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All Our Days

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 42 ABY.

 

There isn’t a soul in the galaxy who’d be foolish enough to call Ergel of Jakku a solicitous or selfless man— that’s a fact. Ergel owns a bar in Cratertown, which is less a proper settlement than it is a sad ramshackle collection of shanties. Everybody knows the place has more Tuanulberry bushes than it does sentient beings.

 

But Ergel doesn’t mind. He’s got two of his three daughters to help tend the bar and keep the place clean; his nights are spent drinking or gambling or most often both, and his days are spent sleeping it off. It’s a good setup, for Ergel.

 

His eldest daughter, Verla, a vain clever creature who likes to sit around gossiping with the regulars, leaves most of the work for Ergel’s second daughter, Rey, a sad wisp of a woman who, many mean souls mutter to each other under their breath, is well past her prime. The youngest, Gozetta, a nice enough girl although she never saw a sorry circumstance she couldn’t turn into a pity party for herself, is already married off. Few years back some hotshot pilot for the New Republic’s fleet who goes by the name Poe Dameron swept through Jakku on a reconnaissance mission. He was sweet on Rey for a while, even asked for her hand once he’d finished what he came to do, but Rey turned him down, kind but firm, and in his distress he fell into the open arms of her little sister. Now they live in what only a blind idiot might call domestic bliss on the Core planet Chandrila.

 

Ergel fancies himself of noble birth, but anyone with any sense knows that’s only in comparison to the half-starved scavengers that wander into his bar. His favorite holobook is a compendium of every famous figure in the galaxy’s umpteen thousand years of history, cross-indexed by name, homeworld, wealth, familial connections, achievements, and rank. People say he’s got the damn thing memorized.

 

We’re descended from Contispex the First himself,” he likes to tell people. Nevermind that Contispex is famous for two things: his affiliation with the anti-alien Pius Dea Crusades, and the fact that the illegal dynasty he founded unjustly held control of the galaxy for well over a thousand years. No, that doesn’t bother Ergel; the man was a shining star in the Old Republic’s firmament, according to him, and a name that everyone knows.

 

That’s all that really matters.

 

Some folks call him Ergel the First. Some bow and scrape at his bar, blurting out ridiculous compliments in the hopes of getting a free drink. Some refer to him as the Chancellor of Cratertown. Most of ‘em are joking. Most.

 

But then again, people say a lot of barvy things, ‘specially after they’ve imbibed a few too many shots of Ergel’s specialty, knockback nectar. People should be careful with that stuff, too much of it’ll steal a body’s voice and numb their mouths— making them liable to bite their own tongues off. Although… maybe that’d keep ‘em from wagging about Ergel so much.

 

Another thing people wonder about Ergel: will he ever marry again? There aren’t too many eligible women wandering around Jakku. Handful of old scavengers who aren’t related to anyone famous, and in any case, are too smart for the likes of Ergel. Most of them, though, have done whatever’s necessary to get off that dead rock of a planet by the time they reach a marrying age.

 

But you see, the reason people ask that, is because when Ergel returned to Jakku, ‘bout six years ago or thereabouts, he came with his wife, Hedda, and Verla and Gozetta. Only member of the family who wasn’t part of this glorious return was Rey— ‘cause she was exactly where they’d left her: on Jakku. They’d fled when she was just a grubby-fingered youngling, and the day they showed up again? She didn’t even recognize them ‘til Hedda pulled out a bunch of old holovids Ergel had filmed years back. The vids showed all sorts of things Rey only half-remembered: Rey and Verla running around on the Crackle, that great field of shining black glass that surrounds a crashed Star Destroyer out near the Starship Graveyard; climbing up the thick, armored legs of the luggabeasts that sat waiting for their Teedo masters outside the Niima Outpost; the three of them, Gozetta still just a tiny baby, napping quietly on the sofa in their Cratertown living room while a Holoprogram droned quietly in the background.

 

She’d gasped when Hedda had shown her those, and embraced them— all of them— and called them ma and pa and sisters, and that had been that.

 

Didn’t have enough room on the ship, Ergel says with a shrug, when people ask about those lost years. We knew our Rey was tough like a spinebarrel. If any of our girls could take care of themselves ‘til we came back, it was her. Gozetta was too small and Verla was too delicate for the desert. Didn’t come back sooner ‘cause we ran outta money in some backend shadowport, had to stay a while.

 

Ergel usually fails to mention that the ‘while’ they stayed amounted to about a decade and a half.

 

He also fails to mention that the night before he and his family up and left, he’d won the pot in a game of sabacc he’d been playing down at Niima Outpost. He fails to mention that he sold Rey to the post’s Crolute junk boss, Unkar Plutt, who made her work her fingers to the bone for years without telling her where her family was, while he and his wife and his two favorite daughters were off enjoying the spoils from that one lucky game. And funnily enough, he’s never deemed it worth sharing that Plutt, without telling her, took a portion of Rey’s daily scavengings and forwarded the credits to Ergel.

 

Ergel doesn’t like to talk about how thin and tough his daughter was by the time he came crawling back, out of credits and riding the last sputterings of a light freighter’s dying ion engine.

 

After all… that doesn’t make him look too good, does it?

 

No, Ergel of Jakku is not a very nice man. But he is Rey’s father, and no one can deny him that, least of all Rey, who spent all those years waiting and hoping he’d return.

 

And Hedda? Well, before she died, she’d usually give a pained smile whenever anybody asked her that question, about Rey. Then she’d excuse herself from the conversation and go find the daughter in question, usually hard at work keeping the bar in order. She’d wrap her middle child up in her wiry arms, even though they were both full-grown women and practically strangers, and she’d bury her freckled nose deep in Rey’s shiny sweat-damp hair.

 

“‘M sorry, baby,” her mama would murmur.

 

“For what, ma?” Rey would ask, every time, and by the lack of guile in the question, Hedda would know that somehow, her daughter had forgiven them for what they’d done.

 

She would start to cry then, and Rey would rock her gently, her wiry arms wrapped now around her mother’s thin frame. She’d comfort Hedda until the guilt had passed, hushing and humming and petting Hedda’s long blonde hair.

 

So that’s how it was— right up until the morning they all woke to find Hedda had passed in her sleep.

 

Old age, Unkar’s medi-droid had said, after they’d paid him his fee. Tough life. Not surprising, for a Human female from Jakku.

 

And now Ergel scoffs, when his customers ask him about marriage. “Couldn’t dream of it,” he says, piously. “Got my girls to think of, don’t I?”

 

By which he means, of course, that one daughter’s his beast of burden, and the other he’s hoping to foist off on some rich Chandrilan senator. And why would Ergel bother with all the effort of impressing a woman, when he’s perfectly comfortable as is? And who on Jakku is even worthy of marrying a former Imperial administrator? And wasn’t Hedda more of a headache than anything else, when she was still alive? Always nagging him to go back to Jakku, always fretting about Rey and every other fool thing.

 

No thank you, thinks Ergel. I’ll never marry beneath my rank like that again.

 

And that, as they say, is that.