The Other Attraction
A Short Story

By Alisha Mobley
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The day was bright, the sky blue, and the wind sweet. That beautiful day in Sherwood left Marion giddy with excitement. She and the other outlaws were embarking on a trip to the local countryside to help out with famine. Prince John and his soldiers were raiding towns of their food supply, so Friar Tuck mixed up a special batch of his Jahminh growth formula, which Marion used on her hair quite a bit. Come to think of it, Robin Hood used it too! Little John overdid it, and it was obvious. Well, anyway, Tuck knew his special growth formula would help the local farmers bulk up their wheat and milkweed supply until the Prince John and his henchmen could be stopped. Marion especially loved the idea of helping out the people of Sherwood. She hoped that Tuck’s idea worked.

"It gives you such a feeling of accomplishment when you help others," Marion declared. She was in the medicine tent helping Robin, Tuck, and Little John fill up jars of the blue, sticky substance Tuck called Formula 009, or Jahminh Growth Serum. "Tuck, you’re going to be the hero of the land with this invention."

"Hey, don’t you forget me!" Robin growled playfully. He swatted Marion on her shoulder, unaware of the huge smear of serum that he left on her leather fighting vest.

Little John placed a lid on the jar he filled up and then looked at it closely. He held it into the light and turned it slowly, admiring the shades of blues that reflected back on his handsome face. Then he frowned deeply.

Tuck, who was balancing the ingredients of his next batch of growth formula, glanced up in time to catch the frown. "What’s wrong with you?" he asked.

Little John set the jar of formula down and ran his fingers through his stringy blonde hair. "Tuck," he said "are you sure you’re not watering this stuff down? I noticed that hair sure is thin lately."

"Do you shampoo AND condition it?" Robin asked lightheartedly. Marion chuckled.

"Like you should talk!" Little John retorted. "You hair always looks good Robin. Yours too, Marion. My hair is always limp and lifeless."

"Get it cut, then." Said a fashion-keen Marion. "It’ll have bounce if you do."

"Never! I’ve used nine jars Tuck’s formula to grow my hair out this long!"

Tuck shrugged as bent to retrieve a cloth bag from under the medicine worktable. "I sure hope it works better on the wheat."

"What’s that supposed to mean?" asked Little John.

"Never mind," said Marion. She helped Tuck load the many jars of serum into the cloth bag. Then she turned around and looked Little John in his baby blue eyes. Giving him a brotherly squeeze on the shoulder, she said, "Believe me. You look fine. Tuck’s formula has worked wonders. Your hair has grown a full three inches since you started the treatments!"

"You think so?" A wide grin spread across his face.

Marion didn’t answer. Instead she smiled and turned back to Tuck. He was trying to drag the heavy cloth bag of jars outside the tent with little success. Marion took the bag herself and carried into the camp clearing with no trouble. Tuck turned bright red with embarrassment. Thankfully John and Robin, who were putting some extra jars of formula away in the medicine cabinet, didn’t notice.

Tuck wiped his forehead and followed Marion outside.

Twenty minutes later Marion and Little John were saddled up and ready to distribute the jars of serum to the villagers of Sherwood. Surprisingly enough,

Tuck and Robin were going off in a different part of the countryside. Marion found this odd, for normally she and Robin were together when the group split into pairs. At first she was offended but the feeling quickly passed. She enjoyed Little John’s company, when he wasn’t complaining about his looks.

"Enough about looks," Tuck grunted as he lifted a heavy bag of jars to Little John.

"Behave yourself, you two," Robin called from his own horse.

Marion sneered and shot a wink at Little John. Then she sounded the birdcall, the signal to open the brush that hid the camp entrance, and followed Little John outside of the camp in gallops.

"NO BICKERING!" Robin yelled to the pair. But his voice was lost to the wind.

* * * * * *

The sun was just beginning to set when Little John and Marion reached the last village on the parchment list folded carefully in the pocket of Marion’s fighting vest. After they distributed the last 3 jars of serum, the pair left for home. However, they went slowly. It had been a long day and, having not heard

Robin’s warning, Marion and Little John were bickering like mad. Marion pretended to groom her horse’s mane as Little John babbled on about his hair.

"It’s not fair to be shortchanged you know," he whined half to himself.

"Shortchanged? You didn’t pay Tuck anything for that serum. Plus, you hair is long enough. Why are you complaining?"

Little John shrugged but said nothing.

As the couple rode along the path back to the outlaw camp, Marion tried to understand her friend. Suddenly it dawned on her. She whipped her head around as wide grin spread across her fair face.

