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 4- I’ll Be Home for Christmas Installment One

How can a person not want to go home for Christmas?

I knew it was a nearly impossible dream. When I first got to rehab, the thought of Florida at Christmastime was the only thing that kept me going.

Well it was December 16, and not a word about being released from rehab had been uttered. I guess I’d be spending another holiday in rehab. First my birthday, then Thanksgiving, and now Christmas.

“Why the long face?” Daddy asked when he, Momma, and Yule walked into my room. They were trying their hardest to hide their smiles and smirks. Something was up.

“Was I wearing a long face?” I asked knowing I was.

“You were looking nostalgic,” Momma said.

“Well with Christmas coming up and all,” I said.

“You want to go home,” Daddy stated.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Momma said, “but December 20th was the best we could get.”

“That’s ok,” I said turning around. “Wait…what!”

“You’re being released!” Momma, Daddy, and Yule shouted. Noel walked into the room with a noisemaker in her mouth.

“Natalie’s going home for Christmas!” Noel shouted.

“I’ll be home for Christmas?” I asked. This just seemed so unreal.

“Yup,” Momma said. She pulled a suitcase from behind her back.

The next four days were torture.

I had a bunch of doctor’s visits just make sure that I was breathing ok and my spine wasn’t swelling. Momma and Jaci had to pack for me since couldn’t leave rehab. I had to do a test on December 19th to make sure that I really knew everything I needed to know. Then at ten A.M. December 20th I was free.

“How does it fell to be in a car again, kid?” Yule asked me as we got on the highway.

“Nauseating,” I said. I hadn’t been in a car since early October.

Momma seemed to agree with me. She looked sick. She had her head in her hands.

“Stop the car,” Momma groaned.

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

“Stop the car!” Momma shouted. Daddy pulled over on the side of the road, and Momma ran out the door. She started to vomit on the side of the road.

“Yuck!” Megan screamed. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit.

Momma got back in the car without saying anything. She fell asleep right away, and ten minutes later she woke up and started yelling about how she had to use the bathroom.

And that’s how our trip went. Momma would fall and asleep and less than thirty minutes later she would have to pee.

At one o’clock, the time we were supposed to be arriving in Florida, we still had another hour to go, and everyone was starving.

“I want Wendy’s!” Megan screamed at the top of her lungs when Daddy asked what did we want to eat.

“No, McDonald’s!” Noel screamed. She started to scream “I’m lovin’ it®” over and over again.

“Please stop, honey,” Momma said. She sounded like she was dizzy, and she looked like she could vomit again.

Noel stopped and then started pointing at a sign that had a picture of McDonald’s one it. She kept pointing in the direction of the sign even when it was out of sight. After about two minutes though she stopped and started staring at her hand.

“Natalie, honey bear, what do you want to eat?” Daddy asked.

“I want some greasy fries,” I said in a desirous voice. Rehab food is not much better than hospital food. It’s all healthy too, which isn’t a bad thing but eating that food for two months makes you want some McDonald’s fries real bad.

McDonald’s it is,” Daddy said.

“Good,” Momma said. “I have got to use the restroom.”

We got off, used the bathroom, and ate lunch. We got stuck in traffic once we hit Berkshire County, and didn’t arrive in Florida until three P.M.

“The sign with the snowman!” Megan screamed when the sign appeared. Momma and Daddy let out a well held sign. Yule, who had been here before, started to amaze me by telling me what was coming up next and the names of trees. Noel didn’t really seem to care and just sucked her finger. Jaci looked excited, and I just couldn’t stop smiling.

“I’m home. I’m finally home,” I said as we pulled up into the B&B driveway.

I saw that someone had put up a wheelchair ramp. Virginia, Emily, and Regina ran out of the house and to the car.

“You’re here!” Virginia cried as I got out of the car. “There’s so much to tell. First I think I should tell you that Darcy didn’t take anyone to Homecoming in October. Second, Ms. O’Donnell has a BOYFRIEND! He’s her next door neighbor, and yours truly got the two of them together! Mrs. Stewart became a Christian. Jessie-Maria is on her way. Ms. Donna is calling her now. We thought you’d guys never show up. Oh, um, who’s this dude?”

“Slow down,” I laughed. “This is my big brother Yule.”

“You have a brother?” Emily, Regina, and Virginia said at the same time.

“Long story,” I said. “Where’s Darcy?”

“Who knows,” Virginia said running up the B&B steps.

“Nice of ya to mention me,” Yule joked as I rolled up the wheelchair ramp.

“You know I love you,” I said. Yule laughed.

Nothing about the B&B had changed. It was the same was when we left. Darcy was standing in the arch looking unsure of what to do.

“Darcy!” I shouted. I rolled as fast as I could and gave Darcy a huge hug.

“Can’t…breathe…,” Darcy said.

“Sorry,” I said letting go.

“Somebody’s excited,” Darcy said. He looked the same except he was taller. His voice had changed.

“Put me down!” I shouted as Darcy picked me up out of my wheelchair.

Darcy laughed.

“You’re strong,” I said. “Put me down.”

“You’re heavy,” Darcy laughed. “Nope.” I smiled. Darcy looked at Yule.

“Darcy, this is my big brother, Yule,” I said. Darcy’s face was priceless. He almost dropped me.

“Haven’t I seen you before?” Darcy asked.

“Um, yeah, I’m a relative of Fowler Stewart,” Yule said. He hurried towards the restaurant.

Darcy put me back into my wheelchair and pushed me into the resturant.

Jessie-Maria came running into the restaurant and fainted.

“Sean? Sean, are you all right?” Yule asked walking up to Jessie-Maria’s limp body. He ran his fingers through her newly highlighted hair. He gave one of those memorable laughs. He picked Jessie-Maria’s body up and set her down in a booth.

Jessie-Maria came too soon after that. She looked at Yule in disbelief.

“Hey, Blondie,” Yule laughed.

“My hair is not blonde!” Jessie-Maria argued. “I got it highlighted. My dad wouldn’t in a million years let me dye my hair.”

“I bet he fainted when he saw your hair,” Yule smiled. Jessie-Maria shook her head and laughed.

