Today, we begin with something that was unmistakably, undeniably Abby.
If there is one specific location in the Abigail Phelps series which is more pivotal than any other, it would have to be the apartment of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. 1040 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jackie relocated, along with John Jr. and Caroline, to Manhattan. The 15th floor of this luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side was where she raised her children, and remained her home until she died there in 1994. John announced her death to the world under the 1040 awning.
Abby's first visit to 1040 was in 1980, the day after she met John...
I had just convinced myself of that when we stepped off the elevator and into the most enormous, beautiful foyer I had ever seen. I began to hyperventilate a little. We weren’t like any other couple at all! I was a famous figure skater, and I had just met this guy yesterday, and his mother was going to hate me. I’d barely slept and I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to put intelligent sentences together - and this was the woman who had charmed heads of state and foreign diplomats and legends of every art form known to man. The enormity of the situation truly dawned on me for the very first time. I was in love with John-John!
We got to Mrs. Onassis’s penthouse, and part of me wanted to hold on to Bernard for dear life, but I quickly lectured myself that I was being ridiculous, and I prepared to make my way out as the elevator came to a stop. And as I stepped into that beautiful foyer, the next emotion I felt was sadness. Even the art on the wall and the lamps on the tables seemed less elegant without Mrs. Onassis in their presence.
Sadness was soon forgotten as I noticed I didn’t see anyone and I didn’t hear anyone. I quickly turned around, but Bernard was gone. And then, from behind me, I heard the thick New England accent which I associate with everything I truly hate in the world.
Well, okay...I don't think I should post that part, actually! Suffice it to say, John and Abby got a little steamy. And then, Abby's demons reappeared.
I turned around and ran out the door, just needing to get away from that place. I ran to the elevator and pushed the button, but it wasn’t moving quickly enough. I pushed it over and over, and then turned and ran for the stairs. As I got to the stairs, John caught up, pulling his shirt on as he ran after me, buttoning it up as he chased me down the many, many flights.
“Abby, please! What did I do? I don’t understand.” He was pleading with me with his whole heart, but I didn’t know or care right then. Remembering it now, I can feel his pain and confusion as I think of the tone of his voice. “Abby, don’t do this!” he shouted as we reached the ground floor and I ran for the door. “Whatever it is, please talk to me. Don’t walk out of my life again. Please!”
As I got out on the sidewalk, at least I felt like I could breathe again and I was coherent enough to notice that we were attracting a crowd, but I didn’t care. Yes, that must have been quite the sight: JFK Jr. and Abby Phelps, supposedly just friends getting together for lunch, running out of Jackie O’s apartment, very winded from what felt like a thousand flights of stairs and very disheveled from other physical activity.
I didn’t care that people were watching because I don’t think I cared about anything right then except escape. I don’t think John cared either, but only because he was so concerned about me.
“Abby!” He caught up to me as I stood on the curb, maybe about to hail a cab, maybe about to run into traffic - I really don’t know. He pulled me to him and held me as close as he could. “Come on, my car’s right down here, remember? Let’s go somewhere and talk.” He started walking me toward his car, and I lost control.
“Don’t touch me!” I screamed. I pulled away from him, again disregarding the hurt and bewildered expression on his face.
He was on the verge of tears, overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness. “Abby, please.”
I should have told him I was sorry, that it had nothing to do with him, that I needed some time and then I would be all right. But right then I wasn’t sorry, and I certainly didn’t know if I would be all right.
A taxi pulled over to the curb and I reached for the door handle, but John blocked me. By then, not only had the public at large gathered to witness the drama, the paparazzi had as well. I knew that wasn’t good, even in my messed-up state.
“Move. Everyone’s watching,” I said to John, quietly.
“I don’t care. I don’t care! I am so tired of caring about who’s watching or who thinks what. You are the only one I care about, and you are scaring the hell out of me.”
Then I pulled together every ounce of strength and fortitude I could muster to say to him, through clenched teeth in a tone that I knew he would take seriously, “Move. Everyone is watching. Every second that you don’t let me go, I get one second closer to ending up in the hospital again. Or worse.” His face fell as he realized exactly what I meant. “If you love me even half as much as you say you do, move.”
Once again, I wasn’t playing fair. I was holding him responsible for too much, but he moved, and then he just stood there, speechless and torn apart, cameras flashing all around him, as I got into the taxi and made my escape.