‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


Ronnie was at the house when we pulled in. Arch was a mess in the back seat, quiet and lost to me in ways that he hadn’t been since the beginning. I perked up at the sight of the singer’s car, mostly because I knew he could help pull Arch from his thoughts.

“Ronnie’s here,” I said, glancing to him in the rearview. He lifted his head and looked through the front window, where Ronnie’s Escalade was parked in front of us.

He nodded slowly and reached to unbuckle his seatbelt as I pulled to a stop. I grabbed my phone from the cup holder and my bag from the seat next to me and got out, opening Arch’s door for him. He jumped down and the front door opened as we walked up.

“Atti, I saw this house today and it’s perfect. I swear you’re going to love it,” Ronnie breathed, stepping back from the doorway to let us inside. I watched his eyes trail over us and he words slowed as he spoke, realizing the change.

I filled him in as Arch kicked his shoes off and went to the couch. “Abigail said some things about his dad,” I said quietly, meeting Ronnie’s dark eyes as I blinked back my reaction. I wouldn’t cry for her, for the things she said, but I couldn’t stop myself for crying for my son and everything he lost.

I wiped at my eyes quickly, not wanting Arch to see me this upset, and Ronnie moved to pull me against his body. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and I ducked my face into his neck and hair, relieved, for once, that I wasn’t the only one dealing with all this impossible bullshit.

Ronnie tangled his fingers in my hair, holding me to him as he spoke. “Go upstairs and relax,” he said softly. “I’ll hang out with the kid for awhile and then I’ll be up.”

I pulled back, wiping at my face, and nodded. “Thanks.”

Ronnie shrugged. “It’s fine,” he said, softly looking me over. “Have you guys eaten recently? Are you hungry?”

I shook my head. “I’m not, but he probably needs to eat soon. I can make -“

“I’ve got it,” Ronnie answered, adamantly shaking his head. “You need to go upstairs. I’ll bring you something to eat. Just stop thinking about all of this for now. You can tell me everything when I come up.”

I agreed, letting Ronnie take control, and I went upstairs to my bedroom and shut the door. I knew that Arch was going to be okay with Ronnie. He adored the singer more than anything. Having him here would hopefully erase Abigail’s words from Arch’s mind.

I ended up changing into loose fitting clothes and climbing into bed. I laid on my side, curled around my outgrown stomach. I could hear Ronnie’s voice from downstairs as he tried to rouse Arch off the couch. I knew that the little boy was glued to the TV. It was his security blanket.

I drifted in and out, floating between the horrible things that Abigail said today and the reassurances that Ronnie came with. But with thoughts of Ronnie came thoughts of Chance and I spiraled further into my own head, wishing that everything were easier and simpler.

I woke when Ronnie slipped into the room. I wasn’t sure if I’d been daydreaming or sleeping, but either way I sat up. Ronnie offered me a timid smile.

“Arch’s passed out on the couch,” he said, shutting my bedroom door. “I managed to get him to eat, but he didn’t want to talk about it.”

I nodded wordlessly and moved back to lean against my headboard. Ronnie handed me the plate he brought with him and then tossed a bottle of water onto the bed beside me. He sat at the end, facing me.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his tone more concerned than it had been earlier. “You’re kind of freaking me out, Atticus.”

I wanted to nod, to reassure him that I’d make it through this, but everything was so compounded and the pressure of it was getting to me.

“I mean about everything,” Ronnie added, a little less certain. “I know that this Abigail thing is taking a lot out of you both, but I know that it’s been hard having me back here too. I just want to make things easier for you.”

I set the plate next to me, in the spot where Ronnie used to sleep, and I nodded, tears springing back to my eyes. “It’s not you,” I said, pushing my hair back as I cried/ “I’m sorry.”

The singer shook his head, shushing me softly as he slid up the bed so that he was at my side. His tattooed arms came around me and he held me, climbing up so that he was directly in front of me. I hugged his torso as he sat on his knees, leaning into me so that he was everything.

“Oh, baby,” he cooed, running his tattooed fingers through my hair. “Atti, I’m so sorry. Tell me what I can do. Tell me how I can help make this better.”

“I can’t do this,” I said, my words muffled into his chest. “I can’t be a mom by myself. They’re going to miss out on so much.”

Ronnie stiffened, pulling back from me so that I had to look at him. He cupped my face with his hands and sat on his knees, shaking his head so hard. “Listen to me,” he said. “You’re not alone with this, but hell, even if you were, you’re the best damn mom out there. There’s no one else I’d ever want to raise my son. You and I can do this.”

“She said that Arch will never have a father,” I told him, brisling at the memories of her voice in my head. “In front of him, she said that he’ll never have a dad. That the baby will always have two parents and he’ll only have me.”

“He only wants you,” Ronnie answered, assured. “I’ve never seen Arch want anything other than to be your son, Atticus. That woman doesn’t understand how much he loves you. He doesn’t want anything else.”

