Carson's office was in the back of the kitchen in front of a door leading to the servant's quarters. I found him there having his afternoon tea and after several attempts I was able to explain the events that had taken place. I was excited, worried and out of breath so it took me a moment to properly compose myself. Once he had the information he needed Carson immediately phoned the local Coast Guard station and gave them the description of the boat Thomas had taken. After that, there was nothing to do but wait.
I wandered back into the kitchen and found my mom pouring herself a cup of coffee much to the displeasure of Cook. The staff at Summers End takes great pride in the work they do and I think it annoyed them when mom refused to let them wait on her. I noticed other people huddled around the coffee pot too. In addition to mom and Cook, James the chauffeur was there along with Maggie the upstairs maid, Lucy the downstairs maid, Shinya the gardener and Sara, Cooks assistant.
News travels fast in a small community and by the time I walked into that kitchen everyone at Summers End knew Henry Lodge was Thomas's father. The servants gathered here out of concern for Thomas. They'd watched him grow over the years, played with him, helped with homework, put band-aides on booboo's and loved him. Now he was in danger and the people who cared for him the most paced helplessly around the spacious kitchen hoping Henry would bring him safely home.
When mom saw me she put down her coffee mug and gave me a hug. We lingered over that hug. I didn't want to let her go. I gave my mom a lot of grief over sending me to military school but none of that mattered now. With everything that was happening with Thomas I was just happy to have my mother there to hold me in her arms and let me know she loved me.
"Come on," said mom," she put her arm around my shoulder and guided me out of the kitchen and down the hall to the empty library. We sat on the plush leather couch and mom held me close, gently petting my hair.
"I feel so bad for Thomas," I sighed.
"It's going to be alright," mom replied, soothingly.
"I don't understand how she could lie to him all these years. I mean his dad was right there and Mrs. Lodge never said a word."
"Honey, don't judge her too harshly. I don't know why she made the choices she made but none of it was out of cruelty or malice. She loves that boy," said mom.
"I just don't get it," I sighed.
"That's because you're still a baby…" mom started.
"Mom, I'm 15," I interrupted.
"Like I said, a baby," mom grinned. "You've seen a lot and you're an insightful boy but there is so much you don't know about the world yet. It's not all black and white, there is a big gray area out there and I think it's within that area where Mrs. Lodge chose to keep her secret."
"Why would she write that letter then?"
"I honestly don't know," mom admitted.
"I feel so bad for Thomas," I repeated myself.
"I'm sure this will be difficult for him but look at it this way. He knows who his father is and I'm sure his relationship with Henry will be different now."
"I got the strangest feeling when I went to that baseball game with them. I couldn't help but notice how alike they are."
"I picked up on that too," mom grinned.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"I couldn't prove it. When I went to Boston on my research trip I did some digging but I couldn't find any connection between Thomas's mother and the Lodges that wasn't circumstantial," said mom.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"There wasn't anything to tell."
"Mom," I objected. "He's my boyfriend, you could have mentioned it."
"Oh he's your boyfriend now?" mom teased.
"I love him," I admitted.
Mom hugged me tight and rocked me in her arms for a minute before she assured me Thomas would be ok. We sat there in silence a bit longer and then she surprised me.
"I'm sorry," said mom.
"Sending you to Fork Union."
"Honey, when you got in trouble, I as so worried about you. I didn't know what to do and your dad thought military school would…"
"Teach me to stop being a faggot?" I spat.
"Teach you to be respectful and disciplined," mom finished.
"I realize now it was the wrong choice. I sent you away when what I should have done was be a better mother too you…"
"Mom, you're great. I love you so much!"
"And I love you Alec. I want you to come home."
"You mean it?"
"I've been giving it a lot of thought this summer. I think it's time to give up the life of the roving reporter and set down some roots. Georgetown Academy has an excellent program and the house just feels so empty without you…"
I hugged my mom so tight I almost squeezed the life out of her. I buried my face in her neck and fought back my tears. Big boys don't cry in front of their mommies.
"Alec, look," mom smiled and pointed out the window.
I pulled back from our hug and there on the lawn stood Henry and Thomas. They were drenched and looked like a pair of drowned rats but they were home. They were safe. I turned back to mom and gave her my biggest smile.
"Go on," Mom smiled back and I bolted out of the room. I ran outside and practically tackled Thomas in a hug.
