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Saga Aerena, with her sun eyes (Post TPM drama on Tatooine). Complete 5/26.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Pandora, Sep 30, 2005.

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  1. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Title: Aerena, with her sun eyes
    Characters: OCs.
    Timeframe: It takes place around the time of TPM, but not during the events of that movie. No, this is not the Boonta Eve Classic you're thinking of.
    Genre: Drama.
    Summary: Aerena is going to the podraces with her family. Will this be the race where everything changes for them--or her?



    Aerena, with her sun eyes


    My sister is over by our one halved mirror, brushing out her hair. It goes down, down to her waist, and (of course) she is vain about it. It’s black, but only because she uses a muddy sticky dye on it. It used to be brown. She washes it perhaps twice or more a week, and uses as much water as she can get away with. She sets down her sharp toothed brush, fuzzy with her loose hairs. She is wearing one of her new frocks. This one looks like satin, but isn’t, and it is a sweet candy green. She has to haul the skirts up, just a little, to rub some lotion into her thighs. I have to look away.

    Mum is off in the main room, shrieking at the kids about something or other. And me? I’m here, glum faced and always waiting, close in the doorway. I’m the little sister.

    She knows that.

    She also knows, as well as I do, that it doesn’t matter what I wear. I’m wearing a dumpy widow black dress I last wore two days ago. My shoes are practical with sand gritty in the soles. I’m plain. I’m aware of that. I have brown hair, which Mum can still make me keep short. Dark eyes. I don’t need to look for myself in the mirror.

    Mum doesn’t even bother telling me that deep in my insides, I’m beautiful. Ha. But then, Mum is an old lady with sand colored skin, and saggy baggy tits from having far too many kids. I remember how old she is. It’s not as much as one would think. She has smoked cheap cigarets for years, but nothing else. No death sticks. It was the long ago father who was a spicehead. Nothing good happened to him.

    My sister is small, with delicate hands, but ripe, swaying hips. She keeps her skin fresh and pale with some sort of paste. Sometimes (admitted in secret, so she won’t know) I use it, or even Mellia, the next sister in line. She’s always bored. If she has a boyfriend (Mellia thinks she does, but that has nothing to do with reality) who might stain her precious dresses or her, she would never tell me. She still thinks I might tattle to Mum or one of the Aunties. I wouldn’t, but she doesn’t seem to remember that.

    Now, she is braiding her hair.

    She painted her fingernails copper last night, when our little house was dark and full of the children breathing in sleep. Mum snored and snorted like an old bantha. Some of the other girls here, and my sister has no female friends, have Said Things. You know. About her endless dresses. She will never tell where (and how) she got them. Oh, she says. You’ll just have to wonder. A girl never tells her secrets.

    “That’s a nice dress,” I say. Politely, and like the little sister, with her clumsy feet and giggling, I should be. My tongue feels fat and stupid.

    “I’m glad you think so,” she says. “I would let you borrow it, Aerena, if you weren’t so-- Oh, you know. Don’t you believe me?”

    I shrug. It doesn’t matter if I believe her, since I could never fit my thighs into that dress, let alone my hips. Oh, I’m not fat. I’m not like Mum, not yet, though she and her cigaret smoking sisters, the Aunties, laugh and say I will be. I’m tall, taller than our previous step-father, though that doesn’t mean much. But she wants to offer me something, just in case I want to know why she sneaks out our window in the middle of another panting cold night.

    (She doesn’t realize that I don’t ask because I already know. She’s going to some cantina to meet smugglers and a Certain Twi’lek. She also doesn’t realize that Mum is snoring so loudly no one would hear her use the door. Well, she isn’t terribly smart.)

    Mum is quiet, out in the main room. Then: “Sarai! You’re pretty enough. You'd think you were hoping on impressing some Hutt. Ha. Let’s go!”

    My sister Sarai rolls her eyes in my direction. “I’m ready now. I’m not going out to get kiddie fingerprints all over this frock until I have to.”

    She doesn’t want me to say anything, which is only just as well. I nod.

    “Sarai!” Mum yells again, less than a few minutes later. “Aerena, you come out here right now. I need help with the littles.”

    I clump out into the main room. My legs feel heavy, and my fingernails are sore and chewed down. I never bleed though, and you would think I would. My teeth just aren’t sharp enough. The kids, the littles, just look at me. They are sitting together in a row, wearing their just cleaned clothes. Though one of them, Jamilla, already has jam over half her face, and I cannot guess how. Tibby is still drinking blue milk. Figures.

    We are about to leave for the Boonta Eve pod races at Mos Espa. We have gone at least once a year since I can remember. It takes several hours to get there, but everyone in this so-called village will be going anyway. Even Patrice Starkiller, the local moisture farmer. I don’t really want to go. I don’t know what I would rather be doing (which would just be work, work, work anyway, since Mum forced me to quit school two years ago). Just not this.

    I know. I used to shake with excitement when I first saw the racetrack ahead, and so many beings, I could only hear the insect roar of their endless talking and cheering. Something had to happen. Something did not happen. Last year, I almost became a flag bearer, but that didn’t quite work out. It was right after my thirteenth birthday, and I had reached my full growth. I don’t think the racers were too keen on having a human female take a flag out onto the track. Anyway, the heat was so bad and pounding everywhere I couldn’t think.

    I take Tibby’s still almost half full glass away from her and rush it back to the kitchen. She looks ahead. She has glossy, dazed eyes. She’ll never be very smart. I’ve heard Mum say as much, with a braying haha, to the Aunties.

    “Aerena!” says one of the boys. “When are we leaving?”

    “I’m bored.” That’s another one.

    Well, too bad (I think). The step-father left the door open when he left ahead of us, and my teeth were gritty with sand. A wind must have swept past. He never comes with us, though he is always there at the track when we arrive. He’s betting on Sebulba, the nasty, long faced dug, which he does every year. Sebulba (almost) always wins, and yet the step-father never gets a single credit out of it. Anyway, he prefers to hunch over his betting alone. It makes him nervous to have other beings watch.

    “Sarai! I’m coming back there. And I’m going to whip your butt until it’s got so many blisters you can’t sit for a week. You don’t believe me, my pretty girl? Two more minutes! And I’m coming in! You hear that?”

    The Kids make big, round, herd animal eyes. Oh, yes. Mum is breaking out the empty threats again. I wait. She likes to humiliate Sarai, and we all know why.

    “Good thing you can’t count that high, old woman,” Sarai says as she walks, or as she would say, floats, out into the room. “I am prepared to endure the Races.”

    “Good,” Mum says. Or: she attempts to growl or snarl, but not even the little kids are fooled. Mellia helps me herd them up outside. We don’t say anything. The door flaps back and forth. I think it needs to be fixed, but I don’t know when that will happen. And Mellia. She’s twelve years old now, but she has no breasts yet, and acts as though she is ten, including running around naked during that freak rain storm a while ago. She may be Mum’s favorite. Tibby is dragging her feet.

    *

    We ride to the arena with Patrice Starkiller, all crammed into his speeder. I think he owes our step-father, or father, money. Mum smokes on her cigaret, and has Mellia crammed up against her bosom. Jamilla and one of the boys cough, but she doesn’t notice. The kids are twitching and slapping at each other. I can’t even begin to think, over Starkiller’s talk, all of which has concerned his moisture vaporizers. On occasion, he looks over at us, with a brief, grim smile. His old parents don’t like him to go to the races. He’s a bachelor. Odd, since he’s at least thirty.

    “Good girls,” he says.

    “Oh,” says Mum, simpering. “They are good. Especially Mellia here. She isn’t going to turn tart, like some of these girls. Oh, no. This one’s gonna look after me in my old age. Not that that will be anytime soon.” (Mellia is silent, of course. She is supposed to be smart, or at least she used to like to read old holobooks, though Mum never approved of that. It’s hard for me to believe, though maybe I should. She is my closest sister.)

    “That’s nice,” says Starkiller.

    Tibby has fallen asleep, but her eyelids jerk and twist. It’s impossible to sleep in a speeder. I just sit there and feel the wind throw my hair in my face, mostly in my mouth.

    And Sarai? Sarai has one of the newest kids practically falling in her lap, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Starkiller looks at her, and looks at her. She doesn’t care. And I suspect that she is thinking of something, even if she isn’t. You know.

    She has plans to meet someone at the pod races.

    Someone I can only imagine. He will buy her a drink, and she will have green stained teeth from it later, when she, once again, goes back. Back home. With us.

    I have always known this: She wants to escape, but she never, ever will.

    And neither will I. There is, in the end, nowhere to escape to.

    I look at out at the sand, and sky, and bluffs dark in the almost distance. This is the landscape I’ve seen all my life. The suns burn and glisten overhead, though really, far, far away in the unknown blackness of space. They’re not as close as they seem. I know that. I make myself not look up at them. I don’t have to think over the warning stories (You’ll go blind! says a hag with snarled up teeth from my childhood) anymore. Yet, I can still feel them sinking down and down. They want me to look.
     
  2. ZaraValinor

    ZaraValinor Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 31, 2002
    Interesting. YOu've got a good character here.
     
  3. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    Wow! I love the first person narrative you're writing from this character's POV.
    It read kind of like a hybrid of one of Toni Morrison's protagonists and Carson McCuller's Member of the Wedding. I'm enamored with the gritty-ness of it all. I love the way the narrator describes her family, especially her mother, it is evocative of a very real group of people.

    The character development here leaves me speechless and the imagery you provoke is absolutely amazing.
    Awesome work!!!!

    Bits I loved!
    I?m plain. I?m aware of that. I have brown hair, which Mum can still make me keep short. Dark eyes. I don?t need to look for myself in the mirror.
    That is such a powerful statement for a character to make in describing themselves because it's not just an assessment of their physical features, but also how they think of themselves.

    The Kids make big, round, herd animal eyes. Oh, yes. Mum is breaking out the empty threats again.
    The use of 'herd animal' in this statement is telling on many levels.

    ?They are good. Especially Mellia here. She isn?t going to turn tart, like some of these girls. Oh, no. This one?s gonna look after me in my old age. Not that that will be anytime soon.?
    What a delightful woman. [face_plain]

    I have always know[n] this: She wants to escape, but she never, ever will.
    And neither will I. There is, in the end, nowhere to escape to.

    Very powerful. Ouch.

    And the last bit...
    I look at out at the sand, and sky, and bluffs dark in the almost distance. This is the landscape I?ve seen all my life. The suns burn and glisten overhead, though really, far, far away in the unknown blackness of space. They?re not as close as they seem. I know that. I make myself not look up at them. I don?t have to think over the warning stories (You?ll go blind! says a hag with snarled up teeth from my childhood) anymore. Yet, I can still feel them sinking down and down. They want me to look.
    That put a knot in my throat. Beautiful! This is very cool.

    Please PM me when you update this.

     
  4. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005

    ZaraValinor:

    Thanks for responding!

    oqidaun:

    Thanks! If I had more ego, I would start describing this story as "Toni Morrisonesque Space Opera," but I think I shall hold back. I'm glad you liked the gritty (like sand, which I do not like, because isn't soft, and... Sorry.) setting, and the characters. I come from a mostly working class area, so I suppose that has an impact.

