Ally and her boyfriend Greg’s relationship has been strained lately, but she’s looking forward to a week-long vacation with him in the woods to patch their problems. The trip promises hiking, fine dining, and even spooky tales at the nearby lodge. What isn’t promised is the old stories about a werewolf loose in the woods, and her growing suspicions that Greg had more than just hiking in mind when he rented the small cabin.
I decided I was a sucker for stupid-jerk men. That’s how I ended up with Greg Benson as my boyfriend. We’d met at a rock-climbing class one rainy afternoon, and he must not have been himself because he offered me a ride home even though it was out of his way. I fell for him, and we started dating, but I took things slow. No paddy-cake until I was sure he was the one. That was my rule, and he reluctantly followed it.
My first hint that something wasn’t quite right was the way he looked at other girls. I’ll agree that guys will and should be able to look at other girls so long as they didn’t touch what they hadn’t bought through dinners and birthday gifts. Greg, however, looked at all the girls, and struck up conversations with them around corners where I couldn’t see nor overhear them.
I knew I should have faced him, but this was my first serious romance and I didn’t want the puppy-dog glow to fade. Instead I ignored his suspicious behavior.
When Greg suggested we go to a fancy lodge for a week-long trip to hike and explore I thought things were turning around. Boy, was I wrong.
“You’ll love the place, Ally. It’s got great trails and a really nice lodge,” he gushed to me for the hundredth time as we drove up the winding mountain road to said lodge. My real name was Alice, but everyone called me Ally.
I smiled and sighed. “I believe you,” I told him, also for the hundredth time.
He sheepish grinned at me. “I’ve said that a lot, haven’t I?” he asked me.
“Only about a hundred times,” I replied.
“It’s just that I want to have a great time here, and to be honest I’ve never been here before myself. I’m just repeating what one of the waitresses told me,” he admitted.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I told him. I glanced out my window at the tall trees that surrounded the two-lane, paved road. So far, so good in my eyes. “You said we were staying in a small cabin near the lodge?” I wondered.
“Yeah, one of those little things that have a bed, bath and TV, but we eat at the lodge,” he explained. “There’s also a swimming pool in there and a pool table room, and a big fireplace they light when someone wants to tell spooky stories. That way we won’t get bored if it rains while we’re there.”
I looked at the sky. It was getting late in this summer evening. Another hour or two and it’d be dark. Some ominous clouds on the horizon meant night would come even sooner. “How much farther?” I asked him.
“Almost there.” He leaned forward and squinted his eyes threw the dirty glass. We were in his small Geo and he wasn’t the cleanest guy in the world. Hell, he may have been the dirtiest judging by the mounds of food wrappers at my feet, but I ignored them because I was stupid. He grinned and pointed through the grime. “Ah-ha! There it is!”
I peered through the glass and saw that the road crested the steep slope and widened into a gravel parking lot. The lodge stood on our left. It was a two-story, rectangular behemoth built two centuries ago of hewn logs from the surrounding area. A large deck surrounded the front and either side, and there were long, tall windows that looked out on the deck. On the ground floor were more windows, but these were interrupted in the center by two thick entrance doors. Its rear buttressed a gentle hill where I could see openings in the trees that bespoke trails.
Beyond the lodge along the road lay about twenty small cabins hewn from the same logs and lined up one beside the other. The four sides of the square buildings had a single window except the rear which had two, an extra for the bathroom. There were small porches in front of the sturdy doors, and each had their own parking spots on one side. They were quaint and cleaning-looking, and I was looking forward to staying in them.
“Wow. How much did this place cost to rent?” I asked him.
“Um, real expensive, but you’re worth it,” he replied.
Greg parked the car in front of the lodge and we walked inside. The lobby was open to the second floor which had an open-rafter roof. To our left was the fireplace of stories, to our right was the desk, and in front was a wall of doors. One led to the pool, and another to the pool table. The upstairs showed off an open dining room with round tables covered in white clothes. Diners could look across the lobby and out through the windows onto the deck. The upper floor was accessed via stairs to the far left close to the fireplace, and on either side of the dining area were doors that led onto the deck. Behind the stairs was a narrow, dimly lit hallway, and I guessed that led to the employee living quarters and the kitchen.
We headed over to the front desk and Greg leaned over the counter. Behind the counter was a middle-aged man in a simple white shirt and he wore a broad smile. “Good evening. My name is Brent Patterson, owner of the lodge and front desk clerk. How can I help you?” he wondered.
“We’re here to stay in cabin fourteen,” Greg told him.
The man turned to his left where sat a computer. After a few clickity-clacks he gave a nod. “I see, Mr. Benson, is it?”
“That’s me,” Greg replied.
The man glanced at the screen and raised an eyebrow. He looked over to Greg. “And you reserved the cabin for a week on the employee discount?” the man wondered.
“Well, yeah. Can’t I do that?” Greg wondered.
“You can, but-” His eyes flickered to me and back to Greg. “And this young lady is?”
“Oh, a good friend,” he told him. I frowned, but held my tongue.
“Very well.” The man leaned under the desk, grabbed a set of keys and set them on the top. “The cabins are numbered with Number One closest to the lodge. The times for meals is posted in your cabins, and all meals are included in your package. There are also pamphlets listing group events, and I might add that tonight is a special fireplace storytelling time after sundown. The trails are open from sunup to sundown, and we are not responsible for any accidents should you not follow the rules.”
“Sounds good,” Greg replied. He grabbed the cabin key and turned to me with a broad grin. “Ready?”
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. I looked to the desk man who stared at both of us with confused interest. Then we left the lodge and plopped into the car. “What was that about me being a friend?” I asked him.
“Well, you are. My girlfriend, that is,” he pointed out.
“Uh-huh, and about this cabin being expensive?” I wondered.
“Well, they were before the discount,” he replied.
“And it being an employee discount? How’d you get that?”
“Stop worrying about everything. We have the cabin, don’t we?” he argued. He pulled the car out of the parking space and drove us to cabin fourteen. There were twenty cabins total, so this was just on the wrong side of being away from the lodge. Greg parked the car in the parking spot, got out, and breathed deeply. “Great air, isn’t it?”
I followed his example and couldn’t argue. There was the fresh smell of a summer evening’s dew with a hint of heat from the long day. “Yeah, it is,” I agreed.
“Come on, let’s see how these things look inside,” he suggested.
Greg led me onto the small porch and opened the door. The entrance swung open and revealed a single large room with two beds against the far wall, a door on the left wall that led to the bathroom, and to the right was a small living room with two chairs, a TV stand, and a TV. The floor was polished wood, and so was all the furniture. It was pretty snazzy, and very expensive looking.
I stepped inside, dropped my bag onto the floor, and dove onto the hefty-looking bed on the right. The mattress was crisp, but had a good bounce. I laughed and turned to Greg. I was surprised to see he still stood on the porch and his eyes were turned to the left toward the lodge. “Something wrong?” I asked him as I slid off the foot of the bed.
He whipped his head to me. “W-what? O-oh, no, nothing wrong, just thought I saw something,” he replied.
“Oh? What’d you think you saw?” I wondered. I walked over to the door, but he stepped inside and partially closed the entrance.
Greg spoke in a clipped tone and he sheepishly grinned at me. “It’s nothing, just shadows. It’s getting really dark out there. Didn’t that desk guy say something about a storytelling time about now? What do you say we go to it?” he suggested.
“Sure, it sounds like fun,” I hesitantly agreed. I wasn’t much interested in ghost stories.
“Then we’d better hurry or we’ll miss the fun,” he told me. He grabbed my hand and whisked us over to the lodge for spooky time.