Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Night Out Part 3/ Revised

Even after they had ordered and their meals had arrived, Luka found the feeling that had started as they left the movie theatre growing stronger. As he picked at his food with his fork, it was hard for Abby to ignore it any longer.

"Is something wrong with your meal?" Abby paused with her own fork in mid-bite as she asked the question.

"What?" He blinked, bringing her into focus as he realized that he was so lost in his own thoughts that he hadn't even really heard what she had said to him.

"You're not eating. I asked if there was something wrong with your meal? " She gestured to his untouched plate with her fork.

"No, it's fine, why?" As if to prove it he placed a bite of fish into his mouth.

"Nice try, but, I don't think so. What's going on, Luka?" It was Abby's turn to stop eating now, and as she made the decision to do so, she lay her own fork on the side of her plate.

"I don't know." As he answered Luka shook his head before again beginning to push the food on his plate around with his fork again.

"I just...something isn't right, I can't explain it." Catching her look at what he was doing, he forced himself to take another bite.

While she couldn't say she understood what Luka was feeling, neither was she willing to write off his feelings as nothing and after a moment she removed her napkin from her lap and wiped her mouth.

"Do you want to go?" She met his eyes firmly with the question once the decision was made. "We can take this home."

"You're sure, you don't mind?" The question was almost unnecessary and as she asked it, relief seemed to wash over his face.

"I don't mind." As she replied she found a small smile for him, hoping that he might find some additional reassurance in it. "Why don't you go pay the check and I'll have the waitress box these for us."

"Okay." With the decision made Luka rose and started for the cashier. What happened next would be something he would remember little of save for random flashes, screams of terror and then a feeling of intense pain before blackness claimed him.

to be continued...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Prompt 276: Siblings? / Theatrical Muse

Are you an only child? Write about your siblings or lack thereof.

For many years I might well have been an only child. After I lost my family I had a difficult time adjusting to the new life that I was being forced into. In those first months I shut myself off from everyone. While I did call both Danijela's and my family I refused to let any of them risk the journey to Vukovar for the funerals, and once they were done, I cut off communication completely. I threw myself into my studies and my work until I was too tired to think, but, it was never enough to stop the nightmares from coming, and I relived that fateful day over and over again so many times.

After the fall of the city I barely made it out with my life, and in truth, more times then naught I wished I had not. I spent months in one of the DPC's recovering from my injuries, with my family not knowing if I was even alive and I myself wishing death would still find me. Eventually I gave up on that hope and realized I was meant to live, even if I didn't want to. Maybe that was my punishment for failing my family, maybe death was too good for me.

In time of course I had to go, I realized that I couldn't hide forever, as much as I might want to. So, as hard as it was, I found my way back to my father's house, back to where all the memories of the happiness that had been stolen from me had been born. I hated everyday I was there, and it was only made worse by the arguments that seemed to daily get worse between my brother Niko and I.

Both my father and my brother felt that being there among those who knew me, those who had known Danijela and our children was the best thing for me. They believed that reminders of our past would comfort me, and in time give me the peace I would need to move on. They were so wrong. The longer I was there the worse it became, until I reached the point where even going to the market was unbearable, and I knew if I was going to survive I'd have to leave.

Once I'd made that decision things between my brother and I fell apart, nothing I said could make him understand why I had to go, and every conversation between us ended in a fight. By the time I left for the United States we were barely speaking and some of his last words to me were of how I was nothing but a coward for running away from my problems instead of facing them.

It took almost 12 years and our father's illness for Niko and I to reconcile and we've both come a long way in that time. I'm not sure he'll ever fully understand why I had to leave anymore then I'll understand why he felt so strongly that I should stay, but, at least we're talking now. Niko's met my wife and my son, he can see that despite what he might have thought, my moving to the United States has allowed me not just to find happiness again, but to build a new family as well. As hard as it might be for him to admit now, in time he may even admit that all those years ago, I was right in leaving.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Night Out Pt 2 Revised

"So." Abby looked over at Luka as she started to speak.

