Posted in My Crazy Life

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

Chapter II

9th Grade, Girls, Grace…or Jordan

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

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

“Yeah?” I asked with my mouth full.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What happened to you?” Regina laughed.

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

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

“You cut your hair!” I shouted.

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

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

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

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

Regina hit him.

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

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

“Virginia?”  Natalie asked.

“Nope,” Regina said.

“Jaci?” Natalie guessed.

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

“Um, Jessie-Maria?” Natalie asked.

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

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

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

I rolled my eyes as the bus pulled up.

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

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

“Charlly?” Leo asked looking at me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because he’s bald!” Virginia said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You nervous?” Natalie asked.

“Yup,” I nodded. Natalie laughed.

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

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

Natalie smiled and laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

“Me too,” Natalie smiled.

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

Virginia looked like she wanted to scream.

“You too?” I asked her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have Mr. Piper too,” Darcy said.

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

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

“So do I,” I shrugged.

“I do also,” Darcy said.

“Virginia?” Leo asked.

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

Leo laughed.

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

“So do I,” Darcy smiled.

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

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

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

“Charlly?” Leo asked.

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

“So what’s your Period F?” Leo asked.

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

“I have her class too,” Leo smiled.

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

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

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

“Well we have lunch together,” Natalie said.

“I forgot about–” I started.

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

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

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

“Leo?” Darcy asked hopefully.

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

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

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

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

I giggled.

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

I smiled.

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

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

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

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

Leo finished rolling me into science.

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

“Then I’ll sit in the front,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

“I won’t. I promise,” Leo smiled.

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

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

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

“Thanks, Chris,” The girl smiled.

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

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

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

“Hi,” I said shaking it.

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

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

“And you are?” Jordan asked.

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

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

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

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

“Hey, um…, Maggie?”

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

“Ok, then, hi, Jordan,” Leo said.

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

“Huh?” I asked.

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

“I have Second Lunch,” I said confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in My Crazy Life

My Crazy Life: Episode I-The Summer Everything Changed Installment VIII

Chapter VIII

Sleepovers & School Switches 

I lay outstretched on the B&B lawn. The sun shone on my face and kept my body warm. Cars passed by and almost all of the them honked. Becca Lou, who was supposed to be watching Mini-Lou, ran around the yard making bubbles with Rachel and Bella. Meanwhile, Mini-Lou threw mud on unsuspecting people.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Leo said laying down next to me.

“I wish summer could last forever,” I whispered.

“I just wasted a penny,” Leo mumbled as he threw a penny on my stomach.

“Jokes on you! I didn’t even feel it!” I shouted.

“Well do you feel THIS?” Leo shouted. He turned over and started tickling me.

“Stop it!” I shouted as we started to roll down the driveway.

“Never!” Leo shouted as he continued to find a feeling spot.

“Aren’t you supposed to say ‘as you wish?’,” I joked.

“Huh?” Leo asked as we landed at the end of the driveway.

“Leo? CHARLLY!” Virginia screamed from down the street.

“Oh no,” Leo mumbled. For the first time ever, Leo actually looked scared of Virginia.

Leo quietly picked me up and carried me back up the driveway to my wheelchair.

“Well aren’t you going to say anything?” Virginia asked sending daggers with her eyes at us.

“What do you want me to say? You’re controlling, bossy, and loud?” Leo asked.

“Excuse me?” Virginia asked outraged.

“Or would you me to say I made a big mistake when I sent you that mushy Valentine?” Leo asked.

Virginia tried to speak, but no words came out of her mouth.

“It’s been fun. No actually, that’s a lie,” Leo said.

“I’m breaking up with you Leopold Logan the Second!” Virginia screamed.

I tried not to laugh at this very tense and serious moment. Leopold?

“I never asked you to be my girlfriend in the first place!” Leo shouted as he walked down the driveway.

Virginia looked at me and then at Leo who was almost out of sight.

“That did not just happen,” Virginia spit. “He did not just break up with me.”

“Virginia, I’m sorry,” I started.

“No, you’re not!” Virginia screamed. “You planed this whole thing! You just stole my boyfriend!”

“What!” I shouted. “I’ve only been here for three weeks!”

“So your plan worked faster than you expected!” Virginia shouted.

“What plan?” I asked.

“Mi Scusi! Excuse me!”

Virginia and I turned. Neither of us had noticed a yellow taxi drive up the driveway or a young man get out of it.

“Can we help you?” Virginia asked.

“Maybe you can,” The young man said with an Italian accent. “I’m looking for an O’Donnell residence.”

“Ms. Shelby O’Donnell?” Virginia asked.

“Yes! She’s my sorella sister,” The man said.

“You’re Giovanni!” Virginia shouted in full drawl. “The Italian half-brother.”

“And you must be Virginia,” Giovanni said. “The girl with the terrible drawl.”

Virginia blushed.

“Ms. O’Donnell doesn’t live in Florida. She lives in North Adams. You’re about twenty minutes away from your destination. Her orchid is the first house on the outskirts of North Adams. If you see a brown barn, you’ve gone too far. That’s the Woods property.”

“Grazie,” Giovanni smiled. He got back into his taxi and it took off.

“Who was that?” Regina asked sneaking up behind us.

“Giovanni Moore,” Virginia said all dreamy.

“Does Leo have competition,” Regina joked.

Virginia stared at Regina. The fire was back in her eyes.

“UGH!” Virginia screamed. “Rachel! We’re going home!”

“No, I’m not!” Rachel shouted back. “I’m staying over for the sleepover.”

“Sleepover? What sleepover?” Virginia asked.

“Becca Lou’s having a Before School Sleepover here tonight,” I said.

“Well, then I’m having a sleepover tonight!” Virginia screamed. She ran into the B&B.

“Virginia’s heartbroken,” Rachel said. “Virginia does crazy things when her heart breaks.”

“Why would a sleepover be crazy?” I asked.

“Charlly!” Mom shouted. “We need to talk to you!”

What had Virginia done?

**

Actually, Virginia had not uttered a word about my ‘evil’ plan to steal Leo away from her. When I rolled into the B&B, I found Virginia on the phone trying to convince her aunt to let her have a sleepover and Laz, Mom, and Lou sitting on the couch.

“I should go,” Cece Elizabeth said getting up.

Lou almost looked disappointed.

“Charlly, we need to talk about school,” Mom said.

“Ok,” I said. “Are we going to start late or something? I hear that this new CO/OP center for homeschoolers.”

“Charlly, honey, you won’t be homeschooled this year,” Mom said. “Neither will Becca Lou.”

“What! Why?” I asked.

