Part 4 by LaL
Luka Kovac used to love Christmas. As a child, the experience was magical; Santa Claus, reindeer, presents, a time for your family - everything, even mundane things like washing the dishes had a magical air to them at Christmas time. Then as a teenager - despite his best efforts to appear aloof and indifferent - he still loved the magical effect Christmas had on everything and everyone. His late teens and early 20s were about his wife and his mid 20s were about his children.
But now, as he approached his late 20s he wasnt sure what to do with himself. He had worked Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and was due to work on New Years Eve/New Years Day - in return for all of that he had Christmas day off.
Adele was getting a flight early that morning to go home and spend Christmas and New Year in Scotland, John and Dave were both working and Luka was beginning to realise how few friends he had.
He had received a letter from his younger brother Davor a few days before. It had pictures of Davor and his wife Marijana and their new born son Petar. Lukas first reaction was sadness - thinking about his own joy at becoming a father for the first time when Jasna was born. However, his next feeling was overwhelming happiness for his little brother and he put the pictures of Davor, Marijana and Petar on a shelf in his living room beside the pictures of his own children.
Luka was thinking about his family back in Croatia as he finished his shift at 8pm on Christmas Eve. He ran over the board with Kerry, then as he was getting ready to leave he was embarrassed to find Randi and Abby standing with a piece of mistletoe over his head. Slightly bewildered, but also slightly flattered, he kissed both women lightly on the lips - unaware that Chen was duly photographing each kiss.
Whatt are you doing? he asked.
Oh - dont worry - were not going to report you for cavorting with staff or anything. Were making a scrapbook-type-thing with all the male staff, explained Abby.
Ah, said Luka. So whos your next victim?
The women laughed and Randi told him it was Dave. As if from nowhere - Malucci appeared shouting,
Bring it on!
Luka wrapped his scarf around his neck and put on his jacket - watching as Dave put on a show for the staff congregating around the admin desk.
Goodbye everybody. Merry Christmas! he called as he left the hospital.
When he reached the ambulance bay he heard Carter call his name. John ran up to him, bracing himself against the snow.
Hey Luka. I was wondering if you had any plans for tomorrow?
Um, not really, just, you know Luka trailed off. Why?
Well, I finish at 4 and my gran is having a late supper. I was wondering if youd like to come over, Carter asked - not sure if Luka would want to celebrate Christmas. Dave, Peter and Cleo are all coming over and Kerry, Abby and Deb - sorry Jing Mei - said they would put in an appearance. Therell be tonnes of food and stuff.
Yeah sure, Id like that, said Luka - thankful of the offer to get out of his apartment.
Great - well come over any time after 8, said Carter as he headed back to the warmth of the hospital.
When Luka arrived back at his apartment block he trudged up the flight of stairs trying to warm up again after his half-hour in the freezing cold. He was so busy fumbling in his bag for his key that he was surprised to hear a familiar Scottish voice say hello.
He looked up immediately but saw no one, so he lowered his view and saw Adele sitting on a suitcase in front of his door.
Should you not be in Scotland? he asked.
Yeah, I * should * be. They cancelled all flights out of the airport, explained Adele as she stood up. Its the weather.
Well, come in, he offered as he opened the door. How long have you been sitting there?
Um, well I got here at about 4pm, once Id given up all hope of a flight. I sat around for an hour - then remembered that you were working until this evening so I went and sat in a bar a few streets away and spent the afternoon being groped by drunks. Then I came back at about 7.
Sounds like an interesting day!
Yeah - interesting is one word for it. I hope you dont mind me coming over. I probably should have gone straight home but I guess - with it being Christmas Eve and everything - I didnt really want to spend the night in an empty house.
Im glad youre here - I wasnt really looking forward to a quiet night in with a bottle of whiskey and Its A Wonderful Life on the TV anyway.
Luka and Adele were still good friends. It was good for Luka to know somebody who didnt work at the hospital. She was always there to listen to him if he wanted to talk - about anything. Sometimes, in the middle of a normal conversation Luka would suddenly change the topic and he would talk about his family. He poured out his heart and soul on various occasions - and Adele was always there to hold him and tell him that everything was going to be ok
Adele had also found more friends since she started work. She met two other young-ish female teachers, Kate and Therese who she socialised with regularly. She had also surprised herself by taking up, and enjoying, kick boxing where she met a crowd of people who she went for coffee with after every class. She was settling well into life in Chicago - she was even managing to get a response from the kids she was teaching.
They reckon theres not going to be any flights out of the airport until after the New Year - so it looks like Im not going home.
Im sorry, said Luka as he put his keys on the table and turned around to face her. Adele was crying. Oh - Adele, Im really sorry. I know how much you were looking forward to seeing your family again.
He walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her. Adele continued to sniffle for a few moments before saying,
Its just that thats what Christmas is supposed to be about, isnt it? Spending time with your family.<
Luka only nodded and took a seat on his sofa. Adele moved to sit beside him, and as she did so she saw the pictures on the shelf that he kept.
Oh God Luka - now its my turn to be sorry. It never occurred to me, she said.
