My sister once gave me
A.   an ultramarine silk scarf
B.   a star-shaped candlestick of clear glass
C.   a guardian angel made from clay and driftwood

My sister loved
A.   her family
B.   her partner
C.   kayaks

My sister’s partner loved
A.   her
B.   his family
C.   kayaks

My sister and her partner loved
A.   adventure
B.   sports
C.   water
D.   the sea

My sister and her partner
A.   had been on sea kayaking trips before
B.   were familiar with that coastline
C.   were offered a guided tour
D.   trusted their abilities and experience

My sister sent her children
A.   a WhatsApp message saying how excited she was about that day’s 10 km kayaking trip
B.   a picture of the mirror-smooth sea
C.   a selfie in a swim vest
D.   emojis of dolphins

My sister’s postcard to our parents
A.   was sent before the kayaking trip
B.   was sent by hotel staff after the kayaking trip
C.   arrived ten days after the kayaking trip, before her funeral

My sister died
A.   on Friday 13th
B.   on Saturday 14th

My sister’s partner did not die
A.   on Friday 13th
B.   on Saturday 14th

My sister died at sea, alone
A.   soon after sunset in a storm
B.   in the dark in a storm
C.   at dawn, after a storm
D.   in sunlight, on the morning after a storm

My sister’s partner clung to his kayak at sea, alone
A.   from sunset to false dawn throughout a storm
B.   from sunset to sunrise throughout a storm and the calm hours beyond
C.   from sunset to sunlit morning throughout a storm and the calm hours beyond

My sister died because
A.   she and her partner spent time on a series of beaches along the coast, picnicking, shell-gathering, sunbathing, resting
B.   she and her partner spent time exploring the disused submarine tunnel under the cliffs
C.   she was afraid of the dark inside the tunnel and so she sang, seated in her kayak as her partner listened, sang her heart out for the soaring echo of it, and the echo could not bear to lose her and her voice

My sister died because
A.   the mirror smoothness of the water began to break, and broken mirrors bring bad luck
B.   the waves were too small to seem alarming
C.   the waves grew in strength only slowly

My sister died because
A.   the land weather forecast was wrong
B.   the sea weather forecast was wrong

My sister died because
A.   she was first to round the headland, where the wind bore down on her from the mountains and whipped up the waves
B.   her partner, some distance behind, saw her being driven off-course and decided to follow
C.   the wind kept their kayaks apart, barely within shouting range, while the sun went down
D.   her partner capsized and, holding on with his chin and both hands, could only watch as the sky darkened to storm-black and she sat upright in her kayak, cresting the waves out into the open sea

My sister and her partner
A.   knew their GPS
B.   knew they were a kilometre at most from the headland
C.   could see the village with their hotel further down the coast

My sister and her partner managed to use their mobiles to contact
A.   the kayak rental owner
B.   the local police
C.   the police in the neighbouring country
D.   the coast guard

The last thing my sister and her partner told each other was
A.   at least we’ve seen the sunset from out at sea, not just from the beach
B.   I love you
C.   let’s not panic
D.   help is coming

Half a year earlier, my sister and her partner had visited an Indonesian sanctuary for retired elephants, which they helped wash in the nearby stream, getting soaked to the skin.
Half a lifetime earlier, she and her husband had given their babies a bath every night, getting soaked to the skin.
A lifetime earlier, she and I had played in the stream next to our house, catching tadpoles and damming the water with pebbles, twigs and mud, getting soaked to the skin.

My sister died
A.   because she capsized
B.   because she lost her kayak
C.   because she lost hope
D.   from the intake of too much sea water
E.   from exhaustion
F.   in panic
G.   in peace

My sister died because
A.   the kayak rental owner did not have a motorboat for emergencies
B.   the kayak rental owner told her and her partner to phone the local police
C.   it was the weekend and the police were short-staffed
D.   there was no coast guard
E.   there were no helicopters
F.   the passengers on the regular ferry services did not notice the torchlight from her partner’s mobile as he moved it in circles above his head until the battery was flat
G.   the coast guard of the neighbouring country arrived too late

My sister was found
A.   5 hours after the storm began
B.   10 hours after the storm began
C.   16 hours after the storm began

My sister was found
A.   near the coast
B.   15 km away
C.   25 km away, close to the beaches of a small island advertised for family holidays

My sister’s partner was rescued after clinging to his kayak
A.   for 5 hours
B.   for 10 hours
C.   for 15 hours

My sister and her partner were found
A.   near each other
B.   in separate locations

My sister’s partner was taken
A.   to his hotel
B.   to a local hospital
C.   to a hospital on an island in the neighbouring country

My sister’s partner
A.   was only slightly injured
B.   had nerve damage to one hand
C.   would make a complete physical recovery
D.   would never fully recover

My sister’s partner had
A.   no phone numbers for her family
B.   no phone numbers for his children
C.   to wait for his mobile to dry out in a bag of uncooked rice before he could get any phone numbers
D.   to use someone else’s mobile
E.   to use a pay phone

My sister’s partner was visited in hospital
A.   by his children
B.   by his Consul General
C.   by an ambulance chaser

After my sister and her partner were found, the kayak rental owner contacted the helpline of the Department of Foreign Affairs of their home country
A.   to report the accident
B.   to inform them of the death and injury
C.   to request compensation for the lost kayak

My parents were notified
A.   later than the Department of Foreign Affairs
B.   later than local and international news media

Several months after my sister’s funeral her partner
A.   returned to the country where the accident had happened, to complete the photography commission that had originally taken him there
B.   visited the kayak rental owner
C.   undertook another kayaking trip by himself along the same coast
D.   started a new relationship

My sister’s partner died
A.   6 months after the storm
B.   12 months after the storm
C.   15 months to the day after the storm

My sister’s partner died
A.   on Saturday 12th
B.   on Sunday 13th

My sister’s partner died
A.   of a massive heart attack
B.   of a broken heart
C.   of heart strain caused by the accident
D.   of congenital heart disease

My sister and her partner are
A.   buried in the same cemetery
B.   buried near each other in the same cemetery
C.   not buried in the same cemetery

My sister’s cat
A.   never slept on her bed
B.   stayed on my sister’s bed in the empty house for several months after her death, fed by neighbours
C.   did not die the following summer

At my sister’s funeral I met a distraught young man she had supported with therapy sessions.
‘But where did your sister die?’ he asked. ‘Where? What is the name of the town? The place?’
When I tried to explain, he did not understand.
Could not.


Reproduced with kind permission from Mslexia/Poetry Book Society Women's Poetry Competition.