A companion story to Ghosts
Maybe it was the timing of the flight, maybe just the little things that such a long flight brought notice to, but the closer they came to Croatia, the more her earlier fears receded. She had dreaded this trip for over twenty years...and now...was it possible that she was becoming anxious for them to arrive?
She couldn't help the smile that formed as she watched the whispering going on between Luka and Juraj. When had her baby become so old, and how was it possible that so much time had passed seemingly in the blink of an eye?
Leaning back in her seat she continued watching the two, her curiosity at their conversation forgotten as she studied the similarities of the two. The resemblance of Father to Son was immediate, both with hair so dark it might be considered almost blue to some, lean and long-legged. Those were the first things that most people noticed, then there were the subtleties, things less visible to those not close to them. The quiet reserve when they were troubled by something. The same reserve that demanded they find somewhere to be alone in order to bring resolution or clarification to it. The way they retreated into themselves was something she'd long accepted in her husband, but was all the more difficult to accept in their son.
She could feel the memories rising, remembrances of the life they had settled into. After assuring herself that Maja was content with her crayons and book she allowed herself the luxury of giving into them and with a quiet sigh she closed her eyes.
They'd only had their new son home for half a day and already she found the pleasant exhaustion of new motherhood settling over her like a warm blanket. She was tired, tired in a way she had never thought she would know again, and she wouldn't trade the feeling for anything.
For the tenth time in less than an hour she found herself standing over the crib of her newborn son. Juraj Stewart Kovac...a strong name for what she hoped would be a strong child. Her eyes seemed to take in every inch of him, from the thick lashes resting on his full cheeks as he slept, to the tiny nails on the curled fingers as his hand rested beside his head.
"Are you all right?" She hadn't realized Luka had even entered the room until he spoke, and his quiet concern was obvious in his question. Moving behind her he slid his arms around her as she nodded.
"I can't help worrying about him. I know he's real, but I've dreamed of this moment for so many years...thinking he was real and then waking to find he was only a dream. I can't help thinking if I leave him alone I'll wake up to find it's happened again." As she voiced the worry she felt his hold tighten and she lay her hand over his.
"He's real Alenka." He leaned down so he could kiss her. "He's so beautiful." The compliment came so close to her ear that she felt his lips flutter across it.
"He looks like you." Alenka smiled, feeling some of her concerns ease under his attention.
"He looks like both of us." He nuzzled her neck then planted several small kisses before looking back to the sleeping newborn.
"The doctor thinks he'll be tall like you are." She tilted her head as he continued to kiss her.
"Umm hmm..." He murmured into her neck as he held her.
Turning so she could face him Alenka cradled his face in her hands. "He'll be all right won't he? I can't help worrying that because we've both lost children before...you don't think he would ask that of us again?"
"Shh...no..Alenka...shh." He laid his finger to her lips. "What happened before...Alenka..that won't happen again."
"Luka, I want to believe that...but I couldn't bear it if something were to happen to him."
Drawing her to him he kissed her deeply before speaking. "Nothing can change what happened...but it's not fair to him...it won't be fair to him..." He offered an apologetic smile as he stumbled over what he wanted to say. "We have to give him the chance to live." He leaned his forehead against hers with the quiet comment.
As Juraj woke he broke the silence of the small room and Luka released Alenka to walk to the crib and lift the crying baby from it. "Shh...it's all right, Tata and Mama are here." He cradled the newborn carefully in his arm as he turned to his wife then dropped his eyes to meet the unfocussed ones of his new son. "Tata and Mama will protect you always."
Alenka smiled at the memory then opened her eyes, neither Luka not Juraj seemed to have moved and she could tell that whatever Luka shared with his son was meant for his ears alone. "That's very good Beba." Alenka drew her attention back to her daughter, leaning forward to watch as she colored.
"I'm staying in the lines Mama." Maja bent farther over her tray then bit the end of her tongue as she concentrated on what she was doing.
"I see that." Rather then interrupt her further Alenka leaned back again and as her eyes fell once more to her husband and son she found her memories returning to the past as well.
She'd been sure she wouldn't sleep at all that first night and in a compromise Luka had moved the crib to their room. At his first cry she came awake, slipping her husband's arm from her waist before she eased out from under the covers.
"I can get him." She smiled as Luka sleepily made the offer without even opening his eyes then touched his shoulder.
"No, I'll do it, you sleep." She leaned over to kiss him lightly before moving to the baby. "I'd better get him before he wakes the neighbors."
"He's got good lungs." Luka rolled onto his stomach with the observation, then buried his head under his pillow though he didn't stay there long. As Alenka settled into the rocker to nurse she felt his eyes on her and with a smile she raised her eyes from her son's to her husband's face. "You're so lucky." He spoke quietly as he sat, the blanket pooling around his waist as he leaned back against the headboard. "I used to tell Danijela that...when I would watch her nurse." He wet his lips before continuing. "I would watch her...first with Jasna, then with Marko...and I envied her having that one connection to them I could never have."
"Luka...you can be just as much a part of his life as I am." With her words she rose, ignoring the infant's protest to the interruption of his feeding. Reaching the bed she settled beside him before leaning against him as she resettled the baby to her breast. "Maybe you can't nurse him, but you can feed him, and teach him, and love him. Luka, he's part of us, but he's part of them too...Neven..Jasna...Marko...he has the chance to be all those things they never got the chance to be."
"Mama...is it my turn yet?" Maja's question brought her back to the present as the small girl tugged lightly on her sleeve and with a small smile she nodded.
"Yes, Beba." She found herself laughing with her response despite the lingering memory, not so much for the humor but from her persistence. "Luka, I think your daughter's patience is running out." She called across the aisle with a smile.
to be continued...