‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


“Could you please bring us another cup of salsa?” I asked, stopping the waiter as he passed. Arch nodded quickly, leaning towards me across the table.

“And sour cream!” he shouted. He whipped around in his seat to catch the man before he could walk away.

“Yeah, of course,” the waiter answered. He stopped at the corner of the table and looked us over. “Can I get anything else? Maybe a couple of refills?” He motioned to the empty glasses across the table.

Arch’s blue eyes darted from me to Ronnie and back. “Can I have cherry?”

“No, you have chocolate milk,” I denied. His cup was still almost entirely full. I knew he’d been stealing sips from Ronnie’s soda, but that didn’t mean I wanted him to have his own.

The waiter headed off amidst the continuous chatter from our table and I turned my attention back to my quesadillas, grinning at Heather as she picked our conversation back up. “I just really can’t believe Kyat has to go back into daycare,” she said, shaking her head at the thought. “I’m trying to get him into mine, but I don’t know if that’s going to work out. It’s just hard to find a place that we both like that works with both our schedules.”

“You should take him to Nicholas,” I said immediately, surprised that the thought hadn’t occurred to either of us. “They’re really great and super flexable.”

“Really?” she asked, skeptically, “I don’t know.”

“Why not? They’re great. Arch loves it there and Kyat will get all the attention he deserves. It’s so much better than leaving him at a daycare where he just sits around all day. They really try to teach kids as much as possible.”

“I don’t know anything about them,” she rebutted, “And plus, I don’t know if Aiden and I want to shell out the money for a daycare like that. I love Ky and want him to have the best things, but Aid and I don’t want to up our budget for daycare too much more.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I guess it is pretty expensive,” I noted. I hadn’t even considered where the baby would go when he was old enough. Money wasn’t an issue, but Nicolas wouldn’t be anything more than a daycare for him. As much as they tried to bring education into the picture, there was only so much a newborn child could learn.

“I’ll talk to Aiden about it,” she replied, “It might be nice to have Ky and Arch in the same place.” She grinned at me, obviously thinking of carpools and pickups. “Who knows, maybe Aiden will love the idea.”

“If you can swing it, I think it would be great for him,” I answered, eager to have Aiden and Heather as part of the Nicolas community.

“Att, your phone’s going off.”

I looked up across the table to Ronnie. His eyes flashed to my cell phone and then to me as he repeated what he said. I grabbed for the cell phone. It was face-down on the table near the top of my plate.

I frowned at the name on the screen. “It’s Lyla Ains,” I said, confused.

Arch stared at me. “You said we didn’t have to see my mom,” he said, referring to the fact that Lyla cancelled our last visitation without really explaining why.

“We didn’t,” I replied quickly, trying to calm him. I stood up, pushing my chair back to get out from between Heather and Derek. Derek’s conversation came to a halt and he climbed up, moving my chair out of the way for me. I stepped back away from the table and lifted the phone to my ear, sliding the bar across the screen.

“Hey, Lyla.”

“Atticus, hello,” she greeted. She cleared her throat, preparing to say something more.

The tone of her voice set me on edge and set me off. “What’s wrong?” I asked, “Is there something wrong with the case? Are they giving him back to her? Is that why they cancelled his visitation? I thought we still had a month before-”

“No, it’s nothing like that,” she answered immediately, ”I don’t have all the details, but they’ve just informed me that there’s been a change in Arch’s case. Her lawyer called the office and it’s apparently something on Abigail’s end. I’m sorry, but I don’t know much more than that. I’m heading down right now to get more answers. I wanted to let you know what’s going on.”

“That’s all you know?” I asked incredulously, “What did her lawyer say? Why did he call? That doesn’t make any sense? Is she terminating her rights?”

“I don’t know,” Lyla answered apologetically, ”I’m not sure what he wants. I’m heading straight into a meeting when I get there. I’ll call you afterwards.”

