We sat at my dining room table and the police officer, Mohammed, told me that we had to leave Denmark right away. The normal procedure, he said, was for them to arrest us - my husband, myself and our eleven-year-old son, Max. They would give us twenty-four hours to leave, and see us on the first flight back to Canada, accompanying my family onto the plane.
Tugging at my pyjama top, I tried to process his words as I looked around at my apartment and all of our things, the cat, the life we had built over the past three and a half years. Our home. I should have been listening more carefully, but it seemed he was talking outside a bubble and I was aware only of the items surrounding me and the inundation of questions from my inner voice.
I studied the framed artwork the kids had made, the wooden giraffe that was missing a chunk out of its ear, the blue hand-painted ceramic bowls I had shielded on their voyage across the Atlantic and then back again - trinkets we had accumulated on our adventures over the years, items that were worthless to anyone else, but told the story of our family. The task of packing up our lives and all of our belongings within twenty-four hours was incomprehensible.
Luke walked in just then, to the scene of the two police officers in our home at 9 p.m. Mohammed explained the situation.
After a short conversation about our circumstances, Mohammed decided to hold off on taking immediate action because, as he put it, the case seemed complicated and unusual. Even he seemed confused as to why he was sitting in our home. He collected our passports, gave us his number, and told us he would be in touch once he’d done some more homework.
Luke shut the door behind them and we stood stunned, our voices strangled by what had just occurred. Although we’d bought ourselves a little more time, the immensity of the tsunami ahead of us loomed, a precarious menace.
I spoke first. “Max. He wasn’t feeling well and we had both put our pyjamas on early and were snuggling on the sofa. I had just sent him to brush his teeth before going to bed and they showed up. He answered the door. I heard the knock and thought you had forgotten your key. I was sitting here waiting for him and he came in to tell me the police were here. He’s in his bedroom - we need to make sure he’s okay.”
After reassuring Max that no one was going to put us in jail and seeing him off to bed, I poured two huge glasses of wine, and Luke said the words that made it real.
“I can’t go back to Canada, Olivia. You know I can’t. I can never have a life there and it’s not safe for me. You and Max can go back and I will disappear somewhere in Europe.”
I absorbed Luke’s words and tried to think of another way, but had nothing. There were only bad choices.