Sarah Jane Smith was walking through the shopping mall, just doing ordinary things. Shopping. She had been to several clothes shops and bought a skirt and some nice tops and examined the stock in several shoe shops before choosing two pairs of shoes which, while fashionable and attractive were also suitable for walking, or, indeed, because she was Sarah Jane Smith, running.
She was the only customer in Brantanos who chose shoes for their suitability for escape and evasion in life or death situations.
She was doing normal things. She looked ordinary.
But she wasn’t. She was one of the few people who knew that the ordinary world of shoe shops and clothes, was only a comfortable façade. A very thin façade that she so often saw through – or fell through – into nightmares that the ordinary people around her didn’t want or need to know about.
She went into Argos. She needed to buy a new dinner service. Her last adventure had decimated her tableware. That darned boggart racing around the kitchen, flinging open cupboards and throwing everything it could reach at her.
She couldn’t even claim it on the insurance. Imagine trying to tell them a boggart did it!
She was thumbing through the catalogue, reminding herself that she only had three intact drinking glasses and would need a new set of those, too, when a woman stepped up to her. She was a young, slim black woman, with short black hair in a spiky style, wearing jeans and a deep red leather jacket.
“Sarah Jane Smith,” she said.
“What?” Sarah looked at her in surprise. “How do you know my…”
“This is for you. From a FRIEND.” She pushed a parcel wrapped in brown paper towards her and put an envelope on top. “This, too. He said, read the note. And good luck.”
“But…” Sarah Jane looked at the parcel and envelope. She looked around again. The woman was hurrying away, at a fast walk that wasn’t quite a run. Sarah ran after her, but she was weighed down with her shopping and by the time she reached the door…
She wasn’t sure. She thought she heard the ghost of a sound that was very familiar to her once. She thought there had been a displacement of air that had disturbed the litter on the floor. But there was nothing there now.
She turned and went back to the catalogue desk. She looked at the parcel. She resisted the urge to shout ‘bomb’ and start running. Besides, if it came from THAT friend, it wasn’t likely to be anything like that.
It was quite possible ten times more dangerous than a mere parcel bomb, she reflected grimly.
All the same she put the parcel in her shopping bag and the envelope in her pocket. She suppressed an urge to go right away and open up the curious parcel. She chose the dinner service and glassware, paid for it, waited for her ticket number to come up. Then fully loaded she headed for her car in the car park outside and went home.
The house was quiet. Too quiet. For a woman who had never married, and most of the time never regretted that, it was strange to feel like she did when she walked into the house now and felt its emptiness. Of course, it was only short term. Luke would be back in a fortnight. So would Maria and Clyde and then she would be longing for the peace and quiet again. But right now she missed them all. Especially Luke.
She glanced at the three postcards on the corkboard. Three different views of the south of France. How could she begrudge them a summer camp in the south of France? They were lucky. In her day Girl Guide camp in the Norfolk Broads was the best you could get. Aunt Lavinia thought even that was exotic and talked about hop picking in Kent! Yep, kids nowadays got the best of it, and fair play to them.
And after all, France was probably the best they would ever get. Whereas she had so much more. She had seen planets born. She had seen suns die. She had ridden solar winds. She had been to medieval England and Renaissance Italy. She knew the TRUTH about the Loch Ness Monster!
The Doctor had shown her wonders beyond the dreams of most people.
But he hadn’t taken her to his own home. And he had left her, forgotten her for so many years. Replaced her with another companion who he showed all those things to now.
And he couldn’t even spare a few minutes to say hello. He sent the latest model instead.
She sat at the kitchen table with the parcel in front of her and the envelope in her hand.
And she cried.
She didn’t cry often. She was too busy to cry, or sometimes too terrified. And she hadn’t cried about HIM for a long time. It wasn’t as if she was pining for love of him or anything daft like that. She had never let what MIGHT have been between her and him get in the way of other relationships. If there was anyone she DID regret in that way, it was Harry. He had probably been her one real chance of that normal sort of man-woman relationship. She missed Harry a lot since he died. But it wasn’t The Doctor’s fault they never managed to get it together. Far from it. If it wasn’t for The Doctor, after all, she and Harry would never even have met, never been friends.
No, she didn’t regret anything about her life with The Doctor. Not really. But very rarely, she cried for what never could have been.
When the tears ran out she slit open the envelope and read the note inside.
“My dear Sarah Jane,
Please forgive me for not meeting you in person. There are very good, serious reasons why I could not. I will try to explain them to you another time. That much I promise. But I beg you to do this for me. Take care of what is inside the package. Billions of lives are at stake. Hundreds of billions. Take care of yourself, too. Your life is as precious as any one of them. But I trust you with the care of this precious thing that must be protected from a terrible fate. I trust you as I always trusted you, My Sarah Jane.
“Your friend always!” She said those words aloud and choked back fresh tears that threatened.
“Oh, Doctor! You’ve sucked me into your plans, haven’t you? I ought to send this right back to you unopened. Except where would I send it? You NEVER had a forwarding address!”
She put the letter aside and pulled the package close. She opened it slowly, carefully, hardly daring to wonder what was inside it.
When she saw the thing nestling amongst the polystyrene wrapping she gasped in awe and realised just how MUCH trust he had in her.
“Oh, Doctor!” she whispered. “Oh, I hope I don’t let you down.”
To Be Continued...