The transition from boarding school to life at Summers End always takes some getting used too. One reason the pampered princes and princesses of the wealthy are sent to boarding school is to learn to be independent. You're expected to keep your room clean, get your laundry done, eat your meals at the appointed time and most importantly, take responsibility for your schedule and attend classes. At Summers End everything was done for me.
I'm not sure exactly which of the servants was responsible for listening for my shower to start running but once it did they sprang into action. Down in the kitchen Cook began preparing my breakfast. Upstairs Mr. Carson laid out my clothes then informed Mrs. Lodge she could expect me downstairs momentarily.
When I woke the first morning home I stretched then threw open the window to let the fresh air fill the room. Nothing is better than the smell of the air after a summer storm and last night's rain seemed to polish the whole island. I enjoyed the view for a moment and then headed for the bathroom. I let the water run so it would heat up while I stripped off my pajamas, then I climbed under the spray and felt all the tension in my body fade away. Nothing is as refreshing as a morning shower but after 20 minutes my skin started to prune so I toweled off and headed back to my room.
At the foot of my bed I found three neatly folded polo shirts in navy, black and grey. I had a choice between khaki chinos or shorts, fresh underpants, two pairs of deck shoes and two belts, one leather, one canvas. There weren't any socks because one should never wear socks with deck shoes. I selected the black polo, khaki shorts, leather belt and the matching deck shoes to go over my white undershirt and grey boxer-briefs. I made sure my hair was neatly combed, brushed away any wrinkles from my shirt and trotted down the stairs.
I heard voices coming from the study and assumed Mrs. Lodge was chatting with our summer guests. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of entertaining some kid I didn't know all summer but Mrs. Lodge already reminded me of my responsibilities as a host the night before and I didn't want to disappoint her. I reluctantly headed for the study to get the introductions over with.
I entered the study and was momentarily thunderstruck. He was the cutest boy I'd ever seen. He was tall and thin with hair so blond it was almost white. His eyes were like liquid sapphires and his skin like fresh cream. He was dressed similarly to me in a lite yellow polo and faded red shorts. The colors accented him perfectly and really brought out his eyes. The only fault I could find was with the flip-flops on his slender feet. I'm sure Mrs. Lodge pursed her lips disapprovingly when she saw them.
"Ah, Thomas, there you are," said Mrs. Lodge.
I couldn't take my eyes off him. I didn't want to stare but I couldn't help myself.
His haircut was kind of retro. Most boys our age don't wear flat-tops, at least not by choice. The cut suggested military school.
"Boy, have you gone mute?"
"Huh?" I responded as the familiar name snapped me out of my trance. "Er…I beg your pardon Mrs. Lodge. My mind was preoccupied."
"Indeed," said Mrs. Lodge suspiciously. "At any rate, please say hello to our guests, Mrs. Carstairs and her son Alec. This is my ward, Thomas Dufrain."
"How do you do Mrs. Carstairs, welcome to Summers End," I smiled and shook her hand like a proper little gentleman, then shook Alec's and gave him a casual, "Hi," while I tried to avoid further embarrassment by not blushing.
"Hey," Alec grinned.
"Senator Lodge has told me so much about you," said Mrs. Carstairs.
"He speaks very highly of you. I'm sure you and Alec will have a lot of fun together this summer," she smiled.
"Yeah," I replied nervously. I glanced at Alec and he continued to flash his sly grin.
I was saved from further conversation when Carson stuck his head into the room.
"Breakfast is served Madame," he announced.
"Thank you Carson," said Mrs. Lodge, as she took my arm. Then she turned and whispered to me as I escorted her to the dining room. "Are you quite alright boy? I thought you'd been struck dumb."
"My apologies, Mrs. Lodge. I was just distracted."
"I'm counting on you to be a good host and show young Alec a good time."
"Yes ma'am," I replied and heard Alec snicker behind me.
"And see if you can do something about those shoes. You know how I abhor any footwear that makes noise," Mrs. Lodge winked at me.
"Yes ma'am," I smiled and pulled out her chair before taking my own.
The prospects for this summer improved the moment Thomas Dufrain walked through the door. I thought for sure I'd be spending my vacation with some goofy prep-school bed wetter but I couldn't have been more wrong. His short conservative hair was a rich chocolate brown and his emerald eyes sparkled when the light hit them. He was about my height and looked like he had a decent body but his posture suggested he was so tight if he backed into a wall he might suck out a brick. You could see his formality was the result of Old Lady Lodge but I figured he'd relax a little once I got him alone.