    Yes, the mother is "a piece of work." I'm going to have to be careful with her, to make sure she isn't too much of a stereotype. I'm on the Grey Side of the Force here.

    PMs... Okay, I admit it. I'm scared of sending them, because it can be such a touchy issue on the boards. But I'm going to see if I can work past that. They're only PMs, after all. So-- you should be getting one right soon now.

    Okay. Next, another post.
     
  5. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    This is what I think about, before I see the race track:

    It’s easy to become lost at the podraces. My sister Sarai knows this, and-- I know as well. It was there that I was suddenly by myself, in the middle of the crowds leaving the betting areas. I think I was eight. Every year is the same, and every race, whether the Boonta Eve Classic or not, is the same as well, so it’s easy for me to forget. I didn’t cry as soon as you would think. Perhaps it was because I didn’t believe it yet. I think Mum was off in a cantina, tipsy clumsy on Corellian Ale. The step-father is right. She can’t handle it, and usually, she remembers that.

    I can imagine her, giggling as she clutched her cup full of the sloppy drink, with a baby hanging off her tit. She was with one of the Aunties. The step-father had to look after the kids, which then included me.

    I stood still. Finally, I started walking, and I didn’t know where, just on and on. I had no aim. There wasn’t anywhere I knew I could go to. And: well, I admit it. I was not a particularly smart or special child. Not that I am smart now, but I think (and hope) I have improved. I was not independent. I was afraid of everything. I didn’t know how to go after an adventure away from my mum’s greasy skirts.

    It was hot and panting with that heat all around me. I didn’t know what to do. Now, I cried easily, often at nothing. I couldn’t help it. I would be dripping tears, my mouth hanging open and stupid, stupid. It was too easy to humiliate me, and I knew that, and yet. It didn’t matter what I knew. I couldn’t stop. That always has disgusted Sarai, and I can’t blame her for that. When Mum slapped her, she just stared coldly, at nothing.

    Perhaps, after all and after everything, she is smarter than I am.

    That was when I first saw him. He was tall, though perhaps I only thought he was because he was grown up. I had never seen anyone like him before. He had long, long black hair, and that was what I noticed. When I was eight, only girls had long hair. And yet-- Somehow I could this wasn’t a girl. Not because of his manliness, either. He had his face powdered white, and his lips were black. He was talking to someone I couldn’t see yet, and his voice was underground deep.

    I stared.

    I admit it.

    He had little hands, and wore several rings. One had a purple glittering stone, which I liked, but had no name for. That was what I could look at. I knew: he was an adult, and I couldn’t let him know I was there, watching. He had slightly stained teeth, which I saw when he laughed at something. He was talking with a Twi’lek girl. She wore a dumpy black dress (perhaps like the one I’m wearing today, actually. It should be funny that I remember all that). She had yellow flower skin, and mourning eyes.

    He saw me first. I backed off. I couldn’t even begin to think of anything to say. Of course, he saw a child. A—

    “Is something wrong, little girl?” he said, or cooed. Or something close enough to that. I think I remember, anyway.

    “Are you lost?” said the Twi’lek girl.

    “Um. No!” I said.

    I knew I would start crying soon, because that was what I did. My voice was sticky and just sounded wrong. I hated it. I turned, and bumped against a woman’s large rump. She was screaming, but no, it wasn’t at me. She was glaring at an alien with rock heavy skin who yapped back in Huttese. I couldn’t move. My hands hung, useless and fat as gloves, and I was crying. Yes, the first fat tear rolled slowly down my face. And I was crying, hysterically, and loudly, before I knew it.

    And I had to use the fresher. My thighs felt damp already.

    So that was why I couldn’t look at the man and the Twi’lek girl anymore. I was too ashamed. I could only watch her skirt, and her just cleaned fingernail claws, as they took me with them to a plain, but just scrubbed clean, cantina. One of them got me a glass of jawa juice. I could only watch a group of jawas in their stepped on robes who sat nearby, which should have struck me as odd. They’re usually not allowed in establishments like that one seemed to be. I drank the juice, and later, the man came back, and Mum was with him. She must have thanked him. I never saw them again.

    *

    Every year, I wonder if I will find them.

    When I was waiting to fall asleep in my little cot, just last night, with a child perhaps climbing over my legs to get to the fresher, I thought of that. This time, I wouldn’t be that stupid child. I am fourteen now, and sometimes I look older, or younger. My voice works some of the time. I would be calm. I wouldn’t have to talk to them, and perhaps it would better if I didn’t. But I could, if I had to. They will be different, I know. But I will recognize them. The Twi’lek girl, now older and perhaps anything. The man. He had his long, black hair that would smell up close like licorice.
     
  6. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    You do a wonderful job making a surreal environment seem real.
    Intriguing couple. I hope she finds them.
    Awesome work!

    Thanks for the PM and please keep'em coming as you update this fic.
     
  7. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Thanks again, oqidaun.

    I wonder if there's something about the desert that lends itself to surrealism. Or maybe I just think that because some of the surrealists, including Dorothea Tanning & Max Ernst, lived in Arizona for a while.

    There is something about that couple. Who are they? Why were they at the pod race? (all questions that I must provide answers for). I'm not sure what will happen, or if Aerena will find them--

    But I'll know later. I just enjoy inflicting suspense on myself for my own stories.
     
  8. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    This won't come as a surprise, but I'm going to have to put this story on official hiatus (though since I last updated it a month ago, it might as well have already been). I was hoping to work on it again after I finished a story I was doing on the beyond board, but...

    It's clear that I can't work on it, not now, anyway. I need to do a lot of thinking about the setting of this story, and how it would shape the characters, and I can't do that now.

    I don't mean to abandon it, but I also don't know when I'll get back to writing on it again.

    Now, before I leave, I'm going to go fix a tense error in the first post. Perfectionist? Yes, and more than kind of.
     
  9. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Sarai said to me once: “So you hate Mum sometimes? Well, you should. I despise the old woman, and if I were weaker, I’d pity her. It could be worse. She’s already decided I’m a whore. She thinks I’ll be lucky to wind up chained to Gardulla’s throne. And? She’s probably right. That makes her hate me more.”

    *

    She is gone, right after we arrive at the racetrack. Of course, I expected that. She jumps out of the speeder, and she is gone. I don’t even see her run away, holding up her skirts, her skin blurred in the panting dust. I am still here with Mum and the kids. She pats at her pocket, sighing over the few crumpled cigarets she has for the day. I know. She is grinning, and showing too many teeth at Starkiller. He smiles. Politely. I can hear his voice, but I don’t really listen to him as he excuses himself.

    “Perhaps I’ll have better luck this year,” he says.

    “One can hope!” says Mum. “My husband does. He said you can’t go wrong with betting on Sebulba. Well, he lost once. He could lose again.”

    “True.”

    “True! That’s what I tell him, but I can’t make him listen. Men.”

    They laugh.

    I look away from them, towards the entrance. The stands are squirming and loud with people, and every few minutes or seconds, the air rattles with cheers, though there isn’t anything to cheer about. But that’s typical. We’re off to the side, where any number of beings have parked their speeders. They walk past, people in their desert robes and chalk white face paint. I see a man who almost reminds me of that long ago man, who I never had a name for. But not really. He has greasy black hair, and his mouth is painted black. He laughs at and with someone I can’t see.

    I don’t see anyone I recognize, though that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone I know here. Last year, and last time, one of the girls who left school the year before I did saw me, and I didn’t know she was here.

    “Where’s Sarai?” says Mellia’s voice behind me.

    “She left,” I say.

    “Oh.”

    “What did you expect, Mellia?” Mum says. “Your sister has things to do.”

    She has snatched several of the little kids, Tibby and Kit, to her skirts. Last year, she kept Kit on a leash, but he’s too big for that now. They glare, but she doesn’t mind that. She treats them like stuffed toys, bears or Ewoks, with black stone eyes and clipped claws. Well, she always has said little kids like that are more like animals than people. We are still here, still out in the glaring sun, with sun occasionally blowing at us. Really, I don’t know why we do this. We should know better.

    One of the buildings has enough shade to stand in. I don’t say anything, but Mellia and I walk over there, where it looks cool, but isn’t. Oh, well. The kids don’t even look over at us. Mum would say they’re too tired to do anything else, and she might be right. Tibby is staring blankly, with blue milk sticky on her chin. Jamilla and Galen, one of the boys, are soon there with us. Jamilla grins.

    “What?” I say.

    Mum rummages in her pocket, until she finds her credits voucher. She sighs. “Well, kids. Let’s go sit down. Unless you want to wait here all day.”

    The children shuffle over to her. Jamilla swats at Kit, but he doesn’t cry. Goodness. His mouth is open and sticky tongued, and, yes, quiet. They really are tired, if Kit couldn’t manage to scream.

    “You go ahead, Mum,” Mellia says. I don’t have time to be surprised, but yes, it is Mellia, and her little voice.

    “I’ll wait,” Mum says. “I need help with these kids.”

    “It’s all right,” says Mellia’s voice, and I step back behind her, slowly, as though I am only her shadow. My dress is hissing from the heat, and I look around, off towards the arena, and a few speeders slinking past. Mellia doesn’t look any different. She still has the large, doll blank eyes that Mum and her sisters just love. Pretty, and unthreatening, and sweet. I’ve always seen and believed that, as well. She smiles, though she is careful to hide her broken tooth.

    (Poor Mellia doesn’t have very good teeth, and, sadly, neither do I. I hope that no one looks close enough to see when I talk. I hope, because that’s all I can do. The step-father took us to a med-droid two years ago, but things have gotten worse since then.)

    “You’ll never find us,” says Mum.

    “We will,” Mellia says. “Aerena and I just-- We want to see if we can find any of our friends.”

    “Well, you’re great girls,” Mum says. “You’ll do what you want.”

    And: She isn’t going to stop us. Her voice is soft and worn out, and she pulls Kit up against her. Tibby takes the hem of her skirt and holds on. The other kids stare. I’m surprised, but (yes) she doesn’t notice. She’s already walking off, the kids following. Only Jamilla looks back, and sticks her tongue out. This isn’t like her. She usually wants me, and especially Mellia with her to take care of the kids.

    “Come on, kids,” she is saying. “Your sisters want to find some boys. Well, force bless em.”

    Someone whines, and I think it’s Kit.

    Mellia watches them until they’re too far away to make out. Her mouth is pressed tight together, and I actually wonder what she’s thinking. She’s right: We know where to look for her in the stands, even if we can’t find her. Mum always chooses a seat far from the Hutts. She used to spit when someone mentioned them. I think she knew a woman Jabba kept on a chain for several years, though not because she told me. I remember her, or think I do, as a woman with blood bright red hair. She stood in our doorway talking to Mum, with her (don’t look) breasts almost bare in her mirror reflecting camisole. She is dead, now and for years. Mum would remember that.

    “She’s gone,” I say.

    “I know that,” Mellia says.

    We walk off, in the direction of the underground cool cantinas. Though I don’t think that is where she is going. Past the creaking clay stands where beings sell fruit or droid parts or anything else. I think, as always, about the few worn down coins I have. Enough to buy something, but not much. A tame dewback lumbers past, and I move before it’s too close. A Rodian yells something, but his words are blurred in the heat. Mellia doesn’t even seem to notice. We just walk. The sun glares and glares, and there are so many beings around, that no one can notice us. Good.

