‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Court Day

Chance came over one morning in the middle of that next week to watch Sascha by himself for the first time. I opened the door to greet him at 7:30 a.m. and smiled as he did, sweeping into the house and pressing a kiss against my mouth. He was dressed down for the day, in a gray graphic-tee and a pair of navy basketball shorts. This is how I had always known him, casual and at-ease with himself. He practically slid past me as he came inside.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he greeted cheekily, closing the door behind him and kicking off his shoes in the entry. He tucked them under the bench that ran along the side of the stairs and looked back to me with questioning blue eyes. “Where’s the kid?”

“Sascha is sleeping,” I replied, pointedly using the baby’s name. “He’ll hopefully stay that way for most of the morning, but hoping doesn’t get us much around here.” I led him into the living room to the left. “Ronnie is upstairs getting Arch prepared for the meeting, but they should be down in a couple minutes and then we’re out of here.”

Chance nodded along with my words, making himself comfortable on the couch. He leaned back and stretched out with his arms lining the back of the couch on either side of him. I could tell that his completely-at-ease routine was somewhat of a rouse, but I appreciated his effort at making me more comfortable with him staying with Sascha alone for the first time.

“Are you sure you’ve got this?” I asked again, hating that I couldn’t shake off the nerves.

Chance leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and just smiled at me, nodding. “Me and Sascha will be fine, Atticus,” he promised easily. “You and I both know that next to you and Ronnie, I’ve spent the most time with the kid. We’ll be good for two or three hours, no problem.”

I wrung my hands, standing directly in front of him, and tried my best to nod like I was completely reassured. Seeing through that façade, Chance grinned and reached out to yank me toward him.

“Don’t worry so much,” he said as I laughed and tried to drag myself away from him, complaining that he’d wrinkle my clothes or mess up my hair. He very gingerly pulled me down into his lap and locked his arms around me.

I smiled at him, reaching out to cup his jaw, comfortable in the ring of his arms. “You’ll be fine,” I repeated, trying to sound as confident as possible. “I trust you.”

Chance grinned and kissed me. “Good,” he whispered, eyes still closed as he pulled back.

I kissed him again quickly and got off his lap, breaking the spell and forcing him to open his eyes. He smiled and leaned back again, looking to the entryway as Ronnie came in holding Arch’s hand.

Ronnie had dressed up for the judge in the most Ronnie-way possible. He wore skinny heather-gray slacks and a matching vest over a light gray button-up. He’d pushed his sleeves above his elbows, showing off all those colorful tattoos. He tucked his skinny black tie into his vest and looked up as he stepped into the room.

“There he is,” Chance greeted, hopping to his feet. I couldn’t tell if he meant Ronnie or Arch, but he greeted the child first before saying a tense hello to the singer.

I grinned at the two of them and turned my attention to Arch. “You look perfect,” I said to Arch. This was the first time that I’d seen him in his suit since Ronnie had taken him to get it. He looked adorable in a tailored beige suit with a blue, beige, and white checker-striped shirt. Ronnie’s influence was all over it, but so was mine in the fact that bright colors are more upbeat, and we wanted today to be a happy occasion.

“We should go,” Ronnie said, barely acknowledging Chance until it came time to grill him about taking care of Sascha. He led Arch forward by the hand and motioned for him to take a seat on the couch to wait. Ronnie turned to the blue-eyed man with his game face on. “You know where Sascha’s bottles are, don’t you?” Ronnie asked, despite the fact that Chance often lived days on end in this house with us.

Chance nodded, completely used to Ronnie’s taciturn attitude. Ronnie ran through a couple other pointed, and insulting, questions before begrudgingly deeming Chance suitable to watch the baby. It had been quite an argument getting him to agree to it in the first place. Ronnie and I still hadn’t figured out how to operate around each other since the night we got back from LV at the end of the weekend. Between kissing me and admitting he was leaving for tour in five weeks, the strain between us had grown even bigger.

