Living With Leo

Submitted into Contest #78 in response to: Write about someone who keeps an unusual animal as a pet.... view prompt

23 comments

Contemporary Fiction

A bloodcurdling roar wakes me up from my brief nap, and I almost fall off the bed.

Leo looks back at me, his brown-furred face framed by a thick mane, which I noticed was in dire need of a trim. He is as majestic as ever, his teeth in full view, threatening to almost eat me whole.

Almost.

I get up, cursing myself for thinking that I would ever get a break, and go to the kitchen, feeling Leo walking behind me with interest, knocking down one thing or another in the process.

He really is growing quite big.

I go into the fridge, and take out a raw slab of meat, making a mental note to buy some more for the rest of the family’s consumption, preferably after cooking it, and throw the piece at Leo.

I thought the slab was quite huge, let’s be honest. But Leo gobbles it up as though it is nothing but a pre-meal snack to him. But he seems satisfied with it, and walks to another part of the house, grunting and panting all the way.

Resting my elbows on the kitchen counter, I place my head in it, completely exhausted. Raising two human kids and one lion does take a toll on you.

At least I only had the lion to worry about now.

“Daddy, daddy!”

“We’re home!”

I stand corrected.

The kids come in, Leo following them, looking almost predatory. I shook off the feeling. Leo was my child just as much as Hugo and Fiona, and my children would never eat each other.

Still, for my own assurance, I pick up my kids, one in each arm, and hug them, spinning around and around.

“Daddy put us down!” yells Fiona, scared out of her life.

Hugo just giggles, calling Fiona one of those weird names that I never seem to understand.

Putting them down, I ask them how school was while Hugo helps Fiona climb on to Leo’s back, trying to ride him like some kind of deranged horse.

Leo seems to like it though and walks around with her on his back, enjoying himself.

Hugo follows them, trying to get on the lion by himself.

I go over and pick him up, placing him behind Fiona. He smiles back at me in gratitude.

Sitting on the couch, I just watch them, taking pictures every now and again. Leo roars, shaking the whole house. The kids first scream, and then giggle when they realize that he might be a ferocious carnivore in the jungle, but with them, he was just family.

I laugh with them, but my laughter is suddenly cut off when I see a few drops of blood on his mane. I walk towards Leo, trying to get a closer look when the doorbell rings.

I open the door and Patricia walks by me, without even a word of greeting.

“Good afternoon to you too then.”

She just waves her hand in dismissal, entering the living room with no hesitation.

“Hugo, Fiona, Leo,” she says, nodding at each of them.

I roll my eyes, knowing that she was using the silent treatment on me.

“Look, I’m sorry Patricia, I’m sorry I stood you up last night. I just had a lot on my mind,” I say, hoping that she forgives me and moves on.

My next-door neighbour turns around to face me, and for the first time in my life, I’m stumped. Tears are streaming down her face.

“Have you seen Fluffles? She’s been missing since yesterday afternoon,” she says, and I’m stumped again, her words on a completely different topic than I had expected.

“No, I haven’t, what about you two?” I ask, and the kids shake their heads, looking worried.

Fluffles was Patricia’s cat, a ridiculous name if you ask me, but everyone had grown quite attached to her, including me.

“We’ll help you look for her, won’t we Daddy?” Fiona says, looking at me hopefully.

I nod curtly, assigning each person with a place to look for, while I head to Patricia’s backyard, having spent many nights there. She follows me, always at a distance.

I curse myself, having ruined the only relationship I’d ever had after Clarissa, the only one which I was sure of after her death, the only one that the kids had supported even though their mother was gone.

We had been in an on and off relationship for the past few years, and I guess this is one of those off periods.

We reach the backyard, and without uttering a word, she goes to one side and I go to the other, beckoning Fluffles and turning over every bush we can find.

Suddenly I heard a bone-chilling scream from my own backyard.

We run, fearing the worst.

Fiona and Hugo stand there in shock, while Leo stands a few steps behind them, looking almost embarrassed of himself.

I push past the kids and am immediately hit by the smell.

The smell of death.

Patricia is on her knees, crying and touching the mangled mess, not caring about the blood.

I look away and stare at Leo, those drops of blood I had noticed on his mane a few minutes earlier sparkling in the sunlight.

I knew this day would come.

“I’m sorry honey, I’m sorry I let you down,” I say, looking up at Clarissa, trying to find her between the clouds.

She doesn’t reply back, but I know that she heard. I can only hope she forgives me.

Clarissa had adopted Leo when he had been a little cub, when he had been completely harmless. She had fallen in love with him when we had gone to the zoo, and had taken him in, not heeding the protests of the manager.

She had read every online article about lions and had learnt to do it all, from the cleaning to bathing to hunting. She had allowed her children to play with a lion, instead of the conventional dog. She had trusted him enough, and he had maintained that trust.

This was my fault; I had let him out of my sight too often. I had taken it for granted and forgotten his true nature. He was a predator, a carnivore, an animal.

I needed to do what I should have done a long time ago.

Calling up the zoo, I ask them to bring in people to take Leo back to his habitat.