"A girl! She exclaimed. "Little john! Are you trying to impress a girl??"

Little John shook his head vigorously, his ears turning pink with embarrassment. "No," he said is a low voice. "It has nothing to do with girls."

"It must," said Marion, tossing her silky hair. "I know you. I know it’s another woman!"

"Why would I need a girlfriend or a wife anyway?" the other warrior asked. When Marion glanced back to him she saw his lips parted in a slight grin.

"Just the same as why every other male in this world needs one." She declared.

Marion and Little John were too busy chattering to notice a little man, dressed in brightly colored silks and bells, was following behind the horses. He wasn’t so much a man, more like a little dwarf with white pointed ears. He was so short and moved with noiseless steps as he listened close to the conversation. He grinned sadly and shook his head before darting behind a nearby bush.

"I just hate lovers quarrels," he squeaked in a high-pitched voice. He wiggled his pointy little ears. I’ve been following those two the whole way and all she’s done is accuse him of loving another! Well, I will fix that!"

The little man waved his tiny fingers and opened an odd portal in mid-air. Marion and Little John appeared in the portal, riding their horses. Their mouths were moving silently but the facial expressions told a story. The little man cocked his head and lowered his eyebrows as he schemed. Yes, he had the perfect idea.

By nightfall, the pair would be practically married!

The little man his bony hands once more and a crackling sound filled the air. "That’ll fix their love life," he squealed with joy. Then he waved his hands and both he and portal vanished in a cloud of red smoke.

Marion had never heard anything so annoying in her life. She rubbed her left ear like crazy, thinking somehow the sound was coming from within. That annoying popping, crackling sound that seemed to emulate straight from her eardrum. She wanted to ask Little John if he heard the same thing but she didn’t want to come across as crazy. So she rode her steed in silence, the conversation of looks and love over-thank goodness.

The lady warrior managed to keep her composure as the sun went down behind the west hills. It was getting darker by the minute, but Marion hardly noticed. She tried to keep her concentration on the path that lead to the camp. But finally Marion cracked. Literally. Only a mile or so away from camp, she decided she’d had enough of the crackling noise in her ear.

"UGGHH!!!" she cried. Startled by her outburst, Little John turned to the side in time to see Marion bring her horse to a brisk stop and leap down quickly.

In the pink of the sunset she managed to get to a tree. She then began to rub her left ear hard. Little John watched in amazement at her strange behavior.

His gaze was slightly more annoying than the crackling noise. In the midst of her pure rage at the odd noise she snapped "Little John! Get down here, I need your help!"

Little John jumped from his horse. In three short steps her was next to Marion and trying get a look at her left ear, which she continued to rub raw. "It’s going to start bleeding if you keep doing that! What’s the problem?" Little John asked.

Marion began jumping up and down in frustration. "The whole way home I’ve been hearing a crackling noise in my left ear and it’s ANNOYING THE SEA WEED OUT OF ME!" Little John grabbed Marion’s shoulders and managed to get her still. He tried to examine her ear. "I’ve been hearing it too, but it’s not that bad. Oh Marion, is It really that bad?"

Marion got in his face. "You think??" she cried. "Look at me! I’m going crazy here! And I cannot get it to stop!"

"Let me look closer," Little John said. He pulled Marion close, grabbing her slender wrists to hold her still. Her ear appeared fine. Of course, it would since Little John, too, was hearing the crackling noise. But it made sense to humor the fiery lady warrior. Little John leaned in and out and changed angles as he tried to get a good look at Marion's somewhat. …completely…. attractive ear.

"Everything’s fine, Marion. When we get back to camp we’ll tell Robin and Tuck. I am sure they’ll help us. I’m hearing it too. It’s not just you."

Marion looked into Little John’s face, unaware that his hands were still wrapped tightly around her wrists. For a moment, as Marion’s clear brown eyes scanned Little John’s handsome face she forgot about the crackling noise and even what she was going to say. She was completely captivated by him, a feeling she had never felt for anyone but Robin before. It was odd and wonderful at the same time. "What did you say?" Marion breathed softly.

Little John was just as lost in Marion’s eyes at that point. He couldn’t remember what he told her the second before nor did he care. They were too close to care about anyone else but each other. Little John, who loved women from a distance, wanted to pull away, to break the spell between them, but the power was too great. For minutes Little John and Marion continued to stare at each other attentively, looking in each other’s eyes for a sign of humor or disgust that would instantly break the bond between them that seem to form only moments before. But it was impossible. And finally the pair decided subconsciously to act on it.

