Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 6- Christmas Hope Installment Three

The ride to the hospital was long and tantalizing. The paramedics made the tough decision to transport me all the way to Pittsfield rather than the local North Adam’s hospital. On the one hour ride, they treated my burns the best they could without risking infection. Even in the noisy ambulance, I could hear other ambulance sirens. I kept repeating all I could remember of Psalms 22, hoping to find that indescribable peace again. But with the paramedics staring down it me, it didn’t quite have the same affect.

We finally reached Pittsfield along with all the other ambulances. The emergency room was packed with familiar faces. Most of them had been in the cafeteria with Darcy and I.

Darcy.

I saw him out of the corner of my eye. The paramedics and hospital nurses were rushing him down a long white hallway. His left leg was burnt black.

I took a deep, large, sharp breath. The nurses took notice of me and started to rush to help me.

I don’t know what the nurses did to me. I don’t remember going into surgery even though that’s what I’ve been told. I just remember feeling so helpless.

And like my heart was empty.

**

“Nat.”

“Darcy!” I shouted. I looked around the dark room I was in, but I couldn’t make out anything.

“Nat,” Darcy’s voice called again.

“Darcy?” I asked this time. I began the walk around the room.

“Ouch!” I shouted as I stubbed my feet on what appeared to be stairs.

That’s odd I thought as I stared at my feet. While my eyes where positioned there, I wiggled my toes.

That’s really odd I thought. Slowly, I began to question the reality of all of this. I stared up at the stairwell and started climbing. As I started to climb, my knees gave out and I landed at the bottom of the stairwell flat on my back. I tried to stand but my legs failed. I tried to get up until I could feel the lower part of my body no more.

I reached for a step with my hands, and step by step lifted my body up. By the time I reached the top, I was sweating and out of breath.

“Natalie!” Darcy shouted.

I looked up. Darcy was white as snow and bright as sunshine. We were on a weird type of cloud. Darcy and I were on separate ends of this cloud. I tried to stand, but I stayed sprawled out on the hard and fluffy cloud.

“Darcy!” I cried with joy. I slowly crawled across the cloud, eager to reach Darcy. When I was within inches of his feet, a golden gate slammed shut in my face.

Darcy’s glow became brighter and I suddenly felt the cloud beneath me give way. My back slammed against concrete and darkness surrounded me.

I cried tears of blood.

**

I woke up with a shout. Momma and Daddy jumped in their chairs.

“You’re awake,” Daddy said slowly.

“Where’s Darcy?” I blurted.

“Honey bear, just lie back down,” Daddy said.

“I must know if Darcy’s all right,” I persisted.

Momma and Daddy passed a look between each other.

“Natalie,” Momma started, “Darcy didn’t make it.”

“What do you mean ‘didn’t make it’?” I asked.

“Honey bear, The doctors tried everything they could,” Daddy said. “But they couldn’t save him.”

“You mean Darcy’s…dead?” I asked, praying it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true.

Momma nodded and broke into tears.

No!” I screamed. “That can’t be true! Just…NO!”

“Natalie, dear, wake up,” An unfamiliar voice said. I blinked and all of a sudden a nurse was at my bedside. I attempted to get up, but my legs weren’t working.

“I can’t feel my legs,” I blurted.

“Amnesia?” My mother’s voice asked.

“Natalie, dear, you were paralyzed a year ago in an accident,” The nurse said. “Do you remember that?”

“Yes,” I said as the memory of Mr. Stewart hitting me with his truck flooded into my mind.

“It probably was just the shock of waking up from such a deep sleep,” The nurse said to my parents. “Call me if she has any more troubles. I’ll be back soon to administer some pain medication.”

I wanted to cry out that I needed that medicine now, but the nurse had hurried out of the room.

“Natalie,” Momma said walking to my bedside and grabbing my hand, “do you know who I am?”

It seemed like a stupid question, but I answered it anyway.

“You’re my mom.”

“And do you know who I am?” Daddy asked taking my other hand.

“You’re my dad.”

“That’s right,” Momma said giving me a sad smile. “How many siblings to you have?”

I counted them in my head: Jaci, Abby, Yule, Noel, Megan, Bella, Love, Avery, and Emmanuel.

“Nine,” I croaked. My voice was suddenly gone.

“Ten children. I feel old,” Daddy said trying to funny. Momma grinned.

Sobs suddenly overtook my body. A voice in the back of my head whispered, “Darcy’s dead.”

“Sweetheart,” Momma cried. She lowered the rail and got into the bed with me. She held me until I stopped crying.

“Darcy’s gone,” I said almost in a forced cry. No, that was all a dream.

“So you could hear us talking?” Momma said with more curiosity than sadness in her voice.

“So he really is…gone,” I forced.

“Yes,” Momma said. “But you’ll see him again…one day soon.”

“Soon?” I asked. I looked at myself. Was I dying?

“You’ll probably see him in a couple of days. It’s Matt you should be worried about.”

I was extremely confused but I still blurted out, “Matt’s dead too?!”

Dead?” Momma asked. A weird kind of laughing relief washed over her. “Darcy and Matt are not dead. They were flown to Boston for emergency treatment.”

“What’s…wrong with them?” I asked.

“I don’t know what happened to Matt. Only that he was in critical condition. One of Darcy’s leg needs to be amputated, but an infection has already spreed. The doctors decided to take Darcy along with Matt just to be safe. What made you think he was dead?”

“I was having a wacky dream within a dream–almost like a cruel April Fool’s joke from God. First I had a strange dream in which I couldn’t get to Darcy and second I had a dream where you and Daddy told me that Darcy was dead.”

Tears of joy splashed out of my ears, and soon I was sobbing a happy sob. It took several soothings from Momma to get me to stop.

“If only this whole disaster was a cruel April Fool’s prank,” Momma muttered in my ear.

“If only,” I echoed.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 6-Christmas Hope Installment Two

I don’t know how long my face was on fire for, but I do know it was one of the worst pains I had ever had in my life. I screamed in unison with several other students. Darcy quickly batted out the flames on my face. The blast had thrown me from my wheelchair and Darcy on top of me.

“Natalie?” His voice was strained. Deep pain swept across his face.

I didn’t know how to answer him so I just said, “Yeah?”

Darcy opened his mouth, and the sound of an explosion came out. I screamed, but one gut wrenching shriek drowned it out.

“Help me up,” I whimpered. Darcy just looked at me as if he didn’t know how to do.

Faint yelps from outside of the cafeteria caused my heart to stop beating for a moment.

“What do we do?” I asked as I listened to the sounds of gunshots and screeches.

“Pray.”

It didn’t occur to me until then that I was in a great amount of pain. My face still felt like it was on fire and my torso heaved achingly.

“Dear, God…”

No words flowed from my mouth. What does one pray when they don’t know what’s going on? What does one do when they are utterly helpless? What does one pray when all words fail and emotions plummet the soul?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I wept recalling the few moments before they sedated me for my surgery.

“Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Darcy continued.

“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer!”

“And by night, but I find no rest.”

“Yet you are holy…In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.”

“To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

“Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help,” I skipped.

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.”

“But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!”

“Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!”

“For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”

“The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!”

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”

“For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.”

“Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation.”

“They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it,” Darcy and I said together. Darcy gave me a light kiss on the forehead and somehow I mustered a smile.

So much peace abounded between us that I couldn’t even hear the cries.

**

I did, however, hear the sirens several minutes later.

Some girls started to yell for help when the sirens drew so near that they nearly deafened you. I chose to stay calm and close my eyes. Not long after I had done the relaxing action, I heard a puff like noise. I opened my eyes to find Darcy passed out on my chest.

I slowly felt my composure leave me. I vainly grabbed at it, but a small, barely audible scream left my throat. I struggled to get Darcy off of me. I gave up after I started to drawn in sweat.

“PLEASE HELP ME!” The same shrieking voice as before cried. I didn’t need to look to know that the paramedics had finally arrived.

“He needs help,” I whimpered when I heard gurney wheels near my head. Darcy was quickly lifted off of me. One of the female paramedics gasped, and her male partner looked sick.

I tried to sit up, but one of the paramedics laid my head down. I was swiftly put on a gurney and rushed out of the cafeteria.

What I saw outside of the cafeteria, I can never get out of my head.

Blood was everywhere. Pills of stray bullets were scattered across the red shrieked floor. Teenagers laid in the pools of their and others blood with anguish written over their faces. Everywhere I looked paramedics were trying desperately to save lives. It made me physically sick.

“Darling,” The paramedic said as I vomited over myself. “Hang on, dear. We’re almost to the door.”

I could tell the door was near because I was shivering. A group of teens cut in front of the gurney to get through the door. The paramedic let out a yelp as she hit one of them. The others got out the way as she pushed me out into the frigid air.

Dozens of unharmed students sat on the front lawn crying and shaking. A group of parents stood in the parking lot watching the door with bated breath.

“MY BABY!”

My sees looked to see who had cried out. My mother was on the ground pounded her fists and screaming.

I lost it after that.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 6- Christmas Hope Installment One

How can a person not be excited about Christmas when their name is Natalie?

My name means “born on Christmas day” but I was really born on November 25. Both my mother and my father loved Christmas just as much as I do and most of my siblings have Christmas themed names. We keep up our decorations and a gold, fake Christmas tree all year long. In my house, it’s basically Christmas every day minus the presents.

Some of you may have already read a story that I previously wrote. In that story, I chronicled a year and a half of my life. In that year and a half, I moved from Miami, Florida to Florida, Massachusetts, I discovered that my father was basically murdered, my mom got remarried and I got two older sisters, my older sister, Abby, got married, we moved to New York City, my mother faced her past and I got two more older siblings–this time a brother and a sister,I became a paraplegic, we moved back to Florida, Massachusetts, my mother had triplets, and my older sister, Jaci, got married.

It was a rather busy year and a half, and life didn’t stop moving fast just because I felt like I needed a break.

The summer I wrote that story, I met the girl who asked me to write it. Her name is Charlotte Lily King, but almost everyone calls her Charlly. She just happened to be the stepdaughter of one of Mr. Stewart’s nephews. She also just happened to be moving to Florida, Massachusetts and be a paraplegic. Charlly moved in with me and my family since there is really no other wheelchair friendly house in Florida. While I would like to write about Charlly’s move to Florida and all the craziness her life brought, that’s Charlly’s story to tell. All you need to know is that her stepdad’s name is Laz, Charlly’s biological father’s name is ‘Lou’, Charlly has a younger sister named Becca Lou, a half brother named Jacob or ‘Mini-Lou’ as she likes to call him, and a stepbrother named Matt.

Life did start to slow down a little only to get more crazy. Then the craziest of all seasons arrived. Christmas.

As you can probably guess, Christmas is a big deal in my family and this Christmas would be particularly special. It would be the first we would spend at our new home, Drury Hall, and it would also be the triplet’s first Christmas. My mother invited every one in our family to come even my grandparents, who live in England. She was determined to make this Christmas special.

