Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 6- Christmas Hope Installment Three

The ride to the hospital was long and tantalizing. The paramedics made the tough decision to transport me all the way to Pittsfield rather than the local North Adam’s hospital. On the one hour ride, they treated my burns the best they could without risking infection. Even in the noisy ambulance, I could hear other ambulance sirens. I kept repeating all I could remember of Psalms 22, hoping to find that indescribable peace again. But with the paramedics staring down it me, it didn’t quite have the same affect.

We finally reached Pittsfield along with all the other ambulances. The emergency room was packed with familiar faces. Most of them had been in the cafeteria with Darcy and I.

Darcy.

I saw him out of the corner of my eye. The paramedics and hospital nurses were rushing him down a long white hallway. His left leg was burnt black.

I took a deep, large, sharp breath. The nurses took notice of me and started to rush to help me.

I don’t know what the nurses did to me. I don’t remember going into surgery even though that’s what I’ve been told. I just remember feeling so helpless.

And like my heart was empty.

**

“Nat.”

“Darcy!” I shouted. I looked around the dark room I was in, but I couldn’t make out anything.

“Nat,” Darcy’s voice called again.

“Darcy?” I asked this time. I began the walk around the room.

“Ouch!” I shouted as I stubbed my feet on what appeared to be stairs.

That’s odd I thought as I stared at my feet. While my eyes where positioned there, I wiggled my toes.

That’s really odd I thought. Slowly, I began to question the reality of all of this. I stared up at the stairwell and started climbing. As I started to climb, my knees gave out and I landed at the bottom of the stairwell flat on my back. I tried to stand but my legs failed. I tried to get up until I could feel the lower part of my body no more.

I reached for a step with my hands, and step by step lifted my body up. By the time I reached the top, I was sweating and out of breath.

“Natalie!” Darcy shouted.

I looked up. Darcy was white as snow and bright as sunshine. We were on a weird type of cloud. Darcy and I were on separate ends of this cloud. I tried to stand, but I stayed sprawled out on the hard and fluffy cloud.

“Darcy!” I cried with joy. I slowly crawled across the cloud, eager to reach Darcy. When I was within inches of his feet, a golden gate slammed shut in my face.

Darcy’s glow became brighter and I suddenly felt the cloud beneath me give way. My back slammed against concrete and darkness surrounded me.

I cried tears of blood.

**

I woke up with a shout. Momma and Daddy jumped in their chairs.

“You’re awake,” Daddy said slowly.

“Where’s Darcy?” I blurted.

“Honey bear, just lie back down,” Daddy said.

“I must know if Darcy’s all right,” I persisted.

Momma and Daddy passed a look between each other.

“Natalie,” Momma started, “Darcy didn’t make it.”

“What do you mean ‘didn’t make it’?” I asked.

“Honey bear, The doctors tried everything they could,” Daddy said. “But they couldn’t save him.”

“You mean Darcy’s…dead?” I asked, praying it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true.

Momma nodded and broke into tears.

No!” I screamed. “That can’t be true! Just…NO!”

“Natalie, dear, wake up,” An unfamiliar voice said. I blinked and all of a sudden a nurse was at my bedside. I attempted to get up, but my legs weren’t working.

“I can’t feel my legs,” I blurted.

“Amnesia?” My mother’s voice asked.

“Natalie, dear, you were paralyzed a year ago in an accident,” The nurse said. “Do you remember that?”

“Yes,” I said as the memory of Mr. Stewart hitting me with his truck flooded into my mind.

“It probably was just the shock of waking up from such a deep sleep,” The nurse said to my parents. “Call me if she has any more troubles. I’ll be back soon to administer some pain medication.”

I wanted to cry out that I needed that medicine now, but the nurse had hurried out of the room.

“Natalie,” Momma said walking to my bedside and grabbing my hand, “do you know who I am?”

It seemed like a stupid question, but I answered it anyway.

“You’re my mom.”

“And do you know who I am?” Daddy asked taking my other hand.

“You’re my dad.”

“That’s right,” Momma said giving me a sad smile. “How many siblings to you have?”

I counted them in my head: Jaci, Abby, Yule, Noel, Megan, Bella, Love, Avery, and Emmanuel.

“Nine,” I croaked. My voice was suddenly gone.

“Ten children. I feel old,” Daddy said trying to funny. Momma grinned.

Sobs suddenly overtook my body. A voice in the back of my head whispered, “Darcy’s dead.”

“Sweetheart,” Momma cried. She lowered the rail and got into the bed with me. She held me until I stopped crying.

“Darcy’s gone,” I said almost in a forced cry. No, that was all a dream.

“So you could hear us talking?” Momma said with more curiosity than sadness in her voice.

“So he really is…gone,” I forced.

“Yes,” Momma said. “But you’ll see him again…one day soon.”

“Soon?” I asked. I looked at myself. Was I dying?

“You’ll probably see him in a couple of days. It’s Matt you should be worried about.”

I was extremely confused but I still blurted out, “Matt’s dead too?!”

Dead?” Momma asked. A weird kind of laughing relief washed over her. “Darcy and Matt are not dead. They were flown to Boston for emergency treatment.”

“What’s…wrong with them?” I asked.

“I don’t know what happened to Matt. Only that he was in critical condition. One of Darcy’s leg needs to be amputated, but an infection has already spreed. The doctors decided to take Darcy along with Matt just to be safe. What made you think he was dead?”

“I was having a wacky dream within a dream–almost like a cruel April Fool’s joke from God. First I had a strange dream in which I couldn’t get to Darcy and second I had a dream where you and Daddy told me that Darcy was dead.”

Tears of joy splashed out of my ears, and soon I was sobbing a happy sob. It took several soothings from Momma to get me to stop.

“If only this whole disaster was a cruel April Fool’s prank,” Momma muttered in my ear.

“If only,” I echoed.

Posted in My Crazy Life

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

Chapter IV

An Outburst & A Laptop Murder

As we pulled up into the Sunshine B&B driveway, I groaned as I hit the save button. Why had I started writing when I knew our destination wasn’t that far away? I shook my head. I guess I wasn’t thinking right after the accident.

After Mom and Laz explained to Matt what was going on, the adults tried to figure out a plan. After a lot of discussing they decided that we would drop off our stuff at the B&B and go from there.

“Just the way I remember it,” I heard Laz say as he walked up the steps.

I rolled out of the van and groaned as I looked at the steps. I heard someone snickering behind me.

“Attempt that if you want, but I’m going up the ramp,” Natalie said as she rolled around to the side of the house.

I nearly hit myself in the head. The ramp was RIGHT in front of me and I didn’t NOTICE it. What was up with me?

“Car accidents make you delusional,” Natalie said trying to comfort me. “I was sure delusional after mine.”

Apparently, everyone at the accident was delusional because they forgot one very important fact.

The Sunshine Bed & Breakfast wasn’t exactly wheelchair friendly.