I shook my head, knowing the truth before he’d even finished speaking. Arch and I were meant to be in each others’ lives, but Arch wanted so much more. He wanted the life that Ronnie and I would give the baby. He wanted to be our child more than we could ever really make it true.

“He wants you too,” I said, breathing the words as painlessly as possible. “It’s all he’s ever wanted. He wants you to be his dad, Ronnie, and I can’t give him any of that.”

The man blanched, obvious to my revelation. He knew all this time that Arch adored him and we’d talked about him being our son, but when we broke up, it also broke Ronnie and Arch apart.

“I love him,” Ronnie said, touching my cheek with the tips of his fingers, “and I love you and I love our baby. I’m going to be in Arch’s life for the rest of his life.”

We both knew it wasn’t the same thing. It didn’t mean the same thing. I could picture our future. Summers of my son setting out with Ronnie, his father, while Arch and I stayed together. As much as I felt for our child, the baby was yet another separation between Arch and the life that I couldn’t give him.

Ronnie’s tone shifted and he moved forward, sitting so that his knees pressed into mine. His fingers pressed against my stomach, feeling the baby that we created.

“Atticus, you don’t see yourself the way that Arch sees you. The way that I see you. I’ve spent the last three and a half years in love with you and it’s not because of how beautiful you are or how often you reject me, it’s because you’re capable of so much more than you think you are. You don’t even realize that I’m right here, that I’ll always be right here. Even when I’m on the other side of the world, I’ll come back to your side the moment you need me. You don’t even have to ask.

“If you’re scared about your future with Arch, Arch’s future without his dad, you don’t have to worry because whether you’re in love with me or not, I love Arch just as much as I love this baby.” He splayed his fingers against my stomach, adding just a little pressure to accentuate his point. His dark eyes moved from the baby to my face and he slowed, moving both his hands to cup my cheeks. “I’m Arch’s dad too, Atticus. This is our family and I’m not going anywhere.”

Ronnie slid into his usual place in bed and the two of us just laid there. There wasn’t anything sexual about being in bed together. We spent the afternoon spread out under the blankets. Ronnie traced patterns on my stomach, talking to the baby and proposing names for him. He laced his fingers through mine as he pressed his lips against my bare stomach.

“I found the perfect house,” Ronnie said, dark eyes darting up from where he laid at my side, “It’s going to go quick so you really need to come see it. I told Rob that we can probably go on Friday.” He looked at me, waiting for my approval.

I nodded. “Where is it?”

The man grinned. “It’s like thirteen minutes from downtown. Ten minutes from my apartment. I’m not telling you anything else.”

I pulled my shirt down over my stomach and frowned at the man. He, noticing the movement, slid his fingers under my shirt to rest against my skin.

“You’re going to love it,” he assured me, idly moving his hand to find the baby. “It has everything you want and more. We should take Arch with us. He can pick out his bedroom.”

“You’re going to get his hopes up,” I replied, moving his hand to where the baby was kicking, “I don’t want him to get attached before we really know it’s the one.”

Ronnie rolled his eyes. “It’s the one, Atticus, trust me. I’ve looked at almost everything LA has to offer and this is the best one. If you don’t buy it, I will.”

I reached for the plate that was forgotten on the side table and picked the sandwich up. “We’ll see,” I said, smiling as the singer groaned loudly and rolled away from me.

“You’re so difficult,” he said, grinning, “I’m going to check on Arch. You want anything else?” He climbed up and walked to the door, pausing with it cracked open to look back at me.

I nodded. “There’s leftover lasagna in the fridge if you could heat me up a piece.” I smiled sweetly and he agreed before stepping out of the room.

I downed the sandwich and took a swig of the water before making my way out of my oversized bed. Despite my apprehensions, the thought of viewing the “perfect house” was appealing. I hadn’t heard Ronnie talk about any of the others so enthusiastically.

I peered over the second-floor railing as I headed to the bathroom. Arch was still knocked out on the couch, covered with a blanket from the closet by the front door. Ronnie wasn’t in sight, so that meant he was in the kitchen heating up our dinner.

Arch’s bedroom door was open and I stepped inside as I came back from the bathroom a few minutes later. The floor was a disaster zone, scattered with toys and clothes from this morning. The curtains were drawn back from the windows and the remaining sunlight made the room luminescent.

Selling this place would be difficult. I’d never been able to do it when Ronnie and I were together and it became my haven when Arch became such a central character in my life. The two of us had spent countless days hidden away within these walls, running away from all the things we didn’t want to deal with.

I hadn’t expected to outgrow this place as quickly as we had. Soon our two would become three and Arch needed his own space. The baby stuff from the shower was stacked along the same wall as the door, a few boxes of clothes and toys that Arch wasn’t supposed to play with.

“We’ll have to start packing.”

