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(C)Copyright 1996 by Ronald Rand

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V

Upon nearing second street, Richard's tears had stopped. His heartbeat sped up, and an odd sense of numbness ran through him. In his heart, he prayed to himself that if there was a God in heaven, he wouldn't find Samantha's car in the lake under the bridge at second street. The turn was sharp, and anyone taking it at over 30 miles per hour would be in trouble. He knew she would have been in a hurry to see the new house.

He slowed the car as he got close to the bridge. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know. He neared the bridge slowly, approaching the corner around Perry Hill.

"Whoa, baby," he said to her.

The sun was setting at the horizon, and the moon was visible in the final remnants of daylight.

"Shut up and hang on," Samantha told him. He did just that.

The Budweiser he'd drank at the last rest stop caused his head to swoon. The hills they flew over sent his stomach doing flip-flops. Samantha took the country roads at over 65 miles per hour — the speed limit was 35.

"I don't know if you're a good driver, or just crazy," he said. "But I couldn't do that."

"Just crazy," she said.

Samantha had the biggest lead-foot. She could never go less than ten miles per hour over the speed limit.

"Don't ever do this when I'm not in the car, okay, hon?" Richard said. "I don't want anything to happen to you."

She slowed down.

"But what about you?" she asked. "I don't want anything to happen to you, either."

"Well, at least this way, we'll both go out together," Richard said.

"Richard," Samantha said. "I could never live without you, you know that?"

She kept driving, this time at the speed limit. She looked over at him.

"And I'm just so happy to be with you."

"I know, Samantha," Richard said. He took her right hand and kissed it. "I couldn't ever be with anyone else, either." He held her hand and stroked it while she drove.

"If anything ever happened to you, I just don't know what I'd do," she said. Her eyes turned a glossy, deep green.

"Maybe we should stop and find a hotel," he said. "Then in the morning, we'll drive the rest of the way to the cabin."

"Good idea," she said. "I'm feeling a little bit tired."

Nearing the curve at Perry Hill, Richard prepared himself for the worst. He took the Polaroid from the passenger seat next to him and placed it against his chest. He said a silent prayer, and faced his fears.

As he drove around the curve, he screeched the car to a halt.

At the other end of the bridge, traffic had come to a complete stop.

Lights were flashing red, blue, and orange, and men in blue uniforms were swooning around, and writing on tiny tablets. A group of firemen were huddled around an area of the bridge where the metal bars were torn away. A semi sat in the middle of the bridge, looking as if it had collided into, or been hit by, an oncoming car. Richard's heart sank deep into his chest, as all of his fears were seeming to become real.

He tried to cry, but he couldn't, because there were no more tears left.

I'll never let anything happen to you, he remembered saying to Samantha.

What kind of a sick joke was that?

He looked out through his windshield as the driver of the truck stood there, talking to police officers. He looked stunned.

Richard saw a group of people, and he thought to himself, that's not Samantha's family.

He looked at the semi and everything seemed to make sense at last. Everything was a mistake. He thought to himself, these people had nothing to do with Samantha. This is all nothing but a sick, morbid coincidence!

At that moment, he began to laugh so hard, that his stomach started hurting. He began to look at the whole incident as though he were an outsider. The whole thing was a big mistake on his part. Samantha was probably at the house already. Then, it occured to him, there was still no explanation about why Samantha had never showed up at the house. No mistake would explain whose car the semi sent crashing through the bars and over the bridge, and it sure as hell didn't explain the deep-down gut feeling that something was so terribly wrong in the world.

Then he saw it, creeping up over the side of the bridge. The crane was pulling something up out of the water below. A noise rumbled from within the crane, and it's gears shifted as it heaved a gushing hunk of metal from the lake. The smashed up car was indeed a Corvette like Samantha's, and the body of the driver that slumped over the steering wheel seemed to be a female.

Samantha said, "If anything ever happened to you, I just don't know what I'd do."

"I could never live without you either," he told her. He kissed her hand.

"There'll be plenty of time for talking later when you meet him in heaven," he said.

"Then I can wake up in your arms every morning, and when I have nightmares, I can wake up next to you," she said.

Richard stepped on the accelerator hard and drove. He never before felt the way he did at that moment, in his whole life. He just had to see Samantha right now, and he didn't want to live without her. He held his breath and parked his car in the deep, watery grave where Samantha's had just been exhumed. If he couldn't be her partner in life, he would have to be her partner in death.

 
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