For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
When I got home, I lost it. I messed up my bed, threw pillows at the door, and cried my eyes out. Why had I agreed to do this wheelchair dancing thing? Why hadn’t I walked away after Ms. Etta warned us?
“Hey, baby,” Momma said walking into my room. “Jaci told me about what happened.”
“He just walked out,” I cried. “Just like that. Game over.”
“I remember this time when I was a sophomore in high school. I was so mad that Steve Matthews took out some girl named Karen. We weren’t officially together, but he took me to all the important dances and all that. We got into this huge fight, and we broke up. He started taking this Karen girl out more, and I was so jealous that I actually sabotaged one of there dates,” Momma said.
“You did what?” I asked.
“I got a job at this diner that he took her too and poured her soda all over her head,” Momma said. “And then I kissed Steve.”
“You did what?” I howled.
“Not one of my proudest moments,” Momma said. “But hey, I got my guy back even if it was only for two years.”
“I just wish I never agreed to wheelchair dance,” I said. “Darcy and I were a whole lot happier before this whole mess.”
“Baby, you’re only thirteen,” Momma said. “You’ve got a little bit longer to find your husband.”
“Thanks for trying to make me feel better,” I said. “But its way more than that.”
“Just because you and Darcy broke up doesn’t mean you have to stop wheelchair dancing. I’m sure Yule would be happy to do it with you,” Momma said.
“No way. I like the relationship I have with my older brother,” I said. Momma smiled.
“It’s just…I’ve this feeling,” I said. “I just kinda felt like Darcy didn’t want to ‘be’ with me anymore. I mean who truly wants a girlfriend in a wheelchair.”
“Now, I don’t know why you’d think that,” Momma said.
“Wasn’t it obvious?” I asked.
“Nope,” Momma said. “If anything I would say that he liked you more.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” I said drying my eyes a little.
“Someone’s here to see you, Natalie,” Jaci said opening the door.
“I don’t really feel seeing anyone right now,” I said.
“Well he’s waiting on the front porch,” Jaci said. “And he looks pretty sorry.”
I rolled out of my room and looked in the mirror in the hallway. I looked a mess, but there was no time to do anything to my eyes or hair.
I opened the front door and there stood a humble looking Darcy.
“Hiya,” Darcy said looking at the ground.
“Hey,” I said rolling out of the house and closing the door.
“I’ve been a jerk,” Darcy said.
“Well I was a little bit jerkish too,” I said.
“Look, I’m really sorry for walking out today,” Darcy said. “I was just really mad and angry. I’m trying really hard to not pull you and send you crashing, and you calling me a rat is not making it easier.”
“And I admit that I was a little hard on you,” Darcy said.
“And I was a little hard on you,” I said.
“And I know that your front porch is not the best place to practice, but you have to admit it’s pretty big,” Darcy said pulling his IPod out of his pocket.
The song that Ms. Etta had us dancing through filled the twilight air.
Darcy took my hand and spun me. I smiled and we started to Glide.
“You know I missed you a lot more than I ever thought I would,” Darcy whispered.
“Well, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon,” I smiled as Darcy spun me again.
“Special delivery for Natalie Matthews,” Our mailman Stanley interrupted.
“Special delivery?” I asked taking the large envelope.
“From London, England,” Stanley said.
It was probably from my grandparents.
Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into Wesley Harland School for Paraplegics & Quadriplegics on full scholarship!
Or maybe not.
After reading the first two sentences, I fainted for a second. This could not be happening.
“Natalie, are you all right?” Daddy asked when I came to. I handed him the envelope with shaking fingers.
“Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews. Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into Wesley Harland School for Paraplegics and Quadriplegics on full scholarship! Thank you for your application. Our executives loved it and your blog was riveting. We hope that you will be joining us as soon as this summer, but if not we would love for you to come in the fall,” Daddy read. He started to mumble a whole lot of other stuff.
Darcy looked at me and started to walk away.
“Darcy, wait!” I shouted rolling after me.
“What?” Darcy snapped.
“I promise you that I have never heard for Wesley Harland before today and that I never sent an application in,” I said.
“Yeah, right,” Darcy snapped. “You know what? What do I care? Do what you want. It’s your life after all. I thought you were different, but you’re just another girl.”
“Darcy, please!” I pleaded as Darcy walked down the driveway.
I sat there at the top of my driveway and watched Darcy disappear.
I rolled around and saw that Stanley had left and everybody else had gone inside.
I looked towards the sky and just screamed. What I would have done for some rain right about then….
The next day I did not want to go to church. I was tired, angry, and upset. And today was Meet & Greet today. There would be no way for me to avoid Darcy at brunch since the Youth Group had their own special brunch. I let the sun go down on my anger and I was really paying for it now.
“Phone,” Noel said handing it to me.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Natalie?” Grandma Baldwin asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said putting butter on my toast.
“Did you receive something very special in the mail yesterday?” Grandma Baldwin asked.
“You sent in an application for me?” I cried.
“Yes, love, we did!” Grandma Baldwin shouted excitedly. “I know its totally unreasonable for your family to just uproot their lives and move to England, but, love, you can. The school’s not that far from our house.”
