Posted in My Crazy Life

My Crazy Life: Episode I-The Summer Everything Changed Installment VIII

Chapter VIII

Sleepovers & School Switches 

I lay outstretched on the B&B lawn. The sun shone on my face and kept my body warm. Cars passed by and almost all of the them honked. Becca Lou, who was supposed to be watching Mini-Lou, ran around the yard making bubbles with Rachel and Bella. Meanwhile, Mini-Lou threw mud on unsuspecting people.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Leo said laying down next to me.

“I wish summer could last forever,” I whispered.

“I just wasted a penny,” Leo mumbled as he threw a penny on my stomach.

“Jokes on you! I didn’t even feel it!” I shouted.

“Well do you feel THIS?” Leo shouted. He turned over and started tickling me.

“Stop it!” I shouted as we started to roll down the driveway.

“Never!” Leo shouted as he continued to find a feeling spot.

“Aren’t you supposed to say ‘as you wish?’,” I joked.

“Huh?” Leo asked as we landed at the end of the driveway.

“Leo? CHARLLY!” Virginia screamed from down the street.

“Oh no,” Leo mumbled. For the first time ever, Leo actually looked scared of Virginia.

Leo quietly picked me up and carried me back up the driveway to my wheelchair.

“Well aren’t you going to say anything?” Virginia asked sending daggers with her eyes at us.

“What do you want me to say? You’re controlling, bossy, and loud?” Leo asked.

“Excuse me?” Virginia asked outraged.

“Or would you me to say I made a big mistake when I sent you that mushy Valentine?” Leo asked.

Virginia tried to speak, but no words came out of her mouth.

“It’s been fun. No actually, that’s a lie,” Leo said.

“I’m breaking up with you Leopold Logan the Second!” Virginia screamed.

I tried not to laugh at this very tense and serious moment. Leopold?

“I never asked you to be my girlfriend in the first place!” Leo shouted as he walked down the driveway.

Virginia looked at me and then at Leo who was almost out of sight.

“That did not just happen,” Virginia spit. “He did not just break up with me.”

“Virginia, I’m sorry,” I started.

“No, you’re not!” Virginia screamed. “You planed this whole thing! You just stole my boyfriend!”

“What!” I shouted. “I’ve only been here for three weeks!”

“So your plan worked faster than you expected!” Virginia shouted.

“What plan?” I asked.

“Mi Scusi! Excuse me!”

Virginia and I turned. Neither of us had noticed a yellow taxi drive up the driveway or a young man get out of it.

“Can we help you?” Virginia asked.

“Maybe you can,” The young man said with an Italian accent. “I’m looking for an O’Donnell residence.”

“Ms. Shelby O’Donnell?” Virginia asked.

“Yes! She’s my sorella sister,” The man said.

“You’re Giovanni!” Virginia shouted in full drawl. “The Italian half-brother.”

“And you must be Virginia,” Giovanni said. “The girl with the terrible drawl.”

Virginia blushed.

“Ms. O’Donnell doesn’t live in Florida. She lives in North Adams. You’re about twenty minutes away from your destination. Her orchid is the first house on the outskirts of North Adams. If you see a brown barn, you’ve gone too far. That’s the Woods property.”

“Grazie,” Giovanni smiled. He got back into his taxi and it took off.

“Who was that?” Regina asked sneaking up behind us.

“Giovanni Moore,” Virginia said all dreamy.

“Does Leo have competition,” Regina joked.

Virginia stared at Regina. The fire was back in her eyes.

“UGH!” Virginia screamed. “Rachel! We’re going home!”

“No, I’m not!” Rachel shouted back. “I’m staying over for the sleepover.”

“Sleepover? What sleepover?” Virginia asked.

“Becca Lou’s having a Before School Sleepover here tonight,” I said.

“Well, then I’m having a sleepover tonight!” Virginia screamed. She ran into the B&B.

“Virginia’s heartbroken,” Rachel said. “Virginia does crazy things when her heart breaks.”

“Why would a sleepover be crazy?” I asked.

“Charlly!” Mom shouted. “We need to talk to you!”

What had Virginia done?

**

Actually, Virginia had not uttered a word about my ‘evil’ plan to steal Leo away from her. When I rolled into the B&B, I found Virginia on the phone trying to convince her aunt to let her have a sleepover and Laz, Mom, and Lou sitting on the couch.

“I should go,” Cece Elizabeth said getting up.

Lou almost looked disappointed.

“Charlly, we need to talk about school,” Mom said.

“Ok,” I said. “Are we going to start late or something? I hear that this new CO/OP center for homeschoolers.”

“Charlly, honey, you won’t be homeschooled this year,” Mom said. “Neither will Becca Lou.”

“What! Why?” I asked.

“Charlly, we aren’t going anywhere,” Mom said. Lou and Laz nodded in agreement. “Laz and I have decided to stay in the Berkshires for at least until after Becca Lou’s graduated. We love it here. We love that you guys have made friends so fast. Laz has his family here. I’ve finally found a place I can call home.”

I just stared at them. I thought about the words Natalie had said when she finally realized that Florida was the perfect place for her. Was Florida the perfect place for me? I jumped in my wheelchair as Virginia slammed the door as she left. I had already made an enemy, but even with that the want to go back to Chicago was slowly fading away.

“I’m staying too,” Lou said looking off in the direction Cece Elizabeth went.

“You like her,” I blurted.

Lou’s cheeks turned crimson.

“That’s a discussion for another time,” Lou said.

I winked at him and he winked back.

“So tomorrow I will take you down to the high school and sign you up,” Laz said quickly. He gave Lou a quick stare.

“Charlly!” Natalie shouted rolling into the B&B. “Virginia’s having a sleepover! And I can guarantee it’s gonna be CRAZY!”

**

Just the sight of chickens, a goat, and a pig told me why a sleepover would be a crazy idea.

“You have to be careful when you’re at Virginia’s house,” Natalie explained. “I almost squashed a chicken once.”

“Note to self. Don’t go out in the yard,” I said.

“Forget the yard,” Natalie said. “There are chickens in the house.”

“Are there goats too?” I asked.

“Nope,” Natalie said, “but I think Rachel keeps one of the baby pigs in her room.”

“Who lives like this?” I asked as Natalie rang the doorbell.

“Farm people,” Natalie said.

A tall boy yanked open the door.

“In the family room and FYI I’m not lifting you girls up the steps,” The boy said with a Massachusetts accent.

“Hi, Andrew,” Natalie said sarcastically.

“What did ya’ll think of that? Leo’s been giving me voice lessons,” Andrew said.

“I think you should do what I did,” Natalie said.

“And that is?” Andrew asked.

“Let it naturally find its way into my accent. I love the way I say ‘car’ now!” Natalie shouted.

“You’re accent is cute. You got a little British, a little Southerner, and dash of Massachusetts. My accent is a big piece of Southern pie,” Andrew said.

“And you want to sound like you’re from Boston?” I asked.

“Why not?” Andrew asked.

“A teacher told Virginia her accent hurt her ears and she only embraced it more. Own who you are!” Natalie shouted.

“Andrew! Stop harassing my friends!” Virginia shouted. “Well my friend.”

“Sorry, Ginny,” Andrew said.

Tears mounted in Virginia’s eyes.

“Just let them in,” Virginia shouted at Andrew. She marched down the hall.

“She was dumped earlier,” Andrew whispered as we rolled in the house. “And she’s pretty sour about it. Frankly, I don’t know what Leo saw in her in the first place.

Natalie rammed him with her wheelchair and left him silently screaming his pain.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” Jessie-Maria pouted as Natalie rolled into the family room.

“I haven’t seen my brother in a while,” Natalie said. Jessie-Maria blushed.

“So how’s that going away?” Emily pried.

“None of your beeswax!” Jessie-Maria shouted throwing her pillow at Emily. “How’s your relationship with Nelson?”

“It’s officially and that’s all that I’m saying,” Emily smiled. She started to pet a chicken that had just snuggled up under her arm. “How ya doing Aggie?”

“You know the chickens by name?” I asked.

“Yup,” Emily said. “This is Aggie and the one leaving droppings by your wheelchair is Ellen.”

“You don’t have these chickens potty trained?” I asked.

“All but Ellen,” Virginia giggled. “She refuses to poop anywhere but that spot you are sitting in.”

I immediately rolled away from that spot.

“Hey, girls,” Aunt Jane said walking into the family room. She had a chicken on a leash.

“Hi, Aunt Jane. Hi, Alice,” Natalie said.

“Bock!” Alice shouted. She started to run towards Natalie.

“Stop!” Aunt Jane shouted. “I have a flight risk here. She ran out in the middle of the street. Timmy almost ran over her. He was racing Jaci to the clinic. The poor girl had resorted to puking in her purse.”

“Oh no,” Emily said. “My big brother is gonna be a daddy!”

“What’s so horrible about that?” Aunt Jane asked.

“Think about it,” Emily said. “My big brother Timothy-Caleb Stewart raising a child…with his genes.”

“God help us all,” Aunt Jane said.

Everyone laughed.

“Well, we all know he’ll be a better father than Lou,” Virginia said.

Nobody said anything. Natalie and Aunt Jane stared at Virginia in shock that she had just said that.

“Virginia, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say,” Aunt Jane said. “Apologize.”

Virginia looked at me and smirked.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Jane, but I can’t do that,” Virginia said.

“And why can’t you?” Aunt Jane asked folding her arms.

“Because from this moment on, I am never speaking to Charlotte Lily King ever again!” Virginia shouted.

Natalie and I stared at each other. We were both thinking the same thing.

Oh, snap.

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 4- I’ll Be Home for Christmas Installment Four

**

This morning I woke up to a pleasant surprise, it had snowed. And it was one of those good snows. It was still snowing now and I was determined to make a Marshmallow World Day out of it.

I was about to ask the very important question of going to The Hill when Virginia walked up to take our orders.

Momma insisted that everyone order before her because she didn’t know what she wanted. Virginia gave me a look that only I understood.

“I’ll have one order of pancakes, one order of waffles, one order of French toast. two biscuits, three…no four servings of bacon, and I’m craving some blueberries. Do you have any?” Momma asked. Virginia didn’t answer at first. She had a huge smirk on her face.

“No, but we do have blueberry jam,” Virginia said.

“That will have to do,” Momma said handing Virginia her menu. Virginia winked at me and walked towards the kitchen.

Daddy looked at Momma but he didn’t say anything.

“Can I go to The Hill?” I asked.

“Sure, I don’t see why not,” Daddy said before Momma could say no.

“Really?” I asked. I gave Daddy a hug.

“I don’t know, Steve,” Momma said with worry on her face.

“We’ll be there,” Daddy said.

“But we’ll be watching Megan and Bella,” Momma said.

“Yule and Darcy will look after her,” Daddy said. “She’ll be fine. She can go.”

Daddy said the last part with authority. Momma gave up her fight and started to complain about how long it was taking the food. And when the food came, she complained that she was only given three servings of bacon not four.

I wonder…

**

“You’re getting heavy,” Darcy said as he carried me back up The Hill. I smiled. Today has been a perfect day. I sledded with just about everybody but mostly with Darcy. The plan was that Darcy would carry me up The Hill on his back while I carried the sled in my hand. It was awkward but I wasn’t complaining.

“The only thing that could make this day better is if it was Christmas,” I said when we got back to the top of The Hill.

“It’s been that perfect, huh?” Darcy asked. “Then I guess carrying you up The Hill a hundred times was worth it.”

