Obligatory Disclaimer: I clearly do not own any of the characters within (even those who may or may not be originals), any of the settings, concepts, or other potentially copy-written works within this piece. I am merely a vessel; A messenger who conveys a story, nothing more, nothing less.
Stage One – Denial
The door to the young woman's room slammed heavily just before the woman downstairs called out. "I'm not finished with you, young lady!" Sarah threw her hands up while letting out a heavy sigh as she fell back onto her bed. When would her stepmother ever understand her? Probably never! Turning with a huff she lay there for a few moments in her self pity before a smile crossed her face and she jumped up, staring at the mirror.
"I really could use a friend right around now." She said and within moments her good friend Hoggle was sitting there, next to her, a concerned look on his face.
"Is something wrong, Sarah?"
She shook her head and pulled him close for a hug before letting out a slow breath. "No. I'm fine. I just don't think she is ever going to understand me."
His bushy brows came together in confusion. He had an idea of who "she" was, as "she" was often the topic of conversation. Sarah rarely talked about herself these days. Their chats had become more frequent and more often about her family and how they seemed unable to accept her for who she was. He really couldn't relate as not being accepted was rather typical of goblin lifestyle and the entire concept of family was odd but he tried the best he could to comfort her, obviously this family thing was important to her. Patting her on the shoulder lightly he said the first thing that came to mind. "Sarah, I know you care for these people – this family of yours – but if they don't appreciate who you are maybe it's time for you to leave."
The girl stiffened and her eyes widened. "Run away? Hoggle I could never do that!" She laughed at the idea but her laugh was broken and her eyes seemed to shiver with the concept. It had never honestly occurred to her that maybe she should just give up. After all, the last time she'd given up that easily her brother was kidnapped and she was forced to traverse a dangerous labyrinth of trials. That didn't exactly sound like a good idea to her.
He shrugged a little and started to speak but before he could say another word there was a knock at the door. Sarah turned to glare at the door. "What?" She yelled with anger and venom dripping from her voice. There was a pause before the door began to open. Her eyes widened in fear and she turned only to see that Hoggle was now conveniently gone.
"Are you alright, Sarah? I came up to apologize and then heard voices." It was her stepmother again. Sarah groaned and turned away from her forcefully, causing her dark curtain of hair to spin around violently. "I just wanted to make sure that everything was okay. If you need someone to talk to I am here for you. I know we haven't always got along like we should have but I do understand you more than you know. I was a young woman myself, you know."
Sarah rolled her eyes. Her stepmother was a boring woman who seemed only concerned with going to parties and anything that might improve her social status. To Sarah it was very apparent that the woman had only even had Toby as a means to solidify her relationship with her father. All of that really mattered very little to her, though. What bothered Sarah so much was how hard this woman was trying to replace her mother. "Just go away! I don't have anything to say to you!"
If she had bothered to notice Sarah would have seen how her words had hurt the woman. She stiffened as if someone was about to strike her and her eyes showed a hint of sadness. With a nod she turned away and closed the door with a small thud before heading downstairs to prepare dinner.
The next day Sarah was in a much better mood. She had played with her toys, talked to her friends some more, read some of her favorite books, and written in her diary to let her feelings out. Entering the kitchen dampened her mood a little when she walked in on a happy scene of her family laughing over breakfast. Her father turned to her with still twinkling eyes and gestured for her to join them. "Sarah! Come eat! You have a test today, don't you? You need to eat breakfast."
She marched over to the table and took up a piece of toast before turning and rushing out the door, books in hand. Her father frowned but shook his head and turned to his wife with a shrug. "Teenagers, what can you do?" The woman gave a small smile but the whole while her mind was going over the behavior that her stepdaughter was displaying. To her, something was definitely wrong.
As the day passed she couldn't shake the feeling that Sarah was hiding something from them and so she slowly went upstairs to break the silent code of trust that existed between a child and a caregiver. Her hand hovered above the golden knob before she let out a deep breath. What was she so afraid of? Sarah wouldn't even have to know! Giving a nod she opened the door and entered the young woman's room.