It all happened so fast; faster than Marion wanted. Only a few more minutes and the spell would have been broken for sure. But Little John leaned down and kissed Marion tenderly. At first she tried to resist but it was easier said than done. She kissed him back.

She wanted to imagine that it was Robin. But as the kiss lingered she couldn’t help but notice that she was kissing someone she considered her brother.

However, it didn’t feel that way. And as the sun set completely into the ocean, the pair were bathed in soft moonlight and the whole world disappeared.

Marion awoke the next morning feeling totally ecstatic. "Wow, what a dream," she thought as she pulled her wool blanket over her head. She touched her lips lightly and closed her eyes to replay the dream over in her mind. It was just like the night before; that special kiss under the moonlight. And the trip home. Marion couldn’t have imagined it possible at all. The last mile of the journey the night before was the most affectionate.

She and Little John kept finding excuses to hop down from their horses and kiss some more. They couldn’t be separated so they lead their horses’ home, holding hands. They hardly spoke a word yet they felt it was all so right.

But they were too caught up in each other to think much about Robin and the campers. Marion felt absolutely horrible when she and Little John had to drop the act upon returning to camp. It was very late and Robin was slightly upset and their absence. He was understandably worried but happy that the pair returned home ok. But Robin’s concern was the furthest from Marion’s mind. How was she going to break the news to Robin about her new relationship with Little John?

Robin, Marion thought. Suddenly her feelings of elation vanished. She was happy; the happiest she had been in a long time. But she felt like a traitor to Robin. Of course, she could only do one thing; tell the truth. When would the time be right? Maybe the relationship between her and Little John would fail after all and she could keep it to herself. But was it right to do so?

A million questions were racing through Marion’s mind. But she resolved to shove them aside and enjoy more time with Little John that day. The couple had whispered plans the night before to spend some time in the forest together, away from camp and Prince John and….Robin.

This is so selfish, Marion thought, gilt puncturing her heart. She rose from the warmth of her bed, splashed some cool water on her face from the basin and dressed quickly. Then she went to her mirror and experimented with her hair, to see if it looked better up or down. She was sick of the same old hairstyle. So she grabbed a white silk ribbon sitting on her nightstand and tied her hair in a high ponytail. He curls bobbed as she turned her head to examine the look. Then Marion touched up her face and headed out into camp for breakfast.

She tried to appear cool and calm in Little John’s presence. But when Marion saw him she suddenly felt as bashful as a child. There he was, sitting around the campers telling funny stories and making the children laugh. Marion grabbed some dates from the makeshift breakfast table and made her way over to the meal crowd, using every inch of will power within to appeared nonchalant and uncaring of the world. On the inside she was as tense as a whip.

"Good morning everyone," Marion called out with a lazy sigh. She stretched and sat down next to Robin on the cool grass. She glanced at Little John out of the corner of her eye and saw him watching her. A gleam of jealousy was in his eye. Marion hid her smile of satisfaction. What’s wrong with a little hard to get?

Marion popped another date inter her mouth. "All quiet this morning?" she asked Robin who was munching on one of Friar Tuck’s famous cinnamon rolls.

"Of course," he said between chews. "Nothing ever happens around here nowadays you know. But we could make trouble ourselves and then beat ourselves to living pulps. That way we’ll be heroes and trouble makers!"

The campers roared at Robin’s joke. Marion was usually obliged to join in the merriment but she only smiled and chuckled softly. "Oh Robin." She said and winked. She could feel Little John’s eyes on her. Marion figured she would play flirty with the other warriors for a while and then relieve Little John of his jealousy. It was nice to add some excitement to their new relationship.

All through the cool morning Marion busied herself, helping every chance she got to teach the children about plants, to help Anna Korrey knit booties for her newborn baby, to assist in the building of a new bridge. But right after lunch Little John cornered Marion in the privacy of the little flower garden behind her tent as she gathered some tulips.

"We can leave now if you wish," he said in a low voice. Marion shoved a long-stemmed tulip in her beloved’s arms.

"Can’t wait," she said with a smile. Little John exchanged the grin and kissed Marion on the nose.

"I’ll tell Robin that we’re going back to the town of Glasfren to help with the wheat growing. I know he won’t think anything of it."

Marion nodded as a rush of adrenaline came over her. But something else was there. The unshakable feeling that she was setting Robin up for a big disappointment.

"I feel so bad," she whispered as her face fell.

