‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

2 AM

It was two AM when I rolled over in bed and felt my sheets wet beneath me. Automatically, I reached out in the dark to see if Arch had climbed in and had an accident, but when I moved, I felt how heavy and drenched my sweats were.

Immediately, I sat up, waiting for the pain of contractions to wash over me, but felt nothing as I climbed to my feet. I moved to my closet, pressing my hand against my stomach, and got out fresh clothes. I changed in the dark without turning the light on, moving on autopilot as I tried to monitor my body for any other changes.

Once I was dressed, I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and tied my hair up on my head. Then I took my phone from the nightstand and called Heather.

“Oh my god, it’s happening,” she said as she answered. “I can’t believe this, Atticus. What’s going on? Are you on the way to the clinic? Is Ronnie freaking out? I can send Aiden to get Arch.” I heard her in the background speaking excitedly with her husband.

“My water broke while I was sleeping,” I said. “I’m not sure how long ago. I haven’t woken Ronnie or Arch up yet, but I wanted to call and let you know that Arch will probably be on his way over in a little bit with Chance. I’m going to call Dr. Ancari first.”

“You haven’t woken Ronnie up yet? How long have you been awake?”

“About fifteen minutes,” I replied easily. “I don’t really feel all that much. It’s uncomfortable, but I don’t think I’m really having contractions.”

Heather balked on the other end. “Atticus, jesus, hang up and wake Ronnie up. He needs to drive you to the doctor. You’re in labor, sweetheart. The contractions are coming, trust me. Call Chance then go. We’ll be waiting up for the little boy.”

Heather hung up with encouraging words, and I slid the phone into my pocket. Heading out of my dark room to the dark hallway, I rounded the railing that lined the stairs, and pushed open Ronnie’s bedroom door. He'd taken to sleeping in here two weeks ago, wanting to be prepared for everything. He’d bought a decent mattress, platform frame, and matching side-tables with lamps since the plan was for him to stay for a while after the baby was born.

I crossed the open space, my eyes already adjusted to the dimness of the room. The only light came through the window that over looked the front of the house and the street beyond. The streetlights made this bedroom brighter than the others. I reached down and lightly pressed against Ronnie’s bare back.

“Ron,” I said quietly. “Ronnie, wake up.”

The man’s hair was a mess against the white sheets and pillow case under his head. He had his face turned toward the window and didn’t budge when I reached to wake him. Finally, uncomfortably, I sat down on the edge of his bed and leaned against his side, peering around his bare torso to see his sleeping face.

“Ronnie, baby,” I muttered, pushing his hair back from his face. “Ron, you gotta wake up. The baby is going to come, and you’re the one who has to drive me to deliver him.”

Ronnie groaned as he came too, groggy as I pulled him from deep sleep. Still lost in the kind of tired that fights back when you try to pull yourself from it. I watched his eyes flicker open and closed again, unable to focus or comprehend in the state of his exhaustion. Finally, after another round of gentle coaxing, the man’s eyes stayed open.

“My water broke,” I said. “My whole fucking bed is wet, right in the middle. They say it’s only a few cups of liquid, but rolling around in it, it seems like a lot. Those sheets are going to have to be washed before I leave. I’m not doing it when we get back.””

Ronnie frowned at me. “Is this your way of telling me you’re in labor?” he asked.

I nodded. “I guess so. I need to call Chance and have him come get Arch.”

Ronnie shot out of bed, crawling down to the end and jumping out before I could move a muscle. “Jesus Christ, Atticus,” Ronnie said, standing in the center of his room in just his underwear. “How long ago did your water break? How long have you been trying to wake me up? Why were you being so nice about it? You should’ve fucking dropped that lamp on me or something. We’ve wasted so much time.”

“We’ve got time,” I answered, watching him.

He flipped on the light, flinching as it illuminated the room, and darted to his closet. He slipped into a pair of joggers and an oversized hoodie before pushing his hair out of his face and yanking on socks and shoes.

“Call Chance,” he said, ducking out of the room and coming back with my shoes and overnight bag for the clinic. “We’re going to have to wait for him to get here and take Arch. And you know Arch isn’t going without a fight.”

“Maybe we can get him in Chance’s car without waking him,” I suggested, curling my arms around my bloated stomach.

Ronnie saw the movement and cursed under his breath. “Do you need new clothes?” he asked, motioning to the sweats I wore. “Has everything stopped down there? Do you want one of those underwear things?”

“It’s all taken care of,” I said, smiling at the hysteria and concern in his voice. “I already changed. I feel fine. You tell Arch what’s going on. I’ll call Chance.”

Ronnie paused for a moment and stared at me, and then nodded. “You wait here, Atti,” he said, moving to tuck his blankets around me. “I’m going to get Arch up and take everything downstairs,” he said and ducked out of the room.

I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed Chance’s name, listening to the ringing as I watched for the noise to wake the man and bring him to my doorstep.

Chance answered after a while, groggily. “Is everything okay, babe?” he asked, yawning into the phone. “What time is it?”

