Waiting for her
Sawyer was used to being the supportive, strong, and solid friend, carrying and doing everything by himself, so letting them see him so broken and vulnerable felt strange, but he couldn’t take it anymore.
After all the odds he had faced in his life, the betrayal of the person he once loved, losing his sister in that tragic accident and fighting depression later on while he supported his parents and the kids, he was finally where he wanted to be and he couldn’t think of a better person to share everything, but the universe was playing with him and his fate.
He hated it.
It took him some time, but he finally calmed down. It was definitely weird, but crying it all out, dropping the heavy armor for once and letting others comfort him sure helped and at some level it made him feel closer to them —if that was possible since Liam was like a bother for him.
“Thank you, guys…” he said in a low voice.
“She’s my little sister, and you’re my best friend, there’s no other place in the world where I’d wanted to be right now,” Liam declared, sniffling.
“You’ve always been there for us, there’s no way we’d let you go through all this alone, even if Liz wasn’t the one on surgery. We love you, S,” April reassured him, letting out soft sobs.
“I love you too,” he said as he hugged her. The warmth of his friends wrapping him in a moment like that was the best tranquilizer he could use. “Wow! What was that?” he chuckled with tears still in his eyes when her belly moved.
“He’s a bit hyperactive,” April giggled.
“Yeah… If he doesn’t become a soccer player, he’ll probably be a karateka or something like that. He kicks really hard sometimes,” Liam said with a small laughter.
“God… I can’t wait to see him.” Sawyer smiled at them, trying to focus on the good things they still had. “You already have a name for him?”
“Actually… We were thinking about calling him Alexander Gray,” April told him, locking her eyes to his. “We’re calling him after you,” she clarified. Sawyer’s eyes widened.
“You’re calling him after me?” he asked, surprised.
“Of course!” Liam affirmed. “If he’s half strong and kind you are, we’ll be some blessed parents,” he smiled at his friend. “And he’ll definitely be a heartbreaker,” he proudly stated.
April slapped his chest. “He better not!”
“Okay, okay…” Liam chortled.
Sawyer felt overwhelmed and honored. He had done nothing extraordinary to be so loved. “Alexander Gray Ackerman…” he mumbled in a low voice. “Sounds great!”
“Of course it does! I chose the name,” April quipped.
“Thank you, guys… For everything,” he said, giving them a small but honest smile, his heart still aching for Lizbeth and the lack of news on her surgery.
“Daddy!” Sophia squealed from behind as she entered the waiting room running. His parents, the Ackerman’s and Adam following her.
“Hey, Baby girl!” he said as he picked her up. “What’s that?” he asked, pointing to three lollipops in her hands.
“This friendly lady gave it to me when she looked at my head,” she grinned. “She give me the red candy and said it helps when you’re hurt or sad, so I asked her for these too,” she rambled, handing him two lollipops, one green, and one red.
“What are these for?”
“One for you, ’cause you’re sad, but the red is for Liz when she wakes up, she likes red candy,” she said as she fidgeted with the plastic of her own lollipop. Sawyer’s heart literally melted. How could he be so lucky and have such sweet and amazing kids? She was still a baby and she didn’t understand what was happening. She had been hurt and she was so scared just a few hours before, but her kindness always shone.
“Thank you so much, Baby girl… I’m sure she’ll love it.”
“She’s gonna be okay, right?” Adam asked, slightly pulling from his jeans.
Sawyer sighed when he looked into his ocean blue eyes, pleading for him to say yes. He caressed his head and pressed his little body to him. “I hope so, Buddy,” he said as he rubbed his back.
“I love her… She can’t leave us too,” the kid cried, making Sawyer’s stomach twist. Those kids and everything they said and made would be the end of him. They were able to make his heart jump and sank in his chest from one second to another. God, I’ll have a heart attack!
He squatted down and let Sophia on the floor. “She loves you so much too. And I bet she’s fighting just so she can see your cute faces again.”
“Really?” Adam asked.
“Of course, Buddy. She loves you and she’s so proud of you two… She’ll do anything for you, don’t forget that,” he said as he brushed his hair away from his face.
