‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

LA Boy

Ronnie picked Arch and I up from the house early Friday afternoon despite the fact that I could’ve met him downtown rather than him come all the way to Pasadena and back. His reason why was just an excuse about how he didn’t want to give me the house address so that I couldn’t look it up and see the house before we actually went to see the house.

He came into our house when he got here, shouting a hello up at me and charging straight for Arch, who was dressed, ready to go, and sitting on the couch watching TV.

“I’m almost done,” I called down to them both, stepping out of the bathroom to peer over the rail. Ronnie waved up at me, nodding easily.

“Take your time,” he said, dropping down onto the couch next to Arch and throwing his arm over the back of the couch. “We don’t have to be there until two.”

I frowned, grabbing for my phone. I pulled it from the bathroom counter and stepped out of the bathroom completely, shooting Ronnie a look. “You told me one-thirty,” I argued, pulling his texts up.

I looked up as he nodded. “Yeah, I wanted to make sure that you two were ready to go on time. Everything seems to take longer around here, nowadays.”

I glared at the jab. “Yeah, maybe that’s because I’m moving a little slower these days,” I commented. “I think lugging your child around inside my body has something to do with that.”

I watched the singer grin, his eyes intentionally on the television instead of me. “When he gets out here,” Ronnie said, “I’ll do the ‘lugging’ for awhile.”

I turned back to the bathroom with a shake of my head. Like always, I’d gotten Arch ready before me today. He was excited, so it made the whole process much easier. After he was dressed and fed, I climbed back up the stairs to shower and get myself ready. Even though his comment was annoying, Ronnie wasn’t wrong about things taking more time. Everything I did took an extra couple of minutes. Getting dressed was the worst of it.

Around quarter after one, I emerged from my room ready to go. As I climbed down the stairs, I grinned at Ronnie and Arch, who were both completely mesmerized by the TV. Arch sat cross-legged, eyes narrowed as he watched. Ronnie was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, almost like he was about to be pulled into the machine.

I cleared my throat as I stepped around the couch. “Are you two ready to go or are we going to sit here and watch-“ I frowned and grabbed the remote from Arch’s hands. “What the hell are you watching?”

“It’s a serial killer show!” Arch shouted, jumping up to get the remote back from me. I held it over my head, so he climbed to his feet on the couch.

Ronnie intersected him and set him on the floor. “Go put your shoes on,” he said. “We can find the rest of it online later.”

Arch shot me a glare, but hurried over to the closet to get his shoes. I turned that look to Ronnie.

The man chuckled. “Come on, Atti. It’s Dexter,” he said, glancing back at the now-blank screen. “He hasn’t even killed anyone in this episode yet.”

“‘Yet’” is the opportune word there, Radke,” I muttered, tossing the remote onto the couch. “For future reference, Arch isn’t allowed to watch Dexter.”

Ronnie grinned and grabbed at me. “What about the baby?” he asked. “Is he allowed to watch Dexter?”

I rolled my eyes at him. “Stop being such a smart ass and go tie Arch’s shoes for him.”

“You look beautiful today,” Ronnie said, ignoring my command completely. He grabbed onto the edge of my brown cardigan and used it as an anchor to pull himself to me. My eyes narrowed when I felt his hands slide from my stomach to rest on my hips.

“If we don’t leave now, we don’t have time to stop and get anything to eat,” I commented, meeting his brown eyes with my own. “The reason I’m so fat is because your son is sucking up all the food. I need to eat, Radke.”

This time, Ronnie rolled his eyes. “I tell you that you’re beautiful and you tell me you’re fat and hungry,” he said, shaking his head. “The joys of having a pregnant girlfriend.” He pushed away from me, pivoting back to help Arch with his laces.

I bit back my surprise, letting the word ‘girlfriend’ roll off his tongue without rebuttal. It wasn’t technically true, not anymore, but I didn’t want to argue with him now. He and I both knew that the moniker didn’t hold any weight anymore, so I let it go.

Ronnie loaded Arch into the backseat of my car and then asked me for my keys. This was something that I did argue with him about.