I smiled at him and the sled started to go down The Hill. Then we crashed, and Darcy landed on top of me. I started to laugh. This was our first crash of the day.

Then I felt Darcy’s cold nose against my nose. Darcy leaned towards me and this time I was sure I wasn’t imagining it. Then a scream filled the air. It sounded like Noel.

Darcy jerked his head up, and I couldn’t help but let a small frown cross my lips.

“It’s time!”

That sounded like Bennet. Noel was in labor.

Darcy picked me up and put me on his back. He ran up The Hill as fast as he could.

As we got closer to the top, I could hear Noel screaming like crazy. I felt sorry for her. No thirteen year old should experience that kind of pain.

“I’ll take her from here,” Yule said picking me up off Darcy’s back. Yule put me in the car.

“You ok?” I asked Noel who was sitting in the car screaming her head off. Noel looked at me. Ok, I know that was a stupid question.

“Do look ok!?” Noel shouted. Noel started to calm down. I guess the contraction stopped.

“I can’t find Bella!” Momma screamed. Bella ran up The Hill with Rachel by her side.

“Hey! I want to go too!” Grandma Shirley whined.

Soon everyone was in the car and we were off.

By the way Daddy was acting you would have thought Momma was the one having the baby. First he drove off in the wrong direction. When Momma corrected him, he got on the highway and passed the hospital exit. We had to turn around and then Daddy went to the cancer center instead of the hospital. A trip to the hospital that should have been no more than twenty minutes took thirty. Then he nearly blacked out when we walked into the hospital.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long. Noel had the baby two hours later.

“That’s the prettiest little baby girl I’ve ever delivered,” Dr. Walters smiled. “And I’m not just saying that because she’s family.”

“I’m way too young to be a great-grandmother,” Grandma Shirley said, “but she’s so cute I don’t mind.”

Noel couldn’t stop smiling. My little niece started to cry, and Noel didn’t seem to care.

“What are you going to name her?” Momma asked taking to baby out of Noel’s arms and trying to calm her down.

“Can’t be two Natalie’s so… Natalia!” Noel shouted. I felt honored.

“You wanna hold her?” Momma asked. I nodded.

“Hi, Natalia, I’m your auntie,” I cooed.

I was wrong. There really was something besides Christmas that could make this day better.

**

Since Natalia was born on the Eve of Christmas Eve, the hospital let Noel and Natalia come home on Christmas Eve.

Daddy, Darcy, Nelson, and Yule went to go get a tree from an actual forest. While the rest of us got out the many Christmas decorations.

“Hey, this isn’t ours,” Regina said pulling out an old looking wreath.

“Our wreath!” I cried. Regina handed the wreath to me.

The wreath had been here in Florida the entire time. I hadn’t even thought about it when we moved to New York City, but now it all made sense. New York City wasn’t home. Florida was and would always be.

Momma looked thoughtfully at the wreath. She unconsciously let her hand slip to her belly. I think I was the only one who noticed this since everybody was cooing over Natalia, who was just waking up.

“We’re back!” Daddy shouted. Yule and Darcy dragged the tree into the house.

“Oh! You’re getting pine needles everywhere, Yule!” Grandma Shirley complained.

Yule rolled his eyes. Grandma Shirley looked shocked.

“Humph!” Grandma Shirley said. She took one look at Natalia and started cooing over her.

Grandma Shirley held her tongue until it was time to put decorations on the tree.

“No, that doesn’t belong there,” Grandma Shirley said to Mrs. Stewart.

“What’s wrong with putting Natalia’s first Christmas ornament up there?” Mrs. Stewart asked pointing to the spot she was going to put the ornament.

“It should be on the bottom of the tree closer to where Natalia can see it,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Natalia won’t remember where the ornament was, but we will!” Mrs. Stewart shouted.

“Who is Natalia’s great-grandmother?” Grandma Shirley screamed.

“Stop!” Noel shouted.

“I’m her stepgrandmother!” Mrs. Stewart screamed.

“Stop!” Noel shouted but neither Grandma Shirley nor Mrs. Stewart paid her any attention.

“Please stop. You’re upsetting Noel!” Yule shouted.

“Shut up, you!” Grandma Shirley shouted at Yule.

“Don’t you talk to my son that way!” Momma shouted. Grandma Shirley burst out crying.

“You didn’t have to leave!” Grandma Shirley cried. “If you would have just told me what happened…I admit I might not have seem as loving but…I had high expectations of you. You had something special. You had this drive. You seemed to just be able to handle anything. I didn’t think that you needed all that extra loving and hugs and kisses. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Yule and Noel too. I’ve been resenting you. I felt like you took my daughter away from me but that’s not true.”

“It’s all right, Grandma,” Yule shrugged. Grandma Shirley started to weep and hugged Noel.

“Ah!” Noel screamed. She pushed Grandma Shirley away. She put Natalia in Grandma Shirley’s arms and all was forgiven.

The doorbell rang.

“Who is that?” Momma asked walking towards the door.

“Surprise!”

Grandpa Baldwin, Grandma Baldwin, Aunt Cerys, and Aunt Louise walked into the family room.

“Natalie!” Aunt Cerys shouted. She ran and gave me a hug.

“And this must be Natalia,” Grandma Baldwin cooed looking at Grandma Shirley. Grandma Shirley put Natalia in Grandma Baldwin’s arms.

“What are you guys doing here?” Momma asked walking into the family room.

“We came to surprise you,” Grandpa Baldwin said. “We couldn’t think of a better Christmas gift for our granddaughter.”

I smiled. Grandpa and Grandma Baldwin came and gave me a hug.

Soon everyone was talking and decorating the tree. I couldn’t help but smile. This was turning out to be a great Christmas.

**

I yawned. It was close to eleven o’clock and It’s a Wonderful Life had just gone off. Everyone else had already gone to bed, and Momma was the first to go. Daddy was the only one who stayed up with me.

“Daddy,” I said as Daddy turned off the TV and lights, “who’s in your family?”

After Grandma Shirley’s breakdown, I started to seriously ponder that question. What does the word family mean? Who’s in my family?

“You, Yule, Noel, Megan, Bella, Jaci, Abby, your mother,” Daddy started. “Grandma Shirley” He wiggled his eye brows and I laughed. “Grandpa Jack, your aunts and your uncles, Mrs. Rivers, Mr. Rivers, the twins, Jessie-Maria, Aunt Jane, Virginia, Rachel, Andrew, Caroline, Zach, Timmy, Bennet, Ms. Donna, Cece Elizabeth, Darcy, Mrs. Stewart, Emily, and just about everybody else in Florida!”

“That’s a mighty big family,” I said as Daddy carried me up the steps.

“Natalie, family isn’t just someone you’re related to by blood,” Daddy said. “Family is a person you deeply care about and love.”

“And what does home mean to you?” I asked. Daddy stopped walking and paused on the steps.

“Home is wherever my family is,” Daddy said. Then realization sunk in.

“I guess our family is spilt up, huh?” Daddy asked. I gave him a sad nod.

“So where would you like to sleep tonight?” Daddy asked. “With your mother and I or with Noel and Natalia.”

Natalia cried out.

“With your mom and me,” Daddy stated. I nodded.

As Daddy carried me into the room, I saw out of the corner of my eye Bennet stumble into Noel’s room. I couldn’t help but smile.

**

I woke up at eight A.M. on Christmas morning. I could hear Megan screaming for somebody to wake me up. I heard what sounded like two little feet and one set of huge feet walk up the steps. Then Megan, Bella, and Yule walked through the door.

“You’re up!” Megan screamed. Bella smiled at me and handed me a flower.

“Thank you,” I smiled as Yule carried me downstairs.

Everyone sat around the Christmas tree. Bennet was cradling Natalia, and Noel was smiling at him. Momma and Daddy were sitting on the couch. I noticed at Momma’s stomach looked a little bit bigger, but I could have been imagining it.

“Wait,” Daddy said as Megan started to open one of her gifts. “I think Natalie should open the first gift.”

“I agree,” Grandma Shirley said. She picked up a box and handed it to me.

“It’s from the entire Walters’ family,” Grandpa Jack said. I smiled and opened the present.

“It’s a camera,” I smiled. Momma laughed as she took a picture of the camera.

“Look inside the box,” Aunt Clarisse said mysteriously.

I opened the box and inside was a broacher for Paris, France and inside the broacher there was a voucher.

“Redeemable for one week in France!” I shouted reading the voucher.

“I’m taking the entire Matthews’ family on my yearly trip to France!” Grandma Shirley shouted. Abby started to scream.

“Here,” Daddy said handing a card to Yule. Megan pouted.

“You want to adopt Noel and me?” Yule asked.

“Only if you want me to,” Daddy said. “I mean we’ve started the process but if you don’t want me to…”

“No, it’s ok,” Yule smiled. “I’d like that.”

Soon all the presents where open or so we thought.

“There’s one card and nine gifts hidden way behind the tree,” Daddy said pulling them out. He handed the gifts to Yule, Noel, Abby, Bella, Jaci, Megan, Grandpa and Grandma Baldwin, Grandpa and Grandma Walters, and me. He kept the card for himself.

Momma stood in front of all of us with the camera. I could tell that she was taking a video because the red light was on.

I opened my presents and found three pacifiers. Huh?

Then all of a sudden Noel started to scream and jump up in down. She was waving a piece of paper in her hand. Momma was laughing her head off.

I started to look around. Yule looked very confused as he held up three bibs. Abby and Zach were pondering over three baby bottles. Grandma Shirley was having trouble opening her gift. Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin looked at the book that was there present with pride and joy. Jaci sat there with three spools of yarn and three pairs knitting needles. Daddy sat there smiling. I didn’t get the connection until I saw Megan’s gift.

“I didn’t ask for any clothes,” Megan pouted. She held up a shirt that said BIG SISTER!

Abby, Jaci, and I started to scream. Noel handed me the piece of paper in her hand, but before I could read it Grandma Shirley started to scream.

“My baby girl is having a baby!” Grandma Shirley screamed. She held up a photo album with an ultrasound photo on it.

“So Virginia was right,” I said out loud.

“Riley, I don’t get this card,” Daddy said.

He passed the card around. It said “We’re going to need a bigger car!” and the ultrasound photo was underneath it.

“We can fit one more in our car,” Daddy said.

Momma smiled a sly smile.

“Gather round,” Momma said. Everyone but Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin gathered around.

“There’s the head,” Momma pointed out on the ultrasound photo. “Then there’s his…or hers shoulders. There’s the head. Then there’s his…or hers shoulders. Then there’s another head and another set of shoulders.”

“Wait…you just said head and shoulders three times,” Daddy said.

“EEEE!” Grandma Baldwin shouted. She held up a book called How to Be the Godparents of Triplets.

I laughed as Daddy sat there lifeless looking. It turns out that Momma was thirteen weeks along and had been hiding her humongous baby bump by wearing body shapers and layering up.

“I just found out it was triplets this week,” Momma said. “I knew I was pregnant back in November but I had a feeling there might be more than one in there after stepping on the scale!”

What could make this Christmas better?

**

Virginia’s reaction.

It took us three minutes to decide to tell them by taking a picture with my new camera and asking everybody to say: Riley’s having triplets!

So when the Rivers’ and Powers’ came for dinner we were ready.

“Say: Riley’s having triplets!” Daddy shouted after he set up the timer.

