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Stones of Summer: Instinct (Part 3)

Sasha was pressed up against the front of her cage, her feline gaze settled on to me the minute I moved into sight. I went to the cage, opening it to scoot in. She growled and moved back, hobbling on three paws. She had gotten trapped in a 'cat trap'. She was in the pen to recover. I squatted down to take a look at her wounded paw. She rolled over, but kept her eyes fastened to me. I deemed it healing and stood, moving to the back of the pen to pull the leftovers of her last meal from the ground. I pulled and they didn't move. The carcass had to be at least three days old, it should have moved easily. I got down on my hands and knees to see it.
'Ah.' It was stuck under the edge of the fence. I grabbed hold of the bone closest to the caught end and pulled. It gave, little by little.
"Hey! What the hell are you doing?!" I jumped and turned, just in time to see a 100kg tiger lunge at me. I jerked back, narrowly missing a claw to the face. I pushed onto my feet and threw my arm up to cover my throat. She roared and pinned me into the corner, clamping onto my arm. I gave a slight scream slash grunt and pushed my captured arm further into her mouth. She was an inexperienced hunter, it worked. My arm moved back far enough in her mouth to make her feeling like she was choking. I grasped the flap of extra skin between her jowls. I twisted, and she backed down, growling and hissing.
Claudine whistled at the big cat.
"Sasha, her girl, Sasha." She whistled again and the tiger found the piece of meat she was offering more tempting and less resistant than me.
"Grab that and get out here girl." Claudine was the newest of my parents team. She had only been here for less than a year. I gave one good yank, using my adrenaline to my advantage, and the carcass came free. I jogged toward the gate, giving the growling Sasha a mean look.
"Bad girl." I snapped my fingers. She flinched and opened her mouth in a silent hiss. I snapped my fingers again and she lowered her head in submission. I had forgotten my 'sound' in the heat of it.
Claudine yanked me all the way out and pulled at my arm.
"Did she get you?" I nodded and held up my arm where similar scars to the puncture wounds lay.
"They aren't deep. I don't think she was stalking me to hurt me." Claudine gave me a smack on my cheek.
"And it's a damn lucky thing! You should know better than to get in a hungry tiger's cage, and get down that low. You were askin' for an attack. And next time, don't forget your 'sound' They're taught to fear it for a reason!" I rolled my eyes and dragged the carcass to the pit. I shoveled some dirt on top of it to cut the smell and went to pull a frozen one out of the freezer.

The ride to the market was uneventful as I slept most of the way. It was uncomfortable and the truck rocked a lot, but I just dozed with my head on Chris's shoulder and my arm tossed over my eyes. The gust of wind that blew through the flaps on the back were amazing, and I could only hope for more. Out legs were scrunched up, and they ached when I got up. Chris slept soundly the entire time.

The market was about as uneventful as the trip here. It had taken nearly five hours to get here, and we only planned on staying for about two. Oh the irony.
Chris and I collected what was on the list given to us. Grudgingly I helped him. Every other step he was either telling me that I should apologize to my mom, or teasing me about something. The interaction with others though was a great reprieve from the normal isolation. I craved human interaction. Jun-Lee, a girl I had only ever seen at this market since we were both eight, and I talked, confusing the hell out of Chris. He hadn't picked up the dialect for there language and would stumble over basic words. Jun-Lee and I would just laugh and make fun of him. I told her about the dilemma with my parents. She agreed with me, telling me that she was leaving after the summer was over to go live with her brother further south, and take a job there. She raced off after further deliberations, promising to return before I left.

I stood by a woman selling brightly colored woven blankets. Who would need these is the heat?
'Aunt Julie might like the teal one though...' I decided to buy it and send it off to her, or something.
"Jancy, here is the runway he will be leaving from. In three days, don't be late. You'll need to give him a deposit, though. One hundred American dollars." I took the slip of grimy paper she handed off to me. I nodded and gave her a hug.
"Thank you." She bowed as did I as Chris came up. She passed me a nervous glance and hopeful smile before saying quickly that she was needed back at her mother's stall. She bowed to Chris briefly and didn't wait around for him to return the gesture.
"What did she give you? You two look as thick as thieves." I bent the paper around my fingers and took the blanket I had purchased, using it to cover my hand.
"Nothing, she just gave me a note that one of the boys wrote her." He rolled his eyes.
"Let's go, we're leaving soon." I nodded and rubbed my thumb against the hidden paper. This was my lifeline.

I don't remember being carried into the house, or into bed, but I woke in the early morning in the clothes I had been wearing the day before and my hair untied. I was sprawled out on my bed with my face buried in the pillow. I scrunched my nose up when I realized it was the same pillow Chris had sweat all over. I pushed it off the bed and grabbed for the other pillow.
It was too early to get up anyway.

"Aunt Julie!? Yeah, it's Jan. I just got your letter. It would be so cool! Mom isn't sure, I'm sure if she talked with you she'd let me-" Mom grabbed the phone from my hand and 'shooed' me. I grumbled at her rudeness but left to plop in the living room. Chris was passed out on the couch with his head tilted back and his mouth open. I was tempted to drop a cheese-ball into his mouth, but instead I put a pillow next to him and tried to carefully lay his head down on it.
He would get a kink that way and I knew he would do the same for me. I gave an undignified 'eep' when he took hold of my wrist, although it was let go almost immediately. Looking into his face, I realized his eyes were open.
I blushed and crossed my arms."You did that on purpose!" He opened his mouth to reply but mom cut him off.
"Jance, leave Chris alone, he was up all night long. For once, go and do your chores." I twisted around to gaze at her. She was holding the telephone to her shoulder and had a stern look on her face. I left without complaint. I would be a perfect angel if Aunt Julie could convince mom to let me go.
I trotted outside, praying to anyone who would listen that if I could go I would never ask for another thing. And if that didn't work, I had plan B. The note Jun-Lee had given me was tucked inside my shoe for safe keeping.
Without warning, my head slammed against the ground and I gave a weak cry. Stars burst across my vision and a weight lay on top of me. Warm moist breath spread across my face.
Tiger.
I peeked my eye open, wincing from the sunlight. I got a glimpse of large whiskers and a scarred muzzle.
Myali.
I didn't struggle, I didn't move. My arms were pinned. One wrong move and he'd crush my throat. I whistled quietly, murmuring softly to keep him calm. I don't know if it works that way, but I was going to try everything I could. I tried snapping my fingers, but his fur muffled the sound. I was beginning to have trouble breathing. I searched around, for anybody. The closest I figured anyone was, was Chris and mom.
I was reluctant to call out for help.
As if feeling my fear an panic, Myali licked from me chin to my hair line. Gross!
"Don't panic." I whispered to myself. I didn't need to set off an asthma attack.
'Chris! Where are you when I need you?! Sleeping I bet!' Curse him.
I tried not to panic, but Myali was slowly crushing me!
The screen door opened and someone cursed.
"Jan, you okay?" I would have glared at him if I could have.
"Yeah, just peachy. I'm just layin' under him because I find it relieves stress." I bit out, secretly thankful that Chris was here to help.
"I mean, has he bitten you?" I tried to shake my head, but thought better of it.
"No..., just, just get him off. I can't breathe." I heard his quiet footsteps get closer.
"Okay, just relax, he'll be gone in a few minutes." Why do I do this to myself? This is why I needed to leave.





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