All the usual disclaimers – I don't own anything to with the Labyrinth (I only own some new characters who are my own inventions!) And I don't own David Bowie, I just really, really wish I did! Anyway, this is my own contribution to the world of fanfic. Please review, criticise or make general comments - but, above all, enjoy!
As the World Falls Down
Chapter One: Love's Such an Old-Fashioned Word
'Sarah, wait. Just-'
She shook her head and gazed back at him sadly. There was so much pain and such incomprehension in his eyes that for a moment, she faltered, but then she steeled herself again. 'I'm sorry,' Sarah said softly. 'I really am. But this isn't going to work.'
He stared at her. 'How can you say that? After everything we've had, how can you say that?'
'Because it's true. You mean a lot to me, but…' she trailed off, unsure how to explain without hurting him even more.
'But it isn't enough, Sam,' she replied simply.
For a second he looked stunned. 'It isn't enough,' he repeated slowly. 'You mean I'm not enough, is that it? What is you do want, Sarah? Please, tell me.' His tone was half-angry, half pleading.
'I want…I want someone who'll…'
'I'll paint you mornings of gold, I'll spin you Valentine evenings…' The haunting voice floated back to her across the dividing chasm of space and time – for a few, brief seconds she felt herself whirling around in a room full of masked people and strange, wondrous things. She was spinning, falling…
'I want someone who'll turn the world upside down for me,' she said abruptly. The words came out before she had thought about them and Sarah was shocked to hear her own voice saying them. They hung in the air like some terrible accusation.
'You read too many romance novels as a kid,' Sam said quietly. 'That kind of love doesn't exist.'
'Maybe not. But you're not willing to even try.'
'Ok, look,' he ran his hands through his hair, 'we'll try again, huh? I'll turn the world, I'll give you the Goddamn Moon!'
'Yeah, it really sounds like you mean it,' she replied sarcastically.
'I just don't get you, Sarah. One moment everything's fine and then the next it's like you become another person. And not a nice one, either. You can be so…so…'
'Cruel?' she suggested.
'Yeah, that's it exactly. Here's a hint for the next time you decide to take up with some other poor sap – try to come down off the pedestal you've got yourself on. No one's gonna worship you as much as you do yourself.'
Sarah started at his words, hot anger coursing through her. But just as suddenly as it had come, it faded and the only feeling that she was left with was incredible weariness. She stood up, collecting her bag and scattered belongings.
'Sarah, Sarah, I'm sorry! I didn't mean…' He was trying to take hold of her arm, pulling her toward him. Sarah twisted out of his grasp and turned to face him.
'Sam, I'm tired and I've got a long drive tonight. Why don't you just pack up any of my stuff that's still at your place in a box, and I'll come by and collect it in a few weeks.'
Sarah walked out of the door. She knew that he was standing, watching her walk down the corridor – she could feel his eyes burning into her. But she didn't look back.
As Sarah turned her car onto the motorway, she took her first true deep breath for hours. At least the weekend should be good. She was driving back home for Toby's tenth birthday. Ten? Ten. Sarah shook her head, marvelling to herself. Sometimes it was hard to believe that so much time had passed, and every time she went home she was surprised at how much older and bigger Toby had grown. Ten years ago, she had still been a sulky teenager and he had been a baby in a red-striped romper suit, just before… Sarah dragged her thoughts back abruptly. It did no good to think about the Labyrinth.
'Especially when you're driving,' she told herself wryly.
She focused her mind on the road ahead, but a few moments later the image of Sam's face drifted across her thoughts. Sam was young, intelligent and quite good looking. He was an architect and had already begun to make a name for himself. All of Sarah's friends had decided that they made a wonderful couple, and Sarah herself had agreed with them. And she had been very happy with Sam, it was just that… It was… It wasn't even something that she could put her finger on. It felt, at times, as though she were waiting for something more from him, as if she were measuring him against something. Sarah just didn't know what.
'You know very well what it is.' Sarah sighed. Even her own subconscious was starting to sound like someone else. And that was the third time today that he had come into her mind unbidden. It was happening more and more, lately. If Sarah had been completely honest with herself, she would have admitted that memories of that distant time had been a major factor in her break-up with Sam. After she had left his apartment, Sarah had driven back to her own place to pick up what she needed for the weekend. She was looking forward to it, especially as it was a long weekend and she could get away from things for a few days, even though she did like her life as it was at present. High School had been followed by Drama School then, through luck and determination, she had joined a small theatre group based in Boston. They weren't very big or very well known, but they had relatively steady work and some of the larger newspapers had started to review their productions. It was through the company that she had met Sam – a new arts centre was being built and they had been invited to perform a specially devised piece at the grand opening. They had gone to see the building – which was still a construction site at the time – and there they had met the architects. One of whom was Sam. He had been charming and witty … and he had asked her out almost immediately. Sarah gritted her teeth. At least at the opening night party there would be enough people there that she could avoid having to talk to Sam.
'Welcome home, honey!' Sarah's stepmother kissed her cheek and Sarah felt herself enveloped in a cloud of perfume. 'It's so good to see you. You look great!'
