Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of
Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is
intended. The characters and events in the Journeys Series are the creation
of the author.
As always a good deal of credit has to go to Lisa, Inga and Susan, my
beta readers and friends, who work hard on these stories with me. Special
thanks to Karen and Sharon for their medical expertise.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if
you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
You can contact Anne Azel at <email@example.com>
or visit the Anne Azel's World web site at <www.jes.com.au/~azel>
Anne's books are also available through <http://rapbooks.biz>
Sarah Meloche woke early. She had been dreaming and the memory of that
dream had left her wet and needy. It was the spicy scent of Alex sleeping
in the bed only a few feet away that had brought back the memories on which
the dream had been built. In her dream it had been Sunday morning and they
had been snuggling close after a hot shower together. The room smelt of
fresh coffee and love making and Alex still nuzzled at her ear as she tried
to concentrate on the Sunday papers. "I love you. I want you," Alex had
whispered and the papers had been forgotten. Sarah groaned softly and squirmed
with need. Looking over she was startled to see blue eyes staring back
"Oh, you are awake." Dumb observation Sarah, she chastised herself.
And added, "I guess we should get moving. Paul will pick us up at nine."
"I love the warm scent of you," Alex answered.
Sarah blushed. She wasn't sure how to handle this. Her body and heart
yearned to slip into Alex's bed and make love to the woman until the two
of them passed out with exhaustion. But her common sense said going back
into a relationship that had ended so painfully would be stupid. "Ah, Alex,
we have not seen each other in a long time. We've changed. We need to get
to know each other and address some of the old history..."
"Do I still turn you on like you do me?" Alex interrupted, keeping her
eyes on Sarah, enjoying the way the smaller woman was squirming uncomfortably.
Sarah was a very beautiful woman, small and cute like a pixie, with a hidden
passion that was very exciting.
Sarah was finding it hard to maintain eye contact with Alex. Damn the
woman anyway. She knew exactly what she was doing. Alex had that sexy,
arrogant, half smile she got when she was being a tease.
"Yes," Sarah answered shortly then changed the subject quickly, "I'll
go shower first." She slid out the farthest side of the bed and disappeared
quickly annoyed to hear Alex's soft laugh from the other bed.
When Sarah returned wrapped in a fluffy towel, Alex insisted on checking
her infected shoulder. They both felt awkward and tense, each yearning
for the touches and yet afraid of the consequences of moving towards intimacy
again. Alex took her turn in the bathroom, then once again they dressed,
respecting each other's privacy.
Some of the tension lessened as they headed down to the morning room
for breakfast. The breakfast buffet was large and varied and the two women
were hungry. "Eggs and bacon. When did you start eating cholesterol and
fats?" Sarah asked, as she eyed the food that Alex had brought back from
the hot food section after her bowl of fruit and yogurt.
"I keep telling you, I am a changed woman. I don't eat a lot of red
meat or eggs but I am not the puritan I once was. I see you are eating
better. Fruit and oatmeal, hmmm, what happened to cold pizza for breakfast?"
"My tastes have matured, besides they don't have pizza here," Sarah
laughed. She took a sip of coffee and watched as Alex ate. "So how is your
Alex hesitated. She needed to do this right and she wasn't sure the
short time they had over breakfast was going to do it. Best to avoid a
discussion of her new job at this time. "Good. It's challenging. There
is a lot of varied work and I do a lot of general medicine as well as surgery
now. What about you? How is your research going?"
"Well, now that I understand the language better I am really starting
to understand the Masai culture. On the surface, they seem to live a very
simple life but their world view and traditions are very complex and tied
closely to their sense of family and self. They are a fascinating people."
They talked over breakfast for nearly an hour and then walked at a leisurely
pace through the gardens back to their room. It was Sarah who was the first
to realize that someone had been through their bags. "Shit! I think we
have been robbed. Someone dumped my makeup bag. Alex, go through your stuff
and see what is missing."
Alex went immediately to the medical supplies. The box had been opened
and the contents were a jumbled mess. She carefully checked through each
item. Everything was there. That was strange. The needles and the drugs
would seem the logical items for a thief to take. She checked her own luggage.
Again, everything was a mess but nothing had been taken.
"God damn it!" she heard Sarah say from behind her. "I don't know how
but they got into the wall safe... I don't believe it, our passports, travelers'
checks and money are still here! Do you think we scared him off when we
came back to the room?"
Alex came over and looked at the safe. The lock had been drilled out.
She checked the door; nothing. Then she went to the bay window. A pane
had been broken and the side window unlocked. Whoever had entered their
room was no amateur and they were not here to steal but looking for something.
Sarah came up beside her. "This is really creeping me out. Someone was
looking for something." Alex nodded her agreement. It was a subdued pair
that took their important belongings down to the main hotel safe and arranged
for the damage to their room to be fixed. They had only just sorted things
out with the distressed hotel manager when Paul showed up.
"What is the matter?" he asked, seeing the worry on the faces of the
"Nothing really, Paul," Sarah explained, as she accepted a receipt for
the articles they had put in the hotel safe. "Someone broke into our room
but luckily nothing was taken."
Paul grimaced. "Oh no! I am glad that you are safe and didn't lose anything.
Robberies now are happening all over the city. The problem is getting worse
each day. We need a stronger government with higher moral standards. Do
you still wish to go out this morning or have you things to straighten
"We do have a bit of a mess back in our room but I think we'll go out
anyway. I want Alex to see the Rothschild giraffes." Sarah looked up at
Alex to see if that was okay with her. She remembered how structured and
uptight her ex-partner had become over the years of their relationship.
Everything had to be in its place or else.
Alex smiled. "The mess will still be there when we get back. Let's go."
Sarah smile was one of surprise and delight. Maybe Alex really had reverted
to the non-conforming, sexy woman who had first come into her life. Maybe...but
They piled into the van once more. This time Sarah sat beside Alex in
the back which pleased the taller woman very much. Alex watched the city
outside her window with interested, worried eyes. Nairobi was a dusty,
over-populated, modern city of crude cement buildings, tin shacks and modern
high rises. Laundry hung from windows and weeds and grasses seemed to be
winning the battle in parks and along roadsides. The streets were crowded
with people and cars and the air was heavy with dust and pollution.
