~Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8~
(Oh my gosh, girls! The next part is the finale! 😮 )

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“Oh, no,” Jackson sighed that evening when I told him our money had been mysteriously stolen. “That’s horrible.”

img_0170I nodded glumly, cheered only a little by sweet little Coconut snuggling by my leg. Jackson and I were having a little foster-father-daughter time while he cooked supper. He might not be the most outgoing person ever, but he sure can cook. “We worked really hard on earning that money – all three of us!” I then dared to share my concern just mildly. “Uh, I think Connor might’ve stolen it.”

Or maybe one of my own, I realized miserably. But which one of my friends would side with Connor? Is Emma still partial?

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“Now, Issa,” Jackson began, stirring a pot of spaghetti on the stove. “I don’t think Connor would do that. He’s a fair, honest young man. He wouldn’t cheat to raise more money than you. It’s just a friendly competition.”

Ha! I sputtered in my mind. You don’t know Connor like I do.

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“You’re right,” I fibbed. “Maybe a random passerby stole the money while we ran to get Coconut. But that doesn’t make very much sense – Emma and Lexi were there until I caught Coconut, and then they ran over to me.”

img_0179Jackson nodded, turning down the heat to a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce, it all making perfect sense to him. “Then it sounds to me as if stealing the money must have been a planned operation. Perhaps a mean kid was watching your lemonade stand and waiting for the perfect chance to snatch the money.”

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I closed my eyes. I hadn’t seen anyone suspicious. Had I? Nah, certainly not. It has to be one of Connor’s plans, I figured. Jackson said himself it must be a planned operation. Speaking of Connor, where is he?

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“Where’s Connor?” I asked casually, wiggling my leg to get Coconut off of sitting on my foot.

img_0185“He called me just a little while ago,” Jackson answered. “He made great success on his lemonade stand with his friend, and his friend is walking him over. Connor should be back before supper.”

img_0186Fabulous. I’d scrutinize him the entire meal. His speech, his facial expressions, his eyes. If he even dropped a hint of anything suspicious…

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Emma wasn’t able to join us for supper, although we had invited her. I quickly joined Lexi in setting the table, and before we had all the plates out, we heard the front door open and close.

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“The moment of truth,” I mumbled under my breath to Lexi, who just gave me a look with raised eyebrows as Connor walked in to the dining room.

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“Hey, Connor!” Amy called cheerfully as he walked in beside her. “Jackson’s got the food ready, everyone. He’s bringing the rest in shortly. Did you hear about how the girls’ money was stolen, Connor?”

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Connor’s eyes widened after reaching down to give Coco a pat, from which she shied away from uncomfortably. She didn’t like him, and I couldn’t blame her. “Someone stole their money? That’s awful!”

I tried to catch Connor’s eye, but he wouldn’t meet my gaze directly. Which was a sure sign of something.

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“How much money were you able to make?” Amy asked.

Connor began to lift the small money bag he had been holding. It wasn’t ours – could he have possibly not been the thief?

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Lifting the bag up, Connor answered, “My friend and I counted it up. The total is sixty-five dollars.”

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That’s when I knew Connor had to have stolen our money.

*

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After supper was over, it was Lexi’s turn to clear the dishes, and Coconut stuck with her. Amy and Jackson went to go clean up the kitchen, it being their turn to do it together…

So I had a perfect moment to confront Connor with nobody around.

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“Connor!” I barked, sharp and explosively, kind of like Coconut.

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Connor turned around, totally unsurprised, as if expecting this. “Yes?” He asked, wearing that innocent smirk that made me want to punch the living life out of him. But of course, I’d never do that.

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“Give the money back,” I demanded, staring into his cold eyes. “The FCA isn’t worth robbing from just to get back at me.”

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“Why would I do that?” Connor raised an eyebrow in his annoying, know-it-all way, obviously unwilling to hand over the stolen cash. “Why would I even care?”

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I studied his eyes, my mouth hanging open. “Why would you care?” I repeated. “The FCA is what got you into this home in the first place!” I grew angrier with every word. “Would you rather have continued to be transferred from home to home because nobody wants you? The FCA helped direct you to Jackson and Amy. They actually care!”

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Connor just rolled his eyes. “I’m not a girl, Issa. I can emotionally handle folks not caring. The government just wants to get all these parentless kids off their hands.”

“The FCA isn’t owned by the government!” I argued.

“But the FCA partners with them. By fostering kids from the FCA, the foster parents just want money the government pays them for that. Don’t they all?” His voice grew heavier with emotion. “They don’t care about us, Issa.” For a split second I thought I saw his eyes wet and shiny with angry tears.

