Keeping a secret.
Snow fell outside the house, and the animals stared at it in wonder. Allie and Isaac had seen snow, as had Sam and Amber, but Arki hadn’t, nor had her cub Candy. Allie looked out at the snow falling heavily onto the grass in the back garden.
“My paws are wishing to feel snow beneath them again,” she said.
“Well get out there then Allie,” Amber replied. Allie padded downstairs and opened the back door. The cold hit her like a slashing blade as she ventured outside. Feeling the cold air against her skin and the pads of her paws, Allie smiled with sudden pleasure. She was back where nature intended her to be. Crawling onto the grass, Allie rolled onto her back and joyfully waved her paws in the air.
“You do look
funny when you do that mum,”
“My home is nice and warm,” she thought, “but sometimes it’s nice to get out and amerce one’s paws in snow.”
Allie flicked snow about with all four paws, enjoying
herself hugely, rolling over and digging her paws into the deep snow.
“Let’s all go out and join her before she ruins all the snow!” she barked. So Brushtail, Tilly, candy, Arki, Whitie, Perdy, Sasha and Isaac all piled out into the deep snow. The, “snow patrol,” as Brock had dubbed the arctic animals of the household, rolled and played in the snow, using their paws to roll snowballs, which they threw at each other, as well as resorting to the old game of tickling each other’s paws. Sandy and Sasha couldn’t get involved with the snowball fight, or tickle the paws of other animals, so they contented themselves with just lying on the snow, enjoying a taste of their natural environment. Exhausted from play, and wet through with snow, the snow patrol returned to the house, eager for hot baths and drying their fur by the radiators.
“The only thing we don’t have is an open fire,” |Perdy said, “that would be so good.”
“why do we want fire?” Isaac asked, “we’re all terrified of it.”
“radiators aren’t the same,” Perdy replied.
“where have you experienced an open fire,” rocky Foster asked, “you’re a snow leopard, not a domestic cat.”
“Lucy was telling me about them, they sound wonderful.”
“fire’s terrible,” Leo growled, “don’t mention it here.”
“You are so miserable these days Leo,” Perdy said. Leo’s growl increased in volume, until Perdy thought he would roar with rage, but he restrained himself just in time.
“No more talk of open fires Perdy!” Leo snarled, his fur standing on end. Perdy crawled away, anxious not to anger Leo, for he was huge, with massive paws.
Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Tigger helped the snow patrol wash their fur and paws. He worked thoroughly, working from their noses to their tails, missing no part of their bodies in his quest to wash their fur. this gentle and unfailing attention from Tigger to his work, along with the warm water and the sensation of his paws working their magic all over their bodies, often sent an animal to sleep. Many a time Tigger had to wake a polar bear or snow leopard from sleep. Whitie soon drifted away, and Tigger wished he didn’t have to wake her, for she was sleeping peacefully.
Back in the living room, Perdy crawled as quickly as she could, trying to get away from Leo, whom she greatly feared. Tembo saw her and spat at her.
“Go back to your own country!” he yelled. Then The male lion cub used insults alluding to Perdy’s country of origin, natural habitat, and breeding which made Elsa blush with embarrassment, Clarence grow furious, and Perdy herself want to tear Tembo’s head off! The insults were so derogatory that even Snowy, who was not unused to bad language, felt her blood boil at the lion cub’s words.
“I’d desist from using those words Tembo,” Clarence said. The adult lion’s eyes were angry. The lion so famed for his gentle nature looked positively dangerous.
“Oh, so you want me to desist do you Clarence?” Tembo scoffed.
“don’t anger him Tembo!” Theo pleaded.
“Don’t speak to me like that!” Clarence yelled.
“oh look, now we’ll see something!” Tembo scoffed, “Clarence getting angry. I’m looking forward to the show! Roll up for the day’s spectacular,,,” Tembo’s speech ended in a shriek of pain and fear as Clarence, driven mad, leapt upon Tembo and clamped the cub’s head between his massive forepaws.
“You listen to me!” Clarence snarled, “you never, ever! Ever! Use those words towards anyone! Let alone members of this household, Do I make myself clear Tembo?”
“Don’t hurt him!” Tembi pleaded.
“Hurt him?” Leo enquired, “Clarence looks like he would gladly kill Tembo!”
