was sitting on the couch, watching an especially funny commercial while taking a
rest from all of the family party preparations.
Her mother was baking in the kitchen while her father washed dishes.
She chuckled at the clanking that had been going on for the past half
She was completely and mindlessly engulfed in the television, happy to
have something to occupy her restless brain, when Toby bounced in front of her,
holding the gift that she had given to her parents to hide.
"Now, where did you get that?" she exclaimed without anger.
"I thought Dad had hidden it from you."
"'Found it in his closet," Toby replied, short of breath from
having bounded down the stairs.
"Be more careful with it," she declared as she took it from his
grasp. "It's breakable, you
"Is it glass?" he asked.
"You're not gonna pull a fast one on me!!" she retorted with a
chuckle as she rose from her seat. "You
won't know until you open it, now will you?"
Sarah's stepmother had left the kitchen by now, and was standing in the
doorway, drying her hands with a towel as she observed the reason for the
"Oh! C'mon!" he cried with reaching hands.
"What's the big deal, Toby?" she said teasingly as she rose it
above his head. "You'll get to
open it, soon enough."
"You'll have to wait, I think," she said, pretending to think
it over and raising the gift above her head in order to elude his bouncing grasp.
"Come on! Can I open it now? Pleaasee?"
His mother silenced him with strained patience. "No, Toby, you'll
have to wait–"
"That's alright," Sarah said chuckling. "He can open it
Sarah watched with an entertained grin as her little brother ripped the
wrapping paper off of the irregularly shaped gift. The paper was adorned with
scrawny red birds against a leafy green background, the words "Happy
Birthday, Kid!" spread about it in blue. It fell to the ground in
raggededged strips as her brother fervently tore it off. After a great struggle,
he finally got it unwrapped.
"It's beautiful, Sarah!" her mother exclaimed, gently clapping
her hands together once to accentuate the statement.
The unicorn was a dazzling white color, with a crystal horn that sparkled
with mystical brilliance as Toby held it up to the light. The sapphire eyes were
a deep blue–a depth-less ocean, an unfathomable firmament.
In Toby's hands the replica of the mythical creature stood – reared up
on its hind legs, caught, as if once alive, in the middle of anger and fear then
shrunken to the size of a fist. Its tail was streaked with melted silver, its
hooves with a thin veneer of gold. It was everything one would imagine a unicorn
to be, yet so much more. Beneath the glaze and metal and gleaming precious
stones there was only hard ceramic, but that was not the thought of the admirer.
Only its outward beauty was taken into account.
Toby looked at his treasure with hungry eyes and then up at Sarah, a
somewhat perplexed look on his face. "What
is it?" he queried. "A unicorn or a Pegasus?"
"It's a unicorn," Sarah replied to him, smiling at the return
of his curiosity.
His face lit up more brightly as he began to make the connection. He
examined it carefully and with complete wonder; the kind of reaction Sarah had
been hoping for. Her brother's love
of magic had grown.
"If you do loving things," she added, "and use its magic
for good it will grant any wish you have."
This added dramatically to his wonder.
"Really? I'm going to clean my room from now on!"
Sarah and her parents laughed with goodnatured amusement. Sarah ruffled
his hair as he walked over to the dining room table and put the unicorn down in
front of him. He sat in the chair across from it and stared intently at his new
possession, turning it around slowly to examine it from all angles.
Sarah's mother began talking to her. Her daughter nodded occasionally,
but she was paying her stepmother only partial attention. She glanced frequently
over her mother's shoulder to see what Toby was doing. The entire time her
mother had been talking to her, her brother continued to stare at the unicorn
statuette, his eyes fixed mainly on the gemstones that served as eyes for the
figurine. The five yearold seemed
"I wonder what could be making him look at it for so long?"
Sarah's stepmother asked as she finally decided to turn around and find out what
was distracting her daughter's attention.
"I wish I knew…" Sarah mumbled with frowning preoccupation.
"Well," her mother said, turning around with a mild lack of
interest, "we should get everything ready."
Sarah nodded, hesitantly pulling her eyes away from her brother's
profound concentration. She went with her mother into the kitchen to help put
candles in the cake and do those other odd little things that needed to be done
to prepare for the party. Now that
she was home, she wondered if there would be any way that she could see her
friends from the Labyrinth again.
'Let's see … there was Hoggle and,…and…,' Sarah paused for a
moment,'and there was, um… Ludo! That's it! And I remember there being someone
else…' She stopped in midthought,
distracted by her mother and father leaving the kitchen to set the table, the
room's doors swinging loudly behind them.
'There was someone else, I know it,' she thought. She felt like crying.
