Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I made a pink jumper,” Jaci said.

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

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

The room erupted in laughter.

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

The room kept on laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Mrs. Rivers laughed.

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

“Baby A’s name is,” Virginia started.

“Love!” I finished.

“How cute!” Mrs. Rivers gushed.

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

“Why? What did he want?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Baby B’s name is,” I started.

“Emmanuel!” Virginia finished.

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

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

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

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

“Christmas Elf!” Noel shouted.

Everyone laughed.

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

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

Once again, everyone laughed.

I love my family.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma gave a huge breath.

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

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

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

Clifford was our brand new red fifteen seater van.

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

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

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

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

“I guess,” I sighed.

But somehow, this time was very very different.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Goodnight,” I said giving Momma a kiss.

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

Two hours later, I heard a scream.

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

“Natalie!” Momma cried. “Natalie!”

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

“Momma?” I asked pushing the door open.

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

“Are you sure?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma nodded and got up.

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

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

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

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

It was drizzling. I smiled a little.

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

“Natalie!” Momma hollered.

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

“Now,” Momma started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The car barely moved, but I was driving.

“Hurry up!” Momma screamed.

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

“Turn!” Momma screamed.

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

“What’s the speed limit!” I asked.

“I don’t care!” Momma screamed.

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

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

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

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

“Did you call Dad?” I asked.

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

“Hello?” Daddy’s sleepy voice asked.

“Daddy!” I shouted.

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

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

“What’s wrong?” Daddy repeated.

“I’m in labor!” Momma cried.

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

“Where are you?” Daddy asked.

“On the highway,” Momma said.

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

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

“Then who is?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

“Natalie, where are you?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“How are you driving?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

“Ma’am.”

I stared up at the face of an officer.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I go to The Hill?” I asked.

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

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

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

“We’ll be there,” Daddy said.

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

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

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

I wonder…

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s time!”

That sounded like Bennet. Noel was in labor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon everyone was in the car and we were off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule rolled his eyes. Grandma Shirley looked shocked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop!” Noel shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doorbell rang.

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

“Surprise!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalia cried out.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon all the presents where open or so we thought.

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

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

I opened my presents and found three pacifiers. Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma smiled a sly smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could make this Christmas better?

**

Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But dinner was even better than Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

Everyone started to congratulate Grandpa Jack.

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

“You are…,” I said.

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

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

Aunt Jane screamed and then very tearfully said yes.

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

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

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

Best. Christmas. Ever.

THE END

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How was rehab?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

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

Crash!

“What was that noise?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

Emily seemed to accept that answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRASH! BANG!

“It’s a ghost!” Emily screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m hungry,” Cece Elizabeth said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We heard fire trucks, and the phone rang.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could say that again.

**

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

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

The doorbell stopped, and we broke out laughing.

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

YOU’RE HER WHAT!

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

“What’s wrong?” Jessie-Maria asked.

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

YOU LIAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody but Grandma Shirley chuckled.

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

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

“Excuse me?” Grandma Shirley asked.

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

I was beginning to like this girl.

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

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

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

“What did I say?” Uncle Cael asked.

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

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

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

Grandma Shirley stormed up the steps.

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma looked like she was about to puke.

And then I felt my food come back up too.

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

The doorbell rang.

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

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

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

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

This seemed very familiar.

“Ow,” The box said.

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

“Oh my!” Momma shouted.

“Not again!” I shouted.

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

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

“The poor thing,” Ms. Donna said.

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

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

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

“Um, yes,” Momma said.

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

  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Steve Matthews,

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

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

Merry Christmas,

Fowler Stewart

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 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 Ten

 

**

I looked at the clock. Only one more minute.

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

The bell rang and the room erupted.

SUMMER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled.

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

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

I smiled and walked back to the class.

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

**

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

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

“Ow,” I said.

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

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

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

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

In less than two minutes Kristen walked into the room.

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

“What?” Ms. Erin asked.

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

Wait, what? Sean was famous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Determined?” Sean asked.

“Relentlessly,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging Sean.

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

“What is it?” Sean asked.

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

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

“Deal!” Everyone shouted.

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

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

Everyone laughed.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded and walked up the steps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me?” Mr. Steve asked.

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

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

“Because,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Snooping?” Momma asked.

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

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

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

I understand.

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

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

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

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

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

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

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

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

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

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

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

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

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

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

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

Abby laughed.

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

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi,” I said sitting down.

“Hey,” She mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ladies, ladies,” Grandma Baldwin said.

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

“Humph!” Grandma Shirley shouted letting go.

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

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

“What was that all about?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The two of them similar?” I asked.

