Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How was rehab?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

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

Crash!

“What was that noise?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

Emily seemed to accept that answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRASH! BANG!

“It’s a ghost!” Emily screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m hungry,” Cece Elizabeth said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We heard fire trucks, and the phone rang.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could say that again.

**

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

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

The doorbell stopped, and we broke out laughing.

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

YOU’RE HER WHAT!

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

“What’s wrong?” Jessie-Maria asked.

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

YOU LIAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody but Grandma Shirley chuckled.

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

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

“Excuse me?” Grandma Shirley asked.

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

I was beginning to like this girl.

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

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

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

“What did I say?” Uncle Cael asked.

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

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

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

Grandma Shirley stormed up the steps.

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma looked like she was about to puke.

And then I felt my food come back up too.

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

The doorbell rang.

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

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

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

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

This seemed very familiar.

“Ow,” The box said.

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

“Oh my!” Momma shouted.

“Not again!” I shouted.

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

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

“The poor thing,” Ms. Donna said.

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

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

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

“Um, yes,” Momma said.

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

  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Steve Matthews,

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

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

Merry Christmas,

Fowler Stewart

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment 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 Seven

**

Ms. O’Donnell is the meanest teacher in all of Berkshire County.

I wasn’t contagious anymore but that didn’t mean my symptoms had gone away. My throat was still sore and all I could eat was applesauce and stew. My fever was being controlled by Tylenol, but I was still above average. I’d vomited a couple times, and even though I hated it I resorted to sleeping with Momma and Mr. Steve. I snuggled as close to Momma as I could and tried to ignore Mr. Steve’s snores.

I hadn’t asked Momma about her going missing. I figured she tell me she couldn’t talk about it and encourage me to read on so I cut out the asking and feeling hurt part and kept reading. My dad was pretty skimp on journal entries which doesn’t surprise me but doesn’t tell me a lot about what was going on. It was almost Christmas time and Momma still hadn’t been found. The funny thing is Momma always skipped the Christmas of this year when she told me about her Christmases with Daddy.

Ms. O’Donnell had been livid when she heard I wasn’t contagious and still didn’t come to school. I don’t think she understands the difference between contagious and sick. I couldn’t get anybody else sick but that didn’t mean I wasn’t sick.

But here I was sick as a dog learning where to place comas. It had only been three days since I learned I had strep throat. Darcy looked at me. He smiled and I smiled back. Ugh, my stomach hurt. I wish I had a Tylenol but you couldn’t bring medicine to school and Momma didn’t want to take a chance with aspirin.

“Girls, listen up,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “I am pleased to announce that North Adams annual Father-Daughter Dance will take place May 31st. Tickets are five dollars apiece and as you know all the funds will go to A Father’s Presence. Class dismissed.”

I felt like laughing. Ms. O’Donnell was indorsing the dance at school? That didn’t seem like her. I waited as Darcy handed Ms. O’Donnell some money.

“You’re not going to the dance are you?” I asked. Darcy chuckled.

“No, but every year I do give Ms. O’Donnell some money for her cause,” Darcy said. “She started A Father’s Presence. She quit her teaching job when she started it but had to start teaching again when she couldn’t pay herself since A Father’s Presence is nonprofit. A couple years back she started pairing the boys without fathers with one of the temporary fathers. She chose Mr. Stewart for me since we’re related, but Mr. Matthews and Mr. Drew stepped in more than he did as a temporary dad.”

“You’re related to Mr. Stewart?” I asked surprised.

“My mom is anyway. She’s on the other side of Stewarts. She’s a Stewart-Chadwick hence my nickname,” Darcy said. He walked over to Nelson which gave me the feeling he didn’t want to say anymore.

Then a thought made me vomit (literally I vomited right in front of everybody). Momma was for sure going to make me go to that dance with Mr. Steve. I mean it would be weird if he took Abby, Jaci, and Megan but not me. I couldn’t go to that dance. I just couldn’t. Not with Mr. Steve. The thought of having to dance with him made me vomit again.

Darcy led me to the nurse’s office. God must have an interesting sense of humor because Mr. Steve came by to pick me up from school just as the nurse picked up the phone to call my mother.

**

“How could you do this to me?!”

That was Jaci’s voice and she wasn’t too happy. I crawled from under the covers and tiptoed down stairs.

“I’m sorry but Erin and Ned wanted to get married in July,” Abby said to Jaci.

“I still can’t believe you’re getting married in June! That’s less than a month away. There is absolutely no time to make dresses!” Jaci cried. She really did look upset.

“You can make my dresses, Jaci,” Ms. Erin said hugging Jaci.

“I’m sorry, Jaci, I didn’t know it was that important to you,” Abby said truly looking sorry.

“It’s my sister’s wedding! How could it not be important for me to make the dresses?!” Jaci asked clearly outraged.

“Honey,” Mr. Steve said. “It’s not normal no I shouldn’t use that word. Let’s just say most people don’t have handmade dresses for their weddings.”

“They don’t?” Jaci asked with her eyes filled with wonder. “They just buy them?”

Mr. Steve nodded.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Jaci asked. She wasn’t as anger but she was still angry.

“Natalie! Go back to bed!” Mr. Steve shouted spotting me.

“Oh, all I did was throw up,” I said.

“Go. Back. To. Bed,” Mr. Steve and Momma said in unison. I walked back up the steps. Parents, can’t live with them but wouldn’t survive or be here without them.

**

“Tada!”

I stared at the purple bicycle that just moments ago had been hidden underneath a white sheet. Mr. Steve smiled at me and I looked at him totally clueless. I’d never ridden a bicycle before. When Dr. Walters heard that he said no wonder I had gotten Scurvy.

It had been two weeks since my strep throat diagnosis and the symptoms were almost all gone. I still had a lingering sore throat but I could eat more than apple sauce and stew. I hadn’t had a chance to read too much of my father’s journals. I still was where I was at two weeks ago. We had testing at school and Ms. O’Donnell doesn’t play around.

I wasn’t sleeping well. Just yesterday I woke up to discover myself in the shower.

Abby was getting married June 1st the day after the Father-Daughter Dance. Abby knew this of course and Mrs. Rivers and Sean had been upset when they learned there would be no bridal shower sleepover to plan. Abby told them they could have their shower a week before the dance and they agreed but not without kicking and screaming.

“Thank you,” I said remembering my manners. “but I can’t ride.”

“You can learn,” Mr. Steve smiled. By the way he looked you would think he was the one who was about to learn how to ride.

I wanted to say “Not from you.” But that would be rude. I just smiled and walked back into the house.

“Hi, Natalie,” Virginia said walking into the house. “Is that bike outside yours?”

“Yup, and I don’t have any clue how to ride it,” I said. Virginia opened her mouth.

“I guess you being a Farm Girl it’s really hard to believe that a twelve year old doesn’t know how to ride a bike,” I said.

Virginia just nodded.

“I just stopped by to say hi since I have a feeling Aunt Jane, Rachel, Caroline, and I won’t be by for supper,” Virginia said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Aunt Jane is taking Rachel and me shopping for dress for the Father-Daughter Dance,” Virginia said. She had a big grin on her face.

“Who’s taking you?” I asked.

“Mr. Hank. He came by last week and asked Aunt Jane if it was all right if he took us,” Virginia said. “If you ask me he’s a little sweet on Aunt Jane.”

I smiled.

“I hope you have a good time,” I said. “I can’t see to worm out of the dance.”

“Why would you want to?” Virginia asked. “You got a real dad.”

“Mr. Steve is not my real dad!” I shouted.

“Sorry,” Virginia said. “I just thought since he married your mom and all.”

“He may have married my mom but he’s not my dad,” I said. “My dad’s in heaven.”

“So is mine,” Virginia said. “And I plan on enjoying the Father-Daughter Dance with Mr. Hank. Did you know that Emily is going too? Zach’s taking her.”

“So what?” I asked.

“Virginia!” Aunt Jane called.

“Mr. Steve cares about you, Natalie,” Virginia said walking towards the door. “I’d go as far as to say he loves you. And I hope one day you’ll see that too. I just hope God doesn’t have to do something drastic to make you see that.”

I was pretty mad at Virginia after that but only for about the rest of the day. Virginia was my best friend, and I knew there was some truth to her words. I just didn’t want to believe them. I knew I was hurting Mr. Steve’s feelings, but if I could just pretend that he didn’t care about me I could just go ahead and hurt his feelings and not feel guilty about it. And I would have to learn the hard way just how much Mr. Steve really did love me.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Two

**

  February 14

 Today was my first Valentine’s Day with Riley and I tried extra hard to make our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple special.

