Snowy puts her cards on the table.
Ringo dried Bruin’s tears, the brown bear struggling to keep a lid on his emotions. Ringo took hold of Bruin’s left forepaw and stroked it, the bear hugging the ocelot tightly. Ringo felt Bruin’s paws embracing him, the bear trying to hug him without causing himself pain from his damaged paws. Ringo snuggled up to Bruin, trying to make the bear’s job easier.
“Well,” Hop along said, “I never thought I’d see that.” Leo looked at the tiger:
“I never thought I’d see it either,” he said, “for I thought bruin hated anything that looked anything like a domestic cat.”
“I think we’ve
got Tib to thank for that,”
Bruin stroked Ringo from his nose to the pads of his paws, the ocelot beginning to relax and enjoy the brown bear’s attention.
Meanwhile, Brushtail had just finished massaging Snowy’s paws. The snow tigress was on a regular regime of paw massages, which seemed to help control her chronic respiratory problems. The massage over with, snowy wanted to find Leo. Venturing downstairs, she arrived just as Bruin finished Ringo’s massage. Knowing full well what had taken place, the snow tigress was astonished to find Bruin back in the house.
“Don’t you remember what he did to Whitie and to me?” she asked.
“I remember he made you fight for the life of your cub,” Leo said, “I can’t remember if I was here when that happened, but I have heard that was what happened.”
“Yes, yes that is true!” Snowy gasped, her distress mounting, “I fought, fought for Whitie’s life. Bruin was going to kill her!” Leo saw Snowy’s distress and touched her paw to reassure her.
“I can’t, can’t let him get away with what he did to me and my cub!” She panted. Snowy saw the room she was in blurring and fading. Snowy passed out on the carpet.
“Get her air!” Leo commanded, someone open the front door so we can get her air!” Clarence dragged the front door open, while Isaac and Leo dragged Snowy’s unresisting body to the front door. As the cold air hit her face, Snowy regained consciousness.
“Snowy?” Leo asked, almost unable to control his feelings.
“Let her come round will you!” Isaac pleaded. Leo looked at the polar bear.
“You’re in love with her aren’t you Leo,” Isaac asked. Leo nodded.
“I love Snowy half tail more than I can put into words,” he replied. Isaac laughed harshly.
“How can a lion love a tigress!”
“Just as a tigress can love a lion Isaac,” Snowy replied weakly. Isaac stared down at Snowy.
“You mean, mean to say that you’re in love with Leo?” He asked.
“Of course,” Snowy replied, “I have been for weeks now. He never leaves my thoughts.” Leo took hold of Snowy’s paw, feeling the tigress’s pads hot against his.
“I need to rest,” Snowy said, “lots of rest and quiet.” Leo squeezed the paw he held.
“I will make sure you get all the rest you need snowy,” he said. Leo felt warmth spreading through him from his ears to the pads of all four paws as he held Snowy’s paw. Leo didn’t know why he loved the snow tigress, he only knew that he did, and that she loved him. Leo lovingly squeezed the fat white paw held in his huge tawny one. Snowy looked into Leo’s eyes, her own smiling into his.
“You have been good to me Leo,” snowy gasped. Leo stroked the white paw he held.
“I will continue to be good to you Snowy,” he said. Snowy smiled.
“For as long as I am here,” she said, “I’m with you Leo.” Leo knew there would be a time when Snowy’s body would give up the fight and they would no longer be together, but hopefully that time would not come soon. Leo knew thoughts like this were selfish, but he didn’t want to lose snowy half tail.
“You can’t think like that Leo,” Hop along said, reading the lion’s thoughts.
“I don’t want to lose her,” Leo said.
“When snowy becomes too incapacitated by her illness, you must let her decide what she wants,” Theo said. Snowy looked into Leo’s eyes.
“If I feel it’s time to call it a day,” she said, “I will do what I wish.” Leo knew his thoughts were born of a selfish need for snowy to be with him, and not of consideration for her own welfare.
“I’m sorry Snowy,” he said.
“Those thoughts are understandable,” snowy replied, “but it’s my choice what happens to me.” Leo felt tears pricking the backs of his eyes.
“We shouldn’t be talking like this!” he sobbed.
“Leo,” Snowy said, “I have thought long and hard about my own death, for I have had to with my condition. I could die at any time, at any moment. I have searched my soul, my beliefs, and everything. I know I’ve not been very nice to some of those animals with whom I have lived, but now I’m making strides to remedy the hurt I caused. While I’m not close to death yet, I will implore you while I still can to, if the worst happens, let me go.”” Leo looked into the snow tigress’s deep blue eyes.
“I know it’s hard to talk about this Leo,” Snowy said, “especially for you, a lion in the prime of your life. You see Leo my dear, I never will be in the prime of my life, and never will have the chance either. So I have had to think of things which might not, as you are a healthy cat, have crossed your mind at all.” Leo embraced Snowy tightly.
“Please don’t talk like this!” he sobbed, “Snowy, you will have many years yet!”
“But Leo,” snowy said, gently brushing away the lion’s tears, “do I want these years? Will I be able to have a life worth living with the illness I have? I don’t know. All I know is sometimes I don’t want to live, sometimes it all seems too much to cope with.” Leo cried into Snowy’s fur, the snow tigress letting him weep.
“I love you Leo,” snowy said, “but what I said had to be said. Now you know a little of how it is for me.”
“It’s not fair!” Leo sniffed.
“I have thought that many a time Leo dear,” snowy replied, “but life isn’t fair. Some have to live with debilitating conditions, and I am chosen to live this way.”
“But your family could have helped, not thrown you out, that kind of thing snowy!” Leo choked, “they made things worse for you!”
“sometimes I wonder if my mother wasn’t right to kick me out and possibly let me die,” snowy said, “and that’s the truth Leo, I sometimes wonder in my darkest, most private moments, if it would have been better if I’d died soon after birth.”
“How long is it since you’ve thought these horrid thoughts?” Leo asked, “surely not here, not in this place?”
“Here, and before too,” Snowy replied, “when my cubs were being born and I was fighting for breath during their birth, I wondered if I’d make it, and if I survived labour, would I survive long enough to raise my cubs. During the birth of my second cub, who was the largest of my two cubs, I wanted to die. The pain and effort, along with struggling to pull in air, was too much for me. Somehow I managed to survive the births of my cubs, but afterwards I couldn’t feed them, couldn’t even lick them dry. The cubs dried each other off, then found their way to my pitiful milk supply. I woke to find them having fed and curled up to sleep. What happened in the hours between my last heaving effort to birth my cubs and that time, I do not know.” Leo was inconsolable.
“Why are you saying all this Snowy!” Bruin snapped, “do you want to destroy Leo completely? Are you on the self pity express?” snowy looked at Bruin and the look in her eyes shut him up.
“Leo needs to know this,” Snowy replied, her breath shallow, “I need to tell him, so that he knows what he’s getting into by pledging himself to me. I don’t want him under any misconceptions about my condition, for they only lead to mistrust and doubt. My love for Leo is strong, but my body is anything but strong. He needs to know the limits of what I can do, the frailties of my existence on this earth.” Turning to Leo, snowy embraced him tightly:
“I love you Leo,” Snowy purred, the huge lion weeping into her fur.
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