Beru could barely make out her husband's outline, so blinding was the whirling sand. It was only when Owen pushed her through a door that she realized they had come to a settlement.
"Welcome to Toshe Station," a voice called out as Beru's eyes struggled to get used to the light. When she did, she gripped her husband's hand, for the room's occupants were staring at them.
There was a pair of men playing a holo-game. The cashier, a young lady, was casually smoking a cigarra and watching a holo-drama. All lazily looked at the newcomers who were dressed in Core fashions, Beru wearing stretch pants under her bustled skirt and long coat, Owen clad in a cloak that reached mid-calf.
An older man sauntered over. "Can I help you with something?"
"Yes," Owen answered politely. "My wife and I came in here to take shelter from the sandstorm. Will it last long?"
"Storm won't be over 'til morning, as likely," the man answered. Dismay showed on the young couple's faces, "Not to worry, you may as well stay over in the station. We're used to such surprise visitors."
As they sat around a makeshift heating unit--the nights on Tatooine were cold--the young cashier tried to make conversation, "You folks come from a Core World, don't you?"
"Yes, ma'am," Owen respectfully answered. "My wife and I are both from Coruscant."
The girl rubbed her hands together to keep warm. "And what brings you out here?"
"A farm. I inherited it."
"Farm?" The girl's eyebrows shot up. "Homestead, you mean. Only those in cahoots with the Hutts actually own their property."
"Of course, a homestead," Owen answered hiding his shock at the revelation.
"-- at?" the girl asked.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
She repeated, "Where's the homestead at?"
Beru answered, "Five miles to the northeast."
A chorus of "Ahhs" greeted Beru's reply. Owen and Beru exchanged glances.
"It's the old Aki's Place," the girl explained. "They up and sold out two years back. Th' place has been rotting in the desert since. May not have much out there. I'm sure the Jawas and Sandpeople have had their turns at it."
"I see," Beru nodded. "We've read about the local culture."
The rest of the station's occupants exchanged amused glances. They had seen the like before. Off-worlders trying adventure in the homesteads of Tatooine. More often than not they were either dead or discouraged by the end of the first year.
In the silence that followed, Beru was distracted. There was something about the women she had observed. None of them wore their hair long. Hers was wound with many braids that were pinned behind her head and threaded with ribbons.
She suddenly felt very self-conscious.
"I would like to retire now," Beru said standing up.
"I'll show you to the 'fresher," the cashier said, rising.
Beru and the cashier, Maira, chatted as they prepared for bed. Maira had been a slave in Mos Eula at a fueling station, and was manumitted after her master's death. She moved to Anchorhead to start a new life at the Toshe Station as a worker, much as a slave, except this time with wages. It was the only life she'd known.
Maira was about Beru's age. Before they returned to the main room, Beru decided to ask about the hair.
"It takes too much water to wash long hair," Maira explained. "Only the very rich can afford to."
Maira continued, "Only a Hutt's mistress or a Darklighter enjoys such a luxury."
"A darklighter?" Beru's brow puckered in confusion, "Are they a type of species here? I don't recall reading about them in my studies."
Maira chuckled, "No, no. Not at all. They are the 'first family' of this town. Have most of the moisture rights, so they have the money. Their connection to the Hutts is Anchorhead's worst kept secret."
Beru's face colored in embarrassment. The women continued cleaning their teeth, and rinsing--using only drops of water. In the silence Beru was thinking about the need to cut her hair. Owen would not be too crazy about that. He loved her long hair. But one did what one must.
Maira spat into the sink and asked Beru, "You just married?"
"You don't look too old," Maira observed.
"And your husband?"
"Nineteen. People marry young in the Core Worlds," Beru explained.
"Too bad. That's way too young."
Beru's annoyance must have shown because Maira quickly added, "I'm sorry, not for me to pry or criticize." Her voice got quiet, almost urgent. "Listen, it's hard out on the homesteads. Dangerous, lonely. The folks who lived there last, the wife killed herself from loneliness."
"Really?" Beru exclaimed in alarm.
Maira continued, "We have get-togethers here at the station, clubs. It keeps things from getting too monotonous. You're more than welcome to join us. If you ever need some gal to talk to, please come see me."
Beru nodded, still in shock about the former owner of the homestead.
Maira added, "And if you need any work done for you, odd jobs, I have friends who are always looking for work. You know, at harvest time."
A loud knock, "C'mon, Maira, hurry up. Are you and the new gal moving into the 'fresher or what?"
Maira rolled her eyes and Beru giggled. She could see that Maira was the kind of girl that could become a friend.
