Come Love A Stranger


“Stop, don’t come any closer,” Mariah said, her voice was trembling, her body shivering as she backed away, feeling her back on the tree only made her more afraid and she gulped, her eyes never leaving the creature that was lurking on her like she was its prey. “Please, don’t hurt me, I’m begging you.”

She looked around her, wanting to know if she could find help or something to defend herself with, but what could she possibly use and who could possible save her? She is in the middle of the forest, she knew she shouldn’t have gone so far, her mother always warned her not to but she never listened; now here is the price she has to pay for her stubbornness, to become dinner to a dangerous looking black panther.

Wings flattering as birds leaped up into the air distracted both her and her predator but she recovered soon enough and decided to make a run for it. She grabbed onto the hem of her dress, cursing and wishing that it could be shorter, but no one would sow a short dress for a lady. Well, she is no longer a lady, but who would sow for her still? She blanked her mind from her life lamentations and decided to survive the night first.

She could hear the crunching of dried leaves behind her and she knew the panther was giving her a hot pursuit, how would she ever outrun a panther? But even though she knew the obvious, she wasn’t ready to die without a fight. She kept running, her hands holding onto the hem of her gown to give her more space. Her foot slipped and she tumbled down a slope, getting up, she didn’t bother about the leaves in her hair nor the aching on her ankle, she limped, trying to go faster but a shadow looming over her and landing in front her made her stop and gasped.

Her heart was thudding loud in her chest, her breathing came out in shallow pants, she backed away softly, her eyes met the ones of the panther, it was strange yet enticing, it was a mixture of black and gold, with the black in centre and the gold surrounding it, giving it a shimmering glow in the dead of the night. The eyes looked so familiar but she couldn’t remember how. She picked up a log of wood in front of her and pointed at the creature, her breathing still in pants, “stay back or…or I will hurt you.”

The panther stood, staring at her, its eyes revealing great intelligence, it stared at her as if telling her ‘do not lie to yourself, that little twig will do not a harm on me’. Reading that in its eyes only made her tremble more. It raised a paw and took a step closer.

Mariah stepped backed and winced softly when her ankle hurts, “stay back,” she shouted with a voice covered but in pain, anger and fear. The moon’s light shined brighter and something reflected like silver at the back of the panther, Mariah looked closer and it was only then that she noticed that it wasn’t all black, there was a white line, whiter than the moon that stretched from its head down to its tail. She was surprised, she have never heard of a panther having such fur color. The movement from the animal woke her up from her pondering and she backed away again, raising the stick higher as if to threaten it more.

The animal growled, the sound sent shivers down Mariah’s back and she almost dropped her stick in fear, the animal approached her softly, her heart was beating so loud like it would fall out of her chest. She backed away once more, already imagining the peasant burial her parents would have for her, that is if they would find her body. Realizing that there was no escape from the animal, she dropped her stick and stared deep into its eyes, it stopped moving; watching her as well, wondering what she would do next.

Seeing the determination in its glowing eyes, Mariah gave up all hope and when the animal launched, she closed her eyes, waiting for the pain that would come from its sharp teeth but she waited and nothing happened. She opened her eyes and realized that she was alone in the forest; she looked around in fear, wanting to know if it wants to attack from behind but there was nothing, she was really alone. Wait, she survived the night? A distant howling reminded her of the still danger in the forest and she started running, ignoring the pain in her ankle.

When she saw their house, a feeling of relief washed over her and she increased her pace. Right in front of the house, she stopped to catch her breath; her mother mustn’t know that she was deep in the forest neither was she almost eating by a strange colored panther. She dust off the leaves in her hair and went in, her mother was the first person she saw when she got in, “good evening, mother,” she greeted, rushing to get to her room.

“Mariah, where have you been? Your father and I have been worried sick about you,” Lydia said, her voice showing her relief to see her alive and well.

“I’m fine, mother. I was out walking and I forgot the time,” she answered.

“Do not do that again, after dinner, you are to go to your room, this forest is full of dangerous creatures, I wouldn’t want anything happening to you.”

“I know, mother, and I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother? He is always in the house, never walking around and he is the man,” Lydia bellowed.

Mariah sighed, “I am sorry, mother, I will try to be like Roderick more,” she said and left for her room, not ready to listen to her mother’s ranting again, although also deciding within herself to heed her advice this time, she might not always be lucky like tonight. When she got to her room, she took off her dress and looked at ankle, it was a little swollen and she massaged it with her hand, praying that it would be better by morning so that her mother wouldn’t notice it.

Goodness Shadrach

Edited: 04.06.2021

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