Word Count: 4990
The rhythm of music filled the night air as scores of teens laughed and danced the night away at the Chateau Beaurimonde. That was, of course, the unofficial but well-known name of the ritzy property that belonged to Car Rebonast's parents, and what every well-to-do teen called it. For the time being, the teens and soon-to-be adults had the property to themselves. Rebonast's parents cared more about credits and their own social circles than what their teen children were up to. For the Rebonast's, it was nothing that a few credits in the right pocket couldn't fix.
For the Thornwood sisters, especially the recently graduated Katlyn Thornwood, Chateau Beaurimonde and Car Rebonast represented only one thing: freedom from adults and their boring station life.
Katlyn held up her hand to avoid getting splashed as best she could by whomever had cannonballed into the pool. Cheers of encouragement arose throughout the night air, and several more individuals followed suit.
"You should have brought your bathing suit, Katie," Lyn Nima said as she returned from the bar table with two drinks in her hands, purple lekku bobbing. Katlyn reached for the red cup that, upon close inspection, had an unfamiliar purple liquid in it. "Great way to attract some boys."
"Invite was on short notice," Katlyn said as she stared down at the liquid in the cup. "Otherwise...."
"Come on," Lyn teased playfully, "live a little! Your witch of a mother isn't around, and you can finally let loose for once. Drink. Up," she said, gently pushing the red cup closer to Katlyn.
Without a second thought, Katlyn raised the cup to her mouth and tipped it back. The liquid was like a sweet nectar as it passed her lips. She tipped the cup back further and let it run down her throat.
"Hey! Hey! Hey!" Lyn said, gently but firmly pressing on Kat's arm to get her to lower it. "Not so fast! You gotta pace yourself."
Katlyn lowered the cup and glanced at Lyn.
"Sorry," she said.
"How do you feel?" Lyn asked.
Katlyn could feel the alcohol beginning to affect her, its buzz washing over her body as she took another drink. "I feel...," Katlyn began. Lyn looked at her eagerly. "I feel...." Katlyn took one final drink, draining the cup of its contents. When she was finished, she turned to look at Lyn. "Like you need to get me another one," she said, wrapping an arm around her friend's shoulder and giving her a smile.
"We have a winner!" Lyn exclaimed, wrapping her arm around Katlyn and gently kissing her cheek. Lyn then began pulling Katlyn towards the bar table, taking a long drink from her own cup.
"I thought you said to pace yourself?" Katlyn asked as she began to feel the full effects of the alcohol. Things seemed better. Happier. Katlyn was happier. Happier than she'd been in a long time.
"That's for you, honey," Lyn said as they reached the table, maneuvering around other humans and aliens that were standing nearby with their own drinks and engaged in conversation or play. "I have much more experience and tolerance."
"Y-you do?" Katlyn asked as Lyn let go and picked up two more drinks, handing another one to Katlyn.
"Yeah. But don't worry," she said with a wink and kissing Katlyn's cheek, "I'll be your wing girl."
Pushing the second cup to her mouth as they walked away, Katlyn let it fill with the sweet nectar once more. Each drink she took made her feel better. Happier. Almost as happy as the written letter she'd received from Daro a few days earlier.
Can't wait to see your lovely face in person again, he had written. There was more to the letter, she recalled. Some of it incredibly flirtatious.
She remembered the brief time they had spent together the year prior while on a school trip. Well, a school trip that Katlyn's father had managed to get her and her sister Miranda on thanks to his connections. Being homeschooled on a space station had some advantages, but it also came with a lot of disadvantages. Her interactions with Daro were occasional, mostly through business dealings between her family and his. But there was a spark of something between them. And that spark had ignited into something more when he had masterfully stolen a kiss from her during a fall afternoon in the woods during a research project. Nobody else had seen it as the partners and the instructors were spread out over an area taking samples, but it had been a thrilling experience.
"Can we go find Daro?" she asked Lyn, taking another drink from her cup.
"Daro?" Lyn asked. "Wealthy son of the Vedardi family? Self-proclaimed King of the Nerds, Daro Vedardi?"
"Yeah," Katlyn said with a hiccup. "That's him."
"Daro Vedardi, the king of the nerds who just so happened to transform into the most-pursued, athletic, and beautiful specimen of maleness this side of Chandrila over the last year? Why would you ever want to do so?"
