There's such a fooled heart
Beating so fast in search of new dreams
A love that will last within your heart.
The lush emerald lawns. The old stone bridge bent over the gently flowing stream of clear cold water. The bordering trees tall and proud with long years in their roots. Everything was exactly as she remembered it, even the grey stone bench where she used to sit with a book in hand when she was younger. Lots of adventures had happened here, and lots of dreams had been woven from her imagination down into her heart.
Sarah Williams smiled softly to herself as a myriad of memories spun around her in this park that was once so precious to her as a child and a teenager. It had been a refuge and an escape for a girl who sought something extraordinary beyond what her eyes could see in an ordinary life, her wild imagination something of a marvel to the people in her life. But to her a treasured thing not lost in childhood.
She was twenty-two years old. Somehow her imagination was still fairly intact after the years passed on and childhood left her with its lingering gift. What she did lose was the childish selfishness and impetuousness that had gotten her into a spot of trouble years ago.
Seven years to be exact.
How could she forget? She had tried to more than once. No matter how she tried to bury the memories or convince herself it all was simply a dream, she knew the truth.
The name in itself sent shudders down her spine.
Sarah slipped off her shoes to feel the springy grass between her toes and on her skin. She tilted her head up towards the warm sunlight and drew a deep breath of the fresh, sweet air. White flowers dotted the ground like pale stars scattered in a green sky.
An adventure unlike any other had become reality for her with just one misspoken wish, and the book she treasured so dearly had come to life. The labyrinth. That maze full of traps, trickery, and confusion that she had defeated both by persistence and heart. It was there she made friends in an hour of need, friends who were still dear to her and left with a promise to be there whenever she called. Hoggle, the stubborn yet kind dwarf. Ludo, the hairy beast who called even the rocks his friends. Sir Didymus, the fiery fox so noble and loyal.
When her sixteenth birthday had rolled around, her memories of the spectacular experience remained vibrant and her friends still often called upon. Her seventeenth birthday came and went. High school was the least of her worries as the world began to pressure her about college and her future. Those wonderful beings from the labyrinth suddenly didn't visit so very often, and her thoughts were mostly elsewhere. Eighteen arrived and brought the end of an important four years.
Graduation carried a bittersweet parting from the family she had come to love, even Toby, that little boy she once had wished away. Her stepmother Karen still did not seem like her own mother, but they had built a good relationship the older she grew and the more she put away childish tendencies. Sarah found that her strange experience—that she had breathed a word of to no one except Toby when he was still too little to understand—helped give her direction in life.
She was quite dramatic at fifteen and harbouring an inner desire to be just like her mother who was a star performer. Those dreams had grown and transformed even as she did. Now she took classes and worked part-time to become a playwright. She had been involved in drama in high school and adored the stage, but the years added to and refined her desire. Sarah wanted to write the part rather than just play it. Especially as she came into her own and realised she did not want to be just like her mother, a mother who rarely saw her daughter while being caught up in her own world.
A gentle breeze picked up and breathed into her raven-coloured hair. Her character and circumstances weren't the only things that had changed. At twenty-two, the youthful roundness of her face had become defined, she had grown a few more inches in height, and she looked more a woman than a girl. But she still had the porcelain skin, the rosy lips, entrancing green eyes, and dark tresses that had marked her a beauty even when she was fifteen. Instead of a pretty girl, she was now a beautiful woman.
But Sarah Williams was a true beauty, for her heart was as comely as her outward appearance and made the most lasting impression on those who came to know her. There was a reason she was the only one to defeat the labyrinth in over a millennia, but she assumed it was her determination and nothing more. Although the saying has been trivialised, beauty comes from within; otherwise it is merely a mask to cover an ugly soul.
Once upon a time, she had been without a mask in a sea of disguised faces.
No one knew about it. She made a few close friends over time, but not a word passed her lips about those thirteen hours spent in the Underground. And she planned for it to stay that way. Not a single person would believe her, and she had no intentions of being sent to a mental hospital.
"Was it all a dream?" Sarah whispered into the breeze. "It all seems so...so far away..."
The wind increased and tugged at her hair a little harder. She looked up and saw dark clouds rolling in on the horizon, veiling the deep blue sky like a devouring grey mouth open wide to swallow the heavens. She grinned at her active imagination and closed her eyes to better feel the sensation of the crisp air blowing on her skin. It sent goosebumps up her bare arms. She wore jeans, a v-neck white t-shirt, and white flats: all simple yet good enough to visit one of her favourite places in the world.
When Sarah opened her eyes again, she whipped her head around at the sound of something more than the wind. Almost like...almost like the flapping of wings. But all she saw were green trees dotted with spring blossoms.
Another shudder rippled through her and she slid her feet back into her shoes. It was time to go. Her dad, stepmother, and favourite little brother would be waiting for her at the house. As she walked down the path to leave, she glanced one last time over her shoulder as if expecting to see something.
But no. No white barn owl watched her this time. It could only be relief that settled deep in her chest, certainly not combined with a hint of disappointment.
"Sarah! You're home!"
Toby's blonde head appeared around the corner as Sarah lugged her bag into the house she once called home and closed the door. He bounded towards her and threw his arms around her waist.
"Whoa, whoa! Careful there, kiddo, or you'll knock me clean over!"
He laughed and tilted his head back to look up at her smiling face. "I missed you. You're going to stay here forever right?"
She set her bag down and ran her fingers through his fine blonde curls. She only planned to stay for the weekend like she did now and again after moving to a bigger city to follow her dreams, but Toby was still a child and hoping for things to go back to the way they used to be.
I was that way once, she thought. It took almost losing him to show me otherwise.
Her thoughts were taking dangerous turns again, so she placed them in an old drawer in the back of her mind to focus on Toby. "Sorry, Toby, but just for a few days," she said.
Before she could say more, Karen approached with her perfectly coiffed blonde hair, a string of pearls round her neck, and a welcoming smile.
"Sarah, glad you made it here safe," said Karen.
Neither of the women was very affectionate towards one another, but they at least didn't have the permanent tension in the air that was normal when Sarah was fifteen. "How about you help me set the table for dinner?"
Sarah agreed and followed Karen to the dining room with the little fair-haired boy tagging along at her heels. Even though he still had frustrated her at times, fighting for his freedom because of her own stupidity had given her a special affection for the tyke.
The best things in life were the ones worth fighting for, and whatever is fought for becomes dearer because of the labour. Sarah understood this, but little did she realise how much deeper this truth would be learned in a short matter of time.