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

“I DID NOT!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

“Natalie?” Darcy asked when I turned around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh!” Grandma Shirley grumbled.

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Eight

**

“I swear I didn’t push her!”

“I saw you!”

“I saw you too!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

“Papa!”

“Riley!”

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

“A nervous wreck,” Momma sighed.

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

“Yes,” I smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello?” Mr. Rivers’ voice asked.

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

“DARCY!”

“Hello?” Darcy’s voice asked.

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

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

“Sure, why not?” Darcy said.

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

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

I grinded my teeth at him.

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

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

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

“There,” Sean said after she was done.

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

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

“Ow!” I shouted. I slapped him.

The room howled.

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

Momma sighed.

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

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

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

Grandma Baldwin handed Momma an envelope. Momma opened it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s changed now.

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

THE END

 

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Seven

**

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

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

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

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

“What a secret?” Momma asked walking up.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s up with Momma?” I asked.

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

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

“Huh?” Aunt Clarisse asked.

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

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

The doorbell rang and Grandma Shirley answered it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And who are you?” The woman asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Momma opened the door and looked at Grandma Shirley.

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

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

Only two weeks and five days to go.

**

“The dresses are purely ugly.”

Of course Grandma Shirley just said that to be contrary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Five

**

“When I found out that the world famous Ned Davis was moving into the apartment next to me, I almost moved out,” Ms. Erin said as she told the story of how she met Ned. “I was appealed at the time that I was going to be living next to a man who played the Devil and was a Stewart.”

“You played the Devil?” Virginia asked.

“And won an Oscar for it,” Ned said.

“So I guess you were pretty famous,” I said.

“Yup. I’ve got two Oscars and five Golden Globes,” Ned said.

“Then why did you leave Hollywood?” Nelson asked.

“I got in trouble a lot. Fights at clubs and bars. And when my daughter Emma was born I knew I had to change,” Ned said. “So Emma and I left Hollywood and came back to where I grew up.”

“If I was a famous actress making lots of money I wouldn’t leave,” Virginia said. Ned smiled.

“Well I’m glad Ned left,” Ms. Erin said hugging Ned.

“We about ready to go?” Zach asked. We nodded.

“It’s really snowing out there,” Darcy said looking out the window.

“Again?” Emily asked also looking out the window. “We just had that terrible blizzard.”

“Let’s get home before it gets worse,” Zach said.

We piled into Zach’s car and started on the road for home.

“Honey, can you see?” Abby asked.

“Nope,” Zach said.

“Pull over!” Emily shouted putting her hands over her eyes. Nelson hugged her.

“I think we’re almost home,” Zach said. Abby groaned.

“What?” Ms. Erin asked.

“Nothing,” Abby laughed.

“LOOK OUT!”

Zach slammed on the breaks and just barely missed hitting another car.

“Seriously!” I shouted throwing my hands up.

Mr. Stewart walked from the other car and Emily looked at Timmy.

“Don’t worry,” Timmy said squeezing her shoulder.

“Mr. Stewart, what are you doing?” Abby asked rolling down her window.

“I could ask you the same question,” Mr. Stewart said.

“Zach, Erin, Ned, Natalie, Darcy, Emily, Nelson, Jaci, Timmy, and I went out on a group date,” Abby said. “What are you doing?”

“If you have to know I’m coming from Pittsfield,” Mr. Stewart said. “I don’t remember giving Emily and Timmy permission to go out this evening.”

“Grandma said we could go!” Emily screamed loud enough that Mr. Stewart could hear her. Mr. Stewart nodded.

“Uncle Fowler, why were you spending?” Zach asked rolling down his window. “And why are driving on the wrong side of the street?”

“Zach Davis!” Mr. Stewart shouted. “I’ll get on the right side of the road.”

Mr. Stewart got in his car and got out of the way.

As we started to drive towards the street where Ms. Erin and Ned lived, I had a strange feeling that Mr. Stewart was out to get me.

**

“Meehghneojgsosanivgsnhiigsiogils.”

“Huh?” I asked Mrs. Stewart. Mrs. Stewart took some pins out of her mouth.

“Hold still,” Mrs. Stewart said. I tried to stand still.

“Ow!” I shouted.

“I said hold still,” Mrs. Stewart said. “Now I don’t want to poke you but if you keep moving I’m going to.”

“Are you sure about this bow in the back?” I asked Jaci.

“I’m positive,” Jaci said. “I think the daughter of the bride’s dress should be a little different from the other bridesmaid’s dresses.”

“Darcy better not laugh at me,” I sighed.