"He did?" Katlyn asked, finishing her drink. "He is? We shared a kiss once, a really good one and—ohhh, I said the secret thing out loud," Katlyn said without thinking. She really wished she hadn't said that out loud. She could feel her facing turning flush from the embarrassment. Lyn, on the other hand, cackled in delight.
"In that case, wing sister, I would happily love to help reunite you two lovebirds."
It took them several minutes of asking, plus a refill of their cups, to find someone who had seen Daro. He was seen going upstairs into one of the rooms, though others were unsure of which one. The third drink was really starting to take its toll on Katlyn, and whatever new drink — or was it drinks? — that Lyn had taken had begun to give her a buzz. Things were warm and fuzzy. And funny. It seemed like everyone was so happy and enjoying themselves.
"Your cup runneth dry," Lyn said as they finished climbing the stairs. "Let me help you with that." She poured part of her drink into Katlyn's cup. Whatever it was, it had a stronger odor. It tasted sour as Katlyn took a sip, the two of them making their way from room to room, but she enjoyed it nonetheless.
"Daro," Lyn called in a playful but half-drunk voice. "Daaaarrrooo, where are yoouuu? I've got someone who wants to meet youuu." The two made their way to the final room at the end of the hall, moving past a yellow-skinned Miralan female and a pantoran male who were making out.
"You are so — hic — so embarrassing, Lyn," Katlyn laughed. "Stop!"
"Never!" Lyn said with a sly grin on her face. She pressed the keypad to open the door to the final room. As it swished open, Lyn called his name one final time. "Daro — there you are and oh my gosh," she said with a laugh. "Oh my gosh! Katie, look!"
Katlyn took a moment to look. She dropped her cup, and as it crashed to the ground the contents spilled onto the floor.
There ahead of her was, in fact, Daro Vedardi, who looked stronger and more muscular than she last remembered. Daro Vedardi who was holding onto someone. Without his shirt on. Holding onto and kissing a beautiful and athletic girl with red hair. Just like Katlyn's. Who also happened to be mostly topless, save for her push-up bra.
"Miranda?" Katlyn said as they broke apart from their kiss.
"What are you doing?"
"Katlyn!" Daro said, surprised at the new intruders.
Katlyn let go of Lyn and staggered forward. Miranda, meanwhile, made to cover herself with her shirt from the floor. Daro caught Katlyn to keep her from falling. An awkward silence filled the room before Katlyn spoke again.
"You said ... you said that you wanted to see me tonight," she half-slurred, looking up at him. His jet-black hair and slanted eyes were framed nicely by his square-jaw and handsome face. He really is beautiful, Katlyn thought, but he's been kissing Miranda. "You said that you liked me. You really liked me. And ... and you're kissing her?" she finished, pointing to Miranda.
"Katlyn," he said, looking at her, "please, it's not what it looks like. I'm not—it's not—."
"Why were you kissing him?" she asked Miranda, anger filling her body now. "Why were you kissing him?"
Miranda stood there for a moment, silent. "Because I wanted to, Katie."
With that sentence, Katlyn did the unthinkable and managed to get her arms free from Daro, pushing him away. As he stumbled backwards, caught off guard by her swiftness, Katlyn launched herself at Miranda with a clenched fist. It connected with Miranda's face, who gave a cry of surprise and fell backwards onto the floor. Everyone in the room stood there shocked. Katlyn felt nothing but rage as she looked from her clenched fist to her sister who was holding a hand now over her left eye.
"Katlyn, please—," Daro began, holding an arm out to her. But Katlyn ignored him. Turning back to Lyn, who stood there wide-eyed and with a hand over her mouth, Katlyn felt the rage turn to a churning sickness in her stomach.
"I don't feel so good," she said.
"Come on, honey," Lyn said, swiftly moving towards her and scooping an arm around her. "Let's get you out of here."
They moved at what seemed like a whirlwind to Katlyn out of the room and down the hall, which made her feel sicker. As they entered the refresher room, Katlyn managed to make a dive for and brace herself against the main unit. She began vomiting as Lyn locked the door. As Katlyn emptied the contents of her stomach a second time, she heard water running followed by Lyn pulling back her hair.
