The next afternoon, Sami called him to ask if he could watch the kids for a few hours; she said that she had some place to be. He heard heaviness in her voice, wariness, a little fear too, maybe. He wondered if she was honestly scared of him now but he was afraid to ask. Sometimes it was better not knowing.
Rafe, of course, agreed to watch the kids. Sami thanked him quietly and then hung up before he could even say "you're welcome." He looked around his tiny motel room. It was confining and kind of drab and dirty. There was no way he was letting the kids spend time in here. He'd take them to the park and then when they went home, he'd keep looking for a place he could afford on a policeman's salary. He wanted a house with a backyard – where the kids could play in a sandbox and swing on a swing set for hours. He pictured Johnny and Allie kicking their legs wildly, begging for him to push them higher, faster, while Sydney toddled around the sandbox with a shovel and pail. It was a heartwarming thought but also a sad one. Sami should be there –sitting on the deck watching them all play with a smile on her face.
It was so sad that she didn't smile anymore; that even when she tried, it didn't reach her gorgeous eyes…
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. Then he went to take a quick shower. When he emerged from the bathroom, he got dressed in jeans a blue tee-shirt. He brushed his teeth and took a long sip of water from the tap, feeling his throat was dry.
Soon there was knocking on the door and he heard excited voices and squeals. He smiled and raced for the door, ripping it open. The kids all immediately tumbled into his arms, hugging him tightly. He kissed all of their foreheads before looking up at Sami. She was clutching her purse to her chest like a shield and he sighed before offering her a smile. "Hey," he said. "Thanks for bringing the kids."
"Of course," Sami said. She offered him a smile in return but it was hollow. "I'll be back in a few hours."
"Okay. It's sunny today though so I am taking the kids to the park." The three children immediately hooted – even toddler Sydney got excited because her siblings did.
"Sounds like fun," Sami said. "I'll see you all then." She turned then and hurried off towards her car. She was gone in the next minute.
"Can we go now, Rafe?" Johnny asked. "Please."
"Of course. Anyone need to use the bathroom first?" The kids all shook their heads "no" and then they were off.
Almost like in his fantasy, Rafe pushed the twins on the swing while Sydney played in the sandbox with a little boy and girl who were generous to share their toys. It was like his fantasy – except for the part, of course, where Sami was there, wearing a huge smile. His chest ached but he kept pushing the kids on the swings and talking to them in a voice that belied his heartache.
They played for a long time and then Rafe bought all of the kids Churros. It was Sydney's very first taste of one and she looked up at him with sticky-faced pleasure. "You like that?" He asked, chuffing her chin. She nodded eagerly and went to devouring the rest of it.
Time passed quickly and Rafe tried not to think about how lonely it would be tonight in his motel room by himself. Maybe he would call Roman and ask for an extra shift at the station. Anything to get away from the claustrophobic four walls.
Sami was arriving soon. He sensed her before he saw her walking over. He liked to think that that hadn't changed – his ability to know, to feel, when she was around.
When the kids saw her, they all jumped off the bench and ran and hugged her. "Did you have fun?" She asked them and they all nodded. They were happy about their park adventure and wanted to tell their mom everything. She had a distant look in her eyes and Rafe watched her under his eyelashes. She looked upset and her eyes were watery but the kids seemed not to notice. He wanted to ask her what was wrong but thought he already knew. Seeing him probably made her sick.
The kids whined when it was time to go but Sami insisted. They all hugged Rafe and Sydney wailed when Rafe handed her to Sami. "Want Waif, Want Waif," she cried and the other two had tears in their eyes as well.
Sami sighed softly. "I know but I swear, you'll see him again really soon." She looked at Rafe. "Do you think I can come over around eight-thirty tonight? After the kids are asleep. Will's going to watch them for me..."
Rafe felt the wind leave his lungs for a moment. This was it. She was going to ask him for a divorce. It hadn't even been twenty-four hours since he left and she'd already made up her mind. Still, what could he do? So he nodded. "Yeah I'll be around," he said. He then waved to his family and they walked off. Rafe never cried but this might have been a moment where he could have if he would let himself.
Rafe paced his motel room for hours. Finally eight-thirty rolled around and Sami was prompt for a change. She must really want to be free of him.
He opened the door and waved her in. Under the harsh lights, he could see that she had been crying. And he might have been inclined to do the same but he told himself that he was stronger than that.
He gestured to a chair. "Take a seat."
"No thanks," Sami said. Silence then descended between them for a long minute before Rafe had to say something.
"Are you going to be okay?" He asked.
"I think so; I hope so," Sami said. "Now that I know the truth."
His stomach shifted painfully. She knew the truth about what she had to do. "Okay… Just say it." He tried to steel himself to hear the words "I want a divorce" but to his surprise, they never came. Instead she dissolved into sobs.
