Ray sat quietly in the room, his elbows resting on his knees and his head down. The room was warm from the fires he had built there in the parlor and across the hall in the dining room - keeping busy while he waited for Livy to come downstairs.
Livy entered the room from the hallway and softly called, "Ray?"
Ray raised his head and stood as she entered.
Livy continued, "I have to go say good bye to the girls."
Ray nodded as Franklin whimpered from his spot in front of the fire. Ray and Livy both looked at Franklin as Ray noted, "It's all right, he can stay if he wants. It's awful cold."
Livy gave a very slight smile as they both paused before Ray began, "When you come out here, I know you saw this as an agreement between your daddy and Reverend Case; marrying wasn't your idea."
Ray paused again and then continued, "I know you may have your mind set on leaving but I can't let you go without telling you how I feel." He paused, struggling to get the words out. "I've fallen in love with you.....and I love that baby. For me you're the best thing that's ever happened. Livy, you are a fine and talented woman. You're a pitiful cook, but that doesn't matter, I can do the cooking. I know you had your heart set on going to faraway places, but there's a good bit of history right here in Otero County. If you like Indian canyons and dugouts, I'll help you find them. You can dig around all you want." He paused as he lowered his head and then said, "I sound like I'm trying to sell you something."
Ray pulled something small from his pocket. Livy stared at it as he slowly moved toward her and stopped when he stood before her. She realized that it was a ring.
Ray hesitated and wiped his upper lip before he was able to continue.
"That day when the preacher married us I forgot the ring." He swallowed as he held the ring toward her and continued, "I have one now."
Livy held her fingers to her lips and then touched her forehead as she struggled to hold back tears. "Ray, the truth is I don't know if I deserve you. How do you know this could work?"
Ray hesitated as he looked Livy in the eye. "I know because someday you're gonna forgive yourself," he answered.
Livy looked into Ray's eyes as her mind was a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts. The events of the past year raced before her as she stood before this man who had been such a part of her life for the past several months. He was the man who had brought her much comfort during a painful time and who had patiently loved her and her baby, without judgement. Even now he waited patiently for her to collect her thoughts.
Livy's eyes filled with tears as her mind continued its tumultuous journey back and forth between staying there with Ray and returning to Denver. Her hand went to her mouth as she began to cry. Ray reached out and put his hands on her shoulders; at his touch she began to cry harder and she raised her eyes to his as she slowly shook her head.
"Ray," she started. "I need more time, this is too much - I don't know what to do, I don't know what to think. I've hurt you already and don't want to hurt you anymore."
Ray's hands dropped to his sides and he lowered his head nodding slowly.
"Oh Ray, as it gets closer, the thought of giving birth outside a hospital is terrifying to me. Where I was raised, everyone delivers at the hospital and I'm scared to do otherwise - I think I need to go back to Denver and have this baby and have some time to think."
Ray slowly started to return the ring to his pocket. Livy's hand reached out and stopped his. "If I wear your ring, a part of you will be with me - with the baby and me," she said softly.
Ray looked at her for a long moment. "And what does that mean, Livy?"
"I don't know, Ray. My feelings for you are so complicated and I am so confused about what to do. I just know I can't make a decision about the rest of my life - your life - right here on the spot. Please, please just give me a little more time."
Ray swallowed as Livy noted the deflated look on his face. He raised her left hand and slowly slid the ring on her finger as he said softly, "I'd do anything to have you come back home after the baby is born." He raised her hand slowly to his lips and kissed it gently.
"I know that, Ray" walking out that door is going to be very hard for me, but I can't have any lingering doubts before we go forward; you deserve so much more than that."
He again slowly nodded and moved past her to the stairs. "I'll get your bags and take you to the train. We can stop and see the girls on the way."
Two days later Livy awoke to the sound of noise and wondered for a moment where she was. She realized she was in Denver, in Abby's guest room and the sounds were the sounds of the city. She lay in bed for a while and wondered about Ruth. Her school play was that night - the Christmas pageant - and Ruth was to play the part of Mary. Livy's heart ached as she thought of Ruth's disappointment that Aunt Livy wouldn't be there. Livy felt no small amount of guilt about disappointing Ruth and felt disappointed for herself that she wouldn't be there among the people of Wilson who would no doubt turn out to celebrate the Christmas season. There would be a happy commotion no doubt.
She thought of Martha and Hank and how they would beam with pride as they held hands in the audience. Chester and Hank, Jr. would pretend not to be interested but would no doubt pay close attention.
Ray would be there. Livy thought about the smiles they might have exchanged throughout the play and the pride they both would have shared in Ruth. She looked at the ring on her finger. "What am I doing here?" she asked herself as she sighed and slowly heaved herself from the bed. She put on her robe and slippers and walked to the window. She looked out over the city streets, covered with dirty snow and ice. Her mind went to the soft, white blankets of snow that covered the fields of Ray's farm and the remarkable quiet as she would step out on the porch in the morning. The honking of a car horn and a distant siren brought her back to the urban scene below. "What am I doing here?" she asked again and went down to find Abby.
As it grew dark, Ray drove toward the school in Wilson, trying to listen to the latest war news on the radio, but not able to pay much attention. He looked over at the empty seat and imagined that Livy was sitting there beside him. He imagined that they would both smile as they looked at the ring on her finger. He supposed that Abby had gotten tickets to a concert or a play in Denver, one with real musicians and actors. She'd have a lot better time there than going to the children's play at the school, there is no way they could compete with that. He hoped that Abby would know enough know enough to not let Livy get over tired. Dr. McCutcheon had reminded them both of that at Livy's last appointment in town.
"Why isn't she here?" Ray asked himself as he slid the beet box into a parking place and headed into the school.
Livy's water broke the next morning just after she got out of bed. She called down the stairs to Abby who came to the bottom of the stairs and looked up with panic in her eyes."Should I call the doctor?" she shouted.
"Yes!" Livy called back as she clutched her abdomen and leaned over to handle a strong contraction. "Hurry, Abby," she whimpered, but Abby had already run back to the kitchen to grab the phone. Livy walked bent over to the bed and lay down on her side. She moaned and breathed a huge sigh as the contraction subsided. "Oh, my gosh," she thought to herself. "It's happening; it's happening."
A few minutes later, Abby dashed into the room and looked down with alarm at Livy moaning on the bed and at the puddle in the middle of the floor. "Oh!" she cried. "Oh, dear!" Livy looked over at Abby. "Did you call the doctor?" she asked.
"Yes. We're to head directly to the hospital Livy. We should get you dressed," said Abby haltingly.
As Abby grabbed a dress from Livy's closet she then started to pull nylons from the drawer and some heels that were next to the dresser. Livy looked at Abby's selection. "Oh Abby, just some slacks, please!" she managed to get out before another contraction started.
"Oh, okay," said Abby. Her hands shook as she got the slacks for Livy.
Livy thought of her mother and wished that she were with them now. She thought then of Martha and what Martha would be doing for her if she were with them now. She probably would not be picking out hose and heels. Livy knew Abby was doing her best, but Livy so wished she had someone with experience here.
Abby brushed Livy's hair and they headed down the stairs and out to Abby's car, which would take them to Denver Hospital.
To Be Continued...
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