Depression ate at my soul like a black hole and I gave in to its seductive lure. It was easy not to feel anything, in fact I welcomed the blankness. I spent most of my time asleep or dozing in the bedroom with the shades down and the lights off. I lost all sense of time and space and knew only a strange half world full of twisted dreams and unavoidable guilt with nothing in between. I had become the void.
Thrawn tried to break through my self imposed exile with kindness and patience but I shut him out at every turn, hating him for everything without any valid reason. Eventually he left me alone but it did not escape my notice that, for the moment, his current work kept him on the base and close by. We might have gone on like that forever had it not been for Syal who decided, after nearly four weeks, that enough was enough.
She had come to see me many times but either I had simply not answered the door or Thrawn had turned her away. The last time she had argued with him, her words had sounded hard and angry through the walls, but he had been firm and I had been grateful. I could not face anyone least of all the one person on the base with several children and more sympathy than I could handle.
“She’s worried.” Thrawn had said after Syal had left, coming into the bedroom to stand leaning in the doorway.
“I don’t care.” My reply had been the same, always the same, sullen and dead.
I had flapped my hand at him. “Do not start.” I had snapped and then had returned to bed.
That had been three days ago and she had not come back since. Thrawn was at a loss with what to do with me and I just didn’t care. We slept in the same bed because when I had tried to sleep in my own room he had gone ballistic and the fight had been exhausting. I had given in to his request because it was easier than fighting but the gulf between us was wider than the light years between Tatooine and Csilla.
Thrawn buried himself in his work and I tried hid in sleep but I tended to spend much of my time lying in the darkened bedroom lost in a daze of self loathing and guilt. I counted time around his coming and going so that I could prepare for him coming to bed by pretending to be asleep. So I was awake when the doorbell rang. I heard Thrawn move to answer it and strained to hear who was there and since we had already had our daily yelling match I could not imagine who would want to visit us.
“Good afternoon Syal.” Thrawn said.
“Is she here?” She asked bluntly. I heard the door shut.
“She’s sleeping. She’s….” he never got to finish his sentence because she cut him off.
“She’s always sleeping and I know for a fact that no one sleeps that much and I also know she wasn’t sleeping a few hours ago because my sons and I were going to stop by and visit and we could hear the yelling half way down the hall. Now where the hell is she?”
“Syal, I told you she is sleeping.”
“In here?” She asked and then tried to open the bedroom door. “It’s locked.”
“She does that when she wants to be left alone.”
“She’s been left alone enough.” Syal was angry. “It hasn’t done her any good.”
“What does that mean?” Thrawn asked coolly.
“It means that she’s not getting better, she’s depressed and she’s drowning in it. It’s been nearly four weeks since she miscarried and I’m worried sick about her. So should you be.”
“You think I am not worried?” Thrawn asked and I could hear the edge of anger underneath his voice.
“I think you are hiding in your work and avoiding the real issues at hand.”
“Which would be?”
“You both lost a child.”
“I am aware of that. What is your point?”
“My point is you don’t deal with it at all, neither of you do. You bury yourself in this war and what- ever insane projects you have going on the subbasements meanwhile Merlyn, who has never learned to deal with death properly, feels guilty about losing the baby and that guilt is killing her.”
I heard Syal sigh. “You are such an idiot, you have no idea.”
“No idea? What do you think I am doing here?”
“To be honest, I don’t know.”
“I am trying to help her.”
“By doing what?”
“Giving her space. Being here if she needs me.”
There was a pause before Syal spoke. “What she needs is for someone to actively take control of this situation. She’s a billion light years from her home and what’s left of her dysfunctional family. She just lost a baby, a baby she was told she would probably never have and you think you are helping her by leaving her alone?”
“It’s what she wants.”
“She doesn’t know what she wants right now, between her grief, her guilt and the deadly cocktail of hormones in her body she’s more screwed up than ever before. You, of all people, should know her track record with grief but you do not seem to learn.” Syal retorted angrily.
“What would you have me do then?” Thrawn’s words were clipped and tight.
“Open this damned door.” She banged on it for emphasis, making me jump, “You’re the base commander so I know you can override the lock.”
Thrawn did as Syal asked and I heard the door to the bedroom slide open. It was dark so Syal went to the windows and opened the blind letting the daylight spill in. I rolled over, away from the light and buried my head under the covers.
