Sami carried Archie through the front door, his sleeping body limp in her arms. “Okay, you two. Bed,” she whispered. She didn’t get an argument as her two oldest shuffled their way to the bedroom the three shared. Penny crawled onto her bottom bunk and closed her eyes, falling asleep in the seconds it took Sami to shift Archie in her arms and flick on the bedside lamp. Ben climbed to the top bunk, turning and sitting with his feet dangling over the edge.
“I’m too tired to take off my shoes.”
“I got you, bud. Just give me a minute.” Sami pulled back the covers on Archie’s bed with one hand and lay him on the clean sheets. She pulled his shoes from his feet, wiggled his body out of his pants, and covered him up, tucking the blanket around his little body. She leaned down and kissed a cheek still crusted with cinnamon and sugar.
She walked to the bunk bed and took Ben’s shoes off, letting them drop to the floor beside the ladder. “Did you have fun?”
“It was awesome,” Ben said with a yawn. He tugged at his shirt. Sami climbed up a rung on the ladder and helped him take it off. “Carlos has the best family in the world.”
“They’re pretty fantastic,” Sami agreed, climbing another rung as Ben crawled up the bed to his pillow, wiggling out of his pants. She took them from his fingers as he rolled over, his eyes closing before she’d had a chance to cover him. She pressed a kiss to her fingers and transferred it to his forehead.
Stepping down, she dropped his clothes next to Archie’s pants. Lifting a sleeping Penny, she leaned her against her chest, holding her while she unbuttoned the back of her dress. Penny mumbled in her sleep, but didn’t protest as Sami slid the dress of her, adding it to the growing pile on the floor. She tucked Penny under her covers, pressing her favorite stuffed rabbit next to her on the pillow.
She collected the pile of clothes and put them in the hamper, turned on the night light, and paused with her hands on the lamp switch.
She looked at her babies, all snug in their beds, their faces stained with ponche and churros and felt a lump rise in her throat. How she wished she could have them every Christmas. How she hated Franklin for tearing their family apart.
She turned off the light and walked into the silent living room. She didn’t usually mind the quiet, but it was disjointing after spending the day with the warmth and noise of the Hernandez family.
She turned on her laptop, saw the Christmas messages from her mom and Franklin, and closed the screen again. She walked aimlessly to the tiny kitchen that would have fit in the laundry room at her old house and poured herself a glass of wine.
Her phone chimed as she took a sip of the petit syrah. Picking it up, she opened a message from Brie before dialing the Buchons’ number. She didn’t know what could be urgent on Christmas.
“Sami?” Brie’s voice continued without pause, “I’m so sorry to call you this late, but I thought you might be home and we need a favor and I know it’s Christmas.” Brie took a breath. “Can you take Santiago for a couple days?”
Sami didn’t think before saying, “Of course. When?”
“Now? Mark can be there in a few minutes.”
“Now?” Sami ran through the mental list needed for housing a dog. Her landlord worked in animal rescue, so she knew that wasn’t a problem, but, she looked at the clock, it was nearly midnight.
“The thing is,” Brie’s voice choked, “we’ve had a call from the adoption agency.”
“Oh, Brie,” Sami knew how desperately her friends wanted children.
“I’m trying not to get too excited,” Brie whispered. “The situation is a little weird, but we need to go.”
“I’m the last person to judge weird,” Sami said with a laugh. “Bring him over.” She disconnected the call and smiled as the clock changed to midnight, bringing Christmas – and her quiet evening – to an end.