Summers End

by Ryan Bartlett

Chapter 4

Thomas

I ended up falling asleep and woke at 5:30 when I heard the dinner bell. Summers End is an old house and in keeping with tradition there is a system of bells linking the kitchen with the rest of the rooms. Half an hour before dinner is served the bells ring informing you it's time to dress for dinner. In the old days, when the house was new, dressing for dinner meant evening gowns for ladies and white tie and tails for gentlemen. While Mrs. Lodge is a slave to tradition and formality she's modern enough to be happy with a coat and tie.

I took a quick shower to revive myself after the events of the day and as expected there were clothes laid out for me. I put on the white shirt, khaki trousers, blue blazer and stripped tie. When I looked in the mirror I felt like I was wearing my school uniform but that was ok, at least I'm used to it. Once dressed, I paced around my room. I felt bad for how I'd treated Alec and I was still so confused about what happened. I didn't know what I was going to say to him but fortunately there was a knock at the door that allowed me to concentrate on something else for a moment.

"Come in."

The door creaked open and Carson stuck his head through the opening. His friendly face was a welcome sight after the events of the day.

"May I trouble you for a moment Master Thomas?"

"Of course, what do you need?"

"It's better if I show you. Would you come with me please?"

"Okay," I replied suspiciously.

Carson led me down the hall and stopped in front of the guest room I knew to be occupied by Alec. I tensed up as the butler knocked on the door.

"Yeah?" Alec shouted.

"It's Carson sir, may I come in?"

"Sure, it's unlocked," Alec replied.

"As you can see, we have a slight problem," said Carson as he ushered me inside and closed the door behind us.

I took one look at Alec and cringed.

"You're going to wear that?" Alec and I asked simultaneously.

"I told you to be dressed by 5:45," I reminded him.

"I am dressed. Why are you wearing a tie?"

"Can I trust you to handle this Master Thomas? I have my duties to attend to," said Carson.

"Of course Carson, we'll be down in a few minutes," I assured him.

Alec looked down at his clothes and didn't see anything wrong. He was wearing the pale yellow polo from earlier with jeans and a pair of brown penny loafers.

"I don't see what's wrong. Don't I look ok?"

"If we were anywhere else you'd be fine but Mrs. Lodge does enjoy her formalities," I informed him.

"You mean you dress like that every night?" said Alec, gesturing at my coat and tie.

"Yes. Didn't anyone warn you?"

"My mom said to bring some nice clothes but she wasn't specific," Alec sighed. "I thought this was nice for a summer on the beach. This is about as formal as I can get."

"Ok, come on," I stated and led him back to my room. "You're about a 29-30 inch waist right?"

"Yeah," he replied.

"Good, my stuff should fit you."

I led Alec into my room and had him wait while I went to the closet and started pulling out dress clothes. Fortunately for him the navy blue blazer is a common staple for the New England preppy and I had four of them to choose from. I picked out one of my favorites along with a dress shirt, trousers and tie and then returned to my room. While I was gone Alec stripped down to his socks and underwear in anticipation of a wardrobe change. I think he was embarrassed by his predicament and I found him standing there nearly naked with his arms crossed looking sheepish.

"I didn't know I'd have to dress up for dinner every night," he blushed.

In that moment I understood what he'd been talking about when he asked me if I'd ever experienced a moment where I had to have something at all costs. Logic, reason, decorum, fear all of it passed through my mind leaving behind nothing but raw desire. I threw the clothes on the bed, seized Alec by his waist and hungrily kissed his sweet lips. He needed no encouragement. He put his arms around my neck and kissed me back just as hard.

"I thought you were afraid?" said Alec when we stopped to take a breath.

"I am," I admitted as I nuzzled and kissed his neck.

"If this is what you're like when you're scared you must be a wild man when you're happy," Alec snickered and put his lips back to mine.

His hands moved up and down my back and mine moved up and down his. My fingers brushed the waistband of his briefs and though I was tempted to reach down and grab his pert butt, I stopped myself. It wasn't from want of desire. That nagging little voice was back, the one that preached caution at every juncture in the road. I was able to ignore it for a moment but when Alec reached for my zipper the voice shouted to be heard.

"Stop," I panted.

Alec pulled his hands away and took a step back. After my reaction to his kiss on the boat, I think he was afraid I might run away from him again.

