The morning after Sarah Williams defeats the Goblin King, she gets up and makes toast. She has to brush some glitter off the toaster—it withers and vanishes at the brush of her fingertips, and she stares at her hand for a long time.
It mostly just looks like her hand. Even when she turns it over, and sees where she scraped her knuckles against the oubliette, where the shattered mirror cut the back of her wrist. It looks like she fell, or was playing in the street. That’s all.
The toast comes out burned, and Sarah stares at that too. Eventually, she slumps down against the cabinets and cries, wracking sobs that send her dad and Karen rushing into kitchen. They check her forehead for a fever, put their hands on her, and keep asking, “Are you okay? Sarah, please, tell us what’s wrong…”
Eventually, her dad drags her into his lap and cradles her against his chest, like he did when she was little. Her legs are too long to really fit anymore, but Sarah hugs him around the neck anyway. “It’ll be okay,” he says, keeps saying. “You’ll be okay.” And Sarah—doesn’t laugh, because she can’t, and doesn’t have the words to express what—how—
(None of her stories ever talked about this. What did Sir George do, the morning after he slayed the last dragon in England? Did Tam Lin eat breakfast, or did he sit there, shivering, wondering if his hands were different, having been claws and wings and scales?)
Afterwards, she leaves the burnt toast outside on the back porch. Not an offering. Maybe a reminder.
It’s Didymus she sees the most often, mostly because he’s the one who invites himself rather than waiting for an invitation. He comes for tea, but even if there’s no tea—which there isn’t, usually—he comes to tell Sarah stories. She learns to love poetry because there’s no escaping it with him. (She won’t read Idylls of the King until Brit Lit in college, but she ends up scrawling a lot in the margins; Didymus’ telling of events had been much more interesting.)
Once, she falls asleep like that, her hands tucked behind her head with Didymus curled up and sleepily reciting from the crook of her elbow. “So tender was her voice, so fair her face—though I don’t think he was looking at her face, my lady, pardon me for saying so—”
Sarah buries her nose in his fur. Didymus always smells of rosewater, and a crispness she thinks is just…the Labyrinth. She falls asleep trying to place it.
She wakes up with a wild fox in her bed, animal-black eyes frightened and flat, teeth bared. The fox is whining, and she’s tempted to throw herself across the room, to get away from this wild thing and its teeth. It takes a monumental will to keep herself still and her breathing slow, even; like she’s still asleep and unafraid.
It takes her longer to swallow, and start humming one of the songs he taught her—a knight’s round, he’d said. She’s shaky at first, but the fox’s ears flick forward. It cocks its head, and slowly, the teeth disappear behind its lips.
She almost laughs when noses at her throat curiously, butting its head against her jaw like a cat might.