18.62 Lynda Mullaly Hunt One for the Murphys

ISBN 13: 9780399256158

One for the Murphys

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9780399256158: One for the Murphys

A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.

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About the Author:

Lynda Mullaly Hunt has the best job in the world! She is also a former teacher and Scenario Writing coach. She is active in SCBWI-NE, where she is the Director of the annual Whispering Pines Writers' Retreat in Rhode Island. Besides reading and writing, Lynda enjoys juggling and watercolor painting--but not at the same time. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat. She is now working on her next middle-grade novel.
 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

FOR THE

Murphys

My mother had a

different way of doing things.

Officially, this is my fourth day in captivity. I have started keeping tally on the back of that dumb hero sign. One good thing, though. Mrs. Murphy has cleared some time to take me clothes shopping. In an actual store.

This is a far cry from my mother and I making late-night visits to Salvation Army drop boxes to “shop.” I remember how she’d hand me a flashlight, hoist me into the bins, and then make requests for sizes and specific colors like I was sitting in there with a doting saleslady and a catalog.

It was cool, though, how we’d go to McDonald’s afterward and my mother would hold up her ice cream as if to toast me. “Carley, what would I do without you?” she’d ask.

Back when I was little, I used to wonder why there weren’t lines of people at those bins. I figured my mother must be the most clever mother anywhere.

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One

FOR THE

Murphys

NANCY PAULSEN BOOKS

A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

Published by The Penguin Group.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 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.

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.

Copyright © 2012 by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission

in writing from the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group,

345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. Nancy Paulsen Books, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off.

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means

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Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. The publisher does not have any control over and

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Published simultaneously in Canada. Printed in the United States of America.

Design by Ryan Thomann. Text set in Arno Pro.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hunt, Lynda Mullaly. One for the Murphys / Lynda Mullaly Hunt. p. cm.

Summary: “After heartbreaking betrayal, Carley is sent to live with a foster family and struggles with opening herself up to their love”—Provided by publisher. [1. Foster home care—Fiction. 2. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. 3. Stepfathers—Fiction. 4. Family problems—Fiction. 5. Family life—Connecticut—Fiction. 6. Connecticut—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.H9159One 2012 [Fic]—dc23 2011046708

ISBN 978-1-101-57212-2

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

CHAPTER 1

Lucky Girl

Sitting in the back of the social worker’s car, I try to remember how my mother has always said to never show your fear. She’d be disappointed to see me now. Shaking. Just going without a fight.

The social worker, Mrs. MacAvoy, pulls out of the hospital parking lot while I play with the electric-lock button on her car door. Lock. Unlock. Lock. Unlock. She glares at me in the mirror and says, “Please... stop that. The door needs to stay locked.”

I love it when people use the word please but they sound like they want to remove your face. I stop. But I’m not doing it to bug her like she thinks. It’s just that I can’t keep still. And it beats jumping out of a moving car.

My fingers play with my hospital bracelet. I stare at my name. Carley Connors. Thirteen letters. How unlucky can one person be?

I think about my mother. Still there, lying in her hospital bed like an eggplant. I wonder if she’s conscious yet. I wonder why no one will tell me what’s happening with her. And I wonder why I can’t seem to ask anymore.

Gazing out the window, I count the trees. Connecticut is covered with them, but in March the branches are still bare. Like long, gray fingers waving us along as we speed by.

“We’re almost there,” Mrs. MacAvoy says, taking a corner faster than I think any social worker is supposed to.

I think back to sitting in that hospital bed, bunching the blankets up in my fists, asking her if they were going to send me to an orphanage. “We don’t call them orphanages anymore,” she’d said, shaking her head and laughing. Like that was the point?

Now I’m trapped in her car going to a place she’s chosen. After what my stepfather has done, I’m terrified thinking about what kind of foster house I may land in. The things that could happen to me.

I think of the Little Mermaid mural near the nurse’s station. How the tooth fairy gave me that CD when I was seven, and my mother let me get up to listen when I found it under my pillow at midnight. We danced around the kitchen together. She sang “Kiss the Girl” as she chased me to get a kiss. I never once ran away for real.

