Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty-Two

**

“I still can’t believe you brought that thing,” Abby said as Momma handed her some ice for the bump in her head.

“What?” Zach asked as he grabbed a Wii remote controller. “You said we weren’t leaving New York until after Thanksgiving.”

“I thought maybe we could go sightseeing,” Abby said. “Not Just Dancing.”

Zach laughed.

“How’s everyone?” I asked sitting down next to Abby.

“Virginia has been hanging out at the B&B a lot recently. Jessie-Maria devotes all her time to the twins. Emily has been extra bossy. Darcy kinda mopes around and swears that he’s fine,” Abby said. “And I have been counting down the days until Thanksgiving in vain.”

I laughed.

“So what’s this news that can’t be told over the phone?” Momma asked sitting down on the couch.

“Well,” Abby started, “I’m going to have a baby.”

Everyone gave Abby a hug and congratulated Zach.

“So how have you been?” Abby asked me after everyone gave her a hug.

“A mess,” I said. “But I’m trusting.”

Yule winked at me.

“Now, who wants to play against me?” Zach asked waving a couple of remotes.

**

“Aren’t you getting tired?” Yule asked. It was almost eleven o’clock and everybody else had already gone to bed, and Yule, being Yule, had stayed up with me.

“I’m only ten points away from beating Zach’s high score,” I said. “You can go to bed you know.”

“I know,” Yule shrugged. “You can always try in the morning you know. The Wii’s not going anywhere.”

“I have insomnia remember?” I asked jokingly. Yule sat down on the couch and contemplated what to say.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” Yule said. “If you go to sleep now I’ll take you to that brand new skate board park tomorrow and teach you a couple of tricks.”

“Deal,” I smiled. I put down the controller and walked into my bedroom.

Noel was sleeping on my bed. I climbed in and soon fell asleep to her rhythmic breathing.

**

When I woke up, I was flying in the air. My ribs hurt. In the corner of my eye I saw a car speeding away. My back hit the sidewalk hard, and there was a loud popping sound.

“Natalie!” Yule cried. He was shirtless and shoeless.

“Why don’t you have a shirt on?” I groaned.

“That’s the least of our worries right now,” Yule mumbled.

I tried to get up, but my legs didn’t even twitch.

“Don’t move,” Yule said. He held my head in place.

Momma, Jaci, and Noel ran out the apartment building. Noel started to vomit. Momma was screaming into the phone.

“My daughter has just been hit by a car.”

That’s when I started to panic.

Why hadn’t the driver of the car stop?

Who was driving the car?

How did I even end up outside?

Sleepwalking.

Oh no, this was it. I had done it. My sleepwalking was going to kill me. I started to feel scared and seeing blood all over Yule’s abdomen did not help.

My life started to flash before me. I saw days at the beach with my father. I saw my Dad giving me my fudge tin. I saw days at the beach with my mother just after my dad died. I saw myself on my first day of first grade. I saw myself painting and sitting at the lunch table with other ‘artistic’ people. I saw Ryan trying to grab me and screaming. I saw the long car ride to Florida clearly. I saw the Christmas Party. I saw that Christmas morning. I saw the panic attacks, Grandma Shirley, and almost leaving the country. I saw Jaci and Megan’s coming. I saw the Marshmallow World Day. I saw the Valentine’s Day dance. I saw the Bridal Shower. I saw my mother’s wedding. I saw England. I saw myself riding a bike. I saw the Father-Daughter Dance. I saw Abby’s wedding and Momma’s conversation with Mr. Stewart. I saw the night Mr. Steve told us we were moving. I saw us moving. I saw Yule’s face at the door. I saw the sad look on Noel’s face. I saw Dr. Janet’s face. I saw dance class. I saw Yule teaching me how to ride a skateboard. I saw Ms. Angela’s face. I saw Momma’s face when we learned she was Yule and Noel’s mother. I saw Abby fainting. I saw Yule staying up with me. I saw Noel sleeping on my bed and could almost hear her calm rhythmic breathing.

People were staring at me. Some were laughing and taking pictures of me. Some of the women were crying. One guy kept yelling and cursing out the driver of the car that hit me. Abby and Zach had come out. Abby was trying to shield Megan from seeing me, but Megan had seen me and kept asking why I was lying on the sidewalk. Mr. Steve wasn’t outside, but I could vaguely see some activity in our apartment window on the sixth floor.

I wanted to cry, but no tears would come out my eyes. Then I noticed Jaci. I had seen her run out of the apartment, but I just didn’t notice her. She was in her pajamas. She was saying something and it was very familiar to my ears. She was reciting the words from my pictures. She kept repeating it over and over again. Those words soothed my fears. The scared feeling I had washed away. God will save me. God will save me from whatever was going on right now. What Jaci said felt better than crying. It was like music to my ears.

The rest was very hazy. I remember being loaded into an ambulance. Neither Momma nor Yule could come with me and that just made me even more scared.

I remember having to have a CT scan, an X-RAY, and a MRI scan. Then they told me that I had to have surgery right away.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I mumbled as they sedated me.

**

When I woke up, everything hurt. There was a strange brace on my body. My legs still felt unattached and that’s what scared me the most.

“You’re up.”

I tried to turn my head, but I couldn’t. I didn’t need to see the person to know it was Yule.

“What happened,” I said. “My brain feels fried.”

“Excuse me,” Yule said walking out.

That didn’t help any.

“Should one of us tell her or the doctor?” I heard Yule ask.

“You tell her,” I heard Momma say.

“Why me?

“The two of you have a correlative relationship. I don’t like the idea of a doctor telling her. She loves Abby and Jaci, but I just don’t think they should tell her. Noel would barely be able to get the words out and she may seem a little insensitive. I can’t trust myself to tell her, and well…Steve’s not here and she wouldn’t want to hear it from him anyway.”

Mr. Steve wasn’t here? Anger built up inside of me. I knew in my heart that if it was Abby or Jaci he would be here. Even if it was Megan. But when it came to me…he just didn’t care.

Yule walked back into the room. He had a large envelope in his hand. I looked up at his eyes. They were even more sunk in with age now. I saw the clock out of the corner of my eye. It was seven P.M. I couldn’t even imagine the kind of day the rest of the family had.

“That thing does not look fun,” Yule said sitting back down.

“Trust me,” I said. “It’s not.”

“It’s supposed to keep your spine in place,” Yule said.

“What happened to my spine?” I asked. “Did I fracture it?”

Yule sighed.

“Kid, you broke your back,” Yule said. “And fractured some ribs.”

“Oh,” I said.

Yule took a scan out of the enveloped and showed it to me.

“Ouch,” I laughed.

The color drained from Yule’s face.

“I don’t know how to saw this but…,” Yule started. “You’re an L1 complete paraplegic.”

I stared at him. How could you just say that? No warning. No nothing. Just like that. You’re paralyzed at twelve years old.

“What?” I asked. “No!”

Tears started to pour out of Yule’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, kid,” Yule said. “I saw you. I saw you standing in the middle of the street. I knew you had sleepwalked there. I ran as fast as I could, but…when I got outside I saw the car hit you. I saw your lifeless and limp looking body land hard on the sidewalk. I failed you, kid. It should have been me. I’m the one that deserves to be lying in a hospital bed paralyzed. I’m the one who’s turned their back on God and has done some many wrong things that I should be sitting in jail for. I’m sorry…I’m..”

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!”

I tried my best to look at Yule. That sounded like Momma and she was not happy.

