Author Note: Y’know what’s ironic? In TLK 2, Zira—the lioness who’d gut her own organs and lay them out on a silver platter if it made Scar happy—punishes Kovu, because he “Killed his own brother!!” However, did not Scar commit the same crime? Ergo, what’s she so flamed up about? Fangirls, sheesh.
I manage to dodge Father yet again as I snuck out early that morning to make my way to the Elephant Graveyard. Hopefully the monorail would still be running; to my fortuity it was. I take a seat near the window and observe the pre-dawn atmosphere: the fog is thick and dew coats the outside of my window, each time I breathe condensates more fog. I’m one of the very few passengers on here, counting me there’s only four or five people on board.
I start to have second thoughts as I get off at the stop, not about coming, but about coming at the hour. Shenzi, or any hyena for that matter, never struck me as an early-riser. Yet to my amazement the first thing I see when I enter the proximity of the graveyard is her…pounding her fists into the rock surface. She is literally pummeling a hole into the large stone-covered ground between the border of my land and hers.
She narrows her eyes, clasps her hands together in a solid fist, raises it above her head and grunts as her knuckles destroy that concrete, cement pieces flying everywhere. Her two individual fists break into it further, before she finally gets to the long-isolated earth. She picks out the broken pieces of cement and carelessly throws them over her shoulder, before repeating the process to widen the hole. This time she grunts as her elbow breaks through.
My eyes widen: I forgot how scary she can be. It’d be a lie to say I’m not a bit reluctant to approach her, maybe I should’ve brought food to help lower enmity. I soon find out there’s no going back when I see her glance upward to wipe her brow and then unexpectedly see me. The minute our gazes meet however, she narrows her eyes and shirks her gaze away. She forsakes the concrete and gets up, then starts to walk off. I calmly go after her. “Shenzi,”
She hears me, but doesn’t stop, if anything she deliberately starts leading me through turns and alleyways just to shake me off. Good thing I’m not easily eluded. I call out to her. “Shenzi!” She picks up the pace and then swerves to the right. I groan in frustration and am about to go after her…until I realize something: I know that alleyway she took. At least, I knew it back when it was just an entanglement of bones and debris, but anyway that turn would take one to a clearing that could be easily turned into a dead-end; one would have to simply shove a ribcage in front of the trench-like outlet.
I go back, hoping I can beat her there before its too late; there’s another pathway leading to that area and I take it. Before long I arrive at the clearing that’s now been turned into a slight extent in width of the alleyway, and the trench is the same width as the entrance to this place, and the ribcage is now a tall gate with a chain dangling by its dead bolt. I don’t have any key but I improvise; I don’t need to lock her up, just make her listen.
I close the gate and entangle the chain between the wires, then slip to the left side of the alleyway as I hear footsteps approaching. She emerges and her eyes widen when she sees the gate. I’ve got her trapped.
I calmly walk up to her, “Shenzi?”
She turns to see me, but abruptly folds her arms, and rotates so her back is facing me. “Oh at least be a little mature.” I tell her. She mumbles a response not exactly G-rated. I gawk. “…You did not just say that.”
She turns to me, “And if I did, whadda you gonna do about it? Tell mommy on me?” She glances away again. This time I narrow my eyes. I’m about to go off on her…before I sigh, what’s the point? I came here to make up anyway.
I carefully walk up behind her, and, causing her to almost jump in surprise I wrap my arms around her from the back. “I’m sorry.” I whisper in her ear.
She’s still as a statue for a moment, before glancing at me apathetically, her eyelids lowered. “I know you are.”
I manage a smile just for the sake of keeping this bridge fire-retardant, even though I am feeling a tiny bit mad. “Still friends?”
“Depends on how long you’ll live.” She responds, looking away. I mentally sigh, this isn’t going anywhere; so I look for a change in subject.
“What were you doing at the border?” I ask. She looks at her lightly-chaffed knuckles.
“Agriculture.” She responds. “Mom says if we don’t have to starve, we shouldn’t; so when she found out we could grow food, she had me look for a suitable place to cultivate.” I let go as she turns to face me, “I couldn’t, so I made one.”
