‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

City Lights

“I have to get going,” I said as Ronnie and I stepped away from the clinic’s main desk and started towards the exit. “I still have to pick Arch up from Heather’s.”

He walked next to me, hands slid into his pocket as he glanced sideways towards me. “I’ll see you before the next appointment, right?” he asked. “I don’t want to be those people who only see each other because of their kid. I want to be here for you, Atti, and there’s a lot to get done, so I know you need my help.”

“I have a lot of people who are already helping me out,” I answered, unsure of how to proceed. “You really shouldn’t cancel the rest of your tour. You can come home right before the baby comes and it’ll be fine.”

“No, I can’t,” he argued. “I’m not just here for the baby, I’m here for you too. I know you said that you have people looking out for you, but who’s usually in there with you? Who’s at your side for all of this?”

“I can take care of myself,” I rebutted, sliding my bag onto my shoulder. “Honestly, you’re here for your son. That’s all I need from you.”

He frowned, and I looked away from him to dislodge the image of his disappointment from the forefront of my mind. We walked quietly for a moment, cutting through the front row of cars towards mine. “I need to find a new place,” he said eventually. “The apartment is too small for a kid. We figured that out with Arch.”

I nodded, remembering the time we spent with the child in Los Angeles when he first came to us. Ronnie had lived in that place literally as long as I knew him. The first day I ever spent any real time with him was in the apartment. All of our firsts happened there, and even though it was over and I was actively blaming all my emotions on the pregnancy, it was still off-putting to think that someday someone else might live there.

“Where are you going to go?” I asked, stopping at my car and turning to face him. “I mean, it’s hard to find decent apartments in the right location. You love where you live now.”

He shrugged. “I need a bigger place, Att. If I have to sacrifice being right downtown, then I’ll do it.”

“Well, I’ve been house hunting in Pasadena,” I said. “There have been a few good places out that way. Perfect for you and for the baby.”

Ronnie grinned. “You and I both know that I’m not moving out of LA,” he replied, shaking his head. “In fact, you should move into the city. Arch’s school is here and you work here. It’s inconvenient to still be in Pasadena.”

“It’s barely twenty-five minutes outside the city,” I argued, “and it’s where I grew up and where I want our kid to grow up. It’s beautiful and a lot safer than LA. We’ve talked about this before.”

Ronnie leaned sideways against the car, his elbow bent into the hood as he argued. “We talked about the schools and the neighborhoods, Atticus. But we’ve already got Arch in one of the best charter schools in the state and we can find a safe neighborhood.”

“Then you can find yourself a nice house in LA, but I live in Pasadena, Ronnie,” I rebutted, crossing my arms.

“I want you and my son close to me.” He sighed. “I don’t want to drive a half hour every time I want to see my kid. And our whole lives are in the city.”

I sighed as well and pushed my hair out of my line of sight. “I haven’t even found a place I like, Ronnie. If I can’t afford anything in Pasadena, there’s no way I’ll be able to afford what I want in LA, so forget it.” I riffled for my keys in my bag and leaned in to unlock the car door. This wasn’t a fight worth having because it wasn’t practical.

Ronnie groaned in frustration, and I caught his annoyed expression out of the corner of my eye. “What if I help you?” he asked quickly, reaching out to put his hand on the driver’s door and stop me from opening it. “What if I help you find a place in LA? One that you love? Will you consider moving out here then?”

I stared for a moment. “I don’t need your help.”

“You just said that you haven’t found anything that lives up to your expectations, Atticus,” he argued, looking at me with big brown eyes. “I know that you want the perfect house and if you haven’t found anything, then you just need to up your budget, and I can do that. Together, we can find a perfect house to raise our son.”

“No,” I denied, shaking my head at the singer. “No, Ronnie. Our lives are separate and I won’t let you buy me a house.”

“I’m not buying you a house, I’m helping you buy a house for our son, Atticus, there’s a difference. I want him growing up somewhere great, just like you do.”

“You can’t offer this on a whim,” I said, denying him. “You can’t just offer to buy a house like this, it’s not fair. You need to think about your decisions, Ronnie. First the tour, then your apartment, and now this. How are you going to take care of yourself if you keep trying to take care of me and the boys?”

He stepped forward, smiling slightly, and rested his hands on either side of my stomach. He was close enough that he was pressing into me, head turned down so that he could still look me in the eye. “I can help you and take care of myself, Att,” he said, moving one hand to tuck my hair back with his fingers.“I want what’s best for you guys and I owe you that much. Let me help you find a place. You’re forgetting that I get something out of it too.”

I crossed my arms, my elbows pressing lightly into his chest. “What do you get out of it?”

