You entered the building of the indoor sports arena and covered your nose from the smell. It was a mixture of sweat, male deodorant, stinky socks, and the scent of a freshly washed floor that smelled like mint.
The lights were broad, and the white color of the wall made it even look brighter. You stared for a couple of seconds into the light that made you see small black dots. After a while, they disappeared. From downstairs, you heard people chatting and laughing.
When you reached the staircase, you looked down and recognized a man with medium-short hair and a trimmed, well-groomed beard streaked with grey. The deeper you went down the stairs, the colder the metallic railing in your left hand felt. The man was wearing his usual black leather jacket that symbolized his toughness since he was a teenager and a black t-shirt with grey pants.
Luke Skywalker was an old friend from your mother that your father highly despised. Three years after your birth, your mother had broken off contact with Luke. Five months ago, you came with her to watch a basketball game, and he was there behind the bar.
It was a beautiful and emotional reunion for your mother. In her youth, she used to play basketball for the Rebel Alliance Club, where Luke played in the men’s Premier League team, and at a party, they became friends. He was like an older brother to her, who watched after her so she would not get into trouble.
Two months ago, he suggested a job to you. It would be at his little bar in the indoor arena when basketball matches were taking place. What else could you do than accept the offer with gratitude? It never hurts to earn some pocket money as a student.
You enjoyed working with Luke, and you had a free entry for the events and snacks. You never understood why your mother ever broke off contact with him or what happened to his right hand. When you asked him about it, he always told you he wasn’t ready to tell you about his past, and when the time was right, he would. But the time never came, and you gave up waiting for it.
The entire Sunday afternoon, you couldn’t stop thinking about Vicrul. Your mind traveled back to when you hugged him from behind and felt his body muscles through his shirt. Thinking of him made you chew your lip and flutter your eyes from the feeling of how his backed pressed against you.
Today was an important basketball game since it was the beginning of the basketball season. The Resistance against the First Order. With Luke, you cheered for the men’s premier league of the Resistance team, which called themselves The Rebels.
The men’s premier league of the First Order had their reputation for violently injuring the players from the other basketball teams. That’s how they received their unusual nickname, The Stormtroopers. They were the best and most feared basketball team that never lost a game.
For years, The Stormtroopers always defeated The Rebels, but they never gave up and never lost hope. They only needed a few points to defeat The Stormtroopers, so it was just a matter of time when The Rebels would win.
It thrilled you to watch this game. Luke never trusted the committee of the First Order Club. He always had a bad feeling about them. It scared him to imagine that one day all The Resistance fans would cheer for the First Order.
As you descended the last step, you saw Luke leaning behind the small eight-foot bar. He held his freshly tapped glass of Guinness in his left hand while using his right bionic hand to leaf through a newspaper that lay on the counter.
“Michael Jackson called,” spoke Luke. “He said he wants something back that belongs to him and only him.”
His blue eyes peered at the newspaper. Luke had noticed your presence without looking at you. His voice sounded rough, as if he smoked some cigarettes not long time ago.
“What?” you replied with a small chuckle, placing your bag on the chair.
Luke put his beer glass on the counter, tilted his head to the side with extended eyes, and looked at you.
“Uh-oh, Granny! You’re not even older than me, yet your brain works five times slower than mine. Must be that goddamn phone.”
One day you placed a chair behind the bar next to the stairs, so you could sit down when your legs were too tired from standing. Since then, he always called you granny and mocked you for complaining about standing behind a bar for only three hours every second Sunday.
Sometimes, you used the chair to reach shelves that were too high for you, and sometimes when the players wanted to have a beer after a game, they put their heavy, smelly backpacks on it. This reminded you of your chair in your room with piles of clothes on it.
Working as a bartender was a positive experience. Luke paid you well and often cracked jokes. The customers were kind to you, and you had no problems with him.
It was only after your shift started you realized Luke’s dry joke, and it bothered you because it made you think of Professor Ren.
“What is it with you old men hating on this poor, innocent hat?” you sighed. “I’m sure Michael Jackson would love it.”
“Does that mean I’m not the only one who thinks that hat looks like garbage?” Luke asked in addition with curiosity shimmering in those eyes that reminded you of Vicrul’s sparkle.
You took off your hat and hung it on the corner of the chair. You pursed your lips, a slight furrow between your brows as you stared pointedly at him, with an icy coldness.
“And here I thought you did not know who Michael Jackson was,” Luke grumbled. “You almost gave your old, poor man a heart attack.”
Luke Skywalker was an unusual man. Although he was fifty-three, there was a reason his surname matched his spirit. Luke lived his life as if he were a twenty-one-year-old boy, ready to travel the world and live his life like every new day is an adventure. Everyone knew him, and everyone loved his bar in the arena. He was pretty well known for keeping his private life to himself, and everyone had respect for him working with his prosthetic hand. It even amazed small children, thinking he was half robot.