But this Christmas would be special and would be remembered for different reasons than what everyone had in mind. This Christmas would prove that there was still good in the world and that miracles really do happen.

And that hope helps bind us all together.

**

“Natalie?” My mother asked walking into my bedroom. “Do you know where I placed the ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ ornaments?I bought three for the triplets in September and now I can’t find them.”

“I haven’t seen them,” I said without taking my eyes off the sky. The weathermen had said there was a good chance that we would get a fresh snow this weekend and I desperately wanted to go sledding.

“Did you hear a word I said?” Momma asked.

“You asked if I had seen the triplets Christmas ornaments,” I said pulling my eyes away from the window and onto my mother. “I’ve never seen them in my life.”

My mother gave a mixture between a snort and a laugh and walked towards the door.

“Steve! Have you seen Avery, Love, and Emanuel’s ornaments?”

“It feels like snow!” Charlly squealed as she rolled into my–our bedroom. Charlly had opted to room with Noel and I. The experience was…interesting. Life left like one big sleepover with Charlly living in the house.

“You’re becoming a true Floridian,” I smiled. Charlly laughed.

“I can’t believe that Christmas is less than two weeks away,” Charlly said more to the window than to me.

“Why not? It surely feels like Christmas in this household,” I said.

“It feels like Christmas, but it just isn’t,” Charlly answered.

“How is that possible?” I asked.

“I just have this feeling,” Charlly trailed off.

“What kind of feeling?” I asked.

“It’s probably nothing,” Charlly said shaking her head. “Forget I ever said anything.”

“Charlly, if something is bothering you…,” I started.

“Charlly,” Momma said interupting me, “have you seen three ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ ornaments?”

“I thought I saw the new ones on the tree this morning,” Charlly said. Momma leaned against the door post and put her hand to her head.

“Forgive me, girls,” Momma said. “Christmas always gets me out of sorts. But I still love the season!”

“Let’s go to the B&B,” Charlly said before I can bring our previous subject back up. “The boys are about to return with the Christmas tree any moment now.”

**

“What happened in here?” I asked as Charlly and I rolled into the restaurant. The entire room was covered with tinsel.

“This is what you get when you give a four year old a box of tinsel,” Lou said as he started to clean up the mess.

“Why does that not surprise me?” Charlly asked as she pulled some tinsel through her wheel.

“I got this mess here. Why don’t you help Donna get ready for the tree?” Lou said taking the tinsel from Charlly.

“How come you didn’t go on the tree chopping trip?” I asked Lou.

“Don’t really my kind of thing,” Lou shrugged.

“Translation: Lou is lousy with a saw,” Charlly said.

“What can I say?” Lou asked. “Give me a saw and lose your eye.”

“Ok…,” I said. I quickly rolled into the family room.

“Where’s all the tinsel?” Ms. Donna asked as she rummaged through her box of Christmas decorations.

“Strewn all over your restaurant,” Charlly answered. She sent Jacob a look.

“Here!” Lou shouted. He threw some tinsel from the restaurant into the foyer.

“Oh my goodness,” Ms. Donna said as she walked towards the restaurant.

“We’re BACK!” Mr. Drew shouted as he and the rest carried the tree into the restaurant!

“We saw some flurries on our way back,” Darcy said as he helped up the tree in the holder.

Charlly squealed and rolled to the window.

“It’s snowing!” Charlly shouted.

“Someone’s excited,” Leo laughed. Charlly smacked him and Leo smirked.

I guess I should tell you this now in the story rather than later. Leo and Virginia ‘broke’ up this summer after Charlly came to town. Leo started liking Charlly and ever since their relationship has been…complicated. Also, Virginia refuses to speak to Charlly. Virginia hasn’t spoken a word to her since August.

“You guys can go play in the snow after we finish putting up the tree,” Charlly’s mom, Mrs. Jennifer Gray-Stewart, said as she hung the first ornament on the tree.

Soon everyone was busy hanging ornaments and stringing tinsel around the tree. By the time we’re finished, the ground was covered in snow, but sadly not enough to have impromptu sledding day.

“We’ll just have to have a Marshmallow Day tomorrow,” Darcy said as Charlly and I prepared to go home.

“Tomorrow,” I promised. “We’ll go to The Hill straight after school.”

Darcy nodded and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

“We might come for dinner,” I said. “Momma’s been a little frazzled lately.”

“Understandable with the triplets and you to take care of,” Darcy said. I shoved him just as Charlly rolled up.

“I’m not even going to ask,” Charlly said as she rolled out the door.

“Bye,” I waved as I too rolled out the door.

“I really hope it keeps snowing,” Charlly said. “I really want to sled on the legendary Hill.”

“From the looks of it, tomorrow is going to be an awesome snow day,” I said looking at the clouds.

We would never get to go to sledding on The Hill the entire winter season.

**

The day started off wrong.

The triplets woke up around five A.M. screaming their lungs off and waking everybody up, snow had turned into rain, I woke up with an upset stomach, Noel had slept in the panic room and refused to come out, and Charlly didn’t speak a word the entire morning.

I could tell that she could feel it too.

Something terrible was going to happen.

By the time lunch came around, I was just about a nervous wreck. I kept telling myself that nothing that bad could possibly happen, but my emotions wouldn’t listen.

I was just about ready to snap when I saw Darcy leaning against a red trashcan, waiting for me and other friends to show up for lunch. I don’t know why it bothered me so much that Darcy leaned up against that silly trashcan. All I know is on that rainy December day, it infuriated me.

“Why do you lean up against the trash?” Those were the first words out of my mouth when I rolled up to him.

“I don’t know…,” Darcy stared at me. I could tell that he was caught off guard by the question.

“It’s disgusting!” I shouted.

“What?” Darcy asked. “Natalie, where is all of this coming from? You’ve been on edge all morning.”

“I just think that its a little disgusting that you’re leaning up against a trashcan!”

“It’s not like people barfed in it!”

“You don’t know that!”

“Fine!” Darcy shouted throwing his hands up in the air. “I’ll move!”

Just seconds after Darcy stepped away from the trashcan, the trashcan exploded, sending fire and something hard onto my face.

Posted in Natalie

COMING SOON: Natalie: Part 6- Christmas Hope

Coming Soon: Natalie: Part 6- Christmas Hope

“Hope isn’t a wish. Hope is trust.”

It’s been two years since Natalie and her mother left Miami, Florida in the middle of night and drove all the way to Florida, Massachusetts. From the discovery of her mom’s past to becoming paraplegic, Natalie’s life has changed in ways she would have never imagined. Life has seemed to calm down. Natalie’s now in high school and is preparing to help host the first Christmas at Drury Hall. But when tragedy hits Berkshire County a week before Christmas, Natalie’s life and everybody else’s lives are once again forever changed.

Posted in Farm Girl, Gifted, My Crazy Life, Natalie

Check Out the New Berkshire County Chronicles Page!

The new page replaces Natalie: Discussion Questions and the Berkshire County Chronicles Characters  pages. This page contains more information about characters and the completed list of Natalie Discussion questions. This page also has a stories part of it which list the current and coming soon stories in the Berkshire County Chronicles! This page contains a tiny spoiler to installment five and six of My Crazy Life: Episode I so read at your own risk! 🙂

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 4- Joy to the World! Installment Ten

**

“Jaci, are you ready yet?” Abby asked impatiently. “The wedding was supposed to start ten minutes ago!”

“Almost!” Jaci cried.

“Cut her some slack,” I said as Noel put on my shoes.

“Jaci should have done what Zach and I did,” Abby said. “Everybody show up before ten thirty, and the wedding starts when we’re ready.”

“Ready!” Jaci said opening the door of the bridal chambers.

“You look beautiful,” Momma smiled.

“I think my mother would be proud,” Jaci said with a sad smile.

“Is my girl ready?” Daddy asked knocking on the door.

“You can come in,” Jaci said as she grabbed her flowers.

Daddy walked in and smiled.

“You look lovely,” Daddy said.

“Thank you,” Jaci smiled. Daddy offered her his arm and Jaci took it.

We bridesmaids filled out of the bridal chambers and found our groomsmen.

“You look pretty,” Darcy whispered in my ear as the couples started walking down the aisle.

I smiled at him.

“You nervous?” Darcy asked.

“About what?” I asked confused.

“About dancing,” Darcy said.

I don’t have time to answer him. Darcy started to push me down the aisle. I managed to plaster a smile on my face. My stomach was in knots. I forgot all about wheelchair dancing.

Darcy and I missed three weeks of practice while I was away in Pittsfield. Last night, Ms. Etta said that we were ready for the wedding. I wasn’t so sure.

The music switched from The Wedding Song to Here Comes the Bride. Everybody stood but me.

Jaci beamed as she and Daddy walked down the aisle. She looked absolutely beautiful in her handmade dress. Timmy’s smiled wide at her. In that moment then and there I knew that he loved her.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite Timothy- Caleb Stewart and Jaci Matthews. Marriage was instituted by God. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God. If anyone questions this marriage between Timothy-Caleb Jeffery Stewart and Jaci Ireland Matthews, speak now or forever hold your peace,” The pastor said.

I don’t even think Mr. Stewart would have objected. Not a sound was to be heard. Even the triplets were quiet.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” The preacher asked.

“We do,” Daddy and Momma said with tears in their eyes.

“Let us pray,” The pastor said. He prayed.

“Now the best man will read a Scripture passage,” The pastor said.

“‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul…And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it…And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.'” Darcy quoted.

“Now the maid of honor will read a Scripture passage,” The pastor said.

“‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.'” I quoted.

“You may say your vows now,” The preacher said to Timmy and Jaci.

“I, Timothy-Caleb Stewart, take you Jaci Matthews, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, or the Lord comes for His own, and hereto I pledge you my faithfulness,” Timmy promised.

“I, Jaci Matthews, love you, Timothy-Caleb Stewart. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. I will love, honor, cherish and obey you always in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in sorrow as in joy, and will be true to you so long as we both shall live,” Jaci vowed.

“The rings please,” The pastor said. Little Austin ran from his mother’s arms. He handed Timmy the pillow with a smile.

“Thanks,” Timmy said. “Now go back to Mommy.”

Mr. Rivers stood up and picked up his son.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Timmy smiled putting the ring on Jaci’s finger.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Jaci smiled as she put the ring on Timmy’s finger.

“I know pronounce you husband and wife,” The pastor said closing his Bible. “The couple will now seal their marriage with a kiss.”

Timmy leaned down and gave Jaci a quick kiss on the lips. Jaci smiled and hugged him.

As they walked down the aisle, rice and rose petals were thrown at them. I couldn’t help but smile.

But then fear crept up into me because it was time for the reception. Which meant it was time to dance.

**

I tried not to shake too much as I watched the First Dance and the Father-Daughter Dance. Jaci wanted my first wheelchair dance to be special. She had me down as one of the dances. I was absolutely scared to death.

“How are you feeling?” Darcy whispered in my ear.

“I can’t do this,” I said shaking my head. “I want to puke.”

