It had been months since I first met Merida, and summer had finally arrived. Merida wanted to celebrate the new season with a trip to the sea. I agreed, and there we were. The sea.
‘It must have been nearly five years since I’ve last seen the sea,’ she shouted. She took of her shoes and ran to the sea. ‘Come on!’ she screamed. But I remained standing.
I stared at the waves. The last time I had seen these waves, Ysabele was with me. The last time I had seen these waves Ysabele was still alive. I felt the tears in my eyes. ‘Come on, Gawain. You’re a man and it’s been such a long time. Have fun now. Crying isn’t going to bring her back,’ I whispered to myself. My thoughts were interrupted by her screams. I ran towards her. ‘It’s so cold!’ I laughed. ‘What did you expect? We’re in Britain, not in Endi!’
She grabbed my hand and started running through the shallow water, laughing loudly. We ran for a long time, and when we were tired we lay down in the sand. ‘It’s been so long since I’ve seen the beach, I had already forgotten why I loved it so much,’ Merida said with a smile.
‘When I was young, our dad took me and my brothers to the sea quite often, but the Scottish sea is so different,’ I said with a smile. ‘It is,’ she confirmed. We were quiet for a long time. ‘The sun is making me drowsy,’ I said and immediately yawned. She sat up. ‘Let’s do something about it then!’ she said and whistled on her fingers. Gringolet and Angus immediately came galloping towards us. ‘Come on!’ she shouted.
A couple of hours later, we arrived at a small river next to a forest. ‘This place is so beautiful! Let’s have dinner here,’ she said. ‘Shouldn’t we head back to a village or something?’ I said hesitatingly. ‘But it’s so beautiful here! If you make a fire, I’ll catch some fish,’ she said and ran off. I smiled and walked into the forest to search for some wood.
When I returned, I saw Merida standing in the middle of a little waterfall with her bow. I sat down and quickly constructed a little fire. I looked at Merida again when it was burning. ‘Gawain!’ she shouted. ‘Look!’ I squinted and saw what she was talking about. In her hands were two big, fat fishes. ‘Well done,’ I shouted with a smile.
Minutes later, we were sitting around the fire, roasting the fishes. The sky was turning orange. ‘We’ll never find a village before sunset. I told you we had to continue riding,’ I said. ‘It’s not that bad, is it? We can just sleep here,’ she said. ‘Seriously?’ I asked. ‘Aye, why not?’ I smiled. ‘You’re crazy.’ ‘No, you’re just boring,’ she said with a cheeky smile.
It was nearly dark when we finished eating. ‘Won’t our clothes be stolen?’ I said when she lay down on the mossy ground. ‘How? We’ll sleep with our clothes on, obviously,’ she said. I had forgotten that Scots don’t sleep naked like the Englishmen did here. ‘I know, I was just joking.’ I smiled awkwardly and I hoped she didn’t see I was blushing.
‘Good night,’ she said when I lay down next to her. ‘Are you sure you don’t need me as a pillow?’ I said with a smirk. ‘Nah, I’ll be fine,’ she said laughing. I was staring at the stars. I felt weird. I felt like Merida wouldn’t be with me anymore the next morning. Maybe it was just out of habit, but I felt like I had to protect Merida, although I knew she didn’t really need protection. I silently crawled closer to her and wrapped my arm around her waist. I heard her smile. ‘Good night,’ she whispered. ‘Sleep tight,’ I whispered back.
When I woke up the next morning, I discovered, to my relief, that Merida was still laying in my arms. I stood up and collected some wood to make another fire. ‘Good morning,’ Merida said when I was staring into the flames. ‘Good morning,’ I responded with a smile. ‘Had a good night?’ ‘Amazing,’ she said smirking and I started blushing a little bit.
After breakfast, I wanted to ask her a question I had wanted to ask her for a long time. ‘Merida, have you considered going back to your parents?’ She immediately turned her head. Her eyes were flaming. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Merida, please calm down. But think about your parents. They’re probably immeasurably unhappy.’ ‘You just want to get rid of me, don’t you? I should have known. At first, you were being the “simple, kind-hearted knight”, but I shouldn’t have trusted you in the first place. You are a horrible human-being, you know that?’ I smiled. ‘You think that’s funny, aye? Because I don’t really see anything funny about this. All I see is that you’re an enormous jerk!’
I stood up and grabbed her shoulders. ‘Merida, calm down. I don’t want to get rid of you. I just think it’s a shame to lose your parents if they’re not even dead. You have the chance to be with them, so I think you should. And as I said, I really don’t want you to go. If you want, I can come with you. Please don’t be mad at me.’
She sighed. ‘You’re right. I’m sorry.’ ‘It’s okay, I said smiling. ‘I just don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can face them. After all I did to them,’ she said. ‘I think it’s their biggest wish to see you again, and they will probably fear a confrontation because they’ll probably feel like your departure was their fault. I think you’re going to be fine.’ She looked at me with her enormous, blue eyes. They were filled with tears. ‘Thanks,’ she said. ‘Thank you so much.’ ‘No problem,’ I said with a smile.
We sat down. ‘But, are you in contact with your parents?’ she asked after a while. ‘I mean, you never really talked about them.’ I looked away. ‘It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it,’ she said quickly. ‘No, it’s fine. It’s just a little complicated. I don’t want any contact with my mother. She has cheated on my dad, and her new lover has killed him so they could escape together.’