“Go away.” I mumbled into the covers.
“Merly, please get up.” She asked gently, sitting on the bed beside me. I felt the touch of her hand as she stroked my hair. It was dirty. I couldn’t remember the last time I had washed it. “Merlyn, I’m not going away so please turn around and look at me.”
I heaved a huge sigh and did as she asked. She could not hide her shock at my appearance although she tried.
“I take it back,” she said to Thrawn, “You’re not just an idiot you’re a complete m….”
“I get the idea Syal.” Thrawn said quietly from his place by the door. “You don’t need to say it again.”
She got up off the bed and rounded on him with a fury I would never have expected from her. “She looks like hell. How could you have not noticed? When was the last time she ate or bathed? How could you have been so blind?” He drew a deep breath but she did not let him say a word. “Go make yourself useful, make tea and fetch her something to eat, something light. Take your time, I think a bath is in order here and I want some time to talk with her before you get back.”
“Tea and food it is.” He said through tight lips and then, with a glance at me, left quietly.
Syal vanished for a moment and I heard the sound of water running. When she came back she had my bathrobe in her hands and without warning me she pulled back the covers. I complained as cold air hit my bare legs but she ignored me and pulled me up.
“Get up and go have a bath. You smell like a jawa.” She bullied.
“Syal go away.”
“No I will not so stop saying that to me. Enough is enough. Now will you get up before I drag you out of this bed and toss you in the tub.”
I gave her a look.
“Don’t try me Merly, I wrestle young boys into submission, you’re a lightweight by comparison.”
With a sigh of defeat I took the robe from her outstretched hand and did as she asked. There did not seem to be any point in fighting with her and I didn’t have the energy. The bath filled up and bubbled, scenting the fresher like pascha flowers. I stared at it until Syal turned the water off and nudged at me.
“Don’t make me undress you like I do with my boys either.” She said.
I turned to look at her. “Why are you here?”
“Because I love you, because my sons love and adore you and we are all very, very worried. Now get in the bath and get clean so that you can start smelling like a girl again.” She left the fresher and went back into the bedroom. “Trust me, you need this.” She yelled as she began to open the windows.
I nodded at no one in particular, slipped off my night clothes and then stepped into the tub. I gasped at the sensation of the hot water on my skin. I had forgotten how nice it felt to sit in a warm bath. I had forgotten a lot of things.
“Too hot?” She asked as she walked back in to the fresher.
“No,” I said. “It’s fine.”
“Lean forward I’ll wash your hair, it feels like you have a year’s worth of grease in it.” I did as she asked and gave myself into her hands. She was gentle and motherly. It was somehow comforting and frightening all at the same time. I didn’t want to be loved or cared for but I didn’t fight it as she washed my hair for me. I was a grown woman but in that moment I felt like a child in her hands.
“I’m sorry about the baby Merly. We all are but you can’t hide away like this.”
I didn’t say anything as she poured water over my head to rinse out the soap. I just sat in the hot bubbly water with my knees drawn to my chest hugging them tightly.
“What happened was terrible, I know how you must feel….”
I snapped my head to look at her. Water sprayed from my hair in a silvery arc. “You know how I feel? How can you possible know how I feel? How? You have three beautiful, healthy children. So how the hell can you tell me you know how it feels to lose a baby like this?”
She sighed and drew a long thoughtful breath. “Yes, I have three healthy boys but the very first time I got pregnant I miscarried. I was twenty weeks along, I was alone at home and Tir was away. I have an idea of how it feels.”
I felt a sudden deep, deep self loathing slice through me for being so mean. “Syal I’m….”
She cut me off. “You didn’t know, I’ve never told anyone so don’t feel guilty about this, you already have enough guilt choking you to death as it is. I didn’t tell you this to add to it. I told you because I wanted you to know I get it, I do understand what it is like to miscarry and lose a baby, to lose that hope. You are not alone. Maybe I don’t know exactly what you are going through, no one can but I share the experience.”
I nodded listlessly and let her rinse my hair off. When she was done she stood up, drying her hands on a nearby towel.
“I’ll leave you to get out and get dressed. I am sure that man of yours has wasted as much time as he can without going mad and will be back any moment with tea and food.” And with that she vanished.
