After an interminably long wait in line, Han and Leia made it to the courthouse clerk. As they waited, Leia reminded Han that he should let her do the talking. For once, her request didn’t earn them an argument but only because she let his comment about bureaucrats and red tape slide by un-protested.
The woman behind the counter was middle-aged with a plump face and seasoned eyes. She wore too much makeup and gaudy jewelry and sparkly things adorned nearly every centim of her. The clerks were lined up like bank tellers with what looked like blaster-proof glass between them and those who waited to see them. A small part of Leia understood why, because if someone didn’t undo this thing, she was ready to shoot them herself.
Leia pushed the datacard under the slot in the window. “I want to take care of this,” she said abruptly. So much for her years of diplomacy training.
The woman looked at Han and Leia from beneath her lashes as she entered the proffered datacard into her system and studied the display. “You do, huh?” She asked with what Leia was sure was a hint of amusement.
“Yes, as quickly as possible,” Leia replied.
“When you say take care of…,” the woman trailed off, the datacard forgotten and her eyes suddenly transfixed on Han.
“I mean dissolve it. End it. Erase it from our records, if at all possible,” Leia replied hotly.
The woman’s eyes meandered over toward Leia as she leaned forward, elbows on the counter, her face nearly pressed to the glass that separated her from them and every other miscreant that filled the crowded waiting room. “You sure about that, sweety?” She asked and then as her head hitched toward Han she added, “He don’t look like the kind I’d throw back, if you know what I mean.”
Leia’s face burned with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Han, for his part, did not say a word. Just as she had instructed. But the expression on his face was one Leia would not soon forget.
The woman seemed pleased with the reaction she had coaxed out of Leia. Leaning back in her chair an air of professionalism glided over her as she recited a well-worn speech about the sanctity of marriage and the planet Azterri’s stand on it.
“I fully agree on the sanctity of the institution, but…,” Leia fumbled for the right words. “We weren’t…ourselves,” she finally supplied under a mumbled breath.
The woman shed her professional persona and let a wicked grin slide across her face. “Who were you, then, missy? I wonder.”
“Look,” Leia started, leaning against the glass as if she might punch her way through it. And then Han was in front of her, his arm leaning up against the counter, his best roguish grin plastered across his face and she heard that low octave note to his voice that did things that even Leia couldn’t deny.
“Dontcha think you could flip a few switches and punch a few buttons and get this all taken care of for us?” He asked sweetly as he waved his finger through the air.
Leia watched the clerk melt in front of her eyes and had to control the violent urge she had to vomit all over her.
“Wellll,” the clerk drawled. “I could swap my name for hers and no one would be the wiser.”
Leia suppressed a guffaw as she watched Han’s face turn three different colors. “Well,” he started backpedaling as he drew away from the window.
“Other than that,” the woman replied lightly but then grew deadly serious, “You’ll have to go through the proper channels like everybody else.”
“And just what are the proper channels?” Leia asked with a heavy sigh. Something told her this wasn’t going to be pleasant.
“A one year separation, verified by at least three witnesses after said year, in person, at this courthouse,” the clerk retorted.
Leia felt her jaw, her heart, her stomach and many other parts of her anatomy drop down to the floor.
“Or,” the clerk continued.
Oh, thank the goddess there’s an ‘or’!
“You can attend our marital counseling seminar and if you still wish to absolve your marriage after successfully, or unsuccessfully as it were, completing the course, you can obtain immediate expungency of said marriage.”
“Great!” Leia said, relieved. “We want that one.” And with that the clerk began to punch a few buttons on her terminal.
“Not so fast,” Han replied, grabbing Leia’s arm. Then he looked at the clerk, “Just what does this seminar entail?”
The last of Leia’s patience was quickly dissolving away and she had a hard time imagining just what Han could be so worried about. They were getting this divorce if it killed her, or if she killed him. Either way, she was leaving Azterri a single woman.
“You and your betrothed,” the clerk said the word as if it were dirty and looked at Leia as if she would just as soon run her over with a hover car, “attend a series of appointments and exercises with our various counselors to try and salvage your marriage.”
“What sort of exercises?” Han and Leia asked in unison and then glanced at each other uncomfortably.
“We’re not that kind of planet,” the woman replied flatly as she removed their datacard from her system. “The exercises are meant to build or repair the trust and communication now absent in your relationship.”
“But there’s nothing to repair. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. Are you sure there’s no way around this?” Leia asked desperately.
“Positive,” the woman spat and then pushing the datacard back under the window added, “Details are on your datacard. Have a nice day.”