Deirdre and Mary heard the plane coming in over the house, and at almost the same time, Mary saw her parents’ car turn into the driveway.
“My parents are here.” She’d get a coat on, meet them, and try to keep them away from Doug and Susan, until she’d had chance to warn her brother about this unexpected visit. He would not be pleased to have to deal with their mother and father at such a difficult time as this.
She saw that the ambulance was waiting down at the bottom of the ramp, and the attendants were unloading a stretcher.
Once the plane had taxied back up the lake, and tied up at the jetty, the ambulance attendants met them. They worked efficiently, and seemed familiar with what they were doing, being called upon to do this kind of thing more often than they liked. Mary was not to know that it was usually a coroner that met the plane.
Doug and Susan assisted her mother to the ambulance, leaving her with the promise that they would visit them at the hospital, as soon as they could, and after they had changed out of their wet clothing.
They both returned to the jetty to thank Jake, and to help him however they could, as well as to remove everything that needed to be taken off the plane, before he taxied back across the lake.
Jake was smiling at them. “Thanks for the help. I’m glad that’s behind us. If they hadn’t come out today, it could have been another two or three days, and then it would have been a different story with the water level coming up, and that current. I might not have been able to get in. Nasty place to get stuck, that.” He looked at the sky, noting the heavier clouds moving in, and the splashes of rain beginning once more.
“We just made it. You can untie me, front and back, and I’ll get across the lake and see to everything when I get back home. It’s just a five-minute taxi. You take care.”
He started the engine, got a thumbs up from Doug that he was untied and clear, and then waved at them from the cockpit as he throttled up the engine (still threatening to pull the plane apart). He pulled briskly away from the dock to stop being blown into the rocks and then throttled back. They covered their ears as he did that.
He watched from his side window as Doug hoisted his back-pack clumsily onto his shoulder, with Susan holding his other hand, leaning into him.
He’d seen all he needed to see to know what was happening between that pair. They were obviously in love.
If Susan was anything like her mother and grandmother, that young man would not know what was about to hit him, except he probably already knew something of that. She might let him come up for air about once a week, now that the worry of her parents was behind her.
She had been asleep when he had called that morning, and it was a reasonably good bet that Doug had been in bed with her, or had been close, for her to have so quickly agreed to them both going with him. Lucky young sod! Half the young cubs in the village would be envious of that when they saw what was going on between them, even if they couldn’t prove it, but it was their own faults. They’d let her slip out of reach all by themselves.
He’d be interested to see how the old lady would deal with the school board, when they learned about that pair. His daughter had told him enough (in confidence) when she'd got home on that Saturday night.
He tuned his radio to the local station. His other daughter was broadcasting some of what he’d told her to say when she heard the plane going over; that Jake Adams, the local float-plane operator, had taken advantage of a break in the weather, and had hauled a local family out of Meachum Lake after they’d gone down through the gorge in their boat.
“There were no life-threatening injuries, but it must have been an ordeal that no one would ever want to experience. We’ll get a live interview about all of that when they are released from hospital.”
No names were mentioned, but everyone knew who it had been, just like they knew something about a bear that had been recovered from Cooper’s Gorge, but knew none of what had really happened, and probably never would, but the various tales and rumors were intriguing.
Another snippet of news, saved up for another day, would announce the acquisition of a Grizzly-bear skeleton for display in the school entry-way. The same Grizzly that had been recovered from Cooper’s Gorge.
Mary left her parents, and walked down to the jetty to greet her brother and Susan. She approached him defensively, and with some trepidation.
“Don’t be mad at me, Doug, but Mom and Dad are here. Phoebe too.” That stopped him in his tracks.
His glance flickered to the top of the ramp. “I thought I saw their car on the highway as we were flying in. What are they doing here? Did you…?” He didn’t seem that annoyed with her.
“No. I didn’t say anything to bring them up here.” But then she had to qualify it. “…that I can recall. Except, I did tell them that I was thinking of changing schools. But I told you about that. What I didn’t expect, was that they would phone the school Principal, yesterday, and learned that you had been in hospital. They learned enough from her that they decided they would come up here today, and find out what was going on. I learned they were coming up only an hour ago.” Doug smiled at her, and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it, Mary. At least they didn’t come up last Saturday. That would have been too much. They would have been up here soon enough anyway, once they knew you were serious about changing schools.”
Mary was relieved that he took it so well.
“They just arrived, so I had five minutes to speak with them before you came in. They are intent on seeing you, and they also want to meet Susan. I had to tell them something about her and about the pair of you. You can’t avoid it. I also told them you are engaged.”
Doug looked up the ramp. They were standing there, watching them on the Jetty. He took a deep breath.
“I suppose we’d better go up and talk to them. How do I look, Mary? Not too shocking for our mother to see, I hope?”
Mary smiled at him. “A lot better than you did when I first saw you.” Mary reached up and adjusted the band covering the bandage around his forehead. “But still not that good for a mother to see. She’ll be annoyed with the both of us for a few days.”
Doug had another thought. “Where will they stay tonight? I doubt they’ll go home until tomorrow at the earliest.”
