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Chapter 3

The moment Kali started struggling in my arms, I mentally said goodbye to this good world.

But, surprisingly, she left out the “screeching hysterically” part. I suspected that it was because Kali wanted to bother me, but not Josephine, and the sound would bother Josephine’s ears. Wow, Kali.

I dropped the feline tornado and she ran to Josephine, who had been looking at me worriedly, eyebrows scrunched together.

‘Are you alright?’ she asked.

I inspected my arms, which had a few red scratches on them. I wiggled them with a fake positive smile on my face, but I wouldn’t tell Josephine that my arms felt numb.

‘I don’t feel anything,’ I said, turning it into a joke. ‘I have to be dead right now.’

Josephine looked over my arms, looking exactly like a professional doctor.

‘You’re not,’ she said in a serious voice.

‘Okay, okay, I’m all right,’ I half-laughed. ‘Don’t worry about me. What we should be worried about is Kali. Where is she?’

We both glanced around the porch. Nothing, not even pawprints in the fresh mud.

‘She ran straight to you after I let go of her,’ I said, tracing a little bit of negativity in my voice. Josephine didn’t notice, or at least didn’t pay attention to it.

I ran outside and called her, but all in vain. I looked up every tree. Around every corner. And finally we found her cowering behind an old rain barrel behind the shed that we never use anymore. Surprisingly, she let Josephine get near her without problem. But she was also the only one Kali trusted right now.

‘I’m sorry I scared you,’ I said ruefully. I patted her head with great care, never forgetting her attitude once more. Phew! The fur on her neck and shoulders was still relaxed!

Inside, Mom made me put Band-Aids on my scratches. I stubbornly refused.

‘Come on, Mom! They’re only scratches, they don’t even bleed!’

‘You never know what diseases cats have. You know you can get sick from a sick cat’s scratch or bite?’

Yes, I know that. But I find it best not to argue with Mom about these kinds of things, things she thinks she knows better than me. Mom can’t tell if a cat is sick. I can, and Kali’s definitely not sick.

As soon as Mom let me leave the chair, Josephine and I escaped swiftly to her house to check on the cat she was helping.

We rode our bikes down the sunny streets, ducking for low branches in the Willow Street, where willow trees stretched out their green branches to the road, as if protecting us from the bright rays of sunshine. Some new, green, spring leaves brushed through our hair and the pretty, white, willow flowers seemed to wave at us in a cheerful greeting.

Josephine’s house was small and white, with paint peeling off the shingles. I loved the house, not because of its old appearance but because of the homey feeling that always washed over me like an ocean wave whenever I stepped over the “Welcome!” doormat. Especially with the sound of the actual ocean’s waves rolling in the distance. I’m pretty sensitive to things like that.

Josephine’s room was painted a soft but cheerful yellow, matching most of the furniture in sight. According to the room, it was pretty obvious that yellow was Josephine’s favorite color.

‘Here he is,’ Josephine crooned to a large cat napping on her fluffly, yellow pillows.

It was a stray tomcat who needed a home. He had thick, plushy, gray fur and bright yellow eyes. He was the perfect cat for a squeeze-the-breath-out cuddle.

‘He’d be absolutely perfect for a family with small kids!’ I exclaimed, already crazy about him.

‘Yeah, he is really kid-friendly,’ Josephine agreed. ‘I’ve got a family in mind for him that have a six-year-old, a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a baby. Sound good?’

‘They won’t know what’s overcome them!’ I grinned. I knew it boosted Josephine’s self-confidence to praise the cat she’d trained.

‘You’re over-reacting!’ Josephine’s twin sister, Lindsey, stood in the door way. Josephine and Lindsey looked almost identical, but definitely did not act identical. Josephine was cautious and gentle, while Lindsey was more out-going and spontanious. Josephine was more the type of friend I would hang out with—it was easy to listen to her and she always found a solution for any problem. To our great annoyance, Lindsey had a habit of talking like she was much older than us.

Josephine held up the tom and held him up close to her face. ’But isn’t he just so adorable?’ Her excitement was contagious, and Lindsey softened and smiled. ‘Yes, he is cute. But try to keep it down a little, okay? You should know I’m in the room next door by now. And remember not to squish him to death.’

Josephine and I glanced at each other and erupted into a series of giggles. The tom cuddled up in between us, oblivious of the laughter caused by him.

Josephine’s long, wavy, black hair tickled the tom’s face and he patiently blinked it out of his eyes. I glanced at my friend lovingly. Josephine and her family were Vietnamese, but they were born in America. Josephine had a tan skin color, long, black hair almost reaching her waist, and soft, almondy eyes. I’ve heard lots of people call her beautiful. Almost everyone likes her because she’s so friendly.

‘Ooh, ooh, ooh!’ Josephine suddenly remembered something. ‘I almost forgot!’ She paused, trying to make me pull it out of her. I restrained my curiosity and kept a straight face, one of my few talents.

‘Yééés, what is it?’

“We’re invited to a slumber party! At April’s barn, and we’re gonna stay up all night and stuff…’ She suddenly talked so fast I couldn’t even hear her.

‘What?’ I asked, confused.

‘A slumber party in April’s barn with her horse and we’re going to stay up all night and play games and eat potato crisps and scare each other in the bathroom!’ Josephine said the whole sentence in one breath.

‘When?’ I asked.

‘On Saturday night, till Sunday!’

‘Is everyone coming?’

With “everyone”, I meant us six, me (cat-person), Josephine (cat-person), April (horse-person), Robin (horse-person), Summer (dog-person) and Cooper (dog-person).

We sort of had a club. No, it was more like a close friend group. We each loved a certain species of animal (and others, too!) and cared for or trained them, and most of us even made money that way.

And there was also Isla, who had recently moved to our town, and was sort of trying to join us, but from what we see, she isn’t exactly the right kind of girl. She doesn’t even have a pet, and lives more toward the busy city.

‘Yes! Unless you don’t come.’ Josephine answered my question.

I sighed. I didn’t know if I could spare two days of my time to train Kali. But she was doing so well…with Josephine, but still...

‘I’m coming!’ It slipped out before I could give the matter a second thought.

‘Yay! It’ll be so fun!’ Josephine exclaimed, but my thoughts were somewhere else. Would Kali make it, calm and sweet, to Monday?

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