“How could you send in an application without even asking me?” I cried.
“Well, love, we thought you’d love it,” Grandma Baldwin said with doubt creeping into her voice.
“Well I don’t love it!” I cried. “You’ve ruined my life!” I hung up the phone and slammed it own hard on the receiver.
“Natalie!” Momma shouted rushing into the kitchen. She picked up the phone and recalled Grandma Baldwin. My mother than began to apologize for me, but I wasn’t sorry. Not one little bit.
“You and Darcy’s breakup is all over school,” Virginia said as she and Emily helped me plant flowers in my backyard.
“He asked Anna Hardy to Spring Formal,” Emily said. “I mean we’d heard that you broke up, but we didn’t know you guys were officially finished!”
Virginia looked at Emily. Emily gave her a look and Virginia nodded.
I looked at them with watery eyes. Why were they telling me this? I had already spent to weekend crying. My mother even let me stay home from church!
“Don’t worry, Natalie,” Virginia said, “I have the perfect Spring Formal date for you. His name is Luke and he goes to Drury High School. He’s in the ninth grade. He’s on the same hockey team as Darcy also. He wants to take a date to Spring Formal, but he can’t dance. You two would be perfect together…”
“Are you serious?” I asked interrupting Virginia.
“Yeah, I’m serious. I think you and Luke would have an awesome time together,” Virginia said.
“Darcy broke up with me on Saturday! It’s Monday! At least give me a week to grieve before you start pairing me up with some guy I don’t even know!” I yelled.
“Sorry,” Virginia said. “I just thought since Darcy’s already moved on that you’d be over him too.”
“It’s just…Darcy’s the first guy I’ve ever…loved,” I admitted.
“Whoah! I didn’t realize you two were THAT serious!” Virginia shouted. She gave me a hug. “You poor baby.”
“Well that fact that Darcy went and asked Anna Hardy just two days after our breakup proves my suspicion,” I said.
“What suspicion?” Emily asked.
“That Darcy didn’t really like me. But who could blame him? Who wants to date a paraplegic?” I asked. “And we weren’t actually dating. He never asked me to be his girlfriend.”
“I’ll never forget that cold October day,” Emily blurted. “We were walking home from school. The boys were blabbing about hockey, and we girls were talking about Homecoming. We knew something was wrong when we saw a bunch of cars parked around the B&B. We went through the restaurant door and the first thing I saw was Mr. Rivers holding a weeping Jessie-Maria. Mrs. Rivers, my grandma, and Ms. Donna were drying their eyes, and Pastor was there. I blurted out, ‘Oh my goodness someone’s dead!’ and Darcy said, ‘What happened to Natalie?’ Mrs. Rivers told us that early that morning you’d sleepwalked out into the street and that a car hit you. For a couple of seconds I thought that you were dead, but then Mrs. Rivers told us that you broke your lower back and that we needed to pray because you were still in surgery. Darcy ran out of the restaurant and I followed him. I kept calling out to him but he kept running. I almost went back but I remembered how Darcy had always been their for me. He was the only one who was ever nice to me except Nelson. He didn’t quite get why not being invited to a sleepover was important, but he listened. Anyway Darcy finally stopped running. When he turned around, I say that his eyes were red and his face was wet. I couldn’t believe that Darcy Chadwick Edwards was actually crying! The only time I’d ever seen him some close to crying was when Bennet enlisted in the army. I said to him, ‘Natalie will be all right. You know her. Nothing stops her.’ He started to blubber about how your accident was all his fault and how he had seen you sleepwalking before but he never said anything because he’d never seen you do anything dangerous. I told him that it wasn’t his fault. He said, ‘Emily, people get paralyzed from breaking their backs.’ I didn’t know what to say to him. He told me that he never got to tell you how much he really liked you. And I told him that you probably knew how much he really did like you. We walked back to the B&B in silence. Natalie, Darcy really likes you, and he thinks that you’re leaving again.”
“You aren’t going to accept are you?” Virginia asked.
“Well…,” I started.
“You can’t seriously be thinking about leaving! We just got you back!” Virginia shouted.
“Look, I don’t want to go but putting an ocean between Darcy and I right now is probably what’s in my best interest,” I said. “I stayed home from church and didn’t go to the restaurant last night, which was when Ms. Donna was unveiling her new pizza, just to avoid having to see Darcy!”
“Well then we’re going to have to put you back together,” Virginia and Emily said at the same time.
I gave them a smile.
“I’m serious,” Virginia said. “You just leave it all to me. I’ll have Darcy begging on his knees for you.”
I knew I should have said no to Virginia’s offer, but a person is very vulnerable after a breakup.
“I don’t want to go!” I whined. “Why can’t the Babies Shower be here?”
“Because that’s where the baby’s showers are held. Natalie, I don’t make the rules!” Momma cried as she got into the car. “You know you can’t avoid Darcy forever.”
“It was a week ago,” Megan said as she buckled herself in. “Get over it.”
“Now, Megan that wasn’t very nice,” Momma said.
