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Pen Pals

Emma takes up a pen pals writing program at her school and soon finds herself falling for the military man who’s been sending her letters. What happens when she graduates? Will the letters still come after, or is she just a random person who was strung along just to blow off some steam via words?

Pen Pal: A person with whom one becomes friendly by exchanging letters, especially someone in a foreign country whom one has never met.

*****

Chapter One: First Letters

I never thought I'd be the one to do these kinds of things. When I signed up for it at the beginning of freshman year in high school, people thought I was insane. They didn't think I was going to go through with it, you see.

Tired of being the shy and quiet one of the class, I proved them wrong by actually standing up and receiving the first letter of my pen pal. The silence in the classroom was impalpable, making me smile with pride and going to my desk to start my new assignment.

I quickly opened up the envelope, a smile on my lips. The beauty of this first letter was that we didn't know who it would be until we read the whole thing. So imagine my anticipation as I unfolded the tan sheets and began to read.

Hi,

If that was rude, I'm sorry. I don't really know how to start letters. I was never the type to write these kind of things. Guess there's a first time for everything, huh?

You're probably wondering why I even entered this damn thing if I'm apparently so bad at it. Truth is, I'm all alone in this godforsaken place. My little brother Jack went away to Stanford so I'm not gonna bother him with something like this. Not that this is something to be ashamed of, I'm just not the letter writing type.

Anyway, my buddies here said this was an excellent way to blow off some steam. To vent. To do all kinds of crap, really. ‘You need some civilian communication’ they would say. And I guess they're right. So I gave this a try.

And here it is. I hope I haven't scared you off, whoever you might be. All I know is that, if this thing actually works, I might start writing to Jack. See how he likes it that his older brother has a way with words.

God, I hope you're a chick. This would be really awkward if you weren't. I mean, I don't mind that you're a dude, I just want someone else’s perspective on things other than someone who has a dick in between their legs. Sorry if that was vulgar. Like I said, not the type.

I should stop now, I guess. Lights out in ten. I hope to hear from you, pen pal. It'd be nice to have some new company.

My name’s Dean Walker, by the way.

I smiled at the letter and immediately sought out a paper and pen. This was going to be so much fun. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I wasn't as vulnerable and dim-witted as they thought I was.

Dear Mr. Walker,

This is as hard for me as it is for you. I'm not the sociable type and people actually seem legitimately shocked that I even took up such an offer as being a penpal.

Anyway, that's a tale for another time. What I want to get across on this piece of paper is that no matter where you find yourself, know that you can count on me for anything. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's being a great listener.

Don't sell yourself short. I bet you are really smart and I'm sure all the ladies fawn over you. But I'm not here to stereotype you because, well, I don't know you. Not yet, at least. I hope I'm not putting you off with this.

Wow, this is a short letter as my reply to yours. I hope you can forgive me. Ha. First letter and I'm already apologizing. Sorry.

As for your hopes on me being a ‘chick’, well, rest assured that I am indeed a girl. And an awkward one at that.

So here's to hoping I haven't scared you off.

My name’s Emma Sanderson, by the way.

*****

I have never been excited about a letter in all my life ... Especially coming from a complete stranger. I read and reread the letter over and over for almost a week, smiling at his lack for proper etiquette when writing a letter. It was just one letter and I was already liking this Dean Walker.

I was the first in class that day, nearly bouncing off my chair with eagerness. Mr. Van Halen (yes, that's his last name), eyed me amusedly for a moment before chuckling and going to his briefcase and opening it up.

“Eager much, Miss Sanderson?”

I just smiled widely, watching as he pulled out a stack of letters. He skimmed through them before he plucked one out and walked over to me. With a slight flicker of the envelope, he handed it to me, a small smirk on his face.

“Have a nice reading.”

I snatched the envelope from him, my fingers fumbling slightly as I opened the letter. I knew I was exaggerating. But could you blame me? This whole damn thing is exciting.

A smile broke around my face when I began to read.