So Owen and Beru Lars spent the night at a power station in the Outer-Rim.
Beru laughed as she thought about what the Beru of a year ago would have said had she been told that she would be married to a farmer on Tatooine and stuck in a backwater power station. Beru, the former hostess of Coruscant's most exciting stim-tea house, could never have imagined this. Her nickname, the 'goddess of hospitality,' was given to her by the patrons of her tea-house, Padawan Place. The dumbest name Owen Lars had ever heard, he told her frequently. The house was dedicated to the Jedi, an interest that Beru had developed at a young age. Here people followed the exploits of the Jedi, past and present, keeping a special eye on the Jedi Council. Those in this hobby had been greatly shaken by the death of Qui-Gon Jinn and were still recovering when Owen first met Beru. Even though Owen tried to keep a distance from the Jedi, his brother Obi-Wan Kenobi being one of them, he had been intrigued by Padawan Place and become addicted to Beru's hobby. Or rather, addicted to Beru-- the Jedi came with her.
Beru was friendly, but there had been a distance to her. She had not gotten along with her family, and the only way Owen could get close to her was through her hobby. Even once they started dating, Owen often wondered if she ever really liked him. Or why.
As time went on, however, the pastime that linked them became a little too real when Beru started finding and publishing secret details about the Sith. These investigations were enough to invite a confrontation with the Dark Lord himself. Owen was able to appeal to the Jedi through his brother, Obi-Wan. For their protection, the Jedi sent Beru and Owen into hiding on Tatooine. There, they would serve the Jedi. How, Beru and Owen were not told. Yet they agreed to go, getting married before their departure and leaving behind those dear to them.
"And now we're here!" Beru chuckled.
"What?" Owen muttered, rolling over, nearly knocking her off the couch on which they were laying.
Beru cuddled next to her husband, "Nothing, I just think it's funny. The goddess of Coruscant hospitality sleeping on a narrow couch with only a furnace to warm her."
"We're luckier than most," Owen replied.
"Yes, yes . . ." Beru answered distractedly, then "Hey, Owen! I may have found a friend."
"Already?" His wife was friendly, but even he was surprised at how quickly Beru found a companion. Owen was quiet and shy, in contrast to his bubbly wife.
Beru murmured sleepily, "Her name's Maira. She said life could get lonely here. We need to keep in touch with the locals."
"Don't be too much of a socialite, Beru," Owen advised. "Remember, we need to keep a low profile!"
"Owen, having friends is hardly advertising our presence!"
"I'm telling you to be cautious." He turned toward her in the dark, "I know you, Beru. Pretty soon you'll have a little circle and then ...
"Don't patronize me, Owen, and don't be so dang paranoid!" Beru snapped at him in her bossy manner.
"Let's just go to sleep," Owen sighed, annoyed, thinking about how he looked forward to some manual work on the farm. Beru was starting to get on his nerves.
Beru and Owen walked the last few miles to the homestead. It wasn't much more than a hole in the ground. It looked as though somebody had torn it apart.
"I guess the Jawas have been here," Owen commented matter-of factly. He began to clear a path, making quick little piles here and there of junk and rocks. As he did so, Beru peered into the hole. The place was swarming with creatures. There were rocks strewn about, some bones from animals. Owen came up behind her.
"We'll set up the tent down there until we can get the sonar working," Owen said, pointing into the hole. The sonar was a machine that emitted high-pitched tones, inaudible to human ears, able to clear out any critters. It also kept the Sandpeople away. Owen's moisture farming class at the University of Coruscant had paid off.
Beru nodded to her husband and did her best to keep from crying.
Here's your future, Beru
"C'mon. We have to get this power going before sundown," Owen called. "That or we'll spend the night wondering if our toes will be eaten off by the local wildlife before we wake up," he added.
"Not funny," Beru muttered.
The next few hours were spent with Owen working in the power station--another hole in the ground. Beru followed with some glow-rods and assisted her husband for a while, but turned to go aboveground when she realized that there was nothing for her to do. As she moved up the steps, Owen suggested, "Why don't you set up camp? The tent is in my backpack."
Beru then spent another hour setting up the tent. It was difficult to get the stakes into the sandy ground. Strands of hair wet with sweat kept getting into her eyes, and she smelled. The sand turned into dirty streaks on her face. This frustration was compounded by the knowledge that there would be no soothing shower in the 'fresher after this. Just a tent on a freezing evening, and quite possibly with animals she'd never dreamed of swarming them--Owen was still working on the power.
