A companion story to Ghosts
It was easy to let her thoughts wander in the dark quiet of the plane and as the movie once more drew Juraj into it, Alenka let the memories come...
Over the years she had found that she could almost forget how lonely she was as she lost herself in holiday preparations. When friends would need baking done, or special gifts made for their celebrations they knew they only need ask and she would gladly take the tasks on herself. In truth it was her way of forgetting, her way of not having to think of how it had been before her husband and son had died...before she had been left alone at a time when she should have been surrounded by family. She had accepted their offers to dinner and family gatherings while all the while knowing what she really wanted was one of her own. This year though was different, and without even knowing when it had happened, she had begun not to see Damir and Neven in her thoughts of the holidays, but rather Luka. Like icicles on a warm winter's day, the heart she had long thought frozen, had begun to thaw.
In their time together they spoke often of the families they had lost, sharing each other's pain, allowing words to comfort when she knew she wanted more. When had she begun to wish he would hold her, wish he would whisper the reassurance to her that he would always be there for her? When had she begun to look at him and wonder what it would be like to feel his lips against hers?
She smashed her fist into the bread dough on the table as the thought of what had always been unthinkable rose. All these years she had remained true to her love for her husband, how could she possibly think she could feel that way again? She knew others claimed to have found someone else...was it possible that the same might be true for her?
The thoughts lingered as she baked, her feelings torn between vows to a long dead husband and the awakening of feelings for someone new. What if he had none of the feelings for her? What if his loyalty to his wife was stronger then hers was to her husband? How could she know what he was feeling without revealing her own feelings, more importantly, was she willing to risk losing his friendship and companionship if she did?
As she pulled the fresh bread from the oven she knew she had to see him, and what better excuse to use then to feed him? She found herself smiling at the thought. She often worried that he didn't take good enough care of himself, something she was sure he would deny, but the truth was there in how he lived. She wrapped one of the loaves then set it aside as she pulled a bowl from the cabinet and filled it with the stew she had simmering on the stove.
The next hour would always come as a blur, she remembered that she had tended to some last minute shopping while she tried to decide what she would say when she arrived at his door. When he had delayed in answering her knock she had almost left...almost, but instead she had repeated the knock and heard his answering call, still heavy with sleep, in response. His appearance as he had opened the door had caught her breath...what had she been thinking? Even to her own ears her excuse had seemed weak, but he had taken her for her word and instead of sending her away had welcomed her inside. Her embarrassment had to be noticeable to him, but was it simply that, or something far deeper?
It had almost been a relief when he had excused himself, allowing her in those few minutes to try and compose herself. Even as she tried to suppress it she couldn't deny that the flutter was there...the flutter she was sure had died all those years ago. When he had reappeared the feeling surged with a force that made her wonder if it had ever fully left her. She tried to ignore it and maybe she would have succeeded, if only he hadn't touched her. She'd known he was walking over, every movement he made seemingly in slow motion. When he stopped in front of her she had almost made herself believe it was no different then all of those other times....if only he hadn't touched her. As hers eyes met his she saw in that instant what she knew she was feeling, and as she nodded in silent consent to his unasked question the physical confirmation was there as well.
Nothing else existed in that moment of their first kiss and as she slid her hand around his neck she knew she had finally been given a second chance at love. As the kiss deepened she was aware of the small things...the scent of his aftershave, the feel of his wet hair against her fingers, the taste of his toothpaste...and most noticeable, the comfort of his arms as he held her. This was what she had missed the most, she was sure of that now, and as his hold on her tightened she couldn't help but wonder if he felt the same.
As she revisited their courtship Alenka found herself smiling, opening her eyes she let them fall on her husband. Was it possible she could love him any more then she did, even after all these years? As an unexpected bounce rocked the plane the static of the intercom broke the silence and into her thoughts.
"The Captain expects us to be experiencing some turbulence, for your own safety please make sure your seatbelts are fastened."
When neither Luka nor Maja stirred to the announcement Alenka unbuckled her own belt and rose...as she reached them she touched her husband's shoulder gently. "Luka." When he did little more then turn away from her with the grumbled protest of one still lost to sleep she couldn't help but smile before trying again. "Luka, you need to wake up for a minute." As he turned to her and opened his eyes her smile deepened before she reached down to lift Maja off of him. "The Captain turned the seatbelt sign on, you need to buckle up, I'll take care of Maja."
" 'Kay.." The word came quietly, his voice still heavy with interrupted sleep. As Alenka took their daughter from him he pulled his foot from the seat, sitting up as he did.
"Shh...Beba." Alenka soothed the still sleeping girl as she settled her back in her own seat. Once she had refastened her belt she tucked the blanket around her, then bent to pick up the discarded cat before turning her attention back to Luka. It was obvious that he was still in the fog of half sleep and while he had sat up enough to fasten his own belt, he was already easing back towards full sleep. Pulling a second blanket from the overhead, she lay it over him.
"Thanks..." He reopened his eyes as she covered him.
"You're welcome...do you need anything else before I sit back down?" As she asked the question she reached down to brush sleep tousled hair off his face.
"No..I think I'll go back to sleep. Juraj all right?" He lifted his hand to hers.
"You?" The question came more softly as his eyes settled firmly on hers.
"I'm doing all right..sleep now, we'll talk later." She offered a smile then brushed her thumb across his fingers before drawing her hand away and returning to her seat. As she glanced back over to him she saw he had already turned into the window, the blanket pulled up over his shoulder as he tried to make his lanky frame comfortable in the cramped space allotted. She watched him for several more minutes as he shifted and resettled, then finally found a position that allowed the much needed sleep to find him. Not surprisingly, with his peace came hers, and with a sigh she leaned back in her own seat to let sleep claim her as well.
to be continued...