Tiger Lily

a short story by Cassa and Joe, language contributor Carlos

The humid Colombia heat wakes her up from the drug induced slumber. Her sundress is lifted by the Caribbean Sea breeze, revealing her bronzed legs.

Drifting higher, the breeze exposes bruises, signs of the kind of “love” she receives from the one who keeps her there. But she has become strong and hardened like clay in the hot sun. 

She calls out to her pet leopard, “véngase pa´acá mi parcerito, véngase conmigo”. It pounces on her playfully, causing her to let out a string of laughter like the wind chime. “vayámonos a nadar, ¿OK?”

She slips out of her dress and runs toward the sea with her best friend, the leopard named “Congo”. 

He frees up his hand from the cigar and claps watching his gorgeous, prized prey bouncing off towards the sea with her reward, Congo, for being such a good girl. He makes loads of connections with other drug lords simply by having her in his arms.

He can’t bear it any longer seeing her soft body in the ocean water. He makes his way down with that bullying grin on his face while unbuttoning his chino shorts. He can’t wait to pin her down in the salty water and make her submit to his authority.

She hates being his captive. But then again, he is the only love she ever knew since she was twelve. Even the first to take her flower which is why he named her Tiger Lily, after his favourite flower, exotic and wild. She will happily be his until her youth runs out, if he doesn’t make her spend endless nights entertaining his business partners. Those monsters, they are into some sexual deviants that leave scars on her body and soul. 

Already strongly erect, and struts like a rooster approaching her. Once he reaches her, he grabs the back of her head and violently pushes her down to his crotch under the saltwater. The more she struggles to breath and fight back, the more his urge gets satisfied. In his twisted mind, he recalls her angelic face when he first laid eyes on her, her body was just starting to develop. Now, she is like a leech to him. He feeds her food, alcohol and drugs. She will do anything to keep herself fed and alive. He wants to think that she is a treasure because her divine body brings business to his kingdom. But the image of her being a sex slave in the orgy infuriates him. How could an angel become such a dirty slut? His anger wilts him instantly. He pulls her up and throws her into the sea as far as his rage allows. He spits into the water while he stumbles back to shore, hissing and cussing.

Tiger Lily feels a sense of great relief that he turns his back. She is so used to his violent outburst; she doesn’t think much of it. She knows how to keep herself alive. And now it is the perfect opportunity. She swims further out towards the rocks with Congo leading the way. They did many practice swims at night on this route, so without much effort, they arrived at a small shore just behind the rocks which is the only spot invisible to their surveillance. She rises from the sea like a mermaid, her skin is glistening. “mi bebé”, she throws herself to her lover’s broad chest and kisses him passionately. Congo is sitting next to the pair and keeping a watch. He reluctantly pulls her away and puts a t-shirt over her, then rushes them to jump on the speed boat. He accelerates to the highest speed disappearing into the island where they will board a cruise to Costa Rica. 

At nightfall, Tiger Lily, her lover and Congo arrive at the secluded bungalow he arranged for her escape. Excited and exhausted, he fixes some fresh meat for Congo so it settles on the deck overlooking San Andrés. Now he is all hers. She sits at the low end of the steps leading to the beach, chin to her knees tug underneath his oversized white t-shirt, her chestnut hair swept to the side. He walks over to her with a glass of chilled fresh coconut juice, kisses land gently on her burned skin where the t-shirt doesn’t cover. “siéntese conmigo mami” She links her arm with his and rests her head on his shoulder without another word. They hold such silence in absolute harmony until the stars blanket the sable sky. “vayámonos a descansar un poco mi hermosa sirena, estaremos en casa pronto.” He scoops her up in his strong arms and carries her back into the bungalow. She loops her arms around his neck and stares deep into his emerald eyes.”usted es mi consentido.”

Self Nomination

Part 1 Ankle Bracelet
Part 2 Aura of Mystery
Part 3 The Kissing Song

I stop you on your way out of the boardroom door.

