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The Waterfall

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She woke up to the feeling of water washing over her. She lifted her head, sand covering her damp cheek. The smell of saltwater surrounded her, the ruff broken up shells beneath her legs scratching her skin. Her body started to move, climbing out of the cool water to lie completely on the warm sand.

She turned over on her back, closing her eyes to block out the sun. There was a ship. Images of laughing and leaning over the railings to feel the salt breeze on her skin. Memories of faceless people talking to her came trickling in. They called me Angela. The ship jerked and ice cold water filled her senses.

Slowly sitting up, Angela looked around. Her hands instinctually burrowed into the sand as her eyes narrowed at the calm blue waters. There’s no sign of the wreck. She wiped the sand from her arms and stood up. Angela stayed close to the shoreline and started walking the beach.

There was nothing but quiet. The sounds from the waves, and the breeze rustling the trees all coming together to form a deafening void of silence. She stopped walking when she got to the edge of the tree line. There was something unsettling about looking into the dense jungle for too long. Angela turned around and retraced her dissolving footprints in the wet sand.

The opposite path she took was longer, the beach stretching out further than the path before. She kept track of the daylight, getting more anxious as nightfall drew near. Once she reached dense jungle again, she backtracked a ways in settling on a more central location on the beach.

She sat down on the cooled sand and watched the sky, getting lost in her thoughts. It’s an island. Blue eyes examined the clothing she wore. Dark blue shorts and a white tank top. She wiggled her toes in her sandals. I hope it doesn’t get too cold. I don’t have anything else to keep me warm. She looked back into the dark trees. I’m not going in there.

Angela started smoothing out the sand, making an even surface for her to lie on. She rested on her side, supporting her head with an arm. It was strange. The sound of her own breathing was louder. The howl from the wind was nonexistent. It felt familiar, so she stayed calm and closed her eyes letting sleep take her.

-

Morning came and Angela awoke to find that she was covered in sand. Her teeth were filled in with sand, the texture grinding away in her mouth. When she involuntarily yawned, she accidentally swallowed some, throwing a coughing fit in her body’s attempt to get rid of the sand.

She hastily got up, rushing over to the water to get rid of the sand. Angela cup her hands to swish some of the water in her mouth, immediately spitting it out when the salty taste became unbearable. She relaxed when the coughing subsided. Fingers reached down to unbuckle her sandals, Angela throwing them back onto the beach when they were off her feet.

She walked back to the water and waded in, floating on her back when she was deep enough. The calm stillness of the water made it so she wasn’t carried off. Angela found it relaxing, closing her eyes to enjoy the weightless floating feeling.

She stayed that way for as long as she wanted. It felt like hours. It might have been hours. Her feet touched the ground and she inspected her hands. The wrinkled skin confirming that she was there for some time. She smiled at the thought, at the strange sense of peace she felt.

A sound suddenly interrupting the quiet caught her attention. Up above was a plane, smoke coming out from the side. Blue eyes tracked its descent. Following its path she saw a parachute pop out. Both plane and parachute fell deep into the jungle.

From the water, Angela stared into the trees. A different feeling enveloped her the longer she stared. There was a pull. It felt safe, like she was supposed to be there. Angela felt herself walking out of the water. She put on her shoes and continued to the tree line, the feeling growing in intensity.

Angela reached out and cleared some of the vegetation away. She took the first step in, the next steps picking up in speed as she found herself rushing towards where the plane crashed. Angela tripped a few times. The feeling of skidding along the jungle floor didn’t register, so she just got back up and continued the search.

The plane came into view but the parachute was nowhere in sight. Curiosity got the better of her. Angela approached the plane and ran her fingers along the blue painted metal. There was no fire, not even smoke. The frame was just crushed between two trees. She saw that the pilot’s seat was left exposed, and suddenly the whereabouts of the pilot was her main concern.

She circled around the area, the longer she searched the more she felt some sort of weight bearing down on her. The thick vines and tree roots constantly tripped the blonde as she combed through the endless trees. It wasn’t a deterrent. There was this feeling. Angela felt she had to find the pilot.

She leaned against a tree to catch her breath and scanned the area. “Where are you?”

A figure jumped down from above, Angela slipping away from the tree and falling to the ground. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” The figure bent over and reached out a hand. “I was stuck in the tree and when I finally got free, you were here.”

Angela took the offered hand, her eyes focused on trying to see past the goggles on the woman’s face. You seem familiar. “I saw the plane crash, so I went looking for the pilot. I saw you parachute out.”

The woman gave an eerily familiar smile. “Thank you for looking for me.” She took off her goggles and Angela felt her head go cold.

She couldn’t explain it but there was something about the woman in front of her that was making the empty thoughts pound in her head. Angela tried and tried but she couldn’t pin down why her body was turning cold. She felt paralyzed, every part of her screaming to just remember.

“Are you okay?” Fareeha scratched at her chest, suddenly feeling a fleeting burning sensation.

All at once, it all went away. “No, no I’m fine.” Angela let go of the gloved hand. “I was just lost in my thoughts.” She cleared her throat. “I’m Angela. It looks like you’re stuck on this island with me.”

“My name is Fareeha.” She pointed to the patch on her leather jacket. “They call me Pharah when I’m in the sky.” Brown eyes looked around. “This is an island?” She seemed a bit worried. “My plane was shot down and…” She tried to search her memories but came up short. “How did you get here?”

“I recall being on a ship but, there’s no sign of it. Whatever happened, I ended washed up on shore.”

“And you’re here by yourself?”

“I can’t be too sure but for now it seems that way.”

Fareeha nodded her head in understanding. “So do you know where my plane went down? I don’t see the smoke.”

“Well, it should be around here somewhere.” Angela led them through the trees, surprise evident on her face when not a single vine or tree root tripped her. They got lost for a little while, Angela forgetting that she had circled the area multiple times.

When they got to the plane, Fareeha didn’t hesitate to climb inside. She tried to get the radio to work, nothing but static played. This went on for a good twenty minutes, Angela content just to have company.

Fareeha rested her head against the radio. “I think it’s safe to say the radio doesn’t work.” She smiled when she heard Angela giggle. “Are you laughing at the fact that we’re stranded on an island with no rescue in sight?”