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Then he broke eye contact, blinking his wet eyes. “Nobody cares.”

Despite his claims, I could tell he had indeed been very hurt. I didn’t know what to say for a second, and I almost felt sorry for him.

Almost.

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“Jackson and Amy care, Connor,” I hissed, wondering how on earth he couldn’t have possibly realized that. “They care because God cares.”

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Connor swallowed hard, flashing his blazing glare back at me. “If God really cared, why would He let my parents completely abandon me? Why would he let the FCA transport me from place to place like a missing UPS package?”

I opened my mouth to say something, but for once, I was speechless. Connor was hurting, try as he might to not let it show. Well, so was I. It hurt to have your parents, as well as countless of heartless foster parents, completely reject you – I knew.

But it also hurt when you had had them spoken smack about by another foster kid in the exact same situation!

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“Is that why you stole the money?” I demanded furiously. Connor’s expression grew darker as well. “You want to get back at the FCA?”

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“I don’t want to get back at the FCA,” Connor responded. “I want to get back at you, duh. But I didn’t steal it.”

I studied his eyes hard. He seemed like he was telling the truth, but how else could have have gotten that money?

I decided to ask.

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“Then how did you get the money?”

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Connor only smiled, and that’s when I realized he had been holding the money bag in his hand this entire time. “Wouldn’t you love to know?”

UGH! He absolutely infuriated me!

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I kept eye contact with him, hoping to not draw attention to my next act until it was too late.

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I made a quick grab for the money bag, but Connor had been ready for it.

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He snatched the bag out of my reach and held it curled tightly in his balled fist behind his back. Connor being both stronger and taller than me, I couldn’t possibly get it back by then.

img_0197“Give it back, Connor!” I hissed, more vexed than ever. “This isn’t about the war. This isn’t about me. That money belongs to the FCA!”

img_0198“But you care about the FCA, don’t you?” He questioned.

I grit my teeth, not answering. He knew how badly the FCA needed all the donations they could get, their facility not being the best my any means, but he was obviously not going to give the money to them.

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“Hurting the FCA will hurt you,” Connor lowered his voice with the meanest smile. “That’s the goal. Why else would your mom have left you on the steps of the FCA like a bag of trash?”

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Something horrible happened inside of me at that moment. I felt like someone had just taken a sledge hammer and smashed my heart into a thousand pieces, and my eyes stung with hot tears.

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Connor seemed very pleased and satisfied, and gave a smug smirk before turning his back and walking off to his room.

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I grit my teeth hard to keep from crying, but it didn’t work.

…Hurt you. That’s the goal. Why else would your mom have left you on the steps of the FCA like a bag of trash?

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“Issa!” Lexi gasped, running over to me with Coconut bounding at her heels. “Oh, Issa, what’s wrong? Did Connor do anything? I just saw him leave.”

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“Lexi,” I began, my voice wavering, but I swallowed hard and forced myself to harden my heart. Hatred enlaced my toughened words spoken between my grit teeth. “It’s time to get ahead of the game and do the next ‘prank’ before Connor does.”

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Lexi’s face saddened. She had hoped it wouldn’t come to this.

“But this one will top all others,” I hissed with hot, angry tears streaming down. “It shouldn’t even be considered a ‘prank’.”

Lexi bit her lip, not wanting to take any part in it.

“I need you to be honest. Promise me you can be honest?”

Lexi nodded, avoiding my eyes.

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I need ideas,” I continued, the fire of hatred burning hotter than I had ever felt it, mixed with the deepest of hurt. I swallowed hard the lump in my throat as Connor’s words replayed in my mind.

img_0222Lexi’s gaze finally met mine reluctantly, and I asked in a quiet, miserable voice, “What’s the absolute most horrid, hateful, meanest thing you’ve ever heard of in your entire life?”


I was kind of on a roll when I wrote it (literally – it took me more than four and a half hours from start to finish to write it, and it wasn’t even that long. I took my time, LOL. O.o), but I wanted to fit everything I wanted to in. I’m still not able to fit everything in that I wanted to into this season, however, but there’s always season 3. 😉

I know this part is kind of sad. But it doesn’t end here. Stay tuned for the finale! I’m going to try and have it ready by next Friday, but because there is so much involved and with all my surprises debuting around that time, it could take me longer. Oh, and it will be the longest part, so I hope you like long parts. 😛

Oh, and if you don’t like cliffhangers… I don’t know how you’re going to survive until season 3. 😉

Are you looking forward to the finale?

Love,