I come back from holidays bearing … HSLO angst! Yes, I can see your faces. Look, just act happy or something, mmkay?
He still waits for her, even though she is gone. It's not waiting per se; rather, it's a steady denial of what is already real, what he saw with his own two eyes (those same two eyes that are now blurred with drink more often than not, and reddened at the irises by his clandestine tears) and what he knows, in his blackened heart, is (not) so. It's not waiting, it's expecting, it's setting two places for dinner when there is only one; it's refusing to disturb the indent of her head on the pillow and sleeping on only one side of their (his) bed; it's refusing to leave the house in case he misses the click of the latch. But then he rubs his dead, blank eyes and his trembling hand opens the fridge and he sees the neatly labelled meals she leaves -- left -- for him, handcooked only a lifetime ago, and he tries to eat the curry (your favourite, just the way you like it), but the vegetables stick in his throat like murderers and the sauce burns his parched throat like the burn of a blaster and the tears corrode his eyes like acid.
(She isn't there to scold him for not eating. She never will be.)
But yes, he still sees her everywhere in his hollow shell of a life.
Her coffee cup, that ridiculous spotted affair that he'd bought as a joke and which she'd loved ever after, still lies half-full on the counter, waiting for her to take the final sip. And if he were to go into the bedroom, he knows that he would be able to pick up the wooden hairbrush, filled to the teeth with matted brown hair --
(Matted with blood, oh, the blood --)
-- and close her red lipstick --
(Red trickling down her lips and onto her chin and those blankblankblank eyes staring at the sky, that stare --)
-- and pack up the eyeshadows and hairpins and the thousand and one things that she swore she had use for but which he called 'ridiculous'. (Because it was ridiculous, her going out after dark like that and it was ridiculous that she was unarmed and alone and it was ridiculous that they were waiting down that lane, waiting.) But he is waiting for her -- expecting her -- and so nothing will be changed.
(But she had changed oh so much and then there was the autopsy and then he had --)
The autopsy. The autopsy. The autopsy.
An impersonal waiting room. (Visitor number 56232.) The screechclatterclank of the gurney. (Please step forward.) Tools in dirty jars. (Examination room 5.) A discarded shoe, a forgotten handkerchief. (Just this way.) That purse.
A stained white sheet covers what used to be her face. (You are General Solo?) Limp white hands clutch fruitlessly at the heavy air. (Yes.) Hastily manicured nails with bitten tips and flaking pink polish. (I'm so sorry to have to ask you to do this.) The cuticles smeared with blood. (Yes.) Mile-wide eyes, a scream dead on her lips. (Is this your wife?) Those bloodied, parted lips. (Yes.) That scream. (I am so sorry.) Those eyes --
And he's runningscreamingcrying down the deserted halls and into the night because that spectre with the hole in her head and a scream on her lips and her eyes widened in eternal fear is not, never his wife, his Leia and it shouldn't have to end that way, damn it, it shouldn't -- it wouldn't -- it couldn't --
(And of your wife's condition?)
He hadn't even known until --
(You do realise she was pregnant?)
And it was --
And oh, no father should ever, ever have to know that --
(Three months at the very least.)
But he knows, and --
There was --
(No way the child could have survived --)
And he's --
Even though --
And she's --
And she had been so radiant and smiling and Han, I have something wonderful to tell you and he -- damned stupid idiotic fool -- had told her to wait and not to spoil the surprise. And she, loyal to the bitter end, had not, no matter how impatient she herself may have been.
(I'll tell you when I get home -- oh, you won't ever believe it!)
He never did believe it. He cannot believe in something that never was, nor something that never will be.
The preordered crib and clothes and curtains arrive the next week. He never opens them.
And now it's the damnedtoallhell funeral and he's standing in the front row with Luke's robed arm on his shoulder and a hole in his heart where his life used to be, gazing at the rain-spattered coffin that shields the woman that was never his wife. This is a cheap imitation, a mirror image. Not her, his Leia.
They've covered the bloodied hair with a lustreless wig that in no way resembles the thick chestnut locks that he used to bury his face in every night and they've snapped shut those fearful eyes that should have been closed in eternal rapture and a heavy hand has forcibly silenced that final scream of pain. And she's too immaculately coiffed to be the woman that shared his bed for five years and they've pinched shut those torn, screaming lips, even though she always slept with them slightly parted, revealing pearly white teeth that are no longer there.
The comments assault him like whistling bullets while he takes refuge in the pouring rain. (Assault. Rape. Murder.) Overbright eyes desperate for scandal. (So shocking, the Vice Chancellor herself.) Impersonal hands on his shaking shoulders. (Can't imagine how you feel.) Dry eyes. (I'm so sorry.) And the pain, (The child didn't survive, did it?) that feeling of loss and anger and hate agonisingly eating away at his bloodied soul like acid on metal. (I understand.)
And then they disperse like clouds after a storm until it is only he and his brother standing in solitude at the open grave, a gaping mouth hungrily devouring what is left of the woman he loves. (Nothing. They stole that from him too.)
