She played with the quilted material below her fingers and listened to the hushed curses from behind Rhiannon's open wardrobe door, the odd dress or top flying out to land unceremoniously in the already large pile. She allowed a soft smile to form before glancing at the item, soon followed by another two before the girl emerged looking flustered.

It was the day of the party and as usual her friend was in a flap; criticising her wardrobe to within an inch of it's life only hours before the main event. Sarah was well versed in this certain ritual, it occurred at every party or event yet still made her smile inwardly at the commotion.

They always did the same; after school Sarah would go to Rhiannon's house, the whole time the girl talking about what outfit she had in mind, Rhiannon would then try it on, call it hideous before ransacking her wardrobe. Sarah would then calm her down and hopefully find something they could both agree on, before once again refusing to join her for the sixtieth time.

Sarah snapped back to the present as Rhiannon gave a frustrated growl and sat heavily on the bed beside her, looking at her with pleading eyes as she laughed lightly and went to the pile that now dominated her room. She sorted through the clothes, throwing aside certain items until she finally held up an assortment of clothing that could please her friend.

"Oh Sarah," Rhiannon nearly gushed as she gathered the items in her hands, turning grateful eyes to her friend as she made her way to her door. "You are a lifesaver!" she gave a nervous grin before trying to turn the door knob with her hands full, allowing Sarah to do the honours before jogging to the bathroom down the hall.

Sarah sat back on the bed and waited, hearing the distant sound of the bathroom door shutting. She glanced at the clock and realised in a detached way that she would have to start making her way home in another ten minutes, giving her dad and Karen the night out.

She resisted the urge to look out of the window as something flew across the stream of light from the Winter sun, reprimanding herself silently for being so pathetic. Ever since the evening in the park two days ago, she had been jumpy at the first noise and unwilling to raise her eyes to the sky… Just in case. The nights had been worse, hearing a loud hooting from outside her bedroom window. She had quickly bolted from her bed and whipped her curtains shut, feeling more stupid by the minute.

Yet she was sure something was awry; something she couldn't quite place as she surveyed her friend's room. Over the past few days she had felt uneasy, maybe from the incident in the park, but somehow that just seemed to be the beginning. The sense that someone was watching her that would come just as suddenly as it would go, the feeling that something was just waiting to happen; sizzling under the tipping point.

Her thoughts were interrupted as Rhiannon strolled into the room, obviously pleased with the outfit as she turned before her eyes and grinned in a dazzling manner. She tried not to let her thoughts of a moment ago bother her further as she grinned at her friend, giving an approving eye to the tight jeans and band t-shirt with the studded belt thrown haphazardly over her hips.

"I think it's understated!" Rhiannon said whilst examining herself in her mirror, meeting Sarah's eyes in the reflection. "Like, I look good but I haven't had to try, don't you think?"

"Oh yes," Sarah stood, walking to stand behind her as she gave a mock thoughtful glance to the outfit. "No one would ever guess you had a small meltdown just moments ago!" she murmured with a smirk, watching Rhiannon's reflection as she glanced at the war zone that was now her room.

"Exactly," she muttered dryly. Both girls sharing a smirk before Rhiannon began to fiddle with her hair, teasing a strand away from her eyes as she looked once more to Sarah. The look she received told her they were onto the 'persuading her to come' stage of their system. "Do you really have to baby-sit?" No answer. "I mean, just this once can't you turn them down?" she whined, imploring Sarah with sad eyes that fooled no-one.

She laughed before grabbing her coat from the bed, putting it on with a smile to her friend. "I already agreed, and anyway, I'd rather not." she finished in a voice that left no room for argument, pulling her hair free from her collar and tutting slightly at the frizz.


She walked briskly; something she would blame on the cold and the fact that she had left Rhiannon's a bit too late, though she knew it had nothing to do with either. It was the familiar feeling of being watched that made her quicken her pace, the feeling that someone was silently observing and most probably following.

Someone she didn't even want to think about.

She started to relay the roads in her mind, crossing off the landmarks until she reached her destination. Passing the old swing that had been vandalised and now was nothing more than hanging chains that swayed in the breeze, passed the telephone box on the corner of her road with the paint peeling slowly through the years and finally passed the familiar houses that she had grown up around.

She ignored the treetops with a passion as she nearly jogged up her path, key already in hand as she fumbled with the lock with frozen fingers. Somewhere in the back of her mind she vowed to take gloves next time, though when the key finally turned in the lock she nearly threw herself upon the door and into the warmth.

Stamping her feet in the hall, she looked up in time to see Karen walking down the stairs towards her; already in her coat and followed shortly by her father. The woman gave her a small smile as she watched Sarah rub her hands for warmth, her father taking her coat from her and hanging it on the banister.

The two of them began to leave as Karen gave her usual list of emergency numbers on the fridge, followed by what time to put Toby to sleep and the usual garbage that Sarah nodded through each time they left her to look after Toby.

When the familiar sound of the car pulling away from the house had died, she finally caught sight of her brother who came pelting into the room and grabbed the remote control from the coffee table. Holding it in his hand like he had just found the Holy Grail, Sarah couldn't help but laugh at the little boys cheer. He had grown so attached to his cartoons, watching them on video from morning to night that Sarah knew everyone of them off by heart.

With a resigned sigh she turned the telly on, allowing Toby to scamper onto the sofa and seat himself comfortably before pushing the video in. He looked at the remote for a few moments, confusion evident on his face before turning his gaze up to Sarah again. "Which one?" he asked, holding the remote out to her as she sat down beside him.

With the colours now radiating from the telly, Sarah allowed the small boy to become transfixed by it as he leaned into her arm a little. She usually liked to watch him during these moments; the way he would smile without realising it at the program, biting on his bottom lip as the colours reflected in his eyes.

