You've been visited by three ghosts, in one night. Past. Present. Future. Tell the story. The first vist...
"Luka, can you hear me my love?" It was Danijela's voice that woke him, inching him toward consciousness in the darkness of the tiny hut. For a moment he was convinced he could feel the touch of her fingers as they trailed along his jaw, the action familiar enough to bring tears to his eyes even after all the years that had passed without his knowing it. When it was followed by the brush of her lips against his he couldn't help but question whether the malaria's fever was leading him places he'd rather have avoided.
"Luka, open your eyes, it's been too long since I've seen them." Even as he knew it was impossible, Luka was sure he felt his wife's lips once more touch his skin as she touched a kiss to each lid. As hard as it was to give into the dream, he knew he could no longer resist the chance to see her face again, and as she drew back he finally gave in.
"Danijela." How was it possible? In that moment that his eyes caught hers nothing else around them existed, all he could think about was how much he loved her, how much he'd missed her, and how much he wanted to feel her in his arms again. As weak as he was he forced himself to sit, ignoring the wave of dizziness that swept over him he pulled her close.
"Danijela, I've missed you so much." It was his turn to kiss her, to inhale her scent.
"You're so beautiful." It was only as she wiped his tears from his cheeks that he realized he was crying and as his wife smiled at him, he found it hard not to do the same for her.
"Don't be sad, Luka, we don't have much time, I want you to remember our time now with love, not tears." Frozen at the time of her death, Danijela still held the innocence of her 25 years of life mixed with the joys of motherhood and the knowledge that she had found her one true love.
"How is this possible?" He hated asking the question and as soon as the words were released he found himself gripped by the fear that whoever was permitting them their reunion would snatch it away from them before he was ready to let her go again.
"Don't ask, I can't answer that, I just know we don't have much time, and I have to talk to you." After so many years away from him, it was as hard for Danijela as it was for Luka, and she leaned into him, finding safety in the comfort of his arms once again.
"Danijela..." A finger to his lips silenced him before he could say anything more. As her eyes swept over him, it was impossible for her not to notice the sheen of sweat on his skin, and the paleness accompanying it.
"Lay down, Luka, you need to rest, we can still talk." As she coaxed him back down onto the pallet she couldn't not curl against him before beginning to stroke his face.
"Luka, I know you love the children and I, you always will, but, you have to start living again my love. You can't stop your life because we're no longer with you, and you can't keep blaming yourself for our not being with you." It was Danijela's turn to cry, but, without knowing how long they had, she knew she couldn't stop.
"You couldn't have known what would happen when you left the apartment that day, I know that, and Jasna knew you did everything you could to save us. Our lives are over now, but, you still have yours, live it for us, my love, do all of those things we always wanted for our children. Luka, you were such a wonderful father, you still have time to know that joy again, please find someone, for me, for our children, don't waste everything that makes you who you are." By the time she finished they were both in tears and she again silenced him with a kiss.
"No more talk, Luka, just hold me, and know I will always, always love you, now, sleep." It might have been minutes, more likely though it took only seconds for the slow stroking of her fingers at his temples to lull him back into sleep, and in that moment before she vanished, she placed a final kiss upon his lips.
"Farewell, my love." The words remained behind as she vanished, little more then particles of dust settling around him.The second visit...
"I think I'd rather we met in the bar than this place." The smell of the prostitute's perfume filled the hut, and as much of a shock it had been to wake earlier to find Danijela at his side, it was even more of one to now see Valerie. How could he have possibly explained the woman to his wife, explained to her what he had done, and the man he had become since her death.
"It really is disgusting here, and I'm charging extra for the conditions, I expect better than this, I'm not some $20 an hour crack whore after all , I thought you understood that. The blond had somehow found a chair and as she now crossed her legs, she smoothed her skirt across her lap.
"I've never seen this side of you, I'm not sure I like it." Opening her purse, she withdrew a cigarette, and after sliding it between her perfectly lined lips, she proceeded to light it.
"Would you like one?" She offered the pack, only to return it to her purse at his refusal.
"Fine, have it your way." Reaching for the one she held between her lips, she removed it only long enough to release a slow stream of smoke.
"I've been thinking about you, this place isn't for you, if you ask me, this humanitarian crap is over-rated, we'd have more fun back in Chicago. You do have fun when you're with me, don't you?" As she asked the question, Valerie rose and walked over to the pallet on which he now sat. Despite a brief lapse where she wrinkled her nose at the smell, the woman settled down beside him as if she were taking a seat on the finest satin comforter.
"We could set up regular play-dates, drinks, dinner, and then I'd treat you like you deserve to be treated, you'd like that, I know you would." Her voice grew quieter the closer she got, until it was little more than a whisper before she caught his earlobe between his teeth. Using that as a distraction she trailed a hand down his chest before stopping as she cupped her hand around him. When the action elicited a gasp, and was immediately followed by a stirring from him in response, she couldn't help but laugh.
"See, you do want me, nothing has to change, all you have to do is go back to Chicago and we can pick up right where we left off." Taking advantage of his show of weakness she cast her cigarette into the dirt before pushing him back with her free hand so she could straddle him. You don't have to listen to anyone but your body, this is all you need, the rest means nothing." With him pinned under her weight she slid her hands inside his pants so she could stroke him.
"What could be better than this?" At his groan in response she again laughed, yes, this was all he needed, she was sure of it, and in time he would come to realize it as well.The third and final visit...
"They said you were dead, but I didn't believe them, not you, not after everything you've been through." Luka moaned softly as the words crept into his head.
"No more...no more." Rolling to his side he drew his knees up before tucking his head down to touch them. He couldn't take anymore of this, he wanted nothing more now but for it to stop.
"I'm not going anywhere, Luka, you should know that by now." It took him longer to identify the speaker's voice, and as it registered he raised his head before rolling to his other side so he could see her.
"Abby?" He blinked several times in disbelief, deciding her appearance made no more sense then had those of Danijela's and Valerie's. If he touched her, would she too seem as real?
"You have to come back to me Luka, you may not see why now, but in time you will. I have to warn you though, it's not going to be easy, but, when has it been for us? Do you remember our first date? Nothing will ever be as bad as that, but you have to want to leave this place, you can't just lay here and give up." For the first time Abby reached over to touch him.
"What have they done to you?" She touched each bruise and cut on his face as if she could somehow heal them before letting her hand drop.
"I told you not to come here, but, you wouldn't listen, you have to listen now, you have to want to come back, if you don't, you'll die here. Carter's looking for you, Luka, you have to hang on until he finds you, promise me you won't give up. Promise me." To emphasize her words she took his hand in hers and squeezed it as tightly as she could.
"Say it, Luka...say you won't give up or so help me I will haunt you." She could feel the tears building as she demanded the promise from him and at the same time she felt the pull that signaled her time with him was almost at it's end.
"I'll be there for you when you come home, but, you have to hang on, now, promise me you won't give up." She caught his gaze as she tried to force him into the promise she knew he would honor once it was made.
"I promise." His words came quietly and even as he made them he wondered if he was making them for her or for himself, it would only be later that Danijela's words to him would return and he would remember she'd asked him to live for her and the children as well.
"I'll be waiting for you, Luka, no matter how long it takes, just hold on, Carter will find you, I promise you that." It was only then that Abby gave in and fully approached him, then, using her words as permission she kissed him.
"Don't give up on him, Luka...don't give up me." Abby was allowed one more kiss before she too was gone, and in the darkness of the tiny hut Luka was left wondering about the vividness of the dreams that had touched him as he drifted back into his fever fueled sleep.
Muse: Luka Kovac