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Summers End

by Ryan Bartlett


I knew something was terribly wrong when the clock struck 6:00 and mother hadn't come to pick me up. I was five years old at the time and a student at the Kingsley Montessori School on Fairmont Street. My mother was an attorney working for the Suffolk County District Attorney. She worked long hours but no matter her caseload she always made the trek from her office in downtown Boston to pick me up before 6:00pm. I was in an afterschool program a lot of working parents placed their children in and as the other kids were picked up and the teachers started to check their watches, I felt a cold chill creep up my spine.

I was an unusual little boy. I didn't cry or whine, instead I paced nervously around the room until a Boston Police officer arrived and spoke to my teacher, Mrs. Jensen. A few minutes later the officer put me in his car and drove me to Massachusetts General Hospital where a nice man in hospital scrubs explained mother had been in a car accident. He and his team had fought hard to save her but there was nothing they could do. He was very sorry. That's when the tears came.

Someone put me in a little room with a chair and a small window where I could cry in private while they decided what to do with me. The logical thing would be to call my father and have him pick me up, the only problem was I didn't, and still don't, know who he is. I'd asked my mother about him plenty enough times but she always said the same thing, "Some little boys live with their mommy and daddy, some live with just their mommy or just their daddy. Whatever the case may be, as long as there is love that's all the family you need." I sat there for what felt like hours.

"You would be Thomas Dufrain?" said a haughty voice.

I turned my head to find a matronly old woman dressed in black. Her frock was buttoned all the way up to her neck and her gray hair was pulled into a tight bun. She was accompanied by a middle aged man in a black uniform with a driver's cap tucked under his arm. I looked up at her stern face, nodded my head and sniffled.

"Are you mute?"

I didn't know exactly what that word meant but I understood she expected me to say something.

"I-I'm Thomas," I sniffled.

"My name is Helen Lodge. Do you know who I am?"

"The book lady?"

"I beg your pardon, boy?"

"You're the lady that sends me books for my birthday."

"That is correct," she nodded, a slight hint of a smile breaking across her thin lips. "They've told you about your mother?"

"Uh huh," I nodded and then broke into fresh sobs.

"Come boy," said Mrs. Lodge. She extended her hand to me and I reached out and took it. She led me out into the hall and around the corner. We came to a room set up like a small church. It was empty save for a few pews and a cross that dominated the room.

"Sit here boy. You've suffered a terrible loss. You're entitled to cry, sit here and do so. Cry until you can't cry anymore and then never cry for her again."

I didn't understand her. Why couldn't I cry again? Part of me thought I should protest but the truth is I was a timid little boy who had just received the worst news he could. Mrs. Lodge's stern visage didn't help either. I expected the penalty for backtalk would be severe. Instead, I did as she commanded. I sat in that chapel and cried. I cried so hard and so long I almost cried myself to sleep but eventually the tears stopped. When my face was dry and the sniffling stopped, I rose from my pew and found Mrs. Lodge and her driver waiting outside.

"All done?"

"Yes ma'am."

"You must never cry for your mother again, boy. Grief is our enemy; it makes us weak. Trust me when I tell you that your mother would want you to be strong."

"Ok," I sighed.

"Come boy," said Mrs. Lodge, offering me her hand again.

"Who's going to take care of me now?"

"Don't be silly child. You'll accompany me to Summers End."

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