"Hey," Thomas sniffled.
"Oh my God, Thomas, I, we were all so worried about you! Are you ok?"
"Yeah, the Senator, er, my dad found me," said Thomas shyly but Henry smiled a bit.
I hugged Thomas again and wished I could do more. I was so happy to see him my heart felt like it was going to burst from my chest but covering his face with kisses in front of his dad might have been awkward. We walked into the house together and Christine was the first to see us. She gave Thomas a warm hug but Henry was the love of her life and she quickly turned her attention to him.
"Boy, oh thank God," said Mrs. Lodge. She hugged Thomas and didn't want to let him go. "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry."
"Mom, Thomas had a little accident with the boat. He needs to take a hot shower and put on some warm clothes. I told him we'd be in the study when he's ready to talk," said Henry.
"Are you alright boy?" said Mrs. Lodge. She held Thomas at arms-length and looked to be examining him for injuries.
"I'm ok," said Thomas in a voice on the verge of breaking.
"Come on Thomas, I'll help you get out of those wet things," I offered and led him upstairs.
Alec led me upstairs to my room and as soon as the door was closed I put my arms around him and sobbed on his shoulder. This was all so overwhelming. I wanted to be angry at Mrs. Lodge for what she'd done but at the same time I couldn't turn my back on everything she's done for me over the years. It was all so confusing but the one constant, the one thing I was sure of, was Alec's love. I was so glad to have him in my arms and to have him hold me while I wept.
"It's ok," he whispered in my ear.
"I can't believe this is happening," I sniffled.
"I know," Alec soothed. "What happened out there?"
"The boat hit some stupid rock and sank."
"Jesus," Alec exclaimed.
"Henry found me clinging to the wreckage. Henry, my dad, oh my God." That part of the day's events still boggled my mind.
"He was really worried when I told them you'd run off. So were Mrs. Lodge and Christine."
"Look, Thomas I don't know what was in that letter…" he started.
"It said Henry was my father and…"
"BUT, I know people and these people love you," he finished. "Ever since your mom died you've wondered about your family but all this time they've been right here. Right here watching over you and protecting you. I don't know why things had to be a big secret but your dad said they'd be waiting for you downstairs when you're ready to talk. Why don't you take that shower and then go have a chat with your family?"
"When did you get so bossy?"
"When I decided you needed a swift kick in the ass," Alec smiled. "Now move it!"
"Yes sir!" I replied and started stripping off wet clothes.
I was so happy to be reunited with Alec I'd momentarily forgotten how cold I was. I started shivering when I was naked and quickly jumped into the shower. The hot water felt so good I would have been content to stand under it for the rest of the day but Alec was right. My family was waiting downstairs and the only way I was going to get any answers was if I went down there and talked to them. When I came back to my room I found my pajamas laid-out with my slippers and a fluffy terrycloth bathrobe. It was a little early but I was grateful for the warm, comfortable clothes.
Alec went and changed out of his damp clothes too and when I walked out into the hall he was just coming out of his room as well. He gave me another of his great hugs and then we walked downstairs.
"I'll be right here if you need me," said Alec before seating himself in one of the foyer lounge chairs.
"Thanks," I smiled, took a deep breath and opened the door to the study.
Mrs. Lodge was there with Christine and Henry. All conversation stopped when I walked in and for a moment we stood there staring at each other. Finally Christine crossed the room and hugged me again then she led me over to the couch and sat me between she and Henry. Henry shot me a wink and rested his hand on my shoulder. It was a reassuring gesture and I drew comfort from it. Something about his touch felt so right, so…parental.
"Mom, I'm sure Thomas has a lot of questions. I know I do. Why don't you start things off by telling us how this happened," said Henry.
"Very well," Mrs. Lodge nodded. "I first met Alexandra Dufrain almost 16years ago…
"Madame?" said Carson sticking his head through the parlor door.
"Yes Carson, what is it?"
"There is a young lady to see you and Mr. Lodge. She left this," said Carson. He handed over an embossed calling card bearing the name Alexandra Dufrain Esq. and a Beacon Hill address not far from our home.
"Alexandra Dufrain," I read the name. "Do you know her dear?"
"I don't believe so," said Howard. "Did she say what she wanted?"
"I'm afraid not sir," said Carson. "She did, however, say it was a matter of pressing importance."