“But she’s right,” Abby said. “Darcy’s over Natalie. He’s taking Anna Hardy to Spring Formal last week.”
Abby started to smirk.
Momma looked at Abby like “Did you really have to bring that up?”
“Well, he was the one that broke up Natalie,” Jaci said. She then put her hand over her mouth in shock.
“I don’t blame him,” Abby said. “You can’t really have any kind of future with someone who thinks Santa, Santalle, and Rudolf are good names.”
“Ouch,” Megan said.
“Sorry,” Jaci mouthed to me.
I nodded and tried not to cry. By the time we got to the B&B tears were slowly dripping out of my eyes.
“Do you have the board?” Regina asked when we walked through the door.
“Yup,” Momma said. “Steve and I were up all last night fighting over the names but we finally agreed.”
Baby A Baby B Baby C
Merry Gabriel Christian
Natasha Natalio Natal
Love Emmanuel Avery
Eve Nicholas Joseph
“Steve went with Natal?” Mrs. Rivers asked.
“Not exactly,” Momma said putting the board up.
“Natasha is cute. Love is adorable. Eve is not very Christmas like,” Aunt Jane said.
Noel looked at Aunt Jane but she didn’t say anything.
Everyone turned around to find the Baby Shower Rocker on the floor and Darcy looked rather ashamed.
“Sorry,” He said. Darcy put the rocking chair in the family room and hastily walked out.
“I just wish someone would have backed me up for Mistletoe,” Momma said trying to cease the awkward silence.
“You could name a dog Mistletoe,” Megan said sweetly.
I laughed. The Matthews family was having quite the pet dilemma. Yule, Megan, and Bella wanted a dog while Noel, Jaci, and I thought that a cat would be better. For the time being Momma and Daddy let us all either get a fish or a hamster. Megan got two goldfish and named them Twinkle and Jingle. Bella got a hamster and named him Picasso. Yule got a Spotted African Leaf Fish and named him Ukulele (don’t ask me why he named him that.). Noel and I got a goldfish and named him Swish but he died after a week.
“Or you could name a cat Mistletoe,” I suggested. Momma laughed.
“Why don’t you just get both?” Mrs. Rivers spoke up.
“Joan!” Momma laughed.
“What? I had a dog and a cat growing up. And I still believe Mr. Meow died of a broke heart,” Mrs. Rivers said. “He died only a week after Mrs. Sugar Bear.”
“Mrs. Sugar Bear?” I giggled.
“Mr. Meow?” Jessie-Maria howled.
“What? I was five and my younger brother Ted was three,” Mrs. Rivers said. “And Marisa hadn’t been born yet.”
“Can we pwlese get a doggie and a cat?” Megan asked hugging Momma’s legs.
“I’ll talk to your father,” Momma said giving up. Megan clapped her hands.
“Natalie, can you please get the baby shower cookies?” Ms. Donna asked sneakily.
“Sure,” I said pretty sure where this was going.
Sure enough Darcy was in the kitchen stirring lemonade.
“Hiya,” I said grabbing the plate with the cookies.
“Ms. Etta stopped by,” Darcy said. “She was wondering if we wanted to still do lessons.”
“And what did you say?” I asked as I stuffed a cookie into my mouth.
“I told her about your scholarship,” Darcy said.
“And then what?” I asked as I rolled towards the kitchen door.
“She told me, ‘Darcy Chadwick Edwards, you are the worst boyfriend in all of Berkshire County,'” Darcy said.
I didn’t turn around to look at him because I was grinning.
“And then I told her that you’d been purposely avoiding me for an entire week, and I that I hadn’t even tried to talk to you. And she said, ‘You’re the worst boyfriend in all of Massachusetts!'” Darcy said.
I let a laugh escape. Darcy turned my chair around.
“And all week Virginia’s been trying to get me to go to your house,” Darcy said. “And yesterday Virginia yelled to me at lunch. She said, ‘Do you know what you’re doing to Natalie? What you’re doing to Natalie is ripping her heart out and eating it! And you know what else? She’s defiantly going off to some school on England because she needs to put an ocean between you, the heart eater!'”
“Did you put her up to that?” Darcy asked.
“No,” I said, “but I didn’t stop her. She told me since none of her other matchmaking things were working that she was going to try something different. If I had known she was going to yell at you…I wouldn’t have stopped her.”
Darcy laughed and shook his head.
“So are you really going to off to school?” Darcy asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I only said that because I was still pretty upset about the breakup. It was that Monday and Virginia was already trying to pair me with some Luke guy. Oh and my grandparents were the one’s that sent in an application for that school.”
“Did you call me a heart eater?” Darcy asked.
“Not that I recall,” I said. “But I called you a bunch of things…especially after I found out you asked some other girl to Spring Formal…two days after we broke up.”
“What?” Darcy asked. “What girl?”
“Emily told me that you asked Anna Hardy to Spring Formal,” I said.
Darcy started to giggle.
“I don’t find it very funny,” I said crossing my arms.
“Natalie, Anna Hardy is three,” Darcy said. “I never asked her to go to Spring Formal. I wasn’t even planning on going to Spring Formal.”
