Posted in My Crazy Life

My Crazy Life: Episode II-From Home Schooled to High School Installment II

Chapter II

9th Grade, Girls, Grace…or Jordan

“I’m coming!” I called back as I hit the save button. I grabbed my backpack and rolled out the door.

“Charlly,” Megan said as I scarfed down some bacon.

“Yeah?” I asked with my mouth full.

“Is today pajama day at school?” Megan asked.

“Why you ask?” I said as I stuff pancakes into my mouth.

“Because you’re still wearing your pjs,” Megan said.

I looked down and realized I was still in my  asteroid pajamas.

“AGH!” I screamed. I had forgotten to change out of my pajamas.

“Charlly, honey,” Mrs. Matthews said as she picked up my plate, “I love you dearly, but I refuse to let you go to school in pjs.”

I rolled down the hall at a dangerous speed and pulled some jeans and a shirt out of the closet. I groaned as I tried to lift my leg up to put my jeans on. I’ve always been terrible at dressing in my wheelchair. I usually dress on my bed, but I have no time for transfers today.

“I’m ready!” I called as I rolled out of my room.

“Why are you wearing my SHIRT!?” Noel screamed.

“And why are you wearing my jeans?” Natalie said almost in a laugh.

I stared down at myself. Instead of pajamas, I was wearing one of Noel’s maternity shirts and a pair of Natalie’s jeans. The shirt is huge on me and considering, I’m almost six feet tall, Natalie’s jeans look like shorts on me.

“Just change your shirt,” Natalie said as she rolled out the door. “You don’t have time to do your pants.”

Noel stared at me. She looked like she wanted to freak out.

“Noel, honey, I’m sure Charlly didn’t mean to put on your shirt,” Mrs. Matthews said.

“I’m really sorry, Noel,” I hollered as I raced down the hall. I changed into one of my own shirts and rolled out the door.

“What happened to you?” Regina laughed.

I looked at myself and realized I was wearing one of my huge Christmas sweaters.

“At least I’m not the only one who’s going to have a new look this year,” Regina laughed. I took a good look at her. Her hair was now rather short and all blonde.

“You cut your hair!” I shouted.

“Correction, I went to a saloon and a professional cut my hair,” Regina squealed.

“I hadn’t realized your hair had grown out that much,” Natalie said.

“I’m glad it finally did,” Regina said. “Auburn is not my color.”

“And neither is blonde,” Nelson said. “You should try black.”

Regina hit him.

“Oh! I almost forgot! You won’t believe who I saw walking into the saloon as I was leaving,” Regina said.

Natalie looked around. Everyone but Leo and Virginia were at the B&B bus stop.

“Virginia?”  Natalie asked.

“Nope,” Regina said.

“Jaci?” Natalie guessed.

“Nope,” Regina said. “You got one more guess.”

“Um, Jessie-Maria?” Natalie asked.

“Good guess, but no,” Regina said. “It was Leo!”

“Maybe he’s finally getting those bangs he grew out cut,” Darcy said. “He was starting was to look like a girl.”

“Maybe he wants to look nice for a special someone,” Regina said. She pointed at me. “But she obviously doesn’t want to look good for him.”

I rolled my eyes as the bus pulled up.

For some reason my heart started beating real fast. Whether it was because I was wearing a sweater and short like jeans or because I was afraid of going on the bus looking this ridiculous I don’t remember.

“Come on, girly. We’re burning daylight,” The bus driver said at the top of the ramp. I quickly rolled up the ramp.

“Charlly?” Leo asked looking at me.

“LEO?” I asked. “What happened to your head.”

“Sit down!” The bus driver shouted at Leo. Leo sat down next to me.

“How do you like my new look?” Leo asked. I just stared at him with my mouth open. His hair was cut in a totally different way oh and it was also BLONDE!

“Don’t let a fly fly in,” Leo said closing my mouth. He looked nervous.

“Hey ya’ll…,” Virginia said as she bored the bus. Her mouth fell open when she saw Leo.

“What did I tell you about dying your hair?” Virginia asked Leo as she sat next to Natalie.

“You told me it was an incredibly stupid idea,” Leo said running his hands through his hair. “I beg to differ.”

“You better go down to the store and beg for another box of hair dye,” Virginia said.

“I went to the saloon and got my hair cut and dyed,” Leo said.

“Your mom let you do that?” Virginia asked.

“Um, no,” Leo said. His face clouded at the mention of his mom. “But my dad was cool with it.”

“Because he’s bald!” Virginia said.

“By choice,” Leo said quickly. “He shaved his head for cancer awareness.”

“That’s sweet,” I said. Virginia looked at me. She opened her mouth but then she remembered her vow.

“Leo, we both know its all her fault that you’ve just made the stupidest decision of your life,” Virginia said. “Look at Regina! She cut her hair so that it could be back to her original color.”

“No, actually, I think the stupidest decision of my life was sending you to that mushy Valentine,” Leo said. “And Regina looked silly as a red head. I look awesome as a blonde.”

The look on Virginia’s face said it all. She was boiling.

“That was a little harsh,” I whispered in his ear. He took my hand and squeezed it.

I wanted to scream for some reason. From the looks of it, Virginia did too.

The bus pulled up to Drury High School and my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t until that moment did I realize I had just gone from home schooled to high school. To me it felt like the most scary thing in the world.

Natalie and I were the last ones off the bus. Darcy and Leo were waiting for us at the door.

“Can you believe it?” Darcy asked as he opened the door for us. “We’re in high school!”

Natalie let out a squeal. I gave a nervous smile.

“I hope we have some of the same classes,” Natalie said as we got in line to get our schedules.

“Me too,” was all I could manage to get out.

“You nervous?” Natalie asked.

“Yup,” I nodded. Natalie laughed.

“Me too,” Natalie said. “I feel like having a panic attack.”

“Well, you’re doing an excellent job of hiding it,” I said.

Natalie smiled and laughed.

“Ok, lets see,” Natalie said as she opened up her schedule. “My period A is foreign langue with Mr. Ethan Peterson.”

“So is mine,” Virginia squealed as she looked at her schedule.

“My period A is science with Mrs. Kathy Davis,” I sighed.

“I have science with Mrs. Kathy Davis,” Leo said. “We could be lab partners.”

“Well at least we all have to same homeroom,” Natalie said.

I nodded.

“My period B is English with Mrs. Molly MacDonald ,” Darcy said.

“Me too,” Natalie smiled.

“My period B is Math with Ms. Jamie Cole,” I said.

Virginia looked like she wanted to scream.

“You too?” I asked her.

“I can’t believe I have Math with Mrs. Jamie Cole!” Virginia shouted at Natalie. Natalie tried not to roll her eyes, but she failed.

“I have Math with Mrs. Jamie Cole too,” Leo spoke up.

“My period C is Music and Fine Arts with Mrs. Lee Robin,” Natalie said.

“Lee Robin isn’t a teachers name,” Leo said. Natalie chuckled.

“I have Mrs. Lee Robin too!” Virginia squealed.

“My period C is Social Studies with Mr. Christian Piper,” I said. “Now how’s that for not a teachers name?” Leo smiled.

“I have Mr. Piper too,” Darcy said.

“I’ve got first lunch,” Leo said. “Anybody else got that?”

“I’ve got second lunch,” Natalie said.

“So do I,” I shrugged.

“I do also,” Darcy said.

“Virginia?” Leo asked.

“I’ve got first lunch too,” Virginia said. “But if you think I’m going to sit next to you then you do only use ten percent of your brain.”

Leo laughed.

“While ya’ll have lunch, I have Period D Science with Mr. Bob Landon,” Natalie said.

“So do I,” Darcy smiled.

“I have Period D English with Ms. Marianne Solari,” I sighed.

“I have Period E English with Mrs. Kathrin Benson,” Leo said. “Please tell me someone is taking that class.”

“I’m not,” Virginia said. “My Period E is Social Studies with Mr. Patrick Jude.”

“Charlly?” Leo asked.

“I just said I have English with Ms. Marianne Solari!” I shouted.

“So what’s your Period F?” Leo asked.

“Foreign langue with Ms. Lauren Star,” I said.

“I have her class too,” Leo smiled.

“I can’t believe we don’t have any classes together,” I said to Natalie as I read her schedule.

“We’re all in the same homeroom,” Natalie said.

“From 8:45 to 8:53,” I said. “That’s not even ten minutes!”

“Well we have lunch together,” Natalie said.

“I forgot about–” I started.

I wasn’t given a chance to finish. The bell gave its warning rang.

“Wait! Does anybody have Period A Music and Fine Arts with Mrs. Alyssa Capricorn?” Darcy asked.

“Nope!” Natalie said as she rolled to her foreign language class. “See you in homeroom, English, Science, and Lunch!”

“Leo?” Darcy asked hopefully.

“Nope,” Leo said as he took the handle bars of my wheelchair. “I’ve got science with Charlly.”

