Friday, April 13
Anna waited to hear the door shut behind the girls and then slipped out of her room. She quickly walked to the lobby and when she didn’t see Hank, she pushed the “up” button at the elevator bank. She may not have known what she wanted to do next, but she knew she didn’t want to be in a stale hotel room.
And no, of course it wasn’t really stale. It was newly remodeled after all. But when her dream home was just down the hall, it seemed ridiculous not to enjoy it. When she finally got home, she went straight to the kitchen. She was starving – she’d barely had anything to eat all day. She pulled out pasta and sauce and started preparing spaghetti. Once both were heating up, she went to the couch and sat, staring out the windows and the once again falling snow.
What a bizarre day.
First of all, she should give Sharice a raise. That woman was outstanding.
Second, the girls were pretty great. If they’d all been in Anna’s district when she was working with gifted kids, all four of them would have been candidates for her program. They were smart, confident, and – this is what was most surprising – kind. They were kind. This made everything a lot more difficult. If the girls had been mean, or snarky, or even annoying, it would have been easier for Anna to dislike them.
Third, even though she’d only been in the presence of Scout and her three friends for just a few minutes, Anna had to admit that they too seemed kind. They even invited her to join them for a walk outside. Who invites a stranger to do stuff with them? And, more importantly, why?
It was true, Anna did not have a whole lot of experience with friends. So the interaction with Scout, and honestly even with Sharice, was brand new for her. Anna tried to act normal, making up hobbies, and trophies, and even injuries prohibiting her from spending time with Scout and the other moms. She had no idea if she pulled it off but she didn’t see anyone looking at her like she was strange. Which had to be a good sign.
She heard the pasta boiling and got up to try a string of spaghetti, she liked it soft. Not quite ready, she busied herself with getting Gladys food.
She went into this weekend with a solid, well thought out plan. She would take Mack, keep her hidden in her apartment at the lodge, the police would look but wouldn’t find her, and they’d take the search elsewhere. And Scout would pay for what she did to Anna in high school. Scout had to pay.
Everything was mixed up now. Throughout the day, there had been moments when Anna wondered if maybe – just maybe – she could go back to her job in the schools. She could be Ms. Jones for real. She could learn how to water ski, she could join a gym like normal adults do, and she might be able to make friends. There might even be a way for her to find love and possibly have her own children. These things couldn’t be impossible…right?
Without thinking, she popped another string of spaghetti into her mouth without letting it cool.
“Owwwww! Hot hot hot…too hot!!! Idiot!” She spit it into the sink and put her mouth under the tap, pouring cold water onto her burnt tongue.
She really could be so incredibly stupid.
After dishing up her meal, and pouring a glass of wine, she sat down on her couch and started up Netflix. For a second, she thought about checking in on the girls and their moms, but she needed a break. And she needed to think.
The way she saw it, she had two options. Option one would be to stick to the plan, kidnap Mack, and make Scout pay. Option two would be to become Ms. Jones and live happily ever after.
As she spiraled the spaghetti around her fork with a spoon she knew, deep down, which option sounded better. She just wasn’t confident that she could make it happen. It’s not as if she had much experience with people telling her she could be successful at anything. And thus, she didn’t talk to herself that way either. Usually she was berating herself for being dumb, impulsive, and stupid. It turned out, she agreed with her father, she wasn’t good enough. So what could possibly make her believe she even could live a happy life?
She took a sip of wine and looked around. The truth was, in this home she was happy. And with the girls and Sharice today, she was happy. Even when Scout asked if she wanted to walk with them, she was happy. Those weren’t fake feelings of happiness, they were real. All in one day. Maybe the only thing from stopping Anna from being happy was…Anna herself.
There was a third option that was nagging at her conscience. A very small part of her desperately wanted to confront Scout. She wanted to tell her exactly who she was and how angry she’d been at her all these years. Part of her was so tired of the lies, the pretending, the sneaking under the noses of people who really did know her. Was there any way she could admit her real identity, go back to her job in the schools as the real Anna Johnson, and maybe live her life out in the open? Without all of the hiding? She even wanted Hank to know it was really her. The one he and his wife had been so kind to when she was a little girl.
But, no. She shook her head at the notion. “That would never work,” she said, mouth full of pasta.
Gladys answered with a loud meow.
“I know Gladys, I just said it wouldn’t work!” Anna replied, irritably.
Anna cleaned up her dishes, started the dishwasher, and wiped down the kitchen. She really wanted to sleep in her expensive bed upstairs tonight, with her cat close by, and drink her own coffee in the morning. She surveyed the downstairs, the sky was purple and the snow continued to fall, the lights were dim, her large TV was playing one of her favorite guilty pleasures, and she could still smell the aroma of spaghetti. She had a jar full of cookies she’d made the night before. This was happiness. Bringing the ugliness of a kidnapping into this space – while yesterday it felt necessary – today felt…well…unthinkable.
She didn’t know what would come next but Anna made a decision just then. It would not be illegal activity.
Deciding that sleeping in her own home was her reward for not stealing Scout’s daughter, she turned out the lights and began to climb the stairs to her bedroom.
She slipped off her shoes, admiring the color on her toes, and looking for her pajamas. She was about to put them on when she felt her phone buzz in her pocket.
Anna did not get calls. Sometimes she got spam calls, sure. But not at 7:30pm on a Friday night. She didn’t recognize the number. She looked at the screen with her face scrunched up – like she smelled something disgusting. She looked around her bedroom, cozy and welcoming, and felt sudden confidence.
“Hi, Ms. Jones. I’m sorry to bother you, I got your number from Mack. She said you gave it to her today?”
Anna hit her forehead with her palm. Why had she done that?!
“Oh, sorry, this is Scout. Mack’s mom.” The woman on the other end of the line sounded unsure. This was something Anna would never have thought possible of Scout O’Leary.
“Scout, of course. Hi.” Anna managed to spit out.
“So, listen, I was talking to my girlfriends and we realized you’re probably stranded here with nothing to do. We’re down with the girls watching movies in the basement of this place. Do you want to join us?”