Caring Christopher

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#18 Impossible dreams

Abigail

“What do you mean, you didn’t cry when you watched The Titanic?” Christopher asks in credulously. It’s the night before everyone arrives for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and we decided to just pig out on the couch together after the kids went to bed. There’s a bowl of popcorn on the seat between us, so it’s not like we’re close together or anything.

This is not a date.

It does feel like a date. Sort of… A little bit. I guess. But it’s not. Definitely not a date.

“Why would I cry at the end of that sappy movie?” I give him my most incredulous look. “Rose is a bitch who should have just moved over so Jack didn’t have to die. And their love was based on nothing but sex, curiosity and impending doom. That’s not love, that’s just… passing the time together. Plus, the movie is like an hour too long. So many useless scenes… And the whole thing with old Rose and the necklace and shit… What the fuck is that about?”

Chris laughs and grabs a handful of popcorn. “Okay, so not The Titanic then. What about La La Land?”

“That’s not even a sad movie,” I tell him, confused by his choice.

“Back when I dated Annabel she would bawl her eyes out over that movie every single time,” Christopher says with a fond smile. I wonder if he still has feelings for her. “Looking back, I guess I should have realized she was never going to pick me over Aston. La La Land is about two people not ending up together because they have different dreams, right? They’re both being happy when they’re apart, but they still feel that slight pull of the past, wondering what if… I think that’s how Anna felt about Aston back ten. She’s ten years older than him, she didn’t think he wanted kids, so she must have felt like that movie was about them, in a way.” He looks a little surprised at his own realization.

“Still, not a sad movie,” I repeat. “They’re both happy, living their dreams. What’s there to bitch about? If I got to live my dreams, I wouldn’t be looking across a goddamn jazz place all misty-eyed, wondering about what might have been. I’d just be happy.”

Chris shakes his head. “I don’t think so, Abby. I think you’ll feel different in ten years or so.”

“Are you calling me too young to know what I’m talking about?” I shoot back, annoyed with him. “If we compare our lives, I think I’ve got a hell of lot more experience with failure and heartbreak than you. You’re the hot rich doctor with the house and two kids. I’m the broke nanny with no chance to ever live out her dreams. I think I win the pity prize.”

The moment I see Christopher’s eyes widen, I know I made a mistake. Why did I say that? I just feel so comfortable around him that I start ranting the way I usually only do around Brittany and maybe Jaxon. Not around anyone else. Never. And now there’s Christopher and I keep spilling my guts.

“What dreams?” he asks softly, reaching out to touch me and then freezing, probably remembering what I said about being touched without consent many times before. That was another stupid thing I never should have said, but we were so in synch at the hospital, and he looked so sad. I stopped thinking and all I wanted to do was comfort him, which was exactly why stupid stuff came out of my mouth.

“Never mind,” I grumble, grabbing the remote to scroll through Netflix. “What are you in the mood for?”

“I’m in the mood to hear you tell me about your dreams,” he says, angling his body towards me. “Why do you think you will never be able to reach them? Is it because of money?”

I shrug. “Money plays a part, but that’s not all. It’s just… impossible. What I want, it’s not for me. I’m not good enough.”

“Not good enough?” This time, he reaches out so slowly that he’s giving me all the time I could possibly need to pull away if I wanted to. Right before his hand lands on my shoulder, he gives me a questioning look, and I nod. He squeezes my shoulder gently while he talks, rubbing his thumb over the bare skin, making me shiver. “Why would you ever feel like you’re not good enough, Abby? You’re amazing. I hate that anyone ever made you feel any different.”

I seriously tear up a little, but I push the emotions back down the way I always do. I don’t cry. I just don’t. Crying is for the weak, or for people why can afford to lose their composure. I need to be stronger than anyone else, because I can’t afford to break down. I just can’t. I will never pull myself back together if I break.

“What’s your dream?” Chris asks, not dropping this.

I shrug. “Doesn’t matter. Never gonna happen.”

“Just because it might not happen doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. They’re your dreams. You matter.”

I laugh, but not because it’s funny. I laugh because I feel like his blue eyes are looking right into my soul, where the most horrible parts of me are hidden. I don’t want to talk about this. I just want to eat popcorn and watch a movie.

“Don’t laugh it off,” Christopher says softly, still rubbing my arm. “Tell me. If nothing was in your way, what would your life look like?”

