3. “Easy Conversation” –Jill Scott
The ritual was this: early breakfast on the verandah, meditation time for Rey, swimming lessons, a break for Rey, lunch on the verandah, afternoons spent with the Force, and finally, dinner in the opulent dining room. Kylo suggested the day after their arrival that they watch the sunset and Rey was not pressed about it; she’d seen thousands of sunsets on Jakku.
“Have you ever seen a sunset over the ocean, though?”
“Humor me then. Just this once.”
So she joined him on the shoreline and watched with rapt attention as the sun sank below the horizon and the sky change from orange to peach to pink to violet while the water ran over her feet…it was exhilarating. Kylo watched her face as she watched the horizon.
After it was over, he asked, “What do you think?”
“It was nice. It’s not like a desert sunset. The water…I’ve never seen anything like that. Can we do it again tomorrow?”
“Of course.” And it became part of their ritual.
Every night around eight, Sora served them dinner in the dining room. The second day, Kylo asked Rey if she would be willing to dress for the occasion.
“What’s wrong with the clothes I have?”
“Nothing. Just a change of pace.”
“Do you have anything in your closet other than black?”
“Well if you want me to…dress…for dinner, then you should too.”
He shrugged. “Fine. Have you even opened your closets since you’ve been here?”
Rey shook her head. “No.” She had a three-outfit rotation in her pack and it was good enough for her. Her clothes were starting to fray, however, and she wasn’t sure what she would do when the holes started showing. Fashion wasn’t something that was even remotely on her radar.
“I didn’t think so or you would have said something already. I had Sora get you some clothes.”
“The day before we arrived. Since I don’t know exactly how long we will be here, I made plans for an extended stay. You can’t keep wearing the clothes you have; they’re starting to show wear and tear.”
He noticed that? “How do you even know what size I wear?”
Kylo looked at her and his expression spoke volumes. A thought slipped out. I’ve held you in my arms. I made a reasonable guess.
Rey sighed. You thought… “You thought this entire thing through, didn’t you?”
“I told you I made arrangements. Once you went to sleep, I went to work.”
So that night, Rey began dressing for dinner. She was so used to wearing functional clothing that she had no idea how to adorn herself properly. So Sora got a grooming droid to assist her. The droid laid out appropriate dinner attire and made suggestions. Rey had to admit; her new clothes were very nice. She was glad to see that Kylo also purchased practical clothing for her workouts in addition to fancier items for special occasions. Were there going to be special occasions? There were at least ten dresses in her closet. Kylo wanted her to dress up for dinner, so he had a reason. She made it a point to find out.
The grooming droid laid a dark red sheath on the bed. It had long sleeves and a boatneck top. Rey fingered the material; it was soft and supple.
“I like this one,” she whispered. “I like the way it feels.”
The grooming droid beeped agreeably and helped Rey put the dress on. Then, making a series of clicking sounds, directed Rey to the vanity in the bathroom so that it could do her hair.
“What is your name?” Rey asked as she sat down and looked in the mirror.
The droid beeped.
“XJ-6. Hello. My name is Rey.”
The droid beeped a greeting and then began to fix Rey’s hair. It gathered it into a high bun and pinned it in place. Rey admitted to herself that she liked the way she looked. The up-do was classier than her triple ponytail and she appreciated the way it showed off her neck.
She wondered what Kylo would think. Then wondered why she cared.
When Rey made her entrance into the dining room, she was startled to see Kylo in a tan tunic with matching trousers. His glorious hair shone in the lamplight. She had never seen him in anything but black, and to see him like this…
It slipped out. WOW!
“You look beautiful too,” he said. He held out his hand and she took it. Kylo brought her hand to his lips and laid the lightest of kisses on her skin. Something inside Rey moved and she subconsciously chastised herself.
He’s just a man. A man with darkness in his heart.
But oh, what a man!!
The barest of smiles crossed Kylo’s lips and Rey wondered if he caught that last part.
“Come, sit down.”
The dining room had a table that seated up to eight, but Rey and Kylo decided that first night to sit facing each other in the side chairs. It made conversation easier.
Sora came in to fix appetizer plates from the sideboard.
