AChapADay

AChapADay: Chapter Sixteen

Saturday, April 14

Life altering.  That’s what Friday night was.  In one evening Anna’s perspective on what was possible in her life changed completely.  All thoughts of revenge and kidnapping evaporated with the kindness shown to her by Scout, her friends, and the girls.  Which was weird.  She’d spent so many years blaming Scout for the way her life had turned out.  Scout and her father.  And grandfather.

Something changed last night, though.  When Anna got back to her apartment, after pretending to go back to her room down the hall from the Spruce Suite, she did something she hadn’t before.  She started a journal.  And she wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  It was as if she was working out years of unhappiness and struggle just by writing it all down.  At the end of it, after writing many pages, she figured something out.  It was big.  

The only person keeping Anna unhappy every single day, was Anna herself.

Once she realized that she was to blame for so many of the bad things in her life, she made a promise to herself to stop it.  For good.

Anna was up most of the night working on the treasure hunt.  She got the idea when the girls were talking about their favorite books.  They were mystery fans, like she was.  And Anna knew there wouldn’t be much for them to do for the rest of the weekend.  She made clues and placed them all over the grounds of the lodge and inside too.

Earlier this morning, she called Scout to explain.  It might be weird if the girls later told their moms they’d been lured to a secret apartment.

“I’m actually the owner of the Carlos Lake Lodge,” Anna had explained.  “My family owned it for decades and I wanted to see what it was like for guests.  Since nobody knows I’m the new owner, I was able to get away with it.”

Scout thought the treasure hunt was a great idea, and it afforded her more time with her girlfriends.

It still baffled Anna that Scout didn’t know who she really was.  She knew she looked very different, and behaved very different, but still.  At first it bothered her a lot, but as she spent more time with the group, Anna was relieved to get to be who she wanted to be.  Not who Scout knew when they were in high school.

Anna was even starting to question her memories of Scout from back then.  They didn’t match with the woman she was spending time with this weekend.  Funny, sarcastic, smart, and terribly warm and kind. Someone you would want as a friend.

*****

Anna stayed in bed later than normal after working hard into the early morning hours to get the treasure hunt ready.  She stretched, Gladys hopping off the side of the bed, annoyed.

“Oh Gladys, cheer up already.”  Anna went to the windows and saw that the snow and ice were beginning to thaw thanks to the bright sun.  She smiled.  She couldn’t wait until it got warm enough to open these windows and let the lake air in.

She expected the girls around lunch time, or perhaps a bit later.  She planned to have snacks ready for them when they arrived.  Their last clue would bring them to a hidden keypad to the right of the hidden garage door.  They’d key in a code, the bushes would slide to the east, and the garage door would open.

Anna was giddy at the thought of people visiting her home.  She’d taken such care to decorate it exactly how she wanted it.  The furniture and paint colors, the cupboards and appliances, they were all beautiful.  It was the home that Ms. Jones would have, if she could.  And, she could.  Anna was eager to have other eyes see this place.  Until now, only the construction crew and Anna had been in the space.

When Anna spoke to Scout she’d invited everyone to dinner and Scout accepted on all of their behalf.

Once she started the coffee, Anna started going through the different camera views she had of the lodge.  She wanted to see if the girls were finding clues yet, and if so, where they were in the search.  She found them in the sculpture garden peering at the swan.  She chuckled.  That was a tough one, she knew.  The clue was rolled up in the swan’s beak – not immediately visible unless you were looking close.

She had plenty of time before the girls got to her, and many things to do.  

*****

“Remember when I said this place seemed like it was out of a horror movie?” Brie asked, rubbing her hands together.

Mack and Hannah were looking all around the swan sculpture.

“Because this sculpture garden seems weird,” Brie continued.

“I think it’s kind of pretty,” said Sari, looking at the other sculptures.

“I got it!” Hannah said.  She took her glove off and carefully pulled a tiny roll of paper from the swan’s beak.

“Hank?” Sari asked the others.  They nodded and started walking towards the doors that led into the restaurant.

“Isn’t there like an activity desk or something, where you rent skis or whatever people do here when it’s not a blizzard?” Brie asked.

The truth was, they weren’t sure.

“Sharice!  She’ll know!” Mack said.  And they rushed to the salon to find their friend from yesterday.

*****

Sharice read the clue a few times and, much to the girls’ dismay, looked puzzled.

“There is an activities desk, but Hank told them not to come in this weekend.  And, the kids who work there don’t “run it all.”  So maybe it’s Hank, but he’s not technically in charge either.”  She was swaying her hips to Prince, tapping the long nail of her pointer finger on her lips, and thinking.

“I feel like you’re kind of in charge of this place,” suggested Hannah.

Sharice laughed out loud.  “You can say that again.  I do keep all of these people in line!”  She pointed out the salon door to the lobby.

Hannah was kidding, but the girls started scanning the walls of the salon.

“Oh my gosh, Sharice, you’re right!” Sari ran to the wall behind the pedicure chairs.  There were pictures of women from different time periods with different styles of hair.  Behind one of them, a girl in the 1960s with really big hair, was a creamy envelope that looked familiar.  She climbed on top of one of the chairs to reach it, still having to stand on her tip-toes. 

“What in the world?  How did that clue get in here?”

Sari tore open the envelope and read it out loud.

The girls, unsure of what this meant, looked to Sharice.

“The attic?”  She shook her head as if to talk herself out of the idea.  “I think this is one that Hank has to help you with.  I haven’t been to the attic in all of my time here.  I don’t even know what’s up there.”

“And…now we get to the horror movie part of the treasure hunt,” Brie said, smiling conspiratorially at the other girls.

“If we’re lucky,” Mack said back.  “Thanks Sharice!”

The girls rushed out of the salon and towards Hank’s office, filled with anticipation.

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