Sarah tried to explain. "It is not really safe to walk in some areas
of the city now, especially if you are a tourist. The Kenyans blame the
social decay and crime on the refugees who have flooded in from unstable
neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Chad, and Somalia. The
refugees are accused of importing crime, poverty, guns and social problems
but it is not as simple as that. The government is corrupt at many levels
and ineffective. It is more of a dictatorship than a governing body."
Alex noted with compassion the homeless sleeping in the parks or on
grassy road sides, the crippled beggars and the ragged women and children
who stared at them as they passed with resentment.
Sarah sighed. "Poverty is a rapidly growing problem in all of Africa.
It is particularly bad here in Nairobi. Officially, the unemployment rate
stands at 25% but in reality it is probably much higher." They passed small,
dirty shops filled to over flowing with cheap Asian articles and clothes,
black-market goods, and mass-made tourist souvenir. On the street gaunt,
scruffy men sold newspapers, fruit, and stolen articles from car to car.
Alex noted another side too. There were huge ornate mosques and Hindu
temples, women in black robes their faces covered, and modern hotels. The
old colonial homes now housed embassies, international businesses, and
private schools and universities. Like most African nations, a large part
of the land they passed was owned by the military. The contrasts were extreme.
Alex wondered how living in such a harsh reality had impacted on Sarah.
She had always been caring and socially responsible but she had lived a
pretty privileged life. She had never had to worry about whether she was
going to get fed, or beaten, or evicted as Alex had as a kid. How had this
face-full of reality changed Sarah?
They arrived at the Giraffe Centre an hour later. Sarah gave Paul the
money for the tickets and he happily headed off to the gift centre. As
they walked over to the low stone wall that separated the tourists from
the giraffe population Sarah explained that one of Paul's many relatives
worked in the gift store and it was unlikely they would see him again before
they were ready to leave. They found four adult giraffes and one baby feeding
nearby. When they saw Sarah and Alex arrive they wandered lazily over.
"These are Rothschild giraffes, Alex, and they are very rare. You can tell
they're Rothschild's because their legs are all white below the knee where
other giraffes are spotted down to their feet."
Sarah picked up a handful of kibbles from a feeding bucket and one of
the adults leaned his head down. Sarah popped a few pellets onto the giraffe's
tongue and they were soon swallowed down. "Don't put your hand out flat
like you would with a horse to feed the giraffe. It's likely to mistake
your hand for a leaf and try to pull it off."
Alex grabbed a handful of kibbles and started feeding the row of giraffe
heads that were leaning her way while Sarah explained. "These are wild
giraffes that forage in this private preserve most of the time but this
feeding centre helps cover the costs of the research that is going on here."
Alex used up the feed she was holding and was scratching a giraffe's
neck, enjoying being so close to the magnificent animals, while Sarah bent
to get another handful of pellets. "Because of their long necks, giraffe's
have real problems with blood pressure... Alex look out!"
The warning came too late; Sarah only had time to drop the feed from
her hand and reach out to grab Alex who had just been head-butted from
behind by an impatient giraffe who wanted more food. Alex went sprawling
forward into Sarah's arms.
"They head-butt when they get annoyed."
"Now you tell me."
"Knock any sense in?"
"I'm in your arms aren't I?" Alex smiled.
Sarah gave her a playful frown. "You bribed that giraffe didn't you?
Are you okay?"
Alex crossed her eyes. "No, I think I'm dizzy. I'd better stay in your
arms for awhile."
Sarah gave a snort and pushed Alex away. "You are fine and just as roguish
The taller woman smiled wickedly. "It was Fate."
"It was a greedy giraffe! Come on, let's go see the display up in the
observatory tower." The women toured the information centre and fed the
giraffes once more from the vantage point of the observatory balcony. Sarah
found herself moving to stand close to Alex. She had missed her ex-partner
far more than she was prepared to admit. Was this a good idea, to have
agreed to have Alex come out here? She was afraid of making the same mistake
a second time.
Next Paul drove them to the Karen Blixen home, which is now a museum.
Blixen was best known for her novel "Out of Africa". Paul did his Robert
Redford imitations and the three of them laughed a good deal as they toured
the colonial ranch house. The clothes the actors wore in the movie hung
in the bedroom of the house and on the walls were old black and white pictures
of the original people.
Alex stood by the old wooden kitchen sink and looked out over the gardens.
Blixen had put a light in the window if it had been safe for her bush pilot
lover to visit and had covered it with a red cloth if her husband the Baron
were home. Alex had felt the love affair that she'd had with Sarah had
been that hot in their early years together. She had been the rogue from
the wrong side of the tracks, Sarah the nice girl from next door with a
secret alternative life style. She had only wanted to make Sarah proud.
Of course, Blixen had not fared much better. After the plane crash that had killed her lover and the fire that had ruined their already struggling tea plantation, she had gone back to Europe alone.
She had expressed her passion in her books after that and in later years
had died of anorexia cheating the cancer that she also had. Alex jaw tightened.
She wasn't leaving Africa without Sarah. Somehow, she would win the woman
she loved back.
They didn't talk much on the way back. Each woman was preoccupied with
her own thoughts. Alex brooded about what to say and do to make Sarah realize
that she had changed. Sarah, for her part, knew she was in denial, deliberately
avoiding thinking about Alex who had managed to upset her emotional apple
cart in such a very short time. Instead, she brooded about what was going
on between Phillips and Cattleman and how she had somehow got involved
in it. There was no doubt in her mind that the break in had not been a
botched robbery but an attempt to find something that one of the two felt
she might have. What was going on?
They had time for a quick meal and to rush and get ready before meeting
Paul again. He entertained them with a hilarious story of the argument
that had ensued over lunch with his mother's latest attempt to marry him
"You know, Paul, you would not have the problems you do if you would
just let your parents pick out a nice girl for you," Sarah laughed.