Kylo asked, “Do you like your new clothes?”
“I do,” she said. “I’ve never owned anything this pretty. I’ve never worn anything like this. Ben, why did you ask me to dress for dinner?”
Kylo took a drink of water from a goblet. “You may think this is silly, but…well…”
“What? You can tell me, you know.”
“When I was younger, before I went to my uncle, my mother exposed me to certain things. Once a week, we had to dress for dinner. Even my father. It was her way of keeping certain Alderaani customs alive with the purpose of passing them on to me, and the expectation that I would pass them along to my children.”
Rey stared at Kylo. He wasn’t looking at her, but she didn’t say anything other than “And?”
“I liked dressing up for dinner. You might say that even at that young of an age, I had a flair for the dramatic. In later years…well, let’s just say that there were no more dinner parties and no opportunities to dress. Now that I’m here, I thought that…”
“I like it, Ben.” Rey said, holding out her hand. “I can do this every night if you want.”
Kylo gazed at her, his expression softer than she’d ever seen. He took her hand and held it.
Sora began putting down appetizers: bowls of thick, creamy soup, fresh bread, a tray of thinly sliced meats and a variety of cheeses, fruit and sliced vegetables. She poured wine into their glasses and headed back into the kitchen to finish the rest of the meal.
“I don’t think Sora likes me,” Rey said, gazing hungrily at the food as she released Kylo’s hand. Her stomach seemed to roll over and beg.
“What gives you that idea?” Kylo took a sip of wine.
“She never talks to me. Does she talk to you?”
“Only when she has questions about her orders. Sora’s been the caretaker of this house for a long time. She’s not one for casual conversation, so don’t worry.”
“Where did you find this place?”
“We used to vacation here when I was little. Before everything changed.”
“Yes. This house and the surrounding property are mine. It’s very valuable. One of my father’s friends won it in a game of chance. Lando, I think his name was. Anyway, he gave it to my parents as a wedding gift and my parents said it would be mine when I came of age. They didn’t—my mother doesn’t—know that I’ve claimed it.”
Rey was fascinated. Kylo was sharing part of himself and she couldn’t help but wonder about the boy he had been. “Oh. Well, that explains a lot.”
“I haven’t been here for a very long time, but once you came back to me, I knew we had to come here. We have the privacy we need and the environment necessary to train you properly without distractions. And Kalamar is a place of healing.”
Kylo helped himself to the appetizer platters and handed Rey a plate before fixing his own.
“I wanted to hate you,” she said, her voice low and rough. “I tried to. I really did.”
“I wanted to hate you, Ben. I hated you at first but it didn’t last…I tried to keep the anger going, but I couldn’t.”
Kylo calmly wrapped some of the meat around a piece of cheese and ate it. He chewed slowly, taking in her words before taking a long drink of his wine.
“Excellent vintage,” he remarked. “Have a sip.”
Rey obeyed and afterward, said, “You never answered my question. You said you didn’t hate your father, so why…why did you kill him?”
Kylo took the time to create another mega-appetizer and eat it before answering. “He never gave me a chance to know him. I tried to be a good s—he was hardly ever around when I needed him. He was a smuggler and was more interested in that than being my father. And then it became a point where I realized I still needed him; that I still wanted his fucking approval, but by then it was too late and my need for him was keeping me from self-actualization. I had to rid myself of that. It was tearing me apart.”
Rey picked up a piece of the thinly sliced meat and put it on her tongue, and then a startled “Oh!” flew out of her mouth. The meat was succulent and buttery and it caught her by surprise. She quickly ate another slice and drank some water. “And did you?”
Kylo chose not to answer. “You really look beautiful. Red is a good color on you.”
“Answer me, Ben. Did you rid yourself of the torment? Was it worth it or was it a waste?”
Kylo gazed at Rey. She looked completely different. Her hair was up and her neck and shoulders were bare. He felt a sudden urge to take her in his arms and kiss the indentation at the base of her neck.
He took a long drink of wine. “Snoke was more of a father to me than Han Solo was.”
She cringed. “Snoke was using you, you know that! Once he used you up, he would have discarded you!”