"So? What?" His smile surfaced again as he tried to figured out what she was going to say before she began.

"I was just thinking about how long it'd been since we had a date-night." As they walked down the sidewalk Abby found herself matching her pace to Luka's, a task made easier as he shortened his stride for her.

"Long time...before Joe was born." As if he needed the words to remind him Luka fished his cell-phone from his pocket. "Should call and see how things are going."

"Luka, We're only been gone two hours, he's fine, besides, I thought we already decided we weren't going to call. Plus, Louise knows how to reach us if there's a problem." Abby reached for his hand, only to squeeze it in reassurance as she spoke.

"Something doesn't feel right, I can't explain it." He returned the squeeze as he smiled down at her, but, the smile faded even before it fully developed.

"Do you want to go home?" Stopping in mid-stride, Abby studied his face, the change in his mood becoming contagious.

"No, that's okay, I'm sure you're right, he's fine and Louise would call if he wasn't, let's go ahead and go to the restaurant." Even as he made the decision the feeling lingered, something was off, he just couldn't put his finger on what, he could only hope that he was wrong, that it really was nothing and that dinner would pass uneventfully.

to be continued...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Night Out Pt 1 / Revision

"I can't believe you talked me into seeing that." Luka held the door open for Abby as they made their way out of the theatre following the movie's end.

"What do you mean I talked you into it?" She nudged him with her elbow as she slipped past then stopped once she was on the sidewalk to wait for him. "You said you wanted to see a movie, you didn't say what kind."

"Very funny," He extended his hand to her as he reached her. "Do you know where you want to go for dinner?"

"I'll leave it up to you, since you let me choose the movie." Abby laced her fingers with his then smiled before looking up at him as he pulled her to him. "It wasn't that bad was it?"

"No, it wasn't that bad." He smiled down at her. "Do you want to call and check on Joe before we go to the restaurant?"

"You're worried about him?" Abby's face took on a more serious expression with the question.

"Not really worried, I just..." He raised a hand and brushed his bangs off his forehead. "I don't know, I just feel like we should make sure that everything is okay, you know, maybe it's the over-protective father in me."

"Luka, Curtis Ames is gone, you don't have to worry about Joe being safe." Releasing his hand Abby slid her arm around his waist as she offered the words of comfort. "But, if it would make you feel better, and you still want to call and check on him we can." Somehow she managed to smile, hoping he would find some reassurance in it.

"No, you're right, he'll be fine with Louise, and she has both of our cell numbers if she needs to reach us." He managed to find a small smile of his own for her.

"So, you don't have anything special you're in the mood for, Chinese, Italian?" He forced his mind off the unwarranted concern and onto the meal ahead as they began to walk toward their car.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Luka Kovac/ ER/ Chickenpox / 10 Hurt Comfort

Uh Oh

"Tata home!."Joe's squeal, was quickly followed by the clomp of him running to the door to greet his father. While it was a nightly event, or at least nightly on those days when Luka had a shift, Abby found herself stopping what she was doing as the normal reaction to the toddler's attack did not happen. Snagging a dishtowel on her way out of the kitchen, she was surprised to find both her husband and son already settled on the couch with Sponge Bob on the tv when she found them.

"Luka, are you all right?" It was hard for her not to ask the question as she took in the Croat's appearance, from the flush in his face, to the general look of a fatigue.

"Long day..." If he'd meant to say more it was lost to his cough as he turned his head to avoid exposing Joe.

"It looks like more then that." As she touched his forehead, Abby immediately frowned.

"You are running a temperature. Let me take Joe, I want you to go to bed, I'll bring some Tylenol up in a minute." Before he could protest, she had already moved around the couch to take their son.

Abby, you're over-reacting, I'm just tired." As he saw that his words were falling on deaf ears he reluctantly rose.

"All right, you win, I'll take a nap."

