Title: Square One
Content: Romance. I admit it :-)
Disclaimer: Labyrinth is property of its assorted copyright holders.
Note: Grammar is not my forte. Please overlook my lack of it. Oh, and this is a companion piece to The Morning After
Feedback: Please. :-) Whether you hate it or love it, please just let me know if you've read it :-)
She gazed out of the window, closing her eyes to dull the wistful ache that the beautiful pinks and oranges of the sky ignited in her as they danced longingly around the setting sun, succumbing, almost joyfully, to the night's embrace. The cool fingers of the dying light teased her cheeks with a seemingly playful intent, announcing in their faded glories: "You may not see us for a while, but do not dare forget!".
Sarah smiled gently as she opened her eyes to watch the sun slowly ebb out of existence, her fingertips absently tracing the polished wood of the windowsill as the magnificent show came to a reluctant close.
"As if I could forget..." she breathed whimsically as she stared at the empty night sky. Empty? she immediately corrected herself with a slight huff. No. That delightful...no, magical field of stars called to her just as much as the sun did, begging her to pluck the myriad of lights from the heavens to keep safely in a garden of fancy.
With a heavy sigh, the young woman turned away from her impromptu reverie and looked to the pile of books on her desk.
"Bleh!" Sarah grumbled as she walked towards the offensive stack. With a melodramatic sigh, she collapsed into the chair as she begrudgingly glanced over the titles.
"Elementary Physics," she read aloud distastefully, pushing the top book to the side. "Advanced Spanish. Calculus. English."
She looked back towards the window, her large eyes pensive as she wished for any excuse to get out of studying. Deep chocolate eyes roamed back to her desk, falling upon the ornate brass handle of the desk drawer. A private smile tugged at her full lips as she considered the drawer thoughtfully.
"It's not like I *really* need to study, anyway," Sarah told herself in a firm, assured voice. A slender, white hand strayed down to white-washed drawer, her fingers lingering uncertainly on the cold metal. A strangely guilty look fleeted over the pretty features as she hesitantly opened the drawer and recovered a small, silk-wrapped object from its bowels.
She wrinkled a pert nose dubiously as she hefted the item in a hand, a part of her terrified at the idea of even touching the forbidden object, but another... well, impatient for the deed to be done.
"It's not as if I'm going to read it," Sarah assuaged her worries in a bare whisper as her eyes traced over the old, white silk. "And even if I did, I learned my lesson... Surely there's no harm in simply looking at it?"
Reverently, she ran a finger over the covered book, her lips curving into a smile as the recent memories seemed to flood her mind's eye. The wonder, the beauty of it all! was there ever a time in her life that was more precious? more sacred? Sarah shook her head slowly as she placed the covered book on the desk. And as wonderful as the memories may be.. of a reality filled with magic... the same idea shook her to the core. This discovery had nearly cost her her infant brother. And for that reason alone, she should always shun it.
So why didn't it ever seem to work that way? Oh, a part of her was perfectly well aware of the dangers she faced while jaunting through the mystical world of the Labyrinth, but it had faded far from her mind, leaving only a slight feeling of unease among the sheer magic of the adventure.
"Sarah!" a slightly hoarse but definitely female voice broke into her thoughts. Sarah nodded to herself as she recognised the voice of her stepmother.
"Yes, Karyn?" she answered, rising to her feet as she went to open her bedroom door.
"Dee and Chloe are here." Sarah winced as she noticed the disapproval in her stepmother's voice and realised that Dee probably recognised it as well.
"Oh, thanks!" she stepped through the threshold and peered down the wooden staircase. "Come on up, guys."
Dee grunted, readjusting the diaper bag on her shoulder as she gave Karyn a weak smile.
"Thanks, Mrs. Williams," the short girl nodded as she began to ascend the staircase, her child clutched against her chest with a small, callused hand.
Karyn inclined her head, biting her lower lip as she watched the young mother hold the child in what could be considered a rather precarious grip.
Perhaps Sarah caught a whiff of her stepmother's overprotective nature, but she couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief as Dee finally scaled the stairs. With a bright smile, she pulled the diaper bag Dee's shoulder and entered her room.
"Didn't realise Chloe would be coming tonig..."
Dee immediately interrupted her with a shake of the head, pointedly speaking in a low voice. "She's been grouchy all day. Don't wanna do anything to start that old fit up."
Frowning, Sarah nodded as she deposited the diaper bag near her bed. "Well, um... the crib is in Toby's room. Give me a moment and I'll bring it in here. Toby won't be needing it this weekend..."
"Naaaah. Thanks, though. So they are really leaving you behind, huh?" Dee asked as she carefully placed her daughter on the center of the bed, stacking the pillows around her as soft guardrails.
Sarah shrugged, blowing a straggle of dark brown hair from her eyes. "Well, yeah. It will be one year ago tomorrow that Grandpa passed away. Grandma really shouldn't be ..."
Dee nodded, waving her hand in dismissal. "Yeah. She like shouldn't be. But aren't they like worried you are gonna through some wild parties..." Dee grinned evilly at her, exposing straight, white teeth.
"Dolores Magdelena Esperanza!" Sarah grumbled as she put her hands on her hips in mock offense. "That sounds more like a..."
Dee growled as she waved towards the baby.
