Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > Unlock This Door

The Happy Phantom

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

in which we settle into relatively harmless fun and games... and ye olde inquisition.

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-08-09 - 5690 words - Complete

Chapter 2 – The Happy Phantom

It took Sarah an entire week to stop waffling and finally screw up the courage to voluntarily visit Jareth for the first time. It wasn’t like she couldn’t have disappeared in the middle of the night if she had really wanted to – she could’ve done so easily; no one ever checked in on her unless she was really sick with something. As it was, it was a Sunday afternoon and she was a ball of nerves as she carefully wrapped the crystal he had given her in a heavy sweatshirt (she’d no idea what it was made of, but she didn’t want to risk damaging it in any way until she did. The thing looked terribly fragile, but she had seen him bounce similar-looking objects off of stone walls!) Doing her best not to think about that, she slipped on a pair of sneakers (she had learned the hard way about having good foot gear anywhere in the Labyrinth; the blisters from the last trip were still healing), stuffed the bundled sweatshirt into her book bag and headed downstairs.

“I’m just going to the park!” she called to the house in general, hoping she didn’t sound as nervous as she felt as she made a beeline for the door.

“Be back before dark!” she heard her father call from the living room before the door closed. This choice was relatively safe, too – they never came looking for her at their town’s old-fashioned park, even in inclement weather, as long as she was home by a decent hour.

Sprinting across the blocks, Sarah made good time as she always did; once she got there, there were more people than she normally cared for since it was a weekend, but she finally managed to find a small secluded spot in a low stand of pine trees and shrubbery that she could literally vanish from behind without being seen. Kneeling within the protective greenery, she unzipped her book bag, unwrapped the crystal…

And very nearly closed it all back up to run straight home with a lie about a baseball game making it impossible to read! This was madness! It was one thing to say a nasty thought out loud and have it immediately come back to bite you; it was quite another to knowingly step into Faerie with no guarantee of anything!

No, she thought with a sigh, that’s not quite right. He had given his word, in a manner of speaking, that he would be decent with her, whatever that was worth; from the little she had seen, Jareth’s personal moral standards left something to be desired. His seeming tendency toward callous behavior and wantonness were not without precedent, however, if any of her old stories had any shred of truth to them. It just meant that she had to watch herself, which went without saying anyway; it was only too easy to gravely insult some of these creatures, also.

Which brought her back to why she was here in the first place: if she failed to make any attempt at this, he would be gravely insulted and would take Toby back at the very least. Getting her instead on a limited basis had been a conciliatory prize. Before she could think about it any further, Sarah grabbed the crystal, closed her eyes, and thought of Jareth, doing her best not to recall that brief, leering gaze…

And suddenly felt a gentle cool breeze that carried the smell of burning wood and mustiness, aware that the world just outside of her closed eyelids was much darker now, that she was kneeling on paving stones instead of soft pine needles, and she dared to peek–

She was in the Goblin King’s private chambers in the high tower again and it did appear to be nighttime here, which made her instinctively uneasy; Jareth was nowhere in sight.
She had been too shocked the first time to really take in the décor: the room was dominated by a huge daybed draped in dark blue and dirty gold with a thick, rounded runner-pillow wrapped about the sides and back. Dozens of thin tallow candles festooned the scrollwork in the stone wall behind it, along with a mounted medieval-looking helmet and a shield bearing a coat-of-arms. All those candles were just sort of glowing, though, barely giving off any light, which was frankly pretty creepy the more she paid attention to the phenomena. There might’ve been a bookcase along the far left wall, but it was currently too dim to see clearly. The real illumination was coming from a sizable fireplace on the right side of the room; there was a smallish circular wooden table and two equally simple chairs situated before it. Nothing else was in the room. It should’ve also struck her as odd that the furniture didn’t match at all – in fact, those little items hadn’t even been there previously – but the view from his chosen perch up here had distracted her and she really couldn’t be blamed: bluish light had been streaming through those large glassless windows that lined the outer wall, the dark blue curtains standing wide open. Turning, she saw the source and involuntarily gaped, instantly gravitating toward the small balcony: it was a full moon like Earth’s moon – she could make out ‘the Man’ – but it was enormous, easily five times larger and telescope-clear with a distinct light-blue hue, haloed in crystalline-looking fuzz as the mundane moon could sometimes take on in winter. It was so bright it should’ve lit up the sky, and yet all the stars could be seen. So many stars…

“I, too, never tire of that sight. It is rather lovely.”

