Where the Rogue Waves Rage

Written in response to: Write a story in which someone returns to their hometown.... view prompt


Sad Fiction Contemporary

I came home for one reason.

They knew I hated it, at the beach, but it made sense why I would find them here. There was nowhere else for them to be today, and even though I really just wanted to be home with them, in our pinewood, A-frame cabin the forest, I met them at the shore break.

I stood beside my grandmother as she placed a sunflower in the wet sand, and we watched as the waves softly waded in and out, tempting to steal what belongs to the land – or worse, leave it there, tormenting them with the unbearable “why” question (they’d been asking themselves this every day for some time now, and if that damned sunflower stayed put, it would only make the longing for the answer even worse).

The waves were calmer today, another cruel joke. The sun was peeking out of the horizon, almost nervous to shine too bright, while the wind waited in the north end of the shore, daring the sun to do its best. Both knew, this place held nothing good. Maybe the whales, but even they only passed through, never staying long. Beneath the surface of the sea, the current hummed a lullaby in c minor, eager to put its dark secrets to sleep. 

Grandmother was cursing each wave that splashed against the cliffs.

“At least it’s kind of pretty,” I offered, putting my arm around her. She rolled her eyes, scoffing.

My grandfather was singing the same song I’d been hearing in my head for the last year, a somber tune like the undercurrent, but different. A hint of longing and love behind it. I moved over to him, humming along.

“That’s one of your best ones,” I said. The wind feathered in, turning the surface of the water white and spraying him with cool mist.

“Glad you like it, bud,” my grandfather tipped his baseball cap toward the sea.

I followed the flight patterns of the gulls, their squawking once an omen from the bluff, to find my mother down the beach. I hadn’t seen her walking the sand in years, but I knew what she was up to.

Next to her, I helped her find them, the barnacle-covered mussel shells that only I was foolish enough to collect when I was a child. We were never really beach-goers, despite being from an area known for just that; we preferred to take our chances in the snowy mountains northeast, a hunk of polished wood beneath us, clamped to our feet.

“There’s one!” I pointed to her left, at three shells, only one fully shaped, the others chipped and fragmented.

She leapt as her eyes found them, but just before she could pick it up, a gentle wave crept up and stole it in silence. We both watched the shell alligator-roll in slow motion, tumbling back to the sea.

I chuckled, “Gotta be quicker than that, Mom! You know I was always better at catching them than you.”

Dropping to her knees, my mother cursed the damned water for stealing her treasure, and a sob broke her into more pieces than the shell.

I rubbed her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll get some for you. Come on, stand up, walk with me. Let’s go see Grandma and Grandpa. Come on. Where’s Dad?”

My mother didn’t get up right away; she kept her head cradled in her hands, mourning the loss of those chipped shells. My eyes searched for my father up and down the beach until I found him, hands in his pockets, with his beard peeking out of his windbreaker hoodie, staring out at the water.

I whistled over to him. “Oy!”

My dad’s head swung in my direction, and even from where I stood, I saw his eyes widen. Not a second later, he was in motion, running towards us.

Patting her on the back, I said, “There he is! He’s coming over, Mom, come on, get up. He’ll help us find some. We’ll do it together. Like we used to.”

When my dad got to us, he wrapped his arms around my mom, rocking her gently. “I know, baby, I know,” his voice breaking with the waves.

“This is why I don’t like to come here,” I said, half-heartedly. “I’m down to pack up the car right now, and head out of here. Bet there’ll be snow there by the time we make it to those mountains.”

A cloud hovered over the sun for a moment, and its shadow greyed everything in sight.

“See, it’s already getting cooler. What’d’ya say? Ready to start snowboarding season early? We could be the only ones there! And if it’s not snowing yet, we’ll just stay until it is. You’ll right me a note for school, right Dad?” I joked.

My grandparents slowly approached us, and my parents stood up before they could fuss. All four of them hugged each other tightly. I put my jokes aside for a moment, and wrapped my arms around all of them. I remember when I first did this, and no one could believe I was tall enough to do it. “I’m not a baby, anymore,” I would say.

The water grazed against our feet, nudging us apart; we sprung back away from its reach. Our arms still around each other’s shoulders, we gazed out at it, listening to its rhythmic slapping.

“Guess we better go,” my grandmother sighed, somberly. “Where do you want to go for lunch?”

“Oh, oh! Let’s go to that little deli I like with the Bigfoot statue outside of it!” I suggested.

My dad huffed, “I’m not hungry.”

They all started to walk back up the beach, my grandparents bantering about which restaurants were better. Everyone except my mother, who remained sinking into the wet sand like one of the boulders infamously featured along this coastline.

You think you’re safe there, until you’re not.

“Bye, baby, I love you,” she whispered. Using both index fingers, she swiped away two tears threatening to cascade down her cheeks, and she turned around, unhurried, to catch up to the rest of my family.

Watching them walk away, off the beach and up onto the cliff, heading back home, I whispered back, “Bye, Mom, I love you, too.”

I could hear the whales calling out to me, like the lunch bell ringing. I felt the water rising against my legs as I stepped backwards into the sea, a gentler meeting than the last. I bent down slightly, dipped my hand into the water, and then I placed three full mussel shells right where my mom had been standing. The waves, like a murderer destroying the evidence, cleared away her footprints, leaving only the shells behind.

I came home for one reason: to see them one more time.

September 22, 2022 21:39

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Amanda Lieser
03:13 Sep 25, 2022

Hi Anne Marie! Holy cow this was a good one. I think I loved the most how you kept an eerie undertone to this piece. I was incredibly intrigued, but felt good bumps the whole way. I think my favorite line was: You think you’re safe there, until you’re not. This piece did feel very poetic to me-almost like Annabelle Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. Nice job!


AnneMarie Miles
15:21 Sep 26, 2022

Hi again Amanda :) This was a personal piece and it was hard to give too much here. But I'm glad the eeriness held throughout the story. That is my favorite line, too. I've written a few poems about this so it may have translated a bit here. Again, thanks for reading and commenting! I appreciate you!!


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