Angela giggled some more. “No, just the face you made.”

Fareeha started digging around, tossing things onto the ground. “Well, if we’re stuck here, might as well try to make the most of it.” She jumped out of the seat when everything she needed to get was on the ground. “So did you make camp somewhere?”

Angela looked guilty. “I might have just slept on the beach.” She looked down at her feet in embarrassment.

Fareeha’s eyes went wide. “On the sand?” Her jaw dropped when Angela nodded yes. “Well, that changes things.” She bent down to stuff her pockets with the things she threw on the ground, putting the strap of the canteen around her neck. “We need to get that parachute down.” She held out a flashlight. “Could you hold this? My pockets are full.”

Angela took the flashlight. “So you’re going to climb that tall tree?”

“I’m going to try. No one’s going to be sleeping in the sand tonight.”

Angela blushed. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“I bet you woke up with sand in your mouth.”

Angela didn’t reply to that, leading the way back to the parachute instead.

-

The time until nightfall passed in a blur. Fareeha showing Angela how to make a proper camp, Angela helping out when she got the hang of things. They made shelter in the jungle near the sand, Angela insisting that she felt safer near the beach. Fareeha had cut the parachute in half with the pocket knife she had. They stringed up one half of the parachute into a canopy, and they used the other half of the parachute to cover the ground beneath.

Fareeha pulled out a small tin of food from her pocket. “I’m hungry, are you?” She used her knife to cut into the top, cutting away at the metal as she worked the knife in.

Angela tried to remember the last time she ate. It must have been before the shipwreck but she found she wasn’t hungry. “Go ahead and eat. I’m not hungry.”

Fareeha looked at her skeptically. “We spent hours making this shelter. You’re telling me you don’t feel hungry at all?” She frowned when Angela shook her head no. Reaching for her canteen, she held it out for Angela to take. “I didn’t see you drink any water either.”

Angela took the canteen. She unscrewed the cap and took a sip, suddenly feeling very thirsty when she swallowed the small amount of water. Without thinking, she downed the rest. She was overcome with guilt when she realized what happened. “I’m so sorry. I suddenly felt so thirsty and I just sort of drank it all.”

Fareeha smirked into her bite of food. “We’ll find more water tomorrow.” She held out the half eaten can to Angela. “You sure you’re not hungry?”

It turned out that she was.

-

Angle woke up on the same beach. This time it was dark. The sound of rushing water echoed through the trees, Angela running to find the source.

She tripped through the trees, finding it difficult to stay upright. It felt like someone was holding her down but there was nothing there. The sound of the water got closer, and she was getting more desperate as the invisible force trying to keep her down grew in strength.

Clearing another line of trees, Angela found the source. A waterfall the size of half the island stood before her. The sound was deafening. The water pooled together at the bottom and poured out into the ocean from the sides. She craned her neck to try to find the top, the waterfall so tall, it looked like it went on forever.

Angela waded through the chilly water and approached the slippery rocks. She started to climb. Her feet slipped countless times and her fingers strained to keep their grip. At one point, she was hugging the wall of rock, staring at the jagged rocks below in fear. There was no safe way back down. There was no safe way to continue up.

So she stood there, hanging onto the rock for dear life.

Reaching up, Angela knew what was going to happen. Her hand slipped. She closed her eyes to meet the rocks below.

-

Angela woke up in a panic. Her hands gripped onto the leather jacket draped over her body. She shifted to the side to see Fareeha curled up next to her. Her hand reached out to tentatively touch the sleeping woman’s warm arm, recoiling her touch when she felt the steady pulse.

This is… Her eyes studied Fareeha. I don’t remember you. Fareeha shivered in her sleep. Angela moved the leather jacket to cover the other woman. She continued to watch. The sounds of frogs croaking and birds chirping were carried with the breeze. She could hear trees rustling and the oceans waves in the distance. Angela propped herself on an elbow to look around. This never happened before. “Things are changing.”

“What’s changing?” Fareeha yawned and stretched out her legs. Her joints popped when she went to stretch the rest of her body.

Angela looked back at Fareeha, surprised that she was awake. “It’s usually quiet.”

“How long have you been here?”

Angela sat up, avoiding eye contact with Fareeha. “That’s difficult to say.” Her stomach growled and she gripped her stomach at the feeling.

“I think someone’s hungry.” Fareeha sat up, putting her arms through the jacket. “That can was all the food I had. Think we can catch some fish?”

Angela peered over at the water. The waves moved back and forth on the sand. “We can try.”

Fareeha put her boots on and stood up. “I’ll be back.”

Angela watched her walk deeper into the jungle. The chirping of the birds stopped and when she looked back over to the water, the blue waves had stilled. It was quiet again. She put her sandals on and walked over to the sand. Being alone in the trees made her feel uneasy.

She waited.

“Okay so I think these will work.” Fareeha came walking back, one hand carried some bamboo and the other held onto her bundled up jacket. She sat next to Angela in the sand and dropped her load. She untied the arms of the jacket to reveal several shucked coconuts. “I took some time to get these.”

Angela peered over at the coconuts. “How did you shuck so many?” She picked one up to feel the scratchy texture.

“Those were young so they were easier to open.” She pulled out her pocket knife and started shaving away one end of a bamboo stem. “We can drink the water from them for now until we find a better source.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out another knife. She held it out to Angela and gestured towards the other stem of bamboo. “Let’s see those spear making skills.”

Angela took the knife, a question at the tip of her tongue. “Why do you have two pocket knives?”

“Well, how would be both be able to carve our bamboo at the same time if I only had one? I’m always prepared.”

Angela nodded at the explanation and together they carved into their bamboo. Fareeha finished hers first, taking one of the coconuts to carve a hole in it. She took a sip and watched Angela work. “You cut yourself.”

Angela put the knife down to look at her finger. A thin cut topped it, a faint hint of red showing through the broken skin. “It’s not that bad.” There was a dull sting, nothing more.

Fareeha just eyed the cut for a bit. “Okay.” She reached out for the canteen and poured the rest of the coconut water inside. Taking another coconut she cut a hole in that one as well and poured the water into the canteen. “I’ll be back.” Fareeha pointed to the rocks near the shore. “I’m going to try breaking open these coconuts.”