“Hi, babe,” I answered quickly, tucked back into Ronnie’s room and his sheets. “Everything’s fine, but my water broke, Ronnie’s up and moving, and we’re getting ready to head to the clinic. I called Heather and Aiden, and they’re waiting up for Arch.”

The sound was muffled as Chance got up and rooted around his room. “I’m on my way,” he stated. “Just let me get my shoes and my keys, and I’ll be there. Have Ronnie unlock the backdoor for me. I want to come up and see you before I go.”

Fifteen minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sound of the sliding glass door opening in the living room beneath this bedroom. Ronnie had brought me my coat, taken Arch down to the couch, and gathered our chargers, paperwork, and IDs into a single bag that he deposited alongside his bed. The more I waited for the night to come together, the more I felt the contractions growing closer and closer together.

I could hear all three boys’ voices on the first floor, and then Chance’s lithe footsteps as he faulted up the stairs. He barreled into the bedroom and grinned at me.

“What’s Ron yelling about?” I asked, smiling back.

“He’s just a bit anxious,” Chance answered, looking around the room as he made his way across to me. I’d been vague when I told him that Ronnie was staying here for a while to be near me and the boys after our son was born. He hadn’t been pleased, but he didn’t say one negative thing about it. But I could see the hesitation in his expression as he walked through Ronnie’s room to find me.

“This is as far as I made it once I woke him up,” I said, motioning around the room.

Chance stopped a couple feet from me and nodded. “I thought maybe Ronnie tied you to the bed so you couldn’t wander around the house until he was ready to go.”

“He probably would’ve if I tried,” I said with a laugh and a shrug. “He’s definitely taking charge of everything right now. I thought I was good to go, but I really don’t want to leave this room, Chance. Once I get up, it’s really happening.”

“Atticus,” he breathed, closing the space between us. He kneeled down in front of me and grasped my hands. “You’re ready for this. You know you can do this.”

“Of course she can do this,” Ronnie said, frowning as he stepped into his bedroom and looked at me. “Do you think you can’t do this, Att? What’s wrong, baby?”

Chance bristled at the words but slid to his left so that Ronnie could come closer as well.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I said, trying to stop my body from shaking. “It’s going to hurt. I don’t think I can handle how much it will hurt. What if something goes wrong and one of us doesn’t make it? What if my body can’t do it and something happens to the baby? I can’t do this, you guys. I can’t.”

Ronnie kneeled down next to Chance, the two of them positioned in front of me like they were giving thanks to the body that could bring life into the word and building a wall of their bones for me to brace myself against.

Ronnie took my face in his hands, centering my gaze on his dark eyes. “Nothing is going to happen to either of you, Atticus,” he said, breathing life into the reality of it. “I will not let anything happen to you. I’m going to be there with you the whole time, watching you and waiting for our son. I know you can do this, so we have to go to the clinic.”

“I know I have to,” I said, bracing my hand on Ronnie’s shoulder as another wave of contractions wracked through my body. “I know we have to go.”

Ronnie nodded and leaned in to brush the tears from my face. Each worsening contraction brought prickly dread into my spine, and the fear was nauseating. Both Ronnie and Chance helped me downstairs, Ronnie walking in front and Chance behind. Arch was curled up on the living room couch, peering over the back as I slowly made my way into the room.

I could see the fear on his face, how fragile I must’ve looked in the six year old’s eyes, unable to stand straight or walk down the stairs without support. I could see a new hesitation in his features put there by his distress for me. Just two weeks after being told he could finally become my son, his brave mom could barely smile without grimacing.

“I’m fine, baby,” I said as I walked into the room alongside Ronnie and Chance, trying to stand straight and look him in the eye. “Your brother is just kicking around a lot in there, because he’s ready to come out.”

Arch lower lip wobbled as he bit back tears. “How does he get out of you?” he asked. “What if he hurts you?”

This was the first time that Arch had put up walls against the baby, the first time it had become a scenario where he didn’t want his brother in the world. I shook my head, shook off his fears, and answered, “The doctors help, baby. Don’t worry. They take him right out of my belly. It’ll be okay.”

Arch looked from me to the men standing beside me. “Can I come with you?” he asked, holding onto his blanket in curled fists. “I want to make sure that he doesn’t hurt you.”

“That’s what the doctors are for, baby boy. You’re going to go to Heather’s tonight, she’ll bring you to see your brother when he gets here in the morning. Ronnie will call and tell you how everything’s going, so you don’t have to worry about me, okay? We’ve gotta get going. It’s really late.”

Arch nodded, always a trooper, and climbed up from the couch. Ronnie had stuffed his feety-pajama covered feet into his tennis shoes and dragged his coat on over the flannel fabric. Arch held fast to the small train blanket off his bed and darted around the couch to stand at my side. Ronnie, already carrying a couple of our bags, picked Arch’s backpack up from the floor and held it out to him.

