Scarlet Page 46

Mark shook my hand. “Will,” he said.

“Mark,” I said. “Didn’t know you were staying here too.”

“Oh, I just came to call on Lena.”

My mouth opened, but just then John came over, trailing the girls behind him. I pulled a little closer to Lena, but they crowded around us.

“Did you give it to them yet?” John asked.

I flushed, but I reached round behind me to pull out the food. I passed the meat to Lena and started to hand out the rolls, but Matilda pushed past her daughter. She grabbed the meat and threw it back in my lap. “No,” she snapped.

“Mother!” one of the girls cried.

I blinked. “What?”

“I know what you are, Will Scarlet, and how you come by your ‘gifts.’ We are a good, Christian family. God, and not a thief, will provide for us.”

I knew my cheeks were red as my name, and I couldn’t think of a word to say. “But—” I tried.

She cuffed me on my ear. “You heard me. Shame on you, and shame on Robin for letting you do it.”

I shrank back, holding my head in shock.

“Steady on!” John said, jumping in front and pushing between me and her. Lena’s arm came around me. “Will’s only trying to help.”

“We don’t need help,” she said. “Certainly not from the likes of him.”

“Will isn’t like nobody,” John said. “And he works harder to save our people than anyone else.”

“It’s noble of you, John, but I think he should go. Now.”

I weren’t waiting around for her to kick me out. I were already on my feet and past Mark Tanner, running out the back door and not waiting for John.

I bundled up the food and left it for George and Mary and little baby Robin, and I went back to the cave. Rob and Much were there, so I climbed the trees, going up over the cave without talking. I don’t think they even saw me.

“Rob!” John called, crashing through the forest. “Much, have you seen Scar?”

“No, why?” Rob called, standing straight, his bow in hand.

“Mistress Morgan tossed her out for stealing.”

Rob’s face went flat and hard, and I felt sick. “She stole from the Morgans?”

John scowled. “Of course not. She brought them food for caring for Lena, and they practically tossed it in her face.”

Rob sighed. “Because she stole it.”

I pushed my cheek against the tree.

“She’s probably just run off for a while,” Much said. “She does that.”

“I know, Much. But she can’t run off every time someone says or does something.” Rob shook his head. “Or she can, but if she wants to do that, we can’t count on her as part of this band.”

I opened my mouth to tell them I were there and hadn’t run nowhere, but it didn’t come out.

“We can always count on Scar,” Much defended.

“I’ll admit, I’ve called her a coward in the past,” John said.

I hugged my knees.

“But we can count on her,” he continued. “She’s allowed to be hurt.”

“She’s not a coward,” Rob said. “I have never and will never accuse her of that. She’s as brave as they come—but her first instinct is to hide from us. To hide from me.”

“Why shouldn’t I hide?” I called. “When with every odd breath you tell me how fast you want me out of this band.”

I hopped lower in the trees, standing, staring defiant at him. Water were in my eyes but I didn’t much care.

“Christ, Scar, you’ve been here the whole time?” Rob asked.

My face went wobbly. I had to ask it, and I couldn’t shake or shiver none. “Do you want me to go, Robin Hood?”

His jaw moved like he were chewing it over. He heaved a sigh and threw his bow across his back, climbing up the tree. He came up beside me and I didn’t dare blink. Tears would have gone every which way, and I weren’t never going to cry in front of Rob. “Go up,” he told me.

I climbed, blinking and wiping my mug on my sleeve. I climbed faster than Rob, even though my shoulder set to an awful aching. I waited for him on the branch that were highest I could sit on.

He came and sat beside me.

“Yes, I want you to go,” he said, and I thought I heard wrong. I looked at him, and more tears jumped out. “I want you to go, Scar, if you can’t trust me. If you can’t let me in, then you have to go.”

“I trust you, Rob. I always have. I don’t even want to, but you’re just . . . you. It’s terrible. Do you have to know the whole awful story for you to trust me?”

“No. Sometimes I worry that I don’t know you at all, though.”

“You don’t trust me.”

He sighed. “I want to. But we both know you lie to me.”

I hung my head. “I can’t lie to you, I don’t think. I try not to talk ’bout things, though.”

“I know. Why is that?”

“Telling secrets ain’t done me no favors in the past.”

“Who was she?”

“Who?”

“The girl in London. The one you don’t want to tell me about.”

I swallowed, but her name bubbled up in my throat. “Joanna,” I said. “My sister.”

He closed his eyes. “She protected you.”

I nodded, tears tripping down my nose.

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