‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


Heather and I made it out of the mall with a plethora of bags on our arms. I was surprised that she was still able to hold Kyat, the bags, and unlock the car without having to put anything down. She stuffed the bags into the backseat before lifting Kyat in after them.

“Do you want to get an early dinner?” she asked, tossing her keys forward between the seats to I could start the car while she buckled her son in.

I checked the time on the dash as the car came to life. “I should call Ronnie,” I said, scrambling to find my phone among my own hoard of bags. “I don’t know what he and Arch got into today. If they haven’t eaten, the five of us could grab something together.”

Heather chuckled and nodded. “Better make sure Arch gets fed something more than ice cream and sprinkles today. Knowing Ronnie, he’s probably letting Arch make all his own decisions and drive the car around the city.”

“Ronnie wouldn’t risk the Escalade,” I joked. “He loves that thing more than he loves himself.”

Heather snorted in laughter, pushing her hair back as she shut the back door and got into the driver’s side. “I’m sure he and Arch are fine,” she said seriously. “That boy is one thing that Ronnie really does love more than anything else.”

I dialed the number and put the phone to my ear as Heather backed out of the parking space. It rang a few too many times before Ronnie answered, sounding out of breath on the other end of the line. “Hey, Atti,” he said. “What’s up?”

I frowned and leaned my elbow against the door. “What are you two up to?” I asked. “Are you running? Where’s Arch?”

“I’m not running,” Ronnie said, evening his tone out, “and Arch is right here. Why, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m just calling to check in. Heather and I are done shopping, and we wanted to see if you and Arch ate already because we’re going to get something to eat soon.”

He answered, “No, we were going to meet up with the guys in a little bit. We’re just out with Charlie right now, so once we round him up we can meet you somewhere. Is it cool if the band comes?”

I pieced together his story quickly. “Is Arch running with Charlie?” I asked. “What park are you guys at? You better keep an eye on him. Don’t let him get too close to the water, Ron.”

“You don’t have to worry about that, Atticus,” Ronnie answered. “I already pulled him out of the lake. He’s currently running off the water with the dog, so I’ll text you when we’re all dry and we can meet you at that place you like downtown, yeah?”

“You let him go in the lake?” I asked incredulously, catching a look from Heather. “Ronnie, you’re supposed to keep an eye on him. If he’s soaking wet, he has to change clothes before we go anywhere.”

“Alright, then we’ll meet you at the house, but it’s going to be awhile. Arch already knows he’s not allowed in the car like that.” Away from the phone, Ronnie shouted for Arch to keep running, and I could hear Charlie barking over the little boy as he replied.

“Don’t run him ‘til he’s dead,” I said slowly. “He’s six, not a pro-athelete.”

”He’s fine,” Ron said. ”We’ll see you in a little bit. Love you.” The line went dead and I put the phone back in my bag. Heather glanced at me expectantly, waiting to hear the plans.

“I’m going to meet them back at the house and we’re going to change Arch’s clothes and then go out to dinner with the guys. You and Kyat are more than welcome to come, Heather.”

“Yeah, of course,” she said, nodding quickly. “Did Ronnie say how long they’ll be? Should we just go to your house or I can meet you at the restaurant later..?”

“I should take my car home,” I said, “but you and Kyat can follow me back to the house and hangout until Ron and Arch are back. They shouldn’t be too long. Ronnie can’t make that boy run much longer.” I told Heather what happened with Arch at the park and we headed back towards her house to get my car and a change of clothes for Kyat. I didn’t know which place Ronnie was referring to when he said 'the place downtown,' so we grabbed an extra set of clothes for the boy and some toys to keep Kyat occupied and quiet in the restaurant.

Heather pulled out of her driveway first, and I trailed behind her through the city as we made our way back to Pasadena. She didn’t come out this way too often, but she knew it well enough to know the way to my house. I was trapped a stop light that she made it through, so she was already parked on the side of the street when I rolled into the driveway. I was just about to yell for her to get out of the car when I saw the other person on my front steps.

