Disclaimer: Rights go to the genius and beloved Jim Henson, whom I choose to believe is doing elaborate muppet shows for angels.
Author's Note: This may end up being a two-shot. Probably. Maybe. I think so. What do you think? Also, I may end up coming back and editing this, just to warn you, I mostly just wanted to stop proofreading and editing it, so I pressed the publish button. XP
There were only a couple things that Toby Williams could say made his life worthwhile. One of which was corndogs. He could never turn a good corndog down, and it happened to have gotten him a couple of dates, though he still wasn't sure exactly how that happened.
And the other, more important one was undoubtedly his sister.
She took him into her quaint one-story home when his parents refused to support his decision to drop out of college. It wasn't from some cruel instinct from either Rob or Karen. Their cold but for-the-best intention to try and force him to go back certainly felt cruel regardless.
He had just been extremely lucky that after Sarah heard what happened, she had come to his rescue. It took their parents half-a-year to apologize, and though he accepted it, he didn't go back.
His sister didn't charge him rent or utilities (against his initial protests), but in the end, it was fine with him, since he couldn't seem to get his foot in the door with any real job anyhow. He owed a lot to her. Sarah, who had always read him fairytale stories when he was younger, who had always just laughed and told him to keep dreaming and that one day, he'd get what he wished for if he fought hard enough for it—but not before punching his arm and warning him not to take anything for granted.
And strangely enough, Toby didn't take anything for granted. He understood everything his sister meant and went out into the world each day, outwardly complaining but grateful all the same.
His gratitude, he had decided a few months back, should be shared—and that was the story of how Toby, a notoriously bad cook, ended up in Sarah's kitchen every day.
They had fallen into the habit of daily life.
She'd come home after working whatever high-class job hired her (this year it was being an editor of theatrical critiques), and Toby would shove his latest experiment onto a plate on her dining room table. Her emerald eyes would shimmer with mirth (and only a fraction of dread) before she'd dive in and give her brother a humoring smile or a witty comment complete with playfully rolling eyes.
Sometimes he found it hard to believe that she was a thirty-three year old woman.
However, after Tom Kha soup night yesterday, Sarah had desperately pleaded for something normal, and Toby had immediately thought: corndogs. There was no way anyone could screw up nature's most perfect meal, all wrapped up in its perfect balance of meat and other stuff.
So Toby planned to venture out the next day with token grocery money on foot to the Wal-Mart just out of the suburban neighborhood.
He arrived home at four in the afternoon, a plastic grocery bag as a proud consolation prize in his arms, but paused in front of the house with a small shock. Apparently, Sarah was home. Her car was parked askew on the driveway, and the front door was closed but unlocked.
The blonde man tentatively peeked his head into the door, afraid for a moment to make a sound, before shaking his head of wayward thoughts and walking into the opening hallway.
"Sarah?" he called out softly, thinking of all the reasons she may have come home early. Perhaps she was fired again, or she got into a fight with someone, as she was prone to do at times (between her need for adventure and freedom, she never did stand kindly to bullshit). He steeled himself over as he prepared himself for the worst, though hoping all the same not to find a bad-tempered woman somewhere in the maze of her house.
He echoed out her name again, and stepped through the small hallway, bursting into the petite living room that hugged the dining room, beyond of which laid his precious kitchen.
There she was.
And Toby stared at her.
Stared at her hard.
The woman sat on the blue sofa, looking out the window on her right instead of the blackened television screen, but her oddly serene nature was not what concerned him.
Apparently, whispered a though, he had not prepared himself for the absolute worst.
He gently placed his bag of Weiner dogs and breading onto the floor before his shaky hands could fail him.
He tried calling out to her once more, "Sarah?"
Her bright jade eyes flickered over to his direction before turning back to the window wistfully, and her voice slid out aloofly, a tone of voice he had heard her use to everyone but him. He shivered in response to her sharp, "I'm waiting."
Toby gave a grave once-over at the exquisite wedding dress she wore that once belonged to Karen, given to Sarah long ago. The two had gotten over their feud almost overnight, back when he was a toddler. In good faith and not-so-subtle hinting, his mother had given Sarah the dress when she had turned twenty-eight. Twenty-eight, and now thirty-three, without once having a serious boyfriend. Or girlfriend even.