“What? No, Lyla, I’ll meet you there. I can be there in thirty minutes. I’ve just got to drop Arch at daycare and I’m on my way.” I tucked the phone between my cheek and my shoulder and turned back to the table. I noticed their eyes on me as I moved to grab my things. “Arch, come on, we’ve got to go.”

Lyla was talking in my ear. ”You won’t make it to the meeting,” she said, ”And I can’t let you in anyway. It’s better if you just wait until we know more.”

“I’m coming, Lyla,” I demanded, “Please don’t try to talk me out of it because it won’t work. I need to know what’s going on.” I ended the call and shoved my phone back into my pocket. “Arch, come on, we’ve got to go.”

Arch frowned at me and the group around the table became frantic. Their conversations slowly tapered off and all eyes were on me. “Why are we going? I want to eat my quadilla,” Arch said, upset already.

I shook my head at him. “Ronnie will pack your quesadilla up to go,” I answered immediately, “You’re going to Nicolas for a little while. I have to run down and talk to Ms. Lyla.”

Arch clambered out of his chair. The little boy squeezed between his own chair and Ronnie’s and the singer got up to let him through. “Atticus, wait, wait, what’s going on?” He lifted Arch from the ground.

I couldn’t say much with Arch’s eyes and ears on me. “Lyla has something she wants to talk to me about,” I told Ronnie, “It can’t wait. Can you please take him to Nicolas for me? Tell them I’ll pick him up in a couple hours.”

Derek got up next and stopped another waitress before she could pass us. I tried to focus in on what Ronnie was saying while Derek asked the woman for a couple of to-go boxes.

“I don’t want to go,” Arch shouted, scrambling out of Ronnie’s arm. He stood on his chair, trying to talk over all of us.

“Atticus, what is going on?” Ronnie demanded, “You can’t just run out of here like this. You need to calm down. Too much commotion isn’t good for the baby.”

“Don’t you dare pull the ‘pregnant’ card on me,” I shot, shaking my head at him, “I need to go see what’s going on, Ronnie.”

He frowned at me, reaching for his phone. “What did she say? If you tell me, we can go together.”

I sighed in frustration. “No, Ronnie, I need you to take Arch to Nicolas. I told Lyla that I would be there in thirty and the longer I argue with you, the later I am.”

Derek leaned across my chair so he could empty my plate into the to-go box. He passed one over to Ronnie as the singer argued with me. Ryan took it for Ronnie and filled it with what was left of Arch’s food.

“We can take him together,” Ronnie stressed, “I’m not pulling the pregnancy ‘card’, Atticus. You are pregnant. You can’t just take off like this. And you don’t even have your car here. How are you going to get there?”

Heather grabbed my arm to turn my attention to her. Concern laced her expression. “He’s right,” she said, “Just slow down a little bit and think things through.”

Derek pressed the box into my hands. “I’ll take Arch,” he told me, grinning easily, “We’ll finish eating and hangout for a while and you can pick him up from my house later.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Ronnie answered across the table. He turned his gaze back on me. “We’ll both leave now, I’ll drive. We can drop him at daycare and then head down and see what’s going on.”

“Seriously, it’s fine,” Derek responded to us both, shaking his head at the two of us, “I have no plans tonight. Arch is great. Stop wasting time and get going. My car’s unlocked so just toss his seat in there.”

“I want to go with you,” Arch refuted, looking between Ronnie and I.

“You can’t come,” I answered, “Either you go to Nicolas or you stay with Derek for awhile. I’ll call you as soon as we know something, okay, baby?” I turned to Heather and apologized for leaving like this.

“It’s fine. Of course, it’s fine, Atti. If you want, I can stay here with Arch for a little while.” She had Kyat swaddled in her arms, curled close to her body.

I shook my head. “No, Derek’s got him. You can head home whenever you want. I’ll call you once I know more about what’s going on.”

She wrapped her free arm around my shoulders and grabbed me tight in a hug. I hugged her back and then separated, heading around the table to my son. Arch wasn’t crying, but he was obviously upset. He still stood on his chair next to Ronnie and he was about shoulder height with the man, almost face to face with me.

