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>
The rotting carcase of a reedbuck hung from the fork in a gnarled tree
nestled in the hollow of a large outcrop of rock. "A leopard kill," George
stated. "But at least a week old. I do not think the leopard is around
Alex looked at the grotesque death with shock and a new respect for
the wilds of Africa. Yesterday, it had seemed like a wonderful, magical
zoo but here was the evidence of nature in its rawest form. Alex glanced
at Sarah. Her face wore a neutral expression. Africa had toughened Sarah
to some of the crueler realities of life.
They drove on and after stopping at different spots to observe warthogs, waterbuck, hartebeest, impala, and hyena, George brought them over a rise to where three lionesses had just made a kill.
They stood at a short distance and watched as the male ripped open the belly of the wildebeest
and tore out the liver and kidneys to eat. Only after he had eaten his
fill did he allow the females, who had made the kill, move in to gorge
on the fresh, steaming meat.
They watched in macabre fascination as the females ripped at the hunches
while the male gnawed contentedly on a bone. The smell of blood fouled
the air and the crack and crunch of large bones in powerful jaws was terrifying.
Next the jackals and hyenas moved in, bouncing through the tall grass
and darting in to rip off pieces of flesh before they were chased by the
lions. Some stood at a distance keeping a lookout, while others fought
over the scraps they had stolen. When the lions finally moved away the
hyenas and jackals descended in a mass. Jaws like vices snapped bones in
half and the bloody remains seemed to disappear before their eyes. The
vultures now moved in to peck and tear at the remains. Later, rodents and
bugs would eat away at the marrow and hide. Death is everywhere on the
great plain but nothing remains to bear evidence to the carnage.
"Shit," whispered Alex, as she watched the dead wildebeest vanish before
her eyes in less than half an hour.
Sarah gave her a quick hug. "A pretty good example of the food chain,
"You're telling me. There certainly isn't any waste!"
"You are only seeing a little bit of the story. Have you noticed the
termite hills? Well, if you totalled up all the weight of all the thousands
of animals roaming over this plain, including the big guys like elephants
and hippos, they would weigh less than the number of termites living in
the ground," Sarah explained.
Alex gave a comical shiver. "Creepy."
George next took them down to a river crossing where a large herd of
zebra were milling around waiting to cross. They watched for sometime as
the herd grazed near by. Gradually, a few came down to the water's edge
and drank. Then a few more. A few brave ones waded out and swam safely
to the other shore. More followed as the crocodiles started to move in
from each side. The black and white striped backs hobby-horsed through
the water in a steady stream now as the thin wakes from the crocodiles
got closer. One of the zebra reared up in fright then another. They splashed
wildly to shore, safe, but others had yet to make it.
Sarah's hand tightened over Alex's and Alex moved closer. She could
feel sweat breaking out on her own lip. "Christ, I hope those buggers don't
get one," she muttered.
George chuckled. "Crocodile has to eat too. He can't help it that he
is not pretty like the zebra. But I think these zebra are okay. The crocodiles
here look too small. They have to grab the zebra by the face and pull him
under and drown him. I do not think they are big enough."
But as they watched, a zebra squealed in fear as a crocodile snapped
onto his nose and pulled his head under. The poor beast struggled to get
his head to the surface and was pulled under again. Once more it got its
head up but it was tiring. Then two other zebra veered over to where the
poor animal struggled for survival and used their front hooves to trample
the crocodile. The croc let go and all the zebra remaining in the water
either turned back or made it safely to the other side.
Alex let out the breath she was holding and Sarah leaned against her
weakly. "The poor crocodile must eat fish tonight," George laughed as he
started up the jeep again, but he seemed relieved too that the zebra had
They returned to Governor's Camp and ate under the shade of a large,
shady tree. "You've changed," Alex observed, once they had brought their
plates back from the large buffet tables and settled down to eat.
Sarah looked up and smiled. "Yes, I have. Oh, my principles are the
same but I have a much more clear idea of the complications involved in
trying to make this world a better place. I have lost my naive idealism
and replaced it with some sound, practical approaches to life." She put
down her fork and looked at Alex with serious and honest eyes. "If I had
the wisdom that I have now back then, I would have still left you, but
I would have done so because the life was not for me and not because I
was harshly and unfairly judging the very social class that I had been
raised in. I was wrong because every social class has its strengths and
weaknesses and I was not prepared to see that. Although, I still believe
that we need to get our priorities straight, I am sorry for some of the
things I said at the time."
Alex swallowed hard. This simple, honest statement had caught her off
guard because she had not expected Sarah to shoulder any of the responsibility
for their break up. "I appreciate your willingness to see that we both
contributed to our relationship falling apart but I am here not to criticize
you as I know I have done in the past but to accept that in trying to make
a better life for us I destroyed the good things that we already had going
in our relationship. The fault of our break up was mine and I am finally
able to see that."
Sarah reached over and squeezed Alex's hand. She knew how hard it would
have been for Alex to express the emotions she felt inside. Alex gave a
weak smile and a blush rose in her face. "I have changed too, Sarah. Matured.
I am more comfortable in my skin now and have nothing to prove other than
I love you and want to be your life partner."
"I love you too, Alex. But..."
"Hey, don't go there, not now. I...I know the buts. Let's just leave
this as a positive conversation today and deal with some of the shit a
bit later. Okay?"
