Shura leaned back against the cool plastic of the panel next
to the shuttle door. She should not work as long as she was forced to
recently – particularly in her condition.
Damn. Screw her condition. She felt awful not because of her ‘condition’, too much work, too much drink and too little sleep were the things that really cost her. Damn, her back hurt. She closed her eyes and pressed one of her hands against the small of her back, rubbing her aching spine. She had heard that being pregnant would cause all kinds of aches and pains but in the fourth week?
This was ridiculous, she would be bed-bound by the third month. No, dammit. Her back hurt because she had been sitting at her desk without moving since early this morning, it hurt because her chair was too low, because her desk was standing in some weird alcove and her computer was positioned at such an angle she had to twist around to reach it. It was bad enough that she was thoroughly sick every morning because she was pregnant, she really did not need to have more complaints.
With a sigh she opened her eyes again and looked around, hoping that nobody she knew was taking the same shuttle. She really did not feel like small-talking with any of her colleagues right now.
At the far end of the train Tives Preston was apparently sleeping soundly, his head rocking with every jolt the train made. A secretary from finance nodded a greeting at her. Shura could not remember her name but perhaps she had never known. There were so many people just in her department she could not keep track of all of them.
On the other side sat Lee Ghiton … and Anakin.
Dammit. Shura could feel her heart speeding up until she could feel the pulse in her throat. Her face was probably red like a setting sun. That was really the last thing she needed now, meeting her husband. Fuck.
The next station was another five minutes. Perhaps they had not noticed her. Both, Anakin and Lee, sat stiffly and unmoving on their bench, staring ahead of them, not even talking to each other.
Of course, they had seen her and now they were both ignoring her. They looked somewhat dishevelled; Lee’s hair escaping her braids, Anakin’s looking as if it had not made contact with a comb for a considerable time. He looked sick, pale and hollow-eyed.
Some part of her felt sorry for him, felt the urge to run over, hug him and say that now everything was going to be alright, that leaving him had been a mistake and that she really, truly loved him and would never, ever leave him again. Heavens, somehow she wanted to drag him into the next remotely dark corner and shag him.
Another part felt cold, as if she had never had anything to do with this man in his black clothes who even slumping over was taller than the woman sitting next to him. As if their marriage was truly a thing of the past, not only of ten days past, and she was emotionally quit with it.
She was not, her palms were wet with sweat and a furious anger with him, herself and the universe in general rose in her. Perhaps it was the best if they did ignore each other, pretend they had never met before, that their lives had never touched.
With some effort she turned around, though not completely. She did not want to turn her back allowing Anakin and Lee to stare at her impudently. Staring at the opposite wall of the shuttle she could just see them out of the corner of her eyes.
Why did she have to take this shuttle and why did she just happen to get in exactly in the same part where her husband sat? If this was Fate’s idea of a hint she could shove it up her arse. There would be no tearful getting back together again. Life did not work that way. She and Anakin did not have anything binding them together anymore. – Apart from her being pregnant with his child.
Dammit, she should not think about this. She was pretty certain he would not snoop in her mind but she knew that some people leaked thoughts and she certainly did not want him to know. She did not know him anymore.
Shura could see Lee finally dropping out of the rigid posture. She turned around to Anakin who in turn looked at her. Lee was talking very quietly, too quiet for even the faintest whisper to reach Shura’s ears.
Not that she was interested. Actually she was relieved to have somebody look after her husband. After all she did not want him to starve or something. And Lee was a nice person.
God almighty, she was behaving ridiculously indeed, and there was no, absolutely no reason whatsoever for her to feel jealous. Or wonder whether Lee was sleeping with Anakin. That was none of her business anymore. Lee had never shown any sign of interest in a sexual relationship with her Jedi-friend. But then she had only met Anakin after he and Shura had gotten together for good. Now Lee would not feel obliged to keep her fingers off him if she felt like it. Which should be all the same to Shura, but it was not. Dammit. Even her own sister…
Anakin looked over at her and it took Shura all her willpower not to stare back. He was not staring. He was just letting his eyes stray over the people in the train, flitting over his wife as swiftly as over the other people. She could not see the expression on his face, to do that she would have to turn more towards him. But he seemed as calm as could be.