I stared up at the thirty mocking steps while Laz and Mom tried to figure out what to do. Unless someone wanted to carry me up and down for the next six to eight months, we were going to have to find somewhere else to live.

“Natalie!”

“In the family room!”

“Natalie! You won’t believe what Leo did today!” A girl with red hair shouted as she walked up to me. I turned my wheelchair completely around and the look of shock that appeared on the girl’s face was worth a thousand words.

“You’re not Natalie,” The girl said like I was some Natalie imposter. “You look like her from behind, but your hair is a lighter shade of blonde. I’m Virginia Powers by the way.”

“I had a feeling,” I said. “Natalie summed you up perfectly when she called you bossy bubbly.”

“Are you a friend of Natalie’s?” Virginia asked.

“Not exactly. I’m more of follower. I crashed into her today though,” I said just to see a look of confusion on Virginia’s face.

And she did not disappoint.

“Wha…?” Virginia asked. Her shoulders slumped to a place shoulders have never been. She squinted her eyes so much that it looked as if they were closed. Her hands were swinging around until they found a place on her hips.

“Who are you?” Virginia asked. Her look turned accusing.

“I’m Charlotte Lily,” I said, “but everyone calls me Charlly.”

“Charlotte Lily… Why does that name sound familiar?” Virginia asked. Her confusion face returned.

“Virginia…,” Natalie said as she rolled into the hallway that was between the arch that took you to the restaurant and the rest of the house. “I see you’ve met Charlly.”

“This is just too confusing!” Virginia shouted. Her face turned into a weird mix between anger and confusion. “You said you didn’t know her!”

That retort was aimed at me. I tried not to smirk.

“But I also said I crashed into her today,” I said. Natalie laughed.

“Yup,” Natalie giggled. “It wasn’t a bad car crash, but it jolted me in my wheelchair.”

“My head is so congested and my heart is so angry that I can’t even make sense of this right now,” Virginia sighed.

“Why are you angry?” Natalie asked.

“Leo is the most self-center jerk in all of Berkshire County!” Virginia screamed.

“Whoa!” Natalie shouted with laughter. “What did Leo do this time?”

“So you’ve heard how Nelson asked Emily to be his girlfriend right?” Virginia said in sort of a whiney voice.

“Yeah, what of it?” Natalie asked.

“Well, today I kind of playfully asked Leo when he was going to make our relationship official,” Virginia said. She had to stop so she could catch her breath.

“And what happened next?” Natalie sighed. The look on her face told me that she already knew the answer. I kinda had a feeling what the answer was too.

“And looked at me and smirked! Smirked I say!” Virginia screamed.

“And?” Natalie and I asked at the same time.

“What do you mean and? He smirked at me when I asked him a serious question!” Virginia screamed at the top of her lungs.

“That’s it?” Natalie and I shouted.

“What is going on in here?” Darcy asked walking down the steps. “It sounds like bombs are going off.”

“You,” Virginia said as she hoped around me to get onto the steps. “You, Mr. Darcy Chadwick Edwards, will go down to Leo’s house and have a little talk with him.”

Darcy stood perfectly still on the tenth step.

“Um,” He stuttered.

“You will tell him that the next time his…potential girlfriend ask him a make or break relationship question he will answer with words and not smirks!” Virginia shouted.

“Huh?” Darcy asked.

“Long story,” Natalie said rolling her eyes.

“Look, Virginia, I can’t tell Leo what to do. If you’re so mad at him why don’t you just go tell him yourself,” Darcy said regaining his voice.

“Tell him myself? I’ve just about ruined any hopes of us ever living happily ever after…unlike some people!” Virginia shouted. She took a quick look at Natalie.

“You can’t be blaming me for your relationship woes!” Natalie snorted.

“Girls,” Darcy muttered as he tried to walk past Virginia, but Virginia grabbed his shirt.

“I don’t want to have to hurt you,” Darcy said with playfulness in his eyes.

“Neither do I,” Virginia said in a very dangerous voice.

“What do you want me to do? Yell at Leo just because he didn’t answer your question the way you wanted him to?” Darcy asked.

“Yes, as simple as that,” Virginia said.

“Um, no, not as simple as that,” Darcy said. “Maybe Leo doesn’t want whatever you wanted him to answer.”

“Are you saying I’m not good enough for him?” Virginia shouted. She let go of Darcy’s shirt and threw her hands up.

Darcy made a run for it. He ran down the steps and grabbed the handle bars of Natalie’s wheelchair.

“What are you doing?” Natalie laughed as Darcy pulled her towards the door.

“She won’t hurt me if I have you hostage!” Darcy shouted as he opened the door. He closed the door with a slam and I could hear Natalie giggling and screaming as he pushed her down the driveway.

“There goes the perfect couple!” Virginia screamed. If we were in a cartoon smoke would have been blowing out her ears and nose. “All happy and giggly. Well newsflash to world! All romances aren’t like that!”

Is she just figuring that out?

“What is going on in here?” Mr. Steve asked. “Has World War III erupted in here?”

Virginia gave him a look that made Mr. Steve grin.

“Where’d Natalie go?” Mr. Steve asked. The anger returned to Virginia’s face.

“She rolled off into the sunset with her knight in shinning armor while I’m drowning in the sea and my knight is riding away with a smirk on his face!” Virginia screamed. She stormed out the house and slammed the door harder than Darcy.

“I have no words,” Mr. Steve laughed. I smiled. I had a feeling my life was about to get more crazy with Virginia as an acquaintance.

“We’ve worked out a solution,” Mr. Steve said walking towards the restaurant. “Welcome to the Matthews family.”

“What?” I asked.

**

“We can either put the blowup bed in the N room or you can sleep in one of the other many other rooms,” Mr. Steve said as he brought my bags into Drury Hall.

“The N room?” I asked.

“That’s what Steve calls Natalie and Noel’s room because its shorter than saying Noel and Natalie’s room,” Mrs. Matthews said with a teasing voice.

“Love you too,” Mr. Steve said kissing Mrs. Matthews.

I made a mental note to ask Natalie if her parents kissed often, but since I was now living here I would be finding out sooner or later. My parents decided that I and I alone would be moving into the Matthews house during the six to eight months it would take to build our house. That might as well translate into a year with the threat of a long weather ahead.

I still can’t believe my mom would go along with this. This plan had to be one of Laz’s genius ideas and he must have sweat talked my mom into it because that’s the only logical answer I can think of.

“Do you think the girls would mine?” I asked.

“I can’t speak for Noel, but Natalie won’t mind,” Mrs. Matthews said. “Fourth door on the left.”

I rolled down the hall and was in for a total shock when I opened the door. The purple walls shined from the walls. Inspirational posters and ridiculous photos were hung on the walls. The picture right above Natalie and Noel’s bed was a picture of Natalie holding a cat. Megan holding a poor puppy. Yule and Bella were smiling and Noel was standing off in the corner looking like she wanted to freak out. If I had to be in that photo, I would have freaked out…and I don’t even have autism!