    “So,” I say. Somehow, I don’t know how to talk to Mellia, though I should. Shouldn’t I? She’s my sister. But now that we’re alone, it’s different. “Did you really get rid of her so you could meet up with some boy?”

    “Don’t be silly,” she says. “I could care less about boys, and I thought you knew that. I’ll leave that to Sarai. No, we’ll find Mum before the race starts.”

    “And what are we going to do now?”

    “I don’t know yet.”

    I shrug. We are in the midst of the stands now, and I walk up to a fruit stand. An old man is sitting there, twitching in his sleep, his half empty mouth drooping open. Several of his front teeth are rotten black. His woman seems to be running the stand. A tall man is shuffling off with several pieces of fruit, and he spits a seed off and away. Mellia follows me, and the old woman is waiting.

    She stares as I look through the fruit. The man doesn’t move, as his eyes moth winged twitch in his sleep. It doesn’t do to hurry, which I think I may have heard one of the Aunties say once. I can pay, and she will believe that soon enough. Slowly and careful, I pick out several starfruits. They are the best I can afford.

    I hand over my coins, and the old woman shows her pale gums and grey teeth. Her skin is dried up. “Thank you, girls.”

    We eat the fruit as we walk along. It tastes sour, but at least it still has juice in it. I am used to dried fruits, which I get before any of the kids. Mellia looks around, and if she is looking for someone, I know she won’t tell me. My skirt slaps and scratches at my thighs, and I almost wish I wasn’t wearing such a dumpy dress. The air shakes with a roar from the stands. A cantina door bangs open, and a boy nearly falls out. He wears a blaster too low on his hip, and his mouth is open with something like glee.

    “Ho there!” he screams.

    Mellia starts, as though he were speaking to her. But he doesn’t see us. Mellia sneers, and she walks past almost before I do. It’s dark here, in the shade of the buildings, though my dress is still panting warm. The boy is behind us. It’s nothing.
     
  10. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    This is still one of my favorite stories.
    You are a master of the female oc! Such original voices--so organic!

    Again, I am swept off my feet by the little details the texture of the dress, the chipped tooth and the dust.

    What an overwhelming atmosphere beautifully crafted...

    Past the creaking clay stands where beings sell fruit or droid parts or anything else. I think, as always, about the few worn down coins I have. Enough to buy something, but not much. A tame dewback lumbers past, and I move before it?s too close. A Rodian yells something, but his words are blurred in the heat.



    Bravo! =D=
     
  11. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Thanks, oqidaun.

    You know, I was going to cram a couple of jawas into that scene, but I decided that would be too much. There's no point in putting all the required Tatooine images in one place, and there is a point against doing so. Too cliche. I can always use the jawas later.

    This is still one of my favorite stories.
    You are a master of the female oc! Such original voices--so organic!


    I don't know if I'm a master, but I won't stop anyone from saying so. (emoticon goes here). Thanks for the compliments. It means a lot to me.

    A final note:

    I don't know when I'll update this again, but I am fairly certain it will be in less than two or three months.
     
  12. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    We stop.

    Or: Mellia does, and I don’t know what she is doing. She looks around. We’re in a back street, and not as far from the stands as I had thought. The air is heavy with the crowds talking, but not cheering. The Hutts must not have arrived yet. An eopie sigh grunts as someone rides past, and speeders hiss. This street is empty and dark between buildings. And there is a door only a few feet away, with a single word written not in Basic or Huttese, but a language I don’t recognize. The letters are thorn black sharp and skinny, and I know I can’t read or even really see them.

    “We’re going there,” says Mellia.

    “I don’t know about that,” I say. “Think about it. You don’t know where we are, or where that door goes. Unless you’re more familiar with Mos Espa than I thought.”

    “Dad might be there,” she says.

    “I suppose,” I say. “It’s not likely.” Mellia might have listened to me, but she is indeed walking up to the door. There is one window high up, but she doesn’t try to see through. She stops long enough to shrink back as a speeder flits past us. Then she’s opened the door, and slips inside. Just like that.

    I swallow, and it takes forever, or at least too long, as I hear myself take a breath. I go back out into the street, though I have to back off as a dug goes past, yanking on his chin hairs and yapping in Huttese. He’s gone. I’m clumsy, and my thighs are rock heavy and fat, but I go up to the door. I don’t even feel the doorknob as I take it, and the door opens, and I go inside.

    It’s not dark. That was what I expected, and it isn’t true. There’s a long, pale hallway with just swept stone floors. It seems to lead to a cantina, or at least a Jizz band is playing nearby, and there are the usual manly hahas you expect at a card game. Someone yells. I am, admitted, surprised. Perhaps Mellia was right. The step-father could be here.

    Perhaps. I still don’t think he is. Mellia knows what places he goes to drink and nervously, twitching, whisper his bets. We’ve been there before.

    No one is leaving the cantina this way, which is just as well. I don’t want to be seen. I look the other direction. The hallway continues, and at the end, there are two doors. They both look like wood, and that is unusual enough. And: real wood, not like the plastine tables one of the aunties keeps in her house. Partly because I don’t believe it, I walk down and down to see them.

    One of them has a doorknob shaped like a child’s hand. It was made out of bronze or brass, and I can see the fingers, held tighttight together. The fingernails are pale, and perhaps made from some chipped desert rock.

    The other door has a crystal door knob. It is made from black wood, out of trees on another, far away, and unimaginable planet. I sniff. It smells like wood, so I have to think it’s real. It’s all real, more or less. Both doors are locked shut quiet, and I can’t hear anything behind them. Or if I do, I don’t know what I hear. The crystal ball handle (I notice) is fogged with dust, though the doors are clean.

    “Aerena!”

    Mellia says, or hisses. She has come back into the hallway. I turn, my teeth clenched in annoyance. She doesn’t seem to have noticed anything about the doors, and I walk towards her, and away from them. My name seemed to echo, too loud and boot stamping, and I wish she hadn’t said it. I don’t have to know why.

    “What is it?”

    “Dad’s not here,” she said. “I really thought he might be.”

    “You know where the step-father places his bets, and this isn’t it,” I say. “He’s probably where he always is.”

    She doesn’t say anything. And suddenly, someone comes into the hallway with us. Oh, wonderful. It’s a boy or man, a spacer who has had too much to drink. He might be nineteen or twenty, but I can only guess that. He wears tighttight black pants, and has tangled pale brown hair and what one of my aunties would call bedroom eyes. I’ll bet there’s a girl who looks after him too. He grins at Mellia.

    He’s holding a glass sloshing with something, and oddly, there’s a pink papersilk umbrella fluttering inside.

    “There you are,” he says.

    “Goodbye,” Mellia says. She walks past him, though she doesn’t walk away. She certainly doesn’t go to the door we came in by.

    “Oh, don’t be like that,” he said. He sways against the wall, and sips at his drink. His voice wobbles. Yes, he’s drunk. “I only wanted to help you.”

    “Well, you’re not.”

    “Who is he?” I say, without looking at the pretty boy. (For he is indeed pretty. The bedroom eyes and the bedroom lips. Sarai would approve, but I certainly don’t know what to do with him, and I know that.) He isn't here. It’s easy.

    “Nobody,” she says. “I don’t know him. He was at the bar, and he saw when the dug they have at the door kicked me out.”

    “He doesn’t like little girls,” says the pretty boy. “If you can’t lose at cards with him, you’re of no good. Of course, it helps to be a little older and a Twi’lek, dear. He is so predictable. If Sebulba has Twi’leks, then he wants twi’leks.”

    “Ha, ha,” I say.

    Mellia turns back and looks at me. She is suddenly too close, and she smells, not like skin and greasy sweat and her dress, but like sand. She’s dry. Her pupils are tiny, and I can’t stop staring into them, for what is only a moment, but I don’t know what I see. I don’t know her. I don’t even know what to guess about her. The pretty boy seems to be waiting too. Yes, he’s still here. I can smell his hairstyle gel.

    Mellia shrugs, and steps away from me. But she’s not leaving. No, she seems to be heavy and slow. My skin itches with irritation. I should leave without her.

    “That’s it,” I say. “I don’t know why you came here, and I don’t care anymore. If you’re not going to leave, I will. See you in the stands.”

    Mellia’s voice says: “It’s the Doors.”

    “What?”

    “That’s why I came here. Dad told me about this place once. That the doors start here, but no one knows where they go. He said that sometimes, you can open one, and you’ll be somewhere you never imagined. I had to see it for myself.”

    “So much for the race then,” I say. Lamely. Because she is walking down to the doors. I can only watch her. She stops, and looks back, perhaps at me.

    The doors smelled like what I imagine a forest must smell like, though (of course) I have never seen one, and never, ever, ever will. Mellia has paused. Stopped. The pretty boy sips slow and lazy at his drink. He giggles, and shoves his hair aside with his free hand. How cute. I continue to ignore him.

    “You don’t believe I’ll go in,” says Mellia.

    “You’re right,” I say. “I don’t.”

    The doors are doors.

    They open up into another room in this building, possibly a storage area for droid parts and air purifiers. Something like that. It would have a stone floor with skittering sand tracked in. Or they lead into a back courtyard. Another dark alley.

    Mellia shrugs. “I can see that. Then, goodbye, Aerena.” And she opens the door with the crystal ball knob, she throws it open, and before I can see anything, she goes inside. The door clicks shut, and tight, behind her. She is gone. She stays gone. I stand here, my mouth probably stunned open and stupid, and the door stays shut. My hands are numb, and I can’t think, not fast enough.

    Gone.

    The pretty boy doesn’t seem surprised, though he should be. “Was she your sister?” he says. “That was nice of you to wait for her. Nice, but not terribly smart.”

    “I guess I’m not smart,” I say.

    “I do hope you’re smart enough to leave. Now,” the pretty boy says. His voice hasn’t changed, but I believe him. And—

    Two men, a Rodian and a human, bang out of the cantina into the hallway. I think I recognize them: They work for Gardulla’s major domo, mostly on the side. My step-father claims that anyone who works for a Hutt is nowhere near as important as they like to think they are, and that is probably true.

    “Hey, you,” they yell at the pretty boy, who I don’t have a name for. And perhaps that is just as well.

    They stomp past me, and stop right by the pretty boy, and too close to the door. They haven’t seen me yet, but they will if I try to get out. The door is far away. My thighs clench up, and there are reasons. I don’t have time to think of them. The human already has his blaster out, though it stays quiet. He’s patient, but only for now. The Jizz band shrieks back in the cantina, and I can hear a female vocalist, her overripe, cutesy annoying voice singing inane lyrics in Huttese.

    “Is there something you want?” says the pretty boy.

    “You have to ask?” I’m not sure which one speaks. “You already know. Did you think we wouldn’t notice that little trick you just used? You know better than that. Really, you should have left when you still had a chance.”

    “Nowhere to go,” says the pretty boy. He doesn’t have to shrug. “Besides, I don’t owe your dear slug boss a thing, no matter what he might have told you. Nothing. And you’ll win at sabacc the day a Jawa wins the Boonta Eve.”

    “Oh, you’re so clever,” says the Rodian. His voice coming metallic through his translator. “We’ll be sure to let our master know. After.”