“Wait, you two know each other?” I asked. A sweet smile came to Jessie-Maria’s face. She took a necklace off of her neck. On it instead of a pendant there was a class ring on the chain.

“You actually wear it? I thought you would just stash it away in your underwear drawer,” Yule said.

“Actually,” Jessie-Maria said with embarrassment in her voice, “This was the first time I’ve taken it off in two years.”

Yule put the necklace back on Jessie-Maria’s neck; Jessie-Maria’s face lit up more than the New York City night skyline.

“I’m lost,” Virginia said. She was pouting, and I laughed.

“Let’s see,” Jessie-Maria said. “I met Yule two years ago. I was volunteering at a hospital/rehabilitation center. Yule had been shot in the hip and was acting like a snake” Yule laughed. “Nobody who was paid to work there wanted to work with him so they had me, a ten to eleven year old girl, take care of him. I had to do everything for him, even feed and dress him which made no sense because he had a hip injury. For some reason I was the only person he didn’t shun. After a while I started to love this grump, and it turns out the feeling was mutual. I convinced the Johnson’s to let me stay long enough to help Yule out. When he got better, the Johnson’s called Mr. Bill, and I was gone. But before I left Yule gave me his freshman class ring. It was way too big for my fingers so I put it on a chain and wore it around my neck…everywhere.”

“How romantic!” Virginia squealed.

“I’m outta here,” Yule said getting up and walking up the steps. Jessie-Maria laughed and smiled.

“Yule never said anything about a girl,” I said shaking my head.

“How did you meet him anyway?” Virginia asked. “And how in the world is he your brother? Are your parents adopting him or something?”

“It’s a long story,” I said shaking my head.

“Well promise us that you’ll tell us all these long stories at the sleepover we’ve planned for you,” Emily blurted.

“Emily!” Jessie-Maria, Virginia, and Regina cried. “It was supposed to be a surprise!”

“Ooops…,” Emily said blushing.

“Come here!” I cried opening my arm. The girls gave me a hug that hurt my ribs so badly, but the hug was worth it.

**

For dinner just about everyone in Florida crammed into the restaurant to come see me. I received lots more flowers and candy…and a lot of hugs.

Mr. Stewart and Timmy came late. When Timmy showed up, Jaci practically flew into Timmy’s arms. Timmy carried Jaci to the least crowded part of the restaurant, and they started talking about a mile a minute.

I noticed Momma made herself absent when Mr. Stewart showed up. When he spotted Yule and Noel, I thought he was going to drop down dead.

“Grandpa! You won’t believe it! Cousin Yule and Cousin Noel are Natalie’s brother and sister!” Emily shouted when Mr. Stewart walked towards the table she was sitting at with Jessie-Maria, Yule, Noel, Virginia, Darcy, and me on the end.

Oh, he better believe it.

“Hello, sir,” Yule said offering his hand. There was sadness and pain in his eyes. Mr. Stewart’s eyes were as cold as stone.

“Hello, son,” Mr. Stewart said shaking his hand. The words seemed to stab Yule’s heart. It was like Mr. Stewart was talking of code. He was recognizing Yule as his son, but nobody would give a second thought about it.

“And hello, Noel,” Mr. Stewart said to Noel sweetly. She looked at Mr. Stewart’s forehead for a second and then went back to stealing food off of Yule’s and my plate.

“I wonder what’s up with him,” Emily mumbled as Mr. Stewart walked away. “He’s never changed moods like that.”

Yule just put a big mouth full of macaroni and cheese in his mouth.

“So how do you like the new menu?” Ms. Donna asked walking up to the table.

“I really like the mac and cheese,” I said rubbing my belly. Ms. Donna smiled.

“I decided that two choices were just too plain,” Ms. Donna said. “So I added macaroni and cheese, baked and fried chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, and hamburgers. I’m thinking about adding pizza!”

“That would be so good,” Virginia said. “Pizza is the one thing I haven’t master yet.”

Ms. Donna laughed and walked away.

“FOWLER STEWART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Everyone looked to the door where Mrs. Stewart was standing. She was mad and looked ready to throw the book in her hand at Mr. Stewart.

“Lori,” Mr. Stewart said looking at the book in Mrs. Stewart’s hand and not her eyes, “not here.”

“Yes, here!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. “The whole world deserves to know the snake of a husband I have!”

“Lori,” Mr. Stewart said with a shaky voice. “What are you talking about?”

“This!” Mrs. Stewart yelled opening the book. “Explain yourself!”

Even from afar I could see that the book was a photo album. I couldn’t really see the pictures but I was sure they were baby pictures of some sort.

“And this!” Mrs. Stewart screamed flipping the page. The entire room gasped.

Mrs. Stewart started to walk around the room showing just about everyone the picture. It was a picture of my mom. She was holding either Yule or Noel in her arms. She looked young and scared; she had several scares on face. Mr. Stewart was in the corner looking at the baby in Momma’s arms. His expression was downright scary.

“And this!” Mrs. Stewart screamed. She looked around for Momma, and when she didn’t see her, she handed Daddy two pieces of paper.

“Read it! Read them both!” Mrs. Stewart cried. Daddy hesitated for a second, but he didn’t dare deify Mrs. Stewart in this mood.

“Name: Yule Nicholas Walters-Stewart. Date of birth: August 1st. Place of birth: Berkshire Pittsfield Hospital. Parents: Fowler Stewart and Riley Anne Walters,” Daddy read.

“That’s enough of that one,” Mrs. Stewart said. “Read the other one.”

“Name: Noel Joy Baldwin-Stewart. Date of birth: December 25th. Place of birth: The Hospital of Tampa, Florida. Parents: Fowler Stewart and Riley Anne Baldwin,” Daddy read.

“That’s quite enough,” Mrs. Stewart said.

Everyone was staring at Mr. Stewart. Mr. Stewart was looking around for Momma, but she still hadn’t come back. Mr. Stewart looked mad.

“Lori, I can explain everything,” Mr. Stewart said.

“Then explain!” Mrs. Stewart screamed.

