Friday, May 30, 2008

May Prompt 15.3 Decision/ Couples Therapy

Coming Home

Abby and I had been together on and off for almost seven years at the time that she agreed to become my wife. I'm not sure that what we had between us would ever have been considered a normal relationship, we both carried too much baggage into it for us to even consider something like that, but, we always loved each other, even when, during the worst times, we tried to deny it.

Both Abby and I had been married before, but, our experiences with marriage couldn't have been more different than the lives we had lived prior to them. Where I was raised in a stable Catholic family by two loving parents, Abby's childhood was one marked by the chaos of an absent father and a bi-polar mother. Where my first wife was also my first love, as well as a woman who shared my hopes of re-creating what my parents had with their marriage, Abby's seems to have been simply a way to escape the life she had been dealt. Had my family not been killed in Vukovar during the war, I have no doubt Danijela and I would still be married today. As sure as I am of that, I know too, we would both have remained together until one or the other's time on this earth came to a natural end. This too marked a difference between Abby and I, as her first marriage ended in a bitter divorce that would continue to cause financial problems for her for many years after the ink had dried on the papers that severed it.

The first time that Abby and I tried to make things work between us, was not good. Maybe it was too soon for either of us to have been thinking about entering into a serious relationship, or maybe it was just that there were things in our own pasts that we had to come to terms with before we could start on a new life. Or maybe my killing a man on our first date was a sign we should have heeded from the start. Whatever the reason, we separated with words meant to wound, words we both regretted too late to call back.

It took years for us to find our way back to each other, and during that time we renewed our friendship, watched as one or the other stumbled into and out of relationships that could never be, and in my case faced death. I'm not sure that either of us consciously made the decision to become a couple again, things kind of just happened and before either of realized it, it had happened. Then, when Abby discovered she was pregnant we knew we had to begin to look at what we were doing more seriously. I don't think it was until that moment that Abby decided she was not going to have the abortion that I truly knew we were where we were on the path supposed to be on.

On the day she agreed to become my wife I allowed myself to believe that anything was possible if you wanted it bad enough. I won't say that everything since that day has been perfect, far from it, but we're working things through, and with all that has happened, Abby and I have made the decision to leave Chicago. We've decided to walk away from the reminders of the mistakes we've both made and start fresh, in a new place where no one knows what we've been through, where we don't have to prove anything to anyone but ourselves. I think maybe we can make it work this time, I know we're both willing to try, for Joe, for each other, but most importantly, for ourselves.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Prompt 231:Everything passes/Theatrical Muse


"Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that's how we've got to live." Haruki Murakami.

"One, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe." Over and over despite his own weariness.

"Breathe for Tata, Jasna...breathe, one, two, three." Even as he forced more air into his young daughter's mouth he realized the hopelessness in the act, she was gone. The cry of grief found it's way from him before he collapsed over her in exhaustion. No, not his little girl too.

"One, two, three, breathe." From somewhere he found the strength to begin the compressions again, even as his mind screamed to him the futility of the act. His wife and baby son were already gone, he couldn't lose his little girl too.

"Come on, Jasna, please, please, baby, breathe." His own breathing seemed to come in shallower breaths as the smoke from burning fires hovered in the ruins of what had been their home.

"One, two, three." He forced another breath into the small girl's mouth before sitting back on his heels, his gaze fixed on her chest.

"One breath for Tata, just one breath." As her chest remained still he knew the prayer would go unanswered and the tears he had fought so hard to hold back were at long last released. Leaning forward he lifted his daughter into his arms, cradling her close as he gave way to the grief of his failure. He'd lost them all. Ignoring the rubble beneath him he crawled over to where his wife had lay.

"I'm sorry, Danijela, I tried, I tried..." His voice broke as he settled his daughter in her mother's arms.

