‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Christmas Part I

In the week leading up to Arch’s first Christmas with us, I was desperate to get everything perfect for him. Instead of spending it just at Russell’s like we did last year, we were going to split the day between my father’s house and Ronnie’s. We wanted Arch to be part of both families despite the fact that he wasn’t technically related to the Radkes.

The plan was to be at my dad’s by ten so we could rope everyone into an early lunch around eleven. Hopefully, we’d be able to sneak out by two. The ride to Las Vegas was almost four hours and everyone was going to be there by six so would could eat dinner as soon as we got there.

“Ronnie, don’t forget to take Arch’s bag to the car with the presents,” I shouted out of my bedroom. He was in Arch’s bedroom, trying to get the little boy dressed. The six year old wouldn’t agree on what he wanted to wear. Nice clothes were usually reserved for Nicholas and Arch didn’t want to look like he was going to school.

“I’m trying, but he’s not cooperating,” the singer shouted back.

I sighed. We had to leave in the next thirty-minutes if we wanted to be at my dad’s early enough to keep us on schedule and I hadn’t dried my hair or done my makeup. Arch refused to bathe last night, so I shuffled him into the bath before I was able to shower and that set us back already.

I rounded into Arch’s room, throwing the door open. “Arch, get dressed,” I demanded. “Your grandpa is expecting us for lunch and if you don’t put clothes on and pick what you want to take to Russell’s to wear tomorrow, I’m going to throw whatever I can find in there and you’ll wear pajamas to visit Abigail.”

He and Ronnie were in the center of their room. Arch turned to look at me, his blue eyes narrowed in disgust. “I don’t care,” he said. “I’m not going to see her.”

“We’ve been having this fight all week,” I argued, throwing my hands out in frustration, “You’re going and there’s nothing either of us can do about it. Ms. Amanda said that you have to spend time with her around Christmas, so you and I both have to go. I’m not happy about it either.”

“No, I’m not!” he shouted, pushing away from Ronnie. “I don’t want to go!”

“I don’t want to go either,” I retorted, “but we don’t always get to do what we want, Arch. She has visitation rights so that means you have to visit her.”

“Get rid of them,” he answered, upset. “I don’t want visit rights.”

I pushed my fingers through my hair. It was still damp and that just made me more frustrated. Ronnie stood up from where he was kneeling on the floor and sat down on the end of Arch’s twin bed. “Listen, buddy,” he spoke, reaching for Arch’s arm to pull him closer, “that’s not for a couple days. We’re going to spend time with our family. If we don’t get ready and get going, we’re not going to be late to Brett’s and then to my dad’s.”

“Arch, I have to finish doing my hair,” I said, running my hand over my bulging stomach. Seven months pregnant was a lot more active than any other time so far. The baby constantly made me uncomfortable, pressing against my insides at all the worst angles. “Ronnie, can you handle this?”

He nodded, exasperated. “Yeah, I’ll handle it. Is your bag downstairs? We’ll get everything into the car once he’s ready.” He handed Arch his white sweater and moved forward to help him pull it on.

“You need to get dressed too,” I answered, heading out of the room. “You can’t wear joggers and a holy t’shirt to my dad’s house.” I kept walking straight out of the room and back into my own. The blowdryer was plugged in behind my dresser so Ronnie and Arch could have access to the bathroom too.

Ronnie and I spent yesterday house hunting. I’d picked a few places off of the list he emailed me and we spent the entire afternoon jumping from neighborhood to neighborhood in Los Angeles. After he drove us back to the house, I let him stay on the couch so the three of us could leave as early as possible. It also quieted Arch’s insistent questioning about when he’d be able to sleep over at the singer’s apartment.

“I have two shirts here,” Ronnie said when I was finishing my makeup. He stood in the doorway, “and no pants at all. I don’t know what you want me to change into, Atticus.”

I turned from the mirror on my dresser and stared him down. “Your pants will do but you literally can’t walk into my parents’ house with that shirt on. It’s Christmas, not Halloween. What other shirts did you find?”

