24 hours later
Her bare feet pressed down into the trampoline floor, sending her flying into the air. She bounced in place, then dropped to the floor in a sitting position. “Seat...” she muttered to herself as she sprung back up. On the selanjutnya bounce, she dropped to her knees. “Drop.” When she hit the ground again, she was flat on her stomach. “Belly...” She popped back up to her feet. “Flop!” She grinned triumphantly, and began circling the outside edge of the trampoline, occasionally doing a roundhouse kick atau an elaborate dodge against her invisible enemy. After circling a few times, she stopped, jumping in place. Then, without warning, she flung herself to the floor. Just before landing, she twisted herself around so she hit the floor on her back. She didn’t stop there, though; in a single, fluid motion, she kicked her legs into the air, which popped her up, and, doing a double flip, landed on her feet.
“Nice move, Annabelle.”
She stopped short, staring at where the voice came from. She bent down and picked up her glasses from the edge of the trampoline, and put them on. “What?” she asked, and slowly, the blurry figure of her brother came into focus.
“I said, nice pindah anda got there,” Chandler repeated. Annabelle smiled, wiping a bead of sweat off her forehead.
“Lily told me to tell anda that dinner’s ready. Come on in,” Chandler informed her. She nodded, and jumped off the trampoline, sliding her feet into a pair of flip flops that was laying on the grass, and followed him into the house.
Lily greeted them from the kitchen, handing Annabelle a steaming plastic container of Frozen mac’n’cheese and a fork. Annabelle took it and sat down at the meja selanjutnya to Chandler, who was already digging in to his dinner. Lily came down a detik later with her food, and silently, the three began to eat.
Annabelle picked at her pasta with her fork, her eyes glazed over.
“Why aren’t anda eating?” Chandler asked, his mouth full. Annabelle shrugged.
“Not hungry, I guess.”
Lily smiled sympathetically. “It’s about mom and dad, isn’t it?” she asked her younger sister. “You’re worried about them.”
Annabelle shrugged again. “I guess. It’s just...” she trailed off, and the room fell silent. She spoke again. “Are they usually gone this long?”
Lily shook her head. “No idea.” Now her tone grew reassuring. “I’m sure they’re fine though, Annabelle. anda shouldn’t worry too much. They’ll probably be halaman awal tonight.”
Annabelle didn’t respond, but slowly ate a bite of macaroni, chewing thoughtfully. She most certainly was worried about them, but maybe she should listen to Lily’s advice. She should be enjoying having a night without grownups, where she could do whatever she wanted, but the fact was, she had been worried all day.
Chandler swallowed the rest of his food, and stood up, pushing his chair back. He piled his dishes on the counter, and wandered over to the living room, where he turned on the TV to the baseball game. A menit later, Lily finished too, although Annabelle hadn’t touched her macaroni again.
“Come on, Annabelle. Let’s go watch some TV.”
Annabelle sighed, and stood up, putting some macaroni under the meja for Helena, who had lain down, resigned to the fact that begging would not get her any of the kids’ meal. Helena devoured the noodles and followed her, laying down selanjutnya to Annabelle’s head on the couch.
oleh around eight o’clock, Annabelle had fallen asleep, still on the dipan, sofa with her book on her lap. When, at midnight, the doorbell rang, everyone, including Helena, was slumbering in the living room. Immediately the house became alive. Annabelle, who was a light sleeper, awoke immediately, as did Helena, who began barking furiously and tearing around the house in a panic. Lily awoke moments later, to 87 pounds of white German Shepherd barreling the girl over in her frantic pursuit; and she then in turn awoke Chandler, who yawned and clambered to his feet. “Issit Mom ‘n Dad?” he asked sleepily. Lily shook her head. “They wouldn’t have to use the doorbell,” she replied. She grabbed a hold of Helena’s collar, pulling her back while Annabelle hurried to answer the door.
She opened it to find a man and a woman. The woman looked to be in about her early thirties, and she was quite short and petite. She had long, dark hair cascading down to her mid-back, with a emas streak that glinted in the moonlight, and her eyes were covered oleh sunglasses, even though it was past midnight. The man looked a little older, and he was much taller, with a muscular build, shaggy silvery hair, and bright green eyes. Annabelle’s face lit up, and she shrieked in delight, encasing the woman in a tight embrace.
“Aunty Nix!” she squealed, and the woman, Nix, smiled, hugging her back.
“And Uncle Nathan!” Chandler exclaimed, racing over to his favorit Justice Leaguer. Nathan smiled, ruffling the boy’s hair affectionately.
“It’s great to see anda too, Chan,” he said. Lily stood back, arms crossed, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“How do we know it’s really them? I mean, it is the middle of the night. How can we trust them?”
Chandler smiled. “She would know,” he replied, pointing to Helena, who was standing with her front paws on Nix’s chest, jumping with her tongue extended and trying to reach Nix’s face. “If it was anything but the real deal, she’d be growling.”
Lily shrugged, and walked over to greet her “aunt and uncle”.
“Are the cuzzies here too?” Annabelle asked eagerly. “Nikki and Darren and Terrie?”
Nikki, Darren, and Terrie were Nix and Nathan’s three kids, and so close to the Cohn children that they were almost like cousins. Nikki and Darren were eleven-year-old twins, and Terrie was three.
Nix shook her head. “No, they’re at home, sleeping. But we’re here on important business.”
The smile faded off of her and Nathan’s faces, and Nathan shook Chandler off of him. The mood had turned serious, a change that the kids recognized, and they stepped back, eyes round.
“No time for chit-chat,” Nathan berkata briskly. “We can do that later. But first, and lebih importantly, are anda alone?”