It would be about two years before either of the sisters ever saw the labyrinth or the friends they made there again.
Stephanie went about her day quite unsuspectingly. She attended school, where she studied and met up with the human friends she had made since. They were a group of misfits, but that suited Stephanie just fine. She hurried home from the bus stop that day, excited because she had been invited to a school dance by a boy she knew from fencing. It was very last minute, so she had to get her dress today. Her mother had promised she would take her shopping first thing after school.
What Stephanie found waiting for her at home was disappointment in the form of a note from her mother. It said that her mother had gone to audition for a play that she had desired to play the lead in. The actress they originally chose, and her understudy, had both become unable to perform, so her mother was seizing the chance to take the part for herself.
It was for work, so Stephanie couldn’t complain too much. She sighed and decided to see if she could find something in her closet that would do.
She stepped into her room. Unlike Sarah’s, hers was a little on the messy side and full of eclectic items. Their two-bedroom apartment wasn’t very big, so everything was crammed together. She had posters on her walls from the broadway plays Cats and The Phantom of the Opera and movies like The Shining, Ran, and Pretty in Pink and for bands like The Clash and Queen. Also on her walls was an art poster for Salvador Dali’s Melting Watch, M.C. Escher’s Bond of Union, and a Chinese water color painting of a koi fish and water lilies that one of her friends had painted. She had shelves full of records and books, which Sarah had alphabetized for her by the names of the bands and authors.
She had the same picture Sarah had of their family of four from when they were nine and ten, framed and sitting on her dresser. She had some other framed pictures of herself with her new friends and with her mother and Jeremy and Sarah, her father and stepmother. There were also medals and trophies for fencing. Stephanie felt pride looking at them. Her coach thought she could be good enough for the olympics. She wanted to aim for the 1992 Summer Olympics. She would be done with high school by then, so her schedule would be more flexible. It excited her to think she might one day test her skills against some of the best athletes in the world.
Then she noticed something new. On her dressing table, next to her jewelry box, there was a rose, as red as blood. It was not unusual for her mother to share a flower from the bouquets she received from fans with her. But there was something about the rose that gave her an odd feeling she couldn’t quite place. Almost like she was forgetting something she ought to remember.
Stephanie opened her closet and began searching through her dresses. She thought the one she wore for opening night when her mother and Jeremy were in The Merchant of Venice was a possibility. It was a beautiful dress, with it’s strapless bodice of black velvet with a sweetheart neckline, full emerald green taffeta skirt. She had a pair of black heels and some mis-matched gloves that were black and emerald green. Or maybe this time she should make them both one color? She went over to her jewelry box and removed a velvet choker that had faux pearls and emeralds on it. And put on the matching earrings, too.
‘There. That should do it,’ she thought. Now she just needed to figure out what to do with her hair. At the moment her dark, brunette hair, parted at the side, was loose and flowed down a few inches past her shoulders.
“Stephanie!” a voice called out.
She recognized who it belonged to. Jeremy. She wondered if he was there looking for her mother or if her mother had asked him to check on her.
“I’m in my room,” she called back. She was just turning back to the mirror when he knocked on the door. Since she was decent, she said, “Come in.”
Jeremy opened the door and smiled when he saw her. “You look beautiful. What is the occasion?”
She smiled. “I’m going to a dance.”
“With a boy?” Jeremy asked.
“That’s usually how it’s done,” Stephanie replied. She was a little puzzled when the atmosphere around Jeremy seemed to change. He was still smiling, but there was an edge to it now.
“Does your mother know?”
“She said it was okay.”
“She said it was—” There was a dark look in Jeremy’s eyes.
Stephanie didn’t like it. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? Well, I was going to wait until you were older, but I suppose you’re old enough to know now.” He closed the gap between them and took her hands in his. “I love you.”
Stephanie might have said: I love you, too. But as something like family. His tone, the way he said it so intimately, held an entirely different meaning. He looked at her the way she had seen him look at her mother, only it seemed more intense. She wanted to laugh and tell him what a bad joke it was, but she couldn’t. She swallowed.
“You’re too good at acting. It seems like you’re being serious.”
“But I am serious.” He let go of her hands to cup her face in his. “Can’t you believe me?”