"Toby. I'm fine. Why don't you go out and buy something for dinner?" Sarah said in a tone so light that it sounded more like a dream than reality. Like she was worlds away and not in fact sitting tra-la-la on the living room couch in a wedding dress.
But he didn't let the fact that she was clearly trying to get rid of him deter him.
"I already did, sis."
Her eyes slanted over his way again, shimmering with something that he couldn't name, before sliding back to the window. "Then would you mind getting—"
"Yes, I do mind."
Silence stretched between them. Toby stared at her, concerned but with a growing sense of defiance. His mind kept chanting a piece of advice that she had given him years and years ago—Say only what you mean.
'Say only what you absolutely mean, Sarah.'
Then, at last, she sighed.
"Toby…" she began with her brow crinkling as she tried to find her right words, "It's our anniversary."
This was not anything that he had prepared himself for.
"Your… anniversary?" he half-asked, half-balked.
She shook her head, "No, our anniversary. As in you and I."
Toby took a small step back and towards the phone. "Umm, sis, we're not—"
Sarah finally turned her head and gave him a look that was just as horrified as what he imagined his face looked like, squeaking out, "Not like that; I'm not crazy, Toby," and it eased his nerves. Toby let out a nervous chuckle and lamented the fact that he never was very good at saying the right things, especially during emotional moments, which was probably the reason why he even lived in Sarah's house in the first place.
So he decided to do what he was best at and just say what he wanted to, no matter how blunt; something that had both ended many relationships and strengthened the bonds between those he cared about.
"Why are you in mom's dress?" he blurted out. Why beat around the bush when all you really want to do is attack it with a two-by-four? That was his motto. Or should be. He'd have to consider it.
Sarah smiled and turned her face away from him but, thankfully, not to the window either.
"I'm waiting," she repeated, but her voice was no longer frigid and cruel but once again soft and indulging. Toby could almost sigh in relief, since now he was apparently asking the right questions.
"Waiting for what?" He took a couple of steps forward, and when she made no objection, made to sit down beside her.
"A dance," she smiled.
He hesitated, quite unsure of what to do but settled down next to her regardless. After a thoughtful moment, he sorted through the thoughts that collided together and bounced away again and decided on something much simpler.
"…In a wedding dress?"
Sarah shrugged, "It's the only nice dress I have."
Once again, Toby was torn between sighing in relief and jumping around like a chicken with its head chopped clean off—or a chicken avidly avoiding flowers from an amorous goblin. He blinked but quickly shook the thought off.
"For a dance?" he reiterated, to which Sarah just smiled again. The smile, however, soon faded, and she began to nervously play with a plastic ring on her finger.
"Usually… Well, usually no one's around when I do this," she whispered with something between embarrassment and anticipation. The word anniversary floated back into his mind, and Toby felt a lot like a fish gasping in air.
"Wait, wait, wait," he paused and though he was relatively sure he had a stupid look on his face, he desperately wanted her to stop looking at nothing and turn back to him, back to the here and now, "You do this every year?"
She nodded and said nothing more.
They waited together for something that he didn't understand, and in the space of twenty-two heartbeats, Toby had never felt more lost.
"I don't think…. I don't think I get it, Sarah," he finally breathed out.
It took her nearly a minute to respond with a soft, "I don't think I do either."
He just shook his head in confusion, to which Sarah finally turned back to look at him, away from the window, away from nothing, and apparently away from the blind hopes of something that neither of them understood. The soft jade of her eyes were begging for something from behind a veil of unhappiness, and the gentle threat of tears was not lost on him. It was his worst fear for his strong sister to cry, the one who took him in and taught him everything that everyone else had failed to mention. For as long as he knew her, he could count on one hand the amount of times he saw Sarah Williams give up hope and cry.
"It's stupid, I know it is," she began to say in an attempt to stop the tears, "I just wait every year for something that has only happened a couple of times. It's childish, stupid and – fuck it – unfair. Eighteen years since I first danced with him, and I'm still waiting around like some pathetic fifteen-year-old who dreams of faeries and kings!"
Toby could say nothing as he watched the image of her fracture and break.
"Eighteen years is a long time for a human to wait. And every time I want to give up, that's when he decides to 'grace' me with his presence," Sarah had lost the fight against herself and a tear fell, bringing with it the faint trace of makeup.