Sarah smiled gently. She could see the pain in Alex's eyes. They could
talk again later and it would soon be time to go out on safari again. There
was no point in getting into any of the raw issues when they were going
to be out bouncing around in the jeep again in half an hour or so. They
finished their coffee and returned to their green canvas palace, as Alex
insisted on calling it, to freshen up before meeting George again at the
They headed out in search of crocodile and hippo and did not have to
travel far down the river side to see them. A big pod of hippos lay basking
in the swallow river, their massive heads resting on each other's backs
and their little round ears twitching back and forth. "The hippopotamus
needs to get lots of sun to warm his big body because he is in the water
so much," George explained. "But the sun doesn't like Mr. Hippo. Hippos
have very sensitive skin and they burn easily. That is why they stay lounging
in the river during the day and then come to shore and eat the grass and
plants at night."
"Which ones are Buttercup and Daisy?" Alex asked, "I gotta bone to pick
with those two. They scared me nearly out of my skin the other night."
George and Sarah laughed and George warned her. "You must be careful.
Daisy and Buttercup stay very close to the camp. A hippo never breaks his
pattern. If you put up your tent on Mr. Hippo's walk, he will just walk
right through your tent. Mr. Hippo doesn't care. Hippos kill more people
each year than another African animal because people don't respect those
big jaws. He can snap a log in half."
Sarah put her arm around Alex and gave her a hug. "Just as well you
were armed with an umbrella, huh?" she teased. Alex smiled and took the
opportunity to wrap her arm around Sarah's shoulder for a quick hug back.
They went on and stood on the bank to allow Alex to take pictures of
some crocodiles sun bathing on the opposite bank. One was over fifteen
feet long and three wide across its back. George watched closely for animals
nearby while the women were out of the truck and Sarah watched that Alex
did not get too close to the water's edge. African rivers needed to be
respected. They were filled with dangerous predators. "Mama crocodile is
very happy. She has eaten well and will not have to hunt again for a long
time maybe even a year," George observed.
The three got back into the Land Rover and headed off once again but
they hadn't gone far before they saw tall figures in bright red and yellow
walking along. "Masai," George sneered. "Masai men are very lazy. Their
women do all the work and they sit and talk all day or sit in the shade
of a tree."
Sarah laughed. "That view couldn't have anything to do with you being
a Bushman could it?"
"Bushmen are good men. Masai men are no good," George reaffirmed with
a big grin.
They bounced on until they were close to the Masai group and then came
to a stop. Much to Alex's surprise, Sarah hoisted herself up onto the roof
of the jeep and slid off to embrace each of the five women and one man
who walked with them. George and Alex sat watching as Sarah chatted away
in Masai to the group. Naturally petite, Sarah looked like a midget next
to the tall Masai. She gave the tall, stern looking man one more hug while
the women giggled and then opened the door and got back into the jeep.
"The women are all dressed up in their yellow and red robes and beads because
they have been to a circumcision ceremony. They met John Cattleman on the
trail and he is walking back with them. He has invited us to visit his
village tomorrow." Alex did a double take at the group walking ahead of
them down the road. She had not recognized Cattleman in his traditional
George started the engine and put the Land Rover in gear. "He is a strange
one, Cattleman. Masai men are no good." Alex looked at Sarah with worried
eyes but the smaller woman didn't seem concerned, just happy at the thoughts
of being able to take Alex to visit one of the Masai villages.
Towards dusk, they sat in the jeep on the crest of a hill. Not far away
from them, three lionesses sat in a row watching a huge herd of wildebeest
and zebra in the valley below. "Papa is hungry and he has sent out his
wives to bring him back a juicy wildebeest or zebra."
Sarah leaned close against Alex. "Wildebeest have an excellent nose
for scent but very poor eyesight. The zebra can't distinguish smells as
well but have excellent eyesight. That's why they migrate together."
Alex watched through her field glasses as one of the lionesses started
circling around and down towards the herd below. "Why are zebras black
and white, I wonder?"
"I just read about that," George responded, as he kept a close eye on
where the lioness was going. "We didn't know for a long time but now they
think that the black and white pattern is like a strobe light to an insect.
The pattern might have evolved to protect the zebra from the bite of the
tsetse fly that carries sleeping sickness. For a long time we knew that
zebras didn't get the sickness as much as other animals. Maybe this is
the answer. Other animals too have stripes on the inside of their ears
where they are most likely to be bit."
After the one lioness had left, the remaining two lay down on the grass,
eyes and ears focussed on the herd below. Alex, Sarah, and George watched
as the other lioness slunk through the tall grass slowly getting closer
and closer to the herd. Alex lowered her binoculars and looked at George,
who rarely seemed to need his binoculars his eye sight was so sharp. "Is
she going to try and kill one of the herd animals by herself?"
"She will try but no, that is not her main intention. You see the herd
is getting restless. They keep looking up and staring at the grass where
she is. The zebra know something is there. Mama lion will get as close
as she can and then try to spring for the neck of one of the animals but
she won't mind if she misses because what she is really doing is stampeding
the herd toward the other two lying here on the hill."
"Good Lord, you mean they have a plan? They are hunting as a team?"
They sat now in tense silence, watching the drama unfold below them. The lioness slunk closer to the herd, low to the ground, ears back, and alert. Sometimes she was visible to the watchers on the hill and other times she was lost in the ocean of waving grass. She had planned her attack well; the breeze that rustled the dense vegetation around her blew her scent away from the herd.
Pebbles slid down the side of an old termite mound as she passed. One
black and white head lifted from grazing and looked her way. She slid forward
faster now she had been spotted.
The zebra closest to her kicked its heels high and galloped away. Other
heads lifted. Now was her only chance; she bounded forward. Wildebeest
and zebra scattered in all directions. Choking in a cloud of dust, she
lunged at the shadowy form darting past and missed. She did not try again
but contented herself with herding the panic stricken herd in the direction
of the other lionesses.