The most memorable friends she had ever had, and she could not immediately bring
their names to mind. Through her mind's eye she traveled back in time, with only
the smooth counter top to make reality manifest itself within her incoherent
brain. Back and back she went, back to the time the Goblin King had taken her
brother away due to her request; slowly she inched her way through those moments
when she had gone to save her brother, finding adventure and friendship in the
world entitled the Underground. She had given those new friends a short farewell,
neither satisfying her need to make proper amends, nor giving her time to
embrace them and give them a proper goodbye. Yes, she had gotten to see her
friends after that, but that moment in time had always made its impression upon
her, for at that time her heart had been filled with emotion, torn between the
longing to stay and the need to complete her quest. Her final moment of life,
the imminent moment that she would be aware of her ceasing existence, that image,
she concluded, would be the last image that passed through her mind's eye while
in this world. She would never forget the pictures, the words of her friends…
Should you need us? asked…Sir Didymus! That was the name she
Yes… should you need us? Hoggle had added, the dwarf gazing
forlornly up at her as she had begun the ascension of the stairway that led to
the Goblin King.
"Then I'll call," she added to herself out loud – in the
present – as a tear swelled in her eye.
"What was that, honey?" her stepmom asked as she came through
Sarah swallowed and forced back the tears. "Oh, nothing, Mom,"
she replied as she turned around.
Her stepmother smiled at her. "I'm so glad you're here, even if it
is for only a couple of days," she said to Sarah as she put the candles in
Toby's cake. Sarah felt better and felt like crying harder, all at once.
She remembered how, at first, she had disliked her stepmother. But their
relationship had grown to a friendship and a sistership over the years, and she
felt absolutely comfortable in calling her "Mom".
"Okay, we're ready," her mom said from the other end of the
Everyone proceeded into the dining room, singing a birthday song as they
made their way to the lowlit area. The cake, with its flaming candles, was
placed onto the table. The song was completed and Toby blew out the candles; one
stayed lit contrary to his hard blow. It affected him none whatsoever, and he
tried again. It went out on the second try, and everyone clapped. Sarah wondered
what he had wished for.
had eaten their fill of cake and ice cream, and since mouths were no longer full
of food, conversation began.
"When are you leaving?" Toby asked from across the table.
"The day after tomorrow," Sarah said unhappily.
"Awe, shoot," Toby said emphatically, "I was hoping you'd
go to the fair with me."
I knew how much he was hoping to go to the fair, Sarah said in her
thoughts. But, of course, my boss doesn't understand what having a loving
family is like. He probably disowned them in order to get a payraise. The
truth was, Sarah just did not like her job.
It had been nothing she had been hoping for.
Yes, she was an actress, as she had always hoped, but, somehow, the
reason for her acceptance of this career had been misguided.
She hadn't quite figured it out, but the thought that her unhappiness was
due to a fault of her own could not leave her.
Her mom looked at Toby then at her. "Don't worry," her mom said
comfortingly, "I'm sure we'll do something. So how's that job at the studio,
Sarah took a sip of her milk. Suddenly, she had begun to feel tired.
She couldn't seem to fight off an overwhelming fatigue.
She wasn't sleepy, she was just tired. Plain tired. Tired of
hallucinating, tired of worrying, tired of remembering, tired of not remembering…
What's going on here? I'm
not having a nervous breakdown, am I? Have
I worked that hard?
"Working you hard, no doubt," her father added, teasingly.
Sarah forced a smile. Her dad had always had a way with timing.
"I guess so. My week of vacation was cut down to a couple of days
because of a rehearsal, but," she added, almost reluctantly, "I like
my job." She would not admit
her mistake to them. They had warned her time and time again about the
disappointments involved with her choice of career, but she had been unwilling
to listen. She would find a way out
on her own, even if it put her through perilous journeys, trials, and emotional
"I think you're working too hard, Sarah.
I knew you were going to be unhappy from the moment you moved up there…
You barely made it to your own brother's birthday, for goodness sake… I
mean, we haven't seen you since Christmas, Sarah…" The preaching of her
overprotective stepmother had finally begun.
"Oh, she'll be fine," her dad said.
"Don't worry so much. She can take care of herself."
Sarah was beginning to wonder. Can I now?
You don't really think so, I'm sure.
"It's okay, Mom. I get a lot of important jobs.
I'm supposed to get a small
part in a really great movie soon. I'm
really moving up."
At a snail's pace, she added silently to herself. Unfortunately,
she was a big girl and couldn't complain anymore.
Fortunately, she didn't have to listen to her mother's daily reality
checks. Reality seemed so futile,
but imagination was not to be lived. Not
even in acting.
Her dad pushed the plate from himself and slumped a bit in his chair.
"Well, I think I've had enough," he said as he patted his
"Me too," Sarah said. "I'm going to move my bags to my
Her mom nodded. Her dad got up from his seat and put his napkin down.
"I'll help," he said.
"Na," she said looking back as she approached the doorway,
"I can handle it."
He shrugged and sat back down.