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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Just This Side of Tomorrow - Part Nine - By SG

Ray’s jaw rests in his hand as he leans on his elbow, watching Livy sleep. Sounds of Danny moving about in the kitchen below cause her to stir, but only slightly. Pursing his lips, he cranes his neck forward and blows lightly in her ear.

Livy twitches her nose. Ray laughs, falling onto his back again. Her arm comes up, lifting his and propping it under her head.

“Sorry. Once I’m awake I can’t fall back to sleep. You know that.”

Livy pretends to be annoyed.

“The whole point was that he learns the early morning chores and you get a lie in on the weekend, remember?”

“I said I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t say I was getting out of bed.”

Ray leans in, kissing her softly on the mouth. He pulls her even closer to him. Running his hand from her face to her shoulder and down, he lets it rest in the small of her back. Pulling her towards him, he lets out a long, satisfied sigh. His lips cover her mouth in warm kisses.

Leaning back again, he smoothes the hair from her forehead.


Ray keeps smiling at her.

“What is it?”

“Happy Anniversary, Livy.”


Livy picks up Danny’s rucksack from the back of the chair where it’s hanging and places it on the hook. The front flap is slightly open and a white envelope peeks out. She pulls on it, seeing the words Mrs. Singleton written across the front in perfect penmanship.

Danny runs in the house, letting the screen door slam behind him.

“Dad says can we have something to drink?”

“Of course.” Danny opens the icebox and pulls out two bottles of cola. Tipping them one at a time he uses the bottle cap remover on the side of the counter to open them. Turning, he rushes for the door.

“Danny, I was putting your bag away and I saw this letter.”

“Sorry Mama, I forgot. It’s from Miss Borden.”

Livy nods and he scurries out to the back to work by Ray’s side some more.

Opening the drawer, Livy removes a butter knife and slices open the envelope. It’s only one page, very short. It’s dated Tuesday. Today is Saturday. Livy scoffs, saying her son’s name under her breath.

Dear Mrs. Singleton,

I would like to thank you very much for your kind invitation to Sunday lunch. As Daniel may have mentioned, I’m new to the area (in a manner of speaking). As such, I do find myself somewhat idle on weekends.

There is, however, a matter of some delicacy, which I would like to discuss with you before I sit at your table with friends and family.

Daniel mentioned that you’re often home on Saturday afternoons. Would if be convenient if I stop by for a few minutes, say around two o’clock? If that is not a good time for you, please telephone me at Cannestoga 219. That’s the Fielding Apartments, and I’m in room eleven.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Miss May Borden

Livy glances at the clock on the wall. It reads one forty eight.

“Blast!” Livy gets up and fills the kettle with water. Putting it on the stove, she reaches up for her teapot off the top shelf of the cupboard. Her fingertips strain but she just can’t reach.

She slides a wooden chair from by the table and starts to climb up. The door opens and Ray enters. As he turns to her his face looks frustrated.

“What are you doing? You can’t be climbing - I told you to call me if –

She steps back. Ray moves the chair out of his way.

“I know. Sorry. Miss Borden’s going to be here any minute. I was just trying to get something ready.”

He hands her down the teapot. She points at the tin of Swee-Touch-Nee tea. He gets that too.

“Miss Borden, why?”

“You tell me.” Livy hands him the note. Looking at her reflection in the window, she smoothes her hair.

Ray reads the note in silence, raising his eyebrows as he hands it back to her.

“Sounds serious.”

Livy nods.

“Something with Danny?”

“Surely not. He would have said.”

Ray opens the back door and hollers.

“Son, get in here.” Danny comes running through the door that Ray is still holding open.

“Miss Borden’s coming over to speak with your mother. Is there something we need to know?”

Danny’s eyes grow large. “No, Sir.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Ray squeezes Danny’s shoulder and gives him a reassuring nod. Danny runs back outside.

“We’ll give you some space.” Ray goes to leave also.


He turns, facing her.

“You don’t think it's a question of loyalty, do you?”

“How’s that?”

“Well, I’ve been working with Mack for three weeks now. And they certainly didn’t get on well. You don’t think she’d be upset by that do you?”

Ray walks over to Livy, taking her hands and pulling them around his waist. Then he wraps his arms around her.

“Well if she is, she’s a fool. You’re making progress with that boy. Don’t let her tell you any different.”

Livy smiles up at him.

“You think you can have her out of here by five?”

“Good Lord, I should think so. Why?”

“Danny’s going to Jeremy’s. It’s all arranged.”

“What’s all arranged?”

“I got us a table for two at The Landing. Six thirty.”

Livy looks amazed. Ray laughs at her expression.

Just then a bicycle bell dings out front. Ray kisses quickly and exits out the back door.