After settling Joe at the table with something to eat, Abby made her way up the stairs to check on Luka. Ever since his return from the Congo they'd known his malaria might return, was that what was happening now? She heard heard his coughing even before she entered the room, and as she took a seat on the edge of the bed she could feel the heat coming off of him. His fever was climbing.

"Luka, I need you to take these." When it took several attempts for Abby to rouse him and get him alert enough to take the tablets, her fear of the malaria's reappearance only grew.

"I'm going to get a washcloth for your head." As she spoke, she brushed his damp bangs away from his face, before rearranging the comforter that he'd hastily pulled over him when he'd first laid down. By the time she returned, he'd returned to his fitful sleep, and she knew, her night would be one spent watching him and worrying that far worse would be coming.

Over the next several hours she checked on her husband often, trading one washcloth for another to try and comfort him. When Joe was finally put to bed she move permanently to his side, taking the work she still needed to do with her. First up, Joe's backpack, from the day he'd started in daycare she'd fallen into the habit of leaving the sorting of it's contents until the end of the day. In fact, she was almost sure that Luka was in the habit of going through it before even getting home, even if she'd never called him on it.

Unzipping the bag , she first pulled out a shirt and pair of pants, both in need of a wash, then dropped them on the floor. What came next was a little unexpected, it wasn't like Joe to get warning notes, but that's what the heading said, or did it. With her full attention on the piece of paper she began reading, and the further she got into it, the deeper the furrow between her brows got.

"You have got to be kidding me." She glanced quickly up from the paper as Luka again coughed in his sleep. It was too much of a stretch. So what if a couple of kids in the daycare had turned up with chickenpox, Joe had been vaccinated, he wouldn't bring it home. But, how many times in the last week had he been the one to pick Joe up? Had he had chickenpox as a child or ever been vaccinated for it? As she sat there watching her husband's restless sleep, Abby knew her questions were not going to gain any answers and the next best thing would be to examine him, maybe there were symptoms beyond the fever, cough and fatigue he was already showing.

Replacing the papers in Joe's bag, she sat it on the floor before going to Luka's side and removing the now dry washcloth so she could feel his forehead. His fever had yet to break, and from the sound of his cough, it seemed to be settling deeper into his chest. Spots, she needed to see if he had any of them. Pulling aside the comforter he'd buried himself under, she rolled him to his back so she could unbutton his shirt. As she fumbled at the buttons she couldn't help chastising him at the same time for not having undressed. What was he thinking? When she raised his tee shirt to look at his stomach and chest, her actions roused him enough that he attempted to push her hands away.

"Luka, stop, Luka." There was no fight in him to resist her and she easily captured his hands with one of hers, and there they were, not many, but a good start.

"Shit." Rolling him to his side, she repeated the inspection on his back, only to find even more evidence of the chickenpox. This was not going to be fun, she knew it already, but, at least there was a good side to it all. Knowing he'd caught the chickenpox, ruled out the early worry that his malaria had resurfaced, and if she had to choose one over the other, she'd rather stock up on the Calamine lotion and Aveeno bath and suffer through him itching.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Prompt 78.5.D: Carousel Pic/Writers Muses

It's funny how quickly we're adjusting to life in Boston. Both Abby and I had held doubts about leaving our friends in Chicago, about leaving County. Of course, that choice had already been made for me when my father took ill, but, it hadn't made the decision any easier. With all that had happened in the months I was away, we both knew, if our marriage had any hope of surviving, we had to start over, and Boston seemed as good a place as any. The City held the keys to our future, and we are determined to make the most of it.

One of the first things both Abby and I decided with the move was that we needed the time apart each day that working in different facilities gave us. So, while she took a position in Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, I took one at The Kaplan Family Hospice House. There was something about working at the Hospice in Chicago and especially spending time with Walter that made me realize that there was more to medicine then just the fast pace of the ER, and this seems to be it for me.

