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       Amber, p.2

           Joyce Chng
 
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  A shadow fell across her vision. She hated it, when she was deep in concentration with a client’s design. She glanced up, about to snap at the person blocking her light.

  It was…

  Imran, Marfisa’s cousin.

  She didn’t really like him, especially from what Marfisa had said about him. They were all childhood friends. But they had taken different paths later when they grew up. Imran was a quiet child and kept to himself. Now grown up and in his twenties, he was brash, obnoxious and the household head of Marfisa’s family. She had gone out with him in group gatherings – and hated his guts.

  Why was a young pride male doing in her territory?

  “Can’t talk now,” she said, letting a growl seep through her words. She fought her hand to remain steady. The design was intricate, filled with swirls, circles and repeated scallops. The client, a fellow classmate, looked nervous.

  “I will wait for you,” Imran’s voice was all warm honey. “At the ice-kacang stall.”

  “Whatever. Busy.”

  She returned back to working on the design. The queue was getting longer. Yet Imran’s presence had sent a rush of cold water through her veins. Why was he here?

  What did he want?

  ~*~

  She did find Imran at the ice-kacang, tucking into the dessert with relish. She stood silently, unable to bring herself to buy a bowl of the ice-cold confection. Imran’s presence set warning bells in her head. Her entire body was tense with the instinct to fight.

  Why was he doing here?

  What did he want?

  Finally Imran scooped the last of the red beans into his mouth and tossed the empty plastic bowl into the recycling bin. He smiled brilliantly at her.

  Geetha hated that smile.

  “You must be asking why I am here,” Imran began, his voice still honey-warm, honey-smooth.

  “Just tell me,” Geetha said tautly. “I don’t have much time. My stall needs my help.”

  Imran still had that infuriating smile on his face. Geetha grit her teeth, knowing that her blood was boiling and the temptation to smash his face in was really real. Her head throbbed. Her vision was turning red.

  “I propose an alliance between our households, the joining of two great families. Don’t tell Marfisa about this, Geetha. We will be the most powerful sher clans in Singapore. You. Me. The clan leaders.”

  Geetha stood frozen, growing colder as she let the words sink in.

  “Take your time,” Imran waved jauntily and walked away.

  The lioness growled inside her.

  Joining of two great families? Powerful sher clans?

  For a moment, she was tempted. The lions had long since been shadows of their former selves.

  Then, she fished out her cell phone. Her best friend had to know.

  ~*~

  “Be patient. Men come and go. We women are the glue of the family.”

  Geetha had an earful from Mar. Her best friend ranted and shouted over the phone. She said something later about “women being the glue of the family.”

  Lionesses hurt for their families. The lions only laze about, spray their land, and provide sperm for children. And oh yes, in the past, they killed their predecessor’s cubs.

  What had changed? What had progressed?

  Some things just remained the same.

  Mar was going to confront Imran. Geetha knew it in her bones.

  Gir: Claw of the Lioness

  The two lionesses waited for their enemy, the up-start who thought he ruled the forest. Above them the sun was a soft gold. It was early morning.

  They both heard the soft hou-hou-hou approaching from the distance. His scent was already in the air. He was spraying everywhere to declare that he was master.

  One of the lionesses, her fur darker and thicker, glanced at her companion. Something hung from her muscular neck, a crescent claw or fang.They both nodded.

  He would be fought off the land, their land.

  Note: Singa means ‘lion’ in Malay, pura ‘city’. So, Singapore is literally Lion City.

 
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