A companion story to Ghosts
Juraj knew better then to press his mother for more then she was willing to give, but as he turned back to the movie he found his attention wavering. It seemed that he had always known his parents were different from those of his friends, and most of the time he could forget it. It had been harder when he was little, when all he saw was their sadness, or when he woke to the sounds of their nightmares only to be sent back to bed with reassurances that they were fine. He had known even then it wasn't true, that they only wanted to ease his fears, but how could he tell them that? When they had finally felt him old enough to understand they had shared the truth and while it had not been easy he had adapted as they seemed to know he would.
Over time he had learned when he could ask for more and when he should step back. He had learned to accept that there were times when they would lose themselves to their memories or grief. He knew too that there were times when one or the other became quieter and the small black and white photographs that sat on the mantle would draw them into them.
It had been harder to accept that they were so much more protective of him then were the parents of his friends. Hard to understand that to them his being even ten minutes late would seem a lifetime. He leaned more comfortably against his mother with the thoughts, then lay his hand over hers as her arm circled around him.
"You all right, Beba?" She asked the question quietly then kissed his hair as he nodded. These were his parents and with all their differences there was one thing he never had reason to doubt.
"I love you, Mama," He spoke for her alone, then smiled as his words were met with a tightening of her arm and another kiss in return.
"I love you too, Juraj."
"It's all right, Beba...Tata's got you." Luka reassured his daughter as his efforts to reposition himself caused her to moan softly in her sleep. Drawing one foot onto her abandoned seat, he settled on his back, before coiling his arms more securely around her. Had he not been so tired he might have wondered how it was that a time that should have brought dreams of loss, instead brought those of love. Was this the indication of how far they had come? He released a soft sigh of acceptance as his breaths slowed to match those of his daughter and he let sleep draw him to her again.
Since the loss of his family Luka had grown to dread the approach of the holidays. In years past he had willingly taken extra shifts so he wouldn't have to dwell on what was no longer there, and he had every reason to believe this year would be the same.
The rapping on the hotel door stirred him from sleep and with a groan he raised his head to look at the clock...7:25pm...he groaned louder and let his head drop again, knowing he was due back in the ER at 11:00pm. The rapping was repeated and he rubbed sleep from his eyes before tossing the bedding aside and sitting on the edge of the bed. "Coming." He drug his hand back through his hair as he stood, the action only seeming to worsen the unruliness of it. The fact that he had only been asleep for less then two hours was not lost on him as he opened the door. "What is it?" He paused, dropping the hand he had wiped across his face as he realized who it was. "Alenka?"
"I'm sorry....I should have called first." Her dark eyes quickly took in his appearance and her face flushed slightly in embarrassment "I was out shopping and thought I'd take a chance that you were home...I didn't think that you might be sleeping." She offered a smile as she raised one of the bags she held. "I brought dinner in case you were hungry."
"Um..no problem...come on in." He moved aside to let her pass him, fully aware that he stood there in the wrinkled shirt and sweat pants he'd been sleeping in.
"Luka...I can leave this and go...I should have called." Alenka smiled again giving him the chance to still refuse.
"No...please...stay. I'm just not awake yet." He closed the door to emphasize the point only to have an unexpected yawn break from him. "I'm sorry." He shook his head as she couldn't help but laugh. "Let me go throw some water on my face and change, then we'll see if I can be a better host." He offered the last even as he moved to the dresser and began to pull a change of clothing out of it.
"Luka, you don't have to apologize and you certainly don't have to change. I'm the one who should for showing up unannounced." She dropped all but one of the bags on the coffee table by the couch as she spoke.
"Yeah, I do...make yourself comfortable, I won't be long." His comment was punctuated by still another yawn and prompted another laugh from her.
"I did remember coffee if that'll help." She said as she struggled to contain her humor, her attention moving to the contents of the bag as she pulled the assorted containers out.
Whatever else he planned to say was lost to a third yawn and he shook his head in mock surrender as it ended. "Ok, I give up...be right back."
When he emerged from the bathroom less then five minutes later she had the table set and the smells which filled the room were enough to make him forget he was still tired. "That smells wonderful."
"Good, because I brought plenty." She glanced over to him, taking in his damp hair and freshly shaven face. Dropping her eyes back to the table she uncovered one of the bowls then lay a chunk of homemade bread on a napkin next to it. "Come, eat."
As he walked over to her Luka already knew that what he really wanted was not the meal she had spread onto the table. "Alenka?" He paused in front of her, then lifted a hand to tentatively touch her cheek with his fingertips. As his eyes met hers he was sure that the nervousness he was feeling was equally present in her and he swallowed, giving her a moment to register his action. When she said nothing and instead offered only the slightest of nods in consent he leaned in to kiss her. In that moment he would swear that time stopped and the one thing he had feared he would never know again was realized. The very thing that Angelique had assured him would one day find him had come true, and he let the kiss deepen with the realization.
to be continued...