"What can I do?" Paul wailed comically. "My parents only pick for me
ugly girls! I do not think they like me." It was a long drive to Nyeri
where the Outspan Hotel was located. Here the three of them enjoyed a lovely
buffet meal on the terrace. All tourists had to check-in at the Outspan
Hotel before overnighting in the famous Treetops Lodge. Alex and Sarah
walked through the landscaped gardens while Paul took the van to get gas.
"The gardens are beautiful," Alex murmured, as she watched a brightly
coloured sunbird flutter from one branch to another.
Alex swallowed and tried her best to get out what she needed to say.
"So do you think that we can rediscover the love we had before?"
Sarah sighed, "Damn it, Alex, I don't know. I have never stopped loving
you and that hasn't made this any easier." Dark stormy eyes looked up into
Alex's. "You think all you have to do is show up here and tell me you've
changed and everything will be alright. Well, it won't Alex! I can't live
the life you want your partner to live. It would bore me to death."
"Do you mind," interrupted Alex, finding her own voice raw with emotion
too. "You have no idea what you are talking about. I have no preconceived..."
"I do know what I am talking about. I lived that life. The woman I was
attracted to could be wild and dangerous. She was a rebel. Your medical
degree changed all that. All your force and energy went into moving up
the damn social ladder and I was just the pretty woman on your arm. The
token queers at the socially correct parties you wanted to attend," Sarah
spat out in Alex's face. She spun around to look at the late afternoon
sun hitting the trees so Alex couldn't see the tears welling in her eyes.
"I was a kid when you met me. A fucking university student with a tough,
bitch attitude. I grew up, Sarah. We all have to. I became responsible.
All I wanted to do was be a good provider and someone you could be proud
of. I know I got caught up in the whole social climbing shit and made a
mess of things but you were not without fault. You were spoilt and idealistic."
Sarah reeled around, her face white with emotion. "Bullshit!"
Alex watched her storm back up to the hotel. Well, that hadn't gone
well. Slowly, she followed wandering what the hell to do now.
The rest of their trip to Treetops was made in near silence. Paul, having
failed a few times to get a conversation going, listened to the van's radio.
They were the last of the guests to arrive at Treetops just before sunset.
A guide carrying a rifle big enough to down an elephant waited for them
and they walked with him up the hill to the famous Treetops game resort.
It was a strange building, high, long, and narrow. It was built on top
of a tall log base. The building was a basic structure four stories high.
It was sided in bark shingles and the roof was a flat observation deck.
On each side of this unlike structure, was a large watering hole that attracted
the wild animals from the game reserve.
Paul left them there, returning to the Outspan Hotel and then on to
Nairobi. Once they had checked in, Sarah made an effort to mend some bridges.
She hadn't meant to fly off the handle as she had. Alex's remarks had hit
to close to home. Now that she'd had time to cool down she was feeling
a bit of an idiot. Being close to Alex again had really put her emotionally
off balance. "Listen Alex, I'm sorry. I was a little out of line with my
reaction back at the hotel. How about we go up to the bar and have a drink.
There is a great view of the water hole from there. The one wall is all
"I kind of lost my cool a bit too," Alex answered nervously. Then she
took Sarah's hand and stammered out the words she wanted to say earlier.
"I've made a lot of mistakes in our relationship. I lost sight of who I
was and refused to listen to your concerns. You were right to leave me.
But Sarah, I have changed. I am not a driven social climber anymore. I've
got in touch with who I was; the person you once loved. I'm here to try
and prove that to you."
Having got the words out she gave a stunned Sarah a gentle push and
followed her up the spiral metal staircase to the third floor. They sat
in comfortable lounge seats and looked at the large water hole with intense
interest neither wanting to say anything that might upset the truce that
they had established in their new relationship.
The water hole was a pathetic affair by the standards of the western
world but in Africa, where water is so scarce in the dry season, it was
a small paradise in a parched land. The banks were low, muddy, and well
trodden and the water chocolate milk in colour. A marsh island was located
near the centre and it was there they finally saw movement. Out from the
bushes popped a Sacred Ibis, a large wading bird with a long beak that
curved down. It had a black head and long black neck, a white body and
feathery black plumage on its back end. Underneath there was a patch of
yellow behind the long black legs. Paddling around too there were White-faced
Whistling Ducks and Egyptian Geese.
Alex brought two beers with a glass of tomato juice over from the bar
and Sarah pointed out the birds. "The Egyptian Goose is easy to spot with
the lump at the top of its orange beak, and of course, the blue on its
wing. In flight, you can see the white shoulder on its wing and its white
belly. It's a bit early yet for many animals to show up but over on the
far side of the pool you can see a black rhino heading this way. Do you
see it in the tall grass?"
Alex looked carefully at where Sarah was pointing and could just make
out the grey form in the grass. "You have good eyes."
Sarah snorted. "You don't last long on the Masai Mara without good eyes."
They sat for a while longer watching the rhino slowly work its way down
to drink at the far side of the pool. Sarah also pointed out a white-tailed
mongoose and they relaxed, letting the tension of the afternoon slip away
as they watched the antics of the swift moving animal.
Then the excited news of elephants buzzed through the building and the
two women hurried up to the observation deck on the top of the building.
A herd of fourteen animals lumbered over the hill led by a massive bull.
They slowly made their way down to the edge of the pool and used their
sensitive trunks to scoop up the salt that had been put out for them. "They
have to put salt out here, although they don't like to encourage animals
to rely on humans. The problem was the elephants were ripping apart the
posts that support this building to get the salt from the wood. It was
either a salt lick or disaster," Sarah explained with a smile.
It was cold up there with a strong wind blowing. Winter had come to
Africa and a warm sweater or coat was needed at night. The excitement of
seeing the magnificent animals highlighted by the setting sun kept the
guests out on the deck. Darkness came and floodlights lit the pools on
each side. A lone Cape buffalo made its way down to the water's edge. It
lowered its horns suddenly and charged at a the rhino that had gradually
made its way around the edge of the pond. The rhino, startled, splashed
into the water and bounded up the bank again some distance away. The ducks
took flight and the mongoose disappeared. Only the elephants seemed disinterested.