Kylo sighed as he stirred his soup. “Do you mind if we change the subject? Have you tried the soup?”
Rey sighed. There was no point in pushing him. Everything was very pleasant and she didn’t want to ruin the moment. She would ask him again at another time. “Not yet.” She spooned some and smelled it before taking a bite.
“It’s delicious. What is it supposed to be?” She gobbled two more spoonfuls.
Kylo followed her lead. “It is. I think it may be lentil.”
Rey waited for him to finish and when he looked at her, she made sure she was an open book.
We’re not done talking about this. We have to talk about it.
Fine. Just not now. It is a beautiful night and we’re enjoying dinner. Let’s continue to do that.
“Maybe we need to agree on some parameters,” she said. “I don’t want you intruding in on my thoughts unless you’re invited. And vice versa. Sometimes it might be easier to let you have a peek when I can’t find the words to say what I mean and mean what I say.”
“Agreed. And if I have to probe, I’ll give you a little nudge. We have to practice this so that we know what it feels like.”
Rey smiled. I am enjoying dinner.
Kylo smiled back. So am I.
On cue, Sora came out with more trays of deliciousness. Rey found herself gazing longingly at filet mignon, roasted garlic potatoes with aioli and green beans. Kylo shook his napkin loose and covered his lap with it while staring at Rey. Her thoughts were clear as a bell.
I’ve never had food like this before.
Kylo nodded. It was easy to forget where she came from. “Go on. Eat.”
“Was I staring?”
“Yes. Eat. As much as you want.”
Rey speared a piece of meat and bit into it. When the juices ran over her tongue, a shrill noise escaped from the back of her throat. She quickly cut and ate another morsel, covering her mouth with a napkin.
“That is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”
Kylo was cutting his steak and eating it with potatoes like a man used to having good food. Rey wondered what kind of day-to-day existence he had before meeting her.
“Tell me about your life on Jakku,” he said.
“Don’t you already know?”
“Not all of it. And I prefer we actually converse during dinner as opposed to reading minds.”
“Not much to it. I spent my days scavenging for parts so I could trade them to get food to eat.”
“What kind of food?”
“Bread,” she said. “Every now and then, I got lucky and was able to barter some of the parts Unkar didn’t want for greens and veg-meat. But bread is what I ate most of the time. A lot of days I didn’t eat.”
Kylo stared at her with his fork halfway to his mouth. I did not know that.
Rey didn’t even try to stop him or herself. How would you? Remember, I’m nothing. I came from nothing. I am nobody. All this…all this…I don’t know what role I’m meant to play. All I know for sure is that I’m supposed to be with you.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Don’t be,” she said, eating another piece of steak and following it up with some green beans. “It wasn’t your fault.” She closed her eyes in bliss.
“You did that every day?”
“Yes. Unkar Plutt was stingy. I spent hours combing the insides of rusted AT-ATs and star destroyers for parts worth far more than what he was willing to trade for. Every week, he’d change the value of the parts and I would get less and less.” She sighed, eternally grateful to be out of that life.
Kylo had a sudden urge to send for his ship and take a quick trip to Jakku to cut Unkar Plutt’s throat.
Rey kept on, lost in the memories. “One day, I was cleaning parts and I looked over and saw an old woman. She was dressed much as I was, hair styled the same way, and her skin was brown and leathery from the sun. She was so wrinkled, so ugl—and her hands were…I knew she’d spent a lifetime doing the same thing I was doing and that was going to be my fate if my parents didn’t—if I couldn’t…if I didn’t…”
I didn’t want to end up like her.
She put her fork down.
“I’m all right,” she said. “Just memories. It wasn’t that long ago.
Less than a month. Weeks, even.
A few minutes passed where there was nothing but the sounds of them enjoying dinner. Then Sora came out with dessert: chocolate cake topped with fat strawberries. Rey stared at it when it was placed between her and Kylo. It smelled heavenly.
“What is that?”
“Chocolate lava cake,” Kylo said. “My mother’s favorite. Mine too…for a while. I thought you might like it.”
Rey’s expression was clear. Your turn to talk.
“Try it,” he said. “Just cut into it and see if you like it. My expectation is that you will. Women love chocolate, so I’ve been told.”