“I can drive, Ronnie,” I said, trying to barrel past him down the sidewalk to my car. His Escalade was parked on the side of the road so that we could pull out of the driveway in my car.

Ronnie stepped in front of me and put his hands on my shoulders to steady me. He frowned. “There’ll come a point when you’re too pregnant to drive,” he said. “I think we should practice for that.”

“I don’t think we should,” I said, shrugging his hands off me. “It’s my car, so I’m driving.”

Ronnie followed me down the sidewalk. “We could take my car, if you want, but I figured it would be easier for you to get into yours.” He eyed me, referring to the fact that climbing up into his car increased the change of me toppling over.

“No,” I said, smiling at Arch as I pushed the little boy’s door closed. I grabbed to yank my own open and Ronnie leaned against it, using his body weight to keep it closed. “You bought me a brand new car and I want to drive it,” I complained.

“I’m driving, Atticus,” he spoke, ignoring my excuse. “You don’t even know where we’re going.”

“You can tell me,” I suggested, crossing my arms over my chest, “and then I can drive us there.”

Ronnie, refusing to backdown, held his hands out for my keys. For the sake of time, I let him take them. I walked around to the other side to get in. Ronnie dropped in beside me and started the car.

“What street is the house on?” I asked as he backed out of the driveway.

He shot me a look. “You’ll see.”

“Is it big?” Arch asked from the back.

“Big enough for you to have your own room,” Ronnie said, meeting the boy’s blue gaze in the rearview mirror. “And there will even be a guest bedroom once you, Atti, and the baby get all settled in.”

I caught the look he sent my direction, remnant of the conversation we had about him possibly staying with us after the baby’s born. We hadn’t decided on anything yet, so I told him not to mention it to Arch.

“Maybe that room can be for when I have a sister too,” Arch said, surprising the hell out of me. I turned around immediately to look at him.

“What sister?” I asked, replaying pieces of Abigail’s rant from the other day, trying to remember if she’d mentioned a girl. She had, but not in any concrete context. It had been too soon to know the sex of her baby.

Arch looked confused by my concern. He folded his skinny arms in front of him. “For when you have another baby,” he said quieter than before, nervously glancing between me and Ronnie.

“Ah,” I muttered, working my way around the conversation. “That won’t be for a really long time, Arch, if ever. Right now we’ve got this baby to worry about.”

“After this baby gets here, you won’t want another sibling,” Ronnie said, causing me to smack him in the arm. I watched Arch’s expression, hoping Ronnie’s words hadn’t sunk too far into him.

“What I meant,” Ronnie clarified, “is that brothers are a lot of fun. You won’t want anyone else.”

Arch considered it for a moment. Then he asked, “can I name him?”

Ronnie grinned and spoke up as I tried to find a way to shoot down Arch’s request. “What would you name him?” Ronnie asked without looking away from the road.

Arch’s expression scrunched up as he thought about it. Finally, he said, “Alexander.”

“Why Alexander?” I asked, rolling with it.

“Because it has an A like my name,” the little boy said, “and he’s my brother so we should be the same.”

“If all of you have A names, I’m going to feel left out,” Ronnie said, point out that Arch and I also shared the same letter.

“You already ruled out giving him an R-name,” I said, “so you can’t complain that you’re an R all by yourself.”

“All I’m saying is that it can’t be an A-name,” Ronnie said, “It can be any other letter of the alphabet besides A and R.”

“What about Tyler!” Arch shouted, grinning at the game.

Ronnie made a disgusted sound. “Lets start at the beginning of the alphabet,” he said. “B names.”

“Brantley,” I said, watching Ronnie’s expression.

“Next,” he said, “c-names.”

“Collin,” I said, apologizing to Arch when he complained that it was his turn to say a name.

“Cole,” he echoed.

Ronnie rejected them both. “D-names.”

“Dominic,” I said, tone changing on the word. “Dominic Rhys.”

Ronnie shook his head. “Too Fast & Furious.”

“Evan!” Arch said, already onto the next one.

“Think ‘Arch,’ people,” Ronnie said, referring back to our conversation earlier in the week.

