Caring Christopher

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#11 Don’t let another one get away

Christopher

Dorothy isn’t doing well. I already knew that, but it hurts seeing her deteriorating even more. Davy doesn’t seem to notice that his mother is so exhausted that she can barely keep her head up. He talks her ear off and hands her his stones, while Yoah is much more observant. I can see the tears in his eyes, and I feel them deep inside of me, my heart breaking for the boys.

While Abby introduces herself to Dorothy, I go to the nurses’ office to talk to the nurse on call today, wanting to know how Dorothy is truly doing. I may be a doctor in this hospital, but I’m just a visitor in the cancer wing, so I can’t just pull up her chart. Well… I could, but that wouldn’t be showing much respect to the doctors and nurses on this floor.

“Hey Dr. Davids,” nurse Jackey Richards says when she sees me, pulling her long grey hair back into a ponytail while she gives me a wry smile. “You’re here for Dorothy Pillar, right? She’s not doing well, I’m afraid. In fact… we stopped treatment this morning. There’s nothing more we can do for her.”

“Fuck,” I mutter, even though I’m usually not one to curse. “Sorry. I mean… that’s awful. How long does she have left?”

Jackey shrugs. “One month, maybe two? Hard to tell. It’ll be a small miracle if she’s still here around Christmas time. Your guess is as good as mine. If she’s lucky she can get through the holidays with her kids before passing away. She’s tough, but her body is done fighting. There’s no coming back from this. We’ll be moving her to a hospice in a few days.”

A hospice. That’s a nice way of saying she’s being transferred to a place where she can die, because we need her hospital room for a patient that actually has a chance at getting better. I feel tears welling up in my eyes, but I keep it together for Davy and Yoah. If I cry, they’ll know how bad it is, and I can’t have that. Today was already tough on Yoah with two boys telling him that his parents must not love him very much if they put him in the foster system, and then getting blamed for the fight and his teacher making him cry. I can’t tell the boys their mother is dying. I just can’t.

The moment I walk into the room, Abby gets up and pushes me back out. She was laughing with Dorothy and Davy, with Yoah just smiling at them, but she stops whatever conversation they were having to talk to me. Abigail shuts the door behind us and pulls me further down the hallway, out of earshot.

“You look like you’re about to break into tears,” she tells me. “What’s going on?”

Am I that bad of an actor? Or is Abigail just extremely perceptive? “Dorothy is getting moved to a hospice,” I say, seeing understanding in her eyes. “I don’t know… I mean… How do I…”

“Tell the boys?” she finishes for me. “Yeah, I get that. I have no idea how to go about that. Yoah knows, though, on some level. He’s a smart kid. He knows she’s dying.”

I agree with her and pull my hands through my hair, trying to come up with something. Anything. There’s nothing I can do, though. Nothing except take the boys to see their mother as often as I can until she passes away eventually.

“Can I hug you?” Abigail asks, once again asking for permission.

“You don’t need to ask me that every time,” I murmur, pulling her against me, needing the comfort even more than I did this morning.

“I do,” she insists, squeezing me tightly. “I’ve been touched without consent so often that I will never do that to another person, even if it’s just about a hug or something.”

I pull her against me even more, pushing my face into her hair. Her voice is so detached from al emotion that it makes me feel like there is so much hurt in the memories raging within her right now. I wonder what she’s talking about, but I don’t ask her. She will tell me when she’s ready. I can’t push her, just like I can’t push Yoah when he’s shutting down. Those two are a lot alike, in a sad way.

“Thank you,” I tell her when we finally break apart. “I honestly don’t know how I would get through this whole mess without you.”

She smiles weakly. “You pay me to be here for you.”

“No, I don’t.” I can’t help myself, I tuck a strand of hair behind her ear just like I did on the playground. My hands ache to touch her more than that. I want to trail my fingers over her soft skin, brush them along her jawline, down to her collar bone, moving on to those beautiful breasts and take off-

Get a grip, Chris.

