‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Too Much

Ron and I got the boys in bed without either of them waking up. Arch’s eyes blinked open for a moment on the stairs, looking down at me in confusion over Ronnie’s shoulder for a split second, but Ronnie stopped moving when I reached out and grabbed a fistful of the back of his shoulder. For a moment, we stood one after the other on the stairs, Sascha in my arms, Arch in his, holding completely still except for the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. Finally, Arch’s unfocused eyes fell shut again and he rested his cheek against Ron’s shoulder.

I let go of Ronnie’s shirt, urging him forward again with my fingers pressing into the small of his back. Cautiously, he continued up the stairs, reaching back with his free-hand to take mine.

We separated at the top, deviating off to the boys’ separate rooms. I cradled Sascha to me as I lingered at his closet, pulling out a clean onesie and the smallest socks known to mankind. Very carefully, I pulled his little jacket off and tossed it onto the dresser shoved in the closet. He was a warm, solid baby, so it was better for him to sleep in something lighter. He seemed to sweat at night no matter what, so we tried to keep him cool but comfortable. He fussed as I repositioned him, needing to wake him up for a feeding before I could put him back to sleep. My body was achy from going so long, like some sort of genetic side-effect of not feeding my baby.

I set Sascha on the changing table just long enough to drag my own shirt off and grab the blanket that was folded over the crib. I wrapped it around myself and then brought Sascha into the fold, sighing in relief as he rooted before I even sat down in the little chair. I positioned him better, dragging a pillow up beneath my arm, then covered the two of us with the blanket, letting myself relax as I balanced him in the curve of my body. He fed without really even waking.

I shuffled him into his crib and tossed the folded blanket back over the rail. I turned the monitor on and stuck it back onto the wooden railing, positioning it so that I could see all of Sascha as he slept.

I left Sascha’s room, shutting the door behind me, and crossed the hall to my own bedroom to find my end of the baby monitor. Just like my cell phone, I normally fell asleep with the monitor in bed. The sheets were still a mess, left over from this morning. Chance and I both had a bad habit of leaving the sheets a mess and only straightening out when we were ready to lay back down. I tossed the pillows to the floor and dragged the blankets out of the way.

“If you’re trying to make the bed, that’s basically the exact worst way to do it.”

I turned around quickly, jumping back from the bed at the sound of Ronnie’s voice. He stood in the doorway, arms crossed as he leaned against the frame. He looked amused, eyebrows raised.

I rolled my eyes at his joke and turned back with a huff. “I was looking for Sascha’s monitor,” I said as the comforter slipped to the floor at the end of the bed, revealing the sheets, no monitor.

“I stuck them on the charger this morning,” Ronnie said as he wandered into the room and pulled the blanket from the floor. He half-heartedly folded it and tossed it back onto the mattress. “Yours is in the kitchen.”

I slowly spun around and picked the pillows up from the floor, nodding to Ronnie in relief. He stood there with his own monitor hooked to the loop of his jeans. For a moment, I saw him differently, back on stage with the mic battery-box hanging from his jeans in the exact same way. It was nostalgic and bitter-sweet seeing him like that, especially knowing that he’d soon replace the baby monitor with a mic-box once again.

I nodded and turned away from the bed. “Is Arch still out? I thought for sure he was going to wake up as soon as we got home.”

Ron nodded and side-stepped so that I could slide past him into the hall. “He was up there for a minute when I stuffed him into his pajamas but I threw him back in bed and he went right to sleep.”

I paused in front of Ronnie, looking at him askance. “You’re joking about the throwing, right?”

He just smiled and shrugged, causing me to slide away with a shake of my head. I rounded the stair-railing and headed down to get my baby monitor from the charger on the kitchen. Ronnie seemed almost amused as he traipsed after me down the stairs.

We hooked a left at the bottom of the stairs and went past the hall bathroom into the open kitchen. The charger was hooked up near the window, blinking green.

“I can be on Sascha-duty tonight,” Ronnie said as he casually leaned against the island counter. “I mean, it’s still your birthday.”

I plucked the little machine up and flipped it on. There was a moment of static before I took a step back from Ronnie, separating the two monitors. He glanced down and turned down the volume on his own.

