The Motherhood Masquerade Part Two Written by Peter Darwin
This was not a situation either of the women ever imagined to be in.
Sarah Jane thought to herself; together, they’d accomplished quite a lot. Taking over the country with a fizzy drink, crashing a bus into a factory, adoption, becoming Bane public enemy number 1 (Wormwood), becoming Bane public enemy number 2 (Sarah Jane), breaking into the most secure compound in the world, teaming up with a Sontaran, nearly becoming Empress of the universe, kidnapping her adoptive daughter, and launching half of the world’s nuclear missiles.
And being stuck in a room after the lock on the door had jammed.
They couldn’t get a man to come out and fix it for at least an hour, and after listening to Mrs Wormwood yell at the nurses outside for approximately 15 minutes (a diatribe which included many swear words Sarah Jane didn’t understand), that still left them with 45 minutes to spare. Wormwood stood against the door, still seething with anger, while Sarah Jane sat back against the wall at the far end of the ward.
“Just leave it,” Sarah Jane said. “They’ve explained, they can’t get anyone out to fix it for an hour.”
“You were never one to give up so easily.” Wormwood spat.
“Surprisingly, being stuck in a room because of a jammed lock isn’t the sort of situation I have to find determination and grit to make it through.”
“I can’t sit here for 44 minutes with… you,” Wormwood paced down the ward towards her.
“Well, for once, Wormwood, you don’t have much choice. You can’t take over the country or become empress of the universe, you’ve just got to be patient.”
“I’d rather the Bane take me,” Mrs Wormwood sighed.
There was a silence between the two. Sarah Jane watched as the woman, all robed in black, walked elegantly towards one of the beds, and perched on the side. As she moved, her heels clicked against the floor. Other than the click, click, click, there were no other sounds. A silence. The sort of silence that can never be made, only discovered when you are removed from the world with someone you understand enough to not force conversation. Of course, as one would expect, when two arch-enemies face each other, there was a tension brimming in the air. But neither of them wished to fill the silence, as they could analyse each other well enough to not worry about making conversation.
By now, they knew how each other worked. They understood how each other ticked. They got each other, in a way that most friends would never get.
She thought back to her mental rundown earlier, of everything they’d experienced, and looked at her nemesis, not reacting, not screaming, just sitting.
“Isn’t it funny, that when all is said and done, it’s just the two of us,” Sarah Jane said.
Mrs Wormwood didn’t respond for a few seconds, but Mrs Wormwood could almost hear her mind thinking of a response.
“You always were sentimental.”
Sarah Jane thought for a minute. “Is that a bad thing?”
Sarah Jane had been right. Mrs Wormwood understood her.
If they were in here for 45 minutes, Sarah Jane decided that she might as well ask the question.
Though the missiles had been stopped, and Melody had been rescued, Sarah Jane would never have been able to let Wormwood go without understanding why.
“Why are you here, Wormwood?”
Mrs Wormwood did not hesitate. “I made a deal with the Silence, an age-old cult, established for a very specific purpose that Melody is to play such a great part in. They agreed to give me safe passage away from the Bane, but for a price. I had to come to Earth, and I had to retrieve Melody Williams and return her to the Silence. That was all. I had no idea the girl was in your care.”
“That’s not possible, of course you knew. You wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”
“Miss Smith, I had no choice. The Bane would kill me. And besides – after everything you’ve done to me, do you really believe I would come to find you again? No. Madame Kovarian did not give me the location of the child – clearly she knew my response would not be to her liking should I be aware.”
Sarah Jane had stopped Wormwood twice now, and now she realised – that this time, Wormwood kidnapping Melody, and launching those missiles – that it was her fault. If she’d not let Kaagh push Wormwood into the portal, maybe it wouldn’t have ended up like this. Maybe Wormwood wouldn’t have ended up working for the Silence and coming here again. All of this came back to one person – herself.
“I’m sorry,” Sarah Jane said.
