Sixteen Months Later
We didn't see much of Summers End last summer. Thomas spent his time on the campaign trail with his father and step-mother and where Thomas went I followed. Thomas, the consummate worry-wart, was concerned he'd be a drag on Henry's campaign, that the story of how they became a family would seem scandalous. He was sure it was an issue that could be overcome but he needn't have worried. He couldn't have been more wrong about the reaction he got from voters. The people loved Thomas. He was a sweet orphan boy who turned out to be a prince. It was the kind of thing fairytales were made off and it didn't even matter that he was gay. That was another surprise of the previous summer.
My mom finally decided to give up the life of the roving journalist when Henry asked her to be his communications director. It was a great opportunity and gave us a lot more time together. When she did have to travel it was with the candidate and if his son was along for the trip, so was I. Things worked out perfectly.
The "incident," as we've come to call it, happened on a campaign swing through the Midwest. We were overnighting in Chicago and while everyone slept, Thomas and I snuck out of the hotel to go to a concert. We thought we were so smooth the way we slipped right through the blanket of security the Secret Service threw over the campaign but our departure wasn't as covert as we'd thought. A photographer spotted us exiting the hotel's back entrance and decided to follow us. We were enjoying the concert, not really paying attention to anything but the music and then we kissed. The next morning the story was splashed across the pages of the tabloids complete with picture.
Thomas was mortified. My mom knew I was gay but Thomas hadn't told his parents yet and this wasn't the way he wanted them to find out. There were some tears and some tense moments but Thomas's parents love him and accepted him without reservation. The funny thing was the reaction of the voters. They were furious, but not with us. No one seemed to care that Thomas was gay. They cared more about the underhanded newspaper publishers who felt compelled to violate the privacy of a teenage boy.
"Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we're beginning our descent into Hyannis Port. Please take your seats and prepare for landing," said the pilot.
"Thomas, wake up," I nudged him in the ribs.
"Huh, what?" he yawned.
"Already? Geez, I can't believe I fell asleep."
"Me either," I replied as I buckled my seatbelt. Who falls asleep the first time he rides on Air Force One?
Thomas buckled his seatbelt and looked out the window as we came in low along the coast. Once we landed we could see the three Marine helicopters that would take us the rest of the way. The airport on Nantucket is too small to accommodate a 747 but with the number of people who traveled with the president now, switching to a smaller plane wouldn't have been practical.
A Secret Service agent came back to collect Thomas. He and his parents would depart the plane and pose at the top of the steps for a picture while the rest of us filed out the back. I found my mom and escorted her to the helicopter we'd be traveling in. She'd been working with the White House speech writer the entire flight north, putting the finishing touches on the President's remarks for an important speech he'd deliver at the United Nations on Monday. Not for the first time she reminded me how lucky we were to be sharing this experience and I had to agree. I kept a journal throughout the campaign and planned to continue it as I enjoyed my time with Thomas in the White House.
When the trio of helicopters landed at Summers End I quickly found Thomas. When traveling with the candidate or now the President, he's the star. He's the one everyone wants to see, then there's his wife and sometimes his son. I learned to step back when I needed to but Thomas had asked me to stay close to him when we departed Washington that morning. This was a homecoming for Thomas but it was bittersweet. We weren't here to soak up the sun and spend our days biking along the coast or sailing. We were here to say a final goodbye to Mrs. Lodge.
Mrs. Lodge waited until Thomas was settled in Washington with his father and step-mother before she told anyone about her brain tumor. The doctors gave her 6 months to live but she stunned them all when she was still going strong at 14 months. When Henry made the announcement he was running for president, his mother swore she would live long enough to see him sworn in. On Inauguration Day, Thomas and I helped Mrs. Lodge to her seat on the dais and together we watched Henry Allen Lodge take the oath of office as the 45 th President of the United States. The smile never left her face.
