The Duchess… Perfect Enough
Tyler,a former king in the financial sector in Boston, Massachusetts, is a shell of his former self. After suffering an irreversible medical condition that jeopardizes his future; Tyler Griffith retreats to his roots. Abandoning all of his goals, he seeks refuge at the sanctuary of The Duchess, his grandfather’s lodge in Jackman, Maine. Tyler secludes himself from the world while trying to find his new normal. His plan was going successfully until he decided to repair his grandfather’s beloved lodge. It is then that local contractor Benjamin Sanders enters his life. As Benjamin rebuilds and rehabs the walls to The Duchess; he also begins to tear down the walls that Tyler carefully constructed around himself.
Benjamin Sanders ran from his painful past in San Diego, California. Disillusioned by the betrayal of his cheating lover; he decides to leave his past life behind and seek a future in Jackman, Maine. After being taken in by a father figure in town, Benjamin learns how to move on and focus on the future. Everything was pretty great – his job, friends, and even the lovers that were available. However, it is hard to build a future without any roots or foundation. When he takes on the job at The Duchess Benjamin begins to yearn for more.
Will a man with a broken past be able to help repair the shattered future of another? Will these two men be able to help ground one another? Will Tyler’s heritage provide Benjamin the roots he needs to build on? Will Benjamin be strong enough to show Tyler that he is not broken and still has a future? Will they both see that together they are, in fact, perfect enough?
Tyler Griffith sat on his porch with his feet kept warm by his dog Wally, his buddy. Finally, the furrows on his forehead began to ease as he sipped on his aromatic piping hot coffee. His fingers gripping the mug had begun to turn white with the pressure in them as he glanced at the binder on his lap. He drew in a slow steady deep breath and released it in a small burst. He repeated the motion until the tension in his neck and back eased away. As the new morning sun ate more and more of the porch, helping Wally in keeping him warm, the calm familiarity the binder exuded began to glaze over and settle his mind.
Today, he ruminated how he once had it all. He was living the dream. Power and status were an everyday event. The city was his world and he knew how to play in it well. He thrived in that environment. The thrill of making money became almost orgasmic and euphoric. It was all gone now. Thirty-two years of total awesomeness barely a memory. He was never boastful about his accomplishments. He knew half of the time that he had a lot to be thankful for; such as, great family, wonderful friends, and a home he loved. Tyler once had a job as a successful financier in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. He worked hard to be at the top of his game and it paid off handsomely. Some men feared him while others respected him; but all admired his skills and drive. Luckily, as a result, he currently could live off his investments without touching his family inheritance.
He once even had a fiancé – Melody Chandler. They had grown-up together and it felt comfortable being with her. She was beautiful, funny, and had sassiness about her she tamed with a natural adorableness. Did he love her? Honestly, even though the relationship could never be described as possessing any heart stopping passion that made the blood rush through your veins, he did. He adored her and had cherished her. He welcomed her into his life. He would picture a comfortable future with her and envision a possible requisite kid or two.
As a sudden breeze sent a shiver down his spine his focus was pulled back to his surroundings. The majestic pine trees at the edge of the property line seemed to reach up to touch the beautiful white puffy clouds. The rays of sun shining through the clouds bravely attempted to light the day as it valiantly pushed the first morning chill back from the night. Tyler became mesmerized by the glistening dew on the expanse field of grass as he enjoyed the scent of warmed pine needles in the soft morning breeze. Rubbing the back of his neck, Tyler rolled his head in a full circle and reversed it a few more times. He had to once again flutter his eyes to keep his vision from blurring. Pursing his lips in a thin tight line at his shaking hands he felt like a foreigner in his own body. Looking down into his mug he could no longer see the steam of the coffee. Tyler grimaced as his tight throat worked hard taking a much-needed gulp and then another of the caffeine hoping it would help with the oncoming headache creeping into his mind.
Tyler felt safe here.
He barely left the sanctuary of the porch these days. Shit! He could see Wally paying close attention to his every move as the jumble of emotions and memories toyed cruelly with his mind. He can feel the stress escalating and the sense of helplessness anchored him down in his seat. Acknowledging that stress is the primary trigger for his condition to alter; Tyler immediately began doing the relaxation breathing exercise that his physical therapist back in Boston had trained him to do to calm himself.
