A Man Left Behind
Sarah Williams, twenty-five, slipped around the corner of her building, avoiding the chaos of the main street on which she lived. It wasn't always safe to take the back alleys, but she hated crowds and it was in the middle of the day during the lunch rush.
With that thought, her stomach suddenly grumbled at her, protesting against her thoughts that she wasn't hungry.
She kept her head down as she approached the street once more, covering it from the rain that had started to fall, practically running blind as she quickly dashed down the street to her regular café, Las Madras. She had no idea what the name meant, or if it was just a made up word, but she enjoyed their coffee.
As she walked in, one of the bistros looked up and gave her a small wave. She lifted a hand and waved a couple of fingers back in response. Everyone who worked there knew her as she frequented it at all hours of the day. She quickly moved back to the back corner, and as she slid into the soft leather seat, a soft sigh escaped her lips. It was the one place that she had where she could truly relax. No demands, no stress…just good food and amazing coffee.
She pulled out her manuscript and flipped through the first couple of chapters that she'd already written until she hit the scene that she was stuck on.
Sarah absentmindedly tapped her red pen against the edge of her papers, trying to work the scene out in her mind. Something was missing from it…but she couldn't figure out what it was. Should her female character Leah be over here? Or over there? Should the confrontation happen this early in the plotline or should she wait until later?
Sarah saw movement from the corner of her eye and smiled as a mug of her favorite coffee was placed in front of her.
As she sipped at it, she kept on making notations in the margins of her manuscript, fleshing out certain scenes, trying to fix them and tweak them until she was pleased with the final product. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.
Soon, she had already finished more than half of her coffee without even noticing it, and gone through twenty pages. She gave herself a self-deprecating smile. She drank too much of it, but she loved it and it was an addiction that she would never get over. She realized she was done, so she packed up her things, quickly paid, and then headed down the street. She had heard about a new bookstore that was selling books specifically about mythology, and she wanted to see if she could grab a couple of books to help her with her writing.
She stepped through the front door, smiling at the sound of the small bell that rang when she opened it. The shop was warm and cozy, and something about it was vaguely familiar. She shrugged off the feeling and headed towards the Celtic and Welsh sections.
As she browsed, she caught a glimpse of someone further down the aisle, but they were soon gone, on the other side of the shelves where she couldn't see them. Ignoring her impulse to follow them, she quickly found three books that were perfect for what she needed. She was about to head to the front, but then she saw it…a small red leather bound book on the very bottom shelf with gold embossing on the side. The letters were all too familiar to her as she picked up the book and stared at it in shock.
She had had one of the last copies to exist, but she'd lost it years ago after her delusional trip into the book. She had already been through therapy and finally understood why she'd had such an episode, and now here it was once again, forcing its way back into her life.
She flipped open to the first page…and there was her handwriting. It was her copy. But how had it ended up in this store?
She glanced around, and then paused, feeling an odd prickling at the base of her neck. She felt as though she was being watched…but who would be watching her? Shrugging off the sensation, she took her books, including Labyrinth, to the counter and rang the small bell for assistance.
Tapping her foot against the floor, she waited somewhat impatiently, but stopped as a man stepped behind the counter.
"I can help you with those, miss."
She felt her heart stop. The man sounded so very familiar…that voice. She looked up at him, but his hair fell in front of his eyes, obscuring her view of his face.
As he grabbed each of her books in turn to scan them, she looked at the rest of him, trying to figure out why she knew him. He was fairly tall, a little over six feet, and had short-longish dark blonde hair. His body was slightly wiry, but he had broad shoulders that spoke of a natural strength.
"That'll be twenty-one seventy-five, miss."
She absently pulled out a twenty and two ones, the entire time trying to figure out why the man was so familiar.
His eyes were dropped towards the counter and the cash register, so she was unable to really see him, but something about him just screamed familiarity.
For some reason, she had the feeling that if he just lifted his head, if she could just see his eyes, that it would answer her question of who he was, but he kept his head down, never once lifting his gaze towards hers.
Finally, she could take the suspense no longer.
His eyes finally lifted to hers, and she felt her breath rush out of her all in one instant.
It was him.
But no…it couldn't be. She'd had the therapy sessions, and had resolutely and irrefutably concluded that it had been a brief, hallucinogenic breakdown caused from the stress that she'd had on her at the time at not feeling as though she belonged. It was rare, but it happened.
But now here he was, standing in front her as though no time had passed. He wasn't a day older than when she'd last seen him.
His eyes held hers effortlessly, and she found herself feeling flushed, as though he were seeing straight through her.
Any moment she expected to be back in the Labyrinth, him taunting her with his wonderfully smooth tones, her pretending to not be afraid by his veiled threats…everything back as it was when she was fourteen, on the cusp of fifteen.
However, from her peripheral vision she could see that nothing had changed, that she was still in the book shop that she'd stepped into only a minute before.
For some unknown reason, with all of the strength that was in her, she could not pull her eyes away from his.
Sarah felt as though that at the instant she broke contact that he would disappear and she would find that he was just an illusion as she'd believed that he was for all these years.
His gaze turned from resigned to almost hopeful as he tilted his head and gave her a searching look, as though trying to find something in her gaze, as though her own eyes held some sort of message that only he could read. Then he said just one word.
That one word was her undoing as his voice snapped her out of her daze and she pulled back from the counter, but was still unable to draw her eyes away.
Was this really happening? She still wasn't sure if she was hallucinating or not, but then his hand covered hers where it still lay on the edge of the counter and she knew.