“Don’t say things like that Leo!” Theo pleaded, “they’re just words!” he yelled, addressing himself to Clarence, “Tembo probably doesn’t know what he’s saying, he’s only a cub!”
“Tembo a Cub?” Clarence asked, “and since when have you been his spokesperson Theo? No my friend, you are wrong. Tembo knows what the words mean, and he knows their affect too! He meant to cause maximum offence to Perdy. Why he said what he did I don’t know, but I will find out, won’t I Tembo! Won’t I find out you disgusting cub! You horrid creature! You foul mouthed insolent bag of bones!” Tembo snarled and spat at Clarence. More angry at him for what he’d said than what he’d done to him.
“I’m not a bag of bones!” Tembo yelled.
“Oh you are,” Clarence snarled, “you are very much that. You are more disgraced than Snowy after she got evicted from her place beneath the quilt. You have less status than did hop along during his spell of captivity in his former place. Even he had more standing in this household when he first came here, unknown and badly maimed by his ordeal. He looked a sorry state then, but those who care for us saw in him a gentle, kind and considerate tiger, so they worked on him to restore him to something like his former self. Now he, though still bearing the scars of his captivity, and while never able to fully regain his former aesthetic glory, will never be turned out of this house! But you Tembo, you are a different matter. You, who have never known hardship, choose to treat those who have as if they are no better than excrement! You might have walked miles to get here, but you know nothing Tembo, absolutely nothing! How if I make you like Hop along was? I can do it, tear your paws open till the stuffing pours from them, rip your ears, tear off your tail! You are the worst kind of example of a cub! You vindictive, spiteful bag of stuffing!”
Hop along stared at his paws, trying not to think of his old
home and the indignities and pain he went through. Sensing the
“It will be okay,” Leo purred. Hop along hadn’t been so close to Leo before, and the lion was even more magnificent close up. He was massively built, but had tiny ears for his stature. Most of all, Hop along noticed the lion’s eyes, which were very gentle.
“We have both known hardship,” Leo said, “let’s be good to each other Hop along.” Hop along felt Leo take his left forepaw and hold it tenderly. Hop along did then what he would not have usually done, and took Leo’s free forepaw in his free one. Gazing into the lion’s face, Hop along felt huge affection towards Leo and his brother Theo. For Theo had confided in Hop along many times, telling the huge Bengal tiger of his and Leo’s early life.
“yes, let’s be good to each other Leo,” Hop along replied. Leo gently brushed Hop along’s nose with his.
Meanwhile, Clarence was struggling to control his fury at Tembo.
“this will not be the last you hear of this!” The lion yelled, almost sobbing with rage. Tembo spat at his sire, Clarence finally losing control and bringing his paw smashing down on Tembo’s nose. Tembo screamed with pain!
“I will carry out my threats if you use those words again Tembo!” Clarence yelled. Elsa held up a paw to stop Clarence:
“Tembo’s only a cub!” she pleaded.
“He’s not a cub any more Elsa,” Clarence said, “he’s a spiteful, disagreeable creature!” Tembo crawled away, snivelling to himself. He’d never taken the time to entertain the thought his sire, always gentle and very sensitive to the moods of others, as well as easily upset, would turn on him. This change in Clarence was the hardest thing for Tembo to take.
Leo stroked Hop along’s paws, the
“I would have massaged your paws Hop along,” Theo said, “but mine are too small to do it properly.”
“Rubbish,” Leo replied, “all you need is to have a go Theo.” Theo looked at Hop along’s paws, they were huge!
“I don’t know if I’d do a very good job of massaging your paws Hop along,” he mewed.
“Why not come and try it?” Hop along suggested. Theo looked uncertain.
“I don’t know,” he mewed, “your paws are so very large, and mine, well, look at them!” he waved his left forepaw, “they’re miniscule in comparison Hop along.”
“I won’t complain if you get it wrong Theo,” Hop along said, “come on, take the plunge.” Theo crawled towards Hop along, and when the young lion was within touching distance, Hop along extended a huge forepaw and touched Theo’s smaller one.
