She continued to cry, realizing she was crying because of the relief. Because for the moment, she was safe, she was warm, and she was free from the angry monster she called her pa. For at least tonight, she could experience what growing up as anything but a Bluebell was like. As her eyes grew heavy, she hoped to God that for once in her life, sweet dreams would indeed come.
Rem reached his arms above his head and stretched the kinks out of his body. He hadn’t slept well, and he wasn’t sure if it was due to the hard floor or the fact that he had a strange girl sleeping in his bed in the next room. He couldn’t quite shake the image out of his head of her beaten body trying to stay warm in the snowy night. If he hadn’t stumbled upon her, she would surely be dead by now. The thought made his gut clench. And the kiss… He didn’t know what to think about the kiss, and decided better to push the thought, and the memory of how she felt and tasted, far from his mind.
“She still asleep?” his ma asked, snapping him from his thoughts. She walked into the kitchen and applied an apron over her dress, getting ready to prepare breakfast like any other morning. Thing was, this wasn’t any ordinary morning.
“She is. I reckon this is the first night’s sleep she’s had with a full belly in a long time.” The memory of how she practically devoured her food made the tightness in his stomach increase even more. It looked like it hurt every time her bloody lip made contact with the spoon, but she never complained once. Her hunger overpowered all other senses.
A grunt was his ma’s only reply as she started the coffee. A few moments later she said, “Well, are you going to just stand there and watch me, or are you going to tell me what you plan on doing about our houseguest?” She turned and studied Rem with her hands on her hips.
Rem turned and looked out the window. The snow had stopped, and the storm clouds had passed. “I’m not sure. I guess I figure she can stay here until…” He paused. He didn’t have an answer. What was next? He couldn’t exactly keep her like a wild animal, wounded, and found in the forest. This wasn’t her home, and they weren’t her kin. Hell if he knew what the next step was.
“It ain’t proper having a young woman in your house unwed. People are going to talk,” Ma said as she started cracking eggs into a bowl.
“To hell with the cackling hens of Boca Town. I don’t give a damn what they say.”
Ma turned around and glared. “Watch your tongue, boy. I ain’t saying nothin’ about caring what they say, just the fact that they will be talking. It’s just a fact, and we would be fools not to take that into consideration.”
Rem walked over to the coffee and poured himself a cup and sat down, staring at the fire, contemplating what exactly needed to happen.
“One thing is for sure,” Ma said as she beat the eggs, “that girl has no business going back to her pa.”
Rem nodded in agreement as his jaw tightened. He didn’t consider himself a violent man by nature, but Jedson Bluebell might need to have a meeting with his fist. A broken nose surely would remind the man how to be a good father. Thoughts of how he would confront Jedson and what his next steps would be flooded his mind as he finished up his coffee and ate one of his ma’s famous biscuits. He smiled when he remembered how Birdie said she loved them. He’d make sure his ma baked them more often.
Realizing he had another mouth to feed if Birdie were to stay, he decided he better get started on his day. Heading over to his boots by the door, he said, “The night’s storm most likely froze over the ice pond again, giving me some fresh ice to cut. I should head on over and see.”
“I’m almost done with breakfast. Sit down and wait a minute. That ice ain’t going to melt while you eat some eggs,” she called over her shoulder.
“I have a lot of work to do. The railroad is operating more often now that several mines have found gold and silver. Sacramento and San Francisco are both wanting ice quicker than we can keep up. And with this new brewery in Boca Town, we need more ice than ever.” Rem continued to put on his boots. “Biscuit and coffee will hold me over for now. I’ll be home shortly when Birdie wakes up. Maybe I’ll eat something then.”
He stopped buttoning his coat and turned to his ma. “Yes?”