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Alice stared out her bedroom window. She could see the tiger from where she was, he was crouched in her rosebushes, and she knew that given the choice, he would jump out at her, come flying through, so she stayed indoors, safe, and cool, unlike the outside, were it was India, and summer. Thank God for David, keeping her roses nice a watered...
Although if the roses where gone, the tiger would have no place to hide, and she could see it better...
Alice pulled her comforter tighter around her, up over her head, and called in the maid to close the curtains. When they were closed, Alice poked her head out, and stared towards the balcony.
"It's still there," she whispered. "I can see it, hiding behind my roses. I smell it. Do you, Carrie? Can you see the way it looks at me? It wants to eat me, I know it does. It's because of my father. He had good blood, and the tiger got it, and now he wants more."
"Oh, don't be silly, Miss Alice. There ain't no tiger out side your windows. You'll be quite fine. I promise you this."
"Don't lie to me, Carrie," Alice murmured. "I know you see it, too." Alice pulled her quilt tighter around her, and was asleep.
The maid took one last glance at Alice, making sure she was asleep, before turning back to the French doors that lead out to the balcony, the only window in the room not covered by curtains. The rose bushes were on the other side of the house, but if one stepped out onto the balcony and looked just so, one could almost make out the large cat lurking on the front lawn.
Carrie stood for awhile on the balcony, observing the setting sun and the stars as they peeked out one by one - she never could understand why her mistress chose to go to bed so early, the gardens were always so much lovelier at night, when the moon made strange shadows on the lawn and the marble statues glowed white, and flickered with the branches that swayed above them, and the only creatures in sight were the night birds, swooping over the garden in gentle arcs.
Carrie shook her head, and stepped back inside, drawing the curtains closed behind her. She took one last, cursory glance at her mistress before leaving the room, and locking the door behind her.
When Alice woke up in the morning, the first thing she did after pulling on her dressing gown was to go to the front window, and look for the tiger, who was still there, lurking behind her rose bushes.
Well, something obviously had to be done, that tiger was a menace. She'd have to have David take out the rose bushes today. Maybe white roses would be better, and she would be able to see the tiger among them. Yes, that would be good. The red roses provided a bit of camouflage for the orange tiger, he could blend in better among them, but if the roses were white, the orange of the tiger would stand out dramatically, and she would be able to see him, and then he would be easier to deal with.
Yes, white roses were definitely the way to go. And since she was only changing the color of the roses, it wouldn't make much sense to rip them out of the ground, now, would it? Alice was sure she had a bottle of peroxide somewhere, if it worked on her hair, it would work on the roses. She would have to tell David after breakfast.
"Miss Alice, are you ready for breakfast?"
"Yes, Carrie. Come in."
Carrie unlocked the door, and came in with the breakfast tray. "What are your plans for the day, Miss?"
"I thought I'd ask David to bleach the roses. Do you know where I placed the peroxide? I thought he might use that."
"The peroxide is under your sink, Miss. I'll get it, and put it in your basket. Wouldn't want you to stain your pretty clothes, Miss."
Alice just nodded.
"Well, finish up your breakfast. You'll have to catch David before he goes outside to work, less you want to go out after him."
Alice just nodded.
"Right, then, I'll get the peroxide," Carrie announced, before shuffling off to the adjoining bath.
When Carrie returned, Alice was simply sitting on her bed, staring out the window.
"He's already gone to work," She whispered. "We missed him."
"Nonsense," said Carrie. "If you won't go out and tell him what you want, I will. The more able you are to see that wretched tiger, the better. I'm certain the Queen would be quite worried by the idea of a tiger haunting the streets of her city."
"I'm sure she would, but as we are not in England, and are instead in India, she has no control, and I am left to my own devices."
"Ah, but Miss, the Queen has reign of India, too. It may not be directly hers, but by will of her governor, it is hers."
Alice turned to stare out of the window.
"I'll take the peroxide out, then. Why don't you finish your breakfast? I'll be back soon enough."
"Alright," Alice agreed grudgingly.
Carrie found David polishing the large, marble tiger on the back lawn, so intent in his work he didn't even notice her coming.
"Alice would like you to bleach the roses."
David jumped half a foot. "Where the hell did you come from, Carrie! And what's this about bleaching roses?"
"Alice thinks that if you bleach the roses, she be able to see the tiger better."
David snorted. "What tiger? There isn't a tiger in those bushes, there hasn't been one, there never will be one. I don't care what happened to her father in India, we're in London now, and there aren't any tigers in London. The girl's off her rocker."
"Mad or not, the girl will be watching all afternoon to see that you bleach her roses. Do as you will, but I took the peroxide out of the bottle she gave me, and refilled it with water. We can explain to her later why her plants aren't white. We have time enough to think of a proper tale."
"Fine. Maybe it will help clear up her dreadful misconception. There aren't any tigers in London, except for at the zoo, and I ain't heard of one escaping."
"Nor have I, but there is always the possibility..."
"Don't say that, Carrie, you and I both know it's not true. I know you're paid to pander to her silliness, but she's not here, and I need not hear it."
"Well, I'll leave you to your work, then."
"You do that."
Carrie nodded, and walked off.
When Carrie returned to Alice's room, the young woman was on her balcony looking across the yard, towards the stone tiger.
"Are you quite alright, Miss?"
"Then why are you staring out the window?"
"I had nightmares last night. I dreamed I was eleven years old again, and the tiger was eating my father."
"He wants to eat me too, I know it. Have you looked at today's paper? I would look at it myself, except I have an usually good view of the tiger, and I don't want to lose it. Could you fetch it and read me the headlines?"
"Oh, Miss. I'll go fetch it."
David had the newspapers, and was staring at them in shock, when Carrie found him.
"What?" She asked.
"Look at the headlines."
Carrie glanced at them, once, twice, again. But that could not change the words on the page.
Tiger Escapes From London Zoo
"Do you still want me to bleach the roses?"
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Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.