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That night, I sneaked Zhu into my bedroom. I didn’t want my parents to freak out over a dragon, but I also didn’t want her to live in the bottle. I poured her into a fish tank beside my bed. She transformed into a smaller form of herself. She chased an angel fish behind a fake treasure chest, then swam to the surface.
“This is an incredible world,” she said. “You have so much water here.”
“Tomorrow, I can show you how I can fill up a sink full of water to wash dishes,” I joked.
“Thank you, Hailey.” She flipped on her back and floated.
The next morning, I waited until my parents left for work to bring the dragon out. She watched the water run from the kitchen sink faucet. I offered her jook, the Chinese porridge Mom made for breakfast, but Zhu scrunched her face at the fishy smell.
“Do you have the sweet treats from yesterday?” she asked.
“My Grandpa said don’t be scared of something new. It might be the start of your next great adventure.”
She nodded and licked the white porridge in the bowl. She smiled.
“See? Not so bad.”
She raised her head and sniffed the air. “Oh, I smell the chewy worms.”
“Outside!” She skittered of the kitchen.
“Wait!” I chased her out of the house.
In the front yard, Kyle leaned against a tree with the baggie of chewy worms. He watched the older neighbourhood kids play road hockey. Before I could stop her, Zhu rushed outside like a playful puppy after her owner. The kids dropped their hockey sticks and stared at the giant creature now begging for treats from Kyle.
I skidded to a stop on the porch. No one said a thing. Zhu lowered her giant horse-like head and whimpered at Kyle’s feet. He fished a green treat out of the baggie and dangled it over her mouth. She snatched the candy between her teeth and scampered toward the house.
The kids rushed the house asking a thousand questions. “What is that thing? Where did it come from? Can we pet it? What’s with the bag of candy?”
I held up my hands to the calm everyone down. “She won’t hurt anyone. She’s a Chinese dragon. She loves chewy worms.”
Zhu purred loudly and dropped her head for the kids to stroke her scaly mane. Everyone crowded around her for their turn to touch her. Though they had never seen a dragon before, the kids were more curious than afraid.
Suddenly, a screech came from across the street. Mrs. Evans, in a housecoat and curlers, stabbed a gnarly finger at Zhu. “What is that creature?!”
More people came out of their houses while Mrs. Evans began dialling on her smartphone. The adults ran toward my house. We had to hide Zhu now.