“Don’t do that,” Darcy said with seriousness in his voice. “We did great last night at practice. You’ll do fine.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen can I please have your attention?” Jaci asked taking a mike from the DJ. “In the past several months my younger sister, Natalie, has been practicing to dance at my wedding. As most of you know, last year Natalie was hit by a car and broke her back. She hasn’t let her paraplegia stop her. I’m so proud of her. She’s gotten so much of her life back and so soon after the accident. This was something Natalie wanted to do, and we all knew she could do it. So please give it up for my sister Natalie and her dancing partner and boyfriend Darcy Edwards!”

I felt my breakfast come up. Darcy pushed me towards the middle of the floor. I smiled at me; I couldn’t smile back.

The music blared through the speakers. Darcy took my arms and spun me.

It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter

When the snow comes to cover the ground

Its the time for play

Its a whipped cream day

I wait for it the whole year round

Darcy and I soon got lost in the song. He glided me, he spun me, he even shimmied me. And surprisingly we even back stepped. By the end of the song, all the butterflies had left my stomach and I realized that I had actually had fun dancing. People were cheering for us so loudly that I was a little embarrassed.

I looked over to where Momma, Daddy, Ms. Donna, and Ms. Etta were sitting. They all looked like they wanted to cry. Darcy pushed me over towards them.

“My baby!” Momma cried hugging me.

“Mum!” I groaned. Momma stopped hugging me and sat back down.

“You two were wonderful,” Ms. Etta said. “You two also survived the dancing test. Would you be embarrassed if I said in a couple years that could be you.”

“Well you just said it,” Darcy said with red cheeks. I laughed and smiled.

Darcy helped me to my spot. I looked around. Everybody was goofy dancing. Momma and Daddy were cooing over the triplets. And Darcy was smiling at me.

“I’ve decided something,” I said.

“What?” Darcy shrugged.

“I’m staying,” I stated.

Darcy stared at me.

“It wasn’t because of anything I said was it?” Darcy asked. “Because I want you to know that I want you to go if you want to. I’ll wait for you.”

I gave him a smile. Darcy is so sweet.

“Nope, I’ve just realized how much I love this place and how much I love all the people in this town,” I said. “I can’t leave. Not now. I mean I just got back!”

Darcy laughed.

“Natalie’s staying!”

Everyone clapped. My parents looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.

An hour later, Jaci called for all the unmarried ladies to come out to the dance floor. Every girl but Noel and I obeyed.

“You’re not going out there?” Darcy asked.

“It’s the bouquet toss,” I said. Darcy went back to his dinner.

“I don’t see the point in doing this but my sister tells me I have to so here I go!” Jaci shouted turning around. “You ladies ready?”

“Yes!” They cheered.

Now Jaci may be petite, but she has a really good arm. She threw the bouquet with so much force that it went straight over all the ladies heads and landed in Noel’s lap.

Bennet, who was sitting next to Noel, laughed.

Noel, who clearly did not want the bouquet, violently threw the bouquet into my lap.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Everybody else laughed too.

“Does this mean we’re having double weddings?” Darcy joked.

Everybody howled at that.

“Noel, you want the bouquet!” Virginia tried to explain. “Its believed whoever catches the bouquet gets married next.”

Noel just looked at Virginia’s feet and went back to her dinner.

I then got an idea.

“Virginia, catch!” I shouted. Virginia caught the bouquet. Virginia got my idea.

“Emily, catch!” Virginia shouted throwing the bouquet the Emily.

“Regina!” Emily said.

“Oh no you don’t!” Regina shouted. Regina ducked and Jessie-Maria leaped to catch it.

The bouquet toss wasn’t over until every unmarried girl in the room caught the bouquet.

“Ok,” Timmy said taking his tie off. “Since my wife doesn’t like the whole garter thing, I’ll be throwing my tie!”

All the unmarried man except Bennet got up and stood on the dance floor.

Timmy threw his tie, and it landed in Bennet’s lap.

“God, are you speaking?” Bennet asked.

Everybody laughed. Regina, who had been forced to catch the bouquet, handed the bouquet to Noel. She surprisingly took it.

“Oh, I hope the whole bouquet thing is wrong,” Virginia whispered in my ear.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I can’t wait four years for another wedding!” Virginia joked. I laughed.

Another Christmas song played and Darcy pulled me out to the dance floor.

And we danced the night away.

**

Dear Natalie,

I discovered your blog when I was searching for pictures for a report on Paris. I have to admit, at first I hated your blog. You seemed to have a perfect life. You had a large family. You’re mom was excepting triplets. You had a father and more sister than brothers. You and your family looked so happy in Paris.

My life’s not all that great. I, too, am a paraplegic. Complete T12. One of my mom’s ex-boyfriends shot me in the back. It’s a long story. Well anyway, My mom recently got remarried to this man I totally hate, and we’ve just moved again. I longed to have your life, but then I found a picture of you and your stepdad.

I was first of all shocked to find out that you had a stepdad. I was also shocked to see that you were in a wheelchair. I started to read more and more of your blog and was able to find out that you had been hit by a car last October. I was amazed at how quickly you bounced back. I would really like to hear your story. I want to know how you’ve done it. How you ended up to have this amazing relationship with your stepdad. How you’ve got through being in a wheelchair. My accident happened two years ago and I’m still bitter about it. I understand if you’re too busy and all, but I think all your readers would like to know your full story.

Keep Calm & Write On!

Charlotte Lily

I stared at my blog box. I had received this email over a week ago and I still hadn’t written anything. Summer was in full swing now. I could hear Megan and Bella out in the backyard chasing our brand new Welsh Corgi, Mistletoe.

Our brand new cat, Charlie Brown (Noel named him), strutted into my room and plopped himself on my bed.

I shook my head and went back to worrying.

“Whatca doing?” Daddy said walking into the room with Noel’s and my laundry. Momma and Daddy had put a group of things to do in a hat and whatever you pulled was your chore. Unfortunately for us, Daddy picked laundry.

“Remember that email I told you about?” I asked.

“The one for Lily Charlotte?” Daddy asked.

“Charlotte Lily,” I corrected. “I really want to post about my story and all that but I just don’t know where to begin.”

Daddy picked up a piece of paper and handed me a pin.

“Let’s say I told you to divide your life up into parts,” Daddy said. “But you can only explain your life in five parts. Where would you start? Where does it make the most sense to start?”

“Well when I came to Florida,” I said.

“So that’s Part 1,” Daddy said writing it down. “Now name it.”

“Christmas Dreams,” I said.

“Christmas Dreams?” Daddy asked as he wrote it down. “Why that?”

“I don’t know. It just seems to fit,” I said.

Soon I had my five parts down. Christmas Dreams, Marshmallow World, Heaven Everywhere, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Joy to the World!

“The rest is up to you,” Daddy said ruffling my hair.

I turned back towards the computer. I put my fingers on the keyboard.

“Please show me,” I prayed.

I closed my eyes and let my fingers fly.

And these words started back at me: How can a person not love Christmas when their name is Natalie?

Posted in Natalie

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

“Um,” I stuttered. “My mom’s in labor.”

It came out more like a question, but it was so very true.

The officer nodded.

“You do realize that you were going over ninety miles an hour and driving recklessly?” The officer asked even though he knew I knew how I was driving.

“Yes, sir,” I said remembering my manners. I let some of my Southern and British charm creep into my voice.

“You avoided me,” The officer said. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to arrest you.”

I wanted to say, “You’ve already put the handcuffs on!” but then I realized he was waiting for me to get out of the car.

“I can’t get out,” I said. “I’m a paraplegic. I can’t walk.”

The officer sighed and crossed his arms.

“No, really!” I shouted. “Look in the back.”

I thanked God that my mother let me put my wheelchair in the car. The officer nodded.

“Ok,” He said. He picked me up in put me in the backseat of his cruiser. He also got my wheelchair out of the car.

“It’s going to be ok,” The officer said as he drove me to the police station. “You were doing what you thought was right.”

“My mom’s having triplets,” I cried. “She’s only thirty-three weeks.”

The officer just nodded and didn’t say anything the rest of the ride.

When I got to the station, I was put in my wheelchair. They put me in foot shackles which was crazy considering I couldn’t WALK!

They took my mug shot and got my finger prints.

I was put in a holding cell with a couple of drunk teenagers. I was allowed my phone call. I couldn’t remember my dad’s number so I called Yule.

“Hello?” Yule asked.

“Yule? Is Dad with you?” I asked.

“Yup, we’re about to pull up in the hospital,” Yule said. “Did Mom have the babies already? Did they give her a C-section?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I’m in jail.”

“You’re in what!” Yule shouted.

“Jail,” I repeated shamefully. “I was driving.”

“You were driving?” Yule asked. “How?”

“Hand controls,” I said.

“Dad, you are not going to like this.”

“Hello?” Daddy asked.

“Hi, Daddy,” I said with fake cheer.

“Is your mother all right?” Daddy asked.

“I don’t know. I was arrested,” I said.

I heard Daddy sigh.

“So your mother’s alone at the hospital?” Daddy asked.

“Um, I’m alone in jail!” I shouted.

Daddy sighed again. He had a very interesting decision. Come and get his daughter out of jail or go see his wife who had probably already delivered.

“I’ll be right there, honey bear,” Daddy said. “I just need to find out what’s going on with your mother and then I’ll come and get you.”

Then came the questions.

“Who do you live with?” One of the integration officers asked.

“My mom, my stepdad, and my siblings,” I answered.

“Do you drive often?” The officer asked.

“Nope,” I said trying to loosen up. “My mom went into labor and everybody else was on a camping trip. I live in a small town actually the part I live in is called a village.”

Then I was brought back to the holding cell.

It felt like I had been in the cell for hours upon hours. I kept worrying about presser sores. I kept trying not to feel disgusted as one of the drunk teenage boys looked at me. I tried not to think how much trouble I was in. I tried not to think about the babies.

But not thinking about all these things was nearly impossible.

I couldn’t stop crying. The guy overseeing the cell gave me some paper towels to wipe my nose and eyes. He kept telling me that everything would be ok.

At the time he seemed like a liar.

My dad and Yule arrived thirty minutes after my call.

I was let off with a warning and these words, “We get why you were driving, but it’s never all right to speed unless it is super life threatening. And when you see those flashing lights and hear the siren pull over. We can help.”

My dad wasn’t mad but Yule was.

“What were you thinking?” Yule asked. “You could have killed someone tonight! I’m surprised they didn’t charge you with reckless driving. I’m also surprised they let you off with a warning!”

“What did you want me to do?” I asked.

“You should have called 911!” Yule shouted.

“Then what? Waited an hour for them to arrive and then have to stay home because I wouldn’t have been allowed in the ambulance?” I asked. “Or what if Momma had to start pushing? I didn’t want to…”

Yule gave me a hug.

“I get it,” Yule said. “It’s just that I’ve spent some long nights in jail.”

“I’m sorry,” I said looking down.

Not another word was spoken until we reached the hospital.

“Are Momma and the babies all right?” I asked as I rolled out of the car.