Well, if he could do that, so could she. After counting slowly, at least initially, to fifty she turned a fraction more towards him and gazed first at the end of the train, through the door leading to the next carriage, then along the walls, over the top of Lee’s bent head, over the pale and unmoving face of her husband to the end of the bench, across the doors. This was as good a place as any to stop.
Outside the walls of the tunnel whipped past. If only she had something to do, to read or whatever. She nearly wished she had brought that proposal for a new defensive system with her so she could at least pretend she was reading it. The only things she had on her were her wallet, her key-card and a pen and she would sure as hell not start fiddling with any of those.
The shuttle slowed down and came to a halt in the next station. Shura stared out into the brightly lit hall, leading to the recreation centre which had closed over an hour ago. Only a few people, personnel, boarded the shuttle. No, she would not get out here, this was not her stop and Anakin knew that. Well, at this time of the day it was nobody’s stop.
The doors shut and the train moved on. It was only another three stations to her stop. But should she really leave at her stop, shouldn’t she leave one stop earlier so Anakin could not follow her? This was stupid. He would never stoop to that. If he had wanted to, he would have tracked her down long before now. But what if Anakin and Lee left before her? Their flat was only the second stop after hers, but perhaps they had planned to go somewhere else.
Bile was rising in Shura’s mouth as she involuntarily imagined Anakin and Lee having sex in their bed. As if it mattered whether they had sex in the bed Shura and Anakin had shared for nearly a year, or in Lee’s.
Shura turned further away, leaning her shoulder against the transparent panel. Well, at least her back hardly hurt anymore. She could see herself vaguely reflected in the door, and somebody staring at her.
At first she was not quite sure why this person – the secretary from finance, right? – was staring at her. Of course, she did not realise that Shura was able to see her. The secretary’s eyes moved to a point somewhere to Shura’s right, to Anakin, then they moved back to Shura. The secretary was whispering to another woman sitting next to her, obviously wondering why the celebrity couple were so thoroughly ignoring each other. Well, she coul just go ahead and wonder. It was nobody’s business that their marriage had come to an end.
Shura had told her secretary that she would not receive any calls or visits from her husband, but Denford was too considerate to spread the tale around.
Now the secretary was talking to a tall man standing next to her, pointing at Shura. This impertinent woman did not even bother to whisper. Shura did not understand what she was saying, but at least two other people were standing close enough to hear. All their eyes turned toward Shura and her husband.
Turning her head ever so slightly Shura glanced at Anakin, who was now sitting apparently relaxed on his bench, staring at the ceiling. He was talking quietly to Lee, who looked a lot more nervous, twisting and turning one of her braids with her hand.
The group of five people were still staring when Shura looked back into the reflective glass in front of her. Occasionally one of them made a remark. Shura could well imagine what they were saying. ‘Do you think something has happened?’ – ‘Perhaps they haven’t seen each other.’ – ‘Of course, they have.’ and on and on.
The various explanations they would come up with were something Shura did not wish to imagine. Her relationship with her husband was nobody’s business, this was between her and Anakin. And she would not tolerate anybody gossiping about them.
Very slowly she turned around and stared at the secretary, who stopped whatever she was saying in midsentence. After a few moments Shura walked over to her, very slowly and deliberately.
The other woman blushed and started fiddling with her handbag. Stopping in front of her Shura leaned forward, putting both of her hands on the secretary’s knees and stared into her eyes.
“Don’t talk about things that don’t concern you and you don’t know shit about.”
Her sharp voice silenced the entire carriage of the train. Hell. Now, everybody was staring, even Anakin, she was quite sure even without turning around to look.
The secretary looked scared and nodded vigorously. Shura could feel the scecretary’s knees shaking. Scaring people was a very satisfying endeavor.
