The sun that does not shine


St Hilda’s Collegiate, Dunedin


The car door slammed behind me as I walked over to the grocery store to grab some last-minute ingredients for the Christmas roast tomorrow.

I scanned the shelves as quickly as I could, trying to escape the holiday hustle and bustle.

I hadn’t been back to our holiday house in years, none of my family had, but no-one would ever think of selling the house.

The memories the house held were still too special.

However, I still knew the way around this town like no-one else.

It was ingrained in my mind, every river hole, the best jumping cliffs, the spots I found the older cousins having a sneaky smoke on Christmas and all the best places to play, hide and get lost until the sun went down.

My family had decided to come back here for Christmas for the first time in 10 years, in honour of my older brother.

He had died only a couple of days after Christmas.

I arrived back at our beach house, tucked in behind trees, bushes and shrubs.

I brought the food into the kitchen and put it all away.

I walked outside to find everyone having a drink and snacks.

I could feel the ocean breeze all around me and the taste of salty water in my mouth as I stood on the deck looking directly at the ocean and dunes.

My whole childhood came flooding back and many memories filled in the gaps I thought would be empty forever.

With a drink in hand, I decided to walk along the beach.

I was walking for half an hour until I came upon a familiar track.

Without thinking, I started to walk down it.

Somewhere along the way, instinct led me off the track to his secret hiding spot.

My brother’s favourite place to play, hide and get lost in until the sun went down.

I walked through the trees out to the cliffs and everything hit me like a blow to the stomach.

My older brother was my favourite person in the whole world.

I would follow him around like a little puppy and do everything exactly like he would do it.

I swear that sun was always brighter with him around.

I now know he must’ve got so annoyed with me, but he would never say anything because that was just the type of person he was.

One day just like any other we were playing in his favourite spot with the rest of our cousins and summer friends, we were all playing as kids play.

As the sun was about to set and we were all tired from a long day playing in the scorching hot sun, we sat down in a circle.

The idea to play Truth or Dare arose and before you knew it we had kids running around and up trees, kids pecking one another on the cheek, and several kids also sopping wet.

My brother got dared to go stand on the edge of the cliff and of course, him never being one to turn down a dare, he ran over to look over.

Little did we know the bottom of the cliff had been eroded, the ground he was standing on was very unstable.

He showed off how he could balance on one leg, with everyone laughing, joking and having the time of their lives.

But luck wasn’t in his corner that day, as a huge gust of wind blew him clean off the edge.

At that moment everything went silent, no-one laughed, the birds had nothing to say, the wind stopped as suddenly as it had started.

I was stuck where I was.

We all knew how high and dangerous that cliff was.

And then all of a sudden there was chaos in every direction, children crying and the older kids trying to get service and calm the little ones.

I managed to follow some of the kids down the steep trail that led to the beach.

At the bottom, my cousins tried to grab me but not before I saw the shape of a familiar body face down in the water.

I tried to swim out to him but no-one would let me go as the tears flowed uncontrollably down my face.

The next thing I knew, aunts and uncles were scooping me up from behind, trying to soothe my wails.

Christmas and family gatherings were never the same.

As I turned away from the cliffs and wiped away the tears that had escaped, I took one last look back at the sun that never shone as bright as it once did.