The car made a choking sound as it struggled to start. Peter turned the key again, hoping the engine would just turn over so they could get going. It has been a shitty morning already on a day with such promising plans for a great day ahead. He just wanted the good parts to begin already. He turned to look at his wife, and found her looking at their son who was sitting in the back seat. He smiled, and his worries slipped away a little bit.
She had her hand in front of his face, and he was watching her intently with large blue eyes. The red beanie he had on was a little too big for him, and it slipped down on his forehead. She reached out and poked his nose gently. He smiled, then giggled. She giggled at him, and then started tickling him. His laugh was a joyous thing, as babies' laughs often are. It was infectious, and even with the bad luck he had been having in the day so far Peter had to crack a smile.
Peter turned the ignition once more, and the car rumbled to life, bringing him to sigh with relief. He put it in gear, and backed out of the driveway onto the street. They were on their way to their day, and his mood improved quite a bit. It would be a good day.
It was freezing in the car, and it would be a few minutes before the engine warmed up the heater. Sarah was worried about Josh. Her son was barely a year old and had a brutal cough that didn't seem to be waning. Whenever the gravelly, broken noises came from her shuddering child a pang of fear rocked her. It wasn't acting up now, however, and as she looked at him he smiled at her and laughed, small bubbles of spittle forming on his lips. The smile made her happy and took away her worries for a moment.
Up until the moment he was born she did not believe she would feel about him like she had heard she would. Because she was who she was, she felt it would be the same as everything else was, simple. They had told her school would be hard, and it wasn't. They had told her love would be hard, and it wasn't. She didn't expect them to be right a third time. Feed him, care for him, love him, and when he was eighteen he would more out. Simple. She believed this, never telling Peter, throughout the nine months she carried him, throughout the midnight trip to the hospital, throughout the labor, throughout the birth. But the very second she saw his face, all of that disintegrated into nothing and a powerful feeling lifted her up in massive hands and smashed her into oblivion.
The feeling was love and it was not love. It was bitter, and it hurt her. It was a recognition that there was something huge inside her that she never knew about before. This was a nearly indescribable feeling, knowing absolutely that she owed everything that she ever was to this child. She would do anything, be anyone, and go to any length for him. She existed solely for him, and she loved him more than anything. It was the most beautiful and earth shattering thing she had ever experienced.
They had decided to go to the beach on a whim. Peter had suggested it and she had denied it, saying it was an awfully long way to go and there had to be much more productive things they could be doing on a Sunday afternoon. He got that look in his eyes and told her politely to shut the fuck up, grab the kid, and get in the car because they were going to the beach and nothing she said would change that. That was one of the greater reasons why she loved him so much. He had a certain spontaneity that revolved around her, no matter the situation he knew what outlandish thing would make her happy, and had grown to know what she wanted just by looking in her eyes.
They were an hour into the ride when it began to rain. Sarah was staring at the cliffs alongside them listening to the quiet rumble of the car and Josh's gentle snoring from the backseat when the tapping began. She smiled. She loved the rain, and it made her very happy, imagining the beach along with the storm. Deep and dark grey skies that birthed water as the warm of the sand kept you safe from the purging cold. It would have been perfect.
Except in that moment, everything went wrong. Sometimes it only takes a second for everything to spin out of control. One mistake, and the best laid plans are scattered to pieces. They were on an old stretch of the country highway, the one where asphalt is cracked, road signs disappear and the only signs of civilization endless black power lines. Peter took a corner too fast, and kept it under control until the tires hit a puddle. The car hydroplane, the black rubber swimming on the surface of the water. Peter yanked the wheel, and the car skidded to the left, screeching toward the cliff.
It happened to fast for anyone to scream. The car leapt the embankement and plunged headfirst into the trees. In the airborne seconds, Sarah reacted without thinking, twisting as fast as she could toward the back seat. She slipped from her restraints and dove towards Josh, reaching for his sleeping body. She had to reach him, absolutely had to protect him before they landed.
It is moments like this where time begins to slow. Sarah lunging towards Josh, the car nearing the ground, Peter cringing at the approaching obstacle, it is all frozen in a moment of fear and despair. It all comes together, and they just hang there like stars in the sky, moving their separate directions at a snail's pace. It stays like this for a few moments in your mind's eye. And then, all of a sudden, it speeds up.
Sarah crashes into the backseat, wrapping Josh in a tight embrace, car seat and all. Peter yells briefly, his foot jammed onto a brake that no longer is relevant. And the car hits the ground, sending Sarah tumbling forward. Her head hits something hard, she sees stars and then nothing. And the moment is over.