Shura straightened up and turned around.
Anakin had been looking. For a second their eyes met then he turned back towards Lee and continued to talk. What was he telling her? He seemed to be speaking all the time, without her having a chance to get a word in.
Looking at him talking Shura suddenly realised just how familiar this was. She knew the way he looked better than her own face. And she had lost him, somehow.
If only she could be somewhere else, even dead. Anything was better than standing here, with a dozen strangers curiously watching what was going on.
For a moment she envisioned herself fainting; he would come to revive her and everything would be alright again. But she knew that was stupid. She would not faint and even if she did he would not pay any attention. She had told him not to bother her and he would follow this order to the last.
Letting her eyes drop to the floor of the train she could not suppress a sigh. Damn, this was a completely fucked up situation. She knew that the other passengers were still musing about the reason for her strange behaviour – and Anakin’s. They would not dare to do so aloud anymore. The more discreet ones were probably not staring anymore, deciding that whatever was going on they could not find out.
Shura noticed to her embarrassment that she had started to chew her fingernails. She never chewed her fingernails, well, not until now. Slowly she lowered her hand and looked up again letting her gaze move over the dozen, no eleven people who had the joy of sharing this particular carriage with them. Hell.
Anakin was still talking at Lee, who continued to listen intently. Dammit. Perhaps he could ignore his wife, but she could not ignore him. She felt like a spiteful teenager doing it. After all they had been married for two years now and had been a couple for some time before that. They were civilized, grown-up people who could talk to each other even though their marriage had broken down, right?
Lee was looking up but lowered her eyes immediately when she saw Shura looking in her direction. She was so obviously embarrassed by the situation, her hands clenched in her lap and her left foot tapping the floor. It was not a nice place to be, all right. Caught between her friend and his estranged wife. Goddess, that sounded stupid.
Shura straightened up. She would go to them and talk, like a normal person. It should not be that difficult, she just had to try.
Lee looked at her from the corners of her eyes. She grabbed Anakin’s arm, disrupting his little speech, and leaned over to whisper into his ear. Well, whatever she had to say Shura decided not to give a damn. She crossed the few yards that separated her from her husband.
“… leave you to it.” Shura could hear when she was approaching. The train slowed as they reached the next station. Lee rose to her feet and leaning to Anakin said quietly: “Please, do take care.” Then she turned and passed Shura with a strange half-embarrassed, half-shy smile, said a short “Hallo” and left the train.
Shura found herself smiling back at Lee, wondering briefly whether her smile looked as forced as Lee’s. They had been friends as well.
Shura stopped right in front of Anakin, who had lowered his head after Lee had left. For quite some time Shura was staring at the top of her husband’s head, while he was apparently studying her boots. So, he would not even look at her. Perhaps he thought she would go away if he just ignored her hard enough. Fat chance. She would not disappear.
Even now Anakin remained unmoving for a few moments, then he slowly looked up at her, a strained look on his face. The corners of his mouth twitched as if he was unsuccessfully trying to smile. “Hallo, Shura.”
They stared at each other in silence. God, he looked knackered. Like somebody who had not had a decent night’s sleep in a good while. Not that she had had the luxury of a long, quiet sleep for a while herself. No matter how late she went to bed at half-five in the morning she found herself puking her guts out.
“Do I look as dreadful as you?”
Anakin wrinkled his brows and studied her face as if he had not noticed it before.
“Well, as long as you don’t feel as dreadful as I do.” He rubbed his chin, the stubble rasping against his hand. Hell, it took quite something to make Anakin not shave. He must feel really bad or … . Well, she did not feel well either, throwing up as a daily routine was not her description of being well. Dammit, she would not think about this now.
“I wouldn’t know. I have no beard to tell me how I feel.”
He frowned. “I did not feel like shaving, if that’s all right with you.”
“Like hell you did not.” He hated the way he looked when he had a beard. “I am your wife after all.” She knew him too well for little white lies like that.