“Around.”

Pain shot through my heart. That was Mr. Steve.

“Do you just think you can waltz in here and act like everything is ok?”

“I never said everything was ok.”

“I don’t know how you can watch a car hit Natalie and then go to work!”

Mr. Steve didn’t answer.

“I thought maybe it was just all in Natalie’s head. I thought that you really did care. Your actions have clearly spoken louder than your words. You made it very clear today that you don’t care or love Natalie.”

“You know that’s not true.”

Momma didn’t say anything, but I could just imagine her face. I could just see her smirking.

“I hate being lied to.”

“I’m not lying.”

I just knew my mom was shaking her head and was starting to cry again.

“Here, I don’t want it anymore.”

I heard the sound of a ring being thrown on the floor.

“Riley, wait!”

I heard the sound of feet running down the hall.

Mr. Steve stumbled into the hospital room. He was twirling Momma’s wedding ring. He had a duffel bag under his arm. It was clear that he had been sweating. He was trembling and his feet were shifting all over the place.

Yule stared at him. It was easy to see that Yule hated Mr. Steve and who could blame him? Probably Mr. Steve.

“I bet you’re hungry,” Mr. Steve trembled. “I think everybody else in the cafeteria. I bet that’s where your mother is going.”

Yule looked at me. It was clear that he wasn’t about to leave me alone with Mr. Steve.

“What’s in the bag?” Yule asked not moving.

“Some of Natalie’s clothes,” Mr. Steve said placing it down on the ground, “her psoriasis lotion, and some pictures that were on her wall.”

“Didn’t you hear?” I asked. “I’m paraplegic now.”

“Abby told me,” Mr. Steve said sitting down.

He seemed as unaffected as it got.

Yule’s stomach growled.

“Go ahead,” I said to him. I stared at Mr. Steve. I was going to make him miserable.

Ok, ok, I know it’s wrong, but for the past several months he’s been the one making me miserable. Now, I was lying here in a hospital bed unable to walk and he didn’t care.

Mr. Steve would never become my father. That was impossible. Especially after this. He didn’t care. He didn’t love me. I felt stupid. It hadn’t occurred to me until I was getting my spine scanned, but I really did care about Mr. Steve. My heart was aching because I never got a chance to call him Dad. My heart wasn’t hurting so much anymore. Now my heart was full of spite. And the most dangerous kind.

“I’ll be right back,” Yule said. He stared down Mr. Steve as he walked out the door. Mr. Steve shivered.

“I guess you heard,” Mr. Steve said more to Momma’s ring than to me.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Good riddance,” I said under my breath.

“Your mom probably wants to divorce me right now no matter what the Bible says. Jaci and Abby want to disown me. Yule and Noel hate me. And Zach is trying to stay on my good side while not angering Abby,” Mr. Steve said.

And I really want you to leave me alone.

“I hate hospitals,” Mr. Steve said after about a minute. “Nosocomephobia. I hate that word.”

What does that even mean?” I snorted.

“It’s the fear of hospitals,” Mr. Steve said sitting down.

I laughed. He had to be kidding me.

Mr. Steve looked at me like I was the most insensitive person in the world.

“It’s a real thing,” Mr. Steve said in a hurtful voice. “The only time I can stand being in a hospital is when someone’s having a baby.”

“Then what are you doing here?” I asked. “I’m clearly not having a baby.”

“I remembered something,” Mr. Steve said.

“What?” I asked.

“I was seven years old. It was the first time I’d ever been to a hospital and I was scared to death. I had broken my arm. My mom was stuck in traffic, and my father well he didn’t feel like a broken arm was a real emergency. I blacked out at least twenty times when I was there. I threw up just about everything I’d ever eaten. I sweated my shirt out. I couldn’t stop trembling. I just felt like I was going to die. I stayed as far away from hospitals as I could. I didn’t even go see my grandfather when he was dying from cancer. I…I really regret that,” Mr. Steve said.

“So you’re afraid of hospitals. That’s a cowardly phobia,” I said. Mr. Steve chuckled.

“Yes, yes, it is,” Mr. Steve said. “Abby probably doesn’t remember this, but when she was three years old she was in a car accident. It wasn’t a serious car accident, but she was taken to the hospital as a precaution. I walked into the hospital, and I fainted. I kept blacking out and trembling. It got to the point where I had to call my parents to get Abby because I literally woke up in the hospital bed and fled. A year later my parents’ house caught fire. They were sent to the hospital. I just couldn’t walk in there. I never saw them again.”

I stared at Mr. Steve. He hadn’t been there for Abby. He couldn’t even bear to go into a hospital to see his dying family. Why was he sitting here in this chair? If he hadn’t been there for Abby, he surely wasn’t going to be there for me.

“After that I tried to overcome my fear,” Mr. Steve said. “I thought…I thought I had overcome my fear. I was able to visit you after your panic attacks, take you to get your cast off, and take you to the hospital to see Yule and Noel. But…I promise you, Natalie, that I told myself that I was going to go to the hospital. When the turn to the hospital came up my hands started to tremble and I started to shake. I parked my car and just sat there. I called into work and told them what happened. They said that I didn’t have to come in. I sat in that parking lot all morning. Around lunch I told myself that I was going to in. I walked towards the door and ran back to the car. I sat in there the rest of the day. I finally got the courage to walk into the hospital. I fainted. They wanted to check me out, but I just made my way over here. Abby wasn’t too happy to see me though.”

“So you’ve been in the parking lot this entire time?” I asked. Mr. Steve nodded.

So he was there for me…just in the parking lot. I tried not to cry. I felt bad about wanting to make him miserable. He was afraid of hospitals but here he was. He was sweating and trembling. I knew everything within him wanted to pass out or faint. I knew he desperately wanted to flee. But here he was. He was here for me. He hadn’t even been able to do this for Abby. He had come a long way in seventeen years.

“Mrs. Quinn told me that I didn’t understand you,” Mr. Steve said. “She said I didn’t know you, and you said that when we moved. When I saw your mother, I knew that I’d been given a second chance. She left without a word to anyone. I wanted to marry her…”

“I have a question,” I said sourly.

“Shot,” Mr. Steve shrugged.

“My mom left seventeen years ago. Abby’s almost twenty, and Jaci’s almost nineteen. So you got married before my mom left. Why didn’t you just marry her?” I asked.

“Good question,” Mr. Steve said. “Karen and I’s marriage was arranged by none other than my mother. My mom and your Grandma Shirley didn’t get along.”

“Imagine that,” I mumbled. Mr. Steve chuckled.

“I didn’t want to marry Karen, but what choice did I have? My mother hated the Walters and there was no way I would ever be able to marry your mother while she was alive,” Mr. Steve said. “When I saw your mother on that cold December day I recognized her immediately. She recognized me too. I knew I wanted to marry her, and I knew that you were part of the deal. There was no doubt in my mind that I could love you just as much as Abby. But um after a while doubt crept into my mind. You made it very clear that you were just as stubborn as me. I wasn’t going to be the first one to say sorry and you surely weren’t going to be the first one. I’m sorry, Natalie. I really do love you. Can you ever forgive me? Can we please start over?”

I didn’t answer him. I didn’t know what to say. A tear rolled down my cheek.

“Fine,” Mr. Steve huffed after a couple of minutes. He got out of his chair angrily and walked towards the door.

“Daddy,” I cried, “please don’t go. I’m scared. I need you, Daddy.”

