Excerpt for Gwendolyn's Revenge by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Gwendolyn's Revenge

By Carrie Cross


Copyright © 2018 by Carrie Cross

Smashwords Edition

Visit the author at www.carrie-cross.com

Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to discover other works by Carrie Cross.

Excerpts from: Carrie Cross, Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills.

Copyright Teen Mystery Press 2013. Reprinted by permission of Teen Mystery Press.

Cover design: Ed Ward www.mental-ward.com


This fantasy novella, Gwendolyn’s Revenge,

is dedicated to The Shirley Locke Holmes Detective Agency,

The Wilkerson Boys, P.I., and Skylar Robbins Secret Agents

everywhere who love to search for clues and solve mysteries.


Contents

1. Stolen Gems

2. Dead Aunt Evelyn’s Magic Box

3. Gwendolyn’s Plan

4. Magic Number

5. Secret Stash

6. BAD LUCK JELLUS GIRL

7. Dubious Wish Beads

8. Beautifying Spell

9. Rich and Famous

10. “She isn’t the thief.”

11. A Wicked Smile

12. Feverish Whispers

13. Two Witches, Betwixt and Between

14. Eyes Round with Terror

15. One Magic Silver Stone

16. The Monstrous Thing

17. Loud, Unstoppable Farts

18. The Hairy Warts on Her Forehead

19. A More Important Lesson

20. Evil Bud

21. Apology


1

Stolen Gems

“Ha!” Gwendolyn shouted. “Fooled her again.” She smirked, peering into the car window at her cousin, Skylar Robbins, as she and her parents pulled out of the driveway. “Sure, I’ll water the forgotten garden for you until you come back next summer.” Gwendolyn cackled. Then she shut the front door and stomped up the stairs to her room. “Skinny little know-it-all thinks I’m stupid,” she muttered, huffing a bit as her legs reached the top step. She tore a hand through her short shrub of hair and grinned wickedly as she shoved her bedroom door open.

Gwendolyn had plans.

She had sneaked into Skylar’s bathroom while her cousin was outside, and rummaged through her belongings. Gwendolyn needed a lock of hair to use in a most important spell—and it had to be done before the new school year started. Walking over to her dresser, she slowly pulled open a shallow drawer and stared in at the stolen contents.

She had removed several strands of long brown hair from Skylar’s brush.

That wasn’t the only thing Gwendolyn had stolen.

“Some detective. She actually thought I couldn’t find her diary in that great hiding place…a hatbox in the closet!” Gwendolyn screamed, doubling over in a huge belly laugh. “And—oh, how sneaky! Writing in your diary backwards. As if a five-year-old couldn’t figure out how to hold it up to a mirror and read it.” Gwendolyn had, in fact, held her cousin’s diary up to the mirror, and read it.

And she had silently followed Skylar and her creepy friend Kat as they’d sneaked into the forgotten garden, unaware that they had an audience while they were casting their spells. Gwendolyn had peeked between the boughs of the weeping willow tree and memorized their grounding ritual so she could use it herself, in case their witchcraft worked and her spirit needed a pathway back into her body.

Kat had convinced Skylar that she was a genuine junior witch, and that her spells would produce a fortune in gems. So, if there was magic to be had—in Gwendolyn’s garden—she was gobbling up her fair share.

When her mother gave their dead great-aunt Evelyn’s Ouija board to Skylar, Gwendolyn had gone out and purchased her own. And hers was bigger, better, and much more powerful than Evelyn’s had ever been.

Gwendolyn had also stolen the feather from the bird that Skylar had rescued, and Skylar hadn’t even noticed. Now Gwendolyn had a witch’s starter kit of her own, which would prove to be much more potent than Kat’s. “Skylar thinks she’s such a big shot because Kat’s sister is in a coven with twelve other witches. Whoop-dee-do,” Gwendolyn scoffed, cracking open the lid. She poked a stubby finger into a compartment that was filled with smelly green goo. Wiping a bit of the slime into a tiny box, she shuddered, remembering the torture she had put the frog through to get it.

Next, she dipped a small metal spoon into a vial of powdered pigs’ feet that she had purchased from one of her favorite stores, Penelope’s Potent Potions and Powders, and added a dash of that to the container. She stirred the mixture with a bristle she’d stolen from the poop broom in the stable, remembering with glee how the missing broom had upset the stable boy, Carlos. Skylar’s friend Kat had a huge crush on him, which made his torment even sweeter for Gwendolyn.

After mashing in seven dead spiders she had collected from the foyer, the smelly paste was complete. She stuffed the tiny box into her pocket, ran down the stairs, and scurried through the butler’s pantry and into the balmy back yard.

Looking toward the raging ocean as she walked toward the forgotten garden, Gwendolyn grinned, proud of how much smarter she was than everybody else. She marched across the nine steppingstones that her great-aunt Evelyn had placed there when she was alive, thankful that someone in her family was smart enough to do something right.

Opening the creaky wooden gate, Gwendolyn stepped inside the garden. She walked up to a crumbling pink fountain that her cousin Skylar had named “the chalice,” and kicked the rotting cushion off its matching stool. Then she took the tiny box out of her pocket and placed it on the moldy cushion.

Gwendolyn looked at the shallow puddle of cloudy water in the old fishpond that Skylar had brought back to life and sneered, thinking of the ducks that had fled from their home since she had taken over the pond and let it go dry.

Staring up at the stormy sky, she knelt in front of the special nasturtiums her cousin had planted. “You thought Kat’s witchcraft wasn’t strong enough, but you were wro-ong!” Gwendolyn sang gleefully, parting round leaves and hunting for flowers. The light green leaves were so big that they hid the magic blossoms. But if you knew where to look, and were smart enough to know there was treasure hiding in the vines, you could steal all the gems you wanted.


2

Dead Aunt Evelyn’s Magic Box

“See you inside,” Skylar called. Her father nodded as he pulled her suitcase and duffel bag out of the trunk, and her mother smiled, watching her daughter run up to the front door. “By the way, please call me Sky from now on,” Skylar announced. Her mother looked into Skylar’s dark blue eyes queerly, wondering what had happened to her daughter over the summer.

Skylar leaped up the stairs, cradling her art projects from summer school in one hand and her great-aunt Evelyn’s magic box in the other. I’m finally home, Skylar thought happily, throwing open her bedroom door. She pounced onto her comfortable bed, instantly hating the babyish, pink-flowered comforter she used to adore, looking forward to redecorating her room like Kat’s. Each of four quadrants would symbolize one of the elements: air, fire, water, and earth. Her new macramé and seashell dream catcher was perfect for the water quadrant.

