This was supposed to be life-changing. Something Rey Kanata was excited about, hoping that when she came back from this trip it would be with her parents—her real parents.
She gazed out of the window of the airplane, too high off the ground to actually make anything out beneath her. She could see the clouds; they always looked so much bigger when you were looking down at them instead of looking up. They reminded her of a dream she’d had as a child, where she would bounce between them, flipping back and forth as she jumped from one cloud to another. She distinctly remembered the feeling of being free, probably because she had never felt it since.
There was an inkling of it now, floating through her chest as she felt the plane rumble as it soared through the sky. The sun was setting, the sky a beautiful pink color, bleeding at some points into a dark orange. It was stunning, and she was unable to look away. If this was how her trip was starting, with this gorgeous sight, then that was a good omen, wasn’t it?
Rey Kanata was going to find her birth parents and to say she was excited, that she was yearning to finally meet them, was the understatement of the century. She had ended up with her guardian Maz when she was six months old, never knowing the true story of why or what became of the people who brought her into this world.
Maz never told her. She explained to her when she was younger that she was adopted, that she had a mother and father out there in the world, but they couldn’t be with her right now for reasons she couldn’t say. That they had done what was best for her, that they loved her.
For the most part, Rey had always believed her, but sometimes, usually in the darkness of night, she would sit at her window, looking up to the moon and wondering if her parents were looking at it too, wherever they were in the world—she just wanted them to tell her that she wasn’t alone.
Over the years, Maz mentioned her parents less and less, even trying to shut down the conversation whenever Rey brought it up, which she could admit, she did a lot. Rey loved Maz, and appreciated everything that she had done for her; she’d never wanted for anything and had been supported and loved. It could have been so much worse for her, she knew that, but still, the fact that her parents had given her up continued to sting. It still made her think she wasn’t enough. That there had been something wrong with her.
Now, here she was, searching for them for the first time in her life. The circumstances that brought her to this point were quite simply, heartbreaking. The pain of losing Maz to cancer not six months before still throbbed with every step that she took. If Rey had felt alone knowing her parents had left her, then losing the only parental figure she had, had quickly thrown her into a pit of despair.
She still had friends, work colleagues, Maz’s friends… she still had people in her life, but none that filled the hole that Maz Kanata left behind. She hoped that meeting her parents would help fill it, would give her some sort of sweet relief from the crushing feeling of loneliness that seemed to follow her around like an inescapable dark cloud.
Speaking of following around , she thought, and looked to her right to quickly glimpse the hulk of a man named Ben Solo sitting next to her. His headphones were in, his eyes already closed as he listened to his music. It was her cue to take a longer look, to try and figure this enigma of a man out.
He was handsome—not in a way that made you do a double take, but there was just something so masculine, sexy… almost brutish about him that Rey had noticed since she was a young girl. He was Leia Organa’s son, and Leia had been one of Maz’s closest friends. She wouldn’t exactly say she grew up with Ben Solo, but he had always been there, sitting silently in the corner with his notepad, usually ignoring her. Which, had suited her more often that not, as Ben could be cold, rude… and sometimes she guessed, just as lonely as she was.
It wasn’t that they didn’t get along, more that they tolerated each other. They didn’t seem to agree on anything and it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying, on both sides. Rey had to give Ben some credit; he had tried to converse with her, many times…but it always ended in one of them saying the wrong thing and the other being completely dramatic about it. It was literally an never-ending cycle. And had nothing to do with the fact he was a walking, breathing, Adonis. Really .
She didn’t even want him here on this trip with her. It was supposed to be personal, an experience that would shape her and change her life forever. It wasn’t something that you brought your dead adoptive parent’s best friend’s son along for the ride. It just didn’t sound right, and it certainly didn’t feel right.
Rey turned away from him, his face making her think things that she didn’t want to address as she looked out the window again, thinking about the last time she spoke with Maz and what she’d promised her…
It wasn’t fair. But then again, cancer never was. It was an unforgiving disease; leaving the victim as a former shadow of themselves, and when it truly took hold, there was no hope to be found, only despair, hurt and above all, suffering.
When Maz has been diagnosed, Rey’s life had changed completely. The only family she has ever known had been given six months to live and she was crushed, depressed, feeling like she was sinking with nothing to keep her afloat. The feeling of helplessness chilled her to the core. There was nothing to be done, the doctors has no cure and Rey was struggling to accept the fact.
Even now, as she sat next to Maz in the hospital, her hand shaking, cold...thin, she couldn’t accept it. The fact she was losing the only family she had was too much. How could life be so cruel? To take one family away from her had been hard enough, and now this blow, it was too heavy to withstand.
“Child, do not look at me that way,” Maz said, her voice weak and lacking its usual sharp tone.
“Like what?” Rey replied, trying her hardest to stop the tears from falling down her cheeks.
“Like I’m already gone. Like this is going to defeat you. It’s not. I’m still here, for now. Enjoy it. Don’t look too hard to the future, enjoy the present.”
Rey smiled—Maz had always been wise, full of advice that always turned out to be exactly what she needed to hear. She’d learned so much from her over the years, lessons that she would carry with her for the rest of her life.
