Posted in My Crazy Life

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

Chapter VII

Invitations & Inventions & Laser Tag &…….Little Brothers? 

I was awoken the next morning by the sound of the doorbell being repeatedly pushed.

“What time is it?” Natalie groaned as she made a sleepy transfer to her wheelchair.

“Six-thirty,” I said as I glanced at the clock.

“Make it stop!” Noel screamed. She put her hands over her ears and started to shout random things.

Chaos erupted in the Matthews house. The sound of babies wailing made me become fully awake. I heard the sound of four little feet and two big feet racing down the steps.

I heard Mr. Steve grumble as he passed the room.

“I’M COMING!” Mr. Steve shouted as the ringing started to get faster and louder.

“Charlly, its for you!” Mr. Steve shouted seconds later.

“Me?” I mumbled as I transferred from bed and into my wheelchair.

“Good Morning, Charlly,” Megan said as I passed her in the hallway. Bella gave me a smile and waved.

“Morning,” I mumbled because so far it wasn’t very good.

The roll to the door was slow. I almost fell asleep a couple of times on the minute roll to the door.

“What took you so long!” Becca Lou shotued when I got to the front door.

“Why are you ringing the doorbell at six in the morning?” I retorted.

“The-police-showed-up-at-the-B&B-and-I-overheard-them-say-they-wanted-to-speak-to-a-Robert-King,” Becca Lou said. She spoke so fast she said it all like it was one word.

“WHAT!” I screamed.

“Then-I-asked-who-Robert-King-was-and-Lou-stood-up-and-said-that-he-was-Robert-King!” Becca Lou screamed.

I was down the wheelchair ramp and on the road within seconds.

A bazillion things ran through my mind. Was Lou being arrested? Why else would the police want to speak with him? Maybe one of my grandparents had died? I remember Lou saying something about having a much younger sister. Was she in trouble?

“Charlly, have you heard a word I’ve said?” Becca Lou screamed as we past the Rivers’ cabin.

“No, sorry,” I said. “Say it again will you please?”

“Why does Lou call himself Lou if his name is Robert?” Becca Lou asked.

“You’ll have to ask Lou about that one,” I said.

When we reached the B&B, Lou’s motorcycle was still parked in the driveway. No police cars were around. I noticed that Cece Elizabeth was sitting on the porch swing.

Cece Elizabeth turned towards us when she heard Becca Lou’s frantic feet stomp up the steps.

“Girls,” Cece Elizabeth sighed, “Lou’s gone.”

**

“I’m sorry, Charlly,” Mom said after I asked her what happened for the millionth time. “Lou asked me not to tell you. All I can say is that he did not get arrested.”

I gave a frustrated sigh. It was now the afternoon and no one would say anything about what had happened that morning. All I knew was that the police came to speak to Lou, Lou grabbed his jacket, and left with them.

“I’m sure he’s coming back,” Natalie said as we rolled into the restaurant to hunt out a snack.

“You don’t know Lou,” I sighed.

“He left his motorcycle and his stuff,” Natalie said. “He has to come back for that at least.”

“Lou never cared about stuff. If he was out of there, he was out of there,” I grumbled.

“If you ask me Lou looked all most happy to go along with the cops,” Darcy said not looking up from what he was doing.

“Did you use the words happy, go along, and cops in the same sentence?” Natalie asked.

“Yup,” Darcy said as he handed Natalie an envelope.

“What’s this?” Natalie asked opening it.

“Invitations to my birthday par….celebration,” Darcy said as he handed me mine.

“You’re never to old to have a birthday party,” Natalie laughed as she took out the card.

“How old are you turning? Twenty-One?” I joked as I took my card out.

“Fifteen,” Darcy said.

“My baby is growing up so fast,” Ms. Donna said as she brought out some fruit.

“Mom!” Darcy shouted.

“What? It’s true?” Ms. Donna said.

At the same time Natalie said, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t like laser tag,” Darcy said in a surprised voice.

” You’re having a laser tag party!” I shouted as I read my invitation. “I’m in.”

“I’ve never played,” Natalie started, “but that’s not…”

“It’s real simple, Nat,” Darcy said. “You….”

“I know how laser tag works,” Natalie snapped. “If you don’t want me to come to your party, next time just say so.”

“Huh?” Darcy asked clearly confused.

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Natalie said dropping the invitation on the ground. She started to roll towards the family room.

Darcy and I stared at each other for a second.

“Do you have any idea what that was about?” Darcy asked me.

“Nope,” I answered.

“I better go after her and find out what’s wrong,” Darcy said getting up. He turned to me. “I might need some backup.”

I nodded and rolled after the direction he went in.

“Natalie! Wait!” Darcy called as he ran down the driveway.

Natalie stopped, turned around, and folded her arms.

“I’m waiting,” Natalie said when we reached her.

“Look, Natalie, I don’t know what I did wrong, but….sorry?” Darcy said.

I let a snicker escape. Natalie looked at me.

“I don’t know how you find this funny when it affects you too,” Natalie said.

“How does it affect me?” I asked.

“You do realize that we can’t play laser tag right,” Natalie said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Why do we never use water guns in our fights?” Natalie asked.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Why do we have water balloon fights and not water gun fights?” Natalie asked.

I shrugged, but Darcy’s mouth fell open.

“Oopps,” Darcy said. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Now, I’m confused,” I said.

“Charlly, in order to fire a laser gun you need both hands free. One to pull the trigger and the other to push a button to make it fire. We are also slower than everybody else. We would be the easiest targets,” Natalie said. “We would probably never get to fire because we’d be waiting to be risen from the dead so many times.”

“Oh….,” I said understanding.

“We could play as teams!” Darcy shouted. “You guys could be on a team together and….”

“Nice idea, Darcy, but…,” Natalie started but her eyes landed on a taxi that was coming down the street.

I nearly fainted as Lou and a little mini-Lou got out of the taxi.

**

“I can’t believe you never told me you had another kid!” I shouted.

Lou cringed a little. He was searching for the words to say.

“I thought it’d be a nice surprise,” Lou said.

“You thought finding out that I have a for year old half-brother would be a nice surprise?” I asked.

“Yes….,” Lou said as if he was unsure of what to say.

I grunted and folded my arms. My eyes caught sight of Becca Lou and Mini-Lou, who’s real name was Jacob, playing with chalk on the B&B driveway.

Becca Lou didn’t even bat an eye when she found out that Mini-Lou was our half brother. She just took his hand and asked if he wanted to play with chalk or a ball.

“Look, Lottie, I didn’t know he existed until six months ago,” Lou said. “Trying to get full custody is why I didn’t come to see you right after I got out of rehab. When your Mom found out about him….”

“Wait! Mom knew that you had another kid with another woman?” I asked.

Lou nodded tentatively.

“Your Mom and Laz put in a good word for me,” Lou said. “The police came by this morning and told me that Jacob’s mother was arrested for DWI last night.”

“DWI?” I asked.

“Driving will intoxicated,” Lou said. “The blood work showed she was three times over the legal alcohol limit and was rather high.”

“Wasn’t that what you were arrested for?” I asked. Lou nodded.

“But I’m trying to change my life around. I hope some day she does,” Lou said.

I started to roll away. I was so mad at Lou at that moment. A nice surprise? Who in there right mind would think that suddenly finding out you have a new sibling would be a nice surprise?

“Love ya, Lou Pa,” I said just so we didn’t leave on too awful of terms.

“Love ya, Charlly Lottie,” Lou called.

I slammed the door way harder than I meant too. The sound of the door got Becca Lou and Mini-Lou’s attention.

“Come over here” Mini-Lou hollered. I rolled over to where they were drawing partly amused.

“Do you like to play?” Mini-Lou asked me.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Do you like to draw?” Mini-Lou asked.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Then this is the PERFECT game for you!” Mini-Lou shouted. He threw up his hands causing the piece of chalk in his hands to land on the ground and break.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I gave him a smile.

“Charlly feels like she’s too old to do chalk and play games,” Becca Lou said.

“Oh,” Mini-Lou said.

“It doesn’t look like there’s going to be a water balloon fight today,” I said transferring from my wheelchair to the ground. “I guess I can do some driveway coloring.”

“We’re drawing this town!” Mini-Lou shouted. “I saw a sign with a snowman on the way here and Mr. Lou says that there’s a statue of an elk here too!”

I spent the rest of the afternoon drawing buildings, clouds, and elks.

**

“Tada!”

I stared at the invention that Darcy was so proudly displaying to Natalie and I. If you asked me the thing looked like a double pair of underwear.

“Please tell me that is not underwear,” Natalie said.

“It is not underwear,” Darcy said. “I made it out of some strong fabric that Jaci gave me.”

“You sewed that?” I asked.

“With some help from Jaci,” Darcy blushed. “Ok a lot of help.”

“Put your underwear back on! You’re in a public place where people eat!” Mini-Lou shouted as he walked into the restaurant with Lou not that far behind.

Darcy burst into titters and Natalie and I started to giggle.

“Not wearing your underwear is no laughing matter,” Mini-Lou said as Lou ordered for them.

That only made us laugh more.

“Ok, if its not a strange looking pair of underwear what is it?” Natalie asked as she tried to stop laughing.

“Let me demonstrate,” Darcy said. He put his legs through two of the legs slots.

“You look ridiculous,” Natalie giggled.

“Your about to look ridiculous too,” Darcy said. “Lou can you help me with something?”

“Sure,” Lou shrugged. He walked up to where we were standing. “What do you need me to do?”

“Can you pick up Natalie and put her in the back of this thingamajig?” Darcy asked.

Lou gave a slow nod.

“One, two, three!” Lou shouted as he picked Natalie. He put her in the sling.

“This is fun!” Natalie laughed as Darcy walked around the room with er attached to him.

“I made another one for you too,” Darcy said to me as he helped Natalie back into her wheelchair.

“So how does this slow our problem?” I asked.

“Some one on your team will carry you on their back. They’ll be your legs,” Darcy said.

“Oh,” I said nodding. “That’s actually a pretty good idea.”

“So are we good?” Darcy asked Natalie.

“More than good.” Natalie smiled.

**

I tried to hold my breath. The enemy was approaching. Clueless that I and my partner were hiding behind a barrier.

“Ready?” Leo whispered.

“Ready.”

We aimed our laser beams on our target and fired.

“Not again!” Virginia screamed.

“Ha!” Leo shouted. We ran from our hiding place.

“Gotca!” Natalie shouted as she pointed her beam at my shoulder.

“I’ve been hit!” I said all dramatically.

“Hey!” Natalie shouted as Leo shot her and Darcy.

“Let’s get outa here!” I shouted. Leo ran up the ramp.

“A ha!” Yule shouted. He took out Leo.

“Cover me while I recover!” Leo shouted as he ran in zigzags.

“Stop!” I whispered. I could see Matt trying to hide behind a barrier. I aimed and fired.

“Who did that!” Matt shouted.

I silently giggled.

“Not so fast!”

Leo turned, which was a bad move because Bennet took him out.

“Seriously, man! I just recovered!” Leo shouted. Bennet smiled, but his smile turned upside down when I took him out.

“It’s no fair! You guys get attached backup!” Benent shouted. “Well, I’m a paraplegic! I should be on somebody’s back!”

Leo ran away before Bennet could take another aim at him.