“Great,” Darcy grumbled as he walked towards his class. “I’ve got my least favorite class with nobody.”

“Maybe there will be some cute girls,” I winked,

“Not on his life!” Natalie sorta kinda shouted.

I giggled.

“So what does the rest of your day look like?” Leo asked. “I wasn’t really listening. I was freaking out that I’m being forced to take music.”

I smiled.

“I’ve got Period A Science with Mrs. Kathy Davis, Homeroom, Period B Math with Ms. Jamie Cole, Period C Social Studies with Mr. Christian Piper, Period D English with Ms. Marianne Solari, 2nd Lunch, Period E Music and Fine Arts with Mr. Chad Rain, and Period F Foreign Language with Ms. Lauren Star,” I said.

“So I get to start my day with you and end it. I also get Math and Social Studies,” Leo said. “Not a bad day line-up.”

I wanted to smack him on the back, but I settled for the hands.

“Hey!” Leo laughed. “It was a complement!”

Leo finished rolling me into science.

“So where would you like to sit?” Leo asked. “I usually sit in the back.”

“Then I’ll sit in the front,” I said.

“Then I’ll sit in the front with you,” Leo said. He removed one of the chairs from the desk and rolled me into it.

“Perfect fit,” Leo said as he plopped down next to me.

“You better not pass any notes to me,” I said.

“That’s a promise I can’t keep,” Leo winked.

“Then don’t get me in trouble during the process,” I said. Leo smiled.

“I won’t. I promise,” Leo smiled.

Then one of the strangest sights I have ever seen came into the classroom.

A girl, with black hair, came into the classroom riding on a boy’s back.

“Period A Science with Mrs. Kathy Davis,” The boy said, letting the girl off. The girl got off with a squeal and stood next to Piggy-Back Boy. She was very pale and at least a good three inches taller than him.

“Thanks, Chris,” The girl smiled.

“Your welcome, Grace,” The boy, who I guessed was Chris, said.

I was able to get a better look at the boy now that he wasn’t hunched over. He was a little bit below average male height. He had brown hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a plaid shirt and jeans.

“Hi!” The girl said. She held out her hand to me.

“Hi,” I said shaking it.

“I’m Jordan Miller,” The girl said. “Welcome to Drury High and the Berkshires!”

I stared at the girl. Hadn’t Chris just called her Grace like two seconds ago?

“And you are?” Jordan asked.

“I’m Charlotte Lily King, but you can just call me Charlly,” I said.

“Oooo! I like that!” Jordan shouted. “Now, do you spell that like C-H-A-R-L-I-E or C-H-A-R-L-E-E or C-H-A-R-L-L-E, or C-H-A-R-L-L-I-E-L-Y?”

“Um, actually none of the above,” I said. “Its spelled C-H-A-R-L-L-Y.”

“Now that just doesn’t make any sense,” Jordan huffed. “Oh, hi, Leo.”

“Hey, um…, Maggie?”

“I feel like being a Jordan today,” Jordan said.

“Ok, then, hi, Jordan,” Leo said.

“It was nice to meet you, Charlly spelled C-H-A-R-L-L-Y,” Jordan said. “Do you have One or Two Lunch?”

“Huh?” I asked.

“Do you have One or Two Lunch?” Jordan repeated.

“I have Second Lunch,” I said confused.

“So do I!” Jordan shouted. “I’ll seek you out then! Godspeed!”

Jordan sat right next to me. Chris sat next to Jordan. I looked at him. He burst out laughing.

“What is so funny, Chris?” Jordan asked.

“If you had the slightest clue,” Chris smiled. Jordan just stared at him confused.

Mrs. Kathy Davis walked into the room and slammed the door.

“Good morning, class,” Mrs. Davis said. “I’m Mrs. Kathy Davis and I am stuck with you for the rest of the school year.” Mrs. Davis hastily wrote her name on the dry erase board.

“To make my–and your life easier. Please remember where you have sat down and sit there tomorrow and the rest of the school year,” Mrs. Davis said. “I will make a chart sheet and anyone who does not sit where they are sitting today, tomorrow or any other time in the school year I will give them detention.”

Everyone spoke to each other with their eyes. This was going to be a long year.

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

Momma smiled.

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

“You did what?” I asked.

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

“You did what?” I howled.

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

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

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

I smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

“Wasn’t it obvious?” I asked.

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

There was a knock on the door.

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

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

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

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

“He?”

“He.”

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

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

“Hiya,” Darcy said looking at the ground.

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

“I’ve been a jerk,” Darcy said.

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

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

I laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“From London, England,” Stanley said.

It was probably from my grandparents.

Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews

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

Or maybe not.

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

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

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

Darcy looked at me and started to walk away.

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

“What?” Darcy snapped.

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

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

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

“Bye, Natalie.”

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

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

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

**

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

“Phone,” Noel said handing it to me.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Natalie?” Grandma Baldwin asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you serious?” I asked interrupting Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What suspicion?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

“Well…,” I started.

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

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

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

I gave them a smile.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

Abby started to smirk.

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

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

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

“Ouch,” Megan said.

“Sorry,” Jaci mouthed to me.

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

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

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

Baby A Baby B Baby C

Merry Gabriel Christian

Natasha Natalio Natal

Love Emmanuel Avery

Eve Nicholas Joseph

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

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

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

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

BANG!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joan!” Momma laughed.

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

“Mrs. Sugar Bear?” I giggled.

“Mr. Meow?” Jessie-Maria howled.

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

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

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

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

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

Sure enough Darcy was in the kitchen stirring lemonade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I snorted.

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

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

Darcy laughed and shook his head.

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

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

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

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

“What?” Darcy asked. “What girl?”

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

Darcy started to giggle.

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

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

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

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

“You are forgiven,” I said.

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

“What are you saying?” I asked.

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

“I do-I mean yes,” I said.

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

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

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

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

**

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

I could name a few reasons why.

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

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

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

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

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

After what seemed like forever we finally arrived in Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

“My car!” Bennet cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

“A little bit,” Momma said.

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

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

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

Megan shook her head no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule, who looked a little embarrassed, laughed.

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

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

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

Abby laughed.

“And you Dad?” Abby asked.

“I’m never right,” Daddy mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made even Abby laugh.

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

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

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

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

“I like Holly,” Daddy said.

“Mistletoe,” Momma said stubbornly.

“Never,” Daddy said shaking his head no.

“How about Mary?” Jaci asked.

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

“How bout Merry,” I said.

“Were you not listening?” Momma asked.

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

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

“Love!” Bella cried.

“That’s cute,” Momma nodded.

“Eve,” Noel mumbled.

“That’s an idea,” Momma said.

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

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

“Natalio,” Yule suggested.

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

“Then how bout Rudolf?” Yule joked.

“I like it,” Megan said.

“Um, no,” Daddy said.

“Christian?” I suggested.

“Cute,” Momma smiled.

“Emmanuel,” Jaci said.

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

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

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

“Larry,” She muttered.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I go to The Hill?” I asked.

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

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

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

“We’ll be there,” Daddy said.

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

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

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

I wonder…

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s time!”

That sounded like Bennet. Noel was in labor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon everyone was in the car and we were off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule rolled his eyes. Grandma Shirley looked shocked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop!” Noel shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doorbell rang.

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

“Surprise!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalia cried out.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon all the presents where open or so we thought.

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

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

I opened my presents and found three pacifiers. Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma smiled a sly smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could make this Christmas better?

**

Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But dinner was even better than Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

Everyone started to congratulate Grandpa Jack.

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

“You are…,” I said.

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

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

Aunt Jane screamed and then very tearfully said yes.

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

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

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

Best. Christmas. Ever.

THE END

Posted in Natalie

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

How can a person not want to go home for Christmas?

I knew it was a nearly impossible dream. When I first got to rehab, the thought of Florida at Christmastime was the only thing that kept me going.

Well it was December 16, and not a word about being released from rehab had been uttered. I guess I’d be spending another holiday in rehab. First my birthday, then Thanksgiving, and now Christmas.

“Why the long face?” Daddy asked when he, Momma, and Yule walked into my room. They were trying their hardest to hide their smiles and smirks. Something was up.

“Was I wearing a long face?” I asked knowing I was.

“You were looking nostalgic,” Momma said.

“Well with Christmas coming up and all,” I said.

“You want to go home,” Daddy stated.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Momma said, “but December 20th was the best we could get.”

“That’s ok,” I said turning around. “Wait…what!”

“You’re being released!” Momma, Daddy, and Yule shouted. Noel walked into the room with a noisemaker in her mouth.

“Natalie’s going home for Christmas!” Noel shouted.

“I’ll be home for Christmas?” I asked. This just seemed so unreal.

“Yup,” Momma said. She pulled a suitcase from behind her back.

The next four days were torture.

