Summers End

by Ryan Bartlett

Chapter 6

Jillian

I was up early on Saturday morning. I've always been an early riser but it wasn't quite daybreak when I made my way into the expansive kitchen to brew coffee. Once I had a cup I took it to the study and sat at the desk I'd been using. I sipped my coffee surrounded by piles of old photographs and Lodge family records as I watched the sun rise over the eastern shore. It was a beautiful morning. A thunder storm blew in last night and as the sun rose light glistened off the dew.

I love mornings like this, when the house is quiet and I'm alone with my thoughts. I do some of my best thinking in the wee hours of the morning and that day my mind churned over everything I'd observed since discovering the picture of Henry in his school uniform the day before. Seeing Henry and Thomas together only reinforced my suspicions. The boy looked just like him and they seemed so close. I would have liked to have watched them interact more but once we sat down to dinner, Thomas and Alec kept their own counsel while the adults talked.

I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself. Thomas has lived with Mrs. Lodge for 10 years. Henry's made countless visits in that time so I suppose it's no surprise they're friendly. I see the way Mrs. Lodge looks at Thomas and I've heard how she speaks about him so it's logical for other members of the family to have similar attachments to the boy. I keep coming back to the resemblance. To say it was striking would be an understatement.

I sat for another half hour until I heard someone in the kitchen and a few minutes later Henry joined me in the study.

"Mom's got you loaded down with every family picture that's ever been taken I see," said Henry as he took a seat.

"You can say that again," I sighed at the mountain of photographs. "She's been a great help."

"Mom's always been the family historian. I'd have asked her to write the book but I think she lacks your objectivity," Henry winked.

"She is a bit biased," I agreed with a smile.

"How are you getting along with her? I warned you she can be a little…"

"Overbearing is how you put it," I reminded him.

"Yeah," he laughed. "Seriously though, you're getting everything you need?"

"Henry, your mom's been a huge help so has Thomas. He's been keeping Alec busy so I can concentrate on my research."

"I noticed last night, they seem thick as thieves," Henry smiled.

"I've never seen Alec hit it off with someone so quickly. By the way, thank you for taking him to the game with you guys tonight."

"I figured after a week here he could use a night out," said Henry.

"That was a very thoughtful gift you gave Thomas. I didn't realize you two were so close."

"Tommy? Sure we're close, he's my buddy."

"Your buddy huh?

"Yeah. Mom brought him home when I was gearing up to run for the House. He was only 5. We hit it off right away."

"He must have been a cute kid," I smiled. I thought I might be able to get Henry to open up to me if I probed carefully.

"They're all cute at that age," said Henry.

"I found a picture of you yesterday, at first I thought it was Thomas," I stated and fished the photo out of the stack to show him.

"Oh God, 6 th grade," Henry sighed. "That seems like a million years ago."

"It's amazing how much he looks like you."

"Thomas?" said Henry, examining the photo. "Yeah, I guess he does somewhat."

I could tell by the look on Henry's face it was the first time he'd ever considered his resemblance to his mother's ward. It also threw me a curve. I was intrigued by the mystery of Thomas's past and his connection to this family but Henry's expression had me second guessing. I've known Henry Lodge for over 20 years and if there's one thing I admire about him it's his inability to lie. If there was some link between he and Thomas it was as unknown to him as it was to the boy. I'd developed a theory that Thomas might be the product of one of Henry's many affairs and that his mother was raising the boy as her ward in order to hide a potential scandal from the voting public.

As I watched Henry put down his coffee I could tell his thoughts had drifted somewhere else. A man trying to hide something wouldn't be that comfortable with his lie, even with an old friend. I took a sip of my coffee and shook my head. As a journalist it's my job to ferret out stories and bring them to the light of day. The mystery of Thomas's father was like a scent caught in my nose but this wouldn't be the first time I sniffed out a story and found the trail led to nowhere. In retrospect it was rather silly to base so much on a simple resemblance. After all, it's not like brown hair and green eyes are unusual features.

Thomas

When I woke up there was soft sunlight filling the room. I was glad to see the storm hadn't lingered. Summer storms can vanish as quickly as they appear on the New England coast and it's a good thing. I'd hate for the game to be rained out. I yawned and started to stretch but couldn't move my arm. When I looked to my right I was reminded about the gift the storm blew my way in the night.

It was after midnight and I'd just drifted off to sleep when I heard a knock at my door. It took me a moment to realize it wasn't thunder but then I yawned and padded across the room in my pajama bottoms. Mrs. Lodge would never come to my room this late. She'd send Carson or another servant, so I didn't bother hunting for a t-shirt. When I opened the door I found Alec standing there in his socks and underpants.

"Alec, it's after midnight. What are you…" I started but came up short when I got a good look at him. He had his arms crossed over his chest hugging himself tightly as he looked down at his feet. "Is something the matter?"

