Caring Christopher

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#19 Jagger

Christopher

I don’t know who’s more nervous: me, Abby, or Dorothy. Yoah and Davy aren’t tense, luckily. They’re just looking forward to seeing their older brother again. It’s been a while for them, and Davy doesn’t have many memories of him, but Yoah obviously looks up to the boy, which makes me a little nervous. From what Dorothy told me, he’s a wild child. 16 years old, acting like he’s the king of the world and nothing can touch him. Yoah and Davy have been going so well, and I don’t want them to get derailed by anything. At the same time, I know seeing Jagger is important to all three of them, so who am I to have reservations?

The doorbell rings and Davy jumps up. “I wanna open the door!” he yells. “Can I, Chris, can I?”

“Sure.” I make sure to rush after him, not sure what to expect.

Davy swings open the door to reveal a shaggy-looking teenager with the same dark mess of hair Davy and Yoah have. He’s wearing a heavy leather jacket, tight black skinny jeans, and there is a scowl on his face. He’s got an eyebrow piercing and his nails are painted black, heavy rings adoring his fingers.

“Hey,” he says, chewing his gum carelessly.

“Jagger!” Yoah exclaims, pushing past me to get to his brother. “You really came!”

Jagger’s expression softens as he wraps his arms around his younger brother. “Hey little man. Looking sharp.” He turns to hold one arm out to Davy. “Aren’t you going to say hi to your oldest brother, Davy?” All three of them huddle together, Jagger ruffling their hair affectionately.

“You must be Chris,” he says, sounding way more mature than he should at 16. “I’m Jagger, in case that wasn’t clear.”

We shake hands, and I can’t help but wonder what this boy has been through. He seems like a rebel and a kid that had to grow up too fast all at once. “Nice to meet you,” I say, motioning for him to come on in. “This is Abby, the live-in nanny and my… friend.” I’d love to call her more than just a friend, but she’s not, so I leave it at that.

“Hi,” Jagger says, taking her in with a sly smile on his face. “Nice to meet you.” His eyes linger on her breasts and it’s all I can do not to tell him off for it. He’s a 16-year-old boy and she’s a hot 27-year-old girl in a low-cut top. I can’t exactly blame him, since I’ve been staring at her for over two months now, jerking off to her in the shower. Still, it feels icky to see him winking at her. He’s 16. He’s the brother of the kids that she takes care of every single day. It’s just gross.

“Where’s you aunt?” Abby asks, looking past Jagger into the street, where a battered green car is parked on the curb.

Jagger laughs. “She didn’t come. My stuff is all in the trunk. She was over the moon when she realized she could just hand me over to you guys.”

“Hand you over?” Oh no, what did we get ourselves into? “I thought you and your aunt were going to stay with us for two days and then go back home?”

“Nah, man, I bet the old bat already changed all the locks when I drove off. She was eager to get rid of me.” He cocks an eyebrow at my shocked expression. “She didn’t tell you I’m moving in, did she? Fuck, I should have known. Sorry, man. Not a problem, I will just stay in a motel until I figure something out. I’ve got a friend one town over, so I’m sure I can crash on his couch for a while.”

This is too much, too soon. Abby and I lock eyes, and I can see that she’s thinking the same thing I am. There’s no way we can let this teen go off the grid, crashing on couches and not have an adult taking care of him. We weren’t expecting a 16-year-old foster kid to get added to our little family, but it seems we don’t have a choice.

“I’ll go call the social worker,” I say, trying my best to give Jagger a kind smile. “Let’s get your stuff upstairs, shall we? Davy, Yoah, wanna help your brother get settled into his room?”

They both hurry to help Jagger get his bags from the car, and it hurts to see how little he owns. There’s an old guitar case, two duffle bags and an extra coat, but that’s it. I take more with me when I go away for just a weekend, yet this teenager doesn’t own more than what fits in the trunk of what looks like the shittiest car in the world.

As the others go upstairs so Abby can show him his room and reunite him with Dorothy, I first call his aunt on the number I got from Dorothy. She picks up on the first ring.

“I’m sorry,” she says, sounding like she’s not sorry at all. “I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t. He leaves his stuff everywhere, he stays out at night without telling me where he is, he was already arrested twice, and he set my curtains of fire. I’m done. You can deal with him now. I’m not taking him back.”

“You could have asked me before springing this on me,” I bite back, not sounding like my normal calm self at all. “This is a huge thing to ask of me.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been trying to raise him for months now, and I’m failing. My mother failed with my brother, so why the hell would I do any better with Jagger? I’m sorry, but I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity when your nanny called me to make arrangements for him to come stay with you for Thanksgiving. I googled you, Dr. Davids. You’re rich, you’ve got a big house, you even have that nanny, Abigail, to keep an eye on Jagger all day long – which she will need to do, by the way, because the boy steals. He stole all my jewelry, my money, even my coupons. He’s a little devil. Good luck with him.”

