Read below for an exclusive first look at Writing Home by Amy R. Anguish. And today only, use the code WritingHome_Preorder_30 at anaiahpress.com to preorder your copy for 30% off the preorder sale price!
What it’s about…
Christiana Jones dreamed her whole life of living in Huntsville, Alabama, so she can’t figure out why it doesn’t feel like home. Her relationships—on social media and in real life—seem shallow and empty. When she unearths a stack of her grandparents’ letters, it spurs an idea. Could she find something deeper with a penpal?
Jordan White is taken aback when his cousin Tina suggests he become penpals with her childhood best friend. What could a Louisiana boy have in common with a girl two states away? After all, he’s happily settled on his family’s property and working the job he always wanted. But every letter they exchange has him wishing for more.
As they grow closer through their written words, the miles between them seem to grow wider. Can love cross the distance and bring them home?
“UGH. WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER?” And yet Christiana Jones continued scrolling down her social media feed too fast to see much. What was the point of looking? No one posted anything of importance. Nothing personal.
A recipe for coconut pecan pie. A meme asking if it was Friday yet, the poor cat in the picture looking half drowned. A political rant speculating about what the government was going to do to make people’s lives more miserable. Four new selfies from her coworker.
A childhood snapshot her best friend had dug up of Tina and cousin “Boomer”—adorable, but did he appreciate such an old photo being shared with hundreds of friends? A few pictures of former classmates’ cute kids. Okay. Those last few were personal. But the rest?
She closed the app and tossed her phone across the bed where she leaned against the headboard, too exhausted to even finish changing out of her scrub pants. The farthest she’d made it was removing her sneakers. She’d only picked up her phone to clear messages before getting sucked in. But what a waste of time.
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. King Solomon definitely had it right. That and, There is nothing new under the sun.
She released a sigh and glanced through the window. A beautiful Friday evening in early October with nothing to do. No date. No plans. No energy. No motivation after her busy week. The cold and flu season was in full swing, and the pediatrician’s office where she worked had been swamped.
More than just the social media malarkey that had her down. Her whole life seemed humdrum. Her closest friend was three hours away. She’d lived in this Huntsville apartment, in her supposed dream town, for over two years now, and it still didn’t feel like home. The congregation where she worshipped was nice enough, but she hadn’t formed any connections. The girls she worked with were okay but didn’t hold enough in common with her for her to want to hang out with them outside of the office. And her neighbors . . . well, she evidently wasn’t very neighborly because she couldn’t remember meeting any of them.
Perhaps her grumpiness stemmed from hunger. As she rolled off the bed to head for the kitchen, her foot kicked a box. Maybe after so long, she shouldn’t have anything left to unpack, especially with her lack of a life outside work and home, but several cardboard cubes remained stacked here and there around her apartment.
Instead of bumping into this box each time she moved through her room, she should unpack it. Not like she had anything else to do tonight, and maybe accomplishing a procrastinated task would help alleviate the restlessness inhabiting her. What was in this one anyway? She rubbed her sore toes as she lowered herself to the floor to dig through and remember why it remained at the end of her bed.
She lifted the flap back and let out a breath. One of her old high school journals stared back at her, mocking her with all the angsty scribbles contained within. She quickly set it aside and dug through other memorabilia and papers saved for who knew what reason. Some could be thrown away. She was about to get up and find a garbage bag when she spotted the pretty flowered case in the bottom of the box. Her Gran’s memories, which Mom had given her, the only granddaughter. Because of the timing, she’d packed it with her other things and never explored the contents.
Easing it out, Chris pushed back the hinged lid. Black and white photos. An old army medal. A few pressed flowers. A Bible, worn down so much that she was almost afraid to lift it out. And Gran’s old letters.
She unfolded one with extra care, not wishing to tear the fragile pages.
My dearest Maggie, I can’t believe our sweet girl came while I was stuck over here without you. I know you told her to wait, but it sounds like she’s as headstrong as her mama.
Grandpa’s square handwriting filled the page, talking about how much he’d missed Gran, what it was like in Korea, how he wished he were there to meet the baby . . . Christiana’s aunt. Chris ran her fingers over the ink. These pieces of paper had covered distances she couldn’t even imagine, keeping her grandparents close while they were so far from each other.
What would it be like to love someone so much that even a letter would be enough? To have a relationship with someone—anyone—where you could write your words to them and know you’d get a reply.
Chris had dabbled at being a pen pal in elementary school. But she hadn’t been very good at it. She always forgot to write back until weeks after the letter had come. By that point, any questions that had been asked slipped her mind, and she ended up responding with mundane things like what the cafeteria served for lunch or the latest field trip. Soon, the other person had quit writing back. Chris couldn’t blame her.
But writing letters would be so much more personal than what she got through social media. Not that it would be hard to find something deeper than the internet. At least in writing down words on paper, a person would have to think a little harder before posting the message. And it wouldn’t simply be sharing things someone else had posted before, like the recipes and memes.
She leaned back against the side of her bed and pursed her lips. Would anyone out there be interested in something like that? Were people still willing to buy stamps and envelopes and send letters back and forth?
