Chapter 1

I stared out into the Victorian-styled buildings and sighed as I let my fingers sink into the soft cushion of fur that was my dog. I pressed my free hand to the cold, filthy window of the room I had been trapped in for fifteen years.

I looked down at Spinner, the small white Yorkie that I had found scavenging food from trash cans a few years ago and sighed. "Did you hear boy? Ally's been adopted. She came in only a few days ago. What a lucky girl. Well, that's another one gone… and I'm still here…" I trailed off, absent mindedly petting Spinner.

Spinner's tail spun in small joyful circles. Unlike other dogs, Spinner's tail didn't wag. It seemed to spin in perfect little circles.

I heard a quick rap on the door that snapped me out of my haze and I groaned with frustration as I opened the door and came face-to-face with Mason, the owner of the orphanage. I felt as if I was going to throw up just from the mere sight of him and I felt my face scrunch up in disgust.

He smoothed back his greasy gray hair and scowled, "Didn't I tell you to get downstairs?"

"Whatever Mase, I'm not hungry and that's actually a good thing for you because now you can feed those fifty kids who are always whining that they don't get enough food!" I sneered.

"That's Mr. Case to you, Caroline!" he said, wagging a disapproving finger at me wildly as he narrowed his eyes to slits.

"And that's Caro to you," I said, plainly showing how annoyed I was.

"You've got a perfectly good name, use it and get down. You aren't coming down for breakfast though, you're coming to my office," Mason said before he slammed the door in my face and I heard his footsteps travel down the hallway in his brisk manner.

Sighing, I ran my hands through my perfectly straight hair before heading towards Mason's office.

When I was a few steps away from the door, that had Mason's name printed on it with gold, Brad, a small boy who was about six years old blocked my way. Brad had dirty blond hair with an uncountable amount of freckles that covered his face. He always had a big smile that showed all his teeth plastered on his face and his brown eyes were always full of joy and wonder.

"Ooh! Caro's going to the Stinkice… again!" Brad yelled as he dramatically gasped.

Brad and I had gotten in trouble once welcoming one of the new kids. He was a skimpy boy who was about ten years old. He had long light brown hair that hung heavily around his ears and big eyes that reminded me of Bambi.

Brad and I had welcomed him by throwing a stink bomb in his room as a tradition and, I had been made to scrub the floors of our eating area for a whole week.

We had come up with the name Stinkice for Mason's office because of the gruesome stench that always seemed to be swirling around in the small room.

I rolled my eyes at him as I replied, "Yes, I'm going to the Stickice again but I didn't do anything wrong this time. You know, I'm basically immune to the stink in that room now because I've been there so many times!"

Brad wrinkled his face as if he was thinking deeply about something. He suddenly shot up as if someone had tasered him and gasped as his eyes went wide. He shuffled up to me and waved his small hand frantically, motioning me to come closer. I bent down as he cupped my ear and whispered in, "What if Greasy Masey found out that we were the ones that poured gravy in Molly Mikker's bag?"

I swatted him away as if he was a fly wandering around and said in a relaxed tone, "Nah, that wouldn't happen. Remember? We made sure everyone would think it was Andy who did it. We put the spoon covered in gravy, not to mention the bowl next to his bed didn't we?"

"Oh, right!" Brad said a little too loud as he grinned from ear-to-ear.

I ruffled his hair and mouthed the word, "Go" as I placed my hand on the door handle to the Stinkice.

"Good luck!" Brad whispered before running off into the hallway next to us.

I sighed for what already seemed to be the tenth time that day before opening the door before me. It creaked as I slowly opened the door and shut it behind me when I gave it a small push.

Mason looked up from his wooden desk that seemed as if it was half chewed by termites.

"Well, it sure took you a long time to get down three flights of stairs and open a door," he said sarcastically as he pointed a long, bony finger to the stool in front of his desk.

Rolling my eyes, I plopped down and looked at Mason expectantly as I twisted the streak of magenta in my otherwise strawberry – blonde hair.

"Whatever you think I did this time, it wasn't me…" I said in a lazy tone when Mason interrupted me.

"I'm not here so I can think of another creative way to make you suffer. I'm here because I'm supposed to tell you that you have been accepted to the Academy of Prahts," Mason said calmly.

I tried to hide the surprise from my face but failed as I suddenly shot up from my lazy stance. "What?" I squeaked.

Mason grinned and said calmly, "Yes, I actually couldn't believe this until I saw your test results."