“I’ll have a talk with him,” Mrs. Stewart winked.

I sighed.

“I feel like a princess,” Abby said. “OW!”

“Sorry!” Momma said. “I’m not the world’s best pinner. I still can’t believe Jaci talked me into letting her and Mrs. Stewart make my wedding dresses and my bridesmaids’ dresses.”

“We will not disappoint,” Mrs. Stewart smiled.

“Well I was impressed when Mrs. Stewart put the pattern instructions in her pattern drawer without even reading it,” Momma laughed.

“I’ve made these dresses a thousand times.” Mrs. Stewart said. “Ok not a thousand but I know what I’m doing and so does Jaci.”

“I’m just glad you were able to find the color pink I wanted in fabric,” Abby smiled.

“I feel like a penguin,” Mrs. Rivers sighed. Sean smiled.

“You should,” Momma smiled. “You’re carrying twins.”

“We should start planning your baby shower,” Regina said.

“Riley, you know the only reason I’m doing this is because you’re getting married next month,” Mrs. Rivers said. Momma smiled.

“How are we going to get these dresses made by April 20th?” Emily asked.

“I can help,” Sean said in a low voice.

“Do you know how to sew?” Jaci asked.

“Yeah,” Sean mumbled.

“I can help out too,” Mrs. Rivers said. “It will give Jessie and me something to do.”

“Why don’t you go to school?” Regina asked Sean.

“I…I….I….,” Sean started.

“She already has her high school diploma and is taking online college courses for Oxford. They made a special exception,” Mrs. Rivers said.

“You must be mighty gifted to be get into Oxford at your age,” Emily said. Sean dropped the pin cushion and went running out the door.

“I meant it as a compliment,” Emily said looking hurt.

“I know sweetie,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging Emily. “I know.”

Posted in Farm Girl, Highlight & Contest, Natalie

Highlight & Contest: Will You Be My Valentine?

Valentine’s Day is coming soon and I decided that this is the perfect time to have our first ever contest!

Contest Info:Valentine’s Day is about two weeks away and love is in the air in Florida, Massachusetts! But a couple of people are too afraid to tell their feelings to the person they like so they sent anonymous Valentines! Who likes who? Its up to you to find out!

So what you have to do is figure out who sent the Valentine and to who. Comment your answers but chose wisely you only get one chance! It should look like this: Valentine X was given to Blank from Blank.

photo 1

All of the Valentines!

photo 1 (2)

Valentine A

My heads in the clouds

My heart’s in my throat

I’m walking on air

Handing you this note!

photo 2 (3)

Valentine B

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!

photo 3 (1)

Valentine C

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.! 

photo 4 (1)

Valentine D

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?

photo 1 (1)

Valentine E

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!

photo 2 (2)

Valentine F

I know we’re young.

I know its soon.

But I think I’m in love with you!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear.

So I’m just going to say it.

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

photo 4

Valentine G (two people receive this Valentine)

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 its time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

photo 3

Valentine H

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

I don’t want to blurt it but since its Valentine’s Day.

I think I should tell you that I like you in that special kind of way!

photo 2

Valentine I

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now its the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

Who ever gets them all right (or gets the most right) wins the contest! I will announce the winner and PRIZE on Valentine’s Day! Good Luck!

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Thirteen

**

I stumbled out of the car. I touched the snowflake earrings dangling from my ears (I found them at my feet this morning).

“Let’s just get this over with,” I grumbled.

“Why does everybody in town dislike the Stewarts? I had a delightful time sledding with Timmy,” Jaci said.

“You’ll figure out soon enough,” Abby said rolling her eyes.

Mr. Steve rang the doorbell and straightened his tie. Darcy answered the door.

“Darcy? What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Emily invited me over for dinner,” Darcy said. He opened the door wide enough for us to walk in.

“Welcome! Welcome!” Mrs. Stewart smiled as we poured into her family room. “I’m so glad you could come.”

“Thanks for inviting us,” Momma said. I wonder how hard it was to say that.

“It’s the least I could do after what my Emily has done to your Natalie,” Mrs. Stewart said. “But don’t worry. I am working on her.”

I didn’t know what ‘working on her’ meant but I hoped it worked.

“Oh, I love your dress! Did you make it yourself?” Jaci asked overlooking Mrs. Stewart.

Mrs. Stewart was wearing a plain looking pink dress. She didn’t have on her glasses today. A smile managed to creep into her face.

“Yes. Yes, I did. I love making clothes but Emily will only let me make her Sunday dress,” Mrs. Stewart said.

“I don’t see why. Your work is very good. Even mother wasn’t this good,” Jaci said kneeling to admire the hem.