“Virginia, Abby, and Emily are in so much trouble!” I shouted. Darcy laughed.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Darcy said. “I thought taking wheelchair dancing lessons would make you happy. It was easy to tell that you really wanted to learn how to dance.”
“You are forgiven,” I said.
“I have a feeling I’m going to be saying sorry a lot in this relationship,” Darcy laughed.
“What are you saying?” I asked.
“Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews, would you be my girlfriend?” Darcy asked.
“I do-I mean yes,” I said.
“Whoah! I’m not asking you to marry me,” Darcy joked.
“Natalie!” Jaci shouted sticking her head into the kitchen. “Abby’s gone into labor!”
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
After about three weeks after I started to stay in my room and a week before Aunt Jane’s wedding, Noel had had enough of my mourning.
She marched into our bedroom and looked me straight in the eye.
That’s when I knew Noel meant business.
She looked at me for a second. I could tell that she struggling to say something to me. She then said the most words I believe I’d ever heard her say up until that time.
“Nobody say you find heaven in accident away. You may no know till deathbed. But you loved. You family. You purpose,” Noel said.
I was shocked. I had no idea how Noel knew about me finding heaven everywhere. I didn’t think that Noel understood that I felt like I had no purpose. But somehow she understood and what she said changed my life.
It started to ran just then. To some people that wouldn’t seem like something to be happy about, but to Noel it was the best miracle ever.
“Come!” Noel shouted. She pointed to my wheelchair. I transferred from the bed to the wheelchair.
Noel pushed me out the door and down the hall.
“Slow down!” Yule shouted as Noel zipped past him.
Noel burst the front door open and pushed me out into the rain.
“Feel!” Noel shouted running around in the rain. She was laughing and dancing. It was amazing how happy she was about such a simple thing as rain.
“Pray!” Noel screamed.
I screamed. It wasn’t really a prayer, but I screamed. I screamed with everything inside of me. I let all my anger go out of me with one big, long scream.
“Are you girls crazy?” Yule asked running out of the house. “You’re going to get yourselves sick!”
I held out my hand and let the rain dribble into it. One of life’s greatest pleasures is to just sit and let the rain fall into your hand. To just sit and forget about all your worries and just think about how awesome the rain feels.
“Kids, what are you doing?”
I turned my head around to confirm my suspicion. Daddy stood there was an umbrella in his left hand and two under his left arm.
“I love you,” I said rolling up to him and hugging his abdomen.
“I love you too, honey bear,” Daddy smiled patting my head.
“Rain!” Noel shouted. She took an umbrella from under Daddy’s arm causing the second one to fall. Yule picked up the other one and handed it to me.
“Yule! Noel! Natalie! And Steve! Please be the parent!” Momma cried in disgust from the doorway. “You’re gonna get sick!”
Noel ran to Momma pulled her hand out in the rain. Momma smiled at her and Noel gave Momma’s belly a hug.
I rolled slowly back towards the house. I didn’t want to get out of the refreshing rain, but Yule was holding the door open waiting for me.
I’ll never forget the day I discovered rain’s mental medicinal purposes.
I did get a slight cold from playing in the rain, but I was right as rain by Aunt Jane’s wedding.
But at the reception, I had yet another blow.
I watched everybody (except my parents) dance on the floor. It was hard not to think about how almost a year ago I had been on that exact dance floor swaying in Darcy’s arms.
“You all right?” Darcy asked looking up from his third piece of cake.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked.
“You look really mad about something,” Darcy said stuffing cake in his mouth.
“It’s just hard to watch all these people dance,” I shrugged. “It’s like thirty people eating peanut butter sandwiches in your face.”
Darcy laughed at my allergy joke. He picked me up out of my wheelchair.
“Put me down!” I giggled as Darcy carried me to the dance floor.
“You’ve gotten heavier,” Darcy said.
“Its never polite to talk about a woman’s weight,” I joked. Darcy blushed.
“You know there’s a wheelchair dance instructor in North Adams,” Darcy said. “Her name is Ms. Etta. She used to teach youth group at church before Ms. Erin took over. She was hit by a car when she was in college, but she never stopped dancing. She and her husband were really good. They won the Pittsfield Dancing Globe five years ago before her husband, Bill, died.”
“How do you know all of this?” I asked as I slowly slipped out of Darcy’s arms.
“Ms. Etta’s my grandmother,” Darcy sheepishly. I dropped to the ground and Darcy picked me up.
“You call your grandmother Ms. Etta?” I asked. Darcy shrugged.
“I’m sure she would teach you how to dance,” Darcy said. “She’s dying to meet you but she’s been in and out of the hospital lately. Nothing major really. She just keeps getting sick. Flus and that kind of stuff.”
“I don’t know,” I started, “who’s going to drive us? Your mother is busy. My mother gave up driving weeks ago. My dad can’t drive with his arm in his sling…”
“I’ll drive,” Jaci butted in. “Problem solved.”
“I don’t know…,” I started.
“How hard can it be?” Darcy asked.
Famous last words.
“You must be Natalie,” Ms. Etta said rolling up to Darcy and I. I nodded.