The cold and the excitement of the African night had driven the two
women closer together. They now stood shoulder to shoulder watching the
events below intently. Alex took pictures while Sarah explained. "The Cape
buffalo is a killer. It is a very dangerous animal and these old, lone
animals are particularly dangerous. They will take on anything in their
path. If you have a close encounter with a Cape buffalo it is the only
animal you are allowed to kill because if you don't, it will kill you.
You have to make sure you get it too, because a buffalo that has been wounded
will follow your scent for days until it finds and kills you. That's just
the way they are. You watch. This one hasn't finished causing trouble."
Sure enough, the old beast moved around to where the elephants grazed
on the salt and started licking up the residue. It was only a matter of
time before an elephant got too close and the water buffalo charged again.
The elephant moved away. It was only when the buffalo in its over-confidence
chased a baby that three of the adult elephants flapped their ears aggressively
and charged towards the buffalo finally forcing it reluctantly to retreat.
It was the dinner bell sounding that drew them back down to the floor
below. The dining room was small and narrow and there were a lot of guests.
Alex and Sarah took their places side by side on the bench were they're
name cards were placed and enjoyed a hearty European style meal. The waiters
placed the bowls of food on wooden planks that slipped down the centre
of the table in a wide slot. The guests simply slid the dishes along to
each other and so the crowded dining facilities were no problem.
The guests watched the comings and goings at the water hole well into
the night. Gradually, couples and families wandered off to bed to escape
the chill of the night. Sarah and Alex were one of the last to head to
their room. The washrooms were shared affairs, one for the women and one
for the men. The rooms were very small with just enough space for two wooden
bunks and room to stand in between. They went to their separate bunks still
dressed to stay warm.
Alex stared into the darkness and finally got up again quietly and went
back down to the bar. The night waiter offered to get her tea and biscuits
and she sat by the window and brooded.
She felt not quite there. Her mind had disconnected from her heart because
the loneliness was too hard to bear. "You are the only one left up?"
Alex looked up to see one of the Kenyan rangers standing near by. "Yes.
The night is too cold for most people. I live in northern Canada so I am
used to the cold."
"Ahhh Canada. Yes, I have heard it is very cold there. I lived in Britain
while I was going to university and I found that country cold enough."
The ranger came over and sat in a chair across from Alex.
"Have you worked here long?"
"Five years now, and my father before me and my grandfather. My village
is not far from here."
"You must have many stories to tell," Alex stated, before taking a sip
of her tea.
"My grandfather remembers the day when Prince Elizabeth was told that
her father had died back in England and she was now Queen. That happened
right here you know. He says that she was sad but calm but that Prince
Phillip was very shaken. My father took part in the Mau Mau uprisings when
my people fought for independence."
"They were very bloody," Alex commented.
"Yes. My father and others came here one night and burnt Treetops to
the ground because it was a symbol of colonialism. But later, the Kenyan
government allowed it to be rebuilt because it is now part of our country.
My family love this land."
"You must. It is good to have that sort of love for your country."
"Yes, things are much better when they are built together with love."
They sat then in compatible silence, watching the animals that came to
the water hole to drink until the sun rose and bathed Africa again in gold.
Sarah had heard Alex leave. She felt partly disappointed and partly
relieved. It was hard to be so close to Alex. The attraction was very strong
and so was her love for the maddening woman. But love can stifle as well
as nurture and Sarah had come very close to being stifled. Tears rolled
down her face. She had been so happy with Alex in those early days. The
aching loss never really went away. Could Alex really have changed? It
was a long time before she finally drifted to sleep.
The next day they had to be packed and ready early. The Hotel bus took
them to the Nanyuki airstrip for their flight to the world-famous Masai
Mara Game Reserve.
Sarah was relieved to be getting back to the wide open grasslands. They
sat side by side in the small computer plane while the pilot went through
his pre-flight check list.
"I was surprised to see the post mark on your letter was from Great
Slave Lake. What were you doing up there?" Sarah asked conversationally,
as she checked their tickets.
Alex cringed inside. She knew she should have told Sarah about her job
change as soon as she could but the right time just hadn't seemed to come
up. Now she was going to have to tell her at the worst possible time with
very little privacy. There was no other way. She couldn't evade the issue
when she had been asked point blank. "That's were I live. My practice is
Sarah's head shot up to look at Alex in surprise. "Since when?"
"Almost two years now."
Sarah blinked several times while she digested this rather startling
news and would have asked more questions had the pilot not revved up the
already noisy engines. What had happened to Alex's up and coming practice
The local commuter plane carried twenty passengers. They were soon airborne
and on their way across the flat grasslands of Kenya. The noise of the
engines made it hard to hold a conversation except at a shout so Sarah
had to curb her curiosity. Alex, for her part, would have liked to say
more but the words just wouldn't form. How did she explain what she had
gone through emotionally after Sarah had walked out of her life? There
was so much to say and she just couldn't seem to find a place to start.
Talking about her feelings was tough for her.
They landed sometime later on a dirt air strip in the centre of an ocean
of grass. Alex stood on the airstrip and looked all around her. The tall
grasses undulated with the rise and fall of the vast plain to the horizon
in all directions. The green blades seemed to sing softly as they waved
gently in the breeze. Off to her right in the distance, a band of trees
marked the winding path of the Mara river and to her left a large herd
of wildebeests and zebra grazed contentedly.
Sarah had walked away from the plane quickly and had given one of the
drivers that waited a big hug. She was chatting away to him now in Swahili
as Alex walked over. "Alex, this is George. He is a bushman and the best
guide here. I snatched him up before anyone else could claim him." Sarah
"Hi George," Alex said, smiling at the small wiry man before her.
"Welcome. Welcome. You will see lots of animals. The lions have fat tummies at the moment.