"Can I sleep with you?" he asked timidly.

"Alec, if someone catches us…"

"Please," he looked up at me, pleading with those big blue eyes.

"Come in," I stepped aside. I couldn't say no to him when he made a face like that. He hurried inside and slipped under my covers while I locked the door.

I got into bed and turned off the bedside lamp. Alec had his back to me but as soon as the light was out he rolled over and snuggled as close as he could. I thought his behavior was really strange. Alec is such a confident person; I'd never seen him so cowed before.

"Alec, what's the matter?" I asked gently as I put my arms around him.

"Y-you promise you won't laugh?"

"I'd never laugh at you," I replied sincerely.

"I, well, I'm afraid of thunder."

"Roll of thunder, hear my cry…" I sighed.

"What?"

"Nothing, just the title of a book I read when I was little. Anyway, there's nothing to be afraid of. Thunder is simply the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt," I explained.

"Thomas, seriously?" said Alec. I couldn't see him in the dark but I could feel him giving me a "what are you, stupid?" look.

"Sorry, that was a little nerdy wasn't?"

"A little," Alec agreed. "I know what thunder is and I know it's nothing to be afraid of. But I can't help it."

I pulled him closer and kissed the top of his head.

"There's nothing to be afraid of as long as I'm here. I'll never let anything hurt you." I could tell by the way he relaxed his shoulders this was a better response to his fears then my dorky science approach.

"When I was little, maybe 4, my mom took me with her to Israel when she went to interview the prime minister. The night before she was supposed to conduct her interview the Israelis and Palestinians started firing rockets at each other and one exploded close to our hotel. They moved all of the guests into the basement but all night long I could hear the thunder of the rockets going off," said Alec.

"You must have been terrified," I sympathized.

"I was so afraid," Alec sniffled. "All I wanted was to go home but there was nothing I could do. That's the first time I realized my mom couldn't make all the bad things go away."

Alec buried his face against my chest and I felt his tears leak onto my skin as he finished sharing the traumatic childhood memory. I thought about what it must have been like, being a little boy forced into that kind of situation. I also sympathized with Mrs. Carstairs, what could she have said to her son to make everything in that moment ok?

I placed my hand on his cheek and used my thumb to gently brush the tears away. He looked up at me and our lips met. I wanted to suck the sadness out of his soul, swallow it and drive the bad memories from his consciousness. Instead he had to settle for me parting my lips and pulling his tongue into my mouth. We kissed softly at first and Alec flinched at every clap of thunder but as we grew more passionate he grew more relaxed. We kissed with a hunger I'd yet to experience in the days we've been together and as I nibbled his bottom lip I let my hands roam his body until they came to rest on his rump.

I'd wanted to feel that perky little bottom all week and once I had my hands on it I didn't want to let go. His skin radiated warmth trough the fabric of the tight red briefs he had on and he moaned softly as I kneaded his tender flesh. He rubbed my chest, tweaked my nipple and ran his fingers along the soft skin below my belly button. When he pulled my drawstring loose I instinctively grabbed his wrist to stop him.

"Please, Thomas? I just want to feel it," Alec whispered in my ear.

I released his wrist and he finished untying my drawstring. His fingers were tentative at first, caressing the waistband of my underwear and then the cotton before he found my…parts. It was like an electric shock went through my body. I groaned involuntarily and squeezed his butt. Alec sucked on my neck and felt me up as I moved my hips up, trying to fill his hand. Alec rubbed slowly along my package and it seemed to sooth him while it drove me wild. Eventually his kissing slowed and his hand rested below my belly button as he began to breathe softly and gently on my neck.

I was so hard I ached but couldn't bring myself to rouse my sleeping angel just so he could finish me off. We'd been sunbathing naked together all week but his hand on my cock was a thousand times more intimate. It took me a few minutes to come down from the sexual high but when I did I drifted into the most restful sleep I'd ever known.

I didn't want to wake him but I knew I had too. The sun was up and people would be moving about downstairs. If I didn't want him to be found sneaking back to his room in his underwear I had to wake him now. I rolled him onto his back and gently kissed his lips. I guess I'd seen Sleeping Beauty one to many times if I thought that was going to work. In the end I had to shake him by the shoulder. He groaned at first and tried to roll away from me but once he opened those beautiful eyes, batted his lashes and realized where he was, he looked over at me and blushed.

"Sorry about last night," Alec yawned.

"Don't be. I'm glad you came to me," I smiled.

"You're not upset that I, you know, got a little grabby?"

"Not even a little bit," I grinned and groped his package.

"Thomas," he exclaimed and slapped my hand away playfully.

"Don't I get a turn?" I pouted.

"I guess you earned it," he grabbed my wrist and guided my hand between his legs.