Ami, I am Tommy, Tommy Lee. Do you want to grab a bite to eat in the City after work today?

You look at me and smile. Oh Ami Sickle, I love your dimples! They look like a pool of happiness, so overwhelmingly sweet and beautiful!

Hey Tommy! I am not available. Thank you!

How about some time this week…or beyond? You are gonna be hungry one of these days?

Ah, Tommy, what I meant was I’d like to keep a professional boundary. I won’t be grabbing a bite to eat with you. See you at the annual conference if you are attending.

You just said no to me. Was it a no, try harder? Or a no, NO? Do you need a volunteer to help with organising the conference? I can help wherever you need me. I am a good helper, I was told. What? Tommy! You just nominated yourself to work for free? The ROI is so low considering the time and effort I have to put in. Fuck! What’s wrong with ya?

Ah, the conference is well funded, it’s not run by volunteers. And I don’t think I need volunteers. But I appreciate your willingness to get involved and help. By saying that though Tommy, I am still unavailable.

What? Did you just give me a hard NO? You are not willing to give me any bit of you. There must be another move I can make. Think Tommy! I can’t fucking think, it’s like the market is closed today. I have to wait for tomorrow. But I don’t want to wait and there is no other way. Am I throwing a Tandy? Shame on you Tommy, you are gonna accept defeat, aren’t you?

Tommy, there is this retirement village I volunteer at, they are really short of volunteers and I know they will appreciate some help. I can email you the details and you may think about it?

Oh Ami, you must have noticed that I looked defeated. You have a soft and kind heart. How can I not say yes and I have to restrain myself from jumping for joy. You have just kept the door of hope ajar.

The Kissing Song

Part 1 Ankle Bracelet

Part 2 Aura of Mystery

Now let’s invite our next guest speaker, Ami Sickle from SAFAA to talk about the upcoming professional development opportunities and the annual conference.

Ami! Your name is Ami.
Tommy and Ami Sitting in a tree
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then comes baby
In a baby carriage!

You are now standing in front of me without obstruction, giving a presentation. It’s gonna be a full cinema experience.

Ami Sickle, your dark hair wraps around your fair neck on one side, rose pink pouting lips, somewhat comfortable in your petite hugging knee high black dress, black heels, huh, and the rose gold ankle bracelet in between. Ami, you are sexy and cute. I’m gonna have a lot of fun with you. I can feel my cheeks smiling.

Hi guys! I am Ami Sickle, Marketing Executive from The Stockbrokers and Financial Advisers Association. Today, I am presenting…

Your voice stills me. It’s like the zither being played by the waterfall, calming and Zen. The fantasy of pinning you to the wall and pleasuring you from behind dissipates. I thought I work you out, but I am not so sure now. Who are you, Ami Sickle?

Aura of Mystery

Part 1 Ankle Bracelet

Who are you? I need to know as much as possible about you so I can have a winning strategy.

The aura you wear is of mystery. You look sweet but dressed to kill. You smell wild sex but you put an invisible barrier between us while we are only ten centre metres apart in this more crowded than usual boadroom. I can’t quite work you out, yet.

The ankle bracelet, I wonder if your toes are manicured and painted red or black. When you run your toes around me, will the bracelet be a distraction?

Focus Tommy! I snap myself out of the trance you put me into. Clearing my throat, I swallow and force my attention to the line graph on the presentation screen.

Ankle Bracelet

Your scent infused me before you sat next to me. A rose blossom wrapped in leather, you slid in the oversized executive chair next to me in the boardroom. My brain kept telling me to focus on the presenter and the screen, battling my distracted mind and wandering eye. I pushed my chair backward so I had a better view of you, such a challenger to my professionalism. My eyes fixated on the rose gold ankle bracelet you wore, set with onyx stone and pavé diamonds. It was such a sexy playful little thing.