"My test results? You mean for one of the tests I took?" I asked as I frowned. The orphanage had been trying to get rid of me and they said it was for my own good since most people didn't adopt teenagers but I knew they were just sick of my complaining and rebellious ways. They had signed me up for a bunch of tests to boarding schools and I had slacked off on them on purpose because I had made a promise to Brad that I would stay with him. Just a few weeks ago, I had taken another test and I could remember faintly it was for the Academy of Prahts. Some of the answers for the questions were brilliant. There was one question that asked me what was wrong with a math equation and I had answered: What is wrong with you?

"Yes, one of the tests that you took scored a high mark and now the Academy of Prahts has invited you to attend their school."

"Academy of Prahts? Please don't tell me you sending me to the Academy of Brats for Troubled Children. Besides, they invited me, it's not like I have to go!" I said, wildly flailing my hands around to show how I felt.

"For you information Caroline, the Academy of Prahts is actually an academy for the exceptionally gifted students. They have invited you, yes and that does mean you have to go," Mason said, folding his hands on his desk and staring intently at my eyes.

"All schools for troubled children say it's the school for exceptionally gifted students to make the kids feel better! And Mason? I. Am. Not. Going!" I spit the words at him, now on my feet and leaning over his desk.

Mason gave me a quick glance then picked up a pencil that was lying around next to what looked like the first computer that had ever been made. He spun it around in his hands as he said in a tone that dared me to have another outburst, "I'm so sorry Caroline but you will be going and I will not be seeing you by tomorrow afternoon."

I narrowed my eyes, set my jaw and stared Mason intently in the eyes as I said my next words slowly, as if teaching him how to count for the first time, "Well, Mase, I'm very sorry but it seems as if you will be seeing me tomorrow afternoon and I will not be going."

I leaned back, brushed off the dust on my hands, placed my hands on my hips and said in a sarcastic tone, "Thank you for understanding."

I spun around and went out, slamming the door on my way. I sighed as I turned back and stared at Mason's door wondering if I had done the right thing. At times like this, I wished there was someone that would put their hands on my shoulders and say in a comforting tone, "You did the right thing Caro, don't worry at all!"

Other than those rare moments, I usually didn't want anyone looking after me. As far as anyone knew, my parents had abandoned me at the front of this orphanage when I was just three months old. I used to cry when I would see the happy images of families. The mom cradling the small baby in her arms, the dad leaning over her shoulder making funny faces, and the baby, the face that seemed to explode with joy. I had never felt that joy. The only times I had even felt close to happy was when I was with Brad, teaching him the small things I knew.

I let my footsteps echo loudly in the hallway as I walked back towards my room. Frustrated and confused, I slammed the door behind me and went to my washroom and looked at the small mirror. A pair of cat like eyes looked back at me. The bright greens and blue that always seemed to be swirling and the specks of gold that seemed to be dents in my slime coloured eyes.

Well, no wonder no one wants me. Who would want their daughter to be a rebellious, ugly know-it-all? I thought sadly and fought back tears. I was always fighting against tears; they were always falling uncontrollably like a waterfall.

I lied down on my bed and it creaked under my weight. It was too small for me since it was actually just my old crib without the safe guards and an extra wood board attached to the end, supported by the old legs of broken chairs.

Did I do the right thing? It seemed as if there were too many questions these days. My brain was exploding with questions and it seemed as if all the answers had been thrown around in weird areas by an odd intruder, also known as the questions.

Sinking into my own quicksand of problems, confusion and unanswered questions, I slowly fell asleep.

I woke up to yet another irritating sound of someone knocking at my door. Pulling my cold and tired body, I opened the door expecting Greasy Masey but instead was met with nothing. Something then tugged on my shirt. I looked down to see Brad, with red puffy eyes and sad, innocent eyes.

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and squatted in front of him as I asked in the nicest voice I could manage, "Brad? What's wrong?"

He rubbed his eyes with his small hands and wiped off tears from his chubby cheeks as he looked at me with those sorrowful eyes and said in a quiet voice, "You should go Caro."

It took me a second to realize what he was saying. "No! I'm not going to leave you here by yourself! Brad, you are like my brother. I will not leave you here," I said in a firm voice as I placed my hands on both of his shoulders that were sagging.

"Well, you're like a sister to me. Although I don't have a family, I've had one long enough to know that you do what's best for them. Right now, what's best for you is to go Caro. Get out of this place. Aren't you sick of it? I've only been here for two years. You've been living here you whole life! I think… no, you have to go," Brad said, curling his hands into small fists and pouting as if he was mad but his face had a miserable look on it and his tears were still falling.