Sarah continued in a lower voice, a part of her wondering just exactly how feigned this "mock" offense she was playing at was. "That sounds more like a suggestion to me... No parties!"
With a grunt, Dee turned towards the door. Sarah winced as she noticed the moistness forming around her eyes. With a sigh, she set upon distracting her easily overwrought friend.
"So I thought Chloe was going to stay with your mother this weekend so we could study?" Sarah asked quietly as she looked silently towards the child sleeping on her bed. Beautiful thing, really, she thought as her eyes traced the gentle lines of the plump infant cheeks which dimpled even in slumber. Dark curls covered the child's head in almost a rough semblance of a cap, framing the anglic face.
Her own deep, brown eyes swung to the young mother's as Dee answered.
"Yeah, yeah. Mom flaked out on me, you know," huffing in disgust, Dee took a moment to primp in the mirror. A well-manicured nail tapped at flawlessly painted lips as she smiled briefly at her reflection. Suddenly, she turned to face Sarah. "She says that I don't spend enough time with the baby... that I treat her more like a little sister than my daughter."
Sarah, amazingly enough, kept a neutral face.
Dee rolled her eyes towards the heavens in a plea for the strength to deal with such unwarranted stupidity she found in the guise of her parents. "She told me... like get this, Sare, that she's not doing me any favours by watching Chloe so much. Like, as if!" She groaned loudly, frowning as she realised her child began to stir in the bed. "I don't see *how* she could possibly think she's helping me by making me watch the kid when I have all these exams coming up on Monday! And dammit, Sarah! It's only Friday now!"
Sarah winced commiseratingly as she glanced at her best friend. "Parents can be a bit strange sometimes. I mean, your mom is cool and all.. and perhaps you do..." Sarah continued to speak even though Dee gave her a look that could kill a faint-hearted soul, "have a relationship with Chloe that is more akin to ..."
"Puh-leese, Sare," Dee interrupted impatiently. "Where the hell are you getting all these words from anyway? Like, really. Would anyone *other* than you actually find a way to use 'akin' in a sentence?" She snorted as she suddenly switched tracks. "Besides that, even if that *is* true, and it isn't, the weekend before the AP exams is just not the time to decide to change me!"
Sarah nodded sagely. So very much was riding on these exams... not merely the college credit that the Advanced Placement program promised, but choice of university as well. Dee's mother, of all people, should understand this. "No. I don't think your mother realises just how important these tests are..."
A soft knock on the door interrupted Sarah's words.
"Sarah?" she heard her father call through the door in a gentle whisper. Immediately, she smiled as she opened the door.
Robert Williams was a gentleman, in the truest sense of the word. He loved his family with all his heart and it showed completely. And no matter the disappointments and hurts she had faced in the past, Mr Williams had always been there with his arms wide open to her and would undoubtedly be her strength in the future, too.
"Leaving already, Dad?" Sarah asked regretfully, her eyes seeming to burn his beloved features into her memory.
"Yeah, angel. You sure you will be okay?" he asked, frowning as he examined her face carefully for any signs of tears or sorrow.
Sarah nodded slowly, a sad smile coming to her lips. "I'll be good. Thanks, though. You take care and take care of my Grandma for me, okay?"
Nodding slowly, he embraced his daughter tightly. "You can count on it. Love you, angel. You know the number, right?" he asked quietly as he suddenly looked towards Dee with a small amount of distrust.
"Dad, of course! Now, you better hurry or else you guys will miss the flight. I'll be okay. I promise!" she smiled as she kissed him on the cheek.
Mr Williams nodded slowly as he pushed her away for a last look. A small smile crept up on his face. "Sure you can't come with us?"
Sarah smiled weakly. "I really wish I could. But my future college career sorta counts on this, Dad..."
He winked understandingly as he patted her shoulder. "In that case, Happy Studying, you two. And no parties..."
Dee coughed suddenly in an obvious (to Sarah, anyway) attempt to seem suspicious.
Sarah shot her an icy glare and turned back to her father. "Yes, sir. See you Monday, then?"
"Monday it is. Be safe!" And with that, he was gone.
She stood at her door a few moments longer, leaning against the cool wooden frame as she watched the last-minute bustling of her family as they prepared for their journey. She smiled as her eyes set upon Karyn holding a very sleepy Toby. Had she ever known how much she would love those two... she thought as watched them quietly. Certainly, she still argued with her stepmother quite often, but there was a mutual respect and affection behind the words now that was missing before. Sarah would now and always love her mother, but the actress Linda Williams would probably forever be someone she would always be forced to hold at a distance. She smiled ironically. Her real mother was more like a shooting star: beautiful to behold...something you could never forget seeing, even if you tried, but fleeting and unpredictable. Karyn, on the other hand, was like the sun itself... Steady and certain, but with a passionate fire that would threaten to smother from time to time. And as strangely, and as treasonous as it would sound, Sarah was slowly coming to prefer the staid beauty of the sun over the callous magnificence of the shooting star.
Sarah smiled, waving dumbly as her family stepped from the house and embarked on their journey. Suddenly, she closed her eyes helplessly as she heard Chloe begin to wail. This is suuuuch a bad idea, she thought as she went to retrieve Toby's old crib. Definitely bad.