I submerged one more time under the water and relished the sensation of utter quiet then I heaved myself out of the bath and wrapped myself in the big towel Syal had left for me. I found some clean clothes and made my way to the sitting room where Syal and Thrawn were waiting. I looked from one to the other and sat next to Syal on the couch. She poured tea and handed me a cup, then she poured one for Thrawn and herself. Then she continued talking as though there had been no interruptions.
“Tir and I were newly weds when I learned I was pregnant. He was deployed when I got the test results but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to worry him. I was new at being the wife of a renowned Imperial pilot. I felt it was a wife’s duty to be supportive and not do or say anything that would distract him from his work. He was supposed to be back before I hit my fourth month anyway and I wanted to surprise him with the good news. Instead I miscarried and it nearly tore us apart.”
Thrawn arched an eyebrow and glanced at me. “Syal, I’m sorry. I do not know what to say.”
“There isn’t anything to say.” Syal said. “It happened. It was devastating and it nearly wrecked our marriage because I was so wracked with guilt that I couldn’t talk to him about it and he didn’t know how to treat me, how to speak with me. I shut him out, spent far too much time alone because I felt guilty for not letting him know in time, I felt guilty for losing the baby, I felt guilty about everything and it damn near destroyed me.”
“I remember your wedding on the holonews but I never heard anything about you losing a baby and Soontir has never mentioned it.” Thrawn said gently.
“I was lucky enough to not be in any public place when it happened and I could afford a clinic that prided itself on privacy. Tir does not speak of it because he can’t. It is a hurt that cuts too deeply still. He felt betrayed I think but also he felt his own brand of guilt for not being there when it happened. He could not help or protect me when I needed it the most and for a man that’s a difficult situation to reconcile with.” Syal replied matter of factly.
Thrawn nodded as though he understood exactly what she was talking about. “How did you get through it?” He asked all the while looking at me.
“Eventually I got help, we got help and I started to talk about it. Then I, we, mourned and finally, when I was able to, I threw myself back into in my work.” She said quietly. It gets easier with time, not that you ever forget, but it gets easier … in time.”
I shook my head. The weight of the loss sat heavily on my shoulders. “I just …” I shook my head for a moment, “I keep thinking there might have been something else I could have done.”
“Why?” She asked pointedly.
“Why...?” I echoed her word as though it were an answer.
“Why do you feel you could have stopped this?” She asked. “Women miscarry all the time, it happens far more frequently than anyone wants to believe and you had an especially high risk pregnancy, why should you have been able to change any of that? You were already doing everything possible to safe guard the baby anyway. None of this is your fault.”
I shrugged unable to answer.
“Guilt will destroy you and it’s useless, that much I’ve learned. Why won’t you let us help? We want to be there for you, help you through this and you shut us all out, all of us. My boys love you and they ask every day how you are doing and they want to see you. They miss you, they want to somehow help you after what happened but you don’t let anyone near you any more.”
I felt a lump of sorrow deep in my throat. “They know?”
“Their father is an Imperial pilot; they live in a world where death is a possibility. When they asked what was wrong and what had happened I did not lie to them. They knew that you were pregnant; you know that, you involved them in your pregnancy. They laid their hands on your belly to feel the baby move. When they asked what had happened, because news on this base travels faster than light speed, I told them the truth, I told them that the baby you were carrying died. They understand what death means in as much as they can. They know your baby is gone and they know you are sad.”
“Is that what you told them? That I am sad?”
“Aren’t you?” Syal asked clearly confused.
I shook my head. “No, I don’t feel sad.” I said, “I don’t seem to be able to feel anything. I feel dead.”
“Dead?” Thrawn’s head tilted as he asked. I glanced at him and then went back to looking at Syal.
“Did you cry?” I asked, “When you miscarried?”
“Yes, all the time for almost a month. I couldn’t stop.”
“Well I can’t.” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I cannot cry. I’ve tried but it’s as if someone has taken a mole miner and gutted me from the inside out. I feel nothing except a terrible blackness.” I sighed as I tried to explain, “Every death I have experienced I mourned. I cried, I was angry and it hurt, it hurt so much sometimes I didn’t know what to do with it but it was a feeling, you know I actually felt something but this…I don’t understand. I have never felt so empty before.” I shrugged. “It’s as if I stepped out of the normal universe into someplace else where there are no emotions, no feelings nothing just some strange and surreal void.”
