Friday, April 13
Sharice’s personality was big even when she was a kid. She realized at a young age that if she was loud and boisterous, other people would let their guard down around her, and be more themselves. She was amazed, even still, that strangers would tell her things she would never think of admitting to a stranger. They danced with her, sang with her, cried with her. If she was cheerful, loud, and fun – she made people feel comfortable and candid, almost instantly. It made her popular, got her jobs, and ensured she made lots of money in tips.
Singing was a way for Sharice to observe. A stall tactic. She knew the words to most songs by heart, she could sing Aretha Franklin or Beyonce without thinking about it, while at the same time making keen observations about those around her. As she painted Hannah’s nails a steely grey with white skulls and crossbones on her ring fingers on each hand, with rhinestones for eyes, she sang Bruno Mars and eyed the newly arrived Ms. Jones.
Sharice was good at feeling people out, understanding the kind of person they are, and pinpointing their intentions fairly quickly. But this woman…she was a mystery. She was smiling broadly, talking to Mack and being introduced to the others, but Sharice thought she could see fear in her. There was something that was just a little bit off. She wasn’t letting her guard down, she wasn’t being herself, if anything, this Ms. Jones seemed overly guarded. It didn’t make much sense. Usually, adults didn’t try very hard to impress children, especially children they didn’t know.
Now Sharice’s curiosity was heightened. She needed more information. “What brings you to Carlos Lake Lodge on such a snowy weekend?” Sharice kept painting Hannah’s nails, hoping it would prompt the woman to speak more candidly. Less eyes on her.
“I was on my way up north and the snow was too much. I had to stop.”
Sharice thought this sounded rehearsed. She pressed on. “Where were you headed?”
“Moorhead, I have business there. I guess it will have to wait.”
Sharice wondered what kind of business she’d have in Moorhead – on a weekend – but decided there were probably all sorts of reasons to go there for business.
“Well you’re stuck with a fun bunch if these girls are any indication,” Sharice winked at the girls and moved Hannah to a drying station. “Girls, why don’t I do Ms. Jones’ pedicure quick and then I’ll get to the three of you. Is that okay?”
The girls quickly agreed. Sharice thought the girls might end up staying all day. That was fine with her, she knew nobody else would visit the spa today, and the girls were sweet.
“Good, what color are you thinking honey?” She moved to a stool in front of the chair the woman had settled into.
This was possibly a bad idea. Anna’s decision to make her grand reappearance in the salon, with Sharice there, was yet another stupid decision she’d made in the past 24 hours. Sharice could read people like a book and Anna, or Ms. Jones as she was now known, did not want to be read.
Anna was the one who hired Sharice Harrington. She came highly recommended and, when guests left reviews for the lodge, they always raved about Sharice. Not only did the woman know how to do everythingbeauty-related, she was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around. Her deep laugh was infectious, she was fun, and kind, and she even brought shy guests out of their shell. There was no doubt Sharice was the best woman to manage the spa.
She realized Sharice was looking at her. Sometimes Anna did this. She got distracted with her own thoughts and tuned out real life. Which, she knew, made her seem weird.
“I’m sorry, what?” She had to focus – she could not afford to seem weird today. She had to be cool and collected – like she normally was when she was Ms. Jones. Anna changed the plan so she could spend time with Mack, and maybe even Scout. She didn’t even know what she wanted out of this – or if it would change the plan she’d been working on for months – but she needed to give it a try.
“I asked if you’ve ever been to the lodge before,” Sharice repeated as she wrapped Anna’s toes in tinfoil.
Yet another challenge with this current plan, was keeping it all straight. It’s not like she could tell Sharice that in fact, she owned the lodge, and was the one who’d hired her for this job.
“I actually came here as a kid,” Anna said, thinking that keeping things kind of true was better than telling outright lies.
“Girl, so did I! My parents brought me and my brother here every summer! We were probably here at the same time!” Sharice was smiling warmly at Anna and squeezed her calves.
When she was in her 20s, Anna changed her last name to Jones. She got plastic surgery – she never liked her nose – or her face for that matter. She started wearing contacts that changed her eye color from a drab brown to a sea blue, and she died her naturally blonde hair a deep chestnut brown. This is why poor Hank, and Scout, would never recognize her.
She looked like a completely different woman than she used to. And with the last name Jones, technically, her name was different too. She needed to become the Ms. Jones that Mack had grown to love in their time together.
“We probably were,” Anna said, getting into character. “What did you like to do when you were here as a kid? I loved to water ski!” Anna, in fact, had never tried to water ski in her life. The activities weren’t open to her as the granddaughter of the owner. She was expected to work and behave.
The girls were listening now as they looked through magazines and sang along to the music. “You water ski Ms. Jones?” Mack asked, now in the chair next to hers.
“You betcha, I even won a few trophies!” Anna didn’t know where that came from. She’d never won a trophy for anything in her life.
“You must have been good!” Brie said, impressed.
“I was. Sharice, what did you like to do?” Anna realized she was trying to one up Sharice with a make believe hobby and make believe trophies.
“I was a dancer, and a singer, so there was nothing here that I was overly good at. But I did love to fish with my dad and brother. That was my favorite part.”
And just like that, Anna was annoyed. Sharice had to mention fun activities she did with her family? What a show off.
“I like to fish too,” Hannah said, admiring her nails for the hundredth time. “It’s one of my favorite parts of summer. And one of the only times my brother and I get along.”
“I hear you there!” Sharice said, laughing deeply.
When the door jingled they all looked up. Standing in the doorway was Scout O’Leary, and she was staring directly at Anna with a look of confusion. Or maybe it was hatred? Anna couldn’t tell.
Anna braced herself. This is where it would all come crashing down. She was sure of it.