by Meredith Bronwen Mallory

|Harvest Day 4|

Tomorrow I am going to steal something. A fork. Not sheers, I'm not as ambitious as all that. Certainly, I will need to be careful. It's a risk, but a calculated one, and who can live like this without taking risks? I want to last, or I say I do, but there's no use in lasting as a coward.
Better to go down fighting.
You said that once. Did you mean it?

You're closer to me now, I think. It's as if we are two planets, whose orbits are elliptical, crossing closely, then briefly, then not at all. I catch glimpses of you, occasionally, but it's always through someone else's eyes. I can't trust that.

They talked about you tonight, on the holo-cast. I almost missed it, I'd let my mind wander from the endless string of supposed victories, then the society segment. Countess So-and-So wed the Lord of Such-and-Such House. No one I knew, at least not enough to make them real. They said your name-- not your real one, but the one you use now-- and I raised my head quickly. I forced my gaze into a tunnel vision, seeing only the brown of the table in front of me, because I could feel the eyes all over my body, waiting for a reaction. They wanted to know, those women, just exactly how I feel about you. How can I explain it to them when I don't even know myself? I listened as best I could, but there was a roaring in my ears I couldn't get past. The reporters were only setting the scene, though. They'd mentioned your name to get our attention.
It worked.

I looked up, saw that there was only one Stormtrooper. The other had probably ducked out for a glass of water- they do that sometimes- and the remaining one had his back to me. I stood as quietly as I could, turned around. My table was closest to the partition, I'd had my back to it. A few steps, then I pressed my ear against the grainy surface of the barrier, listening. It was if the wall was whispering to me, telling me alone, but I know that's not so. We all heard it, every one of us. Public testimony. The voice from the holo-cast had a little tone now, it was getting to the meat of the ordeal. The center, around which everything had hardened. It was a man's voice, saying something about an uprising on Erntria.
Very matter of fact, "One hundred men and women killed by order of Lord Vader."

I felt hands under my arms, hushed voices, a collective murmur of pity or disbelief. There was a woman on either side of me, lifting me back to my seat. I had blacked out, I suppose, crumbled to the floor. Possibly, I'd died.
"Hey," I was sitting then, some one was shaking me, "Come on, honey. Stay here, get a hold of yourself. It's not going to do you any good." I nodded, groping blindly for the hand I knew was being held out to me, gripped onto it as forcefully as I dared. I tilted my face, staring up at the ceiling. If I had been outside, if it had been raining, I might have drowned. Possibly my desire to steal, my need to rebel in some small way, has been forced to the surface by that incident. Recklessness, self-destruction, all rolled into one. I don't know what they'd do if they caught me; it's just a fork, but I've been punished for less.

If I am writing this to you, if I am pretending that you will someday see this, then I am free to ask you what I please.
I want to ask you now; Is it worth it?


I not not childless! I have children, two of them, a boy and a girl. Small, perfect, with wide, questioning eyes and arms that used to cling to me. I was a mother, am a mother. No one can take that from me. They are alive now, they must be, such care was taken to hide them. They are a part of us, a bit of Anakin and some of Padme, two jeweled eggs sitting in the ashes.
Something has to rise out of all this destruction.

Again, I must slow myself, pace myself, stop the words from flowing over. The guards outside must wonder what it is I type with such fervor. No matter now- I pried the drawer open. It took me longer than I thought, to work up the courage to steal the fork. They moved me to early morning shift, for the few days we have of planting for next spring. That made it easier, I could take my forbidden tool straight back to my room, not feel the weight of it as I tried to work in the fields.
I slept on it the first night, hiding it under my mattress. I didn't dare use it right away, in case they noticed it was missing. They might count the utensils; I do not consider them beyond anything. I was careful, as careful as I could be. I waited until the guards switched shifts, right in the middle of sleep cycle. It wakes me, I always hear them anyway, the sound of their boots on the stone floor carries. I'd slide out of bed, ever so slowly, slip my hand under the mattress, hunting for the fork. There was a large gap between the heads of the nails and the board, a sloppy job on one side of the drawer, and I would wedge the fork underneath. The first time I broke one of the the prongs, so I took care to use the thick end of the handle. I didn't concentrate on any single nail, but worked a little on each, dividing my attention.

