A companion story to Ghosts
"Tata....Tata, where are you?" The small girl's voice pierced the darkness, the words shaky with fear. At the sound of an explosion nearby he heard her scream, followed quickly by the cries of his son as he was jolted awake as well. There was no need to wake his wife, Danijela was tuned to each sound of the children in the small rooms they shared and as he rose she did as well.
"Take Jasna..." She was already moving for the wailing boy as he stood gripping the railings of his crib. "It's all right, Beba...Mama is here."
"Tata...make them stop!" Jasna released a second scream as another shell fell too close and Luka grabbed a blanket from the bed to wrap her in on his way to her.
"We need to go to the shelter..." He tossed the words back to his wife as he picked his daughter up.
"I know..." Her words were silenced by yet another explosion and Jasna's repeated screams of fear.
"Make them stop...." She tightened her hold around his neck as if he could somehow protect her from the mortars outside.
"Go...we have to get the children to the shelter." He grabbed the small bag that held their emergency rations and slung it over one shoulder as he moved for the door.
The dream was real enough that Luka's last words came out loud and as he did Alenka woke..."Luka...shh..it's only a dream." She smoothed his damp hair from his face as she tried to quiet him.
"Mama? Is Tata okay?" Juraj was already sitting up in bed and she knew Maja would soon follow.
"It's just a dream, Beba...would you keep Maja there for me?" Alenka waited for his nod before she went back to comforting her husband. He was deep in the dream, she knew the signs of it, the fear on his face, the racing of his heart. "Shh...Luka...listen to me..it's not real..it's just a dream." His eyes were open now..but she wasn't sure he was seeing her. and she could do little but continue to stroke his hair and offer the words of comfort until he fully woke.
"We have to get the children to the shelter..we have to get them where it's safe." His words were enough to confirm that he was still lost in his past and Alenka pulled his head onto her lap before leaning in so she could whisper to him.
"The children are safe, Luka...it's not real...it's just a dream." She smoothed her hand across his brow. "They're safe, Luka...safe."
"Safe?" Her words seemed to be reaching him and she smiled to herself before continuing.
"Yes, Luka, safe...that was a long time ago...it's safe here now." She raised her eyes so she could look over to the other bed in the dim light and she saw that Juraj had wrapped his arms around his younger sister though both still had their eyes glued to their parents.
"Juraj..can you go get me a glass of water and a wet washcloth?
"Sure, Mama, Maja...you stay here..I'll be right back." He released his sister before scrambling off the bed, and for once there was no argument from the small girl. That both children understood what was happening didn't take away their fear at witnessing it, but it did allow them to accept that the parent experiencing the dream was the one who was the focus of attention. They had witnessed these dreams in varying degrees their entire lives and though their fear at seeing them was real they accepted that nothing they might do could stop them.
"Here, Mama..." Juraj returned from the bathroom with a water logged washcloth and a glass of tap water.
"Thanks, Beba...would you go sit with Maja again for me?" As she spoke to her son Alenka rocked slowly, her action meant to soothe Luka, sitting the glass aside for a moment she wiped the sweat from his face then draped the cloth on his forehead before reaching for the water again. "Take a sip for me, Luka."
Even as he drank Alenka couldn't be sure Luka was fully with her and as he lay back again and closed his eyes she decided it would be best to let him sleep through. "It's okay, Beba...it's just a dream...it's not real." How many times had she offered those words to him and he to her?
"Mama?" It was Maja's voice that broke the sudden quiet and Alenka looked over to her.
"Tata hasn't had a bad dream in a longtime..." She continued to allow her brother to hold her though her eyes were fully on her father.
"I know...I think he's just little nervous about going to the graves tomorrow...he'll be all right, why don't you two try and go back to sleep, tomorrow's going to be busy.
"Okay, Mama...come on, Maja..I'll hold you until you fall asleep again." Juraj coaxed his baby sister to lay back down before laying beside her and sliding his arms around her. "He'll be okay in the morning, Maja, you'll see..." He smoothed her hair back before tightening his arms around her again and in the darkness he heard his mother begin the lullaby that had soothed first him and then Maja when the dreams had woken them. The only difference now was that it wasn't one of them she sang the song for, it was their father she held...
to be continued...