There's a dream that she has, where she's falling. She's wrapped in white silk and feathers, ribbons caught around her throat, and she's falling down, down, down but the floor never comes. And no matter how much she struggles or tries to reach for something to grab hold of, there's never anything at all, and her limbs become tangled in cloth and tied with ribbons.
And then she's watching herself fall, fall, fall from somewhere outside of herself and everything is white and cold and there are stars falling around her.
Sarah catches a star and it burns crimson, trapped between her fingers.
In the morning after the dream, she takes up charcoal—black and white—and draws, slashing almost violently across gray paper. The lines curve and twist and there's emotion in every single one, a frantic feeling, as if she doesn't get them onto the paper they're just going to disappear into thin air.
Her fingers are covered in black charcoal, dust catching in the whorls of her fingers and palm so that they'll stay until she can scrub at her skin. It's under her nails and slicked down the sides of her fingers, and when she reaches up to brush at the hair that's falling into her eyes it smudges over her cheekbone and nose.
She draws in white first, sketching the outlines hastily, drawing the folds of cloth and the smooth lines of the ribbons that stream upwards. There's a feather here and there, drawn so faintly at the moment that she herself can barely see them, but she knows that they are there. She draws the curve of a cheek and the rounded shell of an ear, and there's a feather falling right beside it, and when she reaches up to push hair behind her own ear she swears that she feels the soft brush of a feather for a moment—only a moment—and she jerks her hand away and shakes it a little bit, laughs to herself at her foolishness—of course there wasn't really a feather there!--and goes back to her drawing.
The black charcoal pencil is used next, drawing over the white lines, falling into the folds of the clothing, smoothing over skin and hair and cloth in long sweeping strokes, but the lines are too small and tidy, and so she picks up a stick of charcoal that shows ink black on the paper and she sweeps it over gray and white and black, and dust falls to her knees and onto the floor, where it smudges on her bare feet like she's just walked through the remains of a fire.
And then white falls onto the paper, and she grinds it in here and there, like little sparks of light, all a glitter, almost glowing. Her fingers smooth along black and white, pulling tones into one another almost carelessly, and her fingers turn black, black, black with dust until she can't see her own skin anymore, but it doesn't matter, not now, because she's drawing a dream onto paper.
At last, she picks up a small bit of red pigment and drags it across the page, across the curve of a jawbone, over the highlights of wild, wind swept hair, and then it's done and the dream is complete.
Sarah looks at the paper, at the picture, at the dream, and she knows that it's not her that she's drawn.
She washes her hands in the sink, splattering liquid drops of charcoal onto white porcelain. Her skin is scrubbed until most of the black is gone, but it's still caught there, defining little scars on the tips of her fingers from papers cuts and one from a knife when she'd unknowingly held it upside down, and one little scar that sometimes glitters under moonlight, which was put there by a little fairy once upon a time.
Sarah looks up into the glass and sees herself under the harsh lights of the bathroom, looks at smooth planes of skin and inky hair and wide eyes, at the smudges of charcoal that line her cheekbone, and then she looks beyond the image of herself reflected in the glass, as though she's trying to see something else, something that's not behind her but that she desperately wants to be there.
"Jareth?" she almost says. "Jareth?"
There's no answer to her silent call, not today. There wasn't an answer yesterday, or the day before. She calls and calls, but only in her mind, and he's never there.
She wonders if it's because he's forgetting or she's no longer believing, or maybe it's because she's trying to let go and keep her dreams on paper and out of reality.
Or maybe it's just that mirrors won't show her what she wants to see anymore.
There's a park, just down the street from her apartment, where she goes every day after work. It's the last gasp of wilderness caught between cement buildings and fluorescent lights, and it reminds her of the parks from her childhood. There's even a footbridge over a river that rushes more than the ones that she remembers, though this bridge is made of old wood and steel.
She walks the path around the park and comes to the bridge, which she expects to creak as she steps onto it, but it never does. The water rushes below her as she pauses, watching it as it runs forward and falls down, down, down all over itself, down to rocks and the river below. The spray of the waterfall hits her face, hangs on her eyelashes like little diamonds.