 I had planned to take her out to a little Italian restaurant and give her a dozen roses and everything. But it turns out Riley had plans too. She had bought a prime rib and all my favorite foods and had planned to eat in this Valentine’s Day. She even got special candles for the occasion.

 I was MAD. I wanted Valentine’s Day to go my way. We got into a huge fight and in the end Riley stayed at home and ate her prime rib and I went out to the restaurant.

 About halfway through my meal I realized what an idiot I was. I paid for my meal and went home. I found Riley crying in the bathroom.

 It broke my heart to see her crying just because I was too stubborn to eat at home on our first Valentine’s Day. Riley had ‘Valentine’s Day’ music playing so I switched it back to Christmas music and lit the candles. We started to dance.

 I think all is forgiven now. I ate some of her prime rib at like eleven o’clock at night. In a way this was a pretty good Valentine’s Day. I think we’ll stay in from now on.

Today was Valentine’s Day. I woke up to find a rose on my pilliow.

I had skipped ahead to my father’s second journal to read about their first Valentine’s Day. I put the journal back in the book under the couch and got up.

The hole in the restaurant was no longer there. Mr. Stewart had paid to get it fixed. He wanted Grandma Shirley to help pay for it but she said because he had already made a hole in the wall when she made a hole in the wall that she didn’t have to pay. That seemed to confuse Mr. Stewart enough to pay for the wall to be repaired.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Mr. Steve shouted.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” I smiled back.

“Look at the strawberries!” Megan shouted with a white teddy bear in her arms. She had red and chocolate smudges on her face.

“I got my girls fruit baskets and bears or strawberry baskets and bears since that’s the only fruit but I think yours, Natalie, has oranges in it,” Mr. Steve said handing me my basket and teddy bear.

“Thank you,” I said taking out a chocolate covered strawberry. Chocolate and strawberries, now that’s a combination you can get me to eat all on my own.

Timmy walked through the restaurant door.

“Morning,” I said not looking up from my chocolate covered orange.

“Is Jaci here?” Timmy asked. I looked up. He had some chocolates and a balloon in his hand.

“Um, yeah,” Mr. Steve said backing away. “JACI! TIMMY’S HERE TO SEE YOU!”

“COMING!” Jaci screamed back. Jaci walked into the restaurant wearing a red skirt and a white shirt with a red heart on it.

She was carrying a box that contained Timmy’s Bible and a Valentine.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Timmy smiled.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Jaci smiled back. They exchanged gifts.

“This is such a sweet Valentine!” Jaci cried. “Mine’s feels kinda dumb now.”

I looked over her shoulder.

I know we’re young

I know it’s soon

But I think I’m in love with you!

There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear

So I’m just going to say it

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

“Your Valentine reflects who you are,” Timmy said. “You love the Lord and you love the Bible. I think it’s perfect.”

I tried to look over Timmy’s shoulder but he’s like six ft. and Jaci is no more than five ft. three.

Love is patient

Love does not envy or boast

Love is not arrogant or rude

Love never fails

Love never rejoices at wrongdoing

Not irritable or resentful

Love does not insist on its own way

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

Love is kind so be my Valentine.

“The bus is here!” Momma called. “Ms. O’Donnell wants all seventh graders in early so Valentine’s Day doesn’t take up school time.”

“WHAT!” I shouted. “I’m not even dressed!”

“Here are some clothes,” Momma said throwing them at me. “GO!”

I shook my head, grabbed my backpack, and headed out the door.

**

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

My heart seemed to beat out of my chest as I read this note. Could it be from Darcy? The note wasn’t signed. I hadn’t signed the one I gave to Darcy. I was too scared to do it. I actually gave him two Valentines so he wouldn’t guess it was me. The Valentine I gave to Darcy went like this.

I have just one Valentine’s Day wish.

That you’ll be my Darcy and I’ll be your Elizabeth!

So what do you say?

Will you make my Valentine’s Day?

“Virginia?” Darcy asked walking to the back of the classroom.

“Huh?” Virginia asked looking up from a yellow Valentine.

“Did you give me this?” Darcy asked. His voice sounded like he really really hopped Virginia hadn’t given him this Valentine.

“I have just one Valentine’s Day wish. That you’ll be my Darcy and I’ll be your Elizabeth. So what do you say? Will you make my Valentine’s Day?” Virginia read. “I made it but I didn’t send it to you.”

I don’t know why but I went flying out the door. I ran into the girls’ bathroom and broke down crying.

“Natalie?” Virginia asked walking into the bathroom.

“What?” I asked wiping tears away from my eyes.

“Before you get all mad at me, I want you to know that I didn’t send Darcy a Valentine because you like him and well I just didn’t want to send a Valentine to a guy my friend likes,” Virginia said shrugging.

“Liked,” I corrected.

“Look, I KNOW Darcy likes you. He’s your Secret Santa,” Virginia said. “He just used a logical method of reasoning.”

There was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Who is it?” Virginia called.

“Darcy.”

I got up and walked into a stall.

“Come in,” Virginia said. “Nobodies in here but Natalie and I.”

“I don’t feel like talking to you,” I said with my back towards the stall door.

“Can you listen?” Darcy’s voice asked.

“Do I have a choice?” I snorted. I heard Virginia chuckle.

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you would send me that Valentine because I was kinda a jerk to you when you first came. City folk never understand us. But you’re not like other people who didn’t grow up here. You seem to like it here and enjoy the easy lifestyle we have. I really like you,” Darcy said his voice trailing off after the last sentence.

I opened the bathroom stall door.

“Will you take me to the ball?” I asked.

“I would be delighted,” Darcy said in a fake British accent. I laughed.

“All is forgiven,” I said giving him a hug.

**

“I am so disgusted!”

I looked at Regina who looked like she could kill somebody.

“It’s not that bad, Regina,” I said trying to calm her down.

“And the creepy thing is. She likes him back!” Regina shouted.

“Hi, Natalie,” Emily said walking up with Nelson. They were holding hands.

“Yuck,” Regina shuddered.

“You’re just jealous. No one sent you a lovey dovey Valentine,” Emily said smiling at Nelson. “Look at my Valentine.”

She pushed it in my face.

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

“Cute,” I said not telling her I got one exactly like it.

“My heads in the clouds. My heart’s in my throat. I’m walking on air. Handing you this note!” Regina said. I looked at her strangely.

“That’s what my Valentine said,” Nelson cleared up.

“I don’t know what your problem is,” I said to Regina. “Nelson and Emily can like whoever they want.”

“Oh, you’re just happy Emily doesn’t like Darcy,” Regina shouted getting up and storming out of the cafeteria.

“What’s her problem?” I asked. Nelson shook his head twice. Once for him and once for Emily.

**

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now it’s the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

“Isn’t it so romantic?” Abby asked hugging Zach. “And to think I thought I was giving him a push!”

“You’re getting married?” Virginia asked excitedly. She had come over because us girls were going to get ready for the Valentine’s Day Ball.

“Yup,” Abby said showing us her ring.

“I knew I made the right decision when I read her Valentine,” Zach laughed. He handed it to me.

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.!

I laughed.

“Get out, Zach,” Mrs. Rivers barked. “You can see your fiancée at the ball.”

Zach gave Abby a kiss and left.

“Girls, I would like you to meet Jesse-Maria. She’s going to be staying with Tom and me for a while,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging a short shy looking girl. “She likes to be called Sean.”

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” Sean mumbled.

“Let’s start doing hair!” Momma shouted. Soon the B&B was filled with girly giggles.

“Where are the guys?” Jaci asked as she was putting on her dress.

“It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a man in Florida, Massachusetts has something for his girl in the morning on Valentine’s Day and has something for her in the evening too,” Mrs. Rivers joked.

We all laughed, including Sean who hadn’t said a word the entire time.

“Who else besides Abby got a special Valentine?” Aunt Jane asked. Virginia looked uncomfortable.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“This!” Virginia shouted taking a yellow Valentine out of her backpack.

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

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

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

“It’s from that Leo boy isn’t it?!” Aunt Jane asked sounding excited. Virginia nodded.

“And I sent him the stupidest Valentine back,” Virginia sighed.

“What did it say?” The entire room asked.

Roses are Red. Violets are blue. I never know what to say around you! I’d like to convince myself there’s no one left to ask. But the truth is I only want you!” Virginia recited. “He’ll think I like him.”

“But you do,” Aunt Jane said.

“I don’t,” Virginia said looking disgusted.

“Do,” Aunt Jane said.

“Don’t.”

“Do.”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t,” Aunt Jane said.

“Do,” Virginia messed up.

We burst out laughing and Virginia shook her head.

**

“I can I have everybody’s attention?!”

I looked up at the stage were Ms. O’Donnell was standing next to Zach’s brother whose name was Ned Davis.

