‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Outskirts of Hope

“When is Ronnie going to be here?” Arch asked, sitting on the floor near the front door. He had one shoe on and the other in his hand, but he’d been sitting like that for the last five minutes.

The last of our boxes were piled up along the wall, ready to be taken out to the car and loaded up. Ronnie brought them downstairs last night, so that we could easily get out of the house this morning. I spent the early hours of the day walking through the place, making sure that it was entirely empty. I set our bag of snacks down on the floor where the couch used to be.

“He’s on his way,” I repeated. “Did you get your backpack from your room?”

Arch frowned and shook his head. “I will,” he said easily, sticking his foot into his shoe finally. He’d barely tied the laces when there was a light knock on the door. Arch jumped up, but I knew that it wasn’t Ronnie on the other side. The singer always let himself in.

Arch threw the door open, and Chance stood on the other side. I watched Arch’s expression drop, and he turned away from the door without a word. 

“Arch,” I admonished, shooting him a look. He ignored me as he darted up the stairs to get his backpack. I motioned for Chance to come in. He slid through the door and offered me a smile, easily letting go of the fact that Arch had his preferences.

“Morning,” Chance said as he stepped across the empty room and looked around. “You slept here last night?” he asked. “There’s nothing left.”

“Arch and I had air-mattresses,” I answered with a shrug. 

Chance grinned and shook his head. “I bet you regretted that decision,” he said, slipping his arms around me. 

I smiled slightly and tucked my hair back out of my face. Chance’s fingers trailed after mine, his blue eyes on my face. Lightly, he kissed me.

“Good morning,” Ronnie said as he opened up the glass door and walked inside. Instantly, Chance backed up so that he was at my side. I caught Ronnie’s eyes, a warning in my own, as he looked over the blue-eyed man. Ron gave me a look, playful, mockingly offended, and motioned to the box in his arms. “I brought donuts.”

Instantly, Arch was out of his bedroom with his backpack on. “Ronnie!” he shouted as he darted down the stairs. Both Ronnie and I called out for him not to run, but he was at the bottom and running again in seconds. He stopped just a foot in front of Ronnie and grinned. 

“Morning, Arch,” Ronnie greeted, nodding toward the kitchen. “Let’s go put these down before we get those boxes out of here.”

The two of them walked out of the room without another word to me or Chance. I caught the man’s look as he steadied himself to deal with Ronnie, and Arch, this morning. Alone, Arch’s attitude was manageable, but Ronnie had his own approach to the situation. He was often worse than Arch and harder to chastise. He turned everything into a joke and feigned innocence, rebutting if I ever said anything to him.

“Happy moving day,” Chance said, breathing out a sigh as he grinned at me.

I took his hand and led him to the kitchen. Ronnie was sitting on the counter when we walked in; the box of donuts on the island in front of him. Arch had either been put or somehow climbed so that he was standing on the island next to the food. I immediately pulled away from Chance and rushed to yank him down. Ronnie slid to his feet and grabbed him first.

“He’s okay, Atticus,” Ronnie said, but pulled him down from the counter anyway, knowing that I would if he didn’t. When Arch’s bare feet were back on the floor, Ronnie turned to me and leaned against the island counter top.

“You know he’s not allowed to do that,” I said, shooting him a look. “Just because we’re moving out today doesn’t mean the rules go out the window.”

Ronnie nodded. “Yeah, I know,” he said, kissing the side of my head as he slipped past me. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t using my head.” He rounded the island and headed back toward the entry way into the living room. “I’m going to start getting some of these boxes out of here. You should eat.” He turned and left the room completely, not bothering to acknowledge Chance when he walked right by.

I sighed quietly and turned to my son. Arch was busy picking out a donut. “You know better,” I said to him before he could run out of the room. “Just because Ronnie’s in a mood doesn’t mean that you get to be too.”

Arch frowned around his bite of donut. “Ronnie’s the grown up,” he said, giving me a frustrated look. “He was sitting on the counter.”