“Capow!” Mini-Lou shouted as he waved his gun in the air like a maniac.

“AH!” Leo shouted. He ran right into Lou.

“Sorry, son,” Lou said. He took the both of us out.

“Dad!” I shouted.

“Sorry, Lottie,” Lou said. “Hey! Who got me!”

Becca Lou gave a mysterious laugh.

“Thirty seconds!” Someone called out.

We all ran off in different directions.

As we ran, I managed to get Noel and Emily.

“Say bye-bye.”

I groaned as Noel got her revenge.

“Time’s up!”

The lights in the room turned back on. What seemed like hundreds of people emerged from behind barriers and out of nowhere.

“That was awesome!” Jessie-Maria shouted.

“I can’t believe I actually hit somebody,” Jaci said as we pilled out of the room.

“I wonder who won,” Darcy said as he put Natalie back in her wheelchair.

“Me of course,” Leo said helping me into the wheelchair.

“Let’s see,” Regina said looking at the score board. “That’s not fair!”

“What’s not fair?” I asked.

“Charlly, got the most hits!” Regina shouted. “And Natalie got second. Darcy third and Leo fourth.”

“All right!” Leo said as he high-fived Darcy.

“You guys had backup!” Regina shouted. “It should be illegal!”

“Illegal?” Lou laughed as he tried to get the laser gun from Mini-Lou’s hands.

“Well at least against the rules,” Regina said crossing her arms.

“There are different rules for paraplegics,” Natalie said as she got her sheet.

“Not all paraplegics,” Bennet joked.

“I don’t care!” Nelson shouted. “I just want to do it again!”

“Again!” Everyone shouted excitedly.

 

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

“Almost!” Jaci cried.

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

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

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

“You look beautiful,” Momma smiled.

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

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

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

Daddy walked in and smiled.

“You look lovely,” Daddy said.

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

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

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

I smiled at him.

“You nervous?” Darcy asked.

“About what?” I asked confused.

“About dancing,” Darcy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Rivers stood up and picked up his son.

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter

When the snow comes to cover the ground

Its the time for play

Its a whipped cream day

I wait for it the whole year round

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

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

“My baby!” Momma cried hugging me.

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

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

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

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

“I’ve decided something,” I said.

“What?” Darcy shrugged.

“I’m staying,” I stated.

Darcy stared at me.

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

I gave him a smile. Darcy is so sweet.

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

Darcy laughed.

“Natalie’s staying!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes!” They cheered.

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

Bennet, who was sitting next to Noel, laughed.

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

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

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

Everybody howled at that.

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

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

I then got an idea.

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

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

“Regina!” Emily said.

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

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

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

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

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

“God, are you speaking?” Bennet asked.

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

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

“Why?” I asked.

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

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

And we danced the night away.

**

Dear Natalie,

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

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

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

Keep Calm & Write On!

Charlotte Lily

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

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

I shook my head and went back to worrying.

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

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

“The one for Lily Charlotte?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Christmas Dreams,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Please show me,” I prayed.

I closed my eyes and let my fingers fly.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

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

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

The officer nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

The officer sighed and crossed his arms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They took my mug shot and got my finger prints.

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

“Hello?” Yule asked.

“Yule? Is Dad with you?” I asked.

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

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

“You’re in what!” Yule shouted.

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

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

“Hand controls,” I said.

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

“Hello?” Daddy asked.

“Hi, Daddy,” I said with fake cheer.

“Is your mother all right?” Daddy asked.

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

I heard Daddy sigh.

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

“Um, I’m alone in jail!” I shouted.

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

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

Then came the questions.

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

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

“Do you drive often?” The officer asked.

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

Then I was brought back to the holding cell.

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

But not thinking about all these things was nearly impossible.

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

At the time he seemed like a liar.

My dad and Yule arrived thirty minutes after my call.

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

My dad wasn’t mad but Yule was.

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

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

“You should have called 911!” Yule shouted.

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

Yule gave me a hug.

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

“I’m sorry,” I said looking down.

Not another word was spoken until we reached the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

**

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

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

“When will it be twelve?” Megan asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not?” Megan asked.

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

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

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

We all rushed towards the window.

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

“Do you see any babies?”

“Daddy!”

“Ow!”

“Sorry.”

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

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

We all rushed out the door.

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

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

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

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

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

“No more?” Noel pouted.

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

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

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

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

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

I laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

The babies then all started to cry and we groaned.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I made a pink jumper,” Jaci said.

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

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

The room erupted in laughter.

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

The room kept on laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Mrs. Rivers laughed.

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

“Baby A’s name is,” Virginia started.

“Love!” I finished.

“How cute!” Mrs. Rivers gushed.

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

“Why? What did he want?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Baby B’s name is,” I started.

“Emmanuel!” Virginia finished.

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

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

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

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

“Christmas Elf!” Noel shouted.

Everyone laughed.

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

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

Once again, everyone laughed.

I love my family.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma gave a huge breath.

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

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

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

Clifford was our brand new red fifteen seater van.

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

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

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

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

“I guess,” I sighed.

But somehow, this time was very very different.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Goodnight,” I said giving Momma a kiss.

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

Two hours later, I heard a scream.

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

“Natalie!” Momma cried. “Natalie!”

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

“Momma?” I asked pushing the door open.

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

“Are you sure?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma nodded and got up.

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

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

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

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

It was drizzling. I smiled a little.

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

“Natalie!” Momma hollered.

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

“Now,” Momma started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The car barely moved, but I was driving.

“Hurry up!” Momma screamed.

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

“Turn!” Momma screamed.

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

“What’s the speed limit!” I asked.

“I don’t care!” Momma screamed.

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

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

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

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

“Did you call Dad?” I asked.

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

“Hello?” Daddy’s sleepy voice asked.

“Daddy!” I shouted.

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

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

“What’s wrong?” Daddy repeated.

“I’m in labor!” Momma cried.

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

“Where are you?” Daddy asked.

“On the highway,” Momma said.

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

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

“Then who is?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

“Natalie, where are you?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“How are you driving?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

“Ma’am.”

I stared up at the face of an officer.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

When I got home, I lost it. I messed up my bed, threw pillows at the door, and cried my eyes out. Why had I agreed to do this wheelchair dancing thing? Why hadn’t I walked away after Ms. Etta warned us?

“Hey, baby,” Momma said walking into my room. “Jaci told me about what happened.”

“He just walked out,” I cried. “Just like that. Game over.”

Momma smiled.

“I remember this time when I was a sophomore in high school. I was so mad that Steve Matthews took out some girl named Karen. We weren’t officially together, but he took me to all the important dances and all that. We got into this huge fight, and we broke up. He started taking this Karen girl out more, and I was so jealous that I actually sabotaged one of there dates,” Momma said.

“You did what?” I asked.

“I got a job at this diner that he took her too and poured her soda all over her head,” Momma said. “And then I kissed Steve.”

“You did what?” I howled.

“Not one of my proudest moments,” Momma said. “But hey, I got my guy back even if it was only for two years.”

“I just wish I never agreed to wheelchair dance,” I said. “Darcy and I were a whole lot happier before this whole mess.”

“Baby, you’re only thirteen,” Momma said. “You’ve got a little bit longer to find your husband.”

I smiled.

“Thanks for trying to make me feel better,” I said. “But its way more than that.”

“Just because you and Darcy broke up doesn’t mean you have to stop wheelchair dancing. I’m sure Yule would be happy to do it with you,” Momma said.

“No way. I like the relationship I have with my older brother,” I said. Momma smiled.

“It’s just…I’ve this feeling,” I said. “I just kinda felt like Darcy didn’t want to ‘be’ with me anymore. I mean who truly wants a girlfriend in a wheelchair.”

“Now, I don’t know why you’d think that,” Momma said.

“Wasn’t it obvious?” I asked.

“Nope,” Momma said. “If anything I would say that he liked you more.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I said drying my eyes a little.

“Someone’s here to see you, Natalie,” Jaci said opening the door.

“I don’t really feel seeing anyone right now,” I said.

“Well he’s waiting on the front porch,” Jaci said. “And he looks pretty sorry.”

“He?”

“He.”

I rolled out of my room and looked in the mirror in the hallway. I looked a mess, but there was no time to do anything to my eyes or hair.

I opened the front door and there stood a humble looking Darcy.

“Hiya,” Darcy said looking at the ground.

“Hey,” I said rolling out of the house and closing the door.

“I’ve been a jerk,” Darcy said.

“Well I was a little bit jerkish too,” I said.

“Look, I’m really sorry for walking out today,” Darcy said. “I was just really mad and angry. I’m trying really hard to not pull you and send you crashing, and you calling me a rat is not making it easier.”

I laughed.

“And I admit that I was a little hard on you,” Darcy said.

“And I was a little hard on you,” I said.

“And I know that your front porch is not the best place to practice, but you have to admit it’s pretty big,” Darcy said pulling his IPod out of his pocket.

The song that Ms. Etta had us dancing through filled the twilight air.

Darcy took my hand and spun me. I smiled and we started to Glide.

“You know I missed you a lot more than I ever thought I would,” Darcy whispered.

“Well, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon,” I smiled as Darcy spun me again.

“Special delivery for Natalie Matthews,” Our mailman Stanley interrupted.

“Special delivery?” I asked taking the large envelope.

“From London, England,” Stanley said.

It was probably from my grandparents.

Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into Wesley Harland School for Paraplegics & Quadriplegics on full scholarship!

Or maybe not.

After reading the first two sentences, I fainted for a second. This could not be happening.

“Natalie, are you all right?” Daddy asked when I came to. I handed him the envelope with shaking fingers.

“Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews. Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into Wesley Harland School for Paraplegics and Quadriplegics on full scholarship! Thank you for your application. Our executives loved it and your blog was riveting. We hope that you will be joining us as soon as this summer, but if not we would love for you to come in the fall,” Daddy read. He started to mumble a whole lot of other stuff.

Darcy looked at me and started to walk away.

“Darcy, wait!” I shouted rolling after me.

“What?” Darcy snapped.

“I promise you that I have never heard for Wesley Harland before today and that I never sent an application in,” I said.

“Yeah, right,” Darcy snapped. “You know what? What do I care? Do what you want. It’s your life after all. I thought you were different, but you’re just another girl.”

“Darcy, please!” I pleaded as Darcy walked down the driveway.

“Bye, Natalie.”

I sat there at the top of my driveway and watched Darcy disappear.

I rolled around and saw that Stanley had left and everybody else had gone inside.

I looked towards the sky and just screamed. What I would have done for some rain right about then….

**

The next day I did not want to go to church. I was tired, angry, and upset. And today was Meet & Greet today. There would be no way for me to avoid Darcy at brunch since the Youth Group had their own special brunch. I let the sun go down on my anger and I was really paying for it now.

“Phone,” Noel said handing it to me.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Natalie?” Grandma Baldwin asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said putting butter on my toast.

“Did you receive something very special in the mail yesterday?” Grandma Baldwin asked.

“You sent in an application for me?” I cried.

“Yes, love, we did!” Grandma Baldwin shouted excitedly. “I know its totally unreasonable for your family to just uproot their lives and move to England, but, love, you can. The school’s not that far from our house.”

“How could you send in an application without even asking me?” I cried.