“You know,” Mrs. MacAvoy says, pulling me back to reality. “You’re very lucky, Carley.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

Her mouth bunches up. “Well.” She sounds like a ticking bomb. “It’s a nice home. A good placement. You are lucky.”

“Guess I should buy a lottery ticket then.”

“Someday, Carley, you’re going to have to realize that being angry at the whole world only hurts you.”

I wonder if that isn’t the point.

We drive up to a house the color of dirt. Tall, thin trees surround it, like guards on watch. There is a “66” on the mailbox. A palindrome.

Mrs. MacAvoy opens the car door for me. “This is a very nice family, Carley.” She puts emphasis on my name as if to give me a warning. “And this is the first time they’ve taken a foster child...”

I know this is her way of telling me to be a “good girl.” The walk up the driveway feels like wading through glue. I’ve read books and seen movies. I know what foster parents are like. They smoke cigars and feed you saltines for breakfast.

One, two, three... seven, eight, nine. Standing on the porch, I count the leaves on the plastic wreath that hangs on the door. The bright redness of the flowers reminds me of the swirling lights of the ambulance. I have a vague memory of my mother screaming for me and my own voice trying to yell for her. And the taste of blood; I remember that.

I remember the blinding pain surging through my body and then feeling nothing at all. Wondering if a person like me would go to heaven.

I jump when the door swings open, and a woman smiles. She is the kind of person you’d never look at twice. Her hair is shoulder length, straight, and different shades of brown. Her blue V-neck sweater matches her eyes, and she wears a silver leaf necklace and plaid pants. I mean, plaid pants?

She holds out her hand. “Hello, Carley. How nice to meet you. I’m Julie Murphy.”

I can’t reach back. Even the name feels fake. Too perky. I wonder why she’s happy to meet me. I wonder how much she knows. And I hope that I do not like her.

Then this whole thing gets even worse.

Mrs. Murphy steps to the side. Behind her stand three boys. The smallest one runs over, stretching his hands up toward his mother, and she swoops him up.

I can’t stay here. I’m probably here to be a live-in babysitter or a modern-day Cinderella.

The oldest boy looks at me like he wants to wrap me in a carpet and leave me on the curb.

I haven’t cried since my mother told me she was going to marry Dennis. That was 384 days ago, but I want to cry now.

His mother tips her head to the side and holds my gaze until I just can’t look anymore. I hear her voice. Soft. “Why don’t you come in, Carley?”

CHAPTER 2

The First Step

While Mrs. MacAvoy blathers on, Mrs. Murphy focuses on the bruises on my arms; her look of pity crawls inside of me. Clasping my hands behind my back, I try to hide my arms so she can’t see.

The middle boy starts pulling Matchbox cars from his pants pockets and holds them against his chest. He’s the dirtiest but seems the most serious, even with a head full of red curls.

The one in her arms is about four, I guess. He wears a plastic fireman’s hat, little fire hydrant boxers, and bright yellow rain boots. A great blackmail picture when the kid’s about sixteen.

“This is Daniel,” she says, pointing to the tallest one. “And my redheaded car guy is Adam, and my littlest guy is Michael Eric. Say hi, guys!”

I look at this family. A family I don’t know. That I am supposed to stay with. I try to swallow my panic.

The whole place smells like dryer sheets. Reminds me of Lucky’s Laundromat back in Vegas, but it isn’t nearly as bright. The fireplace spans an entire wall in the step-down family room; the mantel is covered with St. Patrick’s Day decorations.

Mrs. MacAvoy leaves, saying, “Good luck.” I wonder which one of us she’s talking to.

When Mrs. Murphy closes the door behind her, she turns to me.

“Let’s get you settled in,” she says. The idea of me settling in here is about as likely as an apple tree sprouting in my ear.

She picks up the backpack that Family Services gave me, which has a stuffed giraffe, a toothbrush, and a pair of bright yellow fairy pajamas that remind me that there are worse things than death. The stuffed giraffe is good, though. Anyone who has had her whole life shredded in one night should have a stuffed giraffe.

