Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty

**

I walked into Jaci’s bedroom. I needed someone, and I needed someone now.

The past week had been rough. No sleep. Mr. Steve didn’t talk to me that much. I got a C on a history test. For some reason I couldn’t enjoy dance class. I fell down a million times at skateboarding lessons today and didn’t learn anything new. We didn’t have another therapy session for a little less than a month, and I was worried I wouldn’t make it until then.

“Natalie?” Jaci asked as I crawled into her bed.

“Can I sleep with you?” I asked turning towards her. Jaci nodded and pulled me into a hug.

“How are you holding up?” She asked me.

“I’m not,” I said. “I just don’t understand anything anymore. I don’t know anything anymore. I just feel like God has left me. Why do I feel so miserable? Why does he not answer me? Why does he let me suffer? I’m only twelve years old and I feel like I’m eighty. I’m so tired. My grades are slowly slipping. I don’t want to come home for fear of facing Mr. Steve. I just…I just feel like God’s not with me.”

Jaci turned on a lamp and pulled her Bible from the drawer.

“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, [and] thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” Jaci read. “Psalms 139.”

I let the tears fall from my eyes.

Jaci flipped a little through her Bible and started reading again.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live forever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this,” Jaci said. “Psalms 22.”

I started to sob.

“I know it feels like the darkness has covered you, but remember God is still with you. I don’t know why you have to go through this. I don’t have all the answers. I know God knows all the answers and He sees the outcome of this. God does answers prayers. It might not be the answer we want; it might not be in the way that we want Him to. But He will answer you,” Jaci said. She turned off the lamp. I snuggled close to her and cried.

“Cry out to Jesus,” Jaci said. “Cry out to Jesus. Lay it all down.”

And I did.

**

I sighed. I had been resisting for so long. We had moved her a little less than two months ago and I still wasn’t finished packing. I opened the final box. It contained my Christmas fudge can, some of my father’s journals, and a box I hadn’t put in there.

I opened the box and found a little Christmas bracelet.

Dear Natalie,

  I put this in one of your boxes because I’m too chicken to give it you in person. I’m gonna miss you. I hope you miss me. Florida will never be the same without you. When you first came I was mean to you and I’m sorry about that. Will you forgive me?

Love,

Darcy

I sank into the corner and started to cry. I had forgiven him long ago. I put the bracelet on and it warmed my heart a little. I picked up one of my father’s journals. I opened it up not caring where I landed.

September 16th,

  Today Riley had an appointment. All is well with our baby. The doctor keeps asking if we want to know if it’s a boy or a girl. Riley doesn’t want to know. I want to know, but Riley wants it to be a surprise. Boy is it hard buying and picking out a name for a surprise.

  Of course Riley wants the baby’s name to be Christmas themed so we’re thinking of everything we can. Riley immediately ruled out Yule for a boy. I agreed with her. Yule is a strange name, and Yule Baldwin just doesn’t flow. Riley doesn’t like Holly, but I do. Riley likes Mistletoe, and I hate it. The other day I mentioned the name Noel and she nearly had a panic attack. I thought she’d like the name, but by the way she acted, I’m never saying that name again. We only have two good names. Nicholas and Natalie. I know this wrong but I’m really hoping for Natalie Baldwin.

Something inside of me went off. My mom sure attacked strange when I mentioned Yule and Noel. It couldn’t be because she disliked the name. Why would Momma nearly have a panic attack at just the mention of the name Noel? A cruel idea came into my mind. I got up and found my mother in the kitchen.

“Momma, why didn’t you name me Noel?” I asked. Momma looked like her heart stopped for a second.

“What kind of question is that?” Momma asked putting her hands on her hips.

“Well, I’ve been thinking. Noel has a closer connection to Christmas than Natalie does. I mean Noel means Christmas. Why didn’t you name me Noel?” I asked. I could see the hurt in my mother’s eyes. I shouldn’t have asked this question. I had a feeling a wave of bad memories were attacking Momma.

“Cause when you were born you looked more like a Natalie than a Noel so we named you Natalie,” Momma snapped. Momma walked off towards her room leaving me there to feel miserable.

The phone rang. I checked the caller ID. It was Yule’s cell phone number.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Grandma sick. Yule crazy. Natalie, come quick. Yule no admit but need you,” Noel said. She hung up.