“Well, love, we thought you’d love it,” Grandma Baldwin said with doubt creeping into her voice.

“Well I don’t love it!” I cried. “You’ve ruined my life!” I hung up the phone and slammed it own hard on the receiver.

“Natalie!” Momma shouted rushing into the kitchen. She picked up the phone and recalled Grandma Baldwin. My mother than began to apologize for me, but I wasn’t sorry. Not one little bit.

**

“You and Darcy’s breakup is all over school,” Virginia said as she and Emily helped me plant flowers in my backyard.

“He asked Anna Hardy to Spring Formal,” Emily said. “I mean we’d heard that you broke up, but we didn’t know you guys were officially finished!”

Virginia looked at Emily. Emily gave her a look and Virginia nodded.

I looked at them with watery eyes. Why were they telling me this? I had already spent to weekend crying. My mother even let me stay home from church!

“Don’t worry, Natalie,” Virginia said, “I have the perfect Spring Formal date for you. His name is Luke and he goes to Drury High School. He’s in the ninth grade. He’s on the same hockey team as Darcy also. He wants to take a date to Spring Formal, but he can’t dance. You two would be perfect together…”

“Are you serious?” I asked interrupting Virginia.

“Yeah, I’m serious. I think you and Luke would have an awesome time together,” Virginia said.

“Darcy broke up with me on Saturday! It’s Monday! At least give me a week to grieve before you start pairing me up with some guy I don’t even know!” I yelled.

“Sorry,” Virginia said. “I just thought since Darcy’s already moved on that you’d be over him too.”

“It’s just…Darcy’s the first guy I’ve ever…loved,” I admitted.

“Whoah! I didn’t realize you two were THAT serious!” Virginia shouted. She gave me a hug. “You poor baby.”

“Well that fact that Darcy went and asked Anna Hardy just two days after our breakup proves my suspicion,” I said.

“What suspicion?” Emily asked.

“That Darcy didn’t really like me. But who could blame him? Who wants to date a paraplegic?” I asked. “And we weren’t actually dating. He never asked me to be his girlfriend.”

“I’ll never forget that cold October day,” Emily blurted. “We were walking home from school. The boys were blabbing about hockey, and we girls were talking about Homecoming. We knew something was wrong when we saw a bunch of cars parked around the B&B. We went through the restaurant door and the first thing I saw was Mr. Rivers holding a weeping Jessie-Maria. Mrs. Rivers, my grandma, and Ms. Donna were drying their eyes, and Pastor was there. I blurted out, ‘Oh my goodness someone’s dead!’ and Darcy said, ‘What happened to Natalie?’ Mrs. Rivers told us that early that morning you’d sleepwalked out into the street and that a car hit you. For a couple of seconds I thought that you were dead, but then Mrs. Rivers told us that you broke your lower back and that we needed to pray because you were still in surgery. Darcy ran out of the restaurant and I followed him. I kept calling out to him but he kept running. I almost went back but I remembered how Darcy had always been their for me. He was the only one who was ever nice to me except Nelson. He didn’t quite get why not being invited to a sleepover was important, but he listened. Anyway Darcy finally stopped running. When he turned around, I say that his eyes were red and his face was wet. I couldn’t believe that Darcy Chadwick Edwards was actually crying! The only time I’d ever seen him some close to crying was when Bennet enlisted in the army. I said to him, ‘Natalie will be all right. You know her. Nothing stops her.’ He started to blubber about how your accident was all his fault and how he had seen you sleepwalking before but he never said anything because he’d never seen you do anything dangerous. I told him that it wasn’t his fault. He said, ‘Emily, people get paralyzed from breaking their backs.’ I didn’t know what to say to him. He told me that he never got to tell you how much he really liked you. And I told him that you probably knew how much he really did like you. We walked back to the B&B in silence. Natalie, Darcy really likes you, and he thinks that you’re leaving again.”

“You aren’t going to accept are you?” Virginia asked.

“Well…,” I started.

“You can’t seriously be thinking about leaving! We just got you back!” Virginia shouted.

“Look, I don’t want to go but putting an ocean between Darcy and I right now is probably what’s in my best interest,” I said. “I stayed home from church and didn’t go to the restaurant last night, which was when Ms. Donna was unveiling her new pizza, just to avoid having to see Darcy!”

“Well then we’re going to have to put you back together,” Virginia and Emily said at the same time.

I gave them a smile.

“I’m serious,” Virginia said. “You just leave it all to me. I’ll have Darcy begging on his knees for you.”

I knew I should have said no to Virginia’s offer, but a person is very vulnerable after a breakup.

**

“I don’t want to go!” I whined. “Why can’t the Babies Shower be here?”

“Because that’s where the baby’s showers are held. Natalie, I don’t make the rules!” Momma cried as she got into the car. “You know you can’t avoid Darcy forever.”

“It was a week ago,” Megan said as she buckled herself in. “Get over it.”

“Now, Megan that wasn’t very nice,” Momma said.

“But she’s right,” Abby said. “Darcy’s over Natalie. He’s taking Anna Hardy to Spring Formal last week.”

Abby started to smirk.

Momma looked at Abby like “Did you really have to bring that up?”

“Well, he was the one that broke up Natalie,” Jaci said. She then put her hand over her mouth in shock.

“I don’t blame him,” Abby said. “You can’t really have any kind of future with someone who thinks Santa, Santalle, and Rudolf are good names.”

“Ouch,” Megan said.

“Sorry,” Jaci mouthed to me.

I nodded and tried not to cry. By the time we got to the B&B tears were slowly dripping out of my eyes.

“Do you have the board?” Regina asked when we walked through the door.

“Yup,” Momma said. “Steve and I were up all last night fighting over the names but we finally agreed.”

Baby A Baby B Baby C

Merry Gabriel Christian

Natasha Natalio Natal

Love Emmanuel Avery

Eve Nicholas Joseph

“Steve went with Natal?” Mrs. Rivers asked.

“Not exactly,” Momma said putting the board up.

“Natasha is cute. Love is adorable. Eve is not very Christmas like,” Aunt Jane said.

Noel looked at Aunt Jane but she didn’t say anything.

BANG!

Everyone turned around to find the Baby Shower Rocker on the floor and Darcy looked rather ashamed.

“Sorry,” He said. Darcy put the rocking chair in the family room and hastily walked out.

“I just wish someone would have backed me up for Mistletoe,” Momma said trying to cease the awkward silence.

“You could name a dog Mistletoe,” Megan said sweetly.

I laughed. The Matthews family was having quite the pet dilemma. Yule, Megan, and Bella wanted a dog while Noel, Jaci, and I thought that a cat would be better. For the time being Momma and Daddy let us all either get a fish or a hamster. Megan got two goldfish and named them Twinkle and Jingle. Bella got a hamster and named him Picasso. Yule got a Spotted African Leaf Fish and named him Ukulele (don’t ask me why he named him that.). Noel and I got a goldfish and named him Swish but he died after a week.

“Or you could name a cat Mistletoe,” I suggested. Momma laughed.

“Why don’t you just get both?” Mrs. Rivers spoke up.

“Joan!” Momma laughed.

“What? I had a dog and a cat growing up. And I still believe Mr. Meow died of a broke heart,” Mrs. Rivers said. “He died only a week after Mrs. Sugar Bear.”

“Mrs. Sugar Bear?” I giggled.

“Mr. Meow?” Jessie-Maria howled.

“What? I was five and my younger brother Ted was three,” Mrs. Rivers said. “And Marisa hadn’t been born yet.”

“Can we pwlese get a doggie and a cat?” Megan asked hugging Momma’s legs.

“I’ll talk to your father,” Momma said giving up. Megan clapped her hands.

“Natalie, can you please get the baby shower cookies?” Ms. Donna asked sneakily.

“Sure,” I said pretty sure where this was going.

Sure enough Darcy was in the kitchen stirring lemonade.

“Hiya,” I said grabbing the plate with the cookies.

“Ms. Etta stopped by,” Darcy said. “She was wondering if we wanted to still do lessons.”

“And what did you say?” I asked as I stuffed a cookie into my mouth.

“I told her about your scholarship,” Darcy said.

“And then what?” I asked as I rolled towards the kitchen door.

“She told me, ‘Darcy Chadwick Edwards, you are the worst boyfriend in all of Berkshire County,'” Darcy said.

I didn’t turn around to look at him because I was grinning.

“And then I told her that you’d been purposely avoiding me for an entire week, and I that I hadn’t even tried to talk to you. And she said, ‘You’re the worst boyfriend in all of Massachusetts!'” Darcy said.

I let a laugh escape. Darcy turned my chair around.

“And all week Virginia’s been trying to get me to go to your house,” Darcy said. “And yesterday Virginia yelled to me at lunch. She said, ‘Do you know what you’re doing to Natalie? What you’re doing to Natalie is ripping her heart out and eating it! And you know what else? She’s defiantly going off to some school on England because she needs to put an ocean between you, the heart eater!'”

I snorted.

“Did you put her up to that?” Darcy asked.

“No,” I said, “but I didn’t stop her. She told me since none of her other matchmaking things were working that she was going to try something different. If I had known she was going to yell at you…I wouldn’t have stopped her.”

Darcy laughed and shook his head.

“So are you really going to off to school?” Darcy asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I only said that because I was still pretty upset about the breakup. It was that Monday and Virginia was already trying to pair me with some Luke guy. Oh and my grandparents were the one’s that sent in an application for that school.”

“Did you call me a heart eater?” Darcy asked.

“Not that I recall,” I said. “But I called you a bunch of things…especially after I found out you asked some other girl to Spring Formal…two days after we broke up.”

“What?” Darcy asked. “What girl?”

“Emily told me that you asked Anna Hardy to Spring Formal,” I said.

Darcy started to giggle.

“I don’t find it very funny,” I said crossing my arms.

“Natalie, Anna Hardy is three,” Darcy said. “I never asked her to go to Spring Formal. I wasn’t even planning on going to Spring Formal.”

“Virginia, Abby, and Emily are in so much trouble!” I shouted. Darcy laughed.

“Look, I’m sorry,” Darcy said. “I thought taking wheelchair dancing lessons would make you happy. It was easy to tell that you really wanted to learn how to dance.”

“You are forgiven,” I said.

“I have a feeling I’m going to be saying sorry a lot in this relationship,” Darcy laughed.

“What are you saying?” I asked.

“Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews, would you be my girlfriend?” Darcy asked.

“I do-I mean yes,” I said.

“Whoah! I’m not asking you to marry me,” Darcy joked.

“Natalie!” Jaci shouted sticking her head into the kitchen. “Abby’s gone into labor!”

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

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

**

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

I could name a few reasons why.

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

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

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

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

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

After what seemed like forever we finally arrived in Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

“My car!” Bennet cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

“A little bit,” Momma said.

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

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

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

Megan shook her head no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule, who looked a little embarrassed, laughed.

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

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

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

Abby laughed.

“And you Dad?” Abby asked.

“I’m never right,” Daddy mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made even Abby laugh.

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

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

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

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

“I like Holly,” Daddy said.

“Mistletoe,” Momma said stubbornly.

“Never,” Daddy said shaking his head no.

“How about Mary?” Jaci asked.

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

“How bout Merry,” I said.

“Were you not listening?” Momma asked.

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

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

“Love!” Bella cried.

