Chapt 8 - Surfing, Swinging, and Scares
They entered a sprawling expanse of tall grasslands that Tarzan had never encountered. While it was beautiful as the grasses wafted in the wind, this was not a good situation, as their line of sight was obscured by the height of the grass, and it suppressed smells and sound. They heard muffled noises in the grass. He pulled his knife and she loaded her bow. A day ago they would have run carefree into the grasslands. The caracals' threats were ruining their carefree honeymoon.
"Get behind me, Jane," he whispered in his gorilla tongue, not wishing to give away a tip they were human by speaking in English. The cats didn't understand human languages, but they knew what they sounded like.
"I will protect us from behind, Tarzan," she whispered back. They crouched low together, literally butt against butt to keep from getting separated, and ready to spring into action as they stealthily traversed the grasslands to the forest hundreds of yards away. Jane stepped on a branch. It crunched and she grimaced.
"Oh, no…" she whispered in chagrin.
They held their breath as the grass around them exploded in life leaping over and around them. They had flushed a large herd of antelope munching on the tasty grass. They stood up and relaxed, grateful to have not been gored or trampled, or that the antelope were the caracals, but were still on guard until they came upon on a great forest of vines with a labyrinth of moss-covered branches and huge tangled roots. One side of the forest overlooked a deep gorge and the other the grasslands they'd just traversed.
They walked to the edge of the precipice, holding hands. They beheld a gigantic two stage water fall that emptied into the meandering river below. The jungle-covered mountains rose up from the valley steeply on both sides. They could see the river all the way to its alluvial fan where it emptied into the ocean. Clayton's men had used the river to transport their hideous cages and snares to capture the family. But that was over now.
She squeezed his hand and was impressed with the view, "It's so beautiful Tarzan. There is nothing like this in all of England."
Tarzan didn't mean to suppress her happiness, but needed to be more cautious, "But Jane, I am worried about us being alone. We should go home to the family. The caracals won't attack a large group. We can go on a honeymoon another time."
"Never mind them. We can protect ourselves. I am not going to let a couple of nasty, overgrown kitty cats ruin our honeymoon."
"You are incredible, Jane."
She snickered, "Thank you, Tarzan. Tell my father; I'm not so sure he believes that."
They laughed and kissed, maybe a little too deeply.
She put her hand on his chest to break the kiss and to slow down their building joint passion, both out of breath, "Not so fast there ape-man, we have work to do first."
"Work? What kind of work?" he puzzled.
She pointed at the vast snarl of vines and branches and roots in the forest around them and said, "Tarzan, this is the perfect place to continue my training on vine swinging and branch surfing and skating. You never taught me how to branch surf yet. It's time to do that. I was pretty good on ice skates back home."
"Ice?" he asked.
"Water that is cold and solid. And very slippery. Like the moss," she explained.
"Impossible," Tarzan scoffed.
"No Tarzan, not where I lived," Jane emphasized.
They grabbed a vine, and with Jane wrapped tightly around Tarzan's waist like the time he took her to see the birds, they climbed to a higher level to a long wide branch that was encased in deep green, moist moss. They kissed with the remembrance of that first very close moment together that set everything else in motion between them.
They stood pressed together back to front against a giant tree trunk, and surveyed the paths through the maze. He steadied and balanced her, with his hands on her wide, sculptured hips. He was momentarily distracted touching her there. The last time he'd touched her hips from behind there wasn't a dress on them. He had a reaction, which she felt.
She turned and scolded him, but gave him an amused look, "Keep your eyes on the branch, not me, and teach me, Tarzan. Good things come to those who wait."
He was actually a little embarrassed at his desire for her which now peaked so easily. They pushed off, but not very fast.
They skated along a very long set of interwoven small branches, which had many offshoots into complex twists and turns. While they held each other, she looked down intently at the pathways of the moss covered roots and branches. He was impressed with her rapid leg and foot movements, not knowing her skill at dancing, which matched his footwork very well through the early part of the maze. She slipped and stumbled on the branches a number of times, and he had to grab her by the waist or arm to pull her back upright to keep her on the branch. She grimaced after stubbing her toes, and at least once he had to stop to remove a really painful splinter from her foot, and he put a small antiseptic plant poultice on it.
Jane slowly, but surely, got the technique of branch surfing, and they increased their speed and extended their distance with each run. When they got far enough along, they discovered a huge tree branch that had grown somehow into a complete flat circle, followed not too far down the maze with another branch that arched around in a nearly completely vertical loop.
"This is like a roller coaster ride, Tarzan! I can't wait to do the whole thing at once."
