Monday, August 25, 2008

Prompt 244: Happy Endings/Theatrical Muse

"That's something I think is growing on me as I get older: happy endings." -- Alice Munro

Danijela and Jasna

I remember the day Danijela and I were married, we were both very young, and we thought we had our entire lives before us.  Standing at the front of the Church as her father walked her down the aisle, I remember thinking that I had never seen anything, or anyone more beautiful then she looked in her wedding dress.  I couldn't believe how lucky I was, not just to have found her, but, to know in just a few more minutes our long wait would be over and we'd finally be husband and wife.   Because Danijela was just 16 when we met, we both knew we couldn't marry right away. It made perfect sense to us, she would finish school, I could complete my required military service before the marriage, and it would satisfy both sets of parents, assuring them that we weren't rushing into something that we might regret later.  So, almost two years later that moment had arrived, all that remained to make our dream complete was the exchanging of our vows and rings, and we'd be together for the rest of our lives.  I remember wondering what I had done to deserve being this happy, and then I realized that it wasn't just me.  As I looked around the Church every eye was on Danijela, and their smiles said it all.  Seeing her in her wedding dress, her smile seemed brighter then any diamond money could buy, In that moment it dawned on me that our happy ending was at long last about to be realized and as I made eye contact with her, I couldn't help but wonder if she saw it too.  

As much as Danijela and I loved each other when we married, it would only grow stronger once we discovered she was pregnant with our first child.  We'd only been married about three months when we got the news, and we couldn't have been happier. Danijela and I had talked about having children even before we were married, boys, girls, either, or both, we didn't care, we only knew that it was something we both wanted.  That our first was coming so soon meant that things were not going to be easy for us.  I was in Pre Med, and we were living in a small apartment, the money we had coming in wasn't a lot, but, we were close to our parents, and with their support, we knew we could makeit.

Jasna's arrival nine months later was an experience I'll never forget.  She was so tiny, and as beautiful as her mother, and yet again I found myself wondering how we could have been blessed with being so lucky.  From the minute we brought her home anything outside of school and my family seemed to stop for me, why would I possibly want to be anywhere but with these two women who held my heart so completely? 

For Danijela and I, life had become the fairytale we had only dreamed of.  All we were missing was the little cottage we could call our own, the little cottage that would give us our true happy ending, or so we thought.

Shortly after Jasna turned two, we moved to Vukovar so that I could begin my Residency.  It wasn't easy for either of us, it was our first time away from our families, away from our friends.  We were living in a very small apartment in the City, and the hours I spent at the hospital were long, but, we made the most of it, and somehow in the midst of it all, Danijela once again discovered she was pregnant.

Danijela's second pregnancy was hard on her, but, she never complained. She did it all, caring for Jasna and running the household without family and friends to fall back on.  We would have given anything to have shared those months with those we loved but my residency took priority, and so it was left to us to do on our own, and our relationship only grew stronger for it.

When I saw my son for the first time he took my breath away, with his full head of dark hair, and eyes that seemed wise beyond their years. In those early days I would come home from the hospital to find Marko lying awake in his crib, as if he was waiting on me.  I cherished those times alone with him.  While Danijela and Jasna slept, we would sit near the window,  and I would rock him.  It was in those moments that I realized, if we had no more children Jasna and Marko would be enough for us. Looking into my baby boy's eyes, I knew that everything we could want for our lives had been granted and I could never offer enough thanks for the blessing that had been bestowed upon us.