Oh, what the hell. Let’s just put it out there. “Kids,” I say so quietly I don’t know if he can even hear me. “I’d want a husband, at least two kids, a house, and to be a stay-at-home mother. Or maybe a part-time teacher. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher when I was younger, went to college for it, but I had to drop out. So… yeah, now I’m a nanny.”

“Why can’t you go back to college?” Chris asks curiously. “Why did you drop out? And… I mean… that doesn’t sound like an unrealistic dream for a 27-year-old girl.”

“It is,” I bite out, annoyed even though I know it’s not his fault. “I can’t have kids.”

“Oh,” he breathes. “That’s horrible. I’m so sorry.”

I sigh, shifting a little so his hand drops from my shoulder. I can’t have him touching me while I talk about this. “I’m not saying I’m infertile or anything. I’ve never been pregnant or taken a test or whatever, so I guess everything works down there, but I just… I can’t have kids. That’s what I’m not good enough for. I’m not good enough to be a mother.”

“That’s utter bullshit,” Chris says vehemently, surprising me by almost yelling. He catches himself, taking a deep breath to calm back down. “You’re so great with Yoah and Davy, and you’re so fierce and nurturing at the same time… You’d be a great mother.”

I shake my head. “No, I wouldn’t be. I’m too fucked-up, on so many levels. You barely know me, Chris. You have no idea of what my life is like.”

“Tell me then,” he insists. “Tell me why you think you’re unfit to have kids, because I promise you, Abby, you’re wrong.”

“Oh really?” I ask, raising my voice. I know I shouldn’t take this out on him, but I’m hurting and he’s here, so I go off on him. “What the fuck do you know about me and my life, Chris? You weren’t there when my father got out on parole and beat up my mother. Or when he went back to jail and mom hadn’t divorced him yet, and she ended up having to sell our house so she could pay off his debts and then get a lawyer to force him into a divorce. And you weren’t there when the bastard got stabbed when he pissed off the wrong inmate, and mom felt obligated to have a funeral for the guy that was never there for her and wasn’t even a real father. He was just a goddamn sperm donor.”

“Abby, I didn’t mean to-”

I don’t even let Chris finish his sentence. All the hurt and resentment comes spilling out. “Were you there when I turned 15 and my mother started forgetting things, like my goddamn birthday? And I fucking hated her for being such a bad mother. I yelled at her for not picking me up from hockey practice, for not remembering my friends’ names or to come to PTA-meetings. I was such an ungrateful little brat, and then I finally realized she needed help, when I was already 16, and I found out she had early-onset Alzheimer’s. Where you there, Chris? What the fuck do you know about who I am or if I’m fit to be a mother? I might carry the same genes and end up in a group home like her, basically a senile old baby. I can’t have a kid and risk ending up like my mother.” I’m breathing hard by now and I’m still shouting, but I can’t stop.

“You don’t know what it’s like to have this sword dangling above your head, wondering when you will start to forget things. When I forget something, my heart stops beating for a moment and I ask myself: is this is? Is this how it starts? That’s not normal, Chris. I’m not normal. Someone like me should never ever have kids. If my mother had known this when she got pregnant, she would have gotten an abortion. She told me so herself before she forgot who I am. I should never have been born!”

“Abby…” Chris puts the popcorn on the coffee table and scoots over, holding open his arms. “Please, let me hug you.”

“No,” I say angrily, getting up to get away from him. If he hugs me now, I will cry, and I can’t let that happen. “You don’t need to comfort me. I’m fine. This is my life and that’s okay. I will never have kids, and maybe that’s a good thing, since it’s not like men are jumping at the chance to be the baby daddy anyway, so who the fuck cares if I want kids, right? It’s not like I can have them on my own when I know I will one day forget their names. Even if I had a man, I can’t risk giving my kids the same fuck-up disease and doom them to an existence like my mother’s and mine.”

“Abby,” he says again, standing up as well. “I had no idea. I’m sorry. But I still think you’d make a great mother. I get the whole thing about not wanting to give your kids a hereditary disease, but you could be a foster mom, right?”

I scoff. “Like you, you mean? I’m nothing like you. I’m not stable, I’ve got crap genes, and I don’t have money to take care of kids. I wish I was like you, but I’m not. I’m a nanny who has to put every single dollar in her account towards taking care of her mother, even though my mother has no idea who I am anymore. That’s my life. That’s all my life will ever be.”