    His eyes are blank black and staring, as he looks over at the pretty boy, or at the human man with him. Really, I can’t tell what he sees. My heartbeat thuds, and I back off. They’re still too close to the door, and it must be on purpose. Has to be. I don’t want to wait, but it seems I can’t do anything else. Luckily, they have no interest in me.

    “I’m sure,” says the pretty boy.

    “As am I,” says the Rodian. “You don’t seem to quite understand what I mean. I’ll enlighten you. I shall tell my master after you’re dead. Cheer up, boy. You could be spending your life here, and trust me. I could arrange that.”

    “No!” says the pretty boy.

    “Poor, sweet baby,” says the Rodian. “This world is only for the brave. Or the lucky. And you’re never been that. The suns would have wrecked your skin eventually, you know. I’m sure you’ll realize we’re doing you a favor. Just not in this life. Better hope there’s a god who loves you.”

    “Neither of us can hope for that,” says the pretty boy.

    “Enough,” says the human. He is tall and desert grim, with leather dried skin, and a gravel rasping voice and oh so tough scar (that twists half his face around) but I’m not scared. I should be scared. I should be wetting myself, and shaking, crying, whimpering. But somehow, he just annoys me. He wears all black too. Typical.

    The Rodian glares, or at least, I think he does, but the human man doesn’t care. “I know you like to toy with Sweet Boy here, but I’ve got better things to do. More important things. You know what to do. Kill him.”

    “Over a sabacc game?” says the pretty boy. (His mouth trembles, though he tries to look and act tough. The men don’t move. They are standing by the door on purpose, stationed so no one can get in, or get out.)

    “No, you twit,” says the Rodian. “That’s the excuse. You do remember that little sum of money you happen to owe Gardulla? He’s not going to wait for you to pay up.”

    “What about the girl?” says the human.

    “Oh, her,” the Rodian’s voice says. He looks over at me, and then: “We’ll have to kill her, of course. Pity. But it must be done. Kill Sweet Boy first.” (He continues to say, and everything is dream fogged and I step back. Only once. It’s true. I’m going to die. Die. I can’t run, mustn’t run, because it will draw their attention. No, it’s too late. They’ve already seen me.)

    “I’ve spoken to the owner,” the Rodian is saying now. It’s not even a minute or so later. “He has his reasons not to interfere.”

    “Always a gentleman,” says the pretty boy. “Just as I would expect.”

    The Rodian seems to smile as he pulls out his blaster. He doesn’t have to check to see that it’s loaded. He looks at me. “I am sorry, little girl. But it will be over quickly. We have no reason to make you suffer.”

    He says.

    And-- I run off, down the hallway to the doors. There is no other way out, and better this than running out the door and being shot down in the alley, than feeling the blaster shots rip into my back before I feel nothing. Someone yells, and it might be the Rodian, but I can’t stop long enough to hear him. Can’t stop at all. A blaster shot, and then another, rip out behind me. Another shot. They’re coming. The Rodian is aiming his blaster. I throw myself at the door with the hand knocker, and my hand shakes and wobbles, but I manage to open it, and fall inside. The door slams shut, forever and ever, behind me, and I’m lying on the ground. On a worn down floor.

    My eyes are clenched fist tight shut, and I’m afraid to open them. It’s enough to know that I’m lying on a floor, and breathing. This is something.

    “Hey!”

    It’s the pretty boy. It can’t be, and it isn’t possible. He was just shot to death in the sunlight pale hallway behind the cantina. I didn’t see him die, because I couldn’t look back, but I heard it. The blaster shots, and the smell of breathed out smoke—

    “Are you all right?”

    And my voice says: “I don’t know. I suppose.”

    My eyes are open, and I sit up. Slowly. I’m in what seems to be an underground room, that perhaps used to be a storage cellar. People are talking and laughing too loudly upstairs, and there is a constant shake in the ceiling as they walk past. A Twi’lek girl with flushed beige skin is sitting nearby, sipping at a processed fruit drink, and painting her clawed fingernails. The polish smell is everywhere. She has a lit cigaret hissing smoke in a porcelain plate. She ignores me.

    And: The pretty boy is sitting in a chair only a few feet away from me. He smiles, as though he’s been waiting, and waiting, for me to open my eyes. He still has pale brown hair, ratted and frenzied with styling gel. (There’s a tube of the sticky petal pink stuff on the Twi’lek’s table, along with a comb, and a few crumb scattered plates.) He wears black boots for kicking. Someone yells in a nearby room. The pretty boy is still watching me. For a moment, I know who he is. Perhaps-- But no. He has pale eyes (I notice, now that I can) with are almost blue or green but mostly white.

    “Hey, Angel Pie,” says the Twi’lek. “How is she doing?”

    “Better,” he says. “Ask her yourself.”

    She turns around, and takes a sucking gulping drag on her cigaret. “Oh! You’re awake. Good. We were beginning to get worried about you.”

    “How long have I been here?” I say. My voice creaks and groans, but it works well enough so I can talk. I imagine it sounds like a greasy black bird’s wild caw. My skin is sore, but otherwise, I seem to be fine. Seem to be, anyway.

    “Couple hours,” she says. “We’re in Mos Espa, by the way. We came here for the pod races. We found you in the desert, maybe ten or so kilometers from here. You were just wandering around, half dazed, and, well, we couldn’t just leave you.”

    “Oh,” I say.

    Oh. I don’t remember, and whatever happened after I went through that door is gone. The Twi’lek, and the pretty boy, look concerned, but relieved. I know they are waiting before they tell me anything else. The Twi'lek has dark eyes, night dark and nearly black, and she looks suddenly sad and serious. (Like someone I saw or imagined once?) They do smile a little when I get up, my bones whining sore, and walk over to a fat couch with a rip stitched up with pasty white thread. My eyes widen as I notice that, and everything else.

    “Do you have any idea how you got out there?” says the Twi’lek.

    “You wouldn’t believe me,” I say.

    That’s when I look down at myself, and I start. I’m wearing a slinky pale dress, a peachy skin color, with ragged lace trim, and my arms and shoulders are almost bare, and turning stiff with sunburn. It hardly feels like a dress at all, and it’s not mine. I don’t know how or why I’m wearing it. But I am. My hair is tangled and too close to my face, and it smells dry and sand whispering. I shove it aside. I can’t feel my skin very well, but I know something happened. Something. Then I see that I’m barefoot. My feet are sore with puffed up white blisters from walking in the sand.
     
  13. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    The doors did it for me.
    Very twi'lek zone in the suspense department.

    HOLY [face_cow] !!!!!!

    This was A M A Z I N G !!! You did a really incredible job crafting the hallway and the two doors. Brilliant.
    And the characters as always were fabulous.

    For some reason, I find those two doors to be quite scary.

    There were so many beautiful parts to this story, but I think my favorite was...

    One of them has a doorknob shaped like a child?s hand. It was made out of bronze or brass, and I can see the fingers, held tighttight together. The fingernails are pale, and perhaps made from some chipped desert rock.

    The other door has a crystal door knob. It is made from black wood, out of trees on another, far away, and unimaginable planet. I sniff. It smells like wood, so I have to think it?s real. It?s all real, more or less. Both doors are locked shut quiet, and I can?t hear anything behind them. Or if I do, I don?t know what I hear. The crystal ball handle (I notice) is fogged with dust, though the doors are clean.


    Excellent work!!!



    I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to your review.
     
  14. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    oqidaun:

    Yes, the story has entered the twilight or twi'lek zone (cue the music) at this point. Up to now, I suppose it's what you could call realism, or at least, what realism would be on Tatooine, a desert planet in a space opera universe.

    Then it gets weird.

    I admit it: I was trained to be a literary realist, but I'm not good at actually writing realism. (shrugs.)

    I'm glad the hallway and doors worked for you. They are scary, partly because they're so unpredictable.

    Thanks again!
     
  15. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    I'm sorry that I'm not as eloquent at reviewing as oqidaun, but I just wanted to say that I read this and am now fascinated by it. :)

    Your characters seem so 'human', and the enviroment is so richly described. Excellent work! =D=
     
  16. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    amidalachick:

    No need to apologize. All reviews are appreciated here.

    Thanks for stopping by, and commenting!


    *


    Well, once again, it's been a while. I haven't quit or taken a hiatus, but as a result of the real life (what else?), updates will continue to be sporadic. I do hope to have another one soon.

     
  17. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    The Twi’lek’s name is Leda. The boy (I can’t think of him as a man, though he might be old enough) is the Angel. Leda usually calls him, while smiling an almost secret telling smirk over his shoulder at me, Sweetie, or Angel Pie. They have rented this cellar room for their stay during the pod races, below a shop whose customers seem to be mostly toothless old grannies with heaps of grey hair, and a few moisture farmers. It was all they could afford, but that isn’t the only reason. There’s a family from Anchorhead staying in the next door room.

    I can hear their voices, but I haven’t seen any of them yet. I’m sitting here, perched on the couch, waiting for the ointment on my skin to work. They had to buy it from one of the grannies upstairs, who sells birth control teas and other medicines.

    It was peach pale and sticky, and felt like Leda’s fingers as she smeared it on, mostly over my arms and shoulders. I had to shut my eyes. I did try to help it, but I yelped, though only once or twice. My skin felt stiff and scratched like something I wore, and I didn’t much like it. Leda twitched her lekku in what I guessed was concern. Mostly, she looked sad, and I looked at her just painted tar black fingernails.

    The Angel had sighed, or almost cooed. “Poor girl!”

    I am still barefoot. The blisters on my heels are fat and sagging white, and it will be hours yet before I can wear shoes. I can easily admit that I don’t like this. Perhaps because I don’t want to, I keep looking down, and down at them. At the floor, which is cool, but not enough. My toes are clenched close, and my toenails are blind and stupid staring. I can see the blue knitting yard veins, and they are ugly, with peeling candle wax calluses on my heels. But I have never liked my feet.

    “Well,” the Angel says. “You’re looking better already.”

    He has come back down the worn out stairs, which is all I have seen of what’s upstairs. He’s been up there having a beer, I’ll bet. He’s been doing something. He is taller and more slinky thin than I remember him being, and his hair is bedtime sleepy mussed up, and he smells like cologne. At least he hasn’t come so close that I can smell his beer warmed breath. I’ve never liked that. He sits down on the nearby chair, with his legs apart. His boots are so shiny I can almost see his reflection in them.

    “I guess,” I say. Lamely, but I can’t seem to change that. My voice sounds like me, again, but it is still heavy and mud stuck dark. Or so I’ve decided.

    “Don’t worry,” he says. “You’ll be fine.”

    “I know that,” I say.

    (Because I don’t know who Leda and the Angel are, and I don’t trust them. Really, I can’t. I don’t know, and I can’t forget this, anything about them. They haven’t tried to kill me, but I don’t know that is what they would try to do. I just don’t know.)

    “She’s not worried, she’s annoyed,” Leda says. She comes out from behind a curtain the owners have hung up, so part of the room can be used as a dressing and sleeping area. “And I think you can guess why.”

    “I couldn’t,” he says.

    “Not everyone finds you as amusing as I do, honey love.”

