When Idy came outside, Jacob was trying to hoist a large crate onto another. She shielded her deep blue eyes from the sun and watched her young brother struggle with his load. Anger stormed within her. This was a man’s job. Jacob was right; it wasn’t fair.

“Need some help?” she asked.

Jacob swiped at his brow. “Maybe with this crate, it’s the biggest one.”

Idy grasped the corners of the wooden box. “Okay, on three,” she said. “One, two, three!”

Sister and brother lifted the heavy crate off the frozen ground and set it atop the others.

Jacob blew hot air from his mouth onto his hands, then rubbed them together. “Where do these crates go anyway?”

Idy shook her head. “That’s no business of ours. Too much information can be dangerous.”

Jacob looked toward the house, then crouched behind the pyramid of boxes.

“Idy,” he whispered reaching into his shirt, “I saved this for you.” He pulled out a handful of thick and pasty gruel. “I hid this in my shirt when Renard wasn’t looking. Sorry, it was the best I could do.”

Idy’s lips parted. “Thank you, Jacoby,” she said tenderly. His kindness nourished her soul far more than the meager handful of cold grits would nourish her body. She scraped the grits from his hand. Licking her icy fingers, Idy smiled at her brother.

“You know, you could have gotten in real trouble if the Renards found out,” she said. “As hungry as I am, please, Jacob, don’t risk it again. I’d die if anything happened to you.”

Jacob stood and playfully flexed his muscles. “Nothing’s going to happen to me.” With that, he lifted one of the smaller crates over his head. Idy couldn’t help but grin, but just as quickly, a sense of foreboding wiped it from her face. “Jacob,” she said feeling the need to warn him.

He looked up at her with bright eyes. She shook her head and swallowed her words. “Nothing. I… I just wanted to thank you again for breakfast. I’d better get to my chores.”

Idy hurried to the barn.

“Good morning, Lizzy,” she said to the cow. The animal took no heed of her caregiver’s arrival, and continued to laze about. Idy watched for a moment, contemplating how much better off the cow was. It had enough food, water, dry hay, and a compassionate individual to look after it. All she had was Jacob. She lifted the empty pail. “Don’t mind me,” her voice soothed, “I’ll be quick and gentle.” She stroked the smooth hide before sitting down on the low stool. “That’s a good girl,” she cooed, leaning her face against Lizzy’s side to benefit from her warmth.