“Yeah, I’m going to talk with Ronnie too,” I said, grabbing a donut for myself, “but I just wanted to remind you that you know the rules, Arch. We’re moving into our new house today. Let’s make it a good day, alright?”

Arch frowned, blonde curls bouncing, and nodded his head. “Can I go help Ronnie now?” he asked, looking that direction. His gaze landed on Chance, and he quickly looked back to me.

“Finish your breakfast,” I said. “I’ve got your juice boxes in the living room if you want one.”

Arch nodded and slid to the floor to sit down. We’d already taken all the large furniture out of the house last week; the couch, dining table, bedroom sets. the only things left were boxes of miscellaneous items. The new owners were planning to move into the house in two weeks, so we were cutting it close.

I dragged Chance with me out of the kitchen as I moved to get Arch’s bags of snacks. Last night, we’d dined on take-out pizza and spent the evening watching DVDs on my laptop. Without TV, internet, or much of anything else, we were both ready to get to the new house. Ronnie came back through the front door empty-handed just as I pulled a juice from the bag. Anticipating the conversation to come, Chance took it from my hand and headed back to the kitchen.

Ronnie’s dark eyes landed on me. I gave him a look. “What is going on with you?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. “You were fine last night. You were great, even. I really can’t keep up with your mood swings, Ron.”

“Maybe they’re sympathy mood swings,” he answered, matching his posture to mine. He leaned back against the wall, dark eyes on mine. He didn’t so much as look to the kitchen, but I could see the trajectory of his thoughts.

“We talked about this already,” I said. “You knew that Chance was going to be around, Ronnie. He’s important to me. I’ve tried my best to make this all easier on you, especially because you’ve been trying really hard since you got back, but I can’t do anything for you when you act like this.”

Ronnie shook his head as he gathered his thoughts together. I took him in – the black joggers and heather-grey t’shirt. He wore a baggy black hoodie too, unzipped. It hung off his narrow frame and bunched together when he crossed his arms. “I’m never going to like him,” Ronnie said, eyes narrowing as he looked to the kitchen. “I’m never going to like the idea of you with him, of him around Arch, around my son.”

I shrugged, heartlessly. “I’m not asking you to like him. I’m asking you to set a good example for Arch. When you teach Arch to act like that around Chance, it only makes things harder on me.”

Ronnie rolled his dark eyes. “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing,” he said openly. “Maybe I don’t care whether or not Arch like Chance.”

“If you really cared about her, you would care what Arch thinks of me,” Chance said as he stepped out from the kitchen behind me. Now, neither of them were focused on me. Ronnie’s eyes narrowed as Chance headed straight to confront him.

“What are you even doing here?” Ronnie asked, straightening up from the wall. “You have no claim to any of this, Chance.”

“I don’t want to claim anything,” the blue eyed boy responded. “Atticus isn’t something to be won, Ronnie, and Arch isn’t some pawn that you can play to make her run back to you. Just because you have a hold on him, doesn’t mean that Atticus belongs to you.”

Ronnie scoffed. “That boy belongs to me,” he answered, pointing toward my stomach. “And Arch is more my kid than anybody else’s. I’ve been with him and Atticus since the beginning.”

Chance laughed. “Except for the four months when you were too insecure to stick around and take care of your responsibilities. Remind me again who was here with Atticus all summer? Oh yeah, I was.”

“Four months is nothing compared to four years,” Ronnie answered, shaking his head. “You’re deranged if you really think you can compare to everything Atti and I have been through. She’s been the love of my life since you were seventeen years old.”

“That’s enough!” I shouted, moving so that I was standing in the center of the room, between them. “You two are acting like children. If you can’t get it together, then neither of you need to be here. I’ve got plenty of other people who are willing to help me today. I don’t need you.”