Sarah just about jumped out of her skin and instantly glanced over her shoulder – Jareth was right behind her!

“You were expecting someone else?”

That was a dry quip! “You just startled me; I didn’t hear you come in,” she managed to calmly respond as she caught her breath.

He merely shrugged – mostly with those wild eyebrows – and unabashedly draped his right arm about her shoulders, making her heart pound again, leading her back inside toward the table. “I was beginning to wonder whether I should’ve been expecting you at all,” he noted a bit tersely. “You’ve avoided me for nearly three weeks, Sarah; that’s hardly considerate. I was starting to think you were getting cold feet,” he pulled out the chair to the left for her – the side that faced the windows.

“It’s only been one week!” she exclaimed in surprise and irritation, seating herself as he pushed the chair back in in one fluid motion. “And I’m not exactly at liberty to come and go as I please at home, either!” she half-protested. “If I’m gone for too long I’ll be in big trouble!”

Jareth gave a snort of a laugh, slightly shaking his head. “Tell me, Sarah,” he said, seating himself across from her – as he came into the light she could see he was wearing a tight velvet burgundy doublet – “do you plan your entire existence around direct threat of punishment?”

“Of course not!” she replied indignantly, crossing her arms.

“Then stop making such pathetic excuses for yourself,” he reprimanded her quietly. “You needn’t lie to me. I can tell that you’re afraid, but I’ve entered into treaty with you – you have nothing further to fear from me, as irritating as certain aspects of that statement are going to be,” he gave her a devilish little smile. “Really, all-considered, it was probably the smartest play you could’ve made, trapping me amicably like this. Well…”

He was making her terribly self-conscious – she could barely think straight! “Well…”

He laughed then. “You truly showed up here under duress with absolutely no further plan! That hardly seems like the little conniver I remember.”

Sarah looked away toward the fire, more than a little embarrassed. “You really don’t know me very well,” she said quietly, watching the flames leap and glow in the embers.

“Then let me get to know you.”

Sarah dared to look back up. His expression, his voice, were sincere; the firelight leant an unnatural warmth to his supernaturally pale features.

“What would you even want to know?” she almost laughed, still a little nervous.

“Sarah, this is supposed to be prelude to a friendship,” he chided her gently with a light teasing smirk. “Fine, I’ll go first,” he rolled his eyes, rocking back on the chair legs. “Go on, ask me a question,” he smiled rakishly.

What in the world to even ask?! Guess we can start with the obvious. “So… how did you get to be Goblin King, then? Is it hereditary, or did you come in and conquer this place, or have you always… just been here?”

His smile abruptly dropped. “Pick a different question,” he replied guardedly, although it did not sound at all like he was angry.

“But you said-”

“I’m not exactly here voluntarily,” he hissed through his teeth, suddenly glancing over his shoulder to the window, as if he feared someone or something might be listening! “Would you care to join me here for the next 15,000 years local time? I’ll warn you that threat isn’t mine,” he looked back to her direly.

Sarah was floored! “What… how…”

“That is to say, in a nutshell, that I’m not even allowed to speak of it to anyone.” His gaze dropped to the table top. “My… previous life, as well as the nature of my current predicament, are strictly off-limits. You’ll simply have to take me as I am,” he finished more calmly. He looked up at her again with the slightest of tentative lip-smiles. “You may begin to understand why you must come to me here; I have significantly less liberty to come and go from this place than you do, even if my influence and power can periodically extend to your world when I am directly called upon and on certain days of the year – your year, not ours. The traditional solar oddity days allow for brief transit. Whether or not you noticed, you made your initial wish on the night of Beltane, May Day you call it now.”

As interesting as that last tidbit of information should’ve been, it was the least of Sarah’s concerns at present! She didn’t know what to think! Who was he really? What had he done that was so horrible that even in the inner sanctum of his power he was not beyond surveillance?! He had opened the floodgates to a barrage of questions that he literally wasn’t allowed to answer! Was this prison, probation, or witness protection? Some combination of all three? If she hadn’t been leery of him before!