“You are?” His voice was sharp with sarcasm. “I nearly forgot about that.”
Damn him. He had no right to talk to her like that. She was his wife even that she’d left him, never to return. “Exactly, unfortunate but true.”
Anakin wrinkled his nose as if he smelled something unpleasant. “Now I remember. Didn’t we use to live together?”
Shura’s face grew hot. He had no reason to act as if their marriage had been an ill-fated misadventure. They had been happy. “Whether you like it or not, we did. And we are still married.”
Anakin lifted his eyebrows in surprise. Then he shook his head looking back down on her boots. “Yeah, right. – I assume legally we are.” He sighed, exasperated, as if to say, give me patience with this woman. Make her go away from me.
He could wish that as much as he wanted. Shura folded her arms in front of her. She would stay here and not be ignored. This was not fun for her either.
“We are. Even if you do not act like it.”
“I don’t act like it?” He looked back at her. “Fuck, will you listen to the crap you’re saying? Or is your mouth working independently from your brain?”
For a moment Shura was lost for words. “Who is hanging out with other women? You or me?”
“Leave Lee out of this, will you! This has nothing to do with her at all. If somebody acted as if our marriage meant shite to them it was you, dearest, not me.”
Of course, he was right, of course it had been she who had left. But, hell, he had been acting weirdly for a long time beforehand. He had made her afraid of him. She had not run off on a whim. “Obviously it is all my fault, right.”
He did not nod, but she could see he agreed. She could have hit him. With some effort she tried to calm herself down. After a few deep breaths she unfolded her arms. “O, come on, you don’t believe this. Don’t pretend you were the all-innocent victim here.”
For a long moment Anakin just looked at her. “Innocent victim? Victim of what?” He shook his head. “Hell. I don’t know. You never said a word. You just…” Stopping in mid-sentence he lowered his head again. Was she imagining things or had there been tears in his eyes which he now tried to hide? “I don’t know why you did it.” He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, breathing in deeply. So he had been near crying. But when he looked up again there was no sign of tears anymore. “Perhaps this could be called innocent.”
So this was to be it. He was the innocent victim of his stupid wife. As a matter of fact, Shura felt extremely stupid at the moment. And feeling stupid made her angry. Feeling helpless and out of control of the situation made her even angrier.
If walking away would not be so obviously a concession of defeat she would have turned around and walked at least as far away as the carriage allowed. But she could not do that. She detested being on the defensive. He was so innocent, right?
It was all her fault. Of course, it was! The weeks of agonizing uncertainty about their marriage and his strange behaviour recently were all things that he did not accept as his liability. He had disregarded their marriage as well. More than she had. It was not her fault!
“Poor, little lambkin, my heart bleeds for you.”
“Now, it does? For fuck’s sake. Now I don’t need your bloody sympathy.”
“There’s no chance in hell that you’ll get it. Hell, I have wasted my feelings long enough on you. Great heavens! Look at you. Sitting there as if some evil queen had stolen your soul. Now you are the innocent victim while ten days ago you did not care a wee bit. You…”
“I did not care. I? What is it with you? You run off like that and it is my fault? What the hell did you think you were doing? And all this crap about not following you. You make me look as if I were out to kill you or something.”
“I just wanted my peace and quiet. I did not want you to hang around and ask me to come back. I wanted to be left alone.”
“Yeah, great. As if I had felt the urge to plead with you to come back. I’d rather drop dead than do that.” He glared at her. “You made me look like a real ass. Because you were in such a hurry to get out of my life that you forgot to mention this to anybody besides yourself. Do you know how many people tried to reach you after you stormed off? No, I am sorry I haven’t got a clue where my wife, the great Admiral, is and I don’t know what she is doing. And hell, I am not going to take a message!”
“I bet you did not have any problems explaining who the idiot was. Well, after all, you were the innocent victim, right? You just had to explain that your wife’s gone completely mad and cry a little for sympathy and …”
“Oh, shut up!”
