‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


“I can’t believe they’re doing this to you,” Heather said, handing me Arch’s pajamas over the sleeping boy.

“Me neither,” I said, shaking my head softly. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re going to fight it, aren’t you?” she asked, brushing her sleeping son’s wispy blonde hair out of his eyes. “I mean, you can’t just let her back in his life. Do they expect you to share him with that monster for the rest of his life? That’s not fair to you or Arch.”

“I’m going to try,” I relented, “but it’s not like I can just go against what they order. If in the end they order that it’ll be an open adoption then I’ll have no choice. And Lyla made it sound like that was our only option. If I cooperate, it’ll get him forever, Heather. But if I fight them, they might take him away from me completely.”

“Have you spoken to your lawyer about this?”

“It’s only been a couple of days. I’ve been trying to let Arch cool down before I talk too much about it. He was right in the hall, and I know he heard the whole thing.”

Heather glanced at my sleeping boy. He was stretched out on the large bed between us. We’d spent the day just the four of us and he crashed right after his bath. I maneuvered his long legs into his pajama pants and sat him up to slip his shirt over his head.

“You can tuck him in here,” Heather said, reaching to pull down the covers as far as she could with Arch sleeping on them. I leaned down to lift the boy, but Heather reached out with her free arm to stop me. She handed Kyat over to me. “You shouldn’t still be picking Arch up,” she said, doing it herself instead. “He’s too big. It’s dangerous.”

I pulled the blanket down and she slid him up on the bed. I handed Kyat back over to her and pulled the comforter up around Arch. “Thanks for watching him tonight,” I said gratefully. “I can’t bring him with me anymore, and I’d hate to leave a stranger with him at night.”

“Aiden and I love having him here,” Heather replied as I stepped around the bed to her. “It’s honestly no problem. Kyat adores him too.”

“Well, after tonight you won’t have to worry about it,” I said, leaving Heather’s guest bedroom. “My father is already cutting back my workload. At this rate he’s going to have me on bedrest by next month. It’s driving me crazy. I need to work while I still have time.”

“He’s worried about you,” she defended, “and plus, I kind of agree with him. You shouldn’t be out in bars at all hours of the night. You’re too far along. You should be in bed, by like, eight.”

We stepped down the stairs and down the hall into the open living room. I rolled my eyes at her words and reached to pick up Arch’s jacket and lay it neatly on their chair. I grabbed for my bag as I answered. “I like working, Heather. It’s going to be hard enough not to when the baby gets here, so I want to work as much as I can up until it’s impossible.”

Heather sighed and laid Kyat down in his playpen. “I worry about you, Atticus,” she said. “You’re doing too much. I know you act like you’re fine, but I know you’re still worried about how things are going to change.”

“They’re already changing,” I answered. “There’s nothing I can do about that now. I just don’t want to be dependent on anyone. I can work, so I’m going to work.”

“And what about Arch? You can’t keep dealing with all this stress on your own. Having a six year old is hard enough without having to deal with his biological mother trying to get back into his life, I wish you could just focus on yourself, Arch, and this pregnancy.”

“I don’t have a choice,” I told her. “It’s not like I can just quit fighting for Arch, Heather. He’s my son, and yes, this whole process is stressful, but I wouldn’t go back and not do it. Being pregnant isn’t going to stop me from taking care of Arch. He’s mine, and I’m just fine on my own.”


“I’m fine,” I reassured her, slipping my jacket over my shoulders. The clothes that fit left a lot to be desired, but I’d managed to find a couple outfits that were suitable enough to go out in. “I’m going to get going,” I told her, glancing at the clock on the fireplace mantle. “I’m already running late and they’re expecting me. I’ll be back later for Arch. Thanks again for looking after him tonight.”

Heather sighed and nodded. “It’s all right, Atticus. We love Arch. Be careful tonight. Call me when you’re on your way here, and I’ll get him ready for you.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Heather. I’ll see you later.”

I headed out of the familiar house and climbed into my car. It was slightly colder tonight than usual and the cool air was a relief. I started the car up and cracked the window. It was a twenty-five minute drive from Heather and Aiden’s house to the bar that had invited an Epitaph A&R coordinator out tonight to check out some of their regulars. I knew this was going to be my last big assignment, and I already felt bitter and nostalgic. I wanted to find something great tonight.

The drive was a little long, but relaxing. It was dark out, and I followed the lines and reflectors in the road to where I was supposed to be. My GPS announced my arrival as I pulled up in front of The Dirt, a somewhat gritty underground bar and venue that churned out a lot of local talent. It had been on Epitaph’s radar for years and it felt like a right of passage to be able to scout here on my own.

