"Sometimes the way forward, is the way back."
Sarah sat up in her bed, dripping in sweat from the nightmare. Once a month, like clockwork she had it. They started one month to the day that she'd beaten the Labyrinth. It was always the same. She took a bite of the peach, that damn peach that Hoggle had given her. She was then in that Crystal Ballroom, in that spun sugars dress. Looking, searching, and not finding. Where was he, where could he be, he's not here? He's not here! All those others are here, where is Jareth? Suddenly the decadent ladies and the corrupt men surround her. They taunt her, laugh at her, and tear at her like vultures. And it always ends with her screaming out for Jareth.
Sarah placed her head in her hands, "God, is this your revenge? You plan to drive me mad?" she would whimper.
In a dark throne room, in a crystal held in a gloved hand the dream and dreamer were being observed. "Not mad darling, but you will never be free." The crystal was tossed in the air, and shattered like a bubble as the man laughed.
Thornhill University Sarah had been ecstatic when she'd gotten the acceptance letter from Thornhill. It was one of the finest Universities in the east. It's history and literature departments, and they had everything she needed to finish her degree in myths, legend, and folklore. The only thing that bothered her was she didn't even recall applying. But then Sarah had put applications in to so many schools, as she was finishing up her masters, that she had forgotten the names of half of them. Thornhill would have been her first choice. It was close to home, less than a forty-minuet drive. So she didn't have to move away or rent.
Karen looked at the list of books that Sarah was going to need. "Some of these seem a bit pricey, Sarah." Her stepmother warned.
"I know." She sighed. "I've got a line on some at a used book store, and that brought the cost way down. But this one." She pointed to a very expensive book on the list. "I can only get it at Thornhill, at the book store on campus." Sarah was glad she and Karen had made peace over the years. It was making life easier for both of them. She helped set the table for dinner. "My mother sent me some money for some of the books, so I don't have to ask Dad."
Karen frowned. "It's the least she could do." Then she sighed. "I'm sorry, Sarah, I know she's your mother and you love her."
Sarah patted the other woman's arm. "I know Karen, I know. She's Linda."
Robert, Sarah's dad, and her brother Toby came in from a game of ball. Toby was still covered in dust and grime. One look from his mother sent the boy running to the bathroom to wash up. Robert laughed. "You've got that one trained."
Sarah smiled Toby now aged seven was a very normal little boy. He played ball, belonged to the cub scouts, and was a get into everything little kid. He showed no signs of remembering the time in the arms of the Goblin King. She followed him to the wash room and reminded him to scrub under his nails with the nailbrush. He looked up at her with adoring eyes.
During dinner Sarah told her father she was going to make a run over to the bookstore at the university. They were open late that night only, and she wanted to make sure the copy of the book she'd reserved was safely in her keeping. Toby frowned knowing that he'd be stuck with one of his parents giving him his bed time story tonight.
As soon as dinner had ended, Sarah helped clear the dishes and then got into her car and drove off.
The campus was fairly quiet, considering that the year was only days from starting. There were only a few students milling about. She entered the campus bookstore and found a clerk. "Hi, I'm Sarah Williams. I have a few books reserved, and I'd like to pick them up." She watched as the clerk went round the corner to the back area to look for her books. All the while Sarah had the strangest feeling of being watched. She looked round, but could not see anyone in the little store. Yet the feeling could not be shaken.
"I'm sorry Ms. Williams. I don't have any books in the back with your name on them." The clerk said huffily.
Sarah took out her receipt. "I ordered them over a week, and paid for them. I was told they would be in tonight."
The clerk looked at her receipt with disdain. "Let me check our records. I'm sure we don't have an order for you." The woman with the attitude went to her files. "Nothing, nothing,…opps." She got red in the face. "Oh dear. I think I just gave your things to Professor King." She picked up the phone. "Let me see if I can catch him on the cell phone." She dialed and waited. "Oh yes, Professor, it's Miss Stone, at the bookstore. Yes, sir, it seems I gave you some books with your
order that belong to a student. Yes, sir, she's here now. You what…Oh, yes sir." She handed the phone to Sarah. "He want's to speak to you." The clerk looked very put out.