“Come closer,” Hop along purred. Theo dared not look at the tiger’s face, in case he got wind of something terrible the huge cat was about to do to him. In the end, all Theo felt was two paws embracing him, and what soft paws they were! Theo, despite his fear, couldn’t help snuggling up to Hop along. The huge tiger purred as he felt the lion’s instinctive reaction to his hug. Theo was slightly reassured by Leo’s presence, and the understanding that seemed to be between him and the Bengal tiger. Theo’s paws became warmer and warmer, his fear evaporating with every passing minute. Hop along looked at the lion caressed between his forepaws.
“You need not fear me Theo,” Hop along purred, “I won’t harm you.” Theo buried his face in Hop along’s shoulder, the Bengal tiger gently licking Theo’s ear. As Hop along’s velvety paws traced their way over Theo’s body, Theo felt light headed. He knew the feeling well, for Leo had often massaged his paws, and the sensation was familiar to him. The question Theo had to find an answer to was, could he let go enough to enjoy the massage to its full potential, or would he permanently be on guard, waiting for something awful to happen. Theo decided that he would let go, basking in the warmth of Hop along’s hug and massage. Theo felt himself drifting away on waves of warmth.
“This is so wonderful!” Theo mewed.
“Who’s massaging who?” Leo asked. Hop along smiled.
“if I can prove to Theo I’m no danger to him, then maybe he’ll be able to bring himself to stroke my paws Leo,” the tiger replied. Theo took a deep breath and extended a paw towards Hop along’s left forepaw. Touching the pads of the tiger’s paw, Theo looked anxiously at Hop along’s face for reaction to his touch. Hop along smiled, purring contentedly as he felt Theo’s paw touch his.
“Take hold of my paw Theo,” Hop along invited. Theo attempted to take Hop along’s paw in one of his, but the tiger’s paw was so huge he couldn’t manage it.
“Why not use both your forepaws Theo,” Hop along said. Theo brought his other paw into play, and held Hop along’s paw in both of his. Hop along groomed Theo, hoping the young lion would realise all he wanted was to make friends with him.
“I’ve never been groomed by a tiger before,” Theo mewed, “it’s, well, lovely!” Hop along’s purr became deeper and more reassuring to Theo, who’d long since forgotten his fear.
Meanwhile, Tembo sulked in a corner of the living room, hissing and spitting at everyone in sight. Clarence ignored him, though he was still furious with the cub for what he’d said to Perdy. Looking for someone to take his anger out on, Tembo focused on Theo and Hop along, who seemed to be having a great time of it, stroking each other in that annoying way which most of the animals in the household seemed to have adopted. Tembo hated all the paw massage and general physical contact which the other animals indulged in. Clarence was always stroking Isaac’s paws, and the polar bear regularly returned the lion’s massage. Elsa and Tembi were always at it, stroking each other. The Thing Tembo hated most of all was when animals of different breeds or species stroked, or worse, groomed each other. Tembo thought a polar bear stroking the paws of a lion the stupidest thing he’d ever seen! The thought Clarence and Isaac might gain mutual pleasure from paw massage never entered the lion cub’s head, he hated it, and that was that. Tembo was determined not to let Theo and Hop along have any pleasure at all. To Tembo, what they were doing was disgusting!
“Now you’re for it!” Tembo yelled, charging full tilt towards Theo and Hop along. A growl from his left registered in Tembo’s brain, but he took no notice. The growl quickly turned into a lion’s full throated roar! Tembo knew Clarence could roar, but he was out of practise, and it didn’t sound like his voice anyway. Suddenly huge paws grabbed Tembo and his vision was full of the face of a huge lion, Leo! Tembo had forgotten about the huge community leader! ?Tembo’s blood ran cold as the huge lion’s angry eyes board into his.
“You dare to attack those doing no harm to others?” Leo asked quietly, his voice more threatening because of this.
“I wasn’t, I mean, I didn’t,” Tembo stammered, though he knew the lion knew his true intentions.
“You made a huge mistake Tembo,” Leo snarled, “you went after Hop along, but worse, you went after Theo, my brother. Noone, not even a cub goes after him and gets away with it. You are a stupid cub, for you forgot about me. You forgot about the close relationship I have with my brother. You forget that at your peril. I have no qualms about dealing with you in the harshest possible manner.” Tembo felt his paws grow damp with sweat. He now knew what it was to be terrified.
“I’m, sorry, so, so sorry!” Tembo mewed.