Angela watched Fareeha leave with a coconut in each hand. She continued to sharpen the bamboo, eyeing the other woman from where she sat. It was strange. Angela felt different around Fareeha. Things were different around her. She finished carving out her spear, devoting her full attention to the sight of Fareeha crashing a heavy rock down on the coconuts. I don’t remember you.

She dug her fingers into the sand. How did you get here? Is this… She tried to shake away the thought.

“I don’t know what to think of you and that…” She brought her knees up to her chest, finishing her thought in a whisper. “That scares me.”

A pair of boots came into view. Fareeha kneeled and put the cracked open coconuts down. “Is there something wrong?” She scrunched up her face at the question. “Besides being trapped on an island.”

Angela’s mouth curved up. She’s funny.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

Fareeha quirked up an eyebrow at the response, deciding not to question it. “Is there any way that I can help?”

“Tell me something. How did you get here?”

Fareeha seemed even more confused. “My plane crashed?”

“Yes, I saw that. What I mean is what were you doing? Do you remember the specifics on how your plane got shot down? Where were you when it happened?” She carefully studied Fareeha’s face as she waited for a response.

“There was a war.” Fareeha sat down to search her thoughts. “I was…” She struggled to find the memories. “I can’t remember the rest.” Fareeha reached out for one of the coconut shells, using her knife to peel away the meat. Her brow was creased in worry. The spot on her chest started to burn again, the ache intensifying just beneath her collarbone. She rubbed at it a bit, the pain going away as quickly as it came.

Angela was fighting with herself. She wanted to comfort her. Why should I? Her lips formed into a frown when the answer echoed through her mind. Because she’s kind. Because there’s a chance this might not be what I think it is.

Fareeha felt a cool touch on her warm skin. “It’s okay that you don’t remember.” Fareeha stopped her movements. “I shouldn’t have asked all those questions in the first place.”

Fareeha took a piece of the soft coconut and slowly ate it. She kept a thoughtful expression, returning to carve out the rest of the meat as she chewed. She put the coconut shell down when the rest was carved out, pushing it over to Angela and gesturing for her to take some. “It is concerning that I can’t remember much but, it’s okay to ask questions.”

Angela took a piece of the coconut, her gaze focused on the sand. Her stomach roared to life when she ate the bite of food. Angela could see Fareeha’s smile from the corner of her eye when she reached for more coconut.

“Let’s try to see if there’s any fish to catch.” Fareeha grabbed her bamboo spear and stood up, walking a bit into the trees to pick off some big leaves. Once she was back, she watched Angela down the rest of the coconut in one go with amusement. “Make sure to bring the knife when you’re done.” She started walking towards the shoreline.

Angela still had her reservations about the situation but she was more curious as to where this all would lead. So she grabbed her bamboo and followed Fareeha to the rocks near the water.

They stopped to take their shoes up, Fareeha rolling up her pants as well. Angela watched Fareeha pick up decent sized rocks, stacking them to make a makeshift well in the water. “That’s where we’ll put any fish we catch.”

Fareeha stepped into the water motioning for Angela to follow. “I’ve only ever done this once but never actually caught anything.”

She remembers fishing. “I can’t say I’ve ever tried fishing.” Angela took a step into the cool water, the feeling of the waves something new.

“With the spear, it’s more like waiting around like a statue until you can,” Fareeha made a sharp jabbing motion into the water, “get one.”

It seemed like time went on forever. Angela looked behind to the well. Fareeha had caught two fish. She wiggled her toes, feeling the wrinkled skin. They were in the water for hours but Angela hadn’t caught a single fish.

She was staring at the water for a long time now. Her concentration was hyper-focused on what was below the water. There was suddenly a fish that came from behind her ankles. It swam lazily around her feet, content to brush up against her skin. Angela stayed still for a while to track it. She found that it just continued to circle her legs.

There was a loud splash, Fareeha whipping her head around to see Angela triumphantly raising a fish into the air. “You caught one.” She found herself smiling, engulfed with a happy feeling.

Angela brought her spear down and waded over to the well, tossing the fish inside. “Do you think we have enough fish?” Angela rubbed at her stomach. “I’m still hungry.”

Fareeha waded over to Angela, peering into the well. “Three should be enough. Besides there’s still the coconuts.” She reached for one of the leaves and laid it on top of the rocks. Taking a fish, she sat down on the rocks. “Grab a fish, I’ll show you how to clean it.”

Angela happily took the fish she just caught. She sat down next to Fareeha and mimicked the other woman’s movements. The smell of the fish innards made her nose crinkle but all in all Angela felt like she had a good grasp on cleaning fish.

Fareeha started wrapping up the cleaned fish in the other leaf. “You know Angela, I feel like I should be more concerned about being stuck on an island but I can’t help but feel content. Do you think that’s strange?”

Your being here is strange. “It’s mostly peaceful here so I don’t think it’s that strange.”

Fareeha wrapped up the other leaf that contained the gutted parts of the fish. “Maybe it’s because you’re here with me. I don’t know I would feel the same if I found myself here alone.”

It’s maddening.

“I guess it’s just a roundabout way to say that I’m glad you’re here with me,” said Fareeha. She stood up with the wrapped-up leaf and walked inwards towards the sand. She quickly dug a hole and dumped the fish bits inside, covering up the hole when she was done.

Angela grabbed the bundle of wrapped up fish so the other woman wouldn’t have to walk back for it. She walked up to where Fareeha was bending over to pick up her boots. “You wouldn’t happen to know how to start a fire as well?” She leaned over and grabbed her sandals.

“As a matter of fact I do but,” Fareeha reached into her pocket, “I have a lighter.”

“Are you always prepared for being stranded in the wilderness?”

“My mother always told me to be prepared for anything. She stressed that part even more when I joined the military.” She thumbed over the lighter, her brow furrowing the longer she stayed quiet. “She gave me this lighter for my birthday but…” The pad of her thumb ran over the engraving on the side.

“But?”

