Lost lynx and lions.
In the wood at the back of the house, a lynx limped along the track. The lynx, injured in a road accident a few weeks previously limped painfully, her hind leg muscles painful and left forepaw mangled in the accident. Her eyes full of fear and pain, the female lynx hardly noticed the lion following close behind her. Clarence padded noiselessly after the lynx. When she sensed his presence, the lynx looked round, saw a lion and reared up on her hind legs in fright. Her eyes wide with pain, the lynx screamed with fear!
“I won’t hurt you!” Clarence mewed, wanting to present a non threatening aspect to the lynx, who was clearly terrified, and no threat to him, let alone the community.
“What’s your name?” He asked the female lynx, helping her gently to her feet.
“Pip,” The lynx replied. Clarence smiled:
“I think I’ve heard of you,” he said, “your sister’s Ellie, right?” Pip looked scared.
“Yes,” she mewed, her eyes pleading for her life.
“Ellie’s a bitch,” Clarence mewed, “but we do not tar other family members with the brushes earned by errant siblings.” Pip suddenly vomited onto the grass!
“Dam my diet of trash!” She yelled between spasms which emptied her stomach.
“It’s not a very good diet if it makes you violently sick,” Clarence said gently.
“Since I had the accident two weeks ago,” the female lynx mewed, “trash from bins is all I’ve been able to eat!” Clarence took her uninjured forepaw.
“Come in to the warm,” Clarence said softly, his paw warm and comforting to Pip who still shook with fright.
“I can’t, though, I must,” she mewed. Clarence walked beside Pip, letting her set the pace. Pip looked at Clarence as they walked. She saw a large lion with sad eyes.
“What happened to him?” She asked herself.
“Here we are,” Clarence said, opening the door and letting them in.
“Ellie told me about this place,” Pip mewed, “she said many different types of animals got on well together here.” Clarence smiled:
“We do,” he mewed. Pip watched Clarence walking down the passage. He was a fat lion, with fat paws and a slow manner.
“He looks great,” she thought. Clarence padded along the passage, aware of Pip examining him. He didn’t realise he was responding to her until Leona growled at Pip.
“Leave my mate alone!” The lynx looked at the lioness.
“I didn’t mean anything!” She whimpered. A back handed slap from Leona’s left forepaw made Pip stagger backwards.
“Hey, that’s not nice!” Clarence roared.
“You were playing up to her!” Leona screamed.
“Who said I was your mate anyway!” Clarence yelled.
“What?” Leona replied, “I thought, after last night, we, we, we got on so well!”
“We talked for a long time,” Clarence replied, “I didn’t say then, and I most definitely will not say now that you are my mate. You’re disgusting behaviour sickens me!” Leona turned tail and padded away.
“I’m sorry,” Clarence said to Pip, who stood a little way off massaging her nose with her paw.
“How horrid!” Pip mewed.
“I’ll take you to our leaders,” Clarence replied, “They’ll see you’re okay.” Clarence took Pip to Simba, who looked the female lynx over.
“Ellie’s sister?” He asked, knowing the answer.
“Yes, but how did you know?” Pip asked.
“We have cameras all over the wood, Clarence was told to bring you in,” was the white lion’s response.
“You’re, you’re, I mean, you must be Simba,” Pip replied, “Ellie told me about you.” The lion smiled grimly:
“I daren’t ask what she said,” he mewed.
“Some quite dreadful things I’m afraid,” Pip replied, “but I know what she did that got her expelled from the community, so I don’t really take her word as gospel.” Simba looked closely at Pip.
“You will get on well here I think,” he
said. Simba looked over at
“Your mum?” Pip asked, looking over at
“Yeah,” Simba replied, omitting to
elaborate on the tailed.
“Keep your nose clean and you’ll be fine here,” the eyes said.
“Pip’s Ellie’s sister,” Simba said to his mum, recognising the family scent. Even though her overlaying scent was different to Ellie’s, Pip’s underlying scent is identical to Ellie’s.
“I’ve heard something about a white lioness!” She blurted, “it was said that,”
“Yes, that I was the reincarnation of eohippus,” Petra said wearily, “I wasn’t, I was her servant, she made me do things that were totally unnatural to me, and I broke free of her. No I’m not eohippus, nor do I want to be!” Simba backed up quickly and placed his paw on Petra’s, hearing the lioness’s anger growing.
“It’s okay mum,” he said gently, “your name and fame spread throughout the land. This lynx knows nothing of your struggle against Eohippus’s domination of your life.” Petra looked tired.
“To think of that time exhausts me even now,” she said, “I can’t help snapping sometimes. It’s not Pip’s fault, its noone’s fault.” Simba hugged his mum, the gesture greatly moving Pip.
“That’s nice to see,” she mewed. Simba felt Petra’s lingering stress over the whole eohippus thing, even though he’d not known her during that time.
“I love you Simba,” Petra mewed, kissing his nose. Simba smiled broadly.
“I love you too,” he replied squeezing Petra’s paw. Petra rubbed a weary paw over tired eyes.
“You look exhausted mum,” Simba said. Petra stifled a yawn.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’ve been up all night patrolling,” she replied, resting her head briefly on Simba’s shoulder and closing her eyes. Simba felt the weight of his mum’s head and realised she’d fallen asleep in half a second.
“Come on mum,” he said gently, shaking her shoulder, “let’s go.” Petra opened her eyes and stumbled away, Pip wondering if the lioness was ill.
“Is she all right?” She asked Clarence, who watched Petra’s stumbling progress back to her lie up.
“Petra’s fine,” Clarence mewed, “she sometimes gets overtired that’s all.” Simba and Petra made it to their lie up, where Petra collapsed onto the rug. Simba fetched another rug and wrapped his mum up in it, leaving her nose and forepaws free. Petra snuggled down into the warm cocoon Simba had made for her.
“Sleep well,” Simba mewed softly, kissing his mum’s nose. Petra smiled sleepily.
“Thank you,” she said faintly, her eyes rapidly closing. Simba stayed with Petra until she was deeply asleep, then left on silent paws.
“Petra looked so cubbish when she rubbed her paw over her eyes,” Simba thought as he made his way back to the main room of the house. Simba found Samson and Pip talking quietly in the main part of the house. Standing off a little, Simba waited for the community leader to finish his conversation with the newcomer.
“Pip?” Simba said, extending his paw to her, “come with me please.” Simba led the lynx to Theo’s lie up. Then, after introductions to the lion, Simba left Pip and Theo alone, Theo leading the lynx a tour of the house and the pool complex, introducing her to some of the residents. They met fleur in her bathroom, Arki sitting on a rug in her lie up absent minded stroking the toes of her right hind paw with her fore, something which had Pip asking questions, and snowy watching over cubs playing in the pool complex. Pip looked at Theo.
“That bear was stroking her hind paws!” Pip mewed, “Why?”
“Because she likes how it feels,” Theo replied, “she needs no other reason.”
“Come on Weici, Rowena, time to get out of the pool,” Snowy mewed. Pip stared as a female panda cub left the pool followed by a white female lion cub. The lion cub padded damply up to Theo and he lowered his head so she could hug him.
“You know her?” Pip asked.
“That’s Rowena, Simba’s sister,” Theo mewed. Pip looked at Theo.
“So that cub’s Petra’s?” She asked. Theo started to say something, but Rowena leapt in.
“Yes,” she said decisively.” Theo protested:
“But you’re not Petra’s,”
“I feel more Petra’s cub than I do Sarafina’s!” Rowena snapped, “Is that clear?” Pip looked at the cub’s face, then at Theo’s for a reaction to her outburst. The lion looked sadly after Rowena, who was padding away.
“Poor Rowena,” Theo mewed.
“Poor Rowena?” Pip asked, “I would have spanked her for that!”
“No,” Theo said softly, “you don’t know the story. I don’t blame her for snapping. I should have thought before I challenged her assertion.” Pip suddenly felt the weight on Theo’s mind.
“Her story was a sad one then?” Pip asked, fishing for details. Theo shook his head.
“I’m not telling her tale,” he said. Snowy padded up to them, pip looking nervous.
“Snowy’s okay,” Theo mewed, proving it by striding up to the white tigress and hugging her.
“Is there any danger round here?” Pip asked.
“Not really,” snowy mewed, “though when we see it we deal with it. We don’t like danger here.”
“You would have spanked me would you?” Rowena asked suddenly. Pip whipped round and there the white cub was, standing almost paw to paw with her.
“Yes I would!” Pip yelled, “How dare you speak to your elders and betters like that!” Pip raised a paw to clout Rowena, and was on the verge of doing so when a strong paw took hold of hers and forced it to the floor.
“No Pip,” Simba said gently but firmly, “I wouldn’t advise you do that.”
“Is this cub allowed to get away with speaking out of turn?” Pip asked.
“Rowena’s a little sensitive about the subject of her mother,” Simba said gently, “please, Pip, leave it alone.”
“No I won’t!” Pip snapped, “Mothers are sacred!”