“You look even prettier in real life,” Ms. Etta said. “Did Darcy tell you I’m his grandmother?”
“Yes, Mrs. Chadwick,” I said. Ms. Etta waved her hand.
“Nobody calls me Mrs. Chadwick,” Ms. Etta said. “I’ve never liked the sound of married name nor did I like to sound of my maiden name so everybody has always called me, Ms. Etta, even my own children! People have been referring to me as Ms. Etta ever since I was seven years old. Nobodies hardly ever called me Mrs.”
“Now, I have to know what kind of paraplegic you are, Natalie,” Ms. Etta said. “That way I know what moves you can do and can’t do.”
“I’m a considered a complete L1 paraplegic, but I have a slight break in T12. I have feeling in my waist and a little bit of movement in it too,” I said.
“Ok,” Ms. Etta said. “You have a good range of mobility. You’re entire upper body is free and moving. I’m an incomplete T12 paraplegic. I used to be able to take tiny steps but in my old age I don’t even try anymore. I’ve gained a lot of sensory feeling though and I’m thankfully for that.”
There was a little bit of awkward silence. Sometimes its hard for an incomplete paraplegic and a complete paraplegic to talk about their injuries. For the incomplete there’s great hope for them to walk again. For complete there’s almost absolutely no hope. but strangely my family hasn’t given up hope that I will one day walk again. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to always have hope.
“So your sister’s wedding is the first Saturday in June?” Ms. Etta asked after a couple of awkward seconds. I nodded.
“Let’s see, it’s the third week in March so that gives us about thirteen weeks,” Ms. Etta said. “Its cutting it real close, but I think we’ll have you dancing by then.”
“So before you love struck teens start, I would like to warn you,” Ms. Etta said. “I have been teaching dance for about thirty years now and have been competing for almost fifty years and most of those fifty years I’ve spent in a wheelchair. And in my lifetime, I have seen hundreds of couples break up because of dance! I’ve taught over five hundred engaged couples and have broken up over one hundred of them. Dancing is about getting to know your partner in ways you’ve never thought possible. In freestyle dancing, which is what I teach the most, it’s all about talking to your partner without talking. I know that may seem impossible but if you stick with this, you’ll soon get to know your partners body language in ways you probably wouldn’t have considered! But just about everyone of my students, including the ones I have broken up, have seen me some time or another and have thanked me. Whether it was because I saved them from a horrible marriage or because they feel like their marriage works better because they know each other so well. Now that I have warned the two of you are you ready to start wheelchair dancing?”
Nope, and I didn’t think I’d ever be, but Darcy and I said yes not knowing how much these lessons would change us.
Every single thing Ms. Etta said came true.
After the first lesson, there was a whole lot of tension between us. By the third lesson, we official hated each other. By the fifth lesson, I was wondering how in the world we had made it this far.
Ms. Etta clearly sensed the new found hatred Darcy and I had for each other. She was pretty tense during the lessons too. She kept calling us love struck teens though, but we felt more hate struck if you ask me.
Our real problem was trying to learn one of the easiest moves Ms. Etta was trying to teach us. She called it the Back Step. It was really simple. Darcy would walk backwards while I rolled towards him. We got that part down on the first lesson, but the Double Back Step…now that was a challenge. Darcy would walk back and I would rolled towards him, but then he was supposed to walk towards me and I was supposed to roll backwards. Now that was hard. I never knew when Darcy was going to start walking forward and just about every time I ran over his foot.
Now I know you’re probably like “That’s all? You hate each other because you keep rolling over his foot?” No, that was not all. Darcy had his dancing faults too.
We were trying to do the Glide and Spin. That was were Darcy would take one of my hands and glide me across the room and then spin me. Well the gliding was easy, but the spinning was not. Either he spun me way too fast or he let go of me too soon and I crashed into the wall. “You’re a rat!” soon became one of my favorite new phrases. You should see the look on his face when I call him a rat!
The Shimmy was pretty hard too. That was were Darcy would take both of my hands and pull me with enough force to zigzag me and the wheelchair across the room, but Darcy was pulling me with so much force that I was pulled out of my wheelchair, even though I had a protective strap on me that was supposed to keep me from falling. Obviously it wasn’t working.
I was tired, frustrated, and really angry from being pulled out of my wheelchair for the fifth time in less than a week. And when I was pulled out of my wheelchair for the sixth time, I had had enough.
“Ok, my little love struck teenagers,” Ms. Etta started, “let’s just take a break…”
“No! I can’t do this anymore!” I cried.
“Sure, you can, Natalie, I’ll tell you what let’s be finished for the day and we can finish our lesson on Monday,” Ms. Etta suggested.
“Natalie’s right, I don’t even know why I agreed to do this stupid thing,” Darcy mumbled.
“Now, Darcy,” Ms. Etta started.
“Excuse me! But I remember your the one that suggested this stupid thing!” I shouted.
“Well, sorry if I was just trying to help you,” Darcy said.
“Trying to help me? I have a bruise on my leg from it being hit so hard on the hardwood floor!” I shouted. “Wheelchair dancing isn’t the problem. You’re the problem!”
