The world seemed to spin slightly to the left, and as her head throbbed, it was as if the oranges and yellows and reds and greens of the leaves swirled together to make a colorful tornado that would suck her up to a more pleasant place.
But even as she thought this through the pain in her collarbone thumped throughout her body and she felt like her whole right side was on fire.
“Candice!” her mother’s voice reported, echoing off the trees around them.
Candice realized her mother had been yelling for her all along, but the sound was distant. The sensation of hearing but not realizing the sound was intended for her reminded her of when she was exhausted and her alarm rang, but instead of waking her up her dream continued with the added audio.
“Candice, are you able to move?” came her father’s voice.
She tilted her head to the side. He was crouching down beside her, with the warm glow from the sun’s light haloing his head. He had the same loving face he always wore.
“How are you here?” she said, looking in her father’s eyes and smiling.
For a split second, she felt like she had indeed been taken to a more pleasant place, but her mother’s cries brought her back to reality. Candice sighed and closed her eyes. After a beat, she looked back over, and her father was gone, but the warmth of his memory soothed her a little.
Sitting up brought a loud sigh of relief from her mother who was still trying to descend the ravine. She waddled down with her puffy pink coat, and Candice wondered if she ever saw Daddy.
Finally reaching her daughter, Candice’s mother surveyed the damage while boisterously saying how worried she was about her daughter.
“I’m fine, Mom, just a little dazed is all.”
“A little dazed? You fell nearly 50 feet down that ravine and banged into that trunk. Goodness, gracious! If you hadn’t been wearing your helmet who knows what would have happened.”
“I would have probably have died.” Candice sat up and unbuckled the strap wrapped around her chin using one hand. She removed the headgear with the same hand and rubbed her head. “I think I still got a concussion though.”
“Don’t talk like that. The good Lord would have saved you, I’m sure of it.”
Candice went to stand up, putting her weight on both hands and wincing. She gritted her teeth but still let out a slight gasp, and her mother’s face opened in concern. Her eyebrows shot up, her mouth spread and her cheeks rose as if the pain was fatal and any more would be the end of her daughter.
“Where does it hurt, Candy?”
“Mom, I told you to stop calling me that. Makes me seem dirty.”
“But candy is so sweet.”
Candice took a deep breath, wishing she had been knocked unconscious. She tested her wrists to see if they were broken, moving up her arms and finally feeling her shoulder bone and wincing again. She tried to shrug and realized only one side would go up while the other just hurt.
“I think I broke my shoulder or collarbone or something.”
“Can you walk?”
Candice shut her eyes and rubbed her head with her good hand, almost yelling the obvious reply back but instead rolling over so that her feet could assist in her stand. On her feet, she ignored her mother as she voiced how happy she was that her daughter was able to walk.
“Where’s my bike?” Candice said, looking around the blanket of orange and red leaves that had helped break her fall a little. She prodded a little with her trailblazers but found nothing, looking to her mother for answers.
Her mother pointed at the tree she had banged into with her head. Stuck on one of the lower branches was her mountain bike. Despite being made of metal, the front handlebars and rim of the tire were bent inward, and she assumed the damage had come from the tumble and not from hitting the tree. Now the bike was suspended, the branch sticking through the spokes. The back wheel was still spinning slowly.
“Guess I’m not riding out of here.”
“You could ride my bike?”
“What will you ride then?”
“What I meant to say was you can ride on my bike. Like on the front. I’ve seen people do that in movies.”
“I’m not convinced that’s safe, but I guess we do have a solid 5K before we get back to the main hub.”
“I just can’t believe there’s a ravine in a state forest! You would think they would have this set up so that people would be safe.”
“I think the idea is to preserve the land, so they couldn’t modify it for safety and still keep it preserved.”
“You know what I mean,” Candice’s mother said, putting on a pouty face.
Candice left the idea alone and hobbled back up the ravine with her mother behind her for support. She continually ignored her mother’s pleas for caution with every step, and she wished her father was still around. He was normally the one to go with her to Coopers Rock, but her mother insisted she fill in the gap his absence left. Though she was annoying, if Candace had crashed alone it would have been worse, and she was at least grateful for that.
She was even more grateful that the ravine she had fallen into was not one of the rocky ledges the forest was known for.
They made it back to the top of the ravine, and some hikers had already stopped, noticing the mountain bike parked at the top. They offered to help, and despite Candace saying they would handle it, her mother persuaded the people to turn back and find an official to come ferry her baby to safety.
Until their help arrived, Candice opted to walk, and her mother walked her bike alongside her. She jabbered on about how happy she was that nothing bad had happened, forgetting in that small amount of time that her daughter had a broken collarbone and multiple scratches covering her limbs.
She never knew what her father saw in her mother. Still, despite that notion, Candice knew it had been hard with their father’s absence, so she tried to cut her mother some slack. In the end, as annoying and unsuccessful she was in general, Candice knew her mother loved her and was doing her best.