The Widow’s Rancher – 28

YOU need to understand that as a prominent woman of the town there are certain rules you have to live by. As we all do.” Rebecca went on.

Nadia stood up again.

“Neither myself or my husband believe in living by anybody else’s rules but our own. It is time for you to leave. I’m not interested in what you have to say or what petty beliefs you or the rest of the town hold. My husband and his sons are the only people whose opinions I am concerned with.”

“You do grasp the girl’s mother had Indian blood and her father spends most of his time in the saloon?”

“Yes, I do. I also understand Sissy’s mother was a wonderful woman who loved her daughter and cared for her well. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the chance to live long enough to see Sissy grow older than eight years old. As such I consider it my duty and a privilege to look out for Sissy in her place. She is a sweet young woman who I am proud to call my friend.”

“You can’t possibly feel that way,” Miss Moore insisted. “The girl has savage blood inside her and her father is the town drunk. She is created with bad –”

“Ladies, you will leave my home this minute,” Nadia ordered, all pretence of politeness vanished.

Miss Moore slowly rose to her feet.

“You are making a mistake by taking the girl’s side. The women of this town will be less than impressed with your attitude.”

“The only mistake I have made is allowing you to ride this far on to my husband’s land without taking a shotgun to your carriage. I shall say it one last time − leave my home and don’t you dare return. And I do mean both of you.”

She stayed rooted to the porch and watched the two women return to the carriage and ride away. When she turned to head back to the garden, she found Sissy standing at the corner of the building. By her expression, Nadia guessed she’d heard some of the conversation.

“Is it true what they said about me? Am I bad?” she asked, her lower lip trembling.

Nadia rushed up to her and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“You are a beautiful young girl who constantly makes me proud. You are gentle and sweet and one day all the single men in this county are going to fight over you. Ignore Hester and Miss Moore. Their hearts are full of spite. Their kind are not happy unless they can cause misery to others.”

“But if everyone thinks like they do…” Sissy mumbled.

Nadia cupped Sissy’s face.

“Sissy, you are a lovely, special angel and the people who matter see it. Listen to them and not others. Trust me, please.”

Sissy smiled weakly.

Nadia cuddled her close, loving the girl as much as if she were her own flesh and blood.

“How about I help you pick the rest of the vegetables and then we make some lemonade?”

Sissy nodded and hugged her back.

“Can I take a glass to Dawnie and Ed?”

“Of course. I’m sure they’re thirsty and hot in this weather, too. We’ll cut some cake to go with it.”

*    *    *    *

Diggory entered the house through the back door, his gaze going immediately to his wife busy pounding a large lump of bread dough on the kitchen table. Her expression bordered on murderous.

“Is there something wrong, Nadia?”

“Yes, husband, there is. Hester,” Nadia hissed through her gritted teeth, “and Rebecca Moore.”

Diggory sighed, not surprised. He had heard rumours from the boys and his men each time one of them came back from town. It seemed some people resented Nadia’s charitable nature.

“What have they done?”

“Other than being their usual rude, unhelpful and awkward selves? Rebecca Moore had the nerve to come here to our home and insult Sissy.”

“Are either of them still breathing?” he teased.

He didn’t believe for a second that Nadia hadn’t set the two women firmly in their place. His wife was sweet and caring, but she guarded Sissy like a mama dog did her pup.

She stopped kneading the dough and placed her flour-covered hands on her hips.

“It was awful, Diggory. The things they said about Sissy and her mother. The child already thinks people look at her as some inferior being, without those two making her feel dirty and unworthy. Do you have any idea how she was treated in school?” He shook his head.

“No, I don’t.”

“Terribly, that’s how. And now she’s older and people still think they can bully her.”

“Hester’s an outspoken girl.”

“Are you defending her behaviour?” Nadia asked in horror. “She came here to stir up mischief.”

“Of course not,” he denied, worried the dough might end up on his head. “I’m just not surprised. Word is she’s moved back in with her parents in town. Toby gave her an ultimatum − get along with everyone here or go back to town.”

He strolled over to her and pulled her into his arms, as always giving her comfort when he suspected she most needed it.

“This house is your domain and if you want to kick anyone out, I’ll not interfere.”

“Good, because I can’t stomach the girl any longer. And Rebecca Moore is as bad.”

“I’ll speak to Toby and explain why she’s not to come back. I’d hate to lose him as a foreman if he decides to follow her, but I’ll not allow her or anyone else to be rude to any member of this family. Maybe he can talk some sense into her.”

He tilted her face up to his and smiled down at her.

“Sissy is welcome in our home and anyone who doesn’t like it can find somewhere else to live. The child needs the love of a family.”

“Thank you,” Nadia whispered.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!