“Do you want to come down and have a snack, uh, Sky?” her mom called up.

“Not right now, thanks.” Skylar was busy hunting in her closet for the perfect place to hide Evelyn’s bag of crystals and witchcraft books, and dozens of memories flooded her brain.

That’s really pretty,” I said, pointing at a lavender stone Kat wore on a chain around her neck. “What kind of stone is that?”

It isn’t a stone,” she said, with a mysterious smile. “It’s an amulet.”

An amulet? What’s—”

It’s for protection.”

My eyes widened. “Protection from who?”

She looked around; no one was paying attention. “Not protection from who, protection from what.”

OK, from what?”

Kat rubbed the lavender stone. “Protection from evil. Find an oval

stone and I’ll show you the spell to turn it into an amulet. You need protection right away.”

Why?” I said nervously.

There are very negative influences at work in this house.”

I shivered a little and looked up at the ceiling, wondering if she meant my dead great-aunt Evelyn. “What do you mean?”

Your cousin, Gwendolyn. No offense, but she may be an evil spirit.”

*

The vibrations are getting stronger!” Kat said excitedly.

We walked through the wooden gate and into the forgotten garden.

Oh, my God,” Kat said in a hushed voice. “There is so much magic here!” She looked around slowly, taking it all in. “This garden can be our sacred place: the doorway to a higher power. When we have our altar all prepared and the garden is ready,” Kat looked over her shoulder to make sure no one could hear her, “we are going to grow gems.”

Grow what?”

Kat’s eyes were gleaming. “Gems. You know, rubies, emeralds, diamonds? Gems! I copied all the spells and instructions down last night. That’s why I was up so late; I’m not sure when Dianna will need her book back.”

This sounds crazy!” I said.

But two days ago, so did finding a feather from a rescued bird, and I had one in my hand.

It was just Skylar’s luck that, after flubbing the gem spell and conjuring up a rotting plant that grew pods of maggots on its branches, the second set of gems seeds finally flowered, just days before she left for home. Skylar sat down on her bed and slowly unfolded a maroon and magenta nasturtium, holding her breath as she pulled the petals apart, wondering if she had imagined the sparkling red chip in the center.

The velvety blossom opened, and a tiny, precious morsel fell into her open palm. She stared at it for a full minute in wonder. “I can’t believe the gem spell actually might have worked,” she breathed, carefully wrapping the chip inside a Kleenex, and wondering if it could possibly be a baby ruby as she walked over to her big antique wooden desk.

Skylar’s grandfather had been an undercover cop and had taught her every detective skill she knew. After inheriting his beautiful old desk, she declared it her temporary detective headquarters—until she could open an office of her own. Just as she stashed the folded Kleenex inside one of its secret compartments, her cell tinkled with her favorite ringtone.

“Hi, Alexa!” Skylar plopped onto her bed, picturing her BFF’s cheeks bunching up in a smile as Alexa pushed masses of strawberry blonde curls over her shoulders.

“Are you home?” The familiar voice sounded happy and excited.

“Yes!” Skylar answered.

“When did you get back?” Alexa asked.

“About five minutes ago.”

“Five minutes, Skylar Robbins, and you haven’t called me yet?” Alexa kidded. She had lived in Texas until coming to California in third grade, and she still spoke with a bit of a twang.

“I was just about to. And I go by Sky now.”

“Oh. OK, Sky.”

Skylar listened to the silence on the other end of the line. “What? I think it’s a much cooler name,” she said defensively.

“Did one of your much cooler friends think it up?” Alexa asked softly.

“No, I did, on the first day of school, where I didn’t know anyone and had no friends. I thought it sounded neat.”

“You’re right—it does. I’m sorry. I’ll try to remember to call you Sky from now on. Maybe we can think up a cool nickname for me to use, now that we’ll be in—”

“Middle school!” they both shouted.

“So, did Dustin Coles really ask about me?” Skylar sat on her bed in her favorite position, hugging her knees up to her chest and wrapping an arm around her slim legs while she waited to hear the delicious answer.

“Yeah, he did. Swear.”

“Awesome,” Skylar replied happily, picturing Dustin’s wavy brown hair and white teeth.

“I guess we’ll find out if he’s interested in another two weeks,” Alexa said.

Skylar opened her suitcase and pulled out an ancient wooden box. The metal lock was decorated with a swirling design. “We don’t have to wait that long at all,” Skylar said mysteriously, looking at her great-aunt Evelyn’s Ouija board.


3

Gwendolyn’s Plan

Kneeling next to the nasturtiums that Skylar had planted, fertilized, and cast a spell on, Gwendolyn held a magnifying glass in one hand and a pair of tweezers in the other. At first, she had planned to harvest all the gems she could find, in case Skylar or her witchy friend Kat came back to claim them. But then a greedy idea took over, and changed Gwendolyn’s plan completely.

She rested her knees in the mud, leaned over and peered through the magnifying glass, remembering what the friendly wizard Ebekenezer had told her in a corner of his dusty bookstore: “Search the shadows for a spell; patience will serve you well.”

At first Gwendolyn had grumbled quite a bit, never having the patience to wait for anything, and itching to outdo her cousin immediately. But then she imagined huge rubies and emeralds literally falling out of flowers, and decided she could postpone the harvest for a few days to see if the gems grew larger.

She had searched the dark corners of Ebekenezer’s Previously Appreciated Books until she found a volume that was useful. Toads to Toadstools had every spell from Poisoning Your Enemy—that incantation would have to wait, as there were so many worthy victims—to Recipe for Enlargement. That was the one. She opened the tiny box and peered gleefully at the smelly brown goo she had created.

Using the bristle from the poop broom, she plucked out a tiny morsel of the frog glop mixture and spread it around the base of the magic nasturtiums. Since she had been fertilizing with the potent gunk, vibrant magenta blossoms with lime green stripes sprouted next to deep blue flowers decorated with hot pink edges. Unfortunately, as she peered through the magnifying glass, she noted that none of them had grown gems that were large enough to harvest.

Yet.

Recipe for Enlargement would fix that.

Gwendolyn tramped up the stairs to her room, looking down hatefully at her pale legs and thick ankles as she climbed, thinking miserably about the first day of eighth grade. It was right around the corner, and she had a dire emergency to deal with. The kids in her neighborhood had all gone to the same schools together, so the bullies who had known her since kindergarten and called her Dumbdolyn and later, Zitface, would be joining her again next semester.

