Pride (Part 8: The Decision)Mature

  Aaliyah thought about the woman's question for a moment as she watched the fox return to the meadow and refuse a collar from the humans. Was she willing to take such a risk? She suddenly remembered her cubs. What was to happen if she left? She couldn't just leave them here unprotected. That was not an option. "Tell me," she asked Eve in that buzzing monotone voice, "where will my babies go if I go somewhere? What will they do?"
  The woman shook her head, deep in thought. "I'm not sure.. Well, they could probably come with you, if you're really willing to take that risk." Aaliyah titled her head in confusion. "Risk?" The lion wasn't paying attention to the conversation; he was preoccupied with watching the fox who had earlier attacked Eve. He seemed tense, almost defensive for the human girl, as if they were (or had once been) mates.
  Eve nodded. "Yes, there is some risk in talking your cubs. America is a long way from here and they're extremely young for such a long journey. But if you really want to see what's beyond here, then we could take them with us. How many are there?" Aaliyah bobbed her head up and down slowly. "Three," she said painstakingly, almost cautiously. All that was going through her mind was a wish for her young ones to be safe and sound. There was no way she could abandon them, but she also wanted dearly to see what was outside of her home. finally, she nodded and the mechanical voice said, "All right. I will bring my cubs with me to the foreign land that you speak of." Eve smiled. "Wonderful! You'll love America. It's got all sorts of different things there. So many new things for you to see."
  "America." Aaliyah said the word, the name of the unknown land, slowly, translating it into her language for the first time. "Yes, America," Eve said. The two men nodded and started toward her, causing her to back away for fear that they might hurt her. Although she was mostly certain that wasn't their intention, it was a necessary instinct that could come in handy at times. Simply a precaution. But Eve stopped them. "You might scare her off. We need to let her retrieve her cubs and bring them here, then we'll proceed with the preparations." Preparations? What did she mean? Aaliyah nodded in agreement and turned back to get her babies at their cave-home.
  The sun had just begun to set. She returned with the tiger cubs playing with each other and then running to keep with their mother's pace. Eve was busy trying to coax the maiden fox into wearing a collar-- it didn't look like she was getting very far. The fox, however, did seem to be getting a little more relaxed with the atmosphere of the situation. The lion seemed to have gotten tired at what looked like endlessly pacing (judging by the mega paw prints going back and forth in the grass), because he was now sprawled out on the meadow floor, snoring loudly. The young tigers seemed to be winding down as well, snuggling up against one another and curling their short tails around themselves as far as they could reach. It wasn't until now that Aaliyah had realized just how tired she was, mostly because of the day's stressing events. She looked over at the two men who seemed to have fallen asleep as well, and then she looked back to Eve and the fox. After much persuasion, the small and sly creature finally allowed Eve to attach a translating collar around her neck as well. Shortly afterwards, the fox dozed off while curled up in a little ball. Eve packed up the equipment that had been used earlier in the day and then rolled our a sleeping bag, tucked herself in, and fell into a quiet slumber. Waiting until all the others were unconscious, Aaliyah went over to her cubs and silently lay down next to them, and she, too, fell into a deep sleep.

The End

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