He groaned and lifted them so that I could see them. The first one was a long-sleeved, plain black shirt. I pointed to the second one almost immediately. The sleeves were rolled and pinned. It was collared with mirrored detailing on the corner and matching buttons down the front.

“At least that one looks like you tried,” I muttered.

He stepped further into the room, balking at me. “This won’t look like I tried,” he answered. “It’ll look like I don’t know how to match styles.”

I sighed loudly. “Fine, Ronnie.” I put my mascara down and stormed to my closet. I threw the doors open and rifled through the hoodie section. When I found it, I yanked it out and threw it at him.

He caught it, unravelling it so that he could see what it was. He grinned when he realized which hoodie it was. “You still have this?” he questioned, rucking up the sleeves so he could slip it on. “I haven’t seen this hoodie in a year.”

I rolled my eyes. “The last time I let you see it, it ended up in your car,” I retorted, “so I used to hide it from you so you couldn’t steal it back. Just put it on so you look presentable.”

It was the plain black hoodie that he’d given me the first time we hung out together. Since then, it’d mostly been in my possession but it switched between us now and then.

“Are you going to be ready to go in the next five minutes?” I asked, tossing all my makeup back into the the bag I pulled it out of. “Is Arch ready? I really need to get him in the car before he stages a sit-in or runs away.”

Ronnie grinned. “Just bribe him with presents. If he doesn’t get in the car, he doesn’t get to open his presents. But yeah, we’re ready to go. He’s downstairs watching TV.”

“It’s his first Christmas with us,” I replied incredulously. “We can’t hold his presents hostage because he doesn’t want to visit Abigail. I don’t want to visit her either, but I’m old enough to understand that we don’t have a choice.”

“Then we need to make him understand that he doesn’t have a choice,” Ronnie replied, stepping back as I hurdled past him to get my flats from the closer.

“It’s Christmas,” I retorted, “I don’t want to make him miserable. I don’t understand why he has to see her tomorrow either, Ronnie. It’s not fair to put him through that this close to Christmas. If she mentions anything to him about being pregnant, I’m going to throat punch her.”

Ronnie laughed, shaking his head at the whole idea. “Don’t do that. You’re too pregnant to be punching people out. We’ve only got a couple months before that little boy gets out here and I’d rather not have the two of you involved in a brawl.” He grabbed the small suitcase from where I’d put it and rolled it to the door. I gathered my phone and charger and tossed it into the underused purse I’d located this morning.

“We have to go!” I shouted through the house when I left the room and headed down the stairs. Arch was on the couch like Ronnie said and Ronnie was slipping into his shoes next to him.

“If you weren’t so pregnant, we could’ve just flown to my dad’s,” Ronnie said, looking at me with amused brown eyes.

I stepped down from the stairs and glared at him. “I didn’t get this way on my own, Radke,” I muttered, walking to Arch. “Are you ready? I bet Grandpa and Gina have lots of presents waiting for you.”

Ronnie sent me a knowing look. I purposefully ignored him. Arch nodded and climbed up from the couch. “Do you think Frida, Max, Holland, and Nico will like their presents?” he asked.

I nodded, brushing my fingers through his hair when he walked past me. “Of course they will,” I reassured him. “They’ll love anything you give them, sweetheart. Are you excited?”

We’d spent all week running all over the place trying to pick out presents for everyone. Luckily we were taking a lot of them into my dad’s house with us so the Cadillac wouldn’t be so packed for the drive to LV, but there were still a decent number stuffed into the back.

AJ’s wife had to work tonight, so she wouldn’t be at dinner, but Anthony promised to pass on her presents. The boys were going to be spoiled, Arch included. Ronnie and I had done our shopping separately, so they were getting twice as many the gifts from us this year.

Ronnie locked the apartment while I loaded Arch into the Escalade. The car was completely overstuffed with gifts. They were spilling into the backseat and Arch checked the name tag on the one closest to him the minute he climbed into the car.

“Ah eh,” I uttered, reaching to pull his hands back from the gift, “Sit down and buckle in. No touching the presents until we get to Grandpa's.” I pushed him down into his booster and pulled the seatbelt across his chest, locking him into his spot.

