Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rania curled up on her sofa with a pen and ink, soaking up the comfortable silence and lamplight. Raven was probably asleep already in their room- she'd kissed him goodnight then slipped out to write a while. She tapped her pen on the arm of the sofa, pausing to watch her ring glitter in the low glow. Four tiny set diamonds in a ring that shone silver, and a plain band nestled next to it. Engaged, then married, in what likely seemed like haste to outsiders, spanning months instead of years. But the months had been spent writing to each other, honestly, fairly, and not in playing heart-games or spinning light banter. She trusted the man she had married, with all her heart. She wondered sometimes if he knew how much that meant to her, to be able to trust - to look over and see him, and know that he would still be there after months and years....

She stared absently at her hands. How many other friends had she hugged and said goodbye to? Raven had had his share, but he also knew that Rania came from an inheritance of wanderers. He knew, and perhaps was tired of her remembering, that many of her dearest friends were still just as footloose as she had been. She heard snippets from them, every now and then. "Searching for work," "looking for meaning," "on the road again." Sometimes the words made her think about her long-idle traveling bags. It had been months since she had left the country. She had ranged farther and farther afield, exploring and trying to take in this new home of hers. Maybe somehow she could find enough unfamiliar to keep her feeling alive. In the old days, what wasn't new was short-lived. One learned to see the new as a good thing, and the old as unreliable. These new days, what was new was almost a threat, and needed to be understood or at least faced well. The language was becoming more and more natural to her, and she noticed and chafed at mistakes in a way that she would never have scolded others for. But what did she ever scold others for?

After enough hard goodbyes and last smiles to last a lifetime, she vowed one day to Raven, "For the next year, I will only make friends with small children and fellow workers." He smiled, and hugged his Rania, knowing she didn't totally mean it. She smiled back, knowing deep down how uneasily much she did mean it. She had certainly done a better job with keeping herself bright, helpful, and in motion instead of moody and anxious over things. She shook her head. Over people. Things didn't make her so nervous. She'd realised with surprise, last week, that she actually had collected a few 'normal' friends. Some fellow workers, with whom nothing but work and weather was discussed, in a practical fashion. Another friend or two with whom to visit stores, and enjoy hot drinks while talking about language and God and being married. So far, none of these new friends had seen her in tears. She had seen none of them in tears either. Surely it was more practical like that?

She sighed. There was just no comparing life. Raven wrote once that he didn't want her to live in two worlds. She remembered getting tears in her eyes over that. She had been torn for a long time. And just now, as she was weaving a fabric of her new life together, some of the same pulls as before emerged. She didn't know what to do about them. If she was stronger- smarter - more loving, surely she could find a way to double-weave; surely she could bring together the former threads with the new ones, and make it an even stronger, more beautiful piece? She only didn't see that she was strong enough. Rania had failed before, and the fabric ripped sorely, for her and for others. She took the responsibility on herself these days. She'd tried to share it, or lay some on the other threads before, only to be told she was hiding away. She'd never been good at distinguishing fine lines, and took some of the rips to heart. Of course, that didn't mean no one else had. Multiple rips, all around. It was just that she was worried to start weaving again. What if she ripped the new threads? What if she tried to weave in the old ones and failed?

The pen rolled off her lap and hit the floor, startling her. When she bent down to pick it up, the blank pages on her lap fell too. She picked them up tiredly. She had tried, last week, sending out a few pages and attempting a slow mending. She'd stayed up late tonight, hoping to hear something, even if it was just a few words telling her she wasn't a hopeless fool for trying. Maybe she was. Maybe she was more of a fool - if she looked deeply enough- for thinking that if she tried hard enough, she wouldn't disappoint those who couldn't help but blame her for ripping the fabric in the first place. Her mother, or the other women in her circle, would likely have good advice for all this. "Leave it behind" or "give it time." She had tried to do both. The giving time had only made the ripped fabric twist back against her, reproaching her for being apparently caught up in a grand new life to drop a few moments to what she had claimed was important to her. The leaving behind.... She had just, only just, come to peace with how things were, before the post had arrived, before questions floated through the air again.

