It was May the first.
Marian sat quite still, gazing at her reflection in the elegant mirror standing on her dressing table. May the first always made her uneasy. As she looked at her own face, staring solemnly back at her, she thought back to this day, exactly twelve years before.
It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and her father, who had been sheriff for a good number of years , had declined holding May Day celebrations at the Nottingham castle, and had instead decided to take the seven year old Marian to Locksley, where they had been invited to attend the celebrations as the guests of the Earl of Huntingdon. The Earl was not your typical nobleman, for a start he was only a few years older than Marian herself, having lost his father, and gained his title at a very young age, Marian's own father doted on Robin, just like a son. Marian spent the day laughing and dancing, and joining in the general frivolities. By the time she was called to the carriage by her father, at the end of the day, she was in very high spirits, Robin had tried to teach her how to hold his bow correctly, and even complimented her dress. The journey back to Nottingham, was quiet. With only her, and her father in the carriage, she tried to make conversation, but he hardly responded, he looked grave for some reason. Marian was curious, but decided to say nothing of it. It was probably something about his work, which she would not understand. They were nearing the town of Nottingham when her father initiated conversation himself, he cleared his throat and lifted his gaze from the floor for the first time.
"Marian, I spoke to Lady Locksley today," he stated.
"Robin's mother?" she asked.
"Indeed. I feel it time you understood something, something very important indeed."
"Father, what on earth do you mean?" She asked her eyebrows furrowed.
"When you were born. I made a promise to your mother," he said slowly. This was very odd, her father hardly ever spoke of her mother. He had loved her very, very much, she had died shortly after giving to birth to Marian, their first, and only child. Her father had been devastated at her death, as hadthe residents of those villages over which they had presided. There were memoriams in her honour held in villages all across the shire. She was a beloved and well respected woman. It has always saddened him so much to think of her, that they usually avoided the topic of conversation. "I promised that I would do everything in my power to make sure you were always exceptionally well looked after." He paused. " All too soon their will come a time when that is not within my power. To ensure that you will always be well off, since you were born you have been betrothed t-"
"What?" Marian interrupted. "To who?"
"You must understand, what an excellent match this is for you, how you will always be safe," he insisted.
"Who is it, Father?" Marian asked again, her voice shaking slightly. She had heard stories up at the castle, of young girls, bartered by their fathers, and forced to become the wife of elderly Lords in far away shires.
"The late Earl of Huntingdon, and I agreed, you are to marry his son and heir, Robin of Locksley," he stated. Marian could not help but breath a slight sigh of relief. Robin, just robin. Not some stranger, far away. Her father took heart in her relief, and temporary acceptance of his plans.
It wasn't until later, when she was alone, in her bed chamber in the castle, that she let slip any indication that she was not happy about being betrothed. She would not tell her father, who must have worked very hard to have her betrothed to a man of the title Earl. But she sobbed, sobbed just like the child she was, as all children do, when something happens to them, beyond their control and to their displeasure. She was not crying about her being to marry, Robin, but more of the fact she no longer had the choice. She cried for a few minutes before she pulled her self together. Being quite a sensible girl, she reasoned with herself.
"No," she thought. "I could do a lot worse. Nothing will become of my tears. Instead of Marian of I will be Countess of Huntingdon, and I will live in Locksley manor, with lots of servants, and I will never go hungry, and I won't be far from my father, and I will only marry Robin. My friend Robin.
And with that comforting thought, she drifted into sleep, after a very long day.
Marian's mind then skipped forward to a few years, when she was thirteen years old.
She spent May Day that year at the castle. All the elderly and important nobles in the shire came, she was made to curtsey and be gracious and ladylike all day, for now she was expected not to act like a child. The majority of the day was repetitive and dull. She was not permitted to play with the children, even with those of her own age, because she was the Sheriffs daughter.
Around mid afternoon she was stood gazing out the window, watching birds flying through the sky, and wondering what it would be like to be as free as them.
"Pssst," came a voice from along the long, draughty corridor. She spun round quickly, her long dress billowing around her. She stepped forward curiously, looking for the voice. As she walked down the corridor she suddenly felt pressure on her arm, and she was pulled sideways into a doorway.
There she stood extremely close to a boy with a smirk on his face.
"My lady," he said. Moving his hand from her arm, to her own hand, and lifting it slowly to lips.
"What are you doing here?" She asked. "I thought you were not coming?"
"I spent the morning in Locksley. But I thought I should come here this afternoon, to show willing to converse with my fellow noblemen," he said, still smirking.
"I mean what are doing here, in this doorway," she whispered. "And shh, you must lower your voice, this is highly improper. If we are found."
"Am I not allowed to come and see you?" He said, lowering his voice. "Besides, I managed to slip away unseen from the Earl of Wessex." Marian smiled despite herself. "I haven't seen you in so long," he said, suddenly losing his jovial tone. "I've missed you."
She looked into his deep brown eyes, "I've missed you too," she whispered.
As soon as she had said, they heard footsteps. The sound of heavy booted feet on stone brought them back into the reality, they had momentarily lost, whilst looking into each others eyes.
Marian's eyes widened, she was going to be caught alone with a boy. She would be in so much trouble.