“Ned has something he would like to say,” Ms. O’Donnell said. Her eyes looked excited.

“Erin! Erin Carter! Where are you?” Ned shouted into the microphone. Ms. Erin stepped forth.

“I have something I would like to say,” Ned said getting down on one knee. The entire room gasped.

“Would you marry me?” Ned asked. Ms. Erin shook her yes head and ran up on stage.

“Three weddings and two in the same family and Joan is having a baby,” Mrs. Stewart smiled. “I wonder if there’s ever been this much excitement in Florida!”

“And now we’re going to crown our Junior Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and Junior Mr. and Mrs. Bingley,” Ms. O’Donnell said waving an envelope around. She opened it.

“Our Junior Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are………….Darcy Edwards and Natalie Baldwin!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. Darcy and I walked up on the stage.

“And our Junior Mr. and Mrs. Bingley are…………Nelson Drew and Emily Stewart!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. Regina looked surprised and ran out of the room where the ball was being held. Mrs. Stewart screamed and helped Emily on stage.

“Our Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are…………..Ned Davis and Erin Carter!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. Ms. Erin laughed as she walked up on stage.

“Our Mr. and Mrs. Bingley are…………Steve Matthews and Riley Baldwin!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted.

I smiled as Ms. O’Donnell put a sash on me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Daddy I thought.

Posted in Farm Girl

Farm Girl-Installment Four

**

“Ms. Natalie Baldwin! Is the Algebra lesson too hard for you? Why don’t you come up here and tell the class why you just burst out crying?” Ms. O’Donnell asked.

I looked up from my Algebra lesson. Since I was way back in the back I couldn’t hear Natalie crying but Leo had been snickering for a couple of minutes so I guess he heard her. Despicable young man.

“Um, seven years ago,” Natalie said getting up. “My dad died on this day.”

I felt a pain in my heart. I knew how it was to lose my father.

“Oh, Natalie…..,” Ms. O’Donnell started. I rolled my eyes on the inside. Why was she so nice to her only?

The bell rang and Natalie ran out of the room. I jumped from my seat as fast as I could. Darcy looked like he didn’t know what to do.

“I got it,” I said running past him.

“Natalie!” I called. She was pretty fast. Natalie stopped and it took me a second to catch up with her.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“No,” Natalie cried. Tears started to splash down her face.

“Let’s step into my office,” I said. My office was in the cafeteria. It was this table in the back where people changed during the school plays. There was a curtain there for privacy.

“Wow,” Natalie said looking around.

“Cool, I know,” I said.

“Do you want to talk about your dad?” I asked.

“He was from England,” Natalie started.

“My dad was born and raised in Virginia,” I said.

“My dad was killed in a car accident,” Natalie sighed. She looked very sad when she said this.

“My parents took a bus to Richmond,” I said. “They had to pick up a part for our tractor. The bus driver fell asleep and crashed.”

It felt a little good to get that off my chest. I haven’t talked to anyone since my father’s death.

“I’m sorry,” Natalie said.

“I guess we know how each other feels,” I sighed. “What did your dad smell like?”

“Pine Needles,” Natalie laughed. “It was his favorite body wash.”

“My dad always smelled like goat, sweat, and manure,” I laughed.

I pictured my father. Tall, strong, and well built. I could see him walking towards the house after all the work was done but as he got closer he faded. Then I couldn’t see him anymore all I could do was smell him.

“Manure?” Natalie asked breaking into my thoughts. I nodded and we started to laugh.

“Were you thinking about him when you started to cry?” I asked after we stopped laughing. Natalie nodded.

“I was remembering the last time I saw him,” Natalie said. She looked like she was going to cry.

“I can’t really remember the last time I saw my parents. I try so hard to but I just can’t remember,” I said. I tried to think of them at this moment but Natalie sighed and started talking.

“But it was so weird,” Natalie started. “When I stopped thinking about it, I looked at Darcy and my stomach seemed to flutter and my heart started to beat like crazy.”

I gave her a sly smile. I knew it. I knew it. I knew. Natalie liked Darcy.

“What?” Natalie asked. I thought of the perfect thing to say.

“Admit it Natalie,” I said. “You like him.”

“I do not!” Natalie shouted.

Some people need more of a push than others.

“Just stop it, Natalie,” I said. “Everybody in Florida knows it. Your own mother knows it.”

“She doesn’t think I like Darcy,” Natalie denied.

“Sure,” I said rolling her eyes. “Talk to me when you’re ready to send him a Valentine.”

“I do no……” Natalie started but stopped.

I smirked at her but she was too lost on thought to notice it.

“Oh! I don’t know!” Natalie shouted throwing up her hands. “When I first got here Darcy wasn’t the nicest person to me but lately he’s been…..”

“He’s been what?” I asked.

I tried not squirm in my seat but I felt myself wiggling. It’s a bad habit that I always do when I’m close to finding out a good juicy secret.

“He’s been kind,” Natalie said. “He’s not mad at me anymore for breaking his knee. He’s just….UGH!”

“I think he likes you,” I said. Natalie snorted.

“Emily Stewart sticks to him like glue,” Natalie snorted. It took all that was in me not to tell her that Darcy liked her a lot and show her the Valentine he was thinking about getting her.

“Sometimes glue falls off,” I said instead. Natalie smiled.

“I have the perfect Valentine,” I said getting my box from under the table. “Have you ever read Pride and Prejudice?”

“I’ve seen the movie,” Natalie said. I sighed the movie is as good as you can do in two hours but at least she was familiar with the story/

“You’re lucky,” I said pulling out a Valentine.

“In what way?” Natalie asked as I pushed the Valentine towards her.

“Darcy!!! You know as in Mr. Darcy?” I shouted. Natalie sighed.

“Give him this Valentine, Elizabeth,” I urged. If she didn’t do this I might blow about how much Darcy liked her.

“How much?” Natalie asked.

I clapped my hands and squealed. What? I love romance.

“I charge a dollar just like that other Valentine seller,” I said adding disgust to the word ‘other’.

“You like him,” Natalie said pulling out a dollar from her backpack.

My mouth fell open and Natalie laughed. That’s when I realized that it was a joke. But my mouth was still open as she gave me her money and I gave her the Valentine.

“Natalie?”

Mrs. Baldwin was standing there and was carrying a picnic basket.

“Ms. O’Donnell called me about what happened,” Mrs. Baldwin said.

“I didn’t mean to burst out crying,” Natalie started but Mrs. Baldwin put up her hand.

“Come on,” Mrs. Baldwin said taking Natalie’s hand. “Ms. O’Donnell has given you the rest of the day off.”

“But Darcy….” Natalie started. I tried not to smirk. And she says she doesn’t like him.

“You can see Darcy at home,” Mrs. Baldwin said. She had that look on her face that said ‘Where has my baby gone? She’s liking boys.’

Natalie and her mother left and soon after that Emily Stewart walked into my office.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

“I hear you’re selling Valentines,” Emily said looking at me.

“Yup,” I nodded.

“I need two Valentines. One for Darcy and one for Nelson Drew,” Emily said. Her eyes got dreamy. Sorry sister, Darcy doesn’t like you.

“What type of Valentines do you want friendship, love, secret crush?” I asked.

Emily thought for a minute.

“Secret crush. No, just crush. He’s and idiot if he doesn’t think I like him,” Emily said. I pulled out a Valentine.

“This will do,” Emily said. “I need a friendship one too. Any ole one will do.”

I pulled out just ‘any ole one’ and Emily gave me two dollars.

“Nice doing business with you,” Emily said. She flipped her long red hair and walked out of my office.

At least that altercation didn’t last long.

“Hey, Virginia,” Nelson said walking into my office.

“Hey, Nelson,” I said. My stomach rumbled. I had thrown my lunch in the trash the moment I was out of Aunt Jane’s sight. I didn’t get up early enough to make breakfast so Aunt Jane made it. I swear that woman cannot cook.

“Want half of my sandwich?” Nelson asked sitting down.

“Would you?” I asked. Nelson nodded and tore his sandwich in two. He gave me one half.

“Oh this is so delicious,” I said munching it.

“I bet you’re hungry. Aunt Jane is a miserable cook but no one has the heart to tell her,” Nelson said.

“Somebody better tell her soon or I’ll starve to death,” I joked.

“Why don’t you tell her,” Nelson said taking a swig of his water. I laughed.

“Are you friends with Emily Stewart?” I asked. “She got you a Valentine.”

“She did?” Nelson asked. His eyes lighted up. I knew that dangerous light all too well.

“You like Emily STEWART?” I asked. “THE Emily Stewart. The one that sticks to Darcy Edwards like glue. The woman with long red hair and brown eyes. The one who is the younger sister of Timmy Stewart? The one who is most mean, arrogant, and rude girl in Florida?”