That night I escorted Thomas to the Inaugural Ball. He was so excited and frankly so was I. This was a new and incredible chapter in our lives and I was grateful I'd fallen in love with the kind of person who wanted to share every moment of it with me. He'd asked me to spend the night with him his first night in the White House and of course I said yes. It was after midnight when we returned from the ball and while I changed into my pajamas Thomas went down the hall to check on his granny before turning in. A few minutes later he came into the room with his head down and a single tear running down his cheek.
"Thomas, are you alright?"
"She's gone, Alec," he sniffled.
I put my arms around him and hugged him tight, "I'm so sorry sweetheart."
True to her word the tough old broad lived just long enough to see her son take the oath and not a day more. We'd been dreading this moment for months and I guess we let our guard down a bit while we celebrated the inauguration. There was no question as to where she would be laid to rest. Mrs. Lodge was as much a part of Summers End as Summers End was a part of her. It was as though she were the very foundation of this special place. Without her it would all come tumbling down.
Thomas took my hand in his and squeezed it gently as we made our way to one of the bluffs that overlooked both the property and Nantucket Sound. Mrs. Lodge's funeral had been held at a small Episcopal Church in Washington. Most of the attendees had been family and associates of the president. As we approached the casket and open grave I noted the presence of Mr. Russet and his new nurse, the entire staff at Summers End turned out in their best uniforms and of course the Lodge Family.
It was a cold and blustery January day and the graveside service would be brief. We gathered around the grave, the Lodges on one side, the servants on the other and all of us surrounded by a ring of Secret Service agents. I looked over at Thomas. He wore a determined expression on his face as the wind blew his short brown hair. I thought he was holding up well considering how much his granny meant to him. I tuned back to the grave when Father Jordan, of the First Episcopal Church of Nantucket, stepped forward with his Bible.
"I am the resurrection and the life, sayeth the Lord. He who beliveth in me, shall never die. I know that my redeemer liveth, that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labors…" Father Jordan began.
I can't believe she's gone. Yes, she was nearly 85 years old but somehow I didn't think that mattered. She had such an indefatigable spirit. I figured she could conquer anything, even death. It was a silly thing to believe but when someone has been so ever present in your life it's hard to consider a time when they won't be a part of it.
I feel like I've lost my mother all over again. Granny raised me, taught me to be a gentleman and indirectly gave me Alec. If she hadn't invited the Carstairs to stay with us that summer I'd never have met the love of my life. I wouldn't even know I was a Lodge! When my mother died I was a little boy lost in the big bad world. At least this time things were different. I'd gone from being an orphan to suddenly being surrounded by aunts and uncles, cousins and of course mom and dad. It was a remarkable difference, grieving together rather than doing it alone.
"Give rest, oh Christ, to thy servants with thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, as a sign of life everlasting. Thou only art immortal, creator and maker of mankind, and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return, for so thou hath ordained when thou created us, saying, "dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return." All go down to the dust, yet even at the grave, we make our song, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia," Father Jordan continued.
I didn't cry. When my mother died and granny came to claim me, she took me to the hospital chapel and told me to cry until I couldn't cry anymore and never to cry for her again. My mother would have wanted me to be strong. Granny would have wanted me to be strong too so I held back my tears. I couldn't, however, hold back the memories.
The first time I saw Summers End I was afraid. The place was massive and intimidating. It was like moving into a museum. I was afraid I'd break something and Mrs. Lodge would throw me out on the streets. Gradually it became my home and I wondered what would happen to it now that granny was gone.
I took in the faces around me and realized they belonged to this place as much as granny and I did. My aunt and uncles spent the summers of their youth here and brought their children back every year. The servants came from around the country and built their lives around performing their duties to the exacting standards of a fastidious old woman. Mr. Russet came to Summers End to teach the piano and stayed behind when he fell in love with the island, and the boy I saw in the mirror each morning began a new life here when the old one came crumbling down. This was our home and always would be.
"Give rest, oh Christ, where sorrow and pain are no more. Into thy hands, oh Lord, we commend thy servant Helen, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of thy saints, Amen," the priest concluded.
