Just this Side of Tomorrow - Part 5
Just This Side of Tomorrow – Part Five
Livy stands in the kitchen, carefully ironing lace bordered dinner napkins.
“I can’t believe your sister. She’s only met me the one time, at Danny’s christening - but she’s gone to so much trouble for me.” Ruth shakes her head, folding each warm square neatly as Livy passes them to her.
“Abby loves a fuss. She always has. She wasn’t at my wedding so she knows this is the next best thing. And anyway, you’ve given her a reason to peruse the shops on Wynkoop Street. She’s yours forever, for that reason alone.” Livy chuckles.
Ruth sits suddenly, gripping the arms of the brown leather chair. The colour has drained from her face.
“Are you alright?” Livy asks.
Ruth nods, putting on a weak smile. “Just tired.”
Livy rests the iron back in the rack and goes to the kitchen. Pouring a cold glass of water from the tap, she brings it to Ruth. Livy sits for a moment on the armrest, looking down at her niece.
“Thanks” Ruth says, before taking a few big gulps.
“Drink it slowly, it’s pretty cold.” Livy answers, concerned.
“I’ve just been so thirsty.” Ruth frowns, shaking her head. She takes small sips.
“It’s a good thing my dress goes to the floor, have you seen my ankles?”
Ruth tugs on one of her pant legs. Her ankle is twice the size of normal and the skin is white, pulled tight. Alarmed, Livy tries to disguise her shock.
“You’re really holding your water.” Ruth nods her head, taking more sips. “I know. Did you ever have it like this?” Livy pretends to think for a moment, knowing the answer full well.
“Have you been to see Dr. McCutcheon?”
“I have an appointment the day after tomorrow - last one before the wedding.”
“Good.” Livy’s relieved, but makes a mental note to discuss it with Martha later just to be sure.
“Aunt Livy, were you scared when you had Danny?”
Livy smiles at her, returning to her ironing.
“My circumstance was a pretty unusual one. There was so much going on in my own life at that time; I had barely allowed myself to consider it. I think that bodes well for some women. There was no time to get all worked up about things.”
Realizing she may have spoken out of turn, she continues:
“Of course, being prepared is always better. The more advice you get, the less likely you are to be caught off guard. I didn’t really have that, with Mama gone and all.”
Ruth nods, sympathetic now. “I just hope my labour’s as short as yours was.”
“Yes, I’ve had many great blessings in my life and it might be selfish but that one’s near the top of the list.”
Ruth and Livy laugh together.
“Was Uncle Ray scared?”
Livy raises her head for a moment, squinting in thought.
“Do you know, if I think about it now, I’d have to say no. Not at all.”
Ruth looks surprised.
“I mean, he was worried about the big concepts. You know, would he be a good father, providing for us, and whether or not Danny would take to him.”
Ruth takes another sip of water.
“But I have to say, when the time came, Ray handled himself as thought he’s been preparing for that day all his life.”
Ruth raises her eyebrows. “You’re lucky, I’m not sure Stewie will be able to handle it.”
“He won’t be in the room, will he?”
“Gosh no, but even just the waiting part makes me nervous for him.”
Livy and Ruth laugh again together. The telephone rings. Livy enters the hall and answers.
“Mama, can I eat supper here at Robbie’s tonight?’
“Did Robbie’s mother say it was okay?”
“Sure, she’s the one who invited me.”
“Put her on the line please, Danny.”
A female voice laughs on the other end. “Hi Livy, be a pal and let him stay would you? We’ve had such lovely day painting the front fence. It’s be a shame to break up the fun now.”
Livy smiles at this. “Of course. Thanks for inviting him, Wanda.”
Livy walks back into the living room.
“I swear, those boys are like two – RUTH, what’s the MATTER?”
Ruth is looking down at her pants, her eyes huge and round. Livy runs over. Her lap is entirely soaked. She looks up at Livy, unable to speak. Suddenly, her face crumbles as she winces in pain, doubling over.
Livy runs to the back door. Almost ripping it off the hinges, she roars outside and stands in the middle of the yard. Her head whips around in every direction, looking for some sign as to what to do.
“RAYYYYYYYYYYY!” She screams at the top of her lungs.
A metal clank is heard as Ray drops what he’s doing and comes running from the barn. He makes it to her in seconds. He grips her extended forearms. She sobs as he grabs her face, panicked because there appears to be nothing wrong with her.
“Wh-wh- what’s wrong? Where is it? Wha?”
Livy’s sobbing so hard now she can barely speak.
“It’s Ruth – the baby – I think she’s losing the baby.”
Ray looks confused.
“She’s in the livingroom – THE BABY!”
Rays runs inside the house and to the living room. He drops to his knees on the floor in front of Ruth. She looks at him, her eyes brimming with terror.
Ray turns to Livy in a calmer voice now.
“Get a blanket.”
Livy runs upstairs grabbing the store bought coverlet they keep folded over the end of their bed.
Sprinting back downstairs, she hands it to Ray.
“Call Martha. Tell her to phone Dr. McCutcheon and have him on his way to their place. We’ll leave right away, here.”
As Livy runs for the phone, she hears Ray speaking gently to his niece.