“Sarafina wasn’t,” Simba mewed, “take it from me; she hated Rowena, that’s all you need to know.” Pip looked at Rowena’s expression. The white cub’s eyes were pleading with Simba not to tell.”
“It’s okay Rowena dear,” Simba mewed, going to her and resting his paw on hers.
“What are you, some kind of protector?” Pip asked Simba.
“Don’t say any more!” Theo pleaded his eyes terrified.
“I don’t know whether you’ve forgotten this Pip,” Simba said quietly, “we are offering you a home, not the other way round. Keep your mouth shut!”
“No I won’t!” Pip yelled, “That cub’s behaviour was disgraceful!” Rowena suddenly lashed out with a forepaw, the open pawed slap landing against Pip’s cheek! The lynx screeched with pain and surprise!
“Now will you shut up?” Rowena asked. Pip massaged her stinging jaw.
“You are a spoilt little brat!” Pip yelled.
“You know nothing!” Rowena sobbed turning and running away.
“You deserved that,” Snowy remarked.
“Rowena’s dead!” Pip yelled, “I hate that bloody cub!” The next thing Pip knew, Simba had knocked her off her feet and pinned her down under his forepaws!
“You leave Rowena alone!” He snarled.
“Oooh big bad Simba!” Pip scoffed.
“Oh no,” Theo groaned, knowing what was coming. Simba’s paw landed with an audible slap across Pip’s face, the lynx shrieking with pain.
“Do we understand each other now?” Simba asked. Pip, her lip bleeding, mumbled something which Simba obviously didn’t like, for the claws of one forepaw suddenly extended and dug into Pip’s shoulder, the lynx shrieking with fear and pain.
“No Simba,” she gasped, “I will leave Rowena alone. I promise I will leave her in peace!”
“You disgust me!” Simba snarled.
“You’d do well if you kept your paws to yourself and your mouth shut,” Samson said to Pip. Pip glanced at the huge lion.
“Simba hit me!” She wailed.
“With good reason,” Samson mewed, “I saw everything. Rowena’s sensitive about the subject of her mother.”
Meanwhile, in Petra and Simba’s lie up, Petra was sleeping soundly when Rowena dreadfully upset and wanting refuge, charged in and, blinded by her own tears, tripped over Petra. Falling over the startled lioness, Rowena heard a surprised snort, and then felt paws restraining her. Rowena knew she couldn’t fight Petra’s grip on her, so she let the huge paws hold her until Petra had come to her senses. This was vital in case the lioness took fright and did her harm.
“It’s me Petra,” Rowena said, her voice shaking with emotion and fresh tears.
“Rowena?” Petra asked sleepily, “what’s up?” Rowena began to tell her, but lost it half way through, Petra cradling her as she sobbed.
“I have nightmares about what Sarafina could have done to me!” Rowena squealed, “I wake drenched in sweat from nose to tail! My paws feel horrible after one of my nightmares, all hot and wet! My face is wet from crying, and I’m hot all over. It’s horrible! The dreams are worse! I, I look at myself in a mirror, and I see scars on my face, body and paws!” Petra cradled Rowena while the cub cried with fear.
“I see Sarafina watching behind me, and she’s got mad eyes, and is sneering at me. She says to me that now I’m scarred from nose to tail, Simba will hate me, and then I’ll die because noone will protect me! Oh Petra, Petra, I wish I was your cub! You wouldn’t do that to your cubs! When, when I was newborn, and you were cleaning me up, do you know I still remember that? Well, when you were cleaning me up, I felt your warm paws working over my body and it felt so wonderful! I thought for a minute you had given birth to me, but then I learned the truth. Now, Now I have nightmares about a horrid lioness who wants to harm me, and she’s succeeding. Sarafina might be dead, but her horrid paws are reaching me from beyond the grave! I can’t stand it Petra!” Petra cradled Rowena while she went to pieces, screaming and sobbing.
“Sarafina won’t harm you now,” Petra mewed, kissing the cub’s wet nose. Petra felt Rowena’s hot tears against her whiskers, hearing the cub’s laboured shallow breathing as she fought to control herself.
“I’m sorry Petra,” Rowena mewed, “I shouldn’t be putting on you like this.”
“It’s okay,” Petra mewed, “it’s no imposition. Stay here, curl up and rest a while. Petra watched Rowena curl up comfortably, and then she took the cub’s forepaws in her huge ones.
“Let go of my paws, let go now!” Rowena commanded. Startled Petra dropped Rowena’s paws,
“I can’t, can’t let you touch my paws. I won’t let you!” Rowena said crossly.
“Why not?” Petra asked.
“Just that I don’t like it,” Rowena replied. Petra looked into the cub’s face, Rowena closing her eyes to hide them.
“No, no no no!” Rowena whimpered.
“I know what you’re afraid of,” Petra mewed, “you’re afraid of the touch of my paws because they are telling you to do something which you want desperately to do, but can’t bring yourself to do.”
“What is that thing?” Rowena challenged.
“You want desperately to cuddle up to me and be a cub.” Petra mewed, “my paws are telling you you can, and you fight it.” Rowena opened her eyes and looked into Petra’s face. Kind, gentle eyes looked back at her.
“Come to me if you want,” they said, “There’s room in my heart for you. The door is open, so why not come in, close the door and settle down for good.” Rowena felt herself taken in huge warm paws, and what paws! They were enormous, or seemed to be so. The paws ran all over her body, from her nose to her tail, stopping at each of her paws, where they massaged and stroked the sole of each paw, exploring and soothing pads and toes. Rowena felt her toes wanting to curl round those exploring them, and she had a hard job stopping them. Petra sensed this and let one forepaw linger within catching range of the toes of one of Rowena’s forepaws, Rowena feeling her toes gripping Petra’s. The lioness’s toes were warm, the fur soft, and pads warm. Petra began to purr as she felt Rowena’s toes grip hers. The sound, which the cub had been longing to hear ever since she was born, filled Rowena’s mind until her whole world seemed to vibrate with the comforting sound. Sarafina had never purred like this, Petra’s purr was that of a totally contented lioness.
“Come closer,” Petra mewed. Rowena releasing her paw and Petra drawing the cub in close to her body. Lying comfortably on her side, Petra drew Rowena close, embracing the cub in her forepaws.
“I wan’a go home,” Rowena whispered, snuggling hard up to Petra. Petra enveloped Rowena in the same huge hug she’d given Simba the first night he stayed with her. The hug, which while not physically doing so, seemed to envelope cubs in warmth from their noses to their toes. Petra curled herself tightly round Rowena, treating her as if she were her own cub.
“Tuck in your paws and settle down,” Petra mewed softly. Rowena tucked her fore and hind paws into the space between her body and Petra’s. The cub felt her paws becoming deliciously warm in that soft warm space. Throughout all this, the cocoon Simba wrapped Petra in had hardly been disturbed, so when Rowena cuddled up close, the warm rug still enveloped both of them. For the first time in her life, Rowena felt warm and safe with a lioness. Simba came looking for Rowena an hour later, very flustered and angry.
“Bloody Pip!” He fumed, “she’s upset a lot of us here!” About ready to explode, Simba stalked into the lie up.
“I can’t find Rowena anywhere!” He snapped at Petra.
“Can’t you?” Petra asked. Simba snorted:
“No I can’t, and I’m worried mum! She was so upset, that, well, she could have done anything! Been stupid, you know.”
“I don’t think she’s done that,” Petra replied. Simba looked at his mum, ready to bite her head off!
“Rowena’s safe,” Petra’s blue eyes said to Simba, “she’s as safe as you were when you first let me envelope you in my paws. Remember that?” Simba was suddenly choked by tears. He’d forgotten how he’d felt the first time he realised he was safe from harm, but now it came back to him in a wave which left him tearful.
“Yes mum,” he choked. Petra, looking out at her son cub from her warm rug refuge, wanted to envelope both him and Rowena in the rug, but Simba was too large for her to do so.
“Settle down with us Simba,” Petra invited. Simba looked down at his paws, seeing his toes were curled into the carpet. Freeing them, he padded over to his mum, his paws as heavy as they’d been on that first night with her when all he’d wanted to do was take his weight off pads and toes that seemed old and injured before their time. Simba suddenly realised what he was feeling. He knew then he’d not taken the time to spend time with Petra, time he desperately wanted to spend with her. His responsibilities towards Rowena and to his job as deputy leader of the community had left him stressed and anxious.
“Lie down Simba Kizungu,” Petra said gently. Simba did, his paws crying out to be massaged and soothed. Petra took his left forepaw in both her forepaws and began to stroke it.
“Tense paws Simba,” Petra mewed, “stiff toes, damp pads. Simba felt Petra cracking his exterior shells like he was an egg and she wanted to get to the white and yolk. He knew if she cracked the surface, he’d end up losing it completely and crying like a cub, but he couldn’t stop Petra from doing her work. Simba felt Petra examining his whole being, from stressed whiskers to tense and often tightly curled toes and bunched paw pads. Simba didn’t realise it until then that he’d developed a habit of tightly curling and stretching his toes to cope with stress. Petra had heard of Rupert’s nervous flexing of his toes, and that it left him with heavy and aching paws.
