The morning after the night before

Shura woke up with a groan. Her mouth felt parched and she was suffering from a splitting headache.
Damnation. Where was she?
Reluctantly she opened her eyes. The room around her was unfamiliar, small, dark and dingy. A familiar sight to her by now. She couldn’t recall the times she’d woken up in a strange bed, on yet another planet she had fled to. At least she was in a bed. It faintly surprised her that she had had the coordination to rent a room after last night’s binge.
No. She remembered that she had rented to room as soon as she had arrived at Brindle Spaceport.
Then, she decided, it was a miracle that she had found it on her way back from the bar.
Gods. Shura placed her hand on her forehead. She couldn’t recall returning here from the bar at all. She remembered the bar alright, she remembered getting friendly with a couple of other drinkers there, one of whom had hit on her seriously. She had smacked him, and only the timely intervention of an unknown woman, a pilot as it turned out, had stopped the scene deteriorating into a brawl. So, she and the former pilot had moved to another table and drinking like the old troopers they were had reminisced about the war.
Shura sighed. She could piece the evening together that far. But after that, there was a big gaping blank in her memory.
Had she in her drunkenness told the strange woman who she was? She would think that by now the necessity to hide her true identity would have become second nature to her, a habit strong enough even to last through the heaviest drinking. She knew her fictional life story by heart, had made sure it was close enough to the real thing that she wasn’t easily caught lying even by people who had been fighting the same battles she had.
But she didn’t know. She couldn’t be sure she had not dropped one drunken remark too many. The pilot - Shura couldn’t even remember her name - had seemed friendly enough, but still. It was the best if she moved on.
She’d better get up.
Lifting her head, a flash of pain raced through it that made her groan out loud.
She dropped back onto the flat pillow that smelled of old sweat and vomit.
Why was she doing this to herself? She should stop drinking. She shouldn’t be drinking at all, given her condition, and particularly she shouldn’t be drinking so much that she was suffering from black-outs. The baby might suffer serious damage if she kept up like this.
The damned baby. If she could only reach a decision if she wanted to have the bloody thing of not. A large part of her did not want it. She didn’t want to burden herself either with the pregnancy or a child that needed to be minded constantly. She also did not want a reminder of what once was.
But another, apparently equally large part of her, could not even contemplate to kill a child that was Anakin’s.
There, she had thought of him and had not burst into tears.
She needed a pain-killer badly. Her head was throbbing and her brain seemed to be a lot larger than her skull, pressing against it on all sides. If it was that bad lying down, how was she ever to get up and someplace where she could get a painkiller? She wasn’t sure she had any left, and a dive like that they surely hadn’t roomservice.
She closed her eyes and quite unbidden the image of Anakin came to her mind. Lying in the bed next to her, propped up on one elbow, he smiled at her. She could hear herself quite clearly saying, ‘my head is killing me’, and just as he had done on some occasions, he raised his hand, and placed in on her brow. ‘I can do something about that,’ he would tell her and the pain would melt away, just like that.
Snapping her eyes open, Shura looked around to where Anakin had been in her mind. There was - of course - nobody. The bed wasn’t even wide enough for another person to lie on. The headache, however, was still there.
The image in her mind had been so real. She could still smell him, as if a waft of him had manifested itself from her memories.
She must be going insane. Now she was having visions. She’d probably end up as one of these weirdos that walk around talking to thin air.
She shook her head, welcoming the rush of pain through it. This was reality, the headache, her parched mouth, the slight nausea that lingered in her stomach, the foul smell of the bed she had slept in, this was real and she better faced it.
Rolling over on her side, she stared at her discarded clothes on the floor. She had to get out of here. She had to pull herself together and stop this self-destructive behaviour. No more drinking. No more running from one space-port to the next. She had to stay in one place long enough to somehow construct something like a normal life again.
With a heaving sigh, Shura swung her feet out of the bed and sat up, wincing at the renewed pain in her head. No, she decided yet again, no more drinking binges.
Stumbling over her boots, she slowly made her way to the minuscule bathroom.
She knew from past experience that it was always easy to take the decision to stop drinking in the morning - if one could call one o’clock in the afternoon morning - it was a completely different thing to stick to this decision in the evening. Only yesterday morning, still on Roosin’s Space Station she had promised herself that she wouldn’t drink anything, at least for one evening, if only to proof to herself that she could.
And here she was once more, hung-over like hell.
Shura noted with some relief that there was at least a shower.
“Oh, no,” Shura moaned. Of course, she had planned to stay here for a week and had therefore decided to take a room with a shower. Brindle spaceport, she had promised herself when she took off from Roosin’s the day before, would be the place where she stopped running. She needed to get some rest, do her laundry. Now she had to run again, not knowing what she’d told the pilot she had been drinking with.
She grimaced into the mirror. She doubted the landlord would return the rent she had paid for the room in advance. She should have known better than to trust herself to keep her own promises. After all, she hadn’t stayed in the same place for more than two nights since that horrible morning.
One thing at least had improved since her flight from Chardri just a fortnight ago: the morning sickness was gone. This was the forth morning in a row she wasn’t puking her guts out.
