Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Camden Hill Ski Lodge
Chapter Forty Four
Camden Hill Ski Lodge
Donna Grant pressed the intercom. “Tracy, your big city daughter is on line three.”
“Thanks, Donna,” Tracy said with just a hint of apprehension. Jenna Crowley and her best friend, Katie Burke were the adventurous ones in the family. After graduation from the university in Camden Corners, they packed Jenna's car and took off for New York City. They lived in a two bedroom flat in an area that made both Tracy and Katie nervous just thinking about it. They worked together in one of the most expensive hotels in Manhattan. One suite for the night cost almost as much as renting the entire second floor of The Merryweather.
“Jenna, is everything alright with you and Katie?” she asked.
“Of course, it is Mom. We have some news.” Jenna said. “Is Holly around? She will want to hear this too.”
“She just walked in the door. May I put you on speaker?”
“Please do. Hi, Holly,” said Jenna.
“Hi, Mom, hi, Tracy,” added Katie.
“Hello, girls, what's your news? Don't keep us in suspense any longer.”
“Okay, we are coming back to Camden Corners at the end of the week.”
“How nice, it will be so good to see you. How long will you be able to stay?”
“You don't get it, we are coming back to stay. Wait until you hear our plan.”
Tracy and Holly gave each other thumbs up. They had hoped the girls would return home one day. Now it looked like their wishes were coming true. “What is your plan, dear?”
“We are buying the Camden Hill Ski Lodge. Wait until you see the plans we have for renovating it. You know, nothing has been done with it in the last fifty years. It needs a complete overhaul.”
“Oh my,” said Tracy. “That is quite an undertaking. Won't it be expensive?”
“Mom, we thought, of all people, you and Holly would understand why we want to do this. Don't you remember two young girls who decided to renovate an old broken down mansion? Everyone in town tried to discourage them from making their dream a reality, but they couldn't be stopped.”
“You are right, Jenna, I didn't mean to sound negative. You have taken us by surprise. I wouldn't even complain if you wanted to turn old Jed Finnegan's place into a gambling hall, just as long as it brings you two back to Camden corners.”
“We will see you on Friday,” said Jenna.
“Oh, by the way,” added Katie. “Would you be able to put up a couple of fellows in one of the cabins at the family rate? You remember Danny Stevens, don't you, Mom? You met him when you and Dad visited in the spring? Max Hollister is a friend of ours too. They are going to be helping with the project.”
“I'm sure we can accommodate them,” said Holly as she looked at Tracy and rolled her eyes. “Can't wait to see you on Friday.”
After the call was ended, Tracy and Holly both shook their heads. “Did our parents think we were in over our heads too?” said Tracy.
“We were in over our heads. Renovating the ski lodge does sound like a good idea. I wonder about Danny and his friend. Danny seems like a nice enough fellow. Katie says they are just friends, she never says too much about her social life. I'm surprised both girls are giving up the thrill of living in New York. I didn't think they would ever come back to their sleepy home town.”
“I guess we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, our girls will be back home. Do you think we should call Alex Kelly? I wouldn't mind getting his opinion on this project,” said Tracy.
“That's a good idea, but, maybe we should just make the suggestion that they call him. If they are anything like us, they will want to do this entirely on their own without our interference.”
Donna Grant stood at the doorway. “The fellows are all set up in Cabin Fourteen. I've booked them for the whole month. We can always change their departure date. Would you ladies like more coffee? I'm going to have the coffee shop fill up the pot.”
“We'd love some, Donna,” said Holly as they watched her walk down the hallway.
“That woman is the best eavesdropper in town,” laughed Tracy. “I'm afraid this place could run without us as long as Donna is around. Have you noticed she has a lighter step lately? She seems especially cheerful too. You don't suppose there is a man in her life after all these years?”
“That's funny, now that you mention it, Eddie Hammond, the new handyman, has been hanging around her office quite a bit lately. Wouldn't it be nice if Donna had a beau?”
Just at that moment, Eddie appeared in Donna's office. “Hi Eddie, if you are looking for Donna, she should be back shortly. She's gone to the coffee shop,” said Holly.