Livy steps out onto the front porch, her hand shading her face from the sun. A young girl with black hair pushes her kickstand down with her foot. Her smart, red pedal pushers look crisp and new. Livy smoothes the front of her dress, taking off her apron and balling it up in her hand.

As May Borden comes closer Livy is surprised to notice that she is obviously of Asian descent. Her black, almond shaped eyes are beautifully set off by her white and red polka dot blouse.

May walks up the steps, her hand outstretched. As Livy shakes her hand, she feels an instant connection to this smiley, young girl.

“I’m so pleased to meet you, Miss Borden. Danny has such wonderful things to say about you and your classes.”

“Please, call me May.”

“And I’m Livy.”

May nods, smiling.

“I had no idea you were coming by bicycle! It’s such an awfully long way. Would you like to use the bathroom?”

“Oh, yes, please. That would be lovely.”

Livy opens the door for her and points up the stairs.

“It’s the door opposite the banister.”

May nods, padding upstairs in her jaunty shoes. Livy hears the kettle whistling in the kitchen. She jogs in, pouring the water in the tea and opening a tin of cookies she’d just made the day before. Arranging them on a plate, she puts them on the table. Rinsing her hands in the sink, she looks out the window. Ray spots her from outside and gives her a small wave.

Just then a honk comes from out front. They glance at each other. Ray shrugs and runs around the side of the house. She waits. A moment later Ray enters the front door. His face wears a strained look.


Suddenly the sound of a second pair of boots behind him silences Livy. She glances over and sees Mack in tow. Ray laughs awkwardly.

“Look who’s here. I completely forgot I told Mack he could come over and help us with the engine on the motorbike.”

Mack’s face brims with excitement.

“Yes Ma’am! It’s not every day a person gets their hands on a 1918 Cleveland.”

Livy smiles brightly as the sound of shoes crossing the floor upstairs echoes into the room.

“That’s just wonderful. You’d better get started, then.”

Ray hides a smile, watching her panic. She frowns at him behind Mack’s back as she ushers them out the door.

May comes down the hall and enters the kitchen.

“Oh, let’s sit in the parlour, shall we?” Livy picks up the teapot and cookies, placing them on the tray with the cups and saucers. They go into the living room. Livy sits on the chesterfield, while May chooses the powder blue davenport Ray bought them for Christmas last year.

It’s awkward for a moment. Both women take a sip of tea in silence, smiling at each other.

“I’m sure you’re wondering what I was referring to in my letter.”

“I must admit, you did have me somewhat concerned. He tries hard but he’s so enthusiastic, sometimes he goes over -”

“Oh, Mrs. Singl - Livy – I do apologize. Daniel is a bright, wonderful boy. He’s one of my best students. This has absolutely nothing to do with him, you can be sure. It was unfair to keep you guessing like that.”

Livy holds back a small sigh of relief.

May takes another sip of her tea. Clearing her throat she continues.

“The thing is, I know you.”

“You do?”

“Well, I know of you. And you know me. Well, we’ve met. ”

Livy shrugs slightly, putting a hand up to her cheek.

“I’m so sorry, I can’t recall -”

“Oh, no, please – I was only ten years old. I expect I look very different from the last time you saw me.”

Livy stays silent, hoping she’ll continue.

“I – I – Livy, I’m Rose and Flory Umahara’s cousin. We met at Camp Amache. We were making origami flowers for the Spring Dance. I sat on your lap. You let me feel your baby kicking and you told me I had beautiful eyes. ”

Livy feels her pulse rush slightly at the mention of her old friends. She had thought of them often, but hadn’t heard their names uttered aloud in years.

“Oh, oh my goodness. Yes, of course. Well how are they? Where are they?”

The second question was uttered quickly and Livy regretted it instantly, seeing the discomfort it caused May.

“You were so good to them. When the war ended and the exclusion order was rescinded, so many things happened at once. My family was divided. Rose and Flory lost touch with you and after a point it seemed too late, too awkward, to try again.”

“Well, that’s nonsense. I would love to - ”

“They felt ashamed. They still do. They don’t even know I’m here.”

“But it’s completely understandable. Your lives were turned upside down in a matter of days, I’m sure.”

May breathed a sigh of relief, nodding slightly.

“The government offered each family $25 and a train ticket back to where we came from.”

“Land sakes.” Livy looks at her, stunned.

“Many of the elders were of the “Shikata ga nai” mindset.”

“I’m sorry?”

“That which cannot be helped.”

Livy nods her head solemnly.

“At Camp Amache many were aware of Flory’s plot to hide her boyfriend. It was a difficult place to keep a secret.”

“I can imagine. But it seemed like it was all solved.”