“Please let me in dear Simba,” Petra mewed. Simba felt her paws holding his, his pads against her own.
“If I let go, she’ll realise how terrified and anxious I am,” Simba thought, “I can’t burden her with that.” Petra felt her son cub curling the toes of the paw she held, hanging desperately onto something.
“Uncurl your Toes Simba dear,” Petra mewed, stroking the toes of the paw she held.
“I can’t fight her!” Simba thought miserably, “but I must keep a lid on things. She’ll think me weak and silly!”
“You are worried about your role in the community, and about protecting Rowena,” Petra mewed to her Son cub, “I know those feelings very well Simba, you foregut I was once where you are now. I was a lost cub in the wood at night, when I found a cub in a net. That cub gave me his paw, a frightened paw it was, belonging to a cub that’d seen the worst of men and nature. This cub needed to be hugged, to be reassured and comforted. Suddenly, in the touch of paw pads, I realised I was no longer lost. I knew where my role lay. You love Rowena with all your heart, and it shows. She knows you love her, so you need have no doubts on that account. As for the leadership, you are doing fine as you are. Simba, do you know who really wants to be guided, for you to take her paw and soothe her? When you find that little lioness, you will know what your role is. It’s not a role forced upon you, it’s the role, the life I know you really and truly wish for. I know you realise the little lioness loves you, but, at the same time you doubt your ability to connect with those around you. You think they don’t know you love and cherish them, but they know very well. Simba, you can’t take Rowena’s nightmares away from her, much as you would like to. I believe this is the root of your anxiety for her. I know those nightmares, and have done for some time before today.” Simba found himself crying openly, his shell well and truly smashed to tiny fragments. Petra kissed the weeping lion on his nose.
“I know you don’t’ want her to know what Sarafina was going to do to her Simba, but Rowena had to know. Only then can she realise how evil her mother was and deal with her spectre. Now she knows the extent of the evil, she can rise above it and crush it. You can help her do this, and it’s not difficult. Just keep on doing what you are doing now.”
“Rowena might hear you saying this,” Simba choked, “what will she think of her big strong brother after this?”
“She won’t think any less of you,” Rowena said softly, “you showed me how the nightmares affected you one night. You were screaming and crying. I know how they terrify you Simba. They terrified me until tonight. Now I know Sarafina can’t do anything to me. If you keep thinking of what she threatened to do, she’s got you by the tail and all four paws. Do you want paw contact with her?” Simba shuddered.
“No!” He sniffed.
“Don’t let her get hold of your paws then,” Rowena mewed, “give your paws to others who will treasure the lion whose spirit they are a key to.”
“You’re sounding like Petra!” Simba laughed.
“You don’t follow your own doctrine Simba; you don’t truly let your paws guide you. If you did, you’d not be here now, weeping because you think you’ve done a poor job. Now Simba, why not take my paw in yours and find out what the score really is.” Simba gave Rowena his free forepaw, smiling with genuine pleasure and relief as he felt Rowena’s pads brushing against his, then her toes, with the strength of conviction and tenderness born of the love felt for him, curled round his own toes and held them tightly. Simba closed his eyes, concentrating on the contact between his and Rowena’s paws.
“Take as much strength as you need Simba,” Rowena mewed. Simba breathed deeply.
“Clarence is really chewed up about Pip’s arrival,” he said, “he knows Pip will find out who Ahanu is and it might cause issues. That’s the least of our worries though. Pip’s got it in for Rowena. She doesn’t know this community, about Sarafina or anything like that. Rowena brushed her off somewhat forcibly and the lynx doesn’t like that.”
“I know,” Petra mewed, “Pip can go stuff herself.” Simba smiled.
“I must look after my cubs,” Petra said. Simba didn’t need to ask if his mum had got her words right. He knew she meant cubs, not just cub.
“Rowena’s come home,” Simba mewed.
“Indeed I have,” Rowena said softly.
In Whitie and Blackie’s lie up, Namir, Nemera, Leo and silver played together. Silver and Leo tickled the snow leopard cub’s pads and toes to the delight of all. The laughter of the cubs attracted the attention of Nanuq and Brunetta, who were returning to their lie up with their two cubs. Very soon, everyone was playing together, Blackie with Nanuq, Brunetta with Whitie, while the two bear cubs played with the three big cat cubs. Much stroking and tickling of paw pads and toes followed, and within ten minutes of furious play, everyone was exhausted.
Pip sat with Samson, the lion giving her a grilling over her treatment of Rowena.
“Surely if your sister told you of this place, she would have told you of the way we do things here?” The lion asked.
“Well,” Pip replied miserably, “she said you were a soft lot who liked playing together a lot and got little else done. She said that paw play was your favourite pastime, and that the leaders were a push over. I now know that not to be the case.” Samson snarled with anger.
“A pushover?” He asked crossly, “how dare she say that! I’ll bust her wide open!”
“Now, now I know not to assume I know everything,” Pip replied, “Simba told me a bit about Rowena. No wonder she flew off the handle at me. I’m sorry Samson.” The lion looked dispassionately at her.
“You can go if you don’t like it here,” he mewed, trying not to let his own feelings surface. Samson didn’t like Pip.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Pip replied, sensing the lion’s mood, “I will keep myself to myself, “keep my nose clean,” as Petra put it. I will try!”
“Ask before you stick your paws where they’re not wanted.” Samson growled.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Pip replied, almost kissing Samson’s paws.
“Now go!” Samson snapped, hustling her out of the lie up. Pip stumbled away, cursing herself and vowing to do better. The members had a good life here, she could see that, and she wanted some of it for herself.
Meanwhile, back in Petra and Simba’s lie up, Petra had dispensed with the rug and lay curled round Rowena, Simba lying so his body completed a protective barrier around the white cub. Simba looked into his mum’s eyes. He saw they’d turned brown, witch he thought strange, as they used to be blue. Rowena’s were blue, so the blue eyes must be a cub thing. His were brown, he knew this, and Petra was at least two or three years older than himself, so why did he remember her with Blue eyes? These questions were driven from his mind when Rowena’s paw took his.
“Don’t hide things from me Simba, please,” Rowena said, “I knew you were upset, but you never said a thing.”
“I didn’t want to distress you,” Simba replied.
“If I can rely on you Simba, why shouldn’t it go the other way?” Rowena asked. Simba knew what she meant. He hugged Rowena tightly.
“Please tell me more about the time when you were imprisoned by Winifred?” Rowena mewed. Simba’s body jerked as if she’d punched him.
“No, I, I can’t, I wont!” Simba gasped, his chest feeling as if it would explode. Hyperventilating, Simba collapsed in a heap! Petra brought him round quickly, and helped him to calm down.
“I can’t tell her!” He moaned.
“Simba,” Petra mewed, “you must tell her. Rowena has told you everything about herself. Now it’s your turn. You must entrust her with that information. She can always get it from me or Samson for that matter.” Simba snapped:
“No mum!” He yelled, “It’s not fair!”
“You still have nightmares about the dark room with its shiny flooring which is hard on your paws don’t you Simba,” Rowena said suddenly. Simba looked horrified, ran to the corner of the room and was violently sick.
“How could she know?” He sobbed.
“I read your dreams one night,” Rowena mewed, “you were thrashing about and were sick as you have been today. I had to wake you so you didn’t choke on your own vomit. Simba remembered the night under discussion and looked down at his paws.
“That room still terrifies me!” He whimpered, sounding like a frightened cub.
“Show me the room,” Rowena said gently. Simba’s eyes filled with tears.
“I’m going mad!” He yelled, crying and beating his paws on the rug.
“The room is not so scary,” Rowena mewed, “I know it. I want you to see it as an adult lion, not as the cub you were. I’ve been there.” Simba crawled towards Rowena, gripping the carpet with the toes of all four paws.
“Come,” Rowena said gently, taking the frightened lion’s paw, “I will show you the place.” Simba knew the location of the feared cupboard and began to sweat as he approached it. The door was nondescript, and no trace of Petra’s attack on it was visible now. Rowena opened the door, and Simba hid his eyes with his paw.
“Come,” Rowena said, padding into the room. Simba, drawn by a need to be near Rowena, stepped into the cupboard, his paws feeling the cold floor once more. Rowena stepped aside to let her brother into the place of his nightmares, and without thinking, let the door close behind them. Simba screamed as darkness fell. Whipping round, he beat at the door with his paws, screaming and crying! The door flew open, almost decapitating Theo as he walked past.
“Hey!” Theo roared, rubbing his nose where the door had smashed into it.
“I must get out!” Simba yelled, exploding from the cupboard. Theo stared at the white lion as he fled.
“Oh dear,” he said softly. Simba turned at the end of the room.
“That cupboard is hell on earth!” He yelled.
“I’m sorry for closing the door,” Rowena mewed. Simba growled at her, then strode up to the young lioness and struck her across her face with his paw! Rowena collapsed in a heap, Simba weeping and wringing his paws at what he’d just done.
