It was almost dark when
Shura landed her small ship on the lawn behind Rhona’s house.
The flight from Brindle had taken almost ten hours. To her inner clock
it was past midnight, here she thought it must be about eight
Though, Shura had to admit, her inner clock must be completely thrown out of synch anyway, with her constant jumping from planet to the next space station, all of which had completely different time zones, some of them even different lengths of day. Moreover, she’d only been up for something over eleven hours.
For a moment Shura remained sitting in the ship, wondering once more whether this was a good idea. She hoped that nobody had paid any attention to her ship when she entered Tresillian space. She had been cleared without any questions asked. The false ship id she had purchased had once more proven its worth.
The question that now weighed much heavier on her mind was whether it was fair to Rhona to simply drop in on her, laden as she was with memories of happier days, when Lucas was still alive. Not only that but bringing her own troubles with her. Perhaps she should simply leave again. Go to Siriska or the Tautela Islands or any other holiday resort on the planet and leave Rhona in peace.
For that, she realised, it was too late.
The door of the house opened and Shura could see a figure silhouetted against the light inside.
She could hardly expect that the people in the house - she hoped it was Rhona - wouldn’t notice a ship landing only a few yards away from their back-door.
Shura let the canopy snap open.
The person still standing in the door of the house would be able to see her now as the cockpit light automatically turned on.
What was she doing here? she asked herself yet again.
With a sigh she pocketed the key and pushed the canopy completely open. Rhona would have heard of Shura’s disappearance, would have heard of what had happened to Anakin.
Would Rhona blame her? One more question to gnaw on Shura’s mind. .
But she remembered that Rhona had not blamed her for Lucas’ death. Had not blamed Anakin either, or even the damned Jedi. Shura recalled her own anger at this. Rhona had only blamed those who actually did the killing and had shown intense satisfaction on the news that Anakin had killed them, every single one of them. That had been a feeling Shura had shared.
Shura looked up, startled by the voice being so close.
It was Rhona, thank the Gods. She was standing next to the ship, her lose hair whipped by the wind that blew warm and wild down from the mountains. She was wearing a cream-coloured tunic, no shoes as Shura noticed. There was a worried, hurt look on Rhona’s face as she looked up at Shura, still motionless in the ship.
For the moment, Shura was lost for words. All she could think of was that she loved Rhona, loved her for loving Lucas, and for being a familiar face after these two weeks of being surrounded by nothing but strangers.
“Are you hurt?” Rhona asked.
Shura shook her head. “No,” she managed to say, then pulling her thoughts back to the here and now, the reason why she was here, she said with a voice that sounded brittle in her own ears, “I am sorry to drop in on you like this…”
“No, no,” Rhona interrupted her. “Come on down, come in. I’m so glad you are safe.”
Shura stood up. Her knees were hurting after the long flight in the ship that despite the alterations was just a little to short for her.
Rhona smiled up at her, though the worried look did not completely leave her face.
“Where are your bags?” Rhona asked, and then, “you do have bags?”
“Yes,” Shura said, climbing stiffly out of the ship. “Down here.”
She bent down and unlocked the baggage compartment. One of her bags dropped out onto her foot. She repressed the urge to swear at the damned thing, then gingerly felt the strap of the bag. The temperature was alright, the heat produced by the ship’s entry into Tressilia’s atmosphere had warmed it. On some space stations the bags had still been cold enough to freeze her hands. The first time she experience this phenomenon, she’d only been saved from doing herself some serious harm when a dock worker yelled at her to not touch the bags. Sometimes she was longing for the days she had all these trivialities taken care off, when she had been a high-ranking admiral, when there had been people who were handling her luggage.
“Can you take this?” she asked Rhona and on her “of course,” handed the bag to her.
Shura pulled another, colder bag out of the compartment and slung it over her shoulder. Climbing half-way up to the hatch, she retrieved the small back from where it was stuffed behind her seat. It contained the items that didn’t take kindly to being shock-frosted in space.