Sarah and Alex lowered their binoculars and watched the massive herd
that stampeded up the hill in their direction. The thunder of their hooves
echoed across the valley and shook the ground. The two waiting lionesses
rose and cautiously wove their way through the grass towards where the
herd would pass. Alex swallowed and felt Sarah's hand slip into her own.
The stampeding herd crested the hill and the lionesses ran forward, teeth
bared and claws extended, but the herd had the advantage of momentum and
sheer size. The lions could do nothing but try to outrun the animals at
the outer edge for fear of being trampled. They soon gave up the chase.
The dust settled. The drumming of hooves faded. The lionesses disappeared
into the grass that was now painted gold by the setting sun. A lone rain
tree stood silhouetted against an endless plain that ran to an infinite
horizon. The lions would go hungry tonight as wild Africa prepared to sleep.
Exhausted from their long day and the excitement and emotions of the
experiences, the two woman headed back to their tent, weary but delighted
with their day.
Sarah flopped down on the bed and Alex in the camp chair. "We could
Sarah's head turned to look at her. "Yeah, we could."
A slow, lazy smile crossed Alex's face. Suddenly she wasn't tired anymore.
She stood and walked over to offer her hand to Sarah and pulled the smaller
woman up to her feet and then lifted her into her arms. "I love you," Alex
stated and proved it with the kiss that followed.
Their shower was more intimate this time, washing was now sensual as
well as practical. Alex lathered Sarah's hair dropping kisses on to her
wet, sweet neck. Sarah used a body lotion with the fragrant scent of peaches
and vanilla to caress her ex-lover, kissing, fondling and rubbing her body
against the fit form. They came close to meeting each other's needs, they
both wanted to, but once again Sarah slowed the pace, tenderly but firmly
letting Alex know that she still was not ready to cross the line that would
make them lovers again.
The sexual tension and scent of hot need saturated the canvas room,
carried on the steam from the shower. Alex fought for control, inwardly
groaning with desperate need. She had to be content for now with the lingering
sensation of Sarah's lips on her breasts and her fingertips caressing her
The evening routine continued. They sat on the deck of the bar that
over looked the river below and watched elephants feeding in the bush on
the opposite bank as they nursed glasses of sherry. They then walked across
the compound lawn to the dining pavilion for a meal of mango salad, roast
ostrich with vegetables and cooked bananas covered in fresh chocolate and
flamed with a fruit brandy sauce. Later, they took their liqueur glasses
of Benedictine to sit by the fire.
Alex thought about the very tall and lean man they had met on the trail
with the woman. His ear lobes had been pierced and stretched into big loops
of skin. He'd worn a red cotton tunic that came nearly to his knees. In
one hand, he held a tall Masai spear and in his beaded belt he carried
a short sword. Cattleman had been an impressive sight but he sure hadn't
looked like a potential threat to the political stability of the area.
She said as much to Sarah.
The anthropologist frowned. "The Masai have very strong ties to their
families and to their traditional ways. John is just as comfortable in
European dress as he is proud to wear his Masai clothes. There is a whole
ritual and chain of procedures that a man must go through before becoming
an adult member of the Masai community. That process binds him closely
to the land and his people even if he does choose to get a European education."
Alex leaned back and got comfortable in her camp chair. There was no
point in going early to bed, Sarah had made that quite clear. Besides,
she wanted to show Sarah that she had changed, that she could take the
time to listen and to support her partner's interests and to appreciate
the research she was doing. "Tell me about it."
Sarah laughed and shook her head. "That would take months. The Masai
live by a strict order of ritualized life stages. Masai are not Moslem.
They still follow the old African beliefs. You'll just have to read my
ethnology, but in a nutshell it works like this; between five and ten months
old a baby is named. It is given the name of a hero or famous leader. Then
at the age of four or five the front teeth are removed for beauty. When
the child is between nine and ten years old, the ears are pierced and extended
with wooden spools over time. This is also done for beauty."
Alex frowned. "Whatever happened to swimming lessons and braces?"
"It's a whole different world out here," Sarah laughed, stopping to
take a sip of her drink before she went on. She was pleased that Alex appeared
to be taking a genuine interest instead of making snide remarks about the
'soft sciences.' "Girls are circumcised at puberty."
"Yes, but this is their country and their way. Perhaps over time and
with education things will change, as cultures do, but it is not for us
to force change on them. Female circumcision is performed in the woman's
house by the chief woman, They may cry but the family will give them gifts
if they don't. Once a girl has gone through this ritual, she may marry."
Alex nodded her understanding, appreciating Sarah's knowledge of the
complex society she had been researching. "What about the boys?"
"Boys go through the process between the ages of fifteen and eighteen
Sarah smiled. "They are circumcised at the main gate of the village
or in the centre of the village, but only the males of the village can
be there. Men may not cry or they are seen to be weak and cowards."
"Do the boys marry that young too?" Alex asked, trying not to sound
like she was judging. She finished her drink and relaxed back into her
chair and waited intently for Sarah's answer.
"Oh no, the males have a long way to go yet. They now start their training
to be warriors. From around eighteen to twenty-five, men are expected to
act smart, brave and arrogant."
Alex laughed. "The whole macho scene, huh?"
"You got it. They must prove themselves by killing a lion or participation
in cattle raids. Today, it is very difficult to kill a lion because they
are protected for the tourist trade. So most get involved in cattle stealing
and the inter-tribal fights associated with the raids. They are illegal
too but it is harder for the authorities to catch them."
"It was on one of those raids that you were hit by the spear?"
