“Sam?” Through a fog of restless sleep on a hard, waiting room chair, Sam startled awake. His father jostled his shoulder gently.
“Dad?” Suddenly more alert, Sam sat up quickly. “Is mom okay? Baby Joseph?” He shifted in his crumpled business suit, wishing he’d had the chance to go home and change into something less formal.
“They’re both fine,” Levi Cohen said with a smile. “Would you like to come meet your baby brother?”
Sam looked around the waiting room. Other people were leaning on their elbows, propped up, barely awake or snoring. Eighteen-year-old Jacob was sprawled out across three chairs, his lanky teenage body taking up more space than should be physically possible.
Liam and Rachel were together in the far corner, her arms wrapped around him and using his chest as a pillow. Guess she forgave him.
Nicholas and Adele were leaning toward one another, heads touching, propping each other up. Both of their eyes were closed but Sam got the impression neither of them were truly asleep.
Leanne’s head was in Adele’s lap and Adele’s hand rested on her sister’s upper back in a way that indicated to Sam that she’d been comforting Leanne. Almost as if she’d been petting her sister’s hair. Man, he wished he could have been the one to comfort Leanne. Someday, maybe.
Daniel and Cassandra Ashish had their shoulders and heads together in much the same way Adele and Nicholas did. They were both awake and yawning.
Lyle was nowhere to be seen and Sam assumed he was back with his wife, Mirium, and their new baby, Ishy.
Somewhere nearby a coffee pot sat with a few inches of burnt coffee available should anyone be that desperate for caffeine. Sam wrinkled his nose at the metallic, bitter smell.
He realized his father had his hand out ready to lift Sam from his chair and Sam reached up and clasped his hand, thankful for the help as well as the human connection. His dad was such a good man.
As much as Sam wanted to pretend he’d return to Jerusalem to be with Leanne, he knew the truth. He’d follow his father to the ends of the earth. His trust in him was that strong.
Maybe Leanne wasn’t the right woman for him if Sam knew in his gut that his place was with his father. And Nicholas. Weird thought to pop into his head. Nicholas was his younger brother but somehow Sam inherently knew that Nicholas would one day lead their family.
But Leanne. Sam also knew that he was supposed to be with Leanne. How could he do both? Follow his father and brother but remain with her? There was only one solution and it had been staring at him in the face for months. He just hadn’t worded the invitation correctly. She needed to come with him. Period. End of story. No, beginning of story.
Sam didn’t need to live in Jerusalem with Leanne. Leanne needed to come with him. To Dubai? No, he realized, there was someplace else they would go. He just didn’t know where yet. Maybe his father knew. Or Nicholas? Wherever they went, Leanne needed to come with him. There was no doubt in his mind.
“Penny for your thoughts, son,” His father asked quietly as they walked toward the door that led to the maternity wing. He pushed a button and the door opened with a soft whoosh, then closed automatically behind them.
“Thinking about the future, dad. Not sure my place,” Sam admitted.
Levi stopped him and turned Sam’s shoulder, so they were facing one another. No one was nearby. The hallway in this section had low lighting, as if they’d been dimmed to allow patients a chance to rest. The rooms around them seemed empty, so Sam felt all alone with his father. A rare occurrence.
“What is your heart telling you?” his dad asked.
“I will go where you lead me, father.”
His dad glanced back the way they had just come, back toward the door to the quiet waiting room.
“And she needs to come with me.” Sam anticipated his father’s question before he asked.
“How do you plan to make that happen?” his dad asked.
“I don’t know yet.”
“I never have to worry about you, Sam.”
“You don’t?” Why, at the age of twenty-five, did Sam feel vulnerable in the presence of his father. He wanted his approval. He had it. He wanted his love. He had it. So, why?
“You have already chosen the right path,” His father said.
“You know you have. You, and your younger brothers, and your mother.” His dad took a deep breath and glanced back toward the waiting room. “But I worry about Liam and Lyle.”
His father continued as if Sam hadn’t interrupted. “I fear they’re already too far gone. They see the right path. They see me inviting them to join us and be happy as a family. But they turn from me and choose to walk away.”
“Insightful words, father,” Sam said. “Almost prophetic.”
“I’ll never claim to be perfect, my son,” His father said. “But I see the writing on the walls, and I’m able to read between the lines.” He reached up and patted Sam on the cheek.
Sam stepped forward and wrapped his arms around his father, a rare show of emotions between the two of them. As the middle child, Sam had always been a little bit forgotten, a little bit invisible. But he was quietly learning and growing and carving out his own little place in their family.
He would probably never take a stand or be a leader, but he would be here in whatever way the family needed him. He was Sam. And that was just who he needed to be.
“You ready to go meet your baby brother?” his father asked.
They stepped apart and Sam nodded, excitement filling his heart. They walked down the hall in silence until they came to an unassuming door that was open with a curtain pulled between the door and the bed.
“Knock, knock,” His father said in a quiet, respectful voice. “Are you awake, sweetheart.”
“Sort of,” His mother’s tired voice answered.
As he and his father came around the curtain, Sam smiled peacefully. “Hi, Mom. How you feeling?”
“Oh, my Sam.” His mother held out her hand, inviting him forward. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“I heard you brought me another little brother to spoil,” Sam said. “I just had to get started right away.”
“He’s right over here.” His mother indicated toward a little rolling bassinet that was just high enough that his mom could see him from the bed.
“Oh, Mom, he’s beautiful.” Sam gazed down at the most adorable little bundle of swaddled baby boy he’d ever seen. “May I?” Sam looked up at his father and then mother with raised eyebrows, asking permission to hold Baby Joseph.
“Of course.” His father stepped back to allow Sam to get close.
With careful but sure hands, Sam lifted the tiny bundle from where he rested in the bassinet. Sam had been a young teenager when Jacob had been born. Being an adult and welcoming a baby brother was a different experience. He was old enough to become a father himself. His parents were nearly too old to be having another baby. Yet here he was. Evidence of their love.
Tears sprang to Sam’s eyes. This was what he wanted. With Leanne. Now he just needed to convince her. Maybe he could bring her down to meet his little brother and show her the emotional connection of holding a baby.
“Another son,” Sam wondered. “Why didn’t you choose to have any daughters?”
His mom and dad chuckled. As if they had any control. His father reached out to hold His mother’s hand. “Daniel had all the daughters. I had all the sons. That’s how we planned it.”
“Who had all the daughters and sons?” His mother asked playfully.
“Cassandra had all the daughters,” His father admitted. “And my incredible bride gave me all these amazing sons.” His parents held each other’s gaze as if Sam wasn’t in the room and he almost felt like he was intruding on their private moment.
Sam cradled his baby brother in his arms and stepped toward the window, gazing down at the perfect little miracle. Someday he would be holding a son.