Yule came into the room a minute later with the blowup bed.

“I love that photo,” Yule snickered as he set the bed up.

“You do?” I asked. “It’s…it’s…it’s…”

“Hilarious,” Yule snorted.

“I was going to say creepy,” I blurted.

“That too,” Yule said. “The triplets would have been in that photo but they were still crying from the last one.”

“That would have been a disaster!” I laughed.

“Then you’ve got to see the picture the Kids picture in Mom and Dad’s room. Abby and Jaci are in that one too,” Yule said.

“Good Lord,” I said shaking my head.

“Yule,” I asked as he started to walk out the room, “do you like it here?”

“All I can is this ain’t New York City for sure,” Yule said. “It also ain’t Chicago.”

“How did you know…,” I said but he was gone.

I took one look at the picture and shook my head. Inspiration hit me. Where was the laptop?

“Natalia! No!”

That was an adult voice. This can’t be good.

I rolled out the room and found the remains of my laptop on the kitchen floor.

Posted in My Crazy Life

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

Chapter III
Surprises & Space

For a moment nobody did anything. Mom stared at the red van in shock. Laz scratched his head and surveyed the damage from the safety of the car. Becca Lou didn’t seem to notice and kept singing along with the song. Matt looked like he wanted to laugh but he was clearly annoyed.

A man cautiously opened his door. His head turned to survey the damage before I saw his face. Laz decided that now was a good time to get out of the car.

“Hello,” Laz said with his thick drawl. even to this day I don’t know how Laz got his thick Southern accent. I know his mother was from Mississippi, but come on! The guy sounds like a true Texasan!

The man turned around. He had hazel eyes and dirty blonde hair with a hint of grey. He was wearing a faded pair of jeans and a tee-shirt about making places wheelchair friendly. For I second my brain scrapped to figure out who he was, but then it all came to me like a flood. He was Steve Matthews. The stepfather of Natalie Matthews.

“Oh my gosh!” I screamed.

“What!” Mom shouted startled.

I quickly rolled to the van door and opened it.

“Stay in the car!” Mom shouted.

At the same time I heard a woman shout, “Natalie, stay in the car!”

“Oh my gosh!” I shouted as I pointed to the girl who had just rolled out of the red van. She had long dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. She had on a pair of jean shorts and the same shirt as Mr. Steve had on. If I hadn’t known better I would have thought they were biological father and daughter.

“Do I know you?” Natalie asked perplexed at my sudden outburst.

“Yes…well no…you don’t know me but I know you,” I said really really fast.

A woman walked out of the van. She was wearing sweats and a Fourth of July Tee-shirt. Her hair was pulled back into a pony-tail and her amber eyes screamed that she was very tired. She started to get into the back seat and only then did I hear the whimpers of babies.

“You’re Riley Matthews,” I blurted.

“Yup,” Mrs. Matthews said not even looking at me.

A tall young man walked out of the van with Down Syndrome girl on his tall and a little blonde girl was on her tail.

“You’re Yule!” I squealed. “And that’s Bella and Megan. Where’s Noel?”

“At the B&B with Bennet,” Yule said. “Wait who are you?”

“I’m Charolette Lily King,” I said.

“You’re Charlly?” Natalie asked.

“Yup,” I nodded. “I love your blog.”

“Thanks,” Natalie blushed.

Matt finally walked out the van. His eyes landed on Natalie and he smiled.

“Hi,” Matt said offering his hand.

“Hi,” Natalie said shaking it. “I’m assuming your the stepbrother that wasn’t mentioned. You know Charlly I could have helped you out with annoying brothers. Yule’s not my stepbrother but he’s pretty annoying.”

“Hey!” Yule shouted in a playful voice.

A strange looking Mustang pulled up and a man with a cane got out.

“Noel changed her mind,” The man said as he opened the back seat door. “She wants to go to the triplets doctor’s appointment now.”

“We’re not going anywhere, Bennet,” Mr. Steve said. Bennet looked at the damage and whistled.

“How did that happen?” Bennet asked. “Darcy, you’ve got to see this!”

A tall black haired guy walked out the car. His blue eyes filled with shock when he saw the side.

“What happened here?” Darcy asked.

“You’re Darcy Edwards!” I squealed. “You’re cuter in person!”

“Thank you…I think,” Darcy said. His voice trailed off at the last.

“Can someone please tell me what’s going on?” Matt asked.

*

“Watch out!” I screamed as our space shuttle nearly coliaded with another space shuttle.

Laz stopped the rocket just in time. The nose of our shuttle was just inches away from the nose of the other shuttle.

Laz put on the headphones and started to chat with the people in the other shuttle. The next thing I know we’re following the shuttle and we’re at the Space Shuttle Station.

“Sorry about that,” Laz said as he shook hands with the flyer of the other rocket. “I haven’t flown in years.”

“Its all right, Larry,” The man smiled. “Its just good to have you back.”

“I’m happy to be back, Levi,” Larry smiled. “Is the Asteroid Inn still open?”

“Yup,” Mr. Levi said. “My wife, daughters, and sons are there helping out Dana. Her husband died right after you left.”

“I heard,” Laz said with a sad face. “I tried to come but-“

“We all understood,” Mr. Levi said. “We all knew you had joined the army and couldn’t make it.”

“Well, I’m out of the army now so let the space adventures begin!” Laz shouted.

He could say that again.

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 Nine

“Um,” I stuttered. “My mom’s in labor.”

It came out more like a question, but it was so very true.

The officer nodded.

“You do realize that you were going over ninety miles an hour and driving recklessly?” The officer asked even though he knew I knew how I was driving.

“Yes, sir,” I said remembering my manners. I let some of my Southern and British charm creep into my voice.

“You avoided me,” The officer said. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to arrest you.”

I wanted to say, “You’ve already put the handcuffs on!” but then I realized he was waiting for me to get out of the car.

“I can’t get out,” I said. “I’m a paraplegic. I can’t walk.”

The officer sighed and crossed his arms.

“No, really!” I shouted. “Look in the back.”

I thanked God that my mother let me put my wheelchair in the car. The officer nodded.

“Ok,” He said. He picked me up in put me in the backseat of his cruiser. He also got my wheelchair out of the car.

“It’s going to be ok,” The officer said as he drove me to the police station. “You were doing what you thought was right.”

“My mom’s having triplets,” I cried. “She’s only thirty-three weeks.”

The officer just nodded and didn’t say anything the rest of the ride.

When I got to the station, I was put in my wheelchair. They put me in foot shackles which was crazy considering I couldn’t WALK!

They took my mug shot and got my finger prints.

I was put in a holding cell with a couple of drunk teenagers. I was allowed my phone call. I couldn’t remember my dad’s number so I called Yule.

“Hello?” Yule asked.

“Yule? Is Dad with you?” I asked.

“Yup, we’re about to pull up in the hospital,” Yule said. “Did Mom have the babies already? Did they give her a C-section?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I’m in jail.”

