WARNING: This story is NOT Beta'd.
Chapter 1: Westward
September 11, 1999
Hi, my name is Edward. I was assigned to you from my English teacher for our penpal project. I think the assignment is kind of lame, but I can't fail this class. Haha.
I'm a freshman at Washington State Academy. It's a private school and it sucks. Do you go to a public school? All I know about you is that you're in Tennessee. The furthest south I have ever been is Texas, and no more east than Arkansas. Do you enjoy Tennessee?
I hope you turn out to be legitimate. My best friend Jeremiah had to get a new penpal. I guess his original one turned out to be forty. Creepy, right?!
I like to ride horses. My grandpa trains and boards them for a living. My dad is a college biology professor and my mother is a doctor. They have high expectations for me.
I'm fourteen, but I turn fifteen next month and mom said I could get my driving permit as long as my grades were good. Are your parents strict like that, too?
Anyway, I hope you write back.
I sat on the edge of my bed in my little room clutching my pillow. I was about to drive across the country. Not only was I going to be driving alone, but even at my destination there was no guarantee that I wouldn't be alone.
That made me glance to my desk and see my three returned letters. I but my lip, and then Alice spooked me by barging into my room.
"I can't believe you're going," she whined from the doorway of my bedroom. Her eyes stayed with me as I began to walk around my room to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything.
"I have to go," I said again. I wasn't sure if I was telling that more to myself than I was to her.
"I feel like you decided this over night. When will you be back?"
"I'm not really sure," I replied with a shrug. "I gave myself about five days to get there so that I could take my time and sight see."
"Will you stop and see Penny?"
I couldn't help but smile.
Alice sighed and came into my room.
"We just got settled here, and what about your new job?"
I closed my suitcase and lifted it off my bed.
"The job doesn't start for over a month, Ali, and I'll be back. This will give you and Jasper some time alone before school starts up again." Alice huffed, grabbed my backpack, and didn't argue with me anymore.
We walked through our new apartment quietly. I kissed my cat on the head that was perched on the back of the couch. She purred.
I patted myself down. Keys, phone, wallet, suitcase, backpack. I was ready, so I opened the front door. In the parking lot, my little Subaru waited for me. The sun had yet to rise, and the air was crisp. I popped the trunk and slung my suitcase inside.
"What if he isn't there?" Alice asked quietly. I paused, staring into the back of my car with my hand on the trunk door. "You haven't heard from him in 7 years, Bella."
"If he's not there, he's not there," I finally said. I shrugged and closed the trunk. "I have to find out. I know I'm crazy, but I'll regret not doing this. Besides, I wanted to travel anyway." I turned to look at my small friend. Her short hair was messy and her pajamas were all twisted. Alice wasn't a morning person.
"All the time," I promised. She handed me my backpack followed by a quick, tight hug. I kissed her cheek and got into the car. I placed my backpack in the passenger seat. It carried everything I held dear to me. I started the ignition. Alice was by our front door waving as I slowly pulled away.
September 19, 1999
Apparently my aunt had signed me up for a penpal. She thinks I need friends. I don't mind. I like to write. It's nice to meet you.
I'm a freshman at a semi large public school. My town is flooded with tourists, loud with country music, and extremely humid. I enjoy being southern, though. I've never lived anywhere else.
My aunt and uncle are strict. It doesn't bother me since I've never had an urge to do anything that would upset them, or get myself into any trouble. My parents died when I was young, so I am grateful to my aunt and uncle. They're just as happy to have me since my aunt is unable to bear children. Although, I understand your frustration. Your parents seem very smart and set in their lives. That's a lot to live up to.
I love to swim, write, and watch french movies. I haven't made very many good friends yet in high school. I have one, but she's all about boys now.
I think it's great that you love horses. I've never gotten the chance to be around them before. I do have a cat, though. Her name is Scully and I couldn't live without her. I won't be fifteen until next March, but I can't wait. Keep your grades up!
I guess I'm fairly boring. Thanks for writing me!