You go claim your bags and I'll get them into the Land Rover for you.
By now lunch will be ready for you back at the camp."
When Sarah had written back to Alex, she had planned a tour of some
of the highlights Kenya had to offer. Whatever the outcome of their meeting,
she wanted Alex to see Africa through her eyes. Part of building a new
bond between them would be understanding and learning about each other
all over again. They had gone their separate ways and had experiences that
had changed them. Africa had changed Sarah profoundly. No matter what happened
between Alex and her, she wanted the woman she still loved to share this
A few minutes later they were bouncing along the dirt road towards the
camp. Sarah watched with a smile as Alex stood on the seat so that she
could look out the open roof of the Land Rover and search for animals.
Sarah smiled; Alex had no idea what she was in for in the days that they
would be here.
Governor's Camp was originally the exclusive hunting camp for the British
Governor to Kenya and his royal and distinguished guests. Today, it is
a magical safari camp all under canvas. The thirty-eight guest tents line
the Mara river in which both hippos and crocodile live. Other tents look
over the vast plains where huge herds of wild game migrate. There are no
fences at Governor's Camp. The only protection provided for the guests
is the base guides who rotate through watches night and day.
Alex discovered that being "in the bush" did not at all mean roughing
it. Governor's Camp has been rated fourth in the top ten Hotels in the
World. Each large, rectangle guest tent had a teak floor and two rooms;
a bed sitting room and a large en-suite bathroom with shower, hot and cold
running water, and flush toilets. Alex discovered this herself as Sarah
had been waylaid by one of the camps officials for a talk.
Alex settled into their temporary home with a huge grin pasted on her
face and hummed as she hung up a few things. Fate had played right into
her hands. The porter who had taken her to their tent had explained that
their late booking had left only one tent available and if the two women
minded sharing a double bed then they could certainly set up a camp cot.
Alex declined the camp cot with thanks.
Sarah found Alex looking over the pole fence down into the deep ravine
that was only ten feet from their tent flap. Below, a hippo lay on the
muddy bank sunning itself and further on a crocodile wiggled up the river.
Sarah came up to stand beside her ex-partner. "Pretty amazing huh?"
Alex shook her head in disbelief. "It sure is. I mean they're right
there - real wild animals. I didn't think a place like this existed on
planet Earth anymore."
"You haven't seen anything yet. Wait until tomorrow."
"Ahhh, Sarah," Alex coughed, trying to look concerned and failing rather
badly. "We have not always agreed on things but you know you can trust
me don't you?"
Sarah looked suspicious. "Yes, I have never doubted your integrity,
"Well, we got one of the last rooms and there wasn't much choice..."
Sarah turned and headed for their tent immediately. Alex followed, letting
the tent flap fall down behind them
"Oh no! No way! I'll sleep on the floor or get them to..."
Alex swept Sarah up in her arms and dropped a gentle kiss on her lips
before she could react. Her blue eyes looked deep into Sarah's. "I am a
rogue as you well know, but I am an honourable one. All you have to do
is say no and I'll stop," she whispered, her voice rough with need. When
she kissed Sarah this time she let that need show. Gradually, Sarah's arm
reached around Alex's neck and held her close. When she had made her point,
Alex lowered Sarah slowly back down to her feet.
"That wasn't fair."
Alex smiled sexily. "No."
"If we have sex that would only complicate things," Sarah pointed out,
but she didn't pull away from Alex's arms.
"We can handle complicated but for tonight, I promise just to hold you,"
Alex purred, kissing a particularly nice ear.
Sarah shivered in response. "Aah, not good."
"It could be," Alex whispered, stroking Sarah's back.
"What, that I can make it good?" Alex teased with a sexy laugh.
Sarah looked up at her with sparkling eyes. "No, that you will not take
advantage tonight if we share a bed."
"My word," smiled Alex, kissing Sarah's upturned nose. Sarah leaned
against the warm, firm body that she had known so well. This sexy Alex,
this was the one she loved. She was a long way off from being willing to
get involved with Alex again but today had brought a small ray of hope
that maybe it was possible.
"What did the manager want?" Alex asked after a while.
Sarah pulled away with a sigh and went to do a little unpacking herself.
"I am not sure. He went on and on at some length about the camp being above
politics and people coming here just to enjoy the animals. He said he didn't
want any trouble because trouble was bad for tourism and Kenya lived for
Alex frowned and crossed her arms. "What has that got to do with you?"
"I am not sure. I stayed here one night before heading into Nairobi.
James Phillips showed up and had a drink with me. The Kenyans don't like
or trust James. He is an old colonial and is known to be associated with
"You think that was it?"
"Maybe. I think I was given a very polite and encrypted warning. The
truth is, though, I have no idea what the hell is going on and I told Peter
Alex sat on the bed and watched Sarah's backside with some enjoyment
while the smaller woman was bent over her suitcase. Sarah still had a nice
tight, round tush Alex concluded. Her mind, however, was still focused
on more serious issues. "Whoever broke into our room in Nairobi was looking
Sarah turned with her toilet bag in her hand and shrugged. "They can
look all they want. I have nothing to hide."
That night they had a pre-dinner drink in the open bar by the water
and then walked with their guide to the dinner tent where they enjoyed
a wonderful meal. Much later, relaxed by good wine and soft music, they
used their flashlight to signal to one of the guides to escort them back
to their tent.
"Seen anything about tonight, Iban?" Sarah asked, as they walked along.
"Wiggily and Piggily are sleeping under the bush over there." The guide
flashed his torch over to where the two warthogs lay stretched out on their
sides on the ground. The animals had wandered into camp several years ago
and proved impossible to chase away. They soon had names and were accepted
as just being part of the camp experience. "I have not seen anything else
but lately that female hippo and her calf have been walking through the
camp, so be careful."
"We will. Good night Iban."
"Wiggily and Piggily?" Alex snorted.
Sarah laughed. "The cook wanted to call them Pork Roast and Tenderloin
but Peter, the manager, thought it would give the guests the wrong impression
of the camp food."
