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 Four

**

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

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

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

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

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

I laughed.

“So whatca doing?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did as he told me.

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

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

“Want to learn CPR?” Bennet asked abruptly.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

Daddy’s phone rang and he groaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s going on here?”

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

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

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

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

Always look for an exit wound

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

Blood was pumping from his right shoulder.

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

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

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

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

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

“My daddy’s just been shot,” I cried.

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

“Natalie Matthews.”

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

I told her.

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

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

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

“In the shoulder.”

“Is blood pumping out?”

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

“Natalie, are you hurt?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

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

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

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

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

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

“How old are you, Natalie?”

“Thirteen.”

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

“Zoey.”

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

“Yes.”

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

“I’m going crazy.”

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

“Natalie! Natalie! Natalie!”

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

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

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

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

Everything went black soon after that.

Posted in Natalie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“BON VOYAGE!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

Everyone left soon after that.

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

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

And how did I feel about this?

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

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

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

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

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

“Eh?” Daddy asked. “What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daddy gave a frustrated sigh.

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

“It’s not stupid!” Momma shouted.

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

“You don’t love me.”

“Not this again!”

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

“Yeah,” I said, “me!”

SMASH!

“What was that?” Momma screamed.

SMASH!

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

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

BANG! BANG!

Gunshots.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

The next morning we went to church. It was nice to see everybody again. And the looks on their faces when they found out that Yule and Noel were my brother and sister were priceless.

I looked out the window as I wondered when it was going to snow. It had snowed several weeks ago (yes, I check Florida’s weather), but it had melted. The ground looked dull and bare without snow on it. I tried to imagine the perfect snow day, but I kept thinking about the Marshmallow World Day. I guess that made sense since that was the perfect snow day.

Ms. Donna pulled out her keys, but when her hand touched the lock, the door opened.

“That’s odd,” Ms. Donna said. “I’m sure I locked the doors.”

“Does anyone else smell Beef Stew?” Cece Elizabeth asked.

Everyone ran into the house (I rolled). When no one was found in the living room or family room, we went to the restaurant.

A man was sitting down in one of the booths. A cane leaned upon his chair. He looked like Darcy only he had blonde hair. His hair was in a military cut. The man was eating Beef Carrot Stew and didn’t seem to notice all the people staring at him.

“Hello,” The man said. He went back to his stew.

“Bennet!” Darcy shouted. He hugged the man.

“Whoa, little brother,” The man, who I guess name was Bennet, said.

Wait…did he just call Darcy little brother?

“It really is you!” Daddy shouted. He shook Bennet’s hand.

“Wow,” Bennet said looking at Cece Elizabeth. He grabbed his cane and walked towards her.

“I’d know that voice anywhere!” Cece Elizabeth shouted. She jumped onto Bennet, and Bennet tumbled to the floor.

“You have pretty good aim for a blind person,” Bennet said out of breath. “But next time, please don’t jump on me.”

“Sorry,” Cece Elizabeth giggled. Bennet looked like he was in pain. Cece Elizabeth got up off of him, and Bennet struggled to get up.

“You all right?” Daddy asked helping Bennet up.

“Didn’t Mom tell you? I was shot in the back several times, lumber spinal nerve 5 to be specific,” Bennet said. “I just finished rehab in California last week.”

Everyone looked at Ms. Donna.

“She didn’t tell you?” Bennet said with sadness and surprise in his voice. “It happened almost a year ago…”

Bennet stopped talking when he noticed Noel standing off towards the side. I don’t know if Noel understood what was going on cause frankly I didn’t understand what was going on. Noel was more fascinated with the salt and pepper shakers than Bennet’s story.

Bennet looked at Noel with surprise at first. At first I thought it was because he was surprised to see a nine month pregnant stomach on a thirteen almost fourteen year old girl, but then a sweet soft smile crept onto his lips. I remembered that smile coming to my dad’s lips when he saw my mom. I’d seen the smile quite often on Daddy’s lips since I got out of rehab. Bennet was in love with Noel.

