‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

'Till Sunbeams

Dr. Ancari took us through the back room and around to where the scale was positioned in a small alcove in the hallway. I stepped out of my shoes, pulled my jacket off, and handed it and my bag to Ronnie, who took both without a word. Dr. Ancari stepped up to the front of the scale as I stepped on.

“I’m not really a fan of this weighing station,” I said, watching the numbers rise to what they were before and continue.

“It’s normal to gain weight, Atticus,” the doctor reminded me politely, “and you and the baby are right on track in that department, so there’s no need worry.” She jotted down the number in my file and motioned for me to step off.

When I turned around, Ronnie had my shoes too and he stepped back so that the doctor and I could pass him. I was grateful that I didn’t have to try to get my shoes back on in the hallway. It wasn’t that easy to bend all the way down, and getting up from the floor wasn’t a solid option either.

Dr. Ancari led us to the familiar exam room in the back of the building. It was large, with computers and all sorts of monitoring equipment. The clinic was specifically designed with pregnant women and babies in mind, so it was slightly more specific than an average doctor’s office.

“Atticus, go ahead and have a seat on the exam table,” Ancari said as we walked into the large room, “I’m just going to get your blood pressure first and then we’ll measure you, get another urine sample, and do an ultrasound. How’s that sound?”

“Relatively painless,” I answered, stepping up onto the exam table. Ronnie set my things down on one of the chairs nearer to the desk and then joined me in the chair that was strategically placed just to the right of me. He was nervous, and it was obvious.

“Do you think we could hear the heartbeat?” I asked, remembering the first time it happened to me. I hadn’t been expecting it at the time, and the nurse at a different clinic didn’t even warn me before I was hearing it. I had no time to decide if it was something I really wanted to hear, but now, it was one of the more reassuring sounds.

“We can do that,” Ancari answered, glancing knowingly at Ronnie. “This is the father’s first appointment, isn’t it? We should let him get the true baby experience.” She wrapped the cuff around my arm and began inflating it, pressing the cold end of the stethoscope just under the faded blue plastic.

Ronnie glanced at me, dark eyes intense as he tried to read my expression. We were silent as the doctor stared at her watch. This wasn’t his first appointment with me, but he was a lot less experienced than I was, and I wanted to get him caught up, so he could feel everything I was feeling about this baby.

The doctor rambled out a set of numbers that had no meaning to me and then pulled the velcro cuff off my arm and wrapped it back around one of the hooks on the wall. She slid open a drawer to the desk and pulled out a yellow tape measure to assess the size of my stomach, and subsequently my uterus. I was used to this drill, so I sat quietly while she measured and marked it down, opting for the computer rather than the papers she came in with.

“Atticus, I want to check your protein levels. I know that you’re a busy woman and you have a son, but you have to make sure that you’re eating correctly. Protein promotes fetal tissue development, including proper growth of your baby’s brain. It also helps produce extra blood so that you can sustain this pregnancy.”

“Is something wrong?” I asked, glancing at the tilted computer screen. “I try to eat well. Sometimes I eat at odd times when I have to work around Arch’s schedule, but I always eat.”

“Nothing is wrong,” she answered, smiling at both of us. “I just want to make sure. A lot of times I see mothers who are just plain terrible eaters, but regardless, I always make it a point to keep an eye on mothers’ diets.”

“Okay.” I nodded.

She went into another drawer and pulled out a small cup with a turquoise lid that was sealed in an airy plastic wrapping. She handed it over. “I just need you to pee in this please. It’ll tell us a lot about what’s happening with your body right now, besides checking your protein.”

She led me out of the exam room and pointed me in the direction of the bathroom down the hall. I filled the cup, washed my hands, and headed back to the room where we left Ronnie. Dr. Ancari was at the nurse’s station, speaking with a woman who was seated behind the large desk. When she noticed me, she took the turquoise lidded cup from me and handed it over to the other woman.

“I’m sure the results are going to come back fine,” she said, turning to face me completely, “but it never hurts to be thorough.”

“I understand,” I answered, smoothing my shirt down over my stomach. “Stuff like that is why I came here. If I wanted average prenatal care I would’ve stayed at the hospital.”

Dr. Ancari smiled and tried to hold it back. “I’m here for you Atticus. You and your baby are the top priority. Have you decided to learn the sex? I remember you telling me that you were waiting for the father to come home.”

