Summers End

by Ryan Bartlett

Chapter 14

Jillian

The storm passed over us in the night. Hurricane Carolyn never made landfall on Nantucket and the tail end of the storm which came in with a roar, went out with a whimper. The day of the wedding the sun dawned over the island bright and beautiful. Despite the busy day that awaited the household I was the first one up as was my custom. I poured myself a cup of coffee and went into the study to find Henry staring out at the sea.

"Have you been up all night?" I know him well enough to know Henry isn't an early riser. It was more likely he'd never gone to bed.

"Most of it."

"Big day today."

"Big weekend. How often does a man get married and become a father for the first time?" he sighed.

"How are you doing with all this?"

"It's pretty surreal. Part of me is angry at my parents. Part of me is excited about being a dad and part of me regrets all the time I've missed," said Henry.

"What happened when you guys went into the study yesterday evening?"

"Mother explained that Alexandra, that's Tommy's mom, came to her and my father. When she told them she was pregnant with my child dad accused her of trying to blackmail the family and all but threw her out," said Henry.

"Wow," I exclaimed.

"Mother says he was trying to protect me. I was gearing up to run for congress and he thought a scandal might…"

"Yeah, I get it," I nodded. "What do you think?"

"I don't know. You know what I was like but I think I'd have grown up a little if I knew I was going to have a son."

"There's no growing up a little. When a baby comes along you have to commit. They become your world. Alec's still teaching me that."

"Yeah," Henry sighed.

"How is your son doing with all of this?"

"I think he's confused, hurt and angry but he did hug mom last night before he went upstairs. Maybe that's a good sign. He doesn't hate us."

"He's a good kid, Henry. I've watched him all summer. He's been a good influence on Alec."

"Be sure and tell mom that. She raised him. Everything good about him came from her," he sighed again.

"Not everything. He's a lot like you," I smiled.

"Are you trying to tell me I need to have the boy neutered?"

"Henry Lodge, there's more to you than that and you know it," I laughed. "You're being too hard on yourself. You're a good man, a decent, kind and caring man. So is your son."

"Thanks," Henry smiled slightly.

"I should tell you I suspected something like this," I admitted.

"What do you mean? You suspected Thomas was mine?"

"When I found that picture of you as a kid…" I started.

"That's why you were asking me all those strange questions," Henry exclaimed.

"Yeah," I nodded.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"You didn't seem to think it was strange how much he looked like you. You didn't seem like man trying to hide something. I figured if he was yours and you were keeping a secret I'd be able to read it on your face. You know what a bad liar you are," I explained.

"It's funny, once I found out he was mine all that stuff sort of clicked. He does look like me. He even has some of my mannerisms. Christine pointed it out after that baseball game. I didn't think that was strange at the time either," Henry admitted.

"It kept bugging me. I was sure there was more to the story of how he came to be your mother's ward than she was telling me. I tried to find some kind of connection but hit one dead end after another so I gave up," I explained.

"They covered their secret well, mom and dad," Henry sighed.

"Did she tell you why she never told you the truth?"

"She didn't think I was ready at first. As he grew older she grew more attached to him. I don't think she wanted to let him go," said Henry.

"She does adore that boy. You can see it on her face," I smiled.

"Yeah," said Henry.

"So what are you going to do now?"

"I want to do what's right for Thomas. I'm just not sure what that is," he admitted. "He's spent most of his life here or away at school. I'm not sure how I fit into the picture now. I'm not sure what he wants or how he feels."

"Forget that for a moment, what do you want? What do you feel?"

"I'm 42 years old, Christine's 39. We're past the age where we'd be likely to have children and I regret that. I told Thomas had I known about him I'd have been a father to him and I'd like to be one to him now. I don't know how to explain it really but from the moment I learned the truth, well, I loved him. I mean I've always liked him, hell I liked him more than some of my nephews. I'm rambling now. Sorry."

"It's ok and that feeling you mentioned, loving him the moment you learned about him, that happens to every father. It's usually the first time they hold their newborn but your situation is a little unique," I smiled.

"You can say that again," Henry agreed. "What do you think I should do?"

"I think you need to talk to Christine…" I started.

"We talked for hours last night. She wants me to bring him home. She wants him to be our son. She's been so wonderful about this. I guess they really hit it off the first time I brought her here," said Henry.

"Then it's time you talk to Thomas and see what he wants."

"What if he tells me to fuck off?" Henry sighed. He's such a confident man. I'd never seen him worry before. Only a child can do that to you.

"I can't picture that. Knowing Thomas he'd see that as bad manners," I giggled.

"Jillian…" Henry began.

"He's a good kid, Henry."

