The slight movement alerted Ann who, seeing her mistress awakened, put aside the needlework and bent to pull a small warming pot from beside the fire. She busied herself before the fireplace and bought Marion a cup of the brew she had made. Marion gave her a smile of thanks as the other woman retook her seat and resumed her darning.
Marion took a sip of the sweet liquid, scalding her tongue. It tasted strongly of mint and majoram and another herb she couldn't define. Ann had proved herself a boon as Marion's pregnancy increased, her knowledge of herbs and possets allowing her to brew something to ease every ache Marion had.
She placed her hand on the bump of her stomach as the baby moved within her, feeling a foot or hand push against her fingers. She was exhausted, drained by the pregnancy, and glad that Ann was around to do most of the work that should have been hers. These days, even dressing was an effort and she found herself making excuses not to attend devotions and to avoid leaving her room. Even walking out to the gardens she had so loved during her first weeks here was more effort than she could bear. She preferred it here, in this dark room; the privacy to sit back and remember her dreams of the night, to explore them once more. To see Robin of Loxley, feel his hand on hers, his lips against hers, to walk beneath the canopy of Sherwood with no threat of danger.
She wished for a moment that Tuck was here. She missed him. He had been back only once since their words in the garden and the Sisters had turned him away as she had asked. He had not come again. She hoped he was deep in Sherwood in safety with the others.
She closed her eyes and immediately Robin's face appeared. He smiled tenderly at her.
"How is our child?" he said, the dark fringe of his hair falling into his eyes.
She took his arm, pulling herself close to his side, feeling the warmth of him against her.
"Impatient to arrive," she said. "He kicks so hard."
Robin slipped a hand over her belly. "A strong un I reckon," he said and she smiled, as the baby pushed within her, responding to his voice. He pulled her down beside him and they lay entwined in each others arms, between the shafts of sunlight that carved through the trees.
"Sleep," said Robin, brushing a stray lock of hair from her face, his green eyes serious and concerned. "You'll need all your strength soon enough."
Marion snuggled against him, happy to be back in his arms. Happy to be safe.
Beside the fireplace Ann glanced up. Marion had fallen asleep again, her lips slightly parted and curved in a smile, her breath fluttering a lock of hair that had strayed from the confines of her wimple. Ann rose and bent over the older woman, lifting the cup which was in danger of spilling into Marion's lap. Her bump, now almost eight months large, shifted slightly and Ann placed her hand against it, feeling the movement of the child within.
"You'll be a strong un' I reckon," she murmured. The baby kicked hard as if in response to her voice. Marion stirred but did not wake. Ann lifted her free hand and brushed the auburn curl aside. "You sleep, mistress," she said. "You'll need all your strength soon enough."
Placing the half drunk cup to one side, she resumed her place at the fire and picked up her needlework, smiling softly to herself as she worked.