I was just outside of Memphis when I decided to find a hotel room. After eight hours and only one pee stop my ass was numb. I spotted a decent looking hotel right off the exit with a Cracker Barrel next door. My stomach growled. I was hungrier than I thought.
I got a room from a nice, old man. After unloading my things, I went to eat.
It was fairly busy for a random Wednesday night, but it was still summer time. People of the south would lose their minds without Cracker Barrel. The hostess gave me a table by a window. I thanked him and started skimming through the menu, though I already knew what I wanted.
"Evening, ma'am," A young server said. I looked up to a see a girl with pigtails and a lot of make up on her pale face. She had a class ring on her finger with the date 2016 on the band, telling me she was still in high school. "What can I get you to drink?"
"Sweet tea, please," I said. "And I'm ready to order."
"I'll take the steak and eggs. Hashbrowns, please. Steak medium rare and my eggs over easy. Butter for the biscuits. No gravy.
"Okie doke," she piped. "Sounds like you know your Cracker Barrel."
"Well I am southern."
"I assume you're traveling."
I nodded to her.
"Business or pleasure?"
"Pleasure," I replied with a smile. Her eyes lit up as if she wanted to ask me more about it, but she didn't. She smiled back instead.
"Well I'm Katherine and I'll get your tea right out."
She took my menu and skipped off. I dug in my backpack that sat between my feet and pulled out my binder. I stared at the blank, black cover for a while before opening it. I knew everything in it by heart, but I opened it anyway. I flipped through a few of the pages and started reading.
December 11, 2000
Can you believe it's Christmas? It seems the older I get the less excited I am for it. I'm too young to feel that way, right?
It's been so cold here. The incessant rain has been more like sleet instead of water. I stayed with Jeremiah over the weekend and we played football with his neighborhood. Our team won.
I'm back to driving again. I can't believe they grounded me for a fucking C+ in geometry. Whatever.
How were your grades for the semester? Flawless I assume, you smarty pants. Haha. Thanks for the recommendation on my history paper. Mr. Smelcer loved it.
I'm so glad you've got a good group of friends now. Jessica sounds interesting. Don't let her teach you too much about boys, though. Girls are always wrong ;)
I asked mom and dad for a football, a CD player, and game boy this year. They're so fun, Bella. What do you want?
I have to go. Studying sucks. Write soon.
P.S. By the way, do you have a boyfriend?
"What's funny?" Katherine asked. I slowed my giggles and took a sip of my tea.
"I'm reading letters," I told her.
"From a boy?" She gushed. My cheeks heated as I nodded.
"So cute!" She squealed. "Your boyfriend?"
My smile faded.
"No, no. A friend." Katherine's face fell a little, too. "A friend for now," I added quietly. Katherine smiled again.
"Your food will be out soon." I thanked her and decided to read one more before I ate.
February 14, 2001
Happy Valentines Day! I'm glad it was my turn to write. Did you like all my hearts? It took me forever to draw them on every inch of the envelope! I was hoping Jeremiah would see them just to tease you some more.
I'm sorry I wasn't able to write over the holidays. My family is so large, so we were kept busy visiting. My birthday is next month!
Did you get your game boy?
Jessica is on her third boyfriend this year. She's so funny. Don't worry, I don't listen to her advice. Boys are dumb ;)
I do not have a boyfriend. No one here has interested me enough. Do you date much, Edward? I'm sure you're a ladies man. Ha!
It's your turn to send a photo. Mine wasn't very recent, but recent enough. I wish my hair wasn't so red. I mean, it's aburn, but I wish I had my mothers black hair. It was beautiful.
I have great classes this semester. My drama teacher is so amazing, Edward. She's thirty two years older than me, but I swear it's like we were born at the same time with how well we get along. You'd like her.
Have the best V-Day ever. :)
Write me soon!
I closed the binder and ate my food quickly. I was tired, and more eager than ever to get where I was going. My only wish was to feel this way forever.
I am baaaaack!
I hope I've caught your attention!
I will update weekly, if any sooner I will post in my Facebook group (search Stories by Greye Granger).