“That’s cute,” Momma nodded.

“Eve,” Noel mumbled.

“That’s an idea,” Momma said.

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

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

“Natalio,” Yule suggested.

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

“Then how bout Rudolf?” Yule joked.

“I like it,” Megan said.

“Um, no,” Daddy said.

“Christian?” I suggested.

“Cute,” Momma smiled.

“Emmanuel,” Jaci said.

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

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

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

“Larry,” She muttered.

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 4- I’ll Be Home for Christmas Installment Four

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I go to The Hill?” I asked.

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

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

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

“We’ll be there,” Daddy said.

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

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

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

I wonder…

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s time!”

That sounded like Bennet. Noel was in labor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon everyone was in the car and we were off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule rolled his eyes. Grandma Shirley looked shocked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop!” Noel shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doorbell rang.

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

“Surprise!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalia cried out.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon all the presents where open or so we thought.

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

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

I opened my presents and found three pacifiers. Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma smiled a sly smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could make this Christmas better?

**

Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But dinner was even better than Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

Everyone started to congratulate Grandpa Jack.

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

“You are…,” I said.

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

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

Aunt Jane screamed and then very tearfully said yes.

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

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

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

Best. Christmas. Ever.

THE END

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty-Three

**

I stared out the window. Snow was falling from the New York City sky. It was seven weeks later and my thirteenth birthday.

I felt like the snow was for me. I had been feeling rather depressed lately. I had been in rehab for a couple of weeks now. I was learning how to use my wheelchair, get in and out of bed, bathe, eat, get dressed, and some fun stuff too(which included piano. Surprisingly Daddy tried to talk me OUT of taking lessons). But no matter how hard I tried or how much determination I built up, I was still depressed. I couldn’t find the heaven in my accident no matter how hard I tried.

I flipped through one of my old art notebooks. I was going to take an art class that night and was feeling nostalgic. On one of the pages instead of a picture or drawing, it was a list.

Thirteen Things To Do Before Turning Thirteen

1. Visit Grandma and Grandpa in London, England

2. Go on a road trip

3. Visit New York City

4. Go to a dance with a date and everything

5. Be in a wedding party

6. Get my ears pierced

7. See snow!

8. Visit Washington D.C.

9. Learn how to ride a bike or skateboard

10. Break a bone

11. Get a job

12. Perform in a talent show

13. Make a BFF for life

I ripped the piece of paper out of the notebook and started to shred it. Tears started to pour out. Nowhere on that list did it say “Become Paraplegic!” or “Go to rehab!” But through my tear stained eyes I noticed something.

I had visited Grandpa and Grandma Baldwin on spring break. The night Momma and I drove to Florida could count as a road trip. I did way more than just visit New York City. I went to the Valentines’ Day Dance with Darcy. I had been in three weddings parties in less than a year. I got my ears pierced…against my will but still. I had got to see snow. I was seeing snow right then. Momma and I drove through Washington D.C. I learned how to both ride a bike and skateboard. I had broken my foot and my back…I had been a waitress at the B&B. I performed in the Christmas in July show. And Virginia, Regina, and even Emily were my best friends for life.

Tears started to pour down my face faster. I don’t even remember making the list, but I had done all the things on it. And in less than a year. I sighed. I opened the drawer of my desk and took out some tape. I was starting to repair the list when Daddy walked in the room.

“I know you’re about to have cake,” Daddy said placing a cupcake in front of me, “but it’s supposed to be one of the best cupcakes in New York City.”

I stared at him. A year ago I didn’t even know he existed. Three months ago I didn’t even want him in my life. And now seven weeks after a life changing event, I couldn’t imagine life without him. If Daddy hadn’t been here, I would probably still be in stage one of my learning.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Daddy asked.

“I was just thinking,” I said.

“Just thinking,” Daddy said in a goofy voice. I smiled and nodded. I handed him the list.

“What happened here?” Daddy asked as he read the list.

“I got angry,” I said.

“Why? Didn’t you do all these things?” Daddy asked.

“Yeah, I did them all,” I said, “but…”

“But what?” Daddy asked taking my psoriasis lotion out of my bag.

“I can’t find the heaven in my accident,” I finally said.

“The what?” Daddy asked as he rubbed the lotion in.

“The beauty. The meaning. I call it heaven,” I said. Daddy nodded.

“I mean what good can come out becoming paraplegic?” I asked.

“To tell you the truth, honey bear, I’m as in the dark about it as you, but I do know that in the end it will work out,” Daddy said screwing the lid back on the lotion. He dropped the bottle of lotion because his hands were trembling so much.

I smiled and couldn’t help but laugh. For the first week I was in the hospital, Daddy was a total wreck. He passed out a couple of times and had to change his shirt at least four times a day. He and Momma soon made up after Momma saw how real his fear of hospitals was. By the third week, he had gotten better, but when he saw a dead body…Now he just trembled a lot and rarely passed out. He got out of the hospital/rehab at least once a day. Sometimes he went to Central Park for fresh air. Sometimes he went to the apartment and took a nap in peace. And on special days like this, he brought me back something. I bit into the soft and moist cupcake. It was by far the best cupcake I’d ever had.

“You think it’s funny?” Daddy joked handing me the bottle of lotion so I could do my arms and neck.

“A little,” I smiled. Daddy returned the smile.

“I just noticed something,” I said looking at him.

“What?” He asked.

“You have dimples!” I shouted. “No wonder my mom likes you so much.”

I pictured my father’s face. He had dimples too.

Daddy laughed and shook his head.

“You’re just noticing that?” Daddy asked.

“Yeah,” I said sheepishly.

“Did you do your weights?” Daddy asked.

“Yes,” I mumbled. I hate lifting weights but it was necessary. I had to keep a strong upper body and lifting weights ‘fit’ me. But I couldn’t complain. My lung capacity had already expanded.

“Hide me!” Yule cried running into the room and locking the door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“The nurses,” Yule said in a disgusted tone.

I laughed. Ever since we got here, the unmarried nurses and female doctors went crazy over Yule. Nicole, who helped me learn how to get dressed and feed myself, can’t stop talking about Yule during my learning time. It had gotten so bad that if I wasn’t almost finished with my course I would ask to switch teachers.

“Happy Birthday!” Noel shouted from the other side of the door. “Unlock, now!”

I rolled over to the door and unlocked the door.

Noel pushed in a cart full of flowers. There was also three very small present on the cart. Momma, Abby, Zach, Jaci, and Megan followed Noel into the room.

Momma looked overly tired, but the smile on her face seemed to wipe the sleepless nights away. Abby, who had recently started to wear maternity clothes, had a hint of frosting on her lips and I guessed that Daddy had brought her a cupcake too. My suspicion was answered when I noticed that Noel had a red tongue, Megan had frosting in her hair, Jaci still had a cupcake in her hand, and Momma well Momma just looked like someone who had just tasted the joy of a cupcake.

“So you told us that you wanted nothing for your birthday,” Momma said taking one of the little gifts off the cart. “But they were out of nothing at the story. Apparently they were out of nothing in Florida too since all these flowers or for you.”

I laughed.

Momma handed me the box.

“That’s from us,” Yule said. “Your siblings.”

I opened my box and inside it was a necklace that had my name on it. My name was surrounded by hearts.

“It’s beautiful,” I smiled. Yule put it on me.

“It’s low enough that it won’t choke you,” Yule said.

“I thought of the gift!” Noel said slowly. I opened my arms for a hug, and Noel squeezed me very tight.

“Almost lost you, sister,” Noel said. “Love ya.”

“I love you too,” I cried. Tears poured out of Noel’s eyes.

“And this is from me,” Daddy said handing me the one of the boxes. “Your mother and I couldn’t agree on what to get you so we got separate gifts.”

Momma smiled and shook her head.

Inside the box there was a ring. It had a heart on it and a tiny diamond was inside the heart. Inside the band it said “My daughter, my love.” It was my turn to be speechless. I soon found myself crying my eyes out.

“Do you not like?” Daddy asked with worry in his voice.

“I love it,” I cried. “I love you.”

Once again Daddy was speechless. We had come a long way in seven weeks. If it hadn’t been for the accident, we would probably still be bickering and fighting. Maybe that was the reason this had to happen. Something had to happen to get the fact that Daddy loved me through my head. In the past seven weeks, Daddy had done so much for me. He hated hospitals, yet he was there for me every day. That meant more to me than words could explain.

“I love you too,” Daddy finally managed to get out.

“Open my present!” Momma shouted like an excited child.

I took the little box from her hand and opened it. Inside there was a gold bracelet with my name on it.

“To match your necklace,” Momma said.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

Then we cut the cake, but everybody was full from the best cupcakes ever except Yule and Zach. They were saving their cupcakes for ‘later’.

It was the most sentimental birthday I’ve had so far. I’ve only taken my bracelet off once when the clasp broke. I wore my necklace and ring expect when I was sleeping and showering.

My life was now limited, but somehow it was just…better. I had a dad again. I had siblings! I had a family.

Now the only thing that would complete the year would be going home for Christmas.

THE END

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty-One

**

Something just didn’t feel right when we arrived at the hospital. I saw Yule sitting on a bench and smoking.

“Drop me off,” I said. Momma pulled up to the curb and I got out of the car.

“Hey, Natalie, I wasn’t expecting you,” Yule said trying to hide his cigarette from Momma’s view.

I contemplated what to say. I didn’t want to get Noel in trouble.

“Grandma’s sick,” Yule said not waiting for me to answer. “The doctors are in there working on her now. They…they don’t know if she’ll make it.”

I could tell by Yule’s voice that he was trying not to cry. Yule squinted like he was trying not to cry. I sighed. I had a feeling he’d never let a tear fall from his eye in his life.

“What good is that going to do?” I asked pointing at the cigarette. “I thought you were quitting.”

Yule sighed and put the cigarette out.

“Does this hospital have a chapel?” I asked. I was surprised at my words. Where did that come from?

“Yeah, but I’ve never been,” Yule said almost laughing.

“I think going to chapel would work a lot better than sitting out in the cold October wind smoking,” I huffed. I shivered for effect.

“Look, kid, God and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms,” Yule said not looking at me in the eye.

“Why not?” I asked sitting down next to him.

“Look, kid, He doesn’t look out for people like me. Grandma had the absolute most faith in and look where it got her,” Yule said. “Noel just doesn’t get it. She’s the chapel right now praying. I don’t want to shatter her by telling her that God doesn’t listen to her. She doesn’t understand that He just causes disasters and leaves. Her faith in Him is so amazing. I wish I could be so naïve.”

“I know how you feel,” I said. Yule looked at me.

“Why would God do this to me? Why do I have to have so much trouble going to sleep? Why do I sleep walk? What I do?” I asked sighing and wishing I had put on a better coat.

“You’re lucky, kid. The hardest thing you’ve had to deal with is sleep problems,” Yule said looking at me.

“My dad was murdered,” I blurted. Yule pulled him into a hug.

“So was mine,” Yule whispered. “He got involved in a fight. He told me to stay in the car, but when I heard gunshots I jumped into action. I saw right away that my father had been shot. I ran out to to try and save him, but before I could reach him I was shot in the hip. That’s why I have a limp.”

“I was five when he died,” I said letting tears slip from my eyes.