“You’re going to eat…plants?” I gawk, which makes her look away ashamedly. “But we’re carnivores.”
“…Not so much as before.” She admits, “Tell ya the truth, I tried an apple yesterday…and I liked it. Ed found some growin’ on a tree when me n’ the boys were wonderin’ around, and he climbed up an’ got some for us.”
I tilt my head in curiosity, “How’s it taste?” “Kinda crunchy, lil’ juicy, it’s kinda tart if ya eat ‘em too green; I like the red ones.”
“What’s your mother wanting to grow?”
“Anything.” She answers. “We’re starvin’ Taka, and this is the first time we can do somethin’ about it…legally.” She adds.
“Well, trees take a long time to grow.” I tell her.
She laughs, “Yeah, apples were ruled out a long time ago.”
“Who’s your supplier?”
“You don’t know where to get any seeds, do you?”
“We’ll improvise; there’s gotta be a little greenery around somewhere.”
I shake my head. “Shenzi, look around you: fundamentally, you’re living in the same neighborhood you did before; there’s no food, no water—if there is it’s far from sanitary; your living conditions are condemnable; there’s no way vegetation could thrive deep within there from the lack of sunlight and-”
“I GET IT.” She interrupts. “But nobody else is helpin’ us!” She darts her gaze from me and burns holes into the sidewalk with it. I put my hand to my chin in thought.
“What if,” I suggest, “I bring back some seeds for you? I’ll even throw in a few sprouts.”
Her gaze moves upward and she cocks an eyebrow at me. “You’re serious?”
“The Pridelands has more resources than it needs, one or two missing seedlings won’t hurt—I doubt it’ll even be noticed.”
She looks aside a minute, then sighs, “We’re eatin’ plants and you’re still the one feedin’ us.”
I smile, “No need to give it a second thought.” She stares up at me for an extensive moment…then much to my surprise steps forward and hugs me. I’m a little taken off guard at first, but I gradually hug her back, seems she just wants to make up too. We pull away after a while or so.
“Be back after lunch.” I promise, starting to walk away.
“Sounds good.” She replies as I take a few steps back to the alleyway. Right as I’m at the entrance though, I hear her voice.
“Oh, and Taka,” I look back and to my amazement, she’s already hopped the gate and is smiling at me from the other side. The chain is still secured. “Next time, don’t be so underestimating.”
When I returned home that afternoon—5 minutes until lunch—I walked in on something that was quite the revelation and I’d barely opened the door. I discovered that in all my years and experience with this family, I never fully suspected something of this like, though it might’ve crossed my thoughts a time or two. This was truly an eye-opener, yet at the same time, a confirmed suspicion. Bottom line: it was something I’d definitely be telling Shenzi, Banzai and Ed when I went back to the graveyard; produce seeds in hand.
I casually pushed my hands in my pockets, making my way over to the kitchen. When I pushed the door open I saw this servant girl struggling to carry a tray with two full plates on it, and another behind her had a large pitcher of water and two glasses. I smiled politely and held the door open, they smiled back in gratitude saying, “Thank you, Prince Taka”, and headed upstairs.
Lunch was surprisingly pleasant; Mother was the only one eating since Father and Mufasa were occupied with royal studies and too busy to join—explains the actions of the two servants—and Zazu was of course helping them. As a result, she and I attained some one-on-one time, which I found enjoyable.
After the meal was over (and after obtaining a few leftovers for the revisit), I made my way over to the palace nursery in the large backyard. It was mostly compiled of great shrubs with flowers that Mother found lovely, and I couldn’t find any edible plants if there were at all; I suppose a flourishing palace didn’t really have use for agriculture. I sighed; this was turning to be more difficult than I imagined. But I don’t go back on my word, so I trudged on. Eventually I found this old green house: when I say old, I’m implying ancient.