“I don’t know any other Emily Stewarts,” Nelson said.

“How could you like her? She has a massive crush on Darcy,” I said.

“But Darcy doesn’t like her,” Nelson said.

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“I share a room with him,” Nelson shrugged. “Darcy doesn’t like her so I thought that maybe if she sees how much I like her she’ll like me.”

“Trust me,” I said. “That’s not how love works.”

“Do you have a Valentine for like secret crushes?” Nelson asked. I pulled out a Valentine that was just like the one Darcy was thinking about giving to Natalie.

“Perfect,” Nelson said smiling a silly smile.

Oh no. He was in love with a Stewart.

**

“Class dismissed!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. “Leo, Darcy, and Virginia I would like to speak to you for a minute.”

Why would she want to talk to me and that other boy?

“Yes, Ms. O’Donnell?” Darcy asked. He was in pain, I could tell. Ms. O’Donnell had no heart.

“North Adams and Florida can coming together to have a Valentine’s Day ball. I’m one of the people in charge of planning it and we’re having the toughest time coming up with a theme and Valentine’s Day is in a week!” Ms. O’Donnell said.

I sighed and looked at Darcy. This woman was……………

“DARCY!” I shouted jumping up and down.

“What?” Darcy asked moving back.

“No. No, not you!” I shouted. “Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mr. Bingley. We’ll have a Pride and Prejudice ball. We’ll have a contest for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and Mr. and Mrs. Bingley! Everyone will wear clothes that age period and we’ll do dances from that age period it will lots of fun!”

“I like it,” Leo said. He didn’t look like he liked it.

I rolled my eyes. Darcy looked at him like he was crazy.

“I LOVE it!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. “Time to get my Jane Austin on!”

I smiled. Maybe Ms. O’Donnell isn’t so so bad.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty

**

I hate the week before Valentine’s Day.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. I really like the holiday even thou I’ve never had anyone that I really like like.

It’s just that my father’s car accident happened exactly a week before Valentine’s Day. February 7th.

And this February 7th is even more painful. My mother is engaged to Mr. Steve. I like him a little bit better but still. And now that I know that my father’s accident wasn’t an accident it just hurts all the more.

It’s been seven years since he died. That day is still fresh in my memory.

The last time I ever saw my father alive was when he came home for lunch. He always came home for lunch. When he got his job, he wasn’t around as much and he always said that there was nothing better than spending time with his girls.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” Daddy said to me that day. His hands were behind his back.

“What! What!” I screamed excited.

“When I was driving past the pharmacy I saw a sign that said ‘90% off Christmas Things’ and with my two Christmas loving girls I just had to go in,” Daddy said.

“What is it?!” I asked impatiently.

“They had some bags, a Christmas bear, and one fudge tin,” Daddy said with a grin on his face.

“Will you take me to get the fudge tin?” I asked forgetting about the surprise. “I love fudge!”

“It’s not there anymore,” Daddy said. I pouted.

“Who took it! I want them thrown in jail!” I shouted. What? I was five.

“Take it! I don’t want to go to jail!” Daddy shouted showing his hands. In his hands was a tin of fudge.

“Thank you, Daddy! I love you!” I screamed taking the fudge tin. I ran to the couch and started to devour the fudge.

My dad gave one of his British laughs. My mother started laughing too. A Christmas song had just started to play and the two of them started to dance.

My mother was laughing. My daddy was smiling. I was eating fudge. It was like this a lot. My parents would just start dancing no matter the song. I would just sit on the couch and laugh and smile. My dad was always doing something to make me smile.

He left an hour later. It wasn’t until that evening that the officers showed up at our front door.

“Is that the door, Natalie?” Momma asked.

“I don’t know,” I groaned. I had eaten the entire tin and was feeling sick.

Momma walked towards the door and opened it.

“Officers,” Momma said in a shaky voice. “Come in.”

“Are you Mrs. Alexander Baldwin?” One of the officers asked. Momma slowly shook her head yes.

“Your husband got into a car accident at two o’clock this afternoon. He was rushed to the hospital but died on the way,” The other officer said.

My momma burst out crying. I felt a stream of tears rush down my face. The stream then turned into an ocean. My daddy was gone. I ran to my room and locked the door. I didn’t want to know anymore.

“NATLAIE BALDWIN!”

I looked around and realized that I was in Ms. O’Donnell’s class. Darcy looked at me. His blue eyes were filled with confusion. His hand was on my arm.

Darcy had been released from the hospital on Monday. Ms. O’Donnell had a fit when he didn’t come to school on Tuesday. And when he didn’t come on Wednesday, she went down to the B&B and demanded that Darcy be in class on Thursday. So here he was. He looked sick and weak, and he already fell asleep once in class.

My stomach fluttered as our eyes met. My heart started to beat like crazy. I closed my eyes and tears came out.

“Ms. Natalie Baldwin! Is the Algebra lesson too hard for you? Why don’t you come up here and tell the class why you just burst out crying?” Ms. O’Donnell said. I know that getting up in front of the class is not optional. I stood up a little embarrassed that I burst out crying. What am I supposed to say?

“Um, seven years ago,” I started. “My dad died on this day.” I felt more tears fall from my eyes

“Oh, Natalie…..,” Ms. O’Donnell starts but the bell rings before she can say anything else. I grabbed my lunch bag and ran out the room.

“Natalie!” Virginia called. I stopped and she caught up with me.

“Are you ok?” Virginia asked.

“No,” I cry letting some tears escape.

“Let’s step into my office,” Virginia said. We walk into the cafeteria and Virginia walks to the back of the cafeteria. There’s a small table back there. She pulled back a curtain that was attached to the wall.

“Wow,” I said. The curtain covered the entire table. I could only hear the noise from the cafeteria.

“Cool, I know,” Virginia said. “Do you want to talk about your dad?”

“He was from England,” I started.

“My dad was born and raised in Virginia,” Virginia said. She had a sad looking smile on her face.

“My dad was killed in a car accident,” I sighed.

“My parents took a bus to Richmond,” Virginia said. “They had to pick up a part for our tractor. The bus driver fell asleep and crashed.”

“I’m sorry,” I said trying not to cry.

“I guess we know how each other feels,” Virginia said. “What did your dad smell like?”

“Pine Needles,” I laughed. “It was his favorite body wash.”

“My dad always smelled like goat, sweat, and manure,” Virginia laughed.

“Manure?” I asked. Virginia nodded. We started to laugh.

“Were you thinking about him when you started to cry?” Virginia asked after we stopped laughing. I nodded.

“I was remembering the last time I saw him,” I said.

“I can’t really remember the last time I saw my parents. I try so hard to but I just can’t remember,” Virginia said looking sad. I sighed.

“But it was so weird,” I said without thinking. “When I stopped thinking about it, I looked at Darcy and my stomach seemed to flutter and my heart started to beat like crazy.”

Virginia gave me a sly smile.

“What?” I asked.

“Admit it Natalie,” Virginia said. “You like him.”

“I do not!” I almost shouted.

“Just stop it, Natalie,” Virginia said. “Everybody in Florida knows it. Your own mother knows it.”

“She doesn’t think I like Darcy,” I said.

“Sure,” Virginia said rolling her eyes. “Talk to me when you’re ready to send him a Valentine.”

“I do no……”

My voice trailed off. Could Virginia possibly be right? Did I have a crush on Darcy?

“Oh! I don’t know!” I shouted throwing my hands up. “When I first got here Darcy wasn’t the nicest person to me but lately he’s been…..”

“He’s been what?” Virginia asked. She was squirming in her seat.

“He’s been kind,” I said. “He’s not mad at me anymore for breaking his knee. He’s just….UGH!”

“I think he likes you,” Virginia said. I snorted.

“Emily Stewart sticks to him like glue,” I snorted.

“Sometimes glue falls off,” Virginia joked. I cracked a smile.

“I have the perfect Valentine,” Virginia said pulling her box from under the table. “Have you ever read Pride and Prejudice?”

“I’ve seen the movie,” I said. Virginia sighed.

“You’re lucky,” Virginia said pulling out a Valentine.

“In what way?” I asked as Virginia pushed the Valentine over to my side.

“Darcy!!! You know as in Mr. Darcy? From Pride and Prejudice!” Virginia almost shouted. I sighed.

“Give him this Valentine, Elizabeth,” Virginia urged.

“How much?” I finally asked. Virginia clapped her hands and squealed.

“I charge a dollar just like that other Valentine seller,” Virginia said adding disgust to the word ‘other’.

“You like him,” I joked pulling out a dollar from my backpack. Virginia’s mouth fell open. I laughed. Her mouth was still open as I handed her the dollar and put my Valentine in my backpack.

