"Every two weeks. I could set my calendar by it. Bog it! Greenwich could set itself by it!" And of course, there it was, exactly as expected, on her dresser, in front of the mirror. Except that "her" dresser and "her" mirror were no longer the same ones accustomed to hosting this small, should-have-been innocuous clear sphere of is-it-crystal-or-glass.

Apparently moving out of her dad's house, going to university, and living in the dorm (1,500 miles away, thank you!) wasn't going to make delivery of this item late or non-existent.

She had pondered whether the change in time zone would make delivery seem late. What if the Underground went on Absolute Time instead of following Daylight Saving, or was it Daylight Savings? She didn't actually get to find out, as she was attending a mandatory new student orientation that somehow seemed to last from half an hour before the possible arrival until 45 minutes after.

"But that's new," she mused, considering the feather. She had grown accustomed to handling the bubbles. Deft, even, although she could never bring herself to attempt the contact juggling that she still found fascinating. Whenever she held any of those smooth spheres, she could hear him whispering her name.


As though it were the force within his breath.

Once. ONE TIME (well okay, twice), she held it to her forehead and closed her eyes. Golly, did she EVER have good dreams THOSE nights! Funny, though, they adapted themselves to her age. The first time was six weeks after. It was a sweet, non-traumatic revisit of their ballroom encounter. The difference was that the other dancers weren't leering at her, or she didn't notice because he found her sooner. Plus, she didn't break any walls with a chair.

The second dream was right after she started dating, but before she was going to let that boy kiss her. And THAT dream spoiled her first kiss. It wasn't the boy's fault that the Goblin King in her dreams knew what to do, while he had little experience! She wished that she hadn't laughed at him. (well, not "wished"...)

Anyway, those not-quite-Christmas baubles had been arriving since two weeks after her rescue of Toby. No, after her Heroic Rescue of Toby. She had to remind herself to consider it in that light, or she'd go all wistful and weak. Again.

Funny, Karen had never commented on them, or even seemed to notice them, except to compliment Sarah on her personal Christmas decorations. They DID look quite magical on shelves and mantles, when put with lights and garlands.

But now, far away from home, and the box containing several dozens of its brethren, here was one more.

She stood before the dresser, unwilling to look at it directly. Certainly unable to touch it. Afraid of –


Was that an owl at her window?