In less than THREE weeks, my newest book, Anywhere, will be available on Amazon! I’m so excited about this book. I originally thought it would end up being a novella, but it ended up being a whole lot more involved in terms of plot and character appearances. I’m pretty sure that all my previous main characters either showed up for this book or were significantly mentioned. (Which you would think would be confusing… but it really isn’t!)
As a background “sneak peek” for Anywhere, I thought I’d post this chapter from A Little Faith. This definitely plays into the first chapter of Gracie’s story (her grown up story, that is), and I hope it gets you ready for Valentine’s Day when it’ll be available. Can’t wait!
When you move to another state, you have to say goodbye to a lot of people.
No, really. A LOT.
Daddy announced to the church that we were moving, and people were very, very sad. I was getting hugged on and cried on by people I wasn’t even sure I knew, and it took us three hours after church that Sunday to go to lunch because so many people kept coming up to us and wanting to talk to us.
Right before we went out to the car, Gracie’s tummy started growling so loudly that I was sure EVERYONE in the church building could hear it. She thought this was super funny and kept grabbing it and laughing, which made Mommy and Daddy give her some funny looks.
Gracie always gets a lot of funny looks. She says it’s because she’s a funny girl.
Maybe. But probably not.
That Sunday when Daddy announced we were moving to another state, he and Mommy took us to lunch and told us MORE news. We only had two weeks to get everything packed up.
That’s not much time to pack up, but the other church was very excited about us getting there. And Mommy wanted us to get there in time to start at our new school.
New state, new house, new school, new church… everything was going to be new.
Before then, though, before we could get to Florida, we’d have one last party at our old church, put all of our stuff in a truck, and drive out to Florida.
The good news was that since we were on summer vacation from school, we had plenty of time to help Mommy pack boxes.
The bad news was that because we were on summer vacation from school, we HAD to help Mommy pack boxes.
Packing boxes is hard work.
Mommy had a lot of her friends come out to help us with the packing one day while Daddy was at work. There were lots of boxes, lots of tape, and lots of funny smelling markers that all of the ladies used to write on the boxes. Kitchen, bedroom, Faith’s room –
Oh, yeah. That was the good part about moving. I was going to get my own room. Gracie would get her own room, too, which meant that she wouldn’t wake me up in the middle of the night just to tell me, “Faith, you talk in your sleep!”
I don’t believe that I talk in my sleep. Or that I say crazy things. I think Gracie is making that up because Gracie makes up a lot of things. Like Fairytopia, remember?
“Psst, Faith!” I turned from where I was working on stacking up books in our room to see Gracie and our friend, Jacob, peeking just above the windowsill, out in the yard.
Jacob’s parents are friends with our parents. They have been since before we were born. Jacob’s dad is a pastor just like Daddy, so he knows all about what it’s like to ALWAYS be up at the church. Gracie likes playing with him because he lets her boss him around.
AND he lets her get him into trouble. Always. I knew there was trouble up ahead when I saw all the dirt on Gracie’s smiling face.
“Gracie,” I whispered, going over the window and cracking it open just a little, just like Mommy always does on cool days. “You have dirt on your face,” I said to her. “Jacob, why did you let her get dirt on her face?”
He frowned at me. “I didn’t let her do anything. She does what she wants to, Faith.”
Jacob is ten years old. He should know better. But he and Gracie get together, and they both act crazy.
“Faith!,” Gracie said again, ignoring us, her eyes big and round all of a sudden. When they’re like that, I call them her crazy eyes. “We found buried treasure in the backyard!”
“Oh, yeah,” Jacob said. “BIG treasure!”
See? They both act crazy.
“There is no such thing as buried treasure,” I said. Then, I thought about this. Well, there could be buried treasure, in other parts of the world maybe. Like in Egypt or South America, in a desert or a jungle, some place far, far away and exotic, like I had read about in books.
But this was Texas. And it was our backyard. I was pretty sure that there wasn’t any buried treasure in our backyard.
“No way,” I said.
“I told you she wouldn’t believe us,” Jacob sighed, looking at Gracie. “I didn’t even believe it until the shovel hit something.”
