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 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 4- I’ll Be Home for Christmas Installment Two

**

 “Goodnight, girls,” Daddy said closing Abby’s bedroom door. When we heard my parent’s old bedroom door closed, we broke out in giggles.

“Do you girls need anything?”  Yule asked walking into the room without knocking.

“Knock!” Noel shouted throwing a pillow at Yule. Yule looked at her surprised.

“Yeah, knock!” Jessie-Maria shouted throwing some popcorn at him. I joined her.

“All right, all right, I know where I’m not wanted,” Yule said. He closed the door.

“Go away!” I screamed. We heard Yule break out laughing through the door. He walked away and slammed his bedroom door shut.

“So tell us about New York!” Regina said.

“How was rehab?” Emily asked.

“How was rehab?” I repeated trying to not to laugh.

“Dr. Walters wants me to go to rehab next month. He doesn’t like how my spine healed,” Emily said. “I’ve been having a hard time walking lately. My back hurts really badly all the time. I just got my halo ring off last week.”

“Rehab was actually kinda fun,” I said. “But that’s probably because I wasn’t trying to learn how to re-walk and all that jazz. I learned how to feed myself, dress myself, move from my wheelchair to my bed all on my one, and um… bladder control. The fun stuff was learning how to knit, sew, crochet, type, play basketball, kinda sorta swim, and piano lessons.”

“Rehab sounds like the Y,” Virginia said. I laughed.

Crash!

“What was that noise?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Jessie-Maria said. “Regina?”

“I’ve never heard that noise before,” Regina said. “It’s probably just the wind.”

“So…Jessie-Maria, tell us more about your long lost love,” Virginia said in a mushy voice.

“Um, it’s only been about two to three years,” Jessie-Maria said.

Bang!

“That was a different noise,” Emily said with fear in her voice.

“It’s probably just Yule playing a joke on us,” Jessie-Maria shrugged.

Emily seemed to accept that answer.

“So tell me more about Ms. O’Donnell’s boyfriend,” I said.

“He is so cute!” Regina squealed. “What? He is.”

“He’s forty-five too,” Virginia said. “He’s a carpenter. He’s got two kids. A daughter who’s fifteen and an eight year old son. His wife died mysteriously after giving birth. He lives on a farm right next to Ms. O’Donnell’s orchid.”

“Wait, Ms. O’Donnell has a orchid?” I asked.

“There’s a lot about Ms. O’Donnell you don’t know,” Virginia said. “Did you know that Ms. Erin is her daughter?”

“Her what!” I shouted. The room erupted into giggles.

“After you moved Emily and I got involved in A Father’s Presence. During harvest we helped collect the fruit. Ms. O’Donnell can be fun and laid back…when’s she’s not in school,” Virginia said. “She was raised by a single mother. Her father lives in Italy with her stepmom. She has a brother who lives in California with his wife and three kids. She has a half-brother in Italy who is twenty-something. She married Ms. Erin’s dad…not for love. When he died in a tragic accident, she got to orchid and has been running it ever since.”

“Wow,” I said. “You’ve been spending  lot of time with Ms. O’Donnell.”

“Like I said she’s fun when she’s not in school,” Virginia said.

CRASH! BANG!

“It’s a ghost!” Emily screamed.

“Come on, Emily,” Jessie-Maria said, “there is no such thing as ghost.”

“You…you don’t know that,” Emily said.

“I’ll prove it to you,” Jessie-Maria said. “Let’s go check the attic.”

“Have you lost your mind or has love made you blind?” Emily asked. Emily looked at me. “Anyway, Natalie can’t go up all those steps.”

“We’ll get Yule to carry her up the steps,” Jessie-Maria said. “Will having a man come along make you feel better?”

“You’re crazy!” Emily shouted. “What if it’s some robber or murderer?”

“In the B&B’s attic?” Virginia asked. “How in the world would he get food?”

“He sneaks out at night,” Emily said. “What if he’s trying to get out of the window?”

“Come on, Emily,” Virginia said grabbing onto Emily’s wrist. “Regina, can you give me my handcuffs out of my bag.”

Regina handed Virginia the handcuffs, and Virginia put them on Emily’s wrist.

“There,” Virginia said. “Let’s go get Yule.”

Jessie-Maria and Virginia walked out the room and came back minutes later with a sleepy eyed Yule.

“Emily, there’s no ghost in the attic,” Yule yawned. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“No!” Virginia shouted. “You have to proof it to her!”

Bang!

“That was odd,” Yule said. He picked me up, and everyone followed him to the attic door.

“AHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Emily screamed when a red haired girl fell out.

By the way she was crawling on the floor; I could tell that she was blind.

“What in the world is going on?” Daddy asked walking out of his bedroom door. He stopped when he saw the blind girl sprawling on the floor.

“Darcy!? Who are you? Have you come to feed me? What is this stuff on the floor?” The blind girl asked.

“Honey, what’s your name?” Daddy asked helping the blind girl up.

“Cece Elizabeth,” The girl said bluntly. “You got anything to eat? Darcy must have forgotten to feed me with all the excitement. He said something about a girl coming home after being in rehab.”

“Come on, honey,” Daddy said helping Cece Elizabeth walk a little. “Somebody go wake Donna.”

Regina started to pound on Ms. Donna’s door.

“What…,” Ms. Donna started when she walked out of her bedroom.

“I’m hungry,” Cece Elizabeth said.

“I have some leftover fried chicken in the refrigerator,” Ms. Donna offered.

“You’re the lady that cooks the delicious food Darcy brings me?” Cece Elizabeth asked. “You’re the best cook in the world…but you are the only cook I’ve ever eaten from…I’ve told you all this before…I forgot your name. Dana? Are you Donna or that other lady. Your voices are so similar.”

Ms. Donna didn’t say anything. She walked down the steps, and Daddy helped Cece Elizabeth down.

“I can walk,” Cece Elizabeth said. She tripped over the couch.

“Are you all right?” Daddy asked helping her up.

“What I can’t figure out is why we put things in certain places. We’re bound to trip over them, but we put them there anyway. I guess since you know where it is it’s all right for you, but you should really warn visitors,” Cece Elizabeth said.

“Didn’t you see the couch?” Daddy asked helping her into the restaurant.

“See?” Cece Elizabeth asked. “What does that mean?”

The realization came to everybody else. Cece Elizabeth was blind, and she thought the entire world was blind also.

“Honey, sit down,” Daddy said helping Cece Elizabeth sit down.