She had just come to peace with the past when it collided with the present again, and left her confused again. 'You give up, you give up too easilyyyyyyyy..." hissed the wind outside. They had said that too. She stood up abruptly. She also held on too easily. And when there was less reason, apparently, than for her to give up. If she was as cynical as the world demanded, she would say she had been played for a fool. If she was as optimistic as she had been not long ago, she would say there was still *hope*, that with time and words all would be healed and well.

She sighed and carefully-neatly- stacked the stationery on a shelf next to her books. She had not grown cynical, but she had not stayed hopeful either. She looked around at a room that was too cosy and welcoming to foster frustrations or harbour doubts against old friends. It was time for sleep. She always thought too much, late at night. She drew on her slippers and pushed away a double-edged thought - "You used to think too much with them too- no wonder they lost patience." She pulled her robe tight around her, against any more musings that could be disloyal, or true, or false. Or all three.

"Time to sleep," she said firmly, if quietly, aloud. There was more to life than endless questions. She was not giving up - she was learning to weave one cloth. And if the old friends were woven into the border instead of the pattern - if they only allowed themselves on the edges - so be it. It was good to have their colour in the weaving, whether in delicate or in bold.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Robin picked his way smoothly through the underbrush to the river, being careful to leave no trace behind him. That had become second nature to all of the band, hunted as they were, but he found today an especially appropriate time to not be found. He had received a letter from Marian, and he wanted to be left in peace to read it. His friends had said plenty last week, more than plenty. Good, solid comments that pushed him to think and to be honest. And he had been grateful, not even grudgingly so. Today, however, he wanted solitude.

He wove his way through the hanging willow branches to a large rock, half sunny and half shadowed. His thoughts buzzed around inside his head as distractingly as the dragonflies above the water. He didn't think straight where Marian was concerned, hadn't in a long time. No wonder she still thought of him as needing to grow up. He pulled off his worn shoes - the roughly tanned leather was nearly in holes - and dangled his toes in the water. Of course he could be grown up when he wanted to be, it was just more enjoyable not to be. And there had been times when Marian happened to see him making decisions, leading his men, or logically executing a plan. Those times were just very, very rare. When he was around her he wanted to enjoy life, wanted her to enjoy life. There was so much glee to be found by poking fun at situations, telling stories, or pulling the Sheriff's nose.

He looked down and twiddled his toes in the cool stream. Maybe he should find more relaxing ways to enjoy life. More... adult. Reading her beloved books, taking walks and watching the world, enjoying the silence around a campfire or on a snowy day. He smiled and skipped a pebble across the river. Her and her snow, a love he couldn't understand. There were so many things about her he couldn't understand, not least, why she cared for him....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Robin stretched out in a tree branch. Home. Sweet concept. Sometimes it meant a house, a roof, a bed and a fire. He'd been invited for so many meals with so many families through the years. Community, warmth, discussion. So much to learn, to share, to laugh about. He used to dream about having such a home with Marian. Constant presence, constant trust. Marriage, binding safety. There was something to be said for danger - the extra sweetness to each farewell, the extra blitheness at seeing her again. Perhaps he was not meant to marry, not destined to have anything more than the measure of happiness he earned each day, living by his wits and his bow. Continual fear of capture kept him sharp; continual safety might make him fat and complacent. Being married to Marian... who knew what that would make him?

He shook his head, pushed aside a twig poking his side, and finally decided to escape his thoughts by joining the others of his merry band at the fire. Silly to even be thinking of marriage. He and Marian hadn't spoken in a long time. She'd moved to London for a time, to undergo training as a lady of the court. Her father - ambitious and landed- had used his connections to secure her a place. It would be good for Marian, agreed everyone. Finally their beautiful lady would have a chance to make something of herself, out of the backwoods. In London, she would find the scintillating discussions and wealth of libraries she so sadly missed in Nottingham. In London she could be herself- clever, strong, unique. No more tiresome haggling with clumsy houseservants, no more lack of educated and lively acquaintances, no more enforced maturity as unwilling mistress of an old manor. Not that she hadn't enjoyed it at times, but it was much better for her to be somewhere where she could shine.