I stroked and rubbed him through his underpants for a moment and reveled in the sensation of touching another boy's cock for the first time. It was so hard and yet so soft. I could have played with him all day but then I remembered why I'd woken him in the first place and reluctantly pulled my hand away.

"No fair!" Alec pouted. "You can't get me all hard and then leave me with a boner!"

"Pssh, I learned it from you," I protested.

"Oh God, I did fall asleep, didn't I?"

"It's ok," I pecked his lips. "We'll make it up to each other later."

"Really?" he asked excitedly.

"You bet," I smiled. "But right now you've got to get back to your room before someone besides me gets a good look at your cute little butt."

"Ok," he sighed and climbed out of bed. "Thanks, you know, for not laughing at me last night."

"Thank you for sharing that story with me," I replied as I guided him to the door and kissed him goodbye.

Alec smiled and trotted down the hall to his room. He must have felt my eyes on him because at the last moment he turned, flashed me a wicked grin and then pulled down the back of his underwear to expose that luscious bottom. I rolled my eyes. Alec giggled and I returned to bed with a smile on my face.

Alec

I was so embarrassed when I woke up in Thomas's bed and recalled the events of the night before. Thunder has always bothered me and I hate that it has such a hold over me but there's really nothing I can do about it. I was, however, pleased about the progress we'd made thanks to our impromptu sleepover. Kissing Thomas is wonderful and being naked with him feels so natural but touching his boy parts made me feel so much closer to him. You're probably thinking it was all about sex, that I was just horny and wanted to jerk him off but that's really not the case. You have to trust someone to let them touch you in such a sensitive place and it made me happy to know Thomas trusted me.

I got in bed and tried to go back to sleep for another hour but it was no use, wakefulness had set in. Resigned to the start of a new day I took a quick shower and got dressed. I made my way to the dining room just as everyone was sitting down to breakfast. I took my seat and traded shy morning after glances with Thomas until the ladies had all been served. Once we started eating the adults dominated the conversation and when we finished I was glad to be going on our morning bike ride.

We were going back to Mr. Russet's that morning and I was really looking forward to hearing Thomas play the piano. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've never liked classical music before coming to Summers End and maybe I wouldn't like it now if Thomas and I weren't together but watching him at the keyboard seems to set my soul on fire.

We were just coming into the kitchen when we heard Christine's voice and found here chatting with Cook. She was dressed like us, in shorts and a t-shirt. I almost didn't recognize her as the elegant lady we left at the breakfast table twenty minutes earlier.

"Good morning boys," Cook smiled when she spotted us. "I've got your supplies all ready."

She tossed Thomas the baggy of bacon and he stuffed it in his backpack. Christine hugged Cook which made the old chef blush. From the things Thomas has told me about his childhood at Summers End, the family isn't supposed to fraternize with the staff. Mrs. Lodge thinks it's improper. I wondered what she'd think of her future daughter-in-laws display of affection when Christine walked over to us.

"I understand you guys are going for a bike ride," said Christine.

"Yes ma'am," said Thomas.

"Christine, Thomas please call me Christine," she insisted.

"Yes Christine," Thomas smiled.

"Would you mind if I tagged along?"

"Well, we sort of had plans," said Thomas, biting his lower lip. I could tell he was struggling. He wanted to be a good host as Mrs. Lodge would expect him to be but he'd also committed us to visiting Mr. Russet.

"Oh, well, maybe some other time then," Christine frowned disappointedly.

"You're welcome to come along if you'd like, we just won't be coming back for a couple of hours," Thomas explained.

"Great, let's get going," she beamed.

Christine and I followed Thomas outside and sure enough, James had three bikes waiting for us.

"What's the bacon for?" asked Christine. She remembered Cook tossing the bag to Thomas as we mounted our bikes.

"You'll see," Thomas and I replied in unison.

Thomas winked at me, I smiled back and then we set off down the road. With his prep school pedigree I'm sure Thomas is bound for Harvard, Yale or any other Ivy League University he might be interested in, however, if he should happen to change his mind the Nantucket Board of Tourism should give him a job. He gave Christine the same tour he'd given me during our first ride together and while I'd heard it before it wasn't boring. He really loves the island and now that I know how to read him better I can see it in the stories he tells about his favorite places.

Christine listened to him politely but you could see it on her face, there was something she wanted to say. I wondered what was on her mind but that mystery was solved when we reached the crest of the hill overlooking the town.

"Is there something you wanted to ask me?" said Thomas.

"Is it that obvious?" said Christine.

"I usually get more feedback on the tour," Thomas smiled.

Christine smiled back and assured him he was an excellent tour guide before taking a deep breath and opening up to us.

"I wanted to talk to you about Mrs. Lodge," said Christine. "She's such a force in Henry's life. I'd be lying if I said she didn't make me nervous. I love Henry and I'd really like to have her approval."

