Livy cleaned the kitchen and waited for Ray to finish his ledger work. She really didn't know how to open this subject with Ray but her history in Denver with the ladies of her father's church told her they needed to have this discussion. Abby would be so much better at this Livy thought.
She brought Ray a cup of tea and he looked up and smiled. "Thanks"
"You're welcome" Livy walked over to the loveseat in front of the window. The window was open and a late August breeze blew in softly. "That breeze feels good," Ray said. "I think we may get rain soon. We could sure use it."
Livy noted that the one subject Ray was most comfortable talking about was the weather. In fact, it seemed to be everybody's main subject.
"That would be nice. Would you stay home if it rained?" Livy asked trying to keep a conversation going so she could turn it to her concern.
"Well, I'd be close, but I'd be workin' mostly in the barn." Ray answered. Then he looked up. He raised his eyebrows and asked, "Oh,..it's Saturday. Did you want to go somewhere Livy? I...I could stay here or we could go" Ray coughed, "to town."
"Ray that would be nice,...but tomorrow I was going with Martha to town to help with the cooking for the church fund raiser for the troops."
Ray looked a little disappointed, but then he said, "I forgot. That's good. This way you can get to know some of the other ladies of the church. Did you need the beetbox?"
"No, thank you Ray. Martha is picking me up. Livy smiled the polite smile she sometimes smiled at Ray when she didn't know what else to say."
"O.K....Good...I mean good about you getting to spend more time with other people...I know it can get lonely out here." Ray looked as if he had something else to say and was thinking about how to word it. Livy had learned that he took his time forming his thoughts, but she didn't want to get off the subject.
"Ray,...about the church ladies," Livy looked up and saw she had Ray's attention. "I...I feel that we might want to add some...some detail," Livy put so much emphasis on the word, that Ray looked like he was about to interrupt so she hurried on, "to...to our story."
Rays face showed confusion so she quickly went on. "You know, we told Mrs. Pratt that we met in Denver and I just wanted to be clear on the major details before I spent such a long time with them tomorrow. "Ray's face twitched slightly and he said, "there aren't many details, Livy, we didn't meet in Denver."
Livy looked frustrated with Ray's denseness. "I know that Ray, I mean, we," she motioned back and forth between them, "need to get our story straight about what we tell people."
Ray continued to look confused and said, "what we tell people about us?" He had a completely bewildered look on his face as he watched Livy get more exasperated.
"Yes, Ray what we tell people about how we met, the details..." Livy stated. As she looked at Ray she saw his dimple emerge on one side of his mouth. She realized then that he was teasing her. It was an absurd conversation between two strangers who happened to be married. The humor hit Livy and she laughed. When she laughed, Ray laughed that infectious laugh of his that she first heard when he taught her to drive the beet box. She realized that Ray could be a tease. She relaxed and cocked her head to the side and said, "we need to be consistent in the details we give people."
For Ray this was a non-issue. That's how it was with men. No farmer, or any man he knew, would ask for details. On the other hand, this seemed to be an urgent issue for Livy. Of course women seemed to hang much more on details he thought. He remembered the questions Martha asked him when he first told her and Hank about Reverend Case's proposal and his decision to marry Miss Dunne. Martha asked all sorts of questions about Livy that Ray had never thought to ask. He remembered Martha's frustration with him then. This must be a woman thing.
However, Ray was having fun. He liked it when Livy relaxed and let her guard down. He wanted to sit beside her on the couch, but he was afraid she'd put her guard up again. So Ray turned his chair around so that he was facing Livy and said, "OK, what's our story?"
"Well," Livy began to think hard and Ray enjoyed watching her face. "We need a reason why you would be in Denver." She looked up at Ray hopefully.
"Um, a reason I would be in Denver..." he tired to look as if he was seriously considering this and looked up at Livy and shook his head, 'uh, no, nothing comes to mind."
Livy looked exasperated, "Ray, there must be some reason...I can make up a lot of this but I need a reason for you to be there..." suddenly she brightened, "a beet farm convention!" Livy said triumphantly.
Ray laughed out loud and regretted it when he saw her face fall. "I'm sorry Livy...it's just that we don't have beet farmer conventions and if we did, all the other farmers round here would have been there too."
"Oh, that's a good point. Livy got up as if to leave, but Ray didn't want this to end. "I've got it. We have some distant cousins in Denver. I guess I could have gone to visit them." This made Livy happy so Ray continued. In spite of himself, he was starting to get into this. "I wouldn't have just gone to visit them. Everybody would know that."
"So, why would you go there Ray?" Livy asked as she sat down again. She was looking interested and sat forward on the loveseat. She was so beautiful when she smiled. Ray wanted to touch her but knew this moment would be gone if he did. Right now, he just wanted to keep this conversation going...keep her near.
"Well, it would have to be for an occasion, a funeral or ...a wedding." Livy jumped up. "Oh, yes Ray that's perfect, we meet at your cousin's wedding."
Livy was smiling and Ray wished they had met at his cousin’s wedding. But then he thought that if he had met her at a wedding, he wouldn't have had the courage to talk to her. That thought made him sad, so he stopped smiling. "What is it Ray? Won't that work?" Livy asked concerned.
"No Livy, it'll work fine."
Livy's mind was off again filling in all the details. She asked pointed questions like the names of his cousins, which child got married, did anyone here know them, Ray felt like he was a witness under cross-examination. But he like listening to Livy craft the details of their meeting.