“I’m the problem?” Darcy yelled. “No, you’re the problem! You can’t control your wheelchair!”
“How am I supposed to control my wheelchair if I don’t know what you’re supposed to do?” I screamed.
“Love struck…,” Ms. Etta started.
“Well how am I supposed to know how hard to pull you?” Darcy shouted.
“Well you’re not supposed to pull me with all your might!” I screamed.
“I quit!” Darcy shouted storming out of the room.
“What just happened?” I asked after about a minute.
“Sweetie pie, I think he just broke up with you,” Ms. Etta said gravely.
Well that sent me into a fit of tears.
1 Peter 2:3
if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
And when I say everything went black, I don’t just mean I passed out.
When I woke up, it felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I was extremely tired. I was just…worn.
Dr. Walters came in and told me what had happened. As I already knew, Daddy had been shot in the shoulder. It had missed vital organs, and he was going to be fine. He was going to have to wear a sling for a little bit but the good news was that he was fine.
My situation was a totally different story.
I had been shot in the foot two times. I lost a lot of blood, and they had to take the bullets out. There was a possibility that my foot was already infected though, and just because I was paralyzed didn’t mean that an infect in the disconnected area wouldn’t cause problems.
I hadn’t felt a thing and that was the worst blow yet.
When Yule told me that I was paralyzed, my instant reaction was denial. I knew it in my heart, but my mind just didn’t want to believe it. I thought I had accepted it. I thought I was fine with it. I knew in my heart that I was paraplegic. My heart constantly whispered that I probably wouldn’t walk again. But my mind…every time I would think about not walking again my mind would scream no and that I would walk again and that this paralysis was temporary. I was still in the denial stage. I had excepted it for the moment, and the thought of this being a forever thing rocked my world.
I lost all hope after being shot that I would ever walk again. My strength left me and I started to truly go insane.
What would I do when I grew up? Would I be forever living with my parents? Does Darcy truly still like me or is he just pretending so he won’t hurt my feelings? Would I ever go to college? Would I even finish high school?
My life was all of a sudden worthless. I felt like I had no purpose. Life just didn’t feel worth living anymore. I was a burden to my parents. I was a tag along to my friends. I was the poor girl who would never have a full life to the town.
Even when they told me I didn’t have an infection I was still living in a daze.
When I came home, everybody was all sweet and nice to me. My friends came by and talked to me. But they looked at me differently. I mean I knew they thought of me differently ever since the accident, but now they looked at me differently. There looks said, “Poor Natalie.”
They even treated me differently. I had been hoping to go sledding, but when Darcy said that I might want to take it easy for a while, I knew that was just a nice way of saying that they didn’t want me along.
The last thing I ever wanted to happen to me was to be treated differently. I knew that things would never be the same and that I was different, but when people start to treat me like I’m some helpless thing that can’t do a single thing…I just can’t stand that.
My solution to not being treated differently was to just stay in my room. I decided that I was never coming out of my room for the rest of my days. If I just stayed in my room, only a couple of people would bother me and life would just be better some way.
My ‘solution’ didn’t seem to bother my mom. She just shrugged it off and told everybody that it was just a faze. “Common with shooting victims and happens all the time with new paraplegics,” were her exact words. Translation: “One less kid to worry about.”
Daddy was worried about me. He constantly came and checked in on me. The thing was I didn’t really want to talk to him. I blamed myself for him being shot. I told myself that if I could have only run away from Ryan none of this would have ever happened.
But my solution only truly worked for about the first week. Only Momma, Daddy, and Yule bothered me. I would say Noel bothered me, but it was also her room after all and Noel doesn’t usually start conversations and has the hardest time keeping them. She mostly read and played with Natalia.
But then all these people came and visited me. Grandma Shirley came by once a day and would talk about some random thing. Abby always just popped her head in when she was there. Jaci started to do her hand sewing in my room and would often ask me how the dress she was working on looked. Darcy sometimes stopped by after school and would ask me all sorts of meaningless questions. Virginia would come by after dinner and start telling me about all that was going on at school and in town. Aunt Jane sometimes came into the room with her and start pouring out her wedding troubles to me (her wedding was the second Saturday in March). Regina and Emily would come by, and we would have awkward conversations. I got calls from Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin a couple times too.
Well at least they didn’t treat me different, but they still looked at me differently…or so I thought so at the time.
When I wasn’t being bothered, I mostly read my father’s journals. I would just pick up any ole journal and start reading. Somehow I managed to pick out the important stuff.
Today I was told some of the greatest news in my entire life. Right now I doubt I’ll ever stop smiling, but I bet I will…just not tonight.
As I have mentioned before, Riley’s been acting kinda strange. She seems afraid of cars, she always rushes me out of the house in morning (and looking a little sick while doing it), she’s been more tired than usual lately, she got all upset when I forgot to bring her her milkshake the other night, and she’s constantly getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Well tonight Riley cooked me baby back ribs, baby spinach, baby carrots, baby corn, baby peas, and milk was my drink. She seemed disappointed when I didn’t address her baby theme at dinner. I was about to sit down to right in my journal when Riley walked up to me.
