‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Take Two

“Paulie, I’m not kidding around, you said that you’d be available to pick them up today. It’s not easy for me to rearrange my schedule on such short notice.”

”I know and I’m sorry, but my class is being held late and this lab final is a huge part of my grade. I feel terrible, but I can’t sacrifice my grade for it,” the babysitter answered, sounding apologetic but unbending. ”I tried calling Brett and Gina, but neither one are available right now. Your dad’s assistant referred me to you, and I didn’t know what else to do.”

I offered the doctor at my side an apologetic smile and held up one finger, indicating just one moment. “There’s no way you can pick them up?” I asked finally, defeated. “I’m in the middle of an OBGYN appointment, and I’ve got to pick Arch up from school in an hour. We have another walk through for a house at four.”

“I’m sorry, I just can’t, Atticus.”

I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose, and told the young college student that I would handle it. She thanked me quickly and grandly and hung up to return to her class with yet another hurried apology. I slipped my phone back into the bag at my side and turned to face the doctor, shaking my head at my own actions.

“I’m really sorry,” I said, pushing my bangs out of my face. “There’s just a lot going on that I seem to need to handle all of a sudden, so if we could try to hurry this up so I can get going, that would be fantastic.”

The woman offered me a muted smile and nodded, grabbing for the file on her desk. “So you’ve been to two other doctors during your pregnancy?” she asked, eyes raising to me from the paper. “If you don’t mind me asking, why is that?”

I faltered at the question, trying to phrase the answer delicately in my mind. “Well, I had my sights set on a specific doctor delivering this baby, but she’s actually in the process of opening her own practice, so she’s unavailable. Which has led me on a search to find someone just as qualified and, until now, I’d hit a standstill with my research.”

She nodded without looking at me. “I understand. Choosing the correct doctor is tough, but who has been overseeing your prenatal care? You’re already twenty-six weeks along, surely you’ve been taking care of yourself and your baby.”

I nodded as well. “Yes, right now I’m attending appointments with Jerry Collins at the Pasadena hospital, but I’ve been looking at my options. I just recently learned about birthing centers like this one and wanted to get a feel for it.”

The woman smiled genuinely and set the folder on her lap to look straight at me. “It’s nice to see a woman educating herself about her options. Many times women learn about places like this when it’s too late or after they’ve had a couple of children in hospitals. I read that this is your first child, so you’re definitely ahead of the game.”

She glanced down at the file again, double-checking that what she said was correct. It was the phone call that threw her off and the mention of getting the boy from school. I had brought Arch with me to a couple appointments in the past and had received the same looks. “I have an adopted son,” I informed her easily, used to explaining the dynamics to heath-care professionals, “So I’m doing the mom thing without the giving birth thing and it’s been pretty great so far. I’m just hoping this experience doesn’t ruin it for me.”

She laughed and nodded eagerly. “That’s wonderful,” she said, “and I assure you, it’ll all be worth it when you’re holding your child for the first time. It’s such a wonderful feeling to look and see something that you created.”

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me, but I’m still waiting to feel like some fantastic pregnant goddess and all I feel is a little alien forming inside of me,” I deadpanned, feeling slightly pleased with myself when the beaming smile slipped slightly from her face.

After a moment, she glanced back at my file to formulate another question, letting my answer to her words drift awkwardly away. “It says here that you haven’t learned the sex of the child yet,” she said, looking back to me. “Was the position of the baby not conducive in your last ultrasound or are you choosing to wait until the birth and be surprised?”

I situated myself on the table, the paper crinkling under me uncomfortably. “Actually, I’m waiting for the father to come to town,” I replied, my tone a little too smart for her. “It has nothing to do with what I want, but he demands to be here but hasn’t made it around to an appointment in a few months.”

She nodded sympathetically. “You and the father aren’t together any longer?” she asked, standing up from her desk and moving to the table. “Does he live out of town?”

“No,” I said, “he’s a musician and he’s just finishing up another tour. He's somewhere in Germany now. Berlin, I believe.” I slid back on the table and gripped the edges to hold myself in place. The doctor nodded as she imported some information into the computer. She looked interested in my words, but obviously didn’t have a response to them. I doubted that she had heard a story like this before.

“I’m just getting you all put into our system as an active patient,” she explained a minute later, offering me a smile over her shoulder. “How about we schedule your ultrasound for the next appointment so you can get out of here and pick up your son from school?”

“Sounds great,” I answered, slightly relieved that I was actually an active patient in their clinic. I checked the time on my phone as she worked, noting that there was no way to my make the girls’ schedule coincide nicely with mine and Arch’s.

She typed my information into her computer and made small talk as she did it. Her name was Dr. Melissa Ancari and she was one of the best OBGYNs in her field. I’d researched her and her birthing center before coming. She and two other women built the center as a place for women to have some control and comfort during their own labor experiences.

