‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Thanksgiving Part II

The drive to Las Vegas took just over four hours. Russell’s house wasn’t that far from the LV Airport, and Arch, who’d been dozing off and on since halfway through the drive, woke up completely as we passed. He recognized it from our last time out here and sat up higher in his booster, peering out towards the lights with interested blue eyes.

“We’re here,” he said, grinning at me from the back seat. “How much longer?”

“Two minutes,” I replied, smiling as we continued away from the airport and into one of the following neighborhoods. My heart was in my throat and I whispered the words back to him, trying my best to keep my conscious thoughts on the road, rather than wondering what could be ahead of us.

For moment, when we pulled into the driveway, my stomach dropped as my eyes landed on Ronnie’s Escalade. It took me a good thirty seconds to realize that it was just the car and that he was still an ocean away with the rest of the band. The SUV had been here since I dropped it off, and it would remain here until the singer’s return.

“We’re here!” Arch shouted, fingers wrapping around his seatbelt as he pulled it away from his neck. “Atticus, hurry!”

The tires squelched over some of the loose gravel in the driveway as I turned into it, pulling in along side Ronnie’s brother’s van. Arch was out of his seatbelt before I even stopped and luckily the child lock kept his little fingers from yanking the backdoor open.

“Knock it off,” I called back at him, eyes landing on him as he began to tug the door handle open. “Arch, sit down now.”

He was surprised by my tone and dropped down into his chair, leaning back against the cloth seat with his blue eyes on me. I stopped the car and turned off the key, but neither of us moved. Arch was feeling chastised and it was for good reason. My blood was still pumping through my veins due to the sight of him trying to push out of the car while it was still moving.

“Arch, I didn’t mean to yell at you,” I said, turning around in my seat to look at him, “but you know better than to try and open the door when it’s moving. You could get really hurt if it opened on you and you fell out. Neither of us want that.”

“I knew it was locked,” he answered, gaze on mine, little arms slid across his chest like he was shielding himself from me.

“Then what was the point of trying to open it?” I questioned. “You’re not allowed to play around in the car like that and you know better. What if one of these times it does open?”

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, glancing away. “I didn’t mean to.”

“I know, sweetheart,” I acknowledged, “and I forgive you. You just scared me. For a minute I thought you were going to fall right out of the car.”

“I’m sorry.”

I pulled the keys out of the ignition and my eyes landed on something else. There was a movement in Russell’s front window. “It’s okay,” I told Arch. “Lets forget about it and move on. I think there are some excited boys inside waiting for you.”

I got out of the car and let him out and he took off towards the front door as it opened. Numerous little boys stood on the other side and Arch bolted into them, giggling infectiously as he disappeared into the house. I reached for my phone and Arch’s hoodie and followed his path, smiling already, too.


I was immediately overwhelmed by the outpour of affection that came my way. The boys were around me immediately, and I leaned down to hug as many of them as I could reach. They were squirming and talking over each other, and I adored the sight of them wholeheartedly.

Russell had his arms around me next. “If it isn’t my beautiful daughter-in-law.”

I laughed and wrapped my arms around the man as well. “You’re forgetting that I’m not your daughter-in-law, Russ,” I commented lightly, unable to stop grinning around the man. “But I’m still incredibly glad to see you.”

“Don’t talk like that, girl. You’re always going to be family. You, that little boy, and this baby,” he answered immediately, eyes darting between Arch and I as he pointed towards my stomach. “Any news?”

“We should learn some new things next week,” I allotted, watching his expression change.

“As in ‘gender’ kind of news?” He caught the attention of a couple of the boys and from there it seemed that the rest looked our way too. I noted them from the corner of my eye and shrugged coolly.

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” I said, “but you’ll know eventually.”

Russell grinned. “I say boy,” he said, “I mean, you’ve seen the boy to girl ratio in this family. It’s about nine to zero, so your odds are pretty predictable.”

“You can’t predict that!” I argued as Arch grinned from his spot. “I have no idea what gender the baby is and neither do you. Don’t be putting any ideas in the boys’ heads…” I trailed off, then frowned. “Speaking of boys, where are the girls and Anthony? Amanda and Sabrina, I mean.”

“Anthony and Amanda are picking Sab up from her dad's,” Russ answered off-handedly. “They should be back any minute. The boys got left behind when Amanda got off work. She swung by and picked up AJ.”

I nodded and glanced at the five little boys. Then back to Russell. “Are they staying here tonight?”

Russ smiled and shook his head. “No, they’re going home with their parents. I have enough on my hands without worrying about those trouble-makers.”

I nodded slowly and then leaned towards the man, dropping my voice only slightly. “I was hoping that Arch and I could crash here tonight, if that’s alright? It’s a long ride back and I wasn’t sure what time we’d be wrapping it all up and I figured it’d just be easier and safer to stay the night here.”

Russell gave me a look. “Atticus, you couldn’t pay me enough to let you get into that car and drive away tonight. I love you like you’re my own daughter and I won’t send you back out in the dark to drive another four hours home with my grandsons.”

