Sarah goes to Neverland
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How exactly should we describe the magic on that fateful night of nights? Let us say it was all but dead. Though perhaps dead is too strong a word. Yes, perhaps waning would serve as a more adequate term on this occasion. And so, we have decided. The magic was waning.
Sarah first noticed the weakening enchantment of the night the moment she stepped out of their carriage. Her first reaction to the arrangement and decor of the festival was no more than a mild surprise, and this was very strange, you see. For it is much unlike a child to be mildly surprised, least of all, at a proper festival. However, given the circumstances Sarah had recently come from, she thought it might just have been a passing thing.
Still, the festival was a sight to behold. It was held within the moonlit courtyard of a small town made with dark cobblestoned roads and riddled with narrow alleyways where shadows lurked. The music was a merry sort, and parents danced the saltarello amongst roaring flames spraying embers into the night sky as if a great joke had been told. One after another, more and more Umbrians arrived bringing baskets filled with warm bread and cheese and meats; and as the wine poured freely, so too did compliments given to the stunning women in attendance.
Maria got her fair share from the many hopeful boys hovering about her, while Sarah received several variations of "Oh, aren't you just the loveliest little thing!" from all the adults. But the two sisters soon went about their separate ways, parting almost immediately upon their arrival. Maria left to find a quiet corner where she could take off her false smile, now wearing dangerously thin, while Sarah took a more social approach.
Sarah went off in search for a very special boy. Though just before she left, Maria had some words for her. "Don't go too far," she commanded. "I want to be able to see you at all times, alright? Sarah, did you hear what I said?"
"Yes, yes," Sarah replied as her eyes shifted through the crowd. Sarah heard her sister quite well; it was just that she wasn't listening. She left wandering through the bustling crowd in search for the boy that would aid her in finding this special fairy that could grant a wish, and make her mother well. However, instead of finding Angelo, Sarah made a slightly disturbing discovery. And this discovery came in the form of a pouting little boy named Rocco, who was sitting beneath the very long table where they kept the food.
Just like Eleanor, Sarah had a kind soul; and so she was intensely drawn to the sound of whimpering. Thus she slowly crawled her way under the table to meet him. "Ciao, Rocco," she said, softly. "Are you alright?"
Rocco was so into his own dreariness that he didn't even notice the girl. In fact, Sarah had to call out to him thrice before he turned finally and saw her. "Oh," he said, meekly. "Hello, Sarah." There was a stern frown upon his face when he said it, and Sarah knew that she ought to tread softly about him, lest she unknowingly poke his wound.
"You seem awfully upset, Rocco," she said.
"I am," he replied indignantly.
"Is that why we are hiding under the tables tonight?"
"I just don't want to be around those liars anymore," he said.
"Liars?" Sarah replied, taking a secretive glance behind her. "Who lied?"
Rocco turned staring daggers at the blissfully unaware adults. "Them," he said, hatefully. "They're all liars and don't deserve to be happy. Not one bit! Not a single one!"
Sarah was utterly surprised. Rocco was normally such a sweet boy, and she had never once seen him so angry before. But now Sarah was also intrigued. "Rocco, sweet boy," she whispered. "What was the lie?"
The boy looked up at her with tear-filled eyes and attempted to speak, but alas, the words would not be said. "Oh, Sarah," he whimpered. "I cannot say it; least of all to you. Go ask Ceria. She's the one who told me; though I curse her now for having done it."
"She told you?" said Sarah.
Rocco groaned and buried his face in his knees.
"Don't ask me anymore, please."
"Okay, Rocco," Sarah replied. "Stay here, I'll be back soon."
Sarah's interest was now thoroughly peaked, and so she went off in a hurry. Again she scurried through the crowd, occasionally bumping into a staggering adult loose from the wine. It wasn't until she came to a quiet place on the outskirts of the courtyard, that she finally found Ceria. She was with three other girls, all having the same scornful demeanor.
They stood there along a wall talking amongst themselves, sipping juice, and taking turns speaking hatefully at the adults. When Sarah came upon them they all quieted down.
"Sarah?" said Ceria. "What are you doing here?"
"What do you mean?" Sarah replied.
"I mean," she paused. "I heard your mother was really sick."
One of the girls scoffed. "She's probably faking."
Sarah wasn't sure where that hostility was coming from, but before she could even snap back, Ceria stepped in and reprimanded the girl. Ceria was a good friend, like Angelo, and often visited the Lovely's hill with her widowed father. Mrs. Lovely would always make them sweet bread and tea whenever they came, and told them stories. And Ceria grew to care for Eleanor as she would as her own mother, had she ever met her.
