The Deans were devastated and knew when Fred O'Connor returned and learned the news, he too would be crushed that his young pal was leaving.
Then out of the blue came the call from a sticky-sweet state worker informing the Deans that Martha would be picked up on Saturday morning—this was Thursday—for the introductory reunion.
Mrs. Lincoln, the Deans' cat, strolled into the room and rubbed the young girl's leg as if to ask what was the problem.
The Deans had married a year ago and poured their life savings into Bird Song.
The Deans were on their way to their quarters in the rear of Bird Song when Fred O'Connor returned, fresh from an evening with Mrs. Worthington.
The Deans had feared the long Colorado winter might slow down frisky Fred but, if anything, the opposite occurred, due in no small measure to his young pal and junk sale cohort, Martha Boyd.
The Dawkins brothers and their wives seemed to be continually in each other's faces and the Deans wondered why they bothered to travel together.
The Deans retreated to the front porch, allowing Fred and Martha time alone, and Maria to her new chores.
Martha paused, but the Deans allowed her time to gather her thoughts and continue.
While the Deans were pleased that Martha had confided in them about her gruesome discovery, her pending exit remained an ever-present pall that hung over the remainder of the evening like a chilly fog.
Amid forced conversation, the group plodded their way through shrimp, chicken, and enchiladas to dessert—fried ice cream—but if the Deans thought this final outing would be a celebration, they were mistaken.
In her half-asleep despair, she was convinced no one but the Deans would even believe her.
The Deans both looked at him.
Dinner was a quiet affair, cooked by the returning Fred O'Connor—hamburgers, a tad over-broiled, but the Deans appreciated the effort as they were busy with Bird Song's other chores.
He was off with a jog and a wave, leaving the Deans in front of Bird Song.
Monday was cleaning day, but since smiling Maria had joined the staff, the Deans' chores were reduced considerably.
The Deans and Fred were torn between discussing Fitzgerald's blockbuster announcement and this conversation, which was becoming more interesting by the minute.
The Deans looked at one another.
He looked up as the Deans entered.
The Deans were up at the first pink of dawn, but they didn't beat Fred O'Connor, who had already perked coffee, cracked eggs, and burned toast for their morning breakfast.
Fred was dressed for the occasion—dapper suit, bow tie, and vest—while the Deans donned the grubbiest attire they could find.
While the Deans didn't like to leave Bird Song unattended, occasionally it was unavoidable.
The passageway continued beyond where Martha had ventured and the Deans continued another hundred yards but once more the passageway forked.
Only the driver's side wiper worked so the Deans were relieved of seeing what lay ahead.
It was clear he had no intention of crushing the wild flowers for the final leg of the trip, although he didn't comment on the Deans having done so earlier.
Brandon Westlake remained under his colorful cover until he was sure the Deans were with wheels.
The storm ended with the same abruptness it began just as the Deans commenced the trip down the mountain, glued to the water-soaked seats.
When Fred saw the Deans, he waved, patted his disappointed promenade partners on the arm and came over to the vehicle.
He popped out of the Jeep, leaving the Deans to unstick themselves from their seats and follow.
The Deans' budget couldn't afford a freeloader, even a pleasant, philosophical guest, especially during a holiday week when the house was full.
Billy Langstrom, behind the wheel of a red Jeep similar to but older than Deans', honked from across the street.
She pulled up a chair and the Deans took seats across from her.
He hung up before the Deans could vent their frustration.
The Deans jumped at every ring of the phone for the balance of the afternoon, but there was no further word.
"I'm leaving tonight," she said as the Deans led the well-dressed woman back to their private quarters.
The Deans met Maria's betrothed, Emilio, who spoke halting English and was as polite as his fiancée.
While the Deans discussed contacting the state once more, both agreed another phone call would be as fruitless as earlier ones.
Dean speculated that they might be concentrating too much on Fitzgerald and the Dawkinses, and not on others who had access to the Deans' quarters.
Following a host of we-should-have-known-better's, the Deans realized there was a silver lining in Pumpkin's hasty departure.
The Deans couldn't hear the conversation but assumed it was one more lady in waiting for the senior Prince Charming's favor.
While the old gent's hasty departure was out of character, his rapid exit caused the Deans no concern.
While both Deans were on their knees cleaning up the mess, the phone rang again.