I had a bunch of doctor’s visits just make sure that I was breathing ok and my spine wasn’t swelling. Momma and Jaci had to pack for me since couldn’t leave rehab. I had to do a test on December 19th to make sure that I really knew everything I needed to know. Then at ten A.M. December 20th I was free.

“How does it fell to be in a car again, kid?” Yule asked me as we got on the highway.

“Nauseating,” I said. I hadn’t been in a car since early October.

Momma seemed to agree with me. She looked sick. She had her head in her hands.

“Stop the car,” Momma groaned.

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

“Stop the car!” Momma shouted. Daddy pulled over on the side of the road, and Momma ran out the door. She started to vomit on the side of the road.

“Yuck!” Megan screamed. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit.

Momma got back in the car without saying anything. She fell asleep right away, and ten minutes later she woke up and started yelling about how she had to use the bathroom.

And that’s how our trip went. Momma would fall and asleep and less than thirty minutes later she would have to pee.

At one o’clock, the time we were supposed to be arriving in Florida, we still had another hour to go, and everyone was starving.

“I want Wendy’s!” Megan screamed at the top of her lungs when Daddy asked what did we want to eat.

“No, McDonald’s!” Noel screamed. She started to scream “I’m lovin’ it®” over and over again.

“Please stop, honey,” Momma said. She sounded like she was dizzy, and she looked like she could vomit again.

Noel stopped and then started pointing at a sign that had a picture of McDonald’s one it. She kept pointing in the direction of the sign even when it was out of sight. After about two minutes though she stopped and started staring at her hand.

“Natalie, honey bear, what do you want to eat?” Daddy asked.

“I want some greasy fries,” I said in a desirous voice. Rehab food is not much better than hospital food. It’s all healthy too, which isn’t a bad thing but eating that food for two months makes you want some McDonald’s fries real bad.

McDonald’s it is,” Daddy said.

“Good,” Momma said. “I have got to use the restroom.”

We got off, used the bathroom, and ate lunch. We got stuck in traffic once we hit Berkshire County, and didn’t arrive in Florida until three P.M.

“The sign with the snowman!” Megan screamed when the sign appeared. Momma and Daddy let out a well held sign. Yule, who had been here before, started to amaze me by telling me what was coming up next and the names of trees. Noel didn’t really seem to care and just sucked her finger. Jaci looked excited, and I just couldn’t stop smiling.

“I’m home. I’m finally home,” I said as we pulled up into the B&B driveway.

I saw that someone had put up a wheelchair ramp. Virginia, Emily, and Regina ran out of the house and to the car.

“You’re here!” Virginia cried as I got out of the car. “There’s so much to tell. First I think I should tell you that Darcy didn’t take anyone to Homecoming in October. Second, Ms. O’Donnell has a BOYFRIEND! He’s her next door neighbor, and yours truly got the two of them together! Mrs. Stewart became a Christian. Jessie-Maria is on her way. Ms. Donna is calling her now. We thought you’d guys never show up. Oh, um, who’s this dude?”

“Slow down,” I laughed. “This is my big brother Yule.”

“You have a brother?” Emily, Regina, and Virginia said at the same time.

“Long story,” I said. “Where’s Darcy?”

“Who knows,” Virginia said running up the B&B steps.

“Nice of ya to mention me,” Yule joked as I rolled up the wheelchair ramp.

“You know I love you,” I said. Yule laughed.

Nothing about the B&B had changed. It was the same was when we left. Darcy was standing in the arch looking unsure of what to do.

“Darcy!” I shouted. I rolled as fast as I could and gave Darcy a huge hug.

“Can’t…breathe…,” Darcy said.

“Sorry,” I said letting go.

“Somebody’s excited,” Darcy said. He looked the same except he was taller. His voice had changed.

“Put me down!” I shouted as Darcy picked me up out of my wheelchair.

Darcy laughed.

“You’re strong,” I said. “Put me down.”

“You’re heavy,” Darcy laughed. “Nope.” I smiled. Darcy looked at Yule.

“Darcy, this is my big brother, Yule,” I said. Darcy’s face was priceless. He almost dropped me.

“Haven’t I seen you before?” Darcy asked.

“Um, yeah, I’m a relative of Fowler Stewart,” Yule said. He hurried towards the restaurant.

Darcy put me back into my wheelchair and pushed me into the resturant.

Jessie-Maria came running into the restaurant and fainted.

“Sean? Sean, are you all right?” Yule asked walking up to Jessie-Maria’s limp body. He ran his fingers through her newly highlighted hair. He gave one of those memorable laughs. He picked Jessie-Maria’s body up and set her down in a booth.

Jessie-Maria came too soon after that. She looked at Yule in disbelief.

“Hey, Blondie,” Yule laughed.

“My hair is not blonde!” Jessie-Maria argued. “I got it highlighted. My dad wouldn’t in a million years let me dye my hair.”

“I bet he fainted when he saw your hair,” Yule smiled. Jessie-Maria shook her head and laughed.

“Wait, you two know each other?” I asked. A sweet smile came to Jessie-Maria’s face. She took a necklace off of her neck. On it instead of a pendant there was a class ring on the chain.

“You actually wear it? I thought you would just stash it away in your underwear drawer,” Yule said.

“Actually,” Jessie-Maria said with embarrassment in her voice, “This was the first time I’ve taken it off in two years.”

Yule put the necklace back on Jessie-Maria’s neck; Jessie-Maria’s face lit up more than the New York City night skyline.

“I’m lost,” Virginia said. She was pouting, and I laughed.

“Let’s see,” Jessie-Maria said. “I met Yule two years ago. I was volunteering at a hospital/rehabilitation center. Yule had been shot in the hip and was acting like a snake” Yule laughed. “Nobody who was paid to work there wanted to work with him so they had me, a ten to eleven year old girl, take care of him. I had to do everything for him, even feed and dress him which made no sense because he had a hip injury. For some reason I was the only person he didn’t shun. After a while I started to love this grump, and it turns out the feeling was mutual. I convinced the Johnson’s to let me stay long enough to help Yule out. When he got better, the Johnson’s called Mr. Bill, and I was gone. But before I left Yule gave me his freshman class ring. It was way too big for my fingers so I put it on a chain and wore it around my neck…everywhere.”

“How romantic!” Virginia squealed.

“I’m outta here,” Yule said getting up and walking up the steps. Jessie-Maria laughed and smiled.

“Yule never said anything about a girl,” I said shaking my head.

“How did you meet him anyway?” Virginia asked. “And how in the world is he your brother? Are your parents adopting him or something?”

“It’s a long story,” I said shaking my head.

“Well promise us that you’ll tell us all these long stories at the sleepover we’ve planned for you,” Emily blurted.

“Emily!” Jessie-Maria, Virginia, and Regina cried. “It was supposed to be a surprise!”

“Ooops…,” Emily said blushing.

“Come here!” I cried opening my arm. The girls gave me a hug that hurt my ribs so badly, but the hug was worth it.

**

For dinner just about everyone in Florida crammed into the restaurant to come see me. I received lots more flowers and candy…and a lot of hugs.

Mr. Stewart and Timmy came late. When Timmy showed up, Jaci practically flew into Timmy’s arms. Timmy carried Jaci to the least crowded part of the restaurant, and they started talking about a mile a minute.

I noticed Momma made herself absent when Mr. Stewart showed up. When he spotted Yule and Noel, I thought he was going to drop down dead.

“Grandpa! You won’t believe it! Cousin Yule and Cousin Noel are Natalie’s brother and sister!” Emily shouted when Mr. Stewart walked towards the table she was sitting at with Jessie-Maria, Yule, Noel, Virginia, Darcy, and me on the end.

Oh, he better believe it.

“Hello, sir,” Yule said offering his hand. There was sadness and pain in his eyes. Mr. Stewart’s eyes were as cold as stone.

“Hello, son,” Mr. Stewart said shaking his hand. The words seemed to stab Yule’s heart. It was like Mr. Stewart was talking of code. He was recognizing Yule as his son, but nobody would give a second thought about it.

“And hello, Noel,” Mr. Stewart said to Noel sweetly. She looked at Mr. Stewart’s forehead for a second and then went back to stealing food off of Yule’s and my plate.

“I wonder what’s up with him,” Emily mumbled as Mr. Stewart walked away. “He’s never changed moods like that.”

Yule just put a big mouth full of macaroni and cheese in his mouth.

“So how do you like the new menu?” Ms. Donna asked walking up to the table.

“I really like the mac and cheese,” I said rubbing my belly. Ms. Donna smiled.

“I decided that two choices were just too plain,” Ms. Donna said. “So I added macaroni and cheese, baked and fried chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, and hamburgers. I’m thinking about adding pizza!”

“That would be so good,” Virginia said. “Pizza is the one thing I haven’t master yet.”

Ms. Donna laughed and walked away.

“FOWLER STEWART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Everyone looked to the door where Mrs. Stewart was standing. She was mad and looked ready to throw the book in her hand at Mr. Stewart.