“You’re in what!” Yule shouted.

“Jail,” I repeated shamefully. “I was driving.”

“You were driving?” Yule asked. “How?”

“Hand controls,” I said.

“Dad, you are not going to like this.”

“Hello?” Daddy asked.

“Hi, Daddy,” I said with fake cheer.

“Is your mother all right?” Daddy asked.

“I don’t know. I was arrested,” I said.

I heard Daddy sigh.

“So your mother’s alone at the hospital?” Daddy asked.

“Um, I’m alone in jail!” I shouted.

Daddy sighed again. He had a very interesting decision. Come and get his daughter out of jail or go see his wife who had probably already delivered.

“I’ll be right there, honey bear,” Daddy said. “I just need to find out what’s going on with your mother and then I’ll come and get you.”

Then came the questions.

“Who do you live with?” One of the integration officers asked.

“My mom, my stepdad, and my siblings,” I answered.

“Do you drive often?” The officer asked.

“Nope,” I said trying to loosen up. “My mom went into labor and everybody else was on a camping trip. I live in a small town actually the part I live in is called a village.”

Then I was brought back to the holding cell.

It felt like I had been in the cell for hours upon hours. I kept worrying about presser sores. I kept trying not to feel disgusted as one of the drunk teenage boys looked at me. I tried not to think how much trouble I was in. I tried not to think about the babies.

But not thinking about all these things was nearly impossible.

I couldn’t stop crying. The guy overseeing the cell gave me some paper towels to wipe my nose and eyes. He kept telling me that everything would be ok.

At the time he seemed like a liar.

My dad and Yule arrived thirty minutes after my call.

I was let off with a warning and these words, “We get why you were driving, but it’s never all right to speed unless it is super life threatening. And when you see those flashing lights and hear the siren pull over. We can help.”

My dad wasn’t mad but Yule was.

“What were you thinking?” Yule asked. “You could have killed someone tonight! I’m surprised they didn’t charge you with reckless driving. I’m also surprised they let you off with a warning!”

“What did you want me to do?” I asked.

“You should have called 911!” Yule shouted.

“Then what? Waited an hour for them to arrive and then have to stay home because I wouldn’t have been allowed in the ambulance?” I asked. “Or what if Momma had to start pushing? I didn’t want to…”

Yule gave me a hug.

“I get it,” Yule said. “It’s just that I’ve spent some long nights in jail.”

“I’m sorry,” I said looking down.

Not another word was spoken until we reached the hospital.

“Are Momma and the babies all right?” I asked as I rolled out of the car.

“Yes,” Daddy said. “Love was delivered right away, and Emmanuel and Avery were born via C-section.”

We were allowed to see Momma. When she saw me, she started to cry.

“I am so sorry, Natalie,” Momma said. “I should have never encouraged you to break the law. I’m a terrible mother.”

“You are not a terrible mother,” I said rolling up to Momma. “I should have pulled over. Its my own fault I got arrested.”

“Are you all right?” Momma asked. “Did they treat you poorly? Did they say anything inappropriate?”

“Nope,” I said. “It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t horrible. I got off with a warning.”

“Good,” Momma said. “Just remember not to speed when you actually do get your license.”

I nodded.

I still wrestle with this night. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I should have been driving or not.

**

“What time is it?” Megan asked for the thousandth time.

“Its eleven fifty-six,” I said. “A minute later than eleven fifty-five.”

“When will it be twelve?” Megan asked.

“Megs, Mom and Dad said they’d be back around noon. Not exactly at noon,” Yule said not looking away from the TV.

It was two weeks later and we were still in Pittsfield. The babies hadn’t come home from the hospital, but yesterday the doctors said that the babies would possibly get to come home today.

Megan still doesn’t understand what the words possibly and around mean.

“Do you think I’ll like them?” Megan asked me as she tried to crawl into my wheelchair.

“Probably not at first,” I said picking her up and plopping her on my lap.

“Why not?” Megan asked.

“New born babies cry a lot,” Yule said. “And sometimes they cry for no reason at all!”

He looked accusingly at Natalia. Natalia gave him a giggle and started to babble a little.

“I see Clifford,” Aunt Clarisse said as she looked out  the window.

We all rushed towards the window.

“Are they smiling? If they’re smiling that means at least one of them has come home!”

“Do you see any babies?”

“Daddy!”

“Ow!”

“Sorry.”

Daddy looked towards the window and gave us a wave. He was smiling brightly.

The car door then opened and Momma stepped out. She was carrying a baby.

We all rushed out the door.

“Whoah!” Daddy shouted. “Don’t worry you will all get a turn.”

“Who’s that?” Megan asked pointing to Momma’s arms.

“This one is Love,” Momma said giving the baby a kiss.

Momma walked towards Aunt Clarisse’s house and Megan and Bella followed.

“What are you guys still doing out here?” Daddy asked standing in front of the car door.

“No more?” Noel pouted.

Daddy laughed. He moved away to reveal that the two other car seats were occupied.

“Meet Emmanuel Gabriel and Avery Joseph,” Daddy said taking them out of the car.

“They’re so cute!” I squealed. Daddy smiled and laughed.

We went back into the house, and we all got to hold the babies.

“Ew,” Yule groaned as Love spit up on him.

I laughed.

“Wait till it happens to you,” Yule said as he wiped Love’s mouth off.

“You won’t do that to me would you, Avery?” I said kissing his head.

“You’re going to be a good boy aren’t you?” Jaci said to Emmanuel who she was cradling.

“Smile!” Daddy shouted pointing his camera at us.

“Triplets!” Yule, Jaci, and I shouted.

The babies then all started to cry and we groaned.

There were going to be some long nights in our future.

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I made a pink jumper,” Jaci said.

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

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

The room erupted in laughter.

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

The room kept on laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Mrs. Rivers laughed.

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

“Baby A’s name is,” Virginia started.

“Love!” I finished.

“How cute!” Mrs. Rivers gushed.

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

“Why? What did he want?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Baby B’s name is,” I started.

“Emmanuel!” Virginia finished.

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

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

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

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

“Christmas Elf!” Noel shouted.

Everyone laughed.

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

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

Once again, everyone laughed.

I love my family.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma gave a huge breath.

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

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

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

Clifford was our brand new red fifteen seater van.

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

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

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

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

“I guess,” I sighed.

But somehow, this time was very very different.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Goodnight,” I said giving Momma a kiss.

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

Two hours later, I heard a scream.

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

“Natalie!” Momma cried. “Natalie!”

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

“Momma?” I asked pushing the door open.

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

“Are you sure?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momma nodded and got up.

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

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

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

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

It was drizzling. I smiled a little.

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

“Natalie!” Momma hollered.

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

“Now,” Momma started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The car barely moved, but I was driving.

“Hurry up!” Momma screamed.

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

“Turn!” Momma screamed.

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

“What’s the speed limit!” I asked.

“I don’t care!” Momma screamed.