“I get you and the boys in the city,” he answered, sliding his hand down my arm as he stepped back. “I get to be there to see my son everyday.”

His expression was playful, but serious underneath. I stared, hoping he’d back down, but he didn’t. I didn’t think about living in the city. We were close enough now, and used to it, that the commute didn’t make much of a difference. But Ronnie had a point, almost every aspect of my life took place in LA, including my job, and Arch’s school, and Heather. And Ronnie again too.

And I could find the house I always imagined raising my children in. One like my father’s, where there was room to grow into it. All I had to do was let Ronnie help me. Let him further back into my life.

“Okay,” I spoke, nodding finitely. “I’ll let you help me look, but there’s no guarantees, Ronnie. And I’m not going to settle. If I have to move into LA, then I want to find the perfect house, understand?”

The singer grinned and wrapped his arms around my shoulders, pulling me into his chest while he agreed. “We’ll find the perfect place for the boys,” he said, kissing the top of my head, “and you’ll finally let go of your biases for Pasa and realize that LA is perfect for us.”

“Okay, okay,” I relented, taking a step back so that I could see and breath normally. “I’ll call my realtor tomorrow and let him know that I’m expanding the search.” I looked lazily at the man, nervous.

“Text me the details,” Ronnie answered, pressing another kiss to the side of my head before he backed up, out of the space between the cars. “I have to head out to my father’s and pick up Charlie. I’m taking him back to the apartment tonight.”

“You got your car but not your dog?” I asked, remembering the Escalade parked outside Heather’s house.

Ronnie shot me a defensive look. “I haven’t had time to look out for him,” he answered. “I’ve been too busy trying to make sure that your father didn’t kill me on sight.”

“He has good reasons to,” I replied.

Ronnie quieted, and then nodded. “Yeah, I left you. He has every right to be pissed at me, Atti. I know that.”

“I was going to say that you deserted your tour halfway through,” I corrected, giving him an accusatory look, “and you convinced your band to do the same. You’re a horrible ring leader.”

Ronnie grinned. “I know.”

He turned and started for the other side of the parking lot. I could see the Escalade parked between two much smaller cars a couple rows back. Ronnie was three cars away before I spoke. “Don’t tell your father that he’s a boy,” I called, watching the man as he stopped and turned around.

“Why not?” He was frowning.

“We’re going to have a baby shower and I’d rather everyone find out together,” I stated, knowing that he would never listen anyway.

“He’s my dad,” he answered, shrugging his shoulders. “He’s going to want to know as soon as I walk through that door.”

“You told me I could be there when you tell him,” I reminded him, smirking slightly, “You’re the one who said I needed to see his reaction. You can’t go breaking promises now, Radke.”

Ronnie groaned again, dropping forward dramatically. He swept all his hair back as he straightened up and met my gaze with dark eyes. “Fine,” he relented, shaking his head at me.“You have three days to figure out a time when you can go out there with me. Or else I’m bringing him to your house on Sunday. If we can even make it through the weekend without him torturing it out of me.”

“It’s his sixth grandkid, Ronnie!” I called as the singer walked away. “The excitement had to have worn off at least three grandkids ago!”

He didn’t respond, but I caught the smirk he sent over his shoulder at me. I knew I was wrong - that Russ would be excited for our baby like it was his first. That’s the type of guy Russell had become over the years. His grandkids were a huge part of his life and I wanted to be there to tell him, even though I’d used it as a ploy to keep Ronnie quiet.

Unlike Ronnie’s family, there were no grandkids in mine. I was my father’s oldest child and he wasn’t quite done having kids of his own. When I learned that he and my step-mother were having another kid this year, the thought had crossed my mind that this baby would be incredibly close in age to the ones that Ronnie and I might have together. At the time, I didn’t know that nine months would be all that separated my father’s last from my first.

And also unlike Ronnie’s family, there was no shortage of girls. In fact, it was opposite. My father had four daughters and only one son, and with Holland, he’d been rooting for another boy to somewhat balance out the scale. Somehow I ended up with the child he wanted. It was no surprise to me, really, seeing as Ronnie’s family only contained boys, and Ronnie’s DNA decided the gender, but I knew it would be a big surprise to my dad.

This whole thing was a big surprise to my dad. He never imagined his daughter and grandchild being less than a year apart in age. I don't think he ever really thought that Ronnie and I would start having kids any time soon. We were engaged when Holland was born, but my father always assumed it would never last. He'd been right for completely different reasons that he'd suspected, but none of us saw the baby coming.
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So, this goes, out to, the ones that fall in love,
And to, the girl, that filled my dark.

Last night I had the weirdest dream,
That you and I drove off the darkest streets,
Passing through these city lights,
Closure for the kids that died.

Reverse This Curse