Sarah laughed. 'So do you! Where are the men folk?' She pulled her bag out of the car boot and walked up to the front door with her stepmother.
Karen rolled her eyes. 'Your father's at the office-'
'What, still? It's after seven!'
'Tell me about it. It's some tax evasion thing they're working on – he's been home late every night this week. And Toby's at his friend's house watching videos. Probably stuffing himself with pizza and coke, if he can! He's really looking forward to seeing you.'
'Mmm, so am I! Anyway, while they're out of the way, it gives us a chance to enjoy this.' Sarah pulled a bottle of wine out a carrier bag and handed it to Karen. Karen grinned back at her.
'I'll pop this in the fridge while you go and change. Then you can tell me all your news!'
Karen Williams observed her stepdaughter over the rim of her glass. They were sitting opposite each other at the breakfast bar. Sarah was playing with the stem of her glass, her long dark hair clinging to her neck in damp strands. She looked tired, Karen thought. But what gave her most concern was the distracted, almost defeated look in Sarah's eyes.
'Sarah, what's the matter? You look … uncomfortable.'
'That's my own fault for not bothering to dry my hair after my shower!' Sarah replied, laughing.
Karen gave her a reproachful look. 'I'm serious! Something's happened. Will you tell me what it is?'
Sarah glanced away; her eyes focusing on a point somewhere near the refrigerator. 'I've broken up with Sam.'
'Oh, sweetie,' Karen said softly. 'I'm so sorry.'
'When did this happen?'
'This afternoon.' Sarah looked up and met Karen's shocked expression. 'Just before I left to come here.'
It was a few moments before Karen was able to speak again. 'Sarah, why didn't you… You should've told…' She paused and took a sip of wine. 'What happened?'
'Nothing much. It wasn't going to work out, that's all. I though that it was best to finish it before it got complicated.'
Karen shook her head in disbelief. 'But you two seemed so happy. And the last time I spoke to you, you said that everything was fine.'
'I know. I wanted it to be. I tried to make it fine, I really did. But in the end I just… What?' Sarah frowned. She had noticed a strange expression flit across Karen's face.
'Nothing. I didn't say anything.'
'I saw that look. What is it?'
Karen fixed Sarah firmly in the eye and watched her intently for a few seconds. 'Well, Sarah… Look, I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but… Every boyfriend you've had… They've all ended the same way. Everything's great and then it all falls apart.'
'Oh, that is just not-' Sarah began, but then stopped. 'No, you're right. It is always the same.'
'What is it you're so afraid of?'
'You cowered before me, and I was frightening…'
Sarah shook her head sharply. 'I'm not afraid. It always gets to a point where I feel as though there should be something more. And then I realise that there isn't anything more, that this is all that I'll ever have with this person and it just makes me feel so hollow. Even when I felt that way with Sam I tried to keep going – I thought that if I really worked at it that everything would be fine. But it wasn't.' There was silence, both women were lost in thought, and then suddenly Sarah burst out. 'Is there something wrong with me? Am I abnormal or something?'
'Oh, honey, of course you're not! You're lovely. Look, Sarah, you're still very young. You still have your dreams, but eventually you might just have to accept that reality doesn't live up to your dreams. Which doesn't mean that it can't still be wonderful. Maybe there is such a thing as the one, true love of your life. But even if there is, most people will never find it.'
Coldness swept through her, and an indefinable emotion that was so strong it made her gasp for breath.
'What if you…' Sarah could hear the words forming, but her brain could hardly accept, hardly understand the emotion she was feeling. 'I think that once I may have…'
Karen grasped hold of her stepdaughter's hand. It was freezing cold.
'Nothing,' she replied faintly. She felt as though she had just been dragged out of an ice-cold sea. 'It's nothing.' She passed one hand over her eyes and was amazed to find moisture there. 'I bet Toby's getting all worked up over his birthday!' she said abruptly, changing the subject.
Karen hesitated for a moment, but decided that there was no point in forcing the issue. Once Sarah had made up her mind not to discuss something, that was the end of the matter. 'You know what he's like. Almost as bad as your father for making a fuss over things like this.' She smiled affectionately at the thought of both the absent son and husband.
'I can't wait to give him his present!'
'What did you get?' Karen asked, curious.
'I brought it down to show you.' Sarah picked up a package that she had put on the bar. Out of it came a large, hard-backed book. 'It's the new one by Delaine King. Autographed and everything!' Her eyes were shining with enthusiasm.
'He'll love it!' Karen exclaimed, turning it over in her hands. 'I tried to get it here, but of course they had all sold out by the time I got to the store. How did you get her autograph?'
