“Kira’s missing. She’s gone. Mrs S, they’re all gone.” Sarah shouts it into the phone knowing that she’s the one who’s done this. She turned down the offer and now they’ve taken Kira.
“What do you mean she’s missing?” Felix’s voice is clear as crystal through the phone, and Sarah can tell he’s confused. What she wants - needs - is for him to be here. She wants him, and Paul, and to get Kira back from them, the bastards. “Gone where?”
“They’ve taken her. Felix, they’ve taken Kira.” There’s no need to explain who they are. There’s only one group it could be.
“Holy shit.” She can tell he’s stunned, but she’s not done yet.
“And Felix- I think Mrs S might have been working with them. She might have been my…. My watcher. My monitor.”
“Wake up sleepy head,” Mrs S taps on Kira’s door, pushing it open and calling to the girl. “You have a visitor. Now get up, and-”
She doesn’t get to finish her sentence. Not once Kira sees Sarah in the door. The girl flies out of bed, her arms outstretched. “Mummy!”
“That’s right little monkey. Cheeky, ain’t it, still asleep? Tell you what.” Sarah’s swept up Kira in a hug, crouching so she’s on her level. “Mrs S says we can go to the diner for breakfast. Me, you and Uncle Felix. How’s that sound?”
Kira looks to Mrs S to check, waiting for the woman’s nod before she turns back to Sarah and nods eagerly. It hurts Sarah that Kira has to check, but she knows that she’s earned that. Too long she’s been too unreliable. Well, she’s back now and she’s changing that, isn’t she? “Yes, please.”
“But first you brush your teeth and get on some clothes, all right?” Mrs S shoos Sarah away and Kira to the bathroom. “Mummy and I will be downstairs.”
“You have one hour, that’s all.” She says to Sarah as soon as the bathroom door is shut. “To the diner and back. I’m trusting you.”
“I know, I know.” It’s hard to not be at least a bit belligerent. She’s Kira’s mum after all, she has a right to see her daughter. But Felix was right. Sarah was the one who vanished, leaving her daughter with Mrs S for an afternoon that turned into a year.
“Don’t worry,” Felix says blithely from his spot on the sofa. “You can trust me Mrs S.”
“What do you mean she was your monitor?” Confused turns to incredulous as Sarah rushes to explain.
“My birth mother had a photo on her, yeah? It was Mrs S, Felix, in a lab coat. It had to be from the same lab that she went to. To have me, us, implanted or whatever the hell it is they do.”
“Sarah, you can’t know that-”
“Yeah? Then why is she gone too? Why’s the house torn apart like someone packed in a rush?” As much as Sarah doesn’t want to believe it, it’s making more and more sense to her. It’s why Mrs S was so determined to keep her, even with all the problems she’d caused. It’s why she’s kept Kira, too.
“Stop it Sarah. You don’t know any of this. All you know is they’re gone. Maybe she knew? Maybe she took Kira somewhere safe,” Felix says, trying to offer up explanations.
“Then why hasn’t she called? Why hasn’t she sent a message? She’s a part of this.”
“Part of it or not, we have to get Kira back, yeah? But first you have to figure out where she is. Come here and-”
Sarah cuts him off again. “I’m already on it. I’m meeting Paul in the city. I’ll call you later.”
“French toast and sausages, and bacon, and pancakes?” Sarah’s eyes grow wider as she repeats Kira’s order to her. She tickles the girl, wrinkling her nose and shaking her head. “Where are you even going to fit all that, monkey?”
“In here,” Kira giggles and pats her stomach, wriggling away from the tickling hand. “French toast, then. And bacon.”
“If you two don’t stop it, we’re going to get kicked out for public obnoxiousness. Kicked out of a diner. What has my life become?” His words may be dry but Felix is smiling at the two of them from across the table. “Maybe I’ll have the pancakes and sausage then, and we can share. How’s that?”
“Hey,” Sarah swats him affectionately. “You’re not helping.”
“Please, as if you need help.” Felix looks at Kira and Sarah and the way they’re practically cuddled together on the other side of the booth. It’s moments like these that Felix wonders if Sarah truly understands how lucky she is, that Kira’s forgiveness of her is so complete, and her love so all-encompassing. Sighing, he lifts his empty mug in the direction of a bored looking waitress. “I do though. Excuse me, coffee?”
“Sarah don’t do anything stupid. You can’t go marching in there alone.”
On some level Sarah knows Felix is right, but it’s hard to admit. Paul is still on their side, at least nominally. They have something on him, and he just can’t walk away. Not yet. But what other option is there?
“What else am I supposed to do? They have Kira.”
“Yes, and the fact that they took her means they’re not likely to hurt her. They’ll be expecting this, for you to come rushing in like a wounded bull in a china shop. You’re not helping anyone by doing that, including Kira.”
His words still her, stopping in the street the phone to her ear though she’s silent for a full minute. She can hear Felix saying her name, but it’s the blaring of a horn that startles her. “Fine. You’re right. Call the others. Tell them we need to talk. We need a plan.”
“One, two, three, swing!” Sarah and Felix swing Kira between them, the little girl laughing with glee. “Alright. Just one more. One, two-”
“Should you really be doing that when she’s just eaten?” Mrs S’s voice calls out to them from her front step, her smile betraying that she’s not really upset.
“Three, swing.” Sarah doesn’t stop and neither does Felix. “See. All fine, aren’t we monkey?”
She lets go of Kira’s hand reluctantly, not wanting the morning to come to an end. It’s the same every time she visits, and getting harder.
“Hey,” she crouches again, brushing her thumb across Kira’s cheek and smiling at her. “I had a really good morning, yeah? I love you.”
“I love you too mummy,” Kira says, wrapping her arms tight around Sarah’s neck. “Don’t go away again, okay?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she promises, her eyes shut tight at the pain of Kira’s words. She’ll never leave her baby again, not as long as she can help it. “I’ll see you Monday, okay? Walk you home from school?”
She looks at Mrs S over Kira’s shoulder and she nods. Sarah mouths the words thank you at her before breaking away from her daughter.
“Come on inside. There’s still homework for you to do, and I believe you promised me you’d clean your room.” Mrs S shoos Kira in the door then looks to Sarah. “You did good today.”
“Thank you.” Sarah means it, now. She’s not going to mess this up, and that means respecting Mrs S and what she wants.
“Monday, after school, straight home. Alright? Good to see you too Felix.”
“Likewise Mrs S,” he says, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“Now go on, both of you. Before you get done up for loitering, or something or other.” Mrs S shuts the door between them, and there’s little choice but to leave.
“Well, I think that went swimmingly,” Felix says, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “You’ve almost won her over again. No plans to run away? To flee?”
“Nah. Not now.” Sarah admits it at last. There’s still the temptation to take Kira and run, but right now she knows that’s not the right choice. Right now with everything going on in Sarah’s life Kira is safer with Mrs S.