“Why have you not told me this before A’myshk’a?” Thrawn asked quietly.
I looked at him. “What is there to tell? I don’t know how to get past this and you can’t help. It is as if I am stuck in some sort of vacuum and you cannot possibly understand so what is the point in trying to explain it?”
“Thomas would have helped, you could have gone to speak with him if you felt I was not the right person to talk to.” He said. There was a dreadful pain under his words.
“There are no drugs in the galaxy to make me cry.” I said crossly.
“No, I guess there aren’t and it actually shouldn’t surprise anyone you feel this way.” Syal nodded.
Thrawn gave her a look which said ‘explain’.
Syal glanced at him but turned to speak to me, “Given the number of terrible losses and awful things that have happened in your life it seems to me that it’s no wonder your brain and body have just shut this out. How much can one person endure? You lost your mother, then your identity by learning you were adopted and that your birth parents were a jedi and a clone soldier who killed the woman that gave birth to you I mean that alone is a complete mind-fuck, then you lost Lord Vader whom against all odds you were close to and liked by, then your father died thanks to someone you once cared about. You thought you had somehow killed your uncle and your friend Navaari and on top of it all for the last decade plus you’ve been dealing with a psychopathic moron that you used to love, who you ended up having to kill on a forsaken planet after crash landing because he refused to take no for an answer. And for all of this you seem to somehow feel guilty, as though it were all your fault. For the love of all Corellia Merlyn it’s no wonder you’ve gone off the deep end. There is only so much guilt a person can shoulder and I think you’ve cornered the market.”
I didn’t know how to answer her but I couldn’t deny what she had said either.
“You need to talk to someone who could help you, maybe the doctor?” She suggested with a small shrug.
“And what’s he going to do? He can’t make me feel, he can’t make me suddenly change or all better, none of you can. There is no on-off switch for my emotions. You keep trying to get me to move on but move on t0 where? There is no place left for me to go. So what am I supposed to do?”
“Talk to us?”
“Talking doesn’t do anything.”
“Maybe you just need to start letting people in.” Syal said softly.
I stared at her as though seeing her for the first time. “Why?”
She opened her mouth to answer but then closed it again and looked to Thrawn as though he would have a better solution or a suitable answer for my question. Worry was etched on her face but it felt very far away to me, as though I were watching everything through transparasteel or as a holovid. As if none of it was happening or had happened directly to me. I wondered what would happen when this bubble I was in burst. I didn’t think that was something I actually wanted to be around for.
“Oh Merly,” She finally said softly, stroking a lock of damp hair off my face. She glanced at Thrawn and got up off the couch. “I’m going to go check on my boys before they drive their babysitter completely mad. You,” she said talking to Thrawn, “see that she eats and drinks. I will be back in a bit to make sure neither of you have killed each other. Can I trust that won’t happen?”
“I believe you can.” Thrawn replied carefully never taking his eyes off me.
“Right, I will be back in an hour or so. If she’s gone back to the dark hole of a bedroom and that food’s not been touched I will be cross.”
Thrawn’s lips twitched slightly. “I will endeavour to avoid that, you are remarkably fierce.”
“I am the wife of Soontir Fel would you expect anything less?” She said as she left.
The silence in her wake was deafening. For a very long time I sat cradling the cup of tea while neither of us said a word. Then Thrawn broke the standoff.
“I am so sorry.”
“Why? You didn’t do anything.”
I frowned and sipped at the tea.
“I have been a consummate strategist for as long as I can recall but your methods, your way of dealing with things defies all logic. Just when I think I have an idea of how you react you do the opposite. I thought that you needed solitude and time alone to come to terms with this, that you would seek out your friends to find solace and comfort. This was a mistake on my part. I didn’t understand that you did not want comfort or kindness. I did not understand that you have been punishing yourself and that what you needed was absolution which is something I can’t give you, only you can do that. You have to forgive yourself, there is no one to blame for this especially not you.”
“How? How can I do that?”