Fareeha started leading them towards camp. “I can’t remember what she looks like.” The spot below her collarbone started to heat up.

Angela stayed quiet after that.

-

The next morning, they went to explore the jungle. Angela stayed a couple paces behind Fareeha, worrying her bottom lip in thought. She was still feeling conflicted. She seems so happy here.

“Do you hear that?” asked Fareeha. She stood still to try and listen closely.

Angela stopped a good distance away from the other woman. “It sounds like…” Her eyebrows perked up. “Birds.”

“Where there’s birds there might be water.”

The sounds of chirping were carried with the wind. The breeze that flowed past them full of sound. Angela watched at Fareeha pushed past the leaves and vines, leaving a trail for her to follow. The sound of disbelief that escaped the pilot’s lips made Angela stop in her tracks.

“Angela look!” Fareeha leaned her body through the leaves in front of them, a hand extended behind her beckoning the blonde closer.

Angela took tentative steps towards Fareeha, clearing the leaves aside to see what was going on. There was a small reservoir surrounded by trees, red fruit hanging off them. Some birds were flapping their wings to land on the branches, others hopped along the edge of the water to take quick sips.

Blue eyes followed Fareeha, watching her excitedly run towards one of the trees. Fareeha pulled off one of the red fruits and rubbed it against her shirt, taking a bite and closing her eyes in enjoyment. Taking a wider bite, Fareeha had the fruit clenched between her teeth as she started to open the canteen. When the canteen was open, she bent to her knees and placed the canteen in the water, continuing to eat the fruit with her other hand.

“Angela?” Fareeha paused in her movements to look behind her. Angela was still standing in the parted leaves, not having budged at all. “Is there something wrong?”

Yes. It’s too much. It’s not supposed to be like this. She stayed standing, casting her gaze to the ground.

Fareeha lifted the full canteen from the water and closed it. She walked slowly to Angela, concern in her gaze. Fareeha reached out, stopping midway when the other woman seemed to recoil from her hand. She brought her hand back to her side and quietly regarded Angela. She looked troubled, blue eyes occasionally regarding her only to quickly dart back to the ground. Fareeha watched pale arms wrap around each other, the grip tightening as they continued to stand there.

Angela took a step back and Fareeha had to restrain herself from reaching out again. “Do you want to go back to camp?” Fareeha’s voice was barely louder than a whisper.

Angela only nodded, showing no indication of actually moving.

Fareeha took off her jacket and pulled the strap of the canteen around her neck. “I’m going to grab some fruit if that’s okay.” She waited for Angela to acknowledge that she said something, eventually turning back towards the reservoir when the other woman continued to stand still.

She worked fast, filling up the leather jacket with as much red fruit that could fit, tying the sleeves together to hold them all in place. Fareeha flung the load of fruit to rest on her shoulder and made her way back to Angela. “Back to camp yeah?” She started leading the way back, relief flooding her system when she heard footsteps following behind her.

-

Back at the camp, Fareeha sat next to the fire pit they made last night. She emptied the canteen into the coconut shells that were suspended over the flames. The water was taking a bit of time to boil so she took to looking out to the beach, her eyes landing on Angela lying in the sand. The sudden distance was making the pilot worry. Angela hadn’t said a word since they got back.

Fareeha’s gaze was locked on the other woman. Just say something. Anything. Her heart pounded slowly in her chest. Somewhere deep in her subconscious, Fareeha felt a pull.

Don’t leave her. She focused back on the now boiling water, carefully extinguishing the flames so she could pull the coconut shells out. Her finger tips were burning at the touch of the makeshift bowls, Fareeha putting the feeling aside and concentrating on pouring the burning liquid back into canteen. Don’t leave her. Her heart pounded again, an ache in her chest accompanying the thundering feeling.

Fareeha tossed the coconut shells back in the fire pit, closing the canteen with her seared fingertips. Putting the closed canteen down on the ground, Fareeha got up and slowly made her way over to Angela, her heart beating faster the closer she got. She scratched at the burning feeling that came and went.

Before she could make it the rest of the way there, Angela shot up from the ground and frantically looked behind her. She quickly scrambled to her feet and started to run in the opposite direction. Muffled steps sounded behind her, the sound getting closer. Angela reached desperately for the water, stopped short of the shoreline when she was jerked back. Warm skin held onto her wrist. Angela looked back into brown eyes, hurt shining through to her.

“What’s wrong?”

Angela tensed up at the break in silence. Her head started to hurt when she tried to push away her conflicting feelings. She felt a tear run down her cheek. “Are you that concerned that you can’t feel what’s going on?”

“What?” Fareeha asked in confusion. Her grip held firm.

“You can’t feel it?” Angela tried to blink the tears away.

“Feel what?”

“That’s exactly it.”

Fareeha tried to understand what Angela was trying to say. Her eyes searched a tear stained face, letting go of the wrist she held when the silence stretched out longer. “I can’t know what you’re thinking if you don’t tell me.” The blood was pumping in her ears.

Angela rubbed at her eyes, willing the tears to stop. Her head started to hurt less the more she peered at the concern in those brown obs. Will it be okay? Tentatively she held out her hand. “Let me see your hand.”

Cool fingers wrapped around Fareeha’s outstretched hand. The steady pulse thrummed against her fingertips. “Yours is so strong.” Angela stepped closer, bringing Fareeha’s hand to her chest. “Can you feel it?”

“I don’t feel anything,” said Fareeha. Her eyes widened when the weight of her words settled in.

“I’ve been here for so long.” Angela dropped the warm hand. “You made everything change.” She took a step back. “Time and time again it’s always the same. I wake up on shore and remember a shipwreck. Except there never was a ship to begin with. There’s never any sound. I’m never hungry. It’s just me, always alone. Birds and fish? This was the first time I ever saw any.” She gestured towards Fareeha. “And then you come along.” Angela covered her eyes with a hand. “Being here alone again and again is maddening. But do you know what’s worse?” She quickly brought her hand down and whipped her tense gaze to Fareeha.

Fareeha stayed silent, her expression unreadable.