"Yes," Sarah stated and then went on before Alex dropped into her doctor's
mode and launched into a lecture. "At the beginning of the rainy season,
the warriors retreat into the bush to 'eat meat'." Sarah made quotation
marks with her fingers and continued. "This is to make them strong. At
this time too, they are instructed in their ways by the headmen and spiritual
leaders. A Cape Buffalo will also be killed to make each warrior's shirt.
They will be gone for over six months."
"That's quite a commitment in time and effort. I can see why it would
reinforce the traditional culture. Not to agree to participate would result
in total exclusion," Alex mused, beginning to see how different the world
view of the Masai was to that of the European world.
"It sure does and this is only the beginning. After they have proven
themselves ready to be warriors, a special village is built where they
stay to complete their training. They will stay there for up to two years
and may only be visited by men and the old women." Alex shook her head
in disbelief. "Should I go on or have you heard enough?"
Alex bent and grabbing a piece of dry wood she tossed it on the embers
of the fire. "Go ahead, I want to understand what I am getting into tomorrow."
"Each group that goes through the ritual towards manhood has a peer
who is picked as their leader. It is a great honour. He must be rich, beautiful,
intelligent, brave and a good speaker. He must also come from the Black
House. There are a number of houses to which families belong. John was
the leader of his group. That gives him great power among his village peers.
The leader's role is to set an example or as they would say 'clear a path'
for his age group."
"Sarah, I am really impressed by your research here. I have never really
given the social sciences much credence but I am beginning to realize why
the political and business world has met with such resistance and even
violence if they didn't bother to understand this stuff."
"That's right." Sarah laughed, "Mind you I have my own biases. I think
that people with masters degrees in business can be the most narrow and
unaware people I have ever met."
"The Masai warriors have an interesting bonding process during this
time. They are rivals of the group that went through the ritual before
them and are supported by the group that went through the process before
their rivals. So every other generation is very close."
Alex frowned in thought. "So the young warriors are influenced not by
the inexperienced men but the ones that have gained ten years of insight.
That reinforces the traditions and discourages rebellion."
"That's right." Sarah picked up a stick and poked the fire. Sparks danced
into the night air.
Alex watched Sarah with hungry eyes but she pushed those thoughts from
her mind and asked another question about the initiation instead. "So John
would be old enough to be a supporter of the boys going through initiation
"Could that be significant to the warning you got?"
Sarah took a sip of her drink and considered. "It might be. Then again,
it could be he is back here just meeting his tribal obligations. I can
tell you though, I am worried. Although the Masai are not, a good percentage
of the people in this country are Moslem. They are also poor and facing
a dismal future. They have not been immune to the propaganda of fundamentalists."
"This is not good news. But what does it have to do with you? Have you
been messing around in the local politics or could you have overheard something
you shouldn't have?"
Sarah frowned. "None of those things that I can recall. Nor am I likely
to make that mistake. To do my research accurately and fairly, I have to
be a totally neutral and an open observer. That can be very hard at times
but it is essential for the work that anthropologists do. The final ceremony
of the initiation rights will becoming up in a few months. I am wondering
if something will happen then."
Alex eyes filled with concern. "Tell me about it."
Sarah shrugged. "The ceremony lasts five days. The men of the village
will dress in ostrich headdresses or lion skin if they have killed one.
They will march back to their old village and their heads will be shaved.
Following this, in the months to come, there will be two other ceremonies,
one that allows the warriors to drink milk in the village again and another
for meat eating."
"Sounds harmless enough."
"Yes, but they are young warriors eager to make a name for themselves
and could be easily led to prove their bravery with a dangerous and reckless
Alex voice was tight with worry. "Do you think that is why John is here,
to lead some sort of uprising or terrorist act that would support the ambitions
of a few Islamic fundamentalists?"
Sarah sighed and looked very unhappy. "I like John. He helped me a lot
when I first came here. I think he is honourable and decent. I also know
he is passionate about his political and social beliefs and his need to
help his people."
"Good people can be led easily to commit terrible acts in the name of
God," Alex stated dryly.
Sarah nodded her head in agreement. "Yes. But John is not a Moslem.
If he is involved in something, it is because he feels that it will help
the Masai people."
The fire cracked and the burning log crumbled into red embers. The night
closed in. Sarah signalled to their guard and they headed back to their
tent in silence. They slept that night wrapped close in each other's arms.
Alex stood outside their tent watching the sun rise over the Serengeti.
It spilled over the endless horizon and washed the sea of grass below with
gold. Not far off vultures circled over a night kill. An elephant trumpeted
the dawn and birds took up the chorus in the trees of the nearby bush.
'The African Sickness', Sarah had called it. The love of the land so deep
in Europeans that they had to return to Africa no matter what the dangers
or hardships. Not far from here, in the Olduvai Gorge, human life evolved
some five million years ago. All humans were African at their roots. Perhaps
there was some trace memory in their genetic code still that called them
Alex could feel it now. Would Sarah be prepared to leave and re-establish
her life and career in Canada? If not, would Alex be prepared to give up
her practice and follow Sarah to Africa?
"You are up early."
Alex started and looked down at Sarah who stood beside her wrapped in
a blanket against the morning chill. Alex reached out an arm and pulled
the anthropologist close. "Couldn't sleep."
"You seemed deep in thought."
Alex smiled. "Africa was calling to me."
Sarah laughed softly. "It does that. I will be sorry to leave."
Alex looked at Sarah in surprise. "But you plan to?"
Sarah nodded sadly and looked fondly over the land in front of them.
"As much as I love it here, this is not my land. Africans will make their
own future, either good or bad. I do not belong here anymore. My research
will be complete in a few months time."