Ronnie rolled his eyes, and I knew he would call my bluff if he had to. While I could do this without him short-term, he needed to be here for everything else. I shot him a look that dared him to open his mouth. He frowned and leaned back against the wall again, subdued for now.

“Start taking stuff out to the cars,” I demanded, waving them off. “If I so much as hear either one of you talk to the other one, you’re both going home. I shouldn’t have to regulate you like children,” I added, irritated.

Chance and Ronnie both grabbed boxes and headed to opposite cars. I called Arch out from the kitchen and sent him to the front yard where Ronnie and Chance could keep an eye on him while I did another walk-through of the house. I started in the kitchen, moving the almost-empty box of donuts to the living room as I cut through. Upstairs, I started in the bathroom and went to Arch’s room, then mine. Seeing my bedroom completely empty was the weirdest and hardest to process.

I’d moved here when I was completely on my own. There was no Ronnie, no Arch, no impending-baby. This two bedroom house was where I saw myself for the rest of my life. I never imagined what would happen just a couple years later. I never envisioned Ronnie walking into my life and bringing so much with him. I was twenty-one when I bought this place, when I outfitted my room and spent my first night outside of my father’s busy house. This place became so much more than just my quiet sanctuary from the craziness of my dad’s life; it became the place where all my firsts congregated. And then it became my second home, behind Ronnie’s apartment.

“How’s the house hunt coming?” I asked Ronnie as I left my room and went back downstairs. He was at the front of the room, pushing the last of my boxes closer to the front door.

He turned when he heard my voice, looking expectantly toward the stairs. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for, honestly,” he said, shrugging as he walked over. “I know I need another bedroom, but I don’t know how the hell the future is going to look.”

I frowned at him. “Just find something close by,” I answered. “It doesn’t have to be extravagant.”

“I just really can’t picture the baby separate from you,” he said, frowning. “I think I’m just going to put it on hold. The baby won’t even be at my apartment for a while anyway.”

I nodded and followed him through the front door. He grabbed one of the last boxes on the way out, and I gathered up the snacks from the floor. Most of the boxes were loaded into Ronnie’s car, so he headed that way while I went to my own car. I stuffed the bag onto the floor across from Arch’s booster seat and set the donuts on the seat next to it. Arch watched me from his spot on the grass in the middle of the yard.

Chance made another trip into the house, Ronnie following close behind. When they came out, Ronnie stopped near me. “Do you have the house keys?” he asked, nodding back to the open front door. “This is the last of it if you want to lock it up.”

I frowned at the two story house. “I have to take the keys to Rob in the next few days,” I said, reaching for them. I’d tossed them into one of the bags earlier today, so that they didn’t get mixed up in everything else.

Ronnie caught the expression on my face. “Do you want to do another walk-through?” he asked quietly, leaning against my side.

I shook my head. “I’ve already done that a few times,” I answered, knowing that I would have to cut the ties some time. “We should just go.”

Ronnie nodded and grabbed the keys from me. “I’ll run through one more time just to double check, and then we can go.” He darted up the sidewalk and practically hopped into the house.

Seeing that we were finished, Arch climbed up from the grass and hurried over to me, his eyes still on the doorway that Ronnie disappeared through. “Are we moving now?” he asked, glancing into the car and sliding his backpack off his shoulders.

I lazily ran my fingers through is hair. “Yup, we’re all done in there,” I said, urging him to my side.

Arch wrapped his arms around my waist the best he could. “I’m going to miss you, house,” he said just as Ronnie reappeared, breathing like he’d literally run through the entire place.

Ron skipped down the front steps and came back to me, pressing the house keys into my palm. He nodded toward the building and then turned so he was leaning back against my car. He put his hands on Arch’s shoulders, and the two of them waited there for me.

We headed downtown like a mini-parade. Ronnie and I didn’t have to stay close to each other, but I could tell that he made a conscious effort to wait up for me at turns and lights. Similarly, I made sure that Chance was always in sight since he’d never been to the LA house. Ronnie had the path memorized and the Escalade was easy to spot in traffic, so we didn’t have any trouble getting downtown. When we pulled into the back alley that led to our driveway, we were in succession; Ronnie, me, and Chance.

