‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


Chance and Ronnie were both at the house by eight-thirty, and they came through the backdoor together, awkwardly stepping into the kitchen where Arch and I sat at the island for breakfast. Ronnie immediately went to Arch’s side as he slipped his keys back into his pocket. Due to the move, he had a house key of his own up until the locksmith came today and changed them over. He offered me a quiet, good morning smile as he dropped down onto a stool next to Arch.

Chance came to my side. “Morning, Atticus,” he said, frowning as he sat next to me and resting his elbow against the granite counter top. “How’d you sleep?”

I shook my head at the question. “Not great,” I said. “It’s uncomfortable trying to sleep when I can barely move.”

Ronnie frowned at me across the island. “Maybe Dr. Ancari can give you some tips today,” he said with a hopeful shrug. “We need to get going soon.”

I nodded at his words and set down my cup. Arch was in a daze across from me. Mornings were never his strong suit, and today was no different. Besides wrapping his arms around Ronnie’s middle when he arrived, Arch hadn’t said or done anything else. If it wasn’t for the plate in front of him, he would’ve fallen asleep right there.

“I’ve got to get him dressed,” I said, climbing down from my stool, “and then I’ll finish getting ready, and we can go. His bag should be packed, but can you double check? It’s by the dining room table.”

Ronnie nodded and spun up from the table. He ruffled Arch’s hair as he passed by, heading down the narrow hall to the front room and the dining room to the left. He must’ve kicked his shoes off by the door, because his sock-clad feet slipped soundless on the hardwood as he left the room. Otherwise, he wore a pair of baggy black joggers with white x’s over the knees and a dull beige, straight-lined hoodie. He ran his fingers through his hair as he turned into the dining room, brushing it out of his face.

Chance nodded to the counter. “I’ll clean up while you get him ready,” he offered, referring to Arch who pushed his plate out of the way and rested his head on his arms.

I darted around the table with a grateful smile and ushered Arch up before he could fall asleep again. “Do you want to wear your polo or blazer today?” I asked as he dropped to the floor on his feet.

“My grey sweater,” he answered, walking ahead of me.

I nodded easily. “If you can find a black button-up, then you can wear the sweater,” I replied, watching as he easily accepted the challenge and darted up the stairs to find it before I met him there.

He had the sweater on his bed when I walked in and was in the middle of rooting through his middle drawer to find a black shirt. It only took him another minute to find one, and he stripped off his pajamas and jumped in front of me so I could button up the shirt for him. We found black slacks after and then yanked the crewneck on over his head. The Nicolas insignia decorated the upper left corner, and Arch grinned at the successful outfit.

“Can you brush your teeth?” I asked, climbing up from his bed. “I’m going to get dressed, and then I’ll come check on you, alright? When you’re done go make sure Ronnie got your backpack organized.”

Arch nodded eagerly and led the way out of his room. We followed the hall around the stairs. He deviated to the bathroom, and I continued to my own room. I chose the first comfortable outfit I could find; a beige, cardigan-style poncho and a pair of blue jeans. I was in the process of stuffing my feet into black Converse when Chance lightly knocked on the door and came in.

I shot him a pouty look and glanced to my shoes, untied.

He laughed and slipped into the room, shutting the door behind him. He kneeled beneath me and tied the laces for me, grinning.

“I see you laughing at me,” I said, reaching down to run my fingers through his dark hair. I trailed my fingers down the back of his neck and tucked in the tag of his royal-blue sweater.

He smiled up at me, lightly shivering at the sensation. “If you let me stay over, I’m sure I could help you sleep more soundly,” he said quietly, biting his bottom lip between his teeth.

I traced my fingers along his jaw line and lightly grasped his chin. “I’m sure you think you could,” I replied, freeing his lip with my thumb, “but you and I both know that’s a terrible idea.”

Chance climbed up so that he was crouched in front of me rather than kneeling. He wrapped his arms around my waist and linked his fingers against my lower back. “I think it’s a great idea,” he replied. “Why should you suffer all night when you don’t have to?”

“My son sleeps right down the hall,” I said, resting both arms on his shoulders.

He shrugged under my weight. “Let him stay at Ronnie’s this weekend,” he said. “It’ll be good practice for them both.”

I frowned. “Both?”