He frowned and reached down to push his overnight bag away from his feet. “I’m squished. There’s too much stuff by me.”

Ronnie came up behind me, pressing my house keys into my hand. He raised his eyebrows at me, grinning. “Arch and I could catch a plane,” he said, pulling the driver’s door open.

I scowled at him. “You would not make me drive all the way to Vegas on my own,” I claimed, moving around the car to work my way into the passenger’s seat. The longer I was pregnant, the harder it became to lift myself into Ronnie’s car. It was so high off the ground that I literally had to climb into it.

“I’m hungry,” Arch complained.

Ronnie cut through the center of town, up towards the north neighborhoods were my dad’s neighborhood was located. “There will be so much food you’ll puke from eating so much,” Ronnie said, glancing back in the mirror at the child.

Arch grinned. “What happens if I puke?”

“You get to eat more,” Ronnie concluded.

“No puking,” I cut in, bending around as much as possible to look at him. “I mean it, Arch. Ronnie is joking with you so don’t try to make yourself throw up today. You won’t impress anyone.”

We pulled into my parents’ driveway at quarter after ten and Arch unbuckled himself. As soon as the door was open, he threw himself out of the car and raced to the back. “Open the trunk!” he shouted, leaning around the car to look at the driver’s door. “I want to give them my presents!”

I stopped Ronnie before he got out. He paused, hand on the door, and looked to me. Arch was yelling for us, but I spoke over him. “We need to have a good holiday,” I said seriously, meeting his dark eyes with mine as my pulse quickened with anxiety. “I really need you to get along with my dad. This is Holland and Arch’s first Christmas, so it’s a big deal. I don’t want any arguments, with anyone.”

“I’m not going to start a fight with your dad,” he answered, smiling. “We’re on good terms. He didn’t start anything at the baby shower and I’m not going to start anything now.”

“Why are you smiling? I’m being serious. I know you two are fine right now, but something always comes up between you two and that can’t happen today.”

He shook his head. “I’m not smiling about that, I’m smiling because in a year from now, it’ll be Arch’s second Christmas with us and we’ll be celebrating our son’s first.”

I scowled, throwing the door open. “Now’s not the time to be sentimental, Ronnie. I need you to be on your best behavior and I need you to get out of the car and help me get the presents out.”

Ronnie leaned to my side, lightly pressing his cupped hand into my cheek. His shoulder pressed against mine and he turned his lips to my ear. “Listen to me,” he spoke quietly, keeping his voice from Arch. “We’re going to have an amazing Christmas, Atticus. Arch would love it even if we ate take-out and watched TV. Nothing you say or do is going to make him want her instead of you.”

He kissed the side of my head definitively and then slid away, shutting his door as he got out and moved toward the trunk and Arch.

I got out and shut the door behind me. Arch was behind the car and when he saw us both coming, be yanked on the handle, trying to open the locked door. Ronnie hit the button on the fob and moved Arch back so he could open it himself.

“What side did you put my family’s on?”

Ronnie blanked, turning to me slowly.

I caught on immediately. “Please don’t tell me you just threw them all in here together,” I said, pushing my hair back in frustration. “They were organized in the house for a reason, Ronnie. You don’t just mix them all up.”

“We were in a hurry,” he defended, his voice rising a bit as he argued with me. “I put them in whatever way they would fit.”

“Well, now you get to sort through them all by yourself,” I retorted, putting my hands on Arch’s shoulders to lead him away.

He pivoted back to the trunk. “I want to carry mine in so that I can give them to the right people,” he said, reaching in for the closest box.

I shook my head and pulled him back to keep him from toppling them all out. “They’re just all going under the tree, sweetheart,” I clarified. “When Ronnie brings them in, you can organize them into piles under there, okay?”

Arch looked surprised by my words and then his enthusiasm peaked. “There’s a tree in the house?” he questioned quickly. “Why don’t we have a tree at our house?”

