Dreaming of His Pen Pal's Kiss by Jessie Gussman

Chapter 1

“Is that another name for your pen pal program?” Journee asked her dad while seated across the desk from him in his church office in Mistletoe, Arkansas.

“It is.”

Her dad, glasses perched on the end of his nose, his salt-and-pepper hair not nearly as thick as it used to be, tapped the desk in front of him with one finger, as though thinking.

Journee’s stomach shivered, just a little, for some odd reason. She already had four people she was writing to in the church’s new pen pal program. But out of those four people, only one had written her more than once.

She wondered if she came on too strong in her original letter. Maybe she just didn’t write the kind of letters people wanted to respond to. Maybe people were too busy. She didn’t want to admit to her failure, but she had to admit to being discouraged.

Her dad, Pastor Race, tilted his head and narrowed his eyes just a little, as though he were thinking. Or as though he knew what she was going to say before she said it. Which was most likely the case.

Her mouth opened anyway, and the words he probably knew were going to come out spilled. “I can take the name.”

“I haven’t even told you whether it’s a man or woman.” Humor laced his words, along with a heavy dose of affection.

She’d lost her parents when she was pretty young, and it was funny how she had nothing but good memories of them. Like her brain had completely blanked out and recorded over anything bad that had ever happened.

Still, Race and Penny had adopted her and her five siblings, and she honestly had nothing but good memories of them either. It wasn’t that everything that had ever happened in her life had been good, other than her parents being killed a car accident, but God had blessed her with two sets of wonderful parents.

She wasn’t quite sure why, when some people didn’t even get one.

“Dad, you know it doesn’t matter. I just love writing people. Or maybe, I just love writing in general. And things really get slow in the ER at night. I have plenty of time.”

The ER in a small town was an odd thing. For days, they’d go with barely a soul showing up, and then one night, they might have nothing but chaos all night long.

Most of the time though, it was quiet and she had plenty of time to daydream or, as she’d been doing, write her letters.

“I know you do. I just don’t want to give you more than you can handle.” He tapped his finger some more. “Although, while I do have at least forty people writing from the church, I have more requests for partners than I do people to match them with. I was almost thinking of writing to this person myself.”

Whoever it was, they would definitely benefit from writing to her dad more than they would from writing to her. She’d never met a wiser person.

“Maybe that’s what the Lord would want you to do.”

Race shook his head slightly. “Actually, when the name first came in, I thought of you immediately. I probably would have asked you to do it then if I didn’t know you were already paired up with four people.”

“Dad, I can do it. Especially if you think I should. If you think it’s meant for me.” She tried to keep the hope out of her voice. All of her siblings except Shawn, who would probably never get married, had found God’s plan for them and, at the same time, found a lifetime love.

It was her fondest hope.

She thought she’d had it with her high school sweetheart.

Thoughts of Alex turned the excited shiver in her stomach into something which felt more like congealed gravy.

Thoughts of Alex didn’t hurt anymore, but they made her sad.

Because she viewed him as a big mistake.

And wished she wouldn’t have wasted so much time on him when she was younger. Maybe she’d missed God’s plan and God’s big love story for her because she’d been focused on the wrong guy—because she’d definitely been focused on Alex.

Or maybe Alex had been right for her, and he just hadn’t been strong enough to stand up to his parents and say so.

But she didn’t want a man who wasn’t respectful to his parents, and she admired him in an odd kind of way for listening to them.

Still, it was hard not to think of what might have been.

Her dad didn’t answer for a moment, and she gave him time. He’d warned her from the beginning that Alex probably wasn’t right for her. Not in so many words, but anytime she’d gone to him for advice, his advice would have turned her away from Alex.