Much of the structure had been overtaken by some wild vine, and what windows could be seen behind it were either cracked or broken; shards were scattered all over the dust/dirt floor. I had to watch my step to make sure none pierced through my soles. There were stands and tables for foliage to grow on, yet no live vegetation in sight—just a lot of numerous empty cartons where plants would’ve matured. My mood disheartened, and my gaze fell to the dirt. I kicked some dust as I walked back to the rusted door.
Seems my good intentions were all in vain; I sighed, envisioning what I’d tell Shenzi when I got back. Just before I made it to the exit however, another carton caught my eye…a carton filled with dust-covered seed packets.
My eyebrows shot up, as did my hope, as I fell to my knees and pulled it out from underneath the table it’d been hidden by. I glanced at the labeling…and my chest brimmed over in delight: vegetables, fruits, heck even herbs if they felt like getting creative. Enthusiastically I shoved every packet I could find into the bag I stuffed the containers of food in, then I ran like heck towards that monorail station.
Shenzi’s never one to show emotion excessively—as a matriarch, she’s trained to remain cool and composed—but I could tell she was ecstatic when she saw what was in the bag. Her smile’s nothing more than a slight twinge of the lips, though from the way she clenched the bag to her chest and how her eyes lit up she’s evidently grateful.
We walked to that breach in the concrete alone, since Banzai and Ed were currently at his brother’s house. She sets the bag down and we start to dig. It might’ve been best if I brought some gardening tools; thankfully with planting only seeds not much unearthing has to be done, so I readily scrape into the dirt with my fingernails. The earth is hard and stale underneath the cement, perhaps I should’ve brought plant food as well. The soil comes up in thin, fragile clods; Shenzi crumbles them in her palm for the sake of easier development.
I look up to the sky; what’s strange is, this place always seems to have a gray overtone, yet not a few miles away in my kingdom, the skies are blue and clear as water. …Water…I probably should’ve brought that too. I sigh; I’ve set the blocks without a foundation. Shenzi’s seems more than happy though, at least there’s that.
She slaps her hands clean as soon as we’re done and we get to our feet. “Banzai and Ed should be comin’ to my place any minute.” She glances upward, now allowing herself to reveal a slight grin, “Still hungry enough for lunch?”
I smirk, “I might’ve saved some room.”
Banzai and Ed were happy to see food as Shenzi was about the seeds, only much more expressive. In no time they were lounging around the alley near Shenzi’s house and wolfing it down.
“So,” Shenzi begins, forking in a bite of chicken and glancing in my wake, “how come you’re gettin’ here so fast these days?” Banzai and Ed turn their gazes towards me.
“Hey, yeah.” He jumps in with a mouthful, “Usually it takes ya half a day to walk here.”
I smirk, holding the apple Shenzi gave me at my side. “Well, I don’t walk anymore.” I replied. Banzai glances down at my lower half, and crooks a brow.
“Your legs look fine to me.”
Shenzi rolls her eyes while Ed’s shoulders bob. “Not physically Einstein—he means he found some other way to get here.”
I try not to smile, as it’d only turn their conflict towards me; but the arguments that ensue between Shenzi and Banzai are usually hysterical. Not so much this time, but enough for a slight laugh. Which I try to avoid by explaining my acquired means of transportation.
“I take this thing called a monorail,” I elucidate, “sometimes it even brings me home early; Father is becoming frustrated with one less way to vent.” I smiled. Banzai smirked, probably at the thought of Dad fuming about me and not being able to do a thing about it—for once the king was powerless. It’s a thought that provides one a good feeling, I’ll admit. Ed giggled impishly for the same reason. And Shenzi…smiled at me. I can’t understand why my mental reaction is so thrilled; she’s smiled at me before, I don’t know why this time is different but…I can’t keep myself from looking at her. She looks very pretty. …Did I just call a hyena pretty?
“So he’s pretty ticked, huh?” Banzai asked in a somewhat pleased tone. Huh? Oh, yeah, the drop in dinnertime beatings. Thanks to this “monorail” thing, I actually was getting home on time if not early. Grateful to have him drag me from such thoughts—particularly since if I even did feel that way about Shenzi we’d be rivals—I was happy to answer Banzai’s question.
