"Daddy, why do the nurses keep telling me that I have a half-brother now? Why is he just half of a baby? I want a whole one – a whole brother!" Jesse pleads, her eyes about to brim over with tears.
Sonny leans back a little, sighing. He was hoping to have this conversation with Jesse someday, albeit with Amanda by his side. It's really her story to tell. But Amanda had complications during the birth and is in surgery right now. He is worried about her – hoping that she'll pull through, but her fate is still uncertain. By some kind of miracle, the baby made it into the world just fine though. And they are waiting to be let into the nursery so that he can introduce Jesse to her little brother.
After her outburst Jesse shifts uncomfortably, looking down to hide her tears. Already, she is so much like her mother – so stoic. Sonny reaches out to hug her close so she has a safe place to cry. She sheds a few tears onto his chest and lets herself be comforted by him.
Oh this is tough. "Jesse I need to tell you something – so that you'll understand why everyone is calling him your half-brother. Do you promise to hear me out all the way?"
She looks up and nods.
"You have another daddy."
She looks up at him in shock.
"His name is Declan. He's a hero, little one."
"Yes, he's in a land far away, saving people."
"But how can I have two daddies?"
"Well, your mama loved him before she loved me. And they created you from that."
"Babies are created from love?"
"Yes, little one." He almost chuckles. It really is that simple after all. "And your little brother was created from the love I have for your mama. So he only has one daddy – me. But you're lucky – you've got two daddies. Declan was already your daddy, but I loved you so much I wanted to be your daddy too. So when your mama and I got married, it happened."
"Yes, but because you were created by Mama and a different daddy than his, they call him your half-brother. Do you understand?"
"I think so," she looks like she's contemplating this very seriously. Then she looks up and smiles at him excitedly. "Even if I don't, I'll figure it out – I promise."
"That's good Jesse. Like father like daughter."
A nurse comes up to them and says, "Okay, he's ready now. Come with me."
As she leads them down the hallway, the nurse bends down to Jesse and says, "Aren't you excited to meet your half-baby-brother?"
This time she's not disturbed by the concept all at. "Yes, ma'am!"
They walk into a room filled with babies. Most of them are napping, but some of them are fussing. They walk over to one of the tiny little beds. Sonny picks up Jesse so she can take a closer look at the sleeping baby inside of it.
"Jesse, meet your little brother Dominick. He's number three."
But Jesse is barely listening. She is quite alarmed because the baby's face is purple. She whips around to face her daddy.
"Daddy, look," she says pointing back at her baby brother. "His face is purple! Is he okay?"
"He's fine. Sometimes little babies look like that right after they are born."
Dominick's little fist pumps in the air and he puckers his lips, but he's still asleep.
"Is he mad?" Jesse asks. "Is that why his face is so dark?"
"No, little one." Sonny chuckles softly. "He's just fine."
"Okay," she says. Then she notices that he has little tufts of blond wispy hair. "Oooh, look daddy! He has hair like you and mommy."
"Yes he does," Sonny reaches out to his little son and pats his head gently. His eyes get a little wet because little Dominick reminds him so much of Amanda. He hopes she makes it through surgery okay. When she gave birth to Jesse she had complications, too. But she had recovered – she was a fighter. He hoped it was enough to get her through this time.
"Do I have red hair because my other daddy does?"
Sonny looks down at Jesse. She is incredibly smart for her four years. "Yes baby, you do. You're exactly right."
She pulls out a lock of her hair so she can examine it and twists it in her fingers. A slow smile crosses her face.
"Do you want to touch him?"
He bends her down over the bed so she can reach, "Gently now."
She touches his face and then his tiny fingers. They grasp on to hers tightly.
"Oh!" she says a little startled and pulls them away from his grip. She looks up at her daddy.
"It's okay little one – it just means he likes you."
So she reaches down for him again and this time she squeals with delight when he grabs her fingers, "He likes me, daddy!"
"Yes he does." He is beaming at her.
A nurse gives him a look and he knows it's time to go. He sets Jesse back down on the floor but before they leave she reaches out for the tag that is on the end of the bed.
"What does this say, Daddy?" She has been really curious about words lately, and has learned her alphabet already. "D-O-M-I-N-I-C-K space C-A-R-I-S-I space I-I-I. Oh! Oh! Oh! I recognize the middle one, Daddy. It's my last name!"
"You are right." He's so proud of her for remembering.
"But what does the rest say? I've never seen a word with three I's altogether like that before." She squints hard at the tag.
"Well, the first word is Dominick – his first name. And the three I's are a way to say "the Third."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Well my daddy's name was Dominick, my name is Dominick – "
"No it's not. Don't tell stories." She admonishes. "Mama calls you Sonny."
"That's just a nickname – like when we call you Jess. My full name is Dominick."
"Oooh . . . is it a secret name?"
"Kinda." He smiles. "Not many people call me that."
Except for your mama when she's feeling particularly romantic.
"So his name is Dominick just like yours. Will it be a secret name, too?"
"Maybe," he says, "We'll just have to wait and see if we come up with a nickname for him. Now 'the Third' means he's the third Dominick born in a row in my family."
"So he's Dominick Carisi the Third," she says proudly, emphasizing 'the Third.'
"That's right, little Jess."
Then her brows furrow – she's thinking. "Why doesn't he have a middle name like me?"
"Because his name is long enough with 'the Third' tacked on to the end of it." He laughs softly and she giggles a little too loudly for a nursery full of sleeping babies. He puts his index finger up to his lips in a shushing gesture. She stops giggling, mimics his gesture, and nods like it's their little secret.
The he says to her gently, quietly, "Let's go now."
He takes her little hand in his and guides her out of the nursery.
"Would you like me to take her down to the play area so she doesn't get restless while you wait?" a nurse asks. Then she adds quietly, "Your wife is going to be in surgery a lot longer than expected."
He gulps and then lets out a ragged. "Yeah."
He kneels down to his daughter. "Jesse, why don't you go with this nice lady over to the play area?"
"YAY!" she exclaims and starts to run ahead of the nurse. Which is good because he doesn't want her to see him break down.
He takes a seat in the waiting room and puts his head in his hands. He stares at the floor while he pulls his hair back tightly at his temples, pulling his eyes into slits.
He thinks about Jesse and little Dominick. He'll raise them on his own if he has to. And he should be grateful that she will leave these pieces of herself, of them, behind in her children if she goes.
But still, he blinks back the tears trying not to cry, thinking of Amanda fighting for her life back in the operating room. He can't bear the thought of losing her, so he begins to pray.
Oh Heavenly Father, please help her through this. I don't want our kids to lose her, it would devastate them . . . It is getting harder and harder for him to hold back the tears . . . Oh God, please. I can't bear to lose her either. It would devastate me.
He sighs raggedly.
He sniffs back the tears that hadn't quite fallen and lifts his head up from his hands to make the sign of the cross. He is so worried about her, but it is in God's hands now. He just has to wait and see if his prayers are answered.