“I pay you to take care of the kids,” I say, swallowing hard. “Yet you take care of me to.”

She reaches up and I realize too late that my hand is still in her hair. She puts her hand over mine and leans into my touch. “I think that’s a mutual thing, Chris.”

We stand there like idiots, staring at each other, both afraid to move, until nurse Jackey walks past whistling a tune. We jump apart and go back into the room to see Davy and Yoah in bed with their mother, their heads on her chest. Dorothy smiles up at us, her skin gray and her whole body bony and exhausted. Still, she’s glowing now that her boys are with her.

“Yoah just told me you yelled at his teacher, Abby,” she says, ruffling her son’s hair. “He seems very happy about that, actually.”

Abigail chuckles. “Really, Yoah, you’re tattling on me?”

Yoah grins and looks up at Abby with those light green eyes of his. “Maybe.”

“You little snitch!” She moves over to tickle him, and the sound of his laughter warms me in a way nothing in my life ever has. I will gladly spend every single day of my life making sure Davy and Yoah will keep being able to laugh like that, even after losing their mother.

We tell Dorothy everything the boys have been up to this week, and Yoah chimes in a few times, even reaching over to take my hand at one point. My heart tightens and I remember Abby telling me that Davy asked if I was his fairy godmother because I look out for him and protect him from evil. Right now, the biggest evil in their lives is the cancer in their mother’s body, and even though I’m a doctor, there is nothing I can do to protect them from her death. The only thing I can do is love them, give them a safe place to call home, and pray to God that the social workers won’t take the kids away from me.

Abby’s hand is on my shoulder the moment she sees that I’m having a difficult time keeping my tears at bay and I put mine over hers, happy to have her support. I meant it when I said that I feel like she’s taking care of me just as much as she’s taking care of the kids.

***

When I get home on Saturday from a night shift that lasted all through the morning as well, I see that the dishes from breakfast are still in the sink, but Abby and the kids are nowhere to be seen. I hear the faint sound of music and follow it, throwing my coat over a chair and grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge. It sounds like they’re in the garden, and I smile when I walk out and see that Abby put the Bluetooth speaker on a lawn chair and is helping the kids practice a dance routine. Titus is lounging in the yard, looking at the kids like the mere idea of joining in exhausts him. Poor dog.

Aston is sitting in the grass, playing with Steffi, and Francesca is here is well, holding her tiny little baby boy Zachary that was born just last month. She’s a nurse at the hospital I work at and we met two years ago. I asked her out soon after, but she turned me down. Now, she’s married and has a kid, so things worked out for her. Honestly, looking out into the garden and seeing Abby with Yoah and Davy, I feel like things are finally working out for me as well, albeit in a very different and unexpected way.

“Don’t look, Chris!” Davy shouts when he sees me. “We’re practicing a dance for you!”

I laugh and turn around, holding up my hands in surrender. “I’m not looking!”

“No peeking!” Yoah adds, sounding like he’s having fun as well.

Abby walks over and moves into my line of vision, grinning at me. Her hair is wilder than ever before, looking like she’s been rolling around in the grass with leaves stuck in her hair. Her cheeks are flushed, and I swear that she’s never looked more beautiful than right now, completely herself and playing with the kids. I reach out to pluck a few leaves from her wild manes, and her cheeks flush even more, her smile freezing on her face.

“Go take a shower,” she tells me, regaining her composure quickly. “Davy and Yoah will be ready to show you their dance then. You can crash right after, I know you must be tired, but the kids have spent the past two hours practicing, and I know they’d love to show you before you go to sleep.”

“Of course,” I assure her. “Thanks for playing with them.”

“It’s my job,” she says with a wicked grin. “Best job ever if you ask me. I’ll do the dishes later, by the way, we got a little preoccupied.”

“Don’t worry about the dishes.” I smile when I hear Yoah shriek with joy behind me, followed by Davy’s laughter. “The kids are happy, that’s all that matters to me.”