“But I think we are both more responsible than either of us would care to admit,” Sarah Jane said, thinking of all that they’d done to each other. “I – I can’t always be the heroine. I can’t always save everyone, though I’d like to think I can. I have the gang looking up to me, with – with so much optimism in their eyes, thinking that we can stop the monsters and make the world safe again. I can’t be expected to live up to that – but that’s where we differ, Wormwood. Because I try. I can’t always be perfect, but nobody can. But I try and help who I can. And – I’m sorry I didn’t help you.” Wormwood hesitated before standing up from the edge of the bed she was perched on. Sarah Jane hoped that she would understand, that she just wanted to help, and that she was sorry for letting Mrs Wormwood become who she was.
“You should be trying to kill me,” Wormwood’s sentence was abrupt, and took Sarah Jane back, but then, Mrs Wormwood was a hunter by nature.
Although Sarah Jane could understand why Wormwood was saying it, Sarah Jane would never consider it.
“Because I have taken two of your children and nearly taken them away from you for good, and yet you’re apologising to me.”
“As I said. Ever since Bubbleshock, we’re both more responsible than we care to admit.”
Especially for Sarah Jane, who had been more responsible since the events of that day than anyone else – for a different reason.
Since that day, she’d been responsible for children. Luke, Maria, Clyde, Rani, Sky, Melody, Zoe, Dan, and Beth.
“Crime against your own kin,” Wormwood said. “Punishable by death on the Bane world. Hence my little predicament. Except, of course, the entirety of Bane society is built upon the principle of crime against kin.”
“I don’t know much about Bane society,” Sarah Jane said.
“When the Bane eggs hatch, the young are cast out into the wild to fend for themselves, for a year. Those who survive for a year are taken back in by the Bane Mother, where they are the nurtured. But oh, Miss Smith, that year. Your own mother, throwing you out into the wild, where monsters wait for you – and most of those monsters are your own brothers and sisters. Then, you get taken back in by the greatest monster of them all. The Bane Mother, who threw you out there in the first place. In an odd way, when you blew her up, you did me a favour. I got to watch my tormenter go up in smoke.”
In a very peculiar way, Sarah Jane could empathise with her. She’d been cast out into the wild because of her parents, and there were monsters waiting for her. Except – she’d not been cast out by choice. Death had thrown her into the unknown. And the monsters that waited for her was never knowing your mother, or your father. The sickening feeling when someone asked her about her parents, and she had to say that she never knew them. Sarah Jane’s monsters were the sleepless nights where all she wanted was her mother and father, and longed for them and nothing else in the world.
“It was that ferociousness of Bane society that gave me fire in my blood. But you, Miss Smith… your grit and resilience. Where does that come from?”
Sarah Jane knew, but she wasn’t sure she was comfortable divulging her entire life story to Mrs Wormwood.
“My mother was dead. I can’t even remember her.”
There was a rush of sadness. But this time, it was different. Not an overwhelming depressive emptiness. When faced by the woman who made her remember everything she was responsible for, all her family and the people she loved the most, everyone that she’d met since Miss Smith and Wormwood had clashed for the first time, it was not a longing.
It was bittersweet.
When she realised that now, her mother would be proud, and she’d see all her family, and she’d realise her daughter was all grown up.
“Well then. The woman who wished her mother was dead, and the woman who wished for nothing more than for her mother to be alive. I wonder if that longing made you a better mother?” Wormwood walked right up close to Sarah Jane, and their eyes met. They stared into each other as if they were trying to find something within one another. Something that one lacked, and the other had, and vice versa.
The two of them couldn’t be more different, Sarah Jane realised.
“Your new little ones are rather resourceful,” Wormwood mused. “Though I must admit, the bus gave me flashbacks.”
“They are,” Sarah Jane smiled, and thought back to when they’d first turned up. She’d been alone, for the first time in years. Clyde and Rani had gone travelling. Luke was still at uni. K9 was with him. She didn’t even have Mr Smith, with his computerised attempts at a sense of humour. The thought of being alone scared her, because she hadn’t tried it in a while. For over four years she’d always had a family, but they’d all moved on. Then she met Melody, and Zoe, Beth and Dan. Then Sarah Jane realised she didn’t have to be scared. Clyde and Rani were only a phone call away, and Rani’s parents lived across the road. And Luke – well, Luke came back to visit. And all that time, right by her side, she’d have Melody, Zoe, Beth and Dan, and they would help her, and she would help them.
“Do you pick them up like that, or is that how you mould them? Because, Miss Smith, that’s what my mother did to me. She moulded me. She forced me to become a specific person. And look at me now.”
