“Hi,” Sam whispered to Leanne, just barely close enough for her to hear him.
“Hey, what’s up?” Leanne took a deep sigh and slouched her shoulders. “Sorry I haven’t returned your calls.” She scuffed the toe of her sneaker against the white tiled floor of the maternity ward in the hall outside the elevators.
“You’re not finished with your PhD, are you?” Sam offered an olive branch. “I wasn’t really expecting to hear from you.”
“Yeah, that’s why you had all of your brothers tell all of my sisters that you were crying into your pillow every night in misery because I dumped you.”
“Not all of your sisters,” Sam corrected her. “None of my brothers are dating or married to your oldest sister, Ruth.”
“How is school?” Sam wasn’t sure what to say to her. The last time they’d seen each other he’d offended her and promised he wouldn’t bother her until after graduation. Dare he hope she chooses to leave college after her master’s degree and not continue on for a PhD?
“Honestly? Not the same without Adele at home,” Leanne said. “She was my study partner. I keep thinking everything will go back to normal when she comes home from her honeymoon but then I remember that she’ll be living down here with you guys. She’s never coming home.”
Sam wasn’t sure how to empathize. Leanne was right. Adele was never coming home. He wondered how he might be able to alleviate some of Leanne’s stress without invalidating her concerns. “That’s tough.”
“Anyway, classes are fine, I guess.” Her face brightened. “Hey, you’d get a kick out of one of the classes I’m taking next semester. Natural Resources Management.”
“Now that’s something I could help you with,” Sam said. “I’ll be your study partner for that class.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that.” Leanne pushed his shoulder playfully.
Sam took advantage of her closeness. “I’m gonna hold your hand.” He slipped his fingers in between hers and held on. She didn’t pull away.
Leanne rested her head on Sam’s shoulder and he pulled her close. “How is my sister?”
“They’re probably going to do a cesarean delivery this afternoon,” he told her. “They’re trying to keep Baby Ishy cooking as long as possible, but if he goes into distress, they’re getting him out of there.”
“I wish I could see Mirium,” Leanne said. “I doubt they’ll let me back to her room.”
As they stood in the hallway holding one another, the door to the elevator opened revealing a surprise. Nick and Adele, back from their honeymoon.
Leanne and Adele squealed and pulled each other close as only sisters can. Nick and Sam clasped each other’s hands and pulled together for a hug.
Others in the family hurried over to give them hugs and welcome them, everyone’s worry about Mirium’s pregnancy momentarily set on the back burner.
A minute later the elevator opened again, and the girls’ parents arrived. There were more hugs around the group and more smiles and more tears.
Tears shifted to panic when Lyle came stumbling out the door of the maternity ward, collapsed into a chair, and lowered his face to his hands, sobbing.