I had so much fun plotting this part and writing it out in advance. And then I took the pictures at the park and the lighting was terrible, even using the reflector shield. I should’ve found a shady spot, but… nope. 😒

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy part 3 of season 3 of Hang on to Hope! If you need a quick refresher or are simply checking this out for the first time, here are the links to the previous parts of season 3.

Prologue
Part 1
Part 2

And without farther ado!


Issa’s POV

“I—I—” I can’t seem to find the words now as Lexi runs up behind me. This makes no sense.

“Yeah?” Connor smiles kindly through his tears, and I think it’s sincere. It encourages me to get the words out as Lexi joins my side.

“I—I’m going to help you,” I say. “And I’m going to do whatever I can to keep Emma from calling the police.”

I can hear Lexi’s jaw drop behind me at the idea. “But—that’s—wrong!”

I don’t care.

Connor is staring at me like he can’t believe it. “But—why?” He asks softly.

I stare at him for a long time. It’s certainly not because I have any positive view of him whatsoever. “Because I know what it feels like to be hopeless and I’m telling you that there’s hope to hang on to.”

Connor gawks at me until his jaw finally closes. He smiles through his tears and blinks his wet eyes. “Th—thank you,” he stammers. “Thank you so much, Issa.”

He just said thank you to me? I thought he hated to me. He’s being so… nice. Why the change?

“Come on,” I sigh. “We need to formulate a plan.”

Lexi is uneasy. “I don’t think you guys should do this.”

“It doesn’t matter, because you’re doing it too.” I grab her wrist and pull a stuttering and arguing Lexi behind me as Connor follows with a smile.

“Shh!” I hiss under my breath once I hear the voices of Jackson, Amy, and Emma conversing together. I press Lexi up against the wall with me, and Connor follows suit.

Together, we eavesdrop on their conversation.

“So I should be the one to call the authorities,” Emma finishes her statement.

Jackson and Amy both sigh in unison. “Fine,” Jackson says. “You may call them. When do their offices open?”

A short moment of silence follows, and I peek just a little around the corner so I can actually see what’s happening.

“Ugh, seriously? Why do Thanksgiving break times have to run so late? They’re only open from after lunch until six PM.”

Amy nods. “You may call them.”

Emma squeals and throws her arms around Amy. “Thank you so much, Mom! Your daughter just cracked her very first case—this is so exciting!”

Amy smiles and hugs Emma back. “You’re welcome. But…”

Emma pulls away and frowns. “But?”

“I need you to take the kids to the park today. You know, family bonding time with them. Can you do that?”

“But—Mom! I need to be ready right after lunch so I can call them!”

“No buts.”

Emma looks deflated, but I do not. A smirk lights up my face, and a glimmer of hope rises. We have plenty of time to delay that call.

I turn back to Lexi and Connor and nod. “Come on, guys. Let’s get planning.”

The worst, creepiest lighting and editing job… ever. And this isn’t even at the park yet.

“What are we going to plan?” Connor asks as I lead them through the backyard to a secluded spot where we can plan in privacy.

I turn my head to face him and kind of smile a little. “We’re both experienced in pranks, right?”

Lexi humphs. “I’m not.”

Connor grins a little. “Very.”

My smile grows wider. “And if we’re not pranking each other, we can prank—”

Lexi groans. “Don’t say it.”

“Emma,” Connor finishes, and he begins to laugh.

Lexi humphs again. “As long as the pranks are harmless and you understand I’m only doing this because I wanna help too.”

Connor smiles. “Of course.”

I whip out my notebook, and to my surprise, Connor whips out one of his.

“Prank ideas?” I ask.

Connor grins. “Prank ideas.”

He’s being so nice. Why the change?

He flips his notebook open and allows me to look. I take one glance at the very first prank he has written down and burst out laughing.

“Priceless.”

*

Before we have a chance to put any of our plans into action, we’ve eaten an early lunch and are sent with Emma to the park.

“How old do they think we are, five?” I grumpily complain as we walk down the sidewalk. Emma stalks off to a bench while we head toward the playground. “What are we even supposed to do here?”

Connor shrugs. “We could organize a game of hide-and-seek?”

“That sounds fun!” Lexi agrees.

I frown. “That’s boring. How about hide-and-go-seek tag? Or better yet—”

“Hide-and-go-seek ninja tag,” Connor finishes, and I grin.

We kind of think the same? And he’s being so nice. Why the change?

“Let’s do it.”

Connor nods and points ahead of us. “Okay. How about we play in that field way over—”

“Connor!”

A voice breaks through his own as a redhead with glasses comes running up to him. I instantly recognize her as Sarah and wave happily.

Connor does not look so happy to see her. His face instantly pales as she draws near, and Sarah doesn’t even notice me.

“I want my necklace back,” she says. “I did what you asked. She’s dead.”

My jaw drops. “What in the world? What did you ask her to do, Connor?”