"I have to get Marko." Leaning forward he lay a kiss on first Jasna, and then his wife, hating to leave them but, hating more what was still to come. Turning away from them he forced himself to his feet, the crib had stood by the door, and it was there that their baby boy had lost his life. The sight of the toddler's hand reaching for help through the crib railings drew another cry from him, the pain ripping deeper then he had thought possible. Dropping to his knees he pulled broken wallboard and plaster aside, and it was only when the railing was completely clear that he paused.

"Marko." He whispered the toddler's name as he lifted the railing off of his small body. If not for some small scratches and the dustfrom being buried he could pretend he was asleep, but as he held him close he could feel the lie. His baby boy was gone, and he would never again see his smile, or hear his laugh. Climbing to his feet he carried his son back to where his wife and daughter lay, only to again kneel beside them as he reached them.

"I found him, Danijela...I found him." As he had with his daughter, he tucked his son into the safety of his mother's arms, only she could protect them now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prompt 37.4 Motivations/Writers Muses

Skyes 3

Ficlet: Talk about a situation in your muse's life and their motivations for having done what they did that was in line with their personal beliefs. Even if the beliefs are controversial or out of the ordinary, or if the character had suspicions, guilt or regrets, talk about it. If they have no such inclinations toward such sentiments, explore those.

After my family died, I retreated inside myself. At first it was all I could do to force myself to get out of bed, to eat, to even face another person was unthinkable. As hard as it was, I somehow found a way to do each of those things, my Country was still at war, doctors were in short supply, though I hadn't been able to save my own family, maybe I could save someone elses. With my home gone, I lived at the hospital, I threw myself into my work, often working round the clock, sleeping only when I could no longer stay on my feet, but, it wasn't enough.

As Vukovar fell to the Serbians the hospital was over-run by soldiers, many were killed immediately a lucky few were able to escape, I was among them. I later learned that those who survived, patients, staff, and doctors alike were taken to a farmhouse outside the City where they were tortured and shot before their bodies were buried in a mass grave. Yet again, my life had been spared.

After my escape from Vukovar, I spent time in a Displaced persons camp, I couldn't understand why I kept cheating death while so many others were lost. If I had felt guilty before, it didn't begin to compare with what I felt now, unwilling to allow anyone close for fear they might become yet another casualty I pushed everyone away. Eventually, I returned to my parents home, hoping that I would find the safety there I had found as a young child, but, it was gone, and all I found were reminders of all I had lost. When the chance came for me to leave and come to the States I took it, maybe there I could finally find the peace that so eluded me in the Country I had once thought I would never leave.

With the war in Croatia over and my life in the United States a world away from the reminders of my past it was easy for me to forget the demons I had been running from. I became complacent, and I allowed myself to think I could have a chance at a normal life again. Or maybe I wasn't thinking at all, maybe that in itself was the problem on that night by the river.

The evening had started so innocently enough, a stolen kiss at work, a night out with a co-worker, dinner, drinks, if only we could have known how badly it would end. I don't know that I even thought about my actions when the mugger attacked us, I felt the blow as he hit me with the pipe, I remember hitting the ground, then there was nothing. I awoke to hear Abby scream and I knew only that I had to save her, I had to do for her what I had failed to do for Danijela and my children, for those at the hospital. I don't remember any actual thoughts, just the raw emotions and the hate directed to the man attacking her. In an instant my hands were on him, I drove him to the ground and I remember slamming his head into the pavement over and over again.

I don't remember how many times Abby called my name, I didn't even realize how close to killing him I'd come until we reached the hospital and saw them working on him. I listened to their words and only then understood that I had taken his life, I had killed a man with my bare hands, but, I had protected her, how could one be wrong while the other was right? I remember being disgusted with myself even as the police and those around me were telling me my actions were justified. My faith had always told me that all life was sacred, yet, how far would he have gone if I hadn't have stopped him? The questions were ones I would never have answers for, they were ones that would haunt me as I tried to find a name to put to the face that I'd seen stretched out in the morgue. I had taken a life, and I couldn't help but wonder how that made me any different then him.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May Prompt 003:Life Goes On/Creative Muses

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"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." -Robert Frost

