by Maggie O'Malley
When Sara was growing up, her "magic crayons" helped her escape the pain. Now as an adult and the world famous Art Angel, can they help her to find the life she's always dreamed of?
Sara stepped inside and glanced around. As it had been before, the lighting was soft and the atmosphere warm and cozy just like the old village shops. Shelves packed with antiques, bobbles, bangles, and assorted other items filled her vision.
Slowly she turned her attentions toward the back of the store and there before her was the counter she remembered and the smiling old man with his sparkling blue eyes, but her heart fell as her mother was not there to greet her. Sara sighed but did not give up hope that her mother would yet appear because she had a distinct feeling that in a place like this anything was possible.
The old man waved and then stepped out from behind the counter and as before he was dressed in blue, but seeing his outfit in person gave her a clearer view and changed her original perception. Sara smiled as she realized he wasn't wearing a long coat or a cloak, he was actually wearing what appeared to be a tattered blue bathrobe. Somehow the odd attire for a shopkeeper seemed appropriate for the little old man who was probably as odd as the little shop he ran.
Sara acknowledged his wave with one of her own and then she realized that from this point on she was venturing past the point her dreams had taken her. She tried to steady herself for whatever came next, and that be the gentle voice of the Spells 'R' Us shopkeeper.
"Hello Sara, or would you prefer I call you by your more famous title, Art Angel?" the smiling old man said with a wink.
Sara stood dumbfounded. He didn't just know her name was Sara, but he knew her professional name and NO ONE save Prue and Jenna's family knew that. Sara's big sky blue eyes looked pleadingly at the shopkeeper and her voice stammered. "How...how can you possibly...I mean...I mean...no...nobody knows...that I'm the Art Angel except...except..."
The old man smiled knowingly as he finished her sentence. "Except Prue and Jenna?"
Sara's mouth fell open and her eyes went wide. "But...but...how? How could...could you know?" She stammered again.
He shook his head and sighed. The look on his face said he'd had this conversation with other customer's countless times. He then pointed above Sara's head, directing her attention to a sign. It read, "Because I'm the Wizard, That's How".
This time it was Sara who shook her head, only for her it was in total disbelief. It seemed as if the sign had been put there for the very purpose of answering her specific question, and obviously before she had even asked it. If that wasn't enough to nearly knock the young woman on her bum, then the fact the sign proclaimed the old man to be a wizard certainly was.
When Sara turned back around to face the shopkeeper she found that he had quietly closed the distance between them and was poised to catch her should she have fainted. She didn't but her knees were wobbling as she asked for confirmation. "You're a wizard? I mean the real thing? You know... an honest to goodness spell slinging sorcerer? Like Merlin in Camelot?"
The self-proclaimed wizard smiled and nodded. "Yes, all those things you just said and probably a few more, although I'd like to think I'm a little more approachable than Merlin. Granted, he's good, but all the popularity he got on the Camelot job went straight to his pointed hat. Sometimes he can be such a royal pompous..."
The old man stopped and then covered his mouth. "Sorry about that Sara, it's just if I get started on Merlin, well you know."
Sara giggled. Wizard or not, this old man had a charm that disarmed her as well as any magic spell could. She couldn't help but like him and somehow she just knew she could trust him but questions were forming within her fast and furious and she was terribly in need of answers. "Excuse me sir, or Wizard if you prefer."
"Please just call me Wiz. We keep it pretty informal around here. I'm not stuck on all the pomp and circumstance like an unnamed wizard we won't mention." He rolled his eyes tongue in cheek as he said it, eliciting another giggle from Sara, which made his eyes sparkle all the more and then added. "However, I do kind of like that name you called me...spell-slinging sorcerer? It's got some pizzazz to it don't you think?"
Sara nodded and grinned as she could see the Wiz was imagining his new name up in lights. She really hated to intrude but she did have questions and some pretty big ones at that. Meekly she asked, "Ummm... Mr. Wiz, I have so many questions."
The wizard smiled and then offered his arm to Sara who took it graciously. "Yes, I know you do and you are entitled to some answers and so much more, but I wouldn't be much of a gentleman if I didn't offer you a seat and a drink. Come Sara, we'll sit and talk and I'll do my best to answer all your questions."
