The lump was in his throat again.
The first drops of the rain they’d been promising all day fell on the windscreen.
He turned on the wipers.
By the time he got to the motorway, it was raining heavily. As he filtered into the traffic there were flashes of lightening and claps of thunder. He turned on the radio to try and drain out the noise. He pushed his right foot down to the floor, bringing Binky up to her top speed. The music matched his mood. Rousing rock. He was going to fight this and he was going to win.
He steered Binky into the middle lane. The rain was now pouring over the windscreen like a waterfall. The wipers were going full speed, but he still couldn’t see all that well. As he overtook the slower cars and lorries he also had to put up with the spray and the buffeting from the side wind as he drove out of their shelter.
He would have to be careful as he crossed the Hamble Bridge. Binky was quite light and could easily be blown off course. He lifted his foot slightly off the accelerator. Best not to go too fast in this.
He noticed the grey car first of all in his side-view mirror. A Saab, he thought. What was the idiot doing? He was going to hit him. He quickly looked in his rear-view mirror. No, he couldn’t get in to the third lane. Chances were, even if he did, the Saab would still smash into him.
It was going to happen. There was nothing he could do.
Don’t try to straighten up if he makes you skid, he thought to himself. Steer into the skid.
He tried to relax his grip on the steering wheel. But not altogether – at least it was something to hang on to.
There was a thud.
He felt Binky begin to spin. She seemed to be going in slow motion. They were going towards the parapet of the bridge across the Hamble. Would they hit another car? If they hit the bridge would it hold?
He felt the car slap into the bridge and then he heard the stone begin to crumble. For a few seconds, he was up in the air, looking at the blue Ford Fiesta falling towards the river.
Was the tide in or out? Which would be better? If the water was deep, the fall might not do so much damage. The water would cushion it. But then, he might not be able to get out. If the tide was out, the water would be so shallow that the car would hit the river bed and both of them would be smashed to pieces.
Why was he up here looking down? Where was his body, actually?
In the car. Then he was in the car and it was plunging through the green-grey water. It seemed an age before it hit the riverbed, but hit it it did. With a silent thud which shook every bone in his body and made his teeth clench.
He sat still for a moment. Think. What to do? There was no water in her yet. But he must get out and that would mean getting wet and swimming up through the water.
He wriggled out of his denim jacket. That would get too wet and weigh him down. It wasn’t easy get it off, what with the air bag and the seat belt.
He could hear the water glugging into the car.
He’s better get out quick.
He tried to open the door. It wouldn’t budge. He would have to try the window. He leant forward towards the glove compartment. The biggest, heaviest thing in there was the handbook. He tried to smash first the windscreen than the side window with it. Neither would give.
The water was coming into the car faster and faster now.
He remembered what they’d learnt about saving lives in his swimming lessons. He used the old shirt he kept as a rag in the van to make a sort of inflatable. This might help.
The water was up to his chin now. He still couldn’t get the door or the window open. He used his air-filled shirt for breathing. But it was no good. That was getting wet as well. He held his breath for as long as he could. Then there was nothing for it but to let the water into his mouth, into his nostrils, into his lungs.
He thought he was going to burst. It was really painful for a few seconds.
Then he felt sort of peaceful. It didn’t hurt to breathe any more. The water looked beautiful. He felt warm and cosy, sleepy almost.
A bright light hit the water. Tom watched fascinated as it spread through the grey-green murk until that gradually turned to light as well. Tom felt as if he was drifting towards it, though he could still feel the seat of the car holding him and the airbag pressing on his chest. How could he breathe, though? The water filled the whole car and it had been like that for several minutes already. Just how long could you live without oxygen?
The light became so bright he could see nothing else.
They must be coming to get me, he thought. I’ll be out of here soon.
“Not yet, sunshine,” he heard a voice saying. “Don’t look at it.”
Strong arms grabbed him and pulled him away from the light. Then it all went black and he felt as if he was tumbling.