“You have to let it go which is something you have never learned how to do. I should have understood, the signs have been there all along but I didn’t. I should have seen that you have been living with death your whole life, just as Syal said, and no one has taught you how to say goodbye. You have carried the weight of guilt since the death of your mother and you’ve never let that go, every time someone you care for dies this weight doubles. For reasons I cannot fathom you feel responsible for it. So listen to me, tekari, you are not to blame for the deaths of Lord Vader, your friend Cati or your mother and father just as you are not to blame for this miscarriage. Sometimes terrible things happen and there is nothing you can do to prevent them. Please learn to forgive yourself and let this awful weight go before it destroys you once and for all.”
It was a truth I didn’t want to hear but he knew me better than I knew myself. I set the empty cup on the table and without asking he refilled it for me but I let it sit there without picking it up. “Stop it.” I whispered. “Just leave me alone.”
“No, no I don’t think so. I have listened to you and bowed to your requests for solitude but not any more.”
“Then what the hell do you want from me?” I asked.
“What I want is my bond-mate back. This ghost you’ve become, this shade who haunts this base.” He had shaken his head at a loss for words. The hardness on his face softened so that the hurt and worry he felt was plain to see. “I don’t know how to help you. I can plan a war down to the finest detail but how to get past all these blocks you throw up escapes me. I am at a loss on how to fix this. I cannot turn back time and save you from this pain but if I could I would.”
“How does anyone fix this?” I asked gesturing loosely with my hand.
“Well, for a start you stop trying to hold in everything and stop acting as though the rest of the galaxy does not exist. You are not the only one who lost a child in this relationship and you are not the only one who feels that loss. You are surrounded by people who love you, who can help you but you refuse to let them. At the risk of sounding selfish, for me in this matter there is only you yet as you pull further and further away from me I find myself at a loss and I do not know what to do about it.”
I frowned, puzzled by his words.
He drew a deep breath and paused for a moment to explain what he meant. “I cannot discuss this with anyone under my command. I cannot openly show any feelings or sorrow so where does that leave me? Without you, I am left alone to deal with a grief I also do not have any experience with. You keep shutting me out and I do not have anyone else to turn to.”
“When have you ever needed to turn to anyone?” I asked feeling a subtle deep anger in my gut.
“You might be surprised to learn that I rely on many people. Chiss do not show their emotions in public which you know, but it does not mean we do not have emotions. I may have control over my feelings almost all of the time but even I struggle with this. I deal with it because I have to but the pain is there. Do not mistake my cool demeanour for lack of emotion.” He was angry. “I need you even though you refuse to see it.”
I just stared at him. “Since when have you ever actually needed me for anything other than warming your bed or looking pretty on your arm Za’ar?” The remark, which was meant to hurt, hit its mark fully and he sat back away from me the expression on his face suddenly hard and withdrawn.
“Do you think that is all you are to me?”
“I don’t know what I am to you.” I said with a shrug, “I don’t know what I am to anyone anymore.”
He opened his mouth to answer but then changed his mind instead he got up and paced around the room. After a few moments he spoke.
“From the first moment I ever laid eyes on you I knew there was something remarkable about you, the waif from Tatooine whom Vader had chosen to keep at his side. You were one contradiction after the other and that was an attraction I had not yet had the pleasure of at Palpatine’s court. It did not take me long to understand that here was someone who didn’t see me as alien, or strange or even as an outsider of lesser worth. You just saw me as rude. It was quite an eye opener I must admit. I had been called many things but rude was not one of them.” He paused to stare out of the window for a moment then he turned back to me.
“The attraction was there from the start I think, you’re a beautiful woman but it takes more than just physical beauty to turn my head. You were like a painting I could not tear my eyes from, let alone understand and explain. You have a fire and a passion that is infectious as well as creates a powerful desire yet you see yourself as ordinary, even mousey. You love without condition, giving your whole heart and soul to people, even those who have done nothing to deserve such a gracious gift and yet you expect so little in return that it surprises you when someone does something nice. You are as fierce and as capable as any Chiss warrior yet there is a vulnerability and a fragility to you which touches me deeply creating a dreadful need to care and protect even when I know you do not wish it. You ask me what I need from you but I cannot define it in a few words. You bring out emotions in me I never knew existed for good and for bad. How else could I explain the insane jealousy I feel when other men vie for your affections or the irrational fear I feel when you suddenly vanish and something terrible happens to you. There is no way for me to describe the joy you bring when you smile, or the indescribable passions that engulf me when we bed each other. There are just too many ways in which you have altered my life for the better for me to list so let it be enough to tell you that without you in my life I would be a lesser man. If I have made you think or feel that you do not matter to me then I am truly, truly sorry.”