“Natalie?”

I turn around the find my mother standing there. She looks like she’s been crying. She had a picnic basket in her hand.

“Ms. O’Donnell called me about what happened,” Momma said. Her voice was shaky.

“I didn’t mean to burst out crying,” I tried to explain but my mother put her hand up.

“Come on,” Momma said taking my good hand. “Ms. O’Donnell has given you the rest of the day off.”

“But Darcy…,” I start before I can stop the words from tumbling out of my mouth. Darcy was in a car accident. I just cried in class.

“You can see Darcy at home,” Momma said. There was a look on her face that I never noticed before. Maybe she really did think I liked Darcy……..which wasn’t entirely untrue.

“Where are we going?” I asked as we got into the car.

“You’ll see,” Momma said. She turns on our Christmas CD and Let it Snow blares out. Then I remember. That was the song Momma and Daddy had been dancing to. Tears roll down Momma’s face and I try my hardest not to cry but tears start to rapidly fall down from my face.

Momma gets on the highway and gets off at one of the best places on the Mohawk Trail.

“Can you hold on to the picnic basket?” Momma asked. I nodded. Momma got out of the car and opened the trunk. She took out a rather large box.

“You ready to have a picnic?” Momma asked. I slowly nod. We walk a little bit till we find a spot that’s just plain beautiful.

The snow right here is nice and white.  Momma laid down a blanket. I find it kinda crazy that we’re going to have a picnic in the snow but I sit down and Momma pulls out two thermals cups.

“Beef Carrot Stew,” Momma smiles. She pulls out an orange and hands it to me.

“I know moving from Miami to Florida has been hard for you,” Momma started. “There are places in Miami that your father used to take you to and you can remember those places. In our apartment every corner had a memory of him. I think you’re old enough now to…well let me show you.”

Momma opened the large box. Inside there were twenty journals.

“These were your father’s,” Momma said as tears fell down her face. “Ten years of history are recorded here. From when he first came to Miami to the day before his death. Your father knew that he might die soon so the last entries focus mostly on us and how much he loved us and life and how he was ready to see if Jesus if necessary.”

“Daddy knew he was going to die?” I asked looking at the journals.

“Yes,” Momma sighed. “I’m not ready to tell anyone anytime soon about the accident or why your father thought he might die. Reading his journals is the second best.”

Momma’s eyes were red and her face drenched.

“Honey, I miss your father now more than ever,” Momma said. “I had to come back home because he died. I had to come back because he never met my parents. I had to come back because he never met my siblings. I had to come back because he never got to see the Mohawk Trail and marvel about its beauty. You’re his child and you deserve a chance to see what he died before doing.”

Momma started to have some of her stew and I did the same.

“He left you letters,” Momma said when we were finished without picnic.

“He did?” I asked in disbelief.

“And I think it’s almost time for the first one,” Momma said getting into the car.

**

August 7th

   It’s been nearly a week since I took holiday and came to Miami. It’s hot here all the time. It felt so good to get out of the rainy and cold British air and to feel the hot and steamy Florida weather. I still can’t believe that some people call this time ‘winter’.

 Today while trying to learn how to surf I knocked down a woman. Her name is Riley Walters. Her hair is the perfect mix between dirty blonde and ash blonde. Her eyes are the most beautiful amber eyes I have ever seen. I apologized repeatedly and she kept forgiving me. I didn’t want to go back to my surfing lesson. I stupidly suggested to take her out to dinner to show how sorry I was for knocking her down. She surprisingly agreed. She looks no older than twenty. Would she have turned me down if she knew I was twenty-seven?

  I took her to a little Mexican restaurant near the apartment building I’m staying in. It turns out Riley just got here too. She’s come from some place in New England. I have a feeling she didn’t have a very good childhood. She didn’t speak much about her parents.

 I told her just about everything. I told her my life back in England. I told her where exactly in England I had been born (including the hospital and exact second I entered the world). I told her about my parents. I caught myself before I told her about my father’s invention. Who knows if it will even work?

 I got her phone number before the night ended. Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Cause if there is. I’m in love

I locked myself in the bathroom along with my father’s first journal. The journal started off with his journey from England to Miami, Florida. Then finally I got to the one where he met my mother. I tried my hardest not to get the pages wet but a few tears spilled on the page.

I was about to read August 8th when a horrible sound blasted through the air and the house shook. I heard screaming. I unlocked the bathroom and hid my father’s journal under my pillow before I walked into the restaurant.

“Oh my goodness!” Momma screamed.

“This is crazy!” Jaci screamed.

“MOMMY!” Megan shouted.

“My restrurant!” Ms. Donna shouted.

I gasped.

Mr. Stewart’s car was in the restaurant.

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 Seventeen

**

“How do I look?” Jaci asked me in the morning. She was going to take a standardized test to get her high school diploma. She was wearing the same pale pink dress she had shown up in.

“You look fine,” I said. “Don’t worry.” Jaci sighed.

“Do I look professional and serious?” Jaci asked. I nodded.

“JACI! Timmy’s here to pick you up!” Ms. Donna called.

“Pray for me!” Jaci hollered as she ran out the door.

Momma walked into the family room.

“Can you help me get off the couch?” I asked. I threw the quilt off me.

“What’s that?” Momma asked pointing to a large gift wrapped in bright Christmas wrapping.

“Secret Santa strikes again!” I shouted trying to reach the package.

“Who’s Secret Santa?” Momma asked handing me the package.

“I don’t know. That’s what Regina calls him,” I said opening it.

“And do you have any idea who this guy is?” Momma asked with sparkle in her eyes.

“No,” I said pulling out a Christmas Clipboard kit.

“How sweet,” Momma said looking at it. She started to open it. I laughed.

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Momma said handing the half open kit to me.

“It’s ok,” I said placing it on the table. Momma helped me get up.

“Me want bacon!” Megan screamed running down the steps. She ran towards Momma.

“Morning, honey. I didn’t know you were up,” Momma said.

“Silly, Mommy!” Megan cried. Momma picked her up and walked into the kitchen. I followed.

“Where’s Jaci?” Megan asked looking around the room.

“She went to school,” Ms. Donna said to her.

“Why?!” Megan cried madly.

“She’s trying to get her high school diploma,” Mr. Steve said picking up his coffee cup. Megan pouted.

“The bus is here!” Darcy called. He pulled my arm.

“But I haven’t eaten breakfast!” I shouted as he pulled me towards the door.

“Ms. O’Donnell hates it when students are late!” Darcy called.

“At least let the girl get her backpack,” Ms. Donna said handing me my lunch and backpack. Darcy blushed.

“What’s your problem?” I asked hobbling out the door.

Ugh. The bus was at the stop before ours. Darcy hobbled out the door.

“Seriously?” I asked pulling out some bacon from my lunch bag.

Darcy didn’t answer me. What was wrong with HIM?

**

“Class,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “This is Virginia Powers.”

“Hello, Virginia,” The class chimed.

“And this is Natalie Baldwin,” Ms. O’Donnell said, “Both will be joining our class today. Most of you know Natalie but Virginia is new to Florida. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?”

“Well I’m from Virginia,” Virginia said laying on her Southern drawl. “I’m a farm girl. I have an older brother who is in high school and two younger sisters.”

“Thank you Virginia that will be all,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “Natalie, would you like to tell the class a little bit more about yourself?”

The look on Virginia’s face told me that she had more to tell but she didn’t dare go against Ms. O’Donnell.

“Well I moved here about a month ago. I live at the Sunshine B&B,” I started. What else could I say? I mean everyone in the room knew just about everything about me.

“I have a younger sister Megan and will have two steps sisters as soon as my mother marries Steve Matthews,” I said. My heart hurt a little to call Megan my sister.

“I love Christmas as my name implies,” I quickly added. That was something not too many people knew.

“Thank you, Natalie,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “The two of you may take your seats.”

I decided to let Virginia pick the first. There was an empty seat next to Darcy and a guy named Leo Logan. For some ridiculous reason I really hoped Virginia wouldn’t sit next to Darcy. Virginia looked at me and winked. I tried to act surprised. Darcy looked happy as Virginia walked towards the back. She sat next to Leo and shook his hand.

I sat next Darcy. He gave me a smile and what could I do but give him a silly stupid smile back.

**

“Look at this! Look at this!” Virginia shouted shoving a Valentine in my face.

“What is it?” I asked. I was sitting at a lunch table with Regina, Nelson, Darcy, and surprisingly Emily. She hadn’t uttered a word since she sat down.

“This is so rude! So ridiculous! I would punch the boy who gave me THIS piece of junk!” Virginia screamed.

