Caring Christopher

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#21 Extra-large with banana flavor


Adjusting to life with a teenager in the house is… a challenge. He doesn’t clean up after himself, is on his phone constantly, and while he’s perfectly nice to Abby, all I get are one-word answers. Yes. No. Maybe. Meh. Huh. Okay. It’s frustrating, but I know I’ve got to give him time.

It’s a good thing he’s here, I guess, because Dorothy isn’t doing well. In fact, I had the oncologist from the hospital come by and he says she’s only got about two more weeks before her heart stops beating. She’s not even going to make it to Christmas. She’s not eating or drinking anymore, relying solely on her IV for sustenance. Abby tries to take care of her, but it’s not enough, so a nurse comes by more frequently these days to take care of all the things Abby can’t do.

Yoah knows. He is going back to hardly ever talking, which is huge step in the wrong direction, but I hope it’s just temporary. Jagger knows too, obviously, and while he acts like it’s no big deal, he’s sleeping on a matrass in his mother’s room every single night. Davy is the only one who doesn’t get what’s going on. We’ve talked to him about it, and he can feel the tension in the house, but he doesn’t truly grasp the meaning of death, so it’s all a little scary for him, while at the same time he sometimes forgets anything is going on and jumps on Dorothy’s bed like she’s not terminally ill.

“How was school?” I hear Abby ask, and I turn around with the cups of coffee I was getting us to turn to Jagger. I had a night shift and slept all morning and part of the afternoon, so I’m just fresh out of my shower and getting some breakfast. Abby has been up for hours, of course, taking care of the kids, the house chores, everything.

“Fucking sucked,” Jagger says, throwing his bookbag in a corner and making his way to the fridge for a snack. “Is there any cheese?”

“Top left,” Abby replies instantly. “Why did it suck?”

“My classmates are a bunch of overprivileged cocksuckers,” he says while he makes himself a sandwich. And of course, he leaves the bread and the cheese out when he’s done, leaving me to clean up after him. Gotta love teenagers.

“Language,” I tell him as he sits down at the kitchen island. “And clean up after yourself.”

Jagger rolls his eyes, continuing his conversation with Abby. “At my old school, there were a lot of cool kids, but here everything is just so… lame. And the teachers, God, they really know how to suck the life out of you. In Geography, the teacher actually told me I have to do a presentation on where I come from to get to know the rest of the class. So I told her that if I’m the one doing the presentation, I’m not getting to know anyone, they’re just going to get to know me, and that I think that if she wants to get to know me so badly, we could always hook up after school.”

To my surprise, Abby laughs, and she takes the coffee mug from me, inhaling the scent. “Jagger, you can’t say stuff like that. You’re gonna get in trouble.”

“Don’t worry, I already met the principal. Really nice older lady. I bet I can charm the pants off her.” He grins. “Wanna hear about what I did to the mice we have to dissect in Biology tomorrow?”

Abby laughs again. “Jagger, seriously, stop trying to be cool. We both know you’re not. I saw you painstakingly painting your nails black last night. Took you over an hour. I took pictures, by the way, and if you get in trouble again this week, I’m going to start sending them to every single one of your classmates.”

“You’re such a bitch,” Jagger grunts, taking a bite of his sandwich.

I want to speak up to defend her, but Abby gives me a hard look. I’m starting to get the feeling that my help isn’t appreciated, so I just drink my coffee in silence.

“I’m a bitch who got you a gift,” Abby says, her eyes sparkling. “I think you’ll need them. With all the talking about hooking up with teachers and charming the pants off your geriatric principal, I think these will come in handy.” She grabs her purse from the couch and pulls out a pack of condoms, tossing them at Jagger. “Be safe, man.”

Even I have to admit the look on Jagger’s face is hilarious. They’re ribbed cherry flavor ones, and the packaging looks extremely pink and girly. He may talk a big game, but Abby has been catching him off guard like this all week. It’s funny to watch their witty back-and-forth, but it also makes me feel like I’m completely useless in raising this boy. I don’t know how to handle him, and the looks Abby keeps giving me when I chastise Jagger for something make me feel like I should just let her handle things. But... it’s my house, and they're my kids too.

“Are these the ones you and Chris like to use?” Jagger asks when he finally comes up with a response.

“No, we need extra-large ones,” I reply before I can help myself, the words spilling out. “And Abby prefers banana flavor.”

