It’s my favourite journey of the year. I travel down the motorway singing along to Christmas Carols that are playing on the radio, and anticipate going through the front door of my family home and seeing the whole family gathered together again.
The car is packed full of gifts and food and my suitcase, as I’m staying for a few days as I always do. I look forward to the sight and smells of a log fire glowing in the hearth, and my family gathered around it. I hope that this year, Uncle Bernard will keep his fierce opinions to himself. I involuntarily raise my eyebrows as I think of him and the arguments that he has caused.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of white. Before I know what is happening, my car is struck from the side, and propelled forward. It ends up in front of the lorry that hit it, being pushed along sideways. I can no longer hear the radio. All I can hear is the sound of a blood-curdling scream that goes on and on. It takes me a few seconds to realise that the sound is coming from within me.
As the sideways motion continues, images fly through my mind. A table set for Christmas dinner with all of my family seated and a space where my seat should have been. A baby seat in the back of my car: not the current car but an unknown car from a future that may never happen. My boyfriends face.
I cling to the steering wheel as a drowning man would cling to a life raft. Everything feels like it is happening in slow motion.
Finally the movement stops. It takes me a while to realise that I am going to be ok, and as the car remains motionless facing the edge of the motorway, it is as if silence has descended on the world. Then reality hits me as I see the traffic racing past me and my ears start working again. I have to get off the road.
The lorry driver helps to push my car onto the hard shoulder. He apologises, in broken English, for not seeing my car. The police arrive and take down our details and I then get back into the car and drive slowly home. Later the car will be declared a write-off, yet I am completely unharmed apart from shock.
After everyone has heard all the details at least once, and stopped flapping around me, I sit by the roaring fire, warming my hands on a mug of hot chocolate. I listen to Uncle Bernard giving the room his opinion on the latest news bulletin, and smile. As I gaze at my family one by one, absorbing the details of their faces in a completely new way, I know that for me, this will be the best Christmas ever.