Robin was proud of himself for being able to be heartily glad for her, and not selfishly pine over her absence. He strolled up to the warmth of the flames, and wondered aloud if the warm weather was just as fine in London. Allan looked up innocently and remarked, tongue in cheek, that, "in any case, the spring's stormy weather seemed to have left with a certain person's carriage." Shaken out of his calm attitude, Robin turned on him with a scowl. Allan held up his hands in self defense (and only moved a little closer to the hulking figure of Little John.) "We all know you love her. But at least this way, what's done is done." Robin simply looked at him. By the look on Allan's face, he was trying to collect his thoughts in a tactful way, when Little John interrupted. "You oppose the Sheriff, you come home, you talk, you go to sleep. The next day the same." Robin wrinkled his brow. "I always do that. What does that have to do with Marian?"

Cecily moved quietly out of the shadows. He hadn't even known she was listening. She tucked her hand into Little John's, which gently encased hers. "You don't trust her thoughts for you," she said quietly. Robin wished she hadn't said anything, and tried not to lose his temper at her unerring insight. She gestured to his face with its warring emotions. "Is that not so?" Allan frowned at her, but the damage was done. "There he goes," he mumbled.

"I don't *know* her thoughts for me!" Robin exclaimed, and kicked a log. "You used to kick that log nearly every night in January," observed Much helpfully. "Then you stopped." "I stopped because it did no good! It never does any good to argue with her!" Little John gave a quiet growl of agreement, and Cecily pushed his shoulder, with no visible effect whatsoever. "Marian is a wise woman, not to answer you when you argue." "But why?" asked Robin, trying not to sound like a five year old. "Would it do any good?" Allan asked cheerfully, picking up his lyre.

"Maybe not, but at least I'd know what she thought." Robin subsided, and sat on a log to stare unhappily into the fire. "Maybe what she thinks hasn't changed, Robin," said Cecily gently. Robin mulled this over. "Then why doesn't she say so?" "Maybe she has. She doesn't need words like you do." Little John pulled Cecily close to him. "My excellent- and loquacious- wife has the right of it." He looked at Cecily, who finished his thought for him. "Some people can say five words a week and it is enough. As I found to my dismay during my induction into the band. He considered a nod appropriate praise for five hours of staffwork and a correction on my archery stance just merit for nine of ten bullseyes." "Some days you still stand as if your feet are planted," Little John chuckled, "but I have also learned to say, 'Well done.'"

Cecily added, "And I have learned to be grateful for his presence, with or without words, and to remember that he treasures mine. And you, Marian's presence?" Robin stood. "No," he said shortly. "There is never enough time to savour it. And I doubt that she enjoys mine. Before, it was different. Before, we shared life. Now she only looks at me and sees a runaway, and rightly misdoubts to trust me again."

"You have not run so much of late," observed Marjorie, making her way gracefully through the band to the spot saved for her by Allan. Robin sighed. Since when had his private turmoil become a campfire discussion? "No," he said, hoping only to bring an end to the talk. "I do not run so much of late from problems. But I am also unwilling to run into problems. I will be here when she returns, and I will not run from trust. But I will also not force it or demand from her what she will not give me. As Allan so pleasantly observed, when a certain carriage left, the storms subsided. She is all that is beautiful and good. I lay no blame at her feet, only at mine."

"You always do that!" cried Cecily. "Whether it is your fault or not, you grasp for blame." Robin hardly looked at her. "I grasp for answers, Cecily. I know she would not willingly hurt me. So any hurt or storms must come through my ways." He turned to go, but Friar Tuck stood in his way. "Have you prayed about this?" he asked, searching Robin's face. "I have. Often. God has given me a peace that, no matter from whence the storms arrived, I cannot hold onto them. I have confessed, over and over, that I have been proud, and needy, grasping and despairing. That I am one small human who takes too much on himself and indeed needs to learn to savour presence, with God and with my fellow man." He inclined his head before Tuck, or anyone else could ask, "Aye, and with Marian. When I see her, I will be content with what she offers, be that much time or little time, many words or no words."