“Are you a coach?” Megan asked. I felt like laughing. Mrs. Stewart did have a voice of authority.

“Why do you ask, child?” Mrs. Stewart asked.

“Whistle,” Megan said pointing to Mrs. Stewart’s chest.

“Oh. This? I use this to communicate with my grandchildren and sometimes my husband,” Mrs. Stewart said holding up the whistle. I hadn’t even noticed she had been wearing it. Come to think of it I think she was wearing it the day she burst into the school and at The Hill.

“Speaking of those children, where are they?” Mrs. Stewart asked. She blew her whistle five times.

A sound that sounded like elephants stomping rang through the house. Momma tried to hide the horrified look on her face. Mr. Steve seemed unfazed. Jaci stared at Mrs. Stewart in amazement. Megan covered her ears. Darcy (I almost forgot he was there) stood like he was in the army.

Timmy and Emily ran down the steps and got in line with Darcy.

“State your full name and age for our guest please,” Mrs. Stewart said in a stern voice. She blew her whistle once.

“Timothy-Caleb Jeffery Stewart. Age sixteen,” Timmy said. He looked at Jaci.

“But I’ll be seventeen on April 3rd,” Timmy added not taking his eyes off Jaci.

“Thank you for that extra and unasked for information,” Mrs. Stewart said. She blew her whistle twice.

“Emily Elizabeth Stewart. Age twelve,” Emily said. Emily looked at Darcy.

“But I’ll be thirteen on July 27th,” Emily said looking at Darcy. Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes and blew her whistle three times.

“Darcy Chadwick Edwards. Age thirteen,” Darcy said. He looked at me.

“But I’ll be fourteen on August 10th,” Darcy said still looking at me.

“At ease children,” Mrs. Stewart said. “And next time please just give what I ask for.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Timmy, Emily, and Darcy said. Timmy and Emily ran upstairs. Darcy reluctantly followed.

“I’m so sorry about them,” Mrs. Stewart said shaking her head. “Dinner will be in a minute. My husband has not returned from Pittsfield yet.”

“May I go upstairs?” Jaci asked.

“Oh of course!” Mrs. Stewart said. “You, Natalie, Abby, and Megan can all go upstairs. Six whistle blows means dinner.”

Jaci took her time going up the stairs. That wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t ahead of Abby, Megan, and me.

“Move it, slow poke,” Abby said walking past her. Jaci looked hurt but she continued to walk up the steps. Abby slammed a door upstairs.

“Take my hand,” Megan said to Jaci. Jaci took Megan’s hand and they finished walking up the steps.

“Oh! I wonder what room is what,” Jaci said looking at the five doors along the hall.

Timmy walked out of the third door.

“I’m just going to assume that the third door leads to Timmy’s room,” I said. Jaci nodded.

“Hey, Jaci,” Timmy said smiling.

“You have a nice house,” Jaci said.

“Thanks,” Timmy said.

“Can you please tell me what’s behind these doors?” Jaci asked.

“Oh sure,” Timmy shrugged. “The first door is Grandma and Grandpa’s room. The second room is Emily’s. The third room is mine but sometimes I have to share it with Darcy. The fourth room is the upstairs bathroom. I think Abby’s in there. And the fifth room is Grandma’s sewing room.”

“I would like to see the sewing room,” Jaci said. Timmy looked like he didn’t want to show us the sewing room but one look at Jaci made him do it.

“This is where Grandma does all of her sewing,” Timmy said opening the door.

“Oh my goodness! I must have some of this fabric!” Jaci said holding up a roll of pink fabric. Jaci went around the room showing things to Timmy, Megan, and I that had to do with sewing. I don’t think Timmy was really listening thou.

Six whistles went through the air. Timmy offered his arm for Jaci and Jaci took it. She gave Megan a look that said follow her.

When we got out to the hall, Darcy took one look at Timmy and offered me his arm.

Let me get this straight. I did NOT want to take his arm but I did NOT want to be rude. So I let Darcy escort me downstairs.

“My lady,” Mr. Steve said to Momma when he saw Darcy and Timmy escorting Jaci and me. Momma giggled and took his arm. Mr. Steve offered his arm for Abby and she took it. Mr. Steve looked at Timmy and Jaci. If you ask me he looked a little upset to see Timmy escorting Jaci.

“Such gentlemen!” Mrs. Stewart gushed. Emily just pouted. Mr. Stewart looked at Timmy but Timmy didn’t notice.

There were little pieces of paper at different spots. I sat at my spot across from Darcy.