“No, I will not shut up. You wanted an explanation, right? You will get one.”
“I would have wanted an explanation before you left. Now I don’t give a shit, I am not interested to know what possessed you.”
“Are you afraid that you might not be as innocent as you would like to be?”
“What the hell is this supposed to mean?”
“It means that there are a couple of things you did that really fucked our marriage up. Do you want me to go into detail here?” Shura waved her hand shortly at the other passengers of the train, some of whom were staring at them, some were staring very intently not at them.
“Ha.” All of a sudden, Anakin stood up, towering over her. Dammit, why did he have to be that tall? “You should not try to intimidate me. There is nothing you can tell them, because I did not do horrible things to you.” Shura took a step backwards as he was standing nearly on her toes. “You fucking walked out on me.”
“And I had all the right in the world to do so.”
“No, you had not. Not without any explanation.” He stared at her. “Why? What was the matter? I …we did not fight, did we?”
“You don’t have to fight to finish a relationship. Our marriage had been dead for quite some time.”
“It is dead because you pronounced it dead. You alone decided what to do, without asking me.”
“What would you have done? Stopped me?”
“I would have talked some sense into you.”
“Sense? You don’t have enough sense for yourself, leave alone anybody else!”
“You could have at least tried.”
“I knew you would not understand.”
“What? Understand what?”
“Why I had to leave!”
“You never told me! You never talked to me. Dammit!” He clenched his fists. “Why the hell did you not talk with me!” His voice rose to a near scream.
Shura flinched back for a moment afraid he would hit her. No way she would back off now. She leaned forward again. “Because it would have made no difference whatsoever.” He smelled of beer. “You’re drunk.”
“So what? I was not drunk then.”
“You still would not have understood!”Now she was shouting.
“You never gave me a chance to understand, stupid bitch!”
“Don’t you dare call me a bitch!”
“If you act like one I will call you one, bitch.”
“What will you do if I don’t? Walk away? Too late for that, sweetheart.”
“I thought you would not stop me.”
“I wouldn’t . I would give you a good kick in the butt to make you leave faster.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Watch me.” They glared at each other and in the brief silence following his words a voice could be heard muttering: “Kick the bitch and get it over with.”
It was pretty obvious who had made this comment. All the other passengers in the train were staring at the young man who was turning red with embarrassment.
“Don’t talk about my wife like that!” Anakin stared at the man, his wrath suddenly directed against somebody else. Somebody he did not care about. Shura felt fear rise through her anger. If the man knew what was good for him he would shut up.
“Yeah, as if you would not.” He obviously did not know what was good for him. “Listen, buster, I am very sorry that your wife has left you but if you have to shout at each other on public transport you’d better accept that people might listen to what you say.”
The young man turned pale and swallowed frantically.
No. Anakin would not do that. Not here, not because of a stupid comment. Shura stared at the man and at her husband. He was drunk and angry. Gods, he couldn’t kill the man just for being rude. “Don’t!” She grabbed Anakin’s arm or tried to.
Her hand never touched him, hitting something like an energy field, something that burnt her hand, pushing her away and flinging her through the carriage against the other wall and onto the bench there.
The young man was not sucking his air in in a relieved breath, he sat quite as pale and frightened as before. He did not lift his hand to his throat or show any other sign of being released from a invisible strangling-hand. Anakin had not done anything to him.
“Don’t touch me!” Anakin glared at her, his hands clenched.
Shura took a deep breath. Her back hurt where she had hit the wall and she was frightened, frightened as she had not been before. She had been concerned about what he might do, frightened that he would change into something she did not understand, now she was scared of the powers he controlled. He could have killed her as easily as he flung her through the carriage.
How dare he do that? Just because she had tried to stop him from strangling some innocent idiot.
“And I did not believe Obi-Wan when he said you were going to hurt me!”
Anakin looked as if somebody had hit him with a brick on the head. “Obi Wan?”
