The wind was not kidding around up here. It roared all around her, whipping long loose hair into mayhem. It pelted at such force that tears welled in her eyes and she couldn’t blink them away. Seated as she was, on a rock, she felt steady enough, but knew that as soon as she stood up, she’d have to make especially strong, sure steps to not blow right over.
Cass knew, as soon as he had said those words, as soon as she knew it was really happening, that she would come up here. She hadn’t even stopped to think, to tell anyone, to plan… not even to cry. She had just got in the car, driven a little over 6 hours, and started her trek in the dark a bit after 4am.
When Cassidy was 20 years old she had done the walk. She’d roped in her brother Mark and her friend Yusef as well. They’d made a weekend of it: driven up from Melbourne in a day, camped, walked, and then driven back the next day.
She remembered feeling excited, almost desperate, to complete the walk – to stand on the highest point in Australia.
Mt Kosciuszko is not a big mountain by world standards (only a quarter of the size of Mt Everest). It is not even all that impressive: it just happens to be the tallest point in a terrain of gently undulating mountainous area.
But still, to climb it was a feat at the time. She had stood at the top, arms stretched wide, and felt powerful. Hopeful. Strong. Limitless.
And now, she breathed in cool, sweet Australian air and summoned the same feelings.
I can do this.
There is nothing wrong with me.
I will make it.
When she looked over her shoulder, she could see the day’s first hikers about 3km off. For an hour she’d sat alone, watched the red sun slip into the morning sky, and felt the endless, relentless pounding of the wind. And there was maybe an hour left to herself.
She didn’t move. She sat, and felt. All around her the earth sparkled. A dazzling blue sky grew more sapphire by the minute, as the sun rose hotter and whiter into it. Huge boulders dotted the green-grey terrain all around like pockets of quartz. Long, yellow grass leaned over, bowing to the fury of the wind. Mountains loomed as far as the eye could see in all directions, growing fainter and greyer, slipping into mist.
Right now, Cass thought, I am the highest person in the country.
And that’s why she was okay with being buffeted around like this. She was exposed to all the elements to their full extent.
Maybe she felt a correlation. By being good, righteous and faithful, by never questioning, she had left herself vulnerable.
So when her husband had said those words… “I’ve slept with someone else,”… she was smashed by a wave of hurt, guilt, anger and raw emotion.
Now, she’d have to pick herself up, take herself back down the mountain, drive back to Sydney, and make a plan.
But first – just five more minutes up here, feeling the wind’s wrath.