Checking on his mother wasn’t something they’d ever discussed, it was just something that was assumed. Once they realized Han didn’t have much time left, the bridge was repaired between father and son, parents and child. Han and Ben both know Leia won’t need help when Han passes, but it doesn’t mean she won’t want it. He would stop by his mother’s house, have dinner, engage in small talk, then leave—a weekly occurrence.
After the dishes are done, they sit on the couch, each holding a cup of coffee and spend the evening in comfortable silence. Ben expects his mother to be more forlorn, but she seems just as well as any other day, despite the fact the first anniversary of Han’s death was in a couple of weeks.
Gathering his courage, Ben clears his throat to draw his mother’s attention. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m just fine. Why?” Leia replies, not even looking up from her book.
“It’s just...Well, Dad’s been gone for almost a year now. I just wanted to make sure you were handling it okay.”
“I’m fine. Han tells me to stay strong, and it’s gonna be okay.”
Ben pauses at the sound of her tense. “You mean he told you that before he passed?”
“No, he told me that recently.”
Ben blinks rapidly at this new information. Had his mother suffered a stroke? Was she beginning to break down? Was he supposed to move back in? Or worse, was she supposed to move in with him? Leia must have sensed his mind diverting to worry, as she lets out a soft chuckle.
“Relax, I haven’t gone off the deep end yet. My psychic passed along a message to me,” Leia explains as she calmly turns the page of her book.
His jaw slackens, his eyes widening. “Right, because that’s any better,” he sarcastically responds.
“There’s nothing wrong with psychics, Ben,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “She is such a darling girl; takes after her grandmother. You should meet her!”
“Yeah, I’d rather not.”
“She isn’t that expensive.”
“You pay for her services?” Ben asks, his eyes wide and tone incredulous.
“Of course I pay. I have the means, and she is working a full-time job. Sometimes I wonder who raised you.”
“Well, at least you know it wasn’t you,” he snaps. Leia ignores the dig.
“She has passed on every single message to your father for me. He’s doing okay, in case you were wondering. Said he is saving me a seat for when I go.”
Ben’s expression immediately sobers as what his mother says hit him. As a child he viewed his parents as immortal beings who could do no wrong. The older he became though came with the startling realization they are human, just as he is. “Don’t say things like that.”
“Ben, you must realize I won’t live forever.” She watches in amusement as he pouts and avoids her gaze.
“Doesn’t mean I want to hear about it.”
Smiling softly at her son, she places her hand on his and squeezes it tightly. Her eyes glisten and a smile grows when he squeezes back.
Throughout the next couple of years, he would hear random bouts regarding Leia’s psychic—information about his father, the crystal the girl had gifted Leia to attract positive energy, a warning about his girlfriend Jessika (the fact she cheated on him was purely a coincidence). Rey was a shadow, a force that was always present in his life, but one he could never see. She was a constant companion to his mother, a friend to bring her comfort when she was lonely. Despite Ben’s general disbelief in psychics and the probability she was a fraud taking advantage of his mother, he found himself grateful to her. Rey found a way to be there for Leia in all the ways he couldn’t.
Being a strong and proud woman, Leia would never let Ben see her weak or vulnerable. It was nice knowing she had someone to talk to. He was content never meeting Rey.
All that changed, however, when his mother died.
His suit is stifling. The soft fabric chafes against his skin like sandpaper, choking out what little breath he has .
Leia’s wake was a huge affair, but the funeral is private. There are only a few people in attendance. His childhood friend Poe is there with his parents. His godmother, Amilyn, fights back tears as they lower Leia in the ground next to her husband—her normally vibrant hair is now black, a symbol of her mourning. Uncle Lando is there, his nurse guiding him while his opulent cape trails behind him.
Lando and Amilyn are the last from their group of friends. Ben’s somber mood grows as he realizes one day he will have to put them to rest as well.
He walks forward, knowing he has to be the first to toss the dirt on his mother’s casket. He can't bear to watch the dirt fall. Instead, he turns his attention to the treelines that surround the small pond. Ducks float along the water, peacefully enjoying the serene atmosphere.
Ben observes a small figure in a black dress watching his mother’s funeral. The black umbrella she uses shields her from the sun, and the glare that shines off the water. Her face is turned to the side, almost as if she is talking to herself. He blinks rapidly, trying to make out who she is, but when he tries to focus, she is already gone.
