The Birthday Gift
By Virginia Cavazos

Chapter One

Robin felt a gentle caress on his face, opening his eyes, a large, contented grin encompassed his handsome face. For he was staring up into the eyes of the woman, he loved, more than life itself.

Marion sat back, supporting herself on a large maple tree. Robin lay on the ground, his head nestled in her soft lap. With her legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. They both enjoyed the warm summer breeze, and the cool comfort of the shade provided by the ancient tree.

"You know," Robin sighed, "We are going to have to go back to camp… eventually." He laughed.

"I know," Marion softly said, "But I don’t see another day away to harmful."

Her fingers found their way to Robins hair, running them through his long locks. He sighed out in ecstasy as she found an old scar, hidden in the sable hair. Knowing how he liked her to itch it, she gently teased it at first. Giggling in a mischievous manner. A stern hand reached up, grabbing her by the wrist.

"So, you want to play do you?" He whirled around, sitting up on his knees, grabbing her other wrist; her brows shot up in mock alarm.

"Please kind sir, you would not think to accost such a frail lady."

Spinning her leg out, she booted Robin in the stomach, pulling out of his grip, as he clutched the offended part he gasped, "Frail my…"

"Uh, uh, uh… My frail ears cannot stand to hear such language." She giggled as she tried to crawl away.

Falling forward, Robin grabbed Marion by the legs. Pulling her back, he spun her around. She giggled like a young maiden, as he lay on top of her, pinning her on the ground. She struggled to escape, but only for a few seconds, before relinquishing to her reason for living.

"Well, now that you have me kind sir," She whispered, her face coming up to caress his, "What do you plan on doing to me?"

"Doing?" Robin sighed, as his hands gripped her small waist. She felt him slowly move them towards her stomach as he snarled. "THIS!"

She then began to laugh uncontrollably, as he tickled her stomach. Her arms reached out to him, trying to stop him, she hugged him close to her body. He returned her embrace, she closed her eyes, as their faces squeezing so close - she felt his beard scrapping harshly against her soft skin.

Pulling back, they gazed lovingly into each others eyes. By an unspoken command, they tilted their heads, slightly, moving ever so slowly…closer…closer. Their lips touching, hesitantly at first, as if they were trying to find who would be the master of this duel. It was Robin who won out. Grabbing the back of her head, he pulled her closer, his lips smashing on hers. His kisses became more passionate, as she gladly returned his hot zeal.

Breaking it off, his dark eyes sparkled in joy as he felt her hands moving towards his tunic, "Don’t start something you can’t finish." His grin curving in a mischievous manner.

"You’re the one who started this," She huskily replied, as her hands began to unravel the ties to his tunic. His dark brown eyes gently closed, as he anticipated what they dreamed of happening for so many years.

It had been a quiet time in Sherwood. Prince John seemed to have pulled back his forces. Indeed, they had not had to battle any of the Prince’s men for many days now. It was so quiet, that Robin and Marion began to think of the pact they both made when they pledged to help King Richard. Returning from a marriage of one of Marion’s cousins, the talk back to Sherwood, was of how long they would have to wait for their own wedding. The time seemed right to finally profess physically, their love they held for each other. So, as Marion unwove one of his tunic ties. Slowly making her way to the second one - without any protest from Robin, her head fell back with a plop to the ground, as they heard someone crying for help.

"No matter where we go, it seems that trouble follows us around." Marion gripped through clenched teeth.

"Duty calls," Robin joyfully sung out, with an upraised eyebrow, giving her a quick peck on the cheek, he quickly stood up. Fetching a bow and quiver of arrows, he did not hesitate to run towards the person in trouble. Marion reluctantly followed, gripping all the way. That was the closest she had come to declaring her love for Robin. She knew it would be a long time before she had another chance.

As they ran towards the screaming voice, Robin slid to a stop, as he witnessed the most unexpected site. A young man was hanging precariously on top most branch of a large tree.

"Please!!" The boy cried out, "Can you help me down from here?"