“I was fourteen,” Yule said rocking me a little. “I’m sorry. I just assumed your parents were divorced.”

“It’s ok,” I shrugged. “Is it all right if I ask what happened to your mother?”

“Sure,” Yule shrugged. “She died of a drug overdose. I found her on our kitchen floor. I tried to do CPR on her, but it was too late.”

“I’m sorry, Yule,” I said hugging him back.

“Why would God not let me save my parents? Why would he take them away from me? Ok, so they weren’t the best parts in the world. They didn’t even seem to notice Noel and me, but you know what. I cared about them. I loved them. I watched both of my parents die. Why would God do that to me? Why? I trusted that Guy with my life and this is what He gives me in return?” Yule said. He was angry, but he was speaking from the heart.

“I don’t know why, Yule,” I said. “But I do know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. I don’t know why God let my foot break? I don’t know why I struggle with insomnia. But I do know why I had to move here to New York.”

“Why?” Yule asked.

“To meet you and Noel,” I smiled.

“You’re something else, kid,” Yule said.

I smiled and hugged him tighter.

“I’ve learned that you just gotta trust God. God will save you. It just might not be in the way that you expected,” I said. “And I never expected this.”

Yule smiled at me.

“So you’re asking me to trust Him?” Yule asked.

“Only if you want to,” I shrugged.

“Good. Cause I want to,” Yule said. “I want to believe in Him more than I never imagined I would; it’s just when bad things happens it’s hard to really believe. I’ve spent the past two years searching for something that was right in my backyard.”

Momma walked out of the hospital door with tears in her eyes. Noel followed looking equally as sad.

“Yule, I’m…so sorry,” Momma cried. “Your Grandmother’s gone.”

Yule held back a cry. Momma walked over and hugged him.

“Cry out to Jesus,” I whispered repeating Jaci’s advice. “Lay it down. Trust Him.”

Tears fell out of Yule’s eyes.

“I’ve never cried before,” Yule cried. “It feels…so good.”

“Keep crying to Jesus,” Momma smiled. “It does a world of good.”

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen next,” Yule said as Noel hugged him. “But I’m just going to have to trust Him.”

Noel nodded.

“Trust,” Noel said. And Yule nodded.

Trust I repeated to myself over and over again.

**

 “Now,” Mrs. Betty Stewart’s lawyer, Lester Chadwick, said adjusting his glasses, “Mrs. Stewarts will leaves all the money in her bank account, a total of ten thousand dollars, to her two grandchildren, Yule and Noel Stewart. Her will also states who she wishes to be the legal guardian of her grandchildren.”

“Are Noel and I staying together?” Yule asked nervously.

“Yes,” Mr. Chadwick said looking at my mother. “Shall I read from the will.”

Yule nodded, while Noel looked at the floor.

“’In my bones I know death is upon me. I have recently been given custody of my grandchildren after their mother’s tragic death. When I die and Fowler is going to hate me for this, I want all legal custody to go to their mother, Riley Anne Walters of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, no custody will be given to their father Fowler Stewart. And if Ms. Walters is married partial custody will go to their new stepfather. Well I guess since she is their mother and she was forced to give up any custody…they really are in her custody and not mine. Riley’s a good woman and it ain’t her fault that that no good Fowler Stewart took a liking to her and got angry, twice, when he couldn’t have her,’” Mr. Chadwick read.

Everyone looked at Momma. Momma looked like she wanted to run. Yule looked at her. His eyes were wondering if this was real.

Momma got out of her chair and ran. We all got out of ours chairs (expect for Mr. Chadwick. He was packing up) and ran out after her.

“Mrs. Matthews…oh…!” Yule shouted grabbing Momma’s arm.

“He won’t hurt you if he finds out that I didn’t tell,” Momma said. “Fowler might do something to me, but he won’t hurt anybody if he finds not I’m not the one who told. Steve, take care of them.”

“Wait, so you’re leaving?” I asked angry. No wonder she acted so weird when Yule and Noel were mentioned.

“What else is there to do?” Momma asked. “One person has already died because of this. If I don’t leave somebody else is gonna get hurt or worse.”

“One person has died, but many have suffered,” Jaci said. Her voice was different. Her voice had none of her usual politeness. Her voice was tough, scolding, and rude. New York City was really changing her.

“Excuse me?” Momma asked surprised.

“I used to think that Mrs. Walters was just some mean woman who was rude beyond understanding, but now I know why she’s so nasty. Her daughter left. Her daughter left her. She tried to convince herself that you were kidnapped or something, but you left on your own free will just because you were scared of some man! And you’re going to leave your husband and your children just because someone found out? That’s really low and pathetic,” Jaci said.

I nearly cried. And not just because of the thought of my mother leaving. Jaci sounded so different. It was strange and foreign. But what wasn’t now a days?

Momma didn’t say anything. All the desire to run away drained out of her eyes. She didn’t look mad. She looked regretful. She looked guilty. She let tears fall from her eyes.

I looked at everyone else. Mr. Steve looked angry. Jaci looked sorry for ever speaking to Momma that way. Yule’s face was unreadable. He looked upset, but there was something else in it. I had no idea how I looked, but I felt sorry for Momma. Noel lingered close to Momma, and looked down at the ground. She didn’t look like she understood, but she did. She was just showing it in her own way.

“Who’s hungry?” Momma asked drying her eyes.

**

“So what do I call you?” Yule asked Momma at dinner. Mr. Steve chose some Chinese restaurant. Everything looked weird and smelled funny.

“Anything but Riley,” Momma said with her mouth full. “Mom, Momma, Mommy, Mum, Mother, Ma, Mrs. Matthews, Ms. Riley, whichever one is fine.”

Yule nodded and went back to looking at the weird thing rolled up on his plate.

“Look,” Momma said putting down her fork. “I don’t want this to be awkward. I want you and Noel to know that I love you. I always have, I do know, and always will.”

“I know,” Yule nodded. “I’m just still in shock.”

“That makes the two of us,” I said as I sipped my strange looking drink mixture. “Now I know why you didn’t name me Noel.”

Momma gave a sad smile. I looked over at Mr. Steve. He looked mad.

“What do I call you, sir?” Yule asked Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve looked shocked.

“Um, Mr. Steve, Mr. Matthews, Dad, Father, I don’t know,” Mr. Steve shrugged. Yule nodded.

“Sir, if Noel and I are going to be a problem…,” Yule started but Mr. Steve put his hand up.

“You’re not going to be a problem. I’m just surprised, mad, shocked. There’s a lot going through my mind right now,” Mr. Steve said. He looked over at me.

“I’m not hungry,” I huffed. Momma smiled at me.

“I guess if everyone’s finished we can leave,” Momma said. Everyone got up and walked towards the car.

“I don’t understand,” Megan whispered in my ear when I picked her up.

“What don’t you understand? Yule and Noel are you’re older brother and older sister,” I said.

“Oh,” Megan said. “They’re nice.”

I nodded and gave her a kiss.

I put her in her car seat and sat down in my seat. I tried to think about how I was feeling. I looked over at Yule.

“Hey, kid,” Yule said. “You ok?”

“I’m trying to figure that out,” I said. I stared at his eyes.

“I wish I had Momma’s eyes,” I blurted. “You’ve got them.” Yule smiled.

“I guess that makes sense,” Yule said. He started to tickle me and I l started to laugh hysterically.

“My sister is ticklish,” Yule laughed. I tried to catch my breath.

“I’m ok,” I smiled. “Everything is going to be fine.”

I looked over at Mr. Steve. His eyes were focused on the road but he was clearly upset. He hated me. He hated Yule. He hated Noel.

Everything’s going to be fine…in time I thought. I put my head on the headrest and closed my eyes.

**

“Stop. Stop.”

I woke up to find myself in Yule’s arms.

“I’m sorry. Did I wake up?” Yule asked.

“What am I supposed to stop?” I asked.

“Your legs were moving,” Yule said. “You were trying to sleepwalking. You were kicking me.”

I smiled sheepishly.

“I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t home,” A familiar voice said.

“Abby!” I cried leaping from Yule’s arms.

“Natalie!” Abby cried hugging me. “Have you grown in two months?”

I laughed.

“Don’t forget about me,” Zach said. I gave Zach a hug.

“What are you guys doing here?” Mr. Steve asked opening the apartment door.

“I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving,” Abby said. “We thought we’d surprise you. Timmy wanted to come, but school called. Oh, well I have news that just can’t be told over the phone.”

Abby looked at Yule and Noel.

“Now who are you?” Abby asked Yule.

“Abby,” Mr. Steve sighed. “Meet your brother.”

Abby fainted.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I let the tears fall from my eyes.

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

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

I started to sob.

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

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

And I did.

**

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

I opened the box and found a little Christmas bracelet.

Dear Natalie,

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

Love,

Darcy

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

September 16th,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eighteen

**

“Where were you guys?” Momma asked when we walked into the apartment.

“The funniest thing happened,” I said. “I had to deliver some homework to a friend and it turns out that my friend, Noel, is the sister of Yule the guy that put in our cable.”

“Ow!” Momma cried as she dropped a pan on her foot.

“Are you ok?” Mr. Steve said rushing to Momma’s aide.

“I’m all right,” Momma said rubbing her foot. “Steve, did you have a chance to go down to the hardware store?”

“Um, no,” Mr. Steve said. “Why do I need to go to the hardware store?”

“We need a durable lock on the door,” Momma said taking the glasses out. “Natalie got out of the house once. I’ll suspect she’ll do it again.”

“Um, ok,” Mr. Steve said walking towards his bedroom.

“Honey, don’t forget that your first dance class starts tomorrow,” Momma said as we took out the plates. I nodded and walked towards my room.

“Oh my goodness,” I said looking at the pieces of paper on the walls. No, they weren’t pieces of paper. They were work of art.

“Save me, O God! For my sleepless nights measure to my neck. I sink deep in sleepiness.  Am tired and weary with my crying out. My throat is parched. My eyes are heavy with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who make fun of me without cause. Mighty are those who want to destroy me. Those who attack me with insults. What I did not steal, must I now restore. O God, you know my stupidity. The wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me. O Lord God of hosts let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me. O God of Israel for it has to be for your sake that I have borne reproach that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my sisters. I have become an alien to my mother. But as for me, my prayer is to you O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sink in sleep let me be delivered from my bullies. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the sleep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, o Lord, for your steadfast love is good according to your abundant mercury turn to me. For I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my bullies. I am afflicted and in pain. Let your salvation, O God, set me on high! But I will praise God with song. I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Let heaven and earth praise him. The seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save me,” I read from each little picture.

“Do you like it?” Jaci asked from the doorway. “I was reading from Psalms 69 this morning and it reminded me of you.”

I gave her a smile and started to cry.

“Jaci,” I said hugging her, “you are the beset big sister a girl could ever ask for.”

Jaci smiled.

“Things aren’t going to be easy in the coming months,” Jaci said. “But remember God will save you. It just might not be in the way that you think or want him to.”

I smiled.

“Right now I don’t care how he saves me,” I sniffed. “As long as he just saves me.”

“Come on,” Jaci said taking my hand. “Let’s help Mom with dinner.”

**

When we got home from dance class, we found Mr.Steve had the paper laid out on the floor and a red marker in his hands.

“Steve, honey, what are you doing?” Momma asked walking into the apartment and putting her purse down.