“Thank you,” Cece Elizabeth said as Ms. Donna handed her a plate. She started to eat the chicken ferociously.

“Honey, how long have you been in the attic?” Daddy asked.

“The attic? Is that where my room is located?” Cece Elizabeth asked. “I’ve lived there ever since I can remember. Darcy usually comes and feeds me. But today when he forgot I decided to sneak out and get my own food. I haven’t eaten in twenty-four hours!”

“Donna, did you know anything about this?” Daddy asked. Ms. Donna didn’t answer. She had to have known about this. I mean how do you not know about a child living in your attic?!

The clock rang twelve A.M. and that’s when the real craziness started.

We heard fire trucks, and the phone rang.

“Hello?” Ms. Donna asked picking up the room.

“THE STEWART’S HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” I heard Aunt Jane scream.

“What?” Ms. Donna asked, but Aunt Jane had hung up.

“The Stewart’s house is on fire,” Ms. Donna said putting the phone down.

I had a strange feeling that Mr. Stewart had set his own house on fire.

**

When we got to the Stewart’s house, the fire had already been put out, and Mrs. Stewart and Timmy were being loaded into ambulances. Jaci managed to get into Timmy’s ambulance, and Emily managed to get into her grandma’s ambulance. There was police tape everywhere. I kinda wanted to explore, but Daddy had to carry me because no one thought to bring my wheelchair.

The police were there. They were reading Mr. Stewart his rights,

“Are you Riley Walters-Baldwin-Matthews?” One of the officers asked.

“Yes,” Momma said shaking her head and looking sick.

“Ma’am, Fowler Stewart is being arrested for arson, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of fraud, several counts of harassment, and three counts of involuntary manslaughter,” The officer said. “If you come down the station and tell us your story, we can charge Fowler with any wrong doing he’s done against you.”

“I forgave Fowler Stewart a long time ago,” Momma said. “Why should he go to jail for what’s already been forgiven?”

“Excuse me, ma’am?” The officer asked.

“With all those charges Fowler’s probably going to be in jail for the rest of his life,” Momma said. “And anyway everyone deserves a second chance.”

“Um, ok,” The officer said walking away.

“I’m tired,” Momma said walking towards the car.

“Your mother is one good woman, children,” Daddy said walking towards the car.

He could say that again.

**

DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Ugh,” Virginia said groggily. “Doorbell, please shut up!”

The doorbell stopped, and we broke out laughing.

“Can you make my brothers disappear?” Regina joked.

YOU’RE HER WHAT!

“Oh, no,” I said recognizing the voice.

“What’s wrong?” Jessie-Maria asked.

“Don’t you recognize that voice?” I asked.

YOU LIAR!

“Grandma Shirley!” Jessie-Maria, Virginia, Regina, and I screamed. Noel stared at us like we were crazy. The girls made a desperate attempt to lift me. We went fumbling out the door and down the steps; we crashed on the family room floor. Noel waltzed down the steps and stared at us.

Daddy and Yule rushed to help us up. Grandma Shirley kept yelling at Momma for not uttering a word about Yule and Noel. Grandpa Jack and Uncle Cael were bringing luggage into the B&B. Aunt Clarisse was trying to control her kids while Uncle John was trying to control Grandma Shirley.

I instantly knew why they were there. Christmas. They came for Christmas and to see me. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy they came and all but…

“Who is shouting!” Cece Elizabeth screamed. She tumbled down the steps and started to fumble around.

“Are you all right, Miss?” Uncle Cael asked helping her to the couch.

“No, I’m not ok,” Cece Elizabeth snapped. “Somebody woke me up! Somebody was screaming louder than a fighter jet.”

Everybody but Grandma Shirley chuckled.

“I don’t mind the joke very funny,” Grandma Shirley snapped.

“Ah ha! You’re the loudest woman on this planet,” Cece Elizabeth said getting up from the couch.

“Excuse me?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Next time could you please refrain from screaming at six o’clock in the morning?” Cece Elizabeth asked. “I do believe this is a place of rest not an anger management session.”

I was beginning to like this girl.

“Well I never!” Grandma Shirley huffed. She stomped off.

“In all my days I have never seen anybody talk to my mother like that!” Uncle Cael laughed. “Did you see the way she was scowling at you?”

“No, I didn’t,” Cece Elizabeth barked. She stomped back up the steps and slammed the attic door.

“What did I say?” Uncle Cael asked.

“She’s blind,” Ms. Donna said looking sadly up the steps.

“Whoops,” Uncle Cael said. He went running up the steps.

“The girl who insulted me so rudely is a blind girl?” Grandma Shirley shouted outraged. “I’m never telling her if a train is coming, and she’s standing in the middle of the tracks.”

Grandma Shirley stormed up the steps.

“Mean,” Noel said pointing in the direction Grandma Shirley stalked off in.

“She’s a smart girl,” Grandpa Jack laughed.

“Yes, she is,” Momma said hugging Noel.

**

“He tried to kill us!” Mrs. Stewart cried for the millionth time.

It was dinner time, and just about every woman in Florida was surrounding her trying to hear her ‘survival’ story. Grandma Shirley made a big show of being bored by the story and frequently interrupted to give her opinion.

“He locked Timmy and me in the bedroom and set the house on fire!” Mrs. Stewart cried. “I thought I was going to die!”

“Why didn’t you just command the fire to stop?” Grandma Shirley asked. “You were able to command people in high school.”

Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes.

“Anyway lucky for us the phone still worked, and I was able to call 911. It doesn’t surprise too much that he tried to kill me but trying to burn your grandson? His own flesh and blood?”

“Fowler Stewart has made it very apparent that he doesn’t care too much for his flesh and blood,” Grandma Shirley said. She took a quick glance at Yule and Noel, and everybody got the message.

“Well he can’t hurt you anymore,” Ms. O’Donnell said changing the subject back. “He’s in jail without bail.”

“Is your house still livable?” Mrs. Rivers asked.

“Our house burned to the ground,” Mrs. Stewart said with tears streaming down her face. “The police said that Fowler was trying to burn the evidence against him. Like the baby pictures and birth certificates.”

Mrs. Stewart pulled two crumpled pieces of paper out of her pocket.

“Here,” Mrs. Stewart said handing them to Yule. “There your birth certificates. I managed to save them. I thought you’d might like to have them.”

“Thank you,” Yule smiled. He handed the birth certificates to Momma.

“Where are you, Emily, and Timmy going to live?” Mrs. Hardy asked.

“Um, I’m sure somebody in the Stewart family will take us in,” Mrs. Stewart said.