Stephanie felt as if someone had dumped a bucket of ice water over her. Her insides went cold. “But you love my mother.”
“As you said, I’m a great actor,” Jeremy told her. “I had to fool your mother, or she never would have let me near you.”
She started trembling almost imperceptibly. “You mean, you don’t love her?”
“How could I? When you’re the only one I want.”
Stephanie felt sick to her stomach. Her head was spinning. She was horrified when he leaned down to kiss her. She pushed him away with everything she had and managed to wrench herself free from his grip. She fell back against her dressing table. Her hand landed on the rose. It’s thorns pricked her through the glove on her hand, but her eyes were fixed on Jeremy. He had become something dangerous.
A sharp slice of air passed between them. Stephanie felt it. Her window wasn’t open, but there was wind in her room. It behaved violently, as if a hurricane had formed. The wind whipped around her. She had to close her eyes and cover her face and head. Jeremy was shouting something at her, but she couldn’t hear him above the roar of the wind.
What she did hear, or rather felt, was the humming that she and her sister had come to associate with Jareth. It was as hollow and forlorn as it had been when they defeated him to save Toby, but it was steady and with purpose. This wind was clearly his doing somehow. It had been two years—why was he coming after her now?
The wind died down, and Stephanie opened her eyes and lowered her arms. Even though part of her might have guessed what was coming, she was still shocked. She recognized the style of the walls around her. She was back in the Goblin King’s labyrinth.
“It’s about time,” a voice said from above.
It was a voice she would never forget. Stephanie looked up and saw a white barn owl perched on top of the wall.
“Jareth!” she exclaimed. He must have brought her there. “What’s going on?”
“You’re going to fix what you broke,” Jareth told her. “The labyrinth is in chaos. It’s being destroyed, all because you and your sister disrupted the flow of time here.”
“So why don’t you do something about it?” Stephanie asked. “Didn’t you say before that you reordered time? Can’t you do it again?”
“I can’t. I’ve lost that ability,” Jareth answered, narrowing his dark eyes at her. “When you and your sister defeated me, I lost control of the labyrinth and only have a limited amount of power left. Hence this form, which helps conserve energy.”
Stephanie looked around her. She could hear the same humming sound associated with Jareth’s magic all around her, only it seemed more erratic. “I’m surprised you’re admitting all of this to me.” Didn’t he see her as an enemy?
“I don’t have much choice. You and Sarah broke time, so it must be one of you to fix it. Besides, you’re a noble heart, you can’t say ‘no’ to someone in need.”
“Just watch me. No,” Stephanie said bluntly. “There must be some kind of catch. There’s no way you’re telling me the whole truth.”
Jareth flapped his wings, agitated. “You must!” he exclaimed. “Fine. Let’s agree right now to never lie to each other, at least until time has been restored.”
“That would certainly save time,” Stephanie said. ‘He really must be desperate.’
“In more ways than one,” Jareth said. He could see Stephanie still doubted him. “If you won’t do it for me, do it for the friends you made here. Their home is falling apart because of you. Don’t you feel responsible?”
“If what you say is true…” Stephanie looked around. The walls moved right in front of her eyes. The place where she was standing became a dead end in every direction.
“See?” Jareth said. “It’s become completely unpredictable.”
“It’s still the same labyrinth, though, right?” Stephanie removed her gloves and started running her bare hands over the walls, feeling around for another way out.
As she was searching, night suddenly came upon them, skipping over the sunset and plunging straight into darkness. “Who turned out the lights?” she asked.
“I told you, time is broken here,” Jareth replied.
It took Stephanie’s eyes a few minutes to adjust. She continued to feel along the walls. She came upon a loose brick that opened a small door near the bottom of the wall when she pushed it in. “Found it.”
“Good. Now crawl through there. I’ll be right behind you.”
“You’re not flying over?”
“There’s no guarantee that we will end up in the same place if I do that.”
Stephanie saw what he meant. The tunnel the door opened to was much longer than the wall was thick. It was clearly taking them somewhere other than the other side of the wall.
