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She had been fascinated by tigers since she was a little girl. It didn’t matter how often her parents told her to stay out of the jungle, she ran away, every time she had the chance, hoping to find them.

She was found, usually, within just a few minutes, her parents frantically chasing after her and thanking every god they could name that their legs were longer than hers.

Then one day, while her father was at work, her mother was called away urgently to help an aged neighbour who had fallen badly. She was left unguarded for only a few minutes, but it was long enough. She ran into the jungle alone.

The whole village was roused when she was missed. The women wailed and weeped, and the men took up clubs and sharp weapons and ran into the jungle, shouting her name.

They heard the tiger before they saw it. It roared as they came crashing through the undergrowth. They called to each other nervously, gathering together before they dared search for it further.

They found it in a small clearing, standing over her, and for a moment they feared the worst.

She stirred, yawned and stretched, and blinked up at the men from the village.

“It’s okay, mama,” she said to the tiger. “It’s just my other family come looking for me.”

© Kari Fay