"What will you offer in return?" Robin did not turn back to the fire to see who had spoken. It could be any, or all of them. They knew their leader too well to allow him to turn a phrase and then leave.

He sighed, and walked out of the circle of light. "I will offer who I am. A friend."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Abby sat on her kitchen floor, in a rare idle moment, playing with Rex. Her flying dragon swooped around the light room and chirped, and she tossed him biscuit crumbs from her knapsack. She was supposed to meet up with some of the others for dinner in an hour, and, never good at sitting still for long, decided to use that time for clearing out her bag. Crumbs, a few bits of electronics, a scrap of newspaper Lester had dangled before her face that morning while drawling that their team needed to keep a lower profile and avoid report-worthy news. Fair enough. She frowned as she pulled out a chewed set of earphones - darn small creatures - and a tattered, mud stained notebook she'd kept for info earlier in the year and never gotten around to replacing. As she dropped beside her on the ground, a few photos fell out. She picked them up curiously... they must have been stuck in the back. She wasn't much of a photo and cheesy moments girl... someone else must have taken these and she'd gotten a copy. Her and Connor at Jenny's wedding, a hyena wrecked room in the background. Jenny composed again, and happier than she'd ever seen her. A good friend. Or something. How did you relate to people who had been your teammates, but weren't any more? She'd gone out for coffee with Jenny last month, caught up on old times. Jenny had made a few innocent remarks about how distracting men could be to a career, pretending she was paying more attention to her own wedding band than to Abby's face. Abby had said very little on that subject, though she knew that Jenny had picked up on Connor's accidental "We should get married here!" comment. Abby herself didn't know what to do with Connor at times, and it was generally just a good idea not to say things until one was sure about them. He did make her smile, and she was happy to have him back in the neighborhood, his cute sleepy face when they carpooled to work, and...

She shook her head. Cute as he was, Connor would have to make the first move before she would do anything about their relationship. Or lack of. Something Jenny would also have found interesting. Sarah, now, would have talked right on through. "How do you feel about him? How do you think he feels about you? You know, in ancient Egyptian times, the courtship rituals..." Abby had to laugh. Oh, Sarah. She missed her. Another friend lost in the past. They had worked well together, and Abby had appreciated her constant enthusiasm and creative ideas. And just her sweetness. Jenny had come a long way from the prim and pressed PR representative, but Sarah had an innate sensitivity to the people around her. Just like Cutter. Abby started looking through the small pile of photos and eventually found one of their team, from the old days. She missed Cutter the most. Sarah's death had happened while Abby and Connor were lost in the Cretaceous for a year, and was somehow easier to bear. Jenny had moved on, without closing the door. But Cutter had been ripped away from them, and there were so many more things Abby wished she had said. "Thanks," mostly. For bringing us together. For being your patient self, and listening to all our voices. Abby knew she wasn't always easy to get along with. She prickled, and talked too fast at times, and had built up a very solid world of her and her reptile friends. People were much more difficult to understand, and while she enjoyed the camaraderie with her coworkers, she wasn't the type to make many overtures of friendship.

That wedding day, when Abby and Connor and Matt were keeping watch on the anomaly, she expected to crash on a couch somewhere, guard against predators disturbing Jenny's special day. She would have done the same for anyone, and wasn't surprised by Jenny's practical invite to the wedding. But then Jenny had invited her and Emily up for girl time, and even loaned them pretty dresses for the ceremony. Abby knew she'd go back, help Jenny in a heartbeat. Emily, she didn't know as well, but she had wanted to help her too. Jess was sweet, but young. Very young. But nice. A new addition to a world where it had been her and Jenny and Sarah, with all the guys, for a while. But Sarah had died, and Jenny had moved, and it wasn't improbably that Jess or Abby herself would move on before long too. They had a great working relationship, and a lot of fun. Whether she actually wanted to be friends, and stay friends, beyond the occasional run in, she didn't know.

