Caring Christopher

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#56 Misunderstood

Abigail

When Jagger, Celeste, Davy and Yoah get back home in the morning, Chris and I are still in our pajamas, having a late breakfast in the kitchen.

“Ew,” Jagger says the moment he sees us sitting at the kitchen island, sipping our coffees while holding hands. “I so don’t want to know why you’re looking so goddamn tired right now, although I think I can make a pretty educated guess.”

“Dad!” Davy exclaims, running up to Chris and throwing his arms around him.

“Hey, why aren’t you excited to see me?” I ask teasingly, poking at Davy.

“You weren’t gone for a week,” Yoah reasons, walking over to hug me so I won’t feel left out. The kid is so damn sweet. “We didn’t get to see Dad much yesterday.”

“Yeah, you’re always here, Mom,” Davy says, rolling his eyes while he looks up at me.

Mom.

My heart soars, but I can see that Jagger’s face contorts with annoyance, and Yoah looks a little taken-aback as well. While Yoah bounces right back and starts eating bacon off my plate, Jagger kicks the leg of a chair and grabs Titus’ leash.

“Coming?” he asks Celeste, opening the door to the hallway.

“Nah,” she says, flopping down on the couch. “I’m gonna watch some TV.”

Seriously? Doesn’t she see that Jagger is hurting?

“Give me five minutes to get dressed,” I tell Jagger. “I’m coming with you.”

He grumbles something but waits for me to get dressed anyway. I kiss Chris goodbye and head out for a walk with Jagger and Titus. The dog is excited – he always is – but Jagger is quiet.

“You know I’m not trying to replace your Mom, right?” I ask softly, reaching for his hand. To my surprise, he doesn’t pull away.

“Yeah,” he sighs. “It’s just hard.”

“I know, it’s hard for me too.”

“In a few years, Davy will barely even remember Mom,” he whispers.

“You can tell him all about her. We can even put up pictures of her in the house, if you want to. Chris and I aren’t trying to erase her.”

He nods and gives my hand a squeeze before letting go and taking out a cigarette. “Want one?”

“Yeah, but I shouldn’t.” I grunt when the smell hits me and fills me with longing. Damn. I really shouldn’t have smoked last night. It feels like I’m quitting all over again. “Okay, maybe one.”

Jagger laughs and hands me one, lighting it for me. “You just got a whole lot cooler, you know that right?”

“I was always cool,” I joke, closing my eyes for a second while I enjoy my first drag. “Chris will kill me when he finds out I’m smoking,” I grumble, knowing fully well that he will give me a talk about black, diseased lungs and cancer.

“What’s up with you and Chris anyway?” Jagger asks, glancing at me while we walk into the park and take a left. “You looked like you wanted to kill him yesterday. What did he do?”

I choke up a little when I realize that he’s the first person to not automatically assume that I was the one to fuck up. Jagger has every reason to be upset with me for making him feel like I might walk out on him without saying goodbye, yet he doesn’t seem to think that I’m the only one who can fuck up.

“Nothing,” I say, not wanting to involve Jagger.

“Please,” he scoffs, blowing out smoke. “I know you better than that by now, Abby. He obviously did something wrong while he was in New York. I’m glad you guys worked things out, though.” He stops walking and sinks down onto a bench, taking a tennis ball out of his coat and throwing it for Titus to fetch. “I need to ask though… what happens when you guys have a fight you can’t recover from?”

“What do you mean?” I ask, sitting down next to him and enjoying the last drags of my cigarette. This is my last one. I swear.

“As much as I’d love to believe you guys will be together forever, I know that most relationships end eventually,” he says without any emotion in his voice, but I can see his hand is trembling as he lifts his cigarette to his mouth. He’s not wearing of his usual rings today, and his black nail polish is chipped. He’s such a strange, tough, sweet boy. “Chris will be our dad soon, but you… you can walk out whenever you want.”

“You don’t need to worry about that,” I assure him, petting Titus when he comes bounding back and throwing the ball as far away as I can, which isn’t nearly as far as Jagger did before. “I know I freaked you out before, but I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know, I know,” he grumbles. “Just… what if Chris does something monumentally stupid and you break up with him? Where would that leave… us?”