“Not here,” Mr. Stewart said. “Let’s go home and talk about it.”

Mrs. Stewart looked reluctant.

“Fine,” Mrs. Stewart said gritting her teeth. She marched out of the restaurant, and Mr. Stewart followed.

Momma walked into the restaurant looking sick. Everyone stared at her with sad and companionate looks.

“What did I miss?” Momma asked.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Thirteen

**

I tried to breathe as the car drove away. This wasn’t it. This wasn’t goodbye. We weren’t actually leaving Florida. There was still time for this nightmare to end.

I had only one week to try to stop this horrible move. Maybe if I prayed real hard Momma and Mr. Steve wouldn’t like the noisy city and decide to stay in quite Florida.

“So there are five boroughs of New York City correct?” Jaci asked. There were tears in her voice. She was mad about this too. But she had nothing to worry about. Timmy had proposed. They were getting married. They had Mr. Steve’s blessing. She would be moving back here within a year. I was still a minor and would still be living under Mr. Steve’s roof for six more years.

“Yes. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island,” Mr. Steve said.

“Which part will be living in?” Jaci asked.

“Well my job is in Manhattan so probably Manhattan,” Mr. Steve said. Jaci nodded.

“Does a man make hattan there?” Megan asked. I looked at her.

“No, baby,” Mr. Steve laughed. “What makes you think that?”

“It’s called Man hattan,” Megan said. “I’m happy though. I don’t like hattan. Yucky!”

I stared at her. What in the world was hattan?

“What’s hattan, honey?” Momma said almost reading my thoughts.

“It’s a secret,” Megan said. “Every time you ask they never tell you.”

“Who are they?” Momma asked.

“I don’t know,” Megan shrugged. “They are they.”

Momma looked at Mr. Steve. The look on their faces said, “That’s weird.”

**

It took us almost four hours to get to New York City. Four hours between Florida and New York City. That was a long ways away.

Mr. Steve showed us the building he would be working in. It was a skyscraper of course.

There were several apartment buildings in the area, and we visited just about every one.

“What do you think about this one?” Mr. Steve asked. “It’s big enough for everyone to have their own room. And there still would be a guest room.”

This place could never become home. The B&B was home and always would be.

“Free!” Megan shouted running around the empty apartment. Mr. Steve smiled.

“It’s very nice,” Jaci said politely.

“Natalie?” Momma asked.

She didn’t want me to say anything, trust me.

“Natalie, this is a family decision. If you don’t like the apartment…,” Mr. Steve started.

“It’s not that I don’t like the apartment. The apartment in general is fine, but it never will be home. Florida is home. The B&B is home. This apartment is never going to become home. New York City will never take Florida’s place. Not ever,” I said as calmly as I could.

Mr. Steve seemed relieved I hadn’t started yelling and annoyed our possible new neighbors.

“Well if anyone likes the place,” Mr. Steve said. Thankfully, he didn’t dare look at me.

No, this couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t be leaving Florida like this. Not this quickly. No, not like this.

**

This was it. I couldn’t believe that I was actually leaving Florida.

After all I’ve been through this year. Last Christmas when we got here I would have never imagined that I’d fall in love with this place, but I was in love with it bad. I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. It would take a thousand lifetimes to get to know everyone in New York City.

I had friends here. I didn’t really have friends back in Florida. I usually ate lunch with the people who liked art and books. We had something in common to talk about, but as far as having a real good friend who you knew you could count on no matter what I never had one until I came here.

I could count on Regina, Darcy, Virginia, Jessie-Maria, and even Emily to have my back. They were my best friends (well Emily might not be a bestie but she was a closeie). My heart broke to leave them, especially Darcy.

I had tried everything. I pleaded to stay and live with Abby. I tried to get them to let me stay here during the week and be in New York on the weekends. Nothing worked. Mr. Steve was determined to ‘keep the family together’. This wasn’t a family. This was a mess. What Mr. Steve saw as a ‘family’. I saw as a horrible attempt to act like we were happy. We weren’t happy. We were on the edge of our seat just waiting for the ‘fight’ to happen. The fight that would end this all. Or maybe it was just me who was waiting for this to happen. Sooner or later Mr. Steve had to get sick of me, and just wanna leave. I mean how much can one person take?

Jaci was just as upset as I was about leaving Florida, but she was too polite to even frown. Megan was no help. She wanted to go to the big Toys R Us in NYC. Some little sister. Abby had been in shock for about a week. She kept saying that Mr. Steve should do what was best for the family. Well leaving Florida wasn’t best for me, and wasn’t I part of his idea of a family?

It seemed like the entire town was there to watch us leave. Everybody looked sad, but nobody was sadder than me well maybe Virginia was. She kept complaining that she would resort to hanging out with Emily and have to hear her talk about how wonderful Nelson was.

Darcy had barely uttered a word to me all week. It kinda hurt me. Weren’t we supposed to be gushing over each other and trying to spend every possible second together?

“I’m going to miss you!” Virginia cried hugging me so tight I thought I was going to die.

“I’m going to miss you too,” Regina said hugging me not as tight.

“Me too,” Jessie-Maria said hugging me. “The twins are going to too.”

I smiled and let tears fall from my eyes.

“Natalie, we got off to a bad start. I’m not exactly the friendliest person in all of Massachusetts, but I like to think of you as a friend. And trust me. I don’t have too many friends,” Emily said to me. She gave me very light hug. I smiled and shook my head on the inside.

“You will be missed,” Nelson said. I smiled at him.

“Bye, Natalie,” Timmy said. “See you this summer…for the wedding I mean.”

I tried to punch him in the side, but since Timmy was so tall I had to settle for the stomach. Timmy laughed at my pathetic attempt.

I walked towards the car. Darcy wasn’t even there. So what? I was leaving, and if Darcy didn’t care why should that bother me?

“Natalie, wait!”

I turned around the find Darcy standing there.

“What?” I asked.

“I.I.I.,” Darcy tried. He soon gave up on his attempt at words and gave me the quickest kiss on the lips ever.

I stood there for a second staring into Darcy’s eyes. I climbed into the car.

