‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Los Angeles

“The owners are looking for a good offer,” Rob said, standing in the center of the large master-bedroom. “They’ve got a lot of offers coming in, so they’re not going to be that willing to negotiate on the numbers. If you don’t act fast, this house is going to be sold.”

I frowned, nerves building along my spine. “Do you know what other people have offered them?” I questioned, pulling my cardigan over my stomach. Arch walked into the room and offered us a mild smile.

“I picked out my room,” he said, coming to my side.

I paused, heart-tightening. Both Ronnie and Arch had their minds set on this house. “Hold on, sweetheart,” I said, turning my attention to Rob to wait for his answer. “This isn’t our house yet.”

Rob looked from Arch to me and then spoke. “I don’t know the specifics, but I know that nobody has matched their list price, yet. My guess is that people are still coming in right under it, but not by much.”

“What’s the list price?” Ronnie asked, although it was mostly for my benefit since he’d seen all the specifics beforehand.

Rob relayed a number and my heart jumped into my throat. I knew that a downtown LA house came with a downtown LA price tag, but the remodeling definitely upped the price.

Arch’s eyes were huge. “We have that much money?” he asked. “That’s a lot of money, Atticus.”

“I don’t know if I can match that,” I said, considering my options. “I have money saved, but even with that and selling my house, I don’t think I can come up with that. I can’t spend all my savings with a baby coming. Plus, I have to pay for Arch’s school. There are a lot of factors to consider and I don’t know if I can manage it.”

Rob frowned. “I don’t want to put you in a complicated situation,” he said, glancing to Ronnie, who had decided to show me the house despite the price. “There are other options in the city. We can keep looking.”

I sighed and glanced around me. It was less than twenty minutes from Arch’s school on a busy day, a ten minute walk from Ronnie’s apartment, and a quick drive to downtown. There was enough room for two kids and it even had a yard and private driveway. Ronnie was right, everything about this house made me want it, except for the price.

“We should keep looking,” I said, glancing down at Arch. There was nothing that would make me spend all of my savings. A year ago, I never imagined having a child to care for, let alone two boys. I saved money because I was able to and while it was more than enough for my lifestyle, it wasn’t enough for the life I wanted for my sons.

“This isn’t our house?” Arch questioned, tilting his chin up to look straight at me. “I thought you liked it?”

“I do like it, baby,” I answered, brushing his curls back, “but there are other things to consider. We’ve got to keep you in school and make sure that we can afford the baby, too.”

“We have to buy him?” Arch asked, surprised by the knowledge. “How much does he cost?”

Rob and Ronnie’s laughs echoed my own. “We don’t have to buy him,” I explained. “but we have to pay for all the things he needs.”

“And the hospital bills,” Ronnie added quietly. After a moment, he joined in the conversation, shifting the topic back to the house. “Atticus, do you love this house? Do you want this to be the one?”

“Ronnie,” I complained, “you know that there are other factors to think about. We have to take care of Arch and the baby. We have to think long-term.”

The singer shook his head. “I am thinking long term, Atticus. If money wasn’t an issue, would this be the house? Would you choose this to be the house where you raise the boys? Can you picture yourself living here with ours sons?”

“Of course I can,” I replied, “but I have to make smart decisions. Like you said, there’s hospital bills and school bills, and dozens of other bills.”

“What if the price was cut in half?” Ronnie asked.

I gave him a look that suggested he was an idiot. “Yes, Ron, let me just convince the owners to cut their price in half, despite the fact that they have multiple other offers from more qualified buyers.”

“You and I can split the price,” he said without hesitation. “We can offer full list price, pending inspection, and we’ll get you your perfect house.”

I blanked, trying to form coherent sentences out of jumbled thoughts. Ronnie was impulsive, he’d always been impulsive. When he found something he wanted, he thought up a plan to get it and never backed down.

“What, are you crazy?” I asked, backing away. “You bought me a car for Christmas and now you want to buy me half a house? If you keep spending your money like this, you’re not going to have any left. Especially since you blew off the last leg of your tour.”

Ronnie shook his head. “You’re having my son, Atticus,” he said. “You’re raising my boys. I’m going to give you everything you need to make sure you can do that. If I have to buy you an entire goddamn city, I’ll do it.”

“I can find another house, Ronnie,” I said. “It’s not the end of the world if we keep looking. I do love this house, but there are other houses.”

“You’re having our boy in three months,” Ronnie retorted. “You need to be settled before he gets here. It’ll be insane trying to adjust to a new house and a new baby. Just let me do this for you and the boys. God, it won’t even impact me, Atti. You know that.”

I couldn’t argue with the points he made. They were the same topics we’d been discussing since we started looking for a new house. The longer it took, the closer we came to having the baby, and that meant more adjustments for everyone.

Ronnie nodded, urging me to agree. “I want to do this for you, Atticus,” he spoke, glancing from me to Arch. “I want to do this for our family.”

“Okay,” I said, “lets put an offer in.”

Ronnie, Rob, and I headed down to the kitchen to look through the paperwork and contact the sellers. Arch made us stop in the second bedroom from the stairs so that he could show it to us again. This time, he said, it was his room and not just a room.