Daddy stood in the doorway for a second. He turned around and looked at me. I looked at him. Tears poured out of his eyes like a waterfall. He tried to talk, but no words came out. I had made him speechless.

Daddy sat back down in the chair, and that was all he had to say.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twenty-One

**

Something just didn’t feel right when we arrived at the hospital. I saw Yule sitting on a bench and smoking.

“Drop me off,” I said. Momma pulled up to the curb and I got out of the car.

“Hey, Natalie, I wasn’t expecting you,” Yule said trying to hide his cigarette from Momma’s view.

I contemplated what to say. I didn’t want to get Noel in trouble.

“Grandma’s sick,” Yule said not waiting for me to answer. “The doctors are in there working on her now. They…they don’t know if she’ll make it.”

I could tell by Yule’s voice that he was trying not to cry. Yule squinted like he was trying not to cry. I sighed. I had a feeling he’d never let a tear fall from his eye in his life.

“What good is that going to do?” I asked pointing at the cigarette. “I thought you were quitting.”

Yule sighed and put the cigarette out.

“Does this hospital have a chapel?” I asked. I was surprised at my words. Where did that come from?

“Yeah, but I’ve never been,” Yule said almost laughing.

“I think going to chapel would work a lot better than sitting out in the cold October wind smoking,” I huffed. I shivered for effect.

“Look, kid, God and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms,” Yule said not looking at me in the eye.

“Why not?” I asked sitting down next to him.

“Look, kid, He doesn’t look out for people like me. Grandma had the absolute most faith in and look where it got her,” Yule said. “Noel just doesn’t get it. She’s the chapel right now praying. I don’t want to shatter her by telling her that God doesn’t listen to her. She doesn’t understand that He just causes disasters and leaves. Her faith in Him is so amazing. I wish I could be so naïve.”

“I know how you feel,” I said. Yule looked at me.

“Why would God do this to me? Why do I have to have so much trouble going to sleep? Why do I sleep walk? What I do?” I asked sighing and wishing I had put on a better coat.

“You’re lucky, kid. The hardest thing you’ve had to deal with is sleep problems,” Yule said looking at me.

“My dad was murdered,” I blurted. Yule pulled him into a hug.

“So was mine,” Yule whispered. “He got involved in a fight. He told me to stay in the car, but when I heard gunshots I jumped into action. I saw right away that my father had been shot. I ran out to to try and save him, but before I could reach him I was shot in the hip. That’s why I have a limp.”

“I was five when he died,” I said letting tears slip from my eyes.

“I was fourteen,” Yule said rocking me a little. “I’m sorry. I just assumed your parents were divorced.”

“It’s ok,” I shrugged. “Is it all right if I ask what happened to your mother?”

“Sure,” Yule shrugged. “She died of a drug overdose. I found her on our kitchen floor. I tried to do CPR on her, but it was too late.”

“I’m sorry, Yule,” I said hugging him back.

“Why would God not let me save my parents? Why would he take them away from me? Ok, so they weren’t the best parts in the world. They didn’t even seem to notice Noel and me, but you know what. I cared about them. I loved them. I watched both of my parents die. Why would God do that to me? Why? I trusted that Guy with my life and this is what He gives me in return?” Yule said. He was angry, but he was speaking from the heart.

“I don’t know why, Yule,” I said. “But I do know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. I don’t know why God let my foot break? I don’t know why I struggle with insomnia. But I do know why I had to move here to New York.”

“Why?” Yule asked.

“To meet you and Noel,” I smiled.

“You’re something else, kid,” Yule said.

I smiled and hugged him tighter.

“I’ve learned that you just gotta trust God. God will save you. It just might not be in the way that you expected,” I said. “And I never expected this.”

Yule smiled at me.

“So you’re asking me to trust Him?” Yule asked.

“Only if you want to,” I shrugged.

“Good. Cause I want to,” Yule said. “I want to believe in Him more than I never imagined I would; it’s just when bad things happens it’s hard to really believe. I’ve spent the past two years searching for something that was right in my backyard.”

Momma walked out of the hospital door with tears in her eyes. Noel followed looking equally as sad.

“Yule, I’m…so sorry,” Momma cried. “Your Grandmother’s gone.”

Yule held back a cry. Momma walked over and hugged him.

“Cry out to Jesus,” I whispered repeating Jaci’s advice. “Lay it down. Trust Him.”

Tears fell out of Yule’s eyes.

“I’ve never cried before,” Yule cried. “It feels…so good.”

“Keep crying to Jesus,” Momma smiled. “It does a world of good.”

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen next,” Yule said as Noel hugged him. “But I’m just going to have to trust Him.”

Noel nodded.

“Trust,” Noel said. And Yule nodded.

Trust I repeated to myself over and over again.

**

 “Now,” Mrs. Betty Stewart’s lawyer, Lester Chadwick, said adjusting his glasses, “Mrs. Stewarts will leaves all the money in her bank account, a total of ten thousand dollars, to her two grandchildren, Yule and Noel Stewart. Her will also states who she wishes to be the legal guardian of her grandchildren.”

“Are Noel and I staying together?” Yule asked nervously.

“Yes,” Mr. Chadwick said looking at my mother. “Shall I read from the will.”

Yule nodded, while Noel looked at the floor.

“’In my bones I know death is upon me. I have recently been given custody of my grandchildren after their mother’s tragic death. When I die and Fowler is going to hate me for this, I want all legal custody to go to their mother, Riley Anne Walters of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, no custody will be given to their father Fowler Stewart. And if Ms. Walters is married partial custody will go to their new stepfather. Well I guess since she is their mother and she was forced to give up any custody…they really are in her custody and not mine. Riley’s a good woman and it ain’t her fault that that no good Fowler Stewart took a liking to her and got angry, twice, when he couldn’t have her,’” Mr. Chadwick read.

Everyone looked at Momma. Momma looked like she wanted to run. Yule looked at her. His eyes were wondering if this was real.

Momma got out of her chair and ran. We all got out of ours chairs (expect for Mr. Chadwick. He was packing up) and ran out after her.

“Mrs. Matthews…oh…!” Yule shouted grabbing Momma’s arm.

“He won’t hurt you if he finds out that I didn’t tell,” Momma said. “Fowler might do something to me, but he won’t hurt anybody if he finds not I’m not the one who told. Steve, take care of them.”

“Wait, so you’re leaving?” I asked angry. No wonder she acted so weird when Yule and Noel were mentioned.

“What else is there to do?” Momma asked. “One person has already died because of this. If I don’t leave somebody else is gonna get hurt or worse.”

“One person has died, but many have suffered,” Jaci said. Her voice was different. Her voice had none of her usual politeness. Her voice was tough, scolding, and rude. New York City was really changing her.

“Excuse me?” Momma asked surprised.

“I used to think that Mrs. Walters was just some mean woman who was rude beyond understanding, but now I know why she’s so nasty. Her daughter left. Her daughter left her. She tried to convince herself that you were kidnapped or something, but you left on your own free will just because you were scared of some man! And you’re going to leave your husband and your children just because someone found out? That’s really low and pathetic,” Jaci said.

I nearly cried. And not just because of the thought of my mother leaving. Jaci sounded so different. It was strange and foreign. But what wasn’t now a days?

Momma didn’t say anything. All the desire to run away drained out of her eyes. She didn’t look mad. She looked regretful. She looked guilty. She let tears fall from her eyes.