One of the other things that has been important for us is making sure that Joe has time not just with children his own age, but time with both Abby and I. Unlike Chicago, we've decided to use daycare instead of a nanny for him, and several days a week we trade play-dates with two other families. The times we seem to enjoy most though are those when both Abby and I have a shared day off and we can take Joe out to see the City. It was on one of those outings that we first found the Carousel on Nantasket Pier, and after experiencing Joe's excitement, it's now a place we visit regularly. In fact, when we learned that the entire Carousel could be rented for birthday parties, we knew that it was the perfect way to celebrate Joe turning three.

It's funny, less then six months ago Abby and I were convinced we had made mistakes we couldn't undo and we were on the verge of losing everything we had between us. It would have been so easy to have walked away, but, we didn't, we took a chance and look at us now, we've become stronger for the experience in every way possible. Our life is here in Boston, our future is here, and for the first time in my life I actually believe that the life I thought I would only have within my memories of Danijela is possible with Abby. Who would have thought?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prompt 2009.10.A.3. You bought an antique book, and when you open it up, a note drops out./RotM

So Many Questions

"Luka, it's so good to hear your voice. How's Joe doing?" As he shifted the phone from one ear to the other, there was no denying that Abby's voice held a sadness to it that betrayed the forced lightness in her words.

"He's good, Niko took him to the market with him. We miss you." If only she knew how much. The thought followed his words before he could catch it.

"How are you doing? Are you coming soon?" There were so many questions he wanted to ask her, so many more he knew he didn't dare ask.

"I don't know, this isn't easy." She didn't want to talk about her rehab, she didn't want to think about the mistakes she'd made that had resulted in her being where she was instead of with her husband and son.

"I know, it won't be much longer though, you'll be here, and I can show you all the places I've wanted to for so long." As he spoke, Luka reached for a book that sat on the table beside where he stood. The leather cover was cracked and worn, the gold embossed title long ago faded. As he opened it, he withdrew several yellowed sheets of folded paper.

"I've been thinking a lot about all the time we've spent apart. We're not the first to go through this, what we have, you, Joe, and I, nothing can take that from us." As he unfolded the papers, his eyes scanned the cramped handwriting, his words echoed by the author's so many years before. How many other marriages had been tested as they were being tested now? How many had failed to overcome the obstacles of distance, of lives changed by those very same separations? How many others had been strengthened by those challenges? How many had survived to grow old and die together? As he turned to the last of the pages, he was disappointed to find they held no answers to his questions. Had these two been among those to survive their time apart? The answer was one he would never know, but, he could fight to save what he and Abby had.

"Luka, are you still there?" Abby's voice broke into his thoughts, bringing him back to the conversation.

"I have to go, I'll call again tomorrow if I can, kiss Joe for me." As much as she wanted to respond to his words, Abby knew she couldn't not this way, not on the phone.

"I will, I just wish he was here so you could talk to him." He hated having to say good-bye to her, because no matter how long they spoke, it was never long enough.

"I love you so much, Luka, please don't give up on me. I have to go." There was no ignoring the break in her voice, and despite the distance that separated them he knew she'd been brought to tears.

"I love you too, Abby." Had she heard him? The dial-tone in his ear made him wonder if his words had come too late. She had to know, even if the call had ended too soon. Why did it have to be so hard? The question reminded him of the notes he still held, and he couldn't help but wonder, had she too asked that question all those years before?

March 006 Foggy Town/ Creative Muses

"Luka, come to the market with me." Josip Kovac stuck his head in his youngest son's room as he made the request. It had been three weeks since Luka had found his way back to them, and in that time he'd barely left the spare room he now called his own, let alone the house.

"Tata, no." Rolling to his side, he turned his back to the door.

"Son, you can't live the rest of your life like this." It took everything the man had in him not to approach the bed. He knew his son was grieving, he knew his son needed time, but, it had already been nearly six months, and if he didn't start finding his way back from the dark place he was living in.

"Tata, please, just leave me alone." The pain in his son's voice ripped through the man's heart. It would be so easy to do as he asked, to leave him with his memories, with the photo of those lost to him forever.

