The Tale of Tiger Lily - Chapter Three
The Winds Collide
The voyage out to sea seemed long and never-ending. Tiger Lily was anxious every inch of the way, feeling as though countless impediments delayed their voyage, and more than once she wondered if she would ever see home again. Mulling over the last few weeks, Tiger Lily was eager to get back to her handsome builder. How awful it was to be made to spend time with the anticipated Calling Bull.
Tiger Lily had been relieved that her father was not impressed with the man who was not yet a man. Chief Great Little Big Panther had such high hopes for this union, but he was clearly disappointed and the prospect of Jerrekai was suddenly looking up. Tiger Lily had taken every chance she could find to convince her father that Jerrekai would be a great provider and a kind husband. Toward the end of their journey Tiger Lily was near certain that she may have finally sold him on the idea.
As the boats neared the familiar islands, Tiger Lily’s eagerness to see Jerrekai grew. She squinted until she could faintly make out the tufts of black smoke emerging from the treetops. Once the outline of the huts appeared across the skyline, Tiger Lily was ready to burst with anticipation. She could not wait to run into the arms of the man she loved and tell him that they could finally be together. Tiger Lily had never been so happy.
When the boats docked, Tiger Lily scanned the shoreline for Jerrekai, but he was nowhere to be seen. A wave of panic set over her but she quickly put it out of her mind. He must just be lost in the crowd and will appear soon enough.
While Tiger Lily and her father exited the boats, they were met by a procession of tribe members eagerly waiting to welcome them home. Tiger Lily filtered through the crowds of people, half-heartedly accepting their greetings, anxiously awaiting the appearance of the only person she could think of since she left. Then she heard a familiar voice call her name.
There stood Nascha with open arms waiting to embrace her friend. Tiger Lily waved to her friend and tried to keep going; she was so eager to find Jerrekai that she didn’t notice the sombre look on Nascha’s face, but she was halted when Nascha yelled, “Tiger Lily, come here!”
Tiger Lily walked over to Nascha who was waiting to embrace her. When she let go, Tiger Lily asked immediately for Jerrekai. She did not notice Nascha’s concerning look.
“Tiger Lily, I have some bad news.”
Immediately Tiger Lily’s heart pounded in panic. “What is your news? It’s not Jerrekai—he is not dead, is he? Nothing horrible has happened to him?”
“No, he is fine,” Nascha assured her. “Nothing bad has happened to him. But…” She paused and put her head down. When she looked up, she put her hands on Tiger Lily’s arms. “There is no easy way to tell you this…” She breathed deeply. “He’s married.”
In that one sentence Tiger Lily felt the breath ripped from her lungs. She stood there motionless, unable to stomach what she had just heard. She scanned the crowd for him, wishing now that he was dead if this news were true.
“What do you mean married? He can’t be married…he loves me.”
“Come, Tiger Lily, come, let’s walk.” Nascha pulled her friend away from the crowd. As they walked, Nascha filled her in about the canoes that came in to trade on the day she had left and that on one of the canoes was a young wild-haired girl who had won the heart of Jerrekai.
“I tried, Tiger Lily,” Nascha said, trying to provide comfort to her friend. “I went up to Jerrekai and asked him why are you marrying her when you love Tiger Lily? He could only reply that it was something that he had to explain to you himself. I’m sorry, Tiger Lily.”
Tiger Lily was in tears. She and Nascha sat by the tree line until the crowds of people cleared. “I have to see him. Once he sees me, he will know, and then he will remember his love for me. I have to see him!” she declared.
“Tiger Lily, wait, don’t go!” pleaded Nascha. “They are married now.”
She adamantly refused to believe that he was in love with this stranger. “He cannot love another the way he loves me. Their marriage can be undone and he can marry me. She is not even from our tribe. I am the daughter of the chief. He has to see me and then he will know.”
Tiger Lily ran back to the village—she needed to find Jerrekai. She began to frantically ask the tribe members if they had seen him. But no one had. She ran to the area where she watched him build on so many occasions, but he was not there. Finally someone answered her. Tiger Lily spun around to see a small boy staring up at her pointing to a little hut in the corner of the village.
“Jerrekai is in his house, right over there. I just saw him and Miss Shakori go in there.”
For the second time today, words had struck a blow worse than a weapon. Tiger Lily’s palms began to burn and her whole body was tingling. But it was more than a feeling, it was a taste, and that taste was seeping through her body, up out of her chest, out of her palms, and up into her mouth. It was the bitter taste of betrayal.
