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Tears Across the Waves, a Short Story

Updated on June 14, 2021
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John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.

Annart's Challenge

In annart's wonderful article THE RICHNESS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: What does it Mean to You as a Writer? Learn it Well; Use it to Good Effect she issued the following challenge.

This is a photo. This is a painting. I challenge you to make a story from this. Paint a story. Capture the photo in your words. (For the purposes of this challenge, hubbers have my permission to use this photo - with the appropriate attribution please.)

Below is the Ann's painting:


Tears Across the Waves

I stand in the shallow water, gentle waves lapping at my ankles, the rising sun creating a myriad of colours across the sea - all the way to the horizon.To me it seems like God is sending me a sign, lighting my way so I could just step out and walk across the water.

My parents have a beach house up on the hill, just 100 yards or so from where I stand. Rough wooden steps lead down to the beach. We came here every Summer. My Mom and Dad, twin sister Heather, and myself. It was our Heaven on Earth.

Burnham Beach was always my favourite place, so peaceful and beautiful. But that was before .. before the tragedy.


My name is Lilly. I am 10 years and two weeks old. This is the first time we have been back to the beach house ..since..

I let my mind recount the events. It is all still so clear, as though it happened just last week.

Heather and I had just turned eight. We had actually celebrated the night before and our Mom had baked a yummy cake with 16 candles for the both of us to blow out at once. As well as sisters we were also best friends. Our life was carefree and full of fun and adventure. We spent all our spare holiday time, for as long as I can remember, at this beach.

As soon as we woke in the morning Heather and I would eat breakfast, then watch the clock (Daddy always said to wait for an hour after eating before going into the water to avoid cramps). But as soon as that hour was up, we'd already be in our swimsuits, grab our towels, and race each other down to the beach.

Mommy and Daddy didn't mind us going going off alone. They'd taught us beach and water safety and to always stick together. Besides, we were good swimmers.. or so we thought.


We had built an amazing sandcastle together. Heather was just the best at it. She was smarter than me at school and sometimes helped me cheat. Because we were identical we would sometimes swap places in a test. I think she was prettier too, but everyone else says we looked exactly the same. Anyway, we built the sand castle too close to the water and the quickly rising tide soon washed it away. It was so sad.

We decided to forget the castle and go for a swim. The weather was fine with just a slight sea breeze and the water calm, though the swell was increasing steadily. We had fun body surfing and competing to see who could ride the waves furthest into shore.

After about 30 minutes I decided to leave the water and lie on my towel on the beach to dry off and improve my tan. Heather stayed in the water .. in fact Heather never came out.

I must have dozed off for a few minutes, though it seemed like just seconds, when something startled me awake. I sat up and looked out to where we had been swimming. Heather wasn't there! I began to panic. I jumped quickly to my feet, looking left and right, out into the waves which seemed to have grown a lot since I had been on the beach.

Then I saw her! Way off to the left of where she'd been last time I saw her, an much further out. I waved my hands frantically and called out loudly, "Heather, come back in!" I saw her wave one arm in the air as if in reply.. but then she disappeared, as a wave crashed over her.

I raced down the beach and into the water, swimming out as far as I dared, but it was hard against the waves. "Heather!" I spluttered, but she was nowhere to be seen. The sea had swallowed my twin sister.

Gower Lighthouse
Gower Lighthouse | Source

The search went on for days. The Coast Guard and helicopters searched the entire area, but there was no trace. Heather was gone forever.

Nothing has been the same since. Losing a twin is like losing a part of your own body. My parents don't talk about it much, but they seem to fight a lot .. something they never did before Heather disappeared. Maybe they blame me - I know I do. We were told to "always stay together."

The police investigators and lifeguards said she was caught in a rip. They said it was something Burnham Beach was infamous for. No one had told us! Today there are signs "SWIM BETWEEN THE FLAGS." Two years ago these weren't there.

As the sun rose higher the stream of light it cast across the sea diminished. The path leading me to Heather's watery grave disappeared, and so did my thoughts of wading out to be with her. I hung my head and sat down on the beach .. a silent tear ran down my cheek and dropped onto the sand. A gentle wave came in embraced it, then took it out to sea .. and to Heather.


What emotion did you feel when viewing annart's painting?

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© 2014 John Hansen


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