"Do you stay here a lot Sarah?" Alex asked trying not to pry but desperately
curious as to whether or not Sarah had shared a tent with anyone else.
"Rarely. It is very expensive here. I usually stay in the Masai villages
or one of the small bush camps. During the height of the tourist season,
when they are short of staff, I act as a cultural guide for the camp and
so I get a big discount."
The talk had helped to lessen the tension the awareness of their single
bed was causing. Alex did her best to put Sarah at ease. "I think I'll
read for a bit, if you want to go ahead and have your shower first."
Sarah looked relieved and disappeared as quickly as she could behind
the canvas wall that separated the two rooms. Alex groaned softly and went
to sit in the canvas chair on their small porch. With grim determination
she tried to focus on her book and not the thought of Sarah's naked body
standing under the shower. It was this forced concentration that resulted
in her not being aware of the sound of massive and powerful jaws munching
happily near by until a grey, wrinkled wall of hippo passed in front of
Alex so close that she could have touched the beast.
With a yelp of shock, Alex charged inside the tent, snagged a camp umbrella
as a defensive weapon on her way past the clothes rack, and ran into the
bathroom. Sarah gasped and reached for her towel. "Get out of here!"
"Hippo," Alex tried to explain, feeling a bit silly brandishing the
umbrella like a sword now that her instant reaction was over.
Sarah's eye narrowed. She looked around the shower cubicle. "It's not
here. Is it doing a back stroke in the toilet bowl?"
"Out there," Alex explained with a blush, pointing with the umbrella.
"In the bed? Well, it is just as well we have a double then. Get out
of here, Alex."
Frustration overcame embarrassment. Alex threw the umbrella across the
room, stepped under the shower and pulled Sarah to her. "I was only trying
to protect you but if I am going to be labeled as a libertine, damn it,
I am going to have the pleasure."
The first kiss was slow but demanding. Sarah's body fit close into Alex's
wet clothes. She could feel the taller woman's muscles tense with excitement.
A soft moan of her own need escaped her lips and was replaced by Alex's
tongue. Her own curled and sucked eagerly and then followed to taste once
again Alex's being. Sarah's water saturated- towel fell heavily to the
floor and Alex's hands moved seductively over her back and cheeks.
The kisses ended. The two women stood in each other's arms as the hot
water rained down their bodies. "Was there a hippo?"
Alex nodded. "Two of them. I was sitting on the porch and it was suddenly
right in front of me."
"Buttercup and Daisy. I meant to tell you about them."
"You said hippos were dangerous."
"They are. Very. Don't stand in Daisy's way or try to touch her." Sarah
reached up and kissed Alex's lips, now swollen with her kisses. "Thanks
for trying to protect me. Now get the hell out of here before I use the
umbrella on you."
Alex smiled and stole another kiss. She checked Sarah's shoulder and
was pleased to see that it was healing nicely now. Stepping back, Alex
gave Sarah a long sexy look from head to foot before she hopped from the
shower, grabbed a towel, and ducked out of the bathroom again.
When Sarah came out, clad respectably in a short housecoat, she found
Alex had stripped off her wet clothes and was sitting in a chair wearing
a damp towel and a smug grin. "I hope you get a cold," Sarah growled more
in fun than anger. "The shower is yours. Get in there. You must be getting
Alex did as she was told, stopping only for a small kiss before she
disappeared behind the canvas wall.
Sarah slipped out of her housecoat and into the bed and lay there trying
to regroup. Try as she might, every time she got her ducks in a row they
took off in all directions again. This was not good.
Alex stayed under the shower for a long time, relieving herself of some
of the raw desire that touching Sarah had caused. When she thought she
had her emotions under control again she toweled off and went through her
nightly routines before heading out to the main room wearing only her birthday
"What?" Alex asked, looking around and then asking in a voice that mimicked
Sarah's, "Is there a hippo hiding in the corner?"
"You are naked."
"I don't like wearing clothes to bed. You know that." Alex turned off
the propane light and slid in beside Sarah, appreciating the toasty body.
The night was turning cool.
"You promised to be good," came a worried voice.
"I will," sighed Alex and pulling Sarah close she forced herself to
relax and go to sleep.
The next morning, Sarah woke to that warm, wonderful feeling of being
snuggled against the body she loved. It had been so hard to leave Alex
and the months after had been hell. The guilt, the loneliness, and the
anger at their failed relationship had nearly torn her apart. It
was only escaping to Africa and focussing solely on her research that had
made it possible for her to go on. She opened her eyes to look at the
strong, classic lines of Alex's face. She looked vulnerable when she slept.
It was a side of Alex that few had seen. Sarah kissed the side of Alex's
mouth. Blue eyes opened and met hers. " 'Morning."
"Hey." Sarah kissed Alex's
throat, enjoying again the heady spice that was her ex-lover.
"Mmmm, I thought I had to
promise to be good."
"That was last night," Sarah
murmured into Alex's ear. With a swift move Alex playfully pinned Sarah
to the bed and leaned in with a very dangerous look in her eye.
"Good morning ladies! I have
your coffee and biscuits," came a voice from outside of the tent.
"Shit!" Sarah whispered,
cringing with embarrassment.
"Leave the things on the
table out there please," Alex ordered and tried to grab Sarah as she wiggled
out of the bed.
"No, we have to hurry. I
didn't realize it was so late. Besides, we shouldn't, it will just complicate
things. Getting involved physically is just going to cloud the issues that
drove a wedge between us before."
Alex flopped back on the
bed in frustration. "Aaah!"
Sarah bit her lip, looking
awkward and a bit embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Alex, I shouldn't have led you
on. I'll ask for a cot..."
"No you won't. Okay, okay,
I can live with this," she grumbled, slipping out of the bed and deliberately
stretching so Sarah could appreciate her naked form and all she had turned
"You did that deliberately,
Alex looked at the smaller
woman with an evil twinkle in her eye. "Live with it and the shower is
mine first too."
Sarah couldn't resist that
last word. "Okay, I'll stand out here on hippo watch." Alex pulled a face
and disappeared behind the canvas wall.