The casket was lowered and we each threw a handful of dirt on the lid as was Lodge Family tradition. With the service over we headed towards the house. Granny's lawyer, Mr. May, was waiting in the study for the reading of the will. This would be strictly Lodges only, mom and the other in-laws would gather in the dining room for coffee while we conducted the family business behind closed doors.
"Doing ok?" asked Alec.
"I'm holding up," I smiled weakly.
"I wish there had been more people here. It seems wrong that her final sendoff wasn't, I don't know, bigger," said Alec.
"This is good old Boston, the home of the bean and the cod. Where the Cabot's speak only to the Lodge's and the Lodge's speak only to God," I recited.
"What?" Alec giggled.
"Something granny once told me. I was 6 at the time and lonely because there wasn't anyone here for me to play with," I explained.
"What do beans and cod have to do with being lonely?"
"I think she was referring to the Lodge's speaking only to God," I giggled. "Thinking about it now I guess she was telling me a Lodge didn't need to concern himself with such things. It didn't really make sense at the time, I didn't know I was a Lodge, but my point is, I don't think granny needed many people in her life either. She was happy with the ones she had."
"That sounds about right," Alec agreed.
"I have to go do this thing now," I sighed. "You'll be alright with my mom?"
"Please, the ladies love me," Alec grinned his Cheshire Cat grin. I hugged him and followed my family into the study.
Some of the furniture in the study had been moved to make room for folding chairs. The Lodge Family is one of the oldest and most storied in New England, we had traditions for everything. For the reading of the matriarch's will the first row of seats was reserved for her children, dad, Uncle George, Uncle Andrew and Aunt Clarice. Behind them sat their first sons and daughters and so on and so forth. The only non-Lodges in the room were the attorney, Mr. May, Carson the butler and two Secret Service Agents who took up discreet positions in the corner.
I took my seat next to Roderick and he put his arm around my shoulder. A year ago I would have been nervous near him and would have expected his brotherly gesture to be some sort of ruse but he's changed a lot since my parents wedding. Granny really let him have it and when she told Uncle George what she'd caught him doing, well, let's just say my dear cousin probably had a little trouble sitting for a couple of days. Uncle George is a good man; he set his son, and his wife, straight. It took Roderick a little time to see the error of his ways but he's come full circle. We're friends again, just like the summer we first met as little boys.
The attorney began to speak but I found it hard to concentrate. My eyes kept drifting to the empty wing backed chairs in front of the fireplace where I'd spent many hours under granny's tutelage. My ears picked up the sound of my name when it was read with my cousins, granny had left us each an equal share of her estate to be held in trust until we reached 21 years of age. This really wasn't a surprise. According to dad it's another Lodge tradition. My eyes drifted back to the empty chairs before the fire until Roderick gave me a sharp poke in the ribs.
"Ouch, what?" I growled.
"Pay attention he's talking about you," said Roderick, nodding towards Mr. May.
"…lastly to my grandson, Thomas Dufrain-Lodge, I bequeath the estate known as Summers End. It is as much his home as it has been mine and I trust him to look after it and our people until he passes it to the next generation of our family," read Mr. May.
I sat there with my mouth hanging open. This was a break with tradition. The house should have gone to one of granny's children, not a grandson, but she was right. This was my home and she'd left me the duty of ensuring it's longevity for future Lodge's. Dad turned in his seat and shot me a wink. I doubt he knew what was in the will before-hand but he didn't seem surprised.
"Congrats dude," said Roderick.
"That's awesome, Thomas," Georgey leaned forward and whispered. "You'll still let us use the pool, right?"
"Anytime," I snickered.
I mingled with the Lodge in-laws as long as I could but ducked out when Thomas's Uncle Edward, Clarice's husband, started telling me about his latest business venture. Something about some new gizmo he was developing with his Japanese business partners. I made my escape when he stopped talking long enough to eat a canapé. I wandered through the kitchen and chatted with Cook, she gave me a steaming mug of hot chocolate and I enjoyed it in a comfy lounge chair outside the door to the study.