“I wasn't sure you would remember that,” I answered, remembering my first appointment here. “But yes, I think that we want to know. I haven’t spoken with him much about it, though honestly.”

“I’ll ask you both when we head back in,” she said, grabbing some papers from the counter next to her. “Why don’t we go back so that way we can let Ronnie hear his baby’s heartbeat for the first time, yeah?”

The two us stepped back into the room and Ronnie looked at me, watching as I stepped around his chair and climbed back up onto the medical bed. Dr. Ancari wasted no time as she pulled out the doppler machine and moved to lower the back of the bed so that I was laying flat.

“Atticus, if you wouldn’t mind raising your shirt…” she trailed off. “This is going to be a bit cold.”

“This is just the heartbeat, right?” I asked, my own heart pounding in my ears at the thought of accidentally being exposed to the sight of my baby before I was ready for it.

“Unless the two of you want to see the baby,” she answered, raising her eyebrows in our direction. “We can do both simultaneously.”

I turned my head, hair matting into the paper cover, and looked at the man next to me. He’d been silent since we stepped into the room, and I stared at him, wanting to know what he wanted to do. I’d waited so long for him to come home so that I could figure out what kind of child we created together, and now that he was here, the nerves were building in the pit of my stomach and creating chills in my lower spine.

“We can learn the sex?” Ronnie asked, eyes on mine. “Today?”

“Yes, of course,” Dr. Ancari answered, pausing with only a little of the gel on my bulging stomach. “We could’ve found out weeks ago, but we’ve been waiting for you, Dad.”

“Lets do it,” Ronnie said immediately, looking at me again. “Lets do it, Att. Lets find out what we’re having.”

I looked to Dr. Ancari, who was poised and waiting of our joint answer. And then I nodded, sucking in a breath as the nerves spiraled into my blood stream and spread through my entire body.

“Great,” Dr. Ancari cheered, sitting down on her stool and rolled a monitor up closer to us. She flipped a couple of the switches and messed with something before she clapped her hands together and pushed my t’shirt up higher away from my stomach and the baby.

The picture on the screen was a faded shade of orange when it came on, and at the same time, we could hear a pulsing that I immediately recognized as the sound of our baby’s heartbeat. I looked to Ronnie quickly, and his eyes were trained on the grainy screen, but he seemed to realize what the sound was, and he looked at me too.

“Your baby has a good, strong heartbeat,” Dr. Ancari said, smiling at us, “and from what I can see here, you two are bringing a gorgeous baby into the world.”

My eyes snapped back to the screen immediately. In orange and black, was a three dimensional image of what was growing in me all these months. It was so clear that it was instantly possible to make out what we were seeing. A little round head with a small nose, closed eyes, and pursed lips. The baby’s hands were in its face, almost like as though rubbing its eyes.

Dr. Ancari clicked a button on the keyboard and then pivoted to face us. “He looks beautiful,” she spoke, licking her lips as she let her words settle.

“He?” I repeated, looking at the screen again. “It’s a boy?”

Ronnie looked at me too, and then the screen, and then the doctor. “A boy? Show me. Now, please.” He grinned, scooting closer, and motioned for her to show him the undeniable proof. She laughed lightly and nodded, moving the machine along my stomach again to get a different angle.

She pointed to the screen. “Legs, feet,” she said, “and there’s your son’s penis.”

Ronnie frowned. I was too much in shock to say much at all. “Are you sure?” Ronnie asked, looking at the picture again, “I don’t see anything definite. Are you sure it’s a boy and not just another gritty part of the picture?”

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” she answered. “You’re having a son. Congratulations.”

I hadn’t thought of any names. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, but now it was one of the fifty things running through my head. Knowing that he was a boy, rather than an ‘it’, made it all a hundred times clearer and more authentic. I had imagined a boy, and it felt like a hundred years between then and now, but I had imagined a boy when I thought about the future children I’d planned to have with Ronnie. He was always a boy in my mind, always right alongside Arch, always with Ronnie’s eyes and hair and penchant for trouble.

“Atticus,” Ronnie said, barely breathing. “We’re having a boy.” He stood up and hugged me even though I was still laying down. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him tighter to me. Soon there would be another part of him out in the world, and I’d never been more thrilled and terrified simultaneously.

