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.