“Today I even caught my father preparing to give me the third-degree.” I stated.
“No kiddin’.” Shenzi replied, as if it was something new. I nodded, casually throwing the apple up and catching it.
“I found him coming into the lobby and taking a seat near the entryway. When he saw me stepping in five minutes premature, he blinked in surprise, frowned, then got up and walked away.” I nearly laughed; my friends did it for me, especially Ed (so to speak; his shoulders throbbed the hardest).
I didn’t mention that Mufasa had been following him into the foyer, consistently asking what he was doing. Apparently he’d interrupted their important monarchial seminar just to come yell at me. After he left, Mufasa seemed surprised to see me too, but instead of frowning he smiled and welcomed me home, making a joke about how it was nice I was on time “for once.”
I look at Shenzi, “I’ll remember to bring some supplies tomorrow.”
“…Huh?” She looks confused for a moment, then her face snaps up in realization. “Oh! Oh, right the seeds. Don’t worry ‘bout it. There’s broken water lines all over the place; we gotta get rid of that run-off somehow.”
“Seeds?” Banzai raises a brow out of perplexity at us. I glance at my apple for a moment and then explain the situation to him…and fail to notice Shenzi slicing her hand across her throat for me to cork it.
Too late: Banzai’s eyes immediately widen and he puts his hands up in protest. “Oh no! I know where this is goin’! And I am not gonna be scarfin’ down no freakin’ vegetables!”
“You didn’t mind those apples yestahday!” Shenzi instantly counters.
“That was different!”
“It’s FOOD rocks-for-brains!
“It’s what FOOD EATS!”
“You can’t go 5 seconds without complainin’ about your stomach, and the time you can finally stuff your face enough to shut up about it-!”
“We’re eating plants, Shenzi!”
Shenzi’s brow furrowed, “Well like it or not, we’re-!”
“DON’T SAY IT!” Banzai shouted, covering his ears. Shenzi grabs his wrists and yanks them down right as she leans in his face. “We’re OMNIVORES now.”
See? Hysterical! By the way Ed’s rolling on the ground, holding his sides, I can tell he’s enjoying this as much as I am. Banzai glowers at us. “And whadda you two laughin’ at?!”
“Oh, the usual.” I reply casually, giving him a lop-sided grin. Shenzi grins back as well, and it seems, much like before, we’re all having a moment of humor at Banzai’s quick-temper-induced expense.
“Ah shut up!” He gripes as we all start laughing. I glance up at the position of the sun; almost evening. I look over to Shenzi, who’s trying to support Ed as he calms himself down—first to laugh, last to compose. I smile back in her wake…and find myself silently hoping to see if she’ll have any reaction like I did a few moments ago. She looks up at me, making eye contact… and just grins back politely; indifferently. I mentally sigh, but keep the smile, although it melts slightly.
“I should probably get home now.” I state, scooping the empty containers in the bag with the empty, torn-open seed packets. She nods. “Ok, see ya tomorrow.” Ed waves me off happily.
Banzai and I catch each other’s gazes, and from the neutral expression I can’t tell if he’s still mad about the dispute earlier. But soon he coolly half-smirks at me and raises his hand. He and I clasp our palms together in a more grip-like version of a high-five, and I smirk back.
I wave them off and make my way back to the monorail station, and arrive home in time for dinner (much to Father’s concealed displeasure). Mother’s invited Sarabi, Sarafina and Zira to join us (probably tired of all the male-based company), and she and them are just bubbling with conversation.
Sarabi takes a seat near Mufasa, obviously, and I’m in between Sarafina and Zira. Sarafina’s chatting with Mother over how the pride’s been adapting, and Mother in response jokes about how Father must be so pleased with that.
Father pretends to listen but his gaze is down on his plate and he’s forking the entrée petulantly; I stare at him impassively—was maltreating your son really the best way you spent your time?
“Taka stop playing with your food and eat! You’re so scrawny we can see right through you!”