Gwendolyn opened the book she had purchased from Ebekenezer’s store and read the table of contents again. She bypassed the instructions for raising the dead, and finding lost pets, and even ignored the spells for enemy revenge, anxious to find the specific incantation she was looking for.

There it was. Gwendolyn shut the thick tome and looked up at the ceiling, grinning wickedly. Chapter13: Beautifying Spells.

First and foremost was the spell to grow new gorgeous hair. Gwendolyn looked disgustedly into the mirror at her unruly brown mop. “Ugh,” she said aloud, hastily skimming the instructions for a Hair Exchange. “Oh…I can do this. Before the first day of school!” Gwendolyn exclaimed excitedly, rubbing clammy hands together and preparing to collect the other ingredients for her first part of the beautifying spell. She had nine days left to grow long, shiny hair.

Gwendolyn stomped back into her room after dark, sweating and dirty. Her parents had gone out, so she easily plucked the last items she needed for the Grow-Long Hair Replacement Gel from the forgotten garden without anybody noticing. She unloaded her pockets, and then hustled down two long, skinny hallways to collect the rest of the ingredients from their hiding spot.

Gwendolyn had stashed little jars full of pond scum and duck dung in the bedroom her cousin had stayed in during the summer, figuring that if anything suspicious was found she could easily blame it on Skylar. She scuttled back down the dim halls, jars in hand.

After locking her bedroom door, she reached up onto the closet shelf and pulled down a moldy old box she had found in the attic after her cousin finally went home. Gwendolyn had hidden what she’d purchased from Penelope’s Potent Potions and Powders inside three of its compartments. She spooned the duck dung and pond scum into the last one, added some of the long, straight hair she had stolen from Skylar’s brush, and began mixing a concoction together.

She spread a towel across her pillow, eager to get into bed and turn out her lights before her parents came home. If they thought she was asleep, they wouldn’t bother to check on her, and she wouldn’t get caught sporting a head full of smelly, puke-green goop. Looking disgustedly into the mirror for the last time, she stuck pudgy fingers into the Grow-Long Hair Replacement Gel and smeared it all over her head, dreaming of long, shiny locks. After repeating an incantation nine times, she crossed her fingers and climbed into bed.

Gwendolyn woke up the next morning and the first thing she did was reach up to feel her head.

“Uck!” she grunted, her fingers sticking to the hardened gunk. Creeping over to the door, she pressed her ear against it, listening for evidence that her parents were awake. There wasn’t a sound.

Sneaking down the long, narrow hall to the bathroom, she stepped inside the shower and pulled the curtain closed behind her. After giving her body a hasty rinse, she poured a generous dollop of shampoo into her palm, and scrubbed out the Grow-Long Hair Replacement Gel. She padded back into her bedroom, tore the towel off her head and tugged on her hair, hoping it had grown longer overnight.

Back on Gwendolyn’s bed, dozens of short, wiry hairs decorated the towel on her pillow.


4

Magic Number

Alexa sat cross-legged on Skylar’s twin bed, leaning against the wall next to her BFF. She looked at the reflection of Skylar’s eyes in the makeup mirror they were sharing. “I’ve been practicing putting makeup on in my room all summer.” Alexa giggled. “Well, I had to do something while you were busy with all your new friends in Malibu,” she said seriously.

The smile dropped right off Skylar’s face. “I have a lot to tell you about this summer.” She looked at Alexa’s reflection, then away.

“The one time you managed to call, you said something about a forgotten garden, a buried box with an ancient key, the spell using a feather that led you to a Ouija board, a Book of Shadows, and all sorts of cool stuff.” Alexa peered into the makeup mirror and pretended to concentrate on applying a coat of eyeshadow while she waited impatiently for Skylar to answer. “So, what happened?” she finally asked.

Skylar looked at her best friend’s face in the mirror, and wondered where to begin. “I met this girl Kat in art class, and her sister has this book…” she trailed off, thinking it all sounded too incredible to believe. But Alexa just set down the makeup and stared at her, one eye dusted with tan shadow and the other one plain.

“And—?”

“OK,” Skylar said, settling in to tell the whole story to her best friend. “I was exploring in my aunt’s backyard and I found this old forgotten garden, hidden behind a row of pine trees. It used to belong to my dead, great-aunt Evelyn, who was supposedly…a witch. I know, it sounds crazy, right?”

Alexa nodded, her green eyes wide. “Go on.”

“The garden was dry and wilted but you could tell it used to be beautiful. It was full of magical things and Kat recognized them right away.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like there were nine steppingstones that led up to the gate, and they were bordered by ferns.” She stopped, looking at Alexa’s puzzled face. “Nine is a magic number and ferns have special powers.”

“OK. So, what else?”

“The garden had been ignored since Evelyn died, and we brought it back to life. Kat’s sister Diana is a Wiccan Goddess and we—”

“A what?” Alexa laughed.

“Her big sister is a witch. A real one, in a coven with twelve others. They meet and have rituals that you wouldn’t believe. Crazy scary.” Skylar looked at her seriously. “If you knew everything that happened to me over the summer you wouldn’t be laughing. It was way too much to text.”

“Sorry,” Alexa apologized, looking at her face next to Skylar’s in the makeup mirror and swiping on a little blusher. “So, what happened?”

“OK, swear you won’t tell anybody about this?” Skylar glanced at her closed door and lowered her voice as Alexa nodded. “I slept over at Kat’s and we crept down to these caves on the beach at midnight, looking for magic seeds to use in this spell. We were trying to grow gems,” Skylar said, leaning toward her friend and staring into her widening eyes. “We found these seed pods and planted them in the garden, and fertilized them with all this special stuff from Kat’s sister’s witchcraft box and used a spell from her Book of Shadows—”

“Then what happened?” Alexa whispered.

“Alexa, it was so gross!

What?” Alexa asked, gaping at her friend.

Skylar gulped before she continued. “We grew a bush that had these disgusting rotting pods on its branches with maggots crawling out of them.”

Ugh! Seriously?” Alexa squeaked.

“It was awful. So gross.” Skylar shivered, remembering it. “So right before we left we tried a different spell using normal nasturtium seeds,” Skylar trailed off mysteriously.

“Dang, Skylar. Sorry—Sky. Your summer sounds like it was so exciting. Then what happened?”

“I didn’t get to stay long enough to find out what else we grew, but I was there long enough to harvest…” Skylar opened the secret compartment hidden behind her desk drawer, took out the folded Kleenex, and showed the shimmering chip to her friend. “This.”

