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This is my only Goodbye

Jahnya's Avatar

12.20.2011 , 01:03 PM | #1
For my own mother, who wasn't a spice-addled dancing twi'lek with issues on how to raise her daughter--but was a fan of my writing since before I wrote.

Miss you Mum.

April 2nd, 1956 - December 11th, 2011

Part I
Cracked Jars of Sunshine

Everything had a price.

She wasn't sure when she first realized this. When the bitter thought had slipped itself into the back of her head as a carefully guided needle to helpless little balloon. It may have been when she was old enough to wobble unsteadily on her own bare feet. Back then, her and her mother had been on some remote planet—she couldn't even remember why or the name of it—only that her mother worked hard. Worked honestly. There were other twi'leks with them and she played often in warm sun and the fresh tilled earth worked by her mother and many others. There was planting. There was singing. There was laughter. Half-formed memories of childhood they were; things that during her darkest hours she would reach out with her minds eye and cradle them to her for comfort.

In the beginning, her mother smiled and laughed too. She could almost remember the way her mothers eyes would crinkle when she did. She remembered her mothers stories of her home planet—Ryloth her mother would say with a sigh and a sad smile that bespoke of missing pieces. For hours she would toil in planting, hands dirty and smelling of new growing things: she'd weave stories about the Bright Lands and about the crystals that grew where no light touched. But one day a man came. He darkened the doorstep to their simple home, a long, lean shadow across the floor that looked more like a clawed hand reaching to devour than anything else. Something about that idea....or vision stuck with her more than the warm laughter of that forgotten planet. Something about that devouring hand haunted her nightmares more than anything. And the man who belonged to that hand, Javoran Davis, haunted longer still.

He'd been a tall man back then with thick, long, prestigous lekku marked sharply with pride. His skin was a beautiful rust-orange and his eyes were almost exotically tilted. They were the deepest unsettling ruby color--and they skipped over Jahnya as if she did not exist and settled on her mother. He'd smiled back then. Lips that were too plump on his face at ease stretched into a grin that never met his eyes and always looked as if two hooks had forced it upward. Something she could not explain back then—an instinct as strong as a hand in her belly—instilled immediate distrust and fear. Wordlessly, she'd cried out and her mother's head turned to her child. She then saw the man—

It was difficult to explain these feelings as a youngling. When the world was big and unending and the only words you had were sacred things like mother, love and home.

When Javoran came, the stories stopped.
When Javoran came, everything changed.

Her mother stopped smiling. It was not immediate at first, but as the days passed and the man spent more time in their home—Jahnya's mother began to change. Her eyes turned from her daughter and the fields, from the hard work and the soil. Her eyes turned glassy sometimes when Javoran would stay. And sometimes they would turn hard and cold and to the stars above as the man filled her head with talk of the universe; riches untold and the fame that just waited for Jahnya's mother out there. Like a quivering lover holding its breath.

Like a lie wrapped in sweetest promise.
Everyone had their price.

For Jahnya's mother, it was love. But the price would someday become too steep.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

Jahnya's Avatar

12.23.2011 , 10:58 AM | #2
Part II
A memory of Sun

Her mother had been beautiful once. Before the drugs had taken her to a place where sense nor sanity no longer lived. Before Javoran snake-bellied into her life to flicker-whisper lies and use the back of his knuckles to speak—pinpr*cks of his fingers blushed darker cerulean in her mother's skin often. Jahnya often thought that the color of her mother's bruised skin is what the sky might look like if it was cruelly crushed. Part of her mother's beauty, she had always thought, was the traditional head piece that she'd worn before Javoran bought her something new. Something gaudy and studded with fake stones, something flashy and as fake as the life he'd given Jahnya's mother.

The head piece had a thick band of ancient brown hide. Edged in metal that Jahnya imagined the hands of many women of her clan had once touched—staining it bronze-gold with their fingerprints--a simplistic, elegant center piece of metal rested on the brow. A circle in the middle with two columns rising; as a little girl she remembered touching it often. Nights where she couldn't sleep from this or that and she'd left a pink fingertip draw imaginary history on it. The name of her mother drawn in invisible ink, her friends, her happiness as her mother used to hum lullabies.

