I've always had mixed feelings about rain. It's so different from sand - not irritatingly coarse, but smooth and silky. And just as hard to hold in my hand. It is not something easily controlled. It can be a welcome relief from heat, but rain can also make you very cold - and it is something that doesn't end quickly, like getting thrown into a lake and then drying, for instance. It just keeps coming, freezing you all over again. I know that from experience, having learned it on my many missions with Master Obi-Wan.
Rain such as it fell on me then, running in rivulets down to the ground, my heavy cloak dragging.
I walked down the street, past wilted white flowers trodden down beneath the rain's heavy steps. The pavement was hard and slick, and I moved carefully along. Small houses, their windows shut and the curtains drawn, lined the way. I was in an older district, and its buildings were designed using the traditional architecture of Naboo. There were graceful lines and beautifully sculpted art everywhere - even the houses seemed to be works of art. While every one of those houses represented beautiful art, only one held something that was truly special.
My wife, Padm? Amidala Skywalker, who I loved beyond words.
I went to our doorstep, taking my time on the slippery steps. Throwing the hood of my robe back, I stood uncaring as the water hit my face. When she opened the door, I wanted her to see it was me, Anakin. She had called me here after months of forced separation, here because of her duty for the Senate and me by my duty as a Jedi. She was probably not expecting me to arrive so soon, as she knew it would be difficult for me to get away. A smile touched my lips and my hand gently touched the door that was streaked with water. So little separated us, and soon there would be nothing. We would be together, Padm? and I.
Breathing in the humid air, I knocked, not wanting to startle her by walking into the house unannounced. Then I waited, letting my eyes close and my senses expand. I could hear the people across the street laughing, I could hear the littlest pit-pat of rain hitting the hard ground, and I could even hear the quieter noise of it striking soft dirt. I could feel every coarse fiber of my clothes. I heard the slight click of the door being unlocked, and I opened my eyes.
She was there.
Dark brown hair fell down to her waist in the perfect curls that I knew so well. She wore a black gown that looked heavy and covered her body closely, all the way up to her neck. It was a dark, somber thing. Her hand rested on the door even as she looked out. Glancing over her, soaking in her simple presence, I was drawn to her eyes. They were a simple brown color, but what shone in them was all that mattered to me. Her love for me had always shone through her simple brown eyes, even in those public moments when we were forced to be silent.
Yet . . . they were shuttered. Closed.
"Padm??" I whispered. "What happened, is something wrong?" I stepped forward into the entrance of the house, heedless of my sopping wet robe and muddy boots. My hands went to her shoulders, to gently touch and encourage. She shied away. Because of how wet I was, surely.
She stepped away and to the side to let me enter. I did so, ignoring the bright colors of our house. After our marriage she had finally moved out of her parents' home and come here. It was time, she had said, to build a new, happier life with me. She had, and still did, treasure her parents but she had needed her independence from them. We had chosen this house carefully, and she had decorated it with her love and grace, filling it with dark wood and elegantly simple white furniture.
"We must talk," she said softly, not meeting my eyes. I noticed that her skin was pale and drawn tight. She looked thin, far too thin. Her lips were ashen and colorless, not the beautiful pink that I remembered and ached to kiss.
I touched her lips, gently. I felt her sudden breath, warm and alive, against my fingertips. Then her hand, pale as her face, came to my hand. She pressed my hand to her cheek, and her eyes fluttered shut for the barest of moments.
"Oh, Padm?," I breathed.
With that she turned abruptly, nearly yanking herself away from my touch. My throat closed in a soundless question. Why?
She did not face me. Her hands nervously smoothed the long, tight skirt of the dress she wore, and she moved into the living room, a room full of comfortable things: a soft couch, a few chairs, flowers, and memories.
At that moment it felt dark, and I then realized that most of the lights were off, leaving the room in shadow.
She walked to the couch, a plush white one - now gray, in the darkness. She moved gracefully and confidently, as always. My beautiful Padm?. I followed her, and sensing her need to remain separated from me, sat across from her in a slight, wooden chair. My wet robe dragged on the carpet, and I quickly threw it off onto another chair.
I leaned forward, my eyes focused on her. "Tell me, love. Why did you ask me here? What is so urgent? Palpatine -"
"Do not speak his name in this house."