Nobody but me saw Bennet fall in love with Noel. Everyone else was too busy yelling and asking Ms. Donna questions. Momma and Grandma Shirley were asking the questions that were in my head (although Grandma Shirley was saying them rather rudely), and everybody else was asking questions like they knew Bennet personally. Cece Elizabeth stopped asking questions and then broke down crying.

When Bennet heard Cece Elizabeth’s cries, he stopped looking at Noel and turned to her.

“Don’t cry, Elizabeth,” Bennet said in a soothing voice. “I’m all right now.”

“I told you that joining the military was a dumb idea!” Cece Elizabeth cried. “And look at you know.  Nineteen years old and paraplegic!”

That caught my attention. Bennet was paraplegic? I thought he spinal cord ended around L1 and L2, but I guess you’d still be called paraplegic. He could walk with the help of a cane, but he wasn’t wheelchair bound. Jealousy and anger arouse in me. I was an complete paraplegic, and most paraplegics were incomplete including Bennet. Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to completely break my back at L1?

“Lizzie,” Bennet said turning Cece Elizabeth towards him because she had been screaming at the wall, “Joining the military was something I always dreamed about. I’m not mad at God or anybody else about what happened…well not now.”

Of course he’s not. He can walk.

Then Bennet noticed me. I must have either been looking very spitefully at him or very angrily because he looked almost afraid of me, but nobody is truly afraid of a wheelchair bound girl.

“You must be Natalie,” Bennet said with a hint of something in his voice. “You look exactly like the picture Darcy sent me expect you looked a lot happier.”

Darcy sent Bennet a picture of me. My expression softened.

“I see you’re in a wheelchair,” Bennet said grabbing his cane. “I guess we have a lot in common. What type are you?”

“I can’t walk,” I sneered. Then I remembered Bennet’s question. “I’m L1.”

“L5,” Bennet said. “I’m only using a cane because I’m in the house. I use a wheelchair when I’m out and a bout because I can’t walk long distances and walking is painful at times.”

I shrugged.

“Who’s that girl?” Bennet asked sneaking a glance at Noel.

“That’s my older sister Noel,” I said. I decided to let him be in love for a little longer and not tell him that Noel had autism.

“So what connection are you to Ms. Donna?” I asked.

“I’m her son. The older brother to her other son Darcy and the younger brother of  her daughter Cece Elizabeth,” Bennet said.

Looks like Momma’s got some competition for the Most Secretive Award.

**

As I rolled into the North Adams Community Center, I was determined to find out more about Bennet, Cece Elizabeth, and Ms. Donna’s husband. Tonight was the night of the North Adams Christmas Ball and just about everyone in Florida and lots of people from surrounding Northern Berkshire County towns. So there was a pretty good chance that a lot of Stewarts’ and Chadwick’s would be there.

I wasn’t going to come tonight. Momma and Daddy had already had it set up with Yule and Noel for them to stay home with me, but after hearing that Bennet and Cece Elizabeth were Ms. Donna’s children, I had a really strong desire to go.

“This party is so much grander than our little school one last year,” Regina commented. I nodded. The room was large. It was in the same building where the Father-Daughter Dance is held, but the Christmas Ball is held in a different room and a much larger one.

“It sure is loud in here,” Yule said. Noel looked at him like he was crazy.

“Need to turn up music,” Noel said shaking her head. Bennet looked at her like she was crazy, while the Matthews family just shrugged that comment off.

When I saw the Rivers’ and Powers’ arrive I thought I’d start with them. Mrs. Rivers would surely know something since she’s lived in Florida her entire life.

“Bennet Chadwick Edwards!” Mrs. Rivers cried when she saw him. “You’re hurt!”

Bennet was getting out of his wheelchair at the moment. He stopped and smiled at Mrs. Rivers.

“Hi, Ms. Joan,” Bennet said.

“What happened to you?” Mrs. Rivers asked.

“Shot in the back,” Bennet said.

“You poor thing,” Mrs. Rivers said. “I’m just glad you didn’t meet your father’s fate.”

“Me too,” Bennet mumbled. He turned to Noel.

