Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Eight (Posted on January 9)

“Mom?” Momma asked. Grandma Shirley nodded.

“Natalie and I just had a very interesting conversation about an hour ago,” Grandma Shirley said. “And she made me realize that I don’t want you back.”

My jaw dropped to the floor. How in the world could Grandma Shirley say that with a clean conscious?

“Excuse me?” Momma asked also in disbelief.

“But,” Grandma Shirley said. “I don’t want you back because of the memories and feelings you bring. Do you know how crazy your father and I went when you left? I guess after a couple years I was glad that we hadn’t found you. I hated you. I gave you life. I devoted my entire life to you and one day you just up and decide to leave without even saying goodbye? I hated you for that.”

Momma and I had a look of pure surprise and disgust. Did Grandma Shirley just say that she hated my mother? That was cold.

“Mrs. Walters, I suggest you leave,” Nurse Sarah said.

“You didn’t let me finish,” Grandma Shirley said. “I hated you for leaving but I have always loved you, Riley, even thou I tried to convince myself that I hated you. Riley, I do love you. Only take it a little personally if I’m quick with you or easily get mad easily.”

Momma stared blankly at Grandma Shirley. How could Grandma Shirley just walk in here and say that she hated my Momma and then tell her that she loved her.

“I would like you to leave,” Momma said. “But if you feel like it visiting me in Florida you can visit me.”

Grandma Shirley smiled and walked out the room.

“Momma, is it all right that I don’t like her very much?” I asked.

“The truth is I don’t like her very much either. She’s a different person. That’s not the mother I know,” Momma sighed.

“When you left, everything changed in their lives. They changed. They tried to improve themselves. They threw themselves on everyone around them especially your siblings,” Nurse Sarah said. “You running away changed them.”

Momma started crying.

“After Alexander died I never planned on telling anyone else why I ran away but…NO! I can’t tell her. They know I’m back. I can’t risk anymore lives,” Momma said.

The look in her eye alone told me that her life, my life, and anyone who knew this ‘secret’ or not was in some serious danger.


“I hope you’re feeling better Riley.”

Momma smiled at Aunt Jane.

“The car accident didn’t hurt me too bad,” Momma said. “I’m feeling much better thank you.”

Momma had received a flower from everyone in town.

“Here you go my lady,” Mr. Steve said to Momma putting her soap down on the table.

“Thank you,” Momma smiled.

I squirmed at ‘my lady’.

I looked over at Ms. Donna. She looked anxious and excited at the same time.

“Riley W. Baldwin, I’ve known you since the ninth grade and by the time I finished high school I knew that I wanted to marry you,” Mr. Steve said.

I almost passed out when Mr. Steve got down on one knee and opened a ring box.

“Riley, will you marry me?” Mr. Steve asked.

Momma looked at me. The look on my face screamed, “NO!”

“Yes,” Momma managed to get out.

My face fell. What just happened? Did my mother really just accept a marriage proposal from Steve Matthews.

“Tom and I have an announcement to make,” Mrs. Rivers said standing up. “I’m having a baby.”

Soon everyone was talking about babies and weddings.

Good and bad changes were about to come to Florida, Massachusetts and I don’t just mean babies and weddings.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Four


The words “You can go home this afternoon.” rang through my mind. I think the only reason the doctor is letting me go home is because Momma threatened to take me out of the hospital with or without his agreement and the only reason she threatened him is because she desperately wants to leave Pittsfield.

I think my mother is afraid that word has gotten out that she’s back in Massachusetts. She hasn’t said much since our little talk.

“Riley?” Nurse Sarah asked walking into my room.

“Yeah?” Momma asked. She was tired. She only was getting a couple hours of sleep sleeping on that horribly lumpy couch.

“There’s someone here to see you,” Nurse Sarah said.

Me? Are you sure it’s not one of Natalie’s friends?” Momma asked surprised that anyone would be there to see her.