Standing graveside on that cold October day, I thought my life was over.  There was a war going on, and everything we knew was being destroyed around us, my wife was gone, our two children were robbed of their lives as well.  Watching first Danijela's coffin, then the two small white ones that held our babies as they were lowered into their freshly dug graves, I wanted nothing more then to crawl in on top of them, to protect them there as I'd failed to do on this earth.  As awful as it seems now, I prayed too, for a sniper's bullet to find me in those final moments I had with them, for I couldn't imagine walking away and leaving them alone, but far worse, I couldn't imagine my life without them.  I failed them, in life, and in death, and it wouldn't have mattered how long I had stood watch over them, that fact would never change. 

I wrapped myself in my grief as if it were a blanket in those early days, isolated myself from anyone who tried to offer the comfort I knew I didn't deserve. At first I hid from sleep, fearing the dreams that would force me to relive those fateful hours, then in later days I begged for it, hoping but failing to call up even earlier, happier memories. I became a zombie, moving through my days as a mere shadow of the man I once was, convinced that I had nothing left to live for.

If you were to ask me for the exact moment when things changed I couldn't tell you, I only know it came slowly for me, first in seconds, eventually minutes, then one day I smiled again.  It took longer for me to see farther then a day ahead, but, slowly that came too, and only then did I truly accept that life did go on. As much as I might have thought it had stopped for me, it never did, it was what I made of it, but, it took me much longer to see that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May Prompt 13.1.Discuss how a previous relationship has influenced who you are today/Couples Therapy

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No matter how many years pass, no matter how much I profess my love to Abby, there will always be a shadow a ghost as she once called her, hanging over us. Years ago I would have claimed my past played no part in what was happening in my life, but, times change, people change.  I won't deny her importance in who I am anymore than I could deny her, for she was my life, she was my first one I lost my heart to, the mother of our children, and I loved her more then life itself. I still do.

Danijela and I married very young, she was just 18, and I was barely 20. At the time we had known each other for two years and we were sure we would spend our lives together as had our parents and their parents before them.  We lost our virginity to each other, we welcomed two children into our lives, and if anyone had asked us we would have told them we were sure we would remain together forever.  If only fate hadn't intervened, stealing away not just those dreams for our future, but, my wife and our children with them.

When I lost my family, I was convinced I would never again know love or happiness.  I fled the land of my birth in hopes of escaping the memories and reminders of all I had lost, and I tried to start over.  My life was all lies though.  In those early years, I hid my past from everyone, secreted it away from prying eyes and lived only for my work, and if any got too close, I simply moved away. I don't know the exact moment that I decided it was time to stop running away, but, even then I refused to share my past with those I thought I wanted to be with. 

All in all, it's taken me 17 years to come back to the place I was all those years ago with Danijela.  That place we found ourselves without even trying.  It hasn't been easy, even now, Abby and I are struggling to rebuild our relationship, but, I know it is salvageable. We have our love as our foundation and as we get ready to embark on this next phase of our lives, I think we can find the pieces to the puzzle that we were missing our first time around.  If only I hadn't been so afraid at looking at the past, I might have seen it sooner, but, we'll make it, for Joe, for each other.

I'm sure of it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May Prompt: 006. Frustration/ Artistic License

watching soccer, iconillusion prank 1, two3, together time, What a happy guy, we three, ack, coffee, Hey Joe, jana's bad news, Congo, can only watch, Luka and Joe 3, I have to go, what a smile, Congo praying, observing, with patient, bedtalk, two2, betrayed, first time, the vice, I don't know, sleeping, two1, welcome, Neck view, closer happy at work, Water run, Luka and Danijela, mirror, youth, Skyes 2, examining, back at County, father and son, heehee, surprise, first kiss, Wedding Dance, little lost, guilty, little drunk, Luka and Joe with Niko, Mourning, drained and alone, resting, smile for JD, long day, Congo goodbye, Danijela and Jasna, decision, white shirt, Janaines what, Remembering Marko, Coming Home, saying good-bye to my family, calling home, Congo collage, red coat, in thought, FB Downcast, crossed arms, rehab, Janaines Cute Joe, jana's lucky man, thoughtful, walking Joe, AndrewJoe, FB snuggling Tata, healing sleep, marry me, Luka and Joe 1, Congo waiting, Skyes 1, Wedding Picture, serious thought, eyes, ID, family time, after the rush, giggly, arguing a point, deep thinking, I missed you, tired, ouch, laugh, intimacy, I'm safe, smirking, fatigues, making out, Skyes 3, FB with Tata, Luka and Joe 2, young love, Congo prayer, arrival, chewing his thumb, Vukovar, dimple, Congo feverish, Luka and Joe 4, cold outside, Proud Tata, black shirt leaning, AidanJoe, Mamas gone

