To say that I'm surprised when I see a woman standing on the stairs, wearing my son's shirt, would be an understatement. I can only assume that this is Sarah. There is no one else Harm would have here. At least, I hope not.
"Uhm…" Harm starts, looking back at me.
I smile and walk passed him. "Don't even try to explain yourself, Harmon," I tell him. "It'll only make it worse." I know my son, now don't I? He'll probably stick his foot into his mouth like when he did to ask if he could use the house. And he'll insert deep. Harm slowly closes the door and turns around to me. "No offense, Mom, but what are you doing here?"
I knew that this was coming. I should've called, I realize that, but it was all a bit last minute. "I'm sorry that I didn't call, but Frank suddenly had to come to DC and I decided that it might be nice to visit and see how the house had turned out." While I'm talking, the woman comes walking down. Apparently, she doesn't mind that I see her walking around in my son's shirt. Well, I have to say, if this is Sarah, or Mac, and she's been taking care of the kids with him, he's damn lucky. She's a beauty. "You must be Sarah," I say, sticking my hand out to her. "Trish Burnett."
She has a firm grip on my hand. That's good. That means that she's confident. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Burnett."
And polite, too. Wow. "Call me Trish," I tell her. "Mrs. Burnett makes me feel so old."
Sarah smiles. "All right, Trish. So, what do you think of the house? And please take your jacket off."
I look around the hallway. There are a few toys lying around, a backpack, two coats and three pairs of rain boots are standing in the corner. Harm has done a great job. The hallway alone looks amazing. "I'm proud of you, Harm. You did a great job."
Harm shyly smiles. He's probably a little bit self-conscious right now. And he should be. I thought I told him better than to open the door wearing nothing more than boxers and a T-shirt. Oh, well… It doesn't really matter anyway.
"Where are the kids?" I ask, taking off my jacket.
Finally, my son finds his tongue again. "Gabe and Noa are in the living room, watching TV." He's planted the kids in front of the TV? Does he do that often? Sarah softly laughs at my face as she puts my jacket on the rack. "Don't worry, this doesn't happen very often. We try to encourage the kids to be creative, but when we get dressed after the kids, it's on. For that and Sesame Street after dinner."
With three lines, she has put my worries at ease. That's good. "So, what is Saturday morning like around here?"
Harm inhales. "How about we explain that after I introduce you to the kids, and we get dressed?"
Sarah puts a hand on his arm. "Why don't you start breakfast? I'll get a quick shower and get dressed, take Reen downstairs and then we'll switch." They communicate in silence. With one look at each other, they say so much. I can tell. So they really have the connection I thought they'd have. Harm nods. "Just hurry up, okay?"
She rolls her eyes. "Don't I always?" Evading Harm's hands, she runs up the steps. Out of sight.
"So, that is Sarah." I smile, but my son knows me well enough to know what I really mean. He starts to walk towards the living room and I follow. Every time I see him it strikes me how much he looks like his father. A little more every time I see him. "I'm not going to say it, Mom," he says. I stop dead in my tracks when I see what Harm has done with the living room. Wow! "You build that fireplace yourself? I can't remember it."
Harm gives me a sheepish smile. "Yeah. We had one in the apartment, and I figured that it would be nice to have one here as well."
My eyes drift to the kids in front of the TV. They're laughing over a Tom & Jerry's cartoon. There's a doll house standing against one wall, complete with dolls and furniture. I know that doll house… "Harm?"
The kids jump up, hearing my voice so close. Two pairs of eyes look intently at me. When Harm comes back into the room, they visibly relax. He winks at them. "This is my Mom, guys. Mom, this are Gabe and Noa." They give me hesitant smiles and then turn their heads back to the TV. So if Harm is okay with it, they are? "What is it?"
I point to the doll house. "Where did you get that?"
He smiles his father's smile at me. "Grams' attic."
Is that Sarah's dolls house? I didn't think he'd remember that she had that. "You went to Belleville to get that? When?"
He shrugs. "Couple of weeks ago. Noa loves it, and Grams didn't mind." With that, he leaves me standing in the living room. I look around. A toy box, a playpen, complete with stuffed animals and toys. A small plastic table with chairs, covered in pads and pencils. I take it the kids like to draw and color. Then I move into the kitchen. Harm is already prepping the batter for the pancakes, so I pull myself up a stool on the kitchen island and look around again. "This is your kitchen, isn't it?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Pretty obvious, don't you think?" I don't have to explain myself. This looks like the kitchen in his loft. Then something hits me. "What happened to the dining room?"
Harm looks up and pours me a cup of coffee. "You mean, what happened to the wall between the kitchen and the dining room? I tore it down. Sar and I figured that we weren't really going to use an extra dining room, because we always eat in the kitchen, so now we have an extra big kitchen." Oh Lord. I gave up hope that my son was ever going to change in to a family man, but this is the best proof any mother can ever get. Wow. "Daddy?"
Suddenly, Gabe is standing next to Harm. And my eyes grow even bigger. They call him daddy?
Harm strokes over his head. "What's up, sport?"
"Is it okay if I go draw?"
Harm crouches down to Gabe's level. "You came to ask me if you can go draw? Why is that?"
The little guy looks up to me and then back to Harm. "Because," he states matter-of-factly.
"Oh, okay. Yeah, buddy, of course you can go draw. No problem." Gabe nods and goes back to the living room. Harm sees the look in my eyes and shrugs. "He gets a little insecure around strangers. But he's talking to us, and that's progress."
I slowly sip my coffee. "He didn't talk?"
Harm shakes his head and his eyes get dark. "He didn't dare. His father used to hit him for talking. He was terrified that we would do the same. Sarah and I had to come up with some pretty convincing arguments for him." A couple of minutes later, the woman my son now calls Sarah comes walking into the kitchen with a baby on her arm. When he first called to talk about his partner, I knew there was something going on. Now that he's started to call her Sarah, I'm even more convinced.
"Breakfast smells heavenly, Flyboy," she says. "As always."
So they are into the whole nicknames thing too? The morning goes on slowly, and every time I see them together, or with the kids, I get more convinced that they make the perfect little family. Every light touch, every time they make eye contact… Just before we're going out to buy a Christmas tree, the phone rings and Sarah picks it up. "Hello?" She listens to the caller on the other end of the line and the color drains from her face. Within three steps Harm is standing next to her and softly rubbing her back. The expression on his face is concerned. "Next week? So we don't even get to spent Christmas…" Biting her lip, Sarah nods. "Yes, of course. We knew that when we got in. I just didn't think it would be before the New Year." She runs a hand through her hair. "I'll tell them, Ellen. Thanks for calling."
Harm carefully takes the phone out of her hands and turns her around to face him. "What did she say?"
"They have found a foster family for them. The couple wants them to move in by next Sunday." Now they're both looking pale. Harm silently wraps his arms around her and closes his eyes. So that is what this is about. They've found a foster family for the kids. Within the week, this will no longer be an occupied house. They will no longer be a makeshift family. They will go back to their own apartments, pick up their own lives. And now, seeing my son like this, I wonder if he's ready. If he's ready to go back to his life the way it was.

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