“That’s it, guys,” I began our first secret meeting by our fence in the backyard outside. The setting sun cast the world around us aglow with a golden haze, and the Autumn air was beginning to get snippy (but we loved it). “I know Connor. He’d never do petty things like this for so long unless he’s planning something horrible. So let’s go ahead and do it to him before he does something terrible to me – or all of us, now that we’re working together.”
“Issa, I really think you should get Jackson and Amy’s help,” Emma hesitantly spoke up. “This is going too far.”
“Too far?” I scoffed. “This is nothing. Both of us have done way worse than what I’m about to do. But it’s a start.”
“A start?” Lexi gulped. “So this isn’t the worst we’re going to do?”
Was she really oblivious to my plans? “Absolutely not!” I answered hotly. “We’re going to make Connor live to regret the day he ever started this entire thing!”
Both my friends shared uneasy glances. I knew they were regretting their promise to stick by me every step of the way.
“If you guys wanna back out,” I sighed. “It’s fine. I can handle this on my own.”
“No,” Emma murmured. “I promised.”
“Me, too,” echoed Lexi quietly.
“And please,” I begged. “Don’t tell any of this to Jackson or Amy.”
Emma and Lexi exchanged glances again. They both looked absolutely miserable.
“Really, guys,” my voice grew gentler. “Neither of you have to help me if y’all don’t want to.”
Emma and Lexi stayed silent, and Lexi just shrugged unhappily. I took that as a yes, and began to share our plans.
“I’ve written out the game-plan,” I informed them, scooting closer and opening my notebook so both could see what I had written. I heard Lexi draw in a sharp breath.
“That’s the plan?”
I glared at her. “It’s a good plan.”
“Issa, that’s really, really mean – for anybody. But especially for Connor – that’s no ordinary secret. That’s really dangerous, Issa. Both Connor and we three could get into serious trouble if we did that. And it’s horribly mean.”
“Don’t you think telling somebody that their mother left them on the steps of the FCA like a bag of trash for the sole purpose of hurting them is mean, too?” I shot back. “And besides. You gave me the idea.”
Lexi looked away. “I didn’t realize…” she trailed off. “I didn’t realize you’d actually use it. And in Connor’s case that makes it doubly mean! Plus, I didn’t know you’d do it so soon.”
“What do you mean, ‘so soon’? Do you have other plans? Like telling Jackson and Amy? Or secretly working with Connor?”
Lexi vigorously shook her head. “No and no.”
“Then let’s stick with this plan.”
“And it’s a good one.”
“Good evening,” I began quietly, and my accomplice jumped of surprise.
She whipped around. “Sorry. You startled me.”
“Where are your glasses?” I demanded. She couldn’t have foolishly left them in the backyard, could she?
“I dunno,” she mumbled. “I probably just dropped them in my room. I can see alright, though.”
“Do you have the recording?” I wasted no time in asking my next question.
Glancing over her shoulder quickly, my accomplice made sure the coast was clear. “Yes,” she nodded. “The entire thing.”
With that, she pulled out a small, telltale lime-green recording device.
“Perfect,” I whispered once she had handed it over. Issa couldn’t hide a single thing from me. I totally had the drop on her.
I fingered the device, knowing it held everything my accomplice had recorded of Issa’s conversations with Lexi and Emma.
“Good work,” I told my accomplice. “You’re on your way to earning the necklace back.”
At this, my accomplice’s throat tightened. “How long are you going to make me do this?” she whispered, her voice at the edge of breaking into a sob. “I just want my grandma’s necklace back.”
“Until I have what I want from you,” I replied casually. “When I have what I want, you’ll get what you want. And if you don’t comply, or if you spill the beans, my ignorant foster parents have a great garbage disposal in their sink. I’m sure your grandma’s pearl necklace would be obliterated if it happened to be dropped in there.”
My accomplish shook her head. “No, no, that’s not what I meant!” she pleaded desperately. “I’ll do anything to get it back.”
“Good,” I nodded. “Then you should have that special necklace back safe and sound.”
“When will that be?” She dared to ask, her tear-filled eyes imploring my cold ones. “How long are you going to make me hurt my friends?”
“It shouldn’t be too long,” I smiled. “I’m about to finish my enemy off.once and for all.”
That Thursday afternoon, I trudged home after a long day of school.
Where on earth was I going to find the time to study for the upcoming history test amongst all my plans of avenging Connor and making money for the FCA?
As soon as I opened the door with the spare house key each of us had, Coconut came bounding up to greet us – mainly me. 😉
“Hi, girl!” I cooed. “Did you miss me?”
