A companion story to Ghosts
So they were here...or almost. Luka stopped as he caught sight of the iron gates that framed the cemetery...shivering slightly against the cold chill that seemed to crawl up his spine.
"Tata?" It was Maja's voice who kept his thoughts in the present and he looked down at his small daughter.
"I'm okay, Beba." He leaned down to pick her up as she released his hand and motioned her desire for him to do just that.
"Are you sure?" She swept her dark eyes over his face, looking for the signs that might tell her otherwise.
"Just a little nervous I guess." Luka managed a small smile at her before directing his glance to his wife and son.
"It'll be all right...you'll see." It was Alenka who offered the words of reassurance with a smile of her own.
"I know...it's just hard." He resettled Maja on his hip as he looked back to the gates."
"I know..." Alenka moved closer so she could touch his arm. "Luka, trust me...once you do this..." She leaned against him slightly..."It changes everything."
With her words Luka felt some of his hesitation fade and without thought he let his head rest against hers, drawing strength from more then her words. For the next several moments time seemed to stop...the sounds of the street faded and nothing seemed to exist but Alenka and the children. They were his strength and he welcomed it to him. Standing there with his daughter in his arms, his wife and son at his side, he felt complete.
"Are we going to go in now, Tata?" Maja's words came a moment after he felt the touch of her fingers on the back of his neck.
"Yeah, Beba, we're going to go in now." He glanced to first Alenka and then Juraj, giving each a small smile before looking back at the girl in his arms. "Do you want to walk?"
In lieu of a response Maja instead wrapped her arms around his neck before resting her head on his shoulder.
"I'll take that as a no." Luka shifted her again to make her more comfortable as they began to walk towards the gates.
"Tata...is it very different?" Juraj had remained uncharacteristically quiet so his question caught Luka unprepared.
"Is what very different, Juraj."
"The cemetery, from how it was before." The boy had moved to his father's side as they walked, content to show his support in physical closeness.
"Yeah...it's very different..." Luka had no trouble remembering the day he had laid his family to rest and the images surfaced immediately.
Cold..that was the strongest memory...the snow which seemed to have been falling for days...the tears that froze like icicles to his cheeks and lashes...the numbness. Yes, the numbness...how long had it been since he had felt anything? How long since he had slept..or ate? How long since he had felt anything but the grief of loss which in turn left him numb." He forced the memory down as they entered the grounds and paused.
"Where to now, Tata?" Juraj followed his Father's gaze then returned his eyes to him.
"I'm not sure...we should probably ask someone." Luka found himself looking at the area as if seeing it for the first time.
Catching his reaction Alenka moved to his side. "It's been a lot of years, Luka, it's bound to have changed..they should have a map..we just need to find out where the graves are."
"I can do it, Mama." Juraj made the offer quickly then at her nod headed to a small building off to one side of the gates.
"Do you want me to take her?" Alenka made the offer as she saw that Maja had fallen asleep on her Father's shoulder..
"No..I have her..." He had to smile as he saw the peacefulness on the small girl's face. "Jasna used to do this...ask me to hold her then fall asleep." He raised a hand to finger a strand of hair that had come loose from Maja's braid.
"Neven too...I used to think he could fall asleep anywhere." Alenka smiled as the memory of her son surfaced.
"I have it..." Juraj's voice interrupted their conversation and both parents turned to watch his approach. "They drew me a map..." He waved the paper in his hand then glanced at it before looking at them again. "We have to go this way..." He pointed down a small cobbled path before striking off in that direction.
"I guess we follow then." Alenka looked to her son then back to Luka.
"I guess we do." Luka offered his wife a smile then extended his hand to her. "We had better catch up with him then before we lose him."
to be continued...