“Would you like to dance?” Bennet asked her. Noel shrugged.

“May I have this dance?” Daddy asked. Momma gave him a sad smile and nodded. The song Let it Snow! was playing.

I tried not to laugh at Noel’s idea of ‘dancing’. Noel didn’t want Bennet to touch her, which I understood but Bennet did not. It would be even harder for Bennet to dance with her since he couldn’t even try to lean on her. Since they were dancing close to the food table, which was where I was hanging out, I was able to hear their conversation.

“So when are you due?” Bennet asked.

“Soon,” was Noel’s reply. The truth was she was three days overdue.

“Well you look ready to pop any moment now,” Bennet said. I mentally slapped myself. Maybe I should have told him that Noel has autism. She was not going to like or understand that expression.

“Excuse me?” Noel asked furiously. She stopped ‘dancing’.

“Let me rephrase that,” Bennet said embarrassed. “You look like you’re ready to give birth any day now.”

Noel nodded but it was easy to see she was still mad.

“Three days overdue,” Noel said. Bennet nodded. Noel looked off to the side. It was obvious to me that she was no longer interested in the conversation or Bennet. But by the way Bennet looked, he thought she just didn’t like him.

“I have autism,” Noel said when saw that Bennet wasn’t giving up. Usually when Noel shows signs of being disinterested, we leave her alone or change the subject.

Realization and relief overcame Bennet’s face.

“I’m bothering you aren’t I?” Bennet asked. “Oh, and sorry about the popping comment.”

“Nope,” Noel said. “Think bout baby lot since three days overdue.”

Bennet laughed and smiled. Noel actually made eye contact with him. It was only for a second, but any eye contact from Noel is an honor. I had a sneaky suspicion that Noel had a little crush on Bennet.

“That looks utterly hopeless,” Virginia whispered walking up to me. Of course she noticed Bennet and Noel. Virginia is a farm girl and matchmaker at heart.

“I think Bennet is in love with Noel,” I whispered back.

“Oh, so that’s who that man is,” Virginia said. “When Aunt Jane saw him, she burst out crying.”

“Do you want to help me?” I whispered.

“With what?” I asked.

“I want to find out more about Bennet and Cece Elizabeth,” I whispered.

“Sure,” Virginia said in mischievous voice. “I may be a farm girl and a matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a snoop.”

I laughed and Virginia pushed me over to where Mrs. Rivers was watching the twins and Mr. Rivers and Jessie-Maria dancing.

“Hello, girls,” Mrs. Rivers smiled. Mrs. Rivers looked over at Noel and Bennet.

“He’s in love with her,” Mrs. Rivers stated. Virginia and I laughed.

“That’s what Natalie just told me but I didn’t really believe her,” Virginia said.

“It’s that smile,” Mrs. Rivers said. “When I first saw Tom, he had that exact smile on his lips. I call it the love smile.”

“Did you have the love smile on your lips?” I asked.

“No,” Mrs. Rivers laughed. “I was scowling at the man who kept smiling and looking at me. It took me a little bit longer to fall in love. But six years later, we are happily married with three kids.”

“Noel doesn’t look interested in him,” Virginia said.

“I think she’s just not interested in the conversation,” I said. “And she doesn’t really know Bennet. Noel is very wary of strangers, but Bennet doesn’t seem to care about that or the fact that she’s autistic. And she made eye contact with him.”

“Love is patient. Love is kind,” Mrs. Rivers joked. I smiled.

“I’m surprised Donna didn’t talk your ear off about him,” Mrs. Rivers said. “I mean she had to of known that he was coming home.”

“I actually never heard of him until today,” I said.

“Me too,” Virginia said.

Mrs. Rivers looked shocked.

“Donna was so proud when Bennet joined the military. Cece Elizabeth and Darcy were furious but…,” Mrs. Rivers started.

“You knew about Cece Elizabeth!” Virginia and I interrupted. Mrs. Rivers looked surprised at our rude interruption.

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Rivers said. “It’s not big secret.”

I felt like laughing.

