“How do I look?” Jaci asked me in the morning. She was going to take a standardized test to get her high school diploma. She was wearing the same pale pink dress she had shown up in.
“You look fine,” I said. “Don’t worry.” Jaci sighed.
“Do I look professional and serious?” Jaci asked. I nodded.
“JACI! Timmy’s here to pick you up!” Ms. Donna called.
“Pray for me!” Jaci hollered as she ran out the door.
Momma walked into the family room.
“Can you help me get off the couch?” I asked. I threw the quilt off me.
“What’s that?” Momma asked pointing to a large gift wrapped in bright Christmas wrapping.
“Secret Santa strikes again!” I shouted trying to reach the package.
“Who’s Secret Santa?” Momma asked handing me the package.
“I don’t know. That’s what Regina calls him,” I said opening it.
“And do you have any idea who this guy is?” Momma asked with sparkle in her eyes.
“No,” I said pulling out a Christmas Clipboard kit.
“How sweet,” Momma said looking at it. She started to open it. I laughed.
“Oh! I’m sorry,” Momma said handing the half open kit to me.
“It’s ok,” I said placing it on the table. Momma helped me get up.
“Me want bacon!” Megan screamed running down the steps. She ran towards Momma.
“Morning, honey. I didn’t know you were up,” Momma said.
“Silly, Mommy!” Megan cried. Momma picked her up and walked into the kitchen. I followed.
“Where’s Jaci?” Megan asked looking around the room.
“She went to school,” Ms. Donna said to her.
“Why?!” Megan cried madly.
“She’s trying to get her high school diploma,” Mr. Steve said picking up his coffee cup. Megan pouted.
“The bus is here!” Darcy called. He pulled my arm.
“But I haven’t eaten breakfast!” I shouted as he pulled me towards the door.
“Ms. O’Donnell hates it when students are late!” Darcy called.
“At least let the girl get her backpack,” Ms. Donna said handing me my lunch and backpack. Darcy blushed.
“What’s your problem?” I asked hobbling out the door.
Ugh. The bus was at the stop before ours. Darcy hobbled out the door.
“Seriously?” I asked pulling out some bacon from my lunch bag.
Darcy didn’t answer me. What was wrong with HIM?
“Class,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “This is Virginia Powers.”
“Hello, Virginia,” The class chimed.
“And this is Natalie Baldwin,” Ms. O’Donnell said, “Both will be joining our class today. Most of you know Natalie but Virginia is new to Florida. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?”
“Well I’m from Virginia,” Virginia said laying on her Southern drawl. “I’m a farm girl. I have an older brother who is in high school and two younger sisters.”
“Thank you Virginia that will be all,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “Natalie, would you like to tell the class a little bit more about yourself?”
The look on Virginia’s face told me that she had more to tell but she didn’t dare go against Ms. O’Donnell.
“Well I moved here about a month ago. I live at the Sunshine B&B,” I started. What else could I say? I mean everyone in the room knew just about everything about me.
“I have a younger sister Megan and will have two steps sisters as soon as my mother marries Steve Matthews,” I said. My heart hurt a little to call Megan my sister.
“I love Christmas as my name implies,” I quickly added. That was something not too many people knew.
“Thank you, Natalie,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “The two of you may take your seats.”
I decided to let Virginia pick the first. There was an empty seat next to Darcy and a guy named Leo Logan. For some ridiculous reason I really hoped Virginia wouldn’t sit next to Darcy. Virginia looked at me and winked. I tried to act surprised. Darcy looked happy as Virginia walked towards the back. She sat next to Leo and shook his hand.
I sat next Darcy. He gave me a smile and what could I do but give him a silly stupid smile back.
“Look at this! Look at this!” Virginia shouted shoving a Valentine in my face.
“What is it?” I asked. I was sitting at a lunch table with Regina, Nelson, Darcy, and surprisingly Emily. She hadn’t uttered a word since she sat down.
“This is so rude! So ridiculous! I would punch the boy who gave me THIS piece of junk!” Virginia screamed.
“Calm down,” I said taking it out of her hands.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I don’t know what to say around you
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“I don’t know what to say around you? What kind of cheesy line is that? It might as well read ‘Roses are red. Violets are blue. I really don’t want to give a Valentine to you.’,” Virginia said sitting down.
“I don’t see what’s wrong with it,” Darcy said. Virginia gave him a look.
“This is being marketed as a Valentine to give to someone who you really don’t want to give a Valentine too! Dozens of poor girls are going to receive this terrible Valentine!” Virginia said.
“VIRGINIA!” Aunt Jane screamed running into the lunch room.
“What now?” Virginia muttered.
“I didn’t give you a lunch before you took off,” Aunt Jane huffed. “I’m sorry.”
“Thanks,” Virginia said taking it. Aunt Jane smiled.
“Somebody get their Valentine’s Day out of the way?” Aunt Jane asked picking up the Valentine.
“No,” Virginia said. “I just found out that my desk partner is selling these!”
“Then sell them back,” Aunt Jane said.
“Huh?” The table asked.
“You make Valentines bigger and better,” Aunt Jane said.
“That’s a wonderful idea!” Virginia shouted. “I’ll beat him at his own game!” Aunt Jane nodded.
I looked over at the table where Leo was sitting.
I looked at the look on Virginia’s face. This was war.
I stared at the tall stranger sitting on the couch.
“You must be Natalie,” The young man smiled. “Your mother told me about you.”
I looked at the new boarder. His name was Zach Davis. Something about his broad shoulders and his face looked familiar.
“And you must be Darcy,” Zach said offering his hand to him.
“Hi,” Darcy said shaking it.
“I see you’ve met my new boarder Zach,” Ms. Donna said walking into the room.
“Here’s your coco,” Jaci said walking into the room. Timmy wasn’t far behind but he didn’t look like he was comfortable.
“Thank you, Jaci,” Zach said taking the hot chocolate and drinking it.
“The restaurant opens up in five minutes. I’m sure the town will want to meet you,” Ms. Donna said smiling. She walked back to the kitchen.
“I’m up!” Megan screamed walking down the steps. She looked at Zach and her eyes widened.
“You!” Megan shouted. “You!”
She didn’t sound mad. She sounded like she was happy to see him. Zach looked like he had no idea what to do.
“You must be Megan,” Zach said. “Your mother told me about you.”
Megan flew into his arms. Jaci snickered. Zach walked into the restaurant with Megan in his arms.
“She can walk,” Momma said taking Megan out of his arms.
“She just flew into them. I guess that means she likes me,” Zach said.
“LET ME IN!” Someone screamed pounding on the restaurant door. Ms. Donna unlocked it. Abby ran into the restaurant and tripped. She flew right into Zach’s arms.
“I guess I’m a magnet today,” Zach joked. Abby looked stunned.
“I’m so sorry!” Abby cried. “I guess I was so excited I tripped!”
“That’s all right,” Zach smiled. I looked at Regina. She returned my look. If I read her look correct she also thought this guy was developing a quick crush on Abby.
“Riley, look at this fabric!” Abby shouted. She pulled out a scrap from her purse.
“It’s a beautiful shade of pink!” Momma cried looking at it.
“I couldn’t wait until the weekend to show it to you,” Abby said.
“I could make bridesmaids dresses out of it!” Jaci shouted taking the fabric out of Momma’s hands.
“I like that idea,” Momma said.
“Oh please let me make your wedding dress!” Jaci cried. “I won’t fail you.”
Before Momma could answer Mr. Stewart walked into the restaurant. He looked at Zach.
“I thought I told you to never come back to Berkshire County,” Mr. Stewart said flatly to him.