As his gaze once again roamed over the trees and mountains he felt comforted by the familiarity of his surroundings. He was glad he had taken the time to start the porch fireplace. Tyler could see the porch railing lightly coated in spring frost. His skin was tingling as coolness seeped into his thin sweater. He really should have taken the time to dress warmer. He glanced down to his flip-flop covered feet grateful that Wally was lying on them. His battered mind could hear his grandfather’s voice from the past when he was just a little boy. Grandfather would often say, “If you ever need to munch on a worry, the porch is the best place to chew it”.
Wow, did he ever have a worry to munch. So many times in his past were spent on one of the four porches wrapped around The Duchess. His grandfather had promised to tell him the history of The Duchess when he was older. Sadly, when older finally came around, Tyler had been too busy doing what young men did – living life to its fullest. He had no time for his grandparents during those days when he was establishing himself in his career and young adult life. Now, unfortunately, he will never know how The Duchess came to be. Another memory and lost opportunity he could regret.
However, The Duchess was and always will be there; forever ensconced in her four porches providing the comfort one needs to munch on a worry.
His mind floated back in time to his six-year-old self. Tyler recalled how his grandfather knelt in front of him as he sat on this same spot, on this same wooden bench, drowning his eyeballs in tears when Chubby Chub died. He was his mom’s orange tabby cat since high school, but he was Tyler’s best friend, he was the first memory Tyler ever had. For six years Chubby Chub slept with Tyler and it mattered little that he was old. He always played young when Tyler wanted to play. His grandfather had gently wiped his nose of his childish runny snots as he tried hard to stop the tears from his boyish eyes from falling. He smiled down at him as he told him in his quiet gruff voice, “Boy, don’t stop your heart from bleeding those tears because that is the only way your soul will ever heal”. Fuck – how he wished he could cry bleeding tears now to heal his tired disillusioned soul.
He now understood how the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz must have felt as he sat here a full grown man afraid of life. Unfortunately, those healing moments are over with as well. His soul and mind has healed about as much as it is possible since he left the old Tyler Griffith and his awesome life back in Boston. Shaking his head trying valiantly to stop the maudlin emotions slithering through his tired mind, he shrugged knowing his grandfather was no longer alive to comfort him.
So, here he was alone and afraid; feeling like a forgotten-unfinished-could-have- been -a-great-work-of-art canvas tossed into a dark dusty corner never completed by anyone’s hands. They wax poetic in college that you are an artist and your life is your canvas; it is up to you to make a beautiful life. He painted beautifully once. Now all the paint was dry and painting was not possible anymore. Well, at least not for him. The potential he once possessed stifled and has been gone for months now. Finishing his cooled coffee he licked the bitter sweetness from his lips left behind by the dregs of his last sip. He shivered again and zippered up his sweater as high as it would allow as his body shrunk into itself struggling to keep warm. Waiting and watching the early morning spring sun creep closer and closer toward the porch.
Although he had attained much wealth from his career Tyler was most grateful he inherited The Duchess. After his grandfather passed away Tyler was the only one that really wanted the lodge. Therefore, his parents gave it to him as a college graduation gift; and for that he will forever be grateful. Just like Superman had his fortress of solitude; The Duchess was Tyler’s sanctuary and he loved it. Establishing his career and the daily grind of life left little to no time for Tyler to come up and enjoy The Duchess in the eight years since he graduated and inherited the estate. He had never forgotten about the tranquility and comfort he reaped from the place.
Sitting and munching his worries on the porch allowed him to feel closer to his grandfather even though he was no longer physically around. While he was back in Boston he had to share his grandfather with society and other family. Here, at the lodge, Tyler had his grandfather’s undivided attention. He was his mentor, his friend, and in so many ways, closer than his own father. They had spent every summer here at The Duchess. He cherished that time away from the city making his summers a magical adventure. God he missed his grandfather. Tyler felt so isolated and alone these days. He appreciated Wally’s companionship more and more as time passed.