    He smiles, in a fashion that my aunties might coo over, and call charming. Oh (their voices would twitter) he’s a scoundrel! I shake my head, irritated. Annoyed, and not by the Angel, who is laughing, a jerking haha, at something Leda just said. Even though I’ve leapt out of my old world and self, I still, yes, still, hear those women in my head. I still know what they would think, but not what I would.

    I do think this: When he smiles at me, it means nothing. He is too old for me to think anything romantic about. Perhaps for that reason, and because I’m dizzy flushed still from that time in the desert I can’t remember, I’ve already imagined kissing him.

    Leda smiles. She bats him with her right lekku as she walks past. She is wearing a sagging, black wool dress. It does look familiar, and I know why. Because, of course, that was the dress I had been wearing, before I fell through the door. She pats at the skirt, as though trying to shake dust or sand or wrinkles out of it.

    “We’ll have to find something for you to wear,” she says. “Perhaps one of my things--” She looks up close at me, as though perhaps I am not as tall as she knows, and has seen, that I am. “Of course, I only have these black wool gowns, and they might be too rough yet for your skin. And we’ll need to find you some shoes--”

    “We still have time, don’t we?” I say.

    “Yes,” she says. “But, well, we know you can’t go out wearing that. You’ll burn right up during the day, and freeze at night.”

    “Not that it isn’t pretty,” the Angel says, and he looks at me. I can see his pupils grown too big to see in the underground light here. I let my mouth twitch at him, because I haven’t any reason not to be nice. He leans forward. I can almost smell, or imagine I do, his sugar sweet hair gel. His aftershave or cologne.

    “She’s right, though,” I say. “It is— Very impractical.”

    “Exactly,” Leda says.

    “Leda,” he says. He smiles, and I can’t even pretend to know what he might be amused about. Really, I don’t understand him at all. “She could wear one of your frocks, if she had to. But I don’t think it’s a good idea. She’s too tall.”

    “I know,” she says.

    And I don’t say, though I can feel it buzzing in my mouth: You should wait at least until I leave the room for the fresher to say that. I’m right here, you know.

    The father in the next room coughs, but I think he’s actually laughing. I think. Leda rolls her eyes in that direction, and lets one of her lekku flop over her shoulder. I notice, yet again, that she seems to have it tattooed, but they are faded out, brown dried blood flowers, that are hardly darker than her skin.

    “You-- You don’t have to find anything for me to wear,” I say.

    Awkwardly. I look down, and my feet are there, like bony fish this time, and I try to keep them under the too thin and pale skirt of this silly, and yes, impractical dress. I still don’t know where it came from, and I can more than guess I never will. I might have worn it for hours, or days, or anything, in the desert, and yet, it doesn’t smell like me. Only like sand. Like nothing.

    “But we want to,” says Leda.

    “Bria,” says the Angel, calling me the name I decided they could have for me, “Leda’s right. We want to help you.”

    I shrug.

    “But the thing is,” I say, or rather, I hear my voice say, “I need too much from you. I can’t go out to find a dress myself, not like this. I don’t even have the credits to pay for it. That’s the problem: I don’t have anything. And I can’t forget that.”

    “I do know,” says Leda. “Really. Let’s just say, I’ve been through things I hope that you, and Angel Pie here, will never have to understand.”

    The Angel nods.

    The floor bumps and shakes from something upstairs, and Leda shakes her head. “I think I know what to do ,” she says. “I’ll talk to one of the grannies upstairs. She’ll know where I can find some frocks. That’s the one who has a sister in the Order, Sweetie.” (She looks over at the Angel.) “I can tell that means something to her, even though I left. Don’t worry, Bria. We’ll work something out. And you’ll able to watch thousands of idiots scream while the pods blow sand into their faces. Isn’t that something?”

    “Yes,” I say.

    When she’s gone upstairs, the Angel gets up. He is quite graceful (bedroom eyes! an auntie giggles in my head, and I ignore it). I’m still careful about touching myself, but Leda was right: The ointment is working. The Angel looks at me, as though he remembers that I heard him die in another world. Yes, he’s awkward, now that we’re alone. After an endless, clumsy moment, he goes into a closet area, and comes back, with a glass of slippery, almost cold water. The grannies upstairs insisted.

    “Here,” he says. “You need this more than I do.”

    His hand brushes mine too close when I take the glass, but I don’t think he notices. Of course, I do. His hand is cool, and his fingernails need to be cut, but they are clean. I take a breath, and then sip the water. It tastes wet, and almost sweet.

    *

    Leda is able to find me something to wear. It is another black sack like dress, and it almost looks like the ones she has. Only the fabric is lighter, and not as rough. The curtain sways and shakes, and I can almost see the room through it, as I change. I get out of the peach dress, which I shed onto the floor. It is limp and worn out from sunlight, and it isn’t so pretty now. My skin gasps, but, because of the ointment, it doesn’t hurt. I’m not surprised to see that I was burnt through that dress, that was hardly there at all. I try not to look at myself. My thighs are wooden stiff, and—

    And I notice that I’m wearing the water stained white underwear I wore before, the doors and everything else. I don’t know what to think about that.

    “Here!” the Angel says, and his hand appears at the curtain, holding the jar of ointment. I take it, quick, hopefully not blushing.

    I rub the ointment on my stomach and thighs, and try to get to my back, twisted around like a snake. Then, I climb into the black dress. It scratches at my skin, but not too badly. It shakes down, and I see that it is big enough. I shake my head, and, as I turn, I see myself in the cracked mirror half set up on a small tool shelf. Mostly, I see the shadow smudged dress, but there I am:

    Here I am. I look the same as always, though my face is flushed too warm and embarrassed, but I expected that from the sunburn. Because of the dull light back here, I don’t have to see it too well. My hair has grown out a little, and my mouth is too red. My eyes look black, or nearly so. My image stares back and out at me coldly. For no reason, I step up, and up, to look inside. My hands flutter and nervous bird wing shake. And-- It’s as though I’ve never seen myself. My body. My hips are slinky. For a minute, I look like Sarai.

    I’m someone else, inside that mirror.

    Leda’s footsteps come up to the curtain, and I’ve already turned, and it shakes over and then behind me as I walk back into the room. Slowly. I shove my hair away from my face, and I’m glad, to be wearing the black dress. It isn’t like the dumpy gown I had before. This one makes me a secret. It’s good, and I know that. Leda nods.

    “Well, that’s better, isn’t it?” she says.

    “Yeah,” I say.

    I smile, but it feels differently now, and look over at the Angel. He’s unbuttoned his shirt perhaps one button too far down, and he smells warm and too much like cologne as I walk past him, and over to the glass, my glass, of water. I’ve only drunk about half of it. Leda is having blue milk, provided by one of the grannies, whose voice I have heard on the stairs. Before I can take it, he has already gotten up, and has bounded over to give it to me. Leda is amused behind us. He does, and I take it.

    “Well,” I say. “Thank you. You didn’t need to do that.”

    “But why shouldn’t I, Bria?”

    I realize: he doesn’t know that I’m (only) fourteen. I haven’t had a reason to mention my age, and well. I don’t know what he assumes. I also don’t know what I am, not anymore, and not here. Maybe I’m not fourteen anymore. Maybe years have passed.

    Maybe anything has happened.

    A child shrieks next door. The family is preparing to go out for something, to eat or to gamble. I’m glad to hear them, so I can’t think too much. Because I wonder. I wonder what I will find, and what I will be, when I go outside.
     
  18. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    That was intense.
    There was so much happening in that chapter. You do an amazing job crafting scene and this by-far is my favorite chapter of all! I always say this, but your work as such an organic feel to it. You can almost taste it.

    Wow. :D

    Your description of her feet was awesome. I love your narrator.


    I?m someone else, inside that mirror.
    :eek: That's wild.


    Can't wait for more!
    =D=
     
  19. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    oqidaun:

    Yes, that was quite a description of her feet.

    And I'm glad that you feel the setting is so there you can taste it-- I know that most of my imagery is sight based, which does make sense, as sight is the primary way humans get our information about the world. Still, after an instructor I admired pointed that out, I do try to bring in the other senses.

    Yes, there's a lot of intensity going on, and I'm glad you saw it, because I thought, since it isn't action-packed, people might find it slow. Of course, my idea of action most of the time is practically crossing the room...

    *

    I should have another update soon in the reasonable future. I've started it, so I do feel confident saying that.

    In the meantime, I thought I would provide some visual aid as to what the Angel looks like, for those who may be interested.

    [link=http://www.robertpattinson.org/gallery/displayimage.php?album=42&pos=24]Look here[/link].

    Even the outfit is right! (The Angel would wear those pants in a heartbeat). And the expression.


    ETA:

    Avoid the vapid comments at the bottom. The perils, I'm afraid, of linking to pictures at a fansite for an actor who was in a Harry Potter movie.
     
  20. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Mos Espa looks the same, and is the same, as I remember. There are the same whispering sand dry streets, and worn out houses. There are several stands set up near the basement rooms I have staying in, but they are shut down for the day. For the races. There are people, mostly locals with chalk white painted faces, and plaited hair, walking past in groups. Or other beings with their faces wrapped up. Talking. I don’t recognize any of them, but then, I didn’t expect to. Someone laughs, too loud and too close. A speeder races past, blurred away in the heat.

    The sky is a hard blue, the color of a cleaning product one of the aunties uses, and the air is blurred and smudged with heat.

    But: Isn’t it always that way?

    It is. So hard, and so panting with heat during the day. It’s only at night that everything turns cold and empty. I shake my head. Though it is understandable (isn’t it) that I’m confused.

    The Angel powdered his face before we left, though the heat has already melted it away. Leda seemed amused about that, but I didn’t, and don’t, care why. He is wearing his sharp toed black boots. His shirt is only unbuttoned twice (and I look, because that doesn’t matter), and he needs to shave. Yet: he seems shy, somehow. His eyes are secret telling pale, and he chews his button lip.

    “Nervous?” Leda asks.

    “No,” he says. “Why should I be?”

    He smiles too much as he almost bumps into a woman who looks like Mum, but of course, isn’t. I ignore her. I’m wearing the black dress Leda found me, and finally, after over a day, I can wear shoes. My blisters are mostly shrunk down, and though I’m still recovering from my burns, at least I can’t feel it. Leda walks quickly, not looking around. Her lekku are tense, and it’s she who seems nervous when we see another Twi’lek near the arena, and the constant roar of the crowds. A male one.

    “Why are we doing this again?” she says.

    “I couldn’t say,” says the Angel. “You tell me.”

    An eopie lumbers past, its belly swaying heavy back and forth. It snorts. Several Jawas skitter past in their dusty, stepped on robes. Leda stops, so the Angel and I can catch up with her. The Angel is closer than I had realized, and his hand almost but not quite brushes my hip (but he couldn’t) or perhaps just my skirt. I hear a Jawa screech. It seems to involve something with a tame bantha.

    I look around as we wait to file into the stadium. It shouldn’t be hard to believe that, in the end, I’m going to be watching the podraces. It shouldn’t be. This, too, is the same. The stands are filled up and swarming with beings. The track, which I can’t yet see, would be empty, with sand swept clean. I don’t see anyone I recognize, which doesn’t mean they’re not here. I don’t know, and worse, I can’t know. Still: I look around, just in case I do see Mum and the kids, or the stepfather, or Sarai. Or anyone.