Jessie-Maria screamed and hugged Yule. Aunt Jane dropped Caroline, but Andrew caught Caroline. Mr. and Mrs. Rivers smiled and laughed and then started to give multiple tips like computers. When Rachel found out that triplets meant three babies, she started to scream. But Virginia’s reaction was priceless.

First Virginia started to scream, then she started to cry, and finally she fainted.  Her face in the picture is a cross between happy and sad. She is also tumbling towards the floor.

“I didn’t know!” I shouted when Virginia came too. She was giving me accusing looks.

“Sure,” Virginia said rolling her eyes as Mr. Hank helped her towards the kitchen. I think to this day Virginia doesn’t believe me.

But dinner was even better than Virginia’s reaction.

“We have announcement to make,” Daddy said when everyone had finished eating. Virginia looked at me and I shrugged.

“We’re moving back to Florida!” Momma shouted.

“Joy to the world!” Virginia shouted standing up. “The Matthews’ are moving back!” She soon sat down looking embarrassed.

“We have something to say!” Grandma Shirley shouted. “Jack’s retiring!”

Everyone started to congratulate Grandpa Jack.

“And we’re moving to North Adams!” Grandma Shirley shouted.

“You are…,” I said.

“Speaking of announcements,” Mr. Hank said standing up and thankfully changing the subject. He got down on one knee.

“This really isn’t an announcement. It’s more of a question, but um will you Jane Powers marry me Hank Moore?” Mr. Hank asked Aunt Jane.

Aunt Jane screamed and then very tearfully said yes.

“I’m so full,” Darcy said as he pushed me towards the family room. Everyone else was cleaning up dishes in the kitchen.

I looked up and saw that we were under the mistletoe.

Darcy leaned in and gave me a kiss…on the lips…and it wasn’t a peck. 🙂

Best. Christmas. Ever.

THE END

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twelve

**

The bus from North Adams to Virginia took about ten hours. I tried to take a nap, but all I could think about was that I was moving to New York in less than a month. Mr. Steve kept his distance even though I knew Momma was trying her hardest for him to get closer to me. I personally thought some distance between us was a good thing.

Ms. O’Donnell had gone down to Virginia a week early so she could get everything put together. I wondered how the people down there were putting up with her.

Once word got out that the ‘world’ famous Jessie-Maria Sean would be performing at the Christmas in July show tickets were sold faster than you could count to ten.

“Jessie-Maria, you are an angel!” Is what Aunt Jane said when she found out how much money we had already made.

“Natalie?” Virginia asked as we got closer to her hometown.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“You’re the best friend a girl could ever ask for. Thank you for everything. You’ve done a lot to help out my family and neighbors. I’m going to miss you more than you could ever imagine,” Virginia said with tears in her eyes.

“You’re an awesome friend too,” I said trying not to cry. I had done a lot of crying lately.

“When are you leaving?” Virginia asked.

“Mr. Steve hasn’t gotten the exact date from his job yet,” I said.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” Virginia said quoting Romans 8:28. “Pretty hard to believe, huh?”

She could say that again.

**

It was almost nine-thirty P.M. The day had been hectic. The show had just finished, and thankfully nothing major had gone wrong. I hadn’t been able to go on the rides or spend any time with Darcy, but it was ok. I was helping the victims of the fire and that’s what I came here to do.

“You look tired,” Darcy said to me.

He had no idea how tired.

“You were great,” Darcy said.

“Thanks,” I said. “It was tiring and hard, but we’ve made a lot of money and its really going to help the victims.”

“I used most of my coins,” Darcy said sheepishly.

“Oh and you want mine?” I asked digging into my pocket. “Here, I haven’t used a single one.”

“Keep your coins,” Darcy said. “I was wondering if you’d take me on one of the rides or something since we didn’t get to spend the day together.”

“Sure,” I said. “But I want to go in the photo both first.”

“Sure,” Darcy shrugged.

There wasn’t a line at the photo both and I didn’t expect there to be. I just wanted one last picture. One final memory.

“Say ‘Christmas’!” I shouted.

“Christmas!” Darcy and I shouted.

The pictures we took were totally goofy, but they were special (at least to me. I have no clue to this day what Darcy did with our pictures). Every time I looked at those photos I couldn’t help but smile. For three minutes I forgot about not being able to go to sleep at night, I forgot about waking up in strange places, I forgot about Mr. Steve, I even forgot about moving to New York! For three minutes it was just about Darcy, me, and making silly faces.

**

“Call 911!”

It was thirty minutes later and after going on the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and watching Darcy win me a bear I was more tired than I ever thought I’d been. The time I had found myself outside was the only time I had gone to sleep in two weeks.

“What’s wrong?” Darcy asked. I shrugged.

We walked towards to the scream, and found Mr. Rivers running around like an idiot and Mrs. Rivers screaming for someone to call 911.

“Calm down, Joan,” Momma coaxed. “The pain is natural.”

Mrs. Rivers breathed.

“I..I..I..can’t find my car keys,” Mr. Rivers said with his car keys behind his ears.

“Um, Dad,” Jessie-Maria said. “They’re behind your ears.”

Mr. Rivers looked at Jessie-Maria with pure amazement.

“Behind your ears!” Jessie-Maria shouted just in case he couldn’t hear her.

“Oh, yeah,” Mr. Rivers said taking the keys from behind his ears. “Where’s the bag?”

“Forget the bag! Get me to a hospital!” Mrs. Rivers cried.

“Here,” Jessie-Maria said handing me a box. “Can you, Virginia, and Darcy count the names and see which one is the winner? I have a feeling we’re gonna need the names real soon!”

It took us two hours to count up all the names. When we were finished I could barely keep my eyes open but sleep just wasn’t coming.

“Let’s see,” Virginia said looking at the sheet of paper. “Addison and Austin won for a boy and a girl, James and John won for two boys, and Faith and Hope if it’s two girls.”

“I wonder if Mrs. Rivers has had the twins yet,” I wondered out loud.

“I remember when my mom went into labor with Caroline. It took eighteen hours,” Virginia groaned.

“Have you figured out the names yet?” Momma asked walking where we were sitting.

“Yeah,” I said rubbing my eyes.

“Good, because Mr. Rivers just called and asked what names he should put on the birth certificates,” Momma smiled.

**

“Addison and Austin,” Jessie-Maria cooed. We were back in Florida and this was our first real chance to see the twins.

“I guess it’s good to have a boy and a girl,” Virginia said. “Even though I think it would be cool to have an identical twin.”

“I think it would be cool to have any kind of twin,” I said. Virginia nodded.

“Get ready for nonstop crying,” Virginia said to Jessie-Maria.

“I’m going to help Mom and Dad out,” Jessie-Maria said. “Dad already owns me three diaper changes.”

We burst out laughing.

“Can..I..,” Emily started. “Hold a baby?”

“Sure,” Mrs. Rivers smiled. She showed Emily how to hold a baby and then put Austin in her arms.

“I’ve always wanted to be a big sister,” Emily said with tears in her voice. “Maybe it’s because I’m good at bossing people around.”

Mrs. Rivers gave Emily a sad smile.

I never thought that Emily would want to be an older sister. She was more of the baby type if you asked me.

“You can have Megan if you want,” I joked.

That put a smile on her face, and Megan gave me a dirty look. She was smart for two.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eleven

**

I woke up feeling cold and to the sound of birds. I was not in my room. I opened my eyes and saw that I was outside of the B&B. What time was it? The sun wasn’t up yet. I had to get back to the B&B, or I would get into a lot of trouble.

Maybe I shouldn’t go back. Who knows what Mr. Steve is going to do to me? So, what if I was good at the piano. That’s not what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to pursue that part of me. That part of me had come from my father, and it would be too painful to rip off the bandages that had been there ever since I was five.

But what about Momma? If I ran away she would be heartbroken. I sighed. I didn’t want to run away. All I wanted to do was get under my nice warm sheets, snuggle up, and have pleasant dreams.

I knew where I was at so it wasn’t hard for me to get back to the B&B. I looked at the clock on my way in. Ugh, it was six A.M. I sneaked back into my room and got under the covers. I stayed in there until ten A.M. and not once did I go to sleep.

**

“Here,” Momma said handing me a note.

“Somebody left me a note?” I asked taking it. “Who?”

“Your father,” Momma said walking away.

I thought maybe it was another letter from my father but instead it turned out to be from Mr. Steve.

  Dear Natalie,

  Something has come up and I had to go to New York City this morning. I would rather do this person to person, but you weren’t up yet. Maybe it’s for the best. I’ll probably be gone two or three days. When I get back, we WILL talk about last night and we WILL start looking for a piano teacher.

Sincerely,

Your father

“He doesn’t have the decency to sign ‘love’,” I whispered. I tore the note and threw it in the trash.

“Natalie?” Momma asked as I walked towards the steps.

“Natalie, what did the note say, honey?” Momma asked. “What’s wrong?”

Everything I thought as I closed my bedroom door.

**

“Your father sure sounded excited over the phone,” Momma said. I sighed as I put her salad on the table. I really wished Mr. Steve would be staying that extra day in New York City. I didn’t feel like talking to him. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone. But as a waitress I gotta put on a nice face for everyone. Expect my face was tired and worn. It had a pretty smile on it, and all you would think was that I was growing and needed more sleep. You wouldn’t imagine that sweet little Natalie was battling with insomnia and sleepwalking. You would never know that she had such a dislike for her stepfather that when she found herself outside of the B&B that she thought of never going back. Yup, that was the Natalie nobody but I knew.

“He didn’t even tell us why he was going to New York City,” Abby said.

“New York City,” Jaci said. “I wouldn’t want to live there, but it’s probably a very nice place to visit.”

“I’ve been,” Momma said. “It’s loud and noisy, but the shopping is amazing and Central Park is fabulous.”

Mr. Steve burst through the restaurant door with the biggest grin on his face. He looked like he hadn’t gotten any sleep last night, but my eyes still had more circles around them than his.

“Mr. Stewart,” Mr. Steve said walking up to him. “thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Mr. Stewart said. “I meant everything that I said, and you deserve everything that’s coming.”

“What’s going on?” Momma asked with fear in her voice.

“I got the job!” Mr. Steve smiled. He hugged Momma.

“What job?” Momma asked. She stole a glance at Mr. Stewart. Mr. Stewart was smirking. Oh, no. If Mr. Stewart was involved in this it couldn’t be good.

“I went to New York to apply for an accounting job for one of the business,” Mr. Steve said. “They were looking for a new accountant and Mr. Stewart recommended me, a math teacher, for the job. I was interviewed yesterday and they hired me today.”

“Wait…so if you got a job in New York City,” Abby started. “That means you’re moving!”

“WHAT!” I shouted. Jaci didn’t say anything. She got up from her seat and ran out the door. Timmy ran after her.

“Moving? What no!” I shouted. I couldn’t leave Florida. No. Never. Florida was HOME. It was MY home.

“Well, um,” Mr. Steve said looking down. He had to know that this wasn’t good for our ‘relationship’.

“Moving?” Momma asked. “Couldn’t we have talked about this first?”

Momma walked away, and I looked at Mr. Steve.

“You are unbelievable!” I screamed. “Do you have to destroy everything?!”

Everyone in the restaurant was looking at me, but I didn’t care. This was the Natalie I had become now. They were shocked by this new Natalie. Most of them looked shocked to see me talking to Mr. Steve like this. To them Mr. Steve was my father. To me he was a destroyer of my life.