“Why don’t the three of you stay here until further arrangements can be made?” Ms. Donna asked. “I’ve got plenty of extra rooms.”

“Well you are part of the Stewart family,” Mrs. Stewart said. “Sure.”

Momma looked like she was about to puke.

And then I felt my food come back up too.

Grandma Shirley and Mrs. Stewart in the same house equaled trouble.

The doorbell rang.

“Now who is that?” Ms. Donna asked looking around. “Just about everyone is here.”

“I’ll answer it,” Darcy said walking towards the door. He came back seconds later with a large wooden box in his hands.

“Delivery for Mr. and Mrs. Steve Matthews! Boy, this box is heavy!” Darcy said dropping the box on the floor.

“Darcy! You don’t know what’s in that box!” Ms. Donna shouted.

This seemed very familiar.

“Ow,” The box said.

Daddy looked at Momma, and Momma took the lid off the box.

“Oh my!” Momma shouted.

“Not again!” I shouted.

“I have got to find out if that’s legal or not,” Darcy said shaking his head.

“It’s not,” Daddy said looking at the box.

“The poor thing,” Ms. Donna said.

This time instead of a two year old blonde girl staring back at me, a four year old brunette little girl stared back at me. The poor little girl had Down Syndrome. She was smiling at us.

“What’s your name, honey?” Momma asked her.

“Bella,” The girl answered. “You Mommy?”

“Um, yes,” Momma said.

“Here,” The little girl said handing Momma a note.

  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Steve Matthews,

 Hello! It’s me, Fowler Stewart. I’ve asked one of my workers to send you an early Christmas gift. Now you know how Yule and Noel got to their home.

P.S. Sorry Yule, there weren’t any boys in the warehouse and we just can’t seem to find a home for this girl.

Merry Christmas,

Fowler Stewart

Mr. Stewart might be in jail without bail, but he was still the head of the Stewart family, and that’s what scared me the most.

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 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment One

How can a person fall asleep on the eve of their mother’s wedding?

I was wondering that question at four o’clock in the morning. In less than an hour, it would be time to get up and get ready for the wedding.

“Natalie! Wake up! There’s someone in the restaurant!” Virginia screamed shaking me.

“I’m up! I’m up!” I shouted sitting up and getting out of my sleeping bag. Virginia picked up a flashlight. Everyone else was fast asleep (amazingly. Virginia was LOUD).

We crept towards the restaurant and when we turned around the corner a water balloons hit us.

“DARCY!” I screamed at my attacker. Darcy laughed. Leo, Timmy, Zach, Ned, and Nelson kept through water balloons at us.

“Girls! AH!” Grandma Shirley screamed walking into the restaurant. A water balloon hit her and she was soaking wet.

“That is it!” Grandma Shirley screamed. She picked up a bottle of salad dressing someone forgot to put away and squirt it at the boys.

“What in the world?” Momma asked walking up only to be hit by a water balloon. “GIRLS! I NEED SOME BACKUP!”

Soon food and water balloons were flying everywhere. By five o’clock, the floor was too slippery and wet to walk on and everybody was either drenched in water or condiments.

“You boys will pay!” Emily screamed. Water was dripping from her halo ring.

“I think we already have,” Leo said. He was covered in ketchup.

“You boys better get back to my house,” Mrs. Rivers said.

“Mr. Rivers knew where we were going,” Timmy said as the boys walked towards to door.

“Oh, he is so gonna pay!” We girls shouted. We burst out laughing. The boys left and then Abby screamed.

“Hair emergency!” Abby shouted touching Momma’s hair. “GET ME EVERY BLOW DRYER IN FLORIDA!”

Two hours later everybody’s hair was dry and we were now changing into our dresses.

“This bow is stupid,” I mumbled looking in the mirror.

“It’s so everybody can know who you are from the back,” Jaci said. Jaci looked fabulous in the same dress. I just looked stupid.

“Go to makeup,” Jaci said. “Why Mrs. Baldwin insisted on makeup I may never understand.”

I walked off to the makeup room (Ms. Donna’s bathroom) and found that Sean was the only one there. Mrs. Rivers was putting makeup on her scares.

“Hi,” I said sitting down.

“Hey,” She mumbled.

“Donna!” Mrs. Rivers shouted. Ms. Donna walked in the room and started putting mascara on my eyes.

“I look weird,” I said after Ms. Donna put some light red lip-gloss on my lips.

“You look beautiful,” Ms. Donna said. “Now go downstairs!”

I walked downstairs to find Mrs. Stewart and Grandma Shirley in a fight.

“Shirley Walters!” Mrs. Stewart shouted. “Let go of the dress!”

“Why should you get to load it in the limo?” Grandma Shirley screamed.

“Because I know how to handle it!” Mrs. Stewart screamed tugging on the black bag.

“But I’m her mother!” Grandma Shirley screamed.

“But I made the dress!” Mrs. Stewart shouted.

“Oh, really? I thought squirrels put it together with tree sap!” Grandma Shirley screamed. Harsh.

“Where’d you get that dress?” Mrs. Stewart screamed.

“I got it in Paris,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Oh, I thought a lion ripped a zebra apart and you took the skin!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. I tried not to giggle. Grandma Shirley did look like a zebra in that dress.”

“Ladies, ladies,” Grandma Baldwin said.

“Mother!” Momma screamed walking up. “Let Mrs. Stewart put it in the car.”

“Humph!” Grandma Shirley shouted letting go.

“Homecoming Queen!” Mrs. Stewart screamed walking towards the door.

“Prom Queen!” Grandma Shirley sneered. Mrs. Stewart slammed the door.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“My sister and Mrs. Stewart have been enemies for like forever,” Mrs. Walters said. “But they started the screaming battles after Shirley won homecoming queen and Mrs. Stewart won Prom queen.”

“Go find your shoes, Natalie, the limos will be here in a minute,” Momma said walking off somewhere.

I groaned. I was so not looking forward to wearing heels all day. And yes, they were pink. And yes they had tiny bows on them.

“You ok?’ Abby asked me. She was putting on shoes also expect hers were flats.

“I don’t know,” I said sitting down and putting on my shoes. “I just saw Mrs. Stewart and Grandma Shirley scream about who gets to put Momma’s dress in the car.”

“I heard,” Abby said. “They are so similar but they hate each other.”

“The two of them similar?” I asked.

“Very. They both are very fiery and quick to the tongue,” Abby said. “But I guess people that like don’t get along with most people anyway.”

“I DID NOT!”