    Soon, we’re sitting in the stands. Leda pushed through people’s legs, while they gossiped with each other, and found us enough places. I followed with the Angel. He squints, as though the sunlight hurts his eyes. We’ve wound up at a row far away and high up in the stands, and, I note, far away from the Hutts. I can just almost see their dias, and it looks empty. I take a minute before I look down to see the track. Nothing is happening there yet. The two men sitting in front of us, wrapped in their desert robes, pause in their talking to look at us. One of them is chewing on a dried fruit piece.

    “Ho,” one of them says.

    Leda nods.

    “How much longer until this festival of joy starts up?” the Angel says, lazily. He is sitting with his legs apart, and his knee bumps me. I am taking up less space than I would like, but I don’t know how to change that now. Once, I would have glared at him, but for some reason that I don’t think about, I don’t care enough. Still, I push at his knee with my leg. He doesn’t seem to notice.

    “Soon enough,” says the first man.

    His friend coughs. “And this should be entertaining. Ben Quadinaros is in the race again. There’s a bet going round as to whether his pod will work this time. I betted against. He’d better fail. That’s all I’m saying.”

    “Well, how utterly, utterly,” said Leda. “I’m sure this Ben would love to hear about that.”

    “Believe me,” says the man. “He already knows. He should’ve stayed in the Pouffra circuit. He’s out of his element here. Way out. But--” (He sighs, slow and lazy, and his breath is heavy with beer. I lean back, my lip stiff and curled. Annoyed.) “That doesn’t mean anything this time. Every bantha has his day, you know?”

    “I suppose,” says Leda.

    The men look back at the track, and I shift. I’m bored, already. I can see that the beings sitting around us are looking over datapads with already blinking screens, on which they can watch the race as it goes through the canyons. We didn’t bring that. Leda hasn’t told me the reason why she, or the Angel, came here. It’s not to watch the race. Leda doesn’t know anything about any of the racers.

    “Who is this Ben Quadinaros?” she says.

    “I'm not quite sure,” says the Angel. “Anyway, it doesn't matter. Just remember— I don’t know. Sebulba. All the old boys say he’s the one that will win. Apparently, he makes certain of that.”

    “Right,” says Leda. “I’ve noticed that some of the gamblers aren’t so sure about him. Apparently, he lost last year, and to a human. A little slave boy, of all things! He was racing for his master, but after that, he didn’t have a master anymore.”

    “I remember that,” I say.

    Because, of course I had been here, slumped in the stands with kids bumping against me and whining and falling asleep. Sarai was stuck with us that year: She had tried to sneak off, and Mum had grabbed her arm, and yanked her back. That alone seemed to shut Sarai down. She had sat next to me, Kit lying across her lap, slobbering. We were lost, looking up at everyone’s legs as they stood up, cheering and screaming, as the slave boy came in first. I had never remembered his name.

    The Angel shrugs. “I heard about it. I wasn’t here last year.” (And I think, well, of course not. I would have seen you). “Lucky me.”

    Then: “Bria, have you seen anyone you recognize yet?” he says.

    I look over at him. His face is closer than I had realized, and he looks very earnest and concerned. My mouth twitches, or jerks, as I smile nervously. No, I will not imagine-- Kissing him. Leaning in and shutting my eyes so I won’t be too scared to do it. I shrug. I notice that the father of the family in the next room, an almost human alien with dusty grey skin, is moving through a row ahead of us. His woman, or wife, follows him with their children. His voice is deep and disgusted, but he is speaking Basic.

    “That’s right,” Leda says. “Didn’t you say your family might be here?”

    “I did,” I say. “But I don’t know. Even if they are here, I might never see them. There are just too many beings.”

    “True,” she says. “But it never hurts to look.”

    Except: I couldn’t tell her, and there were no words that would make her believe it, I don’t know who, or what they are now. I don’t know if they even exist.

    “Quiet!” says someone behind us.

    The Angel looks back to smirk.

    And, as everyone around stops talking and starts whispering loud, I hear the announcer’s voice for the first time. Leda twitches one of her lekku over her shoulder, and rolls her eyes. The Angel smiles at her in a way I can’t understand. No, it isn’t the annoying two headed announcer from last year, and the year before that. I can tell from the voice. Leda hands me her telescope glass, and I see him. It’s an almost human, with bright red hair, and too much smiling. His twin, with a ghost bleached face, is standing next to him. Mostly, all I can see of them is their voices.

    “Welcome!” shouts the announcer.

    His twin answers in fat, slithering Huttese words that must mean the same thing. I can’t understand it, though most of the beings here can. I should, but Mum insisted we only ever speak Basic. The Angel’s face is blank, but then, he isn’t from Tatooine, wherever he is from, and so I don’t expect him to know what it is. Leda takes the telescope glass back from me, and peers squinty eyed into it at the track. The Huttese announcer is still talking, and the crowd roars with insect noise.

    “Well, let me see,” says the Angel.

    “Calm yourself, Angel Pie,” she says. “I’ll give it to you when there’s actually something to see down there.”

    “That’s right,” the first announcer says, in his kissing, fawning voice. “We have quite a turnout again this year.”

    “Yes,” says the Huttese announcer.

    “And wouldn’t you know! The racers are just coming out onto the starting grid.” (Leda still has the telescope, but even without it, I can see movement down, down below, as the pods lurch out onto the track.) “Nice to see you again, Quadinaros. Better luck this year, eh?”

    The other announcer says something in Huttese.

    Everyone, or nearly everyone, cheers, but now it sounds like laughing.

    “And that’s Ben Quadinaros from the Tund System. Show em what you’ve got, Ben. And! I see Teema Ru from the Nubia system…”

    The podracers stand up and wave. A few of them tighten their fists up and pump them, though they are too small down there for me to really see. And then: The crowd is jumping up all around me and screaming, and waving their arms, as the announcer’s voice says, “I know you’ve all been waiting for him… Selbulba! Will he take back his winning place this year? I hear he’s got quite a fancy new pod to show off.”

    The Huttese announcer’s voice agrees.

    “Sebulba!” someone yells, or screams, nearby.

    Yawn.

    “How utterly,” says the Angel.

    Leda sighs, and passes the telescope to me, and I peer down, suddenly seeing the racers and the growling pod engines, and the air glittering with dust and sand, as the announcer says, “The flags are just moving onto the track.”

    They are. The flag bearers walk slow and single file across the track, their flags rippling and shaking overhead in the wind. The flags are bright and too big and shiny, at least through the telescope. As the flag bearers stop before the pods they represent, I can finally see them. Though I do think of last year, that almost year I was nearly one myself, that isn’t why I look. They seem to be mostly human men in their dark desert robes, and a just polished protocol droid. And:

    I don’t believe it, but I adjust the telescope, and it’s still true. I can only hope I haven’t gasped. There’s Mellia. She is standing with them, holding up her flag, and for a moment, she looks up. Her hair is braided around her ears, or at least, I think it is, and she is taller and gawky legged than I think she was before. Her face is earnest, and of course, she can only see the cheering masses above. She’s there. It’s true.
     
  21. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    This is the kind of description that warms my heart:
    The sky is a hard blue, the color of a cleaning product one of the aunties uses, and the air is blurred and smudged with heat.


    I don't know what's going on with Leda and Angel, but I don't think I trust them.

    Ben Quadinaros!!
    Now that's a character we don't see much of in fanfic!

    I love the Podrace atmosphere. You've done a fantastic job capturing its kind of festival/kind of religious holiday type nature.


    Excellent update. Thanks for the PM
    =D= =D=


    Btw: Checked out the Angel pic, I want that jacket. :D
     
  22. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    oqidaun:

    You know, I had never thought of the podraces as having a religious holiday atmosphere, but it makes sense. I was just caught up in the "Ben-Hur" chariot race references. Gambling seems to be a religion there, and Boonta Eve is a holiday. Of some sort.

    I don't know what's going on with Leda and Angel, but I don't think I trust them.

    That's probably best, especially in a place like Mos Espa. I can assure you, though, that they're not going to sell Aerena into slavery or anything.

    I think *I* trust them too much, and they're my characters. Does that even make sense?

    *

    And now, another update.

    --


    Now, the race is over, and I’m moving through the crowd of beings leaving the arena, through the constant insect buzz of their voices. The air is dizzy with dust and panting tired heat, and I pull up my skirt just a little to move through them. Everyone’s excited because Sebulba lost. Again. Despite his fancy pod, the first one at the end of the final lap was a racer from Nar Shaddaa whose name I didn’t recognize. A few of the beings sitting around us grumbled. Of course, I knew why.

    I feel someone bump up sudden against me, and I turn, too fast, to see the father from the next door room. He has one of his little boys or girls hanging on to his robe, and he looks startled. Someone must have jostled him. The little kid makes big, space dark eyes at me, and chews on its fist. The father makes a deep, polite, grumble.

    “My apologies,” he says. “Quite a crowd, eh?”

    “Yeah,” I say.

    And then he’s gone on, the child wriggling and going “Da? Da?” I stop, once I am far enough away from the arena and the constant blah blah and tromping footsteps of the crowds, and look around. Beings pass by me, but I don’t really need to see them. I can’t find Mellia, but then, I didn’t expect to. My hair blows sand scratching into my face, for just a moment. Leda and the Angel are gone, away on the business they told me they had to attend to. I didn’t need to ask them what it was.

    You know they’re up to no good, a voice in my head says with a mother sighing whisper. I don’t know what to think, or how. There are too many beings here, all at once and suddenly. Someone else bumps against me, and I turn around fast to glare. It’s a drunken boy, laughing too hard as though it hurts him. He reels back to his friends, swaying and holding a shadow dark bottle of perhaps Corellian Ale. So annoying.

    You know that’s so.

    I shake my head. Do I?

    Think about it. There are only a few sorts of business on this world, and they’re not nice ones. You don’t know these people. You don’t know anything about them. And you certainly have no reason to trust them.

    What makes you think I do?

    Then, I see him. The step-father. He’s walking towards me, through the crowd, with one of his gambler friends right behind. I should be surprised, but I’m not, to see that he’s the same here as he was before, with his thinned grey hair and (according to the aunties) hen pecked eyes and stooped shoulders. Well, he does usually do what Mum tells him. He’s wearing a dumpy brown cloak, and squints ahead into the light. Then, he’s right there, and I’m not sure, and I never will be, if I saw him first.

    “Aerena?” he says.

    “Yes?”

    “It’s really you, isn’t it?” he said. “I can’t believe it. Well, now.” I don’t know what he sees on my face, but he adds: “We’d better get out of the way. These beings are like a bantha herd here. They don’t know how to stop.”

    “That your girl, Jamie?” says the other man, following behind us to the side of the wide, sand trampled down road. It takes me a minute to hear him, since the crowd is louder than before. What could they all be talking about? It’s almost dark in the shade here, but still warm, and everything’s moving, and flying past and away, too fast. I don’t have enough time to know what to think.

    “Yeah,” says the step-father. “My wife’s daughter.”

    “My, my,” says the other, lighting up his hookah pipe. “Didn’t know she had another girl that big. Other than Mellia, and well…”

    (Sarai?)

