Concentrate. It's hot, baking hot; sweaty, clingy hot. I want to be at the waterhole again, cool by the water. Can't… Why am I here? What was that? No, I can't. Uncomfortable, got to get up; move; be somewhere else. Be on my own… anywhere but here.
I've just got to keep out of his way. That's all: Simple. Unless he comes here…? What will I do? No, that'd be a disaster. Got to go. Can't stay here. Move. Move now.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"I…. errr, I, well, I… mother?"
Why are they giggling? She's not. She's sitting silent opposite me, watching intently.
"Are you with us?"
Be honest. Just tell it. "No, I'm sorry. I'm not really. I…" Can't be that honest. I can't tell mother that. Think…. "…I don't feel well. It's the heat. Can we find some shade?"
"Oh. Well, the sun has moved round quite a bit, hasn't it?"
She's getting up. Hauling herself off the ground. She's watching me. Watching me all the time. What is she thinking? She knows. She knows everything. She knows.
"Are you coming Sarabi dear?"
"Yes mother. I'm coming."
One last look back. She's moving away. She'll still be watching. I'd better watch her first. What is her game?
It was beautiful here, now look. Last rains, just over there was carpeted blue and yellow. My pads felt cool, we splashed here through the steaming water, Mufasa and I. We didn't care where we were going, just that we were going together. We didn't care, we were alone.
The waterhole was all cracked mud. The first rains didn't fill it. We ran across it and left no prints. I got across first and looked back. He was standing in the middle, watching the ground, fascinated by the rain splattering down around him. Just like the big cub he is, or was. Could he be again when he's the great king?
No, of course he couldn't. He's going away; away from me. He's going to be king, and I'll… I'll still be here. I'll always be here.
"Sarabi! Wait up!"
Oh who is it now? I don't want to talk. Shall I not hear them? No, better not, they'll just keep on coming after me. They'll not give up. Anyway, who is it? Is it her again, been watching has she? Got to see what I'm doing? Maybe if I'm short with her she'll go away. Look away, Sarabi; look away. Her padfall's slowing, she's coming, slowing… standing. Hardly out of breath too: not bad.
"Sarabi? What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm fine."
"OK." No, I'm not fine but I'm sure as ever not going to tell you. You aren't even a pridelander.
"So where're you going?"
Truth. Give her the boring truth, then she'll get bored and leave me alone. "To the waterhole."
"The waterhole huh?"
Just leave me alone, why don't you! "Yes, the waterhole."
"What's so great about the waterhole?"
"Prey. I'm going prey watching if you really must know."
"Prey watching eh?"
"As you heard, my mother says the first rule of hunting is 'know your prey'."
"Yeah, I heard. Does she always go on about it that long? Does she was ever get on to anything else?"
You haven't heard the half of it. I've had it all my life. On and on. Maybe she's alright after all. Maybe. Welcome to my world Sarafina. "You're lucky, you've missed most of it."
"Never you mind."
"Are you really going prey watching, or do you just want to be alone?"
Finally she gets it! Let's look her in the face like I really mean it. "Both."
"Ah, so I could leave… or we could be alone together. If you want to not talk about it that is."
Who are you Sarafina? Where did you come from? What did you learn from your mother back where you were born? You don't understand the first thing about my life: the things I have to do, the stuff I'm expected to do, everything. You don't understand any of it do you? Yes, I really don't want to talk about it. Now, let's move on shall we? "Have you ever made a kill on your own?"
"Well, no, not yet, but I reckon I could. I bet you're thinking I couldn't and I'm just shooting my mouth off, but I'm sure I could. Your mother wouldn't let me of course. "
Actually no, I wasn't thinking that at all. Well, maybe… maybe with those shoulders you just could. Oh, she has more to say:
"I've got a few half-kills though."
"Alright Sarafina, you can come along. But we're just watching you understand. I'm not making any half-kills yet."
The other lioness picked her head up brightly, her eyes keen in the late afternoon heat. Sarabi stepped on; the other fell in behind her. As a rocky ridge overlooking the waterhole fell into view, the two left the path behind and slipped up the slope; and finding a large flat-topped rock soon to be shaded by a tree they lay down side by side.
As the afternoon fell into sunset the two watched, close enough to feel the other's ribs rise in breath. There was little talk, no secrets shared. For a few hours they were indeed simply alone, together.
Animals came, drank, looking about warily and left, some easing away, others rushing anxiously, in ones, twos and more. In the deepening shadows five young zebra; a bachelor group; trotted easily down from the north. Sarafina watched them arrive, thoughts boiling within.
"What do you think Sarabi?"
"Nothing mother… Only three days ago… Fluffy was the same as the rhino, only yellow." No, it wasn't the rhino, it was the elephant. Was it that long ago? Here, splashing on the water's edge? Just over there. He's so... so much more than I ever want. He's all that he should be... except...
What? It's darker now, gone sunset. Missed most of it I suppose. Go to go back. Where are we? Who is that? Oh it's that Sarafina, isn't it? "What is it?"
"I think we can take one, can't we?"
What is she talking about? Oh, over there, the… zebra. Must be them. 'Take one'? What is she talking about? "Take one?"
"Yes, take one down. We could I'm sure."
"We're watching, that's all."
"Right: you were dozing. Who's Fluffy? Anyway I know we're watching, I was just thinking we could. We're not going to, I know that."
"Sarafina, we couldn't…" Five. Young males, inexperienced, cocky, think they'll live for ever. That middle one, he's smaller; younger maybe, or just smaller. See, he's looking around, he isn't as sure of himself as the others. Where would they run? Maybe… maybe if I got down there, closed in slowly. They aren't going to hang around long enough for a proper strike, but I could get close enough to let them know I'm there. Then they'd run. Maybe across the waterhole, but they wouldn't risk getting stuck. Maybe away up the slope. Yes, if they did that they'd get away most likely, but then… they'd probably run back the way they'd come; the way they knew, the way they'd feel safe. If they did that and Sarafina had already slipped down to the left then she could cut through them as they ran. "Well, maybe we could." Right through: clean. "Just watching though."
"Oh yes, just watching."
She's got a mischievous smile. I like that.
"We're not the only ones though."
"Watching. Look there, on the far ridge. Its…"
A lion or maybe leopard… I think. Does she ever stop talking?
"A lioness. Long muzzle, thin. Old worn coat. Light."
Who on the plains is she? Who can see all that from way over here? "You can see her that well?"
"Yeah, can't you?"
I'm looking but I'm not seeing: no, not a chance. "No, not all that. Who is she?"
"No idea Sarabi."