by Rolli -

My best friend Kabungo lives in a cave on Main Street. It's right by the post office.

One day, I banged on the side of the cave with a rock. Caves don't have doors, unfortunately.

A pair of eyes sparkled in the dark.

“Who?” said a deep voice. Kabungo has a surprisingly deep voice for a ten-year-old girl.

“It's just me,” I said. “Beverly.”

“Oh kay,” said my friend, waving her hand. “Come.”

Even after I took my sunglasses off, it was still dark in the cave. Kabungo is used to it. She can see in the dark like a tiger. I followed her down the long hallway that leads to the main room—I guess the only room of her house, which was even darker. So I asked her to switch the lights on.

Kabungo knew what I meant. She lit the scented candle I gave her for her birthday and sat it in the vase I got her the birthday before that. Kabungo doesn't have electricity. She does have a fire pit, but she only uses that if it's cold out or to cook wild animals.

“Better?” she said.

“Better,” I said.

I looked around the cave. Kabungo doesn't have a lot of stuff. She has a table, though I don't think she uses it. She has some cutlery I bought her. I know she doesn't use that. She has a black and white TV. I guess it's for decoration.

“How you, Belly?” said my friend, at last. Kabungo always calls me Belly. I don't think she has enough teeth to say “Beverly.”

“Fine, K,” I said. Sometimes I call her “K” for short. “How about you?”

“Mmm.” She scratched her head. “Itchy.”

“Have you been using your flea powder?”  I'd bought her some flea powder a while back.

“Nnnn,” said Kabungo, shaking her head. “Not tasty.”

I would've told her that flea powder isn't for eating, but I never tell her anything more than a hundred times. It's my personal rule.

I was tidying things up a little—I can't stand a messy cave—when I noticed something odd. There was a string on the table, with a bunch of pointy white things threaded onto it. There was a little hammer lying next to it, too, and a nail.

“What are you making?” I asked.

“Juleree,” she said. She pointed to my necklace. “Like Belly.”

I took a closer look at the white things. They looked like…teeth.

“K? What are these?”

“Shark toofs,” she whispered, very seriously. “Shhh. Secret toofs.”

“You mean teeth,” I said, correcting her. My mom's an English teacher.

“Yah, yah. Teefs.”

I gave up.

“Where'd you get them?” I asked her, holding one up to the torch.

“Jo's Ocean,” she said, even more seriously. “Shh.”

I had zero idea what she meant. Star City—that's where we're from—is nowhere near the ocean. And I didn't know anyone named Jo.

“I cotch toofs, shh. In Jo's Ocean. Belly help cotch?”

I was about to say, “No way,” but then I thought it might be a good idea to find out where my friend was getting these teeth. I consider it my personal mission to keep Kabungo out of trouble. So I told her, “Okay. Let's go.” As I turned away, though, Kabungo grabbed my sleeve.

“No no,” she said. “Wait. Sun go.”

“Sun go” means “night-time” to Kabungo. And “sun up” means “sunrise.” I've tried teaching her the proper terms, but she just doesn't remember. So I told her, okay, I'd be back at “sun go.”

“Promise, Belly?” she said, looking worried. I'm not sure why, but Kabungo has trouble trusting people.

“Promise,” I said.

Kabungo smiled. As I waved goodbye, I reminded myself to buy her another toothbrush.

The sun sets pretty late in Star City. It was close to 8:30 when I reached the cave. I picked up a rock.

“Here ready,” said Kabungo, stepping out of the shadows.

She sure was ready. She had on her “beast furs” (probably rabbit), and her face paint. Once, I called it “makeup,” and she screamed, “No, Belly! Paint!” She had along her snakeskin pouch, too. I had a feeling this was going to be interesting.

Kabungo walked past me. “Come, Belly! Sniff me.”

Okay, that might sound strange, but to Kabungo “sniff me” just means “follow me.” I don't know why she thinks that. Maybe because dogs follow a scent by sniffing? That's just a guess.

I “sniffed” Kabungo across Main Street, through Miss VeDore's pumpkin patch, and down a back alley. It was dark in the alley. About all I could see was the snakeskin pouch sparkling in the starlight. So I followed the sparkle and her footsteps and just tried my hardest not to run into any trees. It was a good thing Kabungo had tiger eyes. Finally, she pushed through some branches, and then I pushed through, and then....

“Here,” said Kabungo.

She pointed at a long green building. I knew what it was, of course, without reading the sign, but the sign said “Star City Sunset Club.”

The Sunset Club really isn't a club, it's a retirement home for older people. My Uncle George has an apartment there. He's a pretty nice guy. Even if he smells a lot like peppermints.

“This is Jo's Ocean?” I asked.

Kabungo shook her head hard.

“In,” she said. “Sniff. Shh.”

I “sniffed” her around the building and up to the fifth window on the ground floor. It was a warm night, so the window—most of the windows, actually—was wide open.

“In,” she said again, softly. “Shh. Shh. Ocean.”

“K!” I whispered. “You can't go in there.”

But it was too late. She'd already sprung through the window like a wildcat. I was leaning through it, reaching for her, trying to pull her back, when she reached out, pulled me in, and plopped me on the apartment floor. For a ten-year-old girl, Kabungo sure is strong.

“Kabungo!” I hissed. “We're breaking the law!”

But my friend just shook her head and said, “No breaks, Belly. Careful. Shh.” And she tiptoed across the room.

I looked around. It was dark, but I could still make out a few things. I could see a fish tank. A couple armchairs. A bookcase full of books.

Hmm, I thought, as I weaved my way through the furniture. There's something familiar about all this.

I was too nervous, though, to figure out what. I don't like breaking the rules.

I followed Kabungo into a kitchen, down a hall, and into a dark room. She was moving really slowly now, almost like she was hunting something (I hoped she wasn't). I moved even slower because it was so dark I could hardly see.

I bumped into something. Something soft. I was pretty sure it was a bed. I waited for my eyes to adjust. It was a bed.

My ears twitched. I could hear…snoring. So there was someone in the bed.

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