“Can you make us copies of his picture?” I asked, letting the doctor wipe the goop off my stomach. “At least two, if not more. We have a lot of family.”

“My dad will probably want five all on his own,” Ronnie said, grinning. “He’ll probably paste them all over the house.”

“Russ was probably looking forward to a girl by now,” I answered. “He has two sons and four grandsons. This is nothing new for your dad, Ron.”

The singer’s shoulder bumped into mine as he answered. “You’ll see his reaction when we tell him. It’s going to be like the first time he’s ever heard the news.”

“I’m going to print you some more copies,” Ancari spoke as she got up, handing over the original image to us. She stepped around us as we huddled together over the picture and left the room. Leaving us alone to look at our son.

“He’s gorgeous,” I said, tracing the lines of him with my finger.

Ronnie nodded, pressing close to me to see the image better. “He looks perfect.”

“I can’t believe that he’s inside of me right now,” I murmured, fingers pressing into my stomach so that I could feel him and see him. “All this time he’s been this faceless little thing that was taking over my body and making me tired and hungry and moody, but now he’s a ‘he’ and a person and he belongs to us. This person, this tiny little person, is going to come out in a few months and he’s going to be all ours.”

“We should name him,” Ronnie said, joining me on the bed. “We can’t call him by pronouns for the rest of the pregnancy. We should name him and get used to it before he even gets here. We should have everything figured out before he comes.”

“There’s a lot to do,” I told him, handing over the picture as I thought about all the things we needed to do. Ronnie wasn’t even in LA full time, and there was no guarantee that he’d be able to stay. “How long are you here for?” I asked, tone dropping as I realized that the tour wasn’t over yet. “When do you have to leave again? How are you even here now?”

Ronnie pushed his dark hair out of his face and turned to me, knee bent on the bed. “I’m cancelling the rest of the tour,” he said, speaking quickly as I tried to talk over him. “Atticus, just listen. I need to be here for you and Arch, and our boy - “ He paused to grin. “I can’t be overseas while you’re here. There’s a lot to do before he gets here and I need to help you. We have to find a name and set up his room and buy toys and clothes and carseats, and do all that other parent stuff. And I can’t leave you here to do it all on your own. He’s my son too.”

“You can’t just cancel your shows, Ronnie,” I rebutted, mortified that this was his solution, “You have a responsibility to your fans and the guys, and Epitaph. You didn’t even tell my father that you were coming home for a few days, there’s no way he’s going to let you back out of the rest of the tour.”

“The guys are coming home in a couple days,” Ronnie answered finitely, “We were co-headlining overseas anyway, so the tour it still going, we’re just not on it. Jacky is going to be at your house next week to get his car, just so you know.”

“I haven’t even found a bigger house yet,” I told him, shaking my head at the thought of him leaving the tour. “We can’t buy anything or set up his room since he doesn’t have one. I’ve been looking, but there’s just nothing so far. You should at least go back until I figure things out, then you can come home and help.”

We both quieted when there was a quick knock at the door and Dr. Ancari came back, brandishing a pile of photographs on glossy paper. “Hopefully this is enough to hold over your family until the next ultrasound,” she joked, handing the stack to Ronnie, who looked impressed by how many she’d come up with so quickly.

“How many are there?” I asked, already counting the family members in my head.

“I could only get away with eight before Dr. Sanderson needed to get in there, but I’ll make sure you get you a few more when you’re back for your next appointment. We’ll do a second ultrasound, just to check in on him, and you can distribute those images as well.”

“That should be plenty,” I said, figuring that it would be so long as we cut the kids off from all having their own. “Thank you.”

“No problem. We’re all finished here, but if you two want to see Ruth on your way out, we can go ahead and schedule your next appointment. We’ll go over the results of your test then, okay?” She pressed the palms of her hands together and stepped towards the door. “Congratulations on your son. I’ll see you in a month.”

When she left, I put on my shoes and stuck the pictures in my bag. Ronnie got up and helped me off the table, and the two of us headed out to schedule for next month. I didn’t know how we were going to tell everyone we were having a boy, and Gina’s suggestion about waiting until the baby shower crossed my mind. I just needed to run it by Ronnie before he could blab to his father and brother that he was officially bringing another boy into the Radke clan.
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