Mrs. Murphy takes me up the staircase. There are thirteen steps to the top, the tenth one being a squeaker. Soon we stand in a bedroom decorated in the theme of fire trucks. On the wall over the bed, there’s a red wooden sign that reads BE SOMEONE’S HERO in white letters, and I consider the cruel irony of sleeping under this phrase.

“Sorry about the room. I know it isn’t well suited to a girl your age. I moved Michael Eric in with Adam so you’d have some privacy. You know, I assumed you’d be a boy.” She looks at me over her shoulder and seems a little embarrassed. “I mean, I was surprised to hear that you were a girl.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Straightening the corner of the bed, she laughs. “What a clip.”

I wonder what that means. I like it.

“I was thinking. If you want to call me Julie instead of Mrs. Murphy, that would be fine. Not so formal.”

“Okay,” I say, thinking that I don’t want to call her Julie like we’re friends. I don’t want to call her anything. She seems okay, but I don’t want someone else’s family.

“I’m going to get Michael Eric and Adam cleaned up and start dinner. Mrs. MacAvoy said you’d been asking for books at the hospital, so I put a bunch you may like on the top shelf there.” She nods toward a bookcase.

I turn to look at them. Best thing so far.

“We’re having lasagna for dinner. I hope that’s okay.”

“Stouffer’s or store brand?”

“Uh, no. I mean neither. I made it a couple of weeks ago and stuck it in the basement freezer.” She seems embarrassed. “So I guess you could say it’s frozen, then?”

She made it herself? Seriously?

Mrs. Murphy turns to go, closing the door behind her.

“Hey!”

“Yeah?” she answers, stepping back in.

“Do you have a husband?” I ask, staring at her wedding band and thinking of my stepfather, Dennis.

“Yes, I do.” She sounds all singsongy. “My husband, Jack, is working at the firehouse today, but he’ll be home tomorrow morning. He knows you’re here.”

I am afraid again. “Okay. Thanks.”

She leaves, and soon I hear splashing from the bathroom and it sounds like there are ten boys in the tub instead of two. I stand at the door and want to go in but don’t. I see the Murphys’ bedroom door is open, so I go in there instead.

The bed is high off the ground and has a woven canopy over it. There are pictures all over the room on tables and shelves. There’s a man in a Navy uniform. There’s also a wedding picture, and I see that the groom is the same as the Navy guy. I wish my mother had been married to my father.

The bathroom door opens behind me, and I feel like I’ve been caught doing something wrong. I jump back into the table, and the Navy man picture smashes on the floor. I blurt out, “Sorry.”

“Carley. Never mind that. I’ll clean it later. But be careful. Don’t cut yourself.”

I stare at her. When will she get mad?

“There’s a little step stool in here,” she says. “Why don’t you come sit and join us?”

What sounds like a plastic cup falls on the floor in the bathroom followed by a loud little-boy laugh. She pokes her head in. “Michael Eric. Leave the water in the tub, honey.”

Honey.

She turns toward me, waiting for an answer. I can see she becomes impatient as her gaze jumps between me and the bathroom.

“Sorry,” I say. I wonder if my mother is awake yet.

She seems to force a smile. “The picture is no big deal. Jack hates it anyway.”

My mouth dries up. I know I am not apologizing for the picture. I am sorry for being there in the first place.

Mrs. Murphy lets me skip dinner. Says it’s only for the first night. I hear a happy family downstairs, talking and laughing, and I am relieved that I am not with them.

In the dark bedroom that is not my own, I count the wheels on the trucks over and over. I count the little firemen running around to help people. I stare at the hero sign and count the curves and lines of the letters. I wonder if, in my whole life, I could ever be someone’s hero.

I think I hear my mother calling my name in the night, and I pull the covers up under my chin. I remind myself how she told me to never cry. How she and her friends would laugh at me when I did. How my mother would tell me that crying was for suckers, and that you can’t be a sucker in Vegas.

I know that wherever my mother is, she has to be thinking about me, and I know I will go to her if she needs me, no matter what the state says. I hope...

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Book Description Nancy Paulsen Books, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family s love Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they ve given her have opened up a new future. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780399256158

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Book Description Nancy Paulsen Books, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family s love Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they ve given her have opened up a new future. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780399256158

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