“I hope I am not disturbing you,” Shura said as she climbed down.
“No,” Rhona answered, simply.
Turning around, Shura found Rhona standing in front of her, bag at her feet, her head tilted slightly to one side.
“Welcome,” she said and, standing on her toes, put her arms around Shura’s shoulders.
Gods, she’d forgotten how small Rhona was, Shura realised as she returned the embrace, how delicate. It made her feel big and clumsy; it also reminded her of hugging Lucas, when there had also been the need to bend down, and, by contrast, of embracing Anakin. Both of whom she’d never be able to hold in her arms again.
“Thank the Goddess you’re safe,” Rhona said quietly. “Your mother will be so relieved…”
Shura pulled out of the embrace. “You can’t tell her I’m here,” she said, more harshly than she’d intended.
Rhona looked shocked, hurt, but she nodded. “Let’s go inside.”
She gave Shura a wavering smile, picked up the bag and walked back towards the house.
Shura followed. She suddenly felt appalled by her own behaviour. Not only had she dropped in on Rhona without warning, she also realised that she had not said a single kind word to her so far. No ‘How are you?’ or ‘It’s good to see you’. No explanation of where she’d been.
Her family must be worried sick with dread, not having heard from her since the horrible news of Anakin’s accident broke.
Shura pulled a grimace. How would they have explained her disappearance?
But she could not explain it to them, not now, and particularly not to her mother.
Rhona stepped onto the porch that ran all the way round the house. For a house it was, not a cottage as Lucas had always claimed.
Shura looked up at the yasimi trees that spread their wide canopies over its roof. The house looked small and squat compared to these tall trees whose shade must help a great deal towards keeping the house cool in the intense summer heat. Their small, hard leave rustled in the wind.
It looked so different than her own home up in the North. White wood, large windows, a good few of them went down to the ground, doors in fact rather than windows.
“Come on,” Rhona said from the door.
Manners, Shura reminded herself.
“I’m sorry to burst in on you like this,” she said as she followed Rhona inside, into the kitchen. “I just needed a place to rest. For a couple of days, if that is not asking too much.”
“No, not at all,” Rhona closed the door behind Shura. “You can stay as long as you want to.”
“Thanks,” Shura answered.
Rhona smiled. “I’m happy you are here.”
For a moment Shura feared Rhona would add, ‘that’s what family is for’, the standard paraphrase for ‘not at all’ amongst her relatives, but Rhona did not.
Family. It was the reason why she was here, imposing on her cousin, because she knew she’d be accepted here no matter what had happened. But then, why would she not be able to face her mother?
“Let’s put your bags in the hall for now.” Rhona walked past her.
The hall, as Shura only remembered when Rhona placed the bag on a low table in the corridor, was a passage here, not the living area it was at home.
“The loo is there,” Rhona told her, pointing at one of the doors leading off the hall, “if you need it.”
“Yes, thanks,” Shura replied, adding her bags to the one Rhona had carried in. After the ten hours flight, she certainly needed it.
“Are you hungry?” Rhona asked as Shura headed past her.
Food. Shura thought that she certainly could do with something to eat as well. “If it’s not too much trouble.”
Rhona shook her head. “I haven’t had dinner yet myself.”
Not had dinner? Surprised, Shura turned back to her cousin. It was well past dinner time here. Rhona did look thinner, she realised only now. It was over a year since Lucas’ death, but this did not stop herself from crying over his death still. For Rhona there had not even been the diversion Anakin had given her.
“Are you alright?” Shura asked.
Rhona gave her a tense smile. “As well as can be expected,” she replied. “Now go on. Don’t pee on the floor.”
Shura had to laugh and headed for the toilet. Having relieved her bladder, she splashed water in her face.