Adam stared at him for a few seconds. Sawyer couldn’t decrypt the emotion reflected on his eyes. “I love you, dad!” he said with a cry as he circled his little arms around his neck. “Don’t ever leave us!”
“I’ll always be by your side. Always,” he whispered as he hugged them both. Then, he pressed Adam’s head against his mouth and kissed his temple. He took a deep breath, letting the love of his children cradle him in the sweetest way.
It was already eleven in the evening. The ambulance had taken Lizbeth to the closest hospital to the accident and that meant they were an hour and a half away from home.
Sawyer’s parents had taken the kids to the hotel. Liam had taken April to their hotel room too, but only after they asked him like a thousand times to call them as soon as he knew anything. They wanted to stay until the doctor told them something, but after the three hours journey from DC, and carrying around such a big belly had April exhausted.
Sawyer had been staring at the pictures and videos he had of Lizbeth for a while. He knew it was like torturing himself but he couldn’t help it. He needed to see her bright smile and her silliness to keep some sanity.
He was starting to feel really anxious, pacing up and down the room, blowing up his cheeks, huffing, and checking the time on the clock hanging on the wall every minute.
“Sawyer, honey, you’re gonna pass out if you keep like that,” Julia told him with concern written all over her face as she came back with a coffee. She was probably dying inside too, but she tried to keep it together.
“I can’t help it,” he said as he ran a hand through his hair. “Ugh! This is so frustrating, why aren’t they—”
“Mr. and Mrs. Ackerman?” A man with grey hair wearing dark blue pajamas called them. Right after him, a blond man and a black woman wearing light blue pajamas entered the room too.
“Yes,” Finn said as he got up from the couch.
“I’m doctor Brown,” he said as he shook their hands. “Your daughter has made it. She’s already resting,” he smiled. Sawyer felt like he could finally breathe again, his whole body wobbling like jelly when the tension left his muscles. “We’re gonna keep her in the ICU sedated for a few days though. She’s stable now but the wound severed an important vein and she’s suffered a massive blood loss. She’s very weak right now, but she’s a fighter,” he told them.
“Oh my God!” Julia cried as she hugged her husband.
“Can we see her?” Sawyer asked the doctor, impatient.
“I’m afraid that you cannot see her right now, but tomorrow morning you can come in and visit her for sure,” he said. The man was in his late fifties and he looked tired, but who wouldn’t after five hours in the operating room.
“Okay… Thanks, doc.”
“Oh! By the way,” the young nurse started. “The paramedics told us she might be pregnant?” she said more like a question than a statement, looking at Sawyer, waiting for confirmation.
Julia and Finn stared at him, their mouths hanging.
“She’s not, so don’t worry, okay?” She gave him a sweet smile.
“Good… Thanks!” He swallowed, hard. He felt somewhat disappointed, but with the wound she had the baby wouldn’t have made it so relief invaded him in the end. “Thank you so much.” He hugged the doctor.
“My pleasure, son!” he said with a soft chuckle as he patted his back. “Now, after all the intensity of this day, you should get some rest, okay?”
“Sure,” Sawyer nodded.
On the third day after her admission in the hospital, her body seemed to be responding well to the blood transfusion and the rest of her organs were finally working properly.
Sawyer felt relieved when the doctor said she would be out of there the next day. She had passed the surgery, but as long as she was in the ICU he would be still worried because that meant she wasn’t completely out of danger.
He had visited her every day, talked to her while she was asleep, and held her hand, which gave him the strength to keep going on, but the kids hadn’t seen her yet and they would ask for her every day.
He felt sorry for them, but he didn’t want them to see her in that state, sedated, intubated, with an IV replacing the blood and fluids her body needed. All the machines around her beeping, telling the nurses if she needed something. It was scary even for him, and it would be just too much for them.
They were still trying to cope with their own emotions after the car accident and he didn’t want to add anything else to their burden. Luckily for the family, they were young and they would recover quickly.
However, when Lizbeth was transferred to the ward at a hospital closer to Richmond, he decided it was time for them to visit her.
