Caring Christopher

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#47 Flight risk


One step forward, a two steps back. That’s how my life has felt these past few weeks. Even though it’s been a month since Abby almost walked out on us, Jagger still hasn’t forgiven her. And to be honest… I think I’m still a little hurt as well. I didn’t think I was, but when the chief of the hospital tells me I’m going to be the keynote speaker at a conference in New York, the first thought that pops into my mind isn’t how exciting it is to be chosen for this, or how cool it will be to meet up with an old college roommate who works in New York. It’s not even how much I will miss Abby and the kids those three days I will be out there.

Instead, my mind is filled with doubt. What if Abby walks out on us while I’m gone? What if me not being here will cause an even bigger fight between Abby and Jagger? What if I come back and Jagger is gone? Or Abby? Or both? What if something happens that puts me adopting the boys in jeopardy? What if… what if… what if…?

In my heart, I know that Abby wouldn’t to that. I believe in her, I trust her, I’ve forgiven her. I think. My brain is at war with my heart, though. I hate that I doubt her, and it surprises me that I do, but I can’t ignore this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I call Edward, asking him what I should do. I can’t say no to this conference, but I also know that I will be worried the entire time. He listens to me patiently, not interrupting my rant. When I’m finally done, he sighs deeply.

“Yeah, I thought this would happen.”

“What?” I ask, surprised. “You know I would get chosen as the keynote speaker and that I’d start worrying about Abby taking care of the kids, even though that’s technically what I pay her for?”

He laughs. “No, not that specifically, but I did think that you forgave her too easily. I totally support your relationship with her, and I think she’s amazing, but you only had one serious conversation with her about the whole mess after deciding to forgive her, and jumped straight back to talking about marriage and having kids. I get it, but doubt was bound to creep back into your mind at some point, especially with Jagger still giving her shit.”

“Right,” I breathe, realizing he’s right. I wanted to move past the hurt so badly that I shoved it aside, but she cut me deeper than I thought. I’m a trusting, caring person, and I know from my marriage to Gianna that I can be a little too trusting and caring at times. My marriage lasted longer than it should have because I kept trying to find a way to work things out, keep the conversation about adoption going, convinced that she was going to change her mind, and that I didn’t have to give up on her. Even when we started fighting on a daily basis – about anything and everything – I still cared for her and tried to show her I loved her. Gianna had already given up on us, I realize when I look back. Not that I blame her, it was obvious we needed to get a divorce, but it took me a while to accept that.

I’m not saying Abby and Gianna are one and the same. Not at all. The way I feel about Abby is beyond compare, and she gets me in a way Gianna never truly did. I also truly understand where Abby was coming from when she tried to bolt, no matter how misguided.

Still… she hurt me. So fucking much.

“What do I do?” I ask Edward, hoping he will have the perfect answer. “I should just get over this and trust her, right?”

“Talk to her,” he replies. “You’re all about honestly and openness, so go be open and honest with you girlfriend, Chris. The girl’s been working really hard to gain back your trust, and I think talking to her might help. And if it doesn’t… I promise I will drop by unannounced every single day to update you on how things are going and to let you know all four of them are still at the house, without running off leaving nothing but a note. That Davy is a real flight risk, after all.”

I don’t laugh at his joke, too anxious to appreciate him trying to lighten the mood. “Thanks, man. I hate to admit it, but that would make me feel a lot better.”

When I come home around dinner time, my mood lightens when I see Yoah and Abby cooking together. The sight always makes my heart clench. She’s so good with all three boys, and it’s lovely to see how happy Yoah is in moment like these. He’s talking to her animatedly, not resembling the quiet tense boy that I met six months ago at all. Out of all the boys, I think he has changed the most.

“Dad!” Yoah exclaims when he sees me, grinning at me. “We’re making Mom’s famous meatballs!”

Both Yoah and Davy have been calling me Dad for a few weeks now, and it still makes me tear up every single time. It is going to take some time before I get used to it. Davy sometimes refers to call Abby as his mother, but Yoah and Jagger still reserve that term for Dorothy alone. They never had a real father, so that title was up for grabs, I guess, while Mom makes them think of the sweet dying woman they still miss. Jagger hasn’t called me Dad yet, but he does often complains to his friends about his overbearing father, which is strangely comforting to hear.

“It smells delicious,” I tell Yoah, moving into the kitchen to give him a hug and Abby a kiss.

I feel a little silly for worrying about her leaving us now that I see her cooking in her sweatpants, signing along to the radio with flushed cheeks from being so close to the stove for so long. She’s happy here. I know she is. And I think that she is starting to believe she’s worthy of love and that she’s a positive influence on the kids, even on Jagger.

“Hey Chris,” Jagger says when he walks in through the backdoor, taking a last drag of his cigarette before putting it out. He ignores Abby completely, asking Yoah what’s for dinner. Just when I think he’s alone today, Celeste walks in after him, lighting a cigarette while she closes the door behind her.

“No smoking inside,” Abby tells her, wrinkling her nose.

“Ignore her,” Jagger grunts.

“No smoking inside,” I repeat, my voice strict.

Jagger rolls his eyes, but he does pull the cigarette out of his girlfriend’s mouth and puts it out. He’s been pretty good at listening to me lately, getting closer and closer to getting his new car, but he pretends Abby doesn’t have any authority in this house. I get it, but it’s been a month already. I had hoped he’d have truly forgiven her by now. Then again, even I haven’t completely moved past the incident, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised a 16-year-old traumatized bad boy is still mad at her.

