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The bumper ahead froze and he slammed on the brakes. In the rear view mirror, he watched as a red streak narrowed the distance. He turned to Candice and said, “I’m sorry.” She lunged forward in a violent snap. His head cracked on the dash as bits of metal flew by him.
The image froze and he watched the wreck from above. He saw all the angles. He saw his BMW stop and the Mustang coming faster. He marveled at how the BMW’s trunk rolled up. The Mustang crashed and its hood bounced over its top. He watched it again from the mirror. He saw the red hood coming up fast. He looked over at Candice. She lunged forward in slow motion. He wondered if she was okay.
He rolled the images back and repeated the accident. He was about to start a replay again when he heard the voice.
“The Mustang failed to stop.” it said.
“Yes,” he thought. It just came up fast. He watched it again hit the back of his car. The trunk rolled up again and he froze the scene. Candice’s head stopped in mid-lunge. He reversed the accident until Candice was sitting upright and smiling. He looked at her face. She was calm and happy.
“I didn’t see it. I just felt a large bump.” Candice rubbed her forehead.
Yes, it did happen too fast.
He tried to voice his thoughts. His lips failed to create a sound. He only heard an escape of air.
Instead he listened. She remembered a moment before the accident.
“He reached over to hold me back.”
As the car slammed from behind, he tried to hold her in her seat. He failed.
“He said I’m sorry.”
He considered the moment before the accident. If he had swerved? Got out of the way?
It happened too fast. Frustration escaped his lips as a pinched breath.
He rewound the accident once more. He thought about missed opportunities and abandoned dreams.
He mulled a perfect drive. The road snaked out before him and the ocean sprayed on his left. He looked over at Candice. She looked off into a field of sunflowers. She turned around and he followed her gaze to a young girl smiling from the back seat of a minivan. She held a balloon and a small bear. Candice smiled back.
His breathing rushed as the girl flinched. Flying above the accident, the back of the BMW crumpled.
“A little girl would anchor us,” Candice said.
He stared over at the little fingers holding the balloon string. Long curls framed her face and her smile seemed to hide a secret. He wondered what it could be about?.
“A little girl with golden curls and a infectious laugh,” she said. “With his sense of humor,” she added.
He went back to the moment before the crash. He looked over at the little girl again. She smiled and held out her balloon. He grabbed the string and floated over to a park. The child ran across the grass and into Candice’s arms. He sank down to the grass.
He felt joy.
Dark clouds rushed in and he felt anxious. Now the child was wailing with a skinned knee.
He felt pity.
He moved the hair out of her eyes and stopped the tears. She looked up and seemed to be reading his soul. In that moment she was wise.
What is your name?
He wiped away the tears. He tried to avoid smearing her makeup. He adjusted her veil and smoothed down his coat. He took her arm and they started down the aisle.
A little girl would change him.
He was unable to relax. He shuddered and tried to breathe in. Only stale air filled his lungs.
He looked down at the accident again. Oil and transmission fluid pooled under the BMW and flowed toward the shoulder. The Mustang sat wedged in its back seat. Smoke and flames rolled over the engine. Candice fell down onto the pavement and two firemen helped her up.
He could feel the sun off the dash. It warmed his cheek and soothed his sore eye. He focused on the heat. He could see a warm orange light. He focused on the whitest part and looked deeper into it. The warmth helped him relax. He sighed and let out a small breath.
Candice sat in the back of an ambulance. She felt the gauze covering her bleeding forehead. She looked over at the wreck. The front of the Mustang was crumpled into the back of the BMW. She reached out her hand and reached for the car. She stretched toward Tom and failed to touch him.
He floated up until the accident below became a speck. He looked out over the valley. He passed the clouds where the air became thinner. He struggled to take a breath. He sucked in and nothing passed his lips. He saw the little girl and Candice standing in the light. He focused on Candice’s eyes. He moved closer to them. He followed the light until there was nothing but darkness.
© 2016, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.