I parked in the large lot in the back of the building and pulled my over-sized jacket around me. There was no hiding the fact that I was pregnant, but it was slightly easier in the dark. There were groups of people outside and a line to get in that spanned half the medium-sized building. I ignored the gazes from curious people as I passed the line and headed toward the man taking money at the door.

“Excuse me,” I said as I stopped up to him. He was feeding dollar bills back to a couple of people and raised an eyebrow at me without looking up. “I’m Atticus Gurewitz,” I said in response, “from Epitaph.”

He looked up then and I watched the stoic expression on his face as he looked me over. The people he’d been helping headed in, throwing gazes back at me over their shoulders. “They told me you’d be pregnant,” he said, stepping back and pushing the door to the venue open. “Come on in, let me get someone to escort you to where you’re supposed to be.”

“No, it’s fine,” I said as I walked inside, my voice rising as the music got louder. “I think I can make it on my own, thanks.”

“Sorry, miss, but I can’t let you go walking around by yourself in here. Wouldn’t want you to get hurt when you’re just out here trying to do your job.” He let the door close behind him and leaned into the room, shouting towards the bar. “Kayla, get Ricky!”

The woman at the bar nodded and she shouted for someone I couldn’t see. She turned and pointed towards us. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I figured it has something to do with ‘pregnant’ and ‘A&R’. After a minute, a busy-looking man came rushing out from the backroom behind the bar, wiping his hand on his shirt before he reached out to shake mine.

“Atticus Gurewitz,” he said warmly. “I’m Ricky Constanza, it’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard great things about you from other locals you’ve worked with. It’s a pleasure to have you here tonight to check out some of our regulars.”

“I’m happy to be here,” I responded. “I’ve heard great things about the people you let perform here and I’m excited to see if there’s anything that’ll interest Epitaph playing tonight.”

“I’m optimistic that you’ll stumble on something that interests you,” he answered, motioning me to follow him through the crowd. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have wasted either of our time by inviting you out.”

The crowd parted the best they could as we walked through, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of Ricky or me. “I hope you’re correct. I’m looking forward to a good show. I’ve heard that performers you pick are held to pretty high standards, so hopefully what Epitaph is looking for coincides with what you look for to play here.”

He led me out to the ground in front of the stage and then towards stairs that were blocked off in the back. He unlocked the gate and motioned for me to go ahead of him. “We figured that you’d be more comfortable in the box,” he said, following me up the stairs. “If you need anything, please let us know.”

I looked at the area. It had chairs and a perfect view of the stage. This was by far the most grand set up I’d received thus far. Before the pregnancy, it was just expected that I’d be with the crowd, soaking in the entire show experience. I looked at the band that was on stage now. “Thank you,” I said to the owner. “Who’re they?”

Ricky glanced at the stage. “A friend’s son’s band,” he explained, smiling. “We let them open every once in a while as long as they’re out by eleven.”

I nodded and turned my gaze back down to the crowd.

“Please, don’t be afraid to flag one of us down if you need anything at all. We’re very glad to have you here, Atticus. You’ve quickly become well-known as someone who recognizes talent and potential and we’re lucky to have you tonight.”

He excused himself and headed back downstairs as someone shouted up for him. I watched him go and then slipped my jacket off and set it down on the chair next to me with my bag. The Dirt was known for getting pretty rough during some shows, so I could understand the extra precautions they took with me in this state, but I already missed being downstairs with everyone else. Even though it was comfortable, the balcony was isolated, and I couldn’t get anyone else’s opinions of the bands from up here.

The young group on stage cleared out a couple of songs later, taking their instruments and cords with them, the young guitarist calling a thank you to the crowd and let everyone know that the first band would be taking their place soon. I stayed in the balcony through the first band, watching the crowd’s reaction to their music. Even though they were good and technically I was hear to see all of the bands perform, I was mostly interested in one called Onley.

They’d created a pretty big following for themselves recently. Their name frequented online music blogs, and I’d heard a lot of good things from almost everyone who knew of them. They had started here and recently returned from a local tour that they put on. The band consisted of four members, most notably the female singer. I’d seen a couple of their videos on the internet and the entire band was incredibly talented, but what she put into it was vital to their success.

They were third and last to play and I stood up from my chair when they took to the stage. The guitarist was a tall slender guy with shaggy hair that didn’t look up from the strings as he checked the tuning on the guitar. The drummer was placed directly behind the singer and he grinned out to the crowd as he tapped out a couple rhythms. The bassist was short haired, grinning, and infectious. I watched him make eye-contact with a few people in the crowd and shoot them a blazing smile.

