While the Cat's Away (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, No. 25)

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9780671028213: While the Cat's Away (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, No. 25)

Natural Disaster! When an inter-realm hurricane traps Drell on the wrong side of the linen closet, his powers are temporarily on the blitz. While he waits for them to return, Sabrina covers for him in exchange for a Heart's Desire chip. But when Salem swallows it and morphs into a human form, it's goodbye Mystery Meat Mix, hello teenage boy! Now Sabrina must hide Salem until she figures out how to return him into his feline form. She takes him to the only place a teenage boy can go unnoticed -- high school. But the failed despot in Salem soon takes over the school! Sabrina can't stand Salem like this. But can she turn him back before the inter-relm hurricane clears and Drell returns to the Other Realm?

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About the Author:

Margot Batrae is the author of twenty-one books for young readers, including mysteries, romances, soap operas, and adventure stories. She wrote her first novel at the age of twenty-three. Four of her books have been on bestseller lists. She also writes for adults and teaches fiction writing.

Margot loved books about witchcraft, magic, and enchanted beings when she was a child and she's very glad to be writing about a witch now -- especially one with as good a wardrobe as Sabrina! Two of Margot's favorite books for young readers are The Pushcart Wars by Jean Merrill and Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Margot lives in New York City, where she was born and raised. She has studied ballet for many years and used to be a modern dancer.

Margot's first cat, Rosie, was a very dark calico who had been abandoned at the vet's office at the age of seventeen (over one hundred in human years). "I'd never had a cat before," Margot says, "but I knew this one was special, and she really needed me. I just had to take her home." Rosie died two years later, after lots of love and attention. Today, Margot has two cats. Snaporaz, a black tuxedo cat, belonged to a friend who moved away. She found Tigerlily, a super-friendly, mostly white calico, living on the streets of New York. They are best pals. Margot says, "I didn't get my first pet until I was over thirty years old. Now, I wouldn't be without one!"

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

"Salem, get out of there!" Sabrina complained. The jet-black cat curled around her feet, then leaped onto the shelf of the open linen closet, sending a pile of freshly washed towels tumbling to the floor.

"I, Salem Saberhagen, am Supreme Ruler of this linen closet," the cat answered, his goldish-green eyes flashing. He waved a cautionary paw at Sabrina. "And if you don't watch out, I'm going to banish you to the laundry room." Salem yawned then curled up on a heap of sheets, leaving a little swirl of black hair on them.

"Salem, come on. I mean it!" Sabrina swatted the indignant cat off the linen. She had no time for this. She was already risking missing the school bus. But Aunt Hilda liked her to put the towels away by hand. When she used her magic, the green ones always got mixed in with the blue ones.

"Oh, you're no fun," Salem said grumpily, skittering out of the way. Once a warlock himself, he had made the unfortunate attempt at taking over the world and had been sentenced by the Witches' Council to one hundred years as an ordinary house cat -- no magic powers at all other than the ability to talk. It hadn't left him humbler, just bitter.

Sabrina ignored the cat and pointed at the towels. A light dust of sparkles shot out from her finger and swirled around them. They magically refolded themselves and rose into a neat pile on the shelf, though the green and blue ones were all mixed up. They blocked out the dark passage that led into the depths of the closet and far, far beyond. The Spellmans' linen closet had a lot more inside it than pillowcases and extra blankets. It was a doorway to the Other Realm, where most witches lived, away from the mortal world.

Sabrina loved visiting her Aunt Vesta there. You could eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast and no matter what outfit you put on, you never got a panty line. Still, she was glad she and her aunts Hilda and Zelda lived here in normal, mortal Westbridge, Massachusetts, despite homework, zits, and the occasional Saturday night without a date. Besides, when things got to be too much of a drag, she could always simply point...

Sabrina was just putting away the last of the washcloths when she felt the first drop. "What was that?" she asked. Something wet plunked down on the top of her head.

"Don't ask me, I'm only the cat," Salem grumbled.

A couple more drops spattered down. Then there was a whirling gust of what felt like wind from the back of the closet and a spray of rain. "Oh no, Salem, it's a hurricane from the Other Realm!" Sabrina shouted.

She tried to push the closet door closed, but the gathering force of the storm was already strong enough to propel it open again. A whoosh of rain flew at her, soaking the front of her "Girls Kick Butt" T-shirt and black hip-hugger jeans. Her syrupy blond hair flew in a million directions. Her pale blue eyes squinted into the closet. The inside of the closet was black with rain and the towels and sheets swirled crazily in the wind.

"Help!" Sabrina called to Salem, who sat out of reach of the raindrops, casually licking his paws.

As much as she pushed, the storm was stronger. She was getting wetter by the second. There was a massive flash of lightning. Clunk. Something hit Sabrina hard, knocking her over. With a wild spin, the storm reversed itself, the wind whirled in the opposite direction, and the linen closet door slammed shut with a bang.

Sabrina disentangled herself from whatever was lying on top of her. "Ohhh," she groaned.

The thing the storm had blown in groaned, too. It lifted itself to its knees. Then it stood up.