"Are you ok?"

"Fine, but if we aren't downstairs in a few minutes someone will come looking for us and you still have to get dressed," I explained.

"Gotcha," Alec smiled and put on my dress clothes.

He cut a fine form in my things. If he went to school with me I'd be in big trouble with Mrs. Lodge. With Alec sitting next to me in class, looking as cute as he did in my bedroom, I'd flunk every course.

"What do you think?" he asked when he finished tying his tie.

"Perfect," I smiled.

"Thanks," said Alec and then he leaned in for a quick peck on the lips.

"Come on, dinner will be served in a minute."

Alec followed me downstairs where we met his mother in the foyer. She was wearing a black cocktail dress which was suitable or dinner.

"Oh thank God," said Mrs. Carstairs when she saw Alec dressed in my coat and tie.

"You could have warned me," said Alec. "I had to borrow this stuff from Thomas."

"I'm sorry. You were in such a mood when we left I forgot to mention it," said Mrs. Carstairs as she hugged her son by way of apology. Then she put her hand on my shoulder and smiled at me. "Thank you Thomas."

"Think nothing of it ma'am. I'd be a terrible host if I let him come down to dinner in jeans to face Mrs. Lodge's wrath," I grinned.

"Boy?" Called Mrs. Lodge from the study.

"That's my cue, if you'll excuse me please," I nodded to Mrs. Carstairs.

I proceeded to the study and found Mrs. Lodge in her chair. If I was home she expected me to escort her to the table as a proper young gentleman should.

"Running a bit late this evening aren't we?" said Mrs. Lodge as she took my arm.

"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry ma'am," I blushed.

"It's quite alright boy. Are you enjoying young Mr. Carstairs?"

"Yes ma'am," I smiled. "He's proven to be quite exceptional company."

"Excellent. That's one less thing to worry about. And the flip-flops?"

"I don't think they'll be making a repeat appearance," I assured her.

"Good. You know my feelings on noisy footwear," she reminded me.

"Yes ma'am," I smiled and guided the lady of the house to her seat.

Alec and his mom were waiting for us in the dining room. I pulled out Mrs. Lodge's chair and once she was seated we all took our places. This time Alec waited for Carson to place the napkin in his lap and didn't touch his salad until Mrs. Lodge took a bite out of hers. I was happy to see Alec was a quick study. He had good manners he just needed to be reminded of them that morning.

"How is your work coming along my dear?" asked Mrs. Lodge as the soup course was served.

"It'll take me a few days to get organized but I think I'm off to a good start. I'll be going through the family photos and history for the next few days. I'd love to have you look at some of the pictures and give me some background information," said Mrs. Carstairs.

"That would be lovely dear. All of Summers End's resources are at your disposal, even me," Mrs. Lodge smiled.

"I can't thank you enough for opening your home to us like this. It'll give me a real feeling for your family and make the book much better."

"Think nothing of it. We're delighted to have you with us. Aren't we boy?" said Mrs. Lodge.

"Yes ma'am," I replied just before taking a spoonful of soup into my mouth.

"I only hope you don't spend the entire summer cooped up in the study. You really must experience all the island has to offer," Mrs. Lodge added.

"If I don't, I'm sure Alec will. I hardly saw him today," Mrs. Carstairs smiled. "Did you boys have fun?"

"Sure," said Alec. "Thomas is an excellent tour guide. He showed me all over town and then we spent the afternoon sailing."

"I told you those sailing lessons would come in handy. Didn't I boy?" said Mrs. Lodge with a satisfied, "I told you so," expression on her face.

"Yes ma'am. You were right," I couldn't help but grin. If she knew what had taken place on the little boat that afternoon the look on her face would have been priceless. Terrifying, but priceless.

Alec

Yes Thomas is a wonderful tour guide and a great kisser too, I thought as I answered mom. I noticed Thomas looking at me nervously as I spoke. What did he think I was going to do, tell mom I talked him into skinny dipping and making out?

I was pretty upset after our encounter on the boat. I liked Thomas a lot and the more he opened up the more interesting he became. I was also sure he was gay and I was more than a little taken aback by his reaction to our first kiss. The thing I need to remember is not everyone is as comfortable being gay as I am. I've liked boys before who just weren't ready to admit who they were on the inside and the one thing I've learned is you can't force them out of the closet. Everyone has to accept their sexuality when the time is right for them.