"Very well, show her in," said Howard.
Howard dog-eared his book and I put away my knitting. We were seated in our matching wing-backed chairs when Carson admitted a young woman with blond hair and soft doe-eyes. She was dressed in a simple but elegant summer dress, the bulge of her pregnancy just beginning to show. Howard stood when she entered, as good manners dictate, and had Carson offer her a chair.
"What can we do for you young lady?" asked Howard when we were seated.
"My name is Alexandra Dufrain. I doubt you'd remember but we met once over the summer. At your home on Nantucket," she began.
Howard and I exchanged glances. The name wasn't familiar and I couldn't recall seeing her at Summers End but Henry had been home that summer and he brought many new faces into our lives.
"Anyway," Alexandra continued. "Something has come up and I felt it was important to come here and discuss it with you in person."
"Something that concerns us?" said Howard, a puzzled expression on his aged face.
"Not you directly, rather your son, Henry."
"What is it my dear?" I inquired.
"I never planned for this to happen. I'm not one of those girls that goes looking for men and loses her inhibitions after a few drinks," she blushed. "But Henry, he was so handsome and charming…"
"What are you getting at?" Howard glared.
"I-I'm five months pregnant. Henry's the baby's father," said Alexandra.
"You expect us to believe that?" Howard snarled.
"Howard," I exclaimed.
"I beg your pardon?" said Alexandra.
"Some girl walks in off the streets and claims our son fathered her bastard and we're just supposed to take her word for it?"
"Howard, your language," I exclaimed.
"You can believe whatever you like Mr. Lodge. I came here because I felt it was the right thing to do," said Alexandra. "Henry is the baby's father and I thought he had the right to know."
"How much do you want?" said Howard.
"Want?" said Alexandra.
"How much do you want to take your story and never come near our son or our family again?" said Howard.
"I didn't come here for your money, Mr. Lodge, I have plenty of my own. I came to you because…"
"Because you were hoping you could what? Blackmail us?"
"What is wrong with you? I'm carrying your grandchild," Alexandra exclaimed.
They argued for several minutes while I sat stunned at Howard's behavior. Finally the girl admitted coming here was a mistake and fled in tears.
"Howard, I can't believe you behaved that way," I exclaimed.
"Helen, or son can't consort with such a girl," Howard dismissed me.
"Such a girl? Howard, did you read her calling card? She's an attorney and lives not 6 blocks away in this very neighborhood!"
"We can't afford a scandal now!" Howard snapped. "Henry is going to be president one day. This campaign for the House is merely a stepping stone and I will not allow anyone to jeopardize his future."
"You'd put that over the welfare of our own grandchild?"
"I'd put that over everything," said Howard. "Some girl's bastard is none of our concern."
"But shouldn't we…" I began.
"Enough Helen, I've made my decision on this. Henry can never know about this," said Howard.
I wanted to object but I was born in a different time. When I married Howard I promised to love, cherish and obey him. If this was what he wanted I felt duty bound to heed his wishes regardless of how mad they seemed. I agreed to keep his secret but I couldn't stand the thought of that poor girl carrying my grandchild just blocks from my front door. I wrestled with it for weeks but finally visited her in secret.
"What do you want?" said Alexandra when I knocked on her door.
"I-I wanted to see how you were doing," I explained.
"Your husband made it very clear that you didn't care about me or the baby."
"He wasn't speaking for me. May I come in dear?"
After a moment's hesitation she stepped aside and invited me in. It was a lovely townhome, bright and cheerful, warm and comfortable. She directed me to a chair next to the window and sat opposite me.
"So what can I do for you Mrs. Lodge?"
"As I said, I wanted to check on you and the pregnancy."
"I had a doctor's appointment just the other day. Everything is fine."
"You're sure it's Henry's?"
"Mrs. Lodge I…" she began.
"I'm not accusing, dear, merely making sure."
"I'm not the kind of girl who sleeps around. I shouldn't have slept with Henry but he was sweet and charming…"
"Yes, he does have a way with the ladies," I rolled my eyes.
"It wasn't some tacky one night stand. Yes we went our separate ways the next day but there wasn't anything sleazy about it. He was a gentleman. That's why I assumed he'd want to know about the baby."
"I'm sure he would it's just he's running for Congress now and…"
"And you think this would hurt his campaign?"