Dear Miss Sanderson,

You have no idea how relieved I am to know you're not a dude and from the second letter I received from your location, I was given strict orders to be on my best behavior. I'm guessing Mr. Van Halen is your teacher? Cool name, by the way.

And you're extremely too damn smart for me. So any chances I have at flirting with you over letters has gone out the window. I feel like a complete idiot now. Ha. But enough about me.

I want to know more about you. What did you mean when you said people were shocked at you taking up a pen pal? Isn't that what kids do anyway in class?

Now from what I'm sensing, and yes I do have an inkling for these sort of things, what I picked up on with your beautiful handwriting, is that you're a shy and quiet person.

Am I right?

Of course I am. Ha. I'm just that good.

So in your reply to this letter, I want you to answer these questions: What's your favorite pastime? Your favorite food? Favorite movie? Favorite type of music? Do you like the outdoors?

And if you want, you can describe what you look like. Putting a face to who I'm talking to calms me. Because for all I know, you could be lying. Ha.

So that's your assignment, soldier. And I expect your answer in a week’s time.

Till then.

You can call me Dean. Mr. Walker is my dad.

I couldn't get past the flirting bit and I couldn’t stop my heart from fluttering at the mere thought of having a long distance relationship.

It was a long shot, but I was graduating in two months. I'd never had a boyfriend, keeping my focus on my school work and nothing else. The thought of actually being in a relationship with someone from god knows where and via letters was both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

*****

I waited until that night to finally sit down and think about what I wanted to write.

After a long, hot shower I sat on my bed and rolled the pen back and forth between my fingers, trying to find the right words to say without sounding too weird.

Dear Dean,

Please don't worry your little head about Mr. Van Halen. He's pretty cool. What he doesn't know won't hurt him, right? But know this, I may be the last person you'd want to flirt with.

You told me to reply to your letter with responses to your questions. I guess I should get started, right?

You asked what I did to pass my time? Well, I love read and write. It's the only thing I know where I feel comfortable. It's like my safe haven. No one can touch me there. I know it probably sounds weird and maybe I am but I'm not going to apologize for it. I spent most of my time hiding who I was just to fit in. So this is me, a shy and quiet girl who loves to read and write.

You asked me what my favorite food was? I absolutely love cheeseburgers. Pizza. Pie with ice cream for dessert. Nothing beats any type of pie. Nothing at all. I'm yours for the taking if you like any of the said above.

You asked me what my favorite movie was? Well, I'd say Titanic but it's really not. Give me an action movie. Something with drama, a little bit of love and a tad dangerous. I love me some Armageddon or Pearl Harbor type of films. They have a bit of everything. The romance, the action, the drama.

You asked what my favorite type of music was? I'm an old classic rock type of girl. Love me some Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. Hell, I'll rock out to Def Leppard and Bryan Adams if I had my own car. I'd blast my speakers off. Ha.

You asked if I liked the outdoors? I'll tell you a secret. The only way I'd go outdoors is if that special someone said the right thing and brought me outside. A cabin in the woods. By the lake. What have you. I'm yours.

Bit cliche huh? I know I'm boring, but you know what? I don't care. I'm tired of hiding. I want to be me.

Dear Jesus. This is one long ass letter. Sorry about that. I tend to ramble on when I get excited.

Anyway, I don't do this at all, but for some reason that scares me, I trust you. So I'm going to do this one time only. Enclosed is a picture of me. Keep it. Burn it. Whatever. Just so you know who you're talking to. I'm honestly a chick, Dean. I've no reason to lie.

Till your next letter, Emma.

P.S. You're a soldier, aren't you?

*****

Mr. Van Halen confirmed that Dean was in fact a soldier. And I couldn't stop the butterflies from wreaking havoc inside my stomach. A soldier. Of course, he was a soldier.

“My god,” I breathed as I stared down at the unopened letter in my hands. It felt bulkier than normal. What could he possibly have written that took up more than a couple pages?