“Yes,” Daddy said. “Love was delivered right away, and Emmanuel and Avery were born via C-section.”

We were allowed to see Momma. When she saw me, she started to cry.

“I am so sorry, Natalie,” Momma said. “I should have never encouraged you to break the law. I’m a terrible mother.”

“You are not a terrible mother,” I said rolling up to Momma. “I should have pulled over. Its my own fault I got arrested.”

“Are you all right?” Momma asked. “Did they treat you poorly? Did they say anything inappropriate?”

“Nope,” I said. “It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t horrible. I got off with a warning.”

“Good,” Momma said. “Just remember not to speed when you actually do get your license.”

I nodded.

I still wrestle with this night. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I should have been driving or not.

**

“What time is it?” Megan asked for the thousandth time.

“Its eleven fifty-six,” I said. “A minute later than eleven fifty-five.”

“When will it be twelve?” Megan asked.

“Megs, Mom and Dad said they’d be back around noon. Not exactly at noon,” Yule said not looking away from the TV.

It was two weeks later and we were still in Pittsfield. The babies hadn’t come home from the hospital, but yesterday the doctors said that the babies would possibly get to come home today.

Megan still doesn’t understand what the words possibly and around mean.

“Do you think I’ll like them?” Megan asked me as she tried to crawl into my wheelchair.

“Probably not at first,” I said picking her up and plopping her on my lap.

“Why not?” Megan asked.

“New born babies cry a lot,” Yule said. “And sometimes they cry for no reason at all!”

He looked accusingly at Natalia. Natalia gave him a giggle and started to babble a little.

“I see Clifford,” Aunt Clarisse said as she looked out  the window.

We all rushed towards the window.

“Are they smiling? If they’re smiling that means at least one of them has come home!”

“Do you see any babies?”

“Daddy!”

“Ow!”

“Sorry.”

Daddy looked towards the window and gave us a wave. He was smiling brightly.

The car door then opened and Momma stepped out. She was carrying a baby.

We all rushed out the door.

“Whoah!” Daddy shouted. “Don’t worry you will all get a turn.”

“Who’s that?” Megan asked pointing to Momma’s arms.

“This one is Love,” Momma said giving the baby a kiss.

Momma walked towards Aunt Clarisse’s house and Megan and Bella followed.

“What are you guys still doing out here?” Daddy asked standing in front of the car door.

“No more?” Noel pouted.

Daddy laughed. He moved away to reveal that the two other car seats were occupied.

“Meet Emmanuel Gabriel and Avery Joseph,” Daddy said taking them out of the car.

“They’re so cute!” I squealed. Daddy smiled and laughed.

We went back into the house, and we all got to hold the babies.

“Ew,” Yule groaned as Love spit up on him.

I laughed.

“Wait till it happens to you,” Yule said as he wiped Love’s mouth off.

“You won’t do that to me would you, Avery?” I said kissing his head.

“You’re going to be a good boy aren’t you?” Jaci said to Emmanuel who she was cradling.

“Smile!” Daddy shouted pointing his camera at us.

“Triplets!” Yule, Jaci, and I shouted.

The babies then all started to cry and we groaned.

There were going to be some long nights in our future.

Posted in Natalie

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

**

“Its a good thing you went into labor before you opened your shower presents,” Mrs. Stewart said to Abby.

“Oh, why?” Abby asked looking over at her pile of presents.

“Because you would have ended up with a bunch of girl stuff!” Mrs. Rivers, Mrs. Stewart, and Momma shouted.

“You thought I was having a girl?” Abby asked as she cradled Zach Junior.

“I bought this adorable dress,” Mrs. Stewart said.

“We got you a pink quilt,” Mrs. Rivers and Jessie-Maria said at the same time.

“I made a pink jumper,” Jaci said.

“And why would you think I was having a girl?” Abby asked. “I do believe the invitation said that any clothes or the like be yellow.”

“Well we assumed that since you couldn’t think of any girl names that you were having a girl!” Mrs. Stewart said. “It happened to me. Fowler and I came up with Gavin at the last second. To think, the entire time he was in the womb, I was calling him Sarah.”

The room erupted in laughter.

“And your father did think you were a Larry,” Momma joked.

The room kept on laughing.

“We never found out which names won!” Grandma Shirley shouted. She looked at Momma’s stomach.

“And from the looks of it, you’re going to be needing them very soon,” Grandma Shirley continued.

“One month to go,” Momma said. “My doctors’ won’t let me go farther than thirty-five weeks.”

“So when are you guys going to ‘move’ to Pittsfield?” Aunt Jane asked as Virginia and I counted the name votes.

“Well the plan is the Monday after Mother’s Day,” Momma said. “I’ll be around thirty-three weeks then. Let’s just pray I can still fit in the car!”

“Yes,” Mrs. Rivers laughed.

“We have the names!” Virginia and I shouted after a couple more minutes of miscellaneous chatter.

“Baby A’s name is,” Virginia started.

“Love!” I finished.

“How cute!” Mrs. Rivers gushed.

“I love it, but your father might be a little disgruntal,” Momma said.

“Why? What did he want?” I asked.

“Natasha!” Momma shouted. “How dare he want to name our only girl Natasha!”

“Hey!” Noel, Megan, Bella, Jaci, Abby, and I shouted.

“Natasha can be her middle name,” Grandma Shirley compromised. “What’s Baby B’s name?”

“Baby B’s name is,” I started.

“Emmanuel!” Virginia finished.

“What does Emmanuel mean again?” Ms. Donna asked.

“God is with us,” Jaci said proudly. “I came up with that one.”

“I was kind of hoping for Gabriel,” Momma said. “It’s a solid middle name though.”

“And finally Baby C’s name is,” Virginia and I said in unison, “AVERY!”

“Christmas Elf!” Noel shouted.

Everyone laughed.

“And what will little Avery’s middle name be?” Ms. Donna joked.

“Joseph,” I said. “God shall add another son…and He did!”

Once again, everyone laughed.

I love my family.

**

“You can’t be serious!” Momma shouted. “You are not going to take a CAMPING trip on Mother’s Day weekend and when your wife’s going to have triplets any day now!”

“Now, Riley,” Daddy said trying to get Momma to calm down. “This was the only week everybody could come.”

“Not everybody,” I grumbled as I put a spoonful of cereal in my mouth.

“I promise you, Natalie, that I’ll take you camping this summer,” Daddy said. “Just you and me if you want it that way.”

“Still, it’s not fair. Just because I’m in a wheelchair camping automatically becomes one of the things I can’t do,” I said. “Well Bennet’s going!”

“You would just make things even more complicated than they already are,” Daddy blurted. “There are going to be four babies on this trip! Who ever heard of taking babies on a camping trip!”

“Oh so only complete paraplegics and babies are complications,” I said. “Incomplete paraplegics and toddlers are perfectly fine.”

“Somebody’s gotta stay home with your mother,” Daddy tried.

“You can help me pack,” Momma said to me. “If I didn’t know better I’d say that you Steve Matthews are trying to get out of packing.”

“We’ll be back in plenty of time to take all the Florida and North Adams mothers to dinner,” Daddy said.

Momma gave a huge breath.

“Riley, are you all right?” Daddy asked.

“False contractions,” Momma said sitting down. “I’m fine. Your sleeping bag is in the basement.”

“Thank you ladies for understanding,” Daddy said. “We’ll be taking Clifford and Betsy if you don’t mind.”

Clifford was our brand new red fifteen seater van.

“You can’t leave us without a car!” Momma shouted. “Not that we’ll be going anywhere, but you can’t leave your pregnant wife without any form of transportation.”

“Don’t worry,” Daddy said. “Bennet’s not taking his Mustang. He’s going to leave it with you two for the weekend.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to get into that thing,” Momma said in a serious voice. Daddy laughed and walked away.

“So it’s just going to be the two of us,” Momma said. “Just like old times, huh?”

“I guess,” I sighed.

But somehow, this time was very very different.

**

“The house is so quiet,” I said as I helped Momma pack. “I keep thinking I’m about to hear Megan cry out or see Bella running towards me with a new picture.”

“It sure does seem that way,” Momma said. “It’s kinda creepy just the two of us being in this huge house. What time is it?”

“It’s almost midnight,” I said looking at the clock.

“That’s enough packing for tonight,” Momma said flopping into a chair. I yawned.

“Go to sleep, Natalie,” Momma said. “I’m not going to do anymore packing tonight.”

“Do you need me to help you to your room?” I asked even though I couldn’t really offer her any help.

“No, baby,” Momma said. “I’ll probably not even go to sleep tonight. I took a nap around five. These babies are on a clock of their own.”

“Goodnight,” I said giving Momma a kiss.

“Goodnight,” I said to Momma’s belly and giving it a kiss.

Two hours later, I heard a scream.

“Noel?” I asked waking up. I looked over to her side of the bed and sighed. Noel was off having fun in the woods while I was stuck doing her packing.

“Natalie!” Momma cried. “Natalie!”

“Coming!” I called back. I transferred to my wheelchair and rolled towards her room.

“Momma?” I asked pushing the door open.

“Natalie,” Momma said gravely, “I’m in labor.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“I thought I was having Braxton Hicks contractions,” Momma said. “But my water just broke.”

“Where’s the phone?” I asked looking at Momma’s nightstand.

“Honey, you’re going to have to drive me,” Momma groaned.

“What!” I cried. “If you haven’t noticed, I can’t hit the gas pedal. I’ll call 911. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Baby, the hospital in North Adams doesn’t have dispatchers at night. It’s going to take the paramedics at least an hour to get here and at least another hour back. My contractions are super close together,” Momma said. “You’re going to have to drive me.”

“I can’t!” I cried. “Can’t you drive?”

“You can,” Momma said. “We have Bennet’s car. He forgot to take the hand controls off of it.”

“Is there someone we can call?” I asked even though I knew everybody was on the camping trip.

Momma didn’t answer, and I assumed it was because of a contraction.

“Can you get up?” I asked when the contraction was over.

Momma nodded and got up.

I rolled out of her room and picked up the car keys.

“Got your bag?” I asked as Momma stumbled into the kitchen.

“No,” Momma said. “Can you go get it? I’ll get into the car.”

I got Momma’s bag and rolled out of the house.

It was drizzling. I smiled a little.

“Thank You for sending the rain,” I prayed. “Please help me drive. I’ve never tried before.”

“Natalie!” Momma hollered.

I rolled faster towards Bennet’s blue gratified Mustang. I transferred into the driver’s seat.

“Now,” Momma started.

“I have to get my wheelchair in the car,” I said taking off one of the wheels.

“Leave it,” Momma said. “They have wheelchairs at the hospital.”

I sighed. I know it’s weird, but I’m as crazy about my wheelchair as Bennet was about his Mustang.

“All right,” Momma groaned. “Just hurry up!”

I got my wheelchair into the car and turned the key.

The sound of the car stared me a little bit, but then I started to smile. I had officially gone bonkers.

“Now,” Momma smiled. “How do you work this thing?”