"Oh kriff," Katlyn moaned. "I — I feel terrible."
"Here," Lyn said, but Katlyn waved a hand in her direction. "Don't worry, it's just water."
Katlyn waited for her stomach to settle before she began sipping water. She managed to eventually drink the full glass before Lyn took it and refilled it again. Katlyn moved and slumped against the wall, the world spinning around her. Tears blurred her vision.
"He liked me, Lyn," she said finally. "And I liked him."
"Oh, I know, sweetie," Lyn said, sitting down beside Katlyn, wrapping her right arm around her.
"Why—why doesn't he like me?" Katlyn asked, tears sliding down her cheeks.
"We'll figure that out later," Lyn said. "Let's just sit here for a while."
Katlyn wasn't sure how much time had passed. The water was helping somewhat. Lyn holding her felt nice. Comfortable. Reassuring.
"Lyn," she finally said.
"You're a good friend."
It was in that moment that Katlyn realized — though how much of it was the influence of the alcohol she was unsure — that Lyn had a beautiful smile. Lyn gently took an open palm and used a thumb to wipe away the remains of tears from Katlyn's cheek. A few seconds later, Katlyn reached forward and kissed Lyn, then realizing what she had done after a few seconds after that pulled away. Lyn looked surprised.
"I—I'm sorry," Katlyn said, looking away flustered and embarrassed. "I didn't mean ... I shouldn't have—."
"It's okay," Lyn said, her expression softening. "I told you I'd be your wing girl no matter what." Lyn leaned forward and kissed Katlyn. The kiss was soft. Warm. Welcoming. And, in the moment, it felt so right.
It was interrupted only by a clicking sound from the door as two police officers stepped into the room to find the two young women sitting on the floor in each other's arms.
"Imagine my surprise," Katarina Thornwood said sternly two hours later as the hover car slid through the air in the dark night, "to get a call that two of my daughters not only snuck out of their aunt's house without permission, but were also arrested by the police for underage drinking. At a Rebonast household, no less." Katlyn and Miranda sat on opposite sides of the adjacent seat, Miranda holding an ice pack to her face. "Start talking," Katarina said coldly.
Miranda and Katlyn eyed one another, then began speaking at the same time.
"It was her fault," they both said at the same time, then shot each other a look of disgust. "My fault? It was your fault!"
Katarina held up a hand, silencing the two from fighting further.
"Katlyn," she said finally, "who gave you the invitation?"
Katlyn remained silent for several seconds. "Lyn did," she finally said.
"Miranda," Katarina asked, shifting her gaze. "Why did you accompany your sister?"
"Because we're never allowed off the station to have fun," Miranda replied firmly. "And I had some friends there."
"And did it not occur to you," Katarina said, "to ask if you could attend? Or even tell your aunt that you were going out?"
Katlyn and Miranda looked at each other once again, then back at their mother.
"Even if we did," Katlyn said finally, "neither one of you would have let us go."
"You're right," Katarina said. "Given that it was at a Rebonast household, knowing the type of people they are, your aunt and I wouldn't have let you go. And neither would your father."
"I don't see what the big deal is," Katlyn said. "I'm seventeen. I'll be turning eighteen in two days. I'm practically an adult already."
"Are you now?" Katarina asked, eyes narrowing.
"Yeah," Katlyn said, "I am."
"And as a young adult," Katarina continued, "is it fair to put yourself and your sister at risk in an illegal manner?"
Katlyn crossed her arms and looked away.
"Katlyn," Katarina said pointedly.
"No," Katlyn said quietly, "it isn't."
"Good," Katarina replied. "I'm glad you understand. As for you, Miranda," she continued, "how in the galaxy did you get that black eye?"
"Katlyn punched me," she said.
Miranda mulled over her response before answering. "Because I was kissing a boy," she finally said.
"Seems like an odd reason to punch someone," Katarina said.
"It was Daro Vedardi," Katlyn said, turning to shoot her sister a hateful look.
"It was just a kiss or two," Miranda said, looking at Katlyn. "No big deal."
"What Miranda forgot to mention," Katlyn countered, looking at her mother, "is that they both had their shirts off. In a bedroom."
Katarina shot Miranda a deathly stare.
"It is," Miranda said, choosing her words carefully, "but only because we spilled drinks on one another."