One way to find out.
She set her Gran’s mementos aside and pulled her laptop over from where she’d left it after streaming a movie the night before, clicking to open her social media account again. The irony did not escape her notice. She placed the cursor over the spot where she could post something and then hesitated.
This was ridiculous, right? To announce she wanted a pen pal? She shrugged. Worst case scenario, no one would respond. She clicked and started typing.
Thinking of going old-school. Found some letters that my Grandpa wrote my Gran. Made me think about the possibility of wanting a pen pal. Would anyone be interested?
She paused again. Did that sound okay? It didn’t make it seem like she wanted a relationship like her grandparents had enjoyed, did it? No. People didn’t ask for a pen pal if they wanted a boyfriend. And she wasn’t interested in finding one of those right now. Just someone to write to. She posted her question and skimmed through a few other things that had appeared since she quit looking earlier.
A message popped up on instant chat in the bottom corner of her screen.
Tina: Hey girl.
Tina: I saw your post. You want a pen pal?
Chris: I thought if I had to write to someone on paper and they wrote back, it would give me a deeper relationship than what’s on social media.
Tina: Deeper relationship, huh?
Chris could almost hear the innuendo in Tina’s voice through the computer.
Chris: Nothing romantic. Friendship. More than just sharing recipes and memes and articles that probably aren’t even true.
Tina: Didn’t you try being pen pals with someone from Ohio when we were in school?
Her best friend since childhood would remember that disaster, of course.
She refused to let herself add an angry emoticon.
Chris: But I was a lot younger then. Just like you.
Tina: I’m pretty sure my pen pal and I exchanged a lot more letters than you and yours.
Chris: Good grief. Did you get on here just to rib me?
She thought about shutting the laptop, but she knew her phone would just buzz with a notification that Tina had replied. She might as well stay and finish the conversation now. It was easier to type this way than on her phone anyway.
Tina: No. I actually thought I might know someone who would be a good pen pal for you.
She frowned. Surely Tina wasn’t going to suggest herself. Or Gregory, her old high school crush. Sometimes it was hard having Tina know everything about her, but what could she do? They’d grown up literally right down the street from each other. It was hard to not know almost everything.
She typed slowly and hit enter, bracing herself for the answer.
Tina: My cousin Jordan down in Louisiana.
Chris: Do I remember this cousin?
Tina: Probably not.
The screen showed a bouncing ellipsis to indicate that Tina was typing more.
Tina: That family didn’t get together with the rest of us quite as often because of distance. And it was easier for them to meet up with us at my grandparents’ house in Memphis instead of coming here.
Yes. The Nashville area was three hours further into Tennessee than Memphis. Chris could see the reasoning. She had some cousins of her own who did the same thing.
Chris: So why do you think this cousin would be a good pen pal?
Tina: Jordan and I were pen pals for a while growing up. I always got a response. The letters were really good. And I think this would be something right up Jordan’s alley, too. You know . . . old-school, deep, meaningful. Jordan’s one of the few people I know not actually on social media and it’s basically for all the reasons you listed above.
Chris nibbled on her bottom lip and thought about it for another minute. What would it hurt? It could cost a few stamps and then, if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t like she had to continue to write. She didn’t even have to tell Tina if it ended up being a problem.
She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Definitely not what she had expected when she posted her request earlier.
Chris: Check with your cousin and see what she thinks. If she’s up for it, get me her address and I’ll give it a try.
Tina: I’ll check and let you know. But I really think this is going to be great.
She shook her head.
Chris: You’re trouble.
Tina: You’re the one wanting to keep the post office in business. I’m just an enabler.
Chris: Don’t you have a date or something tonight?
Tina: Oh, shoot! I gotta go finish getting ready. TTYL!
Tina’s face went gray on the screen to indicate she was offline. Chris shut her laptop and started cleaning up the mess of papers she’d scattered earlier when going through the box. If nothing else, at least she had unpacked half of it. Granted, that part was going in the trash—especially the journal—but it was progress.
She set the box of Gran’s letters on her nightstand. With both her grandparents gone for several years now, it was nice to have that little piece of their history to keep them alive in her mind. Maybe she’d read some more of their love notes later.
Would someone find a stack of notes like that in her memory boxes someday? She lived in a different day and age, for sure, but the post office still delivered mail every day, some of it even personal letters and cards instead of bills or ads. It was possible. And she could get in practice by writing Tina’s cousin. If this pen-pal thing worked out, maybe she should invest in a pretty case like Gran’s.
She strained her brain to try and remember even seeing pictures of the girl, but couldn’t recall anything. Maybe if they decided they would do this for a while, she’d get Tina to send her one. For now, it was just a possibility, anyway. Who was to say that Tina’s cousin would even agree to the idea? It wasn’t exactly something common anymore. But still, Chris decided to start composing the first letter in her head, just in case.
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About the author
Amy R. Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.
Learn more about her books at https://www.pinterest.com/msguish/my-books/
And check out the YouTube channel she does with two other authors, Once Upon a Page (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEiu-jq-KE-VMIjbtmGLbJA)