Chance smiled. “Arch will beg to sleep there once the baby comes and wakes him up in the middle of the night. Hell, he might even ask to stay with me.”

I chuckled. “I think that’s a long way off, Chance. He’d go to my parents’ before he goes to your house. Spencer would think you were insane if you starting bringing Arch around.”

Chance pushed up and kissed me on his way to his feet. He slipped out of my grasp and moved to sit beside me. Dropping down so that he was stretched out on his back, he turned and looked at me with blue eyes the color of his sweater. “Maybe I'm insane,” he spoke, tangling his fingers through mine.

I turned so that I leaned over him, one hand pressed against the mattress by his side. My baby belly touched his hip, separating us. “You’re beautiful,” I answered, eyes trailing over his face; the straight line of his nose, soft curve of his jaw, flushed cheeks, and the way his eyes – more ultramarine than indigo – watched me.

Chance leaned forward and met my lips, holding himself up as I gripped his knitted sweater in my fist. There was nothing difficult about being close to Chance. He was smooth lines and playful kisses. He pulled back with a smile hinting at the corners of his mouth, and then noisily kissed me a couple quick times before freefalling back onto the bed and rolling up the other way.

“What jacket do you want?” he asked, moving to the pile of hoodies and sweatshirts that’d been pulled out and tossed on top of a couple boxes. He picked up a couple and held them out toward me, squinting.

I playfully scoffed at him as he tried to discern which ones would fit over the baby belly. “Give me that,” I demanded, yanking my sleek, military-green, bomber jacket out of his hands.

He laughed and came back around the bed as I slipped it on and zipped it up. He backpedaled to the door and held it open for me. “You better find Arch and Ronnie,” he said, leaning his shoulder into the door. “When I headed upstairs, they were planning a coo.”

I gave him an odd look. “What do you mean a ‘coo’?”

Chance grinned, but kept his lips firmly sealed.

I sighed and rolled my eyes, wondering at the luck that brought three mischievously men into my life. With Chance’s loyal silence to Arch and Ronnie, I could already imagine that day that they all took up against me. It wouldn’t be long before the baby joined their ranks either.

I clomped down the stairs, holding onto the railing, and yelled for Arch. Chance followed easily behind me, hopping down the steps with his hands on my shoulders like he was nervous about me making it all the way down safely. Arch didn’t answer, so I called out for Ronnie, rounding through the dining room into the kitchen. I peered out the window above the sink, grateful to find them on the back porch ready to go.

Chance smiled at me when I turned around to face him. “I’ll hold down the fort,” he said, leaning sideways against the cleaned off island with his arms crossed over his chest.

I cozied up to him, sticking my fingers tips through the little holes in his sweater. His arms went around my shoulders. “Thank you,” I said, brushing against his cheek.

Chance nodded and kissed the edge of my mouth. “I’ll see you later,” he said, nodding toward the window, and the porch, and the boys waiting there for me.

Ronnie tossed Arch’s book bag into the backseat of my the car when he saw me coming and ushered the little boy inside too. He jangled my keys at me as an offer to let me drive, but I motioned him on, content to let him drive me. Arch needed to be to Nicolas by nine, so we headed there first to drop him off.

The drop off line was ridiculous at this time of hour, so Ronnie pulled up to the first available parallel space he could find across the street, and I got out to walk Arch inside. He slipped out of the backseat, called his goodbyes to Ronnie, and pulled his backpack on before taking my hand. We moved down to the crosswalk at the corner of the street, and headed to the parking lot. Cars slowed and stopped completely when they saw the two of us crossing. Despite his immediate reaction to dart out of the way, Arch stayed by my side as we moved toward the building and the elementary school entrance.

“You’re slow,” Arch complained, tugging on my hand as we entered the hallway with other parents and students. I caught a couple of sympathetic and amused looks from a parents closest to me.

“Your brother is heavy,” I defended, smiling at Arch as I held him back by his hand. “You can’t expect me to run around all over the place with the baby weighing me down.”

Arch frowned at me. “You were slow before too,” he said, grabbing the strap of his backpack as he turned away to look at the other students and the commotion around us.

