By Virginia Cavazos
"Over here!" Marion called to Robin. They had been riding together for the past few days. They decided to rest near an abandoned cabin. Robin was unsure where it was, Marion was the first to find it.
"Thank god," Robin said with a pleased chuckle, "I’m exhausted."
Marion jumped down from her horse, Robin stayed on his mount. Lovingly gazing at the woman that never ceased to take his breath away. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. What amazed him the most, was that her beauty flourished inside, as well as out.
He gazed in fascination, as she finger combed her long, auburn hair. She worked on pulling out the road dust from her tresses. Her blue eyes sparkled, as she winked up at Robin. Her button nose wrinkled, as she smelled the day’s dirt on her.
"I need a bath, BAD!" she said with grimace. Robin never tired of hearing her beautiful voice. "Robin, did you hear me?" she called out.
CAUGHT…she noticed how he was staring at her. Clearing his throat he mumbled, "I was thinking of the day ahead."
Marion gazed up at the man she would give her life for, as he dismounted. He wore a sleeveless bright blue tunic that day. She shivered in joy, as she saw the well-toned muscles on his arms twitch, as he climbed down from his stead. He gave his head a slight shake, clearing the long, sable hair from his eyes. Marion never tired of staring at Robin’s perfect face.
His large brown eyes were the most expressive she had ever seen. She cherished when he would raise his eyebrow in disapproval. He was her ideal of a perfect man. From his eyebrows, right down to his canyon deep dimples, and perfectly groomed Goatee. What amazed her the most, was his beauty flourished inside as well as out.
"Marion, did you hear me?"
CAUGHT…Robin noticed Marion staring at him. Her eyes dropped down. Clearing her throat she mumbled, "The day ahead, should be a hard one."
Spying an old water barrel, Marion stepped up to it. Her mouth felt as dry as sand.
"There’s some water in here," she declared, as she moved the lid over.
"I wouldn’t drink from it Marion," Robin warned her. "You don’t know how long it’s been in there. It might have gone bad."
"Nonsense," Marion said, as she moved her hand in the water. Placing it to her nose she smelled it…it didn’t smell bad.
"I’ll get you some fresh water by a stream I saw near by," Robin pulled off a leather skin sack that he used to carry water. He ran towards the stream that he had spied while looking for the cabin. Marion licked her parched lips, her thoughts stayed on the barrel. She heard a small voice inside, telling her that a small sip shouldn’t hurt to bad. She was so thirsty, perhaps…? Cupping her hand in the waters, she took a large drink. As the water ran down her throat, she immediately tried to spit it out. It was foul tasting. Robin was right. She wiped her mouth dry with the back of her hand.
Closing the barrel, she sat down on an old bench. It leaned up against the front of the deserted cabin. She waited there for Robins return. She waved to him, as he strolled through the forest. He returned her wave, quickly striding to the cabin, he handed her the skin of cool water. Lifting it to her lips, she took deep draws from it.
"Thanks," she sighed, as she returned it to Robin. He sat by her side, they both stared out at the lush greenness of the forest. Laying their heads back on the cool wood of the cabin, they closed their eyes, listening to the sounds of the forest. A cool breeze blew on their faces. A cricket was chirping in the distance. They listened to the birds singing in the trees. A hawk flew high in the sky, calling for its mate. For the first time, in many months, their thoughts were not on trying to keep alive, but enjoying their time together.
After what seemed an eternity, Robin made the first move to leave. He knew they had a schedule to keep. He allowed as much time as he could, for this little respite. Marion complained, as she mounted her horse.
"This spot was like a piece of heaven," She sighed. "Why was it abandoned?"
"I heard the cabin is haunted," Robin explained, as he tied his water bag on his saddle.
"Really?" Marion asked. She leaned over, lying on her horse’s head. "Haunted by who?"
Grabbing the pommel of his saddle, Robin jumped up on his stead. "By a rejected lover," Robin explained, as he settled in his saddle. "The tale goes, that he built the cabin for his bride to be. They were secret lovers. He picked this spot, to hide her from her family’s wrath."
"So what happened?" Marion urged him on.
Slowly wrapping the reins around his hand Robin sighed, "She never showed up. He stayed here until his dying days. Insisting that some day, she would come to him."
"What happened to her?" Marion’s curiosity was peaked.
"No one knows, his family said she left him for another secret lover. Her family was never able to find her. They blamed the young man for her disappearance. He remained in the cabin, even when threatened by her family. He never gave up hope that she would arrive one day." Pointing to a small mound next to the cabin, he said. "That’s his grave over there, facing the road, he’s still waiting for her."
Marion pulled her mount over to the grave. A small stone lay over it, she read the inscription out loud, "His love was true, tho hers was not. He waits here still, beneath this plot."