“I think it’s time to show you what’s in that room Simba,” Theo said. Wrenching the door open, he booted Simba inside the hated place, slamming the door on the screaming lion. Simba stood in the place of his nightmares, his paws cold and mind full of what he’d done to Rowena. Feeling his way with one paw, Simba realised he could turn round and walk from one side of the room to the other. It was only about four paces each way, but the room was larger than he’d remembered.
“Now where’s the light in this dam place! Simba thought, scrabbling at the wall until he came to a switch, pressing it down, the room was flooded with light. Simba closed his eyes for a minute and then opened them. He saw a bare room with plastic tiled flooring which was cold to his paws. Looking behind him, he saw something which he couldn’t remember seeing before. A large space was tiled in the far right corner of the room, and there was a drain in the floor. Simba saw a showerhead fixed to the wall. Padding over to it, he was surprised as he was soaked by the shower. Simba stood dumbly letting the water soak him.
“Surely this wasn’t here when I was kept captive here?” He asked himself. In truth, the store cupboard had been a large one ever since the house was built. The Boss, wanting to extend the house, had built an outhouse on the side of the house and put a door through the wall into the cupboard, making a small anteroom to the shower room, which he’d intended the community members to use. The Boss had completely forgotten about Simba’s hatred of the room. Simba now stood beneath the shower, his body drenched with warm water.
“I must go and talk to Rowena,” Simba thought, exiting the shower, which promptly switched itself off. Still wet, Simba padded damply to the outer door, which he pushed open. Rowena stood there, waiting for him. The look in Simba’s eyes told her more than he could put into words. Taking his paw in hers, she confirmed how the lion felt.
“Sorry isn’t enough,” Simba said faintly. Rowena squeezed his paw.
“I wasn’t thinking,” She said, “when I closed that door, well, that was a stupid thing to do.”
“I hit you!” Simba sniffed, “I lashed out at you with my paw and struck you in the face!” He touched her cheek with his free paw.
“You did,” Rowena mewed, “and I think we’re now even. I failed to guess how terrified you were of that place. I’ve been there many times, tried out the shower and everything else. It’s wonderful! It looks like you’ve had a shower too!” Rowena mewed, ruffling his wet mane. Simba smiled through tears which had begun to roll down his nose.
“Let’s go in there and have a shower,” he said suddenly, “keep me there Rowena, don’t let me leave.” Rowena and Simba padded into the bathroom, their paws making a soft pattering sound as they walked. Rowena led Simba to the shower room, and then to a tiny room to the left of that. In this room there was a hole in the floor.
“What’s that?” Simba asked, waving a paw at the hole. Rowena grinned:
“You have visited the pit before I think? She asked. Simba nodded.
“This is a version of that,” she continued. Use the hole as you use the pit, and walk away.” Simba, embarrassed, but needing relief, positioned himself over the hole. Rowena turned exaggeratedly away, making Simba laugh despite his embarrassment. Having relieved himself, he left the hole. There was a tremendous noise behind him, making Simba turn snarling and growling with fear. He saw the hole as it was before.
“The boss wants us to use these,” Rowena mewed. The authorities have got upset with him digging up the wood. Now he’s installed these things. I use it all the time, it no longer frightens me.” Simba smiled.
“It’s a lot better than the pit,” he said. Rowena took Simba’s place over the hole and Simba padded away to the shower, Looking at the wall to his left, he saw two buttons, one said shampoo, the other said soap. Simba pressed one of the buttons, and felt the shampoo fall from a nozzle onto his upturned paw the toes of which pressed the button. Rowena joined him, and he began to rub the shampoo into her fur. Rowena and Simba happily partook in mutual grooming. Once the shampoo was rubbed into Rowena’s fur, Simba took her to the shower and washed her down in the spray. Rowena then rolled onto her back, letting Simba massage oil into her paws. Purring, Rowena and Simba took their time washing each other from noses to paw pads. Once they’d finished, Rowena led Simba to another part of the room, where, opening a door, they found themselves in a warm room. Switching on fans, Rowena and Simba felt air blowing all around them, down from the ceiling and up from the floor, the air tickling their paw pads, to the delight of both.
“This is wonderful!” Simba exclaimed. Rowena smiled and took his paw.
“Now let’s go from here,” she mewed. Switching off the fans, Rowena pushed at another door which led into the corridor a few feet from the hidden entrance. Simba padded with his sister back to the lie up, where Petra met them.
“I saw everything,” she mewed. Simba was ashamed.
“I don’t know what came over me,” he mewed. Petra shook herself, lightening the moment.
“All’s well now,” she mewed, “I trust you and Rowena made peace.” Rowena smiled.
“We did,” she mewed. Simba hugged Rowena tightly. Petra watched them, smiling broadly.
“Can I stroke your paws Simba?” Rowena asked. Simba smiled:
“I’d love it if you would,” he mewed, lying down on his side and waving a paw at her. Rowena lay down beside Simba and took his left forepaw in both of hers, stroking and massaging his pads and toes.
“I love this,” Rowena mewed, “contact between us is lovely.” Simba curled his toes round Rowena’s, the little lioness smiling broadly.
“I love it too.” Simba mewed.
Meanwhile, in Arki’s lie up, Kodiak and Arki were showing Pip how they could stroke their own paws. Pip watched the bears with curiosity, realising how much they loved their paw play.
“Playing with your paws is a good pastime then?” Pip asked.
“Yes it’s wonderful,” Arki replied, “it’s not only good for pleasure, it’s good for pain relief during cubbing.”
“I can vouch for that,” Allie said, padding into the room, “I remember everything about the births of Orsa and Bjorn.” Allie sat down and looked at Pip.
“Want me to describe a cubbing?” She asked. Pip smiled:
“Okay,” she said. Allie and Arki described the births of Allie’s cubs, with Allie showing her how she stroked her paws during the birth, Pip watching and listening intently.
“You loved the paw play games,” Pip observed.
“I did and do,” Allie replied. Pip padded up to Allie and examined her. Allie gave Pip one of her forepaws, and then guided her paw to one of her hind paws.
“Touch my paws,” she said, “feel how my paw works, how my toes curl and stretch, how my pads bunch and relax.” Pip placed her left forepaw flat on Allie’s right hind paw, Allie curling her toes so her claws scratched Pip’s. Pip smiled as Allie caught her toes in those of the paw her pads rested against.
“Play with my paw if you want,” Allie said. Pip examined Allie’s paw, with hers, the bear smiling broadly as Pip’s paw worked over hers. Samson padded in, saw what was going on and smiled at the group.
“Ah Sammy,” Allie said. Pip looked up at the lion:
“What are you doing here?” She asked.
“Allie and I used to play with each other’s paws,” Samson replied, “I was reliving that.” Allie smiled at Samson.
“We still can,” she said. Samson raised his left forepaw and wiggled his toes at Allie, the bear smiling and wiggling the toes of her left forepaw in reply. Pip stared at Samson.
“Why should a lion want to associate with a bear, let alone touch and play with her paws?” Pip asked.
“I love bears,” Samson mewed, “and Allie wanted me to play with her paws, and I wanted her to play with mine.” Pip left Allie, confused about the community she wanted to be part of.
“It’s almost as if you enjoyed your labour Allie!” Pip said.
“I did,” Allie replied, “it was wonderful!” Pip, having had cubs herself, spat at the bear.
“I hated the births of my cubs!” She yelled, “How you can like it I don’t know!”
“Well I did,” Allie replied, “and I make no apology for that.” Samson smiled at Allie.
“I would have liked to be there when you had your cubs,” he mewed. Allie smiled.
“I would have welcomed anyone to share the experience with me,” she replied. Samson padded to Allie and mischievously tickled the pads of her right hind paw. Allie laughed helplessly, rolling onto her back and waving her paws in the air. Pip watched disgustedly.
“You are a grown bear, not a cub!” She snarled.
“You are too serious!” Allie laughed, regaining her paws, only to roll on the carpet with Samson, tickling the lion’s paws to the big cat’s obvious delight.
“I can’t stand this!” Pip snapped, running from the room.
“She’s no fun!” Arki complained.
“She’s a wet blanket!” Kodiak said, tickling the pads of Arki’s right hind paw with the toes of his left hind. Arki laughed, stopping him by catching the toes tickling her pads with the toes of the tickled paw. Kodiak tugged at his trapped hind paw, but couldn’t free himself.
“My paw’s stuck!” He whimpered.
“Try stroking the pads of the paw holding yours,” Arki suggested. Carefully, Kodiak worked the toes of his right forepaw between the pads of his left hind and Arki’s right hind. He gently stroked her pads, the clinging toes relaxing and freeing him. “Works every time,” Arki smiled.
Pip ran through the house, desperate to get away from the tactile all enfolding paws of the community. Charging down a corridor, she almost fell over Weici, who scrambled out of her way just in time.
“Hey!” The panda cub exclaimed, “Be careful!” Pip snarled at the cub.