"Oh no" Sabrina whispered, staring in terror. A man stood there, blinking and dripping all over the floor or rather, a warlock. His overgrown black hair had been blown into a tangled mess and his glasses sat askew on the bridge of his nose. He was wearing a very wet white disco suit and a pair of white platform shoes that made him even taller than normal. In his hands were a very wet bunch of flowers and a soggy box of chocolates. He did not look pleased. Salem recognized him, let out a tiny, frightened hiss, then slunk quickly down the hallway and into Sabrina's room.

"Uh-oh, I think I'm in trouble..." Sabrina gasped. It was Drell, a powerful member of the Witches' Council and one of the grouchiest warlocks in the Other Realm. Even though the storm hadn't been her fault, she had a feeling somehow she'd end up paying for it.

"Where am I?" Drell muttered to himself. "That inter-realm tornado blew me way off course." He peered at his watch, put it up to his ear, shook it, listened again, then frowned. "Late! MaryBeth is going to kill me." He shook his dark hair, sending a splatter of rain around the Spellmans' hallway. Slowly, his eyes came into focus and settled on Sabrina. His face turned a very delicate pink, then it got red. Finally, it became a deep bluish purple. "Oh no. Don't tell me that storm blew me into Hilda Spellman's house, of all places."

Sabrina chipped a bit of purple nail polish off of one of her fingernails. "Okay," she said, "I won't tell you."

"Of all the unbelievably inconvenient coincidences..." Drell muttered at a rattlesnake pace. He stared at Sabrina, looking wet and confused.

"Look, maybe you'll feel better once you get out of those wet and -- if you don't mind me saying it -- totally outdated clothes," Sabrina said. She nodded her chin at his polyester suit and white ruffled shirt, open to the belly button, out of which peeked a half a dozen gold chains hung with oversized medallions.

Drell looked down at himself, noticing the disco-era outfit for the first time. "Ugh!" he said. "I must have gotten stuck in a 1970s time warp." He pointed at himself and...nothing happened. There was only the sound of an engine trying unsuccessfully to turn over. He pointed again. Again nothing. "Shorted out!" he exclaimed.

"What's wrong?" Sabrina asked.

"It's Mother Nature. She's done a whammy on me. She's just never forgiven me for breaking her window playing catch back in the year 1428."

"Look, why don't you get dry the mortal way -- with a towel." She pulled on the linen closet door, but it was wedged shut as if glued.

"No use trying that!" Drell said. "It won't open until the inter-realm tornado clears. Besides, open that door in a storm like this one and you could find yourself blown right into the middle of the Salem witch trials."

"Wow! How long can something like that last?" Sabrina asked.

Drell shrugged. "Could be a couple of days, could take years. In any case, we all better get used to sharing washcloths. That linen closet isn't opening any time soon."

"Hey wait. What do you mean, we?"

Drell let out a snort of laughter. "What I mean is that you aren't getting any towels and I...I'm stuck here until that storm clears." He shook his head mournfully and tried his finger a few more times. The motor-grinding sound went on and on, then finally died completely. He looked devastated. "What a ghastly fate. Stuck in the mortal realm without my powers. They'll laugh me out of the Warlocks' Club if they ever find out about this one!"

"Look on the bright side" Sabrina said, trying to do just that herself. "At least things can't get any worse."

"Sabrina! What's going on up there? There's an awful lot of banging." Aunt Hilda's voice floated up the stairs, followed by the sound of her feet trudging up the stairs.

"It just got worse!" Sabrina and Drell said at the same time.

Drell looked around wildly. He waved his finger frantically at himself. "Got to get out of here. Got to get out of here!" he chanted over and over. But his finger just let out the hissing sound of air escaping from a flat tire.

Sabrina understood Drell's predicament. Drell and Aunt Hilda had a history. They'd dated back in the seventeenth century, or something like that. They'd even planned a wedding, ordered a couple fields of black orchids and brought Homer out of retirement to do the entertainment. But at the last moment, Drell had ditched out, never shown up, left her at the altar. And even though it was all ancient history now, Hilda still hadn't gotten over him. She even sometimes accepted a date with him -- though he still usually didn't show up.

"Sabrina?" Aunt Hilda called again, this time closer. "Hurry up or you'll be late for school."

Drell stared at Sabrina, desperately reaching out to her. "Help me!" he begged.

"What do you want me to do?" Sabrina asked, shocked.

"At least get me out of these clothes. I can't let Hilda realize my powers are temporarily off."

Sabrina couldn't help having a little compassion for Drell. As clumsy and rude as he could be, it was hard turning down someone who liked you as much as Hilda liked him. On the other hand, Drell had always been a little on the obnoxious side. It felt good to have him at her mercy.

"Why should I help you instead of my own aunt?" Sabrina asked. She picked a little more polish off her fingers as if they had all the time in the world and Hilda wasn't about to poke her head up the stairway in a mere few seconds.

Drell's expression shifted. His eyes bulged and his lips trembled "Please!" he pleaded.

Sabrina watched him nibble his lips anxiously. Actually it really was a terrible sight. She thought about what it would be like to show up for a date with her boyfriend Harvey and realize at the last moment she'd somehow been zapped into a Marcia Brady outfit. "Okay, okay," she said. "I'll pop you into something a little more presentable. What style and time period do you want?"

