Her lips pressed against the paper bud sending the swirls of smoke up like dirty fingers in the air. Lights danced like fireflies before her eyes until she reached out to catch their feather wings. How sweet they looked among the gray smoky world.
"Isn't it beautiful Kara?" She murmured drawing her fingers down the striped shoulders and honored head. Deep gold eyes gazed into hers. The teddy bear ears swiveled forward then back as if catching every word.
Snow melts so quickly in the eyes of faux hope.
"You're weird." She laughed falling against the large body. "I love you Kara."
And I, you. She murmured back pressing her heavy head against the woman's hip. The woman felt the tension in her tiger's shoulders. Was something moving?
Kara stood with stealth. Her golden eyes bored into the dark. Her teeth twinkled in the firefly lights. Rough hands brushed the woman's neck and chest. Only a twinge of pain in her wrists then she fell farther down into the darkness. Only the calls of Kara's growl held her suspended.
Kara's voice howled off the walls as the shadows grew. Sharp teeth and wicked eyes looked out from the smoke. The woman screamed. The tiger leapt twisting and writhing with the beast of shadow and hate. One claw sliced the shadows and Kara stood triumphant.
It didn't matter what happened to her. The tiger would protect her. Kara was always there.
I leaned against the cool wood of the living room's smoke stained divider. The room was small and cluttered with open beer bottles and trash. Spongebob's scratchy laugh animated the air between the screen and my daughter's attentive gaze.
I raked my nails through my dirty-blonde hair and smiled to the little girl cocooned on the floor with a ragged blanket draped over her skinny shoulders. Her brown curls hung like wet curtains down the shallow face accenting her clear blue eyes, my eyes.
"Hey Tyger Lilly." I murmured dropping to her knees beside my child. "You're awake?"
The little brunet yawned leaning against my chest. "Of course, why wouldn't I be?" I brushed my lips against her forehead. It was cool to the touch.
"I haven't seen you in so long." Tears pooled in my daughter's eyes like shards of glass in my heart. She was scared. Why was she? "I'm sorry Mommy." She cried.
This felt like a dream; a sad sickening dream. What was wrong with my baby? Where was Joe?
"Tyger, baby calm down. It's alright." I pulled her into my arms and rocked her. "Where's Uncle Joe?" Her tears stained the dirty white T I wore. It was then I realized I wasn't wearing jeans. In fact I wasn't wearing anything besides that T shirt.
"Where's Uncle Joe?"
"I told him they were coming. He was gonna hurt me again Mommy I had to! I told the principal."
I stared at my baby like I'd never seen her before. Who are you? I wanted to ask. What was going on? A knock at the door froze me to the spot. I clutched Lilly to my chest. Two shadows crossed the apartment's windows. Shivers of pure terror ran up my spine. I felt like an animal trapped in a glass box with fire rearing up on all sides of my enclosure.
I was helpless.