“Charlly, we aren’t going anywhere,” Mom said. Lou and Laz nodded in agreement. “Laz and I have decided to stay in the Berkshires for at least until after Becca Lou’s graduated. We love it here. We love that you guys have made friends so fast. Laz has his family here. I’ve finally found a place I can call home.”

I just stared at them. I thought about the words Natalie had said when she finally realized that Florida was the perfect place for her. Was Florida the perfect place for me? I jumped in my wheelchair as Virginia slammed the door as she left. I had already made an enemy, but even with that the want to go back to Chicago was slowly fading away.

“I’m staying too,” Lou said looking off in the direction Cece Elizabeth went.

“You like her,” I blurted.

Lou’s cheeks turned crimson.

“That’s a discussion for another time,” Lou said.

I winked at him and he winked back.

“So tomorrow I will take you down to the high school and sign you up,” Laz said quickly. He gave Lou a quick stare.

“Charlly!” Natalie shouted rolling into the B&B. “Virginia’s having a sleepover! And I can guarantee it’s gonna be CRAZY!”

**

Just the sight of chickens, a goat, and a pig told me why a sleepover would be a crazy idea.

“You have to be careful when you’re at Virginia’s house,” Natalie explained. “I almost squashed a chicken once.”

“Note to self. Don’t go out in the yard,” I said.

“Forget the yard,” Natalie said. “There are chickens in the house.”

“Are there goats too?” I asked.

“Nope,” Natalie said, “but I think Rachel keeps one of the baby pigs in her room.”

“Who lives like this?” I asked as Natalie rang the doorbell.

“Farm people,” Natalie said.

A tall boy yanked open the door.

“In the family room and FYI I’m not lifting you girls up the steps,” The boy said with a Massachusetts accent.

“Hi, Andrew,” Natalie said sarcastically.

“What did ya’ll think of that? Leo’s been giving me voice lessons,” Andrew said.

“I think you should do what I did,” Natalie said.

“And that is?” Andrew asked.

“Let it naturally find its way into my accent. I love the way I say ‘car’ now!” Natalie shouted.

“You’re accent is cute. You got a little British, a little Southerner, and dash of Massachusetts. My accent is a big piece of Southern pie,” Andrew said.

“And you want to sound like you’re from Boston?” I asked.

“Why not?” Andrew asked.

“A teacher told Virginia her accent hurt her ears and she only embraced it more. Own who you are!” Natalie shouted.

“Andrew! Stop harassing my friends!” Virginia shouted. “Well my friend.”

“Sorry, Ginny,” Andrew said.

Tears mounted in Virginia’s eyes.

“Just let them in,” Virginia shouted at Andrew. She marched down the hall.

“She was dumped earlier,” Andrew whispered as we rolled in the house. “And she’s pretty sour about it. Frankly, I don’t know what Leo saw in her in the first place.

Natalie rammed him with her wheelchair and left him silently screaming his pain.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” Jessie-Maria pouted as Natalie rolled into the family room.

“I haven’t seen my brother in a while,” Natalie said. Jessie-Maria blushed.

“So how’s that going away?” Emily pried.

“None of your beeswax!” Jessie-Maria shouted throwing her pillow at Emily. “How’s your relationship with Nelson?”

“It’s officially and that’s all that I’m saying,” Emily smiled. She started to pet a chicken that had just snuggled up under her arm. “How ya doing Aggie?”

“You know the chickens by name?” I asked.

“Yup,” Emily said. “This is Aggie and the one leaving droppings by your wheelchair is Ellen.”

“You don’t have these chickens potty trained?” I asked.

“All but Ellen,” Virginia giggled. “She refuses to poop anywhere but that spot you are sitting in.”

I immediately rolled away from that spot.

“Hey, girls,” Aunt Jane said walking into the family room. She had a chicken on a leash.

“Hi, Aunt Jane. Hi, Alice,” Natalie said.

“Bock!” Alice shouted. She started to run towards Natalie.

“Stop!” Aunt Jane shouted. “I have a flight risk here. She ran out in the middle of the street. Timmy almost ran over her. He was racing Jaci to the clinic. The poor girl had resorted to puking in her purse.”

“Oh no,” Emily said. “My big brother is gonna be a daddy!”

“What’s so horrible about that?” Aunt Jane asked.

“Think about it,” Emily said. “My big brother Timothy-Caleb Stewart raising a child…with his genes.”

“God help us all,” Aunt Jane said.

Everyone laughed.

“Well, we all know he’ll be a better father than Lou,” Virginia said.

Nobody said anything. Natalie and Aunt Jane stared at Virginia in shock that she had just said that.

“Virginia, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say,” Aunt Jane said. “Apologize.”

Virginia looked at me and smirked.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Jane, but I can’t do that,” Virginia said.

“And why can’t you?” Aunt Jane asked folding her arms.

“Because from this moment on, I am never speaking to Charlotte Lily King ever again!” Virginia shouted.

Natalie and I stared at each other. We were both thinking the same thing.

Oh, snap.

Posted in My Crazy Life

My Crazy Life: Episode I-The Summer Everything Changed Installment VII

Chapter VII

Invitations & Inventions & Laser Tag &…….Little Brothers? 

I was awoken the next morning by the sound of the doorbell being repeatedly pushed.

“What time is it?” Natalie groaned as she made a sleepy transfer to her wheelchair.

“Six-thirty,” I said as I glanced at the clock.

“Make it stop!” Noel screamed. She put her hands over her ears and started to shout random things.

Chaos erupted in the Matthews house. The sound of babies wailing made me become fully awake. I heard the sound of four little feet and two big feet racing down the steps.

I heard Mr. Steve grumble as he passed the room.

“I’M COMING!” Mr. Steve shouted as the ringing started to get faster and louder.

“Charlly, its for you!” Mr. Steve shouted seconds later.

“Me?” I mumbled as I transferred from bed and into my wheelchair.

“Good Morning, Charlly,” Megan said as I passed her in the hallway. Bella gave me a smile and waved.

“Morning,” I mumbled because so far it wasn’t very good.

The roll to the door was slow. I almost fell asleep a couple of times on the minute roll to the door.

“What took you so long!” Becca Lou shotued when I got to the front door.

“Why are you ringing the doorbell at six in the morning?” I retorted.

“The-police-showed-up-at-the-B&B-and-I-overheard-them-say-they-wanted-to-speak-to-a-Robert-King,” Becca Lou said. She spoke so fast she said it all like it was one word.

“WHAT!” I screamed.

“Then-I-asked-who-Robert-King-was-and-Lou-stood-up-and-said-that-he-was-Robert-King!” Becca Lou screamed.

I was down the wheelchair ramp and on the road within seconds.

A bazillion things ran through my mind. Was Lou being arrested? Why else would the police want to speak with him? Maybe one of my grandparents had died? I remember Lou saying something about having a much younger sister. Was she in trouble?