The poster in the bookshop window had been huge. Book signing, today. Delaine King was the author of a series of hugely successful fantasy novels. She was Toby's favourite writer and notoriously reclusive. Sarah could hardly believe her luck when she had seen the notice, and gone inside immediately. There were piles of the latest book on a table: Sarah picked one up and then followed the arrows that were pointing upstairs. There were a lot people milling around – far more than usual – and of all ages. Sarah followed the flow of bodies until she found herself in a queue, which was slowly moving toward a large table. Sarah stood on tiptoe, her keen eyes scanning over the heads of the people in front of her, trying to catch a glimpse of the author. The queue moved forward slightly, and Sarah was able, finally, to see her. She was rather surprised to see that the exotically named Delaine King looked, well, very normal. In her black trousers and close fitting, amethyst coloured shirt, and blonde hair piled on top of her head, she looked like every other fashionable young woman around. Sarah wasn't quite sure what she had been expecting – and then decided it was a little unreasonable to imagine an author of fantasy novels wandering around in trailing lace and velvet. By this time, Sarah had reached the front. She held out the book, and a pair of dark brown eyes were raised to meet her own. Sarah felt a thrill run through her – even in those few seconds, she knew that there was something about this woman that was mesmerising. She looked too young to have such an aura of serenity and timelessness. Delaine smiled up at her.
'Hello. Who is this for?' Her voice was slightly husky and had a musical quality to it.
'What? Oh, yes, of course…the book. I'm sorry, I just hadn't expected you to be so…'
'Normal?' Delaine supplied. 'Yes, I've been getting that a lot lately!'
'I guess most people hadn't expected to see you at all. My brother's gonna be really jealous – that's who the book's for. It's his birthday.'
Delaine opened the book to a blank page and picked up her pen.
'What's his name?'
'Toby,' Delaine repeated. 'And what's yours?'
'Sarah. Sarah Williams.'
Those dark eyes were raised again, and Sarah felt as though they were penetrating to her very soul. Then the look was gone and Delaine smiled pleasantly at her. 'It just that I have a feeling I've seen you somewhere before.'
'Oh!' Sarah suddenly felt flattered – this was completely new definition of the term 'celebrity spotting', when the celebrity was spotting her! 'I'm an actress – if you've seen any fringe theatre while you've been in Boston, you might have seen me there.'
'Yes, that must be it.' She bent over the book and finished off the inscription. 'There. I hope your brother enjoys it. Wish him a happy birthday from me!'
'I will! Thank-you so much.' Sarah took the gift back happily and moved away. She was already late for a rehearsal, so she made straight for the staircase. Sarah had taken a few steps down when she glanced back toward the table. Delaine King was looking over at her, before turning away again.
' "Dear Toby. For rainbow days and crystal dreams",' Karen read out the inscription. ' "With love, Delaine King". Oh, that's sweet! Toby'll be overjoyed. Thank-you, Sarah.'
'It was a pleasure! Maybe he'll even let me read it when he's finished!'
'Y'know, I a bit surprised that he likes them so much. I mean, I've read some of them to him, and they're not really like kid's books at all. Even I like the way she writes!'
'I know what you mean. She writes on a lot of different levels.' Sarah was leafing idly through the page and then reread the inscription. She sighed, frowning slightly. 'Funny, I don't remember it saying that.'
'The message. I don't know why – just my imagination.'
'Well, you've had a lot on your mind. Oh!' Karen turned her head sharply. 'There's a car. It must be Robert, at last.' She stood up and disappeared into the hall. Sarah heard the front-door open and then her father's voice.
'I stopped off on my way home and picked up this little handful!'
'Is Sarah here? Where is she?' her brother's high-pitched voice demanded.
Sarah grabbed the book and stuffed it hastily back into the packet, just before the small bundle of energy that was her brother shot through the door and launched itself at her.
'Sarah!' he yelled, almost knocking her off the stool.
'Ooof! You're getting too big for this! How've you been?'
'Fine!' He wriggled into a comfortable position on her lap. He gazed up at her, blonde hair tumbling into his eyes. His eyes. It had happened so gradually that no one had even noticed at first, but eventually Karen had. When they had taken Toby to the doctor he had told them that while it was very rare for a child's eyes to change colour so late in his development, it wasn't unheard of. And so the change had continued – but what was even stranger was the fact that each eye had become a different colour. As Sarah looked down at him now, she gasped slightly. It was always a shock to see those eyes staring back at her, so innocently, like a constant reminder. One was a shifting blue-grey, the other hazel flecked with green and gold.
'What's that?' He had spotted the package on the bar.
'Your present,' Sarah replied, lowering her voice mysteriously. Toby's eyes widened.
'Can I see it?' he whispered breathlessly.
'Not until Sunday. It's bad luck to see a present before it's due.'
Toby nodded solemnly. If that was what Sarah said, then it must be true.
'Don't I get a hug, too?' A voice asked from the doorway.
'Hi, Dad,' Sarah extricated herself from Toby as her father walked toward her.
'It's nice to have you back,' he said, embracing her. 'How's-' he started and then noticed, over Sarah's head, that Karen was shaking her head frantically and mouthing 'No!'
'How's, um, work?' he concluded.
Sarah laughed. 'It's fine, Dad. Thanks.' She gave Karen a grateful look, guessing what had happened.
'Well,' her father rubbed his hands together. 'The Williams family is all together again, I think that the celebrations should start here!'
Sarah gazed happily at her family. Karen was quizzing Toby about the ice-cream stains on his shirt, while Sarah's father had slipped his arm around her shoulder.
'It's really good to have you home, sweetheart,' he whispered.
To be continued...