If she had thought that Rhona had lost weight what would Rhona think of her? She looked at her own reflection and tried to see herself with her cousin’s eyes. The answer was simple: she looked dreadful. Pale from spending too much time on space stations and ships, thinner, but somehow puffed up as well. Shura wondered whether Rhona’s professional eye would immediately see the problem, too much drink and not enough food. Her unhealthy looks would be noticeable to Rhona, who had last seen her a few days after the war had ended, five months ago. A life-time ago, in a different universe. She had been happy, so happy that for the time her joy had even eclipsed her grief for Lucas. The war was over and nobody needed to die anymore. She would not have to worry about Anakin’s life being in danger every other day.
Shura swallowed hard, splashing more water on her face. Then running wet fingers through her hair she tried to put it into some sort of order, but it had grown too long and was standing up in wild tufts and twirls around her head. She had to have it cut, or perhaps she ought to let it grow. She had not worn her hair longer than this since before she joined the navy.
She felt still far from presentable when she emerged from the bathroom, nervous as well what Rhona would say next.
You wanted to come here, she told herself as she walked back to the kitchen, so you better face what she has to tell you.
Rhona was already busy frying something, onions and garlic from the smell of it.
“Do you want to chop some tomatoes?” she asked.
“I’d love to,” Shura said without exaggeration. Standing here in Rhona’s well-equipped kitchen - Rhona had offered her a chair but after the long flight she was glad to be standing - Shura enjoyed cutting the tomatoes more than some people would think was sensible. But it was good to do something normal, be useful to somebody, if only by helping with the cooking.
“Wine?” Rhona wanted to know, but she already handed Shura a glass of white wine with a faint green tinge, Araia probably.
“Thanks,” Shura answered, accepting the glass gladly. A small sip confirmed that it was Araia wine. Fine wine from Aunt Marja’s estates.
She knew she should not drink, but if she refused a simple glass of wine, Rhona would surely guess the reason behind it, and she just did not want to talk about her pregnancy now. Not when the mood had lifted, when she herself felt at ease here.
Rhona set her own chopping board on the table opposite Shura’s and set to slicing peppers.
“Have you heard that Uncle Niri has finally separated from his wife?” Rhona wanted to know and with this set the tone of the conversation.
The time it took to cook as well during dinner itself, their conversation stayed on light topics. First there was the catching up with the family news that occupied them, then they reminisced about their childhood, a time long past, safely distant. Only a very small, petulant voice inside Shura complained, longed for Rhona to ask, ‘where have you been? Why did you run off?’ But Shura told herself off. Her cousin had to come to terms with her presence as well, with all the memories of Lucas’ she brought with her.
So, Shura enjoyed her dinner – some kind of bird in a delicious spicy sauce, served with flat bread – as she hardly remembered enjoying any food for a long time. She ate until her stomach felt almost fit to burst. Rhona, she noticed with relief, ate just as hungrily as herself.
Her visit, Shura thought, may do some good to Rhona too. She hoped so at least.
After dinner, they moved out to the front porch. The sea was only a few hundred yards away, the sound of the waves lapping against the beach was clearly audible in the quiet of the night, otherwise only interrupted by small animal noises and the rustling of the leaves of the great yasimi trees. The next human being seemed to be on the islands across the sea. Lights glittered across the waves.
Rhona pointed out where the larger settlements were and where there were gaps between the small islands. Only behind the string of isles the real ocean began and two hundred kilometers further was Rogera Island where Aunt Marja lived.
Sitting on the low wooden chair next to Rhona, Shura felt at peace. She cradled the glass of wine - only her second, she thought with grim satisfaction - and listened.
“The green light there,” Rhona said, pointing to a tiny green light in the middle of a patch of darkness. “It’s a navigational light for ships. There’s a tiny island nobody lives on, wonderful for picnics.”
Rhona probably been there with Lucas on one of his visits. Shura wondered what it felt like to look out there and remember the happiness of the past. It must be painful, though perhaps the fact that Rhona saw it every day made it so normal she did not think of Lucas at all.
“I sometimes wonder…,” Rhona began, but let the sentence trail off unfinished.