“Big lever for break. Little one for gas,” I said repeating Bennet’s words.

I put my left hand on the wheel, said a slight prayer, and pushed down on the small lever button thingy.

The car barely moved, but I was driving.

“Hurry up!” Momma screamed.

I pushed down hard on the gas lever and the car went flying.

“Turn!” Momma screamed.

I gave the wheel an awkward jerk. We missed the mailbox.

“What’s the speed limit!” I asked.

“I don’t care!” Momma screamed.

I was pretty sure the speed limit wasn’t seventy, which was what I was doing, but I didn’t care. My mother’s voice scared me. I went up to eighty.

My left hand was shaking by the time we got onto the highway. Momma’s muffles were getting louder and each one sounded more painful.

“You’re doing good, baby,” Momma said about thirty minutes after I started driving. She started to inhale deeply.

I wanted to start doing eight-five or maybe even ninety, but instead I asked a question.

“Did you call Dad?” I asked.

Momma fumbled for her phone and dialed Daddy’s number.

“Hello?” Daddy’s sleepy voice asked.

“Daddy!” I shouted.

“Natalie, what’s wrong?” Daddy asked recognizing the worry in my voice.

“Get in the other lane!” Momma cried. I turned into another lane.

“What’s wrong?” Daddy repeated.

“I’m in labor!” Momma cried.

“Ah!” I screamed as I barely missed the railing. Driving with only one hand is a lot harder than it looks.

“Where are you?” Daddy asked.

“On the highway,” Momma said.

“You’re driving?” Daddy asked. “I thought you couldn’t get into the driver’s seat.”

“I’m not driving!” Momma screamed through a contraction.

“Then who is?” Daddy asked.

“I am,” I said as I saw the police lights behind me.

“And on the phone?” Daddy asked. “Wait! How are you driving? Why didn’t you dial 911!”

“Cause I can’t wait two hours!” Momma yelled.

“Natalie, where are you?” Daddy asked.

Momma cried out, and I started going eighty-something.

The police siren started to holler, but I didn’t care. I got off at the hospital exit.

“Why are there sirens?” Daddy asked. I could hear him watching everybody up.

“Cause I’m speeding!” I shouted as I avoided a poll.

“She’s actually doing pretty good for one hand and first time,” Momma laughed. She then started to scream.

“How are you driving?” Daddy asked.

“Bennet forgot to take the hand controls off,” I said pulling into the hospital.

“Thank the Lord for Bennet Edwards,” Daddy mumbled.

“You did good, baby,” Momma said giving me a kiss before getting out of the car.

I reached back to get my wheelchair when I heard the sound of a car door opening.

“Ma’am.”

I stared up at the face of an officer.

“You’re under arrest,” He said putting handcuffs on me. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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.”

Momma smiled.

“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.”

I smiled.

“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.”

“He?”

“He.”

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.”

I laughed.

“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.

“Bye, Natalie.”

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.

BANG!

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!'”

I snorted.

“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!”

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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.”

I nodded.

“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.

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.

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

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

**

When we got to the B&B, it looked like a cross between a bridal shop and a hospital.

Aunt Jane and Virginia were flipping through bridal catalogs while Bennet was looking at a dummy with a ton of medical books and medical equipment.

Noel, who had offered to push me up the ramp, pushed me towards Bennet. I tried to tell her that I wanted to go over to Aunt Jane and Virginia but I stopped.

“Hey,” Bennet said looking up. Noel walked away over towards the ‘bridal shop’.

“I know she has a short attention span sometimes,” Bennet started, “but I never thought she’d get sick of me after just one word.”

I laughed.

“So whatca doing?” I asked.

“I’m going to enroll in nursing school next fall,” Bennet said.

“You’re going to be a nurse?” I asked surprised.

“Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t be a nurse,” Bennet said.

“What’s wrong with this guy?” I asked pointing to the dummy.

“He just got shot in the shoulder,” Bennet said going into medical mode. “The first thing you should always look for is an exit wound.”

Bennet pressed a pump that sent blood-like stuff gushing out of the dummy’s arm and side. It dripped onto the sheet that was covering the carpet.

“I know it’s not that authentic, but imagine that blood was pumping out of this man’s arm. That means that his brachial artery has been nicked or severed,” Bennet said. “If we don’t stop it right away, he’s probably going to die.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” I played along.

“We’re going to tie this piece of fabric real tight on this man’s arm,” Bennet said pulling a piece of fabric from his pocket. He handed it to. He started to pump ‘blood’ out of the dummy’s arm again.

I wrapped the fabric around the dummy’s arm as fast as I could and tied the fabric as fast as I could.

“Good!” Bennet praised. “Now take this fabric and press it against his side.”

I did as he told me.

“Now remember if this happens in real life call the paramedics,” Bennet said. “And every gunshot wound is different.”

I saw a shadow of something on Bennet’s face. He looked almost as if he was guilty of something.

“Want to learn CPR?” Bennet asked abruptly.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Donna!” Someone pounded on the restaurant door. “Donna!”

Everyone rushed from the family room into the restaurant. Ms. Donna unlocked the restaurant door and gasped when she saw the outside of the door.

“I…,” Mrs. Rivers trailed off. She pointed at the door.

On the door was a huge Florida state shape with the word Santa inside.

**

“So we need blue, pink, yellow, brown, and what other colors?” Daddy asked we as we went into the home improvement store.

It was a week later, and Daddy had offered to take me along to get the nursery paint. Daddy had already painted all the other rooms (Noel and my room was purple. The name of the paint was Purple Noel when we saw that we had to get it) but the nursery. Momma had changed her mind five times this week about what she wanted for a nursery. She finally decided on a Winnie-the-Pooh nursery and promised that this was her final change.

So Daddy decided to seize the moment and go buy the nursery paint.

Daddy’s phone rang and he groaned.

“Hello, honey?-you haven’t changed your mind again have you?-oh! That’s a good idea-love you too, bye,” Daddy said. He shut his phone.

“Your mother wants you and Bella to paint the characters on the walls,” Daddy said.

We had recently found out that Bella was an aspiring young artist. She loved to draw on everything…including her newly painted yellow walls. Momma said that it was seeing Bella paint Piglet on her wall was what inspired her.

“You go look at the paintbrushes while I get the paint,” Daddy said pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. “Your mother wrote down which colors she wants.”

I giggled and rolled down the aisle. After a second I heard a huge breath. I turned around and there staring back at me was Ryan, my mother’s ex-boyfriend.

Something inside of me told me that Ryan was the one doing all this crazy stuff around here. I mean who else did I know that was obsessed with Florida and Santa.

“I asked you a question over a year ago, girly,” Ryan huffed. “And I’m still waiting for an answer.”

Everything inside me wanted to scream, but nothing came out of my mouth. I tried to spit but my tongue was extremely dry.

“What’s going on here?”

In a split second, Daddy was standing between me and Ryan. I saw a creepy sinister grin come to Ryan’s face.

“You’re Steve Matthews of Pittsfield ain’t ya?” Ryan interrupted. He didn’t let Daddy answer him. He pulled a gun from out of his pocket.

“Natalie,” Daddy started but he couldn’t finish. Ryan pulled the tripper, shot Daddy, and then went tripper- happy.

Daddy tumbled to the floor, and a scream finally left my lips. Some people subdued Ryan and got the gun out of his hands.

Always look for an exit wound

Bennet’s words echoed through my mind. I dove from my wheelchair. Blood splashed everywhere. I set myself on the floor putting my legs in a crisscross-applesauce position.

Blood was pumping from his right shoulder.

That means that his brachial artery has been nicked or severed. If we don’t stop it right away, he’s probably going to die.

“No! No!” I screamed. I ripped away part of Daddy’s shirt. Forget about the exit wound. I had to stop the bleeding. He couldn’t die. He just couldn’t. The triplets needed him. I needed him.

Several people gasped as I tied the torn shirt piece onto his shoulder. I tied it with all the strength I had in my arms. The side of his shirt was becoming soaked so I pulled his shirt up. There it was. An exit wound. I said a silent prayer thanking God that the bullet had left his body. As far as I could tell, the bullet had missed vital organs but I wasn’t a doctor. I prayed that it hadn’t touched his organs. I took my jacket off and pressed it against his side. One lady dropped her cell phone when she saw me. Did I ever mention there’s a big ugly scare on my chest from the accident?

I fumbled into Daddy’s pocket and pulled out his cell phone. A couple of people were already on their phones with 911, but something told me to call.

“911, what’s your emergency?” The lady one the other end asked.

“My daddy’s just been shot,” I cried.

“What’s your name, honey?” The lady asked.

“Natalie Matthews.”

“Ok, Natalie, where are you? Do you know?” The lady asked.

I told her.

“Do you know who shot him? Can you give me a description, Natalie?” The lady asked.

“Yes. His name is Ryan. I don’t know his last name. Some people have subdued him,” I cried.

“Natalie, where was your father shot?” The lady asked.

“In the shoulder.”

“Is blood pumping out?”

“It was. I stopped it a little. He’s still bleeding but now it’s only trickling.”

“Natalie, are you hurt?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

I tried to see if my legs were bleeding. They were coved in blood, but it was probably just my father’s.

“Ok, honey, I need you to help me. I need you to see if he has an exit wound.”

“There is one. It’s on his side. I’m pressing down so it won’t bleed.”

“Where do you live? Is your mother there? Siblings?”

“I live at 430 Drury Hall Lane 01247 in Florida a small town near North Adams. No, my mom isn’t here or my siblings. They’re all at home.”

“How old are you, Natalie?”

“Thirteen.”

“Your name sounds familiar. What’s your middle name?”

“Zoey.”

“You’re that girl that got hit by a car in New York, right?”

“Yes.”

“Everything’s going to be ok, Natalie, the police and an ambulance are on their way.”

“I’m going crazy.”

I didn’t realize it until then that I was having a panic attack. My fingers were trembling and the fabric slipped from my hands. I was choking and my chest was tight. I was afraid I was about to pass out.

“Natalie! Natalie! Natalie!”

I couldn’t hear anything after that. I dropped the cell phone. The world soon became very hazy.  My body felt like Play-Doh. My life once again flashed before my eyes but this time everything was spinning. People were pointing at me. I smiled at them and waved.

My head then hit a huge pool of blood. I knew some blood got into my mouth, but I couldn’t taste it.

A lady mouthed something like “She’s been shot.”

“I want my mommy,” I said. I’m not sure if I actually said that since I didn’t hear it.

Everything went black soon after that.

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

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

**

How can a person not be excited about going to Paris?

I could name a few reasons why.

For some reason airport security has a thing against wheelchairs. My wheelchair was deemed ‘suspicious’, and my accent was just a little too foreign, all though I saw the TSA giggle a little when I said ya’ll.

Then I had to be rushed onto the plane because “handicapped people must get on the plane first” which is basically just a polite way of saying that I take the longest to be put on the plane.

I have to sit in a special chair which seems ridiculous to me. There are two people who can lift me until we pick up my wheelchair in Paris.

