‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Compilation Days

“Arch, I’ll be there right after school, remember?” I said to him as I rushed through the living room and into the kitchen to grab his lunch box. “So I need you to try to hurry out front when you get out, alright? We can’t be late again.” I pulled the insulated box from the fridge and hurried back into the living room, eyebrows raised at him as I waited for him to acknowledge my words.

He nodded from the couch as he sat up from tying his shoes. “Okay,” he answered as he got up and lifted his backpack from the spot beside him.

I walked over and spun him around so I could unzip the back and stuff the lunch box in among his folders. “This time should be better,” I said softly. “Ms. Lyla and I will be with you both the whole time. I won’t leave your side, I promise.”

“Do we have to stay at that place?” he questioned, turning back around to look me in the eye. “I don’t like that room. It’s too small. Why can’t she just come here again?”

“You remember how that turned out last time,” I answered him. “Abigail needs to be some place where there’s more structure. That way she will respect what we ask her to do.”

“But that place is so small and she’s too close all the time,” Arch complained as I walked around him and headed towards the door. “I don’t want to be in the little room with her. I want my own room.”

“I’ll be right there with you, babe,” I promised once again. “She’ll be on her best behavior.”

“Why do I still have to see her?” he asked. “You’re going to be my mom, not her.”

“They just want to give her once last chance,” I told him, holding the door open as he walked past me and stepped outside. I pulled the door closed behind us and locked it as he hopped down the stairs and looked back at me over his shoulder.

“A chance for what?”

“To connect with you,” I answered. “They want to make sure that you won’t regret living with me rather than your biological mom. They need to be sure that I’m what’s best for you.” I shuffled him down the sidewalk to the driveway and opened the back door of my car for him to get in.

I shut the back door before he could say anything more about having to visit with his mom today. We were in the last steps of the custody battle and they were trying, once again, to reconcile Arch and Abigail, despite everything she’d put him through during their visits. After the incident where she lost her composure at our house, the meeting had resumed four months later at the Child Welfare building, and Arch hated this even more.

For the last few visits, it was him and Abigail alone in a room while a social worker periodically checked in from the other side of the two way mirror, and I waited in a separate room for mother and child to reconnect and decide that neither of them wanted me in the picture any longer. So far, that wasn't the case. The relationship between Arch and Abigail was more strained than ever.

Last month Abigail had shown up off her medication and spent the first half of the half-hour telling Arch all about his father and the way he died before continuing on about how she was his true mother and how much she loved him while I never truly would. After the social worker realized what was happening, Arch ended up back in my arms, in tears, and claiming that he never wanted to see her ever again. He spent the half hour after that speaking with one of the child psychologists about his mother and how she didn’t mean to really tell him any of those things.

This was round four - the first time back after that step back - and Arch wasn’t having any of it. But even though he hated it, and it hurt me to see him so upset every time, I was doing everything they told me to in hopes that they would see it as cooperation and realize that Arch really belonged with me.

Abigail was currently, and still, living with her younger sister and two nieces. Since the custody fight began, they’d set up a bedroom for Arch in hopes that they would get him back. I’d seen the pictures of it that Abigail submitted to the court and it was as though I was looking at a completely different version of a life that Arch once lived, complete with all his childhood toys and baby blanket.

“Do I really have to go?” Arch questioned again. “Abigail didn’t show up once and she didn’t get in trouble. Can’t we just say we forgot?”

I tried not to let him see me smile at his words. “No, Arch. It’s our responsibility to be there so we’re going. It’ll be fine. It’ll be you and me the whole time. I know that she scared you last time, but I won’t let that happen again.”

“When you’re my mom will I still have to see her?”

“No,” I answered matter-a-factly. “I won’t let that happen.”

I parked at Nicolas and walked him to his class. We didn’t talk about Abigail anymore because he was distracted by trying to get to his little locker and get his backpack unloaded and his jacket hung up. I helped him pull his arms out of his sleeves and hung it on the hook before pulling his homework folder out of his bag and handing it to him.

“Make sure she actually gets that this time,” I demanded, pointing at the Batman folder. “You don’t do all that work every night not to turn it in, Arch.”

He looked at me with defiant blue eyes. “I know,” he muttered, frowning at me. “I forgot, but I won’t forget again.”

I grinned and pulled him into me. He rested his head against my stomach and wrapped his free arm around me the best he could as I wrapped him all up in mine. “I’ll meet you at the front doors after school,” I told him again, leaning down to press a kid to his hair. “Have a good day, sweetheart.”

I stood there until he walked into his classroom and then headed back out to the parking lot among the other parents with kids too young to make it to class on their own. I sat back down in my car and started it up. It took awhile to get out of the crowded parking lot, but once I did I was headed to Epitaph to submit some paperwork and fill out some more.

My father wasn’t in the building today on account of being the boss and not being needed 24/7, so I headed to pick up a folder from my personal boss and then rode the elevator to my dad’s office. Much like his space at home, it was part studio, part office, but all him. I sat down in his leather chair and pulled the papers out of the manila folder.

Epitaph installed a great parental leave program a few years back and now it was my turn to apply. Unlike a lot of companies that only allowed parents a mix of short term disability payment, sick leave, personal days, and unpaid vacation, my father’s company created a program that gave parents up to two months of paid leave for adoption or birth of a child, and allowed them to use any of their other time off on top of that. I had originally planned on only using my paid time off around the same time Arch’s adoption became final so that he and I could spend some time together following his legal adoption, but now it felt that this baby would come sooner than Arch’s permanent place in my life.

