Did you ever forget a friend? Someone that used to mean a lot to you, but then they lost their hold on you. Became no one to you. I think I have. Sometimes I see her face at night when I go to bed. The face of a young girl. Sitting next to my bed. Sometimes she is laughing. Other times she is trying to tell me something. Sometimes I can almost hear her voice. I am not gonna lie. It has bothered me.
Not that life isn’t filled with things that bother us from time to time. Sitting like this on the bus, staring out the window, I almost get the feeling that she is sitting next to me. Singing some stupid song. Did we use to sing that song together?
I got a secret you wanna now, Nananana
I am pretty sure I haven’t heard that song somewhere else, or maybe I have? Maybe I’ve heard it on the radio and I just forgot? People forget, right?
So, I got a secret you wanna now, Nananana
I turn towards the empty bus seat next to me. There is no one sitting there. I know that. Didn’t really need to look. Yet, when I turn towards the window again I can hear that voice again. That young girl’s voice. Singing that silly song.
So, I got a secret you wanna now, Nananana
Shit, I haven’t been paying attention. This is my stop. I get up quickly. Hurry towards the door. Get out of the bus just in time to see mum coming towards me.
“Oh, finally Sophia,” she says with this huge smile on her face, “you are here.”
“Ahh, mum, don’t make a fuss.”
“My little girl’s back from the big city of course I have to make a fuss,” she says, turning to one of the other people on the bus station. “You seen my daughter’s name in the papers I bet,” I don’t know the man who she is saying this too, but he seems to know mum, at least he is smiling, “big shot journalist now, my little girl.”
“Mum, I’m not really a big shot journalist, I have written like two articles so far.” She interrupts me, “I know, I know, but still it is obvious that you are going places.” I am not sure that it is so obvious, but there is really no point in arguing with mum.
“Dad I thought you said you would get me some nice weather if I came home?”
It is raining. Like really shitty raining. Feels like a storm is coming.
“Oh you know, sweetheart, I have had some trouble controlling the weather these last few years,” he smiles, kisses my forehead, just like he used to when I was little kid. “Good to have you home,” he grabs my bag, already on his way with it up to my room. He got a bad back, but it is impossible to get him to stop carrying my luggage.
Mum has opened the doors to the terrace. She is standing there looking out at those waves. They are big tonight. I know that I shouldn’t like it, but there is something about it. When the waves get big and angry, crashes into the beach like that, there is some kind of excitement that can’t really be explained. Mum turns to look at me.
“You’re probably hungry, I’ll fix you something.”
There really is no point in protesting, she will fix me some food for sure.
I close my eyes for a moment after mum has gone back into the house. Probably a stupid thing to do when I’m this tired. I just like the sound of the waves.
I’m not telling you where I wanna go
It is so fucked up. It is like I can hear that song. Hear it mingled in with the waves.
Not telling you, about my beach oh no
Makes no sense at all. I don’t even like songs about the beach. They’re always too cheerful. Don’t like them at all.
Not telling you, just because I can
“Your mum got some sandwiches for us in the kitchen, if your hungry?” dad has come out on the terrace. He is not much for big waves and bad weather.
“Sure,” I open my eyes, at least I can’t hear that song anymore. Maybe I have been working too much lately? That could be it. Trying and trying, not really getting it right.
The sandwiches really do look great. I can feel myself getting hungry just looking at them.
“So, are you working on something now?” mum says as I sit down by the kitchen table. I take a big bite of the sandwich, making it hard to answer.
“Yeah, I guess,” I say as soon as I’m done chewing. “Just been thinking about old friends lately.”
“Oh, old friends,” she does try too look excited, but I know how the idea sounds. Doesn’t sound like much.
“No, I know it sounds boring, but I have just been thinking about how they can affect you without you even knowing it.”
“I think it sounds like a very good idea,” dad says, before taking a bite out of his sandwich.
“I’m sure you can make it into something great, you always do,” mum adds, looking down on her own sandwich, like she isn’t sure if she really was hungry.
“I was just thinking,” I hesitate, put the sandwich down, “did I use to know someone named Sally?”
“Sally?” mum looks up, looks at dad, “No I don’t think so, do you remember a Sally, Frank?”