Shura sipped her wine and waited. It would do no good to try to nudge Rhona into talking about Lucas, if that what she was wondering about, and Shura could not be at all certain about that. Perhaps Rhona was wondering only whether Shura was interested in picnicking on a small uninhabited island, or whether she was thinking if any ships had every been shipwrecked there despite the signalling light.
Rhona stood up abruptly. “I get some nibbles,” she explained, “I think we should have something to eat with the wine.”
Shura was about to say that she still felt completely stuffed from dinner, but Rhona had already fled back into the house. She was upset, for sure.
“Great,” Shura muttered to herself and finished off her glass of wine, refilling it from the bottle Rhona had brought out to the porch.
Rhona was probably cursing her visitor’s presence here right now. There she had been, minding her own business and in drops a distant relatives bringing back all sorts of unwanted memories.
But if Rhona was angry or upset, she did not show it when she returned to the porch. “Yasimi nuts, from my own trees,” she said putting down two bowls, “and fried yokra, Aunt Marja’s, of course. And I brought another bottle.”
“You’re spoiling me,” Shura told her. Yokra, she thought, it must be three years since she had eaten some of these spicy fruits.
“Least I can do,” Rhona said.
For a while they sat again in silence, munching nuts and yokra slices.
The darkness was by now complete, and the wind had died down almost completely. Perhaps, they could just spend the evening in companionable silence. But it would not be that companionable, they’d both be thinking of the past, of what was lost to them.
Rhona sighed and turned to Shura. “Sitting here with you, I wonder,” Rhona started again, “I cannot help wondering how things would have turned out, if Lucas hadn’t died. Would he have liked it here? Would he not have thought this all terrible boring?”
“Hm,” Shura made. Of course it would be easy to say, ‘of course, he would have liked it’, but that would be too simple an answer. She all too vividly remembered Lucas complaints about the lack of bars and shops. The same aspects that had made this place so inviting to her had made it unattractive to Lucas: its isolation.
“I don’t know, really,” she replied finally. “I think he would. As happy as he could have been at any one place. I mean, I cannot really imagine him settling down somewhere, not only because of his profession, it just was not his thing. He’d be happy to come here, make his home here, as much as he ever had something like a home, but he would not be here all the year round, but I guess you know that - don’t you?”
She looked at Rhona, who stared out into the night. Her face looked drawn, but perhaps it was just the dim light that made her look that way.
“I guess I do,” Rhona answered. “And my head understands and accepts it, but I don’t know whether my heart would have been able to cope with it.”
“My father was not at home for long periods of time either,” Shura explained, “but it did not mean we were less of a family or that my parents’ marriage wasn’t working out. - Otherwise I hardly would have as many siblings as I do.”
“I know,” Rhona said. “With me, us, my family, my father and my mother were there all the time. They were working the farm together. I cannot imagine how it would be like with one parent away all the time. I hated it when my mother or my father were away visiting or on business even for a week or so.”
“Really?” Shura was surprised. To her it sounded awfully restrictive, boring. “I guess it’s just what you’re used to. And we, Lucas and I, were very itinerant kids as well. We went to, Gods, how many was it? Sixteen schools. And since then, neither of us ever were at a place for more than a year or so.”
“That must be very odd,” Rhona said. “You know this is the third place I ever lived in. First my parents’, then medical school, now my own home. That’s it. Lucas must have thought me very dull.”
“No, no,” Shura replied, “being dull or not has nothing to do with in how many places one has lived. Rhona, you must never think that. He really loved you. Ok, he may not have thought this was the most fascinating place in the universe, but you were here and that was enough. To come back to your question whether things would have turned out alright if Lucas had not died. I am sure they would have. Somehow you would have managed to get to an arrangement. If you love somebody, you have to accept him as he is and let him be himself.”
Shura stopped herself and gulped down some more wine. What was she talking about, for goodness sake? Accept a person the way he was? Had she managed to do that?