Again, he began his breathing exercise in hopes to gain control of his wandering mind and thoughts. Warring memories battling like a violent tidal wave tumbling back and forth perpetually fester and jab at the painful memories of when his life started to change. He remembered when the headaches began. Suddenly and excruciatingly, in the middle of a life changing billion dollar meeting; he did what anyone else would have done – pop a pill or two. Adding to the incapacitating pain, the headaches started to occur more frequently with a higher intensity of crippling pain. They were followed with blackouts and memory loss. Left exhausted and debilitated; the stench of shame in showing weakness made his nostrils flare and boiling rage settled in the pit of his gut.
That’s when he finally decided to visit the company doctors. For six long torturous fucking months of testing and experimental treatment – it was all for naught – it was all a waste of time. The headaches were permanent. Apparently, the results of the flu he succumbed to while on a business trip a year ago in Bogotá, Columbia caused him to suffer life altering consequences. The two weeks he spent in the hospital was touch and go. As a direct result of the dangerously high fever he suffered Tyler had developed irreversible damage to his temporal cortex.
The damage caused low-grade Anterograde amnesia. Any time Tyler experiences stress his condition flip-flops to Retrograde amnesia. Well, damn! Some days he only remembers the past while other days he can only make new memories. Left on the ground like a broken picked at Piñata, everything that had been sweet in his life was scattered or gone.
Inhaling deeply, Tyler was transported to a memory of himself as a ten-year old with his younger brother Chance playing in the fields before him. They spent their summer that year at The Duchess sailing the ocean as daring swashbuckling pirates, taking treasures, while escaping capture. Together they laughed and shouted with glee at running wild; as wild as their young imaginations would allow. They would play under the Maine sky until puffy white clouds on a bright blue sky turned cerulean with sparkling stars bright enough so a boy can wish upon them. Those simple care-free days of mason jars filled with fireflies made a boy feel like a prince.
That summer was the first time Tyler ever said a swear word. He smirked at the memory of his mom’s horrified prudent face when he shouted Fuck. It happened after a baseball smacked him on the kisser, making him bleed copiously on his t-shirt. He thought he was guaranteed a whooping for letting a curse fly. He could see his younger brother behind his mom trying not to laugh and failing miserably. The little shit was the one who threw the offending ball and then had the nerve to laugh at his outburst and impending doom! His grandfather simply smiled and secretly winked at him. The genius man had deflected her attention away while Tyler tried to staunch his bloody lip with his not so white t-shirt. He could barely hear his strong grandfather’s voice calmly explain to her, “Honey, sometimes life events requires a good swear word”, as they made their way back to the lodge.
Reliving the memory, Tyler still held fast that moment justified a swear word day if ever he had seen one. As a matter-of-fact, it deserved a big old, huge, blinking, honking, screaming, rolling – FUCK! He sure missed his grandfather; even more so these days.
Grasping the binder in his lap he gently caressed the medium dark gray leather. He held onto it tightly knowing that he could not survive without it. It was a part of his new identity, a tether to his life and how he remains connected to it. The intrinsic details of all of his life’s hard work and past neatly concealed and organized within its color-coded sections. All of his life’s details were readily available in the event he could not recall a portion of his former life. Although he spent so much time and hard work to establish his life, his career, for it all to be reduced to a binder, he could not function without the security of the rudimentary system on a daily basis.
Categorized in a beautifully organized table of contents, his binder consisted of clearly labeled laminated flash cards and dossiers. Sections consisting of his past and current life details, future goals and plans, and a short biography on everyone who matters in his life were all within reach. The binder was a final parting gift from sweet, adorable, fucking Melody – his ex-fiance. Tyler bitterly laughed to himself. He could still see the conflicting emotions of relief and guilt in her eyes as she could barely look at him. Not knowing day-to-day when he wakes up if he would be living in the past or future it was for the best to end the engagement. If truth be told he had no regrets about ending his engagement.
His family, that was another bittersweet story, and one filled with a shit-load of guilt. On days that he remembers them, he wished for the onset of a headache so he could blissfully forget that his heart was heavy with the weight of agonizing sadness engulfing every inch of him. So, that is all his life was reduced to – a fucking binder, to get him through his fucking everyday life. His new normal sucked.