He is still chewing.
“Sally?” he mumbles, “was she your age?”
“No, I think she was a bit older,” I am pretty sure she was. Strange feeling. Sometimes I feel like she still is, even with her silly songs that I don’t really want to hear.
“A lot older?” he says, taking another bite of his sandwich.
“I don’t know, maybe like 3-4 years?”
“No, I’m sorry sweetheart, I don’t remember you having any friends that were that much older than you.”
I look at mum, but she doesn’t seem to be paying attention anymore. Has finally taken a bite of her own sandwich.
I have left the window open, even if it is raining. I just like to lie in bed, listening to the rain pouring down outside. Makes me feel safe. Closing my eyes, putting my head down on the pillow.
And the sand so white and the waves so blue
That stupid song again. I open my eyes. It is like it is coming from the window. Coming from the beach.
And the stars look down you
“I don’t get it,” I say it out loud. Doesn’t feel like a good sign to start saying things like that, when I am all alone. “What damn beach?”
And I’m living there, living there if I can
I get up. Go towards the window. Close it.
“I didn’t even know you,” I bite my lip. Shouldn’t have said anything. Feel so dumb. Mum and dad would have thought I was crazy if they had heard me. There wasn’t a Sally, there was no damn beach and there probably isn’t gonna be an article either. I’ll just have to come up with something else, something interesting, something worth writing about. I’m sure I can do it.
I close my eyes. Try to fall asleep. It is just so hard. I want to open the window again. Listen to the rain. Listen to those waves. Just can’t help it. I get up again. Walk towards that window. Open it again. Stand there staring out towards those waves that come crashing into the beach. Should I give up on the story? Mum has always said that I am good at adding something extra to a story. Maybe I can just add something extra to this one? I am sure that I can figure out something interesting. So mum and dad didn’t know about this friend, maybe somebody else did? Right? That is what every good journalist does. They find the story. Sally was my friend. I am sure. Sally was silly. Liked to sing songs. Liked the beach. She was older than me, but I could tag along. I am pretty sure. Pretty sure about Sally.
“Do you remember me mentioning someone called Sally?”
“What do you mean?” Dana looks up from her coffee cup. We always used to play together when we were kids, if I had a friend named Sally she would know. “I don’t think so.”
“Oh,” I can’t help feeling disappointed.
“Why are you asking?”
“I was just thinking of writing an article about friends that we forget.”
She has that unimpressed look on her face, the same one that mum and dad tried to hide, but I have been thinking about it. I really have, and I think I know how to add something extra. I do.
“I have been thinking of calling it Secret Beach.”
“You are going to write an article called Secret Beach?” She looks strange when I say it, almost a little bit nervous.
“Yeah, you see I think I had a friend named Sally when I was younger,” I sigh, “and although I seem to have forgotten all about her I am pretty sure she took me to a beach.”
“Okay,” Dana says. She is biting her lip. Not really a Dana thing to do. Doesn’t suit her. She really isn’t a nervous person. “And you have talked about this with Mary and Frank?”
“Well no, not about the title, but I have asked them about Sally.”
“Oh,” she hesitates, “I’m not so sure about that article, Sophia, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“What do you mean, I can’t write that article? It is just an article about forgetting a friend.” Dana is being so stupid, doesn’t even want to look at me. Just sits there holding her coffee cup. “Right, Dana?” Are her hands shaking? Seems so odd, when did Dana become this nervous person? “Right?” I feel so dumb, asking questions without getting answers, I just want to write an article that someone might actually like. Something original, not like the other articles that no one cared about.
“I don’t think Sally was your friend,” Dana is looking down into her coffee cup.
“What do you mean, Sally wasn’t my friend? What kind of weird thing is that to say?” I can hear that I am getting angry. I just can’t help it. Dana sighs.
“It really isn’t my business to tell you, Sophia,” she hesitates, bites her lip again, “but I’m pretty sure she was your sister.”
I just sit there. Don’t know what to say, finally the stupidest words of all fall out of my mouth: “But I don’t have a sister.” I am an only child. It is just me, my mum and dad. I have been fine with that, have never missed any siblings. I am sure of that.
“You used to have one.”