I smiled instinctually, and then it dropped away as I remember the last time I’d seen him. I climbed out of the car. Heather gave me a good thirty seconds before she got out with Kyat.

Chance stepped down the stairs as I walked up. Heather trailed awkwardly behind me. I walked around Chance and unlocked the front door. “You can go in, Heath. I’ll be right in.”

She kept her eyes on me, trying to communicate silently as she walked around us and took her son and my bags inside. She hadn’t officially met Chance. Not since that day at the park when Arch stumbled upon him, and Heather asked me to be Kyat’s guardian.

“I’m surprised to see you,” I said, turning my attention to the brunette when Heather was completely in the house. She was comfortable enough inside that it wasn't awkward for her to be there alone, so I wasn’t too worried about joining her right away.

“Yeah, well,” he started, blue eyes blaring into mine, “I’m the one who should be embarrassed to be here. I guess I got tired of waiting to hear from you.”

“I thought it was better that I gave you some space, gave us both some space, until I figured this out.” I wanted to shrug, to let him know that it was both an easy and hard decision. Nothing had changed since we last talked, and I had nothing to say to him now that I didn’t say then.

“What’re you figuring out?” he asked. Some of his anger from last week had faded away, or at least been put on the backburner for now. We didn’t have a history of yelling at each other when things got tough. We got quiet, and he was quiet now.

“All of this,” I answered, motioning to him and me and the house. “I don’t know how to make any of it work, Chance. I’m going into all of it blind and I’m hurting people that I don’t want to hurt.”

“I’m not trying to make things harder for you,” he said, soft-spoken and honest. “I’d just like to know where we stand.”

“Chance, we’re-“

“Actually, Atticus,” he stopped me, slowly, calmly, “I need you know where you stand with him.”

“I can’t keep doing this,” I said, shaking my head as I side-stepped. “I want to make things work with you, but we can’t keep talking about Ronnie every time we’re together.”

“I just need to know,” he answered, winding down. “I know I signed up for this mess, but you’re right, I’m not ready for all of this. I’ve never been in love with anyone, Atticus, not like this, not in the real world. And I’m freaking out over the fact that you can walk away from this whenever you want.”

“That’s what a relationship is, Chance,” I said. “People walk away when it’s not working.”

He licked his bottom and lip and slid it between his teeth in one slow motion. “Are we not working?”

“We’re going in circles,” I answered. “We’re stuck on Ronnie and the baby and the fact that I can’t be what you want me to be. We can’t go back in time and I can’t just pretend that Ronnie’s not important to me.”

“Am I important to you?”

“Of course you are,” I breathed.

Chance moved forward and reached up to me, slipping his fingers around my throat to the back of my neck where they tangled in my hair. He kissed me slowly, unrushed, and his lips skimmed my cheek as he pulled back. “I don’t want to hide anymore, Atticus,” he spoke, brushing his thumb across my skin.

“We can't do this right now,” I said quietly, running my hands down from his shoulders to his hands. I slipped my fingers around his wrists and pulled his fingers from my face. “Arch is on his way home and Heather’s watching from the window.” There were confessions on my tongue that I wasn't ready to speak and plans in place that would take me farther from him and closer to Ronnie. Telling him about the move would be hard so I placated him instead. Making time between then and now.

Chance turned and his blue eyes landed on the blonde in the window frame. She held Kyat with one arm and didn’t turn away when Chance saw her. The twenty-one-year-old dropped his hands to his sides and nodded, turning his attention back to me.

"We'll talk later?" he echoed, questioning my words for reassurance. It made me wonder if he thought I'd just drop him out of my life without warning. I knew that any deviation would break his heart and I was walking on eggshells trying to keep him together.

"Yeah, of course," I answered, brushing my fingertips against his palms as I pulled away. Trying so hard to make this sound like less of a goodbye.

I went inside and Heather watched him until he was gone. Until his car pulled away from the street and disappeared out of my neighborhood. Then she turned towards me, Kyat still in her arms, and looked at me with that gaze she'd perfected.