“Charlly, have you heard a word I’ve said?” Becca Lou screamed as we past the Rivers’ cabin.

“No, sorry,” I said. “Say it again will you please?”

“Why does Lou call himself Lou if his name is Robert?” Becca Lou asked.

“You’ll have to ask Lou about that one,” I said.

When we reached the B&B, Lou’s motorcycle was still parked in the driveway. No police cars were around. I noticed that Cece Elizabeth was sitting on the porch swing.

Cece Elizabeth turned towards us when she heard Becca Lou’s frantic feet stomp up the steps.

“Girls,” Cece Elizabeth sighed, “Lou’s gone.”

**

“I’m sorry, Charlly,” Mom said after I asked her what happened for the millionth time. “Lou asked me not to tell you. All I can say is that he did not get arrested.”

I gave a frustrated sigh. It was now the afternoon and no one would say anything about what had happened that morning. All I knew was that the police came to speak to Lou, Lou grabbed his jacket, and left with them.

“I’m sure he’s coming back,” Natalie said as we rolled into the restaurant to hunt out a snack.

“You don’t know Lou,” I sighed.

“He left his motorcycle and his stuff,” Natalie said. “He has to come back for that at least.”

“Lou never cared about stuff. If he was out of there, he was out of there,” I grumbled.

“If you ask me Lou looked all most happy to go along with the cops,” Darcy said not looking up from what he was doing.

“Did you use the words happy, go along, and cops in the same sentence?” Natalie asked.

“Yup,” Darcy said as he handed Natalie an envelope.

“What’s this?” Natalie asked opening it.

“Invitations to my birthday par….celebration,” Darcy said as he handed me mine.

“You’re never to old to have a birthday party,” Natalie laughed as she took out the card.

“How old are you turning? Twenty-One?” I joked as I took my card out.

“Fifteen,” Darcy said.

“My baby is growing up so fast,” Ms. Donna said as she brought out some fruit.

“Mom!” Darcy shouted.

“What? It’s true?” Ms. Donna said.

At the same time Natalie said, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t like laser tag,” Darcy said in a surprised voice.

” You’re having a laser tag party!” I shouted as I read my invitation. “I’m in.”

“I’ve never played,” Natalie started, “but that’s not…”

“It’s real simple, Nat,” Darcy said. “You….”

“I know how laser tag works,” Natalie snapped. “If you don’t want me to come to your party, next time just say so.”

“Huh?” Darcy asked clearly confused.

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Natalie said dropping the invitation on the ground. She started to roll towards the family room.

Darcy and I stared at each other for a second.

“Do you have any idea what that was about?” Darcy asked me.

“Nope,” I answered.

“I better go after her and find out what’s wrong,” Darcy said getting up. He turned to me. “I might need some backup.”

I nodded and rolled after the direction he went in.

“Natalie! Wait!” Darcy called as he ran down the driveway.

Natalie stopped, turned around, and folded her arms.

“I’m waiting,” Natalie said when we reached her.

“Look, Natalie, I don’t know what I did wrong, but….sorry?” Darcy said.

I let a snicker escape. Natalie looked at me.

“I don’t know how you find this funny when it affects you too,” Natalie said.

“How does it affect me?” I asked.

“You do realize that we can’t play laser tag right,” Natalie said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Why do we never use water guns in our fights?” Natalie asked.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Why do we have water balloon fights and not water gun fights?” Natalie asked.

I shrugged, but Darcy’s mouth fell open.

“Oopps,” Darcy said. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Now, I’m confused,” I said.

“Charlly, in order to fire a laser gun you need both hands free. One to pull the trigger and the other to push a button to make it fire. We are also slower than everybody else. We would be the easiest targets,” Natalie said. “We would probably never get to fire because we’d be waiting to be risen from the dead so many times.”

“Oh….,” I said understanding.

“We could play as teams!” Darcy shouted. “You guys could be on a team together and….”

“Nice idea, Darcy, but…,” Natalie started but her eyes landed on a taxi that was coming down the street.

I nearly fainted as Lou and a little mini-Lou got out of the taxi.

**

“I can’t believe you never told me you had another kid!” I shouted.

Lou cringed a little. He was searching for the words to say.

“I thought it’d be a nice surprise,” Lou said.

“You thought finding out that I have a for year old half-brother would be a nice surprise?” I asked.

“Yes….,” Lou said as if he was unsure of what to say.

I grunted and folded my arms. My eyes caught sight of Becca Lou and Mini-Lou, who’s real name was Jacob, playing with chalk on the B&B driveway.

Becca Lou didn’t even bat an eye when she found out that Mini-Lou was our half brother. She just took his hand and asked if he wanted to play with chalk or a ball.

“Look, Lottie, I didn’t know he existed until six months ago,” Lou said. “Trying to get full custody is why I didn’t come to see you right after I got out of rehab. When your Mom found out about him….”

“Wait! Mom knew that you had another kid with another woman?” I asked.

Lou nodded tentatively.

“Your Mom and Laz put in a good word for me,” Lou said. “The police came by this morning and told me that Jacob’s mother was arrested for DWI last night.”

“DWI?” I asked.

“Driving will intoxicated,” Lou said. “The blood work showed she was three times over the legal alcohol limit and was rather high.”

“Wasn’t that what you were arrested for?” I asked. Lou nodded.

“But I’m trying to change my life around. I hope some day she does,” Lou said.

I started to roll away. I was so mad at Lou at that moment. A nice surprise? Who in there right mind would think that suddenly finding out you have a new sibling would be a nice surprise?

“Love ya, Lou Pa,” I said just so we didn’t leave on too awful of terms.

“Love ya, Charlly Lottie,” Lou called.

I slammed the door way harder than I meant too. The sound of the door got Becca Lou and Mini-Lou’s attention.

“Come over here” Mini-Lou hollered. I rolled over to where they were drawing partly amused.

“Do you like to play?” Mini-Lou asked me.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Do you like to draw?” Mini-Lou asked.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Then this is the PERFECT game for you!” Mini-Lou shouted. He threw up his hands causing the piece of chalk in his hands to land on the ground and break.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I gave him a smile.

“Charlly feels like she’s too old to do chalk and play games,” Becca Lou said.

“Oh,” Mini-Lou said.

“It doesn’t look like there’s going to be a water balloon fight today,” I said transferring from my wheelchair to the ground. “I guess I can do some driveway coloring.”

“We’re drawing this town!” Mini-Lou shouted. “I saw a sign with a snowman on the way here and Mr. Lou says that there’s a statue of an elk here too!”

I spent the rest of the afternoon drawing buildings, clouds, and elks.