“This place is really nice,” Chance said as he got out of his car and made his way to me. Arch and I both got out together, and the little boy darted to the house, unlocking the sliding glass door with the key that hung from a lanyard around his neck. I caught Ronnie’s eye as he followed the child into the house.

“It’s perfect,” I said honestly, grinning. Moving was exhausting, but now we were here full time. The furniture was already inside. We’d paid a moving team to pick it up from the house and bring it here late last week, and now we were just adding the little things. I spent yesterday morning switching over the power, cable, and internet.

Chance followed me into the house. The sliding doors opened up into the living room, and I immediately grinned at the sight of the marble fireplace, white molding, exposed beams, and built-in bookcases. I’d been here almost two dozen times since we bought the place a month ago, but it was still as exciting as the first time we walked through. I gave Chance a tour of the place, circling through the downstairs first before leading him up the curving staircase to the second floor where the dark, hardwood continued throughout the rooms. Arch and Ronnie were already in Arch’s room, so Chance and I just briefly popped our heads in before taking a look at the second bathroom.

When we stepped into the baby’s room, Chance tried to plaster a smile on his face, but I caught the surprise before he could mask it.

“It’s a mess,” I said, grinning. “I know. We’re still working on it.” I glanced at the mess too. The room was packed with boxes – the least put together room of the entire house. We hadn’t bought really anything yet, besides the items we were given at the baby shower. Even though it had seemed like a lot when it was piled up in Arch’s room at the Pasadena house, we quickly realized that we were missing a lot of essentials, like a crib, for one.

“I didn’t say anything,” Chance said, grinning at me as he started to back out of the room. “I’m sure it’ll be super nice once you actually take something out of a box.”

I shot him a look. “We’ve been busy!” I defended. “The rest of the furniture just got moved here on Thursday, and I figured it was better to get Arch’s room put together before I even considered cleaning up the baby’s room.”

Chance nodded animatedly. “Smart,” he said, quenching his smile.

I sighed and rolled my eyes at him, pushing him backwards out of the baby’s room. He laughed lightly and turned around, grabbing the railing that fenced in the second floor. He motioned for me to lead the way, and I stepped past him, skipping the guest bedroom and heading straight for mine.

Despite the number of boxes still lingering in the room, the rest of it had come together pretty nicely. The room was a little smaller than the Pasadena house, but it had a en-suite bathroom that made up for the size difference.

“Your bedroom,” Chance said, looking around without meeting my gaze. He wandered to the mirrored closet and then to the bathroom door, peaking in for just a minute before he turned around to face me.

“What do you think?” I asked, backing up to glance out of the window that overlooked the front of the house and the little fenced in yard.

Chance smiled secretively. “I have no objections,” he said, blue eyes meeting mine.

I smiled and stepped around the bed, reaching my hand out to the brunette. He took my fingers and let me pull him back so that I was sitting on the edge of the bed with him directly in front of me. I slid my hands around his waist and grabbed onto the back of his t’shirt. He put his arms around my shoulders, and his expression softened.

“You okay?” he asked, moving my hair out from under his arm.

I nodded. “I’m glad we’re done with all of this.”

Chance nodded easily. “It’s a lot to do while you’re worrying about all of the baby stuff.”

“And the ‘Arch stuff,’” I added. “We’ve got another meeting with Abigail and Lyla in a few days. Tomorrow is the eight month checkup for the baby, too.”

“And the people are coming to change the locks on the house,” Ronnie said casually as he swung into the room from the hall. He muted his facial expression as his eyes landed on me and Chance together. Nonchalantly, Chance stepped back so that we were standing in an uneven circle. Ronnie continued talking like he didn’t notice, “I was thinking that I could stay here while you go to your appointment. They didn’t give us an exact time that they’d be here.”