“I’m positive, Riley,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Is it Steve Matthews?” Momma asks. My chest got tight but it released. I’m starting to really dislike Steve Matthews.

“Steve Matthews? The guy you were dating before you ran away? No,” Nurse Sarah said. “Riley, it’s your mother.”

Wait, my mother used to date Steve Matthews? And did she just say mother?

From look on my Momma’s face her heart had stopped. She was gasping for air. I prayed that my mother wouldn’t have a full blown panic attack.

“Riley, if you refuse to see her it will hurt her heart more than you can ever imagine,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Send. Her. In.” Momma gasped. Nurse Sarah slowly walked out the room and returned seconds later with a woman who looked very much like my mother.

“So it really is you,” Grandma Shirley said. There were tears in her eyes.

“Mother,” Momma breathed.

“Riley Anne Walters,” Grandma Shirley said.

“How’s Papa?” Momma asked.

“He’s doing as good as a father whose daughter ran away could ever,” Grandma Shirley said.

A wave of guilt overcame Momma.

“How are Clarisse, John, and Cael doing?” Momma asked.

“They all live within driving distance. All three of them have good stable jobs and have children,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Funny. Clarisse always said that she would never ever have children,” Momma smiled.

“She gave in. Has six running around her place,” Grandma Shirley said. Momma look surprised.

“She got married five years after you left. She was the first to get married. She has Charleigh and Ryleigh. They are identical twin girls. Then there’s Jason and Benjamin. Then there’s Jake and Jacob. They’re fraternal twin boys,” Grandma Shirley said. Momma smiled.

Grandma Shirley for the first time noticed me. She looked at my foot first and then raised her eyes up to me. I gave her my best smile and prayed really hard that I wouldn’t have a panic attack.

“And you are?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Natalie. Natalie Zoey Baldwin,” I said.

“How old are you?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“Twelve,” I answered trying to smile. I started to feel sweaty. Grandma Shirley smiled at me.

“So you broke your foot,” Grandma Shirley said.

“Last week,” I said.

“Then why are you still in the hospital?” Grandma Shirley asked.

“I had a panic attack, then someone put sleeping medicine in my system, and then I had another panic attack,” I said. The look on my mother’s face told me that I probably shouldn’t have said that.

“Oh,” Grandma Shirley said. The words fell out of her mouth. If she knew how cold and heartless she sounded she probably would have apologized.

Grandma Shirley turned back to my mother. There was a look of pain and disgust in Grandma Shirley’s eyes.

“Riley, why did you run away? Ever since the police told us that you had run away I’ve been trying to figure out what I did to make you leave,” Grandma Shirley said. Tears ran down her face.

“Mom, it was nothing you, dad, Clarisse, John, or Cael did. I ran away because……” Momma started. She looked at me.

“Why I left is not important. I’m back now. I’m not leaving unless God tells me too,” Momma said.

“You’re back?” Grandma Shirley asked. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or horrified.

“I live in Florida at the Sunshine B&B,” Momma said. Grandma Shirley sighed.

“Riley, why did you come back to Massachusetts? Is it because after twenty years you wanted to make things better or did you come just to pain me?” Grandma Shirley said.

“Mom, I never planned to come back home. Even after Alexander died I planned to live in Miami but things changed. It wasn’t safe for me in Miami and twenty years ago it wasn’t safe for me to be here. I just got into a car and drove and drove and drove praying that God would stop me wherever he wanted me to be. When I saw a sign that said Florida, Massachusetts I knew in my heart that was where I was supposed to be,” Momma said.

Grandma Shirley looked at me and then at Momma.

“I’ve dreamt of the day I’d seen you again. I always imagined you were kidnapped by some creep or something else that would make it seem like you never wanted to leave us but you willingly left? Why?” Grandma Shirley cried.

“Mom, if I didn’t leave….Mom, it was dangerous. I couldn’t stay here. Everyone I loved and cared about was in danger and if I didn’t leave you, dad, my siblings, and even Steve would be hurt. I can’t even begin to imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t left,” Momma said.

