“Shotgun,” Caitriona Sinclair yelled as she raced toward the midnight blue SUV sitting in the driveway. She pulled the hood of her jacket over her head to guard against the rain that was coming down in sheets. While hardly unusual for Seattle, the first rain of fall was generally seen as a welcome reprieve from the dry weeks of summer. With fall around the corner, Caitriona knew the heavy, steady rains would soon be upon them and the ensuing winter days would be marked by a dreary, gray and white world that would last for months.
“Back seat,” her mother declared, pointing to the back of the car.
Caitriona harrumphed loudly but opened the back door and climbed in, pulling the seat belt securely around her. She pulled her long hair out from where it had become trapped beneath the shoulder strap, the long wavy auburn locks spilling across her shoulders.
Her mother scrambled into the front passenger seat, adjusting her own seat belt before pulling the sun visor in place so she could check her complexion in the vanity mirror.
Caitriona beamed. Their mother was beautiful. She had dark hair like her sister, Danika, that fell nearly to her buttocks. At 43, Elizabeth Sinclair had a complexion and figure that belied her current age. Caitriona watched as her mother took out pressed powder and dabbed at her nose and chin. Their mother wore very little makeup and what she did apply was always natural looking and complemented her nearly flawless features. Caitriona hoped she looked as beautiful as her mother when she grew up. At 13, Caitriona was just beginning to show the curves of a woman.
Danika Sinclair climbed into the driver’s seat, shaking her arms and head, coating the seats and her passengers with rain water. She laughed as Caitriona and their mother squealed, covering their heads.
Dani adjusted the mirrors, looking behind her and to the side to ensure she had clear visibility on all sides. Danika, 18, just received her driver’s license. She convinced their mother that her efforts should not go unrewarded and so, after much deliberation, their mother relented to a trip to the local Dairy Queen for some ice cream. Danika turned on the windshield wipers and immediately cranked the knob to ‘high’ to attack the sheets of rain that continued its torrential downpour.
“Everyone buckled up?” Danika asked, adjusting the rear view mirror so she could see Caitriona.
“Ready to roll,” their mother said. “And take it easy, Danika. It’s raining pretty hard.” She watched as her daughter backed down the long driveway and pulled into the road. “Which Dairy Queen are you going to?” Elizabeth Sinclair asked as she pointed to the neighbor’s garbage cans that had almost become Danika’s first casualty.
“I thought we’d head to the one in Woodinville,” Danika replied, a mischievous grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. The Woodinville Dairy Queen was further from their Bothel home, but Caitriona knew Danika was trying to prolong her time behind the wheel. She caught her sister’s eye through the rear view mirror and winked.
“You’re impossible,” Elizabeth said, but there was a hint of approval in her voice.
Caitriona settled back among the leather seats and pulled out the copy of Jack London’s Call of the Wild she was reading for a school assignment. She was struggling to get through the book, but had promised her mother she’d try harder in American Literature class. “Can we turn on the radio?” Caitriona begged. Some music was definitely in order.
“No,” her mother replied firmly.
Caitriona knew that tone all too well and knew her mother would hold to her word. Neither girl argued. “I want Danika fully focused on the road,” she explained. “As it is, I’m probably not going to win any mother-of-the-year awards letting a newly licensed driver head out on a day like today.” Their mother adjusted the heater in the car so that more of the warm air was pointed to the back seat. Caitriona smiled. Their mother was like that… always giving of herself, trying to make sure her girls had everything.
Their father had died when Caitriona was only 5. She barely remembered the man, but she often heard Danika and their mother conversing in low whispers late at night. Caitriona didn’t know why her mother and Danika were so closeted when it came to her father. Why couldn’t they talk about him? Maybe their mother wouldn’t be so lonely if they all talked about him and kept his memory alive.
Danika put her blinker on and pulled into the traffic heading to the Interstate. It would take them about 20 minutes to get to their destination. Plenty of time to read a chapter (or at least a couple of tortuous pages) she thought disconsolately.
Danika and her mother struck up a light-hearted conversation about Danika’s music and what her plans were after high school. Her sister was so talented; she was going to do big things. Of that, Caitriona was certain.
Caitriona opened Call of the Wild to the last chapter she’d read and buried her head in the book as Danika changed lanes and began to merge onto the highway.
“I can’t believe how heavy the rain is,” their mother murmured, her eyes fixed on the road ahead of her.
“Relax mom, I’ve got this,” Danika said, easily merging onto Hwy 9, a long, two lane highway that connected three Washington state counties.
“How was school today, Catie?” her mom asked.
“Eh,” Caitriona replied. She tolerated school at best. Her grades certainly weren’t stellar, but neither was she a poor performer either. She was far more interested in reading and would often curl up for hours with a good book and cup of cocoa.
“There isn’t anything I should know about, is there?” her mom asked, concern clearly etched in her voice.
“Nothing that can’t be fixed before parent night,” Caitriona replied, opening the assigned reading and sighing loudly.
“Caitriona, you don’t realize it now, but school is important. You need to . . .”
Caitriona gasped as she was thrown forward, the seat belt cutting into her flesh. She heard a horrendous metal-on-metal grinding. She screamed as the car began to roll. Her head whipped back unmercifully, and she felt something hard slam into her legs and chest. She screamed again, the sound mixing with her mother’s and Danika. She felt a large impact and then nothing. Everything was silent and still. Caitriona’s eyes started to close. She was vaguely aware of rough voices calling out to her.
“Mama,” she whispered. Her voice sounded small and far away. Her entire chest and rib cage hurt.
She heard people shouting, trying to pull open the driver side door. Her eyes felt heavy as she watched Danika being dragged from the car.
“Dani,” she croaked, but her mouth wouldn’t form the words. She felt tired. She relished the darkness. Perhaps if she fell asleep the pain in her chest and legs would go away. She blinked as she saw a handsome man reach across her, fumbling for her seat belt. “You’re going to be alright,” he kept telling her. She wondered if he really felt that way or if he was trying to convince himself.
She touched her forehead, and looked at her fingers. They were coated in blood. She started to cry. “Am I going to die?” she asked the stranger. He repeated the same words which sounded hollow and empty to her ears.
“Mama?” she asked again. She saw her mother’s lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling of the car. “Mama, mama,” she cried again and again, her arm reaching out for the arms that would no longer hold her.
The stranger grabbed her arms and pulled hard. She cried out as the pressure in her chest and legs finally subsided, but what came after was a wave of pain that made her nauseous. As the stranger pulled her into his arms and carried her from the wreckage, she had only one thought: she wanted to die with her mother and sister.
To read more about Caitriona Sinclair’s rescue, pick up your copy of Dark Awakening, available in print and digital format.
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(C) 2016 – 2021. Karlene Cameron, all rights reserved.