"Tata, I'm hungry." The young girl draped herself across the desk her father was working on as she made the proclamation.
"Jasna, you know it's not time to eat yet, when dinner is ready Mama will tell you." Luka look up from the book he was reading as he answered her.
"But I'm hungry now..." Her request began to drift more toward a whine as she persisted.
"Jasna, you heard Tata, why don't you come help me fix dinner." Danijela's voice drifted across the small apartment from the kitchen where she was cutting vegetables for the evening meal as Marko sat in his highchair near her gnawing on a carrot.
"I don't want to help, I'm hungry NOW." Without thinking of the consequences the small girl stomped her foot to accentuate her demand causing her father to finally turn her full attention to her.
"That'll be enough of that, you're not starving, you can wait until Mama is done, now, go help or find something else to do until it's ready." He let his gaze lock on his daughter's as he spoke.
"I am too starving..." Her lip trembled as she attempted to push the issue, knowing even as she did that she was walking a very fine line.
"Come here Beba," Shifting in his chair, Luka motioned his daughter to him before pulling her onto his lap, what had she eaten for breakfast, for lunch? The questions moved quickly through his thoughts, he knew that rations had been tight but were things so bad that she would really be hungry enough to feel she were starving? The questions were ones he was almost afraid to know the answers to.
"Jasna, tell me the truth, are you really that hungry or are you just bored?" He brushed the dark curls off of her face as he questioned her, searching her face for the signs of hunger that he might have missed.
With her father's full attention now on her the five year old found it more difficult to exaggerate her condition and instead of immediately answering she released a long sigh.
"We only had bread for lunch, Tata, that was a long time ago." She leaned back against his chest, welcoming the time alone with him despite how it had come to be.
"I know, Jasna, I'm sorry, I wish there could have been more, but sometimes the market doesn't have very much to buy so we have to make what we have last longer, do you understand?" Even as he tried to make her see why things were the way they were, he hated having to do it, hated having to tell his five year old that she had to go hungry because there wasn't enough food.
"I understand, but I'm still hungry, Tata." As much as she wanted to be strong for him it was just too hard and as she finished the tears began to fall, leaving her father little to do except pull her into his arms as she cried her frustration out.
"It's all right, Beba, it's all right, I know you're trying..." How long would they have to keep doing this? The question was one he couldn't help asking himself as he held her, no more then he could stop blaming himself for them being here to begin with. Why hadn't they left when they'd had the chance? The questions were ones he knew he would continue to ask of himself until this was over and even after, and ones which he would most likely never have answers to. This was the path that had been chosen for them, these were the sacrifices they were being asked to make, this was God's plan for them, only time would tell where it might lead them.