"Ceria, how do you that?" Sarah asked.
"Angelo," she replied. "We passed by his house before we left for the festival, and he said his parents were heading over to your house to see her."
Sarah looked up and around her anxiously. "Is here here now?"
"No," Ceria replied. "At least, I don't think so. I haven't seen him since then."
A disappointed look came across Sarah's face. "Oh," she said.
Ceria stood impatiently waiting for an answer to her question.
"So, what?" Sarah said.
"Is your mother sick?" she asked. "Is it really bad?"
Sarah hesitated, but then found the right words. "She'll be well soon enough."
The girl then gave a sigh of relief. "That's good," she replied.
Eventually, Sarah finally got around to asking about Rocco, and when she did, she saw the others began to tense up and act very strangely. One shifted her eyes to the adults, another began to tear up, while the last attempted to consoled her. Ceria bit her lip.
"Will someone please tell me what's going on around here?" Sarah aggravatingly asked.
"Go on, Ceria. Tell her," said the girls.
"What is it?" Sarah said.
"I suppose it would be better to just show you," Ceria said. "Come with me."
The three girls were very helpful in providing cover for Sarah and Ceria as they slipped underneath the long, connecting iron chains blocking the paths out of the courtyard. Ceria took hold of a torch hung on the side of a wall and glanced back at Sarah. "Stay close and don't fall behind. If our mother's find out we've sneaked out of the festival, they'll--"
She stopped realizing what she was saying. "Well, anyways, we should just hurry."
The scuttling sound of two little girls running echoed through the dark and empty streets as they moved by way of torchlight. Light glimmered off the slippery wet stones beneath them, and Sarah herself came dangerously close to falling many times along the way, as Ceria would often zip sharply through tight alleyways. But Sarah wouldn't let up, nor did she make a single peep in complaint; she was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. However something did eventually catch her eye in which she was forced to stop.
"What are you doing, Sarah?" asked Ceria. "Come on, we don't have time to sit around."
Sarah wasn't even listening, completely taken in by the faded words written upon the wall. "Just a second?" she said. Ceria remained silent. "Hand me the torch, will you?"
Ceria reluctantly did so, and as Sarah brought the light along the dark edges of the wall, she began to read the words aloud. "Parents. Are. All. Liars. There. Are. No. Such. Things. As. Fairie--" Sarah stopped mid-sentence, dropped the torch, and threw her hands over her mouth. She'd almost done a terrible thing.
At that time, a faint wind blew through the alley. Weak though it was, their torch was blown out, and a dim glow appeared emanating from farther down the alley. "Who would write such a thing?" Sarah said aghast.
Ceria wouldn't even make eye contact with here. "We're almost there," she said. "It's just a little farther up now." Sarah left the smokey torch on the ground and followed Ceria towards the light. Their pace was slower now, somber even.
Once they came around the corner where they found a crowd of wide-eyed children huddling secretively around a fire. Sarah's first thought was that they were perhaps telling ghost stories. In this instance, it would be safe to say that she was at the very least, half-right; but only in the sense that the subject of their conversation was quite unnerving. Sarah could feel it the closer she came to the warmth of the flames "" a feeling akin to walking towards the edge of a very high cliff.
"No way!" said a child. "That's just rubbish."
"It's not," said another. "You'll see. Go on and tell them, Sofia. Tell them what you saw."
The children were quarreling, it seemed. None noticed when Sarah and Ceria slipped in and sat amongst them. "Promise me, Sarah," Ceria whispered. "Whatever happens, you won't say anything until the story's over."
"What? Why?" Sarah asked.
"Okay, I promise."
The children all quieted down and sat as if preparing to hear a bedtime story. Their worrisome eyes followed the one girl who rose among them. It was Sofia Verita. Sarah's eyes gave a stark frown when she saw her. Of all the children in Umbria, she was the only child Sarah considered rotten to the core. Sofia was the type of child who enjoyed stepping on bugs as much as she did the dreams of others; and she always had to be the center of attention. Many a times Sarah would call her out of this nonsense, and as a consequence, the two were often at each other's throats for one reason or another. Ceria knew very well that the two were not on the greatest terms; that's why she made Sarah promise first.
"Parents lie all the time," said Sofia. "They lie to get us to go to bed when we're not tired, they lie to make us eat nasty green things, and they also lie about fairies!" Sarah gave an involuntary jerk when the last part was said. Ceria was worried Sarah would break her vow right then and there, but miraculously, she did not.