“Natalie, I..I..I thought if anything you’d be happy about moving to such an exciting place as New York City,” Mr. Steve clearly shocked.

How could he think that? Did this guy even know me? I loved Florida. This was my home.

“Do you even know me?!” I screamed. “Happy? Happy!? I will have you know that I hate the idea! I hate it! I don’t want to move to the city! I want to stay here! How could you think for one second about moving us to the city?!”

“Natalie!” Aunt Jane scolded. I ran up the stairs but not before tears started to flow. When I got to my room and slammed the door and locked it.

An image of Mr. Steve’s hurt face came into my mind and I cried some more. Move? No way? Mr. Steve would come to his senses soon enough. If there was one place that was an exception to the heaven everywhere rule, it was New York City.

**

“Natalie, you had no right to talk to your father that way,” Momma said to me. I tried not to start crying again. I was sitting on Mr. Steve and Momma’s bed. Ms. Donna had given Mr. Steve the key to my room and he carried me in here.

“He’s not my father,” I mumbled. Momma ignored that. Mr. Steve winced.

“I know the idea of moving came as a shock to you,” Momma started, “but you don’t yell at your father. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said trying not to cry. Momma hugged me.

“The thought of leaving scares me too,” Momma whispered. “We don’t particularly need the money but…”

I sighed. Of course this was about money. God, why couldn’t teachers make more?

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Mr. Steve said. His voice was flat and shaky. He was probably still recovering from my screaming.

Jaci walked into the room and looked at me.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jaci said. “Am interrupted anything?”

“Not if you’re here to talk about New York,” Mr. Steve said flopping on the bed. “I think I just became public enemy number one in this town.”

“Well, what I’m about to say has something to do with New York,” Jaci said closing the door and walking towards the bed.

“Let her rip!” Mr. Steve shouted tiredly. “Tell me I’m a monster! Tell me I’m a destroyer! Tell me that you hate me! Get it all off your chest.”

Jaci looked at me. Her look said, “What did you do?”

“Um, I think you should have asked us first. I mean with modern technology you could have at least called,” Jaci said calmly.

“That’s it?” Mr. Steve asked sounding surprised. “Natalie called me a destroyer. Abby called me the killer of all things good and said that I bring out the worst in people especially my family members. Your mother gave me a long talk about marriage and the importance of communication. And all you say is you should have called?”

“Yes,” Jaci said. “Now back to what I came back in here to say. Timmy asked me to marry him, and I said yes. And you can’t stop me.”

Jaci didn’t say, “And you can’t stop me” angrily or anything. She said it sweetly like she always said things.

“Why would I stop you? You have my blessing,” Mr. Steve shrugged. “You’re eighteen. You’ll be nineteen before the years over. You can do whatever you want. You can stay here in Florida. I’m sure somebody would be willing to let you stay with them.”

“No,” Jaci said. “I’m going with you. You haven’t given me away yet.”

Mr. Steve looked at me. The look on his face said, “Why couldn’t you be more like Jaci?”

“You just don’t stop do you?” I asked getting up. Mr. Steve stared blankly at me.

“I’m sorry if I’m not tactful like Jaci. I’m sorry if I’m not as smart and as ambitious as Abby. And I’m sorry if I’m not as sweet, innocent, and Steve worshiping as Megan. I’m me Natalie. The girl who doesn’t seem to have a place in your family. The girl who’s feelings you never think of!” I cried. I walked out the door.

“Steve, you are a fool,” I heard Momma said.

“What did I say?” Mr. Steve’s voice asked.

“Even I know what you did wrong,” Jaci’s voice said. She wasn’t critically. She was sweet and polite.

I wasn’t sweet or polite. I didn’t want to pursue my musical talent and that’s something Abby would totally do. I defiantly wasn’t like Megan. If there ever was an example of childlike faith she was one. She ‘respected’ people older than her (well most of the time). What was I then? Oh, yeah. The middle child.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eight

**

“I promise not to let go.”

I closed my eyes and started to pedal. My jeans were ruined. They had a bunch of holes in them and blood was splattered on my shirt. Who knew learning to ride a bike was so dangerous.

Mr. Steve was defiantly tired of trying to teach me how to ride a bike. His voice was starting to get impatient and I didn’t blame him.

“Natalie! Open your eyes!” Mr. Steve cried.

But he shouted too late. I slammed into the mailbox.

“You promised not to let go!” I cried as Mr. Steve helped me up.

“Honey, next time keep your eyes open,” Mr. Steve said ignoring what I said.

“There won’t be a next time!” I cried.

“Natalie, just because you crashed doesn’t mean you have to burn. Don’t give up just because you’re having a hard time,” Mr. Steve said picking the bike up. “Natalie, I um never grabbed the seat.”

“You didn’t?” I asked. Mr. Steve nodded.

“But I thought….,” I started.

“Natalie, you know how to ride a bike. You’re just afraid that you’re going to crash. Natalie, you can do this,” Mr. Steve  said. “So what are you going to do? You going to hop on this bike or go in the house?”

I took the bike and started to pedal. I fell down again, but by the end of the night I knew how to ride a bike.

**

“Get out of here. I have a huge knife in this bag and I’m not afraid to use it.”

I smiled as Mrs. Rivers pulled out a knife from her purse. Mr. Steve and Zach stared at her like she was crazy.

“We’ll go!” Zach shouted. “But don’t think I won’t take this up with the Chief and your husband. Mrs. Rivers, all you had to tell me is that you were going to be having finger sandwiches and I would have been out of here. You wouldn’t have to resort to murder.”

Mrs. Rivers laughed and then motioned for Sean to pull up a chair.

“Only two months to go,” Mrs. Rivers sighed.

“Do you have any names picked out?” I asked.

“Ugh,” Mrs. Rivers said. “We have five names picked out for each. If we have a boy and a girl either Addison and Austin, Zane and Zoey, Tristan and Trinity, Caleb and Chloe, or Michael and Michelle. If we have two girls either Olivia and Sophia, Faith and Hope, Addison and Avery, Arianna and Brianna, or Mia and Maya. If we have two boys either James and John, Logan and Luke, Ethan and Nathan, Caleb and Joshua, or Elijah and Elisha.”

“I came up with Addison and Austin,” Sean smiled. “And Addison and Avery, and Logan and Luke.”

“I’ve always wanted to name a girl Addison,” Mrs. Rivers said daydreaming.

Virginia and Aunt Jane walked into the restaurant with tears in their eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. Virginia started to sob.

“There’s a bad fire down in Virginia. It’s already destroyed her parent’s old farm. Its inching close to my brother’s farm. He and his family have had to evacuate! And to think somebody set the Virginia forest on fire!” Aunt Jane shouted.

“Arson?” Momma asked. Sean looked at Virginia and then at me. She smiled.

“Why are you smiling?” Virginia asked.

“I just had the best idea!” Sean shouted. “We can have a Christmas in July fundraiser! We can have games, a baby naming contest, and a bunch of other stuff. And all the proceeds will go to the victims of the fire!”

I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard Sean say at one time.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Aunt Jane said. Momma and Mrs. Rivers nodded.

“But how are we going to plan it? We’re just kids,” Virginia said.

“We’ll help you,” Momma said.

“I’m a pretty good organizer,” Mrs. Rivers volunteered.

“I have an idea,” I said. I looked at Virginia. She would hate this idea but…

“I think we should as Ms. O’Donnell to help,” I said.

“WHAT!” Virginia shouted. “What does that woman know about organizing things?”

“She runs A Father’s Presence,” Mrs. Rivers said. “She’s defiantly the boss type.”

“What’s going on?” Abby asked walking into the restaurant.

“Honey, I think your wedding shower just turned into a fundraiser planning party,” Mrs. Rivers joked.

Abby looked at us weirdly.

**

I woke up on Monday and found myself in the closet I shared with Regina. Now that my foot was out of a cast and I didn’t have strep throat. I had moved into the room Regina slept in.

I peeked out of the closet and saw that Regina was still asleep. It was five A.M. Ugh. I’d only been asleep for two hours.

I walked out the room and into the bathroom. I saw myself in the mirror and screamed.

I heard a knock on the door.

“Who’s in here?” Mr. Steve’s voice said. I opened the door.

“Look at my arms!” I screamed. There were small pink dots on both of my arms.

“Natalie, what’s wrong?” Momma asked walking up to my. She looked at my dots and sighed.

“Let me handle this,” Momma said to Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve walked away looking relieved.

Momma closed the door and ordered me to pull up my pants.

“Agh!” I cried when I saw that they were also on my legs. My mom told me to pull up my shirt. When I did I saw these strange dots were also on my chest.

“Chicken poxes?” I asked baffled. Momma shook her head no.

“I’m going to call, Dr. Walters, but I’m ninety percent sure it’s not chicken poxes,” Momma said walking out of the bathroom. I collapsed on the floor. I didn’t feel sick but I really hoped this was chicken poxes.

I started to itch these dots.

“Don’t itch!” Momma shouted when she walked into the bathroom.

“But they itch,” I whined.

“Go but a change of clothes on. Dr. Walters wants you to see a dermatologist at the hospital,” Momma said.

“At five o’clock in the morning?” I asked.

“Yes, now go change,” Momma said walking out of the bathroom. “But on a tank top and shorts. Bring something to wear to school too.”

I cried for five minutes before getting up and changing.

**

“Psoriasis,” The dermatologist said when she walked into the room.

“That’s what I thought,” Momma said.

“Dr. Walters told me that she just had strep throat,” The dermatologist said. “Strep throat sometimes triggers Guttate Psoriasis. The outbreak can go away and never come back.”

“On her father’s side they have a history of Psoriasis,” Momma said. “Her father had Guttate Psoriasis but it turned into plaque psoriasis.”

“Well Psoriasis may be inherited. Some people carry genes that make them more likely to develop Psoriasis,” The dermatologist said. “Does anyone else in her family have Psoriasis?”

“Her father’s mother does,” Momma said. The dermatologist nodded.

“Don’t itch,” The dermatologist commanded. I stopped.

“I recommend lotions and sunlight,” The dermatologist said. “Let it run its course. It’s not too bad. It usually clears up within a few weeks but since she has a family history of Psoriasis it may be chronic or may turn into plaque psoriasis like her father.”

Momma nodded.

“So this might not go away?” I asked.

“Sometimes psoriasis can go away for a time but psoriasis is chronic so it will come back. Did her father have a remission time?” The dermatologist asked.

Momma shook her head no.

“He didn’t let psoriasis hinder his life. I personally didn’t care. It wasn’t too too bad but noticeable,” Momma said.

The dermatologist smiled.

“There is a Psoriasis kid group that meets in Pittsfield once a month. There’s about fifty kids from all over Berkshire County that go to the monthly meetings. Here, give this lady a call,” The dermatologist said.

Momma took the piece of paper and nodded.

“Honey, do you want to go to school today?” Momma asked. “I’m willing to take Ms. O’Donnell’s wrath if you don’t want to go today.”

“I want to stay home,” I cried.

Momma hugged me and the dermatologist walked towards the door.

“Natalie, some people in life will be mean. People will tease you something awful. If your friends go running when they see you or talk bad about you then they really aren’t your friends. People should accept you because of your personality not your skin. God doesn’t care about the outside. He sees the inside and that determines if you’re beautiful or not. I heard about what you’re doing to help the victims of the Virginia Fire. I heard about how you went out to save those Stewarts last Christmas. People should care about what you do, not what your skin looks like,” The dermatologist said walking out the door.

