Caring Christopher

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#3 Why does that sound dirty to me?

Christopher

“Mommy!” Davy jumps onto his mother’s bed, making her wince. The woman looks exhausted, her dark eyes hooded and her skin almost grayish. Even if I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be able to see right away that she’s not going to be around much longer.

“Careful, baby,” the woman says, stroking his hair. “Yoah, come say hi to your mother.”

The 9-year-old boy steps up and gives his mother the most careful hug ever, looking like he’s afraid she will break. Davy has no such concerns, already settling on her lap, handing her the drawings he and Yoah made for her.

When Davy is done pointing at every single animal he drew for her, his mother turns to me. She’s got an arm around Davy and a hand in Yoah’s messy hair, ruffling it affectionately.

“You must be Christopher,” she says with a kind smile. “Mary told me about you. New to the system, right? Thanks for taking care of my boys.”

“You’re welcome.” I take a chair and sit down next to the bed. Davy grabs a pillow from his mother’s bed and throws it at me. I catch it with ease and smile. “Let’s save the pillow fight for tonight, okay? I’m so going to beat you again.”

“No way!” Davy argues, pouting. “You didn’t win! You cheated.”

“You guys are having pillow fights?” the mother asks, smiling. “That sounds like a lot of fun.” She extends a hand to me. “I’m Dorothy, by the way.”

I already know that, since social worker Mary told me about her, but I just shake her hand and smile. Mary was hiding in the shadows until now, but she steps in when she senses me and the boys’ mother need to have a moment, offering to take the kids for some cake in the cafeteria, giving me and Dorothy time to talk. Davy jumps up right away, but Yoah seems reluctant to leave.

“I’ll be right here, baby,” Dorothy assures him. “Not going anywhere.”

His eyes move to me, trying to figure out if I will still be here when he gets back, I guess.

“Don’t worry,” I assume him, smiling as reassuringly as I can. “I’m not going anywhere either.”

Yoah nods and walks after Mary and his younger brother, looking over his shoulder at us one more time before leaving.

“They’re great kids,” I tell her, not sure what else to say. And they are. I love them already.

“Yeah, the best,” she agrees. “Look, this is really weird for me. I don’t want my kids with some random guy I’ve never met before, but at the same time I’m grateful that someone is taking care of them properly.” She winces. “I didn’t know my ex-husband’s parents were doing such a horrible job of taking care of the kids. I don’t have any relatives myself, and my ex is in jail, so I didn’t have anyone else to turn to. Looking back, I should have known things were bad. Especially Yoah has been doing a lot better the past month.”

“That’s good to hear,” I say, relieved that I’m not messing up. It’s a struggle to make Yoah feel at ease, but if his own mother thinks he’s doing better, I’m going to take her word for it. “Yoah is… He’s a little guarded.”

“He’s a tough nut to crack,” she agrees, nodding. “Look, Christopher, I don’t know what is going to happen, I’m not a psychic, but I do know that I don’t have much longer to live, and I need to know the kids are taken care of when I die.” Wow, she doesn’t beat around the bush. “My ex won’t be out for another five years, give or take a few months, so he’s not going to be there for them. Even if he was out… Let’s just say he’s not exactly someone I would want to leave my kids with. His parents are his only family, and it’s obvious they never should have gotten custody when I got too sick to take care of the kids. I just want you to know I’m not some deadbeat mother. I messed up when I was younger, hooking up with the wrong kind of men, but I swear I’m a good mother to Davy and Yoah. I’d still be taken care of them if it wasn’t for this horrible disease.”

“I’m not here to judge you,” I assure her. “The kids miss you. They ask about you every single day. You’re the only person they talk about. And they talk about you all the time. Especially Davy. Yoah doesn’t talk much, but I can tell he misses you.”

She grimaces. “That’s nice and awful to hear at the same time. I wish their time with their grandparents had turned out differently.”

A nurse walks in, greeting me cheerily. “Dr. Davids, fancy seeing you without your white coat on,” she says, smiling. “Miss Pillar, how are you feeling today?” She takes Dorothy’s vitals and gives her some more pain meds. When she’s done, she calls goodbye to both of us and leaves the room.

“She knows you,” Dorothy says, looking at me strangely.

“Yeah, I’m a surgeon, the head of the pediatric unit, actually.”

Her eyes widen. “The man who is taking care of my kids is pediatrician? Wow. Okay, they could have done worse. What does your girlfriend do?”

“Erm…” Oh God, didn’t Mary tell her this? “I’m single, actually.”

“What?” She blinks a few times. “I thought that you just weren’t married and maybe not living with your girlfriend, I didn’t realize you’re single. Why… I mean… How…? You’re a single foster dad?”