"How did you get up there?" Robin called out, as his eyes squinted trying to gaze up into the sun. The young man hung from an outermost branch, his legs flailing as they tried to find purchase on the ancient tree. As he swung them back and forth, a creaking was heard from the tree.

"HELP ME!!" The boy shouted out.

Robin handed Marion his bow and arrow, as lithe as a cat, he climbed up the tree. Making his way close to where the boy was hanging, inching his way out to a branch that hung over him, he extended his gloved hand. The boy released one hand, grabbing Robin’s. Planting his feet on the larger branch, Robin pulled the boy up. He gasped, trying to catch his breath. Hugging Robin in a tight embrace, Robin held tightly to the frightened boy, he felt him shivering in his hold.

"There, there it’s all right, your safe now." Robin soothingly cooed, as he tried to assured the boy he was safe. As his sobbing subsided, they slowly made their way down the tree, with Marion aiding the boy the last few feet. Wiping his eyes with his long sleeves, he tried to put on a brave face for Robin and Marion. His shame in crying evident on his rosy cheeks.

"I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have cried like that, I was just so afraid." He apologized. Marion patted the boy on the back, "It’s all right, I would have been just as frightened myself."

The young man silently nodded his head. His hands suddenly flew to his head, feeling his short crop of brown hair, "My Hat!" He declared, running around the tree, he seemed to be searching for something. Panic present in his blue eyes, he let out a sigh of relief, as he found what he was looking for. Walking back to the perplexed Robin and Marion, he shoved a ratty looking hat on his head. "Can’t lose this, it was given to me by my favorite Uncle," He gave as an explanation. The hat was made of leather, with sheep’s wool peeking out at the sides.

Marion stared at the young man. He could not be more than seventeen years of age, his deep blue eyes grinned widely at her and Robin. He was dressed in the plain clothes of a villager. His short, brown hair, fell into his eyes, pushing it back with a puff of air, he stuck his dirty hand out.

"I’m Johnny, and you are?" He asked, as he vigorously shook Robin’s hand.

"I’m Robin Hood, and this is Marion Fitzwalter."

Marion could swear she saw the boys eyes sparkle, as Robin gave him their names, but then that always happened, most children idolized Robin. Bowing gracefully at the waist the boy said, "Then I thank you Robin Hood, for saving my life." Standing up, a large grin parted his lips.

"Do you live near here?" Marion asked the young man.
"Oh no, I live quite far from here, I came to visit relatives, when I was…" The boy hesitated, glancing nervously up the tree, he continued with his explanation. "I saw the princes guards ridding nearby, I scrambled up the tree, but the branch I was sitting upon fell. Thank god I was able to hold onto that branch." He bowed his head to Robin. "I thank you again Robin Hood, for saving my life."

"Your very welcome Johnny," Robin returned his bow. Gazing up into the sky, he noticed the sun just beginning to set. "If you wish, you may stay with us for the night." Robin offered, grimacing as Marion gave him a poke in the ribs, a stern look on her face.

"I would love that!" The boy enthused, Robin draped his hand on his shoulder. Leading him back to camp, as they walked on, Robin noticed the boy eyeing his bow.

"Do you know how to shoot?" He asked Johnny.

The boys eyes dropped, as he said in a soft voice. "I have never tried."

Coming to the camp, Robin pulled a second bow from his horses saddle, "Well then, if you wish, I’ll be happy to teach you!"

"I’d love that!" The boy jumped up in the air, the joy evident on his young face.

Marion agreed to prepare the game hen - which they had caught earlier for dinner, as Robin tried to teach the boy how to use a bow and arrow.

As the smell of the hen roasting on the flames permeated the forest, Marion decided to check on the lessons. She was surprised to see how good Johnny was. She stood back for a while, watching how Robin patiently tutored the boy. Laughing and joking with him, he really seemed to be enjoying himself. Letting out a deep sigh, her thoughts strayed to what they had spoken of earlier. She knew he was always good with children. God knew, he would make a wonderful father. She just wondered – when?