“We better go see what they’re fighting about this time,” Abby said getting up and I followed.

“I know you hid them! Where did you put them?” Mrs. Stewart screamed.

“FOR THE LAST TIME LORI!” Grandma Shirley screamed. “I DID NOT TAKE YOUR GLASSES!”

“Well, somebody did!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. “And nobody but you has a reason!”

“And what would be my reason?” Grandma Shirley screamed.

“You’ve always hated me!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. “You were always jealous of me!”

“Jealous of you!” Grandma Shirley snorted in a way that made you feel like she really was jealous of Mrs. Stewart. “As I recall you were the one who was jealous of me!”

Mrs. Stewart snorted.

“Ladies!” Grandma Baldwin shouted. “This is a very special day for Riley, and she wants both of you to share it with her. But if you keep this up, one of you is going to have to leave.”

“Then it should be her!” Grandma Shirley shouted pointing her finger at Mrs. Stewart.

“Me? I’m not the one who stole someone’s glasses!” Mrs. Stewart shouted.

“I didn’t take them!” Grandma Shirley screamed. I noticed something red sticking out in Grandma Shirley’s purse. I pulled out Mrs. Stewart’s glasses.

“The limo is here!” Grandma Shirley screamed walking towards the door. Mrs. Stewart put her glasses on and walked towards the door.

“This going to be a long day,” I sighed.

“You can say that again, love,” Grandma Baldwin said hugging me.

**

“Ow!” I shouted. I slapped the hand of the person who just tugged on my bow.

“Natalie?” Darcy asked when I turned around.

“You’re gonna pay for that,” I said walking towards the dressing chambers.

“How mad are you about the whole water balloon thing?” Darcy asked.

“I’m furious,” I said. “I actually didn’t plan on ever speaking to you again.”

Darcy gave an uneasy laugh and walked away. I walked into the dressing chambers.

“Get out!” Emily screamed when I walked into the room. “This room is too small for all of us! Its making my spine hurt!”

“Don’t move!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. “I dropped my contact lenses!”

“Oh!” Grandma Shirley grumbled.

“Natalie!” Grandma Baldwin cried running into the dressing chambers. “Come quick! Your mother is having a melt down! She’s refusing to come out of the bridal chambers and is screaming that she wants to call off the wedding!”

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-Seven

**

“A play?” I asked Ms. Erin after church.

“Not just any play but a Nativity Play for your mother’s wedding,” Ms. Erin said. “I know that your mother loves Christmas and I just thought that it would be a nice little surprise.”

“I like it,” I said. “And I’ll think my mother will be pleased.”

“Great!” Ms. Erin shouted. “We’ll have auditions Wednesday night after we audition for the Easter play and I’ll email the parents about it and tell them to keep this a secret.”

“What a secret?” Momma asked walking up.

“Oh I was just asking Natalie some questions about my wedding,” Ms. Erin smiled.

“See you tomorrow afternoon,” Momma smiled at Ms. Erin. Ms. Erin winked at me and walked away.

**

“It’s snowing!” Megan squealed looking out the window later that day.

“NO! NO! NO!” Momma shouted running to the window.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “We’ve seen a lot of snow since we moved here.”

“It can’t be snowing!” Momma cried. “My wedding is in two weeks! It’s a SPRING wedding not a WINTER wedding!”

“Calm down, Riley,” Aunt Clarisse said. “It’s just a light dusting. The snow will melt soon.”

“Well it better!” Momma cried. She stormed up the steps.

“What’s up with Momma?” I asked.

“Just pre-wedding jitters,” Aunt Clarisse shrugged. “She’s going to get more and more frazzled in the weeks to come. Her previous wedding was probably a lot simpler. Did she and your father elope?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “My father just took her to England for their wedding.”

“Huh?” Aunt Clarisse asked.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve been reading my father’s journals and I’m up to their wedding.”

“I wish I could have met your father,” Aunt Clarisse said. She walked away looking sad.

The doorbell rang and Grandma Shirley answered it.

“Who are you?” I heard Grandma Shirley snap.

“Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin,” A deep British voice asked. “You wouldn’t happen to be Donna Edwards the lady who runs the Sunshine B&B?”

“You insult me!” Grandma Shirley cried. “I’m Shirley Walters!”

“You can’t be,” A woman’s voice with a British accent asked. I walked towards the door to find an old looking man and middle-aged/older looking blonde haired lady.

“You’re nothing like your daughter!” The man shouted.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Grandma Shirley said leaning on the door.

“And who are you?” The woman asked.

It took me a second to answer. What should I call myself? These people were clearly my grandparents. Would they be offended it I used my new name?

“Natalie Matthews,” I decided on. Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin smiled.

“Then you must be our granddaughter,” Grandma Baldwin said. “Where’s your mother?”

“Crying because it’s snowing,” I said. Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin laughed.

“Mom! Dad!” Momma cried running down the steps. She gave Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin a hug. Grandma Shirley scowled. She slammed the door shut leaving Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin along with Momma out on the porch in the snow.

Momma opened the door and looked at Grandma Shirley.

“Whoops, the um doorknob slipped through my fingers,” Grandma Shirley lied.

Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin raised their eyebrows at her and walked into the B&B.

Only two weeks and five days to go.

**

“The dresses are purely ugly.”

Of course Grandma Shirley just said that to be contrary.

Jaci and Mrs. Stewart sighed. I personally thought my dress looked beautiful except for the bow though.

“Mrs. Stewart, the dress are lovely,” Momma said giving Mrs. Stewart a hug. “Thank you Jaci and Mrs. Stewart.”

Sean looks like she wants to disappear. The bridesmaids’ dresses don’t have sleeves. Sean had bunch of scares on her arms and some spilling from her chest. Mrs. Rivers ran over to her and hugged her.

“The dresses are very pretty,” Grandma Baldwin said laying on the British charm. “The hems are very very good.”

Mrs. Stewart smirked at Grandma Shirley, and Grandma Shirley scowled.

“Now go try on your dress!” Abby squealed at Momma. Momma walked into the temporary dressing room and five minutes later walked out of the dressing room.

Grandma Shirley opened her mouth but Aunt Clarisse opened her mouth and talked faster than I ever heard somebody talk in my life.

“Huh?” Momma asked. Everyone else had a confused look on their face but they didn’t say anything.

“I said the dress looks beautiful!” Aunt Clarisse shouted walking towards Momma. “It’s exactly the dress you always said you’d marry Steve in.”

