‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Dreaming Alone

The house we were going to see wasn’t far, but it was difficult to navigate the neighborhood with the directions I was given. Arch and Nico were talking quietly to themselves, and I kept an eye out for street names and house addresses. The one we were looking for was near the back of the neighborhood and backed up to a line of trees.

Trees lined the driveway and surrounded the house, leaving just enough of a gap for a narrow opening to the driveway. The numerous trees made it feel secluded and private, despite the close proximity to the other houses. I shut off the engine at the bottom of the drive and watched as a man stepped out from the front door, smiling and heading our direction. I unfastened my seatbelt. Arch did the same.

I took Holland out from the seat behind me, lifting her whole carseat from the part it clicked into. Her curly, dark hair was matted against the back of the seat and her eyes were fluttering, on the verge of being asleep. Arch unbuckled Nico from her harness, but the two of them weren’t able to get out until I opened the door for them.

“Hand,” I reminded Arch, watching as he grabbed Nico’s fingers. I held Holland’s carseat with my left hand and held my right out to shake the man’s as he grew closer.

“Atticus,” he greeted easily, shaking my hand firmly while trailing his eyes over the kids, “it’s good to see you again. I see you brought the whole crew with you today.”

“Hi, Rob, yeah,” I answered with a slight laugh, before resting my right hand on Arch’s shoulder, his blonde curls long enough to brush the back of my hand. “This is my son, Arch, who I told you about on the phone, and these are my sisters, Nico and Holland.” I motioned to them as I said their names. “Arch and I are babysitting for the evening.”

He leaned down slightly and smiled at my blue eyed boy. “Arch, it’s great to finally meet you. Your mom has told me all about you and what kind of house you said you wanted.” He looked back up to me and then smiled at the boy again. “What you and your future sibling want.”

“I just want my own room,” Arch said, fingers intertwined with Nico’s little ones, “far away from the baby’s. Holland cries a lot and she’s older than the baby, so I know it’ll cry so much.”

“That’s his big priority,” I agreed, nodding. “I’m definitely just looking for something that fits the budget, but that I can also raise two kids in.” I glanced behind the suited man to the off-white two story home.

“Well, what do you say we go look inside?” he asked, clapping his hands together. “I think that this might fit the bill. This is a three bedroom, two bathroom, two story home. The kitchen has brand new appliances and the owners put new carpeting in just a couple months ago.”

He led us to the front door and pushed it open, holding it as he waited for me and the kids to get inside. I tried to keep my expression blank as I looked it over. It opened to a carpeted living room with large windows spanning the front wall and continued around to another smaller alcove, which led around in both directions, the right leading to the downstairs bathroom. The stairs were directly in front of the doorway.

“Arch, Nic, stay with me,” I demanded as he crept towards the stairs, tugging Nico along with him.

“The previous owners lived here for over fifteen years and raised three kids,” Rob said, as though their family success would mean something to me. “Their younger son recently moved to college, so they put their house on the market and moved out of state.”

I wandered around through the alcove to the left, not at all surprised to find a decent sized kitchen with an attached dining room area. There was a plain door that led to the garage and another that looked to be a pantry. Arch wandered in a circle and came back to me.

“Can I see my room?” he asked, grabbed onto my hand. “Is it upstairs?”

“Yes,” Rob answered, standing in the mouth of the kitchen. “If it’s alright with your mom, you and Nico can run up there and check it out.”

The kids looked at me for an answer. “I’ll come with,” I said, motioning for him to go ahead. He let go of Nico and darted past Rob and back the way we came. I took a moment to look through the sliding glass door in the dining area. It showed a back porch that was fifteen feet higher than the sloped backyard. The trees started only ten feet away. I shifted Holland’s carrier to my other hand, grabbed Nico’s, and followed Rob back the way Arch had gone.

“This might seem smaller than what you were looking for,” he said as he walked up the stairs ahead of me. I’d slowed down to help the four year old climb them, "but it’s really a lovely family home. I can really see you and your kids being happy here.”

“My house now feels larger than this,” I answered as we got to the top of the narrow hall, letting go of Nico’s hand. “It only has two bedrooms and one bathroom, but it’s much larger and more open. The kitchen is about three times bigger than that one.”

“Are you selling your current home?” he asked as we turned into the first bedroom. “Perhaps you could use that profit to enhance your budget. Then we can look to find you something larger.”

“I’m not putting it up for sale until I find somewhere else to move my family,” I said, following him into the first bedroom. It was a decent size, but not ideal. I could see a baby fitting in here, but once the child was old enough to acquire more things, it would take some organizational skills to make it all fit.

“This is one of the children’s bedrooms,” Rob explained, going over to the window to open the blinds. “It faces the trees, like the others. It would make a really nice room for your baby.”