The lullabies went away--some place far away and dead and gone. But the headpiece remained. Her mother had shoved it into the trash one evening, sobbing quietly with new crushed-sky spots on her arms and cheeks. The outline of Javoran's palm a dark shadow in skin. I will never be like that, she would mouth to herself over and over again when no one could see her because the children stopped coming over to play. Their parents would not allow them near in the village they would turn their eyes and show their backs as she passed, scrounging and begging for food. I will never treat anyone like that. I will never raise my hand out of anger. I will never hurt someone without just cause. I will never crush delicate, small things...Her daughter waited patiently until the two of them collapsed or the two of them argued over whether to stay or whether to go back to Nar Shaddaa because you'll be a star, baby, you're beautiful Javoran whould hiss—to dig it out of the trash and silently place it under her bed.

Because even children know the importance of memories lost.

Someday when the little rag-tag pink twi'lek with hollowed cheek bones and shadowed purple eyes grew up--she would wear that headpiece proudly. For now, she only dared touch it in the dead of night, when the only sound was the far off cry of some beast. She pretended it mourned for the nameless children like her. For the ones the universe forgot.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

SelinaK's Avatar

12.24.2011 , 08:55 AM | #3

That was beautiful.

Hope you keep writing, since finding out I couldn't play a Twi'lek it made me interested in why not, I read more about them and then got annoyed! - I'd love to see more stuff, it seems like there's a lot of rich stuff to work with there. They're talking about ideas for Twi'lek names here that would be useful for writing:

*hugs* Hope maybe the christmas thread will lighten your mood:

Seriously - just wonderful.
[My posts] • SGR factsss
Type /cjoin OOC ingame for organising RP (globalchans between servers plees? )
Official RP forum + Events!IC news/gossipCharacter listingFictionArtStory/Universe

Jahnya's Avatar

12.27.2011 , 02:08 AM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by SelinaK View Post

That was beautiful.

Hope you keep writing, since finding out I couldn't play a Twi'lek it made me interested in why not, I read more about them and then got annoyed! - I'd love to see more stuff, it seems like there's a lot of rich stuff to work with there. They're talking about ideas for Twi'lek names here that would be useful for writing:

*hugs* Hope maybe the christmas thread will lighten your mood:

Seriously - just wonderful.
Thank you very much. I had several parts (nearing the ending) posted on the beta forums, but with the wipe, I've been cautiously re-posting them (don't want to spam anyone elses story down the forum list too fast!)

With the passing of my own mother this December, I simply haven't wanted to write anything at all. It's my hope that I can find my voice again. I know it's what my mother would have wanted.

Thank you so much for the links, the comment and compliments. Merry belated Christmas, and happy new year to you!
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

Jahnya's Avatar

12.28.2011 , 02:09 AM | #5
Part III
The Strong, The Weak & The Credits

There’s a moment in between my trigger finger and the reflex of muscle that becomes infinite in my mind. It always happens a split second before I pull—I see everything I’ve ever done, every job, every face, and every droplet. It’s all there in a jumble like someone put it all on a holoprojector and sped it up to flicker faster than Nar Shaddaa’s lights. This moment is no different. It’s a kid who got himself into the wrong business. Selling information had its prices; being an information fence wasn’t a safe job and when you messed with the Empire you took on a whole level of price most weren’t able to handle as beginners. This kid had no idea what he’d gotten into, but he only knew now that he was on his knees squeezing out tears, snot running down his nose and close to wetting himself. His eyes, watery blue and pin*****s for iris’ kept rolling as nervous as a just-born-dewback to the end of my blaster jammed into his brow.

I almost feel sorry for the things I've done in this moment. I almost feel alive. I love this moment: the control over who lives and who dies. Even if it's only my illusion.

Please!” His girl cried from his side. I’d seen this too. Heard it a million times. Some days it’s a mother, some days a sister, some days an aunt, a lover, a cousin—the other days there’s no one there at all. No one to beg for their sorry lives. I wonder if the kid knows how lucky he is to even have anyone care enough to beg for his life.

“Please—don’t do this! He didn’t sell them out, Harro wouldn’t ever do that that’s not the man I know. Please, we’ll give you anything you want. Credits. We’ll find them, we’ll pay you more—“

I’ve heard that too. I have my good days and my bad days, the good days are when I let them roll through the speeches. The offers or the pleas and I let them form a glimmer of hope in their eyes for a split second. I let them think I’m listening and going to change my mind. I let them hope. When they’re done, I remind them about the most important lesson I’ve learned in my life: there’s no such thing as hope. There’s the strong, the weak and the credits: the haves and have-nots of the universe. You either had what it took to survive this sithspit covered galaxy or you ended up some poor dirt covered barve in the gutter somewhere, snorting spice.

So I answer, “Darlin’, the Empire is as vast as the universe is long. You really think your stinking dance-wages are gonna cover what they’re payin’ me to get rid of this worthless koochu?”