"Hello." Sarah spoke tentatively into the phone.
"I am so dreadfully sorry about this mix up." A crisp English accented voice said in return. "I am already running late, and I'm on the highway as we speak." She heard traffic sounds. "See here, it's clear you're going to be taking my class. I'll hand the books over to you on the first day, will that be alright?"
"Yes, sir, I suppose so." She sighed, disappointed, she'd wanted to look over some of the material before hand.
"I'm dreadfully sorry, young lady. I should have paid more attention when the bundle was handed over to me. I promise to take good care of your books, miss… miss.."
"Williams sir, I'm Sarah Williams."
"I look forward to meeting you in Class, Miss Williams. Goodbye."
Sarah looked at the phone, and handed it back to the clerk. "Thank you."
The clerk sniffed and took the phone back. "Oh Miss Williams." She said in a haughty voice. "A word of warning. Don't go getting any silly schoolgirl crush on the Professor. He's spoken for."
"I'll keep that in mind." Sarah rolled her eyes as she departed the store. The idea, her having a crush…why the last crush she had was on…Sarah paused in the parking lot. The last real crush she had was on a man that was worlds away from her. A Goblin King.
With only days to prepare for the up coming classes, Sarah gave her class schedule over to her employer at the little used bookstore she worked in. Mr. Emrys was always happy to accommodate her over the past five years. She'd gone to work for him when she was a senior in high school. She loved the smell of the bookstore. He'd offered to see to purchasing as many of her books over the last few years, as he could. He was thrilled that she thought of the store as a private library. Finding her there even after hours doing a bit of research.
Emrys' Emporium of Used Books and Tomes' was a great place to work. Mr. Emrys had one rule, she had to be dressed like a lady. That meant giving up wearing her favorite jeans. Sarah had not gone the route that some of her friends going to collage had gone. She had opted for going to a local collage living at home and doing accelerated courses. So now, at twenty-one going on twenty-two, she had earned just about earned her masters. Some of her school friends had teased her about being a bookworm. And other's teased about not wanting to date.
Sarah looked at herself in the mirror. She was not hard to look at, she knew that much. She had a face that was easy on the eyes, and now with the teen years past she'd turned to comely young woman. Eyes the color of emeralds surrounded by golden bands inner and outer. A full, generous
mouth, good cheek bones, and full dark hair. She wore it shorter now than she had when she was a teen, but it still reached to her shoulders. Thanks to her mother's stage work, she had a sense of style. Thanks to Karen she knew how to make it work for her. She'd learned to sew and to make do. Karen had taught her how to stretch the few dollars she had to her name. She had built a decent wardrobe, thanks to learning how to buy at thrift stores and vintage shops.
She felt as nervous as she had the first day she went to collage. This was different, in a short time she'd be finishing her education. She felt butterflies, and wanted to cry. Shaking herself she looked back in the vanity mirror. The outfit she'd chosen for the first day was meant to make an impression, a good impression. The cream colored blouse over the tweed skirt looked most appropriate to her age. She wore little jewelry, and little makeup. Her shoes were a pair she was fond of and easy to walk in. She came down the stairs and heard Toby arguing with Karen about school clothes, something's never changed. Sarah smiled.
Her father poured her a cup of coffee as he poured one for himself. "Well you look nice." He said, not really paying attention to her attire.
"Thanks Dad." She sipped the coffee. "Want some toast or something?"
"No." he turned back to his paper.
Sarah looked up as Karen entered the kitchen with Toby. "Sarah, dear, could you drop his nibs here off? I have to run the opposite direction this morning."
The young woman smiled. "No, it's fine. His school is on the way to mine." She looked at him, "Get your things squirt."
Toby fussed in the car on the way to school. "Why don't we ditch?"
"Because that's a dumb thing to do." Sarah said.
Toby looked at her, "I just have a bad feeling."
"Nerves on the first day back," she assured him. "We'll both be fine."
Toby pulled something out of he pocket. "Take this." He said in a voice older than his seven years. "That'll protect you."
Sarah had pulled in front of his school and held out her hand. He placed a few long feathers in it. "What's this?"