Arch frowned. “That’s my name though.”

Ronnie grinned. “We can rename you. You can be Evan, if you want.”

Arch shook his head adamantly. “No!” he said. “The baby can’t have my name!”

I reached back to touch his arm. “Ronnie’s joking,” I told him. “We’re going to come up with a whole new name for the baby, sweetheart.”

Arch frowned at me. “Can you really change my name?”

I nodded slowly. “Sometimes people want to change their names,” I told him.” Mostly last names though, like when they get married.”

“Do you want to change your name when you get married?” he asked, too young to distinguish between the plans of the past and the plans of the future.

“If I get married someday,” I said, hoping it didn’t sound too much like a jab at Ronnie and our past, “but for now, I’m still Atticus Gurewitz.”

“What about the baby?” he asked. “Is he going to be called Gurewitz?”

“He’s going to get his dad’s name,” I explained. “So whatever we name him, he’s going to be called Radke.”

“But I’ll be different too,” Arch said, frowning. “Ronnie and my brother will be Radke and I won’t be.”

“I won’t be either, baby,” I said.

“Me and you should be the same,” he said, excitement piquing as the idea came to mind. “My brother and Ronnie will be the same and you and me will be the same. That way we’re equal.”

“You want to have my last name?” I questioned, surprised by it. I figured that Arch would want to be the same as his father, even though the man wasn’t around anymore. Joining my family didn’t mean leaving his dad behind.

“I want to be the same as you,” he said. “We should have the same name.”

“Arch, you have your dad’s name,” I said, tucking away all the conversations and rants of the last few days. “If you take my name, you won’t be the same as your dad anymore.”

Arch frowned, considering. “Why not?”

Ronnie spoke up for the first time in awhile, whispering words to me so that Arch wouldn’t hear. “You could apply to hyphenate his name,” he said. “Then he can decide what he wants to be called without losing his dad’s name.”

I hadn’t considered the idea. “We can talk about it Arch,” I said, glancing up at the streets around us and realizing that were were downtown. All Ronnie told me about the house was that it was near his apartment, so I knew we were getting close.

“Can I have two last names?” Arch asked, catching up the place where Ronnie and I were. “Am I allowed to have two?”

“If that’s what you want,” I told him, confirming.

“What about three names?”

“Three names total or three last names?” I asked, wondering where his head was at. If he decided he wanted to hyphenate his name once he was adopted, he’d have four names total.

“Drewry, Gurewitz, Radke,” he said, naming them off with a tick of his fingers.

I balked. “Arch, your name would be Arch Emerson Drewry-Gurewitz-Radke,” I recited. “Nobody would know what to call you.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “I want to have your name and my brother’s name so they’ll know we’re family.”

“You can’t have three last names,” I said, knowing what a nightmare it would be for him when he got older. Plus, letting him take Ronnie’s name didn’t make sense. As close as he is with Ronnie, he wasn’t a Radke - legally or by blood.

“I want three names,” he said, scrunching up his face as he argued, “Nobody will know that you’re my mom and the baby’s my brother if we have different names.”

“You and I will know,” I said, hoping that was enough. “Our family will know. It’ll be too difficult, Arch. You can be Arch Drewry-Gurewitz if that’s what you want, but you can’t have three last names.”

Arch, surprised by my definite ’no,’ looked instantly upset. “But my brother will be different than me,” he said, his words coming more quickly. “I won’t be his brother if we don’t have the same name.”

“Names don’t make us family, sweetheart,” I replied, gearing up to make him see my side.

“Guys,” Ronnie said gently, “we should continue this conversation later.” He sent me a mildly encouraging and apologetic look as pulled into a neighborhood just minutes from downtown and Ronnie’s apartment.

“I want all the names,” Arch said as a closing statement and then he crossed his arms and turned to look out of his window, effectively closing the conversation.

I absorbed the glances that Ronnie sent my way and, like Arch, turned my attention out the window. The houses in this neighborhood fit the downtown aesthetic to a T. When Ronnie pulled off of the street and parallel parked in front of a blue, three-story asymmetrical house, I practically gaped in surprise.

