Sophie Hedley opened the door to the cage and stepped inside. She was greeted by a half purr, half growl. Samson came forward and stretched at her feet, his giant paws spread, his front legs rigid, his rear in the air. His mouth gaped in a yawn that showed his razor sharp teeth.
"Good morning, baby," she said, reaching out to scratch behind his ears. Samson moved his head against her hand, arching in delight, encouraging more. He rolled to his back, and Sophie laughed.
"All right, all right. So you want a tummy rub, do you?"
She knelt beside the great cat and scratched his tummy, working up to his powerful chest, watching his head loll back and his legs go limp. When she finished, he rolled onto his stomach and sat up on his forearms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his orange and black fur. She felt his breath rise and fall, and her own breathing mimicked his rhythm. She slid her hands down his back, past his shoulders, over his haunches, feeling the sinewy muscles. She placed her cheek against his chest and listened to the strong beat of his heart. Her own heart quickened. She felt so alive.
After a few minutes, she reluctantly stood up and backed to the door of the cage. Samson swatted at her lightly, and she lost her balance, almost falling over.
"Hey, I'll be back. You know I will. I always do." She closed the door behind her and clicked the lock.
Every morning, Sophie had to get her Samson fix before heading off to her job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was the only way she could stand it. The place was a crypt of dead-end lives, both the people in the cubicles around her and those lined in front of them. The mindless waiting brought out the worst in people; they rarely smiled, and often raged about the smallest mistakes, never taking responsibility for the things they could have prevented themselves. The hours dragged until closing time, and then while her co-workers made their way to bars or warring spouses, she eagerly returned to her Samson.
She'd had him since he was a kitten. Fate had brought them together. One day, she'd seen a classified ad in the newspaper. A tiger from a traveling circus had given birth to two kittens, and the owner was selling them. Sophie's father had left the family to -- seriously -- join a circus when she was eight years old. She often thought of him working with the big cats, and she believed she inherited her love of animals from him. Finding the kitten seemed like a cosmic gift from her dad.
Samson loved her in a way that no one else could. He never disappointed her, never took her for granted, never demanded anything more than her time and tummy rubs. Sophie broke off her relationship with her boyfriend and stopped going out for drinks with her friends. She had few visitors; Samson made people uncomfortable, everyone but Sophie.
Sophie's mother worried about her, warned her that Samson was a wild animal at heart, and that something bad would happen. Sophie soothed her mother's concerns and promised her Samson would never do something like that.
David, the supervisor at the DMV, called Mrs. Hedley. Sophie hadn't been in to work for three days. It wasn't like her to not call. He had left several messages for her, but she wasn't returning his calls. He thought she should know. Mrs. Hedley hung up and dialed 911.
The police car pulled into the driveway and two uniformed officers got out. They walked to the front door and knocked, waited for an answer. When none came, they canvassed the perimeter of the home. They spotted the enclosure in the backyard and approached. A magnificent Bengal tiger paced back and forth, spitting and hissing when it saw them. It stopped and bared its teeth with a loud, menacing growl. There, underneath its protective feet, lay a woman's body, her neck twisted at an unnatural angle but otherwise untouched.
Today's prompt: "Looks can be deceiving." My kids love watching the show Fatal Attractions, where crazy people keep dangerous animals and think nothing could possibly go wrong. That was my inspiration for today.
To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday here.
And welcome, A to Zers!