Vanilla Twilight

It was twilight; that time when Day has not quite given way to Night, and the world is abound with shadows numberless. When everything is covered by a soft darkness which is both comforting and mysterious, when the world sings with a magic that is almost real, but not quite false, when everything is possible and hopes and dreams are suspended, for a darkly luminous moment, in a realm where they may come true. The moment that lasts for just a moment, a single breath of air, but returns again as each day dies and each night begins to awaken.

Sarah sat as still as the world around her, stealing a few moments of silent serenity, in the almost sacred park that held such memories for her. She had read, somewhere, that Twilight was the time when the veil between the words was thinnest; it was certainly the only time she felt any magic, when the sharp corners of the human world were softened by the gentle light, or lack of light.

This was the only time that she allowed herself to think about what had happened, what she had seen, what she had known...what she had left behind.

All was quiet. There was no one with her in the park...and yet, she was not alone. Far away in another world, someone was thinking about her, remembering the same events that kept her still and silent amid the trees.

For him, too, Twilight was an almost holy time. He had nothing to remember her by, no token, no ring or lock of hair to treasure, no faded portrait to keep near his heart, so occasionally, at Twilight, when cold nostalgia chilled him to the bone, when he could not sleep, when but to think was to be full of sorrow and leaden-eyed despairs, when feelings of solitude seemed to crush down upon him, physically stopping his breath and keeping him incapable of movement, consumed by loneliness, he would conjure a crystal and summon her image into its misty interior, allow himself to look at her, remember her, trace the contours of her beloved face with eyes heavy with sorrow.

This was one such time. His heart ached, and a drowsy numbness pained his sense, as though of hemlock he had drunk, or emptied some dull opiate to the drains one minute past, but Lethe with all its power of forgetfulness remained far out of reach. As Night began to win its eternal battle with Day, he watched in quietude as the stars leaned down to kiss her. He had only ever held her once, for a few joyful moments in the beautiful ballroom that he'd spun from music and dreams as a gift to prove his love for her, but still he missed the feel of her arms around him and tried to summon back the memory of that soft, fleeting touch, of which only the barest shadow remained.

He did not want to watch her; or rather, he felt that he should not. She had made her feelings quite clear, had banished him from her life, and he felt that to watch her was to betray her trust—what little trust she might have in him.

But to see her, even so rarely and so briefly, was the only way he could survive.

In the park, Sarah watched the sky change colour, change texture, change feeling, and she knew he was there. Knew that for the rest of her life he would be with her, and that a part of her would be with him.

Her breath was a whisper of sorrow and hope, in that time when Dreams are almost within grasp, as she raised her eyes to the heavens and quietly murmured his name.

'Jareth...'

Never before had she spoken it. Never before had she even considered it, but somehow now, when her thoughts were on him and she could feel his on her, when Day was gone but Night had not yet come, in these few moments snatched between one world and the next, when choices and mistakes held less weight, in this time that could be forgotten or pushed aside after it had passed and reality resumed its steady, inescapable path, the word slipped through her lips, unbidden.

And Jareth heard her, heard the call, the very word a bell to toll him back to his sole self, the quiet cadence that pierced its way within him, a surge of pleasant pain, painful pleasure. Why she called him, he did not know, and did not care to know. He simply followed the summons, the whisper of breath that wound its way around his soul and heart, and found himself bathed suddenly in the light blue starlight, which had been blown from Heaven on the gentle breeze through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways, at her side, laying eye on her for the first time in oh so long, so close to her and yet so distant, a memory suddenly turned tangible.

Sarah wasn't surprised to see him appear, a gently shimmer on the wind, almost invisible in the false light. At any other time, no matter if she'd said his name, shock would have wracked her soul and body, but now, as Twilight wrapped its tender and tremulous arms around her world, it seemed only natural that things usually kept safe in dreams should invade the erstwhile reality.