I suppose so. I oblige and calmly fork a bite of roast in my mouth. Dinner gets uncomfortably quiet after that, until Father sighs, “Can somebody pass the salt?”
“There’s none set out, dear.” Mother responds.
“Well someone go get some!”
“Sarafina will do it!” Zira immediately chimes in, pushing her out of her seat. Sarafina lands on her backside with a slight thud, “Oof!” She frowns at Zira while rubbing her sore spot and walks off to the pantry.
Then Zira, for some reason, scoots so close to me we’re practically touching at the hip. When I look at her face I can see it’s creepily…cheerful—she still needs to lay off the make-up. “How was your afternoon, Taka?” She asks.
“Fine.” I look away uncomfortably, hoping when I glance back she’ll have turned away…she doesn’t. I don’t really know what to say until I see the piece of gauze just barely hidden beneath a front lock of her hair—then I recall her unlucky incident in the graveyard yesterday.
“Um…how’s your bump?” I ask. Her eagerness immediately dissolves.
“I’m back!” Sarafina states as she places a salt shaker in the middle of the dining table. She sits back down and picks up her napkin, but Father soon clears his throat. Sarafina soon gets a look of realization on her face.
“Oh.” She gets up to move it again but Mother picks it up and sketchily sets it near Father’s plate. His assertiveness softens and he nods in thanks.
Dinner’s become uncomfortable again but I don’t care, I spoon another side dish into my mouth and clean my plate inhesitantly. I’m the first to excuse myself as the maids take my tableware to the sink. I don’t need to look back to know Father’s mood has lightened up considerably once I leave.
As I make my way out of the kitchen and up the stairs, I can see no one else in sight. Our kitchen’s not even close to big enough to accommodate the whole pride, so I wonder where the rest of the lionesses eat…
I hear my footsteps echoing as I go down the hall, and I’m reminded of how it can get so lonely here, a feeling I’d hoped I escaped when four legs became two. Even so, I guess a part of me is surprised I’m feeling lonesome; palace or not, Priderock was a haven. Yet, despite the tall walls, the golden pillars, the red rug stretching through every which way of the manor, I just feel more depressed the further I walk.
When I finally get to my room, I sigh as the door closes behind me. I pull off my shoes and clothes, grab the first pj’s I find and climb into bed, my mind clouding and swirling with too much to think about…
If a friend of yours said he felt more at home in the Elephant Graveyard than the fruitful sanctum of Priderock, you’d probably commit him to the nearest asylum. But I’d rather be locked up every night of the week than never return here again. It’s sad but, the place that welcomes me with open arms doesn’t even encompass one member of my family; if anything, my family’s too revolted to go there. Mother and Mufasa don’t disapprove of my relationships, they just feel Priderock would be more suitable for their like—I can’t blame them. Some of the occupants here are like family, and the feeling’s mutual; we look out for each other, we enjoy our company, and if environment suits both parties can feed the other.
Ed tosses down a pair more apples as he sits on a particularly outstretched tree branch. Banzai catches them and, just to show off in front of Shenzi, rolls them down his arm, past his shoulders, and onto his other arm, flicking them up in the air with his elbow. He catches the first one with a smirk but Shenzi grabs hers before he can get ahold of it and—more interested in the fruit—takes a bite. Banzai looks aside a tad disappointedly but eventually breaks into his apple as well. By this time Ed’s slid down the tree trunk and joined the three of us.
“I still say vegetables tank.” Banzai states through the mouthful.
“You’re in luck, they ain’t vegetables, they’re fruit.” Shenzi responds. Ed’s eyes crinkle and he eagerly looks down at his apple…and his shoulders droop. Poor guy; again I’m starting to worry if he’ll even survive the change if he can’t eat. Shenzi’s gaze moves up to me and I forget about the whole thing (sorry Ed).
“So I hear the kingdom’s getting a little edgy,” She grins, “your dad must be more peeved than usual.”
I laugh, “Yeah, he looks like he could erupt any second.” I decide to get in on their humorous side since they seem to crack most of the jokes around here, and I want my turn. “When the room’s quiet, you can even hear the faint pumping of that vein in his temple.”