“Momma!” I called. Momma walked out of her bedroom.

“What?” Momma snapped. Her eyes were red. Her hair was a mess. I sighed.

“Noel just called. I think something’s wrong,” I said. Momma’s features relaxed.

“Come on,” Momma said. “I’ll drive you to the hospital.”

I got into our car not knowing how different my life would be in forty-eight hours.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Six

**

We got home on Sunday night and I didn’t go to sleep until five A.M. in the morning. When I woke up I found myself in the kitchen pouring milk into a bowl of cereal and a sore throat.

“Natalie!” Momma cried. She looked upset. “Couldn’t you have waited? Donna and I are making breakfast this morning.”

“Sorry,” I rasped. “But I’m getting my cast off today and…”

“And you’re not getting your cast off until noon,” Momma snapped.

“I said sorry,” I said walking away. I didn’t even want the stupid bowl of cereal. I didn’t understand why Momma was so upset. It was just a bowl of cereal. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was another coco episode.

“Natalie Zoey Baldwin, get back here and eat this bowl of cereal!”

I sighed and walked back into the kitchen.

“I’m not hungry,” I stated. I really wasn’t and my stomach hurt all of a sudden.

“Eat,” Momma commanded as she cracked eggs. I took the bowl of cereal and sat down.

“Morning, Natalie,” Mr. Steve said walking into the restaurant.

“Morning, Mr. Steve,” I grumbled. Mr. Steve looked at me and then walked into the kitchen.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with her!” Momma shouted.

“Shh! She’ll hear you!” Mr. Steve shouted not so quietly. I rolled my eyes. I put the cereal in my mouth and nearly choked. Pain went through my throat. I couldn’t eat anything the way my throat was feeling.

“Morning, Natalie,” Darcy said walking into the restaurant. “You look tired.”

“Jet lag,” I lied. Darcy nodded.

“We moved the baseball game to two so you could play today,” Darcy said. “After all it is the last day of spring break.”

“That was sweet,” I rasped.

“You ok?” Darcy asked. I nodded.

“I notice your knee is out of its cast,” I said. Darcy nodded.

“I got it off on Tuesday,” Darcy said. “Dr. Walters said I was doing better than he thought I was. He told me not to run on it for at least a week but um…..”

I laughed.

“Morning, Darcy,” Momma said walking from the kitchen. Mr. Steve wasn’t far behind.

“Morning, Mrs. Bald…I mean Mrs. Matthews,” Darcy said. Momma smiled.

“Natalie, can we talk?” Mr. Steve said.

“I’ve gotta finish this cereal,” I said swallowing. It hurt but the pain was worth it. Mr. Steve walked away. Momma looked at me.

“Morning,” Jaci said walking into the restaurant. “What’s up with Dad?”

Momma looked at me and I got up.

“I’m taking a shower,” I mumbled.

“Oh no you’re not,” Momma said. “You’re finishing that cereal. It’s clearly very important to you.”

I sighed and sat back down. It took me twenty minutes the finish the bowl of cereal, and when I finished my throat hurt so bad I felt like throwing up blood and my head hurt so much I felt like I had been hit with an avalanche.

**

I stared at Mr. Steve as Dr. Walters sawed off my cast. Momma made him take me to get my cast off. He tried to talk to me when I got into the car but I put my headphones in. I wasn’t even listening to anything. I just didn’t feel like talking to him.

“Now your foot and part of your leg might look a little weird and it my smell since you haven’t washed it since December,” Dr. Walters said. I nodded.

“How should we clean it?” Mr. Steve asked. “When I broke my arm I had to let it soak in warm water mixed with soap. I couldn’t scrub my arm or scratch it.”

“The same. Soak the leg in warm water and soap, twice a day,” Dr. Walters said. He took the cat off and I looked at my leg. My skin looked at dry and flaky.

“No scratching,” Dr. Walters said. “Walk.”

I walked around.

“How does it feel?” Dr. Walters asked. “Any pain?”

“It’s a little stiff,” I said.

“That’s perfectly normal,” Dr. Walters said. “Ease into reusing it. Don’t play baseball this afternoon like Darcy did when he got his cast off. He hit his knee and it got swollen. Thankfully he didn’t re-break it.”

To tell the truth I felt too sick to play baseball.

