A companion story to Ghosts
Maybe it was a testament to how far their relationship had come, but as she realized no more words were needed Alenka settled easily against Luka. Moments where they could just enjoy each other's company were moments to be savored. Like an expensive jewel, or a fine glass of wine she cherished each as if it were the first such one.
Was it possible that they had only been together for 15 years? She brushed her fingers through Luka's hair as he moved closer, leaning his head against hers as he allowed the hum of the plane's engines to draw him back down into sleep. She found herself smiling faintly as she watched him, knowing the love she felt for him at that moment was as strong as it ever had been.
A giggle from Maja across the aisle assured her that the children were content and with that concern laid to rest she gave herself back to the luxury of simply enjoying Luka's relaxed closeness. He'd made no attempt to withdraw his hand when he'd changed position and Alenka found herself toying with the simple gold band on his finger as she listened to his quiet breathing. It was times like these she'd missed in the years she'd mourned Damir's loss.
As Maja's giggle was met by the deeper chortle of Juraj she let her attention shift to the children for a moment. All those years she had dreaded the sound, finding not joy but pain in their laughter. All the years she'd thought never to once more know the feeling of holding her own child to her breast. All the years she'd thought never to hear someone call her Mama. As she watch the two she couldn't help but feel the surge of love that connected them all together, would they ever fully understand the gift their birth's had been for she and Luka?
She returned her attention to her husband as he turned in his seat again, looking for some way to fit his lanky frame in the small space allotted to him. When he finally came to rest he was almost facing her, and she could see his breathing slow even more as he sank even deeper into the sleep he had deprived himself of over the last several days. Could she ever have imagined knowing such love for someone not once, but twice in her life? She lifted a hand to smooth the stray hair off his face then let it drop again with a contented sigh as her eyes fell once more to his wedding band.
It had been one of those days that seemed never-ending, and as a last minute phone call delayed her departure just enough to make her miss her train, she had to wonder if it could get any worse. It did, within five minutes of her stop the weather turned from cold and windy, to cold, windy, and wet. By the time she had made it home and had the door unlocked, she was soaked and frozen, and wanted nothing more then a hot bath before curling up under a blanket with the book she had been reading and a hot cup of coffee.
Even before she had turned the light on or shed her coat she saw the blinking light on the answering machine, as she hit play, then heard the voice she felt the almost instantaneous lightening of her mood.
"Alenka, it's Luka...I guess you must still be at work. Um...I'm on duty until eight, I'd like to see you after if you're not busy. I'm sorry I missed you, give me a call when you get this."
She found herself smiling as she listened, his voice registering his disappointment at getting the machine then his expectation at her return call. There was something else though in the message, something not said, and as she played it a second time it still eluded her.
Picking up the phone she dialed the hospital, then removed her coat as she waited for someone to answer. "May I speak with Dr. Kovac please?" She shook the water from her coat, then hung it as she spoke. "Yes, Alenka Ostovic...no, Ostovic." She smiled with the correction on the pronunciation of her name before spelling it. "I'm returning his call...no, that's quite all right, I understand, I can wait." While waiting for Luka to pick up she walked into the kitchen and busied herself with starting the coffee to brew.
"Hi, yourself." She pulled a cup from the cabinet before turning to lean against the counter as she listened to the sound of his voice. "Not really, I was just going to take a bath and read." He face flushed at his comment, "Luka." She laughed softly before answering. "I'd love to see you, and no, nine isn't too late...I'll see you when you get here." She held the phone to her ear for several more moments after the click signaled his return to work as if that might somehow prolong it. As she finally set the receiver back into the cradle she couldn't help but compare her reactions to Luka with those she'd had to her husband. Was it too much to hope for? She drew a deep breath in an attempt to release the thought. He was simply a friend, his loyalty to his wife still as strong as the one she held for Damir.
The thought lingered through her bath and still later as she fixed dinner, he was sure to be hungry when he got here, she told herself as she fixed twice what she normally would. How many times had she listened to the women at work complain about cooking for their husbands...for their families only to want to scream at them how lucky they were? She lowered the heat on the soup simmering on the stove as she was met with the truth of the feelings such a natural act stirred in her. She wanted to cook for him...and the truth was that she had begun to know she wanted to be there for him in other ways as well. If only she could rid herself of the fear that wrapped itself around those truths. No, she had to keep those feelings to herself, she couldn't risk what existed between them now over something he might not even feel in return.
When the doorbell rang she reached for a dishtowel and as she dried her hands she moved to answer it. "Hi." She moved easily into his arms, returning his kiss before drawing back with a soft laugh. "You are wet."
"It's raining." His cheeks dimpled as he returned her smile then moved fully into the apartment as she stepped aside to let him in.
"Let me take your coat." She closed the door behind him then took the topcoat as he handed it over. "I hope you're hungry, I left some soup on the stove for you."
His smile deepened in that moment before he answered. "You should know by now that I can't refuse your cooking...even if it is making me fat."
"You are not getting fat." She laughed at the comment before shooing him towards the table. "Go sit down and let me put some in a bowl for you." As she headed for the kitchen she called back to him over her shoulder. "Luka, coffee or beer with that?"
"If I take beer I'll be asleep on the couch within the hour, if I didn't fall asleep right here at the table before that, better make it coffee." He moved over to the table and took a seat as he answered....
to be continued...