Friday December 8, 1944
Though daylight was quickly fading, Ray Singleton was still chopping wood like there was no tomorrow. Indeed, one way or another, his life would change forever tomorrow. He split log after log, then stacked the wood up against the house. Physical labor had always helped him before...to deal with sorrow, with loneliness. To exhaust him so he could sleep through the night. Now it was helping him find the words to prevent his wife from leaving him. It wasn't often that a man held his fate in his hands, but Ray did. If he didn't open his mouth and tell Livy how he felt, she would go to Denver. And that might be the end of them, of their marriage. He did not want that to happen. It was now up to him to determine the course of his life...
While he had agreed to an arranged marriage, he'd meant every word of the vows he spoke before God. But he was realistic, too, and hoped that his wife would begin to care for him over time. He prayed that they would be able to learn love...that she would eventually love their land and home as he did. Who knew that he would end up losing his heart to Livy? He'd wanted a real family, and she and the baby were the answer to his prayers. From the moment he first laid eyes on her, he'd been awed by her beauty and grace. Then as the days flew by, they grew more comfortable with each other. Oh, it had taken time, no doubt. And as sure as he was about his own feelings, he was equally sure that Livy cared for him, too. He was aware of the little touches she added to their home, the warmth she brought to it. He also noticed the thoughtful things she did for him. Mending his clothes, attempting to make special dinners for him. Now he smiled as he crunched through the snow after evening chores. It made his heart swell knowing that when he opened the door, the house would be warm, not just from the fire in the hearth, but from his wife's shy, welcoming smile.
Funny, all her life, Livy Dunne had known what she wanted. She worked hard to excel in school, went on to college and finally graduate school to pursue her lifelong dream of being an archaeologist. Taking time away from her studies had been a necessity when her mother became ill. But her mother's death had sent Livy's life spiralling out of control. She'd given herself to a virtual stranger in an attempt to find love and comfort. Now here she was, at a loss as to what her future would be. After Abby's visit, she'd been adamant about going home to Denver to have her baby. But since she and Ray had come to terms with Edward's letter, things had been...different. There had been so many nice moments with Ray since Thanksgiving! She'd come to know him as a kind, gentle man. But in reality, he was only living up to his end of the agreement--marrying her and giving the baby his name. Well now, Livy Singleton was in a quandary. She didn't want to go to Denver...she didn't want to leave Ray and her new family. But she didn't want to stay if she couldn't have a real marriage...and how would Ray ever forgive her many mistakes? For while she had fallen in love with him, she certainly didn't deserve his love in return.
For the third time in five minutes, Livy pulled the curtain back to see if Ray was finally coming in for supper. She'd made his favorite casserole--well, Martha had helped her make it. She turned, sighed and rubbed her belly. The baby was not nearly as active lately, like it had run out of room to move! While she waited for Ray, she wandered through the house, as if memorizing everything about it. She ran her fingers over the lamps on the mantle. She was so proud of 'restoring' some of the Singleton family treasures! These had been covered in dust and soot but now looked perfect! She went upstairs, and yet again checked to make sure the quilt she'd made Ray hadn't been discovered. How she longed to give it to him herself, to see his face when he realized she'd made it for him. She paused, leaning against the doorway of Ray's room, closing her eyes and breathing in his faint scent. What would it be like...to be a real wife to him, to wake within his arms? To know he would always love and protect her? Her eyes filled with tears, thinking she might never know. She started, hearing him come in through the kitchen and hurried downstairs.....
Ray sat back in his chair, quietly observing Livy.
"Liv, you all right? You haven't taken more than a few bites of your supper..." Livy looked up from her plate.
"Hmmm? Oh, I'm sorry Ray. I guess I was just...thinking." They'd both been pretty quiet, knowing this was probably their last evening together -- for awhile....if not forever. Neither could voice their feelings, although both wanted to desperately. Ray stood up, and began clearing the table. He shushed Livy's protest.
"No, no... I'll get these. Come on, come sit, then I'll bring your tea in shortly, that be all right?" He helped her into the front room and stoked the fire, making sure she was comfortable.
While Ray washed the dishes, he went over the words he had rehearsed all afternoon. He would tell Livy how he felt...how he wanted her to stay and be his wife. He finally felt like he could say all the things he held in his heart.
Taking a deep breath, he fixed their tea carried it into the front room. He stopped and slowly shook his head. Livy was curled up on the sofa, sound asleep. He took the tea back to the kitchen and went to turn Livy's bed down. After checking the house for the night, he cradled Livy in his arms and carried her to her bed. He gently removed her slippers and loosened her dress, then pulled her covers up. He couldn't resist sitting by her bed for a few moments, just to watch her sleep. He held her hand in his, softly stroking her fingers. Finally he rose to go to his own room. At her doorway, he paused, turning for one last look, breathing in her soft scent. What would it be like? To be a real husband to her? To wake with her nestled in his arms? To always be there to love and protect her? His eyes welled with tears, thinking he might never know.
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