"Yeah."

"Talk to him. Give him some options. You and Christine have that huge townhouse all to yourselves. Georgetown Academy has a great program. I'm sending Alec there this fall," I rambled.

"You're a good friend, Jillian, thanks," Henry smiled.

"Now, what are you going to do about the press?"

"Ugh, I don't even want to think about that," Henry groaned.

"You know it's going to come out the minute your wedding guests arrive."

"Yes," he nodded.

"I could talk to a few reporters for you. Make sure they get the right story."

"You know, I do need a communications director," Henry grinned.

"Why Henry, I thought you'd never ask," I smiled back.

"Excellent," he hugged me. "We'll talk later. I'm going to go have a chat with my kid."

Thomas

When I woke up Alec was in my arms and for a moment I thought it had all been a strange dream. Then there was a knock on the door. The noise woke Alec and as he yawned and stretched I shouted, "Who is it?"

"It's Henry. Can I come in?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, sure," I scrambled to sit up in bed.

"Thank God we wore pajamas last night," Alec breathed a sigh of relief.

I'd forgotten about that. I was sure no one would mind finding Alec in my bed after yesterday's events. He's my friend, my best friend, and he was comforting me when I needed it most. Finding my best friend naked in my bed would require some explaining I wasn't quite ready to do just yet

"Good morning Tommy…oh, hi Alec," said Henry when he walked in and found us sitting up in bed.

"Morning," Alec smiled brightly.

"I needed someone to talk to last night," I explained. "Alec was good enough to crash here."

"Sure," Henry nodded. "Alec, would you excuse us please? I need to talk to Tommy."

"Yeah, no problem," said Alec as he hopped out of bed. "You know where to find me if you need me, right?"

"Yeah, thanks," I nodded and watched him walk out, shutting the door behind him.

"So," said Henry as he sat next to me on the edge of my bed. An awkward silence fell over us until I broke the ice with a question I needed answered.

"Do you, uh, do you remember my mom at all?"

Henry looked out the window and slowly nodded.

"I didn't at first but after some things mom said last night it clicked. I met her here on the island. She was vacationing with some friends and we ran into each other at the country club. We really hit it off and spent a few days together. I took her sailing and well…you know how babies are made, right?" he blushed.

"Yeah, we covered that in school plus I'm not an idiot," I grinned, breaking the tension a bit.

"Right," Henry laughed.

I wonder if the sailboat thing runs in the family. After all, that's where I first saw my lover naked. Maybe it's just a case of like father like son?

"I want you to know, Tommy, it wasn't some cheap thing. I liked your mom, she liked me and we parted as friends. We were both so busy that once we left the island we just drifted apart. You know what life's like."

"No, I understand. I'm not upset about it or anything."

"Good," he smiled and patted me on the knee.

"I'm not mad at you."

"No?"

"I know this isn't your fault. I can't blame you for something you didn't know about," I explained.

"Thanks," he nodded. "I can't tell you that your mom and I would have gotten married and settled down but I meant what I said on the boat. I would have been there for you."

"That means a lot to me. I've always felt sort of close to you. You've always been nice to me."

"I never thought of you as mother's ward," he explained. "I always thought of you more like a nephew."

"That's ok, as long you didn't think of me like Roderick. Georgey's ok but his brother's a dick," I snickered.

"That kid is a shit isn't he?" Henry chuckled.

After the brief moment of levity the awkward silence settled in again.

"So where does this leave us?"

"That's really up to you," said Henry.

"Yeah?"

"Just because I'm your father doesn't mean I can make you do what I want. I know this is a tough situation and I'll do whatever makes you most comfortable," Henry reasoned.

"But what do YOU want?"

He looked out the window again and thought for a moment.

"I want to be your dad. I want to come home at night and find you doing your homework. I want to go to the park and play catch or talk about school and your life. I want to make up for all the things we've missed out on. I want you, me and Christine to be a family."

"Really?" I was taken aback. I didn't know what he would say when I asked that question but I was pleased to find out he wanted me.

"You don't have to go back to Choate. Evidently Georgetown Academy has a great program," he smiled.

"I'd like that," I smiled. "I'd really like that but what about Mrs…er, granny?"

"I think between the two of us we might be able to talk her off this island," said Henry.

"I'll give it a try. I was able to work my charm on Mr. Russet."

"You got that from me," Henry smiled.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. When I was your age I used to talk him into ditching lessons and going for burgers instead. Now you know why I'm such a crappy pianist."

We laughed together like old friends, which I guess we were. Being father and son would take getting used to but we already had a foundation to build on. I believed we could make it work. There was just one more question I had for the time being.

