Ever since Abby had accepted his proposal of marriage he had felt a sense of guilt weighing on him he could no longer ignore. This wasn't something he could talk to anyone at work about, and as hard as it was to admit, it wasn't even anything he could share with Abby. The sad truth was, it wasn't even anything new, when he and Abby had broken up years ago she had used it against him. "You're married to a ghost." She had hurled the words at him as a means to hurt him, but, the fact was in his mind they were still true, and always would be, and now he had to find a way to balance those feelings with all that was happening.
As he entered the Church and genuflected Luka found the mixed emotions overwhelming, why had he chosen the Bishop's church to do this? As if it wasn't hard enough juggling the feelings he was having about betraying the vows he had made to Danijela, now he was compounding things by adding his treatment of the Bishop to them.
As he rose he couldn't help but remember the last time he had been in the Church. He'd turned his back on the Church because he couldn't separate his need to lay blame for Danijela and his children's deaths from the comfort that he'd once found in their shared faith. For nine years he had lived with the emptiness created not just by the loss of his family but the loss of something that had been a part of him since he was a child, and then he had met Bishop Stewart.
The man's face came vividly to mind as he walked across the Church and to the small alcove that held the flickering candles, reminders from others like him of those gone but never forgotten. Pulling his wallet from his back pocket he withdrew a ten before replacing it then tucked the bill in one of the small offering envelopes.
Closing his eyes he drew a deep breath, he hadn't expected this to be so hard, it might well have been days instead of years since they had passed, but, it hadn't been. It had been six years since the Bishop had moved on to join his maker, six years since he had convinced him to share the burden that until that day he had born alone. He lit the first candle in the Bishop's memory, then reached for the next, the first of three that were meant to remember those who had brought him here in the first place.
It had been just over fifteen years since they had been taken, Jasna, his oldest at five, was wise far beyond her years. How many nights had he sat with her and listened to her hopes for when the war was over, her dreams for a future she would never know?
The next candle was more difficult if only because it seemed that Marko had been so much more in his thoughts since Joe had been born. His firstborn son had been just eighteen months old when he had died, too young to say more than the simplest of words, too young to remember a time other than that which robbed him of his young life. How many times had he already seen something in Joe that reminded him of the older brother he would never know? Setting the small candle next to the first two, he reached for the final one, the one that was meant for Danijela.
She had been gone now for almost as many years as the age she was when they first met, that memory alone was enough to push the tears that he'd thus far managed to hold back, over the edge. It was hard to believe that it had been so long when it seemed only yesterday that they had sworn their undying love to each other. After setting her candle next to the other three he retreated to the pew in front of them.
There no denying that he loved Abby or that he wanted to marry her, but what would it take to erase the feeling that he was somehow betraying the vows he had exchanged with Danijela by committing to a life with her now? She had held so much of his heart for so long, how did he ask her to release that, to allow another to take that from her? Moving to kneel on the footstool he steepled his fingers before closing his eyes.
"Help me...I don't know how to ask for your permission without hurting you." The tears fell freely now, wetting his cheeks as he struggled for a way to find a compromise in his mind that would allow him to love both women, without slighting either.
"I love you so much, but I love her too..." He'd held onto his grief for so long, buried it, never allowing anyone to get as close as Danijela had gotten...until now.
It was time