She asked me how I liked my dinner and I told her that it was delicious as usual. She asked me if there was anything unusual about the dinner and I told her that she served a lot more vegetables than usual. She just laughed and asked me if there was anything else unusual. It took me a moment before I finally got to connection.
We’re going to have a baby.
Riley and I haven’t ever really thought about having kids, but now that we have a bun in the oven…I just…I can’t find the words.
Riley’s due in December, which is just perfect. She’s due around Christmastime and very close to our wedding date.
And to think I was going out of my mind wondering where she was just a year ago.
Then the next day I read this one.
Yesterday was one of the scariest and it was one of the best days of my life.
Riley went into labor four weeks early. She was way calmer than me about it! She actually talked me through an anxiety attack during the drive to the hospital.
It was kinda strange. Riley knew just what to do when we got to the hospital. The nurses in the room said that she was pro at the labor thing and were surprised that she’s never done this before, and I could tell that one of the nurses flat out did not believe that this was Riley’s first delivery.
I’ve seen the stretch marks on Riley’s stomach. I noticed them the day I noticed them the day I knocked her over. I just assumed she had been over weight at some time or another, but it never crossed my mind that she had had a baby.
I’ve noticed that August 1st has always been a hard day for Riley. I assumed it was the day she ran away or something but now thinking about what the nurses have said and all this other stuff. I wonder if that’s the day…
Anyway, our baby is a little girl. She’s relatively healthy, but she is premature and will be in the NICU for at least a couple of days. I can’t wait to take her to England for Christmas.
She is beautiful. We’ve decided to name her Natalie. She wasn’t actually born on Christmas day, but she was born a month before that day.
I have all these worries. But if I’m not a good father? What if…! Ugh! For now all I’m going to think about is how much I love her and how I long to hold her. They say hopefully we can today…
Included was a picture of me in the incubator.
Looking at the picture was strange for me. It was really hard to believe that I had once been so small!
Then later that day, I picked up another journal and got another important entry.
The clock just wrung midnight, and there is absolutely no way I’m going to sleep tonight.
Riley just gave me the shock of my life. We were putting Natalie’s Christmas presents under the tree when I noticed how sad Riley looked. I asked what was wrong and she broke down crying. I will never forget these words,
“Today, at exactly 10:50 P.M. six years ago, I went into labor.”
At first I was confused and then I remembered. Six years ago Riley wasn’t with me. Six years ago Riley was missing.
She started to tell me about her childhood. She grew up in same place up North. The city was Pittsfield I think. She was born to Shirley and Jack Walters (this I knew already). She was a twin (I also knew that). She was the oldest of the two, and she also had two older brothers (something else I also knew). In high school, she fell in love with a man named Steve Matthews only to have her heartbroken when he married some girl the summer they got out of high school. Riley decided to pursue a career as a lawyer and when she was twenty she got a internship at a place called Stewart & Stewart.
The top man, Mr. Fowler Stewart, took a liking to her. The problem was he was already married and was a good number of years older than her. Riley told me that there was nothing he could ever do to make her ‘fall’ in love with him. He offered her money (I’ve forgotten the sum of money he offered but it was rather large). She refused, and he started to harass. Riley still didn’t give in, but when he threatened her family she fled to Boston.
He found her on a cold October day. She had been living on the streets of Boston for about two months then. He promised to take her home. He promised not to bother her every again.
But what he did was the exact opposite. He took her to one of his houses. He kept her locked up. He hurt her.
Riley had a baby boy. She told me she thought she’d hate him, but the second she held him…she was in love with him.
She named him Yule. She told me that the original plan was to put her on a bus to somewhere and force her to keep the baby as some kind of burden. But when this sick man saw that she really wanted the baby, he took Yule away and put her on a bus to Florida.
That’s when she met me.
Then six years ago, she saw Mr. Stewart again. He was that man in the grocery store that Riley was so afraid of. He kidnapped her again, took her to one of his houses in Tampa, and she had another baby. A daughter. Noel. And on Christmas Day too. She got to stay with Noel until around New Years and the day before her planned escape, Fowler took Noel away and cast her out onto the streets of Tampa.
That’s when the police found her.
I was pretty angry at Riley. I asked why she never told me about this. Riley told me that Mr. Stewart threatened to kill anybody she told. She threatened to kill her children if she ever went looking for them.
I had to stop myself from telling her that it was stupid to think he’d ever find out. She looked me in the eye and told me that I had no idea how powerful Mr. Stewart was. I looked her in the eye and told her that Mr. Stewart would never be more powerful than God.
That’s when she broke down crying.
I don’t know what to do about this. I want to find Yule and Noel. In my heart, they’re my children. I want them to live with us. I want Natalie to them. I want Riley to be happy. I want so many things, but so many risk are involved. Am I really willing to put my life on the line for these children?
I cried at that one. My daddy wanted me to know Yule and Noel, and seven years later on what I thought would be one of the worst days of my life, I finally met Yule.
I kept reading that journal. It was full of entries with conflicted thought. One day my dad was sure he was ready to find Yule and Noel and see Jesus if that was what was meant to happen. And the next day all he would wish was that Momma never told him about Yule and Noel.