The due date was March eleventh, and I planned to have at least two weeks off before then, if I was still able to be fully active. I’d heard horror stories about bedrest and complications, but that wasn’t an option for me, and I was willing my body, and this baby, to cooperate with my lifestyle.

Bedrest and other issues weren’t applicable with a six year old. These were the last of the papers I needed to return, and my father had already claimed that he would personally see to their approval and make sure that I wasn’t scheduled for anything even before I was requesting time off. His rationale was that I didn’t need to be in bars and venues when I was overtly pregnant. He claimed a number of factors as the reason why, but mostly it was his own concern that would bar me from working so close to the due date. And the first day he brought it up, I hadn’t been in the mood to argue.

It only took about an hour to get through the paperwork and then I finished up a couple of Epitaph things before I needed to leave. Heather was meeting me for a class about what giving birth would really be like, and while I found it unnecessary and a large waste of time, she looked at it as though it was time for us to spend together while learning something practical. So I wasn’t going to deny her the joy of watching me hate every minute of it.

The studio where it took place wasn't too far from Epitaph, but I still didn’t leave with enough time to make it. I haphazardly turned into the parking lot, cursing at a sink-hole sized pothole in the asphalt. I could already see Heather as I pulled into a parking space, and while she looked annoyed by my lateness, I could also see the amusement under her expression. This was definitely going to be fun for her.

“I hate you for making me do this again,” I said when I got close. I stopped in front of her and glared at her empty hands. “You know, you could’ve at least brought the mats and things. There’s no way I’m sitting on the floor for an hour and a half.”

The blonde rolled her eyes. “Calm down, everything is already set up inside. I told the teacher that something came up with Arch and you were going to be a little late.”

I faltered at her cover and then nodded quickly, reaching for the door. “Thanks,” I said honestly, letting myself relax despite what we were walking into. “What’s the topic this week, anyway?”

“Your vagina,” Heather answered, laughing as I choked on my saliva. “And your uterus,” she added, “but really, I think she’s been waiting for this class since we started.”

“I think she’s a little too excited about this,” I answered dryly, sending a sugary sweet smile towards the woman manning the front desk. Heather jammed her elbow into my arm as she passed and pulled open the door to the room where everyone had gotten started already.

“Sorry we’re late, everyone,” Heather said brightly as they stopped and looked our way. “Kid troubles, you know how it is.” She shrugged nonchalantly and led me over to our mat. It was set up on the far side of the room and was loaded with pillows and a little blanket.

“Atticus, glad you made it,” the woman teaching it said as she drifted our direction. “I hope everything is alright with your son.”

I smiled as Heather helped me to the ground. “He’s fine.”

Margerie nodded mutely. “Alright everyone, lets get back to it, shall we?” She turned and headed back to the front of the room. It was usually a dance studio, but once a week it was taken over by pregnant women and their men. Or in my case, my Heather. There was one other female couple in the beginning, but I hadn’t seen them in awhile, and while I wasn’t a lesbian, I missed the solidarity I felt when they were here.

Heather sat behind me like a good daddy, and I leaned into her when I got too bored and tired to bother sitting up straight any longer. I managed to cover my legs with the blanket, but it was still obvious that I was using my phone in my lap, so eventually I tucked it back into my jeans and tried to pay attention to the gore she showed us pictures of.

“This feels like punishment,” I whispered harshly to Heather when Margerie showed us what could happen if we tore while in labor. “I mean, really, I feel like I should bring Ronnie here and make him watch this shit for missing all these months of the pregnancy. I’m the one that has to go through it, so shouldn’t he be the one who she makes sick with all those pictures?”

Heather bumped her shoulder into mine and shot me a look as she tried not to laugh. “Be quiet,” she said quickly, putting on her best innocent face when Margerie looked to us once again.

“No, I mean it,” I whispered when the woman began speaking again. I leaned into Heather’s side so I could talk softer and she’d still here me. “If Ronnie ever shows back up in this city, the first thing I’m doing is bringing him here to suffer.”

“We can plan this out later, okay? She’s going to kick us out if you keep talking,” Heather said, grinning conspiratorially, “and you need to see these things. This might happen to you.”

I glanced up at the picture of the stitches and tried not to let my disgust show. “It probably will,” I answered. “I mean, god, my vagina is definitely not big enough to shove a baby through. There’s definitely going to be some destruction.”

Heather leaned in against my side and grinned. “The joys of motherhood.”

“Yeah, but your husband did this to you, so he can’t complain,” I countered, glancing at her from the corner of my eye. “How am I ever going to be confident after this?”

She shrugged. “At least your kids will always love you.”

I scoffed loudly out of shock at her words and caught the attention of most of the couples in the room. Heather burst into laughter and shook her head as she tried to apologize to everyone else, but we were already lost to her joke and the semblance of truth behind it. We managed to quiet down for the rest of the class, not really wanting to be asked to leave, and we just exchanged nudges and quiet reactions for the last of it.

“I’m never going to be able to unsee any of that, Heath,” I complained as we walked out together, leading the pack as the rest of the couples trailed out behind us.

“It’s good for you,” she answered as we stepped into the parking lot. “You should know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“They should show that stuff in sex ed,” I countered. “The entire human species will probably die out after that. Nobody wants a baby that bad.”

“There will always be people like you and me, Att,” she answered when we stopped at her car to load up the mat and pillows.

“You mean the ones like me who are too stupid to use a condom?” I asked.

“No.” She glared. “The ones who were actually in love and didn't consider a baby a bad thing.”

I smiled softly and glanced away from her. “Things change, Heath.”

She waited for me to look back up before she added, “Yeah. They do.”