She was twi’lek. Bright purple. Always had a soft spot for a pretty little twi’lek female, couldn’t help it really. There were women and then there were twi’leks, so the saying went. This one was a little too skinny for my taste with too much face paint. But she reminded me of someone anyway, someone I’d rather—

“Please,” she sobbed. Her turn for the waterworks and now I had two sniveling idiots. I resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of my nose and pulled the gun from the kids head and put it to hers.

“You love him so much, and then I’ll shoot you instead. What do you think about that, kid? You can help me drag the body somewhere and I’ll just bring them back one of your fingers. That way if they come back to check on my work there’ll be this sweet stain on the carpet.” The twi’lek abruptly stopped blubbering and squeaked.

“No, no—shoot him; he’s the one you’re after—“ She blurted. At the same time, Harro said: "Yes! Shoot her!"
"What? Harro you--"
“WHAT? Dena’laan, you bi—“
“I lied! I hate you Harrow! I hate you! You stink and...and...You’re tiny. You hear me, Harro? TINY.”
“I’ll Kill y—“

I swung my arm back, shoved the barrel into the kids eye and pulled the trigger. I’d seen and learned all I wanted to know and I’d proved a point to the kid and the girl. Once again, this piece of Bantha Poodoo planet had lived up to its name. I was pretty prepared for what happens next, but the little purple twi’lek…Don’t think she’d ever seen someone die before. She collapsed and crumpled to the floor and sobbed. Great big fat, heaping sobs that made the bird-cage of her ribs rise and collapse.

“What am I gonna do?” She moaned. “What am I gonna do? Oh Harro, Harro I didn’t mean it. I didn’t. I’m sorry. Oh please don’t shoot me either, I swear I didn’t know what he was mixed up in.”

She wasn’t part of the contract. They wanted Harro. Maybe the kid hadn’t done anything wrong, I’ve watched the Empire and the Sith set someone else to fall when it suited them, but honestly, I didn’t care anymore. I needed the credits and I had a job to do.

“Don’t give a frag, Princess,” I told her. I bent down to take a souvenir and proof I’d fulfilled my contract, straightened and walked out. The night was young and that job had been easy, but killing always made me thirsty. And the twi’lek girl had reminded me of another…

Time to hit up The Painted Lady.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

ldMerlin's Avatar

12.30.2011 , 11:49 PM | #6
Condolences for your lose. I read through this before the forum wipe and was definitely enjoying it. Glad to see you're back and still working on it.

Jahnya's Avatar

02.06.2012 , 01:28 AM | #7
Part IV
A pocket full of Blaster fire

She knew his name was Kurakk Khdor. Jahnya would never forget the name.

Years ago when she'd first came to Nar Shadda, thinking things are gonna change, and moms' going to leave him and we'll be free--because she was too young to understand what the lights meant. She was too young to understand that for most, this planet was a Venus-fly trap. The holo glitter was laced and once you breathed it in, you never really got away—that’s when he gave her his name and the only time he’d ever spoken to her directly.

Jahnya's relationship with her mother began to take its last drowning gasps the moment they stepped out of the shuttle. Javoran would have her mother set up in his personal apartment above his own cantina, The Painted Lady, and Jahnya's future held in store disgusting slop, vomit and blood and blaster fire burn-marks cleaner.

She remembered the first time she saw the Painted Lady Cantina, the long winding path deeper and deeper below to get to it.

At first there were the lights. Red, yellow, blue, white—more colors than she could count. Huge billboards and signs for Cantinas and music, bands, gambling dens and houses, restaurants and girls, girls girls. It was such a new experience—she’d never seen anything like this before. It was as if her stars were replaced by neon ones; a little hazier from the smog and pollution too, but still lights in the dark. But each step deeper brought troubling signs. Darker the streets became, more crowded. Garbage and bits of old speeders, dilapidated fruit stands or hollow-eyed women on street corners with hard-faced thugs soon replaced the brighter expressions found above. The further Jahnya walked the further her feelings of apprehension grew—until the Painted Lady and all of her seedy glory stood before the young twi’lek.

Four great holograms of busty twi’leks wearing barely-there-scraps beckoned and winked at lackluster, grimy faces that passed by in dirty street before it. They flickered and hummed with static giving away how cheap and how old they were. Sometimes the holos fitzed out completely before fading back in flashing leg and smoky-eyed looks. The sign above the narrow door was a sickly yellow light that hummed and wined like the older, cheaper models did, proclaiming Welcome to the Painted Lady, blinking in and out endlessly.