Alexa peered into the Kleenex suspiciously. “What is that? It looks like a tiny piece of broken glass.”

“We tried the gem spell again on a new batch of nasturtiums. That’s what grew in the center of one of the flowers. I’m going to ask my dad if I can borrow his microscope and examine it. Try to figure out what it really is.” The curtains on Skylar’s bedroom window billowed into the room on a cool breeze. A full moon glowed against the dark sky behind the frame.

Alexa jiggled the blusher brush and stared at her friend. “What about the rest of the flowers? What did you leave behind?”

Skylar took a long time to answer. “I don’t know,” she finally said. Kat hadn’t gone back to the forgotten garden to check on the magic nasturtiums yet. Unless she had sneaked in without telling Skylar. “There could be a garden full of diamonds, rubies, opals, and emeralds waiting for us. Or there could be nothing. This might have been the only one,” Skylar said, replacing the folded Kleenex in the secret compartment. “Or a fake. You never know, with Kat,” Skylar admitted, looking out her window. Dense fog edged in, slowly turning the sky a misty gray-white.

Skylar turned back to her BFF and pointed at the makeup mirror. “Hey, scoot over, it’s my turn. And I need all the practice I can get.” After her cheeks were coated in a thin film of pink powder, Skylar looked excitedly at her BFF. “Now I have something really important to show you.” Reaching into her closet, Skylar pulled down the Ouija board and carried it over to the bed. “Face me and sit cross-legged.”

They sat across from each other and Skylar opened the Ouija board, setting it down on their laps. Alexa looked at the two rows of letters that spelled out the alphabet, and at the numbers, sun, and moon that decorated the board. “Place your fingers lightly on the pointer.” They rested their fingertips on a flat, wooden triangle. “Now, ask it a question.”

“Will Brendan Tadman break up with Ashley and go out with me?” Alexa asked. A moment later, the pointer began to move. “OMG,” she whispered, looking at their slender fingers as the triangle carried them around the board. “Let’s see what it says.” The wooden triangle zipped across the board picking out letters. When it had completed the sentence, Alexa looked up, horrified at what the Ouija board had spelled:

BAD LUCK JELLUS GIRL


5

Secret Stash

By the time Gwendolyn reached Ebekenezer’s Previously Appreciated Books, she was huffing and puffing and sweating up a storm. Parking her bike by the front door, she wiped the moisture off her forehead and trudged inside the familiar gloom. It was too dark to notice the layer of bristly hairs that had stuck to the back of her hand.

“Hi, Eb,” Gwendolyn grunted.

“Hullo, Gwendolyn,” he answered pleasantly, peering at her through the particles of dust that swirled through the shadows. “Did you find the incantations you needed in Toads to Toadstools?” He scratched his wrinkled chin and smiled, lost in memory. “That’s one of my favorites.”

“Yup. It’s great.”

“Make sure you follow every instruction to the letter, or you never know what you’ll conjure up,” he warned in a whispery croak.

Gwendolyn nodded, remembering the maggot plant Skylar had grown out of seaweed pods, and how she and Kat had screamed and scrabbled backwards trying to get away from the worms. “Eb. This is important. I brought one of those gems to show you. Do you have a magnifying glass or anything? This one’s real puny.” She dug a little box out of her pocket while Ebekenezer hunted through a messy drawer. He came up with a beautiful old magnifying glass with a bejeweled handle, and held out his crooked fingers to accept Gwendolyn’s secret stash.

“Follow me.” Ebekenezer unfolded himself out of a sagging armchair and she followed his bent body into a cramped back office. Old magazines and used books were stacked in teetering piles, covering most of the floor. They picked their way through the maze and he sat down at a table. Flicking on a bright light, he bent forward slowly and examined the tiny chip under his antique magnifying glass.

“Is it a ruby?” Gwendolyn asked impatiently. “How much is it worth?” she demanded, looking at the back of his fuzzy gray head as he continued to gaze at the gem through his lens.

He finally straightened up a bit and looked at Gwendolyn over his shoulder, staring at her oddly. “This isn’t a ruby.”

“Aw, darn it,” Gwendolyn complained. She stamped her foot, causing a handful of hairs to sprinkle down behind her. “I knew Skylar didn’t do the gem spell right. Throw it away.”

“Oh no, on the contrary,” Ebekenezer answered, tweezing the chip back into its box and handing it to Gwendolyn. “This isn’t a gem. It is something far more interesting.”

“What?” she demanded, looking inside the tiny box at the shiny little bead. Just then the chimes on the front door tinkled, signaling a customer.

“I’ll let you figure that one out on your own. Toads to Toadstools will help you find the answer. And good luck with the Grow-Long Hair Replacement Gel.” He slowly got to his feet and gazed through the shadows toward the front of the shop as the door creaked open and a customer walked in.

Gwendolyn’s sparse eyebrows shot up, and she touched her hair. “How did you know? Is it longer already?” she piped hopefully, following him toward the door.

“Why good afternoon, Mrs. Vanderpool!” he exclaimed, clasping his hands together in anticipation of a nice fat purchase.

Gwendolyn’s eyes narrowed. She hated to be ignored. “I said, is it longer already?” she demanded, stepping between Ebekenezer and his customer.

He looked up at her head, shaking his. “Not yet. You are just entering the first stage of the replacement. Be patient my dear, it will come. If you followed the instructions properly,” he warned.

“Instructions, shmucktions,” Gwendolyn mumbled as she pushed open the creaking door, climbed onto her bicycle, and pedaled away. “Mix it up, slap it on, who reads fine print?”

But as she parked her bike in the garage and headed for her room, a nervous feeling began to make her stomach feel queasy. She had not, in fact, read the spell very carefully at all. “Best thing to do is forget about it for now and try to figure out what the old geezer meant about the gem spell,” she mumbled, pulling down Toads to Toadstools. After skipping around and skimming for several minutes, her eyes lit on something curious, which she read aloud: “If two opposing forces cast a spell together with different intentions in mind, Dubious Wish Beads may result.” Gwendolyn’s thinning eyebrows crept up her forehead in wonder.

She remembered spying on Skylar and Kat one day in the forgotten garden when they had an argument about the Gem Seed Spell. They repeated an incantation seven times and blew out a red candle, watching the smoke mingle with the air as they envisioned the spell becoming one with reality.

Kat’s eyes flashed in Skylar’s direction. “Did you remember?”

Yes! I pictured nice strong plants with lots of flowers.”