For once I felt bad for Emily. Her spot was the edge of the table between Mrs. Stewart and Timmy. I almost actually offered her my spot.

But Abby had a spot wedged between Mr. Steve and Mrs. Stewart so that was just as bad.

“Let’s eat,” Mr. Stewart said. Worry crept into Jaci’s face.

“Aren’t we forgetting to say the blessing?” Jaci asked. Mrs. Stewart looked at Mr. Stewart.

“Why don’t you say it, Ms. Matthews?” Mr. Stewart asked. Jaci nodded.

“Dear Lord. Thank you the food on the table. I’m sure Mrs. Stewart worked hard on it. Thank you for the chance to have dinner with the Stewarts. Lord, please bless the food we are about to receive for our nourishment, body, and soul in Christ’s name, Amen,” Jaci prayed.

“Thank you,” Mr. Stewart said reaching for a roll.

“So, Riley and Steve, when do you think the wedding will take place?” Mrs. Stewart asked reaching for the green beans.

“I’ve always wanted a spring wedding,” Momma said.

“Springtime is a wonderful time of year! It gets so pretty out here. You just have to take a walk on the Mohawk trail in the summer. My husband takes Timmy, Darcy, and Emily camping during the summer,” Mrs. Stewart gushed.

“I walked a little through the Mohawk Trail coming here. It’s surely a beauty in God’s creation,” Jaci said. Mrs. Stewart nodded.

“Did you just say walk? You didn’t walk here from Maine did you?” Timmy asked.

“Oh, heavens, no!” Jaci laughed. “I walked from Pittsfield to Florida.”

“You did what!” Mr. Steve, Darcy, Timmy, Momma, and Abby shouted at the same time. Jaci looked shocked.

“Are your ears troubling you?” Jaci asked speaking louder. “I said I walked from Pittsfield to Florida. It took me two days but I did it. I could have been here in one but I got a little tired along the way and took a nap in the woods. I lost track of time I guess.”

Mr. Steve looked horrified. Abby looked like she wished Jaci had just stayed in the woods.

“Why did you walk from Pittsfield to Florida? You could have gotten a cab,” Mr. Steve said.

“A man did pull up to me when I was in Pittsfield. He said he was a cab driver and said he could take me to the place I needed to go. But Mother always told me never to get in a car with a stranger so I didn’t,” Jaci said. Mr. Steve shook his head.

“I don’t think I want to hear anymore,” Mr. Steve said stuffing pot roast into his mouth. Jaci looked confused but she didn’t say anything.

“Abby, How’s Boston?” Mrs. Stewart asked.

“It’s good,” Abby said. “I just finished the Smith Project.”

“I heard about that. The building looks gorgeous!” Mrs. Stewart smiled. Abby nodded.

And that’s the way dinner went. We had scattered conversations about this and that. I was just glad nobody was fighting.

Emily got up from the table leaving her dirty plate and Mrs. Stewart gave one long whistle.

“Emily Elizabeth Stewart! How many times am I going to have to tell you to scrap off your plate after dinner and ask for permission to leave?” Mrs. Stewart said. Emily rolled her eyes.

“Did you roll your eyes at me?!” Mrs. Stewart shouted. “Get on your knees!”

“May I say something?” Jaci asked as Emily got on her knees. Mrs. Stewart looked at her but didn’t say anything.

“Mrs. Stewart, it’s easy to see that you love and care about your grandchildren but don’t you think it’s rather harsh making them kneel to the ground in front of people and make halfhearted apologizes? If there not truly sorry for what they do what good is all this? By the way you treat them with the whistles and kneeling apologizes I wouldn’t be surprised if Emily and Timothy-Caleb leave the minute they turn eighteen and I wouldn’t blame them if they did. I would find it a little hard to believe I was loved if I was treated like that. Mother didn’t always make it easy to see that she loved me but she wasn’t as bad as this. All thou she wouldn’t let me learn how to drive. She just said that she had her reason. That always meant that the discussion was to go no further but I’m getting off course. Now please don’t think I’m criticizing you but isn’t there a better way to punish your grandkids?” Jaci asked.

Mr. Steve looked like he wanted to disappear. Timmy looked shocked and fearful. Emily looked at Jaci with wonder. Abby looked at Jaci with wonder and amazement. All eyes were on Mrs. Stewart to see how she would react.

“Miss Jaci Matthews, I like you,” Mrs. Stewart finally said smiling. “You remind me of me when I was your age. Always speaking my mind. If you had blonde hair you could be a spitting image of me.”

Jaci smiled. Relief seemed to wash over Timmy’s face.

“I like you too, Mrs. Stewart. I think we’re going to be good friends,” Jaci smiled.

