The Brightest Sunset(3)By: Aly Martinez
“Catherine!” I bellowed as I dove into the frigid water, fully clothed.
Adrenaline had taken over.
It took no less than seven hundred years for me to reach that car. And with every second that passed, when none of their heads popped up from beneath the surface, a part of me died. I was vaguely aware of people yelling from the bridge above me, and then I caught sight of a man diving in from the opposite side of the banks. But I was too focused on my never-ending journey to reach my family to find any relief in the fact that people had stopped to help.
By the time I got to the car, the front end was underwater, the roof only partially visible and the bumper stuck up in the air like a buoy.
My heart was beating so fast I feared it would explode. And that would have been fine by me, as long as it lasted long enough for me to pull them to safety first.
“Travis!” I frantically tried to pull open his door to no avail. “I’m coming, buddy. Hang tight!” I yelled, clueless if he could hear me or not. But I needed him to know I was there. I slammed my fists against the window, but the only thing that broke was the flesh on my knuckles.
My mind swirled to figure a way in until I heard his garbled cry.
My heart stopped, and the world shattered around me.
“I’m right here! I’m gonna get you out!” Cupping my hands on either side of my face to block the sun out, I peered inside the back window.
Catherine was holding him, his back to her chest, a trail of blood pouring from her eyebrow. Travis’s head was craned back, his hands flailing against the surface, and his mouth hung open, gasping for air as the water rose around them.
“Catherine!” I screamed, beating on the glass. “Unlock the door. Give him to me!”
But she didn’t move. Her cold, glassy eyes stared back at me as her chin disappeared under the water.
“No! No! No!” I chanted. Scanning the inside of the car, I noticed the front windows had been opened an inch and water was pouring in through them.
After sucking in a lung full of air, I went under water. The river was murky and I could only make out shapes rather than details, but I managed to find the front door. Hooking my fingers over the top of the glass, I pulled as hard as I possibly could, using my feet to add leverage. It shattered in my hands, the bite of the glass not even registering amongst the adrenaline.
After climbing into the sinking car, I headed straight up to the air pocket.
“Get out of here!” I yelled at Catherine, shoving her and Travis toward the window.
Panic ricocheted through my system when I saw Hannah’s car seat completely submerged. Frantic, I went straight to her and began the tedious task of getting her out with shaking fingers. Each strap and buckle becoming a victory all of its own.
When I got back to the pocket, I pushed Hannah into the air. She wasn’t conscious, but I prayed that air would miraculously fill her lungs. My stomach dropped when Catherine was still there, Travis kicking and flailing in her arms, his face almost completely under water.
“Come on!” I ordered, grabbing the front of her shirt and pulling her with me as I swam out as fast as I could with my unmoving daughter tucked in the crook of my arm.
When I breached the surface, I lifted Hannah’s tiny body high, treading water while I spun in a circle, waiting to see the tops of Catherine’s and Travis’s heads emerge.
For those seconds, everything stopped.
Nothing around me mattered.
Not the freezing water.
Not the sirens blaring in the distance.
Not the bile clawing up the back of my throat.
Nothing but those two dark heads I so desperately needed to pop up.
“Come on, come on, come on,” I prayed as I swam to the bank with what I feared was my baby girl’s lifeless body.
I didn’t even look at the person I handed her off to before I started swimming back toward that car, my heart in my throat, the weight of a thousand ships on my chest.
Only the bumper was sticking out of the water, and it felt as though my life were slipping away with that car.
Where the fuck were they?
Diving back down, I swam back into the car.
And then, all at once, every single question I never wanted answered became clear when I once again found them inside that car.