She took the last couple of painkillers she found in her bag. She had to buy more. She would have to ask for some that one could take when pregnant. Horrid thought. Then, after drinking a copious amount of water, she gave her teeth a vigorous brush.
The rent for the room, she decided was a loss. It wasn’t that she was short of money - yet, but if she kept on with this life-style she’d run out of it quite soon. Not by next week, but by next month certainly.
“You’re such a stupid cow,” she told her mirror-image. She stared at herself, the dark rings under her eyes, the tousled hair and the strange, haunted look in her eyes for a while. “Tell me something I don’t know,” she answered herself.
She stepped into the shower cubicle, and was relieved to find that the shower did not produce only a meager stream of luke-warm liquid, but a torrent of hot, clear water. People in these parts of the galaxy must be into personal hygiene, she decided. Even shampoo and soap was provided, something she had found missing in much higher quality accommodation in other places.
So, she thought, she had come to Brindle because it was a small backwater port, thinking that perhaps the tranquility, not to say dullness of the place would give her less opportunity to indulge her unhealthy habits. But of course no spaceport was without its bars and drinking halls. She really should have known that.
Just as she should have known that going out for dinner and a beer would mean that she ended up sitting in a dark, smelly bar, completely pissed, swapping tales of battles past with a woman she whose name she didn’t know.
How had she come home? An image flashed up in her head, of herself holding on to the corner of a building, while the strange pilot walked towards her with tottering steps. She had laughed so hard, she could hardly see, the halting progress of the unknow pilot further obscured by this.
Gods, Shura thought, you were making a spectacle of yourself.
But how she had reached that corner, or how she made her way from there to her room she still had not the faintest idea.
Now, Shura thought once more, this had to stop. If she’d continued like that, one day she’d get herself raped or killed.
If I were dead, at least then, it would be all over.
The thought came to her mind and was still a small shock. Not that it was the first time she thought about death. Killing herself - or preferably, dying in an accident or something.
She couldn’t kill herself, she knew, as this would mean killing the baby as well.
She stared down on her belly. It was bulging out only the merest bit. People who didn’t know her, or just didn’t look carefully would never even think she was pregnant.
But she was, and she couldn’t kill Anakin’s baby.
And even if she weren’t pregnant, suicide would be the easy way out. No, she didn’t deserve it.
But then, she had to get a grip on herself. Find a place where she really could turn all her good intentions into reality. Was there such a place?
Shura turned the shower off and started to towel herself dry.
The one place where she wanted to go, where she longed to go with all her heart and mind, her real home, her mother’s place on Tressilia, was of course closed to her. If anybody was looking for her, this surely would be the place they started.
But, perhaps she could go to Tressilia, not her home, but some other place on the planet. She could go to the Southern Islands, rent a little cottage by the beach, read some crime novels and soak up the sun. That would be nice.
The thought popped up in Shura’s mind so suddenly that she stopped her toweling. Of course. She could visit Rhona. Surely, if people were looking for her, they would not think of Rhona. She was a distant cousin, and she had only been engaged to Lucas. As far as Shura knew the engagement had also been known only to the family.
Gods, Shura sat down on the rim of the shower cubicle. Why hadn’t she thought of Rhona earlier?
It was perfect. Rhona was a distant enough relative not to be under the observation of either the press or the army. She lived alone, in a small place in the country - Shura remembered Lucas’ horror on the prospect of living somewhere where there was not even a bar to go to. Sudden tears stung her eyes.
No, Shura told herself. No crying.
Lucas was another good reason to visit Rhona. She had loved him as well. She knew what it was like to lose the person you loved most.
And, very belated Shura remembered that Rhona was a doctor. She could check out whether everything was going alright with Shura’s pregnancy, find out whether the baby was alright.
What if it wasn’t? Shura shivered at the thought. What if the baby had already been affected by her drinking? She knew that she also hadn’t been eating enough and certainly not the right things. What would she do, if Rhona told her that the baby was deformed or brain-damaged?
What if it was twins? No, Shura told herself, better not think of that possibility.
Shura got up again and walked back into the main-room. It smelled of alcohol and unwashed clothes. Staring at the crumpled clothes on the floor, she was disgusted with herself. How she could live like this?
Well, she had a plan now, she would visit Rhona. She just hoped that Rhona would not send her packing. She had not been in touch with Rhona for several months, it was possible that Rhona had found a new lover. Shura had not asked her about this, perhaps Rhona thought it would anger Shura if she had, would seem disrespectful to Lucas’ memory. She might be married by now, for all Shura knew. What would she do, if a strange man opened the door at Rhona’s place? Say ‘sorry wrong door?’ Shura was certain she could rely on Rhona’s discretion, but her new husband? Perhaps visiting her was not such a good idea after all.
Shura knew she was making up excuses. It was unlikely that Rhona had suddenly acquired a husband. It was possible however that she was not home. She may be on vacation.
But all of that did not matter, Shura decided. She would go to Tressilia, try to visit Rhona and failing that she’d stay someplace else on the planet.
Now, she started rummaging through her suitcase. She knew there were some unused clothes in there somewhere. She had to look orderly when she visited Rhona. And before she left Brindle she would eat a proper meal. With a tall glass of water to go with it.

The story continues

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