“And where the hell is she now?”
Dana looks like she doesn’t want to say anything. Just stares down on her hands.
“I’m so sorry Sophia,” she starts, and I can already feel where that sentence is going, “I am pretty sure she drowned when you were like five years old or something.”
It feels like I can’t breathe. Like I’m getting dizzy. Could fall over any minute. Pass out.
“Why hasn’t anyone told me?”
Dana looks so uncomfortable. Likes she doesn’t want to say another word, but it is really too late for that now.
“You were so little, and apparently you got a really bad reaction to her dying.”
“Isn’t that normal?”
I feel like I am going to throw up.
“No I think it was worse than normal,” she hesitates, “I think they thought it was best to not talk about her anymore.”
I had a sister, and she drowned, I got a bad reaction, so they just decided not to talk about her anymore. My head is spinning and the vomit finally makes its way up my throat. Ends up on the floor.
“Are you okay, Sophia?”
“I shouldn’t have told you, it wasn’t my place.”
“No, I’m glad you did.”
I just sit there in the stench from the vomit. Dana makes no effort to clean it up.
“I didn’t even know Sally that well,” she says, “When you moved here she was like eight and you were a couple of years younger,” again she is hesitates, “she was kind of strange.”
“Yeah, she kept to herself.”
“Don’t think she liked anyone,” Dana sighs, “except for you.”
“Was it fun seeing Dana again?” mum is waiting on the front porch. I just nod. “You girls always have so much to talk about.” She is right. We do.
I shake my head as I follow her into the house. She is making dinner. All the pots seem to be boiling with something.
“Mum, I was thinking, you and dad …” I don’t know how to say it, don’t know how to ask about her, “you never wanted more children?”
She looks at me, like she doesn’t know what to make of it.
“Me and dad we struggled a bit,” she sighs, “we were just so happy when we got you.”
“It is not that we didn’t want you to have a sibling, but sometimes it is just not that easy,” she looks away when she says it. They haven’t talked about her. Haven’t talked about Sally for so many years. She apparently died when I was five, so for 15 years they have just pretended. At least with me. Maybe they talk about her when I’m not here. Protecting me from my bad reaction. How bad could it really have been? “You always had Dana to play with,” mum smiles, “kind of like a sister.” She goes towards the kitchen again.
I go towards the terrace. It hasn’t been raining today, but the waves are still looking angry. Crashing into the beach like that. I close my eyes, even though I know I shouldn’t.
I got a secret you wanna now, Nananana
I open them again. Feels hard to breathe for a moment.
Mum has come out on the terrace as well, staring towards the same waves.
“Me and your dad we were so sick of traveling with his job for a while.” She has this strange expression on her face. “Always going from one place to another, felt like we couldn’t settle down. Like I couldn’t find any peace. It was when we came here that I finally felt like we were home.”
“Is there a beach in that direction?” I point towards the trees.
Mum turns around. “No I don’t think so.”
“I just got this funny feeling that if you walk in that direction, eventually you’ll get to a beach.”
Mum laughs, shakes her head. “Well then it must be a secret beach, cause I’ve never heard about it.”
I try to smile. I really do. Try to pretend like Dana didn’t say anything.
I wish it really was a secret beach, but I almost feel like I can see her standing by the trees, waiting for me. Waving her arm as if she wants me to hurry.
I have woken up. In the middle of the night. I didn’t go to sleep with the window open, but it is open now.
I got a secret you wanna now, Nananana
The words are mingled in with the sounds from the angry waves. Not letting me sleep. There is really no point in trying. Did she wake me up in the middle of the night, just like this? Convince me to go on an adventure with her, even if we weren’t allowed?
Sally, I’m tired, is that what I would say? Feels like it.
Oh, come on, sleepyhead, you promised, I know she said that. Sitting by my bed. Looking anxious. Wanting to be on her way. Just waiting for me.
We really have to go tonight?
She would nod. I remember that, and then she would smile. Have this look on her face that would make me want to go with her, so that I wouldn’t miss out.
It needs to be tonight.
I get up. Don’t even bother getting any clothes, just walk out in my nightgown. Just like I did back then.
Why do we have to go at night, can’t we wait until mum and dad are awake?
