The Menagerie Princess

Princess Beliya prepared for her interview as carefully as always. The suitor had chosen a Tuesday, and Tuesdays were her blue days, so she had ordered a new chitenge dress with blue and white diamonds criss-crossing the cotton and a flare to the waist which accentuated her curves. It was both sophisticated and fun. Paired with an up-do, she felt almost normal. Not the eccentric Menagerie Princess the media called her. If only they could see her now, laying out her waiting room with blue cushions, expensive china on pretty blue plates, and several blue candles that sadly would not take to the blue flame she’d been practising. Surely then they would not say she was an introverted man-tease with no heart.

She hoped the suitor liked it, anyway.

Beliya had her doubts. Doctor Komani was not known for patience, was a successful surgeon, and hunted in his spare time. She did not think the match would work. But for her Tata’s sake, she would continue to meet suitors. She sighed, leaning on her open windowsill. Circling in the still pool below was Chiheni, her pet crocodile. Her very first suitor had bequeathed the reptile, hearing that she loved animals. An interestingly prescient man. The tradition had kept so that now she looked after fifteen exotic pets. At least she was a Princess. Everyone knew princesses were good with animals.

Chananga chittered behind her, announcing the imminent arrival of Doctor Komani. The black-faced vervet monkey lived up to his name – a little bastard – but he had good intentions. Possibly. Chananga chattered again, bounded across the room to hang from the doorframe as it opened to a knock, and jumped nimbly onto the shoulder of the man who entered.

“Oh!”

Chananga clung to the Doctor’s stylish black suit, rubbing grey fur onto the expensive fabric.

“Chananga.” Beliya hissed and the little monkey jumped down, ran across the back of her white couch and leapt onto one of several perches installed on the walls. He chattered again, a little aggressively, but settled to snack with practised nonchalance. Cheeky. She returned her attention to the suitor.

“My apologies.” She almost gasped as she took in the attractive man across the room. Of course Kakoba, her Congo Grey, had no such reservation.

“Hello handsome,” he squawked.

The man in the suit turned towards the parrot with the ease of someone often greeted thus. “Hello to you, too.” He nodded his head, then turned back to Beliya. “Princess, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Beliya returned niceties, though he’d brought no gift. “Would you like to sit?”

Now the suitor was here she felt nervous again. Blue was everywhere in the room. Was it too much? She’d shooed away most of her animals but three remained. Would they behave for once?

“Hello handsome,” repeated Kakoda. Chananga threw a piece of stolen bread at the parrot. Beliya nearly threw the two of them out, too.

“Be quiet or I’ll defenestrate you into Chiheni’s jaws,” she scolded.

“Croc food, croc food,” crowed Kakoda. She held his beak closed and stared him into silence.

Doctor Komani watched the exchange with a slight frown. Not a good sign. Beliya sunk to the couch across from him.

“I suppose you want to know about the animals,” she began.

“Not really.”

“Oh?”

“I’m more interested in you, Princess.”

Oh. Well, alright. “What do you want to know?”

Goli slid out from beneath the couch onto her lap while they chatted idly for several minutes. Stroking the mongoose’s soft fur always calmed her. He’d been with her the longest, even before Chiheni. But Komani was boring in spite of his appearance, and she quickly tuned out.

“…We weren’t sure where they went, you see.”

“What’s that?” She’d been lulled into somnolence by Goli. She shunted the mongoose sharply. His gift had got the better of her today.

Komani was closer than before, holding a… list? He started to read.

The names of her previous suitors rang out.

Chananga jumped from his perch as if bee-stung and leapt straight for Komani’s face. Kakoda screeched – and screeched again – as Chananga was tossed aside by the Doctor, who drew a stun gun from somewhere and expertly shot the monkey with a dart. Chananga dropped from the air. Komani then grabbed Kakoda and prepared to wring the bird’s neck.

“Where are they, Beliya?” he threatened darkly. He looked at Kakoda. “Croc food?”

Beliya didn’t hesitate. She snapped her fingers.

Where Komani had stood a moment before, a green boomslang now writhed. Goli darted at speed to disable the snake, clamping sharp teeth about his prey. Beliya sighed. The colour was a sign. Green on a blue day.

“What to do with you now?”


African Grey parrot on wood perch with white wall background
Image by schauhi on Pixabay. Header image non-attributed.

This story originally appeared on Reddit as a response to SEUS: Ensemble, a constrained writing prompt requiring 5 active characters, blue everywhere, and a few interesting words. If you’d like to see more of my constrained writing short stories, you can check out my SubReddit here.

I don’t know if Zambia (the country of name origins in this story) has animages, but if they do I hope they are as interesting as Beliya was for me to write.

I’d also love to hear your thoughts and comments on this story. Particularly POC, since I’m a white woman writing Black characters. Thanks!

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