There are little things happening around his home that he doesn’t quite understand. At first, he can’t find his remote. That night he finds it wedged underneath the couch—Ben assumes he accidentally knocked it under when he bumped into the table, despite the fact he’s never once done that.
Next, the book he reads before bed is found in the kitchen next to his coffee maker. He sleepily stares at it in disbelief and chalks it up to him accidentally bringing it with him downstairs.
His windows are open every morning when he wakes. He falls asleep to the sound of humming he recalls from his early childhood. Ben first blames it on dreams, but when he feels the first stroke against his hair, he is not ashamed to hide underneath the blanket for the rest of the night.
As each day passes, the bags under his eyes grow more pronounced, and his boss sends him home. They say to take as much time as he needs, losing both parents so close in time is always tough. But how can he tell his supervisor the reason he can't sleep is because he thinks he's being haunted?
It isn’t until he is cleaning out his mother’s home does he realize he knows the solution to his problem. Clutching the small amethyst crystal in his hand, he knows what he needs to do.
The neighborhood is nicer than he thought it would be. The houses are small, but the yards are all trimmed and there are even children playing outside. Ben isn’t too sure what he expects when he decides to go to the psychic’s house, but it wasn’t this. Everything is normal.
Rey’s house is at the end of the cul-de-sac, her small house a light gray color, the shutters a bright yellow. Theoretically, it shouldn’t work, but it does. Rose bushes line the front of the house, and he is surprised to see a wheelchair ramp next to the set of stairs to the porch.
Maybe Rey is older than he thought?
Shoving his hands in his dark-wash jeans, he lightly treads up the stairs with trepidation. He raises his hand, preparing to knock, but the door swings open before his fist can descend.
His brown eyes widen as he takes in the form of a beautiful young woman with chestnut waves and hazel eyes. Her pert nose wrinkles as she smiles at him, and opens the door wider for him, almost as if—
“I’ve been wondering when you were gonna show up.” She closes the door behind him, and he walks into the entryway.
The home is warm and comfortable. It smells faintly of sage, and the number of windows bring in a high amount of natural light. There are various photographs of her throughout her stages in life, some by herself, some with an older woman, and even a couple with his parents.
“Grandmama, you won the bet. Ben showed up today, not next month,” she called out, then turns to smile apologetically over her shoulder, “I didn’t have as much faith in you as she did. From what Leia told us, you are a mighty skeptic.”
“I, uh, are you Rey?”
“Yes I am. Your mother speaks highly of you. She loves you very much.”
Ben catches the use of present tense as she speaks of his mother. “Um, I’m not sure if you know this, but she passed away about a month ago. That’s actually why I showed up here. I think I’m being haunted by her.”
The sounds of beads clicking and rattling together as they part cause Ben to look up, and he is startled by the sight of an old woman in a wheelchair with thick glasses and gray hair.
“Ben Solo!” she cries, rolling over to him. She doesn’t go very far before Rey walks faster to help her into the sitting room.
“Do I know you?”
“You probably don’t remember, but I’ve known you since you were a baby in diapers. I’m Maz, I used to babysit you. Rey, you’ve seen the photos of me with the baby with no hair and large ears? That’s this man right here.”
His ears flush red as he watches Rey laugh.
“I know that photo very well,” she teases while she gives him a wink.
Ben is eager to change the topic, and decides to bring up why he is there. “I’m here because I think I’m being haunted. I know this sounds crazy, but I thought if there was one person out there who would believe me, it would be my mother’s psychic.”
They both laugh at him, and he feels his heart sink to his stomach. He knew it. These were just a bunch of frauds who made their money by taking advantage of his poor, sweet mother—who was just missing her husband. He forgets they were family friends. He forgets the way Rey speaks of his parents in the present tense. In that moment, embarrassment and sadness transform into anger at the injustice of the situation and his hands clench.
“Amazing, every word of what you just said, was wrong,” Maz spoke, her smile eerily calm.
In an instant, Ben’s anger disappears. He remembers that sentence vividly. It was one of the last things uncle Luke had said before he passed away. The conversation they had was full of anger, regret, fear, and sadness. Words Ben has carried with him for almost a decade. He’d never told anyone what he’d shared with his uncle.
“Where did you hear that?”
