Caring Christopher

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#42 Don’t give up on me


I’ve been already walking around for two hours straight when I finally sink down on the bench across from my mother’s nursing home, unable to go in. Christopher didn’t like the idea of me going of a walk without him, but I needed to get away from his happiness. It’s not that I’m not happy, but I’m just… numb.

Ever since I was 16 and Mom got diagnosed, I’ve been trying to be okay with ending up like her. The doctor had her blood tested to find out what caused the Alzheimer’s, and he made sure everything was on file in case I ever wanted to take the test. I never thought I would, but here we are. I’m clean. Nothing wrong with me.

I’ve been living with this sword dangling over my head for over ten years, and now suddenly it’s gone. It never even existed. I’ve been scared of an imaginary sword. I’m such a stupid cunt. And to think my bags are already packed and waiting for me in the room I stayed in before I got together with Christopher. I’ve got a new job lined up that I’m supposed to start in a week, and Brittany agreed with letting me crash on her couch until I can move in with the new family I will be the nanny for. A single mother this time, a strong career woman with two kids. No more abusive men for me.

Now, though… now I can stay. I never even considered the possibility that I might turn out to be okay. I’m not unworthy after all. I don’t have to move out. I can keep being Christopher’s girlfriend, and play house with him and the kids. We can do all the things I know he wants: marriage, adoption, kids of our own…

I want that too.

I really, really want that.

Finally, I get up and cross the street to see my mother for a moment. Grayson takes one looks at me and hurries into the kitchen to get both of us a cup of coffee. I wait for him on the couch across from my mother, who is knitting a scarf – what else? Grayson sits down next to me and gives me a searching glance as he hands me a mug.

“You look like you want to jump for joy and cry at the same time,” he says, seeing straight through me. “What’s going on?”

“I got the test,” I explain, looking at my mother. She looks serene right now, barely even aware of us sitting here staring at her. “And I don’t have the gene.”

“Oh Abby,” Grayson breathes, putting an arm around me and kissing my forehead. “That’s the best news ever. You must be so happy.”

“I’m too scared to be excited,” I confess, pulling back to meet his gaze. “Is that weird?”

He laughs. “No, Abby, that’s not weird. You thought you’d find out you’re going to end up in here at one point, but instead you get to live the life you never thought you would have. That’s gotta be so weird.”

“Yeah!” That’s exactly it. “I feel like… like I could have started truly living much earlier, you know? Like I just threw away ten years of my life. And now I can start my life for real, but I… I don’t know how to, I guess.”

“You didn’t throw away ten years,” Grayson argues. “Besides, I’m pretty sure your new hot boyfriend has something to do with you wanting to get tested, huh? Ten years ago, you didn’t have anything to live for, no offence. We met when you moved your mother in here nine ears ago, remember? You were in not state to live any kind of life back then, Abby. Now, though… You’re so strong, but you’re also letting emotions in and you don’t pretend to be cool as a cucumber all the time. Finally. This is the perfect time to start living.”

I didn’t think to look at it like that. Maybe he’s right. Everything that happened in my life led me to Christopher, who taught me it’s okay to be weak sometimes, because he is always there to pick up the slack and comfort me. He breaks down sometimes, but that doesn’t make him less amazing. He’s a great father and a lovely boyfriend because he lets himself be weak from time to time, not in spite of it.

I can’t believe I was going to walk away from him and the boys without saying goodbye. I’m so stupid. They deserve better than that. So much better. Thank God it turns out I actually am better than I thought I was.

“I need to get back home,” I decide, hugging Grayson goodbye and pressing a kiss to Mom’s cheek. She smiles up at me. There is not even the slightest spark of recognition in her eyes, but at least she’s having a good day.

It’s a long walk back home, and I run most of the way, finally allowing happiness to surge up within me, letting it propel me forward. I want to tell Chris I love him, to hug the boys, to… well, to be with my family.

“I’m home!” I call out while I take off my coat and shoes in the hallway.

No response.

I push open the door into the living room and freeze when I see Jagger with his arms crossed, standing in front of what looks like a pile of every single one of the bags I packed earlier. Christopher is sitting on the couch with his head in his hands, not looking up as I walk in.

“You’re such a fucking liar,” Jagger starts in on me, his eyes shooting fire. “You told me that you were in this, that you weren’t going anywhere. Do you care to explain why the fuck you packed up all your stuff and already have a new job lined up?”

Oh shit.

“It’s not like that,” I explain hastily. “I was freaking out about the test and I-”

“-decided to make a run for it,” Jagger finishes for me. “You’re such a fucking pussy, Abby. Is that what you want to teach my brothers? To bolt when things get hard?”

“Look, I’m obviously not going anywhere now,” I try to reassure him. “I’m sure Chris told you that I don’t have the gene. I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not okay,” Jagger shoots back. “You’re a disgusting liar who doesn’t have any business being involved in my brothers’ lives. Or in mine. Or in Christopher’s. I thought you were different, but you’re just like the rest of them. You don’t care about us. You only care about yourself.”

“I was going to leave solely because I care about you, not because I want to!” I exclaim, moving closer to him, wanting not more than to wrap my arms around the hurting teenager and make him feel better, but he’s too enraged to let me anywhere near him. “You’ve been through so much already. I couldn’t bear the thought of me knowingly setting you up for even more heartbreak because of my Alzheimer’s, but now… Things are different now.”

“Jagger, can I talk to Abby alone for a moment?” Christopher asks softly, finally speaking up.

“No,” he bites, still glaring at me. “You’re just going to forgive her, and I want her out. I want her to take these bags she packed, get in her car and drive to her next job. We don’t need her, Chris. She’s just the nanny after all.”