And then the idea, the wish, the hope assaults him so suddenly that his withering soul almost blinds from the light and he remembers what it is like to hope, and says --
"You're a Jedi, right, kid?" The words tumble out of his mouth so quicklysmoothlyquietly, slipping around on his tongue until he can barely get a hold on them. "So go on, summon her here or something."
"You can see ghosts, can't you? Can't you show me hers?"
"Show her to me? Tell her something? Anything?"
He's forgotten what it's like to beg and to be refused.
"The Force isn't like that, Han."
And then he's dimly aware of his fist connecting with his former friend's face and a satisfying crunch of knuckles on bone.
They never speak again.
He swears that he sees them sometimes, if the light is just so and if he's drunk a little overmuch. And he refuses to believe that those things are ghosts, because that would allow him to hope, to dream, to believe --
(Who are you?
Someone who loves you.)
-- and those things would inevitably hurt all the more when they are disproved, as all his hopes and dreams inevitably will be. (Because she is dead, Solo, and all your drinking and crying and self pitying can't bring her back.) And so, he ignores the mysterious visitors who haunt this waking nightmare with their gentle presences (and who he doesn't recognise, because he looks nowhere near hard enough).
Sometimes, it's a young man in heavy robes with thick curling hair and a scar running down his face, punching the leaden air with a gloved fist in his anger and sending the (her) paintings sliding down the dusty walls while his blue form illuminates the otherwise dingy apartment. And he thinks that those eyes, those fierce, passionate, cobalt eyes, are almost, oh-so-very almost, like --
Other times, it's a weeping woman with dark curls cascading down her slim back and an expression so sad that he almost thinks that her loss might have matched his own, even though nothing ever, ever can. And she only ever looks at him with that pitying, understanding gaze --
-- while caressing the necks of the empty bottles littering his desk as one might pay the last rites to a fallen comrade: silently, almost gently as one hand clasps her stomach in an almost maternal gesture.
(And he never got to -- and she had died without --)
And the last visitor, a tall man with eyes too wise for his face and the same heavy robes as his ghostly comrade, is neither angered nor saddened by the fall of a great man (who once harboured delusions of grandeur, and never lived to realise them). He merely observes history play out with the impartial gaze of a judge and a jury, and strokes a beard that may have been reddish-brown once upon a time with an ethereal, callused hand.
(He himself has a beard now because it's far too much effort to shave for the mere memory of a voice chiding him that stubble is nothing more than laziness on Man's part. And the hair that now hides his once-smiling mouth is salted and peppered with age and stress and loss, and it hides features that are never seen any more, anyway.)
But he never sees the ghost that he wants to see, with the chestnut hair and the laughing eyes and the lips that seemed born to carry a witty remark. And so, the last hope supporting his shattered heart slowly crumbles until his soul is shrouded in his own self-imposed darkness and his wedding albums lie broken on the sideboard.
(He is officially thirty-eight, but his eyes are far older. They always have been.)
He leaves the house for the first time in six months that day. He doesn't know what possesses him to do so, but he feels that he has to get out.
(I wonder if he cares about anything. Or anybody.)
And he doesn't know why, but all of a sudden his feet are slowing and his body is burning and his mind is screaming that something is very, very wrong. And then he sees the flowers and the cards and the blood and he remembers, he remembers it all --
(Is that General Solo?)
And he --
By then she had --
(This is the police.)
And it had been --
And then it had --
(I'm afraid I have some bad news.)
And the memories flood back to haunt him as they can only one who has suffered so.
The endless television coverage of the scene. (The scene of the murder of Leia Organa.) He had watched, addicted, like a dying man. (Flowers and tributes left by grieving citizens clog the streets.) The blood, seeping onto the pavement. (Authorities are having difficulty removing the stains from the ground.) The cards, the stuffed wookies. (Some consider that a fortunate omen.) The public grief, the shame, the tears.
(Vice Chancellor Organa's husband, General Han Solo, was unavailable for comment.)
And he knows that he has to leave this place, the place where it (her life, his life, their life) all ended. Where he can still hear her screams, except that the screams are slowly turning into joyous laughter, the blaster shots and shouts into clapping and cheers and his nightmare into what he could only have ever dreamed of being real. And then he sees her, standing against a flower-strewn gate, watching him with all the elegance that only the dead can hope to achieve. (And he is stone-dead-sober this time, so he knows that she is real.) And they, those blue-glowing spectres of his apartment are with her, revelling in the moment almost as much as she is.
(For there is joy, although he doesn't know why.)
You accepted. She whispers quietly. And the curly-haired man has an arm on her shoulder, the sad woman's face is beaming in an expression of joy and the bearded observer is smiling, again merely watching the scene. And then she holds out a shining hand for him, beckoning him towards her with the smile that he could never forget.
And he grins, accepts the proffered hand, and rises.
"General Han Solo was found dead this morning at the memorial to his wife, Vice Chancellor Leia Organa, who, as you may recall, was brutally murdered six months ago …"