“It’s the Japanese way. We are proud people. We deal with our problems in private.”

“Yes, I understand. So, what happened?”

“When the orders to evacuate came in, we were given half a day to decide where to go. My Uncle took his family back to California. But my father decided he could not accept the paltry offering they were doling out. He returned to Japan; alone.”

“But what of your mother?”

“My mother was shamed. She took the tickets and we returned to California. We had nowhere to go and no way to earn a living as my mother had to look after my sister and I. Rose and Flory’s father was my father’s brother. So, they took us in.”

Livy takes another sip of her tea.

“This is all so, so shocking. And yet the story seems to have ended well; I mean, here you are.”

“Yes. My mother remarried after a few years. A white man from the south. When you knew me, my last name was Kasagawa.”

Livy nods, holding out the plate of cookies.

May takes one, more relaxed now.

“How are your cousins? Are they well?”

May nods, swallowing her bite.

“Rose is married, a japanese american man; a member of the 442nd Regiment. They have four children.”

“Aww, how nice. She was always so patient and kind. I bet she’s a terrific mother.”

“She is. Her children are perfect.”

Livy chuckles. “And Flory?”

“Flory has had her ups and downs. She was engaged to be married to an Italian-American man for about four years. They broke it off. Six months later she married the man who delivers their milk. A white man. His family came from Poland, I think. She’s expecting their first child. She’s hoping it’s a boy – she wants to name him Clarke Gable. Clarke Gable Wozniak.”

Both women look at each other expectantly. May finally explodes into giggles. Livy follows suit.

“She certainly hasn’t changed a bit..”

“That’s my cousin.”

May and Livy carry on lighthearted conversation for some time. Livy’s face grows serious again; she unconciously leans in before saying what she wants to say.

“May, I would really like to write to them. Would you feel comfortable giving me their addresses?’

May giggles.

“Oh, I hoped you would say that. In fact I’m going home for Thanksgiving – why don’t I hand deliver your note? It would be such a marvelous surprise!”

“Even better.” Livy’s face beams.

The sound of an engine revving out back, followed by cheering, breaks the moment. May rises out of her chair as though she’s going to go see what it is.

Livy stays seated.

“Uh, oh that’s just my husband, puttering with an old motorcycle he bought.”

May stays standing.

“Would it be allright if I used the telephone? I made plans to meet a friend and I’m afraid I was having such a lovely chat with you that I stayed much longer than I anticipated. I’d like to let her know I might be late.”

“Of course, it’s just there on the wall. But my husband will be happy to run you back to town.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t ask him to do that. I’ll be fine.”

Just then more hollering comes from the back as the engine revs again. Livy, seeing May on the telephone, walks hastily to the back door. Ray looks over at her, elated at first but then realizing when he sees the look on her face.

He takes a step forward but is forced to stop in his tracks as Mack comes bombing around the corner on the Cleveland, Danny gripping him tightly about the middle.

“Who-hoo Mama , look at meeeeeee!”

They tear around to the front of the house.

“Well, what was the big secret? Is Danny in trouble?”

“No, nothing like that. May wanted to tell me that she’s actually Rose and Flory’s cousin! Can you believe it?”

“So, you’re not I trouble either?”

“Me? Why would I be in trouble?

Just then a truck starts up on the other side of the propoerty. Livy smacks her hands together and runs around to the front of the house.

“Why are we running?” Ray jogs after her.

“May’s still inside! If I can keep her on the phone until he leaves we can avoid the whole - ”

As they turn the corner, they see Danny propping the Cleveland up against the stoop as Mack lifts May’s bicycle into the back of his truck. He walks to the side and opens the door for her. She jumps in and rolls down the window. Livy and Ray approach the vehicle.

“Thank you so much for the wonderful chat Livy. I’ll see you tomorrow!”

Ray flops an arm over Livy shoulders as she waves at them. Mack toots the horn at the bottom of the drive.

They stand in silence. Ray’s face looks fit to crack, he’s holding back a smile with such difficulty.

“Allright, I overreacted. Just say it. I know you want to say it.”

Ray laughs now, shaking his head. He wraps his arm around her neck and pulls her face close to his chest, kissing the top of her head.

“Woman, I’ve got nothing to say to you except this: Never a dull moment. In all these years we’ve been together, there’s never been a dull moment.”


Livy stands in front of the mirror, primping her hair. She opens the vanity and looks at her two bottles of perfume. Trying to chose between Radio Girl and Youth Dew was sometimes a tough call but not tonight. It would be Radio Girl, the fragrance Ray had bought her their first Christmas. She had balked inside at the name, wondering if it would be more suited to someone Ruth’s age. But she has been surprised when she sniffed it. The scent was fresh and floral. It smells just like you, Ray had said.