“Get out of my way!” She growled. Weici’s paws skidded on the tiles of the passage as she tried to get out of pip’s way. Pip swore at the panda cub, Weici scrambling away .
“That was uncalled for!” Yi Jie yelled her paw landing with a stinging slap on Pip’s cheek. The lynx, growling with anger, turned on the sow panda and went for her! The next thing Pip knew, she was falling and something was on top of her, something heavy, really heavy! Hop Along looked down at Pip with disgust.
“You’re a horrid scrap!” He yelled. The tiger’s voice sounded like thunder to the lynx, whose ears rang with it.
“Since when have tigers protected Pandas?” She asked.
“For as long as I can remember,” Hop Along mewed, thrown by the question.
“Get your horrid paws off me!” Pip yelled.
“As long as you promise not to go after Weici,” Hop Along replied, “oh, and by the way, your language was disgusting!” Pip wriggled beneath Hop Along’s paws, spitting at the tiger, which leant a little harder on her.
“No, I promise, I promise!” Pip wailed. Hop Along let the lynx go.
“I can see Ellie’s traits in her,” Nick remarked padding into the passage.
“Pip’s Ellie’s sister,” Hop Along said. Nick nodded and Hop Along followed him, Picking Weici up in his mouth and with a jerk, throwing her onto his back, where the half grown panda cub settled down for the journey.
“Next stop the pandas lie up,” Hop Along said. He felt Weici’s paw scratching the soft fur inside his left ear. She’d be okay, Hop Along knew. Padding to the panda’s lie up, Hop Along felt Weici slide off his back, her toes delicately slowing her dissent. Hop Along smiled at the cub, and raised a forepaw for her to tickle, which Weici did. Hop Along loved this contact, and the pandas knew it.
“You big softy,” Weici said, gently squeezing the toes of Hop along’s paw in her paw. Hop along smiled at the cub and kissed her on her nose.
Meanwhile, Pip paced up and down in the pool complex. She was confused and upset, wanting to be part of the community, but failing to understand the ways of its members. All the stroking of paws was strange to her, as was the rather vivid description Allie gave of her cubbing. At the most intense moments, Pip fancied could almost feel Allie’s labour, and that was not good. Allie described everything! Pip realised Allie had done everything bar give birth to a cub in the lie up, and it was clear she and Arki enjoyed retelling the tale they must have told a thousand times. Pip hated the memory of her own cub’s birth. It had been brought on prematurely by the accident a few weeks previously. Pip’s labour was dreadful, the cub still born. Staring into the pool, Pip wondered if playing with her own paws during labour might have helped her cub survive. Maybe she was too tense, too frightened to think of doing anything like that. It was true Allie had been terrified at the beginning of her labour, but she’d controlled that soon after with Arki’s help. Pip felt depressed, achingly sad. Her injured paw hurt, her mind was in turmoil, and she felt wretched.
“I wish that car had killed me,” she thought miserably, “When my cub died, I lost all will to live. This community have lots going for them. A bear can curl up with a lion, a tiger protects a panda, and a tigress enjoys love from panda, polar bear and lion cubs. I wish I was dead now, if I was, I wouldn’t have to go through this hell!”
“I don’t wish you dead,” someone said. Pip came to her senses realising a paw was touching hers. Looking down, she saw it was a white paw, a small white paw. Then, before she could think properly, a nose brushed hers in a leonine kiss. Pip’s eyes filled with tears.
“I can’t look at her, I can’t meet her gaze!” Pip thought.
“You don’t have to,” the voice said, “for I know how you feel. For I feel it too.” Pip believed the voice, that it felt her pain. The old Pip would have smeared at such talk, but not any more. The touch of the white paw, and that kiss placed on her nose had changed Pip’s outlook. Pip looked into the water, seeing her reflection, and that of a little white lioness.
“I will look into her eyes, even touch her paws,” Pip thought, “I must do this!” Pip turned her face to Rowena, the lioness smiling encouragingly at her.
“Here are my paws,” she said, “touch them, explore them, and love them.” Pip found herself embracing Rowena in a huge hug.
“That’s better,” Rowena mewed. Pip massaged, examined, and, to her surprise, even played with Rowena’s paws. It was easy and felt so good! Rowena purred and responded positively to Pip’s attention, curling her toes round Pip’s, rubbing back against her pads and toes. Pip laughed merrily, a strange sound to her, but one which made Rowena smile.
“Rub my pads and toes with yours, love contact through your paws,” Rowena urged Pip. Pip thought back to when she’d played with Allie’s right hind paw and realised the bear had enjoyed her fumbling attempt at massaging her pads and toes. Rowena looked at Pip.
“Please,” she said, “try something for me. Try going up to a community member and asking them to give you their paw. See what happens. Also, if you see a bear, or a lion, or a tiger lying down, go up to them, take their paw without asking, and see what happens.”
“If I take hold of a paw without asking I’ll be slapped!” Pip mewed.
“Try it,” Rowena urged, “I don’t think you will be slapped.” Pip hugged Rowena tightly, and then they got to their paws and padded from the complex. Pip ran back to the house, spying Allie walking down the corridor. Pip slowed and walked up to the bear.
“Can I take hold of your paw?” Pip blurted. Allie, walking on all four paws, smiled at Pip and raised her left forepaw.
“Come,” she said, “take my paw in yours. Pip did, and felt Allie’s warm pads and powerful toes.
“I remember every second of your exploration of my right hind paw,” Allie said.
“It was a silly few minutes,” Pip said, “I didn’t know what I was doing!”
“But you did!” Allie replied, “I felt you working your toes over and between my pads and toes, it felt wonderful! Didn’t you feel my toes curling round yours?” Pip smiled.
“I did,” she mewed. Allie removed her paw from Pip’s.
“You don’t like cubbing because your cub was still born,” Allie said suddenly. Pip buried her face in Allie’s fur, crying inconsolably. Allie sat down and cradled the weeping female lynx in her forepaws, rocking her gently.
“I know how it is to lose a cub,” she said softly, kissing Pip’s nose and paws. Pip calmed down after a while. Allie cradled Pip’s head on her shoulder.
“I love having my paws taken in those of other animals,” Allie said.
“I know, I can feel it,” Pip replied. Allie smiled at Pip.
“Now take my paws, one at a time and explore them. Play with my paws, and then I will take hold of each of yours and explore them.” Pip smiled:
“I can see why Samson likes stroking your paws,” she mewed, “you can really massage a cat’s paws!” Allie smiled and embraced Pip.
“Let’s try stroking each other’s paws,” Allie said.
“Before that,” Pip mewed, “let me tell you about the birth of my cub.” Allie stroked Pip’s ears and paws.
“I’m listening,” she said gently. Pip held on tightly to Allie’s left forepaw, crushing it in both of hers, the pressure hardly registering with the huge bear.
“After the accident when the car hit me, I limped off the road. Falling into a ditch, I lay panting and sobbing. When my contractions started, I knew what was happening. In pain from the injuries I got in the accident, I screamed and yelled my pain and distress as my cub was forced from me. Straining hard was all I could do, until the cub was born. I cradled the tiny creature in my paws, licking it dry, trying so, so hard to coax it to life. I realised my cub was dead, burying the cub, a male, in soft earth in the ditch.” Allie kissed Pip’s nose.
“You are brave to tell your tale,” she said gently.
“Now, now I want, need to forget my pain for a while,” Pip pleaded, “what do you use for pain relief?”
Paw play and massage,” Allie replied.
“That sounds good to me,” Pip replied, “I’ve also heard that massaging another’s paws helps to relieve mental pain, is this right?”
“Why not try it,” Allie suggested. Pip began to stroke Allie’s left forepaw, and as Allie had prophesied, Pip found herself no longer thinking of her own mental pain. Indeed, she’d forgotten her pain. Allie wiggled her toes as Pip’s own toes got to them, Pip smiling as she realised how much the polar bear was enjoying the massage. Pip vowed to find out things with her paws first. Pip looked at Allie’s; paws, they were huge! The main part of her paw was covered in white fur, and how white the fur was. Pip could feel as well as smell how clean the animals in the community were. Allie hardly smelt of polar bear at all! The huge paws, covered in white fur, had black pads on their soles. The pads were rough to Pip’s touch, but sensitive too, Allie almost purring with pleasure as she felt Pips touch. Each paw had five short toes ending in sharp claws. Pip regretfully finished stroking Allie’s paws.
“I’m out of paws to massage,” she mewed sorrowfully, and she was genuinely sorry to have finished her job, for she could see it gave the polar bear such pleasure receiving the massage, as it had been hers to give it. Allie looked at Pip.
“Now it’s my turn,” she said, “are you willing to give your paws to me completely and totally?” Pip didn’t hesitate:
“Yes!” She exclaimed. Allie gently took each of the lynx’s, to her as a polar bear, tiny paws in her huge ones and began to stroke them Pip purring fit to rattle the windows.