I had to work at this for ten nights on end. The nails had been in there for a while, they'd rusted and did not want to come out. I worked a little each night, as much as I could. It's hard to judge the Stormtroopers, their masks make them soulless. I suppose you know all about that. Without an expression to read, I don't know if they suspect, or if they even think at all. A nail popped out the third night, without warning. The force of it threw my hand away, and in the dim light of my glow lamp, the nail became a shooting star. Rusted as it was, it still glittered slightly, arching through the air, utterly futile. It landed on the floor, the sound of glass wind-chimes, of a breaking chalice. I felt like I could shatter then, a million tiny pieces, waiting in utter silence. No sound from outside. I retrieved the nail, held it up in the light. The end had been blunted, or broken when I removed it. I put that under the mattress too, I might find some use for it. Finally, I pried loose all the nails from one side. They were all damaged, in some way or another. Even the sharpest ones wouldn't do; they were not strong enough, and I want a quick escape. Lingering would do me no good-- someone would find me, before it's finished. It wouldn't do, either, to have scratches on my wrist, to be seen by others.
Evidence of failure.

Opening the drawer was easy enough, after that. I used the rough edges of the nails to scratch finger-holds for myself. It made enough noise though, when I opened it, and I was sure I'd already been caught. The track squeaked in protest, rolled the container out onto my ankle by mistake. I don't know how long I sat there, heavy weight against my leg, feeling as though I'd be severed. It was worth it, though. I pulled the drawer all the way out, set it to the side. The bottom of the box-spring is covered in mesh, and I cut that with the nails too. The space is big enough that I can slip this inside. There's no way they'll find it, even if they move the bed.
I can speak freely now. It's hard to remember what that's like.

So, where do I start, exactly? To tell this sordid thing from the beginning is a luxury I don't have. It's in pieces all around me, anyway, the memories cut like broken glass when I try to pick them up. Not even I can recount my fall from grace, the fall from knowledge to ignorance-- though I may know more now than I did before. I was a Queen once, if you can believe that. I was a Senator, I was a wife, a mother. The whole thing was like a runaway speeder, one betrayal after another, with the navigation panel shot. I didn't know where I was going.

"I die every time you do it." Your mother said that. Do you remember? I understood her, at last, because I'd hear the whispers. A lingering Jedi outpost on Bespin, gone- quick and clean. The details were you, down to the last drop. I wouldn't believe it though. I wasn't alone in my denial, and that made it easier. The council pretended you were dead; Obi-Wan tip-toed around the whole affair, looking blank-eyed at the mention of your name. I began to withdraw, slowly, from political life. Any meeting that couldn't be avoided was orchestrated by Sabe`, acting in my name. The Emperor-- though he wasn't calling himself that yet-- had just cemented his power, but he hadn't played his trump card yet. We all waited in suspended animation, convinced we couldn't move until we knew what he was up to.
By then it was too late.

It wasn't just myself I was thinking of, though- I had my children to look after. Then I had my child to look after. Maybe I don't want to write this down after all. Writing it down makes it true.
I actually didn't get to know Luke very well.

My chambers reeked of it, the crime, when I came home. I'd been out for the afternoon, for what I can no longer remember, but it was something that required my true presence. Something to do with the Rebellion, then; for I was playing cat and mouse with the Imperials. Sabe` had been playing the decoy for months-- she was good at it, too-- I'm not sure if anyone really noticed the difference. Except the Emperor, except you, and that was what counted. I hated being confined, hidden away, like some secret. I felt tucked under the rug. How was I to know that those were happy times? I had my children, my twins. During the long daylight hours, when it was dangerous to move around and possibly be seen, I'd sit in bed with the twins and help them build towers out of small crystalline blocks. Leia was never interested in building, though, she just wanted to look at the prisms. I see them now, held aloft by her small, chubby fingers, making rainbows in the pale sunlight. I couldn't tell the difference, but she regarded each as individual. She'd take them and hide them, sometimes five at a time, under the sheets and away from Luke.
He liked to try and figure out where she'd put them-- finding them was the game, not the actual retrieval.

Sometimes I read to them. Bail brought me-- partly as a gift and partly as a peace offering-- a small book of legends from different worlds. I avoided the ones I knew, the ones from Tatooine, telling myself I wanted to share that first-glimpse wonder with my children. I must have known, subconsciously, what had happened to you. Was happening. I was cutting myself off, even then, from the parts of you that were human. Maybe I somehow hoped it would make it easier to face the truth.

Well, that didn't work.

Obi-Wan was there when I opened the door, which was only something of a surprise, I thought that he had been visiting Sabe`. My handmaid had stayed behind with the twins, but even knowing they were in her care I still felt nervous. I didn't like leaving them.
"Hello," I said distractedly, looking towards the door to my bedroom, which doubled as a nursery. I was straining to hear whether or not the twins had been put down for their nap. Silence from the Jedi at my side, and I finally turned to look at him, my nervousness reaching its peak. It was there, in his eyes, in the way he stood between the door and myself, a blockade. There came a soft, strangled sound, like air escaping a punctured balloon. That was me, my small, irrelevant sound of denial. I pushed past Obi-Wan roughly, threw open the door to my room. Sabe` was draped across the bed, almost artfully-- she must have been drugged. My hands grabbed for the bars of the double crib, pulling my body forward, propelling myself to look inside. Leia gazed up at me, red eyed, exhausted from crying, flailing her arms uselessly. She would forget later, but she knew then what had been taken from her. She was only a little more than a year old. I picked her up, cradling her closely, almost painfully, as I whirled to face Obi-Wan.
Luke was gone.
"Where is he?" I spat. I hated him then, the man who'd been my friend and almost-mentor for more than ten years. I wanted to rip his throat out. There was no way he could know; he was a man, there was no way he could know what he'd done.
"Luke is in good hands, Amidala," my reign name, so patronizing. So distant, too. Was I a poltician to you then, Obiwan? 'Not to be trusted'.
Even with my own son.