Livy dabs some behind each ear and on her wrists. Closing the vanity she gives her hair one last look. After staring at herself for a moment, she re-opens the vanity and applies another dab to her decolettage.

Ray enters the bathroom, wrapping his arms around her thickening waist. Resting his chin on her shoulder they gaze at themselves staring back in the mirror.

“You smell so good.”

Ray starts kissing her neck. Livy reaches up behind, running her fingers through his hair.
The clock behind them dings on the hour. Ray groans.

“The table. We’ve got to go.”

Livy laughs shaking her head. She helps Ray staighten his hair.

“So, the Landing.”


“Pretty fancy.”


“Am I dressed well enough?”

Ray looks her up and down, taking a bit too long.


“I’m kidding! Of course you are. You’re going to be the most beautiful woman there.”

She laughs, shaking her head.

“How do you know?”

“Because, you’re the most beautiful woman wherever we go.”


Ray drives along, a faint smile resting comfortably across his face. Livy watches the fireflies in the fields as dusk washes over.

“Oh, I forgot, there was a letter for you today. I think I put it in the glovebox.”

Livy opens the box and takes out a small white envelope. Slashing the envelope with her index finger, she opens the single page and begins to read aloud.

Dear Olivia,

It is with much joy that I open my letter box today and find a response from you. How wonderful! To begin anew! You have filled your old fool of a father with such happiness, I almost cannot bear it. I’m dedicating a section of my sermon on Sunday to this very thing.

Please pardon my abruptness, but in the spirit of new beginnings I would like to propose that my next leave be spent with a trip out your way. Of course, I will stay at the local hotel so as to not be of any burden to you. I am considering asking for my relacement for the last week of November. This would of course put us together on the weekend of Thanksgiving.

If this is agreeable to you, please advise me so that I can have Mrs. Standish make my travel and hotel arrangements. Also, would you please advise Willard Case of my intentions. We are long overdue for a game of rummy and a chat.

I am elated, daughter, at the thought of escaping this fetid air and meeting the people with whom you share your life in such pastoral and peaceful surroundings. I’ve grown tired of city life. And I’m too old to be alone.

In anticipation,


Olivia folds the paper gingerly and places it back in the envelope. She opens the glove box and puts it inside, snapping the lid shut.

“So, the Bunk room then? Do you think he’d be comfortable there? Or would Martha’s room be better. I mean, the bed’s bigger of course.” Ray wait for an answer.

Livy laughs loudly now, her face full of joy.


“Good evening, Sir.”

“Good evening. Uh, we have a reservation. Mr. and Mrs. Singelton.”

Ray tugs on his tie, feeling out of his element. Livy rubs his arm, reassuring him.

“Right this way, please.”

As the Maitre D’ leads the way to their table, he reaches to pull a chair out for Livy. Ray grabs another chair at the same time, looking at her. Livy utters a quiet thank to the man and sits in the chair Ray held out. The Maitre D' nods his head and takes his leave.

Ray picks up his menu. Livy opens hers, carefully reading each item.

“Wow, look at this - walleye, bass, trout, they really have it all.”

“The man said they bring it in fresh from Twin Lakes twice a week.”

“You asked them that? If it was fresh?”

“Didn’t want to bring you all this way for nothing.”


Ray picks his napkin off his lap, wiping his mouth. Livy puts down her fork.

“That was absolutely delicious. Thank you for bringing me here.”

Ray lowers his eyes, in a way that means he’s pleased with himself.

Placing the bills inside the small folder the waiter has left, Ray helps Livy with her chair. They both utter their thanks to the Maitre D’ who bows graciously as they leave out the main doors.

They both stop just outside and breath in the fresh air.

Ray takes Livy’s hand as they walk towards the car. Spinning her around, he presses her against the red door and puts one hand behind her head, pulling her mouth to him. His long, deep kiss causes her to feel whoozy. Her knees buckle. Ray holds her steady, laughing.

“It’s not proper, anyway. Out here in public.”

“Ray, take me home.”

He opens her door and helps her in. Closing it behind her he jogs around to the other side. They roar out of the parking area.


As the family car pulls into Wilson, the air is palpable. Ray slows down. They round the corner by the church. A police car, ambulance and many local cars are parked haphazardly about the street.

Ray slows down as a police officer waves them through. He rolls down his window.

‘What’s happening, Don?” The officer shakes his head.

“It’s a terrible thing. Reverand Case. He was walking back to the church and collapsed right in the middle of the street - heart attack."
Livy reaches onto Ray's lap, squeezing his hand.
"Sorry folks, I’m afraid he’s dead.”

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