by Meredith Bronwen Mallory


|Night|

Boots. Large ones, meant to rise a few inches above the ankle, hazel in color. The laces are thick, with little metal pieces on the ends to keep them from fraying, and the soles are clunky, with cleats. If I were to go outside in them, these boots, I would leave tracks. Deep tracks, possibly, easy to follow. I stare at the boots, which are on my feet because they are mine. They were given to me. Presented.

I'm not quite sure how this happened.

When the door opened, I was sleeping, or something like that. Sometimes I lay there, under my blanket, and I drift to a place I am unfamiliar with. The walls around me change slightly, but I still know where I am. If I stand up, I become dizzy, the world moves around me and I am divided; in two places at once. I have learned not to do this- it's terribly disorienting. The door opened, let in a shaft of light, and I opened my eyes, or focused them, I'm not sure which. My breath caught in my throat, because it wasn't time for my shift yet; I work third, and if the marching of the first doesn't wake me then the second always does. Too early, I thought with certainty. Our bodies can tell time well enough, if we let them, if we are forced to rely on them. I laid very still, having no other choice, and thought of being a child on Naboo. I would hide in my father's vineyards, pressed low to the ground as I pretended to be part of the scenery. I tried, without moving, to blend in with the bed. The door closed, there was an abrupt darkness, and then my glowlamp lit to half, as if of its own will. That's not true, though, I knew I wasn't alone. There came footsteps, armor against stone- an Imperial Officer.

"Ma'am?" a young voice, painfully young and I blinked. I am not used to being addressed with such respect. Fear, yes, but not respect. They aren't the same thing. You need to remember that.

I sat up, slowly- too quickly and I feared he might shoot. What could he want with me? How could I be of use to him? That's the way things are measured here, by their usefulness. Beauty saves no one. Whatever it was, it couldn't be taken laying down. I looked at him, but they all look the same, extensions of one another. Light brown hair under his gray uniform cap, pale face above a too-tight collar. It was too dim to see the color of his eyes, or even read much expression.
He was a little shorter than most.

I said, "Yes." It was not a question, for I am not in a position to question things. He was holding something, concealed partly behind his back, and at the time I thought it was a gun. My lungs stopped, suddenly, in the middle of a breath. Would he tell me not to scream?
Them use 'em, Courwyn said, Even officers need bribes, you know.
Courwyn, who I have not seen in days.

"Lady Vader?" he hadn't moved, nor had I, for quite sometime. For a moment, I didn't look up at him, because I was waiting for Her to answer. Then I realized he was speaking to me. As best I could, I stared him in the eye, watching as he knelt on the floor, about a foot away from the bed. In the shadow-thick light of the glowlamp, he placed his gun on the floor. Only it wasn't a gun, it was a pair of boots. Men's boots, obviously, large, dusty and worn in. I wanted to cry then, because he'd reminded me.

Once or twice, I went with you to one the hangar bays, on Naboo or Coruscant, and we would work on some beat up speeder or pod racer. I was never very good with mechanics, but it was something we could do together. We'd laugh at each other, grease stains on our clothing, on our faces, then kiss each other to make up. I'd wear one of your old shirts then, and pants cut off from a flight-suit-- I used to do that, as if I had the right. I'd wear boots too, then, an old pair of yours that were ridiculously too big for me. In our informality, we looked much the same, mirrors as we handed each other parts and tools, engrossed in our work. We could have been anyone then, you and I-- not a Jedi Apprentice and a Nubian Senator, but anyone. Starship navigators, smugglers, fighter pilots on off shift. Such freedom it was, to be able to change like that. More often then not, we ended up looking like we'd crawled out from the sewer, exhausted but happy. Somewhere, there is a holo of us like that, it used to sit on the desk in my office.
It's probably gone now.


"Ma'am?" the Stormtrooper asked again, his head lowered respectfully. It was the tone that brought me back. I took a few minutes to assure myself of where I was, waiting until the dizziness passed. Leaving forward, I picked up the boots gratefully. The Stormtrooper paused a moment, as if considering some other course of action, before he stood.

"Why?" I asked softly, for I didn't want to frighten him away. That made the situation more surreal, the thought of frightening something so faceless and gray, but I had earned right to ask something now.

