I run into the open arms of Matt, my maternal cousin, and hug him tightly. For the past four days I kept it together, but I can't hold it back anymore. I finally break down and cry as hard as I can, letting the tears of sorrow fall freely. He holds me close and lets me cry. We walk to the small café inside the Kathmandu airport. Our flight back to the States is in three hours and I'm grateful I'm going back home.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" Matt asks.
"No," I say and look down into my cup. I know that he wants me to talk, but I just can't. Everything is just so recent and painful and I just can't bring myself to say the words out loud. That would make them true and I can't face the truth. Not yet.
"Your parents are pissed, especially since I had to call and tell them that I was flying here to pick you up," he says. I look up at him and frown.
"I'm in trouble," I state and look into my lap.
"No," he says and I look at him surprised. "You are in a shit load of a shit load of trouble. What were you thinking, Bee?"
"I was thinking this is a great opportunity," I say a little defensive, but then shrink back in my seat. It was a great opportunity and even though worst case scenario happened, well second to worst, I don't regret it. I've been doing this for years now and my parents know that.
"Bee, that was stupid. Not only was it dangerous, but you faked your parents' signatures to get here. Did no one question you?" he asks.
"No. They all know me and they know that dad would eventually allow me to do anything," I say. "Can we please drop it?" I ask him desperately to change the subject.
"Alright. Alex still doesn't know?" he asks after a while. My brother Alex knows about some of my mountain climbing experiences, but just not about the really big ones.
"No. I mean he knows I occasionally go hiking in the mountains," I start saying and Matt scoffs. "But he doesn't know about all this. Living with mom in Europe for the majority of time in these past two years helped keeping it from him."
"You kept it even before Europe. Why didn't you tell him?"
"You know how he is and how he always likes to correct me and scold me like I'm a freaking baby. Besides, even though Alex and I are siblings, I feel closer to you and to some of the guys on the team, than I do to him. We are so different that I sometimes wonder if we're actually related," I sigh in defeat.
"Still. You haven't told anyone else. I mean other than your parents, me and my dad no one in the family knows."
"And it's better that way. I have you to bug me. I don't need more people to do that. And by the way you forgot Uncle Joe and Aunt Ellie."
"Why are you even doing it? And don't say because it's there," he says with a chuckle.
"I don't know. I guess I feel free when I'm up there, on the mountain. I know it's dangerous, but I never felt more connected to the world than when I'm up on a mountain. I feel like I can be myself when I climb. And even though reaching the summit is the highlight of every expedition the journey sure is worth the risks."
"God, Bee. When I hear you talk like that I almost want to go back to that life. But you are a pro. No one in human history accomplished so much in such a short time. I mean four out of seven in four years!"
"You make it sound so great," I say shyly.
"Bee, it is great! How many people can brag about having climbed four of the highest summits of the world and at fifteen nonetheless," he says smiling.
"I know, but still. I mean other than climbing mountains what can I really do?" I ask.
"Maybe you should just try something new, see if you like it. No one says to give up on mountains altogether, but maybe it's time to make a change, especially now," he says.
We finish our coffee in time to hear our flight being announced. We board the plane and wait to fly back home.
It seems so foreign to me. I was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, but because of her business, mom and I had been living in Europe for the past two years; she is a fashion designer. And because of his government job, Dad and my brother, Alex, stayed in Fort Collins. Alex had started high school too and moving was out of the question for him. He is one year older than I am, but he skipped a year because he is so frigging smart. During the past couple of years, I had been home schooled and it was great. My schedule was flexible and because mom felt guilty for dragging me all around the world, she allowed me to pursue my dreams – which translated into her permitting me to go mountain climbing with strangers, although, over the years they became my friends and even somehow my second family. Going back home will change that, but for the first time in thirteen years I feel like I want to take a step back, relax and sit down.