That was something he had not expected. “Exactly.” Shura could not help gloating at his stunned expression. “Your master Obi Wan.” She might not be able to hurt him physically but she would make sure he would cringe as well. “He told me that you had changed. That sooner or later, and rather sooner than later, you would turn on those who were close to you. That you would try to control me, and if I would not be controlled, hurt me, force me to follow you, or kill me.”
Anakin closed his eyes, breathing heavily. “Obi Wan.”
“He said that you had changed ever since you allied yourself with that mad senator. That it was too late now.”
Pressing his left hand on his lips, as if to stifle a scream and squeezing his eyes shut, Anakin looked as if he was in pain. Shura got back up, shocked by the extent of his reaction.
Finally he dropped his hand and stared at her. “No.” He was not angry any more. Shura was not quite certain what it was that made him look physically sick. “You talked to Obi Wan.”
There was no reason for her to feel guilty about it. “Yes I did. And I am glad I did.”
“You said you never wanted to see him again.”
“Well, I changed my mind.”
“You listened to the bullshit he told you.”
“I talked with him, that is all.”
“You ate all the lies he fed you.”
“As if you could tell what he said.”
“How could you believe him?”
“How could I not? He knows you and he obviously knows you better than I do. He just confirmed my suspicions. He said it was for my own safety that I should leave…” Shura involuntarily took a step back when Anakin’s face distorted into a grimace of fury. Baring his teeth like a hungry snow cat, his eyes narrowed to slits, he exhaled with a hissing sound.
“You left because Obi Wan told you?”He pressed his fists together in front of him. “You left me because of this… How could you? How could you trust him before me?”
Shura took another step back. “I did not trust you, I could not … I was confused and frightened and…” Hell, she sounded like a complete nitwit. After all it had been her decision to leave. She put her fists on her hips and glared back at her husband. “I left you because I could not bear it any longer. Yes, I have seen Obi Wan and talked with him and what he said did give me the final push to go but I did not leave because Obi Wan told me.”
“Shura! Hell. How could you? How … You left me because of Obi Wan!”
Shura pressed her hand against her ears. She knew that this would not help as his last shout was as much a mental scream as a verbal one. She could see the other passengers in the train cringe in pain as well, the stupid secretary bursting into tears.
“How couldn’t I? Look at you. You can’t control your abilities. You don’t know what your doing. How could I trust you – Jedi!”
“But you can trust Obi Wan. He is a Jedi as well.”
“Yes, but he does not abuse his powers to hurt people.”
“You don’t believe this crap, Shura.”
“It’s just crap because you don’t want to believe it.”
“It’s a lie.”
“It’s not. Look at what you’ve done to the people here.” She turned around to find herself staring at a nearly empty carriage? only the fast-mouthed young man was still sitting on his bench, a determined expression on his face. He would sit through this, no matter what. The doors of the train shut and the train started moving. Fuck.
“Look what you made me do. I missed my stop!”
“You missed… O, hell, Shura!” The train ground to a halt again and the door closest to them swooshed open. “There you go.” Anakin burst into a fit of laughter that was scaring the hell out of her. It sounded just as she had always imagined the Kosoyas’ laughter would sound when they glided over a battlefield [obviously a reference to Tresillian mythology]. She did not want to leave, have their marriage end like this but she dared not stay. Hating herself for slinking away like this she run out of the doors onto the platform. The door closed and the train started to move again with a violent jolt.
Heavens above. He had stopped the train. That was not natural, that was not what people were supposed to be able to do.
She could see Anakin standing in the train shaking with laughter. He frightened her. He scared her enough to make her shake from head to toe. But. Now it was over. Now there was nothing left between them. Perhaps now she could go on with her life.
The two people still standing on the platform were looking at her. Curious and frightened. One of them had been in the carriage with them. Gods, they had made a show out of themselves, hadn’t they. At least now she would not have to tell anybody that she and her husband had split up, by tomorrow morning the entire station would know. Great.
She would not give a damn. And now she wanted to go home, eat something and get drunk. She deserved it.