I stared at the door for a second. I never learned that lady’s name but she changed my life. My psoriasis didn’t go away, but I didn’t care. My friends acted like they didn’t even notice it. I learned who my real friends were and who weren’t. I knew God thought I was beautiful and that’s all that mattered.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Seven

**

Ms. O’Donnell is the meanest teacher in all of Berkshire County.

I wasn’t contagious anymore but that didn’t mean my symptoms had gone away. My throat was still sore and all I could eat was applesauce and stew. My fever was being controlled by Tylenol, but I was still above average. I’d vomited a couple times, and even though I hated it I resorted to sleeping with Momma and Mr. Steve. I snuggled as close to Momma as I could and tried to ignore Mr. Steve’s snores.

I hadn’t asked Momma about her going missing. I figured she tell me she couldn’t talk about it and encourage me to read on so I cut out the asking and feeling hurt part and kept reading. My dad was pretty skimp on journal entries which doesn’t surprise me but doesn’t tell me a lot about what was going on. It was almost Christmas time and Momma still hadn’t been found. The funny thing is Momma always skipped the Christmas of this year when she told me about her Christmases with Daddy.

Ms. O’Donnell had been livid when she heard I wasn’t contagious and still didn’t come to school. I don’t think she understands the difference between contagious and sick. I couldn’t get anybody else sick but that didn’t mean I wasn’t sick.

But here I was sick as a dog learning where to place comas. It had only been three days since I learned I had strep throat. Darcy looked at me. He smiled and I smiled back. Ugh, my stomach hurt. I wish I had a Tylenol but you couldn’t bring medicine to school and Momma didn’t want to take a chance with aspirin.

“Girls, listen up,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “I am pleased to announce that North Adams annual Father-Daughter Dance will take place May 31st. Tickets are five dollars apiece and as you know all the funds will go to A Father’s Presence. Class dismissed.”

I felt like laughing. Ms. O’Donnell was indorsing the dance at school? That didn’t seem like her. I waited as Darcy handed Ms. O’Donnell some money.

“You’re not going to the dance are you?” I asked. Darcy chuckled.

“No, but every year I do give Ms. O’Donnell some money for her cause,” Darcy said. “She started A Father’s Presence. She quit her teaching job when she started it but had to start teaching again when she couldn’t pay herself since A Father’s Presence is nonprofit. A couple years back she started pairing the boys without fathers with one of the temporary fathers. She chose Mr. Stewart for me since we’re related, but Mr. Matthews and Mr. Drew stepped in more than he did as a temporary dad.”

“You’re related to Mr. Stewart?” I asked surprised.

“My mom is anyway. She’s on the other side of Stewarts. She’s a Stewart-Chadwick hence my nickname,” Darcy said. He walked over to Nelson which gave me the feeling he didn’t want to say anymore.

Then a thought made me vomit (literally I vomited right in front of everybody). Momma was for sure going to make me go to that dance with Mr. Steve. I mean it would be weird if he took Abby, Jaci, and Megan but not me. I couldn’t go to that dance. I just couldn’t. Not with Mr. Steve. The thought of having to dance with him made me vomit again.

Darcy led me to the nurse’s office. God must have an interesting sense of humor because Mr. Steve came by to pick me up from school just as the nurse picked up the phone to call my mother.

**

“How could you do this to me?!”

That was Jaci’s voice and she wasn’t too happy. I crawled from under the covers and tiptoed down stairs.

“I’m sorry but Erin and Ned wanted to get married in July,” Abby said to Jaci.

“I still can’t believe you’re getting married in June! That’s less than a month away. There is absolutely no time to make dresses!” Jaci cried. She really did look upset.

“You can make my dresses, Jaci,” Ms. Erin said hugging Jaci.

“I’m sorry, Jaci, I didn’t know it was that important to you,” Abby said truly looking sorry.

“It’s my sister’s wedding! How could it not be important for me to make the dresses?!” Jaci asked clearly outraged.

“Honey,” Mr. Steve said. “It’s not normal no I shouldn’t use that word. Let’s just say most people don’t have handmade dresses for their weddings.”

“They don’t?” Jaci asked with her eyes filled with wonder. “They just buy them?”

Mr. Steve nodded.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Jaci asked. She wasn’t as anger but she was still angry.

“Natalie! Go back to bed!” Mr. Steve shouted spotting me.

“Oh, all I did was throw up,” I said.

“Go. Back. To. Bed,” Mr. Steve and Momma said in unison. I walked back up the steps. Parents, can’t live with them but wouldn’t survive or be here without them.

**

“Tada!”

I stared at the purple bicycle that just moments ago had been hidden underneath a white sheet. Mr. Steve smiled at me and I looked at him totally clueless. I’d never ridden a bicycle before. When Dr. Walters heard that he said no wonder I had gotten Scurvy.

It had been two weeks since my strep throat diagnosis and the symptoms were almost all gone. I still had a lingering sore throat but I could eat more than apple sauce and stew. I hadn’t had a chance to read too much of my father’s journals. I still was where I was at two weeks ago. We had testing at school and Ms. O’Donnell doesn’t play around.

I wasn’t sleeping well. Just yesterday I woke up to discover myself in the shower.

Abby was getting married June 1st the day after the Father-Daughter Dance. Abby knew this of course and Mrs. Rivers and Sean had been upset when they learned there would be no bridal shower sleepover to plan. Abby told them they could have their shower a week before the dance and they agreed but not without kicking and screaming.

“Thank you,” I said remembering my manners. “but I can’t ride.”

“You can learn,” Mr. Steve smiled. By the way he looked you would think he was the one who was about to learn how to ride.

I wanted to say “Not from you.” But that would be rude. I just smiled and walked back into the house.

“Hi, Natalie,” Virginia said walking into the house. “Is that bike outside yours?”

“Yup, and I don’t have any clue how to ride it,” I said. Virginia opened her mouth.

“I guess you being a Farm Girl it’s really hard to believe that a twelve year old doesn’t know how to ride a bike,” I said.

Virginia just nodded.

“I just stopped by to say hi since I have a feeling Aunt Jane, Rachel, Caroline, and I won’t be by for supper,” Virginia said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Aunt Jane is taking Rachel and me shopping for dress for the Father-Daughter Dance,” Virginia said. She had a big grin on her face.

“Who’s taking you?” I asked.

“Mr. Hank. He came by last week and asked Aunt Jane if it was all right if he took us,” Virginia said. “If you ask me he’s a little sweet on Aunt Jane.”

I smiled.

“I hope you have a good time,” I said. “I can’t see to worm out of the dance.”

“Why would you want to?” Virginia asked. “You got a real dad.”

“Mr. Steve is not my real dad!” I shouted.

“Sorry,” Virginia said. “I just thought since he married your mom and all.”

“He may have married my mom but he’s not my dad,” I said. “My dad’s in heaven.”

“So is mine,” Virginia said. “And I plan on enjoying the Father-Daughter Dance with Mr. Hank. Did you know that Emily is going too? Zach’s taking her.”

“So what?” I asked.

“Virginia!” Aunt Jane called.

“Mr. Steve cares about you, Natalie,” Virginia said walking towards the door. “I’d go as far as to say he loves you. And I hope one day you’ll see that too. I just hope God doesn’t have to do something drastic to make you see that.”

I was pretty mad at Virginia after that but only for about the rest of the day. Virginia was my best friend, and I knew there was some truth to her words. I just didn’t want to believe them. I knew I was hurting Mr. Steve’s feelings, but if I could just pretend that he didn’t care about me I could just go ahead and hurt his feelings and not feel guilty about it. And I would have to learn the hard way just how much Mr. Steve really did love me.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3-Heaven Everywhere Installment Three

**

The alarm went off and, I groaned. I looked at the clock. I had only gotten three hours of sleep.

“Is it time already?” Abby whined walking down the steps.

“Rise and shine! It’s Easter Sunday!” Momma shouted walking down the steps. “Sunrise Service is at five-thirty!”

“Do we have to go?” I groaned getting up off the couch.

“Yep,” Momma said. “You’re in the Easter show you have to go.”

I sighed.

“Who’s ready for church?” Jaci asked walking down the steps fully dressed.

“How can you be so alert after three hours of sleep?” I asked slowly taking my suitcase from under the couch.

“I didn’t go to sleep,” Jaci said. “I figured I’d get some sleep on the flight to England after church.”

“Still aren’t you tired?” I asked taking out my Easter dress.

“Nope, I had what do you call it……coffee! Yeah, I had two cups of coffee,” Jaci said.

“Can I have a cup of coffee?” I asked.

“Sure,” Momma shrugged. “I’ll make you a cup. Now go change!”

I changed into my dress and walked into the restaurant.

“Here,” Momma said handing me a cup of coffee.

“Yuck!” I screamed after I swallowed some coffee. I took another sip.

“Why are you still drinking?” Abby asked laughing.

“Cause I need to stay awake,” I said.

“Here,” Momma said pulling a Coke out of the fridge. “Now, I want you to understand this is a special and isolated event. I just don’t want you falling asleep during church. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said taking the Coke and putting the coffee down.

“Now come on,” Jaci shouted picking up her purse. “Or we’ll be late for church.”

**

“You did a wonderful job, Sean.”

Sean smiled at Momma.

“I didn’t know you could sing,” Aunt Jane said to her.

“We didn’t know either,” Mrs. Rivers laughed. She gave Sean a squeeze.

“Our girl is full of surprises,” Mr. Rivers smiled. “Just last week she cooked breakfast for our Anniversary.”

Sean looked at him and then turned away. She had tears in her eyes.

“You did good too, Natalie,” Aunt Jane said. I laughed.

“All I did was sing along in the choir,” I said.

“Being in the choir is important too,” Sean spoke up.

“Thanks,” I smiled.

“We better get moving,” Momma said looking at her watch. “Our plane leaves in three hours.”

“We’ll be praying for ya’ll!” Aunt Jane screamed running towards her car. Virginia, her brother, and her sister tried to catch up with her.

“See you when you return,” Mrs. Rivers smiled. “Hope you have a wonderful time.”

“Thanks!” Momma shouted. “See you next Monday!”

“See you!” The Rivers shouted.

**

“I planned to give you this last night but we stayed so long at the reception that by the time we got home I was too exhausted to walk up the stairs,” Momma said handing me two envelopes. “It doesn’t matter really which one you open first.”

I nodded and got into the car. We were about to drive to the airport.

“We ready?” Mr. Steve asked.

I nodded and got into the car.

“See you when you get back!” Regina, Ms. Donna, Nelson, and Darcy shouted waving.

“Bye!” I cried sticking my head out of the window. I blew kisses.

“Natalie!” Mr. Steve shouted. I put my head back in the car and huffed.

I opened one of the letters and nearly cried when I was finished reading it.

  Dear Natalie,

  Natalie, I want to start off this letter by telling you that I love you. When you’re finished with this letter, you might find that hard to believe, but believe me, Natalie, I love you more than you will ever know.

  Life is about to change for you. Your mother has just gotten married and you’re probably not the happiest person in the world about it. Now don’t go mopping around. I want you to be happy for her. I’ve already said that but it’s so important that I must repeat it.

  I want you to call your new stepfather ‘Dad’. Now I know this may seem impossible and I’ll tell you what. I’ll let you do it on your own time. But you must do it someday. Please respect my wishes.