Robin looked down at her, and pressed a finger to his lips. He pressed his back against the wall of the doorway, and gestured to her to do the same. They stood their in tense silence as they listened to the footsteps get nearer and nearer. Marian prayed silently that the man did not want to pass through this doorway, and they would get away unscathed. Her prayers were answered as she caught a glimpse of her father's deputy, walking quickly past them, eyes to the ground. They waited until his footsteps died away, then let out a sigh of relief.
"That was close," Marian breathed. Bells rang from somewhere in the castle. "You must go, that is a signal for the nobles to assemble before the feast."
"I'd rather stay," Robin whispered, the smirk returning to his face.
"It's not a choice, go now. I will be there in a few minutes, we can not return together.
Robin agreed, "Fine, but as we are being highly improper already. We might as well, do it properly."
"Wha-" Marian started, but she could not finished. Robin's lips were on hers. They wrapped their arms around each other and carried on kissing until a second bell rung.
"Go!" Marian whispered urgently. Still slightly reeling from her first kiss. He looked torn, but let go of her, and started off down the corridor. She poked her head out of the door way to watch him leave, but when he got half way down the corridor he turned round and sprinted back toward her.
"Here," he said, taking her hand with both of his. "Think of me, think of me whenever you wear this," he said, his voice lowered. He stroked her cheek and planted one last kiss on her lips, before he sprinted back down the corridor toward the feast of nobles. Marian looked down at her hands, and saw a simple gold locket, unadorned apart from a tiny key hole. She tried to force it open, but to no avail. She did not have the key. She quickly put it round her neck, tucked it under the material of her dress, and headed toward the feast herself.
Marian grimaced at the memory, it was happy. But it saddened her so. Her mind automatically skipped forward.
She was back in Locksley, it was a beautiful day, which reminded her very much of that same day, eight years ago. Robins mother had died the year before, but she had had a long, and comfortable life. This was the first May Day without her, and Robin and Marian had been officially engaged for two months, they were to be married on the first of April, exactly one month away. Robin had asked her to walk with him in the afternoon, so they took a stroll. When they were in a wild flower meadow, overlooking all of Locksley, and the manor, they sat down.
"I have something to tell you," Robin stated. Marian just raised her eyebrows questioningly. She was so happy. Everyone had remarked how agreeable and radiant she had been lately. They all put it down to the engagement, which was probably correct. Long ago was the time when she was worried about having her marriage arranged, because now she counted herself as one of the lucky few, who had been betrothed since birth, to the only person she could have wanted to marry.
"I'm going on crusade," Robin murmured. So that she could hardly hear him.
"What?" she asked.
"I'm going to the Holy Land, on a crusade," he whispered.
"But why?" she asked.
To fight in the name of King Richard," he said.
"Robin... we are engaged to be married, in one month," she stammered. Tears filling her eyes.
"I know," he said regrettably.
"But you are going anyway?" She asked. Robin nodded. "And there is nothing I can do to change your mind?" Robin nodded again. Looking at the floor. "When are you leaving?"
"The end of April," he said quietly. Tears streamed down Marian's cheeks. She stood up.
"Look at me," she said, her voice shaking. He lifted his gaze from the floor, to her eyes. "You said you loved me."
"Do not say that," she interrupted. "If you loved me, you would not chose your only personal glory over me."
"I do love you," he insisted, standing up as well.
"But not as much as you love glory, and you love yourself," she said angrily. She wrenched the ring from her finger. "You have made your decision," she whispered, sobs threatening to overtake her. She took a deep breath and said, "there will be no wedding." She threw the ring at him.
"No." She said shrilly. "There will be no reason for you to ever speak to me again. Goodbye Robin." And without any more of a farewell than that she fled, as fast as she could down the hills toward the village, sobbing her heart out. She heard Robin calling her back as she ran. But she did not turn to look at him. She ran straight to her father, and demanded he take her home immediately. He obliged, worried for his young daughter. But it was two days, before she had stop crying enough to tell him.
Robin had tried to talk to her many times before he left but her father's men put a stop it to it, each time, before he got within a mile of the castle. He left without another glimpse of her and she did not leave her bed chamber for months, spending days on end weeping.
She was fifteen years old.
It was four years since Robin left. Her father was no longer the sheriff and Marian was nineteen years old. Still the beautiful and graceful young lady Robin had left behind so long ago. But in his absence she had also grown headstrong and defiant. As she was still unmarried the people of Nottinghamshire believed her to be either waiting for his return, or that she was so wounded by the end of their engagement that she resigned herself to die an old maid. Neither were correct in her opinion. True, she would rather die an old maid, than fall in love again -and her father was too perturbed by the first attempt to try and coax her into marriage again. He had too much love for his only child to put her through that again. So therefore she had no reason to marry. She was the heir of her father's fortune, she did not need a husband.
Today she was to attend the May Day celebrations at the castle with Sir Guy of Gisborne. She was not particularly looking forward to it, Sir Guy had taken up Robin's position at Locksley in his absence, and since then had become deputy and man-at-arms to the new sheriff. It would have been imprudent to reject him.
She heard the sounds of horse shoes out side, and with a deep breath Marian rose for her chair before the mirror.