I'll say this though, it sure seems like Thomas had a change of heart. That make-out session in his room was incredible. He surprised me when he pounced on me like that but it didn't take me long to warm up. I've kissed boys before but kissing Thomas was different. There was something I couldn't put my finger on. It wasn't exactly more passionate or more intense than anything I'd done before but there was a feeling there that I couldn't quite explain.

"Did you see Mr. Russet today?" asked Mrs. Lodge, interrupting my train of thought.

"Yes ma'am," Thomas smiled.

"How is the dear old fellow?" she continued.

"He's still on that oxygen mask and he looked a little tired but I'd say his spirits were good," said Thomas.

"Poor old dear," Mrs. Lodge sighed. "I'd like to have him see a specialist in Boston but he absolutely refuses to leave the island."

"I'll talk to him," said Thomas.

"Yes, do that boy. You have a deft touch with him."

"Who is Mr. Russet?" asked mom.

"He's Thomas's old piano teacher. We went to see him this morning and Thomas put on a little concert for us," I smiled at my new friend.

"Really? You enjoyed that?" asked mom, incredulously.

"Classical music isn't my thing but Thomas was awesome. It was really cool watching him play."

"Well, I hope I have the privilege of seeing you perform sometime," mom smiled at Thomas.

"Oh yes," Mrs. Lodge exclaimed. "Thomas is a gifted pianist. You truly must see him play. What do you say boy, after dinner perhaps?"

"As you wish," Thomas smiled.

"Lovely," Mrs. Lodged patted his hand affectionately.

Watching Thomas and Mrs. Lodge interact at dinner was interesting. Observing them earlier in the day, listening to him talk about her and watching him dutifully obey her every command, left me with the impression Thomas was little more than a servant. All that changed at dinner. The old lady was proud of him. You could see it in the way her eyes lit up when she talked about what a wonderful pianist he is and there was genuine affection in the pat she gave his hand when he agreed to play after dinner.

I thought Mrs. Lodge was kind of an old crank the way she bossed Thomas around but I was beginning to see their relationship was more complex. She was from an age where adherence to formality ruled her thinking but when she let her guard down, even though it was just a bit, you could see past the gruff exterior. It was becoming clear to me that deep inside, Mrs. Lodge truly cared about Thomas and even loved him. She didn't treat him like an orphan she'd taken in out of a sense of duty. Their relationship seemed more like stern grandmother and favored grandson. I wonder if Thomas notices it?

That Cook is something else. While I pondered my thoughts I scarfed down probably the best meal I'd ever eaten. There was spinach salad with cranberries and warm feta cheese followed by soup made from some type of summer squash. I was halfway through the main course which I thought was chicken but turned out to be rabbit. I've never eaten rabbit before. I probably wouldn't have eaten it then if I'd known what it was. I'm glad I didn't find out before tasting it because I would have missed out on a spectacular dish. Lastly there was dessert, fresh pears braised in white wine and topped with sorbet. I don't know how Thomas stays so fit. If I ate like this every day I'd be a whale!

When dinner was over and the dishes had been cleared away Thomas once again offered Mrs. Lodge his arm and showed us to the music room. It was a large room dominated by a wall of windows looking out over the sea with the grand piano taking center stage. There was a warm fire burning on the hearth and as Thomas opened the piano lid and sat at the bench, the rest of us relaxed in comfortable leather chairs.

I found myself truly looking forward to Thomas's performance. I really don't like classical music but maybe it'll grow on me. I was so impressed with the way he played I could listen to him all day. Once he was comfortable Thomas went through the same ritual I'd seen him perform at Mr. Russet's house. He played a few notes, cracked his knuckles, played a few more and then his shoulders relaxed as he asked if we had any requests.

"Perhaps the Moonlight Sonata?" Mrs. Lodge suggested.

"Yes ma'am," Thomas smiled.

He closed his eyes like he had that morning and just when I was at the point of thinking he didn't know the music he began to fill the house with the melody. It was almost like a trick he played on his audience. He took just enough time to make you wander what he was thinking, why he hadn't started to play and then he hit you with the full force of his ability. I listened intently, letting the music soar through the caverns of my mind and imagination.

