Excerpt for A New Home (The Jen-Jen Chronicles, Book One) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

A New Home (The Jen-Jen Chronicles, Book One)

Copyright 2017 by Gold Rush Publishing.

All rights reserved.

Published by Gold Rush Publishing

P.O. Box 582155, Elk Grove, CA 95758.

The Jen-Jen Chronicles™ and associated logos are trademarks of Gold Rush Publishing.

First Edition, Smashwords Edition

Published October 2017

Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

About Mark T. Arsenault

Other books by this author

Connect with Mark


This book is dedicated to my “Jen-Jen.”

Our journey began one autumn weekend and it’s never been the same since. I gave you everything and you became part of our family. Our lives are forever intertwined and we are the richer for it. I love and cherish you more than you know, and I will love you forever.

Be an eternal student, kōhai-chan. Never stop learning and never stop striving for your goals. Always write for yourself, not to please others.

May you find all the love and happiness you deserve.

Chapter One

Ten-year-old Jennifer Hampton woke up and yawned. Her bed was a mattress on the floor, with a sheet and a blanket on top. It was a nice bed, Jennifer thought to herself. The mattress was comfortable and the blanket kept her warm. She felt very lucky and she slept well. Once she was able to get to sleep, that is.

Jennifer lived with her daddy for the last eight months.

Before she came to live with her daddy, Jennifer spent two years living in different people’s homes. Her mommy would drop her off and be gone for weeks, sometimes months. Then she’d come back and pick her up and then she would drop Jennifer off at someone else’s home for a while. She lived with people in one city, then in another city, then another.

Then her mommy ran out of places for Jennifer to live, so Jennifer and her mommy spent most of the next year living in a pick-up truck. Jennifer knew they were homeless but she didn’t like to use that word. It felt bad, like she was not a normal kid. Her and her mommy called it “an adventure.”

But Jennifer’s mommy said the adventure was going on too long, and she asked Jennifer if she wanted to stay with her daddy for a while. Jennifer got excited. She didn’t remember her daddy and she loved the thought of getting to know him. She always wanted to know her daddy! So, her mommy drove her to her daddy’s house to live. That’s where Jennifer had lived for the last eight months.

Her mom said once that her daddy had a “silly brain,” and he had to go to a doctor because of it. Jennifer didn’t know what that meant, exactly. She just knew that she loved her daddy and was happy she could get to know him, silly brain or not.

Jennifer remembered something else her mommy told her once.

“If you keep a positive attitude,” she told Jennifer, “everything will work out!”

Jennifer picked up and hugged her stuffed bunny, Daisy. Daisy was a gift from the mom of one of her friends, Mindy, who Jennifer lived with for a few months. Daisy was white with rainbow colored flowers all over her. Daisy kept her company and helped her when she was upset or scared.

Some nights, however, even Daisy couldn’t help Jennifer get to sleep. Sometimes it was hard for Jennifer to get to sleep because her daddy was gone from the house for a long time.

When he went out to work or to go help his friends with a project, she was sometimes alone in the house. She was sometimes alone at night until very late. She tried not to sleep when her daddy was gone.

Last night she fell asleep very late, waiting for her daddy to come home.

She looked over at the other mattress in the room. Her daddy wasn’t there. She didn’t know if he came home at all the night before.

Just then she heard some noise outside. She ran to the window of her room to look outside. Down below, in the driveway, she saw her daddy working on a car. She smiled, happy to know he was home again.

Jennifer reached over to pick up her cell phone off the floor next to the mattress. Her daddy bought the cell phone for her so they could keep in touch when he was gone. She kept the cell phone with her all the time, in case he called or sent her a text message. It helped her not to feel scared when he was gone.

Jennifer looked at her phone. The time on the screen said 9:10 a.m. Jennifer stretched and smiled, happy that she could sleep in. She missed going to school, though.

Jennifer went to an elementary school with a year-round schedule. She was on “B Track,” which meant that last month, July, was an “off track” month. No kids in B Track went to school in July. They started again this month. Jennifer missed the first week of school, however. She hadn’t been to school for almost two whole months, she thought.