“I don’t mould them. I guide them, and they guide me, and we work things out together. That’s how the universe works. Through a mutual understanding of each other...”
“But Luke, Sarah Jane. Luke didn’t know himself. Luke arrived on this Earth with no knowledge at all – you were his only influence. How is that not ‘moulding’?”
“Because Luke had Clyde. And Maria, and Rani. We all helped Luke get used to life on Earth. They all helped me get used to life on Earth.”
“Of course, I forget about your travels with the Doctor. How you used to run around space, defeating monsters and saving planets, and then you came back to Earth, with nothing left at all.” “As I said – we helped Luke get used to life on Earth, and they helped me get used to life on Earth. That’s what motherhood is, a journey carried out together, hand in hand. What the Bane Mother did to you, that’s not being a mother. Just because someone is biologically a mother, doesn’t mean they are a mum. That takes so much more. That takes guidance, and not coercion.”
“Do you know what your young friend, Maria Jackson, is doing in America?”
Sarah Jane, regretfully, shook her head. She couldn’t describe how guilty she felt, that she hadn’t called Maria in so long. All that she could use to justify it was that Maria was strong, and that Maria had the strength and selflessness to leave what she wanted because of her father.
“She’s fighting aliens. Just like you.”
And then, in exactly the same way Sarah Jane wished her mother could think of her, she felt something for Maria. On top of all the anxiety that she’d coerced her into doing something, or inspired her to be someone that wasn’t quite true, there was another emotion, burning quietly beneath the surface, but still there, and still noticeable.
She couldn’t help but smile.
“It doesn’t even bother you that she’s putting herself in such danger.”
“Oh, Mrs Wormwood, it does. And – that’s always been the hardest thing, about being a parent. Sending them out into the big wide world and leaving them to their own devices. Because the world is dangerous and terrifying, and anything could happen. Sometimes, it does. But usually, it doesn’t. I just have to remember that they’re adults, and that they can be safe as well, and that while they’re out there, they’re doing good things. I suppose that, hearing this about Maria, of course I’m scared for her. But I’m happy that she’s trying as well.”
“What about the other two? Clyde and Rani?”
“They’ve gone travelling.”
“Again. Just like you did.”
“I’ve inspired them – of course I have. But I didn’t force them to do it. Perhaps that’s where we differ. When you opened the eye of Horath, you didn’t give Luke a choice. You didn’t ask whether he wanted to stay with his friends and family or whether he wanted to go with you.”
“Why would he want to stay on this godforsaken planet?”
“Because there are people here who truly love him. No matter how far away he goes, there’ll always be people here for him. People who want what’s best for him.”
Clyde had visited him, whenever he was back in the UK. They skyped, they phoned, they always talked. They would never fall out of touch. Even though both boys had gone their separate ways, and Luke didn’t need Clyde to help him anymore, Clyde still looked out for him, without fail.
“Don’t I want that as well? I gave that boy knowledge of everything, and I offered him an empire. Oh, Miss Smith, I have sacrificed everything for that boy.”
“Luke taught me that you don’t need everything you want to be happy. Not an empire, not a planet. Sometimes, just having a few good things, that’s what matters. That’s what they’ve all meant to me, over the years, what they’ve all taught me. That I don’t need everything I want, I can’t ever have everything I want, because when it comes down to the wire, I already have everything I need. A family. People to care for. When I left the Doctor, thought nothing would help, I thought I could never replace the planets and stars, I thought I’d be stuck forever, longing for something better than what I had. Then I realised, when I met Luke and Maria, that people are the adventures. They make them, they make life worth living, they open your eyes to new worlds you never thought possible – new worlds right in front of you. That’s something that universal knowledge, a planet, an empire, on its own, will ever be able to give you.”
Mrs Wormwood gave a mock applause and a snide look, which, within an instant, quickly disappeared with a face more understanding than any look Sarah Jane had ever seen on her face ever.
“So – in a way, Miss Smith – I made you happy. I made you who you are. I wrote the first pages of your story.”
“If that’s how you want to look at it – then yes. You did. I wouldn’t be where I am without Luke.”
“What a startling revelation. That without me, none of this would be possible.”
Sarah Jane looked at Mrs Wormwood, who was looking quite proud of herself, and yet, she had a sad look in her eyes as well.
