‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

What He Wants

Thanksgiving morning was a blur of phone calls. I spoke to my father, my step-mother, and my brother consecutively that morning. Gina and Frida were set to fly back this afternoon and my father was in charge of picking them up. He also had my baby sisters, which was a bit hectic and we all knew it.

Max called to ask me what time we were coming and when we’d be ducking out. I had two Thanksgivings to go to today. Russell planned a dinner rather than a lunch, giving me enough time to attend my family’s and then drive out to his. But Gina’s flight had caused both meals to be pushed frustratingly close together.

“The Radke thing is at six,” I told my brother over the phone, directing it somewhat towards Kasey since she was sitting next to me on the couch too. “Who knows when Dad is actually going to have anything ready today, so we might end up leaving before we even eat, but I can stop back and pick Kasey up later tonight, if you need me to.”

”No, I can drive her back,” the nineteen year old answered, taking some of the pressure off my shoulders, ”but I think Dad might actually pull this off. You know he’s going to be pissed if you leave before we eat.”

“I told Russell that I would come,” I said. “I can’t change the fact that he’s family now, Max, and I really enjoy Ronnie’s family, even if I don’t enjoy Ronnie.”

”Is he going to be there today?”

“I don’t think so,” I responded. “I don’t have his schedule or anything, but I’m pretty sure that the band is in the UK somewhere. Arch and I checked online a few days ago and they were in Germany, so I can’t imagine that they’re back yet.”

”Well, don't be upset if you’re surprised by his presence,” Max said. ”I mean, Ronnie seems to pull little stuff like that a lot.”

My brother hit the nail right on the head, but he didn’t even know half the story. He didn’t know about the days following our first break up, and the times that the dark haired singer threatened to come home to salvage our relationship. He didn’t know that I was worried about his return for days on end, and that having to face him would change everything.

I hadn’t seen him since he walked out on the fourth of July. Since he saw something he didn’t want to and disappeared from my little sister’s birthday party. He was silent for three days before he showed back up on his tour bus, going back to his life without a word about me or what happened between us.

I had spoken to him once since then, on the phone, and straight to the point. It had only been four months, but it felt like so much longer. Everything had changed drastically and we were both different than we were when we were together. The time apart had been good for us, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see him without warning. I hadn’t prepared myself for his arrival, even though I knew there was a slight chance he might come home early for the holiday.

I told my brother that I would see him later and we ended the call. Kasey smiled politely, probably unsure of what to say, because it was obvious that my mind was somewhere else completely. She fed Charlie for me while I went upstairs to get Arch out of bed, and I was honestly grateful for the help. I had spent a lot of time splitting everything between two people, but since Ronnie’s departure last February, it had been just Arch and I.

I got Arch in and out of the bath quickly. Despite the fact that there was nothing to do until my father returned from the airport with my mother and sisters, it felt like we were on a time crunch. Arch got dressed in a pair of nice pants that narrowed at the ankles and were remarkably similar to the drop-crotch pants Ronnie’d donned from time to time. Arch paired that with a space gray tank top with a thin black zip up over it. I sent him to the bathroom to brush his hair and teeth, and then grabbed his bag from his closet so I could pack a few extra things for tonight.

It was over four hours to Russell’s house in Las Vegas, which meant if we stayed too late, I might consider the two of us staying the night in Ronnie’s old bedroom rather than making the return trip. I packed a pair of clean clothes for tomorrow, figuring Arch would be fine to sleep in what he was wearing now, and his school tablet, before following after him into the bathroom and grabbing his hair and tooth brushes when he was done.

He’d barely set the toothbrush down before I swiped it from the holder. The little boy looked at me with narrowed eyes in the mirror. “Why are you packing my stuff?” he asked, leaning against the counter as he turned to stare at me directly.

“We might stay the night at Russell’s,” I answered, grabbing the toothpaste and tossing it in for good measure. “If it gets too late, I mean.”

Arch nodded, blonde curls on the back of his neck. “Is Ronnie going to be there?” he asked.

I stepped around him and out of the small bathroom. “I don’t think so,” I said.

He followed me into my room and stood in the doorway. I set his bag down between him and my bed and moved to my closet to grab one of my own bags.

“Can you call him and ask for sure?” Arch asked from the door.

I moved to my dresser and stuffed a few things into my bag, before heading back to the closet for pajamas. “No, Arch. If he’s there, he’s there. If not, then good, but I don’t want to call him. You can just wait and see if he shows up.”

“But that’s not fair,” the boy complained, stepping farther into the room. “How am I supposed to go the whole day, Atti? What if he’s not there?”

“Just don’t get your hopes up, Arch,” I said, turning to face him. “Ronnie’s working and he’s scheduled to keep working until right before Christmas. Just because it’s Thanksgiving, you can’t expect him to drop everything and come home. He owes it to his fans to be where he says he’ll be.”

“He owes it to us to be here,” Arch stated, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re having a baby with him and he’s not even here. And I haven’t talked to him in two months, Att. He doesn’t care anymore and I hate it.”