“I know,” Momma said. Her face was bursting with joy. “Jaci and Mrs. Stewart got it perfect. I love it!”

“We were happy to do it,” Jaci said. Mrs. Stewart nodded her head. Tears streamed down Momma’s face. Then the tears turned into sobs.

“Riley, what’s wrong?” Mrs. Rivers asked walking over to Momma.

“I have the strangest feeling,” Momma cried. “It’s almost like I’m burying Alexander again.”

Grandma Baldwin gave Momma a hug. Grandma Shirley ran (and in Mrs. Stewart’s sewing room there is no room for running especially with all the girls that were in here) to Momma’s side and embraced her in an awkward hug.

“Mother, you’re choking me,” Momma said. Grandma Baldwin let go probably thinking that would help. Grandma Shirley just hugged Momma tighter.

“Mother, get off of me!” Momma shouted. Her tone was quick, short, and unforgiving. I sensed hurt in it also. Grandma Shirley did not seem surprised by Momma’s voice. She snorted.

“You were always begging for me to hug you and when I did you didn’t want me to touch you,” Grandma Shirley said with such hatred and hurt that I almost cried. “At least that hasn’t changed about you.”

“Nothing’s changed about you,” Momma snapped. “You didn’t seem to get the message I had been sending out for all of my life until I went to high school. You didn’t sense the desire I had to please my mother. To be loved my mother. And even when you seemed to at least grasp a little of that you still pushed me to side. You hugged Clarisse, John, and Cael with all the love in the world but you hugged me like you wished I’d never been born. You just gave me that same cold hug just now. The hug was always too late. I had been begging and begging for you to help me and you’d hug me just after everything had gone wrong. The hug was never sincere. You just hugged me to put on a show. You just hugged me to make it look like you were a good mother. What did I ever do you to? I tried to please you. Papa was always proud of me but you never were. For a time Cael and John were proud of me. Always talking about how I had great expectations and how I was going to be some big name lawyer someday. When Clarisse was little she’d go around telling people that she was Riley Walters’ little sister. But when it came to you. You didn’t even have a picture of me on your desk!”

Momma ran out the door with tears flowing like a river. Grandma Shirley stood there looking surprised but not shocked. Her eyes were trying to focus on the wall but you could still see that there were tears in her eyes. But there was no sense of remorse in her eyes though and that hurt me. Aunt Clarisse, after she got over her shock, walked out the door to go search for Momma. I quickly followed.

I managed to walk out the door just in time to see Mr. Stewart push my mother into the road and be semi-hit by an oncoming car.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Six

**

“Natalie.”

I looked up from my science book. Momma and Mr. Steve were standing in front of me looking serious.

“Yes?” I asked.

“We need to talk to you,” Momma said sitting down on the couch.

“About what?” I asked. My voice sounded shaky and I have no clue why.

“Natalie, how would you feel if I told you that Steve was adopting you?” Momma asked. Her voice also sounded shaky.

“Mr. Steve is adopting me?!” I shouted standing up. I was finally able to stand on my foot again but at this moment my foot was aching and so was my heart.

“Yes, I’m adopting you and Megan,” Mr. Steve said. “And your mother is adopting Jaci and Abby.”

I ran out the door and sat on the porch and started to cry.

“Natalie,” Momma said walking out of the house and sitting on the swing next to me.

“I don’t want to be known as Natalie Matthews,” I sighed. “I don’t ever want to forget my father’s name.”

“Oh, Sweetheart, that is not mine or Steve’s intent,” Momma said squeezing my hand. “If you read this I think you’ll understand better.”

Momma placed a letter in my hand and walked back into the house.

  Dear Natalie,

  If you’re reading this it’s because I’m dead and your mother is getting remarried. Natalie, don’t be upset or hate this man. I want your mother to be happy and I have given her my permission to get remarried if I die.

 I also have made it a requirement that this man adopt you. Don’t scream my dear, Natalie, I’m going to tell you why I want him to adopt you. If I die it is very likely that it is not an accident. Your mother is also in danger. Now your mother has asked me not to tell you this danger here but has assured me that someday you will find out.

 Natalie, I know that the upcoming days are going to be hard for you but I want you to try to be happy for your mother. That’s an order. I also want you to use your new name with pride. That’s also an order. Through all of this remember that I love you and wish that I could still be with you.

Love,

Your Daddy, Alexander Baldwin

I sighed. How could I say with pride ‘Natalie Zoey Matthews’? I looked down and noticed there was a P.S.

P.S. Natalie, you may think that using your new name will be more than you can handle but I know you can do it. I would never ask you or your mother to do something I didn’t believe you could do.

I let tears escape my eyes. If my father thought I could do it then I could do it.

**

“This is a mighty long list,” I said reading the wedding guest list. Momma, Abby, Jaci, Mrs. Stewart, Emily, Mrs. Rivers, Sean, Ms. Donna, and I were in the restaurant planning the wedding and Momma’s bridal shower.

“It is not,” Momma said. “We’ve gotten lots of RSVPs back which is good since this wedding was such short notice.”

LET ME IN!” Someone pounded on the restaurant’s door.

“I wonder who that could be,” Ms. Donna wondered out loud unlocking the restaurant door.

Grandma Shirley marched through the door and a blonde woman who I had never seen before walked in behind her.

“Clarisse!” Momma shouted jumping out of her chair and hugging the woman.

“Riley!” The woman shouted hugging Momma back.

“Mother told me that you have six children,” Momma said. “It can’t be true.”

“It is,” Aunt Clarisse smiled. “This must be your daughter Natalie.”

Aunt Clarisse smiled at me and I smiled back.

“I cannot believe you Riley Anne Walters!” Grandma Shirley shouted. She pulled the wedding invitation out of her purse.

“I thought you would want to know,” Momma said. “I’m sorry if it offended you.”

“What offends me is that you didn’t tell me about this!” Grandma Shirley shouted. “I could have been helping you all this time! Well what’s been done has been done. Your father and brothers are coming up a little closer to the wedding.”

Everyone in the room just blinked (even Aunt Clarisse stared at Grandma Shirley).

“Who’s your maid of honor and who’s planning your bridal shower?” Aunt Clarisse asked Momma.

“There is no maid of honor,” Mrs. Rivers spoke up. “But I’m planning the bridal shower.”

“Can I help you?” Aunt Clarisse asked. “And I would love to be the maid of honor.”

“It’s been waiting for you,” Momma smiled.

“And of course you can help me,” Mrs. Rivers smiled. “You know more about Riley than I do!”

