A.C.H.Smith. The Labyrinth. Chapter 19: Good Night

      Sarah closed her eyes to stem the tears and brushed her cheeks with the palms of her hands. "I must stop this habit of crying," she said aloud, as a distraction from her sadness. "I must also stop gasping, gulping, trembling, shouting, and generally going over the top when..." Then she remembered that she had not found Toby again, and she opened her eyes in alarm.
      The white owl was still flapping above her, but in other respects the scene had changed. She was standing on the staircase of her home, and it was dark outside.
      She raised her eyes to look at the owl. It circled her for a last time, found an open window, and flew out into the night. Then she was running up the stairs two at a time, shouting, "Toby! Toby!"
      He was in his crib, fast asleep. She could not help but pick him up and cuddle him. He opened his eyes dozily, thought about crying, but decided that he was in good enough shape without it, so he smiled instead. Sarah picked up Launcelot from the floor and put the teddy bear in his arms, saying, "Here you are, Toby. He's yours." Then she tucked him into his crib again. He went straight to sleep.
      She stayed there with him for a long time, watching him breathe peacefully, with Launcelot in his arms.
      Back in her own room, the full moon was shining outside her window. She left the curtains open, to see it. If she went to bed quickly, it would still be shining in when she turned the light out. The alarm clock by her bed showed that the time was after midnight. Her parents would be back from the show any minute now.
      She sat at her dressing table and picked up a hairbrush, but her attention wandered to the photographs she had around the mirror, her mother and Jeremy, smiling at each other like young lovers, the signed posters, the gossip stories about romantic attachment. Deliberately, she began to remove one picture after another from the mirror. She glanced at each one before putting it away in a drawer.
      On the dressing table one picture remained, of her father and mother and herself, aged ten. Sarah straightened the picture. Then she went to get the music box and put it in the drawer along with the pictures and clippings, shoved far back.
      Downstairs, she heard the front door open and close. Her stepmother called, "Sarah?"
      She didn't answer at once. She was holding her copy of The Labyrinth.
      "Wait," Sarah whispered. "I am closing a chapter of my life. Just wait." She paused, and added, still in a whisper, "Please." She put the book in the drawer with all the rest, and stood with her hand on it there.
      Sarah left it a moment, then called back, "Yes. Yes, I'm here." She looked at the drawer, and sighed. "Welcome back," she called.
      "What?" Her stepmother, taking her coat off downstairs, paused, puzzled. "What did you say?" she called up.
      Sarah opened her mouth, and closed it again. Once was enough, she thought. Once was all right. Any more would be overweening. I nearly overwent there, she smiled to herself, and pushed the drawer shut.
      She straightened up, and on the dark window saw her reflection against the moonlight. Behind her reflection was Ludo.
      "Ludo - good-bye - Sarah," he said.
      She spun around with a cry of joy. The room was empty.
      She checked the window again. Sir Didymus was there.
      "And remember, sweetest damsel, shouldst thou ever have need..."
      "I'll call," she told him. She glanced around the room again. Empty, of course.
      Sir Didymus was hurrying back into the window pane. "I forgot to say, also, that if ever thou shouldst think on marriage..."
      "I understand," Sarah told him. "Good-bye, brave Sir Didymus."
      He faded. Sarah kept her eyes on the window. She did not have long to wait. Hoggle popped up from behind the bed. "Yes, if you ever need us... for any reason at all..." He stared at her from under his bushy eyebrows, and started to fade.
      "Hoggle," Sarah said, "I need you. I need you all."
      "Sometimes," the Wise Man observed, "to need is... to let go."
      "Oh, wow!" said his hat. "And that's just for starters."
      Outside the dark window, the white owl had been perched with his claws hooked on a branch, an effigy of watching and waiting. Now he swooped away over the park, on silent velvet wings, up toward the full moon. Nobody saw him, white in the moonlight, black against the stars.