LABYRINTH: ASHES TO ASHES
Disclaimer: I, the author, can assure you, the reader, that the content of this story is completely my own, and any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental. I do not own Labyrinth or any of the characters in it. This story is for enjoyment purposes only.
Author's Note: Ashes to Ashes was a story I published on back in 2007 when I was 18 years old. This was my best reviewed story at the time, and one I enjoyed writing the most. Now, at the grand old age of 23, I decided to "pimp" the whole thing, add a whole new bunch of scenes, re-write the ending, and generally turn it into something that represents my writing abilities in 2012. I believe this is ten times better than the original and I ask that you pay no attention to the old one. Hope you enjoy it! Reviews are very much appreciated - even small ones! :)
The sky was a dismal shade of melancholy grey. All that lay ahead was a thick foggy haze which seemed to lead into the sunken ambience of depression. The young woman's footsteps echoed along the abandoned streets. No light radiated her bare ashen skin as the clouds secreted the desolate sun. She dressed in a morose black frock which wafted in the light wind. A matching black bonnet covered the sorrow of her eyes so that her pale porcelain face could barely be distinguished. She continued to hurry down the streets frantically, as if she was heading to a place that she would rather not go. The pace of her stride kept in perfect rapidity until she finally stopped and stood at a large black gate.
"Sarah?" enquired a man, to which the girl raised her head. She looked neither happy nor sad to see the silver-haired figure, who also dressed in black from head to toe. He was a tall man, most likely in his early forties, and apart from his downcast expression he was quite handsome. "I…I'm sorry" he hesitated as he put his hand in her shoulder.
Sarah nodded slightly, determined to refrain from showing any form of emotion. She turned away from the man to indicate that she did not need his consolation, and he timidly placed his hand back by his side. After a brief moment they both walked through he large gate where they joined a number of others who lingered outside of the local church. Many of them turned to look directly at Sarah, their eyes full of sorrow and pity, while others observed quietly her from the corners of their eyes. She was aware of this and kept her head bowed down at all times. It was clear that she did not want to be noticed, or spoken to.
Throughout the service she acted with grace and dignity. She did not cry or weep, not even when she watched the coffin disappear behind the curtains. She just sat there with a cheerless expression, almost robotic like. When the vicar said his last words the crowd of mourners slowly paced out of the church. They watched as Sarah walked away, without saying a word to anyone. Some of them muttered to each other, trying to speculate about what she was really feeling. Was she upset? Was she angry? Was she confused? They did not know. But they knew that she was fragile, and so chose not to disturb the girl as she strode back down the streets, retracing her steps with the exact same pace and posture as before.
Meanwhile, Karen Williams perched nervously in her living room chair. Her worried expression was evident as she chewed on her fingernails. Behind her anxiety, one could see that there was a stern, assertive woman, but her confidence was overridden by her troubled eyes and fidgety stance. A breeze swept across the room as the front door opened. Karen leapt up out of her seat and quickly scuttled over to the door where she saw Sarah standing there, blank-faced and stiff-bodied. Karen stood there uneasily for what seemed like minutes, not knowing what to say. She showed compassion in her face as she gently touched her shoulder.
"How was it?" she asked sympathetically.
Sarah bowed her head before looking up at her and nodded slightly. It was clear that she did not want to speak, but also did not want to appear discourteous.
"I'd rather not talk about it." She spoke softly.
"Oh dear you look dismayed, you should have let me come with you. Nobody should have to attend their mothers funeral alone."
"No, it's fine, I wanted to go alone. Besides I hardly knew her anyway." Sarah sighed heavily as she took off her hat and walked into the living room, slouching on the couch as Karen followed. She blinked a couple of times as if to rid of any lingering moisture, and proceeded to focus her eyes on the television, which had not actually been turned on. Karen titled her head in concern, as she gazed down at her helpless step-daughter.
"But still, it's not a nice thing to have to go through." Karen paused for a second, as if something important had just occurred to her. "Was he there?" she asked, pryingly.
Sarah turned and slowly nodded her head, to which Karen sighed.
"I'll make you a nice hot cup of cocoa." Karen smiled, as best she could before adjourning the kitchen.
Sarah, finally alone, huffed deeply and wiped her sleepy eyes with her hands. She did not look like girl who had just been to her mothers funeral, as her expression seemed to be rather careless and impassive, almost worryingly so. Her eyes darted around the room looking for something to do or read. She pulled out a couple of books that were in reach from the nearby shelf. After carelessly flicking through the pages of Virginia Andrews and Chicken Soup for the Soul, she was about to give up on the books until something seemed to capture her attention. Her hands slowly reached for the remaining book that lay on her lap as she caressed the leather bindings. She seemed fascinated by it, as if she had never seen this book before. The title, which read The Truth About Mythology, was hand-stitched into the leather with gold embroidery. She opened the book carefully, which revealed thin pages that looked old and discoloured. As she brushed through the pages, she saw many hand-drawn pictures of different kinds of mythical beasts; centaurs, unicorns, dragons, mermaids - the list went on. She stopped abruptly when she got to a particular page, a page which had a large drawing of a labyrinth on it. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the myth that she had fought and conquered just a few years ago. Her fingers traced over the long and complex trails that the image displayed, as if she was demonstrating the simplicity of it all. Her fingers stopped, however, once she had reached what looked like a large bull. She wrinkled her face in confusion, and read the footnote at the bottom of the page.
'As in the great myth of Theseus; one must penetrate to the heart of the Labyrinth in search of the great beast, the Minotaur, if they wish to succeed.'
Sarah scowled in disappointment at the book, as if to say that it didn't have a clue. For she had succeeded the Labyrinth without engaging with the Minotaur.