"Ahhh, does that mean you would consider a life in Canada with me?"
Sarah gave the taller woman a hug. "It means I will be returning to
Canada at any rate."
They left shortly after breakfast for the Masai village. Sarah had instructed
Alex to bring along the box of medical supplies that she had brought as
they would stop at the local clinic on the way back. Alex smiled with anticipation.
She was looking forward to having a look at the medical facilities available
in the country.
George driving, they headed across the grasslands following a narrow
dirt road. The closer they got to the Masai village, the shorter the grasses,
until the land was chomped to the ground. Sarah looked around with a frown
of concern. "The Masai judge their wealth by cattle. That has led to over
grazing. Each year, humans encroach deeper and deeper into the grasslands,
reducing the area set aside for the wild herd animals."
"Don't the Masai appreciate the wild heritage around them?
"Sure they do. It is their mythology that has preserved the wildlife
here. Remember, God gave them goats and cattle and they promised in return
not to hunt God's animals or scratch God's earth. Any killing they do is
to save themselves from attack or for ritual reasons. But they know they
have to eat and prosper and that means they need land."
The village ahead was on a small rise. It consisted of a round, high
fence of brush. George pulled up the jeep and they waited. George checked
the area carefully for wild animals and then nodded to the women. They
got out and waited again. Soon a tall, regal looking woman came out and
Sarah walked forward to greet her with a bow as was the Masai's way.
"Alex, this is Maria. She is the first wife of the headman of this village."
"Welcome Alex." Maria's speech was clear and precise.
"Thank you for letting me visit your village,"Alex responded, with a bow of her head. Maria smiled proudly and together they entered the village. Here John waited for them. He wore still traditional Masai dress.
He shook Sarah and Alex's hands in a European fashion. "Welcome. It
is good to see you again." Alex looked around the village. Small, low houses
edged the circumference and the central area was sun baked cow dung flattened
into a hard crust under the feet of the cattle. There were four gates so
four men and their extended families lived here.
Maria had been busy bringing the children and wives out. They were dressed
in robes of bright red and yellow and wore wide, stiff collars of beading.
Some wore gold or beaded chains that looped from their large earpieces
to their noses. All were tall, lean and wiry. Alex herself was a good height
but Maria was a several inches taller.
Maria carried a small club like a swagger stick and her women lined
up quickly and obediently at her command. "We will sing you a song of welcome,"she
told them, and stood proudly while her flock sang and swayed happily to
the rhythmic, repetitive music.
John explained, with pride, a little of the history of his people as
they sang. "The Masai are a Nilotic group. They believe their ways are
similar to the Egyptian during Roman occupation because they are a military
society, wear robes and sandals, carry short swords and wear similar headdresses.
The word Maa means language and Sai beads. We probably migrated down the
Nile Valley in the fifteenth century. Our language is closest to the people
of the Sudan." The song ended and they politely clapped.
Alex watched the group who had sung disperse with interest. "Is there
significance to the bead work they wear? It is very elaborate and beautiful."
"There is much symbolism in it. I will show you. Maria, come here."
The woman came immediately but with a dignity and bearing that Alex marvelled
at. "The Masai use weights to extend their pierced ear lobes. The decorative
loops of flesh are kept open with wood spools or metal earrings. Look at
Maria's wooden spools. Do you see that they are similar but not identical."
Alex looked at the earrings feeling a bit awkward. She did not like
using Maria as an exhibit. She wasn't sure what was culturally acceptable
and Sarah had wandered off to talk to old friends now that the song was
over. "Yes, I see, one is carved in a spiral but the other is consecutive
John smiled and nodded. "That is right. The spiral is female, the consecutive
circles a male symbol. The Masai believe that all things in life are paired
but not identical. The earrings are bound together as a pair either by
a nose strap or simply by the colours in the collar. For a balanced society,
pairs must be joined."
Alex nodded. She looked about at the primitive village of dung and saw
it now for the complex society it really was. She began to realize why
colonialism failed so badly and why globalization was doomed to a similar
fate if the business and political worlds were not prepared to understand
the complex societies they were dealing with. "Can you tell me about the
John nodded his approval. Few Europeans stopped to really learn. The
tourists who stopped by to take pictures, looked with disgust at the village
of dung, clicked their tongues at the unsanitary conditions, and bought
the tourist artifacts from the village women to take home. They would brag
later about their adventures in the 'primitive' village never realizing
the richness of culture they overlooked. Does having a fancy car and a
big brick house make you civilized?
"There are white colours and black colours. The white colours are hot,
bright and colourful. They are the 'beautiful ones'. They are the nurturing
elements of society. The female elements. The black colours are cold, the
dark elements of people. The male elements. Again there are pairs. Female:
white, hot, red. Male: black, cold, blue."
'That is fascinating. Are you back here for the ceremonies that Sarah
tells me will be happening soon?"
For a split second surprise flashed across John's eyes. "Partly. Are
you enjoying your stay in the Masai Mara?"
Alex noted the sudden change of topic and did not push the issue. "Yes,
very much so. It is an amazing place." She turned then as Sarah walked
up beside her.
"I got a message."
This time there was no look of surprise. "From whom?"
"I don't know. It basically warned me to be careful of friends that
might use me for their own ends. Do you know anything about it?"
John seemed to force himself to relax. "No. But it seems like good advice.
In these times it is wise to know who your friends are and what they want
"I am of no significance. I find it hard to believe that I am earmarked
for a role in some sort of dire plot."
John looked at her with dark, unreadable eyes. "The best way to catch
fish is with minnows."
"Is that a warning or a threat?" Sarah asked, her eyes stormy.
