Abby’s Visit from Livy’s Perspective
Livy looked at Abby with a look that is a mixture of acknowledgement and guilt. Livy knows that she should agree with Abby but deep in her heart she feels a mixture of emotions that she doesn’t quite know what to do with. Livy continues to sip her tea and talk to Abby but all the happiness of being with Abby is gone. Livy can’t understand why she’s uncomfortable and wants to get away to think. Livy thinks how ironic it is that finally she has Abby here to talk to and all she wants to do is get away. She’s glad now that she put Abby in Martha’s old room rather than in her room which was her first intention when Abby arrived.
Earlier in the evening, Livy had decided to put Abby in Martha’s old room rather than have Abby share her room as they would have done in the past. Livy was too ashamed to have Abby see her in a nightgown where her expanding belly and breasts would be very evident. Livy didn’t want to hear Abby’s comments about how Livy looked. Ray followed Livy and Abby upstairs to Martha’s old room carrying Abby’s bag as Livy nervously talked. Abby seemed to be in judgment of everything she saw. Ray left the room as soon as possible with an excuse of washing up.
During dinner, Ray tried to engage Abby in conversation but Abby remained cool to him. Livy tried to keep the conversation light, but was relieved, as she suspected Ray was, that dinner was over. It embarrassed Livy that Abby used her Denver society voice on Ray. It had a subtle but distinct condescension in the tone, as if speaking to someone beneath her social status and Livy tried to smooth it over with constant talk. She was so happy to see her sister and she wanted to spend time alone with her. Livy hoped Ray would go to bed early and he excused himself soon after dinner. But as he left to go upstairs, for a moment his eyes caught Livy’s and she saw a look she hadn’t seen there before…anger, controlled patience, no, it was disappointment. For a moment, it made Livy angry because she wanted to be happy because Abby was here. But it made her feel something else that Ray had never made her feel before- ashamed. She brushed it off and made tea for herself and Abby.
When Abby and Livy retired to the living room, the talk turned to life in this farming community. Abby made fun of the things she read in the paper and Livy joined in with the comment that all people talked about was the weather. Abby returned to their earlier discussion of Livy returning to Denver. Livy was surprised at first that Abby would even suggest this as Livy’s obvious pregnancy would be the talk of the church and their Denver circle. But then Abby suggested how to turn the talk in Livy’s favor, by making Ray out to be an abusive husband. Livy felt compelled to defend Ray which just irritated Abby because Abby saw Ray as just a means to an end. Abby then asked about Edward. Had Livy heard from him? Livy was surprised and shocked to here Edward’s name spoken aloud in Ray’s house, so she said quietly, “Uh no.” Then Abby had made the final statement regarding staying married to some one you don’t love. Both spoke a while longer, but Abby was ready to retire, now that she had laid out her plan. She was irritated and somewhat bewildered that Livy did not openly agree to come back to Denver with her. Abby said her goodnights, and Livy was finally able to go to her room to think.
As she walked by Ray’s room, she looked at the door crack as she always did to check on the light. It was off. It occurred to her that Ray could have heard them. Livy felt a tightening in her throat and then became angry with herself. It used to be so simple. Now, nothing was. She went into her room and changed. She waited until after she heard Abby use the bathroom and go back to her room to go down the hall herself. She began to bush her teeth and she looked at herself in the mirror. She was surprised at how bad she looked compared to Denver standards. She didn’t do her hair up anymore. She didn’t wear powder. No wonder Abby looked at Livy with distain. Her cloths were too tight. This place was ruining her. In her next thought, she thought how good she thought she looked just yesterday. The pregnancy was making her skin glow; her hair was full and curly….and Ray looked at her as if she was the most beautiful thing in the world. When he looked at her, she thought she was beautiful, expanding middle and all. When Abby looked at her, she felt substandard, like she did now. She realized that Abby had always done that but it had been the offsetting influence of her mother that made Livy feel pretty.
She finished washing her face and went back into her room. Her mind was twirling and she wanted to sort her ideas.
She turned off the light and went to sit in the rocking chair. When she had problems at the university, she would turn out the lights and go over each item of information in her mind in the comfort of the dark. She found the dark helped her apply logic. Her mother taught her this. Go over the information, or aspects of a problem, and let your sub-conscious work on it during the night. She tried to apply logic but something was stopping her brain’s ability to process the problem.
Problem: she became pregnant out-of-wedlock. Answer: Temporary marriage for societal conformity. Her intent had always been to return, even if her father had not acted like that was an option, she and Abby had discussed it before she left. Kent had promised she could move in with them if her father did not relent.
Problem: Abby wanted her to go back with her now. Why was that a problem? It was probable. No, Livy thought, it’s not because the birth of the baby in December will make it obvious when she got pregnant. No, no it was better to remain here, give birth and then return to Denver after the baby is a few months old.
Something new was nagging at the back of her mind about this scenario. It was something that Abby said this afternoon in the kitchen, “It’ll be the two of us until Kent get home. What does happen when Kent gets home? In the back of her mind, Livy knew the answer: They would want privacy and Livy and a baby would be in the way. Abby hated being alone and that was the root of her visit here. Abby was looking for a short-term solution to her loneliness without really thinking through the consequences for Livy. But had Livy thought through the consequences? There seemed to be different factors in play now but none of them seemed logical and her mind still wouldn’t let her name it. Why did she feel so uneasy? Maybe it was moving in with newlyweds.
