Originally published June 19, 2008.
Wherever I went, men followed. Strong men, fast men, men that wanted me dead and flayed. I ran and ran, eating seldom, sleeping less, but the men followed. I found myself pressing further and further into the lands of men, for they were jungle men and I knew the lands of men as well as the jungle.
I did not think about where I was going, only that I needed to get away. I was tired, and I felt old, and these men were fierce with anger because I had destroyed their brother, and laid waste to his bones.
They found me, and they chased me one last time. There was a garden wall before me, and I leapt.
It was something of a shock when my tiger appeared before me, so many years after we first met. It had been long enough that I would not have laid odds that he was alive, and yet it made sense to me, in a way. He had always been something of an unusual cat. We regarded each other searchingly, until there was a clamoring commotion in the hall and armed men burst through the entrance to my garden, with spears and swords at the ready. My husband was among them, talking to their leader, and they seemed in agreement.
I asked then, as they circled my tiger, “Excuse me, dear husband, but what is all this? Why are you all so agitated with my pet?”
I went to my tiger, and knelt by him, my skirt growing stained by the grass, and touched his neck, burying my face in his fur. He nuzzled at me, gentle.
“This is your pet, my wife?” My husband asked.
“Oh yes, my husband,” I answered. “Did not I mention that I bought him?”
“These men say they chased a tiger in here, my wife.”
“Oh yes, my husband,” I said again. “And my tiger chased it away again.”
The men protested, but my husband took my word above theirs, for I was his princess and his wife and they were common peasants. They were sent away, and we were alone.
I awoke from my slumber to find my princess and her tiger wrapped in embrace, her fingers trailing in the water, her eyes closed. She slept, and I rose to the surface. The tiger, still beautiful, but aged into his beauty, regarded me.
“Did you know all this would happen?” He asked me.
“I did not,” I replied. I hesitated. “Will you stay, this time?”
“I will stay,” he replied.
We watched each other, as the day faded into darkness, and it was enough.