“Lori,” Mr. Stewart said looking at the book in Mrs. Stewart’s hand and not her eyes, “not here.”

“Yes, here!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. “The whole world deserves to know the snake of a husband I have!”

“Lori,” Mr. Stewart said with a shaky voice. “What are you talking about?”

“This!” Mrs. Stewart yelled opening the book. “Explain yourself!”

Even from afar I could see that the book was a photo album. I couldn’t really see the pictures but I was sure they were baby pictures of some sort.

“And this!” Mrs. Stewart screamed flipping the page. The entire room gasped.

Mrs. Stewart started to walk around the room showing just about everyone the picture. It was a picture of my mom. She was holding either Yule or Noel in her arms. She looked young and scared; she had several scares on face. Mr. Stewart was in the corner looking at the baby in Momma’s arms. His expression was downright scary.

“And this!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. She looked around for Momma, and when she didn’t see her, she handed Daddy two pieces of paper.

“Read it! Read them both!” Mrs. Stewart cried. Daddy hesitated for a second, but he didn’t dare deify Mrs. Stewart in this mood.

“Name: Yule Nicholas Walters-Stewart. Date of birth: August 1st. Place of birth: Berkshire Pittsfield Hospital. Parents: Fowler Stewart and Riley Anne Walters,” Daddy read.

“That’s enough of that one,” Mrs. Stewart said. “Read the other one.”

“Name: Noel Joy Baldwin-Stewart. Date of birth: December 25th. Place of birth: The Hospital of Tampa, Florida. Parents: Fowler Stewart and Riley Anne Baldwin,” Daddy read.

“That’s quite enough,” Mrs. Stewart said.

Everyone was staring at Mr. Stewart. Mr. Stewart was looking around for Momma, but she still hadn’t come back. Mr. Stewart looked mad.

“Lori, I can explain everything,” Mr. Stewart said.

“Then explain!” Mrs. Stewart screamed.

“Not here,” Mr. Stewart said. “Let’s go home and talk about it.”

Mrs. Stewart looked reluctant.

“Fine,” Mrs. Stewart said gritting her teeth. She marched out of the restaurant, and Mr. Stewart followed.

Momma walked into the restaurant looking sick. Everyone stared at her with sad and companionate looks.

“What did I miss?” Momma asked.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty-One

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule sighed and put the cigarette out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re lucky, kid. The hardest thing you’ve had to deal with is sleep problems,” Yule said looking at me.

“My dad was murdered,” I blurted. Yule pulled him into a hug.

“So was mine,” Yule whispered. “He got involved in a fight. He told me to stay in the car, but when I heard gunshots I jumped into action. I saw right away that my father had been shot. I ran out to to try and save him, but before I could reach him I was shot in the hip. That’s why I have a limp.”

“I was five when he died,” I said letting tears slip from my eyes.

“I was fourteen,” Yule said rocking me a little. “I’m sorry. I just assumed your parents were divorced.”

“It’s ok,” I shrugged. “Is it all right if I ask what happened to your mother?”

“Sure,” Yule shrugged. “She died of a drug overdose. I found her on our kitchen floor. I tried to do CPR on her, but it was too late.”

“I’m sorry, Yule,” I said hugging him back.

“Why would God not let me save my parents? Why would he take them away from me? Ok, so they weren’t the best parts in the world. They didn’t even seem to notice Noel and me, but you know what. I cared about them. I loved them. I watched both of my parents die. Why would God do that to me? Why? I trusted that Guy with my life and this is what He gives me in return?” Yule said. He was angry, but he was speaking from the heart.

“I don’t know why, Yule,” I said. “But I do know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. I don’t know why God let my foot break? I don’t know why I struggle with insomnia. But I do know why I had to move here to New York.”

“Why?” Yule asked.

“To meet you and Noel,” I smiled.

“You’re something else, kid,” Yule said.

I smiled and hugged him tighter.

“I’ve learned that you just gotta trust God. God will save you. It just might not be in the way that you expected,” I said. “And I never expected this.”

Yule smiled at me.

“So you’re asking me to trust Him?” Yule asked.

“Only if you want to,” I shrugged.

“Good. Cause I want to,” Yule said. “I want to believe in Him more than I never imagined I would; it’s just when bad things happens it’s hard to really believe. I’ve spent the past two years searching for something that was right in my backyard.”

Momma walked out of the hospital door with tears in her eyes. Noel followed looking equally as sad.

“Yule, I’m…so sorry,” Momma cried. “Your Grandmother’s gone.”

Yule held back a cry. Momma walked over and hugged him.

“Cry out to Jesus,” I whispered repeating Jaci’s advice. “Lay it down. Trust Him.”

Tears fell out of Yule’s eyes.

“I’ve never cried before,” Yule cried. “It feels…so good.”

“Keep crying to Jesus,” Momma smiled. “It does a world of good.”

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen next,” Yule said as Noel hugged him. “But I’m just going to have to trust Him.”

Noel nodded.

“Trust,” Noel said. And Yule nodded.

Trust I repeated to myself over and over again.

**

 “Now,” Mrs. Betty Stewart’s lawyer, Lester Chadwick, said adjusting his glasses, “Mrs. Stewarts will leaves all the money in her bank account, a total of ten thousand dollars, to her two grandchildren, Yule and Noel Stewart. Her will also states who she wishes to be the legal guardian of her grandchildren.”

“Are Noel and I staying together?” Yule asked nervously.

“Yes,” Mr. Chadwick said looking at my mother. “Shall I read from the will.”

Yule nodded, while Noel looked at the floor.

“’In my bones I know death is upon me. I have recently been given custody of my grandchildren after their mother’s tragic death. When I die and Fowler is going to hate me for this, I want all legal custody to go to their mother, Riley Anne Walters of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, no custody will be given to their father Fowler Stewart. And if Ms. Walters is married partial custody will go to their new stepfather. Well I guess since she is their mother and she was forced to give up any custody…they really are in her custody and not mine. Riley’s a good woman and it ain’t her fault that that no good Fowler Stewart took a liking to her and got angry, twice, when he couldn’t have her,’” Mr. Chadwick read.

Everyone looked at Momma. Momma looked like she wanted to run. Yule looked at her. His eyes were wondering if this was real.

Momma got out of her chair and ran. We all got out of ours chairs (expect for Mr. Chadwick. He was packing up) and ran out after her.

“Mrs. Matthews…oh…!” Yule shouted grabbing Momma’s arm.

“He won’t hurt you if he finds out that I didn’t tell,” Momma said. “Fowler might do something to me, but he won’t hurt anybody if he finds not I’m not the one who told. Steve, take care of them.”

“Wait, so you’re leaving?” I asked angry. No wonder she acted so weird when Yule and Noel were mentioned.

“What else is there to do?” Momma asked. “One person has already died because of this. If I don’t leave somebody else is gonna get hurt or worse.”

“One person has died, but many have suffered,” Jaci said. Her voice was different. Her voice had none of her usual politeness. Her voice was tough, scolding, and rude. New York City was really changing her.

“Excuse me?” Momma asked surprised.

“I used to think that Mrs. Walters was just some mean woman who was rude beyond understanding, but now I know why she’s so nasty. Her daughter left. Her daughter left her. She tried to convince herself that you were kidnapped or something, but you left on your own free will just because you were scared of some man! And you’re going to leave your husband and your children just because someone found out? That’s really low and pathetic,” Jaci said.

I nearly cried. And not just because of the thought of my mother leaving. Jaci sounded so different. It was strange and foreign. But what wasn’t now a days?

Momma didn’t say anything. All the desire to run away drained out of her eyes. She didn’t look mad. She looked regretful. She looked guilty. She let tears fall from her eyes.

I looked at everyone else. Mr. Steve looked angry. Jaci looked sorry for ever speaking to Momma that way. Yule’s face was unreadable. He looked upset, but there was something else in it. I had no idea how I looked, but I felt sorry for Momma. Noel lingered close to Momma, and looked down at the ground. She didn’t look like she understood, but she did. She was just showing it in her own way.

“Who’s hungry?” Momma asked drying her eyes.

**

“So what do I call you?” Yule asked Momma at dinner. Mr. Steve chose some Chinese restaurant. Everything looked weird and smelled funny.

“Anything but Riley,” Momma said with her mouth full. “Mom, Momma, Mommy, Mum, Mother, Ma, Mrs. Matthews, Ms. Riley, whichever one is fine.”

Yule nodded and went back to looking at the weird thing rolled up on his plate.

“Look,” Momma said putting down her fork. “I don’t want this to be awkward. I want you and Noel to know that I love you. I always have, I do know, and always will.”

“I know,” Yule nodded. “I’m just still in shock.”

“That makes the two of us,” I said as I sipped my strange looking drink mixture. “Now I know why you didn’t name me Noel.”

Momma gave a sad smile. I looked over at Mr. Steve. He looked mad.

