Summers End

by Ryan Bartlett

Chapter 9

Mrs. Lodge

"Remember James, not a word of this to anyone."

"You're the boss, Mrs. Lodge," said James, as we pulled out of the driveway and headed for the Hyannis Ferry.

"I take it by your tone you have something to say?"

"Your family would want to know. Especially Thomas," said James.

"I don't want to burden them unless it's necessary," I explained.

"What's the point of having a family if you can't be a burden to them from time to time?" said James.

"I'm counting on your discretion," I reminded my driver.

"It's not my place to say anything, ma'am," James agreed.

"The wedding will be upon us soon and you've seen how happy Thomas has been this summer. Now simply isn't the time."

"Yes ma'am," James resigned.

It's a long drive to Boston and as we boarded the ferry I drifted off to sleep. Lately my dreams have been of Henry and Thomas. I love them dearly and though I don't show it as much as they'd like I'm sure each knows how much they mean to me. I'm proud of Henry and the man he's become and I know he'll make an excellent President. Thomas has come so far from the frightened little boy I brought home when he was five. He's grown into a confident, accomplished young man and I see greatness in his future.

At 83 years old I've outlived my husband and most of my friends. I don't fear death. The only thing I fear at this stage in life is the secret I've born for the past 16 years. Sometimes we set out with the best of intentions, at least that's what we tell ourselves, when in our hearts we know our logic is flawed.

I dreamt of the first time Henry saw Thomas. He was visiting me at Summers End before the political season started and he'd be too busy to come home. Thomas hadn't been with me long and he was afraid of his own shadow. I admit most of that was my fault. His first day on the island he broke a rather expensive vase and I scolded him too harshly. He'd been quiet and sullen, I'm sure he was thinking about his mother and how much he'd like to go home but then Henry came.

Henry took to the boy instantly. He hardly spent any of his time with me that weekend; he was so determined to make that child smile. It warmed my heart to see them together and made me think of what might have been. I could have told them then but the timing wasn't right. Thomas had just lost his mother and needed a stable home and Henry for all his brilliance and charm was still just a boy at heart. They weren't ready.

"Mrs. Lodge?" said James, shaking my shoulder. "We've arrived."

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and found the glass and steel edifice of Massachusetts General Hospital standing before us. James helped me out of the car and then retrieved my bag from the trunk before escorting me to the reception desk.

"I've reserved a room for you at the Park Plaza. The hospital will phone you in the morning when I am to be picked up."

"Yes ma'am," James tipped his cap.

A moment later a nurse in green scrubs escorted me to a private room where she had me change into a hospital gown and climb into bed to await the doctor. I see Dr. Prichard regularly but the equipment he has access to on the island wasn't capable of diagnosing my problem.

"Good afternoon Mrs. Lodge, I'm Dr. Harper," said a young man in a white lab coat as he entered the room.

His youth didn't inspire confidence. He looked as if he were one of my grandsons. Massachusetts General is after all the preeminent teaching hospital for Harvard University. I'm sure whatever Dr. Harper lacks in experience he makes up for in other ways.

"How do you do Doctor?"

"I'm quite well, thank you," the young man smiled. "I understand Dr. Prichard has referred you to us because you've been suffering from headaches, numbness in the arms, blurred vision and nausea?"

"Indeed."

"And I see you're 83?" said Dr. Harper.

"That is correct."

"As I'm sure you know many of these symptoms come with advanced age however the combination is a bit worrisome. We've planned a full battery of tests for you. They explained you'll be staying overnight so we can evaluate your results before you're released?"

"Yes, they made that quite clear when I scheduled the appointment."

"Excellent, and do you have any family with you?"

"I've given instructions to my driver to expect a call from the hospital tomorrow morning when I am to be released."

"I see. Would you like us to call someone? I'm sure this is a stressful time for you. Having a family member on hand can…" the doctor began.

"That won't be necessary. My family is not to be disturbed," I barked.

"Ok," the doctor agreed. "I'll send the nurse in and we'll get you ready for testing."

"Thank you doctor."

The first test was a neurological exam in which they tested my vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes. Dr. Prichard explained during my last appointment in Nantucket that these test could help the doctors determine which part of my brain might be affected. The tests were exhaustive but after a few hours I was wheeled back to my room for lunch. When lunch was over I was scheduled for an MRI. I've always had a touch of claustrophobia but I endured the test as best I could.