The best part is I could tell he was into me. The stare he gave me was one I've seen before, he thinks I'm cute. I'm not trying to be arrogant or anything but you know what it's like when you meet someone for the first time and they give you that look? Desire was oozing out of the poor kid's pores but I wasn't about to take it easy on him. I shot him a knowing grin. I wanted him to know he'd been caught, wanted him to know I knew what was in his heart and I was rewarded when he blushed awkwardly.
Then the butler came in and spoiled the moment by announcing breakfast was ready. This place is a trip. It all goes back to Mrs. Lodge, everything about her seemed formal and it rubbed off on her house, her staff and even Thomas. I thought it was cute how he politely escorted her to the table but you could tell by the way they spoke he was at least somewhat intimidated by her. I picked that up from the servants when we arrived last night too. It didn't take much to realize that around this place, everything went Mrs. Lodge's way all the time. That only made me more eager to get Thomas alone and I shot him another grin when I caught his eye as we sat down.
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to receive you last night," said Mrs. Lodge, drawing my attention to the conversation unfolding around me.
"Oh that's quite alright. We arrived rather late," said mom. I could tell Mrs. Lodge was already having an effect on her. Mom's never so "on," this early in the morning.
"I trust my staff tended to your needs?"
"Yes ma'am, we were quite well taken care of," mom smiled. "You have a lovely home and we're so pleased you've opened it to us, aren't we Alec."
"Yeah sure. This is a great old place," I replied. The old lady eyeballed me for a second but dismissed me with a nod when I gave her my best smile. By then the butler was back and began setting plates in front of us.
I pulled the lid of my plate and grabbed a piece of bacon and then noticed how quiet it was. Everyone, even mom, was staring at me.
"What? Do I need to blow my nose or something?" I asked.
Mom face-palmed, Thomas's eyes widened and Mrs. Lodge shot me a look so disapproving I thought her face was going to melt. No one said anything. I still didn't understand what I'd done wrong and then the butler pulled the lid from the old ladies plate and placed a linen napkin over her lap. He moved to Thomas next and then mom. Only after mom had been served did Thomas pick up his fork. That's when I realized the problem, I'd run smack dab into the wall of "good manners." At Summers End one does not simply dig in when food is placed in front of him, one waits until the ladies of the house have been served.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I blushed.
"You'll find we have a certain way of doing things here, young man," said Mrs. Lodge, though not unkindly. "Thomas will help you with that, won't you boy?"
"Yes ma'am," said Thomas. I've only known him for five minutes but that robotic, preprogrammed "yes ma'am," is already making him sound like a broken record.
Once that was over with, mom and Mrs. Lodge talked about the book she's working on and discussed where she could set up for the summer. The old lady graciously offered her the use of the study we'd met in but I was only half listening. I caught Thomas stealing furtive glances at me and I smiled every time I caught him. God that kid is cute when he blushes!
"I'm going to get started as soon as breakfast is finished. What are you boy's going to do today?" said mom.
All eyes turned to Thomas who was busy biting into a piece of melon.
"Yeah Thomas, what do you have planned for us?" I smiled wickedly.
"Uh, well, I go for a bike ride every morning. I thought you could come with me and I could show you the island."
"That sounds nice. Doesn't that sound nice, Alec?" said mom. I could tell she was worried I was going to be bored but it actually sounded fun. As an added bonus I'd get to see what Thomas was like away from this place and out from under the old ladies watchful eye.
"Sure, I can't wait," I grinned.
"Right, well, I'll just go wash up and we can head out," said Thomas.
"Ok, get a hold of yourself," I told my reflection in my bathroom mirror as cool water dripped from my face. "He's a cute guy. So what? You know lots of cute guys. They've never made you act like a blithering idiot before!"
The truth of the matter is I was unprepared for Alec Carstairs. Sure, I did know a lot of cute guys, hell, I lived with one at Choate but there was something about the way Alec looked at me. I noticed it when he caught me staring and all he did was smile and grin. I have no experience when it comes to flirting but I swear, the way he looked at me, I think he liked that I was staring at him. Not for the first time I cursed my difficulty reading people. Part of me thought Alec might be into me but the logical side of my brain said I was dreaming. It's not like I'd know what to do if he liked me anyway. I couldn't picture Mrs. Lodge being very accommodating if I suddenly announced I was gay. I don't think she'd chuck me out on the streets but the truth is I really didn't know what might happen.