I nodded and stepped back into the hall. Across from that room was the bathroom, and I pushed the door open farther and flicked the light on. It was very similar to the size of ours now. With a tub, sink, and toilet, and just enough room to walk through. “Is this the only bathroom on the second floor?” I questioned.

“Yes, the other one is downstairs.”

“There’s no master bath?”

“No, unfortunately, not.”

“How much do they have this listed as?”

The man answered as I pulled Nico into the second room. It was almost exactly the same as the first. Carpeted, square, with a long closet, and a window that looked out to the trees. Arch stood at the window, peaking through the blinds.

“Two hundred and ninety-five thousand,” Rob told me, repeating the number he had relayed to me a couple of days ago. “I know that it’s near the top of your price range, but it’s difficult to find a place with three bedrooms in California for that price.”

I nodded, understanding what he was saying. “I paid over that for my home now,” I said, “but it’s more modern than this one and has a open loft and vaulted ceilings.”

“And bigger rooms,” Arch complained, turning around to look at us. “This is smaller than mine at home,” he said honestly. In fact, it was about half the size and was missing the large windows and unique tapered walls.

“We’ll have to keep looking,” I answered the boy, pulling him back to me. He wrapped his arms around my waist and nodded, cheek against my stomach.

“I’ll keep looking, Atticus, but I’m not sure I’ll find something with more square feet in that price range. Your home now feels bigger because it’s only two rooms with the same amount of space. Perhaps we can look at a couple two bedrooms and try to find one that can accommodate both children,” Rob answered, looking unsure, but hopeful. “Are there any other specifics?”

“I like wide open spaces,” I replied. “I want the house to feel big, even if it isn’t.”

Rob nodded and pulled out a small notebook so he could write down the things I was saying. He went downstairs to lock the back doors and garage, and I rounded up the kids to take them downstairs. They walked in front of me and I carried Holland’s carseat. She was still sleeping, but the jostling was waking her slowly. The realtor met us at the front door and walked us out.

“I’m sorry this wasn’t the one,” he said as he locked the door. “I hope that we’ll be able to find you some place that you and your family love.” He pulled the key from the door and walked with us down the slanted driveway. He stopped at his car, which was parked in front of my own, and watched us for a moment as I finagled all three back into my vehicle.

I waved goodbye as I backed out.

“I didn’t like that one,” Arch said as we turned around in the street.

“Me too,” Nico mumbled, looking at Arch and grinning at him.

“Me neither,” I repeated, glancing back at it in the rearview as we left it behind. “I’d rather stay in our home and keep the baby in my room than downsize.”

That was the fourth house I’d looked at in the last month. Part of me thought I was being too picky, but I imagined raising my children a certain way, and a home was a big part of that. I knew that two hundred and twenty-five thousand wasn’t a lot of money in California, but I was desperate not to spend every penny. I had two kids to think about now, two futures to prepare for.

I parked in my father’s driveway a little while later and opened the back door of my car. Arch and Nico took off towards the front door, and I lifted Holland from her carseat and grabbed both of the girls’ bags. The kids pushed open the front door and ran inside, leaving it open for me to follow. Holland was awake now, brown eyes blinking up at me as she woke. I stepped in the house, closing the door firmly behind me.

“Dad?” I shouted from the foyer, “Gina? Frida?” I stepped to my right and looked at Nico and Arch, who sat in the family room, on the couch, chatting conspiratorially with each other. I walked back and dropped their daycare bags by the door, before carting Holland into the kitchen and around to the door that would lead me to my father’s home office.

“Dad?” I called again as I stepped into the office and peered into the recording studio. I rolled my eyes when I saw my father in the booth, chatting with Greg Hetson, his longtime friend and bandmate. I reached for the button on the board that would allow them to hear me. “When did you get home?” I asked, watching as both men turned quickly, surprised.

My father grinned at the sight of us and side-stepped around Hetson to come out to us. “My girls,” he greeted, reaching to pluck Holland from my arms. He then seemed to realize that it was me and not Paulie bringing his daughters home. “Did Paulie call?” he asked, frowning as he moved to reach for the abandoned cell phone on the sound board. He saw the name on the screen and cursed to himself. “I’m sorry, Atticus, I was sure that Paulie was picking them up today.”

I sighed at his apology. “I have things I need to do, Dad,” I answered, crossing my arms over my chest. “I’m trying to find a house where this baby can sleep at night, and if I have to keep picking Arch up from Nicolas early so we can pick up the girls, then the school isn’t going to let him back next year.”

“I know, Att, I’m sorry,” he said, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. “I’ll try to be more available. I promise.” He paused and looked down at my stomach, which was jutting out towards him obnoxiously. “How are you feeling? Did you hear back from that doctor?”

