On My Way Home : My Novel WIP – Chapter 1

So it’s been a few months since I’ve started my blogging journey and I’m thinking it’s about time to share my longest running WIP (work in progress) with you all. That is one of the main reasons why I created this thing in the first place. haha

On My Way Home is a story that I’ve been writing for 10+ years now, and haven’t been able to drop it. I’ve spent so many years writing, pouring my heart and soul into these characters, I can’t just throw them away! I can’t let their story die. This hopeful novel is set back in the year 1958 and tells the story of a fifteen year old orphan named Penni Joy. She lost her parents in a train accident ten years prior on their first family vacation. Today I will share with you my first chapter. The part where Penni’s tragic story is shared. I’ll post it here in a second, but first here is what I have written to be put on the back cover when my novel is finally published one day.

Penni Joy is a fifteen year old orphan with bright, auburn hair. When Penni and her family were on their way home from their first family vacation in Chicago, Illinois in 1948, there was a train accident that claimed both her parent’s lives when she was just five years of age. While living at the Gate Way Orphanage in St. Louis for ten years, Penni makes some close friends. When her fiery, red headed friend Skip Hilton moves out of the orphanage and heads off to make a life of his own, things start to change for the worse. With a shattered heart and a sour mind, can the Love of Christ change Penni’s outlook on life?

Inside the city limits of New York, temptation starts to make a home in Skip’s life. With an old love on his mind and Christ in his heart, will that be enough to stop the seduction?

When the light fades from both orphan’s lives, can love brighten things back up again?

Now that I’ve shared that part, here is the piece you hopefully have read this far to get to.

On My Way Home – Chapter 1

It all started on the frosty, cold night of January 2nd, 1948. There was a blizzard warning for the whole night and into the morning.
Five year old Penni Joy and her parents were on their way home from their vacation in Chicago, Illinois. They were riding home on a steam locomotive, going full speed ahead and had all their faith placed on the engineer to get them home safe.
At about 8:37 p.m. the blizzard hit, and hit hard. It snowed harder and harder to where you couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of the train at a time. People saw nothing but darkness outside with the occasional big snowflake or two hitting the railcar window, so they started to panic.
The engineer called over the intercom, “Everybody needs to stay calm. Everything is under control and we will be arriving at the Saint Louis train station in about an hour. Thank you.”
Even after the reassuring words of the engineer, people kept on panicking. Children and babies cried. Women tried to calm down their children, trying to make it seem like everything was fine, while inside they were terrified. All while the men tried to keep calm attitudes, praying and comforting their families.
Suddenly there was a horrendous screech and a terrible jolt followed by another; the train had hit a big snow drift covering the hard, iron rails causing it run right off of the tracks!
There were objects of every shape and size flying about. People were being tossed around and children started crying even louder. There was luggage falling on top of the passengers from all angles and the chairs were coming unbolted from their frames. Families were trying to hold onto each other, but to no avail, were separated from their loved ones by the tumbling of the railcars.
Then, within a matter of seconds, all of the passengers were lunged toward the front of the railcar in a heap. Their train had run into another train hauling tanker cars, causing them to derail also. A huge explosion erupted causing fire to break out, shattering windows and covering the men, women and children with shards of glass. It felt like living Hell to all of the passengers. You could hear screams of terror all around you…

On that tragic night, many lives were lost. There were very few survivors, and one of those survivors was Penni. Penni’s parents were not quite so lucky though, they shielded their daughter from the explosion and glass without a second thought, causing life threatening injuries that they weren’t able to overcome. Penni was the only survivor from the Joy family.