Mr. Steve, Abby, and Darcy just looked at Mrs. Stewart and Jaci in wonder.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twelve

**

When I awoke fresh snow was on the ground and snow was falling from the sky. The thunderstorm must have turned into snow in the middle of the night.

“It looks like today is going to be a good snow day,” Mr. Steve said at breakfast.

“Will you take us to The Hill?” Darcy asked putting Mr. Steve’s breakfast in front of him.

“I don’t know, Darcy. Do you think you’re knee will be all right?” Mr. Steve asked. “And what about Natalie’s broken foot?”

Darcy looked at me. His glance was a little hurtful but I kept eating my eggs.

“We’ll be fine,” Darcy said.

“But The Hill is rather steep,” Mr. Steve said.

“Me want to go in the snow! Me want to go in the snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I turned to see Megan running into the restaurant with Momma not far behind.

“Not until you have eaten your breakfast,” Momma said sliding into the booth and holding her hand out for Megan.

“Ok, Mommy,” Megan said crawling into her lap.

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

“Two orders of toast, bacon, and eggs,” Momma said. “Make on kids.” Darcy nodded and walked towards the kitchen.

“I want to go to The Hill,” I said.

“What’s The Hill?” Momma asked.

“It’s this steep hill that all the kids go to when it snows. Darcy wants me to take him and the rest,” Mr. Steve said.

“Me want to play in the snow!” Megan shouted.

“Look at me, honey,” Momma said. “I want to play in the snow.”

“Yes! Me too want to play in the snow,” Megan said. Momma shook her head and laughed.

“Are you sure you’ll be ok?” Mr. Steve asked me.

“How steep can it be?” I shrugged.

**

“Whoa.”

“I told you it was steep,” Mr. Steve said handing me a sled.

I stood for a minute looking down the hill but that was a mistake.

GET OUT OF THE WAY!

I turned around the find Darcy and his sled racing towards me. And for some reason I froze. The sled, Darcy, and I collided. Darcy pulled me up into the sled.

“I got you,” He said as we went down the hill but he was so focused on making sure I didn’t fall off that we ended up crashing. The sled went on as we flew through the air.

Darcy landed on top of me and I started laughing.

“You know I’ve never been sledding before,” I laughed. Darcy started to laugh too.

I stopped laughing because I was looking into his eyes. Then for a moment I forgot that I didn’t really like Darcy. He seemed to forget too.

Then (maybe I imagined it) Darcy started to lean towards me. The memories of being tripped (purposely or accidently) and how Emily Stewart stuck to him like glue flooded into my mind. I felt fear and coldness going through my body. His cold nose touched my cold nose.

“You call that sledding?”

Darcy got off of me and helped me up. Timmy had Darcy’s sled in his hand.

“I told her to get out of the way,” Darcy huffed.

“I’m sorry,” I snapped. “I froze!”

“No need to get defensive about it,” Darcy mumbled. I huffed.

“Timmy,” Darcy snarled.

“What!” Timmy snapped.

“Thanks for getting the sled,” Darcy said taking the sled and walking up The Hill. Emily ran past us running towads ugh whatever Darcy was to her.

“Hi, Natalie!” Megan screamed. She was coming down the hill in a sled with Mr. Steve and Jaci. Jaci was screaming and had her eyes closed. Mr. Steve was laughing.

“How do I stop this thing?!” Momma screamed as the sled holding her and Abby flew by the sled with Mr. Steve, Jaci, and Megan.

“Come on,” Timmy said taking my hand. “Grandpa has an extra sled in the back of the truck. I didn’t want to sled with Emily anyway.”

“Um um,” I said as Timmy pulled me up the hill.

“Where’s Emily?” Mrs. Stewart snapped.

“Sledding with Darcy,” Timmy said opening the truck of their car.

“Natalie, is your mother here?” Mrs. Stewart asked me.

“Yeah, she’s here. I believe she’s sledding with Abby. She may be at the bottom of The Hill by now,” I said.

“Thank you my dear. I have to find out if we’re still on for Sunday dinner tomorrow,” Mrs. Stewart said starting to walk down The Hill.

“You ready?” Timmy asked dropping the sled on the ground.

I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready to go down The Hill with Timmy Stewart.

“I um,” I started.

“Natalie, I’m harmless,” Timmy said. He held out his hand. I didn’t take it but I sat in the sled.

My heart pounded as the sled started to move. Why was I so scared to go down The Hill with Timmy Stewart?

“NATALIE BALDWIN!” Abby screamed as we past her. She dropped the sled in her hand and started sledding.

