She didn’t plan on becoming a rebel…
After watching her parents serve in British households for her whole life, Priya grew to despise every aspect of British colonialism. After an introduction to a British family in an attempt to secure a servant position of her own ends in disaster, Priya runs away to try and find a better life.
But she doesn’t get far.
Alone on the streets of Bombay, Priya is kidnapped and taken captive aboard a smuggler’s ship bound for the slave markets of the Americas.
And in the cage next to her – is a ferocious mama tiger named Nabhitha!
When Priya and the tiger see a chance for escape, will Priya dare to take it? Or will she end up the tiger’s dinner?
Follow Priya and Nabhitha on a journey of courage and second chances.
A Girl and her Tiger is the third book in the Animal Companion Series, but each book is a stand-alone novel with new characters and adventures.
About the Book
A Girl and Her Tiger
by Zoey Gong
The Animal Companion Series Book Three
Action & Adventure
Red Empress Publishing
October 16, 2018
Priya reached up to the top of her mother’s closet and pulled the box down, as she had done so many times in her life. She lifted the lid and couldn’t help but smile at the first glimpse of the bright red silk inside.
Her grandmother’s wedding sari was the most beautiful thing Priya could think of. The long red cloth was embellished with gold thread in the most ornate designs. Even though Priya had no plans to marry, it had always been her dream to wear the traditional sari for her own wedding one day. As often as she could, she would steal away to her mother’s bedroom and sneak a peek at the dress, especially on days like today when she felt so much of her own culture was being taken from her.
Priya gasped when she heard shouts from outside and rushed to put the sari back exactly as she had found it. She then went to the window and watched as her mother did her best to control the four young children who were scrambling about her.
“Please, don’t push me, young sahib,” her mother said to Simon, a boy of twelve. “I don’t want to drop the eggs.”
“Give them to me,” Simon demanded.
“I cannot,” Priya’s mother said. “The cook needs them for your lunch today.”
“I want an egg!” a little girl named Elsa said as she grabbed the woman’s arm and tugged, nearly causing her to lose her balance. Priya felt annoyance rise up in her chest.
“Please, stop,” Priya’s mother said with far more patience than Priya could ever imagine mustering. “We need to get back to the house now for your lessons.”
Simon stood defiantly in front of the woman with his arms crossed, stopping her in her tracks. “I don’t want to go back for lessons. Give me the eggs. I need them to teach that worthless fan-puller a lesson. He fell asleep three times last night! He’s so lazy!”
Priya thought that people who needed to use other humans to fan them through the night were the definition of lazy, but she stayed put, forcing herself to only watch and clench her fists in private. Her mother had warned her before about yelling at the memsahib’s children.
“Simon,” her mother said, doing her best to be firm without raising her voice. “You know I don’t have a choice. I must take the eggs to cook, and you must attend your lessons. On your mother’s orders. Now, come along.” She smiled waved her hand to try and coax Simon to be on his way, but he didn’t budge.
Suddenly, from behind her, a younger son named Luke ran up and grabbed the egg basket, ripping it from the woman’s arm. As she tried to retain hold of the basket, several eggs fell out, shattering on the ground.
Priya’s mother’s hands flew to her mouth. “Luke! Stop at once,” she hissed. “Your mother will be very angry!”
But the children only laughed.
“Angry with you!” Simon howled. He then took the basket of eggs from his younger brother and started to run off.
“Simon!” the woman called after him, finally raising her voice. “Return the eggs to me right now!”
Simon turned slowly toward her and pulled an egg out of the basket. He locked eyes with Priya’s mother.
“Do not even think about it,” she warned. But his choice was already made. Even Priya could see the hatred in the boy’s face for the woman who had nursed him since he was a baby.
Priya could not hold back any longer. She could not sit by and let that cruel, spoiled boy egg her mother. She turned and hitched up her own plain sari and darted out of the house. By the time she reached the door, Simon was rearing his hand back. Priya ran toward him as fast as she could, but she was not fast enough. She watched as he lurched forward, the egg leaving his hand, arching through the air, and then landing, shattering on her mother’s chest, the egg goo splattering her face.
The children all burst out into laughter, but Priya was in a rage. She continued running toward Simon, her face hot with fury. He must have heard her running toward him, because he turned toward her and his face went white. He raised his arms in front of him to ward off the blow.
Priya froze only inches from Simon at the sound of her mother’s voice.
“Go inside, now!” her mother ordered.
“But,” Priya protested, “look what he did.”
“And I will let his mother know,” her mother said. “She will deal with him.”
“You know she won’t,” Priya said. In all of her life, she had never known the children’s mother to so much as raise her voice at her children.