I sighed and dropped the bag onto my bed. I sat down on the edge and leaned down, my hands holding onto Arch’s shoulders lightly, pulling him to me. “Listen to me,” I spoke seriously, looking at my son’s light eyes. “Ronnie’s not here because he’s working. It has nothing to do with you, Arch. I know that you haven’t talked to him in awhile, but that’s because of me and him, not you. I’m sure that he misses you and wants to talk to you, but he’s going through a lot and needs to figure out his own way of making it work, do you understand?”

“Yes,” he said, spitting out the word, “I know he’s working, but he used to call us and play xBox with me online, but not anymore.”

I pulled him into my chest and held onto him as he rested his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around my neck. “I love you, Arch,” I said, “and Ronnie loves you, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. We’re family and nothing is going to change that, we’re just a bit different than we used to be.”

“I liked the way we used to be,” he spoke into my hair, little fingers tangling there as well, “and I want him to come home and be with us.”

“I know,” I whispered, unsure of what else to say. “I know, Arch.”

Arch pulled back just a minute later, and I let him go, offering him a strong smile and hoping he’d do the same. I pushed his bangs out of his face and took a look at him, grateful for the beautiful little boy I somehow ended up with. “You’ve got me, you know,” I said, taking his fingers in mine, “and I’m not going anywhere. You can live with me for the rest of your life if you want and go to college from home.”

Arch giggled and shook his head at me. “I wanna live in a dorm like Max,” he said, grinning at the idea, “and go to a big school.”

“You can’t go too far,” I answered, standing up so I could finish gathering my things. “I’m going to miss you too much if you leave me here by myself.”

Arch frowned and shook his head. “You won’t be, you’ll have the baby,” he said, reminding of something that shouldn’t have been so easy to forget.

I faltered for a moment, thinking of the baby and how it would be more teenager than baby when Arch went to college. I couldn’t imagine what this baby would be, who it would be. All I kept thinking of was who it was now, just something that we created back when we loved each other.

“You’re right,” I said to Arch, nodding quickly to hide my thoughts from him. “Can you go pick up your room?” I asked, motioning for him to go downstairs. “I have a feeling that we’ll be leaving soon and we probably won’t be back until tomorrow.”

Arch rolled his eyes, but turned on his toes and headed out of the room. He spoke to Kasey as he passed through the doorway. She was standing there and met my gaze as Arch walked out.

“You can come in,” I said, grabbing my deodorant and zipping up the bag. “Arch and I might not be coming back tonight, so I should probably give you the key. Make yourself at home tonight. You’re welcome to anything in the house.” I grabbed for the keychain off my dresser and began untwisting it from the loop, not meeting Kasey’s gaze.

“Are you alright?” she asked, and I wondered how much of my conversation with Arch that she had heard.

“I’m fine.” I nodded. “Just trying to give my son something to be thankful for today even though the man he thought was going to be his father hasn’t called him in two months or shown his face in four.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman said, sounding sincere and unabashed, despite face someone else’s problems head on. “I know it must be hard to go see Ronnie’s family today, especially with Arch. There’s probably a lot of things he doesn’t understand.”

“He wants Ronnie and I together, and that’s it,” I said, sitting down on the bed as she did. “It’s the only thing that he really wants and it’s something that I can’t give him. He doesn’t understand that sometimes things just don’t work out. I mean, for Christ’s sake, he watched his birth-mother abandon him and he still believes in the world. I don’t want to take that from him, but I can’t give him what he wants.”

My cell phone ringing was the catalyst we needed to end the conversation, because Arch was up and running for it. I heard him before I saw him dart past my door, and I shouted for him to stop and get back in his bedroom.

“We’re not leaving until your room is at least twice as clean as it was ten minutes ago!” I called out to him, stopping him in his tracks. He turned and sauntered back in there, sending me a glare as he passed my doorway.

I smiled sweetly at him and pulled the ringing phone from my pocket, answering my father’s call in one go. “Hey, Dad, Gina land yet?”

”It’s me,” Frida said from the other end. ”So obviously, yes. Dad wanted me to call and let you know we’re heading home so you can meet us there.”

“Fri, how was the flight?” I asked, stepping up from my bed and grabbing both of our overnight bags. “Did everything go smoothly? How was New York?”

”We’re alive,” she said as some sort of confirmation, ”and it was fun. We did a lot of shopping. Gina had to buy a new suitcase for us to bring it all back.”

“I hope you got Arch something,” I spoke, knowing the six year old’s ways. “If not you’re gonna be forfeiting one of those clothing items you’d intended on coveting for yourself.”

”We got the boy covered, don’t worry,” she responded. ”We’ll see you in an hour.” We said a quick goodbye and ended the call. I took our things downstairs and loaded them in the car while Arch finished up in his room. I’d bought pumpkin pie, so I took it out of the fridge, along with a couple other items, and loaded that in too, careful that nothing would spill.

It took five minutes to find the pair of shoes that Arch wanted to wear and another couple to make sure that he had everything he wanted for tonight. After that, I managed to wrangle him into the backseat and stuff a couple blankets onto the seat beside him.

Kasey got in, and I ran back to lock the door with her temporary key, before climbing down into my car and starting out towards my father’s for our first Thanksgiving meal of the day.
♠ ♠ ♠
Arch (except his hair curls)