I opened my mouth to say something but by the way Dr. Walters looked at me I guessed he thought I was going to protest so I closed my mouth.

“Open your mouth again,” Dr. Walters said taking a flashlight out of his coat pocket. I opened my mouth.

“Your tonsils and lymph nodes are swollen,” Dr. Walters said. “How’s your throat feeling?”

“Sore,” I said.

“How long has it been feeling like that?” Dr. Walters asked.

“Since this morning,” I said. Mr. Steve looked at me and then a hurt look came upon his face. He now knew I wasn’t hungry but that I didn’t want to talk to him.

“Let me take your temperature,” Dr. Walters said. He walked away and came back with a thermometer.

“She’s a hundred and three,” Dr. Walters said. “This may be a stupid question because you were just in England and anyone could have gone outside of their house and have strep throat, but have you come in contact with someone who had strep throat?”

“Um, maybe,” I said. Mr. Steve nodded.

“I want to do a rapid strep test. Don’t worry all I do is swab the inside of your mouth and we should know within ten to fifteen minutes,” Dr. Walter said.

Dr. Walters did the test and came back fifteen minutes later.

“The test came back positive,” Dr. Walters said. “Strep throat usually gets better on its own but we treat it with antibodies just to be safe. You should stop being contagious within twenty-four hours, but it may take up to three weeks for your symptoms to go away. Give her some Tylenol to help the pain and lower the fever. It says here on my charts that she has an Anaphylaxis allergy to aspirin so no ibuprofen whatsoever.”

I tried not to remember the time I got into the medicine cabinet and took an aspirin. Not a pretty memory. It shook my mother up because we had just lost Daddy and come to think of it she might have thought I’d been poisoned.

**

“Is there anything you want?” Momma asked me. Since I was still contagious, I was placed in what was now Momma and Mr. Steve’s room. I didn’t like being in here. There were pictures of Jaci, Abby, and me. Megan poked her head in here a second ago and complained that there were no pictures of her.

“Can I have one of Daddy’s journals?” I asked. “I think the one I’m on is red.”

Momma nodded and walked away. I should have told her it was under my pillow on the couch.

Momma came back with a red journal. She looked like she might be sick herself. She handed the journal to me and quickly turned away.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Fine, just fine,” Momma said, but I had a feeling she was lying. She quickly walked out the room. I opened the first page of the journal and quickly realized from the date that journal I was not the journal I was on but was also the year before I was born. The words on the page jumped out at me and I had to read them.

March 6th

 I knew something was wrong. I just knew it. In my previous journal I mentioned that last week Riley acted really weird at the supermarket. She looked over her shoulder, noticed some man, and nearly had a panic attack. The guy was in his late fortiesor early fifties. He did look a little creepy, but by the way Riley acted I had a feeling the two of them had history.

 Well maybe they do. Riley went to the same supermarket…alone and now she’s missing. I know it was stupid of me to let Riley to to the supermarket by herself but well I didn’t know she was going to the supermarket. I told her that I needed a new journal and she said she’d get one. I didn’t think she’d go to the supermarket, but we didn’t have any bananas and she did say she was in the mode for some banana bread. I mean I was at work when she went so there really was nothing I could do about it.

  The police aren’t so sure she was kidnapped. They’re very open to the possibility that she ran away. I’m not. Her car was found in the supermarket parking lot and I just know she wouldn’t just leave. I have a feeling this has something to do with her um shady past. I told the police everything I knew including that strange man. I did my best to identify him….but….Oh Lord, I just pray that Riley is all right cause I have no clue about her past and have no idea what kind of danger she is in. It’s all in your hands, Lord.

My life just kept getting weirder and weirder. I nominate my mother for the Most Secretive Award.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Two

**

  February 14

 Today was my first Valentine’s Day with Riley and I tried extra hard to make our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple special.

 I had planned to take her out to a little Italian restaurant and give her a dozen roses and everything. But it turns out Riley had plans too. She had bought a prime rib and all my favorite foods and had planned to eat in this Valentine’s Day. She even got special candles for the occasion.

 I was MAD. I wanted Valentine’s Day to go my way. We got into a huge fight and in the end Riley stayed at home and ate her prime rib and I went out to the restaurant.

 About halfway through my meal I realized what an idiot I was. I paid for my meal and went home. I found Riley crying in the bathroom.

