Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two letters/Theatrical Muse Challenge

His time was near, even if he wasn't a doctor there was no denying the truth of it.  As much as he hated leaving Abby and Joe, as much as he wished he could stay if only to spend a few more years with Joe's children, his grandchildren, but, there would be no reprieve, not this time.  The Priest would be coming soon to offer him his last rites, and there were things that still weighed heavy on him even after so many years. As much as he wanted to spend what little time he had left with those he loved, he knew that he had to do this, there was so much he needed to say and his time was running short, so, despite the tears his request had brought, he had sent them away.  Pulling the sheets of paper close Luka laid the pen to the first of them...

My Dearest Abby...

You are my wife, my lover, the mother of my son, and I love you more then I love life itself.  he paused, the pen suspended above the paper, even after all these years the memory of his actions on that night haunted him, disgusted him. He began again...

Even knowing all this, there is something that I can never forgive myself for, something that after all these years I still can never apologize enough for. We tell ourselves that time heals all wounds, and I suppose in so many ways the life we have had, still have, though for how much longer no one can say, has been one we can both be proud of.  If only it weren't marred by my stupidity on that night when we broke up, the first time we were together.  Yes, I know, we both said things we regretted, things we were ashamed of and didn't really mean, but, none of that excuses the ugliness that was in my words that night.  Knowing now that the end is so close, I need you to know how sorry I am for what was said, even after so many years, and how I would take them back in a minute if I had the power to do so.

I love you, Abby, and don't know how to thank you for not giving up on me. I can't imagine what my life would have been like had we not found our way back to each other, and had you not given me our son. 

All my love, your husband,

Folding the sheet of paper, he laid it to one side before starting onthesecond of the two notes, by far theharder of them in that it would be one that would never be read.

Mr. Ames,
Even though close to 40 years have passed since you forced your way into my home and held my wife and infant son at gunpoint, I still think about you and the events that followed.  I can't help but relive the scene that confronted me as I unlocked the door to the apartment and found you with my wife and young son. If only you could have known that I would have sacrificed my life in an instant for either of them.  It's the reason I was so willing to leave with you that night, anything to get you as far away from them as I could.  I couldn't show you my fear, but, in truth I was terrified.  I honestly felt I wouldn't see Abby or Joe again and I hadn't even dared kiss them good-bye for fear you would use that against me.  No, I was willing to do anything, even to the point of complying when you forced me to put my hand in that vice.  I knew that I might very well lose my ability to ever practice medicine again, but in truth I really didn't think I would live to leave your home, and that feeling was only strengthened as you kicked the vice, crushing my hand with the act.  When you forced me at gunpoint onto the roof, I was already saying my good-byes, I didn't expect to leave alive...I was wrong about that part, but, over the years it never made the rest of the nightmare any less intense, or the outcome of what I witnessed any less horrific.  I can only hope you were at least able to find the peace in death that you were unable to find in life.

Luka Kovac

There were more letters he wanted to write, to Joe, to the grandchildren he would be unable to watch grow to adulthood...there was so much he wanted to say and so little time left to say it

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

18A: What is your most feared danger? /Canon Muses

Having lost my first family to war, and faced my own death several times it would be easy to say that I've faced the worst dangers a person could face. I could say that, but, it would be a lie, the truth is there is a danger I fear, and it's not one for myself but for those around me. As much as I want to believe that history couldn't repeat itself, that God wouldn't ask me to make that greatest sacrifice a second time, the fear still remains, and I know I would never survive losing Abby and Joe, as I lost Danijela and our children.

From the moment Abby told me she was pregnant I found myself worrying about her health. Abby complained often about my worrying over her diet, or how much sleep she got, but, it's these are the small day to day things that every pregnant couple goes through. It was that day in the ER that none of us could have planned for, the day that very well could have cost all of us our lives. So much of it is a blur, I remember laying intubated on that gurney when she put her hand on the window, seeing the blood, then seeing her fall. I had no way of knowing what had happened to her, no way of knowing if she was alive or dead, all I knew was I was unable to move more than a few inches, I was unable to call for help or do anything to get to her. Those minutes until someone found her, until someone found me, were among the longest of my life.

I'll forever blame Steve and those with him for forcing Abby into early labor, for putting her life and more importantly Joe's at risk. While there's no way of knowing yet what long-term affects Joe might have to all he went through in those first months of his life, all we can do is wait and see, and hope for the best.

I think Curtis Ames brought it all crashing down on me with the most clarity though, coming home and finding him in our apartment with that gun and knowing what he could have done to Abby and Joe. There was never any doubt I would go with him, it was a choice of their lives or mine, how could I have done anything else?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

picture prompt 1.64.1 Realm of the Muse

Even as he stood in the lobby of the hotel it seemed impossible to believe it was real, to believe he was here.  Less than three years earlier he had been living in what most people would consider squalor, and now he was standing in the lobby of a hotel that seemed nothing less than a mansion.  Pulling his eyes from the glittering crystal chandelier over his head, the young Croat became aware of the sound of running water.  No, not exactly running water, he began to walk toward it only to stop as he rounded a corner and found himself face to face with the source. 

The fountain was huge, and unlike anything he had ever before seen, his mouth dropped open in awe.  All of this water...he couldn't stop his thoughts from returning to Vukovar, what so much water could have meant there.  But there was nothing even close, instead they'd had a single spigot, it's brackish water shared by hundreds who no longer had the luxury of running water to their homes. How many trips had he made to that spigot in the months that Vukovar was under siege? How many times had he gathered together those plastic bottles and containers then challenged death by making that run through those sniper fringed streets? 