I looked at everyone else. Mr. Steve looked angry. Jaci looked sorry for ever speaking to Momma that way. Yule’s face was unreadable. He looked upset, but there was something else in it. I had no idea how I looked, but I felt sorry for Momma. Noel lingered close to Momma, and looked down at the ground. She didn’t look like she understood, but she did. She was just showing it in her own way.

“Who’s hungry?” Momma asked drying her eyes.

**

“So what do I call you?” Yule asked Momma at dinner. Mr. Steve chose some Chinese restaurant. Everything looked weird and smelled funny.

“Anything but Riley,” Momma said with her mouth full. “Mom, Momma, Mommy, Mum, Mother, Ma, Mrs. Matthews, Ms. Riley, whichever one is fine.”

Yule nodded and went back to looking at the weird thing rolled up on his plate.

“Look,” Momma said putting down her fork. “I don’t want this to be awkward. I want you and Noel to know that I love you. I always have, I do know, and always will.”

“I know,” Yule nodded. “I’m just still in shock.”

“That makes the two of us,” I said as I sipped my strange looking drink mixture. “Now I know why you didn’t name me Noel.”

Momma gave a sad smile. I looked over at Mr. Steve. He looked mad.

“What do I call you, sir?” Yule asked Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve looked shocked.

“Um, Mr. Steve, Mr. Matthews, Dad, Father, I don’t know,” Mr. Steve shrugged. Yule nodded.

“Sir, if Noel and I are going to be a problem…,” Yule started but Mr. Steve put his hand up.

“You’re not going to be a problem. I’m just surprised, mad, shocked. There’s a lot going through my mind right now,” Mr. Steve said. He looked over at me.

“I’m not hungry,” I huffed. Momma smiled at me.

“I guess if everyone’s finished we can leave,” Momma said. Everyone got up and walked towards the car.

“I don’t understand,” Megan whispered in my ear when I picked her up.

“What don’t you understand? Yule and Noel are you’re older brother and older sister,” I said.

“Oh,” Megan said. “They’re nice.”

I nodded and gave her a kiss.

I put her in her car seat and sat down in my seat. I tried to think about how I was feeling. I looked over at Yule.

“Hey, kid,” Yule said. “You ok?”

“I’m trying to figure that out,” I said. I stared at his eyes.

“I wish I had Momma’s eyes,” I blurted. “You’ve got them.” Yule smiled.

“I guess that makes sense,” Yule said. He started to tickle me and I l started to laugh hysterically.

“My sister is ticklish,” Yule laughed. I tried to catch my breath.

“I’m ok,” I smiled. “Everything is going to be fine.”

I looked over at Mr. Steve. His eyes were focused on the road but he was clearly upset. He hated me. He hated Yule. He hated Noel.

Everything’s going to be fine…in time I thought. I put my head on the headrest and closed my eyes.

**

“Stop. Stop.”

I woke up to find myself in Yule’s arms.

“I’m sorry. Did I wake up?” Yule asked.

“What am I supposed to stop?” I asked.

“Your legs were moving,” Yule said. “You were trying to sleepwalking. You were kicking me.”

I smiled sheepishly.

“I don’t know. Maybe they aren’t home,” A familiar voice said.

“Abby!” I cried leaping from Yule’s arms.

“Natalie!” Abby cried hugging me. “Have you grown in two months?”

I laughed.

“Don’t forget about me,” Zach said. I gave Zach a hug.

“What are you guys doing here?” Mr. Steve asked opening the apartment door.

“I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving,” Abby said. “We thought we’d surprise you. Timmy wanted to come, but school called. Oh, well I have news that just can’t be told over the phone.”

Abby looked at Yule and Noel.

“Now who are you?” Abby asked Yule.

“Abby,” Mr. Steve sighed. “Meet your brother.”

Abby fainted.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Nine

**

“Let me get a picture,” Momma said.

It was the night of the dreaded Father-Daughter Dance. I was wearing a dress that matched Abby, Jaci, and Megan’s. Momma had come up with the idea. Jaci had been working nonstop for the past week (with a little help from Mrs. Stewart) making the dresses. The dresses were pretty, but I felt miserable in them. Not because my psoriasis was showing but because I was going to this dance. I ached to be with my father. I had just come from crying. I tried to make myself look happy but my eyes were still puffy.

“Smile,” Momma said. “Stinky feet!”

“Stinky feet!” Mr. Steve, Jaci, Abby, and Megan laughed. I just smiled.

“Are my girls ready?” Mr. Steve asked. We nodded and walked out the door.

My heart was beating so fast as we drove to the dance hall. When we arrived I almost threw up. I wished I had. I would have just told Mr. Steve that my strep throat was still lingering and he would have taken me home.

I saw that mostly everybody was already there. Emily was dancing with Zach, and Virginia and Mr. Hank were eating and laughing. Mr. Rivers and Sean were eating and making conversation.

Dinner was awful. The rest of the group talked and I of course said something every now and then but I couldn’t hide that there were tears in my voice.

After dinner Jaci and Mr. Steve started to dance. I knew tears were about to spill out of my eyes so I rushed off to the bathroom. I walked into a stall and started to cry my eyes out.

How dare my father ask me to make Mr. Steve my ‘father’. He would never be that to me. Virginia was dead wrong about him loving me. He was just doing this to make suffer. He didn’t care about me. He only cared about hurting me. He knew how much my heart was breaking at this moment and he did nothing to stop it.

I started to cry harder and stopped when I heard the bathroom door open.

“Natalie,” Abby’s voice said. “I know you’re in here.”

“Go away,” I cried. “I don’t want to talk to anyone.”

“What’s wrong?” Abby asked.

I might as well just tell her.

“My father was going to take me to a Father-Daughter Dance, but he died the day before,” I cried.

“Oh, Natalie,” Abby said. “I’m so sorry.”

I just cried.

“Does Dad know?” Abby asked.

“I don’t know,” I cried.

“Do you want me to tell him?” Abby asked.

“No!” I cried walking out of the stall. “What does he care?”

“Natalie, Dad loves you,” Abby said. “He knew that when he proposed to your mother that you were part of the deal. Mixing families is hard but love conquers all.”

“He doesn’t love me!” I cried. “He doesn’t care about me! If he really cared about me he wouldn’t have taken me to this dance!”

“Natalie,” Abby said getting angry. “Dad is not a mind reader. You just said that you don’t he knew about your father dying before the dance. How is he supposed to know what’s bothering you if you don’t tell him?”

I stared at her and cried.

“You don’t understand!” I cried.

“I understand perfectly!” Abby cried.

“No you don’t!” I cried.

“Yes, I do! You’re lying to yourself! You’re lying to yourself so you can keep one hurting Dad! Well, I thought you were more than that, Natalie!” Abby shouted. She walked out of the bathroom.

I looked in the mirror. I was a wreck. I just couldn’t believe Mr. Steve wasn’t trying to hurt me. Tears followed down. Why did my mom have to marry him?

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said walking into the bathroom.

“What do you want?” I barked.

“Abby just told me…I’m sorry,” Mr. Steve said.

“No, you’re not!” I cried. Mr. Steve was taken aback.

“Natalie, I..I really am sorry,” Mr. Steve said.

“No, you aren’t!” I cried

“I know you’re upset right now,” Mr. Steve said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that you’re my daughter and that I’m your father.”

“You are not my father! And just because a piece of paper says that I am your daughter doesn’t make it so!” I cried. I walked into a stall and slammed the door.

