Robin sat stiff and tall in his front pew at Locksley Church, staring straight ahead at the altar. He neither looked to the pew on his right, where an anxious Much kept casting him wide, questioning glances across the aisle, fidgeting beside his calm wife Eve and their equally fidgety son Tweeks, nor especially to the left, where he knew Marian sat as stiffly as he, with Ellen squirming happily between them. He didn't hear a word of the familiar mass from Friar Tuck's worried lips, and he was trying desperately not to feel.
His hurt and anger were so great, he'd numbed himself to their pain. He couldn't think nor rationalize his anger away, confused and bewildered as he was by Marian's deception.
His heart, a heavy leaden lump in his chest, felt as if it were being squeezed. A strong hand seemed to have punched through his breastbone, seized his heart, and was twisting and squeezing its blood away, drop by drop. A strong hand with a vicelike grip, gloved in black leather. The same hand his fevered dreams of this morning's dawn had pictured stroking Marian's lovely, creamy nakedness, claiming her, possessing her warm, welcoming flesh. It was all Robin could do not to raise an anguished cry and turn over the church's altar!
Mark, Daniel's small young friend, serving as an altar boy, summoned those seated in the two front pews forward to take Communion. Struggling within himself to make his heart right, Robin rose and stepped aside, allowing Marian, with Ellen in her arms, to approach and kneel at the altar. Without meeting his wife's eyes, Robin followed.
There, on his knees beside his family, Robin waited, stone cold, to receive the Eucharist.
"This is my body, broken for you," Friar Tuck intoned, placing the bread between Robin's lips. "This is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins."
Unable to stop his eyes, Robin glanced sideways, just in time to see a single tear from Marian fall with a splash into the Communion Cup. Lifting his eyes to her face, Robin watched another tear, then another, stream down her velvet cheek. And suddenly, his heart melted.
He knew then that he was the cause of her sorrow, not her guilt over what she might or might not have done with Gisbourne. And at that moment, Robin's pain, his overwhelming hurt, no longer mattered to him. All that mattered was Marian's pain and anguish.
He loved her, and he'd made her miserable. He needed to stop it, now. Reaching over Ellen's bowed head, he covered Marian's hand with his own.
Marian gave a small gasp, then looked with tear-filled eyes into his, his handsome blue eyes that were pleading with her for forgiveness.
"I am so sorry," he whispered, desperately.
"I never wrote that letter," she begged him, whispering back. "I never loved him, not with my body, nor my heart! Do you believe me?"
When he hesitated, she asked again, even more urgently, "Do you believe me?"
Everything was a choice, and Robin chose, at that moment, to believe her. The woman he knew her to be demanded nothing less.
"I believe you," he promised.
Rising from their knees at the altar, Marian slipped her hand in his. Their fingers entwined, and Robin's face broke into one of his smiles, flooding the church with sunshine.
Much breathed a loud sigh of relief, and Eve had to shush him when he spoke out, saying, "Well! That's a relief, I must say! For a moment there, I thought-Sorry! I'll shut up! The bread was good today, don't you think? Some of the best bread I've ever tasted!"
Everyone in the church was smiling now, glad that Lord and Lady Locksley had made up their quarrel. But Marian's smile was a bit more guarded. It would take time, and a long discussion, before she could completely put her unhappiness aside.