"I can't, Luka, I'm sorry, I love you too much to let you do this to yourself anymore." As he finally reached his limit, Josip Kovac approached the bed and took a tentative seat on the edge before gently touching his son's shoulder.

"Danijela wouldn't want you living like this, you know that, Luka." As he felt the tremble under his hand it was all he could do to remain as he was.

"Do you remember how much Jasna enjoyed going to the market with us when she was little? How she would eat so many strawberries her face would be stained red, and Danijela would pretend to be so angry when we got back?" As impossible as it seemed he couldn't help but laugh as the memory surfaced.

"I miss them so much, Tata." For the first time since his father had entered the room, the younger man turned to face him.

"I know, Luka, you always will, but, it'll get easier, I promise. Now, go wash your face and put on a clean shirt, we'll go to the market and maybe if we're lucky, we'll find some strawberries to bring back." Extending his hand, he brushed the tears from his son's cheeks with his fingertips.

"It'll get better, I promise, now go, I'll wait for you on the front step."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Prompt 274:What question do you most dread?/Theatrical Muse

There was a time when I dreaded being asked if I had children because, even though Jasna and Marko had been taken from me, I still considered myself their Tata. I can't tell you how many nights I woke with the sound of their voices in my ears, hearing them calling me and knowing I could never answer that call. I reached a point that I avoided parks, passing by schools, beaches, anywhere that I might risk hearing a child's cry for their Tata, because I knew I would think it was them, even if only for that split second when hope wished them alive.

It was the same when people asked me if I was married, because I knew in my heart that no matter how many years passed, my love for Danijela would never falter. She was my wife, the mother of our children, and despite how I had lost her, nothing could change that. It took me almost 9 years before I could see anyone else and not feel I was cheating on her, and even then it still didn't feel right. I couldn't know that there were still issues I had to resolve, and until I did, I could never move on.

It took time, but, I finally succeeded. It's been 18 years now, and I no longer dread those questions. I have a new family now, a wife and a son I love, and a new life without the burden of sadness hanging on it. There are still nights when I hear the call of those long gone, still times when I wake to the memory of their faces, but, I no longer dread them, and though some come with sadness, far more come with memories of the happier times we spent, and it's those I treasure the most.

Almost/Couples Therapy

We almost threw it all away because of stupid mistakes we'd both made. Before we made the decision to leave Chicago, Abby and I weren't even sure our marriage would even survive everything we'd been through over the last year. Here we are though, in a new City, with new jobs, new friends, a new life, and as difficult as it has been, we're finding ways to let the pain we caused each other go.

When the news first came of my father's illness, there was no question that I had to go back to Croatia to see him. If I had been thinking with a clear head, I'd have done whatever I could to take Abby and Joe with me. I wanted so badly for him to meet them, to know them and love them as much as I do. After everything happened, I couldn't help but wonder if it all couldn't have been prevented if only I'd waited for Joe's passport. If Abby and Joe had been there instead of Chicago, she'd never have become so overwhelmed by what was happening with her life. She'd never have started drinking again, she'd never have put our son's life in danger, she'd never have cheated on what we had with her boss. All of those things that came from my being gone so long could have been prevented.

It was hard coming home and feeling something wasn't right, then, learning the truth of what my absence had cost us. How do I reconcile myself to knowing that while I was worrying about whether my father would live or die, she was trying to escape from everything in a bottle. How do I apologize to my son for abandoning him for my father, because in a way I know I did just that. For almost 6 months I left him, and all I could teach him, to be at my father's side, even knowing there was little I could do for him. But, even knowing that, how could I not? He was still my Tata. He was the one who had nursed my bruises when I'd fallen as a child, the one who'd soothed the demons of my nightmares. He'd been the one to try and ease the pain the loss of my family had cost me, and hardest of all, he'd let me go when I knew I could no longer stay in Croatia and face all of the reminders of those losses.

