Oh come on, you know the drill
I don't own it,
I don't get paid…
I don't get la…..
This is based on the Picture
(From the A.C. Smith Novel)
Hoggle popped up from behind the bed. "Yes, if you ever need us... for any reason at all ..." He stared at her from under his bushyeyebrows, and started to fade.
"Hoggle," Sarah said, "I need you. I need you all."
"Sometimes," the Wise Man observed, "to need is ... to let go."
"Oh, wow!" said his hat. "And that's just for starters."
Outside the dark window, the white owl had been perched with his claws hooked on a branch, an effigy of watching and waiting. Now he swooped away over the park, on silent velvet wings, up toward thefull moon. Nobody saw him, white in the moonlight, black against the stars.
The storm had passed, and it had left the air clean and clear. The moon was full and bright, and had the girl in the room looked out her window she'd have seen the shadow pass over the brightness. Instead she celebrated her victory with those who had helped her win back the baby brother that she now treasured. When the unusual guests from the magical realm had vanished, Sarah changed and crawled into her bed… thinking her life was now back on track….
That had been nearly nine months ago, give or take. It was May first, and Sarah was celebrating May Day with a couple of her girl friends. This was something new in Sarah's life, having girl friends and going out with them. After her journey through the Labyrinth she found she really needed the company of others. Perhaps it was because she had been so dependent on the company of Sir Didymus and Hoggle during that journey. Whatever it was, she was now included in a tight circle of friends. The two she was spending the most time with were Peggy Anderson and MarySue Stevens. They had suggested going to the Fantasy Malt Shop after school, and it was they who had picked the table to be seated at in the center of the fancy old-fashioned ice-cream parlor.
Peggy Anderson had known Sarah since kindergarten. They had been friends off and on ever since. Peggy had been one of the most forgiving of Sarah's temperament and her petulance after her mother had walked out on the family. She had also been the most magnanimous and sympathetically tolerant of Sarah's jealousy over her baby brother. Peggy was waiting for Sarah at the lockers at the end of the school day, and gave her a disparaging expression. "Sarah, you could have worn a skirt!" She motioned to her own cotton dress and spunky little pumps. "You look like… you're expecting to go on a hike." Her redheaded tempter showed slightly. "Honestly Sarah."
MarySue was new to the school that year, having moved into the school distinct only just before the school year had begun. She was not nearly as keen on Sarah as the others in the circle of friends were. She found the girl with the long thick dark hair to be difficult to read, and a bit moody. She too was dressed in a flirty little dress with a sweetheart scooped neckline that showed off her feminine assets to their best advantage. Her pretty face pouted as she looked at the dark haired girl dressed in a pair of tan Dockers, and a dark knit top. She looked disparagingly at the pair of loafers on Sarah's feet, then at her own stylish little pumps. "Sarah," she groaned. "Did you forget you were supposed to dress?"
Sarah shrugged, "I'm dressed."
Before MarySue could begin a tirade, Peggy intervened. "Sarah today is May-Day! It's Girls Day at Fantasy…. And we all agreed to dress up, remember?"
Embarrassed because she had forgotten, Sarah blushed. "Actually, no… I forgot…" She saw the shadow of exasperation cross MarySue's face and pulled back toward her locker. "Maybe you should go on without me." She suggested feeling rather unwanted.
"No," Peggy stated firmly before MarySue said something that could not be taken back. "You're fine," she hooked her arm into Sarah's. "Let's go."
Sulking visibly MarySue followed them out of the school, feeling mortified self-conscious and uncomfortable. She was not nearly as forgiving as Peggy when it came to Sarah. She was exasperated with the girl's lack of preparation. They had been planning this outing for weeks, ever since the Malt Shop had announced its Girl's day promotional. Every girl was to get a free ice-cream, and it was the perfect place to be seen by the young stud-muffins who were going to be milling about the popular teen spot. MarySue had taken care to dress appropriately, and to style her long blonde hair in a pretty fashion. She was even wearing a touch of makeup, and a dash of cologne. She felt like Sarah was out of place…and worse, that she was garish, common, and vulgar. Not even Peggy could make MarySue feel guilty about her feelings toward Sarah Williams. She had very nearly jumped at the chance to exclude the other girl from the outing, and was sulking now as they walked down the street from the High School toward the new malt shop at the edge of the park in the center of town.
