‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


The two of us rarely took Arch to school together due to our opposite schedules, but now that Sascha was a couple of months old and we were still both mainly not working, we tried to take the baby out into the world as much as possible. While I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of exposing my tiny son to all the kids and germs at Nicolas, Ronnie often reminded me that it was worse for him to stay shut up in the house with no exposure. He’d remembered that from our first doctor’s visit right after Sascha was born, and he brought it up so much that it was almost becoming his mantra. Relatedly, it was becoming the bane of my existence.

Ronnie and I stayed only long enough to walk Arch to his seat and hang his jacket up in the right place. He didn’t necessarily want us to leave, but once we did we knew his attention would shift elsewhere. He was mostly reluctant to let Sascha leave, because he got a kick out of showing his baby brother off to the other kids in class, whether they were interested or not. Today he also got to explain Ronnie to everyone, pointing out how the singer had tattoos, travelled a lot, and got to hang out with his friends for a living, and someday he and the baby would too.

Ronnie and I walked out of the school side-by-side with Sascha held high in his arms, his little curly head almost at the same level as mine. The three of us looked like a match set in shrinking size. Sascha was a bit fussy by the time we got back to the car, but Ronnie handled it right away, climbing into the back so that he could change the baby before putting him into his car seat in Daddy’s backseat.

I looked over the front seat to the two of them. Ronnie’s hair was disheveled and tucked behind his ear while he had both his hands on his boy. Finally he got Sascha redressed and tucked safely into the car seat next to Arch’s. He was buckling Sascha in when he said, “So I told my dad that we’d be down there for the weekend.”

My gaze shot to his but he wouldn’t meet my eye. “What weekend?” I asked.

He clicked Sascha’s buckles into place and backed out. I watched him like a hawk as he took his sweet time walking around the back of the car to the driver’s side so he wouldn’t have to answer my question. He dragged open the door and met my eyes, almost smirking as he climbed in.

“Ronnie, what weekend? This weekend? Today is Friday. We cannot go to your dad’s this weekend. We have Arch and the baby, and neither one of them is prepared to go to Las Vegas for the weekend.”

“I’ll get Arch’s shit ready before he comes home from school. And you’re off work for another month, so why can’t we go? Once you’re back in it, we won’t have time.”

I sighed, buckling up as he pulled onto the street. “Sascha’s never slept out of the house, Ron. You know how much work he is. It’s going to stress your dad out more than he needs to be. I don’t think Sasch is ready for this.

“Att, Brett gets to see Sascha all the fucking time. My dad hasn’t seen him since the weekend he was born. That’s almost three months. Between the two of us, we can handle Sascha. And Dad doesn’t give a shit if Sasch screams the whole time we’re there; he just wants to see everyone.”

I groaned. Ronnie laid on the guilt, knowing that I couldn’t disappoint Russell when it came down to it. I loved Ronnie’s father and probably would have regardless or whether he was Ronnie’s blood or not. Russell made it clear that the feeling was obviously mutual, and I couldn’t deny him time with his grandson simply to calm my nerves.

Ronnie grinned as he pulled onto the highway, and I met his pleased expression with my best glare.

“Do you want to head home so we can pack, or?”

“Shut the fuck up, Radke,” I retorted, crossing my arms across my chest uncomfortably. “Just because you manipulated me into this trip doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.”

Ronnie shook his head. “Come on, Atticus. Taking Sascha to see family, not sending him to live with a host family in Africa. He’ll be fine.”

I shrugged, refusing to meet his gaze. “You can’t keep using your son to get control like that,” I said bluntly. “We have a kid together, Ron, but that doesn’t mean that all my time belongs to you. You can’t decide that we’re just going to go on a trip without fucking asking me.”

“It’s a mini vacation, Atticus. In a hotel with our sons for three days and two nights.” He gave me a deadpan look, obviously agitated, and then peered into the backseat where Sascha sat contently. Rarely did he get fussy in a moving car.

I sighed, matching his frustration with my own. “Yeah, it’ll probably be nice, but the point is that you expect us to leave in a few hours and you’re just mentioning it to me now. You obviously didn’t even think that maybe I’m nervous about taking the baby out of the house like this?”