 It broke my heart to see her crying just because I was too stubborn to eat at home on our first Valentine’s Day. Riley had ‘Valentine’s Day’ music playing so I switched it back to Christmas music and lit the candles. We started to dance.

 I think all is forgiven now. I ate some of her prime rib at like eleven o’clock at night. In a way this was a pretty good Valentine’s Day. I think we’ll stay in from now on.

Today was Valentine’s Day. I woke up to find a rose on my pilliow.

I had skipped ahead to my father’s second journal to read about their first Valentine’s Day. I put the journal back in the book under the couch and got up.

The hole in the restaurant was no longer there. Mr. Stewart had paid to get it fixed. He wanted Grandma Shirley to help pay for it but she said because he had already made a hole in the wall when she made a hole in the wall that she didn’t have to pay. That seemed to confuse Mr. Stewart enough to pay for the wall to be repaired.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Mr. Steve shouted.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” I smiled back.

“Look at the strawberries!” Megan shouted with a white teddy bear in her arms. She had red and chocolate smudges on her face.

“I got my girls fruit baskets and bears or strawberry baskets and bears since that’s the only fruit but I think yours, Natalie, has oranges in it,” Mr. Steve said handing me my basket and teddy bear.

“Thank you,” I said taking out a chocolate covered strawberry. Chocolate and strawberries, now that’s a combination you can get me to eat all on my own.

Timmy walked through the restaurant door.

“Morning,” I said not looking up from my chocolate covered orange.

“Is Jaci here?” Timmy asked. I looked up. He had some chocolates and a balloon in his hand.

“Um, yeah,” Mr. Steve said backing away. “JACI! TIMMY’S HERE TO SEE YOU!”

“COMING!” Jaci screamed back. Jaci walked into the restaurant wearing a red skirt and a white shirt with a red heart on it.

She was carrying a box that contained Timmy’s Bible and a Valentine.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Timmy smiled.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Jaci smiled back. They exchanged gifts.

“This is such a sweet Valentine!” Jaci cried. “Mine’s feels kinda dumb now.”

I looked over her shoulder.

I know we’re young

I know it’s soon

But I think I’m in love with you!

There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear

So I’m just going to say it

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

“Your Valentine reflects who you are,” Timmy said. “You love the Lord and you love the Bible. I think it’s perfect.”

I tried to look over Timmy’s shoulder but he’s like six ft. and Jaci is no more than five ft. three.

Love is patient

Love does not envy or boast

Love is not arrogant or rude

Love never fails

Love never rejoices at wrongdoing

Not irritable or resentful

Love does not insist on its own way

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

Love is kind so be my Valentine.

“The bus is here!” Momma called. “Ms. O’Donnell wants all seventh graders in early so Valentine’s Day doesn’t take up school time.”

“WHAT!” I shouted. “I’m not even dressed!”

“Here are some clothes,” Momma said throwing them at me. “GO!”

I shook my head, grabbed my backpack, and headed out the door.

**

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

My heart seemed to beat out of my chest as I read this note. Could it be from Darcy? The note wasn’t signed. I hadn’t signed the one I gave to Darcy. I was too scared to do it. I actually gave him two Valentines so he wouldn’t guess it was me. The Valentine I gave to Darcy went like this.

I have just one Valentine’s Day wish.

That you’ll be my Darcy and I’ll be your Elizabeth!

So what do you say?

Will you make my Valentine’s Day?

“Virginia?” Darcy asked walking to the back of the classroom.

“Huh?” Virginia asked looking up from a yellow Valentine.

“Did you give me this?” Darcy asked. His voice sounded like he really really hopped Virginia hadn’t given him this Valentine.

“I have just one Valentine’s Day wish. That you’ll be my Darcy and I’ll be your Elizabeth. So what do you say? Will you make my Valentine’s Day?” Virginia read. “I made it but I didn’t send it to you.”

I don’t know why but I went flying out the door. I ran into the girls’ bathroom and broke down crying.

“Natalie?” Virginia asked walking into the bathroom.

“What?” I asked wiping tears away from my eyes.

“Before you get all mad at me, I want you to know that I didn’t send Darcy a Valentine because you like him and well I just didn’t want to send a Valentine to a guy my friend likes,” Virginia said shrugging.

“Liked,” I corrected.

