Tears Across the Waves

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.

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.


by John Hansen © 2014

Tears Across the Waves

Inspiration for Story

This was originally published on HubPages as a response to a photo prompt by Ann Carr. It was a painting she had done of a girl looking out to sea. I can’t use her painting here but I just needed to resurrect the story. Thank you for reading.



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John Hansen

Longtime poet but not in the traditional technical sense. I enjoy rhyme but like to experiment and dabble in many different forms and maybe even make up some of my own. There is always a message or lesson I want to promote through my writing, for that reason, my poetry generally shies away from the abstract and obscure. After a lot of procrastinating I have finally self-published my first eBook of poetry "I Laughed a Smile" at Lulu.com. Now I find myself branching out and experimenting with short fiction. I have also been fortunate to have two poems chosen to be made into songs and recorded. The first "On the Road to Kingdom Come" by Al Wordlaw, and the second, "If I Could Write a Love Poem" by award-winning Israeli/British singer Tally Koren. I am also finding my services increasingly in demand as a freelance writer and I have ghost-written the text for a number of children's books and educational tutorials. It has taken me many years of searching and restlessness to realise that my life's passion is to write. It saddens me that I wasted so many years not devoting to that, but thinking positively, the experiences gained over those years are now wonderful material for my stories and poems. I want to try to bring a new focus on poetry and try to make it appealing to a new generation of young people and those who thought they never liked or understood it before.

12 thoughts on “Tears Across the Waves

  • January 3, 2019 at 9:25 PM

    Thank you for reading this Ralph, your comment is much appreciated.

  • January 3, 2019 at 10:40 PM

    A sad story indeed and very well-written. I could feel Lilly’s pain through your excellent phrasing. Well done, John.

  • January 4, 2019 at 3:56 PM

    I like it John , I may actually remember commenting on HP to this , There is enough tragedy around these days for all of us ,incidentally I find that instead of thinking of my own hardships in life I simply find that there are many who’ve experienced way worse .
    Anyways , nice one my friend!

  • January 4, 2019 at 4:10 PM

    Thank you Ed, yes that is so so true, there is a lot of tragedy in the world and there is always someone worse off then us. Take care my friend.

  • January 5, 2019 at 11:09 AM

    You brought tragic events to life here John, we live in a tragic world indeed. I have seen enough in my time, you brought tragedy as a reminder of how fleeting life is. We must make the best of every second, minute and hour of each passing day, we never know when our time is up and how tragically it may end. Peace my friend.

  • February 12, 2019 at 10:30 PM

    If a writer can make us grieve for someone who never existed, he has succeeded.

    Very good, John. I enjoyed this.

  • February 12, 2019 at 11:31 PM

    Good to see you, Will. Thank you for reading and that encouraging comment. I am glad I succeeded in making you grieve for Heather.

  • April 9, 2019 at 7:46 AM

    Tragedy and loss are universal truth. So we are moved by your story.


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