Sara followed the wizard's lead up to the counter. As she walked she admired his wares. His little shop was one of those places that if you can't find what you're looking for here, it probably doesn't exist. Her eyes caught a shelf on the wall with beautiful porcelain dolls that made the little girl within long to get her hands on them. Another shelf contained musical snow globes with miniature characters that looked too life-like to be an artist's creation.
When they reached the glass counter, Sara noticed assorted paraphernalia usually associated with witchcraft, like books with pentagrams and corked bottles no doubt filled with potions. The Wiz led her behind the counter to a small white table where a pitcher of cold water and two glasses awaited them. Gallant as ever, he pulled the chair out for Sara and pushed it back underneath as she sat down.
He first poured her a glass of water and then himself before finally sitting down and explaining a few things to Sara. "Normally, I don't sit down much during business hours. Things are usually kind of brisk around here. People find there way in, sometimes thinking about what they want and I try to help them find what they need. It's usually a quick sale and they're gone, but this isn't so much a sale situation as it is a refund or replacement."
The Wiz saw the puzzled expression on Sara's face and realized his explanation had probably muddied the waters more than cleared them. Immediately he apologized. "Forgive me Sara, I'm chattering on here and you have questions. Please, ask me a few and I'll see if I can answer them for you."
Sara smiled and then sighed as she tried to pick one of many on her mind. "I've been here before, but it was in a dream, actually several dreams and they were almost identical every time. Am I like clairvoyant or something?"
The old man shrugged his shoulders. "You might be, I don't know, but those dreams you had were totally my doing. Normally I don't "advertise" like that, but once again your situation was different than most. Since you are such a recluse there wasn't much chance of you strolling by of your own free will, so I had to manipulate your subconscious and reality a bit to get you not only here but to your parents place as well."
Sara's eyes went wide when the wizard mentioned her old family home. "You mean you were behind that too?"
The wizard nodded. "Well... that was kind of a joint project actually. Your mother and I sort of made that happen, but I assure you it was absolutely essential that you went to your childhood home before coming here."
Sara wasn't sure why the trip there was so essential but she was more concerned about the wizard mentioning her mother and how they'd teamed forces, especially since she'd been dead for fifteen years. "My mother? Well, I'm sure you know my mothers been dead for a long time, but she did appear in the "advertisement" you sent me, and she told me it was time to go home. I thought maybe... maybe she'd be here."
The old man could see tears welling in Sara's eyes and he reached across the table and took her hand gently in his. "No child, I'm afraid she's not here, or at least not in a form that would allow her to communicate with you, but she did come to me some time ago and alert me to your situation. Up until then I had no idea your father had misused the potion I sold him."
Sara's eyes went wide again. "My father! You knew my father?"
No sooner than she'd said the words they triggered a memory recently stored and her conversation earlier that day with Tommy at the Grey Lion had came back to her. He'd mentioned her drunken father carrying on about meeting a wizard, but she hadn't really believed it, at least until now.
The wizard sighed sadly. "Yes child I knew your father. He came into my shop like they all do, and I tried to help him but I had no idea it would turn out like this. I hope in time you can find it within your heart to forgive me."
Sara didn't really know what the wizard had done wrong or why he seemed to need her forgiveness but the pain in his eyes told her his words and his regret were from the heart. The wizard squeezed Sara's hand. "Child I know you don't understand, so I think the best thing way for me to answer your questions is just start from the beginning. You need know the whole truth before you make a decision that could change your life forever."
The wizard had Sara's full attention as he began. "This shop and I tend to relocate quite often. I'd like to think that wherever there is a need for my talents I am there. It just so happens that about thirty years ago I came to your village and I set up shop just past the chemist at the south end of town."
Sara raised her eyebrow as the only thing that had ever been past the chemist's shop was an open lot, but considering what she'd experienced already this evening, she wasn't about to doubt the wizard's word.
Sara continued to listen as the wizard told his tale. "Your father came into my shop and immediately I sensed his need. He was desperate to have a son to carry on the family name and to mold into his own image. It's not an uncommon condition among men, but with your father it had become an obsession and I sought to help him. I sold him a potion that would call forth the angels to deliver a boy when your mother and him created their next child, but before handing it over I told him there was one rule. Under no circumstances could he give this potion to his wife if she was already with child. At that point the angel's have already delivered the true spirit of the child and should that child be female, the results of the mother taking the potion then would be disastrous for the child. At the time, your mother was nearly eight months pregnant, I never dreamed she'd take the potion."
