The sheikhs twin baby su.., p.15
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       The Sheikh's Twin Baby Surprise, p.15

         Part #1 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
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  Adventure was what I had always wanted in my life, and already I was learning that there might not be a bigger one than raising twins.

  We left the hospital the day after I gave birth, after the doctors gave me and the boys a clean bill of health and were satisfied that both of them were eating well. As if they could sense their mother’s exhaustion, they slept most of the day, apart from when they were eating or being bathed and changed. Both of the boys were napping peacefully in their carriers—Zamir in Omar’s arms, Roni in my lap as I sat in the wheelchair—when we finally left the hospital. Rafiq, along with other members of the security team, had been on a mad scramble all night, gathering duplicates of all the supplies we had bought before we knew of Zamir’s existence. Omar even had the palace staff prepare the nursery before we got home, so that everything would be perfect for the arrival of two babies.

  We said a quick and loving goodbye to Sajid and Alima in their hospital room before we left. Alima’s doctors had insisted she stay an extra day, since she had had such a complicated pregnancy, just to make sure everything looked good for her and little Jarah. She looked glowing and beautiful as she waved at us from her bed.

  We had a little trouble getting the carriers buckled into the town car, and something told me these cars weren’t exactly made for people transporting infants. Eventually we got them safe and secure, and Omar and I climbed in after. Rafiq took the Rolls Royce back to the palace, while Ahmed drove us in the royal car, its tinted windows keeping the babies shaded from the sun.

  My body was still completely thrashed from giving birth, and so I allowed Omar to wheel me back to our bedroom using the palace wheelchair. It was a happy surprise to see a doubling of all the baby furniture in the corner of the room that we had designated the nursery. Rafiq had done an excellent job getting exactly the same crib, changing table, and other necessities for Zamir to be completely comfortable.

  For the first time, Omar and I were alone with our sons. We lifted them each out of their carriers and held them close on our chests as they stubbornly slept, and we cried. For a while, we sat in the rocking chairs in the nursery, our fingers intertwined with each other’s and a sleeping son on each of our shoulders.

  I knew in that moment that I could never leave this behind. The thought of never feeling the beautiful, warm weight of my sons sleeping in my arms again was unbearable.

  And yet the anxiety of what to do about my future didn’t leave me. There was still so much about the palace life that I didn’t want to deal with. I would never be my full, free self again. I would always have to travel with a bodyguard in order to keep me safe from people who would try to hurt Omar by hurting me. My sons would have to be protected, too, and wouldn’t know a normal life like I had known. They would have their father to commiserate with on that point, but it still seemed unfair.

  And what happened when someone else came up to challenge the throne? What happened when my sons came of age, and Zamir decided that he, like Sajid, was upset at his brother simply for being born first? Roni would be king once Omar was no longer on the throne, that was certain. But I never wanted either of my sons to feel inadequate.

  I found that I suddenly understood Mirah so much better than I had before. Her pain became my pain. She had had to bury her husband, and watch her sons claw at each other’s throats over the scraps he left behind. Was that what the future held for Zamir and Roni? Was there anything I could do to stop it?

  I would be a royal housewife and mother. Sure, there were plenty of perks to the job, but I had spent my whole life working to be a doctor, living through hunger, exhaustion and trauma just to chase my passion. Practicing medicine would be impossible if I were the queen. What time was not spent on raising the boys would have to be dedicated to the myriad royal duties that fell on the lady of the house, and while they weren’t necessarily as important as Omar’s, they were still important enough that I wouldn’t be able to abstain from them. That went double because I was a foreign woman. The citizens of this country would rightly be upset if a foreign queen turned her nose up at their traditions while she was in power, and I would never want to do anything to upset Omar’s homeland. He loved this country, and it was his dream to rule as it was mine to save lives.

  The choice was impossible. Either I stayed to be with Omar and my sons, and raise my family in the palace, or I left to return, alone, to the trenches of medicine and resume the adventure I had been on before.

  Every minute that I wasn’t attending to my sons, the thoughts ate at me. I was grateful for the distraction of Omar’s impending coronation, only a week after the boys’ birth. As soon as news traveled that my twins had been born before Alima gave birth, it was clear to all that there was no more fight to be had for the throne. It belonged to Omar, as it rightly should have all along.

  The citizens of Al-Thakri seemed grateful that the succession issue had finally been solved. Newspapers and TV reports showed throngs of celebrating people all over the land, excited both to have a new king to crown, and at having new royal babies to fuss over. Omar brought in a professional photographer to take portraits of the boys to share with the country. Omar and I insisted we remain out of them for the time being; neither of us wanted the focus to be on us. We wanted to celebrate Roni and Zamir with the rest of the country.

  The coronation was set for Friday evening, and included a grand dinner beforehand. The palace would be hosting the crème-de-la-crème of Al-Thakrian society, as well as a slew of diplomats, rulers and dignitaries, who would come to pay their respects to the royal family in anticipation of long years working together to establish prosperity and peace. Al-Thakri was both prosperous and peaceful, and Omar’s father had been a well-respected ruler. The world was excited and hopeful for his oldest son to take up the throne in his stead.

  Dinner was to be a private affair, only for the royal family, before all the chaos and pageantry began. Omar asked the kitchen to make up a fine dinner and pulled his most aged and expensive wines from the palace cellar. He even brought in dessert chefs from France to assist his kitchen staff with creating something extraordinary.

  While Omar sweated over the coronation preparations, I did my best to prepare our handsome, wiggly sons for their first public appearances. Mirah was all too happy to help me bathe them and get them dressed in tiny versions of the traditional, flowing white garb Omar would be wearing as he ascended to the throne. They looked like adorable little sheikhs themselves by the time we were done, drifting off to sleep in a double stroller.

  “I’m not sure I’m ready for all this,” I confessed to Mirah as I watched them sleep.

  “What, motherhood?” she said with a gentle smile. “None of us are ready when it happens.”

  “I’m not sure I’m ready for the coronation, either. At least I can find solid advice from people on how to be a mother, but on how to be a makeshift queen? Even the internet was quiet on that one.”

  Mirah’s laugh was light and lilting. She put a thin arm around my shoulder. “But women are naturally queens. You already have that inside of you; you only have to release it.”

  “Really?”

  “Really,” she nodded. “How else do you think we are able to go through the pain and torment of birthing children—even two, in your case—and be upright and back to ourselves the next day? Out working, or leading, or taking care of others? We have power in us, Carrie. You don’t need to be worried. And even if you are, I’m here to help you.”

  I smiled at her, but must have looked more tight-lipped and worried than I intended. Her eyes looked sad. “Omar has told me you miss your old life being a doctor out in the world.”

  I sighed, feeling a mix of shame and relief that Mirah knew about my conundrum. Things never seemed as bad when they weren’t pent up inside like a secret. “I do miss it.” I glanced down at my sleeping sons. “But I would probably miss this even worse. I don’t know what to do.”

  “Do you love my son?”

  “Of co
urse,” I said. “And I love our sons.”

  “Then things will work themselves out,” she assured me. “And you will be together, whatever happens.”

  Tears stung my eyes. “What makes you so sure?”

  “That is the point of love: to make sure we end up where we are supposed to be.”

 

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