Not all office romances start the same, and not all love affairs end in tragedy. I am a stock broker. I gamble, with calculated risk of course. ‘The winner takes it all.’

Part Of Me

I sit in the same chair with both hands tucked underneath my thighs. This is the last of the ten free sessions I am eligible for the calendar year. I don’t anticipate hearing anything new from Dr. Weber. She is going to give me a non-progressing Progress Report. Well, to be more accurate, it will be a regressing Progress Report.

I am acutely aware that my Achromatopsia is getting worse. In no time I will only see black, white and grey.  I am a race case. The ophthalmologist could not diagnose me as Achromatopsia positive because I was not born with this condition. From two years ago, I have been gradually losing my vision ability to see colours. On my medical report, my condition was referred to ‘Undetermined Achromatopsia’, and I was referred to Dr. Weber, a clinical Psychologist for further assessment.

Dr. Weber conducted DSM-IVR assessment and she did not give me any mental illness diagnosis. She recommended me to receive psychological counselling to help improve my coping with losing my colour vision. I have been seeing Dr. Weber for more than 2 years. Personally, I don’t think it is helping with my Achromatopsia. I keep attending the psychological counselling sessions as I get ten free sessions annually which are fully funded by public health Medicare, and I enjoy talking to Dr Weber. Every time after I see her, I feel ok with losing my colour vision. I am grateful that I was not Achromatopsia from birth. I know the full spectrum of colours. I remember the rainbow and the distinctive colours of four seasons. It is in the middle of Autumn now. When I look at the fallen leaves, I see a cluster of yellow-orange-red. They are less vibrant than what I am used to. But they are still pretty. It is more like water colour impressionist painting. It gives a mesmerising illusion feel.

“Sage, thank you for waiting. I apologise for the wait. Please come in and make yourself comfortable as usual.” Dr. Weber is wearing an A-line dress with a scarf hung on her shoulder. The prints look like Japanese maple tree which I find fitting for the season. I always admire her sense of style, elegant and calming.

“It’s ok. I was just daydreaming anyway.” I sink myself in the apple green beanbag with my legs stretching to a V shape. I feel comfortable and in a relaxed mood.

“This is the last free session we have this calendar. I will do a year review with you. First though, tell me about your life since I saw you five weeks ago.” Dr. Weber sits facing me, sideway to her cream fabric oversized lounge chair situated next to the 3-seater matching couch.

“uhm…I had a good month I suppose. Nothing is sticking out in particularly at work, home or dating, haha, the absence of dating I should clarify.” I share with her in a cheeky way.

“You look relaxed and carry a sense of fun it seems.” She smiles showing her pearly white teeth, with a visible gap between the two middle top teeth. I think that makes her cute although she is in her 50s.

“What about your colour vision?” She carries on.

“I still can see colours. They are just more blurry and meshing together. It’s like looking at impressionist paintings. I don’t mind really. it kinda makes me more arty.” I give her a big grin.

“At the last session, you shared with me that you saw colours but they were mixing with grey and black. Is that still the case in the last weeks?” Dr. Weber asks while making reference to her notes on her tablet.

“Yea, last month was rough with project deadline to meet at work, and I hadn’t gotten laid for ages. So, I was as grumpy as shit. It might be lack of sleep which worsen my colour vision. I don’t know really. The grey and black seemed to disappear after the Easter break. To be honest, I feel after a good night sleep, my colour vision has better focus. I can tell the colours distinctively.”

“What do you mean by telling the colours distinctively?” She probes.

“I mean I can tell the clear borders of colours. They are not like what I am seeing now with blurry outlines. I could tell when the blue sky finishes on the horizon. But now, it looks like the blue bleeds into the gold sunset. I don’t know how to describe it better.” I run my fingers from the top of my scalp to the back of my neck.  When my hair ends just before my neck, it reminds me that I had my shoulder length hair chopped off to a slick back cut.