“From all our conflicts, you got all of this,” Wormwood gestured around her, as if Sarah Jane’s life were all around them. “And I have become a criminal, and an exile.”
“As I said - I’m sorry, for letting that happen to you.”
Sarah Jane realised she’d apologised to her twice already, even though Wormwood had spent long enough tormenting her to not warrant any of Sarah Jane’s respect.
Though, as she thought about the situation, Sarah Jane realised that it wasn’t as simple as that, that it wasn’t simply a matter of who has damaged who. There were so many sides to the story. We’re both more responsible than we think.
Wormwood had tormented Sarah Jane, but she’d also given her everything she had.
Sarah Jane could only find two words.
“Oh, do stop it. I don’t deserve my thanks. Stop being the do-gooder citizen and –”
“I’m not. Because you’ve been wrong and you’re not a saint who’s given me everything, far from it. Stories make everything so simple, they give us good people and bad people but nobody in between – I just think it’s about time we started to appreciate the in between.”
“Well,” Wormwood stiffened, as if she felt like she had to respond to Sarah Jane with a compliment in return.
Surprisingly, she did.
“Although you’ve done this to me, Miss Smith. You’ve raised my son.”
It was a bit lazy and not very meaningful, but it was more than she’d ever got from her ever, so Sarah Jane was willing to leave it at that.
Wormwood’s words had struck her, though. As she sat on the side of one of the beds, her head in her hands, and the inevitable came to her, just like it came to her when Luke left for Oxford, and before that, when Maria went to America. And afterwards, when Clyde and Rani went travelling.
“But they grow up,” Sarah Jane shrugged. “In the end, they always grow up, because they have to. We all have to.”
“I said to Melody earlier. You either grow up, or the world grows up around you. It happened to you, didn’t it? When suddenly, your little girl was gone, replaced by a dark demon from hell. Replaced by the Trickster.”
“Even if you do grow up, or the world grows up around you, and you either, by choice, or not by choice, find yourself in a dangerous world you never wanted to see, why does that mean you should resign all the good that comes from being care-free and optimistic, just like we are as children? We all have to face the world, we all have to grow up sometime, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. But maybe it would help us if we embraced the good things that came from childhood, instead of resenting them, and being hopeful and overly-courageous, and as if the entire world is at our feet. That’s something else Luke showed me; a feeling I hadn’t felt in so many years. That feeling that you’re at the start of something, and there’s so much more good to come.”
“There was me, believing that childhood is just infancy and immaturity, where you’re cocky and arrogant, and ignorant of what the world truly offers. You wrap your children up with fairy tales, where the good always wins, and that’s what you teach them, and that was why you produced such vile offspring. And believing that the Bane way was better, that by baptising them in the blood of demons, you make them resilient and aware and understanding early on – ”
“- but you eliminate that hopefulness and optimism and desire to understand and learn. You eliminate all those good things –”
“- and yet, how cruel it is, when the children grow up and realise how cruel the world will be to them-”
“- I’m not saying we should all stay as children forever, Wormwood. I’m saying childhood is important, and that as important as growing up is, you should always remember who you were as a child. That’s what’s important, so you’re never ignorant of wrongdoing but always hopeful thing can change. So you understand the limitations of the real world but always optimistic that you can change those limitations. That’s why we need stories, Mrs Wormwood. To make children kind, before the world tries its best to take it away from them. And when the world does eventually reach them, they have that kindness in their hearts, and they can greet the cruel, cold world with open arms.”
Wormwood stayed quiet, as she couldn’t think of a way to respond to Sarah Jane’s rather wonderful speech.
“Fairy stories don’t protect children,” Sarah Jane continued. “They show them humanity at its cruellest, but the same time, encourage goodness.”
“We’re all so set in our views,” Wormwood finally said. “My way of thinking is very much Bane, whereas you have got a very human view. The view of a very understanding human. But I understand.”
Sarah Jane was taken aback, and had to stop herself from gasping out-loud at the sudden revelation from her arch-nemesis, especially because after all of this time, the one thing
Wormwood had shown was that she didn’t understand. Everything she’d done went against everything Sarah Jane believed in – how could she possibly understand now?
