#50 Old asshole
Three days was bad enough, but now Chris is staying in New York even longer. His friends Arthur is a pediatric surgeon in one of the biggest hospitals in the country and apparently he has this huge, exciting surgery coming up and he convinced Chris to stay for a few more days so he can scrub in. He’s gotten privileges in the hospital now so he can treat patients while he’s there, and he sounds so cute and excited when he tells me about all the resources the hospital has that my heart sinks.
What if he wants to move to New York? Or to another big city like that? This town is pretty large, a lot bigger than the small one he moved here from, but it’s no New York. I love him and I wish I could follow him anywhere, but I can’t. My mother is here and as long as she’s alive, I want to stay close. My whole life I’ve made sure to stay close enough to visit her often, and I can’t just pack up and leave her here. She’s to fragile to move with us, and any kind of change will confuse her too much. I can’t do that to the woman that raised me. It’s not her fault that she can’t remember who I am. Besides, Brittany and Jaxon are the only friends I have who feel like family, and I don’t want to leave them either.
“Is that Chris?” Jagger asks when he sees me talking on the phone in the kitchen. It’s just the two of us at the house. He’s got the afternoon off – I called the principal to make sure his wasn’t lying about his free periods – and the younger kids are still at school. “Can you ask him about the party on Friday?”
“We already agreed on a time,” I remind him sternly. “When Chris isn’t here, I’m in charge and you know it.”
He rolls his eyes. “Hand me the phone, Abby.”
I grunt but do as he says. Jagger asks Chris if he can stay out later, and from the annoyed look on his face I can clearly see that Christopher isn’t given him the answer he was hoping for. “Seriously?” he grumbles. “That’s an hour earlier than Abby agreed to!”
I laugh, knowing fully well what’s happening. To punish Jagger for trying to go over my head, he’s being even stricter than I was. “Give it to me,” I order, motioning for him to give my phone back. The moment I hear Christopher’s soft chuckle in my ear, I smile. I melt into a puddle whenever I hear his voice and I don’t think that will ever change.
“How about you tell Jag that you’re going to allow him to stay out later than I’m okay with?” Chris says with a smile in his voice. “I think he doesn’t quite realize that between the two of us, you’re the less strict one when it comes to things like this.”
“That’s because I’m young enough to remember wanting to stay out all night and drink until I drop,” I tease, even though we both know I’ve never been quite that wild. Sure, I had some fun that one year I was in college before I had to drop out, but I never felt like I could truly let loose with everything going on with my mother. “You’re an old man, Chris.”
“Didn’t hear you complaining about how old I am when we talked last night.” His voice is seductive now, causing me to shiver with anticipation. We had phone sex for the third time this week, but instead of quenching my desire for him, it’s making me even hotter and more ready for him to come back home.
“Do you have time for another… talk tonight?” I ask, shooting Jagger a look to make sure he doesn’t know what me and Chris are talking about. Luckily, he’s too busy making himself a sandwich and looking at the date on the fridge with shiny eyes. If he stays on good behavior, he will get his car in little over a week. He spends all his spare time searching the internet for the perfect car for him. It’ll be a second-hand one, obviously, but to Jagger that still feels like a brand-new one after the old barrel he used to drive.
“I wish,” Chris sighs. “I’m going out with Paxton and Arthur tonight. We’re making the most of our time together before I leave.” He hesitates. “Actually… they’d like to meet you and the boys soon. Especially Arthur. They’re making plans to take a few days off in a month or so to come visit us and the boys.”
“Sounds great.” I wonder what he told them about me. “Did you hear about Edward’s father?” I ask then, my good made evaporating.
“Yeah, I’ll be back home a day before the funeral,” he says, sounding just as sad as I feel. “How is Eddie doing?”
“Shitty,” I say, wishing I’d have better news. “Freddie is still staying here, because Edward doesn’t want to upset Freddie by bringing him around devastated family members. Edward is coming over for dinner tonight.”
“Thank you for taking care of everyone and everything,” Chris says softly, sounding a little emotional. “Freddie, my friends, their kids, our kids, the dog…”
“Chris, that’s not something you need to thank me for. I love all of them too.”
“I know,” he agrees. “I love that about you. Even though you have every reason to have walls up and not let yourself care so deeply, you still dive in and take care of everyone around you. I think it’s good for us that I’m gone for a week.”
“W-what?” I ask, not understanding that sudden change of topic. “How is it good for us that you’re gone? I miss you like hell, Chris, and so do the kids.”
“I know, I miss you too, but…” He takes a deep, audible breath. “I think the distance is good for me to clear my mind and get over what happened. The first day was hard, but… I’ve come to realize… you don’t need me.”
“I do need you!” I protest, getting more and more worried.
“No, you don’t,” Chris insists, his tone serious. “This week has been an eye-opener for me. I feel like I can finally move on and-”
I feel tears welling up in my eyes and I interrupt him. “Please don’t tell me that you’re breaking up with me over the phone!”