There was a Secret Service agent guarding the door but I didn't know him, I figured he was new to the president's detail. I've gotten to know most of them pretty well because of my relationship with Thomas. I'm what the service calls a "known associate," of the First Family. They even gave me a codename.
Thomas got a full security briefing when his dad won his party's nomination and the Secret Service became a fixture in his life. They gave each of the people under their protection a codename so they could talk about them without outsiders being able to glean any information from something they might over here. Known associates, like me and my mom, were also given codenames because we spent considerable time with the First Family and using our names would defeat the purpose of concealing that of the protectee. They designated Thomas MAESTRO in honor of his piano skills and I got CADET in honor of my status as a former inmate, er, student, at Fork Union Military Academy.
When the door opened I stood on ceremony. The president would be the first one out the door and you always stand when the president enters a room.
"Hey Alec," President Lodge smiled when he stepped out and found me waiting for his son.
"How did it go, sir?"
"Just fine," he smiled. "He's waiting for you inside."
I had to wait until the others filed out of the room before I could squeeze through the door and when I did an agent closed it behind me. I found Thomas sitting behind the massive desk addressing Carson who stood before him.
"Please inform the staff I'd like each of them to stay on as long as they like. They'll always have a home here," said Thomas.
"As you wish, Mr. Lodge," Carson nodded.
"And you'll make the arrangements to have Mr. Russet moved into the downstairs guestroom?"
"At once sir," Carson nodded again.
"Thank you Carson that will be all."
"Thank you sir. I must say it's nice to see you seated behind that desk."
"Thanks," Thomas smiled.
Carson gave Thomas a half bow and then left the room leaving me alone with my boyfriend.
"Mr. Lodge?" It was out of character for Thomas to be so formal with the staff, especially Carson.
"He insisted," said Thomas as he came around and leaned against the desk. "I told him to call me Thomas but he said the master of the house should always be addressed as Mr. Lodge."
"Master of the house?"
"She left me Summers End, Alec," Thomas smiled.
"No shit," Thomas grinned.
"Honey that's wonderful," I stood up and hugged him.
"She said she trusted me to look after our people," Thomas explained.
"Who are our people?" I inquired.
"The staff, Mr. Russet, the people who've made our lives here what they are."
"That's really sweet. I knew she was an old softy."
"Yeah," Thomas agreed. "Just think, this is where we'll be bringing our family one day."
"Oh we're having a family now?" I teased.
"One day, after we're married."
"And we're getting married too?" I giggled.
"Depends, would you say yes?"
"I don't know, depends whose asking."
"I'm asking," said Thomas, taking my hand in his.
"Wait, seriously, you're asking me to marry you?"
"Call it pre-asking," Thomas grinned. "We're a bit young but yes, one day I'd like you to be my husband."
I couldn't help it, my eyes flooded with tears and I started to cry.
"What's the matter?" said Thomas, pulling me into his arms.
"I love you Tommy. I just think what a miracle it was for us to meet. It's all thanks to this place. This special place that threw us together," I sniffled.
"I love you too, Alec," Thomas hugged me tight. "But no more tears. Didn't I tell you once that everything would be ok?"
"Yes and you were right. Every day since then has been better than the last and yes, one day I will marry you," I smiled.
It's amazing; the curves life throws at you. Most people start out in life with their mom and dad and grow up to become the person they were meant to be. Some of us come into this world under storm clouds and struggle along life's path until we find out for ourselves who we are. There are those who guide us along the way like a stern but loving grandmother, a kindly old piano teacher and the occasional wizened butler. Then there are those you were destined to meet. People who come into your life, steal your heart and make you fall in love with them.
My life has taken more unexpected turns then I can count but granny raised me to be strong and meet the challenges that await me with a stiff upper lip and dogged determination. I don't know what lies ahead for me but I know I'll never be alone again. I have a loving mother and father, I have Alec and I can't help but think granny is watching over us all.
I promised Alec everything was going to be ok and you know, deep in my heart, I think it will be.
[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.]