We scheduled another appointment for next week, Saturday, so that Dr. Ancari could actually get a look at the fetus. Then I was out the door, crossing the parking lot back to my car so I could get on my way to Nicolas to pick Arch up early. I dialed a familiar phone number as I drove.

“Hey, Atti, how’d it go?”

I was pleased to hear the sound of his voice on the other line. “I’m all set up there,” I answered. “I’ve got another appointment next week and I think I’m going to finally learn the gender. Everything with the clinic seems really great.”

"It’s what you were hoping it would be?” Chance asked, sounding relieved. ”I was hoping that you would like this place. If you didn’t, you were either going to have to turn to a doula or have the baby on your own.”

“I do, I really like it,” I agreed, letting his joke slide past. “I feel really comfortable, and Dr. Ancari is one of the best in California, so I know that the baby is going to be alright on the way out.”

The man laughed lightly, and I cursed as I pulled my car to the side of the road, allowing an ambulance to pass me. ”That’s great, Atticus.” He quieted as the siren blared through the phone. ”Where are you?” he asked when it passed. ”Are you driving? Where are you going?”

“To Nicolas,” I answered as I pulled back into traffic. “I’ve got to pick Arch up and then run and get Holland and Nico from daycare. Paulie can’t watch them tonight, again, and she couldn’t get ahold of my dad or Gina, so I’m going to have to run them home after the showing.”

”Why does your father even pay her? She’s been leaving them to you so much recently. It’s her job to nanny them. That’s the reason she was hired. Why don’t you just fire her and find someone else?”

“Because it’s not her fault. She’s got a lot going on, Chance, and once she’s done for the semester, she’ll have a whole month to devote to them before she goes back. Then she’ll be theirs for the summer again. Everyone’s just gotta be a little flexible.”

”You’re the only one being flexible,” he sighed. ”I don’t get how you do it, but somehow you make time for four kids, two of which aren’t even yours.”

I smiled at his resigned disbelief. “I’ve got to go, Chance,” I said softly. “Feel free to come over for dinner later. I feel like we haven't hung out in forever.”

”Dinner with my mom,” he reminded me, ”but I’ll see if I can slip away after. Maybe I’ll finally make a break through with Arch or something. We’ll make a game out of it.”

“I’m working on that,” I answered quickly. “He’s warming up to you, but it’s just taking a little while. He just doesn't understand the dynamics, y'know? I'm sure once he understands he'll come around.”

”I know and I understand,” he said to me. ”There are some things about us that even I don't get. But hey, I'll try to swing by later. I’m sure my mom won’t mind if I slip out early. Drive careful, Att.”

I said my goodbyes and ended the call. Things between Chance and I were complicated. After everything that happened, we hadn't progressed towards a relationship, but we tended to seem like we were together more than not. Chance had become one of my really great friends, but it would've been a lot simpler for everyone if it had completely stayed in that range. Arch didn't understand us. At six, his relationships were mostly black and white. You were or you weren't, and seeing Chance and I around each other made him, and a lot of people, believe that we were dating.

Nicolas School was closer to the outskirts of downtown, and I was grateful that it was all in the same direction. Arch started school, rather than daycare, about four months ago and placed into first grade instead of kindergarten. Nicolas offered him a place in their charter school and he was remaining among other advanced children rather than transferring into another private school in the city.

My sisters spent the day in a daycare in Pasadena called Struella’s. They got picked up everyday by Paulie, who would take them home, feed, and bathe them, and then put them to sleep and stay until one of our parents showed up. It was system that worked around everyone’s schedules, but on days like today, when it didn’t, I was the back up plan.

I pulled into the parking lot of Arch’s school and headed through the designated doors in the front of the building. There was an office to the right and a door straight ahead. I turned to the counter and one of the women walked over, smiling at me. “Ms. Gurewitz, you’re a little early,” she said, recognizing me from the countless times I stood outside and waited for Arch. “The classes don’t let out for another half hour.”

“I know,” I answered, “but I’ve got to take Arch now. We’ve had a bit of a family issue and I won’t be able to be back in time to pick him up.”

The woman, whose name was Diane, pressed her lips together for a moment. “I’ll call down to his class class and have him sent this way. Feel free to take a seat if you’d like.” She motioned to the row of chairs across from us and then turned back into the office.

Another woman stood on the other side of the counter and smiled at me across the gap. She had a stack of papers in her hands but whatever she’d been doing with them was easily forgotten at the sight of me. “You look beautiful today,” she said, reaching her hand out to me. “Just absolutely glowing.”

“Thank you,” I said politely, taking a step back. “That’s what I was going for.”

