Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 5- Joy to the World! Installment Five

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.

May 20th

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.

November 26

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.

December 24 25

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.

February 6th

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.

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