"About Robin. I know," Little John said.

He pulled Marion into his arms. "But why should we feel guilty?"

Marion lifted her eyes, which were brimming with tears. "He’s your best friend! I didn’t mean for all this to happen. I feel like a traitor."

Little John could see fire in Marion’s eyes. Within that fire was a destiny. And Little John could see that it was for the two of them. "There’s nothing wrong with this. You just have to trust me. We have to trust our hearts."

Marion felt so sick as Little john said those words.

She pulled away from him. "You have no idea how hard I am fighting this. I can’t forget about Robin."

"Nothing’s more important than love," Little John stated. He approached Marion but she stepped away like a scared child facing a fierce bear.

"You know as well as I do that it’s just not that simple," Marion said.

"Well, what do you think of the future? What would happen if things progressed and we eventually got very serious, maybe got married and settled down….."

Marion emitted a tiny sound. It wasn’t a cough, more like a grunt or slight groan. It was nothing at all. That is, unless someone was listening.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Little John asked.

Marion bit her lip. Oh no, now I’ve done it she thought. "Nothing, I was just clearing my throat."

"No, really, what was that little sound?"

"It was nothing, really! Just a frog!" Marion craned her neck and saw Robin lingering nearby. "We’ll talk about this later," she whispered, and walked away before Little John could say another word.

Later that morning, Marion tried over and over to tell Robin she and Little John were going back out into the forest, but she could never quite corner him. Or maybe she didn’t want to. Either way, when the sun was high in the sky she took signaled Little John, and they took two horses deep into the forest. They were silent during the ride, but as soon as they reached a clearing several miles from camp, no sooner had they dismounted from their horses, Little John resumed their heated conversation.

"Marion, you choked over what I said about marriage didn’t you. What if I got down on one knee and asked you right now?"

Marion threw up her hands. "You expect that to solve all of our problems?? What’s wrong with you! We can’t do this and you know it!"

"Yes we can," Little John retorted.

"No we can’t," Marion snapped.

"Yes we can!"

It went back and fourth like this for several moments before both realized what children they were acting like.

"I’m sorry," Marion mumbled. Her cheeks colored crimson as she thought of the fool she was making of herself.

"I’m sorry too," Little John said. He smiled and tried once again to put his strong arms around Marion. This time she didn’t resist. Without another word he kissed her, deeper and sweeter than he had before. Once again Marion didn’t object.

Several miles away, in the little town of Hetewile, the same little dwarf who placed the love spell on Marion and Little John was cursing as he watched the couple argue.

"My magic must not be what it used to be," he screeched. The magic portal that floated in front of him suddenly disappeared right before the couple pictures within had the chance to kiss. It was a fortunate thing, too. The little dwarf scratched his chin and thought about his love magic.

"There are plenty of people to experiment on. Those two just aren’t supposed to be in love I guess." He waved his bony hands and a huge boom of thunder rumbled in the clouds overhead. Sure that his spell was reversed, the little dwarf hopped out of his hiding place and ran off.

Marion, who was still wrapped in a passionate embrace with Little John, heard the crack overhead and jumped slightly. "Must be rain," she whispered in her beloved’s ear.

"We’d better get back."

Little John pulled back from Marion and look towards the sky. "We had better get going," he murmured. Marion nodded.

A few minutes later both were riding slowly towards camp. Although the sky was gray and it looked like rain, neither warrior was in any hurry to get back.

There was little noise, until a clap of thunder boomed from the sky so loudly that the trees seemed to bend under the sonic power. Marion and Little John pressed their hands to their ears as little animals scurried in every direction. Both had seen some nasty storms in their days, but nothing like this. After a moment Marion and Little John lowered their hands and looked at each other cautiously. Nothing happened.

Suddenly the forest was quiet, enough that both warriors could hear and feel their pounding hearts.

"Robin will be worried if we don’t hurry," Marion said. "We have no more deliveries then?"

Little John shook his head. "None".

"Good. Do me a favor and make this ride a good one? I don’t want you to go on and on about your hair anymore." Marion grinned playfully.

"Hey, it’s been five minutes already." Little John said. He urged his horse on. "We best get moving, I don’t want to be around when it begins pouring down rain."

Marion lifted her eyes to the sky, and she saw nothing but sapphire blue. She lifted an eyebrow but said nothing to her companion. She felt as thought years had passed since they left camp, but they had only been gone a day. The warriors rode back to camp, where Marion was happy to be with her Robin and Little John was ecstatic to find his hair had grown another inch.

The End

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