"Come on in and sit in the parlor" Abby ushered them into the house. "Hello Ray, good to see you again" she extended a handshake. "Hello, Abby" as Ray shifted the bundle that is Danny in his arms so he can return Abby's handshake. "Oh! and this must be my new nephew" She went for a peek but refrained from touching the baby, "He is adorable Livy".
They all sat facing each other in the parlor. Livy sat next to Ray as she checked on Danny sleeping in Ray's arms. Their baby was fast asleep, all the commotion at Abby's didn't even faze him. Ray and Livy smile at each other. Abby clears her throat feeling a bit uncomfortable watching them interact with each other.
"So, Abby, how's Father doing?" Livy asked.
"Oh—you know--busy as ever. I try to visit him as much as I can but I haven't had the chance to talk to him much lately". Abby knew Livy asked this to see if their father knew that they were in town. The truth is, Abby visits their father often and they have afternoon tea occasionally. However, she hasn’t been able to broach this subject of Livy's visit as it has always been a sore subject to their father.
"Have you heard from Kent lately?" Livy changed the subject knowing Abby too well.
"I'm getting letters from him but it takes a while before it gets here. We are both hopeful that he'll be back here soon this year. I can't wait for him to come home." She arranges her hands properly on her lap, while she thinks about her daily anticipation of receiving such letters in the mail.
Finally after an awkward pause Abby inquired "What are your plans for today?"
"Uhm…well, we thought the ride north will take longer since we brought Danny along with us but he pretty much slept through the entire trip. I guess we will go to church a bit later for Momma and then to the cemetery tomorrow. I thought today would be a good time to visit Father, he hasn't seen Danny yet."
At this point, Abby arose to go to the kitchen. "You both must be tired from your travel, let me fix some tea and a late lunch" then she disappeared through a door leading to the kitchen.
"Ray, let's lay Danny down in the bassinet, then you can stretch a bit, you drove a long way." Livy cleared a spot on the sofa where the bassinet can be tucked without fear of falling. Ray did put his arms above him to stretch his spine. They both grinned when Livy said "Danny looks like he was the one who drove all the way to Denver".
"Let's just hope he doesn't keep us awake tonight" Ray said then he winked at Livy. Livy blushed even if they haven't been intimate that way. "Livy, I can watch over Danny if you'd like to spend time with Abby…" Ray offered.
"Well, I suppose this would be the right time, thank you Ray" Livy got up and planted a kiss on Ray before heading off to the kitchen.
As she entered the kitchen, Livy found Abby preparing sandwiches and a pot of water was about to boil on the stove. "Need any help, Abby?" Livy suggested. "I am fine, Livy, come on over, we have a lot to catch up on. I haven't heard from you for a long time."
"I know, it's just been very busy since Danny's arrival. Everything is so new and it's been a constant learning experience for me since. But I am fine, Danny's fine and so is Ray." Livy explained.
"Speaking of Ray…." Abby smoothly followed Livy's last word. "I was almost sure that you were coming to Denver to have the baby. I thought….I thought that since you gave birth early, that you just didn't have the chance to come out here. So…" Abby turned to face Livy. "…I was looking forward to spending time with you and Danny, that's his name right?" ..Livy nodded…
"I've missed you Livy, there is no shame coming back to Denver now and I have the room for you and the baby here in this house."
Livy tried to keep her composure, she didn't want to struggle with her words and after a brief silence had passed between them, Livy finally spoke. "Abby, I never really said yes about coming back." She felt torn between her sister's sadness and the strong new ties with her own new family which now ran much deeper in the months she spent away from Denver.
"Since having Danny, I realized that it's just not about me but a lot more about him. He needs a father and I want to provide him with a stable and loving family life. Please understand, Abby, that I will be depriving him of all these if I stay here."
"You can still provide all that for him here. Livy, I can take care of him and Kent will be back soon and he can provide Danny the father figure that he needs. Father is here as well, so he won't be lacking in the attention from his real family. The best part of it is, you can keep your baby happy and still pursue your dreams." Abby retorted with authority as if she's older than Livy.
