A companion story to Ghosts
There had been no discussion over which cemetery they would visit first, but Luka had always known. If he was to be strong for Alenka there had never really been a choice. Standing now before the gates of the Catholic cemetery he slid his arm around her, his strength hers without a word being spoken between them.
As if sensing the gravity of the moment Juraj moved to his sister's side, then leaned his dark head to hers as he whispered. After a quick glance to their parents Maja took her brother's hand before returning his quiet smile of reassurance.
That both children understood the power of the moment said much for their upbringing. There had been no secrets behind their parents past with the exception of perhaps a softening of the violence they had witnessed. The importance of those that had been lost had never been sacrificed and it was that which influenced their actions now.
"Ready?" Luka spoke the word quietly as he allowed his wife the time she needed to fortify herself for what was still to come.
When her response came it was with a simple nod, the words she might have wanted to express frozen behind the lump in her throat. As she stared at the weathered gates her fear only seemed to worsen and she found herself doubting the very decisions that had brought them home again.
"I'll be right here with you." Luka's words seemed to come from somewhere far away and until he had spoke she had forgotten he and the children were even there. How could she have done that? She forced herself to draw a steadying breath as she felt his arms tighten around her.
"I'm not sure I can do this." Even as she leaned into the security his embrace offered Alenka found herself having to fight the stronger desire to run. She didn't have to do this. She had a loving husband...wonderful children...a life many could only dream of. She could continue living the way she had lived for the last fifteen years and know that Luka and her children would support her decision. Her eyes moved to Juraj and Maja and she found her resistance strengthening as she saw what she could only guess was fear in their eyes. How could she do this to them?
"Yes, you can." Luka's words came even softer then those he had last spoke, meant for no other ears besides her own. "You're strong, Alenka...stronger then me...you always have been." As he continued Luka lifted his hand so that he could brush his fingers through her thick, black hair. "Look at all you've been through, what we've been through." His words might very well been ones directed at himself. "It's time to let them go." He couldn't prevent the catch in his voice that the sentiments revealed and the deeper truth that he was encouraging her to do the very thing he was so afraid of doing himself. "It's time to let them go." He repeated the words softer still, his lips almost touching her ear as he spoke.
Her cheeks were wet as she turned into him and as he tightened his hold on her she buried her face in his chest, welcoming the comfort of his embrace. "It hurts so much." Alenka's own words came amidst tears that she was unable to stop.
"I know, I know..." He found himself repeating the words over and over until her tears eased and she lifted a hand to brush the traces of them from her cheeks.
"Don't be sad, Mama." Maja had freed herself of her brother's hold and moved to where her parents stood, her concern clearly etched on her face. "Maybe Damir and Danijela are a family like you and Tata are..."
Alenka couldn't help but smile at the small girl's reasoning and freeing herself from Luka's arms she scooped her daughter into her own. "That would be nice, Bebe...maybe you're right..." She found herself welcoming the simplicity of the suggestion, grasping onto it as if that would make it a reality in her mind. "Thank you, Bebe." She found her mood lightened as the words continued to take root and she gave her daughter a kiss before setting her on the ground again.
Exchanging glances with first Juraj, then Luka she gave a simple nod in answer to their unasked question before taking Maja's hand then reaching for her husbands. "I'm ready..." And as the words left her mouth she knew finally that they held nothing but truth within them.
to be continued...