Always Anika - Free Sample

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"Okay," Miss B. began once the bell rang. "We’re going to start a pen pal program this semester. Your principal thinks it will be a good idea."

The class let out a collective groan. My friend, Brandon, leaned forward and whispered in my ear.

"You know what's a good idea?" he asked. "Making out with me. You know you want to."

I rolled my eyes at him. "Just about as much as I'd like to chew glass."

"On your desk is the name and address of a soldier from Texas who is currently serving overseas. You’ll write them back and forth for the rest of the semester. You must reply to their letters within one week of receiving them, and it will count as fifteen percent of your English grade," she informed us.

Melissa raised her hand, and without waiting for her question, Miss B. said, "Yes, I know that means some of you will be writing more than others. You can write your letters during journaling time.”
Melissa put her hand down.

“Now take out a pencil and paper, and I want a one-page, double-spaced letter, and no, you can’t write really big to take up space. I’m talking to you, Brandon,” she said with a smile. “I’ll be reading your first letters to check for quality and length, but I’m going to give each of you a permission slip to have your parents sign saying whether or not I need to review them for the rest of the semester. Okay, get started!"

The classroom became noisy with backpack zippers and ripping paper.

"Hey, Anika," Bran whispered. "Got a piece of paper?"

I passed him one and we began writing.
Dear Shawn,
My name is Anika Anders. I go to Roderdale High School in Roderdale, Texas. Or you could call it the middle of nowhere. Either works. Really. The only things in Roderdale are a gas station, a grain elevator, a post office, and a hair salon that’s only open three days a week. 
My family owns a small ranch outside of town, so I usually spend my weekends working there. I’m not really sure what else I should tell you about myself. The last time I had a pen pal I was in third grade and I’m pretty sure a conversation about favorite colors/foods/hobbies was involved. (Blue. Ribs. Volleyball.) 
So, tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your favorite color? Are you safe where you’re stationed?
I also want to thank you for your service. It’s very brave of you to risk your life for your country and for people you don’t even know. 



Within two weeks, I got a letter back. It wasn't nearly as long as mine was, but he’d enclosed a picture. Shawn looked ageless; he was somehow youthful and fun but hard and masculine at the same time. He had dark blue eyes laced with green and framed by abnormally dark lashes. His dark brown hair contrasted skin so fair it almost looked porcelain. A crooked grin turned the corners of his mouth up to reveal straight white teeth. He was in uniform, seated in front of an American flag. 

Dear Anika,

My name is Shawn Adams and I'm 23 years old. I come from a town in southeast Texas about like Roderdale. Very small, but very close-knit. I appreciate it more now that I'm away. My favorite color is green. Good call on the ribs. I can't tell you too many specifics about where I’m stationed, but as to your other question, yes, I’m about as safe as I can be in a war zone. I work as a mechanic, so it’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I’ve been shot at before, but luckily, I wasn’t injured… I guess I have God on my side. Sorry my reply isn't longer. I look forward to hearing from you, Anika.


Since he’d decided to send a picture of him I thought I should send one too. It took me a while to choose which of my senior pictures to give him, but I ended up picking one of me standing in a field close to sunset in one of my favorite dresses I never got to wear.

I studied the picture before I put it into the envelope. My usually brown hair had little bits of red in it from the sun, and my skin was nicely tanned from working outside over the summer. I wished I was thinner and that I didn’t have a small chip in my front tooth from a cattle-working accident. Then I wondered why it mattered what picture I sent him.

Dear Shawn,

It's nice to “meet” you. I understand about you not being able to write more—I'm really busy, and I'm just in high school. I go out for volleyball, basketball, and track, but so does just about everyone else because our school's so small we need all the help we can get. If I’m not playing sports or working, I’m usually hanging out with my friends. I have a few close friends, but the closest ones are Leslie and Brandon. Leslie’s really nice and is the most enthusiastic person I know. She gets excited about literally everything. Brandon is hilarious. He cracks me up and is always flirting with me—in a joking way. It’s kind of his hobby. I don't think my dad likes it that much, though!
I guess I’ll tell you about my parents, too. Dad works on our ranch, and Mom works in real estate (not that there’s a whole lot around Roderdale). We own cattle and I LOVE riding horses. I'm the oldest of three children, and all I have to say about that is… our house is never quiet. Sorry, I probably talk about myself WAY too much. 
Tell me more about you. What’s your family like? Who’s your best friend? What’s it like over there? I hope you’re staying safe.


"I can't believe you actually take this seriously," Brandon told me as I carefully sealed the envelope so I could turn it in to Miss B. My parents had agreed to let me keep my privacy, so I just had to hold the letter up so she could see that I’d written enough.

I rolled my eyes at him. "It’s fifteen percent of my grade."

"Are you sure it doesn't have anything to do with how sexy he is?" Leslie asked. "I wish mine was as hot as yours!"

"Me too," Brandon chimed in. "Mine's a thirty-year-old technician. What's sexy about that?"

I rolled my eyes again. "I’m looking for a good grade, not a husband."

Miss B. gave us a pointed look and told us to be quiet.

"An's in love!" Bran explained. "I need to kick some ass!"

“Brandon,” Miss B. barely covered her smile, “let’s leave the ‘ass-kicking’ for after class, shall we?”

-end of sample-

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