When the testing was over for the day I was once again returned to my room for the evening. It would take Dr. Harper some time to go over the results and there was nothing I could do but wait until morning.

Jillian

I woke with the sunrise and quickly set about getting ready. I had plenty to do in Boston and I wanted to get an early start. Before leaving I went upstairs to Alec's room. I wanted to kiss him goodbye before I left but something told me I wouldn't find him there. I opened the door and sure enough the bed hadn't been slept in. I knew there was only one place he could be.

I found the door to Thomas's room unlocked and discovered the boys sound asleep in each other's arms. It's hard at first, having a gay son. When your child is born you think about his future. You think about the girl he'll marry and the grand babies he'll give you. You don't think about the boy he'll bring home and tell you he loves. When it happens, when your son comes out to you, it's almost like a sense of mourning. You lament what might have been. Eventually comes acceptance. We all want our children to be happy and you realize what's important isn't what might have been but rather what will be.

Discovering Alec and Thomas in bed together didn't upset me it gave me hope. The expression on Alec's face was one of utter contentment. Looking at him I knew that Thomas made my boy happy. I stepped to the edge of the bed and kissed Alec's check. He stirred for a moment and muttered Thomas's name but he didn't wake. When I left I locked the door for them, I'm sure they must have forgotten last night.

He'll probably never know it but I'm grateful to Thomas. He's given me my son back. Alec was so angry with me for sending him to military school and he was so unhappy there. It's a decision I'll regret for a long time but one I promise to make up to him. Spending the summer with Thomas has returned the happy boy with the big smile I missed so much. I felt I owed something to Thomas and I was going to make good on it during my trip.

While I'd given up on my theory that Thomas might be Henry's illegitimate son I was convinced he had a deeper relationship to the Lodge family. I'd gotten over the simple resemblance Thomas bore to Henry and began to focus on Mrs. Lodge's evasiveness anytime I mentioned Thomas's mother. It was a subject she was uncomfortable with and I couldn't understand why that would be the case. If Thomas's mother really was just the daughter of a family friend then what was there to hide? What would make Mrs. Lodge so uncomfortable when the woman was mentioned?

I know Henry's father has been dead for a number of years but what if he'd had an affair with Thomas's mother? What if Mrs. Lodge kept the boy because he was her husband's son? That would be reason to keep his father's identity a secret, wouldn't it? Old families like this do not like scandals. An old man taking up with a young woman and fathering an heir would be the kind of scandal they'd want to keep quiet. At the same time I didn't think Mrs. Lodge's intentions would be entirely self-serving. After all, she genuinely cares for the boy.

Whatever the true answer may be, I felt Thomas had a right to know who his father was and as I arrived at the Massachusetts State Archive building that morning, I was determined to find out for him. It took me a few hours but I began with his birth certificate. It read Thomas Charles Dufrain, Mother, Alexandra Dufrain, Father, unknown, place of birth, Massachusetts General Hospital. I looked up Alexandra's birth certificate which gave me the names of her parents who it turns out were already dead by the time Thomas was born. They had no other children.

I knew that Alexandra Dufrain had been a Suffolk County Deputy District Attorney but my visit to the DA's office was fruitless. Most of the attorneys who had been working at the office while Alexandra had been there were now big time lawyers making millions in the private sector. I did find a secretary who remembered Alexandra as a sweet girl who had been dedicated to her little boy. It was nice to get a sense of who Alexandra had been but it didn't answer any questions.

From the DA's office I went to the last known address listed for Alexandra Dufrain. The home was a large townhouse in Boston's posh Beacon Hill neighborhood and based on the salary a young DA earns, it was clear Alexandra had come from money. Her parents were both dead. She could have inherited from them or she could have bought the house with money she'd been paid by the Lodge family to keep quiet about her son. I was already operating on some pretty far out assumptions but the pieces all seemed to fit. There was more to this story then met the eye but there still weren't any answers.

I talked to a neighbor who remembered Alexandra and Thomas but she couldn't remember anything more then she'd been a lovely girl and he'd been a darling little boy. I was beginning to get discouraged. Anyone who might have had any knowledge or insight into Alexandra Dufrain and her son was either dead or hadn't thought about them in so long the memories had faded.

