A companion story to Ghosts
Someone or something was watching him, he was sure of it. Even deep within the fog shrouded rationale of half sleep his senses couldn't avoid registering it. Cracking open an eye, Luka found himself face to face with his small daughter as she knelt beside the bed, her chin propped in her palm.
"You finally woke up."Maja stated simply before wasting no time in scrambling onto the bed beside her father with a smile.
"Morning Beba." He raised a hand to wipe the remaining traces of sleep from his eyes as he spoke. "Careful though, you'll wake Mama." He added the warning quietly even as he lifted the blanket so she could slide underneath.
"I'm hungry." She voiced the complaint as she settled in beside him.
"Is Juraj awake too?"
"No, everybody is sleeping." She complained again, forcing Luka to glance at his watch to check the time.
"Mama may still have some snacks left from the plane, do you want to go check her bag?" He made the suggestion hoping it might satisfy her until a more reasonable time.
"Can't we go eat?" She toyed with her Father's crucifix while waiting for his reply.
"It's too early, Beba, nothing is open yet. Why don't you try and go back to sleep for a while, it's going to be a busy day?" Luka shifted slightly to accommodate her as his daughter snuggled closer.
"Can I stay here if I do?"
"You'll go back to sleep?" It was clear from his tone that he was willing to allow the compromise and instead of answering with words Maja let her actions speak for her as she turned onto her stomach. Sliding her arms around him she rested her head on his chest then closed her eyes.
Laying there in the dim quiet of predawn Luka felt the calm drawing him closer to sleep again. How was it possible that he felt so much peace in this visit? He let his hand make small circles on Maja's back as his own breathing slowed to match hers, all the years of fear about this day...his hand came to rest as sleep reclaimed him as well.
It was the bustle of morning activity that woke Luka the second time and with that consciousness came the realization that the weight of Maja was no longer on him. For several minutes he lay simply listening to the noises, he could have been in his own bed for the normalcy of it all. Opening his eyes he stretched, eliciting a soft groan before he sat up.
"Morning." He smothered a sleepy yawn before smiling to his son, noting that he was already dressed save for the shoes that he was tying at that moment.
"Morning, Tata." Juraj lifted his head with the greeting.
"Mama and Maja getting dressed?"
"Yeah, Mama said to let you sleep until they were finished, want me to tell her you're up?" He had already rose with the offer.
"No, that's all right. Go ahead and turn the TV on if you want to watch it until we get ready to leave." As he spoke Luka tossed the covers aside and sat fully up, then turned so he could drop his feet to the floor. He couldn't help the deepening smile when instead of taking his Father up on the offer the boy instead began to make the bed he had shared with his sister. "You don't have to do that."
"Yes, I do, I'm not losing my allowance because I didn't. Juraj looked over to his Father, his expression one of skepticism.
"I think Mama would make an exception."
"Mama would make an exception to what?" Alenka's voice interrupted the two as she and Maja emerged from the bathroom.
"Morning, Tata.." The small girl ran over to throw her arms around him then released him before deciding that her brother might be a better target to her attentions.
"Morning, Beba..." He rose from the bed as she moved away. "His making the bed." He offered the answer to his wife's question before walking over so he could kiss her. "You should have woke me."
"You needed the sleep." She returned his kiss before brushing his bangs from his eyes. "What time did Maja join us?"
"Around five, I said it was all right...did she wake you up?" He shifted his gaze for a moment as he heard Juraj caution his sister on the consequences of rumpling his freshly made bed. "No bouncing, Maja." He offered the warning with a smile.
"I'm not. Are we going to eat soon?" She gave up on her plan and instead moved from the bed to the small couch with the question.
"As soon as Tata gets dressed, Beba, why don't we turn the TV on, you can watch something while he gets ready." Alenka stepped away to tend to her daughter, turning the set on then flipping channels until she found a children's program. "Try that one."
"Ok..." Maja turned her attention to the television as she climbed onto the couch and was soon drawn into the program, followed not to shortly by her brother.
As Alenka tended to the children Luka used the time to pull the clothing he would wear from the dresser. Through it all he found the amazement returning at how normal it all seemed. He glanced to his wife as he closed the drawer. "I won't be long, why don't you decide if we want to eat here or go out for something."
"Take your time." She glanced to the children as she spoke before returning her attention to him with a smile. "They seem pretty content for the time being."
"You doing all right?" He swept his eyes over her, looking for the telltale signs that the deeper effects of the trip might finally be hitting her.
"I'm doing fine...it's funny actually, I expected to be upset and nervous, but I'm not." As she spoke she moved over to him so the conversation would not be as noticeable to the two children.
"I've felt the same thing, maybe you were right about the timing." He shifted his clothing to one arm so he could take her hand with his free one. "I never thought it would like this." He voiced the last even more quietly as his eyes came to rest on hers.
"Neither did I, but I'm glad for it, for us, and for the children. I guess I was always afraid that when we did this that they wouldn't be able to notice the good things because of our memories or because of how upset we might be." She paused for a moment to shift her eyes to the children before returning them to him. "I'm not worried about that anymore."
As she finished Luka moved closer, lowering his head so he could touch his forehead to hers. "Neither am I." He lifted his hand to touch her face with a smile. "I think you're right too, what Juraj and Maja bring back from this will depend on us, and I want them to love it as much as we do, despite the losses we had here."
"Tata, I'm starving." Maja's voice broke the mood and Luka couldn't help laughing with the release.
"Priorities." He said quietly to Alenka before looking over to his daughter. "I'm going, and you are not starving," he shook his head before turning back to his wife. "I won't be long." He leaned in to kiss her lightly before drawing back.
"Take your time, I'll call down to the front desk and seewhat's nearby for breakfast while you're in the shower."
Luka nodded before walking towards the bathroom, the talk with Alenka having confirmed in his mind that the timing was finally right for everything they needed to do. All the years of fear, all of the worries, today they would at last be put to rest. That was the thought that lingered as he disappeared inside the bathroom and in it's own way the thought that only seemed to calm him further.
to be continued...