“What?” I asked defensively.

“You shouldn’t lead him on,” she answered. She passed Kyat to me as he squirmed around, reaching out for me when she walked too close. I took the baby and followed her over to the couch.

“Oh, come on, Heather,” I rebutted as she sat down. “You’re the one who told me that I make all my own choices and that Chance can be part of my life if I wanted him to be. What’s changed between then and now? That was just a few months ago.”

“I’ve seen you, Atti!” she said, facing me. “You’ve been miserable for months. Even when Chance was around. Sure, he distracted you and you thought you were happy, but you haven’t been normal since Ronnie left and you didn’t come back until he did.”

“Don’t you dare give him that much power,” I rebutted. “My life doesn’t revolve around Ronnie, Heather. It’s not fair of you to say that.”

“You’re not seeing what I’m seeing,” she answered. “You didn’t see yourself when he was gone. You hated everything and everyone, and now that he’s back you can suddenly handle all this again. That boy might not have recognized that look on your face when he told you he loved you, but I did, and I know you too well to believe that you feel the same way about him.”

“I never said I did,” I answered. “I feel like I don't have enough space to fit anyone else in, but I sure as hell care a lot about him Heather, and it's not fair for you to put all this on me. Chance is important to me, even if you can't understand that.”

“It’s not fair to let him believe that someday you'll love him more than you love Ronnie, because we both know that's not true.”

My jaw snapped shut as I digested her words. I shook my head, at a loss for words, and set her son down in her lap. “Heather, I love you,” I spoke, “but you don’t know everything about me. And despite what I’ve told you, you’ll never understand what it is that Ronnie and I had and what we have now. He's the father of my child and someone I love a lot, but we can't go back to the way we were.”

“Keep telling yourself that and you’re going to ruin your chance of getting your life back, Atti,” Heather said, grabbing her son to steady him. “You really need to think about everything before you make any decisions. Chance is a good guy and I can’t fault you for caring about him, but your baby will be here and then things will get even more complicated, so consider everything.”

"It's not like there's a choice I can just make," I argued, "Ronnie or Chance, it's not like that at all. I can't just wake up one day and decide that I want to be with Ronnie again. There's more to think about. It's just not that simple, Heather."

"I know," she stressed, "but I wish it were. I wish you would realize that it could be that easy if you put yourself first for once. If someday you wake up and you're in love with Ronnie the way you used to be in love with Ronnie, I hope you're strong enough to choose you over Chance."

“Ronnie’s going to flip when he finds out you’re on his side,” I answered lightly, weighed down by the tone this conversation had taken. Heather meant well, meant to be inspiring and encouraging and wanted to remind me of all the times I'd been so lost in Ronnie. I couldn’t fault her for not understanding. Sometimes even I struggled to understand what it was that had separated us. But the divide was too hard to explain to anyone that couldn't feel it.

Heather chuckled, brushing off her seriousness to stifle our 'fight.' “I’m not on his side. I’m just not on Chance’s side either. You’re my best friend, Atticus, I just want to see you happy and I don't want you to screw up your life. Ronnie's not perfect, but I remember how you are with him, and I don't want you to give up on that.”

"I'm not giving up, I just can't force what I don't feel," I answered, combing back my hair with my fingers. "It's like the more I try to simplify things, the more convoluted they get and I can't identify what it is that I'm looking for, Heather. The more I try to figure this out, the more confusing it gets."

The Escalade pulled into the driveway before I could even sit down, and the two boys came through the door just minutes later. From what I could see, Arch was damp but not dripping. His jeans were the most wet, but his shirt and hair didn't look like they'd ever been in the water at all. Arch grinned at me when he came in and I glared at Ronnie.

“Do you smell like lake water? I don’t want you all smelly and gross when we go out." I headed over and touched his hair and face, running my fingers through the curls. "Should he take a bath or just change? How wet did he get?"