I couldn't have known my being with him would almost cost me this family, but, even if I had, how could I possibly choose between them? How could I say one was more important to me then the other, when in truth I needed both to be who I am. Abby and I are still not fully back where we once were, but, everyday seems to find us closer, and I no longer fear that we'll lose what we have. We're a family, and we're in this for forever, I'm sure of it now.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prompt 39.3. Burn the midnight oil/ On The Couch

One of the issues that has repeatedly posed problems in my relationship with Abby, since the very beginning have been my feelings toward my first wife.

Danijela and I met when we were both very young and we immediately fell in love. As far as either of us were concerned we knew from that first moment that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together and as soon as Danijela turned 18, we were married. I entered medicine because I not only wanted to help people, but, to give my family the life I felt they deserved. When first Jasna arrived, and years later, Marko, I knew that the sacrifices we'd been forced to make for my career were the right ones. All those hours I'd spent burning the midnight oil, my nose deep in text-books while Danijela was forced to handle the day problems of raising the children, as hard as it was, we knew it was for our children, for our family. How were either of us to know, that those same goals we had for bettering our family would instead be the means for it's destruction? That my doing what I thought was best for my family would instead end in their deaths?

It took me eight years following the loss of my family before I even thought about dating again, and even then, it was because of how much I missed being a father that led me down the path. When I started seeing Carol, I told myself it wasn't for her, it was about Kate and Tess, they needed a father in their lives, as much as I needed to be one again. I told myself I could make myself feel what I needed to feel just to be a father, but, in the end, Carol knew the truth. She knew that her life belonged with their father and I had to understand because what she felt for him, is what I still felt for Danijela.

In a way, I guess you could say Abby was a rebound the first time we got together. She made the first move. Maybe I should have taken what happened that night as a sign that we weren't ready to be together, but, I didn't and we prolonged things for over a year. I tried to tell my left I was feeling something for her, but, the truth was, I couldn't help feeling that I was cheating on Danijela when I was with her and it was only a matter of time before she saw it too. When we finally broke up, we said the ugliest things to each other, things neither of us meant, things that were only meant to hurt.

I guess it took being away from Abby for me to realize that we had more between us then I realized, because once she was gone, I missed her friendship so much. I was lost, and as a result my life began to fall apart in every sense of the word. I became someone I no longer recognized, and even worse, someone I hated. As if all of that weren't enough, I was forced to watch Abby move into another relationship and I found myself bitten by the bitterness of a jealousy I didn't know I was capable of possessing. When my attitude and my behavior began to affect my care of my patients I knew I had to do something, and that decision very nearly cost me my life.

When I returned from the Congo, I came back a different person, or, I thought I did. I learned too late that the mistake I'd made with Carol and the twins, was one I would revisit with Sam and Alex. Despite all of the changes I'd made, all of the lessons I'd learned, I still wanted to be a father, and I was willing to do whatever I needed to, in order to make that happen, or so I told myself. The truth was, I again with Sam, revisited my mistakes with Abby, and I allowed my continued love for Danijela, to affect how I related to her. I couldn't explain to Sam, anymore then I'd been able to explain to Abby, why I needed to continue to hold my feelings for Danijela so close, and in the end, it was too much for her.

My return from the Congo marked not just a transformation for me, but, for Abby as well as I brought back the news that Carter was ending his relationship with her. During the time I was recovering and later as Sam and I entered into our own relationship, we found we were able to rebuild the friendship we had all but lost. When Sam decided that what I wanted and what she wanted were too different to make things works, it seemed only natural for Abby to be there to pick up the pieces as my grief at once again losing my hopes at a family threatened to undo all of my gains.

That Abby and I are now married and have a son of our own shows just how far we both have come. We've both found ways to balance not just our lives together, but, those parts of our pasts that we know we can never let go. It's not easy, and I know we will always have times when one or the other of us may falter, but, we're trying, and I can't help but feel that this time will be forever.