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Danielle couldn’t walk another step feeling her muscles collapsing as she trudged up each rock on the steep mountain. She’d been hiking for hours lugging along a backpack, a stick in one hand, and an urn in the other.
The weather was freezing to the point where she could see her breath. Her fingers were starting to go numb. The wind felt so frigid as tears which already trickled down her cheeks impacted her vision further. She obviously didn’t prepare herself for this trek. What did she care?
It was her fault...all her fault.
Danielle stared into the rocks thinking they were laughing at her and spelling out the word "coward" to make her feel worse. The anger which decided to permanently live inside her felt like lava flowing, and waiting for the perfect time to erupt.
Why was she here?
Looking into the sky, birds flew across in a perfect v-shape.
Birds never had anything to worry about. They were free to roam anywhere. Away from their problems.
Why was she never there?
Letting out an ear piercing scream which echoed across the valley, into the skies, and into the town where maybe some people could hear. Danielle let the world hear her pain. She snapped her walking stick in two and hurled it down the mountain. The broken sticks bounced off the rocks as if they were a pair of dice trying to decide what numbers to land on.
Sinking to her knees, Danielle tucked herself up hugging her knees, cradling the urn.
Hugging it closely to her chest the 17-year-old broke down into tears weeping for the first time. She couldn’t remember the last time she cried. Or if she ever cried. Human emotions were important. It was okay to look sad, angry or whatever in public. Everybody seemed happy in the world. Only they weren’t. Everybody was hiding a sad story. How could they smile?
“You said you were going to climb the mountain!”
Danielle jumped when she heard her sister's voice. It tried to sound punishing, but failed due to how weak she was. Instead of looking at the child who lay in the white bed in her bedroom caked in pink wallpaper and countless drawings of herself on top of the mountain standing in front of a display of rocks. The mountain looming outside caught Danielle’s attention.
“Has it always looked that powerful?”
“You were always too busy to notice anything.”
The wind grew stronger misplacing her hat. Taking her arm away from her self-made dungeon the breathtaking view caught Danielle’s attention. She lived in a small town all her life but she never knew so many houses resided in a petite place like this. There was the school and downtown, and that plethora of different bright colors must have been the garden of flowers.
Danielle studied the patch of flowers having never gotten a chance to walk through the area. It was Sarah’s favorite spot to be where she could sit and look over the mountain. She never went along feeling flowers were nothing special.
“Are we going to climb it?” Sarah’s voice sounded energetic all of a sudden almost like she wasn’t going to die as the doctors predicted.
Together they looked out the window at the mountain which faced them, looming over them. It almost looked like a monster. A friendly monster whose job was nothing more than to protect.
“Sarah, why do you love that mountain?”
“‘Cause it’s the first thing I ever remember seeing’! It looks over the town looking as if it’s protecting you. It’s keeping me safe. From feeling afraid.”
Danielle looked at the urn in her hands. This time more gently. Ever since the minister gave it to her when it was decided that she was to make the climb, Danielle treated as if it were nothing else but an urn. The way she’d fiercely pick it up or stomp around as the ashes inside violently jostled around. She practically let it nearly fall out of her arms on the way up the mountain.
Danielle felt the wind blow through her hair. It felt like someone brushing their hand through her long hair. Her mother hadn’t done that in so long. She remembered the instant jealousy she felt when her sister was born. Maybe that’s why she stayed away. She avoided her family when they really needed her.
Danielle looked over the view once more. Instead of the hundreds of houses, or the town where she spent countless hours avoiding to go home, the beautiful garden of flowers caught her eye. The flowers made her feel…stronger.
Standing up she continued her march up the steep hill. Rocks were piled everywhere. They resided here. It’s where they lived and always will. This mountain was known for its steepness. Hardly anyone ever made it to the top because they’d worry about slipping up on loose rocks. The view was what gave everyone the motivation.
Danielle felt as if she were flying, now running, ignoring the stifling pain she could feel in her legs. Huffing and puffing with sweat dripping off her face Danielle held the urn safely in her arms.
And then she was on flat land.
Like Sarah said there was a pile of rocks facing the garden of flowers.
Danielle opened up the urn.
The ashes spilled all around the edge of the cliff. The wind carried some of it away out into the sky disappearing in the clouds. When the urn was empty she placed at the foot of the rocks which fit on top of one another in this artistic manner.
“You made it, Sarah. We made it.”
Danielle stayed up on the top for about an hour staring down at the view. She didn’t feel sad. Or angry. She felt at peace.
The loss of her little sister was the worst feeling she could ever endure. All the laughter she missed. The days they should have hung out. The night she learned Sarah had cancer.
That final conversation where they were talking about how the mountain looked like a protector was when she died. Danielle was treating that memory as if it were a nightmare. No, she was there. Sarah wasn’t alone. Danielle was finally there to witness something so powerful.
Taking one last glance at the view Danielle descended down the mountain. Peeking through the clouds the sun finally shined down on the land.
“Thank you, Sarah.” Danielle smiled.
And the wind whipped through her hair.