By Poet

Mirjana Kovac sat at the kitchen table in their small apartment. she had already put their two children to bed and was anxiously waiting for her husband to come home. with the war coming closer, she worried all the time he was away from them.

Finally she heard his key turn in the lock and his footsteps as he staggered in exhausted. With a sigh of relief, she got to her feet and went to greet him.

Dr. Luka Kovac was hanging up his coat in the closet when he saw Mirjana approaching. He quickly swept her into his krms and kissed her.

When she got back on her feet, she looked up at Luka and pointed out, "You're late."

"Ah, Mirjana, I am very sorry. The hospital was so busy tonight and I couldn't leave when I was supposed to," he explained.

"You know how much I worry when you're not here," she said softly.

"I know you do. But you know how much it means for me to be a doctor," he replied and brushed the tear from her cheek. "Are the children asleep?"

"Marco is. But if Jasna is awake, you know she'll want to kiss you 'goodnight' and hear a story," Mirjana said.

At that precise moment, their oldest child crept out of the bedroom she shared with her brother. She rubbed sleepy eyes, and seeing Luka, ran toward him with arms outstretched and yelled, "Papa!"

He had dropped to his knees to catch her and held her close, stroking her hair as he whispered, "Now, Little Angel, you must be very, very quiet or you'll wake your brother."

"I can be very, very quiet," she whispered back.

He smiled and picked her up to carry her to the kitchen. "Good girl. Now a drink for you and I will get my kiss. And as for a story--I have a very special one. But I can only tell you a little for now."

Inside the kitchen, Luka set her down in front of the sink and filled her favorite cup half full of water. handing it to her, he said, "Here you are, Little Angel. Now tell me, were you a good girl today?"

"I was, Papa," Jasna answered and took a sip of water.

He glanced over at Mirjana who was busy heating up the vegetable stew. "They were both good today," she confirmed.

Luka led his daughter over to the table and set her on his lap. "Now for your story," he told her.

"Okay, Papa," she said, leaning against his chest.

"A long time ago in a magical land there lived a little princess. She was the most beautiful princess in all the world. She had the softest hair, the prettiest eyes and the sweetest smile on her face. And do you know what her name was?" Luka asked."

"No, Papa. What was her name?" his daughter asked in return.

"It was Jasna. Just like the name of my very own Little Angel," he said and ruffled her hair.

"Do I look like her?" she asked and snuggled closer against him.

"No. You are even more beautiful than she was. Now Princess Jasna lived all alone in a big marble castle with the King--her wise old grandfather and her mother--the Queen--"

"What were their names, Papa?" Jasna interrupted.

"Why Luka and Mirjana, of course," her father replied, suppressing a smile.

"Are you wise like the King?" Jasna continued.

"No, Little Angel, your poor old papa isn't that wise," he said, laughing. In his mind, he thouhgt *If I was wise, then I never would've brought you and your mother and brother to this place.*

"You're not old, Papa!" she protested.

"Compared to you--I am. Now shall I continue the story?" Luka asked.

"Continue the story!" Jasna commanded.

"Okay, okay. Now Princess Jasna was very lonely because she had no brothers or sisters to play with--"

"No Marco?" the little girl asked.

"Not even cousins to come visit. No, all she had was the King and Queen, her teacher--Miss Natalidja, and a large staff who immediately responded to any desire she had. But the poor little princess only wanted a playmate of her own age," Luka continued.

"Does she get a playmate?" Jasna asked.

"Perhaps. But you'll just have to listen to the story," her father told her. "One day Princess Jasna was out in the garden reading a book when she saw two children trying to get in the gate. They were very poor children in ragged clothing but they were laughing and happy as they stared at the princess. Jasna put down her book and crept over to the gate. She stared at the two children and asked, "What are your names?" The oldest one replied, "I am Mirta and this is my little brother Marco. Let us in so that we can play with you.""

"Do they get to play with the princess?" Jasna asked sleepily.

"Ah, we will find out tomorrow. But its bedtime for you, Little Angel," Luka said. He picked her up to carry back to the bedroom. Once there, he put her to bed and tucked her in. Then he let her hug him and kiss his stubbly cheek. "Did you say your prayers?"

"I did--for Mama. But I'll say them for you, Papa. God bless Mama and Papa. God bless marco even though he's a pest at times."

Luka smiled at that but silently waited for her to continue.

"Let this war end soon. And please, please let me and Marco go outside and play. Amen." She closed her eyes and fell asleep.

"Perhaps, Little Angel, God will answer your prayers," her father said softly. He kissed her forehead and then turned to his son. Marco was lying with his thumb in his mouth and his blankets half on the floor. Luka gently removed the thumb, covered him up and gave him a kiss. Then he turned and left the room.

Mirjana had been silently watching from the doorway and she saw the happy expression on her husband's face. She noticed how he always seemed more rested and peaceful after spending time with his children. She gently touched his arm, saying, "Your supper is ready"

"Ah, your vegatable stew is just what this starving man needs," he said and stiffled a yawn as he followed her back to the kitchen.

His wife set a bowl of soup and bread on the table. As soon as he had washed his hands and sat down, she said, "You spoil them."

"I know. But since they cannot go outside, they need something to occupy the mind. Tonight Jasna will dream of her princess and tomorrow I will have something special for Marco," Luka replied. "Besides I need to come up with more to Jasna's story." Suddenly he grew serious. "I sometimes wish that I had never brought you and the children here. But I cannot stand to be very far from my family."

"Everything will work out, Luka. You'll see. It will in the end," Mirjana said encouragingly.

"I hope it does, Mirjana. I hope to God, it does," Luka said quietly.


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