Just This Side of Tomorrow - Part 4
This is my first time posting on my own so please be patient with me. I'm going to click Publish Post now and I don't even know where this will show up - hope I did this right.
Here goes! AHHH
Just This Side of Tomorrow – Part Four
By Script Girl
Livy stands in the queue, waiting for her turn at the counter. The man in front of her is taking forever. Squinting slightly, she tries to read the postmark on the corner of the large package sitting directly behind the Postmaster. That’s got to be it.
Finally, it’s her turn.
“Hello, can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m Livy Singleton. I believe you have a package for me.” She points at the only large box on the back table.
The postmaster grabs hold of the arm of his glasses and squints at her, his face moving in closer.
“Ah, yes yes yes Mrs. Singleton.” Wagging his finger, he lifts envelopes, bends down below his counter and starts heading towards the back room.
“Um – Sir – I..”
“Singelton, Singleton, Singleton…let’s see, now I know I…”
Livy points again at the box right behind him. He turns and spots it on the table. Bending over, he reads the label, enunciating loudly to the room at large.
“O-LIV-ia? Olivia Singleton?”
Livy nods. “Yes, that’s me.”
“Yes, it’s from Denver.”
The postmaster holds out a clipboard. “Please sign here.”
He winks at the lady in the line behind Livy. “First Class.” he half-whispers, feeling the need to elaborate to all. Livy signs and picks up the box.
Stepping out onto the sidewalk, she sees Ray coming down the street towards the truck. He jogs over.
“I got it,” He takes the box from her. “Why didn’t you wait?” He puts it in the back.
“It’s not heavy.”
Livy lets herself into the passenger door, closing it behind her. A thought suddenly occurs to her.
“Oh, Ray, should have it up front? Don’t you think - just encase?”
Picking it back up, he jogs around to her side again. He passes it through her open window, placing it squarely on her lap.
He crosses his arms on the inside edge of the window, one on top of the other. Resting his chin on his wrist, his face is about six inches from hers.
“Hi.” He says, smiling.
“Hi.” She giggles.
Her hand squeezes his. After a moment he walks back around the truck and gets in.
“Did you get the order in before the deadline?”
Ray shakes his head no. Livy looks alarmed.
“I’m not sure what they’re up to over there.”
“What do you mean?”
“See, they don’t have the actual packets. They have a seed catalogue. You have to order the seeds and they come all the way from California. It’s not like planting cabbage or beets. I guess they keep that stuff on hand all the time.”
“Oh.” Livy answers, disappointed.
Ruth has chosen shades of purple as her accent colour for the wedding. Giving out party favours is all the rage with young brides nowadays, but finding something purple makes it challenging. Handing out a bag of magenta jelly beans to each guest just wouldn’t do, after all. Ruth’s in a tizzy over it. Livy came up with the idea of giving packets of French lavender seeds and wanted it to be a surprise.
“Sorry. I didn’t know.” Ray’s chin flinches.
“Thank you for trying. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” She stares straight ahead, her eyebrows pinched in thought. “Oh well, we’ll think of something.”
Ray glances over, confident that she will.
Danny clears the supper plates as Livy brings a pan of blondies to the table. Ray cuts them into squares. Dishing out a plate for Danny, he raises his eyebrows at Livy. She shakes her head no.
“I’m not feeling well. I might just excuse myself if no one minds.”
“Are you okay, Mama?”
She smiles at Danny “Yes, baby, of course. Just a bit tired is all.”
“You sure?” Ray asks. Livy nods at him.
“We’ll take care of the clean-up tonight, right Sport?”
Danny wags his head, his mouth already full of golden goop.
Livy heads upstairs to the bathroom. She stands with her hands on the edge of the sink, supporting herself. Taking a few deep breaths, she runs the cold water and splashes it on her face.
There hadn’t been any nausea with Daniel at all. Maybe she wasn’t pregnant; could it be that she’s just ill? Her heart sinks at the thought. They had been trying since Danny was two, figuring it was smart to space things out like that. Two years wasted, as it turned out. Splashing her face again, Livy dries off with a towel.
She’s been living with this for almost seven weeks, afraid to go and have her hopes dashed yet again. After so many trips to the doctor, Ray waiting patiently, his face falling when he could see in her eyes that it was no - this time she’d made the appointment without telling him.
Ray slips into bed beside her. She opens her eyes, turning towards the window. The sky outside is dark. Slices of moonlight beam through the partially closed shutters.
“It’s late. You’re going to be exhausted tomorrow.”
“I was reading downstairs. I fell asleep.”
“You could have read up here.”
“I wanted you to doze off first. (Sighing) A lot of good that did.”
“I can’t really sleep without you, Ray. You know that.”