No, DUMMY!” Kat shouted. Skylar stared at Kat with her mouth open. “You were supposed to imagine gems, DUH!” she stood up. “Now you’ve ruined it,” Kat said, glaring at her.

Maybe you should go,” Skylar suggested.

Gwendolyn had rushed across the nine steppingstones so she wouldn’t get caught spying.

“Dubious Wish Beads,” she repeated with a smile. “Hmm.”


6

BAD LUCK JELLUS GIRL

“Sky!” Alexa shrieked, snatching her fingers off the pointer. “Were you pushing it?” She looked at Skylar with a hurt look on her face.

“No. That’s exactly what I thought the first time I tried it—that Kat was moving it around, but she wasn’t. Pretty scary, isn’t it? And it totally can’t spell.”

“Yes, it is scary. But it’s fun! Let’s see what else it will say.” Alexa pushed strawberry-blonde curls over her shoulder and stole a peek into the makeup mirror, practicing a cute smile to flash at Brendan. “OK. If Brendan were to break up with Ashlyn on his own, would he like me next?”

The triangle instantly began to move, motoring across the board, pointing at letters:

NO WAY

“Why not?” Alexa demanded, and their fingers zoomed around, picking out the answer:

NO BLONDES

“Wow,” Alexa breathed, staring at Skylar wide-eyed. “At least it isn’t my fault. Now you ask it something.”

“Will Dustin Coles be in any of my classes?” The pointer sat still for a moment, as if it were thinking, then moved slowly toward the row of numbers and hovered between the 2 and the 3. Then it began to move again and picked out an odd message:

HE CHANGE IT

“What do you think that means?” Skylar asked.

“Either he’ll start out in three of your classes and drop one, or start out in two and add one? That’s my guess.”

“Or someone else will change one of our schedules,” Skylar said, just as the phone began to ring. They both looked at it curiously, wondering who it was.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER.

Skylar tapped her cell. “Hello?”

“Sky,” a familiar voice said.

“Kat?” Skylar asked, the shock showing on her face. Alexa stared at her, waiting to see how she would respond to a call from her summer friend.

“We need to talk,” Kat said quietly.

“Is something wrong?” Skylar detected something strange in Kat’s voice. She sat next to Alexa on the bed and put the phone on speaker so they could both hear Kat’s answer.

“Yes. I had a premonition that something had gone wrong with the Gem Seed Spell, so I snuck into your aunt’s backyard last night and went into the forgotten garden.”

“You did?” Skylar asked, her eyes widening. “And did something go wrong?”

“I’ll say,” Kat answered angrily. “I checked the magic nasturtiums for gems.”

“And?” Skylar asked breathlessly.

Kat growled the answer. “And the flowers have all been stolen.”

Gwendolyn,” all three girls said at once.

“Who’s that?” Kat wanted to know.

“I’m her best friend, Alexa,” she answered loudly, nodding at Skylar and waiting to hear the response.

“Hmm,” Kat said thoughtfully. “That’s funny, she never mentioned you once. I’ve gotta go. Sky, call me when you can talk and we’ll figure out what to do about the gems.” She ended the call.

“Oh,” Alexa said with a sour expression on her face, “I can’t stand her!”

“You don’t even know her,” Skylar replied, realizing that sometimes she had trouble standing Kat herself.

“You’re sticking up for her after what she just said?” Alexa twisted her face into a sneer and mimicked Kat in a snotty voice. “Call me when you can talk and we’ll figure out what to do about the gems. Yuck. Whatever,” Alexa finished.

Skylar looked at her best friend with the Ouija board’s warning echoing in her mind, hoping it wouldn’t come true.

BAD LUCK JELLUS GIRL


7

Dubious Wish Beads

Four days before school started, Gwendolyn fell asleep with Toads to Toadstools open across her stomach. She woke up stiff and sore. “Ouch,” she barked, pushing the heavy book away and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Lumbering into the bathroom, she bent over and washed her hands and face, not peeking into the mirror until she started to brush her teeth. When Gwendolyn looked up, the toothbrush fell out of her hand and clattered into the sink as she stared at her reflection, horrified.

“AAAGH!” Gwendolyn screamed, grabbing her head.

Big tufts of hair had fallen out overnight, leaving shiny, pink spots decorating her scalp like a patchwork quilt. Gwendolyn’s eyebrows were a thin web of skin and hair.

“No, no, NO!” Gwendolyn shouted, squeezing her head as if that would prevent any more hair from falling out. She clomped back into her room, slammed the door, and locked it. “I have to fix this!” she growled, reaching for Toads to Toadstools. “Read the fine print, follow the instructions to the letter,” Gwendolyn spat nastily, her fingers flying through the pages. “Now you tell me!” Finally locating the directions for the Grow-Long Hair Replacement Gel, she read them slowly aloud.

Combine aforementioned ingredients in a non-aluminum bowl. I did that. Apply replacement gel to hair and leave on overnight. Check. Repeat the incantation nine times. Yes. Original hair should begin to…fall out within three days? I never read that,” Gwendolyn spat. “Long, shining replacement hair will start to come in as soon as original hair is completely gone? NO!!!!!!!!!!” she shouted.

The first day of eighth grade was four days away. Gwendolyn would be starting it bald.

“OK,” she said, thinking quickly. “If the beautifying spell works as fast, at least I can start school bald, but pretty,” she said with a gulp, staring at the yellowed page.

“Beautification,” she read aloud, paying very careful attention to every single detail. “To achieve facial reformation, the following spell must be performed.” She painstakingly read the long and complicated instructions, and shut the book with a heavy sigh. “There’s no time,” Gwendolyn lamented. “I’m doomed.” Eighth grade would be a disastrous repeat of seventh, with all of the popular kids making fun of her, and an obvious lack of friends that Gwendolyn could never explain or understand.

Suddenly she remembered the Dubious Wish Beads, and opened Toads to Toadstools back up, frantically tearing through the pages and then reading out loud.

“Dubious Wish Beads may grow as the result of two opposing forces combining to cast a single spell.” Gwendolyn pictured Kat yelling at Skylar about flubbing the Gem Seed Spell as shadows lengthened in the forgotten garden. “One of the conflicting partners will not achieve their goal; therefore, the remaining magic will be borne out in the Wish Beads.

“Now, if Skylar had imagined nice strong plants with lots of flowers and she got her wish, then the Dubious Wish Beads must have grown because of the gems that Kat had wanted.” Gwendolyn grumbled a bit, realizing that the magic nasturtiums wouldn’t be sprouting any diamonds or rubies.