Meanwhile, in the wood, Rowena padded along the main track. She knew she was safe, for she kept to the places where she knew Cameras were watching her. Rowena padded along beside the pond, then up another track, a short section of which had no camera coverage. This was patrolled by the security teams, but was covered in dense undergrowth, so noone liked spending time there. Pushing through the tunnel of branches, Rowena felt the air grow cold. Hastening through, she almost tripped over something lying on the path. Rowena looked down, surprised to see a grey lion. Rowena saw at once what he really was, and gasped with shock. This lion was, in truth, as white as herself when not covered in mud, which he’d been for a long time if her eyes were telling the truth.
“Um, hi,” Rowena said. The lion started at the sound of her voice and stared up at her.
“Get away from here!” The lion, a male yelled, “you’re in danger, I’m being hunted, and, and, oh, oh no, you’re a cub! Who would bring a white cub into this world! You’ll have a life of persecution! Running from humans and from other lions, you’ll have a dreadful time! Go back to your mother and hide yourself little one!” Rowena placed her paw on that of the white lion.
“My name’s Rowena,” Rowena said, “what’s yours?”
“Eohippus protect you sweet Rowena,” the lion mewed, almost sobbing, “I don’t’ have a name, names get you into trouble, I’ve been in enough trouble! My face is in a hell of a state. My sire, he scratched my face when he saw I was white! My paws are scarred from other cubs biting them for the same reason. You can’t see this because I’m covered in mud, and that’s how I like to be!”
“I live here,” Rowena mewed, “this is my home. If, if you’d like, I could take you indoors, there you can get washed and fed.”
“Wash me, and, then, then you’ll see the scars,” the poor lion wailed, “I can’t let you see those!”
“Look at me please,” Rowena asked softly, lying down beside the lion. He was fully grown, and now she was cuddled close, she could feel he was trembling.
“What will happen if I turn my face to you?” The lion asked.
“You won’t know until you do,” Rowena replied. The lion took a deep breath and turned his face towards Rowena. Rowena saw the lion kept his eyes closed.
“Open your eyes my dear,” Rowena said gently, knowing what she’d see. The lion choked back tears, but complied. Rowena saw the lion’s eyes were badly damaged. He’d been badly maimed by his sire, not just scratched.
“You knew didn’t you,” the lion said quietly.
“I know your tale,” Rowena said softly, “I was brought here by someone, someone who looks after us all. Come with me. With that Rowena took the lion’s stiff left forepaw in her right fore and led him back to the house.
“Who have we here?” Simba asked Rowena when she entered the house with the strange lion.
“I don’t know his name,” Rowena mewed, “he wouldn’t tell me it. I don’t know if he even has one.”
“Another male lion?” The newcomer whimpered, “oh no!”
“Don’t worry about me,” Simba mewed, “I’m not going to fight you. You look as if you could do with some assistance.” The lion looked down at his paws, or he tried to. Rowena and Simba saw he couldn’t focus on them that well.
“Your friend brought me here,” the lion mewed, “I’ve got no idea where I am. I’m at your mercy; my life is in your paws now.”
“What do you want to do?” Simba asked.
“Eat, sleep, and forget everything!” The lion begged.
“We can clean you up, and then you can eat, and then sleep for as long as you wish,” Simba mewed. The lion, totally out of his depth, stared hard at Simba.
“Do what you want with me!” He yelled, “I’m not wanted by anyone, so I might as well die here as anywhere else.”
“We’re not going to kill you!” Rowena mewed, appalled by the lion’s words.
“Come,” Simba said, taking the lion’s paw and leading him to the new shower room where the lion was soon being shampooed from nose to paw pads. Rowena attended to him, as did Simba, the lion looking bewildered and a little scared.
“I need, need to, to relieve myself,” the lion said suddenly, “is there anywhere I can do it?” Simba led the lion to the tiny room with the hole in the floor and the lion got on with his business. Once he was finished, Simba stopped him from walking away by raising his paw.
“Better let you know that you’ll hear a loud noise when you walk away from the hole, don’t worry about it.” The lion padded away from the hole, and sure enough, the noise came. The lion, now in a kind of dream, just let Rowena and Simba do what they liked with his body. Treating him like a newborn cub, the two lions washed him from his nose to his toes once more, and then took him aside to rub oils into his fur and paws. The lion, confused by all this attention, just let it happen.
“Mine is not to ask why this is happening to me,” the lion thought. What was happening felt great, but the lion didn’t understand any of it. He watched as best he could as Simba and Rowena examined him from nose to tail.
“No problems,” Simba remarked, “apart from your eyes dear fellow. I guess you can’t see too well.” The lion shook his head.
“What about the scars on my face, and on my paws too?” The lion asked.
“No problems at all,” Simba replied, “why, do they give you pain?”
“No, not physical pain,” the lion admitted, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. Rowena impulsively leant forward and kissed the lion on his scarred cheek. The touch of her whiskers made the lion cry openly.
“Noone’s ever done that,” he sobbed burying his face in his paws.
“It was not difficult,” Rowena mewed. The lion, prostrate as he was, looked at Rowena and Simba.
“You two are lovely,” he said, “thank you for everything you’ve done for me.” Simba hugged the lion tightly, hearing his choking sobs as he lost control absolutely.
“Let it all go my friend,” Simba said softly. The lion cried for a long, long time, Simba and Rowena not rushing him. When his tears dried, he looked at the lion and little lioness that’d made him feel as if he was the only one they cared about in the whole world.
“Thank you both from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
“You don’t need to say anything,” Rowena mewed, “for we know you are truly grateful. We can tell.” The lion looked down to see his left forepaw in Rowena’s right.
“He’s genuine,” Rowena thought, “this lion’s had a really shit life.”
“I, how, how can I ever repay you,” the lion said.
“Don’t even think of it,” Simba mewed, “we help you because we want to. We can see you’re lost you see. We know your tale.”
“Rowena seemed to,” the lion said.
“I know your tale,” Rowena mewed, “but you can still tell it if you wish. If not, that’s no issue.” The lion felt Simba’s paws round him, and also the pads of his paw pressed against Rowena’s, and it felt good, really good.
“I like both of you,” the lion said.
“Stay a while,” Simba invited, “stay a long while if you wish.” The lion looked into Simba’s face.
“You don’t mind, mind the way I look?” He asked.
“No,” Simba mewed, “until you alluded to your scars, I’d completely forgotten about them.” The lion, having heard this before, was sceptical, as he’d been hurt before by insincere words. This lion though, he meant it, every word.
“What’s your name?” The newcomer asked.
“My name’s Simba Kizungu,” Simba replied.
“Lion of the white people,” the newcomer mewed.”
“Yes,” Simba replied. Petra padded in then, saw the new lion and, Simba drawing aside, approached and hugged him tenderly.
“Who’s this?” The lion asked, surprised at the lioness’s paws on manner.
“My mum,” Simba laughed, “Petra.” Petra held the male lion cradled in her paws for a few minutes, and then let him go.
“No, don’t let go!” The lion pleaded. Petra hugged him once more.
“Come home my cub,” Petra whispered, the lion burying his face in her fur. Simba and Rowena smiled at their mum.
“Welcome to our family,” Simba said. The lion looked at Simba, then at Rowena, then Petra.
“I’ve never had a name,” the lion mewed, “when my mother saw I was white, she threw me out, my sire decreeing I should not be given a name as I was a misfit. Now, now I truly am a misfit.”
“I think I have the perfect name for you,” Petra mewed, “how about the name Baingana, it’s Swahili and means people are equal. The suffix “Kizungu” which we use means of the white people in Swahili. Only Simba and I use it here. Rowena and other white lions or lionesses do not use it. The lion, now named Baingana, looked at Petra.
“So we have the lion of the white people and the rock of the white people,” he mewed.
“Yup,” Petra replied. Baingana, still emotional, let Rowena, Simba, and Petra pat him with their paws.
“Thank you all,” he mewed. Baingana and the other white lions made their way to the main part of the house, meeting Samson on route. The huge long haired lion stared at Baingana in incomprehension.
“When did you arrive here?” He asked, staring accusingly at Simba.
“I was brought here by Rowena,” Baingana replied. Samson looked at Simba.
“You cleared him to live here?” He asked. Simba nodded.
“He was as lost and alone as you were when you first got here,” Simba mewed. Samson looked more closely at Baingana, visibly shocked by the scars on the lion’s face.
“What happened to you?” He asked. Baingana hid his eyes behind one paw.
“Don’t ask questions like that,” Petra mewed. Baingana turned away, and would have run off had he known where he could be safe.
“Simba can’t see my scars, so how can you?” The lion whimpered.
“He says he can’t,” Samson replied, “but he can, he’s just being polite.” Baingana howled in agony.
“He was so believable!” The lion wailed. Petra’s paw landed with a slap across Samson’s face!
“You get out of here now!” She yelled. Samson slunk away, scared by the look in Petra’s eyes.
“He’s not your cub!” Samson yelled.
“Mum, leave it!” Simba snapped. Petra growled to herself, angry and offended.