When breakfast was over I was glad to get away from Alec for a few minutes to clear my head. Once I washed my face and calmed down a little I realized that he was on my turf. I had the home court advantage and it was time I made use of it so as not to spend the summer blushing at him like some kind of horny cheerleader. I was ready to march downstairs and face him when I stepped out of the bathroom and was immediately unnerved by the sight of Alec sitting on my bed with his long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle as if they were on display just for me.
"Uh, hi," I waved awkwardly. "I thought we'd meet downstairs?"
"Well, my room is just down the hall and I saw your door was open. I didn't think you'd mind. You don't mind, do you Thomas?" said Alec as he leaned back on my bed.
"No, it's ok."
"Cool," Alec smiled his toothpaste commercial smile. "This is a great room."
"Thanks," I smiled back.
"Who's the baseball fan though?" asked Alec as he gestured to the wall decorated with my Red Socks World Series pennants and a large painting of Fenway Park.
"Um, me," I replied. It was my room, who else's stuff would it be?
"You like baseball?" said Alec, somewhat taken aback.
"Sure, I play shortstop on my school team."
"Really? I figured you for golf or maybe tennis."
"Are you trying to tell me you think I'm uptight?"
"You? No, not at all," he grinned sarcastically.
"Thanks for the subtlety," I rolled my eyes.
"Don't mention it," Alec grinned. "I'm a baseball fan too. Maybe we could play catch sometime."
"Yeah that would be great," I admitted. Usually the only people I got to play catch with during the summer were James the chauffer or Henry when he visited from Washington. "Hey if you're a baseball fan you've gotta see this."
I walked over to my desk and picked up a small glass case then handed it over to Alec. I watched him for a second and then his eyes widened.
"Is that…" he started.
"Babe Ruth's signature? Yeap," I smiled proudly.
"That's like a $15,000 dollar autograph," Alec exclaimed. "Where did you get it?"
"Christmas present from Henry."
"Henry? You mean Senator Lodge?"
"Yeah, he's a big baseball fan. None of his nephews are really into it so he and I talk sometimes."
"He played in college, taught me how to throw a wicked fastball."
"Cool," Alec nodded.
"Well, we better get going. There's a lot to see."
"You're the host, after you," Alec smiled.
I led Alec downstairs and into the kitchen. I use that exit when I go bike riding because it leads to the garage. James always has my bike waiting for me.
"Good morning Cook," I smiled as Mrs. Louis or Cook, as she prefers to be called, sauntered over with a plastic baggy full of bacon. "Dinner was excellent last night."
"Oh I'm so glad you enjoyed it Honey, happy birthday," she smiled brightly.
"Thanks," I blushed.
"Yesterday was your birthday?" asked Alec.
"Happy birthday," he smiled.
"Thanks," I blushed again.
"Who's your friend?" asked Cook though she already knew. No one came into the house, especially a long term guest, without the staff being fully briefed.
"This is Alec, the boy staying with us for the summer," I explained.
"Nice to meet you Alec," Cook shook his hand and gave him a grandmotherly smile.
"Thanks, breakfast was great," he smiled at her.
"Oh I'm glad you liked it Honey. You make yourself at home here. Help yourself to anything in my fridge you like," said Cook.
"Thanks, I will."
"So, you boy's going ridding?" asked Cook.
"Yes, I thought I'd show Alec the island."
"Alright, well here are your supplies," said Cook, handing me the baggy full of bacon. "You boys have a good time now."
Cook is a short woman almost as wide as she is tall. She's always got a smile on her face and I think her happy outlook on life seeps into the food she serves. Every meal she's ever made me tastes like it was prepared with love. She gave me a big birthday hug, pinched Alec's cheek and sent us on our way.
"So how old are you?" asked Alec as we trooped out the back door.
"Sweet, me to! My birthday was a week ago," said Alec.
"Well then, happy birthday," I smiled.
I was finally starting to relax a little. Alec seemed somewhat awestruck by his surroundings, the surroundings I considered part of my everyday routine. Now that it was his turn at being slightly uncomfortable he didn't grin at me so much when he caught me looking at him.
As expected, James had a pair of bikes waiting for us. He handed us each a helmet and sent us on our way.
"Hey what's the bag of bacon for anyway?" asked Alec.
"You'll see," I smiled and then pedalled down the driveway.
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