It's your birthday! If anything were possible, what would be your perfect way to celebrate?
He should have realized it was coming, the date was one of a number that were forever etched in his memory, but unlike Jasna's birthday, there were no photographs to capture the moment. Of all the regrets, he hated being unable to let go of something so trivial, he had lost so much, and yet he returned time and time again to the photo he didn't have, the image he alone was responsible for never losing. Was there any doubt then that when Abby asked him what his perfect birthday would be that he would ask to go back to that day, despite the reaction from her it prompted.
"Tata...Marko is messing everything up." Jasna's complaint carried across the small patio to where Luka sat with several of his friends.
"Hold that thought. I'd better get him before she does something she'll regret." Tipping his beer up, Luka took a deep swallow before returning it to the table and standing.
"I'm coming, Baby." Working his way around the clusters of party-goers, it only took him a moment to hone in on the current source of his eldest child's misery. Jasna and several other girls close to her age, had chosen a spot not far from the table that held the birthday cake and other refreshments to play with their dolls. Unfortunately, they hadn't counted on an unwelcome addition to their playgroup, and a not too clean one at that.
"Marko...stop it." Luka reached the small group just as his four year old daughter was preparing to hit her baby brother over the head with her doll, and he quickly scooped him up and out of harm's way as the toy just missed him, despite the cry of protest that followed.
"Jasna, no hitting." He offered the chastisement before leaning down and kissing the top of her head. "Play nice." It was only as he straightened to return to his friends that he noticed the chocolate that covered not just his son but, now him as well.
"What'd you do, fall in the chocolate ice cream?" Whether it was the question itself, how it was asked, or just Luka's expression he'd never know, but, it was enough to send Marko and the group of girls into a fit of giggling.
He would never know how it was that he'd been able to salvage the photo of Danijela and Jasna from their apartment after the bombing, yet none of Marko could be found. Even as he mourned the losses of everything except that one small photograph, he found he could close his eyes and in an instant he was back at the birthday party. Even more amazing though was the clarity of which he could call up that image of his son, chocolate on his face and hands, a smile forever captured on his face.
How could he not return to that day if he were ever given that chance?