"I thought you said you never tried to shoot an arrow before?" She asked, with suspicion lacing her voice. As the darkness of the approaching night, was beginning to make it hard to see the target. "He seems to be a natural." Robin chuckled warmly, as he patted him on the back.

"My Uncle told me my father was quite good at using a bow." Johnny replied to her questioning looks.

"What happened to your father?" Marion asked, trying to make conversation.

Drawing his bow, he let off a shot, the arrow embedded in the center of a makeshift bulls eye.

"He died before I was born," Johnny sadly said. Leaning on the bow his brave face was back again. "My mother died just after I was born." Shifting uneasily on his feet, he quietly said, "My Uncle said from a broken heart, from missing my father. I was brought up by my uncles. They tried to give me a good life, and I will always bless them for that, but I was missing something." Looking from Marion to Robin he gently whispered, "I was missing a mother and a father." His eyes glazed over, as he fought to hold back tears that was shed so many times before.

"I’m sorry to hear that," Robin genuinely replied. "I lost my father when I was around your age." He offered, as a consolation.

"I know, everyone knows about the great Robin Hood, and how your land and title was taken from you." Their gazes fell to the ground, the somber mood growing.

"I don’t know about you!" Robin laughed out, trying to change the dark feelings that were creeping into his thoughts. "But I’m hungry, lets see how good a cook Marion is?"

It did not take them long to finish off the small game hen. Marion noticed Robin giving the boy the largest pieces, keeping the smaller ones for himself.

As the darkness began to grow, Robin stood up, stretching the kinks out of his long legs. "Want to help me fetch some wood Johnny?" He asked the young boy, "Gladly!" Johnny shot up from the ground.

Robin leaned over, he whispered to Marion, "We’ll be back soon."

"Take all the time you want," She replied, the boy seemed to enjoy Robin’s company, and Robin seemed to be enjoying the boys.

As they came back into camp - their arms loaded with wood for the nights campfire. She was pleased to see them both carrying on a lively conversation. Sitting back, she allowed Robin to enjoy this boys company. It had been so long since he felt so at ease.

They carried on their conversation, Marion sometimes joined in, when she could. She heard Johnny speak often of the Uncle that made the hat for him. His eyes glowed in admiration, as he spoke of this Uncle. He spoke of how his Uncle would take him with him with when he went hunting, and that of course, he was the best hunter in all of England.

From the way the boy spoke so highly of this Uncle, she would love to one day meet him. Marion allowed the conversation to carry on until she noticed Johnny struggling to keep his eyes open.

"Johnny, I think its time for you to rest," she scolded him. As he was about to protest that he was not sleepy, Marion hushed him with a wave of her hand. "Now, now, you can pick up where you left off tomorrow." She placed her hands in a no-nonsense way, on her hips.

"Very well…Mother," He joked, with a large smile creasing his face.

"You’d better listen to her, she can be very convincing," Robin chuckled, as he rubbed his sore stomach, it was still smarting from before.

"Okay, I’ll just lay over there," He pointed off to a large boulder, "So the two of you can be alone," Giving them both a knowing wink, he walked around the boulder, allowing them partial privacy.

"Now why do you think he did that?" Marion turned her gaze at Robin, brushing his hand through his hair he whistled, as he gazed up into the night sky.

"I really don’t’ know Marion." He sang out, as his dark eyes looked sideways at her, fighting to hold back a large grin.

Sitting down by a tree, Robin patted his lap, "It’s more comfortable than a rock," He chuckled, as his eyebrows wiggled up and down.

Eyeing him suspiciously, she placed her hands behind her back, "Are you going to behave?"

Closing his hands in prayer, he gazed up into the heavens, "Like an angel." He promised. She reluctantly lay down on the ground, placing her head in his lap. She felt his long fingers, gently stroking through her hair. Softly humming an unknown tune, she felt so safe nestled in his lap. It did not take her long to fall asleep. Robin stayed up the night, keeping a watch over the woman he loved.

End of Chapter One

Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three

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