“Bye!” I cried sticking my head out the window. Virginia, Jessie-Maria, Regina, and surprisingly Emily gave me tearfully goodbyes. Darcy said goodbye with tears in his eyes.

I blew kisses and then put my head in the car because I could feel Mr. Steve’s eyes on me.

I broke down hysterically crying in the backseat. And did Mr. Steve turn back? No, Mr. Steve did not.

**

I fell asleep after I cried for like forty minutes nonstop. I know that’s being childish, but I truly couldn’t stop. I tried after the first five but the tears kept pouring out. I hadn’t felt this kind of emotional attachment to Miami, but I had it bad with Florida. Florida was home now. It was where my friends where. It had people I loved and cared about. And most important: Darcy.

When I woke up I felt kinda stupid for crying over a boy, but Darcy wasn’t just any boy at least not me. He was special to me. He was the first guy I ever really really liked. His kiss was short but sweet.

“Whoa,” Megan said. I looked out the window, and skyscrapers met my eyes. We were in New York City already?

“Welcome to the Big Apple, girls!” Mr. Steve smiled. I scowled. We were almost four hours away from Florida.

“There are a lot of people,” Jaci said craning her neck to look out the window.

“There are over a million people in Manahan, and over eight million people in New York City. Jaci, honey, you’re gonna see a lot of people,” Mr. Steve said.

“What’s that?” Megan asked pointing to the newly finished One World Trade Center.

“It’s called the One World Trade Center or 1 WTC,” Mr. Steve said. “It’s the tallest building in New York City.”

“It’s pretty,” Megan said.

“Yes,” Mr. Steve said smiling a sad smile, “it’s pretty.”

I closed my eyes not wanting to think about the 9/11 attacks. A disadvantage to living in New York City: not feeling safe.

I sighed. I lived here now. I couldn’t believe I was one of eight million and no longer one of seven hundred.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

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

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

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

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

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

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

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

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

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

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

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

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

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

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

Abby laughed.

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

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi,” I said sitting down.

“Hey,” She mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ladies, ladies,” Grandma Baldwin said.

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

“Humph!” Grandma Shirley shouted letting go.

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

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

“What was that all about?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The two of them similar?” I asked.

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

“I DID NOT!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Stewart snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

“Natalie?” Darcy asked when I turned around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh!” Grandma Shirley grumbled.

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Five

**

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

“You played the Devil?” Virginia asked.

“And won an Oscar for it,” Ned said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Honey, can you see?” Abby asked.

“Nope,” Zach said.

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

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

“What?” Ms. Erin asked.

“Nothing,” Abby laughed.

“LOOK OUT!”

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

“Seriously!” I shouted throwing my hands up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

“Meehghneojgsosanivgsnhiigsiogils.”

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

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

“Ow!” I shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

I sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you know how to sew?” Jaci asked.

“Yeah,” Sean mumbled.

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

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

“I…I….I….,” Sean started.

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

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

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

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

Posted in Farm Girl

Farm Girl- Installment Five

**

I woke up to the smell of burnt bacon. I had overslept again.

I opened the door and stepped on an egg. Aunt Jane is forgetful but…………

I soon felt a chicken pecking my unprotected toes.

“AUNT JANE!” I called running down the stairs. “Why is there a chicken at my bedroom door?”

I looked at the table and saw Leo sitting there poking at an attempt at an oatmeal sandwich.

“And why is Leo Logan in my house?” I asked crossing my arms.

“Ms. O’Donnell called me last night and said that she wanted me here at your house first thing in the morning to talk about the ball,” Leo said. “She didn’t even care that a blizzard was coming.”

“And that’s why I brought the chickens in the house,” Aunt Jane said placing an oatmeal sandwich down on the table.

“Ms. O’Donnell asked you to put the chickens inside the house?” I asked knowing that wasn’t the answer.

“No,” Aunt Jane laughed. “A blizzard is coming and the last time we had a blizzard I plum forgot about the chickens and three of them froze to the death the poor things.”

A chicken started to peck at my toes.

“Lynn, stop it!” Aunt Jane shouted to the chicken.

“Can I use your restroom?” Leo asked.

“Sure, darling, right now the hall,” Aunt Jane said putting a live chicken in the oven. “WHOOPS!”

Leo stared at me as if I was the one who just put the chicken in the oven and walked down the hall.

“The boy likes ya,” Aunt Jane said putting the oven chicken in the sink.

I snorted.

“A boy doesn’t risk his life in a blizzard to see some girl just because a teacher asked him to,” Aunt Jane said turning the facet on and letting the water run on the chicken.

“You don’t know Ms. O’Donnell,” I said.

“Oh, yes I do,” Aunt Jane said. “The woman’s lonely that’s all.”

That gave me a brilliant idea.

**

“What guy would be stupid enough to go out on a date with Ms. O’Donnell?” Natalie asked. It was a couple days later the day before Valentine’s Day to be exact. Natalie and the rest of the B&B gang excluding Ms. Edwards had been in a car crash.

I had made Zach his special Valentine and had sold Valentines to Timmy, Jaci, and Abby. I was out walking with Natalie to the Treasure Chest for Valentine’s Day gifts. I was also carrying around my box.

“We’ll we have to find somebody,” I said.

“Good luck,” Natalie snorted as we walked into the store.

Someone knocked Natalie and me over.

“Watch where you’re going!” Natalie shouted trying to get up.

“Sorry, Nat,” Darcy said helping Natalie up. What about me?

Darcy walked out the door.

“What’s his problem?” I asked.

“I think he’s still a little mad at his mom for staying during the blizzard,” Natalie shrugged. “But I’m just guessing.”

“What can I do for you girls?” The girl at the counter asked. I believe her name was Paige.

“We need Valentine’s Day gifts,” Natalie and I said together. We laughed.

“What type of Valentine’s Day gifts? For your mother or that boy?” Paige asked.

“Was Darcy looking at anything in particular?” I joked.

“Shut up, Virginia!” Natalie cried.

The bell to the store rang and Emily and Timmy walked into the store.

“Hey Timmy,” I said. “Hi Emily.”