Before he became a bartender, he used to be a basketball coach. He was good at it, if not one of the best. Luke never told you what made him give up his coaching job and disappear to Ireland for six years. The only thing you knew was he suddenly came back and became a loyal member of The Resistance club.
“It’s just” — you kneeled and opened the small wood cupboard underneath the sink. You tried to reach with your left hand the beer glass that was so far in the back that you almost had to climb into the cupboard to take it out — “a man who is, unfortunately, my teacher but somehow also not, I don’t know, I-“
“Hey, kid,” Luke interrupted. “I’m gonna take a quick smoke break before the game starts, so watch out here. You can tell me about your problems later.”
If you were Luke, you would also rather disappear than listen to your own problems. With your head still in the cupboard and your fingers touching the large beer glass, you slowly slid it out with the same rhythm as your head.
“Mineral water and tarine tea.”
Confusion overtook your mind. You lifted your head a bit too fast and felt a wave of pain flowing into it as if someone had hit you with a hammer. You plopped on the floor and stretched out your left arm, angrily putting the beer glass on the counter. From the other side, it would look like you saw one hand coming out of a hole like in the horror movies. If you had left your hat on, it might not have been so painful.
This voice brought goosebumps to your arms. It made not only your head go wild from the pain but somehow your heart as well. Among all the people, you did not expect to hear this voice again. Well, at least not here.
You put your weight on your left arm and slowly stood up. Your head was spinning in circles, and a feeling of vomiting slowly approached your mouth as you looked at a very tall gentleman in front of you. He had his hands placed d at the counter, with his head turned back over his shoulder.
You could smell his strong cologne that, by the looks of the other women around him, made them bite their lips and check him out like dessert.
You scratched your eyebrow and felt uncomfortable seeing this with your own eyes. You believed to be stuck in a bad romantic comedy movie. Only one person could wear this cologne and make people go light-headed around them, including you.
The man was wearing a white t-shirt with a brown leather jacket and dark blue jeans. He noticed the bartender came back, turned his head around with a smirk, as if he were about to flirt. But his expression hardened, and his deep eyes scanned your face as he recognized you. The little, flirty smirk dropped quickly, and he gave you a dirty look while looking you up and down. Slowly the pain in your head became more painful when you recognized who it was.
“Mister..., Mister Ren...”
“It’s Professor Ren to you,” he corrected with his gruff voice. “Mineral water and tarine tea.”
“Do I have to repeat myself?”
A muscle in his jaw twitched, and you could see the fire in his eyes building up.
“I just hit my head really hard. Give me a second,” you replied annoyingly, stroking your head softly.
He pressed his lips together and rolled his eyes.
You turned your back to him and walked to the chair. You could sense Professor Ren’s hot and dark eyes watching you, like a cold wind that blew from behind, and you realized it was the first time he saw you without your uniform.
How cool would it be if you had a perfume to which Professor Ren would react the same way as vampires did when they smelled garlic?
The squeezing pain of pressure that wrapped around your head didn’t stop, and without realizing it, you had forgotten his order.
“Sorry, what was it again you wanted?”
He lifted his head, narrowed his eyebrows, and his black ink eyes drilled deep holes into you that felt like acids on your skin. He clenched his fists and let a deep sigh out.
Professor Ren had told you once what he can do to you, and if that day you would have stayed longer in that classroom, you would have found out, but now you were here out in public. You knew he would not repeat his order, and out of nowhere, you remembered it again.
Your shoulders held tight to your body, and you broke the eye contact.
“I just — don’t know this drink,” you mentioned in a dubious tone.
Any second, you knew he would say something that would provoke you. That would make you feel small and stupid. That would make you angry and say things you would usually never say to a teacher. But he wasn’t a teacher now. He was a customer. A customer who could get you fired by whispering something to Luke.
Professor Ren put his left arm on the bar and lowered his head like he was trying to see your eyes from below.
“How on earth did you get until your final year if you don’t even know what tarine tea is?” he said in a low tone.
You lifted your eyes, and the fear vanished away. Professor Ren was challenging you. Provoking you. He wanted to know what you would respond to that. You didn’t know whether tartine was a leaf or some fruit.
A long silence hung in the air. You looked at the people around him and side-eyed Professor Ren, who was studying your lips, and when he realized nothing came out of it, he proceeded.
“You’re a bartender. And obviously not a good one,” he continued, testing your limits. “I wonder what you had to do with that mouth of yours to get this job.”
You were speechless. What on earth was his problem? You thought about all the bad words you could insult him with, but you didn’t dare to pronounce the risky words that slowly built up on your tongue.