“I was just checking to make sure her desk drawer was working alright. It was sticking yesterday, I'll get back to work, ma'am.”
“Wait Eddie, come in and sit down for a minute,” called Tracy.
“I might get dirt on your chairs, ma'am. I have been cleaning out the vent behind the front desk.”
“You're fine, Eddie. Please call us Tracy and Holly. How do you like the job so far? Do you have the proper tools? Have you had any problems? We haven't had a chance to talk since you started a couple of weeks ago.”
“The job is working out very well, ma'am..er Tracy. I'm glad to have something to do at my age.”
“Have you always been in this line of work?”
“Oh no, I was in the banking business in Greensboro for many years. I retired five years ago. My wife, Emmaline passed on a year ago this July. After I retired, we traveled all over the United States. Emmaline's favorite was Hollywood, California. It had been her dream to see where movies were made. Shortly after we came back home, Emmaline began feeling poorly. After I lost her, retirement wasn't fun anymore. Everyplace I went in Greensboro reminded me of Emmaline. I sold our house and all of our furnishings and took the few belongings I had left and moved to Camden Corners. I found I was still restless and I didn't know anyone in town. When I saw your ad in the paper for a handyman, I took a chance and answered it. I was surprised to be hired without any real experience, but I'm grateful. I love this old mansion and I'm sure Emmaline would love it too.
“I'm sorry, ladies. I am just rambling on. I'll get back to work.”
“No, Eddie, we like to get to know the people who work here. You are part of our family now, isn't that right, Donna?” Tracy said as Donna walked through the door.
“I'd like to think so. I feel like family here. These people are almost as close to me as Mr. Penelope,” Donna said with a slight blush.
“Mr. Penelope?” Eddie asked with a surprised look on his face.
“Mr. Penelope is my cat, Eddie. I have his picture on my desk. Other than the folks who work at the resort, he is my only family.”
“Emmaline loved cats too. Audrey refused to leave her side when she was dying. She was named after Audrey Hepburn. Emmaline always named her cats after movie stars. That old cat is still with me, she sits on my lap and we watch the nightly news together.” Eddie laughed. “She's a well informed feline.”
Eddie talked until his pager buzzed. “A two year old has locked himself in the bathroom, I'd better be on my way. It was very nice talking with all of you. Thank you for making me feel so welcome here.” The smile he gave to Donna as he left didn't go unnoticed by Tracy and Holly.
“I'd better get back to work myself,” said Donna.
“Not before we find out what is going on between you and Eddie,” said Holly. “We have never known you to show any interest in a man before. Come clean, friend. We want to hear the whole story.”
“I don't think anything is going on. You heard him talk about his dead wife. She is very much in his thoughts. He speaks of her often. I don't think I stand a chance with the ghost of Emmaline always between us.”
“He seemed awfully interested in you,” said Tracy. “It sounds as though he and Emmaline were married for many years. Maybe he is feeling guilty because he is attracted to you.”
“How could a man like Edward Hammond be interested in an old spinster like me?”
“Maybe he is interested because you are an interesting person. You may not be a youngster, but you certainly are not ready for the old folks home yet,” said Holly.
“Do you really think he could be interested? I'm not very experienced with men. I was in love a very long time ago. His name was Clement Bridges. He was the most handsome man I had ever met. I thought he cared for me as much as I cared for him, but I was wrong. He declared his love for me one day and ran off with my best friend the next. My heart was broken and I vowed I would never love another.”
Donna looked so sad, Tracy put her arm around her shoulder. “Donna, we all have had a broken heart at one time or another. I think I was dumped at least three times in high school alone. You can't give up on love for all your life because of one bad apple. I can see the twinkle in Eddie's eye when he looks at you. Don't you think it's time to take a chance again?”
“Maybe you are right. Eddie may have been Emmaline's for a very long time, but he is alive and so am I. I think it's high time I showed him just how alive I am. I believe I will offer to make dinner for him this evening. I'll ask him to bring Audrey Hepburn along, I think Mr. Penelope will enjoy meeting a movie star,” she laughed.
Friday couldn't come quickly enough for Tracy and Holly and their families. They all met at The Merryweather to greet the girls as they pulled into the parking lot, followed by Danny and Max in Danny's car. There was so much hugging and crying when they arrived, even the paying guests smiled as the reunion was taking place.