She looks down into the water, and in one little patch of calm she thinks she sees the face of a grotesque little creature. It smiles at her, showing ragged, rotting teeth, and it waves to her (she thinks), and then it's gone as the water catches it and pulls it away.
And two words get caught up into the drowning roar of the river, brushing past her ears so fast that she's not sure if she actually hears them at all.
She has tea down in a little cafe near the water's edge, where the freshwater from the river meets the salty water of the sound, where the oil from the boats shines on the surface and fish and jellies swim and float beneath.
They sit on an old bench on the boardwalk, Sarah and her friend, Sarah perched up on what should be considered a table of sorts, and she sips her tea in a tall disposable cup and looks down into the water, watching the long trail of little fish that flow out, out, out to the sea, out and away from her.
"Any new drawings?" asks her friend, and Sarah looks at her and smiles.
"Yeah," she says, watching steam rise from cups of tea. "A few. I don't think I'll be trying to sell them, though."
"Really? Why not?"
Sarah shrugs. "They're just scribblings. Nothing fancy." But not nothing, she thinks, and sips at her tea, tasting jasmine on her tongue. Then she looks back out to the water, watching a seal slip below the surface and back up, it's dark head bobbing around. And then she looks at it again and sees that it's not a seal, that the head is too large and long, and it snorts at her, almost laughingly, and then it dips under the water and she thinks she sees a gleaming hoof, but only for a second.
There's another dream that night, with the rushing sea all around her, and she's wading through the water. It pulls at her feet, and she walks and walks until her skin no longer feels cold water but cool mud, and she steps up onto ground, but it's not solid ground. It sucks at her feet, pulling them down, down, down with each step, and her heart starts thumping in her chest like crazy. She stumbles a bit, all caught in the mud, and she reaches out, her hand sliding down into the muck.
She pulls it out. Pulls her feet up. They sink further as she sets them back down. There's no way to go back, or forward, or any other way.
Her heart's all frozen up with fear, and then she looks down and realizes that her heart's not even there, that her chest is open and she can't see her heart at all. The space between her ribs and spine is empty, empty, empty.
There's the sound of a gentle, steady thumping, and she looks up to see herself standing there, holding a bloody heart in her hand. Just...standing there, looking at her.
She holds out a hand, holds out a mud coated hand, and tries to say help me, but there's pride in her, all stuffed where her heart should have been, and the other just stands there holding the heart, and then the water rushes in around her and beside her and over her, and then it fills up her mouth and her lungs, and the other her just stands there until she can't see her for the water.
The dream doesn't get drawn. She wakes up, half expecting to be soaking, but she's not. Her heart's thumping in her own chest, and she's alive, not drowning.
She goes to the bathroom, to the mirror, looks into it. For a moment, she thinks she sees a feather caught in her hair, but she brushes at it and it was never there to begin with.
The mirror glitters, the light reflecting off of it, and it catching in her hair and her eyes, and the skin under those eyes looks red and horrible under the harsh lights. And then she closed her eyes, dips her head for a moment, and then she looks up into the mirror again and opens her mouth, and tries to speak.
The words get all caught up in her throat, like it's filled with cotton, and all she manages is a squeak, but she clears her throat and tries again, again, again, but her words won't come out.
"Why?" she finally says, and leaves the bathroom.
She's eating breakfast in the early hours of the morning, sipping at orange juice, when something falls off the top of her refrigerator, a bowl that she kept bananas in, and it shatters on the ground, sending shards of glass everywhere.
Sarah swears, then looks up at where the bowl used to be, and sees a sheepishly grinning face, a little rat-like face all covered in hair with a little cap of dirty red fabric.
"Sorry, Lady," it says, and then it's gone.
She stares at where it had been, eyes wide. She'd heard it. She'd heard it, not just thought that she'd heard it.
The broom is in the corner and she picks it up, sweeping at the fragments of glass. And then she sees one piece, no larger than her thumbnail, and she reaches down and picks it up. It rests in the palm of her hand, a perfect little sphere.
She thinks she sees feathers falling inside.
She leaves a banana for the goblin, just in case.
She calls for him, calls for him that day. She calls, her words leaving her throat, rolling off her tongue.
He doesn't come.
Sarah throws the little crystal against the wall. It cracks and splits into two halves. In disgust, she picks them up and drops them into the trash and doesn't look at them again.