Ray puts his arm around her, pulling her close to him. He scratches his chin on the top of her head. Pulling the covers up to his shoulder, her face is almost completely covered.
“Sorry.” He scooches down in the bed, kissing the base of her neck.
“Mmmmm.” Her voice is gravelly, far away.
“You’ve been working so hard on this wedding.”
“Are you overdoing it?”
She lifts her head, worried.
“You think I’m trying to take over?”
“No, gosh no - nothing like that. You seem tired is all. You’re doing so much. The fancy handwriting on the invitations, the tablecloths… I’m worried.”
“I’m fine. I’m enjoying myself.”
Ray snuggles back down. After a moment Livy’s breathing deepens again.
“Sorry, I just…”
“I was just wondering. Do you ever wish we’d, you know, we were normal?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean our story. Us. Do you wish you’d had a big ol’ regular wedding?”
Livy chuckles at the thought. “Nope”
Livy sighs, turning onto her back. He leans up on his elbow, supporting his head in his hand. He waits for her to answer. Pale moonlight illuminates her face.
“Mama, Denver, Abby. So many things, really.”
She turns her face towards him.
“I wasn’t ready. I could never have...”
“I always pictured it... Father’s church – flowers in my hair – and a tea social after in Mama’s garden - with Tommy Dorsey on the gramophone.” Livy laughs.
Ray lies back on the pillow, his fist on his forehead.
“But, you had none of that.”
“Thank goodness. Can you see the Reverend and Mrs. Case cutting a rug to Tangerine?”
She laughs but Ray stays quiet. He stares at the ceiling, unconvinced. Livy props her head on her elbow now, her face just inches from his.
“I think you’re forgetting something.”
Ray looks over at her, waiting.
“It wasn’t the wedding I’d dreamed of, but the marriage is so much more than I would ever have let myself hope for.”
Ray wraps his arms around her back, pulling her over, on top of him.
“I thank God every day for bringing me here, to you, Ray.”
She looks down into his eyes, kissing his lips.
Rolling over, he’s on top of her now. He lifts her arms up over her head, gently taking hold of her wrists with one hand. Lowering his other arm, he wipes her hair from her face with his thumb. Looking into her eyes, he presses his mouth down onto hers.
Livy sits in the office, her feet dangling from the gurney. Dr. McCutcheon enters. He slides the stool on wheels over, sitting in front of her.
“Livy, what can I say? It’s good news this time.”
Livy’s face crumbles as she bows her head. It’s bittersweet without Ray here to share it.
Dr. McCutcheon looks alarmed for a second.
“Oh, no. I’m thrilled. It’s just, I wish… Ray, you know.”
He nods his head at her, fully comprehending. It hits her suddenly and she laughs. Excited, she realized this gives her time to tell him herself, in her own special way.
“You won’t say anything until I have?”
“Of course not.” His trustworthy eyebrows reassure her.
“Come back in two weeks for a check up,” He gives his desk calendar a quick once over.
“How about Friday the 23rd?”
Livy laughs. “This is going to sound crazy, after all this time, but the next day is our neice’s wedding. I’d like to wait until after.”
“I understand.” He answers.
They bid each other goodbye and Livy heads back out to the beet box. Starting the engine, she taps on the gas gauge. There’s almost a full tank - lots for the ride home. She checks her wristwatch. Even with the one stop she has to make, she still has plenty of daylight left.
Livy pulls the truck in on a slant, parking in front of the Dry Goods Mercantile. Picking up her pocketbook from the seat beside her, she steps out and walks into the shop.
“Livy, how are you my dear?”
“I’m well, Kitty, and you?”
“Right as rain. What can I get you today?”
“I’d like to try making candles. Have you got what I need?”
“Sure do.” Kitty begins assembling all the necessities on the counter. Blocks of paraffin, bee’s wax, a jug of lye, and a spool of string.
“Have you got a cauldron?”
“I do - a copper one - will that work?”
“Let’s find out.” Kitty picks a book off the spinning rack; Candle Making for Beginners. Flipping to the index, she turns to the page on pots.
“There’s nothing about the type of pot. It does say, though, to be sure you do this outside. The paraffin is flammable.”
“Will do.” Livy nods, taking her change purse from her pocketbook. “I guess I’d better have the book too.”
“Of course.” Kitty smiles, bagging her items for her.
Ray enters through the kitchen door. Looking around the room, he sees cookie sheets laid out everywhere with small, interesting looking blobs on them. Rubbing his hands together excitedly, he bends down to pick up a cookie or whatever sweet confection lies there. Sighing, he realizes the trays are covered in flowers.
Livy enters from the living room, carrying the candle book. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Ray answers, his eyebrows raised as his flips his hand up, his palm facing the ceiling, in question.
