Serena glanced over her shoulder to the darkened house as her mother struggled to fit their suitcases into the trunk of the tiny compact car, while inside the car her infant brother was wailing in his car seat. Ilene glared back at Serena as she struggled with a particularly large bag.
"Would you help with your brother, please?" she hissed as she pressed with all her strength, trying to fit it into a tiny place. Serena dodged his flying fists and legs as she undid the straps and lifted him out.
She gently rocked him back and forth, still darting glances at the house. "It's okay baby," she crooned as she rubbed his back with soothing, repetitive strokes until his crying slowly ceased into hiccoughing breaths.
"Serena," her mother said. "I'm finished."
Serena gently put Sammy back into his seat, his pacifier implanted firmly in his mouth. As she fastened her seatbelt, she tried to ignore the way Ilene's hands were shaking. This was nerve wracking for all of them, except maybe Sammy. He was too young to know what was going on. She envied him that.
"Did we get everything?" she asked as she looked into the overflowing trunk and backseat. They couldn't have missed anything, could they? Ilene nodded, not taking her eyes from the road, unless she was checking the rearview mirror.
When they got to the train station, Serena unloaded their bags onto a large cart and followed Ilene through, trying not to bump into anything; the cart was quite a bit larger than the fifteen year old. They stood staring at a TV screen, at available times and destinations.
"Where do you want to go?" Ilene asked gently, noting the panic in her daughter's eyes. Serena shrugged and avoided her mother's probing gaze. "I don't know. Tokyo maybe?" she asked hesitantly.
Ilene thought of the people, of the crowds in a big city and she smiled, relieved. "Yeah, Tokyo is nice this time of year." And no one would be looking for the Japanese wife of an American businessman. "I'll buy the tickets, hold Sammy for me." Serena took Sammy gently and cuddled him close as her mother disappeared into the crowd.
"We're finally getting away," she whispered into his tawny curls. A few minutes later Ilene burst through the crowd, her eyes panicked as they searched for her two children. She handed Serena a ticket and, not taking her eyes from the shifting crowd said, "get on the train, I'll meet you there. Take only your bag and Sammy's."
Serena nodded, puzzled as she hoisted Sammy's diaper bag onto her shoulder. "You'll be there soon?" she asked as Ilene pushed them through the crowd. Ilene pulled Serena into a tight hug and a tear escaped. "Of course I will, baby. Of course I will."
Serena had a bit of difficulty moving through the train, carrying a baby and two overly full bags, but she found her seat and bounced Sammy on her lap as she waited for Ilene. While she was sitting, there was a loud bang and Serena craned her neck, trying to see what was going on.
A swarm of security guards ran through the station, into a crowd of people and Serena watched as they wrestled with a dark haired man. With a horrified jolt of recognition, Serena began to shake her head, crying. A team of paramedics ran pushed through the crowd and lifted Ilene onto a stretcher, an oxygen mask on her face.
As the train began to move in the opposite direction, her mother was wheeled out and her father was led out in handcuffs, his face dark. He had speckles of blood on his face and Serena began to cry, softly at first, but with increasing intensity as she moved away from the only things she had ever known.