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Chapter Six

Heidi sighed happily, taking a rubber band from her wrist and using it to put her hair in a ponytail. Ethan’s eyes were so big that I was almost worried they would pop out of his head. Not that I could blame him—we’d just seen a shrimpy old man turn into a beautiful young woman, after all.

 

“Ahh, feels good to be out again!” she said, stretching. “It’s been sooo long since the old man took his medicine. Like, at least a day!”

 

Looking at her, you would never have thought she was Dr. Jack. The differences were like night and day. Where Jack had been short, Heidi was tall. While Jack was timid and shy, you could tell just by looking at her that Heidi needed to be the center of attention everywhere she went. There was an almost predatory gleam in her eye when she looked at Ethan that you would never see in Jack’s in a thousand years.

 

“Now,” she said with a smirk, leaning across the counter in a way that made me very uncomfortable, “I hear you want to know all about what we do here at New You, handsome.”

 

Ethan gulped, obviously as uncomfortable with the advances as I was. “I, uh, guess so?”

 

“Good,” she practically purred. "Ethan, tell me…have you ever wished you were someone else?"

 

"I—"

 

"Or something else?"

 

Ethan glanced at me, and I shrugged. What I really wanted to do was wring his stupid neck and then drag him out of this store by his tongue. But I’d lived with him long enough to know that keeping him from hearing what Heidi had to say would just make him even more determined to find out. He had a hunger for knowledge—especially forbidden knowledge—that actually scared me sometimes. The best I could do was pretend it was nothing special, just another humdrum part of everyday life, and pray to the whoopie cushion in the sky that he would lose interest.

 

"I guess so," he said hesitantly.

 

Heidi grinned. "Really? Being a handsome, sexy young man isn't good enough?"

 

"That sexy young man," I interjected, "is sixteen, so maybe lay off a little?"

 

Heidi smirked at me. "Aww, I'm just playing with him. What's the matter, Henry? Jealous?"

 

My cheeks turned blue. "I just don't think flirting with underage clients is good customer service."

 

She rolled her eyes, but the mischievous way they twinkled made it obvious she had seen through my expertly crafted alibi. My hand went to Splatsy, suddenly tempted to jellify her brains.

 

"New You is a pharmacy," she said, turning her attention back to Ethan, "but we only sell one kind of medicine: Nutromutanious Yusentropica—or NuYu, for short."

 

"What does it do?" Ethan asked.

 

Heidi lowered her voice. "It cures the most horrible sickness in the world. And it's the only cure!"

 

"What sickness?" Ethan pressed her, whispering too.

 

She beckoned him closer, then whispered into his ear, "Not being what you want to be."

 

Ethan blinked. "I don't under…"

 

He froze, then turned to look at the shelves again. But this time he wasn’t looking at the bottles.

 

He was looking at the labels beneath them.

 

"This one says centaur," he said slowly, his eyes narrowing. "So if I took one of them, would I…"

 

Heidi's grin widened. "That cute butt of yours would suddenly be a lot bigger!”

 

"Whoa," he breathed, taking a step back from the counter to look around, his eyes so wide you'd think he was getting a glimpse of heaven itself. "That…That's…Whoa!"

 

"You'd be amazed how many people wish they could be something besides what they were born as," Heidi said almost wistfully. "Maybe they just want to be taller, or have different colored hair. Those people are boring. The interesting ones are the people who want to be something else entirely!"

 

"And your medicine can actually do that?" Ethan whispered in awe. "They can turn people into…into monsters?"

 

Heidi's smile faded a little. "We don't like to use the word monster here, but yeah. We just mix a little bit of blood from whatever it is you're turning into with our special secret ingredients, and boom! The world's one and only shapeshifting medication!"

 

"How long does it last?" Ethan asked, eyes alight with excitement. "You do turn back eventually, right?"

 

"Each transformation lasts twenty four hours. Then you'll need to take another pill if you don't want to change back."

 

"So, if I took one every day," Ethan said, his voice going quiet, "I'll never have to be hu—"

 

"Well, this has been fun," I cut him off, glaring at Heidi, "but we need to get home. Tell Jack we said thanks for the medicine and that I'll be back when we need another refill."

 

I grabbed Ethan, fully prepared to drag him out of the store, but he dug his feet in and said the words I'd been dreading ever since we set foot in here:

 

"Henry, wait! I want to try this!"

