff’s orders. He realized how much scary he could be and how evil he looked when he punished or arrested the villagers who couldn’t pay the taxes, taking their things or burning their houses, and at the same time he was shocked to see how much a simple act of kindness could impress Marian.
She was grateful for his comfort, touched by his words of consolation, and she had felt close to him when he had told her about his own sadness for his parents.
And she liked him, she was stirred by him, and that kiss had awoken a strong passion in her, the desire to find out more… It was strange to feel so wanted, when usually he was the one to wish for more...
In a single moment, Guy understood Marian more than he did in all the years he had known her.
He was Marian.
Then the moment passed, and he was just Guy again, holding in his arms the woman who now he loved even more than before.
The kiss ended, and Marian stared at him, her eyes bright with tears, and as upset as he was.
“Guy… I… I have to go.”
He looked at her, still stunned.
“Go?” He repeated.
“This was a mistake,” she whispered, and even if he wasn’t in her mind anymore, Guy knew how confused and scared she was.
“This wasn’t a mistake. It was the most perfect thing that has ever happened,” he answered softly, still embracing her, but without trying to kiss her again.
“I’m grieving Guy, I misled you...” Her voice broke a little. “I’m sorry.”
Guy shook his head, tenderly hushing her.
“I know, I know. It’s alright, I know how you are feeling, don’t worry.”
He gently caressed her hair, and the girl snuggled in his arms, quietly weeping.
Gisborne noticed Thornton standing on the door. The servant had come to the main hall to tell them that the bath for Marian was ready, but he had stopped on the threshold when he saw the girl kissing his master.
“Is the bath ready?” Guy asked to him, and Thornton nodded, then the knight turned back to Marian. “Don’t go, please. Stay, take your bath, and relax. You need some quiet, and I won’t disturb you. Hannah and Mary will provide you with everything you could need: food, wine, fresh clothes, you don’t have to worry about anything.”
He bent to give her a little kiss on her cheek, as reassuring and sweet as the other one had been passionate, and Marian nodded, accepting his offer.
She began following Thornton, but she stopped and turned, looking at Guy, still uncertain.
“Guy… About what just happened...”
Gisborne shook his head.
“No need to talk about it. I understand. I really do.”
Marian smiled at him, relieved, and she went out of the room.
As soon as she was gone, Guy lose the calm attitude that he had used to talk to her: trembling, he turned to a corner of the room.
“What does it mean?! What happened?” He asked urgently, and Allan stared at him, a little worried.
“She kissed you, Giz, it didn’t look so difficult to understand, did it?”
Guy winced and turned to Allan, almost scared.
“I just answered your question, Giz.”
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
“What? We are alone in this room… Oh! The ghost? Is he mad because you kissed his daughter?”
“No, no, this is not about the kiss! It’s about that other thing…”
“What other thing? I just saw you two kissing, and you seemed to be both very… involved. But I haven’t seen anything else going on.”
Guy walked to Allan and grabbed his arms, staring at him.
“I was her, I was in her mind, I could feel what she was feeling, think what she was thinking!”
Allan looked at him, surprised. He’d have thought that Gisborne had gone insane were not for the presence of the ghost.
“Isn’t that what Sir Edward told you he can do?”
“That’s why I was asking him what happened!”
Guy looked at the ghost, and Edward gave him an apologetical look.
“I don’t know, Sir Guy. I am dead but I’m not omniscient. We can suppose that it’s an effect of my touch.”
“I could have guessed that too,” Guy growled, “That’s not very helpful.”
Allan gave a worried glance at him.
“Maybe you should calm down, Giz. If you fall ill again, it won’t be helpful either.”
Guy dropped himself on the chair near the fireplace, hiding his face in the hands.
“Are you alright, Giz?”
Gisborne let out a shaky sigh.
“It was so… so overwhelming...”
Sir Edward hovered at his side, careful to avoid touching him.
