Tiger Lily, by CG
Outside the cast iron fence of the Grand Manor, she closed her blue eyes. Beneath the twilight, she rested from the five-hour drive. In a while, dawn would come. She had to focus on the plan. She prayed. She tried to relax behind her older boyfriend’s Cayman GT4 Porsche wheel. If she could only recall one of the numbers to his safe, then the rest of the seven numbers would emerge from her memory. She had driven straight from Salem, Oregon, into Vancouver, British Columbia.
The last mystic lights of the worn day had blown out. And she had somehow found the mysterious private road attached to the main property.
The journey she had cut about an hour. Her destination was timely. The blessing came from riding the Cayman at an average speed of one hundred and twenty miles an hour. The sensitive headlamp sensor came on, fortunately, at an irregular fork. She had slowed to a stop and decided to go off the old highway down the road that seemed less dark. She chose to turn right and was ready for any misfortune. She had a gun buried in the console compartment.
It was early summer, and the nights were short, possessing the season’s magic. After several minutes the road narrowed, then became slightly alight by the abundant crimson blossoms of spaced azalea trees. The route then sharply curved the edges filled with the white trunks of well-loved trees. The long unreachable lens of the horizon was sprinkled with the stars of the milky way.
The sky remained with shades of light and darkness. She parked her car off to the right side of where the paved road had dead-ended. Hours passed. She opened her eyes. Enclosed by the flaming orange pigment of the Cayman resembled the Tiger Lily’s stunning petals.
The roof, side doors, hood, and trunk had the same extravagance. While the car’s front and rear bumper were brownish yellow, resembling the Tiger Lily’s great spots.
And the grill trim and tire rims were painted gold. The whimsical lashes of the Tiger Lily.
She sat with her slim legs bent over the manual shifter and her tiny feet planted on the leather seat beside her.
Underneath the sky, she dreamed. She was home at her father’s estate. She was sitting near the giant fountain. A splendorous silver vase with dolphins escaping its trumpet of waves into the pool that imitated the ocean line. Outrageous, yet majestic, the tides lapping in front of her. A pod of blinded dolphins, unaware of the moving killer whales that hunted secretly like ancient crocodiles.
She awoke. Several hours had gone and delivered the dawn. The fiery glow of the sun amazed her differently than before. She was vulnerable even in the power of Cayman. She stepped out of the Porsche. And walked on the gravel path to the gate of the manor. The flower beds dazzled with spirals of yellow daffodils. The various sections of flowers divided the full bird baths.
She smelled the ivory-weaved baskets of Verbania hanging on the ornamental Victorian crowns of the tall windows. Behind the fence and closed gate, she gazed at the sewn rolls of grass that vanished into the obscurity of the distant patio and pool.
It was a captivating Grand Manor.
She had not come to confirm the rumors of its splendor. She had to get proof of all her husband’s hidden assets. She still could not recall the first number to the safe. She had to punish him. He would not receive any more of her family’s money. No alimony.
Near the statue of a Pegasus were three Dogo Argentinos, gleaming like a stack of mini snow caps underneath the canopy of Japanese maples. She realized she had left her gun in the Cayman’s console. She turned and stumbled over a large rock in her panic. The dogs were up as if they heard a whistle to hunt. They bounded toward her. Instinct kept her still, staring coldly like the figurative warrior she was, who had survived many battles.
The sovereign killer dogs defended the threat to their territory. All three jumped at the fence, barking and snarling loudly. The cast iron gate was her security. She would not be attacked.
She had come to find her way into the Grand Manor. Uninvited. She was almost out of time. The court was ready for the final action of the lawyers. The judgment of alimony would be set. She could not allow it. After all the abuse, he made her bare. The torture she endured.
She learned not to listen to the cries for forgiveness. She left after he sliced her right earlobe with a hotel room keycard.
The dogs seemed to be at least three years old. The length of their spines and pointed teeth revealed that. The oversized paws assured her. They balanced their jumps until they came to the height of the cast iron fence. They could jump it. Fear made her tremble on the grass in the morning breeze.
Tongues hanging out like ivory window baskets. Dripping not with the sweet scent but bloody droll from their tongues getting snagged in closing snarls. The tips of their ears folded back. They could hear her breath.
In the excitement, the giant dog drew back. He settled as if tired, a weird position that had scraped the grass and exposed the soil. It tilted its head, the hindquarters inching forward. If was calculating. She did not know, but weirdly his excitement calmed.
The birds of the courtyard dived from the branches of the Japanese maples. They flew off and landed on the fringes of the bird baths. The red rhododendrons shivered from the aggressive hummingbirds feeding on the trusses of blues, reds, and white blossoms. The tiny ghosts of summer.
She thought about the absurd alimony he had asked for. It was not what brought her to find his hiding place. If it had only been that. He had taken away her dad’s pride in her.
And sent her boyfriend a video message with a fake image of her cheating on him. Her boyfriend now doubted her. He looked at her now like her father looked at her, with the hurt of betrayal.
It was cloudless, but she felt the cold anyway. The dog continued to oddly rub against the lawn. Was it sick? Some type of parasite? It slowly walked toward her and sniffed her in her heavy breaths. He howled, followed by a whine.
The whine of glee. He came straight between the two dogs and then turned protectively. His body shielded hers. The bars seemed to disappear between them.
She stared at the black mark around its left eye and then remembered that the black spot that encircled its eye was like a clover print. The puppy she had once met and picked up in the outside market in Spain on her honeymoon. It licked her nose and kissed its forehead as she held it and padded its round stomach. She kissed its forehead and returned it to the old man. Not for sale, he said in Spanish.
The other two dogs immediately ceased growling. They back away for the dominant male. Alluring the butterflies as they floated in with the morning breeze. They swarmed the planter of gladiolus at the front door of the manor. The pathway lights turned off.
Her husband opened the door. She turned around and found her tiger lily still parked.
“Why, why did you come?” he heaved a sigh. “You must go, Berniece.”
“Ron, the Porsche, it’s my boyfriend’s. We’re still together,” She yelled.
“What do you want.”
“I want to meditate. Without our lawyers.”
Ron laughed, walking closer to the dogs.
“My thoroughbreds in exchange for the dogs and a reduction of alimony, of course.”
“Your treasured thoroughbreds.”
“Yes, I want it over,” She said, grasping her keys to the Cayman. “Invite me in, and we will talk.”
“These dogs, I’ll give you free, their cowards anyway. Not worth the fresh food I feed’em.” He kicked the dominant dog hard.
Son-of-a-bitch. She remembered the first number to the safe. “Fine, I’ll have somebody pick up the dogs. They’re mine, right?’
“Yes,” He walked to the gate. “Come inside, honey.”
You bastard. The dogs, thoroughbreds, and this manor are mine, Berniece thought.
She came back to her Cayman, but not alone. She opened the door and climbed on the passenger seat, and sat. The other two dogs were on a flight home to their father’s house.
She made a U-turn back onto the paved road. In the rearview, the cast iron gate had caught his foot. The dog licked her hand as she shifted into gear. She opened up the full power of the Porsche.
She could still smell the Verbania. Sweet like tiger lilies.