A woman, who had resigned herself to a life of routine smoke screens, faces a fateful accident that puts her on a path of second chances and forgotten dreams. Now she must choose to embrace the love that she thought lost and the man that she could never forget.
Take the journey with her, in the next installment of Chapter 1:
(cont’d) Dax slams on the brakes and the car fishtails toward the tree’s extruded branches. The sound of crunching metal and breaking glass fills the blackness.
A lone Jeep travels on the same coastal highway and approaches from the opposite direction. The rain is gradually picking up pace but nothing serious yet.
Sarah, with an attractive natural ease well earned in her thirty plus years, is behind the wheel. She’s dressed in khaki’s and a utility vest with pockets. Her hair is tied up in a messy braid at the side of her head. A large camera bag sits on the passenger seat. Two empty coffee cups collide in the console holders and a few more litter the floor.
It’s been a long week. Her photo assignment had her traversing swampy terrain to capture a rare pic of that damn purple bird…whatever it was called. The bird was elusive for six days. To her relief she finally caught it foraging along the lily pads.
Sure, she loves photography and is pleased that she can pay the rent with it from time to time… but why this bird was such a hot commodity this week is beyond her. She appreciates the outdoors and that her job allows her to be in it much of the time, but swamps are definitely not her top pick… largely due to the mosquito’s inability to resist her flesh; red blotches on her arm as proof.
German language lessons escape the car speakers. Sarah raises the volume as the rain picks up speed outside. She repeats after the instructor, first “Guten tag” then “Das Gut.”
Her fascination with languages began almost as a replacement for the travel days of her early twenties. In more recent years, her assignments keep her to the southeast and not beyond. But if she’s being honest with herself, her desire to go any further had disappeared long ago. Now, she’s content learning languages and just dreaming about far-off places.
The rain intensifies and she switches the wipers to a higher speed. A flash of lightning illuminates the road in front of her, revealing a fallen tree blocking the road ahead. She gently applies pressure to the brakes as her car approaches the tree at a crawl, to see if there is a way around it. Another flash of lightning illuminates the enormous trunk, and then the sky bellows a thunderous clap as she slows to a stop about twenty feet from its limbs.
The tree is enormous and stretches across the entire road. Even on its side it’s difficult to see over its girth. There is clearly no way to drive around it. Sarah contemplates what to do for a second and then puts the gearshift in reverse. Before she steps on the gas a loud CRASH cuts through the din of the storm. The tree slides toward her. She slams the pedal to avoid collision.
Rain, wipers, and heart thumping, the tree comes to a stop before hitting her. Sarah stops at a safe distance. She catches her breath, then grabs her phone and a flashlight from the glove box.
Outside the car, Sarah is drenched in seconds. The flashlight provides little illumination except on the sheet of rain in front of her. But she knows what she heard and rushes to see if anyone needs help. As she circles around the roots of the fallen tree, she catches first sight of the harrowing scene on the other side.
A newer model BMW is mangled in the upper tree limbs. Steam billows from its collapsed hood. Branches are forced into the windshield of the passenger side. Sarah brings her hand to her mouth. “Oh my God.”
She fumbles with her phone as she quickly moves toward the driver’s door, which appears to be unobstructed. The voice of a 911 responder finally comes through the receiver, while Sarah struggles to no avail to get the door open. She screams over the rain, “There’s been a horrible accident. Highway 65. Somewhere between Branchville and Nags Head. Hello?” The phone goes dead. “Hello?”
She stuffs the phone into her pocket, and shines the flashlight into the window. The driver is slumped over the airbag blocking the view of the passenger, but there appears to be someone there. Sarah puts the illuminated flashlight on the ground to shed light on her urgent work. She tries yet again to pull the car door open. Again, it does not budge.
After a few tugs, Sarah looks around for a tool. She grabs a bent hubcap from the pavement nearby and pounds the rear window to try to gain access. The flimsy tin hubcap does little, if any, damage. She frantically looks for another tool. She knows that its unlikely her 911 call would produce help anytime soon, and she might be the only hope for the people trapped in that car.
She remembers the tire iron that her boyfriend, Mike, made her carry in the trunk. He said “You may never know when you’ll need it on the road.” She fussed as she has twenty-four hour roadside assistance. Surely, he didn’t have this instance in mind, but thankfully he insisted.
While she runs back around the tree roots to her car and searches her pocket for the keys, she remembers that Mike’s recent question may actually make him more than a boyfriend. He did ask her to marry him, after all… even if she hasn’t answered yet.
She finds the keys, chases the thoughts from her head and pops the trunk. She reaches under various duffle bags and emerges with a tire iron in hand. By now she is soaked to the bone. Her hair hangs in her face, dripping water as she rushes back to the scene.
Everything is still as she left it, accept the car horn is piercing the sound of the downpour. The driver must be leaning against it. Perhaps in the excitement she just blocked out the shrill before.
Sarah raises the tire iron above the rear driver-side window and brings it down with force.
Once. A crack forms.
Twice. The crack spreads like veins.
Three times. The glass shatters into a thousand pieces on the ground.
She stretches her arm through the broken back window to unlock the driver’s door. In the process, she’s nicked by a splintered broken edge and blood trickles down her arm. She feels the sting but stays on task.
Finally, she’s able to open the driver door and gently lift the driver away from the airbag and against the back of the seat. The horn ceases to pierce the air. Now, Sarah can clearly see the passenger mangled by tree limbs on the far side. It’s Beth… Her eyes are fixed and blood is everywhere.
Sarah quickly turns her gaze from Beth to the male driver. His head hangs limply, but she checks his pulse. It’s faint, but he has one. “Thank God.” There is blood on his right side, but its unclear if it’s his own or the passenger’s.
Sarah lifts his chin gently to inspect his face. At first glance, she gasps. It couldn’t possibly be the same face that she’s traced a thousand times in her memories. Could it?
Dax’s eyes pop open. And for a split second their gaze locks before she falls backward to the ground.