After about an hour Thomas looked at me. Our eyes met, he blushed slightly and looked down at the keys. He started to play another piece and as he played he stole furtive glances at me when he didn't think anyone was looking. The music had a soft, sweet melody to it and as I listened I couldn't help but feel Thomas was trying to tell me something.

"Thomas, that was outstanding," mom applauded when he was finished.

"Thank you ma'am," Thomas smiled.

"He had an excellent teacher in Mr. Russet but I always say a person must have talent in order to benefit from such teaching. Well done boy," said Mrs. Lodge.

"Thank you ma'am," Thomas bowed at the waist, then he began closing the piano's lid.

"This Mr. Russet sounds impressive," said mom.

"He was a brilliant concert pianist in his day. I was fortunate to have him train all my children but none have taken to it the way Thomas has," said Mrs. Lodge.

"All of your children? Even Henry?" asked mom.

"Oh yes, he took lessons for five years," said Mrs. Lodge.

"How funny, he's never once mentioned it in 20 years of friendship," said mom.

"Well, to tell the truth dear, he was never very good," Mrs. Lodge smiled conspiratorially.

"Still, it might be nice to meet this Mr. Russet and gain some insight into Henry's childhood."

"Absolutely dear," said Mrs. Lodge.

"If that's all for the evening, ma'am, I think I'll retire," said Thomas when he finished fussing with the piano. "I have some reading to do."

"Of course boy. Thank you for playing for us. Sleep well," said Mrs. Lodge.

"Goodnight ma'am," said Thomas, then he turned to mom. "Mrs. Carstairs."

"Goodnight Thomas," mom smiled.

"I think I'm going to head up too," I yawned. "That bike ride this morning wore me out."

I kissed my mom on the cheek, said goodnight to Mrs. Lodge and then followed Thomas upstairs. We didn't speak on the way but once we were in his room and the door was locked, he took my face in his hands and kissed my lips. It was just a peck at first and then a soft, lingering kiss.

"You were wonderful," I complimented his piano skills.

"That last song was for you," he blushed.

"I thought so," I exclaimed. I knew there'd been some kind of meaning to it.

"It's called Liebestraum, Love Dream," he explained.

"Awwww, Thomas, that's sweet," I smiled then kissed him again. He enjoyed the kiss for a moment and then pulled away.

"I don't want to be a choir boy," said Thomas.

"What?" I as confused by the remark.

"I don't want to be some guy you blow one night in a cathedral and then never see again."

"It won't be like that. We have all summer…"

"No, I mean, I want the first time I do something like that to be special. I know we just met this morning and things seem like their rushing forward but I'd really like to go slow," said Thomas.

"Well that's ok," I smiled. "We can do that."

"You're so beautiful, Alec," said Thomas as he caressed my cheek. "I want to be in love with you."

It was such a brave thing to say. Thomas is so much different from any boy I've ever known before. Most guys would have had their dick in my mouth as soon as they could get their zipper down and whip the little fella out but here he was telling me he wanted to fall in love first. I think it's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me.

"Thank you," I smiled and kissed him again.

We kissed for a long time. Our arms found their way around each other and he pulled me so close I could feel his heart beating against my chest. When we came up for air he smiled sweetly and as I disentangled myself from him I started taking off my clothes.

"Uh, that's not exactly taking it slow," said Thomas.

"I'm just giving you your stuff back, dummy," I giggled and threw his shirt at him.

"Oh, duh," Thomas rolled his eyes at himself. "Sorry, this is going to take some getting used to."

I smiled and took off my pants then gathered up the jeans and polo shirt I'd left on his bed earlier.

"Goodnight Thomas," I kissed him one last time.

"Aren't you going to put that stuff on first?" he asked as I opened the door. "Carson or one of the maids could see you."

"Maybe it'll give them a cheap thrill," I winked and sauntered down the hall.

I turned when I got to my door. Thomas was still standing there watching me with his mouth hanging open. He's cute when he's shocked. I blew him a kiss and he blushed bright red before closing his door.

I went into my room and put my clothes down. I didn't bother with pajamas. I was already in my underwear and the room was warm so I simply climbed under the covers. I got comfortable and looked out the window towards the sea when I was struck by an epiphany. Romance! That's what was hiding in Thomas's kisses!

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep but it was hard to suppress the smile on my face.

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