I nod, fearing like she’s going to start screaming any minute, demanding that her kids are taken from me. “I’ve always wanted kids, but never had them, so a friend suggested fostering kids, and your boys are the first kids assigned to me.”

“Wow,” she breathes. “That’s… that’s amazing. You’re doing it all alone then? Just like me. I’ve been taking care of my three boys all on my own from the day they were born. They dads are deadbeats.”

“Three?” I repeat. “Dads?”

Dorothy nods. “Jagger is 16, he lives with his aunt, his dad’s sister. He’s their half-brother, and he’s a little…” She grimaces. “I love him, but he takes after his dad. And his dad… Let’s just say no one mourned his death when he got shot. So… yeah. Jagger isn’t quite that bad, but no matter how hard I try, that boy was born to kick off and get in trouble.”

I had no idea there was a third kid, and I make a mental note to ask Mary about him. Yoah and Davy could be with me for years, so at one point they might like to see their brother, right? I should ask how he’s doing, where he lives, that kind of stuff.

“Is there anything I should know about Yoah and Davy?” I ask. “You’re their mother, you know them best. If there is something I need to be aware of aside from allergies and other basic medical things that Mary already told me… I mean… this is your chance to fill me in.”

“Before I die,” she adds. “Yeah, I know. Yoah is a sweetheart, but he’s a quiet one.” She starts telling me about what kid of sports he likes, what it takes to get him out of his shell, that he loves to read and wants to do well in school. Davy is emotional, which I already knew, and she tells me about all his little tells when he’s nervous. I write everything down, wanting to remember each and every detail. I’m taking care of her kids. The least I can do is use her knowledge while I do so. Dorothy is lovely, and I don’t want to screw up her boys.

By the time Mary comes back with the kids, we’ve exchanged phone numbers so I can call her with questions and have her videocall the kids at night when they’re ready to go to bed. Dorothy hugs me goodbye, and I feel both better and worse than I did this morning. Better because they have a great mother who has been taking good care of them these past years, and worse because she’s going to die soon, and they will lose the only family member who truly cares about them.

***

The first thing I realize when I see the girl that is supposed to be the perfect nanny for my brand-new family is that she has the most amazing breasts I have ever seen. They are big, pushed up by her bra so they’re even more on show then they would be just from size alone, and the V-neck of her black shirt is so low that I have to force myself to look away from her bosom.

I’m not that guy. I’m not a creep. I don’t stare at women’s breasts. It’s just hard not to notice how beautiful she is. Her eyes meet mine and she cocks and eyebrow, pulling up her shirt a little so she’s a bit more covered.

Oh God, did she notice that I looked? It was only a second, right?

Before things can get too awkward, my dog Titus runs into the hallway and jumps her. She laughs, hugging the big blonde Labrador and rubbing his back.

“Down!” I tell Titus sternly. “Down, boy!”

“You’re such a good boy,” she says, scratching him behind his ears.

Titus barks, and I pull him back by his collar, hating how he will never listen to me. I was too lenient with him when he was a pup, and I’m getting shit for it now. I put him in the mudroom, closing the door so he won’t get out during the interview.

“Hi,” the girl says to me, holding out her hand. “I’m Abigail. You can call me Abby.”

“Christopher,” I reply, shaking her hand. Her skin is soft and warm. “Call me Chris. And come on in.” I step aside to let her into my home. The kids are upstairs playing, because I don’t like making them meet new people when they’re not going to stick around. I don’t know this girl yet, aside from what Annabel told me about her. She’s 27, has worked as a nanny for years, and she’s best friends with Brittany, Annabel’s sister-in-law by marriage. I’ve met Brittany and her husband Jaxon a few times, and they seem like lovely people, so I guess that someone who’s friends with Brittany should be alright as well.

“You’ve got a lovely home,” Abigail says, looking around my living room with wide eyes. “It’s huge!”

“Thanks,” I say, smiling at her admiration. She runs her hand over the smooth material of a bookcase and then over the books, touching them almost reverently. Abigail catches herself and turns around to look at me, a small smile playing around her lips.

She’s truly beautiful, in an unconventional way. She’s not the skinniest, but also not fat by any means. She’s got wide hips, huge boobs, and probably a bit of a belly, but she doesn’t look fat. Not at all. She looks… soft. Yeah, that’s it. She looks like you just want to snuggle up to her and feel every single soft part of her gorgeous body, relax against her soft skin, and pull your fingers through her hair. Her natural brown hair is so unruly I wonder if she even pulled a brush through it this morning. Not that I care, but I’m not used to woman looking like they don’t give a shit about their hairdo. Something in her eyes makes me think she’s a little wild.