I wish I could say I understood everything that was happening to us, had happened to us, but, I'm not even sure I understand it yet.  It took Abby and I eight years to decide we wanted to marry, and even before we had a chance to experience that new-found joy, fate once again decided the bond between us needed tested. Before we could even embark on our honeymoon I received a call that my father had been diagnosed with Cancer, half a world away his life was falling apart, what could I do but go to him?

I know I didn't hesitate to say I would be there when I received that call, on hindsight, I should have at least discussed it with Abby, but, at the time I never even thought that far.  Within hours I had booked my flight to Croatia, there was no choice of Abby joining me, we couldn't leave Joe, and he didn't have a passport so we couldn't take him with us.  All I could do was go by myself, after all, how long could it take to make the arrangements to bring him back here and get him the treatment he needed?

I had been away from my father for too many years, forgotten how strong-willed he was, stubborn even, and despite the benefits that coming to the States might bring to him, he refused to leave his home and his friends.  I was torn, frustrated, what was I supposed to do, I couldn't abandon him in the condition he was in, but, by staying at his side I was in a sense abandoning my wife and son. 

In those first weeks I was away, Abby tried to be supportive, but, as the weeks turned into months and my father's condition worsened I noticed a change in her, the tone of our phone calls changed, and far too many ended in harsh words that neither of us meant.  I wish I could have understood what was happening to her during those months I was away, I wish I could have known how difficult things were for her as she struggled to balance her career and the care of our young son. I know she tried to tell me, but, with all that was happening with my father I just didn't hear her, and for that I will never forgive myself.

There was more though, I knew what Abby's past was like, I know how hard things have been for her, why didn't I realize that things might become too much for her?  Why didn't I realize that she might look for a way to escape from the stress? By the time I finally came home the Abby I had left was gone, replaced by a woman who was hiding too many secrets, and those secrets were eating her up inside. 

I know now that I shouldn't have brought my brother back with me when I came back, but, I so badly wanted Abby to meet him, I wanted to share a part of the family I had been estranged from for almost ten years. If I had hoped to find any measure of happiness in our reunion I was mistaken, I should have come back alone, but, I didn't realize there were so many secrets being kept on her side, and there was so much distance on my own.

The news of my father's death only further compounded things and I'd no sooner arrived home then it was clear that I would need to leave again, this time though I would not be going alone.  As difficult as it was, Abby somehow found the strength to confess about her drinking relapse, but, in doing so she created a rift between us that I am struggling to overcome.  While I might be able to forgive her drinking, I cannot forgive those times when her drinking endangered thelife of our son, and that in itself is why Joe is returning to Croatia with me while she checks herself into Rehab.  We have so much work to do, and I have to believe that our love is strong enough to get us through this, if one thing above all else allows me to rise above the frustration that this brings, that's it. 