I laughed quietly at his words and let him drag me into his classroom. I met his teacher a few times before, mostly during the beginning of the year. When it was just Arch and I, I dropped him off from the drop-off line out front and his designated classroom helper got him and the other students to the right room. Mr. Santana, Arch’s first grade teacher, grinned at him as we entered the room together.

“Good morning, Arch,” he greeted from where he stood in the center of the room, surrounded by other students. “Did you have a good weekend?”

Arch still clutched my hand. “Yeah! We moved into our new house, and I got to sleep there for the first time.” He pulled me right over the small table where his name was taped to his spot. He tossed his backpack down on his chair, letting go of me only long enough to get it off, and then grabbed my hand again before I could make my way out.

When he took my hand again, he looked up to me and then to his teacher. “This is my mom,” he said, “Atticus.”

While Nicolas knew about Arch’s custody and adoption situation, I hadn’t explicitly told this year’s teacher about everything. I didn’t want each new introduction to be a rundown of Arch’s past. For all that it mattered, I was Arch’s mom. Even if he did call me Atticus.”

Mr. Santana gently slipped away from his other kids and walked over, wiping his hand on his slacks before extending it to me. “It’s nice to see you again,” he said warmly.

“You too, Mr. Santana,” I replied as Arch beamed up at me and squeezed the life out of my fingers.

“You can call me Javi,” he said with a dismissive shake of his head. He then shot a look at Arch as the little boy tried the word. “It’s Mr. Santana to you, Arch,” he said seriously, holding back a smile. “If I hear you say anything else, you’re going to have to distribute the snacks to the whole class today.”

Arch grinned secretively and nodded. “Okay.”

I grabbed Arch’s wrist with my freehand and pulled my other hand free from his grasp. “I’ve got to go, baby,” I said, lightly resting my hand on his head and brushing back his blonde curls. “We’re going to be late for the doctor’s appointment if I don’t.”

Arch frowned. “Are you and Ronnie picking me up?”

I nodded easily at the off-kilter question. There had never been a time where I didn't pick him up. “I’ll see you later. Have a great day.” I leaned down and pressed a kiss against his head before nodding goodbye to his teacher and making my way out of the room. As I pushed through the doorway, I caught Arch’s blue eyes on me, and hated the sinking feeling that settled in my chest. It never felt like there was enough time to balance everything, enough attention to give Arch. Even though he was required to attend and it’s one of the best schools, leaving him there felt like shucking him off because I was too busy to stay and let him show me everything.

When I dropped back into the passenger’s seat, Ronnie’s dark eyes landed on me. “You alright, Atti?” he asked, glancing from me to traffic as he pulled out from the street.

“Yeah,” I sighed, maneuvering the seatbelt around my body. “I’m fine.”

Ronnie’s gaze slid to mine. “I need more than that,” he said, pulling to a stop behind a line of cars at a red light. “Nobody ever means ‘fine’ when they say ‘fine.’ What’re you thinking about?”

I rolled my head against the seat as I turned to look at him. He quirked a smile and nodded for me to explain. The car rolled forward as the light changed. “It’s always the same stuff,” I said with a shrug. “I’m worried about Arch, about you, the baby, about Chance. There’s a hundred different factors to consider.”

Ronnie frowned at the street. “We had a good morning,” he said. “You don’t need to worry about me. I’m here to worry about you.”

I nodded at his words. “We had a great morning,” I said, reaching out to grasp his shoulder. “Thank you for that. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a smoother morning with you and Chance.”

Ronnie nodded. “I don’t want to make anything harder on you,” he said lightly. “But if you need, or want, to talk about anything, then talk to me.”

My eyes narrowed as I looked at him, impressed. I pulled my hand back and nodded. “It’s like you know me so well,” I murmured, looking from him to the building flashing by as we sped up. “Sometimes I wish I could talk to you about everything.”

Ronnie’s voice quieted. “You mean about Chance?” he asked, knowing instinctively that I rarely held anything else back from him. For years, we’d confided in each other about every small inconvenience – about our families, jobs, co-workers, friends, our life together. Even now, there wasn’t much that he didn’t know about me. Except for Chance, except for what Chance and had together.

“You’re my best friend,” I said softly, almost afraid to speak the words and break the easy morning that we had. “You have always been, Ron,” I spoke. “I’ve always loved, still love, being around you. But there’s just this divide now, and I don’t know how to get over it.”