Tiger Lily was again breathless. This was becoming too surreal. Tiger Lily had only just left for a short while, and Jerrekai already had a wife and they had a home.
As she stood frozen in front of their hut, Tiger Lily tried to process the thoughts that were throwing her mind into such disarray… I feel like I’m the outsider, like I am intruding on their life, yet this is my life, he loves me and this is my home. This couldn’t be happening to her. What is going on?
Then Tiger Lily realized that she had an audience behind her. She could not bear to turn around and face the humiliation of everyone watching her, waiting to see what would happen. Everyone knew that she had loved Jerrekai and that he had married someone else. Tiger Lily didn’t know if she needed to scream, or throw up, or faint…
And then it happened. Jerrekai came out of his hut and there they stood face to face.
“Tiger Lily,” said Jerrekai with an uneasy pause, “I was hoping I would find you.”
“You knew that I would be coming off the boat,” answered Tiger Lily curtly. “Why were you not there if you were hoping to find me?” Her question came out as more of a scolding.
Jerrekai could not look her in the eye. “Tiger Lily, can we talk in private please?”
“Would you come inside?” he asked, finally looking up at her.
“No, I will not!” Tiger Lily said boldly.
“I understand.” He looked down again. “Can we walk?”
Tiger Lily turned from the hut. The audience was at a standstill as they watched her and Jerrekai exchange words.
Side by side they walked in silence; she knew where she was going and so did he. They soon found themselves at the spot where they spent so many afternoons talking, exploring, and falling in love.
When they came to the clearing, Tiger Lily took her place on the rock in the same way that she had sat countless times before to watch Jerrekai do silly things to impress her, yet this time the smiles and laughter were replaced with silence.
But the silence was too much and Tiger Lily couldn’t hold her composure any longer. “Well, speak! You wanted to talk to me!”
Jerrekai forced the courage to speak. “I can only say I am sorry.”
Tiger Lily glared in his direction; this apology was not enough.
“I never meant to hurt you, Tiger Lily. I care about you a great deal and the last thing I ever wanted in this world was to hurt you. But…” Jerrekai closed his eyes to speak this last sentence. “I fell in love.”
Tiger Lily turned away when she heard those words but Jerrekai continued, “You and I both know that we could never be together.”
“But I think I finally have Father convinced!” Tiger Lily pleaded.
“Tiger Lily, you know that he would never fully accept me. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if I could have accepted myself. As much as I cared for you, I never felt worthy of your love.”
Tiger Lily tried to interrupt but Jerrekai continued to speak. “This is not an excuse, it’s the truth. When Shakori and I…”
“Don’t you dare say her name to me!” Tiger Lily demanded. She was losing this battle and all her dreams were being destroyed.
Tiger Lily turned to walk away when Jerrekai make another gut-wrenching announcement. “I am leaving. We sail in the morning. I stayed only long enough to say goodbye.”
Anger quickly turned into panic as Tiger Lily imagined how it would feel to never see Jerrekai again. “No, you can’t!” Tiger Lily begged. “I’ll never see you again!”
“Tiger Lily, I can’t stay. I can’t hurt you any more than I already have, and if I am here you will not be able to move on and you will not find the man who is right for you. I wished that man could be me, but it never was. Please understand,” he said. “I do have love for you and you will always hold a piece of my heart.”
“If you love me, why can’t you marry me?”
“Tiger Lily, please,” Jerrekai said in a solemn voice. “Shakori and I are connected at the soul, beyond anything that I could ever explain or anything that I ever knew I could ever feel. I want you to feel that love, Tiger Lily. But you won’t feel that love until I have freed you from me.”
Jerrekai gently wiped away the tears that streamed down Tiger Lily’s cheeks.
“When you find this love, Tiger Lily, you will know and you will understand. I promise you will.”
Jerrekai took Tiger Lily in his arms one last time and kissed her on the forehead.
Tiger Lily pushed him away. “I will never forgive you and I will never understand!” She ran off into the night.
The next day Jerrekai was true to his word—he and Shakori were packing up to leave. But Tiger Lily needed to get a glimpse of her. She needed to see who Jerrekai was leaving her for, and this would be her last chance.
Jerrekai had been called to the feast hall to say his formal goodbyes to the members of the tribe as his wife stayed behind to pack up the rest of their belongings. Tiger Lily hurried over to the hut, careful not to be seen, and slipped inside.