Their singer was all business. She licked her lips, wound the microphone cord around her wrist, and backed up, ready to put on a show. I watched as the crowd reacted, their eyes shooting straight to her as she jumped, and the downbeat hit just as she landed.

The crowd screamed, the first few rows pushing closer as they started up hard. I turned around quickly and pulled my camera from the bag. I took off the lens cap, snapped a quick photo, and cleaned up the settings. I took a good number of pictures, mostly focusing on the band, but also the crowd in reaction to them.

I gathered my things about halfway through their set. I needed a different sightline. I couldn't see enough of them from the balcony. I needed their expressions and interactions, and cleaner lyrics. I headed down the stairs, bag thrown over my shoulder, and stepped around the groups that had formed furthest from the stage. I stepped toward the main crowd, getting ready to work my way to the side stage.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Atticus?”

I whipped around instantly at the sound of his voice. My wrist was caught in his fingers and he held me in place, his dark eyes bearing down into mine accusingly. I couldn’t help my jaw from dropping wide open. “Ronnie?

“You were supposed to stay in the balcony,” he answered, eyes darting back up where I’d come from. “You obviously aren’t thinking because if you were you would’ve thought about the baby and kept out of this fucking crowd.”

I ripped my wrist from his grasp. “What the hell are you doing here?” I shouted. “You’re supposed to be in Germany!”

“We were in Spain, actually,” he responded, crossing his arms over his chest now that he wasn’t holding onto me any longer, “and did you really think that I wouldn’t know you were here tonight? I played here, Atticus, a long time ago. I heard you were coming. You seem to be doing well for yourself at Epitaph.”

I was stunned silent. I looked over him, wondering if maybe I was hallucinating from lack of sleep or something. He stood in front of me, dark hair asymmetrically cut and falling into his eyes. He wore all black: jeans and a collared short sleeve shirt with white writing around the sleeves and white inlays on the collar. It was really him. And I was pissed.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Ronnie?” I asked, shoving past him toward the way I’d come in.

He turned and followed me without a word.

“I mean, seriously, what the fuck, Radke? I’ve been trying to find you for months, asking your dad about when you might be back, having to tell everyone that you just needed 'time'! And now you show up out of nowhere and think you can tell me how to handle this pregnancy? You have no right!”

“Atticus, where are you going?” he asked, hurrying after me as I shoved my arms through the sleeves of my jacket and rounded the bar toward the door. “You shouldn’t drive when you’re upset, come on, slow down.” He reached out and grabbed my newly covered wrist. He stopped chasing after me and his hold on me pulled me to a stop.

I tried to wretch myself free of his grasp, but his long fingers wrapped all the way around and held on. “Let go of me!” I shouted, catching the attention of some of the people around us. I caught the bar tender's worried expression out of the corner of my eye, but I settled my glare on Ronnie. My tone dropped darkly. “Let go of me now, Ronnie,” I demanded. "I swear to god I'll-"

“Where are you going?” He still held my arm between us.

“Away from you,” I spat, “because if I stay here any longer I might honestly murder you. So it’s in your best interest to let me go now, or I’ll fucking hurt you.”

He looked down over me then. With my arm pulled out towards him, I was exposed to him, and he looked at me for the first time since this pregnancy became noticeable. I was pissed and I scoffed as he raked his eyes over me, looking over my pregnant body. I caught the glimmer in his eye and the way he pulled his bottom lip between his teeth. It was a hazy, excited look I'd seen hundreds of times.

“God, Ronnie, you’re such an asshole,” I screamed, yanking my arm away from him. This time he let me and his eyes widened as I stumbled back. He reached out and grabbed my shoulders to steady me. I shot him a heavy glare and he pulled his hands away from me slowly, holding them up innocently.

“You look beautiful,” he said, his tone quiet and serious. “Honestly, Atticus, I had no idea-“

“Yeah, because you haven’t been around for months,” I retorted, shoving away from him. “I can’t even look at you right now. That’s how much you piss me off, Ronnie. So I’m leaving. I’ll leave it up to you to explain to Ricky why I walked out on his show.”

I turned to walk away from the singer. He went to speak again, but was cut off my someone else. I turned around, trying to calm down as Ricky Constanza slipped past Ronnie and directed his words to me. He shot a nervous glance back to the singer. “Atticus, are you leaving? What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“I’m fine,” I denied. “The baby is fine. Nothing happened. I just really need to go, alright? I’m sorry. I promise I’ll come back soon, but I can’t do this tonight.”

