The last gift that Annelies opened at her seventh birthday had not been marked. It was wrapped in pink paper and had a loop of grey fur. She held the fist sized package in front of her nose and sniffed, but she didn’t smell anything. She held to her ear and shook it, but she didn’t hear anything either. She licked her tongue over the pink packing and scrunched up her face.
"It tastes like fish," she said with big eyes to her grandmother, who removed it in an instant out of her hand. Annelies stretched her arm and held one end of the loop between her fingertips. Decidedly she pulled it and together with the fur the pink paper fell to the ground and exposed a red round bottle with dark liquid.
"Purr Shampoo!" Annelies read out the words loud on the label.
"Who gave you such a thing?" her grandmother asked with a frown and read the label herself again just to check. She placed the bottle on the table next to the self baked apple cake and looked seriously down upon Annelies: "However, hygiene never harmed anybody. Especially not you, my dear."
Later that evening, while Annelies was playing in the bath tub with her black rubber ducky she pulled the mysterious shampoo out, which was hidden behind the shower curtain. When she had made sure that her mother would be captured for a while on the phone with her best friend, she untwisted carefully the bell shaped screw-type cap. Gently she shook the round bottle and suddenly a scent of summer and warm days surrounded her. She closed her eyes and with the opened bottle under her nose, she took a deep deep breath. When she opened them again, the water in the tub reached right to her chin. Immediately she tried to sit up because she thought she had possibly slipped but was astonished how only a seven-year-old can be astonished, when she noticed that the water was not her biggest problem. What was that long dark thin creature? What swam there beside her almost touching her body. She only could see it from the corner of her eye because whenever she turned carefully, it moved at same speed with her. And it trembled. It was jerking, twitching and trembling, as if copying her and then she recognized that it was a part of her, at what she tried to stare. She grew a tail. And not only that ...
With surprise and still much more astonishment than before, she noticed her paws and felt her long whiskers and large ears and one moment later she began pitifully to cry. It was so loud that her mother put the phone to the side and stormed excitedly into the bathroom.
"What the... What is the cat doing in the tub? "she asked dumbfounded and then called louder.
"Annelies, where are you? What did you do to the cat?"
And Annelies looked at her with her green slit shaped eyes and called, "But Mommy, I am here. It’s me ... the cat."
But the only thing that came over her lips, that means if cats have lips, was a meow and not even a cat expert would have thought it to be a word. Her mother grabbed her roughly in the neck and pulled her out of the water. Thick stripes of liquid flowed down her and now she also saw her tail in full splendor and glory. It was thin and slimy like an earthworm in a puddle.
"Mommy", Annelies called again and tried to free herself from the hand of her mother.
"Annelies," called her mother and did not seem to notice, whom she dried right there with a brown towel. Then she simply left her there at the washing machine and remembered again the phone that was waiting on the kitchen table.
Annelies freed herself from that enclosing towel and turned carefully after the large mirror that was right behind her.
"Oh holy moly," she murmured in meowish and looked at the grey striped cat, who looked back at her. She looked exactly like Rolex, her pet cat, which she loved to chase through the whole house. She had the same salient zigzag sign above her eyes and the thick black strips around her front paws.
"But if I look like Rolex, what happened to her?" went through her head and then she thought of something inconceivable. Just before she could form it into words it turned into reality already.
"Mommy, I am here. I just put on my pajamas. Meow, "she heard her own human voice and in the corridor in front of the open bathroom door she saw herself with freshly combed hair and ready for bed. That girl that looked like her, looked over to the wet cat on the washing machine and grinned impudently. Annelies the cat was so much dazed and flabbergasted that she couldn’t even spit out a quiet meow. Her mother stepped, the phone wedged between ear and shoulder, to the Rolex the girl and went into squat.
"Hey pumpkin," she said and patted the girl on the head, "You can’t just disappear out of the tub. I’m worried, do you understand me?"
Rolex the girl nodded with a realizing look on her face. Annelies the cat drove her claws out and bored it into the damp towel. She wanted to jump down from the washing machine and scratch her own face, but the floor seemed so far deep down. She would never survive that. When Rolex jumped down from that high, it looked always so easily but she wasn’t cat..., at least not for a long time.