“Dubious Wish Beads may be used for three purposes. 1: Granting a single wish of equal or lesser value than the original, ungranted wish.” This sounded too much like math to Gwendolyn, so she read on. “2: The Wish Beads may be transferred to a third party, granting them one wish. Forget that,” Gwendolyn said with a snort. “I’m not giving them away.” She touched the spindly wisps of hair that remained on her patchwork scalp, ran a pinky over one frail eyebrow, and read the last option. “3. Dubious Wish Beads can be planted, watered with fresh spring water, fed with warm, living fertilizer andUck! No way,” Gwendolyn grumbled, picturing the poop shovel in the stable and imagining trying to catch live fertilizer as it fell out of some horse’s butt. She went back to Dubious Wish Bead option number one: Granting a single wish of equal or lesser value than the original, ungranted wish.

“OK,” she said, reasoning it out, “the original, ungranted wish was Kat’s: to grow gems inside the nasturtium flowers. So, if I use the beads to get pretty, that is definitely of lesser value than growing diamonds and rubies.”

She opened her witch’s starter kit and peered into the corner compartment, counting the Dubious Wish Beads. “Thirteen,” she said, wondering if any new ones had sprouted in the forgotten garden since she had last checked.

“Hope that’s enough.” Gwendolyn stared into the mirror at her balding head and eyebrow nubbins. She continued to read. “Use the appropriate number of DWB, depending on intensity. Could this be any less clear?” Gwendolyn complained.

“Place DWB in a chalice—at least I have one of those,” she said, picturing the old fountain in the forgotten garden, “and fill with freshly running water. I can do that.” She thought of the trickling stream in the back yard. “During the light of a full moon, drop the beads into the chalice while the water is spinning deosil—” Gwendolyn paused to look the word up on her phone. “It means right or clockwise,” she mumbled, then read the rest of the spell, “repeating your wish aloud until the beads come to a complete stop. When they finally come to rest, your wish will be granted.”

“It has to work.” Gwendolyn thought nervously, touching her balding head, and looking out her window at the full moon.


8

Beautifying Spell

Gwendolyn sat down on the moldy cushion in front of the small fountain in the forgotten garden, and read the Beautifying spell aloud: “Use the appropriate number of Dubious Wish Beads, depending on intensity.” Figuring that this had to be the most important spell of her entire life, she took out the tiny box and dumped all thirteen of the sparkling chips into the shallow, crumbling fountain that Skylar and Kat had called, “The Chalice.”

“Fill with freshly running water.” Gwendolyn emptied a pail that she had filled in the trickling stream. “During the light of a full moon, drop the beads into the chalice while the water is spinning deosil, repeating your wish aloud until the beads come to a complete stop.” She remembered spying on Skylar and Kat when they chanted an incantation, stirring the water with the feather from a skinny bird that Skylar had rescued. Gwendolyn pulled out the stolen feather and twirled it in the stream water, spinning the water clockwise, like they had. She watched the Dubious Wish Beads begin to move as she chanted, “Get pretty, zits be gone, grow my hair long and strong. Get pretty, zits be gone, grow my hair long and strong …” until the beads finally came to rest.

Gwendolyn breathed a sigh of relief, confident that the beautifying spell would work before the first day of school. She pictured herself walking through the front gates and beginning eighth grade with a pretty face, a smooth complexion, and a new head of long, shiny hair.

She woke up sluggishly the next morning, stretching her hands slowly up to feel her scalp. Gwendolyn’s fingertips landed on large, smooth, bald patches between some tiny tufts of leftovers. She sat straight up in bed, grabbing her head frantically. “NO!” she croaked in a panic, heaving her body out of bed and stumbling toward the bathroom.

“What the—?” Gwendolyn stared into the mirror, stunned. “This can’t be happening!” she cried. Staggering down the hallway back to her bedroom, she reached up to feel the last remaining scraps. “There’s three days left,” she said hopefully. “Hopefully the Hair Replacement and Beautifying spells are just beginning to work.”

The next day, Gwendolyn woke up at dawn. As she climbed out of bed, she felt something strange and soft as her arm moved through the covers. Gwendolyn bustled toward the bathroom, anxious to discover how successful the spell had been. She turned on the light and stifled a scream.

Thick pelts of hair covered her elbows. Touching one and then the other, the soft fur reminded her of a rabbit coat she had worn as a child. She looked down, horrified. Her knees, too, were covered in shiny caps of silky hair. Long, shiny brown hair...like Skylar’s!

Gwendolyn grabbed the sink, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. I must be dreaming, she thought. After waiting a moment, she slowly opened her eyes and looked down at her hands.

Spoik, twirt, plink! As she watched, in shock, soft brown hairs sprouted out of her knuckles, one after the other, until all of her fingers sported tiny wigs. The Hair Replacement spell, she thought angrily, is defective!

I can’t go to school like this!

Gwendolyn pedaled toward Ebekenezer’s in a panic. An ugly scarf covered her bald head, where a stray strand of frizz fought to survive on the shiny pink surface.

She staggered angrily into his shop and yelled, “Hey!” when he didn’t notice her immediately.

“My, my. You didn’t heed, you didn’t heed.” He scratched a wrinkled cheek and evaluated her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gwendolyn accused, hairy hands on hips.

“You didn’t bury the beads, did you?”

WHAT?

“Once again, you neglected to follow the instructions to the letter.” He shook his gray head, which reminded Gwendolyn of a dandelion that had gone to seed. “Come, come. There’s no time.” Ebekenezer took Gwendolyn’s sweating hand and led her through the maze into his cramped office. Brushing dusty magazines aside, he opened his great-grandfather’s notebook and leafed through the yellowed pages.

“What are you doing?” Gwendolyn demanded, licking her dry lips. She snatched the scarf off her head and the remaining strand of hair came off with it. “Agh!” she shrieked, flicking the wisp away. “You have to hurry! School’s about to start.”

“Patience, my dear,” he said calmly. “My grandpapa was a great wizard. And he had an antidote for everything.”

Gwendolyn sat down on a battered old couch and it let out a horrific creak. She looked angrily at her friend and pointed at her shiny crown. “Even this?” Aiming her fur-covered elbows toward him, she seethed, “And these?”

“Everything. Even those, if you are prepared to pay attention to each fiery word,” he warned, arching a pointed eyebrow at her.

Gwendolyn imagined walking into school as the bullies pointed at her hairy joints and laughed at her bald head. “Anything,” she agreed.

