Caring Christopher

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#41 Give it to me straight

Christopher

I took the day off – pleading for a colleague to cover my shift and promising her that I would do the same for her whenever she needs it – so I can be there for Abby. Her appointment at the hospital is not until noon, but I don’t want her to be alone today. She’s been doing alright the past two weeks, but last night, I could tell she was hurting worse than ever.

Maybe I shouldn’t have slept with her. Maybe that was wrong. But… well, it just felt so right.

When we woke up this morning, wrapped around each other, both still naked, she climbed on top of me and rode me until we came together. Her eyes never left my face, almost like she’s trying to memorize the way I look. I think she’s scared that she’s got the gene and has somehow convinced herself that she will start forgetting things the second she gets the results. Which isn’t how Alzheimer’s works, and she knows it, but I get that she is a little irrational right now.

If I was in her shoes, I would be clawing at the walls.

For some reason, Abby insists on walking Yoah and Davy to school together, and to take the long way home with Titus, holding my hand the entire time. She hugged Jagger this morning, way longer than I’ve ever seen her do, and he left for school looking bewildered, giving me a look that clearly said “what the fuck is up with Abby?”

We agreed not to tell the boys about her appointment, not even Jagger. She told me that she doesn’t want them to worry, but I think she’s mostly insisting to keep this between us so she can pretend it’s not real until it is. I haven’t told anyone, no matter how much I wish I could talk to my family and friends, just to get some of these thoughts off my chest. Abby isn’t in the mood to talk to me much, while I would love to talk things through.

“Coffee?” I ask when we get back home and she towels Titus off from the slight drizzle.

She shakes her head. “I’m too wired for caffeine.”

I make us both a cup of chamomile tea instead, sitting down on the couch right next to her, putting the mugs on the coffee table. She feels tense when I pull her against me, and even ten minutes later, her body still won’t relax.

“Abby, it’ll be fine,” I assure her, stroking her hair. “I love you no matter what. And there’s a 50/50 chance you’re worried about nothing. This might turn out to be the best day of your life instead of the worst.”

She sighs and digs her fingers into my arm. “I doubt it.”

“I want you no matter the outcome,” I tell her for the millionth time this week. She tenses up even more when I say that, and no matter how softly I stroke her hair or how tenderly I kiss her, she doesn’t relax in my arms. “What can I do to help?” I ask, at loss for words. I’ve already told her a hundred times that I love her, that I want to marry her and have kids with her, even if she’s got the gene. Those kids can be foster kids or adoptive kids, I don’t need biological ones if it turns out she can pass on the gene, but I do need her.

“Can we… do something?” she asks, sitting up. “Just… go somewhere. Meet up with friends or family or something. I can’t take sitting around for another second.”

“Aston texted me last night to see if we want to come over to meet the baby,” I suggest. Annabel went into labor a few days before New Year’s Eve, so Steffi has a little brother now: Benjamin. I show Abby a picture of the tiny little baby, and she smiles, her expression softening. Annabel was a little out of it after her C-section and not up for visitors aside from her family, but they’re now inviting over friends to meet the baby, and I’ve been wanting to hold the little guy from the moment I saw the photo.

God, I hope Abby doesn’t have the gene. I want to have kids with her. I may not need biological kids, but I would love them. I love babies. I’ve always wanted to have a kids, and now that I have Abby… I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather have a child with. I want to watch her belly grow with my baby inside, to watch our kids grow up, and to grow old and gray with Abby. Sure, I will be way older with the age-different and everything, but neither of us cares about that. It doesn’t feel like I’m too old for her. She feels perfect. Absolutely perfect. We fit.

“Yeah, let’s meet little Benjamin,” she agrees, pulling me to my feet when she gets up.

We leave Titus home this time and walk the few streets to our friends’ place. Aston opens the door right away, before we can even ring the bell. He presses a finger to his lips and motions for us to follow him into the living room.

“They’re sleeping,” he says when the door is closed firmly behind us. “All of them. Finally. We had a night from hell with Steffi throwing up and Benjamin crying the whole time, and Anna was… well, she told me she was going to run away to France at one point, and that I’d have to raise our brats alone.” He laughs, not sounding worried at all. “She can be such a bitch when she doesn’t get her sleep.”

“In her defense, she did have a kid not that long ago,” Abby reminds him, rolling her eyes. “You should be sweet to her.”

“Oh, I am,” he assures us, yawning. “Who do you think cleaned up Steffi’s vomit and got Benji back to sleep? Who do you think rubbed Anna’s back until she dozed off? That was all me, baby.”

Aston gets us something to drink and we all sit down. Abby asks him all about the delivery, how Benjamin is doing, asking to see pictures. It’s cute to see Aston light up when he talks about his family. He’s such a strong, muscular, tough guy from the outside, but he’s a cute little softy on the inside. Annabel has him wrapped around her little finger. So does Steffi. It’s a good thing that there’s another man in the household now, even if he’s still a newborn right now. Aston would never survive living in a house with three women.

“Oh,” Aston says, holding up a finger. I don’t hear anything, but it’s clear he does. He pulls out his phone to check the baby monitor. “Yeah, that’s Benji. Time to meet him, I guess. I’ll head upstairs to wake Anna so she can feed him, and then you can hold the little cutie-pie.”

The moment he leaves the room, Abby slips back into the quiet mode she’s been in all morning. I hate seeing her like this. She promised me last night that she’d let me in, but I can already tell she’s not doing that. At all.

“Talk to me,” I plead, taking her face in my hands.