“Look, I KNOW Darcy likes you. He’s your Secret Santa,” Virginia said. “He just used a logical method of reasoning.”

There was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Who is it?” Virginia called.

“Darcy.”

I got up and walked into a stall.

“Come in,” Virginia said. “Nobodies in here but Natalie and I.”

“I don’t feel like talking to you,” I said with my back towards the stall door.

“Can you listen?” Darcy’s voice asked.

“Do I have a choice?” I snorted. I heard Virginia chuckle.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you would send me that Valentine because I was kinda a jerk to you when you first came. City folk never understand us. But you’re not like other people who didn’t grow up here. You seem to like it here and enjoy the easy lifestyle we have. I really like you,” Darcy said his voice trailing off after the last sentence.

I opened the bathroom stall door.

“Will you take me to the ball?” I asked.

“I would be delighted,” Darcy said in a fake British accent. I laughed.

“All is forgiven,” I said giving him a hug.

**

“I am so disgusted!”

I looked at Regina who looked like she could kill somebody.

“It’s not that bad, Regina,” I said trying to calm her down.

“And the creepy thing is. She likes him back!” Regina shouted.

“Hi, Natalie,” Emily said walking up with Nelson. They were holding hands.

“Yuck,” Regina shuddered.

“You’re just jealous. No one sent you a lovey dovey Valentine,” Emily said smiling at Nelson. “Look at my Valentine.”

She pushed it in my face.

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

“Cute,” I said not telling her I got one exactly like it.

“My heads in the clouds. My heart’s in my throat. I’m walking on air. Handing you this note!” Regina said. I looked at her strangely.

“That’s what my Valentine said,” Nelson cleared up.

“I don’t know what your problem is,” I said to Regina. “Nelson and Emily can like whoever they want.”

“Oh, you’re just happy Emily doesn’t like Darcy,” Regina shouted getting up and storming out of the cafeteria.

“What’s her problem?” I asked. Nelson shook his head twice. Once for him and once for Emily.

**

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now it’s the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

“Isn’t it so romantic?” Abby asked hugging Zach. “And to think I thought I was giving him a push!”

“You’re getting married?” Virginia asked excitedly. She had come over because us girls were going to get ready for the Valentine’s Day Ball.

“Yup,” Abby said showing us her ring.

“I knew I made the right decision when I read her Valentine,” Zach laughed. He handed it to me.

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.!

I laughed.

“Get out, Zach,” Mrs. Rivers barked. “You can see your fiancée at the ball.”

Zach gave Abby a kiss and left.

“Girls, I would like you to meet Jesse-Maria. She’s going to be staying with Tom and me for a while,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging a short shy looking girl. “She likes to be called Sean.”

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” Sean mumbled.

“Let’s start doing hair!” Momma shouted. Soon the B&B was filled with girly giggles.

“Where are the guys?” Jaci asked as she was putting on her dress.

“It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a man in Florida, Massachusetts has something for his girl in the morning on Valentine’s Day and has something for her in the evening too,” Mrs. Rivers joked.

We all laughed, including Sean who hadn’t said a word the entire time.

“Who else besides Abby got a special Valentine?” Aunt Jane asked. Virginia looked uncomfortable.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“This!” Virginia shouted taking a yellow Valentine out of her backpack.

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

I don’t want to blurt it but since it’s Valentine’s Day.

I think I should tell you that I like you in that special kind of way!

“It’s from that Leo boy isn’t it?!” Aunt Jane asked sounding excited. Virginia nodded.

“And I sent him the stupidest Valentine back,” Virginia sighed.

“What did it say?” The entire room asked.

Roses are Red. Violets are blue. I never know what to say around you! I’d like to convince myself there’s no one left to ask. But the truth is I only want you!” Virginia recited. “He’ll think I like him.”

“But you do,” Aunt Jane said.

“I don’t,” Virginia said looking disgusted.

“Do,” Aunt Jane said.

“Don’t.”

“Do.”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t,” Aunt Jane said.

“Do,” Virginia messed up.

We burst out laughing and Virginia shook her head.

**

“I can I have everybody’s attention?!”

I looked up at the stage were Ms. O’Donnell was standing next to Zach’s brother whose name was Ned Davis.

“Ned has something he would like to say,” Ms. O’Donnell said. Her eyes looked excited.