Emily looked horrible. She had on a vest and a halo ring to keep her back in place. She also looked like she was in a lot of pain.

“Hi,” Emily grumbled back.

“What can I get for you?” Paige asked.

“A box of chocolates,” Timmy said picking one up.

“Are you going to the ball tomorrow?” I asked Emily.

“I have to. Grandma is over the hill with excitement. Grandpa is going into Pittsfield that night. I wanted to go with him but he says I can’t,” Emily complained.

“Well before the ball after school, a bunch of us girls are going over to the B&B to get our hair done, and our nails done, you know the ‘girl thing’. Would you like to join us?” I asked.

What was I saying? The look on Natalie’s face said it all. This was a huge mistake.

“Hair done? Do you know how much pain I am standing here?” Emily asked sounding really mad.

“You can still do your nails,” I said really wanting to stop myself. “And your Grandma can come to.”

Emily sighed.

“Fine,” Emily said. “But only because I want to look pretty. Come on TIMMY!”

“Coming!” Timmy shouted walking towards the door. He smiled at us.

“Bye,” Timmy said walking out the door.

“What have you done?” Natalie asked after Timmy left.

“I don’t know,” I sighed.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-Two

**

  February 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timmy walked through the restaurant door.

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

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

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

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

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

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Timmy smiled.

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

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

I looked over her shoulder.

I know we’re young

I know it’s soon

But I think I’m in love with you!

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

So I’m just going to say it

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

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

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

Love is patient

Love does not envy or boast

Love is not arrogant or rude

Love never fails

Love never rejoices at wrongdoing

Not irritable or resentful

Love does not insist on its own way

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

Love is kind so be my Valentine.

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

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

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

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

**

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

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

I have just one Valentine’s Day wish.

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

So what do you say?

Will you make my Valentine’s Day?

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

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

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

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

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

“Natalie?” Virginia asked walking into the bathroom.

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

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

“Liked,” I corrected.

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

There was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Who is it?” Virginia called.

“Darcy.”

I got up and walked into a stall.

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

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

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

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

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

I opened the bathroom stall door.

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

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

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

**

“I am so disgusted!”

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

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

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

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

“Yuck,” Regina shuddered.

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

She pushed it in my face.

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think it’s time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now it’s the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

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

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

“Yup,” Abby said showing us her ring.

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

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.!

I laughed.

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

Zach gave Abby a kiss and left.

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

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” Sean mumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

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

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you do,” Aunt Jane said.

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

“Do,” Aunt Jane said.

“Don’t.”

“Do.”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t,” Aunt Jane said.

“Do,” Virginia messed up.

We burst out laughing and Virginia shook her head.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day, Daddy I thought.

Posted in Farm Girl, Highlight & Contest, Natalie

Highlight & Contest: Will You Be My Valentine HINTS

First I would like to apologize. I didn’t know how hard this contest would be. So, I’ve decided to give out hints!

Couples

Jaci and Timmy– Hint: Scripture

Abby and Zach– Hint: Proposal

Natalie and Darcy– Hint: Pride and Prejudice

Virginia and Leo– Hint: Roses are Red

Nelson and Emily- Hint: Crushed

photo 1

Also the person who sent the Valentine they receive, they sent a Valentine to. The original post can be found here. Please contact me if the contest is still too hard. The winner and PRIZE will be annouced on Valentine’s Day! Good Luck!

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Nineteen

**

At the scene of the car accident just about every ambulance, patrol car, and person in Florida, Massachusetts was there. Then the fire trucks arrived.

A blue car was mashed-up pretty badly. A red car was completely ruined and thankfully abandoned.

“Who’s in the car?” I asked when I found my mother.

“Zach and Darcy,” Momma said. Her voice sounded shaky. I knew my face fell. I started to cry.

“Natalie, it’s all right! I’m sure Darcy’s fine,” Momma said hugging me. I pushed away.

“Darcy? You think I’m crying about Darcy?” I asked.

“What else?” Momma asked. I slowly backed away. I felt my foot go from under me and I fell down the cliff.

“NATALIE!” My mother screamed. I felt myself tumble down the hill. I had no idea how to stop myself. I was screaming pretty loudly.

“NATALIE!”

“NATALIE! STOP! STOP! NATALIE HONEY STOP!”

I felt my body hit something like metal. Mr. Steve ran to me.

“NATALIE HONEY ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” Mr. Steve asked helping me up.

“No,” I said. My wrist hurt badly. I looked at what I had hit. It was the blue car. A bunch of men were around it and trying to get the door off of it.

I looked up and saw Darcy in the passenger seat. He looked like he was in pain. He had cuts on his face. He struggled to open his eyes but when he saw me his face lit up. All of the pain seemed to go out of his face and he managed to smile at me. He then winked which caused me to fall to the ground.

“Let’s get you to an ambulance,” Mr. Steve said picking me up. As he carried me away I managed to check a glimpse of Zach. He looked lifeless.

God, please don’t let Zach die I prayed as I was loaded into an ambulance.

**

“Natalie, we’ve got a serious problem on our hands,” Dr. Charles Walters said.

I stared at my right wrist which was bandaged up. It was broken.

“I’m afraid you aren’t getting enough vitamin C. I’m worried that it’s leading to Scurvy,” Dr. Walters said.

“Scurvy? Do people even get that that anymore? And how can I be vitamin C deficient I used to live in Miami,” I blurted.

“I talked to your mother. She admits that you preferred to stay inside and look out the window than go to the beach. And when you did go outside you had gallons of sun screen on your body. She also admits that you don’t always get the proper diet,” Dr. Walters said. “She says that you’ve seemed more fatigued lately. She thought it was just the move and seventh grade work. I heard about you throwing your eggs and bacon on the floor. Rapid mood change is a sign of Scurvy. You were very tired and had several bruises after your snow day. You’ve broken your entire foot and your wrist in a month that’s not the way God intended it to be, Natalie! You’ve got a serious problem and it can be so easily corrected! I’m putting you on a special diet.”

I huffed.

“Look, I’m just looking out for family here,” Dr. Walters said realizing he had been a little harsh. “Your mother is my cousin.”

