#20 Don’t you dare tell me you know how it feels
“Chill, woman, take it like the compliment it is,” Jagger says, laughing off my anger. “Fine, I’ll go to my room. Feel free to sneak in later tonight.” He winks at me and exits the room, leaving us all staring after him.
“Daddy?” 11-year-old Emily says, running over to Cameron. “Why is everyone yelling?”
I feel everyone’s eyes on me, but I can’t seem to be able to control my breathing, or move my legs. When I walked into the kitchen with the leftover cranberry sauce, little did I know Jagger wasn’t coming along to put the plates on the counter. When he moves in to touch my boob, I spilled sauce all over myself, and I couldn’t control my anger.
I’ve been groped too many times to react to this in a calm manner. He’s a 16-year-old boy about to become Christopher’s foster kid. What the hell is he thinking?
With a start, I realize exactly what Jagger is doing. He’s trying to get kicked out before he’s even truly living here. He knows he’s not truly wanted here, and he got kicked out of his aunt’s house earlier today. He may act all tough, but he’s just a scared teen at the end of the day. I know, I’ve been there. I was 15 when I needed to start taking care of my mother while finishing high school. I was 16 when she told me she wished she’d gotten an abortion. I couldn’t act out the way he is doing because I had my mother to care for, but if I hadn’t been forced into the role of caretaker, I might have ended up like him.
“Sorry,” I tell everyone, finally able to breathe again. “I shouldn’t have cursed and yelled. I’m going to talk to Jagger for a moment. Be right back.”
“Abby!” Mrs. Davids calls after me. “Honey!”
I love Christopher’s mother already, but I’m not stopping. I need to do this. Christopher hurries after me, shutting the door on the chaos in the living room and grabbing my arm as I rush upstairs.
“I need to talk to him,” I tell Chris, turning around to look at him. “Trust me. I shouldn’t have gone off on him the way I just did. I’ve been where he is. I get it.”
“Fine, but I’m coming with you,” Chris says, not doubting me for even a second.
I nod, and together we walk to Jagger’s room. His door is wide open, and he’s laying on the bed, staring up at his phone.
“We need to talk,” I say, sitting down on the other end of the bed while Chris stands behind me.
“I’m out, right?” Jagger says, sitting up. “I figured. Do you need me to leave right now, or is tomorrow morning okay?”
“You’re not out. The social worker is coming over more to talk to you about your options, but Chris and I have already decided that we’d like you to stay if you want to.” I can tell my words are talking him by surprise. “Just to be clear, though, you won’t be touching me inappropriately ever again. I wasn’t kidding about cutting off your dick.”
Jagger raises his eyebrows at me. “And what if I do? I’m out then, right?
Oh no, we’re not playing that game. “Look, Jagger, I get it. You’re trying to scare us off. Doesn’t work like that though. I’ve been where you are, more or less, so I know how it-”
“Don’t you dare tell me that you know how I feel,” he hisses, his eyes shooting fire at me. “You don’t. My mother is dying, no one wants me, and the two of you are only taking me in because you love Yoah and Davy. You don’t want me. It’s fine. Just let me walk out of here. I’ve said goodbye to my Mom, I’ve made my peace with it.”
“My mother doesn’t know who I am,” I tell him, pulling my legs underneath me as I lean against the wall besides the bed. “She has early-onset Alzheimer’s. It started when I was 15. By the time I was 16, I was basically having to act like her mother instead of the other way around. After finishing high school, I had to put her in a group home because things got too tough at home. I had to drop out of college by the end of the first year to get a fulltime job to pay for her meds. So yeah, I know a thing or two about a rough childhood.”
“Okay, so you get the Mom thing,” Jagger says, a little taken-aback. “But did you father get shot when you were 13?”
“Stabbed in prison when I was 12.” Hah. He didn’t see that coming, little fucker. “Served him right too, he was an asshole. Abused my mother every time he got out on parole.”
“Oh,” Jaggers says stupidly, running a hand through his shaggy hair. “That’s… okay, maybe you do get it then. But he doesn’t.” He gestures at Chris.
“No,” Christopher says, sounding calm and kind. “I don’t. But I try to.”
“It’s his house, and he’s the one giving Davy and Yoah a stable life filled with love, without having to worry about anything,” I go on, not wanting Chris to get dismissed. “Sure, I get where you’re coming from, but on my own I wouldn’t be fit to take care of kids. It’s Chris doing all the difficult parenting. He’s the one with the stable job, earning money to give your little brothers a happy, carefree life. And you, if you want that.”
Jagger looks up at Chris with a frown on his face. “You don’t want me.”
“I don’t want you to derail Yoah’s and Davy’s lives,” Chris admits, and I’m happy he’s being honest, because lying won’t go over well with Jagger. “It’s not that I don’t want you. If you promise not to do stupid things like…” He grunts. “…like grabbing Abigail’s breast, you can stay. We will get you enrolled in the nearest high school, buy you whatever you need in terms of clothes, a new car, stuff for school…”
“You’ll buy me a new car?” Jagger perks up at that. “Really?”
“Sure,” Christopher says. “If you make it here a month without getting into trouble, you can get a car.”
“That’s blackmail,” Jagger grumbles, sinking back against the headboard.
“That’s giving you incentive to be on your best behavior,” Chris shoots back, sounding very authoritative. I know the timing is off, but it’s a major turn-on to hear him talking to Jagger like this. Chris is rarely ever this forceful, and I like it. My mind goes to that moment earlier when I thought for a second he was going to kiss me. Hmm. I’d have liked that.
“Okay,” Jagger decides, a small smile lighting up his face. “I’ll be good. No messing with Yoah’s and Davy’s precious little lives. And a month from now, you’re getting me a car.”
“Deal.” Christopher holds out his hand, and they shake.
“One more thing,” I say, giving Jagger a hard look. We’re not done yet. “I need you to understand why I went off on you earlier.”
“I grabbed your tit,” Jagger says, grinning. “Would’ve been weird if you hadn’t yelled at me.”
“I’ve been sexually abused in the past,” I say, trying to work through the emotions bubbling up. It’s a little easier talking about this now that I’ve already confessed it all to Chris, but it’s still not easy for me. “I’ve been working as a nanny since I was 19, and let’s just say that my old employers where nothing like Christopher. So getting touched without consent… That’s a trigger for me. If this is going to work out, you can never do that again. Think of something else when you want to act out. Set that shitty old car of yours on fire for all I care. Sneak out at night. But never touch me like that again. I will not live under the same roof with someone who abuses women. I don’t care that you’re a traumatized 16-year-old. I won’t stand for it.”
“And I’m not kicking out Abby,” Chris adds, his hand on my shoulder in support. “So if you ever do something like this again, to Abby or to anyone else, it’s you that will be leaving this house.”
Jagger’s face is ashen, and he looks at me with wide green eyes. “I’m sorry. I had no idea. It will never happen again.”
“Good. Then we’re done here.” I get up from the bed, surprised when Jagger holds out his hand to me. I shake it, giving him a small smile. He’s so serious all of a sudden, and I like seeing this side of him. He’s not a bad kid, just… messed up. If anyone can show him that he can have a safe home someplace, it’s Chris.
And maybe… maybe it’s a good thing I’m the nanny, and not some pristine put-together girl. Because I may be a fuck-up sometimes, but I do recognize survivors when I see them, and I see the same haunted look in Jagger’s eyes as I still see in Yoah’s sometimes. The look I see on my own face when I look in the mirror on bad days. I get this kid more than he knows. Chris is going to need all the help he can get with this one.