CCSS

R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.7, W.3, SL.1, L.5, L.6 

Dear Future

James is 13. Life is tough. Will it always be this way?

Art by Juliana Kolesova

Does it get any better?

PART 1

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    The future is bright. At least that’s what Mom is always saying. But it doesn’t seem bright right now. 

    We’re at a used-book sale in an old church basement. For five bucks you can fill a bag with books. So there’s one bag for Mom and one for me. And the place is a mess. There are mysteries in the romance section, horror novels in the kid’s section. Most of the books are pretty beat-up.

    It’s total chaos. Just like my life has been since I turned 13. Just like my day has been since this morning. I still can’t get over everyone laughing at me after I fell asleep in English class. 

    When I look around, I see Mom’s dark, curly hair in a sea of gray. She’s busy filling her bag with novels. She reads them to “unwind” and “escape.” I watch her pick up a book and start reading. People try to squeeze past. They bump into her, but she doesn’t notice. 

    I turn and go deeper into the basement.  

PART 2

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    Soon my bag is half filled—but I don’t really remember putting anything into it. I let out a sigh. 

    Across the room, Mom has stopped reading and is talking on her phone. She’s probably “working a deal.” She works hard. That’s the truth. After Dad lost his job last year, we had to sell our house. So Mom said, “We don’t need to pay a Realtor. I can do it.” And she did. 

    Now she sells other people’s houses. She always celebrates when she makes a sale by making a big dinner for us. There’s usually pizza and garlic bread—Dad’s favorites. But I don’t understand what’s to celebrate. The day we sold our house was the worst day ever. 

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    I realize I have room in my bag for one more book . . . 

    I find myself in the photography section. I look through big books filled with photos of fancy mansions and beautiful people—nothing I want to look at. My eye is drawn to a book that doesn’t seem to belong. It has just a plain red cover. No title or anything. 

    I pick it up and open it carefully. Inside, every page is filled with meticulous handwriting. I realize that it’s someone’s journal, but there are no dates. Each entry begins with “Dear Future” and ends with “Sincerely, The Past.” I put down my bag and start reading. 

PART 3

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    It doesn’t take me long to figure out a few things. First, “The Past” is a girl—or was a girl. Second, her first initial was A. Third, she was going through a pretty crummy time. Her mom was sick. And someone with the initial S was picking on her at school. 

    A played soccer but didn’t think she was very good at it. She also played piano but didn’t think she was good at that either. She liked a boy with the initial T. But T kind of liked S—even though S was a bully. 

    And lately A hadn’t been doing so well in school. People thought she was depressed. The one thing she truly loved was writing in this journal. She said it got her through her most difficult days.

    She wrote, “Dear Future, I don’t know if you’ll ever read these words, or if you’ll care. I don’t even know who you are. But I want you to know that I was probably a little bit like you. And I hope you’re doing OK. And that I am too. Sincerely, The Past.

PART 4

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    My phone buzzes in my pocket, but I ignore it. What I’m reading is just the everyday thoughts and fears and hopes of some girl. And I can’t imagine anything more interesting. 

    When I reach the end of the journal, an hour has passed. I haven’t moved. A is still in the same place too—sad, lonely. Yet somehow she’s hopeful. I feel worried not knowing what happened to her. 

    So I reread A’s final entry. Only then do I notice an address and phone number written on the inside back cover. Beside it is a note: “If found, please return.” 

    My first question is: What happened to A?

    My second question is: How did her journal end up here?

    My third and fourth and fifth questions are: Did she lose it? Did she throw it away? If so, why? 

    My sixth question is: How can I get it back to her? 

    The answer to my sixth question is in my pocket. 

    Only after I’ve dialed the number does the seventh question pop into my head: What am I supposed to say when she answers? 

    And then a voice says hello. A girl’s voice. She sounds older than the girl who kept the journal. But not old.

    “Hello,” I say. “I’m trying to reach someone with the first initial A.”

    “My name is Annie,” she responds. “Who’s this?”

    “Uh, did you lose a journal with a red cover?” 

    “Who is this?” she repeats.

James, I should say. But instead, I say, “It’s the future.”

    There’s a pause. Then she asks me the address written on the cover. I read it to her. “That’s my old address,” she says.

    “Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

    “Nineteen now, but I was 13 when I kept the journal,” she says.

    “Thirteen. That’s how old I am,” I tell her.

    “Thirteen seems like a long time ago,” she says.

    “How are you?” I ask. “Are you happy?”

    “Happy enough,” she answers. “I mean, no one’s happy all the time. How are you, Dear Future?” 

    I want to tell her what I’m worried about. I want to tell her about how we had to move. I want to tell her that Dad is depressed because he can’t find a job. I want to tell her about falling asleep in class. I want to ask her if everything will be OK. But I don’t know how

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    “Some days are better than others,” I respond.

    “Sounds familiar,” she says. “How’s today?”

    I look over at Mom, sitting on the floor. She looks up and smiles.

    “To be honest, today started off awful,” I reply. “But it’s better now.”

    Annie thanks me for calling. She gives me her new address, and asks if I’ll mail her the journal. “Sometimes, I miss the past,” she says. “Even if it wasn’t easy.” 

    When I return home, I write her a note. I don’t ask about the boy she used to like. I don’t ask about her mom. I just write that I’m glad I discovered her in that room filled with books. 

PART 5

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    At dinner, Mom insists that we say what we’re thankful for. She’s thankful for me and Dad. Dad is thankful for the food. I say I’m thankful for the journal I found—and then I tell them all about Annie.  

    “I was very unhappy when I was 13,” Mom says. “I thought being 13 meant I wasn’t a kid anymore. I wasn’t ready for that.” 

    “Tell me the truth,” I say. “Do you get less happy as you get older?”

    They look at each other. Maybe neither of them wants to answer.

    “You can’t really measure happiness,” Mom replies. “But nothing has brought as much meaning into my life as you two.”

    Dad rubs his beard. “When you’re happy, you want to make it last forever. And when things are difficult, you want to hurry up and get happy again. But hard times are part of life. What matters is how you get through them. And who you get through them with.” 

    He smiles at Mom. Dad has a terrific smile. 

    That night, I stay up late studying. Afterward, I slowly reread Annie’s journal from beginning to end. I pay attention to every word. 

    In some dear future, I would like to remember this day. And miss it.

ACTIVITY: 
Making an Inference

You’ve just read “Dear Future” Now it’s time to try this activity.

Tip: An inference is something that isn’t stated but can be figured out from clues in the text.

What to do: Imagine that you’re James. You’ve decided to keep a journal like Annie did. You start by writing about the day you found Annie’s diary. Make inferences to complete each sentence below. 

When I fell asleep in class and everyone laughed at me, I felt  ____

Hint: Look in Part 1 for clues

Annie used initials instead of names in her journal. I think she did this so that ____

Hint: Look in Part 3 for clues.

My phone buzzed while I was reading Annie’s journal, but I ignored it because ____

Hint: Look in Part 4 for clues.

I told Annie “It’s the future” on the phone because ____

Hint: Look in Part 4 for clues.

In the future, I would like to remember this day because ____

Hint: Look in Part 5 for clues.

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