The Day After
Disclaimer: I own only Grandad Michael and Grandma Alice; none of the
original 'Labyrinth' characters in this story are mine, although I
wish they were! They are not my creations, and I would never presume
to say they are. In Chapter Eleven, Jareth quotes the first sonnet (La
Vita Nuova) from Dante's "Inferno," and in Chapter Thirteen, he sings a
few verses from Dan Fogelberg's "Nether Lands."
- chapter.1.the.arrival -
"Sarah?" The voice speaking her name was warm and rounded, a soothing voice Sarah knew from years of gentle comfort and laughter. Accompanying the voice was a shaft of light from the hallway outside of her bedroom door; the light slashed across Sarah's face and, instinctively, she curled her body into the fetal position in her bed, trying--unsuccessfully--to hide her face under her blanket. "Sarah, honey, are you awake?"
"Is she awake?" This voice was higher, a little strident. When Sarah heard her step-mother's voice, she knew there was no way that she was going to be able to go back to sleep. Occasionally, when her father woke her, he had the decency to leave her alone, let her doze back off. Not the same with her step-mother. If she wanted Sarah awake, Sarah had to wake up.
"What?" Sarah mumbled from beneath her blankets, her voice throaty as she tried to wake up, her tone annoyed and tired--which was exactly how she was feeling.
"Sarah? We're sorry to wake you up, but--"
"What time is it?" Sarah asked, cutting her father off. She sat up in bed, yawning hugely.
"Seven o'clock, honey. We're really sorry to wake you up, especially since you had to stay up late last night looking after Toby while we were out, but something's come up." Her father pushed her door open further, the shaft of light becoming a wave of light that made the shadowy places in Sarah's room appear darker. He stepped into the room, and went over to sit on the edge of Sarah's bed. "We would have let you sleep in, but something's happened," her father continued, his strong, square jaw tightening a little.
"What's wrong?" Sarah asked, suddenly alarmed. Had Toby vanished again? Oh, God, that RAT! If Jareth had taken her baby brother after she had beaten him fairly at his own game...
"Adelle's mother is in the hospital," Sarah's father said softly, glancing back at his wife as he said it. She stood in the doorway imperiously, head tilted as she watched Sarah and her husband talk. As he delivered this news, however, she deflated a little, her face taking on lines that had not been there a moment before, becoming haggard and very tired.
"Oh?" Sarah asked, trying to sound interested. She had never really liked her step-mother's parents, despite the fact that they made friendly overtures to her each time they came over to visit her step-mother and -brother.
"She had a heart attack last night, Sarah. It wasn't bad, but she needs to stay in the hospital for a few days to recuperate. Until she gets back home, Granddad Michael is going to be alone in their house. I know you can see where the problem is," her father said gently, taking one of her hands into his two larger, work-roughened hands. And Sarah could see the problem. Granddad Michael, though a nice man, had very bad Alzheimer's. Sometimes, he didn't even recognize himself. Without Grandma Alice there, the man was very likely to forget to eat or forget to stay near the house and not wander off. "Adelle and I think that she and I should drive down to Lee to stay with your granddad for the day--maybe for a few days." Sarah's father's voice was gentle, patient, and soft, but Sarah felt a sudden anger welling up in her. She did NOT want to spend several days of her summer break down in Lee, away from her possessions, room, and dog.
"But, I don't want to go!" Sarah said sharply, tugging her hand away from her father's.
"We didn't think you would," Adelle said dryly, crossing her arms over her chest.
"We don't want to up-root you in the middle of summer vacation, Sarah. We were hoping you might be willing to stay at home today and watch over Toby."
Instantly Sarah's relief at not having to go to Lee was over-whelmed by annoyance. Once again, good old dependable Sarah was being asked to watch after her baby brother.
"A hospital is no place for a baby, and we can't expect Granddad Michael to watch Toby," Adelle announced with finality. "We knew you wouldn't want to go--it only makes sense that you stay here and watch your baby brother." With that, Adelle turned and left the doorway, heading downstairs.
"Daddy," Sarah whined, drawing the world out to six syllables.
"Now, Sarah... I know this is hard on you. It's hard on Adelle and me, too. She and I both had to take off work today, and we may have to take off tomorrow, too. But she and I can't leave Granddad Michael alone. Now be my good girl, Sarah. I have to go finish packing some things. We'll be leaving in a few hours." He rose from the bed, gave her a quick kiss on her forehead, and left, shutting the door behind him.
Sarah sat in a brooding darkness for several minutes before sighing, and standing. She had a few hours to herself, anyway. She could go to the park and recite to Merlin--that always relaxed her.
Sarah had changed into her long white Renaissance dress and was just pulling her hair back when a loud rumble of thunder interrupted her. She dashed into the hallway outside her room, and over into her parents room to look out the huge bay windows. What she saw was a dark and gloomy morning that was being drenched in earnest from the brief spattering of rain that had chased her home the night before. The storm had definitely come back in full force.
"Ohh, it's not fair!" Sarah cried, glaring out the windows at the dripping leaves of a tree.
"Sarah?" She turned at her father's voice, pouting faintly.
