"We've just met?" He asked, biting his lip. There was hope in his eyes. "What was the last thing you remember?"
"We met two years ago. Genius."
"We met two years ago. Genius."
"You’re not stupid. You’re just being really hard on yourself." She pat his cheek and placed a kiss to the top of his forehead - she didn’t understand personal boundaries and never had - not even when she was a child. "A friend is like…I—" She shrugged, as, she didn’t have friends either. "—papa was my friend! Oh - so was, so was Henry but he went elsewhere for college so - I guess we’ll just both have to learn from our friendship!"
"Everyone else thinks i’m stupid, lazy, selfish. They think I can’t hear them but, I can. I mean I probably am all those things… Especially lazy, but it kinda hurts to hear, yanno? Like something’s making yer throat go all tight and you start to go hollow inside." He offered her his hand, trying to manage another smile. "I’m Curly, by the way. It’s real nice to meet you."
"Only a couple thousand years old."
"I don’t think so. It’s not a game for lovers."
Grace didn’t really react much when the tiger that was before her turned into a human. “You!—you’re a boy now!” It was a giggle - but she kept patting at his head.
"I’m sorry that he was sick. You couldn’t’a done anything. Don’t blame yourself for something that you — that you couldn’t’a prevented. You’re not all alone, either! Y’got me, now! I’m your new friend!"
He smiled at that and wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
"I’m just too stupid for my own good. I don’t think i’ll ever stop blaming myself. What’s a friend like? I never really had friends before. I had my family and that was it. I never finished school. I reckon if i’d finished I might have a friend."
"That’s not how the game works."
"I didn’t think—I…why should it happen? People…shouldn’t push you away — ‘specially not your…father—" She shrugged, it was a touchy topic and she had a lot of unresolved feelings about it. "I just wish it was different, is all."
Grace got very quiet when he spoke about the one he had lost. She could hear the heartbreak and it broke her heart too, as she was very familiar with the feeling you get when you lose a loved one. “I’m sorry that…if—” She shook her head, “Tell me ‘bout him.”
"So do I."
It had been weeks and weeks since he felt comfortable as a human again. The human body was frail and emotional. The tiger was strong and fearsome. But, this was easier for talking.
"He was pretty and scary at the same time. Really tall… Taller than your dad. He could sneak up on anyone, anywhere. The best shot with a bow anyone’s ever seen. And… I didn’t know it. no one ever told me… But, he was sick… Really sick. I couldn’t see it. I could have helped if-if someone had let me know and now… now he’s gone and i’m all alone again."
"You have nothing to offer me. Step aside."
"I spent a lot of hours being taught not to listen to every voice I hear.” She shrugged, “I s’pose you’re right. Papa didn’t get too busy, though. I think he got scared so he sent me away to live with my foster parents. They’re alright - gave me food and stuff, but they got another kid now, so I just do m’own thing, I guess.”
"You’re half human! He told me, but I forgot." She pet at his fur - she was so gentle, so careful. "Who did you lose? If you don’t mind me asking?"
"I always knew that if would happen one day. When we got to this world I mean, but it still hurts. Watching yourself slowly be pushed aside for someone new."
If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear the tiger’s eyes went glassy. “The only person who ever saw me for who I really am. He was my boyfriend.. kinda. When he had the time, yanno? He said if I loved him to love again, but I couldn’t. Some people you just don’t forget. Everyone liked him.”