"Sad," Marion whispered, "He never gave up hope, even after death."
Robin’s horse trotted next to her, both stared down at the well-kept grave. "Love is very strong," Robin whispered, "Perhaps stronger than death?"
Marion let out a light laugh, "I don’t think it’s that strong, Robin." She gazed around the area, "I really like this spot, think we can come here on the return trip?"
"You wouldn’t mind sleeping in a haunted cabin?" Robin asked her.
"It’s a cabin that was built by a man that loved someone dearly. I can’t think of anything more romantic," she warmly smiled.
"If we pass the cabin on the way back, I promise we’ll spend the night here."
This gave Marion the incentive to quickly complete their little excursion of touring the small villages. She dug her heels in her horse, spurring it on. Letting out a quick laugh, Robin followed her.
So it was that they left the small cabin. Its doors remained closed, waiting for the next visitors to use what little it had to offer. Night fell on the cabin, the sun rose, as it has done for many years. The warm rays fell on it’s weather, worn wood, and the small grave. It was near nightfall, when two familiar travelers rode by. Robin was true to his word. They would stay in the cabin for the night. As he approached the cabin, Robin glanced behind, Marion was lingering most of the trip back.
When she woke up that morning, she said that her bones seemed to ache. Attributing it to the many days on the road, Robin decided to speed up their rounds. Marion, however, could not seem to keep up with him. As she urged her mount on, she wiped her brow. She felt a little hot, she needed to rest. Her blue eyes sparkled in joy, as she spied the cabin that they stopped by yesterday. She looked forward to a good night’s rest.
Robin jumped down from his mount. Noticing that Marion looked a bit pale, he ran over to help her down. She gladly accepted his help. Grabbing her by her waist, he helped her down. As her feet hit the ground, her knees buckled, she fell forward, into Robin’s arms. Trying to hide her weakness, she weakly laughed.
"I hope you won’t try to take advantage of me."
"You found me out," he said, with a large, dimpled grin.
Marion reached up, to touch one of his dimples. "God, I love those."
"Let’s get ready for the night."
As he walked away, he found Marion wasn’t following him. Looking back, his face turned a beet red, as Marion was giving him a very lustful look.
"I meant to sleep!" he countered.
"Ohh, I guess we can do that too," she lightly laughed.
"Let me water the horses, and fetch some fresh water for the night." Robin’s brows knit in mock anger, as he took the reins from her hands. He led the horses away from the cabin. Marion walked up to the cabin. She plopped down on the bench they sat on yesterday. Laying her head back, she closed her eyes, feeling the coolness of the breeze on her hot face.
Bringing her hands up, she felt her flushed cheeks. She did feel a little hotter than normal. Letting out a tired sigh, she waited for Robin to return. He didn’t take long, he returned with two contented horses.
"You have to see that river," Robin told Marion. "It’s almost identical to the stream that flowed near Queen Eleanor’s castle." Dropping his eyes he whispered, "You remember…"
"I’ll go later, if you don’t mind," Marion sighed. She noticed that she seemed to be having trouble taking in a full breath.
Robin removed the saddles from their mounts. He slapped them on their rumps, letting them run free to graze for the night. He knew that they would not stray far from the cabin. Robin’s horse would come instantly, whenever he whistled out for him. Sitting next to Marion, they both watched the horizon. The sun was just setting, the colors that flowed across the skies were breathtaking. Robin felt Marion lean on him, he placed his arm on her shoulder. As his bare arm touched hers, he sat up in shock.
"Marion!" he gasped, "You’re hot!"
"I’m fine," Marion quickly returned. "I’m just hot from the sun beating on me all day. I’m sure I’ll cool off as the night wears on."
"I hope so," the concern for Marion was evident in his voice. Taking his arm, she draped it on her shoulders again.
"Let’s just enjoy the sunset, all right?"
She lay her head on his shoulder. They both stared at the sunset, not a word was said, until the last light was extinguished on the far horizon.
"That was beautiful," Marion sighed, "Like I said, this cabin, is a piece of heaven."
"Let’s get you inside where it’s cooler, the night is still hot."
"That’s funny," Marion commented, as she stood up. "I was going to say that it was a pretty cool night."
Opening the door to the cabin, they found the inside to be quite clean. Former users always made sure it was ready for the next traveler. Robin spied a large straw bed, sitting in the back of the cabin.
"You rest Marion, I’ll fetch some wood for the fire, you’re shivering." As Robin quickly left, Marion noticed that she was shaking. She felt a deep coldness at the pit of her heart. She rushed to the bed. Taking one of the woolen blankets, she wrapped it around herself.