I never could have anticipated that the happiness we were living, the happy ending we'd thought we'd found,  would be ripped away from me in less than 18 months, but, that's exactly what happened. In one day, everything that made me who I was, everyone who gave me a reason to live, they were allgone. For the longest time I questioned why we didn't heed the warnings when the war first began, why didn't I force Danijela to take the children and go to her parents, or mine.  Then I realized that the thing that made us so strong as a couple is the very thing that cost me their lives.  Nothing I could have said would have made her go, we had waited two years to marry, and the idea of being separated, even for a short time was more then she could endure. I think too that neither of us believed it would get as bad as it did, and by the time the realization hit it was too late to act. How could either of us know that our love would cost them their lives?  The guilt I felt over surviving when Danijela and my children did not is something I will always struggle with, just as I will forever live with the images of that day.  From my first glimpse of Marko's hand reaching upward through the rungs of his crib as he lay buried beneath it, to my beautiful Jasna as I forced air into her lungs until I had no more breath's to give her.  As hard as it is for me to live with the those images though, the far worse memory was my telling Danijela that Marko was gone, and knowing that I couldn't even take the time to free him from the rubble that had claimed his young life.  If I could have given my wife anything in those final hours of her own life, it would have been the gift of holding her baby boy one last time, of allowing her the chance to touch his face, of kissing him, of saying good-bye.  Danijela died without seeing Marko again, she died without knowing if Jasna would live or die, and when it was all over I was left to bury all three, knowing our happy ending was no more.

It's been over seventeen years since I buried my family, I have a new wife, a new son, and while I love them both with all of my heart I don't know that I dare allow myself to dream of a happy ending with them.  Call it fear, call it paranoia, I don't know, I want to believe that it's possible, that one day it will be there for us, but, deep down inside me there is that little voice whispering to me...

"What if." it says...and I'm not sure I'm willing to risk the lives of these two to believe it's possible, I just don't know if I could survive if I were to lose Abby and Joe too. Maybe happy endings are only possible in fairytales.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Prompt Week 26.3 Discuss how you feel when you're with your partner./Couple's Therapy

(Locked from Abby.)


Patient's Name: Luka Kovac
Fandom: ER
Word Count: 870
Partner Patient’s Name (canon): Abby Lockhart

This last year has been a difficult one for Abby and I, we've had to deal with both personal and professional challenges, and we've both made choices, even mistakes that will affect us for years to come. I know that neither of us planned for any of what has happened, and if someone had asked me where we would be in our relationship at this point a year ago, I'd never have imagined this.  I think the I think the hardest part of all of it was learning that Abby was capable of such a betrayal, because, I never would have believed it possible had it not happened.  Even now, knowing it's true there are times when I want to believe it isn't

When Danijela and I met, it was like finding the other half of myself. Because we were so young, we had to wait almost two years to marry, but, we were okay with that because we knew we had our entire lives ahead of us.  Once we were married, it was like everything was falling into place, I was working toward becoming a doctor, and we soon had two healthy children.  Sure, maybe we weren't yet completely where we wanted to be, but we had each other and we knew the rest would come.

We were wrong. The perfect world we thought was coming was gone before it could even begin. Once I lost my family I gave up on ever again finding anyone who would make me feel the way Danijela did.  For the longest time I refused to let myself stay anywhere long enough for anyone to learn anything about me, but, far worse, I refused to let myself get close to anyone. I'd failed my family all those years ago and I was determined to make sure I never forgot that.  Then I moved to Chicago.

If you had told me that coming to Chicago would change my life I wouldn't have believed you, why should I? As far as I was concerned nothing was any different about County than any other Hospital I had worked at, I didn't plan to do anything different, and then Carol Hathaway had her twins and somehow the door was opened again. Carol was alone with those two beautiful babies, she needed someone, and I let myself believe that maybe I could be that person.

I wasn't that person though, as much as I might have wanted it, the feelings I'd shared with Danijela, were the same ones Carol shared with the father of her daughters.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to retreat back into my old ways once Carol and the girls were gone.  I can't even explain why I didn't, but, that hesitation left the door open and somehow, Abby found her way in.

I wish I could say that Abby and I got it right from the very first time we decided that we wanted to be together, but, it wasn't that way with us, from that very first date things went wrong. I can't speak for Abby, but, I know she had to feel jealous of the feelings I still held for Danijela, still hold for her.  How could she not wonder how she could compete with a woman who had been dead for 8 years? Eventually she realized she couldn't, we both carried too much baggage and as if to prove it we parted amid hurled insults meant to wound the other as much as we both felt we'd already been hurt.