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said with tears in his voice.

“Go away,” I interrupted.

“Fine,” Mr. Steve said walking out of the bathroom.

I stayed in there for the rest of the night and just cried.

**

“Natalie,” Momma said the next day. She was helping me into my bridesmaids dress.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said knowing that she was going to say something about last night.

“We have to talk about it,” Momma said. “I know that this is been hard on you, but you can’t talk to your father like that.”

“Oh, what does he care?” I asked.

“A lot more than you could ever imagine,” Momma said. I shook my head.

“We have to do something about this,” Momma said.

“Can we talk about this some other day?” I asked. “It’s Abby’s wedding day.”

Momma sighed.

“Fine,” Momma said zipping up my dress.

I walked out of the room and down the steps.

“What happened to you last night?” Virginia asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said picking up a banana.

“Well if you ever want to talk about,” Virginia said. “You know that I’m here for you. Regina, Sean, and even Emily are here for you. If you ever want to talk to us, we’re here for you.”

I nodded and smiled. I had the best friends in the world. I gave Virginia a hug.

“Pretty!” Megan cried. I walked into the family room to find Abby in her wedding dress.

“Am I silly for getting married in the backyard?” Abby asked. I shook my head no.

“I’m so nervous,” Abby said. “What if I flub the vows?”

“Then it will be something funny to show your kids,” Ms. Donna said. Abby smiled.

“I’m ready,” Abby said.

“But Zach is not,” Mr. Steve said walking into the room. “He’s a mess. He sweated his shirt out!”

Abby laughed. Mr. Steve looked at me and then looked away.

“All the guest are here,” Jaci said walking into the house. “And Zach has changed his shirt.”

Jaci handed Abby her bouquet and Abby smiled.

“Here goes nothing,” Abby smiled.

The wedding party walked down the aisle and then Abby and Mr. Steve walked down the aisle. Zach beamed. Abby really did look pretty in the dress. Jaci smiled even though she was still just a tiny bit upset about not being able to make the dress.

I looked up and saw that Mr. Stewart was there. He wasn’t looking at Zach, but at Momma. I felt a little uneasy. Why in the world would he be looking at Momma?

“We are gathered here today to witness the union of Zach Stewart Davis and Abby Abigail Matthews. This town has watched the two of them grow up and this town is extremely proud of them both,” Pastor David said. “The couple has forgone the usually ‘I Do’s’ and they each have created a mash-up of vows.”

“Abby, I love you. Today is a very special day. Long ago you were just a dream and a prayer. This day like a dream come true the Lord Himself has answered that prayer. For today I promise to care for you, honor and protect you so long as we both shall live,” Zach promised.

“Zach, I love you. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. Through the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future I promise to be faithful to you. I will love, serve, and obey you as long as we both are alive,” Abby promised.

“The rings,” Pastor David smiled.

Darcy walked up with a pillow in his hand. I tried not to laugh.

“Abby, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live,” Zach said putting the ring on Abby’s figure.

“Zach, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my husband: to have and to hold, from this day forward. For better, for worse, for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; to have and to cherish, as long as we both shall live,” Abby said putting the ring on Zach’s finger.

“I know pronounce you man and wife,” Pastor David said. “Zach, you may kiss your bride.”

Zach removed Abby’s veil and kissed her.

Momma gave me the que to throw rose petals. Virginia, Regina, Emily, and I started to throw rose petals at Abby while Darcy, Timmy, Ned, and Nelson threw rice at Zach.

Abby and Zach laughed as Abby’s side of the aisle threw rose petals and Zach’s side threw rice while they were walking towards the house.

When they walked into the house everyone got up out of their chairs and walked into the house for the reception.

**

It was around ten o’clock. Most of the wedding guests were still here, just hanging out. Abby had changed from her wedding dress into a more comfortable reception dress.

I walked towards the kitchen to get a fork for my third piece of cake but stopped when I heard voices.

“Why should I tell you? It’s kept your mouth shut for seventeen years well mostly. You know their next on the list. You wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to them?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.

“You would never hurt them,” Momma voice said. Her voice was fearful but tender.

“Ok, probably not. But what about Natalie? Steve? Abby? Jaci? Megan? You wouldn’t want anything to happen to them would you?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.

“They don’t have to know the full story,” Momma’s voice cried.

“As much as I hate to hear you cry, no, Riley, darling, it’s what’s best,” Mr. Stewart’s voice said.

“Don’t call me darling,” Momma’s voice snapped. Mr. Stewart laughed.

I walked into the kitchen just as Mr. Stewart was walking out.

Momma looked shaken up. There was a bruise on her arm and tears in her eyes.

“Are you all right?” I asked. “What did Mr. Stewart want?”

“Nothing, just a fork,” Momma lied. I bit my tongue.

“Did you fall?” I asked.

“Yes, I fell,” Momma said.

“I also came for a fork. There aren’t any on the refreshment table,” I said.

“Oh, here,” Momma said handing me a fork. “I better go put some on the table.”

Momma quickly walked out of the kitchen. I stood there wondering what that was all about. What had Mr. Stewart and Momma been talking about? Did he give her that bruise and why in the world did he call her darling?

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eight

**

“I promise not to let go.”

I closed my eyes and started to pedal. My jeans were ruined. They had a bunch of holes in them and blood was splattered on my shirt. Who knew learning to ride a bike was so dangerous.

Mr. Steve was defiantly tired of trying to teach me how to ride a bike. His voice was starting to get impatient and I didn’t blame him.

“Natalie! Open your eyes!” Mr. Steve cried.

But he shouted too late. I slammed into the mailbox.

“You promised not to let go!” I cried as Mr. Steve helped me up.

“Honey, next time keep your eyes open,” Mr. Steve said ignoring what I said.

“There won’t be a next time!” I cried.

“Natalie, just because you crashed doesn’t mean you have to burn. Don’t give up just because you’re having a hard time,” Mr. Steve said picking the bike up. “Natalie, I um never grabbed the seat.”

“You didn’t?” I asked. Mr. Steve nodded.

“But I thought….,” I started.

“Natalie, you know how to ride a bike. You’re just afraid that you’re going to crash. Natalie, you can do this,” Mr. Steve  said. “So what are you going to do? You going to hop on this bike or go in the house?”

I took the bike and started to pedal. I fell down again, but by the end of the night I knew how to ride a bike.

**

“Get out of here. I have a huge knife in this bag and I’m not afraid to use it.”

I smiled as Mrs. Rivers pulled out a knife from her purse. Mr. Steve and Zach stared at her like she was crazy.

“We’ll go!” Zach shouted. “But don’t think I won’t take this up with the Chief and your husband. Mrs. Rivers, all you had to tell me is that you were going to be having finger sandwiches and I would have been out of here. You wouldn’t have to resort to murder.”

Mrs. Rivers laughed and then motioned for Sean to pull up a chair.

“Only two months to go,” Mrs. Rivers sighed.

“Do you have any names picked out?” I asked.

“Ugh,” Mrs. Rivers said. “We have five names picked out for each. If we have a boy and a girl either Addison and Austin, Zane and Zoey, Tristan and Trinity, Caleb and Chloe, or Michael and Michelle. If we have two girls either Olivia and Sophia, Faith and Hope, Addison and Avery, Arianna and Brianna, or Mia and Maya. If we have two boys either James and John, Logan and Luke, Ethan and Nathan, Caleb and Joshua, or Elijah and Elisha.”

