‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy


Arch was heaving from all the tears as the FIR bus pulled out and left LA. Arch stood crying on the cement as I loaded Sascha into his car-seat. Arch didn’t move, just stood there like a broken little boy begging for his dad not to leave him. He was like a rag-doll, lost to his grief, as I strapped him into his own seat. He didn’t fight or push me away; he just cried and let me slip him into the car.

Sascha looked on to the commotion, oblivious to what any of this meant, to the tears streaming down his brother’s face, to the bus taking his dad from the city and further from him. Ronnie had thrown my worst fears back up, echoing them as though he hadn’t promised for months that the boys would be fine, wouldn’t be too hurt without him there for them. As I headed back toward home in Ronnie’s Escalade, I felt emptier than I could remember. It was different from the hollow fear I struggled with when I found out about Sascha, from the heartbreak and walls that I built when my relationship ended with Ronnie. This was visceral, too real. It was the realization that my life was nothing like it was two years ago, when Ronnie and I fractured at the faintest hint of life getting to be too much.

Despite all my fear and all my walls, we’d ended up with the life I was afraid of – left behind with crying children who couldn’t understand why their dad had to leave for the better half of a year. Today, it was just Arch dealing with it, but eventually it would be Sascha too. Sascha growing up between the scenes of Ronnie’s tours, always waiting for his dad to come home.

“What do you say we run through a drive-thru,” I said over the sound of Arch’s hiccups, “and then we can go home, snuggle on the couch, and watch movies for the rest of the day.”

I spared a glance in the rear-view. Arch looked up and his cries quieted, but tear stains marred his cheeks, and he didn’t nod or say anything; it was a fight just to stop himself from crying. Without answering me, he idly reached over and slipped his finger into his little brother’s grasp.

I picked up some food and then barreled straight home with the boys. After his cries stopped, Arch was quiet for the rest of the ride. When I pulled down the alley behind our house and veered into the driveway, he immediately started fiddling with his straps. When I released him, he slid down from the Escalade and veered inside through the back sliding door without a word. I climbed into the car, awkwardly climbing over Arch’s car-seat, and began unbuckling Sascha. He was blessedly asleep. Like most babies, car rides immediately put him under. I pulled his hefty little body from the car-seat and awkwardly backed out of the SUV. I managed Sascha in one arm and grabbed his bag with the other.

“Arch!” I called into the house, realizing that he’d disappeared despite our plan to mope on the couch. “Go back outside and grab something!” I demanded. “I need to get your brother changed and in his crib.”

I rounded through the living room to the stairs and hurried up, detouring off to Arch’s room. I ducked my head inside, finding my six year old laying face down on the bed. “Hey, babe,” I greeted softly. “Go get one of the food bags from the car and take your shoes off on the way back in.” I paused in the doorway, waiting for his response.

Finally, he hefted himself up from the bed. Without any enthusiasm whatsoever, he turned around and slid past me. I watched him go and then hurried into Sascha’s room. I changed and dressed him in lighter clothes before depositing him in his crib. I turned the monitor on, hooked it to the crib rail, and then headed back toward my room.

Ronnie’s bedroom door was open, like always, but it looked empty compared to the mess that it normally was. His bed was made with black sheets and comforters, and he had the dark-blinds drawn, blocking out the mid-day light. In that department, Ronnie and I were opposites. He always preferred heavy, black-out curtains drawn 24/7, while I pulled my blinds every morning to let the light in. My first instinct was to step into his room and let the light in, but I left his space untouched.

When he first moved in, it was a temporary thing. Just a way for him to look out for me at the end of my pregnancy. Then he stayed to be close to Sascha and Arch, and to keep me from going out of my mind trying to balance everything. And now, even though he was gone, it was still his room. I still expected him back here at the end of his tour.

Ronnie’s baby monitor was laying on his bed, as though he’d thrown it down last minute on his way out of the house. For a second, I considered leaving it there, letting it be waiting for him when he returned, but then I shook it off and stepped into his dark bedroom. I swiped the monitor off the bed, checked the charge, and hurried downstairs to help Arch get the food from the car and snuggle him up on the couch.