Owen's voice interrupted her work, "Beru, you've gotta see this!" She stumbled out of the tent eagerly.
"You got the power going?"
Owen shook his head but pointed. The twin suns were setting.
"Isn't it amazing?!" Owen exclaimed in awe.
"I'd rather you got the power going," Beru snapped. "We didn't come out here to sight-see."
Owen's head turned sharply towards his wife. "Well, I'm sorry I interrupted!" Owen stomped off. "Just finish the supper, and I'll get your power on!"
Beru might have apologized if she were not so tired, dirty, and disappointed. She obeyed her husband and called out icily, "I'll make a deal: you do your job and I'll do mine."
"Beru, quit acting your age!" Owen retorted from the stairwell leading to the power room.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" She shouted back. Owen ignored her.
Beru made herself some caf and fed the fire, staring into it, mad and melancholy, thinking about a private pledge she'd made to herself when she got married: to allow Owen more of a leadership role in their marriage. So much for that.
Here's your future, Beru
After an hour or two, long after the suns had set, a whirring rang out--the power was on. Immediately Beru heard squeaks and scampering feet. The creatures were leaving. Presently, Owen appeared, dirty and about to drop from exhaustion. He helped himself to some caf and food in silence.
The meal passed by in a quarter of an hour. Finally Owen spoke, "Cut it out with the attitude, Beru. I'm no happier than you are about this, but we need to make the best of it. That's what we agreed to when we married."
"Maira said we were too young," Beru said dully.
"Too young?" His eyes shot up, "For what?"
Owen shook his head. "What does she know?"
Beru snorted, "Perhaps more than you think. Just a minute ago you said I was acting my age. Is that how you look at me? Like a kid? A freshman invading your dormitory?"
Owen sighed, "Beru, I'm too tired to get into this, and so are you. Let's turn in, it will be better in the morning."
But it wasn't.
Beru was lonely. She only saw Owen during meals and when she brought him water as he worked. While he was at the markers, trying to get the moisture crop on schedule, she cleaned the homestead from top to bottom. Her hair was cut short now. It helped her keep cool, but it marked a change in their relationship. Even though Owen never said it, he missed her hair at night. He would not stroke her short hair, or bury his head into her shoulder, inhaling her scent. That scent had come from the perfumed shampoo she used. Now there was no hair to perfume.
Yet even if she did have her tresses, Beru doubted Owen would pay much attention to her at night. He usually collapsed in the evening, too tired to eat.
The next morning was the same.
A month after settling into the homestead, Beru was fixing breakfast in the kitchen. No fancy caf or stim-tea recipes, just a basic meal. Owen always wolfed it down appreciatively commenting, "Reminds me of the time back on my Dad's farm."
Beru did not reply to such remarks. She had always been a city
girl, with droids to help her.
"As soon as the harvest comes, I'll get you some help, Beru," Owen told her at least three times a day.
This morning, as Beru was cleaning up and drinking milk, she heard a whirring noise. Walking out to the open courtyard she saw a Skyhopper land. Beru walked up as a figure emerged, a young man.
"Howdy!" He greeted pleasantly, removing goggles and large gloves. "You may not know me, but I heard about you from the folks at Anchorhead."
Beru smiled politely. "Come inside, I'll get you something."
The man shook his head. "Just have enough time to give you an invitation. The Boonta Eve race is coming up. We all have a get-together. Maira thought you and your husband would like to come along."
"Boonta Eve . . ." Beru repeated.
"You've heard of it?"
"Yes." Beru remembered Padawan Anakin Skywalker and how she and Owen had soaked up every bit of information they could about his years on Tatooine, including his mysterious involvement at the Boonta Eve Race.
"Wasn't sure," the man commented, "sometimes off-worlders don't like pod-racing."
"I enjoy it," Beru answered. "And I will answer for my husband. We'll be there."
"You what?" Owen exclaimed.
"I told him we'd be there," Beru casually answered as she wiped up the counter.
Owen was putting dishes into the sink, rolling up his sleeves as he cleaned. He threw a dish in unceremoniously, "Beru, you know we have to keep away from people."
"No, I don't! We never said that," Beru protested.
"It's too dangerous."
"Dangerous to have friends? Don't be ridiculous."
Owen's voice lowered, "We don't want the Sith to catch any traces--"
"You think a Sith is gonna be monitoring an Outer-Rim cook-out?"
Owen shook his head. "I want to keep a low profile," he repeated.
"And I want to make some friends," Beru replied and started crying.