Rey picked up her knife and cut into the cake. Know much about women, do you? It is definitely your turn to talk.
Carefully, she put the slice on a plate and cut into it. Kylo watched her greedily; waiting for the moment she closed her lips around the fork. When it came, he took a sharp breath, feeling a kind of way all over. How long had it been since he’d enjoyed pleasures of the skin??? Snoke kept him hopping from task to task and the last time he’d…
What are you on about?
“Nothing,” he said. “How is it?”
“It’s glorious,” she said. “This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” She ate another bite, this time closing her eyes. She licked the fork and Kylo stifled a groan.
He finished his wine and the rest of his dinner while watching Rey demolish two more slices of cake.
“This is positively sinful,” she said, licking her fingers. There were crumbs on her chest. “It can’t possibly be good for you.”
“I’ve been told that’s the case,” he said, watching her suck her fingertips with carefully hidden desire.
“I’d better not eat anymore of that,” she said. “But I will finish my dinner. Everything is so good. The meals here have been so delicious. When I was on Ahch-To, I ate whatever Luke caught from the sea and drank that…ugh!…nasty green milk from that weird animal…” She absently wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “So this has been agreeable.”
Dinner finished, Kylo pushed back from the table and stood up. He reached out for Rey and she followed suit. It was getting easier and easier to take his hand without thought or consequence.
Come out on the verandah with me.
Are you tired?
Come with me.
He pushed open the door and they walked out onto the verandah and down to the beach. It was a full moon out and the sky was lit with stars. Rey subconsciously linked fingers with Kylo. For several minutes, they listened to the ebb and flow of the waves and stared at the moon and stars.
I could live here, she thought. I really could.
You know that you can have anything that you want.
So are we going to just push into each other’s mind without asking? “If so, then this won’t go the way you think, Ben.”
“I’m following your lead, Rey. You did it first.”
“Why did you want to come out here?”
“I thought you might like to see what it looks like at night. We’re out of the city, so it gets very dark and it’s easier to see the stars. Would you like to take a stroll?”
“At night? It’s really dark.”
“No better time. And I know my way home.”
“Okay.” But it’s your turn to talk.
Kylo lifted Rey’s foot, removed her sandal and then did the same to her other foot.
“You’ll want to feel the sand between your toes,” he said.
He carried her sandals as they began walking. Rey held on to his hand, taking in the dark, quiet beauty of the night.
“So…?” she said.
“It’s your turn to talk!”
“Oh,” he said. “I don’t know much about women. I was too busy with my…training. There was always another assignment for Snoke’s faithful and gifted apprentice.”
“You’re a grown man,” she said. “I may be naïve in a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”
He laughed. Caught at the sound, Rey paused, released his hand, and looked at him. He turned to face her.
“I’ve never heard you laugh before.” She liked it.
He shrugged. “For so long, there was never a reason to.”
I’m comfortable with you. I can be myself when I’m with you.
Rey stared at him. Kylo took her hand, interlaced their fingers and they continued to walk.
“If you’re talking about physical needs, of course I would sate them whenever possible. I just want you to know that I wasn’t out here fucking anything and everything in a skirt.” It was important she know that.
Rey said, “They allow skirts in the First Order?” and this time they both laughed. It was a beautiful thing that echoed across the vast ocean.
Kylo’s chest felt full. So did Rey’s. What in the name of the Force was going on?
He decided to steer the chatter into shallower waters. “So did you have…were you… involved with anyone on Jakku?” He wondered about that for the longest time.
Rey sighed, clenching his hand. “Once, when I was 19, there was a mechanic in Niima Outpost. His name was Michael and we became friends, I guess…we tried to, at least. He made me feel less lonely. He was a nice guy, funny and optimistic.”
“One day he stopped coming around. I never saw him again. He simply vanished. I was distraught because finally, I thought I had a friend. I eventually learned that he got into some sort of skirmish with Niima the Hutt over a debt and Niima killed him. I found out about it later. I didn’t have any friends after that.”
Kylo carefully wondered if the boy had managed to bed Rey. He couldn’t help thinking about it and certainly didn’t care for it, but there it was. She had had some prior experience with a man. How much, he’d have to figure out later.
