‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


Russo made it just minutes before Lyla Ains concluded the meeting that we’d been locked out of. She and Abigail’s lawyer walked out from a room in the back together, speaking softly and looking grim. I rushed forward immediately, cradled by Ronnie as he stayed close.

“What is going on?” I demanded, stepping in front of them. They had no choice but to stop and face me. Eric Burley looked shocked to see me there, while Lyla’s expression was knowing but exasperated. The man questioned her directly.

“Did you call her?” he interrogated. “You’re supposed to be looking out for the child, not his foster parents.”

Lyla looked offended that he would suggest she wasn’t. “Atticus is Arch’s parent until the judge changes that,” she retorted. “It’s my job to make sure everyone has the most up to date information so we can make the best decisions.”

“Lyla, what’s going on?” I asked again, crossing my arms above my stomach. I glanced at the lawyer. His presence made me more nervous than anything. Something was happening on Abigail’s end and I had no clue what it was. “Are they taking him from me? Do they know something I do? I won’t bring him to her, Lyla.”

The woman reached out and grabbed my arm to calm me. “We’ll sit down and talk about it in a moment,” she promised, making steady eye-contact, “but I need a few minutes to make some calls. I can’t tell you anything until I inform the correct people.”

Ronnie grabbed my hand to pull me back from the people. Arch’s lawyer walked up next to me. “Who do you have to inform about this?” he asked Lyla directly. “Atticus should be top priority when it comes to information about Arch.”

“There are protocols,” Lyla answered, guiding Mr. Burley around us. “I can’t blurt out sensitive information just because you’re here, but I will tell you once I’ve jumped through the right hoops.” She walked the other lawyer to the door and spoke as he passed through it. “I’ll be in touch, Mr. Burley.”

Lyla disappeared back into her office for about twenty minutes before the woman at the desk told us we could head back. I lead with way with Ronnie and the lawyer following at my heels.

“What the hell is happening?” I asked as I barged into the small room. She was seated behind her oversized desk, phone in hand. She hung up just as I sat down across from her.

Russo took the seat next to me and Ronnie stood behind me. There wasn’t much space for all of us to cram into the room. The desk took the majority of the space, shelves lined the wall above half, and a potted plant sat in the corner to bring some life into the bland office.

“Atticus, I got a call earlier today from Abigail’s lawyer,” she spoke clearly, explaining everything to me calmly so that I would remain that way. “Abigail is pregnant.”

I could feel the blood pulsing through my veins. “What?”

Abigail nodded tensely. “Apparently she's known for a few weeks, but we just found out this morning. There was some issue and her sister took her to the hospital. We don't have all the details, but from what we heard it sounds like she's alright.”

I drew a blank. The words made sense and the sentence was clear to me, but the idea of Abigail having another baby was foreign and unforeseen. I muttered out some gibberish, trying to form questions once at a time. Finally, I shook it off. “How far along is she?”

“From what her lawyer said, she's about around nine weeks. The reason that we’re taking action is because Abigail is legally required to inform us if her situation changes, which is why her lawyer came today. I don’t know how long she’s known, but as soon as Mr. Burley found out, he let us know.”

“What does this mean?” I asked. “For Arch, what does it mean for Arch?”

“At this time, we don’t know. Mrs. Drewry is required to speak with a counsellor and facilitator. Once we know more about what’s going on, we’ll be able to get a more accurate read on the situation.”

“I don’t know what this means,” I replied. “I don’t know how any of this is supposed to work, Lyla. Arch’s in the foster system and she’s unfit to have custody of him, can she just have another child?”

Abigail nodded slowly, clasping her hands together. “It usually depends on the circumstances,” she explained. “In Abigail’s case, her visitation and custody case are based on her current situation. Which means that she can’t drastically alter her circumstances. If she has another child, then her living situation will change and we will need to reevaluate her case.”

I frowned. “You have no idea what's going to happen? She's just going to have another child and everybody's fine with that? You know what she's like around Arch, Lyla. How is this fair to either of them?”

“At this point, we’re going to speak with her and reevaluate her status. There are a lot of factors that play into this. The judge won’t just give him to you because Abigail is going to have another child. Mostly, this will affect the new baby and whether or not Abigail will have custody of the child, but Arch's placement will also be affected.”