He started to reach for her – it was his instinct – but hesitated knowing she probably wouldn't appreciate it. "Talk to me," Rafe said.
"Please just … hold me, please," Sami said in a whisper. "I need that."
Rafe's eyes widened. "You … Really?"
"Yes. Unless you're too angry at me for the idiotic way I've been acting."
"I could never be angry at you… Okay, I have been, but not over something like this."
Sami cracked a smile. "We've had legendary fights, haven't we?"
"Yes." He smiled back. He then held out his arms and this time, she hurled herself at him. He was surprised but immediately enveloped her in a tight hug. She held him still tighter and cried into his shoulder.
"Hey, hey, it's alright." He hoped he wasn't lying. He rubbed her back softly as she leaned against him.
"I've been so stupid," she said. "So damn stupid!"
"Don't say that. It's not true."
"I just … I was scared. And I don't 'do' scared," Sami cried. "Not scared of you but other things…"
"What other things?"
"That I would never be able to look at you and not see him," Sami said. She pulled back a bit and looked up at him. "But I should have known that you weren't him, that you couldn't be. The look in your eyes… He never looked at me like that. He never made me feel safe or cared for or wanted like you do. No one ever has, truthfully."
Rafe smiled and this time couldn't resist reaching out and touching a loose tendril of her impossibly blonde hair. "I love you. I know I shouldn't say that but-"
"No, say it. Please. It reminds me of how it was before all this started. I never should have pushed you away, Rafe. I wanted you there with me today so bad …"
"I'm not. Not anymore. But Rafe, today, when I called you to watch the kids, so I could go somewhere … It was the hospital."
Rafe swallowed hard. "Wait – you're not-"
"Sick? No. Not physically anyway. Probably just in my head."
"Don't say that."
"What if it's true?" She sighed. "Anyway, I went there because I realized something this morning."
"That I was late. That I hadn't had my period in two weeks. All the worst case scenarios started to fill my mind and I just needed to know the truth."
"And?" Rafe's eyes burned.
"I'm not. It was impossible actually, as Dr. Jonas explained. I knew that but I wasn't rational –not about that or anything else." She took a deep breath. "I didn't want to be pregnant – not that way, never again. If and when I have a baby again, I want them born from love."
"You must have been scared to death."
"Yeah I was. But mostly scared of losing you. I realized what an idiot I've been the minute I walked out of that hospital. I realized I was punishing you for what you had no control over."
"Sami, I understand."
"Don't be so damn understanding," Sami said. "I've hurt you deeply, I know that. Just tell me … Can you forgive me?"
He smiled this time. "There is nothing to forgive. You went through hell and I understand that you needed time. I was afraid you were coming here to tell me –"
"I wanted a separation."
"Or a divorce."
"Never," Sami said and she brushed his cheek with her hand. "Never. I love you too much. And you've done the one thing no one else ever has – made me feel safe. Looking into your eyes right now, I'm not scared anymore," Sami cried. Tears rolled down her cheeks. "You're not him. You're not him."
Rafe hugged her to him again. "I love you too, Sami Hernandez. Always, always…"
Rafe moved back into the apartment that night and when the kids woke up in the morning, they were thrilled as they saw him sitting at the table, a home cooked breakfast of all of their favorite foods sitting there in front of him. They hugged him and screamed in excitement. As they dug into their food, Sami slid in next to Rafe and reached for his hand. He expected her to pull away but she didn't. She pulled him closer, rather.
In the next few weeks, Sami invited Rafe back into her bedroom and into her bed. He asked her if she was sure, assured her that there was no hurry, no pressure, and she assured him that she wasn't scared anymore. They made love twice that night and once more in the morning. Every night they held each other close, never wanting or intending to let each other go.
In two months time, Sami would find out that she was pregnant for real. She and Rafe were having a baby of their own. They could not be happier.
They welcomed Xavier Rafael Hernandez into the world at 1:15 a.m. on a warm spring night. Later that day, Johnny, Allie and Sydney crowded around the crib in the nursery and oohed and ahhed over their new sibling. They then all hugged Sami and then Rafe for a very long moment. They were just as happy as Rafe and Sami were.
The next afternoon, Sami and Xavier came home and Rafe marveled over how wonderful they looked together. While he held his son, Sami rested against his shoulder and looked up at him. "Thank you, Rafe."
"For giving me Xavier and for making me feel safe again. Also, for loving me better than anyone else."
Rafe leaned over and kissed her forehead. "You're welcome. I love you too."
She hugged him still tighter and Rafe knew the truth. They were home and safe in each other's arms, always.
THE END … I hope you enjoyed this short tale. Safe love is eternal!