The humans and aliens that listlessly roamed in and out, leaned against the outside of it watched Jahnya’s mother with full on open leers or with the flat eyes of a Wraid that had just filled its belly on a meal of children. As she stepped across the threshold and into The Painted Lady, Jahnya knew—even at her young age, instincts perhaps or something more—that her freedom was now forfeit. Once inside she belonged, like her mother, to Javoran and there was little she could do. Plunging into the dark of a simple Cantina back then had never felt so draining. Like clouds forever passing over the sun but never clearing. The distance between Jahnya and her mother became solidified in the simple act of crossing that door.

And in the miserable existence she led from that point in she could have never in a million cycles have guessed that her one point of light—the one singular thing that would keep her going—would be a silent, cold-eyed empire-employed bounty hunter by the name of Kurakk Khdor.

(Very sorry for taking so long in reposting. Had some issues with the forum logging me out anytime I tried to reply to any thread or edit them o.0 Seem to be fixed for now!)
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

Jahnya's Avatar

02.07.2012 , 10:16 AM | #8
Part V
If punching someone is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

It’s an excuse. I know that I’m really not thirsty. I wouldn’t touch the sithspit drinks the bartender with grubby hands makes in dented, permanently stained cups. But every time I shadow The Painted Lady’s doors I sidle up to the bar keeping an eye on who is in tonight and gauging the feel of the room and I order a watered down Forvish ale. Which, by the way? Smelled like p**s and I couldn’t tell you if that’s what it tasted like, but I can tell you I’d never put it to my lips in this place.

So, yeah—it’s an excuse. I take my drink and I meander through the tables like I do every night I come here. The music is horrible and lewd, far too much bass rumbles in. The lights are dim and mostly red and purples flooded over the nearly naked bodies of the girls dancing. Usual night. I know who’s here and who isn’t without much more of a glance. It’s been ten years off and on coming here and you get to realize that in fly-ridden heaps like this, it’s mostly the same people or same types of people wearing different faces, night after night. There’s always the one bantha-brain milling around the tables either begging for just one more credit to get a drink, or licking the cups left by passed out drunks with trembling hands for the barest hint of alcohol.

Then there were the spice-heads that twitch themselves through the door, a bevy of Javoran’s plasteel smiling collared girls escorting them to the back and up to Javoran’s private suite…While everyone pretends not to know what was going on because they didn’t give a blast so long as they got whatever they wanted and nobody got in their way.

Then there were the guys and girls hooked on other things. They showed up with desperate eyes, hopeless or empty and cold eyes and fawned over the dancing girls. The dancing girls trained to bat their eyes and show a little more hip for every credit chip thrown at their feet.

I always have a hard time not snorting at the irony of them dancing in cages, the gaudy, over-the-top collars Javoran has them in are poor disguises for the typical empire produced shock collars fitted for their slaves. They can be with whom they please you see—so long as Javoran got the credits and they came home in the morning with that ominous or else hanging in the air and in the slimy man’s smile.

There were times that I came here and I wondered what the frag I was doing here. I didn’t have any interest in the drinks that’s for sure, and the things Javoran bought and used to pretend to sell ‘food’ from the kitchen here shouldn’t be touched by anyone. Not even the animals that scurried around out front and ate the trash would touch it. But the truth was—I knew why.

I’m just as much trash as half the scum that practically live here. My hands are as dirty as the next spiced-out cantina rat to walk through that front door. And as I settle into my favored table, a nice dark corner with the browning walls at my back—I know all it takes is one wrong move and I could become one of them truly. Or worse…catch a case of not breathing.

And then there’s the other reason. The other other reason...the real one.


Fraggin’ twi’leks.

I’m just about ready to ditch this place, thinking I was an idiot to keep coming here and what’s the point? When she walks out of the kitchen with a tray full of the sludge Javoran makes her cook and that’s it. I’ve got nothing. Not a single thought in my head—just memories and images. It’s just like when I’ve got my finger on the trigger and I’m alive. I don’t dare to say or breath a single word of this to anyone because the last damned thing I need is to admit I’m losing it as I’m getting older and I don’t need to find her in some alleyway somewhere, eyes rolled up in her head and mouth half open in scream—I don’t need that. I don’t want any of my memories of her like that. You know? I just—

When she was a girl I didn’t think about it. She stuck in the back of my head ever since what she did years ago—but I never started forgetting to breathe until she got a little older. A little wiser. A lot taller and… a lot. She’s a lot all over.