“Issa, take her to the backyard so she can do her business!” Amy called from the kitchen. “It’s your responsibility, remember!”
“I know!” I called back. “I’ll do it right away. C’mon, Coco!”
Coconut led the way out the door and through our backyard patio, darting off to do her business.
While Coconut was busy, I looked around our backyard. It sure was starting to look like fall, and I loved the change in the weather.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of all the amazing Autumn smells, feeling the chilly wind blow against my face.
When I opened my eyes, something sparkling in the sunlight caught them. Blinking one or twice assured me that something was most definitely laying on the ground.
I squinted for a closer look, then decided to walk over to examine the item, very intrigued.
That’s weird, I mused to myself, glancing down at a turquoise pair of eyeglasses by one of our trees. I wonder who these belong t-
My thoughts froze. My heart skipped a beat. My entire body grew cold in panic. No. They couldn’t be.
My heart began to beat again, this time faster and faster as my breathing sped up along with it.
Connor hadn’t done any pranks – he had used my friends to do it.
I closed my eyes, trying to remember anything I saw the day our money had been stolen.
Could that have possibly been a person by that tree? Possibly having the same glasses on them somehow?
And had that been the same person by the tree when Lexi, Emma and I were discussing plans?
I searched my mind deeper. Where have I seen these glasses before?
I let out a gasp before a huge lump welled in my throat. No. Not her!
I heard a diabolically evil snicker behind me, which only made my hurt begin to morph into flaming anger.
“Amy wants your help making supper tonight,” Connor informed me, swallowing his jeering chuckles. “I’ll finish staying out here with Coconut while she explores a little.”
I whirled around to face Connor’s innocent face with his eyes full of hatred, stabbing once again my death glare into them.
“I hate you,” I spat furiously before I shoved past him.
I could feel Connor just smiling in satisfaction before he replied smugly, “I know.”
I grit my teeth, throwing open the lanai door and letting it slam behind me.
I didn’t respond to him, too angry to speak. I simply stormed inside, leaving the growing dusk behind me, along with leaving Coconut in Connor’s care.
That was the worst mistake I had ever made in my entire life.
After supper that night, it was once again my turn to clear off the dishes. Lexi left to go finish her history studying outside in the lovely evening before it became too dark, but Connor stayed at the table to do his.
With hatred hung in the air, it was dead cold silence except for the clinking of the plates and silverware I gathered together.
I almost dropped the dishes I was holding onto the table in alarm when I heard a loud car whiz past our street, followed by a bloodcurdling howl. “What was that?” Connor asked.
For the first time since we had talked outside earlier that evening, I spoke to him. “I don’t know,” I admitted, furrowing my eyebrows. As he turned back to his studying, I continued mostly to myself, “It sounds liked a -“
I did drop the dishes this time, and they rattled together on the table. My eyes widened, and I found it hard to breathe.
I hadn’t seen her since I left her outside with Connor.
“CONNOR!” I screamed, slamming my hands down on the table, knocking down his history book.
“What?” Connor asked in utter disgust, lifting his gaze toward me in annoyance.
“Where’s Coconut?!” I demanded, staring him down.
Connor’s face slowly lit up into another one of his maliciously evil smiles.
I whipped around and fled for the front door.
“COCONUT!” I screeched, sprinting out the door and across the sidewalk.
I could see the poor puppy now, laying on her side in the road, lifeless and limp. My eyes filled with tears and my heart broke even more in that moment.
My beautiful, beautiful puppy. Her life had been so short. She had died so young! But what had happened? Who on earth would take her life?
All of the sudden, my legs became weak beneath me. I fell to my knees, fighting back tears, suddenly overcome by the shock and realization.
Who would do this?
Well, duh. My heart skipped multiple beats as it dawned on me exactly who had purposely led and somehow kept Coconut in the middle of the road.
Instead of feeling numb and flabbergasted, I grew angrier and angrier with each growing second. Ever so slowly I stood up and turned around, clutching Coconut’s collar and my eyes ablaze with the hottest, burning hatred I had ever felt in my entire life. There he was.
I glared venomously at Connor, having never hated him in years as much as I did in that moment.
Hot tears of fury and grief threatened to spill down my face, but I refused to give Connor the satisfaction. My hands clenched into fists so tight they were white.
“Did you,” my voice quivered, and I swallowed hard to keep from sobbing. “Did you do this?”
Connor’s face broke into the most diabolical smirk I had ever seen. “Of course not,” he replied innocently. “I made one of your friends do it. And look – there she is.”
I turned my head in the direction Connor pointed to, expecting it to be Emma or Sarah.
But it was neither.
It was Lexi.