Her drawing that day is almost all black, with only the harsh line of a jaw and cheek, and one gleaming eye. She stares at it, angrily, at the portion of a face that she can't possibly forget.
"Make up your damn mind," she snarls, then slashes at it with black dusted fingers until there's no picture at all.
She sleeps. She dreams.
There's dancing, and a fire, and she trips over her own feet as she walks forward, falling just a little bit. She's half on the ground, and then there's a black gloved hand outstretched towards her. She looks up and sees glittering eyes and hair that's red and gold in the firelight.
Her eyes narrow and she glares at the offered hand and then watches a tremor run through it, watches at it's slowly withdrawn.
And suddenly she's had it, completely had it, and she reaches out and grabs his hand and glares up at him.
"Idiot," she tells him. "This is my dream."
She dances with him. It's not a dance like their first dance; there are no elaborate dresses for her to wear, and he looks more like a wild creature from the forest instead of a courtly lover. There are braids in his hair, and white feathers, and he's still got black boots and breeches and a white shirt that's open halfway down his chest, but there's no richly embroidered cloth or velvet coat, and their dance isn't a waltz, it's a wild dance around and around and around the fire. He swings her out and she spins, her hair falling all around her, and little embers from the fire float around them like fireflies.
They dance until her feet hurt and her legs burn, but she's laughing, laughing, laughing, and spinning and twirling, and she falls against him, and his arms tentatively touch her shoulders. One of her hands touches his chest and she feels something wet and warm and her eyes open in alarm, the laughter dying on her lips. She pulls back, away from him, and looks down at a hand that's covered in red, red, red blood. She looks up at him, into his gleaming eyes, at the firelight that highlights his face, and then back down at her hand.
A heart rests in her hand, beating, beating, beating against her fingers.
"Oh," she says. "Oh, you idiot. You complete idiot."
And the dream slides away.
She's out at the beach, at one of the rocky beaches that's further up the sound, where there are no houses around, no people. There are trees and stones and the gentle rush of water on the shore. Her pants are rolled up around her knees as she walks through the water, feeling the slight sting of salt, nimbly avoiding the jellies caught in the seaweed.
It's a misty, damp morning, and it's a bit cold to be in the water at all, but she doesn't mind it, doesn't mind the press of stones against her toes or the chill on her skin. Ribbons of mist twist around her, like white ribbons from a dream, and she feels one wind around her throat before pulling away, leaving her skin cold.
There's the sound of hoof beats on stones and she sees the ghostly shape of a white horse in the mist. She smiles at it and then her eyes slide to a seal skin that sits on a piece of driftwood and a pale woman with large black eyes who rests beside it. There are two goblins piling stones on her right, and she thinks she sees a flash of red fur and a wild yell that reminds her of an insane dance in the forest so long ago.
She walks forward. The mist swallows everything behind her.
There's something before her, something half defined in the mist. She already knows what it is, knows it even as he steps forward, the whiteness around them falling away from him like a sheet. He is clothed in black, like a nightmare, but he's not. He's never been a nightmare. He's only a dream, sometimes a sad one, sometimes a terrifying one, and sometimes something else completely. But he's never been a nightmare.
He stops before her, looking at her, and she's seeing him for real for the first time in years and years and years, and her heart jumps up into her throat, but there's a second heartbeat below her breast, and she thinks: 'Oh, he's an idiot. Such an idiot.'
"You came," she says, and he looks at her and there's a weariness on his face like the last time she really truly saw him, and suddenly she's angry, because he's not supposed to be like this, and he's supposed to have come when she called him the first time, not wait and wait and wait and send her all those little dreams (did he really send them?), and he was never supposed to give her his heart, not so easily when she had been so young and didn't understand it at all.
She steps forward and he trips forward, and when she catches him and he catches her, he's on his knees, so that she's taller than him and his hair brushes against her chin. She wraps her arms around his shoulders, pulling him tight to her, and his arms come up and close around her back and his leather covered hands clutch at the fabric of her shirt, and she falls against him, and he holds fast to her, like she's a dream that will just slip away from him as two hearts beat between them.
"Idiot," she says to him, again, and she smiles against his hair as he laughs.