Birdie stood up and walked over to the package and pulled at the string, releasing the brown paper free to fall on the table. Inside was a neatly folded grey dress with a tiny blue daisy pattern. The edges of the collar and wrists were lined with a delicate lace. She ran her fingertips along the fabric, not being able to accept that this dress, this present, this kind gesture, was for her.
“Rem? You shouldn’t have.”
“It’s about time you have a proper dress that hasn’t been worn by my ma. I may not be a rich man, but no wife of mine will only wear cast-offs.”
She held the dress up against her bosom. “It’s so pretty. So perfect in every way.” Tears exploded from her eyes. “I don’t deserve this.”
Rem walked up and smacked her bottom playfully. “What are my rules about talking down on yourself? I’d hate to have to give you a whoopin’ right before church. It would make for a mighty long sermon.” He leaned in and softly kissed Birdie’s lips, brushing away her tears with his work-worn hands.
“I love it, I love…” She paused.
He kissed the tip of her nose, each eyelid, and then her lips again. “Say it, Birdie. Say what you were going to say.”
“I love you,” she whispered. “I do, Rem Langston. I never knew what love felt like until you. These last few days have been the best of my life.”
Rem wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly into his embrace. “And I love you. I knew it the minute I rescued you from that shack in the snow. I knew I loved you then, but I had no idea how much until now.”
The door crashed open, breaking them from their love spell. “Rem!” his ma called. “We got trouble!”
Standing behind Anna Mae, was a winded and flushed Timmy Collins.
“What’s goin’ on?” Rem asked, releasing Birdie from his hold and instinctively pushing her behind his broad build.
“Jedson Bluebell is up in arms in the middle of town. Busted up the mercantile pretty good looking for answers to where his Birdie is,” Timmy started, struggling to catch his breath. “I came runnin’ here as soon as it started. But, Rem, he is spittin’ mad and has a shotgun at his side.”
Rem walked over to the fireplace, where a rifle leaned up against the side, and grabbed for it.
Birdie ran to him and seized his arm. “Wait! Please don’t go. My pa will shoot you. He won’t care none of the law. He don’t feel it pertains to him. Please!”
“Birdie, I’m not going to let someone else fight my battles. He’s at the mercantile and may move on to the church or someplace else. I have to go confront him and put a stop to this.”
“But he will kill you! Please! Let me go and talk to him,” she pleaded.
Anna Mae walked over to Birdie and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “Shhh, dear. Trust your husband.” She looked at Rem and gave a knowing look. “Rem can take care of himself.”
Without saying another word, Rem stormed out of the cabin with rifle in hand.
Minutes turned to hours, and Birdie could barely breathe as panic overtook her body. Her husband was out fighting her pa, and she didn’t know if either would come out alive. Rem could lose his life all because of her.
“You stop your worrying, girl. You damn well have me in a heap of nerves too,” Anna Mae said. Birdie could tell the woman was doing her best to be strong, but even she looked afraid.
Fear and relief blended when there was finally a knock at the door. Birdie bolted to it, terrified at who and what news would be on the other side. Timmy Collins stood winded as before, but with a smile on his face.
“Rem sent me to tell you both that the matter was taken care of, and he would be home soon.”
“Where is he?” Birdie asked, still panicked that he could be hurt, but not having the slightest concern for her bastard father.
The Collins boy shrugged. “He had to check on the ice or somethin’ like that.” He didn’t wait for a response and ran back toward town effortlessly. His job as messenger was complete.
Anna Mae walked up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Rem is fine. He sent word so we wouldn’t worry. But he is fine.” Relief filled her voice.
Birdie turned and looked at her mother-in-law. “Do you think Rem would mind if I went up to the ice ponds to find him? I just can’t wait around here any longer.” When Anna Mae looked as if she was considering the idea, she added, “I’ll walk along the river and stay clear of town. Just in case Pa is still around. I promise I will go straight to the ponds and nowhere else.”