“I tell you the truth, Mrs. Rivers. Ms. Donna never uttered a word about Bennet, Cece Elizabeth, or her husband,” I said. Mrs. Rivers sighed.

“I shouldn’t be doing this for Donna,” Mrs. Rivers said. “But since I have known her all my life and since she’s practically like a big sister to me, I will tell you what you want to know. Fire away.”

“What happened to Mr. Edwards?” Virginia asked. Tears mounted in Mrs. Rivers eyes.

“While Donna was pregnant with Darcy, there was a shooting,” Mrs. Rivers said very sadly. “It happened in a North Adams coffee shop. A Stewart went crazy. He went in there with a gun and shot everybody. Eleven people were seriously injured; two people died and one of them was Mr. Robert Edwards.”

“So Darcy never met his father,” I said sadly. At least I had memories of my father even though they were few. Darcy never even saw his father.

“Nobody in Florida or North Adams talks about the shooting much,” Mrs. Rivers said. “We knew it upset Donna to talk about it, and well nobody in Florida felt comfortable talking about it around Darcy.”

“What about Cece Elizabeth?” Virginia asked.

“Well, when Cece Elizabeth was born blind, Donna and Robert told everyone in Florida and close family. It was easy to see that Robert and Donna were a little embarrassed about having a blind daughter. Don’t get me wrong Donna loves Cece Elizabeth just as much as Darcy or Bennet and although I don’t like the fact that they hid Cece Elizabeth and never told new comers like Steve about her, I know that Donna loves Cece Elizabeth even though she’s a little ashamed of her,” Mrs. Rivers said.

“And Bennet?” I asked. “Bennet said his accident happened a year ago.”

“Donna is a very private person,” Mrs. Rivers said. “I’m extremely close to her and she has barely said a word about Bennet. Bennet was never far from anybody’s mind since he was deployed to Afghanistan. I’ve frequently asked Donna about Bennet and she always said something like ‘He’s fine.’ A year ago Donne might not have known how bad or stable Bennet was at the time, and Bennet might not have communicated with his mother quite often. I’m a little offended that she didn’t tell me, her closet friend, about Bennet’s injury, but I can think of a million excuses.”

Virginia and I walked away because Mr. Rivers came over to ask Mrs. Rivers to dance. Jessie-Maria was dancing with Yule, and surprisingly Bennet and Noel were still ‘dancing’. Bennet looked like he was in pain, but he also looked happy.

I looked over at Momma and Daddy, and Virginia looked too. They were now swaying to the same Christmas Song that played at their wedding.

Virginia looked at me and smiled.

“Look, I know your parents probably told you to keep it a secret until Christmas, but I have to know now. Is your mother having a baby?” Virginia asked.

“What?” I asked. I looked at Momma. Sure she had put on some extra weight and was tired a lot, but I just thought she had gained the weight because after the accident the family didn’t exactly eat healthy and I thought she was just tried because of the lack of sleep she was getting sleeping on a rehab couch.

“You can tell me,” Virginia said. “I promise not to tell anyone.”

“I would tell you if I knew,” I said. “But as far as I know my mother is not having a baby.”

Virginia’s shoulders slumped.

“Fine, don’t tell me,” Virginia huffed.

“Virginia, you know that you and Jessie-Maria would be the first ones I told,” I said. “Even before Darcy.”

“Really?” Virginia asked. “You’re not under some secret vow or anything?”

“Nope,” I shrugged.

“Well, she fooled me,” Virginia said. She spotted Leo and walked over to him.

I sighed and took a close look at my mother. I wonder…

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How was rehab?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

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

Crash!

“What was that noise?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

Emily seemed to accept that answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRASH! BANG!

“It’s a ghost!” Emily screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m hungry,” Cece Elizabeth said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We heard fire trucks, and the phone rang.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could say that again.

**

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

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

The doorbell stopped, and we broke out laughing.

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

YOU’RE HER WHAT!

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

“What’s wrong?” Jessie-Maria asked.

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

YOU LIAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody but Grandma Shirley chuckled.

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

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

“Excuse me?” Grandma Shirley asked.

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

I was beginning to like this girl.