Since his parents had enough space at home, they accommodated all the Ackerman’s —including Liam and April— while he took the kids with him to spend more time with them since the fire chief, literally, made him take a few days off until the situation with Lizbeth’s health had settled.
“Can we hug her?” Sophia asked as Sawyer helped her to get out of the car.
“She’s probably still asleep, Baby girl,” he told her as he locked the SUV.
“She’s sleep for a long time,” Sophia noted.
“Yeah,” Sawyer chuckled as he walked, hand in hand, with them into the hospital. “We can’t run or scream here, okay?” he warned them as they got into the elevator.
“Why?” Sophia asked as she hugged the teddy bear she was carrying with her free arm.
“Because people here are sick and they need calm and silence to get better,” Sawyer responded.
“Oh. Okay,” the little girl shrugged.
“If we talk to her she’ll hear us?” Adam asked. He hadn’t said a word since he woke up that morning and he had barely talked since they left the hospital in Emporia the day of the accident, which made Sawyer worried about the fact he could go back to the state he was in when his parents died.
“Yeah. She’s asleep because they gave her some medicines, but she’s supposed to be waking up today, so if we talk to her maybe she’ll open her eyes sooner,” he sweetly smiled at him. Adam looked at him with a small smile playing on his lips and nodded.
When they reached her room, he knocked on the door. “Come in,” Liam said.
“Hey,” Sawyer greeted him. “How are you?” he asked Liam as he hugged him.
“Tired, but I’ll survive,” he said before pulling April for a hug. “How are you and my nephew?”
“Hey, S… We’re good,” she sighed. “I talked to Lauren earlier, she said they’re in their way.”
“Good.” He nodded. “Where are your parents?” he asked his friend while Adam and Sophia moved beside the bed with April.
“They’re in the cafeteria with yours. They didn’t want the room to be packed. Mom said that if Liz woke up and there were so many people here she’d kick us out,” he laughed.
“I bet,” Sawyer affirmed.
“Anyway, we’ll leave you alone for a while,” Liam said as he patted his shoulder. “Let’s go for a walk, Baby,” he motioned April to leave the room.
“Sure. See you later, guys,” she waved her hand as she sweetly smiled at the kids.
“I can’t see her,” Sophia said, jumping on the floor.
“Let me get you up,” Sawyer said as he walked towards her. He picked her up and sat her on the bed.
“She’s pretty,” she said as she brushed the hair from her forehead.
“She always is, right?” Sawyer admitted.
“Yeah…” Sophia breathed. “I bring this for you, Lizzy,” Sophia said, putting the teddy bear in front of her face as if she could see it. “It’s my favorite and he always scares the monsters,” she explained moving her legs as they were dangling from the bed. “He’ll take care of you while you sleep,” she reassured her as she placed the stuffed animal beside her head.
“I didn’t know you had brought Teddy to give it to Liz,” Sawyer told her, astonished. It was the only toy she would never lend anyone.
“She needs it more than me now,” she responded. Sawyer wanted to cry at that moment, it was such a sweet gesture.
“She’ll love it,” Sawyer noted as he picked her up from the bed and sat with her in his arms in the armchair. “It’s your turn, Buddy. Didn’t you want to tell her something?”
“I… I wanted to read her my essay.”
“The one we did for class the other day… She wanted to read it and I didn’t let her,” he said with a sad smile. He felt guilty.
“Adam, Buddy… You know none of this is your fault right?”
He nodded. “But… That lady shot her because I was talking on the car.”
“Come here,” Sawyer told him. Adam walked to him and Sawyer pulled from him so he was between his legs. Sophia fiddling with the hem of her dress. “That woman was sick in the head, she didn’t know what she was doing, she was nervous and I bet she didn’t mean to hurt Liz. It was just an accident, and for sure, it didn’t have anything to do with you. You’re a great kid, the sweetest and smartest boy I know, okay?” he said as he tickled him.
“Okay,” Adam grinned as he twisted to avoid the tickles.
“Okay, now read her your essay,” he said as he slightly pushed him towards the bed.