“I came up with Addison and Austin,” Sean smiled. “And Addison and Avery, and Logan and Luke.”

“I’ve always wanted to name a girl Addison,” Mrs. Rivers said daydreaming.

Virginia and Aunt Jane walked into the restaurant with tears in their eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. Virginia started to sob.

“There’s a bad fire down in Virginia. It’s already destroyed her parent’s old farm. Its inching close to my brother’s farm. He and his family have had to evacuate! And to think somebody set the Virginia forest on fire!” Aunt Jane shouted.

“Arson?” Momma asked. Sean looked at Virginia and then at me. She smiled.

“Why are you smiling?” Virginia asked.

“I just had the best idea!” Sean shouted. “We can have a Christmas in July fundraiser! We can have games, a baby naming contest, and a bunch of other stuff. And all the proceeds will go to the victims of the fire!”

I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard Sean say at one time.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Aunt Jane said. Momma and Mrs. Rivers nodded.

“But how are we going to plan it? We’re just kids,” Virginia said.

“We’ll help you,” Momma said.

“I’m a pretty good organizer,” Mrs. Rivers volunteered.

“I have an idea,” I said. I looked at Virginia. She would hate this idea but…

“I think we should as Ms. O’Donnell to help,” I said.

“WHAT!” Virginia shouted. “What does that woman know about organizing things?”

“She runs A Father’s Presence,” Mrs. Rivers said. “She’s defiantly the boss type.”

“What’s going on?” Abby asked walking into the restaurant.

“Honey, I think your wedding shower just turned into a fundraiser planning party,” Mrs. Rivers joked.

Abby looked at us weirdly.

**

I woke up on Monday and found myself in the closet I shared with Regina. Now that my foot was out of a cast and I didn’t have strep throat. I had moved into the room Regina slept in.

I peeked out of the closet and saw that Regina was still asleep. It was five A.M. Ugh. I’d only been asleep for two hours.

I walked out the room and into the bathroom. I saw myself in the mirror and screamed.

I heard a knock on the door.

“Who’s in here?” Mr. Steve’s voice said. I opened the door.

“Look at my arms!” I screamed. There were small pink dots on both of my arms.

“Natalie, what’s wrong?” Momma asked walking up to my. She looked at my dots and sighed.

“Let me handle this,” Momma said to Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve walked away looking relieved.

Momma closed the door and ordered me to pull up my pants.

“Agh!” I cried when I saw that they were also on my legs. My mom told me to pull up my shirt. When I did I saw these strange dots were also on my chest.

“Chicken poxes?” I asked baffled. Momma shook her head no.

“I’m going to call, Dr. Walters, but I’m ninety percent sure it’s not chicken poxes,” Momma said walking out of the bathroom. I collapsed on the floor. I didn’t feel sick but I really hoped this was chicken poxes.

I started to itch these dots.

“Don’t itch!” Momma shouted when she walked into the bathroom.

“But they itch,” I whined.

“Go but a change of clothes on. Dr. Walters wants you to see a dermatologist at the hospital,” Momma said.

“At five o’clock in the morning?” I asked.

“Yes, now go change,” Momma said walking out of the bathroom. “But on a tank top and shorts. Bring something to wear to school too.”

I cried for five minutes before getting up and changing.

**

“Psoriasis,” The dermatologist said when she walked into the room.

“That’s what I thought,” Momma said.

“Dr. Walters told me that she just had strep throat,” The dermatologist said. “Strep throat sometimes triggers Guttate Psoriasis. The outbreak can go away and never come back.”

“On her father’s side they have a history of Psoriasis,” Momma said. “Her father had Guttate Psoriasis but it turned into plaque psoriasis.”

“Well Psoriasis may be inherited. Some people carry genes that make them more likely to develop Psoriasis,” The dermatologist said. “Does anyone else in her family have Psoriasis?”

“Her father’s mother does,” Momma said. The dermatologist nodded.

“Don’t itch,” The dermatologist commanded. I stopped.

“I recommend lotions and sunlight,” The dermatologist said. “Let it run its course. It’s not too bad. It usually clears up within a few weeks but since she has a family history of Psoriasis it may be chronic or may turn into plaque psoriasis like her father.”

Momma nodded.

“So this might not go away?” I asked.

“Sometimes psoriasis can go away for a time but psoriasis is chronic so it will come back. Did her father have a remission time?” The dermatologist asked.

Momma shook her head no.

“He didn’t let psoriasis hinder his life. I personally didn’t care. It wasn’t too too bad but noticeable,” Momma said.

The dermatologist smiled.

“There is a Psoriasis kid group that meets in Pittsfield once a month. There’s about fifty kids from all over Berkshire County that go to the monthly meetings. Here, give this lady a call,” The dermatologist said.

Momma took the piece of paper and nodded.

“Honey, do you want to go to school today?” Momma asked. “I’m willing to take Ms. O’Donnell’s wrath if you don’t want to go today.”

“I want to stay home,” I cried.

Momma hugged me and the dermatologist walked towards the door.

“Natalie, some people in life will be mean. People will tease you something awful. If your friends go running when they see you or talk bad about you then they really aren’t your friends. People should accept you because of your personality not your skin. God doesn’t care about the outside. He sees the inside and that determines if you’re beautiful or not. I heard about what you’re doing to help the victims of the Virginia Fire. I heard about how you went out to save those Stewarts last Christmas. People should care about what you do, not what your skin looks like,” The dermatologist said walking out the door.

I stared at the door for a second. I never learned that lady’s name but she changed my life. My psoriasis didn’t go away, but I didn’t care. My friends acted like they didn’t even notice it. I learned who my real friends were and who weren’t. I knew God thought I was beautiful and that’s all that mattered.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Two

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.

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

“NO!” Everyone in the room shouted.

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

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

“Momma, are you all right?” I asked.

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

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

“HIM!” Momma cried.

“Who is HIM!?” I asked.

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

I sighed.

Grandma Shirley stormed into the bridal chambers.

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

I was about to say something when Momma snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks,” I said. “Are you nervous?”

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

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

Abby laughed.

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

I sighed and prepared for my life to change.

**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Twenty-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 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

Farm Girl- Installment Three

**

The bell rang for lunch and I was about to get up when a boy walked over to Leo.

“I heard that you’ve started selling the Valentines,” The boy said.

“Yup,” Leo said smiling.

“I’d like to buy three,” The boy said.

“That will be three dollars,” Leo said opening his desk and handing him three Valentines.

“Thanks,” The boy said handing him three dollars.

“What kind of Valentines do you sell?” I asked interested.

“See for yourself,” Leo said with a smirk on his face. He handed me one from his desk.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I don’t know what to say around you

“Don’t tell me that you’re selling this junk!” I shouted outraged.

“Excuse me?” Leo asked.

“If I were to receive this Valentine I would be crushed!” I shouted getting up from my chair. “This Valentine is despicable!”

“Despicable?” Leo asked getting up from his chair.

“Despicable,” I repeated. I stormed into the cafeteria.

“Look at this! Look at this!” I shouted shoving a Valentine in Natalie’s face.

“What is it?” Natalie asked harshly. She didn’t look mad but she sure sounded mad.

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

Everyone at that lunch table looked at me like I was crazy. Especially Emily Stewart.

“Calm down,” Natalie said snatching the Valentine out of my hand. She read it.

“What’s wrong with that?” Natalie asked. She had scrunched up look on her face.

