I've been here several times before. Some of the happiest moments in my life - the other life - were spent right here. The flowers fill the air with a summery sweetness. It feels warm, like the sun on your face in the morning, and inside is home. I make it as far as to the edge of the enclosed garden and my courage deserts me again. Not today.
I reveled in having cheated death in the war, each time more arrogant than the last until finally I sold my soul - my life forfeit for power over death. It is these thoughts that leave me sobbing on the ground, my face in my hands, galled by the audacity I possessed in thinking I could come here. I do not deserve what I come here for, but I always come back, for nothing else than to bask in the nearness of peace.
I know what you're thinking. I am lucky to even be here, in this place. It is by the grace of all that is Light that I am here. The goodness that came out of that Light pardoned me at the end.
So it goes.
I come here and I feel her presence nearby and it is enough. It has to be, at least for now. I commanded armies and decided the fate of others at my whim, but I cannot cross this precipice. So I wait. I wander out here in the in-between while my loved ones that lived on go about their lives.
I'm a name mentioned in warning to others that live in the Light. I'm a weight on my namesake, a burden to overcome and a point to be proven. I do not feel sorry for myself. I deserve this shame and so much more - in that existence, before I found my way back.
Seeing my children make the time that I wait bearable. It is in my most selfish moments that I call them my own. I do not deserve them. I snatch glimpses while they do their duties or have their moments with family, and hope fervently that they felt me, or better yet, recognized me. It is the one good thing about being here. I see the things that I missed, the things that I tossed away in that final submission. I see my family now and know that they are the one thing I did that was good.
Here, it is interesting. I can go back and watch the mistakes I made over and over, the scenes recalled with a mere thought. I can see myself doing unspeakable things in the name of peace and justice. Most of these to my own flesh and blood. I can back up and say, "Here. You should have ended it here. Or here. Or here." There were so many times.
I go back and forth, because really…time doesn't matter. Sometimes I sit in a slave hovel and watch while menial tasks are done and wonder, "What happened to that little boy?" But I already know the answer to that question.
Sometimes I wander marble halls and marvel at the purpose with which these beings go on about their responsibilities. I still feel a slight twinge of envy that they can effortlessly look to the Light. Nothing whispers to them. No fate has been determined. They do not fear. They are not Chosen. They just…are. They are as sure of the Light's love as I was of the Dark's comfort.
Other times I stand behind white-clad soldiers and uniformed officers. Palpable fear rolls from them, for I am near. Only it is not here, but there. I took the misery of my existence out on every living soul that came into contact with me. Their failure fed my failure. Their fear was mine. It was never really their failure, after all; it was mine. It IS mine. Always mine.
So I continue on here, in this place that is neither here nor there, no longer part of the world I could have had. Not yet a part of that world, the world past the garden. The others have moved on -- forgiven me, even. They wait patiently for me to stop being scared. To stop being afraid.
They should know me better than that by now.
I've been here several times before. Some of the happiest moments in my life - the other life - were spent right here. The flowers fill the air with a summery sweetness. It feels warm, like the sun on your face in the morning, and inside is home. I stop just outside the gate and close my eyes.
Her voice is the sweetest thing that I will ever hear. I open my eyes as she reaches to touch my cheek.
"I have been waiting for so long," she says, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "All you ever had to do was forgive yourself, Ani," she says. A smile lifts the corners of her mouth and a tear spills onto her cheek.
I wipe the tear from her cheek with my thumb and kiss her forehead. "Padmé, I'm so sorry. I -"
She stops the words from tumbling from my lips with her finger. "That's all you have to do. Forgive yourself. I have forgiven you, Ani. The others gave this gift to you long ago. They wait for you as I do, Ani. It is time to come home." She steps back and opens the garden gate. I walk inside to her waiting arms, the scent of her hair washing over me.
"I am so happy you're here, Anakin Skywalker."
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