“I’m sorry, baby,” I said as I wrapped him up in my arms, “We’ll pick you up in a little while, okay? You’ll have fun with Der.”

Ronnie and I hurried out of there before Arch could get any more upset. Ronnie unlocked the car and I took Arch’s booster seat from the backseat and situated it in Derek’s, which was parked just a few cars down from us.

Ronnie stood at the passenger’s side when I walked back over. He opened the door for me and stood there until I was up and in. “What did Lyla say?” he asked directly, “Why are you so worried?”

He shut my door and I waited for him to come around before I answered. “She said that something’s happening with Abigail right now and her lawyer called to talk to Lyla. She had no idea what it was about, but she wanted to give me a heads up, I guess.”

“What could Abigail have done?” he asked. He started the car and backed out of our space. He hadn’t been to the CPS building since we started going for visitation with Abigail, but he knew how to get there.

“I have no idea,” I breathed, “I’m going out of my head trying to figure out what could’ve changed things. You should’ve heard the tone of her voice, Ronnie, she was completely confused too.”

He reached across the center and grabbed my hand, pulling my fingers apart and slipping his between mine instead. “We’re going to be there soon and then we’ll figure it out, Atti. Don’t stress until we know what there is to worry about.”

“I can’t help it,” I retorted, pushing my bangs out of my face, “I can’t just not know what’s going on with my son, Ronnie. I can’t stand it. If we walk in there and they can’t tell us anything, I’m going to lose it.”

“I’ll handle it,” he said, dark eyes sliding to mine, “Don’t worry, Atticus.”

We pulled up to the Child Protective Services building twenty minutes later and I flew through the front door as fast as I could. The woman working there was one that I recognized, but she still looked concerned to see me rushing towards her. “I’m Atticus Gurewitz,” I said immediately, placing my hands flat against the counter, “Lyla Ains called me. I’m supposed to meet with her here.”

The woman glanced behind me as Ronnie came through the door. I glanced back at him and then turned my attention back to her. She linked her hands together. “Yes, Ms. Gurewitz, Lyla told me you were coming. The issue is, she’s in a meeting with Mrs. Drewry’s representative right now.”

“Her lawyer is here?” I questioned, “I don’t understand. Why does Abigail need her lawyer? We’re not supposed to have another hearing until late January. What is going on?”

Ronnie put his hands on my shoulders and squeezed lightly. It was his way of reminding me to stay calm. I felt him behind me, his chest brushing against my shoulder. “We need as much information as you can give us,” he said calmly, “Should we call our lawyer?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Gurewitz, I’m not briefed on your son’s case. If you’ll take a seat, I can tell Ms. Ains that you’re here once she’s done speaking with Mrs. Drewry’s lawyer. That’s all I can do for you right now.”

“We’re not married,” I retorted, frustrated that she didn’t know anything about us or Arch, “I want to know what’s going on and I want to speak with Lyla right now. Ms. Ains is Arch’s social worker, not his advocate. If they’re speaking about my son, then we deserve to have someone in there who can speak up for Arch’s best interest.”

“I assure you, Ms. Ains is plenty capable of considering Arch’s best interest,” she answered, leaning forward in her chair, “I need you to take a seat. You’re not allowed back there at the moment. I’m sorry.”

I sighed, aggravated, and stepped back from the desk so I could find my phone. “I’m calling my lawyer,” I said, trying to get my shaking fingers to cooperate, “This is bullshit. You can’t just make us sit out here.”

Ronnie took the phone from me and located Jackson Russo in the contacts. He dialed the man and then handed it back to me. He turned around and headed to the seating nook on the right side of the room. I paced the small space between chairs as Russo’s assistant transferred the call to his cell phone.

When he picked up, I explained everything I knew as fast as I could.

“I’m on my way, Atticus,” he said, shuffling in the background, “I don’t know what could’ve happened, but we’ll find out. I’m sure Ms. Ains will tell you once she’s done with Mr. Burley, but it’s best if I’m there too, just in case. I can be there in thirty minutes, forty-five at most. I’ll try to hurry.”