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Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Ring

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 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.

Finally, Livy said, “At first, I did see my coming here as an agreement between my daddy and Reverend Case and I tried so hard to keep you from falling in love with me. Then, I tried to convince myself that I could never fall in love with you – we had nothing in common and it could never happen.” Here she paused and looked down at the ring before she looked up at Ray again. “It seems I’ve failed on both counts, Ray. Because I do love you – you are a fine and honorable man. I’m still not sure that I deserve you, but I’d like to stay and try.”

Ray’s face registered relief and he smiled softly as he took her left hand and slid the ring onto her finger. They both looked at it and smiled and then looked at each other with broader smiles, Livy giving a small laugh of delight.

Their smiles very slowly drained away as they looked into each others eyes. Ray swallowed as he took Livy’s face in his hands and kissed her gently. Livy had her hands on either side of Ray’s ribs as she returned his kiss. Ray pulled his head back and looked at Livy as he moved his hands down around her waist and he kissed her again, not so gently this time. Livy put her arms around his neck and eagerly matched Ray’s ardor. They might have gone on for some time like this, but Franklin stood and whimpered as he looked at them expectantly and wagged his tail. They turned to look at the dog and laughed before ending this exchange with an embrace. With her head resting against Ray’s chest, Livy smiled and said, “I knew that you loved me the moment I saw that dog here in the house today.”

Ray nodded and said more seriously, “I came to realize that Franklin had become a companion to you while I’m gone for long hours at a stretch. Plus, I figure you’ve always been living by somebody else’s rules and that as the woman of this house, you should maybe start making your own rules.”

“Thank you for that, Ray,” responded Livy.

Ray kissed the top of Livy’s head and said, “Can I help you unpack your bags?”

Livy said, “Sure, but I still need to go see Florrie and Rose because they’ll be waiting. I’m already a bit late – maybe I’ll unpack when I get back.”

“Promise me you’ll be careful, Livy,” implored Ray.

“I promise,” she said with a smile as she caressed his face. He gently grasped her hand and kissed her palm before taking her hand and leading her to the hallway to put on her coat.

Taking her keys and purse, she headed out the door as he held it for her. She reached up to kiss him good bye.

“Hank will be picking me up so we can go over to the beet factory for a little while,” he said as she turned to leave. “I’ll meet you back here this afternoon?”

She smiled and nodded and waved as she got into the beet box and drove off. Ray watched her for a minute before closing the door and turning to Franklin.

“You and I are two lucky men, Franklin,” he said.

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