It was the first time she had seen him, since she had torn her dreams from her heart for the sake of her brother and her world, but he had not changed, except perhaps for the eternal sorrow now etched into the fathomless depths of his mismatched blue eyes. She remained seated, watching him, uncertain even now if he was truly there, or just a phantom blown there by the winds of her memory.

'Jareth,' she finally said again, almost afraid that speaking would break the spell but unable to remain silent any longer, and at the word he stepped from the drifting starlight and into reality, or at least some version of it. He did not speak.

'You were thinking of me,' she told him, and herself, and the heavy atmosphere that weighed upon her like a drug. 'I could feel it. I knew you were with me.'

'I will always be with you,' he finally replied, his voice beginning as the mere whisper of a dream but gaining strength, gaining substance, until it was almost tangible. 'I was thinking of you, yes, but I think of you so often...can you always feel it?'

'I don't know,' she whispered. She could not see what flowers were at her feet, nor smell what soft incense hung upon the boughs, nor hear the murmurous haunt of birds on summer eves, but knew that there was music, and that some tender scent had sifted into her world along with him. 'Why do you think of me, Jareth?' It seemed natural to call him by name, although she never had before. 'Time, irretrievable time, has slipped past unceasingly since our last meeting. You haven't approached me, or shown any sign of your existence. Why think of me, now, or ever?'

Jareth watched her softly, this meeting too surreal to overwhelm him, although he knew that later, when he was once again alone and its memory returned, boundless emotion would consume him. His pride, with all its soaring heights, told him not to answer the question, but he knew well that he might and probably would never speak with her again; what harm, then, would be done in telling her the truth, and all the truth?

'Through every long and sleepless night I think of you, as often as I blink into the crushing darkness. Why?' He took a step closer, still too far to touch, but close enough to make out the soft angles of her face in the near darkness. 'Because although it pains me to do so, when I think of you, I don't feel so alone.'

Sarah turned her eyes away from him, back to the sky, and the first few stars that shone there, seeming to hold up time with their soft light.

'When I think of you, I feel more alone,' she told him, and although neither of them had expected the admission that he held a place in her thoughts, once again neither was surprised. 'Sometimes I want to leave this world unseen, and with you fade away into the forest dim. I feel alone in my world, consumed by the thought that I could have had something more.'

For a moment, Jareth wanted to tell her that she still could, should she choose to, but he didn't.

'Why did you call me, Sarah?' he asked instead. There was no hope in his words, for her presence seemed too ethereal to inspire hope.

'I don't know that, either,' she told him, shaking her head slowly. 'I don't know if I wanted to see you, or remember you, or tell you not to think of me, or just...to say your name, out loud, to acknowledge to the world what happened between us. I don't even know if I intended to call you, if I thought you would come. I don't know anything.'

'Neither do I,' Jareth answered, and now he did approach, right up to the bench on which she sat, and sank to his knees on the ground before her. 'I don't know anything except that I miss you.'

'You don't even know me,' she replied, the voice of reason seeming oddly out of place in this world, or time, or emotion that they had come to, together.

'I do,' he answered, his voice as soft as his eyes. 'I know the way your eyes long for something more than humanity allows you, I know the way you'll battle to the death in the name of justice, I know the sound of your voice when you laugh, I know the way your face grows soft and distant when you think of magic and let your dreams take wing. I know the path of your tears, be they tears of joy or tears of sorrow, I know the whisper of your breath when you sigh, I know the faraway look you gain when certain sights or sounds fill you will passion for life. I know how your mind and body soften when you fall asleep and how you awaken with new hope in your eyes. I do not know your birthday, or your favourite colour, or your favourite meal...but I know your spirit, Sarah, I know your soul, I can see within you, where such a spark of life resides alongside such an ocean of purity. I know what's important. I know what I need to know to love you.'

Sarah held his gaze, his words a melody of truth and beauty. She had thought of love before, but whatever definition she had been able to come up with had always fallen short. Trivialities were important in love...but were they most important, or did something else, some deep-rooted understanding, something that couldn't be defined, something unfathomable, something that couldn't be described, matter more? Love was a feeling, not an equation. Maybe...maybe...

