I wake up and for one precious instant, the significance of this day ? this very hour ? escapes me. Then, as it always does, the memory of our tragedy washes over me and I drown in it all over again. I am lost and out of control, buried under a deluge of grief and regret.
I want my old life back, I think in a moment of selfishness.
Beside me, Luke stirs. He has not been sleeping well, no more than I have. I turn and look at him and his eyes are trained on the ceiling above, his head pillowed on his hands. ?It?s been almost a year,? he whispers. ?Exactly a year, in just a few minutes.?
Neither of us needs to look at the chrono to mark the time; we have felt that moment in the depths of our hearts for one very long year. ?I know,? I murmur, moving to the warm comfort of his embrace. His flesh, however, feels cool against me. During his few, fitful hours of sleep, what nightmares have tortured him?
?Are you all right?? I ask, and even as the words leave me, I recognize their foolishness. He is not all right, and never will be, never again.
?No,? he answers both simply and honestly. He turns and I am stunned once more at the grief in his blue eyes. ?But you know that,? he said tenderly.
I do not reply, merely move closer to him, seeking his steady serenity. A part of me wishes I could feel what he feels, that calm, quiet grief that is so strong it threatens to shatter him into a thousand tiny pieces. But his mourning is a cool thing, laced by ice rather than fire. He has, in a way, accepted.
I have not.
?We should visit him today,? I whisper into the firm flesh beneath me. We do not look into each other?s eyes as much as we used to; perhaps we are afraid of what we might see there ? or not see. Either way, we find our gazes sliding away from each other, hiding what is and is not in our hearts.
?You can go,? he replies quietly, but his words are firm, cold. He will not go there; he has not been since the day we left our son there.
?You should come today,? I murmur. ?Today of all days.?
?Ben won?t know if I?m there or not,? Luke answers in a hard voice that still seems strange coming from him, my beloved farmboy. Where once Luke glowed warm in the Force, a vibrant and steady center around which I orbited, now he is a cool, still void. He is a stranger to me in so many ways.
I sit up and look down at him. He flinches away as my hair brushes against his shoulder and I stare at him with curious, detached eyes. This is a new reaction to my touch, and I sense it should trouble me, but I am wrapped in the same cocoon I have been sheltered in for a year, the walls that have allowed me to remain somewhat sane. ?I?ll know,? I tell him. Will my need be enough to prompt him to action?
Luke rolls over, away from me and faces the wall. ?It?ll be easier without me there,? he says quietly. ?Trust me.?
Even though I did not expect him to come with me, did not even want him to, I am stung by his refusal. Then I chide myself: he has given me exactly the opening I need, the opportunity for which I have been searching.
It is a sign that what I plan is the right thing to do. ?All right,? I whisper and I place my hand on his muscular arm. He does not flinch away this time, but I sense he has stopped himself from doing so ? just barely.
I cuddle up against him and close my eyes. I pretend that it is a year and a day ago, when none of this had happened and we were a happy family. I loved and was loved, and I had felt complete.
I want my old life back.
?I wish I could give it to you,? Luke says softly, and for the first time in a year, I hear the old Luke, the man I fell in love with and who changed my life. Luke? his name is a talisman against all the evil in the galaxy. My Luke, my farmboy, my love.
There was a time I would have playfully teased him about intruding upon my thoughts. He no longer does that however, for he has barricaded himself behind shields so strong that nothing can penetrate, not even love. It is just another casualty of that day, I think, like everything else from our old lives.
?Are you sure you don?t want to come with me?? I ask, giving him one last chance to stop what I am about to set in motion. Do I want him to stop me?
?I?m sure,? he says in a flat voice. The old Luke is gone again and I want nothing more than to reach out to him, call him back to hold me and never let me go.
But he has gone to a place I can never reach.
In his own way, he is as lost as I am.
?What are you doing today?? I ask - though in my heart I already know the answer.
?I have to go and see her,? he says. ?It?s the right thing to do.?
?To hell with the right thing,? I snap. I move out of bed with jerky, ungainly motions.
?She grieves in her own way,? Luke whispers, finally turning back to me, his face set in grim lines.
?Good.? The word feels gratifyingly abrupt coming from my lips. It feels like a blade, a sharp edge that cuts and destroys.
Luke murmurs, ?We have to forgive.?
How many times have I heard those infuriating words come from his mouth? Luke has been steeped in the ways of the Jedi all of his adult life, and it is his strength, the core from which he gathers his righteous courage. But it is also his weakness, the thing that will not allow him to seek vengeance.
I have no such qualms.
?You forgive if you want to,? I tell him with a sneer. ?I?ll remember our son and what that monster did to him.?
Pain flickers briefly across Luke?s face and I see him tremble. My words have hit their target and I have to repress a swift pang of regret. It does not matter. The regret is soon vanquished by satisfaction.
Luke sighs and gets out of bed, pulling on a shirt and pants, his back turned to me as if we are strangers forced to share quarters. Perhaps we are.
When dressed, he turns to me, the black of his garments making his face gleam pale in the dimly lit room. Then his eyes meet mine, and I feel a shock run through me. There is still that spark between us, that electric feeling of awareness.
?Will you be here when I get home?? His question is much more than it seems on the surface. He is asking me if our marriage can survive this, if I can forgive myself, forgive him?and forgive the one who ripped our lives to shreds.
?I don?t know,? I answer, and my own answer startles me. I had not intended to reveal even that much.
Luke nods, accepting every nuance of my answer. He walks around the bed and comes to me, gathers me into his arms and places a tender kiss on my temple. ?I love you, Mara,? he whispers. ?No matter how it started, or how?how it ends,? he tells me. ?I?ll always love you.?
?I love you, too,? I tell him for the last time.
Pulling away with a sigh of regret and resignation, we look at each other. ?Be careful,? he says quietly, startling me.
He knows what I am about to do...
Luke cannot give me his blessing, but he has given me the gift of understanding. It is more than I expect or deserve. He is at the doorway when my voice stops him.
?Tell her? Tell Leia that I don?t?? My words trail off and I am left searching for my own feelings. Luke, who has always known me so well, simply nods.
?I?ll tell her,? he replies with a slight smile.
I watch him go, knowing that we will never speak again. After he has gone, I pack my bag, making sure I have all the weapons I own, more than I could possibly need. After all, my most dangerous weapon is my own cold hatred and my broken mother?s heart. I look around our bedroom, saying good-bye to the life I had here. I say farewell to love.
Then I turn and leave everything I have ever cared about behind me, setting my face toward the vengeance that I will ? I must - have.
When it is over, when the animal has been put out of his misery, I will find the only peace that is left to me and I will join my fallen son.
I will kill the man who murdered our child.
I?m coming for you, Jacen Solo.
Original cover by Gina. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.