“Why are we talking about this?” Rhona exclaimed suddenly. “Lucas is dead. There is no reason why I should worry about what might have been.”
“And who am I to give you advice on how to have a successful relationship?” Shura returned. “Me! Who first drove her husband to drink and then to fly his c-wing into a building.”
Suddenly she felt like bursting into hysterics, laughing or weeping she was not sure, but she had the impression if she let go she’d never be able to stop. So instead she finished her glass and with a slightly shaking hand refilled it.
“Not literally, of course,” she continued,” at least the part about the flying into a building, but I did drive him to drink - on occasion. As he did drive me to drink on occasion. I guess it was a mutual thing. And quite often we’d do it together. Drink”
“What happened?” Rhona asked. “I have seen the news of course, just like everybody else has.”
“I haven’t,” Shura said, “not since the day after the accident.”
“You haven’t?” Rhona looked shocked. “Then you haven’t heard…”
“He didn’t die, did he?” Shura interrupted her. For a moment she felt as if her heart would stop. She hadn’t thought even of the possibility Anakin might die. She had been sure she would have somehow known if it happened. What if he was dead? What then?
“No, he hasn’t,” Rhona answered, and Shura was able to draw breath again.
She hadn’t thought that she’d still care so much for Anakin. That the mere thought of Anakin dying would affect her so badly. She put the glass down, afraid she still might drop it, with her hands were shaking as hard as they did. She quickly folded them, trying to stop the shaking.
“At least I think he is still alive,” Rhona continued. “At first there were reports on his condition on every news bulletin, but then other things happened. The massacre on Rexus IX has certainly put people’s minds on other things. But, no, they’d mentioned it if he had died.”
Shura nodded. “I guess they would.”
She breathed in deeply and tried to calm her heart that seemed to be running at double speed. Anakin was still alive. Thank all the Gods.
“What I meant was, that you hadn’t heard the rumours, the weird and nasty stories that have started to surround the events,” Rhona explained. “With Anakin in a coma and both you and that Kenobi person having gone awol, nobody who really knew what had happened was available and so people made up the whys and hows.”
Shura frowned. “What is there to explain? Anakin and I separated, we fought, he got drunk and after a fight with his former teacher crashed his c-wing. That’s all there is to it.”
“Yes, that’s the course of events as they were pieced together,” Rhona said, “but nobody can understand the whys, Shura. Why did you leave Anakin? Why didn’t you tell anybody? Why did Anakin fight with Kenobi? And why did you run? Why, Shura?”
Shura heaved a big sigh. Why, indeed. If only she had simple answers to these questions, but there weren’t any.
“We want to know,” Rhona continued, “I, your family, the public. Everybody wants to know why this happened. We, your family, worry about you, the public is mostly merely curious. It is not every day that a person of Anakin’s position is involved in an accident as spectacular as this one. And then you just vanish. Conspiracy theories abound about this.” Rhona paused to catch her breath. “At the moment I guess the odds are even between the one theory where you had an affair with this Kenobi fellow and ran off with him and the one where he first blackmailed you into leaving Anakin and has then abducted you to keep you quiet.”
“Me have an affair with Kenobi!” Shura exclaimed, shuddering at the mere thought. “This is the most ridiculous idea I heard in years! I’d rather die than touch that man.”
“Possibly,” Rhona agreed. “But do you know what your mother said when she first heard that you had left Anakin? She said that it was the most outlandish lie she had heard in her entire life. We all couldn’t believe it. You were so happy. Goddess, Shura, you two were the happiest couple I ever met. Why did you leave him?” Rhona asked again insistent. “And as far as I can tell it was you leaving him. You did not merely separate, you walked out on him.”
Shura looked at her cousin.
Rhona literally sat at the edge of her chair. She looked tense and hurt. Shura wanted to tell her that she did not want to discuss this, that it was none of Rhona’s business, but by coming here, Shura knew, she had made it Rhona’s business.