Maybe it wasn't so ridiculous to say that he loved her.

But it wasn't the kind of love that worked in the human world.

'Is that what makes your world so wonderful?' she asked sadly. 'Not magic or adventure or excitement, but love? That is the kind of Love that I want, Jareth. Maybe when I grow older my eyes can shine brightly at humanity, these...these wings of fantasy that used to let me soar to new heights but now drag me into melancholy will grow lighter, and I'll taste the human sky, which does have beauty, and feel alive again, and forget the world that I once knew...your world. But even if it's just a feeling, and not a solid memory, just a distant whisper of emotion and nostalgia that flits across my mind on rare occasions, I know that I will never forget you. Why is that? Is it because you love me, love me in a way that no one else ever can?'

'No, Sarah,' he replied quietly. 'If you remember me, no matter what you remember me as, it will be by your own choice. I know you well enough to know that. You will let nothing, not even a memory, govern your emotions.'

'Perhaps so,' she sighed, 'but perhaps you overestimate me. You have no power over me, Jareth...but maybe I would be happier if you did.'

'If you gave me power over you, you would not be yourself, Sarah. This, who you are now, is the person I love. If that love can only be realized by heartbreak...then I would have it no other way.'

'What does that mean, Jareth?' Sarah asked, smiling at him, for the first time in her life, although neither world had ever seen so sad a smile. 'Are you letting me go?'

'I let you go a long time ago, Sarah,' he sighed. 'But that doesn't mean that I do not miss you, or that I won't miss you forever. It doesn't mean that I won't still lie awake at night, or suddenly, for an unexpected moment, remember you so clearly that it seems to tear my heart apart, or stare at my hands and think how perfectly your fingers would fit between mine.'

For a long moment they sat in stillness and quietude, and then Sarah slowly, almost hesitantly, lifted her hand, staring at the spaces between her fingers. Tremulously, she stretched them towards Jareth, and he lifted his hand to meet hers. Their fingers wound together, fitting perfectly, pale and almost ghostly in the insubstantial light. There were more stars above them now, and the silver wraith of the moon rested among them, shining ever more brightly; Twilight, that magical time where dreams could come true, for just a few moments, had almost passed.

'When I remember this,' Jareth said, his fingers gently tightening, 'how should I think of it?'

'Think of it as a dream, Jareth,' Sarah answered, for that was what it was. A shared dream, nothing more and nothing less. But aren't dreams more powerful than reality?

'If it's a dream, then we'll wake up soon,' he answered, gripping her hand tightly, but softly, too. 'Even if it is just a dream, I am glad for it. Even if I will miss you even more, even if old wounds will pain me more than ever, even if no ocean of tears could drown the grief this memory will hold, I am glad.' He didn't thank her, because although she had called his name, the meeting hadn't been a conscious decision on her part any more than it had been on his.

Sometimes, things just happen. Sometimes dreams are dreamt, and pain is dealt, and Love grows and blossoms, and there is no reason.

'As am I,' she replied, very quietly, almost too quietly. But he heard, and for one last moment they sat together, drenched in vanilla twilight, together for a silent moment of peace and dreams that could never come true.

And then, just as Twilight finally faded and the Night swept in, the Queen Moon resplendent on her throne, clustered around by all her starry fays, and the world, though still mysterious and dark and romantic, was certain again, tangible, no longer dwelling in that silent space between Night and Day, Sarah's hand closed into a fist, her fingers clutching nothing but the air. She was left alone, the quiet melody fleeing through the closing gap between the worlds, leaving nothing but an echo and the lingering scent of distant, hopeless hopes.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled was the music...did she wake, or sleep?


Inspired by a song by Owl City, called Vanilla Twilight, and a poem by Keats, called Ode to a Nightingale. They are both indescribably beautiful and sorrowful. A few of the lines are taken from one or the other.

Thanks for reading