But, out of a conjectural mess of a Sargasso sea, one simple fact stood out in very stark relief. “You really are alone out here, aren’t you! And you barely ever get to leave, maybe eight or nine times a year-”

Jareth put up one of his eternally gloved hands (black leather tonight) to silence her, along with a stern look that was imminently readable: drop it. But it softened into a wry, jaded expression as he lowered his hand. “I suppose that is a gauche level of truth for an initial interview,” he insolently drawled. “We have years of time ahead of us for that. Would you prefer to play another game, Sarah?”

“…that would depend on what kind of game you have in mind,” Sarah answered a bit guardedly, raising an eyebrow.

“Just cards, nothing more,” her ethereal companion exhaled a little tiredly.

“I guess that would be okay.”

The king formed one of his signature crystals on his fingertips as if the action couldn’t mean less to him, but Sarah had to force herself to stay calm as it promptly dissolved into an antique-looking deck of oversized cards and he proceeded to expertly shuffle them.

“Before I forget,” Sarah interjected, “that crystal that you gave me – how fragile is it? I mean, I’m not trying to break it or play with it recklessly or anything, but, seriously, how careful do I need to be with it?”

He glanced at her a moment before dealing. “That’s a two-fold issue and the answer is also: in spite of its appearance, the object should actually be quite sturdy – you could accidentally drop it against a surface as hard as stone and not even scratch it. Having said this, you need to be very careful – careful that no one else ever learns of its existence, let alone sees it or, powers forbid, touches it; it essentially contains a very powerful transport spell that sends the holder to what is most analogous to where they are thinking of at the time. This is why I instructed you to think of me and your home only when you use it; to do otherwise would likely place you in great peril in very short order.”

Rather than being frightened, Sarah was excited at the prospect; she hadn’t realized the thing was general use! Perhaps she could visit her other friends here as well on the sly…

“Don’t test my goodwill, Sarah,” he suddenly warned her out-of-the-blue, making her wonder whether he could read her mind! “I provided you with this item for one reason and one reason alone. Unless you would care to formalize my ability to enter your house at will whenever and wherever I please into our little agreement…” he gave her a mock-flirty lip-smile.

“Point taken,” she sighed, picking up the…tarot cards? These were tarot cards?!

“That offer is real, by-the-by, should you ever choose to take me up on it,” he studied his own hand – and belatedly noticed her dubious reaction to what she was holding so gingerly. “They’re just painted paper, Sarah, they’re not going to burn you,” he observed a bit caustically. “I take it this means you wouldn’t be interested in learning to play tarrocchi with the Major Arcana. This is basic rummy; are you familiar with the rules?”

“Oh – yes,” Sarah answered him, a bit surprised. Of course she knew rummy – she only played it at least three times a week if not more often with a few of the other theater kids between rehearsals at her high school! The intricate artwork on Jareth’s Minor Arcana deck was going to be distracting, though. He led out in spite of being the dealer. Of course.

“If they truly bother you, bring a modern deck the next time you come and I’ll start teaching you how to play poker,” he added rather matter-of-factly, suddenly sounding like the ‘adult’. That alone was weird; Sarah logically knew he was an authority figure of sorts, but she had never seen him really act like one!

Several turns passed in silence. “What are your plans for the future, Sarah?” he abruptly broke it. “What do you envision doing with your life? Tell me.”

He was clearly not going to let this opportunity for nominally intelligent interaction slide. “Well, I have to admit that for the longest time I had wanted to be a stage actress like my mom, but now… I’d never really given it much thought – examined it – before… coming here, but I realized I don’t know how much of that want is real and how much of it was just trying to escape certain parts of my life, you know what I’m talking about?”

A knowing smile touched his lips. “There is an old adage about humans in the realms of Faerie: everybody on the outside is trying to get in, everybody on the inside is dying to get out. What you’ve just described is very common psychological behavior from what I’ve seen; what is rare is that you have no difficulty in perceiving it in yourself. Most humans can only see it in others, often by subconscious choice. I could offer you all kinds of trite advice and platitudes of encouragement, but ultimately you have to choose what is going to make you happy, bring you satisfaction, get you what you want in your world. You don’t have to know by tomorrow.” He put down a run of four queens; she melded one of them into a lesser run with a few club cards.