There were logistics to figure out, so Ronnie, Rob, and I stood around the island in the kitchen and talked them through. Arch made his way around the room, opening and closing all the cabinets he could reach like he might find something inside.

“Whose name is the house going to be in?” Rob asked. “Do you two want to offer straight list price?”

“Atticus’s name only,” Ronnie said, glancing to me when I looked up to him, about to argue. “I don’t want it in my name, Atti. I want you and the boys to be independent, even from me. This is your house.”

“What if something happens to me?” I asked quietly, glancing to Arch as the words came stumbling out of my mouth. “In the worst case scenario, the boys might not be old enough to live here alone. If it comes down to it, you’ll have to take care of them, Ron. If your name is on the house, you’ll have a claim to it automatically.”

“As much as I love you, I don’t want you to think that I think I have a claim on this place, Atticus,” he said. “This is your house. You don’t owe me anything.”

“I know that,” I said, “but you’re paying for half and you’re the one who will live here if something happens to me. I’d feel better if the house was yours too, just in case. It’ll be our backup plan.”

“If that’s what you want,” Ronnie agreed, his voice dropping, “but nothing is going to happen to you, Atticus.”

It took us less time to decide on an offer than to decide whose name was going to be on it. Rob jotted down the numbers.

Arch climbed up onto one of the high stools in the kitchen and twirled around, watching us work through the papers. “Can I play outside?”

“Can you play in the house?” I asked. “This is still an unfamiliar neighborhood and the gate isn’t locked, sweetheart.”

“I can lock it,” Arch spoke, “and I won’t talk to strangers.”

“It isn’t about strangers,” I answered, “but that’s a good mindset to have. Can you please just play in the house until Ronnie and I can be with you?”

Arch leaned his elbows on the island counter top. “Can someone come with me to get my truck out of the car?”

Rob spoke up, “Actually guys, if this is the offer that you want to go with, I’ll go ahead and contact the owners. You can take Arch outside for a little bit while I make the call.”

Arch grinned and jumped down from the stool. “Can we walk to the store down the street?” he questioned. “I want to buy something for my new room.”

Ronnie grinned at the boy. “Do you have any money, kiddo?”

“No,” Arch answered, “but we can window shop.”

Ronnie’s eyes darted to mine. “I wonder who taught him that word,” he commented, lifting Arch from the ground as Rob excused himself to make the call. “You feel like taking a walk to the store,” he asked me. “Maybe we’ll meet some neighbors along the way.”

“We don’t own the house yet,” I said, “so don’t get his hopes up. They might get a better offer and reject ours.”

“Be positive, Atti,” Ronnie answered. “This is the house. It’s going to work out.”

“Yeah, Atticus!” Arch echoed. “We’re going to buy a new house and live by Ronnie with the baby!”

“Lets take a walk,” I agreed. “Maybe pick out some blinds for your bedroom.”

The store was at the end of the street, about six houses down from our own. Arch traipsed down the sidewalk in front of us, pointing out all the interesting things that he saw on the short walk.

Despite the fact that his school and Ronnie’s apartment were both downtown LA, Arch hadn’t spent a lot of time in the neighborhoods. Ronnie’s apartment backed up to scarce trees and fronted a large parking lot. There was no green space for Arch to play in while we were there.

Olivia and Will had lived in the suburbs surrounding the city. They were far enough away that Arch never experienced the sounds and the feel of downtown living. Outside of the times spent sleeping over at Ronnie’s apartment, this was Arch’s first experience living in the city.

“Ronnie,” I said, a thought wandering into my head. “Do you remember where Abigail lived with Arch. Did Lyla ever tell us?”

Ronnie frowned, trying to recall the piece of information. We knew that her sister, her only other family, lived in the city, but Arch had never lived there. I got the impression that he never really knew his aunt or her daughters. He’d rejected the very idea of them when Abigail had brought it up. I didn’t know anything about their family dynamics or why they weren’t there for Arch when he needed them, but Abigail lived with her now.

Arch stopped and let us catch up to him when he got close to the store. It was a corner Walgreens store, full of people.

“I want to buy something for Alexander!” Arch shouted as we got to him.

“Arch, don’t call him that,” I said, frowning at the moniker. “We’re not naming him that.”

“But I picked it out,” he said, taking my hand as we rounded the corner of the street to the front of the building.

“We’ll try to come up with something soon so you have something to call him,” Ronnie said, holding the door open for the two of us to go in.

“Do they have toys here?” he asked, scrambling away from me to peer down one of the aisles. The lady behind the counter smiled at us as I nodded to Arch and called him back.

He darted down the aisle, obviously seeing something that he liked and I nodded to Ronnie. “Can you chase after him?” I asked.

“You okay?” Ronnie asked, already stepping in the direction Arch went. He called out to the boy, trying to get him to come back so he could stay with me.

“I’m fine,” I promised. “Go get Arch. He knows he’s not supposed to run off like that.”

