“Ms. Natalie Baldwin! Is the Algebra lesson too hard for you? Why don’t you come up here and tell the class why you just burst out crying?” Ms. O’Donnell asked.
I looked up from my Algebra lesson. Since I was way back in the back I couldn’t hear Natalie crying but Leo had been snickering for a couple of minutes so I guess he heard her. Despicable young man.
“Um, seven years ago,” Natalie said getting up. “My dad died on this day.”
I felt a pain in my heart. I knew how it was to lose my father.
“Oh, Natalie…..,” Ms. O’Donnell started. I rolled my eyes on the inside. Why was she so nice to her only?
The bell rang and Natalie ran out of the room. I jumped from my seat as fast as I could. Darcy looked like he didn’t know what to do.
“I got it,” I said running past him.
“Natalie!” I called. She was pretty fast. Natalie stopped and it took me a second to catch up with her.
“Are you ok?” I asked.
“No,” Natalie cried. Tears started to splash down her face.
“Let’s step into my office,” I said. My office was in the cafeteria. It was this table in the back where people changed during the school plays. There was a curtain there for privacy.
“Wow,” Natalie said looking around.
“Cool, I know,” I said.
“Do you want to talk about your dad?” I asked.
“He was from England,” Natalie started.
“My dad was born and raised in Virginia,” I said.
“My dad was killed in a car accident,” Natalie sighed. She looked very sad when she said this.
“My parents took a bus to Richmond,” I said. “They had to pick up a part for our tractor. The bus driver fell asleep and crashed.”
It felt a little good to get that off my chest. I haven’t talked to anyone since my father’s death.
“I’m sorry,” Natalie said.
“I guess we know how each other feels,” I sighed. “What did your dad smell like?”
“Pine Needles,” Natalie laughed. “It was his favorite body wash.”
“My dad always smelled like goat, sweat, and manure,” I laughed.
I pictured my father. Tall, strong, and well built. I could see him walking towards the house after all the work was done but as he got closer he faded. Then I couldn’t see him anymore all I could do was smell him.
“Manure?” Natalie asked breaking into my thoughts. I nodded and we started to laugh.
“Were you thinking about him when you started to cry?” I asked after we stopped laughing. Natalie nodded.
“I was remembering the last time I saw him,” Natalie said. She looked like she was going to cry.
“I can’t really remember the last time I saw my parents. I try so hard to but I just can’t remember,” I said. I tried to think of them at this moment but Natalie sighed and started talking.
“But it was so weird,” Natalie started. “When I stopped thinking about it, I looked at Darcy and my stomach seemed to flutter and my heart started to beat like crazy.”
I gave her a sly smile. I knew it. I knew it. I knew. Natalie liked Darcy.
“What?” Natalie asked. I thought of the perfect thing to say.
“Admit it Natalie,” I said. “You like him.”
“I do not!” Natalie shouted.
Some people need more of a push than others.
“Just stop it, Natalie,” I said. “Everybody in Florida knows it. Your own mother knows it.”
“She doesn’t think I like Darcy,” Natalie denied.
“Sure,” I said rolling her eyes. “Talk to me when you’re ready to send him a Valentine.”
“I do no……” Natalie started but stopped.
I smirked at her but she was too lost on thought to notice it.
“Oh! I don’t know!” Natalie shouted throwing up her hands. “When I first got here Darcy wasn’t the nicest person to me but lately he’s been…..”
“He’s been what?” I asked.
I tried not squirm in my seat but I felt myself wiggling. It’s a bad habit that I always do when I’m close to finding out a good juicy secret.
“He’s been kind,” Natalie said. “He’s not mad at me anymore for breaking his knee. He’s just….UGH!”
“I think he likes you,” I said. Natalie snorted.
“Emily Stewart sticks to him like glue,” Natalie snorted. It took all that was in me not to tell her that Darcy liked her a lot and show her the Valentine he was thinking about getting her.
“Sometimes glue falls off,” I said instead. Natalie smiled.
“I have the perfect Valentine,” I said getting my box from under the table. “Have you ever read Pride and Prejudice?”
“I’ve seen the movie,” Natalie said. I sighed the movie is as good as you can do in two hours but at least she was familiar with the story/
“You’re lucky,” I said pulling out a Valentine.
“In what way?” Natalie asked as I pushed the Valentine towards her.
“Darcy!!! You know as in Mr. Darcy?” I shouted. Natalie sighed.
“Give him this Valentine, Elizabeth,” I urged. If she didn’t do this I might blow about how much Darcy liked her.
“How much?” Natalie asked.
I clapped my hands and squealed. What? I love romance.
“I charge a dollar just like that other Valentine seller,” I said adding disgust to the word ‘other’.
