I stood on the peak of the hill overlooking the city and vast mountainside that stood behind it. In that moment, as the magnificent sunset tinged the sky with a molten glow, the warm glow of nostalgia gradually engulfed me like a summer breeze, drawing out memories hidden in the recesses of my mind. It had not been long ago when I had stood on a mountain peak, not dissimilar to this one with the person who inspired me more than any other: my older sister. She was always the kindest and most virtuous in a very crude world. In the past, my life had been set alight by greed, anger and corruption, but my sister was the only spark which could illuminate the darkness.
Having no parents of our own, we were raised by a distant aunt who constantly managed to find a number of caretakers for us, all of which shared the same cold, gloomy disposition. Whenever I had attempted to show any affection to these stony-faced guardians, I was met with a baleful stare that left me cold for hours on end. My aunt was exceedingly rich so I was sent to an elitist school full of braggarts and idiots who I loathed for their upstart attitude towards those who did not share the same privileges and knowledge as them. Naturally, I was their primary target, turning my life into a living hell. Having found my life bitter and depressing, totally void of almost any form of kindness, my sister Annette was truly the only love I had ever known. Even as I search for words to describe her I falter, for I know that any words I could muster, however heartfelt, could never do justice to the image I wish to portray, for although my life was difficult, Annette shouldered so much more.
The aunt who gave us a home was family by the loosest definition. We had only ever seen her once when she came to tell us about our parents’ passing, leaving even before the tears could well up in my eyes. Annette looked after everything from cooking to washing, our custodians acting as mere watchdogs.
It was only when Annette turned eighteen that the house we lived in was given to us to look after. Suddenly, all of our needs were paid for out of Annette’s own pocket, and our aunt and cold-hearted caretakers vanished out of our lives forever, leaving without so much as a whisper or a word. However, Annette persevered, her fortuity of spirit filling me with fervour unlike anything I’d ever experienced. She was adamant that I should continue my education, disregarding all other issues as she urged me onwards. In spite of her galvanization, seeing her work her fingers till the knuckles bled harrowed my heart to the point where it bled just as her fingers did. All of these acts were selfless beyond imagination, but it was the fact that she would still exert herself further to help feed the poor and assist the elderly that truly depicted her as a model of virtue unsurpassed by any other in my eyes and all those who beheld her.
Many years passed and finally, after completing my arduous education in law, Annette took me hiking up onto the peak of this hill on a steep, winding trail as a reward. After the agonising hike I had playfully named the hill Heart-Attack Hill, wondering how the blazing fire that burned my lungs could be considered a reward. Nonetheless, reaching the peak was truly worth the pain it had cost. The journey had truly been breathtaking in the most literal sense of the word, but the sight of the sunset was breathtaking in a way that was impossible to articulate. While the sunset I gazed upon now turned the cloudless sky a molten red, the sunset on that day seemed to colour the sky with thousand different shades of red and orange, reflecting off every cloud to create a myriad of spectacular golden jewels in the sky. When compared to that sunset, even an aurora’s beauty seemed paltry and flamboyant in comparison. Though an aurora is majestic and scintillating, its beauty is ethereal, almost alien, as if we were given a glimpse of heaven itself. This sunset was different. Although not as ostentatious as an aurora, its allure lay in its simplicity and power, seemingly lighting up the core of my being and letting the warmth spread throughout my body in a unique way that could not be rediscovered.
However, the true reason for the feeling of ecstasy that coursed through me on that day was in the sense of triumph I underwent. The journey was finally over! I had went beyond my limits, both physically and mentally, standing on the brink of success and in the end I went hand in hand with the person I cared about most. The mountain and Annette had inspired me. Annette had been the person who pushed me through my life, being the anchor that held me in place whenever I was washed away by the current of despair. Now I had reached the summit and the clouds tinged with gold by the sun were the golden steps that I would walk on to ascend to greater heights. It was all thanks to the people, places and things that had inspired me and there would never be a way which I could repay the debt I owed my sister. In my heart I know that I would sacrifice everything for Annette, but for me, she would give up so much more.