“He’s excited,” Ronnie answered. “I’ll grab him.” The man, clad almost entirely in black, hurried down the aisle that Arch disappeared into. I followed behind them at a slower pace, letting my weight balance itself out as the baby tossed and turned and pressed against my spine and ribs.

Ronnie came back after a minute, walking Arch back to me. Arch looked like Ronnie had obviously warned him about running off, but I reiterated it.

“You need to ask before you walk away from us,” I told him. “And you know you’re supposed to stay where we can see you.”

“But there’s mirrors on the walls,” he argued. “I thought you could see me in those.” He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned, looking at the reflections of us.

“Mirrors don’t count, Arch. You have to be able to see us and we have to be able to see you, no matter what.” I reached out and brushed back his curls. “What aisle do you want to go down first?”

“The one with the stuff for the baby,” he said, easily moving on from our reprimand. “I want to get something for his room too. It’ll be his very first room.”

I grinned at the little boy. “Okay, lets go look and see what they have here.”

Ronnie stayed between Arch and I as the three of us headed to find something for the baby. Arch touched almost everything as he passed by but couldn’t decide on anything.

“We have to get back soon,” I reminded the boys. “Rob’s probably already done with his call. We don’t want to make him wait for us.”

“But I can’t find anything!” Arch complained.

“We can go to a bigger store soon,” I promised, holding my hand out for him to take. “We need to go find out what’s happening with the house.”

Arch hopped over to me and grabbed my fingers. Ronnie came to my other side and the three of us headed out of the store and back down the street. The house was taller than most of the others due to the asymmetrical design and I kept my eyes on it as more and more came into view.

“On the way back, can we stop at the apartment?” Ronnie asked, nodding in the general direction of his place. “I need to check on Charlie.”

Arch grinned. Since Ronnie returned from tour and the dog went back to living with Ronnie, Arch hadn’t seen much of him. Neither had I. Despite the fact that Ronnie spent a lot of his time at the house, the dog hadn’t made an appearance.

“Can Charlie live with us, Atticus?” Arch asked me, accentuating ‘us’ to show that he wanted to take the dog from Ronnie. “I miss him a lot.”

“Charlie is Ronnie’s dog,” I explained. “He should be with Ronnie.”

Arch frowned and pulled his hand from me. He skipped up the sidewalk to the gate in front of the house and pushed it open. It wasn’t latched correctly and Ronnie stopped for a moment to fiddle with it.

“I’ll have to fix that,” he muttered off-handedly before following Arch and I to the house.

Rob called out to us from the kitchen when we walked through the front door. My nerves flared as we walked through the small hallway in the center of the house and came out into the kitchen. I immediately looked to Rob, hoping to gauge his reaction before he said anything.

“What happened?” Ronnie asked before I could. “What’d they say about our offer?” We’d decided to go in at list price, but make it conditional on whether or not the house passed inspection.

“Congrats,” Rob said, coming around the counter to hug Ronnie and I, “you two are almost-officially homeowners.”

Arch climbed up onto one of the tall stools. “We got the house! We got the house!”

Ronnie pulled me into him, wrapping me up in his arms, his hands splayed against my lower back as he pressed his face into my hair.

“Congratulations, Atti,” he spoke, pressing a light kiss into the spot on my jaw just before my ear. “We got a house for the boys.”

I mimicked his actions with a kiss to his jaw and then turned towards Arch. Ronnie grabbed him and pulled him into his arms, holding him up so that we could both hold onto him.

“It’s officially your room, sweetheart,” I said, pushing his hair back out of his face. This was a good sign. Part of me wondered if the universe would really give me my dream house just to take my son away from me. We couldn’t go through all of this, through house searches and picking bedrooms, just for Arch to go back to the woman who used to be his mother. This was the life we wanted and I wouldn’t let him go that easily.

“Arch, I think we should hyphenate your name,” I said, holding onto him as Ronnie held him up. “I think, when you’re legally my son, you should be a Gurewitz.”

Arch beamed. “I want to be both of you,” he said, one arm around Ronnie’s neck and the other around mine. “I want to be Gurewitz-Radke.”

Ronnie grinned too. “We can talk about that,” he said. His gaze landed on mine and I knew he meant - knew he’d give his name to a child who wasn’t his but who had become more a part of him than anyone else. Ronnie and I both knew that blood didn’t make family. We’d had blood walk out the way Abigail walked out on Arch and we found new family - my step-mother, his sister-in-law, each other - and never questioned the validity of it.

If Ronnie wanted to give Arch his name, make him his son more than he was now, I didn’t know how that would look. Ronnie called Arch his son, spoke of us like we were the only things blazing in the universe. It seemed like our lives mirrored each other - buy one son, get one free. I got Arch and then a baby and Ronnie got a baby and then Arch. We were four parts of a mixed-up family, but somehow we’d managed to buy a house, find a place where our confusing, multi-named brood could coincide without explanation.

Arch had a brother and a room and a father who wasn’t his father but who was close enough and pretty soon, a document that would give him me.
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Thanks for sticking with me, guys! I'd love to get some comments.

Got any cute baby names?