“First, yes, I did leave Anakin,” Shura started, “I moved out. I told him not to look for me, and he did not.” She picked her glass up again and after a sip, continued. “As to why I left him. Oh, Gods, I have been asking myself the same question for the last two weeks, and I really don’t know anymore. It all seemed to be perfectly reasonable and right at the time, but not now. I am afraid I was just being stupid. We were fighting a lot, yes, about his work, and my work, about his drinking, about so many silly things. I didn’t like him spending so much time with Palpatine. I never liked the man, and he can’t stand me. There were about five days when we got along. Just when he helped Anakin to leave the damned Order. But I didn’t like the way Palpatine used Anakin to attack the jedi. He didn’t give a damn about what the enquiry cost Anakin, both professionally and personally. And the entire New Forces in my opinion are just Palpatine’s way to gain control of the armed forces in general and of Anakin in particular. And, yes, I was jealous that he able to give Anakin’s life a purpose again after the war was over. Something I couldn’t do.” She looked at Rhona. “Does that make sense at all?”
Rhona nodded. “Yes, it does.”
Shura sighed. “Some years ago, Anakin told me the story Senator Palpatine had told him about the end of his marriage. He and his wife had lived separate lives for a long time, but it wasn’t the strain of his long absences that ended their marriage. It was when he came to live with his family. The change of circumstances. And at some point he asked Anakin whether he thought our marriage, Anakin’s and mine, would survive the end of the war. And I made his prediction come true.”
Shura looked down at her half-empty glass, furious with herself, with Senator Palpatine for the influence he had on Anakin. Palpatine probably had been celebrating when he heard from Anakin that his wife had abandoned him. Though, Shura realised only now, Anakin seemed to have kept quiet about this as well. Otherwise the media had not been surprised when their separation had been made public after the accident.
“Why didn’t you tell anybody about your problems?” Rhona wanted to know.
“I thought I had to work this out by myself,” Shura replied. “I thought at first, it would pass. We would get used to the war being over.” She looked at her cousin, whose eyes were still fixed on her. “You know, I never thought it would be difficult getting used to peace. It seems kind of silly, but it was hard. It still is. During the war, we had a purpose. Our lives were so busy we had hardly time to think. But now? Everything was different. You know one of the things that really started to tick me off right after the war? Laundry. Clothes in general. At the end of the war, I was waited upon hand and foot. I didn’t have to do my laundry. I was never out of uniform - except in bed. Then… Stupid, I know. But I wanted to adjust. I did not want to spend the rest of my days, running around in my old uniform and tell everybody about the glory days when I was a great admiral.”
“And Anakin?” Rhona asked.
“Oh, Anakin had his new job with the New Forces,” Shura replied. “And the crusade against the jedi, of course.” She laughed bitterly. “As I said, I am jealous. But he also had his problems getting used to the new situation.”
“What kind of problems?” Rhona wanted to know.
“Well, it is one thing to be an officer in an army at war, it’s quite another to be the head of an army at peace trying to reorganise it and down-size it. I know. I was doing something similar in the regular forces. And being a Field Marshal does not stop you from being frustrated with the lack of progress or give you more patience with the petty squabbles you find you spend most of your time trying to sort out. Additionally he had a hostile Jedi Order to live with, and a nagging wife at home.”
“And a Senator-friend who did not understand, or perhaps did not care about his problems and pushed him to breaking point, hm?” Rhona suggested. “To be honest, from what you say, it seems that this Senator Palpatine would be extremely happy if your marriage failed. You said he wanted to gain control over Anakin and this he could only do by getting you out of the picture, right? What does Palpatine want from Anakin, Shura. Do you know?”
“He wants to destroy the Jedi Order,” Shura said. “And I mean destroy, not cut it down to size, but wipe it out. Completely and utterly.”
“Why?” Rhona wanted to know.
“I don’t know why, but that’s what he wants,” Shura stated. “And I am sure that’s what he’s going to get.”