There was a large porch out front with stone-facing and columns. The yard was large for LA and completely fenced off. I climbed out of the car, transfixed with the house, and grabbed the wrought iron fence as Ronnie pulled Arch out of the backseat.

“Is this it?” I asked, glancing across the street at the other house, which was notable less impressive. Ronnie nodded as he slid Arch from the backseat and I took another long look. The shingles above the brick facing were blue and a little unruly, but the wooden roofing and turrets brought the whole house together.

Ronnie grinned at me as he locked the car and carried Arch to my side. I tried the gate and frowned to find it locked, denying us access to the steps and pathway that led to the house. “What time is it?” I asked, glancing down the street for Rob’s car.

As though he knew I was looking for him, the man stepped onto the street a couple cars down from ours and lifted his hand in greeting. Noticing where my attention was, Ronnie turned and greeted him too.

“This is the house, Atti,” Ronnie said, resting a hand on the iron gate. “I knew from the pictures that you’d love this place. I can’t wait to see your reaction.”

“Atticus, it’s good to see you!” Rob said as he walked down to us. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me enthusiastically. “You look amazing. Today’s the day, huh?” He grinned at Ronnie as though he was hopeful, but not overly optimistic. We’d looked through so many houses that I couldn’t blame him if he didn’t believe I’d like this one finally.

Ronnie nodded quickly. “If this isn’t the house for her, then I give up,” he said, brown eyes darting to me.

“So far so good,” I said, cutting them both off. “Can we go in? I can’t decide what I think about the house if I don’t see it.”

“I wanna go in too,” Arch spoke, leaning into Ronnie’s shoulder so that he could look back behind the man to see the house.

Rob jangled the keys at me and moved to unlock the gate. The four of us climbed the steps into the yard and followed the path up onto the porch to the front door. I stepped back so that Rob could slide between Ronnie and I and unlock it.

He pushed the door open and walked inside. I followed immediately. On the other side of the door was a foyer with a staircase directly forward. The staircase curved like an L to the second floor, which was exposed above us. Running longwise along the side of the staircase was a bench and then a doorway that lead into a wide but short hallway.

To the left was the living room, visible through the entryway. There were white baseboards, side panels, and crown molding that matched the marble fireplace in the center of the room. The room had built-in cabinets and bookshelves in the far corners of the room.

Dark hard wood floors ran seamlessly through the whole house and matched the exposed beams that ran across the living room ceiling. The floors and beams perfectly matched the turrets on the outside of the house.

“What do you want to see first?” Rob asked. “The bathroom is in the hall, the kitchen at the end. There are two more bathrooms upstairs, four bedrooms, and a master suite.”

“That’s the dining room, right?” I questioned, pointing to the right, opposite the living room. It was a much smaller room that was open on two walls, leading around into another room.

Rob shook his head. “No, that’s the family room. The dining room is through there and opens into the kitchen.” He pointed at an entryway through the dining room and I leaned in to see.

“Lets just take a walk through,” Ronnie said, putting Arch down on his feet. “Then we can go upstairs.”

Ronnie went to the right, leading us into the family room. It was about half the size of the living room, which ran along the entire length of the house. The entire first floor made a circle with the staircase and bathroom in the middle. The four of us walked through the family room and I noticed that the exposed beams ran throughout the entire first floor.

From the family room, we continued into the dining room which opened up on the left to the kitchen. Distracted by the sight of the modern kitchen, I continued into the room.

“This is gorgeous,” I said, turning around to look at the entire room. “The owners must’ve remodeled everything. It’s so beautiful.” The kitchen, like the rest of the house, had dark-wood floors and cream-white walls with grey accents. The cabinets were a shade of light grey and the countertops were shiny and white, and matched the stools as the island.

“Yeah, they renovated about a year ago. They know that the location is exactly what people are looking for around here, so they wanted to make sure that the house fit the neighborhood. Do you want to see the second floor?”

“There’s just two floors, right?” I questioned, heading through the kitchen into the living room and back around to the foyer to complete our full circle.

