Galahad did not have friends. Elaine found a doll for him when he was young that was his companion, but beyond that he had never had anyone. Convents were hardly places to raise children.
The first time he met Lancelot, his father had tried to replace his doll with knights. Carefully carved knights, with their own horses and shields and lances. A pair of them, a matched set. They looked perfect together.
Galahad loved them, but he never played with them. They stayed on his shelf, side by side, while he played with Doll, and that seemed better somehow. Sometimes he hid them when he saw Elaine looking at them for too long, tracing the shape of the shields’ argent dragon and rampant gules lion with her eyes when she lingered in his doorway.
She would take just one if he gave her a chance, and would think it was ok. Just one was ok. But they were a matched pair and had to stay together. So when he saw her looking he hid them under his bed, still together, and Elaine would smile like she was watching the path to the convent for a knight on a horse and had seen a friar on a mule instead.
“You love your knights like I love mine,” she said to him once when she caught him hiding them away. He wanted to tell her that he did not love them, they just had to stay together, but she would not understand. So he nodded and let her touch his hair and call him her knight though he knew she was lying.
Convents were not places for love between people. You learned to give your love to God in the quiet spaces between the bricks and mortar of the chapels and the bare rooms. His mother had hidden herself and Galahad away there so she could hone her martyrdom to sharpness with an appropriate stone, where people could see but she could pretend to be unseen. His father was somewhere far away, but he could never be sure which of them had chosen to let that be.
Elaine told stories of Galahad Lancelot between her prayers, and Galahad ate them up like they were foretelling of his own destiny. They might as well have been, for the names were the same, and Elaine did not seem to know the difference.
“He is the best knight in all the world.”
“He has fought every knight who ever challenged him, and won.”
“He is the best knight and friend of the King. Arthur’s closest friend and confidant.”
“He always fights for the Queen as her champion.”
“He has never worn the favour of any woman that has asked him.”
Galahad folded the sentences of these stories away in his mind and held them there as precepts for his life.