Shura finished her wine and pouring herself another, topping up Rhona’s as well. She had a brief pang of bad conscience about breaking her good intentions about not drinking once again. This would not be the right moment to break to Rhona another reason of why she left Anakin. Her pregnancy was better kept out of this discussion for now. They were on the best way to get thoroughly drunk and dammit, Shura thought, she needed it, and Rhona needed it too.
“You know,” Rhona said, “one of the odd rumours that have spread is that you and Senator Palpatine had an affair.”
“Me and Palpatine?” Shura had to laugh at the thought. “Is there anybody that was not under discussion as to having an affair with me? And how does Kenobi come into this scenario?”
“I think it was suggested that he told Anakin about it, and Anakin lost it completely.” Rhona explained. “As I said it is one of the odder theories.”
“I don’t know, me having an affair with Kenobi seems to be just as absurd. Gods, what a hideous thought. Just as bad as having an affair with Palpatine. – Though come to think of it, I’d rather have an affair with Palpatine. At least it would not make me physically sick. Definitely, if I had to have an affair with either of them, it’d be Palpatine.” Shura paused. This was rapidly becoming a really silly conversation. These theories Rhona mentioned did come as a surprise. Somehow she had not really expected people, the media to speculate about her having affairs with Anakin’s friends - or former friends.
Kenobi. Gods damn him.
“The sad thing is,” Shura said, “I did talk about my problems and Anakin’s with somebody. I just picked the single worst person I could.”
“Kenobi,” Rhona stated.
Shura nodded. “Yes, Kenobi. It seemed to me the best thing I could do. He knows Anakin, he was there on Chardri, I could just go there. I knew he would not tell Anakin. I didn’t trust him and I was sure I would not take his advice. Particularly, if he suggested, as I expected he would, that I ought to leave him. In a way, I think I was trying to have myself talked out of it. But of course just the opposite happened. I hadn’t seen him for - since just after Lucas was killed. He was surprised that I showed up, and he –,” Shura had to pause to swallow down the tears that suddenly were threatening to overcome her. “He said all the right things. He said he was sorry about what happened to father and Lucas. He said he had been wrong in stopping Anakin then. He had never before admitted to that, as far as I know. And he just seemed to understand why I was having these doubts about our relationship, Anakin’s and mine. He said I was right to be worried about Anakin’s power, the way he used of the force. Without proper training Anakin was losing control of it. Kenobi told me, I was right to worry about Anakin’s violent behaviour. Sooner or later he would also turn against me. Kenobi said he had seen it before. He said I had every reason to be afraid.”
“You were afraid of Anakin?” Rhona asked, incredulous.
“Yes, I was. It may be stupid, but it certainly did not feel that way then.”
“Do you think, Kenobi used…,” Rhona started, but Shura shook her head. “No, he didn’t use his power to suggest these things to me. He knew that I would notice if he did. You learn that living with a jedi. – And no, Anakin did not use his powers in that way on me either.”
“But then…,” Rhona started again.
“Oh, Rhona,” Shura said, “you don’t know how it was. Anakin was never a patient man, and he did do things that were not nice. He was violent, increasingly so. He almost killed one of his aides a few weeks ago. Not on purpose, but nevertheless. He was in a temper, and pushed the poor man down the stairs. I guess nobody would have been particularly freaked out about this if he hadn’t used the force to push the man. And that was not the only incident. But what I should have remembered, he never ever lifted a finger against me. Never. He never hurt me, and he never would have. I did, on the other hand, hurt him.”
“You mean, you …” Rhona began.
“I broke his nose once.” Shura explained.
“You broke his nose?” Rhona sounded shocked.
“It was just after Lucas died, when he told me he would go back to the jedi,” Shura said. “I was so angry. I punched him, hard. Well, hard enough to break his nose. He didn’t fight back or even tried to stop me. How could I ever think he would hurt me? I didn’t know then that he had to go back because of the Nomana business. He hadn’t told me. He told Palpatine, damn him. But then, Palpatine was able to provide Anakin with a lawyer who got him off scott free.”