The chair is crazy uncomfortable and they strap you in so tight that you can barely breathe.

Somehow I managed to take a nap on the plan, but then I was awaked by my father’s snores.

After what seemed like forever we finally arrived in Paris.

It took us a minute to find our hotel. Grandma Shirley was so upset when she had to find another hotel to stay in because her regular one wasn’t wheelchair friendly. She was so upset that I personally am surprised she didn’t kick me off the trip. Another thing Grandma Shirley was upset about was that she had to search forever to find a place that had a wheelchair assessable van. Grandma Shirley complained to me so much that I almost decided not to go on the trip at all.

But the view from the Eiffel Tower made it all worth it.

I’m just glad you have to take the elevator to get all the way to the top :).

The Louvre was just as good, and the food in Paris is amazing. They serve cheese after ever meal which was a bummer for me being lactose intolerant and all.

I took so many pictures that my parents had to buy me a new camera card half-way through the week, and yes I filled up the camera card before we left late Saturday.

But in my defense Virginia insisted that I take lots of pictures and it’s not my fault that I took her at her word.

I couldn’t think of anything as snazzy as Christmas Everyday for my blog so I just called my blog Natalie, plain, simple, and straight to the point.

The trip to Paris was amazing and a great break from life, because little did I know that life was about to spin even more out of control.

And it didn’t all start with the smashed windows and gunshots, or Mr. Stewart’s death. It all started with Bennet crying.

**

We didn’t arrive back into the states until around three P.M. on a Sunday. We didn’t arrive in Florida until around dinnertime. Frankly, I was beat. All I wanted to do was sleep and eat breakfast around midnight. I was seriously jetlagged. My body clock adapts really well to new places and time zones but takes a while to change back.

When we pulled up into the B&B driveway, we found Bennet crying over a graffitied Mustang.

“My car!” Bennet cried.

I stared at his car. It was covered in some strange shape. Was that the state of Florida?

Noel didn’t really seem to get that the car was ruined. She looked at the car blissfully. She then looked at Bennet. Tears were streaming down his face. I could tell that Noel was trying to discern if Bennet’s tears were of joy or sadness. She was clearly feeling joy about the damaged car; Bennet was clearly upset.

“Pretty,” Noel said to no one in particular. She started rubbing the car as if she wanted the strange symbol to rub off on her hand.

“Pretty?” Bennet repeated with anger in his voice. “Pretty!”

Noel looked at him strangely. Everyone walked into the B&B too tired to hear Bennet’s sob story. I stayed though. I wasn’t really interested in the car per se, but I was interested in Noel. It had become very clear in the passing months that Noel’s perception of the world was rather different from mine or anybody else’s. Almost every day she shared something with me that made me look at the thing in a whole new way. When we went to the Louvre, Noel could not be pulled away from the Mona Lisa. I, of course, found the Mona Lisa interesting and admired her beauty and went to look at other things. Later on I asked Noel what she found so interesting about the Mona Lisa (I had to ask several times because the first couple times she wasn’t paying attention to me and the other times I could see she did not want to socialize).

“Smile mystery,” Noel smiled. “It took sec but figured what thinking.”

“And what was she thinking?” I asked confused.

“That smile of happy woman,” Noel said walking away.

I was surprised at that. I always thought that Mona Lisa wasn’t smiling at all. I thought the look on her face was serious and stiff, but Noel thought the smile was a smile of a happy woman. I lay awake all night thinking about that one.

“Ya, pretty,” Noel smiled. “Did this you?”

“Did I do this?” Bennet asked angrily. “Of course not! Why would I ruin Betty?”

“Who Betty?” Noel asked looking around for some girl.

Her ecstasy turned into anger. It was hard to tell if Noel and Bennet were a couple. He took her along on a group date once, but she didn’t enjoy it. She told me later in few words that it was too noisy and that the entire time that she felt pressured to say something. Before this I questioned if Noel truly liked Bennet, but seeing how jealous she looked at the idea of Bennet ruining some girl made me believe without a doubt that Noel was in love with Bennet.

“Betty is my car!” Bennet cried clearly fed up.

“Oh,” Noel said relieved. “What’s ruin? Still good car just some scares.”

Bennet looked at Noel with surprise and understanding. His tears stopped and he reached to hug Noel. Noel squirmed in Bennet’s arms as if she was being suffocated.

“What would I do without you?” Bennet asked.

“Cry,” Noel said finally breaking away from Bennet’s arms.

Bennet laughed and rolled towards the house. Noel followed, but I lingered.

I looked closely at Bennet’s now redeemed car. There was something so familiar about this strange shape. As I peered at it I became even surer that the shape was the state of Florida. Then I saw something that made my blood go cold. Inside each and every one of the Florida’s was one word: Santa.

**

How can a person not be excited about their Mom having triplets?

It was a couple days later just before Valentine’s Day. It was Momma’s twenty-one week appointment. If everything went well today we would find out the triplets genders.

There had been much debate about the triplets’ gender for the past couple of weeks. Virginia and Megan wanted three girls, while Yule and Bella hoped that all three of them would be boys. Noel, like Momma and Daddy, said that she didn’t care and just wanted healthy babies. Darcy shrugged it off and said he didn’t care, but I had a feeling he wanted all three of them to be boys. Bennet took the Noel approach and said all that mattered were that they were healthy. And me, well, I hoped at there would be at least one boy for Yule, but I would like one girl to be in there. The third one could be a boy or a girl and I’d be happy but I’m not saying I wouldn’t be happy if it didn’t turn out like that.

“Is that stuff cold?” Megan asked as they put that gel on Momma’s tummy.

“A little bit,” Momma said.

The room soon filled with the sound of the babies’ heart beats.

“They’re moving!” Megan cried looking at the screen.

“Yes, baby, they move,” Momma smiled. “I can feel them too. Don’t you feel them when you kiss my belly?”

Megan shook her head no.

“They’re all in good positions to day,” The ultrasound person said, “and I’m pretty sure of their genders.”

We looked at each other. Excitement was clear in all of our eyes.

“Baby A, I believe, is a girl. Baby B and C, the twins, I believe are boys,” The ultrasound person said.

I tried not to scream. I was the only one, who expressed their option, who got what they wanted. Somewhere in my heart a whisper told me that this happened just for me.

We children watched wide-eyed during the rest of the ultrasound. When the ultrasound person tried to get a picture of Baby C’s face, he put his hands in front of his face causing us all to laugh.

“So now that we know,” Abby said to Momma and Daddy, “will you please tell us what you thought.”

“All I’m going to say is that your mother has never been wrong,” Daddy said starting the car up.

“You’ve never been wrong?” Abby asked Momma. Momma shook her head yes.

“I just knew Yule was a boy. I was sick day and night,” Momma said in a disgusted voice. “I couldn’t think about getting into a car without getting sick and feeling dizzy. I was so tired that I had dreams about naps.”

Yule, who looked a little embarrassed, laughed.

“I was perfectly fine in the car with both Noel and Natalie and morning sickness wasn’t all that awful so I concluded that they must be girls,” Momma smiled. “And they were.”

I smiled; Noel’s face screamed “What does car and morning sickness have to do with anything?”

“And this time I was very tired but able to function. I always feel queasy in the car especially if I’m driving, but I don’t always vomit nor do I always get dizzy. And surprisingly, morning sickness hasn’t really been a problem. I remember throwing up twice in November because of just feeling sick. So I thought there were two boys and one girl,” Momma said. “And until they’re born, I will remain at the finish line waiting for my prize.”

Abby laughed.

“And you Dad?” Abby asked.

“I’m never right,” Daddy mumbled.

“You thought they were all boys,” Momma said. “You only got one wrong.”

“But I was wrong about Abby,” Daddy said, “so that makes me 0 for 0.”

“You thought I was a boy?” Abby asked. Daddy gave a sheepish smile.

“Up until you were born we called you Larry,” Daddy said.

“You were going to name me Larry?” Abby asked outraged. “I hate that name! Zach wanted to consider Larry but I stopped him before he could utter the Y.”

“And now we know why,” Daddy said focusing on the road.

That made even Abby laugh.

“I thought you said you weren’t finding out,” Momma said looking back at Abby.

“We aren’t,” Abby said. “But we’re going out of our minds trying to think of baby names. We’ve decided if it’s a boy we’ll name him after Zach, but we can’t think of any girl names!”

“Speaking of baby names,” Jaci said, “what names have you picked out.”

I groaned. Back when I was sleeping with my parents, Momma would keep me up at all hours asking me about Christmas themed names.

“I like Holly,” Daddy said.

“Mistletoe,” Momma said stubbornly.

“Never,” Daddy said shaking his head no.

“How about Mary?” Jaci asked.

“I’m not naming my girl ‘bitter,’” Momma said.

“How bout Merry,” I said.

“Were you not listening?” Momma asked.

“Not M-A-R-Y, but M-E-R-R-Y. Merry. Happy,” I said.

“That’s a name to think about,” Daddy said nodding.

“Love!” Bella cried.

“That’s cute,” Momma nodded.

“Eve,” Noel mumbled.

“That’s an idea,” Momma said.

“Hey, there’s two boys in there. Let’s not spend all our time on girl names,” Yule spoke up. Momma and Daddy laughed.

“What do you suggest, mister?” I joked.

“Natalio,” Yule suggested.

“I don’t know. We already have Natalie and Natalia,” Daddy said.

“Then how bout Rudolf?” Yule joked.

“I like it,” Megan said.

“Um, no,” Daddy said.

“Christian?” I suggested.

“Cute,” Momma smiled.

“Emmanuel,” Jaci said.

“Nicholas, Nick, and Nikki,” Abby said.

“Why don’t we just name them Santa, Santalle, and Rudolf?” I joked.

Daddy and Yule howled. Momma giggled. Noel, Megan, and Bella didn’t get the joke. Jaci put her hand over her mouth. Abby was not amused.

“Larry,” She muttered.

I had a feeling that joke was going to come back to me.

Posted in Natalie

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

**

A lot of people turned up for Mr. Stewart’s funeral. I think most people came for Mrs. Stewart. I had heard a rumor that the pastor of the Stewarts’ church refused to speak at Mr. Stewart’s funeral and wouldn’t let them use the church. So Mr. Stewart’s funeral was being held at a funeral home, and some guy that nobody knew would speak about Mr. Stewart.

There wasn’t much good a person could say about Mr. Stewart. There wasn’t much good a person could say about any Stewart, but I was determined not to let Mr. Stewart be laid to rest in shame.

You see, I received a letter from Mr. Stewart two days after the officers came and told us that he was dead. I was going to put it in the shredder but something told me to open it. The letter made me cry and change my mind about Mr. Stewart. The letter stated that it should be read at Mr. Stewart’s funeral and that was what I was going to do.

Daddy refused to go to the funeral. Some people in Florida were holding a mini grudge against him since I guess it’s some unsaid rule that you go to everybody’s funeral even if they’re your mortal enemy. I understand why Daddy hated Mr. Stewart so much. It was all in the letter, but nobody else knew why so lots of rumors started to fly around North Adams and Florida. None of the rumors were true but some came very close.

