Note: This is the final chapter. I will be revising the manuscript and will notify readers through this blog and the Air Born Facebook Group as the project progresses. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with Austin, Shu and me on this wild ride!
Their arrival at Green Lake, dripping wet and in the early stages of hypothermia, caused quite a stir.
The first building they came to was a small inn near the south end of the lake. It was late afternoon when they staggered into the lobby, shedding slush and river mud on the hand-woven carpets. Ace was nearly unconscious—they’d half-dragged, half-carried him for the last mile—and Mari was shaking uncontrollably.
Levana took charge. “Please give us hot coffee and the biggest suite you’ve got,” she said to the manager, who had emerged from the office to see what all the fuss was about.
“And l-let us use your phone. Ours are s-s-soaked,” Mari added before collapsing on a needlepoint love seat in the front parlor.
The manager, a motherly looking woman named Hazel Button, had seen travelers in distress before. She called the emergency medical unit for Ace and quickly got the rest of them swaddled in blankets, pouring out hot soup by the ladle until their color returned. The inn was fully booked, but she let them use her private bathroom to clean up. Then she dressed them in a motley collection of clothes from the lost and found.
Levana was appalled by her oversized, bright red bib ski pants and matching cap. “I look like Super Mario,” she protested.
“With that hair? More like Raggedy Andy,” Mari snickered. Without its usual array of beauty products, Levana’s hair stood out from her head like a red dustmop.
“You look beautiful, as usual,” Shu said.
Levana rolled her eyes. “Well, you look like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.” But she smiled as she said it.
While all this was going on, Mrs. Button spoke with the ski patrol and Mrs. Goldstein, who wept in relief and promised they’d be there in an hour. Finally, she borrowed cell phones from two of her employees and handed them to Austin and Shu. “Call your mothers. Now,” she told them.
The EMT squad arrived as they were concluding these conversations, which included a certain amount of shouting on both sides. The medical specialist examined Ace and told them that he was doing fine, but had the beginnings of frostbite on two of his toes. “I’d like to bring you to the hospital to get checked out,” he said.
“I’ll go with him,” Austin volunteered.
Ace beckoned to Austin from the stretcher where he was being strapped in. “I don’t need you to come with me. Go home to your mother, she must be worried sick.”
“She says I’m grounded for the next year. But I can’t leave you.”
His father reached out and took his hand. “Of course you can. It’s only a couple of toes. I’ll head back to Toronto as soon as they’re done with me.”
Austin felt his heart contract. What had he expected, a tearful family New Year’s celebration? It’s not like Ace was suddenly going to become a great dad.
“Have a nice trip,” he said curtly, turning away.
But Ace didn’t let go of his hand. Instead, he cleared his throat and said hesitantly, “If you’re free, I thought maybe I could take you out for your birthday. January nineteenth, right? We’ll go to Applebee’s or something.”
Austin felt his face turning red. “Sure. I like that place.” He returned the grip on Ace’s hand before dropping it. “Hope your toes are okay.”
“See you next month.” Ace’s face was as red as Austin’s, and he was smiling just as foolishly as they carried him away.
The Goldsteins showed up in a big black Towncar and announced that they were taking everyone to a hotel in Vancouver for the night. “We thought we’d go back to the Fairmont,” said Mari’s mother, smiling like this was a huge treat.
“No!” they chorused so loudly that Mrs. Goldstein clapped her hands to her ears.
“We…had bad service there,” Levana said by way of explanation. “How about the Four Seasons?”
The next morning, after a lavish breakfast, the two boys headed back to the parking lot where they had left the hovercraft. It took several long, cajoling phone calls, but they’d finally convinced their parents to let them fly Magnus home instead of traveling with the Goldsteins on a commercial flight.
“Just as long as you’re back for New Year’s,” Mari had said to Austin when they parted.
“We will. But why?”
“Levana and I thought we could all go out for Japanese food.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You mean she’s willing to be seen with us now?”
“I told you, she’s not that bad.” Suddenly she kissed him on the cheek. “See you in Everly,” she said, running back into the hotel.
“I can’t believe we’ve only been here for two days,” Shu said, watching Austin unwrap the pashmina shawl he’d borrowed from Mrs. Goldstein to wrap Magnus in. “We didn’t even get to go sightseeing.”
“Want to take a look around before we leave?”
Shu shook his head. “I’m ready to go home.” He hesitated. “Do you think I could drive?”
“Sure. I wouldn’t mind a nap.”
They climbed into the hovercraft, Shu sitting up front at the controls, and fastened their seatbelts. Shu adjusted the GPS and climate settings, then eased back gently on the throttle. “Nice and easy, buddy,” he murmured to Magnus.
Ignoring him, the little engine shot into the air like a bottle rocket, looping the loop over Coal Harbour before heading for home.