“I had the appointment today,” I replied, giving in to his apology. “I have my first pre-natal appointment next week and we’re going to get a look at the baby.”

He grinned and looked over to Greg. “That’s great. That’s just great. I’m really glad that you were able to get into that place. I know how much you didn’t want to have this baby at that hospital.”

“Congrats, Atticus,” Greg said, stepping forward to wrap his arms around my shoulders. “You’re doing real good, girl.” He met my gaze and I saw the words there.

My dad motioned for us to leave the studio and I led the way back through his office and out into the kitchen. I could hear Arch and Nico laughing across the foyer and I headed that way, knowing that my dad wanted to see Nico. Greg called a quick goodbye in the foyer and my father said the same. I waved as he left through the front door, promising to be back tomorrow night so they could get ahead on their project.

“Nico Moon!” my dad greeted as he continued through the entryway into the living room. She was standing on the couch next to where Arch was sitting and she lit up at the sight of her father. She held her arms up and he lifted her over the back of the couch, holding each child with one arm.

“Daddy,” Nico greeted, wrapping her little arms around his neck.

“Come on, Arch,” I motioned, watching as the boy stood up and rounded the couch back to me. “We’re gonna get going.”

Dad turned instantly and followed us back to the large door. “You two are coming over on Thursday, aren’t you?” he asked, the group of us standing in front of the doorway. “We’re doing Thanksgiving around one. Your brother is coming home.”

I nodded, hands on Arch’s shoulders. “We’ll be here. We might have to make a run out to Russell’s, but I don’t think they’re having their dinner until later so we should have plenty of time to make both.”

Arch turned around instantly, grinning at me. “We’re going to Ronnie’s?” he asked loudly, grasping at my shirt to ensure I’d give him the answers. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I smiled at my son and brushed his outgrown bangs out of his face. “Because you were being all pouty,” I answered, moving my eyes from him and to my father, who had almost the exact opposite reaction. “It’ll all work out fine, Dad,” I said in response to the look on his face. “We might have to leave a little early, but you’ll hardly even miss us.”

“I don’t see why you need to spend the holiday with his family,” he answered, setting Nico down on the ground and re-situating Holland in his arms. “You haven’t seen him in months. Why should you cater to them just because it’s Thanksgiving?”

I sighed, pushing my hair back. I’d been hoping to get through this conversation without this part of it. “We’re going to Russell’s,” I replied. “I might not be on the best terms with Ronnie right now, but I still love Russell and he asked if we would come. It’s his grandchild too, Dad. He doesn’t deserve to be cut out of the baby's life because Ronnie and I aren't on good terms right now.”

“I wanna go,” Arch said loudly, frowning at everyone. “I wanna see Ronnie.”

“I know,” I said to placate him, “and we are, so don’t get worked up.”

My dad shook his head at my words. “You need to do what’s best for you, Arch, and the baby,” he stressed. “You can’t cater to him, Atticus. If he wanted to see either of you, he would’ve made it to one of the appointments. Holding out for him is going to leave you all disappointed.”

“I’m going for Russell and the rest of the family,” I argued. “When this baby get here, I’m going to want them in our life. They’re going to be family, too, no matter what.”

“Has he even called you?” Brett asked. “I mean really, Atticus. If the man doesn’t want you in his life, don’t give him the satisfaction of letting him think you need him. You’ve got us, that’s all you need.”

“I can’t do this right now,” I said, shaking my head as I turned away from him. “You don’t understand what I’m going through. I’ll see you at Thanksgiving. Let me know if you need me to bring anything.” I wielded Arch around and through the door, leaving it open behind us for my dad to close. He stood in the doorway without a word and watched as I loaded the six year old back into the car, tossing Holland’s carseat into the trunk and moving Arch’s booster back into its usual spot.

“Be careful,” he called across the yard, and I knew he wasn't just talking about drive home. "I love you," he added, seemingly tacking it onto his earlier statements. "Just please be careful."

I didn’t make it obvious that I’d heard him. I just opened the driver’s door and got in, my eyes meeting his as I started the car. My family dynamics were drastically different now and there was stress coming from all sides and every person. I broke my father’s gaze as I backed out of the driveway, hoping that tonight would be easier. Hoping that we could get through the next few days with no hiccups.
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Chapter two! Thank you all so much for the comments. :) It's amazing to see that there's still a fan base behind this story! I'm already in love with writing it again and I'm so excited. I even began rereading Infinite.

Yesterday I made a story playlist and I had Atticus in mind when I made it, so if you wanna check that out it's here: Atticus Youtube Playlist!

There's some pretty cool songs in there. (and a couple cliche ones too (; ) If you want to find it in the future, it's now linked on the summary page, so feel free to go back to it as many times as you like!