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The next day, I woke up, and noticed a mango carefully laid out on a leaf next to my head. I looked up to see her sitting with her back towards me, feet dangling out of the cave, busy eating her own mango. It must have been later morning, because the sun was already up, radiating warmth, and illuminating the world outside the cave mouth. As I watched her there, I realized, I don’t even know her name! I got up slowly, trying not to make much noise. I grabbed the mango, walked over to the mouth of the cave, sat down next to her, and began tearing at the mango with my teeth. Noticing my presence, she turned, mango in her hand, and smiled a greeting to me. It was a mischievous, friendly smile, her chin completely covered in mango juice. I smiled back and we ate breakfast in silence, enjoying each others company.
After we finished eating the last of our mangos she turned to me and asked, “Since we’re both covered in mango juice, do you want to go down to a river and wash it off?”
“Okay.” I answered, “You lead the way.”
As we started walking through the vegetation, I noticed how sure footed she was, and how little noise she made while walking.
“Have you been living here all your life?” I asked.
“Depends” she paused, “I have been living in this forest most of my life, but I like to switch locations every so often. How ‘bout you?”
“No, I just moved here.”
“Why?” she asked.
I have to trust her, I pretty much depend on her right now! Besides, her mind seems kind and truthful enough, might as well tell her everything. So I explained how I lived like a gipsy, moving from place to place, trying to help people and animals, and how I had heard about some men who were planning to cut a whole forest down.
I told her about how I disagreed with it, and about how many lives they were putting in danger because once the forest was cut down, if they succeeded, the animals would be homeless. I told her how wrong I felt that was and how I was going to try stop it.
I got so carried away in my thoughts and feelings that I even explained how I had been spying on the humans, trying to read their minds and see what their future plans were. She stopped me there, and asked, “So, you can read minds?”
Why did I do that? Why did I say that? I never told anybody other than Tigris about my power. Whatever. Too late. I told her, no use in hiding it now.
“Yes.” I answered. Looking down at my feet. Curiosity got the better of me, and I looked up into her face, feeling some what guilty. What I saw surprised me. I don’t know what I had expected, but not this. The expression on her face was not scared, nor surprised, nor traumatized. She was looking at me with curiosity and, could it be? Looking at me with the slightest bit of admiration.
“Cool” she commented. “Please, go on with your story.” she encouraged.
So I did. “As I was standing there, concentrating on finding their plans with the forest. I...” I paused for a second, looking ahead of myself, trying to remember, and back again, “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what happened after that. It’s all a sort of blur. I think...” I trailed off into the distance of my memory, “I think, a tree was going to fall on top of me, I was so concentrated on the humans in the middle of the clearing, I didn’t realize one of them was cutting a tree down. It would have crushed me into smithereens but somebody, something, someone...” I was trailing off again. “This may sound stupid but, I think a black panther came rushing at me and pushed me out of the way, but a branch caught on my shirt and made a long scratch down my back. Then my arm got tangled in the branch and my shirt. When I panicked and pulled my arm back, it broke.” I winced at the memory. “The pain was excruciating. Then the panther walked towards me and knocked me out. Next thing I remember I woke up in the cave. The pain in my arm was just bearable, and it was all wrapped up in this weird cast and sling made out of wood and vines; but I must admit, it works pretty well.” I said as I looked down at my arm. It didn’t hurt as bad as I remember. I’m sure it’s broken though, no doubt about that. I wonder how long it will take to heal. Hopefully not more than a month, but who knows. There aren’t any doctor out here in the jungle, randomly searching for patients between the foliage. “Your eyes,” I looked up into her eyes. “those deep brown, almost black eyes” I continued. “I remember where I saw them now.” I paused. I’ve said a lot of things that haven’t made much sense today, I guess another wouldn’t hurt. “Are you the panther?”
She looked ahead, “Oh look, there’s the river I was telling you about.” She started turning towards the path ahead, but I caught one of her hands with my good arm. She looked back at me and our eyes met again.
“Are you the panther?” I asked again.
I let go. She looked down, - “Cool.” I commented, -and slowly up again.
I smiled. “Thank you for saving my life.”
She blushed, and averted her eyes, while smiling shyly at the moist dirt beneath our feet.
“Friends?” I asked.
Her smile broadened, “Yes.” She answered looking back up at me. “Friends.”