A companion story to Ghosts
"Juraj, have you finished your packing yet? Tata will be home soon, and I want it done before he gets here." The slender woman paused with the sweater she was folding in her hands as she looked towards the bedroom door, then shook her head when there was no immediate response. "Maja...two toys...no more...I told you that already." She lay the sweater on top of the clothes already in the suitcase as her attention turned to the five year old girl trying to shove yet another stuffed animal in her already full backpack.
"But I need them." She stressed the need before continuing, her dark eyes radiating the seriousness of her next words. "Tata said it was all right and I can't leave them home alone."
Brushing a stray strand of hair from her face, the woman let her eyes settle on her daughter. "Maja..." Anything else that might have been said was lost to the sound of the opening door downstairs and the small girl's yell of delight as she abandoned the toys and fled the room.
It had been a long shift and today more then most he had found that almost a relief. He rolled his shoulders as he pushed the door open, feeling the ache of tired muscles even as he accepted that sleep would not be coming anytime soon.
"Tata!" His daughter's scream of welcome reached him only a moment before she launched herself at him and with a smile he let his bag drop and swept her into his arms.
"Where's Mama?" He offered her a kiss before shifting her to his hip as he closed the door behind him.
"Upstairs packing...you have to tell her it's okay for all my babies to go with me."
"I'll talk to her..." His face dimpled into a smile as he sat her on the ground. "Is Juraj upstairs too?" He grabbed his bag from beside the door and carried it into the livingroom before dropping it and heading for the stair, only to stop again as his son came around the corner ahead of him.
"Hey!" The ten year old's resemblance to his father was obvious, the inherited height already showing itself.
"Hey, yourself....are you packed?" He asked the question even as the boy moved into his arms, tolerating the kiss he knew would follow.
"Almost, I'm trying to find my good sneakers...Mama says I can't wear these." He dropped his eyes to the scuffed pair he wore as he freed himself from his father's embrace.
"Try under the couch...and turn the television on for your sister would you? I need to change and mediate a toy dispute." He ruffled the boy's hair before letting him pass.
"Thanks, Tata. The remainder of what he said was lost to the sound of his sneakers hitting the landing as he jumped down the remaining half dozen steps.
Taking the rest of the stairs up two at a time he stopped as he rounded the corner to the bedroom. "Having fun?" He paused to lean against the doorframe as he watched his wife struggle to close the bulging bag on the bed.
"Very funny, you could help you know?" Her accent flowered the words as she matched his teasing. "Your daughter is trying my patience today." She stepped aside to let him tackle the bag then moved into his arms as he finished, her lips finding his in a welcoming kiss.
"So I heard." He tucked the fallen lock of black hair behind her ear.
"Luka, she can't take all of her toys." She gave him a second kiss before laying her hand gently on his face. "You look tired, rough shift?"
He shook his head in dismissal, "Not that bad, and I'll sleep on the plane. I do need to shower though, and maybe some coffee?" He let the expectation of an already brewed pot reflect in the question.
"You should eat something before we have to go to the airport, I'll fix something while you shower and change." She let her hand brush back through the gray at his temple before dropping her hand with a smile. "Then we can decide how to break the news to your daughter about her toys..."
to be continued...