See, seven years ago I just got off this long arsed job off world. Difficult as hell, bugger kept giving me the slip and I was running out of creds in the chase. Didn’t think I was going to make it either when I finally found the son of a dungkeeper and he jumped me with ten of his men. One of the toughest fights yet, walked away with a hole in my side nearly clipping one of my hearts—but by frag I got the sucker and it turned out to be my best paying bounty yet.

Anyway, so there I was full of myself and I thought I’d drop by the Painted. Finally reward myself with a little company and a pretty face, you get me? It’s early in the morning and everyone knew The Painted Lady never slept. She was a wh!re for money and closing down just meant Javoran lost credits. So I was about to saunter in when I hear Javoran screaming like a woman at the top of his lungs. No lie.

The guy had fraggin’ lost it. He was shrieking and as I—for whatever stupid reason—decided I was going to continue on moseying right in to see what the fuss was about.

The bar was mostly empty. The music turned off and the lights were flashing on empty cages. Coupla drunks passed out in the booths too far gone to be bothered by Javoran and most of the girls were either up in his private office or too doped out of their head-tails to do anything but blankly stare as Javoran stood in the middle of the room screaming obscenities with spittle flying from his lips. He got like that sometimes. See, Javoran and I worked for the same person. A mysterious benefactor I’d long ago realized was a Sith with hands deep in any dirty illegal trade he could get his hands into. Javoran was just a means for the Sith to get what he wanted and too stupid to realize I’d figured it out and we’d make a better team than enemies. But Javoran chose to make it a competition and I wasn’t even competing. Right, so-- I’d poked at him pretty hard one night—maybe too far with a pistol or two—and he sort of went unhinged like that. Seen him do it to his girls too when he caught them doing whatever it was set him off and there he’d go, screaming and frothing at the mouth and hitting whatever was in front of him whether they deserved it or not.

There was a dopey-eyed blue twi’ hanging off his arm woodenly begging him to stop which he ignored and this small heap of pink at his feet getting the brunt end of his boot. Seemed a little too small to be getting that much transparisteel enforced boot to the guts. Now, I’m not a nice guy. I’m really not. I’ve been on jobs where it was in the contract to kill the mother and kill the kids—get me? And I don’t hesitate. Hesitating gets you killed, gets them a split second to run for it and then I gotta shoot in a hurry and put in more effort into it. I don’t like being nice and I sure as hell don’t like effort either. The smoother it is the better I feel about it. And something in me moved a little to the right of all the things I had carefully organized in the left when the little pink thing cracked a purpling and swelling eye at me and looked dully right through me as I stood there.

Sometimes at night when it’s really quiet and I can’t sleep and I’m waiting for the next job…When the bunk is cold and I’ve got nothing but the lights at the console to keep me company…I know what it was that moved inside me. I know what I saw in that scrawny little girl’s eye. Saw myself at that age. Nothing left to lose, nowhere to go, stuck. Giving up and given up. In an instant I thought I was looking in on myself and it did something. Something I don’t like to think about except in the darkest of nights when I can’t see…

So Javoran’s screaming still…something about a spilled cup or a drink or ruined…I don’t care. I remember the gleam of regulation empire slave collar on her neck, not even a fancy one like the other girls and thinking why didn’t he just shock her when I finished moseying over like it was toodle-doo naboo afternoon tea and tapped Javoran on the shoulder. He whirled around and was about to start yodeling at me when it died in his throat and came out nothing more than insane gurgling.

“What the frag—“ he began hoarsely, “do you want? This better be good.” Did I mention I @#&!ing hate Javoran yet? Yeah. I do.

“Kinda doesn’t say much about a guy who only beats up on women and kids,” I drawled lazily. The irony in that statment given what I do in my life wasn't lost at me at the time. Didn't have time to think about it. Inside my head was a warzone: my younger self was jabbering at the back of my mind asking me what the hell do you think you are doing? This is crazy. You know what your employer said—don’t screw with his other toys and all will be well. And the other part of me? Didn’t care, cackled manically in the back of my head and I felt good, real good. Like I might put my finger on the trigger and frankly, that’s pretty much all I looked forward to in my life.

Javorans response was clear. He told me to go do something everybody knows ain’t really physically possible. Unless you’re real bendy likes.

So I punched him in the face.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

Jahnya's Avatar

02.09.2012 , 11:00 AM | #9
Part VI
A Heavy Heart to Carry

Second to pulling the trigger, I think that was the single best feeling I’d ever had in a long time and when he started screaming at me, blood pouring from his squashed nose and the gap made by his lost tooth, I was downright considering doing it again. The blue twi’lek on his arm, fragged out of her head on spice was now trying to comfort Javoran who moments before had been busy beating the kid at his feet mercilessly. Useless. I didn’t step in when Javoran grabbed hold of her and shoved her hard enough she went end-over-tea-kettle over a chair and sprawled on the floor. But he went to lay a hand on me and I hitched my fingers in my belt.

