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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A Surprise for Livy

Livy put the pail of arrowheads on the front step as they returned from what they had called Daniel’s first archeological dig.

“I can wash those up for you after lunch, Livy” offered Ray.

“I really don’t like to wash specimens, Ray. It is better to clean them with a soft brush so they keep more of their original condition,” replied Livy. “You can help brush them though.” she said cheerfully as she reached for Daniel who had fallen asleep while Ray carried him on their way home. She smiled up at Ray, “I can’t believe he fell asleep on his first archeological dig! I don’t think this is a good sign for a future archeologist.”

“Maybe he’ll want to be like his daddy and take better to farming,” Ray teased as he brushed his hands on his pants.

Livy playfully swatted Ray with back of her hand as she went through the door he held for her. “I’ll just put Danny in his cradle here in the parlor and if you’re a lucky farmer, I’ll make you some lunch.”

“I’ll help,” said Ray as he followed her through the door.

In the kitchen they made sandwiches and enjoyed a happy lunch as they talked about the morning.

“Ray,” started Livy when there was a lull in the conversation. Ray looked at her expectantly, his eyebrows raised. “I was wondering if I could do some painting in some of the rooms here in the house. Kind of freshen up the colors a bit.”

Ray smiled. The house already had become so much more of a home in the time since Livy had come here to be his wife. He wondered if he’d even recognize it by the time she got finished. He remembered a time when he had removed so much of what reminded him of his parents and of his brother Daniel; at the same time he had tried to preserve everything else the way it had been when they’d all been alive. Now Livy had restored many of the photographs and other mementos that he’d hidden away. With her in his life, they were no longer a painful memory that heightened his loneliness to a point where he could not bear it. Now it warmed him to look at those pictures and only made him wish that they all could have known Livy and that she could have known them. He knew they’d all love her and would no doubt be impressed that Ray had found himself such a fine wife. He smiled lingered as his mind wandered.

“Ray?” Livy questioned. “Ray, did you hear me?”

“Sure Livy, whatever you want. That would be fine. It would be great,” he said. Ray felt a little guilty about where his mind had been wandering – he was thinking of the changes Livy had made to their bedroom and that naturally was leading to how they often spent their time in that bedroom. Livy had stopped that thought process before he got too carried away, but he still felt a little silly for allowing a question about paint lead to thoughts of making love to his wife.

Livy gave Ray a puzzled look to which he just smiled and shrugged. “Thank you, Ray. Some time this week, I’ll head into Wilson and talk with the men at the hardware store?” she asked.
“You bet,” he responded as he got up and brought his dishes to the sink. “I’ve got some work to do in the barn, Livy. I’ll see you at suppertime, okay?” He leaned down to kiss her and she lifted her face to meet his.

“Thanks for indulging me this morning, Ray. It felt so good to be digging again,” said Livy.

Ray smiled down at her and said. “I’d do anything to make you happy, Livy.”

“I know,” she responded as he headed for the door. “I know that.”

*********************************

At dinner time, Ray returned and was washing up in the sink. Daniel sat in his high chair while Livy finished preparations for dinner and Franklin sat next to Ray at the sink, his tail wagging vigorously.

Livy looked down at the dog and said to Ray, “He may be my daytime companion, but he is still man’s best friend, Ray. He rejoices when you walk through that door.”

“Well, Franklin and I go back a ways is all, Livy. I think he loves having a woman in the house, not to mention this here little boy.” He tickled Danny beneath his chin and Danny squealed with delight.

And their evening passed as so many did – in companionable company, sipping coffee while listening to the news on the radio after Daniel had gone to bed, Franklin sleeping at Ray’s feet. When they both grew sleepy, they walked up the stairs hand in hand, leaving Franklin to sleep on a blanket that Livy kept near the oven for him.

****************************************

The next morning Ray told Livy that he would not be home for lunch and that he’d see her at dinner time. Livy was disappointed, but knew that sometimes his work took him too far from the house to get back at lunch, so she packed a lunch for him and gave him his thermos of coffee. He kissed her tenderly, lingering a little bit after she told him she’d miss him.

Livy spent a quiet, but busy day at the house doing her chores and spending time with Daniel. Franklin followed along dutifully and Livy smiled as she noticed his restlessness at lunch time, looking for Ray to come through the door. “Sorry Franklin, Ray’s not coming for lunch – you’ll just have to be content with Danny and me,” she said as she scratched his ear.

When Ray returned at dinner time Livy had prepared a roast chicken, which Ray enjoyed a great deal. “That’s good cooking, Livy,” he said as he finished up. “You are turning out to be a fine cook, I’ll say that,” he added.

Livy sighed. “Maybe I’m coming along, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to cook like Martha. That’s one reason why I’d like to do a little painting around here Ray. Maybe feel like I can make a difference around here.”

“You make a big difference, sweetheart,” Ray told her. “You don’t know what this place was like before you got here.”

After dinner, Livy sat and wrote a letter to Abby while Ray readied Danny for bed. When he was ready, Livy took Danny upstairs while Ray tuned the radio to the news. On his way to settle on the couch, he noticed Livy’s letter on the desk. He couldn’t resist the temptation to read what she had written. Livy’s second page was on the top and it is what Ray read.

Maybe a fresh coat of paint will improve my perspective, but I continue to feel that I’m living in someone else’s house. The dishes, the furniture, and the curtains all belong to someone else. Why even Franklin whom I rescued from an outdoor existence still prefers Ray to me! I shouldn’t feel so sorry for myself, Abby. It is a good life here and Ray doesn’t deny me anything so I do realize how very blessed I am. I'm just struggling a bit right now, trying not to be the outsider still.