“What do I call you, sir?” Yule asked Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve looked shocked.

“Um, Mr. Steve, Mr. Matthews, Dad, Father, I don’t know,” Mr. Steve shrugged. Yule nodded.

“Sir, if Noel and I are going to be a problem…,” Yule started but Mr. Steve put his hand up.

“You’re not going to be a problem. I’m just surprised, mad, shocked. There’s a lot going through my mind right now,” Mr. Steve said. He looked over at me.

“I’m not hungry,” I huffed. Momma smiled at me.

“I guess if everyone’s finished we can leave,” Momma said. Everyone got up and walked towards the car.

“I don’t understand,” Megan whispered in my ear when I picked her up.

“What don’t you understand? Yule and Noel are you’re older brother and older sister,” I said.

“Oh,” Megan said. “They’re nice.”

I nodded and gave her a kiss.

I put her in her car seat and sat down in my seat. I tried to think about how I was feeling. I looked over at Yule.

“Hey, kid,” Yule said. “You ok?”

“I’m trying to figure that out,” I said. I stared at his eyes.

“I wish I had Momma’s eyes,” I blurted. “You’ve got them.” Yule smiled.

“I guess that makes sense,” Yule said. He started to tickle me and I l started to laugh hysterically.

“My sister is ticklish,” Yule laughed. I tried to catch my breath.

“I’m ok,” I smiled. “Everything is going to be fine.”

I looked over at Mr. Steve. His eyes were focused on the road but he was clearly upset. He hated me. He hated Yule. He hated Noel.

Everything’s going to be fine…in time I thought. I put my head on the headrest and closed my eyes.

**

“Stop. Stop.”

I woke up to find myself in Yule’s arms.

“I’m sorry. Did I wake up?” Yule asked.

“What am I supposed to stop?” I asked.

“Your legs were moving,” Yule said. “You were trying to sleepwalking. You were kicking me.”

I smiled sheepishly.

“I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t home,” A familiar voice said.

“Abby!” I cried leaping from Yule’s arms.

“Natalie!” Abby cried hugging me. “Have you grown in two months?”

I laughed.

“Don’t forget about me,” Zach said. I gave Zach a hug.

“What are you guys doing here?” Mr. Steve asked opening the apartment door.

“I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving,” Abby said. “We thought we’d surprise you. Timmy wanted to come, but school called. Oh, well I have news that just can’t be told over the phone.”

Abby looked at Yule and Noel.

“Now who are you?” Abby asked Yule.

“Abby,” Mr. Steve sighed. “Meet your brother.”

Abby fainted.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Fifteen

**

“How was work?” Momma asked Mr. Steve at dinner.

“Noisy,” Mr. Steve said. “I don’t know if I’d rather work with children or adults. How was your day?”

“It was all right,” Momma said. “But we stayed in all day watching TV.” Momma looked at me.

“Hey, my idea of a good TV day is not Blue’s Clues, Dora, Mickey Mouse, and Max & Ruby,” I said.

“Let me guess,” Mr. Steve said tickling Megan. “Megan had the remote.”

“Yes,” Jaci, Momma, and I said.

Mr. Steve laughed.

“What time did the cable guy get here?” Mr. Steve asked. “Late, I guess?”

“Nope, he came right on time,” Momma said.

“Natalie practically stalked him,” Jaci joked.

I laughed. That’s something Abby would say not Jaci.

“Does Darcy have competition?” Mr. Steve joked.

“No!” I cried. “He said I reminded him of his little sister, and he’s probably too old for me.”

“Sulking?” Mr. Steve joked.

“Nope,” I said. “He’s more like a big brother.”

Momma started coughing like crazy.

“Did something go down the wrong pipe?” Mr. Steve asked patting Momma’s back.

“Um, sure,” Momma said taking a sip of water.

“You ok?” I asked.

“Just fine,” Momma said. “So what should we watch tonight?”

**

I woke up feeling cold. I opened my eyes and found that half my body was jammed into the refrigerator. I quickly got out of the fridge. I was ending up in the strangest places.

“Morning, Natalie,” Jaci yawned. “Ready for your first day of school?”

The past week had been boring. Momma had tried to get me to go out and go sightseeing, but I didn’t feel like it. I was feeling homesick. I wanted to go back to Florida. I wanted to explore the Mohawk Trail with Darcy, not the Empire State Building.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I sighed.

“It makes me feel better that you’re going to an advanced school and not a regular public school,” Jaci said touching my arm that had been in the fridge. “Your arm is cold.”

She touched my other arm.

“I was looking in the fridge for something to eat,” I lied. Well maybe it wasn’t a lie. I could have been looking for something to eat. It wouldn’t be the first time I slept ate.

“Oh, I’ll make you some breakfast,” Jaci smiled. “How do you like your eggs?”

“Scrambled,” I said.

“I’m ready to face the world!” Megan screamed running into the kitchen.

“And how to you like your eggs?” Jaci smiled picking her up.

“Hard,” Megan smiled. I laughed.

“One hardboiled egg coming up,” Jaci said turning the stove on. I went to go get dressed.

“Morning, Natalie,” Momma said. “Natalie, it’s going to be eighty degrees today. I’m sorry but you’re going to have to wear a short sleeve shirt.”

I sighed and walked back into my room and changed my shirt.

“Morning,” Mr. Steve said rushing from his bedroom.

“Natalie! I made you some bacon too,” Jaci said putting the plate on the counter.

“Thanks,” I said. I said grace and started eating.

“And here’s your hardboiled egg,” Jaci said putting another plate on the counter. “I started peeling for you.”

“Thank you,” Megan smiled. “Thank you God. Amen.”

I smiled.

“You better hurry up if I’m going to give you a ride to school,” Mr. Steve said after he finished his milk. I put my last little bit of egg in my mouth and got my backpack.

“Have a wonderful day!” Jaci smiled.

I huffed. Not likely.

“Be good,” Mr. Steve said when he dropped me off.

I didn’t answer him. I just walked into the school and didn’t look back.

There was a line to get your school schedule. I stood in line for fifteen minutes. The girl in front of me did not want to have gym first and got into a fight with the lady who was handing out the schedules.

“Name,” The lady at the front desk said flatly.

“Natalie Zoey Matthews. Grade Eight,” I said.

The woman found my schedule and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I smiled. The woman looked shocked. I stood off to the side to see what my first class was. Advanced Math. Well I might as well get it out of the way.

It took me ten minutes to find Mrs. Roberts Advanced Class. It was in the front of the school by the main office. I thought that 10B would be in the back of the school but the ones and twos were in the back of the school. Well at least I knew were history class was.

I let a girl go before me into class. As she passed me I noticed she was quite pregnant. She couldn’t be any older than me. I actually felt sorry for her.

She turned towards me. The look on her face was sad and lonely. She had soft long silky red hair. Her grey eyes were hard but I saw some softness and hurt in them……….and maybe a little bit of beauty in them.

“Excuse me,” She said quietly. She walked towards the back of the class.

Daddy, you better be right about finding heaven everywhere.

“What’s on your arms, polka dots?” A girl with silky blonde hair laughed.

“It’s called Psoriasis,” I snapped. “Don’t worry. You can’t catch it.”

I walked to the back of the class and sat next to the girl.

She looked at me but didn’t make eye contact. She looked almost uncomfortable. She moved around in the chair. I told myself she was just uncomfortable in the chair.

“Hi, my name is Natalie,” I said offering my hand. She didn’t even look at me. I couldn’t tell if she heard me or not.

“Hi, I’m Natalie,” I said louder still offering my hand. She looked at my feet and turned away. I sighed and opened my math book.

I looked over at her one more time. Her elbow slowly knocked her pencil over the other side of her desk. She noticed that her pencil wasn’t on her desk and started to freak out.

“My pencil!” She cried. “Pencil!”

She was the most distressed and desperate person I’ve ever seen and it was all over a pencil. I got up and picked up her pencil.

“Thank you,” She said with some trouble. Relief washed over her face.

“Welcome,” I shrugged. She looked at the pencil with the most admiration in the world. The pencil was almost down the the eraser. It was perfectly shaped and just waiting to be broken. There was no way she could possibly use this pencil to write anything down. She then did something that shocked me. She licked the pencil. She then took another pencil out of her backpack and started to doddle.

Mrs. Roberts walked into the classroom. She walked to the back and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. She pulled away quickly.

“Noel, are you doing ok?” Mrs. Roberts asked.

“You all right,” I stuttered. Mrs. Roberts smiled.

“If anybody gives you any trouble you know you can come to me,” Mrs. Roberts said. Noel didn’t respond to her but Mrs. Roberts seemed satisfied.

“You must be my new student,” Mrs. Roberts smiled. “Welcome.”

I smiled. Mrs. Roberts noticed my rashes but she didn’t say anything.

“Welcome to advanced eight grade math,” Mrs. Roberts said when she got back to the front of the class.