Love,

Your Father

No. Never. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not even next year. No, I will never call Mr. Steve anything close to father or dad.

I didn’t want to open the next envelope out of fear but I did open it. My fingers were trembling and Jaci looked at me.

“Are you ok?” She asked.

“I’m fine,” I said taking two pieces of paper out of the envelope.

One of the pieces of paper was an old looking treasure map. The other was another letter from my father.

  Dear Natalie,

  So you’re going to England. One of my favorite things to do was too look for heaven everywhere and in everybody. Ok, I know that sound strange but it really is fun. What you do is you look for the good wherever you go and in everybody you meet. Some days I would just look into the persons eyes and sense that they had potential. I would walk up to them and the in a few hours I would know everything about them and them everything about me. It’s really amazing how God works.

  I tell you the truth, Natalie. I truly believe that there is a little bit of heaven everywhere. So look around every corner. Look into everybody’s eyes and what you will find will amaze you. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Even the worst looking place/person can be transformed. I should know. While you’re in England I want you to do two things. First I want you to go to that place on that map. It used to be a dump. It’s not that far from my house so you can imagine the joy we felt when that dump was closed. I cleaned it up in my teen years. It’s beautiful now. I also want you to find Rhys Smith. Don’t worry. Your grandparents will know where he is and who he is.

Love,

Your Father

At the time I had no clue what finding Heaven everywhere meant. Now, I know what he meant and boy was he ever right.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

“I’ll talk to her,” Grandma Shirley spoke up.

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

“Ugh, when I try to help everybody tells me not to,” Grandma Shirley mumbled sitting down.

“Please,” Grandma Baldwin pleaded. I nodded and walked to the bridal chambers.

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

“Alexander?” Momma groaned. “They’re out to get me! I just can’t marry Steve! I just can’t!”

“Momma, it’s me, Natalie,” I said. “Who’s out to get you?”

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

“Alexander, you know how HIM is!” Momma cried.

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

“I’ve had enough of you!” Grandma Shirley screamed. “You can never make up your mind! The entire wedding is being stalled because you’re sitting in here crying about your dead husband. He’s DEAD! Get over it!”

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

“I’ve heard enough out of you!” Momma screamed. She picked up her dress and walked out the door.

“Look what you’ve done!” I cried running after her.

“Well I never!” Grandma Shirley snorted as I slammed the door. I ran into the dressing chambers to find Aunt Clarisse putting on Momma’s veil.

“I don’t know what you said to her but whatever it is you said. It worked,” Grandma Baldwin whispered in my ear.

“Still can’t find my other contact lenses! A little help here!” Mrs. Stewart shouted. I bent down and helped her look.

“I’ll go get Mr. Walters,” Mrs. Rivers said walking towards the door. “Found it!”

I got up off the floor and walked towards the chapel.

The chapel Momma and Mr. Steve chose to get married in was small but the view from it was amazing. It was along the Mohawk Trail and from this point you could see the Berkshire Mountains.

“Here are your flowers,” Abby said handing them to me.

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

“Not too much,” Abby said. “I’m afraid I’m going to trip.”

“You’ve got flats on,” I said. “Me on the other hand. I have heels on. I’m the one who might trip.”

Abby laughed.

“Cue the music!” Mrs. Rivers whispered excitedly.

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

I was swaying. I opened my eyes and found myself in the reception hall. It had to be almost midnight now. Most of the people had gone home already, but a few had were still at the reception hall.

The Christmas song was playing. It wasn’t one of those fast verisons but a slow one. One that you could sway to.

I was in Darcy’s arms. His eyes were closed and he had a smile on his lips. I looked around the room. The Rivers’ were still here and Sean was asleep in Mr. Rivers lap. I smiled.

Momma and Mrs. Rivers were chatting away like they had all the time in the world. Grandma Shirley sat in a corner along with my two uncles. They were fighting over a Sudoku answer.

Abby and Zach were the only two other people on the dance floor. They looked like they were asleep also. They both were smiling sweet soft smiles.

Jaci was asleep on Timmy’s shoulder. Timmy was stuffing food into his mouth.

Megan was sleeping on Mr. Steve’s lap. She had a smile on her lips and you just couldn’t help but wonder what she was dreaming about.

Mr. Steve and Mr. Rivers were talking. Both of them were stroking the hair of the girl in their laps.

Emily was sitting in a chair looking in pain. Nelson was feeding her chocolate cake. I couldn’t help but giggle.

Virginia and Leo were playing some game on the table. It looked like they were throwing grapes at each other.

Regina sat stone-faced next to Andrew, Virginia’s older brother. Andrew looked bored and disinterested. Occasionally, he would look over at Aunt Jane, who was talking to Mrs. Stewart, with desperate eyes begging to go.

Virginia’s little sister Rachel was singing along with the Christmas Song with all her heart. She was holding her baby sister Caroline in her arms.

As I said, Aunt Jane and Mrs. Stewart were talking. Aunt Jane’s eyes told me that she was surprised she was having a conversation with Mrs. Stewart and actually enjoying it. Mrs. Stewart’s eyes told me that she was hoping she had made a new friend.

Mr. Stewart refused to come to the wedding and the Stewarts’ invitation didn’t have his name on it anyway. Momma refused to include him even though Ms. Donna and Mr. Steve pleaded with her to. Momma said the wedding was off if she had to invite Mr. Stewart. Frankly, I wasn’t mad about. I don’t like Mr. Stewart.

Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin were looking at me. They were grinning from ear to ear. When I looked at her, Grandma Baldwin gave me a quick wink. I smiled back.

My mind went back to swaying in Darcy’s arms. Strangely, I didn’t want to let go. I felt safe here in his arms. Wow, I can’t believe I actually wanted to be around Darcy Edwards. What a couple months can do…………

I wanted to stay here forever. I didn’t want to have to face the world again. If I could stay right here in Darcy’s arms surrounded by all these people I loved and cared about nothing could make me feel better.

And for some reason, I felt like this was heaven.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Eight

**

“I swear I didn’t push her!”

“I saw you!”

“I saw you too!”

“I’m telling you. Mrs. Baldwin was running away from the house looking upset about something. I tried to talk to her but she just backed away from me. She tripped and fell into the road!”

Aunt Clarisse looked at Mr. Stewart with cold eyes. It was less than an hour after my mother had been hit by the car. Thankfully, she wasn’t injured badly. She’s got bruises and broke one of her ribs and has made everyone promise not to change the wedding date.

Aunt Clarisse and I were at the police station telling the Chief what had happened. He looked nervous about something and a second later I knew why.

“Look, ladies,” The Chief said sighing. “You weren’t exactly close enough to really see what Mr. Stewart was doing.

“What are you trying to say?” Aunt Clarisse asked with anger lurking in her voice.

“I’m not going to charge Mr. Stewart with anything,” The Chief said. Aunt Clarisse blew (well almost).

“One day you’re going to be sorry about this,” Aunt Clarisse said in the calmest tone she could manage to get out (wasn’t very calm). “One day somebody is going to end up seriously hurt and you’re going to look back on this moment and cry.”

Aunt Clarisse walked out the door but not before tears ran down her eyes. I stood in the room not sure what to say.

“See you at the wedding,” I said stupidly. Then I added, “Or not.”

I walked out the office to find Mr. Steve and Darcy outside by Mr. Steve’s car. Aunt Clarisse was talking to Mr. Steve. She was telling him with such passion about how the Chief was so stupid to realize that Mr. Stewart was clearly crazy and that the Chief was blinded by his belief that a Florida native wouldn’t just push someone for no reason.

Mr. Steve didn’t seem surprised or shocked by the fact that Mr. Stewart hadn’t even been charged with anything. Aunt Clarisse screamed at him asking him how he could be so calm. She also ordered him in not so nice words to get his butt in there and talk to the Chief.

“The law doesn’t affect a Stewart,” Mr. Steve said finally. “For such a minor offense as this it doesn’t surprise me that Mr. Stewart was able to get away with. If Mr. Stewart had pushed Riley and killed her that would be a different story. The Chief is afraid of Mr. Stewart’s power in the Berkshire County area and his money but the Chief’s got a conscience and heart. He arrested Gavin all those years ago and, he would do it again even though he and his family had to go into hiding when they got threats from both Stewart sides.”

“But he has no reason to push her,” Aunt Clarisse yelled.

“Well, um, I don’t know about that Clarisse. You remember the ‘stuff’ that happened. I’m not saying his reason is good but a Stewart doesn’t try to hurt somebody without at least the filmiest of a reason,” Mr. Steve said.

Aunt Clarisse didn’t talk out of shock. There was something I didn’t know, and to tell you the truth. I really didn’t WANT to know.

**

“Papa!”

“Riley!”

“How’s my girl?” Grandpa Jack asked Momma.

“A nervous wreck,” Momma sighed.

“And this must be your daughter,” Grandpa Jack said looking at me.

“Yes,” I smiled.

“Let me see,” Grandpa Jack said picking me up. “You’re about hundred and some pounds.”

“Jack, put her down! You could hurt yourself!” Grandma Shirley snapped. Grandpa Jack put me down.

Mrs. Stewart walked through the restaurant door with Momma’s dress in a black bag.

“I was able to fix the dress,” Mrs. Stewart said. “It took me all night but I fixed it.”

When Momma was run over by the car, her dress was torn a little bit. Jaci stayed at the Stewarts’ all night so that she could help Mrs. Stewart fix it.

“Papa Jack, I think we better leave,” Mr. Steve said walking up.

“DON’T LOOK AT THE BAG!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. Mr. Steve was taken aback.

“Get out of here boys,” Mrs. Rivers said walking through the door with Sean. “It’s the big night before the wedding and we girls are having a sleepover bridal shower. My house is just down the road. Get!”

“See you in the morning,” Mr. Steve sighed. He gave Momma a kiss and for once it didn’t make me want to puke.

“I can’t believe tomorrow is the wedding,” Abby squealed as the men walked out the house.

“Move it, Darcy!” Mrs. Rivers hollered.

“Why do I have to leave?” Darcy asked standing in the doorway.

“GET!” Ms. Donna, Mrs. Rivers, Aunt Jane, and Momma shouted.

“All right. All right,” Darcy said putting his hands up. “See you in the morning, Natalie.”

“There,” Mrs. Rivers said closing the restaurant door. “Let’s get this party started!”

**

“No. No way,” I said crossing my arms.

“It’s perfectly sterilize,” Sean said with her mouse like voice.

“No, I am not getting my ears pierced,” I said.

“Come on, Natalie,” Regina said. “You’re the only one doesn’t have your ears pierced.”

“No,” I said shaking my head. I glanced over at my mother who was sitting in the ‘Guest of Honor’ chair. She looked like she wanted to laugh.

“I have an idea,” Virginia said in a sneaky voice. “Let’s see what Darcy thinks.”

“WHAT!” I screamed as Virginia picked up the phone. She put it on speaker.

“Hello?” Mr. Rivers’ voice asked.

“Can we please speak to Darcy?” Virginia asked sweetly.

“DARCY!”

“Hello?” Darcy’s voice asked.

“Darcy, do you think Natalie would look nice with earrings?” Virginia asked.

“NO!” I shouted. That proved to be a mistake, because I could hear him laughing.

“Sure, why not?” Darcy said.

“You traitor!” I screamed. “You’re going to pay for this!”

Abby picked me up and put me in a chair. She put her hands on my shoulders. Darcy walked through the front door and burst out laughing.

I grinded my teeth at him.