"Your feet," he said, as if that explained it all. Simultaneously, we dropped our gazes to my feet, which were bound up in what small fabric I could spare, and looked a little dead. One strip of cotton had loosened, revealing a fresh row of red frostbite, standing out against my pale skin. It was nothing unusual. I looked at the soldier again, longer this time, for he had set himself apart from the others. He no longer held that quality of sameness. Distinguished, as they say. For a moment, in the shadows and the darkness, he could have been you. That's wrong, of course.

"Thank you," I said, and I meant it, even as the guilt nipped at my numb feet. He couldn't know, of course. "What is your name?" Another question, I had not realized how out of practice I was at asking them. The solider stiffened, as if surprised, but I imagine he understood. A kindness had been done for me, now I owed him one. Dutifully, he rattled off a set of numbers, and I asked again.

"Keronji," he said, having retreated to the door. I felt fear then, not for myself, but for him. The boots were his, he couldn't have gotten them for me anywhere else. Darkness fell, or rose, as he turned off the glowlamp and stepped through the door. But really, he is safer out there, where nothing can be assumed.

I sat in the darkness with the boots.


So, the question becomes, what to do with them? I know what they were intended for, but they can also be dismantled, their parts used for other purposes. If I undo the laces, I could tie them together, attach them to the headboard. They might be long enough. All I would have to do is lean my weight forward, go elsewhere.

They probably won't hold, though. I've considered all the options.

I'm wearing them now, the boots. They're big enough that I can fit my cotton-clad, slippered feet inside and still have plenty of room. I would have taken off the strips, but they've dried to some of the welts, and I'd feel very naked without them. For all their age, the boots are quite warm; at least I think they are-- I can't feel my feet very well. I will wear them here, when I am alone, because here is where I need them the most. Also, it would not be fair to wear them outside my cell, amongst other prisoners who only have slippers. I try to spare myself guilt, when I can; but in spite of myself, I am touched. Perhaps this kindness means even more, considering my position.

I am, after all, your wife.



|Night|

I need something to do. Something to touch, with my hands, feel for texture, something to claw towards. I sit on the bed, boot-clad feet on the floor, back straight, hands in my lap. Holding my breath, I count to three, expel; hold to the count four, to the count of fifteen. The room spins around me, slightly off axis, but it's hard to tell. On three sides, the walls are gray. Also, the wall on my right is gray, but there is a door laid into it. Punctuation. This door slides away to the left, and can only be opened from the outside. There isn't even a panel on the inside, just the frame of the threshold. I tilt my head; still, it is something to look at. The glowlamp sits by the door- I placed it there, to make things more interesting. I am sitting on the heavy blanket, which is more like a long bolt of flannel, and does not have a design. Beneath that, there is the mattress, and then the box-spring. Irregularities are contained inside that box-spring; this is what gives this room personality, if only in my own mind. These are my possessions, all that I own in the world, all that I am not supposed to have. Time to take inventory: I have a broken fork, the handle severed from the prongs, and eleven blunted nails. The drawer is open, or can be opened. There is nothing to work for. On the headboard, the heater sits quietly.

I think about the word for silence, in all the languages I know.
Nubian: rhlit.
Ithorian: tamdor.
Calamarian: fem.
Corellian: amelece.
Basic...

Just silence. Why do we ever say 'just'? An attempt to diminish things, I suppose. Words can't make this any smaller.

I should do something.

Shall I tell you about yourself?


Here is what I believe:

I believe that you are dead, have been dead, quite a while. I think of your body, the lines of it, the whole of it, laying somewhere, cut down. Vader did this to you, with the crimson lightsaber that forced away your soul like the sun does the mist. Nebulous, hard to contain. Surely your corpse shows some evidence of the battle-- wounds-- but it pains me to imagine them, so I don't. Perhaps someone found you, buried you, but most likely you still lay where you fell, and Vader continues to live the life he's stolen from you.
You're different enough that I can imagine you two as people, not one.
But only for a little while.

I believe that what they tell me, what I saw with my own eyes, is true. I'm not going to say it, though.