“Calm down,” I said taking it out of her hands.

It read:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I don’t know what to say around you

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“I don’t know what to say around you? What kind of cheesy line is that? It might as well read ‘Roses are red. Violets are blue. I really don’t want to give a Valentine to you.’,” Virginia said sitting down.

“I don’t see what’s wrong with it,” Darcy said. Virginia gave him a look.

“This is being marketed as a Valentine to give to someone who you really don’t want to give a Valentine too! Dozens of poor girls are going to receive this terrible Valentine!” Virginia said.

“VIRGINIA!” Aunt Jane screamed running into the lunch room.

“What now?” Virginia muttered.

“I didn’t give you a lunch before you took off,” Aunt Jane huffed. “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” Virginia said taking it. Aunt Jane smiled.

“Somebody get their Valentine’s Day out of the way?” Aunt Jane asked picking up the Valentine.

“No,” Virginia said. “I just found out that my desk partner is selling these!”

“Then sell them back,” Aunt Jane said.

“Huh?” The table asked.

“You make Valentines bigger and better,” Aunt Jane said.

“That’s a wonderful idea!” Virginia shouted. “I’ll beat him at his own game!” Aunt Jane nodded.

I looked over at the table where Leo was sitting.

I looked at the look on Virginia’s face. This was war.

**

I stared at the tall stranger sitting on the couch.

“You must be Natalie,” The young man smiled. “Your mother told me about you.”

I looked at the new boarder. His name was Zach Davis. Something about his broad shoulders and his face looked familiar.

“And you must be Darcy,” Zach said offering his hand to him.

“Hi,” Darcy said shaking it.

“I see you’ve met my new boarder Zach,” Ms. Donna said walking into the room.

“Here’s your coco,” Jaci said walking into the room. Timmy wasn’t far behind but he didn’t look like he was comfortable.

“Thank you, Jaci,” Zach said taking the hot chocolate and drinking it.

“The restaurant opens up in five minutes. I’m sure the town will want to meet you,” Ms. Donna said smiling. She walked back to the kitchen.

“I’m up!” Megan screamed walking down the steps. She looked at Zach and her eyes widened.

“You!” Megan shouted. “You!”

She didn’t sound mad. She sounded like she was happy to see him. Zach looked like he had no idea what to do.

“You must be Megan,” Zach said. “Your mother told me about you.”

Megan flew into his arms. Jaci snickered. Zach walked into the restaurant with Megan in his arms.

“She can walk,” Momma said taking Megan out of his arms.

“She just flew into them. I guess that means she likes me,” Zach said.

“LET ME IN!” Someone screamed pounding on the restaurant door. Ms. Donna unlocked it. Abby ran into the restaurant and tripped. She flew right into Zach’s arms.

“I guess I’m a magnet today,” Zach joked. Abby looked stunned.

“I’m so sorry!” Abby cried. “I guess I was so excited I tripped!”

“That’s all right,” Zach smiled. I looked at Regina. She returned my look. If I read her look correct she also thought this guy was developing a quick crush on Abby.

“Riley, look at this fabric!” Abby shouted. She pulled out a scrap from her purse.

“It’s a beautiful shade of pink!” Momma cried looking at it.

“I couldn’t wait until the weekend to show it to you,” Abby said.

“I could make bridesmaids dresses out of it!” Jaci shouted taking the fabric out of Momma’s hands.

“I like that idea,” Momma said.

“Oh please let me make your wedding dress!” Jaci cried. “I won’t fail you.”

Before Momma could answer Mr. Stewart walked into the restaurant. He looked at Zach.

“I thought I told you to never come back to Berkshire County,” Mr. Stewart said flatly to him.

Posted in Farm Girl

Farm Girl- Installment Two

**

A red truck pulled up in Aunt Jane’s driveway. I ran to the window to see who it was.

Timmy Stewart got out of the truck. He opened the passenger door and Jaci Matthews got out.

“Virginia, it’s not polite to spy,” Aunt Jane said when she saw me peeping out the window.

“Timmy Stewart is with Jaci Matthews,” I said.

“What is she doing with that boy?” Aunt Jane asked looking out the window. I laughed on the inside.

Jaci saw me in the window and waved. I felt my cheeks go red.

Timmy rang the doorbell and Aunt Jane opened it.

“Timmy Stewart, what are you doing here?” Aunt Jane asked as she let them in.

“I thought that maybe I could show Andrew around the high school. He is going to Drury High School right?” Timmy asked.

“He is,” Aunt Jane said. “How….thoughtful.”

“I’m taking a standardized test!” Jaci shouted.

“Standardized test?” I asked taking some eggs out of the refrigerator.

“Mother homeschooled me so I never got my high school diploma. Father says I have to take standardized test to get a high school diploma. If I don’t pass he’ll enroll me next year,” Jaci said. “Timmy’s driving me.”

“I’ll go get Andrew and tell him that you’ve offered to show him around,” Aunt Jane said walking up the steps.

“So how’s Florida so far?” Timmy asked me as I made the eggs.

“All right I guess,” I answered.

“Do you like chickens?” Rachel asked Timmy as she got out the oatmeal. Jaci and Timmy burst out laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Rachel asked.

“Timmy used to be a chicken shooter,” Jaci laughed. Rachel looked horrified.

“I don’t shot chickens anymore,” Timmy said ruffling her hair. I took the eggs off the stuff and took the oatmeal from Rachel and started making it.

“Why did you shot chickens in the first place?” Rachel asked.

“That’s a very good question,” Timmy said. Andrew walked down the steps.

“Aunt Jane says that you’re going to show me around the high school,” Andrew said as I handed him his sandwich.

“I FORGOT TO MAKE SOME BREAKFAST!” Aunt Jane hollered running down the steps with Caroline in her arms.

“I got it Aunt Jane,” I said making Rachel a sandwich.

“Ya’ll better get going,” Aunt Jane said looking at the clock.

“Buy four chickens,” Timmy said as Andrew and Jaci walked out of the house. “I didn’t give you two for Darlene.”

He closed the door.

“He killed YOUR chickens?” Rachel asked a little outraged. Aunt Jane just stared at the door in awe.

**

“Class,” Ms. O’Donnell said in a disgusted voice. “This is Virginia Powers.”

“Hello, Virginia,” The class said.

“And this is Natalie Baldwin,” Ms. O’Donnell said in a nicer tone. “Both will be joining our class today. Most of you know Natalie but Virginia is new to Florida. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?”

“Well I’m from Virginia,” I stared. Ms. O’Donnell looked like somebody was stabbing her in the back.

“I’m a farm girl,” I said. “I have an older brother who is in high school and two younger sisters.”

“Thank you Virginia that will be all,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “Natalie, would you like to tell the class a little bit about yourself?”

“Well I moved here about a month ago. I live at the Sunshine B&B. I have a younger sister Megan and will have two steps sisters as soon as my mother marries Steve Matthews,” Natalie said. “I love Christmas as my name implies.”

I had no idea how her name implied that.

“Thank you, Natalie,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “The two of you may chose your seats.”

There were two empty seats, one in the back and one in the front. I loved being in the front row. The seat that was in the front row was next to Darcy Edwards. I knew that Natalie would want to be desk partners with Darcy.

I sighed on the inside and winked at her. She gave me a surprised expression. I walked towards the back and caught a glimpse of relief in Darcy’s face.

“Leo Logan,” My desk partner said offering his hand.

“Virginia Powers,” I said shaking it.

 

Posted in Natalie

Natallie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Sixteen

**

The sound of chickens clucking filled my ears as I walked out of our van. An ice cream party when it was below freezing seemed crazy to me.

“Me want ice cream!” Megan cried as we walked towards the front door. Was I the only one who thought this ice cream party was crazy?

A scrawny looking red haired girl answered the door. She was tall. She had a sour look on her face. She had her hands on her hips. Her body language told me that she did not want to be here.

“Hello,” Mr. Steve said to her.

“And who might you be?” The girl asked looking at all of us. Everyone at the B&B had come and since Timmy was there he tagged along.

“I’m Steve Matthews. Who might you be?” Mr. Steve asked her.

“Virginia Powers,” The girl said taking her hands off her hips. “Farm Girl.”

Ok…………..

Jaci smiled at her as if she thought what Virginia had said was funny.

“Hello, Virginia, I’m Jaci Matthews,” Jaci said with a huge smile on her face. How she never got tired of smiling I will never know. Virginia gave an awkward nod.

“Sunshine B&B clan….and Timmy,” Aunt Jane said walking up to the door. “Come in! Come in!”

“Sunshine B&B clan?” Virginia asked as we filed into the house.

“We all live at the Sunshine B&B,” Darcy explained. “Expect for Timmy.”