"…Sarah," Toby whispered, more in reverence than pity, more in awe than fear. He was still confused as hell, but he understood without being told that Sarah had been fighting a long fight, apparently for longer than he would have ever thought.
"I don't even know what I want," she continued, leaning her head against one hand while the other angrily swiped at her body's betrayal on her bravado front. "But here I am, wearing the best thing I own, and I'll probably wait until the day I die. And… and I don't even know why."
Toby couldn't help but stare.
He wanted to hug her, to console her, to tell her that the man was a jackass and she needed to move on. But Toby's body had locked up and all he could do was stare at the aftermath of his sister's one-sided war.
And suddenly, it made inane sense that she was wearing Karen's wedding dress, despite her claim that it was just the nicest thing she owned. It just suddenly made sense that Sarah had never had a serious relationship with anyone before and yet had never seemed aimlessly lonely.
Sarah Williams has been in love for years. Eighteen years, apparently.
"He must be one hell of a dancer."
He wasn't even sure that he had spoken until Sarah had started laughing, melancholic and yet agreeable. She laughed until Toby could do nothing but join her.
"He sings too," she giggled, sorrow still in her throat, but a smile in her eyes.
"Well," Toby began when their laughter had died down to soft and awkward chuckling, "I don't know about singing, but I don't think I'm that bad of a dancer myself."
Sarah stopped laughing altogether and took her turn to stare.
But he just winked and asked, "Sis, may I have this dance?"
She continued to stare—hard—and Toby was half-sure that soon his head would implode simply by the force of her eyes. It took longer than he wanted for her smile to reappear.
"But there's no music," she smirked, beguiling him to his highest offer, and he was willing to bite.
"Do you really want me to sing?" he asked with an exaggerated expression of chagrin, and she let out a soft chuckle in response.
"That's okay. I've heard you in the shower, and dare I say, you're terrible," she teased. He gasped purely for effect.
"You wound me, sis! Guess who's not getting dinner tonight?" he spoke as he rose, and despite his words, offered his sister a hand up.
Accepting his hand, she retorted with a snort, "And that's supposed to be a punishment?"
With a small back kick to move the inexpensive coffee table out of the way, Toby raised their conjoined hands before placing his other against her hip. "Only because tonight I'm cooking the best meal in the world."
Without strings or songs, Sarah let him take the lead to their musicless dance, following only their banter as if a melody for their waltz.
"And what meal would that be? Your fancy attempt at steak on Tuesday was a fiasco."
A soft shuffling of steps, their words were spoken as a cadence, and though Sarah still held unhappiness in her eyes, her whole body began to feel more and more weightless in their confined dance. The hem of her starlight dress curled around his tattered jeans as they moved.
"Nah, something infinitely better than steak. And don't you dare bring up the lasagna incident."
He knew he should ask who the man that she fell in love with was, ask what he did for a living, and if he was married (since he never saw fit to see her but a handful of times). But he figured that the interrogation could wait until after this day of some anniversary that Toby may or may not be a part of. He would have to ask about that later too.
Sarah smiled gratefully as if she knew what he was thinking before proceeding to steal the lead from him with a joking, "Better than pasta and beef, huh? Let me guess."
He smiled in triumph and answered her knowing look with a proud, "You bet."
Still, he thought of what the man must be like to have earned the heart of someone like Sarah. He imagined someone dashing and charming with a Kodak smile, but dismissed the image when he mentally pictured Sarah scoffing and yelling at the Prince Charming. No, for Sarah, it would be someone that was one-of-a-kind.
'Man, I wish I could meet this guy.'
Following her lead, they avoided the upturned coffee table in the corner and were perfectly content circling nowhere on her plush tan carpet.
"Corndogs. Joy. I can't wait," she replied. But the way she carefully lead him around the room with light-hearted steps made Toby believe that, for a college drop-out and a failure with long-term relationships and full-time jobs, he wasn't doing half-bad at being something.
'A not half-bad brother,' he thought, 'yeah, I can live with that.'
There was a soft tap on his shoulder – the shoulder Sarah's hand was not on– and Toby tripped to a stop as his gut twisted in on itself.
As Toby's heart skidded to a stop, screeching nerves stilling his limbs, his voice slipped out in a surprised, "The hell?"
But it was the not-as-soft voice that joined the tap that lit up Sarah's face and stopped Toby's heart.
"May I cut in?"