I shrugged. “If you’re okay with missing the appointment, then that’s fine,” I answered.

Ronnie frowned. “I don’t really think we have another option, Atticus,” he said. “I’d rather be at the clinic, but we have to get the locks changed over tomorrow.”

Chance spoke, “I could hang out here and wait for the locksmith.”

I looked to him, surprised. “Are you sure?” I asked.

Chance shrugged. “It’s not like it’ll be hard to sit around and let the guy in,” he said, glancing between me and Ronnie timidly. His blue gaze only stayed on the singer for half a second before it was back on me, eyebrows raised, waiting for my approval.

“Okay,” I agreed without waiting for Ronnie. The dark-eyed man didn’t rebut or react in any noticeable way, and I was grateful that he’d listened when I tried to tell him to grow up. At least for today, he seemed to be trying to control himself.

I gave Chance the rest of the details about when he needed to be here. Ronnie was going to pick me up for the appointment since we lived a couple blocks away now, and the two of us would take Arch to school in the morning. Chance would be here before we even left so that we wouldn’t have to rush to call him if the locksmith showed up early.

Chance left a little while later, and Ronnie and I hunkered down to organize the house. Ronnie was uncharacteristically quiet as we wandered in and out of rooms, putting away dishes and hanging up decorations. I passed him coming out of the kitchen and snagged him by the sleeve of his hoodie. He slowed and turned to look at me over his shoulder, dark eyes quiet, disinterested.

“Talk to me,” I said, grabbing for his wrist.

He slipped out of my grasp. “I don’t really want to talk about it,” he said, shaking his head at me.


“Atticus, I’m here, okay? That’s the most I can do right now.”

I frowned. “Where’s your head at? I need you here, really here.”

“That’s kind of selfish, isn’t it?” he asked, his tone darkening as he takes another step back. The hallway to the front door, the hall that concealed the bathroom, was behind him, and for a moment I thought he’d turn and flee. I could see him months ago in the foyer of my father’s house, and the back of his head as he left down the stairs – left Chance and I alone in my bedroom where we were before he found us. He wears the same expression now, and I know where this is going.

Instead of being angry, his voice lightened, and he wouldn't look at me as he talked. “I hate him, Atticus,” he said, “and I know that’s only because you like him. If he was just some normal guy, I probably wouldn’t hate him like this, but every time he touches you, I want to break his fingers.”

“I’m sure he feels the same about you, Ronnie,” I answered, sliding my arms over my stomach. “If you want to be here, you have to get used to Chance being here too. He’s trying to help.”

“It’s weird,” Ronnie answered, shaking his head. “It’s weird that we’re in some three-way relationship. You’re his girlfriend and the mother of my baby. How are we supposed to make this work?”

“It would work fine if that’s all I was to you,” I answered, leaning back against the counter. I held his gaze, watching his anger flood into his eyes.

“That’s not fair,” he said. He ran his fingers through his dark hair. It was getting longer on the sides since he came home from tour. No longer shaved completely to his skull, the tattoos there were once again hidden. He scratched the short, dark hair as he turned away, shaking his head at me. “You are so irritating,” he said. “You piss me off, Atticus, and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. I can’t keep this up with you.”

“Then get over how you feel about Chance, and focus on what’s really important. We bought this house together, but that doesn’t mean you can walk around pouting because Chance was here.”

Ronnie groaned and held onto the wooden framing around the hall entryway. “The thing is, you don’t even know what you want. Maybe I could get over you if I wasn’t constantly confused as to how you feel about me.”

“I’ve told you!” I retorted, throwing my arms out. “I told you from the beginning that you and I aren’t going to be together, Ronnie. We’re here for this baby and that’s it.”

