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.