**

“Tada!”

I stared at the invention that Darcy was so proudly displaying to Natalie and I. If you asked me the thing looked like a double pair of underwear.

“Please tell me that is not underwear,” Natalie said.

“It is not underwear,” Darcy said. “I made it out of some strong fabric that Jaci gave me.”

“You sewed that?” I asked.

“With some help from Jaci,” Darcy blushed. “Ok a lot of help.”

“Put your underwear back on! You’re in a public place where people eat!” Mini-Lou shouted as he walked into the restaurant with Lou not that far behind.

Darcy burst into titters and Natalie and I started to giggle.

“Not wearing your underwear is no laughing matter,” Mini-Lou said as Lou ordered for them.

That only made us laugh more.

“Ok, if its not a strange looking pair of underwear what is it?” Natalie asked as she tried to stop laughing.

“Let me demonstrate,” Darcy said. He put his legs through two of the legs slots.

“You look ridiculous,” Natalie giggled.

“Your about to look ridiculous too,” Darcy said. “Lou can you help me with something?”

“Sure,” Lou shrugged. He walked up to where we were standing. “What do you need me to do?”

“Can you pick up Natalie and put her in the back of this thingamajig?” Darcy asked.

Lou gave a slow nod.

“One, two, three!” Lou shouted as he picked Natalie. He put her in the sling.

“This is fun!” Natalie laughed as Darcy walked around the room with er attached to him.

“I made another one for you too,” Darcy said to me as he helped Natalie back into her wheelchair.

“So how does this slow our problem?” I asked.

“Some one on your team will carry you on their back. They’ll be your legs,” Darcy said.

“Oh,” I said nodding. “That’s actually a pretty good idea.”

“So are we good?” Darcy asked Natalie.

“More than good.” Natalie smiled.

**

I tried to hold my breath. The enemy was approaching. Clueless that I and my partner were hiding behind a barrier.

“Ready?” Leo whispered.

“Ready.”

We aimed our laser beams on our target and fired.

“Not again!” Virginia screamed.

“Ha!” Leo shouted. We ran from our hiding place.

“Gotca!” Natalie shouted as she pointed her beam at my shoulder.

“I’ve been hit!” I said all dramatically.

“Hey!” Natalie shouted as Leo shot her and Darcy.

“Let’s get outa here!” I shouted. Leo ran up the ramp.

“A ha!” Yule shouted. He took out Leo.

“Cover me while I recover!” Leo shouted as he ran in zigzags.

“Stop!” I whispered. I could see Matt trying to hide behind a barrier. I aimed and fired.

“Who did that!” Matt shouted.

I silently giggled.

“Not so fast!”

Leo turned, which was a bad move because Bennet took him out.

“Seriously, man! I just recovered!” Leo shouted. Bennet smiled, but his smile turned upside down when I took him out.

“It’s no fair! You guys get attached backup!” Benent shouted. “Well, I’m a paraplegic! I should be on somebody’s back!”

Leo ran away before Bennet could take another aim at him.

“Capow!” Mini-Lou shouted as he waved his gun in the air like a maniac.

“AH!” Leo shouted. He ran right into Lou.

“Sorry, son,” Lou said. He took the both of us out.

“Dad!” I shouted.

“Sorry, Lottie,” Lou said. “Hey! Who got me!”

Becca Lou gave a mysterious laugh.

“Thirty seconds!” Someone called out.

We all ran off in different directions.

As we ran, I managed to get Noel and Emily.

“Say bye-bye.”

I groaned as Noel got her revenge.

“Time’s up!”

The lights in the room turned back on. What seemed like hundreds of people emerged from behind barriers and out of nowhere.

“That was awesome!” Jessie-Maria shouted.

“I can’t believe I actually hit somebody,” Jaci said as we pilled out of the room.

“I wonder who won,” Darcy said as he put Natalie back in her wheelchair.

“Me of course,” Leo said helping me into the wheelchair.

“Let’s see,” Regina said looking at the score board. “That’s not fair!”

“What’s not fair?” I asked.

“Charlly, got the most hits!” Regina shouted. “And Natalie got second. Darcy third and Leo fourth.”

“All right!” Leo said as he high-fived Darcy.

“You guys had backup!” Regina shouted. “It should be illegal!”

“Illegal?” Lou laughed as he tried to get the laser gun from Mini-Lou’s hands.

“Well at least against the rules,” Regina said crossing her arms.

“There are different rules for paraplegics,” Natalie said as she got her sheet.

“Not all paraplegics,” Bennet joked.

“I don’t care!” Nelson shouted. “I just want to do it again!”

“Again!” Everyone shouted excitedly.

 

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 4- Joy to the World! Installment Ten

**

“Jaci, are you ready yet?” Abby asked impatiently. “The wedding was supposed to start ten minutes ago!”

“Almost!” Jaci cried.

“Cut her some slack,” I said as Noel put on my shoes.

“Jaci should have done what Zach and I did,” Abby said. “Everybody show up before ten thirty, and the wedding starts when we’re ready.”

“Ready!” Jaci said opening the door of the bridal chambers.

“You look beautiful,” Momma smiled.

“I think my mother would be proud,” Jaci said with a sad smile.

“Is my girl ready?” Daddy asked knocking on the door.

“You can come in,” Jaci said as she grabbed her flowers.

Daddy walked in and smiled.

“You look lovely,” Daddy said.

“Thank you,” Jaci smiled. Daddy offered her his arm and Jaci took it.

We bridesmaids filled out of the bridal chambers and found our groomsmen.

“You look pretty,” Darcy whispered in my ear as the couples started walking down the aisle.

I smiled at him.

“You nervous?” Darcy asked.

“About what?” I asked confused.

“About dancing,” Darcy said.

I don’t have time to answer him. Darcy started to push me down the aisle. I managed to plaster a smile on my face. My stomach was in knots. I forgot all about wheelchair dancing.

Darcy and I missed three weeks of practice while I was away in Pittsfield. Last night, Ms. Etta said that we were ready for the wedding. I wasn’t so sure.

The music switched from The Wedding Song to Here Comes the Bride. Everybody stood but me.

Jaci beamed as she and Daddy walked down the aisle. She looked absolutely beautiful in her handmade dress. Timmy’s smiled wide at her. In that moment then and there I knew that he loved her.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite Timothy- Caleb Stewart and Jaci Matthews. Marriage was instituted by God. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God. If anyone questions this marriage between Timothy-Caleb Jeffery Stewart and Jaci Ireland Matthews, speak now or forever hold your peace,” The pastor said.

I don’t even think Mr. Stewart would have objected. Not a sound was to be heard. Even the triplets were quiet.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” The preacher asked.

“We do,” Daddy and Momma said with tears in their eyes.