“Erin! Erin Carter! Where are you?” Ned shouted into the microphone. Ms. Erin stepped forth.

“I have something I would like to say,” Ned said getting down on one knee. The entire room gasped.

“Would you marry me?” Ned asked. Ms. Erin shook her yes head and ran up on stage.

“Three weddings and two in the same family and Joan is having a baby,” Mrs. Stewart smiled. “I wonder if there’s ever been this much excitement in Florida!”

“And now we’re going to crown our Junior Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and Junior Mr. and Mrs. Bingley,” Ms. O’Donnell said waving an envelope around. She opened it.

“Our Junior Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are………….Darcy Edwards and Natalie Baldwin!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. Darcy and I walked up on the stage.

“And our Junior Mr. and Mrs. Bingley are…………Nelson Drew and Emily Stewart!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. Regina looked surprised and ran out of the room where the ball was being held. Mrs. Stewart screamed and helped Emily on stage.

“Our Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are…………..Ned Davis and Erin Carter!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. Ms. Erin laughed as she walked up on stage.

“Our Mr. and Mrs. Bingley are…………Steve Matthews and Riley Baldwin!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted.

I smiled as Ms. O’Donnell put a sash on me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Daddy I thought.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty

**

I hate the week before Valentine’s Day.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I really like the holiday even thou I’ve never had anyone that I really like like.

It’s just that my father’s car accident happened exactly a week before Valentine’s Day. February 7th.

And this February 7th is even more painful. My mother is engaged to Mr. Steve. I like him a little bit better but still. And now that I know that my father’s accident wasn’t an accident it just hurts all the more.

It’s been seven years since he died. That day is still fresh in my memory.

The last time I ever saw my father alive was when he came home for lunch. He always came home for lunch. When he got his job, he wasn’t around as much and he always said that there was nothing better than spending time with his girls.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” Daddy said to me that day. His hands were behind his back.

“What! What!” I screamed excited.

“When I was driving past the pharmacy I saw a sign that said ‘90% off Christmas Things’ and with my two Christmas loving girls I just had to go in,” Daddy said.

“What is it?!” I asked impatiently.

“They had some bags, a Christmas bear, and one fudge tin,” Daddy said with a grin on his face.

“Will you take me to get the fudge tin?” I asked forgetting about the surprise. “I love fudge!”

“It’s not there anymore,” Daddy said. I pouted.

“Who took it! I want them thrown in jail!” I shouted. What? I was five.

“Take it! I don’t want to go to jail!” Daddy shouted showing his hands. In his hands was a tin of fudge.

“Thank you, Daddy! I love you!” I screamed taking the fudge tin. I ran to the couch and started to devour the fudge.

My dad gave one of his British laughs. My mother started laughing too. A Christmas song had just started to play and the two of them started to dance.

My mother was laughing. My daddy was smiling. I was eating fudge. It was like this a lot. My parents would just start dancing no matter the song. I would just sit on the couch and laugh and smile. My dad was always doing something to make me smile.

He left an hour later. It wasn’t until that evening that the officers showed up at our front door.

“Is that the door, Natalie?” Momma asked.

“I don’t know,” I groaned. I had eaten the entire tin and was feeling sick.

Momma walked towards the door and opened it.

“Officers,” Momma said in a shaky voice. “Come in.”

“Are you Mrs. Alexander Baldwin?” One of the officers asked. Momma slowly shook her head yes.

“Your husband got into a car accident at two o’clock this afternoon. He was rushed to the hospital but died on the way,” The other officer said.

My momma burst out crying. I felt a stream of tears rush down my face. The stream then turned into an ocean. My daddy was gone. I ran to my room and locked the door. I didn’t want to know anymore.

“NATLAIE BALDWIN!”

I looked around and realized that I was in Ms. O’Donnell’s class. Darcy looked at me. His blue eyes were filled with confusion. His hand was on my arm.

Darcy had been released from the hospital on Monday. Ms. O’Donnell had a fit when he didn’t come to school on Tuesday. And when he didn’t come on Wednesday, she went down to the B&B and demanded that Darcy be in class on Thursday. So here he was. He looked sick and weak, and he already fell asleep once in class.

My stomach fluttered as our eyes met. My heart started to beat like crazy. I closed my eyes and tears came out.