Ignoring the children’s protests, I ask them to say their final goodbyes, telling them that I needed to get documents from the house.

As I close the door, I start sobbing.

Leaning on the frame, I can’t believe I’m letting Leo go. Memories flash in front of my eyes, of carrying him home on my lap, afraid to even touch him.

Learning how to bathe him, flinching every time he opened his mouth.

Feeding him meat, not able to stomach the blood gathering at his lips.

Letting him lick my children during their birth, still not able to trust that he would spare them.

Letting him lick my tears away when Clarissa got sick.

Staying with me all night whenever I couldn’t sleep.

How could I possibly let him go? He was a son to me just as much as Hugo was.

But he doesn’t belong here.

On her deathbed, Clarissa had said, “If you love someone, let them go.”

She wasn’t only talking about letting her go. She had always known that the time would come, when Leo became who he really was, when he became who he was meant to be. She wouldn’t have wanted me to torture him by keeping him here.

I wipe my tears off and take the required documents from the dresser.

Going outside, I see the children and Patricia hugging Leo while he just sits there, confused.

The truck honks, announcing its arrival.

I go over to the officials, and hand over the documents. They ask me to sign some papers. I put my signature on each one, my tears blurring my vision.

My heart thuds harder, and my chest begins to hurt when I sign the last paper.

I go to Leo and hug him, whispering apologies into his year. He whimpers back, now realizing that he wasn’t coming back. He licks my face, and I smile through my tears.

As the officials take him away, we stand there, my left hand around Patricia, and my right hand around the kids.

I wipe off a tear, and try to smile, happy that he’s going to where he belongs, happy that I sent him home, happy that I finally realized that he needed his own kind.

January 24, 2021 15:42

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23 comments

15:55 Feb 08, 2021

Honestly idea isn't a new one but the way you wrote it is indescribable, and I almost cried.

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Writer Maniac
16:04 Feb 08, 2021

Thank you so much, that's such a high compliment! I would recommend 'Not Worth It', 'An Unfortunate Series of Events' and 'Paper and Ink' if you want to read more of my stories, you can also check out my bio for other stories I'm proud of :) Would appreciate your feedback!

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16:54 Feb 08, 2021

Sure

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Cookie Carla🍪
16:48 Feb 03, 2021

I updated my bio!!!

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Y. Y
06:46 Feb 02, 2021

Wow...

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Writer Maniac
07:01 Feb 02, 2021

Thanks!

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Radhika Diksha
15:20 Jan 29, 2021

Amazing. New ideas, new writing style. I loved the way you described the relationship between Leo and the family. Even I got emotional at the end. i would love to read a pure romance from you sometime. Keep writing.

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Radhika Diksha
06:52 Apr 08, 2021

Can you tell me any problem with this comment.

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Writer Maniac
15:26 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you so much, I appreciate it! If you want to read romance specifically, I would recommend My One, Bitter Fate, A Good Day and Unexpected Love, to name a few :D

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Radhika Diksha
15:26 Jan 29, 2021

Thanks for the suggestion.

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Cookie Carla🍪
17:06 Jan 26, 2021

Three new stories!! Can you go check them out when you get a chance?

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Writer Maniac
17:11 Jan 26, 2021

I'll be sure to do that when I get the time! What did you think of this one (Living with Leo)?

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Cookie Carla🍪
19:02 Jan 26, 2021

Oh wow! You went with a lion! I went kind of smaller than that in my story but my instinct went straight to an elephant. You took me on an emotional rollercoaster with this story. I really like how you transitioned to the Fluffles fiasco. It was very inventive of you. Great job!!

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Writer Maniac
02:22 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you so much, I'm glad you liked it!

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Cookie Carla🍪
14:11 Jan 27, 2021

:DDDD

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Maya
00:01 Jan 26, 2021

This was a really interesting way to use the prompt! The backstory you gave as to why they had Leo really added to the plot, and his relationship with the lion was shown well. You did a great job of making the ending sad with a sense of finality, showing that them having a lion as a pet was never meant to last forever. Amazing job, Mania! :D

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Writer Maniac
02:08 Jan 26, 2021

Thank you so much, I'm glad you liked it! I would love some feedback on 'Paper and Ink', one of my latest stories :)

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Maya
02:12 Jan 26, 2021

Of course! :D Sure, I'll read it as soon as I get the chance! :)

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Writer Maniac
02:27 Jan 26, 2021

Thank you :)

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13:25 Jan 25, 2021

This was definitely a weird/ hard prompt, but I think you really kept the emotion up. Of course, there should've been a little more about why a lion was there, but I blame the prompt for that. I'd never be able to do this one.

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Writer Maniac
13:30 Jan 25, 2021

Thank you so much, I appreciate it! I did mention that Clarissa had adopted the cub when he was little so I could add a bit more backstory to make that more clear :)

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13:34 Jan 25, 2021

I mean, it's already a great story. I just have trouble with prompts like this (cue PTSD flashback from fourth grade writing day).

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Writer Maniac
13:39 Jan 25, 2021

😂😂Love your dry wit, always makes my day

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