“That’s not all your life is,” he insists, pulling his hands through his hair in frustration. “You’re this fierce, amazing person, your friends love you, Yoah and Davy adore you, and I… I wouldn’t know how to do any of this without you. If you want to go back to college to a teacher, I’d be happy to pay for that. We can call it a loan if you don’t want me to help you out financially, but I’m good for it. Like you said, I’m a rich doctor. I’d be happy to help you.”

Is he serious right now? I know he means well, but he’s making me even angrier. “I’m not a goddamn charity case or a foster kid to take care of, Chris. I work for you. I’m nothing but your kids’ nanny.”

“You’re a person,” he says, looking at me intently. “And an amazing person at that. You’re my friend, and I care about you.”

“I’m not your friend, I’m your employee.”

He shakes his head. “I know you think of me like a friend too, Abby. You take care of me too, not just the kids. You go above and beyond for this little family, and you make me laugh, we play board games together when the kids are asleep, you even tag along to do stuff with me and the kids when you’re off duty. You’re a part of this family, not just the nanny.”

My heart clenches when he says that, and it hurts like hell. All I’ve ever wanted my entire life was to have a family like this, with a mom and a dad and two kids. But we’re just playing at this. It’s not real. The kids aren’t his, they could be taken away from him some day. And I’m not the mother or even an aunt or anything. I’m just the nanny, no matter how much I wish Chris’ words were true.

“Eventually, I will fuck up,” I say softly. “I will fuck up and you will stop thinking of me like a friend or a family member, and you will fire me.”

“You won’t,” he says with a small smile. “You won’t mess up. And I would never just fire you the way your previous employers did, Abby. You know none of that was your fault, right? I don’t know exactly what happened there, but from the few comments you’ve made the past months, I know enough to feel confident saying that everything that happened there was on them. Not on you.”

“I walk around in skimpy robes when I go down for my midnight snack,” I whisper. I’ve never said out loud that I blame myself for what happened at my old jobs, but Chris is right to assume that I do. “I watch porn, I’ve got a vibrator in my nightstand, I laugh and flirt sometimes, even when I don’t mean to. They’re right. I seduced them.”

Chris shakes his head. “Did you actually try to get them to sleep with you?”

I shake my head. “Of course not.”

“Did you initiate anything?”

“No.”

“Look, I watch porn too, sometimes,” he says, his cheeks flushing bright red. “And when you unlock my nightstand, there’s lube and a box of tissues in there. That doesn’t give anyone the right to touch me inappropriately or rape me or do anything to me I don’t want, right?”

“Right,” I agree, looking down at the floor.

“Then why do you feel like what they did to you is your fault?” he asks softly. “Those men were your employers, your bosses. They were paying you to take care of their kids, and they were supposed to provide a safe home for you. They were older than you as well. How is it your fault they abused their power over you to take care of their own selfish needs?”

I shrug. “I didn’t always stop them. Most of the time I did, but sometimes, I just… let them. I let them do what they wanted.”

“That doesn’t make it your fault, Abby,” Chris says softly. “When someone puts a knife to throat and tells you to hand them your wallet, would you blame yourself? Of course not. Then why blame yourself when someone in a position of power forces themselves on you? You needed the money, you lived in their house. Of course you’d be scared to fight back.”

I take a deep breath and close my eyes. “I just feel so… dirty.”

“You’re not dirty. You’re resilient. Strong. A fighter. You survived a bad childhood, battle feelings of insecurity every single day, keep all those feelings and fears bottled up inside… yet you’re still sweet, caring, nurturing, and so real. You should be so proud of yourself, Abby.”

When I open my eyes, I see Christopher standing in front of me with nothing but kindness and pride in his eyes. I just told him all about how fucked-up I am, yet he’s not looking any differently than he did before. Instead, he looks at me like he still wants to hug me, not disgusted by me at all.

“You can hug me now,” I breathe.

Immediately, he moves to pull me against him, stroking my back and my hair while I fall apart. The girl that never cries is sobbing, drenching his shirt. This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen, but it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. It’s almost a relief to let it all out.

“You will be okay,” Chris says softly, holding me like he never wants to let go. “You’re so strong, Abby.”

Right now, I don’t feel very strong, but I do feel like I will be okay again. I can pull myself back together eventually. I know I can.

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