He has no idea how good it feels for him to ask me that. I guess that in my mind, I always assumed that if Chris and I ever break up, it will be my fault, not his. After last night, I feel reassured that Chris won’t even hurt me on purpose, and that he won’t cheat on me, but fact is that even my hot, sweet doctor isn’t perfect. He lied to me. In theory, it’s possible that I will be the one to end things with him one day, and not the other way around. Not that I think that we’ll break up at all, but still… Jagger is right, the kids are Christopher’s, not mine.

“I’ll always be there for you if you want me,” I say after a stretch of silence. “Always. Whether or not me and Chris are together. I’d love to still see you guys, and you know you can always stay with me, but… I don’t know where I will end up if I ever break up with Chris, to be honest. I can’t give you a ten-year-plan or anything, because I’ve never had one of those. All I know is that you, Yoah, and Davy will always feel like my kids, in some weird, wonderful way.”

“Good,” Jagger says like that ends the conversation. He smiles. “You’re alright, Abby.”

“You’re okay too, I guess. Anyway… how’s the arm?”

He grunts and flexes the fingers of his injured hand. “Arm’s fine, hand hurts like a motherfucker. It’s a good thing I’ve got Celeste, because I can’t even jerk off anymore.”

My mouth drops open. He did not just say that!

Jagger burst out laughing. “Oh God, you should see your face! Priceless!”

I give him a playful shove that makes him wince, and we chat some more about how he’s doing and about Celeste – who is still not my favorite person ever, but I don’t hate her anymore. I can’t help but rejoice over how much Jagger has grown the past months. He’s turning 17 soon, and I have to say he’s way more mature than he was when he showed up at Thanksgiving.

***

Chris is at work and the kids are all in school when Brittany comes over with Jaxon. They’ve got the day off and we’re having lunch together. I haven’t seen them since the memorial service because… well, honestly because I’m a little mad at them.

It’s one thing for Aston to assume that when Chris and I are fighting that I must be the one who fucked up, but it’s another thing entirely for my two best friends to jump to that conclusion as well. Brittany didn’t say so out loud, but I could tell she was thinking it, and Jaxon actually voiced his thoughts. I may have forgiven Chris for what he did, but I’m still pissed at my friends. They’re basically the only family I’ve got. Why the fuck is Jagger the only person in the world who rightfully assumed that when I get mad, there must be a good reason for it, and that Chris isn’t perfect?

The moment Brittany sees my annoyed expression, her eyes go wide. “What’s wrong?”

“Seriously?” I ask, walking back into the kitchen with her and Jaxon right behind me. “Surely you know why I’m pissed?”

“Pissed?” Jaxon repeats, raising his eyebrows. “At us?”

So they don’t know. Great. “Back at the church last week you automatically assumed that I did something wrong when you caught onto the fact that Chris and I were fighting, didn’t you?”

Jaxon shrugs. “Yeah, so?”

“Jax!” Brittany says, swatting his arm. At least she has the good sense to look embarrassed. “She’s obviously upset and you’re the one who actually asked her what she did wrong.”

“You thought it too,” I shoot at her. “You’re the only family I’ve got, Britt. Is that really too much to ask for the two of you to have my back? I expect this kind of stuff from Aston, but not from the two of you.”

“Abby…” Britty sighs, moving closer. “I get it. Jax shouldn’t have asked you that and I shouldn’t even have thought it, but at the same time…” She hesitates. “I mean, we both know Christopher, and we know you, so…”

This is exactly why I’m pissed at them. All I’ve heard since the day Chris and I got together is how lucky I am that he wants to be with me. How amazing he is. That’s all true, but what about me? Surely, he’s lucky too? Or does everyone see me as some sort of consolation prize? Damaged goods? A charity project Christopher is kind enough to take on?

“Don’t look at me all murderous,” Britt says, laughing nervously. "I love you, but you’ve got walls up so high that you sometimes get a little… stupid. You’re tough to reach sometimes, Abby.”

“Not when it comes to Chris,” I shoot back, getting angrier now that I realize they’re not even sorry. “Or does he…” I glance at Jaxon. “Does he complain about me to the guys? Does he think I’m too hard to reach?”

“No!” Jaxon says immediately. “The guy sings your praises every time he opens his mouth, Abby. Trust me, he worships the ground you walk on. That’s exactly why I can’t imagine him doing something to upset you.”