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

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

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

“What did I say?” Uncle Cael asked.

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

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

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

Grandma Shirley stormed up the steps.

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma looked like she was about to puke.

And then I felt my food come back up too.

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

The doorbell rang.

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

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

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

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

This seemed very familiar.

“Ow,” The box said.

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

“Oh my!” Momma shouted.

“Not again!” I shouted.

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

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

“The poor thing,” Ms. Donna said.

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

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

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

“Um, yes,” Momma said.

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

  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Steve Matthews,

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

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

Merry Christmas,

Fowler Stewart

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twelve

**

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah?” I asked.

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

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

“When are you leaving?” Virginia asked.

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

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

She could say that again.

**

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

“You look tired,” Darcy said to me.

He had no idea how tired.

“You were great,” Darcy said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” Darcy shrugged.

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

“Say ‘Christmas’!” I shouted.

“Christmas!” Darcy and I shouted.

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

**

“Call 911!”

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Rivers breathed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah,” I said rubbing my eyes.

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

We burst out laughing.

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

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

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

Mrs. Rivers gave Emily a sad smile.

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Ten

 

**

I looked at the clock. Only one more minute.

Ms. O’Donnell stared us down. We had just been sitting here for fifteen minutes. We had finished out schoolwork early but she refused to let school go out early.

The bell rang and the room erupted.

SUMMER!

Ms. O’Donnell put her hands on her ears and walked out the room muttering something.

“Ms. O’Donnell!” I cried running out the room.

“Yes, Natalie?” Ms. O’Donnell asked. I pulled a box of chocolates out of my backpack.

“Happy summer,” I smiled. Ms. O’Donnell smiled back.

“I expect to see you at this weekend Christmas in July meeting/Erin’s dress making?” Ms. O’Donnell asked. I nodded.

“Everything’s almost set up and July 25th is a month away. All we need to do is get the word out,” I said.

“Don’t worry about that,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “I’ll handle the media.”

I smiled.

“Thank you, Ms. O’Donnell. I had my doubts about you but you really are a good teacher,” I said.

“You’re welcome, Natalie,” Ms. O’Donnell said with tears in her eyes. “That really means a lot to me.”

I smiled and walked back to the class.

Maybe Ms. O’Donnell had a little bit of heaven in here.

**

I looked out the window. A black limo pulled up and a short blonde girl got out of it.

“Don’t move,” Mrs. Stewart commanded. She poked me.

“Ow,” I said.

“We’ve been over this before, Natalie,” Mrs. Stewart said. “If you don’t stand still I’m bound to poke you with one of these pins!”

“Who is that girl?” Sean asked looking out the window.

“I think that’s one of Ned’s friends. I believe her name is Kristen. She’s from Hollywood and is married to Ned’s best friend from there,” Ms. Erin said looking out the window.

“I can tell,” Mrs. Stewart said looking out the window.

In less than two minutes Kristen walked into the room.

“You’re even prettier than Ned said,” Kristen said hugging Ms. Erin. “Omygosh!”

“What?” Ms. Erin asked.

“You got Jessie-Maria Sean for your wedding!” Kristen shouted looking at Sean. “No way! I tried to get her for mine but they said she had left the state and was no longer preforming! Leave it to Ned Davis to get what he wants!”

Wait, what? Sean was famous?

Mrs. Rivers looked at Sean. Sean looked like a deer in a car’s headlights. She tried to run away but as she ran Abby lost her grip on the pins and they pierced her skin and caused her to fall down. Blood dripped from her leg.

“I’m sorry, Jaci,” Sean cried. “I’ve bloody the dress.”

“It’s ok,” Jaci said grabbing a Band-Aid from the first aid kit. “We’ve got plenty of fabric if we can’t wash it out.”

“Honey, why did you tell Tom and me about this?” Mrs. Rivers asked.

“Most people once they find out I’m gifted use my gifts for…profit,” Sean cried.

“Oh, baby,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging Sean. “Sean, honey, Tom and I would never use the gift’s God’s given you for profit.”

“Sean?” Kristen asked. “Why do you call her by her last name?”