"What's that you're reading? Anything good?" Karen's words startled Sarah, causing her to slam the book shut and place it quickly back on the bookshelf. "Obviously not," Karen shrugged, and handed her a fresh mug of cocoa. Sarah thanked her quietly, took a small sip and placed it on the coffee table. Karen sat down in the nearby chair and gazed at Sarah intensely. From her piercing eyes, Sarah knew that she wanted to have a serious talk with her.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" asked Sarah.
"I'm worried about you."
"Well don't okay! I'm fine, honestly." Sarah tried to appear convincing, but knew she was fooling no one. The more her step-mother pried, the more she lost control of her composure. Every word that fell from her lips seemed to have a pitch and tempo that differed from the rest, which resulted in her sentences sounding shaky and timorous.
"Now Sarah, I know that's not true. You've just been to your mothers funeral. Of course you're not fine. You've been quiet all week. Now, I know it's hard, but if you don't share your feelings then they'll have no chance of going away."
Sarah stilled remained impassive, trembling occasionally. If anything, it looked like she was trying extraordinarily hard to fight back her emotions. Karen stood up and moved over to the couch where Sarah was sitting. She knelt down beside her and looked into her eyes, sympathetically, searching for some kind of connection. But, Sarah lowered her eyelids. It was clear she wanted to be left alone.
"I know that its difficult ,with your father being away, and I'm probably the last person you want to speak to, but…I want you to understand that you can talk to me, Sarah. I want to help you, nothing more…and…"
"Am I interrupting something?" A young man had walked into the living room, sporting a whiter-than-white t-shirt and stonewashed blue jeans. He had an innocent complexion and a rather friendly face. He appeared to be around twenty years of age, but had a very youthful countenance, with short blonde locks that would be have been curly if he had not smeared hair gel all over them. His eyes were blue and welcoming, and his smile was warm and trustworthy.
"No, Lysander. Come on in." Karen stood back up and gestured for the young man to join her over at Sarah's chair. He smiled shyly as he walked over to join the two women, Sarah's eyes widened with a slight contentment and her lips curved into a tiny smile. It was the first time she'd showed any kind of emotion since she left the house in this morning, and to Karen's surprise it was a happy one.
"Hello, Sarah. Hello, Mrs. Williams. Umm…I was kind of wondering if…I could talk to Sarah…alone?" He smiled again, trying not to offend Karen.
Karen sighed, but agreed to let him and Sarah go off upstairs. Lysander held out his hand as Sarah gleefully walked up to the young man. Her step-mother watched in astonishment, noticing that Sarah's funeral-face had changed into an expression of delight. The two youths disappeared from her sight, and made their way up to Sarah's bedroom, which appeared to be rather plain for a girl who once had a vast imagination and a room filled with books and pictures which all reflected her innermost dreams. She still had a few ornaments and posters, but most of her old toys and stuffed animals were out of sight. She only had one bear; Lancelot, who rested faithfully on her bed. It seemed this bear must have had some sort of sentimental value to her, as it contrasted greatly to the bedroom's sensible décor.
Sarah went over to the in the mirror, while Lysander sat himself down on the bed. He observed quietly, as Sarah frowned at her complexion, appearing pretty dissatisfied with the way she looked. She didn't even pay any attention to Lysander for the first few minutes of him being there, which he found rather odd. He knew she was distracting herself from having any kind of strenuous conversation with him, but for a while he let her continue with her diversions. However, he immediately became concerned when Sarah stopped to look at a picture on her dresser. Her face turned to a pallid ashen colour once more as she stared at her mother's beautiful face. She gazed for a brief moment, before turning the photo frame around until it could no longer be seen. Lysander noticed this and he patted on her bed, indicating for her to come and sit next to him. Sarah hovered for a moment, before agreeing to his gesture. She sat by him and smiled, weakly.
"Do you want me to show you my new cassette player? Remember when I told you about it the other day. I got some new tapes and I think you'll really appreciate…."
"No. That's alright." He spoke softly, with a look in his eyes that said he knew Sarah all too well, and he knew that behind her pleasant exterior she was burying her true feelings. Sarah lowered her eyes, for she also knew her friend too well, and he was not going to let her act as if nothing had happened. "So how did it go?"
"It was fine." she verified. But, Lysander fixed his soft blue eyes on her deep hazel ones, and suddenly became stern with his gaze. This caused Sarah to become defensive. "Really! It was fine!" She snapped as she angrily stood up and marched over to her bookshelf where she pulled out a random book and tersely flipped through the pages. Lysander hand reached for her shoulder.
"I thought we were friends Sarah. You know you can tell me anything, don't you? It's just me! Your ol' friend Sandy! I know I don't know much about losing a mother, since I've never really had one, but I do know that you can't pretend you're not upset. Don't pretend Sarah. My shoulders ain't here just for holding my arms in place, you know! They're here for crying on too!"
"What makes you think I'm upset?"
"Well, for one thing, you're reading Dracula, upside down!"
Sarah paused, then sniffed as she dropped the upturned pages onto the hardwood flooring, and, at that moment, she burst into a flame of uncontrollable tears. She turned around to place her head on Lysander's shoulder and he stroked her long russet brown locks as she wept.
"Oh, Lysander! I…I…never said goodbye! She…she didn't even get to see…she just…"
"I know I know…don't worry. She can see you now. Believe me, she can see you anytime she wants, and she'll be very proud of you." Sarah hugged him tightly, feeling comforted by his words. "Time is a great healer, you'll see! Everything will be just a little bit brighter tomorrow, okay? And if it doesn't, then I owe you a coke." Sarah let out a slight giggle, but remained unsure of his words, for tomorrow seemed like just another grief-stricken day of this doom-filled year.