He was laying there when I stepped into the living room, remote in hand. “You better be looking for a movie,” I demanded jokingly, eyeing the nature channel he’d stopped on. “Get a blanket out of the hall closet.”

I set Sascha’s monitor down on the coffee table next to the take-out and headed out to lock the Escalade and make sure we grabbed everything. While he was gone, we really wouldn’t be driving Ronnie’s car. We used to revert to it without him, but since he bought my new car for Christmas, I really didn’t see the appeal of driving his. The Kia Sportage was everything that I needed to handle things here on my own. The three rows of seating gave me enough room for all the kids in my life, and it was the safest vehicle Ronnie could find.

I cleaned up Ron’s car quickly, dusting off the spotless seats, and locked it up to sit in the driveway for the next few months.

“Alright, babe, you ready for some Atti and Arch time?” I asked, coming through the sliding door with the last of our things.

He glanced up at me, dejected, from the couch, but he had the blanket that I requested and the TV was on the movie rental screen.

I grinned and bounded over to him, tucking into the couch beside him. “What movie are you thinking?” I asked, grabbing the take-out and dragging it over to us.

Arch shrugged, passing the remote over to me as I handed him his food. He kicked his feet up on the coffee table and spread out his fries and chicken on his lap. He dozed, even as he ate, waking up as though he hadn’t been sleeping at all. Eventually I cleared the food off him, tossing it onto the coffee table, and pulled our blanket up around him so he wouldn’t fall asleep mid-bite and choke in his sleep.

We were almost to the end of our second movie when Chance arrived. Through the sliding door, I watched as he parked vertically across the end of the driveway behind mine and Ronnie’s cars. He texted me, telling me he was outside, as though I hadn’t seen him. I reached for the remote cradled in Arch’s arms and paused the movie.

“Hold on a minute, babe,” I said when he woke at my movements. “I’ll be right back.” I paused the screen and folded the blanket back off me, watching his blue eyes glance past me.

Chance stood on the back porch, offering me a muted smile through the glass. I heard Arch sigh behind me, and he was stretched out across the couch, taking up both our spots.

“Hey, babe, what are you doing here?” I asked, unlocking the door and dragging it open for him.

Chance wrapped his arms around my waist as he stepped inside. He peered up over the edge of the couch, seeing Arch tucked beneath his blanket. “I came to check on you guys,” he answered, reaching back to slid the door closed behind him. “How is everything going?” he asked cautiously, as though he didn’t want to set Arch off.

I shrugged, glanced back to the kiddo. “We’re hanging in there,” I said, motioning for him to come in rather than stand at the back door. “How was work? Are you hungry? Come with me.”

He held me by the hand as he kicked his shoes off quickly, before stumbling over them to follow me over through the doorway into the kitchen.

“Arch, I’ll be right back,” I promised, giving him a look as he eyed me skeptically. I raised my eyebrows at him as I swiped the baby monitor from the side-table. “Promise.”

Stepping from the living room to the kitchen, Chance moved to sit at the island and turn back to face me, lightly glancing to meet my gaze before glancing away, out to the darkened window above the sink. He tangled his fingers in his lap, looking up through his eyelashes. “How are you?”

“We’re doing okay,” I said lightly. “Arch is a bit morbid right now, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. It’ll get put on pause the second he gets to FaceTime Ronnie.” I reached up to rest my hand in his hair, lightly brushing through his dark hair.

Chance leaned into my touch, grasping my wrist and turning to lightly kiss the inside of my wrist. “What about you, Atticus?” he asked lightly, sliding his hold to the crook of my elbow. “This can’t be easy on you either.”

I shrugged, taking a step toward his body and fitting between his knees, letting the remaining tension from our last argument slip away. “It’s going to be rough, but this isn’t the first time I stayed home while Ronnie went on tour. Arch and I are pros.” I shrugged again against his chest, wrapping both my arms around his neck, leaning into the solid warmth of him. He, of anyone, would know my history with being left behind.