"How *could* you!?" I held Leia more tightly, because if I didn't I would claw the Jedi to death. Anger burned in me then, more than I had for you, because you had not solidified. I had no proof of you, yet. Obi-Wan's betrayal cut to the bone, lodged there.
"We need to keep him safe, you know that," he'd begun to pace, looking at me with eyes that implored my forgiveness. He had no right.
"He was safe with me!" I roared. Leia wiggled in my arms, frightened, but too drained to cry out.
"What if something happens to you?" he challenged.
"You think he'll be safe where you put him? They won't know how to look after him!"
"I will watch after him," Obi-Wan retorted. I saw then that it had come out without him willing it to. That statement gave him away.
My voice trembled, swelled, there wasn't room enough in it for all my rage, "You do know where he is! I hate you..." I was shaking then, tears streaming down my face, erasing my mask. The emptiness was overwhelming, I thought I might implode, become a Black Hole and devour with the force of my loss. I felt as though I might simply disappear, "Oh, oh..." I felt so weak, so angry, there were no words for it. My crying prompted Leia to howl, as she surely must have howled when Obi-Wan took Luke from the crib. The Jedi stepped forward a bit, extended his hand as if to comfort. "Don't touch me!" I screamed, "Get out, get out, I never want to see you again!"

I held Leia for a long time after that, afraid to let go, afraid she too would vanish. Sabe` woke a little later, and cried for the first time I'd seen in years. It was her fault, she said, for not suspecting. She'd trusted Obi-Wan too much. I tried to comfort her, but my own grief was so great, it was hard to do anything but turn inwards on myself. I want to see Sabe` again, so I can tell her I know it wasn't her fault.

I had Leia with me for a few more months.
Thank the Force for small mercies.

I still don't know where Luke is.


Winter now, in earnest. Cold washing over the stone floor like a flood, not a comforting cold but a hard one, solid. In the summer, the floor almost feels like water, and if I lay on it long enough I think I can sink into it. Frost is growing, like invading vines, or poisonous flowers, in the corners of my room. It's almost impossible to imagine that it was unbearably hot some time ago. Some time, everything is some vague measure of time. The only estimate I have is the rise and fall of the sun, but my nights run together, multiply until they are too numerous to count. We don't go outside now, anyway, so I have no way of knowing if the sun has come at all. If I were to go beyond these walls, there is every chance I wouldn't be able to see it, anyway, through the clouds. That would never do, I'd think the sun is gone forever.
Is it warm where you are? I know you hate the cold.
Possibly the light is simply hidden.

This planet is a place of extremes- it doesn't pussy-foot around anything. I like the cold, harsh as it is. Sometimes, in the haziness of half sleep, I think I've become a thing of ice, that the frost has closed around me in a type of diamond coffin. On Tatooine, the carnival would come right after the best season, when the traders and moisture farmers were in a good mood, and set up stop in Mos Eisley. One of the attractions they'd show was a large block of ice, kept in a cold room that must have cost a fortune to maintain. It wasn't simply ice, though that is enough of a wonder in the desert. Some artist had carved the ice into the shape of the a woman, all curves and frozen movement. Beauty preserved forever, but utterly barren. That's what they'd call the attraction- 'The Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy'.
You told me about that, and in your eyes I could see the memory. Yourself, just a few years younger than when I first knew you, face pressed up against the glass. You said you saw me in there.
I think I could be her.

In the winter they put us to work indoors, sorting parts for the field droids that need repairing. It's surprising how many of them break; I wonder what type of work they do. Are the thorns on their plants sharper than ours, larger, smarter? That's the job of a thorn, you know, to protect the plant, to outsmart the invader. You should see them-- the droids-- after the harvest is over. Limbs (not arms, because they have more than two) broken off in places, wires sticking out, motors clogged, begging attention. Theirs must be a hard job, and I feel sorry for them. They're programmed; they couldn't stop even if they wanted to, even if they're about to damage themselves. I do know that the fruit they pick is poison to most species, until warmed to the right temperature. Isn't that risky? I'd be afraid to eat it, even if it had been cooked properly, because you never can tell.

[Chapter Two B]