“Ms. Natalie Baldwin! Is the Algebra lesson too hard for you? Why don’t you come up here and tell the class why you just burst out crying?” Ms. O’Donnell said. I know that getting up in front of the class is not optional. I stood up a little embarrassed that I burst out crying. What am I supposed to say?

“Um, seven years ago,” I started. “My dad died on this day.” I felt more tears fall from my eyes

“Oh, Natalie…..,” Ms. O’Donnell starts but the bell rings before she can say anything else. I grabbed my lunch bag and ran out the room.

“Natalie!” Virginia called. I stopped and she caught up with me.

“Are you ok?” Virginia asked.

“No,” I cry letting some tears escape.

“Let’s step into my office,” Virginia said. We walk into the cafeteria and Virginia walks to the back of the cafeteria. There’s a small table back there. She pulled back a curtain that was attached to the wall.

“Wow,” I said. The curtain covered the entire table. I could only hear the noise from the cafeteria.

“Cool, I know,” Virginia said. “Do you want to talk about your dad?”

“He was from England,” I started.

“My dad was born and raised in Virginia,” Virginia said. She had a sad looking smile on her face.

“My dad was killed in a car accident,” I sighed.

“My parents took a bus to Richmond,” Virginia said. “They had to pick up a part for our tractor. The bus driver fell asleep and crashed.”

“I’m sorry,” I said trying not to cry.

“I guess we know how each other feels,” Virginia said. “What did your dad smell like?”

“Pine Needles,” I laughed. “It was his favorite body wash.”

“My dad always smelled like goat, sweat, and manure,” Virginia laughed.

“Manure?” I asked. Virginia nodded. We started to laugh.

“Were you thinking about him when you started to cry?” Virginia asked after we stopped laughing. I nodded.

“I was remembering the last time I saw him,” I said.

“I can’t really remember the last time I saw my parents. I try so hard to but I just can’t remember,” Virginia said looking sad. I sighed.

“But it was so weird,” I said without thinking. “When I stopped thinking about it, I looked at Darcy and my stomach seemed to flutter and my heart started to beat like crazy.”

Virginia gave me a sly smile.

“What?” I asked.

“Admit it Natalie,” Virginia said. “You like him.”

“I do not!” I almost shouted.

“Just stop it, Natalie,” Virginia said. “Everybody in Florida knows it. Your own mother knows it.”

“She doesn’t think I like Darcy,” I said.

“Sure,” Virginia said rolling her eyes. “Talk to me when you’re ready to send him a Valentine.”

“I do no……”

My voice trailed off. Could Virginia possibly be right? Did I have a crush on Darcy?

“Oh! I don’t know!” I shouted throwing my hands up. “When I first got here Darcy wasn’t the nicest person to me but lately he’s been…..”

“He’s been what?” Virginia asked. She was squirming in her seat.

“He’s been kind,” I said. “He’s not mad at me anymore for breaking his knee. He’s just….UGH!”

“I think he likes you,” Virginia said. I snorted.

“Emily Stewart sticks to him like glue,” I snorted.

“Sometimes glue falls off,” Virginia joked. I cracked a smile.

“I have the perfect Valentine,” Virginia said pulling her box from under the table. “Have you ever read Pride and Prejudice?”

“I’ve seen the movie,” I said. Virginia sighed.

“You’re lucky,” Virginia said pulling out a Valentine.

“In what way?” I asked as Virginia pushed the Valentine over to my side.

“Darcy!!! You know as in Mr. Darcy? From Pride and Prejudice!” Virginia almost shouted. I sighed.

“Give him this Valentine, Elizabeth,” Virginia urged.

“How much?” I finally asked. Virginia clapped her hands and squealed.

“I charge a dollar just like that other Valentine seller,” Virginia said adding disgust to the word ‘other’.

“You like him,” I joked pulling out a dollar from my backpack. Virginia’s mouth fell open. I laughed. Her mouth was still open as I handed her the dollar and put my Valentine in my backpack.

“Natalie?”

I turn around the find my mother standing there. She looks like she’s been crying. She had a picnic basket in her hand.

“Ms. O’Donnell called me about what happened,” Momma said. Her voice was shaky.

“I didn’t mean to burst out crying,” I tried to explain but my mother put her hand up.

“Come on,” Momma said taking my good hand. “Ms. O’Donnell has given you the rest of the day off.”