She put her gloves back on and crawled through the darkness in the small tunnel, and crawled, and crawled. It was difficult to do in her dress, so she ended up hiking the front of it up to prevent herself from getting tripped up. She continued on for she didn’t know how long, but her knees were starting to hurt. She heard Jareth complain about how stuffy it was.
She saw light. Eager to get out of the cramped space, Stephanie started crawling faster and came out to discover a welcome sight. The light was a fire, and sitting around that fire were Hoggle, Ludo, Beynon, and five goblins.
Stephanie scrambled to her feet. “You guys!” she exclaimed, drawing their attention to her arrival. “It’s you!” She brushed off her hands and knees.
“It’s you!” Hoggle said. They were all surprised to see her there. Ludo gave her a big smile, and Beynon flew over to her. Two of the goblins cackled madly.
“Stephanie!” Beynon cried, flying into her arms. “What are you doing here?”
“Jareth brought me back,” Stephanie said, looking behind her. The owl had just finished exiting the tunnel and was stretching his wings.
“Ahh!” Hoggle fell over backwards. It was a good thing he was already sitting down, or he might have hurt himself. “Your Majesty!”
“Oh, if it isn’t Hickle,” Jareth said.
“It isn’t. His name is Hoggle,” Stephanie corrected him.
“Where’s Sarah?” Hoggle asked, looking around for her.
“Sarah isn’t here… Why isn’t Sarah here?” Stephanie looked at Jareth. “I thought you liked her better. Why pick me for this?”
“Because you were the only one I could get,” Jareth replied. “You were the one who left behind blood in the labyrinth that I could use for the spell.”
“Blood?” Stephanie remembered now why the rose on her dressing table gave her that odd feeling. It must have been from that rosebush she climbed down the last time she was here. It had sucked her blood when she cut her hands on it. “Oh.”
The ground quaked beneath their feet.
“Ground—shake—again,” Ludo said.
“Another schism has opened somewhere,” Hoggle said.
Stephanie looked at them. “Schism?”
“Rifts have been opening up in the labyrinth, sometimes swallowing whole sections of it,” Hoggle explained.
“It started happening soon after you and that other girl left!” one of the goblins spoke up.
Stephanie felt bad. Their home really was falling apart. “I’m really sorry about all this.”
“You weren’t to know,” Hoggle said. “None of us did.”
Beynon looked very sad.
“Beynon, where are your parents?” Stephanie asked. “And Sir Didymus?”
“I got separated from them,” Beynon replied.
“Sir Didymus is missing,” Hoggle answered.
Stephanie felt worse. “I’m really sorry,” she said again. “You all helped us, and this is how we repaid you.”
“The question is, what are we going to do about it?” Hoggle asked.
“Stephanie—fix?” Ludo asked.
“Yes. I’ll do everything in my power to fix it,” Stephanie agreed. She wouldn’t do it for Jareth, but she would do it for them. And it gave her an excuse to avoid going home for a while. Every time she remembered Jeremy, she felt sick to her stomach. “So, how do we fix it?” she asked Jareth.
“By fixing the clock,” he replied. “Do you remember the clock I had in my throne room?”
Stephanie wracked her brain until she remembered what he was talking about. Her main focus at that time had been on the empty crib and finding Toby. But the image of a clock with a pendulum swinging under it came to mind. “The one with a hand like a sword on it?” she asked.
“Yes. We need to find that sword and reattach it to the clock,” Jareth replied.
“Isn’t that it over there?” Stephanie asked, pointing at one of the goblins, who was picking his teeth with a golden sword.
Jareth looked stunned for a moment. “You imbecile!” he shouted at the goblin, flapping his wings. “What are you doing with such an important artifact? Drop it, now!”
The goblin dropped it immediately.
Stephanie smiled a little, wryly. “Well, at least we have it.”
Back in Stephanie’s room, Jeremy was panicking. Stephanie had just been spirited away right before his eyes, and he knew who was responsible. Traces of his magic still hung in the air.
“Jareth,” he said, narrowing his eyes. He had sensed his magic on Stephanie before when she came back one day from staying at her father’s house, but as nothing in particular seemed to have happened to her, he had let it go.
Not this time. He was going to do everything in his power to make Jareth pay for trying to steal her from him.