Ron nodded with zero hesitation. “Yeah, Atti, I did, but you can’t spend the rest of your life hiding in the house with Sascha. You need to get out, he needs to get out more. He’s not going to break if he’s exposed to too much fresh air.”

I sighed and pressed my shoulders back against the leather seat.

Ronnie’s reached over and squeezed my forearm, pulling my arm out of its defiant crossed position as he slid his hand down my arm to slip his fingers between mine.

Begrudgingly, I let him tangle his fingers through mine, annoyed with how easily he could make the tension fade from the stubborn set of my shoulders.

After a few quiet moments, I asked, “What hotel?”

Ronnie grinned, but kept his eyes on the road so I wouldn’t see it. “I can print the reservation for you at home, yeah?”

I nodded mutely. He squeezed my hand, obnoxiously smug with himself.

We left soon after Ronnie picked Arch up from school, leaving me home to worry about rechecking that we’d packed everything we needed for a weekend away with not only Arch, but also Sascha. I carried Sascha around in my arms relentlessly, moving from room to room, moving everything closer to the front door so Ronnie could do an extra check as well.

I barely had time to shoot Chance a text and inform him about the impromptu mini vacation that Ronnie set up. Ronnie simply came home and loaded everything into the car. He only protested when he first saw everything that I’d decided tor bring for the baby, but after I convinced him of the necessity, he shut his mouth and packed it all in. It was the chaos and hassle of an impromptu trip that kept me preoccupied and away from thoughts of Chance. It wasn’t even until Ronnie finally managed to get Sascha, Arch, and me into the car before I had a moment of calm. Thoughts of Chance rushed in right away, and all I could do was send him a text to explain.

Despite not having read receipts on, I knew the moment he got my message because my phone started buzzing obnoxiously in the cup-holder. I watched Ronnie’s gaze settle on it, but he reached down and silenced the call without saying a word. His dark eyes slid back to the road, and we settled in for the four hour ride, my phone back in my hand as I texted apology after apology.

I recognized Ronnie’s childhood neighborhood before he even acknowledged that we’d arrived. I noted the small single-family houses and tiny front yards just blocks from the strip, and my heart seized up when I finally spotted Russell’s home.

“We’ll just stop by for a few minutes,” Ron said, the words poised almost in the form of a question. He glanced to me, eyebrows raised. Through the driver’s side window behind him, the sun was just starting to set beyond the edge of the neighborhood. The light filtered in at odd angles, cutting across Ron’s expression and lightening the sooty-black of his eyes to shades of cognac.

I nodded and turned my eyes away, allowing him to do the same as he pulled into the short driveway of his parent’s house next to his father’s truck. Like always, Russ appeared on the doorstep before we had a chance to get out of the car. He grinned at us, his bare feet trapping him at the threshold of his house, and he waited eagerly as I helped a drowsy Arch and snoozing Sascha from the vehicle.

Ronnie lifted Arch into his arms as I carried the baby. He greeted his father enthusiastically and with a big hug; Russ cradled Arch between them, holding onto the either side of the six year old’s head as he relentlessly kissed his face. When Arch broke away, Russ moved onto Ronnie. I stood just behind them with the baby, watching the exchange affectionately.

By the time Russ got finished with Ronnie, he set his sights on Sascha and motioned me and him forward. “My daughter,” he said affectionately, pulling me into his arms and into the house, leaving Ronnie to follow after with Arch. I hugged Russ wholeheartedly, missing him and his enthusiasm more than I could know.

“Your grandson has arrived,” I joked, passing the heavy, sleeping baby into his arms before he had to ask.

Russ looked astounded. “He is beautiful,” he spoke, holding him like a little football so he could get a good look at his face. “I had two boys of my own and Ant’s hoard, but even still, I forget how quickly they change. This is not the same Sascha Linus Radke I met three months ago. This is a whole new boy.”

Ronnie stepped around us deposited Arch down onto the couch. “He’s brilliant, isn’t he?” Ron asked, grinning at his father and his son.

Russ grinned and took a good look at his own youngest boy. “With your two,” he said, nodding to Sascha and Arch, “you’re quickly catching up to your brother. You two act like you’re tryin’ to ‘out son’ each other. You know, it wouldn’t kill one of you to have a girl.”

