The door falls close behind them. Behind the kids. Behind my kids. The day Harm and I dreaded the most, has come. Their new foster parents, Pam and Jeff Newton, have come and taken them to their new home. All three of them. Gabe, Noa and Shireen. Harm and I look at each other and realize that this is it. No more wake up calls at 0230 hours because Shireen is hungry, no more phone calls to the office at 1600 hours because Gabe just needs to talk to one of us, no more making pancakes for an audience, no more Saturday morning spent reading to them in bed, no more singing lullaby's to Shireen. The house suddenly seems so empty. As if someone has come and taken all the furniture and things out of it that usually make it a home. And maybe that is what has happened. Now the kids are not here anymore, the entire house looks so different.
I start to walk towards the living room and wonder why we have so little plants. But then I realize that Shireen's playpen, and the toy box used to stand there. The doll house seems abandoned. It was all there just seconds ago. Just yesterday we were sitting here, with hot chocolate, watching the original "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory". And now, there's nothing. There will be no more bottles to heat, no more big dinners to cook, no more prayers before dinner. Harm silently follows me to the kitchen. Absently, I let my hand go over the counter, remembering where all their toys were before we packed them. How usually the kitchen looks like there's been an explosion and we haven't picked up the pieces yet. The kitchen used to look homey, but right now, it's so cleaned up that it could appear in a lifestyle magazine. I stare out of the window into the back yard and look at the swing. We've spent so many hours using with that swing. Gabe had his first moment feeling totally carefree on that swing. His first moment looking totally carefree. He'd tell Harm to push him higher and higher, so that he could fly. Sometimes he was a mini version of my Flyboy. The one standing behind me right now. All of that is going to change too. I'm not going to wake up in Harm's arms anymore, we're not going to have any more silent conversations, waiting for the alarm to go off. We're not going to cuddle on the couch after a long day of work anymore. Harm wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me close. But he doesn't say anything. He doesn't really have to. I know what he's going through.
"Do you feel like a part of your heart just walked out the door, too?" he whispers in my ear.
All I can do is nod; the lump in my throat growing. That's the exact right way to describe what I'm feeling right now. Like part of my heart just walked out the door and isn't ever going to come back. And I don't know if I can deal with that. If I want to deal with that. "Me too." Harm rests his chin on the top of my head. All our bags are packed; Harm and I are going to move out too. I'm going back to my apartment. An apartment that is never going to look the same to me again. That is the place where Harm and I started to be a family. It's the place where we started to make baby steps towards being a family. This house is the place where all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I feel like all of this is going to suffocate me. I'd gotten used to the changes in my life, to like them even, and now it all changed back. But the person who took the decision to take care of three neglected kids three and a half months ago, is someone I don't know. She may look like me, but all her priorities have changed. Her priorities are with her 'family', a family that no longer exists.
Harm tugs on my hand. "Let's go," he says.
I follow him without a word. In the hallway, he picks our bags up and we walk out. He locks the door and guides me to the Lexus. The last time, I'm sure. I take a deep breath and exhale. I don't even ask where Harm is taking me, because I have a pretty good idea.
About an hour and a half later, we pull up in Blacksburg. Other than the three short sentences Harm has said, we haven't uttered a word to each other. We prep "Sarah" in silence, and after a little while, we're up in the air. Finally, the unshed tears I've been holding back, start to flow. This was not supposed to happen! Harm and I were going to take care of the kids for a little while, and emotions weren't supposed to be involved. The kids weren't supposed to touch me like this. I wasn't supposed to get attached to them. But, whether or not I like it, that is exactly what happened. Harm and I got attached to those three little kids. When Noa started to talk to us, that felt like a present. Getting a healthy Shireen out of the hospital, was a miracle. Gabe talking to us, for the first time in months, was a victory. The fact that we were 'Mommy' and 'Daddy' to them made it even more special.
I press my lips together and take another deep breath. My life has swirled around 180 degrees in one direction almost four months ago, and now it swirled 180 degrees back and I need to cope with it. I'm gonna go to my apartment tonight, I'm going to soak in the hot tub for hours, go to bed early. And I'm gonna hope that I can sleep knowing that Harm is on the other side of town. That the kids are under someone else's wing. And I'm going to have to believe that they are going to be okay.
Because, deep inside, I have this feeling that some bad things are going to happen. Something is going to happen to the kids.

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