Acquainted with the Night

Painful memories - bitter memories - never spring to my mind during the day.  Perhaps sunlight keeps the demons of my past at bay, and those soothing rays help me to focus on the mundane, the ordinary.  Noontime finds me at peace; serene, relaxed, and content.  No longer am I the caustic, cutting woman that many knew for years.  My marriage, this Yuuzhan Vong conflict, and above all my current pregnancy have taught me that there is a time to insult and a time to hold my tongue.  I've found that the more I contain myself and avoid damaging remarks, the better I feel.  And the happier Luke becomes.

But the night is another matter.  I've never been a sound sleeper, and the kicking child inside me has wrecked havoc with my slumber.  While my farmboy dozes beside me, free of the anxieties and worries that plague him from sunrise to sunset, I think.  And remember.  In the silence of those dark hours, my sorrows return, magnified to superhuman proportions.  During my years as the Emperor's Hand - even a portion of my time working with Karrde - I was not pure and upright like my husband.

I have been acquainted with the night.

I'm not proud of my past.  There are stains in my soul, dark marks of the evil I have known.  During my time at the Emperor's command, I did things which…which I can never begin to explain to Luke.  He infers, guesses, at part of my history.  I know he's learned about some of it, memories that I wish I could erase and do entirely away with.  But deep within my inner shield, there are secrets - hidden lies and truths - that no one can ever uncover.  They are mine; mine to cry over and regret for the rest of my life.

Seven years ago, Luke would have torn down my mental barriers in an attempt to discover my private pain.  No longer.  My Luke would never dare to destroy the walls of my personal region, the area that conceals the thoughts I simply can't forget.  He respects my privacy, and waits for me to reveal those mysteries myself.

But for some reason, I can't.  There's something inside me that prevents any efforts at communication, at relieving my anguish.  If he knew…

If he knew.

When it happened, I didn't know better.  I was young, naïve, easily influenced.  My position as his Hand had led me to believe that I was important, yet others didn't feel the same way.  Arrogance - foolish, reckless conceit - had blinded my eyes, and I committed acts with no regard to the possible consequences.

I don't remember the details surrounding it, or even the man's name.  Sometimes, I think I intentionally forgot those facts, as a way to clear this memory from my mind.  But I do know that it was my fault.

What an idiotic girl I was.  So convinced of my own superiority…

Of course I fumbled.  An unwanted pregnancy was no laughing matter, but I regarded it as that.  I joked of my stupidity, and talked as though I had merely contracted Bothan Redrash or a common stomach bug.  For that's all it was to me at that point: an unfortunate internal infection.

The Emperor did not find it amusing.  While never specifically ordering me to do anything, he had "suggested" in his sibilant voice that I deal with my problem.

So I did.  I went to the medical wing, and prepared to abort it.  The doctor was talkative, efficient; I hate him now.  There was nothing evil in his smooth, sallow face and twinkling brown eyes, nothing to make me detest him with all my soul.  Yet for the past 27 years, I've had to live with the result of what I allowed him to do.

After the procedure that day, I stumbled into the first dark crummy bar I saw and tried to forget it.  But no matter how many Corellian ales I downed, I couldn't remove what I'd just done from my mind.  I had killed my child.  Not a blob of tissue, or a thing, or a creature, but an unborn baby.  My baby.

What if…what if I had somehow, in some way, let my child live?  Would I have a daughter, or a son?  I could have ignored the Emperor's command, let my belly swell as the small being within me grew and developed; I could have left the Empire for Wild Space, or the Unknown Regions, and raised a little girl - a small boy - away from the only people I'd ever known.

Folly.  Inconceivable folly, to even imagine that I could have altered the rules and let my child survive.  The New Order was no place for an infant, and I would never been able to get away with it.  Darth Vader - or perhaps even my Master himself - would have hunted me down and disposed of the dilemma I posed.

But those possibilities haunted me through the years, continuously reminding me of what could have been.  Unconsciously, I built up a dream world where my baby was alive and well, though its gender varied from one fantasy to another.  In some I envisioned a tiny, solemn-faced girl with brilliant red-gold hair; a sturdy boy, green-eyed and ruddy-faced, dominated others.  I chose names for my dead baby, celebrated its death by drowning my sorrows in alcohol or sarcasm, and never shared my loss.  It is my fault, my sin that must be born along for the rest of my existence.

Even Luke can't know; what would he say?  What words could he offer as solace to a woman who's been mourning a child for more than twenty years?

I've always been a loner.  Marriage may have changed my life, but there are still some things I must keep to myself.

Today is the anniversary.  Funny how I've never lost track of the date, and the exact events that occurred that day.  They run verbatim through my brain, every word, every sight preserved like nothing else I have ever experienced.

How I hate that day.

But now I have hope and a chance to start again, to prove that I am capable of being a mother.  This little boy I carry may not take the place of my lost firstborn, but he can ease some of the pain.  This new baby, the product of our love, is unique.  A wonder, especially for one in my condition.  I had once given up our dream of children as impossible because of my illness, but once again the Force has proven me wrong.  I'm always amazed at the different turns my destiny has taken through the years, taking me along paths I would have never willingly traveled.

The tears still come: silent, overwhelming, burning.  Unexpected, yet part of the nature that I keep secreted inside the very core of my being.  I only cry at night, when despair becomes too much to bear.  I must be weak.  The event is so far behind me, so far in the past, that I should be healed.  Why does a simple remembrance of that fateful day still move me?

The memory will eventually fade.  When my son is born, I'll be so absorbed in his future and my maternal duties that I won't have time to even suffer over my lost baby.

I can't fool myself.  I will never forget my child – and sometimes, I think I don't even want to let those recollections vanish.

She - for now I am convinced that I carried a girl, my first daughter - would be in her late twenties now, older than the Solo twins.  I can picture her exactly: tall, slender, with even, intelligent features and her mother's bright hair.  Her eye color is shaky, changing from green to grey to brown with fancy's whim, but she would be strong in the Force, a Jedi, a leader of the younger generation.  Her stepfather would be proud of her progress, and speak of her as a model young woman.  Her mother…

The tears come faster, and fall thicker.  I stifle a sob, trying not to wake Luke.  She - this phantom woman, this specter from my imagination - must not hate me.  I was too young, too influenced by those around me to make a wise decision.  I know this thought is just a way of passing blame, but it appeases my remorse and eases my mind.  When I pass on and become one with the Force, I will finally meet this nameless child.  Will she greet me with open arms, accepting the mistake I made in my youth?  Or will I be rejected by a daughter I had deemed an 'inconvenience?'

I feel Luke's soft breath against my cheek, and turn to see his eyes glinting like pale jewels in the moonlight.  They are so comforting, and such a beautiful, clear tint of blue.  Cerulean is the word that springs to mind; so light they're almost startling, and his gaze is so tender, so loving that I can't help but feel reassured in the knowledge that there is someone who cherishes me in spite of my defects and imperfections.  He wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me to himself, cradling my trembling form gently.  I throw concealment to the wind and sob openly, drops running down my cheeks and trickling onto his skin.  He speaks softly, consoling words that seem nonsense to my mutinous ears.

And in the stillness of the night, I tell him everything.