A companion story to Ghosts
He had thought he'd have no trouble sleeping, he'd been wrong. Long after first the children, then Alenka had surrendered to it he had lain beside her in the dark, listening to the sounds of their breathing. If he concentrated he could isolate each from the other, a quiet snore from his son, the quicker breaths of his daughter, and lastly those of his wife. Each sound floated around him like note's to a song, but none so strong as to pull him to where he could join in.
With a soft sigh, Luka pushed the covers aside and carefully dropped his feet to the floor, the worn wood cool against them. He lingered a moment as he was, assuring himself that his actions had not caused anyone else to wake before he rose. As he stood, he brushed his hair back on his face, then swept his eyes over the sleeping forms of his family. Only when he was sure they still slept did he finally move across the room to the window. A gentle breeze nipped at the curtains and he raised the window still higher as he stood in front of it. Was this what he had heard? Was this what had kept him from sleep? The noises were not different from any others...even as he leaned against the windowframe he knew the answer to his unspoken question.
For several moment he remained immobile, his eyes tracing the skyline...it was so different from the nights he'd done the same all those years ago. So different from the images that had been left with Jasna on those nights he had sat with her in his arms when she could not sleep. The nights when the fear of the missiles has left her trembling. So different from those night he had held his wife and wished they were anywhere except Vukovar.
He wiped at the tears, hoping to stop them before they took him completely. They would always be bound to this place he and Alenka...no matter how hard he tried to deny it the truth would always remain. This was the place they had shared lives of love and loss with those who had been taken far too soon.
"Can't sleep?" Alenka's whispered voice interrupted his thoughts before her arms circled his waste. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah.." He answered as quietly as she had spoke, knowing she would see through the lie as he often saw through hers.
"Nice try." She rested her cheek against his back. "What are you thinking about, Luka?" As she spoke she slid her hand over his stomach, a calming gesture meant to soothe him.
"Old memories...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you." In response to Alenka's gesture he lay his own hands over her still one.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He was warm, she could feel the heat of his back through the tee shirt he wore as she leaned against him. "Luka?"
"It's so different now, you ca almost believe it never happened if you try hard enough. He offered the comment in lieu of answering her question.
"But it did happen...no matter what we want it doesn't change things." Alenka let her hand splay across the flat of his stomach.
"I know." He couldn't quite manage to hide the disappointment in his tone from her as he continued to stare at the night sky as they spoke. How many nights had he done this before? How many nights had he wished and prayed for night free of the shelling while knowing they wouldn't come? "I used to pray...no..beg for this silence...I would have promised almost anything for a night without the sound of the missiles falling."
"So did I...I think we all did, but that was a longtime ago, and it wasn't something you could control." Alenka struggled to reassure her husband while inwardly admitting that she shared the same fears that now plagued him. "Is it always like this when you come back?" She asked the question as Luka turned to her so he could slide his arms around her.
"In the beginning it was." He hesitated, then wet his lips before forcing himself to continue. "The first time...when the plane was due to land...it was as if I had forgotten how to breath. I was so scared of coming back I was hyperventilating. Each time after that it got easier...it was the same though with sleeping. My first time back, at Tatas, I had nightmares every night and he would sit beside my bed, rubbing my forehead in hopes he could make them stop."
Alenka couldn't help but smile at the remembered actions of his father. "Luka, why didn't you say something?" She lifted a hand to touch his cheek, forcing him to see her before she ran her fingers through the hair at his temples.
"Honestly? I guess I didn't expect it to happen. I know this is right...and long overdue." He released a sigh. "Maybe that's it in itself...facing all that happens here and finally putting it all to rest. I should have expected it." He drew his wife closer so he could rest his cheek against her hair as they held each other. "What about you?"
to be continued...