Chapter 1 Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 23, 1944
Full and content after their delicious dinner, Hank and Ray settled down in the Stewart living room. Ruth was busy in the kitchen finishing the dishes, the boys were playing a game on the floor, and the radio was low. Martha had taken Livy upstairs, insisting she take a short nap. She thought Livy looked unusually tired, and remembered only too well how fatigued you could feel at this stage of pregnancy. Hank dozed off and Ray, his long legs stretched out towards the fire, was thinking about the events of the last couple days.
He thought about what happened when he had given Livy the letter. He had been so angry and hurt to know that Livy had written Edward. Not only that, he felt betrayed that she had not informed him of her marriage. Ray didn't realize that Livy was so unhappy being with him and living on the farm. Was there nothing she liked about him? He felt they had made some progress, and now this letter threatened to destroy the fragile relationship he had been trying to build with Livy. He was sorry about the harsh words they had exchanged yesterday, but he did not regret kissing her. He chewed his lip. He didn't know what to do now. For months, he had tried to show her how he felt about her, that he wanted her in his life. Last night he realized how upset Livy was, having that terrible nightmare. He was glad that he'd been able to comfort her, calm her, and finally get her back to sleep.
Then this morning while her pies were baking, she asked Ray if they could talk. She'd sat at the kitchen table, her hands folded in her lap, rarely looking up at him. She spoke quietly, without that spark she'd had since the first moment he met her. She looked resigned, defeated as she told Ray the whole story...why she had written to Edward and when she had stopped. She also told him what Edward's response had been, and Ray could see the pain and embarrassment this caused her. She asked if he had any questions, and Ray could only shake his head. He noted how pale she was, the shadows under her eyes. It took everything in him to sit and listen to her confession, hurting for her. And he was angry that Edward would dare insinuate that Livy had been promiscuous--what kind of man refused to acknowledge his child?
After she finished, he wanted to find the words to make her feel better. Most of all he wanted to gather her in his arms and hold her, telling her he would make everything all right. But he knew Livy better now, and that she would have to come to that realization on her own. Anything he said to her would only make her feel like he pitied her, that he felt obligated to honor their marriage agreement. The air hung heavy between them, but neither spoke of Edward or the letter again. Ray simply got up, squeezed her shoulders, and fixed her some tea. She rubbed her forehead and seemed relieved that finally, everything was out in the open.
Ray was brought back to the present when he saw Martha coming downstairs. She caught his eye, and motioned for him to join her in the parlor. She was twisting her hands in her lap as Ray sat across from her. He reached over to still her fidgeting.
"Sis? What is it?"
"Ray...I don't want to interfere. But, well, Livy came to see me last night. She was so upset. In fact, we sat right here and talked. She...she told me about the letter." Ray leaned forward in his seat, hands clasped between his knees, and sighed.
"It's ok, sis--she told me everything this morning." Martha let out the breath she had been holding.
"Oh, I am so glad...but what--?"
"I don't know, I don't know what she's gonna do. She's been saying she's going to Denver, to deliver our baby. But...I'm afraid if she does, she'll never come back. I don't think I can stand it if she leaves me." Martha reached over to pat Ray's arm.
"All you can do is show Livy how you feel. Have you told her that you love her?" Ray looked up in surprise, his mouth working, but unable to speak. Martha smiled ruefully.
"I thought as much! Ray, you've done all kinds of things for Livy, but all women want to be reassured of love, need to hear the words. Especially in Livy's case. She's been hurt, betrayed by the people who should have cared most for her. She's bound to be afraid to trust, afraid to give you her heart." Ray nodded. He knew Martha was right, he was just so frustrated! They continued to talk for a bit. After Livy came down from her nap, they stayed long enough for dessert and then headed home to their farm.
As he drove down the road, Ray stole quick glances at Livy. Her face was still flushed from sleep, and she stared out her window, into the night.
"You warm enough? I don't want you to get chilled, I can--"
"No, Ray, I'm fine....", never looking away from the glass.
As soon as they got back home, Livy said goodnight and went upstairs. Ray banked the fires, then sat at his desk, looking over the books. But it was useless, he couldn't concentrate. He thought back over his talk with Martha. He loved Livy with all his heart, and knew that God meant her to be his wife and mother of his children. He decided then and there that he would do everything he could to make her see that this was where she belonged.
The Friday after Thanksgiving dawned clear and cold. This was the slowest season on the farm, fields were dormant, and the few animals that Ray kept required little attention. Livy had been lost in her book, and it wasn't till late afternoon that she realized Ray had spent most of the day outside. She was a little puzzled, but after supper it became apparent what he had been up to.
Livy had just finished the dishes when she heard something outside. Leaning over the sink, she peered out the window into the dusk just as Ray pulled up to the house. She let out a squeal, quickly untying her apron when she saw what was waiting in the yard! Ray came through the door, knocking snow off his boots, a grin on his face.
"Come on, Liv! Let's go for a sleigh ride!" She laughed, going to get her coat, hat and gloves.
"Hold on, now..." Ray chuckled at her impatience when he insisted on bundling her into one of his heavy coats. As he helped her up into the sleigh, the horses were pawing the ground, their breath coming in soft, steamy snorts. They were anxious to go, and Livy was so excited! The horses took off at a trot, the bells on their harnesses jingling. It seemed like the sleigh was weightless as the runners glided over the snow, and the full moon made the night magical.
Ray reached across Livy and tucked a blanket closer around her legs. He wrapped his arm around her, and drawing her close, took the reins in hand again.
"Hey there, we can't have you getting cold!" His heart skipped, seeing her shining eyes and delighted smile, knowing he had made her happy.
"Oh, Ray, thank you for doing this! It's beautiful out tonight!"
"I thought you'd enjoy it--it's kind of a tradition--daddy'd always take mama out for a ride to celebrate the first snow of the season." As they crossed over the fields, Ray leaned closer to make comments now and then.
"See those lights over there? That's the Cooper place. Hard to believe we can see it from here, but it being so clear and all...And there? That's the lumberyard way out on Chestnut Road...." He even pointed out some of the constellations in the sky. Livy was just content to be cuddled safe and warm beside him as they continued their ride.
When they got back, Ray lifted her from the sleigh and saw her safely into the house before taking care of the rig. By the time he was finished getting the animals settled for the night, Livy had changed into her soft flannel gown and robe. She was just getting mugs out of the cupboard when Ray came back inside the kitchen. He sniffed the air when he hung up his coat, smiling at her as he rolled his sleeves to wash up.
"Mmm...I was thinking that some hot cocoa would hit the spot right now!"
"Well, I was thinking that was probably what your mama would do!" She turned from the stove to smile back at him. They took their cocoa into the living room, and sat side by side on the sofa. After a spell, Ray took Livy's mug from her and set it on the table beside him.
"Cm'ere...." He gently pulled her towards him, turning her slightly so she could stretch out across his lap.
"This seemed to help last night, and if it keeps you relaxed, we oughtta make it a habit, right?" She gave a low murmur of relief as he began to gently rub her back. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to slip her hand into his, resting her head in the crook of his arm. For the longest time, neither of them spoke, content just to be together in front of the fire. As they watched the logs crackle and hiss, there were sparks of hope flaring in two hearts.
to be continued...
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