I sighed and sat down, ignoring the slightly confused expression on her face. I knew that everyone’s smiles were directed at my stomach. It was all people noticed about me now. Despite baggy band t-shirts and cardigans, there was no easy way to camouflage six months pregnant and no way to deflect the attention. The more people that commented on my state, the less polite I could force myself to be.

“How far along are you?” the woman asked, leaning over to speak to me, a plastic turkey decoration dangling from a string over her head. It swayed as her hair brushed it.

“Six months,” I answered, not bothering to convert it into the usual pregnancy-weeks method. I glanced through the glass on the locked door and down the hall, looking at the finger-painted turkeys and drying paper-bag Indian costumes. “Did she call for Arch?” I asked. “We’re kind of in a hurry.”

“Yes, he should be right out,” she answered nicely. “You two enjoy your holiday, Atticus. You deserve a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving with your family.”

“Thank you,” I said, smiling. “You all have a good break too.”

I didn’t have to wait much longer because the blonde haired, blue eyed six year old was through the door in minutes. He grinned at me, his backpack strapped to his back and a folded brown paper bag in his hands. They’d each created their own costumes, either Pilgrims or Indians, and Arch’s was caked with feathers.

“Where are we going?” he asked eagerly. “Back to the bar? Did you get news about Devil Thirteen?”

The women who were listening looked shocked by his words, and I quickly put my hand over Arch’s mouth to quiet him. “No,” I said, glancing to them as well, “no news on the band, we’ve just got to go get Nico and Holland because Paulie got stuck at school.” I flashed a smile at the women and wished them a happy holiday before I pushed the little boy through the door, following behind him quickly.

“Are Nico and Holland sleeping over?” he asked, sandals stepping across the parking lot.

I grabbed his free hand and ignored his question. “Arch, I told you that you can’t refer to every venue as a ‘bar’. People are going to think I’m taking you bar-hopping or something, and please, never refer to anything with the word ‘Devil’ in it around anyone else ever again.”

“Why not?” The red paint on his face made him look even more innocent.

“Because not everyone knows what I do and it sounds satanic and you’re six. They’re going to worry about you and think I’m crazy.” I dragged him out of the center of the driveway as another car came in to collect their child for the break. I lead him over to our car and opened the back door for him.

He climbed in, tossing his things into the carseat opposite him, and I leaned over to buckle him up. “Are Holland and Nico sleeping over at our house?” he asked, repeating his question from earlier, “because I can’t sleep when Holland cries.”

“No, we’re taking them home later,” I answered finally, “but you better get used to it, because this baby is going to be crying a lot. That’s what newborns do. They eat, poop, and cry.”

He giggled at my word choice and settled into his booster seat as I shut the door on him and got into the front. He waited until I was backing out of the parking space to ask another question. “Is Chance coming over?” he asked, leaning his blonde head back against the gray-upholstered seat.

“He has dinner with his mom tonight, but he's going to try and come by after. Sounds good, right?”

I watched the boy shrug in the rearview mirror.

“Arch, you have to tell me what you’re thinking,” I said in response. “You've known Chance a long time now and you used to like hanging out with him. You can’t keep ignoring him every time he comes over.”

“I don’t ignore him,” he answered stubbornly. “I just don’t wanna play with him.” He crossed his arms over his chest and relaxed against the seat, his unhappy expression marred only by the decorative face paint that went with his costume.

I sighed and merged onto the road that would take us into Pasadena. “That's not fair, Arch. You have to give him a shot to be your friend. It’s unfair to be mean to him because he’s not Ronnie.”

“I just don’t wanna play with him,” the boy repeated, glaring at no one in particular, “and when is Ronnie coming home? He said he’ll be here before the baby, but I haven’t even talked to him in a really long time and I’m worried about him.”

“He’s fine,” I stated, shaking my head at the hold the musician had on my son. “You’ll get to see him when he gets back into town. Plus, we’re talking about Chance, not Ronnie.”

“I don’t wanna talk about Chance,” he rebutted. “I don’t care about him.”

“That’s not nice,” I said, glancing back at him. “Chance is really nice to you and really wants you to like him, so you’re going to be nice to him or you’re going to spend the entire Thanksgiving break in your room without your TV or your toys and you won’t be spending even a second with Ronnie when he gets home.”

“That’s not fair,” he complained, really unhappy with me. “I want Ronnie to come home, Atticus. I don’t want you to be with Chance.”

“I'm not with Chance,” I said automatically, “but if I ever decide to be, that's not your decision. Chance is nice to you and really cares about both of us, so there's no reason to push him away. You and I can't spend the rest of our lives waiting around for Ronnie, baby. He's in Europe living his life and we’re not getting back together. He’s always going to be the baby's father, I can't change that and I wouldn't want to, but there's nothing else between us. You and I have to move on.”