“Let us pray,” The pastor said. He prayed.

“Now the best man will read a Scripture passage,” The pastor said.

“‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul…And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it…And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him…And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.'” Darcy quoted.

“Now the maid of honor will read a Scripture passage,” The pastor said.

“‘Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.'” I quoted.

“You may say your vows now,” The preacher said to Timmy and Jaci.

“I, Timothy-Caleb Stewart, take you Jaci Matthews, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, or the Lord comes for His own, and hereto I pledge you my faithfulness,” Timmy promised.

“I, Jaci Matthews, love you, Timothy-Caleb Stewart. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. I will love, honor, cherish and obey you always in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in sorrow as in joy, and will be true to you so long as we both shall live,” Jaci vowed.

“The rings please,” The pastor said. Little Austin ran from his mother’s arms. He handed Timmy the pillow with a smile.

“Thanks,” Timmy said. “Now go back to Mommy.”

Mr. Rivers stood up and picked up his son.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Timmy smiled putting the ring on Jaci’s finger.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Jaci smiled as she put the ring on Timmy’s finger.

“I know pronounce you husband and wife,” The pastor said closing his Bible. “The couple will now seal their marriage with a kiss.”

Timmy leaned down and gave Jaci a quick kiss on the lips. Jaci smiled and hugged him.

As they walked down the aisle, rice and rose petals were thrown at them. I couldn’t help but smile.

But then fear crept up into me because it was time for the reception. Which meant it was time to dance.

**

I tried not to shake too much as I watched the First Dance and the Father-Daughter Dance. Jaci wanted my first wheelchair dance to be special. She had me down as one of the dances. I was absolutely scared to death.

“How are you feeling?” Darcy whispered in my ear.

“I can’t do this,” I said shaking my head. “I want to puke.”

“Don’t do that,” Darcy said with seriousness in his voice. “We did great last night at practice. You’ll do fine.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen can I please have your attention?” Jaci asked taking a mike from the DJ. “In the past several months my younger sister, Natalie, has been practicing to dance at my wedding. As most of you know, last year Natalie was hit by a car and broke her back. She hasn’t let her paraplegia stop her. I’m so proud of her. She’s gotten so much of her life back and so soon after the accident. This was something Natalie wanted to do, and we all knew she could do it. So please give it up for my sister Natalie and her dancing partner and boyfriend Darcy Edwards!”

I felt my breakfast come up. Darcy pushed me towards the middle of the floor. I smiled at me; I couldn’t smile back.

The music blared through the speakers. Darcy took my arms and spun me.

It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter

When the snow comes to cover the ground

Its the time for play

Its a whipped cream day

I wait for it the whole year round

Darcy and I soon got lost in the song. He glided me, he spun me, he even shimmied me. And surprisingly we even back stepped. By the end of the song, all the butterflies had left my stomach and I realized that I had actually had fun dancing. People were cheering for us so loudly that I was a little embarrassed.

I looked over to where Momma, Daddy, Ms. Donna, and Ms. Etta were sitting. They all looked like they wanted to cry. Darcy pushed me over towards them.

“My baby!” Momma cried hugging me.

“Mum!” I groaned. Momma stopped hugging me and sat back down.

“You two were wonderful,” Ms. Etta said. “You two also survived the dancing test. Would you be embarrassed if I said in a couple years that could be you.”

“Well you just said it,” Darcy said with red cheeks. I laughed and smiled.

Darcy helped me to my spot. I looked around. Everybody was goofy dancing. Momma and Daddy were cooing over the triplets. And Darcy was smiling at me.

“I’ve decided something,” I said.

“What?” Darcy shrugged.

“I’m staying,” I stated.

Darcy stared at me.

“It wasn’t because of anything I said was it?” Darcy asked. “Because I want you to know that I want you to go if you want to. I’ll wait for you.”

I gave him a smile. Darcy is so sweet.

“Nope, I’ve just realized how much I love this place and how much I love all the people in this town,” I said. “I can’t leave. Not now. I mean I just got back!”

Darcy laughed.

“Natalie’s staying!”

Everyone clapped. My parents looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.

An hour later, Jaci called for all the unmarried ladies to come out to the dance floor. Every girl but Noel and I obeyed.

“You’re not going out there?” Darcy asked.

“It’s the bouquet toss,” I said. Darcy went back to his dinner.

“I don’t see the point in doing this but my sister tells me I have to so here I go!” Jaci shouted turning around. “You ladies ready?”

“Yes!” They cheered.

Now Jaci may be petite, but she has a really good arm. She threw the bouquet with so much force that it went straight over all the ladies heads and landed in Noel’s lap.

Bennet, who was sitting next to Noel, laughed.

Noel, who clearly did not want the bouquet, violently threw the bouquet into my lap.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Everybody else laughed too.

“Does this mean we’re having double weddings?” Darcy joked.

Everybody howled at that.

“Noel, you want the bouquet!” Virginia tried to explain. “Its believed whoever catches the bouquet gets married next.”

Noel just looked at Virginia’s feet and went back to her dinner.

I then got an idea.

“Virginia, catch!” I shouted. Virginia caught the bouquet. Virginia got my idea.

“Emily, catch!” Virginia shouted throwing the bouquet the Emily.

“Regina!” Emily said.

“Oh no you don’t!” Regina shouted. Regina ducked and Jessie-Maria leaped to catch it.

The bouquet toss wasn’t over until every unmarried girl in the room caught the bouquet.

“Ok,” Timmy said taking his tie off. “Since my wife doesn’t like the whole garter thing, I’ll be throwing my tie!”

All the unmarried man except Bennet got up and stood on the dance floor.

Timmy threw his tie, and it landed in Bennet’s lap.

“God, are you speaking?” Bennet asked.

Everybody laughed. Regina, who had been forced to catch the bouquet, handed the bouquet to Noel. She surprisingly took it.

“Oh, I hope the whole bouquet thing is wrong,” Virginia whispered in my ear.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I can’t wait four years for another wedding!” Virginia joked. I laughed.

Another Christmas song played and Darcy pulled me out to the dance floor.

And we danced the night away.

**

Dear Natalie,

I discovered your blog when I was searching for pictures for a report on Paris. I have to admit, at first I hated your blog. You seemed to have a perfect life. You had a large family. You’re mom was excepting triplets. You had a father and more sister than brothers. You and your family looked so happy in Paris.

My life’s not all that great. I, too, am a paraplegic. Complete T12. One of my mom’s ex-boyfriends shot me in the back. It’s a long story. Well anyway, My mom recently got remarried to this man I totally hate, and we’ve just moved again. I longed to have your life, but then I found a picture of you and your stepdad.

