I will never forget the feeling of dread when I saw the door to our condo was wide open. My youngest daughter, my mother, and myself had just come back from an evening swim at the community pool. Kristine and Gracie had stayed behind at the condo, as Kristine was tired and didn’t feel up to watching Gracie in the pool. Kristine has likely fallen asleep and Gracie may have escaped into the night. I’m thinking, “Please, God, please let Gracie be in there.”
Let me back up a bit. A while back we decided to take a weekend trip to Busch Gardens, as we were tired of the Disney theme parks. So we opted to do something different, and rented a condo in a gated community on a golf course. This community also has an awesome pool and mini waterpark. If I’d known about the latter, I would have skipped Busch Gardens altogether.
After driving across the state of Florida and then spending all day at Busch Gardens, we enter the grounds where our condo is located. As we’re driving thru the community, I notice several small and medium-sized ponds with signs warning of alligators. These signs are rather ubiquitous throughout Florida. Despite that, I notice them anyway.
We check into our condo, looking forward to bedding down for the night. Everyone except our youngest, of course. She wants to go swimming. With reluctance, I agree to take her to the community pool, and my mother decides to join us.
The water is refreshing. It’s nighttime and the pool is lighted thru lamps in its walls. A slight breeze is rustling thru the palm trees, and there are only a few other swimmers enjoying a late-night dip. The scene makes for a very idyllic one. Gabby is enjoying herself, hanging on to her daddy. When we’re ready to head back to the condo, we wrap towels around ourselves and begin our long walk back thru the darkness.
As we come around a bend, I notice our condo right away. The door is open, and I say to no one in particular, “Why is the door open?” I quicken my pace and close the gap between myself and our condo. I step into our condo and see that Gracie is pacing the floor, and Kristine is on the sofa, fast asleep. Attracted by the light, there are bugs flying about in our condo. My relief is palpable.
I say Kristine’s name, sharper than I intended. “What?!” she says. Kristine awakes quickly, with a look of confusion on her face, seeing her husband, Gabby, and her mother-in-law all staring at her. I know that she had locked the door after us when we left to go for our swim. Gracie must have opened the door. For reasons we can only guess at, Gracie decided to stay with her momma.
I investigate the door. It has a deadbolt, but the kind that allows a person on the inside to unlock it and open the door simply by pressing down on the door lever. I place several obstacles in front of the door before we retire for the evening.
The next morning I’m sitting on the condo’s back patio, looking out across a pond and sipping my coffee. The edge of the water is about fifteen feet from the patio. Then I detect motion across the far side, underneath some tree limbs and foliage just above the water’s surface. I watch it intently to confirm my suspicions about what is causing the ripples in the glass surface of the water. And then I see its eyes…
I calmly get up and go inside to our condo. “It’s time go, people,” I say.