Ronnie’s grasp changed on the wheel, fingers tightening and loosening again. “You’re still my best friend,” he said with a shrug. “Literally nothing will change that, but I hope that I’m never okay hearing about you and him, because that means that I moved on, and my life will be so much worse without you.”

I sucked in a shaky breath and smiled at the dark-haired man with the night eyes. It was a typical Ronnie response. Refusal and defiance in one temperate, calm delivery. He smiled at me, barely turning his attention my direction, and barreled into the parking lot of the Ancari-Strauss clinic.

The appointment included a Q&A session with Dr. Ancari where she explained that all my discomfort was normal because the baby was larger than ever with less space than ever and unable to move around as freely.

“He hasn’t dropped yet,” she said, showing us the fact that he was still upward facing on the sonogram, “which explains why you’re breathing more heavily when you move around a lot. Incidentally, he’ll begin trying to breathe pretty soon too. Besides basic discomfort, what other symptoms are you feeling?”

I frowned. “Headaches, fatigue, nausea,” I rambled, “and it’s getting more difficult to walk around naturally. All I really want to do is lay in bed, but even that gets uncomfortable after an hour or so.”

“That’s normal,” she said. “The end is typically just uncomfortable in general. If you can, try to find a position on your side where your belly is supported. It’ll take some of the pressure off your back. And if he starts feeling like an immobile little rock in there, drink a glass of OJ. The sugar should get him moving – hopefully to a more comfortable position.”

Ronnie and I nodded almost in sync as we digested the information. The doctor took a few moments to type information into the computer, leaving us in a subdued quiet. The more we talked about it, the more anxious I was to be done with the pregnancy. Every alternative – sitting, standing, sleeping, walking – was just as uncomfortable as the last.

“Updates for this week,” Dr. Ancari said into the quiet room, “your little boy has finger nails now.” She smiled at us both.

I frowned at the idea.

Ronnie chuckled at the look on my face.

Dr. Ancari tilted her screen toward us. “You'll have weekly appointments from now on,” she said, looking to me first, then Ronnie. “We want to keep track of your breathing, monitor the baby more closely, and make sure that our estimated due date is still on track. As of now, March 15th still seems to be the day.”

Ronnie glanced to the monitor and then the doctor. “What’s the chance that he comes late or early?” he asked, and I turned all my attention to the doctor as she considered the answer.

“It kind of depends on him,” she said, looking to the frozen sonogram photo on the other screen. “If we pass your due date, and he still isn’t here, we’ll give you some things to do to try and convince him to come on out. And if that doesn’t work, we can schedule a day to induce labor. As for early, that’s kind of a flip of the coin. The 15th is our best estimate, but he can always drop and decide that it’s time.”

I asked, “how early is too early? Will he be okay if he comes out before he’s supposed to? Will he have to stay here or in the hospital?”

“You’re at 32 weeks now, and we always want babies to stay the full 40 weeks if possible,” she said, slowing her words, “but below 37 weeks is considered pre-term. He needs to stay in as long as possible, which it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be an issue right now. But we’ll have weekly checkups just to keep an eye on things.”

Dr. Ancari printed out two copies of the list of up-coming appointments and passed them to Ronnie and I both.

“Do either of you have any other questions?” she asked, turning toward us with her hands in her lap. “The last few weeks are a big deal, especially for new parents. I highly recommend looking into the birthing classes that we offer. You can never be too prepared.”

“I went to a class,” I said, shooting Ronnie a glare when he gave me a confused look of his own. “With Heather,” I defended, “once. It was not enjoyable.”

Dr. Ancari chuckled and turned back to the computer and the clear brochure holder behind the screen. From it, she plucked a few pamphlets and handed them over. “Read about our class,” she said, pointing to the both of us. “It’s not to intimidate you. We just want you to be as prepared possible when your son is ready to come into the world.”

Ronnie and I both nodded and took the pamphlets without rebuttal. The class with Heather hadn’t inspired me much, but fear of the unknown was definitely a catalyst toward getting prepared.

“Also,” Dr. Ancari said, calling our attention back to her, “in the spirit of being prepared, you might want to pin down a name in the next few weeks, so we have something to call him when he gets here.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Check out my fantasy story: The Trajectory of Planes.