I stole one more look at at Noel and then paid attention to what Mrs. Roberts was saying.

**

“How was school?” Mr. Steve asked when he picked me up.

“All right, I guess,” I said. The rest of the day went fine. I didn’t see Noel the rest of the day but that didn’t mean she wasn’t on my mind.

“Make any new friends?” Mr. Steve asked.

“Nope,” I answered.

“Well, you’re a very likeable girl. I’m sure you’ll make some friends soon,” Mr. Steve said.

“Whatever you say,” I mumbled.

“People teased you didn’t they?” Mr. Steve asked.

“One girl called me polka dots,” I said. “But its ok.”

Mr. Steve sighed as we pulled up into the parking garage.

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve started but I walked out the car.

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Fourteen

**

“How do I look?” Mr. Steve asked.

Nothing looked different about him. He wore the same suit he wore everyday as a teacher. You would think that if he got some big job as a businessman he would buy himself a new suit.

“I don’t like the tie,” I said just to be saying something.

“What’s wrong with my tie?” Mr. Steve asked. “You got me this tie for Father’s Day!”

“It says ‘I’m a math teacher!’ not ‘I’m accountant!’” I said. Ok, so there really wasn’t any difference. The tie had pi, addition, multiplication, and division symbols on it.

Mr. Steve laughed.

“I’ll just tell them that my daughter gave it to me,” Mr. Steve said. He gave Momma a kiss and walked out the door.

“When’s the cable guy coming?” I groaned. Momma laughed.

“Can’t you survive one day without TV?” Momma asked. “Anyway there’s nothing good on TV especially on Mondays.”

“School doesn’t start until next week,” I whined.

“Go read a book,” Momma said. “We can go to Central Park. Do a little window shopping.”

“And miss the cable guy,” I added. Momma shook her head and laughed.

The doorbell rang. I ran to open the door, but Momma stopped me.

“This isn’t Florida,” Momma said. “Always check before you answer the door.”

Another disadvantage to living in the city.

“Who is it?” Momma asked looking through the peephole.

“I’m Yule Stewart. I’m here to install your cable box. I have my work badge and your appointment arrangement papers,” The man on the other side of the door said.

Momma’s face screamed unbelief. She opened the door and her face fell.

The man standing in the doorway couldn’t be more than eighteen. He was very handsome(don’t get any ideas). He was wearing the cable company’s uniform. His dark brown hair was slicked back. He had hazel eyes that looked exactly like Momma’s. His eyes were sunk into his face with age but like he said he couldn’t be older than eighteen. He was smiling, and you could easily see that his teeth were crooked. His voice had a New York accent. It sounded tough, but for some reason it was music to my ears.

“I…um..,” Momma stared. She blinked at him in disbelief.

“Are you all right, ma’am?” Yule asked Momma.

“I’m fine,” Momma said forcing a smile to her face. “Can I see your work badge?”

“Here,” Yule said handing it to Momma. Momma looked at it and nodded.

“Come in,” Momma said.

Yule limped into the apartment.

“Where would you like the main cable box to be?” Yule asked.

“This TV right here,” Momma said pointing to the family room TV. Yule nodded. He noticed the Christmas tree and started laughing.

“Oops, sorry,” Yule said when he bumped into me.

“That’s ok,” I smiled. “I’m Natalie.”

“Yule,” Yule said offering his hand. “Natalie. I like the way that sounds. My sister’s having a baby. A girl. Every night she asks me if I’ve found any new names.”

“It means born on Christmas day,” I said shaking his hand.

“That’s funny,” Yule said moving the TV a little. “That’s what my name means.”

“I know,” I said. “I guess you guessed from the fact that we have a fake golden Christmas tree up in August that we’re Christmas freaks.”

“Yeah, I guessed,” Yule nodded hooking some cables up.

“My mom and I love Christmas. It hasn’t quite rubbed off on my stepdad yet,” I said. Yule smiled.

“I’m hungry,” Megan said walking into the family room.

“You just waking up?” I asked.

“Nope,” Megan said. “Jaci was dressing me. She wanted me to wear my blue polka dot dress outfit, but I wanted to wear my purple polka dot dress. She had to look through the boxes to find it.”

Megan screamed when she saw Yule.

“What’s wrong?” Momma asked walking from the kitchen.

“Stranger Danger!” Megan screamed pointing to Yule.

“Megan, honey, he’s here to set up the cable,” Momma said. “Can you say ‘hi Yule?’”

“Hi, You,” Megan said not able to pronounce Yule.

Yule laughed.

“Hi, Megan,” Yule said. “That outfit looks very pretty on you.”

“I told you, Jaci!” Megan cried running into the kitchen. Jaci walked out of Megan’s room.

“Welcome,” Jaci said to Yule. “Can I interest you in a cup of tea?”

Yule laughed.

“No, I’m just setting the cable box up,” Yule said. He moved the TV back. The cable box was set up on that TV. That was fast.

“Would you do the honors?” Yule asked handing me the remote.

I hit the power button and the news popped up.

“Where would you like the three other cable boxes?” Yule asked.

“In the kitchen, the second room on the left, and the junior cable box goes in the first room on the left,” Momma said. Yule nodded and walked towards the kitchen. I followed.

“Is it hard to set up cable boxes?” I asked.

“Nope,” Yule said. “But fixing them is. Last week all the cable boxes in one building crashed. I spent two days taking apart the cable boxes and replacing the parts. Ugh.”

“There are so many steps,” I said as I watched Yule. “How do you remember them all?”

“Photographic memory,” Yule said pointing to his brain. “Personally, I don’t know how all the other suckers do it either.”

I laughed.

“How bout you do it this time?” Yule asked Megan. Megan took the remote, turned the TV on, and then turned to Dora.

Yule, Momma, and I laughed.

“Uno!” Megan shouted.

Yule walked off towards the hallway, and I was about to follow but Momma stopped me.

“Natalie,” Momma said, “I think you’re bothering him.”

“She’s fine,” Yule said waving his hand. “It’s nice to be recognized every now and then.”

Momma nodded. Her face looked sad. She quickly turned back to making Megan breakfast.

“So you said you have a sister,” I said as Yule set up Momma and Mr. Steve’s cable box.

“Yup,” Yule said. “I see you got two.”

“Three actually,” I said. “My oldest sister is married and lives in Massachusetts.”

Yule nodded.

“I bet you miss her,” Yule said nodding his head in understanding. “You’re not from New York. I’ve never heard your accent before.”

“I’m Floridian, but my father was British,” I said

“I’m guessing this is your room?” Yule laughed walking into my room.

“Yeah,” I laughed. Yule looked at the pictures of Darcy and me.

“That your little boyfriend?” Yule asked pointing at the pictures. “I didn’t think you were old enough to have a boyfriend.”

“You could call him that,” I said. “I’m twelve but I’ll be thirteen in November.”

“That kid looks familiar,” Yule mumbled as he moved my TV. “Did you say your twelve? No wonder you remind me of my sister. You aren’t much younger than her.”

“Oh, so you have another sister,” I said.

“Nope,” Yule said. “Just me and her.”

“But you said she was having a baby,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s um complicated. Since the trial hasn’t happened I can’t really say anything,” Yule said. “Finished.”

“You are fast,” I said. Yule smiled.

“And you have been a delight,” Yule said. “Natalie. I like that name.”

“I hope to see you again one day,” I said.

“Me too,” Yule said. “If your cable box ever has a problem just ask for Yule.”

“I’ll remember that,” I said. “Goodbye.”

“Bye,” Yule smiled. And with that he walked out the door, but not out of my life.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Thirteen

**

I tried to breathe as the car drove away. This wasn’t it. This wasn’t goodbye. We weren’t actually leaving Florida. There was still time for this nightmare to end.

I had only one week to try to stop this horrible move. Maybe if I prayed real hard Momma and Mr. Steve wouldn’t like the noisy city and decide to stay in quite Florida.

“So there are five boroughs of New York City correct?” Jaci asked. There were tears in her voice. She was mad about this too. But she had nothing to worry about. Timmy had proposed. They were getting married. They had Mr. Steve’s blessing. She would be moving back here within a year. I was still a minor and would still be living under Mr. Steve’s roof for six more years.

“Yes. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island,” Mr. Steve said.

“Which part will be living in?” Jaci asked.

“Well my job is in Manhattan so probably Manhattan,” Mr. Steve said. Jaci nodded.

“Does a man make hattan there?” Megan asked. I looked at her.

“No, baby,” Mr. Steve laughed. “What makes you think that?”

“It’s called Man hattan,” Megan said. “I’m happy though. I don’t like hattan. Yucky!”

I stared at her. What in the world was hattan?

“What’s hattan, honey?” Momma said almost reading my thoughts.

“It’s a secret,” Megan said. “Every time you ask they never tell you.”

“Who are they?” Momma asked.