Her appearance turns serious, “You might wanna be careful around him with all that pent-up anger. Don’t know when he could go off…”
Even though she can’t enter the Pridelands (legally) to do a thing about my family life, she tries to look out for me. And though I’ve never adapted to it after living with my dad for 17 years, I do appreciate that she cares. I put my hand on her shoulder, ritualistically saying, “I promise I’ll be careful.”
She senses my mockery and grins, seizing my hand. “You better be.”
Before I know what I’m doing I see we’ve suddenly moved closer. She continues to smile up at me. Are Banzai and Ed even here anymore? I don’t know…I don’t care…
I cup her jaw and enclose our mouths.
I bolt upright, gasping heavily. My mind’s no longer obscured by too many numerous things, but overcast with images of the same deliberation whose rationale I cannot source. It’s shocking to think of all the factors I could’ve dreamt about, my brain focuses on that; something that’s not even a factor…something that’s…I don’t know how came to be!
All those diverse, controversial images; they’ve either been summarized by or outshined by one—and that one is a graphic portrayal of me molesting my best friend.
My physical features aren’t lost to the occurrence and I see my body’s enveloped in cold perspiration; my shirt’s sticking to my chest and back. I can feel my heart echoing through every follicle of me as I try not to shake.
I looked at the clock on the nightstand—5:45 a.m. I groan and run my hand through my sweaty black hair, trying my best to calm down as I lay on my side. But then I abruptly sit up; what if that disturbing imagery reoccurs?
I’m afraid to go back to sleep. For now I just peel my shirt off as it’s starting to feel itchy.
I sat there for a minute, dazed, then fell back on the pillow, trying to catch my breath.
I must’ve blacked out shortly after, because I find myself centering back into consciousness. My vision’s hazy but I look down at the blankets and manage to make out…oh, great. Well, at least it didn’t go any further than it could’ve…
Unfortunately this was the worst compromising situation to be in when an unknown visitor barged in my room.
“Get up!” A voice roars, right before a pillow smacks me in the face. I yank it off and sit up to see Father standing at the foot of my bed. Quickly I discreetly use the pillow to cover my…predicament. I rub my left eye as Father starts to belt.
“We’re going to church this morning and you’re not going to make us late! This is our first impression so dress suitable!”
I groaned, holding my head, “What time is it?”
“6 a.m. That should give us enough time to get the entire palace ready. If you’re worried about integration not to fret, every kingdom has its own house of worship.”
Fear of integration? What was this, the 60’s? (I did a little research on human history beforehand; for the record I was being sarcastic—this isn’t the 60’s…even though father clearly seems to think so).
When I finally manage to blink into focus, I look up at him curiously. “Church?”
“It’s something families do if they want to look good in front of the neighbors. Now get up and get dressed!” The door slams behind him.
…Huh, church; another human experience I’ve yet to put into practice. I put my feet over the edge of the bed and yawn, stretching my forelimbs. I move the pillow away and am grateful to see that minor dilemma is gone. Then I go to the closet to check for any “suitable”, formal attire of mine; a dark blue suit and tie seemed appropriate.
I scoot next to Mufasa, whose apparel is similar to mine, but Father quickly squeezes him and Mother in between us, so now I’m sitting next to her. Sarafina, wearing a long, modest dress, smiles as she takes a spot next to me, and Sarabi, also clad in the same garb, takes one beside her. Zira, attire like Sarafina and Sarabi’s, pouts for some reason when she sees the only empty seat is next to my brother, but nonetheless she sits down.
It turns out church is basically sitting for two hours, listening to one guy shouting vigorously at a podium, while a bunch of listeners try not to fall asleep, calm down a crying infant, or just glance at their watch every five seconds.
I’m among the minority that’s making an effort to pay attention, but we’re sitting in the very last row. Sarafina leans over Sarabi, who’s sitting on the edge, to see what’s going on. Mufasa’s right next to Dad (like usual), so he can see just fine. Zira is…boredly examining her red-painted nails.