"Oh, is that all?" said.

"It's important to me. I, well, I want her to like me," Christine admitted.

"I don't think you have anything to worry about," said Thomas. "You actually got her to smile last night. That's rare."

"Really?" said Christine.

"Oh yes, Mrs. Lodge is something of a skinflint when it comes to smiling," Thomas explained.

"That's good to know," said Christine.

"The thing about Mrs. Lodge is she comes off as really stern but she's just a stickler for rules and traditions. Good manners mean a lot to her. She doesn't like fussy or dramatic people. She likes to maintain a sense of calm in the house," Thomas explained.

"And you think I passed the test?"

"I think so but you have to remember you also get a special pass because you're marrying the Senator."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, Mrs. Lodge would never admit it but he's her favorite. He chose you so to her way of thinking you must be ok," Thomas explained.

"Interesting," said Christine contemplatively.

"We better hurry," said Thomas, looking at his watch. "We don't want to be late."

We coasted down the hill and peddled through town. Christine must have been really preoccupied about Mrs. Lodge before because after her chat with Thomas she seemed to relax and open up. I liked her and I could see why Senator Lodge had asked her to marry him. She was pretty as you would expect such a woman to be and she was polished, very prim and proper, but she wasn't afraid to let her hair down. Once she was comfortable with Thomas and me she laughed at our jokes and shared a few funny stories of her own. I was afraid spending the morning with her would be like having a babysitter watching over us but she was fun, kind of like a big sister.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Christine screamed a few minutes later when we arrived at Mr. Russet's and Nanook put his paws on her shoulders before licking her face. "What is that thing?"

Thomas made the introductions and after we pried Christine off the celling he had her feeding the massive dog bacon just like I had. Mr. Russet was delighted for the additional company and served Christine tea while I took over the bacon duties. As Thomas sat at the piano bench and took requests from Mr. Russet, Nanook finished the bacon and rested his head in my lap. The big dog was putty in my hands so long as I was scratching his ears. He eventually fell asleep as the music played.

Thomas's concert lasted about an hour and when he finished he folded his hands in his lap and looked at Mr. Russet sternly.

"Alright, I've played everything you've requested, wouldn't you agree?" he asked Mr. Russet.

"Sure," the old teacher smiled. "You were wonderful, Tommy, I keep telling you there is a future for you in music if you want it."

"What I want is for you to take a trip to the mainland and see the specialist Mrs. Lodge has asked you to see," said Thomas.

"Ah Tommy, you know me," the old man shrugged. "I've got no use for the mainland."

"Be that as it may, I have complied with all of your requests, you will comply with mine," Thomas commanded.

"But I…"

"Mr. Russet, would you like me to continue visiting you?"

"Well, yes, of course. I would like that very much."

"So would I. Go to the mainland and see the doctor so we can do this for a few more years, ok?"

"Alright Tommy, if that's what you want, I'll go for you," Mr. Russet conceded.

Christine and I sat there with our mouths hanging open. Thomas comes off as so biddable with his, "yes ma'am," this and, "yes sir," that but he really knew how to put the hammer down. He cared a great deal about Mr. Russet and he'd been on a mission that morning. One way or another the old pianist was going to the doctor and Thomas wasn't going to take no for an answer.

"Great, now, would you guys like to hear anything else?" Thomas smiled brightly.

That's when Christine shook the shocked expression off her face and asked a question I hadn't thought to ask all week.

"You really play wonderfully, Thomas, but do you know anything more contemporary?"

Thomas smiled, cracked his knuckles and then whipped out his modern day repertoire.

It took me a minute to recognize the first song because I'd never even considered it could be performed on a piano before but he amazed me with Coldplay's Strawberry Swing. As cool as that was he took it up a notch with his selection of Hall of Fame by Will. I. Am before closing with the Beatles, Let It Be. Christine and I both applauded when he was finished and I smiled inwardly knowing that the boy in my life was truly an exceptional person.

"We better head back," said Christine as she checked her watch. "We don't want to be late for the game."

Thomas checked his watch to confirm the time and then we said a hasty goodbye to Mr. Russet. I don't know if he was more excited about the game or telling Mrs. Lodge he'd succeeded in getting Mr. Russet to agree to see the doctor.

Every relationship I've had with a guy to this point has been about sex. If Thomas were a different person he'd have woken me up and had me jerk him off last night. It would all have been about him and I would have walked away feeling cheap and unfulfilled. I had to come all the way to Nantucket to find Thomas and each day that goes by I learn more about this complex and special person. It makes me smile because each day I've been here I've witnessed acts of caring most boys our age wouldn't waste their time with. I was excited about the game too but I think I was more excited about finding the boy I thought only lived in my dreams.

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