“It won’t be pleasant,” he warned.

“THIS ISN’T PLEASANT!” Gwendolyn shouted.

Exiting the back office, Ebekenezer led her down a pitch-black staircase into a musty cellar below the bookstore. “I believe I have all the ingredients we need. Hope you have a strong stomach,” he wheezed, pulling dirty bottles off a high shelf and mixing their contents in an old clay bowl. He opened his wizard’s box and poured a second set of ingredients into another container.

“Ugh, that stinks!” Gwendolyn cried.

“One for the head, the other you will drink,” he said, handing her the biggest bowl. “This goes on the empty scalp. Smear it all over and rub it in well.”

Gwendolyn glopped the paste onto her head and rubbed it in. Anything beats starting school bald!

Then she took a whiff of the vile-smelling liquid. She had caught a glimpse of the label on one of his dusty glass bottles: Bone Marrow Mold. “If I drink this stuff, I’m gonna puke.”

“Well, which’ll it be? Bald or not, popular or un?” Eb asked, evaluating her. “Pick yer poison.” He planted gnarled hands on his pointy hipbones and looked into her nervous eyes.

“This will really help me lose this fur and get pretty in two days, if I drink it? You swear?”

He tapped his foot impatiently as the door chimes dinged, and he nodded, smiling a peculiar little smile. “Remember, Gwendolyn, true beauty resides inside.”

Gwendolyn pinched her nose with a finger and thumb and gagged down the retched-tasting liquid. She dry-heaved once and forced a burp back down, vowing not to throw up. Rotten bone-marrow fumes tickled her nose. She knew if she sneezed, vomit would fly across the office. Worse than that, she would go back to school with a shiny bald head, and furry knees, elbows, and knuckles.

“What’s next?” Gwendolyn rasped as they walked back up the stairs.

“Go on home; we’ve done our best. You’ll find out if the antidote worked in forty-eight hours. And if it does,” he called after her, “don’t let your ego turn you nasty. Or the spell will slowly reverse. Or worse.”

Gwendolyn let the door slam shut behind her, ignoring his warning.


9

Rich and Famous

Malibu was full of snobs. It had been that way since nursery school, where the offspring of rock stars and movie legends bragged about their rich and famous parents from the time that they could talk. Malibu Middle School was no exception. Girls with names like Scout and Moon and Rebel fought for places in front of the mirror between classes, plotting to pierce, tattoo, and enlarge various parts of their bodies without parental consent.

“Got a smoke?” a tall blonde named Madelyn asked, adjusting her water bra and jiggling herself into place.

“Nope,” a snotty eighth-grader answered as she brushed her gleaming chestnut hair.

“Hey!” Madelyn squealed happily as the door opened and her girlfriend Dharma walked in, pulling a cigarette out of her purse and lighting it. She took a big puff and handed it to Madelyn. She hit it, and turned to the long-haired girl next to her who was busy applying lipstick.

“Want some?” Madelyn asked.

The pretty eighth-grader shook her head as she popped her lipstick into her purse, smiling at her reflection. “Don’t smoke,” she said curtly. She had hated Madelyn since kindergarten and wouldn’t put anything into her mouth that she was offering.

“What-ever,” Madelyn said, handing the cigarette to her friend, rolling her eyes and looking enviously at the girl’s gorgeous brown hair as she walked out of the bathroom.

The pretty girl had just made an enemy.

Madelyn’s new enemy crossed her path again at lunchtime. The cafeteria line was another place where Malibu teens had a chance to one-up each other. “I’m having a non-fat yogurt,” Madelyn announced, grabbing one.

“Tuna salad, dry, lemon wedge,” Dharma ordered loudly, looking around to see if anyone who weighed a few ounces more than she did had heard her order.

The pretty eighth-grader was next. “Cheeseburger and fries.”

Madelyn and Dharma turned around and looked at her. “Blech,” Madelyn said, looking at the hamburger and shuddering. “Dead cow is so disgusting!”

“How can she eat that? Ugh—meat!” Dharma pretended to gag, and Madelyn nodded.

Their new enemy heard it all. She dipped a long french fry into a huge pile of ketchup and stepped up close to Madelyn, holding it out. Several girls who had listened to the exchange swiveled around to watch, waiting for drama, hoping Madelyn was about to get pelted with ketchup. The cute brunette twiddled the hot fry in Madelyn’s face before popping it into her mouth. “Mmm…” she said, “bet you wish you could eat whatever you wanted to, like me.” She swished away with half the class watching her, impressed.

Gwendolyn had won that round.

Baiting Madelyn was fun. Remembering that it was she who had first given Gwendolyn the nickname Dumbdolyn in elementary school, and realizing that Madelyn had absolutely no idea that old Gwendolyn was hiding inside that pretty eighth-grader’s body, she took advantage of her new smooth complexion and long-haired disguise.

She made some new friends, but even more enemies.

In remedial math, Gwendolyn leaned over, letting her long hair brush across the arm of a cool blond guy named Rock as she whispered in his ear. “Did you hear the news? That girl over there—I think her name is Maddening or something?”

“Madelyn?”

Gwendolyn nodded.

“Yeah?” Rock asked, leaning toward this cute new girl, anxious to hear a secret about his ex-girlfriend.

“We were in the bathroom at the same time and I heard her tell her friend…” Gwendolyn looked over her shoulder to make sure Madelyn knew she was gossiping about her. “She said she was cheating on her boyfriend the whole time they were together.”

Rock faced the chalkboard seething with anger, and Gwendolyn smiled smugly until the bell rang.

A redheaded girl with knobby knees and big feet desperately needed to make a cool new friend. She passed Gwendolyn a note in American History.

That cute guy in the next row has been staring at you since the bell rang. She glanced at Gwendolyn and then away, hoping that the pretty girl with shiny brown hair would write back.

I know, she penciled, as if she couldn’t care less.

I’m Kimbra and you’re lucky! the redhead wrote. His name is Ken King. You should say hi to him after class.

Never having spoken to a cute boy before, previously-unattractive Gwendolyn decided to pretend she wasn’t interested. Anything was better than making a fool of herself. She shrugged her shoulders indifferently. And charmed him with her disinterest.

Ken King caught up with Gwendolyn on the way to the sidewalk after school. He jogged up behind her, tapped her on the shoulder, and smiled as he thought up something interesting to say. “History sucks.” Kimbra spied on them from behind a row of lockers, eager to hear how the pretty girl would reply to Ken’s comment.