Today, however, was about more than our family tension. It was about Arch and legally making him a part of our family, whether we were the most functional right now or not. We’d gotten confirmation of Arch’s adoption hearing only days ago. Somehow Ms. Lyla had managed to get it pulled up, and Ronnie had relented on my choice of babysitter for Sascha because he wanted to come to support the child. It was the thing I loved most about Ronnie, that no matter how pissed he was at me or about something happening between us, he never took that out on Arch.

“Do not,” Ronnie warned Chance, gathering Arch up in his arms to load him into the Escalade in a minute, “take Sascha anywhere.”

Chance rolled his eyes, but nodded like he obviously knew better.

Chance wasn’t wrong; he had spent more time with Sascha than anyone else outside of Ronnie and me, so it made sense for Chance to watch him today. Ronnie didn’t like it, but he knew it was best for the baby (or at least better than Frida or Max or a stranger watching Sascha, which were really our only other possibilities).

I managed to funnel Ronnie and Arch out of the house before Ronnie could outright threaten Chance, and then hurried back to thank the younger man. He stood in the center of the living room behind the couch and held his arms out for me as I returned to thank him and make him swear to me that he’d look after Sascha like the baby was the most valuable thing in the world. Chance just smiled and held onto me, whispering yet another promise in my ear.

“I love you,” he said as he stepped back and leaned against the couch, his fingers sliding off me as he went, wrinkling my dress at my sides, “and because of that, I love that baby. Nothing is going to go wrong, Atticus. I’ve got this. Go handle what you need to handle, and we’ll be all good here when you get back.” He crossed his legs at the ankle and grinned at me, a sort of cocky confidence that had me narrowing my eyes at him, but loving it.

“Okay,” I breathed. “I trust you. I love you both. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

Chance beamed and nodded, motioning for me to get out of there and do what needed to be done for Arch today. “Bye, beautiful,” he said after me.

I grinned and pulled the door shut behind me, hurrying to Ronnie’s car. He’d already helped Arch get strapped into the backseat, so I climbed up into the passenger’s, buckled up, and turned expectantly to Ronnie.

“Let’s go,” I encouraged. “They’re not going to like us if we’re late, Ron. Get a move on.”

Ronnie slowly pulled his gaze from me then backed out of the alley-drive, heading downtown the courthouse where I would legally make Arch my child after these years in each other’s lives. He was quiet today, nervous and scared that the rug might be pulled out from under him at any moment. Arch never had it easy, and that sense of childhood ease had faded a long time ago. He braced himself for the worst as we headed toward the courthouse. No matter how many times I’d reassured him throughout the years that nothing else would ever hurt him, he knew that I couldn’t keep that promise if the State of California decided to take him from me and give him back to his biological mother. Today, he couldn’t quite believe that was over. He didn’t want to want this so much in fear of it slipping right through his fingers, and I knew he wouldn’t celebrate until today was over and I was legally his.

We parked outside the court house a little after eight, and the energy between the three of us was frantic. Our appointment was eight-thirty, but I felt like we needed to rush to make a good impression. I bit back my own nerves as we unloaded Arch from the car. Ronnie carried him, sensing the boy’s own nerves, and the three of us took off down the sidewalk and around the corner to the front of the building.

Ronnie took my hand with his free one as we climbed the stone steps to the oversized face of the building. He did it to steady me in my heels, but also steady my nerves. I wasn’t sure what we were walking into. I hadn’t been briefed on who would be here; namely if Abigail was going to show up. They’d informed her that Arch was officially being adopted from the foster care system, thus her petition to regain parental rights was being denied. Her and I had been battling out for custody of Arch for three years, and now it was finally coming to a close. If Abigail arrived today, I wasn’t sure what would happen.

Arch still didn’t know that Abigail was pregnant with a second child. While it had been the driving force behind the court’s decision to deny Abigail’s request for Arch, I’d decided that it was best not to tell Arch about the unborn baby until after he was officially my child. I wasn’t afraid that he would change his mind about being adopted when he found out he would soon have a biological sibling – he already felt that Sascha was his in that same way – but I didn’t want to water down today’s excitement with thoughts of Abigail and what she reminded Arch of.

