L. arrived at her parents’ home feeling the tightness of trepidation in her gut and throat. Bracing herself to hear her mother’s misgivings about her latest ventures, she walked up the brick steps and knocked on the pristine white door.
“Come in, L,” her mother trilled in a Southern drawl from down the hall.
L. took a deep breath and walked inside. This had never been home for her, L.’s parents having bought the Tudor style house about five years ago. The place was spotless, ready for a spread in BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS.
“Hello, L., my dear. How are you?” The question felt rhetorical, a mere formality.
“Honestly, I’m doing really well, settling into finishing some final papers and looking forward to working with some clients at a clinic,” L. replied as confident-sounding as she could.
Her mother Lorenda looked at L. blankly for a moment, then smiled wanly and blinked. “Well, alright, then. You’re really sure about this plan?”
“As sure as the moon will be full in two days, yes, I am, Mother.”
Lorenda extended her left arm out from her side, indicating the nearby sitting room. “Let’s have some tea, hon. Earl Grey or green tea?”
“Green tea, thanks.”
They walked into a spacious, yet cozy room filled with antiques and tasteful paintings. The Van Gogh above the fireside mantle did look lovely there.
Damp ground gave way under padded paws loping along beneath a shimmering canopy of leaves and fading sunlight. The screech of two scarlet macaws above pierced the silence, giving voice to the feline’s growing rage.
There, just ahead, she spotted the intruder, his scent filling her nose and throat.
An unbearable stinging in her left hind leg pushed a deep growl from her throat. She whipped around to bite at this sudden pain. The ground swayed upwards out from under her, like the time she’d tried to cross the nearby river after heavy rains, only far more wrenching than even that. Her limbs grew fluid and useless. Darkness closed in fast, pulling her into a paralysis that surely was oblivion.
“Be gentle, Eric, Tayla. She’ll be groggy for a while tomorrow. I’ve never seen such a large female. Let’s make sure she’s healthy, tagged, released. Don’t want to piss off any of the locals, and well they should be if she gets hurt or worse,” Rufus stated before kneeling down to help his two assisting zoology interns.
She sensed herself gathering substance in the space around her, filling up a hollow numbness with feeling once again. Her eyes opened to dusk’s golden light spilling through open spaces in trees and vines above and to the side of the trail. She stood on all fours, yawned, then bent her front legs down while tilting her back upwards in a mighty stretch.
She was alive. And hungry.