“As you’ve said, the world isn’t black and white, heroes and villains, it doesn’t work like that. And, when you’re the hero, I won’t play the villain of the piece by disagreeing with you. Because I do understand, Sarah Jane.”
“It’s funny, though,” Sarah Jane smiled, in one of those ways that indicated something wasn’t actually that funny, just an interesting observation. “Just as Luke has grown up, I think we’ve grown up as well.”
She was thinking about how immature she was to think she could live isolated, and alone. Not just because it was impractical, and life doesn’t work like that, it naturally pushes you to people instead. She realised that it was sad, and that it hurt her, and she had nobody to blame but herself. “I’ve finally realised the importance of other people. And I think you’ve finally realised the importance of understanding other people.”
There was an understanding silence between the two, as if they both knew what Sarah Jane was talking about.
“We’re spinsters,” Mrs Wormwood said bluntly.
Sarah Jane looked at her, and she looked back at Sarah Jane.
Then they laughed.
And not just a giggle, or a slight snigger usually applied when something is just slightly amusing. The two of them howled, with proper, belly-aching laughs, that made Sarah Jane keel over and reduced Wormwood’s calm, clipped composure to a babbling mess trying to gasp for as much air as she could.
“I don’t even have K9 anymore,” Sarah Jane said, through bouts of laughter. “I’m going to need some cats.”
“When Bane grow old they feed them to the young, as a rite of passage, almost.”
“It won’t be long before you become dinner,” Sarah Jane joked, to which Mrs Wormwood responded with another cackle. It was almost like the maniacal laugh of an evil genius, but what struck Sarah Jane most was the warmth and depth of it.
“Perhaps, Miss Smith, we should retire together, to a distant little place where we can fight to our hearts are content, and where nobody will be hurt in the crossfire.”
“Perhaps,” Sarah Jane regained herself. “We’ve forgotten what we fight about, and we’ve just become so used to it, it’s like second nature.”
Wormwood was right. Sarah Jane had never expected to see her again, not least because she thought she’d been torn to shreds after being thrown head first into a giant portal leading to the centre of the universe. But also because Luke was gone. Yet they still found a way to fight. As Sarah Jane had said… second nature.
Finally, Sarah Jane thought that they’d realised it didn’t have to be second nature.
“So, Miss Smith. What about it? Did you do a good job with Luke? “
Sarah Jane hesitated, and took out her phone, and showed Mrs Wormwood a photo. It was Luke, with Clyde and Rani, and Sanjay, and some other of his friends Sarah Jane hadn’t met. They looked happy. Very, very happy.
“I don’t know,” Sarah Jane shrugged. “How can I measure that? But I think this photo says it all, really.”
Wormwood put a finger on Luke’s face. “Can I tell you what I regret? Something that I’ve regretted for a while now, and that I just can’t quite forget about.”
Sarah Jane nodded.
“I regret that I wasn’t good to Luke. Surprisingly, I always felt as if I had … I don’t know, some kind of bond to him. He was, after all, my child. I brought him into this world. And yet – I couldn’t give him what he needed to live in it. That is, perhaps, where you have succeeded. You’ve given him everything I couldn’t. And I wish, I just – oh, I so wish, that I could do this again, and watch him grow up, and treat him better than I ever did.”
“Don’t regret – sorry, can I ask, because I don’t like calling you Wormwood – what’s your name?”
“I think, Zalia, that after seeing a photo like this, then of course you’d regret it-”
“But what I don’t regret, Sarah Jane, is that I gave up on him.”
Sarah Jane was, to say the least confused, considering it went against everything Wormwood had been saying, and after trying to kidnap him and make him in to an emperor, it seemed quite out of character. But as their conversation had made her realise, people can change. People always change.
People grow up.
“You see,” Zalia continued. “I couldn’t have done that. I couldn’t have raised a young boy into a man, like you’ve done.”
“How do you know?” Sarah Jane placed a hand on her arm. “You just haven’t tried it.”
“But I couldn’t, my upbringing was –”
“Upbringing has nothing to do with it. We can all overcome nature, Zalia.”
“Stop it, Sarah Jane. You did for Luke what I could never do. I was wrong, what I could give him was nothing compared to the family, the support, and the love, that you could give him. So thank you. Thank you, Sarah Jane Smith, for being Luke’s mother. And thank you for making me realise why.”
