A Few Months Later
I flew down the mountain slope like a bat out of hell.
I bent my knees and leaned forward, making myself more aerodynamic as I carved through the snow. Back and forth, down the mountain as I followed my target. Two skiers in red jackets. Did they know I was on their tail? Or were they as oblivious of me as they were of everything else?
One of them glanced over his shoulder and saw me coming. He shouted something to his buddy, and then the two of them suddenly made a hard right turn. They left our current ski slope and zipped down a cross-slope, disappearing into the forest.
I took the turn without slowing down. My left leg wobbled for a second as I hit a patch of ice, but I was too much of an expert to let that knock me out of control. There they were ahead of me, still glancing over their shoulders. They definitely knew I was coming now.
Through the woods we skied, weaving in and out of the terrain. The wind felt like icy pinpricks on my cheeks, but I was too focused to let that bother me. I had a job to do. A job I took seriously.
The cross-slope ended at a ski lift. The two skiers tried to slow down and slide into line, but I cut them off and blocked their path. They skidded to a stop.
I raised my goggles. “Do you know how to read?” I demanded.
The kids—I could tell they were kids now that we were close, teenagers probably—gawked at me. “Uh, yeah.”
“Then you should have noticed the huge slow sign back there. The one you both blew through.”
“The reason that sign is there is to protect the slower skiers making their way to the bunny slope,” I said. “You could have killed someone. Including yourselves.”
“We didn’t know,” one of them quickly said. “We promise to—”
I grabbed the ski pass attached to his jacket and pulled him toward me. “You’ve got a clip in your pass already. Which means you’ve already been warned.”
“Just once,” the kid argued. “Don’t we get, like, three strikes?”
“Not today.” I put my radio to my mouth. “This is Patroller Hastings. I’m at the base of Franz’s Lift with two kids who need to be escorted down to the base.”
“Copy that, Hastings. I’ll be there in two minutes,” another Patroller replied.
“Oh come on!” one of the kids complained.
I unclipped their passes from their jackets. “Skiing is dangerous. We have rules for a reason. Take it from me: when you break the rules, people get hurt.”
The other patroller arrived soon after and escorted the kids down the mountain. I glanced at my watch.
“Crap! I’m going to be late!”
I took Franz’s Lift up up to the main Whistler summit, then hurried over to the Peak-2-Peak Gondola. As the gondola car lumbered along I silently prayed for it to speed up. I didn’t want to be late. If I missed Seth’s run…
I got off at Rendezvous Point and quickly skied down to the terrain park. Half the mountain was blocked off for the Olympic Qualifiers, with rubber walkways so pedestrians could walk down the slope and watch. I skied as far as I could before taking off my skis, then walked a little farther to the viewing section. I scanned the area for Aiden and Jack… But when I found them, they weren’t alone.
My parents were with them!
“So if he wins today, he goes to the Olympics?” my dad asked.
Aiden shook his head. “Not exactly. If he wins here, he goes to the next qualifying round in Park City, Utah. If he wins there, then he makes the US Olympic Team.”
“Mom! Dad! What are you doing here?” I asked.
Dad hugged me and said, “Seth worked for me for years. I wanted to make sure he quit for a good reason!”
“Your mother came here to see me,” Jack said with a smirk. “She loves me more than Aiden or Seth, it is true!”
Mom laughed and put a hand on his arm. “Oh, Jack. You’re too much!”
“I was explaining to dad how the qualifying rounds work,” Aiden told me.
Dad. That was the first time Aiden had called him that in person. My dad was like a second father to Aiden now, but hearing him say the word made my chest tighten. The two of them had done a lot of IT work together over the summer and fall, before we had come back up to Whistler to spend the winter.
My dad beamed at Aiden like he was the son he never had. “Seth should be up any minute.”
“I didn’t miss it? Good!”
Seth was announced on the speakers, and there was a lot of cheering. He had a lot of local fans here at Whistler, friends and coworkers he had met over the years. I screamed louder than anyone though, until he came flying out of the starting chute.
Once he began his snowboarding routine, I could barely watch. I was too nervous to even breathe. He soared up one end of the half-pipe, landed, then flew across and up the other side. I still didn’t know the names of all the tricks he performed, but he seemed to be nailing each one—and the crowd responded with a roar of approval.
Finally he reached the big ramps at the bottom. He skipped the first two, building up speed, and soared up the final ramp. He spun around once, twice, three times, completing a three-sixty spin and landing flawlessly at the bottom.
Only then did I start screaming and cheering again. Aiden and Jack hugged each other, then hugged my mom and dad. Seth had been working his butt off all summer at the Anaheim facility, and it was clear that his hard work had paid off. He had a very good chance of making the Olympics this year—and if not, he would definitely make them four years from now.
“He’s so good!” mom said excitedly. “Did you see him? Spinning around like that?”
“That’s my boy!” dad shouted. He turned to the stranger next to our group and bragged, “He used to work for me. He’s practically my son-in-law, you know.”
It was still weird to me that my parents were fine with the whole thing. Me having three men in my life. I had expected them to be judgmental, but they took it in stride. Maybe after having one daughter all their life, they were happy to have a bunch of sons.
But then my mom revealed her true motivation.
“Our grandchildren are going to be so athletic!” mom said.
“What? Between you and Seth, you have a lot of good skiing genes to work with.” She glanced at Jack. “Or you and Jack. Or you and Aiden…”
“I can’t compare to the other two when it comes to skiing,” Aiden said. “But if there are computer-related genes, I’ve got those covered.”
“Mom, stop it,” I said.
She ignored me and said, “I’m just saying, we’re ready any day now. You have three times as many chances to give us grandchildren. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened by now…”
I groaned loudly.
Jack put an arm around my mom’s shoulder. “As a matter of fact? I am happy to announce that we have begun trying!”
I whipped my head toward him. “Jack!”
“What? It is fine that she knows, yes?”
Aiden burst into laughter and shook his head, turning away.
“That’s wonderful!” mom said. “We’re staying at your condo. Should we get our own place? I don’t want to get in the way of… you know. You four trying.”
They all laughed at my embarrassment as we went down the slope to congratulate Seth.