It would be a dream to remain unhurt by his cruel, manipulative way of insulting people, and you wanted so badly to tell him your own opinion. But you knew you couldn’t win this without getting into trouble.
He knew what he had to do and say to get you off the track. To hurt you verbally. He was good at that. Your heart started racing, and your anger increasing, but you remained calm. You would not give him what he wanted.
“Can you read?” you said unexpectedly.
“What did you just say?”
He widened his eyes and knitted his brows. He didn’t expect you to question his knowledge, especially not his reading knowledge, but you wouldn’t fall into his sneaky trap.
You stepped a foot back. “We have a board hanging there.” You pointed your finger at the brown board hanging on the grey stone wall behind you on the left.
“It shows what drinks we have. Your tartine tea is not on the list, so it means we don’t have it,” you explained to him as if you were teaching the rules to a five-year-old. Two can play this game.
“It’s taRine, not tarTine,” he pronounced. “A tartine is a French slice of bread with different toppings like tomatoes and avocado.”
A devilish smirk was visible on his face that lighted up his mood for outsmarting you, and his immense eyes bored into yours that made you nervous.
“Whatever,” you snapped back. “This may exist in America but not here.”
You had lost this round, and it disappointed you. Your embarrassment now would prove to Professor Ren that his conclusion about you was right. Pressure slowly built up on your chest. It was painful to admit, but he had hurt your self-confidence.
“Fine,” he stated, and took his black leather wallet out of his jeans. “Then give me another bottle of water.”
You wondered if he would be nice to you if you had just shut your mouth and accepted your coffee lying in the trash. When you took the two cold water bottles out of the fridge, you noticed how he impatiently started hitting the counter with the side of his credit card.
“Unfortunately, we don’t accept credit cards,” you reminded him with a fake half-smile.
He lifted his hands in the air and smacked them loudly against his jeans. “What is this place?” he raged in a loud tone.
The people in the room went silent and looked at him.
“It’s written right next to the board, cash only,” you said smoothly.
Even if you didn’t want to make a scene, you desired to give him a taste of his own medicine.
To your luck the counter separated you, or else he would probably pin you to the wall with his huge hands around your neck. He wouldn’t care about the surrounding people. He would strangle you until you turn blue, and even if you were already dead, he would continue.
“I don’t have cash,” he mumbled with his nose burrowed in his wallet, desperately trying to find some shiny coins.
“Too bad. No cash, no drinks.”
Professor Ren held his gaze at you with no emotion in those sinister eyes. His lips stayed steady, and his brows were dry. His breath was oddly calm, his jaw clenched, and it was clear to all who saw him he tried his best to not raise his voice at you.
“Ren!” shouted a grating voice. It came from the distance of a red-haired, pale man in a black coat who approached the bar. “I could hear you from afar,” Mr. Hux claimed as his gaze met yours. As he realized who you were, he raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
“Ah! Miss [Y/Surname],” he paused. “What a pleasant surprise. I did not expect you here.”
One thing you did not expect to see in your life was Mr. Hux and Professor Ren casually spending time together at a basketball game. They both were so different from each other.
“They don’t have your tarine tea, and they won’t let me pay with my card. Do you have any cash?” Professor Ren asked Mr. Hux, looking at him hopelessly.
You could hear the emptiness in his voice. Of course, the tea was for Mr. Hux and not for him. He might have insulted you, but in the end, he was the one who had no cash to pay for his drinks. And no glasses to read on the board.
Mr. Hux ripped away the victory from you when he took his small brown wallet out of his pocket. Instead of placing the coins on the counter, he handed them in Professor Ren’s large hand.
Professor Ren sighed and stretched his large palm without looking at you over the bar. You reached with your hand to collect the money as swiftly your fingertips brushed unwantedly against his big warm thumb, and you both shared a glance. Your eyes sank into his eyes as if you were diving underwater, only that everything around was dark. He flinched at your cold, wet fingertips and took a step back.
“Let her keep the change,” Professor Ren concluded in an arrogant tone. He raised his chin with his eyes still glued to yours and set his shoulders back. “The little witch needs it more than you.”
Mr. Hux furrowed his brows from the nickname and nodded as they both walked away from the bar. How nice of him to tip you.
“Enjoy the game,” you called after them.
Mr. Hux and Professor Ren stopped in their way and turned their body around.
“Of course, we will. Today is the last day of the Resistance,” Mr. Hux insisted proudly and lifted his chin. “The first order has them tied at the end of the string.”
“The Resistance will not be intimidated by the First Order,” you justified for them on which side you’re on. You had a different view of this game.
Disgust was visible in Mr. Hux’s green eyes. Your opinion and your belief for hope in the so-called Resistance scum like the First Order prefer to call them was ironic to him. If he was the one who handed you the money, he would disinfect his hands afterward.
