The move from California was... difficult. Partly because I was still desperately hoping it wouldn't have to happen, that Kirk would be found, that he could come back to our home. I did set a deadline though, and my parents planned to drive out to the coast about a month after Kirk went missing.
I sorted through things, packed boxes, and started trying to re-paint the living room and hall we had only painted together two months before. We had finally decided that we would stay put in California for a while, so we should try to make this house (a house I didn't particularly like) feel like home. Painting it was our way of marking it as ours. Now I had to try and undo it. I was trying to work hard at it every day, but somehow couldn't seem to get everything done as I should.
Only a few people knew what was happening - Kirk's best friend in California, his friend and former colleague from the counter-terrorist days, my family, his family. There was so little I could do, keeping the secret was the only way I could think of helping Kirk, of trying to keep him safe. If the story got out inevitably his background would be discovered as well, and if he were being held by someone then his past as a spy, and as a counter-terrorist expert with high clearance knowledge, would surely endanger him. So, after the first week, the kids went back to school, we kept going to soccer practices and games; we went through all the motions of life as normal.
And then the story broke. An article was written by a British reporter who had met Kirk once or twice in Iraq. It had his name, it gave the same details I had heard from the army investigators, and it also included our home town. Someone called to warn me I think, but I can't remember who now. I just remember feeling as though I had been punched - winded.
Within an hour of reading that article on-line, the doorbell rang. The guy was young - one of those people who look like they're about 12 or so, and he asked if I was My Name. Then he asked me about the story, and it was so quick - I hadn't imagined anyone would find me so soon. I had not begun to think about how I should respond, so I just said "no comment." And by the smug, satisfied smile that spread over his face as he turned away I knew that I had confirmed the whole thing. He spent the rest of the morning knocking on all my neighbor's doors. That was the day before my parents were due to come into town.
So when we moved, we didn't have a week to quietly sort and pack all of our things. Instead, our amazing friends, family and neighbors came over and worked all day while reporters and photographers camped outside the house and ambushed everyone who went in or out. They tried to follow my children down the street when they were going to another house to get away from the madness. They shoved business cards into people's hands and insisted they be carried in to me. They left dozens of phone messages on the telephone until in desperation I unplugged it. One of them even tried to carry away an old computer that had been placed out on the street for the trash. A friend took it in his truck instead, wiped the drive with a powerful magnet, and drove it out to the dump himself.
There was no time to organize anything, or make reasoned decisions about things. The majority of our furniture was simply given away. The only things I cared about were keeping as much of the kid's belongings as possible; and throwing away nothing of Kirk's. People kindly pointed out that we might sometime want kitchen things again, and I nodded and agreed to everything they said.
The reporters stayed around all day, only leaving in twos or threes to follow cars that left the drive. One friend chased a van away, then followed it down the highway, and when it was clearly planning on circling back pulled up next to it and gave the driver a full and explosive piece of her mind. "We're just doing our job," he said. "This is a huge story." I knew that - it wasn't their fault that doing their job felt like they were killing my husband.
We had planned to leave the next day, but I was so distressed I couldn't face staying in the house one more night. We spirited the kids away to one friend's house, mixing them in with her children and driving around the block. We parked the moving truck there as well because it could be hidden off the street behind a high gate. My parents and I went to Kirk's best friend's house for dinner; a few hours of peace where we could talk quietly, and admire their baby daughter. Then we spent the night with yet another dear friend who took us, and my large and messy dog in and loved and supported us without a thought.
I'll never be able to repay all of the people who helped us that awful day. But I think of them constantly, and am always aware of how generous and loving people can be.
It helps to remember that.