Walking through the thick dark-wood doors into the cathedral-ceiling court house, I tightened my grip on Ronnie’s hand, glanced at my angel-eyed son, then peered around the room for familiar faces. The floor was marble-tiled and the walls were the same wood as the doors, with waist-high base boarding and benches lined up along the hall.

Arch floated above the marble as Ronnie carried him to one of the boards pinned to the wall that labelled where each room was in the three story building. We located the room number of our hearing then headed up to the second floor, passing silently between public officials and other people waiting to be told the fate of their situations. I followed right behind, holding onto Ronnie’s hand as he led the way to the elevator and down the hall above us. Having him with in these situations, he always became this way. He could handle all of these things like no one else; he just flipped that switch in himself and became entirely stoic.

We found our room by finding the people who had come here to support us. I was expecting Heather, knowing that she would hold it against me for the rest of our friendship if I tried to make her go to work instead of come, but I scoffed in surprise at the sight of Heather and Aiden clustered together with their son, Kyat, and Jadeen Arroyo outside the courtroom. I smiled, evening my breathing so that I didn’t tear up, and hurried forward to hug my best friends.

“What are you all doing here?” I breathed as I pulled back from Heather and Jadeen. Ronnie and Arch got to us at the same time, and Heather reached to tickle and encourage Arch, trying to find his smile under the nerves and the seriousness of today. Aiden and Ronnie executed a side-hug, hindered by the two boys in their arms. I turned my smile to Kyat, unable to believe how quickly he’d grown. At one and a half, he was an entire little person now. Since Sascha’s birth, I noticed those things more, compared them to where Sascha would be in that same amount of time.

“Anders and the kids wanted to be here,” Jadeen said in reply to my answer, “but he couldn’t get off and I didn’t think the kids could sit quiet long enough.”

I shook my head, squeezing her into my arms again. “You’re more than enough, Jay,” I answered gratefully. “Thank you for coming. We appreciate it.”

Both our gazes turned to Arch as Ronnie set him on his feet on the bench. He grabbed Ronnie’s arm to balance himself and then smiled shyly, looking at the group of adults, and Kyat, surrounding him. It wasn’t just me that Arch was getting out of this deal; his family was so much larger, and I was happy that the judge would see that today.

We heard Ms. Lyla’s heels clacking down the hall before we saw her. She walked up with Mr. Jackson Russo, Arch’s lawyer, and they both smiled brightly at our little congregation. I moved to hug the woman, somehow feeling like this was the end of our professional relationship. She’d been with Arch as long as I had, and had proven to everyone that she truly wanted the best for him. Arch and I would have to write her a letter to thank her for all the years of looking after him. She had other children under her watch but still managed to do the most for my son.

Arch began to perk up in the circle of our group, practically jumping up and down on the bench to stay in the spotlight, like he wasn’t the reason we were there anyway. Ronnie held onto his wrist just in case he toppled down, but Arch didn’t even seem to notice as he focused on making Kyat laugh.


I turned at the sound of my name from Heather’s mouth, following her gaze to the woman stepping out of the elevator. Abigail looked much better than the last time I’d seen her. She was also much more pregnant. I hadn’t expected for it to be so noticeable, but here she was, and I could tell that she had so much more weighing her down.

I stepped closer into Ronnie’s side, having him turn from Arch so the child wouldn’t overhear us. “She looks… dejected,” I said, surprised by how much guilt that brought down on me.

Ronnie looked from her to me, reading my expression. “Atticus…” he trailed off, infusing all his meaning in just my name. “You are doing right by Arch. Just because she feels his loss doesn’t mean that you should lose him, baby. He belongs here, with us.”

I nodded slowly. “Can you imagine,” I said, pulling my eyes from her as she grew closer and saw our group. Arch was hidden in the middle between our bodies. “Can you imagine watching and feeling Sascha grow in my body for all those months and then losing him?”

Ronnie shook his head. “She didn’t lose Arch,” he answered. “She gave him up.”

“I’m not talking about Arch,” I said. “I’m talking about the new baby. She’s going to lose them both, Ronnie. One after the other.”