I shrugged, setting the little thing down when the image of Sascha flicked to life. “Well, Chance will probably be here in a little while, but we’ll be here, so it’s not like I can’t run in and check on the baby.”

Ron nodded slowly, glancing toward the fridge and away from me. He always did that when he was trying to bite his tongue. It was as though he couldn’t look at me a moment, as though I couldn’t read his every facial expression anyway.

I bit my own tongue against the awkwardness, wanting to say something but not wanting to make it worse. I wished it wasn’t like this between us; we’d done so well all day pretending that everything was normal.

Finally, Ronnie broke the silence in the worst way possible. “Does he have to come over here tonight?” he questioned, arms crossed and resting against the counter. He was trying to be nonchalant, but his tone was anything but. I would’ve felt his frustration from the other side of the city.

“Ron,” I replied, giving him a look. “That’s not fair. It’s not like we have anything planned, and I’ve barely seen him all day.”

Ronnie sighed and spun away from the island. “You see him every night,” he answered with a frustrated shake of his head. “He comes in every single night and stays all night. I’m getting a little sick of having breakfast with the man, Atticus. He’s not my boyfriend.”

I matched his expression. “You’re being ridiculous.”

Ronnie nodded sarcastically, not even looking at me. “Okay, whatever,” he said with a shrug. “I’ll be on kid duty. You enjoy with night with your boyfriend.” He turned and marched dramatically out through the kitchen side-door and into the living room.

Incredulous, I followed him. “That’s what you moved in for, Ronnie!” I called after him. “You literally moved in here to help with the boys. What did you think? That we would miraculously get back together just because we were sleeping under the same roof? That I’d stop seeing Chance because I was seeing more of you? That’s not fair.”

He wheeled around, dark eyes pinned on me. “None of this is fair, Atticus. None of it. The reason I moved in here was because I wanted to be closer to my son, my kids. I wanted to make the most of it while I could before I have to leave for months.”

I shook my head, glancing away from his stare. “You can’t lump the boys and I together. You’re here to be with them, not to be with me.”

“Like hell,” he answered. “I’m here because of you just as much as I am because of them, and I know that you want to pretend that isn’t true and act like I’m just some live-in babysitter that’s here for the boys, but you’re what I want, Atticus.”

“I can’t keep having this same fight with you!” I argued exasperated. “We can’t keep doing this. You’re here for Sascha, for Arch. I let you be here because of the boys. No where in the deed to this house does it say that we’re supposed to get back together, Ronnie. It wouldn’t work!”

“Why not?” he challenged. “Why wouldn’t it work? Give me one good reasons that we can’t actually be together, because from where I’m standing, we’re playing the roles already.”

“Because you’re leaving for four months, Ronnie!” I snapped my mouth closed immediately, watching as his expression opened. I knew how he’d take what I said.

He laughed ironically, shaking his head at the conversation. “It’s always going to be about my job, isn’t it?” he questioned. “This is the same fight we had when we broke up originally, Atticus. When are you going to get over your shitty childhood and accept that this is the life we have, whether you wanted it or not?”

I couldn’t help but glare at him. The problem with knowing someone so long was that they knew you too well. He thought he could dissect my feelings like some shrink. When he looked at me, it really felt like he could see through me, and I hated the way he looked at me. His entire expression softened, and once again he was the version of Ronnie that was always looking after me.

“Stop that,” I demanded, turning away from him. “We’re not together anymore, Ron, and it’s not just because of touring. We can’t keep going over this. I’m with Chance, Ron. That’s the bottom line.”

Ronnie rolled his eyes. “Always bring it right back to him, don’t you?”

“He’s my boyfriend,” I answered, “whether you like that or not.”

He prickled at the use of his words back at him. “Well we all know that isn’t going anywhere,” he said, irritated. “It’s not like you fought very hard to marry the guy, did you?”

I leveled an icy look at him, hating him for using that conversation against me. I had said whatever I needed to in order to make him okay with leaving and not seeing his sons for months, and now here he was standing in front of me using my empathy against him.

“You’re an asshole, Ron,” I replied, crossing my arms over my chest. “I’m trying here, okay? But I can’t be the way you think you want me to be.”

“Single?” he said. “Not dating someone else?”

“You already used up your wish with the not-marrying-him thing,” I responded, glancing up to meet his gaze as I walked past and out of the room.