Ricky stood between Ronnie and I, looking confused as hell. “Atticus, did Ronnie do something?”

Ronnie was surprised by the words. Ricky shot him an apologetic but still accusatory look. It was obvious that they’d known each other before tonight. Ronnie crossed his arms over his chest and looked at me with his eyebrows raised, waiting for me to tell Ricky what he did. When I said nothing, Ronnie rolled his eyes and spoke up.

“I’m the father, Rick,” he said condescendingly, eyes flashing to my stomach. “We’re just having a little family spat.”

“I fucking know you’re the dad, Ronnie,” Ricky answered angrily. “Everyone who knows of you two knows that, okay? But that doesn’t give you the right to show up here and be an asshole to her. I let you in tonight because you said you were worried something might happen, but I didn’t know you two were having problems.” He turned towards me, expression honest. “I’m sorry, Atticus, I had no idea that you wouldn’t want him here. We’ve known each other a long time; I just assumed that he’d behave himself.”

“It’s not your fault,” I answered. “Ronnie just doesn’t know how to control himself. I’ll give you a call when I’ve figured out what days someone can come out and check out these bands. Please apologize for me.” Onley was performing still, but their sound didn't even register at this point.

Ricky stepped forward then. “We’d really like if you came back rather than sending someone else out. You’re incredibly good at what you do and you recognize the right kind of talent in these musicians.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Ronnie denied, stepping around him so that he was placed neatly perpendicular to us. “I’ll make sure that Brett sends someone, but Atticus shouldn’t be here.”

“Fuck you, Ronnie,” I said, looking at him like he was crazy. “You can’t walk in here and make my decisions for me. I’m a grown woman and I get to decide what I can and can’t do. Not you. Especially not now.”

He turned back to me. “We’ll talk about this later,” he said, “with your father.” Then he turned his attention to Ricky. “I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to cause problems, but if I don’t look out for my girl and kid, who will?”

I wanted to scream. I wasn’t his anything and I wanted to yell that this baby wasn’t his either, not anymore, not after this long, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t throw that at him here. This was always going to be his baby biologically, no matter how much I couldn’t stand Ronnie. And right now, I never wanted to see him again.

“I’m leaving,” I spat at the singer, glaring holes through his head as he turned around to face me. “Don’t follow me, don’t call me, just go back to Europe, Ronnie.”

I left the bar, getting looks from all the people who’d heard our fight. The guy at the door looked bewildered when I stormed out, quickly searching my bag for my car keys. I heard him call out to Ronnie, and I knew the singer was right behind me. All I wanted was time away from him. I couldn’t remember being this mad at another human being.

“Atticus, where are you going?”

“Go away,” I shouted back, jaw clenched. “You must be a pro at leaving by now, so why don’t you do me a favor and disappear.”

“You shouldn’t do this,” he answered, running over to me. “Not when you’re angry. Please, just let me drive you and we can talk. I’ll get your car in the morning.”

I scoffed, turning around to him. He was right behind me now. “I’ve been doing all of this on my own for months! What makes you think I need you now? I needed you four months ago when I had no idea what I was going to do, but you left without a word, so I fucking figured it out on my own. I don't want you here, Ronnie!”

“You had someone else!” he shouted, throwing his hands out in front of him. “What was I supposed to do, Atticus? Stand there and let you pick someone over me? I couldn’t get my feelings thrown back in my face and still be here for this baby, so I did what I had to do!”

“What you had to do was be a man,” I spat, shaking from anger. “You have no idea what it’s like to own up to your responsibilities! You can’t disappear for almost five months and then show back up and act like you have a say in any of this! This is my baby!”

He swallowed harshly and slid his fingers through his hair, pushing the strands out of his face. “I’m sorry, Atticus,” he answered, shaking his head. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I just couldn’t do it.”

“You’re the one who wanted this,” I said, bracing myself against my own angry tears. “You’re the one who asked me to do this, and then you left me to deal with it on my own.”

I’m sorry,” he said, taking a deep breath as he stared at me, “I didn’t want to leave you, but I couldn’t see you with him.” He spoke quietly, fragilely, and his dark eyes dropped to the cement.

“Yeah?” I whispered. "Guess who has been here while you’ve been gone, Ronnie. If you didn’t want me with him, you shouldn’t have walked out on me. Because all that did was give me the time I needed to get over you.”

His eyes darted up to mine automatically. Scared of the truth.

“Don’t follow me, Ronnie,” I said as I found my keys. “Go see your dad or something. I’m not the only one you walked out on.” I unlocked the car, got inside, and drove off, leaving the singer standing in the parking lot alone.
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