"That pushup bra you're wearing said otherwise," Katlyn butt in.
"I'd gladly lend it to you," Miranda said, shooting her sister a hateful look, "but I doubt you even have enough to use it."
"Why you rotten little bi—," Katlyn began, preparing to launch herself at Miranda again.
"Enough!" Katarina snapped. The two girls stood down, but continued to shoot each other a hateful gaze. The hover car came to a stop just outside of the pathway to their aunt's expansive front yard and house. Outside they could see several lights on through various windows. "As far as I am concerned, there is more here that needs to be addressed. The first thing you will do when you leave this vehicle, however, is apologize to your aunt for your actions and behavior. Katlyn, you will go immediately to your room and straight to bed. No holovid calls or messages."
"Mom!" Katlyn protested.
"As for you, Miranda," Katarina continued, "we are going to have a very long discussion about tonight. When we are done, you will also go to your room and straight to bed. No holovid calls, no messages."
"Fine," Miranda said sourly.
"To be clear, you are both grounded and to stay within the household until I tell you otherwise."
"That's not fair!" they both protested, but Katarina gave them both an icy look that stopped them from speaking further.
"Breakfast is at eight sharp," Katarina said with finality, "and I expect to see both of you there and not a minute later. Am I clear?"
"Yes, mother," they both replied dejectedly.
"Good," she said as she pressed a button to open the door.
As they exited the car, they walked up the dimly lit paved walkway. The door to the immaculate Rosewood household whisked open to reveal their aunt waiting for them in her creamy gold gown, light pouring forth from the main entryway.
"Thank goodness you found them," said Cassandra Rosewood, her fiery red hair a mane that swept past her shoulders. "I was worried sick!"
Miranda embraced Cassandra first. "Sorry aunt Cassie," she said.
"I know you are, sweetie," Cassandra said, squeezing her tightly. "I'm just glad you're safe." She gently pushed Miranda back and brushed her arms.
As Miranda ducked inside, Katlyn took a few steps towards her aunt. Cassandra held out her arms to embrace Katlyn, but Katlyn didn't embrace her.
"Katie," Cassandra said, "are you—?"
"I'm sorry, aunt Cassie, for hurting you," she said after a moment.
"My dear," Cassandra said earnestly, "I don't—."
"But I'm not sorry," Katlyn said, turning to meet her mother who was a few meters away now, "for trying to live my life and be my own person."
"To your room, Katlyn," Katarina said firmly.
"A sparrow can't fly if you clip its wings," Katlyn called audibly as she entered the house.
Cassandra turned to look at Katarina. "Remind you of anyone?" she asked after a moment.
"Please don't remind me," Katarina said wearily, letting her exhaustion show. "I'll deal with both of them accordingly."
"I'll see to the other children," Cassandra said, putting an arm around her sister.
"Thank you," Katarina replied with a weak smile.
"What are sisters for?" Cassandra asked as they entered the house, the door closing behind them.
The following morning, Katlyn felt something heavy jump onto her bed, followed by two smaller shapes. She bolted upright, clutching a blanket against her chest just in time to hear a gleeful voice call out "pillow fight!" before two pillows thwacked against her face.
"Ow!" she called out in alarm and surprise as the assault continued. "Ow! Stop! Stop it!" Reaching for one of the tiny bodies, she ended up grabbing nothing but air. They were simply too nimble and quick. Giggles and laughter erupted as Kori and Kari leapt from the bed onto the floor, each holding one of Katlyn's pillows, and raced out the door.
"Get back here you little twerps!" Katlyn yelled, the light partly blinding her eyes. She made to cover them, but saw the other figure sitting on the bed with a smug smile.
"Morning, Katie!" Charity said sweetly. She was the image of perfection with her freshly done golden hair and bangs, not to mention her white blouse, pullover cardigan, and cream-colored skirt.
"Charity?" Katlyn asked, clutching the blanket. "What are you—?"
"It's after eight," Charity said, "and mom sent us up to get you. Well, she sent me up to get you. I just wanted to keep the twins entertained for a few minutes."
Katlyn fell back into her bed, covering her head with her blanket. "Mom's gonna kill me," she moaned.
"She's not fuming yet," Charity said, moving up and lying down next to Katlyn, propping her head up with an elbow and fist. "But she's getting there. If I were you, I'd get going."