I fell silent in shock. She had spoken so harshly, spitting her words out with hate. "Padm? -"
"I called you here - now - to tell you something," she said softly - very softly, but interrupting me with ease nonetheless. Her head was bowed, her curls shadowing her beautiful cheekbones and leaving her eyes in the darkness of her hair's shadow. I wished for more light, to see her beautiful face. Her lips were tight, her expression strained but controlled.
I waited, and ignored the water slowly dripping off my Padawan braid. In that moment, there was . . . only her, in that moment. Just her.
She took a deep breath, and began.
"I know that Palpatine requested you, during the Clone Wars. That you would often go on special missions for him." Her hands, at first lying limply on her lap, now were tensely twisting. "I know what those special missions were, Anakin." She looked up at me, and her dark eyes blazed with fury and outrage. Her hands clenched into fists, and she spat out: "How could you?"
"Padm? - you must believe me, what I did, it was the only way!" I said desperately, leaning forward and silently hoping she would meet my eyes. I had to make her understand. She had to see it, see things as my mentor, Palpatine, had shown them to me.
She threw her head back, and her hands fell loose. "Murder? Murder was the only way? Oh, Anakin." Tears fell down her face and she met my eyes.
"They were traitors, Padm?! They sought to destroy what you had worked for - all of it. They would have given us to our enemies -"
She leapt up and nearly screamed at me. "They sought peace! Peace to end this horrible war!" She stopped talking, then, and turned her head away. She walked past the couch where she had sat, letting her fingers trail along a dark, wooden table set against the wall. Then she slowly turned back to me.
"That's not true," I said shakily. Shaken at her insistence - her belief. "Palpatine said it was only a deception -" I said, shaking my head in denial.
"Palpatine," Padm? repeated, her voice full of pain, not derision. "I trusted him. Once, and no longer." She looked at me and her hands almost reached out to touch me, twitching and then being forcibly stilled.
"He still does deserve that trust, Padm?," I insisted, my palms held out before me. "He has always been our friend, before our marriage and now -"
Her breath hitched. "You trusted him to such an extent that you murdered five innocent beings in their sleep?" She shivered, the motion so slight I could barely see it. I wanted to reach out to her, smooth those shivers away.
"I did what was necessary," I said, willing her to meet my eyes. "I saw it all - heard it from their own mouths before I killed them - they were going to dismantle the army, the one that saved us, Padm?, and for what? So the Separatists could catch us unprepared? It was necessary!"
She stared at me for a long moment - it was surely only a moment - then said fiercely, "Just like with the Tusken Raiders?"
I must have gasped, because I heard such a noise. I stared at her for a long moment, hurt and unsure of what to say. "That was different." I couldn't disguise my pain. How could she do this to me?
I saw a flicker of pain in her eyes, then she continued. "And your Master? What would he think of your special missions?" She gave me a bitter smile, and walked close to me, leaning down to stare at me where I sat.
"My Master does not see -" I began, forcing my voice to remain steady.
"No," Padm? whispered, staring into my eyes. "He does not." She was sad again, and more silent tears slipped down her cheeks. "He is blind to what Palpatine is doing to you - even as I once was. We were both blinded by our . . . love."
She took a deep breath, her shoulders shaking. With those beautiful brown eyes she looked at me, and then spoke. "I'm leaving you." Her mouth opened to say more, then she paused, as if reconsidering.
I couldn't breathe, my chest felt tight and empty. I had no breath within me, and my heart had stopped. I stared at her and my mouth opened, but no words would come out. Only when I tasted the saltiness of my own tears did I realize I was crying. "No," I whispered, the word drawn from the pit of my stomach. "Why? Padm? . . ." I held my hands out to her beseechingly.
She pushed them aside. "Don't doubt me, Anakin. I will do what I must to shock some sense into you, to make you see your own blindness." She spoke softly, but a layer of steel underlined her words. It was a steel that I knew well - a steel that had allowed to her be Queen, and stand for her people in a time of war.
"I did it for you, Padm?!" I shouted, rising to my feet at last. My legs felt weak, but I didn't let that stop me. She must see! "How can you say that? How can you say - say I am blind?"
"You are blind!" Padm? hissed at me, her eyes sparking. I used to love that look, that tightly hidden fire that drove her to fight for her causes. "Palpatine twists you - uses you for some reason that I don't know! I hate it!"
