Her thoughts were broken by a deep, firm, yet kind voice. “Ma, can you lend a hand to the Wellington homestead? I heard today at the festival that Mary could use some help. She may go into heavy labor tonight, and her ma has long passed. She could sure use your motherly ways.”
Birdie looked up and started to shake her head. But before she could say anything, Rem put up his hand, making it clear she was to remain silent.
“I was thinking the same thing, son. I made up some supper for you two, but you may be on your own for breakfast. It’s Mary’s first baby, so I reckon I will be there through the night and into most of tomorrow’s morn.”
“My wife and I will be just fine.”
Anna Mae smiled, gathered her belongings, and walked out of the house, closing the door behind her.
Rem turned and looked at Birdie. “My wife.” She looked up and met his eyes. “Can you come stand in front of me?”
Birdie’s heart skipped. She didn’t know Rem well, but he didn’t seem like the type that would hurt her…but maybe he would…
She did as he asked, standing a few inches in front of him, looking up to his eyes, anxiously awaiting what came next. A slap across the face to show who’s boss? A punch to the jaw to demand respect? It wasn’t uncommon for a groom to take his bride in hand on their wedding night. Even some of the elders at the festival had suggested as much to all the newlyweds. Would he be brutal? Would he draw blood so she never questioned him again? She waited…she waited…
“I want you to look down at the ground,” he demanded.
She quickly did as he asked. She waited…
“I want you to bite your fingernails,” he demanded again, with more force this time.
She placed her fingers to her lips, tasting the dirt beneath them. She waited…
“I want you to think about every time your pa or another man hurt you.”
She did, cringing at the memories. She waited…
“I want you to feel how worthless they made you feel.”
She did—easily so. She waited…
“Now look at me,” he demanded again, but his voice was softer this time.
She did…and waited.
“You will never look down again in shame. You will never bite your nails and worry. You will never feel scared, beaten or worthless again. Right there, right now will be the last time you are a victim. From now on, your head stays high, your thoughts stay pure. From now on, I will not tolerate a beaten woman to live beneath my roof and stand beside me as my wife.”
He paused and placed the tip of his finger to her chin and raised her head even higher.
“You will be a proud woman. A secure woman. And a loved woman. Are we clear?”
Tears flooded her eyes, and her lip quivered. She went to lower her head, causing Rem to lift it back up. “Cry. Let the pain go, because I swear to you right now that you will never feel it again. As your husband, I will never allow you to feel the way your father made you feel for as long as I live.” He pulled her into an embrace and cupped the back of her head to his shoulder. “This one time, cry for the woman that you are letting go of. Say goodbye to her. That weak, scared, beaten woman does not live here anymore.”
And just like that, she cried.
After what felt like hours, Birdie pulled away and stared up at her husband. He only held her tight and stroked her back over and over.
“I thought you were going to hurt me,” she confessed in barely a whisper.
“I would never truly hurt you.”
“You will never beat me?”
He placed his palms on each side of her face and stared directly in her eyes. “I will never beat you, Birdie. Never.”
“But it is a husband’s right.”
He nodded. “It is a husband’s right to correct. To lead. To be the head of the household. But I will never beat you. Spank a naughty bottom,” he winked, “maybe. But never beat.”
An odd sensation happened between her legs—one she had never felt before. Maybe it was knowing that she was about to lose her purity to her husband tonight, or maybe it was the way he held her so close, but her body practically sizzled in anticipation.
“Spank?” she asked. She had never actually been spanked. Beaten to a pulp, yes, but never spanked on her rear.
Rem chuckled. “A misbehaving wife will find herself over my knee. But the only pain you will ever endure from your husband is a stinging and hot behind.”
A shiver ran down her spine, and her body involuntarily trembled.
He kissed her on the forehead and stroked her hair, placing a loose strand behind her ear. “Are you afraid of me?”