No, he shook his head to clear it of the memory, not here, not now, this was supposed to be the start of a new life, a new beginning for him. He tightened his grip on the dufflebag in his hand and forced himself to see the fountain for what it was. He had left Croatia for a reason, finishing his residency in the States was only part of that, what came next lay with those conducting the interviews at the top of the stairs.  The water represented his past, he started up the stairs, it was time he looked toward his future.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Prompt 186: Religion /Theatrical Muse Challenge

I'm Croatian and like 87.8% of the population of my home country, I'm also Catholic. When I was growing up I never had any reason to question my faith because everyone I knew shared it. When I met the woman who was to be my first wife it was only natural that she too was Catholic, and there was never any doubt that our children, when we had them, would be raised as we were. From the moment I saw Danijela I knew she was the one I would spend my life with. She was 16 when we met, I was 18, and while we awaited the arrival of her 18th birthday we spent all of our free time getting to know each other. Danijela was far more religious then I was, but, even had that not been the case it went without saying that despite what might be happening around us, despite what others might think about it being old fashioned, we would both be losing our virginity on our wedding night.

Danijela and I had almost seven years together, and we were married for five of those. During that time we welcomed two beautiful children into our lives, our oldest, was a daughter we named Jasna, and almost three years later came our son, Marko. All of our prayers had been answered, our love only seemed to grow with each passing day, and everything we had thought our life would be seemed to be coming true...and then the war began.

It's funny how war tests your faith. You pray for it not to happen, you pray for it to end once it arrives, you pray for the safety of family and friends, and when things become worse then anything you ever could have imagined, you pray for the safety of those you've never met. All of my life I was told that God would be there for me in my time of need, but he wasn't. The one time when I really needed him, when I was willing to offer my life to save that of my 5 year old daughter, he abandoned me. It wasn't even that he refused to hear my pleas for her life, he'd already taken my 18 month old son, he'd taken their 23 year old mother, why did he need my baby girl too? I tried to hang onto the tattered threads of what was left of my faith in the days after they were gone, but I couldn't do it. Finally, standing alone in that cold cemetery with the coffins that held my hopes and dreams for the future, feeling the icy bite of the snow as the wind whipped it around us I knew. Nothing the Priest said that day could ease the pain I felt, I found no comfort in the bible or in the hymns that had sustained me during my youth. All I could feel that day was grief at my losses and hatred toward the God who would allow this to happen, and when it was over I turned my back on my faith and I walked away from it.

For six years I refused to set foot in a church. I denied the faith that had at one time meant so much to me and without realizing it there was an emptiness left inside of me that nothing else seemed able to fill.

Fate...that thing that cost me my family, is also that which brought Bishop Stewart into my life, and try as I might to rid myself of him, he refused to give up on me. Somehow, this dying Catholic Bishop found his way past the barricades I'd built around myself, he listened to my confession and he freed me of the guilt that had been eating me alive since my family had been killed. I didn't completely find my way back to where I once was as far as my faith was concerned on the night the Bishop offered me absolution, but it was a beginning to the journey I'm on now. Sadly, the Bishop died that same night, but, I can't help but believe he's watching over me, and that he knows now how grateful I am that he not only didn't give up on me, but set me back on the path that would one day allow me to fully re-claim my faith.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Prompt 1.3: Time Passages/One Magic Realm

For the longest time I felt like time had stopped for me, or maybe it wasn't time so much as my life, and what I was doing with it.  I guess too you could say that I'd marked that point of change by becoming someone else, and while I certainly didn't recognize it at the time, even if I had I'd never admit it outright. I think the worst part about that time was that for a large percentage of it, the person I'd become wasn't even someone I could be proud of.

When I was young, I had such high hopes for the future...I met the girl I was sure I would marry, raise a family and grow old with. I had just started college and while we knew it would be tough for a while, the end result was well worth it. My life was everything I had ever dreamed it could be.

Seven years of happiness...and then the war world unraveled, everyone I loved, everything I had was gone. Nothing mattered anymore, I might have lived on a deserted island for the emptiness I felt. Suddenly everything that had once brought me joy instead brought me pain, and I knew I had to do the one thing I never thought I would do, I left my home. I left the memories.

I thought at first that it was easier not to talk about my past, but I couldn't stop myself from needing to protect those I allowed myself to get close to. Maybe if I kept them safe I could make up for not being able to protect my family all those years ago.  But, it didn't work, and time after time I got close only to see things fall apart until I became someone I no longer recognized. 

I hated the person I became during those lost months.  My life became a time of excesses, alcohol, fast cars, sex, but never so close to anyone that they saw how much pain I was feeling.  They couldn't know how hard it was for me to make myself live the life I had chosen for myself. 

Finally, even that life was too much and I tempted fate yet again by going to the Congo.  I told myself I was going to help them, but time after time I put my life at risk, and because of my carelessness another life was lost.  I can't know that Patrique's death wouldn't have happened under other circumstances, but, he stayed because I refused to leave the clinic, he died because of my stubbornness.  I faced my own death that day and I made my peace with it, I was ready to go, but, death was not yet ready to take me, I had another chance to start over.

I returned to Chicago a changed man and over time found my way back to Abby.  The life that we have now with our son Joe is very close to the one Danijela and I had often dreamed about, the only real difference is that we are here in the States instead of in Croatia.  Somehow, through all of these changes, after all of these years, I've come back full circle, and at long last, I can finally say I'm happy.