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The tunnel entrance held artifacts and equipment from that dark period. The public was allowed to enter the first part of the tunnel to see how narrow, cold and dark it was. While Petar and Dragan were conversing in Bosnian, Chelsea decided to get some pictures so she scrambled ahead of the group. She walked in further than the public was supposed to go. Her running shoes felt slippery on the muddy wooden boards. She turned on her cellphone flashlight but the battery was very low. Dragan was calling for everyone to exit the tunnel, but Chelsea wanted to get just one more shot, she crouched to nail that final frame, but she slipped on the mud and stumbled forward, the momentum propelling her through a flimsy wooden barrier and out into nothing, just a huge hole in front of her. Oh-oh, she thought as she fell. But she landed feet first onto a soft muddy ledge and thought, not so bad, maybe a twisted ankle. Then from above, some loose rocks tumbled down and the largest among them was the one that collided with her head.
Her father’s worried face looked down at her. “Chelsea, can you hear me?” he pleaded.
She nodded. “Yes, Daddy. Where am I?”
“You had a nasty fall and a possible concussion. You were on a tour and you fell into a hole where they were replacing a drainage pipe. That was about twenty-four hours ago.”
“I was taking pictures.”
“Don’t worry, Darling, I’m here, I’ll look after you. The good news is that the doctors did a scan and everything looks normal. You have quite a lump on the back of your head but after they examine you again, you can get out of here maybe tomorrow. And when you are up and about again, I am going to personally kill you!”
“How did you get here, Daddy?”
“I was contacted by the local authorities. It was your young man who was gave them the information about your hostel and they had your passport info. They called me. I caught the next flight.”
“What young man?”
“Petar, the young man who found you and got you out of that tunnel and into the hospital. He was here waiting for you to wake up. I just sent him in search of coffee. A nice chap. The flowers on the table are from him. He and I have had some fascinating discussions. I have to tell you I was extremely upset, coming here. Not only did you disobey me by coming here, you forced me to come back to a place to which I never wanted to return.”
“I’m so sorry to put you through all this. Does Mummy know?”
“No, I thought I would wait to see exactly what your situation was before I called her.”
“Thank goodness! She would be so angry. I mean, I know you are angry too, but at least you are reasonable.”
Petar entered the room juggling coffees, paper bags, and more flowers. He stared at Chelsea. “You are back! I am so happy to see you awake.”
“I’m so grateful. I hear you’re the one who rescued me.”
“I carried you up the ladder. It seemed easy. It was strange how strong I felt at that moment, I felt incredibly strong.”
“Remember that illuminated manuscript at the museum? I had the feeling of being carried up on the angels’ ladder. And there was bright light around me.”
“Hmm,” Petar reflected. “I was wearing a headlamp.”
A nurse came in and motioned for Andrew and Petar to leave. “She wants us to go so she and the doctor can have a look at you,” Petar translated. “She says we should come back in the morning.”
Andrew bent to kiss Chelsea on the forehead. “See you soon, Darling. Get some rest.”
Petar gave Chelsea the typical European double kiss on the cheeks as Dad watched on. The men left talking loudly all the way down the hall. Chelsea smiled. Now she had two favourite men in her life. The flowers perfumed the room and she felt her eyelids getting heavy. And then, blissful sleep.
The trio spent a few days together before Andrew flew home. Chelsea decided to stay longer to see more of Sarajevo and, basically, to spend some quality time with Petar.
On the day before Andrew parted, father and daughter stood together on a hill. They placed snow white lilies on a grave marker. Andrew pulled out of his wallet a battered old photograph of a young woman.
“She was so beautiful and brave.” He passed it to Chelsea. Then they embraced and Andrew said softly with tears in his eyes, “Thank you for bringing me back here. It was something I dreaded, but no longer. I can almost sense Katija’s presence. It makes me feel calm and peaceful.”
“I wish I had known her, Daddy, but I know she’s up there with the other angels looking out for us and now I have a face to put to her.”
They descended the hill wordlessly. On the grave a single lily floated up a few feet, then fell to the ground softly, releasing a heavenly fragrance.