BLACK TIGER
BLACK TIGER
Author: Asmaà B.N

Prologue

Back against the wall, crouching legs, chin over knees, arms wrapping them. Keira is crying alone in the corner of her room. A scent of fear, vengeance, and regret flows with the gentle evening breeze. The white t-shirt, which he had offered her for her birthday, was now covered with his blood.

Him.

The one whose smile shines on every photograph in the room. On the dresser, the nightstand, even inside the wardrobe. The one whom, only a day ago, was her everything.

Keira looks at her hands, they aren't soft and clean as they are used to be. She stares at them like they don't belong to her, as if someone took them and replaced them with new ones. They were dirty and covered with blood, their blood.

Them, the two people who meant everything.

Her tears flow as slowly and abundantly as a fountain whose water shines under the moonlight. Her eyes are swollen, her face is sticky, and her cut lips taste the salty flavour of her tears. Tears of anger, disappointment—emptiness

“Why?” whispers the girl with an exhausted voice. Her eyes rest on the picture as she sees their smiles, their happiness— their love. “It was all fake.” she scoffs and wipes her tears. Keira doesn't care about staining her face with blood. She's already dirty, her soul's filthy. 

The peaceful moonlight disappears in the midst of strong red and blue lights. The noise of the siren is only a background sound to Keira. A loud beep plays in her head. She remains frozen in her corner for a long time until a loud bang wakes her up from her trance.

“Keira Parks! Open the door!”

Her heart jumps as her hands and legs start shaking. She can't breathe properly.

“We know you are here! Open the door!”

She wants to stand up, but her body no longer obeys her. The girl feels her heart explode inside her chest whenever the police knock loudly on her door. She helps herself to the nightstand to take a little balance and finally gets up.

At least two or three police cars are in front of her house. A dozen officers are waiting for her, with guns in their hands, ready to shoot. She panics and takes a deep breath while she looks around the room, searching for something. Keira opens the drawer and takes a photo frame; a picture with her mother when she was only seventeen years old. She folds it and places it inside her jean's pocket. She runs downstairs and spots two officers behind the glass door. Thankfully it’s dark in the hall, they can't see her, so she takes advantage of it to head to the kitchen.

The sound of glass shattering surprises her as she hurries to reach a spare key to the terrace door from above the fridge. The officers walk in the living room, just a few meters away from her. Keira covers her mouth while she searches for the key, and when she finally finds it she doesn’t waste time to insert it inside the lock and step outside. 

The light from the beacons is blinding, the red and blue colours projecting in the walls of her small house. The neighbours are standing behind the officers, whispering and wondering what’s happening.

The terrace is on the other side of the house, so Keira still has a chance to escape. She walks between the tall trees and soon finds herself far from the area. The girl puts on her black hood and runs between the narrow, empty streets of Pearl City. Her heart pounces every time she bumps into a random person in the streets. She feels like everyone recognizes her, that everyone wants to stop her and knows she's a criminal. 

Later she enters a convenience store and picks a ramen cup before filling it with boiling water and paying the cashier. When she steps outside, she hears some men talking about a college student who murdered two people the day before. The news flies faster than she imagined.

Keira hides her face and leaves the street, running to catch the first bus that arrives. 

The drive is long, she watches people leave one by one, each heading home, work—or ones like her, who don't really know where they are heading to. The young woman watches the big boulevards of the capital from the window and remembers their evening walks after finishing their classes. They walked hand in hand, talked about everything, laughed and planned their future. Oh, how she loved to be near him, to hear his voice and feel his body against hers. “Traitor”, she whispers, her head resting on the glass.

Keira looks at the silver bracelet around her wrist, K + J is engraved on it. “A promise.” she scoffs. The gift she had received from him three years ago was a promise he had made to her. Jacob told her that after they finish their studies, he will buy them a house in Green City and live together forever.

“Young lady.” the driver interrupts her thoughts. She lifts her head and notices that she's the only one left inside. “This is the last stop”, says the man with a tired voice. Keira rubs her neck nervously as she apologizes to him before leaving. 

The girl finds herself in front of the river, the wind is stronger in this part of the city. She throws the empty ramen cup in the bin and starts walking, her eyes staring at the reflection of the moon in the river. It looks so peaceful and beautiful that she wonders what it would be like to end her days under the water. Keira stops, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. For a moment, she forgets that the cops are looking for her, that two families are broken now because of her, that her poor mother is disappointed in her. She opens her eyes to face the reality— her cruel reality. 