Glancing around, she shook her head in distaste. It really did look like a child lived in this space. Sarah really would need to grow up someday and give up all these silly trinkets. Her eyes settled on the little vanity in the room and she glanced over the items on the top. A small red book, she picked it up and thumbed through it but found nothing of real interest to her. Setting it down she reached over and opened a few of the drawers finding mismatched barrettes and hair combs before finding what she'd ultimately been after; A little pink diary with a small clasp on it.
Opening the diary she flipped to page one and began to read. Nothing unusual jumped out at her at first. The typical musings of a young pre-teen girl living her life: Someone at school was mean to her. She failed a test. She got a part in the school play. None of these events were particularly spectacular. Then, one day, she noticed a change.
"Dad has been dating a woman for a few weeks now. I didn't think much of it at first as he rarely brought her home. Apparently, they have become very close and he is now bringing her home for dinner tonight to 'make a huge announcement'. I hope he doesn't say they plan to marry. I don't need another mother! My mother is still alive out there somewhere and I love her. I don't need a replacement! Gotta go – dad is calling!"
The woman sighed as she remembered that night. Sarah was obviously a clever young woman as she knew what was happening long before the adults let on but she also had a very childish take on the whole event. It wasn't all about her, after all. She might have been happy but what of her father? She read on to find more resentment towards her existence from the girl until one day the diary took another extreme turn.
"No one will ever believe what happened last night! After coming home late I was treated horribly and expected to watch Toby with little to no concern for my plans. I am 15 years old! Practically an adult by now! When will they understand that I am not a live-in maid and babysitter for them?
Unfortunately, I took it out on Toby who was particularly obnoxious that night and said 'the words'. I didn't really expect anything to happen. Who would? Yet, they came and took Toby and then he appeared. I don't even know how to describe how I felt right then. I was scared, of course, but also excited and something else that I couldn't quite place – fascinated?
The next thing I knew I was running through the labyrinth with just a few hours to go before Toby would be lost forever! If it hadn't been for my friends I'm not even sure if I would have made it!"
The entry continued on for several pages describing the girl's adventures. The woman shook her head at the clearly delusional fantasy and flipped through the pages to read the continuing entries. Fewer of the entries were about her life, like they had been before, and more were about these fantasy characters. Particularly a man named Jareth who Sarah seemed to have a certain romantic inclination towards and yet was afraid of him. It was as if this fantasy man was both the white knight that could save her from her existence and also the villain of her story. With a heavy sigh she slammed the book closed and left the room, going downstairs to make a few phone calls.
When Sarah returned home that afternoon she was surprised to find her father there. He usually arrived home from work later in the day. He and her stepmother were sitting in the living room looking concerned and serious. She frowned and entered the room forcefully. "What's wrong?" She asked, wondering what might have happened. Did her father lose his job? Was someone in the family sick?
Her father looked up at her warily and then put his head in his hand, resting his elbow against the arm of the chair. "Sarah, you are going to go somewhere with your stepmother. You will not ask any questions and you will not argue. You will go and you will do as you are told. Do you understand?" He spoke with such force and his voice cracked in a way that worried her so she simply nodded.
The next thing she knew she was sitting in a very beige waiting room. She was uncomfortable and looked around. The name on the door gave her some hints as to what this was. This was a psychiatric doctor's office. Why was she here? Before she could think of any more a woman called her name out, causing her to jump and she nodded before standing and following the woman to a room.
The woman sat down in a large overstuffed chair and offered Sarah and her stepmother to sit on a large rather ridiculous looking couch on the opposite side of the office. Picking up a pad of paper and a pen she flipped through her notes before turning her attention to Sarah. "Sarah, do you understand why you are here?"
She shook her head and the woman gave a small smile before jotting something down on her paper. "My name is Dr. Jacobson but you can call me Wendy. I understand that your stepmother has some concerns and would like us to talk. You may choose to have her stay or you may ask that she leave at any time. This is time for you to let out any thoughts that you have and you are not required to share those with anyone else if you so wish. Do you understand?"
Sarah nodded and her stepmother balked a little but the doctor interrupted her before she could voice her complaint. "Mrs. Williams, I understand that you married Mr. Williams a few years ago, is that correct?"
"Did you have any contact with Sarah before your decision to marry?"
"No. I met her the day her father and I told her."
"I see." She wrote a few more notes down. "And how has Sarah's behavior been since that time?"