“Wouldn’t do that, Chief,” warned him. He’s lucky we worked for the same fella and I liked my butt alive. “Don’t think our mutual boss would like to hear how you’ve been playing with the merchandise, mm?” Hiking my head to the sprawled out dancer I was pretty sure was his newest toy. The new ones he kept for himself to break in didn’t let anyone sleep with them until he was done and bored with them. And then it was onto the dance floors with ‘em and to whomever would pay the highest price.
It worked, because he’d been going to take his blaster out of its holster which would have been the exactly worst thing he could have done and then stopped. He stared at me with beady little red eyes with as much hate as he could muster.

“You wouldn’t,” he said.
I turned my head and spat at his feet. “Try me.”

We had a good long few moments of staring each other down, where the girls all crawled away thinking things were gonna go down and they were all experts at runnin’ like cowards from trouble. After what seemed like half a year, he turned his head and spat out blood. Didn’t say anything else as he turned away like I knew the spineless grub would. Marched over to the blue twi’lek he’d sent sprawling and gripped her rough by the arm, hauling her up and scrambling back to his private office. Didn’t look good for the girls the way he started up shaking the blue one and screaming n’ yelling again at the others, but for me, the danger had passed and I didn’t care.

It wasn’t until I heard the barest scrape at my feet that I remembered the kid, totally forgot about her while I was sorely tempted to put a bolt through that idiot’s head.

I look down and she’s a mess. Nothing that would scar her permanently on the outside but…Yeah. Well. Her guts were gonna kill her tomorrow. I hunker down a second though just to check she’s still with me and make sure she ain’t bleedin’ out. She’s the scrawniest twi’lek I’ve ever seen, kid or no. Her limbs were all long like her body hadn’t figured out yet how to catch up to her growin’. Both her eyes swollen up pretty good. She was there but she wasn’t, you know? There’s a place we all go when life hurts too much and I think she was there and was fast becoming expert in going there by now. So I reached down and hiked the filthy scrap Javoran probably gave her for a shirt and took a look at her belly—it wasn’t what she probably thought it was as her eyes flickered open (as much as she could anyway with them puffin’ up like that) I was checking for signs of internal bleeding. I didn’t know what the hell I’d do if I saw any, but it seemed like the right thing to do. In the business of killin’ I wasn’t very good at treating the living, but I thought this seemed like something I should check.

She looked fine and the way she was staring at me began to creep along my spine something I didn’t recognize. Something that made me want to put my coat around her and tell her everything was going to be all right which went against pretty much everything I was and taught myself to be. You don’t know how much that frightened me to the very core at that split second and everything in my gut was telling me to go, run, leave now.

Let go of her shirt like it burned me through my gloves and put my hands on my knees to push myself up. The silence was getting to be awkward and I ain’t a man knowin’ how to make good words.

And that’s when she reached out to stop me. She’d come back to the here and now sometime between the fear of me maybe touching her and through the pain of a pretty good beating and she touched me. Her little fingers found the gap between my gloves and my jacket and braved whatever consequence there’d be to grab hold of my wrist and make me stay.

Her eyes aren't like mine anymore, I remember thinking. Because she was looking at me like I’d never seen anybody look at me before. She was grateful and she was trying to smile despite the splits in her lips.

She was looking at me with hope.

Thank you,” she quietly said and then began to cry. Well hells. Ain’t nothing worse that a girl crying. And I mean, not the snotty-nosed hiccup sobbing kind either. No sir, kid had learned that sometimes crying got you beat harder so she didn’t make a damned sound. Just these big fat tears rolling down her face while her shoulders crumpled inward and she kept smiling at me and what the hell’m was I supposed to do?

I …I didn’t think. Reached down and picked her up. Didn’t weigh more than a data pad in an ion storm anyway. So I did, and she told me quietly all the while crying to put her in the kitchen ‘cause that’s where she sleeps so I did what she said like I’d been doing it all my life.

The kitchen was as banged up as the front room and the only time I’d ever been in it. Had a stove, a food keeper, and an old military grade issue cot near the far corner neatly made. It was clean though. Cleanest place in the Painted Lady and later on when I had my head on straight I’d understand the irony in that more.