“But she can't have him now,” I said, my lungs loosening as I followed her train of thought. "She wasn't allowed to have him when it was just him, but how is she supposed to take care of two children?"

Abigail was allowed to file for custody because her current living situation and circumstances were deemed stable enough for a child, pending the trial. She had steps to follow, but she was making progress. The next thing on a list was to get her own apartment and once she did that, her case would be much stronger. If she has another baby, the courts would reconsider her ability to take care of the baby and Arch.

“What is she thinking?” I asked, shaking my head at the whole idea. Trying to ignore the frustration that was building. “Does she think that having another baby will prove she really wants him? I have no idea what could’ve possessed her to get pregnant. This stunt proves that she’s not stable enough to raise Arch.”

“Atticus,” Lyla said, her tone admonishing and serious.

I looked up to meet her gaze, surprised. “What?”

She motioned across the desk to me. “Look at yourself. You’re very pregnant right now. Despite being on your own, you’ve got your life together. Arch loves you and loves the new baby. The last time Abigail saw you, Arch was talking about how excited he was to have a little brother or sister. It’s not all that surprising that she’s trying to emulate you. Arch loves you.”

“You think she’s trying to copy me?” I questioned. “Arch loves me because I’ve been there for him. He’s not going to want to go live with her just because she’s having a baby. It’s ridiculous to think that she could win him over with a sibling.”

“It’s not that crazy,” Ronnie spoke, leaning against the wall next to me. “Arch loves the idea of having a little brother. If he knew that he really had one, biologically, I mean. He might be more open to the idea of letting her in his life. Especially when he gets older.”

Russo cut in, speaking to Lyla for the first time since joining us in the room. “Mrs. Drewry isn’t cleared to have custody of a child,” he said, recalling facts. “If she has another baby, wouldn’t it be likely that Child Protective Services takes custody of child? She would have to start over to regain custody of that child too.”

I looked to Lyla immediately, stunned.

She sighed. “If Mrs. Drewry's child is born before she’s deemed fit or after being denied, we would be prepared to remove the child from her custody. If the child’s father is known, we’d do an investigation into his circumstances and turn his child over to him. If not, the baby will go into foster care until Mrs. Drewry is fit to take care of it or until she relinquishes parental rights and the child can be put up for adoption.”

“You’re just going to let that happen?” Ronnie asked. “You’re just going to let her have another child that’ll be put into the foster care system? We’ve seen how it works and you can’t seriously allow that to happen. Everyone knows that she won't let another one of her kids get adopted. She'd rather have them rot in the foster system until they age out.”

Lyla spoke, “We don’t have any right to tell Mrs. Drewry that she can’t give birth to another child if that’s what she wants to do. We only have a say after that point. If she’s still unstable after a child is born, then we step in.”

I paled, sick to my stomach at the thought of another child going into the foster system. Born only to be put into a system where he or she would be passed from family to family waiting for Abigail to get her life back together.

“You have to tell her what could happen if she has another baby,” I said quickly. “You have to inform her that the baby could end up in the system like Arch. If she has any brains, she won’t do that to another child.”

“Atticus, we know how to do our jobs,” Lyla answered. “I’ll speak with Mrs. Drewry once she’s released from the hospital. I can advise her on hypotheticals all I want, but I can’t coerce her into giving her child up for adoption.”

I shook my head adamantly, climbing up from my seat. I was practically shaking. “That’s bullshit, Lyla,” I said, looking back to the woman. “If she has this baby and does the same thing she did to Arch, I’ll have to live with the fact that Arch’s little brother or sister is going to end up in the system, because we all know that there’s no way in hell Abigail Drewry is sane enough to raise one kid, let alone two. It’s complete bullshit.”

I squeezed between the chairs and threw the door open, running through future hypotheticals and sickening thoughts in my head. Ronnie followed me out, catching up to me midway down the hallway that led back out to the front door. “Atticus, slow down,” he begged. “I know you’re upset, but lets talk about it.”

“I don’t know what there is to talk about,” I retorted, stopping near the front door of the building. I turned to face him, pressing back into the door, and caught the receptionist’s worried look.