“I understand now Sage. Would you like to tell me more about the day before Jason’s disappearance just after his solo painting exhibition opening? I believe this has crucial correlation with your colour vision impairment.” Dr. Weber moves her tablet to her lap. This usually means she is ready to tap on her tablet for some drop down box options or multiple choices selection. I know that because I work in the graphic design industry. I can tell by the way she taps her tablet.

“I don’t know what else I can tell you Dr. Weber. That day is like a grey cloud to me till today. One minute Jason was there with me sharing a joint to wind down from the exhibit opening night. It was an instant success. He sold five pieces of original work and a bunch of print copies on an anticipation of none. Then he told me he needed to duck out to the bottle shop for more grog. The next minute he was gone just like the fame of his painting. I waited and waited and waited. I thought he met up with friends, got pissed and stayed out for the night. He didn’t answer his mobile when I called nor responded to my messages on Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram. I was so mad at him that I popped some Valium and was knocked out. I hate myself for it. I really do. I didn’t even think of the possibility of he was in danger. I just fucking assumed he was being an ass. Now he is gone. I hope he is still just being an ass rather than being murdered by some sicko.” I finish talking and I find myself pacing in the room instead of sitting on the beanbag.

“Sage, what do you think if you went out to look for Jason after realising he was not answering his phone?”

“I could go to the bottle shop and asked the owner where he headed after he bought the grog. But I don’t think that will mount to anything.” I am still pacing with my head down looking at my boots.

“What else could you do if you were not asleep?” Dr. Weber’s voice is levelled and assertive.

“I don’t think the police would do anything about it if I reported a missing person. I would sound like a drug affected lunatic.”

“Anything else you can think of that you could possibly do?”

“I could message his mates via Apps and I would probably find out he was not with them. But, how could I? I would be like a clinging fuck buddy. Oh God! I wish I was that clinging bitch.” My hands are on each side of my head with fingers digging into my scalp, still pacing.

“Sage, let me get you a glass of chill water, or coke? We can take a break if you’d like.” I can hear Dr. Weber moving towards the mini bar fridge in the far corner of the room.

“A mini coke please Dr. Weber.” I stop pacing and lie down on the 3-seater couch. I feel a migraine is coming on. I lift one arm to block out the light.

The light is dimmed to a night light setting. I take the coke can Dr. Weber handing to me and roll it across my forehead. The icy cold feeling on my skin supresses the migraine.

“Let’s keep going Dr. Weber. I don’t want to be a quitter like all the other times. I know this is hitting a spot. I don’t want to let the migraine be an excuse. I know I need to press on.”

“Let’s do it Sage!” Dr. Weber sits back down at her lounge chair. “It seems to me that there was little difference you could make for preventing Jason from disappearance. I understand it to be a tragedy especially when there is no closure for you and people who love and care for Jason.”

“I know. It is only wishful thinking that I could save him. I love him although we were never officially dating. I have known him all my life. He was so goofy from day one in kindy, the only rosy cheek chubby Asian kid in the whole school. My Mum still looks over our photos in year books. He is like the son my parents weren’t able to have. To me, his disappearance took a chunk of me with him. I feel he took my keen eye for colours with him like the most brilliant part of me. Now I am losing the ability to see colours. I feel the certainty of him dying in some dungeon.” My head is throbbing and my scalp is feeling tender. I open the coke and take a couple sips.

“Tell me more about the certainty you feel relating to Jason is dying, how did you come to that sense or conclusion?”

“I feel the gift I have for colour is always what Jason saw in me that attracted him. It is like a bond we have. He always said his passion for art in particular in painting was inspired by me from our young age. We used to spend hours in colouring, drawing and describing everything we saw in colour words. When we hit secondary school, we started to describing our feelings in colours. That’s what Jason’s paintings are about, an expression of moods, emotions and feelings through colour construction. I did it as a fun game. To him though, colour was like a world he lived in and breathed in. I feel haunted sometimes as if Jason is possessing me even he is not with me. I almost feel he is controlling my colour vision at times. I know I sound crazy. You told me I am not clinically insane. I can talk to you about these thoughts and feelings. But I will never share with others. There is no way they think I am normal. I shared with my Mum once and she thought I took some psychedelic drugs and tripped out.”