She told me to put her down on the cot and I did. But my brain was catching up finally to what I was doing and it was jabbering pretty clearly: dangerous, it whispered, costly I agreed. So I put her down and I backed away.

She tried to thank me again and I stopped her with a look. I said, like a fool, like an idiot, like a blaster-brained flot—“ Kurakk Khdor.”

Sithspitting, Gravel maggot, bantha-poodo headed—! I cursed myself. I’d given her my name. Not my code name or my number or the hundreds of aliases or something I made up off the top of my damned head. No, no of course not. That was my name. The one I’d been born with and the one down on file somewhere in a cold, empire run part of the data-net. If I could have strangled myself at that moment I probably would have. I went from this odd sensation that some little girl no bigger than a baby tuskat would be brave enough to do something someone hasn’t willingly done in two decades to spitting mad at myself.
I wasn’t going to stay just to have her thank me again. So I left.

But it didn’t matter that I actually physically left, because whatever that girl did made sure I kept coming back.

Something I can’t explain.

She grew up good and she grew up very good, if you get my meaning. And I’ve made damn sure to stay out of her way. I don’t know what to say anyhow. Don’t know what to do and don’t want to jeopardize myself any more than I already am.

But it’s been seven years and she’s walking out of the kitchen and she turns to look at me with those big purple eyes and she might as well have shot me dead. She gives me a little smile that tells me she’s never forgotten and I get to thinkin’ what it would sound like from her mouth if she said my name. And that’s not the sort of thing any man in my business wants to think about too long.

So I tell myself I’m only here for the watered down ale but I know the truth.

And the truth is…I think I’m already gone.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::

Jahnya's Avatar

02.12.2012 , 05:36 AM | #10
Part VII
The Painted Lady?
I wouldn’t call her a lady, if you get what I mean

In the beginning there was the Painted Lady. For Jahnya, it was day in and day out mindless work that she did without question. Someone bleed out at table seven? Jahnya cleaned it. Someone throw up near the bar? Jahnya cleaned it. Someone mistake the wall for a urinal? Jahnya cleaned it. Javoran had droids to do his work for him when he need to get things done, quick, to impress or simply because it was busy and she couldn’t keep up with it fast enough to keep it barely passing whatever health code he could bribe to pass. But he didn't want the droids doing the work simply because droids can't be humiliated, people can.

In the beginning, there was keeping her head down and the adjustment period to the chaffing of the collar on her neck—both on her skin and in her heart. For the longest time when she was a child she was beyond hope.

The girls….The girls were surprisingly nicer than her mother most often than not. When they weren’t eyeballs up in Spice, twitching from stims, or wavering unsteadily and fighting drunkenly with one another or having cat fights over who got to go home with which big spender. When she first arrived they cooed and tittered about her pink skin, complimented her on her eyes fit enough to make her blush further and laughed uproariously when she did. When they remembered she was there, sometimes they brought back table scraps from the rooms and places they’d been: taken on the arm of a different male or female each night, human or chiss or rodian or other twi’leks—didn’t matter so long as Javoran got paid.

There was a strange complacency that grew in her once she decided that this was simply going to be her lot in life. A kitchen slave cooking slop and cleaning slop and as long as she kept her head down and her mouth shut, she could continue.

Eventually after that, there was an odd fondness for The Painted Lady’s patrons that grew—despite the fact she barely opened her mouth at them. On occasion, they’d try to talk to her and she would simply put on her best blank-face with a small smile. Most of them left her alone after not getting any response, a few severely drunk or simply uncaring mistook her for one of the girls—despite the fact her collar wasn’t the same and her clothing was little more than second-hand scraps held together by more scraps. Those she danced quickly out of reaching hands and sometimes, if Warrell, an older, fat Aqualish was paying attention—would thump them a good one and they’d leave her alone.

Warrell used to be a pirate before an injury took him out of the run. He used to run with Javoran, and it wasn’t hard to find that out. Warell, when he wasn’t berating the customers and smashing the skulls of those trying to pay with fake cred-chips together would talk non-stop about his good old days. Stories that Jahnya would listen too when they didn’t involve too much of Javoran and went on sweepingly about the endless expanse of stars and humorous anecdotes about why he didn’t drink that much anymore while drinking half as much as his own patrons he served all night. He always ended up flat on his back out cold behind the bar. Sometimes she felt she had an odd companion in Warrell because when he told his stories occasionally she could recall the distant image of what the stars might have looked like when she was a child, staring up at them. Sometimes she imagined when he told his tales she was on a ship, looking out and watching them dance by—leaving this planet behind her.

