I wrote this for MY eighteenth birthday, which is today. Please send me reviews as presents?
Sarah sat in her room, staring down at the open pages of the book she'd been given earlier but not taking in a single word.
He would come today. She knew he would.
It was 11:45, though. She had waited for him all day long, but he hadn't come. In the three years since she had run the labyrinth she had seen him often, and although at first she had feared and avoided him, with time an honest friendship had grown between them. Now she no longer even feigned annoyance and irritation at his visits, but looked forward to them. She still wasn't sure why he came, but come he did, and she was glad for it. She just wished that she could predict when he would come, because there was no pattern.
He would surely come today, though. It was her birthday. Of course he would come.
Time crept by, though, and he didn't appear. She supposed that she could understand why he hadn't come earlier, because she'd been with her friends and family practically all day long. Now, though, she had been alone for over an hour. 11:50.
Sarah got to her feet and walked to the window. She knew that she wouldn't see him walking up the street, but she looked anyway, for lack of anything better to do. So far it had been a very good birthday, but if he didn't come it would be nothing but a disappointment.
He was her friend. It was natural to want to see her friends on her birthday, right? Perfectly natural. And if he didn't come, it was probably because he had very important business to attend to. After all, he was a king, so he must have to work sometimes...even if he didn't like to. There was no call for her to be so upset.
'Come on, Jareth,' Sarah whispered, so softly that she wasn't sure if she had spoken the thought aloud.
The clock struck twelve.
And Sarah felt her every muscle relax, felt peace steal over her, and knew that, at last, he had come.
She turned around, a smile already spreading across her face, and saw him standing there in all his kingly glory, so out of place in her room, and yet so welcome.
'Hey,' she said softly, a word so inadequate that she immediately felt disgusted with herself for voicing it. He smiled.
'Happy birthday, Sarah,' he told her, stepping forward and bowing slightly, as a lord would to a lady. His old-fashioned formalities had always been strange, but she had also always loved them, for they made her feel special, like a girl from another time, a time before beauty had been driven from the world by war and money. His eyes warm, Jareth took her hand and lifted it to his lips, and the kiss fluttered in her stomach.
'Thanks,' she replied quietly, 'and thanks for coming.'
'It is my pleasure.'
It didn't matter now if he stayed for long or left immediately, what he said or how he acted; all that mattered was that she had seen him, and that was enough. He was her friend, but he was more than just that; he was a connection to another world, to all that she yearned for and all that she had given up. He was a memory, something stolen from a fairytale.
'Sarah,' Jareth said suddenly, breaking her reverie, 'are you very tired?'
'No,' she answered, 'not really.' She had been, before he had arrived, but she wasn't any longer.
'Sarah,' he said again, and then he hesitated, something she had never seen him do before. 'Sarah, I want to show you something.'
'Sure,' she said, without a pause. It wasn't really that late. 'What is it?'
'It is...something beautiful, something marvelous, that won't happen again for another thousand years. The only problem is that it's Underground.' He paused again, and she said nothing. In the three years they had known each other he had never once asked her to come Underground with him. 'If you do not want to go, it's all right,' he told her quickly. 'We can watch it through a crystal. It won't be as spectacular, though, and I just thought I'd give you the choice.'
The choice. What he was really asking was whether she trusted him. In spite of everything, in spite of how kind he had been and how much she enjoyed his company and genuinely liked him, in spite of the fact that being around him made her feel happy in ways that nothing else did, in spite of it all, she couldn't possible forget what he had said to her when they had first met. Fear me, love me, do as I say...let me rule you...it wasn't the sort of thing one easily put from one's mind. They had never talked about it—that had been the one subject they had skirted around.
In time, though, she had come to realize that much of what he had done that day had simply been because she had needed a villain for her adventure. It could be that those offers, those requests, those demands, had been the same thing: just part of the role that she had wanted him to play. And even if they weren't, over the last three years he had never given her cause to doubt his intentions. She had come to trust him.
Besides, she dearly wanted to see the Underground, that magical realm that had eluded her, once more.
'No, let's go,' she said, and his answering smile was dazzling in its joy. He offered her a gloved hand and she took it, closing her eyes for a moment at the sensations that washed over her at his touch, indirect though it was. When she opened them, they were no longer in her room, no longer in her house...no longer in her world.
It took Sarah a moment to look around to see where they were, so overwhelmed was she by the magic that tingled in the air around them. She breathed it in, felt it caress her skin, heard its whisper in her ear, could even taste it on the wind. This place, this impossible world...felt more like home than anywhere else ever had. She took a deep breath, reveling in her presence there. There was snow on the ground, as it was winter here, too, but the air wasn't cold.
'Sarah? Are you all right?'
'Yes,' she breathed. 'Yes, I'm alright.' Her hand was still in his, but she didn't pull away. 'So, what did you want to show me?'
'Look up, Sarah,' he said, smiling down at her.
Sarah raised her eyes to the sky, and barely held back a gasp of awe. Great swaths of red, green, blue, purple and every colour in between swirled across the sky. She held her breath for a moment, making sure she could control her voice, but just as she was about to speak the pattern changed, sending more colours splashing to and fro, captivating her. She knew what this was: the aurora borealis, the northern lights. That wasn't all, though.