She ruined her life and others’ in a fraction of seconds. All her projects, her achievements, her friendships— everything. There is no turning back the time. She has no chance to correct her mistakes. 

The girl walks to the bridge above the river and stands on the iron bars, with her hair moving along with the breeze. She opens her arms wide and closes her eyes to let the deafening silence reigned around her. Keira looks down; it’s dark, deep and scary— nothing to do with what she had seen earlier from afar. That's when it hits her; she's on the verge of ending her life, she who has always loved herself and made people around her happy. She's about to kill the person her mother had worked hard to feed and raise, the one who had spent her entire teenage years studying like crazy to get into the best college and start her dream career, the one who is respected by all the people around her, the one others take as an example.

She's about to kill Keira Parks.

Tears start falling uncontrollably on her cheeks. It's amazing how someone's life can change overnight. “You betrayed me”, she sobs as she feels the bracelet burn her skin. “Why?!”, she shouts so loud that she almost loses her voice. “Why did you have to betray me?” 

Keira stares at the river and imagines what could happen if she ever jumps; she’ll die underwater, the police will find her corpse and she will be buried as the criminal who killed herself because she was a coward. The girl shakes her head, chasing the thought as she refuses to be remembered that way. She takes a deep breath, then jumps— not in the water, but on the other side of the bridge. 

“I'm not going to kill someone else,” whispers Keira, wiping her tears. She decides that if she's going to end her life, she better does it with honour as in turning herself in to the police.

She walks away from the river and crosses the road when a strong light hurt her eyes and a loud brake sounded. Someone was about to hit her with a motorbike. Keira just stands in the middle of the pedestrian crossing, her eyes wide, looking at the silhouette. The lights are turned off and she can finally spot the young man— tall and well-built. 

The latter takes off his helmet to reveal a dark brown hair styled messily— in an attractive way. He's wearing a black leather jacket with coloured patterns, black jeans and black boots. His clothes look very expensive as well as his motorcycle. “Keira Parks,” he speaks with a deep voice, surprising her.

“How do you know my name?” Keira asks, her eyes growing wider.

“Don't do anything that you might regret later.” the stranger ignores her question and walks closer. 

Keira stares at him confusingly and laughs, “It's too late, I already did.”

The man doesn't say anything, he just keeps staring at her. 

“Who are you? Are you a cop?” whispers the girl.

“Do I look like one?” the stranger. “Do you know what will happen if you turn yourself in? You will spend the rest of your life in prison.” 

Keira gulps and wonders how a stranger knows about her crime and her decision. “Who are you?!” she shouts with a shaky voice.

“You can do it of course, but do you really want to?” 

Good question thinks Keira.

The man stares deeply into her eyes, searching for the truth in them. “Spending your days in the same cell, watching the same walls, eating the same food and living with the same stupid hope that one day you will get back to your normal life. Do you want this?”

Keira frowns and sends him a death glare, “If you were that worried about me, then you should have hit me with your bike! Why didn't you do it?!”

“To go to prison instead of you? Oh, hell no.” the tall man laughs.

Keira runs her fingers in her dark hair and speaks with a calmer tone, “Now tell me who you are and what do you want from me?”

The stranger sighs, “It's still not the time for me to tell you who I am. But the only thing I can tell is that I can give you two choices; spend the rest of your days in prison or start a new life.”

“Start a new life?” Keira furrows. “What do you mean?”

The brown-haired approaches more until there were only a few centimetres between them. “You hate traitors, right?”

Keira raises an eyebrow. How much does he know about me? she asks herself.

“If you come with me, you'll have the chance to get rid of all the traitors in the world.” continues the man. “You know how life will be better without them, right?” Keira stares at him with confusion, waiting for him to say that it's all a joke but the stranger looks quite serious. “How can I trust you?” she asks.

The man walks back to his motorcycle and gets on it. He stares at Keira and smirks, “The choice is all yours pretty girl.”

She presses her lips, knowing that turning herself to the police only means destroying her entire life. She gulps and stares at the stranger, whose skin is glowing under the street lights. His ear piercing is shining as well as the glitter on his jacket. Something about his deep stare makes Keira think that she can trust him.

Don't do anything that you might regret later. His words replayed in her mind. What could she regret? Trust him and start a new life however it is, or go to prison? She scratches the back of her neck and sighs heavily, “Damn it.” she mumbles before joining him.

The stranger gives her a helmet, smirking. “Good choice pretty girl.”

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