After they had showered,
Alex had once again checked Sarah's shoulder even though Sarah had protested
that it no longer hurt. They had a leisurely breakfast under a shady tree
then climbed into George's jeep once again and headed out into the grasslands.
A few hours later, they stood
side by side on the seat of the jeep, their heads and shoulders through
the open roof. Around them was a herd of thirty-two elephants, so close
that they towered over the jeep. George had simply driven into the centre
of the herd and parked.
"Wait for me, Mamma. You
are going too fast," laughed George, as a baby barely a few months old
ran to catch up with its grazing mother.
Alex snapped pictures while
Sarah just enjoyed the magnificent animals around them and explained a
little bit about the elephants they were watching. "You see the musk draining
down the bull's ears? He's coming into heat."
The massive animal flapped
his ears and raised one foot and pounded the ground. George put the jeep
in gear and backed up a bit. "He's warning us off. Bulls are always pretty
aggressive but they are much more so when you see the stain of the musk
on their ears. This herd is the bull's harem and he is feeling some pretty
good reasons for protecting it."
"Papa say, go away. These
are my wives." George put the jeep in gear again and they bumped across
the grasslands in search of other game. That wasn't hard. The grasslands
seemed to teem with wildlife. Alex held on to the roll bar and wrapped
a protective arm around Sarah as they remained standing, enjoying the heat
of the African sun and the wind through their hair as they scanned for
George came to a stop and
scanned the endless grasslands with experienced eyes. "Over there," he
said, "a cheetah is sitting on an old termite hill. But on our way we'll
stop to see that pride of lions." Alex had good eyes and she scanned the
waving grass in the direction that George pointed but she could see nothing.
She looked at Sarah, who just smiled and shrugged smugly. She really had
got them the best guide in the camp.
A few minutes later, George
slowly stopped the jeep. Beside them, a big male lion lay contentedly in
the sun. They could see several females nearby but gradually they became
aware of more and more. In all they were finally able to count a dozen
females, one young male, and the big alpha male. "Why don't they attack?"
George watched the animals
that surrounded them with real affection. "They see the jeep as one entity
and they have seen enough of them to know they are harmless. Now it you
stepped out or reached out with an arm, papa lion would roar 'bring me
some nice human to eat. I am hungry.'"
The women chuckled at the way George talked for the animals. "Male lions, they do not know how to hunt. The females hunt and then the male chases them away and eats the best parts of the kill. When the male is old and driven from the pride by a young male, then they often starve to death because they will not hunt."
"Typical," laughed Sarah
and Alex and George joined in.
"Even the mama lion is not
all that good a hunter. Only forty per cent of the time will she be successful
at a kill. The rest of the time she has to come home and tell Papa that
they will be hungry tonight." Once Alex had got all the pictures she wanted,
George put the jeep in gear again and they bounced on through the tall
grass to where the cheetah sat about a half mile away.
"She is very nervous. She
knows the lions are near. Soon she will move away from here," George explained.
They watched the beautiful animal sitting alert and tense for a few minutes.
Then, it stood, sniffed the air, and bounded away. They went on to look
at crocodiles lazing on river banks, giraffes grazing, and herds of zebra
and wildebeest migrating in the hundreds in a long trail that seemed to
go all the way to the horizon. They returned to the camp as the sun was
setting, feeling totally in awe of what they had seen.
"I can't believe it, " exclaimed
Alex as she stripped out of her dusty clothes. "I thought we'd have to
look for animals and be satisfied with an odd sighting, but no way. You
park the jeep and there are a few giraffes to your right, a herd of zebra
galloping past, a pride of lions lying in the sun and half a dozen other
animals to boot. It is amazing!"
Sarah smiled. "I thought
you'd like it. I wanted you to see it, Alex. To know this part of Africa
as I do. This is the migration season though, remember that. You are seeing
it at its best. In a few months all the wonderful grass will be eaten and
what is left will have dried in the sun and the herd animals will have
headed south again."
Alex walked over and looked
down at the smaller woman with worried, intense eyes. "Is that the only
reason? You just wanted me to have a good holiday?"
"Honestly Alex, I was going
to say no to the visit when I got your letter. I didn't think I could live
through the heartache again. Then you said you loved me and it seemed so
sincere...I don't know, I am pretty confused right now."
"I won't push."
Sarah smiled. "Oh yeah, the
person they coined the word "driven" for is not going to push."
"Then maybe I just got in
touch with myself again and went back to being the person I was."
Sarah reached up and kissed
Alex's cheek softly. "I fell in love with that person." They left it at
that, Alex trying not to push and Sarah afraid to hope that maybe they
could find happiness again. But later that night, they sat around the bonfire
beside the open-air bar and talked. Maybe it was because she was so relaxed
from the long day and the fine food and wine but suddenly Alex found herself
uncharacteristically talking about what she had gone through after Sarah
"I was furious with you,"
she admitted, staring into her glass because she couldn't make herself
look at Sarah. "I'd worked my tail off for us and you walked out on me.
I thought, so what. I don't need a bitch like that in my life. I bought
myself a big home, a flashy car, and started doing the bar scenes, except
I never could bring myself to bring anyone home for the night. I threw
myself into my work and was making tons of money and a real name for myself
and it didn't mean shit. I didn't even know the name of the person I was
operating on. But I sure was showing you how wrong you'd been about me,"
snorted Alex sarcastically.
"So what happened?"
Alex shook her head. "Nothing
really. I just woke up one day and realized that my life was about as shallow
as a puddle. It wasn't the life, I was doing meaningful work, it was me.
I was shallow because it didn't mean a thing to me accept for the power
and money that I could get out of it."
For a bit, the two women
sat and stared at the flames of the fire. Sarah waited knowing that Alex
needed time to find the right words. "So I quit. I saw an advertizement
for the job of field surgeon working out of Yellowknife and I applied.
It has been great. I love it up there."
"What does your job entail?"
Sarah asked, as she reached forward to push a branch farther onto the fire.
