I wouldn't call her a lady, if you get what I mean.
In the beginning there was the Painted Lady. For Jahnya, it was day in and day out mindless work that she did without question. Someone bleed out at table seven? Jahnya cleaned it. Someone throw up near the bar? Jahnya cleaned it. Someone mistake the wall for a urinal? Jahnya cleaned it. Javoran had droids to do his work for him when he need to get things done, quick, to impress or simply because it was busy and she couldn't keep up with it fast enough to keep it barely passing whatever health code he could bribe to pass. But he didn't want the droids doing the work simply because droids can't be humiliated, people can.
In the beginning, there was keeping her head down and the adjustment period to the chaffing of the collar on her neckboth on her skin and in her heart. For the longest time when she was a child she was beyond hope.
The girls .The girls were surprisingly nicer than her mother most often than not. When they weren't eyeballs up in Spice, twitching from stims, or wavering unsteadily and fighting drunkenly with one another or having cat fights over who got to go home with which big spender. When she first arrived they cooed and tittered about her pink skin, complimented her on her eyes fit enough to make her blush further and laughed uproariously when she did. When they remembered she was there, sometimes they brought back table scraps from the rooms and places they'd been: taken on the arm of a different male or female each night, human or chiss or rodian or other twi'leksdidn't matter so long as Javoran got paid.
There was a strange complacency that grew in her once she decided that this was simply going to be her lot in life. A kitchen slave cooking slop and cleaning slop and as long as she kept her head down and her mouth shut, she could continue.
Eventually after that, there was an odd fondness for The Painted Lady's patrons that grewdespite the fact she barely opened her mouth at them. On occasion, they'd try to talk to her and she would simply put on her best blank-face with a small smile. Most of them left her alone after not getting any response, a few severely drunk or simply uncaring mistook her for one of the girlsdespite the fact her collar wasn't the same and her clothing was little more than second-hand scraps held together by more scraps. Those she danced quickly out of reaching hands and sometimes, if Warrell, an older, fat Aqualish was paying attentionwould thump them a good one and they'd leave her alone.
Warrell used to be a pirate before an injury took him out of the run. He used to run with Javoran, and it wasn't hard to find that out. Warell, when he wasn't berating the customers and smashing the skulls of those trying to pay with fake cred-chips together would talk non-stop about his good old days. Stories that Jahnya would listen too when they didn't involve too much of Javoran and went on sweepingly about the endless expanse of stars and humorous anecdotes about why he didn't drink that much anymore while drinking half as much as his own patrons he served all night. He always ended up flat on his back out cold behind the bar. Sometimes she felt she had an odd companion in Warrell because when he told his stories occasionally she could recall the distant image of what the stars might have looked like when she was a child, staring up at them. Sometimes she imagined when he told his tales she was on a ship, looking out and watching them dance byleaving this planet behind her.
Tick, as she called him, was a small Rodian that had taken to calling her Pinkie. He worked gathering information for Javoran and then always ended up spending all of this money on the girls, the drinks, the gambling and occasionally drugs. Unstable when he was using, Jahnya avoided himsomething had happened to him when he was younger which made him carry a small tick when sober. When drugged, the Rodian was someone else and she didn't think about it. Just avoided iteveryone needed to get away from here somehow, some just had to do it in unconventional forms. Every other time he always waved and asked how his Pinkie was doing. She never gave him anything but a genuine smile in return.
She learned many names for the next few years working in that bar. She saw her mother get up on stage or writhe about in a cage every night, but past a few awkward glances from time to time when her mother was actually there enough to realize what day it was and where she was, it's all she ever got from her mother. The resentment was difficult to avoid. On good days, she could pretend she didn't know the Blue twi'lek that hung off Javoran's arm like nothing more than a bracelet. On bad days, she did her best not to cry too loudly on her cot.
As the days passed, the weeping grew less and less until it stopped. But she couldn't make herself throw away her mother's headpiece she'd been hiding in her pillow all this time. Every time she thought about it, some noise startled her into shoving it back under there or she simply told herself: tomorrow.
Usually the Painted Lady was a cesspool. Fists and bruises and blood and limps and screaming and blaster fire, knives or worse. Down here, nobody cared. Javoran got away with anything he wantedthe despicable of the planet trod through that Cantina day in and day out. If it was illegal, it was being moved there. Or it was being discussed there. Or meetings were being held in the dingy backrooms or right out on the floor. Sometimes those deals went sour, fast and there was nothing she could do but wait to see who lived and who died. In those times she discovered she learned a lot from Warrell about how to patch up a human, how to tell if they were too far gone to help, how to tell if a patch-job wasn't enough and they'd have to get the medical droid. And, she discovered that in those times when the smoke cleared and she could help someoneeven someone who cursed and railed at her for trying to help, or for not helping enoughshe liked it. Out of all the horrible things she had learned here, she found it intoxicating to learn about life...about saving someone's life, at least, the ideal of preserving it instead of ending it.
She learned a little about bacta, what you could shove cheap in a med-kit and get away with it, and more about stims. She learned a little bit about alien biology and where a blaster bolt could kill, or just seem messy but was merely a glancing blow.
She learned that Zabraks had two hearts and she immediately thought of Kurakk Khdor, then put him out of her mind. He came and went as he pleased but ever since that one night when he had possibly saved her from being beaten to death? Hadn't spoken a word to her since. He came frequently when he could, always ordered a drink, sat at the same table near the kitchen door. But never drank. Never said a word. The girls wouldn't go near him anymore because he just ignored him and no one wanted to pick a fight with someone whose reputation was as large as the man's presence. Thanks to Warrell's habit of talking, she also learned that he was a bounty hunter. She wasn't she wasn't sure what to think. She thought perhaps she had done something wrong that night as a child. Maybe she shouldn't have touched himhe had looked so startled. Maybe she shouldn't have spoken..but
He kept coming back, usually.
She thinks if she remembers her birth date right, that it was around the fifth or sixth year after Javoran beat her that he left for an exceptionally long time. Usually it might be a few weeks, at longest months by her guess. It wasn't as if she could check the galactic calendarbut she was pretty sure. When he finished a job, he'd show up beginning of the week, middle and end when it was the busiest. But that one year he didn't.
And the longer the time went when he didn't show and set himself down in his favorite table, the more she felt Javoran's eyes on the back of her head again. Some sort of instinct that, over the years and living in this hellhole had honedsomething that always warned her right before a fight broke out. Told her when to duck before a pistol was even drawn and showed her how to swing out of the way of a fist flying too close. That same instinct tingled up her spine cold as ice whenever Javoran's eyes flicked her way. She would stop, stand up and crane her neck around and sure enough his beady little eyes were unreadable as well as watching. Every single time she caught him looking at her she felt the curl of fear tightening in her belly and remembered the first time he darkened her door. Thought of the long shadow he made the way it seemed to stretch black and forever over her into a greedy claw.
She thought of this and felt her gorge rise in the back of her throat.
Javoran was up to something, she was so sure of it with an intensity that surprised even her. That whatever it wasthat told her to duck when a fist was coming had started screaming at her to lay low.
Every night the feeling grew worse.
Every night he was gone she would stare at Kurakk Khdor's table on her way past and ferverently hope.