“I’m reading the paper,” Mr. Steve said circling something.

“What are you circling?” I asked already knowing the answer.

“Piano teachers,” Mr. Steve said. “How was dance?”

“Interesting,” Momma said. “But it was nice to talk to another insomnia mother.”

“Hey, Natalie, what is that guy you like name?” Mr. Steve said looking at an ad.

“Darcy Chadwick Edwards?” I asked really confused.

“No, here in New York,” Mr. Steve said still looking at the ad.

“Um, no one,” I said walking towards my room.

“I’m just teasing you,” Mr. Steve laughed. “That guy Yule Stewart? Your friend’s brother. He teaches skateboarding. I just thought you might be interested.”

“Skateboarding?” I asked. “I just learned how to ride a bike this summer.”

“Just a suggestion,” Mr. Steve shrugged.

“When?” I asked. Mr. Steve winked at me.

“Never mind,” I said walking into my room. I reread my pictures and went to wash up for dinner.

**

“Now the first thing is to get comfortable with your board,” Yule coached.

I couldn’t believe I was doing this. I had no desire to learn how to ride a skateboard, but here I was taking skateboarding lessons.

I put my foot on the skateboard and fell down on my bottom.

“Are you ok?” Yule laughed helping me up.

“No broken bones,” I said. Yule smiled.

“Don’t let the skateboard go out from under you,” Yule instructed. “Now I want you to get on the board and find a position you’re comfortable in. There is no wrong way to stand on a skateboard.”

I got on the skateboard and fell off four times before I found a comfortable and balanced place to stand.

“Good,” Yule smiled. “You’ve now completed the first step in learning how to skateboard. Now I want you to see which foot you push off with. Push off with which ever foot feels the most comfortable.”

Neither foot came natural to me so I pushed off with my left foot. I fell down on my bottom and hit my head.

“Ok, so you push off with your left foot,” Yule said helping me up. “You shouldn’t push off too fast or you’ll fall down.”

“I think I just learned that,” I said pushing my hair down. Yule smiled.

“Don’t give up, kid,” Yule said ruffling my hair. “Nobody learns how to ride a skateboard on their lesson first lesson and very rarely on their second lesson. Learning how to ride a skateboard takes time and commitment.”

I sighed. I didn’t know if I had the commitment in me. I don’t even know why I decided to take lessons.

“Look when I started to learn how to ride a skateboard I fell down a lot. It took be three years before I could even think about half pikes and fancy tricks,” Yule said.

“Three years?” I asked. Yule smiled.

“You’re probably a faster learner than me,” Yule said. “Enough talking. Get back on that board and learn what your speed is.”

**

“Ugh.”

“Here,” Jaci said handing me some ice.

“Everything hurts,” I said putting the ice on my head.

“What did you accomplish today?” Jaci asked sitting down on the couch next to me.

“I learned how to balance on the skateboard,” I sighed.

“That’s good right?” Jaci asked. “I mean it was just one one hour lesson.”

“I don’t know if I want to continue,” I blurted out. Jaci looked at me.

“Oh, you’re going to your next lesson,” Jaci said. “You can’t give up. Just because you crashed doesn’t mean you have to burn.”

“Did Mr. Steve tell you to say that?” I asked. Jaci shook her head no.

“Why do you call Dad Mr. Steve?” Jaci asked.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

“I mean I call your mom Mom, but you call Daddy Mr. Steve,” Jaci said.

“I don’t really feel like talking about it,” I said getting up.

“I’m sorry. I was just wondering,” Jaci said.

“Well, next time why don’t you just stick with being tactful Jaci and don’t ask questions,” I snapped venomously.

“Natalie…,” Jaci started but stopped.

I walked into my room and looked at the pictures of Darcy and me.

“God, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why my mother had to get married. I don’t understand why we had to move here. I really don’t understand anything anymore, but You worked things out with Florida. You wouldn’t have us move here without a purpose so I’m going to try to find heaven in this. What do you want me to do? What do you want me to learn? Who do you want me to help?” I cried. I was angry. I was at the end of my rope. I was more tired than I had ever been in my life. I was more confused than I had ever been in my life. All I wanted was to go back to Florida, but that wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

“Natalie…,” Mr. Steve started walking into my room.

“Where you listening to me?” I asked outraged.

“Jaci asked me to talk to you,” Mr. Steve said. “I just happened to hear.”

“Or were you snooping again?” I asked mad.

“No,” Mr. Steve said. “I wasn’t trying to listen to your personal talk with God. I just happened to hear.”

“Get out of my room,” I said angrily.

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

“What if I’m not ready to talk?” I asked. “What if I’m not done talking to God yet?”

“Look, I just want to explain why I married your mom and why we moved here,” Mr. Steve said.

“Just in case you didn’t understand, I was asking God,” I said slamming my door in his face.

I flopped on my bed. What had happened to me? A year ago, I had been happily living in Miami, Florida. I was counting down the days until we could hang the wreath up again. It was just Momma and me, and I had never heard of a little town in Massachusetts named after my state. Wow, a lot can change in a year.

 

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Sixteen

**

I woke up in a cold sweat. I hadn’t gone to sleep until around two A.M. I wasn’t in the apartment. I was in a dark hallway. I tried to scream for help but nothing came out of my mouth. I stood up on my feet and wobbled a little. I walked to the elevator and found that I was on floor four of my building. I had no idea what time it was but if I hurried I could make it back to the apartment before Momma and Mr. Steve woke up.

When I got to our floor and reached for the door knob but it was yanked from my hand. Mr. Steve had opened the door and now stood in the doorway. Worry screamed from his face. His hair was a mess and he was still in his pajamas. His eyes focused straight on me. They were cold. I felt like taking off but he grabbed my wrist.

“I found her!” Mr. Steve shouted. Momma put down the phone that was in her hand. Jaci was sitting in a chair in the kitchen with Megan in her lap. Megan looked like she had been crying and so did Jaci.

“Where were you?” Momma asked. She had been crying too. Tears slipped from her eyes. I didn’t answer.

“Now, I want an answer from you,” Mr. Steve said forcibly.

I tried to speak but I still couldn’t talk.

“Something’s wrong,” Momma said noticing. “Steve, take her to the couch.”

Mr. Steve picked me up and put me on the couch.

“I.I.I.I.I.I.,” I tried. Why couldn’t I talk?

“Get her some water,” Mr. Steve said. “She looks scared as I don’t know what.”

Jaci handed me a glass of water. I gulped it down.

“Honey,” Momma said rubbing my shoulder.

“I…sleep….walk….,” I manage to get out. The words were hard to get out but they felt good to get out. I had been keeping this a secret since April. It was September now. I had been waking up in odd places and having bad dreams for six months. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to keep this a secret?

“You sleepwalk?” Mr. Steve asked.

“Some nights I don’t sleep at all,” I said finding my voice. “Some nights I have horrible dreams that I can never remember. Sometimes I run away in the dream and run away in real life.”

“Honey,” Momma said hugging me. “How long has this been going on?”

“Since April,” I cried.

Momma looked at Mr. Steve.

“Why didn’t you tell us about this?” Mr. Steve asked clearly mad.

“The first time it happened Momma would have never believed I didn’t know how I got there,” I cried.

“When you dropped the mug,” Momma sighed. “So you also sleep eat?”

“You woke up in the fridge didn’t you?” Jaci shouted. Momma and Mr. Steve looked at her.

“Yeah,” I said not looking at her.

“Should we take her to a doctor?”  Momma asked Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve just simply nodded.

“I’m ok,” I said. “Really.”

“Where did you wake up?” Jaci asked me.

“I was on level four,” I said.

“How did you get down there?” Momma asked.

“Walked,” I guessed.

Mr. Steve handed Momma the phone.

“Hello? Dr. Janet?” Momma asked.

**

“Good morning, Natalie,” Dr. Janet said. “Your mother tells me you gave her and your father and her a fright this morning.”

“Yeah, I sleepwalk,” I said like it wasn’t a big deal.

“They also tell me that you’re suffering from insomnia,” Dr. Janet said.

“So what if I don’t fall asleep until the early morning. I’ve been functioning just fine,” I said crossing my arms.

I knew it was stupid to resist the doctor but I didn’t want things to change any more than they already had.

“They also say you have bad dreams that you can’t remember,” Dr. Janet said.

“They aren’t all that bad,” I lied.

“Natalie, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Sleepwalking is serious and dangerous. Insomnia is not good for a growing person. And let’s be honest. Bad dreams are bad,” Dr. Janet said. “Now we can go through this as friends or this can be a war and I promise you I will fight you until you are able to have a good night’s sleep without any type of medication.”

I didn’t say anything.

“While you decide if you want to do this the easy way or the hard way, may I ask you a few questions?” Dr. Janet asked.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“How bad is your insomnia? Has it gotten worse since you moved to New York?” Dr. Janet asked pulling out her clipboard.

“No, not really,” I said really wishing it had gotten worse since I moved here. Maybe it would convince my parents to move back.

“Do you often sleepwalk?” Dr. Janet asked. I nodded.

“I’ve woken up in some odd places,” I said. “I’ve woken up with a full plate of food in front of me. I’ve woken up in the middle of the road.”

Dr. Janet looked at me and wrote something down. I knew she wanted to scold me and tell me that sleep cooking was dangerous but she kept her mouth shut.

“Do you have any worries? Or you afraid of something?” Dr. Janet asked writing something done.

“Sure, I have worries,” I said. “Who doesn’t?”

“What do you worry about?” Dr. Janet asked.

Did I really worry about stuff? I worried about fighting in and making friends here in New York. For some reason Mr. Steve worried me. I knew some day I’d have to call him dad and that worried me. I felt bad for not doing it by now but I just couldn’t. I missed my dad more than I’d ever admit. I felt robbed. He didn’t have to die. It was an accident that someone planned and whoever planned it cheated me out of a lifetime of memories. I was worried I’d never go back home which was silly since Momma and Mr. Steve promised me that we’d go back someday and Jaci was getting married this summer. I would we go back this summer, but would my friends still be my friends? Would I be different? Would I ever stop sleepwalking and waking up in strange places? Would I ever have a good night’s sleep again or would this just get worse until I got to the end of my rope? Would I kill myself sleepwalking? Would I die before I fulfilled my father’s commands? Would Darcy still like me? Would I love Florida as much as I do now? Will Florida be different? Will my friends be different? Will I ever stop feeling like I’m trapped in a never ending cycle of long nights?

I had more worries than I thought I had but I couldn’t tell Dr. Janet all of them no matter how much I wanted all of this to end.

“I’m worried that I won’t ever have another good night’s sleep,” I said. Dr. Janet looked at me.

“Ok,” Dr. Janet said putting down her clipboard. “This is off the record. I promise not to tell your parents. What scares you, honey? What really worries you?”

“I don’t know,” I said trying not to cry. It didn’t work. I burst out crying.

“What if I never go back to Florida? What if I kill myself sleepwalking before I go back? What if I change? What if my friends don’t want to me my friends anymore? Will Darcy still like me or will he like someone else? Will I be able to make friends here in New York City? Will I ever be able to at least like Mr. Steve? Will I ever stop feeling like I was robbed of time with my father?” I cried.