“Ow, you’re braces are hurting my eyes,” Darcy said walking closer to me.

“If you don’t tell them not to poke holes in my ears, that’s not all that’s going to be hurting,” I said. Everybody laughed.

Darcy offered his hand and I squeezed it with everything that I had in me.

“There,” Sean said after she was done.

I frowned in the mirror. My earrings were the same color blue that my braces were. I was really starting to hate this color blue.

“You look very nice,” Darcy said tugging my ear.

“Ow!” I shouted. I slapped him.

The room howled.

“This reminds me so much of how you and Steve acted when you were younger,” Aunt Clarisse said to Momma. “Steve was always doing something to make you mad and you’d slap him. But he kept trying to get your attention and it worked. You went with him to Homecoming.”

Momma sighed.

“Those were the days,” Momma said looking into space.

I noticed then that Darcy had walked out the door. I’d have a talk with him later.

“Now that that’s out of the way,” Grandma Baldwin said smiling. “Let’s open presents.”

Grandma Baldwin handed Momma an envelope. Momma opened it.

“I thought since Spring Break starts on Monday and since you and Steve weren’t having a Honeymoon. Mr. Baldwin and I thought that it would be perfect,” Grandma Baldwin said.

“What is it?” I asked looking over her shoulders.

“It’s a weeklong stay in England,” Momma said showing the postcard to the ladies. They oooed and awed.

Soon wrapping paper (Christmas of course) and boxes were all over the floor. Aunt Clarisse was telling stories about Momma and Mr. Steve, and Momma was ‘correcting’ her. Grandma Shirley for once said nice things instead of well whatever she says.

I was sitting on the couch laughing with, Regina, Jaci, Virginia, Emily, and Sean. Everybody was smiling around me. I felt like I’d known these women all my life instead of five months.

For some reason I thought about a prayer I had prayed plenty of times since I got here.

God, all I want is for my life to go back to being sweet.

That’s changed now.

God, all I want is for my life to stay being sweet.

THE END

 

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Three

**

I hate going to the dentist.

Dr. Walters was concerned about my teeth since Scurvy does something. I can’t remember. I was too dazed thinking about how bad this trip to the dentist was going to be.

I turns out Mr. Rivers is a dentist/orthodontist

“Braces,” Mr. Rivers said after the checkup.

“Braces,” I repeated.

“The Scurvy disfigured the inside of your mouth plus you already had an overbite,” Mr. Rivers said. “Look in the mirror, Natalie.”

Ok. My teeth did look bad but there was no way I was letting them put braces on my teeth.

“If it makes you feel any better I’m one of those cool dentist. I believe that you can eat popcorn every once and awhile. I let my patients chew sugar free chewing gum because it helps relieve the soreness that comes with braces,” Mr. Rivers said. “You won’t have to wear them for more than five years I promise.”

“I’ll be going to college in five years,” I said. Mr. Rivers laughed.

“You’ll probably have them off before you go to high school,” Mr. Rivers said. “That is if you take proper care of your teeth and braces.”

I sighed.

“Pick a color,” Mr. Rivers said pulling out a wheel.

**

“The more you do that the sorer your mouth is going to be,” Momma said. I was looking inside my mouth to see how my new blue braces looked.

“I look like a freak,” I huffed.

“A very cute freak,” Darcy said. I looked at him.

“Wrong thing to say wasn’t it?” Darcy asked. I shook my head yes.

Timmy and Emily walked through the restaurant doors.

“Nobody understands me!” I cried sitting in a booth.

Timmy walked up to me and plopped his retainer out of his mouth.

“Um, Timmy,” Jaci said looking absolutely disgusted.

“It’s a retainer. It helps keep my teeth in place. I had braces,” Timmy said showing Jaci the retainer.

“That’s quite all right,” Jaci said. “Can you please put that back in your mouth?”

Timmy put his retainer back in his mouth. No one spoke for a second.

Then, Abby started to snicker then the entire restaurant started to laugh.

“Jaci,” Timmy said when the laughter died down. “Emily has some questions and well……..”

“I was looking at this Sunday school lesson that Timmy was doing. It said something about this dude named John?” Emily started.

I saw Timmy walk over to Mr. Steve and they walked out of the room.

“The Gospel of John?” Jaci asked.

“Huh? Whatever. Anyway,” Emily started. “It was talking about this guy named Jesus who died for these people that were trying to killing him? Why would he die for these ungrateful and selfish people?” Emily asked.

“Emily Stewart, its love.” Jaci answered.

“Love?” Emily asked. “He must have some pretty strong love for those people.”

“Emily, he made those people,” Jaci said.

“Why in the world would he create people who would betray him? Why would he let the one who would give him to the bad guys carry the money?” Emily asked.

“Come with me,” Jaci said taking her hand and walking up the stairs.

“So Abby,” Aunt Jane said walking up to her. “When’s the wedding?”

Abby laughed and looked at Momma.

“What are you looking at me for?” Momma asked.

“I don’t want our wedding dates to clash,” Abby said.

“I’m getting married this spring,” Momma said.

“Then I’ll get married this summer,” Abby said.

“Then what does that leave me with?” Ms. Erin asked.

“September,” Momma and Abby said unison. We laughed.

**

“Here”

I stared at a plastic bag filled with money.

“Um,” I started.

“Don’t worry it’s yours,” Emily said. “Don’t tell Grandfather that I gave it back to you. He told me to steal it without giving me a reason at all so I took it.”

I looked at her.

“Jaci had a long talk with me last night. I realize what I’ve been doing is wrong and I’m going to try to be better so people can now that I’ve accepted Christ,” Emily smiled.

I took the bag.

“There’s a thousand dollars in there,” Emily said. “You should put it in a bank and not leave lying around in a tin can.”

“My father gave me that tin can,” I mumbled starting to walk away.

“I understand,” Emily said touching my arm. She reached into her jeans pocket.

“It’s a letter from my father along with a picture of him and my mother on their wedding day,” Emily said. “I always carry it with me. I’ve never seen my father in person. Only this picture. Its so I can have a piece of him here with me all the time. Do you want to read it?”

“Oh no I couldn’t………….” I started but Emily shoved it in my face.

Dear Emily Elizabeth,

As you probably know I’m in jail right now so I can’t be here with you. I don’t know if you remember but a couple of years ago I tried to take you and your brother after I escaped from jail. Your Grandmother tried to stop me and I assaulted her and I hurt you. It was the second stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I’ve done bad things and those bad things will reflect on you if you stay in Florida. That’s why I left Florida and went to Nevada where I met your mother. I’ve seen a recent picture of you. You have your mother’s hair and my eyes. You are truly beautiful.

I can’t say that I was ‘in’ love with your mother but I was rather fond of her. Don’t get me wrong. I did not want your mother to die and I did not try to kill her. After the crash I panicked. I assumed everyone would think it wasn’t an accident so I lied. I’ve made a mess of things for you and Timmy. But I want you to know that I love you and Timmy both very much.

I won’t get out of jail until your senior year of high school but I hope one day you will come and see me. Not that I’d ever think your Grandmother would want you to have any communication with me. I’ve changed. Preachers come and visit the jails and they’ve taught me about God. I hope one day to share (or that someone will share it will you and Timmy) the goodness of Christ Jesus and how all past mistakes can be washed away.

Your Loving Father,

Gavin Caleb Stewart

“He got his wish,” Emily said with tears in her eyes. “Nice braces by the way. That’s a very pretty blue.”

She walked away towards Ms. Ross’s class and I walked towards Ms. O’Donnell’s.

**

“What am I going to wear?”

Mr. Steve had just carried me upstairs and I heard Jaci shouting from Abby’s room.

“What’s going on?” I asked walking into the room. Sean was also there. She was sitting on Abby’s bed.

“Timmy came by after school and asked Jaci out on a date for tomorrow!” Abby said clapping her hands.

“I can’t breathe,” Jaci said breathing in and out. Abby laughed.

“Jaci and Timmy sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” Abby sang.

“Why would we be sitting in a tree? And why would we be kissing?” Jaci asked. Abby shook her head.

“It’s a silly elementary school song. It’s what you sang if two people liked each other to tease them,” Abby said.

“It sounds like a cruel song and I’ve only heard the first verse,” Jaci said. “What am I going to wear?”

“Put on your best pair of jeans and your most flattering shirt and you’ll be fine. He’s already in love with you,” Abby shrugged.

“Jeans? What are these jeans you speak off?” Jaci asked.

“You’ve never heard of jeans?” Sean, Abby and I asked.

“MOMMY” Abby screamed running out the door. I wondered who she was screaming for when Momma walked into the room.

“Yes?” Momma asked.

“We have to go shopping,” Abby said. “Jaci has no idea what jeans are.”

“Then we must!” Momma shouted. “What are we waiting for? Jessie-Maria, I’ll call Joan and see if she wants to come along. Oh I should probably call Aunt Jane to see if she and Virginia want to come to the mall.”

Sean nodded and we walked out of Abby’s room.

**

“I think the third one flatters her hips the best,” Mrs. Rivers said.

“But I don’t want to flatter my ‘hips’,” Jaci said looking disgusted.

“I think if Jaci goes out in the first one Timmy goes to have to beat up somebody,” Aunt Jane joked.

“I agree. I look too worldly in those,” Jaci said.

“I like the red pair,” I spoke up.

“But they’re not really jeans,” Virginia pointed out.

“But they go good with that shirt Abbypicked out for her and they flatter her shape,” I said. “But not like the third one flatters.”

“I agree. I don’t feel totally gross in the red pair,” Jaci said walking back into the dressing room. She came out wearing the red jeans and the shirt Abby picked out.

“I think you look very cute,” Mrs. Rivers said.

“And modest,” Momma added.

“Oh! I forgot to tell you, Natalie,” Jaci said looking at me. “Timmy asked if you and Darcy would come along as our ‘chaperons’.”

“Wait what?” I asked letting my braces show. They broke out laughing.

“My little girls going on a date!” Momma said hugging me.

“Whoa,” I said getting up. “Slow down. It’s not a date.”

“I thought we were over this,” Virginia groaned. The rest of the group laughed again.

“I’m too young to date,” I said. Momma nodded and then squealed.

“Oh what am I going to wear?” I asked giving up.

And we all laughed at that.

 

Posted in Farm Girl

Farm Girl- Installment Five

**

I woke up to the smell of burnt bacon. I had overslept again.

I opened the door and stepped on an egg. Aunt Jane is forgetful but…………

I soon felt a chicken pecking my unprotected toes.

“AUNT JANE!” I called running down the stairs. “Why is there a chicken at my bedroom door?”

I looked at the table and saw Leo sitting there poking at an attempt at an oatmeal sandwich.

“And why is Leo Logan in my house?” I asked crossing my arms.

“Ms. O’Donnell called me last night and said that she wanted me here at your house first thing in the morning to talk about the ball,” Leo said. “She didn’t even care that a blizzard was coming.”

“And that’s why I brought the chickens in the house,” Aunt Jane said placing an oatmeal sandwich down on the table.

“Ms. O’Donnell asked you to put the chickens inside the house?” I asked knowing that wasn’t the answer.

“No,” Aunt Jane laughed. “A blizzard is coming and the last time we had a blizzard I plum forgot about the chickens and three of them froze to the death the poor things.”

A chicken started to peck at my toes.

“Lynn, stop it!” Aunt Jane shouted to the chicken.

“Can I use your restroom?” Leo asked.

