“You did real good last night. I’m proud of you, boy. Real proud.” She walked over to him and straightened out his collar, looking up into his eyes. “There’s a high chance she isn’t going to stay. Something tells me that Birdie has a stubborn streak running through her.”
Her words were like a punch to the gut. “Of course she’s staying. It isn’t an option. Where would she go? Back to that shack in the woods?”
“I don’t have time to discuss this now.”
“If she insists on going back to her pa?”
Rem walked to the door and opened it, the chill of the air going straight to his bones. “Then we can’t stop her. She ain’t our kin, and she ain’t our concern if she walks out the door. Not much we can do.” What more could he say? He hoped to God she wouldn’t go back to that bastard, but he couldn’t stop her. Hell, he only met the girl last night. What she did was no concern of his, yet the rising temper in his inner core told a different story. Birdie Bluebell did not belong back with her pa. He didn’t know much more than that, but he knew her pain and abuse would continue. But what could he do?
He patted his ma’s shoulder. “Tell her she’s welcome. Ain’t much we can do beyond that.” He then turned and headed to the ice.
Birdie flinched when her lip made contact with the blanket, fully waking her from her slumber. She had never slept so hard in her life, not waking once—even being in another man’s bed in a strange house. The smell of coffee and eggs cooking made her stomach grumble, surprising since she ate more food last night than in an entire week combined. She quickly got up and made the bed, paying close attention to tuck and smooth every inch of the blanket to ensure perfection.
Padding her bare feet against the cold wood floor, she cracked the door open and peeked out, smiling when she found Anna Mae in the middle of dishing up breakfast.
“Perfect timing, girl. Go on around back and do your business, and then come sit down to eat.”
Birdie quickly did as she asked, wondering why she hadn’t seen Rem in the room. When she returned to the kitchen, Anna Mae was already sitting down, motioning for her to do the same.
“This smells delicious,” Birdie complimented as she sat down across from her. Her plate of eggs and biscuits were waiting for her, along with a steaming cup of coffee. “Where is Rem?”
“He went to work, but should be home shortly. I swear that boy lives and breathes by the ice. His pa was a hard worker, but nothing compared to my willful son.”
“I hope he slept well. I feel something awful about taking his bed.” She paused and almost moaned when she bit into the biscuit, and the buttermilk delight took over all senses. “Oh, Anna Mae! These biscuits!”
“Go on and eat as much as you please. We have plenty.” Anna Mae brought her coffee to her lips and sipped while she studied Birdie. “How are you feeling today? You got feeling in your toes?”
Birdie nodded in response as she continued to shovel the food in her mouth. She wiggled her toes just to be sure and was pleased that she could feel all ten digits.
Anna Mae studied Birdie’s every move. Birdie couldn’t help but feel a bit self-conscious, but she just continued to eat. How she could still be hungry after last night’s meal amazed her, but the flavors danced across her tongue, beckoning her mouth for more. “That dress looks good on you. I think you should keep it.”
“Oh no! I could never do that. I’ve never had anything so nice—”
“Hush now. The dress is yours, and I won’t hear another word about it.” She didn’t say anything else, finishing her own breakfast before speaking again. “Rem and I spoke of your situation this morning.”
Birdie pushed back her finished plate and fiddled with her fingers. Something about Anna Mae’s tone made her nervous. “I ain’t going to be a burden no longer. If there is anything you need help with around the homestead before I go, I will do it all.”
“I don’t want you doing a thing. You were my guest last night. I won’t have you questioning my hospitality.” Even though the words were stern, the soft curve of Anna Mae’s lips exuded a gentle warmth from the older lady.
“All right then,” Birdie said as she stood and grabbed her plate to assist in cleaning up. “I best be going. Pa is going to wake up with one helluva headache, and he’s going to need me.”
Anna Mae slammed her fist on the table, causing Birdie to almost drop her plate. “Girl, you put that plate down and sit.”