Ray moved sheepishly toward the couch when he heard Livy’s footsteps on the stairs. After Livy finished her letter she joined Ray on the couch where he put his arm around her and pulled her close. “I love you, Livy,” he said as he kissed the top of her head.

She rested her head on top of his shoulder and said, “I love you, too, Ray,” she responded.

*******************************************

The next morning Ray again reported that he wouldn’t be back at lunch time and might even be a late at dinner time. Livy tried to hide her disappointment, but Ray caught a glimpse of her slight frown as she began to prepare a lunch for him. He approached her from behind and put his arms about her waist and began to kiss her neck. Livy’s lunch preparations slowed and then stopped as he turned her to face him; he gently took her face in his hands and leaned down to gently kiss her, as she put her hands on Ray’s arms. As he lifted his head away from her he said, “It might be a little easier to get through a whole day without you if we had a little time to spend together back upstairs before I go, Livy.” Livy smiled and agreed that somehow it might make the day more bearable if they were to do so. Ray took her hand and led her to the stairway and up to their room.

There he slowly untied the belt to her robe and helped slide it off her shoulders. He bent to grasp the hem of her nightgown and slowly lifted it over her head. With Livy standing naked before him, the removal of his own clothes took place with great urgency and soon they were on the bed together, taking in as much of each other as they could, as if they were to be apart for a month rather than a day. Afterwards, Ray held Livy as she said, “I’m going to think of this all day as I’m missing you.”

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to think of anything else at all, Livy!” he exclaimed. They both laughed as Ray rose from the bed and put his clothes back on.

And Livy worked through the day and just as Ray had said, when she found herself missing him, she thought of their time together that morning and couldn’t stop a smile from coming up on her face.

“Well now, just what are you grinning at here all by yourself?” Livy heard someone say. She whirled around and saw that Martha had approached.

“Oh Martha, good heavens, you startled me – I, I, um, was just thinking of something funny,” she stammered in answer to Martha’s question.

“Well come on, let me in on the joke, too then,” joked Martha.

Livy blushed and looked down at her fingernails. “Oh, you wouldn’t think it was funny, it was just some silly thing,” Livy managed to get out. Changing the subject she asked, “So what brings you out here? Not that I mind, I’m here alone all day.”

“That’s why I’m here, honey. Hank said he and Ray would be back a bit late so I’m here to bring you and Danny home with me where you’ll have dinner with us and Ray can just pick you up there,” said Martha.

“Oh Martha, that would be lovely. Let me get Danny’s things together and I’ll be ready in no time.”

*******************************************

Later at Martha’s and shortly after they’d eaten dinner, they heard Ray’s truck pull up to the house. Hank hurried in and said that there was a surprise and that they needed to get Livy to sit in a chair on the front porch and that she’d need to keep her eyes closed. Livy’s eyes widened with curiosity as Hank and Martha led her toward the porch. She closed her eyes as they sat her on a chair. Ruth followed, carrying Daniel and Chester and Hank, Jr. were close behind. “Is Ray with you, Hank?” Livy asked.

“I’m not saying, Livy. You’ll find out soon enough; now keep them eyes closed real tight or you won’t get your surprise,” said Hank.

“Okay,” said Livy as she squeezed her eyes shut tight and grasped her hands in her lap. Once again she couldn’t keep from smiling.

The she heard Ray’s voice, “Eyes shut real tight, Livy? You’re not peeking now are you?” she heard him ask.

“No, Ray I’m doing everything I’ve been told to do, but I’m about to burst from curiosity!” she exclaimed.

She heard his footsteps on the porch. “Well okay then, you can go ahead and open your eyes now,” Ray said quietly.

Livy opened her eyes looking up at Ray and realized he was holding a basket. He lowered the basket so that it was on her lap. Livy realized that inside the basket was a tiny black puppy, sound asleep.

“I was hoping that she’d be a bit livelier while meeting her new mistress, but that truck ride just lulled her right to sleep,” Ray said as Livy stared into the basket.

“Oh, Ray,” she said. “Oh, Ray she is beautiful! And she’s for me?” she asked.

Ray lowered himself to put his face near the basket. “I know that you’ve been needing something for yourself that wasn’t already here when you got here, Livy and I thought you could raise her yourself,” he said. He reached in and stroked the puppy who stirred, but stayed sound asleep.

“Oh, Ray,” Livy said again. “Father never allowed us to have dogs – I don’t know the first thing about what to do.”

“Well of course I’ll help you,” he said. “But she’ll be yours and you’re going to have to give her a name.”

“I guess that’s a good place for me to start. Any suggestions?” Livy asked the rest of the group, who was looking on. The kids had begun to move closer and closer to the basket to take a look at the puppy.

“How about Midnight?” suggested Chester.

“How about Blacky?” suggested Hank, Jr.

“Those are not names for a girl dog,” said Ruth.

“Maybe not,” said Livy, “but I like their theme. How about if we name her Shadow? It kind of fits her color, don’t you think?”

“And it may fit her behavior once she falls in love with you Livy, she’ll be like your shadow,” said Ray.

“Then Shadow she is,” said Livy as she handed the basket to the boys and stood. She stepped forward as she smiled up at Ray.

“Thank you, Ray,” she said as she reached up to kiss him and put her arms around his neck. “Thank you so much for knowing how to make me so happy.”

“I love you, Livy,” he whispered in ear.

“I love you, too,” she whispered back.

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