Her sled bumped our sled hard and all three of us crashed.

“What is this? Extreme Sledding?” Timmy cried outraged.

“Natalie, what are you doing sledding with Timmy Stewart?! I thought you were sledding with Darcy!” Abby shouted.

“I’m not sledding with anyone,” I mumbled.

“Natalie!” Megan shouted running to me.

“OW!” Timmy shouted as Megan ran over him. He was still sitting in the snow. Abby laughed. I snickered.

“You sledding with me!” Megan shouted grabbing my arm. I hobbled up The Hill with a two year old pulling me.

“There you are,” Jaci said. She gave Megan a hug.

“Natalie sledding with me,” Megan said.

“You, Natalie, and Daddy go ahead,” Jaci said. “I don’t think I’m sledding material.”

“Then we’ll just have to make you sledding material,” Abby said. Mr. Steve gave a little chuckle thinking it was a joke but I didn’t find it very funny.

“Ready girls?” Mr. Steve asked sitting in the sled. I got in and Megan followed.

“Faster! Faster!” Megan shouted as we went down The Hill really really fast.

“I’m going as fast as I can go, sweetie pie!” Mr. Steve shouted.

“Boo!” Megan screamed. “Me want to go faster! Faster!”

She didn’t stop screaming faster until we stopped.

“Again! Again!” Megan shouted. Mr. Steve laughed.

“Ok, again,” He said getting out of the sled.

As we walked up The Hill a sled with Jaci and Timmy came down.

“Hold me tighter! Tighter!” Jaci screamed.

“I’m not holding you tight enough?! I don’t even know how can breathe! Yes, I’m holding you that tight!” Timmy shouted.

“Tighter! Tighter!” Jaci screamed.

Mr. Steve laughed but something in his face told me that he was disturbed that Jaci was on a sled with Timmy and that Timmy was holding on to her tight.

“I want to go home!” Emily screamed.

“Emily Stewart! Get down on your knees and apologize for speaking to me that way!” Mrs. Stewart shouted.

Everyone at the top of The Hill stopped what they were doing. Emily dropped to her knees.

“I’m sorry, Grandma. Its rude to be disrespectful and I’m sorry if I embarrassed you,” Emily apologized.

“You may get up now,” Mrs. Stewart said. Emily got up and ran into their car.

“You coming this time, Natalie?” Mr. Steve asked sitting in the sled.

“I think I’ll wait for the one with Mom and Abby,” I said. Mr. Steve nodded and looked at Megan.

“Do you think it will go faster with only two persons?” Megan asked. Mr. Steve laughed.

“Let’s see,” Mr. Steve said as she got in the sled.

“Faster! Faster!” Megan screamed as the sled went down.

“Hey.”

“Timmy,” I started as I turned around. But it wasn’t Timmy. It was Darcy.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Sorry for being a little rude after we crashed. I just can’t stand Timmy Stewart,” Darcy said.

“Well you seem to stomach his sister pretty well,” I said. Darcy rolled his eyes.

“She has her moments,” Darcy sighed. “Emily doesn’t want to sled with me and Regina is sledding with her brothers so do you want to sled with me?”

I saw my mother walking up The Hill with Abby. Momma looked worn out. She probably wouldn’t sled for a little while but Abby probably would.

“If you rather sled with your mom,” Darcy said catching my gaze. “I understand.”

“She looks tired,” I said. “I’ll sled with her later.”

I let Darcy take my hand and hold onto me as we sled down The Hill.

“You know that Christmas song Marshmallow World?” Darcy asked as we walked up The Hill after our fourth time going down it.

I wanted to say “Duh.” or “Of course.” But instead I said, “Yeah.”

“It’s days like this where I truly believe I’m trapped in a Marshmallow World. So what if spring is late? I can’t think of anything better than sledding on a cold winter day and having a snowball fight with my friends,” Darcy said.

“Darcy, are we friends?” I blurted.

“I’m walking with you aren’t I?” Darcy asked. When he said this his cheeks got pink.

You see in the song Marshmallow World there’s a part about taking a walk with your favorite girl.

“Race you to the top!” I screamed running up The Hill. Darcy quickly followed.

**

My whole body ached but I didn’t care. Today was one of the best days of my life. I actually had fun with Darcy. Nelson, Regina, Megan, Abby, Jaci, and I had a massive snowball fight when we got back from sledding.

“I hate sledding but I had so much fun,” Jaci said as she sipped on hot chocolate.

“I know,” I sighed. “I wish my life could be as sweet as this day was even thou I got knocked down.”

Jaci laughed. Megan ran into the room with a sippy cup full of hot chocolate and snuggled in her lap.

