Sarah slowly opened the door to her old room and stayed in the doorway as she let her eyes wander over the familiar surroundings. This was the first time she'd been home, since she'd left Michigan two years ago to go to college at U.C.L.A. and it felt really funny coming back to the past, back to her childhood. Some of the toys and posters had gone, but her books were all still there and her fancy dressing table with the round mirror. The room smelled a bit dusty and compressed, but it was still her little realm, her place of wonders.
She had left after high school to study drama in Los Angeles and be close to the acting scene and Hollywood, but after her first semester, she realised the competition for being a star actress was ruthless and not really to her liking. Yes, she loved to act and sing and dance, but not every day, not every second of her life. She needed books, time for dreaming, time to be with friends, play computer games and search the Internet. But the girls in L.A. had no time for anything else but their stage career and thought of nothing else, and she knew that without that dedication, she would not be good enough to compete with them. In the second semester, she changed her major to English Literature and found satisfaction in reading novels and plays and analysing them to the core. Maybe she could even write plays someday, she dreamed.
She had not been home last summer, as her family had come to visit her in L.A instead and see all the sights, especially Disneyland for Toby's sake. And all the holidays were never spent in this house, but at Karen's family in Ohio, where the entire family, but especially Toby, was welcomed. Sarah was very fond of her little brother, who had grown up to be a sweet, but mischievous seven-year old who adored his older sister. He did not seem to have any memories of the fateful night six years ago, where she had almost lost him forever. She shuddered at the memory and quickly entered the room, dumping her suitcase on the floor next to the bed.
Odd, how this room had made her think of him again. She hadn't thought of the Labyrinth and its king in a long time. At first, she'd dreamt of him every night and talked to Hoggle in the mirror every week, but as high school life changed her and the people around her and suddenly made her popular and interesting, she had less need for her imaginary friends that she couldn't share with anyone. Homework, cheerleading group, the drama club and parties with stolen kisses and giggling girl friends became her life, and she loved being one of the crowd – loved the feeling of finally fitting in somewhere. The Labyrinth slipped away, along with the dream of her mother coming back to get her. It was over, it was part of her past, and she might as well move on. What was the use of holding on to a dream, when you knew you could never return or experience anything like that again? She couldn't help thinking about it, about him especially once in a while, but those memories were banished as quickly as they appeared. She had made herself cold to these thought, and after she moved and left all her childhood toys behind, it had become much easier.
She had come home to them today, because tomorrow would be her 21st birthday, and Karen and her father were throwing a big party for her. They would have a tent in the garden, catering food and a band, and all her friends who were attending colleges all over the country would be home for summer vacations and be at the party. She was really exited at the thought of seeing them again and telling them all about L.A., even though they'd kept in touch via email and messenger and was quite close to each other's lives.
And 21! She couldn't wait to finally be truly of age and be a responsible mature adult. Maybe, she though, maybe she'd even be able to find a boyfriend next year. She had had flings in high school, but nothing serious, and in L.A. she did not seem to be able to find anyone worth while. Or maybe she'd just been too young, and it would be better when she returned as this mature adult she would surely be from tomorrow. She smiled at her own silly thoughts and began unpacking. Of course it wouldn't change much, but just to be able to go into a restaurant and have a glass of champagne with a handsome suitor without anyone crying "minor" would be something.
When she finished, she let her fingers wander over her old books and nuzzled the stuffed animal that resembled Sir Didymus. What a dreaming child she had been – looking back, it was really a wonder that she had been able to get through the Labyrinth and defeat the powerful Goblin King. She had been so proud of herself, and maybe it was partly that self-esteem that had given her a lust for life and courage to face the real world and not hide behind costumes and make-up.
Looking out the window, she could see a big white tent in the garden, and leaving the room filled with old memories, she went downstairs to see if she could help with anything for her party.
"Sarah!" As she entered the kitchen, an excited Toby in school uniform almost knocked her breath away as he threw himself as her and hugged her tightly. "You're home, you're home! Come and see my puppy!"
"Toby," Karen laughed, "calm down, you only just got home, and Sarah is not going anywhere. She will have plenty of time to see your puppy!"
"Hi, Toby!" Sarah hugged him back and ruffled his blond hair affectionately. "How's my little rascal? Go up and change, and then you can show me the puppy!"
As Toby ran up the stairs two steps at a time, she looked questioningly at Karen, "A puppy?"
She had hated Karen, when her father had married her, but as she grew older, she discovered that she and Karen actually had some common interests – the peace of the family being one of them. Also, Karen was no longer as high-strung as before. She had gained a little weight and it really suited her and made her look more like a mother.
"He was so sad when Merlin passed away last year," Karen said, "and with you gone, it's good for him to have a friend."
When Toby came down, he took her of the big tour of the house and showed her all the new stuff, including a darling little 10-weeks old puppy with long fluffy brown hair and big paws, called Lancelot. At Karen's request she took them both out of the house for ice-cream in the park, as Karen said this would absolutely be the most helpful thing she could do regarding tomorrow.
They went along, carefree on the hot July summer day and full of expectations for tomorrow. None of them noticed the snow-white owl perched on the roof, calmly watching them with wide mismatched eyes.