"Owl feathers!" Toby said as he opened the car door then leaned back in. "You said the Celts used them to protect maidens!"
Sarah smiled, it was the kind of smile that banished clouds, and was given to very few. "So I did, thanks Toby." She watched as the little boy with the white blond hair bounced off toward the
front door of his school She looked at the feathers, "That's so cute." She tucked one of the feathers into her hair and the rest down into her blouse pocket.
Thornhill had a parking lot for students, and though it was early in the day, it was already quite filled. Sarah found a space at the far end and grabbed up the case that carried books and supplies. She began the long trek through the lot. Halfway though she was nearly knocked down by a speeding car full of much younger students. One of who called her something unfaltering. She jumped out of the way, only to have the heel on one of her shoes break off. So, broken heeled she continued to walk though the lot. A security guard in his cart took pity on her.
"Hey Lady!" he called out, "Where are you going?"
Sarah pointed to a building on the far end of the campus. "Somerset Hall, I'm suppose to be in a class with Professor King," she looked at her watch. "And if my watch is right, it's starting now."
The guard laughed, "King hates to have students arrive late. Hop on, I'll get you over there. Hang on!" Moments later her rescuer dropped her off at the door of the building. "Down the first hall, and to the right. You can't miss it."
Sarah limped into the hall, and moved down its length. She could hear a voice at its end.
"I am Professor Garret King. I answer to Sir, or Professor. I am not your friend, your confidant or your counselor! I expect promptness…." He looked up as Sarah entered the door. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry I'm late, sir." She held up her broken shoe. "Accident in the parking lot."
The man was in his late thirties, early forties. Tall, lean but not frail, his was a muscular body that was disciplined and fit. He glowed with health, and was well dressed. His garments were cut to fit, and were expensive. His face was long, and delicate, with high cheekbones. Through smoky glasses he peered at her with stormy eyes. His mouth curved into a slight smile. "And you are?"
"Sorry, sir. I'm Sarah Williams." She stood with one foot in just a bare stocking, the other still wearing a shoe.
"Take a seat in front Williams." He ordered and returned to his dissertation. "I expect all assignments to be handed in on time. I don't accept excuses of 'my dog ate it' nor do want to hear. ' I didn't have the time.' This is an honors course. You are all supposed to be adults. I expect you to act as such. Take a good look around you now, not all the faces you see here will be here when we are done. Some of you will complete this course, some will not." He removed his jacket. "This first day, I just want to get to know you."
Sarah listened as students, younger than she was, introduced themselves. There were twenty students in the classroom, and her name was at the end of his list. He looked at her, "Well, Miss
Williams, tell us about yourself." He leaned back in his hair and hooked his hands behind his head.
Sarah stood, "I'm Sarah Williams, I work at a little used book store. My mother is Linda Williams, the actress. I have always had a deep and abiding love for stories, and folklore. That's why I started taking these classes. I hope to finish my papers on one lore I'm partial to."
The man in the front of the class felt the twitch of his lips. "Can you tell us why you are wearing feathers in your hair?"
A hand went up, to the owl feather that she'd forgotten was in her hair. "Oh, my younger brother gave them to me for protection. It's an old Celtic tradition. Owl feathers to protect a maiden's virtue."
The man looked mildly amused. "That is a very old tradition."
Sarah took her seat again. When the class finished she was gathering her belongs when the professor moved toward her. "Miss Williams, your books." He placed them on her desk.
Sarah suddenly shook, something about him made the hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up. "Thank you sir." She whispered.
King leaned on her desk. "The owl feathers was a very interesting touch, Miss Williams. I've a feeling that you are full of surprises."
Sarah swallowed hard, did he have to stare so intently.
"Do you have any other classes today?" When she shook her head, the man smiled. "Then allow me to call the security guards and have you ferried over to your car."
His eyes moved down her frame. "I don't relish the idea of you trying to walk to your car."
"Thank you." She sat down again, feeling the air being sucked from her lungs.
Moments later a guard came into the lecture hall and escorted her to her car.
Sarah drove home, and got a replacement pair of shoes, then drove to the bookstore. "Mr. Emrys! I'm here." She called out, to be heard over the classical music that Emrys insisted be played in his establishment.