Sarah turns pale now. “Oh, I—”

Connor winces but doesn’t avoid the subject. “Issa…”

Sarah backs away a little bit, which doesn’t help Connor at all. “Connor Cavan— I mean DaCosta!” I shout. “What is she talking about?”

Tears smart Connor’s eyes again. “I—I stole her grandmother’s necklace from her and made her do something terrible.”

I get in his face. “She said ‘she’s dead’. What. Did. You. Make. Her. Do?”

“Coconut,” is all Connor croaks.

I step back. “What?”

“I’m so sorry,” he immediately apologizes. “I regret it with everything. I made Sarah stage it so Coconut would be in the middle of the road and get run over.”

His words come as a punch in the gut, and I realize I can no longer breathe. Fresh tears spring to my eyes when I think of my beloved and now dead pet.

“I’m so sorry!” Connor wails, looking like he’s about to cry too. He continues apologizing multiple times while I try to fight my tears. But why? I’m sick and tired of wondering Why the change?, but Lexi just glares at Connor to stop talking.

Connor swallows and sadly turns to Sarah. “I have your necklace in my backpack in the car. I’ll be right back.” He blinks a little faster in an attempt to keep from crying. I’ve never seen Connor like this. “I’m so sorry I made you do this.”

Sarah looks surprised that he’s apologizing after how mean and cruel he must’ve been to her, but she accepts his apology with “Oh. It’s—okay, I guess.”

Connor leaves for the car to go get Sarah’s necklace while Sarah turns to me. “Issa—I’m so sorry I killed your pet. But I couldn’t risk him destroying my grandmother’s pearl necklace!”

I can’t take it anymore. I quickly cry while Connor is gone, and Lexi knows me so well. She wraps her arms around me in a hug while I sob, and Sarah just stands their in guilt and remorse.

When I hear Connor returning, I quickly pull away, swiping my tears with a sniff. Connor hands Sarah her necklace, and she smiles a little at finally being given it back.

“Thanks for at least keeping your word and not destroying it since I did what you said.”

Connor winces. “I shouldn’t have made you do that.”

Turning to me a final time before she leaves, Sarah says, “Please forgive me.”

When Sarah leaves, I’m so shaky I nearly jump when Emma steps out of the shadows. The sneaky creep has been spying on us the entire time!

“So that’s how their pet died,” she sneers at Connor. “Your parents are going to probably have to face charges for what you made that girl do. That’s serious animal abuse.”

Connor’s face flashes with desperation. “Don’t tell them!” He cries. “They’ll view me as even more of a nuisance than I already am! They’ll hate me!”

The words are out before he knows it, and as soon as they are, Connor clamps his mouth shut and blushes a little as he blinks back hot tears of frustration.

Emma just looks amused and quickly pulls out her phone to jot down what he said to document it into the details of the case.

“No— no—please don’t write that down!” Connor begs, reaching for her phone.

Emma holds it out of his grasp and frowns at him. “It’s an important detail of the case. I have to write it down.”

She looks back at her phone again and sighs. “I want to get home so I can call the authorities in silence without all of these kids screaming and park commotion in the background. And I have to do it before the office closes.” She frowns. “You guys have fifteen minutes. I’ll be busy writing this down, so don’t disturb me again.”

Emma returns to the bench she’s been sitting on as all three of us look at each other. Connor sighs in absolute misery. I’ve never seen Connor like this—ever.

Lexi begins walking along the sidewalk in silence toward the field, and despite the fact that I don’t really feel like playing hide-and-go-seek ninja tag anymore, I join her.

That’s when a ball rolls in the middle of the sidewalk and I trip on it. Connor reaches to help me, but he doesn’t catch me in time.

The rough concrete comes flying toward my face, and the ball pops beneath my weight, echoed by an “Ah!” I cry out.

“Kid!” Someone shouts at me.

I pick myself up off the ground to face an angry boy of about fourteen or fifteen years old. He seems to tower over me.

“Sorry!” I pant out, catching my breath from the fall.

“You popped my ball!” He yells in fury. He’s glaring death at me. This kid has serious anger issues. “You’re dead.”

“Look, dude, I’m sorry,” I say, rolling my eyes.

I bend down to pickup the deflated beach-looking ball, but as I stand up with it, the boy roughly snatches it out of my hands and angrily shoves me back down to the ground.

The unforgiving concrete scrapes my knees and hands, and I grit my teeth in pain.

I pull myself back to my feet, but instead of facing the bully’s infuriated face and flaming eyes, Connor is standing between him and me.

“Leave her alone.”

To be continued… in HOTH Season 3, Part 4!


Coming up next on Hang on to Hope:

The bully glares at him and scoffs. “Or what?”

“Or I swear you’ll regret it.”

The bully rolls his eyes, but Connor seals the deal by swinging a fist toward his face and socking him in the nose.

😮 Dang, Connor.

If you’re looking forward to part 4, let me know! Just hit “like” and leave a comment below!