She missed seeing her friends. She even missed doing homework. Jennifer enjoyed doing homework. It was a way to keep herself occupied when she was alone. She also enjoyed the praise she got from her teacher when she turned in the work on time and got a good grade.

Jennifer worked hard to get good grades. Her mommy and daddy, and all the grown-ups she knew, told her how important it was to do well in school. Jennifer didn’t ever want to upset or disappoint them, so she worked hard to get good grades. Praise from her teachers meant a lot to Jennifer. It made her feel good about herself when people recognized how smart she was.

Jennifer walked into the bathroom and brushed her teeth. She brushed them well, rinsing and spitting forcefully into the sink. Ptooey!

She picked up her hairbrush and brushed her hair roughly. Her hair was tangled in the back, which made the brushing difficult. Jennifer winced as she tried forcing the brush through the knots in her hair.

“Ouch!” she exclaimed. “Stupid hair. Grrrrr!”

Unable to get all the tangles out, Jennifer looked around and spied a hairband. She pulled her hair into a pony tail and tied it off with the band.

“There!” she said proudly. “Now I don’t have to worry about that knot in my hair.” Jennifer smiled at herself. She felt very smart and resourceful.

Jennifer got dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen to find something to eat for breakfast. She found a box of cereal in the cabinet. She shook the box and heard there was still some cereal inside. She poured the remaining cereal and crumbs into a bowl, then got the milk from the refrigerator. She opened the carton and smelled it. “Smells fine,” she thought, and poured the milk over the cereal.

As she sat at the table alone, eating her cereal, she wondered if Cindy was coming home today.

Cindy also lived in the house with Jennifer and her daddy. Cindy was the person who her daddy paid so he and Jennifer could live there. Cindy was a nice lady, Jennifer reasoned. If Cindy was home, she would watch Jennifer if her daddy was gone. Sometimes she had to work, though. If she wasn’t home when her daddy was gone, Jennifer would just stay home alone, like last night.

Jennifer hoped Cindy would be home in case her daddy slept all day. Jennifer didn’t like to be alone. It was boring!

After she finished her cereal, Jennifer put her dishes in the sink. She picked up her phone and walked to the front door. She sat on the floor and put her shoes on. Jennifer didn’t know how to tie her laces in a regular bow. No one had ever taught her how to tie her shoes properly, so she taught herself. Jennifer had managed to learn how to tie her laces into double knots. They weren’t bows, and certainly weren’t easy to get undone, but they sure kept her shoes from falling off!

Jennifer opened the door and went outside. She took a deep breath and smelled the fresh air. She skipped to the driveway where her daddy was working on the car. The hood of the car was propped open and her daddy was leaned over, working on some piece of equipment around the engine.

“Good morning, daddy!” she said.

“Good morning, Sweet Pea,” he mumbled. Jennifer knew that sometimes her daddy was hard for people to understand. He told her that he fell and hurt his head a long time ago, and that made it a little harder for him to speak clearly. Jennifer didn’t mind. She loved him no matter what.

“Did you eat something for breakfast?” he asked her.

“Yes, I did,” she replied with a smile. “I had some cereal.”

“Good girl,” her daddy said.

“Whatcha doing?” she asked him, eyeing the car in the driveway.

“Oh, I was trying to get this car fixed for Cindy,” he said. “You know. I don’t have any money to pay her our rent right now.”

“That’s okay, daddy,” she said. “She’ll let you fix the car instead, right?”

Her daddy set the wrench down and turned to look at Jennifer.

“This is for June’s rent, Sweet Pea,” he told her. “I don’t have the money for this month’s rent or last month’s rent, either.”

“Well, are we still going to be able to live here?” Jennifer was starting to get a little worried. She didn’t like the idea of having to move again. She had only lived with her daddy for about eight months, since her mommy dropped her off late last year.

“Not any more,” he said. “Cindy wants us to move, honey.”

She could tell her daddy was unhappy. It was important that she not cry because if she was sad then he would be sad. She didn’t want her daddy to be sad. So, Jennifer put a big smile on her face.

“That’s okay, daddy,” she said. “You and I will find a new place to live. As long as we’re together everything will work out, right?”

Her daddy looked at her. His face looked serious. Jennifer thought he looked kind of angry. She made her smile bigger then gave her daddy a big hug. After a few moments, he leaned her back to talk to her.