Chance loudly pressed a kiss against the crook of my neck, chuckling as I squirmed away. “I believe you,” he said, a smile in his voice as his hands held my waist, “but it feels different with Sascha now, doesn’t it? That feels different, harder.”

I shrugged quietly, leaning back to see his face. “It’s harder physically with Sasch, obviously. It’s more demanding, but it’s calmer because we’re in a better place. He left on good terms, and he’s going to call and check in on the boys. The radio-silence was the hardest part last time.”

Chance nodded, blue eyes in search of mine. “You know I’m here,” he said, tangling his fingers through mine as he got to his feet and leaned his hip against the island.

I nodded back to him, acknowledging everything he’d put up with in the last year, every time he’d stepped up. “Just in time for midnight diaper changes,” I joked.

“I’ll deal with as many midnight feedings as you want me to,” Chance said, turning toward me just enough to kiss me, “because that means I’ll be here at midnight with you.”

I grinned against him, glancing up to his eyes. “Who else would you be with, Wilkins?”

Realizing my lame joke, Chance rolled his eyes and kissed me again. “Can I stay tonight?”

I pulled back from him, this time frowning, and he sighed at the look on my face. He stepped back, holding onto the island counter, and leaned back against it. He looked at me with a tilted head, his blue eyes dull.

“Chance, it’s the boys’ first night without him,” I defended, hating that look on his face. Disappointed but not surprised. “I promised Arch a movie night, just me, him, and Sascha. It’s a tradition; every time Ronnie leaves, we lounge around be sad for a few days, and since Arch has school on Monday, that’s all condensed to this weekend.”

“That ‘tradition’ is from when you were in love with Ronnie,” Chance retorted. “You’re going to pretend to be sad about your ex leaving all weekend?”

“I’m not pretending,” I defended. “I am sad that he’s gone. Yeah, maybe I’m not heartbroken this time around, but my sons are losing their dad for the next six months. Not only is he out of state, Chance, but he leaves the country next month. That’s a lot, for all of us.” I leaned back against the counter, looking at him, wishing he would understand.

“I’m not pretending,” I repeated, beseeching. “Arch is sad, and he needs me to be with him tonight, okay? It’s not that I don’t want you around; of course I do.”

Chance smiled mildly and nodded his understanding, turning to kiss me again. “Can I at least stay and get a cuddle on the couch or should I take off now?” he asked cheekily, turning to wrap his arms around my waist.

I grinned, even as I shook my head at him. “Baaabe,” I trailed off, raising my eyebrows at him.

“Okay,” he said, taking his hands from me and holding them up in surrender. “Leave now, sneak in through the window later, got it.”

He stepped back as I playfully shoved him, and I turned him by the hips back toward the living room to lead him out and send him home. He lightly padded across the living room to the sliding door, and we both glanced over toward Arch just as he lifted his head from the couch to look at us. As Chance stopped to pull his shoes on, I smiled at the blonde.

“Say ‘bye’,” I said to Arch. “Chance is going home.”

Arch’s gaze lingered for a moment, but then he simply turned and moved to the other end of the couch, pulling the blanket up over him and turning his attention to the paused TV.

Chance glanced to me, almost amused by Arch’s consistent attitude toward him. I smiled reassuringly and moved past him to unlock the slider and pull it open.

“I’ll call you in a couple days,” I promised, wrapping an arm around his neck as I stepped onto the porch behind him. I kissed him, cupping his face, and ushered him back to the car. “Text me.”

Chance smiled lazily in the dark, dipping into shadow the further he got from the house.
♠ ♠ ♠
Sorry it's been so long everyone! Thank you so much for the comments.

"I moved to California
but it's just a state of mind
Turns out everywhere you go
you take yourself, that's not a lie
Wish that you would hold me
or just say that you were mine
it's killing me slowly

Dream a little dream of me
make me into something sweet."