I had not always been alone. Once, I was surrounded by the loving warmth that only blood ties can create, protected within the fragile shell of normal life, contented by the simple pleasures of a daily routine. Before fate, before destiny, before the Force intervened, I was nothing; a mere speck on the cosmic plane. I was ignorant of power and corruption; I did not know the different faces that the Dark Side can assume when seeking to consume my soul; as long as I could look out over the clear cerulean waters of my homeworld without anything obstructing my view, I was satisfied. The seas provided company and a place to think without distractions. I was not alone.
Life was not cruel in those early days. I was an ordinary ranch girl, and Jedi training merely seemed another step up the stairwell of time. Thirty years aboard the Eye of Palpatine, while lonesome, were not without their benefits. I could ponder the mysteries of the universe, and it was there that I met him, and a passionate fire awoke inside, spreading its warmth to the very core of my being. Love acted on my heart like an antidote to my years of isolation and melancholy, and the whispers of the darkness within myself were temporarily silenced. But like calm seas, my inner peace could not endure forever.
Storms arose; full, dark clouds appeared, casting freezing, chilling lances down as the ocean grew violent and deadly. The sky was ablaze with bolts of destruction and gusts of anger, the work of some avenging angel. The tempest roared, the waters churned...then silence. Everything reverted to its normal state: the sea flat and calm, the sky wide and sheer, the wind weak and soft. Everything was as it once was. But not my dreams. Ripped from their moorings, smashed on the rocks of pain and suffering, struck by the bolts of rage and jealousy, drowned by the waves of indecision and fear, they were dead. And I was alone.
I had to leave him. Without the Force I was useless, too easily influenced by others, and I didn't want my darkness to take hold of him too. It wasn't because I no longer cared; every part of my frame, every cell in my body burned with ardor for the man who loved me in return, who adored my character, not my former abilities. But I couldn't willingly bring about his downfall. I ran away so he couldn't glimpse the utter blackness, the horrible vices that resided inside me; in the end, though, it became a defeating, never-ending cycle of torment and guilt.
In my solitude, I quickly learned to cast off superfluous things: affection, integrity, generosity, fidelity, propriety. Anything that could bog me down in my struggle to survive. Memories were harder to erase. They were so easy to recall, and thoughts of yesterday dominated my mind. Everywhere I went, I was reminded of a person I once knew, or a place I once visited. Memories, each one, from the childish to the poignant, twisted the knife deeper into my already wounded heart. Familiar smells would make me recall Chad, or Yavin IV, or him, and then the vibroblade of grief would be plunged a few centimeters more into my soul.
If I couldn't extinguish the memories, I could at least evade them. So I left for distant worlds, where nothing could awaken in me a remembrance of my past. My past, and the love I had shared with him.
It was rough work, fighting for my life in a galaxy that seemed inexplicably bleak to my jaded, broken eyes. I lied, I stole, I killed. I embraced the darkness in my spirit that I had spent so many years trying to restrain, to hold back. While he rebuilt an order of peace and justice, I became a petty criminal. Instead of serving others, I served myself. I was a lonely worshipper at the decaying shrine of self-indulgence, and put my faith in a goddess that I ultimately realized was all too human.
In the years following our parting, I avoided any news about him. But since he was so involved in galactic affairs, I found myself shunning the holos altogether. I knew it would pain me too much to discover that he was able to get over me faster than I was able to forget his face, his voice, his touch. If anyone even mentioned his name, I paid their words no heed and focused on other things. I prided myself on the fact that he was gradually becoming a distant memory, and waited for the day when his features and his personality would be lost evermore from my recollection.
That day never arrived.
When the New Republic and the Empire declared their truce, I began to move Corewards. The Yuuzhan Vong invasion forced me even farther in, and before long I relocated to Coruscant. A shady alley several blocks from the Imperial Palace might not be home to the majority of the galaxy's occupants, but to me it was rent-free housing for a poverty-stricken woman. An accident in the Corporate Sector had mangled my leg and ruined any chance I might have had for a normal existence, so I spent most of my day haunting the Grand Corridor, observing the people who scurried by. Palace security was harsh on me at first, but over time they ignored my presence. I was a staple there, like the venders and tapcafs and kiosks, and that kilometer-long passageway was much safer than any of the underworld streets. It was a way to pass the time, and I watched others' interactions with a perplexing mix of yearning for their way of life and gratification that I had followed my own path, though it was a shadowy and invidious road to travel.
I was lazily following the flow of traffic, tracking the beings as they rushed to work or home or pleasure, when I saw him: a specter from my anguished past. I had seen the same ruffled blond hair, bright blue eyes, and scarred yet still boyish face thousands of times in my dreams, but I never expected to see him again through my hardened eyes. The past thirteen years had added grey hairs and fine lines, but he was still the man I knew. The man I loved.
And he was not alone. Walking beside him was a woman with a dancer's gait and a model's face. Her belly was swollen in the late stages of pregnancy; her long hair, the same brilliant hue as a Corellian sunset, and her glistening emerald eyes were both striking and familiar. As I stared, I understood why: I knew her. I had met her once, when I was with him. She had been a smuggler, with Force abilities and a terrible past. Her name was Mara Jade.
The wind appeared, sharp and biting. Talk to him! Passion screamed above the whirlwind in my soul. Introduce yourself, and settle once and for all whether he still cares for you!
The sky was black as obsidian, black as death, as Reason prepared her answer. Fool. You have been dwelling on the gossamer wings of fancy for too long. Look at yourself! Would he even find anything recognizable in the shattered remains of your beauty? Or just a beaten woman with a ravaged face and the pale eyes of a girl he once loved? Stay where you belong, outcast and desolate. Accept your fate.
The waters swelled; the wind shrieked its heartache; Passion argued once more. Just approach him. Comment on the woman's health. Anything! Do not let him slip away!
Rain fell, its cold bite quenching all opposition. Reason took the helm. It has been over a decade. In his eyes, you are dead. The woman he knew was tall, and strong, and noble. You are a quavering weakling. She had thick brown curls. You have a dirty, unkempt mane. She had an unbreakable soul. You are a mockery of a person. Let him pass in peace.
I slumped over, defeated. The sun returned, and the shrill cry of the north wind hushed until the only sound remaining was weeping. My weeping. The storm had passed, but what sort of wrecks littered the ocean floor? What dreams lay broken on the rocky shore of reality?
A hand touched my shoulder. Tentatively; gently. I glanced up into a pair of sympathetic green eyes. Her eyes. Yet there was no recognition in them, not a hint of recollection behind those glimmering irises. I was nothing more than a beggar. Peeking over in his direction, I saw his intense gaze was distracted, focused on other things. He was watching Mara with protective attention, more concerned with his pregnant spouse than the destitute woman she was assisting. I knew those sapphire orbs better than my own, but he did not know me. She handed me a credcoin and smiled pensively. "May the Force be with you," she muttered softly. Then she walked away, joined him, and they both walked away.
And I was left alone.
Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.