“So, Christopher,” Abigail says, sitting down on the couch without me offering her a seat. “I’d love some coffee if you’ve got some. Or are you putting me straight to work? Should I be the one making us coffee?”

Jesus. Annabel told me that Brittany described Abigail as spunky, but I wasn’t expecting this. I don’t mind, though, and I walk into the kitchen to get us both a mug of coffee.

“Okay, so here’s the deal,” Abigail says when I hand her a mug and sit down across from her. “I’ve been doing this work for seven years now, and I’m pretty good, I think. I don’t have fancy degrees or anything, dropped out of college after a year, and I’m not book smart, but I’m great with kids. I can start right now if you need me to. Brittany said you’re in a rush because you’re going back to work in a week.”

I nod. “Yeah, I took a month off to help Davy and Yoah get settled in. They’re still not completely comfortable with me, but they’re doing okay, and I can’t take off more time. I need someone here with them while I’m at work. My days and hours differ, so I’m looking for someone flexible.”

“I’m extremely flexible,” she says immediately, her eyes locking with mine.

Why does that sound dirty to me?

Come on, Chris, get your head out of the gutter.

“I can work nights, weekends, whatever you need,” she goes on. “One day a week off would be nice, but I don’t need more. I can easily work six days a week. Driving them to sports and other stuff, watching kids they play with, help them with school projects, bathe them, cook for them, do housework chores…” She shrugs. “I’ve done it all before with kids of all ages, so that won’t be a problem. I do want to meet the kids before I say yes, though. Not because I’m picky, but you should see me interact with them before you make a decision, right?”

“Right.” I had already thought of that, of course. Abigail moves fast and takes control of this whole conversation, even though I’m supposed to be the one interviewing her. “Do you have a resumé?”

“Sure, give me your e-mail and I will send it to you.”

A moment later, I’m scrolling through all the previous families she worked for, and there are a lot. Too many, maybe. She never stayed anywhere longer than a few months. When I look up, I notice she’s looking at me like she’s hoping I won’t say anything.

“Do you have contact information for your previous employers?” I ask.

“Which ones?”

“All of them.”

Abigail swallows visibly, looking almost nervous. “Sure.” She taps her screen, sending me their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

I’m definitely calling every single one of them, especially with her looking like she wants to puke. She seems alright and I like her attitude – I’ve got nurses like her and they’re my favorites. Tough, hardworking, no bullshit. I’m not leaving Yoah and Davy with just anyone though, so I want to make sure she didn’t get fired after a few months for stealing or hurting the kids or anything like that. If she’s going to be living in the house with us, I need her to be someone I can trust.

“I will call you tomorrow to let you know if we can set up a second interview for you to meet the kids or if I’m going to hire someone else instead,” I tell her, getting up. “Thanks for coming.”

“I’m not meeting them now?” she asks, staying firmly seated on the couch. “And don’t you want to know anything else? Aren’t you going to tell you about yourself?”

“Surely Annabel has already told you who I am?”

She laughs. “No, I’ve never even met Annabel. I know Brittany, though, and she told me you’re hot, single, a doctor, and one of the last decent men alive. So I figured… why not?”

Hot? Me? I blink a few times. I’ve never heard anyone describe me that way. Ever. “Erm… yeah. I’m a pediatric surgeon, head of the department. Moved here about… two years ago, I think.”

“Why did you move?” she asks bluntly.

“For a woman.”

“Yet you’re single.”

“Yes.”

Abigail nods, understanding flashing in her eyes. “That sucks.”

I laugh softly, enjoying her reaction. “Yes,” I agree. “We’re on good terms now, though.”

“Annabel, right?” Abigail asks, cocking her head to the side while she wraps her hands around her coffee mug. “Brittany said you used to date her before she married Aston.”

“Yes, I did, but it’s not her I moved for. That was her sister Chloe.”

“Oh right.” Abigail nods. “Brittany told me you dated her.”

We’re silent, and the vibe is more than little uncomfortable. I’m standing here like an idiot, and she’s sitting on the couch like she lives here. She keeps drinking her coffee with an almost defiant look in her bright catlike eyes. They’re so dark green that they’re almost black, and she narrows them at me, trying to figure me out.

“I think it’s really nice you’re trying to give these kids a good home,” she says, putting her mug down. “You’ve got my number. Call me when you figure out if I can meet them or not.” She gets up and shakes my hand again, her hold firm and certain. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” I agree, even though I still need to call her references. “Tomorrow.”

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