“Yeah, go inside, Priya,” Simon mocked as he turned and walked away, still holding the basket of eggs and tossing one up and down like a ball. “Before I tell my mother what you almost did and she refuses to speak for you this afternoon.” The boys laughed as they wandered away, and Priya fumed. She was so angry over the fact that Simon–and his whole family–held her entire life in their hands. One bad word from the memsahib, and Priya would never hope to find a position with a respectable family–even though she didn’t want the position anyway.
“Lucille!” Priya’s mother called out to the eldest daughter who had just come outside to see what the commotion was about.
Lucille, with her blue eyes and curly blonde hair, bounded down the stairs and across the green lawn.
“Goodness me, amah,” Lucille said with a chuckle to Priya’s mother. “What happened to you?”
“Your brothers,” Priya grumbled. Lucille only nodded knowingly.
“Can you take your sisters inside so I may go change?” Priya’s mother asked Lucille.
“Of course,” Lucille said, reaching for her sister’s hands. “I’ll see you later, Priya! I can’t wait.”
Priya only wrinkled her nose but didn’t respond as she took her mother’s hand and led her into the house.
“If you are going to be an amah yourself,” her mother said once they were indoors, “you need to learn more patience.”
Priya sighed as she helped her mother undress and place the soiled clothes into a wash bin. “I need to learn patience, and those children need to learn respect.”
“Children are children,” her mother interrupted. “You spit at me more than once when you were little.”
“But I’m your daughter!” Priya said. “I would never treat another woman that way. You raised me better than that.”
“And the Parker children will grow out of it, eventually,” her mother said. “Is not Lucille Parker like a sister to you?”
Priya sighed and shook her head. “When we were younger, perhaps, since you practically raised both of us. But ever since she went to school, she has changed.”
“Lucille is the same girl she ever was,” Priya’s mother said. “Spoiled, high-strung. More worried about boys and dresses than anything else. I think you are the one who changed.”
“Maybe,” Priya said. “It isn’t fair that she got to that fancy academy while I had to endure lectures about how great it has been to be part of the British Empire by a bunch of sour-faced nuns.”
“We are fortunate to be part of such a mighty empire,” her mother said, growing exasperated. “If it were not for the British, we could have been overrun by some other military power that didn’t have our best interests at heart.”
“We could have defended ourselves,” Priya countered.
“And we have advancements in railroads and medicine and–” her mother went on.
“Which we could have developed too,” Priya interrupted.
“To be part of British culture and heritage is a great honor,” her mother said.
“Indian culture is older!” Priya said. “What about our heritage? Our history? I’m not British. I’m Indian!”
“Priya!” her mother finally yelled. “That is enough. We can’t change the past. We are here, now, and we have to make the best life we can. The British rule India. And you need to find your place here. We don’t have enough money for a dowry, so you cannot marry. The Parkers’ children are growing up, so they are cutting down on staff. You need to find a good placement of your own so you can earn money and a place in society. No amount of grumbling will change that.”
“I’m not grumbling,” Priya said. “It is no small thing to be treated like you are less than dirt in your own country.”
“That is enough!” her mother finally yelled. “Go to your room and get dressed. Memsahib Parker is taking us to meet the Evans family in an hour. You will wear the dress that Lucille gave you and you will smile and nod and you will get that position. Do you understand me?”
Priya pressed her lips to keep from being disrespectful to her mother. But she didn’t understand how her parents could be so accepting of the British. Of course, her mother didn’t publically speak against them because she didn’t want to lose her job. But in private, did her mother truly believe that the way things were was the best way to live? Wasn’t she even a tiny bit resentful of the way she–and all Indians–were treated? Priya had spent her entire life watching the Parker family walk all over her mother and father. As a child, she too just accepted it. But as she grew older, she grew to despise how the British treated her parents, and everyone else.
But Priya knew that what her mother said held a grain of truth. What else could Priya do? She couldn’t go to a university. She couldn’t get married. Even if she did marry, her husband would be at the employ of some British man or family. She had to earn money somehow to support herself and contribute to the family, and the only openings for women were as amahs. They were coveted positions, ones that paid well. She should be grateful that Memsahib Parker was making an introduction for Priya. Countless other Indian girls would kill for such an advantage. But Priya hated that her very existence was in the hands of a foreign family. She felt as if her life was not her own. As if she lived simply at the whims of snobbish British women and their rude children.
But her mother was right. What could she do about it?
So Priya bit her tongue and nodded her head. “Yes, Amma.” But she didn’t head straight to her room. She went to the garden instead, hoping that a walk might clear her head and cool her temper. After all, it wasn’t Amma she was angry at.