Sitting on the bed, she waited for Robin’s return. She was unaware of how long she sat there. Her head jerked up, as the door to the cabin slammed open. She must have dozed off. Robin greeted her with a large smile, and an arm full of wood for the fire. Marion returned the greeting.
"Thank god," she whispered, "I’m freezing in here."
With a wrinkle in his brow, Robin threw the pile of wood on the floor. He placed a few large logs in the fireplace first. Taking some kindling, he used a flint to set it afire. As the flames grew higher, he rushed over to Marion’s side. She was shivering so hard now, she had a hard time keeping her teeth still. Robin squatted in front of her. He cupped her hands in his, his expressive eyes stared up at her with deep concern.
"Marion, what’s wrong?" Grasping her hands tighter, his fears for her health grew. "You’re burning up!" he declared, as he pushed her down on the bed.
"Nonsense," Marion tried to brush away his fears. "I’m fine, J…j…just a little c…c…cold," she stuttered. Robin searched for another blanket. As he turned around, he almost tripped over a large chest. He knew that chest was not there a second ago. Shrugging it off, he opened the chest. As Marion started at him, she noticed a bead of sweat falling off Robin’s nose.
"It’s not cold in here…is it?" she softly asked Robin.
Finding another blanket in the chest, he quickly covered Marion. Tucking the sides in, he chuckled. "I guess I’m just hot blooded."
Pulling a hand out, she grasped his. "I always knew that." She tried to laugh, but it turned into a hacking cough. Robin sat on the bed, he grasped her hand tightly.
"Marion, you are sick!"
Marion could no longer deny it, she was shivering so hard, she was having a difficult time concentrating. She ran through her head what could have possibly made her so ill. As Robin rushed over to the animal skin, that was filled with fresh water, it hit her.
"Oh Robin, I’m so sorry," she cried out.
Robin ran back to her bedside, holding the skin of water he asked, "Sorry, for what?"
"Yesterday," she sobbed, her body was shaking so hard now, she hugged herself to control it. "You told me not to drink the water from the barrel, but I took a sip anyway." Her eyes looked up at him with alarm, "It must have been bad."
Robin sat by her side, lifting her head up, he poured some of the fresh water on her lips.
"Don’t worry Marion. I’ll take care of you until you’re well."
Marion swallowed a few drops of the water. She suddenly had a coughing fit. Robin held her head over the side of the bed, as she released what she had for lunch that day.
As he laid her head down, he saw her lips grow pale. Hiding the deep
concern he had for her, he patted her lips dry.
Marion stared up into Robin’s face. He was trying to hide his concern for her, but he was never able to keep things hidden from her, it was his expressive eyes. Marion would watch them, they would tell her just how seriously ill she was.
"I’ll remain by your side."
Sitting up, he gave her a brave smile, "I promise."
"And you never break your promises, do you my love?" she whispered. Saying the word, she rarely allowed herself to say in public. Her head felt so heavy now, she was having a difficult time keeping her eyes open. Robin fetched a wooden bowl that was left in the cabin, filling it up with water, he soaked a rag in the liquid. Placing it on her forehead, she let out a sigh of relief, as she felt the coolness of the wet rag.
Robin remained by her side, his concern for her grew, as the night wore on. As he placed a log on the diminishing fire, Robin heard Marion softly sigh.
"I remember that stream."
"What stream?" Robin gently whispered, as he rushed to her side.
A weak smile parted her lips, taking his hand, she clutched it to her chest. "The one where you fell in love with me."
Robin leaned over, kissing her gently on her hot forehead, he whispered. "I have always loved you."
Another coughing fit overtook her. Robin lifted her into his arms, he hugged her tightly to him. He became alarmed at the heat pouring out of her, and yet she shivered as if it was the middle of winter. As he laid her down, Marion saw a look in his eyes, she had never seen before. She saw the fear of death. Her concern for him was stronger, than concern for herself. She tried to think of a way to take away his fear.
"I remember that day very clearly," she whispered, as Robin refreshed the rag in the bowl of water. "You should be resting," he sung out, as he placed it on her burning eyes.
"I don’t want to sleep Robin," she cried, "I’m afraid I won’t wake up."
"Don’t even think that Marion!" Robin became alarmed hearing her say exactly what he was thinking.
"Please Robin, will you tell me what you remember, about the day we met at the ball." Her beautiful blue eyes pleaded with him, as she whispered, "Please."
Robin could never refuse Marion anything. Sitting closer to her, as he dabbed her head with the cool rag. He began to tell her what he recalled that day. Her eyelids grew heavier, as she heard his melodic voice, recalling that day. She began to drift off. In her fevered mind, she relived that fateful day…that wonderful day…the day of the Beltaine festival…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~At Queen Eleanor’s Ball~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
End of Chapter One
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