“I think the world of him too, so why do you think that I could easily do something stupid to hurt him?” The moment I ask the question, I can see the answer in their eyes. This is still about that stupid fucking note I left. “I didn’t actually leave!” I shout, slamming my fist down on the kitchen island. “I’m so sick and tired of people treating me like a flight risk. I thought I had a genetic disease! I was only trying to protect them. I get that I fucked up, but it’s not fair that I’m still getting punished for what I did when I have no trouble getting over the fact that Chris lied to me and kissed his ex-wife! How’s that for being tough and having my walls up, huh?” I ask, still yelling. “I forgave him the moment I realized that he was sorry and that he didn’t maliciously set out to hurt me. How is what he did all that different from what I did? In fact, what I almost did was out of love, which I can’t say for what he did.”

“He did what?” Jaxon asks, his expression turning murderous. He cracks his knuckles, looking pretty menacing for a scrawny guy with a man-bun. “Where the fuck is that asshole?”

“He cheated on you?” Brittany asks, looking just as upset as her husband. “Why didn’t you tell us? And what the hell are you still doing here, in his house? Why would you stick around after that?”

“That’s rich, coming from you,” I hiss. “Just because you run away and refuse to talk about difficult issues when you and Jax get into a fight doesn’t mean I’m the same. Chris and I actually communicate. I don’t need my best friend to force me to see reason. I sat down with my man because I knew I needed to face things head-on. We talked things over like two adults.”

“Low blow, Abby,” Britty says, tears in her eyes now.

She’s right, that was a low blow, and we both know I’ve needed her to talk sense into many times over the past ten years. Our friendship is a two-way street. I’m so angry right now, lacking the support I need from my two best friends. My family, in so many ways. It was annoying to have Aston questioning me, but Jax and Britty having such a low opinion of me hurts way worse.

“We’ll get to all that later,” Jaxon grunts, his eyes dark. “Now tell me what that motherfucker did and where he is. I’ll call Aston right now and we’ll kick his ass.”

In spite of everything, I smile at that imagine. “It’s fine, he didn’t actually cheat on me. We’re okay, I forgave him, and we had a really good talk. He knows what he did was wrong. He already punished himself for it way worse than I ever could. He’s still punishing himself, going out of his way to make me feel special and apologizing multiple times a day. Chris is torn up over it.”

“Well, he should be, if he kissed someone else,” Jax grunts. “Asshole.”

“Technically, she kissed him,” I explain, not wanting them to think less of Chris. I don’t want them to hate him, I just want them to have my back instead of his when shit does down. They’re my friends first, and his second. At least, I thought they were. I don’t think me and Chris will break up anytime soon – hopefully never – but Jagger is right… we might. I need to know that Birtty and Jax will be in my corner if shit ever hits the fan. Even if it’s me who fucks up. I had Britty’s back when she was being an ass about the whole having kids discussion with Jaxon, didn’t I?

“Look, I’m sorry,” Brittany says, hugging herself with a hurt look on her face. “I didn’t mean to offend you. You’re like a sister to me, Abby. I hate that you went through all this stuff with Chris without feeling like you could talk to me about it. I know I give you a hard time now and then, but that’s just how you and I roll, isn’t it? You know I speak my mind before I think.”

“I know,” I sigh. “It’s just hard for me to know that even you guys think that Chris is too good for me.”

“What?” Jaxon asks, laughing now. “Too good for you? Honey, no man could ever be too good for you. Chris is a great guy, but he’s no God. In fact, he’s too old for you, he’s a little boring, I think his hair is way too long and messy, and I still think you should let me and Aston kick his ass for whatever he did to you.”

I grin. “He’s not too old, not boring whatsoever, his hair is cute, and you can’t even punch your way out of a paper bag.”

He grabs me and turns me around, taking me in a headlock. “You take that back, bitch!”

Before he can register my movements, I elbow him in the stomach, step on his foot and then spin around to knee him in the groin. He doubles over, grunting in pain.

“Go Abby!” Brittany cheers, laughing at her husband like she’s never seen something so funny.

And just like that, we’re okay again. It’s not the first and definitely not the last time we fight, but they’re my family. I’ve crashed on their couch so many times that I’ve lost count, they’ve picked me up in the middle of the night after another asshole employer tried to take advantage of me... I love them. One lousy fight doesn’t change that.