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

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

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

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

“Did you call Dad?” I asked.

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

“Hello?” Daddy’s sleepy voice asked.

“Daddy!” I shouted.

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

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

“What’s wrong?” Daddy repeated.

“I’m in labor!” Momma cried.

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

“Where are you?” Daddy asked.

“On the highway,” Momma said.

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

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

“Then who is?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

“Natalie, where are you?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“How are you driving?” Daddy asked.

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

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

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

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

“Ma’am.”

I stared up at the face of an officer.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

**

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

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

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

Momma smiled.

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

“You did what?” I asked.

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

“You did what?” I howled.

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

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

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

I smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

“Wasn’t it obvious?” I asked.

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

There was a knock on the door.

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

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

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

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

“He?”

“He.”

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

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

“Hiya,” Darcy said looking at the ground.

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

“I’ve been a jerk,” Darcy said.

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

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

I laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“From London, England,” Stanley said.

It was probably from my grandparents.

Dear Miss Natalie Zoey Baldwin-Matthews

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

Or maybe not.

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

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

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

Darcy looked at me and started to walk away.

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

“What?” Darcy snapped.

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

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

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

“Bye, Natalie.”

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

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

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

**

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

“Phone,” Noel said handing it to me.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Natalie?” Grandma Baldwin asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you serious?” I asked interrupting Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What suspicion?” Emily asked.

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

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

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

“Well…,” I started.

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

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

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

I gave them a smile.

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

Abby started to smirk.

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

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

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

“Ouch,” Megan said.

“Sorry,” Jaci mouthed to me.

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

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

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

Baby A Baby B Baby C

Merry Gabriel Christian

Natasha Natalio Natal

Love Emmanuel Avery

Eve Nicholas Joseph

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

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

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

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

BANG!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joan!” Momma laughed.

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

“Mrs. Sugar Bear?” I giggled.

“Mr. Meow?” Jessie-Maria howled.

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

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

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

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

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

Sure enough Darcy was in the kitchen stirring lemonade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I snorted.

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

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

Darcy laughed and shook his head.

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

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

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

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

“What?” Darcy asked. “What girl?”

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

Darcy started to giggle.

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

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

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

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

“You are forgiven,” I said.

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

“What are you saying?” I asked.

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

“I do-I mean yes,” I said.

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

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

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

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

**

When we got to the B&B, it looked like a cross between a bridal shop and a hospital.

Aunt Jane and Virginia were flipping through bridal catalogs while Bennet was looking at a dummy with a ton of medical books and medical equipment.

Noel, who had offered to push me up the ramp, pushed me towards Bennet. I tried to tell her that I wanted to go over to Aunt Jane and Virginia but I stopped.

“Hey,” Bennet said looking up. Noel walked away over towards the ‘bridal shop’.

“I know she has a short attention span sometimes,” Bennet started, “but I never thought she’d get sick of me after just one word.”

I laughed.

“So whatca doing?” I asked.

“I’m going to enroll in nursing school next fall,” Bennet said.

“You’re going to be a nurse?” I asked surprised.

“Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t be a nurse,” Bennet said.

“What’s wrong with this guy?” I asked pointing to the dummy.

“He just got shot in the shoulder,” Bennet said going into medical mode. “The first thing you should always look for is an exit wound.”

Bennet pressed a pump that sent blood-like stuff gushing out of the dummy’s arm and side. It dripped onto the sheet that was covering the carpet.

“I know it’s not that authentic, but imagine that blood was pumping out of this man’s arm. That means that his brachial artery has been nicked or severed,” Bennet said. “If we don’t stop it right away, he’s probably going to die.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” I played along.

“We’re going to tie this piece of fabric real tight on this man’s arm,” Bennet said pulling a piece of fabric from his pocket. He handed it to. He started to pump ‘blood’ out of the dummy’s arm again.

I wrapped the fabric around the dummy’s arm as fast as I could and tied the fabric as fast as I could.

“Good!” Bennet praised. “Now take this fabric and press it against his side.”

I did as he told me.

“Now remember if this happens in real life call the paramedics,” Bennet said. “And every gunshot wound is different.”

I saw a shadow of something on Bennet’s face. He looked almost as if he was guilty of something.

“Want to learn CPR?” Bennet asked abruptly.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Donna!” Someone pounded on the restaurant door. “Donna!”

Everyone rushed from the family room into the restaurant. Ms. Donna unlocked the restaurant door and gasped when she saw the outside of the door.

“I…,” Mrs. Rivers trailed off. She pointed at the door.

On the door was a huge Florida state shape with the word Santa inside.

**

“So we need blue, pink, yellow, brown, and what other colors?” Daddy asked we as we went into the home improvement store.

It was a week later, and Daddy had offered to take me along to get the nursery paint. Daddy had already painted all the other rooms (Noel and my room was purple. The name of the paint was Purple Noel when we saw that we had to get it) but the nursery. Momma had changed her mind five times this week about what she wanted for a nursery. She finally decided on a Winnie-the-Pooh nursery and promised that this was her final change.

So Daddy decided to seize the moment and go buy the nursery paint.

Daddy’s phone rang and he groaned.

“Hello, honey?-you haven’t changed your mind again have you?-oh! That’s a good idea-love you too, bye,” Daddy said. He shut his phone.

“Your mother wants you and Bella to paint the characters on the walls,” Daddy said.

We had recently found out that Bella was an aspiring young artist. She loved to draw on everything…including her newly painted yellow walls. Momma said that it was seeing Bella paint Piglet on her wall was what inspired her.

“You go look at the paintbrushes while I get the paint,” Daddy said pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. “Your mother wrote down which colors she wants.”

I giggled and rolled down the aisle. After a second I heard a huge breath. I turned around and there staring back at me was Ryan, my mother’s ex-boyfriend.

Something inside of me told me that Ryan was the one doing all this crazy stuff around here. I mean who else did I know that was obsessed with Florida and Santa.

“I asked you a question over a year ago, girly,” Ryan huffed. “And I’m still waiting for an answer.”

Everything inside me wanted to scream, but nothing came out of my mouth. I tried to spit but my tongue was extremely dry.

“What’s going on here?”

In a split second, Daddy was standing between me and Ryan. I saw a creepy sinister grin come to Ryan’s face.

“You’re Steve Matthews of Pittsfield ain’t ya?” Ryan interrupted. He didn’t let Daddy answer him. He pulled a gun from out of his pocket.

“Natalie,” Daddy started but he couldn’t finish. Ryan pulled the tripper, shot Daddy, and then went tripper- happy.

Daddy tumbled to the floor, and a scream finally left my lips. Some people subdued Ryan and got the gun out of his hands.

Always look for an exit wound

Bennet’s words echoed through my mind. I dove from my wheelchair. Blood splashed everywhere. I set myself on the floor putting my legs in a crisscross-applesauce position.

Blood was pumping from his right shoulder.