“What?!” Jagger exclaims, throwing his sandwich down on his plate and turning to me with wide eyes. “Is that stupid fuck kicking you out? Is he out of his goddamn mind?” He grabs the phone out of my hands and starts yelling at Chris. “Look, I know I said I hate her, and it was very sweet of you to offer to kick her out for me, but I didn’t actually want you to do it! She’s perfect for you! You’re never going to find another woman like Abby, you old asshole!”
Oh God. I wipe at my eyes, hating that it has come to this. I truly thought Chris and I were working through things and that I was regaining his trust. I didn’t see this coming at all, especially not Jagger defending me to Chris.
“Oh,” I hear Jagger say, his voice quiet now. “Oh, okay, sorry…. Yeah… Okay… Yeah, miss you too, Dad.” He smiles and hands the phone back to me. “How about you talk to Dad and I pick the kids up from school?” Jagger offers, his eyes shining now.
“Okay,” I agree, a little surprised when he grabs his sandwich and steps into his boots, leaving the house with Titus in tow. I shake my head at turn back to Chris. I see that he’s requesting a videocall, and I tap the screen to accept.
“Hey,” he says when his face appears on the screen, smiling at me. “Just to be clear: I wasn’t breaking up with you, Abby. Sorry if I made it sound like that.”
“Thank God,” I breathe, sinking down onto a kitchen stool. “You had me scared there for a moment when you said you were finally able to move on from me.”
“There’s no moving on from you, baby,” he assures me, and I can tell he’s absolutely serious. “That’s not what I said. I’m not moving on from you, but from my worries and trust issues. When Arthur asked me to stay here for a few more days, I expected to be worried about leaving you alone with the kids, but instead I felt like… like the only reason I could even consider staying here longer was because you’re there with them not in spite of it. I’m not saying we’ll never fight about things again, or that there’s not still a little part of me that’s hurt and scared, but I do trust you again.”
“Oh,” I reply stupidly, a smile creeping onto my face. “Good. That’s a relief.”
“Jagger telling me that he wants me to stay with you helps, of course,” Chris says, grinning. “I didn’t think you’d win him over so soon, to be honest. He seemed pretty set on hating you.”
“Maybe it was good for Jag and me to be forced to live together with you to smooth things over all the time,” I say, realizing that this week without Chris might have been the best thing to help all of us sort out our feelings. Not that mine needed sorting out. I already knew I love Chris and the boys and that I am never ever walking out on them again.
“Mary called,” Chris says out of the blue. “The adoption paperwork is coming through a little faster than we thought. In two months, the boys will be mine, even Jagger.”
“Chris, that’s wonderful.”
“Mary said she’s going to be popping in for more visits the next couple of weeks to make sure the boys are still safe and happy with us. If everything goes smoothly, there’s no reason we can’t close the adoption soon.”
“I will do my best to keep the house clean, Davy and Yoah fed and happy, and Jagger out of trouble,” I vow. “Don’t worry. We’ve got this. Mary adores you. She wants this for you and the boys.”
“Honey, you don’t have to put in more effort than you already do,” he assures me, his blue eyes sparkling at me through the screen. “I don’t think that’s even possible. As long as you’re in, we’re all good.”
“I’m in,” I tell him for what feels like the hundredth time. I know he just told me that he trusts me again, but him circling back to whether I’m in or not makes me realize that we’re not completely past the issues I caused quite yet. It doesn’t matter. I will assure him again and again that I’m all in. A million times if need be. I’ve got the rest of my life to prove to him that he can trust me, because I am never leaving him.
A vision of me in a wedding dress pops up, but I quickly press it to the back of my mind, not wanting to get ahead of myself. It’s hard not to with Chris. I’ve never wanted to truly commit to someone the way I do with Chris. He makes it so easy to hand my heart to him without having to fear he will break it. Now that I know I don’t have the gene I’m not scared the way I used to be and I can finally let my guard down without worrying I will end up hurting everyone around me. It’s okay for others to love me now. It’s okay to be loved and needed.
“Why do you look all misty-eyed?” Christopher asks, moving his face toward to his phone screen like that will actually bring him closer even though he’s miles away.
“I just love you,” I say softly, smiling at the way his messy blond hair falls in front of his face. It’s growing out again and I hope he won’t ever crop it short. Those soft blonde curls are one of my favorite things about him. “I really miss you, Chris.”
“Miss you too, baby.”
We chat until the kids get home with Jagger, all wanting to talk to their dad, so I hand my phone to Yoah and Davy. Even Freddie joins in on the chaotic conversation. Freddie doesn’t feel comfortable about many people, but me and Chris are a few of the only adults he doesn’t get self-conscious around anymore, and I think even Freddie misses Chris. And, of course, he misses his father. Luckily, Edward is coming over for dinner tonight.