"And what happened with Rolex? I found her trembling and crying in the tub" her mother asked Rolex the girl.
"Oh, she tried to scratch me, that’s why I got out of the tub. She just jumped into the water. Meow, "answered the wrong Annelies and created a more innocent look then the real Annelies would have ever been able to do. But her mother, as for mothers have a special instinct concerning their children, didn’t buy it.
"Perhaps you can tell that granny, although I don’t think that she would believe that either. I’ve seen you often enough how you tested Rolex, if she is really water shy. I hope you are happy with the result, because if I catch you again by torturing the poor animal, you are going to be grounded for one month without TV and Rolex will go to an animal shelter."
Annelies the cat didn’t miss the content sneer that blinked for a second on her human face. And with this, Annelies the cat jumped down on the tiles and stepped between her mother and the cat in her body.
"Mommy, you are right. And in order to prove to you that I will be always nice to Rolex from now on, I let her sleep tonight in my room. Meow."
And Rolex the girl picked up Annelies the cat into her arms and squeezed her. "Ow", grumbled Annelies the cat. She had never thought that being held could hurt so much.
"Well well," her mother said, "I hope she will survive that. And something else Annelies, please stop that meow, ok? Now have a good on phone.
"Sweet dreams mommy. Meow ", said Rolex the girl and disappeared skipping in Annelies’ room. When she was inside she dropped the cat on the floor and locked the door. She stretched her arms, turned in circles and let herself finally fall on the bed.
"Well, did my birthday present please you? Meow?"
Annelies the cat laid on the rug the front paws under her fluffy chest.
"Very funny," she murmured, "you cannot understand me anyway."
"Don’t be so sure. Oh I’m so cute. Meow."
"You understand me?" Annelies sat up and stared up to the bed.
"What do you think what language I spoke the last ten years? Meow?"
"So you can really understand me. Than reverse that. I don’t want to be a cat."
Rolex the girl had crawled now to the edge of the bed and looked, the head bedded on the arms, down to the cat .
"You know Annelies, you decided that. You accepted the gift. Meow."
"But I didn’t know that it..."
“Why did you take it then? Do you always accept things foreigners give to you? Meow?"
"Yes,…I mean no. It is my birthday so I get presents. Tell me, how I can become human again. Please! I promise I’ll never be nasty to you again."
"Oh that is very simple. You just have to stand on your left foot, touch with your right hand your left ear and with the left hand your nose. Then you turn three times in a circle and say ' Abra Kadabra, Three Times Black Tomcat! What a pity that no cat ever was able to do that. Meow."
Immediately Annelies the cat tried to stand on her left back paw and hold her front paws in such a way like she was told. Rolex the girl rolled herself on the bed back and forth of laughter, until Annelies ' mother knocked annoyed at the door. Rolex made quieter but did not stop laughing until she finally fell asleep, still chuckling and sniggering. Because Annelies the cat did not give up. Again and again she tried it. She fell so often down she couldn’t count it, but she ignored it. She wanted to do it. She wanted her own body back no matter what it costs. Finally she was able to put her right paw on the left ear and to place the left paw on the wet nose without falling to the ground. And, when the rooster on the roof was already getting ready for crowing she did it. With the last “Three Times Black Tomcat’ she sunk down to the ground and slept like a groundhog.
When she opened her eyes again she was surrounded by water. Her mother removed the shower curtain and looked dumbfounded at her.
"Annelies, what did you do with the shampoo? That would have lasted for weeks." When Annelies looked downward she noticed two things. First of all the bottle with shampoo was empty and swam at the surface of the bath water and second she had hands.
She looked at her mother: "Mommy?"
"I wait for an explanation."
"You can understand me?"
"Loud and clear, now tell me."
Annelies rose and looked actually down at herself. She really did it. She became human again. And on the washing machine she saw Rolex sitting. The grey cat licked joyfully her paws and when their eyes met, she blinked.