She had sat on this beach hundreds of times to watch the sunrise, but today’s sunrise was like none she had ever seen.
Maybe she did not feel the awe as the sunbeams broke through and spilled into the sky like she always had done because this time she was not alone. From her position, wrapped in her old blanket on the dry part of the beach, she could not make out the figure in the distance to be a man or woman. Just a dark, mysterious figure walking along the shore. She clutched on to the blanket as the morning breeze whispered a chill into the air. She was not focusing on the streams of pink, purple and blue that painted the sky into a beautiful masterpiece; she as watching the figure lurking by the sea. Almost as if he had heard her thoughts-how one could walk in the sea when it was so cold without letting out a shriek or jumping away- the figure stepped away. Now advancing towards the softer sand. The kind that, when feet are wet, clumps between toes. She wriggled her toes, reminding herself of the familiar comfort. When her gaze returned upwards, she was unnerved by how close the figure was. She could now see that it was not a man or a woman. It was a girl. A fragile creature, tall and skinny, cocooned in an oversized wax jacket. Tendrils of mousy hair flew outwards as the wind picked us, plucking them from where they were tucked into her hood. Even from a few yards away, Sara couldn’t help but gasp at the pallid complexion of this bird-like girl. She couldn’t have been older than twelve.
Motherhood had drilled an instinct into Sara that she could not restrain. Without a moment’s hesitation, she raced towards the girl, pulling the blanket with her. But just as quickly, the girl began to step backwards. Slowly at first, so Sara still had a chance of reaching her. “Wait!” Sara shouted desperately, thrusting the blanket forward for the girl to take. The girl stopped. When she was close enough to give the blanket, Sara was paralysed by what she saw. Motionless, her eyes welled with tears as she stared into the pale blue eyes, which she had not seen for over a decade. That small face the same heart shape as hers.
She smiled, parting her lips to reply. But all that was beyond her lips was blackness. Sara let out a piercing scream, reaching forward to touch her sister’s face. Though, it was too late. Joanna stepped backwards and was running away, back towards the sea. Too fast for Sara to reach her. Sinking to her knees, Sara watched the figure disappear in the distance. As she grabbed fistfuls of the blanket in front of her, the tears spilled down her cheeks. They were so full of pain that they silenced her. She could not sob; she could not cry out or scream.
And once again she was alone with the sunrise. Alone with the grief that had haunted her since she was twelve. Though, today it was not memories of Joanna that triggered the grief. It was her. She was there! So close, thought Sara. And I pushed her away.
The shrill ring of her mobile phone hit Sara with reality, her present world, not her past.
“Hi honey,” she steadied her voice just in time, “Yeah, I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Gathering up her belongings she walked away from the beach that would forever plague her mind with grief and transitioned back into the present, back to her husband and children, to her house, to her job.