The fire heated the room, but for some reason, there was still a chill in the room. Naomi rubbed her arms through the dark red robe that her mother had let her borrow. The time for dinner had long passed, but her mother had offered to cook her something to eat. She'd turned it down. She was here for answers, and she knew that no matter what those answers are, she wouldn't want to heart afterwards.
"It's not right," her mother said, moving around the room, "I don't hear from you for months."
"I'm sorry mother," she said quietly, "Several things have come up that occupied my time. It hasn't been the best year."
Her mother stared at her, but with her ice cold blue eyes, it almost felt like she was seeing into Naomi, "You're too thin. Haven't you been eating well?"
She closed her eyes, she hated it when her mother asked forty questions but it had been months since they'd seen or heard from each other, "I've been working out."
"How long has it been since you had a home cooked meal?"
"I'm going to make you something to eat."
Naomi knew what she was doing; she was trying to prolong the visit by making Naomi eat. She didn't really blame her mother; both she and Frederic had been born in England and had come to America. Her mother was diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder years ago and didn't get along well with most people. She chose to spend most of her days alone, but she always desperately sought a relationship with her children. A hope that had crumbled when Joseph left.
"I'm not hungry, mother."
"You will be once you smell what I have to make. Here, I've made you some tea-"
"Mother," Naomi said a bit more sharply than she should have, "I've been in contact with Joseph."
Her mother dropped the cup of tea that she was holding, it shattered against the floor.
"I've got it," Naomi said and moved to the floor to pick up the pieces
"Leave it for now," her mother grabbed her wriest and pulled her up, "You've seen Joseph? Is he okay?"
"Tell me about him," her mother pulled her up and nearly dragged her to the dining table, "Is he…is he like he was when he left?"
"You mean, is he still irresponsible and selfish? No." Naomi shook her head, "he's completely changed, he's done a complete 360 and he's grown up in some places and…hasn't in others I guess. He's still hot headed and stubborn."
"Well, that's every Braun; you should've met your father's parents."
"He looks a lot like dad did. But he has your eyes."
"Why isn't he with you?"
She heard her mother's heartbreak in her words, "Because I wanted to come and talk to you by myself."
"You could've still brought your brother."
Naomi ignored it. It would surprise her if Joseph ever came to visit their mother, "I need to talk to you about that fire that we were in when Joseph and I were kids."
Her mother hesitated, "It was a gas leak, you know that."
"No it wasn't."
"Oh, so you know something I don't?"
"I need to truth of what happened that night, mom. You're the only one that gives me that. I think it's linked to the night that CPS took us. Or maybe not, because the men that came for us weren't CPS, were they?"
Her mother shifted in her seat and sighed, "Naomi, I wouldn't be talking about lying if I were you. How long were you planning on not telling me that you'd been talking with your brother?"
"Mom, I wanted to tell you. But things are happening that are beyond my control and it would put us in more danger if we made contact."
"What are you talking about?"
"Its part of the reason why I can't stay long. I need to know what happened the night of the fire."
Miriam drew away, "I have to clean up the mess on the floor."
"Mother-," Naomi bent down next to her, "Mom, I need to know what's going on. Were we taken because of something dad did?"
Miriam wouldn't look at her, but she shook her head, "Your father wasn't working for the Facility at the time you were taken."
"What?" she whispered, "Mom, what happened that night?"
Miriam grabbed her hands and held onto her tightly, "Naomi, those two days where you and your brother were taken from us were probably two of the longest days I'll ever experience.
Miriam held her hands in her lap and rocked back and forth. Tears poured down her face as Frederic continuously asked question after question. He was angry, but not with her. However, the harshness in his tone did nothing to calm her down.
"Do you remember anything else?"
"No," she wiped her eyes, "I can't remember anything else, they came and they took them and I should've fought harder, I should've-," she started sobbing again.
"Hey," he knelt down and grabbed her hands, "Listen to me, it's not your fault, there was nothing you could've done about it."
"If you had fought them harder, then they would've just hurt you."
"I just don't understand, why would CPS come for Joe and Naomi? They never came to talk to us or investigate like they always do… and you should've known that something was happening because you work for the city."
"Well, honey, I don't think that they were Child Protective Services."
"Then what do they want?" she demanded, "What's worth taking our kids over?"
He averted his gaze, like he knew that there was something he wasn't telling her, "I think I can get them back."
She looked up sharply and gripped his hands, "You know where they are?"
"I want to go with you." She reached for her coat.