“Although, as your friend, perhaps a bit of advice might be in order, considering that it’s you,” he unexpectedly continued, sounding only half-teasing. “Never mistake a dream for an end – or worse, for a plan of action, as if they were magical. People who are incapable of formulating this distinction rarely go anywhere in life and then wonder what went wrong at the end of it,” he shook his head a bit sadly. “Most dreams can never be perfectly realized, but they can and should inspire one to try; that is their true and proper function. Any other use will ultimately lead you astray one way or another.” There was a familiar, dangerous glint in his eyes as he said this.

Alright, that actually might mean something coming from you, Sarah thought a bit warily.

He eventually won the game.

“Would you care for another round, my dear?”

Sarah smirked. “Sure.”

They played three more, to be exact. The whole situation felt surreal beyond words to Sarah: leisurely passing an evening with some ancient being out of myth as if it were the most normal thing in the world. What seemed even stranger was his genuine interest in her, in his own manner – he asked after her family life, her school, her friends. His reactions to the resultant information generally ranged somewhere between wry amusement (and he sometimes found some very strange things funny outright) and a quiet seriousness, soaking it all in like a sponge. And he offered nothing further of himself. He also kept winning. At length, Sarah taught him how to play Egyptian Rat Shit just for kicks, another relatively easy stacking game, but one that relied on a quick eye and fast reflexes. She should’ve known better, though: she couldn’t even see his hand over half the time he was hitting the deck! Her own right hand had had the misfortune of being in the way of that lightning-fast slap just once… and her reaction was strong enough to make him quit the game early; the skin of the back of it was bright red!

“I don’t believe that level of physical punishment is supposed to be a part of this game,” he observed quietly in lieu of apology, squaring and casing the old deck of cards, making it vanish again as Sarah shook out her poor hand; it stung like she had burned it!

“Yeah, I’ll have to keep in mind you’re not built like we are – I mean,” she faltered, then sighed. “You know what I mean.”

“I do, indeed.” There was an odd emotion in his eyes, mocking and rueful at once. He produced what appeared to be a small gilded pocket-watch from a side pocket she hadn’t seen and checked the time. “It would be rather rude of me to detain you much longer – these are just relatively short visits, as per the contract. And we don’t want you getting into trouble,” he teased her, clicking it shut, putting it away and rising to his feet, walking around to get Sarah’s chair for her. “Although next time I would strongly advise you to bring at least emergency provisions; by necessity my hospitality excludes food and drink – if I so much as conjured you a single sip of water you would be bound to me and my kingdom, such as it is.”

“But… the peach!” she exclaimed, standing up.

“Wasn’t physically real - it was just a magical construct to deliver a potion; even you observed how unnaturally fast it broke down in so small a space of time afterwards. The little blue worm you met on the outskirts of the maze, however, is one of my most successful agents. Nobody ever suspects him, he’s so genial and polite,” he chuckled quietly.

Good heavens, Sarah thought, suddenly feeling chilled in spite of the proximity of the fire. That little cheery can-do attitude was more dangerous than most of the Labyrinth! She had nearly fallen for it herself!

“I’ll remember that,” she answered somewhat dubiously, watching him intently studying her reaction in turn with slight amusement as he walked to the window-side of the room and scooped up her book bag where she’d left it, bringing it over to the table.

“Now that I’ve successfully proven that I can be civil, perhaps you won’t leave me dangling for so long before you deign to put in a next appearance, hm?”

“Yeah, what is the actual time-difference between here and Earth? You know, I wasn’t ever really sure, with how you’d speeded it up before, whether there was a natural progression of time in this place at all, or whether it just ran however you wanted it to.”

The king gave her a bitter little smile. “I’m not anywhere near that powerful, Sarah, so I suppose there is a ‘natural progression’ as you call it, although it would be a stretch to call it ‘regular’. There are certain small variances in the flow that would seem nearly arbitrary to you when they’re actually repeating abnormalities in a very long epoch-cycle, like a fourth-dimension equivalent of the slight wobble in your own planet’s rotation; it’s been this way for at least as long as I’ve been here and I’ve not been allowed the opportunity to study it from the outside to learn what causes the phenomena for certain, but I suspect that it may be due to the pull of a neighboring world.”

Sarah openly gawked!

He snickered at her look of dumbfounded shock, his dual-colored eyes bright. “You did ask; there’s no point in displaying my full mental faculties for the benefit of my usual cretinous audience,” he added dryly. “For the time being, I will allow you to round down the difference to two-and-a-half days here for every one of your days on Earth, even though the duration here is truly a bit longer than that. You will learn how to calculate the accurate one eventually.”

