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Authors: Peg Kehret

Runaway Twin

BOOK: Runaway Twin
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Table of Contents
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A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 2Y3 Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) | Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England | Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) | Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) | Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India | Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) | Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Peg Kehret
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
ISBN : 978-1-101-56460-8
[1. Foster home care—Fiction. 2. Voyages and travels—Fiction. 3. Dogs—Fiction.
4. Runaways—Fiction. 5. Twins—Fiction. 6. Sisters—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.K2518Run 2009 [Fic]—dc22 2008048974
Published in the United States by Dutton Children's Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

For Jenny Moller and Jerry Lindsey,
who enrich my life in countless ways
The character of Snickers is based on a real dog who was the cherished companion of Julie Carlton. Julie won the chance to memorialize Snickers in a book when she was the high bidder at The Dog Bowl, an auction benefiting Pasado's Safe Haven. Thank you, Julie, for your generous bid, which helped Pasado's care for their many rescued animals.
If it were not for Casey Karp, I would be a bald woman. Casey solves all my computer problems, thereby saving me from tearing my hair out.
My first proofreader for this book was Brett Konen, who gave me numerous helpful suggestions. She's an astute editor and a terrific granddaughter!
My wonderful pet-sitter, Karrie Kamcheff, enables me to travel without worrying about my furry friends.
Thanks, as always, to Rosanne Lauer and the rest of the talented group at Dutton Children's Books.
ost people who have a life-changing experience survive a terrible injury or disease. My life was transformed by a craving for Twinkies.
When I woke up on the first day of summer vacation, I yearned for something sweet, so I decided to celebrate the end of school by eating Twinkies for breakfast. I knew better than to suggest this to my foster mom, Rita, who is a total health-food freak. Rita thinks the perfect breakfast is raw carrots dipped in unsweetened yogurt. For an extra treat, she sprinkles a little flaxseed on the yogurt. Yum-yum.
I dressed, and pulled my hair into a ponytail. I heard Rita's shower running, so I left a note on the counter. “Rita: I'm going for a walk. Sunny.”
Since Rita is always urging me to exercise, I knew that going for a walk would be okay with her. She didn't need to know I was walking to the store to buy Twinkies.
Wouldn't you think the Nebraska Department of Human Social Services (HSS, known as Hiss) would try to match a kid's background with the lifestyle of the foster family she's placed with? In my opinion it is cruel and unusual punishment to put a thirteen-year-old girl who was raised on junk food into a home that serves tofu and cauliflower.
It's hard enough to adjust to a new school and a different neighborhood, often a new town, every few months. It would be comforting to at least get some Snickers bars once in a while, or a big plate of nachos. Instead, I live with Rita, who thinks if she feeds me enough healthy food I will learn to like it. So far this strategy hasn't worked.
Rita remains optimistic, though. She also hopes I'll write about my summer activities because the school gives extra credit to any student who turns in an essay, story, or poem on the first day of school in September. This year's topic is “What I Did This Summer.” How boring! Eating Twinkies for breakfast will probably be the highlight of my summer, and it would be hard to make an essay out of that.
Two blocks from Rita's house, I left the sidewalk, cut diagonally across an empty lot, and took the trail. It isn't an official trail yet, although it will be someday when the county parks department gets enough money to maintain it. For now, it's a well-worn path that runs parallel to Silver Creek.
I have to watch where I walk because the trail is full of potholes created by the dirt bikes and quads that roar along it while thick curtains of dust drift down behind them. The morning sun warmed my shoulders as I relished the summer that stretched ahead with no homework and no tests. Rita had suggested summer school as a way to improve my grade point average, but she backed down when I threatened to run away again.
I had run away from my last two foster homes, and Rita was determined not to let it happen on her watch. She prided herself on winning over even the most uncooperative foster kids. That's why she'd agreed to take me.
I'm not a bad girl. I don't do drugs or shoplift or anything like that, but I don't do much schoolwork, either. Why bother when I'll be in a different school by the end of the term anyway? Why participate in sports or try to make friends when I always leave so soon?
As for running away, I don't really want to leave Rita. I ran away before because Hiss put me in unbearable foster homes. In one, the man of the house believed he was Boss of the World. He had to have complete control of everyone, even his wife. He kept track of how long it took his kids to walk home from school, and punished them if they dawdled or stood on the corner talking with friends. He monitored how much toilet paper we used.
I left after he wouldn't let me have dinner because I had held the refrigerator door open too long while I looked for the mustard. It turned out I couldn't find it because the mustard had been used up the last time they had hot dogs, but that didn't matter. I still had to go to bed hungry. How was I supposed to know they needed a new bottle of mustard?
I sneaked out in the night and started walking. I didn't know where I was going, and I didn't care. Any place would be better than staying another day, with the Boss of the World. Hiss found me the next day but when I told the caseworker why I ran away, she said I didn't have to go back. I think the toilet paper part got to her.
Unfortunately, I went from the Boss of the World to living with She Who Hates Anything Pretty. She-Who didn't let me wear makeup, even if I had a zit to cover up. She-Who wouldn't let me curl my hair, which is straight as a shelf.
“If God had wanted you to have curly hair,” she said, “you would have been born with it.”
“Then why did God allow the invention of the curling iron?” I asked. I've noticed that people who claim to know what God wants always manage to have His opinion be the same as theirs.
She insisted I wear clothes that were a size too large and clunky, old-lady shoes. Small wonder I didn't make any new friends at school. I looked like an eighty-year-old weirdo.
After I ran away from She-Who, I was placed with Rita. It is my seventh foster home. Some were okay. The Boss of the World and She Who Hates Anything Pretty were the worst.
The one constant in my life, until now, had been that none of the people I lived with cared what I ate. Junk food was cheap and easy, so if I wanted to fill up on Doritos instead of salad, it was okay with them.
Until Rita.
Actually, if it weren't for her fetish about healthy food, I'd like Rita. At least she gives me some space and lets me make my own choices about clothes, books, and music. She's smart and makes me laugh—but she believes the axis of evil is sugar.
As I sidestepped around an especially deep pothole, thinking that maybe I would eat Twinkies for breakfast every day all summer, I almost missed the faded, water-stained bag that lay about three feet off the path. Its mossy green color matched the weeds growing beside the trail. I had already passed the bag when a tiny flash of light reflected from its zipper tab, and I realized I'd seen something that had not grown there.
I often picked up litter when I walked the trail after school. Usually I carried it to the trash or recycling containers outside Manny's Market.
It irritates me that people will use the trail along the creek, supposedly to enjoy Nature's beauty, and then, by littering, will pollute the very thing they have come to admire.
Over my weeks of trail walking, I've trained my eyes to search out man-made materials, those jarring bits of color that don't belong near the path. Expecting the usual candy wrapper or soda can, I stepped back to pick up the item that had caught my eye.
It wasn't litter.
The cloth bag blended into the landscape as if it had been lying there for a long time. I wondered how many times I'd walked past and not seen it.
I brushed off the dirt, pulled open the zipper, and looked inside. The bag held bundles of twenty-dollar bills!
“Whoa,” I said. I looked around, half expecting someone wearing a ski mask to leap out from behind a tree, point a gun at me, and say, “Drop it right there.”
BOOK: Runaway Twin
4.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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