A follow-up to the Congo arc, this story interweaves with the actually aired episodes
It would have been easy for him to leave after breakfast was finished, if he was honest with himself he knew that was what he really wanted to do. So why hadn't he? Neither of the Johannessons had made an issue out of his loss of appetite. When the doctor had excused himself shortly after and retreated to his office, Luka had been left sitting at the table as his wife cleared the dishes. When she had finished and invited him to join her on the patio he didn't even think about his reply before accepting. So, how did he explain it?
While a part of him felt like he was intruding in their lives, there was another part that was thriving on the sense of family he felt in their presence. Could it be as simple as that? As many reminders as being around the two brought, was it possible that those were the very things he so desperately needed to be around?
"Luka...could you help me for a few minutes?" It was Mrs. Johannesson's voice that stirred him from his thoughts and he quickly located her kneeling on a small pad at the edge of one of her flower beds. "Why don't you come over and keep me company while I pull weeds?"
At the request Luka rose, the option of refusing not even entering his mind. "I'm afraid I'm not very good with plants" The apology came as he settled himself on the sidewalk beside her.
"Who told you that?" Ingrid glanced over to him momentarily before returning to her task.
"My wife..." He swallowed after a moment's hesitation, then found himself continuing without prompting. "Danijela, she was always wanting to have things growing inside, more so later, when we were in Vukovar."
"Luka..." Ingrid stopped and returned her eyes to him before laying a hand on his arm. "You don't have to talk about it."
"No, it's all right, I haven't thought about this for a long time." He managed a halfhearted smile before lowering his eyes. "She said she wanted to bring the outside inside for the children."
"I understand, I love to have growing things around me." The woman's own smile met his before she patted his arm and returned to her weeding. "It's not so difficult to do the weeding, and I find it relaxes me." The invitation was clear in the comment and after watching to see what she was pulling for a minute Luka reached for one in front of him.
"Luka, would I be a meddling old woman if I asked you how old your children were?" The question came quietly without any interruption in her actions.
"No, it's okay..." He paused and let his eyes rest on a point past her for a moment before bringing them back to her. "My daughter, Jasna, she was five, and my son, Marko, was almost 18 months." He stopped again to wet his lips. "I've talked about them more in the last few weeks then I have in years."
"Sometimes that can be better then not talking about them, don't you think?" The woman watched for his reaction to the questioning, ready to stop the moment it seemed to be getting difficult or painful.
"I never said much about them at work...people knew they had died, but not really how." He reached for a weed as if needing the distraction of doing something to make the conversation easier. "I think it made them uncomfortable...no one knew what to say so they didn't say anything, and if they were talking about their families, they thought they had to stop when I came too close."
"How did that make you feel?" Ingrid had returned her attention to her weeding as well, making Luka less the focus of attention as they talked.
"I don't know..." Luka shrugged, then fell into silence for several minutes. "There were times I wanted to talk about them...times I did. I think it was harder for those listening, they didn't really know what to say." He fingered the weed in his hand, breaking the clumps of soil from it's roots as he let his own words settle within himself.
"I'm sure it must have been hard, especially when there were so many good things you probably wanted to tell them about your wife or your children." Even as she offered the comfort she knew her husband would have had a fit over the conversation. He'd warned her about prying, but how could she not give him chance to talk if he needed to?
"Yeah..." Luka dropped the weed in the pile between them then brought his eyes to the woman, why was it so easy to talk to her? He couldn't help smiling as the question surfaced, which brought a smile to her face as well.
"You're a good man, Luka...and no matter how hard it may be for you to see it sometimes, I know you were a good husband and father too." Mrs. Johannesson brushed the dirt from her hands before touching his arm as she spoke. After squeezing it gently she withdrew. "I don't want you to think of talking to me as part of your work with my husband either. So, if you ever feel like just talking about anything, all you have to do is ask." She let her eyes linger on him a moment more as her smile deepened. "It's nice to have someone in the garden with me, even if he does pull out some of my flowers instead of the weeds." The last came with a soft laugh as she noticed the "weed" he held in his hand.
"Oh...I'm sorry." Luka's realization prompted a look of mortification from him that again caused the woman to chuckle.
"It's all right, it's nothing that can't be fixed." Reaching over she took the stalk from him and proceeded to show him how to replant it, once finished she returned her attention to him. "You're doing fine." Her smile again filled her face as she spoke, and somehow Luka couldn't help feeling the words were meant to encompass more then just his work in her garden.
to be continued...