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To the waters and the wild

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“Come away with me, Rachel!” cried Helen, laughing. “Come away with me, my dear friend!”

Rachel laughed as well. “You say the strangest things sometimes, Helen. Where would we go?”

“Into the forest, just for today,” was Helen’s reply. “You’ll be back before nightfall, I promise.”

Rachel stepped up to Helen and kissed her briefly, lightly on the lips. She stepped back again quickly, looking away and blushing. “That’s alright, then,” she said.

They left for the woods arm in arm, just two young girls with secret smiles and shy sidewards glances. Rachel waved distractedly to her mother as they went. The girl's red hair shone in the sunlight, her eyes green like spring leaves, a smattering of freckles over her face.

Helen was like a dark shadow at her side. Not because her hair was black and her eyes were dark — although they were — and not because her clear olive skin was darker than that of anyone else in these parts — although it was. No, it was something in the quiet, peculiar way she moved, like a hunting cat who had put on the skin of a human and learnt to live in it.

Rachel knew that people in the village thought that she was prettier than Helen; she had heard them whispering. Rachel thought that people were really very blind if they could not see that Helen was the most extraordinary, clever and beautiful girl in the world.

“I don’t like people,” Rachel blurted, and then her face burned red as she realised what she had said. “I mean, I like you. But, I don’t like other people.”

Helen looked at her in a very peculiar way. It hardly seemed human, the way Helen looked at her.

“I like people a lot,” said Helen, “especially you, Rachel.”

And then Helen kissed her. It was not a light, brief kiss, like friends might give each other or like a shy young girl might give to the object of her affection. It was a real grown-up kiss, a lover’s kiss, and Rachel had never felt anything like it.

A sort of wild feeling came over Rachel, flowed all through her, and she thought; I want this forever. Please, oh God, oh Helen, let me have this forever.

But Helen was melting and changing beneath Rachel’s grasping hands. This isn’t right, thought Rachel, but the wild feeling was still inside her and she gasped and cried and reached, reached for Helen. “My god, you are my god, don’t leave me, oh, don’t!” she howled, and the unnatural creature uncanny beast melted changed back into Helen.

“I love you!” Rachel sobbed, “I love you!”

Helen smiled and petted her and said nothing at all.