Sara's eyes widened as she looked in the wizard's face and considered his words; both seemed to hold truth. She knew she had been that unborn child and her being born transgender was obviously the disastrous effect the wizard spoke of but that raised a dark question she was almost afraid to ask.
"I understand what you're saying I think, but what I don't understand is why would my mother take this potion if she knew she was already pregnant? I mean, she told me she had wanted a girl all along and that she'd even named me Sara. I can't believe my mother would have done something like that." Sara voice trailed off as tears welled in her eyes.
The wizard's own eyes were a mist as Sara's hurt and his regret threatened to overwhelm him. "Sara, your mother didn't take the potion of her own free will. Your father gave it to her, probably mixed in with a drink of water, as it is both colorless and tasteless."
The old man squeezed Sara's hand. "She didn't know Sara. You have to believe that. She didn't know."
Sara believed her mother didn't know. She remembered those early years and how happy she was to have Sara, but it was the other half of the truth she found almost unbearable to accept and she looked to the wizard to somehow tell her it wasn't so. "How could my father knowingly do that? I know how badly he wanted a son. I saw the disappointment and disgust in his face every time he looked at me. I heard it in his voice and his words every time he cursed me for being such a pitiful excuse for a boy. I felt it every time the back of his hand caught my mouth or his razor strap cut into my flesh."
Sara paused trying to keep from breaking down into sobs. The old man patted her hand and she found her voice again. "I...I tried to tell him when I was little. I tried to tell him I was really Sara. All these years I thought it was my fault that I couldn't make him believe, and when I decided to come back... I was stupid enough to hope that if he saw me now as a woman, he might believe, and maybe...just maybe even love me..."
Sara's lifetime of hurt and pain then vented itself as anger and her body trembled as it poured from her. "But that bastard could never love me! No man could be capable of love and do what he did to my mother and to me. All this time he knew! When I told him I was really Sara, deep down inside he HAD to know it was the truth. It was bad enough that he could do this, but once he knew I was really a girl, how could he keep on punishing me for not being a boy? What kind of man could play Russian roulette with his unborn child's life and then make it a living hell until he almost killed her?"
Sara knew the answers to her questions burned in the fire right along with her father, but perhaps it was just as important emotionally for her to voice them as it was to have them answered. The wizard however did his best to give her what answers he could. "Sara you're father was a very sick man, far sicker than I had realized, but that's what obsession does to you. It's like a cancer that eats the soul and blinds the mind and if for one minute I'd believed he was that far gone, I never would have sold him the potion."
Suddenly the old man looked smaller and older to Sara, as he dropped his head in defeat. Sighing heavily he raised his gaze to meet Sara's once again and this time with a weak smile. "Sara, people who believe in wizards tend to buy into all the fairy tales and think we are these all knowing, all powerful beings who never make mistakes. I'm sorry but that's the description of someone much higher up the corporate ladder than your run of the mill wizard. Actually we're not so different than you mortals. Yes we live longer, and as a result we've acquired a great deal of knowledge that has made it possible to do things which seems like magic to most humans, but with that ability comes great responsibility. A wizard is responsible for the magic he sets forth on this world as even the smallest act changes reality in some way. Sara I sold your father that potion to help ease his fear of never having a son and I stand by that decision, but I failed you and your mother by not following up your father and being sure he did not misuse it. As a result, your parent's lost their lives, and you never had the one you were entitled to. As a wizard, that was my responsibility and I failed to honor it. I know you blame your father Sara, but this never would have been possible without me. Thirty years of pain and suffering have resulted from my magic and I owe you at least your own life, if not that of your parents. Sadly I cannot do anything for your parents, but perhaps I can repay the debt I have to you and am willing to do so with my own life be that your choice."
The wizard's words both shocked and touched Sara deeply. His remorse over the pain and suffering he felt Sara suffered at his fault, was so great he was willing to die for it at her request. Tears welled in Sara's eyes and her heart broke, as she knew all to well the wizard's feelings. She had spent most of her life blaming herself nearly to the point of suicide for something that wasn't her fault and the wise wizard was doing the very same thing. She wasn't going to do that anymore and she wouldn't allow him either.