It took Abby and I five years to find our way back to each other.  It wasn't an easy journey, it took slow steps by both of us, and even then there were rocky times before us. Somehow, we worked through things, or I thought we had, we brought our beautiful son into the world, we finally married, and then before we could even get comfortable, everything fell apart on us again. 

I'll never know why I was forced to choose between my father and my family, I'll never know why Abby felt that betraying her vows would make things better for her. Whatever the reasons, neither of us can undo what we both did and the damage it has done to our relationship. Both Abby and I have decided that what we have is worth saving, but, that can't happen if we stay in Chicago.  Despite all this, the feelings Abby and I have for each other haven't changed, we still love each other, and for the sake our family, for the sake of our future, we've decided to start over again. I can't say that I will ever feel the same way toward Abby that I felt toward Danijela, I don't know that I have to, I do know that I'm not ready to give up on us.  I love Abby, I want her to be happy, I want us to be happy, only time will tell if we can get there again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Step Three.1: What does it mean to turn your life over to your Higher Power?/aamuses

Congo praying

I was raised Catholic, as my parents had been, and their parents before them.  When it came time for me to wed, it was no surprise to anyone that Danijela was also Catholic, most of those in Croatia are, and we both knew our children would follow in our footsteps. Who would know that one day could change what it had taken centuries to create, but it did, and on the day I buried my wife and our children I turned my back on my Church, my Faith, and my God. How could I continue to believe in someone who would steal so much from so many?

I told myself I didn't care, I told myself that I didn't miss the sense of belonging the Church gave me.  Mostly though, I focused on the hate I felt toward God for taking my family away from me, because if I was doing that, I could almost ignore the emptiness that I was left with.  Almost, that's the key word you see, because no matter how much I wished it away, no matter how far away I ran, or how much I tried to change my life, that emptiness was always just that small black and white photograph away.

You can only ignore things for so long before they start to eat you alive.  Like a poison, they rot you from the inside, souring you to everything and everyone. I'd gotten like that, wandering through my life as if even I was only an observer to it.  Never , letting anyone get too close for fear they would see something I didn't want them to see, never letting them know how I really felt. I couldn't stay in one place for too long, because if I did that it meant talking about myself, and if I did that it meant having to endure their looks of pity, or worse.

You know, it's funny, if you tell a lie long enough, you can almost start to believe it yourself, or at least I wanted to think so, and maybe it might have worked if only fate hadn't intervened.  I say fate, some would say God himself decided to take action, and so he sent to me the man who would act as God's voice, the man who saw through my lies even as I continued to tell them.  I'll never know what it was about Bishop Stewart that made him able to see in me what others seemed unable to see.  How, in those few months he touched my life, he was able to heal wounds to my heart and soul that had been festering for almost nine years. Most importantly though, I'll never know how this man, this servant of God, was able to not only lift the mantle of guilt that I had carried since that day I'd lost my family, but why he would offer to take that burden upon himself.

I'm not going to lie and claim that Bishop Stewart hearing my confession that morning allowed me to achieve some miraculous religious experience.  I'm not going to say that suddenly my world was all bright and beautiful again because of what happened in the wee hours of that morning. No, it wasn't anything like that, but, he did allow me to begin the journey back, a journey that had it's ups and downs, and still does, but, now, I'm no longer taking this journey alone, I no longer feel like I've been abandoned.

If I need any stronger proof than that, I need only to look back on those days I spent as prisoner to the MaiMai in the Congo. In the weeks before going to the Congo my life had been spiraling out of control, a relationship I'd been very committed to had fallen apart, I was drinking too much, sleeping around, living fast.  Sure, I could lie and say I was going to the Congo for all the right reasons, but, in truth, I was back to running away, and maybe too, I was hoping death might find me, I know there were at least two times I taunted it before it very nearly found me. It didn't find me though, it took others, including one who was attempting to argue for my life to be spared, and again I found myself wondering why? After Patrique was shot though, I was sure my luck had run out, it was only a matter of time as one by one those kneeling near me were drug to a near-by tent to meet their deaths.