“I like it,” Gwendolyn retorted, tossing long hair over a shoulder. “It teaches you not to make a dumb mistake twice,” she said, holding her breath and hoping she sounded cool.

Ken blinked once, and then walked away from her, feeling stupid. Gwendolyn watched his back, wondering why her smart comment hadn’t made her feel as good as it should have. Nervously rubbing her finger over a scaly bump that has just sprouted out of her arm, Gwendolyn muttered, “Hmph,” rubbed the nub, and wondered where it came from.

“Wow,” Kimbra mumbled to herself. “That wasn’t very nice. At all.” Suddenly, making friends with the new girl didn’t seem as exciting.

On the bus ride home Gwendolyn found a seat alone, and was annoyed when a hefty seventh-grader wedged onto the bench next to her. “Excuse me,” Gwendolyn said rudely, scooting over as far as she could into the corner while giving the boy a dirty look. The bus trundled down the coastline for several miles and then pulled over and stopped.

“I have a thyroid problem that medicine might help,” the boy said. “Too bad there’s no cure for your attitude.” He ambled off the bus, leaving the rest of the passengers snickering as Gwendolyn’s newly smooth cheeks turned bright red.

Walking through her peculiar house after school, Gwendolyn looked out the window at the Malibu hillside as a thick bank of fog rolled in across the ocean. She hurried out the back door, passed the trickling stream and a patch of weeping willows, marched between two eucalyptus trees, and came out in front of a fern-lined path.

Hurrying across the nine steppingstones, Gwendolyn passed brown ferns that had died of thirst, opened the little wooden gate, and stepped inside the forgotten garden. Bending down in front of the magic nasturtiums—the only plants that she had bothered to water—Gwendolyn parted their round leaves, searching for any buds that may have just opened.

A tangerine-colored flower with bright yellow blotches on the petals had grown a tiny Dubious Wish Bead in its center. She plucked the flower and crushed the petals around the bead, stuffing the whole thing into her pocket. A brisk wind wafted through the forgotten garden, distracting her. Gwendolyn failed to feel the angry eyeballs that were staring a hole in her back.


10

“She isn’t the thief.”

“Come home right after school,” Skylar’s mother said, planting a kiss on her cheek. “We’re going to Caroline’s for dinner for my birthday.”

Skylar’s heart sped up as she thought about the magic garden in her aunt’s back yard. I can check on the nasturtiums and see if there are any new buds. I might even finally call Kat back.

Walking out the door, a nervous feeling tickled her stomach as she remembered what had happened over the summer.

Upstairs in Kat’s room, she led me to the fire quadrant, and we sat down inside a ring of sparkling red crystals and purple amethyst geodes that Kat had found in the Malibu hills. She lit some rose-scented incense and a fat red candle, and then opened a black box.

What’s all that stuff?” I asked, peering inside. The interior of the box was separated into tiny compartments containing little crystals, snips of herbs, sacred stones, and smelly items I couldn’t identify.

A witch’s starter kit my sister helped me with.”

Perching on the backseat on the way to Malibu later that afternoon, Skylar pulled out her cell and tapped it nervously.

Kat picked up on the second ring. “Hello,” she said calmly.

“Kat?”

“Hi, Sky. What happened?”

Skylar felt the familiar tingle, remembering how Kat always claimed to be psychic. “I’m on my way to my aunt’s house for dinner for my mom’s birthday. I’m going to check on the forgotten garden, and thought maybe you’d want to stop by and look at it with me.” Her father rounded a curve in the canyon, and Skylar’s stomach felt a dizzying lurch as the car climbed the steep hill while she waited for Kat’s answer.

“Oh, I’ve been there plenty since you left.” Her voice darkened. “I told you, someone has been stealing the gems. I thought at first it was Gwendolyn.”

“What?”

Kat’s voice began to cut out as the car edged further into the canyon. Skylar held her breath, waiting to hear Kat’s answer. “But she isn’t the thief.”

“Who is it?” Skylar asked loudly, pressing the phone closer to her ear as they drove into a thick bank of fog.

“It’s—”

“Who?” Skylar demanded, just as the call dropped.

Twenty minutes later Skylar and her parents walked through a tall, narrow entryway into her aunt’s house. Skylar looked up the walls into a second story skylight that was covered with spider webs.

“Samantha,” Caroline sang. “Happy birthday!”

“Thank you,” Skylar’s mom answered, hugging her sister.

“Let me take your purse,” Caroline offered.

“What can I get everyone to drink?” Uncle Jim asked as they walked through the living room.

Skylar didn’t care about drinks or purses. She just wondered where her cousin was, and what she had been up to.

Gwendolyn had tormented Skylar from the time she was four and Skylar was three. They had barely tolerated each other, until the last day of summer when Gwendolyn promised to water the forgotten garden until Skylar returned. Skylar had her doubts that her cousin had gone in there even once, and worried that the magic nasturtiums might have already died—until she heard from Kat that someone had been stealing the flowers.

“She should be down soon. I think you’ll be shocked at the changes she’s made when you see her,” Caroline bragged. “Apparently, she was taking terrific care of her skin, and dieting and exercising while she grew her hair out. She stunned us all on the first day of school, I’ll tell you that.”

Skylar tensed as she walked into the living room and heard a floorboard creak in a hallway far overhead. She looked up at a round mirror that was bolted to the ceiling above a spiral staircase. It made the stairway seem to go on forever, but it really went nowhere. Just as Skylar started to get dizzy staring into the never-ending stairs, a stunning girl walked into the room.

She did a slow twirl with toned arms held out to her sides, then swished long, shining hair over one shoulder.

“Hello, Skylar.”


11

A Wicked Smile

Gwendolyn?” Skylar and her parents said at the same time, staring at her with their mouths hanging open.

Gwendolyn arranged an amused look on her face. “Hello.”

“What…you?” Skylar’s mother sputtered.

“Had a facial? Grew my hair?” Gwendolyn guessed sarcastically, planting a hand on one hip. The other hand was in her pocket, fingering the now-wilted flower containing the last Dubious Wish Bead. Skylar gaped at her cousin, dying to take a picture and text it to Alexa.

“You look beautiful,” Skylar’s father said nicely, patting Gwendolyn on the shoulder gingerly, as if he were afraid to touch her.

“Thanks, Unc.”

“Shall we all go relax in the den and have a cocktail?” Gwendolyn’s father asked, ushering everyone out of the living room. Skylar raised her eyebrows at her mom, who was also amazed at the drastic change in Gwendolyn’s appearance.


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