AChapADay

AChapADay: Chapter Eight

Thursday, April 12

Anna was in the middle of binging a new show on Netflix when her iPad rang out.  Annoyed, she paused the show and pushed a few buttons on her iPad.  Her large TV switched to a grid of different views of the lodge.  When she saw the game room, she switched it to full screen and turned up the volume.

When she saw the girls looking around, she got up to get a snack from the kitchen, sure nothing exciting would happen down there.  Maybe they’d play Ms. Pac-Man or something.  She was staring into her refrigerator, her back to the TV, when she heard Hank’s voice.

She spun around and took several large steps to the living room, stopping just a few feet from the 65” screen.  She listened to Hank talking to the girls, growing more and more anxious, questions popping into her head like popcorn.  What was he doing down there?!  It was nearly 8:30pm, shouldn’t he be in bed?  He’s like 100 years old!  And why was he telling them about her family?!  Furthermore, why were these girls so nosey?!  It was none of their business why the pictures were kept up.  Frankly, none of what Hank was telling them was their business.  He really needed to stop talking.  

Soon, it was over.  Hank was heading back to his office and the girls were going off to “explore” more of the lodge.  Anna switched back to the grid view.  She had many more views than Hank did.  She had cameras nearly everywhere in the lodge.  She felt it was her right, as owner, to know what was going on.  And she never spied on anyone she shouldn’t be.  Well, not usually.  Until now.

Her grid included views of the larger suites.  She found the bottom floor of the Spruce Suite and switched it to full screen.  Scout and her three friends had put on pajamas and were making snacks and drinks.  Anna’s eyes narrowed.  They all looked so relaxed and happy.  Confident.  Anna had noticed that even their daughters seemed pretty confident.  Middle schoolers were never confident and happy – so why were these girls?  She didn’t understand it.  Not any of it.

“What should we watch?” Scout asked, pouring herself a glass of wine.

Anna exited out of the grid and switched back to Netflix.  She couldn’t keep watching.  It made her too angry.  Why did these women, or the girls, why did they get to be so happy when she was so…not?  

And what in the world would she do about Hank?  He was so nice to her when she was a girl, being dragged to the lodge on weekends with her parents so they could help her grandparents run the place.  She spent entire summers there.  Her family barely spoke to her, but Hank and his wife Betty, they treated her with such kindness.  They gave her small jobs to do, sent her on errands, and made her feel useful – almost a little bit loved.  Betty even taught her how to bake.  She was like the grandma Anna always wished she had, but she knew Betty and Hank were not her grandparents.  They might not even really have liked her.  They worked for her grandfather.  Of course they had to be nice.  

But it’s why she couldn’t fire Hank when she took over the lodge.  Betty died only a year ago and Anna couldn’t bring herself to make him leave.  But he really did need to stop sneaking around and talking too much.  Either that or she’d have to find a way to keep him busy.  Or keep him in his room.  One of the two.

Anna went back to the kitchen wondering if she had ingredients to bake.  Thinking of Betty made her want to.  And, now that she thought about it, having baked goods might be helpful tomorrow.  Betty always said “baked goods make everything better!”

*****

Friday, April 13

Anna woke bright and early the next morning.  The house still smelled of the chocolate chip cookies she made the night before.  She would have stayed in bed, enjoying the view of the still falling snow out the windows, and basking in the smell of cookies if it weren’t for Gladys.  She was meowing loudly, demanding food. 

Anna was already down in the kitchen, pouring food into Gladys’ dish when she realized today was the day.  She had forgotten the plan for the first few minutes of being awake.  And, if she was honest, she’d felt almost happy in her newly renovated home, in the snow, with her cat.  She lived in a space that she loved, she had a friend in Gladys, and the weather was beautiful.  It was almost enough.

But almost didn’t cut it.  

She started her coffeemaker and went to the windows to look out at the lake.  There must have been at least six inches of snow that hadn’t been there the night before.  She smiled.  The weather was going to make the search so much harder, and more confusing, for authorities.  

It wasn’t lost on Anna that it was Friday the 13th.  She didn’t plan for it to happen today, but she liked the coincidence.  She turned on the TV and found the Spruce Suite.  It was quiet.  She switched views to see the upstairs and was surprised to see Mack up.  She was looking out the windows to the lake just as Anna had been.

Her heart softened a little.  She liked Mack, she really did.  It was too bad her mother was such a garbage human.  Mack turned around and Anna could see she’d been brushing her teeth as she looked out the windows.  She was also fully dressed with her hair pulled into a bun on top of her head.  So she was an early riser, it seemed.  Anna would have to remember that.

Then Mack did something unexpected.  She tip-toed down the stairs, grabbed a key card, and left the suite.  Without thinking, Anna ran upstairs to pull sweats on and a pair of Nikes.  She raced back to the living room and scanned the common areas – places she might run into Hank.  Empty.  She ran up the three flights to the attic and fumbled with the keys that unlocked the multiple locks she had on this door.  When she finally opened it, she slid through a small space and unlocked the next door.  This opened to a closet full of winter gear.  She pushed the coats and ski suits to the side and opened yet another door to what was supposed to look like a storage room for winter activities.  Through one more door, she finally made it to a narrow hallway.  There were no guest rooms on this level.  There was nothing except some rooms that were made to look like storage – in an attempt to make the room that hid the only pathway to her apartment from the lodge itself look like just another place for storage.  

She ran down the hall, then down a narrow staircase to the third floor.  From there she took the elevator down to the first floor.  In her ride down she tried to calm herself.  She was breathing hard from the running around.  She breathed in with a count to five, and exhaled with a count to five.  By the time she got to the first floor, her heart and breathing had slowed.

She let the doors slide open but didn’t get out.  If Hank was in his office this early, he’d surely come out at the sound of the arriving elevator.  When he didn’t show his face, she peaked her head out the door.  She could see Mack walking into the restaurant.  Her stomach filled with butterflies.  This was probably a bad idea, but she couldn’t stop herself.

Anna walked into the restaurant, pretending she hadn’t seen Mack.  The kitchen staff was small in the winter and there wasn’t anyone out in the main area.  Mack and Anna were alone.  The staff had set out a small variety of pastries, beverages, and she could smell the eggs and bacon they were cooking up in the kitchen.

From the corner of her eye, Anna could see Mack putting donuts on a plate.  She walked to a coffee station, trying not to make any sudden moves, and took a “to go” cup.  She was just adding cream and sugar when she heard Mack’s familiar voice.

“Ms. Jones!  What are you doing here?!”

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