When Leondra went to visit her sister, she had to stop in a town halfway there. The hotel room was small and bare, but warm. Most importantly, it had a phone. Leondra had begun to understand the desire for one of those mobile phones, where she didn’t have to wait for moments like this to get in contact with anyone.
“You going to be here tomorrow?”
Leondra considered the old fashioned curling cord that attached the phone to the cradle. “Probably by noon. The train stops by at eight and takes about that long.”
“Then I guess we’ll start with lunch! It’s been so long, Leo~”
It had been so long. Leondra couldn’t help but smile. “It won’t be much longer.”
With the little they still shared in common, Leondra couldn’t wait to spend the week with her big sister.
Leondra paused, because she didn’t know what this had to do with her sister, other than in keeping her involved with Leondra’s life despite the distance between them. “That… I don’t understand.”
“It’s not that I’m not happy with what I’m doing. It’s just… I didn’t realize you’d be happy doing that. Because of… well, the lack of beast. Is this what you want, sis? I have to know. Is this what you want, or are you doing this because everyone would call the rest of us a hunter without us having to do anything?”
Leondra did not respond.
“You never seemed to mind much. I didn’t think it bothered you, at least, not since you were really little. Please, sis. I need to know that this isn’t because of that.”
Leondra had no idea when the rest of the world had gotten so obsessed with the division between those who were and those who were not. “Not everything is about having the blood of a beast,” she told her sister, meaning every word of it.
It might have inspired her, but she was not reaching for unattainable heights. She was reaching for what she was.
“You’re a hunter now?”
Her sister sounded so surprised. Leondra shifted the phone in her hand. “I’ve told you all about it for months. Why are you surprised now?”
“Well… I don’t know. It’s not that I didn’t think you were serious. I knew you’d keep up with it. I… guess I didn’t realize that it would be what you did. Understand?”
“No.” Because as far as Leondra could glisten, her sister hadn’t believed it of her. What had she said that wouldn’t have made her understand this sooner? “What’s so hard to understand about what I said? I’ve been using the gun for years. Turning into my profession for the last couple. Finally working it out these last several months. Why are you surprised?”
“Because I’m not.”
There was a moment that hunting became the most important part of her.
Leondra didn’t know when it had happened. When watching and waiting became as easy as breathing. When taking an animal down in one shot became what she expected when she pulled the trigger, rather than what she hoped. When dressing the carcass didn’t cause her any hesitation.
When she ate well on her own, well enough to then help other people eat well. To afford the place she was staying in.
Hunting was important to her family, her family that all had the beast inside of them, telling them to be a predator.
Yet Leondra was the only one. She was the huntress.
It all seemed a bit mundane after a weekend in the wood. After the haggling with the butcher shops, with the tanners, with all that would buy what she didn’t use. Leondra picked up a fruit she didn’t recognize. She thought she did, until she realized it certainly wasn’t a coconut. “What’s this?”
She looked up at the woman, who eyed her lazily from over the counter. “You realize that if I have no idea what the fruit is or the word you say, that doesn’t help me determine whether I want to buy it?”
The woman shrugged with a lazy smile. “It tastes like chocolate, if that helps. The pulp, anyway. Don’t eat the outside.”
Leondra wasn’t a huge fan of chocolate, but she had to admit to some curiosity. “Maybe another time.”
“Rare. We have them in now, but when they sell out, they’ll be a while in coming back.”
Leondra looked at the woman again. “I’m not certain whether you’re really trying to sell me on this or not.”
The woman continued to smile at her, without effort. “Hey, I can’t control what you want to eat, just telling you what you want to know.”
Leondra didn’t buy the cupuacu. She did, however, return to that shop the next time she went looking for something other than meat to eat.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t already eaten. Leondra shouldn’t have been hungry yet. As she focused through her sights at her target, her stomach began to tell her that she was hungry again.
The doe was so alive right now. Feasting without worry. No alarm showing on any part of her form. Leondra was ready to pull the trigger when she noticed other movement.
A fawn. This wasn’t the season. For the fawn to be that young… the doe must have delivered late.
Leondra’s stomach protested, but she lowered her gun. Time to find another target.
Leondra took in a breath. “This isn’t a storefront shelf. You needed a working cart.”
“I need something I can rely on. This’ll do me for now, but not for long. So this is what you get.”
She settled the money back in his hands and lifted the handles of her old cart. “Well, if it’s not good enough, I can still make use of it. You save that money to spend on a better looking cart.”
The bluff was aptly made. The man threw his hands up in the air. “Wait wait wait! All right, Leondra. You win. Here’s what we agreed upon.” He reached into his apron for the rest of his funds. Leondra watched as he did count out the rest of what he’d promised. “If this don’t last me a month, there’ll be retribution, mark my words.”
“If it doesn’t last a month, show me the wreckage and I’ll give you your money back.”
Came back a little strong with that one. Leondra could hear her sister groan. But as she put down the cart and had the money in hand, Leondra didn’t care. She was certain. She would have relied on this cart for another six month, at least. One would be easy.
Leondra was honest. She never would expect someone to renege on a promise.
Leondra glowered. “This isn’t what we agreed on.”
“This isn’t what I expected to pay for.” The market owner gestured at the cart she had pushed up the hill.
“I said it wasn’t pretty, but perfectly serviceable.”
She remembered her sister’s words. Showing a loss of temper never helped. Baring one’s teeth never helped, though Leondra lacked the same meat tearing canines. Leondra was the only one in her family who hadn’t manifested any of the beast. Baring teeth was still habit.
“Serviceable or not right now, it looks ‘bout ready to fall apart.”
“But it isn’t.” Don’t make a comment about his story. Don’t make a comment about his own appearances. Not helpful.
Either convince him, or bluff. Leondra took in a breath.
Leondra started her reps as she did every morning.
The process was one her sister had made her start when she was twelve. At the time, Leondra was simply copying her, because that was what she did back then. It was a phase that took her a few years to escape, but fortunately her sister had several habits during this time which were very good for a young girl to develop.
She would stretch every muscle in the same order. Then she would hit the floor. Push-ups were very important. Keeping the back straight, fists to the floor, full extension of the arm. Her arms were very important, her wrists as well. Leondra couldn’t afford for fatigue there when she was holding a gun still for a long time.
Up, then down, then up again. Leondra kept her mind clear during this time. It was almost too important, to start her day like this when she was at home. A part of her routine.
Kept her close to her sister, so far away.
She moved on from the push-ups and through the rest of the exercises. Then she would call her sister, to remind her to keep up with it.
While Leondra’s mother and sister were lions, her father was not. The blood which coursed through him carried feline characteristics, yes, but it was a different cat. As he continued to be quite proud of his eldest daughter and his wife, Leondra was older before she even wondered what beast her father carried.
The beast was strong in him, much like it was for everyone else in the family.
However, while the other two would enter the pride, take stock of their social behavior, Leondra noted her father’s solitary nature.
These were the aspects she took into her own hunting. Fahana may have taught her, but the moment she could take it on herself, she did.
Then she wondered what it would be like to have a pride. Leondra shook that thought away. A hunting partner. A small party. Surely she could make more out of this. Do better.
Leondra kept that in mind.