“Okay Ruthie, That’s it. Put your arm around my neck. Okay good now I’m going to pull but don’t you pull. Don’t pull. That’s it. That’s good.”
Livy’s thoughts are yanked back to the telephone call as Martha answers.
“Martha – Ray and I are on our way over with Ruth. Ray says you need to call Dr. McCutcheon right away and tell him to get there as soon as he can.”
“WHAT - What’s happened? Oh my Lord what’s wrong?”
“It’s Ruth - she’s lost some fluid.” There’s silence on the other end, for just a beat.
“Livy, please, get her here as soon as you can.” She hears a click as Martha hangs up.
“LIVY, LET’S GO.” Ray shouts from the doorway.
Livy turns. Ray’s carrying Ruth, her midsection wrapped in the coverlet. Livy runs to get the doors for them. As Ray slides Ruth into the passenger seat, Livy closes the door. He looks at Livy. There’s no room for her on the cab.
“Oh, Ray, don’t be silly, now.” She runs to the back of the truck. “Give me a boost” she says. He lifts her over in one motion. Wedging herself into a corner, she sits on a piece of canvas, her arms up over the sides to brace her when the turns come. Ray burns out of the yard as they frantically make their way to Martha’s.
Hank stands outside the bedroom door, wringing his hands. Ray and Livy huddle together on the opposite wall. Martha speaks softly to Ruth on the other side of the door.
A vehicle screeches up out front. Ray and Livy sprint down the stairs, meeting Stewie and Dr. McCutcheon, already at the landing. Each takes a side as the men run up the middle of the staircase.
They walk into the living room and sit on the davenport, side by side. Livy leans her head back, looking up at the ceiling. Ray tugs on one of her arms so she’ll move forward slightly. Putting an arm around her, he pulls her back, tucking her head in under his chin. Neither speaks for a few moments.
“Ray, I’m – I’m so sorry.”
Ray’s taken aback.
“I was no help to you at all.. I was completely useless; as dumb as a stump.”
She brings her hand up to her forehead, looking worried. “What have happened if you hadn’t been there?”
Ray kisses the top of her head, rubbing her hair with his hand.
“It’s different, growing up on a farm. A mother only has to look at you once with those life or death eyes, and I don’t care what species she is, you hop to.”
Martha comes downstairs. Entering the living room she sits on the chair across from them. She picks up the edge of her seersucker apron and uses it to mop her forehead. Ray and Livy are sitting forward in their seats now, waiting to hear.
“There was some bleeding but it’s stopped. It’s just the baby now. We’re waiting to hear on the little one.”
Livy moves over to the chair and wraps her arms around Martha’s shoulders. Martha takes several deep breaths, exhaling like an athlete, trying to keep it all together. She gets up and moves towards the kitchen. Hesitating, she turns to the stairs.
“I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Martha, can I – how about I get everyone something to drink?” Livy stands.
“Just the thing.” Martha nods at her kindly. She turns and goes up the stairs.
Livy rubs her eyes, turning her face into Ray’s shirt to shade them from the lamp light. Waking slowly, she sits up. Ray rubs her hair out of her eyes. The sky is pitch black outside.
“Ug. How long have I been sleeping?”
“A couple of hours or so. It’s about 9:30.”
“How’s the baby? How’s Ruth?”
“Ruth’s fine, she’s resting. There’s a heart beat but it’s faint yet.”
Livy sits up, taking a drink of the lukewarm lemonade still sitting in her glass on the table.
“You want me to grab some more from the ice box?”
“No, this is good. Thanks.”
Ray goes back to the pocketbook in his hand. Livy moves the book forward so she can see the cover. He’s reading A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell. Livy raises her eyebrows at him, bemused.
“Did you think it was a book about childbirth?”
“I did. It was the only thing I could find.” He says matter-of-factly.
“But it’s not about childbirth.”
“I know, it’s about – Ray open the front and reads from the book jacket
- Amanda Keeler Evans, a recently arrived Manhattan-ite achieves monumental success as a romance novelist after her new husband’s paper prints rave reviews, only to find –“
“Yes, all right, I get it. I get it.”
“Have you read it?” Ray asks in a comically studious way.
“Yes, I have.” She answers with mock impatience.
“Well then, what happens to Vicky?”
“No don’t tell me, you’ll spoil it.” He says with mock dramatics as he reaches over, pulling her close to him.
They sit, hugging for a moment. Ray relaxes his arms, letting her go. She turns, facing him.
“Liv, I don’t remember it being like this when Danny was born.”
“It’s wasn’t. It was so quick and perfect. I was just telling Ruth this afternoon how blessed we were.”
Ray takes her face in his hands and looks her in the eyes.
“It makes me wonder if things didn’t turn out for the best, it being just the three of us and all. Going through something like tonight, but you being the one, I’m not sure I could…”
He allows his thoughts to trail off. They both sit and stare straight ahead, but for very different reasons.
Hanks comes down the stairs slowly, the depletion of adrenaline filling his limbs with lead.
“The heartbeat’s come back full bore. Doc says she’s on bed rest for awhile, but they’re okay.”
Hank jumps to his feet, shaking Ray’s hand happily, grabbing his forearm with his left hand also. Livy wraps him up in a warm hug.