I rolled my eyes at Russell’s use of male words for the unborn baby, but smiled appreciatively as well. Despite all the issues that Ronnie had with his father when they were all younger, Russell was one thing I was grateful to get to keep when the relationship ended. Their relationship had become better, and I adored Ronnie’s dad and was grateful to have him as a grandpa to my own child.

Amanda and Anthony showed up with Sabrina, Amanda's daughter from another marriage, less than a half an hour later and we herded all the boys around and into the kitchen. The table was a little cramped with such an insane number of people trying to fit around it, but I had Arch on one side and Sabrina on the other and these people made being packed together worth it.

“Daddy, are you thankful for me?” Reeve asked right when we started eating, grinning cheekily across the table towards his father.

“No,” Tanner interjected quickly, laughing at his brother’s shocked and then annoyed expression. We all watched as Reeve loaded his spoon with mashed potatoes and pointed them towards Tanner. He held it near the edge of the table like neither Anthony nor Amanda would be able to see it all the way down there.

Anthony pointed the same smile back at him, eyebrows raised as though he found it amusing that his son might actually consider flinging the food, despite the consequences that were sure to follow. “Of course, Reeve,” Anthony said to his boy, “and I’m extra grateful for your mom, because she’s doesn’t care whatsoever for the new PS4 we just got, so she’ll have no problem donating it to little boys who actually deserve it.”

The kids seemed to catch on quickly, because both Devin and Nolan, who were on either side of Reeve darted towards him in their chairs to wrestle the spoon out of his hands. Devin pulled it from his fingers and sent his baby brother the most ominous glare, daring him to try anything like that again.

Anthony looked pleased with his successful tactics and moved on without another word.

“So, Arch, Atticus told me that you’re in first grade this year?” Sabrina asked the blue eyed boy, who was over two years younger than her youngest. “It’s awesome that you were able to start early. How do you like it?”

Arch nodded as he quickly swallowed. “I go to Charter school,” he answered enthusiastically. “Called Nicolas, so I get to be in real school since I’m smart.”

I grinned at my smart boy. “He’s doing really well,” I told everyone. The Radke boys were listening too, but they were mostly focused on their food, and Russell and his son had their dark eyes turned to us as well. “We think once the judge sees how well he’s doing in school, it’ll help convince him that Arch is right where he belongs.”

Sabrina looked surprised and she leaned into me slightly, speaking when Arch’s eyes darted to Nolan. “You’re still dealing with all of that?” she asked quietly, watching my son to make sure he wasn’t paying attention.

I nodded, and the group of us finished dinner with the boys. I was surprised by the amount that Arch was able to pack away and I watched him through the rest of the meal. Every mention of his biological mother made me even more grateful for the time I had with him. He was the most gorgeous little boy I’d ever set my eyes on.

While the boys played later on and the men did the dishes, Amanda and I were in the process of bringing mine and Arch’s things in from the car. We took them into Ronnie’s room. It had originally been the small dining room off the kitchen and there were two doorways - the second one leading back into the living room. Apparently, when Ronnie and AJ got older and got sick of each other, Russ let Ronnie convert the room into his own bedroom.

The room was completely rectangular and there was a small single bed pushed against the left wall. There were only a couple of feet between the bed and the five drawer dresser pushed against the opposite wall. It just barely fit between the window and doorway that led back into the kitchen and took up too much room in the small space, but without a closet, there wasn’t another option for clothes.

Ronnie and Anthony’s old bedroom had become just Anthony’s when Ronnie moved in here, but since then it’d been converted to a room for the grandsons and was complete with two bunk beds, toys, and not much else. From what I heard, everyone had been surprised that the bunk beds fit as well as they did.

“Abigail contested the adoption,” I told Amanda as she and I sat down on Ronnie’s old bed. “She filed a written objection and that stopped the process. So they’re currently in the process of re-examining our case. Right now we’re waiting for the judge to pull his head out of his ass and realize that being with me is better for Arch.”

“I don’t understand why it’s taking so long,” she answered immediately. “You filed to adopt him in June, right? I mean, it’s obvious that his biological mother isn’t right to have him. She got escorted out of your house by the police. That has to be a huge sign.”

“Birth-parents have rights,” I muttered. “Even when they completely abandon their children and only show back up to make sure he doesn’t stay with someone who loves him.”

“How long do you think it’ll take?”

I sat back farther on the bed and looked at the makeshift bedroom. “I don’t know. We’ve already been waiting so long, so I’m hoping they’ll have a decision by the next court date in two weeks.”

Amanda wrapped her arm around my shoulders and leaned into me. “I really hope everything works out for the two of you,” she said softly, eyes glancing down to my stomach as well. “You deserve something to work to go right, for once”

I knew what the tone of her voice was suggesting and I sighed into her embrace. “Has anyone heard from him?” I questioned, picturing the musician somewhere on the other side of the world.

“He spoke to Russ a few days ago,” she answered, “but he didn’t say much, I don’t think. All Russell said is that he’d be home in time for Christmas. When was the last time you talked to him?”