“That’s bullshit, Atticus,” he answered, turning around quietly. His dark eyes flashed as he spoke. “You broke up with me because of some crap about not wanting to tie me down when I was touring. But guess what, the universe had other ideas and now you’re here, with my baby, and I’m here, with you. But it’s too fucked up because you found someone else to hold you over while I was gone, and you confused yourself and don’t want to hurt his feelings now that I’m back.”

I rolled my eyes, shaking my head at him. “You’re so full of yourself,” I replied. “The only reason you think that is because you can’t believe that maybe Chance and I are better together than we were. That maybe he’s better for me and the boys.”

“You just want him because it’s easier,” Ronnie spat, “but when has anything between us ever been easy? You and I both know that it was hard as hell, but it was worth it. You’re tired of working for the things you want, and so you’re tired of us. It’s crap.”

I glared at him, dark eyes baring into his own. He stood tall, certain of himself in the way that he always was. Even in the beginning, even before I knew more than his name and that he worked for my father. He was infuriating, never backing down, never thinking twice about what came out of his mouth – never apologizing for what he wanted.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

Ronnie tilted his head, wolf-like, and asked, “I don’t?” There were no more than three or four feet separating us, and he stepped forward, one foot at a time. He walked up until he was right in front of me and reached out to grasp the counter on either side of me, caging me in. He put one foot between mine.

“It was different when you weren’t with anyone else,” he said. “When you were focusing on our boys.”

“I’m allowed to have a life,” I said, half a head shorter than him. When I looked at him, he was so close, practically touching, that I had to look up.

He nodded, his fingers sliding between mine. “I want to be your life,” he whispered. “I want to be the cause of all the good things and the reason that the bad ones aren’t all bad.” Ronnie stepped forward, lifting our connected hands up, and kissed me. He let go of my hands so he could press his palms against my neck, sliding his narrow fingers into the hair at the back of my head.

After a moment, he rested his forehead against mine. “Tell me you don’t want this.”

I leaned back as his words registered and then pressed my hands into his shoulders, shoving him away. “You did that to prove a point?” I asked, disgusted. “This isn’t a game, Ronnie. You can’t kiss me whenever you want. Your tongue in my mouth isn't going to change my mind about anything!”

He let me shove him back to where he was before, lightly bumping into the entryway wall as he casually stepped back, eyes on me. “I’m just trying to show you why I won’t move on, Atticus,” he said, shaking his head. “You let me kiss you. You don’t even realize how confusing this is for me.”

“You don’t think I’m confused?” I asked, angry, irritated, unable to look at him. “You messing with me like that doesn’t help anyone, and it sure as hell won’t happen again. We’re done, Ronnie, okay? You want clarity, here it is; we’re done and that's not going to happen again, to prove a point or otherwise.”

Ronnie’s expression blanched for a split second. “Atticus,” he said, tone changing, “I didn’t meant to be an asshole, I just need you to understand–”

I shook my head as he spoke, turning away from him. “I can do the rest of this by myself,” I said, moving out of the kitchen, sliding past him to round back to the living room. “You can go home.”

“Atti, please–”

“Ronnie,” I cut him off, turning back to meet his eyes. “Just go, okay? I need some space. This week has been stressful and overwhelming, and I really just need you to go home and leave me alone. I'll see you tomorrow.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Hey everyone! I know it's been way too long. I feel like I apologize for this every time I update, but things really have been busy on my end. I finished my junior year of college and moved to my mom's for a week. Last week I moved back to campus for orientation training for work, and now I'm helping my mom move out of her house. I can move into my apartment any day after Wednesday, so I'm going to be really busy with all that. Plus I'm waiting on a call about a second job.

So yeah, lol, there's been a lot going on in my life. This is my first weekend off since starting training, so I really wanted to get something written. I've had a lot of ideas for this floating around in my head, so I finally managed to get some of the timeline sorted.

If you're interested in something else that I'm working on (which gets updated more frequently) check out my fantasy story The Trajectory of Planes. If contemporary is more your style, I've been working on Girls Like Boys as well.