“This,” Ronnie answered, grabbing my arm, “we have to talk about all of this. We have to stay calm and try to figure out what this means for Arch. He's the child we're worried about, not some other baby.”

I shook my head, leaning back so that the door cracked open, giving me more space and a quicker escape. “It's Arch's sibling,” I argued, voice cracking. "Not just a baby, Ronnie, Arch’s brother or sister. And there’s nothing we can do about it. I have no say whether or not my son has a sibling and no control over what happens to it.”

“That’s right, you don’t,” Ronnie answered, “but Arch doesn’t have a connection to that woman or anyone else in that family. Arch doesn't have a connection to her baby. Not like he does with our son. This is his brother, Atticus.”

“But he’s her biological mother. Any baby she has will be his biological sibling. You don’t think he’ll want to know that he has a brother or sister out there? What if she gets everything together and starts a new family? You don’t think he’ll be upset that she did it with out him? It doesn’t matter how much he loves us, Ronnie, someday he’s going to resent me for that.”

Ronnie shook his head as I spoke, casting out the ideas before they could even settle. “That’s not true,” he said. “Arch has wanted to be part of our family since the day we met him. Through everything, all he’s wanted is to have you as his mom. Nothing is going to change that, Atticus.”

He spoke softly, rationally. “Come back to the office so we can talk about this with Lyla and Jackson. You said it yourself, this is a good example of why she’s not capable of raising Arch. We should talk to them about the case.”

“I really don’t want to think about this,” I replied. “It makes me sick.” I grabbed the crossbar handle and stepped outside, holding the metal and glass door open between us. “What’s Russo still talking to her about?”

“Arch,” Ronnie said simply, “and what this could mean for your adoption case. I think he’s trying to lock down some details before they move forward and talk to Abigail about it.”

I nodded. “I’ll be there in a minute. I’m just going to take a quick breather and calm down.”

He nodded too. “Good idea. It kills me to see you so upset about this. Especially with that baby in there. I know it’s a myth that stress causes problems, but literally sprinting down the hallway can’t be good for either of you.”

I chuckled, tucking my hair back. “They say exercise is good for pregnant women,” I told him. “Means I can have an extra greasy cheeseburger for dinner.”

Ronnie smiled. “I’ll take you to get something to eat when we’re done here. I should get in there though so I can proxy for you until you’re calm.”

I told him to go and went outside while he turned the other direction. I walked to the Escalade despite the fact that it was locked and stood there. The sun wasn’t setting drastically, but it was drooping just enough that the light filtered sideways through the clouds.

I wanted to call Arch, just to talk to him, but I knew he’d pick up the nerves in my words. He was empathetic to the point of reading my emotions in the tone of my voice. It was how he gauged how much he could get away with at home before I was really mad at him.

The thought of Abigail having another baby had never crossed my mind. In her mind, it was an obvious ‘solution’ to her problems and after the way she spoke to me at our last visitation, telling me to have a baby of my own and leave hers alone, I should’ve realized that something like this might’ve occurred to her. In my mind, Arch had always been singular, untied to anyone or anything. He flitted from his mother, to the Harrises, and back to me where I wanted him to stay.

I never considered that there might be another piece of him out there sometime. Someone who he might want to know and be linked to. The idea of spending the rest of my life keeping him connected to a sibling in the foster system made me sick. Selfishly so. It would never be our life if there was someone out there reminding Arch of what his life was before adoption.

It was the same feeling I got when Lyla told me Abigail might have visitation rights for the rest of Arch’s life, except it was worse, because a baby wouldn’t have any fault. I didn’t feel bad keeping Abigail from Arch, but keeping Arch from his only non-partisan blood family would make me feel like a monster.

If Lyla couldn’t influence Abigail to do the right thing - could only feed her hypotheticals and worst-case scenarios, I knew the woman would never listen, wouldn’t believe it until it was too late.
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Hey everyone! So this chapter is very familiar to you. I made some changes. I was pretty unhappy with some of the story, so I'm doing some small edits to keep the story on the right track. :)

If you're confused, reading the last couple of chapters will definitely help.