 

I cringed, gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut, praying that this would all turn out to be a very bad dream brought on by that slice of cheesecake with tobacco sauce I'd had as a midnight snack. If it was, I was going to wake up…right…now!

 

Crap.

 

"You didn't learn anything from that night we spent glued together, did you?" I snapped. "Never mess around with magic you don't understand!"

 

"What's hard to understand?" Heidi piped up. "We make 'em, you take 'em! You change back a day later, take another pill, and everyone lives happily ever after!"

 

Ethan shrugged. "Sounds self-explanatory to me."

 

Crap!

 

"Did you hear what Jack charged me for this?" I held up Con's medicine and shook it, rattling the pills inside. "Seven hundred dollars! If you have that kind of cash on you, then you haven't been pulling your weight when we buy snacks for movie night!"

 

Ethan looked away, as guilty as a dog who'd just peed on the carpet.

 

"Ethan," I said slowly, "you don't have that kind of cash…do you?"

 

"Yes," he said meekly.

 

I threw my hands up. "Cheese and crust, dude! Where did you get it?"

 

"I may, or may not," he said, still refusing to look me in the eye, "be selling gold to Aesop and his dad whenever we go to their store."

 

“Gold?” I asked in disbelief. “Do I even want to ask where you’ve been getting that?”

 

“Well,” His face turned red with embarrassment, “I don’t really…have it.”

 

“Gonna need a better explanation than that, buster.”

 

He shrugged like it was no big deal. “I’ve been learning a lot from that spellbook Aesop sold me. Spells like…you know…how to change rocks so that they look like gold?”

 

My mouth fell open in horror. “You’ve been selling fake gold?”

Somehow, Ethan had the gall to look offended. “If they didn’t want—”

“TO LEPRECHAUNS?”

 

“If they didn’t want me doing that, then maybe they shouldn’t have sold me an illegal spellbook!” he retorted.

 

I buried my face in my hands. "ETHANNNNNN!"

 

"So, yeah." He turned back to Heidi, who was watching with amusement. "I can afford that."

 

"These aren't toys, you nimrod!" I yelled, doing my best not to strangle him. "This is serious stuff, only for people who really need it!"

 

"The only person who can decide if Ethan needs it is Ethan himself," Heidi spoke up.

 

I glared at her so hard I'm surprised knives didn't shoot out of my eyes.

 

"Jade," I said, looking at her in desperation, "talk some sense into this idiot! Tell him how stupid he'd be to buy those pills!"

 

Jade nodded. "She's right, Ethan. That would be a huge waste of money."

 

I sighed in relief. If there was anyone Ethan would listen to, it was—

 

"I can turn you into whatever you want without using those pills. You just have to wish for it."

 

I looked at her, then turned around to beat my head against the wall a few times.

 

"Henry," Jade said, sounding worried, "are you okay?"

 

Spinning on my heel, I grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her to the other side of the store where Ethan couldn't hear us.

 

"What are you doing?" I hissed.

 

"Henry," she said gently, "I know you're worried for him, but Ethan needs to be able to make his own choices."

 

"I know that," I snapped, folding my arms stubbornly. "As long as he makes the choices we want him to make!"

 

"I just think you should have more faith in him."

 

"I have plenty of faith in him," I said. "But I also know when he's about to make a stupid, dangerous decision for entirely the wrong reasons!"

 

Jade frowned and shook her head, but didn't argue anymore when I turned and marched back over to where Ethan was standing.

 

"Now you listen to me, little mister, and you listen good!" I raised my hand and started jabbing him in the chest. "You! Are! Not! Buying! Those! Pills! Do you understand?"

 

"Okay," he said.

 

"Don't you argue with me, Ethan Griggs! YOU ARE NOT—wait, what?"

 

He shrugged. "Okay. You've convinced me. Those pills are dangerous and expensive, and I shouldn't take them."

 

My hand fell to my side as I stared at him in shock.

 

"Well…good," I said. "I'm glad you're seeing sense. Let's go home, then."

 

I gave Heidi a wave goodbye—rather than throttling her like I wanted—and led the way out of the store. I let the door swing shut and, in the half second when I looked back, I almost thought I saw Heidi wink at me.

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