“What’s worse is if you turn out to be some figment of my imagination. That my mind is so lost, I made myself think for a moment I wasn’t alone.” The tears started spilling again. “And what’s worse than losing my mind? You actually being here. That you don’t belong here. The chance that you’ll be able to leave and I’ll be stuck remembering you time after time. Again and again. You’ll be gone and I’ll be stuck remembering you. Remembering what it feels like to be with someone so good. Someone that chases the darkness away.” She sat down in the wet sand, her sandaled feet feeling the waves wash over them. “It always ends the same way and I don’t know if I can handle it if I end up alone again.”

Fareeha sat next to her, keeping some distance between them. “How does it end?”

“There’s a waterfall.” Angela dug her fingers into the wet sand. “I always get near the top but then I’m falling and my body crashes into the rocks below. A split second of agony before I wake up on the beach again, the memories of the non-existent ship all I have until I can actually remember again.”

“A waterfall?” Fareeha looked back into the trees.

“It’s not that simple to find. When you hear rushing water, that’s when you find it. There’s this feeling you get just by looking at it. I know it’s the way out.” Angela felt Fareeha’s hand intertwine with her own.

“I won’t leave you behind.” She squeezed their fingers together. “We’ll find a way out for the both of us.”

Angela leaned into Fareeha’s shoulder. She closed her eyes and she reveled in the warmth that followed when the pilot skootched closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Okay.” Should I believe you?

Does that even matter?

-

That night, they went exploring. Angela had explained that she never really explored the jungle much. It always felt like she never belonged, that there was something there telling her to get out.

It still feels that way, but when I’m with you everything is okay.

Fareeha lit the way with the flashlight she carried, Angela staying close by tightening her hold on the pilot’s jacket she wore.

“This looks like something.” There seemed to be a worn trail, Fareeha pointed towards it with the light. She stopped when the entrance to a cave came into view. “Want to check it out?”

Angela stared into the darkness of the cave. It felt safe. “Yeah, let’s go inside.”

It wasn’t very big, the tunnel like entrance giving way to a carved out dome. Fareeha ran her fingers along the rock wall. She stopped when an idea hit her. She moved to the middle of the cave and sat down on the ground, lying on the stone when she cleared away some sand. Fareeha turned on her side and balanced the flashlight so it stood straight up illuminating the cave’s ceiling. “Angela look.” Fareeha pointed up top, the shadow of her other hand formed into a dog.

Angela smiled at the shadow. She laid Fareeha’s jacket on the ground next to the other woman and lied down next to her. She raised both of her hands, the figure of a rabbit joining the dog. The rabbit’s ears wiggled, Fareeha’s dog making a curious gesture. The rabbit stood still and allowed the dog to sniff it, hopping around happily when the dog gave an approving bark.

From the corner of her eye, Angela could see Fareeha’s shining smile. She felt lighter, happiness flooding her system from the pilot’s companionship. Do you think that we can… The rabbit cuddled up to the dog, rubbing its face affectionately against the dog’s.

“I think they like each other,” said Fareeha. She let out a soft laugh that made Angela pulse with warmth.

Angela lowered her hands and turned on her side. She lifted an arm to rest her head on, closing her eyes and smiling to herself. Do you think we could… She opened her eyes to find Fareeha positioned the same way, brown orbs studying her.

“Can I tell you something Angela?” The blonde nodded. “You have a beautiful smile.”

Angela accidentally knocked over the flashlight, embarrassment adding to the blush on her cheeks. “How is it that you’re so good? How is it that you have only good things to say?” Her hand reached out to readjust the light.

“Remember when you told me that sometimes you feel pulled to do something? Like you were meant to be somewhere or do something?”

“Yes.”

Fareeha turned over to her back, putting both arms beneath her head. “I feel that way towards you.” A slow thundering started in her chest. “So even if I don’t fully understand what’s going on and what this place is, there’s one thing I do know. I’m meant to be with you. There’s a part of me that’s always saying not to leave you. So I shrug my shoulders and listen.” Fareeha shifted to face Angela again. “And I find that it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.”

“Fareeha…” Angela reached out, her fingertips brushing against the pilot’s arm. “Can you come closer?” She pulled the jacket out from underneath, covering them both when Fareeha was close enough. She brushed a strand of dark hair behind Fareeha’s ear. “Let’s see where this place takes us then.” Angela felt an arm wrap around, pulling her closer.

Do you think we can stay here forever?

-

They walked back to camp the next morning, the two of them planning to just enjoy their time together.

“So you think this will work?” Angela looked on with a skeptical eye. “They’re just vines.”

“Trust me, it’ll work.” Fareeha tested the vines again one last time before climbing in the hammock she finished making. She had her eyes closed in anticipation, waiting for the vines to give at any moment. When nothing happened, she opened her eyes and gave Angela a victorious smile. “See nothing to worry about.”

Angela approached the suspended woman. “It actually worked.” She pulled on one end of the hammock and started a gentle swaying motion. “Now I’m feeling…”

“Jealous?”

“No, left out.” Angela quickly climbed in the hammock, increasing the sway and catching Fareeha off guard.

The trees the hammock was tied to started to shake, making both women still for a moment. “You almost broke it!”

Angela buried her face in the pilot’s shoulder. “Did not.” The hammock continued to sway, Angela enjoying the feeling. “You wanted to take a nap right?” Her eyelids felt heavy from the soothing motion. She clutched at Fareeha’s shirt, bringing the woman impossibly closer. “Let’s sleep.”

Fareeha wrapped her arms around Angela, adjusting them into a more comfortable position. “Okay, let’s sleep.”

-

They spent a day at the beach.

There was a competition to see which one could build the better sandcastle. While there was no prize for the winner, Fareeha was competitive, taking the challenge seriously for the bragging rights alone.

A couple hours had passed when Fareeha finally put the finishing touches on her moat. It was lined with small rocks and seashells to help retain the water. Fareeha stepped back from her castle and looked at it with pride. It looked more like a fortress, complete with a double set of walls and several watchtowers. She finally turned to where Angela make her castle, disbelief spreading across her face at the sight.

Angela was lying next to a mound of sand. Her smile shining bright when Fareeha finally looked her way.