"Wait a minute," said one child. "What do you mean, fairies?"
"You've all seen the writing on the wall, have you not?" she said. "It's just as it says; fairies positively do not exist. If you strip them of their dust and wings and stories, what you will find is simply a parent's lie." Gasps went around the crowd, as the children looked to one another with fright. "They're all just lies and I can prove it."
Somehow Sarah sat through the entire story. Though truth be told, she was slightly interested to hear it herself. And it was quite disturbing. Sofia had a taste for the theatrical much like Mrs. Lovely, so much of her performance was riddled with a great deal of dramatic pauses. And, we shall just tell the gist of it.
The story was this: One fateful night of nights, Sofia failed to fall asleep on time. The previous night her little sister had lost a tooth, and so when she saw her mother creep into their room, she thought for sure that she was attempting to spot the tooth fairy. She had mind to turn around and tell her mother the tooth fairy would never come if she waited, but then the unimaginable happened. Sofia saw her mother take the took and replace it with a coin!
The children stood silently mortified. Then another child recalled the same thing happened to them, but they had thought it just a dream before. One by one the number of children who believed in fairies began to fastly dwindle.
"You see, children," said Sofia, summing it all up. "It's like I said. Fairies don't exis--"
"They do exist!" shouted a voice.
Sarah had had enough. She stood defiantly from out the crowd, and Ceria threw her hands over her face. "Oh, god," she moaned.
"Hm?" Sofia peered in the crowd. "Is that, Sarah?"
Sarah walked her way into the inner circle, and at that point all eyes were on her. Of course that meant no eyes were on Sofia which served to enrage her.
"Shouldn't you be home with your mother?" she said with a wry smile.
Sarah knew that if Ceria knew, Sofia definitely knew as well since they were practically related. But she did not give into her taunt.
"Fairies do exist," she said.
"Is that so? Well, have you ever seen a fairy?" Sofia asked.
"No," Sarah replied. "I've neither seen the wind. Did my parents lie about that too?" A few of the other children began snickering at this, and Sofia got all red in the face. She balled her fists in an attempt to control herself, though you could hear her growling.
"Let's have a show of hands, shall we?" said Sofia. "Who here still believes in fairies?"
Sofia's and four others were so adamantly against it that they placed their hands firmly upon the ground. The others wanted to raise theirs, but sadly, were unable to do so. Sarah looked around and saw that she was indeed alone "" a terrible feeling for one so young.
"Now raise your hands if you don't believe in fairies," Sofia commanded.
Five hands shot up fast, and the rest rose arduously; Ceria's was among them. A wry smile grew on Sofia's face. Just like that, Sarah lost the battle. The other children went off from that point no longer believing in fairies. And they began saying foolish things such as, "I can't wait until I grow up!"
When the children came back into the courtyard, they spilled into the crowd, each going their own way. Sarah and Ceria cordially parted ways as well. Ceria went off with her group of friends and Sarah went to sit alone near a fire. Many children, including Rocco, would often show up attempting to cheer her up, but Sarah just kept on silently watching the flames. But then a familiar voice spoke that broke through to her.
Sarah turned around and saw a sharply dressed boy smiling before her. "Angelo!" she said with a great sense of relief. But the moment Sarah rose, she immediately noticed that Angelo had changed a great deal since they last saw each other. Before they stood eye to eye, but now, Angelo was nearly four inches taller, and looked down upon her, almost sympathetically.
Angelo proceeded to tell her of his perils on the road whilst traveling with his brother "" which he pointed out, was the entire reason they were so late. Honestly, Sarah couldn't care less now that he was there. She was just so happy not to be alone anymore, you see. As they sat together near the fire, Sarah went on reciting all the events leading from her strange dream last night, to the vote that was made amongst the children.
"She asked for a show of hands?" said Angelo. "What a brat."
After laughing a great deal, Sarah finally got around to asking Angelo if he would help her sneak out of town that night, and search the wish-granting fairy. He hesitated. "Fairies?" The look on his face was an ever subtle expression, but Sarah could read it clearly. Angelo Comfort was feeling uncomfortable. "Sarah," he said, nervously scratching the back of his head as he avoided eye contact.
"Y-yes?" she replied. Sarah was feeling quite nervous as well; afraid she were about to hear something she wasn't ready for. "What is it?" she asked.
"Nothing really," he replied. "It's just "" well." He paused again. "Don't you think we might be getting a little too old for that kind of stuff?" he said. "Fairies and all, I mean."