Mr. Emrys popped his head out of his little office. "Sarah! My dear, how was your fist day of school… and why are you wearing feathers?" Emrys big blue eyes were wide and dancing. His slivery hair was a riot of almost curls, and he had elegance about him.
Sarah leaned on the check out desk, "Well, let's see, broke a shoe, was late for class, feel like an old fool… Oh and the feather's were Toby's idea."
Emrys snickered. "Tea, my child?" Sarah nodded. Emrys poured her a cup. "But how do you like the class?"
"I think it's going to be very informative. The professor is a real strict sort, some are going to think him tyrannical. But he laid it all on the line, first thing. It's funny, but he seemed familiar." She sipped her tea. "Oh this is heaven."
Emrys nodded, "Nothing like a good cup of tea to sooth the day." He pointed to a stack of invoices. "My child would you be a darling and put that in the computer? I hate that evil machine, and it knows it."
Sarah sat down at the desk and took over for the little man with the wide knowing eyes. When the invoicing was done, she started on returning inventory to shelves. While on the sliding ladder, Emrys asked her to watch things for about an hour while he made a postal run. Sarah continued to place tomes on the shelves, keeping an ear open for the bell on the door announcing someone's' entry to the shop.
She was near the top of the ladder when the doorbell rang out clear and clean. She war reaching to put a volume of Peeps Diary away, looked down and lost her footing. Strong arms captured her as she descended. She looked up and gasped. "Professor King!"
King gave her a quizzical smile, "Why Miss Williams, how nice to see you again." He didn't make a move to set her on her feet but held her in his arms and smiled at her.
She looked up at him, feeling like a lovesick schoolgirl. "Thank you for catching me." The meeting of eyes, seemed to last an overly long time. She cleared her throat, "I think you can set me on my feet now."
"Perhaps," he said in a teasing voice. "But then again, your feet seem to be working against you today."
She smiled at the mild tease. "Yes, they do seem to be against me." He set her down and she smoothed her skirt. "How may we help you today, sir?"
Casually he placed his hands in his pockets. "I've heard that this establishment has some very fine used books. I'm looking for a no longer published volume of myths."
Sarah led the way to the computer. "May I have the name of the book, I'll be able to tell you if we have a copy."
"Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell." He looked over her shoulder as she worked the keyboard.
"Yes, we have a copy. You're in luck!" she stood up and went back to the ladder. "Give me a moment." She placed a foot on the ladder and a hand on her arm halted her.
"You think that safe?"
"As long as I don't get distracted." She replied.
Stormy eyes pierced though her. "Why Miss Williams, do you find me distracting?"
Sarah blushed. "Oh definitely."
The hand on her arm eased, "Be careful, Miss Williams." He cautioned.
Sarah found the book she was looking for. "Here we are," she reached for the book and paused. "Excuse me Professor, would you mind shifting this ladder a tad to the right for me?" Slowly the ladder was moved. "Thank you, sir."
"Any thing for a lady." He commented, his eyes never leaving her. One moment he looked at the curve of her calf, and he smiled. He looked back up just before she became aware of his lustful gaze. "Here, allow me to give you a hand." He reached out and took hold of her elbow.
"Thank you, sir." Once she reached the landing, she handed the book over to the man. "Is this the volume?"
He leafed though the pages. "Yes. It's precisely what I was looking for. He has a retelling of the Hades story that has some interesting aspects to it."
Sarah looked at the book in his hands, but didn't really see the book. All she saw was how long and elegant the fingers on his hands were. Suddenly, but the heat she was feeling she could tell she was once more blushing. "Will that be all today, Professor?"
King handed the book back to her. "Yes, thank you Miss Williams." He followed her to the check out. "We'll be covering Hades and his abduction of Persephone, next week." He informed her as he was paying for the book.
"Oh, thanks for the heads up." She smiled sweetly. "Care to say how you intend to treat the story?"
"No, I'd rather surprise the whole class." He smiled back at her.
Mr. Emrys entered the shop, raised a brow. "Professor King, to what do I owe the pleasure of your being here?"