“Natalie,” Dr. Janet said, “Moving is hard. When I first moved here I longed to be back in Tulsa. But New York isn’t a bad place. It’s the Big Apple for goodness sakes. Your mom tells me that you refuse to go sightseeing. Not finding things you love about this city will just make you more homesick. And about your stepdad…”

“What about Mr. Steve?” I asked.

“He’s generally worried about you,” Dr. Janet said. “I would say he cares about you. Don’t you care about him?”

“I don’t want him dead for my mom’s sake,” I said. Dr. Janet sighed.

“It’s your choice to like him or not,” Dr. Janet said. “But if you don’t choose to get along with him the next six years are not going to be pleasant.”

“Natalie, what do you do for fun?” Dr. Janet asked picking up her clipboard again.

“Um, not much,” I said. “I don’t have any friends.”

“I’m going to recommend a dance therapy group. Don’t worry its freestyle. Not ballet or anything like that. The dance therapy group helps girls with insomnia, anxiety, and depression. I think you’ll enjoy it,” Dr. Janet said. “And for your sleepwalking I recommend a deadbolt lock.”

I sighed. Maybe this was all a bad dream. Maybe this wasn’t real. Funny, I’ve been able to convince myself of a lot of things but for some reason I couldn’t convince myself this wasn’t real.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Fifteen

**

“How was work?” Momma asked Mr. Steve at dinner.

“Noisy,” Mr. Steve said. “I don’t know if I’d rather work with children or adults. How was your day?”

“It was all right,” Momma said. “But we stayed in all day watching TV.” Momma looked at me.

“Hey, my idea of a good TV day is not Blue’s Clues, Dora, Mickey Mouse, and Max & Ruby,” I said.

“Let me guess,” Mr. Steve said tickling Megan. “Megan had the remote.”

“Yes,” Jaci, Momma, and I said.

Mr. Steve laughed.

“What time did the cable guy get here?” Mr. Steve asked. “Late, I guess?”

“Nope, he came right on time,” Momma said.

“Natalie practically stalked him,” Jaci joked.

I laughed. That’s something Abby would say not Jaci.

“Does Darcy have competition?” Mr. Steve joked.

“No!” I cried. “He said I reminded him of his little sister, and he’s probably too old for me.”

“Sulking?” Mr. Steve joked.

“Nope,” I said. “He’s more like a big brother.”

Momma started coughing like crazy.

“Did something go down the wrong pipe?” Mr. Steve asked patting Momma’s back.

“Um, sure,” Momma said taking a sip of water.

“You ok?” I asked.

“Just fine,” Momma said. “So what should we watch tonight?”

**

I woke up feeling cold. I opened my eyes and found that half my body was jammed into the refrigerator. I quickly got out of the fridge. I was ending up in the strangest places.

“Morning, Natalie,” Jaci yawned. “Ready for your first day of school?”

The past week had been boring. Momma had tried to get me to go out and go sightseeing, but I didn’t feel like it. I was feeling homesick. I wanted to go back to Florida. I wanted to explore the Mohawk Trail with Darcy, not the Empire State Building.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I sighed.

“It makes me feel better that you’re going to an advanced school and not a regular public school,” Jaci said touching my arm that had been in the fridge. “Your arm is cold.”

She touched my other arm.

“I was looking in the fridge for something to eat,” I lied. Well maybe it wasn’t a lie. I could have been looking for something to eat. It wouldn’t be the first time I slept ate.

“Oh, I’ll make you some breakfast,” Jaci smiled. “How do you like your eggs?”

“Scrambled,” I said.

“I’m ready to face the world!” Megan screamed running into the kitchen.

“And how to you like your eggs?” Jaci smiled picking her up.

“Hard,” Megan smiled. I laughed.

“One hardboiled egg coming up,” Jaci said turning the stove on. I went to go get dressed.

“Morning, Natalie,” Momma said. “Natalie, it’s going to be eighty degrees today. I’m sorry but you’re going to have to wear a short sleeve shirt.”

I sighed and walked back into my room and changed my shirt.

“Morning,” Mr. Steve said rushing from his bedroom.

“Natalie! I made you some bacon too,” Jaci said putting the plate on the counter.

“Thanks,” I said. I said grace and started eating.

“And here’s your hardboiled egg,” Jaci said putting another plate on the counter. “I started peeling for you.”

“Thank you,” Megan smiled. “Thank you God. Amen.”

I smiled.

“You better hurry up if I’m going to give you a ride to school,” Mr. Steve said after he finished his milk. I put my last little bit of egg in my mouth and got my backpack.

“Have a wonderful day!” Jaci smiled.

I huffed. Not likely.

“Be good,” Mr. Steve said when he dropped me off.

I didn’t answer him. I just walked into the school and didn’t look back.

There was a line to get your school schedule. I stood in line for fifteen minutes. The girl in front of me did not want to have gym first and got into a fight with the lady who was handing out the schedules.

“Name,” The lady at the front desk said flatly.

“Natalie Zoey Matthews. Grade Eight,” I said.

The woman found my schedule and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I smiled. The woman looked shocked. I stood off to the side to see what my first class was. Advanced Math. Well I might as well get it out of the way.

It took me ten minutes to find Mrs. Roberts Advanced Class. It was in the front of the school by the main office. I thought that 10B would be in the back of the school but the ones and twos were in the back of the school. Well at least I knew were history class was.

I let a girl go before me into class. As she passed me I noticed she was quite pregnant. She couldn’t be any older than me. I actually felt sorry for her.

She turned towards me. The look on her face was sad and lonely. She had soft long silky red hair. Her grey eyes were hard but I saw some softness and hurt in them……….and maybe a little bit of beauty in them.

“Excuse me,” She said quietly. She walked towards the back of the class.

Daddy, you better be right about finding heaven everywhere.

“What’s on your arms, polka dots?” A girl with silky blonde hair laughed.

“It’s called Psoriasis,” I snapped. “Don’t worry. You can’t catch it.”

I walked to the back of the class and sat next to the girl.

She looked at me but didn’t make eye contact. She looked almost uncomfortable. She moved around in the chair. I told myself she was just uncomfortable in the chair.

“Hi, my name is Natalie,” I said offering my hand. She didn’t even look at me. I couldn’t tell if she heard me or not.

“Hi, I’m Natalie,” I said louder still offering my hand. She looked at my feet and turned away. I sighed and opened my math book.

I looked over at her one more time. Her elbow slowly knocked her pencil over the other side of her desk. She noticed that her pencil wasn’t on her desk and started to freak out.

“My pencil!” She cried. “Pencil!”

She was the most distressed and desperate person I’ve ever seen and it was all over a pencil. I got up and picked up her pencil.

“Thank you,” She said with some trouble. Relief washed over her face.

“Welcome,” I shrugged. She looked at the pencil with the most admiration in the world. The pencil was almost down the the eraser. It was perfectly shaped and just waiting to be broken. There was no way she could possibly use this pencil to write anything down. She then did something that shocked me. She licked the pencil. She then took another pencil out of her backpack and started to doddle.

Mrs. Roberts walked into the classroom. She walked to the back and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. She pulled away quickly.

“Noel, are you doing ok?” Mrs. Roberts asked.

“You all right,” I stuttered. Mrs. Roberts smiled.

“If anybody gives you any trouble you know you can come to me,” Mrs. Roberts said. Noel didn’t respond to her but Mrs. Roberts seemed satisfied.

“You must be my new student,” Mrs. Roberts smiled. “Welcome.”

I smiled. Mrs. Roberts noticed my rashes but she didn’t say anything.

“Welcome to advanced eight grade math,” Mrs. Roberts said when she got back to the front of the class.

I stole one more look at at Noel and then paid attention to what Mrs. Roberts was saying.

**

“How was school?” Mr. Steve asked when he picked me up.

“All right, I guess,” I said. The rest of the day went fine. I didn’t see Noel the rest of the day but that didn’t mean she wasn’t on my mind.

“Make any new friends?” Mr. Steve asked.

“Nope,” I answered.

“Well, you’re a very likeable girl. I’m sure you’ll make some friends soon,” Mr. Steve said.

“Whatever you say,” I mumbled.

“People teased you didn’t they?” Mr. Steve asked.

“One girl called me polka dots,” I said. “But its ok.”

Mr. Steve sighed as we pulled up into the parking garage.

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve started but I walked out the car.

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Fourteen

**

“How do I look?” Mr. Steve asked.

Nothing looked different about him. He wore the same suit he wore everyday as a teacher. You would think that if he got some big job as a businessman he would buy himself a new suit.

“I don’t like the tie,” I said just to be saying something.

“What’s wrong with my tie?” Mr. Steve asked. “You got me this tie for Father’s Day!”

“It says ‘I’m a math teacher!’ not ‘I’m accountant!’” I said. Ok, so there really wasn’t any difference. The tie had pi, addition, multiplication, and division symbols on it.

Mr. Steve laughed.

“I’ll just tell them that my daughter gave it to me,” Mr. Steve said. He gave Momma a kiss and walked out the door.

“When’s the cable guy coming?” I groaned. Momma laughed.

“Can’t you survive one day without TV?” Momma asked. “Anyway there’s nothing good on TV especially on Mondays.”

“School doesn’t start until next week,” I whined.

“Go read a book,” Momma said. “We can go to Central Park. Do a little window shopping.”

“And miss the cable guy,” I added. Momma shook her head and laughed.

The doorbell rang. I ran to open the door, but Momma stopped me.

“This isn’t Florida,” Momma said. “Always check before you answer the door.”

Another disadvantage to living in the city.

“Who is it?” Momma asked looking through the peephole.

“I’m Yule Stewart. I’m here to install your cable box. I have my work badge and your appointment arrangement papers,” The man on the other side of the door said.

Momma’s face screamed unbelief. She opened the door and her face fell.

The man standing in the doorway couldn’t be more than eighteen. He was very handsome(don’t get any ideas). He was wearing the cable company’s uniform. His dark brown hair was slicked back. He had hazel eyes that looked exactly like Momma’s. His eyes were sunk into his face with age but like he said he couldn’t be older than eighteen. He was smiling, and you could easily see that his teeth were crooked. His voice had a New York accent. It sounded tough, but for some reason it was music to my ears.

“I…um..,” Momma stared. She blinked at him in disbelief.

“Are you all right, ma’am?” Yule asked Momma.

“I’m fine,” Momma said forcing a smile to her face. “Can I see your work badge?”

“Here,” Yule said handing it to Momma. Momma looked at it and nodded.

“Come in,” Momma said.

Yule limped into the apartment.

“Where would you like the main cable box to be?” Yule asked.

“This TV right here,” Momma said pointing to the family room TV. Yule nodded. He noticed the Christmas tree and started laughing.

“Oops, sorry,” Yule said when he bumped into me.

“That’s ok,” I smiled. “I’m Natalie.”

“Yule,” Yule said offering his hand. “Natalie. I like the way that sounds. My sister’s having a baby. A girl. Every night she asks me if I’ve found any new names.”

“It means born on Christmas day,” I said shaking his hand.

“That’s funny,” Yule said moving the TV a little. “That’s what my name means.”

“I know,” I said. “I guess you guessed from the fact that we have a fake golden Christmas tree up in August that we’re Christmas freaks.”

“Yeah, I guessed,” Yule nodded hooking some cables up.

