Annie & Jack After Forty

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Chapter 38

Annie

“I’m sorry you are stressed, Jack,” I say for the third time down the phone line. Jack is extremely short-tempered and stressed. He wants me to quit working three jobs so I can spend more time with him in New York. He wants me to visit him and stay weeks at a time, to enjoy the city and be together.

“I’d be less stressed, Annie, if you would quit arguing with me and stop working so many Goddamn fucking hours at your shitty jobs.”

I’m silent on my end of the phone. I can’t believe how harsh his tone of voice is today. “I’ll never stop working, Jack, never. God has given me an able, capable body, and I won’t waste it doing nothing.” He hasn’t come out and said it, but I think he is encouraging me to quit working altogether. I will never give in completely. Yes, I have decided to slow down right now, but to stop working altogether, that’s a fight he will never win with me.

“Annie, you no longer need to work yourself like this anymore. I have fucking money. It’s yours now too. Stop worrying about things that don’t matter and quit the fucking working seven days a week.”

“I understand what you are saying, Jack. The opportunity to solidify your work has to come first at this time. I understand it has to be the top priority. I know all of that, but don’t call my work stupid when I can’t drop everything and stay with you for weeks on end, that’s not nice.”

“I’m sorry, Annie, if you think I’m not being nice.” He spits down the phone line. “Has Brian taken off yet with your hard-earned cash yet? Do you want to talk about how you let him con you into giving him money? Do you really think he’ll use it for his daughters? Christ Annie, you’re guidable; you let him run right over you. Is the loser still in town?”

Brian is here visiting Sarah Jane. He asked me for more money last night after we all went out to dinner, the four of us, our odd little family to The Stardust. People back home in Tennessee didn’t understand my relationship with Leslie, SJ, and Brian. They thought we should have been hateful or jealous of one another or something. I never understood what they thought we should be, and I’m glad we became what we are. When you have real-life hardships in life, you become more forgiving and grateful for what you do have in this world.

Leslie is a great person, and she wanted to be a part of her step daughter’s life and have her daughter know her half-sister. Just like the sitcom Reba, the exes’ new wife became my best friend. Brian, well, Brian is who he is, he always wants to be better. He tries and tries. He just can’t seem to get his shit all the way together at the same time. I promised Laura on her deathbed that I would always keep in touch and make sure Brian was as well as he can be.

I don’t answer. I hung up the phone on him. My blood is boiling. Who the hell does he think he is? He knows nothing about Brian. He texts me after I won’t answer his four phone calls. He texts to apologize for his words. He has a busy day today and said he would text me late tonight, after another one of his boring cocktail parties, and call me, as usual, tomorrow morning.

He told me he loves me, and I know he does. I know his words can be razor-sharp, and I know he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. I know what he thinks about my jobs. It’s one thing to argue the importance of them. The type of employment I hold can be easily attained and replaced; his argument there is understandable. The stubborn mule doesn’t get it; his words were hurtful because they attack me on a much deeper level than he knows.

I would never change him or want him to change for any reason. I believe he is exactly who he says and shows. He’s powerful and successful, anti-social, blunt, and stern with his thoughts and actions, but also a kind, loving soul. I love all of that about him. What I love most is when he lets himself show his happiness when he smiles, or he teases everyone, especially the girls, SJ and Sophie. Jackson Phillips can be an asshole, no doubt about it, but he’s also as soft as a teddy bear.

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