Did I ask that when we walked down the stairs? I think so. Strange feeling now walking down those same stairs. Just like then, not wanting to make any noise.
No, it will be more fun this way, Sally would say it the right way. Would make me feel like I really would want to go with her even if it was dark. I don’t remember if the weather was bad then, like now, but it really is bad now. Rain pours down as I open the door and go out onto the porch.
We went that way, where mum said that there was no beach, if there was one it would have to be a secret one. It was a secret beach. It was Sally’s. She knew about it.
Come on Sophia, she would whisper, and I would follow.
Why do we need to go there?
I got things there, she would answer.
What things? I was already getting tired then, getting blisters on my feet. We had forgotten to put on shoes, or maybe Sally didn’t think shoes was a good idea.
Things we need.
I got everything I need, I think I was thinking of my stuffed animals when I said that. I just don’t think that was what Sally meant.
It feels strange walking here now, makes me feel like a kid again. How old could I have been back then? I feel smaller now. Feel like the trees grow taller around me. My feet are tired. I just want to sit down. Did I want to sit down back then, not walk any further?
We need to keep going Sophia, she did say that. Didn’t she?
But why? I didn’t get it, did I? Not then and not know.
I got things there, things we need, she repeated.
I keep on going. The same path. You almost can’t see that path. Doesn’t look like anything. Go down by the side of the cliff and then you’ll get there. Get to Sally’s secret beach. The waves are angry. Crashing into that little beach with full force. Was it like that the night it happened? I don’t think so. I think it was calm. It was raining, but the waves weren’t like they are now. They weren’t angry at all.
There’s a boat? I remember being surprised. What would we need a boat for?
I got food too and clothes, everything we need, she would say, like she didn’t get that I was confused. I go down the path. Careful not to slip. She walked in front of me. Almost like I can see her now. Walking confidently down that path.
I didn’t get it before we got down to the beach, before she stood there right next to the boat, that it wasn’t some joke. She wanted us to actually leave. Get in that boat and go.
I don’t want to go Sally, I whispered, why do we have to go?
We just have to, she held me so that I wouldn’t run back, you have to trust me Sophia.
But mum and dad will get worried, I knew that they would. I knew that Sally knew it too.
You really don’t remember anything? She said, made me sit down on the beach to calm me down probably.
What do mean?
I sit down on the beach now, feel the waves hit my face. Can almost believe that she is sitting there next to me. Sighing. Like she doesn’t know how to start.
Two years ago, when we were at the mall, you don’t remember that?
We had been to the mall so many times, I had no idea why that was special.
You really don’t remember?
I just shook my head. I could see that she was disappointed. Feel like I can see it now. Maybe I was good at forgetting, even back then.
We were waiting for mum and then that woman grabbed you and ran, she was crying when she said it, and I ran after her.
You really don’t remember?
But you get why we need to go now, right?
I didn’t get it. Not even after all she had said. We need to get back to our real mum, Sophia.
We could hear it then. Someone else had come down the path. I turned, looked at mum and dad. Sally, saw it to, got up. Started running towards the boat.
Come Sophia, she shouted. I am sure of that, but I just stood there. Felt mum pick me up. Turn around and start going back up the path.
I do the same thing now, just like mum did back then, holding me in her arms. Don’t even look at the beach and the angry waves that are still crashing into it.
“Are you up already,” mum looks surprised when she comes out on the terrace.
I nod. “You’re writing?”
I am writing. Word after word have been written down on the paper in front of me.
She smiles. “Oh, how wonderful, you must let me read it,” I must, after all she has always been my biggest fan, “you always know how to add a bit of extra to a story.” The waves have calmed down. The sun is back in the sky.
“What’s it called?” she looks at me. Is she biting her lip? I think so.
I hope you have enjoyed Secret Beach, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories.
About the song:
Lyrics/vocals/music composition/mixing: Therese J (Me)
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If you like the images that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but the first photo is by rikahi, the second (SoundCloud photo) is by jreardon, and third photo is by Seemann, the fourth photo is by hotblack, the fifth photo is by diannehope, the sixth photo is by rtshores, the seventh photo is by krystle, the eight photo is by dee and the last photo is by Pellinni.
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