Dr. Walters walked out of the room leaving me time to think.

Had I really been all the things he had said? I guess maybe I had been saying things a little bit harsher than usually. And maybe I felt like crying a couple of times for no reason at all. And ok, I had been extra tired but Ms. O’Donnell is tiring! She expects the very very best. And yes, I had a bad bruise right where Darcy’s sled had hit me.

I sighed. I hated oranges but sometimes you gotta do things you hate.

**

“I call it Vitamin Sea Food Salad,” Ms. Donna said the next day. Momma had given Ms. Donna my special diet and Ms. Donna promised to make a special salad for me.

“It’s got tilapia, salmon, oranges, strawberries, carrot shreds, tomato, and kiwi fruit. Its also got a lemon drizzle and some of the leaves are spinach,” Ms. Donna said. “Enjoy!”

I prayed over this disgusting sounding salad and took a bite.

“How is it?’ Jaci asked me putting ranch on her regular Sea Food Salad.

“Not as bad as I expected,” I said putting another bite in my mouth.

“I don’t understand why your so against eating a few oranges and strawberries,” Jaci said. “I bet there are thousands of people that would do anything to cure what they had so easily. You’re a blessed one.”

Jaci sure had a way of making you understand without making you feel too bad.

Timmy walked through the restaurant door along with his grandfather. Timmy looked around the room while Mr. Stewart walked towards a table. Mr. Stewart was limping.

“Mr. Stewart is limping,” I whispered to Jaci.

“So?” Jaci asked.

“If he was driving that red car he was bound to get hurt in some way,” I whispered.

“Natalie, you don’t think….,” Jaci started but Timmy was walking towards us.

“That looks good,” Timmy said pointing to my salad and sitting next to Jaci.

“Did Jaci put you up to that?” I asked. Timmy laughed.

“Nope, I love oranges and strawberries,” Timmy said.

“Am I the only one who doesn’t?” I asked picking at an orange.

Abby burst through the restaurant door and marched over to Mr. Steve.

“I can’t BELIEVE you!” Abby shouted at her father. “How could you NOT tell me about Zach’s accident?”

“I…I…I didn’t think you would care,” Mr. Steve stuttered obviously surprised.

“You didn’t think I would care?! Dad, Zach Davis is THE Zach Davis!” Abby screamed.

“THE Zach Davis?! But he’s a Stewart!” Mr. Steve shouted.

“I’m NOT a Stewart!” Zach shouted.

Everyone turned to the restaurant door to find Zach standing in the arch. He was still wearing a hospital gown and a syringe was sticking out of his arm.

“Zach, what are you………..,” Abby started walking towards him but Zach fainted in Abby’s arms.

Posted in Farm Girl, Highlight & Contest, Natalie

Highlight & Contest: Will You Be My Valentine?

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

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

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

photo 1

All of the Valentines!

photo 1 (2)

Valentine A

My heads in the clouds

My heart’s in my throat

I’m walking on air

Handing you this note!

photo 2 (3)

Valentine B

Love is patient.

Love does not envy or boast.

Love is not arrogant or rude.

Love never fails.

Love never rejoices at wrongdoing.

Not irritable or resentful.

Love does not insist on its own way.

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

Love is kind so be my Valentine!

photo 3 (1)

Valentine C

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.! 

photo 4 (1)

Valentine D

I have just one Valentine’s Day wish.

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

So what do you say?

Will you make my Valentine’s Day?

photo 1 (1)

Valentine E

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

I’d like to convince myself there’s no one left to ask.

But the truth is I only want you!

photo 2 (2)

Valentine F

I know we’re young.

I know its soon.

But I think I’m in love with you!

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

So I’m just going to say it.

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

photo 4

Valentine G (two people receive this Valentine)

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think its time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

photo 3

Valentine H

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

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

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

photo 2

Valentine I

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now its the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

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

Posted in Farm Girl

Farm Girl- Installment Two

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timmy rang the doorbell and Aunt Jane opened it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All right I guess,” I answered.

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

“What’s so funny?” Rachel asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He closed the door.

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

**

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

“Hello, Virginia,” The class said.

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

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

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

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

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

I had no idea how her name implied that.

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

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

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

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

“Virginia Powers,” I said shaking it.

 

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Fifteen

**

“What else is on the list?” Momma asked. Ms. Donna had asked Momma to go to the little grocery store in town and get a couple of things. Jaci had gone along with us.

“She needs ten pounds of carrots,” Jaci said reading the list.

“Ten pounds of carrots,” Momma said picking up two five pounds bags.

“So we’ve already gotten the maple syrup, lettuce, and thirty-five pounds of beef,” Jaci said. “All that’s left on this list is salad dressing.”

Momma pushed her cart off towards the salad dressing aisle.

“Excuse me,” Jaci said taking her purse out of the cart. “There’s something I have to look for.”

Jaci walked down the aisle and Momma just stared at her. After a couple seconds she shrugged.

“How many bottles of salad dressing?” Momma asked.

“Thirteen,” I said. “And that’s just the Cesar. You need twenty ranch and ten Italian.”

“I would never guess that we go through so much salad dressing in a week,” Momma mumbled. She pushed her cart towards to checkout lane.

“Watch out!”

Momma stopped her cart just in time. Aunt Jane stopped her cart just in time also. Strangely her cart was full of ice cream.

“Why do you have ice cream in your cart?” I asked. Momma gave me a look.

“I’m throwing an ice cream party for my nieces and my nephew,” Aunt Jane said. “They’re coming to live with me for a while.”

“Oh,” Momma said. “Why?”

“Their parents died not too long ago. They’ve been staying with a bunch of my family members down South,” Aunt Jane said. “I volunteered to take them in. I haven’t seen them since they were in diapers.”

“Why are you throwing them an ice cream party when its seventeen degrees outside?” I asked. Aunt Jane looked stumped by this question.

“Well who doesn’t love ice cream?” She finally answered. “Ya’ll are invited. It’s going to happen tomorrow. Their bus gets here around nine so maybe they’ll see their first snow fall!”

A snow shower was forecasted for tonight.