“Angela you…”

A soft giggle escaped Angela’s lips. “It took you long enough. I was trying but then I saw what you were making and I found that I couldn’t look away.” She pointed over to her mound of sand. “So I just made that and watched you make yours.”

Fareeha looked down at her feet, a blush growing on her cheeks. “I spent hours on mine and I was too caught up with it to even notice you stopped.”

Angela got up from the sand and made her way to Fareeha. She put a reassuring hand on the pilot’s shoulder. “I enjoyed watching. The whole time you had a cute little crease right,” she pressed a finger between Fareeha’s brows, “here.” She started walking forward, Fareeha backing up with her. “And just look at it. You made a work of art.”

Fareeha felt her foot collide with the outer wall of her sand fortress and stopped. Her eyes widened when she figured out what Angela was up to. “Oh no you don’t.” She started pushing away the blonde by her shoulders. “I worked hard on that.”

Angela sidestepped around Fareeha and made a lunge for the castle, stopping short when Fareeha managed to catch her. She used her legs to try and get Fareeha off balance, pleased with herself when Fareeha seemed to be struggling to keep her away from the castle. “I just want a closer look.”

“No, you want it to look like yours.”

“Then they’ll be matching.” Angela pushed with the last of her strength and sent the two of them tumbling over, Fareeha landing first on her creation. Angela landed on top of her, laughing at the shocked look on the other woman’s face. “Well, would you look at that. The fortress has fallen.”

Fareeha sighed in defeat. She looked over to Angela’s ‘castle’ and smirked. “Mine still looks better.”

Angela took offense. “It does not. You’re not even looking at yours!”

Fareeha shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t need to look at it to know the truth.”

-

They were sitting next to Fareeha’s plane eating the bananas they found growing on the other side of the island.

Fareeha was idly running her hand across the blue metal. The name was on the tip of her tongue. Then it clicked. “Raptora 01,” she whispered.

“Hmm?” Angela stopped eating her banana to regard Fareeha. “You said something?”

“The name of my plane.” Fareeha tapped the blue metal. “It’s Raptora 01.”

“Do you remember anything else?”

Fareeha took a moment to ponder. She got on her feet and walked around to the cockpit. “Maybe…” She climbed over and reached a hand under the seat, pulling out a photograph. Fareeha jumped back down to the ground, reading the back of the photo. So you always have family with you. She turned the photo over. It looked over exposed, the figure in the picture blurred out completely except for the long dark hair. The spot on her chest started to burn, warm fingers running over it to try and calm it down. She sat down next to Angela again, and just stared at photo.

“What’s that?” Angela peered over.

“It’s…” Fareeha furrowed her brows. “I can’t make out who this is. But…” She scratched at her chest again. “I feel like I should know.”

“Did you get bitten by something?”

Fareeha broke her stare. “Huh?”

“You sometimes scratch at your chest. I haven’t come across any insects but it may just be that they are attracted to you.”

“Oh, no. Nothing bit me. I think it’s a burn.”

Angela cocked her head to the side. “Did you burn yourself when I wasn’t looking?”

“I think it’s from before my plane crashed.” Fareeha’s finger gently traced over the area.

“Can I see?” Angela scooted closer when Fareeha pulled down the collar of her shirt. The burn looked angry and red, the edges tapering off to a lighter pink color. Angela raised a hand. “May I?”

Fareeha nodded.

It was hot to the touch. The skin burning hotter the longer her fingers lingered. Angela pulled her hand away. “Does it feel like that all the time?”

Fareeha shook her head no. “It only sometimes feels like that. Most of the time I feel fine.”

Angela glanced back to where the burn was, it now being covered by Fareeha’s shirt. When Fareeha went back to staring at the photo, she started rubbing at the burn again. “Let’s go back to camp. It’s getting late and we didn’t bring the flashlight.”

Fareeha put the photo in her pocket. “Yeah, let’s go.”

-

“Raptora 01, come in. You’re flying too low.”

The plane shook, smoke filled up the cockpit, the sight of the glistening ocean getting closer. Pharah’s left arm stayed limp by her side, her right hand barely grasping the control stick. It was hot, she couldn’t breathe. Her body started to go numb, the pain from the flames and the bullets littering her side fading away. Pharah felt her eyelids grow heavy, she struggled to remain conscious.

The next exhale of breath came with a gurgle of blood. She started to speak through shallow breaths. “I always wondered which was worse.” She coughed, blood splattering on her jacket. “Burning to death or drowning.” Her heart beat came in slow thumps. “I think…” Her right hand fell off the control stick. “I’d rather burn.”

Brown eyes cast one more look out to the incoming water. The pain was gone. “Yeah,” She softly exhaled, “I don’t want to drown.” She closed her eyes and felt a calmness come over her. The plane shook violently and then there was nothing.

-

There was a sound of rushing water. Fareeha peeked an eye open at the noise, blinking a couple times to clear away the sleep. Is that.. The sound persisted and Fareeha found herself completely awake.

Reaching a hand out, she gently shook Angela’s shoulder. “Angela.” The blonde turned over and snuggled closer to Fareeha, muttering incoherent words in her sleep. Fareeha tried again, using more force this time. “Angela, wake up.”

Angela stirred. Blue eyes blinked open, her face scrunched up in confusion. “Wha…?” She stretched out her limbs and rolled over to her back, eyes widening when she finally registered the sound coming from the jungle. No… She sat up and stared into the depths of the trees. Dread filled her system.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” Fareeha started to get up. “Should we go find it then?”

Angela reached her hand out and stopped Fareeha. “I…” She looked back to the trees, tugging Fareeha’s arm to try and get her to sit down again. “I can’t say for sure what will happen if we go now but I do know one thing.” Her eyes started to water. “I don’t want to lose you.” Fareeha sat down. “Can’t we just stay here? I’ve only known one outcome from that thing. I’d rather spend eternity with you.”

Fareeha closed the distance between them, enveloping Angela in a reassuring hug. “Okay.” She felt Angela’s fingers grip tightly on her shirt. She didn’t resist when Angela pulled them down so they were lying down again.

“Can we stay on the beach today?” Angela wiped away the tears that threatened to spill over.

“Yeah.”

They went swimming that day.