"Mostly, general surgery
at the hospital in Yellowknife but I also go around to some of the remote
clinics and see patients. In rare cases, I even operate out of a clinic.
Just before I left, I had to remove an appendix. A plane hadn't been able
to land to get the patient out. I was near by and came over on my dog sled
to help out."
"You have sled dogs?" Sarah
laughed. Alex had never wanted a pet when they lived together. She said
they were too much trouble and got hair on your clothes.
Alex blushed. "Yeah. I've
even competed in some of the local races. I have become real fond of them."
To Sarah's surprise Alex pulled her wallet from her pocket and took out
a picture of her team. A warm flood of affection spread out in Sarah's
being when she saw Alex still carried a picture of the two of them together.
"And that's Cleo, my lead dog - she's great. And lying down back there
is Nip and Tuck," Alex finished.
Alex looked up to see Sarah
looking at her with eyes filled with tears. "What?"
"Nothing." Sarah blinked
back her emotion. "I just think that maybe you have changed." They sat
for awhile enjoying the night sounds, the crackling fire and the dome of
stars over head each deep in their own thoughts. "Alex?"
"Is this who you are or was
it the other Alex who was moving up in society, or was it the tough, streetwise
woman I first met? You see, I don't know."
Alex sighed and poked at
the fire moodily. "I guess I am a bit of all those people. I set goals
for myself and when I do, I go all out. That's just the way I am. That's
what enabled me to escape my childhood poverty and make it through medical
Sarah pushed the issue. She
needed to know where she stood. "You grew up in th city, Alex. Do you think
you can really fit in and be happy in northern Canada? Is this just another
obsession of yours?"
To her surprise Alex laughed.
"I was the butt of so many jokes my first year there. Whenever I had to
go out in the field they would take bets on whether I would have to be
rescued too. I didn't know shit and I think I made every mistake a person
could make. But I've learned, even if it was the hard way. Yeah, I love
it up there. Life feels real and every day is different. The challenges
are big and I have so much more to learn. It is where I want to be. I'm
hoping that you feel you could live there too."
Sarah looked at her in frustration.
Alex could be so linear. "And do what? I am not prepared to be some hausfrau
while you are off having a career."
"I wouldn't expect you to!
There is a lot of work that needs to be done in the north. Yellowknife
is still a town but it is one of the biggest in Canada with a population
of 18,000. There are lots of opportunities. You could lecture at the Aurora
or Nunavut Colleges. There is all sort of renewed interest in the ways
the Dene and Inuit used the land and their knowledge of animal husbandry
and wild plant medicines. You could do some real meaningful research. I
have a nice house overlooking the lake." Sarah shook her head and chuckled.
"What?" Alex asked.
"Tell me you are not going
to push. You have this all worked out don't you?"
Alex blushed and justified
herself moodily. "I think about it a lot. I want us to have a life together.
That's not pushing."
"I guess I wanted you to
see my part of Africa for the same reason," Sarah explained "This is where
I have done my research and I love it here. I want you to love it too.
It is part of who I am. They talk about the African disease you know. It
is fatal to some Europeans. Phillips is a good example. They come here
and they can't leave, Africa is in their blood." Sarah smiled and reached
out to squeeze Alex's hand. "And just for the record, I have thought about
you being here. Daydreamed about it. And now you are."
"Excuse me, Doctor Meloche,
this message was left at the desk for you this afternoon. I am sorry I
am so late in delivering it. With the new group of tourists arriving today,
I have been very busy," explained the office clerk, who had just come up
beside them. He had the droopy, pierced earlobes of a Masai.
"That's okay. Thanks for
bringing it to me. I never think to check my mailbox when I am here," the
anthropologist smiled. The clerk left them alone again and Sarah hopped
up and went over to the light of the bar to read the message she had been
Alex watch Sarah's happy
face change into hard, stressed lines. Quickly, she got up and went over
to join her ex-lover at the edge of the bar. "What's the matter?" Sarah
handed her the note. It was type written, short, and had no letter head
You are being watched. I believe that you are being
considered to play a part in a deadly attack. Please be
on your guard. Be sure you know who your friends are.
"It sounds like Phillips
again," Alex muttered, annoyed that the note had upset Sarah and broken
the chance she had of really trying to build some of those communication
links that she had lost between herself and Sarah in the later years of
"Yes, or someone writing
in his style. I don't like being used. Whoever these people are, they are
not going to get very far trying to get me to do something I don't want."
"Should we call the police?"
"It would be a waste of time.
They have bigger issues to deal with. No, let's go back to our tent." Sarah
signaled to one of the guards and in silence, they followed him back to
Alex unzipped the flap and
lifted it and froze. There was something lying on their pillow. She frowned
and walked over to it. It was a small stone carving of a hippo. "What's
this? Someone's been in the tent."
Sarah came over and looked.
She smiled and kissed Alex's cheek. "It's for you. The camp has them carved
and leaves one on the pillow for each new guest. The woman who lights our
lanterns and turns down the beds would have brought it when she came."
Alex relaxed and smiled.
"Awesome. It's cute. Sure beats a rose. I never know what to do with them
and the chocolate they leave is always stale."
"Trust you to be an expert
on the things maids leave on hotel beds," Sarah snorted, giving Alex a
And arm whipped out as quick
as lightening and drew Sarah close to her. "I don't recall you ever complaining
about my experience," she growled into Sarah's ear before kissing it.
Sarah moaned. "You promised
to be good."
"That was last night."
"And tonight," bargained
Alex sighed dramatically.
"Okay, and tonight... Just how good do you want me to be?"
Sarah hugged her close. "Good
enough so my mind isn't worrying about that silly message and what I might
have got myself into, but not so good that I wake in the morning with bigger
complications than I already have."
Alex took the hint and hugged Sarah reassuringly. Later, they showered together, washing each other like they used to years before but being careful not to cross the line into intimacy. In the darkened tent, Alex held Sarah close to her in bed long after the smaller woman had gone to sleep.
in Part 3