“I feel your fear, Sir Guy, you are afraid that you aren’t able to help her, to soothe her sorrow, but you are wrong. When you comforted her, when you told her that she shouldn’t worry, you weren’t in her mind anymore, but I could feel her soul, and I can assure you that your words and your kindness really helped her. You gave her what she needed. Now you know that she sees good in you, and I see it too.”
Allan filled a cup with wine, and he gave it to Guy. The knight sipped it slowly, trying to calm down.
The former outlaw was right, making himself sick with worry was completely useless and, after all, the whole experience had been unsettling, but not completely unpleasant.
He had been in Marian’s mind, and it had been nice. Apart from the sorrow for the loss of her father, Guy had been able to see her hopes, her dreams. She was innocent and brave, sensible and impulsive at the same time, strong and passionate, but also so frail.
He had loved her even when he didn’t know her well, but now that he had looked in her soul, he knew that he had never loved her so much.
It doesn’t matter if you love Hood, and if you will never return my feeling. I belong to you. As long as I live, my heart is yours. And if I can’t have you, I will protect you till my last breath.
“Giz?” Allan called him, distracting him from his thoughts. Guy was happy that he was there and that he knew about the ghost, his presence made everything less frightening.
“Do you think you can read the mind of other people too, or just Marian? Can you see what I’m thinking?”
“That’s easy,” Guy answered with a grin, “nothing at all.”
“Very funny, Giz,” Allan said, not offended at all, but amused by that reply. “So, what are we going to do, now?”
“I don’t know. Probably you should proceed with your idea of the letter from the convent if you really can do it. We must avoid that the sheriff could find out that she’s living with the outlaws.”
“No problem, Giz, it will be easy.”
“What will you do to protect her?” Sir Edward asked.
“It depends.” Guy stared at the wine that was left in his cup. “I will respect her choices, so if she wants to be with Hood, then we’ll have to talk with him and make sure that he can keep her safe.”
Allan stared at him, his mouth open.
“What?!” He blurted. If Guy had said that he was going to marry his horse, he would have been less surprised.
“I can’t force her to choose me or to stay away from danger, but maybe we can persuade Robin Hood to do everything he can to protect her. Maybe he could be the one who takes her away from Nottingham.”
“He’d never leave the county. He’s the hero of the people, he will want to protect them.”
Guy emptied the cup of wine, and he looked at Allan, grimly.
“Well, he will have to make a choice, then. His peasants or Marian, what’s more important to him?”
“But Giz, how are you going to talk to him? If you tell him the truth, he will think that you’re crazy or a liar. He will never listen to your words...”
Gisborne stared at the fire, a hand over his mouth, while he tried to think of a solution.
Sir Edward’s ghost was floating near the window, and he suddenly turned.
“Sir Guy! We have a problem!”
Guy stood up and reached the window in a couple of strides.
Allan saw him getting pale and tense.
“What’s up, Giz?”
“The sheriff. His carriage is coming!”
Allan shuddered, and looked at Guy: the knight seemed to have frozen, so he grabbed his shoulder to shake him out of his panic.
“Come on, Giz, hurry! We told him that you’re still sick, so he mustn’t see you like this. Run upstairs, go to bed, and for God’s sake, try to look weak and ill. Go. Now!”
Guy winced at his words, but he nodded, and obeyed, running upstairs. He had almost reached the top of the stairs, when he stopped and turned back to Allan.
“Marian! What are we going to do with her?!”
“It won’t matter, if the sheriff finds out that you’re not ill. Go. We’ll think of something.”
Guy hurried to his room, opening the clasps of his jacket while he walked. He flung it on a chair, removed his boots and the scabbard of his sword, dropping them to the floor, and he jumped in bed, pulling the blankets over his head and pretending to be asleep.
Vaisey stepped out of his carriage, looking around, then he entered the manor, followed by his guards.
Thornton welcomed him in the hall, meek as usual.