Sarah, embarrassed and self-conscious, walked with the two girls silently berating herself. This was not the first time she'd forgotten something of importance to the girls in her circle. It was not the first time she'd found herself dressed in something that was either out of fashion, or completely inappropriate. It was likely not to be the last time either. For the past three weeks it had been as if something were picking at the back of her mind. She found herself changing lifelong habits, and routines not on a whim… but on a compulsion of urgency that she could not explain. Things that had been familiar to her all her life, the park, the shops, her own neighborhood suddenly felt unfamiliar and foreign. Including her own bedroom.
She had found herself uncomfortable and ill at ease just recently in the bedroom she'd grown up in. Things felt out of place and tampered with, and yet not one thing was missing or mislaid. She thought that perhaps Karen or the cleaning woman had come in, but had been informed upon questioning it was not the case. Then there was the mirror on her vanity table where she'd kept pictures of her mother's successes…She could not pass the mirror without feeling as if she were being watched. The sense of being observed was so strong she'd taken to changing in her bathroom instead of her bedroom when it came time to disrobe or even dress for school.
Even though the weather had warmed and leaves were now appearing on trees all over town, Sarah found herself wanting to cover up instead of putting on pretty spring dresses or skirts. The last thing she wanted was to attract attention. She'd have dragged her shoes if she thought she could get away with it. There was a long stream of female traffic hiking their way from the School down to the Malt Shop. Along the route was every popular and even unpopular guy in the school. All of the boys were craning their necks to get a look at the parade of females showing off their femininity on the chance of being asked to the Spring Fling.
Sarah followed both Peggy and MarySue, feeling like a gawky backwoods cousin, into the ice cream parlor. She tried not to notice the décor, or the clientele without success. It was impossible to miss the pretty white and peach décor. It was impossible to miss the white legged tables with crystal clear glass tops, and white chairs with peach cushions. Even more impossible to miss was the crystal chandelier that hung in the center of the room; sparkling lavishly down on the room. Sarah felt a knot tying itself in the place where her stomach had been. She looked around at the arrangement of tables, and got a sinking feeling.
"Oh look!" Gushed MarySue excitedly. "The special today is fresh homemade Charlotte Ruse Ice Cream!"
"Sounds great," Peggy chimed in.
"Fine," Sarah replied looking about the room that was filling quickly. "What is that?"
MarySue gave her a wilting look of exasperation. "Peach ice-cream," she muttered as if she were about to lose her temper.
"I'll have a coke," Sarah changed her mind swiftly.
"Sarah," Peggy too was now frustrated with her long time friend. "The ice cream is free… remember?"
"I don't like peaches," Sarah said quickly, still craning about.
"Since when?" Challenged Peggy.
The spiffy little sports car pulled up to the curb and then into the lot beside the Malt Shop. British racing green, sleek and dangerous, its engine roared like a caged tiger. The driver parked with ease and alighted smoothly in one fluid motion. His form fitting black denim slacks shoved into the black boots, his black shirt with its carelessly open collar under the black leather jacket that looked as if he were stepping off the front page of Rolling Stone. On his face, Aviators sunglasses covered his eyes. Pausing at the newspaper dispensary box that was in front of the shop, he slipped some coins into the slot before he removed the local paper. With paper in hand he moved into the shop with the kind of confidence years of living had taught him. He didn't remove the glasses, nor did his pause to straighten his windblown hair. Instead he moved toward a seat at an open table beside the wall. A playful smirk crept into the corner of his lips as he passed the table in the center of the shop where the three girls sat.