"No," he put his hand on her shoulder, "You're not going to like what'll probably happen."
She hesitated, "Frederic, what are you going to do?"
I need you to stay here, the last thing I want is for you to get hurt," he put his hands on the sides of her face, "I'm going to call you every hour on the hour and if I don't, then I want you call this number,"
"Who is it?"
She closed her eyes tightly and blinked more tears away, "You don't work a desk job at City Hall, do you?"
"No." he loaded a gun, "But we can talk about that later, the more time we waste, the higher the chances that I can't find them"
"Honey," she whispered and grabbed his arm.
He interrupted her with a kiss, "I'm going to bring them back."
She managed a nod, "I love you."
He clasped her hands one last time, "I'll call you in an hour."
"What happened then?" Naomi asked.
"I don't know," her mother admitted, "He never talked about it after he brought you and Joseph back." "
The next couple of hours dragged on for Miriam while she waited in the house for her husband's calls. She couldn't ever recall the house being this quiet, the ticking of the grandfather clock and the sound of her bare feet seemed so loud.
Frederic kept his word and called her on time for the next two hours with the same results.
"I'm still looking. But I think I'm getting close."
As the third hour drew closer, she sat next to the phone and tried to keep from having a panic attack. What if he couldn't find Joseph and Naomi? She'd seen her parents divorce after the death of her brother, and she was desperate for that not to happen to them. What if Frederic didn't even come back? Would they come back for her?
The alarm signaling the end of the hour got her attention. She stood up and started pacing; Frederic usually called right before the alarm went off. Had he forgotten? Had he been caught or killed?
Something might be wrong, she better call the number that Frederic gave her and get someone else on the case too.
Just as she reached the phone, a car horn honked outside.
Immediately she stood up and ran for the door. The snow and ice had stopped outside, and it was 12 degrees, but she didn't even think about it. Without a thought, she jerked the door open and ran down the steps. Joseph and Naomi met her half way; she fell to her knees and pulled her kids close. She kissed both their faces and held them against her chest and began crying for what felt like the millionth time today.
"It's alright, it's alright, you're safe now." she whispered.
Frederic walked until he was standing behind the children, his face was pale and he looked like he'd aged ten years in three hours, "Naomi, Joseph, why don't you go inside and get warm?"
"Go on," Miriam told them and let them go reluctantly.
He took her hand in his, "I think it'd be best if you let the kids sleep in there with you tonight. I don't think that those men will come back, but I think you'll sleep better knowing that they're there. And I think they'll sleep better knowing you're there."
"What about you?"
He smiled slightly, "I'm going to keep watch."
There was something that he wasn't telling her. She'd been married to him for nine years, she knew when he was keeping secrets from her, "Who were they?"
He lowered his head, "I can't tell you that. But I don't think you'll have to worry, I've made arrangements that should keep the children safe for a while."
She heard the exhaustion and resignation in his tone, "What have you done?"
"It's cold out here," he took off his coat and wrapped it around her, "We can talk about it in the morning. The last thing you need is to be sick after everything that's happened today, I mean, where are your shoes? "
"Frederic," she pulled out of his grip, "Please."
"I'm going to have to leave for a while," he told her brokenly.
"What?" she whispered in shock, "Where?"
"But it's not going to be for long," he promised, "Just long enough to ensure that Joseph and Naomi stay safe."
"I don't understand; why aren't they?"
"I don't think I can properly explain it because I don't understand it either," he took her head in his hands, "It'll just be for a couple of months, and I'll be back home."
"And how will I know if you're alright?"
"I'm going to call as much as possible."
"And what about the kids? They're going to be confused; they're going to want to know what happened to you-"
"It'd just be best if they didn't know fully about what happened today," he told her, "I'm going to leave in the morning."
He tried to take her hand, but she pulled away, "Don't touch me."
"Mira," he grabbed her shoulders again.
She fell against him numbly, she couldn't cry. There was nothing left. This was a dream, and it had to be. She lost her kids and now she was losing her husband? It didn't make sense.
"I'll come back," he whispered, "And we'll be a family again, I promise."
"But wait," Naomi asked, she'd listened to her mother's story patiently, but it still hadn't shed any light on how it all happened. However, there was one thing bothering her. "He said that he'd keep in touch, when did he…I mean, does he still call you?"
"A little more than that," A voice said behind her.
She jumped and backed against the wall when she recognized her father's voice.
He leaned against the doorframe of the stairwell, "Well, this should be interesting."