“You like him,” Natalie said pulling out a dollar from her backpack.
My mouth fell open and Natalie laughed. That’s when I realized that it was a joke. But my mouth was still open as she gave me her money and I gave her the Valentine.
Mrs. Baldwin was standing there and was carrying a picnic basket.
“Ms. O’Donnell called me about what happened,” Mrs. Baldwin said.
“I didn’t mean to burst out crying,” Natalie started but Mrs. Baldwin put up her hand.
“Come on,” Mrs. Baldwin said taking Natalie’s hand. “Ms. O’Donnell has given you the rest of the day off.”
“But Darcy….” Natalie started. I tried not to smirk. And she says she doesn’t like him.
“You can see Darcy at home,” Mrs. Baldwin said. She had that look on her face that said ‘Where has my baby gone? She’s liking boys.’
Natalie and her mother left and soon after that Emily Stewart walked into my office.
“How can I help you?” I asked.
“I hear you’re selling Valentines,” Emily said looking at me.
“Yup,” I nodded.
“I need two Valentines. One for Darcy and one for Nelson Drew,” Emily said. Her eyes got dreamy. Sorry sister, Darcy doesn’t like you.
“What type of Valentines do you want friendship, love, secret crush?” I asked.
Emily thought for a minute.
“Secret crush. No, just crush. He’s and idiot if he doesn’t think I like him,” Emily said. I pulled out a Valentine.
“This will do,” Emily said. “I need a friendship one too. Any ole one will do.”
I pulled out just ‘any ole one’ and Emily gave me two dollars.
“Nice doing business with you,” Emily said. She flipped her long red hair and walked out of my office.
At least that altercation didn’t last long.
“Hey, Virginia,” Nelson said walking into my office.
“Hey, Nelson,” I said. My stomach rumbled. I had thrown my lunch in the trash the moment I was out of Aunt Jane’s sight. I didn’t get up early enough to make breakfast so Aunt Jane made it. I swear that woman cannot cook.
“Want half of my sandwich?” Nelson asked sitting down.
“Would you?” I asked. Nelson nodded and tore his sandwich in two. He gave me one half.
“Oh this is so delicious,” I said munching it.
“I bet you’re hungry. Aunt Jane is a miserable cook but no one has the heart to tell her,” Nelson said.
“Somebody better tell her soon or I’ll starve to death,” I joked.
“Why don’t you tell her,” Nelson said taking a swig of his water. I laughed.
“Are you friends with Emily Stewart?” I asked. “She got you a Valentine.”
“She did?” Nelson asked. His eyes lighted up. I knew that dangerous light all too well.
“You like Emily STEWART?” I asked. “THE Emily Stewart. The one that sticks to Darcy Edwards like glue. The woman with long red hair and brown eyes. The one who is the younger sister of Timmy Stewart? The one who is most mean, arrogant, and rude girl in Florida?”
“I don’t know any other Emily Stewarts,” Nelson said.
“How could you like her? She has a massive crush on Darcy,” I said.
“But Darcy doesn’t like her,” Nelson said.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“I share a room with him,” Nelson shrugged. “Darcy doesn’t like her so I thought that maybe if she sees how much I like her she’ll like me.”
“Trust me,” I said. “That’s not how love works.”
“Do you have a Valentine for like secret crushes?” Nelson asked. I pulled out a Valentine that was just like the one Darcy was thinking about giving to Natalie.
“Perfect,” Nelson said smiling a silly smile.
Oh no. He was in love with a Stewart.
“Class dismissed!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. “Leo, Darcy, and Virginia I would like to speak to you for a minute.”
Why would she want to talk to me and that other boy?
“Yes, Ms. O’Donnell?” Darcy asked. He was in pain, I could tell. Ms. O’Donnell had no heart.
“North Adams and Florida can coming together to have a Valentine’s Day ball. I’m one of the people in charge of planning it and we’re having the toughest time coming up with a theme and Valentine’s Day is in a week!” Ms. O’Donnell said.
I sighed and looked at Darcy. This woman was……………
“DARCY!” I shouted jumping up and down.
“What?” Darcy asked moving back.
“No. No, not you!” I shouted. “Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mr. Bingley. We’ll have a Pride and Prejudice ball. We’ll have a contest for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and Mr. and Mrs. Bingley! Everyone will wear clothes that age period and we’ll do dances from that age period it will lots of fun!”
“I like it,” Leo said. He didn’t look like he liked it.
I rolled my eyes. Darcy looked at him like he was crazy.
“I LOVE it!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. “Time to get my Jane Austin on!”
I smiled. Maybe Ms. O’Donnell isn’t so so bad.