After that fateful day that ended with Ray storming out of the house in the early hours of the morning, Ray had been having a difficult time catching up with sleep. It seems that kissing Livy for that first and only time only created more questions than answers. The kiss lingered on in his mind. Since that morning, they’ve avoided each other, no - he had avoided Livy. He didn’t know how else he could face or approach her. She couldn’t answer his question. Ray thought what it meant when Livy didn’t stop him from storming out of the house.
Did that mean she had absolutely nothing to like about him?
In the last few months, he had sensed that she was finally coming around to being married to him. Those nights when he would come home to candlelight dinners, a house that’s become cozy instead of cold, a beautiful and inviting smile that greats him when he gets home.
Ray wondered, had she deceived him? Did she do all these just to briefly patch a huge hole in her life?
And now that she received the letter….Ray groaned.
He felt sick to his stomach. It’s the reason why he couldn’t sleep. He is tired of thinking of it because when he gets to this point, it cuts him even deeper. He didn’t want to believe it. It’s the reason why he feels it’s now a dead end. It had hurt him that she had done something behind his back.
He tossed some more and turned to his other side when he hears a sound. Ray turns on his lamp. He strains to listen for more. A pained moan -- Livy.
He jumps out of his bed and grabs his robe from behind the door. He stands in front of Livy’s closed door. He waits for the sound. He hears her crying. He reaches for the knob and then he stops. Should he knock?
It’s not the first time, it’s been a few days, like a deja vu, he had stood at Livy’s door. He’s heard her crying the last few nights. She would stop and he would go back to bed. It takes him more than a moment to fight thoughts in his mind, arguing the cause of her distress. By the time he reaches out to turn that knob, the crying would have stopped. His mind would end the argument and conclude that she’s crying for Edward and her exile on this farm. Ray would turn on his heels and head back to his room.
But this time she isn’t just crying but saying something…what was it? He slowly opens her door and finds her in bed. Her back turned to him. He just stands there, waiting for her to turn around. She didn’t. Ray realizes she was crying and talking in her sleep.
“Momma?” Ray hears Livy whimper. Her hands in her mouth in an attempt to stifle the sound.
“Livy? Livy” Ray called out to her to wake her up. Livy sits up in bed, utterly confused.
He struggles to focus on Livy’s face but the moonlight that streamed through the curtained window only produced more shadows. Ray steps in and turns on her bedside lamp surprised that he hadn’t thought she was crying through her sleep. He sits at the edge of the bed facing her.
“It’s all right” is all that Ray could say. He wanted but restrains himself from caressing her face and wiping those tears from her eyes.
Ray is momentarily distracted by the unkempt hair, the bulging belly and breasts that shows more through her nightgown and the face that is looking luminous from her crying. All these took his breath away. To Ray, Livy never looked more beautiful than tonight
“What happened?” Livy asked as she tries to fix herself.
“Calling out. Calling out for your momma” Ray tells her.
What’s wrong Liv? Please just talk to me, I worry when I see you like this. What can I do? How I wish I can just take your pain and embrace it away…
And for some strange coincidence Livy seemed to have read his mind.
“After Mama died, I was so lonely. I gave my life away, just to be held ... by a
stranger……. How could I do that?” She blurts out in between tears.
The words had cut through his being. His mind instantly directed the reference to Edward. It reminded him of the letter and the argument that ensued. All these combined together stung Ray like a raw wound. He had been praying for forbearance that his jealousy does not overcome him. He can’t comprehend his feelings since the letter arrived, he can’t bear the thought of losing Livy.
I am here, yet you don’t see. All that has happened, you have regretted because it had led you here.
Ray is helpless, his emotions are overcoming him. He rubs his forehead with this hand, leans over and turns off the
light. He starts to leave the room. Livy stops him.
“Ray…You are such a good…” Livy fought to form the words she wanted to say.
And now you can’t even say I am your husband.
“Thank you-- Thank you” She continues.
Ray nods at Livy. It took an effort not to blurt what he just thought. He purses his lips and leaves the room.
Livy continues to cry in the bedroom and that stops Ray in his tracks as he hears her say,
“I’m so sorry” it was more like a whisper to herself between her sobs.
Ray shakes his head and rested his back on the outside wall of Livy’s room. He heaves a big sigh. He crosses his arms on his chest and tries to think above the sound of Livy’s sorrow. Inspite of it all, he cannot abandon Livy. She has occupied his heart, mind and soul all these months. He very well knows she feels trapped in this farm. His heart sinks thinking that one day she will leave him, but what can he do to stop that from happening? He can’t bear to hear her cry and see her sad. He wishes she could see how much he loves her.
Ray slowly moves towards Livy’s door again. He finds Livy still sitting up, her hands on her face, she hadn’t seen him at the door. He walks over and sits next to her, he hesitates to make further movements. Livy wipes her tears as she felt the weight of him on the mattress.