Sarah was removing the crystal as he spoke, still handling it carefully out of instinct (it still looked and felt fragile even if it wasn’t.) She had very nearly said something in reaction to his perception of his usual ‘audience’ but wisely mentally bit her tongue; that was a discussion for another time.

“Is there a better time-of-day I should be trying to aim for in the future? I hope I haven’t disturbed your rest,” she simultaneously apologized and cautiously inquired. “ I didn’t realize it was going to be after midnight here.” That huge gorgeous moon was already setting on the horizon, the stars beginning to fade as the sky commenced shading from velvet black to a deep midnight blue.

Just a hint of a smile flashed across his thin lips. “There may be the odd instance when I am busy, but I keep my own hours; come whenever you can. Good day, Sarah.”

That look…

“Goodnight… Jareth” she tried out his name quietly for the first time before closing here eyes and thinking of her bedroom…

And the next thing she knew, she was there! It only took her a split-second to remember, though. Oops! Literally quick as thought she zapped herself back over to the park once more, and she momentarily lay down on that soft blanket of pine needles, panting in relief! She couldn’t afford slipups like that! Hopefully Jareth hadn’t noticed the extra power usage from so far away!

Jareth. The man… the being… was a true enigma, and by his own confession. As well as more-or-less being in jail there. The thought was sobering, and if she gave it any further consideration this felt almost like attempting to befriend a hardened criminal at the very least. More like the devil, really.

Sarah sat back up, smoothing a needle or two out of her hair with her hands. She also had to admit that it hadn’t killed her to do that. It was probably hasty to make any real judgment of the situation at present, but maybe this wasn’t going to be all that hard after all. The tricky bit was going to be regularly sneaking away from her parents in order to do this right until she was old enough to move out.

It looked like not much time had passed here, as per the Goblin King’s assessment, too, maybe half-an-hour, certainly not much more; glancing about, she saw a few people who were still here from when she had arrived a while back.

I need a watch, she suddenly thought, stiffly getting up and stretching her legs; she had been sitting for far too long. And a pack of playing cards, she mentally added, rolling her eyes. Belatedly realizing that she was still clutching the crystal, Sarah hurriedly wrapped the thing back up, stashing it away once more before leisurely ambling out of the park and on over to her little town’s old-fashioned five-and-dime shop on her way home to pick up said items. And a cheap calendar – she really needed to figure this out right.

The second attempt she made was in the middle of Tuesday night just two days later (which came out to about a week past for him, but it couldn’t be helped.) She vanished straight out of her bedroom in the dark and once again found herself in his tower room, only this time it was mid-afternoon there, about as she’d guesstimated/hoped it would be.

And, as before, he appeared out of nowhere - startling her silly - before they sat down to while away a surprisingly mundane Underground hour playing card games while Jareth did his best to goad Sarah into talking about herself. Later back at home, it did strike her as a little odd that he never directly answered any personal question she put to him in turn – he merely steered the conversation back to her once more. And he was so good at it that she barely even noticed! Granted, it did seem that he might very well have plenty to hide, but…

After three more such sessions, two things had become very apparent, however: firstly, that he was regularly cheating – the King of the Goblins appeared to also be a very accomplished card shark, which raised even more questions! The man was (and remained) a complete mystery. Sarah suspected that he was ‘letting’ her win on occasion just to keep her from getting too frustrated. The second point was far larger in implication, though: he had deliberately chosen a very generically human pastime as a ruse for getting to talk to her. Conversely compared to his own stubborn reticence about giving away any information about himself, he seemed to want to know absolutely everything about her! His level of interest was positively baffling, some of his questions continuing to catch her off-guard: what are you first memories from when you were an infant, and what were they like? What is your favorite savory flavor and why? Who taught you what you know of the heavenly bodies you can see from Earth? It went on and on, with him discoursing in turn on each subject they covered. Just listening to him was a lesson in itself on certain occasions; he was obviously very old and had much direct knowledge of her world from some point in the distant past.

Or was it all that long ago that he had been confined here? In a brief side-segue on music one day, he had let slip that he knew what a vinyl record was, but when she mentioned cassette tapes he demurred, fluidly changing the topic before she could pursue it any further. This aspect became like a secondary game for Sarah, trying to nonchalantly prise any information at all out of her gaming opponent; he clearly didn’t care about the traditional silence rules of these games, either, but it wasn’t too much of a nuisance since she was a reasonably good multitasker.