She got up and walked quickly out of the room. Grandma Shirley looked at me.

“Don’t look at me. I know nothing,” I said.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installmant Three

My chest got tight. I breathed in and out just like Dr. Walters had taught me.

God please don’t let me have another panic attack I thought as I breathed.

Momma was still staring at Ms. Donna when she burst out crying.

“Momma, it’s not that serious,” I said. I didn’t sound very convincing. I had to have had at least two hundred dollars in there.

“Natalie, you have no idea how serious this really is.”

Momma had this cold look in her eye. I’m sure I’ve never seen it there.

“Donna, can you please bring me a couple of clothes and some clothes for Natalie please?” Momma asked.

“Of course,” Ms. Donna said. “Natalie, I hope you feel better. It seems like everybody in town has dropped off some kind of gift for you.”

I smiled and nodded. It felt nice to know that people were giving gifts.

A nurse walked into the room and dropped her clipboard.

“Riley, is that you?” The nurse asked. Momma looked like she didn’t know how to answer.

“Yes, I’m Mrs. Riley Baldwin,” Momma said.

“It’s been what? Seventeen years?” The nurse asked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Momma snapped. Momma rarely ever snapped.

“How could you forget me? I’m Sarah Parker! We’ve known each other since elementary school!” The nurse shouted surprised.

Momma closed her eyes and sighed three times. She did that when she was trying to hold back serious tears. She did that a lot right after my daddy died.

“Hiya Sarah,” Momma finally breathed. “How are you doing?”

“Pretty good. I have three kids of my own now. I see you’ve got the one,” Nurse Sarah said.

“Yup,” Momma nodded.

“I saw your mother the other day. She said that she hasn’t heard from you since well you know that day,” Nurse Sarah said.

It took all I had NOT to gasp at what Nurse Sarah just said. Of course I knew I had a grandmother and a grandfather somewhere out there in world. I guess I assumed my mother didn’t have any or they were dead because she never talked about her childhood.

Momma looked around like she was uncomfortable. She closed her eyes again but this time sighed five times.

“It’s just…I just…I just didn’t think she’d ever want to hear my voice again,” Momma finally said.

“It just hasn’t been the same since you left,” Nurse Sarah said. “Do you plan on staying?”

Momma didn’t answer.

“I’m really proud of you, Riley. It takes a lot of courage to come back home and rip off really old bandages,” Nurse Sarah said. She gave me a smile and walked out of the room.

“What was that all about?” I asked. Momma didn’t look at me.

“God, all I want is to do your will and I know that moving to Florida is it but why did it have to be so close to Pittsfield?” Momma prayed out loud.

“Momma,” I started. Momma walked out the door leaving me to stare after her.

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


My mother didn’t come back to my room for a whole hour. She looked like she had been crying but I didn’t care. I wanted answers and I wanted answers now.

“Momma, I know that running away is your thing but…..,” I started.

“I was born here in this very hospital,” Momma said. “My parents are Shirley and Jack Walters and seventeen years ago I ran away from home.”

“Why did you run away?” I asked. Momma shifted.

“I have two brothers and one sister,” Momma said. “And you know that Walters lady from the Sunshine B&B? She’s my aunt.”

My chest got tight again. I breathed in and out but that didn’t help. I felt myself trembling and sweating.

Momma didn’t seem to notice or I don’t think she would have gone on.

“I love my family. Don’t get me wrong. I missed no I miss my mother every day,” Momma said.

“Did they not approve of Daddy?” I managed to get out. I kept trying to breathe.

“Oh no. I didn’t meet your father until after I ran away,” Momma said.

“Then I don’t understand. Why did you run away?” I asked. Momma walked over towards the door.

“That and your father’s death is not something I’m ready to discuss,” Momma said. Tears started to rush down her face and with that she walked out the room.

I hit the nurse help button cause I started to feel like I was choking and lightheaded.

God, why do panic attacks have to be my expression of fear? I thought as the nurse tried to calm me down.