The tiger stripes form the same way a leopard earns her spots. "No, you are not badges of honour," she tells herself. "...or maybe we are?" they reply. Red lightning bolts strike as her body is forced to stretch... to cover, the former excess returning from a long departure.
She never imagined she would allow these roots to grow again. e m b e d d i n g. in the skin.
Yet as her irritability lessens, so does their anger. Eventually they wither to a permanent reminder of her growth, only present in light. As the frost melts on her glinting reflection, she thinks: "Maybe I'll show my stripes after all." "We're ready," they reply.