“Like hell you are Tembo,” Tembi said, “you’re about as sorry as Morose was when he caused all that trouble between the community members a few months back. You don’t care one ounce for Theo or Hop along!” Tembo spat at his sister.
“What those two are doing is disgusting!” he yelled, waving a paw at Theo and |Hop along.
“You might be glad of any pain relief you can get when I’ve finished with you Tembo!” Leo yelled.
“Don’t hurt my cub!” Elsa sobbed, “Leo, I beg you not to hurt Tembo!”
“he should have thought about his actions,” Leo snarled, “now he’s at my mercy!” Elsa wailed as if she’d been wounded.
“Please Leo!” She pleaded, “Tembo’s sorry for what he said!”
“No he’s not the least bit sorry Elsa!” Leo snapped, now furious with the lioness, “You have an insincere cub here, a liar, a scheming traitorous insolent cub!” Elsa wanted to attack Leo for what he said about Tembo, but the look in Salty’s eyes stopped her. The snow leopard’s ice blue eyes held a message for her, and her alone. Salty had seen everything, remembered too, and had been the grey cat to such an extent, that he’d observed Tembo’s most private moments and knew the cub’s most private thoughts.
“Tembo’s not misguided,” Salty’s eyes said, “he’s a vindictive, spiteful creature.” Elsa couldn’t stand the look in the large snow leopard’s eyes. They were so beautiful, the message they held so terrible, Elsa couldn’t look into them and turned her head away, staring down at her own paws.
“The truth is hard to take sometimes Elsa,” Salty said. Elsa mewed pitifully.
“That snow leopard is a spy!” Tembo yelled, wriggling and twisting in the vice like grip of Leo’s paws. Struggling madly, Tembo clawed at Leo’s massive paws with his tiny ones, his sweat dampened paws slipping off Leo’s as he tried to grip with the toes of both forepaws.
“You won’t get away little cub,” Leo growled. Tembo shrieked with fear.
“you are a horrid runt!” Leo yelled. Of course, this wasn’t true, but it was offensive enough to Tembo to make his fur stand on end.
“Tembi’s the runt!” Tembo yelled.
“She stands taller than you in every way Tembo,” Kalahari said.
“Shut it meerkat, before I eat you!” Tembo screeched.
“I wouldn’t say that if I were you,” someone said. Tembo looked round to see a tiny male lion cub with fury in his face.
“Who the hell are you!” Tembo demanded.
“My name is not important,” the cub said, “but I know your name, your name is mud in these parts.”
“Where did you come from!” Tembo yelled.
“I’m one of the cubs who arrived with Leo and Theo,” the male lion cub said calmly, “I’ve been observing you, and I don’t like what I find.” Tembo spat at the cub.
“You are, are horrible, and disgusting, and a disgrace, and you don’t know how much trouble you’re in now you’ve walloped me! I’ll rip your tail off! That’s a promise!” Tembo yelled. The male lion cub, still cool as a cucumber, smiled at Tembo, which angered him even more.
“You’d better watch your back!” Tembo yelled, “for I’ll be sticking my claws into you as soon as I can free myself from Leo’s grasp!” Tembo wriggled and twisted, but couldn’t free himself. Leo seemed to be asleep, his paws still clamped round Tembo. The newcomer’s closed eyes haunted Tembo, they seemed to boar into his soul.
“What, is, your , name!” Tembo stammered, “I, I demand to know!”
“My name?” The lion cub asked, his closed eyes seeming never to leave Tembo’s open ones, “it’s a very old Turkish name. My name is Aslan, it means lion in Turkish.”
“It also has other associations too,” Kalahari said, “but I won’t burden you with those. The name Aslan is a nice name I think.” Tembo began to shake with fear, for the cub’s expression terrified him.
“That name, it is weird, and so are you, for, for you are like Whitie and blanche, oh no! You are, are horrible!” The cub named Aslan knew nothing of the reasons why his mother had given him that name, all he knew was he’d been observing Tembo, and now wanted to give him a warning.
“Why do you attack Theo and Hop along?” Aslan asked. Tembo closed his eyes, but the cub’s presence didn’t diminish, if anything, it was stronger, forcing Tembo to open his eyes and look into the lion cub’s face.
