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“Wh-wh-what is that?” the long-haired boy stuttered.
“I don’t know,” Zak replied. “But I’m going to need a new pair of shorts.”
The dragon reared up, baring its yellow teeth and slashing the air with its rooster claws. “Leave the bikes,” a female voice boomed.
The bikes clattered to the pavement as the teens scrambled away.
“Mommy!” Zak whined as he rounded the corner.
The dragon lowered herself to the ground. She cocked her head to one side and narrowed her eyes into slits as she scanned the alley.
Kyle grabbed my arm. “The creature can talk!”
The dragon leaned closer to us. I inched back as she breathed on us, bathing us in the scent of jasmine tea. She flashed a toothy grin and I returned her smile.
“My name is Hailey. This is Kyle. Who are you?”
“I am Zhu,” she said with a sing-song voice. “Where am I?”
“Edmonton,” I replied. “Where are you from? How did you get here?”
She shook her giant green head. “One moment I was bringing water to the farmers in the fields and the next I was here. I don’t know how.”
“Are you going to eat us?” Kyle inched back a step.
The dragon narrowed her green eyes. “Are you planning to eat me?”
“Of course not,” Kyle said. “Why would you think that?”
“The same reason you think I would eat you.”
“Don’t be scared,” I said. “We’re not going to hurt you. Can I touch you?”
She nodded. I approached Zhu and stroked her skin. The green scales felt smooth and damp.
“Amazing. Kyle, touch her. Feels like snake skin.”
He gingerly reached out and pressed his hand against Zhu’s side before jumping back.
“My Grandpa said you shouldn’t be afraid of new things, Kyle.”
“I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about dragons.”
“Kyle, she saved us from those bullies.”
“Is this a place I should fear?” Zhu asked.
“No, you’re safe. Would you like to look around?”
“Maybe,” she said, eyeing the baggie of chewy worms in Kyle’s hand. “What is that?”
“Candy,” he answered. “Want one?”
She opened her mouth, and he tossed a yellow treat into it. Kyle hated lemon ones, but Zhu loved it. She sat up like a dog and begged for more. He tossed another at her.
“She’s going to attract attention,” he said.
“We’ll have to hide her somehow.”
“She can squeeze into my backpack.”
“Har har, Kyle. Not funny and not helpful.”
Zhu’s eyes widened. “I have an idea.”