Penni Joy is now a fifteen-year-old girl who lives at the Gate Way Orphanage in St. Louis, Missouri.
Penni and her family had lived just outside of Saint Louis on the Joy Ranch before they decided to go on vacation. This was their first official family vacation that they took together, and sadly was also their last. Now the ranch is being run by whoever bought the property once it hit the auction block shortly after her parent’s passing. Penni went to live at the orphanage when she was nearly six years of age since none of her distant family members wanted to or were able to afford to take care of her. She has come a long way since that horrific night.
Now on this day of January 2nd 1958, marks the tenth anniversary of that horrific night that changed families’ lives forever.
Penni lay there on her worn out mattress that set on top of a rickety, old, metal bed frame. Her face was pressed down into her pillow, sobbing. “Sometimes I wish that we never would have gone on that trip, we were just fine before, not going on a vacation and all, so why then? Why did it have to be then and on that train?” The room in which the girls resided in was quite bare, plain and simple, nothing special to behold at by any means with white walls, and scuffed up old red oak hardwood floors. There were multiple beds lined up in a row against the outer walls, and a trunk at the foot of every bed with what belongings they had, placed inside.
An eleven-year-old girl named Hannah Cooperton sat beside Penni and rubbed her friend’s back up and down in a circular motion. “Come on Penni don’t cry, we’ve all had our share of crying, but most of us are passed it. Sure we miss our families, but that accident was ten years ago. None of us wanted them to go the way they did, your parents shielded you from the destruction, as did my father with me and you should be grateful to have parents that loved you that much to do that for you. Others weren’t as lucky” Hannah was only one at the time of the accident, and doesn’t remember much of anything. Her mother died in childbirth, so her father was the only family that she had left that truly cared for her.
However, try as she might, none of Hannah’s comforting words calmed Penni’s heartache. Penni looked up through tear filled eyes at Hannah with a solemn look on her face. “You call having to live this life without my parents “lucky?” Don’t you know how much I miss them? Miss the life we had? Sure I was only 5 at the time, but I was still old enough to remember life on the ranch.”
“Oh will you be quiet!? We don’t want to hear a thing about any of it. That was a long time ago, and you should be passed all that by now!” said a voice from behind.
This was the voice from the eldest girl that resided in the Gateway Orphanage; Margaret Holder. At seventeen years of age, she was any guys dream girl with her full on 5 foot 7 inch body with the curves of a Barbie doll, and gorgeous dirty blonde hair that complemented her deep, green eyes so perfectly. Margaret was one of those that weren’t so “lucky” though. At the age of seven, she was separated from her parents during the derailment, and when the windows blew, showering every passenger with shards of glass, a piece cut open her right cheek deeply, leaving behind a not so pretty scar.
“Margaret, have a heart. Can’t you see that Penni’s depressed? How can you be so mean? Oh, that’s right; you’re just you, your heart is as cold as stone.”
Every girl in that room was on the edge of their bed, just waiting to see what Margaret would say or do. Just when it looked like she was going to blow, the breakfast bell rang.
Penni wiped off her tear-stained face, and tried to hide her puffy, red eyes the best she could before joining the other kids downstairs in the dining hall.
Penni walked down the steep wooden staircase and went through a couple doorways before she entered the dining hall.
She spotted Coleen Harper, Penni’s best friend of ten years sitting at a table in the middle of the room.
Miss Pearl came in and blessed the food as soon as everyone was in his or her chair, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this beautiful day that You have given us to enjoy. Please bless this food and the hands that prepared it. Also, help us live this day, as You would want us to live it. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
As soon as the prayer ended, every child dug into their food like it was going to be their last meal of the day, but Penni took her time eating her scrambled eggs and looked up to savor her view. The first thing that she saw was the handsome face of Mark Thomas sitting a couple tables down from her. Every time she would see his hair as dark as coal, and his dimpled smile, she would have to catch her breath.
Penni sighed, “He has no clue that I even exist!”
Coleen Harper who is a year older than Penni buzzed in, “Penni, you have had this major crush on him for over five years now. You really need to move on.”
“Sure I know he’s self-centered, and sure I know that he can be a real jerk, but I think it’s just his way of hiding the broken heart inside of him. I’ve heard people say that he never knew his dad. They say that his dad was a Navy soldier and lost his life in the Pearl Harbor attack. His mom was pregnant with him at the time and a couple years after he was born, she couldn’t bear to keep him because he reminded her of his father. I couldn’t imagine growing up not knowing my father, and knowing that I was abandoned by my mother would be heartbreaking. That has to be the cause of his gruff demeanor. There has to be a nice, loving, understanding person deep down inside of him. He just needs someone to show him that. And I want to be that someone.” said Penni.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again, if he never likes you back. Do you remember Todd Potter? Before he was adopted, you were head over heels in love with that boy.” said Penni’s best friend.
“I hear you, and you have been like an older sister to me since I came here, taking me under your wing and all, I really do appreciate it. However, I think I can handle whom I like and don’t like.”
“What about Skip Hilton? He has that handsome, fiery, red hair and a pair of pretty, blue eyes. He seems to be a good person. He always carries his Bible around the orphanage, and besides, I think he may like you!” teased Coleen.
Penni took another bite of her eggs, turned to look back and take a nice long look at Skip. Their eyes met, and she felt a funny tingling feeling inside of her. She quickly averted her gaze, took another bite of her eggs, and brushed the feeling aside.
A few minutes later, the sound of Coleen’s voice jerked Penni back from her thoughts. “Miss Pearl talks about how love has a mind of its own sometimes and it makes people feel things that they never dreamed of feeling.”
“Do you really think that love, a mere emotion has a mind? It’s just a bunch of hogwash,” insisted Penni.
“I don’t know a lot about hogwash, but I do know that it doesn’t even start to describe love. The stories that she tells makes you feel like the girl in love. It’s a hard thing to understand, and I think you are still a little too young to comprehend the power that love can have over us.” replied Coleen.
“I’m done with my breakfast now. Do you want me to wait for you or can I go get my things ready for class?” Penni said not acknowledging anything that Coleen had just said.
“You don’t have to wait on me. You can go on up and gather your things if you want. I will be up in a minute,” said Coleen with a shooing motion of her hand sending Penni on her way.
“I will see you in a few minutes then.” Penni said with her voice fading. She stood at the dirty dish cart, finished off her glass of milk, and then placed all of the soiled tableware into the cart for some lucky person to wash.
“She seems to be eating slower of the late. I wonder if she is feeling alright.” Penni thought to herself.