Tick, as she called him, was a small Rodian that had taken to calling her Pinkie. He worked gathering information for Javoran and then always ended up spending all of this money on the girls, the drinks, the gambling and occasionally drugs. Unstable when he was using, Jahnya avoided him—something had happened to him when he was younger which made him carry a small tick when sober. When drugged, the Rodian was someone else and she didn’t think about it. Just avoided it—everyone needed to get away from here somehow, some just had to do it in unconventional forms. Every other time he always waved and asked how his Pinkie was doing. She never gave him anything but a genuine smile in return.

She learned many names for the next few years working in that bar. She saw her mother get up on stage or writhe about in a cage every night, but past a few awkward glances from time to time when her mother was actually there enough to realize what day it was and where she was, it’s all she ever got from her mother. The resentment was difficult to avoid. On good days, she could pretend she didn’t know the Blue twi’lek that hung off Javoran’s arm like nothing more than a bracelet. On bad days, she did her best not to cry too loudly on her cot.

As the days passed, the weeping grew less and less until it stopped. But she couldn’t make herself throw away her mother’s headpiece she’d been hiding in her pillow all this time. Every time she thought about it, some noise startled her into shoving it back under there or she simply told herself: tomorrow.

Usually the Painted Lady was a cesspool. Fists and bruises and blood and limps and screaming and blaster fire, knives or worse. Down here, nobody cared. Javoran got away with anything he wanted—the despicable of the planet trod through that Cantina day in and day out. If it was illegal, it was being moved there. Or it was being discussed there. Or meetings were being held in the dingy backrooms or right out on the floor. Sometimes those deals went sour, fast and there was nothing she could do but wait to see who lived and who died. In those times she discovered she learned a lot from Warrell about how to patch up a human, how to tell if they were too far gone to help, how to tell if a patch-job wasn’t enough and they’d have to get the medical droid. And, she discovered that in those times when the smoke cleared and she could help someone—even someone who cursed and railed at her for trying to help, or for not helping enough—she liked it. Out of all the horrible things she had learned here, she found it intoxicating to learn about life...about saving someone's life, at least, the ideal of preserving it instead of ending it.

She learned a little about bacta, what you could shove cheap in a med-kit and get away with it, and more about stims. She learned a little bit about alien biology and where a blaster bolt could kill, or just seem messy but was merely a glancing blow.
She learned that Zabraks had two hearts and she immediately thought of Kurakk Khdor, then put him out of her mind. He came and went as he pleased but ever since that one night when he had possibly saved her from being beaten to death? Hadn’t spoken a word to her since. He came frequently when he could, always ordered a drink, sat at the same table near the kitchen door. But never drank. Never said a word. The girls wouldn’t go near him anymore because he just ignored him and no one wanted to pick a fight with someone whose reputation was as large as the man’s presence. Thanks to Warrell’s habit of talking, she also learned that he was a bounty hunter. She wasn’t…she wasn’t sure what to think. She thought perhaps she had done something wrong that night as a child. Maybe she shouldn’t have touched him—he had looked so startled. Maybe she shouldn’t have spoken..but—

He kept coming back, usually.

She thinks if she remembers her birth date right, that it was around the fifth or sixth year after Javoran beat her that he left for an exceptionally long time. Usually it might be a few weeks, at longest months by her guess. It wasn’t as if she could check the galactic calendar—but she was pretty sure. When he finished a job, he’d show up beginning of the week, middle and end when it was the busiest. But that one year he didn’t.

And the longer the time went when he didn’t show and set himself down in his favorite table, the more she felt Javoran’s eyes on the back of her head again. Some sort of instinct that, over the years and living in this hellhole had honed—something that always warned her right before a fight broke out. Told her when to duck before a pistol was even drawn and showed her how to swing out of the way of a fist flying too close. That same instinct tingled up her spine cold as ice whenever Javoran’s eyes flicked her way. She would stop, stand up and crane her neck around and sure enough his beady little eyes were unreadable as well as watching. Every single time she caught him looking at her she felt the curl of fear tightening in her belly and remembered the first time he darkened her door. Thought of the long shadow he made the way it seemed to stretch black and forever over her into a greedy claw.

She thought of this and felt her gorge rise in the back of her throat.

Javoran was up to something, she was so sure of it with an intensity that surprised even her. That –whatever it was—that told her to duck when a fist was coming had started screaming at her to lay low.

Every night the feeling grew worse.

Every night he was gone she would stare at Kurakk Khdor’s table on her way past and ferverently hope.
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace."
::Redeemed :: House Taiva::