The velvet black sky behind the swirls of coloured light was spattered with thousands upon thousands of stars, and unlike any stars she had ever seen before, they didn't stay fixed in their constellations, but danced in hypnotizing patterns across the heavens. Never still, they spun around one another in great, flowing circles, came together to form shapes that would in turn move together through the other, then fly apart again to find new partners. It was dizzying, mesmerizing, and Sarah had never seen anything so beautiful. It reminded her of watching the sky as snow fell towards her from above, but was so much more enchanting, bewitching, riveting. Swooning, unable to look away, she surrendered her mind to the trance that was stealing over her. Nothing could possibly be so entrancing, captivating, beguiling, spellbinding...so magical, so divine.
Eventually Sarah realized that she was lying on her back amid the drifts of silvery snow that somehow hadn't melted, still gazing at the sky above. Jareth was sitting beside her, his hand still intertwined with hers, and she squeezed his fingers gently.
'This is beyond words, Jareth,' she whispered. 'Thank you.'
'I'm glad you like it,' he replied, his voice just as soft as hers. Silence reined for a moment, and then he moved closer, taking a lock of her hair in his free hand and twisting it slowly between his fingers. Her breath caught, but she didn't pull away. 'You know, if you hadn't made that wish three years ago, today would have been the first time you ever saw me.'
'Really?' She turned her gaze from the sky to look into his eyes, instead, and for a moment she couldn't decide which view was more mysterious, more enthralling, more beautiful. So he had planned to speak to her today. 'Why?'
'You turned eighteen today, Sarah. You're not a child anymore, but a woman.'
A woman. What did that mean for him, for her...for them? What was he going to say to her, what had he been planning to say for so many years? A part of her ached to know, but a part of her was afraid to find out.
'Yes,' she said softly. 'But Jareth, why were you planning to come to me at all? If I hadn't made that wish we would have no connection. I don't understand.'
'No connection,' he repeated softly, sadly, and he turned away from her, to look up at the star-spattered sky. Sarah watched him, regretting her words, her heart aching for his sadness. For the first time she noticed the ghostly galleon of the moon, tossed on the ever-changing canvass of the night sky, glowing softly down on them.
'Jareth,' she began, with no idea what she intended to say, and he turned his beautiful mismatched eyes back to hers.
'Do you believe in love at first sight?' he asked, his face intense, and she sighed, sadness creeping into her own soul.
'No,' she answered sorrowfully, 'no I don't.'
'Because it doesn't make sense.' She sat up next to him, looking out at the snow-covered hill. 'I don't believe in it. Sometimes...sometimes I wish it was real. Sometimes I think I'd give anything for it to exist. But I know that it doesn't. It isn't a logical concept.'
'Logical?' Jareth repeated, clearly dumbfounded. 'Logical? Sarah, what does logic have to do with it? It this logical?' he asked, glancing up at the dancing stars. 'Is this world even logical? Is magic logical? And yet you know them all to be real. Sarah, is any kind of love logical?' He pulled her to her feet and put his hands on her shoulders, his face bare inches from hers.
'Sarah,' he said, 'we have known each other now for three years. For three years I have tried to be a friend to you, a companion, a confidant, have striven to make up for the mistakes I made when first we met. I hope that I have been a good friend to you.'
You have, Sarah wanted to say, but she was frozen, incapable of speech. You have, and far more than that.
'But Sarah, you are an adult now, and I can hide my true sentiments no longer. You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were three years ago, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me forever.'
'Jareth...' Sarah replied, finally finding her voice but at a loss for what to say. 'Jareth, I don't understand.' What did he mean? Silence him forever...did that mean that he would stop talking to her? Stop coming to see her? She didn't know if she could bear that.
If, however, your feelings have changed...' he went on, his voice a bare whisper, 'then I must tell you that you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love...
'I love you.'
Sarah stood, immobile, unable to speak, unable to think. She felt tears of joy prickling behind her eyes, felt unspeakable happiness swelling within her.
I love you.
He loved her. Everything shifted, suddenly catching the light, and the world fell into place.
'I'm asking you to love me, Sarah,' he whispered, bringing a hand up to gently stroke her cheek. 'Nothing more, nothing less.'
Nothing more. He wasn't asking her to fear him, or obey him, or be ruled by him. He wasn't asking her to abandon her brother, her family, her world. He was only asking for love. And at last Sarah realized that he had no need to request it.
'I love you, Jareth,' she breathed, her eyes shining, reflecting the magnificent sky above. 'I love you.'
For a moment Sarah saw indescribably joy and love welling in the depths of his eyes, and then he gently pressed his lips to hers, wrapping his arms around her, the sensations implausible, impossible, illogical. Her mouth moved beneath his, deepening the kiss, and she pulled him closer, reveling in their love and in the feelings that stirred within her at his touch, as the sky, moon and stars poured their mysterious light down upon them.
Well, this turned out very differently than I originally planned it. Probably the effect of watching Pride and Prejudice at 1:00 in the morning the night before I wrote it—which may actually have been evident.
Thanks for reading.