"Ray, most people won't believe...well, that.." Ray looked at her waiting for her statement.. She was going to say no one would believe that he came up to talk to her, but she didn't want to hurt his feelings; and the truth was she was enjoying this too.
"We need a reason we met, like fate." Ray brightened and Livy felt better so Livy wanted to make this good for him. "How about we were getting punch, you know, each of us with our backs to each other, talking to other people and then we turn around and bump into each other. Ray was imagining it. "Oh, oh, we need a reason why we keep talking, Livy exclaimed, "I spill the punch on you and offer to help you get it off of your shirt!" Ray smiled and Livy darkened.
"No, no that would be too forward of me." She sat down put her elbows on her knees and placed her chin in her hands as she furrowed her brow thinking this big problem over. Ray's heart jumped. He tried not to stare at her, he was afraid of what she might read in this face and it made her uncomfortable on the few times she caught him. But she was deep in thought and he was part of the conversation so looking at her was OK. His eyes took in every detail of her face... her green eyes, her upturned nose, her freckles, her beautiful, inviting lips... Livy looked up and Ray changed his expression to seriousness, "Did you think of something Livy?" Ray asked.
"Yes, I think we should stay somewhat close to the truth," Ray's raised eyebrows which made her say quickly "oh no...I meant I thought we should say" ...she suddenly became shy.
"Say what Livy?" Ray asked. "Say, ...say we were set-up by your cousins because they thought we'd make a..., " her voice got quieter, "a good couple." Ray liked this story.
Livy continued, "We could say..., well you could say, if you were asked, that they insisted that you come to their wedding and you went because they were family and all. She frowned again, "Oh, why didn't Martha, Hank and the kids go?" Livy asked.
Ray came to the rescue, " cause that time of year, we both couldn't leave the farms unattended so they insisted I go so that I got out more!" Ray looked proud of himself as Livy was pleased with the answer.
"What time if year?" Livy asked."Whatever time they had the wedding." Ray answered."Could it be March?" Livy asked. "I guess, why?" Ray was curious.
Livy's face clouded a bit and she said, "No reason...it would work for the timeline."
Ray realized that March must have been when she met the man who...He looked at Livy and saw the moment was gone. She was remembering why she was here. Livy's guard was back up.
"Do you need me to write this down?" Livy asked. "No, Livy, I'll remember." Ray answered.
She smiled her polite smile and got up. She was almost out of the room when she stopped and said, "How did we keep in contact? Mail? Ray didn't hesitate. "No..." Ray said, "The mailman would have noticed a letter from Denver." Livy looked down at her feet. Of course in a small town like this, the postman would know if Ray got a letter from Denver.
"I know," Ray said. Livy looked at him. Ray continued, "I didn't want folks in my business, so I wrote you and went to La Junta to mail them. Everybody would believe that. And you wrote me back there at a p.o. box."
Deep into the development of this important element, Ray continued, "And, I called you from the phone box in La Junta too. He smiled. "That's where I asked you to marry me," Ray blurted out with a confidence he didn’t usually show. In his mind's eye, he saw himself doing that, being the out-going man he wished he could be. A man that would have worked to win Livy.
Ok, Ray that's good. She looked happy and they had a close moment as they looked at each other and smiled. Then suddenly, she was shy again,"Well, that covers everything. I guess the rest is history." Livy got up to leave the room. She smiled at him and took their tea cups back to the kitchen.
Ray felt sad that this exchange was over. Everytime they seemed to get along, she would pull back. This was the first meaningful conversation they'd had as a couple about being a couple...,even if it wasn't true. The only other time they had talked about their marriage was their time together before the wedding and that night at dinner when Livy asked him why he had agreed to this marriage. Livy had seemed unhappy with his response then.
Livy slowly walked back into the room. She hesitated and then said, "Ray, thank you...thank you for..." she waved he hand and said with a sad smile, "everything." "You're welcome, Livy." He wanted to say more but she turned and left.
That night as Livy laid in her bed, she thought about the story. It wasn't too bad. She thought about how fun Ray could be. He was slowly getting less shy around her. She also noted that she liked his voice and his laugh. As she drifted off, she allowed herself to imagine that she did meet Ray at a wedding, would she have been drawn to him? What if someone had set them up on a blind-date? She tried to imagine Ray in a situation like that and laughed to herself realizing how close to the truth it was.
"I'm just being stupid," she thought as she drifted off to sleep. That night she dreamed about coming out on the train to marry the man she met in Denver, the man who had asked her to marry him over the phone because he couldn't leave his farm. She dreamed about his letters, how this quiet man was so passionate in his written words that she couldn't help falling in love with him from afar. She dreamed that she read them over and over on the train and when she stepped off the platform, Ray swept her into his arms and kissed her passionately.
That night Ray dreamed about how he woed the woman of his dreams. He saw Livy as he thought she would have looked at the wedding. He fell in love at first sight. He was charming. He said all the right things and he could see she liked him. She took him to the train coming back to La Junta and they promised they would write. He wrote the words of his heart and won her. He saw her get off the tain and swept her into his arms and kissed her. He saw their wedding with all his family and friends. He saw their wedding night. He dreamed in detail of things he had not yet dared to hope for.
The next morning, Ray woke with the hope of a real marriage someday, like he had dreamed of last night.
Livy woke with a smile and then bolted up with alarm when she thought of her dream. She renewed her plan to stay distant to Ray and leave this farm. I'm just lonely she thought as she got up to get ready to go to town with Martha.
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