“What are you two doing?”
Leila sat up on the bed with a lurch, her mouth dry and her heart hammering at the sudden, unwanted interruption. She and Kobi had been about to have their very first kiss, but the barely audible whisper had made the pair jerk apart, each leaning against the wall of the empty cabin and trying their best to look as if they hadn’t been doing anything wrong. How the hell had Leila’s little sister found out where they were? It was just before sunset, and Cerise shouldn’t have been running around on her own when it was going to get dark soon.
As Leila tried to shake her fuzzy brain awake, Kobi made the save.
“Getting away from those creeps who arrived last night,” she answered, and Leila shot her a look of gratitude. She wouldn’t have been able to come up with a plausible excuse on her own. Cerise may have been only six years old, but she was pretty sharp for her age.
Cerise nodded, her little face all seriousness.
“Did they yell at you too?” she asked, and Kobi gave a sober nod.
“Yeah. If there really is a Bigfoot, those guys will have scared it off by now with all the noise they were making. Some cryptozoologists they are!”
Cerise tilted her head, and the relieved Leila nearly laughed out loud at how cute she was being without realizing it.
“Cryptozoologists. It means they’re looking for an animal that might or might not be real, and making everybody else really mad with them in the process.” Kobi leaned forward and ruffled Cerise’s hair, and the kid giggled and wrinkled her nose. “Now you better scoot back to your cabin before your mom and dad find out you’ve gone off on your own!”
“OK,” Cerise said with an unexpected large grin. “I better get some sleep so I can get up real early tomorrow! I’m going with Ethan to see if we can find the big monkeys again!” Ethan was Kobi’s youngest brother, and he obviously had as vivid an imagination as Cerise.
When Cerise was gone at last, Kobi grabbed Leila’s wrists and pulled her to her feet.
“Come on, Lee, let’s get out of here before she comes back, or one of my brothers finds us. I won’t be able to fool them the way I fooled her!”
Kobi half-dragged Leila out of the camping ground and up a steep hill before Leila was even able to ask where they were going. Thorny twigs scratched at Leila’s legs as the two girls climbed, and she wished she had been more sensible and worn jeans instead of the tight shorts she had on, even if Kobi loved to see her in them. At least her sneakers were comfortable and sturdy, and she was able to keep up with her girlfriend as they scrambled up the bank, never slowing for a minute.
Leila realized that she should have remembered to bring something to tie her hair back with, as her unruly blonde curls kept blowing into her face while the two girls fled. She held tight to Kobi, who was so much stronger and more confident, having lived in this area all her life and staying in the camping ground that her parents owned all year round.
Kobi was the only love that Leila had ever wanted, ever since her family had started coming to the camping ground each summer after Leila’s seventh birthday, but nobody could know about the two of them, not right away. Although Kobi’s folks were fairly liberal and didn’t seem to care much who their kids associated with, Leila knew that her own mother and father would not be very happy to find out that she and Kobi were more than friends. Not only was Kobi a girl, but she was almost eighteen, and Leila had only just turned fifteen.
At last they reached the hilltop, and Kobi, still holding Leila by the hand, led the way into the woods. By now, the sun was beginning to sink in the sky, and Leila shivered a little as she had never been in the forest after dark.
Kobi pulled Leila towards a quiet clearing between some very tall trees, sheltered behind more of the spiky bushes that had seemed to claw at Leila on the way up. They both collapsed on the ground, their breath and heartbeats slowing a little as Kobi put her arm around Leila’s shoulders. Leila reached to gently play with one of Kobi’s long dark braids, and Kobi chuckled.
“I think we’ll be OK up here. Just us, all alone, and it wasn’t really a lie I told Cerise back there. That scientist guy with the stupid beard is a pervert. I hate the way he kept looking at you,” Kobi whispered, and nuzzled Leila’s ear before giving it a slight nip. Leila yelped, and then gasped before Kobi’s lips touched hers for the very first time.
The kiss was not deep and passionate like a Hollywood lovers’ kiss, but it was delicate and sweet and full of the promise of something more intense. Leila drew a slow breath as she and Kobi pulled apart at last, and even though the light was fading Leila could see Kobi’s smile.
She sighed and leaned against Kobi, snuggling closer to her girlfriend and watching the forest become enveloped in shadows. Except for the rhythm of their hearts and the usual woodland sounds, all was quiet and Leila wished that they could spend all night up there amongst the trees. Kobi had often reassured her that dangerous wild animals never came this close to the camping ground, so if it hadn’t been for the fear of getting into trouble, they could indeed have stayed out for the rest of the night.
Leila closed her eyes and relaxed, breathing in the scent of fresh green leaves and the faint whiff of shampoo in Kobi’s hair and feeling safe and loved.
Then she suddenly sensed that they were being watched, and stifled a groan, wondering if the pervert and his friends were out there Sasquatch-hunting. She felt Kobi stiffen and heard her mutter, “Don’t move.”
“What is it?” Leila whispered back, and Kobi hushed her with a sharp squeeze on the arm.
“There’s a hairy little kid staring at us from the bushes!”
“Jakoba, that’s not funny!” Leila sat straight up at once, her eyes wide open, and she almost screamed at what she saw.
Though only a trace of light remained, she made out a small, slim figure covered in thick black hair who crept out from behind a clump of foliage to stand right in front of Leila and Kobi. He – for Leila could tell that the little creature was a male – peered down at the seated girls with large dark eyes filled with childish curiosity. Leila went rigid, too terrified to even breathe as two much larger figures loomed behind the youngster, and he leapt into the arms of the one who stood nearest to him.
Leila felt Kobi’s arms tighten around her, and both girls sat as still as they could while the giants stared down at them. The adults were lighter in color than the baby, a sort of reddish-brown, and were both clearly female. Large hair-covered breasts rose from their broad chests, and their faces were gorilla-like although their eyes, like those of the young one, shone with an intelligence that was almost human.
The taller of the two females – the one not holding the infant – made some sort of hand gesture towards Leila and Kobi, uttering a soft grunt. She then made a similar gesture towards the other ape-woman, presumably the baby’s mother, and grunted again.
“Yeah, we are, just like you,” Leila heard Kobi say, and the giants seemed to understand. The three creatures watched the two girls for a few moments more before vanishing into the forest as silently as they had arrived.
Leila and Kobi stayed where they were until the moon rose, then made their way through the woods and back down the hill. Hand in hand, they walked with slow steps towards the camp. All fear was gone, and only a sense of wonder remained.
“Kobi - the big monkeys!” Leila said all of a sudden. Kobi nodded, squeezing her girlfriend’s hand.
“Yeah, and I think you already know who we won’t be telling about them!”