Music of the Night

Finale by Sara

 

Rebecca’s sobs were quieter now, and she was no longer shaking. They sat for a very long time in silence, Luka gently stroking Rebecca’s hair. The room was darker now, and getting very cold. There was hardly a sound in the room apart from their breathing. Luka listened, and heard the ticking of a clock on the bedside table. Beyond that there was the faint murmur of conversation punctuated by loud bursts of laughter, from far below them in the bar. It was getting very late.

Abruptly, Rebecca pulled away from him and wiped her eyes. She looked deep into Luka’s brown eyes and smiled, before glancing self-consciously at her watch.

“God…it’s late.” she said.

Luka took her hand.

“Are you ok now?” he asked, softly.

“Aye…I’m fine now. I’m sorry about that, I….”

Luka touched her mouth with his finger tenderly, interrupting her words.

“Rebecca….don’t apologise.”

She smiled again, and stood up, stretching her arms and letting out a loud groan.

“Oh! I feel better now…there’s nothing like a good cry, is there?”

Luka looked down. Sometimes it was hard to cry. He remembered the dreadful day when his family were killed, years ago. He could see himself, the image as vivid as a picture on a television screen, sitting in the dark in the middle of the night, in an unfamiliar room at a friend of a friend’s home. He had sat up all night, listening to the sound of distant gunfire from outside the window, trying desperately to cry. Luka remembered the pain in his chest, the agonising feeling in his heart that had felt like red hot knives, as he waited for the torrent of tears that just would not come.

Rebecca went over to the window and closed it tightly, shutting out the cold wind. She pulled the curtains across, and switched on the bedside lamp. The warm glow of the lamp illuminated Luka’s face, and she gasped sharply at the paleness of his face, the dark, troubled look of pain in his eyes. Rebecca crossed the room quickly and sat by his side. She touched his shoulder.

“Luka…what is it?”

Luka snapped out of his reverie and turned to look at her. He tried to smile.

“Bad memories, that is all…..”

Rebecca hesitated. “From the war?” she asked, nervously.

Luka nodded.

Rebecca stroked his hand slowly.

“I think that’s why I found it easy to talk to ye…”she began, “Because….I think I could see ye had experienced bad things…It’s as though I knew ye would understand….I don’t know, it’s strange.”

“I understand what it is like to have these terrible memories, Rebecca.” Luka said,

“I also know how hard it is sometimes to…to share them with somebody. You know you can always tell me….I will never judge you, I just want to be there for you.”

“I know, Luka. And I’m sorry I tried to push you away. It’s hard…I was scared of ma own feelings…I tried to stop them, but I couldn’t. In a way, I think I didnae want te get too close to a man again…I didnae want to risk being that…that vulnerable.”

Rebecca reached into Luka’s shirt pocket and removed his cigarettes. She boldly helped herself to one and lit it. Luka couldn’t help smiling, and he took the packet from her and lit one for himself.

Rebecca  moved to the centre of the bed and sat in a cross-legged position. She took a deep drag on the cigarette. Luka moved over to be closer to her, and imitated her posture. They sat facing each other, like a pair of smoking buddha statues.

“I’ll tell you what happened.” Rebecca said quietly.

“It was ma sister Fern. She was two years younger than me, and we were basically complete opposites.”

Luka indicated the photograph on the wall.

“Is that her?”

“Yes,” Rebecca replied, “We do look alike, as ye can see.  But we really were like chalk and cheese. She was the brains, I was the creative one. She studied Economics and Politics…she wanted te be the first Prime Minister of an independent Scotland! She never lived te see the devolution of Scotland though, but she would have been a part of it, I know she would!”

Luka smiled as Rebecca’s eyes lit up with loving memories. He did not know much about the politics between England and Scotland, but he understood what it was to be proud of your country and to want independence.

“Fern came over te New York to see us, it was about two years ago. We hadn’t been living there very long, we moved there after ma Mum died. Dad bought a bar in Greenwich Village and turned it into a Scottish theme pub, and it was doing really well. Ma sister stayed in Scotland, she was still studying at Glasgow University at the time, I think she was president of every student political pressure group there! She came over to see us during the summer vacation…it was her first visit…well, her…her only visit..”

Luka saw the pain flickering in Rebecca’s eyes, and he reached out his hand to touch hers. She took his hand and squeezed the palm, taking his strength to help her continue.

