Cindy Williams, a tall, slim dark-haired fourteen-year-old, dropped her bag on the floor of the room in Starlight House. Such a cheesy place. They were all so...sweet here. Just thinking about the way that punk Ashley had offered to show her around town made her teeth hurt.
She had one thing in common with the other Starlight girls, though. They were orphans, and so was she.
The thought had a way of surprising her, sneaking up on her through the dark alleys of her mind. She remembered the screech of wheels and the sudden, jarring crash as the drunk driver slammed into her parent's car. She shuddered, thinking of the way that man had sobbed at his trial, his deep sorrow stunning her...she had wanted him to be a villain. But he was just a man, just a man who'd made a mistake he'd continue paying for forever. She sighed, pushing down the tears welling up in her eyes.
She went to her bag and fished around for a minute, and pulled out a little red book her cousin Sarah had given her at the funeral. Labyrinth. Sighing, she plopped down on the bed, opening the book. Her green eyes scanned a page. It was her favorite part.
"Give back the child," ordered the young princess, advancing on the Goblin King. "Though dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child which you have stolen... "
There was a knock at the door. Cindy quickly closed the little book and hurried to answer it. A beautiful, blonde woman stood at the door, and when she began to speak, Cindy recognized the voice as the one she'd heard over the phone inviting her to stay at Starlight House. This lady was none other than Jerrica Benton.
"Hi. Cindy, never Cynthia, right?"
"You got it," Cindy acknowledged, smiling.
"I hope you're getting settled in. Do you need anything? Is everything okay?"
Cindy nodded. "Everything's fine," she assured Jerrica.
The blonde smiled back. "Good. What's that you've got there?"
She was pointing to the little red book in Cindy's hand. "Oh... it's just a book my cousin gave me. Sort of silly, actually... "
"What's it about?" Jerrica queried, genuinely interested.
"It's about a princess who has to solve a Labyrinth and beat the Goblin King."
Cindy gave a shy, acquiescing shrug.
"Well, just let me know if you need anything at all, okay? Oh, and dinner's on in half an hour." Jerrica favored her with another of those sweet smiles, and then left her alone, perhaps sensing that Cindy needed some time.
Almost the moment Jerrica left the room, Cindy was immersed in the fantasy world of the book, escaping her sorrow to be a princess, fighting the Goblin King.
After dinner, they cleaned up. It was sort of funny; Cindy had never done anything like it. One girl dried the dishes, another put them away, and another swept the dining room. They all worked together, even (surprisingly for Cindy) the most famous Starlight girls, the Holograms. Aja, Kimber, Shana, and Raya seemed glad to lend a hand. They were great, Ashley whispered to her, and they never told who their lead singer, Jem, really was, so don't even bother asking.
Cindy took a shower and shrugged on her pajamas, and sat by the window, brushing her long hair out, thinking over her day. She was going to like it her. It was saccharine, no doubt about it... but she knew that she could stay here in this safe haven and recover from the grief that had been overwhelming her just the day before.
A owl suddenly landed on the branch of the tree outside the window. Startled, Cindy jumped, then found herself giggling.
"What is it?" asked Marcy, her roommate, a short, sweet girl with short red hair.
"Just an owl," she said. "It's this book I'm reading. The Goblin King comes in the form of an owl... "
Marcy's face lit up. "Oh? You think that's the Goblin King?" She skipped over to the window and lifted the glass. The owl never stirred.
"What does one say to a Goblin King?" she wondered aloud.
Cindy laughed. "I think we should curtsey, first."
They both managed to drop a bow before collapsing into giggles.
The door of their room opened and the owl flew off. "Girls?"
Shana leaned in, checking on them. "It's bedtime, you know."
"Yeah, we know," said Marcy.
"Well, lights out," said Shana, flipping the switch.
Cindy was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
And outside, the owl watched. Jareth watched. And deep inside his owl shape, he smiled a smile of dreams.
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