Sarah Jane looked at the photo again, and it reminded her of all the other photos that Luke sent her, that made her feel as if she had a place in the world. She liked to believe she had done the same for him.
“Zalia – it was my pleasure. And – if it’s any consolation, I think you could’ve been a great mother. I just don’t think you ever had the chance.”
Then the door to the room burst open, and Zoe, Beth and Dan ran in, followed by Melody. “Sarah Jane!” they cried.
“Leave us, please,” Wormwood said. Sarah Jane could see how shocked they were at Wormwood’s warm smile, which was unlike any cruel, twisted smile she’d given them before.
“But –” Zoe, being typical Zoe, prepared herself to argue.
“It’s okay,” Sarah Jane said. “We’ll be out in a minute.”
“Zalia,” Sarah Jane took out her phone. “You saw Sentinel. He can do all sorts of clever things – including giving you a way out.”
Wormwood looked at her, with a look on her face that Sarah Jane knew meant ‘I don’t deserve your pity’.
“You don’t need to –”
“Yes. I do. After all, you gave me Luke, and I think it’s time I gave you something in return. Sentinel will open a teleportation corridor to the nearest planet with an advanced enough civilisation.”
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful, Sarah Jane, but the Bane may still find me.”
Sarah Jane gave Wormwood a smug grin. “This might not work, I’m going to need some way of boosting the power. But if I can, then I can get Sentinel to release a signal, to destroy any information regarding you, all across the universe. The Bane, the Silence, you’d be gone. Forever. There’d never be able to find you. But as I said. I’ll need to find a way to boost the power, quite considerably.”
Wormwood’s face fell, as she thought her one chance of escape had failed. Then, suddenly, she had an idea.
“Will this do the trick?” she gestured towards her phonic disruptor, her engraved, green ring.
Sarah Jane looked at it. “Oh yes.”
She placed her phone in the middle of the floor, and pointed her sonic lipstick at it, and Mrs Wormwood did the same with the phonic disruptor.
Before she pressed the button on the lipstick, Sarah Jane had a brief moment of cynicism, as people often do before making huge decisions. The devil in her mind was asking her – was she really about to give her arch-nemesis a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. After everything she’d done to her, after the conflicts and wars, did she deserve that?
She didn’t deserve anything less.
Today, Zalia Wormwood had admitted her mistakes, and shown she was not evil, and shown Sarah Jane that there was a good person there instead. They just needed to be let out.
They just needed to be given a chance.
Then, the two devices were activated. Sarah Jane’s phone sparked, and the two women sat back after Sentinel told them the universe had been purged of all information relating to a Zalia Wormwood.
“There we go,” Sarah Jane slipped her lipstick away. “You never existed.”
“I – I – Sarah Jane, I can’t thank you enough.”
“You don’t need to. You need to show me instead.”
“Oh, I will, Sarah Jane, believe me. You have given me more than I could expect to ever be given.”
Sarah Jane placed her hand in Zalia’s. “And I suppose, that after all of this – so have you.”
They parted – Sarah Jane made her way to the door. “Ready?” she asked Zalia.
“Opening teleportation corridor…”
“I think, Sarah Jane, that this will be the last time we speak. And might I say, before I go, that it’s been a pleasure.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s always been a pleasure. But I think now, I realise that I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Wormwood nodded in agreement.
“Oh, Sarah Jane Smith. A mother to so many. A guide, an inspiration, a story teller, but someone who understands the world. Someone who respects the world for what it is and doesn’t patronise children by showing them a watered-down version of it – while also showing them what it means to be good, and to be happy. I think, Sarah Jane, that you have shown me something. I think, after all our fights, you’ve made me understand what it means. What you mean. Thank you – and, as we never had a chance to say it properly before – goodbye.”
A blue corridor of light surrounded Mrs Zalia Wormwood, and, within seconds, she was gone.
Lying in the place that she’d stood, like some kind of memorial, was her phonic disruptor – a wrought band of some kind of metal, engraved, so it would always show what it meant. Then, clasped to the metal, a beautiful, emerald green gemstone.
Sarah Jane picked it up, pocketed it, and left the room.