I'm not exactly sure when I realized that except for Chance and her mother, I was the last one there, and for the first time in eleven years I struggled back to my knees.  It was in his hands now, and when it was over I would finally be reunited with Danijela and our children. I could hear the music, the choir of angels, and even if I couldn't see them , if I couldn't see him, I felt his presence.  For the first time in eleven years I found my voice, the words to the prayers came as easily as if they had been offered minutes before instead of years. I truly believe it was his hand working through Sakima that allowed my life to be spared that day, for her to risk her life and the life of her daughter, to plead for mine to be spared, how do I ever repay that?

In the end I know the answer, though I may not have at the time. My life is so different now, with Abby, and Joe I have again what I lost all those years ago, and while we may be struggling, we aren't willing to give up fighting to keep our marriage alive.  Abby isn't Catholic, she did agree to allow Joe to be baptized as one, and while I'm not as devoted as I once was, I am finding that more and more I find comfort in visits to the church, or in my prayers. The hate I carried for so long is gone, and with that I've found a peace that I had forgotten existed. I do believe that God is watching over me, that he's watching over all of us, and in that too I find comfort. It's hard to express how it feels to know I'm no longer alone, to wake-up and realize that the emptiness I've known for so long is no more. I love my wife and son, and for the first time in seventeen years I can honestly say I'm happy and looking forward to all that life has in store for us.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Prompt 242:Write about a time that you were the bearer of bad news./ Theatrical Muse

selected userpic

His life was over, it didn't matter what anyone said, in his mind it had ended when he'd laid his family to rest, even if he could manage to get past the grief, what did he have left?  A wave of nausea surfaced with the thought, a reminder of the truth he wanted to forget. He could hide from it, deny it to others and himself, but it would always be there, that feeling of emptiness, of knowing he would never again feel complete.  It had only been three days since his world had come crashing down on him, three days since Danijela and their beautiful babies had been stolen from him.  It might as well have been three years for the emptiness he felt without them. They were his life, but, Danijela was his other half, he'd known it from the first time he'd caught sight of her, and now, they were all gone.  

When he had asked her father for permission to marry Danijela, he had promised to love and protect her, and now he had failed not only her, but their children as well. How was he supposed to tell them that they were all gone?  How was he supposed to tell them that nothing he had done had been enough? As hard as it was for him to accept, he would never be able to forgive himself for what the news would do to either of their parents. You're not supposed to outlive your children, and you're certainly not supposed to outlive your grandchildren, and yet now it was up to him to tell them that they had done both.

Forcing himself to his feet, he left the cot in janitor's closet that had become his home since the apartment had been destroyed.  As small as the room was, he still found himself sharing the space with another doctor, a man who like Luka, had also lost his home and family. For the last hour or so, he'd had the tiny room to himself, a rarity as more and more hospital staff found the lines between home and work blurred.  Were it not for the knock on the door informing him that a phone connection had finally been made, he would have hidden himself away until time for his shift to begin.  At least behind that door he was free from the pitying glances, free from the uncomfortable silences born from those who knew there was nothing they could say that would make things easier. Secreting his photograph of Danijela and Jasna away, he reluctantly left the safety of the small room,it had been 3 days, he couldn't avoid it any longer.

As he dialed the first of the two numbers he could already feel his stomach beginning to twist into knots. As he heard first the click, then the greeting on the other end,  it was all he could do not to hang up. Why had he chosen this for the first of the calls? How was he going to tell him that he'd lost not just his daughter but his grandchildren as well? How was he going to tell the man that all the plans they'd spoke of for their future would now never take place?

"'s Luka..." As he started to speak, he couldn't help but hear the intake of air on the other end.  Did the man know the reason for the call before he could even reveal it? It took everything he had to find his voice again so he could continue.

"I'm sorry..." His voice broke, and the tears he'd fought so hard to hold back washed over his words as he forced himself to relive his families final hours for Danijela's father. It did not get any easier when he repeated the call with his own parents.