Eventually I tried a long shot and visited the hospital's maternity word. It took me a few minutes to find a nurse old enough to have been there 15 years earlier but eventually a matronly woman sat in the waiting room with me and looked at a baby picture of Thomas I'd discovered in the study back at Summers End.

"Do you have any recollection of this child?" I asked.

"I'm sorry honey," said the nurse, "but I've helped birth thousands of babies in this hospital over the years. They all blur together after a while."

"What about the mother. She would have been young, pretty, a lawyer, does that ring any bells?"

"No, I'm sorry, I wish I could help you but I simply don't remember anything."

Then I was struck by an idea and pulled a picture of Mrs. Lodge form my files. She was in her eighties. She would have been 68 when Thomas was born and from the photos I've seen she hasn't aged in years.

"What about this woman. She might have been here the night the baby was born."

"No, I don't think…" the nurse started but her eyes puzzled over the image. "You know, maybe, I think maybe I do remember this lady. There was a case of a young woman about 15 years ago who carried a breach baby. There was an old lady that looked like this with her but I can't for the life of me remember the girl's name."

"But this woman looks familiar?" I wanted her to be sure.

"You don't forget a woman like that. She was a tough old broad, pushing those doctors around. But she got results. She really helped that girl. She even cut the umbilical cord," said the nurse.

I thanked the nurse for her time and ran back to the car. It had to be Mrs. Lodge. She was a formidable woman and would have made her presence known but then I realized it wasn't much of a lead. She could always fall back on her story. Alexandra's parents were dead and of course she'd come to the daughter's aide when she had difficulty giving birth to her son. Where I'd been excited for a few minutes before now I was sullen. I wanted to find the answer to this mystery but it did indeed look like a maze that ran into one dead end after another.

Mrs. Lodge

I slept surprisingly well given I was in a hospital and woke up feeling refreshed. After breakfast I waited for Dr. Harper to arrive with the results of the tests. I watched an hour of mindless television before the young man walked into the room with a grim expression on his face.

"Good morning Mrs. Lodge, I've been consulting with some of my colleagues and I wanted to bring you the results of the tests we performed right away."

"And?"

Dr. Harper let out a sigh.

"That doesn't sound good," I prompted.

"No Mrs. Lodge, I'm afraid the news isn't good. During the course of your MRI we found a mass in your frontal lobe."

"I see," I sighed. "What's to be done?"

"Mrs. Lodge, there isn't anything we can do. The mass is pressing against the brainstem which makes removing it to dangerous. It's also not likely to be shrunk by radiation or chemotherapy," Dr. Harper explained.

"How much time do I have," I asked, my voice sticking in my throat.

"We estimate six months to a year," Dr. Harper sighed. "I'm so sorry Mrs. Lodge. I promise we'll do everything we can to make you comfortable."

"Thank you doctor, I'm sure you will. For the present I'd like to return to my home."

"Of course, I've signed the release papers and I'll send a nurse in to help you get ready."

"Thank you young man."

"I'll take that for you Mrs. Lodge," said James an hour later when he took my suitcase and put it in the trunk.

"Thank you James," I patted him on the arm. He's a good and loyal man. I knew I could trust him to keep the true nature of this trip a secret though that wouldn't be necessary for long.

"Home?" asked James as he helped me into the back seat.

"Actually I'd like to go by Mt. Auburn first please."

"Yes ma'am."

It was only a fifteen minute drive from the hospital to Mt. Auburn Cemetery but it felt like an eternity. When we reached the cemetery I had James stop at the flower shop to pick up a bouquet. I took the flowers from my driver and walked into the graveyard alone. I found the stone bearing the name Alexandra Marie Dufrain, Beloved Daughter and Mother, in short order.

"Hello my dear," I began. "I'm sorry it's been so long since anyone has been to see you. I think it upsets Thomas and I do so hate to see him frown. You'd be proud of him, Alexandra. He's a sweet boy with a good heart. He's smart and kind, everything you would have wanted him to be. I know you probably think it's selfish of me, the way I've kept him to myself. All I can say is I'm sorry and I will make things right before I join you…"

Talk about this story on our forum
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily. Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]