Sarah Jane knew that she’d have to tell Luke eventually, and decided to do it sooner rather than later. About half an hour after arriving back, after completing one small task she had to undertake, she took a seat in an armchair, with a lovely cup of tea. Zoe, Dan and Beth were going to call around later, to have some kind of… celebratory get together, to commemorate saving the entire planet from nuclear missiles, or something like that.
Sarah Jane had forgotten about the nuclear missiles already. It had been a long day. “Luke, I know you won’t believe me, and that’s fine. You’re not expected to forgive her, and I didn’t forgive her, not for everything. But some things I did. Not everyone is completely evil.”
“She kidnapped me.”
“She was wearing her phonic disruptor today – the green gemstone that she wore on her wrist, after she returned to Earth to open Horath’s portal. When she teleported away, she left the phonic disruptor behind. And I noticed that the metal band that surrounds the gemstone was engraved, and I was interested as to what it said – so I had Sentinel scan it. Not surprisingly, it was written in Bane – and do you want to know what it said?”
Luke’s silence suggested he did.
“It said ‘Luke’. The Bane translation of the word ‘Luke’. Now, I’m not saying that Mrs Wormwood is redeemed, or that she ever loved you, or that you ever should love her. I’m just saying that… she regrets. And I think we should acknowledge that.”
Again, Luke was silent.
“What happened with her?” he eventually said.
“She’s gone. We’ve wiped the universe of any trace of her. She’s going to live a quiet life.”
“Luke? Please say something.”
“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Luke said. “And I’m glad she’s okay as well.”
The night was beautiful. Sarah Jane sat on her deck chair in the back garden. Melody sat next to her, resting a head on her shoulder. Zoe, Dan and Beth sat on the garden table, just a bit away from them.
“Sarah Jane,” Zoe asked. “Who was she? To you, I mean. You never really said.”
“And we all know she likes to know everything,” Dan said under his breath.
“Shut up,” she said, as she threatened to hit him, and they all laughed.
“Mrs Zalia Wormwood. She was the woman who started it all. A few years ago now, I lived alone. I’d travelled around in space and time with a man called the Doctor – and oh. We saw such amazing things. But – when you arrive back on Earth after something like that, then the world can seem… so dull, and boring, as if there’s nothing. And I wished I could go back up there, to those stars. But I couldn’t, and so I lived alone, helping kind aliens, and fighting less kind aliens. One day, I was investigating this fizzy drink – Bubbleshock. I suppose you might not even remember Bubbleshock. And anyway, I confronted the boss of this company; Mrs Wormwood. Then, I escaped, and I met a young boy and girl. The young girl, Maria, was 13, like you, and the young boy – he didn’t have a name. He was dressed in a funny white gown, and didn’t have a clue what was going on, so I took him home, and eventually I realised that this boy had been grown by them – by Mrs Wormwood and the Bane, who, at the time, she was leading. And we stopped them – the boy, Maria, and I. Then, I was sat outside that evening, with the boy, and with Maria, and I decided to adopt him. And that boy – I named him Luke.”
The story seemed to mesmerise the gang, who, other than the fact she’d fought aliens and travelled the stars, knew not very much about her.
“So she’s Luke’s… mum?” Dan asked.
“No, idiot,” Zoe almost laughed at his idiocy. “Sarah Jane’s his mum. Mrs Wormwood just… grew him.”
“So she's basically his mum?”
Sarah Jane decided to intervene. “In a way, I suppose she is. But, here, on Earth, we gave something Wormwood couldn’t ever give, and that was love. We helped each other – myself, and Clyde, Maria and then Rani. Just like we all help each other. Just like we’re a family.”
They didn’t know whether she was being serious or not, her sarcasm was so on point.
“You just can’t appreciate nice things,” Zoe said to her, taking it as sarcasm. Again, they laughed, and the five of them, Sarah Jane, Melody, Zoe, Dan and Beth, looked up at the night sky, as if they were at the edge of the world, and beyond them was nothing but stars.
Sarah Jane was happy – the moment was good, and nothing could change it.
“All those years ago, I sat in a wooden swing seat, a bit like this. I looked up to the stars I used to walk upon, and I realised that I didn’t need to long for them anymore. I had people to love instead. And from then on, instead of looking up at the stars and missing them, I look up at the stars and – I dream. I dream of all the people who I love, and I understand that I can be content on Earth.”