"His father thinks so and I must admit, while I don't approve of the way my husband handled things, he's probably correct in his assumption."
"I told you then and I'll tell you again. I don't want anything from you. I don't need your money. I simply thought Henry should know he has a child."
"Isn't it enough for me to know?" I asked.
"I'm not following you," said Alexandra.
"Henry is no one's father. He's still so much a boy himself. One day, when the time is right I'll tell him."
"You want to keep this a secret from him indefinitely?"
"Not indefinitely but for the duration. It's for the best my dear, for all parties concerned."
It took some convincing but Alexandra agreed. She really wasn't out to hurt anyone. She didn't want to ruin Henry's political career just as it was getting off the ground. She was so excited about the prospect of being a mother and she only wanted to do the right thing. Eventually she realized that the best thing for her baby was to hide his identity.
Over the course of her pregnancy I visited her often and we became friends. The night she went into labor she called me, scared and alone. Her parents had already passed, she had no siblings and so I became something of a mother figure for her. Howard was out of town that night so I went to the hospital and coached her through the birth. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy and at my suggestion named him Thomas. It had been my grandfather's name and I recognized so many of his features on the little child's face it seemed a natural fit.
"So you see boy, I was there the moment your mother brought you into this world, red faced and squalling, and I have watched over you ever since," Mrs. Lodge concluded her story.
I studied her for a moment. Her face was as stern as always but her eyes were softer. It felt like the years of affection she'd denied me were bubbling under the surface of her calm visage and I couldn't bring myself to hate her.
"So this was all my grandfather's doing?"
"He thought he was protecting your father. He, well, he was a damned fool! He was wrong about this from the start but I couldn't bring myself to tell him so. If you have to blame someone, blame me. I'm the one who kept my silence when I knew an injustice was being perpetrated," said Mrs. Lodge.
"Why did you keep quiet? Mr. Lodge was already dead when my mother passed."
"I nearly told Henry then," said Mrs. Lodge. "But he wasn't ready."
"Mother I…" Henry started.
"I know it was wrong but it's how I felt. I forget what number girlfriend you were on at the time and a playboy's bachelor pad would have been no place for a little boy who'd just lost his mommy. I brought Thomas home with me and raised him as best I knew how."
"There were other times though. As I got older you still kept the secret," I reminded her.
"That was out of selfishness," she sighed.
"I don't understand."
"You were such a delightful boy. You seemed happy here and I was happy seeing you happy. You were different from my children. You took an interest in the things I enjoy and you felt more like a companion. I didn't want to let you go," she sniffled.
"But, you never hugged me. You never said you loved me. You've always been so hard on me."
"I only held back because I knew if I was more affectionate with you it would be too difficult to keep the secret. If I was hard on you it was only because I wanted you to grow up to be a good man and you are, Thomas. Look at what you did for Mr. Russet…" she rambled.
I started crying then. All those years I could have used an occasional hug. It would have been nice.
"It's ok," said Henry, as he rubbed my back. He seemed a little choked up too. "Thomas, you've had a pretty rough day. Why don't you go upstairs and get some rest. Your granny and I need to talk about a few things."
"Yeah, ok," I sniffled.
When I stood up Mrs. Lodge threw her arms around me and sobbed against my chest. I wanted to be mad at her but she's been everything to me over the years, mother, father, friend, teacher and mentor. I let out a sigh and felt the anger slip from my body as I wrapped my arms around her.
"Please don't hate me boy," she sobbed.
"My name is Thomas," I sniffled.
"What?" she asked confused.
"No more of this "Boy," business. You don't call Roderick or Georgey or any of your other grandsons "Boy." If this is going to work, my name is Thomas."
"Thomas," she smiled up at me.
"Granny," I smiled back.
She hugged me again and I took my leave. I didn't know what the adults were going to be taking about behind closed doors but knowing how hurt I still feel about all this, I can only imagine what Henry's feeling. I found Alec waiting exactly where I left him when I stepped out of the study.
"Are you ok?"
"I'm fine," I nodded. "Tired though, you want to go upstairs?"
"Sure," Alec smiled.
Once we were upstairs and under the covers Alec rested his head on my chest and I stroked his soft blond hair while I told him what happened in the study. It was a rough night. I cried several times but I had Alec's love and the love of my strange family to see me through.
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