It took weeks of practice before Sarah got her first spell down.
“Spell” was not the correct word, as Jareth was always telling her. Unlike many of the books she had read, the magic in the underground was not a potion or a saying or a wave of a wand. She had spent hours listening to Jareth’s ramblings on dreams and thought, where he would tell her constantly that magic is purely based on the strength of your thoughts.
He’d always say this while pacing back and forth in front of Sarah, who was standing in the grass and squinting up at him. In the courtyard within the castle, they were safe from prying eyes, other than Jareth’s. Sarah could try out several spells, or whatever they were meant to be called, without worrying about endangering anyone innocent.
Before she could even make the magic work, she found the lessons exhausting. The mental strain was not something she expected. By the end of each session, she just wanted to crawl into her bed—or the bed that had been provided at the castle, rather—and sleep for the rest of the day. But Jareth wasn’t the most caring teacher, if he could even be called a teacher, so Sarah kept going even when she felt she shouldn’t.
“Try a crystal this time,” Jareth said. “Whether it works or not, we’ll finish there. Don’t think of what lies inside the crystal—that only makes it more complex. Just will the crystal to be.”
Sarah thought of Jareth, acting as if he was all-powerful every time he tried to perform some sort of magic. If she just kept the confidence in mind, it should work, shouldn’t it?
She reached out her hand, perfected her stance.
“You’re not fighting the crystal, Sarah,” Jareth said, watching crossly.
Sarah rolled her eyes at him. As of yet, she was the only one who could actually succeed in that.
She opened the palm of her hand and focused again. She thought of the times as a child when she had desperately wished for adventure and for the books she had read to be real. Or when she wished for Jareth to appear and truly believed that it would work. She just had to convince herself that she could do this, and not like when she had gone through the labyrinth. This time it would work.
A crystal appeared in her hand. It was wobbly and barely there. Sarah broke out into a smile before her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and she fell back.
When she woke, the skies were already a darker shade of blue. Jareth, looking bored somehow, stood over her.
“That happened with me, too,” he said, extending a hand to help Sarah stand. “I was alone then.”
Sarah brushed the grass off her pants. She was dizzy but refused to admit it.
“That was a good start,” Jareth continued. “I think that shall be all for the day.”
He walked off without her.
The rest of it came easily. Sarah was wiped out by the constant use of magic, but the more she worked, the easier it became. Soon enough, she could call upon a crystal as a mere afterthought. What was inside was more difficult, but she began to figure it out, even if the poor little courtyard had to witness so many explosions from her failed attempts. Each session had to be followed up by massive cleaning, but it was worth it.
Along with the magic came other teachings, such as how to handle the goblin citizens and what to do if someone did happen to wish away a child when she was in control. He never explained why he would do this, and Sarah only knew the tales from the book. Sarah eventually gave up on even asking.
Time away from her lessons was spent within the castle or the goblin city. After learning that she was Jareth’s heir, the goblins were as excited to see her as they were him. Walking through the city, she was always crowded by the goblins jumping around ecstatically and trying to catch her attention.
She hated to think that they were all once children.
There were times, due to her extended stay in the underground, that she felt less human than she should. “Home” sometimes became her bedroom in the castle rather than her old house. She struggled to remember titles of books she had read hundreds of times or the names of her old teachers whom she had loved.
There was once a time where she recalled an image of a woman that she couldn’t place. She had curled hair and a face just like Sarah’s, and she was with a man who had blonde hair and strange eyes. They looked familiar and yet too distant for Sarah to recall. That night, she spent hours awake trying to recall the name of the woman. All at once, she sat up, screaming her mother’s name so loudly that Jareth ran in to see what was wrong.
There were other days where she couldn’t forget the aboveground. The memories were like a heavy weight pressing against her chest. Sometimes she couldn’t move. She would lock herself in her room to be alone with her thoughts.
“I wish I could go home,” she would whisper quietly, pulling her knees to her chest and burying her head.
Jareth would appear at the door and quietly remind her that this was her home now.
Her wishes had changed so much. She used to wish that she could pass her classes or that Toby would stop crying or that Linda would come back and Irene would just pack up and leave them alone for the rest of their lives.
Now she wished she could stop being so in-between, not knowing where she belonged or what to do about it. She wished that she didn’t feel so claustrophobic within the labyrinth. She wished she could forget the hideous stone walls that trapped her inside like a prison instead of the beautiful realm of fantasy she once dreamed it could be, so long ago or so recently or she didn’t even know anymore.
She wished for an escape.