We spend over an hour talking about everything that happened, and they both seem surprised that I forgave Christopher so easily, even though he didn’t actually cheat. I know Brittany would make Jaxon suffer for weeks if he ever did something like this, but I honestly still trust Chris. I talked to Caroline about it the day after everything went down, and she understood me better than Britt and Jax do when it comes to this specific situation.

She told me about a time in the beginning of her relationship with Nathan, when she overhead him talking to his friends about her. Nathan was drunk, and he was bragging about his friends about how kinky she was in the bedroom, making her sound like an easy lay and nothing more. He said mean things about her and didn’t respect her at all. She went off on him at first but forgave him the next morning without needing more than a quick apology, because she ultimately knew that he wasn’t an asshole and that he was already beating himself up about it.

It’s not quite the same as what Chris did, but the way she described knowing in her heart that was a good guy and that he was sorry and would try his hardest to never hurt her again… Yeah, that’s how I feel too. When I first found out he lied to me, without knowing the details, I was so angry I saw red. I was so scared about being a doormat that I felt like I had to be angry at him, even though I still loved him. But then again… who cares what Britt and Jax think? Who cares that it only took me a day to get over it? It’s not like he initiated the kiss or slept with Gianna or anything even remotely close to that. He lied to me, but he came clean without me needing to confront him. It sucked that I had to face Jagger’s arrest on my own, but that was just bad timing and not Christopher’s fault at all. Edward isn’t mad about Chris almost missing the funeral, so why should I be?

I love Chris. He’s a good man, and he hates what he did. In a weird way, it feels good that the roles are reversed and that he’s the one walking on eggshells – even though he truly doesn’t need to – while I’m the forgiving one. I feel like our relationship is more… balanced now. For the first time, I truly believe that he’s just as lucky to have me as I am to have him.

“I’m happy you’re okay,” Britty says when we’re done with lunch and Jaxon starts getting antsy about getting back to work in time. “Before we go… we’ve got some news.”

“News?” I ask, looking from her to Jaxon. “About…?”

With a smile, Jaxon puts his hand on Britty’s stomach. “You’re going to be an aunt.”

“What?!” I exclaim, jumping up to hug them. I so wasn’t expecting that. Not this soon. “Wow, congratulations! When did you… how…?”

“I think you know how,” Jaxon jokes, winking at me. “As for the when… she’s four weeks along.”

“Wow,” I breathe. “That’s… wow.”

“We’re not telling anyone else yet,” Brittany says quickly. “No one knows, not even our parents.”

“And definitely not Aston,” Jaxon adds, rolling his eyes. “He can’t keep his mouth shut even when he tries to. We know you can keep a secret, though. Besides… you’re family.”

“You’re going to be his godmother,” Brittany adds, not leaving room for discussion.

Her godmother,” Jax corrects her. “It’s a girl.”

“No, I can already feel it’s a boy,” Britty says, rubbing her belly. It’s still flat and there’s nothing to indicate that there’s a baby in there. “So, what do you say, aunt Abby?”

“Of course,” I say, hugging her again, feeling emotional as fuck. My best friend is having a baby with one of the nicest guys in the world, who is like a brother to me, and I get to be the kid’s aunt. And its godmother. “You’re going to be such a great mother.”

“What about me?” Jax asks, poking me in the ribs. “I’m the one who’s going to be cutting back my hours once the little peanut gets here, so obviously I’m the one who’s going to make our little girl the most well-behaved and happiest kid in the world.”

“No, you’re going to be the one to ruin our boy,” Britty argues, sticking out her tongue. “Besides, I will be the strong female role model in his life, so I think I will be the best parent out of the two of us.”

“You’re both going to fuck the poor kid up,” I decide, laughing at their banter. That is going to be one lucky boy or girl to have parents like Britt and Jax. And an even luckier one to have me as its aunt. Because no matter how much I love them, they’re going to need someone to help them out when they get overwhelmed, which will probably be every other day. Thankfully, the one thing I know how to do is how to take care of kids. I may not have any other talents, but I’m a damn good nanny. And… maybe… maybe I’m also kind of a mom already. Davy sure seems to think so.

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