Arylin smelled pancakes and bacon. She opened her eyes, trying to understand her surroundings. Memories of the past week flooded her sleepy brain: Mom and Dad leaving on the plane, the trip with Nathaniel, and meeting Melissa again. For the next year, home would be with her brother Nathaniel & his wife Melissa. Mom and Dad were in China on an exchange program with the university. She had not wanted to go along, but she would still miss them. Simon, I still have Simon. She reached down to touch the cat, but he wasn’t there. She looked up and saw the door was open a crack. Someone had let him out.
She jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. Melissa was at the stove making pancakes.
“Where’s Simon?” she asked.
“Outside,” Melissa replied.
“How could you?” Arylin cried. “He’s not used to the city. He might get lost, or hit by a car!”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Melissa said.
“But you don’t know!” Arylin rushed out the back door calling, “Simon, Simon, please come.”
“Where could he be,” she said.
“Just like a girl to talk to herself,” said a voice from behind the neighboring fence. Then a boy’s face appeared above it.
“Hi,” he said. “Who’s Simon?”
“My cat,” Arylin answered. “My sister-in-law let him out and I can’t find him.”
“Cats usually come home on their own. Why don’t you just wait?”
“You don’t understand. He’s not used to the city. I can’t lose him.” She didn’t have time for this annoying boy.
“I’ll help you look,” said the boy, climbing over the fence.
“I’m Brian. Who are you?”
“Well Arylin, you might want to lose the PJs before you go running around the neighborhood,” said Brian.
Arylin looked down and saw that she was still wearing her pyjamas. Mortified, she turned and fled to the house. In her room, she changed quickly, only stopping long enough to run a brush through her long blonde hair and pull it back with a clip.
“Breakfast is almost ready,” Nathaniel called as she ran through the kitchen.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but I have to find Simon.” She knew Melissa and Nathaniel would be worried about her, but she couldn’t stop.
Brian was still waiting in the back yard. “I’ve already checked your yard, so let’s check mine.”
Together they climbed over the fence into Brian’s yard. They looked under bushes and lawn furniture, behind the shed and in the garage, but still no Simon.
“Let’s go out the back gate,” said Brian. “We can look over the other fences as we go.”
They walked down the alley, checking in adjacent yards as they went. Nearing the end of the alley, Arylin heard a dog barking, followed by a cat hissing and screeching.
“Simon!” she cried.
Through a chain link fence, she could see Simon in a stand-off with a huge rottweiler, the dog’s food dish between them.
Without thinking, Arylin opened the gate and ran toward Simon. The dog spotted her and charged, growling fiercely with teeth bared.
“Don’t move,” Brian said.
She couldn’t, but she could see Simon eating contentedly from the dog’s dish. A boy came out of the house.
“What’s going on out here?” he yelled.
“Hey, Sweeney,” Brian hollered. “Call off your dog.”
“Why should I?” Sweeney answered.
“Because Arylin’s new here.” he said. “She’s only trying to get her cat.”
“Maybe I should sic my dog on the cat,” Sweeney suggested.
“No!” cried Arylin.
The boy laughed.
Arylin glanced down at the dog. She loved animals. Why should this dog be any different? She talked to the dog in soothing tones. “Here doggie, come see me.” She held out her hand and continued talking. The dog stopped snarling and sniffed her hand. Arylin dropped down to the ground, coaxing the dog to come closer. Finally, as if starved for attention, the dog flopped on the ground in front of her. She scratched his ears and he rolled over on his back as if to say, “Scratch my belly too, please.” She did.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” demanded Sweeney.
Arylin looked up and smiled. “Making friends,” she answered. “Brian, could you get Simon?”
“Sure thing,” Brian said.
She continued to play with the dog until Brian collected Simon and was safely out the gate. She gave the dog one last belly rub. “See you later pooch,” she said as she rose to join Brian. Then she turned and waved to a stunned looking Sweeney.
Arylin and Brian walked down the alley laughing about the shocked look on Sweeney’s face.
“That was awesome,” said Brian.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Hey, why don’t you come in for breakfast,” asked Arylin? “Melissa and Nathaniel are anxious for me to make friends. I’m sure they won’t mind.”