"Says the perfect little princess," Katlyn muttered under the covers.
"You could be, too," Charity said as she peeled away the blanket from Katlyn's face, "if you were a bit nicer. By the way ... what was it like looking at Daro's chest?"
Katlyn shot her a confused look.
"How do you know—?"
"A master spy never reveals her secrets," Charity said with a grin. She sat up on her knees. "Did he have massive pecs?" she asked, holding her hands out in front of her.
Katlyn took a swat at Charity. Charity had been anticipating this, however, and deftly avoided Katlyn's strike, rolling off the bed. "Out!" Katlyn yelled. "Get out and go back to your silly romance stories!"
"They're not silly," Charity said, backing up towards the door with a grin. "They're just really dreamy!"
"You called her what?" Lyn asked over the holovid call the following morning.
"The Witch of Endor," Katlyn repeated. It had probably been Katlyn's most creative quip and insult she'd ever given, though she'd caught additional hell because of that on the shuttle flight home on top of everything else she'd already been in trouble for. "Though Mom said that I should be lucky she didn't have a magic ring or could cast spells."
"Girl," Lyn said with a laugh, "you've got guts. I like this side of you."
"Some good it did me," Katlyn said. "That, along with a few other choice phrases during my 'apology' to aunt Cassie and Miranda, have me grounded for the next month."
"No flying?" Lyn asked. "Not even station patrol?"
"Not even station patrol," she said. "It's just not fair!" Katlyn exclaimed, falling back onto her mattress in her room. "I'm legally an adult today, and I'm grounded like a little kid. My life sucks."
"Could be worse," Lyn said.
"How?" Katlyn asked, rolling over to look at the blue hologram.
"It could suck hard."
Katlyn gave a quick snort.
"What's the party situation?" Lyn asked.
"Reduced to family only," Katlyn said. "Mom insists on having everyone together tonight for celebrations. Then I have to decide on either attending flight school — all schools which my mother picked — or working for my family."
"Yuck," Lyn said.
"Can you believe that she chose Skystrike Academy as one? Skystrike, of all places!"
"Skystrike has a decent program," Lyn said. "If you want to fly for the Empire."
"Hell. No," Katlyn said, sitting up. "No way will I be caught in one of those tin-cans, or flying for the Empire. Do you know the mortality rate for TIE pilots?"
"No different than flying one of your dad's Z-95s."
"Hey, at least the Z-95 has shields and a hyperdrive. And it's a classic."
"Yeah, yeah, so you've told me a hundred times."
"Lyn," Katlyn moaned, wiping her hands down her cheeks. "What am I going to do?"
Lyn was silent for a moment before she made her next suggestion.
"You could always fly away," she said.
"No, silly. Have someone else fly you away. Like me."
Katlyn mused over the idea.
"Go on," she said.
"You're an adult. I'm an adult. I'm not currently as grounded as you. I can pick you up, and we can go on a hyperlane trip across the galaxy."
"I'd be dead if I tried that."
"You'd be free," Lyn sang.
Katlyn stared at the hologram of Lyn. "How soon can you get here?" she asked.
"Within the hour," she said.
"Meet me at docking platform three," Katlyn finished before shutting the hologram off.
Katlyn began to gather her belongings into two duffel bags and a small portable suitcase. She took what essentials she could fit in, not to mention a few personal effects that her mother didn't know about. She also took some time to tidy the rest of her room, and record a personal message. It took a few attempts, but she said what she had to and left it at that.
Exiting her room, she began making her way through the various levels of the platform towards the docking bays. None of the other workers or droids paid her any attention, and her sisters and mother were nowhere to be found. As she exited the turbolift to docking platform three, she made her way down the hallway and turned several corners. She had almost made it to the door when a voice spoke up behind her.
"I had hoped you'd at least say goodbye to me before you left," called Tiberius Thornwood. Katlyn froze in her tracks and turned to face her father. He stood there in his business attire, golden-haired and square-jawed, shouldering a duffel bag that held his travel attire.
"Daddy," she said, surprised. "I didn't know you were back yet."
"Trip meeting ended early," he said.
"Oh," Katlyn said.
"Your mother explained everything to me over a private holo vid while I was on my way back," he said after a few seconds.