I will never forgive myself for the years of self-imposed separation I put between my father and I.  I will never forgive myself for denying him the chance to know my new wife, and the grandson he thought he would never again have.  I will never forgive myself for the pain I caused him because of the words that Niko and I had when I left Croatia for America all those years ago.  As much as I cannot forgive myself for in respect to my father though, I know it is not too late for Abby and I, and it is for that reason that I will count the days until she can join Joe and I in Croatia when her Rehab ends.  When we spoke our vows to each other, we pledged to remain together for better or worse, I have to believe those words meant something then, but, more importantly, I have to believe they mean even more now, for whatever reason all of this has happened I know we can make this work, we have to.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Prompt: 2.14.2 B. Going Home/TBS

You've been away from someone or someplace for a very long time. Write a fic about the moment that you first see the person or the place, and the feeling you have. Has anything changed? Have you changed?

watching soccer, iconillusion prank 1, two3, together time, What a happy guy, we three, ack, coffee, Hey Joe, jana's bad news, Congo, can only watch, Luka and Joe 3, I have to go, what a smile, Congo praying, observing, with patient, bedtalk, two2, betrayed, first time, the vice, I don't know, sleeping, two1, welcome, Neck view, closer happy at work, Water run, Luka and Danijela, mirror, youth, Skyes 2, examining, back at County, father and son, heehee, surprise, first kiss, Wedding Dance, little lost, guilty, little drunk, Mourning, Luka and Joe with Niko, drained and alone, resting, smile for JD, long day, Congo goodbye, Danijela and Jasna, decision, white shirt, Janaines what, Remembering Marko, Coming Home, saying good-bye to my family, calling home, Congo collage, red coat, in thought, FB Downcast, crossed arms, rehab, Janaines Cute Joe, jana's lucky man, thoughtful, walking Joe, AndrewJoe, FB snuggling Tata, healing sleep, marry me, Luka and Joe 1, Wedding Picture, Skyes 1, Congo waiting, serious thought, eyes, ID, family time, after the rush, giggly, arguing a point, deep thinking, I missed you, tired, ouch, laugh, intimacy, I'm safe, smirking, fatigues, making out, Skyes 3, FB with Tata, Luka and Joe 2, young love, arrival, Congo prayer, chewing his thumb, dimple, Vukovar, cold outside, Congo feverish, Luka and Joe 4, black shirt leaning, Proud Tata, AidanJoe, Mamas gone

How long had it been? Six years, seven? As he sat on the plane, waiting for it to taxi into it's position at the terminal, Luka was surprised to find his stomach tightening into a knot.

What was he nervous about? It wasn't as if he and his father hadn't been talking during those years of separation, and there certainly hadn't been any sort of ill will when they had last parted, so, what was it then?

As his gaze wandered to the view outside the plane, Luka tried to hone in on something specific that might be darkening what should be a happy reunion. It would be easy to lay the blame for how he was feeling on his relationship, or his lack of a relationship with his brother, Niko. After all, what had it been, almost ten years since they had last exchanged anything more then an impersonal hi, how are you, or discussed anything other than their father? It was time to try and undo what his pain and anger at the loss of his family had done to his relationship with his brother. At one time they had been best friends, was it possible for them to find their way back to that place again or had they waited too long?

This wasn't only about Niko though, this was about the relationship he had with his father as well, and the secrets and feelings he'd kept from the man for far too long. As the passengers began de-boarding he knew that the conversations that would come were not going to be easy ones, but, they were ones that were long overdue.  These were conversations he had run away from, conversations he had hidden from, but, with the news that now brought him back to Croatia, they were ones that now needed to be addressed, no matter how painful they might be. While much of the talk would undoubtedly revolve around Danijela and the children, it was time he shared other secrets with his father.  He would use this time to talk about what happened in the Congo, he would tell him about the mugger, and Curtis Ames. Hardest of all though would be talking about Abby, and about his fears when he thought they might lose Joe.

Once through Customs, Luka scanned those waiting for either his father or brother, if not both.  He'd left Croatia all those years ago vowing never to return.  At the time, he was convinced that all it held were reminders of death and destruction, and those who had been taken from him too soon. Coming back now, he hoped it would trigger other memories, memories of happier times.  Who knows, maybe one day he could bring Abby and Joe back with him, and he could share with them the places that meant so much to him what now seems a lifetime ago. At the sight of his father and Niko in the crowd he raised a hand to wave. Had his father always been so small?


