Livin' on the Edge
The man cupped the girl’s face in his hands, though he had to lean down to do so.
“You’ll do just fine. And you know I’ll be proud of you, no matter what. Stosh! You look so much like your mother! I just wish she was alive to see what a beautiful young woman you’ve grown into.”
Her lekku radiated happiness as she pretended to be cross.
“Language, daddy! You know what ma-ma always says…”
“Yes, yes,” he interrupted.
And then, in unison, “Speech is what separates us from the animals. Why, then, speak like an animal?”
The both burst into laughter.
“Aleksander Leonev, you are going to make her miss the shuttle,” the eternal tone of a mother’s disapproval radiating down from the third floor balcony. “And I say that for a reason. First you start talking like the animals. Next you start acting like the animals. Animals are bred and slaughtered, or hunted for sport, or made to fight and rut for our amusement. Is that what you want for House Calabria?!”
“Stosh! Cthanda’lek, mother! We are dancers! We literally jump around on stage for the amusement of others. Besides, can’t a father dote on his daughter as she leaves to attend the most prestigious acrobatics academy in the Galaxy? If a bit of profane glee is not appropriate now, then when?!?”
But she was already gone. And she was right about the shuttle in any case.
“Alright, sweetie, you’d better go.”
He pulled her close, enveloping her in a deep hug.
“You make me proud every day to be your father!”
Tears streamed down her face, and she never wanted the hug to end. But end it did. And, as her father pulled back, he pressed his hand over hers, and she felt something small, cold, and hard slide onto her finger.
“It was you mother’s. She said it was a family heirloom.”
“But I thought she never told you anything about her family?” the girl shot back, unable to look up from her finger, where a small red jewel seemed to sparkle and glow in the morning light.
“Oh, she didn’t. Believe me, I tried to get her to talk about it. And perhaps she would have…in time, but…”
The rest went unspoken, but his lekku said it all. She shared that moment with him, shared the grief that had always been like a secret language between them. Gods knew Ma-ma seemed not to care. And Marina's mother had been a contract marriage, designed to last for a limited term, or until the match produced offspring, whichever came first. No. They did not understand. And Xenia almost preferred it that way.
The hover car edged forward a bit, like a horse champing at the bit.
“Mistress, we will miss the shuttle unless we leave immediately,” said XR-32.
“I love you, daddy! And it’s only four years, right?”
“Well, I better see you a few times before that – I mean, holidays and breaks and such, right?!”
They hugged once more, quickly this time, and Xenia Irina Calabria hopped over the door and into the back seat of the hover car. She waved at her father as XR-32 hit the accelerator.
As he often did, Aleksander Leonev Calabria remained standing in the courtyard, watching his daughter speed away until she was nothing more than tiny speck of dust in the distance.
The two women watching him through a window on the third floor could not see his face, but they could see the pride and affection he felt from the placement of his lekku.
“Your father will need you now more than ever, Marina. Losing her mother was difficult enough for him, but to lose them both. Well, the men of House Calabria have never been as tough as the women. So, we have to be twice as strong to make up for their weakness.”
“Yes, ma-ma. I will be strong for father. But, may I ask?”
“Do you really want to know?” the old Twi’Lek replied, arching her eyebrows.
The girl straightened her back, and held her chin up defiantly: “We Calabria women are strong. I can handle it.”
“It’s a shame, really, all the violence and death that comes from this rebel movement against the Empire. And for what? I imagine your father’s separatist sympathies will be dampened considerably when an attack by terrorist rebels destroys the shuttle carrying his youngest daughter to The Academy. Rebel scum.”
She almost spat out the last two words, as did everyone in polite society, but there was a smile on her face as she did it.