“So your name is Virginia?” I asked. It wasn’t to be rude or anything. I thought Virginia was a nice and pretty name. She gave me the awkward nod she had given Jaci.

“Natalie Baldwin,” I said offering my hand. I thought of something.

“Miami Girl,” I quickly added. Everyone in the room but Virginia laughed.

“Virginia, I think you and Natalie are going to get along. Natalie just moved here from Miami, Florida,” Aunt Jane said. Virginia gave another one of those odd nods.

“Oh! Where are my manors!” Aunt Jane shouted. “You’re probably wondering who all these people are. Virginia, meet Riley Baldwin. She’s Natalie’s mom and she’s engaged to Steve Matthews. He’s the tall guy. The short girl is his daughter Jaci. The tall auburn is his other daughter Abby. She doesn’t live at the B&B. She lives in Boston. Then there’s Darcy. He’s the black haired cutie. Timmy Stewart is the tall blonde one with a side bang. The little girl in Riley’s arms is Megan. She’s like two. The blonde girl is Regina Drew and the dirty blonde boy standing next to her is her twin brother Nelson Drew. The brown haired woman in the blue coat is Donna Edwards. She’s Darcy’s mother. The tall older looking lady is Mrs. Walters. The two other people or Mr. and Mrs. Drew. They’re Nelson and Regina’s parents. Oh and the baby boy in Mrs. Drew’s hands is Fred. The ice creams in the kitchen.”

“Ice cream?” Virginia asked. I let a snicker escape me.

“We’re having an ice cream party! The whole town is invited!” Aunt Jane shouted.

“But it’s like seventeen degrees outside!” Virginia shouted. Yes! Finally someone else who thought this was a crazy idea.

“That’s what I said,” I laughed. I gave Aunt Jane my coat and hobbled off towards the kitchen.

“Hello,” A little black haired girl said to me. “I’m Rachel Powers. I’m seven and I moved here last night. That’s my brother Andrew.”

The little girl pointed to a tall blonde boy. He was looking at……..goat sections.

“I like the white one!” Rachel shouted pointing to the screen.

“I like the grey and white one,” Andrew said. Rachel gave him a mad face.

“Where’s the kitchen?” I asked. “Aunt Jane told me I’d find ice cream there.”

“Ice cream?” Rachel asked. She ran towards the kitchen.

In the kitchen I found Darcy scooping chocolate ice cream.

“What happened to your knee?” Rachel asked.

“Natalie hit her cast on my knee,” Darcy said nodding his head towards me. He didn’t say it like he was mad. I couldn’t be sure but I thought there was a hint of laugher in his voice.

“Why would she do that?” Rachel asked confused.

“Because I tripped her and that caused her to break her foot,” Darcy joked. He gave me a smile. I felt my eyes pop out.

“That was mean,” Rachel said scooping strawberry ice cream.

“She didn’t do it on purpose,” Darcy said getting a spoon.

“Did you trip her on purpose?” Rachel asked. Darcy didn’t answer. He just walked out the room. I sighed and shook my head.

By the time I decided what ice cream I wanted and where the spoons where the party was in full swing. Most of the people from town where there.

I saw Timmy introducing Emily to Virginia. Poor Virginia.

“Natalie!” Ms. Ross called. She had a tall looking woman with her.

“I would like you to meet the seventh grade teacher Ms. Shelby O’Donnell,” Ms. Ross said. “I’m sad to say it but I talked with Principal Helga and she thinks that you can move up a grade in everything.” Ms. Ross looked like she was praying hard about something.

I was surprised. I hadn’t moved up in Math because Ms. O’Donnell didn’t want a ‘limited sixth grader’ in her classroom.

“Hello, Ms. O’Donnell,” I said giving her a polite smile.

“She’s a little short and just a little bit scrawny,” Ms. O’Donnell said.

I was not that scrawny.

“But I just love the touch of British accent in her voice!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted. “I thought you were from Miami.”

“I am,” I said. “But my father was from England.”

“Your father?” Ms. O’Donnell asked. “I thought your father was Steve Matthews.”

I gagged.

“I think Shelby got the story confused,” Ms. Ross said interrupting. “Steve dated Riley in high school then Riley ran away and then he married Abby and Jaci’s mother. She ran away when Abby was a little baby and she had Jaci up in Charlotte, Maine.”

“Oh,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “And where is your father.”

“He’s dead,” I said not wanting to think about how his accident wasn’t an accident.

“I’m sorry,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “See you Monday morning.”

She walked off and towards Aunt Jane. I walked over to Darcy.

“How do you put up with her?” I asked him.

“Who?” Darcy asked.

“Ms. O’Donnell,” I said.

Darcy burst out laughing.

Posted in Farm Girl

Farm Girl-Installment One

Hush Caroline, Everything is gonna be fine

Even thou its night I know the light is not far away.

So let your dreams take you to a faraway place

But keep in mind, we’ll get there someday

If we gotta fly, I’ll grow wings

We’ll just take our time and let God do all the healing

If we gotta go by boat

God will calm the sea

Hush, Caroline, go to sleep

My baby sister Caroline stared at me. She gave me one of her sweet smiles. She wasn’t falling asleep. I had already sung her several times but she wasn’t falling asleep.

I heard footsteps on the steps. For a second I thought it was Momma. I tried not to cry as I looked at Caroline. She looked so much like Momma.

Aunt Lisa opened the door. She stood in the doorway and smiled at me.

“Don’t worry about Caroline. I’ll put her to sleep,” Aunt Lisa smiled. “Go downstairs. Your Uncle Danny wants to talk to you.”

I gave her to my Aunt Lisa. I wondered why Uncle Danny would want to talk to me. I heart wrenching thought came to mind as I walked down the steps. Uncle Danny and Aunt Lisa we’re sending my brother, two sisters, and I away.

Nonsense, Virginia! I thought in my head. Uncle Danny knew how much I loved living on his farm. His farm was so much like that one Papa and Momma had run before they died. This was the fourth relative’s home my siblings and I had lived in since our parents died five months ago. We’ve been here for two months so far and I can’t possible think of any reason Uncle Danny and Aunt Lisa would want us out of their house.

As I walked into the family room I thought of a reason. Their children. They had four children of their own. What if four more was too much to handle?

“Where’s Rachel and Andrew?” Uncle Danny asked.

“Upstairs,” I answered sitting down on the couch. “Probably getting ready for bed.”

“Rachel! Andrew!” Uncle Danny called. My older brother Andrew and my younger sister Rachel quickly came down the steps.

“Yes, Uncle Danny?” Rachel asked sitting in my lap.

“Now, I know you kids have been shifted around quite a bit these last few months,” Uncle Danny said. I looked at his hands. His knuckles were shaking. Papa told me that whenever Uncle Danny’s knuckles shook that meant he had to do something he didn’t want to do.

I nodded and added, “But I like it here.”

A sad look crept into Uncle Danny’s face. I felt mine fall rapidly.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about your Aunt Jane,” Uncle Danny said getting out a photo album. “She’s your dad’s older sister. She’s my younger sister.”

“Yes, we’ve heard about Aunt Jane,” Rachel said. “Papa said he thought she was slightly crazy.”

Uncle Danny gave a chuckle.

“She was always coming up with crazy ideas and getting in trouble for them!” Uncle Danny said taking a picture of Aunt Jane out.

“So what about Aunt Jane?” Andrew asked impatiently.

“When she was twenty-two she moved away up North. She had gotten into Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts. She moved to Florida, Massachusetts a town less than thirty minutes away from North Adams and she’s lived there ever since,” Uncle Danny said. “She studied language. She didn’t want to be a farm girl. Mom and Pops were disappointed but they encouraged her to follow her heart.”

I wish he would just get to his point. I heard all of this before. Traitor. Once a farm girl, always a farm girl.

“I got a phone call from her two weeks ago. She asked how you were doing,” Uncle Danny said pausing.

“Is she coming for a visit?” Rachel asked.

“No,” Uncle Danny said. “Its kinda like the other way around.”

“We’re going to visit her. But it’s the middle of the school year!” Andrew shouted. I rolled my eyes on the inside. Andrew loved going to school. I did not.

“You’re not going to be visiting her,” Uncle Danny said. “Your aunt Jane has decided that she wants to adopt you. She said, ‘Andrew, Virginia, Rachel, and Caroline all four of those little angels!’”

It took me a minute to let all of this sink in.

“What!” I shouted. “But…But…she lives in Massachusetts. That’s like a million miles from here!”

“Not quite a million. It’s not even a thousand miles from here. It’s a little more than ten hours from here,” Uncle Danny said.

“Why would she want to adopt us?” I asked outraged.