I took the baby monitor upstairs and into my bedroom, needing a some time away from Ronnie and his infuriating attitude. I shut the bedroom door and changed into a pair of comfortable pajamas.

Chance texted that he was on his way over, and I kept myself sequestered in my room until he texted that he was in the driveway. When I hopped down the stairs, I found him coming through the sliding door, Ronnie standing there holding it open for him.

“Thanks, Ron,” I said tepidly, eyeing him warningly. Chance stepped through and smiled at Ron in thanks, crossing the room to me with a confused look.

Ronnie met my gaze over Chance’s shoulder. I glanced away before he could mouth a comment or give me any sort of obnoxious look.

“The boys are sleeping,” I whispered to Chance as we turned and headed toward the stairs. “Did you see your aunt and uncle?”

He shook his head as we climbed the stairs. “No. What’s going on with you and him?” He glanced back.

I shook my head and dragged him to the top of the stairs and into the bedroom. “He’s just infuriating. He wants to control everything, y’know? He can’t just let things be.”

Chance slipped his jacket off and tossed it onto the corner of the bed before throwing himself down on his stomach. “Sounds like Ronnie,” he commented, rolling over to look at me. “What was it about this time?”

I sighed and threw myself down next to him. “What do you think, Chance?” I asked. “It’s always the same fight. He wants to control everything I do.”

Chance dragged me to him, fitting his head against my shoulder. “Maybe you should’ve thought a little harder about who you stuck yourself to for the rest of your life before you had a baby.”

I scoffed, pushing his head off of me, and lightly smacked his chest. “You’re not funny,” I complained, moving so that I was laying on him. “I’m just so tired of that whole conversation. He’s completely ridiculous. I tried my best to help him feel okay with leaving, Chance, and he threw it back in my face.”

He sighed and wrapped his arms around me, tangling our legs together. “What did you expect?”

I frowned. “I don’t know, maybe that he’d eventually realize that we are over? That he wouldn’t make me promise not to marry anyone in the four months that he’s gone. He’s lost his mind.”

“What?” Chance sat up abruptly, moving me as well. He turned his face to me, scooting around so that we were facing each other directly. “He made you promise not to marry me? What did you say?”

“Yeah, he actually did,” I replied in frustration.

Chance frowned, his knees bumping against mine. “What did you say, Atticus?”

I frowned at Chance, meeting his dark blue eyes. “What do you mean, ‘what did I say’? I told him that I’m not getting married by the end of the year, Chance. Why are you freaking out?”

“Your ex made you promise that you wouldn’t agree to marry me while he’s on tour,” Chance replied, sounding outraged. “You don’t think that’s insane? Why would you even agree to that? You’re just letting him have that control over you.”

I stuttered, wondering where this anger came from. “Chance,” I deadpanned, “us getting married isn’t even an option, so why does it matter what I told him? He’s leaving for four months and was feeling insecure, so I placated him. It was nothing more than that. Why are we arguing about this?”

“So you would marry me?” Chance asked. “If I asked you? Or would your promise to Ronnie trump that?”
I scoffed and rolled away from him. “Chance! Why are we even having this conversation? You and I have only been together for six months. We’re not getting married. I wouldn’t even marry Ronnie after three years.”

Chance rolled his eyes. “Back to Ronnie again,” he answered, also getting up from the bed. “You always let him have a say in our relationship. I can’t believe you would promise him that.”

I shook my head in disbelief, rotating away from the man. I couldn’t believe that I was fighting with both guys within an hour of each other.

“When we started this,” I said, motioning between the two of us, “you’re the one who said you’d live with whatever this is with Ronnie. You knew what you were getting into.”

“I knew he would be this way,” Chance answered, “but I didn’t think you’d go along with it. Who cares if he’s leaving, Atticus. He always leaves, and now you’re letting him control what you do while he’s gone?”

“This is a hypothetical situation,” I replied exasperated. “You and I aren’t going to get married in the next four months anyway, whether I promised him that or not, so why does it matter?”

Chance shrugged, shaking his head. “That’s not the point, Atticus.”

“What is the point, Chance?”

“That you let him do that to us!”

I frowned, staring him down in frustration. “Chance, that’s literary what he and I fought about before you got here. You asked me what the fight was about. And now you want to fight too? Can we just let it go?”