"Just hope it is not a prophecy. These are dangerous times."
Alex felt herself bristle with the implied warnings in the exchange
between Sarah and John. She would have liked to have taken charge and made
it clear to John that he'd better not mess with Sarah. But instead, she
gritted her teeth and stayed quiet but close. Sarah had a right to handle
her problems her way. Alex meant to show Sarah that she had faith in her
abilities. If Sarah needed help she'd ask for it. This was Sarah's turf
and Alex trusted her to know what she was doing.
Sarah nodded. "Thank you, John, for your hospitality. We will go and
thank the women and then be on our way. Alex is anxious to visit the local
Maria insisted on showing them her simple home with pride so it was
some time before they straightened out of the dark wattle and daub building
and blinked in the bright sun. John had disappeared. Two old men sat in
the sun, their backs against a hut wall. Their faces were lined and dark
like aged wood. A village dog ran past, two children played on the far
side of the village and a group of women sat cross-legged near the gate.
In front of them was a selection of crafts.
"It would be politically wise to buy something," Sarah whispered, as
they made their way towards the gate. Alex nodded. First, Alex picked out
a collar of beautiful patterns of red, blue and white. It was Maria, standing
near by, who did the negotiating on behalf of the women and took the money
Alex turned and placed the collar around Sarah's neck. This caused the
women to laugh hysterically. Alex blushed and saw that Sarah had too. "What
have I done?"
"I think we just became engaged."
Alex smiled roguishly. "Good". Next she checked out all of the clubs.
Some were beaded just as fancily as the collars. Alex hefted each one and
checked its balance, hardness and weight. She rejected the pretty tourist
models and bought instead a plain wooden club with a beautiful grain and
perfect weight and balance. Maria nodded in approval. They said their good
byes and went back to the jeep where George waited patiently.
"Where did Maria learn her English if women are not allowed to go to
school?" Alex asked as she clambered into the jeep after Sarah.
"Her children taught her. Three of her sons chose to go to school."
"She must be very smart. She speaks with beautiful enunciation. It is
a shame she never go the chance to go to school."
Sarah shrugged. "She is very powerful for a woman and is proud of her
culture and ways as you saw. If she had got an education she would be working
in one of the tourist camps at a minimal wage. Is she not better off where
she is in some ways?"
Alex nodded, seeing the wisdom behind this question. Maria belonged.
It might be a basic, hard life but it was hers. That was far better than
being caught between two cultures and never belonging to either.
They drove on for some time until they came to a small, whitewashed
building sitting behind a tall chain link fence. Alex stood up and looked
out of the roof at the shabby structure. "Oh boy," she sighed.
Sarah shrugged. "It is not as bad as it looks. The Masai move about
a lot and permanent facilities just didn't work. Now they have these small
clinics to handle immediate first aid and a flying doctor service to take
serious cases out."
"Sounds like a plan," Alex stated happily as she followed Sarah over
to the gate. There was fresh blood on the metal.
"Looks like there is a problem. Watch the blood. You have to be very
careful in Africa." Sarah's warning was wasted. Alex was already striding
back to the jeep.
"There's fresh blood on the gate," she told George, as she pulled out
a pair of plastic gloves from the box of medical supplies she had brought
and slipped them on. George nodded, and pulled an M16 rifle out from under
the seat. Alex carried the box of supplies and George followed.
"George, there isn't a soul for miles!" Sarah protested, as she accepted
the box that Alex passed to her. Alex opened the gate and they slipped
through. George said nothing but his sharp eyes watched the windows and
doorway of the clinic closely.
A pool of blood marked the doorstep and from inside they could hear
the sound of moaning and worried, low Bantu voices. George slung his rifle.
"A Bantu man has been gored by a Cape Buffalo." Inside, they found three
young men, their eyes round and white with fear huddled against one wall.
They must have brought their friend in because they were blood splattered.
Alex nodded and walked through to the examination room. "Hi, I'm Doctor
Aubin. I am a surgeon. Can I be of help?" she asked, already sizing up
the situation as she indicated to Sarah that she should put the box down
on a table along the side of the wall. Blood dripped steadily off the old
chipped metal table. There were three other occupants in the room besides
the unfortunate victim: a village man and a Masai man and woman dressed
in European clothes under old lab coats. They splashed around in a growing
puddle of blood. Their clothes were already saturated.
"Please Doctor. I can't stop the bleeding," the Masai man said.
Alex was putting on a clean pair of gloves over the ones she already
had on. "Does he have AIDS?" Sarah asked.
The nurse looked up from where he was applying pressure with a blood
soaked cloth. "I don't know. It is possible."
Alex nodded and went to work, quickly taking command as she looked around for what might be available in the clinic that she could use. Sarah stood back against the wall and stayed out of the way, watching Alex fighting to save the man who'd had his groin ripped open.
"Have you got IV equipment here?" she asked the male nurse who was trying to slow the flow of blood. He nodded that they did. "Quickly, get an IV started and let it run wide open," Alex ordered, taking the blood soaked cloth away from him. She looked over at the other nurse. "Get some suturing material and lots of gauze from the box over there and if you have a sterile haemostat that would be good."
She took the pulse of the
uninjured leg and then compared it to the injured side and frowned. Next,
she took the packing away from the wound and a spurt of blood shot up.
Alex dabbed away the blood watching closely. The nurse returned with the
requested materials and Alex grabbed a handful of gauze and got it in place.