Adam walked towards the bed and rested his elbows on it. He stared at Lizbeth for a few seconds before he began to read. “Family. The dictionary says it is a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.”
“You wrote that?” Sawyer asked, surprised he could write like that with seven years.
“I copied the definition from the dictionary.”
“Oh, okay. Sorry to interrupt, go on.” He smiled at him.
“Family. The dictionary says it is a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit,” he started again. “I think that’s wrong. I have a sister, two grandfathers, two grandmothers, and an uncle. My parents died three years ago, but I feel I have a family. My grandmother taught me to cook cookies. My grandfather taught me to play cards. My uncle has taught me a lot of things, like being nice to animals and to talk and not fight when I’m angry. Sophia is nice and draws pretty well for her age and I love her but she’s annoying sometimes.” Sawyer chuckled at the last part. Adam looked at him over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes at him, his cheeks slightly blushed.
“Sorry, Buddy. Go on, I promise I won’t say anything else.”
“Okay…” he muttered before turning to Lizbeth again. “I don’t have parents like my friends do, but I have them and now I also have Liz, she’s my uncle’s girlfriend and she’s the best.” Adam paused for a second and sighed. “Uncle Sawyer is the coolest. He let me choose my red glasses and he bought me the coolest Spiderman costume for Halloween last year. I want to be like him when I grow up because he doesn’t fly or have superpowers like superheroes, but he saves people every day. He’s smart and funny, just like Liz. I miss mom and dad all the time, they are not here anymore and I want to cry sometimes, but I’m not a baby anymore and uncle Sawyer and Liz make me happy, so it hurts less. She smiles a lot and makes funny jokes all the time. She picks on him and always takes Sophia’s and my side. They are kind and I love them both so much. I sometimes feel bad because I miss mom and dad, but they feel like them. So like I said, a family is not just parents and children like the dictionary says. Family is the people you love and the people who love you the most.”
Sawyer was lost for words. Adam never talked about his feelings or his deepest thoughts, he always kept everything to himself, just like him, but he had finally let it all out, writing everything down in that paper.
That essay turned his world upside down. The way Adam saw his surroundings, the way he still mourned his parents, and the way he had finally accepted him as a father and Lizbeth as a mother was the most painful yet beautiful thing he had ever heard.
“Buddy…” he called him, feeling the lump in his throat growing as he talked. “That’s… That’s…. Did you write that alone?”
“Yeah,” he said as he blushed. “Why?”
“It’s so great. I mean...I miss your mom and dad too but feeling sad because they’re gone is not a bad thing. They live in our memories and our hearts.”
“Of course! Remembering them is the best way to honor them, Buddy… I just… I didn’t know you felt like that… Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know…” He shrugged.
“Promise me one thing?”
“What?” Adam asked as he fidgeted with the paper in his hands.
“That from now on you won’t keep anything from me. We’re friends and family, and you can trust me with anything that happens to you, okay?”
“Then…” He averted his eyes.
“What is it?”
“Is it okay if I call you dad?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Because it’s like I’m forgetting about my real dad.” Everything made sense then. Adam had called him dad the day of the accident, but then he went back to uncle Sawyer. It was probably his heart having an inner fight with his mind.
“That’s not true, Buddy. Matt will always be your dad, whether he’s here or not, he’ll always be it. I never pretended to take his place in your heart, but there’s nothing wrong with you wanting me to be your dad too. We all need the family to overcome the difficult times and to share our happiness.” Sawyer paused for a second and studied Adam’s face, he seemed to have lightened a little. “Matt was one of the best people I’ve ever met and a great friend. I always admired him, he was a hardworking and kind man. He loved your mom and you two so much. And for me, it is an honor that you see me like him... I love you so much, Buddy,” he said as he pulled him in for a hug. Those kids were his saving grace.
Adam nodded. “I love you too, dad…”
Sawyer kissed the top of his head and, when he raised his eyes to where Lizbeth was, his heart came back to life again, hammering furiously in his chest out of pure bliss.
She was still a bit drowsy, but she was awake, looking at them with loving watery eyes and that gorgeous smile of hers painted on her lips.