At the end of the day — he conceded,one slow step in front of the other as the pair took the small ascent uphill towards the height overlooking the outback. He and his small companion — a waist tall little girl now 4 years old took a sprint up the worn path.
A familiar ache shot through his legs, his back strained as the muscles tightened, keeping him stiff. Was hiking always this difficult? He took time to pause, some of the sweat beads dropping off of his dark skin onto the beaten path.
“Don’t go off the path Lily..” the girl, slowed down, striding in a strict pace – careful to stay on the path.
He smiled at her and stood upright, releasing years worth of air in his joints. Once composed, he took in the sight of the distant city. The county improved the further away from the center they traveled. Far at the foot of their path the recreational center buzzing with all of the chatter and hustle of children released from grade school.
His niece stood in wait, nearly at the top of the hill with her arms crossed behind her back waiting for his approval to go beyond his gaze.
“I am coming, I am coming..”
They reached the high point together — the world opened up.
Behind them in the narrow trail a small grind of black and white rocks, smooth stones and warnings of snakes lined the jagged path. They — or he was lost in thought, supervising her while her parents ran an errand, the girl asked,
“What’s at the top of the hill uncle?” from his office, the hill sloped smooth and simple,
“The sunset.” she stared at him with a calm poise, waiting for any further comments. He returned to his work. She sighed, her mind drifted elsewhere — not on the complications of an adult life he was certain, but the inspiration to explore was apparent as she tucked her bottom lip.
“All right — one hike, but we can’t miss your parents coming to get you, understand?”
Living close enough to the city, he made out all of the small mistakes in the concrete, the buildings and the cluster of people. Everyone moved to the flow of all the traffic building up in the center of the city.
Out here on the outskirts of the bowl collecting gems of light, reflecting out into a shallow sea that extended as far as he could make out. At the point, a small pavement slab with park benches relayed a relief point for he and his niece. She ran to the benches in a shout of delight, the sun setting hallowed a distinct blue hue over the furthest mountain peaks in the distance. A single dying light in the city encouraging the residents lights to burn brighter.
The trip expended only a small portion of energy — excited, she made up a dance around the benches. He walked to the edge, easing himself to look at the sight of the city spread out before him.
Behind him, his niece called, “Uncle Aaron, What are you looking at?” he smiled, “Oh, nothing dear. It’s nothing.”
He stretched, then stood, “Come on dear, time to head back.” She took his hand and as the stars blinked and came to life they hiked down the path together.