Second art share! This one is very unfinished, and there are elements I don’t terribly like, but the themes have been on my mind lately. It’s about powerful female friendships — something I cannot overstate the influence of in my life. (Thanks to my partner for sparking the initial idea while we were watching Planet Earth.)
I stared ahead as she licked the blood off my back. Some of the blood was mine, some was the antelope’s.
It was ten years ago that she found me and marked me as her hunting buddy. You. She was tall and lean, seemed even taller than she was with her head high like that, looking at everybody directly in the eyes. I was smaller than most of the other lions, head low enough to see the scars on her belly when she approached me. The first sign I could trust her. She saw me with my volumes on hunting strategies, my scratched-out equations for striking at the right angle. Books on antelope psychology. She saw the big tree branch I dragged home one day — nearly strained my neck to bring it all the way back. I used it to sharpen my claws, nudged it forwards and backwards to strengthen my neck muscles, propped it on rocks to practice my leaps.
I’d been watching her, too. She was the fastest runner I’d seen. Others would pretend not to notice, keep their heads forward and track her with their eyes. And she was so cunning. I once saw her slide up to another lion who had been hunting near us — he’d caught a whole wild turkey — and when I looked back, seconds later, he was sharing the turkey with her, no apparent malice in his eyes. I don’t even know what she did or said.
That day, she strode up to me like she always did, quick-paced, eyes forward, jaw tight. Two feet from me, she sat and curled her tail around her body. Stared at me. It was far closer than I’d usually let others near. Her presence was not a threat, but it was a pointed question. Sitting, her long front legs hid her underbelly. I stared back, trying to hold her eye contact. She could see that I was uncomfortable. Up close, I noticed how beautiful her mane was, how many thoughts lay behind her eyes. Giant brown caverns, born from the earth.
There was no reflective moment, no measured choice. We followed the next steps like we were actors in a play, doing the moves sequence by sequence. I got up — stepped back to preserve a little of my space, and oriented myself towards the direction of the river, where we knew the animals would come to drink. She rose and strode alongside me, in silence — she knew I was in. Again she walked closer to me than I was comfortable with, but as the minutes went on, I began to grow accustomed. I lifted my head like hers and pierced the sky with my gaze.
Our first kill. She spotted the antelope first, and I signaled for us to lurk lower under some nearby brush. I distracted it and she leapt up from behind, our movements dance-like in their choreography. Her arc from overhead, me springing from below. We toppled it, dirt and blood working their way into our fur as we rolled, but it was over. As we feasted, I noticed how she nudged the good bits towards me, looked to make sure I was getting my share.