A companion story to Ghosts
Luka had hoped that talking about his concerns would be enough to ease them, but that wasn't to be the case, he needed time to himself, time to come to terms with things too deep yet to identify. Sensing that need, Alenka had taken the children to breakfast with the explanation that he needed time to shower and dress and there was no reason the rest of them should wait. With the departure of the children came the silence and Luka wasn't convinced that was a good thing.
Leaning back against the headboard he let his eyes close. He needed to relax, to let the panic subside...this didn't have to be that hard. He had seen the benefit it had been to Alenka, why should it be any different for him.
"Because she wasn't responsible for the death of her family."
The voice came suddenly and loud enough in his ears that he jerked upright as if expecting someone to be standing over him.
Was that it? Was his fear that he still blamed himself for their deaths? After all these years did he still hold himself responsible for their not leaving the city while it was still safe? Was he to blame for not letting them go with him to the market? For making the wrong choice when he was looking towards what was the safest thing for them to do? Did he still blame himself for not taking Danijela to the hospital? For not being willing to sacrifice his daughter to save his wife? Then finally for becoming too tired to continue giving Jasna life? Or was it something deeper? Was it possible that his guilt lie in his not having the strength at the time to join them in death?
"No!" He brought his hands up to cover his ears as if that might somehow stop the voices in his head. "I did what I thought was right..I did all I could." He voiced the words out loud as if it mattered...as if that might somehow silence the lingering doubts.
"Did you?" The voice surfaced again, raising the questions tied to the two simple words. "You thought it was right to choose school over your family's safety? You thought it was right to remain in a city where shellings were a regular occurrence? You thought it was right to allow your wife and children to remain where it wasn't safe so you could continue your classes? What made that more important than their lives?"
"It wasn't like that." Luka rose suddenly, unable to stop himself from searching the room for his interrogator. "Danijela refused to leave...we didn't expect things to get bad so quickly." He found himself clenching his fists so tightly that his nails dug into his palms, the pain acting as an anchor to the reality that he felt he was loosing hold of.
"Wasn't it? How was it different?" The questions continued and he clamped his hands over his ears again as he sank to his knees, willing the voice to stop.
"We talked about it...Danijela didn't want to raise the children alone....I didn't want to be away from them." He admitted the deeper truth as an afterthought.
"So because you didn't want to be alone you were willing to let them all die? You were willing to risk their safety to make yourself feel better?"
"No...we didn't think things would become like they got...and then it was too late." Luka found himself doubling over as the guilt swelled, all the points he had thought he had come to terms with as fresh as the day his family had died.
"But not too late for you...you survived...you were always the one to survive. The deaths of your family...the attack on the hospital...the camp. You were always the survivor, what made you deserve life more then the others?"
"I don't know...nothing." His words came choked with tears, the questions bringing all of his past grief and guilt to the surface. "I didn't deserve life any more then anyone else..it just happened that way."
"Just happened that way? Are you saying it was beyond your control?"
"Yes....I couldn't do anything to prevent it." As soon as the words left his mouth Luka sat up, his cheeks wet with shed tears. That was the deepest truth...he hadn't been able to prevent any of it...he could pretend he somehow held the key to everyone's survival but the truth remained that he never had. All of the pain, all of the death, he could have done nothing to prevent it anymore then he could have known it was going to happen in the first place. That was the ultimate truth wasn't it? The truth he had never wanted to see even after so many years. He couldn't see into the future, all he could do was live each day to it's fullest, to take things as they came and hope for the best. He couldn't prevent what happened to his family anymore then he could prevent the sun rising or setting...it was part of life and all he could do was choose to live each day to the fullest.
Drawing a steadying breath he wiped the tears from his face and looked towards the door. He had a family here, a family he loved more then words could express. Did that love make what he felt for Danijela and their children any weaker? No...his love for her, for Jasna, for Marko would always be just as strong, but it was time for him to say good-bye...to let them finally rest after far too many years of holding them back. With a sigh he rose...his family was waiting for him...and at last he was ready to join them.
to be continued...