She shrugs. “What is there to say? Can’t we just put a pin in it until we have to face the facts, Chris?”

“Okay,” I sigh, dropping my hands from her face. “Fine.”

We sit there awkwardly in completely silence until Aston walks in with his son in his arms. “This is Benji,” he says, gazing down at the cute boy with a smile.

Abby gets up and takes the baby from him, looking at his face with nothing but pure adoration in her big green eyes. She looks so good with a baby in her arms that it hurts. I sent a prayer to whatever God might be up there, asking if they can please give us some good news this afternoon so I can one day look at Abby with her own child in her arms.

“He’s so tiny,” she whispers, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “And those tiny little black curls… He looks just like you, Aston.”

“Nah, he’s perfect, so he must take after Anna,” he argues, not even kidding. The baby has light brown skin just like Steffi, the perfect mixture of both their parents’ complexions, but his eyes and hair are obviously Aston’s. I can tell he’s serious though, believing that only his wife could create a human as perfect as Benjamin.

“He truly is perfect,” I agree, playing with his tiny little fingers when Abby sits down next to me and snuggles against me with the baby in her arms.

Benjamin looks up at us with big brown eyes, making soft noises the way only babies can. He’s smaller than Steffi was when she was born, but his grip on my finger is already strong.

“I want one so bad,” Abby breathes, surprising me by voicing her wish.

“Well, you’ve got a man right next to you who I’m sure would be happy to knock you up,” Aston comments with a wicked grin. “I’ve got a spare bedroom and a whole bunch of pregnancy tests. Just say the word. At least someone will be having sex in this house that way, since it won’t be me.” He grunts. “After Steffi was born it took me ages to get my sexy little Anna back. I have a feeling it won’t be different this time around. I love my kids, but I’d kill for a good fuck right now.”

“Don’t talk like that in front of your son,” I chastise Aston, laughing softly.

“He can’t understand a word I say. Can you, Benji?” Aston asks, taking his baby back from Abby to cradle him to his chest. “Anyway… kids, huh?” He gives Abby a pointed look. “Seriously, you better get started, girl. Chris isn’t getting any younger.”

“I can’t have kids,” Abby says, her face expressionless.

“Oh fuck,” Aston says, his eyes going wide. “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t know that you can’t,” I tell Abby, putting an arm around her. “Just wait two hours before giving up hope, okay?”

“Are you guys trying already?” Aston asks, sounding surprised.

Abby looks at me, and I nod. If she wants to tell him, I’m okay with that. I’ve been wanting to talk to someone about this for a long time now, and Aston and Annabel are two of my best friends. Having them in the loop would be amazing for me. I didn’t expect Abby to speak to anyone but me about it, but she lays it all on the table for Aston, telling him about her mother, our appointment in two hours, and how scared she is that she will forget all about the people she loves.

By the time she’s done, Aston is crying. The big, broad man is actually sobbing, rocking his baby boy so he won’t join in. I have to take deep breaths to keep myself from breaking down as well, knowing Abby needs me to be strong for her right now.

“I’m so sorry,” Aston tells Abby through his tears. “I must be hormonal or something, because I swear I don’t normally cry. It’s just… My kids and my wife are everything to me, and I can’t imagine ever forgetting who they are. And to know that you can’t have kids because of this…”

“We don’t know that,” I insist. “50/50, remember?”

“Yeah,” Abby agrees, wiping at her eyes. “50/50.”

She doesn’t believe it, not even a little, and I can tell from Aston’s sympathetic look that he realizes that too. We stay for a little while longer and we see Annabel for a moment when she comes down for a cup of tea, looking more tired than I’ve ever seen her, but also very happy with her baby boy. They both hug us goodbye, wishing us good luck as we leave to have a quick bite to eat at home before heading to the hospital.

***

“I see you brought your father for moral support,” Dr. Timothy Geraldus says when he sees me sitting in the waiting room with Abby.

“Oh no, he’s my boyfriend,” she corrects him, blushing fiercely.

“He knows,” I tell her, rolling my eyes at my colleague. “Hi, Timothy.”

“Christopher,” he greats me, shaking my hand. “Weird seeing you without your white coat. Guess we all end up as patients at one point, huh?”

I like the guy, I really do, and he’s a great doctor, but I’m not in the mood for small talk right now. He catches my hard look and nods, slipping into a more professional mode. He leads us to his office and motions for us to sit down.

“Okay, give it to me straight,” Abby orders the moment Timothy takes a seat behind his desk. “Don’t give me the lengthy medical explanation. You can tell that shit to Chris later. I need the straight-forward reply. Right now. Do I have the gene or not?”

To my surprise, Timothy smiles. “I’m happy to tell you I’ve got good news for you, Abigail. There is absolutely nothing that indicates that you’ve got the same genetic deficit your mother does.”

Abby and I look at each other, both unable to believe our ears.

“I don’t have it?” she asks, her voice wobbly.

“Healthy as a fiddle, with no indication of that ever changing,” he confirms. “You do not have the gene.”

I grab Abby and kiss her, but she doesn’t respond the way I thought she would. There’s no relief, no smile, no reaction whatsoever. Her lips don't even move when I press mine to hers.

“I don’t have it?” she asks, sounding numb. “I’m… I’m fine?”

“Absolutely fine,” Timothy assures her. He launches into the medical explanation and I listen carefully, making sure that I understand every single part. I grab her chart from Timothy’s desk, leafing through it.

He’s right. She’s fine. Absolutely fine.

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