She was angry at everyone and everything else. She crossed her arms as she walked through the lush garden of the Parker estate where Priya and her family lived. Since both of Priya’s parents worked for the Parkers, they were allowed to live in a small house on the estate. Many other servants lived on the estate as well, but most of them shared another small house while some lived in the attic of the main house. The Parkers had at least fifteen servants at any given time, and they did everything for the Parkers, from raising their children to fanning them while they slept. To most Indians, the Parkers were of the highest class and ridiculously wealthy. But she had heard once that by British standards, the Parkers were not very well-off. Back in England, they could barely afford a cook and a maid, much less an entire staff. Priya wondered what it was about living in India that allowed such mediocre people like the Parkers to live like kings, but that was an aspect of life she didn’t understand, and probably never would. She was Indian with a very basic British education. She could read and write English, do basic math, and could name all the British monarchs from the last one hundred years. She could also speak Hindi, but that was about the extent of her knowledge about the world. She knew the world had more to offer, but she didn’t know how to reach it. She didn’t want to be just a servant, and eventually just a wife. In truth, she only knew what she didn’t want. She had no idea what she wanted instead because she didn’t know what opportunities existed. It was as though she was going through life in a fog. She knew something was out there, something just beyond her field of vision, but she didn’t know what it was. She only had a feeling that whatever it was, it was better than what she had now.
“Priya!” she heard a voice yell as a hand grabbed her arm. Priya gasped and looked over. “Are you sleepwalking?” Lucille asked.
“Sorry,” Priya said. “I was just thinking.”
Lucille nodded. “Today is a big day for you!” she said, a huge grin on her face. “If you get that position with the Evans family, I’ll be able to visit you all the time! It will be as if you never left.”
Priya wrinkled her nose. “Do you really think Memsahib Evans will let you fraternize with her servant?”
“Oh, come now,” Lucille said, her blue eyes sparkling. “It won’t be as bad as all that. Amahs are like family. You know I adore your mother.”
Priya cocked her head. “What family members do you throw eggs at?”
Lucille gasped. “W-w-what?”
“What family members have you torn their clothes and then laughed about it?” Priya went on.
Lucille crossed her arms. “That was Simon, not me.”
“You laughed,” Priya reminded her.
“We were just kids,” Lucille said. “We all do naughty things when we are little.”
“I never disrespected your mother,” Priya said.
“So, you think you’re better than me?” Lucille asked sharply.
“I didn’t say that,” Priya said. “I’m just saying that we aren’t family.”
“How can you be so mean?” Lucille said. “You know, I knew that you were pulling away from me. I’ve barely seen you or spoken to you in weeks. I thought you were just busy. I had no idea it was because you were such a jerk!”
“I’m just stating the facts,” Priya said. “You are the one calling names.”
“Here is a fact,” Lucille said. “I thought you were like a sister to me! I gave you the dress for your presentation today.”
“Ugh, that corseted monstrosity that I can’t breathe in?” Priya asked, rolling her eyes. “I’d rather wear a sari!”
“And my mother loves you,” Lucille went on. “That is why she is going out of her way to introduce you to Mrs. Evans!”
“Oh yes,” Priya said. “It is such a hassle to cross the street and talk over tea and crumpets!”
Lucille’s mouth gaped, but Priya didn’t care. She raised her chin and dared Lucille to keep arguing with her. It was true that Priya had once considered Lucille her best friend. But their lives had taken dramatically different courses lately, and Priya resented it greatly. She had tried to keep her feelings to herself instead of lashing out at Lucille. But with the real threat of her having to follow her mother’s footsteps now only moments away, she couldn’t keep it contained any longer.
“You know, I was going to go with you today,” Lucille said. “So I could tell Mrs. Evans how wonderful you are. But I think I’ll just stay home.”
“Fine. I’d hate for you to go ‘out of your way’ to do something for a family member,” Priya mocked.
“You are so frustrating!” Lucille said as she growled and stomped her foot before turning and walking away.
Priya sighed and headed back home. The walk had done little to clear her head, and probably made her feel more upset. But what could she do? Her mother would never forgive her if she didn’t at least try to get the amah position with the Evans family. Time for her to get dressed and face her future, no matter how miserable it would make her.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of A GIRL AND HER TIGER by Zoey Gong, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Red Empress Publishing. Giveaway ends 10/30/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Limit one entry per reader. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Zoey Gong
ZOEY GONG was born and raised in rural Hunan Province, China. She has been studying English and working as a translator since she was sixteen years old. Now in her early twenties, Zoey loves traveling and eating noodles for every meal. She lives in Shenzhen with her cat, Jello, and dreams of one day disappointing her parents by being a Leftover Woman (剩女).