“Now I must know all the details! The wedding is in a month and I just got the invitation!” Grandma Shirley shouted.

“Here,” Momma said handing Grandma Shirley the wedding planning book.

“You’re dresses are being made by a sixteen year old girl?” Grandma Shirley asked looking disgusted.

“Hey! I’m eighteen!” Jaci shouted getting defensive. I was taken aback. Jaci usually didn’t talk like that to anyone.

“And I’m helping,” Mrs. Stewart said. “And so is Joan and Jessie-Maria.”

“Who’s Jessie-Maria? And why in the world is her name so long and weird?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“I’m Jessie-Maria and I prefer to be called Sean,” Sean said speaking up but her voice still sounded mouse-like.

“Why would you want to be called a boys’ name?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Um, Mother, you said Papa and John and Cael are coming up closer to the wedding,” Momma said. “Does that mean Clarisse and you are staying in Florida?”

“Oh course!” Grandma Shirley shouted. “Why would I drive from Pittsfield every day when I can just stay at the B&B?”

This was going to be a long three weeks.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-One

**

I woke up feeling cold. Mr. Steve had offered to carry me upstairs but I refused. I managed to get up off the sofa and hobbled towards the restaurant.

Mr. Stewart’s car was no longer in the restaurant but it was freezing in here. Mr. Steve boarded up the huge hole last night but a huge blizzard was on its way to Massachusetts. Actually, it was already here. Some snowflakes were getting into the restaurant. Therefore it was freezing downstairs.

“Good morning, Natalie,” Darcy said to me. I felt butterflies in my stomach. What was I supposed to say back?

“Morning,” I said shoving him. He laughed.

“Did sleeping in the cold make you cranky?” Darcy joked.

“Maybe,” I joked back. Darcy smiled at me and I smiled back.

VROOM!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. A car had just burst through the boards Mr. Steve had put up and was heading straight for Darcy and me!

I was too scared to move. I felt Darcy pull my bad wrist.

“OW!” I screamed as I hit the ground well actually Darcy’s body. I landed on him.

“Are you all right?” Darcy asked ignoring the fact that the car had just gone into the living room.

“Yeah,” I sighed desperately wanting to rub my wrist.

I found my eyes staring in Darcy’s. Were they always this blue? Then I felt something cold on my nose. It was Darcy’s nose.

“MOTHER!”

I felt Mr. Steve hands around my waist as he helped me up.

“Are you kids all right?” Mr. Steve asked with worry in his tone.

“I think so,” Darcy said getting up. We walked towards the area where the mysterious car had ended up.

“MOTHER!” Momma screamed at the woman who had just gotten out of the car.

“The roads are slipp-er-y!” Grandma Shirley shouted opening her backseat.

“Drat!” She said. “Some of the strawberries got squished.”

“Mother, what are you doing on the roads?” Momma asked Grandma Shirley.

“I just found out last night that my granddaughter had Scurvy!” Grandma Shirley shouted. “So naturally I went out first thing this morning, bought some oranges and strawberries, and heading towards Florida.”

“In a blizzard!?” Momma shouted. Anger was written all over her face.

“MOMMY!”

Megan was standing at the top of the steps. She eyed all the glass and wood on the floor.

“Who’s that?” Grandma Shirley asked eyeing Megan.

“Stay right there. I’ll come and get you,” Momma said ignoring Grandma Shirley’s question. She walked up the steps and got Megan.

“Why does this not surprise me?” Ms. Donna asked walking out of her room.

“It doesn’t?” Grandma Shirley asked surprised. “I mean the roads are slippery but…”

“No, yesterday Mr. Stewart drove his car into the restaurant,” Ms. Donna said rubbing her arms. It was freezing cold down here. Snow was blowing into the restaurant now.

“It’s snowing inside!” Megan shouted noticing. She clapped her hands.

“It’s rather cold in here,” Grandma Shirley said. “You might want to do something about that.”

Ms. Donna and Momma gave her a dirty look.

“It really is cold in her ladies,” Mr. Steve said. “I think we need to find somewhere else to stay.”

“I agree,” Momma said. I nodded my head. My arms were numb. I went to rub my arms when my hand it another hand. It was Darcy’s hand. I guess he had been rubbing my arms the entire time. He started to rub my arms faster.

“You can leave. I’m staying,” Ms. Donna said.

“Mom!” Darcy shouted. Ms. Donna gave him a look.

“Donna, listen to me. You can’t stay in this house. It’s not even double digits outside!” Mr. Drew shouted.

“I’ll be fine,” Ms. Donna shrugged.

“Mom!” Darcy shouted again.

“I’ll just stay upstairs with some blankets and a good book,” Ms. Donna said walking towards the steps.

“Donna,” Mr. Steve said. “Don’t be crazy! Haven’t you heard stories of people staying in their houses during hurricanes and dying?”

“This is a blizzard, Steve, not a hurricane,” Ms. Donna said walking up the steps. I heard the attic door slam.

“I guess that’s one way to keep warm,” Mr. Steve said. Darcy stormed up the
steps.

**

I woke up to hear a steady beat. I looked around and recognized where I was. A hospital room.

Nothing else was broken but one look the cup of water on my bedside table and I instantly knew I had been in a car accident. What was up with car accidents and my life?

“Good your up.”

Dr. Walters looked at me and sighed.

“Natalie, we’re going to have to do something about you being in here every week,” Dr. Walters said. There was a little sparkle in his eyes.

“Trust me. I don’t want to be in the hospital every week,” I sighed. “What happened this time?”

“Nothing major. You got into a car crash with another crazy person driving in the blizzard,” Dr. Walters said.

“We had to leave. There’s a hole in the house,” I sighed.

“Yes, I heard about that. Mr. Stewart came marching in here last night with Emily saying she was having back pains from the accident,” Dr. Walters said. “For once a Stewart wasn’t lying. She had several fractures in her spinal cord. We had to do surgery and she’ll be wearing a spinal brace for quite some time.”

I almost felt bad for Emily Stewart ok…..I did feel bad for her.

“Is everyone else ok?” I asked.

“Scares and Darcy twisted his ankle. Nothing more,” Dr. Walters said. “You should be out of here in time to get your dress for the ball.”

“Ball?” I asked.

“Haven’t you heard? The Valentine’s Day dance theme is Pride and Prejudice. They’re going to crown a Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and a Mr. and Mrs. Bingley. My wife has gone crazy with excitement,” Dr. Walters said.

I laughed knowing Virginia had something to do with this.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Eight (Posted on January 9)

“Mom?” Momma asked. Grandma Shirley nodded.

