Chapter 46 - Lions
Everyone sat around the table. Saraiya finished up her ice cream and walked over to the garbage can. She passed by the other stalls, peeking into the insides to see if she recognized anyone.
At the zoo it was normal for everyone to have to work the food stands every so often. It wasn’t a permanent position, it was one that most people didn’t like to do, so they would swap every few hours.
The best position for the food stands wasn’t even dealing with food for people. A worker would fill a bag with healthy snacks for the animals and place them on the window ledge at the entrance of the zoo. People would come by and take them to feed the animals. Of course, you couldn’t feed every animal with that food though.
Saraiya wondered how the girl at the ice cream cube stand seemed to know Grant. He didn’t seem to want to talk to her, perhaps they had a rocky past with one another. She mentioned a day coming up, but Saraiya hadn’t heard anything from Grant about events going on, unless she was talking about the concert.
After throwing away her trash she walked back to her seat, pushing past plants that grew aggressively and swayed over into the walkways.
“Hey, mind if we go check out the lions next?” Saraiya asked.
No one denied her request, except Linn, who still wanted to see the penguins, but after promising they could see the penguins after the lions, she agreed. After pushing the penguins out of her mind, Linn pestered Kale about what he would talk to the lions about, where he gave vague answers while smiling.
They made their way through the jungle of a zoo and passed by a cardboard stand with circles cut out for placing your face in. Linn made the group stop for photos. Everyone partook in the photo besides Kale and Grant, who sat on a bench and waited. Those two seem to be getting along really well lately, Saraiya thought as she stuck her face into a hole, becoming a snake.
The photo board was a three headed snake that had a hole on each head of the snake, plus a hole at the end of the snake’s tail. Rhett ended up being the tail.
After laughing at the ridiculous picture, the group made their way past a boarding area for a train that toured the zoo. Linn stopped and begged for them to ride, but her plea was rejected.
The lion habitat was coming into view, and to Saraiya’s surprise, Kale picked his pace up to a light jog and passed ahead of everyone, rushing to the lions. Giant glass panels surrounded a massive grassland enclosure and Saraiya caught up to Kale. She placed her head inches from the man made habitat.
There were four lions inside along with three cubs. The zoo didn’t have any white lions like the one she saw though. She compared the size of the adult lions to the one in her memories, and once again they didn’t even come close to the size she saw in that forest. Regardless, she took out her notepad and flipped to the next empty page.
“What are you going to write about Saraiya?” Kale asked.
“I’m just going to take notes on how this scene looks first, then focus on their behaviors a little.”
“Oh, tell me when you are done writing about the scenery. I think I can get them up and moving.”
“Uhh, suuure,” Saraiya said, confused.
Kale had his eyes fixated on the lions, and the expression shown on his eyes couldn’t be discerned. The rest of the group surrounded them, also looking out into the field.
Saraiya jotted down the details of the habitat. It had been awhile since she had seen it, and they actually had changed quite a bit about the exhibit. It was much bigger than when she worked there. She was happy the renovations seemed to give the animals a more comfortable life.
“You guys ready for a trick?” Kale said, looking over everyone else.
“What do you mean?” Grant answered for everyone’s confused faces.
“Watch.” Kale took a deep breath and climbed the barrier so his head was above the glass. The group snickered at Kale, telling him to get down, but he didn’t listen. Instead, an odd noise came from Kale’s mouth, as if intimidating the lions.
“Kale! Get down!” Saraiya pleaded. She knew all too well how easy it was to get kicked out of this place.
Kale jumped down. “It’s okay guys. Just watch.”
Within five seconds all the lions turned their heads towards the group and began trotting up to the glass barrier.
“Wow! Are they coming to see us!” Linn shouted.
No way. Every single lion in the exhibit was coming to them.
“You really can talk to animals!” Linn placed her hand on the glass as Kale winked at her.
In the past, Saraiya always heard stories of coworkers having trouble with the lions’ attitudes and had to take extra care when even dealing with them. But now, as she looked forward through the glass, they appeared as loving to Kale as the cats of Lyros were. All the large cats rubbed their heads against the glass as if asking for a head scratch.
Linn rubbed her hand against the glass while laughing, and everyone else just stood speechless. Bystanders even stopped to watch such a rare sight. It had to be a coincidence this was happening, what other reason would there be?
“I’m going to do one more thing.” Kale’s eyes grinned.
Saraiya didn’t even try to stop him this time as Kale climbed the barrier once more. He constantly checked the surroundings making sure no workers were around. The lions now stood on two legs with their front legs pressed against the barrier trying to get closer to Kale. He reached his hand over the glass and patted each one of the fully grown lions’ heads, and they showed affection in return.
“What…?” Natch gasped. “Kale! Be careful!”
“There’s no need to be,” Kale made another odd noise and hopped back down. The lions then scattered back into their habitat.
Saraiya’s hands were shaking as she tried to scribble out notes. That could have ended in disaster, why was he so confident. He acted as if they were just the normal cats in Lyros.
She had never seen anything like it before. The lions themselves seemed tamed and aware that Kale would pose no threat. They treated him as if they had always known him, as if he too were a lion.
“Kale… Where did you learn to do that?” Rhett asked.
“Not sure, lions have just always liked me.”
“Wait, if you’re that good with lions, why is Ambri so afraid of them coming into the village?” Grant asked.
That was true, although it couldn’t be expected all lions would respond to Kale like that. It could just be a fluke with these somewhat domesticated lions. In that moment Saraiya remembered the white lion seeming to protect her, looking tame. Was it really just a fluke?
Kale stood in silence for a moment, then spoke, “It’s a secret. Don’t mention this to Ambri though. Please.”
Everyone nodded. It was a vague answer, even mysterious, but they knew better than to prod any further. For once, everyone seemed to be getting closer to Kale, and overall he really was a good person, just a bit strange. On top of that, no one wanted to do anything that would sour Ambri’s mood, so it wasn’t that grand of a request in the first place.
So did Kale not tell Ambri about the white lion? Saraiya didn’t think Kale was able to keep a secret from her. They always seemed to be around each other. Why did he have to be so elusive?
“Man… There are so many things I want to know about you Kale,” Rhett said under his breath.
“Oh yeah?” Kale’s eyes smirked. “I promise I will tell you everything someday.”
What does that even mean? Is there really some grand thing about Kale?
“All right man. I’ll hold you to that.” Rhett shook his head while smiling.
“Well, shall we move on to the penguins?” Kale asked.