"What should I call you now?"

"You know, this is all happening so fast I hadn't really thought about that," Henry admitted, then stared out the window for a moment. "You can call me Henry but eventually, I mean when you feel comfortable with it, I wouldn't mind dad."

"Dad," I let the word roll of my tongue. It had a nice ring to it. "I think I'd be comfortable with dad."

"Great," dad smiled.

"What are you going to tell the press? I figure this is going to be news," I admitted.

"Mrs. Carstairs is going to handle that for us but I think honesty is the best policy," he explained.

"This could get interesting."

"You can say that again," dad agreed.

"Do you think it'll hurt your campaign, you know, for president?"

"Well, I think that campaign might have to wait a few years," said dad.

"But why?"

"You're 15 now, in a few years you'll be off to college. I want to make up for the time we've lost, you know, bond a little."

"We could bond over the campaign."

"Yeah?"

"Totally! I think you'd make a great president and well, I'd want to be part of that. I'd want to help."

"Thanks Tommy," he smiled. "But we can talk about that later. For the present I have a favor to ask you."

"Oh?"

"I'm getting married today. I could use a best man?"

"Seriously?"

"I can't think of anyone better," dad smiled. "It would mean a lot to Christine and me. What do you say?"

"Yes, of course," I smiled.

Alec

When the Senator came in to talk to Thomas I figured they'd be a while so I got dressed and went downstairs. I didn't see them until breakfast was served. I wanted to ask him so many questions but with the massive dining room table full for once, there was no privacy. Thomas flashed me a bright happy smile though and when Senator Lodge announced Thomas was going to be his best man, I knew he was ok.

I didn't get a chance to talk to Thomas after breakfast either. He was swarmed by his cousins who each hugged him and welcomed him to the family. All of them save for Roderick who sat in the corner and pouted. I think the punch to the face Thomas gave him yesterday was something of a wake-up call for the jerk.

It seemed like events conspired to keep us from talking. After finally breaking away from his cousins all of the men went golfing while the women helped the bride get ready. It was weird. I spent the entire morning and afternoon with Thomas and we had a great time but I couldn't ask him the things that mattered most. You see, while Thomas was dealing with his family I'd begun to wrestle with a concern of my own.

Summer was almost over. I'd be headed back to Washington with my mom and Thomas would be going back to boarding school in Connecticut. I couldn't stand that idea! I've spent every waking hour of the last several weeks with Thomas. I love him and I've given myself to him and I can't bear the thought of being parted from him. As I sat next to him in the golf cart with his father and his Uncle George, all I wanted to do was ask him what was going to happen to us.

I thought we'd have a moment to talk when we returned to Summers End but that didn't work out either. The moment we walked in the door some stylist grabbed Thomas and took him into the makeshift salon she'd created in the drawing room to have his haircut. After that he had to change into his white tie and tails for photographs with the wedding party. Eventually I gave up and returned to my room to dress for the big event myself.

If I'm going to miss anything about Fork Union Academy it'll probably be the uniforms. I liked the uniforms, the boys in my class looked cute in them and I'd brought my dress uniform with me rather than wear a suit for the wedding. In hindsight a suit would have been more practical. It would have kept me from having to barrow dress clothes from Thomas every time the dinner bell rang but then I thought back to that first night and how he'd kissed me when I returned his coat and tie. Yes, the uniform was the right way to go.

I came downstairs wearing my grey tunic with its high collar and brass buttons. There was a burgundy sash that went around my waist and black trousers with a burgundy stripe down the side. I had my black officer's cap tucked under my arm and when I spotted Thomas he winked and when no one was looking he gave my uniform a thumbs up. He looked beautiful. His hair was perfect, his eyes sparkled and his tuxedo made him look elegant and debonair.

The wedding guests were a who's who of the Washington elite. There were several senators on hand, members of congress, the vice president, four cabinet secretaries and enough generals and admirals to start a war. I encountered one chatty Air Force two-star who recognized my uniform. He'd been a Fork Union man and talked incessantly about how he'd enjoyed his time there. I politely refrained from telling him I was looking forward to never going back there again.

The wedding was beautiful. Christine was radiant in her dress. The Senator was handsome in his tux. Everything was perfect, everyone was happy. Everyone but me. As I sat there watching this beautiful expression of love unfold before me, all I could do was worry. I wasn't ready to lose Thomas, it would break my heart. The Senator said "I do," Christine said "I do," and it was done, they were married. Finally there was a break in the day's activities and I could find Thomas.

There were hundreds of guests and as I weaved my way in and out of them I picked up tidbits of conversation. Usually the talk at a wedding reception is about the bride and how beautiful she looked or how romantic the kiss had been. At this reception the talk was all about Thomas.