That means that his brachial artery has been nicked or severed. If we don’t stop it right away, he’s probably going to die.

“No! No!” I screamed. I ripped away part of Daddy’s shirt. Forget about the exit wound. I had to stop the bleeding. He couldn’t die. He just couldn’t. The triplets needed him. I needed him.

Several people gasped as I tied the torn shirt piece onto his shoulder. I tied it with all the strength I had in my arms. The side of his shirt was becoming soaked so I pulled his shirt up. There it was. An exit wound. I said a silent prayer thanking God that the bullet had left his body. As far as I could tell, the bullet had missed vital organs but I wasn’t a doctor. I prayed that it hadn’t touched his organs. I took my jacket off and pressed it against his side. One lady dropped her cell phone when she saw me. Did I ever mention there’s a big ugly scare on my chest from the accident?

I fumbled into Daddy’s pocket and pulled out his cell phone. A couple of people were already on their phones with 911, but something told me to call.

“911, what’s your emergency?” The lady one the other end asked.

“My daddy’s just been shot,” I cried.

“What’s your name, honey?” The lady asked.

“Natalie Matthews.”

“Ok, Natalie, where are you? Do you know?” The lady asked.

I told her.

“Do you know who shot him? Can you give me a description, Natalie?” The lady asked.

“Yes. His name is Ryan. I don’t know his last name. Some people have subdued him,” I cried.

“Natalie, where was your father shot?” The lady asked.

“In the shoulder.”

“Is blood pumping out?”

“It was. I stopped it a little. He’s still bleeding but now it’s only trickling.”

“Natalie, are you hurt?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

I tried to see if my legs were bleeding. They were coved in blood, but it was probably just my father’s.

“Ok, honey, I need you to help me. I need you to see if he has an exit wound.”

“There is one. It’s on his side. I’m pressing down so it won’t bleed.”

“Where do you live? Is your mother there? Siblings?”

“I live at 430 Drury Hall Lane 01247 in Florida a small town near North Adams. No, my mom isn’t here or my siblings. They’re all at home.”

“How old are you, Natalie?”

“Thirteen.”

“Your name sounds familiar. What’s your middle name?”

“Zoey.”

“You’re that girl that got hit by a car in New York, right?”

“Yes.”

“Everything’s going to be ok, Natalie, the police and an ambulance are on their way.”

“I’m going crazy.”

I didn’t realize it until then that I was having a panic attack. My fingers were trembling and the fabric slipped from my hands. I was choking and my chest was tight. I was afraid I was about to pass out.

“Natalie! Natalie! Natalie!”

I couldn’t hear anything after that. I dropped the cell phone. The world soon became very hazy.  My body felt like Play-Doh. My life once again flashed before my eyes but this time everything was spinning. People were pointing at me. I smiled at them and waved.

My head then hit a huge pool of blood. I knew some blood got into my mouth, but I couldn’t taste it.

A lady mouthed something like “She’s been shot.”

“I want my mommy,” I said. I’m not sure if I actually said that since I didn’t hear it.

Everything went black soon after that.

Posted in Natalie, The Berkshire County Chronicles

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

**

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

I could name a few reasons why.

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

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

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

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

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

After what seemed like forever we finally arrived in Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

“My car!” Bennet cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

“A little bit,” Momma said.

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

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

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

Megan shook her head no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yule, who looked a little embarrassed, laughed.

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

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

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

Abby laughed.

“And you Dad?” Abby asked.

“I’m never right,” Daddy mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made even Abby laugh.

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

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

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

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

“I like Holly,” Daddy said.

“Mistletoe,” Momma said stubbornly.

“Never,” Daddy said shaking his head no.

“How about Mary?” Jaci asked.

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

“How bout Merry,” I said.

“Were you not listening?” Momma asked.

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

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

“Love!” Bella cried.

“That’s cute,” Momma nodded.

“Eve,” Noel mumbled.

“That’s an idea,” Momma said.

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

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

“Natalio,” Yule suggested.

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

“Then how bout Rudolf?” Yule joked.

“I like it,” Megan said.

“Um, no,” Daddy said.

“Christian?” I suggested.

“Cute,” Momma smiled.

“Emmanuel,” Jaci said.

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

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

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

“Larry,” She muttered.

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

Posted in Natalie

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

How can a person who’s paraplegic and still struggling with insomnia be legally pulled away from a nap?

I was seriously considering calling the police because when I was just about to fall asleep Mrs. Rivers comes running into the B&B and insists that all the Matthews’ girls came with her on a special shopping trip.

I love Mrs. Rivers, I truly do, but as we drove back to the B&B I was felling everything but love for Mrs. Rivers.

Sleep had long left me. I had been sleeping fairly well since the accident. I didn’t lay awake at night thinking about sleepwalking that’s for sure.

But the night we moved back to the B&B, sleeping soon became a problem.

The hospital/rehab was relatively quiet and peaceful enough that I easily went to sleep. At the B&B I had two choices. Either I slept with Noel and Natalia or I with Momma and Daddy. And neither option was better than the other.

I love my little niece, but she’s loud and can cry for over an hour.  I don’t mind the midnight feedings, but the midnight screams are a totally different story. Natalia likes to cry. I don’t know why but she likes to cry even if nothing’s wrong. Sleeping in the same room as her was a nightmare, and I was amazed at how easily Noel fell asleep in the middle of a cry fest.

Momma and Daddy weren’t any better to sleep with. Momma’s up half the night using the bathroom. It can take her up to an hour to find a comfortable sleeping position which is usually her stomach squished against mine. Momma likes to talk to me when she can’t go to sleep. She’ll talk about anything, but it’s mostly about the triplets. Just last night we decided to find out the genders of the triplets (Daddy was forced to stay awake for that one though, which was rare). Daddy usually falls asleep the second his head hits the pillow. Now I have mentioned before that Daddy snores. He was a very moderate snorer six months before. But now his snoring is very loud and he actually snorts in his snoring. His snoring sounds like a chainsaw that is locked in Carnegie Hall and has a megaphone attached to it. Sometimes Momma would have conversations with him even though I’m between them. They fought for three hours about nursery themes…UGH!

I tried sleeping with Jaci for a little less than a week and she wasn’t any better. She talked to me about wedding plans and what type of fabric should she use for her wedding dress, and when she did fall asleep she kicked me in the legs. I couldn’t feel the kicks too well since I can feel only on certain spots (usually were my psoriasis is the worst), but in the morning I always found myself face down on Jaci’s bedroom floor. I was almost helpless in that position, but I always got into my wheelchair with no help.

I even tried sleeping with Megan and Bella. The two of them must be on the same clock because they will wake up at the same time in the middle of the night and start talking. Was this family just filled with blabbermouths?

And being paraplegic didn’t help. Somehow not going to sleep felt different. I mean I had it before the accident, but now it just felt well…different.

