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Sarah 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 hour.

          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 know."

          "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 commotion.

          "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 now."

          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 bluea 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 almost hypnotized.

          "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? askedSir Didymus! That was the name she couldn't remember!

          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 the doorway.

          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 kitchen.

          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.


Everyone 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?"

          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 hardships galore.

          "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 stomach.

          "Me too," Sarah said. "I'm going to move my bags to my room, okay?"

          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.

Jennifer Connelly     David Bowie    Jim Henson            C    C