“Natalie and I just had a very interesting conversation about an hour ago,” Grandma Shirley said. “And she made me realize that I don’t want you back.”

My jaw dropped to the floor. How in the world could Grandma Shirley say that with a clean conscious?

“Excuse me?” Momma asked also in disbelief.

“But,” Grandma Shirley said. “I don’t want you back because of the memories and feelings you bring. Do you know how crazy your father and I went when you left? I guess after a couple years I was glad that we hadn’t found you. I hated you. I gave you life. I devoted my entire life to you and one day you just up and decide to leave without even saying goodbye? I hated you for that.”

Momma and I had a look of pure surprise and disgust. Did Grandma Shirley just say that she hated my mother? That was cold.

“Mrs. Walters, I suggest you leave,” Nurse Sarah said.

“You didn’t let me finish,” Grandma Shirley said. “I hated you for leaving but I have always loved you, Riley, even thou I tried to convince myself that I hated you. Riley, I do love you. Only take it a little personally if I’m quick with you or easily get mad easily.”

Momma stared blankly at Grandma Shirley. How could Grandma Shirley just walk in here and say that she hated my Momma and then tell her that she loved her.

“I would like you to leave,” Momma said. “But if you feel like it visiting me in Florida you can visit me.”

Grandma Shirley smiled and walked out the room.

“Momma, is it all right that I don’t like her very much?” I asked.

“The truth is I don’t like her very much either. She’s a different person. That’s not the mother I know,” Momma sighed.

“When you left, everything changed in their lives. They changed. They tried to improve themselves. They threw themselves on everyone around them especially your siblings,” Nurse Sarah said. “You running away changed them.”

Momma started crying.

“After Alexander died I never planned on telling anyone else why I ran away but…NO! I can’t tell her. They know I’m back. I can’t risk anymore lives,” Momma said.

The look in her eye alone told me that her life, my life, and anyone who knew this ‘secret’ or not was in some serious danger.

**

“I hope you’re feeling better Riley.”

Momma smiled at Aunt Jane.

“The car accident didn’t hurt me too bad,” Momma said. “I’m feeling much better thank you.”

Momma had received a flower from everyone in town.

“Here you go my lady,” Mr. Steve said to Momma putting her soap down on the table.

“Thank you,” Momma smiled.

I squirmed at ‘my lady’.

I looked over at Ms. Donna. She looked anxious and excited at the same time.

“Riley W. Baldwin, I’ve known you since the ninth grade and by the time I finished high school I knew that I wanted to marry you,” Mr. Steve said.

I almost passed out when Mr. Steve got down on one knee and opened a ring box.

“Riley, will you marry me?” Mr. Steve asked.

Momma looked at me. The look on my face screamed, “NO!”

“Yes,” Momma managed to get out.

My face fell. What just happened? Did my mother really just accept a marriage proposal from Steve Matthews.

“Tom and I have an announcement to make,” Mrs. Rivers said standing up. “I’m having a baby.”

Soon everyone was talking about babies and weddings.

Good and bad changes were about to come to Florida, Massachusetts and I don’t just mean babies and weddings.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Seven

“She’s WHAT!” I shouted.

“Right after the bus picked you, Darcy, Regina, and Nelson up your mother said she had some errands to run. Natalie, all of her stuff is gone,” Ms. Donna said. I started to cry.

Darcy tried to touch me but I hit his hand.

“What do you care?!” I asked outraged. Ms. Donna gave me a hug.

“Don’t worry we’re going to find her,” Mr. Steve said. “I’m driving to Pittsfield right now to go look for her.”

“I want to come,” I said. Mr. Steve nodded.

“Call me if you find her,” Ms. Donna said. Mr. Steve nodded. I hobbled to Mr. Steve’s car and Darcy followed.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“I’m coming,” Darcy said.

Why do you want to go? You don’t care about my mother,” I said. Ok maybe that was a little harsh. Darcy got a hurt look on his face.

“I want to help look for your mother. I care more than you think, Natalie,” Darcy said getting into the car. I got in the car and Mr. Steve drove off.

The hour ride to Pittsfield seemed to take a thousand years. Even thou nobody talked the silence seemed to speak volumes. Darcy was mad. I was worried and mad. And Mr. Steve was so worried he practically speeded the entire way.

What could have happened to her? Was she on a flight to England? I didn’t think my mother would go without me. Did she move in with Grandpa Jack and Grandma Shirley? Was she hurt?

Mr. Steve drove to my grandparent’s house. He pounded on the door hard.

“Steve. What are you doing here?” Grandma Shirley asked when she opened the door.

“Riley’s missing,” Mr. Steve said. Grandma Shirley huffed.

“I knew it wouldn’t last long. That girl just has no staying power and is full of empty promises,” Grandma Shirley huffed.

“Don’t you say that about my mother!” I shouted from the car. I got out of it and slammed the door.

“I beg your pardon?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“My mother truly wants to fix the past. She wants to be part of her family again but YOU! You’ve made her feel unwelcome. You’ve made her upset. You’ve shot down her good intentions. You would think that a mother whose daughter ran away and now is back and wants to make things right would welcome her with open arms but no! I think that you don’t want her back!” I shouted. Grandma Shirley looked at Steve.

“Natalie is right, Mrs. Walters. Riley told me that when you stopped by you weren’t all too welcome…,” Mr. Steve started.

“Well I never!” Grandma Shirley shouted. She opened the house door and slammed it.

“Oomph!” I said. I opened the car door and slammed it.

Darcy started to clap. I gave him a look and he stopped automatically.

“Well she was no help,” Mr. Steve said getting in the car and driving down the driveway.

“Where do we check now?” I asked.

“The airport.”

The way Mr. Steve said that made the feeling in the car change. I always knew it was a possablitly that my mother got on a plane and left but why would she leave me?

Mr. Steve asked for the flight schedules going to England. The only one leaving today  left at 5 A.M.. That was too early to be Momma.

“Mrs. Baldwin might not have gotten on a plane to England. She could have gone to France, Italy, China….,” Darcy started.

“Not helping!” I shouted. I slapped Darcy.

“Natalie Baldwin!” Mr. Steve shouted like he was my father.

“You’re not the boss of me!” I shouted. Mr. Steve crumpled the piece of paper in his hands. Then Mr. Steve’s phone rang.

“Hello? They’ve found her? Where? Ok, I’ll be right there,” Mr. Steve said. He slammed the phone shut.