When Livy made plans with Abby and Kent to return, none of them were really thinking about what a baby meant. The baby meant crying. Livy had begun to think of the baby in different terms than when the problem first arose. At first, the baby was just a problem, and she prayed it wasn’t real and then even after she had to acknowledge she was pregnant, she still didn’t think in terms of a living baby. She thought in terms of how it would impact her plans. Lately, her thoughts had started to turn to this real person growing inside of her.
No, no better to stay with the original plan, but maybe rethink long-term solutions. Problem with original plan: Ray, Ray, Ray. She had never counted on Ray. She had expected someone she could mildly loathe. She originally saw this as exile and she didn’t count on meeting anyone she would care about. But Ray and his family were good, kind and caring to her. She imagined taking the baby away from Ray after he had come to love it and her mind wouldn’t let her go there.
It’s not his baby, she thought. Any yet, could she say the real father of this baby would call it his? She had come to realize that Edward must be getting the letters. His silence told her logical mind what the truth really was about their relationship. Her earlier emotions wouldn’t let her believe it. But since that time she had gained new information, a new litmus test to measure Edward against—Ray. In every way, Ray's actions have shown Livy how shallow her relationship with Edward really was...how single-minded his intentions were. Ray had been more of a gentleman, more of a provider, more concerned about her welfare, more understanding of her, more of everything a woman could want. His only failing in the social book of Dunne was his occupation—beet farmer. No, Edward would not be part of this baby or her life. She had her pride and she had reached her limit with that fantasy…thanks to Ray. No, she thought, don’t think about Ray, don’t worry about Ray.
Ray stopped her mind from using cold logic. That drove her crazy. She wanted to tick off all the reasons that Ray was not her problem. After all, this isn’t her fault that she was in Ray's life. She didn’t want to come here. She did it to satisfy her father and cover her “shame.” She didn’t ask Ray to agree to this and she still couldn’t completely understand what he wanted out of this relationship in any practical sense. But Ray’s choice wasn’t practical--it was hopeful, it was in-faith and trust in something bigger than either one of them. Although Livy’s father was a minister, her practical mind didn’t believe that God bother himself with the day-to-day affairs of people. Did Ray believe this was fate? Well, she always believed her fate was elsewhere.
She couldn’t stop herself from smiling. Everything he had done had been out of these pure, if naïve, motives. He had given her a home, but he had given her more. He could have been anyone. He could have insisted on marriage rights from the first night. Livy had expected that. The last thing her father had said to her was that she must submit to her husband in all things and that this outcome was hers alone to bear. He made it clear that no one would come for her despite Abby's assurances to the contrary. Several times on the way to La Junta she had felt ill. When she excused herself to go to the bathroom at the station, she had felt sick partly from the baby, and partly from the unexpected. When she first followed Ray into this bedroom, she had expected to hear him say that this was “their room.” Instead he allowed her the dignity of her own space. He taught her to drive the beet box. He was in every action and every point a gentlemen. How could she pay back his kindness, this gift of refuge, this offer of home by having the baby here and then rip it from him after he grew to love it? She sat in the darkness a heard the clock tick.
Maybe there was a middle ground. Maybe she could leave, for Ray’s sake right before the baby was born, so he didn’t see it. This thought hurt her heart, so she put it aside. A new thought formed in her mind. She saw herself through Ray’s eyes. That look he had given her. Why did she feel guilty? She knew.
Livy then thought of sisters. She thought of Martha’s treatment of her. Surely, Martha had every right to treat Livy with polite superiority. After all, Livy was the unwed, pregnant bride that her brother saved from ruin. Yet, the Stewarts had shown her nothing but warmth and respect. A treatment she cherished as she had not known what kind of reception she would get when she came here. Yet, here was her sister treating the man who had agreed to marry her sight unseen disrespectfully in his own home.
Livy laid down and finally went to sleep. The next morning she had a new plan. She got up and started downstairs to fix breakfast. Ray was long gone. She looked in his room and smiled. His bed was made and the room tidy. In the kitchen, she found he had made extra biscuits and left coffee. Livy heard Abby moving about as Livy finished her last letter to Edward. She placed it in an envelop and finished the eggs. She greeted Abby and felt tranquil for the first time since finding out she was pregnant. She marveled at the feeling. Abby started to ask about Denver again, but Livy said she needed time to talk to Ray. Abby look incredulous and Livy, for the first time in her life, cut Abby off. “I’ve told you what I need to do. Let’s enjoy breakfast.” As Abby left, Livy gave her a letter to send to Edward. Livy knew that Abby would be relieved and glad to be a fellow conspirator. Livy told Abby she loved her and meant if with all her heart; Abby would always be her sister. As Abby drove off, Livy turned to the barn. She needed to get a barometer for how Ray would react to her new plan.
In the barn, Livy found Ray singing to himself. She stopped to listen. He mentioned the baby’s birth. Did he read her mind? She floated a balloon to get his reaction. She told him of her sister’s plan for Livy to give birth in Denver. This wasn’t really Abby’s plan, but it was close enough. She saw that look again on his face, the look she hated. He couldn’t look at her and asked where Abby was. Livy told him that she left and he couldn’t hide his amazement at the rudeness but said nothing. She knew she had hurt him, but Livy couldn’t help keeping one door still open. Livy told herself this was best for Ray…not feel too secure. She said she was going to make lunch. On her walk back to the house, she felt the full weight of making decisions for two, no three human beings now. It was no longer just about her.