“I don’t know,” Megan shrugged. “They are they.”

Momma looked at Mr. Steve. The look on their faces said, “That’s weird.”

**

It took us almost four hours to get to New York City. Four hours between Florida and New York City. That was a long ways away.

Mr. Steve showed us the building he would be working in. It was a skyscraper of course.

There were several apartment buildings in the area, and we visited just about every one.

“What do you think about this one?” Mr. Steve asked. “It’s big enough for everyone to have their own room. And there still would be a guest room.”

This place could never become home. The B&B was home and always would be.

“Free!” Megan shouted running around the empty apartment. Mr. Steve smiled.

“It’s very nice,” Jaci said politely.

“Natalie?” Momma asked.

She didn’t want me to say anything, trust me.

“Natalie, this is a family decision. If you don’t like the apartment…,” Mr. Steve started.

“It’s not that I don’t like the apartment. The apartment in general is fine, but it never will be home. Florida is home. The B&B is home. This apartment is never going to become home. New York City will never take Florida’s place. Not ever,” I said as calmly as I could.

Mr. Steve seemed relieved I hadn’t started yelling and annoyed our possible new neighbors.

“Well if anyone likes the place,” Mr. Steve said. Thankfully, he didn’t dare look at me.

No, this couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t be leaving Florida like this. Not this quickly. No, not like this.

**

This was it. I couldn’t believe that I was actually leaving Florida.

After all I’ve been through this year. Last Christmas when we got here I would have never imagined that I’d fall in love with this place, but I was in love with it bad. I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. It would take a thousand lifetimes to get to know everyone in New York City.

I had friends here. I didn’t really have friends back in Florida. I usually ate lunch with the people who liked art and books. We had something in common to talk about, but as far as having a real good friend who you knew you could count on no matter what I never had one until I came here.

I could count on Regina, Darcy, Virginia, Jessie-Maria, and even Emily to have my back. They were my best friends (well Emily might not be a bestie but she was a closeie). My heart broke to leave them, especially Darcy.

I had tried everything. I pleaded to stay and live with Abby. I tried to get them to let me stay here during the week and be in New York on the weekends. Nothing worked. Mr. Steve was determined to ‘keep the family together’. This wasn’t a family. This was a mess. What Mr. Steve saw as a ‘family’. I saw as a horrible attempt to act like we were happy. We weren’t happy. We were on the edge of our seat just waiting for the ‘fight’ to happen. The fight that would end this all. Or maybe it was just me who was waiting for this to happen. Sooner or later Mr. Steve had to get sick of me, and just wanna leave. I mean how much can one person take?

Jaci was just as upset as I was about leaving Florida, but she was too polite to even frown. Megan was no help. She wanted to go to the big Toys R Us in NYC. Some little sister. Abby had been in shock for about a week. She kept saying that Mr. Steve should do what was best for the family. Well leaving Florida wasn’t best for me, and wasn’t I part of his idea of a family?

It seemed like the entire town was there to watch us leave. Everybody looked sad, but nobody was sadder than me well maybe Virginia was. She kept complaining that she would resort to hanging out with Emily and have to hear her talk about how wonderful Nelson was.

Darcy had barely uttered a word to me all week. It kinda hurt me. Weren’t we supposed to be gushing over each other and trying to spend every possible second together?

“I’m going to miss you!” Virginia cried hugging me so tight I thought I was going to die.

“I’m going to miss you too,” Regina said hugging me not as tight.

“Me too,” Jessie-Maria said hugging me. “The twins are going to too.”

I smiled and let tears fall from my eyes.

“Natalie, we got off to a bad start. I’m not exactly the friendliest person in all of Massachusetts, but I like to think of you as a friend. And trust me. I don’t have too many friends,” Emily said to me. She gave me very light hug. I smiled and shook my head on the inside.

“You will be missed,” Nelson said. I smiled at him.

“Bye, Natalie,” Timmy said. “See you this summer…for the wedding I mean.”

I tried to punch him in the side, but since Timmy was so tall I had to settle for the stomach. Timmy laughed at my pathetic attempt.

I walked towards the car. Darcy wasn’t even there. So what? I was leaving, and if Darcy didn’t care why should that bother me?

“Natalie, wait!”

I turned around the find Darcy standing there.

“What?” I asked.

“I.I.I.,” Darcy tried. He soon gave up on his attempt at words and gave me the quickest kiss on the lips ever.

I stood there for a second staring into Darcy’s eyes. I climbed into the car.

“Bye!” I cried sticking my head out the window. Virginia, Jessie-Maria, Regina, and surprisingly Emily gave me tearfully goodbyes. Darcy said goodbye with tears in his eyes.

I blew kisses and then put my head in the car because I could feel Mr. Steve’s eyes on me.

I broke down hysterically crying in the backseat. And did Mr. Steve turn back? No, Mr. Steve did not.

**

I fell asleep after I cried for like forty minutes nonstop. I know that’s being childish, but I truly couldn’t stop. I tried after the first five but the tears kept pouring out. I hadn’t felt this kind of emotional attachment to Miami, but I had it bad with Florida. Florida was home now. It was where my friends where. It had people I loved and cared about. And most important: Darcy.

When I woke up I felt kinda stupid for crying over a boy, but Darcy wasn’t just any boy at least not me. He was special to me. He was the first guy I ever really really liked. His kiss was short but sweet.

“Whoa,” Megan said. I looked out the window, and skyscrapers met my eyes. We were in New York City already?

“Welcome to the Big Apple, girls!” Mr. Steve smiled. I scowled. We were almost four hours away from Florida.

“There are a lot of people,” Jaci said craning her neck to look out the window.

“There are over a million people in Manahan, and over eight million people in New York City. Jaci, honey, you’re gonna see a lot of people,” Mr. Steve said.

“What’s that?” Megan asked pointing to the newly finished One World Trade Center.

“It’s called the One World Trade Center or 1 WTC,” Mr. Steve said. “It’s the tallest building in New York City.”

“It’s pretty,” Megan said.

“Yes,” Mr. Steve said smiling a sad smile, “it’s pretty.”

I closed my eyes not wanting to think about the 9/11 attacks. A disadvantage to living in New York City: not feeling safe.

I sighed. I lived here now. I couldn’t believe I was one of eight million and no longer one of seven hundred.

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 Nine

**

“Let me get a picture,” Momma said.

It was the night of the dreaded Father-Daughter Dance. I was wearing a dress that matched Abby, Jaci, and Megan’s. Momma had come up with the idea. Jaci had been working nonstop for the past week (with a little help from Mrs. Stewart) making the dresses. The dresses were pretty, but I felt miserable in them. Not because my psoriasis was showing but because I was going to this dance. I ached to be with my father. I had just come from crying. I tried to make myself look happy but my eyes were still puffy.

“Smile,” Momma said. “Stinky feet!”

“Stinky feet!” Mr. Steve, Jaci, Abby, and Megan laughed. I just smiled.

“Are my girls ready?” Mr. Steve asked. We nodded and walked out the door.

My heart was beating so fast as we drove to the dance hall. When we arrived I almost threw up. I wished I had. I would have just told Mr. Steve that my strep throat was still lingering and he would have taken me home.

I saw that mostly everybody was already there. Emily was dancing with Zach, and Virginia and Mr. Hank were eating and laughing. Mr. Rivers and Sean were eating and making conversation.

Dinner was awful. The rest of the group talked and I of course said something every now and then but I couldn’t hide that there were tears in my voice.

After dinner Jaci and Mr. Steve started to dance. I knew tears were about to spill out of my eyes so I rushed off to the bathroom. I walked into a stall and started to cry my eyes out.

How dare my father ask me to make Mr. Steve my ‘father’. He would never be that to me. Virginia was dead wrong about him loving me. He was just doing this to make suffer. He didn’t care about me. He only cared about hurting me. He knew how much my heart was breaking at this moment and he did nothing to stop it.

I started to cry harder and stopped when I heard the bathroom door open.

“Natalie,” Abby’s voice said. “I know you’re in here.”

“Go away,” I cried. “I don’t want to talk to anyone.”

“What’s wrong?” Abby asked.

I might as well just tell her.

“My father was going to take me to a Father-Daughter Dance, but he died the day before,” I cried.

“Oh, Natalie,” Abby said. “I’m so sorry.”

I just cried.

“Does Dad know?” Abby asked.

“I don’t know,” I cried.

“Do you want me to tell him?” Abby asked.

“No!” I cried walking out of the stall. “What does he care?”

“Natalie, Dad loves you,” Abby said. “He knew that when he proposed to your mother that you were part of the deal. Mixing families is hard but love conquers all.”

“He doesn’t love me!” I cried. “He doesn’t care about me! If he really cared about me he wouldn’t have taken me to this dance!”

“Natalie,” Abby said getting angry. “Dad is not a mind reader. You just said that you don’t he knew about your father dying before the dance. How is he supposed to know what’s bothering you if you don’t tell him?”