“I won’t let him say things like that!” Petra fumed. Samson slunk away from the scene, not understanding how Petra could adopt lions in the way she did. He knew he’d put his paw in it big time with Simba and his friends. Samson threw himself down in his lie up, Fleur joining him. Samson poured out everything to her, feeling fleur might understand things better than he did. Fleur, having been adopted by Hop along, among others, knew a little of how Petra could apparently adopt lions on the spur of the moment.
“If Simba says he can’t see the scars, he can’t see them Sammy,” Fleur said, “even I don’t understand the way the white lions think. Petra’s got a huge heart which embraces everyone to whom she wants to give love. This embrace is total and complete.” Samson looked at his mate.
“I’ve put all four paws in it haven’t I,” he mewed.
“Yes you have!” Rowena snapped, bursting into the lie up.
“Let her say her peace Samson,” fleur said.
“Baingana is a wonderful lion; I saw that even through the mud and scars! Why can’t you see the same thing? You’re meant to be leader of this community, and you don’t give him a chance! Well stuff you Samson!” Rowena turned and fled, leaving Samson aghast at her words.
“She had a right to say what she did,” Fleur mewed, “you judged that lion by the way he looked Samson! I know, I saw! I was on camera duty!” Samson looked down at his paws.
“His eyes scared me, they, they are deformed!” He wailed.
“I hope you never have to cope with any kind of deformity Samson,” fleur mewed, “but if you do, I hope you’ll have the courage to be with others. Baingana has that courage. I know how it is to be hated because of the way I look, remember that Sammy?” Samson had got used to how fleur looked, he loved her for it.
“Oh, oh shit!” Samson moaned.
“You need to think hard about what impact your words had on that poor lion!” Fleur yelled.
Meanwhile, Baingana was pleading with Simba to tell him the truth, the deputy leader almost weeping because he’d never lied to Baingana, and the lion’s scars meant nothing to him.
“Take my paw,” Simba pleaded, “what do you feel?” Baingana took Simba’s paw, and felt the lion’s true feelings.
“You don’t see my scars,” Baingana sniffed, “Samson the lion leader was talking rubbish!”
“He was,” Petra mewed, “he was talking from horror. Fleur, his mate is at this moment giving him a talking to I don’t doubt. Rowena was heading that way too I think.” Baingana let go of Simba’s paw, Simba looking as distressed as Baingana himself.
“I’ll kill Samson!” He roared.
“No Simba dear, that wouldn’t be a good idea,” Petra said gently. Simba snarled his anger.
“What the hell was he thinking!” The lion roared, “that’s just it isn’t it, he wasn’t thinking, or if he was, if he was, then, then he’s for it, I promise he’s for it!”
“Leave it Simba, please!” Baingana pleaded.
“No Baingana, I won’t, I can’t!” Simba sobbed, “Samson made comments that hurt me to my core! Saying I was only being polite about your scars, I didn’t and don’t notice them. I can’t explain it, it’s like Rowena sees things, though she’s more intuitive. She and I, and Petra, we see the creature inside the body, not the body itself. It wasn’t always the case for me, but Rowena taught me how. Now, now I don’t see your scars. The only thing I hope is that the scar tissue on your paws does not interfere with touch.” Baingana smiled:
“No,” he said, “not too much.” Simba tickled the pads of Baingana’s left forepaw, the white lion laughing happily.
“That’s good,” Simba mewed. Baingana let Simba hold his paw for as long as the white lion leader liked, and was not disappointed. Baingana wasn’t sure what his paw was telling Simba, but Baingana himself was learning more about Simba. He felt this lion was a gentle creature that had a past, but was unwilling to share the details openly. Baingana felt Simba could, and would roll on the carpet and play with the cubs if he had half a chance, this thought sobering him somewhat, as he remembered his own cubhood. Seeing his brothers and sisters playing together, going places where he could not go. Baingana found Simba looking into his eyes. The lion leader then kissed him on his nose, an action which left Baingana tearful.
“You don’t need to tell us anything,” Simba’s eyes said. Baingana felt drained. Was there anything this lion couldn’t find out about him?
“How much do you know?” Baingana asked hoarsely.
“That your cubhood was shit, that you long to be hugged and Haven’t been for a long time, that you have never really felt at home anywhere before, and lastly, that you feel hunted, not by humans, but by your own kind. Baingana looked down at his paw, still in Simba’s.
“Yes,” he mewed.
“Come,” Petra said, “let’s eat and drink, then we’ll settle down to rest.” This they did, Baingana eagerly consuming as much fish and vegetables as he could. Baingana noticed Petra leaving them to eat her own meal somewhere else, Simba remaining with him.
“Why is Petra leaving?” Baingana asked.
“She gets sick when around meat,” Simba mewed, “we have to chew mint bark after we’ve eaten, for even the smell of meat makes her ill.” Baingana finished his meal, and chewed the mint bark as Simba instructed, spitting it out. Washing their paws carefully in water, and then rubbing special oil into them, the two male lions returned to Petra’s lie up, where they found the white lioness talking to Pip. Pip, now fully aware and in tune with the “ways of the paw,” as she called them, was eagerly telling Petra of her meeting with Rowena, then Allie.
“I haven’t yet been able to find a community member who’s lying down so |I can take their paw without permission,” she was saying as Simba and Baingana entered the room.
“Is that allowed?” Baingana asked, “For another animal to take hold of your paw without asking?”
“Kind of,” Simba replied, “it’s all in how the paw is taken hold of you see. Just grabbing hold of the paw will get you nowhere. You have to slip the toes of your paw beneath the pads of the paw you want to take hold of and lift it gently, then place your other paw over the top of the paw you’ve taken hold of. That way, you’ve given the animal whose paw you’ve taken an opportunity to withdraw their paw. Withdrawal of paws sometimes happens, but not often.” Addressing himself to Pip, Simba said:
“I’ll find you an animal whose paw you can take hold of.” Pip looked at the lion.
“I’m not so sure,” she said, “Is it safe?”
“You heard what I said to Baingana didn’t you?” Simba asked. Pip nodded:
“Baingana?” She asked, “The new lion?”
“Yes,” Baingana replied. Pip wondered whose paw she’d be asked to take hold of. Would Simba approach one of the largest animals in the community?
“Let’s settle down here,” Simba said, “then Pip, when Baingana is settled, you come with me. I think you have some apologising to do.” Pip looked scared. She knew to whom she’d be taken.
Sure enough, about fifteen minutes later, Pip was face to face with Hop along and Weici. Hop along looked at Pip. He was prostrate on a rug, his forepaws relaxed and looking larger than ever.
“You want me to take one of his paws in mine?” Pip asked, waving her considerably smaller paw at Hop along. Simba smiled:
“Try it,” he replied, “also, while you’re there, apologise to him for attacking one of his friends.” Pip padded forward, lay down and took Hop along’s left forepaw in both of hers. She realised then she was almost nose to nose with the tiger. Hop Along’s paw was massive, his claws retracted and toes relaxed in her paw. Pip looked into the tiger’s large deep brown eyes.
“I am so sorry for what I did to Weici,” Pip mewed. Hop along smiled, the sight of the tiger’s teeth frightening Pip. He then kissed her on her nose, the toes of the paw she held pressing against her pads.
“I can feel you are contrite and sincere,” Hop along Mewed. Pip looked at the large tiger whose paw was held in hers. He was enormous! Fully eight feet from nose to tail, maybe larger, pip didn’t know. This tiger had huge paws, and glowed with health and energy. Releasing Hop Along’s paw, Pip looked at Weici, the cub she’d sworn at. As Weici raised a paw to scratch her nose, Pip noticed the cub’s paws had brown soles, a tiny detail she’d failed to notice when ranting at the poor creature.
“Come here, please,” Pip mewed. Weici looked to Hop Along, who nodded and smiled. Weici padded towards Pip who took her in her paws when she was in range. Weici felt warm paws embrace her, and the sensation was a pleasant one.
“I’m sorry Weici,” Pip said, “I don’t know what I was thinking.” Weici cuddled up to Pip, the lynx almost crying.
“So this is what Hop along feels when he hugs a panda,” Pip thought, taking hold of Weici’s left forepaw and stroking her pads and toes. Weici didn’t withdraw her paw, if anything; she worked it deeper into the female lynx’s own warm well padded paw.
“You have been talking to Rowena I think,” Hop Along mewed.
“Yes,” Pip replied, “she advised me to,”
“I know,” Hop along mewed.
“You know?” Pip asked.
“I know because your paw told me everything,” Hop Along replied, “I know about your accident and what happened after. I’m sorrier about your cub’s death than I can tell you.” Pip thought this to be a fatuous and crass statement, but looking into the tiger’s eyes made her rethink her views.
“You know,” she said, “you know much more than you are letting on.”
“Yes,” Hop along mewed, “I saw you give birth to your cub. I didn’t interfere, nor did I make my presence known. You left soon after, and I didn’t see you until the unfortunate incident with Weici. The place where you gave birth to your cub is on the very edge of the wood we patrol.”