I’d wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding out of my chest. When that happens, I know I’ve had a bad dream and all I want is some warm milk. But I am now unable to go get it myself. If we still lived in the apartment that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’d never trade Florida just so I could get milk myself. Daddy doesn’t mind getting it for me, but it annoys Momma. And Noel just doesn’t understand. She just stashes some lavender under my nose and goes right back to sleep.s

Thankfully this problem would soon be over. Momma and Daddy were house searching. It saddened me that we might not actually live in Florida, but there were only two house in all of Florida that would fit all of us. The B&B and Drury Hall. As I already explained, the B&B wasn’t working out so great, and Drury Hall was Stewart property. Mr. Stewart owned the house and there wasn’t that great of a chance of us moving in there.

As we pull up into the B&B driveway, my eyelids started to feel heavy. I looked at my watch. It was five-thirty. Maybe I could get a nap in before dinner.

The B&B looked dark which was strange. Ms. Donna should have been starting to make dinner.

Mrs. Rivers insisted that we enter the B&B through the restaurant door and that annoyed me for some reason. I was hoping to transfer the the couch and catch some Zs.

We found Daddy, Yule, and Mr. Rivers standing outside the restaurant entrance.

“Both doors are locked,” Daddy huffed, “and nobodies answering the phone.”

“Open up!” Yule shouted pounding on the door. Mrs. Rivers pulled a key out of her purse and opens the door.

“BON VOYAGE!”

Confetti was thrown into my face, and the lights were turned on. All our friends were crammed into the restaurant. French music was playing, and French decorations were all over the wall.

“Now we know that you’re going to going to France for a week but we couldn’t resist having a party!” Mrs. Rivers shouted.

“But it was her idea to have a surprise one,” Jessie-Maria said pointing at Virginia.

“What?” Virginia asked as she stuffed a cupcake into her mouth. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’ve got to get a picture for our blog,” Momma said pulling her ever ready camera out of her purse.

Momma and Daddy started a blog about their natural triplet pregnancy. All though my parents try to say it’s a ‘parenting’ blog, and they do have stuff about being the parents of a teenager, toddlers, autistic child, Down Syndrome child, and paraplegic. It’s mostly about the triplets. The blog is called Christmas Everyday, which frankly I find amusing.

“You should start a blog!” Virginia shouted. “And that way I don’t have to wait to see the pictures!”

My mom instantly said yes and started saying how it could be a spin-off to her and Daddy’s blog.

Two hours later, the party was still going on and sleep had left me once again. I was trying not to show my frustration when two police officers walked through the door.

“We’re looking for a Ms. Lori Mary Stewart!” One of the officers shouted over all the noise. Mrs. Stewart walked up.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Stewart, but you’re husband’s dead,” The other officer said.

**

Everyone left soon after that.

The officers said that they thought Mr. Stewart died of natural causes, and that Mrs. Stewart could either pick up his body in the morning or have to medical examiner look at him.

Mrs. Stewart didn’t seem to care that Mr. Stewart was dead. She just went back to eating cake and ice cream right after the officers left. Emily started to bawl her eyes out. Timmy looked like he almost didn’t believe the officers, but when he got over that he started to mope. Yule announced that he was no longer hunger and made himself disappear. Noel just sat down in a booth and held Natalia close. Momma didn’t look happy. I think she was sad for Yule, Noel, Emily, and Timmy. Mr. Stewart had done so much to her. He hurt so horribly. Frankly, I was surprised she wasn’t happy that he was gone. Daddy looked happy about it and joined Mrs. Stewart in her ‘celebration’. I think he was a little upset that Momma wasn’t happy about it.

And how did I feel about this?

I was trying to figure that out as I lay in bed in between Momma and Daddy.

Daddy was snoring louder than usual and Momma was talking to me.

“Joan wants to throw a babies shower for me,” Momma said, “but I’m not sure if it would be appropriate. This would be for number eight, nine, and ten. What do you think?”

“Sure, why not? I mean a baby shower is a celebration not a birthday party,” I said. “And you can tell Mrs. Rivers just to invite our closet friends and not every woman in Florida. The gifts not make the shower.”

“Honey!” Momma shouted. I tried not to giggle. Daddy was not going to like being woken up over this.

“Eh?” Daddy asked. “What?”

“Joan wants to throw me a babies shower,” I said.

“Ok,” Daddy said. He started to close his eyes.

“But I don’t know if it’s proper,” Momma said. “I’ve never had a baby shower before though so does that make it ok.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Daddy asked.

I inwardly groaned. The nursery fight started off with those eight words.

“What does it have to do with you?! The babies are just as much yours as mine! If you think it’s not proper etiquette to have a baby shower then I won’t have one!” Momma shouted.

“Riley,” Daddy sighed, “I personally don’t care if you have a baby shower or not. And in a way they are the first babies. They’re our first children together.”

“But won’t doing that be like ignoring our other children?” Momma asked.

Daddy gave a frustrated sigh.

“Just have the stupid baby shower!” Daddy said rolling over. Here we go again.

“It’s not stupid!” Momma shouted.

“It’s stupid to be talking about it at three in the morning!”

“You don’t love me.”

“Not this again!”

“I just feel like there’s something between us,” Momma whimpered.

“Yeah,” I said, “me!”

SMASH!

“What was that?” Momma screamed.

SMASH!

Momma hurried out the bedroom door. Daddy carried me downstairs. Everyone else was already down there. The windows in the family room had been smashed.

“Stewart Revenge?” Mrs. Stewart asked. “Fowler spoke of such things but…”

BANG! BANG!

Gunshots.

Daddy must have forgot that he was holding me because he ran outside while I still in his arms. That was a very terrifying moment for me at least. If Daddy got shot, I was out of luck.

Thankfully the shooter had already gotten into his car and was driving off. I couldn’t see the car because I had my eyes closed and was praying like crazy. But I could hear the car and it was speeding like crazy.

“Did you see who it was?” Momma asked when he walked back into the house.

“Nope,” Daddy said. “I could barely see the license plate but I’m pretty sure that car had Florida state tags.”

My face fell. I had a pretty strong feeling who that was.

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 Twenty-Three

**

I stared out the window. Snow was falling from the New York City sky. It was seven weeks later and my thirteenth birthday.

I felt like the snow was for me. I had been feeling rather depressed lately. I had been in rehab for a couple of weeks now. I was learning how to use my wheelchair, get in and out of bed, bathe, eat, get dressed, and some fun stuff too(which included piano. Surprisingly Daddy tried to talk me OUT of taking lessons). But no matter how hard I tried or how much determination I built up, I was still depressed. I couldn’t find the heaven in my accident no matter how hard I tried.

I flipped through one of my old art notebooks. I was going to take an art class that night and was feeling nostalgic. On one of the pages instead of a picture or drawing, it was a list.