The little boy was in angry tears, frustrated by the situation and by not getting the outcome that he wanted. His tears made the lines of red face paint streak down his cheeks and he wiped at them with his palms, smearing the color into his skin.

I turned into the parking lot of my baby sisters' daycare and parked between two other vehicles. I got out and unbuckled Arch from the back seat. He climbed out, forcing the tears away, and I led him inside by the hand. The place was filled with parents who were picking up and signing their kids out near the front. Arch and I side-stepped the line of waiting parents and headed down the narrow hall to the infant room.

The five month old was sitting on the floor, propped up by one of the daycare women, and she perked up when we got close enough for her to recognize us. I walked carefully around the other small children and over to my baby sister.

She had dark ringlets that matched her round, dark eyes and round features that made everyone coo over her. I let go of Arch’s hand and greeted my sister as the woman lifted her up to me so that I wouldn't have to lean all the way down to get her. “Holland,” I greeted softly, immediately smiling at her.

Arch picked up the plush pink blanket from the floor and handed it to her, knowing that it wouldn’t be easy for me to get down there and get it myself. The blonde stuck to my side, out of place among my family’s dark heads.

“Atticus, I can go get Nico for you,” the daycare woman offered, smiling, “or I can take Holland, it doesn’t matter.” She offered by holding her hands out for her, believing that I couldn’t handle both children.

“I’ve got them,” I denied nonchalantly, “but thank you.” I grabbed Arch’s hand with my free one and we headed out of the room filled with little babies and continued down the decorated halls.

Nico’s room was at the end and she saw us coming before we even got to the door. She stood, pressed against the glass door when we arrived, her fingers reaching towards the handle. I grinned at my sister and let go of Arch to let her out. One of the women from her room was hurrying over to stop her from leaving, but she stopped hustling when she realized I was there waiting for her.

I didn’t recognize the young woman, but her eyes ran over me quickly. I could see the reaction. Very pregnant with three young kids arounds me. It was insane, and most people didn’t know the circumstances. I didn’t tell her that the girls weren’t mine. I figured that one of the other employees would get around to it.

“Arch, take Nico’s hand, please,” I asked of him, leading them both out of the back hall and back to the front to sign them out. I avoided the interested gazes that I received from the other parents while we waited in the line, and then carried Holland out as Arch pulled Nico by the hand.

I left Arch standing on the sidewalk holding Nico’s hand while I pulled the second, bulkier carseat from the trunk and scooted Arch’s booster into the middle to make room for it. I set Holland in Nico’s slightly smaller and front-facing seat while I situated hers, and then I moved her back into her own and strapped her in, calling for Arch and Nico to come over from the sidewalk.

I let the boy crawl in through the passenger’s side backdoor and around Nico’s carseat first and then leaned over the best I could to buckle him in, even though he claimed that he could do it himself. Then I lifted Nico into her seat and strapped her into the harness. Once I had this baby there wouldn’t be room for all of them in the car. I had realized this two daycare trips ago, and knew that I would either need to enforce that Paulie pick them up or get a bigger car.

The latter seemed more likely.

The clock on my dashboard told me it was after three, and I sat in the driver’s spot for a moment, taking in the time and the number of kids in my backseat, and the overwhelming stress that I was pretty sure I was unable to handle. We had an appointment to see a house at four and I had originally intended for it to be just Arch and I, but now it seemed that I had no choice but to cart along the whole crew. There was no time to reschedule.

“Listen up, guys,” I said, turning around to look at Nico and Arch. “You two need to be on your best behavior. We’ve got to make one pit stop before heading home, so I want the two of you to stay together and to stay by my side, understood?”

Arch nodded and Nico copied him.

I took a deep breath and started the car. This was only practice. Nico and Holland and the extra responsibilities they brought were only practice. If I could handle Arch and two others, then I hoped that I would actually be able to handle Arch and a newborn baby full time, on my own.

“Arch, grab one of the wipes from Holland’s bag,” I told him, glancing back in the mirror as he reached down for it, “I want you to get all that paint off your face. We need to look like a respectable, put-together family.”
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Hey guys!!! So I'm back with part three of Ronnie and Atticus's story! I am dying to hear from you and know which of my lovely readers have stuck with me this far! I know this was pretty drab (and trust me, I rewrote the first chapter about twenty different ways), but it's going to pick up!

If you haven't noticed, there's a "characters" link at the bottom right of the summary and that takes you to the story blog! I started it so that we can all keep track of the characters. Now that there are multiple families, a bunch of kids, etc, I thought it would be nice to have that information all in one place!

I'm so excited to get started and see what you think! So please let me hear from you!

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