From what little I’m hearing, I can’t see why Dad would want to be here in the first place; basically everything they’re saying is a contradiction to what he believes in, which is apparently Darwinism. Still, Father sits up tall and nobly, like he’s symbolizing something of how being a king doesn’t make him any better or different from our fellow non-royal Pridelanders.
When church finally lets out, our limousine drives us back home. I’m about to go up to my room and change out of this, before Father catches my arm. “Oh no you don’t!” He bellows once he sees me un-doing my tie. “We’re inviting the whole kingdom to the banquet hall this evening for a dinner; you are not going to sling that onto the floor like the slacking teenager you are, just so it can wrinkle!”
You expect me to wear this all day? Then it will get wrinkled. I open my mouth to say something but he cuts me off. “Don’t backtalk or I’ll slap you unconscious!” Recalling all those times he did beat me unconscious, I took him seriously. “Now go download internet videos or whatever it is you teenagers do, your mother and I have a dinner party to plan.” He turns and departs into the kitchen.
Well I don’t know about internet videos but there is one place I’d like to go…
Walking right into the Elephant Graveyard wearing a suit and tie; even I wouldn’t have believed it. I can only imagine the reactions Shenzi, Banzai and Ed will give me once they get an eyeful. I see Shenzi and Banzai talking in front of her house; they’ve already changed out of their formal attire. When they spot me they raise their arms to wave…then falter upon noticing my apparel.
Shenzi’s gaze ran over me, “Why ya still in this get-up?”
“Long story.” I replied.
Banzai glanced at my chest and laughed for some reason. I learned why as he reached out to grip my tie. “The corporate noose.” He grinned.
“I’m a prince—what does that have to do with the conglomerate?” I reply sardonically. I look around for Ed, as I usually see him attached to one of these two at the hip, but strangely, he doesn’t seem to be around. I glance at Shenzi and Banzai. “Where’s Ed?”
“He’ll catch up.” Shenzi explained. “Wanna kill time at my house?”
We left to arrive at Shenzi’s abode, both her parents out doing what every Graveyarder had always done before this happened: look for food. I probably might arrive next time with enough sustenance for their parents as well, but I can’t say I can provide for Ed’s brother, who, last I heard, was on his way to about a half dozen offspring.
I turn to Shenzi and Banzai, Shenzi leaning back in a chair and Banzai rummaging through an old box to pass the time, and asked,
“Why didn’t he just go to service with you two?”
“Aw he didn’t go to church,” Banzai explains, “he goes to a…a…it’s some fancy thing that starts with ‘s’.”
Shenzi rolls her eyes, “Banzai over here thinks it’s too hard to pronounce the word ‘synagogue’.” She deliberately leans toward him on her emphasis.
Synagogue? Ed’s…Jewish? That’s…surprising. Not bad, but surprising.
A familiar silhouette flows its way through the doorway; we turn and see Ed and I would never have believed it if not seen it—clad in a suit, Yarmulke and all. Seeing him like this however…I can only imagine what the other two must’ve worn to service.
“I can’t stay for long.” I explained as we sat around an old crate, playing some made-up game with pebbles and the use of one’s fingers as a goal post of some sort. Banzai held both his thumbs and first fingers in an L-shape and touched them at the thumbs. Ed lowered his head to the edge of the crate so he could be eye-level with the pebble as he aimed. He squinted, readied his thumb and middle finger, and flicked it upward. It hit Banzai’s right cheek.
“Ouch!” His right arm went up to the painful pink area.
“Wouldn’t hurt if we waited ‘til we found something else besides rocks; wouldn’t hurt you at all.” Shenzi suggested, watching the game propped on her elbow on the crate.
“What? The sting makes it interesting; raises the stakes.” Banzai grinned.
“Is that why you’re always putting yourself in painful situations?”
“So what’s so important for you go so early anyway?” Shenzi asked, turning to me. Unhappy to see her attention forsake him, Banzai frowned and turned back to the game. By some means, Ed was winning…though I had no idea how.
“Father just said we were hosting an important dinner that I feel I should be home for; that’s why he wouldn’t let me change out of this.”