Thirteen Things To Do Before Turning Thirteen

1. Visit Grandma and Grandpa in London, England

2. Go on a road trip

3. Visit New York City

4. Go to a dance with a date and everything

5. Be in a wedding party

6. Get my ears pierced

7. See snow!

8. Visit Washington D.C.

9. Learn how to ride a bike or skateboard

10. Break a bone

11. Get a job

12. Perform in a talent show

13. Make a BFF for life

I ripped the piece of paper out of the notebook and started to shred it. Tears started to pour out. Nowhere on that list did it say “Become Paraplegic!” or “Go to rehab!” But through my tear stained eyes I noticed something.

I had visited Grandpa and Grandma Baldwin on spring break. The night Momma and I drove to Florida could count as a road trip. I did way more than just visit New York City. I went to the Valentines’ Day Dance with Darcy. I had been in three weddings parties in less than a year. I got my ears pierced…against my will but still. I had got to see snow. I was seeing snow right then. Momma and I drove through Washington D.C. I learned how to both ride a bike and skateboard. I had broken my foot and my back…I had been a waitress at the B&B. I performed in the Christmas in July show. And Virginia, Regina, and even Emily were my best friends for life.

Tears started to pour down my face faster. I don’t even remember making the list, but I had done all the things on it. And in less than a year. I sighed. I opened the drawer of my desk and took out some tape. I was starting to repair the list when Daddy walked in the room.

“I know you’re about to have cake,” Daddy said placing a cupcake in front of me, “but it’s supposed to be one of the best cupcakes in New York City.”

I stared at him. A year ago I didn’t even know he existed. Three months ago I didn’t even want him in my life. And now seven weeks after a life changing event, I couldn’t imagine life without him. If Daddy hadn’t been here, I would probably still be in stage one of my learning.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Daddy asked.

“I was just thinking,” I said.

“Just thinking,” Daddy said in a goofy voice. I smiled and nodded. I handed him the list.

“What happened here?” Daddy asked as he read the list.

“I got angry,” I said.

“Why? Didn’t you do all these things?” Daddy asked.

“Yeah, I did them all,” I said, “but…”

“But what?” Daddy asked taking my psoriasis lotion out of my bag.

“I can’t find the heaven in my accident,” I finally said.

“The what?” Daddy asked as he rubbed the lotion in.

“The beauty. The meaning. I call it heaven,” I said. Daddy nodded.

“I mean what good can come out becoming paraplegic?” I asked.

“To tell you the truth, honey bear, I’m as in the dark about it as you, but I do know that in the end it will work out,” Daddy said screwing the lid back on the lotion. He dropped the bottle of lotion because his hands were trembling so much.

I smiled and couldn’t help but laugh. For the first week I was in the hospital, Daddy was a total wreck. He passed out a couple of times and had to change his shirt at least four times a day. He and Momma soon made up after Momma saw how real his fear of hospitals was. By the third week, he had gotten better, but when he saw a dead body…Now he just trembled a lot and rarely passed out. He got out of the hospital/rehab at least once a day. Sometimes he went to Central Park for fresh air. Sometimes he went to the apartment and took a nap in peace. And on special days like this, he brought me back something. I bit into the soft and moist cupcake. It was by far the best cupcake I’d ever had.

“You think it’s funny?” Daddy joked handing me the bottle of lotion so I could do my arms and neck.

“A little,” I smiled. Daddy returned the smile.

“I just noticed something,” I said looking at him.

“What?” He asked.

“You have dimples!” I shouted. “No wonder my mom likes you so much.”

I pictured my father’s face. He had dimples too.

Daddy laughed and shook his head.

“You’re just noticing that?” Daddy asked.

“Yeah,” I said sheepishly.

“Did you do your weights?” Daddy asked.

“Yes,” I mumbled. I hate lifting weights but it was necessary. I had to keep a strong upper body and lifting weights ‘fit’ me. But I couldn’t complain. My lung capacity had already expanded.

“Hide me!” Yule cried running into the room and locking the door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“The nurses,” Yule said in a disgusted tone.

I laughed. Ever since we got here, the unmarried nurses and female doctors went crazy over Yule. Nicole, who helped me learn how to get dressed and feed myself, can’t stop talking about Yule during my learning time. It had gotten so bad that if I wasn’t almost finished with my course I would ask to switch teachers.

“Happy Birthday!” Noel shouted from the other side of the door. “Unlock, now!”

I rolled over to the door and unlocked the door.

Noel pushed in a cart full of flowers. There was also three very small present on the cart. Momma, Abby, Zach, Jaci, and Megan followed Noel into the room.

Momma looked overly tired, but the smile on her face seemed to wipe the sleepless nights away. Abby, who had recently started to wear maternity clothes, had a hint of frosting on her lips and I guessed that Daddy had brought her a cupcake too. My suspicion was answered when I noticed that Noel had a red tongue, Megan had frosting in her hair, Jaci still had a cupcake in her hand, and Momma well Momma just looked like someone who had just tasted the joy of a cupcake.

“So you told us that you wanted nothing for your birthday,” Momma said taking one of the little gifts off the cart. “But they were out of nothing at the story. Apparently they were out of nothing in Florida too since all these flowers or for you.”

I laughed.

Momma handed me the box.

“That’s from us,” Yule said. “Your siblings.”

I opened my box and inside it was a necklace that had my name on it. My name was surrounded by hearts.

“It’s beautiful,” I smiled. Yule put it on me.

“It’s low enough that it won’t choke you,” Yule said.

“I thought of the gift!” Noel said slowly. I opened my arms for a hug, and Noel squeezed me very tight.

“Almost lost you, sister,” Noel said. “Love ya.”

“I love you too,” I cried. Tears poured out of Noel’s eyes.

“And this is from me,” Daddy said handing me the one of the boxes. “Your mother and I couldn’t agree on what to get you so we got separate gifts.”

Momma smiled and shook her head.

Inside the box there was a ring. It had a heart on it and a tiny diamond was inside the heart. Inside the band it said “My daughter, my love.” It was my turn to be speechless. I soon found myself crying my eyes out.

“Do you not like?” Daddy asked with worry in his voice.

“I love it,” I cried. “I love you.”

Once again Daddy was speechless. We had come a long way in seven weeks. If it hadn’t been for the accident, we would probably still be bickering and fighting. Maybe that was the reason this had to happen. Something had to happen to get the fact that Daddy loved me through my head. In the past seven weeks, Daddy had done so much for me. He hated hospitals, yet he was there for me every day. That meant more to me than words could explain.

“I love you too,” Daddy finally managed to get out.

“Open my present!” Momma shouted like an excited child.

I took the little box from her hand and opened it. Inside there was a gold bracelet with my name on it.

“To match your necklace,” Momma said.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

Then we cut the cake, but everybody was full from the best cupcakes ever except Yule and Zach. They were saving their cupcakes for ‘later’.

It was the most sentimental birthday I’ve had so far. I’ve only taken my bracelet off once when the clasp broke. I wore my necklace and ring expect when I was sleeping and showering.

My life was now limited, but somehow it was just…better. I had a dad again. I had siblings! I had a family.

Now the only thing that would complete the year would be going home for Christmas.

THE END