“Livy--” he doesn’t know what else to do but as soon as he lifts his hands in an attempt to pat her back, Livy had closed the distance between them. Ray’s arms went around her as he pulled her closer to him in a comforting embrace.
“It’s all right, Livy” Ray was at a loss for any other soothing words. She was so soft and vulnerable that Ray was in pain not knowing how to make her feel better.
“Ray-- I am so sorry” she starts to wail again. “Please forgive me for putting you through this. You have been so kind to me and all I’ve been doing is give you grief.”
“Ssssshhh, it’s okay Livy. You don’t have to say sorry. Please stop crying, it’s not good for the baby” Ray said soothingly and he started to rock her in his arms. “You should get back to sleep, you need your rest”. He smoothes her hair and he looks down and wipes tears from her cheeks.
They sat there swaying in his embrace. In time, Livy had calmed down. Ray takes a peek at Livy and notices that her eyelids were getting heavy. He tries to break off so he can put her to bed but instead her hands went up to his chest, restraining him. “Ray, --- can you stay here at least till I fall asleep?” Livy’s voice was trailing off.
“Sure, Livy” he had no other choice but to lean on the headboard as Livy found a cozy spot in his arms. He brought his leg up and straightened them up on the bed. He rubbed her back until she fell in a deep slumber.
Then as he tried to figure out a way to slowly extricate himself from her, he felt a kick on his hips. It had come from Livy’s belly. Ray held his breath--then there it was again. It caught him in total shock. Instinctively, his hand had ventured to the spot but he stopped short, reluctant to touch her there without permission. Instead he reached out and held Livy’s hand that was on his chest and he smiled. That’s our baby, he wanted to say to Livy but she was oblivious to the movements in her body. She must be really tired. Ray held her tight. He savored her sweet smell and the softness of her skin until he himself succumbed to the call of a much needed sleep.
Livy woke up to the sound of Ray’s drawn out breathing. She had pinned his arm down under her neck and she opened her eyes to the sight of Ray’s face next to hers. His other arm was languorously resting on her just above her breasts. She dare not move. She realized that she hadn’t seen him this close. Why hadn’t she noticed that he’s got long and thick lashes? She gulps and wondered if he is awake and watching her through those partially opened eyelids. His breathing hasn’t changed, Livy felt free to explore. She can see the faint lines on his forehead that reminds her of how they would furrow whenever he arches those well shaped brows. She had not noticed that his hair had grown a bit long and that now it showed that he had curls. Her eyes traced the shape of his ears, down to his neck and then to his arms. He is lean but muscular quite obviously brought about by his farm labor. Even with the weight of his arms on her, Livy felt tenderness and warmth. His robe and his union suit’s button had come undone, showing some skin below the neck and indicating the shape of his chest. He looks plain from afar but certainly not when up close. Why hadn’t she noticed, Livy wondered.
Ray stirred to exhale a sigh. His lips slightly parting as his tongue fleetingly lunged to wet his lips then it was gone. Livy gazes at Ray’s lips. There are depressions on the sides of it. This she is familiar with and had observed before. She had first seen, though briefly, his dimples at the parlor. Livy’s attention is now transfixed. She touches her lips and recalled his kiss. Her finger moves across to Ray’s lips, she hesitates but could not refrain from touching it. She can feel the warmth of his breath on her skin. She traces his lower lip and wonders how it feels for him to kiss her again in a much different light and circumstance.
Then she sees that Ray’s eyes had languidly opened. She had instantly retracted her finger and stared into his eyes. It took him a good while to fully regain full consciousness. He took his time, like waking up to someone he’s so used to sleeping at night.
As Ray opened his eyes, he saw Livy staring at him. Her eyes wide like a deer caught in headlights.
“Hi--- Good morning” Livy tried to wipe the guilty look off her face and hoped that her cheeks won’t turn red. She smiled.
“H--Hi—“ Ray finally remembered that he’s still in bed with Livy. Panic overcomes him and he tries to free himself so he can sit up. “Sorry, I guess I just fell asleep here”.
He had taken his arm away from Livy’s chest and was about to sit up when he realizes that his other arm is still beneath Livy.
“I think it was my fault, Ray” Livy said as she held her head up so Ray can move his arm.
Shyness overwhelms both of them and they fell silent.
“Thank you for staying with me through the night, Ray. I hope that you were able to get some sleep though.” Livy hoped that he wasn’t aware of the time she studied him in his sleep.
Ray didn’t say anything but just nodded. He didn’t know what else to say but instead ran his fingers through his hair out of nervousness. “I think I overslept, I’d best get on and tend the farm. Are you feeling better Livy?”
“Yes—yes, I am.” Livy nodded to assure him.
Ray half smiles and leaves. Livy sees a dimple shyly peak out of his cheek.