I sighed and barely uttered this short prayer, “God, all I want is for my life to go back to being sweet.”

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Nine

**

When I woke up I convinced myself that last night was all just a dream and that my mother didn’t really get engaged to Mr. Steve last night.

But my happiness was only for a moment. My mother handed me my plate with breakfast on it with a ring on her ring finger.

“Morning Natalie,” Momma said. “Did you sleep well last night?”

“No,” I mumbled.

“Is something bothering you?”  Momma asked.

Was something bothering me? Was she kidding? My mother was getting married to a man I hardly knew!

“Is the restaurant open for breakfast?” Mr. Hank asked walking in.

“Yes, sir!” Momma said. She looked at me.

“We will continue this discussion later,” Momma whispered. I hobbled to a booth and sat down.

I tried to pray over my food. I really did try but I wasn’t thankful. I was mad, upset, and UGH!

“Sugar, are you all right?” Mr. Hank asked. I looked on the ground were bacon and eggs laid scattered.

“I’m having a hard time praying over my food,” I sighed.

Mr. Hank gave me a weird look.

“I know it seems silly but I just don’t feel thankful. I’m a little mad at God right now,” I said.

“Why are you mad, sugar?” Mr. Hank asked.

“I don’t know,” I lied. I knew why I was mad.

“That’s a lie,’ Mr. Hank said seeing through me.

“I know it is but I don’t like Mr. Steve,” I said.

“Ah,” Mr. Hank said. “Why don’t you like him?”

“I’ve barely known him a month,” I said.

“Your mother has known him since high school or maybe even before that,” Mr. Hank said.

“I know but I miss my daddy,” I sniffled.

“I know you do, sugar. I know you do,” Mr. Hank said rubbing my back.

Emily Stewart walked through the restaurant door and looked at me.

“Is Clumsy crying? Did she hurt herself again?” Emily said pouting.

“Emily Zendaya Stewart!” Mr. Hank shouted. Emily crossed her arms.

“Look Natalie, nobody here wants you to be here. It’s the same old game. The town is nice because they feel like they have to be nice to you not because they want to be. ‘Natalie Baldwin broke her foot’. ‘Oh it serves her right but I’ll send her a present anyway’. Get the picture?” Emily asked.

“Emily Stewart, when I am finished with my breakfast I am personally going down to the library to have a talk with your grandmother,” Mr. Hank said.

Fear crept into Emily’s face.

“Go ahead. Grandma doesn’t scare me,” Emily lied. It was clear by the look on her face and the way her voice squeaked that she was scared of her Grandmother.

Darcy walked into the restaurant and frowned.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“The bus is coming,” He mumbled walking out the door. Emily smiled at me and walked out the restaurant. I rolled my eyes.

“Don’t let her get to you,” Mr. Hank whispered in my ear. He winked at me.

I walked out the door and onto the bus wondering what in the world Mr. Hank was talking about.

**

“EMILY STEWART!!!!!!!!!!!”

It was lunch time when a voice so loud it made me drop my sandwich on the floor burst through the noisy cafeteria. When everybody heard this voice they stopped talking and the cafeteria was very silent.

An older looking woman marched towards Emily’s table. She had on a floral print dress and thick red classes. She had on black boots that clicked when she walked.

“Yes, Grandma?” Emily squeaked.

“Apologize,” Mrs. Stewart said flatly.

“I’m sorry, Grandma for whatever I did!” Emily cried.

“Not to me. To Natalie Baldwin. Apologize NOW!” Mrs. Stewart shouted. Emily walked up to the table where I was sitting with Nelson and Regina.

“I am sorry for being so rude to you this morning. Please forgive me,” Emily said. Mrs. Stewart shook her head.

“No. No. That will not do! Get on your knees, child!” Mrs. Stewart said. Emily dropped to her knees.

“I am deeply sorry for the pain I have caused you. This morning I spoke without think of how my words could hurt you. Please, I beg of you to forgive me for the wrong I have done you!” Emily cried.

“Sure,” I shrugged. I felt like laughing which was what most of the cafeteria was doing.

“Miss Emily Stewart, I will have a word with you when I get home from work. I must be going now. Good day,” Mrs. Stewart said. She looked at me.

“I would like to personally invite you, your mother, and your mother’s fiancé to dinner Sunday night. Please give me the chance to make up my granddaughter’s poor behavior. I will make the arrangements with your mother,” Mrs. Stewart said. She then walked out of the room. After about five minutes Emily walked up to me.

“You will pay for this,” Emily whispered. “Big time!”

And I knew that she meant it.