She left the box of matches by his bed. It was absent minded to leave such a thing behind. Because she liked the little box. She had purchased it in Bombay, and when she used up all the yellow headed matches, she refilled the box with red headed ones, the kind you get in the grocery store, 100 for fifty cents. The red headed smelled different from the Bombay matches, which smelled almost of burning metal. Perhaps the Bombay matches were made of lethal chemicals.
But as she walked home in the five a.m. rain, she cursed herself. The tiger had been a good talisman . . . he was a regal soul, who ever painted him was thrifty with stripes, and often, she wondered, why save the stripes? A tiger with such a Roman nose and extra long tail certainly deserves a few more stripes. What he lacked in stripes he made up for with a jeweled collar - rubies stolen from a prince in Kashmir she told herself. The prince foolishly rode his father's horse into the jungle one night - he was a brooding prince and why? Because he missed the elephant and why did he miss the elephant? Nobody would know, because the tiger met the prince and sat back on his haunches and held up his paw and made the most terrible face with all of his yellow teeth bared and this frightened the king's horse so terribly that he whirled and ran, but the foolish and brooding prince was unable to stay in the saddle and he came down like a stone in the path to face the tiger. The tiger was surprised by his good fortune to have such a cowardly horse present him with a prince wearing so many rubies. The rubies were sewn into the boy's saffron vest. The tiger quickly ate the boy and carried the vest back to his lair where he asked his good friend, spider monkey, to fashion him a collar of the burnished silk and the rubies.
She stopped in the diner before going home and ordered a pot of tea. "You want something with that honey? A bagel?"
"No thank you, just the tea please."
Her phone rang. She fished in her evening bag and found the phone glowing blue and singing at the bottom, next to the lipstick she decided was too wine colored for her complexion and a five dollar bill, "Hello?"
"You left a little box here, it has a tiger on it."
"Yes, I know."
"Do you want me to bring it over?"
"No, you keep it."
"Oh . . . I thought."
"I know what you thought. I simply forgot it. Nothing to it."
"So . . . "
"So give it to her, when she gets home."
"But . . . "
She turned off the phone and put it back in the bag. The waitress came with the tea. "You want cream and sugar?"
"No thank you. Say . . . " She reached into her eveing bag again and produced the lipstick, "I think this color would look fabulous on you." The waitress took the silver tube and opened it.
"Ruby red? Are you sure? Looks expensive."
"It is. It's just right for you."
"Thanks honey. No charge for the tea. It's on me."