“Cause my first name is embarrassing,” Sean said. “My name means bitter gifted.”

“Let’s get the dictionary,” Mrs. Rivers said. Emily came back a minutes later with a dictionary.

“B…,” Mrs. Rivers said flipping through the dictionary. “Bitter!”

“See, it means something that is unpleasant, distasteful, and distressing,” Sean pouted.

“It also means being relentlessly determined,” Mrs. Rivers read.

“Determined?” Sean asked.

“Relentlessly,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging Sean.

“Sean, I have an idea but I don’t want you to think I’m trying to use your gifts,” Ms. O’Donnell said.

“What is it?” Sean asked.

“I think that we should not only have a little carnival thing but a Christmas show and nativity play! Sean could perform in the show and we could advertise it!” Ms. O’Donnell said. “What do you think? It would be for a good cause.”

“On one condition,” Sean smiled. “You call me Jessie-Maria.”

“Deal!” Everyone shouted.

“Oh, thank you!” Virginia shouted hugging Jessie-Maria. “I just know we’re going to help all my friends! Thank you. It means a lot to me.”

“My pleasure,” Jessie-Maria said. “We’re supposed to use or gifts to help others right?”

Everyone laughed.

**

“Oh, where is my camera?” Momma asked. “I had it at Abby’s wedding.”

“Mrs. Matthews! Abby and Jaci are on their way from North Adams,” Regina said. “Everything isn’t finished yet! Oh, this is going to be a disaster!”

“The baby shower isn’t going to be a disaster!” Momma shouted. “As long as I can find my camera.”

“Well at least the cake is finished,” I said looking up at it. Ms. Donna had made the cake, and Jaci made the icing. The cake was kinda silly. It was decorated with question marks and diapers.

“I brought the baby shower umbrella!” Mrs. Stewart shouted running into the house. “Where’s the rocking chair.”

“Can I get a little help here?” Ms. Donna asked from the steps. “Steve said he was going to help me carry it down from the attic. I don’t know where he is.”

“I’ll help,” Mrs. Stewart said dropping the umbrella and helping Ms. Donna.

“Ok,” Mrs. Stewart said setting the chair and umbrella up. “Now all we need is the mother-to-be or is she already a mother? She has Jessie-Maria.”

“Where is my camera?” Momma cried. “Oh, Natalie, can you go check upstairs in my room. Knock first. Oh and bring our gifts down too.”

I nodded and walked up the steps.

“Come in,” Mr. Steve’s voice said when I knocked.

“What are you doing?” I cried when I heard a familiar tune and saw Mr. Steve with my mom’s camera.

“You’re really good,” Mr. Steve said not taking his eyes from the camera. “When did you start playing the piano? You couldn’t have been but four or five in this video.”

“I was three when I learned the basics and how to read notes,” I said trying not to cry. What was Mr. Steve doing snooping on my mom’s camera card?

“Why’d you stop?” Mr. Steve asked. “You’re really good. You should start taking lessons again.”

“No!” I cried. Mr. Steve looked up from the camera.

“What’s wrong?” Mr. Steve said. “With talent like that you really could become something.”

“What’s wrong? You’re wrong!” I cried.

“Excuse me?” Mr. Steve asked.

“How dare you snoop on my mother’s camera card?” I cried. “That card has special memories on it! Memories that you shouldn’t see!”

“And why shouldn’t I see them?” Mr. Steve asked folding his arms and getting angry.

“Because,” I said.

“Just because,” Mr. Steve said. I nodded.

“And what’s wrong with taking lessons? You have a gift and you should pursue such a talent with all you’ve got,” Mr. Steve said.

“Music was something I shared with my dad,” I shouted as calmly as I could. “When he died I stopped playing and Momma didn’t mind. So I haven’t touched a piano since I was five.”

“That’s not right,” Mr. Steve said shaking his head. “There aren’t any piano teachers in Florida. So we’ll have to try North Adams.”

“Don’t you understand?” I screamed. “I don’t want to take lessons! My father was my teacher! He understood how I learned music better than anybody else ever or could!”

