Once again Willow at Magpie Tales has challenged the writers in us to respond to her prompt. Interestingly, this one was posted as an easier prompt, but I found it more challenging than the others.
The daffodil heads danced merrily in the slight breeze, nodding their goodbyes as Rosemary herded the children toward the car. Everybody was laden with the last loads of necessities for the trip.
Piling everything into the back of the SUV, Rosemary mentally ticked off: suitcases with clothes – lots of clothes, sleeping bags, pillows, backpacks of toys, bags and coolers of food, boxes tucked away in the bottom with chocolate Easter eggs for the hunt and baskets for the Easter bunny to deliver on Sunday morning. Okay, looks like everything’s here.
As she made sure all seatbelts were fastened, she mentally locked up the house, all taps off, stove turned off, lights turned off, alarm set. Ready to go. Off to the annual Easter weekend family reunion.
It was Rosemary’s turn to plan and make all the arrangements this year, and she’d looked for a larger venue. With the addition of several grand-children-in-laws to the family and a few great-grandchildren, they’d become crowded out at the traditional meeting place. After months of web searching, Elm Lake Resort had been highly recommended by friends, only a 2-hour drive away. Rosemary patted her purse on the seat beside her, with the reservation information and web-printed brochures in it, and mentally pictured the cabins, house, barbecue shelter, meeting rooms, hot tubs, canoes on the lake – and the field of daffodils – displayed on the web-site. She looked forward to being once again with her grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins for a full weekend of fun.
As they drove, the children amused themselves with ‘I Spy’ and singing ‘100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’. Bill would join them all later in the evening, after work, but Rosemary wanted to get there early to settle in and have a spread of welcome snacks for the rest of them as they arrived. Some would have driven most of the day to get there and would be looking forward to relaxing for a while before plunging into their share of the cooking and clean-up that always came with such a large group together.
It seemed almost no time, and Rosemary turned down the road that headed toward the resort. The sign at the corner was a little worse for wear, but after all it was the end of winter, and they probably hadn’t been able to get out and spruce it up for the season. Just at the corner, there was the field of daffodils – a carpet of bright sunny yellow, first-sign-of-spring daffodils, welcoming them to a wonderful retreat. Funny – she didn’t think the resort was quite this close to the corner, though.
It wasn’t – another half hour of driving before they reached the entrance, with its broken gate and rutted driveway. Whew – lots of early-season work to be done here. As Rosemary pulled up to the main house (‘six large bedrooms, country kitchen, dining/meeting space for 40-60’ according to the brochure), she looked around – at broken down machinery, out-buildings with broken windows and doors falling off their hinges, a lake surrounded by marsh, with no boating access in sight. Where were the cute little chalet cabins? Where was the playground area for the children?
With trepidation, Rosemary cautioned the children to wait in the car while she checked to see if the key was in its place. She located the lock-box, punched in the code from the email message, and retrieved the main house key. The message said the keys for the cabins would be on the kitchen counter. Just then Jamie called out, ‘Mommy, I have to pee.’
‘Okay, kids, come on, let’s go inside and get things put away,’ said much more cheerfully than Rosemary was feeling at the moment.
The foyer was dimly lit by an old chandelier hanging from the ceiling on the next floor up, a double wide staircase led to the main level of the house. The stairs creaked as the family walked up to the landing, so loudly Rosemary wondered if they would hold the weight. Turning at the landing the banisters on either side looked down on the entry, with six inches between them and the wall. They squeezed past the railing to the central hallway, ahead of them a large living room with windows overlooking the lake, if you could see through the grime and cobwebs, to the right appeared to be the kitchen, and down the hall to the left two doors, one on either side.
‘Let’s see if one of these gets us to the bathroom,’ and Rosemary took Jamie’s hand. On the left side the door opened to a closet, with a toilet and sink, rust-stained and discolored with age. Plunking Jamie on the seat, wishing she had some sani-wipes with her, Rosemary backed out of the room to see what was behind the door across the hall. Same thing! Oh my, what had she gotten them all into?
When Jamie had washed her hands, with only water because the soap dispenser was empty, and wiped them on her pants to dry, Rosemary ventured back down the hall to check out the rest of the house. The fireplace in the living room was blackened with soot, the leatherette on the chairs and sofas was cracked and spilling out stuffing, the carpet showed the tracks of many, many dirty feet from probably years past. Taking a deep breath, Rosemary headed into the kitchen.
Well, it was clean, at least on the surface, but it hadn’t been updated since the house was built some 30 or 40 years ago. The stove and fridge were apartment size – it was going to be tough to cook for everybody. The small kitchen table would maybe accommodate six people, if there had been more than the four chairs around it. Rosemary picked up the keys on the counter, and read the note underneath, ‘Keys for cabins 4, 5, 6, 7 – make sure everything is just as you find it when you leave.’ Not very welcoming.
Calling the children, Rosemary squeezed back past the banisters, and headed downstairs to check out the bedrooms. Except there were none – a big meeting room, with several long tables end-to-end and about 40 chairs in various states of repair or disrepair stacked against one wall, filled the space to the left of the foyer. On the right – another large room with cots folded and scattered about the space. Rosemary just stood and stared, not sure what to think, not sure what to do. Turning toward the window, she spied an older couple walking across the grounds.
She sped outside calling, ‘Hello – are you Mr. Norman?’
‘That’d be me, little lady,’ the man smirked at her. ‘What can I do for you?’
‘What happened to the house? Where are the bedrooms? The kitchen is so small, we can hardly turn around in it! And where are the little chalet cabins? This isn’t what I expected from your brochures.’
‘Now, now, it’s okay. We had to make some changes to make the house into a conference space and government regulations required widening the stairway, and making the rooms downstairs into large meeting rooms. But there are cots you can set up for sleeping, and just bring your meals down to the other room. The cabins are right here.’ His hand swept around indicating the broken-down out-buildings. ‘And the out-houses are just over there,’ indicating two small sheds on the other side of the house.
‘But you mean those two small bathrooms in the house are the only ones with running water? Oh, and what about showers?’
‘Well, there’s always the lake….’
Rosemary woke with a start, jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen desk to check once again the brochures and descriptions of the resort she’d booked. Maybe she should make sure everything was in order, before the reunion next weekend. ‘Okay, kids, time to get up, we’re going for a drive!’