Ficlet: You're troubled by a dream, or a nightmare, tell us about it and it's lingering affects as you wake from it.
He shifted slightly, nestling deeper into the cushion of the feather pillow, there was some kind of an argument filtering in...gentle coaxing ignored by the protests of his daughter, louder then she intended as she struggled not to wake him.
"Jasna...stop playing in that and eat." Danijela's voice, still quiet but growing firmer.
"I hate it." The sound of chairs scraping on the wood floor...and what else? He was drifting away from it.
"Eat." The single word enforcing her demand followed by the little girl's cries as she expressed her own futility.
"Jasna..if you wake Tata." Another warning and sleep was lost, he pushed the pillow aside and rolled to his side to watch them.
"Jasna, listen to Mama." Propping himself up on one arm he lifted his other hand to wipe the sleep from his eyes.
"But, Tata, I hate it...." He almost let the smile break as she exaggerated the word in emphasis, and might have had he not seen the look on his wife's face as it deepened to stop him.
He lay in that mist of half sleep, the pillow bunched up, under his head, the noises in the room barely registering. He'd been working 12-16 hour overnight shifts for close to two weeks and in the confines of the small apartment he took his sleep when he found it. On those mornings when he wondered where he had found the strength to walk home, let alone climb the stairs to the apartment, sleep came easily, the voices of his children unheard. He pressed the heel of his hand into his eye in an attempt to break the last tendrils of sleep that held him.
"Jasna...you have to eat." He couldn't fault the little girl, rations had been tightened and for three days there had been little more then the watered soup flavored by cabbage and turnip, with not even bread to supplement it.
"Jasna...come to Tata." He forced himself to sit, resting his back against the wall as she came and crawled onto the bed with him. Folding his arms around her he drew her onto his lap, letting his fingers run through her hair before he spoke.
"How about I make you a bargain...you eat the soup Mama fixed and Tata will go and find some bread and cheese for dinner." His smile broke as he watched his daughter's reaction.
"Cheese?" Her own face brightened in disbelief.
"Luka...you spoil her...you should sleep before you have to go back to the hospital." Danijela scolded as she scooped their sleeping son up from where he had fallen asleep at the table and tucked him into his crib.
"I can sleep later, with luck it will be quiet tonight...this is more important." He kissed the top of his daughter's head before releasing her.
"Tata, can I come with you?" He shook his head in refusal.
"No, baby...you go eat your soup...let Tata get dressed." He scrubbed a hand over his face in an effort to wake himself up more.
"But, I hate it, and I wanna go with you." The five year old draped herself across her father again, looping her arms around his neck as if by holding onto him, she could convince him to let her go with him.
"Jasna, you know it's not safe, you need to be my big girl and stay here with Mama and Marko where nothing will happen to you." The words seemed to echo in his head as he kissed her again.
Nothing will happen to you. How could he have been so wrong? A cry of anguish broke from him as his own questioning of his actions put an end to the dream.
"Luka, what's wrong?" Josip Kovac appeared in the doorway of his son's room, the look of worry on his face unavoidable. It had been over a year since the day he had seen his son, his daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren off to start their new lives in Vukovar, and now Luka was back, a mere shadow of himself, and his family was gone. Seeing his youngest son's face, and the tears that wet his cheeks, said enough, in an instant he was to him, and after taking a seat on the bed he pulled him into his arms.
"Luka, I'm so sorry." Luka had only arrived the day before and he had said almost nothing about what he had been through, but, knowing his family had been lost, and seeing his physical condition, he could only imagine. He had seen the reports on television, read everything he could get his hands on as he'd waited for news on his son and his family, but, he'd always held out hope that they'd been among the lucky ones. Lucky, his son was alive, but at what price? Josip laid his cheek against Luka's head as he rubbed slow circles on his back, what else could he do but be there for him, offering comfort, the only thing he knew he could give in a time such as this.