I wiped away a tear as I whispered, "Do you really think I should go?"

"Well, I don't want you to go. But, I think you really should," Brad said, his eyes regretting what he had said but his expression determined.

"No, Brad, I can't go," I said sadly. I couldn't bring myself to even think about leaving him in the orphanage without me.

"Caro… go," Brad whispered as a single teardrop fell down onto my hand. His lip was trembling and he looked just like when he had first come into the orphanage: lonely and fragile. He was like a vase reassembled together. It could fall apart any second.

With a heavy heart that seemed to have sunk down to my stomach, I looked away as I barely whispered, "Fine, I will. But wait for me Brad, I'll be back, I will not leave you."

I turned back to him to see him nodding his head weakly. I pulled him into a tight hug as I patted his head.

He came into my room and I sat him down on the hard wooden chair as I got out my suitcase and packed the few items that actually belonged to me. The small, torn blanket that I had had since I came to the orphanage, a jacket, a hoodie, and a few pairs of baggy jeans with a few t-shirts that I had modified. The only other thing was a card Brad had made me last Christmas. I kept it safe in a box so it wouldn't get wrinkled and that small letter was the only thing that made me feel as if I had a family, as if I belonged and was wanted.

I hid the tears that tried to escape as I packed the last of my things into the tiny black suitcase that had been rotting in the corner of my room for the last fifteen years. I took out Spinner's leash that was held together by a few loose threads and flung it over my shoulder onto my bed.

Brad watched miserably the whole time and then he asked in a depressed tone, "Who's going to cut off the crust from my toast? Who's going to do pranks with me? How am I going to survive without you when Greasy Masey catches me?"

The tears threatened to fall but I took deep breaths as I tried to say in a clear, relaxed tone, "Oh, you'll be fine! That old fart won't be able to catch you, you're too good. After all, you are my apprentice. Just wait Brad, I'll be back and then, you won't have to worry."

"Can you come back? What if you can't? Are you sure?" Brad asked, now standing in front of me, on his toes, his eyes sparkling with tears and questions.

"Yes, I will come back."

"Pinky promise?"

"Yes, pinky promise."

Brad stretched his pinky finger out at me and I wrapped my long pinky around it and we swung it around a couple of times as Brad said, "Now, you have to come no matter what!"

I smiled as a tear finally escaped. I quickly wiped it away before Brad could see. The rest of the day passed by as I told Brad about what we would do when we escape. I tried to make him happy for the majority of the time but he would start crying often when the thought that I would be leaving in a few hours popped into his head.

With my head filled with worries that night, I fell asleep, the sound of the chilly September wind blowing outside my window.

The next morning, I changed into the best clothes I had: the only pair of jeans that actually fit me, a black t-shirt and a gray hoodie that only had a few stains on the sleeves. I rolled my suitcase downstairs and dragged a sleepy Spinner into the main lobby where Mason stood, impatiently tapping his foot.

He forced a smile onto his face when he saw me and said in his most pleasant voice, "I knew you would go. So, you have all your stuff? You're finally getting out of here! You know, when you first came, you were just a small baby! I still remem–"

I waved my hand in front of his face as I said, "Okay good for you. Now please, just get me out of here. I understand that you will miss me greatly but right now, I just want to get out."

As Mason grumbled and muttered something under his breath, Brad came running down the halls, his shoes squeaking and his red face panting. He stopped in front of us, as he breathed heavily, his hands placed on his knees. He took out his puffer from his shorts' pocket and inhaled a couple of times.

"You okay Brad?" I asked gently as I placed a hand on his small shoulder.

Brad nodded and he pulled me into a bone-crushing hug.

I hugged him back, my tears now falling freely.

Mason watched us and for once, he didn't make a rude comment or roll his eyes at us. He simply stood there, his eyes glazed over by tears.

As we slowly backed away from the hug, Mason coughed and grumbled, "Well, the orphanage sure will be much quieter without you. Just get out these doors and there's going to be a limo waiting for you."

I hadn't seen a limo before but I remembered a couple that came to interview me coming in a long car that Mason had called a limousine.

I nodded and patted Brad once more on his head. I started to walk towards the door but turned back again and gave Brad another hug as I whispered in his ear, "I'll be back." I handed Spinner's leash to him and before Brad could say anything, I ran off. Towards my new life, farther away from the place I had called home and closer to freedom.