That Christmas must be a hard time for you. You know - your family and things.<
Luka understood what she was talking about immediately and he nodded his head.
Yeah - I guess so.
Luka and Adele sat in an uncomfortable silence for a while before Adele spoke.M<
I - I know how it feels.
Um no, I dont think you can know that. You see - my family are are dead. Your family are in another country and its only the weather that is preventing you from seeing them. Its not really the same thing. Luka remained calm as always but Adele could tell that he was fuming inside.
I didnt mean * that *, said Adele quietly, looking away from him. I meant that I know how it feels to lose the people most important to you. A um
Adeles eyes filled with tears and Luka wasnt sure what she was going to say next.
You dont have to tell me if you dont want to.<
Adele shook her head and wiped her eyes then began again.
A few years ago - when I was 17 - I met a guy called Kieran Kieran Patrick Jones. He was from Dublin but studying at Edinburgh University. I was only in my last year of high school but we got on really well. He was just getting over a relationship so we stayed friends but he was well he was the most amazing man Ive ever met. After about a year - it was my first day of University and for some reason I woke up and realised that I was in love with him. I met him in a pub after my lectures and just blurted it out. Luckily he felt the same and we kind of got together.
She stopped for a few seconds thinking things over in her head before continuing.
Anyway, we were together after that for four years - I had finished my degree and was doing a year at teacher training college and Kieran was taking a year out before getting a job. We had so many plans - to travel and see the world together - but I found out that I was pregnant. I told Kieran after about two months and he was really happy about it and although it was never something we had thought about we decided that a child was what we wanted. I mean, I was 21 and he was 22, we were living together and we were both serious about the relationship. Kieran proposed to me - I guess to make an honest woman out of me or something.
Adele stopped again and played with the small silver and diamond ring that she wore on a chain around her neck.
Is is that your engagement ring? Luka asked quietly.
Yes, said Adele - in a tone barely more than a whisper.
Adele really - if you dont want to tell me this you dont have to. He put his hand on her shoulder. But if you want to tell me - Im listening.
We were waiting until I was past three months before telling anyone else about the baby - but we were growing to be so happy about it. Last February - we visited friends just outside Edinburgh and we were driving back home when there was an accident. A um drink driver he um drove into us - on the drivers side and it was serious.
Tears began to stream down Adeles face.
I was knocked unconscious - but only had cuts and bruises. Kieran he was erm killed on impact they reckon. And the baby well - I miscarried.
Luka could see it was tearing Adele apart to tell him all of this. He moved closer to her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, she leant into his chest and wept. Somehow though, her sadness turned into anger and she pushed herself out of his arms and stood up.
So you see Luka - youve no right to tell me that I dont know how it feels to lose your family. I might not have lost my wife and children - I didnt have them to lose - but I have lost the single most important man in my life and my unborn child so dont tell me what I do or dont feel!
Adele Im sorry - but I had no idea that anything like this had happened to you, said Luka apologetically.
Yeah - well thats because I dont let it rule my life. You know - shit stuff happens but you just have to deal with it and move on otherwise well, youll spend the rest of your life dwelling on what happened and what might have been instead of remembering the good things and making the best of what you * do * have.
Adele stopped and took a deep breath. Luka could almost see her face crumble and she crouched down on the floor and wept. Forgetting all thoughts of his own family, Luka knelt down in front of her and wrapped her up in his arms. She rested her head on the side of his neck and sobbed, but eventually her tears ran dry and they sat cross-legged facing each other.
I Ive never told anyone else about the baby. Kieran was the only one who knew. I guess its just brought back a whole load of memories that should have been left in the past.
Adele - you know that Im always here for you to talk to.
Adele nodded and smiled at him.
I know - thank you, she said quietly and shyly - looking much younger than her 23 years.
Ok - sit there for a minute, Luka instructed her as he stood up.
Why? asked Adele straining her neck to look up at him.
Just do it!
Ok - whatever.
Adele heard noises coming from the kitchen - cupboard doors banging, plates and cups rattling - but she stayed where she was and waited for Lukas return.
Close your eyes, he told her.
She obliged and when she opened them she was amazed by what she saw. A tray covered in plates of shortbread and scones, a bottle of Scottish whiskey, four cans of Irn-Bru (a uniquely Scottish drink which was almost impossible to find in Chicago) and even a haggis still in its wrapping with a small tartan bow round it. Adeles face lit up when she saw it all.
It was supposed to stop you feeling homesick when you came back from Edinburgh but I figured this was a better time.
Thanks you so much! gushed Adele, cracking open a can of Irn-Bru and taking a long drink.
Later that evening, Luka and Adele were lying on Lukas bed wrapped up in sleeping bags and duvets, watching Its A Wonderful Life and drinking the bottle of whiskey that Luka had bought Adele. Luka had asked Adele to go with him to Carters the next day and Adele seemed genuinely enthusiastic about spending the next few days with Luka.
As the film was drawing to a close Luka leant over to Adele and whispered something in her ear.
Its 12:04 am - Merry Christmas!
Adele leant forward and planted a small kiss on Lukas forehead.
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