“I want you to call your friend Danielle’s mom,” he told her.

“You mean Patty?” she asked. Danielle’s mom’s name was Patricia, which Jennifer thought was a pretty name, but she preferred to be called Patty.

“Yeah, honey. Call Patty. See if you can stay at their house this weekend,” he told her.

“Okay, daddy,” she replied.

“I’m going to find us a new place to live, okay?” He managed a small smile. Jennifer knew he wasn’t happy but at least he was pretending. She smiled back at him.

“Okay, daddy,” she said. “I will.” She turned to go back into the house. She was going to sit at the table and call Patty. She stopped at the doorway and turned back to her daddy. He was already working on the car again. She looked down, feeling a little sad, and walked into the house.

Jennifer thought about the possibility of being homeless again. She had been homeless before and she didn’t like it.

Jennifer decided to put on a smile again. She needed to keep a positive attitude and everything would work out.

Jennifer brought up Patty’s phone number in the phone and tapped the green button to dial. The phone began ringing on the other end.

“Hello?” Jennifer heard Patty’s voice in the speaker. Jennifer took a deep breath and smiled bigger.

“Hi, Patty, this is Jennifer,” she started. “I wondered if I could ask a favor.”

Chapter Two

Jennifer had asked her friend Danielle’s mom, Patty, if she could stay the weekend with them. Jennifer had stayed over at the Arnolds’ house before, so she was welcome to stay the weekend.

Patty called Jennifer’s dad to make sure it was okay with him and to confirm plans. Patty would pick up Jennifer at the house Friday and then drop her off again at home on Sunday afternoon, and that Jennifer’s dad would have to be home no later than 4:30 p.m.

Friday, after picking up Danielle from school, Patty took Danielle to go pick up her friend. The two girls were excited to see each other again, and they chatted and giggled in the back seat of the car all the way back to Danielle’s house.

When they got to the house, the three ladies went inside. Danielle’s dad, Paul, met them at the door. Jennifer had met Paul before. She knew he worked for the Sheriff’s Department, at the jail. He was a very nice man, she thought, with a big smile for almost everyone he met. He seemed like a very good dad.

“Well, hello, ladies!” Paul exclaimed. “Are you two girls ready for your weekend sleepover?”

“Yes!” they both yelled together.

“Good,” Paul said. “I think you two are going to have a great time.”

The first night Jennifer ate dinner with the Arnolds. They ate dinner at the dining room table, together. Jennifer wasn’t used to eating at the table with a family. If her dad or Cindy were home she would sometimes eat with them at the table. Sometimes she would eat at the table alone after fixing herself something to eat. Sometimes she would eat in the living room or in her and her dad’s bedroom.

Before the meal they said grace, which was saying “Thank you” to God for providing food for their dinner and for all the other blessings in their life. Jennifer thought that was nice. Jennifer could remember times when her and her mom didn’t have enough money to get things they needed, including food for dinner. She was always grateful for the things they did have. Saying thank you just seemed natural to Jennifer.

After dinner Jennifer and Danielle watched a movie and ate popcorn. The girls had so much fun, talking about the movie and laughing and rolling around on the floor together.

Before long it was time to go to bed.

“Time to get ready for bed, girls,” Patty told them.

“Oh, mom,” whined Danielle, “can we stay up a little while longer?”

“Yes,” her mom told her, “you can stay up a little later. But it’s 8:30 now and you need to get ready for bed. Go change into your night clothes and brush your teeth.”

Both girls hopped up and started up the stairs.

“Jennifer, did you bring your toothbrush?” Patty asked.

“Yes, Patty,” Jennifer replied, smiling broadly.

“Okay, good. I had an extra one just in case,” Patty said matter-of-factly. “Go on up and get ready for bed. Once you’re done you girls can come back down and stay up another hour.”

“Yay!” both girls cheered.

In Danielle’s room, the girls started changing into their night clothes. Jennifer pulled pajama pants and an extra big T-shirt out of her backpack.

“Hey, Jen,” Danielle started.

“Yeah?” Jennifer replied.

“Do you like me?” Danielle asked the question before she really gave it much thought.