I was first of all shocked to find out that you had a stepdad. I was also shocked to see that you were in a wheelchair. I started to read more and more of your blog and was able to find out that you had been hit by a car last October. I was amazed at how quickly you bounced back. I would really like to hear your story. I want to know how you’ve done it. How you ended up to have this amazing relationship with your stepdad. How you’ve got through being in a wheelchair. My accident happened two years ago and I’m still bitter about it. I understand if you’re too busy and all, but I think all your readers would like to know your full story.

Keep Calm & Write On!

Charlotte Lily

I stared at my blog box. I had received this email over a week ago and I still hadn’t written anything. Summer was in full swing now. I could hear Megan and Bella out in the backyard chasing our brand new Welsh Corgi, Mistletoe.

Our brand new cat, Charlie Brown (Noel named him), strutted into my room and plopped himself on my bed.

I shook my head and went back to worrying.

“Whatca doing?” Daddy said walking into the room with Noel’s and my laundry. Momma and Daddy had put a group of things to do in a hat and whatever you pulled was your chore. Unfortunately for us, Daddy picked laundry.

“Remember that email I told you about?” I asked.

“The one for Lily Charlotte?” Daddy asked.

“Charlotte Lily,” I corrected. “I really want to post about my story and all that but I just don’t know where to begin.”

Daddy picked up a piece of paper and handed me a pin.

“Let’s say I told you to divide your life up into parts,” Daddy said. “But you can only explain your life in five parts. Where would you start? Where does it make the most sense to start?”

“Well when I came to Florida,” I said.

“So that’s Part 1,” Daddy said writing it down. “Now name it.”

“Christmas Dreams,” I said.

“Christmas Dreams?” Daddy asked as he wrote it down. “Why that?”

“I don’t know. It just seems to fit,” I said.

Soon I had my five parts down. Christmas Dreams, Marshmallow World, Heaven Everywhere, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Joy to the World!

“The rest is up to you,” Daddy said ruffling my hair.

I turned back towards the computer. I put my fingers on the keyboard.

“Please show me,” I prayed.

I closed my eyes and let my fingers fly.

And these words started back at me: How can a person not love Christmas when their name is Natalie?

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

Momma smiled.

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

“You did what?” I asked.

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

“You did what?” I howled.

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

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

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

I smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

“Wasn’t it obvious?” I asked.

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

There was a knock on the door.

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

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

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

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

“He?”

“He.”

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

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

“Hiya,” Darcy said looking at the ground.

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

“I’ve been a jerk,” Darcy said.

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

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

I laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“From London, England,” Stanley said.

It was probably from my grandparents.

Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews

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

Or maybe not.

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

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

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

Darcy looked at me and started to walk away.

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

“What?” Darcy snapped.

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

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

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

“Bye, Natalie.”

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

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

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

**

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

“Phone,” Noel said handing it to me.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Natalie?” Grandma Baldwin asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you serious?” I asked interrupting Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What suspicion?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

“Well…,” I started.

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

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

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

I gave them a smile.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

Abby started to smirk.

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

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

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

“Ouch,” Megan said.

“Sorry,” Jaci mouthed to me.

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

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

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

Baby A Baby B Baby C

Merry Gabriel Christian

Natasha Natalio Natal

Love Emmanuel Avery

Eve Nicholas Joseph

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

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

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

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

BANG!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joan!” Momma laughed.

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

“Mrs. Sugar Bear?” I giggled.

“Mr. Meow?” Jessie-Maria howled.

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

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

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

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

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

Sure enough Darcy was in the kitchen stirring lemonade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I snorted.

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

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

Darcy laughed and shook his head.

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

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

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

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

“What?” Darcy asked. “What girl?”

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

Darcy started to giggle.

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

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

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

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

“You are forgiven,” I said.

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

“What are you saying?” I asked.

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

“I do-I mean yes,” I said.

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

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I go to The Hill?” I asked.

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

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

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

“We’ll be there,” Daddy said.

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

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

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

I wonder…

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s time!”

That sounded like Bennet. Noel was in labor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon everyone was in the car and we were off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule rolled his eyes. Grandma Shirley looked shocked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop!” Noel shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doorbell rang.

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

“Surprise!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalia cried out.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon all the presents where open or so we thought.

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

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

I opened my presents and found three pacifiers. Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma smiled a sly smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could make this Christmas better?

**

Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But dinner was even better than Virginia’s reaction.

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

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

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

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

Everyone started to congratulate Grandpa Jack.

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

“You are…,” I said.

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

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

Aunt Jane screamed and then very tearfully said yes.

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

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

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

Best. Christmas. Ever.

THE END

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait…did he just call Darcy little brother?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone looked at Ms. Donna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course he’s not. He can walk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi, Ms. Joan,” Bennet said.

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

“Shot in the back,” Bennet said.

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

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

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

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

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

“So when are you due?” Bennet asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Realization and relief overcame Bennet’s face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With what?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too,” Virginia said.

Mrs. Rivers looked shocked.

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

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

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

I felt like laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about Cece Elizabeth?” Virginia asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia looked at me and smiled.

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

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

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

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

Virginia’s shoulders slumped.

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

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

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

“Nope,” I shrugged.

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

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How was rehab?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

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

Crash!

“What was that noise?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

Emily seemed to accept that answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRASH! BANG!

“It’s a ghost!” Emily screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m hungry,” Cece Elizabeth said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We heard fire trucks, and the phone rang.

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He could say that again.

**

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

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

The doorbell stopped, and we broke out laughing.

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

YOU’RE HER WHAT!

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

“What’s wrong?” Jessie-Maria asked.

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

YOU LIAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody but Grandma Shirley chuckled.

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

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

“Excuse me?” Grandma Shirley asked.

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

I was beginning to like this girl.

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

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

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

“What did I say?” Uncle Cael asked.

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

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

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

Grandma Shirley stormed up the steps.

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart rolled her eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma looked like she was about to puke.

And then I felt my food come back up too.

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

The doorbell rang.

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

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

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

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

This seemed very familiar.

“Ow,” The box said.

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

“Oh my!” Momma shouted.

“Not again!” I shouted.

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

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

“The poor thing,” Ms. Donna said.

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

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

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

“Um, yes,” Momma said.

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

  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Steve Matthews,

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

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

Merry Christmas,

Fowler Stewart

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

Posted in Natalie

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You were looking nostalgic,” Momma said.

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

“You want to go home,” Daddy stated.

“Yeah,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next four days were torture.

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

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

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

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

“Stop the car,” Momma groaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McDonald’s it is,” Daddy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can’t…breathe…,” Darcy said.

“Sorry,” I said letting go.

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

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

Darcy laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessie-Maria came running into the restaurant and fainted.