There stood Shakori staring blank-faced back at Tiger Lily. It appeared that she too had hoped to get a glimpse of the princess Jerrekai had loved not so long ago. The two stood in silence as they both took in each other’s features.
Shakori was the first to speak. “I know who you are. You are Tiger Lily, and you are every bit as beautiful as Jerrekai described you to be, maybe more so.” She looked down, seeming inadequate of her own beauty.
Even though this made Tiger Lily feel superior, it did not give her Jerrekai and she did not feel sorry. “Why did you come in between the love that he had for me? Have you no shame? Had you not known that he was in love with someone else? Had you not known he was to be married to me?”
“No!” cried Shakori. “I did not know, and when Jerrekai told me of you, he said that he could not marry you, as he wasn’t the great warrior that your father wanted for you.”
“Don’t speak for my father!” Tiger Lily snapped.
“Jerrekai said he was common just like me.”
“NO!” yelled Tiger Lily. “He was not just like you! You are a crazy-haired girl that is nothing and nobody and Jerrekai is a skilled craftsman and he was destined to be my husband, and now you’ve come in and ruined everything! Did you put medicine on him? Did you make him fall in love with you? I’ve heard stories of you girls from the north, is that why he is going far away from his family and from me, the daughter of the chief?”
“No,” declared Shakori. “I love him and I would never trick him or hurt him or force him to do anything.”
Deep down Tiger Lily knew that her accusations were false but she felt the need to hurt the girl in any way she could. Was there something she could say to make her leave? She looked around at all that should have been hers. If only I had come back sooner. If only I had never left.
In one last-effort strike at the wild-haired girl, Tiger Lily lashed out in fury, “I hope you know that he could never love you the way he loves me. You will never have beauty such as mine, and as the years age you, I will remain a beautiful memory that you will always be compared to. You stole him from me! You will never be happy with something that does not belong to you! I will always own his heart because I had it first and you are a thief! Thieves can never be truly happy with that which does not belong to them!”
Tiger Lily stormed out of the hut, hoping that the words she aimed at her rival pierced through her heart as hard as any arrow, to destroy the confidence the wild-haired girl had in her future.
As Tiger Lily walked away from the hut, she stopped briefly and thought about going back. But she didn’t go back. The only comfort she could find would be in knowing that the wild-haired girl would be unhappy and maybe, just maybe she would go home…alone.
Though, later that morning Jerrekai and his new wife sailed off to begin their life together.
Tiger Lily went to their spot overlooking the water’s edge and watched them sail away. She watched until their canoe vanished beyond the horizon. At that moment, Tiger Lily knew that she would never see Jerrekai again. She fell to the ground and cried. She cried all that day and mourned her loss. She grieved his departure from her life and cried until the breaths were gasping from her, and when she could cry no more, she got up off the ground, broken and defeated, and walked slowly back to her hut where she slept for two days.
Tiger Lily dreamed of being stuck in a swamp. It was cold and dark, and she was powerless to scream or to move. The darkness crept closer and sunlight and hope were nowhere in sight. She awakened with a scream. Tiger Lily’s grandmother immediately rushed to her side and wrapped her in her arms. “Tiger Lily, what is the matter?”
Tiger Lily began to speak of her fretfulness.
“You must try to put Jerrekai out of your mind,” Grandmother urged. “You were never meant to be his wife, nor were you meant for Walking Bear. You are Tiger Lily, named after the wild flower, which never grows in the same place twice—the flower which stands higher and more vibrant than all the other flowers in its midst. Someday you will find a good man to stand behind.”
“But I am not content to just stand behind my husband the way Mother did,” Tiger Lily argued. She knew it was wrong to speak ill of her dead mother who loved her so much.
“Tiger Lily, you may think that your mother just stood behind your father,” Grandmother explained, “but what you don’t realize yet—and what you may not see until you are much older—is that love is a partnership. Your father is in a position of great power and greater responsibility. Many lives depend on him and the decisions he makes. Your father relied on your mother to support him, mind, body, and soul. His decisions were never made alone. Someday you will find love and you will know, for you will put his needs before yours and his happiness before yours, and he will do the same. And when you find this one, you will walk side by side through this life and you will stand behind him when he needs your support.”
No sooner had Grandmother finished when Father came in and interrupted. “Tiger Lily, you must stay indoors—pirates are circling the North Mountain. I am off to Mollusk Island to warn Peter Pan!”