He whispered soothing words into her ear. “I’m so sorry sweetheart. She’s gone.”
“Liar,” tore past Tess’s cracked lips. It wasn’t a whisper, but a scream of agony as the man in the dirty yellow coat pulled her away from wreckage.
Her mother’s silver suburban hung like a doll limp over the edge of the bridge, crumpled and all sharp edges and broken glass. Her mother. The man said she was gone, but she was still inside the wreckage. The semi… the beast that bit into their car sat unharmed in the middle of the bridge. Fog was dancing in its yellow lights. The electric lights from the emergency vehicles beat out a frantic Morse code, that death was here. Death was in the car. Her mom’s car. They had been singing as loud as their voices would allow them.
“Don’t stop believing.” Tess stumbled over the words… “Livin’ just to find a motion…”
Her mom’s laugh was melodic, like a canary’s song. “Those aren’t the words, Tessie.”
“Yes they are.”
“It’s living to find an emotion.”
That actually made more sense, but Tess wasn’t about to admit it. “Who wants to spend ages looking for an emotion. Motioning is much more sensible.”
The smile that broke across her mother’s face, illuminated the dark. “Sensible or not, those are words.” She reached over and elbowed Tess. “Google it.”
Panic set it in. “This is ridiculous.” Tess’s eyes darted to the cup holder, where her mom’s phone sat.
“It’s ridiculous because you’re afraid you’re wrong. Google. If I’m right, which I am, you have to laundry for a month. If you win, which you won’t, I’ll take you to Six Flags next weekend.”
Six Flags. Tess was dying to go. The adrenaline rush of that first drop had her heart racing. She wanted the wind to blow through her hair. She wanted to sit next to her mom and throw her arms up as the coaster plummeted towards the ground. Screaming. Right. She had to be right about this. Tess grabbed her mom’s iPhone and clicked her query into the search engine. Seconds rolled by. She felt her mom’s gaze on her.
“So… I was right, wasn’t I?” She took her eyes off the road to look at Tess for confirmation. Her dark brown eyes sparkling with mischief.
Tess stared at the phone. She’d lost. A month of laundry. No getaway weekend. A glow broke through the fog, filling the windshield. “MOM.” Tess felt the car jerk to the left, back into their lane, but it was too late.
The last thing she saw was yellow, twin glowing orbs hurtling towards her like an errant comet. There was a deafening howl coming from inside her chest, like her very soul was being ripped out by the metal of the car that was designed to keep her safe. She heard a snap, and then she was flying through the moonless night.
Tess was no longer afraid, as she spread her hands out towards the ground. She felt lighter than she had in the seconds before the crash. The bridge flicked in and out of her vision, then nothing. Blackness. She couldn’t bring herself to care about the pavement coming up to catch her. Unlike waiting arms to soften her landing, it gouged into her skin. Bits of pebbles and glass found their way into her soft form. Everything was deathly silent.
She was all alone on a gurney, people rushed over her; tightening straps, pulling tacky strands of her hair away from her face that clung to fresh scrapes.
“You’re going to be okay, sweetheart. You’re in good hands.” The fireman’s face was blurred by the falling rain.
Tess’s eyes were swimming with anger. It was too dark to see his reaction, but she said it again. She flung it in his face like hot coal. “Liar!”
The gurney began to roll and she screamed it over and over again until the doors on the ambulance slammed shut.
“He’s a liar.” Tess barked out one final time as she fell deeper inside herself, where no warm blanket or hospital painkiller could ever attempt to fix.