“You know very well where I heard it from, boy. Now come, we haven’t got all day. My granddaughter and I have dinner plans,” Maz says as she pats Rey on the hand. She takes her cue to roll her Grandmama into the room behind the beaded curtain, leaving Ben with no other choice but to follow.
The room is lit with candles and sage is burning in a small bowl; the smell makes his nose itch, but there is something telling him not to blow it out. Crystals dangle from the ceiling, and there is a small altar in the back of the circular room.
Rey sets Maz at what he assumes to be the head of the table before seating herself to the right of Maz. Ben scrambles into the chair facing them.
“You are being haunted, Ben, and you know by who. They were hoping to get your attention, because they have some things they want to say to you.” Rey explains as she turns to him cutting a tarot deck.
“Wait, I thought you speak to spirits. What’s this card shit?”
Rey’s smile grows, and his heart stops for a moment before it pounds within his chest. She looks as if she is listening to something, and a blush covers her cheek. Maz lets out a laugh, and Ben has the distinct impression he has been left out of an important conversation.
“This is on the house. Your father says not to ruin it with me, and it’s not everyday a pretty woman like myself can see through your bullshit. Now, can you put the deck back together in, please? Whatever order you like.” Rey finishes her explanation, gesturing to the cards in front of her.
Ben feels as if there are people behind him, and he fights the urge to turn around to look, afraid of what he might see—or in this case, not see. His large hand reaches out for the deck, and puts them back together.
Rey takes the deck back in her hands, and she flips over the first card, and there is the seven of wands staring back at him.
“You were very defensive of yourself. It seems like you felt every comment about yourself was a critique about you, that you were never good enough. In order to protect yourself, you set up walls to keep you safe. They may have protected you, but you were so lonely,” Rey whispers as she looks up at him. Sorrow is in her eyes, but there is something else too—understanding.
Before he can think too much about the emotions in her eyes, she flips another,, revealing the five of cups.
“You are in a state of mourning—”
Ben scoffs, interrupting her, “Is that the best you’ve got?”
Her hazel eyes narrow, as do Maz’s. “The three cups that have fallen symbolize your family. You lost your parents and your uncle. You have no others left in your family. You are the last Skywalker and Solo in existence.”
His eyes water and his mouth opens trying to stop her, but she continues on.
“The two cups behind you, though, are who you have. I know it’s hard, but try not to focus on what you’ve lost. There are two others in your life that you can trust and rely on.”
“Yeah, who are they?”
“I think you know, child,” Maz interrupts. “Now hush, and let Rey finish her reading so we can get on to why we’re here.”
At this, Rey flips the last card. A tense silence surrounds them, and a blush rises on Rey’s cheeks. Maz shares a knowing look to the space behind Ben, and he feels a chill crawl up his spine. Rey glances at the card and at him with a new look on her face.
Without explaining, she lays down another card, and another. All stacked diagonally across one another is the two of cups, four of wands, and the lovers card.
Ben may know nothing about tarot, but he can deduce what the lovers card means.
“Leia and I told you, my sweet. Meant to be, you two,” Maz smirks.
A phantom weight settles on his shoulders, and he feels as if he is being hugged. He knows it should scare him, but there is something so familiar about it...something he hasn’t felt since he was a child.
Then the words sink in.
“Wait, you’re telling me, her and I—that we—no. No way—”
“Oi, you would be lucky to have me!” Rey interrupts.
“No doubt there, Sweetheart, but I’m not exactly looking forward to the whole children seeing dead people. That bit got old real fast.”
Rey’s mouth falls open, and she looks like she is about to yell at him some more, until Maz stops them.
“It’s fine if you doubt us, but you will not insult her any further. You Solo men, I swear. The way to your true love’s heart is not insults. It’s a damn good kiss and food—in this one’s case,” Maz barks at him. Her gentle demeanor is replaced with a fierce gaze as she stares him down.
“Grandmama!” Rey exclaims, her face now a cherry tomato red.
“Fine, I’m here, so explain what’s going on in my house,” Ben demands, ready to leave as soon as this is over.
Rey and Maz share a look, silently conversing with one another.
Rey takes a breath and begins to explain, “Your family are the ghosts in your house. Your father hid the remote from you. He said he got tired of the sci-fi movies you watched and wanted to change it to something else, but didn’t have the energy to retrieve the remote.” She cocks her head as if she is listening. “I’m not telling him that.”
