The pride was not large. Maybe not even large enough to be called a pride. Taki and the handler watched it for a few hours, and then headed back.
The handler didn’t give Taki meat that afternoon, nor any water. She barely noticed. As soon as he had gone, she hurried back to her waterhole and rested in the acacia as she watched the happenings around her. She wasn’t hungry yet, and so she waited and dozed until evening. By the time she began to feel the beginnings of an appetite, it was too late. The activity at the pond had died down and she had to content herself with a long drink. She shook the water off her whiskers and looked around. Taki liked the starlight, and the moon had not come out. She wandered around, exploring the area surrounding the waterhole, noticing where there were areas of cover and low places in the land.
As the night wore on, she widened her circles, looking over the surrounding countryside. There were a lot of things she had missed when walking with the handler — not because she hadn’t been paying attention, but because there had been so many new things to see and discover. Now she stood on a rise and looked out toward the place where the small pride had been resting. And she saw them coming. Of course they would come; they would need water, too. Taki wasn’t sure she wanted to meet them, and she slipped down into the brush so that she could just barely see.
Once the pride finished drinking, they melted down into the same patch of acacia Taki had chosen as her own shelter. None of them ended up very close to her, but when Taki realized they intended to stay the night, she realized she must either keep quiet or be discovered. She was as afraid of them as she was fascinated. The breeze blowing over the acacias rippled the pond and brought the scent of the pride to her quivering nostrils. All night she smelled it, and in the morning when they began to stir, she was still awake.
The pride did not move, but Taki felt their alertness as the herds of antelope and gazelles and other grazing animals began drifting toward water. A zebra calf, wandering, came a little too close and the three adult lions sprang into action as one. Taki watched, mesmerized by this new sight. Lions working together, hunting together. She had seldom even seen another lion, so she’d had no idea how they would behave. It seemed to her a long struggle, but eventually, she watched as they pulled the young zebra into a sheltered spot and began to eat. The scent beckoned Taki, who was now ravenous, yet she did not move. When they had finished and gone, she wandered over to the corpse and found a few morsels. Her hunger would have to wait until evening at the earliest. Next time she would know to eat when food was available.