Owen went silent before the display of emotion. He was too tired.
A flying dish brought him out of his lethargy. "Real mature, Beru," he said angrily. "You know money doesn't grow on trees."
"I know, more than you. I'm the one scraping around to find our next meal in this dump."
The word hung in the air. Dump.
"Well, it's not Coruscant, is it?" Beru demanded.
"No," Owen answered slowly. "You never expected it to be, did you?"
"I don't know." Beru buried her face in her hands, and then said what had been on her mind for weeks. "Things have changed. What made us friends, made me like you, that's all gone. When we were together in Coruscant, we had a hobby, our passion. That was taken away, and now I wonder if we have anything in common at all."
A long silence. "You're saying you're sorry we married," Owen stated.
"I feel that way sometimes, yes."
"Well, Beru, leave then." Owen paced about the kitchen, showing a rare display of passion. "You're young enough. You never had to marry me. I wanted to. I wanted you." Quieter, in a way that made him sound pathetic, "I've always wondered if you ever really loved me."
Beru shook her head, "I don't want to leave you, Owen. You know how I feel about divorce."
"Don't worry, there are no kids to traumatize," Owen said almost sarcastically. "I'll be happy here. As long as I've got work and some land, I'll be fine." He stalked out of the kitchen.
Beru thought about it. Maybe he was right. Just leave, go somewhere else, find a home and friends. And the Sith . . . she wasn't really afraid of that.
She walked down to her room and observed Owen sitting on their bed his head in his hands. When he saw her enter, he got up. "I'll sleep somewhere else."
Nothing changed in their schedule. Owen and Beru worked, met for meals, same as before. They just were no longer in the same bed. Beru did not miss that much because, even before, they were exhausted every night, falling asleep in a manner that resembled unconsciousness.
Only, occasionally, Beru caught Owen looking like he was in pain.
"What's wrong? " Beru asked him once.
"Nothing," he mumbled, but she occasionally caught him holding his stomach.
What Beru did not know was that Owen was worried. That pain then ate away at him physically because he looked into his future and it was bleak. The thought of losing Beru did this to him. He could not comprehend what to do once she left.
As Beru tried to fall asleep, she did not know what to do either. Every time she thought about leaving, she was stumped by practicalities. Owen was all that was left from her old life. The rest of her friends were gone, the Jedi were off limits to her, and her family was estranged.
Owen said he loved her. Did she mean a lot to him? She was sure that he did not have the same hold on her. Beru chastised herself; she should not have married him, not being even sure what love was.
Love is wanting what is best for someone else.
Beru felt the air around her begin to tingle. She sat up. What was it? Then as though seeing a re-run on the hologram, she remembered the day she and Owen faced the threat of the Sith.
But it was easier to be strong then Beru protested.
One could muster courage and commitment when visibly threatened. But it was harder when the commitment was served as monotony blew the days away.
But then the energy--The Force--got stronger. The room was heated. Beru then knew she was not alone in her room. She jumped off her bed.
"Hello?" Beru called out into the dark.
"What?" Owen's voice answered from the other room.
Beru was shaking, "Nothing, Owen." But she felt it. The Force. The Force wanted them together. She felt that she could touch it, speak to it, it was so clear.
Why should I stay with Owen? Because the Force wants it.
The Will of the Force. And how could she say no to it?
Beru fell into unconsciousness. And dreamed.
There was a bearded man, seated above the hole in their homestead. Beru approached him and recognized Qui-Gon Jinn.
She was unable to comprehend chronologically what was happening but she felt him show her the future without Owen. How a part of her would be gone, how Owen would be driven to near despair. And she couldn't bear it. Without Owen life was dark, cold . . .
The voice of Qui-Gon floated into her, Maybe you can't see it now, you are young, but you are closer to love with Owen than the most romantic at heart will ever be. Follow the Force in the little ways.
Yes, she saw it.
She could be a Jedi here on Tatooine, more truly self-sacrificing and serving than those who had the visible weapons of lightsabers and spaceships.
Be a Jedi in your heart, Qui-Gon said, in your actions and in your love. And the Force will be with you. Always.
Beru woke up and understood. She'd accept it now.
Beru walked over to Owen on his pallet the next night. She sat next to him. He leaned up on an elbow.
"You want to talk about the divorce?" He was pale, but bravely facing what he was resigned to.
Beru shook her head, "No, I want you to come to bed."
Nothing more was ever said of divorce, monotony, poverty, or boredom.
Every morning Owen went to work with the feel of Beru's lips on his as she said that she loved him.
And meant it.
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