“A couple months ago,” I said vaguely. “I’m not sure, exactly. I’m trying not to think about it too much. I’ve got to keep Arch focused on what’s here. Not Ronnie and what he’s doing over there. Arch needs to be at one hundred percent all the time. If there’s something that making him upset, they’ll know about it, and I don’t want this thing with Ronnie to affect us.”

“Maybe it’s better that he’s kept his distance then,” she offered carefully. “I mean, at least these last couple months. It probably looks more stable when you don’t have a musician popping in and out of your life.”

I was about to respond when Anthony stepped into the room, pushing the thin door open wider as he slipped in through the space the narrow room allowed. “What are you talking about?” he questioned, smiling at us.

“Your brother,” Amanda countered, raising her eyebrows at her husband. “Just talking about when we think he might turn up again.”

Anthony leaned back against the doorjamb. Behind him, we could hear the boys in the living room and Russell’s counter to their noise. Amanda chuckled at her father-in-law’s shout for back up and headed out of the room through the second doorway. It led into the hallway beyond the living room, rather than into the kitchen like the one Anthony came through.

Anthony stepped over and sat down on my other side, kicking the door closed behind him. He sat close enough that his arm brushed mine and he leaned back against the wall. “How are you doing, Atti?” he questioned, looking me over.

“I’m good," I said honestly. "Things seem to be pretty smooth for the moment."

His gaze met mine and I could see his brother in his eyes. They weren't similar in many ways, but their eyes, while not identical, showed something of the other. I glanced away and felt his hand grab mine. “I worry about you, you know," he said, reclaiming my eye. "I feel like there’s no one looking out for you now that Ronnie's not here. He should be here to take care of you while you're like this. It's not right for him to run off. No matter what happened between you."

“I can handle myself,” I told the older Radke. “Obviously, I want him here for this baby, but right now, he has his priorities and I have mine.”

“What’s your plan?” Anthony asked.

I shifted towards him. “What do you mean?”

His dark eyes didn’t meet mine. “I mean, with this baby, what’s your plan?” He looked to me. “Have you and Ronnie talked about what you’re going to do? Have you talked at all?”

“No.” I swallowed. “We haven’t spoken in months, and even the last time was when I called after I found out he was going overseas. They hadn’t released their tour dates and I needed to know when he would be back.”

“And what’d he say?”

“Not much,” I answered. “Just told me that date of his last show. I told him the dates of my doctor’s appointments, and he never showed. So I'm just going to assume that I can't expect anything from him right now.”

“There's one thing that you damn well better know,” Ant answered quickly. “Ronnie will be here for all of you when you really need him, Atticus. I know he’s being a jackass right now, but don’t doubt him. He loves you more than anything and he loves this baby. He just doesn’t know how to handle everything you’re going through.”

“I know,” I agreed. “Sometimes I feel like I know him more than I want to because it makes it harder to be mad at him for not being here. I know that he needs space and he needs his band, and I have no right to need him after what I’ve put him through, so I haven’t asked him to come home for me. But he’s coming home for his child. I can’t let that baby feel the way I do when he’s gone. The way Arch feels, too.”

Anthony faltered, brown eyes trained on me as he tried to figure out my reasoning. I took in a deep breath and pushed everything away. “Do you still love him?” Anthony asked, surprised.

“I’ll always love him,” I answered immediately, shocking the brother slightly, “but I don’t know if I’d still need him if I wasn’t having his baby, and I’m not going to drag him home early because I’m scared to do it alone.”

Anthony’s arm slid over my shoulders and he tightened me into his side. “You’re a good woman, Atticus,” he said softly. “I don’t want you to be afraid, sweetheart. I understand everything that you’ve put each other through, and it hurts me that you’re still hurting over this. But just know that you’re not alone in this. You have this entire family behind you.”

Anthony and I sat like that for a little while longer, until I heard Amanda rounding up her boys so that they could head home. Anthony and I headed out together, closer, somehow, than we’d been before. I was barefoot and traipsed over to my son, wrapping my arms around him from behind as he said goodbye to his nonbiological cousins.

Anthony pointed his finger at me as he headed out the door. “You call me if you need anything,” he said pointedly. “I can be in LA as quickly as you want me there, remember that, Atti.”

“I’ll keep you up-to-date,” I promised, smiling at his protectiveness. “Let me know if you hear anything from overseas.”

“I’ll do more than that,” the man promised as he walked out the front door, leaving me alone with Russell and Arch in the house where he and Ronnie grew up.

“Alright, Arch, time for a bath,” I said when the large family was gone from the house.

Arch frowned at me, but headed towards the single bathroom without a word. Russell’s eyebrows were raised in surprise as I turned around to follow the little boy.

“You’re one kid in and already have him trained that well?” Russ questioned playfully. “I had two boys and now four grandsons, and I still can’t get any of them into the bath without a fight.”

I grinned. “I guess I've just got more skills than you, Russ."