She hangs up before I can say anything else and I curse, wishing I could talk to Abby to figure this all out, but she’s busy upstairs and I don’t want Jagger to feel like we’re having a war counsel about him. I can hear laughter upstairs, and I recognize Dorothy’s high-pitched giggle. I have to remember myself that this is not about me. This is about giving a dying mother the chance to say goodbye to her eldest son.

I call social worker Mary on her cell, hating to bother her during the holidays. She picks up, sounding worried, since I normally wouldn’t call her on a day like this and she knows me well enough to realize something must be wrong.

“Oh Chris,” she says with a sigh when I tell her what happened. “If his aunt doesn’t want him, he goes into the foster system, but 16-year-olds don’t tend to have people jumping for joy to take them in, especially not unruly ones like Jagger.”

“So you’re saying that if I don’t take Jagger, he will probably be put in a group home?”

“Yes,” Mary affirms. “That’s very likely. He might try to get emancipated, since he’s 16, but if he can’t provide for himself a group home would be a better place for him.”

I take a deep breath, knowing I already made the decision. “When can we meet to discuss him being put in my care?”

“Chris, are you sure?” she asks softly. “I mean, that’s great, but taking care of a teenager… it’s not the same as taking care of Yoah and Davy. They’re your first foster kids, and Jagger is a wild card, and I think-”

“If Jagger is okay with this, and Dorothy agrees, I’m sure,” I cut in. “I’m not going to throw out a 16-year-old boy. Not happening.”

“Okay,” she agrees. “I get it. And obviously, it’s great that you want to take him. Teenagers don’t often get to live with a foster family. I will come by tomorrow, okay?”

“Thanks, Mary.”

We hang up just as Abby walks in, closing the door behind her and leaning against it for a moment, looking worn. I walk over and take her into my arms, needing the reassurance and comfort only she can give me.

“We can do this,” she says softly, kissing my cheek. “I know we can. It’ll be hard, but we’ll manage.”

I love how she knows what I decided to do without even needing to ask me. As I pull back a little and our eyes lock, I knot a hand in her hair and decide to just fuck everything and kiss her.

Right before I can make my move, the door we’re standing in front of gets pushes open by Davy, hitting Abby in the back. She grunts and we break apart, looking down at Davy’s happy face.

“Is Jagger staying?” he asks, jumping up and down.

“If he wants to,” I say, careful not to say yes quite yet.

“Yay!” Davy hugs me, and my heart melts like it always does for him. He’s such a bundle of joy despite the hardships he’s had to face at his young age. “Can I tell him?”

When I nod, he runs back upstairs, and I follow him with a sigh. Abby follows right after, her hand slipping into mine, squeezing hard. I look at her over my shoulder and we both smile, happy to know we’re doing this together.

I want to kiss her so badly, but now is not the time. We need to focus on Jagger now.

***

Thanksgiving dinner is lovely, weird, and just… unconventional. My parents fawn over Yoah and Davy just like I knew they would, and my nieces Emily and Holly play with the boys, but everyone sort of steers clear of Jagger, not knowing what to do with him. He looks like he could whip out a knife any moment, his leather jacket still on and smirking whenever he catches someone glancing his way. He’s sitting next to his mother, talking to her in hushed tones. She is glowing, doing better than she has in weeks. Jagger and Abby helped her downstairs so she could join us for the Thanksgiving festivities, and it’s wonderful to see her sitting there with all her three boys around her.

Dorothy and I had a heart-to-heart before dinner, and she told me over and over again that I don’t need to do this, that she gets it if Jagger has to go to a group home, but I already made up my mind. We’re not talking to Jagger about it yet, I want to wait until Mary is here tomorrow and he can consider all his options. For now, I focus on having a nice family dinner.

Between the main course and dessert, my brother motions for me to follow him in the backyard, and I grab our wine glasses and a bottle of my favorite wine as I follow them, glancing at Abby to make sure she’s okay. She catches my eyes and winks at me. She gets along with my mother like a house on fire, and Mom has been teaching her how to make fancy dishes all day long, acting like Abby is a part of the family already. I love it. I wish it were true.

“Dude, what’s up with you and the nanny?” my brother Cameron says. He’s got the same blonde curls I do, but his are cropped short for convenience, and his eyes are the same shade of blue, sparkling when he looks at me with a cheesy grin. “Are you fucking her?”