“People leave me,” she said. “And then I had to leave the people I’d come to know in the Resistance.” Even though it was her choice to leave, she still felt a kind of way about it.
But you didn’t really know them. The only ones you knew for sure were the traitor FN-2187 and my mother.
Rey stared straight ahead as they walked. “You’re right; the sand feels good between my toes.”
“Rey, you’ll never be lonely again. Not as long as I’m around.”
“Even if it’s in the Light?”
“Especially if it’s in the Dark.”
There it was again, that fuzzy, hazy boundary.
“You’re not finished talking,” she said.
“What else do you want to know?”
“Do you hate your mother?”
Rey caught something in their bond; a snippet of powerful emotion. Sadness, it might have been.
“What is it, Ben?”
“I didn’t hate her. She accepted me for who I was, but when the time came she insisted…she insisted I get training from my uncle. I didn’t want to go; didn’t want to leave her but she wouldn’t hear of it. She told me that there was power in me—in our family—and my uncle could help me to wield it and control it. I wanted to stay home with her. I told her that I would be okay if I could just stay with her, but she said she could not help with my gifts; that the only person she trusted to do so was my uncle. She basically pushed me out of the nest before I was ready to fly and…and…I resented her for it. But I didn’t hate her. I could never hate her. She’s my mother, and if I could keep her from harm, I would.”
Rey stopped again, staring at him, staring into him.
You didn’t fire upon her ship when you had the chance.
I would never hurt her. I can’t speak for anyone else in the Order.
“So you hated your father and resented your mother.”
“I felt so alone,” he said and she could feel the anguish through their bond. “I felt unloved, unwanted. She wouldn’t listen to what I wanted. You assumed that my parents loved me and gave a damn about me, but I never got that from them, not when I got older. It angered me and in my rage, I admit to throwing a tantrum or three. That’s how Snoke found me…and you know the rest.”
Tantrum? Or three? What did you do???
Kylo took her hand again and this time, he placed it against the scar on his cheek. Her scar. Rey turned and put her other hand on his other cheek. She stared into his eyes.
“The people who were supposed to love you and protect you dropped the ball in the moments it mattered the most. Luke made a serious mistake and inadvertently sent you down the path you’re on, but you can change things, Ben. You don’t have to do this. You’re not committed. You just have to want to change. You don’t have Snoke in your head anymore. You’re not bound to his teachings. I’m here with you. Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone. Come with me.”
“I’m the Supreme Leader,” he said, covering her hands with his. “I can do anything I want.”
Rey closed her eyes. That was the truth. He was absolutely right. He was the head of the First Order and he could do anything he wanted.
Perhaps he would be willing do anything she wanted.
The walk back to the house was mostly done in quiet contemplation for both mediums of conversation. It was a gorgeous night and Rey had had a productive second day and it was time to go to bed.
Before they took the path that led them back to the house, Kylo told Rey to rinse her feet off in the surf. She did so, but questioned the futility of it since she had to walk back through the sand to get to the path. He merely scooped her up and carried her back to the house.
When he picked her up, the breath went out of her. She knew he had carried her before, but she’d been…asleep…for that one. She looped her arm around his neck and pressed her cheek against his chest.
She couldn’t help it. He smelled good. This is pleasant.
You weigh hardly anything. I could carry you all day.
Well, that wouldn’t be very productive.
“So, when are you going to teach me how to stop a blaster bolt?”
“Good. Because I’m so curious.” Rey was making an attempt at levity because she could sense he was still a bit perturbed.
Are you sure?
“Here we are,” he said, as they reached the back door. He put her down. “Do you want to put your shoes back on or no?”
“I can go without them.” She opened the door and they walked in. Before turning in the direction of her bedroom, she took Kylo’s hand once more. “Thank you for a lovely evening. I had a good time.” She squeezed it and he nodded.
“Get some rest,” he said. “Tomorrow will be here soon enough.”
“Come & Talk to Me” -Jodeci
“Back and Forth” -Aaliyah
“Come to Me” -Brad Fiedel
“Bring Me to Life” -Evanescence
“By Your Side” -Sade