"Palpatine is a great man," I said, my voice breaking with anger. "He has guided me through everything. Through the doubts of the Jedi Council, and even my own Master!" I slammed my palm down on the table. It wasn't until then that I realized I had been getting closer to her, even as she backed away from me.
Padm? flinched as my hand hit the table. She stared at me for a long moment, panting with emotion. "I cannot love a man who disgusts me with his ideals." It was softly spoken, but each word was a stab through my heart. I doubled over, gasping.
"Padm? . . . you must love me." Must. There couldn't be any other way. It was simply not possible.
"How," she began, then stopped. The tears fell down her face, and her lips trembled as she struggled to speak. "How can I love what is lost to me?" And she touched my cheek, with just the barest of touches.
She didn't love me anymore.
In that moment, I wanted to hit her, slap her. Make her love me. But in the next moment, I realized that wasn't possible. I couldn't hit the person I loved more than life. She was the person that had held me when my mother died. The person that I admired and respected most. And I could not make her love me - love, I knew in some instinctive way, could only be freely given.
I was empty. My heart felt like lump of lead in my chest. I turned away from her, away from her touch, away from her face. I panted, my life in shambles around me.
A disaster she had caused. How dared she? I was her husband - why could she not support me? Love me? Gasping with tears, I screamed. My hands clenched my hair painfully.
A gentle hand touched my head, but I lurched away from her touch. I would not have her pity. Anger filled me - strong, very strong. It was familiar, the anger I felt. That dark want for something to ease the pain. For vengeance. Except there was no vengeance to be had.
It simply was - there was nothing to change, nothing to kill, nothing to satisfy the anger.
I grabbed the chair on which I had been sitting on happily only minutes before, when I was glad to be home with my wife. My hands clenched around its legs, and with a growl deep in my throat, I threw it at the near wall. It splintered on impact, and I felt a rush of satisfaction. The anger filled the emptiness, that infinite emptiness.
"Anakin!" It was Padm?'s voice.
I whirled. Padm?, who had been less than a meter behind me, stumbled back, frightened by my suddenness. Her face was deathly white, paler than before. The anguish in her eyes was horrifyingly intense. One hand, pale and trembling, reached out. "Ani . . . come back to me. I don't want to lose you."
Come back. Come back and see things my way - that was what she was saying.
"I am not the blind one," I whispered hoarsely. I forced my head to turn. Forced myself to look away from her.
"Anakin!" she shouted, her voice throaty and harsh with despair. I felt a flicker of pain in what was left of my heart, but I ignored it.
I stormed out of the house, past the fragments of the chair, past all the memories. I stumbled on the marble floor before I reached the door. I stood up, opened the door roughly by slamming my palm against the control panel, and half fell down the steps. The rain streamed down my face, mixing my tears. Hiding them. Hiding my pain, as it were. Rain is truly a mixed blessing. It can make you cold - so cold, but it can also hide your tears. I was determined she would not see me cry.
The street was cold and hard. Slipping, I fell to my knees.
"Anakin!" Warm hands came to rest on my back and shoulders. I shrugged them off. I rose. She had made her decision and I had made mine. "Please, Anakin. Come back to me - be with me, my husband. I love you, I only want you to see . . ." Her voice was so broken. So faint I could barely hear it over the patter of the rain.
But all I could feel was emptiness, even at her admission of love - a lie. Those words inspired no desire to protect her, nothing of any kind. Only that dark pit of anger helped me. Yes, I realized, it would help me now.
I left her in the street, on her knees and her black dress pooled around her. Her hands lay upon her stomach, trembling. Her curls went limp in the rain, and clung to her perfect cheekbones as if to accent them. She looked like a harbinger of death: black hair, black eyes and the palest skin, so perfectly white. And those eyes stared with such hopelessness and disbelief. For the briefest of moments, I paused, as I glanced over my shoulder. Then I walked.
And I left her behind.
With my soul.
I had no anchor. No light in my life. But Palpatine would know what to do, as he always did. He was always there for me, he would advise me. He had been there to cheer me on when I told him of my marriage - he would be there when I told him about the ending of it.
The rain kept falling, through the night. It must have hid Padm?'s tears - as it did my own.
Original cover by Cosmic. HTML formatting copyright 2003