MarySue watched the man as he passed by, her attention drawn by the reaction Sarah had to the manly figure passing by. It was good to know that Sarah was not oblivious to the male population. MarySue had to admit this man was an attention getter. A real hottie, and it was surprisingly pleasant to her that he even affected good old Sarah. The pink tip of her tongue moved over her lips as she watched the gentle gait of the sexual animal that had passed by.
The man took his seat, his back to the table of hormonal teenage girls. The empty dishes showing they had finished their tasty treat. He was completely at ease as he flicked open his paper and began to read. The waiter came by and took his order, leaving the man to read.
Sarah's head had spun so that she was staring at the man over her right shoulder. Her right hand had come up to her chin as she glared. Her left hand crushed the knocked over empty soda can. The fine tiny hairs on the back of her neck began to rise. Her nostrils flared slightly as she sniffed the air for the tell tale scent, but it was not to be found. She grimaced, as the knot in her middle became a rock hard substance. No two men in the entire universe could be so identical. But too much was missing, and she was stumped. The man read his paper, sipped the Ruse frappe that he'd ordered and appeared to be totally unaware of her. Still, the raised hairs on her neck would not go down.
MarySue saw Sarah's reactions as over the top, and gave her a stern look. Peggy cocked her head to one side, and called softly to her distracted friend; "Sarah?"
Sarah turned to look back at Peggy, but whipped her head back over her shoulder expecting to see the man standing with hands on hips, smirking at her. He was still reading his paper oblivious to her trauma. MarySue had reached for and was trying to pry the crumpled can from Sarah's fingers. The can crunched more as it collapsed under the pressure of Sarah's fingers. Peggy was now leaning trying to engage Sarah.
"Stop staring, you goof," growled MarySue under her breath. "You're acting like you've never seen a man before."
Sarah looked at her friends; speechlessly she sat as she began to tremble. It was as if she could feel and hear the blood coursing through her veins. Nervously she stood up and announced she needed air. The room seemed to close in on her and she panicked as she dashed out of the fancy ice cream parlor.
The man in the black leather jacket smiled cryptically as he turned his face slightly. The table emptied, and the other two girls had followed the dark haired one out to the street. Lazily he sipped the last of the Ruse Frappe. He paid his tab and tossed the paper carelessly to the table top. Standing up and stretching, he then moved to the exit.
Sarah clung to the tree outside the shop, aware she was making a spectacle of herself, but not caring. The only thing she knew was she was having trouble breathing. She vaguely recalled Peggy's panicked voice asking her if she were going to be ill. She also thought she heard MarySue make some remark or other. Just as she was about to get her panic under control, the man exited the shop. He walked past the group without so much as a side wards glance as he moved toward the parking lot. Sarah watched him with terror registering in her eyes, blind to anything or anyone else.
"Sarah," Peggy snapped, "Sarah say something, are you going to be ill?"
"No," she stammered at last. "No." She saw the green imported sports car pull out of the lot, and she nearly collapsed. Moments later she wished she had collapsed, for all she felt was empty.
He drove the sporty little British import to the edge of the park and down into the lane that was reserved for parking. One he'd parked in the shade of an overgrown evergreen, he turned off the engine and stretched his arms out. This outing was far more successful than he could ever have imagined it would be. The girl was not so smug about her victory now. She was not so eager to celebrate. Right about now, he imagined she was questioning her sanity. He drank in the sweetness of his revenge. He'd teach that dark haired little minx a thing or two about who had and who didn't have power before he was done with her.
MarySue returned to where Sarah was with a paper cup full of water, "Drink this slowly," she commanded.
Accepting the cup and sipping Sarah thanked her recent friend, once she'd drained the cup she looked at both her friends apologetically. "I'm sorry… I don't know what came over me."
"Don't worry about," Peggy said kindly. "Happens all the time, at least that's what they said in health class." She linked arms with Sarah once she was ready to leave. "I'll bet you've got PMS…or something like that… You should talk to your doctor about this."
Sarah fought the urge to correct her, PMS indeed. Raging inside, she felt stalked. She also felt betrayed by her own body. She felt that the hair on her neck was her only warning. Her nose should have sensed that spicy fragrance that had accompanied the King's visit all those months ago. Why it had been absent was beyond her. Nothing could shake her fear, she was being stalked.