“The shovel?,” I asked, worried.
“Shhhhhhhh!,” Gracie shushed me. She had her crazy eyes darting from side to side. “You don’t want Mommy to hear!”
“Yeah,” Jacob hissed, “and you don’t want my mom to hear either! I’ll be in all kinds of trouble if she finds out that I dug a hole in your backyard.”
“Is that what you were doing with the shovel?,” I asked.
“Well, duh, Faith,” Gracie rolled her eyes, like she was the smart one and I was being silly. I wasn’t the one who had just dug a hole in our backyard, though. “We had to dig with something after we found the map.”
“A map?,” I asked, suddenly very interested. There wasn’t any way that Gracie actually had a real map to go along with this crazy story.
And she seemed to read my mind (like Gracie seems to do sometimes), because then, with a great flourish, she held up… a map.
Well, that was surprising. There WAS a map! A REAL map!
“Where did you get that map?,” I asked, wonder in my voice.
“Found it,” Gracie said, smiling over at Jacob, “back behind the bookshelves in the playroom. Jacob and I were in there putting my dress up clothes in a box.”
“Let me see it,” I said, reaching out for it.
It was colorful with blue lines, red lines, green patches, brown patches, blue patches… and a big X.
“Gracie,” I asked. “Who made this map?”
She smiled. “It’s a mystery, Faith.”
I smiled back at her. Another mystery. A map mystery. Who made it? How did it get in our playroom? And what did it lead to?
I was going to solve this mystery.
“Why do you think it’s a treasure map?,” I asked.
“Because,” Gracie explained, “look at how bright it is! What else could it be?”
I thought about telling her that it could be at least a hundred other things… but it was clear that she wasn’t going to listen to me anyway.
But still. I had to ask another question.
“Why do you think it’s of our backyard, though?”
Gracie looked to Jacob. “Well,” he said, pointing, “that line could be the road to your house. And that one could be the road leading to the freeway that we had to take to get here from our house. And over here? That could be your church.”
“Could be,” Gracie said. “Which means that it IS!”
I didn’t see how she could be sure, but there was a big X right on our backyard… if this was actually a map of our backyard.
Hmm. Maybe she was right.
“Sooooooo,” Gracie said, “are you going to come with us to pull the treasure out?”
I thought about how doing this wouldn’t be very smart. The only reason they had come to tell me about it, though, was probably because it would take three people instead of two to drag the treasure out of the ground. Even if it ended up being an amazing treasure, it still probably wouldn’t be worth the trouble we’d get into for having dug a hole in the backyard, especially when Daddy and Mommy were trying to sell the house.
But still. Buried treasure. And what was better than that… a mystery to solve.
“Okay, I’m in,” I said.
“Awesome,” Gracie giggled, even as I shut the window and made my way into the living room, heading straight for the door to the backyard.
Mommy caught me halfway there.
“Faith,” she said from where she sat on the kitchen floor. “Can you bring us another box?”
“Sure,” I said, grabbing another medium sized box and taking it in to where Mommy sat with her friends. There was tissue paper everywhere, our dishes spread out all over the floor, and… chocolate brownies.
Mommy and her friends can’t pack without chocolate.
“How are you doing with the books, Faith?,” Mrs. Huntington asked from where she sat, wrapping up a plate in tissue paper, smiling at me.
“Halfway done,” I said. “I have a lot of books in there.” I love books. I had collected so many chapter books that there were two bookshelves full of them, which meant a lot of packing.
I hoped our new house would be near a library, where I could borrow new books every week.
“You read better than half of my boys,” Mrs. Huntington said to me. “Such a smart girl.”
I felt proud at this and even prouder as Mommy smiled up at me. “She’s just like Stephen, isn’t she, Jess? All those books and all that reading. She’s even counting down the days until school starts again.” Then, she looked down and bit her lip. “New school, of course, but it’ll still be good.”
I was nervous about starting at a new school. Would I be able to make friends? Would the kids like me? Would my teacher be nice?
“You’re going to have so much fun,” Mrs. Morales said, reaching over and squeezing my hand. “And your new school will be wonderful.”