“Daddy, do you think we are crazy?” asked Jenna when she had a moment with Jack.
“I was surprised when your mom told me what you and Katie planned, but it isn't as crazy an idea as turning an old mansion into a hotel. Look how that worked out? Camden Corners could use an updated ski resort. I think it's a great idea.
“Do either Danny or Max have any experience remodeling?”
“They both worked for builders while they were going to school. Danny's old boss told him to look up Alex Kelly, seems he is a friend of his and said Alex would be a big help to us. I called him before we signed anything and he came up to look the place over. We swore him to secrecy, I didn't want to get Mom's hopes up that we would come back to town if we decided against it.”
“Good, I'm glad you checked with Alex. You really are your mother's daughter. From what Steve tells me, there was no stopping your mom and Holly when they started their own project. Now, tell your old man all about Danny. He seems like a nice fellow. Should I be pulling my tux out of mothballs? It's been awhile since I was father of the bride.”
“No, Dad, Danny and I are just friends. The guys wanted a change of scenery and the more we talked about the ski resort, the more interested in the project they became. Danny will be on his way when we are up and running. I'm not too sure about Max, I think there may be more than friendship between Katie and him. They just don't know it yet.”
After lunch in The Merryweather coffee shop, they piled into Jenna's car and drove to the ski lodge.
“This is better than I expected,” said Danny. “I had no idea there was this much land up here, there's enough for an entire village.”
“We only own the lodge and ski runs. Wouldn't it be something if all this land were developed? Alex and his wife, Belinda are on their way. She can help us with the interior design although Katie and I have some ideas of our own.”
“Jenna, I like what I see of Camden Corners. I can understand what drew you back to this area.”
“I hope you don't die of boredom after living in New York City.”
“I don't think I will, I grew up in a small town. I couldn't wait to move away, but looking back it was a nice place to live. Camden Corners reminds me of my hometown.”
“There are Alex and Belinda now. Where are Max and Katie?”
“They are exploring the grounds and probably each other. I think Max is falling for her.”
“I wondered if there was something between them. She talks about him all the time.” Jenna felt a twinge of jealousy and couldn't understand why. She wasn't interested in a relationship. It didn't fit in with her plans. Still, it would be nice to have someone to care about.
Alex showed them the plans he had drawn. The lodge would be expanded and two additional floors added with large guest rooms. Rows of cabins on either side of the lodge with an expanded ski lift. Covered walkways from the cabin area to the lodge. In the warmer months benches and flower pots would be placed along the walkways. An additional restaurant on the second floor with outside eating on the patio. Fireplaces inside and out. Hot tubs outside and a heated pool on the lower level.
“Alex, this is wonderful. Are you sure we can afford to do this?” asked Katie.
“I've estimated the cost for materials and labor.” He gave them a list. “I purposely overestimated just in case we run into some problems. I don't anticipate any, but it's better to be prepared. The labor will be less depending on how much the four of you want to do yourselves. I would be happy to lend a hand if you need me. I have a crew that does excellent work at a reasonable cost.
“You did get a bargain on this property. Eventually, you may want to consider even more additions. If this resort takes off like I think it will, you may be able to interest others in buying the land and building on it.
“Belinda and I will take a walk around the property while you discuss the plans. I'll be able to answer any questions you may have. If you want changes or decide to go another route, that will be fine.”
“I don't think we need to discuss it, I think we are all in agreement,” said Jenna.
“You and Katie are the ones who need to decide. Danny and I don't have anything invested,” said Max.
“You will be investing your time and hard work. We do want your opinion, right Katie?”
“Yes, what do you say?”
“I say let's get started,” said Danny.
The town council called an emergency meeting and approved the plans for the resort. It helped that Katie's father, Steve Burke, was chairman of the committee. Everyone was in agreement improvements would be welcome and draw visitors to Camden Corners to spend money.
Ground was broken on the first day of April. “I hope the date isn't a bad omen,” said Jenna as the four entrepreneurs each scooped up a shovel of dirt and posed for the picture that would appear in the following morning's Camden Corners Chronicle.