Thursday, April 12, 2020
Anna slowly pulled onto a dirt access road about 100 yards before the driveway for The Carlos Lake Lodge. She turned off her headlights, the lights from the lodge making it bright enough to navigate through the trees. She hadn’t really enjoyed the inheritance fully until this moment. When she learned her grandmother had left her the lodge, and all of the money Anna didn’t even know they’d had, she felt mostly confused and bitter. It would have been better if her grandmother had stood up for her when she was a kid. When her grandfather, and her own dad, had been so hard on her. She knew they wished she was a boy. They told her all the time. The next best thing was to be the smartest kid with the best grades.
She worked so hard, harder than anyone she knew, but it was never good enough. No matter what grades she brought home, or that she was at the top of her class, she never got the love or even respect she longed for from her dad and grandfather. Her mom and grandmother were too meek to stand up to the men. They would offer small kindnesses to Anna if they were alone, but they were few and far between. She grew up in a cold home feeling worthless.
So, after her grandmother died, when Anna finally returned her grandparents’ lawyer’s many phone calls, when she agreed to meet with him, when he laid out the vast fortune and real estate that had been left – to her – the strongest feelings she had were those of anger. All she had left of her grandparents, and parents – all gone now – was money and real estate. What did that even get her if she had no people in her life?
But tonight, as she pressed the button on the roof of her car, and a line of shrubs slid to the side revealing a hidden garage door on the south end of the lodge, she felt giddy. She rolled into the parking ramp that sat below the lodge, and hit the button again, the shrubs smoothly sliding back into place and the door shutting. Even if you looked closely in the full light of day, it would be hard to see that it was a garage door. She turned into one of the four parking spaces. This part of the ramp was hidden by a concrete wall. From the other side, you would think the wall was simply the end of the ramp.
About a month after the money had landed in her bank account, and the titles to all of the real estate had been transferred over to the company she’d set up (so none of it would be in her name), she fired everyone except one old handyman who had been nice to her when she was young. She gave him several months of paid vacation.
She hired an out of town construction company to do the work. She didn’t want anyone local who would talk about the project to people in town. They walled off one end of the parking ramp, and one end of the hotel. She remodeled the south end suites to be a multilevel home for herself. With a hidden entrance, a hidden parking spot, and no access from the main lodge except through the attic. The idea, originally, was that she would retire here and she wanted as little to do with guests – and the staff – as possible.
She didn’t really like people.
But as construction was coming to an end, she started thinking of other ways she could use her hidden home. And other people she was angry with. One, in particular.
Anna carried her bags of supplies up the stairs to her kitchen and set them down on the granite countertops. She loved her kitchen. It was large and airy with windows all around. She had one-way glass that allowed her to see the magnificent views of the lake and the woods, but anyone outside only saw black. She’d also made sure to have her walls and windows made soundproof. Not that she planned to make much noise, but she wanted privacy. There were no activities on this end of the Lodge anyway, it was rare for any guests to venture to the south end.
The kitchen opened up to a large living area, and to the side there was a bathroom and a guest bedroom, and stairs to the upper levels.
“Gladys,” Anna called. She looked around the first floor for her grey cat, the only true friend Anna had, but didn’t see her. She walked upstairs to the second floor which she’d turned into a library and office. She had hundreds of books. It’s what she spent most of her time doing when she was here. Reading books and transporting herself into different worlds, with different families, and happy endings. Anna looked in all of Gladys’ regular napping locations, finding them empty. She was growing anxious. Not only was her cat her only friend, she was also part of the plan. Anna needed her this weekend.
She quickly climbed the stairs to the third floor, her master bedroom, and found Gladys sprawled out on the large bed. Anna sat down next to the cat and scratched her belly. Gladys lifted her head as if bothered by the intrusion, and then shut her eyes again with a sigh.
“Don’t worry, I’ll have a new friend for you soon,” Anna whispered into Gladys’ ear before kissing her head and heading back downstairs to start preparing.