She sighed a little and leaned her chin on her up-drawn knees. How did you even work on being a friend? That whole taking time to listen, which Jenny and Sarah had done so well. Inviting silence, inviting trust. Abby was more of a problem solver, an idea lover. The idea of an official relationship or marriage with Connor was sweet, if confusing. But at least that was something you could work on together, like a working partnership with extra hugs and smiles. She knew it was more than that, of course, but it at least made sense, and friendships with the other girls... was confusing. What if she couldn't offer anything more than practical advise and an occasional shoulder to cry on? She scratched Rex's head as he perched on her shoulder. Rex was simple, and loyal. And she knew how to show him she cared.

She wondered if maybe she could learn that with the girls as well. It would take time, and learning to listen instead of offer solutions. It would take learning to be interested in their worlds, instead of only focusing on them while they were in the ARC or out on searches. It would definitely take more energy and trust than Abby Maitland was used to. But it might be worth it too....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

She wandered around her old home absentmindedly. The wee yorkie dogs played around her feet, curled up by her on the couch, just as if she hadn't been gone the last six years. As if she hadn't graduated college, started moving again, and not been back except one visit three years ago. As if the studying she was doing today was college level Spanish instead of grad school level history. Her friends often grumbled about getting older, and she normally laughed at them. Old and young are all about perspective. But today, she felt older too, somehow.

She sat in the same wicker couch by the window, looked out at the same neighborhood... it hadn't changed. So much in her hadn't changed either, and it was so easy to forget time and think she was still that 19 year old, who laughed at little things and kept big things locked inside. It reminded her of the Mirror of Erised- once you start to look inside, you forget how life really is around you and get lost in your thoughts. But being here, today, didn't show her what she most wanted in the world, just the world she had wanted, six years ago. She had been happy, and had a special place in the world, and good friends... she'd had a home.

She looked around at the comfortable, empty kitchen. How many hours had she spent here, studying, reading, keeping up with overseas friends via computer? It hadn't been perfect, but it had been warm and welcoming, a haven of her own in transient teenage years. She gave a wry smile. As if she was more stable now, six years later. She'd been in three countries in the last six months, said goodbye to one home last year and was about to do the same in three weeks. That is, if you could call a place 'home' when you had been there about three months. But this had been home, and she guessed it had only been two or three months. Something about having your own room and having a new life... something about feeling wanted.

She gave a small sigh, letting go of wistful thoughts. Memories were something to hold on to, not trip over. Three more weeks and then she'd be off to a new home. Traveling to a country that had been home before six years ago; looking there for a new house and being welcomed into a new circle of people. Getting married this summer. Maybe not coming back here for a year or two. But remembering this, the peace and welcome, the oasis between treks. Being able to offer an oasis to others.

When she came back, bringing more years of memories, would the house still look the same? Funny how time went on, whether you lived quickly or slowly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"We'll get you somewhere with a window," Matt said, in that understated way of his. "Somewhere more permanent."

She hadn't known how to react to that. The most she could come up was a sort of answer, in what she hoped was a graceful manner. "A window would be nice. Permanent will take some getting used to."

How long again had she spent in the wild, learning different rules and a different life? How long had she spent trying to keep herself and other alive... and then worrying about Ethan, even into this new world... it felt like an eternity. An eternity without time to breathe, relax. So long since she'd been that young curious bride, looking at the shimmering door to other worlds. She felt old.

The new shape, pace, and people of the new world were a lot to keep up with. Dressing herself in odd clothes, trying to follow the rhythms of the newer English they spoke. Her... captors? Adversaries? ... Friends? She wasn't sure how she seemed to them either. A nuisance? Excess baggage? Displaced person? It helped to at least be allowed out of their buildings and to smell the air and see the sun, without fear of predators. At least, less fear of predators. Matt tried to protect her, and while she resented the need to be protected, she was grateful that he tried. Grudgingly at first, but more so as she saw that underneath the duty, he did seem to care. And that he wished her well, not simply kept out of the way.

His offer of a window meant a lot. Not everyone would think of small gestures like that. Matt was hardly a sentimental man, and she knew he would have first weighed the safety and wisdom of such a move. As well as what he and his team would be communicating, in offering permanence.

