We rushed out the door of the restaurant into the chilled wind like a weary band of soldiers retreating from the shelter of the treeline. We ducked our heads and lunged forward to jump through the side door of our helicopter minivan. I was in front, with baby Gideon bundled tightly in my arms with Lydia close behind me followed by her mother and Clara. We tossed our children through the open hatchway doors, then I quickly turned to start the rotors for extraction from the combat zone. Everything was working perfectly. Every motion exactly on schedule. Every second exactly as it had happened in training.
However, after buckling in Lydia we suddenly realized that Clara was not standing in her entry position behind her mother. We frantically looked for her in the matted down parking spaces of our landing zone. Finally, we found her. She was standing next to the window, wandering back and forth, still inside of the restaurant. She had never actually left the building.
“Stay here with the others!” My wife yelled over the roar of the engine and the screaming wind. “I’ll go back for her.” She ran across the parking lot, leaving the side door nearest to Lydia standing open.
Lydia sat morosely in her seat watching her sister through the window. Her eyes were tight slits to protect them from the violent wind that was attacking her coat and hair, whipping it across her face like a storm within a storm. I followed her angry glare to her mother and sister. Andrea was having trouble convincing Clara to leave. People at nearby tables were watching and laughing. Her mother was dragging her out the door. I slowly looked back to Lydia.
“Your sister is weird!” I yelled over my shoulder from my cockpit seat.
Lydia ignored me, but she shifted her gaze to look out the corners of her eyes in my direction.
I laughed. “I guess you guys must be related!”
“No!” she yelled, squeezing her eyes shut, hair still flailing wildly in the wind. “No! We are NOT elated!”
I laughed once more, engulfed in the chaos of the moment. I laughed over the growling motor and the angry tireless wind. I laughed, the world around me overcome by flames. I saw a faint smirk appear on my daughter’s stern face. A moment later her sister was tossed through the open door, and before it was even fully closed we were already safely above the tops of the jungle canopy, banking tight in the direction of home.