    “You’d better explain,” I said. “Everything you can. Things-- are different than I thought they were. I know that. But--”

    “You went through the doors, didn’t you?” he says. “I thought so. You see, they open up to another place, but it’s not what you want to believe you’ll find. Oh, no. It can’t be so easy as that. No jumping into the life of a princess, say, in some white palace. Because here you are, still on Tatooine. The same thing happened to me, you know.”

    I hadn’t. “But it’s not the same as it was,” I say. “Somehow, it’s different, but I’m not sure how. I’m different. I just don’t know anything. You know. Mellia told me that you knew about the doors. You have to tell me.”

    “Jamie,” the other gambler says. He sighs out some smoke. “Lovely reunion here, but we ain’t got much more time. Debts to pay, ya know.”

    The step-father nods. “See, Aerena, it’s not that different here. Never is. But I’ll tell you what I can. It’s not much. When you went through that door, the reality you lived in before no longer existed. Or maybe it does. I don’t understand it. As far as we knew here, you disappeared several months ago. We never found you, and-- We didn’t know what had happened. We couldn’t.”

    “Oh, I say.

    Oh!

    “You couldn’t change very much, but it was enough,” he says. “You’ll be maybe a year older than you were, too. I know. It doesn’t make sense, but then, none of this ever has. That would make you fifteen. But that’s a year worth skipping, eh? I lost two years in my twenties, and that wasn’t good. I was just older, and with nothing to show for it. But I don’t know. Maybe you do want that lost year back.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” I said. (Because I don’t want to know how I would get back.) “What about the others? I saw that Mellia was a flag bearer.”

    “That she was,” he said. “I’m so proud. But they’re fine. Or, I should say, they’re mostly as you probably remember them. Your Mum got a position working at a cantina behind the bar. It helps. Jamilla just quit school, and is working on engine parts and trying to be a boy. Well, she seems to like it. The kids are good. And-- Well, Sarai became a dancing girl at the palace. Just the way your Mum always said she would.”

    “Something happened to Sarai,” I said. “After she became a dancer. Something bad. I’m right, aren’t I?”

    “Well… Yes,” says the step-father.

    “Jamie,” says his friend, or gambling partner, or acquaintance. “It’s time. I’m sorry, girl. But we got debts. Your father bet on Sebulba big.”

    “I thought so,” I say.

    “Sorry, Aerena,” he says. (While his partner goes on ahead into the swarming, heat blurred up crowd. He doesn’t look back.) “He’s right. I have to go. But I’ll be in the usual cantina when this is all over. You know where to find me.”

    And he’s gone.

    I don’t know where I want to go now, and there isn’t anywhere I need to, so I walk back down the street. It’s close to the cantina where Mum found me that one time, when I was lost, and the Twi’lek girl who was never Leda, I’m sure of it, and her (yes, I know now) lover found me. It does look the same, or at least, I think it does. It might. But that no longer happened. The room where I stayed with Leda and the Angel can’t be far, but I have no reason to go there. And: I don’t know how far away I am from that hallway with the doors waiting, and waiting. I don’t want to know.

    Maybe I’m confused. I don’t want to think that, but I’m dazed, and I feel light and floating, as though I’m not made from bones and meat and icky stuff, but something else. The air seems to glow too bright, and:

    “Bria!”

    I turn, and it’s a man with long, inky black, dream black, night black hair. He has a powdered white face, and secret telling eyes. I know him. He wears a ring with a bloody red stone, and he smiles, sadly and lost and unknowably—

    The Angel is coming towards me, slightly panting and in a hurry. I almost start, but mostly, I feel my legs tightened up with excitement. He’s here. His eyes are wide, though I can’t see anything in his gun shot small pupils, and he’s here. “Bria!” he says. “There you are. I didn’t know if I could find you.”

    “Yes, I’m here,” I say.

    “Good,” he says. He’s watching me, perhaps too closely, and he takes my hands, but lightly, so I wouldn’t have to try to get away. His hands are too soft, as though (it whispers in my head) he’s never had to really work. His hands are bigger than mine, though that shouldn’t surprise me. But it should that it feels normal for him to touch me, and ordinary. His fingernails are a bit dirty, though. He smells slightly sweaty and flushed, but then, I probably do too.

    He’s here, too tall in his tight black pants, and he’s wearing a new white shirt with sloppy rolled up sleeves. He does tend to be vain, but I understand that. Somehow, I do. His hair is still rumpled, and his shirt is undone about three buttons, and I can see his pin glinting chest hair. And: I can see and feel that he’s wearing a slightly too big ring with a red eyed stone. A bloody eyed stone.

    (Or had he always worn it?)

    “I didn’t know you were looking for me,” I say. “I thought you were-- Oh, you know. Attending to your business with Leda.”

    “I was,” he says. “Leda told me she could handle it. Apparently, I just get in the way. They listen to her because she used to be a nun, you know. I think they’re just in awe at the thought of a Twi’lek nun. Really, some people need to get around more. But she’s good at working that. Anyway, nothing to do now but wait.”

    You have no reason to trust these people.

    “It’s not that I want to interfere in this business,” I say. “I don’t. But I need to ask. If this is anything that could possibly affect me…”

    “No!,” he says. And he looks at me earnestly, hiding nothing, without (I remember a word from school) guile. “Don’t worry, Bria. We’re just making arrangements to handle some shipping for a local merchant. It’s not even illegal. And there are no Hutts involved, so it couldn’t be better. You see, we have this one day to catch him before he leaves planet. He just had to be here to bet on Sebulba. Ha, ha.”

    “You didn’t do any gambling?” I say.

    “All right, yes,” he says. “I did. But I’m just weak like that. I bet on Quadanaros starting the race. Which, you must have noticed, he did, because this time, his pod worked. So I actually made a bit of credits. Isn’t that nice?”

    “Yeah,” I say. “Apparently, every bantha really does have his day.”

    “Damn straight,” he says. “Well, let’s get something to drink. I know just the place. You’ll like it.” He smiles, in that bedroom way, that sultry way, and lets go of my hands. The light makes his hair glow almost reddish and frenzied, and I can’t look away from him. No: I don’t try to look away. My mouth jerks up, and I know (You can’t trust him). It’s too late. I don’t care.
     
  23. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Wow! This is so...intense.

    Leda sighs, and passes the telescope to me, and I peer down, suddenly seeing the racers and the growling pod engines, and the air glittering with dust and sand, as the announcer says, ?The flags are just moving onto the track.?

    I love the part about the air 'glittering'. Your descriptions are incredible. I feel like I can see everything.

    And speaking of seeing things, I like the looks of the Angel. [face_batting] Although I'm not sure whatever him and Leda are up to is entirely good...

    I'm definitely looking forward to more.
     
  24. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    amidalachick:

    I love the part about the air 'glittering'. Your descriptions are incredible. I feel like I can see everything.

    Thanks! I do try (she says modestly).

    And speaking of seeing things, I like the looks of the Angel.

    So do I. I have to admit that even if he were up to no good (and this is Tatooine, where that's the rule) I wouldn't much care. I can say that he is telling Aerena the truth about their shipping job. Only it might not be easy as he thinks.


    --

    The Angel sits across from me at the tiny, wobbling legged table. This cantina is out of the way down a swept clean alley and small, with a curtain of rattling dancing beads across the doorway, but there are still too many beings and their talking. But I expected that. The Angel is having a beer, and not his first one. I watch him. I have the drink he bought me, a cold, sleek green drink that tastes sweeter than it looks. The Angel sighs, and sets down his nearly empty beer bottle. Luckily, I can’t feel his warmed up breath. Or: maybe I wouldn’t care. Maybe.

    I sip at my drink.

    Carefully, as though I’m a little girl. My hands do suddenly feel too small, and the cup bumps awkwardly. I don’t know what I should say or talk about. The Angel doesn’t notice, or at least, I don’t think he does. His sleeves are rolled up tighter, and I can almost see the pale blue veins in his arms. His shirt is still unbuttoned down. His skin is so pale and just flushed, and though I know he’s made from the same skin as anyone, still-- I wonder, and not for the first time, how old he is.

    “So,” I say. (He looks at me, and smiles in that bedroom way, flushed, but not really drunk. I can tell.) “When did you find the time to make that bet? I know I didn’t see anything. And you didn’t seem to know who Quadanaros was when those guys in front of us were talking about him.”

    “What can I say,” he says. “I learn fast. They wanted to play with me, and I didn’t try to resist. And you were there. I think Leda had just given you her telescope glass, and you were watching the track. Leda didn’t know until I told her I’d won, and she still didn’t approve. Well, I took my chances. This time it worked.”

    Then

    “Not that I’m complaining,” I say.

    I’ve stayed in this world after all. Or maybe. Maybe, or definitely.

    “I never thought you were, sweetie,” he says. His knee bumps against me, under the table, and I blush. I don’t know how to touch him, or even if it’s possible. I do know I’m not fourteen years old, a gawky girl who he could still call a child, a kid, a little brat, not anymore. But I don’t really know what I am now, or what I am here. My drink is half gone, and I can still taste the sand gritty sugar the bartender used.

    “Let me know if you want anything else,” he says. “I’m not going to worry about credits today for a moment.”

    “All right,” I say.

    This cantina doesn’t have (thankfully) a jizz band, but, over the huddled together group of moisture farmers at the next table, I can hear the soft, breathed notes of a flute, as someone starts playing off in one of the corners. No one else seems to be quiet enough to notice. The Angel blinks, though, too suddenly, before he finishes off his beer. He seems nervous, but then he shrugs, and sets his empty bottle down too hard.

    “It’s nothing,” he says, and I start. He’s watching me, too earnest, and I wonder what he saw on my face that brought this one. “Only-- That music reminded me of something, and-- Well, I would rather not think of it. You know? But I hope you don’t. A nice girl like you shouldn’t know what someone like me has been.”

    Perhaps because he is starting to turn drunk, he speaks in a slow, careful, cultured voice I haven’t heard him use before. I nod.

    Because he doesn’t have to know that I almost saw him die, behind me, full of blaster shot holes in a world that stopped existing. He shouldn’t have to know.

    “I wish I could tell you that was true,” I say. “That I don’t know. But this is Hutt space. You already know that. No one here stays innocent and sweet, not for very long. How long have you been on Tatooine? Anyone can see you weren’t born here.”

    The Angel might be surprised, but he hides it. “You can tell?”

    “Yes, it’s that obvious,” I say.

    “I thought so,” he said. “Hard to believe, but I’ve been here for over a year now. I think I was drunk or black eyed all the time at first, when I couldn’t get enough credits for offworld passage. That was when Leda found me and kicked my arse, which I’m sure I quite deserved. But you don’t wish to hear about all my mistakes.”

    “Where are you from?” I say. The Angel stays quiet, looking past me at something I can’t see or know, his eyes glass pale and blank, so: “If you want to tell me.”

    “Naboo,” he says. “That’s where I grew up, anyway.”

    “Oh,” I say.

    “It’s no secret,” he says. “I would have told you before, Bria, but there wasn’t any reason to talk about it. Let’s just say I haven’t much fondness for dear, old, mother Naboo. I was raised by my grandparents, and they were loyal old monarchists who would have died happy if they could lick the Queen's shoes. Somehow, I didn’t take to the lessons of duty and selflessness to Queen and planet. I’m just a bad boy. I did them a favor when I ran off years ago. They probably held a party to celebrate.”