I roll my eyes at his crudeness. We may look alike, but we’re very different. He’s five years younger than I am, and his wife Victoria is in her late thirties, a lovely woman but a little… stiff. Mom and Dad like her, but they don’t adore her or anything. In fact, Mom is chummier with Abby than she’s ever been with Victoria, who has been part of our family since Cameron was in college ages ago.

“No, I’m not fucking the nanny,” I say, sipping my wine as I sit down on the edge of the back porch. “And she’s got a name, you know.”

“Oh, yeah, I know, you’ve been talking about her all day long,” Cam says with a grin, grabbing the bottle to pour himself a glass as well. “Abby is so great, Abby is so lovely, Abby and Mom get along so well…”

“They do,” I murmur, knowing I’m not fooling anyone. Cameron and I may be different, but we’ve never been able to bullshit each other. “Fine, I’m in love with her. Is that what you want to hear?”

“Yeah, it’s a start, man.” Cam sits down next to me and nudges me. “Knowing you, you’re being the perfect gentleman instead of sneaking into her room at night to tap that sweet ass. Am I right?”

“It’s not like that,” I say, looking out into the dark garden. “She’s been through a lot, and she needs a safe place, she needs someone to treat her right. If I go too fast, I’m going to lose her before I even get her.”

“Plus, you’ve got no game,” Cam reminds me, busting my balls the way only my brother can. “When was the last time you got laid, bro?”

“Two years ago,” I grumble. “Chloe.”

“Ugh, I hated that woman.” He shudders. “At least Abby is nice. Seriously, dude, make your move, and make it fast, because I overheard her talking about going on a date with some dude named Michel in a few days. She was telling Mom earlier how her friend set her up on a blind date with a chef. A girl like Abby… she’s not going to be single for long, man.”

I curse and gulp down more wine. I had no idea she was dating people. Well, I guess this would be her first date with the blind date guy, and she hasn’t been taking many nights off, mostly spending them with me or with Brittany, so I don’t think she’s already in a relationship or anything, but Cameron is right. I should make my move.

If only I knew how.

And with Jagger living here… It complicates things.

Fuck me, I want to kiss her. I need to get my shit together and make sure she knows I’m interested, or I will end up losing him to someone else. Michel, maybe, or some guy from the playground at school. Edwards was right when he told me the single dads would be all over her. She’s beautiful, funny, caring… Abby is the whole damn package.

I want her. I don’t want her to be with anyone else. I can’t stand the thought of her dating someone who isn’t me.

“Chill, bro,” Cam says, squeezing my shoulder. “I think she likes you too. She stares at you with these big starry eyes, and she laughs at all your lame-ass jokes. That’s love, man.”

“What do you know about love?” I quip back, rolling my eyes. “You and Victoria are hardly even talking to each other tonight.”

“Yeah, we’re in a fight.” He laughs, not bothered at all. “Something about me not being romantic enough. I’ll fuck the anger right out of her later tonight, don’t worry. Why do you think I’m dumping the kids with you and sleeping in a hotel with Vicky?”

“No, please,” I grunt. “Don’t do that. I’ve got two kids and a teenager already.”

“What’s two more cockblocks?” Cameron asks rhetorically. “Between the dying woman, the juvenile delinquent, Davy, and Yoah, it’s not like you were going to get anywhere with Abby tonight anyway. At least Vicky and I are a sure thing. Come on, man, show your little brother some love.”

“Fine,” I sigh, knowing he will dump Emily and Holly on me whether I agree or not. “You owe me, though.”

He grins. “You always say that, but you never collect, Chris. You’re such an old softy.”

He’s right. And that’s exactly why I can never seem to keep a woman. I’m a goddamn pushover. After my ex-wife and I split, I never found anyone who wanted to stick with me long enough for things to get serious enough to move in together. I don’t want that to happen with Abby. At the same time, I know I’m not going to change for her either. I’m too old to believe that people can truly change who they are, and I don’t think I need to. I’m just fine the way I am. For the first time since my divorce fifteen years ago, I feel like I might have found a woman who doesn’t need me to change to be right for her, and who wants the same things I do.

“Come on,” I say, getting up and grabbing the bottle of wine. “Let’s go back in.”

I push open the door to the kitchen, my mouth falling open when I see what’s happening inside. Cameron and I only left for ten minutes or so, but we’re walking back into a goddamn warzone. Abby is in the middle of it all, covered in cranberry sauce, yelling at Jagger.

“Go to you room and stay there!” she screams at him, pointing to the door of to the hallway. “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, you little punk, but if you ever grab my boob again, I will cut off your dick!”

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