Shyla, Clarisse, and Essie sat in the room the two girls had been sharing, and Shyla took a deep, shuddering breath. “It’s time, mom.”
Clarisse nodded. “I know its hard honey, but your father would be proud of you, regardless.”
Essie put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “We will be here for you.”
Shyla nodded, and plaited her hair back with quick practiced strokes. This was a difficult decision, but it needed to happen. The visit to her father’s grave had been the decision maker. Her long hair was an identifying feature, and Shyla knew she needed to cut it. She gave Clarisse her back, and Clarisse began to cut.
Shyla felt the tears running down her face, and Essie squeezed her hand. “I’m so proud of you.”
Shyla felt the weight of her hair disappearing. The tears fell faster, and she took a deep, shuddering breath. Regardless of what she looked like, her father would have still been so proud of his only daughter. In the end, that was all that mattered to Shyla. She sobbed into Essie’s shoulder, the weight of the last few weeks crashing down onto her. The cry was cathartic, and Shyla felt lighter once the tears stopped. It was time to move forward.
Outside, the sun was shining. The rain was sporadic, but it had passed sometime during the time that Shyla had been cutting her hair. The clouds were gone, and Shyla, Essie, Shaun, and Henry were all on the flat roof of the school soaking in the sun. Anna, Anthony, and Steven had all left to get some much needed rest. Justin appeared in the doorway behind them, and smiled at them all.
The FBI agent was on his way back to New York for a meeting, and had stopped by to say goodbye to the ninjas. As he gently hugged Shyla, Essie leant against Shaun. Shaun put his arm around her, and pulled her close. Justin shook Henry’s hand. “I enjoyed working with you guys.” He glanced across at Shyla, Essie, and Shaun. “And you too.”
Shaun grinned. “I would prefer not to make a habit of getting into trouble just to see you.”
Justin smiled at him. “I’ll be back once the inquiry is finished in New York. Stay out of trouble until then.”
All four friends laughed, and Justin went back into the school to say goodbye to the master. Henry pulled Shyla against him, and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “I love you, Shyla.”
Shyla smiled. “I love you. I’m sorry I put myself in danger.”
Henry sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t, but you chose to be a ninja. I can’t stop you, but I can look out for you.”
Shyla grinned. “I know we can do this together. That’s why we are family.”
Henry pressed a kiss to her lips, and ran his hand over her short wavy hair. He liked the look, but knew Shyla was still raw about the entire affair. “Your father would have been proud.”
Shyla’s smile was wobbly when she looked up at him. “Thank you.”
Essie hadn’t been listening to them. She felt Shaun move next to her, and knew good things were in their futures. Shyla glanced at both of them, smiling brightly. “Want to go get some coffee?”
Essie smiled. “Sure.”
As the sun shone down on them, the four friends made their way down the street to a nearby coffee shop. They laughed and chatted together, strengthening bonds of friendship that were forged in fire.
The violence would return; it was never gone from the life of a ninja. But for now, all was good between the street ninjas of Rutherford.
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