“The party is a surprise so don’t say anything to them,” Aunt Jane said. “I gotta get home and prepare everything.”  She smiled at us and pushed her cart towards the checkout counter.

“Not with all that ice cream in your freezer,” I mumbled. My mother must have heard me because she gave a faint chuckle.

We were just finishing checking out when Jaci walked up.

“What’s that?” I asked pointing to the box in her hands.

“It’s a Bible for Timothy-Caleb,” Jaci said handing it to the casher and pulling out her wallet.

“Do you mean Timmy Stewart?” The casher asked as Jaci handed her some cash. “Sorry to break it to you honey but nobody has ever been able to tame a Stewart and nobodies tried for a long time.” Jaci gave the woman a smile.

“I’m not trying to tame Timothy-Caleb. I’m letting God do that,” Jaci smiled. “And I saw with my very own eyes and heard with my very own ears Timothy-Caleb accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. I think the young man needs a Bible.”

The casher seemed stunned as she gave Jaci back her change.

“Have a blessed day,” Jaci smiled. She walked to the door and we walked out of the grocery store with her.

“She seemed stunned,” I said.

“With all the things I’ve been hearing about The Stewart family I’m not surprised,” Jaci sighed.

**

TIMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Timmy looked up from his Seafood Salad. He had gone along with his grandfather tonight and Aunt Jane had just walked into the restaurant.

“Timmy Stewart, I have been looking all over Florida for you!” Aunt Jane shouted. “Where have you been?”

“At school,” Timmy said looking at Aunt Jane weirdly. “And at the library.”

“Well when I woke up this morning three of my chickens, Maggie, Brigitta, and Wilma were dead by gunshot wounds,” Aunt Jane said. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Aunt Jane, I’m sorry about shooting at your chickens yesterday. Let me replace them,” Timmy said. Aunt Jane looked shocked.

“Yes, um, if that’s how you’d like to repay me,” Aunt Jane said nodding her head. She sat down at a table.

Jaci smiled at Timmy. He smiled back.

“Did you just really offer to pay for Aunt Jane’s chickens? When you killed her prize chicken she had to harass you to get you to replace her chicken,” Regina said surprised.

“I’m trying to….,” Timmy started. “What did you call it, Jaci?”

“Be a new creation,” Jaci smiled. Timmy nodded.

“I want people to know that I’m different now,” Timmy said. “But I think it’s going to take some time and its not going to be easy. Nobody seems to think that a Stewart can be nice and good. I tried to help Mrs. Hardy today and she thought it was a trick. Its only been a couple days and my patience is running thin.”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” Jaci said. Timmy smiled at her.

“Oh no!” Aunt Jane shouted looking at the clock. “I’ve gotta go pick up my nieces and nephew!”

Aunt Jane ran out the door and the room erupted in laughter.

“That’s Jane Powers for you,” Mr. Rivers laughed.

I laughed wondering what her nieces and nephew would be like.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Fourteen

**

“What does it feel like out there?” I asked as I put on my coat. We were about to leave for Bible study and lately it had been feeling like it was below zero.

“It feels like -12o but it’s really only 4o,” Momma said looking at her phone.

“Oh I don’t mind the cold,” Jaci said. “I am from Maine.”

“Well I’m from Miami,” I said. “And its 72o there.” Jaci laughed and smiled.

“Who’s ready for church?” Mr. Steve asked. He had on three scarfs and four coats.

“You look funny, Father,” Jaci said putting on her third coat.

“I am sweating but I know that will stop when I step outside,” Mr. Steve said. Momma nodded her head feverishly.

“It is COLD out there!” Darcy shouted running into the house. He had gone to get the mail.

“Close the door all the way!” Momma cried as she put a second pair of mittens on Megan’s hands. Darcy shut the door.

Ms. Donna hurried downstairs and put up her closed sign.

“Will it snow again, Mommy?” Megan asked as we walked outside in the freezing out.

“They say we may see some flurries,” Momma said. Megan smiled.

“Me cold,” Megan said as we reached the car.

“Oh, this car is freezing!” I cried sitting on the seat. Darcy laughed. I gave him a sharp glance.

“Hopefully the car will warm up. It’s a twenty-five minute drive to church,” Mr. Steve said. I blew on my hands.

“Natalie Zoey Baldwin! What in the world is wrong with you!” Momma shouted looking at me.

“What did I do?” I asked.

“You walked out of the house with two coats on! Its 4o outside! You could get sick and not to mention the fact that you have no mittens on!” Momma shouted.

“Oh brother,” I mumbled under my breath. I heard the faint sound of gunshots.

“Stop the car!” Jaci screamed. Mr. Steve stopped the car.

“What?” He asked.

“Go up to Aunt Jane’s front yard!” Jaci screamed. Mr. Steve drove up a little. The gunshots got louder.

“Timothy-Caleb!” Jaci screamed rolling down the window. Timmy was shooting at Aunt Jane’s chickens.

“Jaci, I, um,” Timmy stammered.

“Timothy, why are shooting chickens in 4 degree weather?” Jaci asked. I heard Mr. Steve give a faint chuckle.

“Well Aunt Jane doesn’t like me shooting at her chickens and she’s gone to church,” Timmy stammered.

“And why do you think she doesn’t like you shooting at her chickens?” Jaci asked. Timmy sighed.

“Cause it confuses them and sometimes I kill them,” Timmy said.

“Sometimes? Last year you killed Aunt Jane’s prize egg laying chicken. Darlene laid two eggs a day,” Darcy snorted.

“Timothy-Caleb it feels like it’s below zero! Is it really worth risking hypothermia just to shoot some chickens?” Jaci asked.

“No, but I was bored!” Timmy shouted.

“I have a solution for that,” Jaci said with a twinkle in her eyes. “How would you like to go to Bible study with me?”

**

Light flurries were accumulating outside by the time we got to church. Timmy didn’t say anything the entire ride. Jaci smiled the entire ride.

Jaci came with Darcy, Timmy, Regina, Nelson, and me to Youth Group. Jaci was eighteen so technically she was too old for Youth Group. I had a feeling she wanted Timmy to feel welcome. And I’m ashamed to say it but the rest of us probably wouldn’t have made Timmy feel too welcome.