I climbed back onto the bed and reached across to grab Chance’s wrist. I dragged him closer, urging him to calm down. He reluctantly fell to his knees on the mattress, letting me climb closer to him.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and ran my fingers against his short hair. “Chance,” I murmured, “I want to be with you. Don’t let that conversation go to your head.”

He looked unsure, unamused, but tilted his face down to look at me. I knew I could crack his mood, all it took was a little eye-contact and a solid reminder.

“Chance,” I murmured, lightly kissing his solemn mouth. “You want to be mad at me in the last hour of my birthday?”

“Atticus, this isn’t a joke,” he replied, meeting my eyes with his own dark gaze.

I cupped his jaw, fingers splayed over his cheeks. “You’ve got to let it go,” I murmured. “He’ll be gone in a little over a month.”

Chance pulled back and looked at me with his head cocked in surprise. “It sounds like you’re looking forward to that,” he whispered, conspiratorially glancing toward the bedroom door.

A smile pulled across my expression, and I playfully waggled my eyebrows at him. “Aren’t you?”

He grinned and dragged me against him so that we fell down onto the bed. He climbed over me, his hands sliding down to my waist. His palms were rough, calloused from work, and warm like his mouth.

“Chance, wait,” I murmured a few moments later, sliding my palm along his neck and separating us.

“Are we going to have to wait until he’s gone?” he asked, rolling back so that he was laying on his back next to me. The bed-side lamp threw shadows across his face, but glinted off his eyes, bringing out the blue in the dark.

I lightly patted his chest and hopped up, grabbing the baby monitor from the bedside table. I shook it at him as the baby cried out again.

“I’ll be right back,” I murmured, flashing a face at him.

I left the room, throwing the door open wide on my way out. Sascha’s bedroom door was open across the hall, but the light was still out so I figured Ronnie hadn’t made it up here yet. I hurried in and checked on the baby, checking the time on the clock above the window. It wasn’t time for him to eat, so I figured he needed a diaper change or a little bit of comfort.

I lifted his hefty little body up from the baby mattress, resting him against my chest. He cried out despite the contact, and I backed up to the changing table on the opposite wall. I was in the middle of stripping his little clothes off when a body appeared in the doorway.

I glanced up to see who it was. Ron stood leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed as he looked on. It was his typical posture nowadays.

“I’ve got him,” I said, noting his shirtless body. “You can go back to sleep.”

He shrugged and stepped into the room. “So you’re talking to me now?” he questioned, veering around me.

I pinned him with a look, stripping Sascha’s wet diaper off. “It would be bad parenting to ignore you in front of our baby.”

Ron placed his hand over his chest. “Well, don’t let Sascha stop you saying what you want to say, Atticus. He knows you love Daddy.”

I strapped Sascha’s clean diaper on and went about rebuttoning his onesie. “Is that so?” I asked, lifting the baby to my shoulder. “I think Sascha also knows that we’re a good family just the way we are.”

Ronnie nodded ambivalently. “Yeah, I’m sure he doesn’t want his parents together, Atti. He’ll grow up just like the rest of the well-adjusted kids with separated parents.”

“Oh, now we’re using our kids to guilt each other?” I asked, turning to face him with Sascha. “Well I’m sure Sasch will be just fine, Ron. There’s plenty of well-adjusted people here for Sascha to support him as he grows up.”

Ronnie’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, I’m sure there are, Atticus. And I’m sure Sascha knows that his dad would be here all the time if he could be, but Daddy has a career and makes money. I’m sure he’ll like it when he gets older and gets to travel the world with Daddy.”

I froze, staring at Ronnie unamused. We rounded right back into the same argument we always had. This time though, we’d stuck Sascha in the middle as a buffer. I’d travelled with Ronnie on his first big tour after he was signed by the label; it ultimately was part of why we broke up. The thought of either of the boys touring with Ronnie had never occurred to me.

“Alright, Ron, Sascha and I are both tired, so we’re going back to bed,” I murmured, stepping around the singer to get to Sascha’s crib.
♠ ♠ ♠
Someone's moving outside
The lights come on down the drive
I forget you're not here when I close my eyes
Do you still think of me sometimes?

And oh, love, watch the sun coming up
Don't it feel fucked up we're not in love?