"Here," she said, "Hold this and apply pressure while I get the needle
Alex wasted no time; there
was none to lose. As soon as she was ready she nodded to the woman to remove
the gauze, clamped the haemostat in place, and put in a few quick sutures
in the damaged artery to slow the bleeding. Feeling less pressured now,
she released the haemostat from the artery. Dabbing away the slowly seeping
blood with more gauze, she checked her work and the extent of the damage.
"Looks like the pubis is shattered. It might have been a bone splinter
that tore the artery." She packed the wound as tightly as she dared to
control the oozing blood and applied a pressure dressing.
"Heart erratic. Blood pressure
low and dropping."
Alex looked up at the male
nurse who stood by. " You'd better hang a second bag of fluid and run it
wide open again." The nurse nodded and hurried to carry out Alex's order.
Alex looked back down at her patient with worried eyes. She felt for a
pulse in the lower leg. There was a marked increase in the blood pressure
now she had completed the suturing. She nodded her approval. "Come on fella,
hang in there!" she urged emotionally.Carefully,
she and the two nurses worked to strap the unconscious man to a backboard.
George, standing in the doorway
of the room, heard the sound first. "Helicopter."
Alex nodded. "I've patched
up a few holes and stabilized the hip as best I can. What's the ETA?"
"About eighty minutes."
Alex shook her head. "You
guys finish up securing him to the backboard. I'll write up a note for
the receiving team." The nurses nodded and Alex washed her gloved hands
first in disinfectant then ripped them off and scrubbed again. She walked
to the small office at the front of the building and sat down at the desk
and started writing. She didn't look up as the 'copter team walked past,
trusting the nurses and 'copter squad to get their part of the job done.
She joined them outside sometime later and handed them her notes. With
a nod of thanks, they headed off. Alex stood at a safe distance, the wind
and dust whipping around her. Then she sighed and turned to meet Sarah's
"He is not going to make
it, is he?" Sarah asked, compassion welling as tears in her eyes.
Alex felt drained, her heart
heavy with worry for the unknown young man. "It is very unlikely. I was
able to slow the blood loss but his body is in deep shock due to the scale
of the trauma. He might make it but it is going to be a long shot. He is
open to infection. That will be the big concern if he survives the surgery."
"You knew that but you tried
to save him anyway, even though you could have been putting your own health
"That's my job. AIDS is a
reality here. Everywhere. Come on, you will need to translate," stated
Alex, changing the subject. She didn't want to think about it. The blood
that saturated her clothes was reminder enough. Yeah, she was worried.
She hadn't been prepared to deal with anything like this. She wondered
what Sarah was thinking. Whether she would let her near her anymore, now
she had seen Alex dripping in blood that might be carrying any number of
potentially dangerous diseases.
Alex had explained carefully
and Sarah had translated. It was hard to tell the four frightened men that
their friend might die. They showed no emotion, it wouldn't have been manly
but the sorrow and pain were there in their eyes.
Sarah sat quietly in the
front seat of the Land Rover thinking. Alex had insisted on sitting alone
in the back so as not to ruin anyone else's clothes. 'That's my job' Alex
had said. But it hadn't been. When Sarah had lived with her, Alex had competed
for the high profile jobs that tested her talents and knowledge. She hadn't
been interested in healing but in gaining fame and power. What Alexandria
Aubin worked in Yellowknife? The one who wanted to control or the one who
had just fought to save a poor young man's life?
It had been a full morning
and they caused quite a sensation when they arrived back at Governor's
Camp with Alex covered in blood. Sarah thought the manager was going to
have a heart attack with worry until she had a chance to explain that Alex
was alright and had just performed some major first aid on a victim of
a wild animal attack. Alex said nothing. Tight lipped and worried, she
brushed past, ignoring the stares and gasps from other tourists and stalked
to their tent to shower and change.
She stood under the shower
head and let the water pour down over her. The water was as hot as she
could stand it and the tent was soon steamy. She scrubbed herself down
with a disinfectant soap. Life sucked. The man was probably going to die,
Sarah was in some sort of danger, and now there was a good chance that
Sarah would never want to make love to her. She rinsed the shampoo out
of her hair. So intense was she on her dark thoughts that she started when
she caught the motions of a figure through the stream.
Sarah peeled off her dusty
clothes and stepped into the shower with Alex. "Ouch! That's hot!"
Alex looked down at the smaller
woman, using her body as a shield to keep the direct spray off her. "I
made it as hot as a could. I...aah...wanted you to know I was clean."
Sarah's expression softened
and she wrapped her arms around Alex and rested her head on her breast.
"Silly. I was so proud of you today. You are my old Alex, bold, brave and
confident." She stood on her tip toes and captured Alex's lips. Strong
arms wrapped around her, healing hands, caring hands, a lover's hands.
"I'm so glad you asked to
visit me here in Africa."
"So am I, Lover," Alex murmured,
as she kissed Sarah's face.
"Stop." The single word stabbed
into Alex's heart and she pulled back immediately, looking profoundly hurt.
Sarah moved closer and wrapped her arms around the stiff figure again.
"There is no privacy now. Tonight, after dinner when they have turned back
our bed, lit the lamps, and dropped the canvas flaps over the window screening,
make love to me then. I want you back in my bed and in my life."
Alex gave a growl and pulled
Sarah to her. Relief surged through her like a tidal wave and tears mixed
with the shower water. She had won Sarah back. Now how the hell was she
going to wait another five hours to show Sarah just how much she loved
An hour later, they sat over
drinks, self consciously waiting for the dining area to open. "How much
dinner do we have to eat?" Alex asked jokingly.
Sarah burst out laughing
and choked on her drink. "You are so bad!"
Alex raised an eyebrow. "I
don't think once every three years is unreasonable."