“My lord Sheriff, I am afraid that the master is still indisposed. If you wish we can serve you a meal, some wine.”
“I’m not here to eat or drink. Where is Gisborne?”
“The master is resting in his room. He just came home this morning, but he was still unwell, and traveling overexerted him.”
“Do you think that I care? A clue: no.”
The sheriff went upstairs, and opened the door of Guy’s room slamming it.
Gisborne jumped and sat in the bed, trying his best to look confused as if he had just awakened.
The sheriff walked to the bed, looking at Guy as a snake would stare at a prey, ready to attack.
“Feeling better, Gizzy, hm? You don’t look very ill, no, not at all.”
“My lord, you shouldn’t be here, the contagion...”
Vaisey waved a hand, to dismiss his words.
“I’d keep away if I believed that you were really sick. I think that you are lying, Gizzy, and believe me, I will find out if you didn’t say the truth.”
Guy kept his eyes downcast, looking at the blanket of his bed, afraid that if he met the gaze of the sheriff, he’d expose his lie.
The door opened suddenly, and Allan entered the room, holding a bucket.
“Hey, Giz, the servants cleaned this. I hope that you won’t need it again, but I thought that it was better bring it back in your room, just in case. Oh,” he looked at the sheriff as if he had just noticed his presence, “you came to see how is Giz, my lord? I wouldn’t get too close to him if I were you. Maybe it was just food poisoning, but the healer said that there was no way to know if it was contagious. She said that there had been some cases in Clun last week.”
Vaisey gave him a disgusted look, and he turned back to look at Guy.
“You’d better be at the castle tomorrow. I don’t care if you’ll have to take that bucket with you, but I’m not paying you to laze in bed. For sure I won’t pay you for the days that you have lost.”
“I’ll be there, my lord,” Guy said, respectfully, and Vaisey gave his back to him, heading out of the room and to the stairs.
Allan and Guy exchanged a glance, hoping that he was really going away, and Allan followed the sheriff to escort him to the door. But Vaisey stopped and looked around, listening, then he slammed open the door of one of the other rooms.
Marian had just stepped into the tub and she was just beginning to enjoy the warm water, when Hannah hurried into the room, a panicked expression on her face.
“Hush, lady Marian, the sheriff is coming. Hurry, get out of the tub and get dressed, then you must hide!”
The girl stood up, wrapping herself in the towel held by the servant, then she began wearing the clean undergarments that were neatly folded near the tub. For a moment she wondered why there were such fine items of clothing at Locksley when there was no lady of the manor, then she realized that Guy probably had purchased them before their failed wedding, to offer her anything she could need.
She had just donned the chemise, when the door was suddenly opened and the sheriff entered the room, glaring at her. Marian let out a cry, and blushed, but Vaisey didn’t stop staring at her, a malevolent expression on his face.
Marian saw Allan, standing behind him and looking terrified, and a moment later Guy ran into the room barefooted and without his jacket, alerted by her cry.
Guy looked at her and immediately averted his eyes.
“Well, now I know what you were doing instead of working,” the sheriff said, icily. “It’s true, you were ill, infected by this leper. What’s up, Gizzy? Did you eventually become a man and took her maidenhood? If she had ever been a maiden. You are coming to the castle now.”
Guy nodded, frightened by his tone, afraid that he could punish Marian as well.
“Yes, my lord.”
Vaisey pointed at Allan and at the girl.
“All of you. Your leper friend is still under house arrest, don’t forget it. Behave and I could let you keep her in your bed sometimes.”
The sheriff stopped in front of Guy and suddenly he slapped him hard, with the back of his hand, the one wearing the ring, hard enough to make him lose his balance and fall to the ground.
Gisborne touched his cheek with his hand, and Marian could see blood seeping trough the fingers, but the knight didn’t say anything.
“This, Gizzy, is to remember you that you shouldn’t lie to me. Never again, Gisborne. Remember: this was only a kind warning.”