“What they are doing is disgusting!” Tembo yelled. Aslan shook his head, as if Tembo’s voice irritated his ears.
“Please don’t shout,” the cub pleaded.
“I will do what I dam well like!” Tembo screamed. Leo tightened his grip on Tembo, who’d almost forgotten he was held fast in the huge lion’s paws, so great was his fear of the lion cub named Aslan.
“You will do as Aslan says,” Leo snarled, “if you don’t, I will crush the life from you.”
“Since when has he been your cub Leo!” Tembo yelled.
“he’s not my cub,” Leo replied, “but he’s worthy of a little respect. Don’t shout at him again.” Tembo wriggled and twisted, battering with his forepaws at Leo’s paws, which still held him tightly.
“You won’t get away Tembo,” Leo said, “I’m not even trying to hold you.” Tembo whimpered with fear.
“You have brought this on yourself Tembo,” Kalahari said, “noone but you is responsible for your current situation. Aslan certainly isn’t.”
“But he threatened me!” Tembo whimpered.
“an outburst for which he can’t be blamed,” Leo replied, “for you are saying the most reprehensible things about Theo and Hop along. How can you know that what you call disgusting, isn’t in fact very pleasurable indeed? I know paw massage is one of the most pleasurable pastimes.”
“How can you get pleasure from that!” Tembo yelled.
“If you let me stroke your paws, I can show you,” Aslan said. Tembo swung at Aslan’s head with one forepaw, the blind cub ducking just in time.
“You will never get hold of my paws!” Tembo yelled.
“Ah well,” Aslan said, “that’s too bad for you. I will just have to see if some other animal will let me massage their paws.”
“I’m up for it,” Salty yawned. Aslan had never been up close to the huge male snow leopard, and wondered if he was entirely safe.
“You want your paws massaged?” the cub asked hesitantly, “I don’t know if I can.”
“Scared of him are we Aslan?” Tembo scoffed, “now who’s the wimp!” The tiny blind cub clenched his paws to stop them from shaking, for he was genuinely frightened of Salty. When he spoke of massaging the paws of other animals, Aslan thought of cubs like Pipin, Whitie or Blanche, not of adult animals like Salty, Clarence or Leo.
“I can only massage the paws of other cubs,” Aslan mewed.
“You scaredy cat!” Tembo spat, warming to the attack on his new target, “You don’t frighten me any more!” Tembo suddenly lunged at Aslan, catching Leo off guard! Tembo flew at the younger cub! Confused, Leo scrabbled at Tembo’s fur with his paws, trying to get purchase on it, but his paws slipped off, damp with the sweat of fear. Leo whimpered with fear, realising he’d lost control of Tembo! Snarling, he tried to knock Tembo out with his paw! But the cub was too fast for him, ducking his wild swipe! Tembo focused on the now terrified lion cub named Aslan, knocking him to the carpet and trampling him beneath his paws, making sure his claws dug into the cub’s skin. Aslan screamed as Tembo’s attack hit home! Leo, defeated and paralysed with fear, watched helplessly as Tembo trampled on and tore at the little lion cub. Then it was Tembo’s turn to scream for help, for now he was being attacked!
Theo, seeing Tembo going for Aslan, had torn his paw free of Hop along’s and hurled himself over the carpet towards Tembo! Theo’s body crashed into Tembo’s, forcing the lion cub into the carpet and away from Aslan, who lay winded and terrified. Theo rolled over, ending up on top of Tembo! Digging the toes of all four of his paws into the carpet, Theo anchored himself to the carpet, so Tembo, lying beneath him, could go nowhere. Theo dug his claws into the carpet, trying to curl his toes that extra little bit, fixing himself firmly. Panting and gasping for air, Theo yelled at Aslan to:
“Get out of here Aslan! Go little cub! Go, go, go!” Aslan needed no telling, picking himself up off the carpet, he fled!
“I won!” Tembo yelled, “that little bleeder’s running away, his tail between his legs! Ha ha ha ha!” Theo put his mouth close to Tembo’s ear and began to growl, putting in all the anger and fury he felt towards the male lion cub.
