Thursday, September 20, 2007

Prompt 29B: Cemetery Picture/Canon Muses

Josip Kovac had been standing by the side of the road since first light despite the danger of it. Today was the day his youngest son would return and nothing would prevent him from being there to meet his bus. It had been almost three years since he had been home, and so much had changed since then, it may as well have been a lifetime ago.

As he heard the sound of an engine coming up the road Josip stepped onto the pavement for a better view, if only he knew what to expect. When Luka and Danijela had left for Vukovar they had such high hopes for what their future held. They had Jasna, their first born, Luka was entering into his residency, and now, all of that was gone.

As he spotted the bus a smile reached Josip's face, and he moved quickly onto the shoulder. As happy as he might be to have his son home, he couldn't forget that the young man was still bound to be grieving his losses. He forced the smile down as the bus came to a stop, and he readied himself for the first sight of his son. If only he knew what to expect.

The waiting had to be the most difficult minutes of his life, and as each person came through the doorway and he discovered they were someone other than his son he felt his stomach seize, what it he wasn't even here? He'd no sooner allowed the concern to surface when the fear was vanquished, Luka appeared in the doorway, far thinner than when he'd left, but finally home. He made his way to the bottom of the steps, and as his son reached the ground he pulled him close, folding him into the hug he wished he could have offered all those months before.

"I'm sorry, Luka, so sorry." He whispered the words in his son's ear as he rubbed his hand over his too thin back.

"I'm glad you're home though, and we'll get through this, I promise." After kissing him, Josip reluctantly broke his hold.

"I'll get your bag, you wait here." The older man quickly retrieved the only bag left on the side of the road, and for the first time took in his son's appearance. He was so thin, but there was more to it then that, he seemed lost...or if not lost, defeated, it was a look that no father wants to ever see in their child.

"Let's go home, Luka." Josip touched his son's arm lightly as he returned to his side.

"Can we go by the cemetery?" The words were the first Luka had spoke and they came so quietly that his father almost didn't hear them over the other sounds as they walked.

"Are you sure you don't want to go home and rest first, we could go later today?" The elder Kovac hadn't been able to ignore his son's increasing limp as they walked, but even as he tried to dissuade him he saw something in his face that told him there would be no delaying the visit.

"You're right, Luka, we should go now." He squeezed his son's shoulder before lapsing into silence, whatever he needed to get through this he would do it.

"Does it ever stop hurting, Tata?" The question came so quietly that he almost didn't hear it.

"Yes, one day, Luka, it's just going to take time." He slid his arm around his son's shoulder and pulled him close for a moment. The rest of the walk was one done in silence, both men lost in thoughts of those they had lost, wives, mothers...their losses still grieved, no matter how recent their parting.

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