It had been two weeks since the
destruction of Alderaan and the young Jelena Rodney had barely spoken
more than a handful of words. She had not eaten and spent most of her
time secluded in her room away from her family. She could no longer
stand the sight of any Imperial ... including her father ... whom she
held responsible for deaths of many closest friends and loved ones. The
young girl looked weary and frail and had not taken good personal
hygiene during her withdrawal from public life. Incredibly thirsty, she
moved from her room and began walking down the staircase towards the
ground level where the kitchen was. It was the first time she had gotten
out of bed that entire day.
As each family member had taken to
coping with the issue in his or her own way, Htaere was no exception. In
a subtle withdrawal of her own, she spent more time out in the gardens
of the estate, away from as many people as she could, or in the company
of her guarlara, either riding along the perimeters of the estate or
spending hours walking the animal in the shade of the regal trees,
content to be hypnotized by the heedless grazing. This day was no
different as she'd finished with a morning ride, and ascended the
terrace steps of the estate elegantly, plucking off her riding gloves as
Jelena pulled a bottle of blue milk out
of the refrigerator and placed it on the counter as she went to get a
glass. As she walked by she brushed against the counter and knocked the
bottle off. It fell to the tile floor and shattered instantly, spreading
glass and blue milk all over the floor. "Damn it," she cursed as she
went for a rag and descended to her hands and knees and began clotting
up the spilled milk. She cut her hands in several places from the glass
and blood began to pool on the rag, but she did not seem to notice and
instead continued her frustrated cleaning.
As Htaere moved through the lower level
of the estate, her focus was pulled from the large stair towards the
galley, where she detoured in pursuit of the noise. Surprised to see
Jelena, she paused at the threshold, watching the girl in silence and
taking inventory of her less then stellar presentation. After a long
moment, she spoke quietly. "You are cutting your fingers."
"I made a mess..." Jelena said, as if in
a trace as she continued to attempt to clot the blue milk that was
growing increasingly red with her blood. She began to take a deep inhale
as she started to cry, completely overwhelmed by what had happened.
"I...I just wanted something to drink..." she said weakly as she
struggled with the difficult task of clotting the entire spill with the
Stifling a frown, Htaere moved to a
cabinet to retrieve disposable towels to join Jelena in cleaning up the
mess. "I am certain there is no use crying over spilled milk. This can
be cleaned easily," she said. "I shall call a house droid to conclude
this task, as I believe your wounds need tending." Jelena's lack of
cleanliness did not escape her notice either. "Perhaps a shower is in
order as well."
Jelena released the rag and scooted away
from the mess on the floor before the milk would reach her pajama pants.
"What does it matter?" she asked, as she defiantly folded her arms in
front of her chest in a pathetic pout. "If I clean myself up I'll just
be paraded around for some Imperial nonsense..." she complained as she
awkwardly picked out fragments of glass from the wounds between her
fingers, gasping with each pluck.
"It matters because you are offensive to
the senses, and lack of personal hygiene puts you at greater risk for
illness and infection," Htaere answered simply. "No one is parading
anyone else around for promotion. The only person being disgraced by
living in filth is yourself, and you are better then this."
"Do you promise you won't let him parade me around anymore?" Jelena
said, as she took in a sharp inhale to try and fight back the tears.
"That is the only way I'll take a shower," she explained to her, as she
placed a bloody hand upon the floor and pushed herself back up into a
Htaere's head canted curiously. "The
only parading I am aware of was our recent trip, which you agreed to in
exchange for enrollment. To suggest it was completely against your will
after the fact is unfair, especially in light of the developments which
your father had no control over whatsoever," she answered. "I believe he
would respect your privacy and seclusion if that is your wish." She let
her grey eyes descend the young woman's frame in disapproval. "Part of
maturity and refinement is holding one's decorum together, despite the
circumstances. I know you are capable of such."
"Father is a 'Grand' Moff now," Jelena
said, as she emphasized the word 'grand' whilst rolling her eyes. "I can
see it now ... dinner parties, diplomatic gatherings, conferences..."
she prattled on as she held her cut hand beneath a running faucet of hot
water, washing away the broken glass and blood. "A never-ending series
of events for which he'll want me present..." she complained as she
pulled her hand away when the water got too hot. "Heir to the family and
all ... I don't want that. Drusilla wants it ... she can have it," she
muttered, as she stared through the window at the ocean in the distance.
"I believe that if you simply advised
him that you wished to be left alone rather then attend any social
functions, that he would respect your wishes. He did not force you to
come along with Dr. Tohan and the children and I on our trip to Ithor
and Hapes," Htaere reasoned softly. "From where are you drawing this
Jelena let out an exasperated sigh as
she turned the faucet off and began to dry off her hands, grimacing as
she dried off her cut hands. "Have you seen the way he has acted since
his promotion?" she asked, as she turned around to look Htaere directly
in this eye. "It has gone to his head," she admitted, feeling as if she
had made an honest assessment of the situation.
Htaere resisted the urge to put her
hands on her hips in akimbo at such a silly statement. "Would you also
not be proud of your accomplishments?" She shook her head slightly, half
frowning at the young woman. "I do not believe any of this provides
valid argument for your behavior. What is this really about?"
Jelena shook her head at Htaere before
turning her back to her again. "Everyone I grew up with is dead.
Everyone I went to school with is dead. My mother's family is dead..."
she admitted dejectedly, as her body sunk into herself, unable to cope
with the words she was saying. "And he is up there working for the men
who are responsible," she concluded angrily as her hands slammed down in
frustration on the marble counter top.
Htaere let her vent, saying nothing
initially. "The rebellion's weapon destroyed Alderaan," she answered.
"It was in the news coverage."
"Alderaan is ... was ... a peaceful
planet," Jelena explained, as she looked down into the bottom of the
drain wishing she could wash herself away and start a new life
somewhere. "They would not have a 'super' weapon. They would not have
any weapons..." she said, as she turned around and began to walk towards
Htaere. "Open your eyes. Look around you. The Empire is the one with
weapons!" she said emphatically, as she was now standing just two meters
Htaere maintained her position, firm yet
unthreatening. "Saying such things will get you arrested and
interrogated," she cautioned. "And believe me when I say that is not
something you want to experience." She lowered her voice further.
"Personal convictions about the Empire are best left in private."
"Hah!" Jelena said as she raised a
finger ad pointed it at Htaere's face. "See ... you admit the Empire is
something to be feared! she exclaimed, taking a small moment of victory
for the woman's statement. "You've spent time on Alderaan. Did you see
any weapons? Let alone one powerful enough to destroy the planet?" she
asked, moving her tear stained face right in front of Htaere's as she
continued the rapid series of questions.
"Hapan Intel is something to be feared,
when on their bad side," she retorted. "That proves nothing. I am afraid
I did not see any weaponry, though if they possessed such a powerful
weapon, I do not believe I would have been chosen to view it, nor would
I know where to look."
Jelena bit down on her lower lip before
she said something she might regret. "One day you will know the truth. I
just hope by then it's not too late..." she said, as she turned and
moved away from the woman. "I'll go take that shower now..." she said in
defeat, slinking away to leave the kitchen and Htaere behind.
Htaere's eyes trailed Jelena as she took
leave, allowing a sigh only when she was certain the girl was out of
sight. Turning, she glided back out of the estate promptly to vanish
into the gardens for a while, in need of fresh air.