I jumped out of my skin, whirling around to glare at Ronnie. “You scared the crap out of me,” I exclaimed, reaching out to shove him back.

He grinned. “Sorry.” He walked into the room and looked around at the mess. “I’ll bring some boxes over next week and we can teach Arch how to pack.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Your arrogance is going to talk me out of buying this house before I even see it,” I said, “and plus, we’re not moving in next week. First, that’s way too soon and second, it takes time to actually put an offer in.”

“There’s no point in putting it off,” he answered, stepping around to face me so that he was more towards the center of the room than me. “You and Arch need to get settled in the new place before the baby comes.”

I wanted to argue that we had time, but we really didn’t. Moving would take plenty of time on its own. Getting settled somewhere new would take even more. It would bring new routines and new time schedules. It would be like practically starting over.

Ronnie, leaning down to brush Arch’s blankets back into place, said, “I was thinking that maybe I would stay with you and the boys for awhile. You know, just after the baby’s born so that I’m there to help you.”

“You just came up with this idea?” I questioned, frowning at the man. “Just right now off the top of your head?”

The brunette shrugged at me. “I might’ve thought of it a few days ago when I was looking at that house we didn’t like.”

“This had nothing to do with the fact that I was just having a breakdown in your arms?” I folded my arms across my chest, challenging the man to disagree with me.

He shook his head, taking a solemn step towards me. “That might’ve reinforced my idea, but I want to be there, Atticus. I don’t want to see you that overwhelmed again. You’ll have two kids to look out for, at least let me be there to change diapers at two am and keep Arch entertained while the you and the baby are sleeping.”

I frowned at how serious he sounded. “You can’t just tell me that you’re moving in with me when the baby’s born,” I answered. “We have to talk about it, Ronnie. When would you move out? What happens when Arch gets used to you living with us again? Or what about the baby?”

“It’s just an idea,” he answered. “Obviously we have to talk about it. I wasn’t just going to show up with my bags and claim a room.”

I eyed Ronnie and turned around, heading past the baby things to go back to my own room. I heard Ronnie’s footsteps as he padded down the carpet behind me.

“We have to stop calling the baby ‘the baby,’” Ronnie said as we walked into my room. I went straight back to my bed and climbed under my blankets. Ronnie had obviously stopped in here because there were two plates of lasagna on the end table.

I slid back into my spot and grabbed one of the plates. Despite everyone asking us, we hadn’t even considered names. The whole concept of branding someone for life intimidated me more than I thought it would. I didn’t want to give him a moniker that I later came to regret.

“Have you thought of any names?” I asked.

Ronnie joined me on the edge of the bed. I handed him his plate and he settled in, considering. “Not really,” he spoke, “but I definitely don’t want to call him John or Michael or something like that. He needs a kickass name.”

I laughed. “Like what? I don’t want to scar him for life.”

“I don’t know,” Ronnie defended. “Arch has a cool name. I like the weird looks we get when people hear it. I want to make that a tradition.” He shoveled a huge bite of food into his mouth and the corners of his lips turned up in a smile as I laughed at him.

“Are we thinking like ‘Ajax’ weird or ‘Mercutio’ weird?”

Ronnie shot me a look. “’Mercutio?’ Lets not go Shakespearean on our baby, okay, Atticus? I was thinking more like ‘Reese’ or ‘Gunner’.”

I scoffed out a laugh. “Gunner? Gunner Radke? Are you kidding me? He’ll get beat up in kindergarten for that name.”

Ronnie set his empty plate onto the bed next to him and stretched his legs out. He shifted so that he was parallel to me. “So he’s getting my last name?”

I frowned. “I never considered that he wouldn’t.”

Ronnie shrugged. “I thought maybe your dad tried to talk you into making him a Gurewitz. He would love that.”

I nodded quickly. “Yeah, he would,” I agreed, “but he’s your son. He should have your last name. I always pictured my kids having your last name, Ron. It just makes sense that way.”

He nodded slowly, obviously pleased with the reassurance. As I moved, sliding the blanket back from my legs so I could cool down, Ronnie’s eyes landed on my ankle. Instantly, he reached out and grabbed my foot before I could slide it back under the blankets.

His thumb pressed into the black tattoo on my ankle. The letter ‘R’ in beautiful, scrawling ink. “I forgot you had this,” he said quietly, releasing my leg.

I got it at a time in our relationship when I imagined the letter becoming part of my name someday too. When the ‘R’ for Radke would replace the ‘G’ for Gurewitz.

Chance’s joke from months ago came back to me as Ronnie fixated on the tattoo. Just give your future child an ‘R’ name. Then you’ll have an answer when people ask you what it stands for.

“I liked Reese,” I backtracked, smiling at Ronnie. “Reese Radke could be cute.”

Ronnie smirked, shaking his head. “No,” he said, eyeing me, “the double ‘R’ thing doesn’t work.”