“Hm,” Rhona made.
For a long while they sat in silence, staring out into the darkness. Rhona probably had to think this over. It was a lot to take in, Shura thought. Rhona hadn’t known that much about her illustrious cousin, after all, or about Anakin. All she had ever seen of her, was when Shura had been on vacation on Tressilia, and the few times she had visited Lucas and also bumped into Shura and Anakin. Rhona had never seen them fight, or Anakin in one of his moods, poking holes in his hand, for example. No wonder she thought Anakin and Shura had been the perfect couple. And they had been happy - most of the time anyway.
“I made such a mess of things,” Shura continued. “Yes, things were not all running smoothly and happily, but they never do. All I wanted was to get a break, some breathing space to think. I should have just left him. I should have taken some time off, visit mum. That would have given me the time and space to do that without braking up our marriage. Perhaps if I had …” She broke off, and shook her head. “It’s no use talking about what I should have done now. It’s too late. Now, it’s too late.”
“You could go to Alma Serena,” Rhona suggested.
Shura shook her head again. “I can’t. It’s too late.”
There was a part of her who wanted to go to Alma Serena, wanted to make it up with Anakin, wanted that everything to be alright again, but it just wasn’t possible. Too much had happened, and in the end she was to blame for the fact that he was there on Alma Serena, in hospital, in the Gods only knew what shape. She couldn’t just waltz in and play the caring, worried wife. She had walked out on him, she had told him about her conversation with Kenobi. She should have known he would take the fight to Kenobi. Anakin might never hurt her, but she should have known that he had no such compunction about his former teacher. And the state he had been in it was a small wonder he had come out of the fight alive at all.
“It’s my fault,” Shura said. “It’s all my fault. I was so stupid and egoistic. I shouldn’t have left him, I…” Shura heard her voice start to shake, she felt the tears rise to her eyes and thought that she should stop now, but somehow she couldn’t. “I am to blame for his accident. I told him about me visiting Kenobi and he went there and almost got himself killed. I am just as responsible as if I had done it myself. And saying I am sorry just won’t make it good again. And I miss him so badly.”
Rhona walked over to her, and perching on the arm of Shura’s chair, put her arms around her. “It’s ok,” she said soothingly, “I’m here.”
Of course, Shura thought, it wasn’t ok at all, but she felt comforted. Rhona held her and said meaningless little things to her. But it was a relief to cry in somebody’s arms, Shura thought, better then all the bitter tears she had cried alone. And she had thought she was done with crying.
After what seemed to her a long time, her tears ebbed away. Shura stayed silent until her breathing had calmed down and she was sure she could talk again.
“I am sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to play the fountain.”
“That’s alright,” Rhona replied. She pulled out of the embrace and wiped Shura’s face with the edge of her gown. “That’s what family is for, after all.”
“I know,” Shura said.
Family, she thought. They accept you as you are, with all your flaws, and that’s how a good wife ought to be too. And that’s what you couldn’t do.
“It’s late, and we should be going to bed, but I doubt I could sleep just now.” Rhona stood up. “We should sit out there on the ground and look at the stars. Talk about trivial things.”
Shura looked out at the stars glittering in the dark sky. She knew many of them by name, even though they were different from the ones she’d see at her mother’s place.
“I guess looking at the stars for you does not mean the same to you as it does to me. I could tell you about half a dozen battles I fought up there, most of them with Anakin.”
“Oh,” Rhona made. “I guess we should forego the star-gazing then, and just talk about unimportant things.”
“Like what?” Shura wanted to know.
Rhona frowned. She retrieved her glass of wine and sat on the floor in front of Shura’s chair.
“Fairy-tales,” she said. “What was your favourite fairy-tale as a child? Mine was ‘The Fish who flew’. Do you know that?”
“No.” Shura slid out of her chair and sat on the floor as well.
“Good, then I can tell you.”
The story continues
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