“Why didn’t you help me when you saw me?” Pip asked.
“Look at me!” Hop along mewed, “I’m huge and would have looked fierce and untrustworthy to you. That was why I didn’t make my presence known. You would have rejected me out of paw, and you know it. Now you know differently, you do not reject me.”
“I only trusted Clarence because he looked incapable of hurting me,” Pip admitted.
“Yes,” Hop along mewed; “now I know I don’t look that way.” Pip looked ashamed.
“If I’d known you were there, I would have tried, forced myself to take you as I saw, I mean, as my paws found you.”
“No Pip,” Hop along said smiling, “you didn’t use your paws then, you would have trusted your eyes, not your paws. Remember that. You only learnt the power of the paw recently. Pip shook herself, realising she still held Weici’s paw in hers.
“Oh, I’m sorry Weici,” she mewed, “I’m still holding your paw.”
“I don’t’ mind,” the panda cub replied, “I like it. Carry on talking to Hop Along; I’ll let you know when I need to withdraw my paw.” Pip kissed Weici on her nose.
“Yes,” she said to Hop along, “I’d almost forget about my old life. The community quite literally took me in its paws and embraced me. Now, now I’m determined to use my paws to give love back to them.”
“That’s good,” Hop along Mewed, “I wish others would use their paws more often. Samson seems to have let his eyes tell him falsehood about Baingana.
“How the hell did you know about that!” Pip exclaimed, “Simba’s just related that tale to me.”
“I know,” Hop along mewed, “because Fleur told me. Fleur’s, well, my cub.”
“One of your cubs you mean,” Pip replied, “You seem to have many, and some aren’t cats at all.”
“Yes,” Weici yawned, “its nice having a tiger as a guardian.” Hop along grinned.
Meanwhile, Samson lay in his lie up thinking about Baingana. The white lion’s face terrified him!
“How can Simba not see how hideous that white lion looks?” Samson thought.
“Maybe because he knows Baingana doesn’t want him to see the scars?” Theo said. Samson, snorting with surprise, looked round.
“How can Simba fail to see them?” He asked, “They’re dreadful!”
“Simba wouldn’t see the scars in any event,” Theo mewed, “he looks deeper than that. He didn’t even comment on Baingana’s scars when he saw him for the first time. He only commented on the lion’s eyes, and that was more of an acknowledgement of a possible disability than anything derogatory,” Theo continued.
“It’s true Baingana can’t see much,” Samson snapped, “I saw him nearly walk into a wall today!”
“I’m sure when Simba spoke about Baingana’s sight he was only noting it in case the lion needed assistance.” Samson spat on the rug.
“Baingana is strange; the whole white lion pride is weird!” Samson yelled.
“You came here in search of a white lioness,” Fleur reminded her mate.
“Yes, and now I regret it!” Samson yelled.
“No you don’t,” Petra said, padding into the lie up. Samson hid his eyes behind one paw.
“Oh dear!” He whimpered. Petra took the paw covering Samson’s eyes and held it.
“Samson,” she said, “do you really feel Baingana is strange? Tell me the truth now.” Samson looked into Petra’s face.
“I don’t think he’s weird,” the long haired lion mewed.
Meanwhile, back in Petra’s lie up, Baingana and Rowena played together, the little lioness tickling the larger male lion’s paws to the delight of both. When all four of Baingana’s paws were thoroughly tickled, Rowena hugged the lion tenderly, pressing herself close and burying her face in his thick warm mane. Baingana purred contentedly. He was warm, well fed, cleaner than he’d been since he was born and had gentle lions round him. Baingana closed his eyes and reached for Rowena with his forepaws, feeling his pads brush her shoulder. He drew her close so she was in front of him, where she curled up contentedly.
“Hug me Baingana, please,” she mewed. Baingana hugged Rowena with both forepaws, the cub pressing herself close.
“I love you Rowena,” Baingana mewed. Rowena kissed Baingana on his nose, the large lion smiling and returning her kiss.
Meanwhile, in Brunetta and Nanuq’s lie up, Brunetta and Nanuq played with their cubs, tickling the paws of the two cubs and letting the cubs touch and tickle their paws and bellies. The cubs were named Little Nanuq and Little Brunetta, keeping the names going in the family. Little Nanuq and his sister enjoyed paw play, as did their parents, another thing they learned to like was peanut butter and biscuits, just like Nanuq and Brunetta. The bears played cubbish games, crawling about, everyone trying to tickle the soles of everyone else’s hind paws while crawling frantically across the carpet. Chasing round and round the room, Nanuq and Brunetta felt the soles of their hind paws tickled and toes grabbed by their cubs tiny paws, the sensation pleasing them.
“You two are so funny!” Nanuq laughed, rolling onto his back; little Nanuq taking his left hind paw in both his tiny forepaws before tickling his pads and toes. Brunetta joined her male cub and tickled Nanuq’s right hind paw. Nanuq wriggled and laughed helplessly, conscious that if he wriggled too enthusiastically, he might injure the male cub holding his left forepaw.
“I like my paws played with,” Nanuq said, gently curling his toes round the tiny cubs. Little Nanuq giggled cubbishly, worrying at the toes of his now trapped paw.
“My toes are stuck, I’m stuck!” The cub whimpered theatrically. Nanuq released his cub’s paw, the cub grinning and gently stroking his tiny toes down the pads of his sire’s left hind paw. Nanuq rolled onto his side and curled round to take his cub in his forepaws. Little Nanuq submitted to his sire’s tactile display of affection, as Nanuq ran his paws down the cub’s back and took each of little Nanuq’s tiny paws in his huge ones.
Brunetta watched all, loving the sight of the huge male polar bear playing with his tiny Son cub. Little Brunetta and her mother had ended their games some time ago, and now lay watching Nanuq and little Nanuq. Brunetta knew Nanuq would never turn on his own cubs, the story of him saving Allie as a cub still fresh in her mind.
Nanuq and Little Nanuq played together, each playing with the other’s paws.
“You’re just a big cub,” Little Nanuq said to his sire. Nanuq rolled onto his back and waved his paws in the air, to the cub’s huge delight.
“He’s just a huge cub mum!” Little Nanuq said, waving a paw at Nanuq. Brunetta laughed:
“Nanuq loves his paws stroked,” she replied.
Meanwhile, Baingana and Petra settled down together, Ginger leaving her to her maternal duties. Baingana had never been hugged by a lioness before, and Petra remedied this deficit in his life, and how she remedied it! Petra held tightly onto Baingana, not letting the lion go until he had to leave to relieve himself, Petra leading him to the closest place, which was a short walk from her lie up. Then, once he’d completed his business and washed both his fore and hind paws, he returned to the lie up, where Petra held him close once more, Baingana wishing the embrace of the lioness would never end.
“You say you are being hunted,” Petra mewed softly. Baingana nodded:
“By my own people,” the lion sniffed, “I, “I’ve done nothing Petra!” Baingana began to cry.
“Shh my cub,” Petra mewed, “noone will harm you here. Where did you come from anyway? Your paws feel like young paws, despite their toughness.
“I’m a year and a half old,” Baingana replied, “I clambered over the fence in a safari park not far from here, or it might have been a long way from here, I can’t remember. I escaped when the pride put a price on my head. I ran away, and then dirtied my fur and paws so noone would see my scars, but Rowena saw them. She said she’d been sent by someone to find me. She said she knew about my scars and my eyes. Who was that someone? Who sent dear Rowena to find me?”
“I did,” Petra mewed, “for Eohippus told me you were out there, alone and frightened. I relayed the message to Rowena, who told me more about you, and she said she’d go and find you, for she felt her paws would guide her to you, if only she trusted them.”
“Her paws guided her all right,” Baingana replied, “she found me, and Simba and Rowena cleaned me up, then you arrived,” Baingana then got even more upset, screaming and weeping.
“Then, then that horrid lion named Samson, that long haired lion, he, mum, he told falsehood about Simba!”
“I know dear Baingana my cub, I know,” Petra replied. Baingana hadn’t realised he’d referred to Petra as “mum.” Baingana buried his face in Petra’s shoulder.
“I love you dear cub,” Petra mewed. Baingana suddenly felt a desperate urge to be loved by Petra.
“Can I be your cub?” He sniffed, “would you mind me calling you mum?” Petra smiled broadly:
“You already have called me mum once,” she mewed, “and that was natural. Now, now come home dear Baingana, let me take your paws in mine, all four paws, one by one.” Baingana let Petra embrace all four paws with all four of hers. The toes of Petra’s hind paws curled round the toes of Baingana’s hind paws, the toes of her forepaws doing the same for his fore.
“I love you Baingana,” Petra mewed.
“I know mum,” Baingana choked, “I felt you did the moment your paws, the moment your paws touched me in the shower room.” Baingana broke down completely. Petra let Baingana cry. Once the lion had calmed down, Petra resumed her questioning.
“So you feel the tawny lions from the safari park are out to get you?” Petra asked.
“They are,” Baingana mewed.
“You are safe here Baingana,” Petra purred.
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