I just stared around in amazement. The orange from the sun bled out through the clouds as night approached. It was exactly what I would have imagined the sun to look like. There was grass about twenty metres away. Grass. It was all amazing. Ashanti was rolling around in the orange-tinted grass. She loved it as much as I did.
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed, walking further away from the door.
Rider didn’t say anything. Ashanti was lying on her back, watching us. She barked loudly. I turned to Rider, only to find him watching me. He smiled and walked ahead. Ashanti gave out her laughing bark again. I walked to catch up with him. When I reached him, I saw him glance at me out the corner of his eye.
“Why did you call her ‘Ashanti’?” I asked.
“It means ‘Africa’. She’s an African wild dog, not a domesticated animal,” he said.
“Really? She acts like it.”
“I was in Africa for a few months after being released. I was on my way to India so decided I may as well pass through the savannah on the way. I spent so long in Africa that I never actually got to India. It wasn’t for anything specific, just to visit a friend. She followed me and wouldn’t leave me alone. She fought a couple of hyenas because she thought they got too close. She’s very protective. She seems to like you though.”
I stopped and sat down on the grass. It felt wonderful under my legs and my hands. Ashanti jumped up and rushed to my side. She put her paw on my knee and lay down on her side. Rider sat on the other side of Ashanti. I looked up at the sky again.
“It’s stunning, isn’t it?” I whispered.
“So are you,” he said quietly. I blushed and turned to look at him. “Did I say that out loud?”
I smiled nervously. Ashanti made a noise and nudged Rider.
“She wants to play a game,” Rider told me.
“Like what?” I asked.
Ashanti jumped up and shot off.
“Come and get me then,” I laughed while running after Ashanti.
Not long after setting off, Rider appeared out of thin air beside me. I leapt aside and continued sprinting.
“You’re cheating!” I called behind me.
I carried on running, but promptly ran straight into Rider and, embarrassingly, knocked us both over. We landed on the floor, laughing.
“Hey!” someone shouted.
I sat up and saw Dusty stood by the door, rubbing her arms to keep warm. The grave look on her face signified it was something important.
“You might want to come in now, guys,” she said loudly so we could hear. I could tell it was directed at Rider.