The winter before Anna turned twelve, Anna performed in her first Nutcracker as Clara in the first act. Her parents were Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince. Anna was in heaven. This is how it will always be, she thought as she sat in Jack’s car after opening night. Mom and Dad and me dancing in the same performance. They’d had Jack take plenty of pictures after the performance to commemorate the first “family performance” of many. Although Anna was still young, her dancing talent was rapidly becoming the talk of the studio and was expected to become one of the youngest members of the company in history.
Anna always rode home with Jack after opening nights and it had become a game between her and Jack and her parents as to who could make it home first. They never did anything dangerous, but there an extra scoop of ice cream was awarded to the winning car and plenty of teasing for the loosing car when they got home.
Anna was giggling from Jack tickling her knee on the bridge when suddenly a loud crash and screeching of brakes came from behind. Jack looked in the rearview mirror and slammed on the brakes, pulling to the side of the bridge.
“Anna, stay in the car and do not look behind you” Jack instructed breathlessly as he wrenched opened the driver’s side door and ran towards where the sound had come from.
Anna didn’t understand what was going on and was more than a little upset. For a few minutes she played with the hair ribbons from her costume that she’d forgotten to remove after changing out of her costume. This was going to cost her a scoop of ice cream and that was all she cared about. Jack was a caring person and helped out people whenever he could, but they were going to lose the race home. He’d even made sure that he’d gotten out of the parking garage before her parents and had just made a comment about her parent’s sedan behind them.
Behind them…? A sinking feeling in her stomach formed as Anna thought about what Jack had said. Without thinking she slowly unbuckled her seatbelt and turned around. Several cars had stopped behind the car and their headlights shown into Anna’s face. She squinted and could see shadows of people getting out of their cars. In the minimal light available she could see a gap in the railing of the bridge and people looking over the side into the water.
Without thinking about it, Anna opened the car door and began walking in the direction of the gap. She could see where the metal of the pedestrian railing had been ripped apart and the outer railing was bowed. She heard people talking, making out the words “water” and “car” and “over the edge” and could heard sirens in the distance. Nothing really sunk in until she saw Jack’s pale face turn towards her. She knew he was pale because his were the only features she could make out of the crowd. The wind picked up and one of her hair ribbons flicked her cheek but she barely felt it. All she could feel was a sense of dread washing over her.
Jack walked towards her with tears glistening on his cheeks in the headlights of the nearby cars. Jack didn’t cry, Anna thought in a panic. Why was he crying?
Anna walked unthinkingly to the side of the bridge and looked down. In the light from the bridge she could make out a dark rectangular shape in the water. Suddenly, a bright light appeared from above and she could make out the bottom of a car sinking slowly into the water below. The sound of a helicopter slowly rang in her ears though she didn’t acknowledge the sound.
“Nooooo!” The scream tore from her throat, drawing startled looks from the surrounding crowd. She clawed at the railing, trying helplessly to reach for the car, as if by sheer willpower she could lift it back onto the bridge. Or if she couldn’t pull the car up, then she could go down to it. As she felt herself pitching forward, strong arms grabbed her from behind around her waist and she heard Jack say her name. She struggled against his grip but he was much stronger than her and determined to keep her from going over the edge. Finally, she gave up and her legs gave way underneath her. Jack knelt behind her and held her tightly as they both cried together. She knew without him saying the words that the car below was her parent’s car and they were gone.