“You don’t realise what’s happened do you? Or who’s cub you’ve attacked?” Theo snarled, “this isn’t Leo pinning you down you know Tembo, “it’s Theo, I’m the one who likes paw massages, remember me? You think me disgusting don’t you cub? Well, You are the one who’s disgusting, attacking Aslan like that, who the hell do you think you are! You attacked my cub!”
“That cub’s nothing but mouth!” Tembo snarled, “he couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding Theo, and neither can you, great big cub that you are! You wouldn’t hurt me, not really, for you haven’t got it in you! Go on, just try it! You’ll be sobbing your heart out before you’ve drawn first blood!” Theo suddenly clenched his hind paws, pressing his pads hard into the carpet and digging his toes even harder into the thick pile for purchase. Relaxing his forepaws, Theo lunged at Tembo, gripping the cub’s head hard in both forepaws! Tembo screeched with fear as he felt Theo’s toes digging into his fur!”
“Now I will stick my claws into you Tembo!” Theo yelled, his voice sounding like the voice from the pit of hell! Tembo screamed with fear! Theo opened his mouth and roared point blank into Tembo’s ear! Tembo closed his eyes and put all his strength into screaming! He could feel Theo’s paws on him, the larger lion’s pads rough against his skin, Theo’s toes digging hard into his fur. Any moment Tembo knew he would feel the claws digging in. Theo closed his eyes, and put all his might into digging his toes into Tembo’s fur as hard as he could, raking them through the cub’s fur! Tembo, feeling Theo’s paws raking through his fur, the lion’s toes digging in, wondered if he would be pierced to his heart. Theo held on grimly, digging the pads and toes of both his hind paws into the carpet, and his fore into Tembo’s fur, while snarling and roaring with all his pent up fear at the strength and potency of his own rage, and anger at Tembo, which he now could hardly control!” Suddenly Theo’s strength ebbed, and he angrily threw Tembo aside, the disgraced lion cub somersaulting through the air and landing with a crash on the sofa beside Clarence.
“You can deal with him now!” Theo snarled at Clarence, “he’s your cub after all! I need to attend to my own cub.”
Meanwhile, Tembi fussed over Aslan, her one and only cub. She and Theo had mated in the early summer of the previous year, and Aslan, their cub had been born in the early winter of the same year. Tembi knew her brother Tembo was a bully, and she was powerless against him. She had Theo to thank for saving their cub for a second time. Tembi thought about Aslan’s birth, how terrified she and Theo had been, and how Theo had managed to put his fears aside to help Tembi through the birth of their cub. Stroking Aslan’s paws, Tembi thought back to that time, remembering how soothing Theo’s massage had been when she was in pain. It had been very welcome then, very very welcome. She knew the power of the massage, for it had helped her bring a cub into the world.
The simple act of massaging her cub’s body and paws soothed Tembi as well as her cub Aslan, so that when Theo returned to them, they were half asleep. Theo, his body and mind in shock from what he’d done to Tembo, flopped exhausted on the carpet.
The questions are already being asked Tembi,” Theo panted, “Aslan tells everyone he came with Leo and me, but now, now everyone has just about guessed what really happened.”
“When I went into labour, we went far into the wood so noone would realise what was happening,” Tembi replied, “there you helped me give birth to our cub.” Theo remembered the wood, the cold late autumn air, and Tembi lying on her side struggling to deliver their cub while he stroked her paws and spoke gently to her. Though terrified, Theo had done his work well, guiding the tiny cub into the world and doing his best to comfort and encourage Tembi in her effort to bring their cub into the light of day. Theo remembered it all, every single minute. Though this time, cubbing was a joyful event, not a sad one. Theo threw his paws around Tembi and hugged her, then did the same for Aslan, the cub snuggling into his embrace.
“You’re safe now Aslan my cub,” Theo purred. Aslan snuggled into his sire’s fur, Tembi watching, love in her eyes for both Theo and their cub.
“Aslan’s your cub Theo?” Leo asked, astonished at what he’d just witnessed.
“yes Leo he is,” Theo replied. Leo stared into his brother’s face.
“You never said,” he mewed, “you never said anything to me about Tembi having your cub!”
“We kept it quiet, because it was a shock to both of us when Tembi became pregnant. I’m sorry Leo.”
“so that was why you and Tembi walked into the woods that night,” Leo said, “she was in labour about to give birth to your cub?” Tembi nodded.