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

“I don’t see what’s wrong with it,” Darcy said standing up for Natalie. I gave him a look. Boys.

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

Ok so I didn’t really know if this was being marketed as a Valentine to give to someone you didn’t want to give a Valentine too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was!

“VIRGINIA!” Aunt Jane screamed running into the lunch room waving a brown bag.

“What now?” I muttered. I was starting to wonder if she was a little bit more than slightly crazy.

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

She gave it to me. I took one look and decided this woman could not make a PB&J sandwich.

“Thanks,” I said taking it anyway. Aunt Jane smiled.

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

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

“Then sell them back,” Aunt Jane said.

“Huh?” Everyone at the table including me asked.

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

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

She may be more than slightly crazy but her crazy ideas can be good.

This was war.

**

It took me all night to make a bunch of Valentines. I made some for friendship. I made lots for romance. I made a big mistake letting my little sister cut out hearts. By the way she cut them you would think she didn’t know what a heart was!

“VIRGINIA! ANDREW! RACHEL!” Aunt Jane shouted the next afternoon. The three of us ran down the steps.

“What’s wrong, Aunt Jane?” Rachel asked.

“There’s been a terrible accident on the Mohawk Trail. They want Andrew to go down and help out,” Aunt Jane said trying to catch her breath.

“Who was hurt?” I asked grabbing my coat.

“Zach Davis and Darcy Edwards,” Aunt Jane said trying to put her arm through Rachel’s coat’s armhole.

“Who’s Zach Davis?” I asked handing Aunt Jane her coat.

“He’s Mr. Stewart’s nephew. Trust me they do not get along,” Aunt Jane said picking up the car keys.

“How bad is it?” Andrew asked as we hopped into the car.

“They aren’t dead but Zach is badly hurt,” Aunt Jane said going way over the speed limit.

“Aunt Jane, slow down! I haven’t even put my seatbelt on!” I screamed. Aunt Jane didn’t seem to hear me. We got to the sight of the crash in less than two minutes.

“Don’t ever do that kids!” Aunt Jane shouted hopping out of the car.

I stumbled out. I felt like puking. I saw a sight. Natalie was being loaded onto an ambulance.

“What’s wrong with Natalie?” I asked Mrs. Baldwin.

“She fell,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “Nothing to worry about. She wasn’t in the accident.”

Andrew walked down the hill and started helping.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We don’t know yet. They haven’t tried talking to them. Zach is unconscious and Darcy is delirious,” Mrs. Baldwin said. “Poor Natalie.”

Mrs. Baldwin walked away before I could ask her what that last part meant.

“I have the strangest feeling that a certain Stewart dispute had something to do with this,” Aunt Jane said under her breath.

And for a strange reason even thou I knew nothing about Stewart disputes I had a feeling it did too.

**

I walked into the North Adams hospital with two Get Well balloons and one box full of Valentines. I planned on selling my first Valentine today.

“You’re my first friend visitor,” Darcy said as I walked into the room. I smiled.

“I have to admit this isn’t only just a social call,” I said pulling a chair up close to his bed.

“I’ll buy a Valentine or two from you,” Darcy laughed.

“So who do you need?” I asked.

“I need a Valentine for my mother, Emily, Regina, Jaci, and Abby,” Darcy said. “And maybe one for little Megan.”

“You don’t want to give a Valentine to Natalie?” I asked a little outraged.

“I do don’t get me wrong but…………,” Darcy started. “Can I tell you a secret?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. I tried not to squirm in my seat.

“Well one Christmas morning I left a present for Natalie under her little Charlie Brown tree but I didn’t put my name on it. Ever since I’ve been sending her anonymous gifts,” Darcy said not quite looking at my face. “Natalie calls me her Secret Santa but she doesn’t know its me.”

“How romantic!” I cried. “I have the perfect Valentine!”

I went rummaging through my box and found the Valentine I was thinking about.

“I don’t know,” Darcy said reading it. “What if she doesn’t feel the same way? I mean……”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of that,” I smiled.

Darcy looked at me strangely.

“Tell you what. I have to stop by and see Zach. I’ll go visit him and come back. It will give you time to think about it,” I said. “But don’t worry. I know Natalie likes you that way. I just do. I’m not just a farm girl you know? I also do the occasionally matchmaking!”

Darcy laughed as I walked out the room with my box and Zach’s balloon.

“Can I see Zach Davis?” I asked a nurse.

“Do you know him?” The nurse asked.

“I’ve got a balloon for him. I also live in Florida,” I said. “My name is Virginia Powers. I live with my Aunt Jane Powers.”

“I’ll ask him,” The nurse said walking towards his room.

“And tell him I’ve got Valentines!” I shouted.

The nurse came back a minute later.

“He says he doesn’t know you but he knows your Aunt so he said you can come in,” The nurse said. I smiled and walked down the hall.

“Hello!” I said walking into the room.

“Hi,” Zach said weakly.

“I’m afraid we haven’t met,” I said putting the box of Valentine’s down. “I’m Virginia Powers.”

“Zach Davis,” He smiled. “I only let you in because she said you had Valentines.”

I smiled and laughed.

“Yup,” I said shaking the box. “What do you need?”

“I’m afraid someone is trying to kill me,” Zach said.

“And you want to send them a Valentine?” I asked.

“No!” Zach shouted. “I want a Valentine for Abby.”

“Abby Matthews?” I asked. “The one that lives in Boston?”

“That’s the one,” Zach said. “If there’s one thing I want to do before I die is marry that girl.”

“She didn’t mention a boyfriend,” I said digging through my box.

“That’s because I’m an old boyfriend,” Zach sighed. “I left her but I sure didn’t forget her.”

“If you broke up with her why in the world would she want to marry you?” I asked.

“I knew her back in college and well she left me that time and well I guess we’re even now,” Zach said. He had a smile on his face.

“I think I’m going to have to make a special Valentine for this one,” I said putting a lid on the box.

The nurse that had helped me walked into the room with a syringe in her hand.

“Flu shot,” The nurse said. “Doctor’s orders.”

Zach quickly jumped out of his hospital bed. His legs were really shaky. He started to run but the Nurse stuck the syringe in his arm. She ran after him wanting to complete the job.

I had a feeling Zach wasn’t kidding when he said he thought someone wanted to kill him.

Posted in Farm Girl, Highlight & Contest, Natalie

Highlight & Contest: Will You Be My Valentine?

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

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

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

photo 1

All of the Valentines!

photo 1 (2)

Valentine A

My heads in the clouds

My heart’s in my throat

I’m walking on air

Handing you this note!

photo 2 (3)

Valentine B

Love is patient.

Love does not envy or boast.

Love is not arrogant or rude.

Love never fails.

Love never rejoices at wrongdoing.

Not irritable or resentful.

Love does not insist on its own way.

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

Love is kind so be my Valentine!

photo 3 (1)

Valentine C

Take all my love.

Take all my kisses.

But there better be a ring.

If you want me to be your Mrs.! 

photo 4 (1)

Valentine D

I have just one Valentine’s Day wish.

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

So what do you say?

Will you make my Valentine’s Day?

photo 1 (1)

Valentine E

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

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

But the truth is I only want you!

photo 2 (2)

Valentine F

I know we’re young.

I know its soon.

But I think I’m in love with you!

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

So I’m just going to say it.

Please be my Valentine till the end of time!

photo 4

Valentine G (two people receive this Valentine)

You’re amazing.

Did you know?