“I don’t want you to die, I can’t do this alone,” Rey whimpered, her voice shaky.
She needed Maz. She needed a mother. She couldn’t imagine being capable of doing this alone, living without Maz’s support and care. Rey had made a lot of mistakes, taking wrong turns here and there, and had only gotten out because she had Maz to guide her. But without her, Rey didn’t even want to think about what would happen.
“My dear, you are not alone and you won’t be. I know it. You will find your place in this world, I promise you that. You changed my life, Rey. I never wanted kids, never thought it was on the horizon for me. And then, you. With your gorgeous little face and button nose. You gave me the life I had only dreamed of.”
Even though Rey knew that Maz was in pain, she still looked happy, content, as she continued to smile at her. It would take a lot to break Maz, and the cancer spreading had almost achieved that, until she’d faced it. Of course, it was a losing battle, but one that she continued to fight and would be until her last breath. Rey admired her, loved her beyond words, and the pain of having to be without her was already eating away at her soul.
Maz had been a wonderful mother and Rey was thankful for the time she did get with her. For the summers they shared, camping at the lake a few towns over, sitting under the stars and talking about everything and anything. Rey distinctly remembered complaining constantly about sleeping outside with all the bugs flying around. But now, she would give anything to go back, to do it all over again—bugs and dirt included.
Hindsight was a funny thing, only fully understanding and appreciating a situation after it had happened. Rey had thought about it all a lot; how much we take for granted, how we don’t see the precious moments when they are happening until it’s too late. And now, sitting there next to the bed that Maz would never move from, Rey knew she would never get the chance to have a simple, normal day with her again.
“I can’t thank you enough, Maz…seriously, I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for you,” Rey said sincerely. She thought about it sometimes; knowing that if Maz hadn’t taken her in, she would have ended up in the foster system, with god only knows what family.
“I don’t want to hear it, I would do it all over again. The times we shared, are the most special I have ever experienced.” She took a deep breath before speaking again. “I have something for you. Look in my top drawer, there, next to the bed.”
Maz lifted her arm, weakly pointing to where she wanted Rey to look. It was clear it took her a lot of effort to do so and Rey quickly jumped up, walking around the bed and opening the top drawer of the bedside cabinet. There was a lone envelope sitting on the top of Maz’s clothes and she picked it up, noticing her name in small, messy handwriting, handwriting that she knew well.
“Open it,” Maz encouraged kindly, patting the bed for Rey to sit down next to her.
Rey was confused, but did as Maz said, opening it carefully and pulling out a one way plane ticket…to Paris. She scrunched up her face, checking the details over again in case she had made a mistake.
“What is this?”
“It’s the first step in finding your family.”
Rey gulped, trying to dislodge the ball that now seemed to be stuck in her throat.
“My family? I’m sorry, what?”
“Look, I’ve written you a letter that you will receive after my passing. Paris is the last I heard from your parents. I have left you everything, Rey. And I want you to use that money to find them. You think about them all the time, and I know I have not been great at providing you with answers.” Maz groaned as she shuffled into a more comfortable position in the bed, giving Rey a few seconds to process everything she was hearing. “Child, I don’t know what you will find and I am not going to pretend this is going to be easy. But I hope you get the answers you are seeking for, give you closure, if anything. And know, no matter what, that I will always be with you.”
Rey was crying now, the tears falling down her face as she gripped onto Maz’s hand again. She could never have expected this. She was now even more thankful for Maz and how caring she was, and even if she never found her parents, she was lucky she had had this wonderful lady in her life.
“I don’t know what to say, I can’t- I can’t quite believe it. Your life savings, the shop…everything. I can’t take this. I can’t.”
“You can and you will. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing my daughter happy. You have been shielded from the truth for too long. And like me, you deserve to find peace.”
Rey grabbed a tissue, wiping her nose and eyes so she could actually focus on Maz again. She looked down at the ticket, reading the destination all over again. She had never really travelled and most definitely had never been to Paris. Adrenaline started to pump through her body as she thought about the journey ahead; though it was bittersweet, because the one person she wanted to share it with wouldn’t be getting on that plane with her.
“I wish you were going...I don’t know if I can do this alone.”
“You won’t be alone, Rey.”
“No, I know you will be with me...but I mean like, someone there to help me navigate, and like...survive,” she half-joked and Maz smiled in return.
“I am not talking about me. There is someone else going with you.”
Maz wasn’t looking her in the eye, and she knew that was a bad sign. That whatever Maz had cooked up would be something that Rey was less than happy with. She just couldn’t think of anyone that Maz would want Rey to bring along for this trip.
“Ben Solo, of course,” Maz replied, like it was the most obvious thing ever.
Rey choked, her mind going a mile a minute as she stuttered, “Excuse me? Ben Solo? I don’t think so!”
“I do think so. You are not travelling alone. I mean it, Rey. I spoke with Leia and Ben. He is still freelance writing and looking for his next piece. He said he would like to write about your reunion, that he will look out for you along the way.”
Rey really didn’t want to get upset with Maz, not now that she was so weak and close to death. But still, she was angry. The last person she wanted to come on this trip with her was Ben Solo, based on the fact he hardly spoke two words to her and also had a gigantic stick up his ass.