Oh ow. I know he’s trying to hit me where it hurts, and Jagger sure knows how to do it. I can’t even blame him for it. What I was planning to do was absolutely horrible and unfair to them. My only excuse is that I was trying to protect them from myself.

“Jagger,” Chris says in a tight voice. “Please.”

“Fine,” he huffs, giving me one last dirty look before heading out, slamming the front door behind him.

“Chris,” I start, turning to him. “I’m so sorry. I swear I was-”

“You were going to leave us,” Christopher states, gesturing at the bags. He is still sitting on the couch, but he is looking up at me now, his blue eyes watery from unshed tears. “After everything, all the plans we made, everything we shared, you were going to leave us.”

“I was scared and hurt and afraid of hurting you and the boys,” I explain, sitting down on the coffee table so I’m facing him. When I try to take his hands in mine, he pulls them away like I burned him.

“You weren’t even going to say goodbye,” Chris goes on, sounding broken. “Jagger knew something was up with you this morning, so he cut class to find out what was going on. He guessed your e-mail password and found the e-mails to your new employer. And then he discovered you packed up all your things and we…” He grunts and wipes at his tears, trying to keep it together. “We found the note, Abby. You were going to walk away from our family without even saying goodbye, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” I confess, knowing lying would only make things worse, if that’s even possible at this point. “I was. I know that’s fucked up, but you need to understand-”

“Right now, I don’t think I need to do anything,” Chris bites out, sounding angry. I’ve never heard him talk to me like this. In fact, he has never talked to anyone like this as far as I know. Even when he disciplines the kids or has a heated argument with Jagger, he never sounds truly angry. Just strict. He’s sure as hell mad now, though. So much so that I don’t even see any of the usual love and kindness in his eyes anymore.

“You’re right,” I breathe. “I’m sorry.”

“Are you leaving?” Chris asks, his hands balling into fists.

“No, not unless you kick me out.” I put a hand on his knee, and I exhale in relief when he doesn’t push me away. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you. Like you said last night, I’m used to doing things on my own and it’s hard for me to let you in. I will try to be better from now on. I’m not going anywhere. I love you, Chris. I want it all with you.”

He shakes his head and looks down, unable to face me. “I don’t know anymore, Abby. If you were so ready to walk away from me, from the boys… Who’s to say you won’t do the exact same thing next time things get rough? You may not have the gene, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never face hardship ever again. I need to know the woman I share my life with will talk to me when things go south, and with you… I’m not sure you can.”

“I can!” I grab him face in my hands and force him to look at me. The hurt in his eyes undoes me, and I start crying. “Please don’t do this, Chris. You can be mad at me for as long as you want, but don’t give up on me. Please.”

“I don’t know,” he breathes, his eyes searching my face. “It’s not just me you were going to walk out on, Abby. We’ve got kids. I know you keep telling yourself that they’re mine, that you’re just the nanny, but they’re ours. We have three wonderful kids and I’m so angry at you for planning to walk out on them without even saying goodbye. Sure, I’d be hurt, and I would miss you like hell, but that’s nothing compared to what it would do to the boys. You know that better than anyone. How could you do that to them?”

He’s right. I’m so awful. I can see now that I was wrong for planning to bolt like this. I was trying to protect them, but this wasn’t the way to do it. Today should be a celebration, yet instead I feel like everything is slipping away from me. I’m on the verge of losing Chris and the boys and it’s all my fault.

“I swear I will do whatever I can to make this up to you, and to the boys,” I vow. “Where are Davy and Yoah? Do they know?”

“No,” Chris assures me. “They’re playing with the kids across the street. I didn’t want them to be here for this. I couldn’t shut out Jagger, though. He already knows everything, and to be honest… He’s right to be mad at you. You betrayed him. Even more than you betrayed me.”

We’re both silent for a moment, staring at each other. After what feels like forever, Christopher puts a hand on the side of my face, brushing away my tears with his thumb. I lean into his touch, and I pray that this means he’s going to forgive me eventually. I don’t want to lose him. I can’t.

“I love you,” I whisper. “So much. I know I fucked up Please believe I never truly wanted to leave. I wanted to protect you and the boys because I love you and I felt unworthy.”

“I know,” he breathes. “I get it. I’m just so angry right now. Hurt. Scared this will happen again. Afraid of what this will do to Jagger.” His hand drops from my face. “I’m not sure how to go from here, Abby.”

“Are you…” I pull my hands through my hair, trying to pull myself together. “Are you kicking me out?”

Chris shakes his head. “I’m not ready to make a decision, and I don’t want Davy and Yoah to get upset. Let’s just… I don’t know. I need some time.”

“Okay,” I agree, getting up and grabbing a few bags of my stuff. “I will move back into my old room.”

“No,” Chris says, shaking his head. “I don’t want the kids to worry about us breaking up. Let’s not cross that bridge until we have to. My bed is big enough for the both of us.” He gets up and walks into the kitchen to wash his face. “I’m going to pick up the kids across the street and call Jagger to check up on him. Can you get started on dinner?”

“Sure,” I say, hating how detached he sounds. “Chris… I love you.”

He doesn’t say it back. Instead, he nods and walks out of the room without looking back. My heart breaks, but I hold onto the tiny sliver of hope that’s still there. He didn’t kick me out of his house. He’s not even making me sleep in my old bed. I’m still here, and Yoah and Davy have no idea that anything happened. I will fight for all of them as long as I need to, trying to gain Jagger’s and Chris’ trust back.

I’m finally getting a chance to have the life I’ve always wanted. I’m not going to let anything keep me from living it, not even my own stupidity.

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