“They’re Johnny Jump-Ups.”
“I can see that. So, I take it they’re not for eating?”
Livy laughs, a small frown between her eyebrows.
“Oh, no, sorry Ray. I’m drying them. Oh, I didn’t tell you - it’s my solution to the party favour problem. I’m making candles with dried flowers in them. See, they’re purple.”
Ray nods his head, suitably impressed.
“In the barn. Did Ruth come get her dress?”
“I’m running it over there tomorrow morning. That’s why I was in a hurry to get these candles going - see if she likes them.” Livy’s hand goes up to her mouth in concern.
Ray laughs, shaking his head in disbelief. “Livy, how could she not?”
Danny comes in from outside. Glancing around at the trays, he looks confused.
“So, is this what vegetarian means?”
Ray stirs the soup as Livy carries the trays gingerly outside, one at a time.
Bending over the fire she looks inside the cauldron. The sticky mixture burbles away inside. She gives it all a stir with the giant wooden ladel and jogs back inside.
“I need some kind of table, near the fire, where I can work.”
Looking up, Ray chews his cheek as he thinks what they can use. Snapping his fingers, he turns the gas off under the soup.
Ray heads out the kitchen door to the barn, Livy following. Prying the giant door slightly, he gets in behind and pulls out a sawhorse that’s standing up against the wall. He leans it against the stable and goes back for the other one. Livy picks the first one up and starts walking out towards the fire pit. He picks up the back end of Livy’s with one hand, so she’s not carrying it alone, and brings the other under his arm.
He sets them up about ten feet from the cauldron, right beside a tree stump where Livy can sit for a break. Going back to the barn, he comes out again with an old door, which he rests on top.
“There.” Satisfied, he rubs his hands on his dungarees. Livy shoots him an appreciate grin.
“Are you eating with us?”
“No, I have to get this done in one batch before I start losing light. They say the wax changes colour if you try reheating it. I want them all to match.”
Ray frowns. “You should eat something.”
“I’ll have some tea and toast, later. Really.”
“I’m going to head back in.”
“I’m right behind you. I have one more thing to get.”
Ray holds out his hand to her. They walk back to the house together. Inside, Ray gets the flame going under the soup again. Livy takes the flashlight from on top of the icebox and heads down to the cellar. Pointing the light around, she looks in the tops of boxes.
The cellar has always been a place of wonder for her - so much to take in. At first she had tried to savour it slowly, only peeking through one shelf at a time, the way you stretch out a favourite book because you don’t want it to end. Of course after six years and many long winter days, she had eventually learned every nook and cranny. Now she visits it as you would a favourite museum, moving and re-arranging things occasionally; Curator to the Singleton Family History.
The beam of light falls upon small wooden crate full of evaporated milk cans. “Eureka,” she smiles to herself.
Carrying the box upstairs, she lays it down on the kitchen counter. She turns on the hot water and starts rinsing them out.
“Where’d you find those?”
“In the cellar.”
“For the candles. They’ll make the perfect sized moulds.”
Ray nods his head, impressed.
“Ray, did you always have a dairy cow on the farm?”
“No, but even when we didn’t there was usually one nearby.”
“I was just wondering why a family with access to fresh milk would buy it in a can?”
“Anything in a can seemed like a treat when we were kids. Funny, isn’t it? Mama liked it in her tea.” He glances over at the crate. “That’s probably five years worth.” Livy smiles, charmed at the thought.
Shaking the water droplets off each can, she loads them back in the crate and takes them outside. Arranging them in rows on the makeshift table, she gives the hot mixture a stir - another ten minutes or so, according to the book. She sits on the tree stump. Extending her legs out in front of her she leans back on one hand, tipping her face up to the sun.
Hearing a slight rustling sound, she spots a white mouse scurrying by. Pulling her legs up under her, she shudders. Her eyes follow it until she sees it disappear in the tall grass. A glint of shiny metal on the ground catches her eye. She gets up, walking over. Its half buried under some scrub. Bending down, she picks up a small black lump with a gold edge. She rubs her thumb over the surface, knowing it instantly. It’s her old locket. She tries forcing the melted clasp. It creaks open.
The photo inside is gone, swallowed by flames years earlier. But she can still see the picture of him in her mind, as though it were just yesterday. She closes her eyes and remembers the pain of a young girl, broken hearted and alone. Her arms wrap themselves protectively across her midsection. She tosses the locket into the fire.
The kitchen door closes behind Ray and he comes out with a plate of toast and a mug of tea for her.
“Oh, Ray, thank you. That’s so sweet.”
Ray lowers his eyes, nodding his head and walks back into the house, smiling.