I’ve crushed on you.

Since long ago.

So here’s my heart.

And here’s my soul.

I think its time you should know.

Will you be?

Can you be?

Could you think of me?

That way?

photo 3

Valentine H

Roses are Red.

Violets are blue.

I never know what to say around you!

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

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

photo 2

Valentine I

Left you once.

Lost you twice.

Now its the third time.

So I’m not going to take any chances.

Please be my Valentine and my wife.

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

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Eighteen

“Yes, yes you did,” Zach said. His voice sounded shaky.

“Fowler, its been more than ten years. Its not his fault that Gavin crashed his car and killed his wife,” Ms. Donna said.

“A Stewart looks out for a Stewart,” Mr. Stewart growled. “Its all his fault that Gavin is sitting in jail right now.”

“Its not my fault that your son drove like a maniac, crashed his car, killed his wife, and lied to the police about it,” Zach said with a little bit more confidence in his voice.

“A Stewart looks out for another Stewart,” Mr. Stewart repeated.When you found the wreckage you should have come to be first before calling the police!”

“I thought I was helping when I found Tami’s body in a car in the woods,” Zach said. “I had been told that she had gone missing after Gavin got into a brutal attack.”

Mr. Stewart growled.

“Why are you back? I told you to never come back to Berkshire County after the trial so why are you back?” Mr. Stewart asked.

“Fowler!” Ms. Donna shouted. “He’s a grown man. He can do whatever he wants!”

Mr. Stewart gave a laugh that scared the life out of me.

“We’ll just see about that,” Mr. Stewart said with a smile on his lips. “Donna, I want a Sea Food Salad to go.”

Ms. Donna quickly made him his salad and Mr. Stewart left.

“You’re a Stewart?” Abby asked Zach.

“I’m NOT a Stewart!” Zach shouted. “So what if my mother is his niece and my grandmother’s maiden name is Stewart? The name Stewart is not on my birth certificate so therefore I’m NOT a Stewart.”

“Zach,” Abby said. “You can’t deny what’s in your blood. Mr. Stewart is your great-uncle.” Zach looked angered.

“You know each other?” I blurted. Abby nodded.

“I designed a building for his company last Spring,” Abby said. She looked sadden at the mention of last spring. Zach too looked sad at the mention of Spring.

“I’m not a Stewart,” Zach said. “I refuse to be. I refuse to be part of a clan of thieving, dirty, and tricky people!”

Zach ran up the steps and Abby looked sad. Jaci sighed.

“He has to learn to overcome the fact that he’s been born into such a line,” Jaci said.

“No. He has to realize that he’s a Stewart,” Timmy said. “But he’s not like the rest.”

Jaci smiled at Timmy.

“Who’s hungry?” Ms. Donna asked. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be mentioned the rest of the night but one way or another I was going to find out what this was all about.

**

“Momma?” I asked the next day after school.

“Yeah?” Momma said looking up from the table she was cleaning.

“Can I visit the Rivers?” I asked.

“Sure. Why not? Tell Joan that I want her to be a bridesmaid no matter how fat she is,” Momma said to me as I put on my coat.

I promised her that I would tell her and hobbled out the door towards the Rivers’ cabin.

“I was just wishing for some company,” Mrs. Rivers said when she opened the door. Mrs.Rivers hadn’t gained a lot of weight in the past couple of months but she starting to show.

I smiled at her and hobbled into the house.

“So what brings you here?” Mrs. Rivers asked as she took my coat.

“Ms. Donna has a new boarder. His name is Zach Davis,” I said.

“Zach Davis is back in town? Mr. Stewart won’t be happy about that,” Mrs. Rivers said taking out some brownies.

“He saw him yesterday at the B&B. He said that he had told him to never come back to Berkshire County,” I said.

“Mr. Stewart and Zach don’t get along too well. They never did. Zach hated the fact that he had any relation with the Stewart family. Mr. Stewart tried his hardest to make him like being a Stewart and nothing worked. And after Zach told the police about finding Gavin’s car in the woods there was no hope of a relationship between the two of them,” Mrs. Rivers said getting out some hot chocolate.

“Why did Mr. Stewart want to make Zach a Stewart? I mean he was born into the Davis family right?” I asked.

“True but Mr. Stewart wanted Zach to help him out at the law firm,” Mrs. Rivers said. “When Zach told him that he wanted to work with children, Mr. Stewart was disgusted.”

“No wonder he doesn’t like to be called a Stewart,” I said.

“Its sad but if you’ve ever had any relationship with a Stewart present or past people can be a little prejudice. I should know,” Mrs. Rivers said getting out some marshmallows.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“In high school I went out with Gavin,” Mrs. Rivers said.

“You did?” I asked. Mrs. Rivers nodded.

“Tom hadn’t come to Massachusetts yet and well Gavin was popular. He was known for driving fast to impress a girl and all sorts of crazy stuff. For two months in my junior year of high school I lived the fast life. Sneaking out at night, going to wild parties, asking Gavin to drive dangerously over the speed limit. It took a long talk to get me out of it,” Mrs. Rivers said. “To think I could have been the one in that car. I could be dead by now.”

I sat and thought about this for a minute.

“Why is Gavin in jail. That’s what I don’t understand,” I said.

“He was driving way over the speed limit on an icy day. He crashed his car and killed his wife. He was nervous and worried that the police would think he murdered her that he went to the police and told some story about taking a drive and some people pulling them over. He said he got in a bad fight with them and that’s what his scares were from. He said that they had taken his car and his wife,” Mrs. Rivers said. “When Zach found the car crashed and knowing Gavin’s reckless driving history, the police got curious. It was soon relieved that Gavin’s scares and injuries were from a car crash.”

I nodded.

“But why does Mr. Stewart hate Zach so much? Its not his fault that he found the car. He had been told that someone stole the car. He would be thinking he was helping and not hurting,” I said.

“Mr. Stewart needed a good reason to be angry at Zach. He never really did like him and it gave him a good reason to give him a job in Boston,” Mrs. Rivers said. “Mr. Stewart is a purebred Stewart. They have more grudges then everybody in Massachusetts.”

“How does Mrs. Stewart feel about her nephew?” I asked.

“She loves and adores him more than her own son. Zach was always so well behaved. Gavin was always getting into trouble. Who could blame her? Zach was defiantly the perfect ‘son’,” Mrs. Rivers said.

Mr. Rivers came bursting through the house.

“There’s a terrible accident on the Mohawk Trail!” Mr. Rivers shouted. “They need all the help they can get.”

“Where’s the accident at?” Mrs. Rivers asked.

“Right around the area where Gavin crashed his car. That place is a crash magnet,” Mr. Rivers said.

I felt like crying. Nobody had to tell me that Zach was in that car. I had a strange feeling that this was in connection with my father’s car crash and my mother’s recent one.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 2- Marshmallow World Installment Seventeen

**

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

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

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

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

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

Momma walked into the family room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?!” Megan cried madly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

“Hello, Virginia,” The class chimed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

It read:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I don’t know what to say around you

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

“What now?” Virginia muttered.

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

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

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

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

“Then sell them back,” Aunt Jane said.

“Huh?” The table asked.

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

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

I looked over at the table where Leo was sitting.

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

**

I stared at the tall stranger sitting on the couch.

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

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

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

“Hi,” Darcy said shaking it.

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

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

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

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

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

“You!” Megan shouted. “You!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I like that idea,” Momma said.

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

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

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