“You cannot be serious!”
“I am, deadly serious...pun completely intended! That is my one condition, Rey. He accompanies you. He said if you are not happy with the finished piece then he won’t publish it. I mean, the only way I could get him to go was to say he could write about the whole thing...but that isn’t the point!” Maz shook her head, mumbling on.
“So, let me get this straight. He doesn’t even want to go?” Rey’s voice was becoming slightly more raised and she tried to calm herself down.
Her excitement about her trip and the thought of meeting her birth parents had turned into a nightmare; how was she to ever travel to the other side of the world with Ben Solo in tow? He’d more than likely complain the entire time, ruining Paris completely for her with his groaning. She always said he reminded her of Eeyore, his pessimistic view on life rivalling the small donkey from the children’s classic.
“Not really, but he is going with you and that is final. Plus, you never know...you two might actually get on. He might help you find the answers you seek.”
Rey rolled her eyes, ready to speak again before being interrupted by a nurse that was there to give Maz her next dose of medicine. She took a deep breath, standing back as the nurse poked and prodded at her adoptive mother. Rey would speak to Maz again, try and change her mind and if worse came to worse, she would get on a plane with Ben Solo and then ditch him at the airport. It would be easy enough, right?
Ben’s eyes were now open, the headphones removed from his ears as the air hostess asked him if he would like anything to drink. He ordered a red wine, because of course he did, asking them for some fancy shit that Rey and everyone else on the plane knew they would never have.
She glared at him from her seat, hoping that as soon as they landed in Paris she could make a run for it. It was a large city and she doubted he would be able to find her. She could be rather sneaky like that.
“Rey, do you want anything?” Ben asked her, ignoring her glare altogether.
“Just a water, please.” She smiled at the woman who handed her a cold bottle of water, but not before pushing her large breasts in Ben Solo’s face as she leaned over. Rey rolled her eyes, because of course, it was as if this shit show couldn’t get any worse. Ben, to be fair to him, wasn’t interested, and instead looked the other way, pretending to look at something out of the plane window. He wasn’t a creep, she would give him that.
“Thanks,” Rey muttered as Ben pulled out his wallet and quickly paid for both the drinks, still ignoring the other woman standing in front of them.
Ben was being nice to her, too nice and it was unsettling. He’d kept tabs on her since Maz died, most of the time going to see her at Maz’s shop on Leia’s behalf, then of course, Leia herself had Rey up for dinner every second Sunday. Which in all honesty, Rey was thankful for. It supplied her with a small semblance of family life, dysfunctional as they were.
Any time she was over for dinner, she could see the Solo family watching her intently from the corner of her eye, waiting to see if she would break. She hadn’t, not yet at least. Her emotions over Maz’s passing were more complicated than that, and most of the time she tried her hardest to bury them. Leia still phoned her most days, which was also nice, reminiscing about times spent with Maz. It was sometimes hard to hear and on those days, those were the ones where she screened her calls, unable to face what had happened.
“How are you feeling, Rey?” Ben asked her, pulling her away from her thoughts about Maz. His voice was deep, rough, with a slight edge to it that gave away his fear about how she would answer. Ben Solo didn’t really do the whole emotions things. Sure, he asked her how she was, but Rey knew it was only because he saw it as the polite thing to do, not because he actually wanted to know.
“Fine. I just want to find my family. I know they are out there and I can only hope that they are missing me as much as I have missed them over the years.” Rey smiled, images of being reunited with faceless people entering her mind. Their reunion would be sweet, all of them crying as they embraced the daughter they never wanted to give up in the first place.
Ben’s eyes hardened and she waited for his response, his jaw clicking before he finally replied, “What if you don’t find them?”
“Okay, what if you do find them and they send you away?”
“How do you know that?” he asked, and for once he looked like he was genuinely curious to hear her answer. Which, if he wasn’t pissing her off so much, she would have answered much nicer than she did.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because I’m their daughter?” she said sarcastically, “They had a good reason for giving me up, you’ll see.”
He huffed, taking a sip of his red wine and screwing up his face, obviously unhappy with the taste. “Maybe. But I think also, you need to be prepared for the fact that maybe they didn’t and maybe they’re just shitty parents who don’t deserve you. I know that’s tough to hear, but I think you should go into this with a more open mind.”
“Good thing I didn't ask for your opinion then, isn’t it? How about you just stick to your stupid story and I’ll focus on reuniting with my parents. Okay?”
He didn’t seem taken aback by her outrage; in fact, he looked as though he had expected it. Which only made her feel instantly worse. He just nodded, not saying a thing as he put his headphones back in and looking forward, their conversation effectively over.
Rey turned back around to stare out the window again, not feeling great at how she had handled his questioning, but deciding it was his fault just as much as hers. She knew he didn’t want to be here, that this probably seemed like a chore to him; having to travel with a person he barely tolerated. She didn’t know what Maz had been thinking, but hoped she knew something about this whole thing that Rey didn’t.
Because right now, not two hours into their journey, Rey Kanata had had enough of Ben Solo.