Approximately four months into their ‘visits’, Sarah accidentally stumbled upon something remarkable, though, a possible way around Jareth’s verbal armor. The topic of the day had been books; the king was not all that ‘well-read’ so-to-speak (which was probably why he hadn’t brought this up any sooner – he was rather touchy about his own intellectual blindspots), but nevertheless he held a certain functioning knowledge of mythical archetypes and literature in general. The collection of books that he did have took up the entire left wall of the room they always occupied, and, upon Sarah’s secret perusal of it some time back (he had been taking a little longer to arrive than usual), the volumes present all looked pretty well worn from constant use; only five were in any semblance of English that she could read, while the lion’s share of them were antiques if not artifacts at this point. A certain number were obviously magickal at that – one literally repelled her hand when she went to pull it off the shelf to examine it!

“What are you reading that’s new, Sarah? Anything good?”

It was a surprisingly easy and straightforward question after so many others that she’d had to wrack her brain and memory over!

“Well, it’s assigned reading for my English class – school’s back in session now – and I guess the book’s not exactly new, it’s considered classic literature in America, but it’s called To Kill a Mockingbird by a lady named Harper Lee. So far it seems like it’s about racial discrimination and this little girl Scout’s friendship with the neighborhood ghost that everybody else is afraid of, Boo Radley.”

“By ‘race’ you’re really implying ‘ethnicity’ in this instance, correct?”


“And this author is for or against this kind of discrimination?”

“Against!” Sarah laughed.

“You say that as if I should know, but I wouldn’t take such a subject lightly or for granted, especially in your country; prevailing cultural opinion seems to have altered several times on the issue from the little I have seen. Are you enjoying the story?”

“It’s okay,” she shrugged. “I might like it a little better if I wasn’t being forced to read it,” she laughed. “The parts with the ghost are more interesting, though.”

The Goblin King glanced at her with a very decided look of reproval before she passed him a ten of diamonds – they were playing a variation of Hearts with a stripped deck. They were still playing poker on occasion, but he had ultimately found it easier to hold complete conversations with her with simpler games in the background.

“I’m certain then that it’s written with a sentimental air,” his tone of voice changed to follow. “Of course, it isn’t accurate in the least – most human souls that remain in your world after the demise of the body are sticking around for vengeance of some kind or another, and it would be highly advisable for you to avoid them altogether.”

Sarah was thunderstruck: this was the first time he had ever voluntarily brought up anything supernatural of his own accord! He had very carefully eschewed the subject up till now!

“You’re telling me you’ve seen some? That this is real?”

“It’s inevitable in my existence – most don’t pay me the slightest bit of attention; they’re just watching, waiting,” he shrugged, looking a bit bored with the idea already, like he sometimes did when he wanted to change topics again.

But she wouldn’t let him. “If you could haunt somewhere when you died, where would you be?” she ventured, taking her turn.

He gave her a frowning smirk. “The entire idea is absurd, Sarah – I can’t die, I barely have a corporal body as it is.”

From the determined look in her eyes, her smile, she was not going to back down though. He sighed, appearing resigned, but actually he was relaxing just a hair.

“I’d probably choose to be in a modern casino,” he finally replied, thoroughly surprising her, “messing with the books, letting the wrong people win jackpots on occasion, watching the shows and harrying performers that annoyed me,” he grinned wickedly.

He had actually answered her! But how did he even know about all of that?!

“What about you?” he shot the query right back at her. “If you could cling to the earthly plane when body and soul were separated, where would you stay?”

“It can only be one place, right?”

He nodded.

“I know this is going to sound silly and ‘sentimental’ and all, but seriously? The park where I always go – it’s just so beautiful there all year long. Sometimes I’ve seen other loners seeking out the place, people who have nobody who understands them or cares. I’d stay to watch over them, so they don’t have to be really alone.”

“Figures,” he commented flippantly. “Oh, look at that – I just won again.”

Sarah didn’t really mind; the time-wasters they engaged in like this were always rigged, and she would watch him closely, trying to figure out how he was doing it as if he were a stage magician. But she had a sneaking suspicion that the real game had just begun.
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