Sand and Grit
Dust billowed behind the blood-colored speeder as it flew over the planet most knew as nowhere. Her mask was thick and itchy from sand collected over months of scavenging. What she wouldn't do for a bath.
The speeder slowed as Rey approached her home, an AT-AT that had crashed in the legendary battle between the rebels and the Empire. The story changed from person to person, and even natives to Jakku couldn't agree on what had taken place all those years ago. She wasn't sure what she believed about that battle, only that it must have taken place. Otherwise she wouldn't be a slave today, working tirelessly for Unkar Plutt. Rey hopped off the speeder, grabbed her staff, and hurried into her AT-AT. The sun was setting. It was time for her nightly routine to begin.
She began by preparing her food. She had earned a one-half portion in her scavenging that day, more than usual but not quite enough to satisfy her hunger. A growth spurt tended to increase the appetite of the young girl, and today was no exception. Her mouth watered at the small loaf of bread, despite its hard texture and nonexistent flavor. In moments the meal was gone. Rey licked the plate, searching for every stray crumb she might have missed, and came up with three. Each were a precious gift.
Rey took her staff in hand and marched outdoors. The sun was still in the sky, though it was drifting ever quickly toward the horizon. Jakku would remain safe and warm until the ball of heat disappeared. Then the devastatingly cold night would hit, and with it, all the dangers of darkness. Mysterious creatures roamed the dark world. Many sentient beings who wandered at night never returned to their homes. The people on Jakku never cared much when other scavengers were lost to the night. Everyone knew darkness was dangerous, and leaving shelter was asking for death. Rey had been careful never leave her AT-AT past twilight.
Now, she had at least a half hour to practice. She raised her staff and swung, kicking her legs in an airborne twist. A flip backward, landing and swiping the staff around her body. She jabbed at an imaginary target. Her muscles responded to her commands automatically, having memorized the moves. The energy of the planet moved with her as she practiced with her only weapon. Without her staff and her skills she would have died years ago. If Rey failed to keep her skills sharp she would surely fall victim to the many who wished to take advantage of the weak and female.
Involuntarily she shut her eyes and let her body guide her. The staff swung nearly of its own accord, slashing and swiping with perfect precision. Here was a world Rey could control. A world she had mastered through her own hard work. Here she was servant to no one. As she practiced she could believe that eventually she would buy her freedom, and then her parents would return. They would see how she had taken care of herself all these years by herself and be proud of their daughter. She was a fighter. She was a survivor. She was a rebel.
She imagined her staff was a lightsaber, that she was a Jedi, protecting those who were suffering like she did, and smiled. One day, she would be free. One day, she would help others, just like those legendary Jedi from those stories she had heard so many times.
Night fell, and she retreated into her AT-AT. Leaning her staff against the wall, she picked up her doll. It had taken months to put it together three years ago. It was her one companion, a loyal friend she slept with every night. She kissed its forehead. One last thing before sleep.
She scratched a white mark onto the wall. Two thousand three hundred and seventy-one days. Over five standard years had passed since her parents had left.
Memories from before they abandoned her were fuzzy and few. She couldn't remember their faces, but if she saw them, she would know. Those people are my mom and dad, she would think. Rey had to believe they would return.
"You believe me," she whispered to her doll, her voice quiet and rough. "They'll be back." She hugged it close and curled up on her thin blanket given to her years ago by Unkar Plutt when he had bought her. She drifted off to sleep and dreamed of her parents. She dreamed of leaving Jakku and meeting friends. An old man taught her lessons on an island surrounded by water. A boy with black hair and stormy eyes whispered promises. I'll come back for you, sweetheart.
In the dreams she was surrounded by loving friends and never felt alone again.