DVE SELA: VRBOEC

The drive from Skopje was silent, unwelcoming. Petar’s fingers were tight on the steering wheel, his lips pursed into a tight white line. The silence made it clear that Lazar was no grandson of his, not anymore.

‘Did you come back to find a new wife?’ Petar spat.

‘I came back to see you, to see the family,’ Lazar didn’t look at his grandfather.

‘You came twenty years too late.’

‘I had a life to live.’

‘So did your wife and look what you did to her. One woman wasn’t enough so you found some kurva to stick your cock in.’

‘It wasn’t like—’

Shut up. I know what it was like, so does the whole village. You have disgraced my family. Everyone knows who you are.’

The Yugo’s brakes whined as it came to a stop in the front yard. Layers of sleet covering the browning grass glittered in the headlights. Fog clouded Lazar’s view of the rundown stone house. He slammed the passenger door, rocking the Yugo. The humming engine died when Petar took the key from the ignition.

Lazar could make out a figure loping from the front door. Her dress fluttered around her ankles, and her braided dark hair swung like a pendulum behind her. Ghost-like, she flowed through the fog and ran toward him with her thin arms outstretched.

In the way loose strands of Sveta’s hair fluttered around her face, Lazar was transported back to when she walked him into the hills behind their house in the height of summer decades ago. Standing regal in the hills, the breeze would kiss her smooth face and caress her hair. Together they would drink in the details of surrounding snow-capped mountains, green tobacco fields and the bustling village below in awed silence.

As she neared the two men, Sveta aged before Lazar’s eyes.

Sunken wrinkles lined the corners of her eyes and mouth, and faint spots of melanoma dotted her cheeks and nose. Her hair was dyed a rich brown to cover greying roots. Although she lacked the strength of her younger years, she clung to his muscled arms and back with her shaking hands, calloused by decades of manual labour.

Tucking his head into her neck, he inhaled the scent of tobacco leaves and straw bedding. He wiped tears from his eyes with his sleeve before they could fall. Rumours of his affair and divorce made it over oceans and foreign lands back to this stone house nestled in a small village of a thumb-tack nation. Unlike Petar, Sveta would forgive him. She always forgave him no matter the nature and gravity of his faults.

When they pulled away, Lazar kissed both her cheeks. He cleared his throat and smiled down at her. Sveta kept grasping at his face and shoulders as if he weren’t really there. Petar stepped between them and urged Sveta to go inside. Lazar followed his grandparents through the winter haze toward the golden light coming from the stone house.

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