I tried not to wince as people got up to the stand and started to bad mouth Mr. Stewart. I thought funerals were a time to honor and remember the good things people did not bring up all the hurt.

“Does anyone else wish to come up to the stand and speak?” The man who nobody knew asked.

I slowly rolled towards the stand. I couldn’t get to the actual stand because that meant climbing stairs. I asked the man to hand me the microphone and he obeyed. Momma stared at me like I was crazy. She must have thought I had gotten up there to bad mouth about Mr. Stewart for her.

“A couple days after Mr. Stewart died I received a letter from him,” I started. “I was going to destroy it…but I opened it instead. Mr. Stewart requested that I read this letter at his funeral and I will.”

Everyone gasped. Some people started to get up to leave, but soon they all sat right back down.

“To be read at my funeral. Dear Natalie, I have sent this letter to you because I have faith that you will not destroy it and use good judgment and read it first. I have pained many people in my lifetime, and some of those people I can never say sorry to, but I’d like to apologize to the people I have hurt the most. Also inclosed in this letter is my last will and testament. In it I hope to make small condolences to the people I have hurt.

“Before I make my apologize, I would like to thank someone, but before even that I must explain why this person has impacted my life and why I will be eternal grateful to them.

“I had this feeling. My father said that every Stewart and Chadwick gets this feeling. It’s the feeling of death. I just knew that I was going to die soon. I woke up one day and thought that I’d die very soon. The one thing that this feeling does not give is any time frame to how soon so for the past four months I have been agonizing and waiting for death to strike. But ever since I got to prison, I’ve felt the grip of death grow stronger. Death seemed to be all I could think about. I found myself constantly trying to remember what my will said and where I had been telling Lori for the past four months where I wanted to be buried. I had felt from a very young age that I was going to go to hell. Heaven always felt like a forbidden place. For years people have been telling me that I was going to hell. They never told me why though and I always assumed it was my family history that made me unfit to go to heaven. I knew that I’d never be able to do enough good things to get me into heaven. Surely all the mistakes I have made in this life would prevent me from going to heaven. I felt like death was the only option left and that life was never an option for me. But one day I received a letter from Jaci Matthews. She said that I probably felt like death and jail were my only options I felt like I had left. She told me that life was still an answer and she gave me an example.  She told me a story that I had never heard before. It was about two criminals and Jesus. The two criminals were hanging on crosses next to Jesus. One of the criminals mocked Jesus and said that if He was the Christ to save Himself and the criminals too. But the other criminal spoke up saying that Jesus had done nothing wrong. The criminal that spoke up asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus said that very day the criminal would be in Paradise with him. I thought to myself why couldn’t that be me? Why couldn’t I be the criminal on the cross? That man had done so many things wrong he was being killed for it, but Jesus still forgave him in the mist of his struggling. Jaci’s letter then went on to tell me how I could ask for forgiveness. She begged me to accept Christ. And in that very moment I did. I felt this peace overcome me. I didn’t feel quite like myself. I soon realized that I needed to ask for forgiveness from so many people. I felt even more like I was about to pass from this life, but this time I didn’t feel like I was going to die. This time the feeling told me that I was going to see Jesus very soon. I got a pen and paper as fast as I could. I remembered all the moments I let slip on by. I remembered all the time I wasted. Natalie, time is a precious thing. We’re only here on this Earth for so long.  There are some many things I wished I would have said. So many things I wish I would  have done. So many things I wish I never did. So much emotion has overwhelmed me that I can barely hold the pen. Looking back is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I always went through life trying to forget, but my brain would never let me forget. At the strangest times I would remember something Lori said to me when we were teenagers or something Gavin had said to me before he ran off to Nevada. Sometimes I could hear your mother’s cries. As I look back I can remember so many things vividly. I can even remember what they wearing and what time it was. My heart has always been heavy and I always wondered why. But now I know that my heart was heavy because of the things I was trying so hard to forget.

“Now to the apologizes. First I’d like to apologize to my wife, Lori Mary. I remember clearly that June day when I carried you over the threshold. I was so sure that all the love I’d ever need was in your eyes. When I met you I felt as if I’d never love anybody else. Lori, when we first got married, I was madly in love with you. But in the next decade I noticed that you started to change. You changed from my sweet Lori to a coldhearted woman begging for respect. I didn’t realize until now that I was the one changing you. I didn’t care about your feelings. I didn’t respect your wants and your wishes.  I felt that since I was man of the house what I said went and that you didn’t deserve to have any say in it. I treated you as if you were a piece of coal, as if you were a person without feelings or a soul. I found myself in a marriage with a woman who was totally different ten years earlier. I did not love this new Lori and grew to hate the woman that had replaced my sweetheart. I soon started to lust and my heart slowly drifted away from you. But you have stayed with me through my infidelity. Not once did you pack your bags and leave me. You did shove the divorce papers that I so wholeheartedly deserved into my hands. I don’t even remember you threatening to leave. I tried to burn you and your grandson in my crazy desperate state when you never did a thing to me except be there. You never liked fighting with me and I was always the one that started to fights. Looking back I realize that you still loved me even though I no longer loved you. I can’t even begin to imagine how much pain that must have brought you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I can never take away those lonely and sleepless nights. I can never go back in time and never change you. But I can tell you that I am sorry with my whole heart. I hurt you in one of the worst possible ways and I felt no shame in doing so. Words cannot express how sorry I am.

“Riley Walters. You were the only thing that I couldn’t have. I can remember vividly the moment you stepped into my office for an interview. I didn’t listen to a word you said. All I could think about were you’re weak amber eyes. You resisted me with everything in you. Not even money could lure you. When I threatened you and your family, you left Pittsfield rather than submit. I remember the day one of my employees called and told me that they had found you in Boston. I drove to Boston and found you walking the streets. You looked cold and tired. Back then I thought the way you looked was funny. Today as I look back I realize how sick I was. You looked more pitiful than funny, and I’m the one that drove you to living in the streets. I lied to you. I told you that I would take you home and never bother you again. Your innocent eyes believed me. You wanted to be back with your family, and I filled you with false hope and promises. I kidnapped you. I tortured you. I hurt you in one of the worst possible ways. I stole Yule from your arms and put you on a bus to Florida. I thought I’d gotten over you, but when I heard that you had gotten married…I lost it. I thought that if I couldn’t have you, no man should. I drove down to Miami and kidnapped you again. You had Noel on Christmas day and I took your gift away. To tell you the truth I thought I was doing what was best for them and you. I thought that if you couldn’t love me, there was no way you could love them. But my thoughts were changed when I learned that your first husband, Alexander Baldwin, was trying to find Yule and Noel. Something told me to just let you find them and move on, but then I started to think. I told myself that if I couldn’t be happy with you and them, that your husband did not deserve to either. I recently discovered that car crashes were an innocent looking way to kill people. I tried my new car crash method, and as we all now it worked. What I did not know was that you two had a child together. Natalie. I have no clue how that slipped past my spies eyes, but thankfully it did. I would have probably tried to kill her too just to hurt you. It wasn’t until Abby’s wedding day that I finally deiced to surrender Yule and Noel’s ware bouts to you. When I walked into the kitchen to get a fork, you confronted me instead of fleeing. I thought I’d give you a chance and got your husband a job in New York City. I thought what were the chances of you finding them out of over eight million people and that you would probably never think to start searching for them. But you found them nonetheless. You found them within the first week there, and that is truly nothing but God. I’ve caused you so much hurt and pain. I ruined your life. I was the reason you lost precious years with your parents. I was the reason you left. I’m the reason you caused them pain. Two words can never take away all those years of pain and hurt. And I understand if you can’t forgive me. But I am sorry, and I hope that you do believe that. Cause I am. In a single moment I felt the most regret I’ve ever felt in my life. I realized all the things I’ve done wrong and instantly felt sorry for them, and you are no exception.

“Now I’d like to say something to the younger crowd. Timmy and Emily, I let you run wild. I let you do whatever you wanted believing that there was no hope for you. I noticed a change in you the very day you two accepted Christ. You tried to tell me about Jesus, but I brushed you off. I thought that since you were young and hadn’t done a whole lot of terrible things that you could still receive grace. I now know that’s not true. Anyone, even a person who’s done just about everything wrong in life, can feel the power of Jesus Christ. I’d also like to apologize to Yule and Noel. To you I was the cool uncle. The one that showered you with gifts and sent lots of money. I hardly ever visit  you or let you visit me because I saw so much of Riley in you and none of me. I’m sorry for not being there for you. I’m sorry for sending you through the mail. I’m sorry about everything. Zach Davis. I’ve always known that you were trying to do the right thing. I blamed my son’s arrest on you. I tried to make you something you were not. I tried to make a Stewart out of you when you were born a Davis. I forced you to see the horrors of our ‘adoption’ agency. I forced you to make hattan just because I was angry at you. I’m sorry for being so insensitive. I’m sorry. And Natalie. I have a confession to make. Lester Chadwick had informed me of my sister’s will and I drove down to New York City to wreak havoc on your family, but when I saw you standing out in the middle of the street, one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had came into my mind. I coldheartedly used my pedestrian hit on you, and I sped off believing you were dead. It wasn’t until I got home later that night that I heard that you had been paralyzed from that accident and had not had an instant death. I’m sorry for hitting you with that stupid truck. I’m sorry for ruining your life just like I ruined your Momma’s. No amount of money in the world can ever give you back what I took, and I am deeply sorry for everything. For trying to hit you with cars. For killing your father. For causing you so much pain when I hit. I’m sorry. So sorry.

“And finally Steve Matthews”- I hesitated. Daddy wasn’t here. Maybe I shouldn’t read that part. I mean he wasn’t here to hear it so what good would that do? Just as I was about to apologize and  start reading Mr. Stewart’s will, Daddy burst through the funeral home doors. He stared at me probably wondering what in the world I was doing up there. I continued- “And finally Steve Matthews. I remember clearly that cold January day seventeen years ago. It was a quarter after two, and it was snowing real hard. You were wearing a heavy winter coat. Underneath the coat you wore a suit to look professional. You came to me asking about Riley’s disappearing and asking if I might help you find her. You started to blubber things you wished you had said to Riley. You told me that you thought she had been hurt and was possibly with child. You said that you didn’t care, and that you loved Riley no matter what. I told you that I would help you find her, but as we all know by now that was a big lie. I knew exactly where she was. I even went to visit her that day. I thought about killing you and bringing your cold dead body to Riley. I’ve secretly hated you all these years and have made several vain attempts to take your life. Riley loved you not me, and I never seemed to accept that. I’m sorry for lying to you. I’m sorry for costing you precious years with Riley. I’m so sorry for trying to hurt you.”