I stared at her and cried.

“You don’t understand!” I cried.

“I understand perfectly!” Abby cried.

“No you don’t!” I cried.

“Yes, I do! You’re lying to yourself! You’re lying to yourself so you can keep one hurting Dad! Well, I thought you were more than that, Natalie!” Abby shouted. She walked out of the bathroom.

I looked in the mirror. I was a wreck. I just couldn’t believe Mr. Steve wasn’t trying to hurt me. Tears followed down. Why did my mom have to marry him?

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said walking into the bathroom.

“What do you want?” I barked.

“Abby just told me…I’m sorry,” Mr. Steve said.

“No, you’re not!” I cried. Mr. Steve was taken aback.

“Natalie, I..I really am sorry,” Mr. Steve said.

“No, you aren’t!” I cried

“I know you’re upset right now,” Mr. Steve said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that you’re my daughter and that I’m your father.”

“You are not my father! And just because a piece of paper says that I am your daughter doesn’t make it so!” I cried. I walked into a stall and slammed the door.

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said with tears in his voice.

“Go away,” I interrupted.

“Fine,” Mr. Steve said walking out of the bathroom.

I stayed in there for the rest of the night and just cried.

**

“Natalie,” Momma said the next day. She was helping me into my bridesmaids dress.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said knowing that she was going to say something about last night.

“We have to talk about it,” Momma said. “I know that this is been hard on you, but you can’t talk to your father like that.”

“Oh, what does he care?” I asked.

“A lot more than you could ever imagine,” Momma said. I shook my head.

“We have to do something about this,” Momma said.

“Can we talk about this some other day?” I asked. “It’s Abby’s wedding day.”

Momma sighed.

“Fine,” Momma said zipping up my dress.

I walked out of the room and down the steps.

“What happened to you last night?” Virginia asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said picking up a banana.

“Well if you ever want to talk about,” Virginia said. “You know that I’m here for you. Regina, Sean, and even Emily are here for you. If you ever want to talk to us, we’re here for you.”

I nodded and smiled. I had the best friends in the world. I gave Virginia a hug.

“Pretty!” Megan cried. I walked into the family room to find Abby in her wedding dress.

“Am I silly for getting married in the backyard?” Abby asked. I shook my head no.

“I’m so nervous,” Abby said. “What if I flub the vows?”

“Then it will be something funny to show your kids,” Ms. Donna said. Abby smiled.

“I’m ready,” Abby said.

“But Zach is not,” Mr. Steve said walking into the room. “He’s a mess. He sweated his shirt out!”

Abby laughed. Mr. Steve looked at me and then looked away.

“All the guest are here,” Jaci said walking into the house. “And Zach has changed his shirt.”

Jaci handed Abby her bouquet and Abby smiled.

“Here goes nothing,” Abby smiled.

The wedding party walked down the aisle and then Abby and Mr. Steve walked down the aisle. Zach beamed. Abby really did look pretty in the dress. Jaci smiled even though she was still just a tiny bit upset about not being able to make the dress.

I looked up and saw that Mr. Stewart was there. He wasn’t looking at Zach, but at Momma. I felt a little uneasy. Why in the world would he be looking at Momma?

“We are gathered here today to witness the union of Zach Stewart Davis and Abby Abigail Matthews. This town has watched the two of them grow up and this town is extremely proud of them both,” Pastor David said. “The couple has forgone the usually ‘I Do’s’ and they each have created a mash-up of vows.”

“Abby, I love you. Today is a very special day. Long ago you were just a dream and a prayer. This day like a dream come true the Lord Himself has answered that prayer. For today I promise to care for you, honor and protect you so long as we both shall live,” Zach promised.

“Zach, I love you. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. Through the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future I promise to be faithful to you. I will love, serve, and obey you as long as we both are alive,” Abby promised.

“The rings,” Pastor David smiled.

Darcy walked up with a pillow in his hand. I tried not to laugh.

“Abby, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live,” Zach said putting the ring on Abby’s figure.

“Zach, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my husband: to have and to hold, from this day forward. For better, for worse, for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; to have and to cherish, as long as we both shall live,” Abby said putting the ring on Zach’s finger.

“I know pronounce you man and wife,” Pastor David said. “Zach, you may kiss your bride.”

Zach removed Abby’s veil and kissed her.

Momma gave me the que to throw rose petals. Virginia, Regina, Emily, and I started to throw rose petals at Abby while Darcy, Timmy, Ned, and Nelson threw rice at Zach.

Abby and Zach laughed as Abby’s side of the aisle threw rose petals and Zach’s side threw rice while they were walking towards the house.

When they walked into the house everyone got up out of their chairs and walked into the house for the reception.

**

It was around ten o’clock. Most of the wedding guests were still here, just hanging out. Abby had changed from her wedding dress into a more comfortable reception dress.

I walked towards the kitchen to get a fork for my third piece of cake but stopped when I heard voices.

“Why should I tell you? It’s kept your mouth shut for seventeen years well mostly. You know their next on the list. You wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to them?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.

“You would never hurt them,” Momma voice said. Her voice was fearful but tender.

“Ok, probably not. But what about Natalie? Steve? Abby? Jaci? Megan? You wouldn’t want anything to happen to them would you?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.

“They don’t have to know the full story,” Momma’s voice cried.

“As much as I hate to hear you cry, no, Riley, darling, it’s what’s best,” Mr. Stewart’s voice said.

“Don’t call me darling,” Momma’s voice snapped. Mr. Stewart laughed.

I walked into the kitchen just as Mr. Stewart was walking out.

Momma looked shaken up. There was a bruise on her arm and tears in her eyes.

“Are you all right?” I asked. “What did Mr. Stewart want?”

“Nothing, just a fork,” Momma lied. I bit my tongue.

“Did you fall?” I asked.

“Yes, I fell,” Momma said.

“I also came for a fork. There aren’t any on the refreshment table,” I said.

“Oh, here,” Momma said handing me a fork. “I better go put some on the table.”

Momma quickly walked out of the kitchen. I stood there wondering what that was all about. What had Mr. Stewart and Momma been talking about? Did he give her that bruise and why in the world did he call her darling?

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

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

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

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

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

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

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

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

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

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

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

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

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

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

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

Abby laughed.

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

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Two

**

  February 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timmy walked through the restaurant door.

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

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

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

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

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

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Timmy smiled.

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

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

I looked over her shoulder.

I know we’re young

I know it’s soon

But I think I’m in love with you!

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

So I’m just going to say it

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

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

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

Love is patient

Love does not envy or boast

Love is not arrogant or rude

Love never fails

Love never rejoices at wrongdoing

Not irritable or resentful

Love does not insist on its own way

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

Love is kind so be my Valentine.

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

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

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

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

**

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

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

I have just one Valentine’s Day wish.

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

So what do you say?

Will you make my Valentine’s Day?

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

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

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

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

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

“Natalie?” Virginia asked walking into the bathroom.

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

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

“Liked,” I corrected.

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

There was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Who is it?” Virginia called.

“Darcy.”

I got up and walked into a stall.

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

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

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

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

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

I opened the bathroom stall door.

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

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

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

**

“I am so disgusted!”

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

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

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

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

“Yuck,” Regina shuddered.

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

She pushed it in my face.

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now it’s the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

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

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

“Yup,” Abby said showing us her ring.

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

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.!

I laughed.

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

Zach gave Abby a kiss and left.

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

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” Sean mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

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

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you do,” Aunt Jane said.

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

“Do,” Aunt Jane said.

“Don’t.”

“Do.”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t,” Aunt Jane said.

“Do,” Virginia messed up.

We burst out laughing and Virginia shook her head.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day, Daddy I thought.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-One

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

VROOM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“MOTHER!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“MOMMY!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Donna and Momma gave her a dirty look.

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll be fine,” Ms. Donna shrugged.

“Mom!” Darcy shouted again.

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

“Good your up.”

Dr. Walters looked at me and sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is everyone else ok?” I asked.

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

“Ball?” I asked.

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

I laughed knowing Virginia had something to do with this.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty

**

I hate the week before Valentine’s Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What! What!” I screamed excited.

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

“What is it?!” I asked impatiently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma walked towards the door and opened it.

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

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

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

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

“NATLAIE BALDWIN!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you ok?” Virginia asked.

“No,” I cry letting some tears escape.

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

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

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

“He was from England,” I started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia gave me a sly smile.

“What?” I asked.

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

“I do not!” I almost shouted.

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

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

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

“I do no……”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Natalie?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma’s eyes were red and her face drenched.

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

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

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

“He did?” I asked in disbelief.

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

**

August 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh my goodness!” Momma screamed.

“This is crazy!” Jaci screamed.

“MOMMY!” Megan shouted.

“My restrurant!” Ms. Donna shouted.

I gasped.

Mr. Stewart’s car was in the restaurant.