Sync or swim

Sync or swim

The final part of our serial

June 22, 2012
June 15, 2012
June 08, 2012
June 01, 2012
May 25, 2012
May 25, 2012
May 18, 2012
May 11, 2012
May 04, 2012
April 27, 2012

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Sync or swim_L
Illustration: Lau Ka-kuen/SCMP
Ethan paid off the taxi driver and wandered aimlessly into the airport, forced to accept the bitterest of defeats in his race against Maya's flight schedule.

He was heading despondently for the bus terminus when a cry rang out behind him: "Ethan!"

He spun around, hoping against hope ... only to find Gilbert Chan, together with his twin sister, Charlotte.

Despite being his long-time enemies, the twins had tipped him off about their father's crazed attempt to burn down Ethan's grandad's shop and seize the land it stood on.

However, besides making the world a safer place, their father's arrest had enabled Gilbert and Charlotte to finally discover the truth about their mother's absence: she hadn't, as they had always been told, abandoned them. Instead, when they'd divorced, their dad had tricked her out of custody of their children. Now, after a tearful reunion, the twins were on their way back to America with her.

"But why are you leaving Maya already, Ethan?" Charlotte asked.

Ethan looked at her nonplussed. "What do you mean?"

"All the flights have been delayed because of the bad weather."

And that is when Ethan spotted her.

With the dream of a classic Hollywood-style reunion once more alive, Ethan raced towards passport control.

But the smooth slow-motion dash into each other's arms was destined not to be. Instead, Maya, who had been dragging her feet hoping he'd yet turn up, took one last look around before finally joining the short queue at the security check.

With his increasingly desperate yells unheard, and the line in front of Maya all but gone, Ethan picked up speed and then ... took off.

Ethan didn't see the backpacker asleep on the floor of the airport concourse until it was too late. For his part, the exhausted backpacker continued to see nothing but the images that filled his dreams: the girl he had just met in India, and the fun he hoped to have on the next stage of his gap year adventure in Australia.

In the moments Ethan flew through the air above him, he could have reflected on any of the myriad things that had happened to him of late: his mother being rushed to hospital; the social networking site he had launched with his friends; the purchase of Grandad's shop; or even the heroic way he had saved that shop from destruction.

But right now, the past 12 months boiled down to just two things. This was the year he had got together with Maya and this was the year he risked losing her.

But it seemed the bad luck that had dogged Ethan and Maya's relationship from the start was finally beginning to turn. When he did return to Earth, Ethan landed on a fortuitously placed pile of luggage, and, as Maya reached the front of her queue, he proceeded to skid face-first, and unhurt, along the highly polished floor.

Maya was literally swept off her feet - but in her case, it was Ethan who cushioned her fall.

As they lay there together, in a crumbled and winded heap, he seized the moment to gaze deep into her eyes and tell her, "I'm coming with you".

Caught up as she was in an emotional maelstrom of surprise and delight, at that moment "Huh?" was the most profound response Maya could muster.

So, as Ethan has just flown through space, let's now fly through time to answer all those questions still only half-formulated in Maya's mind. First, backwards ...

Earlier that day, Ethan's mum, distraught that her son continued to suffer despite all he had done for his family, had visited his school.

There, together with Ethan's sympathetic form master, she had devised a plan.

Mr Hemmings not only knew the UK school Maya planned to enrol in, he also knew the headmaster of that establishment very well.

There were no guarantees, but Mr Hemmings felt sure an application from a student as talented as Ethan would be looked upon favourably - especially as Ethan, flush with the profits of shamefacebook's success, would have no trouble paying the fees. And now forwards ...

But what of all the responsibilities, and the emotional ties, that anchored Ethan to his life in Hong Kong?

Well, Ethan's childhood friend Yiu-hon left shamefacebook, and his troubled past, behind to help Grandad turn his paper offerings business into a real online success. While the front of the ageing and much-loved shop continued as before, the back was turned into a hi-tech office serving tradition-starved Chinese communities around the world.

And, of course, Ethan's goodbye to his pal Sam, and Sam's sister Jenny, was an emotional affair. There were even tears - though surprisingly they were Jenny's, without whose computer skills shamefacebook would never have happened.

However, in the safe hands of the siblings, the site was assured a bright future, particularly as it was now backed by the willing financial investment of their parents.

The only stipulation Ethan made, and one that his friends readily agreed to, was that some of shamefacebook's profits be used to sponsor a place at St Jude's International School for someone from a similarly impoverished background to Ethan's.

Even though his sister, Sophie, was about to return for the summer from her studies in Australia, Ethan would never have contemplated leaving Hong Kong if he wasn't sure his mother was secure and happy. The debt he owed her was impossible to measure or repay.

And, while Mum could have chosen to use some of the shamefacebook windfall to buy a flat of her own, instead she chose to stay with her friends on the Ki Lung Estate - though she did splash out on a little redecoration.

Before he left, Ethan met up with Mr Hemmings at a cha chaan teng. Over a milk tea, his teacher passed on some pointers on coping with the demands of the British education system. When it was time to go, he rose and shook Ethan's hand.

"You weren't always the easiest to deal with," he told his former student, "but the truth is, some pupils deserve to be cut more slack than others. And you, Ethan, never let the school, or anyone, down."

If all this sounds like a bit of a fairytale ending, it is still a Hong Kong fairytale ending. Before Ethan could join Maya, there were, of course, endless forms to fill in, procedures to go through and decisions to be awaited. But that was all to come.

For now, as they lay in each other's arms on the airport concourse floor, surrounded by a growing circle of the curious and the amused, there was only one thing for Ethan and Maya left to do - and that was kiss.

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