I just stared at him. It was one of the longest speeches I had ever heard him make and the closest he had ever come to actually saying he loved me out loud. For the first time since losing the baby I felt an ache of sorrow that came from somewhere very deep down inside of me. I didn’t like it and I didn’t want it because I was certain that feeling empty would be far more preferable to the pain which was lurking beneath the surface.
He paused for a moment. “I am so very sorry.” He said again as if I had not heard it the first or the second time.
I got up off the couch and walked away from him.
“I’m sorry.” He said again.
I wheeled around suddenly angry. “Stop it.” I said. “Stop saying that.”
“No I will not because it needs to be said and you need to hear it.”
I snapped. “What I need is to be left alone. What I need is for the pity and the sympathy to stop. If I hear the words I’m so sorry for your loss one more time I will kill someone. They make it sound as though I misplaced the baby. He died. He’s dead and gone. You just don’t understand so please leave me the hell alone.” I said sounding far sulkier than I had intended.
“You think I do not understand loss? You think I do not understand this loss?”
“What I think is irrelevant.” I snapped turning to stare defiantly at him.
“Merlyn, I performed the O’kuri’dai alone.” He spoke softly. “Do you have any idea how difficult that was for me?” He paused, the muscles in his jaw clenching, “You should have been there with me, for our child, but you were not.”
I shook my head. I did not want to listen to this.
“You were not there to say goodbye and it’s destroying you.” He waited to see if I would answer but I didn’t so he continued. “As was tradition, I stood alone outside at dusk letting the ashes of our child brush through my fingers to vanish on the wind. I spoke the words to speed him on his way. He was a child born too soon; there was no soul to free only a body to return to the universe so that the next time it will return healthy to house a soul and join our family.”
I trembled under the weight of his words. “Stop it.” I whispered. He did not.
“We should have been there together to do this but I was there alone. He must have been so very tiny because there were so little of him left for me to give back to the world.” He held out his hands as if he were back at that moment in time, staring at them with an expression I could not decipher. “Do you have any idea how that felt?” He almost whispered.
I swallowed down the sudden ache of pain mingled with shame and shook my head.
“Tekari, while I do not know what it must have been like for you to carry this baby then lose him too soon and in such an awful manner but I do know what it was like to perform that Dantassi death rite alone for our child. There have been many things in my life I have found difficult but that moment, that moment in time was one of the hardest.”
The knot I had been carrying inside of me suddenly seemed to explode. I could feel the pressure of all the sorrow I had stuffed down inside threatening to engulf me but still I didn’t let it go. I turned my back to Thrawn and hugged my arms tightly around me as if that would help, struggling to keep myself together. In all this time I had wallowed in my grief never thinking about his because I had been the one to carry and lose the child. It had not occurred to me that he would feel so deeply about it.
“I’m sorry Merlyn.” He said again, “So please, please come back to me, I do not want to lose you.”
“It is as though you are willing yourself to die, as though you are somehow trying to kill yourself slowly.”
“I do not want to die.” I retorted a little too quickly because I wasn’t sure he was wrong about what he had said.
“Really? It does not appear that you wish to live either.”
“Then tell me what there is to live for?” I asked suddenly closer to tears at that moment than I had been since the miscarriage. “Tell me, when everything, everyone I love dies what the hell am I supposed to live for?”
His expression softened as he shook his head. “I am not dead.” He said gently, “And I do not have plans to die any time soon so please stop counting me among the casualties already.”
“You are not dead yet.” My voice turned icy. “But I’ve seen your death and even if you do not believe my dreams I do. I dreamed my child would die and he did. Everything terrible that I have seen in my nightmares has happened. You keep repeating me you won’t leave me alone but you will, I know you will. So tell me, how do I live with this?”
“I will not abandon you to this darkness that’s swallowed you whole. I will not abandon you at all. I am right here and I have been right here all along. I am not going to leave you.” He shook his head.
“You will.” I said flatly. “I’ve seen it.”
“I take your dreams seriously tekari, but in the end, they are just dreams, your subconscious mind talking to you. I wish you would stop putting so much faith in such in something so intangible and start believing in me. You must trust me. I have things well in hand. There are many safeguards in place. I promise you this.”
