Their mother's voice had taken on a hint of weariness, and resignation. Hardly a good sign. Mardi Loran looked up from her sketch pad, trying to search her younger sister's eyes, but the eleven-year-old was focused on the cartoons being played on the HoloNet.
"Girls? Did you hear me?" Erinn Rieekan Loran walked into the room. Her large turquoise eyes were as hard as steel, matching her voice. Mardi looked up at her mother, studying the fine lines around the woman's eyes. The signs of age made Erinn look somewhat comical-with her childish features and usual impish expressions. Which had been fewer and far between these days.
"What did you want, Mom?" Tonya finally pulled her gaze away from the HN and looked up at her mother.
Erinn ran a hand through the tangled mess of black curls and stared hard at her daughters. "I want you to come upstairs with me. I need you both to help me go through your father's things." She paused, narrowing her eyes at Mardi. "Now, girls."
She turned and headed out of the room, the door sliding closed behind her. Tonya looked at Mardi fearfully.
"Why does she want us to go through Dad's things?" she asked her older sister, knowing the answer all too well.
Mardi shook her head. "YOU know, Tonya. Come on-she can't do this."
Erinn was up in her bedroom, tearing through the closet, attacking it with a fury her daughters hadn't seen in a long time. Mardi ducked, missing a pair of pants that had flown at her head. Tonya hung behind her, watching her mother fearfully.
"Mom? What are you doing?" Mardi asked. Erinn turned and glared at her.
"You know damn well what we're doing. And yes, I said 'we.' I want you two to set aside anything you might want for yourselves. Most of your father's clothes I'm giving to the Refugee Committee."
She paused, looking up at the two girls huddling against the door. "Well? Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to help me? I don't have time for this shit."
Tonya's eyes started to tear up, her lower lip quivering. Mardi glared right back at her mother. "You can't do this, Mom. When Dad gets back he'll-"
"Dammit, Mardi!" Erinn slapped the palm of her hand against the carved Orowood of the dresser. "Your father isn't coming back! Don't start with me, I mean it."
Tonya burst into tears. Mardi's jaw dropped. "Bitch," she muttered.
Erinn froze. Her eyes formed small, hard chips of turquoise ice. She looked daggers at her eldest daughter. "Excuse me?"
Mardi smirked. "You heard me. You've been one ever since we left Coruscant. Maybe you're the reason why Dad isn't coming back."
Erinn drew her arm back to slap the young girl when Tonya leaped across the room and flung her arms around her mother's waist.
"No! Mama, Mardi, stop it! PLEASE!"
Erinn lowered her arm, embracing the small girl. "Mardi, I-" She looked mournfully at the teenager standing in front of her.
"Kriff you," Mardi snapped. She was sick of it. Sick and tired of this damn war, sick of the Vong, sick of her life being disrupted like this. Her father was off Force knows where, her younger sister was acting more and more childish as time went on, and her mother was becoming a complete and utter harpy. She turned and slammed out of the room, nearly tripping over her father's astromech.
"Sod off, Vape." The droid beeped inquiringly after her, but she ignored it, and kept on running. Running, always running. Maybe if she ran far enough, she'd be running backwards, back to before. Back to when her father was there, back to when the galaxy was safe, when she was a little girl, and her mother was perfect. Before she found out that even parents are human and thus, fallible and flawed.
Erinn wrapped her arms around Tonya, kissing the top of her head. "Ah, hon, I'm sorry. I wouldn't hit your sister. I wouldn't hit you, either. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I've been such a dinko lately. I just..."
Tonya burrowed her face into her mother's stomach. "I miss Dad," she muttered, her voice muffled.
"I know, Baby. I do too. Come on-will you help me?" Erinn asked in a sobbing voice, but her face and eyes were dry-devoid of tears.
Tonya pulled back and nodded, looking more like a child of six or seven, than a young girl just turned eleven. She sniffed, swiping at her eyes.
Continued in Part Two