A/N: Sigh. I know this is a bad idea, posting a new story when I still have so many unfinished ones out there Sherlollyland, but some recent, very encouraging reviews of my other Laby stories made me feel a tad bit guilty for not posting this story as I promised (gulp) almost a year ago, so here it is. I do have large chunks of it written and hope to post chapters on a weekly basis. But no promises, I know better than that.
Prologue: After the Labyrinth
She survived the Labyrinth, she defeated the Goblin King, she rescued her baby brother and made her way safely home again. She partied with her new friends for an hour before sending them back through the mirror and into their own realm, giving her exactly another fifteen minutes to revel in the feeling of being utterly in control of her own fate before her father and step-mother returned home and she was plunged back into the cold reality of being a fifteen year-old girl in a mundane world.
However, she was a fifteen-year-old girl who'd received a unique perspective on life, and was determined to do her best with the life she had rather than mooning after something that might never be. Maybe one day she'd follow in her mother's footsteps and become a famous actress, but for right now she had a home and a family and most importantly, a baby brother who needed her to be there for him.
With all that on her mind, it was no wonder that another three months passed before she realized she'd returned from the Labyrinth with an unexpected — and unwelcome — souvenir.
It took two more months before she was willing to accept the unacceptable; to realize that what she'd thought had happened only in a dream was, instead, terribly real.
She might even have gone on trying to deny what was happening to her, the way her body was changing, if she hadn't fainted in gym glass and been brought to the nurse's office.
And if the nurse hadn't said those six simple words that turned her world upside down: "How far along are you, Sarah?"
Henry Williams, father to fifteen-year-old Sarah from his first marriage and one-year-old Toby from his current marriage, stared at his wife, trying to take in what she was saying. He'd just walked in the door after a two-day business trip out of town, and his brain felt fried; surely he'd misheard Karen? He finished hanging his beige London Fog rain jacket up on its usual hook and waited for her to tell him whatever it was she was trying to tell him about his daughter.
"She fainted in gym class," Karen repeated, groping for the right way to tell her husband what had happened. God, this was going to be so hard…
OK, so she'd said what he'd thought she'd said. His daughter had fainted. "Is she all right?" he asked worriedly. Fears of anorexia flashed across his mind; she was such a fussy eater, always had been, never had a big appetite; or was there some kind of vitamin deficiency, something he or Karen should have noticed?
His wife interrupted his frantic thoughts as she laid a reassuring hand on his arm. She offered him a wan smile that did nothing to hide her discomfort as she nodded to indicate that yes, Sarah was OK. "She's up in her room now, but honey…"
He'd turned to make his way up the stairs to check on his daughter himself but paused at the continuing note of worry in his wife's voice. "Karen? What is it? You said she was all right…"
"She is," she rushed to reassure him. "But honey, I took her to Doctor Hamilton, and he confirmed what the school nurse suspected." She drew a deep breath. Now for the hard part. The really, really, really hard part… "Sarah's about…five months pregnant."
Henry slowly groped his way to the nearest chair and sat heavily, all thoughts of heading upstairs to check on Sarah vanished as his mind went blank. His baby girl was…going to have a baby herself? How could that even be possible?! He looked at his wife through disbelieving eyes as he protested, "Did you know she had a boyfriend? I didn't even know she had a boyfriend!"
If he thought what Karen had just told him was the hard part, he was in for a grave disappointment. She walked over and knelt in front of him, taking his hand in hers. "The doctor thinks…from the way she's acting…she might have been raped."
Henry gazed unblinkingly at his wife for a long, silent moment, then dropped his head into his hands as a sob made its way out of his throat and into the muffling nest of his fingers. "This is my fault," she heard him say in a broken voice as she rose out of her own chair and hurriedly threw her arms around him. "I wasn't there for her, always away on business…"
"Sweetie, don't do this to yourself," Karen whispered as she felt the tears she'd suppressed all day threatening to spring free, clogging her throat and hurting, God, how much they were hurting her. All of them were hurting, all but Toby who was too young to understand the tragedy that had so unexpectedly struck his family. "It's not your fault, you know it isn't."
If it was anyone's fault, it was his damned ex-wife's, but Karen wasn't about to express that thought aloud. Sarah had been so hell-bent on following in her will-o-the-wisp, now-you-hear-from-her-now-you-don't mother's theatrical footsteps that she spent far too much time alone, away from home, lost in some imaginary world she'd conjured up for herself. Even if things had changed a few months ago, it had seemed to be for the better; Sarah had begun acting more responsibly, coming home right after school instead of lingering in the park by herself, spending more time with Toby, giving Karen a lot less attitude and being more helpful around the house…
We should have known something was wrong, that something changed besides her attitude, Karen told herself wearily as she held her husband's heartbroken form. I should have noticed and called her out on it, or paid more attention.
Instead, she'd taken Sarah's change in attitude as the positive it seemed rather than the negative she now knew it had been. Someone had attacked Sarah, raped her, gotten her pregnant, and her young step-daughter — God, she was only turning sixteen next week! — had responded by forcing it out of her mind and acting in such a startlingly different manner that only a complacent fool could have mistaken shock and fear for calm and acceptance of responsibility.
A complacent fool like Karen Davis Williams. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Karen forced her guilt and anger at herself aside. Her husband and step-daughter needed her right now; she would have to be the strong one, just as she always had been her entire life. She would have to be the one to make the decisions and try to make Sarah and Henry to go along with those decisions.