“I was seeing an American guy at the time, a born and bred New Yorker. Hank…..He was wild..I suppose I was still a little bit wild then, too. I ‘d tasted excitement before and I was still attracted to it. Anything that was different, anything that would make people disapprove….He’d been in prison before, for drug dealing, but he said it was all behind him. I believed him…that seems so nave and stupid now, but he was very persuasive. He had…a way about him, he could make me melt with one glance. Those eyes…” Rebecca shuddered, and tightened her grip on Luka’s hand.

“But when I think of those eyes now, they make me feel ill…”

Luka saw the pain Rebecca was experiencing as she told her story. He wanted to make the pain disappear, he couldn’t bear to see her suffer like this. He knew what it felt like, that awful twisting in the stomach, the dull ache of grief that would not ease.

“Rebecca,” he said, “You don’t have to tell me…”

“No, Luka, I want te…..We’d had a date planned fe that evening, but Fern managed to get hold of some tickets fe the Elgar Cello Concerto at the Lincoln Center that night. It’s one of ma favourite pieces, and I couldnae refuse the chance to go, especially in such a wonderful venue. So I called Hank to say I couldn’t make it….and…he hit the roof! He was shouting at me, he went mad…I couldnae believe it. I thought, ‘that’s it, I’m no putting up wi this’. And I dumped him, I just slammed the phone down on him….I had no idea what he was gonnae do….”

Luka lit another cigarette and offered one to Rebecca.

“So we went off to the concert together, Fern and I, and then it happened on the way home.”

Rebecca’s voice began to sound shaky as she recounted the details of that night.

“One minute we were just strolling along, laughing. The next….” Rebecca faltered, then took a deep breath and carried on.  

“Fern said she was freezing cold, she was quite skinny and really felt the cold. So I gave her my jacket, I was joking about having enough meat on ma bones te keep me warm. And that’s when Hank suddenly appeared…from nowhere. He grabbed hold of Fern and dragged her away into an alleyway. I saw the knife, he’d shoved it into her stomach, I could see the handle sticking out…covered in blood….I could hear her screaming; I was screaming too, I couldnae tell which voice was hers. It was like a dream, and everything seemed te be happening too slowly. I was running towards them but it took forever, it was like I was running through thick syrup. I made it to the alleyway, but they weren’t there….I…I panicked, I didnae know what to do. I shouted their names, but there wasnae a sign anywhere….just the pools of blood on the floor…Oh Luka, I felt sick! I ran back out intae the street and called the police from a call-box.”

Luka tried not to think of the photographs from the lecture hall, tried to block out the voice of the lecturer reading out the victim’s injuries.

Rebecca had fallen silent, her face ashen. She looked into Luka’s dark eyes for a last glimmer of support to help her. He gazed back, feeling pity and love for this beautiful, tragic woman.

“By the time they found her, she was almost dead.” Rebecca’s voice was flat, devoid of emotion. She was completely drained.

“They tried to save her at the hospital, but it was too late, she’d lost too much blood.”

A single tear trickled down Rebecca’s cheek, and her lip quivered as she tried to regain her composure.

Luka moved across the bed to Rebecca and took her into his arms, and she immediately let go and began to cry.

“Oh Luka, I’ve spent the past two years going over it all in my mind….they got Hank for it, sent him to prison for life….but, I can’t stop thinking that it was my fault! If I hadn’t lent her my jacket…he thought it was me, it was supposed to be me! It’s my fault she’s dead, Luka…”

“No, Rebecca, it isn’t your fault…” Luka said, cupping her chin in his hands and turning her face up to his. He thought of his own tortured feelings about his family’s death. How many times had he wished that he had not chosen that moment to go to the store, that he had stayed there with them instead? He would rather have died with them. He was haunted forever by that – he had left them there, in their home, minutes before the shell destroyed the building. For years Luka had blamed himself for their death, but now, as he felt Rebecca’s pain and guilt about her sister’s death, he realised that they were not to blame at all.

“No, my darling….It is NOT your fault…” Luka repeated. As he moved his face closer to hers, Luka felt a great peace passing into his mind as the realisation formed – he was not to blame…Rebecca was not to blame. United in their pain, but also united as they were released a little from it.

He kissed her gently, pulling her close until their arms were entwined tightly together. Luka could feel her soft, warm body pressing against him, and he almost swooned with desire. She reached up and ran her fingers through his thick, dark hair and kissed him with a fierce intensity. Luka pulled away slightly and began kissing her face, making his way along her cheek to her neck and her ears. She moaned as he nuzzled her ear, and he whispered gently,

“Volim te….volim te…”  Rebecca did not speak Croatian, but she could tell what he meant.  She whispered back,

“I love you too…I love you.”

THE END

 

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