Davy runs in from upstairs, where he’d been playing, and he jumps me, climbing me like a monkey. I pick him up even though he’s getting a little heavy for that, and give him a kiss. We sit down on the couch together and he snuggles against me the way he always does. I love how cuddly he is with me, and he is the same way with Abby, Yoah and Jagger. On bad days, it’s Davy who always reminds me that we’re truly a family.

“Dinner is ready!” Abby announces, helping Yoah put everything on the dinner table. “Celeste, are you joining us?”

She shrugs. “Sure.” Of course she never thanks us for feeding her every single day. She stays over so many nights that Abby and I have been making her a lunch box each morning, not wanting to send her to school without. We even have her favorite cereal in the kitchen cupboard, even though no one else eats that dry crap.

I still think she’s bad for Jagger, and she’s impossible to talk to, always shrugging and not replying to questions. Abby and I have given up on trying to keep her out, since Jagger either sneaks her in when we’re asleep or heads out to her place. Her parents are never home, and I’d prefer Jagger to be here with us, even if it means having Celeste in bed with him.

Abby has tried to give Celeste the safe sex talk that I’ve been having on a weekly basis with Jagger, but the girl puts in her earbuds and turns up the heavy metal each and every single time. Judging by how often Abby has to replace the condoms in his nightstand, Jagger is at least being safe about things, and he’s assured me a million times that he has no intention of knocking her up, so I guess I have to trust him on that. It grosses me out to think about the two of them doing… well, anything that involves taking the clothes off, to be honest, even though I know it’s normal for teenagers to experiment at their age.

Dinner is pleasant, with all kids – even Jagger – talking about their days at school. Abby is in high spirits as well, and she grosses all of us out by sprinkling sugar over her meatballs before mixing them with her pasta. How the hell she can eat that without puking is beyond me.

After dinner, I sit with Jagger the kitchen island with a cup of tea to make sure he does some homework instead of spending all night snogging Celeste. She stretches out on the couch and watches reality TV, acting like she lives here. The girl makes me feel like I have no idea what I’m doing taking care of a teenager. Am I a bad father for allowing her to stay over here all the time? Should I kick her out? But that would mean that Jagger starts sneaking out again, and he’s been so good lately, not even skipping school anymore. He even got a B on a math taste last week, which is huge for him. I’ve tried to get in touch with Celeste’s parents, but they never pick up, and they responded to my many texts by telling me that they’re fine with her staying over here with us while they’re out of the country.

Abby comes down after reading Davy a bedtime story, motioning for me to go up next to tell the boys goodnight. I kiss Yoah on the forehead, smiling when I see he’s reading a book. He’s turning 10 in a few days, and he’s addicted to this fantasy series, wanting all the books in the series as his present. I love that my kid is asking for books and not a new phone or a TV for his room or something. Yoah is easy to please.

Davy asks me to lie down with him for a moment, so I slide into bed with him, talking to him about all sorts of stuff 5-years-old think about at night: kids from school, his favorite ice cream, the train set he accidentally broke yesterday… I love how carefree he sounds. He’s been through a lot, but both him and Yoah seem to feel safe here by now, truly at home. I love that I’m able to give them a steady, happy home. They deserve it.

When I get back down, Jagger and Celeste are already locked into his room, so it’s just me and Abby. I take the glass of red wine from her and drape the soft blanket over us when I sit down on the couch. She pulls my feet onto her lap and starts rubbing them while she watches a show she loves. I grab a book from the coffee table and try to relax, but I can’t.

“What’s wrong?” she asks when I pull my feet out of her hands and put my book down.

“I need to talk to you.”

“Oh God, should I be worried you’re breaking up with me?” she jokes. When I don’t react right away, her eyes go wide. “Oh God, are you?”

“No,” I assure her, taking her hand in mine to reassure her. The panic in her eyes eases my worries a little. She truly does love me, that’s clear to see. Then again… she already loved me when she wrote that stupid note that’s still in my nightstand, hidden in a book. In fact, love was the reason she was willing to walk out on me and our kids in the first place. “I’ve been chosen as the keynote speaker for that conference in New York.”

“Oh, that’s awesome!” She leans in to kiss me, beaming. “Congrats, Chris!”

“Thanks.” A small smile creeps onto my face. It’s really cool, to be honest, and a huge thing for my career, so I should be happy. “It’s next month, for three days.”

Understanding flashes in her eyes. “You don’t want to leave the boys alone with me.”

“It’s not that…” Okay, it sort of is, but it sounds so harsh when she puts it like that. “I’m just a little apprehensive. About Jagger mostly, but also…”

“About me being gone when you get back, a note waiting for you on the kitchen counter or something,” she says knowingly. “I get that. I thought we were good, but it makes sense for you to worry. I really messed up, didn’t I?” Tears fill her eyes, and she doesn’t fight them, letting them roll down her cheeks. A few months ago, she never would allow herself to cry this easily, and I love seeing her so vulnerable, even though I hate making her sad.

“We are good,” I say softly, pulling her onto my lap. “I love you. I didn’t even realize I was still hurt until I got the news and started freaking out about it.”

“Who did you call to babysit me?” she asks, wiping at her eyes and trying to smile. “Aston? Franny?”


She laughs. “I should have known. Look, Eddy can move in here while you’re gone for all I care. I’m not even offended. The boys are too important to take chances with them. Just so you know, though, I’m not going anywhere ever again. Unless you kick me out, I’m here to stay.”

“I’m not kicking you out, Abby.”

“Then you’re stuck with me, baby.”

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