Ninja was waiting outside of Em’s office. His left eyebrow was wiggling.
“Would you like to learn some more moves before you go?”
Annabelle smiled so hard she almost shed a tear. “More than anything in the world.”
Annabelle still had a week before she was supposed to be home from summer camp, so she trained with Ninja. By the end of the second day, they had run out of moves, so Floyd taught her how to fly a helicopter. Then Eleanor taught her how to hotwire a motorcycle. And make the perfect crème brule. And so on.
Eventually the week ended, and it was time to head home. Annabelle, Eleanor, Floyd, Ninja gathered around a card table with a few balloons and some festive paper plates. Franz was sniffing everything. Eleanor was holding the kitten.
“We’ve decided to name him Rhonda,” said Floyd.
“Perfect,” said Annabelle. She wanted to ask if she could bring Rhonda home with her, but but it was clear that Eleanor had fallen in love.
“Ninja baked you a cake,” said Floyd.
“Thanks, Ninja,” said Annabelle, taking a bite.
The cake tasted worse than terrible, but Annabelle didn’t say so.
After the party, the friends said goodbye and Ninja drove Annabelle on an off-road motorcycle up a perilous slope to a desolate peak, from which she piloted a hang glider to a secret bunker, where she was hidden in the back of a truck filled with soybeans and driven across several hostile borders before eventually being placed on an airplane that transformed into a helicopter that landed in the quiet countryside before transforming into a sensible, mid-sized sedan, that drove her into town and onto Pleasant street.
Eventually, the car pulled into Annabelle’s driveway.
“Thanks,” said Annabelle to the driver. “I assume your name is Driver?”
“Nope. I’m Steve.”
Annabelle got out of the car. She was about to say thanks, but Steve put on his sunglasses and said with great seriousness, “I was not here. You did not see me. You’ll never see me again.” And then he drove away.
“We’ll see about that,” said Annabelle.
Annabelle looked at her watch. It was mid afternoon. Her parents wouldn’t be home for several hours. But Ellen would be curled in the window seat, catching the sun.
Annabelle slid her key into the lock. She turned the knob. She opened the door.
Nothing inside looked the slightest bit torn or tossed or toppled or even sort of out of place.
“That’s my sensible girl,” said Annabelle. Even as every other cat in the world went on rampage, Ellen had kept her cool.
Annabelle scooped Ellen around her shapeless waist and settled into an armchair.
“I have so much to tell you,” she said. “I hardly know where to begin.”
Ellen slowly raised her head and looked at Annabelle as if to say, “I’ll listen if you want but only if you shower me with reassuring scratches as you do.”
Annabelle thought about Em and Floyd and Ninja and wondered what they were up to. She opened her backpack and noticed that the cat control device was still inside. Did it still work? Would she be able to make Ellen dance?
Ellen looked up at Annabelle with a skeptical glance as if to say, “You can turn that dial if you feel you must, but I am already perfect just as I am.”
“I agree entirely,” said Annabelle, sliding the device back into the bag, and pushing the bag under the chair with her foot. She was home again. The world was not in peril. For now.
Annabelle took off her hair clip and turned it over. As far as anyone else could tell, it looked just like any other hair clip. But she knew that it was anything but ordinary.