“…So it can wrinkle?” Her funny look is an immense boost to my confidence; amazing how we’re on the same level sometimes.
I dismiss myself an hour before sunset, giving me half an hour to head back to the palace. We stroll out Shenzi’s home and somehow, there is a faint pinkish haze on the horizon; all four of us stare at it perplexedly. We finally broke our gazes from it, Shenzi’s smile bewitching me and she—they all—seem puzzled at the way I suddenly turn away, leaving them with a curt wave as I began to sprint back to the station. I glance back and all three of them are waving back awkwardly, still exchanging befuddled glances. I see a faint wind has picked up and, even from fading distance, I see it jostle Shenzi’s hair teasingly.
I turn away and run faster.
I try to drown out those licentious feelings on the ride home with more wholesome (and logical) ones. They really are like my 2nd family; all four of them looked as happy to see me come and as expectant to see me return upon my leave. …Shenzi is more my…surrogate sister, that’s it. As Banzai and Ed are just the chums I never had—I already have a brother you see.
I try not to run as much on the way home once I am dropped off at the station—Father would short a fuse should he spot perspiration stains in my underarms. In addition that is just unflattering on my part as well. I approach the Pridelands with my blazer draped over my shoulder, beginning to don it once I am but a block away from the palace’s gates and I stop before my arm is even fully pulled through the sleeve; awestruck.
In the course of hours my home has transformed: from a gasp-inducing, prideful manor to a show-stopping, glowing spectacle. The hedges have been purposely spritzed so they glisten from the underlying lights; numerous figures on fountains on the palace grounds are gushing fine mists; the ivory entrance practically beams as lines of limousines undoubtedly filled with fellow royalty from other kingdoms drive in—and that was merely the outside, inside it is impossibly more beautiful.
I walk in and has father ever prepared a banquet for a king; nevermind the exceedingly long table which stretches from one wall of the room to the other, and the candlelight glowing on the appetizing dishes laid out for the incoming guests (and I see a few of the kingdoms brought princesses as well as their ring of lady friends), just the atrium itself feeds the eye gluttonously. The emblem of Priderock hangs from tapestries everywhere, portraits of the family that weren’t here before I left—very few included myself—with silver or gold frames were polished and displayed with pride, and the room is either glowing from the adjusted lights or the ambience itself. Nearly 20 kingdoms must be mingling in here.
I spot Sarafina in the crowd and she looks stunning in a floor length blue gown. Truthfully, she looks more embarrassed. She spots me in turn and gives a shy, inconspicuous wave; knowing very well should others follow her gesture and spot me I will be…well, not that being swamped by various and beautiful women is a bad thing, but I’d rather get myself settled in first. I try to make my way around the mass discreetly in search for my parents—if only to let my Father know I arrived (thinking on that, I can’t imagine with the exception of timeliness how that would please him) from a distance. He need not say which son he prefers be associated with him.
I reach the stairway before I make out another familiar face within the gathering. Sarabi, as the betrothee to the future king (and I conjecture with a dim chuckle the possibility that my brother has requested her presence constantly to ward off the…admirers), is dressed significantly different from all the others—a lovely dark crimson dress with a rose-tinged sash around the waist, and a gold pendant with, guess, the gold crest of Priderock around her neck. She doesn’t appear as self-conscious as Sarafina, and at the moment she really seems to need her amongst these strangers—I’m almost tempted to march over and rescue her myself, but she does seem significantly false-faced.
Finally, by a godsend, I see exact the pair of royals I have been scouting for, and getting Father’s attention I give a quick nod. He diverts his eyes from the guests momentarily—but swiftly—acknowledges me, and gets them back on the crowd around him as fast as possible. Mother stands beside him in a sparkling tiara as he, of course, brandishes the gaudiest crown I have ever seen in my days. I can’t seem to find my brother; either he’s hiding out from all the hustling princesses or perhaps using the facilities. I glance down at myself and take note of the simple 3-piece suit I wear.
I must admit I feel out of place.