"Sarah seems withdrawn from reality. She doesn't seem to understand that her life is in the here and now. She also has extreme fantasies which she now seems to believe are real."
Wendy raised an eyebrow and looked over at the woman with curiosity. "And what do you base that last accusation on?"
Sarah had been listening quietly the entire time, rather enjoying watching her stepmother be made a fool of by the doctor, when her pleasure was suddenly shattered as the woman pulled out a small pink book and handed it to the doctor. Her eyes widened and she glared at her stepmother. "Hey! That's my diary! You had no right to go through my things!" Turning to the doctor she pointed towards her stepmother. "I want her out! This is supposed to be time for me, isn't it? How can she do this to me?"
"You heard her, Mrs. Williams. You'll have to leave, I'm sorry. You can wait outside." The stepmother stormed out of the room and Sarah let out a relieved sigh while reaching out expectantly for her diary. Surprisingly, however, the doctor set it on her desk and glanced at her notes again before looking back up at her. "Now, Sarah, let's get down to the real heart of things here. Tell me, what exactly is the labyrinth?"
Sarah's eyes widened and she gasped as she sunk back into her seat, defeated. The doctor already knew everything. She had acted like some sort of advocate but the whole while she'd known! There was nothing left to do but give them what they wanted.
Minutes went on and eventually an entire hour had passed by the time Sarah had finally finished her story. For her part Dr. Jacobson seemed genuinely interested, if not a bit amused. "And that is everything." She finished and the doctor nodded before jotting some more notes down.
"So, this Jareth character, he is your villain?"
Sarah's face contorted a bit in a mixture of pain and anger. "Not every antagonist is a villain." She said pointedly but chose not to go into detail as to what exactly she meant. If this doctor couldn't understand that wasn't her problem!
"So you don't hate him?"
The girl let out a small laugh under her breath and looked away. "Why should I hate him? He did exactly what I expected he would do. You can't exactly hate someone for that."
Wendy nodded and wrote some more notes before looking up and asking in all seriousness. "Then do you love him?"
Sarah's eyes widened and she stared at the older woman as if she had said something entirely horrible. "I don't think I need to answer that." Her voice was laced with disgust and her expression made it clear that she would rather talk about anything else.
"I understand. You don't have to talk about anything you aren't ready to." Wendy said with a nod before making a few more notes. She looked back up at Sarah and smiled before folding her hands in her lap. "Do you believe your experiences within the labyrinth were real?"
"Of course I do!"
"What would you say if I told you that they weren't?"
Sarah frowned and rolled her eyes. "Prove they weren't."
The doctor smiled and shook her head a little. "Prove they were. No one else has such fantastic experiences, at least not that they admit to. If you've truly experienced going to another realm and having such adventures then wouldn't you agree that the burden of proof is on you, Sarah? Stories are just stories; no one tries to claim that they went to the fantasy worlds that they make up. At least, no one who is telling the truth."
"Prove they were real, Sarah. Until then, you'll have to keep seeing me."
That night Sarah took her first dose of pills; anti-depressants, or so they told her, something that was supposed to help her get over her "delusions". They had a horrible after taste and made he feel jittery. After her stepmother watched her take them she ran up to her room, slamming the door shut.
There, on her bed, was her poor violated diary. Tears welled in her eyes and she fell onto her bed, pulling her diary to her chest. Her mind kept racing with the session with the doctor. The doctor had seemed so nice at first. How could she be so mean later? And why did she keep insisting that the labyrinth and the entire underground world was just a fantasy made up in her head?
Sarah groaned and turned, pulling her blanket over her head as she considered what the doctor had said. Could it really have been just some dream that she'd had? That would explain how Toby had magically ended up in his bedroom that night. Or why it was that nobody could ever see her friends – they would suddenly be gone whenever someone came in. Or why he never seemed to be around anymore. Maybe they were right. She was nearly 16 and in a few more years she would be an adult. Perhaps it was time to put away her toys and fantasies.
Opening her diary to the last page Sarah scowled. She pulled the little pen that was neatly tucked inside the binder out and stared at the page for a while, considering what her final entry would be. What would be the first words that would declare her journey into adulthood? She smirked and decided and then put the words in simple print before closing the book and tossing it to the floor.
The most fitting words of goodbye she had ever spoken: "You have no power over me."