“My mom and I love Christmas. It hasn’t quite rubbed off on my stepdad yet,” I said. Yule smiled.

“I’m hungry,” Megan said walking into the family room.

“You just waking up?” I asked.

“Nope,” Megan said. “Jaci was dressing me. She wanted me to wear my blue polka dot dress outfit, but I wanted to wear my purple polka dot dress. She had to look through the boxes to find it.”

Megan screamed when she saw Yule.

“What’s wrong?” Momma asked walking from the kitchen.

“Stranger Danger!” Megan screamed pointing to Yule.

“Megan, honey, he’s here to set up the cable,” Momma said. “Can you say ‘hi Yule?’”

“Hi, You,” Megan said not able to pronounce Yule.

Yule laughed.

“Hi, Megan,” Yule said. “That outfit looks very pretty on you.”

“I told you, Jaci!” Megan cried running into the kitchen. Jaci walked out of Megan’s room.

“Welcome,” Jaci said to Yule. “Can I interest you in a cup of tea?”

Yule laughed.

“No, I’m just setting the cable box up,” Yule said. He moved the TV back. The cable box was set up on that TV. That was fast.

“Would you do the honors?” Yule asked handing me the remote.

I hit the power button and the news popped up.

“Where would you like the three other cable boxes?” Yule asked.

“In the kitchen, the second room on the left, and the junior cable box goes in the first room on the left,” Momma said. Yule nodded and walked towards the kitchen. I followed.

“Is it hard to set up cable boxes?” I asked.

“Nope,” Yule said. “But fixing them is. Last week all the cable boxes in one building crashed. I spent two days taking apart the cable boxes and replacing the parts. Ugh.”

“There are so many steps,” I said as I watched Yule. “How do you remember them all?”

“Photographic memory,” Yule said pointing to his brain. “Personally, I don’t know how all the other suckers do it either.”

I laughed.

“How bout you do it this time?” Yule asked Megan. Megan took the remote, turned the TV on, and then turned to Dora.

Yule, Momma, and I laughed.

“Uno!” Megan shouted.

Yule walked off towards the hallway, and I was about to follow but Momma stopped me.

“Natalie,” Momma said, “I think you’re bothering him.”

“She’s fine,” Yule said waving his hand. “It’s nice to be recognized every now and then.”

Momma nodded. Her face looked sad. She quickly turned back to making Megan breakfast.

“So you said you have a sister,” I said as Yule set up Momma and Mr. Steve’s cable box.

“Yup,” Yule said. “I see you got two.”

“Three actually,” I said. “My oldest sister is married and lives in Massachusetts.”

Yule nodded.

“I bet you miss her,” Yule said nodding his head in understanding. “You’re not from New York. I’ve never heard your accent before.”

“I’m Floridian, but my father was British,” I said

“I’m guessing this is your room?” Yule laughed walking into my room.

“Yeah,” I laughed. Yule looked at the pictures of Darcy and me.

“That your little boyfriend?” Yule asked pointing at the pictures. “I didn’t think you were old enough to have a boyfriend.”

“You could call him that,” I said. “I’m twelve but I’ll be thirteen in November.”

“That kid looks familiar,” Yule mumbled as he moved my TV. “Did you say your twelve? No wonder you remind me of my sister. You aren’t much younger than her.”

“Oh, so you have another sister,” I said.

“Nope,” Yule said. “Just me and her.”

“But you said she was having a baby,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s um complicated. Since the trial hasn’t happened I can’t really say anything,” Yule said. “Finished.”

“You are fast,” I said. Yule smiled.

“And you have been a delight,” Yule said. “Natalie. I like that name.”

“I hope to see you again one day,” I said.

“Me too,” Yule said. “If your cable box ever has a problem just ask for Yule.”

“I’ll remember that,” I said. “Goodbye.”

“Bye,” Yule smiled. And with that he walked out the door, but not out of my life.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Thirteen

**

I tried to breathe as the car drove away. This wasn’t it. This wasn’t goodbye. We weren’t actually leaving Florida. There was still time for this nightmare to end.

I had only one week to try to stop this horrible move. Maybe if I prayed real hard Momma and Mr. Steve wouldn’t like the noisy city and decide to stay in quite Florida.

“So there are five boroughs of New York City correct?” Jaci asked. There were tears in her voice. She was mad about this too. But she had nothing to worry about. Timmy had proposed. They were getting married. They had Mr. Steve’s blessing. She would be moving back here within a year. I was still a minor and would still be living under Mr. Steve’s roof for six more years.

“Yes. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island,” Mr. Steve said.

“Which part will be living in?” Jaci asked.

“Well my job is in Manhattan so probably Manhattan,” Mr. Steve said. Jaci nodded.

“Does a man make hattan there?” Megan asked. I looked at her.

“No, baby,” Mr. Steve laughed. “What makes you think that?”

“It’s called Man hattan,” Megan said. “I’m happy though. I don’t like hattan. Yucky!”

I stared at her. What in the world was hattan?

“What’s hattan, honey?” Momma said almost reading my thoughts.

“It’s a secret,” Megan said. “Every time you ask they never tell you.”

“Who are they?” Momma asked.

“I don’t know,” Megan shrugged. “They are they.”

Momma looked at Mr. Steve. The look on their faces said, “That’s weird.”

**

It took us almost four hours to get to New York City. Four hours between Florida and New York City. That was a long ways away.

Mr. Steve showed us the building he would be working in. It was a skyscraper of course.

There were several apartment buildings in the area, and we visited just about every one.

“What do you think about this one?” Mr. Steve asked. “It’s big enough for everyone to have their own room. And there still would be a guest room.”

This place could never become home. The B&B was home and always would be.

“Free!” Megan shouted running around the empty apartment. Mr. Steve smiled.

“It’s very nice,” Jaci said politely.

“Natalie?” Momma asked.

She didn’t want me to say anything, trust me.

“Natalie, this is a family decision. If you don’t like the apartment…,” Mr. Steve started.

“It’s not that I don’t like the apartment. The apartment in general is fine, but it never will be home. Florida is home. The B&B is home. This apartment is never going to become home. New York City will never take Florida’s place. Not ever,” I said as calmly as I could.

Mr. Steve seemed relieved I hadn’t started yelling and annoyed our possible new neighbors.

“Well if anyone likes the place,” Mr. Steve said. Thankfully, he didn’t dare look at me.

No, this couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t be leaving Florida like this. Not this quickly. No, not like this.

**

This was it. I couldn’t believe that I was actually leaving Florida.

After all I’ve been through this year. Last Christmas when we got here I would have never imagined that I’d fall in love with this place, but I was in love with it bad. I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. It would take a thousand lifetimes to get to know everyone in New York City.

I had friends here. I didn’t really have friends back in Florida. I usually ate lunch with the people who liked art and books. We had something in common to talk about, but as far as having a real good friend who you knew you could count on no matter what I never had one until I came here.

I could count on Regina, Darcy, Virginia, Jessie-Maria, and even Emily to have my back. They were my best friends (well Emily might not be a bestie but she was a closeie). My heart broke to leave them, especially Darcy.

I had tried everything. I pleaded to stay and live with Abby. I tried to get them to let me stay here during the week and be in New York on the weekends. Nothing worked. Mr. Steve was determined to ‘keep the family together’. This wasn’t a family. This was a mess. What Mr. Steve saw as a ‘family’. I saw as a horrible attempt to act like we were happy. We weren’t happy. We were on the edge of our seat just waiting for the ‘fight’ to happen. The fight that would end this all. Or maybe it was just me who was waiting for this to happen. Sooner or later Mr. Steve had to get sick of me, and just wanna leave. I mean how much can one person take?

Jaci was just as upset as I was about leaving Florida, but she was too polite to even frown. Megan was no help. She wanted to go to the big Toys R Us in NYC. Some little sister. Abby had been in shock for about a week. She kept saying that Mr. Steve should do what was best for the family. Well leaving Florida wasn’t best for me, and wasn’t I part of his idea of a family?

It seemed like the entire town was there to watch us leave. Everybody looked sad, but nobody was sadder than me well maybe Virginia was. She kept complaining that she would resort to hanging out with Emily and have to hear her talk about how wonderful Nelson was.

Darcy had barely uttered a word to me all week. It kinda hurt me. Weren’t we supposed to be gushing over each other and trying to spend every possible second together?

“I’m going to miss you!” Virginia cried hugging me so tight I thought I was going to die.

“I’m going to miss you too,” Regina said hugging me not as tight.

“Me too,” Jessie-Maria said hugging me. “The twins are going to too.”

I smiled and let tears fall from my eyes.

“Natalie, we got off to a bad start. I’m not exactly the friendliest person in all of Massachusetts, but I like to think of you as a friend. And trust me. I don’t have too many friends,” Emily said to me. She gave me very light hug. I smiled and shook my head on the inside.

“You will be missed,” Nelson said. I smiled at him.

“Bye, Natalie,” Timmy said. “See you this summer…for the wedding I mean.”

I tried to punch him in the side, but since Timmy was so tall I had to settle for the stomach. Timmy laughed at my pathetic attempt.

I walked towards the car. Darcy wasn’t even there. So what? I was leaving, and if Darcy didn’t care why should that bother me?

“Natalie, wait!”

I turned around the find Darcy standing there.

“What?” I asked.

“I.I.I.,” Darcy tried. He soon gave up on his attempt at words and gave me the quickest kiss on the lips ever.

I stood there for a second staring into Darcy’s eyes. I climbed into the car.

“Bye!” I cried sticking my head out the window. Virginia, Jessie-Maria, Regina, and surprisingly Emily gave me tearfully goodbyes. Darcy said goodbye with tears in his eyes.

I blew kisses and then put my head in the car because I could feel Mr. Steve’s eyes on me.

I broke down hysterically crying in the backseat. And did Mr. Steve turn back? No, Mr. Steve did not.

**

I fell asleep after I cried for like forty minutes nonstop. I know that’s being childish, but I truly couldn’t stop. I tried after the first five but the tears kept pouring out. I hadn’t felt this kind of emotional attachment to Miami, but I had it bad with Florida. Florida was home now. It was where my friends where. It had people I loved and cared about. And most important: Darcy.

When I woke up I felt kinda stupid for crying over a boy, but Darcy wasn’t just any boy at least not me. He was special to me. He was the first guy I ever really really liked. His kiss was short but sweet.

“Whoa,” Megan said. I looked out the window, and skyscrapers met my eyes. We were in New York City already?

“Welcome to the Big Apple, girls!” Mr. Steve smiled. I scowled. We were almost four hours away from Florida.

“There are a lot of people,” Jaci said craning her neck to look out the window.

“There are over a million people in Manahan, and over eight million people in New York City. Jaci, honey, you’re gonna see a lot of people,” Mr. Steve said.

“What’s that?” Megan asked pointing to the newly finished One World Trade Center.

“It’s called the One World Trade Center or 1 WTC,” Mr. Steve said. “It’s the tallest building in New York City.”

“It’s pretty,” Megan said.

“Yes,” Mr. Steve said smiling a sad smile, “it’s pretty.”

I closed my eyes not wanting to think about the 9/11 attacks. A disadvantage to living in New York City: not feeling safe.

I sighed. I lived here now. I couldn’t believe I was one of eight million and no longer one of seven hundred.