I looked up again and saw tears in everybody’s eyes. Mrs. Stewart was sweeping. Momma was letting tears run down her eyes. Forgiveness screamed from her face. Daddy sat next to Momma contemplated what I had just read. Timmy held Jaci close as if he was thanking her for sending that life changing letter. Noel looked at me as if to confirm that she understand everything I had just said. Yule looked as if he couldn’t breathe. It was clearly to see that he was mad about Mr. Stewart hitting me, but at the same time he looked as if he could never be mad at Mr. Stewart for anything anymore.

“Now to the will. Date January 24. I have had my men set up an account for my wife Lori. The Pitts Estate outside of Pittsfield is in her hands now. I remembered that she always admired that house, and I always planned for it to be hers when I died. I leave the Honeymoon House to my grandson Timothy-Caleb Stewart. I hope he and his soon-to-be-wife will live happily ever after in that house. To my granddaughter Emily Elizabeth Stewart, I leave her my watch. As a young child, she used to always take that watch out of my coat pocket and one day she asked for it when I died. A true Stewart at heart aren’t you Emmy? I agreed and never forgot that moment. There of course is her college fund. I had my men set up a living fund. I’ve had them put a nice little sum in there. It is to be reserved for when she is married and I would not be surprised if she marries Nelson Drew. They remind me so much of Lori and I when we were young. My ‘Adoption’ fund has now been turned into a grand/great-grand-children fund. Now my great-grandchildren include Yule and Noel’s children. Just wanna get that straight. I leave Drury Hall to Steve and Riley Matthews. I know a house can never take away the pain I’ve caused you, but I can’t think of anything else to give you. Oh, and congratulations on your triplets. I’d also like to pay for Natalie’s medical bills, current and future. I’ve already setup a fund for it. Contrary to popular belief the Stewart’s keep their money in separate bank accounts. I have given out several pieces of paper that give my sentimental things to certain people. Those pieces of paper still remain valid. The law firm Stewart & Stewart will be broken up into two law firms Stewart & Stewart Adoption where we will do legal and real adoption. And the regular Stewart & Stewart. I handled all the money matters so I give that job to Steve Matthews. I know its a big thing to handle, but I believe you can do it. Stewarts and Chadwicks’ we’ve got bad names in Berkshire County, but I would like for that to change. Please pick up a Bible. Please give a church a chance. Please really listen in church. Christ has changed the final hours of my life, and if He can change me the worst of them all, he can change you.”

Mr. Stewart’s signature was at the bottom. It followed a couple of other people’s signatures.

Mr. Stewart’s death changed every Stewart. From that day forward the entire Stewart/Chadwick family was changed for the better.

Posted in Natalie

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

How can a person who’s paraplegic and still struggling with insomnia be legally pulled away from a nap?

I was seriously considering calling the police because when I was just about to fall asleep Mrs. Rivers comes running into the B&B and insists that all the Matthews’ girls came with her on a special shopping trip.

I love Mrs. Rivers, I truly do, but as we drove back to the B&B I was felling everything but love for Mrs. Rivers.

Sleep had long left me. I had been sleeping fairly well since the accident. I didn’t lay awake at night thinking about sleepwalking that’s for sure.

But the night we moved back to the B&B, sleeping soon became a problem.

The hospital/rehab was relatively quiet and peaceful enough that I easily went to sleep. At the B&B I had two choices. Either I slept with Noel and Natalia or I with Momma and Daddy. And neither option was better than the other.

I love my little niece, but she’s loud and can cry for over an hour.  I don’t mind the midnight feedings, but the midnight screams are a totally different story. Natalia likes to cry. I don’t know why but she likes to cry even if nothing’s wrong. Sleeping in the same room as her was a nightmare, and I was amazed at how easily Noel fell asleep in the middle of a cry fest.

Momma and Daddy weren’t any better to sleep with. Momma’s up half the night using the bathroom. It can take her up to an hour to find a comfortable sleeping position which is usually her stomach squished against mine. Momma likes to talk to me when she can’t go to sleep. She’ll talk about anything, but it’s mostly about the triplets. Just last night we decided to find out the genders of the triplets (Daddy was forced to stay awake for that one though, which was rare). Daddy usually falls asleep the second his head hits the pillow. Now I have mentioned before that Daddy snores. He was a very moderate snorer six months before. But now his snoring is very loud and he actually snorts in his snoring. His snoring sounds like a chainsaw that is locked in Carnegie Hall and has a megaphone attached to it. Sometimes Momma would have conversations with him even though I’m between them. They fought for three hours about nursery themes…UGH!

I tried sleeping with Jaci for a little less than a week and she wasn’t any better. She talked to me about wedding plans and what type of fabric should she use for her wedding dress, and when she did fall asleep she kicked me in the legs. I couldn’t feel the kicks too well since I can feel only on certain spots (usually were my psoriasis is the worst), but in the morning I always found myself face down on Jaci’s bedroom floor. I was almost helpless in that position, but I always got into my wheelchair with no help.

I even tried sleeping with Megan and Bella. The two of them must be on the same clock because they will wake up at the same time in the middle of the night and start talking. Was this family just filled with blabbermouths?

And being paraplegic didn’t help. Somehow not going to sleep felt different. I mean I had it before the accident, but now it just felt well…different.

I’d wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding out of my chest. When that happens, I know I’ve had a bad dream and all I want is some warm milk. But I am now unable to go get it myself. If we still lived in the apartment that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’d never trade Florida just so I could get milk myself. Daddy doesn’t mind getting it for me, but it annoys Momma. And Noel just doesn’t understand. She just stashes some lavender under my nose and goes right back to sleep.s

Thankfully this problem would soon be over. Momma and Daddy were house searching. It saddened me that we might not actually live in Florida, but there were only two house in all of Florida that would fit all of us. The B&B and Drury Hall. As I already explained, the B&B wasn’t working out so great, and Drury Hall was Stewart property. Mr. Stewart owned the house and there wasn’t that great of a chance of us moving in there.

As we pull up into the B&B driveway, my eyelids started to feel heavy. I looked at my watch. It was five-thirty. Maybe I could get a nap in before dinner.

The B&B looked dark which was strange. Ms. Donna should have been starting to make dinner.

Mrs. Rivers insisted that we enter the B&B through the restaurant door and that annoyed me for some reason. I was hoping to transfer the the couch and catch some Zs.

We found Daddy, Yule, and Mr. Rivers standing outside the restaurant entrance.

“Both doors are locked,” Daddy huffed, “and nobodies answering the phone.”

“Open up!” Yule shouted pounding on the door. Mrs. Rivers pulled a key out of her purse and opens the door.

“BON VOYAGE!”

Confetti was thrown into my face, and the lights were turned on. All our friends were crammed into the restaurant. French music was playing, and French decorations were all over the wall.

“Now we know that you’re going to going to France for a week but we couldn’t resist having a party!” Mrs. Rivers shouted.

“But it was her idea to have a surprise one,” Jessie-Maria said pointing at Virginia.

“What?” Virginia asked as she stuffed a cupcake into her mouth. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’ve got to get a picture for our blog,” Momma said pulling her ever ready camera out of her purse.

Momma and Daddy started a blog about their natural triplet pregnancy. All though my parents try to say it’s a ‘parenting’ blog, and they do have stuff about being the parents of a teenager, toddlers, autistic child, Down Syndrome child, and paraplegic. It’s mostly about the triplets. The blog is called Christmas Everyday, which frankly I find amusing.

“You should start a blog!” Virginia shouted. “And that way I don’t have to wait to see the pictures!”

My mom instantly said yes and started saying how it could be a spin-off to her and Daddy’s blog.

Two hours later, the party was still going on and sleep had left me once again. I was trying not to show my frustration when two police officers walked through the door.

“We’re looking for a Ms. Lori Mary Stewart!” One of the officers shouted over all the noise. Mrs. Stewart walked up.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Stewart, but you’re husband’s dead,” The other officer said.

**

Everyone left soon after that.

The officers said that they thought Mr. Stewart died of natural causes, and that Mrs. Stewart could either pick up his body in the morning or have to medical examiner look at him.

Mrs. Stewart didn’t seem to care that Mr. Stewart was dead. She just went back to eating cake and ice cream right after the officers left. Emily started to bawl her eyes out. Timmy looked like he almost didn’t believe the officers, but when he got over that he started to mope. Yule announced that he was no longer hunger and made himself disappear. Noel just sat down in a booth and held Natalia close. Momma didn’t look happy. I think she was sad for Yule, Noel, Emily, and Timmy. Mr. Stewart had done so much to her. He hurt so horribly. Frankly, I was surprised she wasn’t happy that he was gone. Daddy looked happy about it and joined Mrs. Stewart in her ‘celebration’. I think he was a little upset that Momma wasn’t happy about it.

And how did I feel about this?

I was trying to figure that out as I lay in bed in between Momma and Daddy.

Daddy was snoring louder than usual and Momma was talking to me.

“Joan wants to throw a babies shower for me,” Momma said, “but I’m not sure if it would be appropriate. This would be for number eight, nine, and ten. What do you think?”

“Sure, why not? I mean a baby shower is a celebration not a birthday party,” I said. “And you can tell Mrs. Rivers just to invite our closet friends and not every woman in Florida. The gifts not make the shower.”

“Honey!” Momma shouted. I tried not to giggle. Daddy was not going to like being woken up over this.

“Eh?” Daddy asked. “What?”

“Joan wants to throw me a babies shower,” I said.

“Ok,” Daddy said. He started to close his eyes.

“But I don’t know if it’s proper,” Momma said. “I’ve never had a baby shower before though so does that make it ok.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Daddy asked.

I inwardly groaned. The nursery fight started off with those eight words.

“What does it have to do with you?! The babies are just as much yours as mine! If you think it’s not proper etiquette to have a baby shower then I won’t have one!” Momma shouted.

“Riley,” Daddy sighed, “I personally don’t care if you have a baby shower or not. And in a way they are the first babies. They’re our first children together.”

“But won’t doing that be like ignoring our other children?” Momma asked.

Daddy gave a frustrated sigh.

“Just have the stupid baby shower!” Daddy said rolling over. Here we go again.

“It’s not stupid!” Momma shouted.

“It’s stupid to be talking about it at three in the morning!”

“You don’t love me.”

“Not this again!”

“I just feel like there’s something between us,” Momma whimpered.

“Yeah,” I said, “me!”

SMASH!

“What was that?” Momma screamed.

SMASH!

Momma hurried out the bedroom door. Daddy carried me downstairs. Everyone else was already down there. The windows in the family room had been smashed.

“Stewart Revenge?” Mrs. Stewart asked. “Fowler spoke of such things but…”

BANG! BANG!

Gunshots.

Daddy must have forgot that he was holding me because he ran outside while I still in his arms. That was a very terrifying moment for me at least. If Daddy got shot, I was out of luck.

Thankfully the shooter had already gotten into his car and was driving off. I couldn’t see the car because I had my eyes closed and was praying like crazy. But I could hear the car and it was speeding like crazy.

“Did you see who it was?” Momma asked when he walked back into the house.

“Nope,” Daddy said. “I could barely see the license plate but I’m pretty sure that car had Florida state tags.”

My face fell. I had a pretty strong feeling who that was.