Friday, April 13
Stupid and impulsive.
Anna didn’t know what she had been thinking confronting Mack. What good would come of it?! Mack would probably tell her mom Scout. Scout, being the annoyingly attentive mother, would probably ask Hank about a guest named Ms. Jones. Hank, being the annoyingly good-at-his-job lodge manager, would tell them that no, sorry, there were literally no other guests this weekend. Must be some sort of mistake. Scout, being Scout, might ask if there was video of the restaurant they could look at. Hank, being Hank, would say that yes, in fact there was and he’d be happy to help.
They probably couldn’t recognize her. Neither Hank or Scout had seen her since high school, and it wasn’t her real name, but it was close. Another stupid stupid thing Anna had done. Not used a more creative name when she found a way to spend time with Scout’s daughter Mack.
Stupidity all around. Anna threw her coffee in a garbage can as she got off the elevator on the third floor and rushed towards the stairs that would bring her to the attic. She pinched the skin between her thumb and pointer finger with her finger nails as a kind of punishment.
“Why are you so stupid?” she asked herself aloud as she took two stairs at a time. “Seriously, why?”
Before emerging into the hallway in the attic, she looked both directions to be sure it was empty, then she ran to the end of the hall on the south end and quickly unlocked the door to the “winter storage room.” She locked it behind her, went into the closet and unlocked the door at the back that led to the crawl space between the closet and her apartment. She quickly locked all of the doors behind her until she was back in her own home with its cozy cookie smell.
She threw herself face down on her bed and Gladys, who was laying on Anna’s pillow, let out a low meow in objection to the disturbance.
Anna felt a little crazy.
She could be this cool, calm, and collected adult when she was Ms. Jones. When she was working in the schools, with the kids she’d chosen as “gifted,” she felt like a real adult. She dressed nicely, the kids loved her, even her co-workers liked her. But the minute she got into her car, after a day of work, she felt like dumb Anna Johnson again. The failure. The one nobody loved. The one who could never, ever, be successful.
She wasn’t able to hang onto the feelings she had when she was Ms. Jones. They never lasted. She would go home to her crappy house, eat crappy food, and watch bad TV. Alone. Her mind would race as she thought about all of the times her dad, her grandfather, and her mom and grandma too, they had just treated her like she was trash.
Anna pounded her fists into her bed. There was no reason she should have gone down to see Mack.
But, of course, there was one reason.
Anna wanted to feel like Ms. Jones, just one more time. When Mack, and her other students, looked at her she felt needed. She felt important. She felt like she might actually matter. When Anna saw Mack leave the Spruce Suite alone, she didn’t take time to think about whether it was a good idea to see her, she just had an overwhelming need to feel liked again.
When she was there, with Mack, it all came rushing back. If she was being honest, Anna realized, it felt like love. What she felt for her students. The more Mack talked, the more Anna realized what a bad idea it was to run into her. Then she started thinking about all of the cameras in this place. Cameras she had insisted be put up. Recordings from the cameras that she required to be backed up and kept for 90 days. The overwhelming feelings, and rising fear of being caught by Hank or Scout, made it impossible for her to sit with Mack for one more second. She escaped as quickly as possible.
Anna let out a sob. She wasn’t one for crying, she knew crying was for babies, that’s what her dad always told her. But she couldn’t help it. She felt so alone and exposed. For the first time, she seriously considered calling off the plan. If she were to think about this logically, who would the plan actually benefit?
Anna slowly got up from bed and walked down to her kitchen. She poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down on the couch. She needed a friend. If she had one, she could call for advice. Well, no, she realized. Probably you couldn’t just call up a friend to ask if it really was a good idea to kidnap a 12 year old to get back at someone for something they did decades earlier. Anna didn’t have friends, really, but she guessed this wasn’t normal friend conversation material. She sighed, looking at the black screen of her TV.
It was probably a good idea to check-in on the Spruce Suite. She might as well find out what Mack is telling everyone about her. See if Scout is already planning a search party for the mysterious Ms. Jones.
Tapping keys on her iPad, the TV screen came to vibrant and noisy life. The moms were in swimsuits heading towards the patio door. Anna never understood why people in Minnesota thought it was fun to go into a hot tub in frigid temperatures. She knew the water was hot, but the air, and the falling snow was freezing. Crazy.
The girls we boisterous, looking at their phones. They were telling stories about seeing animals on trips and in Zoos. Anna couldn’t follow.
She stared at the screen, listening to the disjointed conversations of the girls and the moms heading outside, and didn’t understand it. No mention of Mack’s trip to the restaurant. No mention of running into her old teacher. Anna could even see the plate of pastries Mack had brought back and it was untouched.
“What in the world?” Anna’s feelings of despair, loneliness, and her uncertainty about the plan simmered away as she grew angry. Running into her didn’t even warrant a conversation? Not even a mention? She hadn’t seen Mack in over a year and still it meant so little that it wasn’t even brought up?
Anna stood and walked closer to the screen as if she might gain some understanding. Maybe she truly didn’t matter. To anyone. Her face grew hot as tears began to stream down her cheeks. She was crying for the second time in one morning. It was unacceptable and embarrassing.
She needed to make a decision, and she needed to make it now, so she could move on with her life. One way, or another.
It’s time to vote which way this story will go next! Voting will be open until 5pm (CST) on Friday, May 1. A new chapter will drop on Monday, May 4!