"I didn't know Henry had a son," said one woman.

"The best man, was that the Lodge boy?" said one of the generals I'd met.

The talk was about Thomas but the man himself eluded me. I'd searched the entire reception area but he was nowhere to be found. I stepped out of the tent to get some fresh air and that's when I spotted him. He was standing on the bluff looking out at the ocean, the wind blowing through his perfectly styled hair.

"Good evening Mr. Lodge," I grinned when I snuck up on him.

"Dufrain-Lodge," he turned and smiled. "I think I'm going to hyphenate. I've been a Dufrain to long to let it go."

"Makes sense," I agreed.

Thomas looked around and confirmed we were alone then he pulled me to him and kissed me. I ran my hands up and down his back as our tongues collided. He sucked on my bottom lip and then pulled back to breath.

"You look gorgeous in this uniform," Thomas complimented. "I've missed you today."

"Yeah, that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about," I began.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, while you were busy today I was left with a lot of time to think. Summer will be over in a couple of weeks. I'm going back to Washington with my mom. You'll go back to Choate. Thomas, I-I don't want to lose you," I choked back tears. I didn't realize I'd become so emotional.

"Oh, is that all," Thomas grinned and pulled me back to him.

"Is that all?" I exclaimed. "Thomas, I…"

But I couldn't finish my sentence. His lips were pressed to mine and while I resisted at first that was only because he'd taken me by surprise. I submitted to his kiss, sucked his tongue into my mouth and let out a gentle moan as he caressed my check.

"I had a long talk with my dad this morning," Thomas panted when he stopped for breath.

"I know, I …" I stared.

"I had a long talk with my dad this morning," Thomas interrupted, "and we worked out a few things. He wants us to be a family and I want that too."

"That's great. I'm really happy for you."

"We can't do that if I'm away at boarding school though," Thomas grinned.

"No, so what are you going to do?"

"Dad wants me to live with them down in Washington. Evidently Georgetown Academy is a great school."

"But that's where I'm going," I exclaimed. "Mom's not sending me back to Fork Union!"

"Duh, who do you think gave dad the idea?" Thomas laughed.

"Damn that woman! She could have told me," I started, then I realized what good and amazing news this was. "Ah fuck it. I'll be mad at her later."

Thomas started laughing and I pounced on him. I kissed him hard and passionately. I don't think I've ever known a moment of truer happiness in my life.

"You didn't think I'd let anything stop me from being with you, did you?" Thomas whispered in my ear.

"I didn't know what to think," I admitted.

"You're mine, Alec, and I'm yours. It's going to take a hell of a lot more than the end of summer to take you away from me," he smiled.

"I love you," I sniffled.

"I love you too," he hugged me tightly and rubbed my back. "Everything's going to be ok."

"We better get back to the reception before someone misses the best man," I smiled and dabbed my eyes.

"Good idea but we're going to have to turn in early tonight," said Thomas.

"Yeah, it's been a long day, you must be tired."

"A little but the truth of the matter is you look amazing in that uniform and I'm looking forward to helping you out of it," he grinned wickedly.

"Pig," I slapped him playfully and we both laughed.

It was a beautiful night. Thomas had his father, his family and I had my Thomas. Everything was right in the world. That is until Roderick crossed our path.

"What do you want?" said Thomas.

"This doesn't change anything. You're still a no body," Roderick spat.

"Roderick, that's no way to speak to your favorite cousin, is it?" Thomas snickered.

"You just wait, when the old bitch dies…" Roderick started.

It was as if she appeared out of no-where. Mrs. Lodge grabbed Roderick's earlobe and yanked him down to her level.

"Roderick Lodge," she exclaimed. "Such language!"

"Owwww, granny that hurts! Let me go," Roderick whimpered.

"Not until you apologize to your cousin Thomas."

"I'm sorry."

"Come now boy, you can do better than that," the old lady scolded and pinched harder.

"Oww, oww ok. I'm sorry Thomas. I didn't mean to call you a no body."

"Good," said Mrs. Lodge. "Now apologize to Alec for your poor manners."

"I'm sorry Alec," Roderick squealed. "Please let me go granny."

"Not just yet. Let's go find your father and see if we can't do something about that mouth of yours," said Mrs. Lodge as she led him away.

"But granny, it hurts!"

"I'll give you an old bitch," Mrs. Lodge scolded.

Thomas and I burst into a fit of laughter as we watched the big handsome football playing jackass being led away by his tiny grandmother as if he were a little boy.

"You see," said Thomas, putting his arm around my shoulder, "I told you everything would be ok."

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