A companion story to Ghosts
The service had touched Alenka in a way she could never have imagined, and though it had ended she still felt the effects running through her. How could she have ever left this? It wasn't simply hearing the language or the familiar hymns that was affecting her, no, this went far deeper then that. Had she really believed that spending half her life among strangers could possible change what had happened...could make her able to forget her past and those who had been part of it?
Even now, kneeling at the small altar beside her husband and children, the truth that had lay shrouded in fog cleared. She belonged here, Luka belonged here....despite all that had happened, all they had been through, this was home. For 25 years they had been in hiding, hiding from pasts that neither would ever be able to forget no matter how many miles they put between themselves and the tragedies that had forced them both to flee those their homeland and in turn those close to them who had survived..
How many weeks had she struggled with her own decision to leave? She found her thoughts drifting backwards as she lit the small white tealights...
"Alenka, you can't just leave." How clearly the pain in her mother's voice surfaced once she allowed the memory to unfold, as vivid now as the day the conversation had taken place.
"I have to, don't you understand? Her own voice shocked her, choked with grief and tears that still spilled freely. "I can't leave the house because everything I see is just a reminder of being without them. I see old friends with their children and I want to hate them for daring to still have them when I can't have mine." Her voice broke and she buried her face in the fur of the battered bear she held tightly in her arms.
"You could move to a different part of the city, or into the country." Her mother found herself struggling to find reasonable alternatives that might sway her daughter's mind as she took a seat on the worn sofa beside her. "It was hard enough for me to lose them, don't make me grieve for the lose of my daughter as well." The woman lay her hand on her arm.
"Mama, please...don't you understand? Everyday I stay here I die a little bit more...I just can't do it anymore." Sniffing back tears she dropped her eyes to the small brown bear in her hands. "Mama, I'm sorry, but if I stay I'll lose myself completely."
How many days had they tried to talk her into changing her mind before they realized the futility of it? She had made up her mind and nothing they could say or do would sway her from that decision. Once they had finally accepted that she was serious, and regardless of what was said or done she was determined to leave Croatia it became the families goal to insure that she at least lived when someone they knew could watch over her.
Word spread quickly among first those within the city then those outside and within a month it was discovered that a cousin lived in Chicago and he was willing to become her sponsor The next month was spent completing the paperwork that would allow her to immigrate to the United States and when it was finally submitted all that was left was to wait. In total it took six months before the day came, six months of revisited memories that often left her in tears. Her final week in Croatia had been one she was sure she would always view with mixed emotions. A week of tearful good-byes to family and friends, many she knew she was seeing for the last time. Perhaps the hardest of those she would leave however were those of her husband and son and it was with them she spent her final moments before going to the airport.
Wiping the tears from her face Alenka bid those same good-byes now to those the small flames represented. As she finished she turned to first her son and then to her husband, aware that both were watching her in concern. "I'm ready to go when you are." She somehow found a smile to offer her two men before rising and taking Juraj's hand. "How about we go and find a park or playground?"
"A park? Can we?" Maja barely contained her excitement as the offer was proposed.
"If Mama wants." Luka in turn offered his hand to the small girl as she bounced on the balls of her feet beside him. "Calm down until we get outside, Beba." He offered a smile with the chastisement, his words simply a reminder to her.
"Sorry, Tata...." Maja smiled back but her anxiousness to leave left her tugging slightly on his hand.
"Then to the park we go..."Alenka found her mood lifting slightly as she took in her family...this was the result of her leaving, no matter how hard ithad been, no matter how much she had missed being here, without having left none of them would be hers now. Somehow she found that comfort enough to sustain her and with a second smile she followed her husband and daughter from the chapel, with her son at her side.
to be continued...