They were standing waist deep in water. “You’ve got something.” Angela gestured towards her face. Fareeha started wiping away at her face. “No, no let me.”

A splash of water hit Fareeha in the face. She stumbled back a bit but quickly recovered, a mischievous glint in her eye. “Oh, so we’re doing it like that.” She used both of her hands to splash back at Angela. “We can play this game. Just know that I’ll win.”

Angela blocked another splash to the face with her arms, splashing back at Fareeha with more force. She smiled. “We’ll see.”

After ten minutes, Angela was winded. Fareeha proved to be a formidable opponent. “Okay, okay you win.” She held up her arms in surrender. “No more splashing. I promise.”

Fareeha smirked at Angela. “No more splashing?” She got closer. “Are you sure?”

Angela backed up a little. “What are you getting a-” She was suddenly scooped up in Fareeha’s arms. She scrambled to get a hold of the pilot’s neck but Fareeha pulled her head back. “Any last words?”

Angela was thrown into the water before she could say anything. When her back touched the sand Angela started to stand up again. When she stood back up, Fareeha was nowhere in sight. She turned around and looked every which way. Nothing but water. Her eyes squinted when she examined the beach. Nothing. She couldn’t have gone far. From behind, Fareeha jumped out of the water, catching Angela off guard and scaring her half to death. She felt herself being dipping back into the water, her head the only part of herself above the water. “Wait!”

Fareeha was kind enough to wait. “Hmm?”

Angela brought her cupped palms up above the surface, squishing her hands together to squirt Fareeha in the face with the water she held. “Just needed to do that.” Fareeha just laughed, letting Angela go in response.

Fareeha floated on her back, keeping her eyes closed and a smile on her face. “I can spend all day in the water.”

Angela joined Fareeha in floating. She looked at the setting sun. “We have spent all day in the water.”

“You just proved my point.”

They let the waves bring them to shore, afterwards taking the time to sit on the wet sand and drink from the coconuts they half buried there.

While she drank from her coconut, Angela watched Fareeha from the corner of her eye. The pilot was staring off into the sunset, a serene smile on her face. The setting light made her glow. Angela put her coconut down, getting closer to Fareeha. “Fareeha…”

Fareeha peeled her gaze away from the sunset. “Hmm?”

“I want to thank you.”

“Thank me? For what?” Fareeha seemed confused.

“For staying with me, for caring so much, for being you.”

Fareeha blushed down at her lap. “You don’t need to thank me.”

Angela walked her fingers over, slowly interlacing them with Fareeha’s. “And why’s that? Why shouldn’t I thank you?”

Fareeha looked over to their interlaced hands, the words caught in her throat. “Because…”

Angela brought their entwined hands closer to herself, closing the space between them so they sat hip to hip, legs touching. “Because?” She focused on Fareeha’s face, eyes flickering between her beautiful eyes and her lips.

Fareeha followed Angela’s eyes, her pulse quickening at the sight. “Just because.”

Angela considered her next words. “Then can I ask you something?” She ran her thumb along Fareeha’s hand.

“Anything.”

“Can I kiss you?”

Fareeha felt her heart flutter. She nodded yes and leaned in, Angela closing in the rest of the way. The was a spark that lit inside, like they’d done this a thousand times before. It was so familiar, the way Angela pulled her closer, Fareeha’s natural instinct to find skin, running her fingers along with a sure touch.

Angela brought them to the ground, dry sand flying everywhere. They laughed when sand got on their lips, forcing them to part. “I think I got carried away.” Angela rubbed at her mouth and tried to spit out the lingering sand.

Fareeha was certain she swallowed half the sand that got in her mouth. “I won’t argue with that.” She felt a light shove on her shoulder.

Angela grinned at the exaggerated look of hurt on Fareeha’s face, laughing when Fareeha pouted. She reached out and pushed away some grains of sand that still stuck to the pilot’s lips. “Perfect.” Fareeha’s shy smile made her feel so warm. Angela clutched at her chest when she felt a dull thud, a shocked expression painting her face.

“What’s wrong?” asked Fareeha.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing is wrong.” A tear streamed down her cheek. “Come feel.” Angela reached out for Fareeha’s hand, bringing it to the warming skin of her chest. “Just wait.”

And Fareeha waited, switching between focusing on her hand and looking at the tearful joy on Angela’s face. She felt it. A single thump against her palm. “Angela!” Fareeha excitedly sought out blue eyes. “I felt it.”

“That’s because of you.” Angela brought her forehead to Fareeha’s, pressing them close. “It’s you.”

-

The next morning Fareeha woke up feeling wetness on her back. She turned her head around and all sleep left her system. The ocean water had risen, the end of the waves barely touching her back. She shook the sleeping woman in her arms, urgency in her action. “Angela!”

Angela was startled awake, her slow heartbeat picking up in pace. She wiped at her eyes and watched Fareeha quickly sit up. The unobstructed view of the new shoreline had her bolting upright. No, no, no. “T-this has never happened before.” She watched the waves lap at the edge of the parachute.

“Because you went to the waterfall.”

Angela looked back towards the jungle, focusing on the sound of rushing water with dread. “Then we’ll go.” She clutched at the material of her shorts with a tight grip, her knuckles turning white.

“Hey,” Fareeha rested her palm over Angela’s clamped hand, “I’ll be right beside you. I’ll be there to catch you if you fall.”

“I just wanted to stay with you.”

Fareeha pulled Angela into her arms. “I know.”

Angela closed her eyes, returning Fareeha’s embrace. She held her tight, prolonging the moment for as long as she could. She pulled away, standing up in one motion. “Let’s go then.” Angela held out her hand for Fareeha to take, holding on firmly when the other woman stood beside her.

Fareeha let Angela set the pace, keeping hold of her hand all the while. The rushing water got louder. Fareeha looked upwards to the sky, it was covered in dark clouds. A single drop fell on her face, more coming in sparse intervals. “It’s raining.”

Angela stayed silent, pushing through leaves and vines and squeezing Fareeha’s hand every now and then. She paused when the sound of the water was impossibly loud. “We’re here.” Her hand hovered in the air, the waterfall was just beyond the leaves in front of her.