Sarah smiled softly and squeezed
Alex's hand where it lay on the arm rest. "There was no one else?"
Alex blushed and straightened
the peanut dish on he table. "No."
"Nor me. And Alex?"
"It had better be more than
once," Sarah challenged.
"Hope I am not interrupting."
Sarah blushed and looked up to see James Phillips.
"Of course not, James. You
seem to be everywhere at once these days. Will you join us for a drink."
James bounced on his heels
nervously and then quickly took a seat when asked. "I have been busy. Tying
up some loose ends, you know. It's all over for me now. I'm retiring. So
I want to leave things neat and tidy for the new man coming in."
Sarah's eyes widened with
surprise. "You're leaving? Since when?"
"I just made up my mind the
other month and handed in my letter of resignation. Think I'll buy myself
a little place down in Cornwall. Lovely country there." Phillips beamed.
"Well, congratulations then,
James. Let Alex and me buy you a drink."
"No thanks, Sarah. I've had
several already and I promised a few old acquaintances that I'd meet them
for dinner. I just couldn't resist stopping to say good bye. I saw your
name on the list for the balloon flight on Thursday. It's a wonderful experience
that. I've done it several times."
Sarah beamed. "As soon as
I knew Alex was going to be visiting I booked it. It is so popular that
if you don't book early you simply can't get on."
Phillips smiled knowingly
with eyes that Alex thought were just a bit cold. "Yes. Look, you could
do me a favour. Margaret is catering the champagne breakfast after the
flight. I borrowed her binoculars several weeks ago. You'd be saving me
a drive over if you could just take them with you and give them to her
when you see her at breakfast. If it is alright with you, I'll leave them
at the main desk for you to pick up the morning of your flight."
"Sure, I'd be glad to," Sarah
stated. She put her glass down and her smile faded. "Listen James, I got
this letter. No signature on it and it was typed. She pulled it out of
her pocket and handed it to Phillips. Alex's eyebrow raised. She hadn't
known that Sarah was keeping the letter on her rather than leaving it in
Phillips took the folded paper and smoothed it out on his knee, then reached for his glasses that hung from a cord around his neck. He read it twice. At least, Alex saw his eyes scan down the page twice. Perhaps he was buying time until he could think of something to say. Phillips sighed. "This is one of the reasons I shall be happy to leave. Lovely ladies like yourself should not have to put up with this nonsense. I don't see what this could possibly mean. You are not involved in the politics of this area. I suspect it is just meant to scare you because they have seen you talking to me and are afraid you might say something that would get them in trouble. The rumour is I work for Intelligence you know."
Sarah looked up with interested
eyes. "Is there any truth to that rumour?"
"None whatsoever. Old colonials
like myself pick up certain urban legends like these to explain why we
have stayed on." There was a touch of bitterness in his voice.
"Why did you stay on then?"
Alex asked bluntly.
"The African disease," Phillips
shrugged, dropping the letter on the table. "And here I could afford to
live reasonably well. Didn't think I could back in England but I came into
a little money recently and that has changed my plans. Well, must be off.
Give my love to Margaret. And Sarah, I don't think this letter is anything
to worry about, but do be careful." The old man reached out and laid an
affectionate hand on her shoulder for a brief second.
"Thanks James. Best wishes
for a long and happy retirement."
"I think that is assured
now," James stated confidently, and with a nod to Alex he took his leave.
"His tune has changed a lot
in a very short time," Alex muttered.
Sarah watched the retreating
figure thoughtfully. "Yes."
"Do you believe him?"
Sarah sighed sadly. "There is no reason not to." The women finished their drinks and headed over to the dining room. The episode was soon forgotten.
Alex was barely in the tent when she started to strip off her clothes. It had been a lovely romantic dinner but now at last she could be with Sarah again. She wasn't about to waste anymore time. Laughter broke out behind her and she turned to see Sarah flat on her back on the bed grinning up at her.
"What's so funny?" Alex asked,
a bit vexed as she stood hands on hips, totally naked except for her briefs.
"You got zebra striped-undies
on," Sarah snorted.
Alex looked down at the offending
briefs, a flush rising up her neck. "I bought a packet of three in African
motifs at the Hudson's Bay Company to get in the mood"
"And are you in the mood?"
The question was low and seductive.
"Then come here, Tarzan.
I need you."
Alex raised an eyebrow and
the corner of her mouth curled in a cocky smile. She grabbed the beam that
ran the length of their tent and swung gracefully back and forth while
Sarah looked on with hungry eyes. With a ripple of muscle, Alex dropped
in front of the bed and leaned down to kiss the lips that she loved so
Sarah reached up and scooped
her lover's breasts into her hands. Her fingers gently caressed nipples
hard with excitement. Alex growled softly and settled her hips between
Sarah's legs. Slowly, she stripped Sarah of her clothes until the only
thing between them was one pair of Zebra striped panties. Sarah ran her
fingers under them, felt Alex's wet, hot need, and tried to pull them off.
"Not yet Jane," Alex whispered
seductively. "Not yet." Her hands roamed over familiar territory changing
bitter-sweet memories into red, hot reality. With a groan, she forced herself
to go slow giving Sarah all the pleasure she needed to reach a deep and
powerful climax. Then she entered the woman she loved and in the claiming
felt whole once again. Their rhythm increased, kisses deepened, and whispers
of love were rough with passion. When Sarah came, Alex came right along
with her. It felt so right. She was whole again.
For a while, Alex held Sarah feeling the echo waves of her orgasm convulsing through her. Then Sarah rolled over and gave back to her lover all the passion and joy that had been give her. The zebra pants were lost and an old love found again.
in Part 4