Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Four

**

The words “You can go home this afternoon.” rang through my mind. I think the only reason the doctor is letting me go home is because Momma threatened to take me out of the hospital with or without his agreement and the only reason she threatened him is because she desperately wants to leave Pittsfield.

I think my mother is afraid that word has gotten out that she’s back in Massachusetts. She hasn’t said much since our little talk.

“Riley?” Nurse Sarah asked walking into my room.

“Yeah?” Momma asked. She was tired. She only was getting a couple hours of sleep sleeping on that horribly lumpy couch.

“There’s someone here to see you,” Nurse Sarah said.

Me? Are you sure it’s not one of Natalie’s friends?” Momma asked surprised that anyone would be there to see her.

“I’m positive, Riley,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Is it Steve Matthews?” Momma asks. My chest got tight but it released. I’m starting to really dislike Steve Matthews.

“Steve Matthews? The guy you were dating before you ran away? No,” Nurse Sarah said. “Riley, it’s your mother.”

Wait, my mother used to date Steve Matthews? And did she just say mother?

From look on my Momma’s face her heart had stopped. She was gasping for air. I prayed that my mother wouldn’t have a full blown panic attack.

“Riley, if you refuse to see her it will hurt her heart more than you can ever imagine,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Send. Her. In.” Momma gasped. Nurse Sarah slowly walked out the room and returned seconds later with a woman who looked very much like my mother.

“So it really is you,” Grandma Shirley said. There were tears in her eyes.

“Mother,” Momma breathed.

“Riley Anne Walters,” Grandma Shirley said.

“How’s Papa?” Momma asked.

“He’s doing as good as a father whose daughter ran away could ever,” Grandma Shirley said.

A wave of guilt overcame Momma.

“How are Clarisse, John, and Cael doing?” Momma asked.

“They all live within driving distance. All three of them have good stable jobs and have children,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Funny. Clarisse always said that she would never ever have children,” Momma smiled.

“She gave in. Has six running around her place,” Grandma Shirley said. Momma look surprised.

“She got married five years after you left. She was the first to get married. She has Charleigh and Ryleigh. They are identical twin girls. Then there’s Jason and Benjamin. Then there’s Jake and Jacob. They’re fraternal twin boys,” Grandma Shirley said. Momma smiled.

Grandma Shirley for the first time noticed me. She looked at my foot first and then raised her eyes up to me. I gave her my best smile and prayed really hard that I wouldn’t have a panic attack.

“And you are?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Natalie. Natalie Zoey Baldwin,” I said.

“How old are you?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Twelve,” I answered trying to smile. I started to feel sweaty. Grandma Shirley smiled at me.

“So you broke your foot,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Last week,” I said.

“Then why are you still in the hospital?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“I had a panic attack, then someone put sleeping medicine in my system, and then I had another panic attack,” I said. The look on my mother’s face told me that I probably shouldn’t have said that.

“Oh,” Grandma Shirley said. The words fell out of her mouth. If she knew how cold and heartless she sounded she probably would have apologized.

Grandma Shirley turned back to my mother. There was a look of pain and disgust in Grandma Shirley’s eyes.

“Riley, why did you run away? Ever since the police told us that you had run away I’ve been trying to figure out what I did to make you leave,” Grandma Shirley said. Tears ran down her face.

“Mom, it was nothing you, dad, Clarisse, John, or Cael did. I ran away because……” Momma started. She looked at me.

“Why I left is not important. I’m back now. I’m not leaving unless God tells me too,” Momma said.

“You’re back?” Grandma Shirley asked. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or horrified.

“I live in Florida at the Sunshine B&B,” Momma said. Grandma Shirley sighed.

“Riley, why did you come back to Massachusetts? Is it because after twenty years you wanted to make things better or did you come just to pain me?” Grandma Shirley said.

“Mom, I never planned to come back home. Even after Alexander died I planned to live in Miami but things changed. It wasn’t safe for me in Miami and twenty years ago it wasn’t safe for me to be here. I just got into a car and drove and drove and drove praying that God would stop me wherever he wanted me to be. When I saw a sign that said Florida, Massachusetts I knew in my heart that was where I was supposed to be,” Momma said.

Grandma Shirley looked at me and then at Momma.

“I’ve dreamt of the day I’d seen you again. I always imagined you were kidnapped by some creep or something else that would make it seem like you never wanted to leave us but you willingly left? Why?” Grandma Shirley cried.

“Mom, if I didn’t leave….Mom, it was dangerous. I couldn’t stay here. Everyone I loved and cared about was in danger and if I didn’t leave you, dad, my siblings, and even Steve would be hurt. I can’t even begin to imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t left,” Momma said.

She got up and walked quickly out of the room. Grandma Shirley looked at me.

“Don’t look at me. I know nothing,” I said.

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