I appreciated that she said that. I was about to tell her that, when there was a crash outside. Probably Jacob, dropping the shovel, or Gracie, blowing something up.
You know, something like that.
“Emily, should we check on the kids?,” my mother asked Mrs. Morales.
“Surely Jacob wouldn’t let Gracie get hurt,” she said, “but I should probably –“
“I’ll go out there!,” I offered, a little too loudly. I couldn’t have the grownups going out there, looking at our map, looking for our treasure… seeing the giant hole in the yard.
“Thank you, Faith,” Mommy said, going back to her boxes. “And don’t let Gracie get too dirty out there, okay?”
“I won’t,” I promised, even as I slipped out the door.
The loud crash probably had everything to do with the way Jacob and Gracie were both kneeling down by the hole in the yard, the shovel thrown over to the side.
It was a BIG hole. A whole lot bigger than I had thought it would be.
“Faith!,” Gracie shouted. “The treasure won’t come out!”
I looked down with them, and sure enough, there was a big white… thing.
Not really a box. Or a chest. More like a…
“Is that a pipe?,” I asked Jacob.
He frowned. “Maybe it’s like a tube of some sort.” He looked over at Gracie. “Like a time capsule or something.”
Gracie made a face at him. “What’s a time capsule?”
“A tube where people put all kinds of special things from the time they’re living in. Newspapers, letters, videos –“
“Toys?,” Gracie interrupted.
It’s always about toys or Walt Disney World or pink donuts with sprinkles. Or Fairytopia. These are the only things that interest Gracie.
“Sure, I guess there could be toys,” Jacob said. “Anyway, people put these time capsules in the ground, and then, years later, other people come back and dig it up to see what life was like for people long ago.”
We all looked down at the tube. Or pipe. Or whatever it was.
“I wonder what kind of old toys are in there,” Gracie whispered. “Faith, do you think that’s the treasure?”
I wasn’t sure. “Only one way to find out, I guess. You guys said it wouldn’t come up?”
“Well, we can’t get to it,” Gracie said. “Jacob, maybe if you dig around it a little more we can pull it up.”
Jacob jumped to his feet, and we followed him. As he kept digging, we grinned over at one another, imagining just what treasures this mysterious pipe held, when –
“Oops,” Jacob said, as the shovel hit the pipe (or tube, or box, or whatever that thing was) at a funny angle and bent it. We all leaned over to look and see what had happened when we smelled it.
“EWWWWW!,” Gracie shouted. “Jacob, is that –“
And then, it started shooting up in the air. Gracie began screaming as Jacob grabbed her hand and ran for the house with me running after them.
Mystery solved. That was no treasure. Jacob and Gracie had dug up… well, a pipe.
A pipe full of poo.
You see, there are these things called septic lines. And they run underground in backyards, taking all the gross things from the bathroom AWAY from the house. Until, you know, your little sister and her friend decide to dig for buried treasure in the backyard, hit it with a shovel, and make a poo-poo fountain.
Who knew, right?
“What in the WORLD were you kids thinking?!,” Mommy asked a few hours later, after both Daddy and Mr. Morales had rushed to the house and stopped the pipe from exploding even more poo all over the place.
“We were digging for treasure,” Gracie said, batting her big, tear-filled eyes at the grownups. Her big, tear-filled eyes sometimes get her out of trouble, and she knows this. So, she was playing it up REALLY big for the adults.
“That was NO treasure,” Mr. Morales laughed from the kitchen, as he continued wiping his face with the towels Mommy had brought in for him and Daddy.
“Josh,” Mrs. Morales said softly, almost smiling at him… then shooting a very mean look over at Jacob.
Yeah. We were all in trouble.
“Treasure?!,” Mommy continued screeching. “Why did you think there was treasure out there?!”
“They found a map, Mommy,” I said, holding the map up for her to see. It had icky drops and smudges on it, but it could still be read.
“A map,” Daddy said, coming in from the kitchen and looking at it as I held it up. “Let me see that.” Mommy took it from me and held it out by the corners, barely touching it while Daddy looked over her shoulder at it.
A few seconds later, they both said, “Ooooohhhh,” together, just like that, at the same time.