“Natalie, this music teacher isn’t going to replace your father,” Mr. Steve said with disgust in his voice.

“Oh, but you can!” I screamed. I grabbed the gifts and walked out the door before Mr. Steve could say anything else.

“Did you find my camera?” Momma asked. “What’s wrong?”

If I looked how I felt, I was a mess. How could Mr. Steve force me to take piano lessons? So what if I had a talent? My father loved music, and introduced it to me. I couldn’t learn music with anyone else. I just know I couldn’t.

“Mr. Steve has your camera,” I said. “Tell him to stop snooping!”

“Snooping?” Momma asked.

“He was looking through your card,” I said.

“Um, ok,” Momma said not seeing the invasion of privacy.

“You just don’t understand!” I cried walking towards the bathroom. “Nobody understands.”

I understand.

What in the world was that? Is that you God?

“If it’s about those naked baby pictures of you…,” Momma started but I slammed the bathroom door.

By the time I finished crying the baby shower was underway. The shower might have been a lot of fun if Mr. Steve had destroyed it for me, but looking back I think I destroyed it for myself.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eight

**

“I promise not to let go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But I thought….,” I started.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why are you smiling?” Virginia asked.

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

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

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

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

“We’ll help you,” Momma said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abby looked at us weirdly.

**

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

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

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

I heard a knock on the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I started to itch these dots.

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

“But they itch,” I whined.

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

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

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

I cried for five minutes before getting up and changing.

**

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

“That’s what I thought,” Momma said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma nodded.

“So this might not go away?” I asked.

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

Momma shook her head no.

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

The dermatologist smiled.

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

Momma took the piece of paper and nodded.

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

“I want to stay home,” I cried.

Momma hugged me and the dermatologist walked towards the door.

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3-Heaven Everywhere Installment Three

**

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

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

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

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

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

I sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I changed into my dress and walked into the restaurant.

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

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

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

“Cause I need to stay awake,” I said.

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

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

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

**

“You did a wonderful job, Sean.”

Sean smiled at Momma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I smiled.

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

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

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

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

“See you!” The Rivers shouted.

**

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

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

“We ready?” Mr. Steve asked.

I nodded and got into the car.

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

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

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

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

  Dear Natalie,

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

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

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

Love,

Your Father

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

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

“Are you ok?” She asked.

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

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

  Dear Natalie,

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

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

Love,

Your Father

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

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

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

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

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

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

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

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

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

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

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

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

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

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

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

Abby laughed.

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

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi,” I said sitting down.

“Hey,” She mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ladies, ladies,” Grandma Baldwin said.

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

“Humph!” Grandma Shirley shouted letting go.

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

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

“What was that all about?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The two of them similar?” I asked.

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

“I DID NOT!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

“Natalie?” Darcy asked when I turned around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh!” Grandma Shirley grumbled.

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Seven

**

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

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

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

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

“What a secret?” Momma asked walking up.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s up with Momma?” I asked.

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

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

“Huh?” Aunt Clarisse asked.

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

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

The doorbell rang and Grandma Shirley answered it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And who are you?” The woman asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Momma opened the door and looked at Grandma Shirley.

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

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

Only two weeks and five days to go.

**

“The dresses are purely ugly.”

Of course Grandma Shirley just said that to be contrary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Six

**

“Natalie.”

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

“Yes?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Dear Natalie,

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

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

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

Love,

Your Daddy, Alexander Baldwin

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Riley!” The woman shouted hugging Momma back.

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

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

Aunt Clarisse smiled at me and I smiled back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was going to be a long three weeks.

Posted in Gifted

Gifted: Chapter 2 Installment One

Chapter 2

I hate waiting rooms especially if it’s in a hospital.

I hate hospitals. It smells too clean to me. I believe that germs make the air smell good. When I told Mr. Jenkins (he’s a doctor) that he called the state and told them that they gave him a crazy child.

But Mrs. Rivers had an appointment today. Turns out Mrs. Rivers is having a baby. Why they took me in amazes me. The day Mrs. Young announced she was having a baby they called Mr. Bill.