He talked a lot about Momma and me. He was scared that he wouldn’t be there for me. He was afraid that he was going to die and that I wouldn’t even remember him. He died, but he is very fresh in my memory.
The last entry was the day before he died. It was…well just read.
I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to find Yule and Noel.
I made a baby step yesterday. I went around asking at the government offices about a birth certificate for a Noel Stewart.
For the past several weeks, Riley has been begging me not to do this. She’s afraid I’m going to die, but I am no longer afraid.
If I’m meant to see Jesus at this time. Let it be. If I’m meant to become the father of these kids. Let it be. If I’m never meant to find them…Let it be.
I have to remind myself that this world is not my home. I have to remind myself that if I die the Lord will work something out. Riley’s a strong women and Natalie takes just after her. It sounds weird, but I’m no longer worried about what’s going to happen to them if I do die. I’ve given Riley ‘permission’ to remarry if I die. She says that Steve guy wife’s ran away not long before she did. Who knows….
It is my prayer that no matter what happens that Riley will at least get to see Yule and Noel before she dies. She has so much hurt about this. She blames herself. She told herself that if only she could have sneaked away with. A lot of if’s are going through our minds right now.
I’ve been telling Natalie I love her a lot these days. Another one of my prayers is that Natalie won’t forget me. That she will have some memory of me. That she will never forget how much her daddy loved her.
I’m ready to die. I’ve just gotta let go and let God. I love life, but I can’t hold tightly to these life. Life here on earth is temporary, but life with God is forever.
These kids are worth it. They are so worth it. Riley showed me two pictures the other day. One was of her holding Yule and the other was of her holding Noel. I don’t know what they look like today, but they sure were some of the cutest babies I’ve ever seen.
Yule is eight now. He’ll be nine on August 1st. Noel is six. She’ll be seven next Christmas.
Last night I had a dream. It was snowing in my room. I saw through the window of a big house Natalie, Noel, Yule, and Riley. They were sitting around a tree watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
Yule had his hair slicked back. He had brown hair and Riley’s eyes. Noel had beautiful red hair and grey eyes. She wasn’t paying attention to the TV rather she was looking at a baby in her arms.
Natalie. Natalie looked the same. She was all grown up looking like a teenager. She wasn’t looking at the TV per se but rather at some person I couldn’t see. If you ask me she looked rather in love with the other person. I couldn’t help but smile. But then all of a sudden, she was sitting in some strange chair. It took me a minute to figure out what the strange chair she was sitting in was. It was a wheelchair.
That wasn’t the only thing that scared me. I wasn’t in the room. I was looking at them through a window. Did that mean I wasn’t going to be alive during that Christmas? I felt like it meant I was going to die soon, but I wasn’t scared. Riley was going to know her children and I was upset that I might not be there with her and get to know them, but all I want is for Riley to be happy and she looked very happy in the dream.
Its almost February 7th now. Only one more week until Valentine’s Day. I’m actually sitting in Natalie’s room right now. I was telling her a bedtime story and she fell asleep right in the middle of it. That silly girl. I had brought my journal in, mistaking it for an old library book. I’m using one of Natalie’s pens. Its red. All the other colors of her pens were purple and pink. I tried to use her only green one but it was out of ink.
Well I’m at the end of my last page. I don’t have anytime to get a new journal tomorrow so I’ll get one on the eighth. I get off of work early so I’m going up to Tampa to see if I can discover anything about Noel’s birth. I hope to take a trip to Pittsfield soon. Riley showed me some pictures of this place called the Mohawk Trail. The pictures were taken by some town called Florida. I think we’ll have to visit that town when we go.
And that was it. That was his last journal entry. He wrote his last journal entry in my bedroom. He died before he could ever buy another journal.
I cried as I thought about last Christmas. We had been watching It’s a Wonderful Life and sitting around the tree. I had been sitting in a wheelchair. I had been smiling at Darcy when he walked into the room with some popcorn. And my father…he wasn’t there. Instead, Daddy was walking into the room with something to drink.
I cried for a long time. I cried rather loudly too. So loud that Momma came into my room.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Momma asked lying down next to me on Noel’s side of the bed.
“I just read dad’s last journal entry,” I cried. Momma sighed.
“He knew in his heart that he wasn’t going to be there that Christmas. He told me about the dream that day. I begged him not to go to Tampa, but your father was determined to go to Tampa. He was determined to find Yule and Noel,” Momma said on the verge of tears.
She started crying. I kept on crying, but I soon stopped crying.
Daddy felt like him dying so that Momma could be with Yule and Noel was worth it. My father did not die in vain. He died trying to find his children.
I was of course still sad that my dad was dead. There was still a little part of my heart that would always belong to him. I would never forget him and I would never wish to. I had always felt like his death had been in vain. I was always sad that my father died in such a stupid way as a car crash but now I know he was basically murdered. He died so that Yule and Noel might now there Mother. That Momma would no longer have those empty places in her heart.
And to me, that is one of the best reasons to die.
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,