A careful welcome. For which she was carefully grateful.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Robin paced back and forth underneath one of his favourite trees. He had slept in its branches, drawn idle designs on its bark with his knife point, eaten below it with friends. Tonight, he found no peace near it. The evening breeze mocked him through the branches, and he could hear Marian's low, furious voice. "Oh, everything's a choice. Everything we do. Grow up."

He had grown up, he thought in frustration. He was no idle lord's son, the kind she despised. He lived off his own bow, asked comfort from no man, and took care of those who came to him for solace and justice. It was not as if she was the only one working to feed those with no food, to shelter the innocent from the sheriff's cruel whims. Just because he worked in the the open and had small patience for slow plans and waiting, was that so wrong? Did she want him to become something he wasn't? He had thrown everything he had into being there for the people he cared for, and it still wasn't enough.

"... And what about the people you are so honourably protecting? Who will protect them when you're dead?"

He hit the tree in frustration with his fist. Why did that even matter? Why did she care? How many handsome nobles looked after her graceful self? It wasn't as thought he meant that much to her, or anyone, anyway. He was a fighting man. If he died in the fight, so be it. He cared little for his own life. That it go to serve others, so be it.

A little mollified by his logic, he climbed up to the topmost branches, a favourite spot. From there, he had a rare glimpse of some of the village roofs. He refused to look toward the castle where Marian was, probably still angry at him. He took a rare moment to relax and look around at the land he cared for. He'd loved the East as well, in a different way. Some days the sand still drew him, even if he wouldn't admit it. And there was sometimes a sense of unrest that tugged him somewhere new, that somehow lived in harmony with the love he felt for this green place. Sometimes Marian looked at him in a way that made him nervous, almost guilty, as if he'd fallen in love and married some dark skinned girl while traveling. He hadn't. But if he had, perhaps it would have felt like this. Wanting one thing while being welcomed by another. His tent in the corner of a sun scorched field in the Holy Land- was that any more or less home than this tree here in his beloved England? Marian would see it as treachery, likely. When he was gone she understood it as footlooseness, yet when he was here she never told him he was a good, steady man.

He shrugged and smiled wryly. As if he could be a good steady man. But she could trust him, even if he was not. She could trust him to be him. At least, he had thought she could. The way she smiled at him, some moments, gave him hope that she could see past the rough clothes and absentmindedness, through the dreams and recklessness, and just love him for him. He would never be a solid man. He had hoped only that he might still be strong enough for her to hold on to. Tonight shook those hopes though. She had minced no words in saying that his loyalty was a sham, that his words were nothing but sparks in the air. His heart had lit up when she walked into his cell that day to rescue him, and she had thrown cold water on it.

"You could have stayed here in the first place... if you'd cared so much about your precious people. But you didn't."

He'd heard the hurt below the anger. In a rare serious moment for him, he hadn't made a joke, argued back, tried to soothe her.

"What is this about?"

"It is about you saying that you care about the people of Locksley when the truth is that you ran off to battle, thousands of miles away."

He'd reached out to touch her cheek, and she'd slapped it away. Those moments, it had been just her and him, and he knew the memory would stay crystal in his mind. The rest of the day went quickly. They'd talked, she'd helped him escape, he'd made his way back to the forest. Adrenaline and relief carried him through the rest of the evening, with a small measure of glee that he had shamed the sheriff on the way. He knew he might hear a scolding from her on *that* later as well, but it was worth it. He was who he was. And now, back in his tree, he was a very tired man. The emotions of the day dripped away slowly as the stars came out and the woodsmoke drifted on the wind.

She had the right of it, in many ways. He had said he cared, and left. For him, the two were not enemies. They were part of life. In the same way, he knew he loved her, but he did not look to her castle and she did not come to him. Perhaps one day everything would be one road or the other, but not today. Something Friar Tuck said came to him, a word from the Holy Writ. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face." Some day, the Friar had nodded wearily, all would be clear. For now, it was not, but there was hope for those who held on to it.

As Robin drifted off to sleep, tucked under a blanket of leaves and stars, his last conscious thought was that perhaps some day he and Marian would see face to face and hope for them- and for their people- would not be so dim.