“Sure, darling, right now the hall,” Aunt Jane said putting a live chicken in the oven. “WHOOPS!”

Leo stared at me as if I was the one who just put the chicken in the oven and walked down the hall.

“The boy likes ya,” Aunt Jane said putting the oven chicken in the sink.

I snorted.

“A boy doesn’t risk his life in a blizzard to see some girl just because a teacher asked him to,” Aunt Jane said turning the facet on and letting the water run on the chicken.

“You don’t know Ms. O’Donnell,” I said.

“Oh, yes I do,” Aunt Jane said. “The woman’s lonely that’s all.”

That gave me a brilliant idea.

**

“What guy would be stupid enough to go out on a date with Ms. O’Donnell?” Natalie asked. It was a couple days later the day before Valentine’s Day to be exact. Natalie and the rest of the B&B gang excluding Ms. Edwards had been in a car crash.

I had made Zach his special Valentine and had sold Valentines to Timmy, Jaci, and Abby. I was out walking with Natalie to the Treasure Chest for Valentine’s Day gifts. I was also carrying around my box.

“We’ll we have to find somebody,” I said.

“Good luck,” Natalie snorted as we walked into the store.

Someone knocked Natalie and me over.

“Watch where you’re going!” Natalie shouted trying to get up.

“Sorry, Nat,” Darcy said helping Natalie up. What about me?

Darcy walked out the door.

“What’s his problem?” I asked.

“I think he’s still a little mad at his mom for staying during the blizzard,” Natalie shrugged. “But I’m just guessing.”

“What can I do for you girls?” The girl at the counter asked. I believe her name was Paige.

“We need Valentine’s Day gifts,” Natalie and I said together. We laughed.

“What type of Valentine’s Day gifts? For your mother or that boy?” Paige asked.

“Was Darcy looking at anything in particular?” I joked.

“Shut up, Virginia!” Natalie cried.

The bell to the store rang and Emily and Timmy walked into the store.

“Hey Timmy,” I said. “Hi Emily.”

Emily looked horrible. She had on a vest and a halo ring to keep her back in place. She also looked like she was in a lot of pain.

“Hi,” Emily grumbled back.

“What can I get for you?” Paige asked.

“A box of chocolates,” Timmy said picking one up.

“Are you going to the ball tomorrow?” I asked Emily.

“I have to. Grandma is over the hill with excitement. Grandpa is going into Pittsfield that night. I wanted to go with him but he says I can’t,” Emily complained.

“Well before the ball after school, a bunch of us girls are going over to the B&B to get our hair done, and our nails done, you know the ‘girl thing’. Would you like to join us?” I asked.

What was I saying? The look on Natalie’s face said it all. This was a huge mistake.

“Hair done? Do you know how much pain I am standing here?” Emily asked sounding really mad.

“You can still do your nails,” I said really wanting to stop myself. “And your Grandma can come to.”

Emily sighed.

“Fine,” Emily said. “But only because I want to look pretty. Come on TIMMY!”

“Coming!” Timmy shouted walking towards the door. He smiled at us.

“Bye,” Timmy said walking out the door.

“What have you done?” Natalie asked after Timmy left.

“I don’t know,” I sighed.

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 Farm Girl

Farm Girl- Installment Three

**

The bell rang for lunch and I was about to get up when a boy walked over to Leo.

“I heard that you’ve started selling the Valentines,” The boy said.

“Yup,” Leo said smiling.

“I’d like to buy three,” The boy said.

“That will be three dollars,” Leo said opening his desk and handing him three Valentines.

“Thanks,” The boy said handing him three dollars.

“What kind of Valentines do you sell?” I asked interested.

“See for yourself,” Leo said with a smirk on his face. He handed me one from his desk.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I don’t know what to say around you

“Don’t tell me that you’re selling this junk!” I shouted outraged.

“Excuse me?” Leo asked.

“If I were to receive this Valentine I would be crushed!” I shouted getting up from my chair. “This Valentine is despicable!”

“Despicable?” Leo asked getting up from his chair.

“Despicable,” I repeated. I stormed into the cafeteria.

“Look at this! Look at this!” I shouted shoving a Valentine in Natalie’s face.

“What is it?” Natalie asked harshly. She didn’t look mad but she sure sounded mad.

“This is so rude! So ridiculous! I would punch the boy who gave me THIS piece of junk!” I screamed.

Everyone at that lunch table looked at me like I was crazy. Especially Emily Stewart.

“Calm down,” Natalie said snatching the Valentine out of my hand. She read it.

“What’s wrong with that?” Natalie asked. She had scrunched up look on her face.

“I don’t know what to say around you? What kind of cheesy line is that? It might as well read ‘Roses are red. Violets are blue. I really don’t want to give a Valentine to you.’” I said sitting down.

“I don’t see what’s wrong with it,” Darcy said standing up for Natalie. I gave him a look. Boys.

“This is being marketed as a Valentine to give to someone who you really don’t want to give a Valentine too! Dozens of poor girls are going to receive this terrible Valentine!” I shouted.

Ok so I didn’t really know if this was being marketed as a Valentine to give to someone you didn’t want to give a Valentine too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was!

“VIRGINIA!” Aunt Jane screamed running into the lunch room waving a brown bag.

“What now?” I muttered. I was starting to wonder if she was a little bit more than slightly crazy.

“I didn’t give you a lunch before you took off,” Aunt Jane huffed. “I’m sorry.”

She gave it to me. I took one look and decided this woman could not make a PB&J sandwich.

“Thanks,” I said taking it anyway. Aunt Jane smiled.

“Somebody get their Valentine’s Day out of the way?” Aunt Jane asked picking up the disgusting Valentine.

“No,” I sneered. “I just found out that my desk partner is selling these!”

“Then sell them back,” Aunt Jane said.

“Huh?” Everyone at the table including me asked.

“You make Valentines bigger and better,” Aunt Jane said.

“That’s a wonderful idea!” I shouted. “I’ll beat him at his own game!” Aunt Jane nodded.

She may be more than slightly crazy but her crazy ideas can be good.

This was war.

**

It took me all night to make a bunch of Valentines. I made some for friendship. I made lots for romance. I made a big mistake letting my little sister cut out hearts. By the way she cut them you would think she didn’t know what a heart was!

“VIRGINIA! ANDREW! RACHEL!” Aunt Jane shouted the next afternoon. The three of us ran down the steps.

“What’s wrong, Aunt Jane?” Rachel asked.

“There’s been a terrible accident on the Mohawk Trail. They want Andrew to go down and help out,” Aunt Jane said trying to catch her breath.

“Who was hurt?” I asked grabbing my coat.

“Zach Davis and Darcy Edwards,” Aunt Jane said trying to put her arm through Rachel’s coat’s armhole.

“Who’s Zach Davis?” I asked handing Aunt Jane her coat.

“He’s Mr. Stewart’s nephew. Trust me they do not get along,” Aunt Jane said picking up the car keys.

“How bad is it?” Andrew asked as we hopped into the car.

“They aren’t dead but Zach is badly hurt,” Aunt Jane said going way over the speed limit.

“Aunt Jane, slow down! I haven’t even put my seatbelt on!” I screamed. Aunt Jane didn’t seem to hear me. We got to the sight of the crash in less than two minutes.

“Don’t ever do that kids!” Aunt Jane shouted hopping out of the car.

I stumbled out. I felt like puking. I saw a sight. Natalie was being loaded onto an ambulance.

“What’s wrong with Natalie?” I asked Mrs. Baldwin.

“She fell,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “Nothing to worry about. She wasn’t in the accident.”

Andrew walked down the hill and started helping.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We don’t know yet. They haven’t tried talking to them. Zach is unconscious and Darcy is delirious,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “Poor Natalie.”

Mrs. Baldwin walked away before I could ask her what that last part meant.

“I have the strangest feeling that a certain Stewart dispute had something to do with this,” Aunt Jane said under her breath.

And for a strange reason even thou I knew nothing about Stewart disputes I had a feeling it did too.

**

I walked into the North Adams hospital with two Get Well balloons and one box full of Valentines. I planned on selling my first Valentine today.

“You’re my first friend visitor,” Darcy said as I walked into the room. I smiled.

“I have to admit this isn’t only just a social call,” I said pulling a chair up close to his bed.

“I’ll buy a Valentine or two from you,” Darcy laughed.

“So who do you need?” I asked.

“I need a Valentine for my mother, Emily, Regina, Jaci, and Abby,” Darcy said. “And maybe one for little Megan.”

“You don’t want to give a Valentine to Natalie?” I asked a little outraged.

“I do don’t get me wrong but…………,” Darcy started. “Can I tell you a secret?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. I tried not to squirm in my seat.

“Well one Christmas morning I left a present for Natalie under her little Charlie Brown tree but I didn’t put my name on it. Ever since I’ve been sending her anonymous gifts,” Darcy said not quite looking at my face. “Natalie calls me her Secret Santa but she doesn’t know its me.”

“How romantic!” I cried. “I have the perfect Valentine!”

I went rummaging through my box and found the Valentine I was thinking about.

“I don’t know,” Darcy said reading it. “What if she doesn’t feel the same way? I mean……”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of that,” I smiled.

Darcy looked at me strangely.

“Tell you what. I have to stop by and see Zach. I’ll go visit him and come back. It will give you time to think about it,” I said. “But don’t worry. I know Natalie likes you that way. I just do. I’m not just a farm girl you know? I also do the occasionally matchmaking!”

Darcy laughed as I walked out the room with my box and Zach’s balloon.

“Can I see Zach Davis?” I asked a nurse.

“Do you know him?” The nurse asked.

“I’ve got a balloon for him. I also live in Florida,” I said. “My name is Virginia Powers. I live with my Aunt Jane Powers.”

“I’ll ask him,” The nurse said walking towards his room.

“And tell him I’ve got Valentines!” I shouted.

The nurse came back a minute later.

“He says he doesn’t know you but he knows your Aunt so he said you can come in,” The nurse said. I smiled and walked down the hall.

“Hello!” I said walking into the room.

“Hi,” Zach said weakly.

“I’m afraid we haven’t met,” I said putting the box of Valentine’s down. “I’m Virginia Powers.”

“Zach Davis,” He smiled. “I only let you in because she said you had Valentines.”

I smiled and laughed.

“Yup,” I said shaking the box. “What do you need?”

“I’m afraid someone is trying to kill me,” Zach said.

“And you want to send them a Valentine?” I asked.

“No!” Zach shouted. “I want a Valentine for Abby.”

“Abby Matthews?” I asked. “The one that lives in Boston?”

“That’s the one,” Zach said. “If there’s one thing I want to do before I die is marry that girl.”

“She didn’t mention a boyfriend,” I said digging through my box.

“That’s because I’m an old boyfriend,” Zach sighed. “I left her but I sure didn’t forget her.”

“If you broke up with her why in the world would she want to marry you?” I asked.

“I knew her back in college and well she left me that time and well I guess we’re even now,” Zach said. He had a smile on his face.

“I think I’m going to have to make a special Valentine for this one,” I said putting a lid on the box.

The nurse that had helped me walked into the room with a syringe in her hand.

“Flu shot,” The nurse said. “Doctor’s orders.”

Zach quickly jumped out of his hospital bed. His legs were really shaky. He started to run but the Nurse stuck the syringe in his arm. She ran after him wanting to complete the job.

I had a feeling Zach wasn’t kidding when he said he thought someone wanted to kill him.