A companion story to Ghosts
"We should go soon." It was Alenka whose voice broke the silence that had settled over the family, as Luka nodded his agreement she offered a slight smile before shifting her gaze to the two children. "I would imagine you're both getting hungry."
"I am." Maja piped in immediately and her response was followed by a nod from her brother that almost mirrored the one his father had just given.
"Me too." He wet his lips as he framed what he needed to say next. "Tata? Are we going to go to the other cemetery after lunch?"
Luka glanced quickly to Alenka, noting her still red eyes and fatigue from the stress the visit had caused her. "Tomorrow I think, Beba. I was thinking maybe we could do some sightseeing after we eat instead."
"Can we go back to the park?" Maja climbed off of her mother's lap so she could move over to drape herself across her father's back. "Please, Tata?"
Luka found the smile coming naturally with her actions. "It's up to Mama."
Wrapping her arms around his neck Maja deposited a kiss before releasing her hold and returning to her mother.
"Man." Juraj's comment came followed by a gentle cuffing from his father.
"I am, I was just teasing her." Even with the admonishment the boy seemed unbothered by it and remained where he was sitting.
"I know what you were doing."
Ignoring her brother Maja set her sights on her mother instead. "Can we, Mama?"
"Can we, Mama, what?" Alenka asked the question knowing full well what her daughter meant.
"Can we go back to the park after we eat?"
What does your brother want to do?" Alenka asked as she shot a smile to her son.
Not about to allow the question to dampen her enthusiasm, Maja looked towards Luka and Juraj. "Say you want to go too, Juraj."
There was that momentary flash of devilishness in the boy's eyes. Any other day, any other place, and he might have taken advantage of it, instead he simply nodded. "Yeah, that's okay."
"The park it is then, but only after we get something to eat."
The resiliency of children was something Luka and Alenka knew from firsthand experience. They had been unable to deny it's presence in the children they had buried and that these two shared the trait with their earlier siblings was something that shouldn't have surprised them. Why then did it? They had never hidden the circumstances of their pasts, they had never strayed from the truth except to cover the more gruesome details, but that fact remained both Juraj and Maja had led lives sheltered from the violence and restrictions that those long dead had lived with on a daily basis.
Sitting now in the park, they watched the two as they played among the other children. Who would know to look at them that they weren't Croatian born? If not for the snippets of English in their conversations they could be like any of those among them.
"Any regrets?" Luka asked the question quietly as a means of interrupting the direction his own thoughts were leading him.
"No, no regrets." Alenka took his hand in hers. "I thought it would be worse then it was. In my mind I had imagined all these scenarios of what it would be like, how I would feel, how it would affect you and the children. Funny thing is, all of the things I imagined were far worse then what it was actually like.
She squeezed his hand before cupping her other around them both. "It wasn't anything like what I expected. I thought I'd feel more anger, but it wasn't there. I had prepared myself to feel guilty about being here with you. I was sure I would feel like I had somehow betrayed them for having married again."
"Did you?" Luka's question came despite his inner fears at the possible answer.
"No, in a way I think I felt relieved. Coming here, seeing the graves again, in a way it was a confirmation of how right marrying you was. I know now that Damir would never have wanted me to stop living because he wasn't here, and in a way I know that Danijela would have felt the same for you."
"How could you know that?" Luka forced himself not to draw back at the suggestion.
"Because, Luka, she loved you, and I know if I had loved you and was meant to leave you I couldn't stand knowing you would never again share your love with someone else. I know that's what Damir would feel, and I know Danijela loved you enough to want that for you to."
There was nothing more to say so instead Luka leaned to her, letting his lips find hers for a lingering kiss. "I knew there was a reason I married you." He slid his arms around her as he let the kiss deepen. "I love you, you know that, right?"
Alenka laughed and returned his kisses. "Yes, I know...for ever and always..." Their love was with them as their pasts were, as much a part of who they were as the color of their eyes or the sound of their voices. It had taken her time to learn that, time to heal, and soon Luka would know the same...
to be continued...