“He's fine,” Ronnie replied with a shrug. “He didn’t get that wet. He just went in to about his waist before I dragged him out.” He turned to Arch and pushed him towards the stairs. “Hurry up and get changed, I’m starving and you complained the whole ride home, so I know you're hungry.”

Arch giggled and bounded to the second floor. When he was gone, Ron turned to Heather and greeted her without saying much else to me. He walked around me and stood on the other side of the coffee table from Heather and Kyat, who his eyes landed on. The little blonde watched him back.

“He’s getting big,” Ronnie said, remembering the baby. He hadn’t seen much of Kyat at the baby shower and hadn't had much of a chance to really see how quickly my godson had grown. Kyat was active now and he noticed everything. He stood on his own and reached for everything. It was mind-blowing how quickly he'd grown and advanced.

Heather nodded. “He’s a year and two months now,” she explained, smoothing down her son’s curls. “I can't believe how quickly time flies when you're marking every month. You’ll see when yours gets here.” She didn’t give him a moment before she asked, “How do you feel about being a dad?”

Ronnie shrugged, but the hint of a smile crept up to the corners of his lips. “I'm ready for him. I want to him in the outside world.”

“It’s going to be amazing when you get to hold him for the first time,” she answered, smiling. “I knew Kyat was coming and everything about him, but when I saw him and held him, it was obvious that he was this little person with his own personality. I’m excited to see what your little boy is going to be like. Between the two of you, he should be a handful.”

I chuckled and nodded. That was the thing about having our own, biological baby. There weren’t any outside influences on him. Arch’s personality was created before I ever really knew him, and I just picked up where his mother had left off. Some traits had been strengthened or weakened depending on how I was with him, but his inherent personality was still intact.

With this baby, everything has to be either me or Ronnie. There’s no outside source to change or shape him in anyway. His genes are from us and his personality is going to come from us. We created him and we’ll continue to impact him for the rest of his life.

“Have you guys thought of any names for him?” Heather asked, pulling Kyat into her lap as the little boy tried to climb to his feet on the couch cushions.

“I haven’t even had time to think about it,” I admitted. “I don’t even have any ideas.”

Arch’s bedroom door opened then and he stepped out wearing a pair of black joggers and a Hoods Up t’shirt. Ronnie grinned at the sight of him and told him to find some dry shoes and come downstairs. Arch rounded back to his closet, grabbed his low top Converse, and then came downstairs to put them on. Ronnie answered Heather much the same as I had and then Arch was back downstairs with us.

“Arch, tie your own shoes,” I reminded him as he sat down next to Kyat to put them on. I went to the front closet to grab a jacket for myself. “Ronnie, do you still have his sweatshirt in the car?”

“Yeah, it’s in the back."

I slipped my arms into an oversized black Windbreaker and zipped it up over my stomach. Everything else was still in my bag, so I picked it up from the floor near the shopping bags and slipped it across my chest.

Arch noticed the bags right away. “What did you buy?” he asked. He kept his eyes on his shoes so he could concentrate on looping the strings and pulling one under. Ronnie stood directly across from him, just watching.

“Just some clothes for you and the baby,” I answered easily. “I’ll show you when we get home. You almost done there?”

Arch dropped one foot and pulled the other one onto the couch. “Yes.”

Ronnie kneeled down in front of him and tied it for him. The three of us pretended that I didn’t see anything and then we were out the door. Heather held Kyat and walked out behind Ronnie. I locked the door as they continued to the driveway. Ronnie lifted Arch into the backseat and then turned, holding onto the open driver's door, and gave Heather the name of the restaurant and quickly described its general location for her.

When Heather was sure she could find it herself, she loaded Kyat into his carseat and got in. I slipped between her car and the Cadillac and got in the passenger's seat. Ronnie's door was still open and he stood in the space between it, searching his pockets for something.

"Ron, tell Heather just to follow us if she's worried about finding the place," I said to him, nodding to the woman in front of us. Ronnie leaned out from between the door and relayed the message to her. Then he pulled his phone out of his back pocket, tossed it into its usual spot on the dash, and climbed in so we could go.