Maybe he wasn't such a brat anymore.


After an hour of watching with Toby, Sarah had to leave the room before her brain completely turned to glue in her head. She couldn't stand another moment of it and the bright colours were giving her a headache, though she left Toby with a glass of milk and some cookies and the boy was probably as happy as Larry.

After a brief visit to her room she walked into the quiet kitchen and poured herself a cup of tea, putting her book down before her as she blew on the contents and found her page before reading. The silence that cleared her mind a welcome relief from the noises she could hear faintly from the living room, a glance to the clock and she realised that half an hour more and Toby would have to go to bed.

She sat with her back to the window and couldn't help but feel foolish when she realised she had done it intentionally. She tried not to think about it as she took a sip from her cup, letting her mind become completely absorbed in her novel for the time being.

Within ten minutes Toby rocketed into the room, a happy yelp of "Shows finished!" as an explanation before he scraped a chair over to Sarah's and climbed on top. He looked at the pages of the book before dismissing them quickly, giving Sarah something to smile about as he carried on searching the room for something to do.

"Bored," he sighed heavily, something in his voice always causing Sarah to smile. He seemed so full of energy and eager to do something - anything! - to fill up the twenty minutes before bed. Sarah laid her book down, realising that when Toby was around it was impossible to ignore him.

"What did you do today?" she asked sweetly, knowing full well that Toby would talk with such detail that his mind would be thrown from the boredom. As she suspected, his face lit up before he looked up at her, somehow Sarah knew he was trying to organise his day in his mind.

"Well, mummy woke me up, then we ate some stuff,"

"Some stuff?" Sarah interrupted, laughing softly through her question.

"Yeah, like toast and stuff," he said like it was obvious what 'stuff' he meant. "Then I got dressed and mummy took me to the park with Merlin, but the swing was broken so we went to the other park instead," he took a second to breathe. "Then I came home and we gave Merlin some water and mummy made some food and I watched telly, then I drew a picture!"

"What of?" she asked in a fake excited voice, widening her eyes to her brothers story.

"Me and you and man!" he said, jumping down from the chair quickly as Sarah's face froze mid-smile. "Look, look, I'll show you!"

Man?

She followed him into the living room with a sinking feeling, the early signs of fear beating against her ribcage like a caged animal. She had no reason to panic, then why was she shaking so?

"What man, Toby?" she asked calmly, thankfully her voice remained even. Toby ran up to her with a piece of paper in his hands, thrusting it up at Sarah as she took it gingerly and looked at the scribbles. She let out a breath she wasn't aware of holding upon gazing at the picture, the main feature being three badly drawn stick figures with large heads and the sun behind them. "It's really good Toby!" she said excitedly, smiling down at him before dropping to her knees lightly before him.

She let him take the picture more into his hand as he pointed to the first figure, "That's you, that's me," he pointed to the figure beside 'her', though Sarah had to fight the smirk as they both looked exactly the same. His finger rested on the third shape, where he beamed at her briefly. "And that's man!"

She looked at the image carefully, trying to take it all lightly as she carried on smiling at her brother. "So," she startled easily, the smile never falling even as she felt her nerves creep up once more. "Whose man?"

Toby turned to her with confused eyes, his brow furrowed as he tried to think the question over. "He's man, I know him," he said lightly, turning back to the drawing. "You do too,"

She tried not to jump, she really did yet she still failed so terribly.

"I do?" she said lightly, trying to think of another question that could possibly solve the mystery as Toby nodded his head vigorously.

"He knows you." She froze, wide eyes turning to her brother who only looked amused.

"What?"

"He asked 'bout you," he continued before placing the drawing onto the coffee table and walking towards to door, obviously tired as he made his way to the stairs. Sarah followed him with legs that felt like jelly and lead at the same time, rigid and weak. "Said you're name," he muttered with a yawn, Sarah only three steps behind him, ready should he fall back on legs that were too short to really tackle stairs.

"Toby," she said following him to his door, entering the room and helping him into bed in a dream like state. "Who is he? How do I know him?" she asked desperately, trying not to panic as Toby yawned widely and shuffled slightly in his bed.

"He told me about the book," he murmured sleepily, rubbing a small fist over his eyes and looking up at her with a blurry gaze.

"What book?!" she nearly screeched, her voice an octave higher than usual as Toby paid no attention to her distress. Rubbing his hand over his eyes once more before snuggling down into the covers.

"His book."


Sarah ran to the back door, making sure it was locked before checking the kitchen windows and scanning the room for anything out of place. She had left Toby to sleep in a panicked state, rushing down the stairs with her heart in her throat as she bolted to the front door and double checked the lock.

She jogged into the hallway and looked unseeingly at the door, a hand resting upon the banister as she tried to calm down. Somewhere along the way, somehow, Toby had to have made it all up. She took deep breaths and silently pleaded with the Gods that Toby had just made it up, but deep down, she knew he hadn't.

The Book.

The Labyrinth.

The book that now laid upon her shelf, covered by another stack of books and out of her minds eye. She made her way slowly up the stairs; listening for any creaks throughout the house that sounded suspicious and trying to block out the noise of her blood singing in her ears. Even walking through the corridor to her room felt like a mile's walk, yet ended too abruptly as she rested her palm against the cool brass on her door knob.

She stepped slowly into the room, watching from the doorway with wide eyes in the darkness as she flipped on the light switch and stayed rooted to the spot. She let go of the door knob with a clammy hand and looked to the stack of books to her left, trying to visualize the little red leather bound book below it all.

She slowly walked to the shelf, removing the first 3 books from the top and setting them aside. With her heart pounding in her chest she lifted the last two to catch a glimpse to the red below. A owl hooted… The Owl as she slammed the books down upon the red leather once again, almost tripping in her haste to close her curtains.