King raised the book he'd just purchased.
"mmm yes. Sarah, you'd best be on the road if you are to pick young Master Toby up at school." Emrys said like a doting uncle.
"Thank you, Mr. Emrys." She looked at the other man, "Enjoy your book Professor." She grabbed up her purse and walked out of the shop with both men watching her as she walked.
"Lovely." Emrys sighed.
"Taken." The glamour faded and Jareth appeared as he truly was. "Remember that old man. She is spoken for."
"Pity." The glamour faded and Emrys also appeared as he truly was. "She's really too good for you."
"Too good or too bad," Jareth smirked. "She's mine."
Sarah sat at her desk working on the reading list that had been given for one of her courses. Toby entered her room, and sat on her bed looking as if he'd lost his best friend. "What's wrong, squirt?"
He looked up at his sister, "Dad says no TV till my homework is done. But I can't do it alone….Sarah, can you help me?"
Sarah smiled at the towheaded boy, "Sure, go get your book and we'll work together."
From the yard, in a tree that had been there as long as the house, a lone owl watched the pair. The girl pulled a chair to her desk and went over the work with the boy. She would force him to do the work, not doing it for him. The owl watched eyes on the girl, eyes on the boy, almost proudly.
Karen came in and found the boy with Sarah. "I've been calling you, didn't you hear?"
Both heads turned her way, "No," Sarah said. "Ok, Toby. Go get ready for bed."
When the boy ran out Karen said softly, "How did he do?"
Sarah stretched, "Oh he's fine, he just wants someone else to do the hard work. But he'll get in the swing of things in a week or two. You know how it is, summer is over and he still wants to play."
Her stepmother sighed, "How was your first day?"
"Oh great, I broke a shoe, was late to class, and oh fell into my professors arms when he stopped in the bookstore to make a purchase." Sarah said sarcastically.
Karen giggled. "That must have made an impression."
Nodding Sarah stood up, "Gads I do miss Merlin." She looked at her stepmother. "I'm going to take a walk, clear my head before I try to go to sleep." She grabbed a sweater off the end of her bed.
"Don't be too late." Karen called after her as she went down the stairs.
Sarah stepped out the front door, slipped into the sweater and began to walk. How often she'd walked Merlin down this street over the years. Now the faithful old hound was gone. He'd lived a long time, and now she missed him. She found herself walking toward the park, somewhere she'd spent hours with Merlin. She knew it would be almost empty now, most of the sleepy little town was already safely tucked in. Her feet crossed the footbridge she's crossed numerous times when re-enacting a scene from one of her books or a play her mother had sent to her. The waters beneath the bridge were quiet and tranquil. Into the glen of the park she wandered. Looking at the knolls, and the pathway. She found herself drawn to a concrete bench, with ornate designs of a swan for the pedestal of the bench. Sarah wondered how many times she'd come here, to this very spot. The bridge, the stream, the knolls, all called to her sweetly. She looked at the obelisk that rose out of the path. She rose to her feet, no longer in the modern dress, but in her mind she was wearing a long flowing gown of old. "Give me the child." She said, in a voice that was full of passion, not the pitiful request she'd made six years ago. Today there was a strength that had not been present six years ago. She began to move toward the obelisk and keep her eyes focused on it's pointed top. "Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great." A sudden wind rose up, and whipped at Sarah's skirt. She held her head high, and took a deep breath. "You have no power over me!" She swallowed hard, "Do you hear me, Jareth! Where ever you are? You have no power over me! Now stop sending me those dreams!"
Silently the owl watched the girl from a hidden place in the trees of the park. He watched as she declared her independence, and knew it was bravado.
Sarah faltered, took a step back pulling the sweater closer. "Please, Jareth. Let me get on with life already." She turned and walked back out of the park the way she'd come.
No sooner was she gone from the glen, a tall lean figure in a dark cloak appeared before the obelisk. He leaned on it with ease, "Oh Sarah, don't you know with out me, you have no life." He sighed. "So, request denied." He looked up at the full moon. "Besides, my love, tonight is our night. So go home, Sarah. Get out of your mundane garments, crawl into your lonely bed, and dream… I await you, my darling girl."