Anna Mae nodded. “You go on. You better stay clear of trouble and not make me regret letting you go.”
Birdie leaned in and gave a quick peck to the woman’s wrinkled cheek. “Thank you, so much. I won’t be long.”
Before Anna Mae could change her mind, Birdie reached for her heavy wool shawl and dashed out the door.
She ran along the river’s edge, anxious to see Rem. She hadn’t made it halfway to the ponds, when she saw his figure emerge from the woods ahead.
“Rem!” she called out. She waved her arms so he could see her from the distance.
His brisk walk turned to a run when he realized it was her. In an instant, he was standing in front of her, taking her into his arms. “Birdie? Are you all right?” He pulled away and examined her body. “Is Ma hurt?”
Birdie shook her head. “No, I couldn’t wait for your return any longer. I was so worried.” Now that she was away from his hold, she could see that his shirt was covered in blood. “Oh my! Are you hurt? Have you been shot?”
Rem ran his hand along her face to soothe her. “No. I am fine. This blood is not mine.” He studied her eyes, looking sad. “Your pa…he’s dead.”
Birdie simply nodded. No hysterics, not the slightest ounce of sadness, nothing but a huge sense of relief washed over her. “You did what needed to be done.”
Rem leaned in and kissed her lips quickly, and then looked over his shoulder and the flowing river beside them. “Birdie, I need you to turn away.”
Confused, she asked, “Why?” She walked closer to him, desperate to be held in his arms again.
“Birdie…” But before he could say anything further, she saw a large piece of ice flowing down the river. The sight of large pieces of ice wasn’t uncommon on the Truckee, so why would Rem want her to look away? This was his job after all. Why—
The large chunk of ice floated closer, close enough that she could make out her pa’s frozen form inside of it. His mangled and contorted body folded in the most grotesque way, and his face appeared frozen in agonizing pain.
She should have turned away and screamed. Maybe even cry or feel ill to her stomach. A proper lady would possibly faint at the sight. Something, anything besides what she was feeling. Watching that block of ice in the cold Sierra river was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen. She stood on the river bank with her husband’s arms wrapped around her and watched her misery, her pain, her fear all wash down the river with the tiny rapids around it. It was over. She had been freed from her cage—just as the birds at the Valentine’s Dove Festival had been freed from theirs. She was free. Birdie Bluebell was finally free.
Fallen Daughter #4
I hated white. I hated the color that would forever be my curse. White epitomized death. A color once believed to symbolize purity, perfection, new beginnings and life, now represented destruction. When I saw white, I saw the darkest shadows in the depths of hell. Colorless yet black as coal.
Marching in line through the ruins of a city that once stood so bold and bright, now crumbled all around. Prosperous replaced with poverty. Peace replaced with war. Life replaced with death. I marched with all the other defeated soldiers to meet my new fate. And although I would leave this God-forsaken planet, I would never be able to leave the white.
Looking down at my worn leather boots, I remembered the day I had first put them on. Blisters formed as I broke them in, and I had no idea at the time that I would be marching to the intake area to receive my next assignment as a captured Unin, never to be free again.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I looked at the irritated woman before me. Her purple-tinted fingers tapped away on her information pad, never looking up as she spoke.
“Color?” she asked again, a little louder this time. “Come now, I don’t have all day. What color were you?”
“Blue,” I squeaked out. Clearing my throat, I added, “I was blue before.”
“Cause of death of your twin?”
I couldn’t help but cringe with the pain of having to recall my sister and the way she died. The memory was like a sharp stab to the heart. I didn’t want to answer the woman, but figured I had no choice in the matter. I was just one of many going through the intake process.
“Shot. She died in the battle of Vex.”
The woman nodded as if she had heard that answer many times before, and most likely she had. The battle had taken over 22,000 lives—my twin sister being one of them. Somehow, I managed to walk away alive; yet lost my sister, my soul, and my lifeblood.