"Too old?" Sarah said.
The words fell foreign to her ears. Many times before she had been told that she was not yet old enough to do something, but this, this was the very first time anyone had ever suggested that she might be too old. Angelo nervously continued.
"It's just "" I wouldn't want anyone to look at us and think us childish," he said. "You know?"
Of all the unspoken rules of childhood, here now is the most important. The very instant a child views being childish as an awful thing to be, they are no longer considered as such. They are neither fish nor fowl now. They are a betwix and between; not a grown up, but certainly no longer a child.
Sarah Lovely's heart shattered into thin pieces, and had you tried to pick them up, you would surely have cut yourself in the attempt. Even so, Sarah did not loose face. She simply feigned a smile. "Quite right," she said. "We certainly wouldn't want that."
After that, things became very quiet between the two. In fact, we're sad to say that things were never quite the same between them again. After a moment of meaningless chatter, Angelo was eventually whisked away by the group of boys who would serve to be his closet friends thereafter.
"Ciao, Sarah," said Angelo just before disappearing into the crowd. "And don't worry about your mom. Father's a good doctor. I'm sure she'll get better."
Sarah remained there for some time after. Her stare farther and farther into the flames. to the party itself. There she saw children and parents eating and drinking and smiling and laughing. All of them were happy it seemed; all save for another.
Sarah and Maria's eyes met one brief second through a momentary gap in the crowd. Both were clearly unhappy, yet neither would say a thing. But then Maria's face did the oddest little thing. It gave the slightest indication of a confused glare. Before Sarah could decipher it, the gap closed as the crowd merged once again. She then brushed it off, returning her gaze towards the flames. But soon she felt a presence looming over her.
Sarah sighed. "What is it now, Maria?" she said.
But there was no answer, and when Sarah turned around, her face held the same look as Maria's. For standing before her was the child from the night before; the child from Sarah's scarcely remembered dream! And she was a girl just her size! All the memories from that night suddenly came rushing back into her mind, thrashing like a cold wave. And a silent tear ran down the side of Sarah's smiling face.
"Time to go, Sarah," the girl whispered.
Not another word passed between the two; nothing at all, save a cryptic look they both gave each other. The strange girl then took Sarah's hand, and stared up into the night sky. And then, when the moment was right, a shooting star streaked across the heavens, and the girls broke their silence by quietly chanting a strange nursery rhyme.
The winds of change may blow and blow,
But I shall never bow.
And though they pass me to and fro,
I still retain my vow.
They whisper of a fated day,
When dreams and magic fade.
And all the games we used to play,
have fallen to the blade.
But I for one say Codfish!
And wrinkles I find queer.
And even if this world departs,
I'll never have to fear.
I'll dreams of dreams as sweet juice,
As sweet as frosted berries.
Whatever comes from dawn til dusk,
I do believe in fairies.
It would be appropriate to tell you that at this very moment, something incredibly large began to move. And thus, as a result the winds picked up quite heavily. They burst from behind the horizon casting waves upon the grassy hills that washed fastly towards the festival.
The strange child clinched Sarah's hand and whispered excitingly. "It's coming." she said.
"Coming?" Sarah replied. "What's coming?"
When the dark winds arrived in the town, the fires blew out like simple candle flames and a shroud of darkness descended upon them. The Umbrians then gave into a great fright, and pandemonium quickly spread. Though the skies were growing cloudy, and an eerie mist blew into the courtyard. The people feared they had been caught in a storm, and thus, the festival was quickly vacated as parents rushed to find their little ones, loading them into houses.
When almost all the others left the dark and misty courtyard, one yet remained. Maria had not located her sister, but she finally saw her still sitting next to the only fire still alight, and there was another seated with her.
"Sarah!" Maria screamed. "What are you doing? Both of you come here right now!"
But Sarah would never hear those words, as the howling winds spoke louder the Maria ever could. Would it be that she were not attempting to halt the advance of our story, we might cheer for her now as she bravely fought through the fiercely blowing winds. "Sarah!" she kept screaming, yet her sister was still sitting by the fire, calmly chatting away with that strange little girl as if not a thing were happening.
When Maria finally did reach the fire a strong gust blew out the flame, causing ash to fly into the air. Maria shielded her eyes for one fateful moment she would never come to forget. For the greatest magic always happens when one is not looking.
The winds then abruptly ceased, and when Maria opened her eyes she was alone on the silent hill. She looked around in quiet disbelief, but it was indeed true. Sarah was gone.
Neverland had taken her.