Also, I believe that you are alive, well and whole and hiding somewhere. With the other Jedi, most likely, or a group of renegade politicians. They started running almost immediately, they knew what was in store for them. A band of them found you somehow, or ran into you where ever it was you'd been stranded-- that's why you weren't there for me. I understand. You're holed up in some some port-city, wet probably, miserable but alive. Your breath comes out in gasps, blessed irregularity. You've been running. It could be that you are stranded, you and your party, or that you have to move around a lot. Planet-hopping, like smugglers, like runaways, which is what you are. You are smuggled, you are precious, priceless, important enough for that. Sometimes, I imagine, your party finds a sympathetic household or ship-- you get a hot meal and decent night's sleep. The Captain's wife, or the farmer's wife, gives you a set of her husband's old clothing. It's a bit big, but it will do. You smile at her lopsidedly, say 'thanks' in that way of yours that makes it seem like more than that. She looks like your mother, in my mind.
This branches out now, with its possibilities. It is a tree, I nurture it with my need, my contradictory beliefs. First, you could be stuck on some back water planet, or you have to hide for fear of being found. 'Found' is synonymous with 'dead', these days. You don't know where I am, but that's alright. I don't know where you are.
I may never see you again.

Or you could have found your way to the Rebellion, you could be on your way here even now. I could receive some word from you, you're high up enough to arrange that. Surely the Rebellion extends, even here. The Rebellion is not a government, it has no borders. The Rebellion is within. Where will I find it, this word from you? Possibly I will receive no word at all. It will be a surprise. You may just barge in, as is your way, with a group of soldiers. Maybe you won't even know I am here, at first. You'll know, eventually, because you always do. Someday, the door to my cell may open, and it will be you standing there.
"Hi," you will say, sheepishly. As if you are sorry you didn't find me sooner. That's okay. I don't mind. I'll get up from my bed, or from the floor, stand blinking in the harsh light of the hallway, something newly born. Or reborn. I won't really believe that it is you.
That's true enough.

"Ani?" I have to whisper, or my voice will break.
"Yes," You'll say. I'll hold my arms out, I'm too exhausted to run to you. You understand.
You'll say...

I have to stop here. I really don't know what you would say, supposing. I have to stop there, because the dream stops there, and I can't continue it in the light of day.

I know what is true.
Don't ever think otherwise.



|Rest Cycle|

I thought I heard Leia crying, when I woke up this morning. I wasn't really awake, you understand, my mind was in that state of half-sleep; when you think you're up, getting dressed, getting on with your life, when you're really still in bed. For the longest time I lay there, listening to her little half-cry, the one she would give when she just wanted attention. I kept thinking I needed to get up, go to her, but I couldn't move. That's a common feeling these days. It occurred to me that Bail or Sabe` would go in to settle her down-- that was enough of a stretch to register as being off in my mind. I sat up, fully awake, and the first thing I noticed was that my bed was in the wrong place.

It wasn't, not really.

This isn't the first time that has happened. Sometimes, if I wake in the middle of the night, I think that if I just roll over you'll be there, sleeping beside me. You'll put your arm around me and I'll be able to stare up at the ornate carvings on the ceiling. The light of Naboo's twin moons turns the golden flowers to a strange, ethereal silver, it makes the carvings look reversed. I used look up at them, when I couldn't sleep, and trace through the tiny, intricate mazes with my eyes. There isn't enough room here, in my single bed, to roll over, and the ceiling is plain gray. Like everything else, like me.


Forgive me, I can't seem to talk to you tonight. It's hard to write, anymore, hard to put the words down in a certain order, hard to make the sounds come out right. I don't even know why I do this anymore, there isn't much to tell. I sleep when they tell me to, or else lay in bed and pretend. I eat when they tell me to, even if I have to force it down my throat and throw it up later. When they tell me to walk, I walk, with dozens of other shadows like me. We're ghosts, you know, outcasts. We don't belong in your world anymore. Do you even ever think about me? Even once, maybe in the dead of night, when you don't have anything to keep you busy? Or do you hear my voice, like I sometimes hear yours, at the strangest times? Today, I don't believe you think of me; today I think you're dead. I'm not sure what I'll believe tomorrow, but I'll be sure to let you know.

I know what's happening to me. Crisis of faith, they call it, when the bottom falls out of your world and your own face in the mirror belongs to a stranger. That's what this living is like, I feel as though I'm a different person every time I wake up. The truth is immaterial, because I'll probably never know what it is.

What happened to Luke, I wonder?
I don't know why I bother.



|Night|

Courwyn is gone. I'll revise that, Courwyn is not gone, she is elsewhere. Gone means dead, which she is not. As far as I know.

