‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Round Two

I kept seeing the glances that Lyla was sending me near the end of the visitation, but I pretended not to. It had gone reasonably well, and Arch had managed to memorize most of his flash cards in the short time they spent together. Today was one of the first visitations where Arch wasn’t upset by something, and I just wanted it to end that way.

But Abigail had other ideas, and Lyla Ains seemed to be on board. When the hour hand landed on the four, I began to gather Arch from the room. I stepped own the table and helped him stack his cards back together. He pushed them all into his bag and then reached for his jacket.

Abigail shot a desperate look at Lyla Ains. I pretended not to see that either.

I held Arch’s back while he shoved his hands into his sleeves and then I slipped it on his shoulders. “We should get going,” I said, hoping to run out before either one of them could form a sentence. “We have dinner plans with Grandpa.” I grabbed for Arch’s hand.


It was the first time that Abigail had called my name outright in a long time and it was intended to slow me down, but the sound of it kicked me into high gear. “Arch,” I said as I pushed the door open and pushed him into the hall. “I’ll be right there, okay? You wait for me right here, don’t move.”

He turned his blue eyes on me and nodded, stepping out into the hall along the wall as the door closed on him. I turned back to Abigail without a word. Lyla still sat in her chair by the door, and I looked at her, silently asking her to step in and stop this.

“Atticus,” Abigail spoke again, getting up from the undersized chair. “I was hoping that we could go to dinner. Arch and I, and you of course too. I was really hoping for him to be able to see me away from this place. I don’t want all his thoughts of me to be here.”

“He’ll remember you just fine here,” I shot back, knowing it was a low blow but going for it anyway. “We already have plans tonight, and I don’t want to interrupt his usual schedule and do something that will make him uncomfortable.”

Abigail frowned and glanced past me towards the social worker. I silently dared her to take the other woman’s side against me. Lyla had become a good friend to us in the time we’d known her, and I’d learned that she was one of the few who really had Arch’s best in mind. I couldn’t bare it if she turned her back on that now.

I heard her stand up, but I didn’t turn around. She walked over and I saw her in my peripheral vision first. “Atticus, we talked about this,” she spoke. “You know that everything will go much smoother from here on out if you try to make an effort to keep Arch and Abigail on good terms.”

“I don’t want to spend the rest of our lives with her in it,” I said, not caring about the way that would make the woman feel. “I didn’t sign up for this, Lyla. I want Arch, not this.” I could already picture joint custody, and I had no idea how Abigail managed to win him back. It was obvious that the odds were stacked against us, because I had done almost everything right and she’d done everything wrong, and yet she was getting parts of him back while I was losing them.

“You have your own child,” Abigail spoke then, sounding incredulous and angry, “and I understand that you care about Arch, but I love him, and I’m never going to get another one of him. I don’t get that chance like you do.”

“I can’t just replace him,” I spoke, looking at this woman like she didn’t comprehend anything about him, “and you obviously don’t understand that, or who Arch is, because you don’t know him anymore. I’ve been with him for the last two years! I’m raising him. He calls me ‘mom,' not you. Not anymore.”

“You’re not a mother yet,” she spat furiously. “You don’t understand what it’s like for a mother to lose her child to another woman. For someone else to come in and take him away. It hurts me every time he runs to you instead of me, and you throw it back in my face like he’s some prize.”

“You didn’t lose him!” I shouted, throwing my hands into the air. “You walked out on him and left him behind! It’s not my fault that I was the one there to take care of him when you weren’t, Abigail, but you need to start thinking clearly and you need to see all the shit you put that little boy through! And if you loved him, really loved him, you’d stop dragging him through this and let him go, because we both know that he deserves so much better than you.”

She pushed all the air out of her lungs in a disbelieving sigh, and I watched as her eyes crinkled as she stared me down. “You think you’re better than me,” she stated, like it was something that might never have occurred to her before.

“I’ve never walked out on him,” I answered. “I’ve never tried to take him away from someone that actually loves him.”

She swallowed harshly, whether out of anger or something else, I couldn’t tell. But her eyes were on me and she was looking right down into me, and seeing everything that I hated about her reflected right back at her.

“You should talk to your sister,” I said suddenly. I watched surprise flicker in Abigail’s eyes.

Abigail floundered for a moment. “What for?” she asked before I had a chance to walk out. “Why are you so curious about my sister?”

“She might be a more rational human being,” I told her honestly, “and I think it’ll be good for you to explain to her the kind of life I can provide for Arch. I think it’ll do you some good too, Abigail. I really think you should consider what you’re asking your son to give up.”

My choice of vocabulary hit her hard, and I watched her for any reaction. I hadn’t called Arch “her” son ever, and so for her to hear the recognition in me was like heading in a whole new direction. I was done denying that Arch had ever been hers, because he was, and she’s the reason for him, but she was not the reason for him now. I worried that if it hadn’t been for me, Arch would’ve gone straight back to her when she finally decided he was worth it, and the idea of his wasted life was too much to consider.

Arch was the brightest child I’d ever met. And if he had to be put on a spectrum, I’d bet that he’d fall closer to the ‘genius’ side of the scale. And while I didn’t want to insult Abigail, I believed that a lot of that came from his father’s genetics, and I grieved the man that he must’ve been. But I also knew that Arch was a product of circumstance, and most of who he was had been forged during his time with me, without Abigail. He’d been given every opportunity, and he met each challenge and moved onto the next one effortlessly, despite his age and his background and his biological mother.

“I’ll talk to you later, alright?” I said to Lyla as I slid past her and opened the door to the hallway. Arch still stood there, looking like he’d heard every word spoken between Abigail and I. I wanted to crouch down and swoop him into my arms, but instead I settled for pulling him against me and letting him wrap his arms around me.

“I love you,” I spoke, pressing a kiss against the top of his head. “Lets go home, okay?”

“Okay, Atticus,” he said, slipping his fingers into mine. “I love you too,” he repeated.