Merida looked at me, and I could read the pity in her eyes. ‘Oh my god, Gawain, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know! I’ve been complaining all this time, but my “problems” are nothing compared to yours. ‘I’m so, so sorry,’ she said. I smiled. ‘Hey, it’s alright. I don’t blame you. The only one to blame is my mother.’
Merida grabbed my hand. I smiled at her. ‘She was just not worthy of my father’s love. He was such a loving man, and a great king. And she just let some man kill him, and ran away with him. I’m ashamed that she is my mother. Her blood runs through me and I hate that. I hate the felling that I’m half the rotten liar she is,’ I said.
‘Oh Gawain,’ she said. ‘You’re not a liar. You shouldn’t listen to whatever I say when I’m mad. You’re the most honest human-being I’ve ever met. You are what you are, not what your mom is. Don’t worry.’ She smiled at me encouragingly. ‘Let’s head back.’
‘Good afternoon, you two,’ Lancelot said when we arrived at the stables. ‘Good afternoon,’ I responded and I jumped onto the ground. ‘How was the sea?’ he asked. ‘Amazing,’ Merida said with a big smile. Her usual mood had returned, thank god. ‘I realised why I used to love the sea so much. It’s just so calming,’ she said. Lancelot laughed. I was really glad that they got along so well.
‘Good afternoon, everyone,’ someone said. I turned around and looked into two pairs of happy, green eyes. ‘Good afternoon, Gaheris, Gareth,’ Lancelot said. ‘Would you fancy a ride?’ Gareth said. ‘We just returned from one,’ I said. ‘But why not?’ Lancelot, Gaheris and Gareth looked at me questioningly. I laughed and we all mounted our horses.
This was certainly one of my favourite things. Galloping through the green hills on my loyal Gringolet, feeling the wind through my hair and the company of my four best friends. Every little problem seemed to be solved, although I knew they weren’t. But that was just a little detail. Right now, I just had to focus on the good things.
That night, I couldn’t fall asleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw her perfect face. Her pretty smile, her sky blue eyes and her cute little freckles. I heard the sound of her laughter, and saw her curly red hair flowing behind her as she cantered through the hills of Camelot.
I opened my eyes. I had to get rid of this image of her. I tried to remember her bad moments, like the time we met. But those memories only made me chuckle, because her stubbornness was actually quite funny. I tried to remember her when she didn’t look so good, but I couldn’t remember anything. When I pulled her into the river, and she was soaking wet, she still looked good. And even if she had just woken up, she looked good. Her eyes were immediately full of life.
‘Oh come on,’ I said to myself. ‘She is just a girl! You don’t like her. You’ve just helped her. And now that Lancelot is back, she can just go, can’t she.’ I was ashamed for my thoughts. ‘Of course she can’t go! You’ve helped her, and it is your duty to keep helping her!’
But all the memories, they just didn’t stop coming. How we ran over the beach today, the time she let her bird attack me, when she suddenly hugged me when I told her she could stay, and how she just listened to me whenever I told her things I had never told anyone. And especially the times she was laughing and having fun with me, Lancelot, Gaheris, Gareth and everyone else.
My head was driving me crazy and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I felt the urge to scream, but just in time I realised that I was lying in a dormitory filled with sleeping men. Instead of screaming, I hit my head against my straw mattress continuously. But it didn’t help at all. Every time my head touched the surface, the image strengthened.
Suddenly, I heard Lancelot’s voice. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked. ‘Yeah, I’m alright, why?’ I said quickly. I heard him laugh silently. ‘You’re not. Come on,’ he said. I suddenly saw the light from the candle he had lit. The little light made its way to the door. I put on my tunic and followed the light.
We sat down on the window-sill. ‘So, tell me what’s the matter,’ Lancelot said. I sighed. ‘It’s Merida.’ ‘Well, if she’s annoying you can just send her away,’ Lancelot said laughing. I laughed too. He never failed to cheer me up. ‘Well, I don’t find her annoying. It’s just, every time I close my eyes I only see her. And I just can’t stop thinking about her. It’s weird, I know,’ I said.
‘That’s not weird, my friend. You’re just in love!’ Gawain said triumphantly. I opened my mouth to say something, but he was quicker. ‘You can deny it, we both know it’s true. You love her, and that’s perfectly fine. You should just tell her.’
‘No! I mean, why would a princess like she want a rough knight from the godforsaken Orkneys? She’s so happy and positive, and I’m just a cowardly, boring old man. Why would she ever love me?’ I said. Lancelot started laughing. ‘Gawain, if you’re a coward, what does that make me? You’re by far the bravest man I’ve ever known. And you’re certainly not boring. I’m sure she does quite like you. I mean, why would she have stayed if she didn’t like your company?’
‘Because Camelot is quite a nice place to stay, perhaps? And there is more,’ I said. ‘Tell me,’ Lancelot said. I sighed. ‘I had never fallen in love, until I met Ysabele. And now that’s she’s gone, I’ve fallen in love instantly! It just feels wrong!’ ‘But she’s been gone for nearly two years, Gawain. I think it’s a good time to move on. And I’m sure she would want you to be happy. As happy as you were when she was here.’ I looked at the ceiling. ‘Why can’t I just get hold on my feelings?’ ‘The heart does what it wants, brother,’ Lancelot said with a smile.
‘She has agreed to go back home,’ I said silently. ‘What?’ Lancelot said. ‘Why?’ ‘I thought that her parents would probably miss her and maybe, if she came back, she would feel better there and stay,’ I said. ‘But Gawain, you love her!’ he said. I sighed. ‘I know, but I think she’s happier with her family than with me. And there’s no way back now.’