“Riley’s at a hospital. She’s gotten in a car accident,” Mr. Steve said. I went flying out the door letting my cast hit whatever was in the way.

**

Momma lay almost lifeless in the hospital bed. She had a bunch of cuts on her face and there was a deep gash in her leg.

Momma had been a car accident. As I thought about this I wondered if this car accident was no accident either. Could somebody be after Momma?

“Get away from me!” Momma screamed in her sleep. “I’ll go back. I’ll go back.”

“Momma, are you ok?” I asked.

“It’s been twenty years! Can’t you just forget about it? I haven’t told a living soul expect my husband who you killed!” Momma screamed.

I wasn’t sure if I should wake her up or not. I wanted to hear more of this unconscious talk.

“Get away from me! You don’t scare me anymore!” Momma screamed. Nurse Sarah walked into the room.

“Riley, wake up,” Nurse Sarah said shaking Momma. So much for that.

“Huh? Where am I?” Momma asked.

“Riley, you’ve been in a car accident,” Nurse Sarah said to her. Momma nodded her head.

“I remember it. I was on my way to the airport. I had received a call from my older brother John. He said that I wasn’t welcome here. I knew I had to leave. I was going to get on a flight somewhere. Anywhere but out of nowhere a car hit me. The other driver helped me out of the car. I knew that I’d seen him somewhere before. Then he told me that he could have killed me if he wanted to and then I knew who he was,” Momma said. She then burst into crying.

“Who’s the man?” Nurse Sarah said. Momma didn’t answer. She just kept crying.

“Oh, Sarah, what should I do? It’s not safe here for me. They know I’m back. They might hurt me or worse Natalie. Should I just go away like they’ve told me to do?” Momma cried.

“I think you should stay.”

I turned around to see who had said that and it was none other than Grandma Shirley.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Four

**

The words “You can go home this afternoon.” rang through my mind. I think the only reason the doctor is letting me go home is because Momma threatened to take me out of the hospital with or without his agreement and the only reason she threatened him is because she desperately wants to leave Pittsfield.

I think my mother is afraid that word has gotten out that she’s back in Massachusetts. She hasn’t said much since our little talk.

“Riley?” Nurse Sarah asked walking into my room.

“Yeah?” Momma asked. She was tired. She only was getting a couple hours of sleep sleeping on that horribly lumpy couch.

“There’s someone here to see you,” Nurse Sarah said.

Me? Are you sure it’s not one of Natalie’s friends?” Momma asked surprised that anyone would be there to see her.

“I’m positive, Riley,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Is it Steve Matthews?” Momma asks. My chest got tight but it released. I’m starting to really dislike Steve Matthews.

“Steve Matthews? The guy you were dating before you ran away? No,” Nurse Sarah said. “Riley, it’s your mother.”

Wait, my mother used to date Steve Matthews? And did she just say mother?

From look on my Momma’s face her heart had stopped. She was gasping for air. I prayed that my mother wouldn’t have a full blown panic attack.

“Riley, if you refuse to see her it will hurt her heart more than you can ever imagine,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Send. Her. In.” Momma gasped. Nurse Sarah slowly walked out the room and returned seconds later with a woman who looked very much like my mother.

“So it really is you,” Grandma Shirley said. There were tears in her eyes.

“Mother,” Momma breathed.

“Riley Anne Walters,” Grandma Shirley said.

“How’s Papa?” Momma asked.

“He’s doing as good as a father whose daughter ran away could ever,” Grandma Shirley said.

A wave of guilt overcame Momma.

“How are Clarisse, John, and Cael doing?” Momma asked.

“They all live within driving distance. All three of them have good stable jobs and have children,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Funny. Clarisse always said that she would never ever have children,” Momma smiled.

“She gave in. Has six running around her place,” Grandma Shirley said. Momma look surprised.

“She got married five years after you left. She was the first to get married. She has Charleigh and Ryleigh. They are identical twin girls. Then there’s Jason and Benjamin. Then there’s Jake and Jacob. They’re fraternal twin boys,” Grandma Shirley said. Momma smiled.

Grandma Shirley for the first time noticed me. She looked at my foot first and then raised her eyes up to me. I gave her my best smile and prayed really hard that I wouldn’t have a panic attack.

“And you are?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Natalie. Natalie Zoey Baldwin,” I said.

“How old are you?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Twelve,” I answered trying to smile. I started to feel sweaty. Grandma Shirley smiled at me.

“So you broke your foot,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Last week,” I said.

“Then why are you still in the hospital?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“I had a panic attack, then someone put sleeping medicine in my system, and then I had another panic attack,” I said. The look on my mother’s face told me that I probably shouldn’t have said that.

“Oh,” Grandma Shirley said. The words fell out of her mouth. If she knew how cold and heartless she sounded she probably would have apologized.

Grandma Shirley turned back to my mother. There was a look of pain and disgust in Grandma Shirley’s eyes.

“Riley, why did you run away? Ever since the police told us that you had run away I’ve been trying to figure out what I did to make you leave,” Grandma Shirley said. Tears ran down her face.

“Mom, it was nothing you, dad, Clarisse, John, or Cael did. I ran away because……” Momma started. She looked at me.

“Why I left is not important. I’m back now. I’m not leaving unless God tells me too,” Momma said.

“You’re back?” Grandma Shirley asked. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or horrified.

“I live in Florida at the Sunshine B&B,” Momma said. Grandma Shirley sighed.

“Riley, why did you come back to Massachusetts? Is it because after twenty years you wanted to make things better or did you come just to pain me?” Grandma Shirley said.

“Mom, I never planned to come back home. Even after Alexander died I planned to live in Miami but things changed. It wasn’t safe for me in Miami and twenty years ago it wasn’t safe for me to be here. I just got into a car and drove and drove and drove praying that God would stop me wherever he wanted me to be. When I saw a sign that said Florida, Massachusetts I knew in my heart that was where I was supposed to be,” Momma said.

Grandma Shirley looked at me and then at Momma.

“I’ve dreamt of the day I’d seen you again. I always imagined you were kidnapped by some creep or something else that would make it seem like you never wanted to leave us but you willingly left? Why?” Grandma Shirley cried.

“Mom, if I didn’t leave….Mom, it was dangerous. I couldn’t stay here. Everyone I loved and cared about was in danger and if I didn’t leave you, dad, my siblings, and even Steve would be hurt. I can’t even begin to imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t left,” Momma said.

She got up and walked quickly out of the room. Grandma Shirley looked at me.

“Don’t look at me. I know nothing,” I said.