I’d been with the Rivers’ for two weeks now. They were nice and all but Mrs. Rivers and I didn’t talk much and it was just us in the house during the day but things might be looking up. I’m going to be a bridesmaid in a local wedding.

“Jessie-Maria?” Mr. Rivers asks walking out the door.

“The air smells germless,” I blurt. I felt my cheeks blush. Why did I have to say a stupid think like that? Mr. Rivers just chuckled.

“Come on,” Mr. Rivers says. “We got a surprise for you.”

“What kind of surprise?” I ask following Mr. Rivers down the hall. Mr. Rivers didn’t say anything. He just opened a door to where Mrs. Rivers was sitting down. She smiled at me.

“Mr. Rivers said something about a surprise,” I say walking in. Mrs. Rivers nodded her head.

“Honey,” Mrs. Rivers says reaching out for me to hug her. I walked over to her and let her squeeze me.

“I’m having twins,” Mrs. Rivers smiles. I frown.

“What’s wrong?” Mr. Rivers asks. I don’t know why but I go fly out the door and ran outside.

“JESSIE-MARIA!” Mr. Rivers calls. I turn around.

“Are you ok, honey?” Mr. Rivers asks me. He takes my hand and gets down to my height.

“I guess I’ll be leaving ya’ll soon,” I say. Yes, I know that ‘ya’ll’ is not a word but I’ve spent a considerable time in the South.

“Do you not like it here?” Mr. Rivers asks.

“No. You and Mrs. Rivers are really nice and I like being back in Massachusetts and I expected to stay here at least until the baby came but now that you’re having twins I guess I’ll be leaving after Mrs. Baldwin’s wedding,” I sigh.

“Jessie-Maria,” Mr. Rivers sighs. “I know that you’ve lived in quite a few foster families and that you’ve probably had something similar happen to you but Joan and I like you and if it’s all right with you, we’d like for you to stay.”

“Under one condition,” I say.

“What is it?” Mr. Rivers asks.

“That you stop calling me Jessie-Maria and call me Sean. Everybody else does. Even your wife sometimes calls me that,” I said. Mr. Rivers smiled.

“Deal,” Mr. Rivers smiles.

*

“Aren’t these cute?” Mrs. Rivers asks.

I nod. We’re baby shopping. We’re also shopping for me but Mrs. Rivers made a beeline for the baby clothes the minute we walked into the store.

“Are you having two girls, two boys, or a boy and a girl?” I ask.

“Tom and I want to be surprised,” Mrs. Rivers says.

“I like surprises,” I blurt. Mrs. Rivers smiles.

“So do I,” Mrs. Rivers says. “For now we’re looking at things in yellow and green.” I nod.

“What do you want?” I ask.

“In regards to what, honey?” Mrs. Rivers asks.

“Do you want two girls, two boys, or one of each?” I ask. “Oh and do you want them to be identical.”

“I’m not too crazy about identical twins, but I’ll take whatever the Lord gives me,” Mrs. Rivers said. “We can go baby shopping in a minute. You need a new dress. One that covers your knees.”

Right now I’m wearing one of Mrs. Rivers’ old pants. They’re too big for me and this belt I’m wearing is killing me.

“This one looks my size,” I say picking up a black and white dress.

“Go try it on,” Mrs. Rivers says taking a pink one off the rack.

“I’m pretty sure it’s my size,” I say. Mrs. Rivers hands me the pink dress and walks away. I walk towards the dressing room.

I hate dressing rooms. With all those mirrors around the scorn you. I haven’t been in one for over a year. I walk into the dressing room and the lady gives me a number two.

There’s only one left. The big one with all the mirrors around.

“Go on,” The woman says. I walk into the dressing room and tears stream down my face. I slowly undress.

My scares laugh and mock at me. My tears flow down like a river.

“Sean, are you ok?” Mrs. Rivers asks through the door. I guess I’m crying loud now. I put my shirt back on and walk out the dressing room.

“I can’t do it! I just can’t do it!” I cry. I run to the baby section and cry as if I was a baby.