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

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

“Hey, Blondie,” Yule laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How romantic!” Virginia squealed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ooops…,” Emily said blushing.

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

**

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

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

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

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

Oh, he better believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Donna laughed and walked away.

“FOWLER STEWART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then explain!” Mrs. Stewart screamed.

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

Mrs. Stewart looked reluctant.

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

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

“What did I miss?” Momma asked.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Thirteen

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who are they?” Momma asked.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s very nice,” Jaci said politely.

“Natalie?” Momma asked.

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

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

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

Mr. Steve seemed relieved I hadn’t started yelling and annoyed our possible new neighbors.

“Well if anyone likes the place,” Mr. Steve said. Thankfully, he didn’t dare look at me.

No, this couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t be leaving Florida like this. Not this quickly. No, not like this.

**

This was it. I couldn’t believe that I was actually leaving Florida.

After all I’ve been through this year. Last Christmas when we got here I would have never imagined that I’d fall in love with this place, but I was in love with it bad. I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. It would take a thousand lifetimes to get to know everyone in New York City.

I had friends here. I didn’t really have friends back in Florida. I usually ate lunch with the people who liked art and books. We had something in common to talk about, but as far as having a real good friend who you knew you could count on no matter what I never had one until I came here.

I could count on Regina, Darcy, Virginia, Jessie-Maria, and even Emily to have my back. They were my best friends (well Emily might not be a bestie but she was a closeie). My heart broke to leave them, especially Darcy.

I had tried everything. I pleaded to stay and live with Abby. I tried to get them to let me stay here during the week and be in New York on the weekends. Nothing worked. Mr. Steve was determined to ‘keep the family together’. This wasn’t a family. This was a mess. What Mr. Steve saw as a ‘family’. I saw as a horrible attempt to act like we were happy. We weren’t happy. We were on the edge of our seat just waiting for the ‘fight’ to happen. The fight that would end this all. Or maybe it was just me who was waiting for this to happen. Sooner or later Mr. Steve had to get sick of me, and just wanna leave. I mean how much can one person take?

Jaci was just as upset as I was about leaving Florida, but she was too polite to even frown. Megan was no help. She wanted to go to the big Toys R Us in NYC. Some little sister. Abby had been in shock for about a week. She kept saying that Mr. Steve should do what was best for the family. Well leaving Florida wasn’t best for me, and wasn’t I part of his idea of a family?

It seemed like the entire town was there to watch us leave. Everybody looked sad, but nobody was sadder than me well maybe Virginia was. She kept complaining that she would resort to hanging out with Emily and have to hear her talk about how wonderful Nelson was.

Darcy had barely uttered a word to me all week. It kinda hurt me. Weren’t we supposed to be gushing over each other and trying to spend every possible second together?

“I’m going to miss you!” Virginia cried hugging me so tight I thought I was going to die.

“I’m going to miss you too,” Regina said hugging me not as tight.

“Me too,” Jessie-Maria said hugging me. “The twins are going to too.”

I smiled and let tears fall from my eyes.

“Natalie, we got off to a bad start. I’m not exactly the friendliest person in all of Massachusetts, but I like to think of you as a friend. And trust me. I don’t have too many friends,” Emily said to me. She gave me very light hug. I smiled and shook my head on the inside.

“You will be missed,” Nelson said. I smiled at him.

“Bye, Natalie,” Timmy said. “See you this summer…for the wedding I mean.”

I tried to punch him in the side, but since Timmy was so tall I had to settle for the stomach. Timmy laughed at my pathetic attempt.

I walked towards the car. Darcy wasn’t even there. So what? I was leaving, and if Darcy didn’t care why should that bother me?

“Natalie, wait!”

I turned around the find Darcy standing there.

“What?” I asked.

“I.I.I.,” Darcy tried. He soon gave up on his attempt at words and gave me the quickest kiss on the lips ever.

I stood there for a second staring into Darcy’s eyes. I climbed into the car.

“Bye!” I cried sticking my head out the window. Virginia, Jessie-Maria, Regina, and surprisingly Emily gave me tearfully goodbyes. Darcy said goodbye with tears in his eyes.

I blew kisses and then put my head in the car because I could feel Mr. Steve’s eyes on me.

I broke down hysterically crying in the backseat. And did Mr. Steve turn back? No, Mr. Steve did not.

**

I fell asleep after I cried for like forty minutes nonstop. I know that’s being childish, but I truly couldn’t stop. I tried after the first five but the tears kept pouring out. I hadn’t felt this kind of emotional attachment to Miami, but I had it bad with Florida. Florida was home now. It was where my friends where. It had people I loved and cared about. And most important: Darcy.

When I woke up I felt kinda stupid for crying over a boy, but Darcy wasn’t just any boy at least not me. He was special to me. He was the first guy I ever really really liked. His kiss was short but sweet.

“Whoa,” Megan said. I looked out the window, and skyscrapers met my eyes. We were in New York City already?

“Welcome to the Big Apple, girls!” Mr. Steve smiled. I scowled. We were almost four hours away from Florida.

“There are a lot of people,” Jaci said craning her neck to look out the window.

“There are over a million people in Manahan, and over eight million people in New York City. Jaci, honey, you’re gonna see a lot of people,” Mr. Steve said.

“What’s that?” Megan asked pointing to the newly finished One World Trade Center.

“It’s called the One World Trade Center or 1 WTC,” Mr. Steve said. “It’s the tallest building in New York City.”

“It’s pretty,” Megan said.

“Yes,” Mr. Steve said smiling a sad smile, “it’s pretty.”

I closed my eyes not wanting to think about the 9/11 attacks. A disadvantage to living in New York City: not feeling safe.

I sighed. I lived here now. I couldn’t believe I was one of eight million and no longer one of seven hundred.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment 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 Three

**

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

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

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

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

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

I sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I changed into my dress and walked into the restaurant.

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

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

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

“Cause I need to stay awake,” I said.

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

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

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

**

“You did a wonderful job, Sean.”

Sean smiled at Momma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I smiled.

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

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

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

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

“See you!” The Rivers shouted.

**

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

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

“We ready?” Mr. Steve asked.

I nodded and got into the car.

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

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

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

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

  Dear Natalie,

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

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

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

Love,

Your Father

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

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

“Are you ok?” She asked.

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

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

  Dear Natalie,

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

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

Love,

Your Father

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

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

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

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

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

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

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

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

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

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

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

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

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chapel Momma and Mr. Steve chose to get married in was small but the view from it was amazing. It was along the Mohawk Trail and from this point you could see the Berkshire Mountains.

“Here are your flowers,” Abby said handing them to me.

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

“Not too much,” Abby said. “I’m afraid I’m going to trip.”