“Did we dig in the wrong place?,” Gracie asked. “Is the treasure still out there?”
“Gracie,” Mommy said. “This isn’t a treasure map. This was a map we made for a birthday party we had at the house, years ago. In fact, it was YOUR first birthday party.” She smiled at this. “Where did you find this?”
“In the playroom, back behind the shelves,” Jacob offered.
“Well, there were tons of them, floating around back then,” Mommy said, sighing. “And it rained that day, so all the kids came into the playroom. One must have gotten stuck back behind the shelves.”
“You haven’t moved the shelves and cleaned behind them once in all these years?,” Daddy asked her with a surprised look on his face.
“You know, Stephen,” she said, handing the map back to me, “I don’t think now is the time to criticize my cleaning skills, especially when you’re standing here smelling like poo.”
“Not criticizing,” he laughed, moving in to kiss her, “just saying –“
“Don’t you dare kiss me,” she laughed at him. “Poo, Preacher. Poo!”
I don’t blame her for telling him that. I wouldn’t want to kiss a boy who smelled like poo either. (Actually, I don’t think I’d want to kiss ANY boy, even if he smells good.)
“Let me see the map,” Mr. Morales said, coming over and looking at it as I held it up to him.
“I remember that party,” Mrs. Morales said. “Jacob was three, and I had to watch him so closely. He was into a kissing phase, and I swear, he spent half the party with his lips on Gracie, knocking her over every time she tried to get up and walk away from him.”
Jacob looked disgusted by this. Or maybe he was disgusted by the way Mr. Morales smelled, as he put his hand on his shoulder and said, “That’s my boy.” Then, he pointed down to the map and said, while smiling really big, “Who knew all those years ago that your map was detailing the precise location of the sewage line?”
“I had no idea,” Daddy answered him, smiling. “But it’s a good thing, you know. Couldn’t really guarantee anything about the condition of those lines before in the realtor’s report because I didn’t know anything about the sewage lines. Now, though? Now that we’ve had to go in and fix it all, thanks to you kids? Well, now we can confidently assure potential buyers that it’s all on the up and up.”
“You’re welcome, Daddy,” Gracie said, acting as though she’d done something really, really great.
Mommy opened her mouth to say something to this, but Daddy stopped her with his laugh. “Just glad you kids didn’t dig up Tasha out there.”
“Oh, my,” Mrs. Morales murmured. “Jacob would have had all kinds of crazy nightmares after that. Like the time he watched that Muppet movie and slept with us for a month afterwards, swearing that there was a Muppet living in his closet who was going to eat him, and –“
“Mooooooooommmmmm,” Jacob groaned, embarrassed, as Gracie giggled at him.
“RAWR!,” she yelled, laughing. “I’m a Muppet!”
“It all ended up okay,” Daddy said, even as Jacob started scooting away from Gracie. Maybe he was still scared of Muppets. “And now Josh and I just have to go and fill that hole back up.”
“Yeah, and you’re helping, Jacob,” Mr. Morales looked over to the couch where we all three sat.
“Yes, Papi,” Jacob sighed.
I thought back to what Jacob had said about time capsules and leaving memories for the people who come next. And I thought about how soon, our house would belong to someone else who wouldn’t know anything about us.
I got an idea.
“Do you think, before you fill up the hole, that we could put something in it?,” I asked.
And the adults listened as I told them my idea. Once Gracie and Jacob heard what I was thinking, they started telling the adults their ideas for it as well. Before long, even the grownups were in agreement.
We were going to make our own treasure.
We all moved through the house together, where boxes were stacked up and packed up, looking for treasures to put into a time capsule. A magnet from the fridge with a pizza delivery phone number on it. Daddy’s business card, Mr. Morales’s business card. A letter I sat down and wrote telling them who we were. A picture Gracie colored. A basketball trading card from Jacob. A magazine about famous people from Mommy’s room. And a picture from Mrs. Morales’s purse of Jacob and Gracie, at the pool that summer, eating snow cones.
We put all of our treasures in a small box, taped it with packing tape, and labeled it…
We were here. Team Morales and Team Hayes…