I heard this from the girl who sat next to me in lunch yesterday. She heard it from Wyndie, who heard it from Anshii, who heard it from the girl who used to be Courwyn's bunkmate. Used to-- that's strange, because around here the only thing that changes is the season. Predictability is a crutch, and it is also another punishment. Once, when I was younger, I read about a religious group that had been exiled from their tribe. They lived out in the swamps for years on end, confined to the acre or so allotted to them, and in living apart they composed another culture. When the tribe accepted them back, many of them couldn't handle the change. They went back to the swamps of their own choice. I don't *think* I'd want this.

But about Courwyn. I need to remember to tell things in order, even if they become mixed in my mind, with no clear connection between them. Everything is a separate moment, I can't see the larger scheme anymore.

"Lady," someone's voice, close to my ear, a slight nudge of someone else's elbow. I looked up without raising my head and continued shoveling food in my mouth for a moment. I made a slight motion with my free hand, to show her that I'd heard. 'Lady', she said, because she had nothing else to address me with. Only the Stormtoopers give me your name, the one you use now, and the others don't know what to call me. No one knows my real name, I have buried it in hopes of someday uncovering it again, of picking up where I left off. That's impossible.
"Yes?" I said at last, sure that the Stormtrooper had passed our row. At the far end of the cafeteria, I saw a a a white statue separate two of our own kind that had been talking. The girl beside me stiffened- she'd seen it too.
"You were friends with Courwyn?" she asked, voice low. I turned my head towards her briefly, saw that her face was round and her eyes a faded green. My own face looked strange reflected in the dark of her pupils.
"'Were'?" I asked, picking up on the past-tense. My free hand moved down to touch the scar bellow my ribs, and I held my breath. Anything past-tense couldn't be good. Not around here.
"She's not here anymore," the faded green eyes took on a manic light, "She escaped!"
"Escaped?" I repeated numbly. I didn't understand what she was saying. Did she mean that Courwyn was dead, that she'd found something sharp enough, been left alone for the right amount of time? Escaped; it's in the same category with imaginary numbers, mythological beasts and freedom. Conjecture, theory, all of it.

"Over the wall," hissed the voice, which sounded older than mine, "She made one of the droids malfunction. It started shorting and caught fire. They called a bunch of troopers in, and she slipped out before the door closed. It took them a while to notice, they were so busy putting out the fire. I heard a bunch of 'em talking- she went over the wall in the orchard. They think she'll freeze to death."
"Oh," I said, like I was the one frozen, and then "oh" like someone who had been burned. What else could I possibly say?


Over the wall. AWOL- that's what they said about you, in the first reports. They said you commandeered a small fighter, vanished. They couldn't trace you through hyperspace, of course, and when they found another B-Wing crashed on a nearby moon, they assumed you'd lost control, or programmed the coordinates wrong. Over the wall. That's where Courwyn is, in that huge, all-consuming black beyond our boundaries What is she doing, I wonder, while I lay here in my regimented bed, in my uniform gray, with my hands folded? What happened, after she climbed the barrier, cut herself undoubtedly on the barbed wire? She must have stumbled, broken and bleeding into the... I don't even know what it's like out there-- it could be a desert of snow, or a prairie like Naboo, a swamp or a forest. Whatever it is, most likely Courwyn won't last long. That doesn't matter now-- she's free. She's out there, she is theta; any and all numbers. Undefined. Just like you.

In my mind, the walls are as high as heaven. There's no way out. I'm dreaming now, I'm walking the path of the wall, dressed as a handmaiden. There is sand beneath my feet; I am on Tatooine, and we are divided by the wall. I press myself against this wall, in this dream which is not a dream because I am still awake and typing. The wall is soft, it yields and holds me. I know you're on the other side.
What's it like out there?

I'm crying, because I know there's no way out. I can't go forward, and I most certainly can't go back. All roads lead nowhere. What are you doing, right now? If you were to come here, if you were to walk through that door, cast your tall shadow over where I am curled at the edge of my bed... Supposing you came, not as you once were, but baring the mantle of what you are now; if you were to come and hold out your hand to me, I don't know what I'd do.

I might put my hand in yours.

Oh, Ani, I am in a bad way.

[Chapter Three B]