“I remember you complained of belly ache that day Tembi,,” Elsa said, “of course, I didn’t know then what was going on, but rubbed your belly as I’d done when you were a cub and you had colic. Though this colic would end with the arrival of a new life into the world.” Tembi remembered padding out of the door, her teeth and paws clenched against increasing pain and discomfort, and the relief she’d felt when they were far enough from the house to allow her to give herself up to a suddenly uncontrollable urge to push down hard against her cub. Theo had watched Tembi anxiously, knowing she couldn’t have done this in the house, in case someone realised what was happening.
“That was awful,” Tembi said, “being unable to do what I wanted until we were out of the house.”
“But why so secret?” Leo asked.
“We didn’t know how the community would take it,” Theo replied, “hence our story about finding Aslan wandering alone. The truth was, when you first saw him Tembi had only just recovered to the point where we could pretend we’d found Aslan. In truth, he was only two hours old at that time.”
“Theo was wonderful!” Tembi mewed, “I couldn’t have gone through it without him. Aslan being my first cub, his birth was a long one, but Theo was amazing throughout it all.”
Leo looked into his nephew’s face. Aslan, sensing Leo’s eyes on him, reached up with a tiny paw to touch Leo’s nose. Leo gathered the tiny cub in both forepaws and hugged him tenderly.
“Welcome home,” he said to the lion cub, who snuggled into his uncle’s fur without fear.
“So Aslan’s your cub Tembi!” Tembo spat, “you’re a bit young to be having cubs!”
“What she does is up to her,” Salty growled, “it’s no business of yours Tembo.”
“I only wish you had come clean about your pregnancy Tembi, so we could help,” Ellie the female lynx said.
“Ellie, dear sweet Ellie,” Tembi replied, “I would have loved to come clean, but the climate wasn’t right. I needed to have my cub in secret, and I nearly gave the game away on the way out of the house. I was in so much pain, I wanted to mew pitifully and push hard against my cub, but I had to fight it, I just had to.” Theo hugged Tembi tenderly, the little lioness snuggling into his fur.
“We survived though Tembi my love,” Theo said, “we coped together.” Tembi smiled and licked Theo’s ear.
“yes Theo, we did,” she replied.
Ellie padded up to Aslan and examined the male lion cub closely. Aslan, sensing a large cat with heavy fur, turned and touched Ellie’s paw with his.
“What are you?” he asked.
“That’s Ellie, my mother!” Pipin snapped, “you don’t talk to her like that!” Ellie hugged Aslan tightly.
!”Ignore him little one,” she said gently to Aslan, “Pipin’s very protective of me. My name’s Ellie, and I’m a lynx.” Aslan took Ellie’s offered paw, Ellie’s paw was soft and thickly furred, it felt wonderfully warm between his paws. Ellie smiled and licked the lion cub’s ear. Aslan began to stroke Ellie’s paw, just as Theo had shown him. Rubbing her pads with his, he massaged Ellie’s toes and the spaces between her pads. Ellie snuggled close, thinking she might fall asleep any moment.
“I know we kept Aslan’s birth a secret,” Theo said, “I don’t know about you Tembi, but now, well, I want to tell the world!” Tembi smiled.
“I would love to tell them everything,” she said, everything, describe the methods we used to keep his birth a secret, the birth itself, everything, for we have a wonderful cub now Theo, and I want everyone to know about him.” Theo hugged his mate.
“You are so right,” he said.
“You know you and Leo were wondering what cubbing was like Theo?” Ellie said, “Well, you could both have seen it for real that day.” Tembi smiled.
“I wouldn’t have minded others witnessing Aslan’s birth,” she said, “We were so afraid though, scared of what the community might think.
“I think the community wouldn’t have minded a bit, even if you’d had Aslan in this house,” Salty said, “we love cubs, and a new addition to the family is to be celebrated.”
“agreed,” Leo said, “I’m just a little upset Theo felt he couldn’t confide in me.”
“Yes Leo, I’m so sorry,” Theo said. Leo saw his brother really meant what he said. Leo touched his brother’s paw.
“It’s okay,” he said, “next time though, tell us when you’re going to have a cub.” Tembi and Theo smiled.
“We will,” they said.
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Martin Wilsher © 2006
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