I could tell that Timmy felt out of place at Youth Group. Most of the tweens/teens from town were in Youth Group and most of them shunned Timmy. They didn’t really acknowledge that he was there.

I felt sorry for him but I didn’t go over there and talk to Timmy. As we sat down for class I felt a little like a hypocrite. The Bible tells us to love our enemies. Timmy wasn’t my enemy. He was the brother of my almost enemy but still. Why hadn’t I gone over there and talked to him?

“Some of you may not know this,” The Youth Group leader Ms. Erin said. “But I sit in this chair and watch you children. I watch who you talk to. I listen to what you talk about. I’ve known most of you since you were young. I watched you today and I was ashamed of you.”

Gasps and whispers flew through the room like a wildfire. I felt ashamed of myself at that moment. Why hadn’t I done what was right and went over there and talked to Timmy?

“You did what was popular and not what was right. Today we have a guest. And just because his last name is Stewart you chose to ignore him. Instead of welcoming him with open arms you didn’t even welcome him at all. You left the job of the church to one person and I know for a fact that Ms. Jaci Matthews doesn’t care about what’s popular,” Ms. Erin said.

I saw some girls roll their eyes.

“I was going to talk about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead but I feel like I need to address the seriousness of this further,” Ms. Erin said. “But before I do.”

Ms. Erin stood up and opened the storage closet. She took out a blue bag that said Welcome!.

“Here you go Timothy Stewart,” Ms. Erin said handing the bag to Timmy. “It’s a welcome bag.”

“Thanks,” Timmy said taking the bag. Jaci smiled and gave his arm a squeeze.

“I’ve lived in Berkshire County my whole life. Berkshire County is rather large but just about everybody has heard of the Stewart clan,” Ms. Erin said. “The Stewart’s are most notably known for Stewart & Stewart law firm which is in Pittsfield. That law firm is the most feared law firm in Massachusetts. Stewart & Stewart is known for being deceitful. It’s known for getting what they want no matter how they get it. A person could lose their life for all they care. And it’s a known fact that Timothy’s great-grandfather and great-uncle helped build that law firm and it’s a known fact that his grandfather has kept the firm going since his great-grandfather’s death,” Ms. Erin said. “Everyone’s heard the story about how Timothy’s father was speeding and crashed. That crash killed Timothy’s mother. It’s a known fact that Timothy’s father lied about that crash and that Timothy’s father is sitting in jail right now for murder. Surely with all this family history Timothy is a corrupt young man. I’ve sure you heard about when Timothy shot Ms. Jane’s prized chicken. It was front news headline and I’ll never forget that headline. It said, ‘We all knew it was coming. Timothy-Caleb Stewart was arrested.’”

Ms. Erin looked at Timmy. Timmy looked like he wanted to run from the room. I think the only thing that kept him there was Jaci. Jaci was gently stroking his arm now. She looked at him with compassion not with hate. She smiled at him even thou there was nothing to smile about. There was just something in her face that screamed compassion and love.

She wasn’t looking down at Timmy even thou she was hearing awful things about his family. I could tell that she didn’t think any less of Timmy. She smiled at me. The smile had the look of forgiveness to it. I felt this relief wash over me. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t dislike me because I did what was popular.

“Ever since I read that article I’ve prayed that someone would show Jesus to the Stewarts. The Stewarts have been known to be wild, deceitful, and corrupt. The majority of Stewart men and women have been either arrested or put in jail. The Stewarts are all over Berkshire County. You can’t escape them but no one has ever shown love to them as far as I know,” Ms. Erin said. “What is in a name? I just happen to know what Stewart means. It means steward or house guard. The Stewarts are proud people. They don’t go to church because they know the people will look down on them. They try to protect themselves from hurt. They try to guard themselves. But the other part of the meaning is the word steward.For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. A steward in today’s world is a person who manages something and to be a good steward you have to care about your job. When you’re a steward on a ship, airplane, or some other travel provision you have to care about the customers wants and needs. You have to have a heart to help people to be a good steward. I believe that there are good Stewarts out there. They’re just living in the shadow of their last name.”

“Let’s look at scripture,” Ms. Erin said. “I know that some of you sitting in this room may have been hurt by the Stewart family or someone you know was hurt by a Stewart. It may have been something they said. It may have been the way the law firm treated someone you know. Matthew 5:44 says But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And 45 goes on to say so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The rest of the chapter goes like this, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“As most of you know this is Jesus talking. He is the only perfect person out there so this is easier said than done! We slip up sometimes but 1 John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Goes on to say that, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.’,” Ms. Erin said. “Just because Timothy is a Stewart you didn’t talk to him. Is that what Christ wants us to do? Is Timothy a lost cause just because he’s done some bad things? Is he a lost cause because his family history tells him that he comes from a long line of evil people? No! The Bible says, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.’”

Ms. Erin looked at Timmy. You could tell by the way he looked he was hanging on to every word she said. She was standing up for him. She was defending him. He looked grateful. Jaci smiled at him with her incredible smile.

“Timothy Stewart, would you like to be a new creation in Christ? For God so loved you, that he gave his only Son, that if you believe in him you should not perish but have eternal life. And eternal life is easy to get. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The Bible says for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. It says in Romans 10:11 ‘For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”,” Ms. Erin said.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Jaci recited. Timmy looked at her.

“Psalms 139 1-18. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.  And Psalm 68:5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation,” Jaci said.

I felt like clapping.

“I want to be a new creation. I’m so sick and tired of feeling like not a person in the world cares about me. I’m tired of being fatherless. I want someone to be with me always no matter what. I want to stop feeling lonely,” Timmy said. He was near tears.

Jaci smiled at him and picked up a Bible.

“I have a solution for that,” Jaci said with a smiling and tears in her eyes. “Salvation.”

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Thirteen

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May I go upstairs?” Jaci asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Timmy walked out of the third door.

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

“Hey, Jaci,” Timmy said smiling.

“You have a nice house,” Jaci said.

“Thanks,” Timmy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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