Arch darted to the stairs and waited for us to catch up.

“There’s an attic too, but it’s really just good for storage. There’s a drop drop ladder in the upstairs hallway.”

I nodded and Arch darted dup the wide steps, rounding the staircase to the second floor. I followed him and Ronnie walked up behind me, his hands ghosting along my lower back.

The design of the staircase created an open square in the second floor. When I got to the top, I could look down into the foyer. The bedrooms were spaced out around the center square. Like the first floor was a circle, the second floor had the same concept. Each wall was dotted with doors.

“The two corner bedrooms share a jack-and-jill bathroom,” Rob explained, pointing to the bedroom behind us then to the next two doors. He explained that there were two more bedrooms and a second bathroom around the other side.

“Can I pick out my room?” Arch asked from next to me. He looked around the square landing, eying each one of the doors.

“You can look around,” I said, nodding him on.

He smiled and darted around the stairs. They were railed off with bars that were close enough together that he would’ve barely been able to slip his arm through if he tried. He hurried into what Rob pointed out as the master suite.

Ronnie and I stepped into the first corner bedroom near the stairs. It had the same molding around the room and large door leading into the shared bathroom. As a corner room, there were two huge windows.

“This is a decent size for one of the kids,” Ronnie said from my side. “We probably wouldn’t want the baby in here since you’d have to walk all the way around the stairs to get him at night, but it would be perfect for Arch. He could share the bathroom when the baby gets older.”

I nodded easily, agreeing with his explanation. “It wouldn't work as a guest bedroom with the jack-and-jill, but it would work for Nico and Holland when they have to stay over,” I said, noting that it could definitely fit a couple of beds for them and still not be overcrowded.

Ronnie shot me a look. “We’re not buying a house for your siblings,” he said, shaking his head at me. “You need a guest bedroom more than your siblings need their own room.”

“I think they’d disagree with you there,” I answered, knowing how quickly my family would descend on the house when they learned that I actually had space for them. I would have a place to put Nico and Holland when I watched them, instead of cramming them into Arch’s room with him or setting up spaces for them in the living room.

As we continued through the shared bathroom and into the other corner bedroom, I noted that it was practically the same as the other bedroom, and it would work well for Arch. The next room was a stand alone in the center of the second floor. Without an attached bathroom, it would work well for a guest bedroom.

“This would work well for the baby's room,” Ronnie said, glancing back to me to see if I'd thought of the idea yet. “You wouldn't have to go very far to get to him at night.”

I nodded offhandedly. “Yeah, Arch might want it though,” I said. “Although, I would prefer him in one of the jack-and-jill rooms so that he'll have his own bathroom. Maybe we can convince him to let the baby have this one for now."

Rob tuned in, turning around to face us with an easy grace as we stepped out of the third bedroom and back into the hall. There were still three more doors we hadn't opened. “You guys didn’t tell me that you’re having a boy,” Rob said, grinning at us. “Congratulations. You’re going to be busy with two boys running around.”

I thanked him. “We’re coming up with a plan,” I answered, knowing we'd need it, “and I know that we’ll have plenty of help. Which is why a guest bedroom would be amazing.” I eyed Ronnie, pivoting toward the next door.

It turned out to be another bedroom, which was slightly smaller than the others. More of a rectangle tucked into the corner, I definitely pictured it as a guest bedroom or an office. I could already see our lives here shaping up if we managed to actually live here. I could imagine the boys in the jack-and-jill bedrooms, sharing the bathroom when they were both a bit older. The last door before the master was the smaller guest bathroom bathroom. It consisted of a standing shower, toilet, and sink, so it wouldn't work for either of the boys. Like the rest of the house, however, it had built-in shelves along one of the walls.

The master bathroom was a decent size, but it was the ensuite bathroom that really caught my eye. Half the size of the bedrooms, it had everything: a tub, shower, big vanity, and closed-off toilet room. As we made our way back out of the bedroom, we stopped back in the empty master. I peered out through the window, watching as Ronnie and Rob formed a little circle around me.

“So,” Ronnie said. “Is this the house?”