He was real.
Her head was suddenly reeling at the implications of what those three simple words meant. It undid everything that she had based her reality on for the past ten years. If he was real, then that meant…her mind began to hurt as she realized all of the different things that it entailed.
However, the real question still remained unanswered: Why was he here?
She looked down to where his hand still covered hers, breaking their eye contact, and, for some strange reason, felt no urge to pull away.
His skin was warm, but soft, and she found herself silently wishing that he wouldn't let go.
It felt almost as though she would be the one to disappear into smoke if she let go, and that she would drift into the air as though she had never even existed, and the idea, as well as the visual imagery, shook her to her core and she felt her hand begin to tremble.
He placed his other hand on the counter, sliding it beneath hers so that both of his hands cradled her right one, as though holding a dove that might fly away at any moment.
Their gazes met once more, and she felt something inside of her begin to melt.
At this, she lifted her free hand and gently placed on top of his, needing the reassurance, that, yes, he was real.
She leaned in slightly, still not quite believing what was happening, but at the same time silently thrilled that what had happened oh so many years ago, was actually real. It had all actually happened, and she wasn't in the least bit unstable.
But the question still remained, lingering in the air between them, unspoken by either of them, but both of them knew that it needed to be answered.
Why was he here?
However, even more questions spun off of that one, and Sarah's mind swam with them as she looked at their entwined hands. Why now? Why here, of all places? What was his purpose here, and what did he intend to do now that the two of them had met once more?
As the questions collided in her mind, she noticed the warmth that emanated from his skin and she wanted nothing more than to become more familiar with his touch.
The thought was surprising, but it felt as though the feeling had been building for quite a long time.
She remained silent, as did he, but then the stillness was broken by the door to the store swinging open and causing the small bell to ring, breaking the pervading silence.
Startled by the sound, Sarah quickly pulled back and grabbed her books before bolting out the door. No, no, no. She had finally recovered after years of therapy, and this could destroy everything. What on earth was she thinking?
Barely aware of the people around her, she stumbled back to her apartment above Wong's Chinese Takeout and dropped her purchases to the floor, quickly turning and locking the door behind her. She leaned against the door for a brief moment, and then slid the safety chain into its proper place, making her feel slightly more secure.
She slowly pulled back from the door, briefly realizing that she had probably overreacted.
All he had said was her name. Sarah was a common enough name, so he probably didn't even know her…it was probably just her mind tricking her.
She nearly stumbled as she walked backwards into her front room, and looked down at the floor to see that the book that she had tripped over was Labyrinth.
No, no meaning there…just a coincidence. Just a coincidence.
She leaned down and began to pick up the rest of her books, as well as her manuscript which had also fallen, and then began to reach over to grab the small, red book…but she hesitated. That book was what had caused her all of her troubles before, so how would now be any different?
At that question, she was able to figure it out…
…she was older.
She had matured, and she was now more accepting of her shortcomings.
And she now understood what had been implied so many years ago. What she hadn't been ready to accept at the time.
Now that she could look back and see his feelings for what they really were, she was easily able to recognize what they were.
She was able to understand…but she didn't want to. Damn. She really didn't want to understand him, but she did anyway and it was slowly driving her to that dangerous edge, the one where two words dangled and threatened to unbalance everything she knew…
Her fingers finally tightened around the red leather, and she gently lifted it and pressed it to her chest.
The two words seemed to form an ache in her chest, and she couldn't help but wonder. Wonder if she had felt the same then that she felt now, but hadn't recognized it for what it was.
Sarah would have given anything to turn back the last few hours, to not have entered into the bookshop, to not have taken those steps that had now turned her world upside down and completely unrecognizable to what she knew to be true.
But she knew what she wanted now…the question was, did she have the courage to take it?
Slowly standing, she placed the rest of her books on the table, still gripping Labyrinth, and then walked back out her front door.
Realizing that each step she took, took her closer to him, was hard to fathom, but she managed to walk all the way back to the book store.
Standing outside the door, she took a deep breath…and then entered. The little bell rang above her as she entered, and she turned her eyes towards the small front register…and there he stood. It seemed to her that he hadn't moved an inch since she'd left.
As soon as he'd heard the bell, he'd looked up, so now their eyes were once more locked together in a silent battle of wills.
Carefully, she took several steps forward and then placed the book on the counter between them, never breaking eye contact.
Keeping one hand on the book, she hesitatingly lifted her other hand so that it was scant millimeters away from touching his face. He made the decision for her, lifting his own hand to grasp hers and gently press it to his jaw. His free hand joined hers on the book, his fingers gently caressing her own.
"Sarah…" he whispered, and she felt a pleasant tingle run through her at the sound of her name on his lips once more.
She gave him a faint smile.
"Jareth," she said, barely believing what was happening.
After a moment, he returned her smile, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly upwards. The fingers that had been caressing hers over the book, stilled, and instead moved their attention to her wrist, causing more shivers to run down her spine.
They both allowed their joined hands, still caressing his face, to drop as well, and he reluctantly broke eye contact to look down to where they held hands.
After a long moment of silence, he said,
"I've missed you, Sarah…"
She let a small sigh escape her lips and gave him a soft look. "I've missed you, too."
They said nothing more, and she smiled to herself. Of course they wouldn't say anything more. Nothing more needed to be said. He was here and so was she, and that was all that mattered. That was all that mattered.
He was home.
A.N. - This was about three-fourths done...for almost a year! Finally, today, my inspiration came back and I finished it! I hope that you enjoy it!