“I don’t know,” Uncle Danny said. “She’s family. Maybe she wants to do something for her brother.”

“Well I don’t want to go!” I cried. Uncle Danny sighed.

“You leave tomorrow and that’s that. Now go upstairs and get ready for bed. Your bus leaves at nine.”

Wait, did he just say bus?

**

I sat on the steps determined never to leave Uncle Danny’s farm. If they tried to make me it would be against my will and that would be kidnapping.

“Virginia, what are you doing?” Rachel asked me when she walked down the steps in the morning.

“I’m not leaving and that’s that,” I said recalling Uncle Danny’s words from last night.

“Virginia! How did you get my handcuffs?” Andrew cried when he saw that I had handcuffed myself to the stair’s railing.

“I just walked into your room,” I shrugged.

“Boy, is Aunt Lisa and Uncle Danny going to be mad,” Rachel said sitting next to me.

“It will prove a point. I don’t want to leave and I’m not going to leave. Nobody is going to make me,” I huffed.

“You’re crazy,” Andrew said. “I think you and Aunt Jane will get along just fine.”

I stuck my tongue out at Andrew and Andrew walked down the steps.

“Baby Caroline is all ready to go…..Virginia, what are you doing?” Aunt Lisa said when she came down the steps.

“I’m not going,” I said flatly.

“Oh, yes you are!” Aunt Lisa shouted. She handed Caroline to Rachel and walked up the steps. She gave back down with a lock picking kit. She picked the lock and pushed me down the steps.

“Virginia, I love you but you are leaving today,” Aunt Lisa said handing me an egg and oatmeal sandwich.

“But I’m a farm girl not a small town girl!” I cried.

“Why can’t you be a farm girl in a small town?” Aunt Lisa asked handing sandwiches to Rachel and Andrew.

“Because it doesn’t work that way,” I said. What? It was the best I could come up with!

“Who’s reading to go to Florida, Massachusetts?” Uncle Danny asked coming down the stairs with our suitcases.

“Are you coming?” I asked.

“You didn’t think I was going to let three children and a baby ride a bus all on their own did you?” Uncle Danny asked.

“Here’s your sandwich, hon,” Aunt Lisa said handing Uncle Danny his sandwich. I wanted to laugh. Uncle Danny’s hands we’re full with luggage.

“I’m sorry, deer!” Aunt Lisa cried. She let Uncle Danny but the luggage in the car and came back inside for his sandwich.

“Love you all!” Aunt Lisa called as we got in the car. I felt like screaming back, “Well if you loved us then you would let us stay!”

As Uncle Danny’s farm faded away I muttered so low I’m positive no one else heard me, “You can take the girl off the farm but you can’t take the farm off of the girl.”

“Wait that doesn’t sound right,” I muttered smacking myself on the head.

**

It was cold and some white stuff was falling from the sky.

“Snow!” Rachel cried outing her nose on the bus station window. I tried not to scream. Aunt Jane was late.

“OUT OF MY WAY! I’M LATE!”

I turned to the voice and saw a red haired woman running like her life defended on it. I looked at Caroline who was in my arms. Please don’t tell me that THIS was my Aunt Jane.

“Sorry, kids!” Aunt Jane shouted. “I’m so sorry! I plum forgot! I’m your Aunt Jane Powers.”

Aunt Jane’s jacket was covered with snow. She had sandals on which I found strange.

“Hello,” Rachel said smiling.

“Aren’t your feet freezing?” I asked not being able to get over the whole sandal thing.

“I put on the wrong shoes! I wanted to get a quick bit at the Sunshine B&B. I was in a hurry to leave because I also wanted to have a talk with Fowler Stewart about his grandson Timmy Stewart. That is all worked out now,” Aunt Jane said. There was a look of wonder when she said the words Timmy Stewart.

“How was your trip?” Aunt Jane asked picking up our suitcases and walking towards the exit.

“Horrible,” I said remembering, “Somebody coughed and sneezed all over me.”

“Gross!” Aunt Jane cried shaking her head. “There’s nothing like a sick person to ruin a perfectly good bus ride. You’ll probably want to take a nice long hot shower when you get home.”

It would take me another ten hours to get home and I needed a shower now.

“This is your car?” Andrew asked pointing to the car Aunt Jane had stopped at.

I was wondering the same thing and not because her car was a Ford Explorer.

Her license plate was FARMGURL.

That was far from true.

**

Ok, so maybe not TOO TOO far from true.

Aunt Jane had chickens in her backyard.

And at this moment she ordering a pig, a goat, and a lamb.

“I just love animals!” Aunt Jane shouted as she placed her order. We hadn’t even been here one day and she was ordering farm animals.

There was a knock at the door.

“Virginia, could you get that please?” Aunt Jane asked. She started to chuckle. I went to open the door.

“Hello,” A tall brown haired man said when I opened the door. As far as I could tell there were thirteen other people with him.

“And who might you be?” I asked with my hands on my hips.

“I’m Steve Matthews,” The man said. “Who might you be?”

“Virginia Powers,” I said taking my hands off my hips. “Farm girl.”

A short brown haired girl that I assumed was Mr. Matthew’s daughter, smiled at me.

“Hello, Virginia, I’m Jaci Matthews,” The girl smiled. I nodded.

“Sunshine B&B clan….and Timmy,” Aunt Jane said walking up to the door. “Come in! Come in!”

“Sunshine B&B clan?” I asked as they walked into the door.

“We all live at the Sunshine B&B,” A boy with dark hair and blue eyes said. “Expect for Timmy.”

“So your name is Virginia?” A dirty blonde haired girl asked me. I nodded.

“Natalie Baldwin,” The girl said offering her hand. “Miami Girl.”

The Sunshine B&B clan laughed. Aunt Jane gave a faint chuckle. I had no idea why this was funny.

“Virginia, I think you and Natalie are going to get along. Natalie just moved here from Miami, Florida,” Aunt Jane said. I nodded.

“Oh! Where are my manors!” Aunt Jane shouted. “You’re probably wondering who all these people are. Virginia, meet Riley Baldwin. She’s Natalie’s mom and she’s engaged to Steve Matthews. He’s the tall guy. The short girl is his daughter Jaci. The tall auburn is his other daughter Abby. She doesn’t live at the B&B. She lives in Boston. Then there’s Darcy. He’s the black haired cutie. Timmy Stewart is the tall blonde one with a side bang. The little girl in Riley’s arms is Megan. She’s like two. The blonde girl is Regina Drew and the dirty blonde boy standing next to her is her twin brother Nelson Drew. The brown haired woman in the blue coat is Donna Edwards. She’s Darcy’s mother. The tall older looking lady is Mrs. Walters. The two other people or Mr. and Mrs. Drew. They’re Nelson and Regina’s parents. Oh and the baby boy in Mrs. Drew’s hands is Fred. The ice creams in the kitchen.”

“Ice cream?” I asked. Natalie snickered.

“We’re having an ice cream party! The whole town is invited!” Aunt Jane shouted.

“But it’s like seventeen degrees outside!” I shouted.

“That’s what I said,” Natalie laughed.

Soon a whole bunch of people from town poured into Aunt Jane’s house. I met some girl named Emily Stewart. She’s supposed to be Timmy’s sister but she’s nothing like him. Timmy seemed way nicer than Emily was. I heard their grandparents (the people who raise them) where there but I didn’t care to meet them.

My ice cream party wasn’t that bad and I almost let myself enjoy it up until I met the meanest woman in the world.

Ms. Shelby O’Donnell.

“Virginia, I would like you to meet your seventh grade teacher Shelby O’Donnell,” Aunt Jane said. Aunt Jane  looked like she was praying hard about something.

“She’s scrawny,” Ms. O’Donnell said.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“She’s tall but scrawny. She’s only said a couple of words and her Southern drawl annoys me,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “We’ll have to do something about that if she’s going to be in my class. Maybe we could put her Ms. Ross’s sixth grade class.”

“Excuse me?” I repeated.

“I’ll have to have to see how my teacher’s assistant and eighth grade teacher Diana Smith feels about her,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “DIANA!”

An older looking lady with graying brown hair walked up to Ms. O’Donnell.

“This is our new student,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “Speak.”

I looked at her strangely.

“I said speak, child!” Ms. O’Donnell shouted.

“Hi,” I said unsure what to say.

“Ugh! Her drawl is so very unbecoming. Wouldn’t you say so?” Ms. O’Donnell asked.

“Shelby,” Ms. Smith said. “Her drawl will not be a problem.”

“You fatten her up, Jane. She’s too scrawny,” Ms. O’Donnell said. She looked at me with disgust and walked away. Ms. Smith smiled at me and walked away.

I refused to have her for a teacher. I wondered if Andrew had anymore handcuffs.