"Dreams change, Abby." Livy realizes that she will never understand where she stands right now. "I still love archeology, it will always be in my blood and loving it will always remind me of Momma but it's different now that I have Danny…." She didn't know how else she can explain the changes in her outlook in life.
"Are you saying that you plan to remain married to Ray? Live in that beet farm? Give up what you studied for and abandon the adventures you planned on taking?" Suddenly it dawned on Abby. "Wait…Livy, please don't tell me you have fallen in love with Ray."
"I have." Livy smiled but she only found disappointment in Abby's face.
While in the parlor, Ray had moved to one side of the wall where many pictures frames were hanging. These had caught his attention just as he extended himself for another stretch to loosen a knot on his shoulder. He went for a closer look. They were pictures of the Dunne family. In one picture, he assumed the tall, strapping and handsome man was Reverend Dunne sitting for a family portrait. A woman sat next to him with facial features that resembled Livy. Standing behind them were Abby, a man in a uniform he imagined to be Kent and then Livy. They all looked happy, beautiful and refined. He figured the picture must have been taken right before Livy's mom became sick.
He went to look at the other pictures on the wall. There were plenty of Abby and Livy. The pictures captured their closeness, happiness and sisterly love. He smiled looking at them, thinking of Livy, how taken he was of her beauty and grace. Sadness swept over him when he saw a picture of Livy and her Momma both candidly smiling, seemingly unaware that a picture was being taken that time. He understood the bond that they both had then. Livy was more like her mother and Abby more like Rev. Dunne.
His musings were interrupted by a stirring from the bassinet. He went over to check on Danny just as Livy and Abby were coming out of the kitchen. He gently patted Danny back to sleep as Abby and Livy prepared the table with food.
While they sat at the table, Ray notices that the girls were awfully quiet, grim looks glued to their faces. It was quite awkward not knowing how to break the ice. Ray fidgeted in his seat. Finally Abby broke the silence and offered to say grace.
Livy remained quiet and so Ray felt it proper to say something to lift the heavy air hanging over the table.
"You have a lovely home" Ray gestured with his hand and not knowing how to address Abby. "Thank you" She gathered her composure and forced a smile. Abby can't think of anything but feel frustrated. She wanted her visitors to leave so she can indulge in some self pity. She still can't get over the shock of what Livy had just said in the kitchen. Why did she suddenly change her mind? She glances at Ray and thinks, he's not bad looking but a beet farmer? Livy can do better. Why did her sister choose to live a life like this? Abby thinks that her sister is settling for second best when she can have otherwise. In her book people marry to get better in life and in stature not the other way around. Where was it remiss that this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement not a permanent one?
Ray continued trying to salvage the conversation "Oh, there is a box of vegetables and fruits for you and Rev. Dunne in the back of the truck. There should be plenty to last you for a couple of weeks. I'll bring it in before we leave." He stole a glance at Livy, she didn't know about it, Ray had packed it the night before they left. Livy gave him a thankful but wry smile.
"You didn't have to, but thank you" Abby was caught off guard. Her face felt instantly hot wondering if Ray had read the thoughts that crossed her mind.
Abby finally turned to Livy and said, "I've got a couple of boxes myself upstairs Livy, you might want to take those. They are mostly your books, clothes, and personal things from our house. I took them to store here after you left." She continues "But since you are not coming back, you may want to take them with you. I'll probably need to clear up the room now and turn it into a sewing room. I have plenty of idle time to learn a project or two before Kent comes back." The sneer in her voice was obvious but she masked it well with a sweet smile.
"More tea, Ray?" She took the tea kettle and offered to refill Ray’s cup for some needed distraction.
The words had stung Livy deeply. Abby has a way of getting to her. Being the youngest, Abby tends to be manipulating and 'self-centered', she was their father's favorite and she got away with a lot of things. Since childhood, Livy adored her younger sister. Abby’s selfishness was a trait that Livy overlooked many times. She was very sad that this visit didn't turn out the way she had hoped it to be. She prayed that one day Abby will understand and that she'll be happy for her and Ray. For now, as is always the case, Livy just took it and remained quiet.
...to be continued