"Yes," her father said, placing his bag on the floor and taking a few steps forward. He opened his arms, palms up. "My dear, sweet little sparrow," he said, nearing her. "I know only what your mother told me. Won't you tell me your side of the story?"
Setting her bags down, she took his hands and told him everything. What had happened. What she had said. How she felt.
"I can see how that would make you feel the way you do," her father said, squeezing her hands. "But I hope you also understand why your mother did what she did."
"Mother wants nothing more than to control my life," Katlyn said.
"Not true. Your mother wants what is best for you," her father said. "She may have a different way of expressing it, but she loves you, Katie."
"If she loves me, she'd let me live my own life," Katlyn said.
"I remember a little girl," Tiberius said, "who loved learning about math and money so that one day she could run the family business. Who loved public speaking and school. Who loved nothing more than to be in the hangar, watching and helping the mechanics tear apart and reassemble ships. Who loved watching all the ships enter and leave the station. Loved holovid nights curled up in blankets with her sisters and mother. Who loved her family more than anything, and would never have dreamed of hurting anyone or fighting with them."
Katlyn shook her head and looked up into her father's eyes.
"I'm not that little girl anymore, daddy," she said. "I want to see the stars that I've only had the chance to dream about. As long as I'm on this station, I'm suffocating."
"As long as you're on this station," he said, "you're home. And loved."
"I know," she said. "But I'm not your little sparrow anymore. I need to spread my wings and be my own person."
Tiberius gave a sigh and rubbed her hands with his thumbs.
"I had hoped," he said, "that you would have stuck around longer so that you could have more independence within the family business."
"Maybe someday," Katlyn said. "Just not right now."
"I also remember a little girl who," he continued, "would never say or take 'no' for an answer once her mind was made up. If you truly are intent on leaving, I want you to know that you will always be welcome back here with open arms at any time, for any reason. I also want you to have these," he said, letting go of her and reaching into an inner vest pocket. Pulling his hand out he handed two holo pucks to her.
"What are these?" she asked.
"The first one, a birthday present from me. It's an application for a flight school on Braxis Prime. It's called Starflight Academy, and is home to a group of stunt pilots that go by the name of The Red Arrows. It's not as prestigious as the ones your mother has picked for you, or as gaudy as Skystrike Academy, but they're still a top-performing school and team. The second puck contains enough credits for a return trip home to the station from any part of the galaxy if you decide to change your mind. And if neither of these appeal to you and you do change your mind, you can always give me a call to come get you. No questions asked."
Katlyn stared at the two pucks in her hand.
"Thank you daddy," she said, pocketing them and reaching up to kiss him on the cheek and give him a final hug. "I love you."
"I love you too, my sweet sparrow," he said as she let go.
With that Katlyn turned and retrieved her bags and suitcase, then exited the doors to the landing platform. Multiple transport and work crews were busy loading and unloading the cargo from various transports, but she saw Lyn's personal craft parked in a designated area. Walking up the ramp she stored her belongings in one of the cargo compartments, then climbed the ladder that led up to the cockpit.
"About time," Lyn said. "Ready to get this show on the road?"
"Sure am," Katlyn said, strapping herself into the co-pilot seat.
It didn't take long for Lyn to complete the pre-flight check and take off. As the ship made its way towards the magfield, Katlyn felt a pang in her chest.
"Hey," Lyn said, glancing over at her. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Katlyn said, wiping a tear from an eye. "I will be."
As the ship increased speed away from the station, Katlyn secretly wished that she could turn the ship around and run back into the loving arms of her father. But there was no turning back now.
"About the other night," Katlyn sniffed, "the kiss..."
"Hey," Lyn said, reaching over and taking Katlyn's hand, flashing her a smile. Lyn's hand was soft. Warm. Reassuring. "It's okay. We can work that out together. And it was also kinda nice for a change."
At that moment, Katlyn wouldn't have traded Lyn's company for anything in the world.
"Coordinates are set," Lyn said, flicking a few overhead switches. She moved her and Katlyn's conjoined hands and placed them on the hyperspace lever. "You ready?" she asked, a look of joy on her face.
"Yeah," Katlyn said after a moment. "I am."
They both pulled back on the hyperspace lever, and the stars stretched before them.