At the edge of the park MarySue halted, "I have to go to the library," she said flatly. "I've got to pick up a book that I had to special order for the report I'm doing for English class. I'll see you at School on Monday."
Peggy appeared to have recalled something important. "Hang on, I'll go with you." She looked at Sarah. "Are you feeling well enough to walk home?"
"Yeah, sure," Sarah said feeling unwanted as she'd not been invited to the library.
The red haired girl sighed, "Good, I'll talk to you tomorrow… hopefully someone saw you before the panic attack."
"Saw me," Sarah questioned. "Why?"
MarySue rolled her eyes, "The Spring Fling is in two weeks; don't you want to be asked?"
Sarah knew the Spring Fling was the counter dance for those who would not for any reason be attending prom. It was less formal, and just fun. However the last thing the girl with green eyes wanted to think about right now was a dance. She eyed the path through the park with misgivings. Not sure she could trust her own senses, and sure she didn't want to take anything for granted or at face value. She schooled her features and bid her friends goodbye. "I'll talk to you tomorrow," she told Peggy gingerly. She waved at MarySue who looked like all she wanted was to escape Sarah's presences. Once she was on her own, she faced the park as she faced so many other dangers, bull-headedly.
Though the air was warm, she felt a chill go through her. She hugged her arms in an effort to stave off the cold that threatened to penetrate her to her core. Her eyes swept one direction, and then the other. Her feet took slow but sure steps as she moved through the oddly deserted park. She made it past the grove of trees, into the glade with its grassy knolls. Sarah was not sure, but she thought she'd seen shadows moving. Steadfastly she moved toward the footbridge. Unhurriedly she crossed over and whispered to herself as she did, "Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered," as if it were a mantra. One more grove of trees and she'd be out of the park. She had made it past the obelisks, past the pond, the bridge and even past the swans. The shadows could dance and make themselves a nuance for all she cared; she was nearly out of the park.
His head was resting on the back of his seat, and he wore a smile. He didn't need the crystal orbs to know she was coming. He could sense her; hear her breathing, and her heartbeat. Her perfume floated on the air, becoming stronger as she approached the place where his vehicle as concealed out of sight. His lips curved into a smile. Not a pleasant smile, not a friendly smile but one that said… 'Gotcha'. He took a deep breath as he waited.
Sarah counted the paces, there was only a few yards left and she'd be out of the dreaded park. She'd made it a practice not to come into the park anymore. Not alone, not with someone. She simply stayed out of the park altogether. She wouldn't have bothered coming through her if it had not been for Peggy and MarySue more or less herding her toward this path. But none of that mattered, not now. There was only a few yards left and she'd be free. She was very nearly at the end of the grove; the edge of the park was within sight. She was tempted to run the rest of the way, but chided herself for being foolish. Nothing was going to force her to behave like a scaredy-cat! Not nothing, not nobody; she promised herself.
In the rearview mirror he could see her shape as she moved past the hedges and grove that hid his sporty little import from view. Gracefully he reached forward, in a fluid motion, unhurriedly. His fingers connected with the knob and he turned it purposefully….
Inches from reaching the end of the path, Sarah froze in her traks as a voice and music reached her ears….
No one can blame you for walking away
But too much rejection, uh huh...
No love injection
Life can be easy
It's not always swell
Don't tell me truth hurts, little girl
'cause it hurts like hell
But down in the underground
You'll find someone true
Down in the Underground
A land serene, a crystal moon
It's only forever
Not long at all
Lost and Lonely
That's underground, underground
He turned, looked over his shoulder at the girl who seemed to be suspended in space and time. He alighted from the car without opening the door, and silently crept toward her. The music played in the back ground floating on the air. A soft breeze kicked up, making his long silky strands of hair dance in an erotic manner. Moving seamlessly he soon stood behind her, the girl, the champion, the victor of the first part of his little game. Bending close he whispered in her ear. "It's farther than you think."