Mr. Hux looked at Professor Ren like he wondered whether he heard the same thing.
“Pathetic,” hissed the British snake with his tongue pressed on his teeth.
In contrast to Mr. Hux, Professor Ren looked not impressed. His eyes extended, and you saw a small gap between his lips. He cleared his throat, turned his cold shoulder to you, and disappeared with Mr. Hux in the sports hall where the game was taking place.
You didn’t like the First Order. No matter what team was playing, all the players acted like hungry hyenas craving for blood and bones. Not to mention the club itself was arrogant and power-hungry.
“People that support the First Order are fanatics and evil,” assumed Luke on the first day of your job. The First Order never played the right way. The captain of the Stormtroopers was Ms. Phasma. She was a tall woman with short blond hair and blue eyes, who once was your PE teacher in your first year at school. The only reason the First Order has come so far was because of her.
You hid your fists behind your back. If you had a glass in your hand, it would shatter into pieces, and even if you started bleeding, you would do nothing about it.
An unknown hand touched your shoulder and made your heart stop beating for a moment. You shrugged, turning around, seeing an old man with short brown hair, a prodigious nose, and a dark grey mustache smiling at you with his white teeth. His yellow sweater made his almond brown eyes look soft and friendly.
Your jaw went slack, and your mouth loosely hung open as you tried to speak. “Are you Lando Calrissian?”
“Depends. Are you a fan or a bounty hunter?” the man joked delightfully, in a hoarse voice.
You laughed in return and shook his hand as you introduced yourself properly.
“Why do I have the feeling that I’ve seen you already?” Lando asked as if he was trying to remember who you remind him of.
“Because she’s here with me,” Luke declared, descending from the stairs. He smelled like old cigarettes as he went into a long hug with Lando.
“Heh. Been a long time.” Lando clapped on Luke’s shoulder. “I knew you’d come back sooner or later. Finally got sick of Han, didn’t—”
“Oh, shut up, will ya?” Luke cut Lando’s sentence before he could finish and stepped back from him. “The game is about to start, and you’re still here, distracting the girl from doing her job.”
Lando Calrissian was the charming basketball coach from the men’s Premier League of the Resistance club. Although he was a retired pilot, he still had enough power to lead an entire basketball team. Until now, you’ve never met him in person, but you heard many stories about him and his adventures from his youth.
“Right,” Lando nodded and chewed his inner lip. “Well, it was very nice to meet you.” He bent down like a gentleman, gave Luke a fist bump, and made his way down the hall.
“Wait!” you exclaimed.
As Lando turned around, Luke crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“Is it true? What they say about you?” you asked him.
Lando took a deep breath, chuckled while shaking his head, looked at the floor, and then back at you.
“Everything you’ve heard about me is true.”
Not that long ago, there was a rumor going around that Lando’s only daughter joined the military when she had just finished college. She loved basketball just like her father did, but never played in the team he supported. It broke her father’s heart because he never saw and heard from her ever again.
You could not imagine what it would be like to lose a child you loved with every single heartbeat. That child is your world, and suddenly somebody takes it away from you. And the only thing you have left was the memory.
Luke sighed deeply, violently opening the fridge. Something was bothering him that hadn’t bothered him before. Usually, he would talk for hours with his old friends, yet he acted weird. But that was none of your business. If Luke had something to tell you, he would. You learned to not bother him with questions where you knew he wouldn’t answer.
“Go watch the game,” he gurgled, while taking a large sip of his beer. “I’ll take care of the bar.”
You nodded with a small smirk and walked through the entry door of the sports hall like the proud and confident Resistance supporter you were.
Players from both teams were running after the bouncing basketball as if their lives depended on it. Spectators were yelling and cheering from the stadium seats. After a while, Luke joined you and stood with you at the entrance of the sports hall. During the game, he criticized the players from the Final Order.
Although your brain had been focused on the game, your eyes went to the blue stadium seats, searching for Professor Ren. Your gaze immediately had found Mr. Hux’s black coat and his red hair. He stood there not far away from you and screamed his soul out of his body. Next to him, Professor Ren sat quietly with his eyes fixed on the game.
Shocking to say it, but from the profile with his aquiline nose, he was far more attractive than you thought. With his soft jawline and the sweet black waves, he looked kind of peaceful. His left leg was shaking while he rubbed his palms against each other. You couldn’t deny it but he was handsome. It made no sense, but there was something about him that screamed for attention and mystery. The more you stared at him, the more you felt resentment itching out of you.
“We won, we won!” Luke yelled and raised his left hand in the air.
You didn’t realize how the Resistance got their ultimate point since you were too busy observing your psychology professor. The scoreboard showed 72-70. The first time in all those years had the Resistance won against the First Order. What a relief and a great way to celebrate the beginning of the basketball season.