I opened my mouth to speak but was interrupted when the door chime rang. I sighed as Thrawn let Syal in with her two elder boys.
“They wanted to make sure you were alright with their own eyes.” Syal explained.
Looking at them knocked the breath out of me. I had not expected her to bring her boys. Davin stood back, always watchful and quiet, ever the more serious but his little brother was not so shy.
“Aunty Merly,” Chak said seriously, “Mommy said you wanted to be left alone but we wanted to see you. It’s been ages and we were worried, like when daddy’s away.”
I looked at the little boy and felt something inside of me break. I sat down on the couch hard and Thrawn sat beside me, carefully, watchfully.
“Mom said the baby inside your belly died and that’s why you’re sad.” Davin said.
I covered my mouth with my hand which was trembling.
“Syal?” Thrawn said quietly.
Syal just made a gesture with her hand that said ‘just watch’.
“Yes.” I answered managing to speak. “The baby died.”
Chak made a face as though he were trying to sort out everything in his mind. “But why?”
“He was born too early and he was too little to live in the real world.”
I glanced at Syal and then at Thrawn. I had not been expecting the boys or their questions. “I don’t know why, it just happened.” I said.
“That’s not fair.” Davin said thoughtfully. “You would have been a great mommy.”
I choked on the surge of emotion. I was not at all prepared for this conversation from Syal's boys or how it would feel to see their worry and love shining in their faces.
“Me and Davin drew you a picture. So you wouldn’t be so sad any more. So you would always have a picture of your baby.” Chak said seriously and he handed me a small piece of paper. “We don’t want you to be sad. You need to be like a Dantassi, strong and brave because it’s so hard.”
I took the picture from his outstretched hand. My fingers trembled. I glanced at Thrawn and then looked at the little drawing and fought the wave of sadness which swept through me, powerful and unstoppable. Tears welled up in my eyes and my throat burned.
The boys had drawn Thrawn and me in a garden somewhere. In between us they had drawn a small child, whose skin and hair was like his father’s but he had my eyes. It was so simple yet so full of love and meaning that I had to fight back the emotion which threatened to drown me.
“It’s …” I took a deep breath, “Thank you both.” I managed to say and before I could stop him Chak suddenly hugged me. I could feel the walls which had held my grief at bay begin to crumble and a world of grief began to flood in.
“Don’t be sad, you still have us and we love you very much.” Chak said as he held on to me fiercely.
I began to shake uncontrollably.
Syal gently pulled Chak back from me. I let go of the little boy and allowed Thrawn to wrap an arm around my shoulder drawing me into him protectively. He saw what was about to happen as did Syal.
“Syal, I think perhaps that’s enough.” He said gently.
“Come on boys, I think Merly needs some time.” Syal said gathering her two sons up and shepherding them to the door.
“Can we come back tomorrow?” Chak asked.
“Yeah, can we? You need to tell us about Navaari, we haven’t heard how his great hunt ended.” Davin asked.
“Let’s wait and see shall we?” Syal said.
“But mom….” Chak started but Syal hushed him.
“Come on, Merly and the Admiral need to be alone for a bit. I think we’ve said what we needed to.”
I couldn’t look at her but Thrawn gave her a nod and with that she left. I stared at the drawing in my hands, watching the paper shake with my trembling fingers. Gently Thrawn took it and laid it on the table. He pulled me to him and held me, stroking my hair. “I am sorry.” He murmured. I fought against the oncoming storm and tried to push back from him but he would not let me go. “I am so, so sorry.” He repeated.
“Please stop saying that.” I whispered.
“No, I won’t because it is the truth and you need to hear it, you need to believe it.”
“Listen to me A’myshk’a, your responsibility is to the living not the dead. Our son is dead but I am not, those two little boys who adore you and their mother are not and neither are all of the other people here who care deeply for you. I am sorry I let this go on for as long as I did. I am sorry it took Syal to see what was happening and step in. I should have understood but I didn’t.” His words broke me and all I could do was let it go.
“Our son is dead….” I whispered.
He threaded his fingers through my hair as he pressed my head against his chest. Finally my tears came then as he knew they would, as Syal had hoped. I didn’t fight it, any of it and it hurt so much I thought I would die but in difference to earlier I no longer wanted to.