“Have you taken psychedelic drugs Sage?” Dr Weber asks.

“Nope. I only smoke dope when I am stressed or need to wind down from the natural high. I don’t drink either if you remember in our initial assessment Dr. Weber.”

“I do remember. It was more than 2 years ago. I want to be sure with my understanding of your condition. It wasn’t meant to come across as an offense.”

“I wasn’t offended, just to clarify, that’s all.”

“Sage, grief may cause us experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions including the feeling of not be able to think straight. Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and no ‘normal’ timetable for grieving. Jason was and is a big part of your life in friendship and intimate relationship. I commend you for seeking counselling to try to make sense of your condition and reality. I hope you find our sessions helpful and you get something out of it.”

“I do Dr. Webber. I feel I have an outlet to express myself. It’s not like I will go around to show my sad face every day to people around me. I am trying to move on and get better. I am thankful I can still see colours sometimes. To be honest, if I completely lost my ability to see colours, I am ok with it. In some way I know an important part of me is with him.”

“It seems to me you are at peace with it, is that the case Sage?”

“I wouldn’t say I am at peace with not seeing colours anymore. I used to love this colourful world, anything that is visually stimulating, I was in. Now, I suppose it is ok to see the world in a monochromatic way. C’est la Vie.”

“So, would you say you come to acceptance of your condition and this new reality?” Dr. Weber is looking straight into my eyes when she asks the question.

“I think I do. No! I know I do. I accept the world is lack of colours, even monochromatic since Jason has gone, and I am ok with it.” My eyes meet hers and my cheeks relax to a smile.

I walk out of Dr. Weber’s office. The Autumn chill air greets me. I wrap my scarf around my neck and look up, the elm tree sways in the late afternoon sun, shimmering its leaves like golden tassels. I imagine them to be burnt orange by now. Autumn is our favourite season for the pure joy of Autumn colour palette. I pick up a fallen leaf and blow it to the sky, whispering “Jason, this is for you. Tell me what colour is it in my dream tonight.”

The girl in the wardrobe

The sound of the wardrobe door closes is the best sound in the whole wide world. The wardrobe is like a hedger keeps the outside noise away. Mum’s endless sighing, sometimes sobbing…Dad’s jokes which only his drunk friends would laugh and his limited praising phases: that’s my girl… you are smarter than me and your mum tally up, or just shouting:” what the fuck is wrong with the internet now….fuck the copper WiFi shit…..”

Before we moved into this house, I had to screen out these noises by playing music in hip hop, house, trap genres with my earphones on. I felt my hearing was declining. My school friends told me I couldn’t hear them most of the time. I had headaches sometimes because so much noise.

This house is great, it is only a rental, but it is heaps better than the house we had before, solely for this full length wardrobe. It smells timber and feels grainy. When I close the door, it muffles a bit, but it is so quiet. I finally remove the earphones and stop playing the music. I read, write, draw and play on my tablet.

Winter vocation is coming. I am so excited because I can spend more time tuck away in the wardrobe. I have prepared a blanket and a cushion so I can even take my nap in this world of mine. Oh I also pulled out the reading lamp from the storage. It’s one of those rechargeable lamps with a clipping end. I envision myself reading under the warm light after diner in a cold winter evening.

The trashy TV sound, the storm created by human beings, the agony caused by unhappy marriage and unemployment, are all shut out by this squeaky timber wardrobe door. That is how my childhood will be preserved. I am determined that as long as I have my sanctuary in this wardrobe, I will grow up to be happy.