Chance took it and led the way out of the house. Chance’s car was parked behind Ronnie’s Escalade, just inside the fence that lined our property. Since Ronnie’s car was bigger and therefore safer in our minds, we’d put one of the baby’s carseats in there already, prepared for anything.

Ronnie pulled Arch’s booster out of my car and tossed it in the backseat of Chance’s car. “Don’t forget to leave that at Heather’s when you get there,” Ron said, leaving the back door open for my blonde little boy.

Arch hovered at my side without touching me. Chance started his car, and Ronnie came back to open the passenger’s door and help me in. I turned toward my son and smoothed his blonde curls.

“Everything’s okay,” I told him, believing more myself as I repeated the manta to him. “This is how it always is when mommies have babies. Remember when grandma had Holland? It was scary too, but everything turned out perfect.”

Arch nodded, and I pulled him to me. He wrapped his arms gently around me and my stomach, his head pressed against my hip as he held on.

“I really want to come with you, mommy,” he said, his voice cracking.

“Sweetheart,” I whispered, kissing the top of his head. “You’ll come in the morning with Heather, Aiden, and Kyat, okay? Everyone – grandpa, Max, Frida – they’re all going to meet you there. Now go with Chance and try to sleep when you get to Heather’s. It’ll make the night go faster.”

Arch nodded, trying to hide tears, and turned away from Chance motioned him into the car. Tonight, Arch had no fight in him, unable to argue or rebut against Chance. I watched until Arch was safely buckled in and Chance backed out of the drive into the alley.

Ronnie jogged back up the drive to me. “We got to go,” he said, seriously, hopping up the back patio to lock the sliding glass door.

I called Dr. Ancari on the way to the clinic, using her personal line and hoping to god that they were prepared to deliver my baby in the dead of night. Every few seconds, Ronnie’s nervous gaze would flicker back to me as the phone rang, and we both grew more anxious with every trill.

Finally, the doctor answered. I didn’t even give her a minute to get a word in before I blurted out that we were coming. “My water broke about an hour ago. We’re in the car now, and I’m definitely having contractions.”

“Okay, Atticus, how far apart are your contractions? That’ll let me know how long we have until you need to push. We didn’t have you scheduled until next week, but these things happen.”

“I don’t know,” I answered, grimacing through another wave of pain, “but they’re close. Is anyone even going to be at the clinic? You aren’t prepared, oh my god.”

“I need the time between contractions, Atticus,” the doctor said calmly. “Then I can let you know whether or not you need to reroute to the hospital.”

“Seven minutes,” Ronnie said as I shivered once again. “I just watched the clock. She had one right when we got in the car then another one just now. They’re seven or eight minutes apart.”

“Okay, guys,” Dr. Ancari said calmly. “That’s perfect. We’ve got support staff working overnight and nurses on call, so we’ll be all ready to go when you two get here. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

When the doctor hung up, I scrolled through my contacts. “I’m going to call my father,” I said, clicking on his name in the list. “He’ll be pissed if I don’t tell him.”

Ronnie rolled his eyes. “Brett is not our top priority right now.”

“We’re at least ten minutes from the clinic,” I said, cutting off. When the pain subsided, I added, “there’s plenty of time.”

Ronnie reached out and grabbed the phone from me. He put it on speaker and balanced it against the steering wheel from me. When my dad picked up, Ronnie spoke first. “Hey Brett,” he said easily. “It’s Ronnie. We’re on the way to the clinic. Att’s in labor.”

“You’re a week early!” Brett answered. “I was supposed to take a day trip to Seattle in the morning to meet with some artists up there. Thank god I’m still here. I’ve got to let them know that I’m not coming. How’s Atticus?”

“I’m good, Dad,” I answered. "Just gonna have a baby. Ronnie will keep you updated, and we’ll see you when he gets here, okay?”

Ronnie handed the phone back as we came up to our exit, and he slowed to pull back onto the city streets. My dad answered, “Me and your mom are coming,” he said determinedly. “She’s on the phone with Paulie right now. We’re going to have your sister look after the girls until she gets here, and then your brother will pick up Frida on his way.”

“You had this planned out already,” I replied, shaking my head at the fact that they all conspired even though I told them not to come until after the baby arrived.

“You bet we did,” Brett answered. “This baby is family, and we’re not going to miss his birth, Atticus. He’s a Gaschler, even if you give him Ronnie’s name.”

Ronnie sighed and shook his head. “He’s getting my name, Brett,” Ronnie said, “We’ve got to go. We’re at the clinic, so it’s show time.” He pulled into the parking lot and met my eyes, breathing deeply.

“Okay, kids,” Brett said. “Have you called your dad or brother, Ronnie? I can go ahead and let them know that they need to get on a plane. You just take care of my girl, Radke. Be safe, baby girl, okay? You’re going to do so good and then we’ll be there to meet the little baby.”

“I love you, Dad,” I said, taking a shaky breath as I undid my seatbelt.

“I love you too, baby girl. See you both on the other side.”
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