"Um, anything's okay," Drell mumbled. "But...wait, first, you've got to do me a favor."

"Another favor?"

"Yeah." He fumbled in the pocket of his disco suit, then pulled something out. "Here. Keep this for me." He held whatever it was out. Sabrina opened her hand and he dropped it in. It was a heart-shaped chip that shimmered slightly with all the colors of the rainbow.

"Wowwww!" Sabrina said. It was the most perfect thing she'd ever seen. "What is it?"

Drell frowned, as if he couldn't believe she didn't know. "It's a Heart's Desire chip, of course. Eat it, think of your heart's desire, and it's yours. No limitations, no mess-ups, the way there sometimes are with spells. And works on anyone -- mortals, gnomes, even chipmunks. Valuable. Very valuable. In fact, nine witches out of ten would rather have that chip" -- he pointed at the shimmering heart in Sabrina's hand -- "than the power to turn back time!"

"Wowwww," Sabrina said again. "Are you giving it to me?" she asked hopefully.

"No!" Drell made as if to grab the chip back, but Sabrina pulled her hand out of his reach. "I'm just asking you to hold it for me while you change my clothes."

"Ohhh," Sabrina groaned in disappointment.

"It's too wet to use right now. But when it dries out, I'm going to use it to whisk myself back to the Other Realm, despite the tornado. If you pop this disco suit back to the seventies with that chip in the pocket, I'm stuck here! And let me tell you, I'd rather watch twenty-four hours straight of Dance Fever reruns than be stuck at Hilda Spellman's house, trying to explain why I ran out on her all those centuries ago."

Sabrina barely heard what Drell was saying. What was her heart's desire? To be totally loved by Harvey? She already had that. To travel around the world? She could do that with the point of her finger. To live forever? Witches did. No, she didn't really know what her desire was. Maybe that was part of being a teenager. But it didn't matter. If she didn't have the answer the chip would figure it out for her and then...who knows what wonderful things would happen?

"Come on, come on!" Drell's voice interrupted daydream. "Hilda's coming -- you've got to get me out these clothes!"

"Okay!" Sabrina told Drell. With a fluid gesture, started to point, then stopped. "What kind of outfit do you want?"

"Anything! Anything!" Drell practically sobbed as the top of Hilda's head bobbed up the stairs.

Sabrina shrugged and said a little spell. "Fashion, passion, let it rip. Change this warlock, make him HIP!" She pointed. There was a little flash of sparkly light. When it cleared, Drell was dry, and he was wearing a pair of messy cutoff jeans and a T-shirt featuring a picture of the lead guitarist of Sabrina's favorite band, the Leopard Spots. A tattoo of a witch on a broom had appeared on one of his forearms and a little silver ring hung from the edge of his right eyebrow. He was still holding the flowers and candy.

Sabrina admired her handiwork. "You look great!" she exclaimed.

"I look ridiculous!" Drell said, scowling.

But at that moment, Hilda bounced up the stairs. When she saw Drell, all energy seemed to drain instantly from her body. Her eyes locked into his and an ocean of emotions washed over her face. Anger, surprise, regret,frustration, and -- Sabrina was sorry to see it-- love. She was wearing a mud-brown sweatshirt with a dried green glop from an old spell smeared across it. Her blond hair hung mousilY around her ears, and she'd neglected to put on her makeup. She was munching on a bagel with cream cheese and a few crumbs clung to her chin.

Sabrina could see her aunt trying to play it cool. "Oh hi, Drell" Aunt Hilda said calmly, as if she didn't care one way or the other whether she ever saw him again. Then she noticed the flowers and candy. A wave of amazement and delight passed over her features. "For me?" Drell looked at her sheepishly, then held them out to her. "Drell! You shouldn't have!" she cooed.

"He didn't," Sabrina said, too quietly for Hilda to hear. A little worm of guilt was beginning to eat at her. After all, Hilda was her aunt. It was already obvious Hilda was going to get her heart broken yet again.

"These flowers are beautiful," Aunt Hilda said, burying her nose in them. "And the chocolates! Hmm, let me give you something, too." She looked down at her half-eaten bagel, pointed, and it turned into a silver breakfast tray filled with a plate of eggs Benedict, pancakes with real maple syrup, fresh orange juice, and coffee with pure cream.

"Uh, thanks," Drell said, not sounding very thankful, though he did take the tray.

"So you just thought you'd blow by and see if there was any splash left in the old romance?" Hilda giggled.

"Uh, you could say that," Drell said timidly.

Hilda moved in closer. "You really are sweet, you know that?"

Sabrina couldn't stand to watch it any longer. She edged toward the door to her room as Drell shot her a desperate look. Just before she slipped quietly through the door, she turned and pointed at her aunt. The green gunk on the sweatshirt faded away and an unseen hand magically removed the bagel crumbs and brushed Hilda's messy hair. It was the least she could do for her aunt.

Inside her room, Sabrina dropped heavily onto the bed, burying her face in the brightly colored bedspread with an appliqué of the sun on it. Scattered in a jumbled heap on the ...

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