It had been almost 5 years since she had left and in her eyes, Naboo had not changed in the least. It was still as warm, still as beautiful.
Padmé kept her hood up as she strolled casually down the streets of Theed. A group of Imperial officers were walking down towards her and she curtsied when she passed them. The young officers doffed their caps to her and she remembered university days with Sabé with a smile.
It was Sabé that had brought her out of hiding but even for her dear friend, nothing but the most extreme emergency would have made her return to Naboo.
“My little girl… I am afraid. Tenlo must not find out if he is. I always knew what you and your grandmother were. Please help me.”
As they had planned, Sabé was waiting for her in the gallery. Padmé spied her tall, statuesque friend in front of the newly commissioned portrait of the District Governor of Naboo. She took a circuitous path round the portrait until she had caught Sabé’s eye. Then she made her way out of the gallery.
A few minutes later, Sabé followed.
There was a tiny little shop at the corner of the street that had been their favourites as students. It had been a long time since Sabé had been there, but it was a pleasant surprise to realize that it was still as private as she remembered, and they served the most excellent caf.
“I can only be gone for a little longer before Tenlo sends someone for me.” Sabé said after the two friends had exchanged greetings.
Padmé gave her a look over her cup of caf. Dressed in careworn clothes, her hair in poor girl’s braids, Padmé Naberrie appeared very different from the polished aristocrat that Sabé had met in school. On the surface, that is. When she looked at Sabé with those perceptive brown eyes that saw too much, the years fell back and Sabé felt as inadequate next to Padmé as she did as a teenager.
Suddenly, Jango’s request didn’t seem so hard.
“With Bibble ill, Tenlo is being considered for Deputy Governor,” Sabé retorted. “If the world finds out he has a … a…”
“I prefer to call them special,” Padmé said gently. “But your reasons are not my concern. There are difficulties in bringing up those children. Why don’t you get her to a Clinic? Get her treated properly?”
“Aren’t you the one that told me that those treatments injured the children? That at best they come out retarded?”
Padmé sipped her caf. “I hear the techniques have improved.”
Sabé stared at her. “I will not give my child over to those machines.”
“Why? Because of your concern as a mother or because you don’t want it to be on record that the Deputy Governor’s daughter is Hyper-chlorian.”
Sabé felt her face flush and she resisted the opportunity to pour the scalding caf in her hand into Padmé's face.
Calm down, she told herself. It’s not like if you’re arguing on something real.
“Maybe both,” she said, raising her chin.
Padmé gave her friend one of those piercing looks. There was a little frown between her eyes. “For a moment there, I thought you were going to pour your caf on my head.”
Sabé laughed out loud. “Actually into your face. It would do more damage.”
A little smile formed on Padmé's lips. “I ask everyone these questions, you know. You need to know what you’re going into. I can’t reduce your child’s midichlorian count. No one can – or should. Your child is not abnormal, just different, and in our world, hhunted. My grandmother and I were not witches, we just try to give these children a chance to live safe lives, under the radar of Imperial observation.”
“I understand,” Sabé said quickly.
Padmé’s smiled disappeared and she gave Sabé one of those looks again. “Is there something you’re not telling me, Sabé?”
Sabé spilt the caf she had started lifting to her lips. “No! I mean… what do you mean?”
“I feel like if you’re keeping something for me.”
Sabé laughed nervously. “Oh, are you going to tell me that you were a special child once?”
It was Padmé’s turn to laugh. “Someone like me could never have been special. But I don’t need to be … I know you, Sabé. What’s wrong?”
“Other than my husband’s political career and my child’s mental health being scales on a balance?” Sabé tried a sarcastic smile. A brittle, Imperial wife smirk. “Nothing at all.”
Padmé nodded slowly.
Sabé spoke quickly. “This evening, Tenlo will be leaving for a dinner. I won’t be going along. I’ll feign illness or something. How long do you need?”
“An hour every day for five days.”
“That can be arranged. Where do we meet?”
“My old place in the lower town.”
“Is it safe? Are people there keeping it for you?”
“It’s for sale. The cleaning droids come in once a week. I’ll be gone before they return.”
“How do you know this? Does someone keep tabs on it for you?”
“I pretended to be a buyer and checked the records on the HoloFeed,” Padmé said slowly; that suspicious look was returning to her gaze.
“So,” Sabé said quickly, “Chare and I will come there. Should we bring anything?”
“Bring her, and something of hers that she’s fond of – a toy, a blanket, anything that she’s emotionally invested in.”
Sabé nodded quickly. She drained the last dregs of her caf. “Fine. We’ll be there. I have to go now.” She got up. Then hesitated. “It was nice seeing you again, Padmé. Despite the circumstances.”
She hurried off out of the caf shop and into the street. In a few seconds, she disappeared into the crowd. Padmé was left behind to settle the bill with credits. Of course, it would not do for it to be on record that the wife of the Deputy-Governor-elect had been in this place at this time.
Padmé sat sipping her caf, and wondered at how much could have changed in five years.