I bit back the truest response. We’d postponed it so long that we’d run out of time. There was no reason to decorate a tree that we’d take it down in three days. “You’re going to see two Christmas trees today, so I thought that’d be enough this year, but we can get one next year, if you want.”

“Yeah, we should do that,” he quipped, nodding as he hopped up the stairs to the front door. I took his hand and walked him inside. The Christmas tree was in the living room, glowing and bright. There were already dozens of presents underneath. With five children and four adults, they added up quickly.

“Atticus, look!” Arch yanked on my hand, pulling me towards the entryway that opened into the living room.

I laughed, shaking my head at him. I pulled him back to me, letting him bump into my side. He giggled, wrapping his arms around my stomach. “I’m hungry,” he said, blue eyes looking up to me through his light lashes.

“Then it’s a good thing there’s a ton of food in the kitchen, perfect boy.”

He let go of me and crashed through the swinging door. I heard my family cheer as they realized we were all here. I headed in after him, smiling at the people in the kitchen.

My step-mom was by the stove, standing between the island and the counters. Nico was sitting in a booster seat on a tall chair and she was at the island, throwing around toys. Holland was beside her, strapped into the type of highchair that fastened onto tables and countertops. She was six months old and more gorgeous than ever.

Dad was setting out plates at the table where Max and Kasey were seated. Arch clambered up to join them just as I walked in. “Atti, you look great,” my dad spoke, setting his plates down and walking to me. “Merry Christmas!”

I hugged him back. “Merry Christmas, Dad. Merry Christmas everyone.” I swapped arms as Gina took his place. “Where’s Frida?”

“She’s probably still in the shower,” Gina answered, heading back to the food.

I moved over to say hello to my brother and his girlfriend. I wasn’t sure when the two of them had come home for Christmas. They’d been out of school for winter break for weeks now, but they’d spent the first half of their vacation visiting her family in Wisconsin.

“Baby brother,” I greeted, leaning down to hug him. “How was Wisconsin? Did you like all the snow?” I grinned at him. We’d spent time in snow as children, but never more than a couple days while Dad and the band travelled between snowy states.

“It wasn’t horrible,” he relented, releasing me. “Wisconsin was a lot colder than I expected. Everyone always talks about it being a tundra, but I don’t think you understand until you’re in negative thirty-five degree weather without a windchill.”

Kasey grinned. “I tried to warn him. We wanted to go out to Mendota lake and check out the ice fisherman, but it was freezing the day we tried. We ended up back with my parents watching movies.”

“I bet they were glad to see you finally,” I commented. She hadn’t been home since she decided to permanently move out here.

“They were, yeah. They really liked Max too, which was great.” She smiled at him and I climbed up. As much as I liked the two of them together, it was still hard to watch someone kiss my little brother like that.

“Where’s Ronnie?” Dad asked, glancing back to the door that lead to the foyer and then leaning back to get a look at the driveway from the right angle. When he couldn’t see anything, he asked, “I thought you said he was going to drive you over? Did things change?”

Arch answered for me, shaking his head. “He put the presents in the car wrong so Atti is making him carry all them by himself.” He grinned impishly. He literally jumped out of his chair at the table and barreled into the window. From his angle, he could see Ronnie in the driveway. When he was satisfied with what he saw, he turned back around and faced his family. “I got you all presents for Christmas,” he said excitedly. “Atticus said you’ll like them.”

I couldn’t help but smile at him as I sat down at the breakfast bar besides my baby sisters. This was his family, I knew that, and no matter what happened in the future, we would always be his family. He fit into our lives seamlessly and everyone adored him more than words could say.

My brother yanked Arch onto his lap, playfully fighting the little boy to get him to dish on what gifts he picked out for everyone. Arch burst into high-pitched giggles, catching Nico and Holland’s attention too.

This was our loud, oversized family and having everyone together calmed my nerves. Watching Arch with my brother, watching how easily they fit together, reminded me that Arch both belonged and wanted to be here. In his eyes, there was nothing that he wanted more than to be one of us.
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Hey guys! Thanks for the recs and welcome new subscribers!

I'm going to try to get these next chapters out pretty quickly. :)