“They’ll be staying at Uncle Phillip’s place. They can eat at the restaurant until I get some food in for them. They’ll be staying up here for a while. A couple of days, anyway.” She couldn’t tell him all of what was going to happen if it could be organized in time. That would spoil the surprise.
“Deirdre said something about all of us having dinner here, at the house tonight, and Susan’s mother and James might be here too, if the doctor let’s them out of hospital, so it will be a full house. Angela’s busy cooking already. But this afternoon, everyone is expected at the hospital to see what the verdict is on Susan’s father, and to hash over a few things about me, the school, you, and Susan. And I still have to meet Susan’s parents too, don’t forget.”
Mary thought of something else.
“I suppose I’ll have to give James his bed back, now. Angela will be in the guest bedroom, and Deirdre downstairs. No matter, I’ll sleep on the settee or go back to Uncle Phillip’s place with them. I can share with Phoebe. There’ll be too many questions, no matter what I do. I doubt I’ll get much sleep either place.”
Doug looked at Susan and touched her by the face. “I hoped we might have had at least one more peaceful night, now that your family is safely out of there. I hadn’t anticipated any of this.” Nor had Susan.
He shrugged his good shoulder deeper into his backpack. “Well, let’s get started, and get some of the difficult bits out of the way.” He smiled at Susan. “They’ll have to meet you sometime, and now’s as good a time as any. They don’t bite.” He took her hand more firmly to give her strength, but she wasn’t the one who needed it.
They walked up the steep ramp, with Mary trailing behind, as the ambulance pulled away ahead of them.
Doug took a deep breath, seeing his mother looking closely at his head, the band around it, and into his eyes. They’d be asking him about that before much longer.
“Mom, Dad, Phoebe, this is Susan.” They had missed nothing as they had watched them walking up to greet them, seeing him holding Susan’s hand protectively, and even shielding her as though to say ‘this woman is mine and don’t you say anything to hurt her feelings’.
His mother stepped forward and took Susan into her arms without any hesitation. She was too choked up to say anything, held her for a few moments, and then let go of her as Mr. Haldane stepped forward and took Susan’s hand, smiling at her.
“Mary told us a few things about you. We are pleased to meet you.” Then it was Phoebe’s turn.
Doug was relieved that they greeted her so openly and kindly, but had known that they would. His fears had all been in his head.
Doug’s mother moved across to her son and took him into her arms for a moment, before steering him away from everyone by the arm.
“I want a word with you, Doug.” It didn’t sound good.
He waited for what would come, not knowing what to expect. She led him off a few feet as Phoebe and Mary, talked to Susan, and Deirdre spoke to Mr. Haldane. Doug did not want to leave Susan alone with them, but at least Mary was there to tell him what was said.
“Doug, why didn’t you tell us about her, sooner? Where did you find her? When did you meet her? I saw the way you look at each other. She’s stunning. And in love.” She blinked back some tears without success. “And with you. I despaired of you ever meeting anyone, but Phoebe didn’t.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you Mother. Yes, she is totally stunning. I couldn’t tell you about her sooner. I met her last Friday.” It was too much for his mother, and she had to stop talking for some time.
“We want to hear all about it. Tonight. Or tomorrow. We also came up to see this school that Mary has her heart set upon, and to bring her some clothes, as well as to make sure you were alright. You are alright are you?” This was the mother he knew.
“Yes Mother, I’m alright, and I’m sure you will hear all about it before too long.” All about it. He was dreading having to sit through that, and all of the questions after their dinner this evening. She reached up to touch his head.
“I want to hear about this too, and why you have that discoloration around your eyes. You look like you did after those constant fights you had at school. You were always in a fight there, and often came home with a bloody nose or a black eye. What was it this time?” She wet her finger in her mouth and rubbed at his ear. It was dried blood. She’d ask about that too, and about what she could vaguely see under that wide band around his head as she reached up to lift it. There were stitches there. Too many of them.
“You’ll find that out soon enough, Mom, but I need to change. Susan and I both do. We got our feet and legs wet, getting Susan’s family out from where they were stranded.”
She nodded. “There’ll be plenty of time. Is that Susan’s grandmother, that older lady?” Doug nodded.
“She seems to be well in charge of everything, but knows what she’s doing, or so Mary assures me. We’ll be here for a few days. I’m not sure what it’s about, but we will soon learn. We are required at the hospital to meet Susan’s parents, and to discuss other urgent issues, whatever they might be.”
That bloody contract probably.
“What have you been up to now?” His mother knew him too well. “No matter, we’ll see you after that, but we need to freshen up first, after that drive. We’ll get settled in at Phillip’s house, get changed, and see you and Susan at the hospital after we’ve had some lunch.
“Mrs. Parkinson, Deirdre, that older lady, said that we should all get together to discuss something about the school, and also about you and Susan. She said that she was organizing a birthday party on Thursday, and that there would be another party for the teachers and their spouses and offspring, on Friday. We’re invited to them both, and you’ll be there too. They certainly seem to be well organized. Not like Mary’s last school.”