"Adelle is really worried this storm might slow us down. It's a good two hours to Lee in good weather, and you know how these summer storms can become nightmares in just a few minutes. She and I are finished packing now, and we ought to be leaving. She's actually putting our luggage into the car right now."
"You're leaving now?!" Sarah clenched her hands inside the long, draping sleeves of her white gown. "I wanted to go to the park with Merlin!"
"I let Merlin out to go to the bathroom when we got up this morning, Sarah. He won't need to go out right now. Besides, it's pouring--neither of you should be out in this." He crossed the room, giving her a warm squeeze and a kiss on the cheek. "Toby's apparently decided to sleep in this morning--try not to wake him if you can help it, and your morning should go easily. Adelle and I are going now, honey. I'll call you if we decide to stay in Lee overnight."
Sarah sighed, slumping dejectedly against the wall next to the bay windows, crossing her arms over her chest. Her first day back from the Labyrinth was not going exactly how she had expected. Since no one on Earth but she and Toby knew about their adventures in the Labyrinth, and since only she really knew to what ends she'd gone to save her brother, she didn't really expect fanfare or a party. But being coerced into baby-sitting Toby againjust didn't seem right to her, especially after the what she'd gone through the night before to keep him safe.
"And not a single word of thanks from anyone," Sarah muttered under her breath. She heard Toby shifting and fussing softly in his crib, and walked over to look in at him. He was just waking up, his eyes still dozy and unfocused, a heavy yawn stretching his tiny rosebud mouth. Sarah felt herself softening a little--when he wasn't crying, Toby could be a truly enchanting baby. And it wasn't really HIS fault that she had to watch over him.
"Uhhn!" Toby exclaimed, clamping his hands onto the bars of his crib and pulling himself into a sitting position. "Uhh-uhhh-uuuhhh!"
Sarah recognized the tell-tale squeezing of his face, the reddening of his cheeks, and the tone in his voice--he was in one of his moods.
"Oh, no," Sarah muttered, reaching down and lifting Toby from the crib as she'd seen Adelle do so many times when Toby got fussy. "C'mon, Toby, don't be like this..."
"Uuhhaaaawww!! Aaaaaaa!!" And now he was crying in earnest, his voice piercing, his face going dark red.
"C'mon, c'mon... Toby, stop!" Sarah bumped him on her hip, up and down, trying to calm him. He just redoubled his wails, his cheeks becoming glossy with tears.
"I hate this!" Sarah cried, feeling tears in her own eyes. "This isn't fair!"
Suddenly, outside, thunder crashed. It was so close to the house that it completely drowned out Toby's wails for a moment. Sarah started, spinning toward the windows, pulling Toby close to her side. Her heart was hammering in her chest. For a moment, she felt a tingling anxiety slither through her, making the back of her neck quiver.
Something's going to happen, she thought suddenly, putting a hand on Toby's back as the child squirmed and sobbed. Something horrible...
She stood in tense silence for a moment, with nothing but Toby's choking wails and the sound of rain booming off the roof. Slowly, her heart returned to a normal beat, and she sighed deeply.
What a silly thought. Nothing's going to happen. I'm just still keyed up from last night, that's all.
Sarah hefted Toby in her arms, repositioning him on her hip, speaking gently to him as she did.
"What is it, Toby? Are you hungry?"
"All right, come on then. Let's go warm up a bottle."
She turned, taking a step toward the door. Thunder boomed again behind her, and this time, it didn't die off in a rumble but grew louder, deafening, a horrible roaring that made the windows shake.
No, not shake... Sarah thought, her spine gone rigid. That sounds like...
The windows shattered. Glass sprayed into the room--Sarah felt it pelting her back as she dipped her head, hugging Toby close to her body to try and protect him from the spray of glass. Cold rain splattered against her back, and as the thunder faded, she felt the fine hairs on the back of her neck rise. Her heart was hammering wildly again, and this time it had a very good reason. Someone--besides she and Toby--was in the room.
No... please, no, Sarah thought, trembling. Toby's howls had quieted to hiccoughs, and he was staring over her shoulder with wide-eyed wonder, shocked out of his tantrum.
I won't look. I don't care. I will not turn around. She clutched Toby tighter, as if he were her only life-line in a stormy sea, and he squeaked a soft protest. Suddenly, irrationally, she thought, If I don't turn around, if I just walk out of the room, then nothing will happen. When I come back, the window will be in one piece again, and nothing bad will happen to us.
But she was turning, a perverse desire to see who was behind her making her turn slowly, head down, her eyes locked on the glass-littered, rain-darkened carpet.
Since her eyes were down, the first things she saw were black boots with pointed toes and many silver buckles. As she raised her eyes slowly, she felt her heart picking up speed, its hammering becoming a literal spasming as she saw tight gray breeches on shapely legs, then a white Renaissance shirt, strong arms crossed over a broad chest, golden hair falling gracefully over rounded shoulders, and finally the face. It was exactly as she remembered it from the night before--proud, mocking, smirking in obvious pleasure at her fear. Sarah's heart gave a little skip, then seemed to stop. She felt a darkness rising up around her, a thick black hand squeezing her head, prompting her to just pass out, to just let it all go. She fought for coherence and consciousness, black dots swarming before her eyes. It was he. It was Jareth.