Peter, somewhat relieved by these words, muttered under his breath, “Thank you.”
“For saving your life, or for not telling anyone about it?” Leah asked with a smirk.
“Both, I guess…” Peter mumbled.
“It’s just that everything has been so crazy, lately. My mom left, and I don’t know where she went, or if she’ll ever be back. Dad is working double shifts at the mill, so I barely see him either. I just feel like it’s all my fault.”
“I assure you, it is not your fault that your mother left, or that your father is forced to work so much.
“Tell me, young man, what is your name?” Leah asked.
“Oh, sorry. My name is Peter. Why do you call me young man? You’re probably younger than me.”
Leah smiled. She was glad he changed the subject. Hopefully he was forgetting his troubles for a moment.
“I am four hundred seventy three years old, in your years,” she replied. “How old are you?”
“I don’t believe you. How can you be that old? Nobody lives that long. I’m seventeen, and that’s the truth!” Peter growled.
Leah blushed. She was not supposed to discuss her age, or the secret behind her long lifespan, with strangers. Suddenly she regretted her words.
“My people have a long lifespan because they are healthier than most beings,” she lied. “We eat only the purest and simplest foods, and drink only fresh water from the river.” This much was true.
“There’s no river around here that I’ve seen. I think you’re making all this up!”
“If you would like, I can show you,” suggested Leah. “It is beyond the mountain, in a valley full of beautiful plants and flowers. That is also where we grow our food, since the mountain is so barren and dry. We are safer up here, but we must take risks to stay alive.”
“Is it far?” asked Peter. “I have never been to the other side of the mountain.”
“It is far to walk, but not to fly. If you like, I will carry you,” offered Leah.
“That’s okay, I’m too heavy for you to carry,” Peter said, looking down and kicking some pebbles on the ground.
“Ha! I see you have a short memory, or perhaps a selective one. Did you forget–”
“–No, I didn’t forget anything,” Peter interrupted. “Are you sure it’s not too far? My dad will be wondering where I am soon. He’s probably awake by now.”
“You weren’t so worried about your father’s feelings a short while ago, when you–”
“–I just meant that I’m going to be in trouble,” Peter declared. “I should get home. Maybe some other time.”
Peter started to walk down the slope of the cliff, gingerly picking where he stepped, so as not to slip and fall.
Leah watched him, smiling. She was glad that Peter thought of his father, for whatever reason. Perhaps there was still hope for the young man.