“You’ve got flats on,” I said. “Me on the other hand. I have heels on. I’m the one who might trip.”

Abby laughed.

“Cue the music!” Mrs. Rivers whispered excitedly.

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

I was swaying. I opened my eyes and found myself in the reception hall. It had to be almost midnight now. Most of the people had gone home already, but a few had were still at the reception hall.

The Christmas song was playing. It wasn’t one of those fast verisons but a slow one. One that you could sway to.

I was in Darcy’s arms. His eyes were closed and he had a smile on his lips. I looked around the room. The Rivers’ were still here and Sean was asleep in Mr. Rivers lap. I smiled.

Momma and Mrs. Rivers were chatting away like they had all the time in the world. Grandma Shirley sat in a corner along with my two uncles. They were fighting over a Sudoku answer.

Abby and Zach were the only two other people on the dance floor. They looked like they were asleep also. They both were smiling sweet soft smiles.

Jaci was asleep on Timmy’s shoulder. Timmy was stuffing food into his mouth.

Megan was sleeping on Mr. Steve’s lap. She had a smile on her lips and you just couldn’t help but wonder what she was dreaming about.

Mr. Steve and Mr. Rivers were talking. Both of them were stroking the hair of the girl in their laps.

Emily was sitting in a chair looking in pain. Nelson was feeding her chocolate cake. I couldn’t help but giggle.

Virginia and Leo were playing some game on the table. It looked like they were throwing grapes at each other.

Regina sat stone-faced next to Andrew, Virginia’s older brother. Andrew looked bored and disinterested. Occasionally, he would look over at Aunt Jane, who was talking to Mrs. Stewart, with desperate eyes begging to go.

Virginia’s little sister Rachel was singing along with the Christmas Song with all her heart. She was holding her baby sister Caroline in her arms.

As I said, Aunt Jane and Mrs. Stewart were talking. Aunt Jane’s eyes told me that she was surprised she was having a conversation with Mrs. Stewart and actually enjoying it. Mrs. Stewart’s eyes told me that she was hoping she had made a new friend.

Mr. Stewart refused to come to the wedding and the Stewarts’ invitation didn’t have his name on it anyway. Momma refused to include him even though Ms. Donna and Mr. Steve pleaded with her to. Momma said the wedding was off if she had to invite Mr. Stewart. Frankly, I wasn’t mad about. I don’t like Mr. Stewart.

Grandma and Grandpa Baldwin were looking at me. They were grinning from ear to ear. When I looked at her, Grandma Baldwin gave me a quick wink. I smiled back.

My mind went back to swaying in Darcy’s arms. Strangely, I didn’t want to let go. I felt safe here in his arms. Wow, I can’t believe I actually wanted to be around Darcy Edwards. What a couple months can do…………

I wanted to stay here forever. I didn’t want to have to face the world again. If I could stay right here in Darcy’s arms surrounded by all these people I loved and cared about nothing could make me feel better.

And for some reason, I felt like this was heaven.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Four

**

“Where’s Regina?” I asked the next day. Currently at the moment it was just Momma, Jaci, Regina, Mrs. Walters, and me in the house. Momma and Jaci were sitting down in the restaurant.

“I don’t know,” Momma shrugged. “Do you need her for something?”

“Well now that this ‘date’ has turned into a group date I’m starting to worry about what I’m going to wear,” I said.

Momma smiled.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come, Mrs. Baldwin?” Jaci asked Momma. “Zach and Abby are coming. And so are Nelson and Emily, Erin and Ned, Leo and Virginia.”

“No, I wouldn’t want to impose on my daughter’s first date,” Momma said. She squealed.

“Can you please stop with the squealing?” I asked walking off to find Regina. I opened the downstairs bathroom door.

“Regina!” I shouted. Regina was sitting in the corner of the bathroom with a box of hair dye in her hands. Her hair was an interesting shade of Auburn.

“I dyed it,” Regina choked.

“I can see,” I nodded.

“I think I did something wrong,” Regina said. “It was supposed to be Red with a Kiss of Sunshine.”

“It looks like Red with a Kiss of Darkness,” I said.

“It’s more brown than red!” Regina said looking at herself in the window.

“I agree,” I said.

“I look stupid!” Regina cried.

“Why did you dye your hair?” I asked touching it.

“Red heads and girls who dye at least a lock of their hair pink are very in right now,” Regina said.

“Regina………..,” Momma said walking into the bathroom. “What happened to your hair?”

“I dyed it,” Regina cried.

“I can see,” Momma said.

“I think I did something wrong,” Regina said. “It was supposed to be Red with a Kiss of Sunshine.”

“It looks like Red with a Kiss of Darkness,” Momma said.

“Like mother like daughter,” Regina cried. “My mom is going to kill me!”

“She’s not going to kill you,” Momma said. “She’s going to get mad but not mad enough to kill you.”

“I can’t come out of this bathroom,” Regina cried.

“Well you’re going to have to,” I said. “I need help picking out an outfit for tonight.”

“Why don’t you get Virginia to do it?” Regina snapped.

“Cause….cause….she’s getting ready for tonight too,” I said.

“Nobody likes me,” Regina pouted. “Everybody else got a special Valentine but all I get are stupid cheesy ones.”

“Is that why you died your hair?” Momma asked.

“There’s nothing special about me,” Regina said. “I was just a plan ole blonde haired girl. I want to be special.”

“You are special,” Momma said hugging her. “And you don’t need some boy to tell you that. You’re still young. You’re not even in high school yet. You’ll have tons of boys telling you you’re special in no time.”

“It just seems like everybody else is growing up,” Regina said.

“You’re growing up too,” Momma said hugging her tighter. “You just can’t tell because you’re looking at how everybody else is growing up and not noticing you are too.”

“Regina,” Jaci said walking into the bathroom.

“Ok, this place just got crowded,” I said. Regina laughed and then started to cry.

“What happened to your hair?” Jaci asked.

“I dyed it,” Regina said.

“Dyed it?” Jaci asked confusing.

“You dye your hair to change its color,” Momma explained.

“That explains why it’s brown now,” Jaci said. Regina cried.

“It’s not brown is it?” Jaci asked.

“It’s supposed to be red,” Regina cried.

“Like Emily’s hair red?” Jaci asked.

“A little darker,” Regina said. “But I think I left it on too long.”

“Oh,” Jaci nodded.

“I’m back and you should see the dress I’m going to wear tonight,” Abby said walking into the house. “Oh my. Regina, what happened to your hair?”

“I think I left it in too long,” Regina said. “It was supposed to be Red with a Kiss of Sunshine.”

“It looks like Red with a Kiss of Darkness,” Abby said. Regina sighed.

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.