    He laughs, a sudden, too bitter hahaha.

    “I don’t know much about Naboo,” I say. “But I’ve heard it’s very pretty. Like the whole planet is one big, green garden.”

    “Yeah, it’s a pretty rock,” the Angel says. “I can admit that now. But I never really had to realize it until I was stuck here. Don’t get me wrong, Bria. I never want to go back there, but sometimes I can be all nostalgic. I’m just not drunk enough right now.”

    “Didn’t the Naboo queen have to land here last year when her ship had hyperdrive problems?” I say. (And I hear my voice hesitate, because I don’t know, really or at all, if that still happened.) “At least, that’s what I heard.”

    “Oh, Amidala,” the Angel says. “I know who she is. I’m sure my grandparents just looove her. I can’t imagine her putting one single perfect, idealistic, political toe on this world, though. But maybe it’s true.”

    “I don’t know,” I say, lamely.

    “I don’t how to describe Naboo to you, Bria,” he says. “But it couldn’t be more different from this dried up rock. It’s a tamed, soft, easy planet, where people can believe there isn’t any poverty or crime. Unless, of course, the Queen wants a holo opportunity with some lil beggar children, and then they find them.”

    Then the cantina waitress, a tired out Twi’lek woman with a stiff, dragging leg, comes up to us with the food we ordered, the plates balanced on her arms. They don’t have much to eat here, but I do hope it isn’t too bad. The Angel ordered a nerf steak like a man. I had ordered the fish stew, and hoped I would want to eat it when it arrived. Mum has always grumbled that I’m too picky. The Angel is quiet, looking up at her as she sets our plates down with a click. “Eats,” she says in a faded away voice.

    “Thank you,” the Angel says, but she doesn’t notice.

    He waits until she is gone, back behind the bar, before he says, “Leda should be finishing up about now. Oh, I do hope she’s here soon, or I might get worried. I’ll buy her a drink too. That should make her happy.”

    I shrug, and pick at the fish stew, which has turned too salty. The fish meat is dried stiff and chewy from being imported from off-world. The sign claimed it’s from Mon Calamari. Ha. I don’t need to ask him. Of course, he would have told Leda where he was planning to go, before he knew that he would find me outside in the crowds, and she would know this cantina, and where it was. Of course.

    I should know by now if they’re lovers.

    Yet, I don’t. They slept on the same big, creaking bed in the basement room, but then, I slept on it with them. No one wants (wanted) to sleep on the floor. I could hear an occasional wheezing snore from the father in the next room. When I came back from the fresher at some point in the dizzy night, still feeling my burnt sore skin, I saw that Leda was lying, curled up on her side, fast asleep and facing away from the Angel. His eyelids twitched a little, and he almost woke up as I laid back down next to him. But he didn’t.

    His mouth—

    His lips are sweet, even if they are slightly chapped from his chewing his bottom lip. I don’t think he realizes or feels it when he does that. I know I can’t kiss him, and perhaps I’m (still secretly) relieved. I know I’m not good at that sort of thing. I shake it off, and go back to eating my stew. The Angel picks at his nerf steak, and orders another beer. The Twi’lek server sniffs at him when she sets it down too hard at the table.

    “Lots of drinking today,” she says. I look up. “You probably heard that Sebulba went and lost again. Huh. Guess a nice, fancy pod ain’t enough.”

    “Apparently not,” the Angel says, and she pauses to smile at him. She still looks glum, but I can hear the Aunties’ voices chiming in my head: Oh, he’s charming.

    Yes. Oh, he’s such a rogue.

    The Angel pushes his plate aside. He’s hasn’t eaten really any of the steak, just clawed and picked at it with his fork. I had noticed, when we ate dinner with the grannies last night, that he really was a picky eater. He seemed to think that the food, the sticky tubers in a cheap violet sauce, and dried meat strips, was too heavy to eat, but Leda had smiled, perhaps indulgently. Oh, you, she said.

    “No, I’m not hungry,” he says, before I can even decide to ask. He bites down too hard on his lower lip, so I can almost feel it myself. His teeth pressed down, maybe on my lip-- No. “I’m just-- Where is Leda, anyway?”

    “I’m sure she’s fine,” I say, or rather, hear my voice telling him. “Besides, you told me this was a legal venture. Why would they want to kill her?”

    “Yeah, you’re right,” he says. “I’m the one who’s going to wind up filled with blaster bolts in an alley somewhere. But not today. Right, Bria? Not today.”

    I nod.

    The flute player has started on another long, sighing song, but I don’t think anyone is listening. Like the Twi’lek said, they want to get drunk. And they are drunk, but quiet, and sullen faced, and whispering grim and glum to each other. But I don’t care. When I turn back to the table, I see the Angel is looking at me. There doesn’t have to be a reason. His mouth twitches, and once again, he looks almost sad, or shy. He shoves his hand through his hair, which stands lightening frenzied and gel stiff on end. And: His shirt, the dream pale white shirt (that he wasn’t wearing at the race) is nearly half way unbuttoned.

    “Um, Angel…” I say.

    “What is it, Bria?” he says.

    “Just a minute,” I say, and then lean over the table, and before he can have time to react, I fasten up one of his shirt buttons. My hand shakes or jerks just a little, and it’s harder than I would think to do up a button when someone else is wearing it, and I do feel his skin, and his breathing in and out. He could react now, but no, he’s smiling. Amused, as I click the next button up into place. I don’t know if anyone is watching us, and really, I don’t care. The flute music pulses. I’m finished. He takes my hand, and squeezes it. I can feel the ring, with the blood dark stone.

    “Oh, Bria,” he says. “You must think I’m quite silly.”

    That isn’t quite what I think.

    “Really,” I say. “I think you do know better, and so I can’t figure out why you’re walking around under the suns with your shirt half undone. Don’t want to ruin your skin.”

    “No, I wouldn’t want that,” he says.

    He’s amused. He lets go of my hand, but I can still feel it. The whispering flute music is closer and everywhere. The player must have set up in one of the corners just hidden behind our table. The Angel’s chair legs squeal back too sharp, and he stands up. He runs, or shoves, his fingers through his hair again. “Let’s go out for some air,” he says. “I don’t know why Leda’s taking so long, but I’m not just going to sit here.”

    *

    Outside, it’s already starting to turn gasping cold. There will be frost on the sands tonight, I can tell. The Angel shrugs. We stand in an open space behind the cantina, where there are some tough, dark green plants with water swollen leaves growing. A wind shoves and snaps at us, and so we go back under the overhang. There are other people out here, walking past, or stopping. I hear a woman’s voice giggle. The Angel is quiet. That should be odd, but I think I know why. He leans towards me, and I don’t know what is going to happen, but I’m willing, yes, willing and eager and maybe excited to find out.

    His face is blurred too close.

    “I know I shouldn’t do this,” he says, or rather, almost whispers, where he is hoping that I won’t know what he means. He touches my face, as though he’s wondering what exactly I am made from. It should feel wrong. But I don’t care, not anymore. I know what he wants to do now. I hope he will.

    “Why not?”

    “I’m not what you think I am, Bria,” he says. (But: What do I think he is? He appears to be a pretty boy, around twenty years old, who is a rogue and a scoundrel and etc., but I’m not sure I believe even that. But then, I can’t really believe anything here.)

    “It doesn’t matter,” I say.

    “I wish I could believe that,” he says.

    He pauses, and I can still almost feel his fingerprints on my face. So I have to move towards him, and, with a big, sucked in breath, kiss him. Since I don’t think to know any better, I kiss him prim with my mouth shut. But my eyes are wide, newborn open. He reacts, and kisses me back so hard and suddenly I don’t think. I don’t know if anyone giggles at something nearby, or sees us. He holds me against him while we kiss, and it’s as though I’ve never felt another person before, not really. He holds onto my hips, and--

    But it can’t last, not here, where we can’t be alone, and then we are apart. I look out at the nearby buildings. Someone has hung up a row of washing on a rope line, and I see the shadow of a desert cat ran quick and silent away.

    His mouth is flushed. “We’d better go inside,” he says. “It’s getting cold.”

    “Yeah,” I say.

    We still have our table when we get inside. I sit down, and poke my spoon into the now almost cold soup. The barkeep has turned on the heating pipes, and I only now realize just how cold it had been outside. The Angel slumps in his chair, his legs open. That’s when Leda comes up to our table. She has picked up her black desert skirts, and her sandals are sticky with mud. The beads rattle and sway back together at the door.
     
  25. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    Sorry I missed your updates. Eek.

    First update I missed...

    Beautiful work as always.
    I loved the scene when she met up with her stepfather. It was so very surreal, especially the fellow he was with who kept pulling him away with the "debts to pay". I think there's something really sinister going on there. I love it. :D

    You've done a nice job clarifying what it meant to go through those doors into the other reality. It's a complex idea and you're handling it quite nicely. I always grin like an idiot when I read your stuff, because at every little turn and twist I'm floored by the imagery you use.

    I don't trust them either.
    I really don't trust them.

    uh-oh.
    ?Damn straight,? he says. ?Well, let?s get something to drink. I know just the place. You?ll like it.? He smiles, in that bedroom way, that sultry way, and lets go of my hands. The light makes his hair glow almost reddish and frenzied, and I can?t look away from him. No: I don?t try to look away. My mouth jerks up, and I know (You can?t trust him). It?s too late. I don?t care.


    Other update I missed...

    You keep hitting them out of the ballpark!

    ?I never thought you were, sweetie,? he says. His knee bumps against me, under the table, and I blush. I don?t know how to touch him, or even if it?s possible. I do know I?m not fourteen years old, a gawky girl who he could still call a child, a kid, a little brat, not anymore. But I don?t really know what I am now, or what I am here. My drink is half gone, and I can still taste the sand gritty sugar the bartender used.

    This is going somewhere and while I'm inclined to scream EEK!!! Don't do it!! I'm also rather voyeuristic and want to see what happens.

    The transition from the talk of Naboo to the serving woman with the stiff leg was magnificent! I love those kind of transitions.

    Naboo isn't what it seems--pretty on the outside and less so on the inside. The fact that there's no poverty or crime, but the queen can/will dig up beggar children for a photo op. Hmm...


    The kiss. I was biting my lip while I read it.

    He pauses, and I can still almost feel his fingerprints on my face. So I have to move towards him, and, with a big, sucked in breath, kiss him. Since I don?t think to know any better, I kiss him prim with my mouth shut. But my eyes are wide, newborn open. He reacts, and kisses me back so hard and suddenly I don?t think. I don?t know if anyone giggles at something nearby, or sees us. He holds me against him while we kiss, and it?s as though I?ve never felt another person before, not really. He holds onto my hips, and--

    The build up and kiss put me on the edge of my seat. This was fabulously well done. Bria's inter-monologue is compelling, but the Angel's actions (as seen through Bria's eyes) are equally captivating. I have to agree with Amidalachick--this is so damn intense.

    I liked the change in temperature. Neat device, because I think the chapter's 'temperature' also changed right around then.

    Awesome.

    =D=



     
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