Getting up from her chair she went over and hugged the wizard as her words poured from her like her tears. "No...I...I don't want your life and... and it's not your fault for what my father did. I mean you're just...just trying to help people, so please stop blaming yourself. You might be an expert on magic, but I'm an expert on self-blame, and I'm telling you to let it go. What's done is done and you don't owe me anything. In fact by bringing me here and telling me the truth you've helped me more than you can know."
The wizard was touched by the incredible compassion this girl had shown him, especially considering how little she was given as a child. Seeing the tears streaming down Sara's face and realizing he had a few of his own, he reached into his robe pocket and offered her a silk handkerchief which she took gratefully and then produced one for himself.
After sharing warm hugs and wiping tears, Sara returned to her seat and the wizard started once again. "Thank you Sara, you are a kind and compassionate soul. An unsatisfied customer would not be as understanding as you and they would have purchased the product of their own free will. You were but an innocent bystander who suffered as a result of a man's obsession and a wizard's negligence. That is why when your mother's spirit came to me, we had to bring you here and try to make things right."
Sara blushed at the wizard's kind words but they'd also put a question or two in her mind. "And I thank you for helping to make them right by telling me the truth, but there's a few things I don't understand. If you and my mother wanted me to come here, why did she tell me in the dream that it was time to go home? I mean there was nothing but a burned out farmhouse waiting for me. Why not just lead me straight here?"
The wizard smiled. "Because... the journey was as important as your final destination. From the day your mother sent you away to save your life, you have been searching to find one. When you came to London you were too afraid and too badly beaten to trust others and you nearly froze to death that first winter, but you survived and you learned at least how to exist if not truly live. It wasn't until you met Jenna and Rick, that you opened up and let someone else in. It was then the healing began and young woman started living instead of existing. When Prue came along she opened up the young woman's world more and then touched a part of you that hadn't been touched by another living soul since you were five years old. Sara, she reached that little girl with her magic crayons that lives within you; the little girl who never got the chance to grow up and is the true inspiration behind the Art Angel. Prue and Jenna believed in you and loved you when you didn't have the confidence to believe in or love yourself. They believed in all of you, the talented young woman as well as the lonely little girl, and the time you spent with them was closest thing you've ever had to a family and a true home. Yet, when Prue reached out to you and offered you that permanent place in her home to go with the one you already had in her heart, you ran away. You ran away because you still didn't believe you were worthy of being loved. Deep inside you still felt that what had went wrong at your childhood home was somehow your fault, and until you stopped running from the ghosts of your past and faced the truth, you would never be able to fully embrace life or love. That is why we had to lead you back to where it all began. You needed to go there and experience what you did first hand so you could discover that you were loved and are person worth loving. Had I brought you straight here and told you all of it, you might not have believed me, and you might not have quit running. This Sara is why I told you the journey was as important as the destination."
Sara sighed and then smiled warmly. The wizard was right and she knew it. Prue and Jenna had saved her life and they loved her for all that she was but until she had made this journey to her parent's house and discovered the truth, she had been too afraid to reach out an embrace life. She couldn't wait until she got back to Derby and started really living life. She was never going to be the bell of the social scene but she was through being a prisoner in her castle, and as soon as she got back she was going to telephone, not computer conference, but telephone Prue and Jenna to say she loved them.
Sara reached across the table and took the wizard's hand. "Thank you, thank you for all that you have done. Whatever you may have felt you owed me, please consider it paid in full, and now that I have reached the end of this journey, I guess I should follow my mother's words because it's time to go home."
Sara released the wizard's hand and then stood up to leave but the wizard quickly reclaimed her hand. "Sara, you have come a long way, but hardly to end of the journey. Please child sit down until I've finished, you may find that home isn't Derby after all."
Sara gave the wizard a puzzled look, but did as she was asked and took her seat. The wizard took a drink and so did Sara before he started once again. "Sara, you are a beautiful young woman who has a good life ahead of yourself because you aren't afraid to love, nor afraid to be loved now. You have a career that brings joy to yourself and joy to all who experience your gift. You have Prue and Jenna who love you as a sister, and just this evening you made a new friend in Janet. If this is what you want more than anything else then you will have it and indeed your home lies in Derby, but I ask you to consider something, something that would change your home and your destiny."
To be continued...
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