Fareeha reached out to clear the final obstacle, stepping forward and bringing Angela with her. She dropped the blonde’s hand at the sight. “This is…” Her eyes scanned the wall of rock and water. It extended from one end of the island to the other. There wasn’t a single part of it that the water did not touch. “This is unreal.”

Angela eyed the sharp rocks that littered the bottom. “The only way to go is up.”

“So you’ve tried to get around it?”

“Yes, I nearly drowned.” Angela walked into the pool of water, looking back at Fareeha. Her heart was pounding. “Let’s go.”

The climb up was slippery. Fareeha stopped every time Angela slipped, waiting with bated breath for her to recover before continuing. The water was bone chilling. Every part of Fareeha’s body was soaked with the freezing water. Her breath came out in cold puffs. Beside her, Angela was climbing with labored breaths, her body shaking beneath the water. It didn’t help that it was raining.

The top was in sight. Fareeha was waiting for Angela to catch her breath, watching the blonde with careful eyes. “We’re almost there.”

Angela gave Fareeha a small smile and nodded. She reached up, her fingers slipping from their grip. She tried to hold on, desperately straining her fingers against the slick rock. Her foot slipped. This is it. Her body jerked down and she closed her eyes. Her arm ached from the weight of her body pulling down on it. Angela opened her eyes, the sight of Fareeha desperately holding onto her from above.

“I’ve got you. Just hold on. Work with me and I’ll pull you up.” Fareeha’s grip was slipping.

Angela shook her head, she could feel that Fareeha was going to drop her at any moment. “Just let go.”

Fareeha squeezed her fingers around Angela’s arm even tighter. “I’m not letting go.” Her grip on the rock tightened. Her body started to shake from the strain. “You have to try.”

Angela gathered her strength and used her other arm to find a hold on the rock. With Fareeha’s help she regained her footing, climbing up so she was level with her. She took a moment to calm her shaking body. “Fareeha I…” I’m so sorry.

“No, you don’t need to say anything. You tried. That’s what matters.” Fareeha used her head to gesture towards the top. “Let’s keep going, okay?”

They climbed upwards a little bit more until Angela stopped. “I don’t think I can get over the top.” The rock above was smooth and slick, nothing for her to hold onto.I don’t want to fall.

Fareeha pressed her forehead to the rock. She exhaled a puff of air and focused back on Angela. “If you can hold on long enough, I’ll climb over first and then pull you up.” She waited a moment. “Can you wait for me?”

Angela nodded. She watched Fareeha climb onwards, her body disappearing over the top. And so she waited.

She didn’t know how long she waited, just that her body was starting to go numb from the cold. Angela trembled against the rock. Fareeha. You said you’d come back. She pressed her body closer to the cold stone. Where are you?

Her fingers started to lock up. Maybe she made it out of here. Her hands started sliding down. I think you were too good to be part of all of this. I’m going to fall and do this all over again. You’ll be gone. She closed her eyes and reached up.

A warm hand grabbed onto hers, Angela opening her eyes in shock. “Fareeha.” Fareeha’s smiling face was shining down on her.

“I said I’d pull you up, didn’t I?”

The tears flowed freely, Angela only able to shake her head yes.

The rain stopped. Everything came flooding back. Angela stood there at the top for the longest time, letting the memories sink in. “I remember.” I remember you.

“When I got here, I was hit with everything,” said Fareeha. A small frown appeared on her face but was quickly replaced by a smile. “I said we’d be together again.” She sat down in the calmed water. The light from the sky started to shine brighter. “Sit with me? I think we’ll leave soon.”

Angela joined Fareeha in the water, taking hold of her hand to wait. “Yeah, I think so too.”

-

Fareeha lied in a gurney. The flaps of the field medic tent moving with the wind. Angela was above her, blood covering her hands as she tried to stop the bleeding. Fareeha raised a weak hand to Angela’s face, wiping away the droplets of blood that littered the skin.

“Please, just let me go.”

“But I can save you.” Blue eyes started to fill with tears.

“I know you can.” Fareeha let her hand fall. “But I’m asking you not to.”

“But-”

“If you stay here, we’ll both be gone.”

“You don’t know that.”

Fareeha reached over for one of Angela’s hands, bringing it to her chest. Her heartbeat was weak. “I know we’ll be together someday, I can feel it, can’t you?” She pulled out the IV.

Angela watched paralyzed as the blood bag emptied to the ground. “N-no.” Adrenaline kicking in, she frantically searched for more blood bags, even though she knew all the coolers were empty. She went back to Fareeha’s side, desperately holding onto her hand. “I love you. Please, please don’t leave me.”

Fareeha smiled. “I’ll always love you.” She closed her eyes, her pulse giving out.

Angela cried into Fareeha’s shirt, unwilling to let go. Someone came in, tugging her away. She reached out for Fareeha, unable to stop whoever it was from dragging her out of the tent.

They were running, Angela looking behind her the whole time, watching as the tent grew smaller. They got to a helicopter, the only one left. Angela got in, holding onto one of the handles as she stared out towards where the tent would be. As the helicopter got higher, Angela could feel the sobs wracking her body. And that’s when it came. Not even five minutes out, the whole area lit up, the warhead wiping out everything that remained.

The helicopter shook over the water and Angela let go. The last thing she saw was the ocean below.

-

A car pulled into the driveway. Shined shoes walking the familiar path to the door. The smell of food wafted through the front door. Fareeha opened the unlocked door and walked inside, heading straight for the kitchen.

She leaned in the kitchen doorway, finding her mother and Angela cooking together. “And I thought I’d have to order take-out tonight.”

Angela whipped her head around, her eyes lighting up at the sight of her wife. “Welcome home my love.” She walked over to the doorway, holding her dough covered hands in front of her. “I got out of the hospital early since my other surgeries were rescheduled.” She leaned up to kiss Fareeha. “Ana was already here when I got back.”

Ana glanced up from the pot she was stirring. “I thought that I’d come feed my two favorite girls since they hardly get to cook anything. You two eat too much take-out.”

Fareeha leaned down and kissed Angela back. She walked over to her mother and gave her a kiss on the cheek, enveloping her in a side hug. “It’s good to be home.”