As Penni walked toward her cubby to get her schoolbooks she overheard some girls talking. She listened as hard as she could and could make out the name of her best friend, but the distance between her and the girls was too great to be able to understand why it was they were talking about Coleen. She had to get closer somehow.
She creped as quietly as possible toward her classmates, “Hey is it true that Coleen Harper and Mark Thomas are together, like dating?” asked one girl to the other.
“I believe so. One of my friends saw them the other day in the halls. When they went to leave he gave her a kiss on the cheek,” said the other girl.
After hearing this conversation that she wasn’t supposed to be included in, Penni was even more so depressed than before. A tear ran down her face, then another not far behind trickled down and landed on her History book, and she started to weep. The anniversary of her parents deaths just had to be the same day her best friend became dead to her as well. She took off running towards the front door. Everything around her was a blur. She made out the wooden bench seat that she had come to every time she was feeling down as a kid and sat down. It always seemed to cheer her up. She laid her head in her hands and wept uncontrollably until there were no more tears to cry. “I don’t understand? Why wouldn’t she have told me? And today of all days is when I have to hear about it. I can’t believe how depressing this day has started out to be.” She looked up towards the bright blue sky, not a cloud in sight. Normally she would enjoy the nice spring weather, but not today. This day seemed to be out to bring her down as soon as her eyes fluttered open this morning. She was able to hear the school bell ring from where she sat, just before where the grassy lawn met the tree filled forest. She wiped her face on her already soggy sleeve, and made her way toward the orphanage to join her class.

That is the end of the first chapter! I hope you enjoyed it! What are your thoughts? Did you see something that needed to be changed? A typo of some sort? Are you looking forward to reading what the second chapter holds? Please let me know in the comments below!


Author: Meghan Bryant

Hi all! I am 28 years old, live in the Lake of the Ozarks area in Missouri! I am married to my wonderful husband for 7 years, and together we have an adorable 5 year old son, a 3 year old son and a 10 month old boy!! I have been writing for as long as I can remember. My grandma was one of my biggest supporters until she passed away in 2010. I have been writing a book for 10+ years, and am looking to finish it this year! I have written many poems, and some short stories along the way as well. My husband is a mechanic and I'm a stay at home mom. Writing is a big part of my life and that played a part in starting this blog!

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