She pulls her hair up into a messy bun. “Exactly. Now go shower, Dr. Davids. We’ve got a show to prepare for.”

“No peeking!” Yoah yells again. “Don’t look through the upstairs window!”

“I promise,” I shout back before stepping into the house. I’m only halfway up the stairs when I hear Francesca calling me. She’s standing in the hallway with her baby in her arms, smiling up at me. “God, he’s cute,” I say, taking him from her, stroking his cute little blonde curls. “He looks just like Joshua.”

“Yeah, he’s perfect,” she agrees, sighing. “Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about my perfect baby boy, although I never get tired of talking about Zach. So… Abigail, huh?”

“She’s nice, isn’t she?” I say, still looking at the baby in my arms. He makes a cute little cooing sound and smacks his lips at me. I play with his tiny little fingers and press a kiss to his forehead. I’ve only seen him twice since he was born, but he seems perfectly at ease in my arms.

“I love her,” Franny says happily. “She’s so much fun, and such a firecracker. You like her, don’t you?”

“Sure, I think she’s great,” I say vaguely. Why does everyone automatically assure I like the nanny?

“I think she likes you too,” Fran tells me secretively. “I came over with Aston to see if you were home, and we were going to head over to his place when we realized you were working, but Abigail insisted that we came in. She made pancakes for everyone and then spent the rest of the morning dancing with the kids. Seriously, I think you should go for it, Chris. You’re never going to find someone like her again. And like I said, I think she likes you too. She’s called you wonderful about a gazillion times this morning alone.”

“She did?” I ask, unable to keep a smile off my face as I look up at my friend.

“Hah! I knew you liked her!” Fran does a little cheer. “Ask her out!”

“She’s my employee, Fran.”

“That didn’t stop you back when you wanted to take me out for a date,” she reminds me, taking Zachary back from me and kissing his cute little face. “Plus, I saw the way you looked at Abby just now when you plucked those hair out of her hair. You’ve never looked at me like that. Never. Not even back when you wanted to date me.”

That’s true. I thought Francesca was cute when we first met, and I was willing to make a fool out of myself to ask her out, but it wasn’t like I was heartbroken when she declined. If I were to ask Abby out and she’d say no… Yeah, that would definitely break my heart, even if I don’t want to admit it to myself.

“Look,” I start with a sigh. “It’s complicated. Abby’s my nanny and my focus is on the boys right now. Besides… Abby is… complicated. She’s… I don’t know, Franny. She’s got some serious trust issues, and I’m not going to make her feel uncomfortable by making a move on her.” If I even knew what making a move looked like. I’ve got no game whatsoever, I never did. My ex-wife was the one to put the moves on me back in college, and with Annabel, Chloe, and the few other women I’ve dated, it was the same way. I’m not a take charge type of man. Well, I am at work, but not in my social life.

“I get it,” Franny assures me. “All I’m saying is that she seems to think you’re a great guy, and Brittany told me that Abigail doesn’t say that about many men. She doesn’t trust men, period. Aside from Jaxon and Aston, she doesn’t even hang out with any guys, and they’re basically family since Abigail and Brittany are like sisters, so that doesn’t count. The fact that she likes you means a lot more than you might think. Don’t fuck this up by being too careful, okay? That’s how Joshua and I almost missed out on each other, by not taking a risk.” She holds up her baby boy. “This is what you get when you take risks, Chris. Cute little babies with beautiful little blonde curls.”

I laugh and give Francesca a hug, careful not to smush Zachary in the process. “We’ll see, okay? For now, I’m just fine with how things are.”

“So you’d be okay with Abigail meeting someone else?” Fran asks knowingly. “Aston already invited her along for another playdate for the kids, and you know what he’s like. It’s only a matter of time before he sets her up with some random guy and convinces her it’s a great idea.”

My smile freezes. “I’m going to take a shower,” I grumble, turning around and walking upstairs to my bedroom.

“That says it all, Chris!” Franny yells after me, sounding amused. “Don’t let another one get away!”

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