“Of course, I do,” Jennifer said. Jennifer looked at Danielle. She really liked Danielle a lot. They became very close friends shortly after Jennifer started at the school last year. They both enjoyed the same cartoons, the same books and some of the same music.

“Do you like me?” Jennifer asked.

“Yeah,” Danielle said. “I like you a lot, too. I kind of feel like we’re sisters, in a way.”

“Me, too,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer wasn’t sure she really felt that way. It had been years since she had seen her real sister. She imagined what it would feel like to be Danielle’s sister. She imagined it would be nice.

“Then let’s be sisters.” Danielle held up her hand with her pinky finger sticking out. Jennifer held up her hand and they interlocked fingers.

“Pinky swear,” Danielle said. “Sisters forever.”

“I swear,” Jennifer said.

Danielle jumped up and headed toward the bathroom.

“Come on, let’s brush our teeth,” said Danielle. “My mom said we could stay up one more hour!”

Jennifer squeaked and both girls ran down into the hallway and into Danielle’s bathroom.

* * *

Downstairs, Danielle’s mom and dad were in the kitchen, cleaning up the left-over cups and large bowl that held only a few un-popped popcorn kernels and crumbs.

“Those two sure seem to have hit it off,” Paul said, shaking his head. “Ever since they met at school last November they’ve been like BFFs.”

“I think they’re kindred spirits,” Patty agreed with a chuckle. “It probably helped that they both enjoy that little pony cartoon.”

“True,” Paul agreed, putting a freshly washed and dried cup in the cabinet. Patty washed the popcorn bowl and then began wiping it with a dry towel.

“What do you make of her dad?” Paul asked.

“What do you mean?” Patty asked, a bit puzzled.

“Well, you said you met him on one the field trips,” Paul said. “What was he like?”

“He seemed a little…different,” Patty remembered. She paused for a moment and set her knife on the cutting board as she thought. “He was nice but he was hard to understand. I couldn’t always tell what he was saying. Of all the parents, I got kind of a strange feeling from him.”

Just then they heard the girls running down the stairs. Boom, boom, bang, boom! Danielle and Jennifer were giggling loudly as they came downstairs. Danielle was wearing pajama bottom and a t-shirt. Jennifer wore a long t-shirt that came down to her knees.

“Are you both ready for bed?” Paul asked.

“Yes, dad,” Danielle said.

“Yes, Paul,” Jennifer said simultaneously.

“Okay, good,” he told them. “You can play a game for a while until bed time, if you like.”

“Yay!” both girls exclaimed. They ran into the living room. Danielle pulled out her game console and two controllers, one for each of them.

“I have this game!” Danielle said, showing Jennifer the case.

“I’ve never played that before,” Jennifer said sheepishly.

“I’ll show you how to play,” Danielle said. “It’s soooo fun!”

“Okay!” Jennifer said, jumping up and landing on a pillow on the floor.

The girls played the game and had fun, building things together and exploring the digital world.

After an hour, Paul reminded them about bedtime.

“It’s that time, girls,” Paul reminded them gently.

“Aww,” they groaned together. “Please, can we stay up a little later?” Danielle begged.

“No, sweetie,” her mom replied. “Remember, you have your audition tomorrow. You’re going to need your rest so you can be fresh and remember your lines.”

“Besides,” Paul added, “you’re going to have a hard-enough time getting to sleep in the same room.” Paul made a silly face. Both girls giggled. “Go on upstairs, kiddos.”

Danielle and Jennifer went upstairs, laughing and making silly noises, pretending to be full of energy and unable to sleep.

Danielle’s parents followed them upstairs and into the room. Paul had pulled a spare mattress into the room and set it on the floor of Danielle’s bedroom. Patty made it up with a fitted sheet and a thin blanket, and she added a couple of spare pillows.

“You girls can each have your own bed,” Patty said.

“What if we both want to sleep on the floor?” Danielle asked.

“That’s fine,” Patty said. When she heard her mom say that, Danielle jumped off her bed onto the mattress on the floor, next to Jennifer.

“Just remember,” Paul added, “that you girls need to get some sleep, okay? Don’t stay up too late talking.”

“We won’t, Paul,” Jennifer said with that big smile she’d practiced so often.

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