A breeze causes the crystals to bump into one another, prompting Maz to continue for Rey.
“Han said if you don’t stop spending all that time in the restroom fixing your hair, you’re gonna miss out on the real world. Especially since we all know you aren’t fixing your hair,” Maz says before laughing.
Ben’s ears burn, and he refuses to look Rey in the eye. There is no way in hell he is going to ask them to clarify that sentence.
“Anyways,” Rey continues, “Leia was the one singing you to sleep. She noticed you weren’t sleeping well since...well since that day, and she wanted to help. She feels bad for missing out on your childhood, and is trying to make up for it. Same with Luke. He is more silent than the others, but he is there, looking out for you. He made sure you woke up on time when you stayed up all night preparing for your meeting last year. He and Han have been with you the longest. It wasn’t until Leia joined did they start making their presence known.”
Ben doesn’t know whether to yell or run. They are crazy. Absolutely crazy. He gets an idea to prove them wrong, right here and right now.
“Fine, let’s say it’s them. Tell me something only they know, something no one else does.”
A quiet descends upon the trio, and a breeze runs through the room. He faintly smells Chanel No. 5, grease oil, tinged with an ocean breeze. He isn’t sure where the scents come from, but he tries not to dwell on the last time he smelled all three together.
Maz speaks first. “When you were a child, you used to cry when your parents left you. You were so desperate for them to stay, you tried to impress them by showing them how smart you were when your report card came in. They left before you could show them, and your nanny had to hold you while you cried.”
Ben swallows, trying to fight the lump in his throat as he musters up the courage to shoot them down. That is, until Rey speaks.
“When you spent the summer with Luke in his tiny hut by the beach, you would lie awake at night so desperate for sleep. Luke caught you sneaking out multiple times sitting on the sand at night, counting the stars as you listened to the waves. He always waited until you fell asleep before he carried you back to bed. You always thought you made it back yourself, until the last summer you stayed there. You outgrew your bed and your uncle. You didn’t understand why you woke up on the beach the next morning. When your uncle played a tape of ocean music that night, claiming he needed it to sleep, did you finally understand.”
He can’t stop the tears anymore as the memories overwhelm him. Ben remembers the warmth and connection he felt when he realized just how much Luke did for him in those summers. Those were moments where he finally felt noticed. He never told anyone what Luke did for him, and he is sure Luke did the same.
They both closed their eyes, and the scents became overwhelming. Ben watches as the two begin to speak in tandem, their voice overlapping with something otherworldly .
“You were always a troubled boy, my little Starfighter. So sensitive and lonely. It was our fault, and we are sorry for that. We made a promise to one another when we got you back that we wouldn’t do that again—that’s why we stayed. We couldn’t leave you alone again. We will always be with you, doing our best to look out for you, until we know you aren’t alone anymore. We love you Benny boy, and we hope you forgive us.”
Tears overflow and trail down his cheeks, and he hastily rubs them away as the aura he feels in the room slowly dissipates. Ben doesn’t know how, but he knows the words that came out of their mouths was his mother’s. She was the only one who ever called him Starfighter.
A soft hand settles over his, and he glances up to see Rey staring at him. “Are you alright?”
“As alright as I can be. How did you feel when you found out ghosts were real?”
She smiles softly at him. “I always knew. It’s not something I could turn off or on. I was just lucky to have Grandmama teach me the ways to interact with them. When I realized no one else could see them but her and I, well, it was the loneliest I ever felt. I was the weird girl who spoke to air at school and lived with a witch. Children are cruel.”
“You’re not alone,” he hears himself say.
The brief silence overwhelms him, urging him to take the word back until—
“Neither are you.”
Red-rimmed brown eyes stare at gentle hazel ones, and he now understands just why his mother led him here.
It just wasn’t because his family didn’t want him to be alone. No, it was because they knew he would find a kindred spirit in Rey. A friend who would understand him, listen to him, help him.
At the soft smile she gives him, with a faint blush dusting her freckles on the apples of her cheeks, he remembers the cards she dealt him.
He laces their hands together, and it feels right . She gasps, her eyes looking at him, yet also faraway. When she focuses back on him, the look of adoration and wonder tells him something else.
Rey won’t be just a friend, she will be so much more than that. In that moment, he knows he won’t be alone ever again.