The younger Radke man laughed. “Ant has three, and I’ve only got the two,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve got to at least catch up before I can go switching the rules. You better get on Anthony and Amanda with that shit, pops.”

“You don’t think I am?” Russ asked, shaking his head at his boy as he turned around, still holding the baby. “You all must be starving. You want to eat here with your dad before you run off to that hotel?”

Ronnie met my eyes over his father’s shoulder. I nodded, shrugged. Motioned for Ronnie to wrangle my baby back so I could feed him.

Ron nodded and stepped forward. Defensively, Russ started to back up with Sascha. “Everyone’s hungry, Dad,” he said. “If you know what I mean.”

Russ relinquished the baby, instead turning his sights to Arch and leading him into the kitchen. Their exit gave Ronnie and I a moment. He nodded for me to follow him.

“You can feed him in here,” he said, turning the other way toward his childhood bedroom. Even though it had once been the dining room that Ronnie converted in his teenage years in order to finally get some space from his older brother, Russ had never turned it back. He’d never really changed Ronnie’s makeshift bedroom at all.

Ron pushed the door open and led me inside, allowing me to sit down and get situated on his twin bed before he passed Sascha to me and sat down on the edge of the bed. We could hear Arch and Russ in the kitchen on the other side of the wall; both were laughing. Arch’s giggle was infectious and loud, filling the whole house.

I practically sighed in relief when Sascha latched. Partly because I was happy that he wasn’t putting up a fight much anymore, but also because I couldn’t go too long without feeding him before it became uncomfortable. The amount of pressure I felt in my breasts was overwhelming, and the only relief came when I was able to feed my baby. I wondered if it were some nature’s version of karma that sought to force mothers to feed their children or else risk being uncomfortable forever. In my own experience, it was highly affective.

Ronnie frowned as I winced. “Does it hurt?”

“I’m a little sore,” I said with a half-assed shrug. “But mostly it’s nice.”

He looked enthralled; the same way he always did when he wanted to understand something. In this case, it was the same look he always wore when he knew that Sascha and I shared experiences that they never would. It both made me glad to be Sascha’s mother and rueful that I could give him a son but not everything that came with it.

“My dad wants to babysit tomorrow night,” Ron said, meeting my dark eyes with his.

“Why would he need to babysit?” I asked, feeling a sort of panic rise up like a flutter along my spine. Rarely had I been without Sascha, and knowing that I was expected to hand him over to someone who wasn’t Ronnie sparked some innate, maternal fear in me. Subconsciously I cradled Sascha closer against my chest, reveling in the sour-sweet warmth of him and the anchor-weight of his chunky body. It was a body that Ronnie and I created together, so of course I wanted Sascha with us always.

Ronnie smiled fearlessly. “It’s only for like, two hours, at most,” he prefaced. “You and I have done nothing but change diapers and hangout with the boys for three months. We need to take a couple hours for ourselves. Let’s go out for dinner together..”

“You had time for yourself when you were out with the guys,” I retorted, tucking my hair behind my ear so it wouldn’t hang in Sascha’s face as I moved him over.

Ronnie rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. “Yeah, that’s also known as ‘doing my job’,” he replied. “I highly doubt that you consider that ‘time to myself.’ The band is more work than the baby.”

I shrugged, and Ronnie continued. “We’ll only be gone long enough to drive to a restaurant, order food, eat, and drive home.” He idly twisted his finger through one of Sascha’s dark curls, but his gaze was soft and never left mine. I could feel his eagerness permeating in the air around us like a quiet, hidden hope tucked away as though he thought if I knew how much he wanted this, I would say no because of it.

I sighed, another man’s words ringing in my ear from this morning. Chance hoped similarly for a Radke man to babysit and give us a few hours of privacy and time together. His question had come with the idea of the two of us – the hope that we might not be shuttered up in the house with two children and their father for another night. Ronnie’s request seemed different – brought on by the need to look out for all of us. He wanted Sascha to be all right in the big bad world, wanted my fear for him eradicated, was doing everything he could to ease the two of us. This trip – tomorrow night – seemed proof enough of that.