“But Darcy…,” I start before I can stop the words from tumbling out of my mouth. Darcy was in a car accident. I just cried in class.

“You can see Darcy at home,” Momma said. There was a look on her face that I never noticed before. Maybe she really did think I liked Darcy……..which wasn’t entirely untrue.

“Where are we going?” I asked as we got into the car.

“You’ll see,” Momma said. She turns on our Christmas CD and Let it Snow blares out. Then I remember. That was the song Momma and Daddy had been dancing to. Tears roll down Momma’s face and I try my hardest not to cry but tears start to rapidly fall down from my face.

Momma gets on the highway and gets off at one of the best places on the Mohawk Trail.

“Can you hold on to the picnic basket?” Momma asked. I nodded. Momma got out of the car and opened the trunk. She took out a rather large box.

“You ready to have a picnic?” Momma asked. I slowly nod. We walk a little bit till we find a spot that’s just plain beautiful.

The snow right here is nice and white.  Momma laid down a blanket. I find it kinda crazy that we’re going to have a picnic in the snow but I sit down and Momma pulls out two thermals cups.

“Beef Carrot Stew,” Momma smiles. She pulls out an orange and hands it to me.

“I know moving from Miami to Florida has been hard for you,” Momma started. “There are places in Miami that your father used to take you to and you can remember those places. In our apartment every corner had a memory of him. I think you’re old enough now to…well let me show you.”

Momma opened the large box. Inside there were twenty journals.

“These were your father’s,” Momma said as tears fell down her face. “Ten years of history are recorded here. From when he first came to Miami to the day before his death. Your father knew that he might die soon so the last entries focus mostly on us and how much he loved us and life and how he was ready to see if Jesus if necessary.”

“Daddy knew he was going to die?” I asked looking at the journals.

“Yes,” Momma sighed. “I’m not ready to tell anyone anytime soon about the accident or why your father thought he might die. Reading his journals is the second best.”

Momma’s eyes were red and her face drenched.

“Honey, I miss your father now more than ever,” Momma said. “I had to come back home because he died. I had to come back because he never met my parents. I had to come back because he never met my siblings. I had to come back because he never got to see the Mohawk Trail and marvel about its beauty. You’re his child and you deserve a chance to see what he died before doing.”

Momma started to have some of her stew and I did the same.

“He left you letters,” Momma said when we were finished without picnic.

“He did?” I asked in disbelief.

“And I think it’s almost time for the first one,” Momma said getting into the car.

**

August 7th

   It’s been nearly a week since I took holiday and came to Miami. It’s hot here all the time. It felt so good to get out of the rainy and cold British air and to feel the hot and steamy Florida weather. I still can’t believe that some people call this time ‘winter’.

 Today while trying to learn how to surf I knocked down a woman. Her name is Riley Walters. Her hair is the perfect mix between dirty blonde and ash blonde. Her eyes are the most beautiful amber eyes I have ever seen. I apologized repeatedly and she kept forgiving me. I didn’t want to go back to my surfing lesson. I stupidly suggested to take her out to dinner to show how sorry I was for knocking her down. She surprisingly agreed. She looks no older than twenty. Would she have turned me down if she knew I was twenty-seven?

  I took her to a little Mexican restaurant near the apartment building I’m staying in. It turns out Riley just got here too. She’s come from some place in New England. I have a feeling she didn’t have a very good childhood. She didn’t speak much about her parents.

 I told her just about everything. I told her my life back in England. I told her where exactly in England I had been born (including the hospital and exact second I entered the world). I told her about my parents. I caught myself before I told her about my father’s invention. Who knows if it will even work?

 I got her phone number before the night ended. Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Cause if there is. I’m in love

I locked myself in the bathroom along with my father’s first journal. The journal started off with his journey from England to Miami, Florida. Then finally I got to the one where he met my mother. I tried my hardest not to get the pages wet but a few tears spilled on the page.

I was about to read August 8th when a horrible sound blasted through the air and the house shook. I heard screaming. I unlocked the bathroom and hid my father’s journal under my pillow before I walked into the restaurant.

“Oh my goodness!” Momma screamed.

“This is crazy!” Jaci screamed.

“MOMMY!” Megan shouted.

“My restrurant!” Ms. Donna shouted.

I gasped.

Mr. Stewart’s car was in the restaurant.