There’s a long stretch of silence, and then Jagger and Abby both break into fits of laughter. I’ve never seen either of them laugh this hard.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe you just said that!” Abby giggles, wiping the tears from her face.

“Extra-large my ass,” Jagger comments dryly, going back to his sandwich. “You’ve got no game, old man.”

My cheeks are getting flushed, already regretting my own joke. I can’t believe I just said that, and I can’t help but wish that Abby and I would actually need condoms. Not extra-large ones and not flavored or anything, but I do wish I could make a move and find out if she feels the same way. Jagger has been a huge cockblock, as my brother Cameron would say. Way more than Davy, Yoah and Dorothy are. Jagger doesn’t go to bed as early as the others, and he’s always coming into the kitchen to grab a snack, or looking for his phone charger or something, ruining every single moment I’ve had with Abby the past week.

To my utter horror, she asked me if she can have a night off next week, so she can go on a date. A goddamn date. She never gets time off, so of course I told her yes, but I wanted to tell her that no, she couldn’t go, and that she needed to stay with me, but that would just be cruel. I just thought… I guess I stupidly thought that I wasn’t the only one feeling the tension between us. When we’re watching TV together, I just want to pull her against me and snuggle. When she bends over to pick something up, I want to grab her ass. And when she’s eating one of her horrible concoctions with sugar and she moans in delight… Yeah, I think we all know what kind of images are running through my mind then.

The phone rings, and I walk out of the room to pick up. It’s Mary, the social worker. She’s been checking up on me almost daily this week, and it worries me a little that she seems to think it won’t work out for Jagger here. It may be a challenge to have him with us, but he’s a good kid. Unruly and crude, but a good kid nonetheless. Abby and him get along like a house on fire, and I feel like she might be the only person able to get through to him.

“Hey Chris,” Mary says cheerfully. “I got all the paperwork in order and I’m sending it over right now for you to sign.”

“So Jagger will officially be my foster kid?” I ask, relieved that the bureaucratic side of things are over with.

“Yes,” Mary says with a smile in her voice. “Congratulations, you’re now the father of a 16-year-old boy.”

I laugh at the teasing tone. “Thanks, Mary.”

“No, thank you,” she says, more serious now. “Not many people would take him in, Chris. And the fact that you are taking care of Dorothy as well, on top of everything… I don’t know how you manage.”

“Abby,” I say simply.

“She’s quite something, isn’t she?” Mary agrees immediately.

“Yeah, she really is.”

We hang up and I go upstairs to play with Davy and Yoah for a bit. When I go back downstairs, the mood has shifted. Abby is wiping off the date that was written on the whiteboard in the kitchen. It was the date of the day Jagger would get a new car if he was good for a whole month. Abby is replacing it with a date further into the future, exactly a month from today.

“What did you do?” I ask Jagger, already fearing the worst.

“Nothing,” he insists, crossing his arms over his chest. “She’s being ridiculous.”

Abby grunts and holds up her phone. “The principal called. He vandalized two lockers, threw a guy in a dumpster and called two of his teachers ugly whores.”

“Guess that means you’re not going out tonight either,” I decide.

“You’re gonna ground me, old man?” Jagger asks incredulously. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Jagger…” Abby sighs. “You know we’re just trying to help. And Chris is right, you should be punished. The car is a reward for being good, so postponing it isn’t a punishment. You’re not leaving the house tonight and that’s final.”

I can tell that Abby is expecting Jagger to kick off, but he doesn’t. He just grabs his bag and goes upstairs to Dorothy’s room to tell her all about how unfair we are being to him. Abby sighs and walks over to me, wrapping her arms around me and resting her head on my chest. I stroke her back, knowing that all of this is taking a lot out of her. Me, too.

“I love the boy, but he needs to get his shit together,” she says, surprising me by already talking about Jagger like he’s truly one of our kids.

“Yes,” I agree, “he does.”

She looks up, and for a second I think she might kiss me, but then she’s out of my arms and making me breakfast since I didn’t eat anything yet. We chat the way we always do, and it’s easy and comfortable, but I kinda wish it wasn’t. I wish I’d just have the guts to push her up against the counter, kiss her, take off all her clothes and-

“Chris?” Davy’s voice sounds from behind me, interrupting my vision of Abby’s naked body. “Will you help me make a drawing of a giraffe for Mom?”

“Sure,” I say, motioning him over. “Always.”

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