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Prompt 228: 3am/Theatrical Muse Challenge

3am...for the fourth time in as many hours, Luka found himself wakened by the sound of his son's crying. With a quiet sigh he eased out from under the covers, taking care not to wake his wife as she continued to sleep beside him. It seemed strange that she too wouldn't have heard Joe's cries, but, maybe it was just one more symptom to add to the list of things that he should have seen but hadn't.

"Shhh, Joe, it's all right, Tata's here." He whispered the words he hoped would quiet the toddler as he reached his crib, then, unable to deny the request signified by his son's up-stretched hands, lifted him out of it.

"I know, it's hard to get used to being home again." As Joe laid his head on his shoulder Luka rubbed his back.

"You want Tata to sing to you?" However difficult everything that was happening might be for he and Abby, the last thing either of them wanted was for it to disrupt their son's life. They had to find a way to make things work, they had to.

Luka's Lullaby to Joe...

April Prompt 005. What was your safe place as a child? /Creative Muses

As children, we all have our share of fears, whether it's a fear of monsters that hide in the darkness or under the bed, of thunderstorms that rumble and groan before sending their lightening cracks to illuminate the sky, or for some, dangers far more deadly. As a parent, we all know it's our responsibility to protect our children, to offer them safe haven from every danger that might touch them, real or imagined. But, do our children know that? Do we tell them through word or deed that they are always safe? Even as we make those assurances to them, how do we then live with the consequences if those very promises prove to be lies?

As a child I remember knowing without ever being told, that I could always find safety within the sanctuary of my parents arms. If I woke in the middle of the night, terrified by a nightmare, one or both were there at my bedside within seconds, soothing me, protecting me. I don't remember at what age I decided that I had grown too old to seek safety in my parents arms, I suppose it was just one of those things that just happened, like waking one day to find you'd outgrown your favorite shirt. If I had one regret in life stronger than all others, it's that my own children couldn't have experienced that sense of safety I had known, and I'll never forgive myself for not being able to give them that.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Prompt 11.2: History/Couple's Therapy

I love my wife, I want nothing more than to be married to her, and for the two of us to raise our son together, but, what I want, and what is happening in our lives sometimes seems like two different things.

We all come into a relationship with our own history. We carry things which happened in our past, good and bad, things that shaped who we are now, things we can't go back and change, regardless of how badly we might want to.  In my case, it was my marriage to Danijela that has hung like a dark cloud over Abby and I since we first met. I loved Danijela with all my heart, I still love her, I always will, and no amount of time will ever change that. She was my first love, we lost our virginity to each other.  We struggled to build a home out of nothing, we shared the birth's of two children, and we would have endured their loss together had fate not stolen her life on the day it took our children.

When Abby and I first went out, I had just failed in my first attempt at entering into a relationship since losing my family.  I don't know that anything would ever have come of Carol and I being together, but, at the time she was alone with two children and being with her offered me a chance to regain the one thing I missed the most in my life, and that was a family. When Carol decided to leave Chicago, and try again with the father of her children, my first instinct was to retreat back into my memories of how my life had been. I think I might have, if not for Abby, if not for that stolen kiss, outside of County.

From our very first date though, it seemed that fate was looking for a way to warn us away from each other, and if it wasn't just the love I still held for my wife and children, it was still more death. I know that neither of us could have expected the mugger that first night, nor the severity of my reaction to him, but, it doesn't change what I did to him, or what it did to us.

As much as we both blamed my past, there was no denying that what had happened in Abby's played a factor as well, and in the end, combining them all proved to be toxic. The way we parted was ugly, we both hurled words at the other meant to wound, to cause pain. We both used weaknesses from the other's past as weapons. We both said things for which we will be forever ashamed, but, unable to recallthem, they now are part of our history.

Abby and I eventually found our way back to each other, and despite our past history we decided to try again.  It hasn't been easy, and we are struggling, but, neither one of us is ready to walk away again, not this time, not this time.