He remembered the slides of the amusement parks, "But there is no car to ride in, Jane."
"We're the car, Tarzan!" she smiled at him and he realized what she was suggesting.
Upstream of the turn and loop combination, they both took a deep breath, "I'm set. How about you?"
"Here goes nothing!"
It was much harder than it appeared. The branch made a very tight, completely flat circle about 20 feet across, with a break at the end, requiring a transfer to a vine, and then a steep branch dive into the vertical loop, and it challenged her to keep her balance. She flew off the side of the circle branch and landed in the ferns twice. She got a really disgusted look each time. Even Tarzan had a hard time with this. He could see her look of determination that she was going to conquer this. But Tarzan suggested resting awhile before the third attempt.
They took a lunch break, munched on some fruits, and chased down and consumed a small flock of locusts, to restore their energy. They tasted and crunched like almonds, after they removed the bitter jumping legs. Even better were the sour tasting ant larvae that they discovered in a mound near the trees. They crunched and popped like fish roe, which she loved to eat back in England, but were sour rather than salty. Tarzan sliced open a vine to share for water, and it was cool and sweet.
While resting, they hiked to the end of the forest of vines, branches and roots. The cliff overlooked the glorious deep gorge, with the waterfall far behind them now. Growing from the front of cliff face there was an enormous branch, eight feet wide or more, that extended a hundred feet out over the gorge, and was at least two hundred feet above the river which snaked its way to the coast. They could look far across to the other side of the valley and just barely see their gorilla family's nest about three miles away. They could see even further from their perch on the gigantic branch.
"I love this place, Tarzan. Let's practice until we can go the entire way. Together. Like a dance."
"Really? That's more than two miles."
"How am I ever going to learn these skills with you, if I don't do the whole thing the whole way?"
Tarzan was learning the hard way to never argue with a determined Englishwoman. At least this one. Professor Porter and even Clayton warned him, but he smiled, not wanting it any other way with her.
"And I want to bring the others, Tarzan, to show them what I have learned to do with you. We need to have a family outing here. All of us – just playing together. We need to celebrate our marriage with the whole family. A wedding reception in the jungle!"
"That will be fun, Jane."
Jane became more serious, placing her hand softly on his muscled chest, "There's another reason why I want to learn to skate and swing just like you. I want to earn my place in your family. I never want your family to think I am a burden, just because they might think I am a helpless human girl from a faraway place that doesn't belong here. You heard Naima."
"Naima is badly mistaken, Jane. You will never be a burden to this family. You helped save them, especially my mother, by fighting against Clayton. They know you are different. They all love you. All of the animals in this jungle do. Just like I do."
"Maybe it's time for that afternoon break now, Tarzan," she said sweetly, pushing him down into a soft mossy fork in a tree. She leaned over on top of him with a hug and pressed her lips against his.
When they had finished, they both felt invigorated, and ready to improve her vine swinging abilities. They decided to give branch surfing a rest for the day. She finished buttoning her green skirt and yellow blouse. Poised on a branch of the tree, they each pulled a vine toward them and gripped them tightly.
"Are you ready?" he asked, though he was, frankly, still breathless over her last advance. There appeared to Tarzan to be no limit to the number of ways Jane and he were able to love one another.
"I am, Tarzan. I was terrified at vine swinging at first. I love it now. That one moonlit night with you… Oh, Tarzan, I fell in love so hard for you that night, but I just couldn't tell you. I was too shy then."
"That was the best night of my life until our wedding day. I have loved you every day since that swing together. I couldn't figure out why you looked away from me, but now I know it was you just being shy."
"I'm not shy for you any more, Jonathan," she admitted quietly. They kissed tenderly as they pushed off.
Jane was doing extremely well, especially with transferring vines from one to the next so that she could swing forward indefinitely. She turned back to smile at Tarzan's approving face after having completed some very complex transfers on what they thought would be a long run.
Her long, flowing green skirt suddenly caught in a broken tree branch, ripping and jerking her around out of control and almost bringing her to a complete stop instantly from her high speed swing. It was too much stress for her vine.
It snapped and she fell, crashing through huge leaves and branches, breaking them. Jane screamed in pain, feeling her clothes rip as she descended. She hit the ground with a thud, blacking out instantly. Tarzan was helpless to catch her, but got to the jungle floor as fast as he could. He looked terrified, finding Jane's very still and bleeding body sprawled limply on the ground.
Not far off, unseen and unheard by both Tarzan and Jane, Naima and her mate turned to each other and she said, "Perhaps the jungle itself has already taken care of our problem."
They turned and disappeared into the bush.